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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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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They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

New book alert! This looks like a very interesting read.

Book Synopsis:

Bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery.

Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South’s slave market.

Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth.

Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment.

By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.

They Were Her Property is now available on Amazon.

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News Flash! Malia Obama has a brain

Some media outlets are in a frenzy after receiving a tip that Malia Obama, daughter of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, has a secret Facebook account. Her posts included criticism of the Trump Administration, which apparently, is shocking to some.

To me, this “revelation,” (if you want to call it that) is like telling me that water is wet. She’s the daughter of THE Michelle Obama! Which means that not only does she have a brain – she’s probably also pretty good at critical thinking. And anyone good at critical thinking – hell even simple thinking – would have criticisms for the Trump Administration.

I don’t know where this belief system comes from that Malia and Sasha Obama should be void of thoughts. Meanwhile, Meghan McCain (the daughter of John McCain) is a co-host on The View and Ivanka Trump (failed fashion line connoisseur) is in charge of God knows what in the White House.

So for anyone that’s shocked. Yes, Malia Obama (a student at Harvard University) has a brain.

Tell me something I don’t know.

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1,000 Scholarships for Black Students Now Available on Fastweb

This Black History Month, Fastweb, the leading website for scholarship and financial aid information and a member of the Monster network, is focusing on resources for African American students.

Fastweb encourages undergraduate, graduate and college-bound African American students to help fund their college education by applying for scholarship opportunities, available now.

In their annual free resource – Scholarships for African American Students – students will find scholarships available in a variety of areas, including: engineering, radiologic sciences, nursing, planning and public policy, business and financial services, manufacturing operations and various other academic areas.

Award amounts range from $500 to $75,000.

“Fastweb is committed to helping provide access to scholarships for African American students to help them achieve their academic goals,” said Mark Nelson, Vice President, Fastweb. “In our new resource, students will find opportunities from educational institutions, foundations, and other organizations across a variety of career disciplines.

There are approximately 1,000 scholarship opportunities with a focus on African American students in our scholarship database,” said Nelson.

With Fastweb’s Scholarship Directory, all students can search for awards by school year, ethnicity, race, unique situations and more. For more helpful free online resources, visit Fastweb.com or download the Fastweb app.

This is a great opportunity. When I was in school, I won two contests that were featured on Fastweb. If you are a student in need of financial help, take a look at the scholarships listed and start applying asap.

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