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.

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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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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Jussie Smollett Orchestrated His Own Attack – Two Investigators Say

Screenshot of Jussie Smollett’s Good Morning America Interview

Hopefully, this news isn’t true.

A few weeks ago, it was reported that singer and Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in an apparent hate crime.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. (CBS News)

Now, after much back and forth, two sources from Chicago police are telling reporters they believe that Jussie Smollett paid two men to attack him.

At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, it would be deplorable for anyone to fake an attack. People of color across America already have a difficult time getting justice when faced with racism, discrimination, and violence.

This story continues to unfold but I sincerely hope that it is not true.

Otherwise, Jussie Smollett has a lot of explaining to do and owes many people (especially the Black LGBTQ community) an apology.

Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have issued a statement:

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