Meeting the challenge

African-American History Month begins against the backdrop of deepening working-class poverty and unemployment, ongoing racial profiling and more Black men and women in jail than in college. The Sept. 11 attack is still an open wound, and, with the collapse the steel industry, Enron and Kmart, it’s no wonder that many are feeling “fragile and forlorn, stumbling briefly among the stars,” as the poet Maya Angelou wrote.

When African-American scholar Carter Woodson established the Association for the Study and Negro Life and History on Sept. 9, 1915, it was against the backdrop of U.S. troops invading Haiti, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and in a year with 62 recorded lynchings. Woodson’s organization launched a campaign to rescue the truth – the full, rich history of African Americans in the United States. There are many similiarities to today.

Thanks to Woodson, W.E.B. Du Bois and countless others, we celebrate February as African-American History Month – a truthful look at reality, a celebration of heroism and a fountain of ideas and inspiration.

But history is not simply a passive, static account of deeds done. It is a beginning. It is about tomorrow’s history being written today. Each generation building upon the other’s struggles.

African-American History Month is about confidence in ourselves, ordinary Americans, Black, Brown and white, who go to work, pay taxes and build the future, “The Dream,” writing history every day.

We the people – Black, Brown and white – are celebrating African-American History Month, attending town hall meetings, engaging, reading, as did those who preceded us. They did well; they set a standard. We, the working class, united and in action can meet the challenge of ending racism and for full equality for African Americans.

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Grass-roots action

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is meeting this week in New York City, holding its annual conference of corporate, academic, civic and governmental representatives from around the world..

We welcome those who have come from the labor, peace, environmental and youth movements to protest the capitalist globalization it will be discussing and the devastating effect of it on the lives of working people around the world. These protest actions will unfold in a context of worldwide economic crisis and an ever widening war drive by U.S. imperialism.

This will be the first national gathering of the anti-globalization movement in the U.S. since Sept. 11. No doubt the atmosphere generated has dampened organizing efforts. However, the protests have set off a media frenzy warning of possible violent clashes with police.

But, even worse, the issues are being ignored and the aim is to stir public opinion against those whose voices should be heard. Great care has been taken in this mobilization for peaceful, well-organized actions.

From the right-wing assassinations of Colombian trade unionists to the continued corporate drive to destroy the environment, and from the denial of democratic rights of indigenous peoples as part of thedrive for corporate control of natural resources to the Bush administration’s commitment to far flung military interventions, the expansion of capitalist globalization requires a stronger, more united U.S. anti-globalization movement.

The question that remains to be answered since the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” is how to involve wider numbers of people in the struggle to curb corporate globalization, defend workers’ rights, save the environment and defend democracy.

Millions are learning about what could be called “Enron economics” – corporate deceit and greed mixed with political intrigue. We need campaigns, targeting the grassroots, on the policies and inner workings of the global corporations and local actions that give working families a chance to participate, like the Gap campaign.

Protesting at meetings of worldwide financial institutions is needed, but tending the emerging consciousness at the grass-roots level is even more of a necessity.

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