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Anti-Semite? Speaker in MLK keynote says foes trashing her
Sunday, 03 February 2019 21:41
By JOHN NORTH
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Activist and co-organizer of the Woman’s March Tamika D. Mallory made several references to the plight of Jews —  saying they and other “oppressed people” need to work together, and she opined several times that anti-Semitism is uncceptable — during her 40-minute speech on Jan. 24 to a crowd that came close to filling all 580 seats in UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium.

After her speech, she fielded six of many questions submitted electronically by those in attendance. She received standing ovations after her speech and after the Q&A. 

Despite temperatures outside in the 20s and a chill wind, somewhere between five and 10 Jewish protesters and/or Jewish sympathizers stood outside Lipinsky, named for a Jewish philanthropist, holding signs and banners protesting Mallory’s appearance.

They said they felt that, while Mallory should have the right to expresss her views, which they believe are decidedly anti-Semitic, it was inappropriate that she should do it in the spotlight of a celebration of the nonviolent ideas of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

In both her speech and the Q&A, Mallory, who gave the climactic keynote address of UNCA’s MLK Jr. Week, sidestepped any mention of her alleged close ties with the Rev.  Louis Farrakhan, an American black nationalist and minister who is the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam. 

A number of media sources have reported that Mallory posted on social media in 2017 that Farrakhan is “the GOAT” — or “greatest of all time.”

In UNCA’s two-page printed program for the event, the university noted  that “Mallory is the co-president of the Women’s March, the first of which was held in January 2017 and drew an estimated 5 million participants worldwide. A second round of marches around the country took place around the country on the weekend of Jan. 19, 2019.

“Mallory is the former executive director of the National Action Network and a leader in community-based efforts to stop gun violence in her native New York City.

“She was instrumental in creating the NYC Crisis Management System, an official gun-violence prevention program and she also worked closely with the Obama administration on gun control policy. Mallory has founded Mallory Consulting, a strategic planning firm in New York City.”

At the end of the printed program, UNCA noted that it is scheduling “additional public talks during the spring 2019 semester, featuring nationally known thought leaders, discussing anti-Semitism, Jewish and African-American community relations, race and interfaith dialogue and more.When scheduling is finalized, events will be announced at unca.edu/events/”

In opening the night’s event, Cori Anderson, interim director of events and conferences, began by publically thanking Biltmore Hotels and Our State magazine for their sponsorships, adding that “we wouldn’t been able to do this without their support.”

Next, Dr. Tiece Ruffin, a UNCA assistant professor of education, spoke a bit about King and then introduced Mallory.

“Dr. King was known as one who fought for civil rights and freedom,” Ruffin said. ”He is considered an influential world leader for fighting against social injustice.” She added that King considered racism, poverty and war as evil, as he noted during the speech in which he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

She added that King “paid the ultimate price” — losing his life — for his efforts, but has left many worthwhile ideas, such as his saying, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Further, Ruffin asserted, “Dismantling oppressive systems requires constant agitation... We cannot afford to be silent to all forms of racism ... Only in the darkness can we see the stars.”

As for UNCA’s MLK Week keynote speaker, Ruffin said, “Miss Mallory engages in the complex. This type of work requires intersectionality....

“She is known for her justice work….. She is a New York City native. A very outspoken advocate for all human rights … She is considered as a leader for tomorrow.”

What’s more, she said Mallory’s anti-gun group in New York City has amassed $27 million to award those who cooperate in their efforts to removed guns from the streets.

Given that Ruffin personally has suffered from gun violence, “Tamika, with her work with gun violence, stands out for me.”

Mallory “travels worldwide, speaking on actions needed to bring about change... In my opinion, Miss Mallory is, without a doubt, a change agent. Let’s welcome her with a hearty Bulldog welcome.” (UNCA’s athletic teams are known as the Bulldogs.) 

Mallory received a rather mild applause from the audience as she — at 7:12 p.m. — began her talk, asserting, “I obviously had a very painful background when it comes to gun violence” to become so active in the anti-gun effort.

She then thanked UNCA Chancellor Nancy J. Cable “for having me ... for ensuring that this opportunity brings people together rather than tearing people apart.

“It’s obviously a difficult road to travel to get here. Not just the weather, but the (political) ‘climate’ we’re living in.”

After a pause, Mallory said, “I know you know there’s an elephant in this room,” but she said she would not address things that have been twisted — by her enemies — about her that are untrue.

Next, she said, “As I travel the country, I travel with a number of people.” Among those accompanying her are her son Tarique Ryans, (Mallory is a single mother to her son. Her son’s father, Jason Ryans, was murdered in 2001.)

Mallory then asked her son to read a poem to read titled “I Don’t Have the Right to Do Nothing,” written by Mysonne Linen.

The tall, thin 19-year-old appeared, wearing a black ballcap tugged down over his forehead, as his mother left the stage.

“I don’t have the right to do nothing,” he rapped, in part. “Injustice is a crime…. Revolution is a part of evolution….”

His poem and rap performance of it, garenered a big applause, with several dozen people standing up.

Returning to the stage, as her son departed, Mallory quipped, triggering laughter from the crowd, “OK! We can go home now! Thank you!” 

Shifting to a more serious tack, Mallory noted that she had worked with several classes and groups at UNCA earlier that day and had learned much about the racial history of the Asheville area.

“This particular community chose progress and collaboration — and I’m proud of that,” she said.

“Many people know me as a leader of the Women’s March. I thank God I was able to be a member of it....

“I was doing this work for a long time before that — 20 years, to be exact. I’m certainly not a stranger to this kind of pain” — being highly criticized for her actions.

“ But I’m also not a stranger to the wonderful feeling to those we meet along the way by people willing to lend a helping hand...

“That tenacity has allowed me to remain the same girl…. My parents made ‘freedom-fighting’ as important as going to church or going to school. Imagine a young girl having to listen to (much) older people” on protest strategies and theory. “But it’s something I now find to be an honor.”

When the father of her son was killed by gunfire, “it would have been easy for me to hate his killers. But I learned I had joined a club... One day I’d like to ensure that the membership of this club is limited — to  the club of losing a loved one to gun violence....

“I had to tap into some teachings... While some of us may not feel the need to be in ‘the work’ (fighting oppression) every day, you are.”

Mallory asserted, “I am a student of Dr. King’s organizing strategies. He suggested a philosophy where we fight the systems and not the people. It is to be inclusive — unified against all factions of injustice. ‘Oppression anywhere is oppression everywhere,’ as Dr. King said.”

However, she noted that the “romanticized” characterization of King and his ideas that has been passed down through history should be questioned. “Sometimes we can’t be sure” that popular notions of King’s views are accurate — and that that is a good thing.

“We have to conquer the task of abandoning our attachment to the romanticized versions of our leaders,” Mallory said. “In other words, we need to remember him as a radical leader who was killed in trying to free the most marginalized in our society.”

To that end, she contended that “there are two Kings — the one we love and who had a dream... and the one who woke up from that dream and was killed for it.”

Being a radical for change will, on occasion, put one in a position, where “you won’t always look pretty….”

Pausing, Mallory then quipped with a smile, “I think I’m pretty cute, so ... it kinda works out.” The audience laughed at her sudden playful attitude.

“You can also be the villain and the victor on the same day,” she continued, adding that she is plagued with lies told about her.

“Let me tell you about the lies,” Mallory asserted. “They (her critics) seem to have made them up in the last two weeks. These lies make it around the world before you can wake up in the morning ... This thinking of villain and victor is really problematic.”

Further, she said, “Another powerful word lost in this villain and victor thing is this thing called humanity.”

Mallory added, “I’m hear to tell you that even the most powerful leader you know (King) has that human side. If you have not seen the film, ‘King in the Wilderness,’ about the days just before he died,” it would be worth watching.

“He (King) felt alone, even with people around him. He felt betrayed. He felt abused. People had dehumanized him.”

Mallory said she could empathize with King’s trials and tribulations, especially when she, like King, came to the realization that “words actually do hurt.”

She noted that, “at various times during the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King was referred to as ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’”(That reference reportedly was made by then-FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover.)

When King penned the letter, “From the Birmingham Jail,” he was facing withering criticism from many directions, she said.

“When Dr. King was under pressure to denounce violence,” she added, he instead responded that “the promises of freedom and justice have not been heard.” 

What’s more, Mallory said, “I believe Dr. King would have stood up for the young people of Ferguson, Mo.) after brother Michael Brown was gunned down” by a white police officer.

“I (also) believe Dr. King would have stood up for the people of Baltimore, because of killing of Freddie Gray” by police. (While being transported in a police van, Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center, where he died.)

“When he (King) was told to ask people to wait instead of rioting, he said, ‘Not now.’”

King even went so far as to speak against the Vietnam War, antagonizing some of his ultra-liberal white supporters, Mallory said.

“Dr. King fought in a reality that left bruises from firehoses and handcuffs.”

Speaking more generally, Mallory said that those finding oppression must come to the same realization as King — that “the arrests and sacrifices are affirmations that we are prepared to make for this work.

“He (King) really knew what it was to give your life for this work.”

Speaking for herself, Mallory said, “I’m prepared to give my life (for the cause of freedom) because I think my life will be more valuable in giving it for a good cause than sitting around” and living a meaningless life.

“You know, Dr. King wasn’t a saint — and his family members will tell you that.”

As his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement continued, King “was becoming more concerned about the white moderate community — those people who claimed to be friends and allies.”

Mallory said that King discovered that “when it was time when things became very, very rough, we can’t find one another (his allies).”

That remains the case today, she said, and “We’ve got to work on that.”

Further, she said, “We’ve got to have tolerance,” mentioning the “intersection between anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.” 

At that intersection, “we need to have very deep conversations, Mallory asserted, receiving mild applause from the audience.

“We need to tell ourselves that ‘I don’t know everything I need to know’” about other races and cultures, she said.

“We need to have conversations that make people feel uncomfortable. But we can’t have conversations unless the people we need to talk to are at the table.

“We must do so because we have to be driven by the promise of unity. It’s actually the only way. Dr. King did it despite sometimes being despised. We must do it because we know our truth.”

She then turned to current affairs, noting that “we’re on the 34th day of a government shutdown. People don’t have their paycheck. I don’t know about you, but I need to have my paycheck every time I’m supposed to get it” or she would run short of money.

“We won’t address that America failed us (blacks) … We must do it because Jewish folks are facing blatant anti-Semitism. Girls are being raped. We can’t quit. Our lives literally depend on it. We cannot depend on the legacy of others,” an apparent reference to King.

“We must be able to say that in this generation… We can’t quit. We have to stand up and be vocal about our opposition to injustice... When we are courageous in our action, we can’t lose.

“When we have people, including some sitting in this room,” who are “actively working to try to destroy you, tenacity and courage” are requisite, she said.

Mallory added, “That big tent is wide, but it’s (also) where Dr. King was murdered.”

Ironically, she noted, “Dr. King (eventually) realized how much (some) people really didn’t want to see us get free.

“Some people are working around the clock. They don’t have to (do real) work like you do, so they have time to sit and think how they can be destructive.”

She also noted that during Reconstruction in the South, “the bourbon interests drove the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revived the idea of white supremacy. They made it a crime for Negroes and whites to come together on any level. And that effectively killed the populist movement of the 19th century in the South. Those are Dr. King’s words.”

After another pause, Mallory said, “But we won’t fall victim to this moment of divisiveness and distraction,” in an apparent, but unstated, slap at the Trump administration.

“What we choose to do, instead, is to hear” the pleas of those facing injustice,” she said. “We have vowed, as leaders, to lean in…. We will make — and have made —  mistakes. And we are victorious. For God’s sake, women hold the gavel, y’all.”

Speaking fatalistically, Mallory said, “I may not live to see the fruits of my labor…. I might not even be the one to change the world. But it is my hope that there will be someone during my day here to change the world — to be not only be the next Dr. King, but to be the next you.”

Upon the conclusion of her speech, about three-fourths of the audience arose to give her a standing ovation.

In the Q&A that followed, she was asked  how “you can speak on Dr. King while praising Farrakahn.”

“Dr. King met with a lot of folks,” Mallory replied. “He didn’t always agree with everything they said. But he understood there was a common course for justice.”

On a question about her view of anti-Semitism, she said, “What I know is that oppressed people have no business being against one another. We have a lot of work to do to work together. We need to do the work of listening to one another.”

Someone asked her opinion about the Women’s March, which is pro-choice on abortion, and the March for Life, which is pro-life — “are these events at odds with one another?”

“From our perspective at the Women’s March, we believe being pro-choice allows you to be pro-life.” At that, the audience broke into enthused applause and cheers.

Mallory added, “There’s no conflict, as far as we’re concerned. I know in my community, telling someone they have to be pro-choice is not accceptable. I think all women have a space in this particular movement.”

On another question about King’s ideals Mallory said, “I think we’re romanticizing the way Dr. King was.” Speaking generally, she said, “We try not, in any way, to silence (dissenting) voices… I think it’s important for us to be open… open to all voices. 

As for how she “navigates in conversations” with her son, Mallory said, “I do have to hold my son because sometimes it hurts him when he sees people saying things about me that he knows are not true. There is not going to be uniformity in bringing down systems of oppression. There should be unity. I think he’s pretty mature. He understands it.”

Regarding her view of the cancelation of the California Women’s March because “it wasn’t diverse enough by their standards,” Mallory said, “I don’t know. I know what the media says, but I take that with a grain of salt. I do know when certain groups aren’t being represented, then you have to take a step back. I think they looked at the landscape and felt it was not diverse enough for them to proceed.



 



 


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