A montage of Young Thug and an airport employee he harassed./ Courtesy photo
My first holiday season as a full-time high school teacher has served as a firsthand lesson about the teenage consumerist, and I’m not pleased.
On the week that quarterly progress reports went home, a few of my students, many of whom haven’t put in much work for several weeks, lobbied for some extra credit and other tricks that would boost their dismal grades. They did this not out of a commitment to academic excellence, but fear of losing them oh-so precious Christmas gifts.
Though slightly disappointed, I wasn’t surprised to hear that truth. Since I started teaching full-time, I’ve seen up close the conditions that stunt our children’s character development and spiritual growth. Doing my job has been an exercise in getting teenagers to see the Kings and Queens in themselves and value the process of learning. Teaching English and Language Arts becomes the perfect conduit to fulfill that mission and get a sense of what motivates the young people. As the days and months went by, the more I realized money was the change agent they valued.
During our studies about grammar and literary devices, we discuss local and national politics, sociology, economics and more via news articles and readings I would assign the class. My students have also reflected on their short lives during in-class writing exercises. Through reading their responses to thought-provoking prompts, I’ve come to understand their desire for wealth and comfort, particularly because they wrote, with a lot of spelling and grammar errors, about the circumstances that brought forth their unstable lives.
Though I don’t doubt that money will change their lives for the better, I in good conscious cannot let them rely on the dollar bill alone. As a college-educated professional, I have a certain amount of privilege that some would say disqualifies me from prescribing a solution to my people’s salvation that doesn’t involve money. However, my experiences around well-to-do people and my knowledge of what folks of that ilk have done from their ivory towers has radicalized me in a sense and made me more cognizant of the sickness that Carter G. Woodson vividly described in Miseducation of the Negro.
Long before formally entering the education profession, I’ve witnessed the morally corrupt nature of many “accomplished,” degree-holding people. Instead of chasing knowledge and inner understanding, those who would become members of the Black elite covet tables at clubs, the latest clothes and shoes, and the status of your favorite trap rapper. Among the Black men, no matter the income level, words like “bitch” and “hoe” always ring out. In general, Black men and Black women lashed out at one another. Yes, I grew personally and professionally in school and in the professional world, but that system didn’t allow enough, if any space for independent, African-centered thought that could cleanse my soul. That’s why at times, on-campus activism, while meant to be a chance to help others, felt more like a popularity contest and notch on the resume rather than a fight to improve life on campus for Black people.
My real education took place a couple years after completing undergrad when I built on my studies of Malcolm X’s fight for oppressed people globally. By learning about my people and their struggles, triumph, and pre-Maafan history, I grew more in love with myself and hungrier to learn more about which was hidden from me. My lessons spanned many disciplines, compelling the maturation of my musical tastes, changes in how I address women, and an evolution in political thought more in line with independent thinkers, not those caught up in the two –party system.
By now, some of the folks – white, Black, Latino, and beyond – with whom I went to school are well on their way to becoming mavens of their industries. However, if everything goes per the real ruling elites’ plan, many will perpetuate the misinformation and exploitation of oppressed people in their subservient roles. Instead of using their power to affect change, they mock those without for suffering in a system that clearly doesn’t favor them.
This sentiment strikes home, for Black people are the primary culprits in this travesty, thanks in part to our conditioning by standards imposed by white people over the centuries. That’s what people like Keith Ellison, who like President Barack Obama had to denounce a Black leader/group for political points, must think about as they compete for roles within the American oligarchy.
That’s also why my students extol the wealthy athletes and entertainers more than the social justice advocates, inventors, business magnates, and the like, even as they fail to live up to the legacy of Ossie Davis, Jr., Ruby Dee, Nina Simone, and others. One of these entertainers by the name of Young Thug recently flaunted his “wealth” at an airport and disrespected two employees.
To carry our fight for liberation forward, young people must yearn to make the world a better place and combat all forms of evil. That cannot be done in environments where material wealth is the goal. I’m not saying that to criticize parents aiming to curb negative behavior by withholding gifts, but to challenge us as a People to push our youth to strive for their best so that it benefits the global ecosystem, not just their ego.
That’s hard to do when college is marketed more like a check on the Successful Adult To-Do List more than an opportunity to grow internally. This makes it more important that we encourage education beyond the confines of academia. Without a thirst for knowledge, how else will the youth be able to critically think long after their formal education ends?
They won’t. Their lives will become a cycle of work, sleep, and happy hours. Right now, that’s how many of the hamsters live on the wheel. If it’s not the degree, the money or fame, it’s holiday gifts that keep us going. You could say that the material possessions have become our carrot stick, to our detriment.
Let it be known that this generation, criticized and looked over by many elders in our community, will be the ones to take this global movement for African liberation to new heights. That’s why the powers that be, through its political, business, and media arms, keep our African and indigenous American children away from their true history. Our adherence to the codes of consumerism that make our children slaves to the corporation seals the deal.
Given the nature of the rat race that’s capitalism, one would argue that we don’t have enough time to care, but it’s imperative that we make time. Our children deserve that much. By no means does that mean keep the gifts away from your young ones this year. However, you should be having a conversation about the need to learn and improve as a human being, something my father used to call “eating book.” Let’s encourage this dialogue and push our young people to create their own happiness, not that which is manufactured by the one percent.
Regardless of who’s (s)elected to assume the American presidency on Nov. 8th, Black people in the United States are still a people without much to call their own. That’s why as a group, our status in this country will never be ours to determine, no matter the number of votes we give a particular candidate.
Throughout much of the Election season, I, along with others, have been vilified by Black liberals and conservatives alike for not falling in line with the rest of the sheepish electorate in choosing Secy. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Those who rallied behind the powerful lawmaker and veteran stateswoman in recent months say they see her as the only thing standing between world stability and the confusion of a Donald Trump presidency.
Trump, business magnate turned reality television star turned demagogue, has caused a ruckus since hijacking the Republican nomination process and rising to the top of the national ticket via his deep pockets and vitriolic hate speech that commanded the attention of the American media. So much so that much of the Democratic establishment and its wealthy compatriots want those of us to rally behind Clinton, who to this day hasn’t atoned for her part in the U.S.-inflicted humanitarian crises worldwide nor offered any concrete policy solutions to the issues affecting Black people i.e. police brutality, food inequality, lack of economic opportunity, and the like.
Even worse, the Black people who criticize our motives in looking beyond the Democratic/Republican dichotomy assume that we don’t have any long haul game; as if many of us didn’t come to this conclusion after living through a Bush 43 and Obama presidency chocked full of disappointments.
This post, while not necessarily for the naysayers, lays out a course of action that I believe must be taken at the grassroots level if Black people are to eventually build the political, economic, and social autonomy that will prevent us from getting repeatedly used by the Democratic Party like a side piece in the middle of the night.
Economic Withdrawal – In the aftermath of the Alton Sterling murder this summer, legions of Black people opened accounts in Black-owned banks, sparking a movement, even if the hype didn’t last long. With the Holiday Season coming up, we as a Nation have more than enough opportunity to withdraw our dollars from the very corporations and entities that support our demise.It’s time that we carry out a long-term boycott of these businesses and give those dollars to Black-owned vendors and business owners, more than likely a group of people whose success will equally benefit us. While it’s uncertain that you’ll find Black-owned businesses that fulfill your every need, now’s the time to check your local and statewide inventory of Black-owned goods so you, if not someone else in your community, can fill in those gaps immediately.
Purchase of Land & Acquisition of Resources – As many of my brothers and sisters in the D.C. metro area very well know, land is king around these parts. Gentrification has pushed many of our brothers and sisters out into the quiet suburbs of the region while the well-to-do and their partners take over what we once owned. As property values rise, those of us who still live in the city struggle to keep a roof over our heads.That’s why land ownership stands as one of the most important, if not the most important, of these tasks. There’s not much we can do in our community if we don’t even live there. A house can become a home, community center, business, and much more if the owners have an imagination and a few dollars. It’s time for us to be ingenious and adopt a mode of thinking that will allow us to produce more than we consume.
For more than a decade, predators have encroached on our land, taking advantage of our lack of knowledge by giving us pennies for property that costs hundreds of thousands. That must stop today. As must be done with everything else, take an inventory of the property you and your family own in the District, if any. If possible, take on the communal principles that made our ancient African civilizations family friendly and shack up with relatives so you can pay off that property quicker. If you’re searching for property to purchase, don’t shy away from what many may consider some of the city’s less-than-desirable areas. Trust and believe that there are corporate, parasitic elements out here on the same hunt.
For those thinking about purchasing a home for the first time, the D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Program is a great start, even if you don’t find all the answers there. Let’s do all that we can to keep our home.
Formation of Our Own Political Party – Both political parties, especially the Democratic Party, have become beholden to corporate interests, so much so that the party leaders stomp out any inkling of radical change, all to the detriment of the oh-so-loyal Black electorate.
Long before the 2016 Election, Democrats haven’t done much work in our best interests. Many of the Chocolate Cities, most of which are ran by Democrats, have succumbed to gentrification. A Justice Department led by a Democratic president failed to bring killer cops to justice. We also can’t forget what happened to youngsters in Baltimore and other major cities in the aftermath of police-orchestrated killings of civilians, all under the watchful eye of Democratic politicians worried about reelection prospects. This has been the case for Democrats since the passage of Voting Rights legislation. Although our political leaders have a title, they’re still told when to sit and when to move by a power greater than themselves.
A Black-centered political party, while not likely to bring in a presidential nominee to the White House, could be so effective locally. After all, local politics is what we should be interested in controlling, for it’s the machine that directly controls many aspects of our life. This political operation could go well beyond what the Democratic Party has tried to do by uniting Black people around issues that specifically affect us and holding politicians accountable to fixing those problems. Remember, Black people have a different experience in this country that the Democrats and Republicans, mostly because of their slaveholding history, cannot address honestly and holistically. Think about it like this: why is the bill for reparations, introduced by a Black Democrat, still in the introductory stages after more than 25 years?
With our autonomous political power, funded largely by our voters and business magnates, we can make deals and hold our own independently as other constituencies have done in this country. While staying until the fall of Babylon may not be in the cards for some of us, it’s best that we can control much of our destiny while on this stolen land.
Exploring Community Policing – By now, we know that the police will kill one of ours in front of a large crowd, with a body cam, and anything else that we’ve convinced ourselves we need to see justice in such an unjust system. At this point, all that remains for us to do is to institutionalize some community control of the police.
If you study the history of the police in the United States, you’ll understand that they were never here to protect and serve Black people. Indeed, this force was created to protect property. The War on Drugs, disguised as a war on Black people, renewed that call, allowing the state to further break apart our families and destabilize our communities. Many of our young people, a byproduct of these events, run out into the streets like they don’t have any sense. Many of us, scared for our lives, acquiesce our control of our young ones to the police, who in turn take them out like yesterday’s trash.
As hard as it may be to look in the mirror, we have to admit that we as a global community dropped the ball in controlling our neighborhoods and expecting more of one another. Community policing allows us to do this. At the height of its existence, the Nation of Islam had set up some patrols in Black neighborhoods across the country. Other groups, including D.C’s own Pan-African Community Action, said community policing could help neighbors feel more at home, regardless of the conditions.
However it looks, it’s time that all members of the community work together in making our environment safe for everyone. In no way does this excuse the actions of a few killer cops. Instead, it’s a call for us to become the change that we want to see just as the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and other Pan-Africanist leaders have called on us to do.
Forging Connections across the Diaspora – As Africans in the so-called New World, we have perhaps the greatest advantages of the entire Diaspora. Many of us however fail to use the technology here to forge global relationship, mainly because we have fallen victim to American propaganda that designates us as separate from the Motherland.
As we build an infrastructure in the states, it’s equally important that we help our brethren and sistren across the world in any way possible. For Hurricane Matthew’s victims in Haiti, that means shipping supplies. For those affected by civil war in Ethiopia, that might mean giving a few dollars.
Personally, I know of a few groups going above and beyond to create a movement that will allow African Americans and continental Africans to trade resources and learn from one another. From what I’ve seen, such relationships have worked because both sides are eager to learn from one another. Additionally, both sides understand that their enemy is the enemy of Africa and Africans abroad, regardless of skin color.
Building outside of a political infrastructure works even more to our advantage in the case, particularly because that world is corrupted on a global scale. In meeting the end goal of self-determination, we must focus on building economic power. From there everything else will come.
This list, while not exhaustive, is a start to what I believe will put us in a truly better position as a unit. As Africans, we have to understand that we won’t be individually free until we are free as a people. That kind of change starts at the bottom, at the local level. Believe it or not, the work has gone on for centuries, all at the hands of those who have since transcended to the Ancestral Realm.
However, the powers that be will try to make us believe that we need them to get to the Promised Land. Don’t believe them! Believe in your own power and in the struggle of those who endured Maafa. Until next time family.
Winston “Kokayi” Patterson is embroiled in a fight for a justice after a middle-aged white man brandished a gun at him during an altercation near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last month. / Photo by Sam P.K. Collins
For more than 40 years, Winston “Kokayi” Patterson has treated an untold number of Washingtonians through substance abuse and mental health treatment, and natural healing. However, much of that has had to be put on hold after an altercation near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.
Patterson said a middle-aged white man, angry that he relieved himself in the parking lot behind his storefront, cursed, spat on and brandished a gun at the slender, grey-loc’d elder. Officers later arrested the alleged assailant, Michael James Conway of Central Safe and Lock, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon and having a firearm without a business license. They also detained Patterson on a simple assault charge.
Nearly a month after the incident, only one man has to report before a judge.
“My situation’s no different from any Black man who’s been accosted by a belligerent white man, said Patterson, 64, a lifelong D.C. resident. “The conditions of Black people haven’t changed much.”
After his release from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) 3rd District precinct in Northwest on the early evening of July 13th, Patterson had to submit a urine sample and adhere to a stay-away order. Earlier this week, nearly 60 people filled Courtroom 220 in D.C. Superior Court during his initial arraignment hearing. The presiding judge scheduled Patterson’s trial for the morning of September 26th.
Efforts to raise awareness about the renowned healer’s case and clear his name have been weeks in the making. On Aug. 2nd, a friends and supporters hosted a fundraiser at Sandovan Restaurant and Lounge in Northwest, an endeavor that garnered several hundred dollars in contributions and featured Al-Malik Farrakhan, executive director of Cease Fire, Don’t Smoke the Brothers, an antiviolence group on which Patterson serves on the board of directors.
Earlier this month, Patterson appeared on the To Heal DC Show with Joni Eisenburgon WPFW 89.3 FM. He also said he met with former D.C. Shadow U.S. Representative Charles Moreland (D), The Rev. Graylan Hagler, and other community leaders. On Wednesday, supporters led a demonstration in front of Central Safe and Lock. On Aug. 17th, major activities are also scheduled to take place. Yuma Bellomee, also known as Dr. Yew, recently did his part in hosting an herb walk in Anacostia Park in the latter part of last month.
“I would like to use this situation to raise awareness of human rights,” Patterson added. “We must fight for the rights of all Black people, against the injustice and repressive behavior presented to us by police officials and people in the community who have a reactionary state of mind.”
On the day of the incident, Patterson planned to attend the Fellowship Conference, then in its second day, with a longtime friend and patient who was serving as a staffer. By the time Patterson could no longer hold his urine, the duo had parked their vehicle directly in front of Central Safe and Lock, located across the street from the convention center on the corner of 7th and L streets in Northwest.
As he walked out of the alley between the parking lot and main street minutes later, Patterson locked eyes with a visibly irate Conway, who was standing behind a raised railing. Soon after, with a bag in hand and a knapsack on his back, Patterson strolled over to the crosswalk. That’s when he said Conway cursed at him. Once Patterson turned around and step toward Conway, the angry storeowner spat on him. In response, Patterson splashed water from a half-full bottle on Conway who then pulled a black automatic pistol out of his right pants pocket. Patterson, attempting to duck for cover behind an SUV, fell into 7th Street.
Patterson’s friend, who asked her name not be used in this story, quickly jumped into action, picking up an injured and disheveled Patterson. As she helped him walk across the street to the convention center, Conway yelled racial epithets at him. While Patterson entered the convention center and used the restroom, she flagged down MPD officers patrolling the area on foot.
For the next hour, six officers, and later two detectives, interrogated, Patterson, his friend, and Conway separately, with pairs of officers taking turns to question each person. Shortly after, they whisked Conway away in the squad car.
By that time, Patterson’s friend had been in the Convention Center engaging in activities related to the three-day event. Officers escorted Patterson, who’d been outside by himself for some time, into the convention center to meet her. After one more round of questioning, they cuffed Patterson and drove him to the 3rd District precinct, where he sat for more than three hours before being released. The next day, court officials set the terms of his release during pre-trial services.
“I didn’t see Dr. Patterson’s arrest coming. MPD misconstrued everything and caused a lot of stress. I would’ve never gotten them,” said Patterson’s friend, a member of Spirit of Faith Christian Center, located in Brandywine and Temple Hills, Maryland. She said Conway’s alleged assault traumatized her, causing her to seek therapy on a couple occasions. She also touched on the hurdles she has yet to overcome in bringing the storeowner to justice.
“I tried to file a complaint against Conway the next day because my life was threatened and they told me I couldn’t. They made it seem like Dr. Patterson was the defendant when he was really the plaintiff. People need to be fair. It’s crazy that the doctor has to suffer like this for no apparent reason,” the D.C. metropolitan area resident added.
Still in shock from what had just taken place, Patterson sent a mass text to dozens of friends, colleagues, patients, and extended family members in the days after, explaining the situation in great detail. A committee comprised of spiritual and civic leaders in the D.C. metropolitan area later crafted plans to raise awareness about the events of July 13th and organize community members of various ages via social media, email, and word of mouth.
“We’re blessed that we could stand by Baba Kokayi,” said Ayo Handy-Kendi, a breathologist and stress manager who served as a member of the organizing committee that hosted last week’s gathering at Sandovan. “People came out because they believe in Baba Kokayi and they believe an injustice has been done. We want him to be let off and we want the gentleman that assaulted him to be reviewed. We feel that he has also committed a threat and should be brought to justice.”
With much of the community on his side, Patterson said victory seems to be on the horizon.
“The response as it relates to my situation has been overwhelming. The concerns my colleagues have shown is a true testament to Black love and our ability to support our own,” he said. “The grassroots, political, health, education, Black media, and spiritual community is coming to support, along with a multitude of community organizations.”
Photo: Young Black girls embracing each other. (Taken from https://yeyeolade.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/black-rites-of-passage-for-young-black-girls-from-assatashakur-com/)
Native Washingtonian and community organizer Samantha Master knows firsthand the punitive nature of the D.C. metropolitan area’s school systems, especially when it comes to young Black women who break rules in a desperate attempt to escape life-threatening situations.
More than a decade ago, Master received a two-week suspension after administrators found a knife in her backpack. Then 13 years old, Master said she had to protect herself against an abusive boyfriend. Her story and pleas for leniency however, fell on deaf ears, jumpstarting a period of depression and disdain for school.
Though Master had the fortune of meeting an elder who helped her complete high school and enter college, she stressed that an untold number of young girls of color with similar experiences rarely escape the perils of a violent home life, particularly because school officials overlook their cries for help.
“It’s important that we understand that gender-based violence makes you fear for your safety in your community. As Black women, we have to speak our truth,” said Master, now 28, during the second of three town halls hosted by the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the evening of Aug. 3rd at Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Library in Northwest.
The event, themed “Leaving Girls Behind,” shared the moniker of a May ACLU report that criticized the D.C. Public Schools’ Empowering Males of Color (EMOC) initiative for ignoring the plight of Black and Brown schoolgirls. During the two-hour discussion, more than 20 Black and Latino women, many of whom represent advocacy, community, and legal organizations, watched a short film featuring Master and a bevy of Black girls who explained how their schools failed to address their mental and sexual trauma.
Shortly after, participants discussed what they considered the best means of connecting young women of color to resources that can aid them in safely navigating the school system and having a healthy coming of age. Topics included mentorship opportunities, methods of youth engagement, difficulties in empowering young women in the D.C. public school system, and how to force policy change.
“I’m always grateful to share my experiences but disheartened that they’re so common,” said Master, a member of Black Youth Project 100, an activist member organization comprised of millennials who want to secure justice and freedom for all Black people. “There are deep flaws in the Engaging Males of Color initiative and I’m interested in how divestment from it and investment in opportunities for young, Black people look,” said Master, a Capitol Heights, Maryland resident.
EMOC, the proposal in question, aims to improve the academic performance of boys of color through $5.5 million in funding for school-based and community engagement programs that focus on academic, social, and emotional support. Other plans in the works include the opening of an all-male high school housed within the former Ron Brown Middle School in Southeast and literacy-focused mentorship.
But some people say those moves won’t suffice if it leaves out Black and Brown girls. In its 39-page report, the ACLU concludes that DCPS cannot overlook the need to serve girls of color, citing persistent disparities between them and their white counterparts. Another criticism centered on the notion that single-sex schooling reinforces harmful stereotypes about young women. This document also determined that the D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, despite the prodding of local advocacy organizations and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), hasn’t considered providing those resources for girls of color.
“We wanted to amplify the need for resources for girls of color. The Empowering Males of Color initiative didn’t address that. It was a missed opportunity; they did all this research about gaps between students of color and whites just to address a segment of that population,” said Kristina Jacobs, ACLU intern and key organizer of the town hall.
“We wanted to hear from our community members, specifically young women of color who’ve been enrolled in DCPS so that we can push an agenda that’s of the community. Our guests brought them full selves and showed how those experiences affected their identities,” Jacobs added.
Students who will attend the new all-male academy are in the midst of a two-week orientation taking place before the school’s Aug 22nd start date. Even so, the ACLU’s collection of data and crafting of a plan will continue, with some consideration of throwing support behind legislation that’s pending in the D.C. Council.
Though she didn’t matriculate through the D.C. public school system, Temi Bennett, a D.C.-based realtor, recounted barriers she encountered as a young woman at an African-centered school in Chicago. She said that though administrators meant well, they provided more enriching activities for the males while relegating the young women to classes that reinforced gender stereotypes. For her, those experiences highlighted institutional inequities at a young age.
“While we didn’t get into strategy, I enjoyed hearing these diverse stories. It’s a great first step and I’m excited to see what happens next,” Bennett said. “The main thing we pointed out was the need for outreach to Black and Brown girls. I think the participation here speaks to that. The main thing is mentoring. Our girls need mentors that look just like them.”
PHOTO: The intersection of Broad and Erie streets in North Philadelphia/ Sam P.K.Collins
“The elections are a distraction. I’m personally not into it because I don’t know these people. I invest my time and energy into people who love and know me,” Hakeem Hawkins, owner of Black and Nobel Bookstore in North Philadelphia told AllEyesOnDC in response to an inquiry about the Democratic National Convention (DNC) taking place a couple miles south from where he spent most of the day selling cold bottles of water to passersby.
“I don’t want to invest my time if these politicians won’t come into my community,” he added, alluding to the conspicuous divide between convention goers ripping and running throughout downtown Philly and the natives who experience the hardships of daily life at the intersection of Broad and Erie streets and other enclaves in this historic American city.
Through Black and Nobel, Hawkins has fed his fellow Philadelphians knowledge and provided a platform for Hip-Hop artists and conscious scholars, including Dr. Umar Johnson, for the last 15 years, a feat that has made him a neighborhood star of sorts. During a visit to the bookstore, located an earshot away from Temple University, one could watch Phil Valentine lectures on a big screen television, order a shipment of books for incarcerated loved ones, and glean a cornucopia of books, pamphlets, and DVDs. This historic meeting place has also served as a de-facto drug detox center and meeting place for those wanting to turn around their tumultuous lives.
For Hawkins, directly tending to the community in this manner proves sufficient enough in making a change.
So much so, he said he had no plans to participate in convention activities beyond moving his water operation near the Pennsylvania Convention and Wells Fargo centers and catching a DJ Khaled performance. Anything else would be feeding into political theatrics he says does nothing but boost the egos of its actors.
“I don’t spend time following a person. I’m an entrepreneur,” Hawkins, sporting a white cap peppered with green marijuana leaf imprints and a neon yellow tank top, said while sitting under a tent strategically placed next to the entranceway to SEPTA, Philadelphia’s metro rail system. “Once you do that, it’s fuck the system and I’m pretty sure the politicians who are entrepreneurs do their business stuff first. They’re all full of shit. With the little they do, they want to be rewarded,” he added.
Hawkins’ viewpoint, though divergent and somewhat controversial to those who belong to the Democratic Party, are based in fact, particularly when it comes to police-community relationships.
Under the leadership of the Democratic Party, Black people in Philadelphia haven’t fared well. After all, this is the city where the MOVE bombing, the 1985 incident that killed nearly a dozen Black people and set ablaze blocks of a middle-class community, happened at the urging of then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode, a Democrat, and the city’s police chief. More recently, the Philadelphia Police Department, with the support of a powerful union, has been cited for using controversial “Stop and Frisk” tactics against Black residents.
Other signs of systemic inequality, including disparities in healthcare access, quality education, and income, count as parts of a legacy of racial tension that goes back to American Independence, characterized by Black Philadelphians’ struggle to create their communities peacefully. Majority-Black cities and communities across the country have encountered eerily similar situations, brought on by a combination of white flight, the shuttering of factory jobs, the flow of drugs, and overzealous drug laws that punish those do what they feel they have to do to overcome these conditions.
“We don’t have friends in politics. They give us nothing for our votes and support,” Brother June, an employee at Black & Nobel and journalism student at Temple, told AllEyesOnDC. June, a returning citizen who found a love for reading while incarcerated, said his experiences in the criminal justice system showed him how attorneys, judges, and politicians prey on the ignorant.
“Anytime we start to think critically, they call us conspiracy theorists. Hillary Clinton’s husband signed the unjust laws that incarcerated Black men for a long time. She used the word ‘super predators’ and supported the law to further perpetuate slavery,” June added. These days, he wants to get North Philly residents engaged in local politics, mainly through his upstart City Talk Newspaper. Plans also include the launch of his own political party, a testament to the anti-establishment views that perpetuate underserved U.S. communities.
Political Favors at the Expense of the People
After the overtly hate-filled Klan meeting that was last week’s Republican National Convention, many politically active melanated people converged on the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia earlier this week eager to boost the morale of voters weary from months of Democratic Party infighting and frightened by the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.
So far, party elites haven’t disappointed in putting together a show, rallying around Secy. Hillary Clinton and rehashing old political talking points about freedom, America’s promising future, and this country’s position as the “best in the world.” Hearing those messages from my living room on Monday and Tuesday didn’t make me feel too good, especially after considering the people who delivered them.
Just as I had suspected, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) turned out to be a pseudo-revolutionary, throwing his support behind the woman he constantly painted as a Wall Street darling, even after WikiLeaks uncovered the DNC’s attempts to sabotage his campaign. In what many touted as an historic address, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) kept referring to the “forefathers” who drew up the U.S. Constitution, totally neglecting the fact that the white, male group of Founding Fathers more than likely had his ancestors in shackles in 1776.
First Lady Michelle Obama, with as much Black Girl Magic as she could muster, sang Secy. Clinton’s praises, but not before describing an American utopia that in no way, shape, or form matches the conditions blocks away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or much of the U.S. for that matter.
Once again, our elected officials played politics with us, delivering more style than substance and duping their followers, as well as members of the public who believe they have no other choice than Clinton, into thinking that a special group of people will save them from the Hell they said is guaranteed to ensue if Trump wins in November.
By the time I touched down in the city of brotherly love on Wednesday, daytime convention activities had been well under way and Democratic delegates, along with other party members and media folk, gathered in the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center to discuss various issues and address the constituencies that make up the Democratic Party.
That morning, the Black Caucus kicked off on the terrace of the Convention Center, providing me an opportunity to hear commentary on Black America’s current state of affairs, particularly that from former Attorney General Eric Holder who would be delivering the keynote address that morning.
Nearly an hour before DNC Black Caucus Chair Virgie Rollins started the program, much of Black America learned that charges for the three remaining Baltimore City police officers on trial for Freddie Gray’s death had been dropped. While this didn’t come as a surprise to me, I must admit that I felt sorrowful for State Attorney Marilyn Mosby and other key players, in the government and outside of the establishment, who put in the work necessary to ensure the case would make it this far. Once again, police officers wouldn’t be held accountable for the death of a Black person.
Surely, the speakers in the Black Caucus that morning, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, would at least mention this news and devise methods of reforming a system that allows killer cops to walk the streets freely.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Instead, much of the conversation from Rawlings-Blake, and later Holder, centered on the drawbacks of sitting out this election or voting for a third-party candidate. In what I considered the most ironic moment of the morning, Rawlings-Blake told audience members to “think about the youth [who] don’t want [live in] a country ruled in fear.” Obviously, she forgot the quasi-Martial Law imposed on the young Baltimoreans who took the streets in the aftermath of Gray’s murder last year.
Holder, in my opinion, performed a little better in the delivery of his keynote address. Unlike Rawlings-Blake, he addressed police brutality and weighed in on the Black Lives Matter movement as it exists, calling on its grassroots players to continue building their revolution in non-election years.
“People didn’t want to hear us when we talked about these police departments. The things we’ve been saying can be documented,” Holder said as audience members clapped. “For too long, people showed that Black lives didn’t matter and now we say that Black lives do matter. So don’t you let those brave young activists be marginalized. The Black Lives Matter folk have to not just make this a moment, but a movement. I need to not only see you during the presidential campaign. I need you to do the hard, boring work.”
I don’t know where Holder has been but the young people have been doing the work, even those not rallying under the Black Lives Matter banner. Shortly after leaving the cold, stale Pennsylvania Convention Center, I saw just that at different rallies within a three block radius. By Wednesday, Black Lives Matter and other Black grassroots organizations had already made their mark in that vicinity so it proved difficult finding groups of brothers and sisters.
After circling the block a couple times however, I found someone who had quite a bit to say about organizing as it pertains to awakening Black people and helping us achieve results. “Power is in the people and we can stand up,”Kashif Cole, a 21-year-old Brooklynite and representative of WorldCantWait.net, told AllEyesOnDC as he sat in front of a church.
“Beyond protesting, we can network and reach out to the people. Speak and be with them,” he continued.
Under the hot afternoon sun, we did just that, exchanging information and reasoning about Black unity, anti-capitalism, and grassroots organizing. Since taking my community work to new levels, I’ve reveled in such conversations, as they are the building blocks to movements that can catch fire.
“We have to do our own research and not take what anyone says at face value. We have to get educated and get powerful,” Kashif added. “We need more Black bodies on the ground protesting, not just when someone gets shot. It’s also very necessary to support Black business and take our money out of these corporations. The ultimate goal is revolution. We have to take down the system: no if, ands, or buts.”
That mantra became even clearer that evening after I heard President Barack Obama speak highly of Clinton and later hug her for what made a great photo op. Though I wasn’t in the Wells Fargo Center to capture that moment, a sense of calm overcame me listening to him talk about his political journey and encouraging those who booed to just go out and vote. After a couple seconds, I realized that it was a mix of adolescent nostalgia and the “Obama Effect,” what I like to describe as the president’s hypnotic presence, cadence, wordplay, and story telling that puts people at ease, even as he’s trying to sell us something that won’t do much good.
As a young voter in 2008 and 2012, I fell for this presidential marketing scheme. This time around however, I couldn’t let go of the fact that Obama, even as he praised her credentials, questioned Clinton’s judgment at one point. From the outside looking in, one could assume that their work together in the years since the 2008 Democratic Primary could’ve compelled this change of heart. I have reason to believe differently, understanding that when it comes to party politics, you have to move with the collective, even when that move is in support of someone who pretty much guaranteed her placement as the 2016 party nominee when she agreed to concede to Obama just eight years earlier.
Admittedly, I don’t have concrete proof of this assertion, but when you think outside of the box, you see the system for what it truly represents. Everything after that becomes commonsensical, even if the outside world doesn’t think so. Giving a group of people who have no agency a limited number of choices in who will run this country proves to be nothing more than a tool of control. Albeit, Clinton has decades of experience, but her mastery of party politics saved her more than anything else. The e-mail leak controversy that almost derailed the DNC and the subsequent cover up speaks to that.
Change Outside of the Political Arena
The global Black struggle for self-determination is more spiritual than anything else.
As a people without a common consciousness, we’re susceptible to the influence of outside forces that want our resources in return for nothing. Malcolm X told us this in his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, demanding that we as Black people build up our own institutions and take control of our communities. Without the common unadulterated heritage and backing of sovereign nations that other ethnic groups in this country have, doing that has proven virtually impossible for Black America.
That doesn’t mean that achieving this goal is impossible.
As I learned in my excursion throughout downtown and North Philly, there are people who understand that change initially comes from within. After that happens, they can change their communities, and ultimately the world. I stand with Brother June in saying that Black people, and maybe other oppressed melanated groups for that matter, need a political party that resonates with their values and needs. Obviously, that cannot happen overnight. Hillary Clinton supporters who point out that reality in their cajoling of those who don’t want to vote for her are terribly facetious for believing that we’re ignorant of these facts.
If one needs concrete proof that change is happening locally and outside of the political arena, they need look no further than Dominque White, a young mother of two who underwent a metamorphosis of her own less than a year ago. Even as she dwells on her bad decisions and stints on the streets, she remains persistent in changing her life and helping others, saying that forgiveness and unity are the keys to our salvation as a Black nation.
“Unity is the key but people are very prideful. I had to let my pride go but it took me seven years running in circles to understand that,” White,24, told AllEyesOnDC steps away from Black and Nobel where she and her friends gathered on Wednesday afternoon. “These young people don’t want anything other than what they’ve been shown. It’s the same bullshit like who got shot and who’s late on their rent. If more people could show others how to be successful, we could all be successful. I want to see someone helping the next man, sharing their health and resources. That’s the only way to make a change.”
If only the DNC visitors, especially those of African descent, could take some time out of their trip to visit North Philly and other marginalized parts of this city to learn this lesson.
“You can’t have a movement without music!” Isisara Bey, executive producer of the annual March on Washington Film Festival told an audience of more than 100 music aficionados who gathered in the lobby of NPR headquarters in Northwest during the festival’s “Black Radio and Civil Rights” event earlier this week.
What transpired later that Tuesday evening would speak to the spirit of Bey’s words.
After enjoying the musical stylings of Victoria Purcell, Byron Nichols, Robert Ellis, and the NEWorks House Band, guests followed Bey and other March on Washington Film Festival committee members into a theatre where they watched Mavis!, a 2015 documentary about Mavis Staples, renowned R&B and Gospel singer and Civil Rights activist.
As a member of the Staples Singers, led by her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and a solo artist, Staples contributed to the soundtrack of the Civil Rights era, bringing contemporary pop hits that had a positive message such as “Long Walk to D.C.,” “When Will We Be Paid?,” and “I’ll Take You There.” Pop’s close relationship with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired this foray into “freedom songs” as the Staples Singers called their brand of music.
In Mavis!, Staples, then 75 and a music legend in her own right, tours the country with her band and reflects on her experiences as a standout member of the Staples Singers. The film, which featured late Civil Rights leader Julian Bond, hip-hop legend Chuck D, and other music stars, focuses on the longevity of Staples’ career and her ability to adjust with the times, as seen when she released two albums in the 1980s under the direction of Prince, and won her first Grammy in 2011 for her album “You Are Not Alone”.
After the film, a panel of music executives, activists, and journalists who knew and interviewed Staples spoke about the current state of the music industry for Black artists.
“I asked Mavis what it was like being artistic and in this community. You had to get people in their childhood talking about contemporary issues,” Sonja Williams, author, broadcast journalist, and a panelist, told audience members that evening while recounting a radio interview she had with Staples. “Once [the Staples family] started singing freedom songs, they knew that one of the ways to reach young people was with a rhythm and something more contemporary along with R&B.”
The panel, moderated by WHUR 96.3 FM’s Jacquie Gales Webb, also included Al Bell, songwriter, producer, and owner of Stax Records to which the Staples Singers were signed, and Jonathan Jackson, an entrepreneur and social justice advocate. For much of the evening, this group touched on the events that led to the dilution of socially conscious news and music.
Jackson noted that many artists didn’t have much incentive, beyond helping their people, to produce socially conscious material. During the panel, he also detailed how corporatization of the media over the last couple of decades had shut out divergent voices and marginalized disc jockeys who had positive, uplifting messages.
“Civil Rights didn’t equate with all musicians. You never really heard freedom songs on the radio. A lot of African-American artists were getting frozen out,” Jackson, national spokesperson for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, told the audience.
“[Today], the media consolidation has taken away the responsibility of making community news in the African-American markets. In these urban markets, it’s all comedy. All the conscious personalities have been curtailed. More programmers have their hands tied. They won’t let news and information get through the urban formats. Local ownership needs to get back into place,” Jackson added.
Bell, writer of the Staples Singers’ hit 1972 hit “I’ll Take You There,” gave an even more detailed picture of how music unified Black people, regaling guests with the story of how he organized the Wattstax benefit concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the wake of the 1965 riots. That event, which featured the Staples Singers and Stax Records artists, attracted more than 100,000 people and didn’t result in any incidences of violence.
“They tried to put us in a category where we were shiftless and not good thinkers but we were strategic business people,” Bell told the audience as he provided examples of musicians, radio personalities, and Civil Rights leaders collectively organizing across the country.
“The Black disc jockeys were like the mayors of their cities. When Dr. King would go to Philly, he would meet with Georgie Woods because he knew everyone,” Bell added. “That helped Dr. King but it was dangerous to have that kind of power. That’s why they thought it was time to mass merchandise music. They acquired the independent companies to monopolize and cut off the independent entrepreneurs and sell and market music to Black people,” said Bell.
The July 19th “Black Radio and Civil Rights” event counted among a slew of gatherings during the annual March on Washington Film Festival, founded by the Raben Group three years ago in commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. The 2016 installment, which goes on until Saturday, kicked off on July 13th with an event at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Northwest. Other programs have focused on the Green Book, a guide that helped Black tourists travel safely through the segregated South in the early to mid-20th century, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, and other storied figures.
“Events like this expose you to what Black people have done culturally. It’s about the people who contributed to the Civil Rights movement,” said Maiyah Mayhan, a Howard University student who attended the Mavis! film screening. “These days, it’s hard to get people to play good music. That’s why it’s so important to be in spaces like this. The radio has shaped how sound is perceived. I appreciate Mavis Staples and other singers who were able to evolve with the sound,” added Mayhan, a junior from Los Angeles studying journalism.
PHOTO: Critically acclaimed author and native Washingtonian Jason Reynolds is scheduled to present the winners of the “A Book that Shaped Me” Summer Writing Contest at the 16th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center in Northwest./ Courtesy
With the advent of an annual writing contest, parents and educators living along the East Coast can lay to rest their fears that their young ones won’t have many opportunities to read and write now the school year has ended.
For the fifth consecutive year, the U.S. Library of Congress, in conjunction with a bevy of public and school libraries in the Mid-Atlantic region, is hosting a summer essay writing contest that allows rising fifth and sixth graders to reflect on books that made an impact in their lives.
“I’ve been fascinated by the diversity and imagination in these stories. I want to see how young people are stretching their minds,” said Jason Reynolds, a critically acclaimed author and native Washingtonian who’s scheduled to present the winners of this competition, touted as “A Book that Shaped Me” Summer Writing Contest, at the 16th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center in Northwest on September 24th. The submission deadline passed earlier this week.
Since its 2012 inception, the “A Book that Shaped Me” Summer Writing Contest has attracted more than 1,000 entries from students in the D.C. metropolitan area, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Each year, a panel consisting of members of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) selects 30 finalists. From there, a group of educators and children’s book authors choose three overall grand prize winners.
Reynolds, who has served as a judge in years past, explained the qualities he seeks in an ideal entry, stressing that students must be committed to doing their best, even if they don’t win a prize.
“I’m looking for excellence. The barometer is subjective but I need to know that students put in that work. Anyone who takes time to work on their essay should take pride in completing this one thing. Hopefully that will push them to complete other things,” said Reynolds, a Northeast resident.
The “A Book that Shaped Me” Summer Writing Contest comes amid a technological shift that has changed the way children absorb information and posed new opportunities to engage tomorrow’s leaders. More than half of pre-teens in the U.S. have accessed social media sites meant for adult use, according to information collected by Statista, a domestic statistics company. Studies have also shown that when used strategically, the internet can become a valuable research tool for young people.
Many public and school libraries across the country have caught on, creating spaces focusing on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). Some of the librarians involved in the essay writing contest acknowledged these changes, saying they’re embracing the new while adhering to tradition.
“Today’s librarians are needed more than ever. They are leaders in the area of digital literacy,” said Audrey Church, AASL president. “There’s more information that people need to figure out and students need to develop critical thinking skills as they reflect on the importance of their book. This contest provides a wonderful opportunity for every child participating to think more fully about a book that he or she read. I hope that they reflect on experiences that are meaningful for them,” said Church, also associate professor and graduate school coordinator at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.
Myla Agyin, a 2012 finalist and student at BASIS Charter School in Northwest, said she can attest to value of introspection as it relates to the writing contest. Myla’s prize- winning essay centered on how Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands” inspired her to pursue a career in the medical field. Since that pivotal moment, has excelled in her studies and become more vocal in conversations about current events.
“That contest was a great opportunity to express how I felt and showing how reading this book impacted me,” Myla, an aspiring pathologist, said. “These days I feel like my views get taken seriously. I’ve become more open. I feel like I can express myself. People need to see the truth ad get a better understanding of the world. I have future plans to write a book. I’m not sure what it will be about but it will be something that I find interesting,” added Myla, now 14.
PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Kenya with President Uhuru Kenyetta this week.
This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first visit to the Motherland as part of an effort to strengthen ties with African leaders and discuss investment opportunities throughout the continent.
During his first stop in Uganda on Monday, he commemorated the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue mission in which his brother died. Netanyahu also explored the possibility of Israel imparting its knowledge about security and technology on the African state. Other stops on what has been called an historic excursion include Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, Netanyahu confidently exclaimed that “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” perhaps alluding to the relationship his state had with a number of African nations in the aftermath of their liberation from colonial rule.
On the surface, such a trip could provide an opportunity for Africa to further develop and participate in the global economy, especially when the Israeli government’s $12.9 billion plan to strengthen economic ties with Africa is taken into consideration. In examining this event through a Pan-African lens however, it become apparent that Netanyahu’s outreach to African leaders is a desperate attempt to muster international support for Israel’s violent actions against Palestinians.
This move comes amid an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the former’s occupation of the latter’s land and the subsequent torture of Palestinian people. In peace-keeping discussions, Netanyahu has made it clear that he doesn’t support the idea of a two-nation state, demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a state and cut down its military forces. With the United States’ financial support, Israeli military forces have trekked throughout Palestinian settlements in the West Bank. The United Nations recently condemned these actions, urging Israeli leaders to halt this assault and wait until a peace deal is in place.
These developments show signs of growing impatience among world leaders for what amounts to war crimes on Israel’s part.
In forging ties with African nations, Israel wants to ensure that their newfound allies won’t side with Arab nations in their resolutions against the Jewish state.
Netanyahu, a student of history, has valid reasons for those fears. In the late 1970s, the then- Organization of African Unity, facing pressure from Arab states, passed a resolution recommending that member states sever ties with Israel in the midst of the Yon Kippur War. Decades later under the leadership of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Israel lost its observer status in the African Union, completely removing it from the table. During his stop in Kenya, Netanyahu made public his wish to get Israel reinstated. These power moves allow him to build a coalition that will ease his nation’s ability to take over the entire West Bank.
As always is the case, African leaders dealing with other heads of state and power brokers must stay true to their predecessors’ commitment to remain socially and economically independent. In an increasingly globalized society, making that vision come to fruition has been very difficult, in part because many of the African countries rely on their so-called allies for aid and assistance. As seen with the Europeans during Colonization and with the Chinese today, that comes with a heavy price.
In short, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and Ethiopia’s Mulatu Tashome, along with their other African presidential colleagues must look at Israel’s outreach soberly. In addition, they must adopt a Pan-African, anti-imperialistic mindset that will embolden them to stand up against Israel’s assault on Palestinians. In doing so, they make it known that Africa won’t be used as a pawn in Netanyahu’s games.
By the end of his life, Kwame Ture cemented a legacy as a master organizer and staunch Pan-Africanist. As a leader of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP), he helped internationalize the Black freedom struggle and inspired countless young people in the process.
On what would’ve been his 75th birthday, a cadre of former colleagues and mentees gathered at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe on Georgia Avenue in Northwest to remember Ture and ensure that today’s grassroots activists keep his memory alive in the ongoing fight for African liberation.
“Kwame had been a catalyst and game changer in my life. It was great being involved in political work and organizing African people for a common movement and action,” said Jendayi Exum, an educator and lifelong D.C. resident who attended the Wednesday, June 29th event.
In 1976, Exum, then a student at American University in Northwest, met Ture during his visit to the campus. Within a year, she joined A-APRP and accompanied Ture on trips around the country.
“He wanted us to have a united Black front so he pushed for organizations to come together. He gave us an international perspective and helped us understand that all oppressed people must come into the struggle,” said Exum, also an organizer of African Liberation Day, an annual event A-APRP hosted in Malcolm X Park throughout the 1970s.
“Around that time, that’s when I first read ‘Destruction of Black Civilization’ and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ and saw how much I didn’t know,” she added.
Ture, born Stokely Carmichael, made his start as an organizer in the Civil Rights movement as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where he brought the mantra “Black Power” to the national spotlight. After stepping down from the helm of SNCC in 1967, he traveled the world as the Black Panther Party’s Honorary Prime Minister, outlining his vision for Black Power before audiences in Guinea, North Vietnam, China, Cuba and other countries.
During the last 30 years of his life, a period largely overlooked by the mainstream media, Ture organized globally and spread his message of Pan-African unification and anti-imperialism. Inspired by his mentors Sekou Toure, Guinean political leader, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, whose names he took on in his new moniker, Ture helped strengthened ties between Black and African liberation groups as a central committee member of A-APRP.
As with other leaders of his caliber, Ture became an enemy of the state, unable to return to the U.S. or his native home of Trinidad. In 1998, he died in Guinea of prostate cancer, an ailment he said was brought on by the U.S. government.
“Kwame Ture was the epitome of the new thinking and it had been a departure from what had been the call. The boldness attracted me,” said Hasinatu Camara, a key organizer of the event and someone who knew Ture closely.
On that Wednesday evening, Camara passed around a microphone and allowed guests to reflect on his legacy. Later, she told personal stories, including one in which Ture got her a custom-made birthday cake during their group’s stay in Guinea.
“He had philosophy we could use. We grew as comrades in our commitment to African people,” Camara, a former educator at the shuttered Booker T. Washington Institute said. “We would organize for African Liberation Day. We would propagandize. We led anti-Zionist campaigns. I want the young people to be vigilant and uphold their principles using the principles the ancestors left us as a guide.”
Camara’s words didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Rasheed Van Putten, a local organizer and self-proclaimed student of Kwame Ture, said the birthday celebration reaffirmed the importance of educating young people about a man who was able to bridge divides and unite people under a common goal.
“It’s the job of the conscious to make the unconscious conscious,” Van Putten, producer of Real Black & Gifted Live, a weekly radio show on Howard University’s Glasshouse Radio, said. “Kwame Ture often talked about serving the people and how he didn’t like the first person singular. Very seldom did he say ‘I.’ He always said ‘we.’ When people introduce him, he said ‘we thank you.’ His perspective was very forward thinking.”