Elaine Brown, former Black Panther leader and relentless prison system reform activist, withdrew her bid for the Green Party’s nomination for President, accusing party leaders of steering away from some of its most progressive reforms: economic and social justice.
Ms. Brown said, the “Small clique that has captured control of the Party has transformed it into a repository for erstwhile, disgruntled Democrats, who would violate the Party’s own vision and sabotage the good will and genuine commitment of the general membership,” she said in her recent open letter to the Green Party.
A publicized private e-mail from Green Party Political Director Brent McMillan appeared to have inflamed an already tenuous relationship between Ms. Brown and some members of the party. Brown, who has been in and out of the campaign due to feelings of mistrust for some high-ranking members, has been energizing previously unregistered voters and leading them to the Green Party, according to a post by the unnamed California Coordinator, Committee to Elect Elaine Brown.
Also, the announcement was made almost two weeks after former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney pledged her allegiance to the Green Party and made her candidacy for President official. Ms. McKinney and Ralph Nader (who has not yet declared that he is running) are considered the frontrunners in the party’s race for the White House. Ms. Brown has been critical of Ms. McKinney and had called the new Green Party member out for a debate.
Ms. Brown, originally from Philadelphia now lives in Ms. McKinney’s home state of Georgia. She continues to fight for the removal of the death penalty and the 3-Strikes Law. She also strongly criticizes “celebrity” black people whose enrichment within the white power structure, she says, enables the continued subjugation of blacks and other minorities.
The empowerment of blacks, Latinos and other minorities has long been a stated goal for the Greens of the Unites States, but it became a driving theme this year. At the last Green Party national convention, members organized a race relations workshop to address the grievances and misconceptions between whites and minorities. The party also actively sought the candidacies of Afro-Americans Jared Ball, Cynthia McKinney and Elaine Brown, each of whom address the institutionalized and demoralizing prison system and seek to grow the Green party through hip-hop communities.
However, expanding the grassroot interests of the current majority of the Green Party members to deeply embrace the racial work is harder in practice than in statement, primarily because many Caucasians do not see the systems which penetrate the everyday lives of minorities in the urban ghettos, rural South and elsewhere. Members of the Green Party prefer to work locally, frequently on environmental issues affecting their own towns. Caucasians experience a range of uncomfortable feelings when confronted by the critical and sometimes militant rhetoric that surges from many black activists, who are motivated to arrest the alarming social decay of their communities through speech and/or action.
Recently, another Green Party Presidential Candidate Jared Ball of Washington D.C., toured up and down the California coast with his co-campaigner Head-Roc. He presented a perspective on imperialism and the American prison system which, by design he asserts, attacks the heart of the black community. Mr. Ball and Head-Roc use multi-media and hip-hop in an effort to attract new voters who are not currently engaged in the political process of voting.
Hoping that their campaign approach would attract the attention of Californians, Head-Roc expressed disappointment in the level of interest that Northern California Greens, citing “negrophobia” as the core issue. Jared Ball, on the other hand, noted that the make-up of the California Greens is quite different from that in D.C. where there is a greater racial balance within the party. He sees that it will take more time to educate people who have not been surrounded by the issues, but he asserts that the time for that awareness is now.
Susan King, Green Party organizer of San Francisco noted that the national candidates are really on their own when they campaign. With both big names Mr. Nader and Ms. McKinney so popular amongst Bay Area Greens, it is difficult for the small name candidates to find people to get behind their campaigns. According to Head-Roc, “San Francisco gave us no love.”
Ms. McKinney, presently in a doctorate program at UC Berkeley in California, has been studying the Green Party platform and offering herself as an activist and actor on the stage of the national party’s overall agenda, which is to attain ballot access in all states and achieve federal funding. She too intends to draw in members of the politically motivated hip-hop community to increase the Green party membership.
The Green Party will host its first Presidential debate in San Francisco on January 13; though Ms. Brown remains on the California Green Party primary ballot, she will presumably not be on stage. Ms. McKinney will be there with three to four other declared candidates, as well as drafted Ralph Nader.
Speaking up for the “non-voting Marginalized Millions” Ms. Brown had hoped to “seize the ballot of the Green Party toward their self-empowerment.” As she has withdrawn her candidacy, we have cited her original platform letter below.
“The ballot is the bullet!“
As a former leader of the Black Panther Party, a Green Party candidate for mayor of Brunswick, Georgia (2005), an author and college lecturer, a community organizer—as co-founder of Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice and the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform, and a local leader of the “No on One” campaign (advocating same gender partnership rights) (Atlanta, 1997-2004)—and as executive director of the Michael Lewis (“Little B”) Legal Defense Committee, an activist in the campaigns to free political prisoners Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Chip Fitzgerald and Siddique Hasan, and simply as a black woman from the ghetto (Philadelphia), I have a long history and significant credentials in the struggle for social, political and economic justice in the United States.
In the absence of a national progressive movement toward the institution of fundamental change in the United States, I believe a ballot cast for a Green Party candidate or issue represents the most significant instrument for change available for the Marginalized Millions—black people, brown people, other people of color, poor working people, those languishing in prison, those without decent housing or health care and all the other oppressed people trying to survive at the bottom of life in the most powerful nation in the world. That is, change will not be e-mailed, rapped in a CD or YouTubed. To paraphrase Malcolm X, for the masses of disenfranchised and disaffected millions in America, the ballot is the bullet!
It is my intention to use my presidential campaign to galvanize the non-voting Marginalized Millions to seize the ballot of the Green Party toward their self-empowerment. The Green Party, too, must seize this moment of national malaise and disillusion to come out of the morass of being a repository for disgruntled Democrats and open the Party’s doors to the non-voting millions so as to actively and powerfully challenge the status quo and become an effective force in the national political arena. I believe I am a catalyst the Green Party can use for this necessary transition.
Beyond a call for the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and war machinery from Iraq and Afghanistan, my platform focuses on the repeal of the “three-strikes” crime laws across the nation. No other domestic issue is more urgent for black people, brown people, poor people. This Clinton-promulgated law (1994) and its progeny caused the doubling of America’s prison population in the ten years since passage. The result is, over two million people are presently incarcerated in America, with five million more on parole or probation, with families representing millions more affected by their incarceration, and millions of formerly incarcerated people. In general, this mass incarceration—distinguishing the U.S. as the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world!—has devastated black, brown and poor communities, further impoverishing them and destroying familial foundations. In addition, the “three-strikes” crime laws overturned the 100-year-old juvenile justice system, allowing for the inhumane housing of children in adult prisons, in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Finally, it has generated a nefarious economic scheme of financial gain for private prison profiteers.—For blacks, this has been particularly oppressive, given that 50 per cent of prisoners are black, as compared to 13 per cent of the population, reflecting the ongoing, institutionalization of racism in America.—This criminalization and mass incarceration of the poor, when compared to the glorification of mass murder in Iraq and elsewhere, demonstrates that in the United States, crime is a political question. This law, as it exists around the nation, particularly in California where prison overcrowding has rendered the state facilities gulags, must be repealed!
My platform, then, is one that urges humanizing this society, as follows, a program that can be easily supported by the immediate transfer of the billions of dollars spent on war—one trillion dollars last year alone:
Repeal of the “three-strikes” crime laws, restoring a juvenile justice system, funding programs of education and rehabilitation for those incarcerated and transitional housing and employment for those released, and restoring voting and other civil rights to prisoners and former prisoners.
Full and free health care for everyone, as exists in most civilized countries.
Complete and free primary, secondary and higher education for everyone, eliminating the exclusion of the children of poor and working families from obtaining a college education.
Complete opening of the borders of the United States accompanied by the institution of a guaranteed minimum living wage of $25/hour for all workers, so as to elucidate the so-called immigration question now confounded by racist assaults on Mexicans and Central Americans coming into the U.S. to work and to provide all people working in the United States with a decent standard of living.
Creation of a base of free or low-cost, decent housing, so as to eliminate homelessness and provide every human being the fundamental right to a decent place to live.
The repeal of all laws that discriminate against or dehumanize people on account of ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality, religion, age, or disability, and the creation of laws that guarantee non-discrimination and human rights to all.
Institution of laws and policies that promote purification and cleansing of the air, water and land and that outlaw polluting, contaminating or adulterating them, toward reversal of the pollution of nature itself, particularly as this pollution seeps into and devastates the lives of black and brown and other poor people trying to breathe and live in the ghettos, barrios and hollers of this nation.
The payment of reparations by the United States government to native peoples for the theft of land and to Gullah/Geechee and other African slave descendants for slave labor.
Total dismantling of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction by the United States, and recognition of and adherence to all international agreements as to war, crime and human rights.
Imposition of wealth taxes and reduction of taxes for poor and working people, toward a complete and fair redistribution of the wealth of the nation.
I have embraced and worked for the ideals and issues set forth here, reflected in the Green Party’s Ten Key Values, for most of my life. It is my hope to seize the opportunity of being the Green Party presidential nominee to widely advocate for and promulgate this platform among the Marginalized Millions to bring about the concretization of it through election of Green Party candidates in every city and state as well as nationally.”