Johnson  & McKenna

Alex Johnson and George McKenna

I, first, want to say, that I am enjoying my summer vacation, and my two month break from writing weekly columns (after 23 consecutive years), while I take time to complete two documentaries and write another book. Also living and loving life…

My pen is enjoying its recharge also.

I’ve been traveling most of the summer and am really enjoying getting away from the political gossip grind. Then I returned home (after two weeks of Sigma Centennials and family reunions) to some nonsense that I couldn’t let slide.

Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping lions lay…

Upon my return, I was sent a blog about how my good friend, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, was promoting cronyism simply because he elected to back a member of his staff, Education Deputy, Alex Johnson, for the vacant seat on the Board of Education.
Ridley-Thomas is entitled to support whom he wants and it’s not uncommon for elected officials to support staff. Two-thirds of the elected officials currently serving office in Los Angeles local and state government were staffers or operatives. So, it was a petty claim designed to tag Johnson to Ridley-Thomas in a negative way.

Junior league.

Simplistic politics-in its most elementary form. Just another grand distraction, in community that has become easily distracted, with misinformation and disinformation.

The same day, I received a flyer from the “Committee to Recall Ridley-Thomas,” again another simplistic grand distraction claiming cronyism and imprudence.

Let me say this about Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. If he doesn’t do everything else in the remainder of his term as a Los Angeles County Supervisor, the fact he re-opened King Hospital with a $120 million dollar private investment and got the Crenshaw-LAX transit line upgraded from a bus line to a rail line with the greatest economic in the history of the black community, he earned his tenure. He did more than his predecessor or the alternative to his candidacy.

Now people are saying he has too much power because he delivered. To see how difficult it was, just look around to see who else is delivering, at that level, to understand what has been done. And no one can lift alone. But it’s insane to suggest that you would unseat somebody because you disagree with them, and are willing to waste taxpayer money for a vain engagement.

Sounds like what the Republicans are preparing to do to President Obama, huh?

Nonsense begets nonsense.

Both the blog and the flyer were written and circulated by supporters of retired educators George McKenna.

The campaign claims it knows nothing.

But what they do know was that I was included in both pieces, as one of Ridley-Thomas’ “cronies.” The pieces brought up contracts that I received and mischaracterized the nature of services, and one sought to mischaracterized me by giving inference to a nearly 25 year old conviction.

So, I get pulled into a political fight when I’m on the sideline?

Got it! I’m in.

Now I like George McKenna, and though we’ve had our differences around black male academies, I felt he was the best candidate for an interim appointment after Marguerite LaMotte passed away, to look after the economic and educational interest of our children. I disagreed with Ridley-Thomas that there needed to be a special election, and then we have to turn around and have another next year. We agreed to disagree.

I also agreed to be neutral in a special election. I have friends on both sides.

Not any more.

It is interesting how some people, who claim to have to “the community’s interest” at stake, continue to contribute to the implosion of the black community in Los Angeles over dumb stuff. That’s right. The black community is imploding before our very eyes. At a time when unemployment is falling in the rest of the nation-but still highest in L.A., economic subjugation is squeezing the life out our businesses, our schools are still failing, gentrification is flipping the community away from us and police abuse/misconduct has resurrected itself, instead of circling the wagons and shooting outward-we shoot inward with continual sniping at each other over simple disagreements, and stupid stuff, that are complicated by the pervasive entrenchment of grassroots megalomaniacs, narcissists and informants that use media to distort and manipulate people around the city about what’s going on in our community.

Malcolm X warned us about these people, the interlopers, who appear everywhere under a community premise, but you don’t know who they’re tied to—they have names of made-up organizations-with no actual followings (you never see more than five or six of them at once) as they interlope with established organizations for credibility and cover.

Malcolm said we had to be smart enough to not to be goated by these plants who target black leaders and be smart enough “not to allow the man to maneuver us into fighting one another.” Outsiders use the agent provocateur to manipulate the “wanna-bees,” the “has-beens” and up and coming who do know who’s around them-until conflict and division has manifested itself.

We witnessed this in the 1920s with Garvey, DuBois and Randolph, the 1950s with King, Wilkins and Marshall, the 1960s with Malcolm and the Nation, the 1970s with the Panthers and US, the 1980s with Jesse Jackson, the 1990s with Farrakhan and the NAACP and in the 2000s with Obama. And it’s going on now.

Those of us who study social conflict movements recognize it and are calling it for what it is. Like the reckless conflict we see in the Gaza Strip, you have those who’ll blow up a whole community to try to get at one or two people-for their own self-aggrandizement, no less. Same trick-new generation.

The interloper will always try to convince us that our best interest is not in our best interest at all. There is no way that you could ever convince me (or anybody else with good sense) that Mark Ridley-Thomas’ representation is not in our best interest.

His support of Alex Johnson is his prerogative and is short-sighted by many-and the criticism has little to do with Alex and more to do with not wanting Mark’s hand to be larger than it already is. Those who criticize this move have little to offer in its stead.

As far as tying me to him, my “record” stands on its own.

In the 25 years since my conviction (a once in a lifetime experience, by the way), I’m a career college professor for 20 years now-and have taught 6,000 college students. I’ve put four children through college (none of them have ever been to prison). I’ve written five books, including three bestsellers. I earned a Ph.D. from an elite university and started the most popular public/community affairs forum—not in the city or the state—in the nation—where top speakers speak and 33,000 community folk eat for free. Fifteen years running…

I’ve done more in my post-conviction life than most have done all their lives. I’m very comfortable with my record.

The contracts were given not just because I am a friend, but because I had the most extensive community outreach network of anybody out there. I’m not elected official. I’m not a preacher. I don’t have television or radio show. I just have a large following from 35 years of effective community service, leading a half dozen established organizations.  I can put 1,000 people in a room on less than a week’s notice. And I have a pen with a long reach, and an even longer following.

My contract produced a Business Improvement District for Leimert Park, only one of less than a dozen in the city. The community will get money from the BID forever. Most of these pseudo-activists probably don’t even know what a BID is, or how it works.

The Who’s Who project promoted 900 black executives, over three issues, most of whom nobody knew, including important county executives who deliver service to our community. Prior to the third edition, it was heralded as the best thing in our community, in the promotion of black executive and entrepreneurs. The focus on Ridley-Thomas was unfair and the community source quoted passed himself off as an “expert” but has a fake Ph.D.—actually tried to get in the book. He regularly appears at staged press conferences with his own “career cons” (one of whom went to prison multiple times between 1992 and 2011—a 20 year career recidivist). But again, a cheap shot by crooked shooters.

So, are you for ex-cons or against them? Do you stand for redeeming all ex-cons?

Or just for the ones that stand with you in your false pretense advocacy?

You can’t claim to be for re-entry and rights for ex-offenders, then turn around and do same thing society does by selectively stigmatizing those same people because choose to hate on one or two. But as I always say, “Your haters make you greater.”

By the way, both the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles has contracted millions of dollars to ex-offenders, who have set-up community programs, gang intervention agencies and drug support groups to help thousands of people in this community. There are ex-offenders that run “Cultural Centers,” literacy programs, job centers and have more than repaid their debt to society. Ridley-Thomas has been a leader in helping remove the stigma against people who are turning their lives around.

Re-starts are better than no starts, and we have plenty of non-starters in our community-talking and doing little else, but waiting for television to cue them after something happens, missing 90% of the real issues that are never uncovered because nobody’s trying to find them.

But those who don’t know, don’t know, and they continue to advance misguided positions on faulty premises in gross demonstrations of anti-intellectual advocacy, often times wearing the very same jackets they try to hang on others. How dumb is that?

Speaking of anti-intellectualism, this takes me to our children in LAUSD.

McKenna has an accomplished past…but it is the past. Nearly 30 years in the past. The world has changed.

I have nothing bad to say and will not contribute to the mudslinging. I will say this, bringing folk out of retirement to serve in public office is a suspect proposition. Always has been. It was done to Genethia Hayes (when LaMotte ran). Now it’s being done again.

At what point do we look to the future? Why not now? Why is our community so afraid of the future that we stay stuck in the past?

Succession planning is not the community’s forte’. It’s time that it becomes so. More than half of the elected officials currently serving in the black community had little or no experience prior to serving.

We need to stop looking backwards and look forward.

Alex Johnson is as bright as they come. He understands new technology learning.

He can learn the policy side and put a focus on our children for the next ten years.

You can say “maybe” for either, but which is most likely? Ageism is real and we all gotta let it go sometime. Why not start now?

And since y’all wanted to put me in it?

I’m supporting Alex Johnson for District #1, Los Angeles Board of Education, and I’m asking the 33,000 people in my email data base to do the same.

Do me a favor?

Forward it to three people.

Let’s see what happens…let’s see who really has the streets-really has “the cred?”

And I’ll take it one step further…

If you have ever been convicted of an offense, or have a loved one convicted or locked up—let’s send a message to those who constantly and conveniently try to stigmatize ex-offenders when it’s convenient for them.

Tell them they CAN vote (if they’re not in prison or parole in California) and tell them to vote FOR ALEX JOHNSON too, on August 12th, 2014.

There!!! Now back to my vacation, and to living life to the fullest!!!

anthony asadullah samad1 (2014)

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.