Good morning, and congratulations to the class of 2010. I know you’re wondering what inspiring words of wisdom I might impart on to a new generation of graduates. Well, frankly, I have none, which is probably why my commencement address is coming to you via this blog and not as you sporadically doze your way through your younger brother’s graduation. It’s true. I offer you no pithy quotations to upload to your Tumblr account, no nuggets of sagacious wisdom crafted by some young, anonymous speech writer who not long ago sat where you were, unsure of his employment possibilities until his girlfriend’s father hooked him up with this gig before he applies to law school. There is nothing Twitter worthy here. Still, narcissism compels me to keep typing.
Montgomery schools track graduates’ rate of college degrees
Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, May 18, 2010
Montgomery public schools, one of the few systems in the country that tracks its students all the way through college graduation, released a report Monday that details how many of its students went on to receive bachelor’s degrees — and how they got there. According to school system data, students who passed advanced math courses in middle school and high school and took at least one Advanced Placement test were much more likely to graduate from college.
“If you have students who are taking algebra in the eighth grade,” said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig, “they’re getting college degrees.”
But troubling gaps remain. Slightly more than a quarter of Montgomery’s African American graduates and a fifth of Hispanic graduates received bachelor’s degrees, compared with 58 percent of white students and 55 percent of Asian American students. Even for students who passed Algebra I in eighth grade, 77 percent of white students received bachelor’s degrees compared with two-thirds of African American students and 58 percent of Hispanic students. (Read the full article)
Combining the fearlessly experimental, quirky soul disposition of Erykah Badu, the Afro-futurist bent of Parliament/Funkadelic and OutKast, along with a complete mastery of an indefinable, genre-jumping form of pop music (ala Prince, Michael Jackson), Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid will at the very least impress the hell out of you.
Clocking it at about 70 minutes, and pulling from practically every and any genre you can imagine, what is initially stunning about Monae is how capably she bends and contorts her voice and persona into such varied musical settings, and yet crafts an album that is cohesive and meticulously organized. The ArchAndroid is a sprawling, jaw-droppingly fresh and relevant debut album from a young artist possessed with an intense reverence for her pop and soul forbearers, as well as the kind of raw talent, charisma and ambition that may see her reach those same heights one day.
It’s hard to call something an instant classic when it’s only been out for a week. But fuck it, I’m calling it now: Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid is an instant classic, and I am almost sure that it will be massively influential on the future of popular music.
Revolution begins with the self, in the self.
Toni Cade Bambara
Given the last six months world events—massive earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Nashville, killings in Palestine and Thailand, corrective rapes of lesbians in South Africa, Arizona legalized racial profiling law, oil spill that will forever effect the Gulf Coast, the lies about governmental accountability from Toyota to the Banking system, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan Tea Party embodied in Rand Paul—one wonders is there hope in the world. Is there ever a time when justice, fairness, and love reigns supreme?
I ask this because right now I feel overwhelmed by all the injustices in the world. My heart weeps. I desperately need to know that change can happen. Not the type of change that jingles in your pocket or the type of change President Obama promised, but I am talking about the type of change that Gandhi and other spiritual leaders speak of . . . a world of peace . . . a world of hope . . . a world that cherish differences . . . a world that does not colonize and enslave with market ideas . . . a world free of oppression. I like trees who need soil to grow need to know that the world can change and that there is hope . . . hope in this godforsaken world of ours.
Despite Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best intentions, her character Uncle Tom has become a pejorative term aimed at black American’s accused of selling out to white folks. In the novel, he was supposed to be a good man, a Christian man, but it was Christianity that led him to, even under questionable conditions (say slavery), continue to believe in the white man. I can kinda get with what Harriet was aiming for and would even argue that Uncle Tom’s consistency made him admirable even if his belief in the white man didn’t. You Clarence Thomas are the true Uncle Tom, a shifty Negro, a turncoat.
For all your racialized experiences, that is, things that happen to you because you are black, you continue to argue against wearing your color lenses. You are, in a sense, legally color-blind. You dissent like someone suffering from a rare case of Monochromacy, forget saturated colors like blue and green, you can’t even see black and white. No to affirmative action, yet you somehow got into Yale after going to Holy Cross. No to segregation. No to black women, yet we all know Anita Hill was telling the truth. You are a freak. You married that white woman to prove you are a noble man, despite your tendencies towards
NBC Nightly News | May 20, 2010
The Columbia Chronicle | May 2010
West side Chicago youth centers, such as Umoja Student Development hopes to keep kids off the streets and combat the violence within its own neighborhoods. In the wake of Chicago Public school student Derrion Albert’s fatal beating at Fenger High School in Chicago’s south side, the Obama administration called forth a press conference in October of 2009. There, they addressed youth violence as a national issue. The Chronicle brings you an exclusive feature documenting this recurring issue.
White Families Now $95K Richer Than African-American Families On Average, According To New Study
Ryan McCarthy, Huffington Post, May 18, 2010
In the last 23 years, the gap between the average net worth of African-American families and white families has more than quadrupled, according to a new study by researchers at Brandeis University.
In examining data from 1984 to 2007, Brandeis’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that the average white family now has accumulated $95,000 more in total wealth than the average African-American family. One quarter of African-American families, the report notes, currently have no financial assets to protect themselves from financial ruin.
The report’s authors argue that, through a mixture of policy mistakes and discrimination, most of the wealth during that period flowed into the hands of white families.
In a study published last year, the University of California, Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez found that income inequality in the U.S. had hit an all-time high in 2007. But the Brandeis study points to a “broken chain of achievement” among African-Americans that, even at relatively moderate levels of income, creates large disparities. (Read the full article)
“Malcolm X is too dangerous. He was too radical. We can’t celebrate that.” –Anonymous Friend on why we don’t celebrate Malcolm X in the same way that we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I cringe when I hear people say that Malcolm X is “too dangerous” or “too radical”. He was entirely too complex to be reduced to a single moment of his life. To have his legacy built on “Ballot or Bullet” or “By Any Means Necessary” is laughable. Like everyone else, Malcolm X’s ideas and world views are mutable. The environment and conditions that nurtured his never-ending development and growth were always shifting. And like any person who struggles to make sense of his surroundings, Malcolm X was constantly reacting to these changes. If we are to reduce him to a single idea, we do him a disservice. To condense his legacy to stringent Black Nationalism laced with a belief in self-defense, is to deny his place in history.
“Fuck the Police!!!”
I have lost count. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have heard the above phrase in my life. In my experience, people in the hood have a distaste for the police. I am not sure of the exact reason. In the house that I grew up in, people who were involved in illegal activity (people who were victims of a less than adequate education systems, social oppression, and little to no job opportunities) saw the police as abusers of power. It could also possibly just be the history of corruption and exploitation that gives this line of work a bad name in our country. When talking to a group of young students that I mentor, they described the police as the people who “treat them like animals, taming them, before protecting them.”
It seems that due to the history of various police departments around the country, current police officers need to start initiatives to reach out to the community and try to help bridge the divide that has split neighborhood-officer relationships. (A history that can find some of its roots in Chicago where the CPD attempted to cover up the murder of Fred Hampton).
I got the chance to have a conversation with the deputy police chief in my district today and she explained how she wants to start initiatives to make police more positively visible to the community and work on police officer’s everyday manners. This sounds like a good idea to me (a small step, but still a step in the right direction). The problem is you really don’t see any manifestations of positive efforts by police officers. Instead we see headlines like…
CNN | May 19, 2010
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien talk with Essence Magazine and a book author about kids’ views on race.
May 19, 2010
Mos Def, Lenny Kravitz, the Preservation Hall Band, Trombone Shorty, and Tim Robbins teamed up recently to record It Ain’t My Fault to benefit Gulf Aid, a nonprofit created in response to the oil spill off the Louisiana Coast. Check out the video above and if you’re interested in donating to the cause, please visit http://GulfAid.org
It’s Happening Again. What Aiyana Jones’ Death Tells Us
Juell Stewart, RaceWire, May 17, 2010
It’s an all-too-familiar occurrence: A young person of color gets killed by the police, the community rallies around the victim’s family, and everybody wonders what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Well, it’s happening again in Detroit, where police fatally shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in her sleep early Sunday morning.
Law enforcement officials raided the Jones’ home, blasting through the door with a “flash-bang” device designed to “create confusion.” They were in pursuit of a suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old boy; the suspect was found in the upstairs attack. Police say Jones’ grandmother was on the other side of the door as they entered the house, and when she tussled with an officer, a gun accidentally discharged. The family’s attorney says a video shows cops actually fired into the house after the flash-bang discharge. Accident or not, the results remain the same: another innocent victim dead at the hands of police, a community left to mourn and to wonder how to keep it from happening again. (Read the full article)
Last night I had the privilege of experiencing an event where the voices of people who are removed from our society in every way, physically and intellectually, were heard, listened to, and represented. “Until I Am Free: Voices of Youth Sentenced to Life without Parole” is a project, facilitated by Chicagoan poet, artist and youth organizer Kevin Coval. The purpose of the project is to distribute and share the stories and poetry of people who were convicted of crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as minors, some as young as 14. Jane Addams Hull House Museum hosted a poetry reading which showcased the work of these victims of our sometimes unforgiving youth justice system.
Michael Cooks is 35 years old and has been in prison since he was convicted of double homicide at age 14 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a poem that was read for Michael, he wrote about being told to have beliefs…He wrote:
“So my entire life I have believed in believing in something. The problem is I never figured out what that something should be.”
What happens when you take one of the illest mc’s of all-time and put him on a track with a “toasting” reggae sensation? You get distant relatives. I’m not referring to your typical long lost cousin kind of distant relative, I’m talking about the family member who you never met but instantly click with. Although Nasir Jones and Damian Marley’s respective lineages don’t intersect, their musical collaboration will make any listener think they were fraternal twins who complemented each other with each breath they took on the mic. Today these musical geniuses who combined forces a little over a year ago release their collaborative album entitled, Distant Relatives.
The thirteen track album takes the listener on a journey from the economically depressed areas in Zimbabwe, to Ghana, to the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. This socially and politically conscious album stems from what Damian Marley says is “ […] talking humanity. Our people. It’s stemming from Africa being the cradle of civilization.” Listening to the album was like listening to two gifted rhetoricians present a rhythmically laced lecture on the African diaspora. Nas’ gruff New York city drawl coupled with Marley’s Jamaican argot harmoniously tell stories of finding salvation in the promise land, youth uplift, and changing the world through leadership.
One song that particularly touched me on the album was “My Generation”. The song starts out with the high-pitched voices of a youth choir led by Joss Stone proclaiming “My generation will make a change/This generation will make a change”. Although Damian Marley and Lil’ Wayne both spit good verses on this track Nas’ verse really spoke to me. In fact, the first time I heard it I rewound it back to his verse about four times.