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Happy 94th Birthday, Nineteenth (19th) Amendment!
On this August 18th, in the year 2014, we celebrate 94 years of women federally getting the right to vote through the passage of the Nineteenth (19th) Amendment!!
Over the course of these 94 years, women have helped to produce a better America. From the pioneering faces of strength and resolve like Queens Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to courageous women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all the way to generations of fantastic collegians joining forces with the Women’s Suffrage Movement such as the “sorority girls” of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (1920), and the other women of the Divine Nine–Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (1908), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (1913), and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated (1922), women have always been on the front lines urging for political inclusion.
To the young 18 year-old girl who will register and then cast her vote on Election Day in 78 days on November 4th, 2014 because she has watched earlier generations of women vote–she is adding her vote to create a better America.
To the Baby Boomer, that walked with her mother to the polls while watching her cast many votes, and has now decided to pick up the baton to cast her own votes, in her own voice, while her children look on–she is making America better.
To the Octogenarian that has never known a world of not being able to vote and who will hopefully live to cast a few more votes–she is continuing to make America better.
To every woman in the home and the classroom, driving the school bus and in the boardroom, folding laundry and flying the airplanes, shopping for perfume and creating the next new formula, making us all look beautiful and helping to save our lives, lobbying for equal pay and passing legislation, today is for each of us. While we have impacted the world since the beginning of time, it is great to celebrate having the right to vote by the American government for the past 94 years.
Women make America better.
Happy 94th Birthday, Nineteenth Amendment!
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.
Rise On, Ms. Maya Angelou!
”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou
Today, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.
Her family’s statement read:
“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.
From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.
I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.
Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.
Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.”
Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.
Rise on, Dr. Angelou!
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Memorial Day, 2014
“A strange thing is memory, and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.”~Grandma Moses
Every Memorial Day, I always think about our nation celebrating the lives of the soldiers that have come and gone and survived great physical and psychological injury while fighting the “good fight.”
Although war is the one conflict that always feels unjust, unneccessary , and terribly burdensome, there are men and women for whom war has determined the difference between winning internal wars of conviction and committment, or living unbearable external lives without cause or righteous indignation.
We celebrate all of them today.
Memorial Day, an American holiday federally established in 1971, has been observed in this country since the Civil War (1861-1865)–America’s most shameful, deadly war fought in the preservation of states’ rights to preserve the institution of slavery. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is the one time of the year in which all of our slain soldiers rest in their graves and in our memory forever more in the same unit, representing the same service, and drafted by the same Creator.
Our injured soldiers have the constant reminders of the ugliness of war on the canvas of their bodies and ensconced in their minds.
Both instances paint pictures of what we know and understand about war, but more importantly, they sculpt what we know about the human will.
Having lost so many soldiers during the Civil War, some nearly 700,000 of them, America had to create a national cemetery to honor such grave and immeasurable loss. In Virgina’s Arlington National Cemetery or the Hampton National Cemetery neighboring the Historically Black campus of Hampton University, in New York’s Woodlawn cemetery or California’s Los Angeles National Cemetery, our soldiers are honored with miniature flags, grave visits and hollowed resting places where others come to reflect on the lives and service of these soldiers.
As we look back at the memory of our soldiers, we have to look forward in the hope of no longer needing soldiers to quell conflicts that cannot be resolved without the loss of blood and lives, but in leading us in issues that require men and women of immense courage, strength, and will.
Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1863 said,
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Happy Memorial Day!
Check out the short movie Memorial Day 2014: Black Soldiers, Memory and Hope, below.
The Media and the Making of Malcolm X
“The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Malcolm X
Today, May 19th, 2014 we say Happy Birthday to Brother Malcolm X, one of the world’s “brightest hopes” as he is “extinguished now, and gone from us forever…unconquered still. (Ossie Davis–Malcolm X’s Eulogy).”
As is the case with hindsight, we never really understand the blessing of a treasure until it has seeped from within our grasp, been moved from within our reach, or taken away from us too soon. We often refer to this as missed opportunity. In regards to man, we really only know of their value in death. Such is the case with Malcolm X.
So much of Malcolm X, “our living Black manhood” was lost in the media’s coverage of him as a controversial figure. In the media, Malcolm X is militant, angry, and violent. And, he is never a man.
In the media he is also an agitator rather than a self-help guru–today I suppose even Oprah Winfrey and OWN TV would be doing a Master Class on him because of his ability to help each of us to live our best lives. He is the soul of our Sundays as we reflect on the true meaning of life, but he is also the weekend fever that makes us active, involved and responsive.
In the media, soundbites are used to express the totality of his life, but beyond the camera lens, Malcolm’s total life is an example of transformation, introspection, resilience and the full human experience.
Malcolm X is a mountain.
The media has hijacked his image and taken his words to create him as polarizing to the success of human excellence. But we must know and project him differently. We must know that although Malcolm X did not have the formal education that we revere in our leaders, the invaluable education of accountability and service he taught is as priceless as his precious life.
Today on his birth, Google chose to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Rubic’s Cube–a three-dimensional combination puzzle by its Hungarian namesake used to challenge our brains on the myriad ways in which to get all of the same colors on one side of this movable block.
The most puzzling thing to me, however, is how we can continue to deny Malcolm X–this “black shining prince” Ossie Davis described as a man “who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”
As long as we have access to smartphones and social media and pens and paper, we are the media. We have the power to shape our heroes in the ways in which they should be viewed–we have the ability to tell their truths; and, we also have the power to write them back into places in which they have been erased. After all, it was Malcolm X who said:
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
If we choose to hate Malcolm X, we choose to hate an everyday man with the extraordinary courage to stand up to white supremacy, institutional racism and maintain / assert his manhood with the best of integrity–something that each of us is equipped to do.
I choose to celebrate this sphinx of a man.
He is love.
He is light.
And, I love him so.
Read Ossie Davis’ full eulogy below:
“Here–at this final hour, in this quiet place–Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes–extinguished now, and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought–his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are–and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again–in Harlem–to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who have loved her, have fought for her, and have defended her honor even to the death.
There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain–and we will smile. Many will say turn away from this man, for he is a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the Black man–and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate–a fanatic, a racist–who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us–unconquered still. Afro-American Malcolm was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a “Negro” years ago. It had become too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted–so desperately–that all his people would become Afro-Americans too.
Malcolm was our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words to a friend: “My journey,” he says, “is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and dignity in the States. I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our Human Rights struggle. The main thing is that we keep a United Front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.” However we may have differed with him–or with each other about him–let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.
Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man–but a seed–which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is, our own black shining Prince!–who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.” ~Mr. Ossie Davis, February 27th, 1965 delivered at the Faith Temple Church of God.
For more information on Ossie Davis feelings toward Malcolm X, go to: Ossie Davis and Democracy Now