Why More Black People Should Be Blood Donors

DNA

Though millions of people worldwide suffer from Sickle Cell Disease, the general public is still very uninformed about its impact. It’s estimated that about 300,000 children are born with the disease each year. (Source NPR)

According to the CDC, “SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a ‘sickle.’ The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.”

Some people, like myself, have the Sickle Cell Trait but not the disease. This means that we have, “one sickle cell gene and one normal gene.” Sickle Cell Disease can occur when both parents of a child have the trait. In this case, there is a 25% chance of the child having SCD. (Source CDC )

Though Sickle Cell Disease affects people from various ethnic backgrounds, it is highly prevalent in people of African descent. The Sickle Cell Trait may have developed as a natural resistant to Malaria. Researchers believe,”Due to its protective effect against malaria, the sickle mutation may have been naturally selected in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is endemic and one of the major causes of death.” (Source Science Daily)

Some patients require blood transfusions to treat severe anemia. This is where Black blood donors come in because people of similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have the same blood type. The success of transfusions highly depends on the similarity in blood types.

Recently one blood donation center encountered some confusion about this and was even accused of being racist for asking for more Black blood donors. Check out their excellent and informative response below:

Based on the explanation above, more Black blood donors will save more Black lives affected by Sickle Cell Disease. Unfortunately, the medical field is highly distrusted by many communities of African descent due to past and recent mistreatment and abuse (Source TheHill). Still the need for Black blood donors exists and would benefit Black patients greatly.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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10 Black-Owned Businesses That Will Bring You Joy

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I’m a huge advocate of Black-owned businesses for a number of reasons.

  1. Because I’m Black and I want to see other Black people succeed. The success of Black entrepreneurs is interconnected to the overall success and upward mobility of our local communities.
  2. Because many Black-owned businesses fulfill needs that mainstream society usually avoids, doesn’t care about or hasn’t discovered.
  3. Read number 1 again.

So, I just wanted to take a moment to spotlight 10 Black-owned businesses (and non-profits) that are making Black joy a priority and part of their core mission. This list includes a diverse set of health, arts, entertainment, entrepreneurial and culturally focused Black-owned businesses. Some are well known. Some are lesser known. But all are amazing. Check them out.

1. Afro Flow Yoga owned by Leslie Salmon Jones
Located in Cambridge, MA
Business synopsis (link):

Afro Flow Yoga infuses electrifying dance movements of the African Diaspora with a meditative yoga sequence of gentle yet powerful stretches. Deeply connect with the soulful rhythmic drums, energize your chakras, gain strength and flexibility and rejoice in the bliss of feeling renewed, grounded and peaceful!

2. Black Earth Products owned by Taliah Waajid
Located in Smyrna, GA
Business synopsis (link):

Taliah Waajid has always been at the very core of the natural hair movement. These days her company is still leading the way in innovation and education. For 20 years Taliah Waajid products have set the standard in the natural hair community. That includes the largest consumer trade show that celebrates natural hair, health and beauty, known as naturalhairshow.org. Natural hair isn’t a trend for Taliah Waajid, it is a lifestyle that encompasses everything the consumer cares about.

3. The Urban Movie Channel created by Robert L. Johnson
Located in Silver Spring, MD
Business Synopsis (link):

Urban Movie Channel launched in November 2014, and was created by Robert L Johnson, Chairman of RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) and founder of BET. UMC is a premium subscription-based video streaming service exclusive to RLJE and is devoted to the acquisition of feature films, comedy specials, stage plays, documentaries, music, and entertainment for African American and urban audiences, with plans to move into future development and production. New titles are added weekly in addition to the more than 200 titles in the UMC library!

4. Compton’s Grocery Outlet owned by Kia Patterson
Located in Compton, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Grocery Outlet is the nation’s largest extreme value Grocery Store with 270+ independently operated stores in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

5. Shades of Afrika owned by Renee Quarles
Located in Long Beach, CA and Corona, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Shades of Afrika began with a concept when we noticed that there were too few places that offered affordable Afrikan Art, Afrikan made products, and even fewer book stores. There seemed to be a pressing need to tell our story, establish ourselves in the community,  and provide a positive environment for businesses in our community.

There were lots of Afrikan writers, artists, jewelry makers, seamstresses, and entrepreneurs, in the area and they helped bring Shades of Afrika to life…

 

Shades of Afrika has evolved from being a small retail store to a cultural center that hosts a variety of social and educational events, lectures and study groups.

6. NuVegan Cafe owned by Vernon and Lynn Woodland
Located in College Park, MD and Washington, DC
Business Synopsis (link):

NuVegan Café was created through a process of evolution and change. It started with a union which produced a dream that evolved into an idea that 2 young hardworking individuals could combine their expertise to create the perfect business concept. One would possess the formal training, while the other would bring much of the product knowledge to the table. They met at the age of 19 and knew instantly that they were meant to be together. They were unaware of the extent of this connection or even where it would take them, but it was evident that a power much greater, had already preordained this union.

With a bond that seemed to supersede time, what they discovered, was that a common love for cooking would be the main reason their destinies were intertwined. Vernon’s background in food was more practical, while Mickiyah’s was inherited. His decision to explore the culinary arts was influenced by a school presentation (after hearing the odds for the future of young black males within the arena of sports) that would eventually lead him to advanced studies within the culinary arts program in New England. She would find her “place” in the kitchen by way of upbringing. Born and raised as a vegan, her love for nutrition and food preparation was developed through her involvement in her family’s own vegan restaurant in Bermuda.

7. Afriky Lolo founded by Diádié Bathily
Located in St. Louis, MO
Non-profit Synopsis (link): 

Afriky Lolo, founded and led by Diádié Bathily, is a West African dance non-profit corporation that is committed to bringing West African dance and culture to the St. Louis, Missouri, community through teaching and performing. Bathily is a Master dancer from the Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. He immigrated to the United States in 1998. He has a strong personal and professional desire to share the beauty, culture and passion of West African dance with Americans, especially African Americans.

8. I Love Being Black founded by Kumi Rauf
Located in Oakland, CA
Business Synopsis (link):

Mission: To increase positivity, awareness and action amongst Black people worldwide.

Established in 2003, iLoveBeingBlack.com entered the fashion scene with I love being Black apparel and accessories. These products are sold online and at marketplaces, festivals, expos and trade shows.

9. Noirbnb co-founded by Stefan Grant
Located EVERYWHERE
Business Synopsis (link):

Noirbnb is a global travel community that provides experiences and events with a focus on including and celebrating travelers of color. Our accommodations take our guests all around the world to popular destinations and events inspired by the African diaspora. Noirbnb was born in October 2015 after our co-founder, Stefan’s experience while booking a stay in Atlanta. We realized Stef’s experience was not an isolated case and more importantly, that there was an opportunity to create a better, safer experience for travelers of color. Joining our community is a pledge to treat all members of Noirbnb with respect, regardless of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, ability, age, or orientation.

Simply, Noirbnb was designed to be a game-changer in travel, events, and lifestyle by curating authentic experiences for the Black traveler. Whether it’s monetizing your space for additional income, booking a trip, finding your next vibe or connecting with people who share your interests, Noirbnb is your home away from home.

10. Happy Black Woman owned by Rosetta Thurman
Located in San Diego, California
Business synopsis (link):

Rosetta Thurman is the Founder & CEO of Happy Black Woman, a global personal development company dedicated to educating, inspiring and empowering black women to create their ideal lives. She is committed to helping black women all over the world experience happiness, success and freedom in business and in life. Through training, coaching and mentoring, Rosetta teaches black women how to transform their mindset so that they can achieve their big goals faster than they ever thought possible.

Know some great Black-owned businesses in your area? Share them below.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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Reflections for the “Other Side”

Medgar Evers

Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers

I really don’t want to spend the next three years writing and responding to Donald Trump. In an attempt to maintain my composure – I’ve opted to take frequent breaks from theorizing our current state of affairs. However, one thing that recently struck me was Trump’s insistence that the violence in Charlottesville, VA at a white supremacist rally was caused by “both sides.” He was referring to white supremacy advocates versus their opponents – people that are anti-hatred.

Throughout American history, people in opposition to progress have always blamed the “other side” for violence that ensues when countering oppression. The issue isn’t that the “other side” is violent. The issue is that the other side won’t be passive, won’t accept things the way that they are and won’t fearfully bide in silence.

Thus, they are labeled trouble makers for their insistence that society must make positive and progressive changes.

Harriet Tubman was labeled a thief and an outlaw.

Martin Luther King Jr. was beaten and jailed.

Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten and jailed.

Angela Davis was labeled a fugitive and jailed.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and labeled a terrorist.

Medgar Evers and countless others were murdered.

They were the “other side.” Today, history is on their side.

Playing the blame game is an old tactic and I’m not surprised at all. So to members of the “other side” – keep dreaming, keep pushing, and keep disrupting.

Keep on being the “other side.” We need you.

 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

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How come you don’t remember?

Screenshot

Screenshot of Nova and Charley’s fight

By now you’ve probably heard about or watched Queen Sugar. Hosted on the Oprah Winfrey Network and produced by Ava DuVernay, the television show is based the award winning novel by Natalie Baszile. It has so many beautiful moments of dialogue that it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite part. But if I had to choose, it would be pretty much all of the scenes between the Bordelon sisters.

The infamous repast scene continuously replays in my head.

Following their father’s death, Charley hires a company to come serve food at the repast. This fuels a rant from older sister Nova exclaiming, “How long you been gone? You ain’t been gone that long? How come you don’t remember how it’s done?”

This scene put a spotlight on built up frustration between the sisters and the annoyance of Charley’s somewhat cultural amnesia.

“How come you don’t remember.”

It’s almost an indictment of Charley, calling out her continual abstention from home ties. The entire episode and probably the whole series is a projection on memory as a life line.

Charley (who is currently facing both public and private turmoil) is struggling with finding a way to come back to her authentic self; the self she lost in the chase after a life that turned out to be the complete opposite of what it seemed to be. Which happens often. We chase something; a dream job, a high position – only to later discover that none of it was what it appeared to be and we find ourselves looking back, trying to recollect those pieces of ourselves that we dropped along the way.

Eventually, there comes a time when we need to lean on our foundation for strength but struggle because we discover that we’ve long forgotten the path back.

“How come you don’t remember”, speaks to that process – which is the beginning step towards a rebirth. This is perhaps one of the most prominent underlying themes of Queen Sugar: rebirth, rejuvenation and resilience all achieved by using our foundation for strength. This theme is also present in Nova’s usage of healing work, which is a gift she apparently acquired from her mother.

In another scene, their brother Ralph-Angel and his son Blue share a warm embrace with his dying father on a hospital bed. The visual of the grandfather, son and grandson showcased the importance of love, lineage, and memory in the lives of the characters.

ralph-angel-blue-and-grandfather-screenshot

Needless to say, Queen Sugar has many brilliant moments that offer subtle life lessons for us all to absorb. Though entertaining, it’s ultimately a learning experience with beautiful visuals and dynamic storytelling.

Queen Sugar airs Wednesdays 10pm on OWN. 

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Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a poet, writer and social justice advocate. She’s also the founder of Our Legaci. Rant or rave to JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.

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A Message For Writers: Know That Your Words Are Powerful

JAM-Powerful

A close friend of mine recently endured a traumatic life experience that led her down an unconventionally painful path. In order to recover, she moved across the country and started a new life from the ground up. She shared with me, all the ups and downs she’s faced over the last 3 years. Her story, though uncommon, is extremely powerful, having the potential to inspire young Black women coming from a similar background. She then told me that she planned to write a book about her experiences, with the intention of saving people from going through what she’s dealt with. I’m not going to give the story away here. You’ll have to buy the book!

However, I wanted to highlight our conversation because it led to a larger one about how powerful writing is. As Black women writers, she and I have both been to the point where writing was our salvation. When we couldn’t depend on people, when no one would listen, when the pain seemed to much, when the joy was evaded, with the pleasure was marginalized, and when the injustice was overwhelming, writing was there to guide us through. Our writing, whether in the forms of poetry, prose or first person narratives, brought us not only comfort but power.

When the world seemed to beat us down, our words built us back up. No one could stop us from creating. No one could dare stand in the path of our stories. And because our stories are often interconnected, our words comforted other Black women that hadn’t yet found a way to express their thoughts.

I remember one time in Syracuse, NY, I performed a poem about religion, women, sexual abuse and how women are viewed in society. After the performance, I was called to attend a meeting with the poetry group that hosted the event. At that meeting, I could tell some people were uncomfortable with my piece. However, one woman came up to me in front of the whole group saying,” Thank you. Thank you for telling my story. I’ve always felt this way but just didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t have the words but you did it for me.”

Those words that I penned were not directed specifically towards her, yet still rendered specific results. They brought healing, understanding and power. There is power in hearing words that connect with your experiences, along with your spirit. It reaffirms who you are. It shows that you’re not alone, that you’re not imagining things. It also gives you the support to realize that your life, your story is important.

This is how I felt the first time I read Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange and Toni Morrison. This is how I felt the first time I listened to Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album.

Each word reaffirmed my life, my power, my agency. Words can change how people view the world and how they view themselves within it. Perhaps, this is why my favorite quote from Maya Angelou echoes forever in my ears,

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”

Words get into you. Writers please know that your words have power, that when you write, you’re adding to the world. No matter how small you perceive yourself to be, you can reaffirm life, call truth to power and build new foundations. You can also destroy, tear down and suppress.

But know that you have this power and do not underestimate it. Use it wisely, strategically and hopefully for a good cause.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a writer, social justice advocate and the founder of Our Legaci. Learn more about her work at JessicaAnnMitchell.com.

To reach JAM, email OurLegaci@gmail.com.
Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

The Convenience of Forgetting

The-Democratic-Platform

In May of 2014, I published a piece about my family’s escape from sharecropping. I was surprised to learn that so many people didn’t know that sharecropping was slavery rebooted. The title of this article was Dismantling Collective Amnesia. It received a tremendous amount of feedback from writers and historians alike. I was applauded for both sharing and remembering the story. Still, it wasn’t as if I had a choice. Such transgenerational survival stories do not afford the convenience of forgetting.

Fast forward to April 2015. It was revealed that Ben Affleck participated in Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s well known PBS series, “Finding Your Roots.” However, when one of his ancestors (Benjamin Cole) was discovered to be a former slave owner, he requested that Benjamin Cole be completely erased from his family history. This ancestor (that Affleck shares his first name with) would not be included in Affleck’s “Finding Your Roots” episode. This was in order to avoid being associated with his ancestor’s past. Supposedly, Gates’ team allowed this erasure to occur.

This created a firestorm, in which Gates, a renowned African American Studies historian, faced criticism. It is unknown as to how much pressure was placed on the team to exclude this pivotal component of Affleck’s family history. But one thing is certain. Affleck represents America’s denial problem. His initial refusal to include the full truth of his family’s history aligns perfectly with America’s current trajectory of denial and erasure. It’s the same premise as “all this racism with no racists.” All this oppression with no oppressors. Affleck may have been trying to deter attention from someone he was ashamed of, however he contributed to the historical denial of oppression mounted on people of African descent; as if slavery were a figment of Black imagination, and slave owners are simply fictional characters that exist only in our minds.

It’s the same travesty as schools in Texas and Massachusetts seeking to rewrite history books to make slavery appear less brutal. It’s the same as publishers seeking to detract “nigger” from Mark Twain’s books to make him appear less racist. It’s the same as the years of denial that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owning rapist.

Furthermore, Affleck’s ability to dodge this history is a brilliant display of his own racially tiered privilege. Black Americans do not have the privilege of dodging history and the pains of slavery simply because it makes us uncomfortable. Black Americans do not have the privilege of making special requests to disconnect us from being the descendant of enslaved people. So much of the U.S. Black experience is systematically connected to slavery and the imagery of servitude. There is no escaping this, no matter how factually incorrect many of these depictions may be.

The truth is many people of African descent were enslaved in the Americas. The truth is there were enslavers that made this industry possible. Affleck’s ancestor was one of them. His attempt to disconnect himself, is an attempt to erase this truth, thereby erasing the truth about how racial oppression operates and who is behind it.

Ignoring these truths is not a viable solution. Acknowledgement and discomfort is necessary in order to dismantle institutional oppression. Though Affleck is a well known liberal, his denial is representative of many white liberals and conservatives alike who seek to dodge history in order to quell discomfort and personal responsibility towards acknowledging and dismantling systematic privilege.

Current day systems of oppression thrive on the lives of marginalized groups. For example, the current struggle for living wages among America’s working class is closely linked to strategies from chattel slavery for maximizing labor and increasing profit with low wage expenses.

The plantation didn’t just produce the commodities that fueled the broader economy, it also generated innovative business practices that would come to typify modern management. As some of the most heavily capitalized enterprises in antebellum America, plantations offered early examples of time-motion studies and regimentation through clocks and bells. Seeking ever-greater efficiencies in cotton picking, slaveholders reorganized their fields, regimented the workday, and implemented a system of vertical reporting that made overseers into managers answerable to those above for the labor of those below.

The perverse reality of a capitalized labor force led to new accounting methods that incorporated (human) property depreciation in the bottom line as slaves aged, as well as new actuarial techniques to indemnify slaveholders from loss or damage to the men and women they owned. Property rights in human beings also created a lengthy set of judicial opinions that would influence the broader sanctity of private property in U.S. law. – Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman (How Slavery Led To Modern Capitalism)

In order to break these systems apart, there has to be a truthful discussion about what happened, who was responsible, and how it can be rectified. There must be a sincere attempt at truth and reconciliation.

This was Affleck’s opportunity to show his enslaving ancestor as an example of the ills of America’s past. Then show himself as a person working to rectify these ills. Instead he chose to ignore the issue altogether. For that, he reinforces a hard truth about America. Denial is chosen over healing. Erasure is chosen over accountability. Consequently, marginalized and systematically oppressed communities continue to be blamed for their own oppression, and history is laid to the wayside.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is a writer, social justice advocate and the founder of Our Legaci. Learn more about her work at JessicaAnnMitchell.com.

To reach JAM, email OurLegaci@gmail.com.
Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Disappearing Words: Writing In The Digital Space

 

Zora Reading

Zora Neale Hurston reading

There’s something magical about writing and sharing the inner workings of your mind instantly. That’s how it works in the digital space. We’re constantly sharing, breathing new life into old words. Yet, at the same time there’s a fleeting feeling.

Another case of police brutality…write a think piece.

Another person says something racist…write a think piece.

Another person does something sexist…write a think piece.

I’ve actually come to hate think pieces. I can’t help but feel like a rat on a wheel. There’s this constant spinning motion pushing you to stay writing, stay hitting that publish button in hopes of likes or some monetary gain. I’ve heard it referred to as “feeding the beast.” The internet is never satisfied. What’s popular today is gone tomorrow, almost as if it never existed. Old suddenly takes on new meaning. Content often focuses on who can break it faster and hinders most real possibilities of in-depth analysis or nuanced discussions.

Everyone must ride the wave. Or be deemed nonexistent.

I’ve often wondered how potent their words would have been if Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston spent hours on Facebook and Twitter instead of penning poems and writing books. Perhaps they would have gained a “following.”

Yet, would we value their work the same? Would their words have been added to the endless stream of brilliant yet easily discardable “latest posts?” Would we still value their time?

The problem with digital writing is there is nothing to hold on to. It’s not the same feeling as having a physical book or magazine. It’s digital, cloud based, and light like air. Thereby making digital writing feel temporary, like a fleeting gust of wind.

Though nothing ever really disappears on the internet, the quick natured environment of digital communication makes important dialogue get quickly discarded in exchange for the latest controversy.

Everyone feasts upon it, dining on every piece, tearing apart every strip. Then, on to the next one. Lack of substance becomes reality. Quick witted pseudo scholars, psychologists and self help gurus dominate droves of gullible minds simply because they’ve found the key to social media. They’ve learned to ride, even manipulate the waves.

Even with well meaning publications, writing becomes another day, another click bait. Always striving to be ahead of the page view curve makes substance secondary. Everyone is striving to be memorable without memory.

Where do we go from here?

How do we deal with the issue of disappearing words? (The fleeting times, the missed moments, the badly deconstructed ideas, and the incessant desire to be noticed.)

There are no real answers to this question. Perhaps our only choice is to be inventive: push the limits, dig, write, erase, write again, breakdown, and build up in ways that haven’t been done before. Maybe then, our words will serve more as a reference point than some random page, that once was skimmed and forgotten.

Nevertheless, we will do what writers do. We’ll keep writing, hoping the digital swindlers leave enough room for us to make an impact before our words disappear.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.