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King Kendrick and the Night ‘Sankofa’ Happened at the Grammy Awards

In 1993, Haile Gerima directed the groundbreaking movie Sankofa, a film about the Trans-KL faceAtlantic Slave Trade and how its lessons helped to evolve a Black model, Mona, from her superficial understanding of life and back to her African roots. Named for a term in the Ghanaian Akan language, Sankofa means to go back and look toward the past, for wisdom and hope, in order to be able to make progress in the future.  It means to be grounded in one’s African roots and African past—it reminds us to return to the source.

On the 58th Annual Grammy stage that aired Monday February 15th, 2016 Hip-Hop artist Kendrick Lamar embodied the very meaning of Sankofa in his stage performance and medley of songs from his five-time Grammy awarded album and seminal work, To Pimp a Butterfly.

He was amazing!

image1Dressed in all blue and in chain-gang formation, Lamar was chained and shackled with an all-Black male ensemble and surrounded by jail cages from which a saxophone wailed. With the chains on his hands and wrapped around the microphone, Kendrick Lamar declared:

“I’m African-American. I’m African. I’m black as the moon. “

Not long after this declaration, the Sankofa transformation began under a strobe of black lights illuminating the white patterns all over Lamar’s clothing and the neon colorful spirits standing and dancing along with him.image3

He proceeded to give us what we needed and we were reminded that every race starts from the Blacks.  African drumming further encouraged the Sankofa process to take place as beautifully adorned and spirited women dancers circled Kendrick Lamar amidst the bonfire backdrop, symbolically giving birth to a Kendrick Lamar Renaissance. This was just as much our rites of passage as it was his. He became King Kendrick. The ancestors orchestrated his coronation and we watched it happen thinking were watching a Grammy performance.


image4In a climatic testimony with only a spotlight and a microphone, Kendrick Lamar reminded us that freedom isn’t free and that it requires a kind of transformation in the mind that means seeing Compton in Africa and acknowledging the African in each of us.

Congressman John Lewis Needs No Defense, But…

On Thursday February 11th, 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) chose to endorse former Secretary of State and presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton over Senator and presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders. Congressman John Lewis, born of February 21st, 1940 in Troy Alabama, has chosen to support her as well.

That is his right.

No sooner than the endorsement of Hillary Clinton had come from the ranks of the CBC did the “innanet” start buzzing. When Congressman Lewis was asked about Senator Sanders’ involvement in the Civil Rights Movement from a reporter in the audience, Congressman Lewis had this to say:

“I never saw him, I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years — 1963 to 1966,” he said. “I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery. I directed the board of education project for six years. I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

That was Congressman Lewis’ recollection of Senator Sanders’ involvement and not an indictment on Sanders’ character.  How can it be?  Congressman Lewis could not possibly have seen all of the foot soldiers at work in a movement as vast as the Civil Rights Movement.

Congressman Lewis should never be called an “Uncle Tom” or a “sellout” for choosing not

John Lewis and I!

Congressman John Lewis and I!

to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders.  At nearly seventy-five years old (75!), he has walked among the malignant and the uncouth, and the compassionate and the loving; and, he is still on the front lines trying to make America a better place.  Despite his platform and visibility, he is still only one self-determined voter using his one vote to cast his one ballot for his one chance to say who he believes should be the next president of these United States of America. The only basis he has for making his decision is what each of us has—the candidate’s record to help align logic and rationale to our selection, and a compelling gut-feeling or intuition we may have with the candidate. Congressman Lewis knows no more than any of the rest of us about how Secretary Clinton will perform as president than the Bernie Sanders supporters know about how he will perform. We all only have their promises. Clinton and Sanders are both politicians vying for a coveted seat, in a powerful position and a particular place in America’s history.

We can disagree strongly in the political arena, but how dare any of us resort to demeaning another person for his or her right to choose the candidate of his or her choice?

I believe vehemently in my right to participate in the democratic process and I vote. I don’t always chose the winning candidate, but I always elect my choice.  On all levels of government, none of the candidates I have selected or any of those who have run since I became a voter have ever made my issues as a Black person living in America, a priority; rather, my issues have always been masked as part and parcel of sub groups and their issues.  These subgroups and their issues continue to be met before pertinent and relevant Black agenda issue items are even discussed…none of us know how different either of these candidates, Sanders or Clinton, will be once they get into  office,  but our uncertainty at their job performance should not have to come at the expense of the Congressman Lewis’s reputation, integrity, recollection, and his humanity.

Update: Congressman Lewis has since issued the following statement regarding his remarks about Senator Bernie Sanders, on February 13th, 2016:

“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

HBCUs: Leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Brooklyn Museum’s conversation and exhibit called, Witness: Arts and Civil Rights in the Sixties.

Dr. Muhammad and Congressman LewisThe real treat for me was a conversation moderated by the Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Dr. Khalil G. Muhammad, and the living, historical legend and Civil Rights Movement pioneer, Congressman John R. Lewis (D-GA).

On August 28th, 1963 Congressman John Lewis was the youngest speaker to address the nation at Washington’s historic March on Washington. Today, he is the only surviving speaker from the official program. At the time of the March on Washington, Congressman John Lewis served as the Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966 (SNCC, pronounced SNICK).  A Troy, Alabama native, Congressman Lewis was given an opportunity to meet other Civil Rights Movement pioneers like Rosa Parks, whom he met at the age of 17, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he met at the age of 18.  As he explained to our group of culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse people on Sunday, Congressman Lewis explained that he had heard that Dr. King would be speaking in Tennessee.  As a result of a $.10 comic book, Congressman Lewis grew to revere Dr. King and wanted to meet him. The Congressman wrote Dr. King a letter and Dr. King replied by sending John Lewis a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket. From that encounter Congressman Lewis wound up becoming a student at Fisk University, one of the most contributing schools to the Modern Civil Rights Movement and John Lewis eventually became the Congressman we know today.

During the question and answer period, I had the chance to assert that HBCUs are not often credited with being the leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement; and, I also had the chance to glean from Congressman Lewis what he thought the role of the HBCU was today. As favor would have it, Dr. Muhammad found my question “excellent” and important enough to even offer a follow-up to it by asking what Congress was doing to support these important institutions considering that students today have a “broader swath” of schools from which to choose.  In my practice and experiences, I have witnessed that oftentimes students will not select an HBCU as a school option unless there is a history of attendance in their families or, if they are familiar with them, it is because their teachers and/or community members have steered them into the directions of HBCUs. March on Washington 1963 program

When reading about the Civil Rights Movement, seeing the speakers on the official program for the March on Washington in 1963, and learning about others that have contributed greatly to the attainment of civil rights for Blacks and others, their achievements are notable, but attention to their educational background is quite often ignored.

Perhaps speaking out against racial discrimination these activists experienced made them eloquent speakers?

Maybe their regular attendance in churches made them empathetic toward others?

These activists led because they were taught how to lead from the HBCUs. Long before they became civil rights heroes as we know them, they were somebody’s roommate, debate team member, fraternity brother or sorority sister, and/or classroom pupil on an HBCU campus getting inspired, being encouraged to read and read and read, and they were being groomed to be the leaders of their tomorrow.

From the opening of the March on Washington of ’63 with the singing of the National Anthem performed by Virginia State University graduate (Virginia State College when she graduated) Camilla Williams (Marian Anderson Virginia State Universitycould not make it in time), to the closing benediction delivered by former Morehouse College President and Virginia Union University attendee, Benjamin Mays, the tone had already been set for educational excellence.

Many of the other Black luminaries on the program attended, interacted with, and/or graduated from Historically Black Colleges and Universities:

Bayard Rustin (Wilberforce and Cheyney Universities)

Gloria Richardson (Howard University)

John Lewis (Fisk University)

Floyd McKissick (Morehouse College)

Whitney Young, Jr. (Kentucky State University)

Even the “Queen Mother” or “Mother of the Movement” as she was often referred to by Dr. King,  Septima Clark, was aSeptima Clark graduate of Benedict College and Hampton University.   Beyond those speakers, other graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities participated in and are still working diligently toward the cause of furthering civil rights as in the case of Reverend Jesse Jackson, a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University and the Reverend Joseph Lowery, a graduate of Knoxville College and Alabama A & M University.

The Civil Rights Movement is often a celebration of the individuals whereas it should be a celebration of the institutions that shaped the will and tenacity of these selfless and committed activists.  On the “yards” of the HBCUs is where the skill of debate was learned, the development of empathy was honed, and the love for all people was embedded.

It is often asked whether HBCUs are still relevant and I laugh in embarrassment at the mere thought of them not being important. HBCUs will always be relevant as long as there are civil rights to champion. As long as Black students, and now frankly, all students need to be nurtured and educated, uplifted and educated, trained and educated, empowered and educated, these institutions will always be relevant. There is something to be said about the ideals that were implanted into the minds of students like the aforementioned pioneers–the fact that many of these people are well beyond the 50 years in which the March on Washington occurred, they tirelessly continue to work for the equal rights and justice of all people in contemporary times.  Their longevity to the movement and their calling to civil rights activism speaks volumes about the pedagogy that was practiced and taught in HBCUs.

There is a running joke about how traditional HBCUs are–students still have curfew, we don’t offer co-educational living (male and female cohabitation), and Homecoming is still one of the greatest events because it includes the other great pastime, football, and currently enrolled students are still experiencing similar cultural pedagogy about the importance of making the world better than how it was inherited.  The evidence supports that this pedagogy works and it also suggests that HBCU alumni are always willing to give back because of a need to be able to recognize these familial and familiar places called home. There simply is no place like home.

Congressman John Lewis selfie

My selfie moment with Congressman Lewis

When we step out into the world, each of us is equipped with GPS that will assist in navigating an unfamiliar world; whether it’s politics or religion or education, we learn these lessons from home. HBCUs have been credited with being spirited places that have broken barriers for Blacks in education, but they have also been tornadoes in changing America and the world. When Presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson were encouraged to take more deliberate action in civil rights activism, it was because of the encouragement of an HBCU graduate sitting right next to their elbows. When the continent of Africa was decentralized during the period of the modern Civil Rights Movement, it was because of African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah’s exposure to and matriculation in HBCUs.

Congressman Lewis’ response to my comment and question?

“These institutions were free. The student bodies–the teachers were free to teach. [They] educated so many of our leaders.”

Leadership has no expiration date.  HBCUs are still cultivating leaders in the same buildings that created the leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and in newer buildings that have been built courtesy of the progress made as a result of this movement.  HBCUs have shown the voiceless how to be free to give voice to a cause worthy of the sacrifice and in some instances, death.  They have taught the invisible man and woman to step into the spotlight to become the principal actors and agents of change.  Most importantly, HBCUs have taught us all how to be free from the bondage that thwarts growth and the ideas that tell us we cannot when clearly we are equipped with an unyielding spirit that says that we can.

[Colored] Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

“I feel a little guilty saying how much fun I had being a colored girl in the 20th Century.” Anita Reynolds, American Cocktail: A ‘Colored Girl’ in the World

First thing this morning, l read an article called the Wild Adventures of a ‘Colored Girl’ in the Early 20th Century. It had been published on the The Root by Teresa Wiltz, nearly a week ago, about the recently found memoir of a young Black woman named Anita Reynolds, a flapper of sorts traveling the world, schmoozing with VIPs and having some very important familial (Langston Hughes was a distant cousin) and romantic (W.E.B. Dubois was her first lover) connections. 


Anita Reynolds

I learned she had come from a prominent well-to-do family of mixed race heritage, but during those days, being multicultural was hardly anything to celebrate the way we celebrate it today. Anita’s mother was a Black woman, labeled “blond” because of her “passing” (pretending to be White or another ‘race’ because you look like that ‘race’) ability; and, indeed “passing” was a coping mechanism Ms. Reynolds was able to use to her advantage (people thought she was Mexican, Native American, etc–she never corrected them).

“Passing” in the Black community was anything but acceptable–it was blasphemous! Writers like Charles Chesnutt knew, first-hand, the lure of “passing” but chose not to do it because it created an even more difficult existence for anymore “caught” in between races.  The “one drop rule” gave Black people a different ethnic appeal and imprisoned them at the same time. The “passable” Black women from places like Louisiana deemed octoroon (1/8th Black ancestry), quadroon (1/4 Black ancestry), and mulatto (having one Black parent and one White parent) were often lauded as the prettiest women on the planet, yet they lived the same lives as any other ‘colored girl’ and sometimes lives that were marred in too-frequent sexual advances from men salivating over their beauty and needing to experience just a little bit of it.  Alex Haley explored this topic in his novel Queen: The Story of an American Family that was later adapted into a movie starring Halle Berry.  

As long as American identity remained Black and White, on the Black side is where these mixed-race Blacks stood and where they were expected to stay.  I completely understand why Anita Reynolds professed her guilt for having fun because she lived a life that ‘colored’ girls did not have access to and were not supposed to live–a life filled with adventure, the finest clothes, admirable company, gawking eyes, and the chance to laugh from all the fun she was having. 

Virginia State University graduate, attorney and billionaire, Mr. Reginald Lewis, wrote a book decades later entitled Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun?  It seems to me that he responded to Ms. Reynolds’ confession of guilt by living his ‘Colored’ life without any guilt, unapologetically, and by terms not completely determined by his race, rather his hard work and success. 

Today ‘Colored Girls’ like singers Alicia Keys and Tamia leave Anita Reynolds’ shadow of guilt to dissipate into the sunlight; thus, they are Black women living life to the fullest and impacting the lives of others through philanthropic efforts. 


Hair It Is!

“Don’t haffi dread to be Rasta…” Morgan Heritage

Rasta Man (2)

photo courtesy of mundorasta.net

If you have been reading this blog since Black History Month, you’ve probably already gathered that I’ve done an ode to Black men. I love them and wouldn’t want to live without them; impeccable-ness starts with he who wears the crown…of HAIR!

If you’ve learned anything from my blog it’s that I will always have a deep appreciation andMr Fitzgerald affinity for Black men like Mr. Elston Fitzgerald, my high school band teacher. Beyond teaching me the elements of music and musicality, Mr. Fitzgerald taught me about words, language, life and image. He was and still is a commanding figure: tall, dark-complexioned, robust, usually bearded, and wears a mane of a naturally curly Afro. His voice, a deep resounding beauty. I remember once, he gave my peers and I a lesson on beards, Black men, and perception. He taught us that Black men had been historically told to keep their faces clean-shaven so as to look less threatening and more acceptable; it was to make them appear as boys even though they were men capable of deciding what looks they felt were acceptable to them.

IWDM Smile

Photo courtesy of The Mosque Cares

This post is for Mr. Fitzgerald. It’s also for all of the Muslim men like Imam Warith Deen Muhammad and the other brothers in the communities in which I grew up who wore their Andre 3000beards like they wore their kufis and practiced their deen. This post is for every man that ever stood out because of his beautiful locs of hair. It’s for the Rastas with locs coiffed and cascading, and men like Andre “3000” Benjamin, Nasir Jones  and Wood Harris sporting low-cuts and side parts and other versatile styles.  It’s for the wet-and-wavy, water-and-grease-hair having brothers. This post is for the ancient hair that remains on the lifeless pharaohs, yet preserved for the Afterlife of eternity and to deepen the lessons of today. It’s for Aboriginal blonde peculiarity. And, it’s for the cornrows and the hair that used to be but male-patterned baldness has borrowed it for good leaving behind variant, shining, chocolate mounds .

20140221-170758.jpgLastly, in remembrance of the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, formerly known as “Detroit Red” because of the sandy red hair that made him stand out, this post is for him. As if history hasn’t already proven he was a special gift among us, perhaps his hair was indeed the sign.


It’s a free-flowing conversation piece of puffy, sleek, and tentacled meandering thoughts; and, the manifestation of life’s coarse kinky-ness that smoothly intersects at the right juncture. It’s the crowning glory of identity and movement colliding over shoulders and/or knotty beards where jaw lines rendezvous with side burns, bridged by a mustache’s canopy; and, from underneath flow the lyrics of life and love sounds, tender and masculine, raw and un-cut, powerful and revolutionary. These crowns accentuate beautiful eyes and beautiful lips. They highlight skin tones and frame the face’s structure like they accessorize behavior punctuated with legato and staccato movements and rhythms worn by Rastas like Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley…pregnant with the will of Jah and the love for the people.


What If…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida’s Civil War on Black Boys

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

Jordan Davis 2

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

The war rages on.  

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

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

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

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

Justice is not blind.  

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 19th Birthday Jordan Davis!!

Hip Hop, Liberation & Outcasts

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

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

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

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

We still do not even know them.

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

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

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

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

In her explanation, she said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malcolm X is no outcast.

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

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

19 Reasons Why the Zimmerman Celebrity Boxing Match Should NOT Happen

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!

  1. Celebrity and celebrate have the same root word.  Since when has it ever been okay to “celebrate” teen killers?
  2. 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!
  3. If OJ Simpson could not profit from his [alleged] murders, George Zimmerman can’t either!
  4. 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.
  5. George Zimmerman is a misfit who would pose a deleterious influence on other wannabe and potential misfits of the world.
  6. 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.
  7. This boxing match won’t help redeem George Zimmerman’s image. He will always be remembered as the man who killed Trayvon Martin.
  8. I don’t like what George Zimmerman stands for.  I won’t fall for his tactics either. I say no to this madness!
  9. George Zimmerman has one championship in killing an unarmed teen—he does not need the shot at another championship for any reason.
  10. 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!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Betting in favor of or against a teen killer is just plain wrong.
  14. As a nation, we should stand our ground and be better than George Zimmerman—say no to this boxing match.
  15. Trayvon Martin will never have the chance to make a profit—from anything ever again.
  16. When the verdict was read, George Zimmerman was supposed to disappear into obscurity like OJ Simpson.
  17. It is insensitive and unscrupulous for any promoter to profit from the blood on Zimmerman’s hands.
  18. Boxing is a violent sport, but it not a sport that supports violent offenders of teens.
  19. 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.

George Zimmerman Acquittal Footage

Black History Month Events and TV Programming

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.

Harriet TubmanDuring Black History Month, we all get to learn more about groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

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!

Black History Month 2014 TV Programming on PBS

Black History Month 2014 in Washington DC

Black History Month 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland

Black History Month 2014 in New Jersey

Black History Month 2014 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Black History Month 2014 in New York City

Black History Month 2014 in Virginia

Black History Month 2014 in Georgia

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.