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AllEyesOnDC

Building a Black Nation, One Post at a Time

Leading the Charge: Equipping our Black* Youth with Knowledge of Self

*** In February 2018, during the Curriculum Summit in Pennsylvania, Brother Sam will tout the benefits of a culturally strong education that affirms Blackness in Black children that lack knowledge of self. This hour-long presentation will look at the struggle for quality education in that context, making the case for the African-centered education model that spiritually feeds Our youth. More information to come about this event. For now, read Sam’s article about this perspective as originally posted online.*** 

Even with post-secondary gains made among Black people in the more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, Black children in the United States, particularly those in urban school systems, lag behind their counterparts when it comes to high school completion and, more importantly, the grasping of concepts that better allow them compete in a globalized society.

This means that upon high school graduation, Black students are of little, if any, use to employers and, more importantly, their resource-starved communities. Situations like this are common and often increase the likelihood of incarceration, unemployment or underemployment, and a permanent underclass status among members of this group. Without a generation of fully educated, socially and racially conscious young people, the global Black community, as a collective, will forever look to the nonprofit industrial complex and mainstream political parties with racist histories for panaceas — including monetary aid, food drives, and housing vouchers — cloaked as real solutions.

 The Awakening

Unbeknownst to a good number of young Black people, there are racially motivated historical, political and economic factors that have set the stage for what’s considered a virtually hopeless situation. The maintenance of this “New World” by former colonizers and slaveowners pushes those classified as “Black” to forget that their ancestors led fruitful,independent lives in their villages, reservations, cities and towns long before they were called slaves and treated as such.

Just as the proponents of African-centered cultural nationalism attempted to do in the 1970s, Black educators and parents must demand and create opportunities for Black children to learn their true history and affirm the African legacy stolen from their ancestors through Maafa, also known as the Middle Passage or African Holocaust.

Without a wholistic, race-conscious education, Black children will continue to imagine themselves as the former enslaved and colonized, rather than the self-determined beings who birthed civilization. That means they’ll go into the world unable to avoid the pitfalls of predatory lending, wage theft, gentrification, and police brutality. Without knowledge of self, Black children also won’t effectively organize in their communities just as other race-conscious, culturally centered groups have done and continue to do with tangible results.

 Helping Students Find Knowledge of Self through Literature

The salvation of Black children in American school systems requires an overhaul of curricula designed as a tool of forced integration into mainstream American society. Though they have American citizenship, the so-called African American hasn’t enjoyed the rights exclusively guaranteed to white male landowners in the U.S. Constitution. Under what some might consider a radical pedagogy, Black students, and other students in American schools for that matter, must be exposed to African-centered historical and contemporary texts that affirm their African heritage and alert them to the true nature of Black people’s relationship with the United States, and other duplicitous Western powers for that matter.

Literature, whether it be memoirs, speeches, or biographies, open a window of opportunity to explore the historical context of those works and redefine the authors as socially and culturally conscious freedom fighters, not victims begging their oppressor to affirm their humanity.

In Malcolm X’s Ballot or the Bullet speech, for example, the speaker’s call to Black people to move beyond religious and political divides to consolidate their vote during the 1964 presidential election can pave the way for discussions about voting rights, effective lobbying, and grassroots organizing. The same applies with Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman speech, a work with which Black male students explored intersectionality and came to grips with the ways they perpetuate misogyny toward their female counterparts.

More relevant to the overall point of this post, students, when using these types of texts, can still learn to correctly interpret main idea and how it develops, build their vocabulary, and analyze elements of storytelling and figurative language — all while closely reading and annotating texts, writing argumentative paragraphs, and speaking about the text in Socratic seminars. This method places cultural nationalism and the Black identity at the foundation of curriculum design and goes further in making the whole Black child, who by the completion of this program will proudly identify as an African — an homage of sorts to the birthplace of civilization and the land from which all human life originated. For that student, Black will no longer be a mark of shame but a sign of solidarity with oppressed around the world.

Implementing a redesign of this nature would require Black and non-Black educators to take a greater interest in global Black history and culture so that their knowledge of Black people goes beyond the trauma porn that’s chattel slavery and colonization. Additionally, educators, especially those who are white, must confront how white supremacy has always and currently permeates every facet of the education system. In doing so, they, and eventually their students, will understand and appreciate the regality of Africans — Mansa Musa of present-day Mali for example — before the arrival of the European.

Ultimately students, after being exposed to the truth about their history and the Western World and its history as it relates to Black people, will see themselves in a new light: no longer as the oppressed, but as agents of change and descendants of the world’s first human beings fighting to reclaim the glory stolen from their ancestors long ago. In the long term, it’ll affect their decisions, such as their choice in an undergraduate major, or which political party to join.

A State of Emergency in the Global Black Community

Some educators might question the need of the paradigm shift of this nature, arguing that students must be exposed to the “classics” that’ll equip them for college and conversations in educated circles. From this vantage point, it’s clear that those detractors don’t have an intimate understanding of the collective Black community’s current state, which arguably has remained stagnant for the most part despite political and social gains made in recent decades. Regardless of class, location, sexual orientation, and whatever else, Black people globally are in a state of emergency.

Though they live in more of a diverse society and are exposed to more opportunities than their elders, Black youth, as is the case with Black adults and Black society at large, haven’t embraced an identity outside that which has been created in the U.S. — a land built on the genocide and intergenerational exploitation of non-white people. Long after the end of slavery and Jim Crow, societal slights including gentrification, mass incarceration, colonialism, and neoliberal foreign policy in the form of proxy wars in third world countries continue to influence Black migration — local, nationally, and internationally — and dictate Black families’ choices in where they live, sleep and eat, often to the detriment of a Black child yearning for stability.

Black politicians, without a race consciousness and beholden to mainstream power brokers instead of their people, carry out most of the damage and help perpetuate the false narrative that we live in a post-racial society. WIthout a solid cultural identity, Black children — including those who come from abroad and fight for a chance to integrate into American society — embrace a definition of Blackness that American society manufactured millennia ago as a means to legitimize its harsh mistreatment of Black people. Just as many Black children fall on the sword of that definition, the youth who ascend educationally will work to escape Blackness, as defined by the U.S., by any means, even if it hurts their own.

A false Black identity, as currently parroted in popular culture and the paradigm through which we teach the disciplines in American schools, is rooted in criminality, sexual promiscuity, dysfunction, lack of industry, perpetual victimhood, economic immobility, and a persistent sense of “otherness” that not even the election of the nation’s first Black president could eliminate. It’s fallacious to think that Black children can thrive in a system that endorses this outdated and inherently racist definition of Blackness. It’s even more dangerous to think that educators can ignore its effects on the youth’s psyche.

Final Thoughts

Obliterating a mindset of oppression among Black youth through the model outlined in this post will not only prepare Black children for critical thinking that the real world requires, it will allow them to act independently and make decisions in the spirit of self-determination and unity that has often paved the way for economic and political success in other communities. One could argue that this outcome wouldn’t benefit the U.S., a capitalistic society in need of mindless laborers. The author of this post agrees, as the denial of African children of their heritage has become the means through which they’re controlled and packaged into whatever mold the American system needs them to fit.

However, this is the season for change as many have see on televisions and online newspapers. Now’s not the time to embrace a false narrative of the U.S.’ current situation. No, Americans, especially educators, must confront the truth and work so that children are fully aware and able to fight against injustice, even if doing so makes said educator uncomfortable.

May all teachers, administrators, and parents alike take these words into consideration as they weigh choices about how to mold their students’ educational experience in Babylon.

——-

*This post explores Blackness in an international context that allows the so-called African-American child to affirm their African identity and stand in solidarity with the international community, especially people of African descent of various phenotypes across the globe who suffer from societal ills engineered by white supremacy, including but not limited to: economic inequity, police brutality, corporate exploitation, and political marginalization.

 In this post-racial society, people of African descent, whether they’re classified as Black, Latino, or continental African, have varying degrees of leeway with which they can escape the societal scar of Blackness, including exploitation of other Black people. However, Blackness is inescapable. Once one recognizes this and embraces their Blackness with knowledge of self, they would be able to fight for their community using the tools at their disposal.

 Though it has developed throughout millennia, this school of thought came out of post-1960 liberation movements in the U.S. and around the world that furthered Pan-African philosophy touted by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and often freedom fighters.

 

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Looking Back: Team Familiar’s Nigerian Experience

PHOTO: Team Familiar’s founder and saxophonist D. Floyd made friends during Team Familiar’s trip to Nigeria at the end of last year./ Photo courtesy of Team Familiar via Facebook

As often happens to children of the Diaspora who visit the Motherland, Team Familiar quickly embraced the overwhelming Blackness of Nigeria during their visit to the West African nation at the end of last year.

Minutes after leaving Murtala International Airport that early December morning, an entourage member, jetlagged and on Facebook live, marveled at the hustle and bustle around him, expressing solidarity with the Nigerian people whose home he called his own.

Donnell Floyd, Team Familiar’s founder and saxophonist, would soon come to find out that Nigerians shared similar sentiments about their brethren in the west. “The first night we got there, [the king] talked to us like cousins sitting around the fireplace and spoke about uniting people and the part music played in that,” D. Floyd told AllEyesOnDC as he described the first day of Team Familiar’s stay with a royal family that lived in a palace three hours outside of Lagos, in the Ife region.

“The king addressed misconceptions about Nigerians being different from Black folks in America and explained it very simply: ‘your forefathers were captured and mine weren’t but we’re really the same.’ Just talking to him was the most amazing part,” added Floyd, 53.

Thus began an experience that exposed Nigerians to go-go music and helped Team Familiar explore the African roots of the musical genre they’ve dominated since after the turn of the century. As pioneers of the “Grown & Sexy” go-go subgenre, Team Familiar maintained a following among Generation Xers that shunned the contemporary, bounce beat sound. Team Familiar’s fans have followed band members, each of whom is a star in their own right, along their individual journeys in the industry reaching long before Team Familiar’s founding.

Despite changes in their line up in recent years and questions about go-go’s future amid rapid gentrification and a mass exodus of young talent to the trap rap industry, Team Familiar has managed to maintain a presence in D.C.’s go-go scene, appearing weekly and filling venues.

In addition to Floyd, bandmates currently include Milton “Go-Go Mickey” Freeman on the congas and Marquis “Quisy” Melvin on the vocals. Last December’s trip to Nigeria, organized in the aftermath of a chance encounter with the Ife region’s Prince Ayotunde Adebayo-Isadipe at a Baltimore show earlier that year, connected team Familiar with a demographic that may have never considered go-go as a viable musical choice.

“They took to the go-go sound pretty good,” Go-Go Mickey told AllEyesOnDC. “We played a lot of cover tunes with the go-go beat and the ladies were singing and dancing when they heard the words.” Mickey said.

During their four-day trip, most of which was spent in the Ife region, Team Familiar performed at at the Pan-Afrikan Back to the Roots Festival as the royal family’s special guests. Radio listeners also heard some go-go, courtesy of Team Familiar. For what felt like a few minutes, band members also met Femi Kuti, artist and son of Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti. Floyd said that meeting reaffirmed a need to “accentuate the drums” a bit more in the music.

The lessons didn’t stop.

While out and about in the Ife region, bandmates immersed themselves in the pandemonium of the local marketplaces and watch as even children as young as four and five ran errands. After vibing to the sounds of African drums, Go-Go Mickey joined two percussionists under some palm trees for an afternoon jam session that D. Floyd recorded on Facebook Live.

“They don’t have a worry in the world. The music takes a lot of the pain away and takes their mind off of things,” Mickey said as he described his memories of Nigeria. Though reeling from a South Africa trip with jazz musician Marc Curry and exhausted throughout the trip, elements of Nigerian life caught his attention. “Once [people] hear the main drum, they stop doing what they’re doing. Playing with them guys over there, was all fun. We were vibing off of each other,” Mickey noted.

At a time when African consciousness has emerged among Black people in the United States, tapping into the Diaspora seems like a natural pivot for go-go music, an artform birthed in “Chocolate City,” a place with a growing Black immigrant population. In March, Backyard Band, in a collaboration with The Adrinka Group, will perform in Ghana and film a documentary as part of what’s called BACK2Africa:Thru the Door of No Return.

Team Familiar’s also looking to the future. There has been talk of return trips later this year. Some future work may also reflect more of a West African influence and a have heavier percussion.

“If anything, it was reaffirmed that percussion is what makes it work,” D. Floyd said. “You don’t hide it for nothing. You blast it. In Africa, it’s explainable. You expect it and feel it. That’s what I like to go after more aggressively. Trip trip as taught me to push the percussion and accentuate it more.”

***See members of Team Familiar live at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Friday, Jan 19th as they discuss their Nigeria trip in more detail during The AllEyesOnDC Show: Exploring Go-Go’s African Roots. The show starts at 8pm. ***

 

Mama Hasinatu Tribute Promotes Kwanzaa Spirit

The spirit of Mama Hasinatu Camara was alive and well in Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on the night of Ujamma, the Kiswahili word for cooperative economics from which the fourth day of Kwanzaa gets its name. In the last years of her long and storied life, Mama Hasinatu practiced group economics when she patronized the gathering place of conscious minds, even hosting a tribute to her late comrade Kwame Ture there for two consecutive years.

Mama Hasinatu’s impact on D.C.’s African-centered community goes even further, as shown through the youth she taught at Bridges Academy, the now defunct Booker T. Washington High School, Nation House and other culturally driven educational institutions for children of African descent. Those who knew her considered her youthful disposition to be one of a kind. Even as old age crept up on her, Mama Hasinatu continued reasoning with the young people and imparting words of wisdom.

Thus were the words, and more, said about The Black Power Enforcer on the night of Friday, Dec. 29th at Sankofa, based on Georgia Avenue. The three-hour program, standing room only, attracted people of various ages, and ideologies and spiritual systems falling under the Black Power umbrella. Alma Negra Set, brainchild of Falani Spivey, a young person who grew up under Mama Hasinatu’s wing, hosted this function along with AllEyesOnDC, the monthly program on which Mama Hasinatu appeared and where she sometimes found herself along with D.C’s young people on the third Friday of the month.

Mama Hasinatu, a native Washingtonian, spent her early years on 8th and H Streets in Northeast. As a member and key organizer of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, Mama Hasinatu touted the benefits of scientific socialism as it relates to African liberation, while here in the United States and on her travels with Ture, the Pan-African organizer formerly known as Stokely Carmichael, in Guinea. In her role, she organized African Liberation Day celebrations throughout the 1970s and 1980s while speaking about Zionist imposition in international affairs at the expense of oppressed, melanated people. Mama Hasinatu’s activities as a then newly awaken African woman would set the stage for greater opportunities and other roles as The Black Power Enforcer until she transitioned in mid- December of last year.

For much of the night, guests poured libation, sang, played music, and reflected on the goodness of Mama Hasinatu’s time in this realm. Speakers included Mama Luci Murphy, Baba Senghor Jawara Baye, Baba Tarik Oduno, and Haile Gerima, co-owner of Sankofa Bookstore and director of the famed Sankofa film, in which Mama Hasinatu played a valuable role. Members of Mama Hasinatu’s family, sitting in the very front of the space, also counted among those in attendance that evening. Though they might of not been a part of her widespread “ideological family” as Mama Hasinatu always called her comrades, they too had valuable memories, adding photos to one of two collages erected on Sankofa’s stage. Kevin Orlando Miller, Mama Hasinatu’s eldest son and saxophonist for the Proverbs Reggae Band, entranced the audience with a short number.

The three-hour program, in its entirety, can be watched in these three videos, the longest of which is more than 1 hour, 40 minutes. Check it out and relish in Mama Hasinatu’s memory. Information about Mama Hasinatu’s homegoing services are below.

Mama Hasinatu’s Homegoing Memorial Service
Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018
10am to 5pm
Northeastern Presbyterian Church
2112 Varnum Street NE

In Nigeria, Team Familiar Will Celebrate Go-Go’s African Roots

Courtesy Photo of Team Familiar 

Even with decades of experience under his belt, D. Floyd, Team Familiar’s lead mic and saxophonist doesn’t shy away from change. Since the turn of the century, Team Familiar has carved out its own space in D.C.’s go-go scene, dominating the “Grown & Sexy” subgenre and staying relevant.

At this juncture in Team Familiar’s journey, the band is looking to West Africa, the ancestral home of Black Americans and epicenter of ancient percussion that inspired go-go and musical art forms preceding it. For band members, an upcoming musical tour in Nigeria will be the cultural exchange that can open the doors for a transformation.

“I’ve always looked for ways to stretch the go-go percussion rhythm,” D. Floyd told AllEyesOnDC. “My goal is to take in and learn as much as a 53-year-old man can learn about the culture we come from.”

This diasporic experience will happen during the Pan-Afrikan Back to the Roots Festival, a celebration of global African music and culture taking place in the D.C. metropolitan area and Nigeria between Dec. 5th and 10th.

In Nigeria, Team Familiar will play at a royal palace in the Ife region, located two hours from the capital city of Lagos, and perform three shows. Go-Go Mickey, Team Familiar’s widely revered congas player, will participate in an African drum circle and band members hope to meet Femi Kuti, the son of late musical pioneer and activist Fela Kuti.

The younger Kuti shares Floyd’s affinity for the saxophone.

“[Femi Kuti] finds a way of mixing the African drums in his jazz music. It’s kind of what we aim for in the world of go-go,” Floyd added. “Our drums provided the foundation of whatever we want to marry it with. We marry it with R&B. Whatever you want to put on top, go-go is the foundation.”

In addition to D. Floyd and Go-Go Mickey, Team Familiar includes Maquis “Quisy” Melvin on vocals and Sean Geason playing bass. Mickey, who shared Floyd’s outlook on go-go’s African origins, told AllEyesOnDC he’d have little trouble fitting in once he touches down in Nigeria.,even recounting an impromptu jam session he had with an African music group while setting up for a show in D.C.

“I got in right with them. It’s not hard at all, “I can feel and play any rhythm. African rhythms have that go-go feel and go-go beats came from Africa.” said Mickey who’s currently touring with Marc Cary in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Since go-go’s birth, parallels have existed between the genre’s rhythms and call-and-response style and what’s heard in African music, as well as other musical forms found throughout the African Diaspora. The 1992 Documentary “Straight Up Go-Go,” produced by Sowande Tichowanna, highlighted these similarities.

Team Familiar isn’t the only go-go band performing on the African continent, perhaps a testament to a resurgent sense of African pride and consciousness among Black American artists, particularly those in the go-go industry. Next February, Backyard Band will tour throughout Ghana, and host a concert at Cape Coast Castle, a one-time prominent slave trading port.

Plans for Team Familiar’s Nigeria Trip coalesced after Prince Ayotunde Adebayo-Isadipe heard the band play at a Baltimore lounge in July. By that time, he had already hosted the inaugural Pan-Afrikan Back to the Roots Festival. The festival, Prince Ayotunde said, will eventually expand to include a naming ceremony and African-centred marriage counseling.

Prince Ayotunde, a man of Yoruba ancestry who has lived in the U.S. since 2002, saw Team Familiar’s involvement as a means of expanding a mission centered on fostering a cultural identity among people of African descent in the West.

“My personal experiences [in the U.S.] and what I’ve learned about the transatlantic slave trade showed me that there’s a lot of missing information between us,” Prince Ayotunde said. “This program [the Pan-Afrikan Back to the Roots Festival] was created to bridge that gap and get the missing information out. This will help people have some sense of identity. Most African Americans don’t identify with us and that’s one of the side effects of what happened on the slave trade.”

For more information about this trip or Team Familiar, visit teamfamiliar.com. 

 

Looking Back: The AllEyesOnDC Show Reveals Indigenous America

As a native Washingtonian, I’m no stranger to the slew of anti-indigenous American rhetoric and images that floods our local media, the most prominent example being the Washington Redskins name, logo, and mascot, all given to the Washington-area football for which my peers and their families have cheered on for several years.

Not even a mass movement to abolish the Redskins name has significantly curbed use of that name in recent years. The notion that We stop saying that name has elicited scoffs from Black people, many of whom refuse to identify with their indigenous American counterparts in the struggle against white supremacy.

From what I reckon, this mindset among some so-called African Americans often comes out a frustration with an American government that seemingly prioritizes the issues of other “minorities” over that of Black people.

I have no reason to contend with that point and have argued that the American government, and other white-centered entities for that matter, often turns its back on overtly Black/African interest groups in favor of those that fit the model of ambiguity that maintains a racist, capitalistic system. This plot however may be part of a grander scheme by the powers that be to box Black Americans into stringent racial categories that deny them of their connection to the hodge-podge of indigenous tribes and nations.

 

In comes Ali Sanders,a descendant of Black indigenous Americans and proponent of indigenous living in which indigenous people operate outside of the American system, the matrix that replaced their people’s ancient way of living, to build a new life for them and their family.

How do they do that? Watch this AllEyesOnDC video and find out.

The nearly two hours of footage includes information about indigenous living and the African origins of the people currently known as Native Americans. After this video and proliferation of similar information, hopefully we as people of African descent can learn to respect each other and move beyond the European-created boundaries that have divided us for far too long.

Back-to-School Festival at the Thurgood Marshall Center Draws Large Crowd

*Photo courtesy of Stacey Palmer.* 

This week marked the beginning of Samuel Griffiths’ daughter’s first year in elementary school and he wanted her to look the part as she starts her academic journey.

On Saturday, the father-daughter pair left their home and walked around the corner to the Thurgood Marshall Center in historic Shaw where, upon walking in its main auditorium, a hair stylist braided the young lady’s hair, free of charge.

For the rest of the afternoon, Griffiths and his daughter enjoyed the sights and sounds of the center’s inaugural back-to-school festival that featured live karaoke, a twa kwon do demonstration, a book bag giveaway, and a portrait artist, and more.

“My daughter is an overachiever. She’s going to the first grade and has already had a lot of accomplishments since she was two or three,” Griffiths, a 10-year resident of the Shaw community, told AllEyesOnDC. “It’s always welcoming to have things like this event in the community. It shows a lot of concern for the kids. [The community partners] are helping them get started with school on the right foot,” he added.

Griffith counted among hundreds of parents, children, and community members, who attended the festival on Saturday, enjoyed a smorgasbord of activities and took advantage of community resources. In the auditorium, parents sat and talked among one another as children of various ages frolicked and danced to the latest trap-pop tunes emanating through jumbo speakers.

Hair stylists and barbers braided and shaped up children’s hair throughout the day. Down the hall, a resident chef gave a healthy eating demonstration. The Thurgood Marshall Center also coordinated on-site HIV testing. Pastor Eric Zimmerman of True Foundation Apolistic Ministries in Clinton, Maryland opened the program with a prayer. In her remarks, Dr. Elizabeth Primas, program manager for the NNPA/ESSA Media Campaign provided clarity around the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law taking effect this school year that will allow school districts more flexibility in their policies.

Outside, festival organizers morphed the parking lot into a kiddie wonderland, equipped with an icicle vendor, moon bounce, and fire truck. Vendors sold African fabrics and health products. Throughout much of the afternoon, Artist, musician and local favorite Reesa Renee walked through the premises, mic in hand, shouting out revelers and keeping the mood upbeat. Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau also paid a visit and parlayed with community members. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., MD, FACS of Howard University Cancer Center served as the festival’s presenting sponsor.

“The best part of the festival was the haircuts for kids,” Shavon Collier told AllEyesOnDC, referencing Darnell Palmer, a local barber who trimmed young men’s hair well into the evening. Collier, a Southeast resident, spent much of the afternoon watching her children play in the auditorium. “We have a lot of low-income families that can’t afford school supplies and other things for their children. This year, I want my children to do what they’re supposed to do academically and get to the level they’re supposed to,” added Collier, a mother of three.

John El-Badr, curator at the Thurgood Marshall Center who brought his daughter and grandchildren, chatted with community members and enjoyed an icicle under the shade. For the historian, the back-to-school festival, located just two blocks from the U Street corridor, conjured memories of what Washingtonians once called Black Broadway.

“Anything that’s positive for our youth, we need to do as many times as possible,” El-Badr told AllEyesOnDC. “Marcus Garvey came to this area. John Thompson came here to play ball. Langston Hughes was here. We have to fight for Shaw, Howard [University] and our institutions like Ben’s Chili Bowl, Industrial Bank, and others that are still here. It’s still Black Broadway, even with the new stakeholders. Events like this are important to show that Black people still live in the community,” El-Badr added.

This year, the Thurgood Marshall Center solely launched the back-to-school festival for the first time after hosting it on its premises for the two consecutive years with the Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL). After GWUL announced it would move the festival to its 14th Street headquarters earlier this year, Thomasina Yearwood, president/CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, as part of an effort to meet community demand for the annual gathering, decided to continue the project.

“The kids are prepared, looking good, and ready to learn. That’s the first step,” Stacey Palmer, lead coordinator of the festival, told AllEyesOnDC. “I know the burden school shopping places on your pocketbook. This is why we do it. The community needed it and they got to enjoy a wonderful festival. All the vendors had value and gave the parents what they wanted. I put love into it and I hope people felt the welcoming spirit in that room,” Palmer, also founder of Executive Virtual Assistance, added.

For more information about the Thurgood Marshall Center, visit tmcsh.org.

My Memories of the Noble Ancestor Dick Gregory (1932-2017)

*Courtesy photo of the late, great comedian and activist Baba Dick Gregory* 

Earlier tonight, AllEyesOnDC learned the unfortunate news of Baba Dick Gregory’s transition. Baba Gregory had been ill and hospitalized for some time; social media postings this week and a family statement calling for prayer foreshadowed the conclusion of an exemplary and impactful life.

A comedian, social critic, activist, author and diet adviser, Baba Gregory made a mark in the Black world from the start of his professional journey. He broke barriers in comedy and challenged America in its face so that it had no chance but to take him seriously. Later on, those efforts expanded into other realms, some of which I had a chance to see in my less than 30 years.

Baba Gregory weighed in on the issues of the day, and opened Our eyes to the U.S, empire’s dealings. Many of Us, because We had experienced the hardships of this system, agreed and embraced Gregory’s messages, and examined Our situation lightheartedly, even if for a second.

Years ago, as a graduate student, I met Baba Gregory at a store located next to Farragut North Metro Station in Downtown D.C. As a reporter for the Washington Informer, I interviewed Baba Gregory at a fundraiser he headlined at Wanda’s Salon in Shaw. Later interactions, though brief, took place in CVS not too far from the station, and in a WPFW studio right after wrapping up a session with a brother and mentor. Last year, I caught a glimpse of Baba Gregory leaving Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Georgia Avenue about a year ago, walking slowly with the swag of an elder statesman.

Those moments remain etched in my mind because, even with his worldwide fame and influence, Baba Gregory still walked among the people in the community. His progeny, artist Ayanna Gregory among them, did the same, gaining Our trust and respect.

At a time where Our rich and famous help maintain the status quo, Baba Gregory’s actions on and off the stage should serve as inspiration and a blueprint for what must be done when given a platform.

Rest on Baba Dick Gregory. Many thanks for your service and may those of Us still fighting the Babylon system walk in your footsteps.

The Youth Speak!

** watermarked photo of Congress Heights metro station** 

Though young people today are speaking out more about police brutality, community violence, and displacement of Black people in major cities, the ways of the world still corrupt those who don’t understand the historical context of these events and how they dictate the code of conduct in their social circles. That, along with lack of knowledge makes them fall prey to forces that can negatively alter their life.

This summer, two youth took on the call to learn more about their revolutionary Black/African heritage and represent the Black teenage perspective on AllEyesOnDC. Our AllEyesOnDC youth representatives Roneisha and Ma’kal learned about the writing process, followed the production of a community news program, toured historic DC. staples, and saw organizing in action.

One of those instances, highlighted in this piece, came out of an experience with the New Black Panther Party less than a week before their march for affordable housing in early July. Roneisha and Ma’kal, still learning about Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism, as we all are, soaked in the sights and sounds of that July evening.

Below are their reflections:

Yes, Black People are Special

By Roneisha B. 

AllEyesOnDC Contributing Writer

Earlier this summer during a gathering hosted by the New Black Panther Party, I learned about how special it is to be a Black person and that you can only move forward by yourself. Black people are special because we have so much history and there could be a lot of information we don’t know.

Roneisha Bennett
Roneisha B.

From the meeting I now know much about the important people who came before me who did what they needed to do so the people of this generation could be free and have equal rights. White supremacy has been trying to take over our country and we have to stop it. But we can only stop it if we are united as one whole. Nothing can be done if our people are beefing with each other instead of the opposition.

One person that stood out to me was Marcus Garvey. He was important because he was an activist and the leader of the Pan-Africanist movement. He did what he needed to do during his time so the people that come after him can take on the same actions as him. Things like this aren’t taught in schools and should be because this is the history that we need to be learning. This is the history of what our people did and how it would affect us then and now. If things like this aren’t taught then the younger generation is walking around with knowledge that isn’t important. The young aren’t aware of information like this because schools only teach you certain stuff instead of the more important history.

 More young people should attend meetings like this because it makes them aware of what’s happening in the world and how it can affect them and their lives. Because of white people trying to take over, opportunities for African Americans are lessening unless we fight for what we want. You have to be your own leader and take initiative. Nothing is going to be handed out so we have to go and get it if we want it instead of letting the opposition take the power away.

We need to follow in the footsteps of those important role models and fight like our elders did. They didn’t let anything get in their way; they fought through violence but still found a way to get what they needed. Instead of trying to do exactly what they did, we can do things in the same manner they did.They aren’t our greatest leaders but we are our greatest leader. In order to do this and achieve our goals, the youth need to be one instead of taking sides. That slows us down and isn’t helpful to one another. Lending a helping hand can move the pace faster.

This is an important affair in my life because I thought activists should do the same exact thing that our ancestors did but instead you should do things differently but the same way they did it to get more of an effective outcome in general. What I mean by that is making change that will have a positive outcome for sure. All in all the whole beginning of the meeting is important to the youth because it affects their future.

Speak Up and Speak Out

By Ma’kal F. 

AllEyesOnDC Contributing Writer

What I learned during the New Black Panther Party’s meeting in July about black liberation is that it only represents Blacks and their own belief that Black people are just as good as people of other racial backgrounds. The Black Panthers started a movement about Black pride. It was a movement boost ideologies that encourage Black people to celebrate Black culture and embrace their African heritage.

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Ma’kal F.

The New Black Panthers also spoke loudly with their words so that everybody could hear them. I think the Black Panthers represents speaking loudly. I speak softly because when I was a child, my mom always told me to be quiet. All those words made me the person I am today. It’s hard for me to speak loudly because when I speak in a low voice I think everybody can hear me. It’s quiet in my household so if I were to say something everyone there could hear me. It’s not right for a person to not be able to talk loudly in their own house.

That why I thank the New Black Panther Party for helping me. If it wasn’t for the New Black Panthers, I wouldn’t know how to speak up and use my mouth. If you don’t speak up, no one can hear you Black Panther party was a revolutionary Black nationalist and socialist organization. The panthers represent courage , valor and power.

 What I also learned about Black Panther is that’s every time members of the New Black Panther Party greet each other, they say Black power. Black power is a slogan and a name for various associated ideologies aimed at achieving self- determination for people of African descent. What I would tell younger kids from my learning experience is to speak up and use your words to make sure everyone can hear you. If they can’t hear you there, is no point in talking.

Yes, Learning about African Spirituality Made Me Accepting of Christianity Again (Kind Of)

The July 2017 edition of The AllEyesOnDC Show, centered on African spiritual systems and featuring Nana Kwabena Brown of the Temple of Nyame, attracted more than 40 people, the highest number of guests we’ve had at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe for an AllEyesOnDC event since the beginning of the year. It also altered my position on Our practice of Abrahamic religions in the West, just a little bit.

That Friday evening, Nana Kwabena charted the chronological development of African spiritual systems, including those practiced by the Akan and Yoruba people, through the migration of ancient Africans escaping Islamic persecution. He also showed me, as well as the audience, how Old World belief systems manifested into habits and traditions that have persisted through Maafa and other atrocities. In this powerful interview, Nana Kwabena outlined how ancient spiritual systems determined who held the power in local African communities. Oftentimes, it were the elders with a lifetime of experience who We respected.

CAPTION: Part I of Nana Kwabena Brown’s interview with AllEyesOnDC on Friday, July 21st at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe 

CAPTION: Part II of Nana Kwabena Brown’s interview with AllEyesOnDC on Friday, July 21st at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe 

I wrapped up my interview with Nana Kwabena more appreciative of my Christian upbringing in a Liberian church and understanding of how African spiritual systems, the practice of many that continues today, set the foundation for the Abrahamic religions, also developed by ancient African people. Like other groups, my Liberian ancestors found ways to mix their spiritual systems with Christianity as a survival tactic. Although they hold up the holy cross, my people, as have others around the diaspora, maintain some remnants of their culture.

However, there’s work to be done if we are to build a strong nation that doesn’t fall prey to the ways of the Western World.

The paradigm shift that continues to threaten Our normal, peaceful way of life came long before I appeared in this body, when Europeans replaced the elements of nature We revered with caricatures of their own. These days, as other races and cultures worship spiritual beings that reflect their ancient ways and mirror their image, We’re blindly following the traditions of a people who took our ways of life and manipulated it for their enjoyment. It’s time to let go of these systems and embrace Our spirituality. At the same time, failure to understand the nuances in Our spiritual differences, even those among Us who observe Abrahamic religions, threatens any opportunity for Us as African people to come together.

At this juncture in Our liberation struggle where we’re reclaiming Our identity, celebrity worship, sexual abuse, and disrespect of elders have reached an all-time high. Celebrity and vanity often trump experience and wisdom. Babylon’s infiltration of Our families have made it so that We leave Our children’s development to the streets, television and school system. However, it wasn’t always like that. Like the Rasta livity, Our African spiritual systems allowed Us to coexist peacefully with the world and maintain balance through all aspects of Our lives.

No, we’re not born in sin. We’re Godlike beings going through a lot of Hell in the Earthly realm, all in an effort to find Ourselves and become the reflection of God created in Our mother’s womb. As a young man raised up in the Pentecostal Church, a West African one at that, it baffles me that I developed this attitude that favors looking beyond Christianity for my salvation. But it was a long time coming.

Upon learning that, and coming to terms with the fact that other spiritual systems existed before Christianity, I grew ready to dump the religion altogether in 2014, although making that leap, publicly at least, would take another year or two. A series of vitriolic attacks against Christianity and Christian organizations, to the chagrin of those who’ve known me for some time, followed. Even after my 2015 trip to Ethiopia and acquisition of knowledge about Christianity’s African origins encouraged me to embrace the Rasta livity, I still spoke out against those who erected Christmas trees during the holidays or didn’t understand the Kemetic origins of Christ’s birth and resurrection.

More of my verbal attacks recently have focused on modern-day Christian institutions I felt didn’t do the Earthly work in the same vein as the man known as Yeshua for whom this religion received its name. In one Facebook post, I said that idol worship has caused Us to wait for a Messiah to do the work that the Universe mandated We do to keep Our ecosystem running efficiently.

After the July 21st AllEyesOnDC show, I still stand by those words, looking to the ancestors, elders, sisters, and brothers who have found a way to use Christianity to fight for liberation and self-determination in their corner of the world. Those freedom fighters, including Marcus Garvey, a man I often mention on this medium, understood that the men and women in the Bible lived on the African continent, not in a fictionalized Middle East fabricated by Europeans. He, and other freedom fighters, saw themselves in those Biblical figures and events, taking their freedom into their own hands and neutralizing the Roman Catholic Church’s global manipulation of nonwhite humans.

It’s my belief, at this moment at least, that Black Christian churches around the world should, and could take on a similar mantra for service and redemption of all human beings once they start to acknowledge Christianity’s African beginnings and the presence of Africans in the Holy Bible. Those of Us who left the church, but still love our church family, can be the agents of change in this regard, slowly but surely educating Our elders and peers about that connection.

Now, more than ever, I’m ready to separate European manipulation of ancient African spiritual systems from the Africans who unknowingly work within those systems and adopt dogma destructive to Our wholistic development. At time same time, I’m passionate more than ever to study the various spiritual systems practiced on the African continent. It’s my hope that taking on this mindset will make me more patient in engaging my People when discussing Abrahamic religions in the context of Our experiences in the West. For sure, it somewhat healed a part of me

So no, I’m still not a Christian.

At the same time, I’m not going to stop attending the church I frequented as a youngster, even if it’s once every two months. For the first time in a long time, I’m going to deviate from Malcolm X’s message a bit and not keep my spirituality in the closet. Why would I do that when respectfully speaking to Black people of other backgrounds outside of their place of worship could help Us see the lineage in Our spiritual systems and unite as One?

After all, that’s the the real work in ensuring We unite as a people.

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