By Talib Kweli Greene (Originally Published on Medium.com)
In January of 2018, Steve Bannon, the architect of Breitbart.com’s alt right rise to the Trump White House, a man who told a gathering of white nationalists in France to wear the title of racist as a badge of honor, was fired from his job at Sirius XM after Jewish actor Seth Rogen cancelled Sirius XM appearances in protest of Bannon’s hateful rhetoric.
Many of Sirius XM’s hosts of color, including Reverend Mark Thompson who hosts a show on Sirius XM called Make It Plain, were very vocal in their opposition to Sirius XM’s decision to give Steve Bannon a platform. Today, Mark Thompson’s job at Sirius XM seems to be in question due to a physical altercation he had in Newark. When I look at the details of the events leading up to the altercation, it seems to me that Sirius XM may be in danger of making the wrong decision again. Let me back up…
The Reverend Mark Thompson has been a leading activist journalist in the black community for over 25 years. His show, Make It Plain, which was the only show of its kind to address black issues nationally for years, was the first talk show on Sirius XM, premiering back in 2001. He used his show to broadcast live from Occupy Wall Street and he has been on remote wherever ground zero for the movement was, from Sanford, Florida to Ferguson, Missouri. He’s been arrested for protesting on behalf of the people and he joined Dick Gregory, Maxine Waters and journalist Gary Webb in exposing the CIA’s role in the crack cocaine epidemic. This brother has certainly paid his dues.
I was only marginally aware of Mark Thompson’s pro reparations work before both him and I started being harassed by a new hashtag movement bubbling online called ADOS, which stands for American Descendants Of Slaves. I saw him on Joy Ann Reid’s MSNBC program being described as a member of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) due to his research and support of the concept of reparations for African Americans who are descended from enslaved people.
Like Mark Thompson, I have always been pro reparations. In my first solo song ever, “2000 Seasons” from 1997, I rap “they call it reparations but they call it extortion.” In 2004, on Kanye West’s (that’s pre Trump Kanye btw) “We Can Make It Better”, I rapped “reparations, how you calculate the amount to be paid, you try to imagine America without the slaves.” I am of the belief that African Americans absolutely deserve reparations and I’ve worked closely throughout my career with a pro reparations community activist group called the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. However, none of that mattered to a woman named Yvette Carnell, a founder of this ADOS movement, when she decided to wander over to my mentions to aggressively critique me for writing what amounted to an anti Trump tweet. The ADOS position is that we should not vote for any democrats unless they promise to support reparations. They don’t hold the GOP to the same standard, and even though Yvette Carnell used to support the Sanders campaign in 2016, she was very upset at me implying that I like Bernie Sanders better than Donald Trump.
I was taken aback when I received such a vile, personal attack on my character and my life’s work from what seemed at first glance to be a pro-black black woman. It was clear to me that I supported a plan for reparations in the tweet she was critical of, so why the attack? I had never heard of ADOS or Yvette Carnell before I wrote the tweet, so why did she take a tweet that wasn’t written to her or about her so personal? Why did she assume I was talking about her and her movement? I believe that’s called “hit dogs hollering.” Wouldn’t it have been more prudent and pragmatic to share her plan with me, rather than dismiss me wholesale as some “loud and wrong black celebrity” in our first exchange ever?
As bad as Yvette’s Carnell’s initial unsolicited tweet to me was, her followers were way worse. They collectively decided I was a Haitian immigrant (weird flex) as a way to justify their dismissal of my position. I was born in Brooklyn. My mother was born in New Jersey and my father was born in Queens. We’ve never been Haitian. It became apparent to me very quickly that ADOS was an anti black immigrant movement when scores of ADOS accounts began to harass me, an American born citizen, for being an immigrant. I was called a “coon”, a “sell out”, I was told to “go back to Haiti”. When I pointed out that Yvette Carnell made a YouTube video entitled “Pan Africanism Is Dead” I was told to “go back to Africa”. One ADOS person threatened to shoot me and several others, including a verified twitter user named Junot Joyner who once lost on American Idol 11 years ago, threatened to show up where I perform to physically assault me. These bigoted and sometimes violently worded attacks came daily, by the hundreds, for almost a month straight. Supposedly pro-black ADOS folks were using the same exact hateful rhetoric that white supremacists have used on me for years in digital spaces. Something was fishy.
The strategy for ADOS to get reparations seemed to be attacking famous (mostly) black people for two reasons; first, for not being black and American enough according to a standard set by ADOS and secondly, for being anti Donald Trump. Yvette Carnell’s partner in the founding fo ADOS is a former Los Angeles county district attorney named Antonio Moore who spends his free time making YouTube videos that critique filmmaker Jordan Peele for hiring Africans that haven’t been born in America as the leads for his movies. ADOS folks online constantly tweet about taking down Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Roland Martin, Angela Rye, and every other prominent public critic of Donald Trump. They say that they only go after Democrats because Democrats have taken the black vote for granted. While that statement can be proven true, ADOS fails to realize that the results of only going after Democrats is handing a free pass to the GOP. When you raise that question, far too many ADOS folks begin to defend Trump and double down on their attacks of all Trumps opposition. This is a recipe for failure in my view.
When I began peeling back the layers of ADOS to try and understand why they seemed so focused on attacking immigrants and all anti Trump black people, even clearly pro reparations anti Trump black people, what I found was startling. Largely due to the impeccable research of a twitter user named @ImaniKushan I began to see that Yvette Carnell, who’s twitter name is @breakingbrown, seemed to use her YouTube channel to push right wing, pro Trump, anti immigration propaganda. She has videos titled “Why Is Everyone So Afraid of Steve Bannon” and “Trump Is Right About Black Poverty.” There was a video of her wearing a MAGA hat, which she deleted once we called her out for wearing it. She has tweets about how Trump looks so presidential on TV, and about how Trump is correct about birthright citizenship. She uses her Twitter account to push anti immigration propaganda, and she uses nazi slogans like “blood and soil.” She wrote an essay on her Breaking Brown blog entitled “Black Lawmakers Shouldn’t Be Out Here Calling Trump Illegitimate.” Despite her denials of her support for Trump, the evidence is clear that in action Yvette Carnell is pushing the GOP’s message.
As damning as all of these facts about Yvette Carnell’s actions are, her intentions were not clear to me until I found out that she is an admittedly proud board member of an anti immigrant organization that deceptively calls itself Progressives For Immigration Reform. In case you are someone who doesn’t understand that progressives generally don’t fight for immigration reform, let be break this down for you. PFIR was designated as a hate groupby the ADL and the SPLC because it is funded by John Tanton, a white nationalist well known for creating right wing think tanks that are specifically designed to get minority voters to align with GOP supported anti immigration policy. Now I understood why everyone following Yvette Carnell and supporting her movement were so hateful to immigrants. That was by design. Thats the whole point. ADOS is an insidious right wing funded anti immigration hashtag movement cloaked in the righteous language of reparations.
What most ADOS folks say when I present the evidence that Yvette Carnell is a fraud, is to look at their website, ados101.com. On this site, created by ADOS co founder Antonio Moore, Ronald Reagan is celebrated as being helpful to the black community. Donald Trump is celebrated as being helpful to black communities. Barack Obama, the first black president, is critiqued as not being helpful to black communities. I have no issues with critique of Obama. But when critique of Obama is buttressed in with celebration of Reagan and Trump, that’s clearly right wing propaganda. Also, reparations isn’t mentioned until the very last paragraph of their agenda, on their pro reparations website. This is suspect to me, When I pair these facts with the fact that Antonio Moore once said that due to his genetic make up that he is culturally closer to a white American than an African, I can conclude that the ADOS movement is being run by charlatans. I mean, if Antonio Moore is more like a European/American than he is African, why is he even entitled to reparations? Things that don’t seem to make sense, usually don’t.
“I’m 5% Nigerian, I’m 7 to 10% British, I have a piece of me that’s Scandinavian, I’m 30% Benin, I’m 20% the Congo and a mix of other things, I’m 1% Native American. Looking beyond native black American partnerships, ADOS partnerships… how is it within race to marry a hundred percent Nigerian if I’m only 5% Nigerian, but out of race to marry a white person that may be 20% British? Has our technology, Ancestry.com, 23andme, tore a whole in the whole concept of race? I would argue yea. There was a great point made, that led to a good discussion, but I disagree with the point, where a woman came on my channel and said “when people procreate with people that look like them and share their culture, in this case, you would have more culture in common, being an African American, 400 years in America, never been to Africa, with someone white, and you also may look more like the white person because of the mixture.” — direct quote from ADOS founder Antonio Moore.
Speak for yourself Antonio. What a word salad. There’s a lot to unpack there, and its all self hatred. Is this your hero?
The first notable mention of ADOS on any mainstream platform that is not YouTube was when Rev Mark Thompson critiqued their “take down the democrats at all cost” strategy on Joy Reid’s MSNBC program. This earned him the title of ADOS public enemy number one, with Joy Ann Reid coming in at a close second for even having Mark on. Since Mark appeared on that program, the attacks on his character and life works for ADOS have been nonstop and daily. I may have been the only person to get it worse. Like me, he received threats of violence and death from ADOS folks due to his criticism of their tactics. In my experience, these threats don’t always remain online. In the ten plus years I’ve been tweeting, twitter users have posed real threats to me more than once. A bitter racist rapper named MC Funky J showed up at a show once to fight me for being anti racist, that didn’t work out well for him. Another bitter racist rapper named Bekay showed up to my show, took pictures in front of the venue, and then lied and told his Facebook following that he chased me around the venue.
A violent lawyer from Texas named Jason Lee Van Dyke threatened to murder my fans and I for a full weekend. He was later named head of the racist gang the Proud Boys and then arrested for filing false police reports. Being a public figure who speaks out unapologetically can have actual physically dangerous consequences that you must be on guard for. If it wasn’t, far more public figures would speak up and speak out on behalf of the people.
You guys confuse me , can someone explain to me how in the world @ministter is in the wrong here? Are you guys implying a man can walk into another man face question his moves ,insult him , corner the guy & record him – and he not provoking a assault against himself? No way . https://t.co/B8rYnsoZuE
— jerome j haynes (@doommega212) April 9, 2019
After speaking at a Newark community event put on by my friend and mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka, Rev Mark Thompson was aggressively confronted about his criticisms of ADOS by a black man calling himself Africa, which is ironic due to the ADOS anti Pan African stance. Africa, was upset with how Mark Thompson spoke about ADOS on MSNBC, and he wanted some answers. The exchange got more tense when Mark Thompson decided he had enough and tried to reclaim his time. Africa wasn’t trying to hear that and began to insult Mark’s work and career. Sensing a threat, Mark got into fight mode in order to protect himself and those around him. As someone who has been approached violently by strangers in the street who disagree with things I’ve said online and think that I must obey them or face consequences, I understand this fighting instinct. I cannot speak on the legalities of Mark’s situation, but I can definitely relate to the instinct.
I probably would’ve responded the same way the minister did. If some stranger comes up to me being rude and aggressive all in my space, they may get hit. I’ll deal with the consequences later but what I won’t do is wait until I’m assaulted by some stranger to go into protection mode. I hope that Sirius XM examines the full context of why Mark Thompson was involved in a physical altercation.
When I first started getting harassed by ADOS, I told myself I wasn’t going to write any essays about ADOS because they didn’t deserve it. The ADOS troll accounts have been nastier and more disturbing than any mass trolling Ive received and I’ve been trolled by EVERY major figure in the white supremacist movement, from Ben Shapiro to Gavin McInnes to David Duke. That’s how I know ADOS is not organic. They are more organized and relentless than most troll operations. Hearing that Mark Thompson, who has been a soldier for black communities, may lose a job over being harassed online and in person by ADOS folks made me want to write this as a warning. One, as warning to pro reparations folks in our community, to stay far away from this hateful anti immigration movement. Two, as a warning to ADOS that we are on your head. You came after the wrong black man, and I won’t stop until you are over.
ADOS folks will try to tell you that if you diss ADOS you are dissing all Black Americans ever. That is a lie. I’ve been a black man from Brooklyn my entire life and I never heard of that goofy hashtag until they came after me a month ago. It will never define my experience as a black man in America. I don’t come from slaves, I come from an enslaved people. There’s a difference. They will try to tell you that they have pushed the issue of reparations to the forefront and nobody before them has. These are lies that disrespect our ancestors and leaders whose shoulders we stand on. Sheila Jackson, along with Ron Daniels and John Conyers, introduced the HR40 reparations bill in 1989 and have pushed for it every year since. Organizations like NAARC(National African American Reparations Commission) and N’COBRA(National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America) have been doing the work for years. I used to sell The Debt by Randall Robinson at Nkiru when I worked there 20 years ago.
Since then Robinson has founded TransAfrica, a pro reparations advocacy group. Scholars from Dr. Claud Anderson to Darrick Hamilton have advocated for reparations without needing align with white supremacists like ADOS founders Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore have chosen to do. By making reparations a “hold your own nuts” divisive issue amongst black voters, ADOS will usher in a GOP victory for Trump in 2020. And if you think attacking other black people who also deserve reparations from their respective countries is going to get Donald Trump or any GOP run government to give you reparations, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. ADOS is a danger to actual black activists who have been active in the fight for reparations.