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“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

(Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)  President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner on April 30, 2016 at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington, DC.

(Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner on April 30, 2016 at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington, DC.

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.

Internalizing Hopelessness: Why Ferguson Erupted from the Michael Brown Killing

“Fu*k the police/ coming straight from the underground / A young ni**a got it bad cause I’m brown / And not the other color so police think / They have the authority to kill a minority / F*ck that shit, cause I ain’t the one…”

These were the protest lyrics from the 1988 song, “Fuck tha Police”, written by Compton’s Niggas With Attitude, known around the world simply as N. W. A.

This song foreshadowed the 1992 L.A. Race Riots that happened in Los Angeles, CA as a result of California Police officers being seen on a March 1991 video, mercilessly beating Los Angeles (LA) civilian, Rodney King. Two of the officers were acquitted. And, on April 29th, 1992, LA erupted into protests, violence, rioting, looting, arrests, and some deaths.

On Saturday August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown, an 18-year old teen visiting relatives in Ferguson, Missouri was shot and killed by the police.

This picture was posted by one of Michael Brown's friend to Facebook and posted by Colorlines.com

This picture was posted by one of Michael Brown’s friend to Facebook and posted by Colorlines.com

Although the circumstances surrounding the killing are still being investigated, what is clear is that Michael Brown was unarmed and shot multiple times by a police officer as Mr. Brown was attempting to run away from the officer.

As a result of yet another nationwide killing at the hands of law enforcement, it is this Michael Brown killing that has caused the residents of Ferguson, Missouri to erupt with anger, violence, looting, rioting, arrests, and to simmer in a place of hopelessness. Ferguson now joins the list of cities that have seen young, unarmed men killed at the hands of the police, but Ferguson’s reaction has not been reticent. Rather, it is loud, brash and further adds to the city’s conflict with lawfulness.

This sounds awfully familiar to the response of LA’s citizens in the wake of the 1992 verdict regarding justice for the late Mr. Rodney King.

For many of Ferguson’s residents, at least as it appears from the marching, protesting, and violence, they are fed up with the imbalance of justice. According to all reports, Michael Brown’s slain body remained on the ground for four and one half hours, in the summer, broad daylight of Missouri. According to witnesses, Michael Brown’s hands were raised in surrender, yet he was still killed by a yet unidentified police officer.

The despair that the people feel in the seemingly unjustified killing of Mr. Michael Brown has added to a further breakdown of Ferguson’s civility. News coverage has shown those of us around the nation on our sofas watching flat screen televisions, people looting products from local merchants–gas stations, beauty supply stores and other places.  We have even seen the store in which Michael Brown was allegedly shoplifting burn down.

People are seen throwing rocks and kicking police vehicles as they drive by.  Protesters have carried signs with the reminiscent 1960s slogan, “I Am A Man”“.  We have witnessed the hurt of a mother that has had to identify the body of her once college-bound, now deceased son, as a result of being killed by a police officer.  Also, from our spectator spots, we have heard Ferguson police officers refer to the people as “animals”.

Is the behavior of Ferguson, Missouri what happens when people internalize hopelessness?


I have read numerous posts throughout social media, some in defense of the people’s behavior and many adamantly against the people’s actions. At best, I can surmise that some of Ferguson’s citizens have internalized the same hopelessness they feel the police have toward young, unarmed, Black males in Ferguson and across the nation.  It is the same internalized hopelessness the people of LA had when the officers in the Rodney King beating were acquitted after what the world saw on tape that looked very criminal and inhumane.  In the people’s hearts, they knew justice would not be served therefore they destroyed establishments to take out their frustrations and to show a rage that their bodies and emotions could not facilitate.

Michael Brown’s mother, Ms. Lesley McSpadden, pleadingly stated to a news reporter:

“You took my son away from me!  Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school to graduate? You know how many Black men graduate? Not many! ‘Cause you bring them down to this type of level to [sic] they feel like, “I ain’t got nothing to live for anyway…they gone [sic] try to take me out anyway!”

Perhaps in the case of Ferguson, the people are unable to fathom, in this moment, how those charged with protecting and serving them, are disproportionately maiming them.  This altered reality has created a horrible lapse in judgment, and the people have now reduced their behavior to that of one officer’s breach of his or her civic and professional contract to the people; so, they destroy the establishments. While the officer may have individually pulled the trigger that shot multiple rounds of bullets into the body of teen, Michael Brown, the people have internalized one officer’s actions as institutional behavior of all police officers and that cannot be changed right now.

I get it.

I don’t have any judgment to pass on the actions of the people, right or wrong, because I have never been moved to “loot”, even when faced with injustice—as a teen I was on the receiving end of two police officers’ violence.  I have been moved to protest, to tears and I have questioned many of the actions of some of America’s oldest institutions.  In my inquiry, I have condemned the lack of sensitivity, professionalism and care that they show toward groups of people and still I have never been moved to violence.  I have been moved to write about my feelings with systemic practices so that in my process, I may begin to understand the “other side.”  But I have remained hopeful that better people with greater consciousness can and will infiltrate these systems enough to create change.  But every time I read on my Twitter or Facebook timelines, watch a news report, or read in the newspaper about another unjustified killing, I realize that my hopefulness has not yet been met.

And, what I understand about the people of Ferguson is that they are hurt. I imagine that many Ferguson, 18-year old, Black teens may perform a psychological facelift where they are the ones lying in the morgue in place of teen, Michael Brown. I also understand that when these events happen, just like other incidents of racial injustice of Ferguson’s distant and recent past, the people feel isolated from the protection of their police officers and more like targets.

I completely understand how the citizens of Ferguson have internalized hopelessness, and hopefully changes in the practices of the police will move them beyond it.  Until then, I keep my television on and my sofa space ready…

Click on the links below to learn more about Michael Brown’s mother’s reaction and the latest on the Michael Brown fatality:

Lesley McSpadden–Michael Brown’s mother, CNN

Lesley McSpadden–Michael Brown’s mother, NewsOne

Police Officer calling Ferguson citizens “animals” http://m.colorlines.com/archives/2014/08/police_officer_calls_ferguson_protestors_animals.html

Student Activism? CONGRATULATIONS Dream Defenders!

Exactly one week and a day ago, I asked the question, Why have our students become so silent?

I attributed some of our students’ silence to the fear of being wrongfully targeted and killed, but I also suggested that our students are silent because they also fear success.  

Two students specifically referenced, however, that are certainly not afraid of activism are UCLA Bruin Sy Stokes and Brooke Kimbrough, a young activist rejected from the University of Michigan (See my post: Life and Death: The National Guard and Student Activism here: http://wp.me/p1uzq3-qs).

I was reminded by my good friend Elizabeth Bishop (@BishopDigital) that student activism is still very much alive and well as I ran the post on my twitter (@polidayreport / @DoItGurl) accounts.  

During commencement season, some campuses’ students have used their voices to protest their school’s selection of commencement speakers: Rutgers students denied former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the honor because of her position on the War in Iraq while serving under 43rd president, George W. Bush.  Students at Smith College recently protested International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde as its speaker leading to her cancellation, and Somali-born women’s rights activist and author of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was disinvited as a result of student protests at Brandeis University. See Students Protest Commencement Speakers! for more information.

And then there are The Dream Defenders, a young group of activists and students in the state of Florida. They have risen to prominence under the leadership of the very young and astute Executive Director Phillip Agnew in protest of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law and the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman in 2012.  The Dream Defenders have altered what student activism looks like, but they have remained true to the guiding principles of non-violence demonstrated by students of the 1960’s such as The Greensboro Four  of North Carolina A & T University.  They have attracted a new wave of listeners and activists through the calculated use of technology and social media–we like them!

While covering the The National Action Network’s August 2013 March on Washington in Washington, DC, I had the distinct pleasure of engaging in a very meaningful conversation with Mr. Phillip Agnew (phillip@dreamdefenders.org) and the Dream Defender’s Co-Director of Communications Steven Pargett (pargett@dreamdefenders.org). And of course, I snapped a pic.

The Dream Defenders

The Dream Defenders

Today I am very proud to announce their victory as they have shared it with the thousands of us that subscribe to and support their efforts.

Check out their victory below!


Freedom Summer is coming …
It’s a wild world out there in the Florida legislature. But amidst NRA bills to arm schoolteachers; a “Marissa Alexander” bill that expanded Stand Your Ground without freeing Marissa; and a “Zombie Apocalypse” bill (yes, it was real), Dream Defenders defied the odds.

Dream Defenders made a major stride this Spring in our fight against private prison operators in the state of Florida, with passage of an amendment to the Florida budget increasing regulation of private prison operators!
This winter, Dream Defenders visited legislators across the state demanding answers about Youth Services International (YSI), a private prison corporation that holds millions in contracts with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, despite a long history of terrible juvenile abuse at its facilities.  That history of violence began long before they came to Florida; we would have known…if Florida’s lawmakers cared to ask! Over the last few months, thanks to our ongoing work with partners and to the leadership of Senator Clemens and Senator Soto on this issue, an amendment was added to the state budget and passed by the Florida Legislature, putting in place more checks & precautions before any private prison corporation can be granted a state contract. Serious incidents of abuse or mistreatment of youth will also be reported periodically.

We are happy to take a step towards justice. But the fact remains that Florida’s entire juvenile detention system is privatized.


Sign UCF Dream Defenders’ Pledge Demanding that University of Central Florida DIVEST Student Tuition Dollars From Billionaire Private Prison Corporations GEO Group & CCA  at bit.ly/ucfdivest


MC Turned Teacher…Moving Consciousness

Here at ThePoliDay Report we love HIP HOP, especially when it MCsMoves Consciousness!

I came across this young man, Dee-1, just like most other people “discover” hidden talent–on my Facebook timeline!  Thanks to my VSU classmate Ronald Brown for posting it in one of the groups I joined.

I learned from a 2012 video on VLAD TV that Dee-1 was a “rapper turnt teacher” of Middle School youngsters.  I like him already…you can follow him on twitter @Dee1music. I do!

Watch and listen to his testimony here:

Check out the song that introduced me to him here:

 What do you think?

MC Turned Teacher…Moving Consciousness

Here at ThePoliDay Report we love HIP HOP, especially when it MCsMoves Consciousness!

I came across this young man, Dee-1, just like most other people “discover” hidden talent–on my Facebook timeline!  Thanks to my VSU classmate Ronald Brown for posting it in one of the groups I joined.

I learned from a 2012 video on VLAD TV that he was a “rapper turnt teacher” of Middle School youngsters.  I like him already…you can follow him on twitter @Dee1music. I do!

Watch and listen to his testimony here:

Check it out the song that introduced me to him here:


What do you think?

Kwanzaa: Kuumba/ Creativity

Today is day 6 of Kwanzaa and the principle is Kuumba, the Swahili word that translates into creativity. The idea behind this principle is that we should always do as much we can, in the ways that we can to make our communities more beneficial and beautiful than before.

And God said, “Let there be light.” ~The Book of Genesis

If there is life on any of the other planets they must look up to their heavens and think that they are the most blessed Creation in the Universe. I know for a fact all Creation on Earth, great and small, is blessed.  All I have to do is look around to know that a “Master Builder” has defined and demonstrated creativity in such a grand and immaculate way. With seven billion people on one planet, the majority of us have our own fingerprints (identical twins are the exception–but a testament to creativity just the same!).  A ball of various gases warms the air and an elliptical sphere holds the oceans down. My body and personality are made just for me, so in Pop Culture when another person says, “You ain’t built for this,” it’s always a compliment because each of us “built”  in exclusive, expert craftsmanship by the “Master Builder” for our own walks of life.  Not everyone is endowed with the full use of our faculties: some live with and through mental disease and some of our bodies are missing limbs, yet most of us do the best we can, with the best that we have, and in the ways that we can. Because, creativity knows no limits! 

Whether nuanced or general, we have all heard the stories of how our ancestors endured America’s institution of slavery by speaking in “code”. Beyond the fact that Africans and Black Americans were forced to live under the most brutal conditions the world has ever seen–denied the simplest rights of humanity like speaking and writing in the multitude of languages we brought to the “New World”–we have become the most creative, utmost contributing force in creating America’s, and now the world’s culture. From those indigo, rice, tobacco, and cotton fields, and the arduous chain gangs came the field songs (hollers) / work songs: pacing, coping, rhythmic poetry and escape plans, we created in our language–the code. Beyond the spoken and written word, there were the quilted and drum beat codes.  In unconventional circumstances, we used the creativity that had already been ingrained in our DNA and brilliant minds by the Creator.  Creativity knows no limits.  

While we left the fields, we didn’t lose the communication; and, the field/ work songs became the Blues and the Hip-Hop lyric.  Creativity knows no limits and “we be cool.” ~Gwendolyn Brooks

We decoded and re-coded language, sounds, symbols and life for the sake of survival. Ebonics was a term that was all the buzz in 1996 when I was an Undergraduate college student at Virginia State University. There were many debates about whether Ebonics “existed” or if it was “real” and if the lingo that Black America and even Southern Whites used was “dumb” language. No matter the side of the argument, there was no denying that a difference prevailed in how the overarching Black community used language and that it did not fit the “standard” ideas of speaking correctly–nor did it have to. Our ancestors graduated generations of us with degrees in speaking the “code.”  Harlem rapper, the late Big L, recorded a song called “Ebonics” in which he explained some of our codes, well. 

The principle of Kuumba as an application to enhancing our communities is God-given.  Creativity exercises our brains, connects time, space, and circumstance; and, it validates that we walk in the light of the Creator. We have not invented anything that the Creator has not already provided us with the knowledge to do. Indeed creativity knows no limits! 

For more information about Ebonics, click on this link: We Just Right!

Kwanzaa: Kujichagulia / Self-Determination

Kwanzaa2Habari Gani? Kujichagulia!

It’s day two of #Kwanzaa and today’s prinicple is self-determination: having the power to define, name,  and identify “self.”

We have all heard, “To thine ownself be true,” and “Know Thy Self.”  We all also remember the infamous scene in Alex Haley’s Roots in which Kunta Kinte refuses to submit to the name “Toby” because of his understanding of self. Nothing gives a person more power, more drive and more purpose than self-determination and identity.  

In 1966 when Maulana Karenga founded Kwanzaa, it was existed right in between ugly tragedy, beautiful affirmation.  In 1963 were the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and the bombing deaths and murders of six little Black children in Birmingham, Alabama–4 girls in a church earlier in the morning, and 2 boys later that evening. The beautiful affirmation right in between those ugly tragedies, however,  was the reality that Black were determined enough to organize The People and take an equal rights and socio-economic agenda to Washington, DC.  In record-breaking numbers with the March on Washington in 1963, the mission was accomplished. But, more tragedy followed in the heinous lynchings that claimed the lives of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi in 1964. Leading into 1965, the world was confronted with yet anotherMalcolmX Muhammad Ali vile act of oppression and hatred in the assassination of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz on February 21st.

Somehow, our communities found a way to celebrate our beauty and to also celebrate the lives of those we had lost, an African tradition.  Cassius Clay, better known to the world as Muhammad Ali, announced his joining of the Nation of Islam and his name change, too in 1964.  The spirit of Kujichagulia allowed Muhammad Ali to define himself before there was even Kwanzaa. And, after Kwanzaa was established in 1966, Muhammad Ali further determined Muhammad Alithe fate of his life and his boxing career in 1967 when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War, for which he ws tried for draft vision, fined $10,000, stripped of his boxing title for three-years, and given a five-year prison* sentence.  While there is tragedy in the consequence, there is so much beauty in Muhammad Ali’s determination to stand firm in his conviction.

By 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Harlem speaking at the Riverside Church denouncing the Vietnam War, another act of self-determination. On April 3rd, 1968, the night before Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN, he delivered his energized speech, almost akin to a foreshadowed eulogy, and advised The People on how spend their monies to further grow and develop their communities through acts of self-Kwanzaadetermination.

In the spirit of Kujichagulia, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense began in 1966. The Black Panthers provided to its communities health care programs that focused on understanding how to treat sickle cell and empowered The People to be more knowledgeable of this disorder.  The Black Panthers also defined how they would look, how they would serve the community, and how they would lead The People.

In 1989, KRS-ONE of Boogie Down Productions created the Stop the Violence Movement to address violent acts of murder that claimed the lives of his band member Scott LaRock, a fan, and other people within various communities. The Hip-Hop Community came together and released a song called “Self Destruction” as a means to make Black communities more accountable and responsible for our behaviors toward one another.

In the 21st Century, we have continued to witness even more ugly tragedies in the shooting deaths and unanswered deaths of countless Black men and women like LaQuan McDonald and Sandra Bland. These acts have given rise to the Black Lives Matter Movement, a beautiful affirmation that we get to decide the value of our people even when others demonstrate we matter less.  Kujichagulia equips us with the power of this affirmation.

Happy Kwanzaa!

*Muhammad Ali remained out of jail while his case was appealed. In 1971, his conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court and Muhammad Ali went on to become the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world for the third time in his career.

12 Years…How to Showcase Slavery

“If you don’t see 12 years a slave, then you don’t deserve eyes. Incredible.” Chris Rock (@chrisrock)12 Years

If you express any iota of despair about there being a non-comedic, true story (12 Years is directed by a Black man and the script is written by another Black man, from a primary source—a real life survivor) about the institution of slavery occupying the main stage in Hollywood, perhaps YOU don’t deserve the freedoms you enjoy.

Recently, 12 Years A Slave has set the pages and computer screens of writers ablaze; every person with an opinion about Steve McQueen’s latest effort has either applauded him or vilified him by saying he “lacks the passion to connect his affections to the spirit 12 years steve mcqueenof the human struggle (Slant Magazine).”  Even magazines considered reputable, like Time Magazine, have taken it upon themselves to permit their writers to “fact-check” how close 12 Years remained true to Solomon Northup’s account of his life, but in the most nuanced ways. I want to take Eliana Dockterman’s “fact-check” to task. In her commentary, she used ratings like, “Fact”, “Mostly Fact” and “Fiction” to make distinctions about the authenticity of the truest account of slavery Hollywood has seen to date. Here are some “Absolute Facts” that Ms. Dockterman should consider, too.

Absolute Fact: Slavery was an internationally, constitutionally-sanctioned, chattel institution that operated all over the globe and Black people like me will NOT “get over it” anytime soon.

Absolute Fact: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the ship ride over did not provide cruise ship luxuries for the countless men, women and children that were chained, often times on wooden planks that splintered their backs as the boat swayed, in the bottoms of these sailing, commissioned coffins filled with live people. So what if in the movie a contentious enslaved man was knifed to death as opposed to meeting his death perhaps from the disease-infested ships enslaved Blacks had to endure or the mental illness that12 years slave ship developed from the brutal conditions that caused them to jump overboard in suicide. The method of death wasn’t the point of the scene.  The experienced horrors, subjugation, and attempts to be one another’s “keepers” on the ship was.

Absolute Fact: Slavery was brutal—mentally, physically, emotionally, and politically. Eliana, you are right! To hold someone against their will, to reduce human life to that of “property”, to attribute the European concept of chattel slavery to heredity, to become obscenely wealthy from the hard work and abuse of others, to not acknowledge how abjectly wrong slavery was, WITHOUT any justification, is BRUTAL. Accept it. This movie had to show the brutality for everybody living in denial about slavery. Be thankful Steve McQueen was modest in his use of slavery’s brutality.

Absolute Fact: White women on plantations were referred to as “Mistresses”. How ironic is it that in post slavery days, the “other woman” is the mistress?  Slave owners took preference in raping, being with and even marrying beautiful, desirable enslaved women to the chagrin 12 Years mary and patseyof their wives and other White women. This anger most certainly led to the resentment and abuse the “Mistresses” inflicted on these enslaved women.  When Mistress Mary (Sarah Paulson) threw an object into the face of Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) in the movie, Ms. Dockterman labeled this scene in the movie “Fiction” because Solomon Northup did not write about it per se. He didn’t have to. Other formerly enslaved women spoke and wrote about their experiences from like circumstances in other narratives. Most compelling, we know it happened because very few women are comfortable “sharing” their husbands with the “other woman”. Imagine sharing your husband with a person you never recognized as human?  It would not happen without dire consequences.

For the record, Lupita Nyong’o makes us feel slavery and empathize for the first time and in a way that has seldom been captured. This is why 12 Years… is a must see!

Non-fiction movies about slavery should be made and told every single time an opportunity presents itself.  I have read, to my dismay, bloggers expressing their sentiment about not wanting to see any more movies about “slaves and servants” and stating that “Black audiences need more than slave narratives (Demetria Lucas on www.thegrio.com).”  Taking Ms. Lucas to task, I would ask, when and how will we ever learn to be the resilient people our ancestors were if we never listen to and share their words—lessons—on how to navigate the world of brutal injustices we have inherited by virtue of survival?   The reality of the Black experience in America is expressed wonderfully by none other than one of America’s greatest servants, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said:

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Yes. We served. We were enslaved. Those facts have been a part of our journey that we must dignify not mock, understand not denounce, and celebrate not cower to in shame.   Even if Black people never experienced chattel slavery in America, prior to our acquaintance with America, history has recounted and recorded our greatness. We have not become great because we served or were enslaved, we have been able to serve and endure slavery because our souls have been generated by love and the likeness of the Creator. We are great! 

The real culprit to the sentiment of being tired of “slavery and servant” films is the fictionalized romanticism and White-person-heroism that always seems to infiltrate most slavery and servant movies—the depiction of the perceptions of happy endings to centuries of brutalization and dehumanization.  From viewing audiences, there has been an allowance for any and everybody to have license in discussing the suffering of Blacks in America without authenticating or even relying on the use of the voices that lived the suffering—the narratives.  In the name of art, the story of slavery has been codified as an aside that happened in this country that we must now learn to laugh about because at least Black people have arrived; after all, the 21st Century boasts the largest Middle Class America has ever seen for Black America.

Absolute Fact: Slavery nearly crippled this country economically and politically through the Civil War. Over 700,000 lives were lost! Socially, America is still paralyzed from the systemic effects of slavery—an institution designed to empower one group and subjugate another—in reality America is still fighting a Civil War.  The recent government shut down? The discontent and constant feuding between political 12 years Roger Ebertparties? Denying people we don’t feel deserve to eat access to the government’s food stamp program, SNAP? 

In my opinion, one of the kindest, humanizing offerings of dignity paid to the suffering of a mass group of people came from the media by the late movie critic Roger Ebert’s website (www.rogerebert.com) about Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  On June 24th, 2001, he wrote:

“The Holocaust is a subject too vast and tragic to be encompassed in any reasonable way by fiction.”

He also goes on to refer to the Holocaust as “the saddest story of the century.”

Roger Ebert wrote:

“The terror of the Holocaust comes not because a monster like Goeth could murder, but because thousands of people snatched from their everyday lives became…Hitler’s willing executioners.”

Replace “the Holocaust” with slavery (which was a holocaust as well), replace Goeth (a Nazi soldier) with slavers, and substitute Hitler with international executioners for capital gain, and we begin to understand the far-reaching hands and impacts of slavery on everybody that lived during and after the confines of slavery.

Please go to see this movie and celebrate the painstaking work of Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley in finally telling the story.John Ridley There is no comic relief to break up the pain and suffering of slavery’s horror. There is no happy ending even though Solomon Northup is able to return to his family.  There is no great white hope to save the day.  Although Northup’s letter is delivered by Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt’s character), Northup is not saved from the stain slavery will have on his life for the remainder of it which is possibly the reason he disappeared into obscurity.  Go see this movie because it is the best way to convey to Hollywood that although people like the fantasies, what will heal America is reality that can only be reached by telling true, honest, stories of the past…even when they are brutal.

“If you don’t see 12 years a slave, then you don’t deserve eyes. Incredible.” Chris Rock

Political Lingo: Executive Branch

“BO knows this and BO knows that…” and he also knows everything about doing his job and professionally checking his colleagues on behalf of the people. Way to go BO!

In a press conference earlier today to acknowledge the “re-opening” of our government, President Obama was clear and adamant in stating there were “no winners” in an “unnecessary” shutdown to our government. He also characterized the actions of [some members of] Congress as undermining to our economy.

I, like you, have read comments in which people, ignorant of the roles of the branches of government, have rendered that President Obama was responsible for the shutdown because he did nothing to stop it. Since the aforementioned philosophy lacks understanding let’s work to understand the role, duties and responsibilities of the Executive Branch of government together!

Article II of the US Constitution specifically speaks to the Executive Branch and specifically to the Office of the President. In doing so, the Constitution states that a President must be at least 35 years old, have a minimum of 14 years residency in the United States, and be a natural-born citizen (remember those “Birthers’ claims about President Obama?).

The Executive Branch of government includes President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, all 15 Secretaries of the various departments in our government, and various other important offices.  These people work with President Obama in his Cabinet, or advisors, and within this Administration (the people working for the White House during President Obama’s terms as President).

Although the Cabinet is not officially mandated by the Constitution, it remains a viable part of the unwritten Constitution (actions that are followed but are not in the Constitution)—George Washington was the first President to use a Cabinet which included 4 people. President George W. Bush expanded the Cabinet following 9/11 with the Department of Homeland Security.

Department Secretaries

  1. Department of State
    Secretary John Kerry
  2. Department of the Treasury
    Secretary Jack Lew
  3. Department of Defense
    Secretary Chuck Hagel
  4. Department of Justice
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
  5. Department of the Interior
    Secretary Sally Jewell
  6. Department of Agriculture
    Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack
  7. Department of Commerce
    Secretary Penny Pritzker
  8. Department of Labor
    Secretary Thomas E. Perez
  9. Department of Health and Human Services
    Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
  10. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Secretary Shaun L.S. Donovan
  11. Department of Transportation
    Secretary Anthony Foxx
  12. Department of Energy
    Secretary Ernest Moniz
  13. Department of Education
    Secretary Arne Duncan
  14. Department of Veterans Affairs
    Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
  15. Department of Homeland Security
    Acting Secretary Rand Beers

Additional Members

  1. White House Chief of Staff
    Denis McDonough
  2. Environmental Protection Agency
    Administrator Gina McCarthy
  3. Office of Management & Budget
    Director Sylvia Burwell
  4. United States Trade Representative
    Ambassador Michael Froman
  5. United States Mission to the United Nations
    Ambassador Samantha Power
  6. Council of Economic Advisers
    Chairman Jason Furman
  7. Small Business Administration
    Acting Administrator Jeanne Hulit

The primary function of the Executive Branch of government is enforcing the law.  Beyond that role, however, the Executive has the following powers:

  • Act as the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces and the National Guard.
  • Maintain a Cabinet of advisors who the run the various departments mentioned above.
  • Grant pardons in all federal criminal offenses and postpone punishments like executions
  • Negotiate treaties with other countries
  • Appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices, federal court judges, and Cabinet members
  • Deliver State of the Union Addresses to Congress
  • Represent America when dealing with foreign countries

Although many Presidents of the past have used their executive privilege (power that only the President has) to enforce *Executive Orders (actions that have been taken by Presidents to enact immediate action without seeking the approval Congress), it is simply not the duty of the President to make laws or to pass spending bills.

In President Obama’s address today, he sent a rather pertinent and challenging message to the Congressional Republicans: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election…”

Winning an election? BO knows that!

*The Emancipation Proclamation and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are both Executive Orders

Activism and Social Media: Personal Choices, Public View

Thank you for coming to my blog as I identify the latest, noteworthy happenings as I see them. This is NOT a twitter post. You will NOT read it in 140 characters or less. It is NOT a Facebook status. There is no need to “Like” it, unless you are really moved to. It is a blog. And, it requires time and reading.  Whether these happenings are germane to politics or are indirectly influenced by our understanding of politics. life or anything else, they are happening everyday and I want to talk about them, and I need you to know they exist. I am interested in perspective. Take the poll when you finish.

While everything happening in the media may not be accurate, factual, or remotely close to the truth, people are hearing about what’s going on. Although people (maybe even you reading this blog) will not “have the time” to read this post in its entiretysocial media because we are all too busy being busy, we are getting sound bites of what’s happening in our communities and our world. These sound bites infiltrate our intimate spaces called perspectives; and, we take them and spread them around like a plague. Are we wrong for having been conditioned to need to have a statement rendered in 140 characters or less? When we make personal choices to get involved in a public phenomena, must there be someone there to “Like” it before those actions are considered activism? Are we interested in the change or the display?

This past weekend I was in Los Angeles, California on the campus of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) with the Tavis Smiley Foundation and its Youth 2 Leaders youth to leadersLeadership Institute.  On Friday, the delegates watched a film called, The Revolutionary Optimists about a group of Indian youth using their activism to bring changes to their local communities. Following the movie, I led a discussion about the movie’s themes, but primarily about the role [and absence] of youth-led activism. When asked if they believed today’s youth were doing enough to contribute to our society–helping to fix some of our most pressing issues through their activism, some of the delegates said outright, “No.” Other students provided explanations such as shyness, fear, the need for instant gratification, and complacency as reasons why there is notLead Love Save Serve enough activism coming from the youth.  And, then it was stated that social media was not effective in solving problems.  And, so I began to think, “we spend all of our extra time on social media, and young people don’t even think it is effective.” Wow!

Clearly this country has seen its share of youth-led activism before social media was even a thought. In the 60s there was SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, with the operative word being student. In the late 60s and early 70s, there was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense which was made up of teens and very young adults.  Despite not lasting very long, we can say Black panthersthat these groups left a lasting commentary on the changes that can happen when young people get involved as change agents.  Although there was no social media prior, besides the good ol’ word of mouth, each youth-led movement has used the tools at its disposal to spread the word, garner support, and take action.

In the 21st Century, youth-led activism, some would argue, is not the same as it was during the modern Civil Rights Movement. Some would even argue that there is nosit ins activism happening today because we don’t see the barrage of marches, sit-ins, arrests, etc.  And to them, I would challenge getting to know what some of the Youth 2 Leaders Delegates have done. Or, do an analysis of events that have taken place on a wide and global scale like Occupy Wall Street and what’s happening right now in our beloved Florida. The Dream Defenders are staging a sit-in to contest Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” as a result of the shameful Trayvon Martin verdict.  Even worse is that the same shameful system that would deny justice to Trayvon Martin is the same system that has attempted to deny the Dream Defenders access to basic necessities like food as they demonstrate their First Amendment Right to assemble . SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! How do we know about these happenings?  The media. Why do we know about Oscar Grant’s untimely and savage murder at Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California? Social media.

We will never experience much of what we do today as a passing moment, because in the era of social media, our every thought and expression is caught on someone’s waiting media device. In that regard, I guess we are all activists as we make personal choices to curtail behavior and thoughts that could very well end up in public view due to social media.

To learn more about the movie Fruitvale Station, follow the latest on twitter at @ForestWhitaker @fruitvalemovie

To learn more about the Tavis Smiley and the Tavis Smiley Foundation follow the latest on twitter @tavissmiley @youthtoleaders

For more information about the Dream Defenders follow them on twitter @Dreamdefenders or follow this link to learn more: http://t.co/sIgnmR5IhD