The Truth About Reparations: Powerful Conversation with Minister Ari Merretazon

In this powerful interview, Minister Ari Merretazon (N’COBRA’s Northeast Region Representative and Philadelphia chapter member) explains to author Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, the nuances of reparations activism, strategies, and laws. Minister Merretazon also emphasizes the importance of understanding African identity and culture as the basis for peoplehood and explains why reparationists use the term Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States (DAEUS).

More about Minister Ari Merretazon:

Ari Merretazon is a Reparationist.

He is a 1989 graduate of the Graduate School of Community Economic Development, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire, and a certified Legal Technician from Antioch School of Law, now known as the University of Washington D.C Law School. 

Minister Merretazon is a member of the N’COBRA Philadelphia Chapter and the Northeast Region Representative of N’COBRA. He is one of the leading thought leaders about reparations for Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States (DAEUS).

In the late 80’s he was an active member of the National Black Independent Political Party and served as a co-chair for National Security.

He is a Decorated, Honorably Discharged, Vietnam War Veteran, Headquarters Recon, 3rd Brigade, 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions, U.S. Army. 

He is one of  The “Bloods of Vietnam.” He was the Technical Consultant for “Dead Presidents” – The Motion Picture. Larenz Tate, the lead actor, played his character. He is also an Oral Historian. His war history is Chapter 7 of “Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War By Black Veterans,” by Wallace Terry, published by Random House, Ballantine Books, New York.

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.

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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India Arie Honors Black History Trailblazers in New Album

My girl is back!

Four-time GRAMMY® winning artist/songwriter India Arie released her eighth studio album WORTHY on Friday, February 15, 2019.

This is her first full-length in five years.

Along with the inspiring “What If” honoring iconic trailblazers including Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, is the Caribbean-tinged “That Magic,” a current Top Ten R&B hit with a video featuring award-winning actor Lyriq Bent and cameo from Reggae Superstar Gramps Morgan. Other songs on the album drawing praise include “Hour Of Love,” “Steady Love,” “We Are,” “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” and the title track “Worthy.”

Says India about the new album: “My favorite definition of the word ‘worthy’ is deserving of regard and respect. The songs on this album implicitly or explicitly carry the message and the energy of the word.  I set out with the title even before I had the song, which is unusual for me, but I wanted to remind people that even though the world ordains that you have to ‘do’ or ‘be’ something to be ‘worthy,’ that’s not true. 

There is nothing special we have to do or be, we all are worthy once we arrive at that realization.  A person who feels empowered in that way is a much more powerful force in this world.” 

India Arie’s willingness early on to challenge preconceived notions of beauty and sexuality coupled with her courage to defy broad racial and gender categorizations have helped empower current culturally-conscious movements.

Her upcoming North American WORTHY TOUR kicks off April 30 at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, with marquee cities announced so far including Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, Detroit, Boston, and New York City.

After more than 10 million albums sold and 10 world tours, including with icon Stevie Wonder, India Arie is recognized as a global difference maker.

Among her accomplishments; five Top Ten albums, 22 GRAMMY nominations, numerous NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, MTV Awards, and command performances for three US Presidents. She has met with the Dalai Lama, touring the National Civil Rights Museum with him in Memphis.

Inducted into the 2009 Georgia Music Hall of Fame, India has joined Oprah Winfrey on multiple projects, a featured ‘Change Makers and Wisdom Teachers’ on Winfrey’s OWN Network and shared with Oprah her trademark blend of performance/spiritual teaching via SongVersation.

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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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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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Integrity is for broke people – Steve Harvey

After years of being blackballed in Hollywood, Oscar Award-winning comedian Mo’Nique sat down with Steve Harvey to settle their differences. Mo’Nique’s relationship with Harvey became strained after he publically criticized and distanced himself from her after she became outspoken about inequality and discrimination in Hollywood.

Mo’Nique also called out Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Lee Daniels for not publically defending her. According to Mo’Nique, they knew she had “done nothing wrong.” Instead, according to Mo’Nique, they allowed her name to be dragged through the mud, rather than telling the truth about what was happening.

Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Lee Daniel’s film Precious. However, she was only paid $50,000 for the role and was expected to travel across the country and around the world to promote the film out of her own pocket. When she refused, she was labeled difficult. Mo’Nique then spoke openly about Hollywood’s refusal to pay Black actresses fairly.

At this point, she was blackballed.

In her sit down with Steve Harvey, Mo’Nique stood strong in her conviction that she did the right thing. Stating, “When you allow people, to start taking your freedom and your gift and making it become what makes them comfortable, we then lose.”

Steve Harvey then responded, “When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. WE BLACK OUT HERE…”

He continued, “This the money game. This ain’t the Black man’s game. This ain’t the white man’s game. This the money game. And you can not sacrifice yourself. The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.”

In this statement, Steve implies that truthtelling is the road to poverty and that to thrive, one must play “the game.”

However, Mo’Nique bravely countered, “Before the money game is the integrity game. And we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money.”

Then Steve Harvey took a route that many people had an issue with. He acted as if standing up for Mo’Nique somehow would have made him lose his $100 million empire overnight.

Steve stated, “If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble. I can not for the sake of my integrity, stand up here and let everybody that’s counting on me crumble – so I can make a statement. There are ways to win the war in a different way.”

This is where we have a problem. I agree that in any situation, especially dealing with employment, we must be strategic and tactful. However, when battling a larger social issue, like the unequal payment of Black women – which is a huge issue – being quiet is the exact opposite of what we need.

This is especially true if you’re in a position of power.

Zora Neale Hurston said it best, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Mo’Nique is calling out a larger social issue. She’s calling out anti-Blackness implemented by expecting Black people to allow themselves to be overworked and undervalued. We may not all be in Hollywood, but working class Black women see it every day. According to the National Women’s Law Center and Equal Pay Today, Black women face steep wage inequality.

“Black women working full time, year round typically make only 61 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.” (National Women’s Law Center)

Just because Mo’Nique is speaking out about Hollywood instead of an office job or fast food restaurant, doesn’t mean her words are any less true. Mo’Nique is a comedy pioneer and legend. Her decades of work speaks for its self. Yet, there are some still expecting her to be quiet and “grateful” as if she’s just some novice off the street.

The larger issue that she is addressing is about Black self-worth. Are we willing to set higher standards and enforce them? Are we ready to stop accepting crumbs? Are we ready to call out injustice, even if it means a temporary set back?

Though this can be scary, history has shown us the benefits of taking a stand. Muhammad Ali showed us with his refusal to fight in Vietnam, which led to him being stripped of his heavyweight title. Rosa Parks showed us in her refusal to give up her seat, leading her to be jailed. Recently Colin Kaepernick showed us, by taking a knee during the National Anthem to bring awareness to police brutality against Blacks, leading him to lose his job.

Some may not see the connection but it is there. Mo’Nique is fighting for pay equality. Without it, Black women specifically will continue to face economic instability. This is race-based financial oppression with real-life repercussions for everyday people.

That’s where integrity comes in because the issue is deeper than Mo’Nique personally. The Steve Harveys of the world may think they’re flourishing by staying quiet. Yes, Steve Harvey may be building wealth for himself but what good is it if the people he claims to support are still dealing with everyday struggles of wage gaps and underemployment? What good is his wealth if he refuses to speak out against the mass economic oppression of his people? These are issues that he could speak out about, starting with his industry.

And standing up to Hollywood is not a far-fetched idea.

Remember when everyone thought that Dave Chapelle was crazy for walking away from his widely acclaimed Comedy Central show? Remember how the network tried to bury him, even spread rumors about drug use?

He left for his integrity. It cost him financially at first but eventually, he became even more celebrated for standing his ground and not allowing himself to be exploited for profits. Years later, he was able to fully recoup his losses and is highly respected.

This is more than about Mo’Nique. And yes, integrity may have no immediate monetary benefit. However, history has shown us that if it were not for bravery and integrity – we would still be sitting in the back of the bus being told we should be grateful just for a seat.

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Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a publisher and multicultural communications specialist. To reach J.A.M., email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.