Oh no! The folks back home will never stop smacking their lips over this one. As African American Studies grows across the nation, its scholarly diversity does not fall behind. Could white professors be added to the “things keeping Black people down” list? Possibly, but the fall of Black academia shouldn’t be instantly expected. Many of you, with folded arms right now, have already made the fatal mistake of pitting experience as the only knowledge of struggle. Did you hear me? I said that a white teacher can understand why Langston Hughes has to say he knows rivers; or similarly, scream with Nina Simone in Mississippi.
Greetings Black people, if you have been celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time I hope that it has been a good experience. If not and you are still considering, there are three days left. I left you earlier in the week with some ways to observe the Nguzu Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. This blog entry will continue with the last of the principles. check blog name
Hope everyone’s Christmas was complete with family and happiness. If you thought that such a spirit lives for a few moments in December, you are indeed wrong and perhaps exhausted. There follows more family time and appreciation for any Black souls that share, also, a need for little historical significance in their life. Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a holiday coming out of the sixties for the celebration of African-American or Black identity. For whoever that does not know, Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas until New Years day. Forget all of the assumptions that the holiday is strictly for people born directly in Africa. Black skin indicates more than a good enough reason to celebrate. Our unique holiday dedicates itself to giving life to the principles that will restore the strong family bases we’ve seem to lost. So, in my encouragement of people to celebrate, I thought I would give people a few ideas as to how to observe Nguzu Saba, the Swahili translation of the Seven Principles.
Did you know one of the largest prison protests in US history took place last week? If you said no that’s not surprising considering it was not covered by corporate funded mainstream media. The word got out through conscious bloggers like Davey D, effective uses of social media like Twitter and Facebook and by the hard work and efforts of some a the few independent and unafraid media outlets we have left.
According to the Final Call Newspaper (the last standing black owned weekly international newspaper),
“Fed up with bad food, unjust treatment, poor education and inadequate health care, thousands of inmates in Georgia’s prison system staged “Lockdown for Liberty,” a peaceful protest on Dec. 9, according to activists”
You know. We always talk about education saying it as the answer to everything, yet we never talk about actual lessons. Talking about learning something, everyone knows about our culture: chicken induced diabetes, large rolling stone penises, the list goes on. The feeling “I’m f@cked up” extends to us as a whole when we too only know, nothing else; not thinking about solutions, just leaving our problems at the level of knowledge. We know we are spiraling downward, and nothing else needs to be said. But wait, we aren’t dead yet. I hear cats that say the conversation’s played out—I feel that—why don’t we bring up new points? Let’s consider exhibit A: undeniably racist encounters with police officers are regular routines among us with the dark skin. We know right? On the flipside, learning truly begins when we stop telling ourselves “there’s nothing we can do.”
The black hipster: a sneaker pimp wearing nothing other than Levi skinnies below the waist and a vintage Public Enemy snap back above the forehead, selects weapons of change from an arsenal of flannels and graphic tees. In the local boutique shelves, such as Leaders 1354 in Chicago, lie images of Huey P. Newton, Rosa Parks, Malcolm Little (Malcom X) and Martin Luther King Jr. on pieces on cotton. The people that rock these shirts continue to enunciate our message to the world, the world that only wants us to conform within the ideals of whiteness quietly. Although our struggle survives through style, it sounds like gibberish if it stays cotton-deep.
So Nas is pissed.
Earlier this week, a private email sent by Nas to executives at Def Jam, Nas’ current label home, leaked onto the internet. And it is a doozy. Nas slams the label suits for holding up the release of his highly anticipated Lost Tapes Vol. 2 collection, railing against a major label system that serves the interests of label execs at the expense of artists and fans.
The first full paragraph goes a little something like this:
“I won’t even tap dance around in an email, I will get right into it. People connect to the Artist @ the end of the day, they don’t connect with the executives. Honestly, nobody even cares what label puts out a great record, they care about who recorded it. Yet time and time again its the executives who always stand in the way of a creative artist’s dream and aspirations. You don’t help draw the truth from my deepest and most inner soul, you don’t even do a great job @ selling it. The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren’t…. not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn’t work out so you took a desk job. To the consumer, I COME FIRST. Stop trying to deprive them! I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn’t understand RAP. Pretty fucked up situation”
Damn. Straight ether.
Nas’ sentiments are passionate, honest, and dead-on. But this is not a new phenomenon. Not even close. You think an email is intense? How ‘bout changing your name to an unpronounceable symbol and purposefully sabotaging your own career?
Our country is facing some serious problems. From high unemployment and Wall Street thievery, to divisive squabbles over social issues like gay rights, immigration reform and abortion, it’s easy to see ourselves as a country at war with itself.
But if you ask me, the biggest problem we face as a nation is our downright pitiful dialogue about these very issues, largely a result of the terrible state of news media in this country.
We are not at war; but the media really wants us to be.
At a first glance from the average black female, I’m dateable, if the thought comes across her mind. However, if my fingers should ever cross the knuckles of a white hand, I am dead to her; I am no longer a “brotha.” In this case, you are witnessing a type of black on black hatred that originates from insecurity. Black women and men are dealing with a shortage of swagger in their own skin. The black profile loses it smoothness while sharing space with a white person because our minds operate on an “us” and “them” mode. “Oh, he’s with that white wench, the sistas must not be good for that Uncle Tom,” We’ve heard it all before, right? It’s wrong.
I don’t trust big business. I don’t trust any type of organization that would make profit a priority over people. I don’t trust Wal-mart. But…is a bad job better than no job? This is the question I posed to a group of students today when discussing whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to enter into the city of Chicago.
Every issue I learn about reminds me how important it is to see the world with a nuanced lens. While initially I would argue HELL NO, Wal-Mart only destroys communities and hinders small businesses; I now understand that it is more complicated than just another big business out to make a bottom line profit.
“Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race.”–Mary McLeod Bethune
“As more women enter public life, I see developing a more humane society. The growth and development of children no longer will depend solely upon the status of their parents . . . Though children cannot vote; their interests will be placed high on the political agenda for they are indeed the future.”–Dr. Dorothy Height
“Children don’t vote but adults who do must stand up and vote for them.”–Dr. Marian Wright Edelman
As the world mourns the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height, I am overwhelmed by the tributes that herald her life and whisper her legacy. She’s godmother . . . matriarch of justice . . . civil rights pioneer . . . unsung giant . . . and mentor. She’s president of the National Council of Negro Women . . . women’s rights activist . . . unmovable force . . . and mentor. She was unafraid to tell it like it is, “Yes, mam Dr. Height” and mentor. She was a mentor, a woman who like the mighty Mississippi poured herself into the lives of many including Dr. Marian Wright Edelman who’s work daily ensures that “No child is left behind.” Yes, there is something to be said about the power of mentoring and the making, hewing, shaping, and fashioning of lionesses. Yes, I said lioness women who with ferocity pursue justice and equality to make change evident in the lives of black women and children. As I think more about the work of Dr. Height and the countless number of women who were empowered by the National Council of Negro Women activities and programs, I realize a part of her legacy is the mentoring of lionesses.
This week I had the opportunity to speak at Spelman College’s 8th Annual Seven Women at the Cross. For those who are not familiar with Seven Women at the Cross Services it is a time when women preachers and speakers recount the last seven days of Christ living on Earth through the stories of the women he met on his way to the Cross. So, I thought I would share with you the speech I gave about the widow woman in Mark 12:41. Of course, it is a black feminist interpretation of the text.
“A poor widow came and put in two small cooper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciple and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 41)
The story of the widow woman in Mark 12:41 is fundamentally a story about women pursuing their purpose . . . their most burning desire . . . that which calls them back to their center . . . irrespective of what it may cost them. And because they are widows the cost is high. You see, it’s a miserable existence to be a widow woman in a patriarchal culture because you are not valuable. To make you valuable in Biblical times as a woman you had to fulfill your purpose of first being a good daughter then a good wife, and most importantly being a good mother meaning you spent most of your time catering to the wishes of your father, your husband, and your children. That was your purpose.
There is a “moral panic” that Keysha Whitaker highlights in “Latin Female Artist draws criticism for Times Square Mural” brewing on the streets of Times Square where Sofia Maldonado, a young Puerto Rican-Cuban woman, is under fire for creating a mural that for many embodies the sins of rap videos . . . big booty black women . . . exotic looking Latina women . . . crouch mesmerizing poses . . . and at the end of the day “un-respectable” images of black and brown women. One incensed passerby said the mural harkens back to a time when 42th Street was a “red light” district . . . a place where prostitution . . . drugs . . . and un-catholic like debauchery reign supreme. People are mad not ordinary mad, but “witch-hunt” mad. Men of color are mad not ordinary mad, but I need to protect “my woman” mad. But the question is: why? Why are they mad? Why are they Mad Men?
And all that I can think of to answer this question is that these images are not “respectable” images. They do not paint black and brown women are Supreme Court Judges—Sonia Sotomayor—or as First Ladies—Michelle Obama—or as multi-billionaires—Oprah—or as activist— Linda Chavez-Thompson—or as writers—Sandra Cisneros. Nope . . . as one mural viewer said, “They look like prostitutes.” And in response to this I say [silent drum roll], why not sex workers? Why not a mural honoring sex workers during Women’s Her-story Month? Of course, this is not to say that the mural showcase sex workers, but the way in which people are talking about the images of the mural gives substance to the claim that people see the images as such.
I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.
We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”
I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.
Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral
So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and “Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
So, how do you make a little black girl believe that all she has gone through does not determine her ability to take flight? How do you “teach” her that her wings are beautiful and that the risk of flying is a marvelous growth enriching endeavor? How do you make her see that her cadged song and flight will one day inspire others to freedom? How do you “teach” a black girl to fly?
You see, it’s not an easy endeavor because so many things seek to clip their wings, silence their voice, and keep them cadged. It takes a special kind of spiritual intervention to release little black birds. It is not a task for the faint of heart or for those who benevolently (i.e. good white women) “swoop” in to save de Negro children from the pathology of their colored communities. Hmmmm . . . it is a task well suited for wise black women like Baby Suggs in Beloved who said, “Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it . . . No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands . . . You got to love it,” and Minnie Ransom in The Salt Eaters who said, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well,” and my 8th grade colored school teacher, Mrs. LaVern Colvin, who said, “Now listen here, Fallon, if you do not know by now how much I love you . . . you will never know, dearie.”