Wed, 30 March 2016
Just What We Need: More Black Celebrity Charter School Crooks Entrepreneurs
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Celebrities they say, are people who are famous for being well known, while entrepreneurs, in popular lore, are those with a talent for detecting opportunities to get paid, in much the same way crocodiles and sharks smell blood in distant waters. So the celebrity entrepreneur is all about finding ways to leverage that celebrity to get paid.
In this neoliberal age of privatization, the surest way for the well-connected to get paid is to bribe public officials to help you convert public assets into your private property. Look at entrepreneur Ervin “Magic” Johnson, who gave Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel a perfectly legal $250,000 campaign donation and received an $80 million contract to replace the formerly unionized janitors in Chicago Public Schools. That's entrepreneurship. Now principals in some of those schools are buying mops and brooms out of their own pockets to keep the filth at bay.
Since the Clinton era, charter school investments get automatic tax credits that allow investors to double their money in as little as 7 years. Thanks in part to vigorous lobbying on the state and federal levels by charter schools and their investors and contractors the charter school industry is not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal and accounting, or conflict of interest rules as actual public schools. In most states it's perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give her brother the maintenance contract, her sister the instructional contract and her cousin the textbook contract, to replace the teachers with computer programs, while her own privately held company rents and subleases the school building at a hefty markup, all with public money, and misleadingly call yourself a “public school.”
So it's no surprise that black celebrity entrepreneurs want in on the charter school racket. Magic Johnson's name is on a profitable charter school diploma mill chain that substitutes computers for human teachers and awards quick high school diplomas not in its own name but in the name of the public school the student dropped out or was pushed out of. If that's not educational fraud, it's hard to imagine what is. Deion Sanders and Jalen Rose have charter school train wrecks named after them, and they're far from alone. The truth is that black celebrity charter schools are not about giving back, they're about cashing in. If black celebrities cared about education for black children they'd be siding with parents, students and communities instead of with their investment portfolios.
The latest entries in the charter school feeding frenzy are Sean “Diddy” Combs, with accomplices Steve Perry and Iyanla Vanzant. Together, they're fronting what's called the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, apparently part of the chain of Capital Preparatory operated by Steve Perry, who's not much more of an “educator” than Diddy, and has a history of abusive and threatening public rhetoric, and advocating the mass firing of qualified, experienced teachers, especially black ones.
Despite PR flourishes like calling its teachers “illuminators,” and occasional references to “social justice” Diddy's charter school venture looks a lot more like another parasitic business venture than any kind of real educational institution. It's time we looked a lot closer at black celebs who claim to be “giving back,” and at their kind of black “success stories” as well. The last thing we really need now is more black celebrity charter school crooks... I mean entrepreneurs.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tue, 29 March 2016
“Former Officer Liang’s supporters argued that he would not have faced charges at all, if he had been white.”
Last week, the District Attorney for Brooklyn, New York, recommended that the cop who was convicted in the death of Akai Gurley not spend a single day in prison, but, instead, serve five years probation, six months on home confinement, and do 500 hours of community service. The cop’s lawyer called the DA’s decision “courageous.” Members of the city’s Chinese American community had packed the trial, demanding that former officer Peter Liang be acquitted of negligent manslaughter charges for shooting Gurley as the unarmed 28 year-old father walked in the darkened stairwell of a public housing apartment building with his girlfriend. Liang’s supporters argued that he would not have faced charges at all, if he had been white.
District Attorney Ken Thompson, a Democrat, the son of a cop, and the first Black to be elected as top prosecutor for Brooklyn, justified his recommendation of leniency, saying there was “no evidence” that Liang intended to kill Akai Gurley, and that Liang was not a danger to the community – despite the fact that he had already killed a law abiding member of the community.
Akai Gurley’s family was outraged. They said District Attorney Thompson’s recommendation “sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences.” At least some of the jurors that convicted the cop agreed. One asked, “What was the point of prosecuting him? If something is wrong, you shouldn’t get a slap on the wrist.” Another juror said the DA’s call for leniency was “ridiculous,” and confided to the Daily News that his own father had spent seven years in prison for accidentally shooting a friend.
However, the only Black person on the jury, a 69 year-old man, said the prosecutor was only “doing his job.”
“Impunity for police is built into the system.”
The person who will have the final say in the case is Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who is scheduled to sentence Liang on April 14. Before he was appointed to the court, Chun, a Korean American, was a prosecutor.
The Brooklyn DA’s decision means that, even when a police officer is convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of an unarmed and totally non-threatening Black man, in a trial in which the chief prosecutor is Black, the chances of meaningful punishment are slim, because impunity for police is built into the system. No matter the weight of the evidence, Black lives don’t really matter in the U.S. criminal justice system. So inconsequential was the life of Akai Gurley, that Chinese Americans believed that Officer Liang was entitled to the same impunity – the same free pass – in the death of a Black man, as a white cop could expect to get.
Ken Thompson, the Black prosecutor, clearly feels the same way. He is a career Democratic politician whose allegiance is to the party and the system that appointed him, not to Black people, and certainly not to any notions of justice. His job, as he saw it, was to prevent the jury from dispensing justice, to turn loose a killer cop – because he is a killer prosecutor and, as Akai Gurley’s supporters said throughout the trial, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.