At Stop the Killing Rally and Interviewing Boone

Over the years I’ve had countless friends murdered in St. Louis. My brother-in-law was killed less than two weeks ago.  I support any positive effort to reduce violence in our community.  Tonight the Rescued Church held a Stop the Killing March leaving from Sarah and Washington.  I interviewed church member Renata and her friend. 

On this same corner billboard sign company owner Boone is camped out on top of a billboard until their is seven consecutive days in St. Louis without a murder. Right now there has been three days.  Let me also state that I don’t disagree Boone strongly on some matters.  Boone allowed the Islamophobia hateful billboards of Pam Geller.  He also indicated he isn’t really a supporter of Black Lives Matter.  However,  on the issue of stopping the killing in St.  Louis we’re in complete agreement. I’d like Boone to extend his compassion to Muslims.   Check out our interview

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St. Louis: Reflections on Our Violent City After the Death of My Brother-in-law

For years our big urban progressive supporters have said St. Louis isn’t dangerous.  “Oh its just the way they count the numbers” or “they don’t include the county and they include East St.  Louis” . Studies like this are making those arguments harder and harder. 

There has never been any doubt in my mind St. Louis is dangerous.  Over the years I’ve known dozens of people who’ve been killed on these streets and I’m hardly alone. Many in this city have known many more victims than me. Many have been dodging bullets since elementary school. 

This past Saturday my brother-in-law Shelby Polk was shot and killed leaving a bar in Soulard. His father was murdered eight years ago. Shelby, or “Chubb”, as he was known, leaves a widow (my sister Sunni) and 5 children ages 3 to 16 (I’ve asked her if she wants me to raise money for her online; but she was too distraught to even think of that).

Life is short. We’re not promised tomorrow. Everything is in the Divine Decree and man plans; but Allah is the best of planners.  I don’t believe in prolonged mourning.  I believe in learning lessons and actions. 

The greatest issues in our city aren’t the lack of Uber,  bike lanes,  and cocktail parties. The greatest issues for our city are the same as they were 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Racism,  poverty and violence. All three are related.

This city isn’t alone in dealing with these issues;  but this is where we live. We need a regional plan for combating violent-crime that isn’t just about hot-spot policing and greater surveillance.  We need a plan that addresses root causes. A plan that’s bigger than government and bigger than progressive inclinations of throwing money at problems and feeding already failing bureaucracies and NGO’s.  A plan that includes houses of worship engaging with the community, schools,  and families. 

A young person with nothing often feels no fear of death or taking another life. Everyone has failed them in their eyes why should they care about those who don’t care for them? We need to give them something to live for. Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change the conditioning of themselves (Quran).

Alpha Brewing Aims to Use Islamophobia to Strike it Rich

The craft beer industry is very competitive these days.  In the St. Louis area alone I’ve lost count of how many local breweries we have. 

Alpha Brewing is located in downtown St.  Louis on Washington Avenue.  It’s not a big player in the local market like Urban Chestnut or Schaffly.  It’s also located in an area hurting for business.  Due to a mostly false perception of crime many are choosing to party at Ballpark Village and Wheelhouse which they perceive as safer options.  I’ve been told in the last week that business at Dubliner is down 40% from two years ago and the pizzeria on Washington and Tucker is on the verge of closure.

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In this climate comes Alpha Brewing with a label highly offensive to Muslims.  The label itself borrows on tired stereotypes of Muslims.  The label isn’t funny. Nor is it harmless.  The offensive label comes in a climate of hate and fear of Muslims.  There is an Islamophobia industry in America that works on this full time. 

The goal of the campaign of otherizing and dehumanizing Muslims is ultimately political and racial. The political aim of dehumanizing Muslims is to gain either silence or support for drone strikes against Muslims,  wars against Muslims,  support for Israel, and the erosion of civil-liberties of Muslims in America. 

The racial goals are the product of otherizing Muslims in opposition to Euronormative belief and practices. Instead of complaining about immigration and jobs being taken by non-whites the critic or jokester can hide behind the religion isn’t race card.

Alpha Brewing has shown the ugly side of St. Louis.  The St. Louis with centuries of racial oppression and turmoil perpetuated by a white elite. The St. Louis we saw light up after the killing of Mike Brown. 

There is a much better side to St. Louis.  Last night I broke my Ramadan fast at the Dar al-Jalal Mosque on Dunn Road in Hazelwood. The mayor of Hazelwood,  the city manager,  the fire chief,  and members of the city council joined us. Thursday night there will be a similar open house at the Dar al Islam mosque in West St. Louis County. 

You can always win a few friends by dividing people just like you can always get laughs by picking on the unpopular kid at school. If that’s how Alpha Brewing wants to operate that’s their right. I’d ask the beer buying public to not support a company that deliberately seeks to offend an already marginalized segment of the population. 

Cabbies, Uber, and a Driver’s Bill of Rights

Last year I authored a piece featured in the Huffington Post outlining the progressive case against ride-share.  I pointed out then when I still believe to be true today. That is the fact Uber and Lyft are nothing more than multi-national taxi-chains designed to drive down the earnings of workers and put more money in the pockets of the fat-cat investors on Wall Street and in London.  I also noted that the urban-liberal support for ride-share was the latest example of their detachment from issues of economic-justice and workers-rights. Indeed if baby boomer liberals were in large part defined by their solidarity and advocacy with labor and the working-class I think Generation X and “millennial” liberals can often be defined by their disdain for the working-class ( more on this in my piece Hillary, Gentrified Brooklyn and the Uber Democrats).

My feelings aside Uber is coming to St. Louis.  Word on the street is they will be here by late summer.  Their arrival will mark the end of many cabbies careers and the inability for many to earn a decent living for their families.  The fight for justice for drivers will continue. 
Last year while discussing these issues many said to me why aren’t you taking on the cab industry?  Surely if ride-share is bad for cabbies so are the cab companies they argued.  This was a point Alderman Scott Ogilvie made during our debate at The Royale in which I delivered such a verbal beatdown to the Minnesota cyclist I think he had to take a few sessions of therapy. 

My answer then is my answer now: it wasn’t the time. The threat at the moment was the Lyft outlaw. Lyft was supported by young progressives based on Cherokee Street.  Young progressives saw Lyft as hip and modern. However,  when you went into the comments sections of articles we didn’t see too much of anything hip or modern.  The number one complaint against cabbies was they weren’t white for the most part. “Foreigners”, “can’t speak English”, ” look like terrorists”, “ghetto”, etc. . The horrors of having to be in a car from someone outside of your race or religion for more than a few moments seemed too much for the flanelled offspring of Frontenac.

The questions for drivers are bigger than Uber,  Lyft or cab companies. The question is about fairness. 

Today in St. Louis and in most cities around the country cabbies have no representation.  Cabbies can be fired at any time for any reason.  Cabbies are labeled as independent-contractors: but in reality are employees who have rules, supervisors, and in the case of St. Louis have to wear a stupid uniform.  A ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court recently held cabbies are in fact employees. 

In addition to the fact cabbies can be fired at any time for any reason drivers also have no benefits.  No health-care,  no pension, no sick days, and no grievance-process.

The Metropolitan Taxi Commission could easily create instruments to deliver benefits to drivers. Yet we have a commission that has shown little interest in helping drivers. You can get a ticket for not having a white-shirt tucked in while the MTC is powerless to stop illegal ( and often dangerous) Illinois cabs from prowling our streets at night.

Cabbies and Uber drivers alike need a Driver’s Bill of Rights.  A storm is getting ready to hit this industry and we have a lot of vulnerable drivers. To date neither the companies or comission has done nothing to give driver’s security. 

As part of a post-Ferguson progressive agenda for the city a Driver’s Bill of Rights is a must. St. Louis has been a city of followers for decades. On the issue of police brutality though our youth took to the streets and led the nation and inspired the world.  We can do the same for professional drivers whether they drive for Uber or a traditional cab company.

Confederate Statue in Forest Park

Kudos to Mayor Slay and St. Louis magazine and others for bringing up the issue of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park. Recognize our history. Don’t glorify it. The statue should be moved to somewhere more appropriate like Jeff Roorda’s house. This is also a time to reflect on our Missouri History of slavery. Don’t forget it is against Missourians the Shahid John Brown did jihad.