Our Prophets Are Dying…But They Leave Gifts

Graffiti by Toni Morrison in the Aranzabela-Salburua neighborhood, in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo Credit: Zarateman

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, I was set to attend an event at Bowie State University. There, I would mingle with other authors and hopefully sale copies of my children’s books. This event had been scheduled for months, but when the day finally came, I couldn’t overcome my sluggish mood. I had an eerie feeling all morning, plus I was running late. THEN, OUT OF NOWHERE, the sky cracked open.

It was literally raining sideways.

Now, drenched, I finally reached the building and unloaded. It was a slow day with a good gathering of Black authors. But the weirdness never left.

Later, after I stepped around pools of water under the remerging bright sky, I learned that Ntozake Shange had passed away that morning in Bowie, Maryland.

There were no words.

This was the woman that gave us the lines that told our lives.

“i found god in myself
and i loved her
i loved her fiercely”

“my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender” 

“somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life”

“And this is for Colored girls who have considered suicide, but are moving to the ends of their own rainbows.” 

These were the words that we knew before we heard them, so when we did, we never forgot them. She wrote our soul. Our blues, our joys, our grief, our hopes, our humanity, our love.

Ntozake Shange – “she who walks with lions”

On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, Toni Morrison passed away.

This time, I was on a train and cried out an old school church shout. Had I been in the pews, they would have fanned me and covered my legs with white cloth. It was one of those yells. The grief was too much. Our country is in the throws of mass shootings and an illegitimate racist president is running us to the ground, and now Toni Morrison dies?

Help lawd! Who told her she could die?

This is the woman that brought us Pecola Breedlove and Milkman.

She brought us:

“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”

“Here, this here, is what a man can do if he puts his mind to it and his back in it. Stop sniveling,’ [the land] said. ‘Stop picking around the edges of the world. Take advantage, and if you can’t take advantage, take disadvantage. We live here. On this planet, in this nation, in this county right here. Nowhere else!”

“All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us–all who knew her–felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her.”

These words mattered. There were incredible for their depth but perhaps mattered even more so, just because they existed. Because before reading their words, many of us didn’t know such a work could exist – that so righteously and unapologetically spoke US. Not spoke to us – SPOKE US!

We hadn’t known it was possible, until someone that loved us handed us a Toni Morrison book or had us read, watch or perform For Colored Girls.

We can do that? We can speak us?

For many, the concept is foreign in a world that tells us everyday that everything about us is wrong.

But there they were. Their presence and words changed our world and shifted the narrative around Black women’s lives. And they were so damn proud about it.

On my way home from work, after another fit of sobbing, the words came to me.

“Our prophets are dying…but they leave gifts.”

I immediately thought of all the sister friends that had called and texted throughout the day. How we all felt the absence of another giant as space and time paused.

Then I thought again of all our words. That we had taken this thing and ran with it. Their words mattered so much because we would never forget to speak us and from now on – we’d be so damned unapologetic about it.

Those are a few of the gifts.

They didn’t give us voice. They showed us our voices and how to use it.

They didn’t give us stories. They told our stories, centered us, and showed us their intrinsic value.

They didn’t give us vision. They showed us how to embrace our visions. How to carve out a space in this world and make it recognize that we exist damn it and we ain’t leaving!

They gave us these gifts…insights, paths, skills, confidence, self-awareness, and self-love. Speaking truth to power, speaking power to the truth within ourselves, and lighting the way forward – so that the new generation would rise.

Our prophets are dying…but they leave gifts.

Ashe’

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Trump Says Bare Minimum on Mass Shootings: Blames Media and Gives Himself a Cookie

Today, in a live press conference, President Donald Trump finally condemned “hate” and “white supremacy.” He looked as if he had seen a ghost as he stated the bare minimum. I’m sure he gave himself a self-congratulatory cookie following the press conference. As reporters immediately began touting how emotional he was when giving his remarks.

My eyes never rolled so hard. Especially since this morning on Twitter, he blamed the media for gun violence.

Sometimes, I do blame the media. Obviously, not for gun violence but for giving him the benefit of the doubt time and time again. For setting such low standards. For giving him such a massive platform in the first place.

During the sensationalism of his presidential run, a lot of pertinent journalistic criticism of his racist behavioral patterns was put on the back burner by the press. And still many don’t fully hold him accountable for what he has done in an attempt to be “fair to both sides.”

Yet, the Trump Administration has openly stoked an already racist atmosphere to the point where many racists and white supremacists feel empowered. People are dying across our nation, due to racist attacks, gun violence and more. The rest feel threatened and afraid to leave their homes.

Trump’s words mean absolutely nothing and it is clear that he said them by force. He has advocated for violence against Black and Brown people since the beginning of his presidential campaign. He has called Nazis, “very fine people.” It’s time to acknowledge what we’re dealing with. He is a racist that fully upholds white supremacist ideals and he perpetuates them through his administration’s many illegal and unethical policies. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

And by pandering to the “both sides” logic, some media outlets unknowingly further his ability to spread his hateful message.

From Van Jones calling Trump the, “Uniter in Chief,” to media outlets today giving Trump credit for stating the bare minimum, this is a major problem.

To make matters worse. Trump is now suggesting that we tie new gun laws to new immigration legislation. These are two things that have nothing to do with each other. And through this suggestion, he surreptitiously gives legitimacy to the anti-immigrant and anti-Black fervor of white supremacists. He’s basically saying, “Let’s prevent more Black and Brown people from coming in this country, THEN I’ll start work to stop domestic terrorism caused by the racist white men that murder them.”

Wow!

I sincerely hope that after today, media outlets both small and large, stop giving Trump the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that there is only one side that matters – the side advocating for peace and justice for all.

Bmore Live Seeks Volunteers for New Youth Engagement Programs in Baltimore City

A new initiative in Baltimore City, called Bmore Live, is seeking volunteers for programs that engage youth during July to September 2019.

Bmore Live – is the result of Baltimore City coming together as a collective to provide and promote new and existing events across the City that occur between now and September during the critical hours of 3-11pm on Fridays and Saturdays for youth 14-21 years old. Organizers state, “We must invest in our youth, who are the future of our city, by providing activities and opportunities during these critical hours.”

The collective is hosting a volunteer orientation session on Sunday, June 30th, 2-4 pm at Open Works, 1400 Greenmount Avenue. Volunteer planning sessions will continue every Monday at 6 E Lafayette Street, Baltimore City at 7pm sharp. If interested, please register at https://form.jotform.com/YouthEngagement/summer-youth-engagement————.

The first Bmore Live 19 event will be July 4th and they are looking for volunteers 18 years and older to support our efforts to provide engaging activities for youth during the Fourth of July weekend. Please see the desired volunteer qualities listed below.

If you know of other individuals that maybe interested please forward this email and/ or post the attached information with the link in the description on social media. Please tag Bmore Live 19 on both Instagram  – @Bmorelive19 and twitter- Twitter – @Bmorelive19.  

Volunteer Qualities Needed:

•       Emotional readiness

•       Willingness to be trained

•       Positive, Supportive and Caring in Speech & Interactions with youth

•       Maintain appropriate physical & emotional boundaries with youth

•       Ability to immediately (willingness to be trained) address inappropriate or bullying behavior

•       Flexibility

Follow the initiative on Twitter and Instagram @BmoreLive19. Contact them at bmorelive19@gmail.com.

Children Are Being Caged to Stop the Browning of America

The stories are painful. The lives are real. America is running detention centers along its borders. And based on the atrocities happening inside, some are calling them concentration camps.

So far we’ve heard of separated families, detained parents and children. Children subjected to adverse conditions. Children forced to sleep on concrete floors. Children forced to sleep with the lights on in nothing more than aluminum wrappers. No soap or toothpaste provided for days. Children subjected to sexual abuse and God knows what else.

Some are afraid of calling these facilities at our borders “concentration camps” but as was written by the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, “That is precisely what they are.” And it’s not like our government hasn’t done this before. We still hear stories from survivors of the Japanese internment camps that were set up in “California, Washington, and Oregon” during WWII (History.com).

Part of the visceral reaction to migrant families and asylum-seekers is the fact that America is browning. As reported by the Brookings Institute, whites will become a majority minority by 2045, which is basically tomorrow.

“New census population projections confirm the importance of racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth, countering an aging, slow-growing and soon to be declining white population. The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations 

Among the minority populations, the greatest growth is projected for multiracial populations, Asians and Hispanics with 2018–2060 growth rates of 176, 93, and 86 percent, respectively. The projected growth rate for blacks is 34 percent.* The demographic source of growth varies across groups. For example, immigration contributes to one-third of Hispanic growth over this time span, with the rest attributable to natural increase (the excess of births over deaths). Among Asians, immigration contributes to three quarters of the projected growth.”

The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, Census projects (Brookings Institute, 2018)

Racist officials within our government are using scare tactics and harsh conditions to deter migrants from seeking asylum and to deter Black and Brown immigrants from coming to America. They hope to stop or slow the browning of our nation. Thus, anti-immigration extremists have been waiting for this moment for years.

Now, according to the Center for American Progress, the Trump Administration has given them free range to use our federal government to actualize their hateful agenda.

“The anti-immigrant movement has increasingly gained influence over the past decade, reaching a high point during the Trump administration. Top administrative positions in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been filled by right-wing extremists, many with close ties to hate groups. As a result, anti-immigrant policies that used to be regarded as extreme have been normalized, and dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants has become rampant in mainstream media.

The new wave of anti-immigrant extremists leading DHS is responsible for overseeing the nation’s entire immigration system, from adjudicating visa petitions and applications for citizenship and asylum to handling arrests and deportations. These extremists have also played a role in, or defended, policies that outrage many Americans, such as family separation, the increased use of ICE raids, and the disparagement of locations that have sanctuary policies.”

The Anti-Immigrant Extremists in Charge of the U.S. Immigration System (Center for American Progress, 2019)

However, the browning of America is evident and detention centers/concentration camps won’t stop it. Those children, sleeping on concrete floors, are part of America’s promise and future. They should be protected, loved, cared for and kept with their families. Among those children, are future leaders and lawmakers that will remember this moment in America’s history and make sure that it never happens again.

But first we must fight to protect them. Call your representatives at (202) 224-3121 or go to callmycongress.com. Tweet and email your representatives. Be vocal and spread the word that these detention camps are illegal, inhumane and unacceptable. If there are any local or national protests, try to participate. Support efforts to defund ICE. And if you have the ability, vote in every single election both local and national.

Most of all, don’t ignore what is happening and don’t let your anger pass with the next news cycle.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Excerpt from New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

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Jess Hilarious and Daniel Caesar are Why We Need to Teach the Babies

Photo of Daniel Caesar accepting award.

Social media is a powerful tool that can help you amplify your voice. Unfortunately, it also gives you the ability to quickly spread ignorance and tear down others. Such is the case with Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious and singer Daniel Caesar. Both are examples of young Black celebrities using social media to express uneducated, uninformed, troubling sentiments with little to no regard of their initial impact. In the words of Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” But I’d also like to add that not everyone Black is informed or equipped to be thought leaders or even have a platform.

Both have been caught in controversy surrounding troubling and offensive statements towards other people of color and the Black community specifically.

A few days ago, Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious recorded and posted a video of herself mocking four passengers as they entered an airplane. The passengers were Brown men wearing turbans. Jess, assuming they were Muslim (they were actually Sikh), could be heard saying, “Ahhh! Where are you going? Where are you going?” The irony is that Jess was also wearing a headwrap. Later she screamed into her camera that she didn’t feel safe, that she felt threatened, and didn’t care how anyone else felt. She then went on the plane and said the men were no longer on the flight, leading many people to assume that she had the passengers kicked off the plane.

She posted this ignorant commentary just after 50 Muslims were murdered in the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand. The backlash came swiftly from all sides, including the Black, Muslim, and Sikh communities.

She later cried on camera apologizing for her mistake, vowing to “do better.”

Then, as if on the same frequency of stupidity, singer Daniel Caesar went on Instagram Live to chastise the Black community for not being nicer because he believed that his friend, YesJulz ( a white female artist manager) should be allowed to say the N-word. He also stated that the Black community should stop being “sensitive,” learn from, and make friends with what he called, “the winning team.”

He then put the onus on the Black community to “bridge the gap,” concerning race. He also said, “You can’t win the game by choosing to not accept the winning team’s strategy.”

The boy clearly knows nothing about structural racism that continues to harm our communities. He knows nothing about the continued struggle for civil and human rights and it sounds like he’s been listening to Steve Harvey.

He almost certainly knows nothing about activist Audre Lorde that warned us years ago of this mentality when she said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

Again, the backlash came swiftly. During his video he vowed not to apologize but I’m sure that won’t last long once he understands the weight of his words and faces the aftermath of his comments.

This is why we must educate our youth and upcoming generations. We must “teach the babies.” So if you’re an educator, mentor, parent or any type of role model please take the time to teach youth about the impact of their voices online, the permanent damaging effects of saying anything, everywhere and recording every useless thought that comes to their minds.

Most importantly, teach them about racial, ethnic, and religious disparities across cultures, so they don’t grow up making fools of themselves by amplifying anti-Black rhetoric and discriminatory ideas that cause harm to other Black and Brown people.

Please, teach the babies! We don’t need any more grown fools.

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Black Man Tricks White Supremacist Group into Becoming Its President

While we were busy enthralled in the Jussie Smollett drama, a Black man from California just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.

According to the Washington Post, James Stern, a Black activist, tricked Neo-Nazi group, National Socialist Movement leader, Jeff Schoep, into giving him control over the organization in January 2019.

Schoep came to Stern for legal advice, and that’s when Stern saw an opportunity to take charge of the organization. They knew each other through a connection that Stern had with former KKK Grand Wizard, Edgar Ray Killen. The two were prison cellmates. And even though Killen was a racist, he made Stern the head of his estate.

Through this connection, Stern and Schoep developed an odd friendship and even hosted a racist summit together.

According to the Washington Post:

Schoep felt underappreciated by his followers and left out of the mainstream white-nationalist movement.
In that angst, Stern saw an in.


“I saw a crack in that armor,” Stern said.
So he encouraged Schoep to get a fresh start by handing Stern control of the Detroit-based organization and website, Stern said, by making him president of the organization in official documents and signing a sworn affidavit.


With some convincing, Schoep said yes.
“He knew that he had the most vulnerable, the most loose-cannon members that they had ever had in the organization,” Stern said. “He realized somebody was going to commit a crime, and he was going to be held responsible for it.”


Schoep denies large portions of Stern’s account. He said he only signed over the group because Stern had convinced him that the ownership change would get the lawsuit dismissed.

This is by far one of the strangest most thrilling stories to come out of 2019 and it’s still unfolding.

The KKK, the National Socialist Movement, and other white supremacist groups have promoted and created hateful propaganda that creates fear and division across racial groups. Their narratives have promoted racism. Their words have encouraged violence.

Stern plans to take over the organization’s website and use it as an educational tool. This is a huge opportunity to breakdown hateful narratives and instead spread narratives concerning race and ethnicity that are based on truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Additionally, Stern is working to hold the organization accountable for its violence and hateful actions from the inside out. He has also already asked a judge to, “…find the organization culpable of conspiring to commit violence at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. (Washington Post)”

This is the definition of getting things done and doing the work. A lot of people pay lip service to social justice and civil rights, but ultimately it takes will power, creativity and the seizing of opportunities to create impactful change.

Cheers to you James Stern! Let us know how we can support you in this fight.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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10 Wise Malcolm X Quotes to Live By Forever

Today marks 54 years since the assassination of Malcolm X. To many, he continues to serve as a teacher and guiding light for those in search of knowledge and freedom. In the face of steep oppression, he continually championed the human rights of not only Black Americans but the Pan African World as a whole.

His words are continual reminders of what it means to advocate for social justice, freedom, self-worth, and integrity.

Here are 10 Malcolm X Quotes to Live By:

1. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.

2. You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

3. Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

4. There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

5. You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. 

6. I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.

7. Stumbling is not falling.

8. Truth is on the side of the oppressed.

9. If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.

10. Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.

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