Jamie Mayes, AOE

Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

We are One

In Culture, justice, media, News, Race, reality, religion, Uncategorized on July 2, 2016 at 3:47 am

On June 30, I was given the prestigious honor of sharing an original piece with the community of Monroe, Louisiana during Mayor Jamie Mayo’s inaugural ceremony. The piece composed was written in efforts to acknowledge the importance of unity and the necessity to be conscious of others and societal issues during such challenging times. Written from the heart, my aim is to be honest about the challenges and truthful about the only real solution to our problem. We must realize that no matter our struggles and problems, we are one humanity that can only truly survive by being learning to work together and showing empathy to others. Below is the transcript.

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A Disappointed Christian: the Orlando Shooting

In Culture, justice, life, media, News, Race, Uncategorized on June 13, 2016 at 7:31 pm

Matthew 22: 39-40And the second commandment is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

One these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.orlando1

Sunday morning I turned my television on to a woman with tears streaming down her face saying she knew her son was among the unidentified dead bodies. My heart sunk as I watched her cry hysterically and I felt my heart break as I watched her crumble to pieces. Many knew what it took me a while to figure out- there was a mass shooting targeting homosexuals at a club in Orlando. The Christians are about to go crazy, I said to myself. Immediately, a sense of discomfort swept me as I anticipated what many of my fellow believers of Christ might say.

They didn’t let me down either. I saw everything from comments about a lack of sympathy for others’ loss to claims that this happened because they were living in sin. I was infuriated to think that people could be so insensitive and outright disrespectful. I was dumbfounded to think that people were suggesting that people deserved to die because they felt they were unforgivable sinners. Here were people wearing the title of Christian so proudly but defaming the word of God so blatantly. I was so disappointed to know that so many of us are doing God a disservice. I can no longer continue to spare the rod on Christians, for so many have become spoiled and intolerant children.

I question how those who criticized Orlando’s victims felt about other American tragedies? Did they have an explanation for why the children of Sandy Hook were killed? What about the people who died in 9/11? What about the massive terrorism of slaves in America for 300 years? Did all of the people deserve to be murdered because of some people felt they had sinned?

Yesterday’s catastrophe was one of the world’s most opportune times to minister; yet, many Christians failed miserably. I continue to think back to Jesus’s ministry over and over again. I think about the number of people He healed and touched and how often he hardly spoke, he only acted. I think about the number of times He denied a sick person a healing because they were of a different religion or because they had sinned. I cannot recall one. Instead, Jesus ministered through love over and over again. He changed lives and hearts through actions over and over again. He focused on His to love and heal and not on their actions.

Yesterday was not about homosexuality or a night club. It was about a tragedy that rocked the country and a result that will affect everyone at some point- death. The pain of losing someone to violence is something that no one deserves and that hurts a family whether the individual is gay or straight, black or white, religious or non-religious. At this moment, so many Christians had the chance to extend arms and join hands to say, “I am sorry for your pain and your loss. God loves you and I do, too,” but so many failed to do so. Many tried to justify the actions of a deranged murderer because they disagreed with the lifestyle of a group. It sickens me. So often, it is not the bible that has caused people to stop going to church or believing in God; it is the actions of the so-called Christians that turns people away. Being hurt and judged by the church has caused so many to forego a personal relationship with God.

This situation is not about your opinion on homosexuality. We have all done something or do something that people do not agree with, and quite often, our opinions of people don’t really matter. This about the chance to sow seed so love and compassion when love and compassion are needed more than ever. God bless the families and victims of Orlando.

Black Crime, Black Self Hate

In Culture, justice, life, media, News, prison, Race, reality, Uncategorized on April 14, 2016 at 7:38 pm

wpid-20150828_191001.jpgLast weekend was filled with tragedy in Louisiana. At least 3 African Americans lost their lives due to violence. Emotions were charged as people took to social media to voice their frustration over such unfortunate events in such a short period of time. However, it was not the reply of my white counterparts that made me cringe and grit my teeth. My people pulled out a phrase that burns my ears worse than nails on an old school chalkboard, “How can we keep crying about racism when black people kill each other every day?” Several thoughts ran through my head every time I saw a status update, tweet or post implying that racism in America is excusable because a certain portion of a population’s race is involved in violent acts. I suppose these are the same type of people who say that slavery could not have been that bad because black people sold other black people and there were black overseers and slave owners throughout history. Their justification for injustice is justifying the acts of the unjustified against an unjustly subjugated people. Read it twice. Read it slowly.

I guess what frustrates me the most is the alarming amount of evidence we have which dispels the myth that black on black crime is the biggest crime problem in America. Yet, people fail to research information for self and, instead, believe the skewed information presented by the news and media. According to the FBI website (link below), in 2013 white people accounted for 3799 manslaughter and non-negligent crimes, while black people accounted for 4,379 of the same crime. However, that gap widened as I continued to research. White people accounted for 8,946 rape crimes, while black people only accounted for less than half of that number at 4,229. White people accounted for 183,092 arrests for aggravated assault arrests, while black people accounted for 98, 748. As matter of a fact, white people exceed black people in criminal arrests in nearly every single category, sometimes with double or trouble the number of criminal acts committed. The total criminal arrests for white people were over six million, while black people had 2.5 million total arrests. Yet, the news and media outlets and society places primary focus on incidents by black people in black neighborhoods. We, then, ostracize and criticize our own people without being properly informed. Do not worry; the link for the website is below. Let your jaw drop a little; the numbers might shock you.

Do not fully rely on statistics for a full justice report, though. One astounding lesson I have learned over the years is that there is huge number of unreported crimes within the white community. Time after time, I have gotten vicarious information or heard stories about violent incidents within my community that were “taken care of” financially or through some other type of agreement. Within my professional experience, I had been told stories by individuals who committed offenses, but were “let off” several times because of family connections or racial advantage. I know I am not the only one who is privy this information; however, many who know this information ignore it and deny its relevance to the inaccurate portrayal of blacks in America.

Instead of treating the unfortunate incidents of last weekend like two isolated cases in two different cities, many people passed judgment on a race. They pulled a race card, but not a king or queen; it seems more like the joker. As much as individuals claim to hate being judged and stereotyped, so many fellow black Americans did both as soon as news of these fatalities was released. What used to create a sense of compassion in me now causes me to seethe with frustration and anger. I keep wondering when the black population will stop believing the labels and stereotypes that have been attached to our people by people who feel threatened by us. We have such a lack of self love individually that we are willing to accept what others say about us collectively. The truth is that we can never expect to see justice from the system if we do not see the value of our own race and culture. We have to start having a better attitude towards and about our people. We must make an important realization: when we support stereotypes and negative assumptions about our people, we as individuals are included the number. Agreeing with the derogatory statements made about our race does not make us an exception. Speaking against these misrepresentations of our people is the only way to combat the problem.

For many, the argument that black people are America’s biggest problem and that the black race is violent angry race that is destroying the country with crime seems small. However, it is this belief that has contributed to the alarming number of hate crimes against black people, prejudiced attitudes and biases, lack of cultural empathy and respect, and discrimination in work places. In essence, supporting a negative view of our culture has prohibited all of our people from receiving fair and equal treatment more often. One clichéd quote is true; we cannot expect others to respect us if we do not respect ourselves. We must change our perspective of our own people, research and information others of the truth and become positive advocates for changes in policies and attitudes.

There is an important lesson I have learned over the years, and it’s that numbers don’t lie. Educate yourself, people.

FBI Website:

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-43

 

 

Motivational Reflections

In Culture, justice, life, media, News, Race, reality, Uncategorized on February 19, 2016 at 4:43 am
“Racism is not an excuse to not do the best you can.”
— Arthur Ashe

We are just past the half-way mark for the month of February. Indeed, it has been an action packed month for me as my students complete projects and presentations,  make daily morning announcements, and we hosted a Black History movie day to raise money for our soul food tasting event. I must admit that Black History Month is a particularly sensitive time of year for me as I meditate and reflect even more closely on the journeys, lives and experiences of African-Americans. Our experience in this country has not been a beautiful one, but it has been a grand and significant one. One that we should embrace and love even more because of the tumultuous journey we have had. For many, reflecting on the past brings about anxiety and anger, because it is hard to imagine the difficult road our people have traveled.

Yet, further reflection on the past has allowed me to see history as so many of our history makers have seen it- with pride. I often study the works of Phyllis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass and Dr. Maya Angelou. I read about the accomplishments of Maggie L. Walker, Madame C.J. Walker and Dr. George Washington Carver. They all had one thing in common; they did not allow racism to determine their level of achievement. Though they knew the reality of society; yet, they worked towards greatness, using their struggles as their motivation.

So often, we are tempted to let obstacles determine our level of success. However, we must remember that our ancestors made so many sacrifices so our lives could be easier.  Imagine what life would be life if we had to deal with daily personal struggles and Jim Crow Segregation Laws, restricted voting laws, and segregated schools? Though so many issues with race still exist, they hardly compare to lifblack-history-monthe for African Americans just 50 years ago! We have so much to be thankful for in 2016, but so often we allow temporary struggles to make us feel bogged down stress. We are so much d to reap the benefits of our ancestors’ work. They sowed many seeds; let us continue to cultivate them for the next generation.  Take pride in the work of our ancestors, face our struggles with courage and strength and teach our children to be leaders who advocate boldly during adversity! The great Arthur Ashe once said, “Racism is not an excuse to not do the best you can,” and neither is any other obstacle one faces. Yes, you may fall thousand times, but every time you get up there should be a little more motivation to succeed. Honor our ancestors by relentlessly going for your dreams!

Stacey Dash: The Reason We Need Black History Month

In Culture, justice, life, media, News, Race, reality, Uncategorized on February 4, 2016 at 1:05 am

This year there are several reasons I could talk about the importance of Black History Month. I can always reflect on the lack of black history and culture in school textbooks. I could reflect number of recently publicly known crimes against black people. I could discuss thesdash1 threat of the election of Donald Trump, which could subsequently lead to the deportation or re-enslavement of black people. However, none of these will suffice this year’s explanation of why the celebration of Black History Month is so imperative. This year the ultimate reason that Black History Month is so important is comical, but true, ironic, but coincidental. The ultimate reason that Black History Month is so important is- you guessed it- Stacey Dash.
Because she had the courage to say BET, black awards shows and Black History Month should be eliminated is the very reason we must celebrate Black History Month. Her unapologetic attitude about her distasteful comments regarding her own race and culture is why we must celebrate and even amplify Black History Month. Dash is a reminder that Uncle Toms and token black kids still exist, showing disdain for their culture and being willing to sell their souls for money, power, and a whiter place in society. I can see her now, sitting at table with her colleagues saying hate crimes are justified because “blacks kill blacks all of the time.” Yet, be not angered with Dash, be compassionate towards her desire to be fulfilled by public attention and need to be acknowledge. She is currently getting more media attention than she ever got as an actress; being clueless has finally paid off. Because of her, I reminded of exactly why we need Black History Month:
1. She represents a lack of self-love and pride, the biggest threat to Black History.
Dash is not the only one who has failed to embrace the beauty of blackness and black culture. Our generation suffers from a lack of self-love. Though, we have difficulty accepting the truth, black people have been taught that bone straight hair and name brand clothes from the latest white designer are the key to self-value and self respect. We have replaced the value of our culture with things that depreciate the minute a transaction is performed. History has long taught us that light skin is purer and “righter” than dark skin, and that black people came from desperation, anger and violence. Self-hate and disdain for black culture has been engraved into us like the tattoos on the forearm of a Jew, and Stacey Dash is an evident reflection of such.
2. She represents the miseducated.
It is my belief that all of Stacey Dash’s comments are not and cannot be based on her genuine beliefs. Somewhere along the way, Dash has been miseducated about at least one half of her race, maybe both halves. However, her problem is not an uncommon one. The miseducated believe that we are truly free. The miseducated believe that systems that enforced equal practices are not necessary, because America is the land of opportunity for all mankind. The miseducated believe that slavery was not as bad as people try to make it seem. They see some truth to what Dash said, and they lend an open ear perspectives of the commentators on Fox News.
Each year, my students complete a Black History project or we go through a series of mini-lessons on the experiences of black people through history. It amazes me that most of my students only know three basic black historic figures: Dr. King, Rosa Parks and the surface of Malcolm X. The most troubling problem is that they have a misunderstanding of the mission of such individuals and their philosophies and beliefs about black movements and black power. Additionally, they have also been taught that racism and race issues are history and that we no longer have to work towards equality. They, like Dash, have been severely miseducated and society has become the instructor to teach them what the community has failed to do. These lessons come with painful experiences and broken expectations, and result in misdirected energy and misplaced anger. This has caused our children to stumble along for years being forced to learn how to develop community leadership and impacting movements the hard way. Miseducation comes with a terrible price to pay.
3. She represents a dangerous future.
The honest truth is that Stacy Dash is a bigger threat to society than we admit. The alarming number of people who agree with or empathize with Dash should send an immediate notice that there is much work to be done in order to preserve the celebration of Black culture. Respect for black history and black people is diminishing at a faster rate than it ever has, and the lack of response by today’s generation is troubling.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. Movements like Black Lives Matter and the Ferguson Protests send notice to America that there are young, motivated black leaders who will not take the troubles of society in a passive manner. However, is this movement massive enough? My concern is that the portion of black Americans who recognize the woes of being black in America will be overpowered by those who speak contrary to the statistically proven, undeniable truth about race relations. America continues to refuse to change laws and press charges, while using weak excuses to rationalize crimes committed against blacks. Lack of social consciousness means we are in danger of creating a dead generation, who regressive actions could send black folks back to the fields.
Yet, I must ask, what would we do without people like Dash to serve as a fresh reminder that we must continue to defy the odds and push for our culture to be remembered and respected? She is the constant reminder that though we have come far, we have even further to go. Oh, Stacey, your career has been just that, a “Dash” in time, and thankfully so. For, had you been a more significant and influential media star, your impactful ignorant just might pose a bigger threat to society. Dash is not alone in this party though; Raven Symone, Don Lemon, and the black preachers who met with Donald Trump last year are all reminders that until black people truly love black culture the journey to help others embrace our culture is quite long and difficult. Black History Month is only a small way to celebrate what black people did a country that was not capable of doing for itself. Maybe one day textbooks will tell the full story and Dash will love the skin she is in, but until then let us celebrate Black History.

4 Reasons I am Madder than Abby

In Culture, life, media, News, Race, reality, Uncategorized on December 16, 2015 at 4:00 am

young-black-gifted_designFor the past few months, my ambition has been to slowly back away from the race relations platform. No, I am not Uncle Tomming, but I am severely frustrated and, at times, angered by a seemingly never ending situation. The insensitivity of society and refusal to address real problems has often made even me feel powerless and that no matter how strong the movement is, we do not possess enough power to see real change. It seems that we are about two steps from going back to the Jim Crow Era. I stopped reading as many articles and started flipping the television channels when proclamations of another race-related death of young black males and females is flashed across the television; each story was starting to make me nauseous.  However, a story I had heard about years ago resurfaced and initiated a movement more powerful than ever- Fisher versus the University of Texas.

Her claims that affirmative action cost her a slot at UT simply astonished me, especially after I read the article. I have just a few things to say to Little Miss Sassy Abby (I just feel like she was sassy when she was growing up.)

  1. Get your business straight

It is a well known rule, Miss Abby, that anytime you decide to come for someone, you need to have all of your “ducks in a row!” In your case, you did not just come for a person, you came for all minorities with weakly supported reasons that you did not get into the University of Texas. Your attempt to degrade an entire group of people (minorities) because of your insecurities and not quite making the cut is appalling. No longer can you pretend to act like your mediocre grades played no role in your denied admission into UT. Let’s be truthful, this was more of an ego issue, than concerned beliefs about the admissions process or a real dream to become a student of UT. Had this been about achieving your dream, you would have accepted what was offered by entering the school after a year through an alternate route. However, that was not your intention; you had to throw a temper tantrum for not getting your way, because that is what you have done all of your life. This time it did not work.

While throwing a fit about affirmative action, you failed to acknowledge the fact that you were only a mediocre student, whose denied application was a part of 42 other white students who were denied for the same reason. As a matter of a fact, Dallasnews.com, 168 black people and Hispanics were actually denied admission for the same reason, more than four times the number of whites. Tantrum over, Abby; sit down.

  1. White privilege

Abby, it has been repeatedly statistically and socially proven that white privilege is a social problem that plagues America. As a result, white Americans tend to have it easier when it comes to a list of things: getting jobs, earning grades, buying homes, being served in public places, avoiding racial profiling, being approached by the police, receiving “fair” trials in the court-of-law, the list goes on and on and on. You, little Miss Abby, are nothing but an example of the people who continue to try to deny real issues in America by either pretending they don’t exist or playing the victim or blaming the victim for their own unfortunate demise.

Mad Abby, the reason that affirmative action had to be established was so minorities could get a fair shot in situations where they are hardly ever considered. The truth is that people tend to gravitate towards people who look like them, act like them, and fit their idea of a reputable individual in order to stay in their comfort zone, such is especially the case in board rooms and meetings. Typically, you do not see people of color in these positions, alienating other races and limiting the number of fair opportunities they receive.

In addition, Mad Abby studies have been conducted that indicate that even standardized exams for college and course information for K-12 schools tend to suit the educational needs of white students while isolating minorities. Therefore, Mad Abby, your inability to meet the mark despite having exams that better accommodate you than your counterparts simply means you should have studied harder if you were going to complain.

  1.    Even though I am a bit salty with my alma mater for admitting you in the first place, LSU did..and you graduated…and they have affirmative action, too…

In the end, you took another route, Abby. Apparently, you were successful at LSU- Baton Rouge, a university that boasts a student population of over 30,000 students with just over 20% of those being minorities, and only 11% being black students in particular. (http://www.collegeportraits.org/LA/LSU/print )  The campus hosts a list of minority geared programs, events and organizations in efforts to bridge the gap. Mad Abby, I bet you were one of the students out there flying the confederate flag in LSU colors saying “It’s pride, not prejudice.” I bet you were one of the people saying that if they have African American Studies classes, they should have Caucasian Studies classes, too, because we just do not know enough about the contributions of whites in America. You are one of the students who keeps asking why they have a Black Student Union and not a White Student Union, when the entire university is pretty represented by students of the majority. I guess you should have listed LSU in that lawsuit, too, because even though they admitted you, Mad Abby, what about the thousands of oppressed white students who are denied admittance into PWI’s across this country because of affirmative action?

  1. One word…reparations.

I know the word is worn all the way out and we will never, ever, ever, ever, ever get it…but I had to pull out my whip to beat this horse one more time. Nearly every other minority race has been given some type of jump start in America because of their race related experiences- tax write offs, compensation checks, casinos, free college tuition and the list goes on. I have even been told that white students frequently and easily get scholarships to HBCU’s because they are considered the minority. Yet, hundreds of years laters, we have still never seen one penny, tax exemption or waiver in place of the 40 acres and a mule we were promised after slavery. Affirmative action is like a slight breath of life to an
almost dead person when we really consider its benefits to black folks.

Miss Petty Abby, ultimately,  I need you to ask yourself if you want to spend another eight years behaving so foolishly? Your tantrums have gotten you nothing but some media attention and, I am sure, some legal bills that cost far more than the tuition at UT. It is unfortunate that the media continues to mull over this, but I am happy to see minorities take control of the issue and take a stand against such a calamity. Maybe they can help you understand what the courts are tired of trying to prove.   I want you to ask yourself, Abby, Has not attending UT hindered my success in any way? You may argue that it has,  but the truth is that it has not. You have hindered your own success, by choosing to over indulge in the technicalities of your educational experience when the truth is that you could have gone to UT if you really wanted to. The audacity of you to be so mad when you have nothing to really be mad about! After 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the 90’s riots, no reparations for the aggravation, police violence and brutality, public racial disdain and disrespect towards the President, and an attempted discrediting of the Black Lives Matter movement, I am so much madder than you! No, Abby, you do NOT deserve to stay mad; you deserve to be told to sit down. #staymadabby #youhavenoreasontobemadaddy #iammadderthanyou

God & Poetry Saved Me from Suicide

In Culture, life, media, modeling, News, Race, reality on May 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

For years I have been asked what motivated me to start writing. I have only been able to give part of the truth when I told people that I used writing to help me cope with issues. The other part, the most important part of this answer, has been an uncomfortable story to tell. I have hinted at the truth, only alluding to the answer because I was afraid to give full disclosure and worried about how the answer would reflect on me. This is not an easy explanation; it is the hardest story I have ever had to tell. However, what I experienced is all too common and not talked about enough.

I have never danced around the fact that I suffered from depression most of my teen, preteen years, and some of my early adult years. Unfortunately, the illness was pervasive in my household throughout my childhood. My mother was a serious sufferer of depression and I silently fell into the same pattern, as I struggled to understand what was wrong with our family and how I could solve the problem. In our apartment in the projects, there was a broken woman in a dark room on one side of the wall, a sad little girl crying everyday on the other side of the wall, and a boy I could not understand down the hall. This scene went on for years. In addition, self-esteem problems, the absence of my father, and poverty were all issues that I understood too well too young. Though I understood the issues, I did not understand why they were a part of my life or how to escape the problems associated with them and the emotions I experienced as a result.

My depression became even darker when I was about twelve years old. There are many things I cannot remember, but of those I can recall, I remember hating everything about myself and my life and believing that no one loved me, not even God. I believed that my dark brown skin was jet-black and ugly and that I was the sole source of problems in our home. I hated waking up in the morning; each day seemed to drag on and I could not see a reason for my existence. I began to pray for God to kill me in my sleep at night. I had convinced myself that no one would miss me if I was gone, not even my family, who was doing the best they could to help our family while trying not to upset our situation even more. I thought that if I died in my sleep it would be quick and painless. I was convinced that death would be my only peace, but a few more years would pass before I would actually get the courage to consider killing myself. Yet, when the moment arrived, I stood in the kitchen with the lights off and a knife to my wrist. I had never felt more desperate and ready. With tears running down my face, I stood ready to relieve myself of all pain. As I stood in the kitchen, I prayed one last desperate prayer, If you will give me one reason to live, just one God, I won’t do this. But I just cannot take it anymore. It was the last prayer I felt I had the energy to pray, and I had given up on God. I had wondered why I had seen my mother pray so much, but it seemed that nothing about our lives had changed. I had witnessed her praying through the crack of her door and reading her bible multiple times a day when I was child; yet, she was still so unhappy. I could not understand what prayer was supposed to do, but I knew it had to do something. I wondered why I felt the need to mimic her example, but still could not see the benefits of praying. Just as I finished my ultimate plea for a reason to save my own life, God spoke to me so clearly it was as if He was in the kitchen with me. He said three simple words, Write about it. It was such an unfamiliar experience and voice that I doubted myself when I first heard the words. He repeated, Jamie, write about it. It took me a minute to compose myself, but I dried my face, put the knife in the sink and went to my bedroom. I found my school notebook and starting writing words on paper.

I began writing paragraphs about my feelings and the anger with my life and my situation. I wrote when I was happy, angry, frustrated and depressed. Some of my writings were dark and filled with rage, but the more I wrote the more I was able to release the pain that I felt. I frequently heard God speaking to me as I wrote. Sometimes I wrote multiple times a day, and sometimes I would go days without writing. Yet, I knew that my pen was my savior and it was helping me to escape my pain. Though nothing was changing at home yet, things were changing within me. I started to feel hope and my motivation to become successful drove me to excel in everything I did. Mediocrity was never acceptable; my performance always had to be exceptional. I believed that my exceptional performance would help to change so many things about my life, and though I did not see much progress, writing continued to give me hope.

After my ninth grade year of high school Mrs. Sylvia Smith (formerly Hawkes) encouraged me to enter the public speaking contest at 4-H Short Course. Given my talkative history, she thought it would be the perfect competition for a girl in an agriculture club who could not have farm animals in the projects. I loved all famous black orators, and I secretly wanted to be like Dr. King one day, though I never thought it was truly possible. I thought the writing I had been doing for the past few years might help me write a speech for a contest. My paragraphs became poems, and my poems became my first essays. I became a competitive speaker who was more enthused by sharing a positive speech than by winning; though, I went on to win and place in most of my competitions. Speaking validated my calling to share hope with others.

The irony of my life was that most people never knew my living situation or that I lived every day for many years in depression. They had no idea that the outspoken honor student who was a member and leader in almost every school organization was smiling on the outside and praying for a reason to live inside. School gave me validation, and education gave me liberation. Seeing the success of others gave me hope on wpid-11221215_852934968112718_1626851941_o.jpgthe day that I almost gave in. I am thankful that God saved me and I am living in every single moment of this life. As I hold my son, I am reminded of why I am so blessed to see every day and I frequently think to myself that I almost missed this wonderful life. Each night when I talk to my mama, I am thankful that God created such a beautiful masterpiece out of the shattered vessels that we were. When I stand on stages and talk to audiences, I think about how I almost missed the chance to share such important moments with others. All of the pain I experienced equipped me to be as strong as I am today. All of the hurt I felt gave me the compassion that I share with others. All of the depression I experienced made me appreciate true joy. All of the brokenness in my home was to bring my family even closer together in God. My friends and family frequently make jokes about how much I cry when I get emotional, but when I think of all the years I spent crying tears of pain, I want to make up for them by crying tears of joy. I am not perfect, and neither is my life, but God’s will for my life is being perfected each day. I have been freed because God and poetry saved me from suicide.

Why Black History Should Never Make Black People Bitter

In Culture, life, media, News, Race on February 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

The images in Selma made me cringe as I watched the dramatic images of black people being abused and murdered as they struggled for the right to vote. It was hurtful to know that black people alone were not valued enough to be granted the right to vote. The thought that they had to unite forces with their white counterparts in order to actually be considered reminded me of the struggles black people still face today. For a few days, my black power personality was mellowed down and I was seething anger with I have seen, heard and read so many times. While the images in this box office hit were nothing new, my feelings seemed to be even more intense as I considered the recent troubling race relations in America. As I drove home from the movie, I had a hard time trying to regain composure and think about what has always made me feel so much love for my culture. My admiration for civil rights workers, abolitionists, revolt leaders and everyday survivors of slavery and the Jim Crow Era was far deeper than black pride; I felt obligated use writing as a tool reach the masses as a sign of reverence for my predecessors. However the movie momentarily reminded me of the brutality of being black in America. I temporarily forgot a much more important lesson: black history should never make me bitter.

The gruesome images that replayed in my mind temporarily overshadowed the most important point of black history. Black people suffered for hundreds of years, but were always resilient, finding ways to make something out of nothing and smile in the worse conditions. They lived optimistically in a society that designed a system to block any opportunity for advance or freedom. Yet, despite these manmade barriers, Frederick Douglass and many others were determined to learn to read. He went on to become an abolitionist and author during a time when black people were killed for such “atrocities.” Though Harriet Tubman could not read and had no maps, she found the road to freedom and help over 300 others find the same pablack-history-monthth. And though death threatened hundreds of thousands, even millions, of slaves and black people, they fought, ran, and spoke up for freedom. As I recounted the numerous stories I had read and the stories that were told to by my elders, I was disappointed that I let emotions override my logic when understanding how profound my ancestors were despite their situation.

Black history should never make black people bitter. It should, however, arouse a sense of moral obligation to salute those who will never receive the accolades deserved. Through actions of gratitude, like supporting movements that continuously elevate black progress and unity, the work of my ancestors is respected. The fact that black people who died while fighting for civil rights and accepted the monstrous task before them with the understanding that they may die should be given even more respect that the constantly marveled story of the Holocaust. But, it is not. Perhaps the irony of this is that those who died for the cause probably knew they would never be American heroes and they never tried to be. They only tried to fight and live. With this in consideration, one should not be angered but instead, inspired. It is rare that individuals are willing to sacrifice life for the sake of people they may never know and for a cause that may never yield the results desired.

The movie Selma forced me to revisit my history books and take the time to reflect on what my black ancestors mean to the development of this country, their descendants and me. My displeasure melted as I re-read about the talented writing ability of Phyllis Wheatley, the innumerous inventions of Dr. George Washington Carver, and the accomplishments of Dr. Maya Angelou. I have committed myself to being more like my ancestors who gave selflessly for the benefit of the future. I have obligated myself to be a better mother to my son, teacher to my students and citizen in my community. For the mission of my predecessors was not for their descendants to live in anger, but to be socially and culturally cognizant of the sacrifices made for equality and freedom. They wanted their losses and legacies to pave the way for a race that is better, not bitter.

American Injustice for Black Men: Part I

In Culture, justice, life, media, News, prison, Race, reality on December 5, 2014 at 2:07 am

There is nothing new about the injustice of the American justice system. Black people have been fighting for rights in America since we arrived in America. However, after such a dramatic impact from some of history’s strongest leaders during the Civil Rights era, our race became complacent, assuming that we had finally “arrived.” Yet, the past six years have been some of the most turbulent this country has ever seen. I have found myself frequently wishing I had lived during the Civil Rights era, at least I would be openly aware of injustices and knowledgeable about how to handle them. I would be surrounded by a group of power house black

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culturists who would train me to be a smart fighter in the midst of an unchanging society, but such is not the case. I am an eighties baby, born to a generation of entitled individuals who are satisfied with times that seem to be better than. Better than the Jim Crow Era. Better that the roaring twenties. Better than slavery. And for a while this pacified us; for, we were able to convince ourselves that the work of our ancestors was enough for us to function in a balanced and equal society and that all we had to do was enjoy the benefits and play our conforming role. This attitude has caused me many struggles because for many years I have seen America through different eyes and have understood the dangers of what seemed to be minor race issues. I kept wondering when we would have a cultural awakening and see the big picture- that several minor issues equal a big problem. A string of deaths that began long before Trayvon Martin was brutally murdered finally led to an eruption of emotions that have black people realizing that America has not progressed as much as many thought it had.

The devastation behind the deaths of several black men who were supposedly innocent until proven guilty is only the flip side of what has been wrong with the justice system for years. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the situation and received much backlash from his white counterparts months ago. The alarming rate in which black males have received long prison sentences for minor crimes and for crimes that their white counterparts have received small sentences has placed a negative stigma on the black community and greatly stinted the progress of the black community. It is the flip side of black murders committed by white cops; yet, it is just as damaging to black race as the unfortunate deaths of black men. It is ridiculous that it has taken the deaths of several men to address a problem that is not about incidents, but about a flawed system.

Our black men are moving targets, set out to be destroyed emotionally and physically, too, if necessary. For years, it has been enough to imprison them for extended periods of time. This was enough to break their spirits and place a permanent blemish in their background that would limit and, in many cases, eliminate the possibility of true recovery and true success. However, the election of a black President and a surge of the confidence and achievement in the black male community have made America take immediate action in attempt to degrade and demolish the strong black man thus weakening the black community as a whole. To justify the attacks, the justice system is manipulated by those who created it and misused to justify the crimes of those who react based on ego instead of behaving according to their occupational responsibility. What is scariest about this situation is the audacity our country’s leaders to try and defend these horrendous acts which directly violate laws and human rights. The repeated slaying of black men has finally taken a toll on the black community and we are on the heels of a serious movement in America. There are two major questions I have been unable to shake from my mind: What do we do to change a system that has been doing what it was put in place to do for so many years? Is the problem that we must change a system or we must force people to change their mentality? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to either one and I fear that we as a collective unit do not either. As I grow older, I have begun to doubt that this system is fixable and that hatred and racism will always be passed to generations in efforts to maintain control.

It does not seem that it will ever matter how much motivation a black man has; there will always be an attempt to emasculate and dehumanize him. While we are in control of our individual actions and behaviors, this does not justify the justice system’s abuse of power and mistreatment of black men. Black men have been tortured in America since they were brought to America as slaves hundreds of years ago. They struggled for their rights to be treated as humans and men back then and it is an unfortunate fight that continues now. It is devastating that black men continue to lose whether to the penitentiary or to the casket.

Winnie Mandela: The Pain of Loyalty

In Culture, News, Race, Uncategorized on January 3, 2014 at 8:39 am

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Tonight I saw a movie that triggered more emotions than any movie I’ve seen in years. Mandela: Long Walk Home reminded me of a sore that had just started to heal and then was re-opened and saturated with alcohol as I winced throughout the movie. Thus, my commentary on the movie will take place in at least two…maybe even three parts.  However, I have chosen to start with the part that is let’s say, easiest for me to digest and dissect.

I grasped another story inside the Mandela story, and it was that of Winne Mandela. Hard-faced and stone cold through most of the movie, she showed courage to understand a man like Nelson and maintained dignity and loyalty while he was imprisoned. Shown in a soft and romantic youthfulness at the beginning of her relationship with Nelson Mandela, Winnie immediately announce that she understood Nelson…perhaps more than his first wife did. She didn’t complain about his long absences and encouraged him to fight for his country. She was the strength behind a man with a mission, while quietly playing her role in the background.  Even after Nelson’s imprisonment Winnie remained true to him, refusing to snitch and being beaten and held in solitary confinement for as long at 16 months, fueling her passion into anger. Tirelessly, she rallied and protested encouraging South Africans to fight fire with fire against segregation and injustice. She became as hard as a stone and as cold as an arctic winter. She was fearless; she was courageous. She was unstoppable.

Yet, despite Winnie’s loyalty to the cause of South Africa and Nelson, her work of more than 25 years would be quickly pushed aside upon the release of Nelson Mandela. His release from prison moved and changed the country, and Winnie’s hard work was criticized by Nelson and she was deemed foolish. Nelson’s focused returned to redemption of South Africa, not catering to nor thanking his wife who had remained committed to him, even from a distance. Nelson does not even make love to her when he first crossed the threshold of their home, even after she indicates that it has been “so long.” Instead, he says that he wants to rest, nearly escorting her into the arms of someone who is willing to show her love. Eventually, their love dissipates and Winnie is criticized heavily for her affair; while Nelson speaks poorly of her in a kind manner, she falls deeper into the folds, eventually becoming invisible.

I tried to imagine how Winnie felt. She waited loyally for Nelson for 27 years and would have worked for his cause until her death. Beneath the anger and frustration she felt with Nelson and his situation, a burdened and abused women simply needed to be loved and appreciated. I listened throughout the movie for a simple “thank you” from Nelson or even South Africa, but none was heard. Though I’m sure some type of thanks has been demonstrated none can compare to the accolades of her famed husband, who legacy would not have continued without the diligence of his wife.

The scene that flashes repeatedly in my mind is the one where Winnie wears the military clothes and Nelson is dressed in his suit while they are inside the church talking. This scene visually demonstrates a defining moment of their current relationship and the sides of the line on which they stand. While both sought justice, each had morphed into different creatures of warfare. Instead of showing Winnie the benefits of a new way of thinking, Nelson belittles her, yelling that the mission is about loyalty. Yet, he is the clear example of defying loyalty when he gives up on the woman who was loyal to him.

Winnie’s story is not an untypical one. We still live in a sexist society where women are usually the underdog and the black sheep. It is sad to say that even years later her story has hardly been told. Her loyalty to Nelson is hardly spoken of and she is not reveled in the same heroic manner as her counterpart, though she stood at his bedside until his final breath and spoke nothing but love for him. Yet, I am reminded that the essence of a woman is that she can remain humble when ignored, strong when broken, courageous when afraid, and  loyal when dishonored.  I salute you, Winnie Mandela.

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