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“You did it my ni**a!”
May 1, 2016 1:41 PM / 1 Comment on “You did it my ni**a!”
The April 30th, 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, also playfully known as #nerdprom, highlighted several key milestones for President Obama. Since 2009, he has been bringing the funny to this historic event, and last night he was his usual funny self. At this social gathering, often looked to as the “night off” for journalists and their guests, President Obama, in all of his basketball enthusiasm, took a line from Kobe Bryant when he closed his last White House Correspondent’s Dinner with “Obama out!” and dropped the mic.
Larry Wilmore, comedian and host of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, had a really hard act to follow.. After President Obama, Wilmore found other targets rather than the usual suspect—Donald Trump—he turned a good portion of this jokes to Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer, he sprinkled in some Trump jokes and he lambasted MSNBC, which he said, “actually now stands for ‘missing a significant number of Black correspondents.’” for getting rid of too many of its Black journalists. He was honest and he was funny.
Wilmore ended his speech and the correspondent’s dinner praising President Obama in a serious and sobering moment that allowed all of us to reflect on what Obama’s presidency actually really means. Wilmore said, “All jokes aside, let me
just say how much it means for me to be here tonight.” He added, “I’ve always joked that I voted for the president because he’s Black. But, behind that joke is the humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means.” Wilmore continued, “When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a Black quarterback. Now think about that. A Black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a Black man can lead the entire free world.” After the applause ended, he concluded by saying, “Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if I’m going to keep it 100,” the cliffhanging line he let dangle in the air of the moment as he did the pre-dap* chest pound, he ended with, “Yo, Barry, you did it, my nigga! You did it.”
Did he just say that? Turn the camera to President Obama, quick! I have to see his reaction!
President Obama showed all of his teeth and received Larry Wilmore’s sentiment by returning the chest pound and the dap*.
The one word that has polarized this nation since its race-infused beginning was delivered by Larry Wilmore to President Obama and received by the president in exactly the way in which it was understood between two Black men—two Black men who I know understand the ugly and vile manner that it has possibly been directed to them whereas, when delivered between the two of them, it is akin to love and acceptance.
The uncomfortableness of the moment, I felt. I knew that white privilege would have a hard time digesting what Wilmore said for many reasons: the fact that historically whenever Black men and people have been called “nigga” it has always been in the most disgusting, humiliating and dehumanizing ways, and because it was viewed as disrespectful to all of America to refer to the President in that manner especially for the world to hear. I understood the uncomfortableness.
But, I also understood what Larry Wilmore meant, especially when he prefaced his closing to President Obama by talking about the historical implications of an Obama presidency. I feel that Larry Wilmore was attempting to send a message to the masses, who in their anger and in the privacy of their minds and home may have defaulted to using that very same word to denigrate President Obama. But, not on this night. In the lexicon of Black vernacular, the most disgusting word in the world was the bond and the bridge of familiarity connecting Wilmore and Obama in the Black [American] experience that has been produced as a result of America’s unyielding system of white supremacy.
For some words, they will never really be “beautiful” or “positive,” and they will carry a double standard in which some groups will understand its “necessary” use. And, other groups will forever be linked to the uncomfortableness of it.
*a dap is the cool way in which Black men greet one another that involves the use of handshakes and embraces–now it is a universal greeting.
King Kendrick and the Night ‘Sankofa’ Happened at the Grammy Awards
February 16, 2016 1:02 PM / 1 Comment on 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-Atlantic 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!
Dressed 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.
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.
In a climatic testimony with only a spotlight and a microphone, Kendrick Lamar reminded us that freedom isn’t free and that it requires a kind of transformation in the mind that means seeing Compton in Africa and acknowledging the African in each of us.
Congressman John Lewis Needs No Defense, But…
February 15, 2016 12:14 PM / 2 Comments on Congressman John Lewis Needs No Defense, But…
On Thursday February 11th, 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) chose to endorse former Secretary of State and presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton over Senator and presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders. Congressman John Lewis, born of February 21st, 1940 in Troy Alabama, has chosen to support her as well.
That is his right.
No sooner than the endorsement of Hillary Clinton had come from the ranks of the CBC did the “innanet” start buzzing. When Congressman Lewis was asked about Senator Sanders’ involvement in the Civil Rights Movement from a reporter in the audience, Congressman Lewis had this to say:
“I never saw him, I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years — 1963 to 1966,” he said. “I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery. I directed the board of education project for six years. I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”
That was Congressman Lewis’ recollection of Senator Sanders’ involvement and not an indictment on Sanders’ character. How can it be? Congressman Lewis could not possibly have seen all of the foot soldiers at work in a movement as vast as the Civil Rights Movement.
Congressman Lewis should never be called an “Uncle Tom” or a “sellout” for choosing not
to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders. At nearly seventy-five years old (75!), he has walked among the malignant and the uncouth, and the compassionate and the loving; and, he is still on the front lines trying to make America a better place. Despite his platform and visibility, he is still only one self-determined voter using his one vote to cast his one ballot for his one chance to say who he believes should be the next president of these United States of America. The only basis he has for making his decision is what each of us has—the candidate’s record to help align logic and rationale to our selection, and a compelling gut-feeling or intuition we may have with the candidate. Congressman Lewis knows no more than any of the rest of us about how Secretary Clinton will perform as president than the Bernie Sanders supporters know about how he will perform. We all only have their promises. Clinton and Sanders are both politicians vying for a coveted seat, in a powerful position and a particular place in America’s history.
We can disagree strongly in the political arena, but how dare any of us resort to demeaning another person for his or her right to choose the candidate of his or her choice?
I believe vehemently in my right to participate in the democratic process and I vote. I don’t always chose the winning candidate, but I always elect my choice. On all levels of government, none of the candidates I have selected or any of those who have run since I became a voter have ever made my issues as a Black person living in America, a priority; rather, my issues have always been masked as part and parcel of sub groups and their issues. These subgroups and their issues continue to be met before pertinent and relevant Black agenda issue items are even discussed…none of us know how different either of these candidates, Sanders or Clinton, will be once they get into office, but our uncertainty at their job performance should not have to come at the expense of the Congressman Lewis’s reputation, integrity, recollection, and his humanity.
Update: Congressman Lewis has since issued the following statement regarding his remarks about Senator Bernie Sanders, on February 13th, 2016:
“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”
Solving America’s Race Crisis According to James Baldwin
July 1, 2015 9:04 AM / Leave a comment
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.
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?
December 6, 2014 2:49 PM / 1 Comment on 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!
Remembering W.E.B. DuBois
August 27, 2014 2:10 PM / Leave a comment
One 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:
Remembering Nat Turner
August 21, 2014 1:40 PM / Leave a comment
Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July” naturally evokes the question, “what’s hotter than July?”
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.
Also 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?
What Would Dred Scott Do?
August 13, 2014 12:15 PM / Leave a comment
“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.
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.
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.