Today August 7th, 2014, NewsOne writer Donovan X. Ramsey posted an article on NewsOne.com with the title, “Why Can’t Obama Talk To Black Americans Like That?” My Fraternity Brother and friend, Donald Anthony Wheeler tagged me in it on a Facebook post and asked for my thoughts.
This article questioned why all of the encouragement and praise President Obama recently offered the 500 African fellows in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was a part of the greater U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C. from August 4th – August 6th, 2014, is not extended from President Obama to Black Americans.
To the YALI fellows President Obama offers the following:
“I want to thank you for inspiring us with your talent and your motivation and your ambition,” he said, looking out to the fellows. “You’ve got great aspirations for your countries and your continent. And as you build that brighter future that you imagine, I want to make sure that the United States of America is going to be your friend and partner every step of the way.” Later in the speech, he added, “So the point of all of this is we believe in you. I believe in you. I believe in every one of you who are doing just extraordinary things.”
In this very frank article Mr. Ramsey supported that President Obama’s inspirational words to these African youth were “uncommon” to Black Americans, specifically when reviewing earlier messages and speeches President Obama has made to Black American audiences And, Mr. Ramsey even goes a step further to say that this encouragement made him a little bit “jealous.”
I think we all get a little bit jealous whenever someone, other than ourselves, gets a little piece of President Obama’s highly warranted attention And, even deeper, I understand where Mr. Ramsey is coming from, too. The idea that there are throngs of young, Black, youth living just outside of the White House, and all over America, but yet he creates a Young African Leaders Initiative is hard to swallow.
But, if we look at it another way, President Obama is doing what he has been fated to do, and I’m okay with his decision.
In 2013, I was a witness to President Obama’s visit to a Brooklyn, NY high school–Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), the school in which I currently teach. Just in knowing President Obama would visit the school sent an understated hysteria that resonated more like the anticipation one has when he or she is about to meet his or her hero for the first time. Ultimately, when President Obama spoke to this predominately Black (Black American, Caribbean, African and Afro-Latin@) population, he shared a very similar message of doing well and believing in the future of this post-millenial generation with all of the students in attendance. I looked in their faces as President Obama spoke and they were hanging onto his every word.
As Mr. Ramsey’s article points out, there have been instances in which critics like the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others have felt that President Obama was “talking down to Black people.” For example, Mr. Ramsey highlights President Obama’s commencement message to the Morehouse College Class of 2013–he even suggests that the President compromised the graduates’ joy and happiness on that day in his message of accountability and ridding themselves of excuses.
“We’ve got no time for excuses — not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned,” he said.
I think most of us would simply be happy to know that President Obama was “in the building” at our graduation, let alone being able to say he offered our commencement address. But, not to make light of Mr. Ramsey’s claims, President Obama did not tell this class that he believed in them. And, no–he did not offer these students a partner in America. But, he did something far greater–he showed up and mentored each of these students individually by providing them with a blueprint as to how he became the Commander-In-Chief. Of course that message would depend on the way in which the graduate was willing to receive the message.
And, President Obama’s messages and actions become even rosier for me.
I am not a fan of casting aspersions on the work that President Obama has done and is doing–I don’t suggest that Mr. Ramsey is, either. But, I am wholeheartedly in favor of speaking my truth about what I glean from how I witness, hear, and understand these works. Again, President Obama is doing what he has been fated to do–to reconnect the African Diaspora as only it can be done through America, and more specifically, through the efforts of its Black American president.
While chattel slavery affected all of the African Diaspora in severe ways, I will be brash and controversial enough to admit that Black Americans are a pretty special group to have “made it” to America even during the arduous slave trade. We are even more significant because we have survived the legacy of the other elements that have been diffused in America as a result of its involvement in chattel slavery–the peculiar institution. By virtue having “made it” to America and also by being citizens, Black Americans have also gained access, albeit limited, to the all of the resources of this country. These resources have continually been sought out by the Caribbean Black and the African. Through accessing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) like Kwame Nkrumah, or by aligning with the daily struggles of being Black in America through the creation of the Black Power movement by Stokely Carmichael, or by helping to shape the voice of the Harlem Renaissance like Claude McKay, America has always provided great ideas of possibility to Blacks outside of America.
President Obama is doing his job by keeping the doors open to Caribbean and African Blacks to continue this work. On the Continent of Africa, there is what is known as the “Door of No Return” but the very name of that infamous door, while it will never be obsolete, is now taking on a different meaning through what President Obama is doing and how he is encouraging Young African Leaders and also Africa’s Black American kin.
President Obama makes me proud every day because he took the chance to run for America’s presidency, and by successfully becoming America’s president, he has changed the way the world will forever view Black people and our access to the world–whether we are American or Disaporan Black.
From my vantage point, I don’t stand in competition with Blacks from around the world, but in solidarity. President Obama’s message to them is already a message I have heard and internalized long before this recent U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit–so, it is indeed a message to me, also.
According to the Superman Poll, you have a 100% approval rating from this voter. While you cannot do it all, you have remained steadfast in advocating and ensuring that some of America’s most vulnerable are cared for—Obama Care has changed the lives of many, Student Loan Forgiveness has given college-loan debtors some hope, and your most important leadership has been to inspire other members of the your team, like Attorney General Eric Holder, to openly speak against and investigate disparaging policy practices as they affect incarcerated people, especially Black males and other Men of Color.
According to the Perception Poll, you have a 100% approval rating from this voter for changing the way the world perceives which Americans are willing, able and capable of leading our nation, its people and its position as a leader among nations of the world. The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is such a smart initiative in sending a message about the perception about the importance of Black Males in our nation. The latest economy results are in—there is growth and jobs have been added to our economy!
According to the Cool Factor Poll, you have a 100% approval rating because I dig your cool—you can sing (remember the Apollo?), you can really play basketball, and I dig how relatable I find you and your family—Mrs. Obama as your wife and First Lady is the real deal. How cool!
According to the Intelligence Factor Poll, you have managed to show that it is okay to be a smart, study Political Science, be an expert on the Constitution, and be a well-written and well-published attorney. For that you have a 100% approval rating from me!
According to the Foreign Policy Poll, I have witnessed considerable growth in your leadership around the world, especially in this second term. None of us like what is happening in Gaza between Israel and Palestine, but one of the first changes I supported you requesting that Israel return to the use of the pre-1967 boundary lines in 2011. It was a start in establishing some semblance of equity in a turbulent region, but more importantly, I appreciate the fact that America, under your leadership found it important to condemn Israel’s actions in Sunday’s August 3rd, 2014 bombing of a Gaza UN school. We’re making some progress and that’s a good thing! And, you still always work toward peace. You have an 100% approval rating from this voter.
While I am having a lot of fun with these polls, I want it to be known that I find you to be way more than the average president and far greater than marginal–there is a lot of evidence to support my findings. I want today to be memorable and what birthdays are made of, even for the President of the United States of America: CAKE, CANDLES, and FUN!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, President Obama!
Have you ever wondered what an unapologetic life looks like? One needs to look no further than to the poetic, critical, and requited life of Mr. James Baldwin, affectionately known by his loved ones as “Jimmy”.
He is a world treasure!
Had Mr. Baldwin not succumb to the esophageal cancer that conquered his physical body on December 1st, 1987, he would be sitting with us wearing his bright, bold, uncommon, gap-toothed smile, perhaps holding a cigarette and sharing some insightful words of wisdom amongst friends. His words would probably be a critique on the ways in which our nation has progressed racially, or not. Never one to tire of an economic, social and political commentary on the ways of the American and international world, I imagine that Mr. Baldwin’s billowing words would eventually recess and retreat into his mind to be picked up later, as he analyzes whatever nature landscape has appeared in his midst.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ~James Baldwin
I only wish that as a high school and college student I had been more exposed to this literary force of more than 25 works and this phenomenal American man. Equally, I only wish that my birth would have intersected the times sooner so that I would have had the chance to meet him, speak with him or simply catch a glimpse of this beautiful man through the lens of a disposable camera.
Recently, during my time at Yale, I was researching in the Beinecke Library, Yale’s repository of rare books and manuscripts, to sift through James Baldwin’s papers like an archaeologist on an archaeological dig. What I found was a man, a thinker, an archivist, and man who doodled! On his time-stained, brown-paged manuscripts he doodled pictures of women, perhaps taking a break from the complexities of his mind by trying his left hand at an understated hobby–drawing. and, also on these pages, he recorded his life and structured conversations for us to continue having with the hopes of transforming America into a better nation of laws, people and mores.
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” James Baldwin
Just writing about him makes me share my own bright, gap-toothed smile as I think about the way he has impacted my thinking and opened my being to what it means to live an unapologetic life. James Baldwin was an immaculate writer and superb wordsmith, but what I will always admire the most about him is the way truth escaped through his full lips and into bitter and sweet air, never to be lost in time because he recorded this truth on the pages of his books, it was woven into the couches of talks shows and captured on the reels of tape.
“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.” James Baldwin
Happy 90th Birthday Mr. Baldwin!
On Wednesday July 30th, 2014, with a vote of 225-201, the House of Representatives voted to give John Boehner, the United States Speaker of the House, the authority to sue the President of the United States.
That’s right. Our dysfunctional 113th Congress came together for a vote along party lines to sue our President–every Democrat voted against the resolution to sue and all but five (5) Republicans voted in favor of the suit!
At the helm of this dysfunction is the 64-year old, stiff, stoic, and seriously egotistical John “B.B” Boehner. Sworn in as our nation’s 61st Speaker of the House, it is the job of “B.B.” to preside over the House of Representatives—one of two houses that comprises Congress. The members of the House of Representatives are determined by each state’s population which means more populous states have greater voices and votes in the legislative (law-making) processes of the House of Representatives.
“B.B.” has 435 people under his watch. Based on the productivity of this current Congress, it appears as if they all have pretty much been watching each other because they have clearly not been working.
So why the law suit?
By constitutional decree, “B.B.” is second in line to the presidency, and that may have a lot to do with his treatment of President Obama since becoming the Speaker on January 3rd, 2011. I have a feeling that somewhere deep in his orange-stained encapsulated mind he believes that he can do a better job. But, the historical record shows the only thing “B.B.” is capable of doing well is saying, “No.” This Congress has been the least effective Congress in the history of America—even more ineffective than the 80th ‘Do Nothing’ Congress that served with President Harry Truman!
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the real reason “B.B.” has moved forward with this expensive and frivolous law suit is because of the Republican’s accusation of President Obama’s “executive overreach—exceeding his constitutional powers and unlawfully going around Congress.” The Wall Street Journal contributed Boehner’s decision was reinforced by alterations that were made to the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obama Care.
Clearly the framers of the Constitution knew how to keep one another in check because they implicitly imbedded and explicitly granted really important duties, responsibilities, and privileges to the different branches of government. Because the Republicans of this Congress have been so staunch in their resolve to see President Obama fail, and since the Republicans were not successful in preventing President Obama from reelection, they just flat-out became uncooperative, leaving President Obama without a choice but to use the Executive Order and executive privilege to run this country and to make decisions that Congress, that appeared to be defunct at times, refused to help him with. But, President Obama still appealed to them and he still operated within the confines of the Constitution and under the oath he took to defend the Constitution when he was sworn in as president.
Under the partial congressional leadership of Boehner, our nation has suffered sequestration, been faced with issues with our nation’s credit standing, and most importantly Americans have suffered by the non-passage of legislation to provide jobs, support our veterans, and improve the overall quality of life in health, education, and wages.
Bad Boss Boehner and his followers have no respect for the position of the president, show no remorse for the further suffering they have inflicted on the American people, and don’t care about the international implications their actions dictate about how others around the world treat President Obama and respect our system of democracy. In true bad fashion, they have strong-armed the political process like a bunch of sophisticated crooks.
The history that President Obama has made by breaking and removing the glass ceiling of political exclusion for Americans in this country can never be undone. That’s good!
But, the fact that America really wants to become a better nation, but unfortunately-stagnated, small-minded people wish to prevent our progress, is disturbing and bad.
Of all of the putrid and disturbing things for the Speaker of the House to do, using his position to “speak” ideas of anarchy and dysfunction deeper into our government is really low and bad.
When this Congress’s history is recorded, it will not be for a record of all of the good and progressive ways in which it elevated America. Instead, it will be a record of them getting paid for bad, litigious, and intentionally unproductive ways to discredit the office of the president, maintain the status quo of political party chaos, and prevent the upward mobility of Americans and this nation.
America, we have roughly 95 days until mid-term elections are held on Election Day, November 4th, 2014.
YOU have the power to rid our government of Bad Bosses like John “B. B.” Boehner and bad-boss practices. You must simply care about what is happeing in our government, read everyday to stay informed–ThePoliDay Report is a great place, and most importantly you must VOTE!
Facebook has proven to be worth all of the hype it has earned—it has connected childhood friends, helped friends become lovers, and it has even been a great stage for [healthy] political and historical debates.
My friends of Facebook have contributed to a rich conversation about President Robert Mugabe’s latest decision to remove about 35 white landowners from landownership, but not from owning businesses and other properties in the Southeast African nation of Zimbabwe.
According to a July 2014 article called, “Mugabe Orders White Farmers Off Of Land” written by Abena Agyeman Fisher on Face2FaceAfrica, President Mugabe is planning to make major changes in the distribution of land ownership in Zimbabwe. Not everybody is happy about it, and my Facebook friends have a lot to say about it.
Some of them view Mugabe’s policies as “ignorant” and they assert that he is no longer the “independence hero” he was once thought to be. In addition, some of them present that he is establishing a “two wrongs make a right precedent” while others maintain that the people of Zimbabwe, represented by the leadership of Robert Mugabe, have a “God-given right to put changes in place…”
Clearly there are no easy solutions to correcting the wrongs of histories past and rightfully so. History is a very convoluted concept of facts, memories, rights and wrongs. It is filled with vantage points, imposters, oppressors, victims and survivors. And ultimately, each of us, whether in positions of power, or as conscious citizens, supports the concept of history we construct and the role we play.
Robert Mugabe is no saint, and of course, like each of us, is a sinner. And now, he will face the book of history for this recent decision and for his legacy of as a leader.
While Mugabe may no longer be a hero to all, he may certainly become one again to many.
One of my commenters wrote the “…sins of the father don’t pass on like bank accounts and to attempt to correct historical injustices using today’s players sets a bad “two wrongs make a right” precedent.”
When the sins involve racial injustice that have been systemically implemented and violently enforced over the course of prejudicial / discriminatory, unjust, inhumane, dehumanizing laws, the posterity (next generations) of the purveyors (creators) of those laws reap the benefits, and the subjects reap the disadvantages of those laws. These sins absolutely pass on like bank accounts. Even worse, most of us, especially when you’re on the beneficial end, never question why these sins are so advantageous—it is just passed on as “the way that it is.”
And, those in power often run away from explaining the origins of these de facto benefits.
The reality of Zimbabwe is that it is a country that has not resolved its racial and political issues—the roots run deep. The other reality is that the generations of white families that have “owned” its land have done so through illegal occupation. There is no statute of limitations on doing what is right, no matter how many generations pass. The whites of Zimbabwe today are reaping the benefits of the crimes of their ancestors, just like the Africans have reaped the disadvantages of theirs.
Just because the “Star of Africa”, the largest diamond ever to be found in the world, has been in possession of England since 1905, does not make England its rightful owner. Because Africa was invaded and illegally occupied by European nations through violent means and war via the Berlin Conference of 1884, none of what Europe has taken in Africa makes Europe Africa’s owners. The same is true for the whites in Zimbabwe.
The theft of land is a horribly debilitating offense, and it is directly tied to a people’s sustenance, the sustainability of their generations, and acquisition of [future] wealth–ask any of the Blacks that endured Jim Crow America and were forced to abandon their hard-earned, formerly-sharecropped, and former plantation lands in places like Alabama and Mississippi due to vicious, legal and uncontested racial violence; and, without delay, they would attest that their stolen land has created major communal, familial and financial setbacks in their lives. Remember Mose Wright–Emmet Till’s uncle that testified against the men that killed is nephew? He was run off of his Mississippi land and there are many more stories like his. He and the others are entitled to reparations.
In his very craftily written article, The Case for Reparations, TaNehisi Coates presented a pristine argument for reparations for Blacks that had been unfairly denied access to wealth-building and the acquisition of property due to Chicago’s unfair red-lining and housing laws. These laws were established by an American government that refused to recognize the rights of all of its citizens. Blacks were left out. And, we are entitled to reparations because the policies were wrong.
The whites in Zimbabwe are not entitled to own Zimbabwe’s land because the policies that made them “owners” were wrong. The Blacks were denied access to Zimbabwe’s land during imperialism, and history has a way of correcting those wrongs. It’s called reparations; and, Robert Mugabe is leading that charge for Zimbabwe on his watch.
Over the course of nearly 60 years, Germany has paid some $89 billion in reparations to Holocaust survivors, survivors’ children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–and they’ve even paid the survivors living in Russian-occupied territories. The policies that savagely killed Holocaust victims and left some scarred for life were wrong; and, the German government of today says that its people are entitled to reparations.
In all issues of race and racial injustice, we must speak plainly, openly and honestly. The whites of Zimbabwe do not “own” the land. No matter how many generations have been on the land, they are in Zimbabwe due to colonial occupation and racial subjugation.
Robert Mugabe does not have all of the answers, but we cannot be so quick to condemn his policies as “ignorant” when they attempt on implement fairness for people for whom justice escaped. If Robert Mugabe is a villain for attempting reparations for his people, then all leaders that correct past wrongs are villains.
There is the implication that once the land gets [back] into the hand of the Zimbabweans that they will be very unproductive with it and the land will lose value because Zimbabweans will not industrialize the land for business. It is the same arguments America used to deny Black Americans access to land, property, politics, and education. The argument is wrong.
I am always intrigued by the use of semantics when there is an examination of white people being governed by the policies of Blacks. Arguments of morality and justice are quickly asserted in their cases whereas Blacks are usually only afforded a legal argument—about laws that are already unjust and immoral.
Robert Mugabe must face the book of history about the legacy of his leadership, and in the meantime, I look forward to reading more about his plan for implementing [land] reparations.
On July 17th, 2014, some of the summer’s sunlight was dimmed by the serious disregard for human life, as demonstrated in the dangerously deviant behavior of New York City Police Department Officers, when they choked and killed 43 year-old, father of six, Mr. Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk. No one came to his aid, but thankfully Ramsey Orta’s video footage made all of us eye witnesses to the killing of Eric Gardener.
We have witnessed yet another man’s life and character be put on trial as justification for why his verdict was death (Eric Garner was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes which is why the officers initially accosted him).
Since he is no more, I will “march” for Eric Garner to ensure that justice reigns supreme to thwart the supremacy of violence and -isms that tend to menace too many members of law enforcement.
And, summertime violence is nothing new and neither is using deadly force to prevent groups of people from obtaining a suitable or better quality of life. One has to go back only 95 years to the year 1919, historically labeled the“Red Summer” in which strings of violent, race riots broke out all over the nation-Chicago, Washington D.C, and Arkansas were the bloodiest as our nation’s streets ran red. These riots resulted as racism and violent supremacy reared their ugly heads and reduced the behavior of whites to the lowest depths of hate and inhumanity—too many became murderers without conviction in an attempt to mark territories that simply did not solely belong to a white populace, but to all Americans.
With the close of World War I (WWI), the continual presence of African Americans moving to Northern and Midwestern cities to fill vacancies that resulted from WWI during the Great Migration, and employment competition and shortages, the summer of 1919 was an inferno of vile, vicious behavior that kept America divided, devoid of summertime joy and worse, red.
The primary victims of this summertime violence? Hard-working, Black men providing for the families they had or the families they would soon produce when the means and mediums afforded them the ability.
But they weren’t the only ones.
While most of us think that we know all there is to know about the life of Harriet Tubman, a supreme Queen, what most of us don’t know is that Harriet Tubman was also the victim of choking by a train’s conductor, an authority figure of the day, as she traveled from Philadelphia to New York in 1865. In American Legacy Magazine’s summer 2004 issue, according to writer Marc Ferris, Mrs. Tubman carried a soldier’s pass, which she likely gained from her second husband Mr. Nelson Davis who fought in the Civil War, when she boarded this Northern train. Assuming that her pass was stolen or forged, the conductor asked her to abandon her seat, but Mrs. Tubman refused and called the conductor a racist scoundrel. The conductor then proceeded to choke her, two other men jumped in and all three of these men scuffled with the defenseless, 48-year old woman, Mrs. Tubman. As a result, she suffered a broken arm and bruised ribs. No one came to her aid.
Because she is no more, but clearly used her strong-willed and divinely-blessed life to challenge racism, sexism and other societal ills, I will “march” for her to ensure that our 21st Century society understands how deeply entrenched racially and power-induced violence is in our nation.
We cannot afford to pick and choose the violent law-enforcement violations and occurrences for which we stand and the ones we ignore. We have to be vigilant against them all. On July 1st, 2014 David Diaz captured video footage of a California Highway Patrol where he mercilessly and savagely beat a bare-foot African American grandmother, Marlene Pinnock, on a highway’s median. No one came to her aid.
In an October 25th, address delivered in 1865 in front of the Colored Man’s Convention of Indiana, of Masonic Hall, John Mercer Langston, Virginia State University’s first President and an American legislator stated:
It’s time the summer reflected the yellow light of the rising sun for all Americans, rather than the reddened tint of a setting one for some.
For Harriet …Eric Garner…I’ll march for them all.
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Source: Claude McKay, “If We Must Die,” in Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922).