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AllEyesOnDC

Building a Black Nation, One Post at a Time

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January 2018

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

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