The Message

By J. Michael Carr Jr.

In 1976, my grandmother, Toot, and I lived in South Commons, which is a complex of high rise buildings located in the Bronzeville community on the South Side of Chicago.  Even though I was 6 years old, I just starting on my musical journey exploration into different genres of music.  Every Sunday morning, before Mass, I would watch the Beatles cartoon rerun from 1966.  Their music was so happy and upbeat.  It was peaceful to me.  So the very first album I saved my own money and purchased was the Beatles’ Revolver.  Yes, I still have that $2 vinyl album.  Since that moment, I have been a huge Beatles fan.  Through the years, I have purchased all of their label releases and several bootlegs too.  In fact, I even attended a couple of Beatlefest conventions in my younger years. Now, not everyone loves the Beatles. I respect that. For example, the rest of my five member family.  They just don’t understand Dad, and his crazy nostalgia for the harmonious turmoil of the 1960s that he wasn’t alive to witness.

The same racial issues that plagued this harmonious turmoil exists today.  Corruption at the top level of government.  No accountability for police departments.  Reckless killing of Black youth.  An unsettling barrier to opportunity for Black and Brown urban communities leaving those communities to wallow in generational poverty.  From a humanity point of view, all lives DO matter, however for those that are trying to placate this new movement by shifting the discussion…  let’s not get it twisted. Blacks Lives Matter more in this context.

Specifically in the Black Lives Matter movement, the public has seen videos of police violating the civil rights of Black men and women across the country.  We saw it in Baltimore in the case of Freddy Gray.  We saw it in Ferguson in the case of Mike Brown. We saw it in Houston in the case of Sandra Bland.  We saw it in Chicago in the case of Laquan McDonald.  And, more video tapes emerge weekly.   There are stories of cover ups at the highest level of local and state governments.  Reminiscent of the Kennedy administration during the 1960s, the Department of Justice at the Federal Level has to become more involved with local governments if true change is to occur.  It is incumbent that municipalities and their support systems have to be changed through a holistic cultural overhaul.

How does that change come about?  Changing hundreds of years of a “Stop Snitching” culture, which probably has its origin in the Fraternal Order of Police not Lil Wayne.  Change comes about from you.  Voice your discontent.  Protest your outrage.  I caution you though.  Do not let your rage corrupt… the Message of the movement.  In all movements whether it’s in Johannesburg, South Africa during the early 1900s or Montgomery, AL during the 1950s or Oakland, CA during the 1960s or Chicago, IL during the 2010s, the Message has to be consistent with measurable outcomes.  Know what you’re demanding!

I’m so proud of the Millennials.  We were living in Las Vegas when I wrote an editorial piece called the Next Movement.  The Next Movement editorial asked my generation, Gen Xers, to pick up the civil rights mantle that through attrition, the Baby Boomers, left when they became more concerned with corporate parachutes and pension plans. There were only a few of us that Gen Xers that have stayed involved with the movement due to other obligations.  As I get older, I realize how important other aspects of life are very important too.  So, through wisdom, I get it.  It’s hard to serve two masters.  You can’t really attend daily civil disobedience demonstrations when you have college tuition bills gnawing at your monthly income. Mostly I’m proud of the Millennials because they showed up.  Half of the battle of any job is showing up.  They have taken to the streets and even more importantly to the polls.  But take it from me that the most important aspect of protesting is not the picket signs or the die-ins or stopping traffic.  Those are very empowering feelings.  What is more empowering is being true to yourself.  Know your humanity.  Know why this injustice needs to be corrected.  And the role you can play to help correct it.  Awareness is important but policy affects change.

Our children, who are all Millennials, go protest at the drop of the hat because its vogue. Kyra and I have educated our kids on social injustice, and why they are protesting along with a couple of ideas on the “demands” that should be asked to correct the issue.  As much as I laud the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, I have to be critical of the lack of organization and coordination at demonstrations.  In Chicago, asking for Mayor Emmanuel to resign is a tedious endeavor that I promise you will lead to several frustrations for the movement over the next three years.  A more likely and probable, immediate win would be to “demand” that leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement and/or other groups like the Young & Powerful are heavily represented on the Police Accountability Task Force so we do have accountability and oversight at various check points.  That type of integration will assure Chicago that another case like Laquan McDonald will never be covered up again.  Another a point of contention that I have with the Black Lives Matter movement is their only concern is police violence against Black men and women.  Well…I understand police brutality can be sensationalized for media impact but please do not forget about the violence that occurs daily in our own communities perpetrated not by police but by our neighbors.  That violence needs to be addressed too. We should not have to see signs nailed on trees by neighborhood block clubs that say “Don’t Shoot Kids At Play”.  Where is the outrage for families being held captive in their own houses in fear of being a victim of a senseless crime?

The other day I was waiting for the evening bus downtown.  Protesters came around the corner with picket signs and screaming, “Shut Shit Down!”  I almost wobbled into the street on my cane and starting marching with them.  A wise man once said, “a man has got to know his limitations”.  I am in my mid-40s.  Seven years ago, I experienced a horrific life changing health challenges.  Today, my physical movements are limited from six surgeries on my back and legs.  Unfortunately, I can’t march miles in a solidarity protest or stand for hours locked in arms to prevent shoppers from attending Black Friday sales.  What I can do is help strategize in collaboration with other groups to create a dialogue about economic violence and the direct correlation between urban areas with higher poverty rates and physical violence.

Most political conservatives have their eyes wide shut.  For the majority of citizens, we see blatant injustice riddling our communities.  If this cancer continues to go unchecked, it will destroy God’s laws of harmony, peace, and abundance and replace them with man’s laws of segregation, violence, and scarcity.

I’ve written a lot.  Hopefully, my position on government accountability has been clearly communicated.  And my tips for helping the Black Lives Matter movement will be viewed favorably, and not as condescending.  Even more importantly I discussed my penchant for the Beatles.  Truth be told though…besides being the greatest band in modern history….I’m joking…but not really, why does their message resonate with me? I think what continues to separate the Beatles from their contemporaries and continues to grow their fan base after 40 years is their Message. The Beatles’ message of peace and justice was in line with the social teachings of Jesus Christ.  Those social teachings are the foundation of every major World religion.  I feel good about the Black Lives Matter movement and I believe that true justice can be realized, but at a major cost, which I can’t foresee the price tag yet.  We need to just listen and follow those that spread the message of non-violence through peace and justice because you do not want to gain the world but lose your soul.