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 of 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.”
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?
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.
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
being 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 the 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!!
“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 called “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.
In 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 likely 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 what 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.
It 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.
When I first heard there was the potential that George Zimmerman could have a chance at fighting another person in a boxing ring and for profit I felt like the Geto Boys—surely my “mind’s playing tricks on me.” And to think that he could potentially be fighting DMX is even worse!
- Celebrity and celebrate have the same root word. Since when has it ever been okay to “celebrate” teen killers?
- Whatever charity George Zimmerman claims to want to do this match for is in bad shape and won’t be around this long if they need donations from a teen killer!
- If OJ Simpson could not profit from his [alleged] murders, George Zimmerman can’t either!
- George Zimmerman is a LIAR who CHEATED Trayvon Martin of a life, and he does not deserve to STEAL anymore time from society. He should KILL his remaining time in the solitary confinement by being the George Zimmerman nobody knew before he became the killer we know now.
- George Zimmerman is a misfit who would pose a deleterious influence on other wannabe and potential misfits of the world.
- Boxing is a classy sport for real athletes from which hails the likes of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Frazier. Boxing is not a killer’s sport.
- This boxing match won’t help redeem George Zimmerman’s image. He will always be remembered as the man who killed Trayvon Martin.
- I don’t like what George Zimmerman stands for. I won’t fall for his tactics either. I say no to this madness!
- George Zimmerman has one championship in killing an unarmed teen—he does not need the shot at another championship for any reason.
- Reality TV is scripted and NOT real, just like I cannot believe that a George Zimmerman Celebrity Boxing match has the potential to become a reality. Let’s say no to this!
- If Trayvon Martin wasn’t given the chance to breathe another day, George Zimmerman should not be given another day to breathe life into a second chance at any other opportunities in life.
- Trayvon Martin’s mom can never give Trayvon another pep talk before stepping out on any other venture in life. The 911 Caller gave Zimmerman a pep talk when he told him not to follow Trayvon—Zimmerman didn’t listen. And, I don’t want to hear anything from Zimmerman now.
- Betting in favor of or against a teen killer is just plain wrong.
- As a nation, we should stand our ground and be better than George Zimmerman—say no to this boxing match.
- Trayvon Martin will never have the chance to make a profit—from anything ever again.
- When the verdict was read, George Zimmerman was supposed to disappear into obscurity like OJ Simpson.
- It is insensitive and unscrupulous for any promoter to profit from the blood on Zimmerman’s hands.
- Boxing is a violent sport, but it not a sport that supports violent offenders of teens.
- Trayvon Martin advocates will defeat Zimmerman better by not allowing him to have a day in the ring, his name in shining lights, or money in his morally inept bank of consciousness and his physically depleted bank account—say no to this shameful promotion!
George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed 17 year-old teenager, Trayvon Martin on February 26th, 2012 as he returned from a local 7Eleven carrying a bag of skittles and an Arizona brand Iced Tea. Using Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law and self-defense, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on July 13th, 2013.
If I read one more Op-Ed column, blog, commentary, article, Facebook post, or otherwise about how much people hate Black History Month I am going to scream…oh boy! Let the screaming begin!
Black History Month, for as long as I can remember has always been a staple in my household; whether it was February or any other month of the year, my family has always celebrated Black History Month because we are a Black family, but also because there is always so much to do and learn during this time of year.
Ever heard of the Fisk Jubilee Singers? In 1871, singers from Tennessee’s Historically Black University, Fisk University, introduced the entire world to the “field songs” sang by enslaved Blacks during the institution of slavery. In the 19th century, these immaculate singers traveled and broke racial barriers in the United States and in the world performing for kings and queens. Although these students loved to sing and had a pristine talent for it, they sang to raise money for their beloved institution, Fisk University. Below is a 1909 recording of the Fisk Jubilee singers. 1909 is also the same year in which the NAACP was established.
Speaking of maintaining the tradition of the Fisk Jubilee Singers The Irondale Ensemble Project and the American Opera Projects will perform Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom featuring Metropolitan Opera singer Ms. Janinah Burnett and other reputable opera singers in Brooklyn, NY on February 21st-22nd, the 27th, and March 1st, 2014.
Below is a list of websites that include everything from museum exhibits to historical conversations. There are Black History Month parades to musical performances. Click on any of the links below to find an event for you and your family all along the East Coast. Also, tune into PBS for great conversations featuring the incomparable Ms. Alice Walker and Black History Month themed programming. Enjoy!
No matter how we feel about Black History Month–like the complaints about it being celebrated during the shortest month of the year, or the assertions that during Black History Month the same notable Black people are celebrated year after year, we can never say nationwide and global efforts are not consistently made to pay homage to Black people and our contributions to this world. Black History Month was created by a Black man, Carter G. Woodson, that wanted the world to know that his parents’ toil and labor in slavery had not been in vain and that the spirit and life contributions of the ancestors that they inherited, long before Blacks were even introduced into slavery in America, was worth celebrating and being recognized. In addition, each of us can add to the narrative and contribution to Black History Month beyond our hate for it.
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. 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.
The 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 measure 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!
It’s here! This Super Bowl moment is the day some fans have “waited” for “since 2006 (David Cheek on Facebook)!!!”
Heralded as the “Big Game” Super Bowl fever has been swept all over New Jersey, the state in which the game is going to be played, and New York, the state in which tourists, visitors, and diehard fans are going to spend all of their money and time.
Not much of a football fan, I sometimes don’t understand why some people would actually want to sit in a cold stadium and watch big, burly, lean, fit, strong, virile men shuffle up and down a grassy field with the objective of getting a leather ball from one end to the next. But then again, we are talking about watching beautiful men using football to serve a far greater purpose than the entertainment of the stadium spectators. These men are beautiful because most of the NFL players suit up to save their lives and the lives of others; while the armor they wear may be uniform so as to identify the teams with which they play, each player’s uniform is his own distinct Super Hero costume. When the players are in the personal huddles of their minds, they discuss the worries of their lives that include the loss of loved ones and the obligation to financially and emotionally support their family members. Some of them repeatedly, and in flashing moments, run through how they could have handled a high-profile, public situation differently. They also use the game as the one medium they can use to access incarcerated friends and family. Suddenly the “Big Game” comes with high stakes so I tune in to watch the players navigate these plays in life.
During this Black History month, I’d like to salute the NFL for hosting a profitable and accommodating space for Black players to engage in these personal life huddles, and for providing the means for them to be able to financially solve some of these issues. While money cannot fix every player’s problems as is evident in the suicide deaths of players like Paul Oliver and Javon Belcher, many of the NFL’s Black players are able to experience life completely different from what any of them ever could have imagined. They have greater access to being better people because of the notoriety that comes along with the game. I don’t doubt, however, that many of these players would do philanthropic and humanitarian gestures even if there were no paparazzi lights.
I salute these players even more for seizing the opportunity, through prayer, hard work, and talent, to use the NFL as tool to enrich their lives and the lives of others.
There will always be arguments about the treatment of Black players in institutions like the NFL and NBA like what the fantastic Mr. Bill Rhoden laid out in his book $40 Million Dollar Slaves. Generally, there is no institution without its share of setbacks and marginalization. According to USA Today, Black players
are 10 times more likely to be arrested than White players. The kryptonite that effects some of these Black players (Black players make up approximately 65% of the NFL according to reports by William Rhoden and others) are societal ills like profiling, racism, and a lack of humanity. Through it all, they persevere most times by rising above these issues and committing to the excellence of taking their teams to the Super Bowl.
In 1933, there were 2 Black players and the NFL did not have any more Black players until after World War II. Today the level of sportsmanship, athleticism and notoriety that Black players have added to the NFL makes it hard to believe that football could even have been a sport without them.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday and here’s a Super salute to the NFL’s Black players!