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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.

Brilliant.

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.

Solving America’s Race Crisis According to James Baldwin

I believe the solution to America’s problem of race is somewhere in between Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin—Suns of [the] movements—and what white people must finally acknowledge and ultimately accept.

Today in 2015, America is at a racial crossroads. As I type this entry, Black churches are up in flames in different places throughout South Carolina, less than one week before this post, President Barack Obama eulogized the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pastor Clementa Pinckney, as he and 8 other parishioners lost their lives as a result of a racist, 21-year old gunman who opened fire during a Wednesday night prayer circle in Charleston, South Carolina.  In a little less than two weeks from the time of this post, members of the Ku Klux Klan will march in solidarity against the removal of the Confederate Flag from South Carolina’s State Capitol Building.

It’s 2015.

On June 24th, 1963, City College Psychology Professor Dr. Kenneth Clark, in separate interviews, brought three of the most brilliant contempory minds the world has ever seen to discuss the race crisis in America. This one-hour special program was called, “The Negro and the American Promise.”

When opening the program, Dr. Clark offered the following to stimulate the viewers’ minds for the intellectual treats of Malcolm X, King, and Baldwin:

“By all meaningful indices, the Negro is still, and unquestionably, the downtrodden, disparaged group, and for a long time was systematically deprived of his dignity as a human being. The major indictment of our democracy is that this is being done with the knowledge and at times with the connivance of responsible, moderate people who are not overtly bigots or segregationists.

We have now come to the point where there are only two ways that America can avoid the continued racial explosions. One would be total oppression. The other, total equality. There is no compromise.”

Both Dr. Clark and Baldwin believed the future of Blacks and the future of America were linked–Baldwin said they were, “indissoluble.” When asked whether he was pessimistic or optimistic about this future, this is in part how James Baldwin responded.

“But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives — it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long.
What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.
The question you have got to ask yourself–the white population of this country has got to ask itself — North and South, because it’s one country, and for a Negro, there’s no difference between the North and South. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you. But the fact of the castration is the American fact. If I’m not a nigger here and you invented him, you, the white people, invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”

For the full text and footage of James Baldwin’s interview with Dr. Kenneth Clark, click here

Is America Being Black-Maled?

July 17th. August 5th. August 9th.

Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Michael Brown.

All Black. All dead by the hands of Police Officers.

None of their killers were indicted.

Since these killings occurred (and even before), more Black men and other non-white men (and women) have been killed by police officers. The institution of policing has decided it is just too risky to “apply the law” to the fate and futures of Black men and the others it reportedly fears. Instead, this institution has opted to rely on antiquated, non-transparent justice. In each of the aforementioned cases, there has been widespread departmental and institutional cover-up, the mishandling of evidence, discrepancies in witness testimony, and convenient, in-house remixing of policies and procedures. The institutional accomplice absolving killer cops of criminality is the Grand Jury–a clandestine and ubiquitous entity that has netted a zero and three return for justice.

Repeatedly, these secret jurors have decided that in the midst of the evidence collected by state’s prosecutors and District Attorneys, none of the evidence has even been strong enough to charge the officers involved with a crime. In each of the Grand Jury proceedings, none of the jurors have been able to hear all of the evidence because the defendants, now made to look like the perpetrators, are all defenseless and dead.

Why is America being Black-Maled?

Black men, no more perfect or flawed than any other men in the United States of America, are the nucleus of America’s fears and the targets of police officers’ guns. It’s as if Black men are to blame for everything wrong with America and white men are the reason for all of its rights…even when these white men, acting as police officers, are in the legal and moral wrong, indicted or not.

The latest police shootings have been committed by young, mostly white officers not fully vested in their careers, and who all seem to use the same two excuses for shooting Black men–“accidental” and “fear.” But, we know fear is not accidental; rather, it is a learned emotion under which to hide after being taught a particular racial and gender demographic is not valued and is prone to criminality. America is Black-Maled today for the same yesteryear and historical reason–systemic, institutional and structural racism.

It is rampant, metastasizing, and stifling.

And, America’s future will not survive unless we make urgent changes now.

Black men, killed every 28 hours, are being forced to pay a debt to society they owe no more than the rest of us; and, they are hunted down like “hogs…in an inglorious spot” by bullets they cannot outrun in order to settle this mounting tab.

They are also young, like 18-year old Michael Brown and 12-year old Tamir Rice, who never had opportunities to declare careers. But, regrettably they were both given the equal opportunity of death from a police officer’s bullet.

We can no longer continue Black Male-ing America because when we do, we fail terribly.

This nation, my nation, through the use of grand juries that will not indict killer cops, is attempting to manipulate the feelings of our society by presenting killing as the the only lawful solution for indifference when one is Black and male. Morbidly, the message also being communicated is that Black men are not suited to walk this Earth and breathe its air. America incites us to hate and fear them and justify why justice should elude them. The overall verdict forced upon us is that Black men are not even worthy of justice. Therefore, I appeal on the basis that, when regarding Black men, there is but one truth I hold to be self-evident, #BlackLivesMatter!

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, TAVIS SMILEY!

“You can‘t LEAD the people if you don’t LOVE the people. You can’t SAVE the people if you won’t SERVE the people.” Motto of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Youth 2 Leaders

Tavis

Barnes and Noble, September 2014 NYC

On Thursday, September 11th, 2014, I sat in an audience of people—friends, supporters,  and employees of Tavis Smiley—in  New York City’s Union Square Barnes and Noble for the signing of his seventeenth and latest book, The Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year.

While on the stage underscoring his level of commitment to his work, he called my name, told the audience I worked with the young people in his foundation—Youth 2 Leaders—and led me in completing the motto of the foundation.  I was in the notes section of my iPad trying to take down his most salient and thought-provoking points (there are so many all the time) so I was initially caught off guard, but I fell right in line with him in reciting our motto.  Tavis responded, “See? She understands it. That’s what this work is all about.”

For nearly 20 years (I first met Tavis Smiley when I was 19 years old), I have been a student of Tavis Smiley.  I have learned that he is deeply committed to the growth and development of all people, and particularly to Black people.

“I believe if we make Black America better, we make all of America better.” Tavis Smiley

I can appreciate the unapologetic resolve in that premise.

TavisZak1

Fail Up Book Signing, 2011 NYC

For ten (10) years, he provided a platform for many of our community’s intellectuals and cultural critics; and, they gained national notoriety from their inclusion and involvement in the State of the Black Union symposiums. As a spectator and as an attendee, I would look at the panelists and think to myself, “If Tavis Smiley included this person, they must be something!”

Tavis has always been my barometer of intellectual excellence and my go-to example of critical curiosity and inquiry.  And, he fits perfectly into the cast of leadership. Through the publishing of books such as the Covenant with Black America (2006), and my all-time favorite, Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure (2011), Tavis has consistently provided an entry point for Black communities into discussions of politics and socio-economic growth. While his vocabulary is impressive and vast, his approach to giving our community the wings to fly in areas that sometimes compromise our esteem, has been practical, doable, and enumerated in a way that keeps many of us from getting lost or resorting to the comfort of believing our inability for doing better is because of not knowing how.

March 2014, Georgia

March 2014, Georgia

What I know for sure is that Tavis Smiley has always done what he has publicly said he would.  I respect that on his imprint (Smiley Books), he publishes books that help to guide our ways of thinking about issues.  Through media outlets in television and radio, The Tavis Smiley Show is what he uses to package his voice and his truth, on his terms.  I also know that Tavis is personable, engaging, loves Black people, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I like Tavis Smiley!

At his young age, Tavis Smiley has done so much and he has not nearly tipped the scale in the more to come.

Happy 50th Birthday, Tavis Smiley!

Remembering Michael Jackson: There Can Be But One King

When Oprah Winfrey asked Michael Jackson, in a sit down interview on his Neverland Ranch, what he believed was his purpose on our great Earth, he responded,

“To give in the best way I can through song and through dance and through music…I mean, I am committed to my art. I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual. The human and the Divine. I believe that to be the reason for the very existence of art. And, um, I feel I was chosen as an instrument to uh, just give music and love and harmony to the world.”

It almost makes you want to weep that this purposeful man is here no more. But, just as soon as the tears of sadness begin to swell on the edges of the lines of my eyes, they crest and fall with the same joy of watching a Michael Jackson performance hearing one of his many great songs and feeling a magic all his own–the Michael Jackson magic.

Michael Jackson Magic

Michael Jackson Magic

Born today on August 29th in 1958, Michael Jackson quickly became the star of nine (9) siblings. Even as a baby he had his own special magic, but it was written that way. The Divine Creator had already cast Michael Jackson as the king…of all artistry. He just had to study his lines and perform them well each and every time he was given the opportunity.

And he did.

As a five-year old child, he stood in front of his brothers and adoring audiences and belted out maturely written songs. With every breath of his tiny frame he rocked and swayed, and kicked and spun. He perfected his art through constant practice while growing as the lead singer of the Jackson 5 and as the mega solo star that transfixed all generations. Through the lyrics of his songs he sang about love and solutions to making our world a better place.  He was political and social and helpful and loving and he had conviction in his artistry.  For 45 years, he was the headliner with the starring role and the audience was still ready to watch the show and to join the cause.

Whether Michael Jackson knew each of us individually or not, he crafted a personalized experience for the millions of us. That was the Michael Jackson magic.

The smiles Michael Jackson shared when he spoke about his family suggested that his journey to the physical world had been birthed in the marriage of the material and spiritual worlds. His family offered him a love that was tangible–they could hug and hold him. But his fans offered him a love that energized his spirit. Whenever we showed up, he showed out by proving he had learned the lines the Creator had written for him through song, dance, and music.

When we make it to this world, there is already a script and a role for each of us to play. We have to be willing to learn our lines and to play our parts because everyday is the dress rehearsal when we know our purpose.

Thank you Michael Jackson for learning your lines, knowing your purpose and filling us with the Michael Jackson magic for 45 years.

Happy Birthday!

Remembering W.E.B. DuBois

IMG_2579One of the best and brightest minds to ever walk the Earth, W.E.B DuBois, died today in 1963 at the sage age of 95, the night before the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28th, 1963.

With his thinking cultivated in his family’s experiences and formally in the trailblazing HBCU, Fisk University, DuBois was later able to attend Harvard University where he earned another bachelors degree and became the first African American to receive a PhD from this school.

As a sociologist, Dr. DuBois dedicated his life to Black excellence through education. While he was certain that freedoms could be limited, suppressed and even taken away, one thing he knew that could never be taken was a person’s education.

He knew what he knew.

He knew Black people in the United States of America lived and navigated two worlds–a Black and questionable America and a White, less-forgiven one, too. He said so in his book, The Souls of Black Folk.  In fact, it’s as if incidences like the shooting death of teen Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and all of the other acts of unjustifiable crime committed against Blacks by others, is DuBois’ research coming back to haunt us.

In his scholarship, he knew Black people were capable of doing whatever our minds could fathom, and college degrees were our manumission papers.

He knew what he knew.

As the Crisis Magazine editor, founder of the Niagara Movement, and co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), DuBois was determined to show America that education was the equalizer of all other man-made inequities.

After a relentless pursuit, Dr. DuBois gave up his American citizenship in 1961 for the remainder of his life to be lived in Ghana. He became friends with similar brilliant minds and was honored at his funeral by Ghana’s First President, Kwame Nkrumah.

May the soul of W.E.B. DuBois forever rest in eternal peace and paradise.

For more information go to:
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/dubois-william-edward-burghardt-1868-1963

Remembering Nat Turner

Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July” naturally evokes the question, “what’s hotter than July?” 

August.

August is hotter than July. Below is a list of historical August events:

  • African Americans began our traverse into slavery on August 20th, 1619 (see our post called “Standing on Bones, Part I).
  • Fourteen year-old Emmett Till was lynched by Southern racists and brothers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam  in Money, Mississippi on August 28, 1955.
  • The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held in Washington DC. on August 28th, 1963 and its 50 year commemoration was greatly celebrated for a new generation of young people to become connected with its importance and legacy.
  • Freedom Summer concluded in August of 1964.
  • The Watts Riots took place in August of 1995.
  • Black August, a practice that began to honor freedom fighters and revolutionaries Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, Khatari Gaulden, and survivor Ruchell Magee, began in California’s San Quentin prison following the killing of George Jackson during a rebellion on August 21st, 1971, is still one of our nation’s largest disturbances among Black Liberation circles.

Nat TurnerAlso on this day, August 21st, 1831 the man regarded as “The Prophet” by other enslaved Blacks, Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, waged the Nat Turner Rebellion.  Born on October 2, 1800, Nat Turner had been born into slavery in Southampton County, Virginia. Unlike most enslaved Blacks of his time, Nat Turner was taught to read by his owner’s son.  It was his ability to read that turned him to a deeper reading and understanding of Christianity. The ideas that had been taught to enslaved Blacks during slavery that supported slavery, were contradicted when Nat Turner read Christian doctrines; and, he actually came to the belief and understanding that Christianity condemned slavery.  An eclipse of the sun represented a sign from God to Turner that it was finally time to change the condition of Black people held captive by the institution of slavery.  In 1830, Nat Turner has been sold to Joseph Travis, and when he saw the eclipsing sun’s color change, he took that as a final sign to move forward with his insurrection.

Nat Turner had recruited seven (7) others to assist in his efforts and they killed all members of the Travis family first. They also killed fifty (50) more whites. In total, Nat Turner’s efforts only attracted the assistance of seventy-five (75) others–enslaved and free Blacks.  When the state militia received information about what was happening under Nat Turner’s leadership, they were determined to suppress it.  Nat Turner and his team were outnumbered by more than three-thousand (3000) militiamen.  In 48 hours, the Nat Turner Rebellion was suppressed.  One of Nat Turner’s men had been killed and the rest were taken into custody.  For two (2) months, Nat Turner was able to elude police, but he was eventually caught.  He was tried for murder and insurrection.  Six (6) days after his trial, he was executed and some two-hundred (200) other innocent enslaved Blacks were murdered.

Many people hail Nat Turner as a hero for the stance that he took in attempting to rid America of slavery.  Others have labeled him a fanatic preacher.  While his actions did not stop slavery, the Nat Turner Rebellion was indeed a turning point in the savage institution of slavery.  Southern slave owners inflicted even more harsh and severe punishments on their enslaved populations–overall the state of paranoia among whites nationwide was intense.  Some abolitionists, however, used the Nat Turner rebellion to heighten their efforts to help end slavery.

The discourse over how right or wrong Nat Turner’s actions were will forever be debated, but what can never be debated is that Nat Turner ensued action that he felt would provide him the best quality of life.  Since he believed in the Bible and believed in its condemnation of slavery, Nat Turner followed the sign he believe had come from God to change the condition of other Blacks and for himself.

Much of what happens in history is never pretty, especially when it involves the subjugation of others.

How will we remember Nat Turner?

 

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Marcus Garvey!

“The whole thing, my friends, is a bloody farce, and that the police and soldiers did nothing to stem the murder thirst of the mob is a conspiracy on the part of the civil authorities to condone the acts of the white mob against Negroes.” Marcus Garvey

With a few minor changes in the words, one would think this quote was in reference the unrest happening right now in Ferguson, Missouri due to the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, but it isn’t.

The quote above by Marcus Garvey was delivered when he responded to the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot, nearly 100 years ago.

marcus Garvey paradeMarcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, historically known as the UNIA, responded to the race riot of East St. Louis by calling it a “crime against humanity.”  This riot occurred after 470 African Americans has been hired to fill positions left abandoned by white workers that had gone on strike against the local Aluminum Ore Company.  The angry whites of the town filed formal complaints to the Mayor against Black migration to the city of East St. Louis.  Soon after the formal complaints, an alleged attempted robbery of a white man by an unarmed Black man began to circulate.  As a result, an angry white mob began beating and violating the Blacks of the city—these actions resulted in the National Guard being called in to quell the violence, but it only grew worse. The end result of the St. Louis Race Riots, amidst all of the violence and the maimed and murdered African Americans, was that several officers of the East St. Louis police force were indicted for not doing enough to eradicate the mob violence.

Marcus Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay Jamaica on August 17, 1887 was a fearless, enterprising man of great conviction.  Highly inspired by the formerly enslaved American hero, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey set out to establish a united Black people.  He encouraged repatriation to Africa, the industrialization of Blacks and the establishment of an organization that would help Blacks to meet his goals, the UNIA formed in 1914. Further inspired by the large numbers of Black people living in Harlem, Marcus Garvey relocated the UNIA to Harlem’s 138th Street in 1917, and was a leading voice against racial injustice every time these injustices arose.  As demonstrated above, Marcus Garvey spoke against the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, and his vigilance against the killings that occurred during the Red Summer of 1919 led to the continued growth of the UNIA.

rbg flagUsing Madison Square Garden as his venue, Marcus Garvey attracted 25,000 people to hear him deliver the Declaration of Rights the Negro Peoples of the World at the UNIA International Convention of 1920.

This man was on a mission.

To fulfill his dream of Blacks repatriating to Africa, Marcus Garvey and the efforts of the UNIA purchased a fleet of ships, The Blackstar Steamship Line.  Although the ships were never able to fulfill the purpose intended by Garvey and the UNIA, purchasing the ships was a promising move by any Black leader, and a clear testament to the UNIA’s economic prowess.

Like most leaders of his time, Marcus Garvey was not devoid of controversy that would taint his reputation among Black followers and otherUNIA Flyer Black organizations.  The point, however, is that Marcus Garvey was a visionary and he was emphatic about the direction he thought would suit Black people best.  He had an “All Black Everything” vision; under the banner of Red, Black and Green he envisioned a Black Army.  He lauded Black women as “queens” that gave “color to the world.”  He also was clear and staunch in this assertion that he was equal to the white man and he wanted other Blacks to feel and know the same thing.

Marcus Garvey, having been consumed by the poetic and political potential of the United States, specifically Harlem (He was in Harlem in the height of the Harlem Renaissance), as well as the ideas of Black Unity and a Black nation, Marcus Garvey was a true Renaissance Man.

Marcus Garvey died in 1940 while in London, England after having two strokes.

He has influenced people who still follow his teachings, Garveyites.  Rastafarianism is highly influenced by Garveyism.   The man heralded by Ossie Davis as “our own Black shining Prince,” El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), was raised by a Garveyite, his father Earl Little. And, all around the world we can find many examples of people holding true to Marcus Garvey’s call, “Up you mighty race; you can conquer what you will.”

On this Centennial (100 years!) of the UNIA and on what would have been the 127th year of Mr. Garvey’s birth, we say HAPPY BIRTHDAY Marcus Garvey!

What Would Dred Scott Do?

“How long has this pressure been building between the police and the people of Ferguson?”

That was the question Reverend Al Sharpton on Politics Nation asked on Tuesday August 12th, 2014 to Mr. Joseph Anderson, President of 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis (watch the segment called “Ferguson, MO, a history of racial profiling?).

Joseph Anderson responded:

“Well Reverend Sharpton, I would say it’s been building for years.”

How about 158 years.

A photo I took on January 29th, 2012.

A photo I took on January 29th, 2012.

Since March 6th, 1857 Blacks have been trying to find a legitimate right to exist in the state of Missouri as freedmen and women rather than as the “imported” property of slave holders.  In the landmark 1854 Dred Scott vs. Sanford Supreme Court case (I really enjoy teaching it to my students) the powerful pioneer, Dred Scott, sued John Sanford for his freedom. And, it took careful planning and courage on Dred Scott’s behalf.

Dred Scott’s efforts for his own freedom was so powerful that his case led to the Supreme Court declaring that the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the legislation that declared states North of the 36 30’ parallel line (the Mason-Dixon Line) were “free” and all states beneath it would be “slave” states, was an act of Congress that was unconstitutional.

Oh yes! Dred Scott was that brother.

Through all of the legal proceedings, all but two of the justices of the case consented that Dred Scott, due to his status as property, had no legal claims to sue for his freedom.  Chief Justice Roger B. Taney offered that since Blacks had already been considered an inferior race, and because we had been subjects of importation due to the slave trade, we were a different group of people, even more different from the Native Americans—to Taney, we were an “unfortunate” race without any claims to independence and therefore, “had no rights the white man was bound to respect.”

Ultimately, Dred Scott did not win his freedom through the Supreme Court–he was purchased by the son of the first owner he sued in 1847, Peter Blow, after the 1857 decision.  Dred Scott made a strong statement about asserting our rights to stand on principles of freedom, justice and equality.  He knew what it would mean to have them heard by the highest authorities, even when those authorities did not want to listen.  And, he made a profound statement about the love he had for us.

Amazing.

Ferguson has not happened in a vacuum.  The tensions between the people and the authorities in St. Louis and the surrounding municipalities have always existed.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the demographics of the Ferguson city officials have little or no Black representation; Ferguson’s city council has sixteen percent (16%) Black representation, its police department only boasts of a whopping six percent (6%) Black representation—of its fifty-three (53) commissioned officers, three (3) are Black and its school board has zero percent (0%). However, sixty-seven percent (67%) of Ferguson’s population is Black according the US Census!

The statistics from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office show that Blacks are far more likely to be pulled over in “routine” traffic stops than whites— in 2013 for whites, it was a mere thirteen percent (13%), whereas for Blacks, it was an astonishing eighty-six percent (86%)!

Finally, according to Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, the residents have relayed to him that “these tensions have been simmering to the surface for years.”

Sometimes old issues lay dormant until something—a change in the times or the looming feeling that something and/or someone has been lost, comes along and helps whatever lies dormant to resurface again.  In the case of Ferguson, it is the killing of Michael Brown.

The energy of the people in Ferguson is telling me that the people are conjuring the conviction of St. Louis’ greatest democracy bearer, Mr. Dred Scott.  Michael Brown’s life, while prematurely taken, serves a greater purpose and he now joins the ranks of the ancestors.  None of us are happy that this beautiful 18 year-old teenager is no long living a physical experience with us. None of us are happy that 158 year-old tensions still exist in Missouri and around our nation. But, we have the power to change all of this madness by continuing the fight for what our ancestors started, improve our quality of life by electing the policymakers at the helm of that quality through our votes, and by declaring our rights to be. Unapologetically.

We can do this Dred Scott’s way and give 158 years an expiration date of now.

President Obama Talks To Black Americans Like That

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.