Cynthia McKinney: Celebrating the Vision, Enduring the Struggle
- Cynthia McKinney
Celebrating the Vision, Enduring the Struggle
Newtown Florist Club
November 22, 2003
First of all, let me thank the Newtown Florist Club for inviting me
to be here this evening. And I'd like to recognize the men here who
are smart enough to support the strong women who are here.
During this past year, I have had an opportunity to travel around the
country and see that there really are more people who think like us
who are rejecting the vision for our country that the Bush
Administration has laid out. Even some Republicans.
But on this day, nothing could be more sacred than for us to reflect
on the vision that we have for our community, our country, our world,
and how we will endure the fight to get there. Forty years ago today,
snipers' bullets stole our President and changed our world. A
President who sent federal troops into the South to protect our right
to peaceful assembly and our right to vote. A President who stood up
to the racists and the segregationists while we were standing up to
the church bombings, the dogs, the water hoses, and four dead little
Before he was snatched away from us, it is reported that President
Kennedy had managed to tell his advisors that he was going to get us
out of Vietnam and splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and
scatter it to the winds.
And then the bullets got Martin and Bobby. I have been told that
Bobby Kennedy was considering naming Martin Luther King, Jr. as his
running mate. If that is true, just imagine the America we could have
had? But instead, without John, and Martin, and Bobby we are mired
in the America that we have now.
Malcolm X once said that when you have two boxers in the ring, the
first boxer will take a jab at the other one. He will hit him and
hit him hard. And if the boxer who's hit fails to respond, then the
first boxer will hit harder and harder and harder and harder. And
more and more and more and more. Because the first boxer will have
sized up his opponent to be a chump.
The American people largely remained silent after the Kennedy, King,
Kennedy tragedies. You could say we, the American people, were sized
up. Now, we almost had a tragedy in the Philadelphia mayor's race,
but black people responded with vigor to the targeting of their mayor.
However, down here in Georgia, it's been a different story. In two
Fulton County elections, we failed to rise to the occasion. And for
the next four years, we'll surely get chumped. The measure of us as a
people is being determined by our reaction to events that affect us.
No national agenda, grumbling inside our community, split on the
Presidential candidates, and not a single black Member of Congress
has endorsed Al Sharpton, yet one has endorsed Wesley Clark, two have
endorsed Howard Dean, and one has endorsed Joe Lieberman. And I'm
still trying to find out what any of those candidates has done for
black America? Where were they when Amadou Diallo was killed and
Abner Louima was plungered? And what was the black agenda put forward
to each candidate to earn these endorsements?
How long will Ward Connerly, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and
Clarence Thomas be allowed to speak for us?
But the sad fact is that they are not the only ones; and their
prominence speaks volumes about politics now in the black community.
On every school board, city council, state legislature, and even in
Congress, we are forced to suffer through "leadership" that doesn't
represent us. We are plagued by malevolent public policy being made
in black face and these people strut on the political stage and the
world thinks that they represent you, and me, and our children.
How can we give them the impunity to act in our name? You might
say, "oh no, they don't act in my name." And to those who say that,
let me say this. Public silence is consent.
On December 3rd, 1964, Mario Savio, standing in front of the Berkeley
arch made famous by his Free Speech Movement said: "There is a time
when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so
sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively
take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon
the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got
to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it,
to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will
be prevented from working at all!"
Now, I'm about 40 years late at Berkeley arch, but I read those words
and know that they're as true today as they were 40 years ago. That
there comes a time when we have to say no to the machine. Because
anything less is consent.
Well, for ten years in Congress, I put my entire body against the
gears and the wheels and the levers--against the entire apparatus of
the machine. And I tried to stop it. I tried to warn the American
people of the dangers that I saw emanating from this Administration.
And during this past year, I've had plenty of time for introspection,
even vindication. I know I was right to ask for accountability from
the Bush Administration on the Florida election, 9-11, the 2.3
trillion dollars missing from the Pentagon, the apparent conflicts of
interest with corporate sweetheart deals at the
I authored legislation to stop the use of depleted uranium weapons; I
passed legislation, severely amputated by the Democrats, that put an
arms trade code of conduct into the discourse at the US State
Department. I authored legislation that would allow localities to
choose for federal elections a
voting system other than the winner take all version that we have
now. I authored the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act
to protect our forests, and I called America's hand on its
manufactured wars in Africa.
I was vindicated when the President signed my legislation into law
that extended Agent Orange benefits another 25 years for millions of
Vietnam War vets. And when the Administration tried to deny 9-11
families the opportunity to sue whoever was responsible for the
tragedy of 9-11, I offered as my last legislation a bill to allow
them to participate in any government compensation fund
as well as to sue the guilty culprits and their accomplices, whoever
they might be.
I worked with fearless journalists in Tennessee to save lives of
families suffering the health effects from living near Oak Ridge--I
did that when their own Tennessee Senators ignored them, and I tried
to stop tritium production at Savannah River Site and to shift the
jobs to cleanup.
I met with the CEO of Lockheed, before the 6 people were murdered by
a man filled with hate at one of their plants, to warn him that if
Lockheed didn't heed the pleas of its black workers and deal with its
race problem, something terrible would happen.
I gave hope to hundreds of thousands of blacks in Georgia's rural and
extremely poor black belt and showed them that they could still
believe in America, after all they'd had done to them. I didn't
compromise their dignity and I didn't back away from protecting their
fundamental rights when they were attacked.
I challenged the Administration on the Crusader Missile, wrote about
the Carlyle Group in my official Congressional dissent to the defense
bill, and stood up to the DynCorp Company that had huge federal
contracts, but whose employees were buying women in Central Europe
and turning them into sex slaves. And by the way, how did DynCorp
get the contract to administer the smallpox and anthrax vaccines for
the Pentagon? Could those vaccines be the cause of the mystery
pneumonia and mystery blood clots our young men and women are
And to better understand my son and the Hip Hop generation, I reached
out to Tupac's mother and began to put on Hip Hop Summits where I
brought Hip Hop back to its political roots. I reached out to young
people because I realized that what was happening to them was eerily
similar to what happened to the black activists of my generation who
were discredited or otherwise neutralized, to use the FBI's lingo.
So I dedicated much of my time to COINTELPRO and the murder of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. To try to understand how we black people
could get the Voting Rights Act, and over 4,000 black elected
officials, and yet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in almost any
city in America is fundamentally different in its look and feel from
But, just think about it: Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of
State who participated in the illegal disfranchisement of innocent
black and Latino voters was rewarded with a Congressional seat by the
Republicans and I was taken out of one by the Republicans.
How I respond, how we respond will largely determine at what level we
want to play in the political process and how dearly we want that
vision for our community and our world. You and I care about health
care, education, our children, employment, homelessness,
transportation, veterans, the glass ceiling, affirmative action,
urban sprawl, air quality, race relations, drug abuse, poverty,
incarceration, social justice, death penalty, political prisoners, US
standing in the world? War? Peace?
But a new breed of leader has invaded Washington DC, and they don't
give a darn about the things we care about. In addition, around the
President, are a group of men who believe in the following and wrote
it in a major policy document, Rebuilding America's Defenses. They
say: "[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target'
specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of
terror to a politically useful tool."
Now, as an African American, I know that to mean MK-Ultra and Paul
Robeson; hundreds of black men for 40 years in the Tuskegee Study;
the black bomb experiments of apartheid South Africa when they were
trying to find a biological agent to put in the water that would kill
only black people.
Now is not the time for us to have weak responses to the challenges
that confront us.
Now is the time for us to regroup, reunite, and come back stronger
than ever. Our very lives could depend on it.
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