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Celebrating Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Turns 50 TODAY!

It is always the strangest thing in the world to me when we celebrate milestone events in this country that are nuanced with a particular group of Americans in mind–especially when that group is African Americans. It is especially peculiar to think of celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the premier pieces of legislation that defined the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. But, today we commemorate it–Happy 50th Anniversary!

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a long and hard battle fought by African Americans to get Congress to pass a strong meaningful piece of legislation that would secure our ability to be treated fairly according to the law, and especially in places of public accommodation. Congress was not super sold on passing this bill as America was ultra polarized and the racial tensions of America were about to reach their boiling points during the decade of the 60s.  Prior to Johnson’s passing of the bill, it had been introduced by former president John F. Kennedy. Congress had made attempts to kill this bill and the likes of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and organizer A. Phillip Randolph had organized and participated in the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington to underscore the need for African Americans’ fair and equal treatment under the law.

Although revised and arguably watered down by most analyses, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it so hotels that were once suddenly “vacant” when African Americans solicited them could no longer prevent our stays.  Those very same Woolworth counters that refused groups like the Greensboro Four (4) of 1960, only four years earlier, now had to open their counters for African American patronage and dine-in participation and not just take out. With the passage of this bill African Americans were not ever going to move the backs of any buses unless we wanted to. And, certainly after this bill was passed, discriminatory practices still prevailed because bad habits and even worse beliefs and practices were not abandoned overnight, but at least they were easier to fight and criminalize due to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd.

Take a listen: 

On Friday, July 4th, 2014, we will celebrate 238 years of American independence from the control of the British crown and King James.  Long before American Independence was a conceivable idea in the mind of European immigrants looking for solace from their nations’ persecution, African Americans were here and even before Columbus–we were merchants, mariners, explorers, and of course, we were the labor that created this “land of the free” and “home of the brave.”

No matter how strange it is to have to even celebrate 50 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 victory, especially in a country nearly two and a half centuries old and one that would have never seen the light of victory without its “native sons”, we celebrate this legislation nonetheless.

Happy Birthday Civil Rights Act of 1964!

The Media and the Making of Malcolm X

“The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Malcolm X

Today, May 19th, 2014 we say Happy Birthday to Brother Malcolm X, one of the world’s “brightest hopes” as he is “extinguished now, and gone from us forever…unconquered still. (Ossie Davis–Malcolm X’s Eulogy).”

As is the case with hindsight, we never really understand the blessing of a treasure until it has seeped from within ourmalcolm X grasp, been moved from within our reach, or taken away from us too soon. We often refer to this as missed opportunity.  In regards to man, we really only know of their value in death.  Such is the case with Malcolm X.

So much of Malcolm X, “our living Black manhood” was lost in the media’s coverage of him as a controversial figure. In the media, Malcolm X is militant, angry, and violent. And, he is never a man.

In the media he is also an agitator rather than a self-help guru–today I suppose even Oprah Winfrey and OWN TV would be doing a Master Class on him because of his ability to help each of us to live our best lives.  He is the soul of our Sundays as we reflect on the true meaning of life, but he is also the weekend fever that makes us active, involved and responsive.

In the media, soundbites are used to express the totality of his life, but beyond the camera lens, Malcolm’s total life is an example of transformation, introspection, resilience and the full human experience.

Malcolm X is a mountain.

Malcolm X 2The media has hijacked his image and taken his words to create him as polarizing to the success of human excellence. But we must know and project him differently. We must know that although Malcolm X did not have the formal education that we revere in our leaders, the invaluable education of accountability and service he taught is as priceless as his precious life.

Today on his birth, Google chose to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Rubic’s Cube–a three-dimensional combination puzzle by its Hungarian namesake used to challenge our brains on the myriad ways in which to get all of the same colors on one side of this movable block.

The most puzzling thing to me, however, is how we can continue to deny Malcolm X–this “black shining prince” Ossie Davis described as a man “who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

As long as we have access to smartphones and social media and pens and paper, we are the media.  We have the power to shape our heroes in the ways in which they should be viewed–we have the ability to tell their truths; and, we also have the power to write them back into places in which they have been erased.  After all, it was Malcolm X who said:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

If we choose to hate Malcolm X, we choose to hate an everyday man with the extraordinary courage to stand up to white supremacy, institutional racism and maintain / assert his manhood with the best of integrity–something that each of us is equipped to do.

I choose to celebrate this sphinx of a man.

He is love.

He is light.

And, I love him so.

Read Ossie Davis’ full eulogy below:

“Here–at this final hour, in this quiet place–Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes–extinguished now, and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought–his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are–and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again–in Harlem–to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who have loved her, have fought for her, and have defended her honor even to the death.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain–and we will smile. Many will say turn away from this man, for he is a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the Black man–and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate–a fanatic, a racist–who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us–unconquered still. Afro-American Malcolm was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a “Negro” years ago. It had become too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted–so desperately–that all his people would become Afro-Americans too.

Malcolm was our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words to a friend: “My journey,” he says, “is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and dignity in the States. I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our Human Rights struggle. The main thing is that we keep a United Front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.” However we may have differed with him–or with each other about him–let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.

Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man–but a seed–which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is, our own black shining Prince!–who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.” ~Mr. Ossie Davis, February 27th, 1965 delivered at the Faith Temple Church of God.

For more information on Ossie Davis feelings toward Malcolm X, go to: Ossie Davis and Democracy Now

Race: Medium, Rare or Well-Done, Still Hard to Digest, Pt. 1 

“This assumption that of all the hues of God, whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts…” Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, “The Souls of White Folk,” from Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (1920)

Toure's BookIn 2012, MSNBC’s The Cycle co-host, Toure, explored the issue of race right on the heels of President Obama’s reelection in his book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness: What it Means to be Black Now.

In the midst of the latest rash of race-induced headlining stories, two more questions come to mind:

1). What does it mean to be racist in America?

2). Why is race still so hard to digest?

Post-racial?

We have not even begun to make that journey.

On April 22nd, 2014 the Supreme Court supported the voters of Michigan by upholding a ban on affirmativesupreme court justices action in the state, specifically as race is used as a factor for admitting students to the University of Michigan. Justice Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, was one of two justices (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined her) who voted against the Supreme Court decision.  In her now much referred to 58-page dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor pointed out that white graduates of public Michigan institutions could still exercise the privilege of lobbying the admissions board to garner acceptance for other relatives into the school; thus, they can use a “legacy” policy of admissions.  Black students, especially ones never having any relatives who have ever attended college before, will not be so fortunate.

And so I began thinking about what would happen to students whose race was “detectable” by their names.  And, would these same students also be denied entry because an admissions counselor had these special “race discerning” powers just by reading the name on the application?

Out of my own curiosity, I presented my students with a role play / scenario to see if they could determine the race of a person based on the person’s name.  In a hypothetical, in-class assignment, I had my students pretend to be a panel of admissions counselors with the sole responsibility of admitting students to our make-believe school, but they could not consider the student’s race.

Hmmm…But, would they?

They were charged with developing our made-up Freshman class from the applicants presented.  While I didn’t disclose any of the racial demographics with my students, they did as I assumed they would–associated the names they considered Black and/ or “ghetto” with a Black person, gave a ‘white’ designation to names that they argued a white person would have, and assigned “other” to names that appeared to be of Arabic, Asian and/or Hispanic descent.

College ApplicationSurprisingly however, my students naturally capped the number of perceived Blacks they admitted despite the applicants’ qualifications.  And, they were far more lenient with the spaces given to white and Other students arguing their attempt to create a “diverse environment.”

This is what racism does.  It forces those that have been disenfranchised to self-impose limitations.  It makes the targets of its practice justify why racism may not be happening when clearly the effects of the actions imposed by the dominant, ruling class suggest that racism is the only plausible explanation.

While watching my students continue with this assignment, it was clear to me that Professor Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Constitutional Law Professor at John Jay College, was right to coin the Supreme Court’s Schuette vs. Coalition of Defend the Affirmative Action ruling a ‘Supreme Flaw.’ in the New York Amsterdam News, Vol. 105, No.17.

Our world has evolved in ways I am certain earlier Neolithic people never imagined. The idea of race is already a baffling enough construct. Add to that the notion that we still have not reached a place where it can be discussed genuinely and meaningfully there is no wonder it appears we are all suffering from indigestion.

We could all use a little bit of relief.

Life and Death: The National Guard and Student Activism

On May 4th, 2014, we remember the horrendous killing of four students and the wounding of nine by the bullets of the National Guard on the campus of Kent State University on May 4th, 1970.

Students at Kent State protested President Nixon’s announcement that the United States would invade Cambodia in the midst of America’s already unfavorable Vietnam War. In an attempt to stop the students from protesting and rallying, Kent State University’s administrators decided to cancel the students’ rally so they began passing out flyers saying that the rally was canceled. To no avail students showed up anyway.  Some of Kent State’s faculty appealed to the students to abandon the rally upon realizing the Ohio National Guard had been called to disband the student assembly and knowing that eventually these students could become victims of the National Guard’s aggression.  As the National Guard began closing in, the students maintained their position and continued rallying. Before anyone knew what happened, one of the officers opened fire which resulted in other National Guard officers opening fire on unarmed students.

We remember the students of Kent State that lost their lives.  We also reflect on the role the National Guard has served in protecting and escorting our most vulnerable groups for the past 378 years.   Lastly, we are called to question the price of student activism or lack thereof in America’s schools today.

Check out CNN’s photo slide show here: Kent State Shooting in Photos

In the 1950s and 1960s, the National Guard was used by President Eisenhower in 1957 to help admit nine African American students into Little Rock Arkansas’ Central High School–The Little Rock Nine. When the state of Arkansas refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling to integrate schools “with all deliberate speed,” the final resort for President Eisenhower was to enforce the ruling through the use of the Arkansas National Guard, a symbol of protection and an escort for nine young people attempting to be educated and bravely walking into the pit of racism’s hell for it to happen.

Check out the Eyes on the Prize segment here: 

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy also used the National Guard to escort and protect two students into the University of Alabama, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, when the notoriously defiant and racist Alabama Governor George Wallace denied them entry into the school.

Click on this 2003 NPR link to hear Vivian Jones’ words about this time period here:

NPR and the University of Alabama, 1963

As the decade of the 60s progressed, the National Guard intervened in even more campus conflicts, but they no longer appeared to serve, protect, and escort maligned groups in our nation.  As America changed presidents and became embroiled in more international conflicts such as the Vietnam War and Cambodia invasions, a commitment to Civil Rights became a thorn in the side of our nation, and the National Guard seemingly became the escort of the nation’s resentment.  And, its purpose became riddled in contradictory aggression and death.

On the campus of the renowned HBCU North Carolina A & T University, the National Guard, in reaction to the idea of Black Power, used deadly force to quell student protests in May of 1969.  The students of the local James B. Dudley High School turned to the college students of NC A & T to assist them in the issues they faced in electing the student of their choice to represent their student body.  As a result of the students of Dudley High School not feeling their demands were being met, and as a result of the superintendent’s decision to remove the Black principal and replace him with a white one, the students protested and picketed. During the student protest, the police used tear gas to stop it.  The police presence and actions exacerbated the students’ behavior resulting in nine student arrests and rioting.  Dudley High School students further enlisted the help of North Carolina A & T’s Student Organization for Black Unity, a group feared to be operating under the Black Power Movement.  Some of the student activists organized a march to support the students of Dudley High School, but in the midst of the march, a group of young white youth orchestrated a drive-by shooting into the crowd of the A & T students; and, in response, the A & T students began defending themselves.  How they defended themselves has long been a source of debate.  The National Guard was called in to suppress the reactions, and once again the situation was exacerbated.  As result of the National Guard’s presence, student Willie Grimes, 22, was shot and killed. The campus erupted and what ensued was the declaration of a state of emergency,

Willie Grimes

Willie Grimes

the raiding of Scott Hall, a male dormitory, approximately 300 students were held in prison for the day, more than 60 rounds of ammunition were shot into the dorm’s walls by the National Guard, a campus-wide curfew was put into effect, and ultimately 3 operable firearms were located.

In the aftermath of the Dudley High School / A & T fiasco, students lost their lives, had their college experiences marred, and came face to face with the brutality of the National Guard, an entity that 12 years prior had served to extend civil rights to vulnerable African American students looking to be educated in a racist, forced-integration system in Arkansas.

The National Guard’s motto is “Always there, Always ready.”  There are countless men and women that serve in the National Guard every day, assisting America in its time of need and we appreciate them.  In America’s most volatile, racist times the National Guard has been there, and in the most tumultuous decade of the 20th Century, the 60s, the National Guard was there, but we have to live with the record of knowing that it also executed some very poor and deadly decisions.  The lives of the students in the schools mentioned in this post have forever been changed–some for the good and some in the worst ways imaginable.

Today, we live in a time where very little activism takes place on our college campuses and within our schools; students’ rights are violated on a continual basis, their voices are silenced in almost every regard, and yet we persistently wonder why younger people are so silent. There is a history not too far into the past that has frowned on students’ activism more than it has protected their rights. There has been no real major sustainable movement of young people protesting injustices on college campuses in recent years.  Perhaps the greatest amount of noise in recent years has come from African American students like Sy Stokes on UCLA’s campus upset about the school’s lack of diversity, the seeming abandonment of affirmative action, and feelings that Black Male student athletes are only regarded because of their athleticism.

Check out his video here:

And, we cannot forget Brooke Kimbrough and her rally against the University of Michigan for not being accepted and the subsequent US Supreme Court ban on affirmative in Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

Maybe our students are worried that their First Amendment right to assemble will be compromised by the National Guard if it is called to suppress their protests; or, maybe our students are afraid to chance that the National Guard’s motto will actually work in their favor like it did with the Little Rock Nine. So, students remain silent.

Either way, student activism in our institutions will always come down to a matter of life and death.

MC Turned Teacher…Moving Consciousness

Here at ThePoliDay Report we love HIP HOP, especially when it MCsMoves Consciousness!

I came across this young man, Dee-1, just like most other people “discover” hidden talent–on my Facebook timeline!  Thanks to my VSU classmate Ronald Brown for posting it in one of the groups I joined.

I learned from a 2012 video on VLAD TV that Dee-1 was a “rapper turnt teacher” of Middle School youngsters.  I like him already…you can follow him on twitter @Dee1music. I do!

Watch and listen to his testimony here:

Check out the song that introduced me to him here:

 What do you think?

MC Turned Teacher…Moving Consciousness

Here at ThePoliDay Report we love HIP HOP, especially when it MCsMoves Consciousness!

I came across this young man, Dee-1, just like most other people “discover” hidden talent–on my Facebook timeline!  Thanks to my VSU classmate Ronald Brown for posting it in one of the groups I joined.

I learned from a 2012 video on VLAD TV that he was a “rapper turnt teacher” of Middle School youngsters.  I like him already…you can follow him on twitter @Dee1music. I do!

Watch and listen to his testimony here:

Check it out the song that introduced me to him here:

 

What do you think?

What If…?

I got a call this morning at 9:02AM: Alpha. Recardo. William. Emmanuel. They were waiting for Randelle.

With the phone on speaker, they shared with me their success of being selected for an internship with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City. They were excited and so was I. These boys, my Big Sons, also belong to a category ofBig Sons students that I refer to as my Forever-Never-Former students. Although I am not currently teaching this group of students, I have been a part of their entire high school careers; and, I have written all of them recommendations, looked over personal statements, given them advice, listened to their expectations for my life, taken them on college tours, and / or shared in other major turning points in their lives. Their success is mine, too.

The call only lasted 4 minutes, but it spoke a lifetime about how opportunities change lives, the importance of having someone with whom to share experiences, and that our children–Black boys, deserve to experience lives in which they are embraced, not feared. Forever we will be connected to each other’s lives. The reasons may vary, but they will always be nothing less than my beautifully human, Black boys. With the support and advocacy and investment of others and myself, they will undoubtedly become beautifully human…men.

What if these boys were not ambitious enough to meet the opportunity to attend an internship at the Federal Reserve Back in New York when it was presented?

Approximately 30 minutes after midnight this morning, while inside of the Village Underground, a popular performance venue that hosts Cheryl Pepsi Riley’s Black Velvet Mondays Open Mic night with the amazingly talented Hot Chocolate Band, an overzealous, drunk White man, “Mr. Belligerent”, aggressively grabbed my hand and tried to give me an unsolicited hug. He was met with my requests to leave me alone and to let me go and reciprocal aggression because he repeatedly refused my requests. The interaction became so contentious that a Black man, “Mr. J”, seated in the booth next to me with his wife intervened by telling the man to move on. Apprehensively, the man moved away. Thank goodness for “Mr. J.”

photo (1)What if I felt a fear of imminent assault by “Mr. Belligerent” and proceeded to inflict harmful/deadly force upon him because of my feelings?

With every national confrontation and conversation of the Stand Your Ground Law, I am always driven to inquiry:

What if the deaths of Black boys weren’t discussed as hypothetical scenarios and talking points by socially empathetic people trying to make sense as to why so many keep getting killed without anyone being held criminally responsible for their deaths in the state of Florida under this Stand Your Ground Law?

What if due process actually applied to every citizen in Stand Your Ground trials?
What if the fear of imminent death white men like Michael Dunn felt as a result of being in the presence of young Black boys was real rather than simply a real excuse used to kill?

Florida’s Civil War on Black Boys

In less than one year’s time, the jurors in the infamous state of Florida have released rabid, white males into the civilized world to maim other people and/ or to walk away with vindication of ridding our world of what they perceive as enemy combatants.

Jordan Davis 2

On July 13th, 2013 the self-admitted killer of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty in Martin’s death. On February 15th, 2014 another self-confessed killer, Michael Dunn, was a little less fortunate than his Black-boy-murdering fraternity brother, Zimmerman, as he was charged with 3 counts of 2nd Degree attempted murder and 1 charge for shooting into the vehicle four young Black males occupied.  Of the four teenagers in the vehicle, three walked away and one, Jordan Davis, became another of the fatalities of Florida’s civil war on Black boys.  As a result of Dunn’s actions, he faces at least 75 years in jail. On the more serious charge of murder, however, Judge Russell Healey declared a mistrial as Florida Jurors could not reach an agreement.

The war rages on.  

In accordance with the law, these vicious beasts were afforded their Constitutional rights; and, despite the perpetrators’ lawlessness, we still remain a nation of laws. The killers were offered speedy trials by juries of their peers (6th and 7th Amendments). When the killers were arrested, they were issued writs of habeas corpus, explanations for why they were being held in jail. We even granted them Miranda Rights (5th Amendment) so as to not incriminate themselves for crimes, but these killers eagerly confessed!

Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, and others like them are vampires out for blood that wish to make us all feel afraid because they are insecure, racist bigots. We are not afraid of our humanity, but they are. These killers are restless deviants that patrol rainy nights as self-appointed neighborhood watchmen or noise pollution patrols in gas station parking lots.  These killers and the jurors are in a civil war against young, teen, Black boys because Blacks boys don’t deserve to live in their eyes.

In Florida and the nation over, mothers train their boys to be quiet and to not exist in certain spaces. Fathers feel guilty for not 

Jordan Davisbeing in a position to help their boys because they know that despite their ages and experiences, criminality only sees their Blackness–what has happened to their sons, can, will, and has probably already happened to them.  Black boys like Jordan Davis have no protection in Florida.  And, in Florida’s civil war, no national guard has been ordered to guide these boys through life. No suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has been issued to pick up any suspecting, white male that could be a potential killer or worse, a juror that doesn’t believe crimes occur to Black boys, but are committed by them–even when they are dead. There is no Emancipation Proclamation promising Black boys protection for standing with their nation and leading us to victory by being upstanding teenaged citizens.  Black boys wear red markers on their bodies and bullets travel where they are aimed when theblind justice trigger man is an angry, white male with a license to carry a gun. The luke-warm and not guilty verdicts issued by registered Florida voters serving jury duty are equally as lethal as the gun-wielding, angry, white-male killer–they also see red.

Justice is not blind.  

There will be no Gettysburg Address to declare Florida consecrated land because there is no righteous indignation in shooting unarmed teenage boys before they are even old enough to become voters and enter into Florida’s jury pool. The only ground we stand is one that drags our nation further into a bloody civil war–Black boys are the enemy.  Florida is just like South Carolina in 1861–it is defiant and eager to uphold states rights (10th Amendment) more than it values being a part of this nation. Fundamentally, Florida has already seceded.  According to ThinkProgress.org, at least 26 children or teens have died as a result of this war-inducing, powder-keg law.

Stand Your Ground has to go! The Dream Defenders are leading the way.

If we have learned anything from the Civil War, it should be that in addition to the institution of slavery which is why the war began, the Civil War is our greatest stain.  Black bodies, dead or alive, have always been the sacred prize in a land of cannibals and vampires.  Nearly one million Americans were killed during the Civil War. America’s East coast became a hallowed cemetery between 1861-1865–that’s shameful! Not only did our soldiers die, but we also lost our president to assassination, Abraham Lincoln, by another gun-toting, racist, angry, white male.  

When will we begin to hold angry, white men accountable for murder, cowardice and malicious behavior?

When will we declare a cease-fire on Stand Your Ground?

Happy 19th Birthday Jordan Davis!!

Hip Hop, Liberation & Outcasts

“There’s a fine line between love and hate you see…” ~Outkast

Outkast: Black, male, Atlanta Hip Hop, diamond platinum-selling duo making some of the hottest, consciously written music the world will ever hear, feel, and vibe to. Embraced. Accepted. Loved.

Outcast: an entity living outside of the realm of what is popular, cool, loved, and accepted. Blackness. Rejected. Hated.

On Outkast’s Aquemini album, they recorded a song calledOutkast Aquemini “Liberation” about the daily struggles of life, being accepted, pretentious love, and the freedom that comes when we don’t “worry ’bout what anotha nigga think.” In light of the recent Nicki Minaj / Malcolm X controversy, I traveled my memory to thoughts of Outkast and Mrs. Rosa Parks. Both instances made me question the liberties we take in honoring our historical heroes; and I couldn’t help but to ask, do we love them? Do we hate them?

We still do not even know them.

On this same album Outkast recorded a song called Rosa Parks and it resulted in a lawsuit by the Rosa Parks estate. In the song Outkast made references to the people going “to the back of the bus” and having a honky-tonk good time with Outkast to “get crunk.” The song was a declaration to naysayers that had written Outkast off as not having what was required to be the Hip Hop supergroup that they have become today. In 1999, Rosa Parks sued Outkast and by 2005, after a series of dismissals, the case was settled out of court; Outkast paid a cash settlement and agreed to educate people on the life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks arrestedIn 1955 Mrs. Parks became historically famous when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Because of Jim Crow laws, Blacks and Whites were separated in all settings, even buses. Blacks were required to enter and sit in backs of buses; and, if there were not anymore seats in the “White” section, Blacks in the “Colored” section nearest the “White” section were made to give up those seats, too. Mrs. Parks, a married seamstress and upstanding citizen seated in the “Colored” section, refused, became arrested, and her actions catapulted a virtually unknown Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into civil rights history and stardom as he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott on December 1st, 1955 at the tender age of 26.

I’m pretty glad she didn’t “hush that fuss” and “move to the back of the bus.” Mrs. Rosa Parks is no outcast.

Hip Hop artist, Nicki Minaj is now under fire for using the likeness of Malcolm X, a most revered historical hero, for the cover of her latest single, “Looking Ass Nigga.” She chose the image of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he looks out of the window of his home, more than malcolm Xlikely to protect his family from another bombing or himself from an attempted murder. The song’s lyrics belittles men she considers the bottom dwellers of life; men that don’t have enough money to purchase over-priced bottles of liquor and are forced to share one bottle, men with an affinity for looking at her [enhanced] buttocks, men with small penises, men telling lies about their material gains, their street-life gimmicks, and men living life without a plan. While there are descriptors in this song that are easily relatable, what isn’t adding up is why Nicki Minaj chose to use the likeness of Malcolm X as the cover art for this song.

In her explanation, she said:

“What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an(sic) adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you”

The issue is that the image of our heroes is synonymous to the work of these heroes. These men and women are emblazoned within the images, texts and iconography of national and international communities because of their courage to be vessels of transformation in very tough social and political times. We don’t have the right to rewrite and politicize their works or images to suit perceptions that are not aligned with the archives of their lives. Nicki Minaj needs a comprehensive history lesson. I offer my classroom.

The issue is that Nicki Minaj is still unaware of the error in her choice of imagery. In her apology she stated, “I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued.” Sure she has eyes, but she doesn’t see. She has a brain, but she doesn’t know. She has ears, but she does not hear the hurt of communities for whom Malcolm X was and is a a guiding light out of immense social and political darkness; thus, her “What seems to be the issue now,” inquiry.

I cannot help but be reminded of Mister (Danny Glover) in The Color Purple and his reaction to Shug Avery (Margaret Johnson) when she informs him that Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) will be traveling with Shug and Shug’s new husband to Memphis. Mister’s question, through a smug grin is, “Now what’s wrong with you?” He doesn’t understand that since Celie has been his wife she has lived in his prison of abuse, misogyny and rejection just like Nicki Minaj doesn’t understand that it is not okay to imply that Malcolm X lives within the context of the men she described in her abusive and male-degrading song.

The issue is that Nicki Minaj does not realize how powerful a platform she has in music, especially within Hip Hop now. Since coming onto the scene some forty years ago, Hip Hop has always taught the masses–whether the lessons were of pain, rejection, fear, or new-found wealth, Hip Hop has always taught. But not all of Hip Hop’s artist have been well learned. Not that Nicki Minaj should bear all of the weight and be the voice for all women, she must understand that the same men she disses in her “Looking Ass Nigga” song are the same men with the capacity to be “hard-working men” or “truth-telling teachers” and “life-loving brothers” that she could groom through her image and work.

Malcolm X is continuously marred in controversy, but I wonder whatmalcolm smile is controversial about justice, rights and humanity for all people? What’s so controversial about our life’s journeys leading us to greater understandings about the reasons for which we live? Malcolm X was on a path of discovery like every other man and woman, yet we choose to disassociate our classrooms and other institutions with his history and legacy for false assertions and poor images. Let’s not.

Malcolm X is no outcast.

Our lives, how we live them, and the very essence of how we use them become our copyright. For another person to use our lives and likeness and misconstrue our body of work in any way, is akin to copyright infringement. And, it is simply wrong.

Ossie Davis eulogyIt has been nearly fifty years since the assassination death of Malcolm X and he still makes headlines whenever there is an attempt to dishonor and desecrate this “Black shining prince (Ossie Davis).” And every time it happens, the people will speak up and we will speak out because we will not stand for the assassination of his image, too.

Lessons: Youth, Seahawks, and Championships

When’s the last time you ever heard someone proud to be “old at heart” or refer to the night as “mature” or “old”? Maybe never and I doubt that you ever will.

While there is a special proclivity for the wisdom and experience age brings, youth brings a fresher set of limbs, naïveté, and a dreamy hunger that allows for doubtful feats to become attainable realities. The Seattle Seahawks are a young team with an invincible drive that drove them all the way to Super Bowl victory. Whitney Houston once sang, “Tell me no, and I’ll show you I can.”

Often times young people ignore the word ‘no’. It isn’t because they mean to defy; it’s more of not wanting to betray a mind that tells them anything is possible and that they can. Because they believe they can, they often do.

According to Fox News and the National Football League’ statisticians, the average age of the Seahawks franchise is 25.4 years old. Their game winning Quarterback, Russell Wilson is the third youngest QB to win a Super Bowl Championship. The lesson is if you want victory, youth helps.

Our nation is only 50 years off of the heels of the 1963 March on Washington.John Lewis Galvanizing such an enormous number of people, approximately 250,000, happened with the help of all demographics, including the youth. A very young, hopeful and determined future Congressman named John Lewis mesmerized the crowd. At 23, he seized a moment to address the nation about racist policies thwarting the youth and preventing America’s victory. Regarding the proposed Civil Rights bill that would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in his original non-censored speech he said,

This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful demonstrations”

He’s been a champion ever since. Youth groups such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC), of which John Lewis was the chairman, gave young people a sense of responsibility. SNCC’s job was to help distribute information about the March on Washington, but it was also their job to be present. Even today, young people are not complacent having peripheral views of the changing world. History supports that our world has advanced only because of the spirit and the work of the youth.

There is something special about a nation that can produce Asean Johnson, the third-grade, 9 year-old, Chicago activist that spoke against school closures.

seahawks logoThe Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom (L.O.B.), its defensive line of players, and the rest of the franchise came to New Jersey’s Met Life stadium with a duty and a mission–to win a championship and take a place in the NFL record books. From the very first exchange of the game, every Seahawk player was in his proper place, every eye was on the gridiron, and every mind was focused on fulfilling the mission. From Wilson to Chancellor to Sherman to Lynch to Harvin, these young men taught America that youth matters.

And so they won. Big.

As a nation we have to learn to respect the power of our youth. We often expect that young people should do only as they are told, never of what they are capable–and, as a nation we lose big, too. Youth plays a major role in elevating nations and orchestrating movements that older, more seasoned people have grown too weary, and sometimes too disenchanted, to continue.

In an ESPN interview Monday morning following the “Big Game” Russell Wilson commended his coach, Pete Carroll, and the entire Seahawks organization for taking a chance on him and his teammates. Not by any wilson and carrollmeasure of our expectations of Super Bowl champions does a team with a roster of 21 non-drafted players, a fourth-round draft pick Quarterback like Wilson, a fifth-round draft pick corner back like Sherman, and a seventh-round draft pick Superbowl MVP like Malcolm Smith, win the Superbowl. In each of their stories is the narrative that they were given a chance. Our nation of young people have to be given more chances to apply what they have learned and more chances to play in the other “Big Game” called life.

In a post game interview, Richard Sherman was asked where Super Bowl XLVIII (48) ranked in terms of other great Super Bowl victories and his response was, “It doesn’t matter what order you put us in just put us in the conversation.”

The biggest lesson learned from the Seahawks organization? Young people matter and they win Super Bowls, too!

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