”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou
Today, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.
Her family’s statement read:
“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.
From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.
I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.
Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.
Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.”
Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.
Rise on, Dr. Angelou!
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
“A strange thing is memory, and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.”~Grandma Moses
Every Memorial Day, I always think about our nation celebrating the lives of the soldiers that have come and gone and survived great physical and psychological injury while fighting the “good fight.”
Although war is the one conflict that always feels unjust, unneccessary , and terribly burdensome, there are men and women for whom war has determined the difference between winning internal wars of conviction and committment, or living unbearable external lives without cause or righteous indignation.
We celebrate all of them today.
Memorial Day, an American holiday federally established in 1971, has been observed in this country since the Civil War (1861-1865)–America’s most shameful, deadly war fought in the preservation of states’ rights to preserve the institution of slavery. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is the one time of the year in which all of our slain soldiers rest in their graves and in our memory forever more in the same unit, representing the same service, and drafted by the same Creator.
Our injured soldiers have the constant reminders of the ugliness of war on the canvas of their bodies and ensconced in their minds.
Both instances paint pictures of what we know and understand about war, but more importantly, they sculpt what we know about the human will.
Having lost so many soldiers during the Civil War, some nearly 700,000 of them, America had to create a national cemetery to honor such grave and immeasurable loss. In Virgina’s Arlington National Cemetery or the Hampton National Cemetery neighboring the Historically Black campus of Hampton University, in New York’s Woodlawn cemetery or California’s Los Angeles National Cemetery, our soldiers are honored with miniature flags, grave visits and hollowed resting places where others come to reflect on the lives and service of these soldiers.
As we look back at the memory of our soldiers, we have to look forward in the hope of no longer needing soldiers to quell conflicts that cannot be resolved without the loss of blood and lives, but in leading us in issues that require men and women of immense courage, strength, and will.
Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863 said,
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Happy Memorial Day!
Check out the short movie Memorial Day 2014: Black Soldiers, Memory and Hope, below.
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity…. Don’t sit down and wait for opportunities to come; you have to get up and make them.” –Madame C. J. Walker
That quote pretty much sums up our next Community Rock Star, Ms. Thysha M. Shabazz!
Thysha Shabazz is the Founder and President of the award-winning, full-service communications publicity, and events company, Shabazz Communications. She is a native of Norfolk / Chesapeake Virginia and a very proud graduate of Virginia State University.
Thysha has been a journalist and media specialist since she was an adolescent in high school; and she has proudly worked with local Virginia television veterans like the acclaimed Ms. Barbara Ciara. In addition to having an outright passion for media, communications and public relations, Thysha learned early that in order to perfect a craft, you must practice it continually. Having freelanced for other larger public relations firms like Noelle-Elaine Media, Incorporated, Thysha has been able to work for major corporate clients like L’Oreal.
As a small business owner, Thysha has equipped Shabazz Communications with all of the expertise she has garnered over the years from various sources and added her own special creative spin to it. To date, Thysha has represented over 250 clients in the fields of arts, culture, music, entertainment, literature, business and more!
Thysha’s latest, uber creative venture is The Creative Collective, a social think-tank of fun, creative and culturally inspired people working together to elevate consciousness in our communities. It is an optimal opportunity for artists and other creative people to convene, collaborate and make change.
As a Harlem resident, it is important to Thysha that art and artistry are not merely collected and enjoyable commodities, but that they are also used to effect positive changes in our communities socially, politically, and for reasons similar to the ways in which the Harlem Renaissance shaped, changed, and gave a voice to serious ills plaguing our world.
Creativity speaks volumes and it solves problems so I say, let’s get creative world!
Congratulations Thysha on being a true R.B.G.–Real Blessed Girl–and especially a Community Rock Star!
To learn more about Shabazz Communications and to utilize its services for your next creative venture, send all inquires / requests to email@example.com
If you know a Community Rock Star and would like him or her to be featured here, recommend them by tweeting and following us at https://twitter.com/PoliDayReport and you can like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thepolidayreport
“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 our 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.
The 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
“The eyes of the Lords of the Land grew challenging; but, blinded by the glittering prize they sought to keep, they could not detect the stealthy forces at work in the world, forces which were destined to wreck their empire and disperse us Black men like whirling atoms upon the face of the Earth.” Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices
He has vowed to sue the NBA and he is refusing to pay the fine imposed upon him of $2.5 million according to CNN’s Don Lemon.
He has no clue as to what he has unleashed. So, let’s talk about it.
Donald Sterling will forever go down in our history as the racist NBA owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. And, by his own admission (remember he said his friends had been calling him to report his girlfriend’s fraternization with Black people?), he does not stand alone as he is but one of the “unlucky” members of society to have his thoughts revealed. As an 80 year old man, Donald Sterling has not reached this disgraced place in his life because of a leaked recording of his views, but because his views are the compass that have driven his lack of humanity towards others; and, when people are thought to be worthless because of their race, they are treated without value.
Sounds like a plantation mentality to me.
Donald Sterling will never apologize for what we heard, and at 80, an apology won’t change the core set of taught beliefs he has cultivated in 80 years. After all, in his exclusive interview on Anderson Cooper 360, his racism and bigotry were shown to be even more apparent as he proceeded to further denigrate basketball great, Magic Johnson, his commitment to the Black community, and his HIV status.
Perhaps Mr. Sterling doesn’t realize the indictment he imposed on Jewish people when he said that they get ahead because they help one another by offering each other zero percent interest. I would wonder that if it were true for all Jews or as a traditional Jewish practice, why “his people”–these community servants of which he boasts, are incapable of extending financial breaks to others.
And, since I am a thinking and learned individual, it appears that Jewish people are doing no different than what their Holy book teaches, just like Muslims do no different than what Islam’s Qur’an teaches in regards to interest (it is haram–forbidden).
Magic Johnson has risen to the upper echelon of financial success because he has been benevolent. Because he has opened his hands to others, he has reaped abundant blessings. Gentrified Harlem benefits from the Magic Johnson Theater and Starbucks. Black men and other people that have contracted HIV will continue to use Magic Johnson as a source of inspiration so that they can live, shamelessly. Looks to me like Magic Johnson has helped more than Black people–but then again, Black people have always helped others.
Magic Johnson is not the issue within the Black or the human race–he is the example.
Mr. Sterling is a racist, terribly misguided, and ill-informed.
Through it all though, he doesn’t get my anger, but he does get my pity because he doesn’t have very much time to realize how much racism has robbed him of his humanity, and thus led to what he has become at this point–a defiant, litigious, old man with a [racist] chip on his shoulder.
If each of us was to openly share our innermost thoughts about other groups aloud, we would be a nation of meanies.
And, if we chose to harbor those [ill-perceived] ideas, assumptions, and feelings toward others while having the economic, political, and social power to negatively impact the lives of those groups, we would be a nation of Donald Sterlings–racists.
Sure, the LA Clippers and the NBA rallied together in Round 1, Game 5 of the Playoffs under the banner “We Are One” just after Commissioner Silver’s announced punishment of Sterling. But, prior to that game, the mental conundrum the Clippers organization faced when deciding if and how to honor their profession and still stand up to their boss, brought with it the crossroad of humiliation and compromise.
This is what racism does.
In a press conference discussing the implications of Donald Sterling’s actions on his team, Head Coach Doc Rivers made the point that whenever racism is the issue, the burden of response is always placed on the targeted group.
Magic Johnson had to justify his behavior and givings to the world all because Donald Sterling was given a public platform by the media in which to attack Johnson’s credibility, again. First Sterling attacked his value as a person, and next he was able to attack his benevolence as a humanitarian.
I’m very concerned that the media, specifically Anderson Cooper, found it necessary to provide Donald Sterling with an exclusive stage as he further poisoned the ears of the world and castigated an entire group of people–Black people–in an attempt to sanctify another and deny being racist.
Since I know Donald Sterling’s kind of racism is not germane to him, I’ll liken the platform he was given to that of propaganda.
But who really benefits?
I’m sick of the Donald Sterlings of the world recklessly using their insecurities and their racially-induced hatred to hurt others, and I’m equally tired of the complicity of outlets that help his cause while operating under the guise of providing a space to let us hear the offending party’s side of the story. None of Donald Sterling’s side needed to be heard once it was found to be his voice on that now infamous recording.
To the Sterling apprentices being groomed at the behest of the media, white privilege, and pure, unadulterated racism understand this: Black people are NOT the mules of the world. We are a very resourceful people with a history and evidence to show it. The ones of us that have “made it” and the ones of us thought to be the “bad apples” of the bunch are one people. We won’t disown each other no faster than Whites will disown their racists and others. And, we are not leaving America anytime soon.
The race war brewing inside of Donald Sterling is his own burden to bear, and there are too many humans on the planet that would prefer to wear more than just the badge of our race in order to validate our existence and our God-given right to BE.
“Until the philosophy which hold one race superior/ and another inferior/ is finally/ and permanently/ discredited/ and abandoned…everything is war…that until there’s no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation…until the color of a man’s skin/ is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, Me say war/ that until the basic human rights / are equally guaranteed to all /without regard to race/ dis a war…” Bob Marley “War”
“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)
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?
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 affirmative 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.
Surprisingly 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.
You are music, love, light, and life all rolled into one fantastic person.
Were it not for your artistry, some of us would never see humanity. Were it not for your lyrics, some of us would never feel beauty. Were it not for your compositions, some of us would never hear the Creator…
You, Mr. Wonder, are a Cosmic Delight!
Check out this post that I wrote earlier in the year in tribute to you, my favorite songwriter, composer, and humanitarian: