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Memo to Walter Mosley


Novelist Walter Mosley recently lamented the void in black leadership in America, saying “millions dying in Africa while your leaders argued about the references and jokes in the movie Barbershop?”

It is much worse than that. Millions of the poor around the world that got jobs producing sneakers and apparel for America’s youth got nothing but scorn or betrayal from African-Americans, when they desperately sought assistance.

Anyone remember what Temple’s Coach John Chaney said to Philly Daily News about Michael?

[from Village Voice]: The great Jordan famously promised to investigate Nike’s factories when sweatshop conditions made headlines in 1996. He has not been heard from on the issue since, and Temple basketball coach John Chaney may have spoken for many in the sports world when he was asked about Jordan’s silence: “Why should he stick his neck out and risk his endorsement deals? You got a fucking problem with Michael making money? Michael should pick up every fucking dollar possible.”

What about Rev. Jesse Jackson? I was sitting in his church with a fired Indonesian Nike worker & the rev was IN INDONESIA, doing the “CNN photo-op prayer service” outside a locked (to keep him out) Nike factory; didn’t I think we were gonna drain the swamp! But JJ started collecting Nike contributions almost as soon as he touched down in the USA & talked about a boycott. A couple of years later, he gave the Rainbow Coalition’s “Leadership in Sports” award to Nike’s chief of public relations, Vada Manager.

Spike Lee? I caught him coming out of the opening of Niketown, NYC years ago (he saw the sizeable protest picketline that we had). All he’d say was “I’ll look at your flyer”, then, woosh. (or should I say Swoosh?)

John Thompson was a Nike board member when the issue was hot — he flew to Indonesia for the Nike guided tour (similar to what Andy Young got paid handsomely for) & JT addressed the Nike shareholders that year, saying everything was all right out there in Asia.

The only African-American on the Nike payroll that spoke up was the late, great Reggie White (just before he made that bizarre speech to the Wisc. legislature). Gene Upshaw of the NFL players UNION would not answer my importunings.

I hated to be in Salt Lake City on Dita Sari’s behalf and see no recognition whatsoever about the plight of sweatshop workers. Instead, headline: “Tutu delights Reebok crowd”. While Desmond Tutu danced a jig to “delight” Reebok’s overwhelmingly white crowd in Salt Lake City, he took no notice of the fact that a principled young Indonesian woman had just torn up Reebok’s $50,000 check and thrown it back into their piggish faces. (see: Take This Prize & Shove It)

Reebok just sold itself to adidas-Solomon, did you hear? $800 million for that Human Rights phoney Paul Firemen who wooed the bishop to SLC.

It would have been interesting if Malcolm X had been around to give them some grief, eh?

HE understood about linking poor peoples’ struggles — he even wrote about the Bandung Conf. in 1955.

Tell youth this story, Mr. Mosley, and some of them might actually respond.

Jeffrey Ballinger is director of Press for Change. He can be reached at:



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