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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. ***

 

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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. 

 

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.

IMG_1371
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.

What to a Black Nationalist is the Fourth of July?

“Woe be unto a people, a race who seek not their own foundation; their wives shall be servants for the wives of other men, and their daughters shall be wives of poor men and vagabonds, and there shall be tears because of privation, then in the end; hell everlasting for there shall be no reward in the kingdom of heaven for [the] slothful nor the unconcerned.”

Chapter 5 of The Holy Piby (1929) by Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers

frederick douglass
Frederick Douglass

In his 1852 speech before a group of abolitionists, titled “What to a Slave is the 4th of July?” Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved Afrikan who dedicated his life to securing physical liberty for Black men and women, gave a stirring indictment of the United States, which by that time had exponentially grown as a sovereign nation since attaining independence, all by stealing land from Indigenous people and denying freedom to generations of enslaved Afrikans who built the U.S. economy while in shackles.

Using rhetorical jujitsu, Douglass repeatedly asked his audience how Black people, many of whom U.S. law designated as property of white men and women at the time, were to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence if their conditions hadn’t changed since 1776.

Centuries later, in the face of police brutality, non-indictments of murderous officers, contaminated water and food in majority-Black communities, lack of economic opportunity, and the reemergence of white supremacist sentiments, Black people across the United States face the same dilemma about where they fit in an America that’s vastly different, yet eerily similar to the nation Douglass worked to change.

Fortunately, Our ancestors gave Us the answer to this question many times before — via Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and repatriation, all of which have and still provide the means for Us to organize outside of a system that stole Our wealth and wiped out remnants of Our African identity. More importantly, these tools, should We properly use them, allow Us to unite with our sistren and brethren across the Diaspora, just as the United States government has done with the Zionists and its Western European counterparts.

There’s no better person to make this point with than Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers, a man driven by his divine mission to free and unite Black people. His work in the early 20th century would inspire and lay the foundation for Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and other Black leaders who have repeatedly called out America for its crimes against humanity and pleaded with Us to build our own table, instead of sitting at the U.S. government’s.

the holy piby
Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers published The Holy Piby in 1929. 

More than 70 years after Douglass’ famous speech, Rogers published The Holy Piby, the foundational text of the Rastafari Movement, a global effort among oppressed people of African descent to return — mentally, spiritually, and in many cases physically — to the African continent, the place Rogers often referred to as Ethiopia in his writings. Rogers’ musings in The Holy Piby contributed to a mindset among truly revolutionary Afrikans in the West that Black people would never be truly free if they adopted the values of their enslavers, including those that forbade their pursuit of self-determination.

As founder of Afro-Athlican Constructive Gaathly, a church-like gathering space that facilitated the emergence of an African identity in Newark, New Jersey and other parts of the West, Rogers documented the work of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association in the United States, calling Garvey a prophet. Later, Leonard P. Howell and early proponents of Rastafari in Jamaica, Garvey’s birthplace, would argue that Garvey’s prediction of the coming of a Black king in the East came to fruition through the coronation of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, who many Rastas consider a reincarnation of Yeshua, or Jesus Christ.

Garvey, the man We can thank for the red, black, and green of the Garvey Flag, inspired a legion of followers called Garveyites. Malcolm X’s father, killed by Klansmen in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 20th century, counted among the members of this group. Decades later, Malcolm preached unification and channeling of votes under the banner of Black Nationalism in his 1963 address “Ballot or the Bullet.” In his speech to Black people, Malcolm, who had adopted Pan-Africanism in his travels around the world, stressed that Black people overlook economic, religious, and other differences in the interest of consolidating political, social, and economic power among themselves.

malcolm
Malcolm X 

No, Malcolm didn’t tell Us to blindly join the Democratic, Republican, or even Green Party. Instead, he suggested that We as a community step outside of those entities, hold on to Our vote and cast it for the candidates who had proven themselves through policy, not speeches and cult of personality, as those who could successfully wheel and deal in the true interest of the Black Nation. Such a perspective paved the way for several Black-centered organizations of the 1970s and beyond that worked outside of the conventional American system.

These Black Nationalist organizations have proven no match for the Democratic plantation, which has taken Our vote for granted in the years since Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan rallied up disgruntled, white male Southerners around contemporary anti-Blackness. Those turn of events somehow convinced Black people that Our best bet was the Democratic Party, even as the friends, colleagues, and children of our fallen leaders were cooking up alternatives in which we had direct control of the agenda.

Some Black Democrats would argue that the lack of appeal in those alternatives lies in an inability to fulfill the needs of the Black populace. The author of this piece thinks that Our collective amnesia makes Us forget how the government orchestrated the murder of our Black leaders and practically scared Us into submission. We’ve also forgotten about the squalor, government-orchestrated violence, and corruption that Democrat-controlled governments have brought Black people.

Many of Us, particularly those who still believe we can liberate ourselves within America’s diabolical two-party political system, choose to ignore the hard truths about Our situation in the United States — even after the untold number of lynchings, literal and metaphorical, over millennia. Even with institutionalized protections, the most talented among Us still face professional and emotional hurdles when they work in these white corporate spaces. The weak minded among them choose their professional ambitions over the well-being of the collective. As Walter Rodney eloquently spelled out in Groundings with My Brothers, today’s rat race is one to immerse oneself into the fabric of this “multicultural” society at the cost of one’s dignity and identity as a son or daughter of Africa.

This ignorance has risen to egregious levels several decades after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, both pieces of legislation that, while they opened the door to greater political participation, failed to lift Black people out of a permanent underclass status.

Our People, enamored with the legend of Our ancestors’ struggle in Selma, Montgomery and other Civil Rights landmarks, are still holding on to the Democratic Party. Keep in mind that, in the so-called Age of Trump, Our Black elected officials, all Democratic Party figureheads in their own right, have spent more time trying to punish an unimpeachable president than advocating for their Black constituents.

This is part of a long tradition of Black politics where, in competing with others’ interests in a party that We don’t even control, we can’t push for legislation that directly affects us. The tomfoolery has gotten to the point where Black people are rallying around an ousted FBI director who once led the organization responsible Dr. King’s and Malcolm X’s death and that of so many other leaders. With all of the telltale signs in front of Us, We as Black people believe that we will prosper under the murderous banner of the American empire, a capitalistic entity that continues to exploit Our people while committing atrocities against non-white people all around the world, all with whom we share a lineage directly back to the Motherland.

The time for such foolishness stops today.

Brave Afrikan men and women have told us time and time again to strip Ourselves of the American identity that’s doused in individualism, ethnocentricity, misogyny, and ignorance. It’s time that we follow that advice or perish in this contemporary fight and form our own Nation, politically, socially, and economically.

Unfortunately, there are brothers and sisters who are on the front lines of this fight who are using their platform to push the agenda of outside actors. Such actions threaten to co-opt the work being done in the grassroots, upending the progress our People have made in the modern-day liberation fight. Food for thought, Deray McKesson: When your liberation work takes you out of the street of Ferguson and into a studio where you get to interview Katy Perry about her cultural appropriation, then just know that you’re doing the work of the powers that be.

For everyone else, may We take this July 4th to fully understand that, though we’re American by name, we’re not Americans by value and heritage. It’s time we acknowledge that and use that information to build a true movement for self-determination.

 

Looking Back: AllEyesOnDC Does It for the Watoto

The June 16th edition of the AllEyesOnDC Show, filmed live in Sankofa Video Books and Café, proved to be one of a kind, specifically because those featured that evening became the youngest AllEyesOnDC guests in all the grassroots media platform’s existence. This installment of AllEyesOnDC, themed “For the Watoto,” aired on Facebook Live on the International Day of the African Child, the African Union’s annual commemoration of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

The 1976 Soweto Uprising, for those who don’t know, popped off on the morning of June 16 that year when thousands of indigenous South African youth, fed up with the European-dominated education system’s marginalization of their native tongue, skipped school and led a series of street protests. South African police officers responded to these outcries with brutal violence, killing more than 700 young protesters and jailing many more. The 1976 Soweto Uprising, which inspired several other youth-led anti-apartheid campaigns, has since been depicted on the big screen and stage.

More than 50 years later, a new generation of Black youth in the D.C. metropolitan area has taken the mantle in the fight against global white supremacy and all that manifests from it. Four of these young people graced the AllEyesOnDC stage on June 16th, sharing their stories and showcasing how they use the arts to feed their minds and enlighten the masses.

These young people – youth motivational speaker and activist Elijah Coles-Brown and three young ladies from the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theatre Company – kept the audience laughing, awing, and thinking hard about the future holds for Black liberation. Elijah, the first guest, spoke about his activism and causes he’s furthering through his speaking tours throughout the country. Later, he returned as caricature of Frederick Douglass, decked out in a three-piece suit and gray hair, to recite one of the abolitionist’s 1865 speeches.

That evening, the three young ladies of the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theatre Company spoke about their roles in “The Sisters Who Fought with Their Pens,” an on-stage tribute to Phyllis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells, and other Black women who used the written word to advance the cause of Black liberation. The trio, scheduled to appear in a play about Kwame Ture and Colin Powell in July, also spoke about how the arts have raised their consciousness and prepared them for a world in which Black children aren’t protected. That evening, the young ladies also sang, recited lines from “The Sisters Who Fought with Their Pens” and even said the names of the 54 African countries, in alphabetical order.

This video captures the entirety of the June 16th AllEyesOnDC Show at Sankofa Video Books & Café. Check it out and mark your calendars for the July 21st edition where we’ll discuss African spiritual systems.

Man Cave at Emery Heights Set to Kick Off during Father’s Day Weekend

PHOTO: Craig Hughes, DPR recreation specialist at Emery Heights Recreation Center (light blue shirt in the center), poses with members of the Man Cave planning committee after one of their meetings./ Photo courtesy of Krystal Branton 

On the weekend of Father’s Day, a gathering space will affirm its reputation as a prominent community fixture by morphing into a “Man Cave,” created specifically for boys and men in the neighborhood seeking fun and genuine intergenerational connections.

For Maureen Brown, mother of six sons and longtime resident of Brightwood community in Northwest, the timing of the Man Cave event at Emery Heights Community Center couldn’t have been better. Brown, whose children have played team sports there, said the young men in her neighborhood, now more than ever, need a safe place where they can meet older, positive male figures.

“I feel like a lot of the guys in their 20s don’t frequent Emery. The Man Cave event could give them a good perspective of what it’s about,” Brown told AllEyesOnDC, adding that older men, too could build relationships with their sons this during the event this upcoming Saturday. “I hope things like this could get the fathers involved. A lot of dads are absent because of neglect, incarceration, or just being killed on the street. It’s much different now.” Brown said.

Two out of five young men in the Brightwood and Manor Park communities live without their father in the home, according to data collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore. While the lack of a male presence in the home has led to catastrophic outcomes in some cases, many young people have found mentors and father figures in the coaches at Emery who often impart life lessons on the field or court.

The Man Cave event builds upon the range of the offerings available to young visitors of Emery Heights, including a football and baseball program. When community members enter Emery Heights on Saturday morning, they will get to indulge in a variety of foods, courtesy of neighborhood restaurants, watch step shows and drill demonstrations, play in sports tournaments, and hear short remarks from male community leaders. WHUR 96.3’s Tony Richards will give a keynote address. The June 17th event will kick off a series of follow-up gatherings and workshops, each one focused on an aspect of the adolescent male experience.

“This is an opportunity for fathers and sons to come together and give the fathers a place in the family. I want whatever male figures in those young people lives to be recognized,” Craig Hughes, a recreation specialist at the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation of 30 years and a lead coordinator of Man Cave at Emery Heights, told AllEyesOnDC. Hughes, juggling responsibilities as a baseball coach, with other coaches, community leaders, and men of various ages, held weekly planning meetings since the beginning of the year.

“The sports program [at Emery] has been phenomenal but sports are only one piece,” Hughes added. “We’re talking about mentoring and tutoring our youth. What kind of impact are we collectively making in our young men’s lives? Let’s help them navigate through life and see what’s coming as they get older.”

In addition to the D.C. Department of Parks & Recreation, community partners include Nation of Islam Mosque #4, Metropolitan Police Department, D.C. Commission of Fathers, Men, and Boys, Ward 4 D.C. Council member Brandon Todd’s office, and ANC Commissioner Krystal Branton (Single Member District 4D05), the mind behind Man Cave. At the beginning of the year, Branton reached out to Emery Heights about housing the Man Cave program.

“Each year, we have Father’s Day, but it’s not as celebrated or popular. This would be a great time to have Man Cave. Men gather and have their spaces in the basement or shed. It’s relatable and men take pride in it,” Branton told AllEyesOnDC. Branton announced her plans for Man Cave during the ANC 4D’s last monthly meeting of 2016 amid spirited discussion about youth overlooked in the pockets of development taking place across Ward 4.

“Their space is to be open and honest like a barbershop. It’s symbolic and gives us a chance to gather those who don’t have anyone to spend Father’s Day with. It’s a way to start a great community tradition. We don’t have anything like this in Ward 4 that I know of and the reception from the community is enormous. Folks are willing to donate their time and resources and that’s greatly needed,” Branton added.

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