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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!
President Obama Talks To Black Americans Like That
Today August 7th, 2014, NewsOne writer Donovan X. Ramsey posted an article on NewsOne.com with the title, “Why Can’t Obama Talk To Black Americans Like That?” My Fraternity Brother and friend, Donald Anthony Wheeler tagged me in it on a Facebook post and asked for my thoughts.
This article questioned why all of the encouragement and praise President Obama recently offered the 500 African fellows in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was a part of the greater U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C. from August 4th – August 6th, 2014, is not extended from President Obama to Black Americans.
To the YALI fellows President Obama offers the following:
“I want to thank you for inspiring us with your talent and your motivation and your ambition,” he said, looking out to the fellows. “You’ve got great aspirations for your countries and your continent. And as you build that brighter future that you imagine, I want to make sure that the United States of America is going to be your friend and partner every step of the way.” Later in the speech, he added, “So the point of all of this is we believe in you. I believe in you. I believe in every one of you who are doing just extraordinary things.”
In this very frank article Mr. Ramsey supported that President Obama’s inspirational words to these African youth were “uncommon” to Black Americans, specifically when reviewing earlier messages and speeches President Obama has made to Black American audiences And, Mr. Ramsey even goes a step further to say that this encouragement made him a little bit “jealous.”
I think we all get a little bit jealous whenever someone, other than ourselves, gets a little piece of President Obama’s highly warranted attention And, even deeper, I understand where Mr. Ramsey is coming from, too. The idea that there are throngs of young, Black, youth living just outside of the White House, and all over America, but yet he creates a Young African Leaders Initiative is hard to swallow.
But, if we look at it another way, President Obama is doing what he has been fated to do, and I’m okay with his decision.
In 2013, I was a witness to President Obama’s visit to a Brooklyn, NY high school–Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), the school in which I currently teach. Just in knowing President Obama would visit the school sent an understated hysteria that resonated more like the anticipation one has when he or she is about to meet his or her hero for the first time. Ultimately, when President Obama spoke to this predominately Black (Black American, Caribbean, African and Afro-Latin@) population, he shared a very similar message of doing well and believing in the future of this post-millenial generation with all of the students in attendance. I looked in their faces as President Obama spoke and they were hanging onto his every word.
As Mr. Ramsey’s article points out, there have been instances in which critics like the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others have felt that President Obama was “talking down to Black people.” For example, Mr. Ramsey highlights President Obama’s commencement message to the Morehouse College Class of 2013–he even suggests that the President compromised the graduates’ joy and happiness on that day in his message of accountability and ridding themselves of excuses.
“We’ve got no time for excuses — not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned,” he said.
I think most of us would simply be happy to know that President Obama was “in the building” at our graduation, let alone being able to say he offered our commencement address. But, not to make light of Mr. Ramsey’s claims, President Obama did not tell this class that he believed in them. And, no–he did not offer these students a partner in America. But, he did something far greater–he showed up and mentored each of these students individually by providing them with a blueprint as to how he became the Commander-In-Chief. Of course that message would depend on the way in which the graduate was willing to receive the message.
And, President Obama’s messages and actions become even rosier for me.
I am not a fan of casting aspersions on the work that President Obama has done and is doing–I don’t suggest that Mr. Ramsey is, either. But, I am wholeheartedly in favor of speaking my truth about what I glean from how I witness, hear, and understand these works. Again, President Obama is doing what he has been fated to do–to reconnect the African Diaspora as only it can be done through America, and more specifically, through the efforts of its Black American president.
While chattel slavery affected all of the African Diaspora in severe ways, I will be brash and controversial enough to admit that Black Americans are a pretty special group to have “made it” to America even during the arduous slave trade. We are even more significant because we have survived the legacy of the other elements that have been diffused in America as a result of its involvement in chattel slavery–the peculiar institution. By virtue having “made it” to America and also by being citizens, Black Americans have also gained access, albeit limited, to the all of the resources of this country. These resources have continually been sought out by the Caribbean Black and the African. Through accessing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) like Kwame Nkrumah, or by aligning with the daily struggles of being Black in America through the creation of the Black Power movement by Stokely Carmichael, or by helping to shape the voice of the Harlem Renaissance like Claude McKay, America has always provided great ideas of possibility to Blacks outside of America.
President Obama is doing his job by keeping the doors open to Caribbean and African Blacks to continue this work. On the Continent of Africa, there is what is known as the “Door of No Return” but the very name of that infamous door, while it will never be obsolete, is now taking on a different meaning through what President Obama is doing and how he is encouraging Young African Leaders and also Africa’s Black American kin.
President Obama makes me proud every day because he took the chance to run for America’s presidency, and by successfully becoming America’s president, he has changed the way the world will forever view Black people and our access to the world–whether we are American or Disaporan Black.
From my vantage point, I don’t stand in competition with Blacks from around the world, but in solidarity. President Obama’s message to them is already a message I have heard and internalized long before this recent U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit–so, it is indeed a message to me, also.
Happy Father’s Day!
“Well you can tell everybody…I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man.” Aloe Blacc
Happy Father’s Day from The PolidayReport!
Father’s Day has been met with considerable controversy almost since its inception. According to History.com, Father’s Day underwent major challenges with naysayers feeling that fathers did not have “the same sentimental appeal” as mothers. Case and point, Father’s Day became a national holiday 58 whopping years after Mother’s Day at the hand of President Richard Nixon in 1972!
Fathers, today we salute you. Our culture often pokes fun at wanting “half” from a man’s means, but the truth of the matter is that every person on this Earth has half–half of a father’s genes that created us into the people we are today.
Father’s Day is about the celebration of the chromosomes fathers have contributed to walking, talking beings that matter–it is about the love they have shown, the care they have provided, the lessons they have taught, the sayings they have rendered, the strength they have shown, the embraces they have given, the masculinity they’ve presented, the security they have ushered, and the examples of manhood that they are.
Father’s Day is as much about a dad’s smell as it is about the fleeting memory of what it used to be. It’s as much about his having an education as much as it is about his lack of one. It’s about fathers’ game-time rituals and living room chairs and barbecuing skills and obnoxious laughs. It’s about those barely talkative dads that always share a lot, but in a few powerful, potent words…or gestures. Father’s Day is about those dads that work day in and day out to support their families and the ones that are only home on weekends so they become virtual strangers to the households they build.
Father’s Day is about men.
Father’s Day is about men some of us never got the chance to know, but think about the possibilities of the encounters especially on Father’s Day. It is about that unfamiliar face morphed into the reflections that stare back at us when we look in the mirror. It is about anomalous personalities we inherited from Fathers, gone too soon, that other family members don’t quite understand.
Father’s Day is as much about the jail house visit as much as it is about sitting on the church pew holding dad’s hand or sitting on the floor of the musalla next to dad before salat or prayer begins.
Father’s Day is about love!
Father’s Day is not about single mothers taking care of children for whom they are obligated.
It is not about finding every discrepancy and fault in fathers who have yet to embrace fatherhood.
It is about finding forgiveness.
Happy Father’s Day!
The Brothers of Masjid William Salaam–Norfolk, VA, The Brothers I’ve looked up to in the W.D. Muhammad / Nation of Islam ummah (community/ nation), Brother Karim–stepped up/ stood in, Kasib Azeez–The Provider, Chad Mensah–brother-friend, LaMonte Bullock–everything, Eddie James–Brother-in-Law. My male teachers: Mr. Bonds–elementary school principal, Mr. Cook-middle school science teacher, Mr. Foley-middle school math teacher, Mr. Riddell–middle school band teacher, Mr. Elston Fitzgerald–high school band teacher, Mr. Roosevelt Moseley–high school history teacher, Mr. Bob Davenport–high school world history teacher, Coach Conley–high school gym teacher / track coach, Mr. John Edwards–high school assistant principal / saw my oratory potential, Professor Gary Baker–VSU Political Science Professor /friend, Dr. Wallace McMichael–VSU Political Science Professor / friend, Dr. Murel Jones–VSU Political Science Professor, Dr. Raymond Griffin–Graduate School Professor, Dr. Clarence Penn–Graduate School Professor, Superintendent Ruffa–Graduate School Professor, The men of Virginia State University, Mr. Tavis Smiley, Mr. Alphonso Tyre–colleague / friend, President Obama, all of the heroic, historical, honorable old and young men I love-past, present, and future…
May today, June 15th, 2014 be the start of an extra-special Father’s Day for each and every father. Today we celebrate you!
President Obama Makes History All the Time!
Tuesday night, June 10th, 2014 I hopped into a cab. As part of my cab riding ritual, I always make it a point to find out the country from which my driver comes. On this particular ride, my driver was Sindhi and when I asked him where he was from, he responded, “Sindh.” I was confused.
Initially, I believed he was from Pakistan so I asked him if he spoke Urdu. He replied, “No. I speak Sindhi.”
He proceeded to explain the Sindhi’s journey to sovereignty to me and even handed me his iPhone 5 to show me a picture of his daughter wearing a traditional Sindhi cape. My driver informed me that he was an anesthesiologist in his country, but what gave him a huge inflection in his voice was when he reflected that one day his country would be a sovereign nation again with its own leader.
“If America can elect Obama as its President, there is hope for Sindhi people, too.” NYC Sindhi cab driver
Beyond the fact that our 44th President, Barack Obama, will forever go down in history as America’s first African American president, he is still inspiring others with hope and making more history.
This Friday, June 13th, 2014, President Obama became only the fourth sitting American President to visit a Native American Reservation–The Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Former Presidents Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929, 30th
President), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945, 32nd President), and William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton (1992-2000, 42nd President) all made visits to Pine Ridge or the Cherokee Nation.
America’s relationship with Native Americans has been very little of beautiful and a whole lot of ugly: through the displacements and massacres and simply not acknowledging the existence of Native Americans through unequal treaties and the American Constitution, it is great that President Obama’s visit can represent a sign of the times to come.
There is so much prophecy in the fact that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are visiting this reservation as the leaders of our nation considering Black America’s sordid past of being enslaved by Native Americans in the United States of America.
In these changing times it is great to see President Obama serve as a bridge linking our past, present and future. President Obama’s presence is the beginning of a long overdue conversation, a much-needed intervention of two marginalized groups that need a whole lot of healing, and a nation in need of reckoning.
It is always great to see good history being made–the kind that has the potential to heal old wounds. Way to go President Obama!
Check out the MSNBC article below written by Trymaine Lee as he further explains President Obama’s Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation trip.
Rise On, Ms. Maya Angelou!
”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou
Today, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.
Her family’s statement read:
“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.
From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.
I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.
Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.
Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.”
Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.
Rise on, Dr. Angelou!
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like tear drops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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!
Thysha’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 email@example.com
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