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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-KL faceAtlantic 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!

image1Dressed 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.image3

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.


image4In 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.

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 paradeMarcus 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.

rbg flagUsing 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 otherUNIA Flyer 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!

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!

the Creative Collective



Rest in Peace, Ms. Ruby Dee!

How can you hear the name Ruby Dee and not fall in love?
You can’t.
It sounds pretty and petite, caring and loving, and just like someone every little girl would want to be.
This was Ms. Ruby Dee.
In her presence she was small in height, very poised and attentive. She was dainty, wore red lipstick, and really quite a lady. And, she smiled a super-watt smile.
It was a pleasure for her Diana Ross-esque eyes to land on you because in that moment you had been seen by this oracle of a woman.
Some people stuttered with their words, and as she grew more seasoned, she stuttered with her breath–taking in sporadic moments of life others experienced with her…in interviews.
She was pretty.
Every character she played, we’ve loved and every line she’s read lives on.
After 91 years, the feminine ferocity and audacious activism packaged in Ms. Ruby Dee has departed us.
And, we loved her so.
Rest in Peace, Ms. Ruby Dee.

Rise On, Ms. Maya Angelou!

”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou

maya-angelouToday, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.   

Her family’s statement read:

“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.  

From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.  

I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.  

Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela. 

When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, On the Pulse of Morningat the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.

Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.” 

Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.  

Rise on, Dr. Angelou!


Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Community Rock Star: Thysha M. Shabazz

“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity…. Don’t sit down and wait for opportunities to come; you have to get up and make them.” –Madame C. J. Walker

That quote pretty much sums up our next Community Rock Star, Ms. Thysha M. Shabazz!

Thysha Shabazz is the Founder and President of the award-winning, full-service communications publicity, and events company, Shabazz Communications. She is a native of Norfolk / Chesapeake Virginia and a very proud graduate of Virginia State University.

Thysha has been a journalist and media specialist since she was an adolescent in high school; and she has proudly worked with local Virginia television veterans like the acclaimed Ms. Barbara Ciara.  In addition to having an outright passion for media, communications and public relations, Thysha learned early that in order to perfect a craft, you must practice it continually. Having freelanced for other larger public relations firms like Noelle-Elaine Media, Incorporated, Thysha has been able to work for major corporate clients like L’Oreal.

As a small business owner, Thysha has equipped Shabazz Communications with all of the expertise she has garnered over the years from various sources and added her own special creative spin to it. To date, Thysha has represented over 250 clients in the fields of arts, culture, music, entertainment, literature, business and more!

The Creative CollectiveThysha’s latest, uber creative venture is The Creative Collective, a social think-tank of fun, creative and culturally inspired people working together to elevate consciousness in our communities.  It is an optimal opportunity for artists and other creative people to convene, collaborate and make change.

As a Harlem resident, it is important to Thysha that art and artistry are not merely collected and enjoyable commodities, but that they are also used to effect positive changes in our communities socially, politically, and for reasons similar to the ways in which the Harlem Renaissance shaped, changed, and gave a voice to serious ills plaguing our world.

Creativity speaks volumes and it solves problems so I say, let’s get creative world!

Congratulations Thysha on being a true R.B.G.–Real Blessed Girl–and especially a  Community Rock Star!

To learn more about Shabazz Communications and to utilize its services for your next creative venture, send all inquires / requests to info@shabazzcommunications.com

If you know a Community Rock Star and would like him or her to be featured here, recommend them by tweeting and following us at https://twitter.com/PoliDayReport  and you can like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thepolidayreport


Happy Mother’s Day!

To every woman being “…Every Woman”, changing and nurturing lives, this post is for you!

Happy Mother’s Day from The Polidayreport!

To Queen Nzingha, Queen Asantewaa, Phyllis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells…Happy Mother’s Day!

Harriet Tubman
To every mother: loving ones, happy ones, kind ones, resourceful ones, and joyful ones…To the smart ones and working ones, the friendly ones and stern ones…Today is just for you!  Every mother!

To the proud ones, and fun ones, religious ones, and inspiring ones…Today is just for you!  Every mother!

To the thinking ones, and active ones, teaching ones, and praying ones, today is a celebration of you.

Some of you may be incarcerated and some of you may estranged from your children, but you have still contributed to our world by adding to it another person that has learned some valuable lessons about loving and living life courtesy of you!  Happy Mother’s Day to you!



I have lived the “new normal” my entire life–my mother and aunt are identical twins–I have had two mothers my entire life–MommaNAuntie!

They’ve taught my sisters and cousins and me to be loving and God-fearing, strong and determined, open and honest, educated and direct, ambitious and hard-working, and human.  While we have not always been receptive to all of their teachings, my sisters and cousins and I have learned to appreciate them later in life.  Lessons like maintaining integrity, going to college, having standards, and being our own bosses are just few of the residual lessons they have provided for our lives. We know that our parents have not had the easiest lives–and neither have we, but they have attempted to provide us with the easiest means of accepting the plain old, honest truth about what this world is really all about from their vantage points and mostly, without any filters.


Grandma and the Grandkids

Early in our lives we experienced a terrible tragedy that somehow became the glue helping to hold us together.  And before this awful tragedy, we had always had a grand, maternal matriarch, Mary Peoples–Grandma–she was our bridge. After the death of Grandma, MommaNAuntie have relied on her teachings, wisdom, and spirit to guide their lives and ours, also.  Grandma was our first spiritual coach, English teacher and humanitarian example. And, MommaNAuntie have taught us the meaning of family.  While no family is devoid of its dysfunctions, we have still learned to endure and work through them as a family and to the best of our abilities. Thanks MommaNAuntie!  Today is for you!

To Zora Neale Hurston, Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, Pearl Cleage, the Sisters of Masjid William Salaam…and Michelle Obama…

Happy Mother’s Day, Y’all!

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height: A Shining Beacon of the Human Spirit

“I came up at a time when young women wore hats, and they wore gloves. Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down.” Dr. Dorothy Height as told to the Washington Post in 2010

Dr. Height2Ever so often the world receives a present from the grace of the Almighty. Sometimes it is the way nature graces us with sunshine or a cool breeze and cool waters or luminous moon light to guide our darkest nights. Other times it is the way the human spirit manifests itself as kind deeds, motivating words, and triumphant examples of perseverance, activism and above all else, love.

Today on what would have been her 102 birthday, we celebrate Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, a towering figure of civil rights and a pristine example of the aforementioned human spirit. Growing up, I have always been told that words and names define people. Dr. Height’s last name is a testament to why she was able to surpass even her wildest dreams and bring out the best in people, the movement and the human spirit. And because of this lesson, I have never believed in the “Sticks and Stones” adage.

Today I write about Dr. Height because our lives have paralleled in phenomenal ways that have encouraged me to beZakBlue and do better with non-coincidences, but events of fate and favor that have been bestowed onto my life. Like me, Dr. Height was born in Virginia–she was born in Richmond and I was born in Norfolk. She was a Southern woman who believed in being “put together” so when she stepped out into the public’s eye, it was always under the cloak of a hat and the skin of her gloves. My grandmother, Mary Peoples, certainly taught me those lessons.

Also like me, Dr. Height received an Elks scholarship to assist her in attending college. She and I came to New York City as young women; in her case she pursued an education during the Depression Era in America and in my case I came as the educator in America’s age of Terrorism. Furthermore, we both began our career paths in our 20s–she was 25 and I was 24.

Left to right, Morris Dosewell, American Labor Council; Dorothy Height, National Committee Negro Women; Alexander Allen, Urban League; Basil Paterson, NAACP and Bayard Rustin, director of the Philips Randolph Institute walk together after a meeting with Mayor Wagner in New York on June 4, 1965 file photo.

Left to right, Morris Dosewell, American Labor Council; Dorothy Height, National Committee Negro Women; Alexander Allen, Urban League; Basil Paterson, NAACP and Bayard Rustin, director of the Philips Randolph Institute walk together after a meeting with Mayor Wagner in New York on June 4, 1965 file photo.

From studying her life for the greater sum of my life, I have learned that she, like me, had an unyielding love and desire to see African Americans and women succeed; and, this was evident in her work with the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, it was also present in other avenues of her impeccable life. We both used education, activism, and joined service-oriented organizations like the National Council of Negro Women (NCWM) and our sororities which we have used as our vehicles to effect change in our communities near and far. Dr. Height joined the Centennial ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, of which she served as its national president from 1946-1957, and I joined the nonagenarian ladies of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, of which I served as the president of the chapter in which I was inducted, Phi Chapter of Virginia State University. For forty years, Dr. Height served as the President of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded by the esteemed educator, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune to “represent the national and international concerns of Black women (ncnw.org).” Adding to our connection, the former Executive Director of the National Council of Negro Women was Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, a graduate of my Alma Mater, Virginia State University and my beloved department of Political Science.

Although I was never blessed with the favor of physically meeting Dr. Dorothy Height, a shining beacon of the human spirit, our paths will always be connected.

HBCUs: Leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Brooklyn Museum’s conversation and exhibit called, Witness: Arts and Civil Rights in the Sixties.

Dr. Muhammad and Congressman LewisThe real treat for me was a conversation moderated by the Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Dr. Khalil G. Muhammad, and the living, historical legend and Civil Rights Movement pioneer, Congressman John R. Lewis (D-GA).

On August 28th, 1963 Congressman John Lewis was the youngest speaker to address the nation at Washington’s historic March on Washington. Today, he is the only surviving speaker from the official program. At the time of the March on Washington, Congressman John Lewis served as the Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966 (SNCC, pronounced SNICK).  A Troy, Alabama native, Congressman Lewis was given an opportunity to meet other Civil Rights Movement pioneers like Rosa Parks, whom he met at the age of 17, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he met at the age of 18.  As he explained to our group of culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse people on Sunday, Congressman Lewis explained that he had heard that Dr. King would be speaking in Tennessee.  As a result of a $.10 comic book, Congressman Lewis grew to revere Dr. King and wanted to meet him. The Congressman wrote Dr. King a letter and Dr. King replied by sending John Lewis a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket. From that encounter Congressman Lewis wound up becoming a student at Fisk University, one of the most contributing schools to the Modern Civil Rights Movement and John Lewis eventually became the Congressman we know today.

During the question and answer period, I had the chance to assert that HBCUs are not often credited with being the leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement; and, I also had the chance to glean from Congressman Lewis what he thought the role of the HBCU was today. As favor would have it, Dr. Muhammad found my question “excellent” and important enough to even offer a follow-up to it by asking what Congress was doing to support these important institutions considering that students today have a “broader swath” of schools from which to choose.  In my practice and experiences, I have witnessed that oftentimes students will not select an HBCU as a school option unless there is a history of attendance in their families or, if they are familiar with them, it is because their teachers and/or community members have steered them into the directions of HBCUs. March on Washington 1963 program

When reading about the Civil Rights Movement, seeing the speakers on the official program for the March on Washington in 1963, and learning about others that have contributed greatly to the attainment of civil rights for Blacks and others, their achievements are notable, but attention to their educational background is quite often ignored.

Perhaps speaking out against racial discrimination these activists experienced made them eloquent speakers?

Maybe their regular attendance in churches made them empathetic toward others?

These activists led because they were taught how to lead from the HBCUs. Long before they became civil rights heroes as we know them, they were somebody’s roommate, debate team member, fraternity brother or sorority sister, and/or classroom pupil on an HBCU campus getting inspired, being encouraged to read and read and read, and they were being groomed to be the leaders of their tomorrow.

From the opening of the March on Washington of ’63 with the singing of the National Anthem performed by Virginia State University graduate (Virginia State College when she graduated) Camilla Williams (Marian Anderson Virginia State Universitycould not make it in time), to the closing benediction delivered by former Morehouse College President and Virginia Union University attendee, Benjamin Mays, the tone had already been set for educational excellence.

Many of the other Black luminaries on the program attended, interacted with, and/or graduated from Historically Black Colleges and Universities:

Bayard Rustin (Wilberforce and Cheyney Universities)

Gloria Richardson (Howard University)

John Lewis (Fisk University)

Floyd McKissick (Morehouse College)

Whitney Young, Jr. (Kentucky State University)

Even the “Queen Mother” or “Mother of the Movement” as she was often referred to by Dr. King,  Septima Clark, was aSeptima Clark graduate of Benedict College and Hampton University.   Beyond those speakers, other graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities participated in and are still working diligently toward the cause of furthering civil rights as in the case of Reverend Jesse Jackson, a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University and the Reverend Joseph Lowery, a graduate of Knoxville College and Alabama A & M University.

The Civil Rights Movement is often a celebration of the individuals whereas it should be a celebration of the institutions that shaped the will and tenacity of these selfless and committed activists.  On the “yards” of the HBCUs is where the skill of debate was learned, the development of empathy was honed, and the love for all people was embedded.

It is often asked whether HBCUs are still relevant and I laugh in embarrassment at the mere thought of them not being important. HBCUs will always be relevant as long as there are civil rights to champion. As long as Black students, and now frankly, all students need to be nurtured and educated, uplifted and educated, trained and educated, empowered and educated, these institutions will always be relevant. There is something to be said about the ideals that were implanted into the minds of students like the aforementioned pioneers–the fact that many of these people are well beyond the 50 years in which the March on Washington occurred, they tirelessly continue to work for the equal rights and justice of all people in contemporary times.  Their longevity to the movement and their calling to civil rights activism speaks volumes about the pedagogy that was practiced and taught in HBCUs.

There is a running joke about how traditional HBCUs are–students still have curfew, we don’t offer co-educational living (male and female cohabitation), and Homecoming is still one of the greatest events because it includes the other great pastime, football, and currently enrolled students are still experiencing similar cultural pedagogy about the importance of making the world better than how it was inherited.  The evidence supports that this pedagogy works and it also suggests that HBCU alumni are always willing to give back because of a need to be able to recognize these familial and familiar places called home. There simply is no place like home.

Congressman John Lewis selfie

My selfie moment with Congressman Lewis

When we step out into the world, each of us is equipped with GPS that will assist in navigating an unfamiliar world; whether it’s politics or religion or education, we learn these lessons from home. HBCUs have been credited with being spirited places that have broken barriers for Blacks in education, but they have also been tornadoes in changing America and the world. When Presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson were encouraged to take more deliberate action in civil rights activism, it was because of the encouragement of an HBCU graduate sitting right next to their elbows. When the continent of Africa was decentralized during the period of the modern Civil Rights Movement, it was because of African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah’s exposure to and matriculation in HBCUs.

Congressman Lewis’ response to my comment and question?

“These institutions were free. The student bodies–the teachers were free to teach. [They] educated so many of our leaders.”

Leadership has no expiration date.  HBCUs are still cultivating leaders in the same buildings that created the leaders of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and in newer buildings that have been built courtesy of the progress made as a result of this movement.  HBCUs have shown the voiceless how to be free to give voice to a cause worthy of the sacrifice and in some instances, death.  They have taught the invisible man and woman to step into the spotlight to become the principal actors and agents of change.  Most importantly, HBCUs have taught us all how to be free from the bondage that thwarts growth and the ideas that tell us we cannot when clearly we are equipped with an unyielding spirit that says that we can.

[Colored] Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

“I feel a little guilty saying how much fun I had being a colored girl in the 20th Century.” Anita Reynolds, American Cocktail: A ‘Colored Girl’ in the World

First thing this morning, l read an article called the Wild Adventures of a ‘Colored Girl’ in the Early 20th Century. It had been published on the The Root by Teresa Wiltz, nearly a week ago, about the recently found memoir of a young Black woman named Anita Reynolds, a flapper of sorts traveling the world, schmoozing with VIPs and having some very important familial (Langston Hughes was a distant cousin) and romantic (W.E.B. Dubois was her first lover) connections. 


Anita Reynolds

I learned she had come from a prominent well-to-do family of mixed race heritage, but during those days, being multicultural was hardly anything to celebrate the way we celebrate it today. Anita’s mother was a Black woman, labeled “blond” because of her “passing” (pretending to be White or another ‘race’ because you look like that ‘race’) ability; and, indeed “passing” was a coping mechanism Ms. Reynolds was able to use to her advantage (people thought she was Mexican, Native American, etc–she never corrected them).

“Passing” in the Black community was anything but acceptable–it was blasphemous! Writers like Charles Chesnutt knew, first-hand, the lure of “passing” but chose not to do it because it created an even more difficult existence for anymore “caught” in between races.  The “one drop rule” gave Black people a different ethnic appeal and imprisoned them at the same time. The “passable” Black women from places like Louisiana deemed octoroon (1/8th Black ancestry), quadroon (1/4 Black ancestry), and mulatto (having one Black parent and one White parent) were often lauded as the prettiest women on the planet, yet they lived the same lives as any other ‘colored girl’ and sometimes lives that were marred in too-frequent sexual advances from men salivating over their beauty and needing to experience just a little bit of it.  Alex Haley explored this topic in his novel Queen: The Story of an American Family that was later adapted into a movie starring Halle Berry.  

As long as American identity remained Black and White, on the Black side is where these mixed-race Blacks stood and where they were expected to stay.  I completely understand why Anita Reynolds professed her guilt for having fun because she lived a life that ‘colored’ girls did not have access to and were not supposed to live–a life filled with adventure, the finest clothes, admirable company, gawking eyes, and the chance to laugh from all the fun she was having. 

Virginia State University graduate, attorney and billionaire, Mr. Reginald Lewis, wrote a book decades later entitled Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun?  It seems to me that he responded to Ms. Reynolds’ confession of guilt by living his ‘Colored’ life without any guilt, unapologetically, and by terms not completely determined by his race, rather his hard work and success. 

Today ‘Colored Girls’ like singers Alicia Keys and Tamia leave Anita Reynolds’ shadow of guilt to dissipate into the sunlight; thus, they are Black women living life to the fullest and impacting the lives of others through philanthropic efforts.