Such a Painful Black Girl Reunion: Oprah and Iyanla

As a middle school student, I remember reading Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and thinking who is this black woman to write such a book about spiritual recovery that did not mention Jesus Christ as the penultimate factor in spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, back then I was a burgeoning Christian fundamentalist who enjoyed reading big girl books that I was not suppose to read including Terri McMillan’s How Stellar Got Her Groove Back and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed. So, now to watch Iyanla on Oprah tell her story of decline made me think about what it means for Black women to tell each other the “cold” truth in a world that in some very real ways are bent on our mental, spiritual, and physical demise or at the bare minimal our collective demoralization.

New York Latest Target of Black Anti-Abortion Billboards

New York Latest Target of Black Anti-Abortion Billboards
Lynette Holloway, The Root | February 24, 2011

**Update: A controversial ad that raised the ire of Planned Parenthood and the mom of the child depicted in it will be taken down, according to a statement by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s office.

It’s safe to say that few things shock New Yorkers. But a new anti-abortion billboard erected in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood has created a firestorm of controversy. It depicts the image of a pensive 6-year-old girl in a red sleeveless summer dress beneath these ominous and portentous words: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb.”

The billboard — placed at the bustling intersection of Sixth Avenue and Watts Street by the nonprofit pro-life organizations Life Always and — is about half a mile from one of three Planned Parenthood locations. Those facilities jointly reported nearly 17,000 pregnancy terminations in 2010, according to Life Always.  A Planned Parenthood spokesman confirmed that number, adding that about 92 percent of terminations were conducted during the first trimester. Twenty-eight percent were medication-induced abortions performed within the first nine weeks.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates have lashed out against the startling advertisement. In a prepared statement, Planned Parenthood called the billboard “an offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women while attempting to discredit the work of Planned Parenthood.”  (Read more)


Waiting for union reform

There’s this unbelievable willingness to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are happening to kids every single day in our schools in the name of harmony amongst adults.

-Michelle Rhee, Waiting for Superman

I’m applying for work at Columbia University in the hopes of getting a free education. I’ve submitted quite a few applications but because many jobs are restricted to members of certain unions, I am unable to apply even though I’m qualified for the positions. I expressed annoyance to my mom and to my chagrin she labeled me a Republican, suggesting I go to Wisconsin and help out. She also stated that unions were the only things keeping people from working for slave wages and breadcrumbs. “Bullshit,” I mumbled and since I didn’t know much about unions, I only had one line of defense, “Waiting for Superman.”

Let me begin by saying, I’m not an expert on unions. I am not against unions. My annoyance was more panic, related to being unemployed than some grand statement on the state of unions in America. For the record, I think groups are great. However, I still think the teachers’ unions, in their stubbornness, as portrayed in Waiting for Superman are giving the Republicans just the fuel they need to wage this kind of war.

That Plan to Close Half of Detroit's Schools? It's Really Happening

That Plan to Close Half of Detroit’s Schools? It’s Really Happening
Liz Dwyer, Good Magazine | February 23, 2011

Eminem’s acclaimed Super Bowl advertisement for Chrysler told the world that despite what you’ve heard, Detroit is making a comeback. Tell that to the city’s children, because the State of Michigan has sounded the death knell for Detroit Public Schools. DPS’s Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), Robert Bobb, has received approval for his plan to shut down half of the city’s public schools over the next two years, raising remaining school class sizes to 60 students. The decision could be the tipping point that pushes Michigan into Wisconsin-style protesting.

Bobb’s solution addresses a $327 million budget deficit and will reduce the current 142 schools in the district down to 72 by the 2012-13 school year. The plan will likely drive more families out of the Detroit, setting up a domino effect of even more financial problems for the schools.

Steve Conn, a 25-year-veteran teacher at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, is heavily involved in plans to march through the state capital, Lansing, today at noon with teachers, parents, students, and other public education allies. The planned protest targets education budget cuts, the school closings, and a bill that will expand the number of EFM positions in the state.

If the bill passes, it “will allow the state to appoint an EFM over any school district, city or town that is in a financial deficit,” says Conn. EFM’s have the power to fire entire school boards, change pay and benefits and eliminate union contracts, all without any public debate. When financial times are tough, as they are now in many low-income communities, EFM’s can decide to sell off or close libraries, schools and other public buildings, and they’re only answerable to the governor. Conn says such a system position “replaces democracy with tyranny.”   (Read more)

Black Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Black Folks.

This past weekend was the NBA’s 60th annual All-Star weekend. In a CNN article, NBA reporter David Aldridge referred to the weekend as Black Thanksgiving. Forget all the profound reasons to dispute the claim and be honest. For the basketball crazed among us, NBA All-Star weekend is something like a holiday.

The Dark Continent: The Criminalization of the Poor

Abahlali baseMjondolo or the Shack Dwellers movement began almost six years ago in Durban, South Africa. Abahlali has become (according to their website) the “largest organization of the poor” in post-apartheid South Africa. The organization was solidified through their first protest. This protest was a “road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road settlement” to speak out against the sale of an area that was promised by local government to the shack dwellers for housing. Through Abahlali, which is the largest representation of the poor in South Africa, we can explore in more depth how the poor are treated in society. I will use S’bu Zikode’s article on The Third Force to detail the conditions and struggle that poor people experience in on a regular basis. With this article we can examine and determine exactly how the poor are criminalized.

‘Sex Crimes Against Black Girls’ Exhibit Uses Art to Confront Incest

‘Sex Crimes Against Black Girls’ Exhibit Uses Art to Confront Incest
Akiba Solomon, Colorlines | February 21, 2011

Last week, I checked out “Sex Crimes Against Black Girls,” a multimedia art exhibit that tackles many forms of sexual abuse black girls endure in the African Diaspora. The work, which will be at Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plazauntil April 2, was rich, provocative, and in some cases, quite pretty. But, because I’m a nosy writer, I was most intrigued by its curator, Shantrelle P. Lewis. For her day (and all-night) job, the New Orleans native directs programs and exhibitions at another organization, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. But the 32-year-old chose to use her free time and psychic energy to find works by black and Latina artists that address the knotty subject of intra-racial sexual violence. Lewis, an incest survivor, was kind enough to sit on the phone and explain why:

Tell me how “Sex Crimes Against Black Girls” came about.

It came about in several ways. In grad school, I read “The Permanent Obliquity of an In(pha)llibly Straight: In the Time of Daughters and the Fathers, an essay by [literary critic] Hortense Spillers that deals with the treatment of incest among African Americans in literature. I was struck by how she put it within a larger context of racism and socioeconomic oppression, not just as [individual] pathology of black men or because black men have so-called issues. That spoke to me as a black woman who uses art to educate people, and as someone who was molested.

Can you talk about what happened?

I was abused by three family members, between the ages of 7 and 9. It happened at relatives’ houses, when no one else was around. They took advantage of me, but I didn’t tell anyone until after Hurricane Katrina.

What made post-Katrina the right time to speak up?

Well, the flood brought so many community issues to the surface—poverty, police brutality, violence and high levels of intra-racial prejudice because of the color caste system. And for me, personally, Katrina brought my sexual abuse to the surface. I finally told my mother.  (Read more)