“You can‘t LEAD the people if you don’t LOVE the people. You can’t SAVE the people if you won’t SERVE the people.” Motto of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Youth 2 Leaders
On Thursday, September 11th, 2014, I sat in an audience of people—friends, supporters, and employees of Tavis Smiley—in New York City’s Union Square Barnes and Noble for the signing of his seventeenth and latest book, The Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year.
While on the stage underscoring his level of commitment to his work, he called my name, told the audience I worked with the young people in his foundation—Youth 2 Leaders—and led me in completing the motto of the foundation. I was in the notes section of my iPad trying to take down his most salient and thought-provoking points (there are so many all the time) so I was initially caught off guard, but I fell right in line with him in reciting our motto. Tavis responded, “See? She understands it. That’s what this work is all about.”
For nearly 20 years (I first met Tavis Smiley when I was 19 years old), I have been a student of Tavis Smiley. I have learned that he is deeply committed to the growth and development of all people, and particularly to Black people.
“I believe if we make Black America better, we make all of America better.” Tavis Smiley
I can appreciate the unapologetic resolve in that premise.
For ten (10) years, he provided a platform for many of our community’s intellectuals and cultural critics; and, they gained national notoriety from their inclusion and involvement in the State of the Black Union symposiums. As a spectator and as an attendee, I would look at the panelists and think to myself, “If Tavis Smiley included this person, they must be something!”
Tavis has always been my barometer of intellectual excellence and my go-to example of critical curiosity and inquiry. And, he fits perfectly into the cast of leadership. Through the publishing of books such as the Covenant with Black America (2006), and my all-time favorite, Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure (2011), Tavis has consistently provided an entry point for Black communities into discussions of politics and socio-economic growth. While his vocabulary is impressive and vast, his approach to giving our community the wings to fly in areas that sometimes compromise our esteem, has been practical, doable, and enumerated in a way that keeps many of us from getting lost or resorting to the comfort of believing our inability for doing better is because of not knowing how.
What I know for sure is that Tavis Smiley has always done what he has publicly said he would. I respect that on his imprint (Smiley Books), he publishes books that help to guide our ways of thinking about issues. Through media outlets in television and radio, The Tavis Smiley Show is what he uses to package his voice and his truth, on his terms. I also know that Tavis is personable, engaging, loves Black people, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
I like Tavis Smiley!
At his young age, Tavis Smiley has done so much and he has not nearly tipped the scale in the more to come.
Happy 50th Birthday, Tavis Smiley!
When Oprah Winfrey asked Michael Jackson, in a sit down interview on his Neverland Ranch, what he believed was his purpose on our great Earth, he responded,
“To give in the best way I can through song and through dance and through music…I mean, I am committed to my art. I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual. The human and the Divine. I believe that to be the reason for the very existence of art. And, um, I feel I was chosen as an instrument to uh, just give music and love and harmony to the world.”
It almost makes you want to weep that this purposeful man is here no more. But, just as soon as the tears of sadness begin to swell on the edges of the lines of my eyes, they crest and fall with the same joy of watching a Michael Jackson performance hearing one of his many great songs and feeling a magic all his own–the Michael Jackson magic.
Born today on August 29th in 1958, Michael Jackson quickly became the star of nine (9) siblings. Even as a baby he had his own special magic, but it was written that way. The Divine Creator had already cast Michael Jackson as the king…of all artistry. He just had to study his lines and perform them well each and every time he was given the opportunity.
And he did.
As a five-year old child, he stood in front of his brothers and adoring audiences and belted out maturely written songs. With every breath of his tiny frame he rocked and swayed, and kicked and spun. He perfected his art through constant practice while growing as the lead singer of the Jackson 5 and as the mega solo star that transfixed all generations. Through the lyrics of his songs he sang about love and solutions to making our world a better place. He was political and social and helpful and loving and he had conviction in his artistry. For 45 years, he was the headliner with the starring role and the audience was still ready to watch the show and to join the cause.
Whether Michael Jackson knew each of us individually or not, he crafted a personalized experience for the millions of us. That was the Michael Jackson magic.
The smiles Michael Jackson shared when he spoke about his family suggested that his journey to the physical world had been birthed in the marriage of the material and spiritual worlds. His family offered him a love that was tangible–they could hug and hold him. But his fans offered him a love that energized his spirit. Whenever we showed up, he showed out by proving he had learned the lines the Creator had written for him through song, dance, and music.
When we make it to this world, there is already a script and a role for each of us to play. We have to be willing to learn our lines and to play our parts because everyday is the dress rehearsal when we know our purpose.
Thank you Michael Jackson for learning your lines, knowing your purpose and filling us with the Michael Jackson magic for 45 years.
On this August 18th, in the year 2014, we celebrate 94 years of women federally getting the right to vote through the passage of the Nineteenth (19th) Amendment!!
Over the course of these 94 years, women have helped to produce a better America. From the pioneering faces of strength and resolve like Queens Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to courageous women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all the way to generations of fantastic collegians joining forces with the Women’s Suffrage Movement such as the “sorority girls” of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (1920), and the other women of the Divine Nine–Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (1908), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (1913), and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated (1922), women have always been on the front lines urging for political inclusion.
To the young 18 year-old girl who will register and then cast her vote on Election Day in 78 days on November 4th, 2014 because she has watched earlier generations of women vote–she is adding her vote to create a better America.
To the Baby Boomer, that walked with her mother to the polls while watching her cast many votes, and has now decided to pick up the baton to cast her own votes, in her own voice, while her children look on–she is making America better.
To the Octogenarian that has never known a world of not being able to vote and who will hopefully live to cast a few more votes–she is continuing to make America better.
To every woman in the home and the classroom, driving the school bus and in the boardroom, folding laundry and flying the airplanes, shopping for perfume and creating the next new formula, making us all look beautiful and helping to save our lives, lobbying for equal pay and passing legislation, today is for each of us. While we have impacted the world since the beginning of time, it is great to celebrate having the right to vote by the American government for the past 94 years.
Women make America better.
Happy 94th Birthday, Nineteenth Amendment!
“The whole thing, my friends, is a bloody farce, and that the police and soldiers did nothing to stem the murder thirst of the mob is a conspiracy on the part of the civil authorities to condone the acts of the white mob against Negroes.” Marcus Garvey
With a few minor changes in the words, one would think this quote was in reference the unrest happening right now in Ferguson, Missouri due to the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, but it isn’t.
The quote above by Marcus Garvey was delivered when he responded to the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot, nearly 100 years ago.
Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, historically known as the UNIA, responded to the race riot of East St. Louis by calling it a “crime against humanity.” This riot occurred after 470 African Americans has been hired to fill positions left abandoned by white workers that had gone on strike against the local Aluminum Ore Company. The angry whites of the town filed formal complaints to the Mayor against Black migration to the city of East St. Louis. Soon after the formal complaints, an alleged attempted robbery of a white man by an unarmed Black man began to circulate. As a result, an angry white mob began beating and violating the Blacks of the city—these actions resulted in the National Guard being called in to quell the violence, but it only grew worse. The end result of the St. Louis Race Riots, amidst all of the violence and the maimed and murdered African Americans, was that several officers of the East St. Louis police force were indicted for not doing enough to eradicate the mob violence.
Marcus Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay Jamaica on August 17, 1887 was a fearless, enterprising man of great conviction. Highly inspired by the formerly enslaved American hero, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey set out to establish a united Black people. He encouraged repatriation to Africa, the industrialization of Blacks and the establishment of an organization that would help Blacks to meet his goals, the UNIA formed in 1914. Further inspired by the large numbers of Black people living in Harlem, Marcus Garvey relocated the UNIA to Harlem’s 138th Street in 1917, and was a leading voice against racial injustice every time these injustices arose. As demonstrated above, Marcus Garvey spoke against the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, and his vigilance against the killings that occurred during the Red Summer of 1919 led to the continued growth of the UNIA.
Using Madison Square Garden as his venue, Marcus Garvey attracted 25,000 people to hear him deliver the Declaration of Rights the Negro Peoples of the World at the UNIA International Convention of 1920.
This man was on a mission.
To fulfill his dream of Blacks repatriating to Africa, Marcus Garvey and the efforts of the UNIA purchased a fleet of ships, The Blackstar Steamship Line. Although the ships were never able to fulfill the purpose intended by Garvey and the UNIA, purchasing the ships was a promising move by any Black leader, and a clear testament to the UNIA’s economic prowess.
Like most leaders of his time, Marcus Garvey was not devoid of controversy that would taint his reputation among Black followers and other Black organizations. The point, however, is that Marcus Garvey was a visionary and he was emphatic about the direction he thought would suit Black people best. He had an “All Black Everything” vision; under the banner of Red, Black and Green he envisioned a Black Army. He lauded Black women as “queens” that gave “color to the world.” He also was clear and staunch in this assertion that he was equal to the white man and he wanted other Blacks to feel and know the same thing.
Marcus Garvey, having been consumed by the poetic and political potential of the United States, specifically Harlem (He was in Harlem in the height of the Harlem Renaissance), as well as the ideas of Black Unity and a Black nation, Marcus Garvey was a true Renaissance Man.
Marcus Garvey died in 1940 while in London, England after having two strokes.
He has influenced people who still follow his teachings, Garveyites. Rastafarianism is highly influenced by Garveyism. The man heralded by Ossie Davis as “our own Black shining Prince,” El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), was raised by a Garveyite, his father Earl Little. And, all around the world we can find many examples of people holding true to Marcus Garvey’s call, “Up you mighty race; you can conquer what you will.”
On this Centennial (100 years!) of the UNIA and on what would have been the 127th year of Mr. Garvey’s birth, we say HAPPY BIRTHDAY Marcus Garvey!