Jamie Mayes, AOE

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Who dat?…The Slaves

In Culture, justice, life, media, Race, reality, Uncategorized on July 20, 2018 at 12:05 am

A few weeks ago, I read an article I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. I will admit, I am a bit ashamed that I only recently learned of some information that I should have learned long ago. However, Louisiana is excellent for teaching about how Louisiana used to be the biggest part of the union and how significant the Louisiana Purchase was, but they are less apt to talk about the role of slavery and the role the slave trade played in establishing Louisiana. I have had to do quite a bit of self-teaching, but I am not so sure how I missed such an important lesson.

Most Louisianans infamously love our NFL football team. Whether they are having a winning season or a whining seachinnson (mostly the fans crying), most of the people of this state are faithful to the Saints. With adoration they speak of Sean Payton and they don’t believe the day of retirement will ever draw near for Drew Brees. If you say Saints, they automatically scream “Who dat?” If you check their phones, when they type in “Who” the automatic next word will be “dat.” One will have to search deeply to find non-Saints fans, and those individuals are usually subject to hard ridicule and questions of Louisiana loyalty by their family and friends. Though I am not a football expert, I am a lover of Louisiana culture. So before the Colin Kaepernick revolution, I had a natural desire to see our state’s team do well, and I would turn the game on in at least one room, even though I probably wouldn’t watch it.

The Saints are identifiable by the ever-so-present fleur-de-lis. However, this symbol has moved from the backs of football jerseys to the fronts of t-shirts and lines of decorative house ware. It is especially popular in Louisiana homes, serving a bourgeois symbol of class and style. For some reason, I could never take a full liking to this symbol. It reminded me of an open-banana, and it just did not appeal to me. It seemed to be nothing personal, but now I wonder if my subconscious was reacting to a deeper issue with the fleur-de-lis.

An old article from USA Today surfaced in my feed on Facebook, and I was immediately drawn in by the title. However, as I read each line of the article, feelings of surprise and shame crept over me. I had no idea that the fleur-de-lis had such a bloody past. What has been classified as a beloved symbol of pride, was also a symbol of ownership and punishment for my oppressed people. Not only was this practice set in place in Louisiana, it was a borrowed idea from practices in other French colonies (USA Today, 2015).  When slaves tried to escape for freedom, they were brought before court for a trial. The cruel punishment usually included branding the slave with a fleur-de-lis and “cropping” or clipping their ears to make their atrocities known to the world. They would also face other brutal physical punishments like having their hamstrings cut if they tried to run away gain (USA Today, 2015).

I am not sure if the association between a sport that boasts an 80% black male player population and the meaning behind the fleur-de-lis is accidentally ironic or purposely ironic, but I find it hard to even imagine black football players in Saint’s uniforms now. As I watch them run around the field scrambling for a ball, while fat rats sit in the top of the stadium waiting for the possibility of hundreds of millions to hit their bank accounts, I am uneasy for the Big Easy. Of course, football players are certainly not slaves; their work is voluntary, and they are compensated significantly for a profession they love. Still, the visual analogy is startling. I even question the meaning behind the name of the New Orleans team, because the true Saints who were forced to wear those symbols are mortars of this country who are rarely given honor for their blood, sweat, sacrifice, and unfair treatment. Last year, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made a significant move when he pulled down Confederate statues in New Orleans, but now I wonder when or if we will remove the brand from the backs of the Saint’s players.

This taboo subject is one Louisiana tries to keep hidden from the public eye. When searching for YouTube (the land of a videos about everything) and the internet, there was a limited number of resources available on this topic. Yet, the truth still exists. So, Louisianans, as you crack open the brewskies, buy a few footlongs and open a bag of potato chips this year, remember that the Saints are marked by a sign that punished a group of people for wanting freedom from the harsh conditions of slavery. When you get the urge to yell from the barrels of your chest, “Who dat?!,” remember the slaves were the one who knew freedom would never belong to them. The symbol that many so honorably boast and brag about, is one that was used for public humiliation, shame and painful punishment for many years. People continue to say we should let the past be the past, but until this country stops hiding the past and making excuses for its presence in the present, we must speak on the truth behind so much of American culture.

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American Injustice for Black Men: Part II

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2014 at 8:26 am

Lady-LibertyIt’s funny how a young white male killed 14 people and wounded 50 in a Colorado movie theater and there was more focus on his mental illness than the dead and harmed. It’s funny how a young white male killed 20 children and 6 adults at an elementary school and repeated stories about his mental illness struggles were the main headlines for many news websites and stations. However, when black male Ismaaiyl Brinsley went on a spree killing his ex-girlfriend and two NYPD police officers, it was hardly mentioned that he too had suffered from mental illness. Brinsley had a history of suicide attempts as recently as last year. Yet, he has been tattooed as a cop killer and murder, and little focus has been given to the unfortunate loss of his estranged girlfriend. Instead, media and society have used this incident to claim that the protests in New York and across the country have sparked this unfortunate situation. Brinkley’s mental illness issues and history have been used as ammunition to make it seem that black Americans are unruly and uncontrollable. Henceforth, the deaths of black men are justifiable in attempts to hurt them before they hurt others. I laugh, but not in a comical way. I laugh in a sick, demented, this-joke-is-too-dark, darker-than-my-too-black-for-America-skin way.

I have struggled for the past two years to control the anxiety and anger I feel towards America as it allows its racist face to show. It has been hard to accept that America has made no progress at all. Yes, laws were created following the death of Dr. King. However, what I have learned is that these laws were written on paper in attempts to pacify blacks, not to actually correct a problem or force American society to change. For that is a much bigger issue. One cannot unteach systematic racism or force individuals to stop making their offspring feel that they must remain separate to be superior. Therefore, the result of individuals teaching racism at home is the development of an unjust neighborhood which leads to a biased community which creates partial leaders which infiltrates an unfair country thus creating a divided society leading to a broken world.

Brinsley’s case has not justified police actions across the country; it has confirmed what I suspected. Black men who commit the same crimes as their white counterparts are presented in different manner and portrayed as beasts, thus creating an automatic sense of fear in society. Purse clutching and unwarranted deaths will be at an all-time high as America continues to paint images of Trayvon Martin dressed as a hoodlum who created fear in his own neighborhood, Mike Brown as an overly beastified pit bull who could not even fall at the shot of a bullet, Eric Garner being so large that his very voice overpowered a cop, and Tamir Rice needed no questions asked because 12 year-old black kids should not play with toy guns. Our own community leaders will continue to turn their backs on the youth who are ready and radical enough to fight by using the weak excuse that “blacks kill blacks every day” as if whites do not kill whites also. My fear has become that those who hold the real power will not work to make impactful changes.

Writing these posts has become painful to me, for it seems that this is an issue which has no beginning or ending. I struggle to find a solution for a problem that has existed for so long. I do not think America truly wants a resolution because to destroy the image of the black man is to destroy the black family. It is not a point of pride to draw this conclusion. It is disheartening to know that the struggle of a black man in America is so serious and scary to realize that I have no answer to change it. The only power I truly hold is to pray and train my son to be a fighter, because one day he will be a black man in
America.

GRAMBLING STATE…WHAT’S THE STATE OF ATHLETICS?

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

At last…it took me a while to muster up my opinion on this pressing topic, but I was doing my best to get to it! Dear old Grambling State University, you are in the limelight and it’s not too flattering from this angle. There have been many comments about the Grambling State football team walk out and most of them critical of the moves made by these young men. I thought quite a while before drawing a conclusion. I played the devil’s advocate to my own thoughts and placed myself on the same side of the fence as the administration who is struggling due to so many government cutbacks. Still, I must say, I support the GSU football team.
Not only do I support their recent movement, I think that our ancestors would support their movement, too. For many years, I have wondered if there was anything the young generation would stand un-moveably for. The walk-out assured me that there are still young people of character and morals who will take a stand against injustice and remain steadfast even when it’s unpopular. This act is what brought about changes such as Brown vs. the Board of Education, Loving vs. Virginia and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While we embrace and applaud the changes wrought forth from such significant movements, many of us gave the side eye to a modern day cause just as important as the others- the health and safety of college athletes. The deplorable conditions of which these players were subjected were bound to continue unless someone was courageous enough to publicize the problem and stand for change.
Let me regress for a minute to specifically address the complaints of the players which were verified through credible sources like Sports Illustrated magazine and its writers. In addition to their disappointment regarding the mid-seasoning firing of Coach Doug Williams, GSU players were tired of the ill treatment they received and deplorable conditions they were being forced to play and practice in. Complaints of a dilapidated practice site, inadequate or hardly any food when traveling, and traveling more than 700 miles by bus to play in a game were just a few of the complaints heard from players. In the news a few days ago, excerpts from a letter talked about staph infection being present in the locker rooms and unclean uniforms being issued for players to use. Feelings of disgust came over me as I considered so many factors that anger me regarding this situation. I thought one of my schools where I used to take care of letters and paperwork for the athletic department. After each game, the coaches would wash uniforms, dry them, and spray some type of concoction to help prevent infection in the locker room. They would perform a clean out at least twice a year and get rid of torn up pads and ruined uniforms. I then thought about being a student at LSU and how much care was shown towards our athletes and how I never felt any envy towards them because they had such a demanding job. They had to attend classes and practice daily and they had to perform at their best for every game. If a game was won they were gods and heroes on campus, but if a game was lost, they were given the side eye, cold stares and nasty comments all over the city. I could only imagine the feeling of being a player under so much pressure and having to perform in such deplorable conditions. I keep trying to understand how GSU has built and remodeled so many campus facilities over the past few years, but it seems that athletic department has reaped none of it.
Lastly, undoubtedly, the conditions in which the players have worked in do not collaborate with the dream sold when they signed to play for GSU. There was a completely different promise laid before them, one that has not been lived up to by the university. Some players signed to GSU as an only option, some signed because of their parents’ encouragement, some signed because of loyalty to the HBCU family…still the came because they wanted to. Now, they are being mistreated.
While it is understandable that the schools faces much difficulty because the state has cut more than fifty percent of the school’s budget, why did it take such a drastic measure for people to become aware of what is really going on? My friends and colleagues who are GSU alum have long complained about the lack of feedback they’ve received about projects for the university. My god daughters and their friends have expressed the constant delay in aid processing and constant changes with lack of information in regards to why. Perhaps, it is a part of our cultural struggle to not be open about things when we need help; instead, we put on the “good” face and perpetrate an image that does not exist while struggling to maintain the bare minimum. Even more upsetting is that nothing has been said by our great governor and I doubt he will approach the subject, and neither will the good black folks of Grambling State. Thus, the suffering of GSU’s finances, specifically athletics, will get worse before it gets better.
Therefore, I said it once, and I shall say it again, HATS OFF TO THE GSU FOOTBALL TEAM! While it is most unfortunate for the school to be in a negative light, this problem did not began a few years ago! It’s been going on. At last, someone, well some ones decided to stand up. And I, for one, am certainly not mad at that. I guess it’s just part of a tiger’s blood…
grambling

Don’t Check Your Watch…It Was Time…

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm

traymart

“It took over 350 years to be freed from slavery and you thought we’d be equal 50 years after Jim Crow?” ~J.Mayes

This morning I finally managed to drag myself out of the bed to the computer to write on the topic that has been at the end of nearly every writer’s fingertips and on the edge of every citizen’s mind for the past few days. I found myself grief stricken as the verdict of the State vs. George Zimmerman trial was announces. While I had long ago embraced the possibility that this criminal could walk away freely, there was a deep hope that this country wasn’t uncaring as I knew it was. Yet, late on Saturday night, the hopes of receiving justice for the death of a seventeen year old boy who was walking home from a visit from the store were dashed and left on the ground lifelessly, just like the body of Trayvon Martin.

The social media lines lit up with cries of injustice, unfairness, and disbelief in the American system. Other cries of an “American” justice system, justice serving its purpose, and an over play of the race card began to surface as the night went on. However, intense focus on the surface of the situation has blinded so many from seeing the depth of this situation and the danger it holds for African Americans. The tears that I shed that night were not solely because of my frustration with the non-conviction of George Zimmerman, but I cried even more so at the startling realization that is still resting on the forefront of my mind.

Black Americans, America has no respect for you. This is a startling and unnerving conclusion, but a true one. For years, I have proclaimed that my biggest problem with modern society is the blindness of black Americans and the sense of entitlement that the new generation possesses. They are under the misconception that they are just as good as their counterparts and that their mere presence is enough for them to be treated equally and fairly. Young black men think that being athletic makes them an invincible superstar and young black women think that they are made solely to wear weave, shop, and act a rambunctious fool in the public eye. Thus, a misunderstood view about who they are and should be has become a regular perception of the black race by society. The modern generation lacks knowledge about the past and the tireless battles it took for our ancestors to obtain a sense of governmental freedom. This part of American history has been denounced by both white America and black America. As a result, black history is a part of American history that has been ignored and misrepresented. The end result of such misrepresentation has created false self-identities in the black community.

As this point, readers may question what this has to do with Travyon Martin. Well, we have been receiving gentle reminders of America’s lack of growth and tolerance for many years. Ever since President Barack Obama became a viable candidate for the office of president, there have been constant reminders of the general perspective of blacks in America. Reflections of this have been in everything from questioning the location of his birth to derogatory names and public disrespectful treatment towards him.  Still, black America failed to truly address the huge issue of race relations in this country. Issues with our president are only one example of the attempt to awaken a social consciousness.

A little over a month ago, one of America’s most beloved cooks and downhome television stars dropped an ugly bombshell in court. Paula Deen admitted to using the “N” word in conversations on a regular basis for many years and that it was a regular part of life where she came from. Americans appeared to be flabbergasted, verbally lashing Mrs. Deen and demanding that extreme actions take place. And they did. She is still currently losing business deals and connections, causing her success to decline at a rapid rate. Paula Deen has been heavily criticized for something that should have come as no surprise. Many Americans (black and white, but mostly black) reiterated over and over that Deen deserved all she was getting because of personal practices that the masses detested. (See my blog on Paula Deen for my perspective) Yet, America missed an even more important lesson from this unfortunate situation. Americans applauded companies as they pulled her products from their shelves and issued strong public statements disconnecting themselves from her. However, I thanked Paula Deen for opening my eyes and committing the ultimate crime in the black community- snitching. Yes, she told us what really goes on in many board rooms, meetings, and private conversations across the country.  Major companies wanted to rid themselves of Paula Deen, for a scandal this big had the potential to reveal the true nature of many more Americans other than Paula Deen. Still, black America, you missed the mark by criticizing her admittance instead of looking more deeply into the situation. Once again, we missed the wakeup call.

There is a saying which states that the third time is the charm. The third time wasn’t charming for us, but it finally gave a wakeup call that made society stop, reconsider, listen, and react. The actual event occurred over a year ago, but the verdict of the State versus George Zimmerman was what caused black Americans to cry in outrage. It had been over twenty years since a court case caused such uproar in America, but after the verdict was read lists of cases across America with similar incidents and states with Stand Your Ground laws began to get attention. Black mothers hugged and rocked their sons understanding the danger that exists for them. Black fathers cried out in anguish and frustration at the realization of the lack of power they have to protect their families in America. The truth is that “Stand Your Ground Laws” don’t protect black Americans whether they are standing or lying down on their ground. It is unfortunate, but true that young Trayvon Martin had to serve as a sacrificial lamb to get America’s attention. The conviction of George Zimmerman would have caused the case to go away and today black Americans would still be under the misconception that this America works on their behalf. There was more important reason that Zimmerman was not convicted; a movement of massive importance had to occur for the seriousness of this situation to be understood. Finally, the voice of Attorney General Eric Holden is being heard, the story of Marissa Alexander is spreading, Floridians are demanding the change of a law that should have never existed, and other states with the same laws are being criticized, too.

This pivotal case brought senseless death of Emmett Till back to the media and highlighted the startling similarities between two cases that are over half a century apart. It made society recall the great wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the unfair death he suffered. Yet, all of these individuals had to die unfairly for America to make drastic changes. These changes must be legal and personal. For if the death of a seventeen year old child and the acquittal of his murderer doesn’t spark a sense of change within communities, nothing will.

The unfortunate death of young Trayvon Martin was painful but necessary to open the eyes of America, especially black America. Many things have changed since the 1960’s, but so many things have not. Despite the anger and hostility felt by so many, the most important thing that can happen is to educate black children about the past and why it is relevant. Teach them to love and respect others regardless of how they are treated, but to be conscious of situations that exist for black Americans. Tell our children to be noble citizens who have pride in the work our ancestors invested into this country, but stand up for that which is right and fair. Familiarize them with the laws of the state in which they live, but remind them they these laws apply to black Americans more than anyone. Pray with and for our children, but teach them to use the wisdom that is given to make decisions. Most importantly, remind them that Trayvon Martins and George Zimmerman’s don’t just live in Florida. They live all over this country. While we are marching, rallying and making our cries heard today, there will be another situation which arises tomorrow. This is not cause to give up or give in; this is reason to unify in order to create a tumultuous cry that will knock down the doors of difference in society. For this is the only true way that the death of Trayvon Martin and so many others who died at the hands of racial violence won’t be in vain.

Am I Being Too Honest?

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2012 at 1:40 am

ImageYes, I admit, I did it. I campaigned for the President like I was part of his cabinet. I held voter registration drives, made phone calls, downloaded apps, and even held signs on the corner like my life depended on it. To a certain extent it did. For everything that surrounded my livelihood was at risk in this campaign. I believed in the president; I had avidly followed his work for four years, and I had reaped many of the benefits of the things he had accomplished. His passion and commitment to a job so serious had already convinced me that President Obama deserved more time to fix the country. However, I realized the magnitude of the challenge before him months before the election. I recalled the struggle in the first election, and I knew that the opposing party would come with extreme force in aims to remove the right candidate from the office.

However, I had completely underestimated the lengths non-supporters would go to in attempts to remove President Obama from office. This campaign was filled with more mudslinging than a red neck truck show and more false information than a five year subscription to the National Inquirer; I do not deny that both sides participated in this. The campaign took an even more interesting spin when politicians and voters from the opposing party began to make accusations that black people were only voting for the President because of his skin color. For a while I laughed at this comical statement. My laughs stiffened as the capacity of this ludicrous rumor continued to escalate infecting the viral world and the media. Black people are so simple that they vote for Barack Obama just because he’s black!

Eventually, I was angered. Who would ever believe that I was simple enough to vote for this man simply because of his race? I am an educated woman, a professional and intellectualist, and for me to be generalized in such a manner is an insult! I began defensively arguing a list of reasons to vote for the President every time I felt the need to explain myself to those in opposition of my choice. I became more politically vested in statistics than I had ever been before! Yet, during a momentary break from my rants, I had an epiphany. What if I did allow race to be the reason I voted for President Barak Obama?  The President had so many experiences and so much hardship while he was in office, much of which was solely because of his race.  These conflicts exemplified the reason that he should receive an extended stay in the White House. He had demonstrated an ability to lead and maintain professionalism despite a number of hardships that were unexplainable while holding the highest position in this country. I discovered that while many desired for the race card to be used in a negative nature, I was able to flip the card and see an even more important reason to solidify my vote and support the President.

I thought back to the early black history and I began to scribble vigorously in my notebook.  As I wrote, the reasons continued to flow, resulting in the conclusion that perhaps there was a little truth to the accusations. There was a unique strength in President Obama’s experience that many would never be able to understand and very few would be able to match. Had his race been of another, there is doubt that his experience and demeanor would be the same. I was forced, in the end, to accept that perhaps there is a portion of me that voted for the President because he is black.

Reason Enough

For over 350 years skin has been reason enough to exclude me,

Now there are questions about whether skin is reason enough to be.

I recall a story about some laws by Jim Crow,

The browness of my people’s skin made them society’s foe.

Because of a pigmentation difference we were pushed to the back,

Because of skin color we were lazy niggers and too black.

Those with a darker tan had to enter through the rear door,

They were lucky to live in a shack and expected to want nothing more.

Prayers for power versus prayers for freedom kept black and white on their knees,

But it was black bodies that were suspended from country road oak trees.

It was the pink tongue that put spit on a many tar babies’ face,

I wasn’t the one who started it; you keep bringing up race.

Dr. King, Malcolm, and Medgar had to die so I could live,

Yes, because they were so black, their lives they had to give.

So when Obama arrived my black hope burst through my chest,

And because our skins can relate I knew he was the best.

They sought to destroy him in every facet of the election,

But as many dark skinned ones know, he was under the Protection.

Folks keep saying that skin isn’t a reason to vote,

But the elevation of a courageous black man I must promote.

Of all the things we were denied because of the color our skin,

How dare one say to me that a darker hue is not reason to vote him in.

He is the defiance of nearly every stereotype assigned to a categorized sector,

If you know like I know a black man is the best protector.

For him, I will fore go my forty acres and my mule,

Because President Obama is a defiance of all society’s rules.

Still, I must clarify for those who accuse me of complexion bias,

It was and has been because of his amazing work that I could deny this.

Why I chose him has nothing to do with color,

It is his ability to handle adversity like no other.

When our country was at its worst President Obama gave his best,

Even when disrespected he never gave the fight a rest.

He saved this great American land so fair and free,

He ignored all of those who disrespected a man of dignity.

He was verbally berated by those who wear an invisible hood

Yet, for all mankind’s right my black president stood.

If you can, show me another who can take such heat,

Even the great Abraham Lincoln may have felt some defeat.

Folks keep claiming that he’s the most influential president that was ever in,

But I say Obama just because of his skin.

I’d never be simple enough to support only because he’s a shade of brown,

But because he’s an aristocratic, emphatic black man I chose to hold him down.

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