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Black Panther Legacy is Not For Sale

IMG_4652The Revolution will not be televised. The powerful words of Gil Scott-Heron are not just slogan worthy, but they personified Black Consciousness. In 2018, they still represent a timely reminder and warning that as a people We. Are. Not. For. Safe.

My best friend throughout my beloved HBCU days is the son of one of the revered, founding members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and in sacred tribute to his regal, ancestral inheritance – an entire culture must not be guilty of the callous disregard of media pimping our liberation struggle.

I am a daughter of the 70’s and reap the benefits of the quintessential, generational gift of being born #Woke. My own parents boasted of fond memories of grassroots BPP activism and all my Mama’s and Baba’s bemoaned the systemic, government infiltration driven, and Cointelpro designed demise of this most righteous and empowered Revolutionary Movement.

I too, revel in the beauty of our Blackness celebrated in film and masterfully filtered through our own unique lens. But I shudder to think that a Marvel fantasy could supplant the proud history of an entire Black Power Movement worthy of its own patented mark on history. So, as you purchase advance tickets, carefully plan your wardrobe (wear your garb to the premiere), and otherwise anticipate the momentous Black Panther film…also read, research and #EducateToLiberate.

The Revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised…the Revolution will be live.

 

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The Failure Of The Women’s March

I am no stranger to activism, protest and marching as the featured photos of my daughter, sister and I marching down Woodward Ave. in Detroit’s “Walk to Freedom” March in June, 2013 will attest.  This march was memorable because of the coveted opportunity to march arm-in-arm with Civil Rights legend C.T. Vivian and though my Mother, prominent activist and then-Detroit City Council elected Honorable Jo Ann Watson is not pictured, she helped the NAACP and UAW to organize this commemorative march and ensured the inclusivity of its purposeful agenda.  Yet admittedly, my presence, voice, agenda and that of countless of my sisters, mothers and daughters are significantly absent from the Women’s March on Washington.

In a nutshell, the agenda and demographics of the #WomensMarch2018 reflects the same electoral base of voters who overwhelmingly elected Donald Trump – White women.  Therein lies the inexcusable and essential failure of this exclusionary movement.  While the Women’s March on Washington courageously advocates on behalf of:  women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights – an outspoken commitment to issues at the heart of activism for Black people and Black women, in particular – are woefully absent.  I suppose this makes sense, since this was never our initiative to begin with…

During it’s November 2017 inception, this march was borne of the passionate plea of one woman, Theresa Shook, to do something to express her outrage at Trump having been elected.  “I didn’t have a plan or a thought about what would happen,” Shook told Reuters, “I just kept saying, I think we should march.”  As a result one year ago, nearly 500,000 women descended on Washington, D.C. and others organized in cities worldwide to “build bridges not walls.”  Except Black women were noticeably absent of this catchy, anti-Trump slogan and the subsequent movement to follow.  OUR issues:  the elimination of institutionalized racism, mass incarceration, widespread police brutality, classist/racist fueled mis-education, ever-increasing violence against Black women and men, in particular, and most importantly dismantling of the historic, systemic oppression of Black people continues to be an after-thought in this and so many popular, national movements (#MeToo and #TimesUp included).

In acknowledgement of the enormous void of empowered and diverse representation, there was a genuine attempt to appoint Blacks to key positions, most notably respected activist Tamika Mallory joined the organizing arm of the Women’s March early on and has lent credibility to the effort.  In addition, countless Black celebrities brought notoriety to the valiant efforts and enthusiastically endorse and participate in the LA march, thus offering the aesthetic veneer of diversity and inclusivity.  However, token representation does not elicit authentic inclusivity and with organizing partners such as historically racist Planned Parenthood, and messages/ images appealing to the White, feminist agenda this march (though well-intentioned), will always reflect the priorities of the original trio of White, women organizers.  Thus, the timely agenda and widespread endorsement/support of Black women will continually be absent.

This year’s march aimed at increasing voter registration and electing more women progressives to office is admirable and ensures a #Win for the Democratic party which largely benefits from this myopic, establishment-approved agenda.  For the vast majority of grassroots activists on behalf of justice and equality – the struggle continues.  For Black women the harsh truth is that White supremacy-based movements, feminism, patriarchy, external agendas, the status quo and the Democratic party have overwhelmingly failed us.  Our agenda is only advanced when we author, orchestrate, organize, center and fully execute our own movements in concert with our own very urgent, meaningful and unique agenda, as a people.

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MLK Day – When We Fight, We Win

images-17If each of us knew the ‘real cost’ of the federal observance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. holiday – perhaps we would collectively embrace the spirit of service and activism that justice truly requires.

MLK Day is significant not only for the larger-than-life martyr and Nobel Peace Prize winning freedom fighter we collectively salute and honor – but this hard-fought, annual third Monday of January observance is emblematic of a tradition of a struggle that proves that despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, righteous battles for freedom, justice and equality must always be fought and will ultimately win.

The timely request to honor Dr. King’s life came in 1968, just four days after Dr. King’s tragic assassination.  Still the MLK Day legislation, which was the brainchild of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and exhaustively introduced by former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), was not formally signed into law until 1986.  Even after the long-awaited and successful passage of the federal holiday, many southern states still refused to acknowledge and/or celebrate the national holiday until the year 2000 when all 50 states finally consented to lawfully observing MLK Day in unison.

Clearly, the history of struggle to even actualize a meaningful day of service in honor of a Civil Rights legend offers many teachable moments.  Namely, that even racist US President’s are bound to subscribe to the will of the people, when forced.  Notoriously racist President Reagan reluctantly signed the MLK Day bill into law, because the external pressure to do so overpowered his personal ideology and politics.  Frederick Douglass wisely prophesied that “power concedes nothing without a demand”.  Likewise, change is often reflective of years of unrelenting persistence and selfless struggle to support a valiant cause – against all odds.

Thus, the lesson compatible with the MLK Day observance is to always maintain the spirit of service, activism and the internal fortitude to struggle against racism…because when we fight, we win.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Solidarity Enough to Impact Change?

The overwhelming display of solidarity from Hollywood’s elite at the Golden Globes speaks volumes about the courageous willingness of women who refuse to adorn silence in response to the decades of sexual harassment and assault which has plagued the entertainment industry.

As affirming as the aesthetic show of collective strength and solidarity is to the psyche of generations of women who have survived the horrors of having been victimized by an all-too commonplace American culture of violence and subjugation of women…one wonders aloud:  are the social media fueled attestations of #MeToo and the uncompromising cries of #TimesUp enough to affect the necessary change in the trenches?

The schools, workplaces, grassroots communities and industries where women have too-long suffered the deleterious effects of sexual assault have certainly been made privy to the increasing popularity of these growing sentiments denoting that a ‘change is gonna come’, but in the real and final analysis, there is little hope that widespread change is even impacted by the temporal and popular nature of a trending ‘movement’ – without an equal impact upon education and behavior.

Alas, it is incumbent upon the women who have so eagerly embraced these courageous movements to ensure that our daughters, those destined to inherit the legacy of a society in which their mothers were viewed in the context of our objectified sexual forms and/or as victims lacking agency, are empowered to choose an alternative path of justice in opposition to the mantra of silent suffering, which was pre-destined for us.  As Oprah so eloquently referenced in her widely heralded Golden Globe acceptance speech, the long-suffering exemplar established by Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks who fought for justice, albeit in vain, must not be a vicious cycle repeated by young women who have yet to mature and/or encounter sexual assault as a norm.

Rather, it is much more fitting that these meaningful and trendy movements morph into a teaching tool to empower explicit instruction on a woman’s divinely ordained right to protect our temples and duly respond to sexual violence, with the same degree of self-defense that we address other forms of assault.  In this manner, #MeToo and #TimesUp advance much more than a powerful aesthetic image of feminine solidarity, but promote an authentically empowered paradigm of freedom, justice and equality to impact lasting change.

 

 

 

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How Long Will Our Schools Be Separate and Unequal?

cold-class-baltimoreOn January 2, 2018, news of the miserable, freezing, flooded and uninhabitable conditions of Baltimore City Schools was an all-too familiar scene for countless urban school districts.  The scene of brilliant, innocent children bundled up in coats, hats and gloves as they huddled with bowed heads in the classroom, mirrors similar, infuriating scenes often necessitated in Detroit’s dilapidated public schools and reflects an unacceptable reality of the continuing mis-education of Black students and increasingly separate and unequal public schools in America.

As recently as September, 2016 in Detroit, the world watched in horror as the state of Michigan was sued for its’ gross violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause and accused of having excluded urban students from a right to education/literacy amidst images of mold and vermin infested classrooms.  While in Baltimore, according to vehement, outraged social media posts from teachers and students, inclement weather conditions contributed to the pipes bursting and heating failure during the course of the recent holiday break.  The Baltimore district claims to have been prompted to survey schools for the presence of unheated buildings, and flooded classrooms.  Yet, despite their non-existent or cursory ‘review’ of safety conditions, schools still opened.  When buildings were discovered to be unfit, staff was forced to corral herds of students into the limited heated areas of cafeterias and libraries.

Wow, what a transparent way to welcome back educators and students than to remind them of how low on the totem pole of priorities, schools actually are to the American value system.  Happy New Year ‘you filthy animal’ is the sentiment that comes to mind.  Clearly no authentic teaching or learning can conceivably take place in such an environment.  Why then are educators and students forced to endure these conditions? What other institution or profession is so disregarded and undervalued as to allow this inhumanity?!

Given that states like Maryland and Michigan have proven themselves ill-equipped to ensure equal educational opportunities to ALL children, it is incumbent upon the federal courts to intervene, via the precedent set in Connecticut, to order an immediate overhaul to public education as a means to mandate the fulfillment of each state’s constitutional duty to provide an education to urban students, by respective state government officials.

Alas, America’s inferior educational offerings are age-old, particularly where Blacks are concerned, and are not merely limited to the institutionalized racism fueled realities of:

  • School funding inequities via flawed, wealth-based, property tax formulas
  • Low-quality and often uncaring highly credentialed instructors (who do not resemble the increasingly Black/Brown majority in our schools); and the woefully underpaid/under-appreciated yet supremely qualified and burned out ‘true educators’ (who represent the enrolled demographics and/or consciously commit to offering their vast talents in urban districts)
  • Increasingly common teacher shortages (due to the aforementioned realities), fueling overcrowded classrooms
  • Outdated or non-existent 21st Century technological innovations and even when offered, do not begin to measure the 1:1 ratio of wealthy, suburban districts
  • Not to mention the common urban, high-poverty school companions of:  sub-standard curricula which include an absence of advanced placement/art/music course offerings, outdated textbooks, non-existent laboratory materials, and dilapidated buildings (as deftly outlined in this article).

Please be collectively forewarned that educators, particularly those of us who have intentionally committed the entirety of our careers to urban school districts, are incensed and otherwise pointing an unforgiving finger of blame, that in the dawn of the year 2018…separate and unequal is STILL the norm in American schools.  Enough is enough – do not even begin to address other forms of the righteous, universal struggle for freedom and justice in society, if our children are continually forced to be relegated to second-class citizenship and our schools are merely bastions of ineptitude and neglect.