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HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY, TAVIS SMILEY!
“You can‘t LEAD the people if you don’t LOVE the people. You can’t SAVE the people if you won’t SERVE the people.” Motto of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Youth 2 Leaders
On Thursday, September 11th, 2014, I sat in an audience of people—friends, supporters, and employees of Tavis Smiley—in New York City’s Union Square Barnes and Noble for the signing of his seventeenth and latest book, The Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year.
While on the stage underscoring his level of commitment to his work, he called my name, told the audience I worked with the young people in his foundation—Youth 2 Leaders—and led me in completing the motto of the foundation. I was in the notes section of my iPad trying to take down his most salient and thought-provoking points (there are so many all the time) so I was initially caught off guard, but I fell right in line with him in reciting our motto. Tavis responded, “See? She understands it. That’s what this work is all about.”
For nearly 20 years (I first met Tavis Smiley when I was 19 years old), I have been a student of Tavis Smiley. I have learned that he is deeply committed to the growth and development of all people, and particularly to Black people.
“I believe if we make Black America better, we make all of America better.” Tavis Smiley
I can appreciate the unapologetic resolve in that premise.
For ten (10) years, he provided a platform for many of our community’s intellectuals and cultural critics; and, they gained national notoriety from their inclusion and involvement in the State of the Black Union symposiums. As a spectator and as an attendee, I would look at the panelists and think to myself, “If Tavis Smiley included this person, they must be something!”
Tavis has always been my barometer of intellectual excellence and my go-to example of critical curiosity and inquiry. And, he fits perfectly into the cast of leadership. Through the publishing of books such as the Covenant with Black America (2006), and my all-time favorite, Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure (2011), Tavis has consistently provided an entry point for Black communities into discussions of politics and socio-economic growth. While his vocabulary is impressive and vast, his approach to giving our community the wings to fly in areas that sometimes compromise our esteem, has been practical, doable, and enumerated in a way that keeps many of us from getting lost or resorting to the comfort of believing our inability for doing better is because of not knowing how.
What I know for sure is that Tavis Smiley has always done what he has publicly said he would. I respect that on his imprint (Smiley Books), he publishes books that help to guide our ways of thinking about issues. Through media outlets in television and radio, The Tavis Smiley Show is what he uses to package his voice and his truth, on his terms. I also know that Tavis is personable, engaging, loves Black people, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
I like Tavis Smiley!
At his young age, Tavis Smiley has done so much and he has not nearly tipped the scale in the more to come.
Happy 50th Birthday, Tavis Smiley!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Marcus Garvey!
“The whole thing, my friends, is a bloody farce, and that the police and soldiers did nothing to stem the murder thirst of the mob is a conspiracy on the part of the civil authorities to condone the acts of the white mob against Negroes.” Marcus Garvey
With a few minor changes in the words, one would think this quote was in reference the unrest happening right now in Ferguson, Missouri due to the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, but it isn’t.
The quote above by Marcus Garvey was delivered when he responded to the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot, nearly 100 years ago.
Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, historically known as the UNIA, responded to the race riot of East St. Louis by calling it a “crime against humanity.” This riot occurred after 470 African Americans has been hired to fill positions left abandoned by white workers that had gone on strike against the local Aluminum Ore Company. The angry whites of the town filed formal complaints to the Mayor against Black migration to the city of East St. Louis. Soon after the formal complaints, an alleged attempted robbery of a white man by an unarmed Black man began to circulate. As a result, an angry white mob began beating and violating the Blacks of the city—these actions resulted in the National Guard being called in to quell the violence, but it only grew worse. The end result of the St. Louis Race Riots, amidst all of the violence and the maimed and murdered African Americans, was that several officers of the East St. Louis police force were indicted for not doing enough to eradicate the mob violence.
Marcus Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay Jamaica on August 17, 1887 was a fearless, enterprising man of great conviction. Highly inspired by the formerly enslaved American hero, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey set out to establish a united Black people. He encouraged repatriation to Africa, the industrialization of Blacks and the establishment of an organization that would help Blacks to meet his goals, the UNIA formed in 1914. Further inspired by the large numbers of Black people living in Harlem, Marcus Garvey relocated the UNIA to Harlem’s 138th Street in 1917, and was a leading voice against racial injustice every time these injustices arose. As demonstrated above, Marcus Garvey spoke against the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, and his vigilance against the killings that occurred during the Red Summer of 1919 led to the continued growth of the UNIA.
Using Madison Square Garden as his venue, Marcus Garvey attracted 25,000 people to hear him deliver the Declaration of Rights the Negro Peoples of the World at the UNIA International Convention of 1920.
This man was on a mission.
To fulfill his dream of Blacks repatriating to Africa, Marcus Garvey and the efforts of the UNIA purchased a fleet of ships, The Blackstar Steamship Line. Although the ships were never able to fulfill the purpose intended by Garvey and the UNIA, purchasing the ships was a promising move by any Black leader, and a clear testament to the UNIA’s economic prowess.
Like most leaders of his time, Marcus Garvey was not devoid of controversy that would taint his reputation among Black followers and other Black organizations. The point, however, is that Marcus Garvey was a visionary and he was emphatic about the direction he thought would suit Black people best. He had an “All Black Everything” vision; under the banner of Red, Black and Green he envisioned a Black Army. He lauded Black women as “queens” that gave “color to the world.” He also was clear and staunch in this assertion that he was equal to the white man and he wanted other Blacks to feel and know the same thing.
Marcus Garvey, having been consumed by the poetic and political potential of the United States, specifically Harlem (He was in Harlem in the height of the Harlem Renaissance), as well as the ideas of Black Unity and a Black nation, Marcus Garvey was a true Renaissance Man.
Marcus Garvey died in 1940 while in London, England after having two strokes.
He has influenced people who still follow his teachings, Garveyites. Rastafarianism is highly influenced by Garveyism. The man heralded by Ossie Davis as “our own Black shining Prince,” El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), was raised by a Garveyite, his father Earl Little. And, all around the world we can find many examples of people holding true to Marcus Garvey’s call, “Up you mighty race; you can conquer what you will.”
On this Centennial (100 years!) of the UNIA and on what would have been the 127th year of Mr. Garvey’s birth, we say HAPPY BIRTHDAY Marcus Garvey!
HAPPY 53rd BIRTHDAY, President Obama!
According to the Superman Poll, you have a 100% approval rating from this voter. While you cannot do it all, you have remained steadfast in advocating and ensuring that some of America’s most vulnerable are cared for—Obama Care has changed the lives of many, Student Loan Forgiveness has given college-loan debtors some hope, and your most important leadership has been to inspire other members of the your team, like Attorney General Eric Holder, to openly speak against and investigate disparaging policy practices as they affect incarcerated people, especially Black males and other Men of Color.
According to the Perception Poll, you have a 100% approval rating from this voter for changing the way the world perceives which Americans are willing, able and capable of leading our nation, its people and its position as a leader among nations of the world. The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is such a smart initiative in sending a message about the perception about the importance of Black Males in our nation. The latest economy results are in—there is growth and jobs have been added to our economy!
According to the Cool Factor Poll, you have a 100% approval rating because I dig your cool—you can sing (remember the Apollo?), you can really play basketball, and I dig how relatable I find you and your family—Mrs. Obama as your wife and First Lady is the real deal. How cool!
According to the Intelligence Factor Poll, you have managed to show that it is okay to be a smart, study Political Science, be an expert on the Constitution, and be a well-written and well-published attorney. For that you have a 100% approval rating from me!
According to the Foreign Policy Poll, I have witnessed considerable growth in your leadership around the world, especially in this second term. None of us like what is happening in Gaza between Israel and Palestine, but one of the first changes I supported you requesting that Israel return to the use of the pre-1967 boundary lines in 2011. It was a start in establishing some semblance of equity in a turbulent region, but more importantly, I appreciate the fact that America, under your leadership found it important to condemn Israel’s actions in Sunday’s August 3rd, 2014 bombing of a Gaza UN school. We’re making some progress and that’s a good thing! And, you still always work toward peace. You have an 100% approval rating from this voter.
While I am having a lot of fun with these polls, I want it to be known that I find you to be way more than the average president and far greater than marginal–there is a lot of evidence to support my findings. I want today to be memorable and what birthdays are made of, even for the President of the United States of America: CAKE, CANDLES, and FUN!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, President Obama!
John “B.B.” Boehner: Bad Boss
On Wednesday July 30th, 2014, with a vote of 225-201, the House of Representatives voted to give John Boehner, the United States Speaker of the House, the authority to sue the President of the United States.
That’s right. Our dysfunctional 113th Congress came together for a vote along party lines to sue our President–every Democrat voted against the resolution to sue and all but five (5) Republicans voted in favor of the suit!
At the helm of this dysfunction is the 64-year old, stiff, stoic, and seriously egotistical John “B.B” Boehner. Sworn in as our nation’s 61st Speaker of the House, it is the job of “B.B.” to preside over the House of Representatives—one of two houses that comprises Congress. The members of the House of Representatives are determined by each state’s population which means more populous states have greater voices and votes in the legislative (law-making) processes of the House of Representatives.
“B.B.” has 435 people under his watch. Based on the productivity of this current Congress, it appears as if they all have pretty much been watching each other because they have clearly not been working.
So why the law suit?
By constitutional decree, “B.B.” is second in line to the presidency, and that may have a lot to do with his treatment of President Obama since becoming the Speaker on January 3rd, 2011. I have a feeling that somewhere deep in his orange-stained encapsulated mind he believes that he can do a better job. But, the historical record shows the only thing “B.B.” is capable of doing well is saying, “No.” This Congress has been the least effective Congress in the history of America—even more ineffective than the 80th ‘Do Nothing’ Congress that served with President Harry Truman!
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the real reason “B.B.” has moved forward with this expensive and frivolous law suit is because of the Republican’s accusation of President Obama’s “executive overreach—exceeding his constitutional powers and unlawfully going around Congress.” The Wall Street Journal contributed Boehner’s decision was reinforced by alterations that were made to the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obama Care.
Clearly the framers of the Constitution knew how to keep one another in check because they implicitly imbedded and explicitly granted really important duties, responsibilities, and privileges to the different branches of government. Because the Republicans of this Congress have been so staunch in their resolve to see President Obama fail, and since the Republicans were not successful in preventing President Obama from reelection, they just flat-out became uncooperative, leaving President Obama without a choice but to use the Executive Order and executive privilege to run this country and to make decisions that Congress, that appeared to be defunct at times, refused to help him with. But, President Obama still appealed to them and he still operated within the confines of the Constitution and under the oath he took to defend the Constitution when he was sworn in as president.
Under the partial congressional leadership of Boehner, our nation has suffered sequestration, been faced with issues with our nation’s credit standing, and most importantly Americans have suffered by the non-passage of legislation to provide jobs, support our veterans, and improve the overall quality of life in health, education, and wages.
Bad Boss Boehner and his followers have no respect for the position of the president, show no remorse for the further suffering they have inflicted on the American people, and don’t care about the international implications their actions dictate about how others around the world treat President Obama and respect our system of democracy. In true bad fashion, they have strong-armed the political process like a bunch of sophisticated crooks.
The history that President Obama has made by breaking and removing the glass ceiling of political exclusion for Americans in this country can never be undone. That’s good!
But, the fact that America really wants to become a better nation, but unfortunately-stagnated, small-minded people wish to prevent our progress, is disturbing and bad.
Of all of the putrid and disturbing things for the Speaker of the House to do, using his position to “speak” ideas of anarchy and dysfunction deeper into our government is really low and bad.
When this Congress’s history is recorded, it will not be for a record of all of the good and progressive ways in which it elevated America. Instead, it will be a record of them getting paid for bad, litigious, and intentionally unproductive ways to discredit the office of the president, maintain the status quo of political party chaos, and prevent the upward mobility of Americans and this nation.
America, we have roughly 95 days until mid-term elections are held on Election Day, November 4th, 2014.
YOU have the power to rid our government of Bad Bosses like John “B. B.” Boehner and bad-boss practices. You must simply care about what is happeing in our government, read everyday to stay informed–ThePoliDay Report is a great place, and most importantly you must VOTE!
Robert Mugabe: Facing the Book of History
Facebook has proven to be worth all of the hype it has earned—it has connected childhood friends, helped friends become lovers, and it has even been a great stage for [healthy] political and historical debates.
My friends of Facebook have contributed to a rich conversation about President Robert Mugabe’s latest decision to remove about 35 white landowners from landownership, but not from owning businesses and other properties in the Southeast African nation of Zimbabwe.
According to a July 2014 article called, “Mugabe Orders White Farmers Off Of Land” written by Abena Agyeman Fisher on Face2FaceAfrica, President Mugabe is planning to make major changes in the distribution of land ownership in Zimbabwe. Not everybody is happy about it, and my Facebook friends have a lot to say about it.
Some of them view Mugabe’s policies as “ignorant” and they assert that he is no longer the “independence hero” he was once thought to be. In addition, some of them present that he is establishing a “two wrongs make a right precedent” while others maintain that the people of Zimbabwe, represented by the leadership of Robert Mugabe, have a “God-given right to put changes in place…”
Clearly there are no easy solutions to correcting the wrongs of histories past and rightfully so. History is a very convoluted concept of facts, memories, rights and wrongs. It is filled with vantage points, imposters, oppressors, victims and survivors. And ultimately, each of us, whether in positions of power, or as conscious citizens, supports the concept of history we construct and the role we play.
Robert Mugabe is no saint, and of course, like each of us, is a sinner. And now, he will face the book of history for this recent decision and for his legacy of as a leader.
While Mugabe may no longer be a hero to all, he may certainly become one again to many.
One of my commenters wrote the “…sins of the father don’t pass on like bank accounts and to attempt to correct historical injustices using today’s players sets a bad “two wrongs make a right” precedent.”
When the sins involve racial injustice that have been systemically implemented and violently enforced over the course of prejudicial / discriminatory, unjust, inhumane, dehumanizing laws, the posterity (next generations) of the purveyors (creators) of those laws reap the benefits, and the subjects reap the disadvantages of those laws. These sins absolutely pass on like bank accounts. Even worse, most of us, especially when you’re on the beneficial end, never question why these sins are so advantageous—it is just passed on as “the way that it is.”
And, those in power often run away from explaining the origins of these de facto benefits.
The reality of Zimbabwe is that it is a country that has not resolved its racial and political issues—the roots run deep. The other reality is that the generations of white families that have “owned” its land have done so through illegal occupation. There is no statute of limitations on doing what is right, no matter how many generations pass. The whites of Zimbabwe today are reaping the benefits of the crimes of their ancestors, just like the Africans have reaped the disadvantages of theirs.
Just because the “Star of Africa”, the largest diamond ever to be found in the world, has been in possession of England since 1905, does not make England its rightful owner. Because Africa was invaded and illegally occupied by European nations through violent means and war via the Berlin Conference of 1884, none of what Europe has taken in Africa makes Europe Africa’s owners. The same is true for the whites in Zimbabwe.
The theft of land is a horribly debilitating offense, and it is directly tied to a people’s sustenance, the sustainability of their generations, and acquisition of [future] wealth–ask any of the Blacks that endured Jim Crow America and were forced to abandon their hard-earned, formerly-sharecropped, and former plantation lands in places like Alabama and Mississippi due to vicious, legal and uncontested racial violence; and, without delay, they would attest that their stolen land has created major communal, familial and financial setbacks in their lives. Remember Mose Wright–Emmet Till’s uncle that testified against the men that killed is nephew? He was run off of his Mississippi land and there are many more stories like his. He and the others are entitled to reparations.
In his very craftily written article, The Case for Reparations, TaNehisi Coates presented a pristine argument for reparations for Blacks that had been unfairly denied access to wealth-building and the acquisition of property due to Chicago’s unfair red-lining and housing laws. These laws were established by an American government that refused to recognize the rights of all of its citizens. Blacks were left out. And, we are entitled to reparations because the policies were wrong.
The whites in Zimbabwe are not entitled to own Zimbabwe’s land because the policies that made them “owners” were wrong. The Blacks were denied access to Zimbabwe’s land during imperialism, and history has a way of correcting those wrongs. It’s called reparations; and, Robert Mugabe is leading that charge for Zimbabwe on his watch.
Over the course of nearly 60 years, Germany has paid some $89 billion in reparations to Holocaust survivors, survivors’ children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–and they’ve even paid the survivors living in Russian-occupied territories. The policies that savagely killed Holocaust victims and left some scarred for life were wrong; and, the German government of today says that its people are entitled to reparations.
In all issues of race and racial injustice, we must speak plainly, openly and honestly. The whites of Zimbabwe do not “own” the land. No matter how many generations have been on the land, they are in Zimbabwe due to colonial occupation and racial subjugation.
Robert Mugabe does not have all of the answers, but we cannot be so quick to condemn his policies as “ignorant” when they attempt on implement fairness for people for whom justice escaped. If Robert Mugabe is a villain for attempting reparations for his people, then all leaders that correct past wrongs are villains.
There is the implication that once the land gets [back] into the hand of the Zimbabweans that they will be very unproductive with it and the land will lose value because Zimbabweans will not industrialize the land for business. It is the same arguments America used to deny Black Americans access to land, property, politics, and education. The argument is wrong.
I am always intrigued by the use of semantics when there is an examination of white people being governed by the policies of Blacks. Arguments of morality and justice are quickly asserted in their cases whereas Blacks are usually only afforded a legal argument—about laws that are already unjust and immoral.
Robert Mugabe must face the book of history about the legacy of his leadership, and in the meantime, I look forward to reading more about his plan for implementing [land] reparations.
Celebrating Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Turns 50 TODAY!
It is always the strangest thing in the world to me when we celebrate milestone events in this country that are nuanced with a particular group of Americans in mind–especially when that group is African Americans. It is especially peculiar to think of celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the premier pieces of legislation that defined the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. But, today we commemorate it–Happy 50th Anniversary!
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a long and hard battle fought by African Americans to get Congress to pass a strong meaningful piece of legislation that would secure our ability to be treated fairly according to the law, and especially in places of public accommodation. Congress was not super sold on passing this bill as America was ultra polarized and the racial tensions of America were about to reach their boiling points during the decade of the 60s. Prior to Johnson’s passing of the bill, it had been introduced by former president John F. Kennedy. Congress had made attempts to kill this bill and the likes of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and organizer A. Phillip Randolph had organized and participated in the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington to underscore the need for African Americans’ fair and equal treatment under the law.
Although revised and arguably watered down by most analyses, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it so hotels that were once suddenly “vacant” when African Americans solicited them could no longer prevent our stays. Those very same Woolworth counters that refused groups like the Greensboro Four (4) of 1960, only four years earlier, now had to open their counters for African American patronage and dine-in participation and not just take out. With the passage of this bill African Americans were not ever going to move the backs of any buses unless we wanted to. And, certainly after this bill was passed, discriminatory practices still prevailed because bad habits and even worse beliefs and practices were not abandoned overnight, but at least they were easier to fight and criminalize due to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd.
Take a listen:
On Friday, July 4th, 2014, we will celebrate 238 years of American independence from the control of the British crown and King James. Long before American Independence was a conceivable idea in the mind of European immigrants looking for solace from their nations’ persecution, African Americans were here and even before Columbus–we were merchants, mariners, explorers, and of course, we were the labor that created this “land of the free” and “home of the brave.”
No matter how strange it is to have to even celebrate 50 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 victory, especially in a country nearly two and a half centuries old and one that would have never seen the light of victory without its “native sons”, we celebrate this legislation nonetheless.
Happy Birthday Civil Rights Act of 1964!
The New Workout Plan!
For most people, working out is not a joy. It is marred in pain and struggle and burning in your throat and thighs.
If you’re just starting up or rebooting after a long hiatus (*raising my hand), your calves beat you up, your mind psyches you out and all you really want to do is quit.
But, within this post is the motivation to get you started and keep you going. It is brilliant and it is creative.
Andia Winslow and Monique Walton have created the Legacy Workout, a fitness regimen that marries history and fitness. It is dedicated to people who used their beings to create opportunities for others, knowingly and unknowingly. People like the Tuskegee Airmen, Shirley Chisholm, Henrietta Lacks, Mae Jemison and Jackie Robinson are just a few of the figures celebrated in this video with workout movements in their honor.
“Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” Malcolm X
This is true even in physical fitness as seen in the Legacy Workout video posted below.
Black bodies and minds are brilliant, creative works of art that work in tandem with one another.
Kudos to Ms. Andia Winslow (@AndiaWinslow), the daily news site Colorlines.com (@Colorlines), Colorlines News Editor Jamilah King (@jamilahking), Filmmaker and Film distributor Ms. Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC), and Mr. Roy Tatem (@roytatem) for providing an outlet for this brilliance to be viewed!
Check it out everybody!
When you attend the Creative Collective’s day party, Sunday June 22nd, 2014 this is the kind of brilliance and creativity you will encounter.
Silvana. 300 W.116th Street (at Frederick Douglass Blvd.). Harlem, USA!