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Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama File 38 Barack Obama, Frank Marshall Davis, Vernon Jarrett-One Degree of Seperation

Obama File 37 here
Why did Barack Obama move to Chicago? Why did he choose a city famous for its corruption and distrust of outsiders as a launching pad for his political career?

Did Obama's boyhood mentor, life long communist Frank Marshall Davis influence that choice?

Obama admits he was inspired to first move to Chicago in 1983 by the election of the city's first black mayor Harold washington. Obama even unsuccessfully wrote away for a job in Washington's administration.

Frank Marshall Davis had lived in Chicago for many years until moving to Hawaii in 1948. He had been active in Chicago's post War Communist Party while Harold Washington was a left leaning young law student. Had the two ever met?

Possibly not, but there was only one degree of seperation.

Frank Marshall Davis was involved in Chicago's South Side Community Art Center "a meeting place for young African American writers and artists during the 1940s". An outgrowth of the Federal Art Project, the Art Center was a hangout for Communist Party members and sympathisers including Richard Wright, Margaret Burroughs, Marion Perkins and Arna Bontemps.

Another center regular was a young journalist named Vernon Jarrett. Davis and Jarrett also worked together on the black run newspaper, the Chicago Defender.

According to Marxist historian Alan Wald;

By the 1940s many of the themes, slogans, demands, and cultural icons of this would-be Negro People’s Front were virtually hegemonic on the South Side; the Chicago Defender, for example, without ever referring to the Communists or other left organizations, frequently presented the race-and-class based radicalism of the Communist Party.

Vernon Jarrett went on to forge an impressive career in journalism. He became the Chicago Tribune's first black syndicated columnist and was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists. He became an icon to Chicago's black community.

According to a Washington Post obituary May 25th 2004

Mr. Jarrett continually shone a light on African American history and pertinent issues in Chicago and throughout the country. He stoked the political embers in Chicago that led to the 1983 election of the city's first African American mayor, Harold Washington.

Vernon Jarrett was a key influence in Washington's decision to run for the Chicago mayoralty and remained a key supporter through his four year tenure.

Here is Vernon Jarrett speaking to Washington's memorial service after the mayor's death in office in 1987.

Harold Washington defeated the Daley machine to win the mayoralty backed by a coalition led by Chicago's Communist Party and the local branch of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

Historian Paul Buhle wrote in a 1992 article for the Encyclopedia of the American Left;

Communists also gained from long-standing political contacts in the black community. Victories of black mayoral and congressional candidates with decades — old ties to the CP — a short list would include Coleman Young and George Crocket in Detroit, Gus Newport in Berkeley, and somewhat more ambiguously, Harold Washington in Chicago

Paul Buhle knows his socialists.

A former member of the Students for a Democratic Society, Buhle is now a leader of DSA. He also serves on the board of Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) where he works with former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Jeff Jones and Mark Rudd. Buhle and Rudd are also involved with the MDS offshoot Progressives for Obama.

Washington was close to Chicago DSA, which in turn went on to endorse Barack Obama during his 1995/96 illinois State Senate race.

Chicago DSA organised a major dinner every year to honour US socialist leaders, Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington.

Harold Washington MCed the 1981 Debs Dinner but had to cancel out of the 1983 event.

The 1983 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner was held at the McCormick Inn on Saturday, May 7... Newly elected Mayor Harold Washington was unable to attend at the last minute. Carl Shier, who was to have introduced him, read a message from him instead, and spoke of DSA's considerable role in Washington's election campaign.

Future DSA leader the late Carl Marx Shier, veteran socialist Egidio Clemente and Harold Washington at the 1981 Debs Dinner

The Chicago Communist Party was right behind Harold Washington, just as they later supported his "proxy protoge" Barack Obama.

I quote from remarks by Illinois Communist Party organiser John bachtell to a "Special District Meeting on African American Equality and Building the Communist Party and Young Communist League, Chicago", IL September 30, 2007

The legacy of Harold Washington’s election and his administration is in the collective consciousness not only of the African American community, but the entire city. Many of his democratizing achievements endure 20 years later.

The historic election of Washington was the culmination of many years of struggle. It reflected a high degree of unity of the African American community and the alliance with a section of labor, the Latino community and progressive minded whites. This legacy of political independence also endures...

The struggle for African American representation and political independence also led to the historic election of Carole Moseley Braun for Senate and many African American state legislators and local elected officials.

The African American community, and especially trade unionists have played a crucial role in the struggle to defeat the ultra right. This includes massive voter turnout in election after election, but also the swing state mobilizations in 2004.

This was also reflected in the historic election of Barack Obama. Our Party actively supported Obama during the primary election. Once again Obama’s campaign reflected the electoral voting unity of the African American community, but also the alliances built with several key trade unions, and forces in the Latino and white communities.

It also reflected a breakthrough among white voters. In the primary, Obama won 35% of the white vote and 7 north side wards, in a crowded field. During the general election he won every ward in the city and all the collar counties. This appeal has continued in his presidential run.

Chicago Communist Party member and pro-Obama activist Pepe Lozano quoted black trade unionist Elwood Flowers in this February 23rd 2008 article from the Peoples Daily World.

The movement to elect Barack Obama today is almost identical to Washington’s, but nationwide, said Flowers. “Our members wanted to be involved in the political process, similar to people today for Obama,” said Flowers.

“What Obama can do for the country will help all communities including providing jobs and health care. And the number one issue is stopping the Iraq war, which is draining our economic resources. If those things bear fruit, then they will benefit all working-class communities,” he added.

It was Washington’s example and the power of working people that will always remind us about what is possible. The greatness is in our hands

Vernon Jarrett was also a fan of Barack Obama. he watched his career from its early stages and became an ardent supporter.

In 1992 Barack Obama worked for the ACORN offshoot Project Vote to register black voters in aid of the Senate Campaign of Carol Moseley Braun. Unsurprisingly Moseley Braun had strong Communist Party and DSA ties and was Harold Washington's legislative floor leader.

Obama helped Moseley Braun win her Senate seat, then took it over himself in 2004-backed of course by the same set that had elected his political "ancestors" Washington and Moseley Braun.

Commenting on the 1992 race Vernon Jarrett wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times of August 11th 1992;

Good news! Good news! Project Vote, a collectivity of 10 church-based community organizations dedicated to black voter registration, is off and running. Project Vote is increasing its rolls at a 7,000-per-week clip. Just last Saturday it registered 2,000 during the Chicago Defender's annual Bud Billiken Parade. But now, the not-so-good news: If Project Vote is to reach its goal of registering 150,000 out of an estimated 400,000 unregistered blacks statewide, "it must average 10,000 rather than 7,000 every week," says Barack Obama, the program's executive director...

Dee Myles is a Chicago activist and chair of the Education Commission of the Communist Party USA. In 2004, after Vernon Jarret's death from cancer she penned this tribute for the People's Weekly World of June 5th.

Vernon Jarrett: a Partisan Journalistic Giant

Readers like me can be extremely selective of the journalists we read habitually... We are selective about the journalists to whom we become insatiably addicted, and once hooked we develop a constructive love affair without the romance...

Such was my experience with Vernon Jarrett, an African American journalist in Chicago who died at the age of 86 on May 23. I became a Vernon Jarrett addict, and I am proud of it!

Vernon Jarrett’s career as a journalist in Chicago began and ended at the Chicago Defender, the African American daily paper. In between, he was the first Black journalist at the Chicago Tribune, and I first began to read his articles during his tenure at the Chicago Sun-Times

Jarrett’s claim to fame is that he was a partisan of the cause of African Americans in the broad democratic tradition of Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois...

Incidentally Robeson and DuBois were both Communist Party members. On April 9th, 1998 at Chicago's South Shore Cultural Center Jarrett hosted a Paul Robeson Citywide Centennial Celebration event with his old comrade Margaret Burroughs and former Communist Party members Studs Terkel and Oscar Brown jnr.

Dee Myles continues;

Jarrett was fanatical about African Americans registering and voting in mass for socially conscious candidates. He championed Harold Washington like a great warrior, and this March, from his hospital bed, wrote an article appealing to Black Chicago to turn out to vote for Barack Obama in the Illinois primaries. Obama astounded everyone with an incredible landslide victory as the progressive, Black candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. From his sickbed, Vernon Jarrett issued a clarion call, and the people responded.

I think Black Chicago was passionately in love with Vernon Jarrett...His unrelenting drive kept us reminded of a sense of purpose and helped to instill the courage of our convictions in struggle as a people. We will forever be indebted; we will never forget.

Indeed, Vernon Jarrett's legacy is far from forgotten. Much of it lives on in the work of his daughter-in-law Valerie Jarrett.

Another former Harold Washington staffer, Valerie Jarrett is a close friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama.

Jarrett met Barack Obama when she hired Michelle to work with her in Mayor Daley’s City Hall. Valerie Jarrett ran the finances for Obama’s 2004 Senate bid and served as treasurer of Obama's HOPEFUND.

According to Take Political Action May 24th 2008;

"She’s always been the other side of Barack’s brain.” That’s how an Obama insider described Valerie Jarrett as an Obama campaign aide announced Thursday night the former CTA chief and current Habitat Co. CEO is taking on a larger role to help her close friend win his White House bid.

The development comes as Jarrett, a charter member of Sen. Barack Obama’s kitchen cabinet, has been formalizing her portfolio and stepping up the pace within the past few weeks as a top advisor within the campaign.

Though she will be part-time, Jarrett will be one of the most visible and powerful African-Americans in the top rungs of the Obama operation...

Valerie Jarrett has been tipped for a top post in an Obama administration.

Did this all start with an almost forgotten communist poet named Frank Marshall Davis?

Obama File 39 here


Anonymous Anonymous said...


The gossip moving around the internet at the speed of light is that Frank Davis is Obama's father:

Obama sure looks like Davis. I'm skeptical, but FFS why won't the Obama camp release the original long-form version of Obama's birth certificate and kill all these rumours? It's a scandal that voting Americans have been and are being denied this information.

3:20 PM  

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