First day for Voter registration in Philly gets off to a really Bizarre Bang.

Okay what a horrible way to kick off this years voter registration drive. Yesterday a Black woman I knew vaguely from my days working at Weaver’s Way co-op. comes up to me at the little table I had set up on Ridge Ave. with a young Black man she introduced as her grandson. She said she had heard that I use to lecture on the civil rights movement and would I please explain to her grandson that the Holocaust was a hoax. Now I must admit I had heard the woman say that to someone about 10 years ago. But I was completely horrified that she somehow got the idea that I would back her up… I took a deep breath and I took my best shot..I said ” Well first of all the Holocaust being a hoax is an urban legend started by white supremacist in the 1970s. I could see her face getting distorted …she was not getting the response she expected.. “In fact” I continued “the Holocaust very well may be the most well documented event of the 20th century” At this point she had had enough, she began screaming at me. “Where do you get your information?” . I mentioned my Uncle Lucius Bridges who was one of the American soldiers who liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. I was going to continue by explaining how I spent half my childhood living and work around survivors from the Polish death camp Treblinka. which is true.. they had a small community in S.W. Atlanta in the 1950s and 60s..but by then she stormed off. claiming I was “brain washed”.. This morning I am still horrified that this woman a Black woman, supposedly some type of Christian minister would believe something that stupid …but why the hell did she come to me to help her prove it to her grandchild. I wonder how many other Black people have heard this crap?…how many Black people believe it? Is this something some fringe group of Black Christians are preaching in the pulpit? Scratching my head ….but I will continue to be out there health permitting about three days a week registering voters … if you know anyone who just turned 18 send them my way..

Thoughts on the conflict in Gaza from an African American who comes from a housing project

Today marks a first..this morning I have over 20 facebook private messages, from a Jewish American who moved to Israel to live in a settlement ten years ago. “I told you so, as long as they are guided by Hamas the Arabs have no interest in peace” From a musician friend who lives in Jordan and thinks I am pro-Zionist..”You see, you call me an extremist and you can’t see that the Zionist only stopped negotiating for peace because they were getting ready for this” meaning the bombing. Several local and non-local Jewish Americans some of whom have called me an anti-semite say and I para-phrase “Those murderous Palestinians will all pay for their crimes”..many people on both sides telling me “I told you so, and you called me an extremist” One of the hardest things about being an African American in America and having any political opinions beyond say civil rights movement or social conditions in the USA. is enduring the almost knee jerk reaction  programed into a lot of  White people . Sometimes it’s in the tone of voice, sometimes it’s just a facial expression and sometimes I’ve even heard it said out right “how the hell would you know”  On this subject regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict I actually may have more right to speak than many white Americans. In the early 1970s  a group of  Black Panther Party members went to Israel . For the most part this was after a long discussion with the writer Jean Genet who thought that we could be helpful in helping a group in Israel made up of  Mizrahi Jews..a Jewish population made up of  Jews from middle eastern countries. After a visit there by Angela Davis four of us agreed to go..Being Black Americans we noticed right off that these people were usually darker than most Israelis …some were even darker than many of us . We began teaching our usual community control program…something I had used many times in small towns in the South eastern United States.. mostly centering around efforts to get the people  to legally be able to vote and helping create a communal sense by putting together groups of people to help provides services like rides to the markets and child care . After a number of brutal police attacks in March of 1971 the group took the name Black Panthers..and made plans for a major demonstration to unite as many factions of Mizrahi as possible ..This was mostly the brainchild of a man named Saadia Marciano..on May 18th on what became known as the “Night of the Panthers” in Zion Square. About 6 thousand people demonstrated for the rights of the people got real nasty ..real fast.. dozens of people were injured and about 70 Israeli Panthers were jailed…somebody must have talked because the next day all four of the us…Panthers from the USA were arrested. For 18 days I was held far from the city in a place I later found out was the  Ktzi’ot prison ….far from Jerusalem and what I did not know then was I was far from where the Mizrahi Panthers were held..We were beaten with these flexible sticks every day ..and asked, who sent us,? over and over …after about four or five days …I still can’t remember how many ..somehow they decided I was the leader of the American group….I was not… a man I remember only as “Dotan” came in to speak with me..for the next I think three days he and his friend did things I still can’t talk about..I know my grandchildren may read this one day …they don’t  need to know how cruel humans can be. Dotan just knew I was sent by some group in Syria and wanted me to admit that our reason for being there was to paint a bad picture of race relations in Israel. Looking back on it …today ..I don’t think I said anything …but I may have said yes ..just to get them to stop…I don’t claim to be some kind of hero …but I can tell you torture is NOT a way to get to the truth. When I was finally released I found that it was group of people who worked on a Socialist Kibbutz who had looked for us and worked to get us freed …it took about two and a half weeks for me to be well enough to travel back to Jerusalem and then home ..many of those people …the ones still alive are still my friends today..for the White Americans who read this I hope you learn from this that you never can be sure just what a person  knows or can speak with authority on just because of their race..The friends that I made during that time Jewish, Arab and even Christian missionaries in Israel mostly remain friends..and they represent aPEACE wide range of opinions …we agree sometime ..and don’t agree sometimes..But  let me say this, I think the horror of the current situation in Palestine/Israel while largely the fault of the current government in Israel who really did fan the flames when those three children went missing ,is just as much the fault of the hawks on the otherside who control the feeble yet still scary arsenal of rockets ..too few to do any substantial damage but just enough to provoke a massive response…..just everyday life in Gaza like in all of Palestine/Israel for Arabs is already a living hell..why provoke the massive retaliation from the IDF??. This should have been the time for both sides to get their extremist factions in check. So to all the people who think they can say “I told you so” on one side or the other …I say I told you so, your extremism is a danger to all …