Category Archives: African-American Experience

Black is Beautiful

Drug dealers, gang bangers, fatherless, welfare dependent, prisoners are some of the images that the media bombard us with. When faced with these images on a daily basis many of us begin to accept them and have lower life expectations of ourselves. In essence we are letting the stereotypes of others define who we are rather than defining ourselves. The positive images of African Americans is often that of athletes and hip hop stars implying that their are limited roads to success within the African-American community. Protest against social injustice by African Americans stars is spun as unpatriotic  and done by individuals who are fortunate that society has given them so much. Notice I said given not earned because for many the thought of the African American working hard and earning their position in society is a foreign concept. As Cater G. Woodson said to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.”

1984 brought us the Cosby Show centered on the lives of the fictional Huxtables obstetrician Cliff his lawyer wife Claire, and their children Sondra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy, and son Theo. The show was unique in that not only did it depict an upper middle class African American family, we had seen that before on shows such as the Jeffersons, but one that was led by not one but two professionals. They were portrayed as simply a family residing in Brooklyn, not a African American family simply a family. They were not the exception to the rule rather they were just another successful family.  The Huxtables showed us that African Americans can achieve, can be successful, can be a mother and a father who have children who attend college because isn’t that what all kids do when they graduate high school. They were the embodiment of what all American families white and black strive to be.

2008 brought us Barack Obama who against all odds became America’s first African American President. Something many of believed we would never live to see. He was a highly educated man of color and a dedicated husband and father.  While in office some media outlets looked to marginalize his accomplishments, question his citizenship and disintegrate his character but thanks to his magnetic personality and superior oratory skills President Obama was able to overcome media attempts to downplay or mischaracterize him. He represented himself with a class and dignity rarely seen by a politician and won respect and admiration not only from Americans but world wide. His wife Michelle  a strong, educated, beautiful woman of color, so much so that the thought of her running for President today does not seem out of the realm of possibility, was also at times a victim of certain media outlets attempt to paint the Obama’s in a poor light. But like her husband she too possessed a magnetic personality and superior oratory skills which easily allowed her to deflect any negativity aimed at her. The Obamas represented what is possible for all African Americans. No longer was it a fantasy to tell your child they could grow up to be President because it has been accomplished and with accomplished with dignity and class.

2018 brought us the hugely success Marvel movie Black Panther. Movie theaters were packed with people of color young and old, men and women, some who hadn’t been to a movies in years. They left the theater not only entertained by the movie itself but with a pride of their culture. Wakanda after all was undeniably African. Its citizens highly educated, its women depicted as strong and beautiful, its men strong and dedicated to family. Wakanda forever became a calling card of many because the imaged world of Wakanda represented a look at what African Americans could be. That we could fly above the clouds and achieve greatness.

One cannot quantify the impact the positive images of these fictional and non fictional African Americans have had on the African American community as a whole but it has no doubt allowed some of us to dream of possibilities to consider what we can accomplish regardless of the color of our skin.  This begs the question as to what is the responsibility of successful African Americans in giving back to their community. For many successful African Americans success is often measured by moving out of their community into a predominantly white community.  Leaving behind many of those they used to associate with in exchange for new friends who are predominantly white. Rejecting much of the culture they were raised in to better fit their new surroundings. They reject African American businesses citing their supposed inferiority to that of businesses run by others. It as Cater G Woodson said “Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere, 

It is ironic that Harlem one of the bastions of African America culture has in recent years seen a renaissance not as the result of successful African Americans returning but to an influx of white people. Unfortunately as this great community strengthens African Americans are pushed out

So is it truly the responsibility of the successful African American to as Lebron James said in his 2017 ESPY awards speech “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.” In this writers opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes. As each successful generation serves as positive role models and mentors, invests in the building of a strong and prosperous infrastructure that employs those in the community and affords the children of those adults the opportunity to attain a quality education the foundation is put in place where success is not seen as the exception but the norm. The perception of the African American image within ourselves changes from one that is not worthy and of limited possibilities to one who is exceptional and has unlimited opportunities before them. As Fredrick Douglas said The soul that is within me no man can degrade”

The building of this thought process will not come easy as Carole Mosley-Braun so pointedly put it  “Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face” and as Malcolm X once said “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.”  Simply put the African American can not wait for others to “save” us, to build up our communities, to employ our men and women, to educate our children and most importantly to pass down the history of our many accomplishments. The African American must act from within to achieve these goals. We must set the groundwork so that. each succeeding generation grows up with the belief as the 1970’s slogan said Black is Beautiful. That they shout from the mountain tops what James Brown once sang I’m black and I’m proud. That they define themselves and not let others define them.

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I love my country – The African American voice

I defended my country, the country I love, in WWII but when I came home I was denied service at the lunch counter.

I defended my country, the country I love, in the Vietnam war but when I came home they turned the fire hoses on me when I dared to vote.

I defended my country, the country I love, in the Iraq war but when I came home the police still stopped and frisked me for no reason.

I am a person of color and I joined the military and I am veteran today because I love my country.

Yes I love America but America has not treated me fairly. America has enslaved me, segregated me, denied me the right to vote, denied me equality in housing, wealth opportunities and education. It has jailed me at in-proportioned numbers. Slowly I have seen things change, gotten better. But these changes did not happen by themselves I had to stand up to the country I love and demand that it lives up to the promise that it was founded on – All men are created equal. I did not stand up to America because I hate it. I did not kneel in solidarity because I disrespect it. I did it because I love my country and make no mistake it is as my country as much as anyone’s because despite the obstacles I had to and continue to endure I continue to create breath taking masterpieces, inspire others in literature, art and music. Produce life saving breakthroughs in science and medicine. I continue to achieve great things each and every day and with each step I take forward I leave an indelible fingerprint on the very fabric of a country.

So no matter how hard some may try I will not be silenced I will continue to shine a light on social injustice. Continue to demand that America live up to her promise. After all dissent is the highest form of patriotism and I love my country.

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False patriots are in abundance these days

Today GQ magazine named Colin Kaepernick their citizen of the year and as expected conservatives were up in arms. FOX news contributor Todd Starnes wrote an article calling Kaepernick and those that have followed his lead cowards. Of course one could surmise that neither Starnes or any of his families or friends have been subject to the social injustice that Is the real reason for the protest. I doubt Starnes or any of his families or friends have had to worry when pulled over for a routine traffic stop. His article today showed a complete lack of understanding of what it really means to be a citizen or the very real problems that people of color in this country have to face everyday. His article is an example of what too many Americans would rather do, especially when it comes to race, which is to turn a blind eye to the real problems and instead focus on the false narrative pushed by the President and thus have a reason to hate those who would dare take a stance against social injustice. As Thomas Jefferson said:

It has been a source of great pain to me to have met with so many among our opponents who had not the liberality to distinguish between political & social opposition, who transferred at once to the person the hatred they bore to his political opinions.

Let’s dissect a few statements from Mr. Starnes article today.

Todd Starnes states – Mr. Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, was responsible for starting a national movement to protest the Star Spangled Banner by taking a knee along the sideline.

Wrong – Kaepernick was never protesting the Star Spangled Banner he was protesting police brutality. His exact words “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Todd Starnes states – They said they were protesting alleged racial inequality and police brutality, but it’s pretty clear to most of the country that Mr. Kaepernick and his minions were dishonoring the flag, the anthem and the military.

Wrong – It’s only clear to those who never have to worry about being victimized by social injustices, including veterans of colors who deal with the same issues as any other person of color despite their military service. It’s only clear to people who fallen for the false narrative being pushed by the President. For everyone else it clear that there is still a problem with race and a few members, not the many but the few, of law enforcement who abuse their power. Abuse that has led to the deaths of people of color. Until those few are dealt with they will continue to be a stain on the many good men and women in law enforcement and remain an imminent danger to all people of color.

Todd Starnes states – Apparently, GQ seems to think that disrespecting our military and spitting on our flag is a symbol of heroism and manliness. That’s not citizenship – that’s cowardice.

Wrong – I’ve already disputed the false narrative that the protests have anything to do with disrespecting our military and spitting on the flag. As for speaking out against social injustice at the risk of your own livelihood as Kaepernick has done is far from an act of cowardice. It is in fact the very essence of what a citizen is. As Thomas Jefferson wrote “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent,”

Sadly Todd Starnes appears to another of the many false patriots poisoning our country today. Contend to chant USA and wrap themselves up in the flag while turning a blind eye to the very values of America.

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Who’s the patriot

Listening to sports talk radio I heard it over and over again from callers. This anthem thing is disrespectful and I’m done with the NFL I haven’t watched a game all season.

I get it you’re offended by players kneeling you’re all about the veterans and this is spitting in their face – it’s not by the way – even though you probably wouldn’t give up a day off to volunteer at the VA and you wouldn’t sign off on a homeless shelter for veterans going up in your neighborhood.

I get it you’re all about the flag and this is disrespecting America – it’s not by the way – even though you don’t really care about what the flag is suppose to represent embedded right there in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I get it you’re all about the anthem we should all just stand and be proud of it no matter what type of social and racial injustice may exist in today’s world – by the way we shouldn’t – even though your probably more apt to make that beer run during the national anthem than during kickoff

Protest are suppose to make you feel uncomfortable. Name a time when an oppressed group asked for something and just got it. Those in power will always feel like equality takes away from them. They won’t willingly tune into something that reminds them of their privilege. This country was born out of dissent. As Hubert Humphrey once said “Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.” Let’s be honest with each other the vast majority of those who oppose the protests are people whose family and friends will never be impacted by the social and racial injustices that the anthem protest were meant to shine a light on. For many the players are only important to them as long as they are running or catching the ball for their entertainment otherwise they should just shut up and be thankful for the paycheck bestowed upon them. As if being paid, and in the process making billions of dollars for those that employ them, should mandate their silence. It shouldn’t, in fact risking millions of dollars to bring light to injustice is heroic. Ask yourself honestly how many of those who are angry at the anthem protest would risk their livelihood to right injustice? I would venture to guess not many. Again one of our founding fathers understood this concept as Samuel Adams said “If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace.”

The bottom line is that NFL players have a unique platform to bring attention to the inequalities that still exist in this country and nothing is more patriotic than asking that this country live up to the principles on which it was founded. If you can’t get behind that maybe you should question exactly what type of patriot you are.

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They Don’t Really Care About Us

January 21,2009 an Barack Obama an African American took the oath of President of the United States of America and many declared the end of racism. But after watching that man, despite his grace and dignity, attacked for eight years straight. After watching that man have to prove he was an American. After watching the man who led the charge to discredit his citizenship ride a way of hate and division to the White House in 2016 and his appointment of Jeff Sessions who immediately took up the task of rolling back gains made in the battle for racial equality. After seeing case after case of police brutality go unpunished. After seeing people march through Charlottesville chanting racial epithets it’s clear racism was never over. It was simply simmering underground waiting for the right person and the right time to show itself again. Don’t misunderstand as a country we have made strides and we are clearly in a better place now but we still have a long road ahead of us and there can be no doubt that there is a segment of the population, many who wield power, that really don’t care about us.

I am the victim of police brutality, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of hate
You’re rapin’ me of my pride
Oh, for God’s sake
I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy…
Set me free

Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Cleveland, Ohio, police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, were not charged.
Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold before his death in 2014, was not charged.

Some things in life they just don’t wanna see
But if Martin Luther was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be

Sept. 22, 2017 Trump called on all NFL owners to “fire” all protesting players . The president also referred to the protesting players as “sons of bitches.”

October 31, 2017 Papa John’s CEO and founder slammed the NFL, blaming the league’s “poor leadership” on the pizza chain’s sales slump. “We are totally disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation

Beat me, hate me
You can never break me

1967 – World champion boxer Muhammad Ali used his worldwide star power to take a stand against the Vietnam War by refusing to enlist in the military.

1968 – After winning gold in the 200-meter sprint at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith raised his fist in the air alongside his teammate and bronze medalist, John Carlos. As Smith explained to ABC Sports announcer Howard Cosell, “My raised right hand stood for the power in black America. Carlos’ raised left hand stood for the unity of black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power.”

2014 – NBA teams broke dress code rules to protest police brutality, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm-ups. The shirts referenced the last words of Eric Garner before he died at the hands of a police officer in Staten Island.

Beat me, bash me
You can never trash me
Hit me, kick me
You can never get me

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 3 1963- Fire hoses and police dogs were used here today to disperse Negro students protesting racial segregation.

Selma, Ala., March 7 1965 – Alabama state troopers and volunteer officers of the Dallas County sheriff’s office tore through a column of Negro demonstrators with tear gas, nightsticks and whips here today to enforce Gov. George C. Wallace’s order against a protest march from Selma to Montgomery. At least 17 Negroes were hospitalized with injuries and about 40 more were given emergency treatment for minor injuries and tear gas effects.

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame

When these are the institutions that govern us, when black life is disposable, when black bodies are guilty before and after being proven innocent, when there is no recourse for injustice or even a belief that injustice has been done, when these institutions actively work to push inequality, we are dealing with something much more dangerous than a personal beef with blackness. – Mychal Denzel Smith the New York Times-bestselling author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

The 2016 election was also marked by low turnout, with tens of millions of eligible voters choosing not to participate at all. Yet there has been relatively little discussion about the millions of people who were eligible to vote but could not do so because they faced an array of newly-enacted barriers to the ballot box.  Their systematic disenfranchisement was intentional and politically motivated. In the years leading up to 2016, Republican governors and state legislatures implemented new laws restricting when, where, and how people could vote — laws that disproportionately harmed students, the poor, and people of color. In several instances, lawmakers pushing such policies said explicitly that their goal was suppression of voters who favor the Democratic Party.

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

While most of the examples in this post were of African Americans all people of color suffer from the effects of racism and discrimination   While those in the LGBT community also deal with discrimination every day.  It’s November, election season, if you’re not registered go out and get registered.  Protest and calls for equality are nice but only when our voices are heard at the voting booths can we really make a difference to those who really don’t care about us

Lyrics in italics from Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us

Are we afraid or are we fearless

Are we afraid or are we fearless

Are we afraid to admit that we’re Americans and with that comes not only all the good this country brings but the sins of our past, the blood of a uncounted indigenous people, the subjugation of the African American, the continued social injustice faced by people of color to this day.

Are we afraid to confront those sins so we can begin a dialogue in which different cultures, religions and races listen to and work together to make things better tomorrow then they are today.

Are we afraid to make our voices heard through non violent resistance/protest because it would make people who have a differing belief uncomfortable and lash out with at us moral outrage when their value is transgressed even slightly.

Or are we fearless enough to say enough. Fearless enough to say today we confront our past sins. Today we accept that yes there are social injustices in society. Today we reject those who even tough it’s blatantly obvious that if it is wrong would have us accept the status quo. Today we begin to respect each other regardless of race, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation or other differences. Today we begin the process of working to make our country live up to its unlimited promise. Today we begin to heal.

I choose to be fearless what about you

 

 

Changing the narrative yet again

The narrative has been lost. It was never about the flag or patriotism it was about social injustice and police brutality. But the fact is that topic makes people uncomfortable and no one likes to be uncomfortable, they rather close their eyes or change the narrative then confront the ugly truth and look for ways to improve it. But since our current President has decided to change the narrative, because social injustice is an issue he appears to be squarely on the wrong side of the debate on, and make this about patriotism I thought I remind him of the words of James Baldwin. If he can somehow grasp the meaning of Baldwin’s words then maybe he will understand what it really means to be a patriot.

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