Author: Jonathan Erdman

Black Against Empire #2 Strategy

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wanted to organize, locally, to resist police brutality in their Oakland communities. But they needed a method and means. They needed a strategy, something that would work in the Black ghettoes, something that would be effective to combat the all-out racist onslaught of police forces like in Watts where officers on the force called their nightsticks “nigger-knockers.” They needed to catalyze locals, particularly those who ran the streets, the “brothers on the block, the unemployed black men seen on every street of the ghetto, the black underclass. These were the people who faced the brutality of the expanding urban police departments.” It proved challenging. Meanwhile there was police brutality. And more police brutality. Their frustrations mounted. Then, after a riot, new possibilities began to emerge.

Black Against Empire by Bloom and Martin (2012)

I am just starting in on this fascinating text, a thoroughgoing academic analysis of the Black Panther Movement, situated in its cultural context. I’ll be posting quotes and thoughts as I go, and I welcome anyone else to read along with me. The Black Panther Party was formed in a cultural and political milieu in which the Civil Rights Movement had come up to its limits. Whites would only allow so much. And police brutality was relentless and cruel.

The Great Unmasking

Sharing a podcast link to a sermon, The Great Unmasking, from a famous white evangelical pastor preaching some Gospel, talking about social justice in our current context, preaching from the prophets and discussing things like defunding police. It’s Rob Bell, which to be fair, I’m not sure he’s actually an evangelical….He was booted out of his evangelical church years back, circa 2012.

The tears of the oppressed

It’s my birthday today. I took the day off of work, and I also took a day off from closely monitoring the news, setting out for a hike. It was a wonderful and refreshing hike, up Fireweed Mountain just down the road from my cabin. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining on us in this magnificent valley, making it feel like a cathedral, surrounded as it is by grand mountains, roaring rivers, and a massive glacial field. But the news cycle caught up with me, and I write this with tears running down my face. It may feel like a cathedral here but there is no sanctuary, no place of escape from the violent karma that is currently raging in our streets. But for many Americans there has never been an escape from police violence.

100,000 and counting

It’s a perfect storm: our institutions are failing; voters are disenfranchised; our government is dysfunctional; our political system is purely partisan; our economy is working exclusively for the already-powerful; the U.S. healthcare system is a disaster designed by and functioning on behalf of the 1%; and most of our citizens access news and information from bubbles of confirmation bias, many of whom do so with a good deal of malice, frustration, and anger…..Still, of course, one hopes that perhaps the summer heat will prevent another spike in outbreaks and deaths, this despite the fact that the numbers have been climbing, even during the “grand re-opening of America”…..I have my figurative fingers crossed….

COVID-19 and the spiritual revolution

COVID-19 may very well be a catalyst for a spiritual revolution. It definitely has potential. One of America’s greatest and most destructive illusions is that we are all mere individuals and that if we all just do our own thing, seeking to satisfy our individual desires, achieve wealth and success, fulfill our dreams and/or follow our own individual hearts, that things will all work out and our nation will be strong. Way back in the day, Margaret Thatcher infamously declared that “there is no such thing as society.” We’re all just individuals, doing our own thing. Hence the role of government, as most Americans have been trained to see it, is to ensure that all individuals are free.

New Party, New Narrative

One thing I’ve been discussing with the comrades is a new political party. The Bernie Sanders left is now extremely well-networked and mobilized. This all goes back ten years or so, to the Occupy Wall Street movement. But the Sanders policies have been firmly rejected by the Democrat Party. So….What’s next?

Into The Wild: 2010 to 2020

It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult. This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities. It was strange, that moment, but …