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Robert Mugabe: Facing the Book of History
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.
Celebrating Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Turns 50 TODAY!
It is always the strangest thing in the world to me when we celebrate milestone events in this country that are nuanced with a particular group of Americans in mind–especially when that group is African Americans. It is especially peculiar to think of celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the premier pieces of legislation that defined the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. But, today we commemorate it–Happy 50th Anniversary!
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a long and hard battle fought by African Americans to get Congress to pass a strong meaningful piece of legislation that would secure our ability to be treated fairly according to the law, and especially in places of public accommodation. Congress was not super sold on passing this bill as America was ultra polarized and the racial tensions of America were about to reach their boiling points during the decade of the 60s. Prior to Johnson’s passing of the bill, it had been introduced by former president John F. Kennedy. Congress had made attempts to kill this bill and the likes of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and organizer A. Phillip Randolph had organized and participated in the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington to underscore the need for African Americans’ fair and equal treatment under the law.
Although revised and arguably watered down by most analyses, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it so hotels that were once suddenly “vacant” when African Americans solicited them could no longer prevent our stays. Those very same Woolworth counters that refused groups like the Greensboro Four (4) of 1960, only four years earlier, now had to open their counters for African American patronage and dine-in participation and not just take out. With the passage of this bill African Americans were not ever going to move the backs of any buses unless we wanted to. And, certainly after this bill was passed, discriminatory practices still prevailed because bad habits and even worse beliefs and practices were not abandoned overnight, but at least they were easier to fight and criminalize due to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd.
Take a listen:
On Friday, July 4th, 2014, we will celebrate 238 years of American independence from the control of the British crown and King James. Long before American Independence was a conceivable idea in the mind of European immigrants looking for solace from their nations’ persecution, African Americans were here and even before Columbus–we were merchants, mariners, explorers, and of course, we were the labor that created this “land of the free” and “home of the brave.”
No matter how strange it is to have to even celebrate 50 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 victory, especially in a country nearly two and a half centuries old and one that would have never seen the light of victory without its “native sons”, we celebrate this legislation nonetheless.
Happy Birthday Civil Rights Act of 1964!
Life and Death: The National Guard and [Student] Activism
Update: For the past 10 days, the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri have been at odds with local Ferguson Police Department after a six-year officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown in a barrage of at least six bullets on Saturday August 9th, 2014. In the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, the citizens–many of them students– have taken to the street to mostly peaceful protest against police brutality, and the local police has been anything but understanding of the citizens’ frustrations. The police has not been forthcoming with information, it has launched an excessive use of force and intimidation on the people to include the use of military tanks, assault rifles, and tear gas in the midst of claims of citizens throwing molovtov cocktails, shooting, and looting. Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon has had to intervene by first, holding a press conference to announce his appointment of Missouri Highway Patrol Captain, Ron Johnson, and now he had deployed the use of the National Guard. In America’s most volatile times, the National Guard has been sought as the solution. Some times it has worked and other times, it has further exacerbated the problems.
On May 4th, 2014, we remember the horrendous killing of four students and the wounding of nine by the bullets of the National Guard on the campus of Kent State University on May 4th, 1970.
Students at Kent State protested President Nixon’s announcement that the United States would invade Cambodia in the midst of America’s already unfavorable Vietnam War. In an attempt to stop the students from protesting and rallying, Kent State University’s administrators decided to cancel the students’ rally so they began passing out flyers saying that the rally was canceled. To no avail students showed up anyway. Some of Kent State’s faculty appealed to the students to abandon the rally upon realizing the Ohio National Guard had been called to disband the student assembly and knowing that eventually these students could become victims of the National Guard’s aggression. As the National Guard began closing in, the students maintained their position and continued rallying. Before anyone knew what happened, one of the officers opened fire which resulted in other National Guard officers opening fire on unarmed students.
We remember the students of Kent State that lost their lives. We also reflect on the role the National Guard has served in protecting and escorting our most vulnerable groups for the past 378 years. Lastly, we are called to question the price of student activism or lack thereof in America’s schools today.
Check out CNN’s photo slide show here: Kent State Shooting in Photos
In the 1950s and 1960s, the National Guard was used by President Eisenhower in 1957 to help admit nine African American students into Little Rock Arkansas’ Central High School–The Little Rock Nine. When the state of Arkansas refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling to integrate schools “with all deliberate speed,” the final resort for President Eisenhower was to enforce the ruling through the use of the Arkansas National Guard, a symbol of protection and an escort for nine young people attempting to be educated and bravely walking into the pit of racism’s hell for it to happen.
Check out the Eyes on the Prize segment here:
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy also used the National Guard to escort and protect two students into the University of Alabama, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, when the notoriously defiant and racist Alabama Governor George Wallace denied them entry into the school.
Click on this 2003 NPR link to hear Vivian Jones’ words about this time period here:
NPR and the University of Alabama, 1963
As the decade of the 60s progressed, the National Guard intervened in even more campus conflicts, but they no longer appeared to serve, protect, and escort maligned groups in our nation. As America changed presidents and became embroiled in more international conflicts such as the Vietnam War and Cambodia invasions, a commitment to Civil Rights became a thorn in the side of our nation, and the National Guard seemingly became the escort of the nation’s resentment. And, its purpose became riddled in contradictory aggression and death.
On the campus of the renowned HBCU North Carolina A & T University, the National Guard, in reaction to the idea of Black Power, used deadly force to quell student protests in May of 1969. The students of the local James B. Dudley High School turned to the college students of NC A & T to assist them in the issues they faced in electing the student of their choice to represent their student body. As a result of the students of Dudley High School not feeling their demands were being met, and as a result of the superintendent’s decision to remove the Black principal and replace him with a white one, the students protested and picketed. During the student protest, the police used tear gas to stop it. The police presence and actions exacerbated the students’ behavior resulting in nine student arrests and rioting. Dudley High School students further enlisted the help of North Carolina A & T’s Student Organization for Black Unity, a group feared to be operating under the Black Power Movement. Some of the student activists organized a march to support the students of Dudley High School, but in the midst of the march, a group of young white youth orchestrated a drive-by shooting into the crowd of the A & T students; and, in response, the A & T students began defending themselves. How they defended themselves has long been a source of debate. The National Guard was called in to suppress the reactions, and once again the situation was exacerbated. As result of the National Guard’s presence, student Willie Grimes, 22, was shot and killed. The campus erupted and what ensued was the declaration of a state of emergency,
the raiding of Scott Hall, a male dormitory, approximately 300 students were held in prison for the day, more than 60 rounds of ammunition were shot into the dorm’s walls by the National Guard, a campus-wide curfew was put into effect, and ultimately 3 operable firearms were located.
In the aftermath of the Dudley High School / A & T fiasco, students lost their lives, had their college experiences marred, and came face to face with the brutality of the National Guard, an entity that 12 years prior had served to extend civil rights to vulnerable African American students looking to be educated in a racist, forced-integration system in Arkansas.
The National Guard’s motto is “Always there, Always ready.” There are countless men and women that serve in the National Guard every day, assisting America in its time of need and we appreciate them. In America’s most volatile, racist times the National Guard has been there, and in the most tumultuous decade of the 20th Century, the 60s, the National Guard was there, but we have to live with the record of knowing that it also executed some very poor and deadly decisions. The lives of the students in the schools mentioned in this post have forever been changed–some for the good and some in the worst ways imaginable.
Today, we live in a time where very little activism takes place on our college campuses and within our schools; students’ rights are violated on a continual basis, their voices are silenced in almost every regard, and yet we persistently wonder why younger people are so silent. There is a history not too far into the past that has frowned on students’ activism more than it has protected their rights. There has been no real major sustainable movement of young people protesting injustices on college campuses in recent years. Perhaps the greatest amount of noise in recent years has come from African American students like Sy Stokes on UCLA’s campus upset about the school’s lack of diversity, the seeming abandonment of affirmative action, and feelings that Black Male student athletes are only regarded because of their athleticism.
Check out his video here:
And, we cannot forget Brooke Kimbrough and her rally against the University of Michigan for not being accepted and the subsequent US Supreme Court ban on affirmative in Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
Maybe our students are worried that their First Amendment right to assemble will be compromised by the National Guard if it is called to suppress their protests; or, maybe our students are afraid to chance that the National Guard’s motto will actually work in their favor like it did with the Little Rock Nine. So, students remain silent.
Either way, student activism in our institutions will always come down to a matter of life and death.
[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.
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.
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.
On July 13th, 2013 the self-admitted killer of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty in Martin’s death. On February 15th, 2014 another self-confessed killer, Michael Dunn, was a little less fortunate than his Black-boy-murdering fraternity brother, Zimmerman, as he was charged with 3 counts of 2nd Degree attempted murder and 1 charge for shooting into the vehicle four young Black males occupied. Of the four teenagers in the vehicle, three walked away and one, Jordan Davis, became another of the fatalities of Florida’s civil war on Black boys. As a result of Dunn’s actions, he faces at least 75 years in jail. On the more serious charge of murder, however, Judge Russell Healey declared a mistrial as Florida Jurors could not reach an agreement.
The war rages on.
In accordance with the law, these vicious beasts were afforded their Constitutional rights; and, despite the perpetrators’ lawlessness, we still remain a nation of laws. The killers were offered speedy trials by juries of their peers (6th and 7th Amendments). When the killers were arrested, they were issued writs of habeas corpus, explanations for why they were being held in jail. We even granted them Miranda Rights (5th Amendment) so as to not incriminate themselves for crimes, but these killers eagerly confessed!
Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, and others like them are vampires out for blood that wish to make us all feel afraid because they are insecure, racist bigots. We are not afraid of our humanity, but they are. These killers are restless deviants that patrol rainy nights as self-appointed neighborhood watchmen or noise pollution patrols in gas station parking lots. These killers and the jurors are in a civil war against young, teen, Black boys because Blacks boys don’t deserve to live in their eyes.
In Florida and the nation over, mothers train their boys to be quiet and to not exist in certain spaces. Fathers feel guilty for not
being in a position to help their boys because they know that despite their ages and experiences, criminality only sees their Blackness–what has happened to their sons, can, will, and has probably already happened to them. Black boys like Jordan Davis have no protection in Florida. And, in Florida’s civil war, no national guard has been ordered to guide these boys through life. No suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has been issued to pick up any suspecting, white male that could be a potential killer or worse, a juror that doesn’t believe crimes occur to Black boys, but are committed by them–even when they are dead. There is no Emancipation Proclamation promising Black boys protection for standing with their nation and leading us to victory by being upstanding teenaged citizens. Black boys wear red markers on their bodies and bullets travel where they are aimed when the trigger man is an angry, white male with a license to carry a gun. The luke-warm and not guilty verdicts issued by registered Florida voters serving jury duty are equally as lethal as the gun-wielding, angry, white-male killer–they also see red.
Justice is not blind.
There will be no Gettysburg Address to declare Florida consecrated land because there is no righteous indignation in shooting unarmed teenage boys before they are even old enough to become voters and enter into Florida’s jury pool. The only ground we stand is one that drags our nation further into a bloody civil war–Black boys are the enemy. Florida is just like South Carolina in 1861–it is defiant and eager to uphold states rights (10th Amendment) more than it values being a part of this nation. Fundamentally, Florida has already seceded. According to ThinkProgress.org, at least 26 children or teens have died as a result of this war-inducing, powder-keg law.
Stand Your Ground has to go! The Dream Defenders are leading the way.
If we have learned anything from the Civil War, it should be that in addition to the institution of slavery which is why the war began, the Civil War is our greatest stain. Black bodies, dead or alive, have always been the sacred prize in a land of cannibals and vampires. Nearly one million Americans were killed during the Civil War. America’s East coast became a hallowed cemetery between 1861-1865–that’s shameful! Not only did our soldiers die, but we also lost our president to assassination, Abraham Lincoln, by another gun-toting, racist, angry, white male.
When will we begin to hold angry, white men accountable for murder, cowardice and malicious behavior?
When will we declare a cease-fire on Stand Your Ground?
Happy 19th Birthday Jordan Davis!!
Silence is Betrayal
“The human spirit does not move without great difficulty.”
Dr. King was pure genius and completely insightful. It is almost inconceivable to me that a person like Dr. King could walk this Earth, in his times, and believe, say and preach the truths that he rendered. Exactly one year before his untimely assassination death, April 4th, 1968, Dr. King delivered the above quote in his speech, “Beyond Vietnam” on April 4th, 1967 at the famed Riverside Church in Harlem, New York. Having been moved by a particular statement of the executive committee of the Riverside Church: “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” Dr. King persisted in betraying silence by speaking against the Vietnam War.
Since moving to New York City some 13 years ago, I have visited the Riverside
Church many times, mostly in honor of powerful, accomplished Black men who were once little Black boys living in times that would not acknowledge their humanity. I attended the funerals of Mr. Ossie Davis, Jazz musician and Virginia State University graduate Billy Taylor, Malcolm X’s attorney Percy Sutton, and radio owner, Hal Jackson. I have attended plays written by Daniel Beaty, and a host of other events. To know that Dr. King used this very church to deliver one of the most scathing analyses of what the Vietnam War meant for young Black boys is haunting. Referring to the Vietnam War as an “adventure” he said:
“We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia or East Harlem…I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”
This man, father, husband, brother…knew that he could not stand idly by and watch a world he had inherited become a will of useless gains. What about his sons, Dexter and Martin Luther King, III? What kind of world would they inherit if he said nothing? What kind of world would we be if men like Dr. King were not moved to serve their nations by preaching and acting in a spirit of love and truth?
In a betrayal of silence and in protest of the Vietnam War, Dr. King demonstrated an exalted love for man and offered a profound definition of love when he said:
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”
For a living, I teach. For a life, I have learned that I must love better, harder, and more. Each of us wears scars that reminds us of pain, but each of us has life that reminds us to try again, move on, and struggle some more. I believe it to be true, “The human spirit does not move without great difficulty,” which is why Frederick Douglass, a man’s shoulders on whom Dr. King stood, said:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”
Dr. King entered an unforgiving struggle when he gave the Vietnamese a voice, and like a tour guide in a living museum, provided nuanced captions to the inconvenient truths the Vietnam War meant not only for American soldiers, but for Vietnamese men, women, and children, as well. How could one not empathize with the thought of orphaned children running around in packs in the streets of Vietnam looking for food that was no more and water too poisonous to drink? Or cringe at the very thought of women and girls being sold into prostitution as the spoils of war? Dr. King narrated these realities too well. And so he advised that America end this awful war even if it would cost him his life one year later.
In a betrayal of silence, Dr. King imposed an indictment on America and the Western world’s role as leaders in sparking the revolutionary spirit but in the face of Vietnam, Guatemala, Peru, Mozambique and South Africa, King said that it was a “sad fact” that Western nations had “now become the arch antirevolutionaries.”
On this 28th, federally effected, King Holiday, I celebrate with myriad others, but I am also forced to confess that I don’t think I am doing enough. But, I continue to learn so that I may reciprocate my learning into lessons for others. Dr. King stated in “Beyond Vietnam” that “every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.” Approximately three weeks after the delivery of this speech, on April 28th, 1967, “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali was inspired by the conviction of Dr. King, and declared that he was a conscientious objector by refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
I sit in front of my computer, I read everything, and I teach others in protest of ignorance, but still I ponder, on which issue will I betray my silence?
Check out the full “Beyond Vietnam” Speech here:
If We Must Die…Let Us Live Like King
If I [we] speak immortality, I [we] will always BE.
If life and death lie in the power of the tongue, I choose to speak LIFE.
I saw Chi Raq, a documentary film by London-born filmmaker /photographer, Will Robson-Scott about the ruthlessness of Chicago’s urban streets today. While the film is only 13:06 minutes long, the grittiness of the realities of the men in this video live inspired the writing of this post. In addition, I was driven by an inquiry into how our thinking shapes the trajectory of our lives.
Midway through the video, I also thought of Claude McKay (Who is Claude McKay?), the phenomenal Harlem Renaissance writer and his amazing challenge to mankind posed in his poem, “If We Must Die.” When McKay wrote this poem in 1919, World War I had recently ended. Soldiers were returning to adverse situations; not enough employment and the harsh reality that a “new” group of Americans had filled their positions and moved into “their” cities. While America’s involvement in the war was abbreviated (America did not enter World War I until 1917 under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson), it was long enough for Blacks to impact the social aesthetics of some of America’s largest cities. And, soon enough the domestic terrorism of racial violence America faced was just getting started. Whites resented the Blacks that had taken vacant jobs and Black resented being treated less than human even though slavery days had ended long enough for Blacks to adjust to having an improved quality of life. Between the communist paranoia plaguing people’s’ minds (The Red Scare) and the heightened racial tensions that led to intense race riots (Red Summer), America was falling apart at its seams–and even then Chicago was a powder keg of senselessness and murder.
Claude McKay, while observing the world in which he lived, took a very bold stand in support of life and living. He didn’t write “when we die” instead he chose a more inquiry and definitive approach by writing, “If we must die.” All our lives, many of us have been taught to do all that we can on this Earth because eventually we will die. For Blacks during the slavery institution, and beyond, the lesson has always been to wait to reap the rewards in death; for, our lives are an impasse until we get “to glory.” Today, that message rings out louder and clearer. The only difference is that today, impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods, often deemed “the hood” are not waiting for their members to become aged to see what glory is all about. In “The Hood”, glory is an RIP Mural on the side of an obscure building that will eventually go “down dilapidated (Erykah Badu).” Glory is sporting of an over-sized, boldly printed, white T-shirt bearing a slain person’s obituary.
And, Glory is also serving fervently in life and in death like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King, the immortalized Civil Rights leader was killed on April 4th, 1968, but he has not served one day in death. Dr. King spoke words that emanated life and today, he lives. He lives through our deeds, by our observances, via our intentions and through our service. Living like King is not to live a life beyond reproach, but one that inspires others to not be afraid to stand/walk/march…run the world in the shoes they bear. To live like King is not to be afraid of taking risks, but to keep trying when adversity blares the strongest. To live like King is not to wither in hate, but to grow in love. To live like King is not to wallow in an abyss of ignorance, but to soar in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. To live like King is to never die giving up, but to live life fighting back, standing up, speaking out, and pushing on.
IF WE MUST DIE
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!
Is Homecoming the celebration of football or is football the celebration of Homecoming? It’s one of those age old questions that really needs no answer because during Homecoming season it’s a little bit of everything.
Homecoming is more than an event, it’s feelings like:
ANTICIPATION: It’s the wonderings of when you will see your old “stomping crew” and “road dawgs” and how you will react when you lock eyes. It’s the unspoken understanding that you and your homegirls (or 1st Cousins–Heeey Rasheedah and Kasib!) will have about “so and so.”
EXPECTATION: It’s the certainty that you will always see the people that make Homecoming “worth it” and special each and every time. Equally it is the confidence of expecting a football victory on your home field. CONGRATULATIONS to my VSU Trojans and our multiple-overtime, game-winning VICTORY over Bowie State University! Finally it’s that feeling of being in awe when you see the ways in which alumni monies have been used to improve our beloved “Land of Troy.”
INSPIRATION: It’s seeing the “seasoned” alumni decked out in Orange and Blue and still just as full of the Trojan Pride as they were 50 or more years ago. It’s also seeing all of the old time “Trojan Couples” holding hands, dressed alike, and knowing that they met and fell in love while in the process of getting a Virginia State education. ❤
ELATION: It’s feeling satisfied and grateful that you’ve been able to live to see another Homecoming, and that you’re still recognizable or at least somewhat (lol) to the eyes you capture; and, knowing those eyes understand that “life happens” in between Homecomings.
DISPENSATION: It’s the feeling of knowing there’s a Divine order to life and that the Creator is in charge of it. It’s also that feeling of looking around to your left and right and reflecting on all of the silly things you did “on the Yard” and the people you did them with. Lastly, it’s that brief feeling of melancholy that envelops you as you embrace the fact that all of your friends didn’t “make it”; but, that sadness is soon overcome by happier moments and memories. It’s the feeling of respect you share with thousands more because you’re back on the consecrated land that raised you into the citizens you are now as you navigate the bigger world you were shielded from by your campus “high above the Appomattox on its lofty hill.”
Through this barrage of emotions, you finally reach that place of EXHALATIONthat lets you breathe easier knowing that outfit you fretted over was not worth all of the fuss, the once “man of your dreams” is perfectly fine as the object of someone else’s desire–and thankfully so! The routines you couldn’t remember are permanently tattooed in your soul and you find that out when it’s time to perform–but even more you realize the stepping, chanting, tailgating, cheering, smiling, eating, dancing, talking, blushing, sharing, reflecting, telling, asking, looking, walking, shopping, marching, picture snapping, plotting, kissing…hugging are all of the reasons for the feeling of CELEBRATION!