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Standing on Bones, Part 1

Today, August 20th, 2013 is an Anniversary that we never acknowledge. For the capitalist it could easily be marked, “Reversal of Fortune” Day.  For the humanitarian, however, it is easily marked “The Day the Oracle[1] Bones Spoke.” jamestown slave tradeOn this day the first Africans were kidnapped by British pirates in the Atlantic Ocean, and brought to Jamestown, Virginia—to be enslaved in the Western Hemisphere’s enterprising system of chattel slavery, the system that bound persons in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household, primarily for economic gain.

Today is for them.  There were 19 in total coming from the Congo and Angola in Africa. We have forgotten them. But we must remember who we are and not the label Europeans used to identify what we were while pursuing their interests.  

Today and forever we stand on their bones, not just their shoulders. We stand in their light, not in their darkness. We are their reflections; and, they are not simply a part of our past.  We are their children, the “posterity” the Preamble refers to—we are their future generations and we have inherited their same resilience, intelligence, and honor. But, we have to remember who we are.

On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, we will walk the same paths our ancestors walked, molding our feet to match the imprints of their footsteps. And, for the [Community] Organizers of the March on Washington of 1963, they walked the same petrified paths of those that came before them where the footprints are no longer visible, but where bones lie underneath the protected Earth to be returned to a forgiving universe and the comfort of the Almighty’s spirit.

Every question we have about the challenges we face has already been answered by our ancestors if we just remember who we are and acknowledge that we stand on their bones.

Did You Know?

The largest maximum security prison in the United States is called the Louisiana State Penitentiary, formerly known as Angola. Check out this article: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/07/angola_prison_conditions_inhum.html

The African Burial Ground is a great place to visit to learn more about the discovery of a cemetery of enslaved men, women, and children in the Wall Street section of New York City. For more information or to visit, go to www.nps.gov/afbg/.  There is also an African burial ground in Portsmouth, NH that you should check out: http://www.africanburyinggroundnh.org/

You can learn more about the Jamestown, VA slave trade from this 2006 article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/02/AR2006090201097_2.html

[1]  Oracle Bones were used by the Ancient Chinese as a way to communicate with the ancestors. They were inscribed with questions that would later be revealed as answers once the oracle bones were heated and inspected.


“When someone does you wrong the first time, shame on them; when they do it the second time, shame on you.” anonymous

On Monday August 15, 2011, the Huffington Post reported that EBay, the online merchandise selling conglomerate, advertised a bag for sale from a Chinese woman in which she identified the bag’s color as “nigger brown.”  As the story was reported merchants in other countries were revealed as having committed the same egregious act in regards to labeling other products as “nigger brown.”  Lastly, Apple used the ‘Picture Effect Magic App’ on its phones, created by yet another Chinese, in which users could tint their images to “nigger brown.”  Apple since changed the app so that the color reads ‘brown’. Sometimes, however, the offense is too shameful for an apology. Furthermore, with the use of this offensive term, “nigger brown
we still don’t know the real color of the bag since people of African descent vary in so many beautiful shades (Shukriyyah Ali). The culprit behind these racial slip ups is reportedly a faulty Chinese-to-English translation system. Apparently, the Chinese need to fix this system, but they also need to fix their thinking about the identity of people of African descent. Ebay, with the amount of money it makes, will share in the responsibility of the tongue-lashing; this billion dollar company founded by an Iranian-American born in France, Pierre Omidyar, is not complying with its own rules regarding the use of racial slurs and derogatory language. This type of oversight should never happen.  Ebay will certainly not get any of my money.

When are we going to get it? When are we going to understand we are the first lines of defense in protecting our identity so that others will not feel that they have the right to demean us via the use of racial epithets. This self-sabotage has to stop now. Listen up! It is not okay to use “nigga” or any derivative to all of the self-loathing “role models” taking the word on physical world tours and through the international marketing of artistic expression.  We have to do better for so many reasons, but especially for the likes of future generations—cliché—but true.

Running the risk of being stereotypical are Asians in contact with all other races since everything is “made in China?”  How would we have all reacted had there been descriptions that read ‘chink yellow’, ‘spic brown’, ‘apache red’, or ‘cracker white’ to identify similar merchandise (Trudy n Jayquan)? Non African Americans seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that using the ‘N’ word to refer to African Americans is not only politically incorrect, but it is also morally wrong, hurtful, and offensive.  The worst thing, however, is that we are oblivious to it too!  We have to raise our level of awareness.

While in Malawi and South Africa, I was asked on two separate occasions why I didn’t use the ‘N’ word when referring to Africans and African Americans; according to some Malawian students, “that’s what Black Americans are according to music videos and the rap music.”  Other groups will not see the importance of honoring our identity if we don’t see the value in protecting it.

Popular culture will forever be determined by people of African descent because we are awesome. The proof speaks for itself. No matter how we “flip it”, we recede our own greatness every time we open the door for others to insult our greatness.  Other groups identify themselves in terms of what we have established.  Just recently, political pundits were using the term “swag” to refer to ultra conservative Republican White men!  We cannot afford to take for granted who we are any longer.

disclaimer: Negro was the politically correct term used in Dr. King’s day

Check out the original story here: