Moral High Ground

Last night as I walked down a street in Downtown Los Angeles, I crossed paths with a Board Member for the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. He asked me how I was doing. I said I was in Skid Row Neighborhood Council election aftermath and many conversations and meetings are happening to determine what is Next. He replied — “The history of the world is the history of self-determination. It just depends how bad you want it.” We went our separate ways.

After two years of work by the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee, the election took place in Skid Row on April 6th, preceded several days by Downtown “pop up polls” and before that several days of online voting. The final results: Yes — 764 and No — 826.

Deacon Alexander, a homeless man in his 70’s, was the Chair of the By-laws subcommittee for the Formation Committee. During a Skid Row discussion in early March about Standing Rock, Deacon said when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council told the “water protectors” to leave the land, he believed Standing Rock lost, in a literal sense, the moral high ground.

From December 2016 to March 2017 I published 18 articles in medium.com about Standing Rock and Downtown Los Angeles that ended with this Epilogue:

“These medium.com articles began when I discovered a Los Angeles reflection of Standing Rock. The reflection went from Marches and Rallies to a focused effort to Follow The Money (to then Divest from it).

Where does it go from here?

I like what Deacon Alexander said about the Moral High Ground (the land). You can’t create a Moral High Ground. It exists where it exists.

For me, it exists in Skid Row/Downtown Los Angeles.

The Land. The Water. Standing Rock is Everywhere.”

This Skid Row Neighborhood Council election probably got more media attention than anything in the history of Neighborhood Councils going back 15 years. This election process surfaced some items and some Downtown folks now want those items back below the surface.

One of the main items surfaced: policies and practices around voting.

Deacon is an Original Black Panther of Los Angeles, meaning he was one of the leaders in the late 1960's.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was active from 1960 to 1966. Highly active in Southern communities, by the time of the Voting Rights demonstrations in Alabama SNCC was in turmoil, split between a moderate faction connected to Martin Luther King and a radical faction increasingly led by Stokely Carmichael. In the aftermath of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, SNCC organizers entered rural Alabama for a voter registration drive, creating the all-black Lowndes County Freedom Organization, later known as the Black Panther Party. Carmichael was elected SNCC Chairman in 1966 and expressed this new SNCC emphasis as he called for “Black Power” during a Voter Rights march through Mississippi.

This morning I had a conversation with Deacon:

Tom — What does the African American community think of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book?

Deacon — Oh, we hate it. It’s colonialist and racist.

Tom — But the black panther character is really cool.

Deacon — That doesn’t mean we hate the animals in it.

With that understanding…

From Wikipedia: Bagheera is a black panther who serves as friend, protector and mentor to the “man-cub” Mowgli. The word bagheera is Hindi/Urdu for black panther. From The Jungle Book:

“Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody dared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as the jackal, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant”.

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