COMMON DAMN SENSE & WHY I NEED MY WHITE FRIENDS

Just be a descent human-being and use common damn sense!

When Colin Kaepernick is kneeling, he is exercising his “right” to peacefully protest. This is not a violent attack on our military or any civilians. Feelings may get hurt, but no one is in any physical danger. And yes, rich people have the right to protest too.

When openly racist members of white supremacy protest, but instead use violence to get their point across, that is not only dangerous, it is Un-American. It is the exact opposite of what our brothers and sisters in uniform or risking their lives for. It is a direct attack on American citizens. It is a direct attack on democracy. Our military fights for freedom, not oppression.

This battle for equality in America is not just for black people, gay people, women or immigrants. It’s about people. People who do bad things should be held accountable—that is all. People who use violence should be held accountable. Officials who abuse their power to oppress others, in order for their own benefit are just as guilty.

Nonetheless, I do believe in a system where white Americans have an inherit advantage; fair or not fair. That same privilege and power is what it is going to take to save our country. Who can come between a fight between two elephants?

Just like when viral youtube videos of black people acting ignorant makes all black people look bad; the same can be said for what is happening in Virginia right now. At this moment, this country needs descent, moral white Americans to openly and publicly be just as bold as the white supremacists; not just today and tomorrow, but everyday.

And to my black people. We need to continue to be good to each other; today, tomorrow and everyday.

charlotteville
A driver plows into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo by Associated Press
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Spoiled Milk

Until, the philosophy

Which holds one race superior and another inferior

Is finally and permanently 

Discredited and abandoned 

Then everywhere is war.

Bob Marley so eloquently and prophetically sang these lyrics over 40 years ago and they continue to hold truth today; especially in the United States.There is a psycho-emotional  war in America and no one is winning. We are all losing.

Our country was birthed from the womb of violence, fed through the umbilical cord of slavery and it now sucks on the milk of racism. To establish our empire, it was necessary for those privileged generations to remain in power. However, this system is infantile and archaic. Those in power need to relinquish the bosom of prejudice and voluntary ignorance, so that our country can grow— so that we can move forward.

Imagine a grown man, feeding from the breast of his mother for nutrients. He comfortably lays across her lap, cradled and curled in a fetal position. He will receive all he wants from her breast milk and nothing else will matter, because that will be the source of his comfort and security. This is what our country looks like when we have black men and women being slain by a racist criminal “justice” system in 2016. Black people have been an integral part of the building of America going back as far as 400 years and we are still being treated like the “new kids on the block.” America needs to grow up, this is embarrassing and shameful.

Bluemilk_MTC

He does not feed in public,

He feeds in private.

His racism is not flagrant,

Instead it is veiled,

By policy and the misuse of power and privileges.

Why? Because it is safe.

A baby clutches to this Mother’s breast

and feeds because it is familiar,

it is easy to access,

it is within arms reach,

it requires very little effort.

Who would not wish to remain

in this repose position forever?

But he must move on

and find his own source of food,

of wealth,

of knowledge of the world,

on his own.

Not from the bosom of inequality and injustice.

Just imagine… The greatest nation in the world? Home of the largest incarceration rate of black people on the planet…sucking on the bitter milk of racism until the entire body of our country caves in.

What the 4th Means to Me

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Not trying to look into things too deeply, but as I become more and more conscious of the history and the conditions of my ancestors, I begin to see all the societal contradictions around me. The latest for example is the celebration of the the 4th of July. As a history teacher, I am very aware of the fact that when the Declaration of Independence was written, that Thomas Jefferson the author of the this historical document, had no intentions of freeing his own slaves, but at the same time he petitioned for freedom from England.

So what did the Declaration of Independence and July 4th mean to black people in America in 1776? It meant that nothing would  change. The date that actually holds more significance for African Americans from a historical and practical sense, is June 19th 1865. This was the date in which all ( I use the word all loosely) slaves were officially informed and emancipated from slavery. That is the date that all true Americans should celebrate. That is when we should break out our colors, sing, dance and give homage to those who bore the burden of enslavement, so that we could be free today. However, I would venture on to say that less than half of the black people in America are even aware of June 19th 1865 (also known as Juneteenth) and its importance.

Now, I am happy and honored to live in America. I consider myself just as American as anyone else. However, we still have some work to do as a nation. We still have to be honest. We should celebrate all of our freedoms, rights and liberties. Nonetheless, we must share all of our stories, the good and the bad. The ones that we are proud of and ashamed of, so that we can be conscious and not simply go with the flow. Some of our time- honored traditions can be quite disturbing, especially when it comes to the things that we celebrate. Do you realize that folks in  America actually used to celebrate the lynching of black people? They made post cards and greeting cards with black bodies hanging from oak trees, as a crowd of unconscious white folks grinned and smiled at their prize catch.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of superficial hype and commercialism. If I am going to celebrate or honor a day, I want to understand the full history, so that I can fully appreciated it. The 4th of July has a different purpose and meaning for different people. And we all have the opportunity and right to create whatever that meaning is for us.

I decided to spend my Independence Day celebrating my African roots and culture at the 45th Annual International African Arts Festival, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. It was amazing. I felt as if I had traveled to another world and another possibility; to a place where blackness was celebrated, and beautiful, and peaceful and free. That is the America that  I hope that we all can experience everyday.

 

Farewell Mandela

mandela boy

When I heard the news of Mandela’s passing, it did not immediately resonate with me. I finally decided to head home from a long day at work, when Kendel, a night custodian at the school stopped me on my way out, and said,  ” You know Mandela died today?” I stopped to looked at my watch.  It was, December 5th , 2013 at 5:08 p.m. – 95 years old I thought to myself. Consequently, I will always remember where I was, the day Nelson Mandela died. It seemed instinctive, as I responded the same way when hearing about my grandmother’s passing. My father and I received the call. I looked down at my watch, it was 10:33 a.m. on September 12, 2012, she lived to be 88 years old.

It wasn’t until I logged on to facebook that evening, that I began to feel the weight of what had truly happened. Virtually everyone’s status was dedicated to Mandela. I continued to scroll down for what could have been an hour. The prayers, condolences and tributes went on and on.

He fought for freedom, equality and justice for all people. While Malcolm and Martin were fighting in America, Mandela’s fists were raised in Africa. The turbulent 1960’s  snatched the lives of our great freedom fighters, however, the durable and hopeful Mandela eventually emerged as the last man standing.

After serving a 28 year prison sentence, he never gave up and become the first black president of the Republic of South Africa, as the manacles of apartheid were summarily broken. What an incredible story! It is practically biblical.

This week, world leaders from over 100 countries ascended onto the beautiful nation of South Africa to honor this great man. I only wish that I could have been there to bid him farewell.

I never met Mandela, but his story made me want to change the world. If Mandela was a 900 page book, I would be honored to be a drop of ink on a single page…not even, a word, just a drop.

http://www.biography.com/people/nelson-mandela-9397017

 

The Day That Changed Everything

I was running late for my 8 a.m. class, as usual. It was my senior season at Wayne State College (NE) and the football team had 5 a.m. workouts that day. It was a real challenge to meet the rigorous demands of balancing college athletics and academics, but I embraced it. The morning of September 11, 2001, was a typical daily grind for me; get up at the crack of dawn, put in an hour workout with the team, run over to the cafeteria for a hardy breakfast, jog over to the dorms for a quick shower, grab my books and run to class.

As I jogged past hundreds of co-eds up to the second floor of the Humanities Building , I failed to notice anything different or out of place. All I could think of, was damn, I am late again. I could just imaging interrupting my professor’s lecture, but instead, everyone was engulfed in the images on the television. I didn’t even realize that classroom had a television until that morning.

As I approached the screen, to get a closer look, I saw that one of the Twin Towers engulfed in smoke. No one said a word. Their eyes were simply glued to the burning image. The scrolled message at the bottom of the screen read, “Plan crashes into one of the Twin Towers.” As the building continue to go up in smoke, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It did not seem real.

I could just imagine all the people who must have died instantly on that plane. And suddenly, I saw a large shadow fly across the adjacent buildings and then …. an explosion! The second tower was hit by another airplane. Everyone in the classroom let out a yell of disbelief and awe.  That is when I realized; I think we all realized, at that point, that this was not an accident.

Class was no longer important. The campus went silent.  For the next few hours more news was revealed about the terrorist plot. For the next few days, America shutdown. Classes were cancelled, practice was cancelled, NCAA, NFL and Major League Baseball games were cancelled. For those few days America stood still. From that point on, everything had changed.

A view of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn. The blue lights are a tribute to the Twin Towers that fell on the fateful morning of September 11, 2011.

What My People Go Through

When I woke up on the morning of Saturday, July 23, 2011 I did what millions of Americans do each morning. Before washing my face or even brushing my teeth, I looked over at my Blackberry to see if I had missed any messages, emails or phone calls. I noticed that the customary red light was flashing. I had missed a phone call from my older brother, Ray. This was odd because he never called this early. Immediately I dialed him back, without a greeting or a good morning, he said “Ashley, the cholera is back, six people have died already!”

It didn’t sink in right away, so I let him continue talking. What was I supposed to say or do? He continued to explain the grim events that had taken place over the past few days. Earlier that week, Wednesday evening, three people had reportedly been on their way to Immaculee, the largest medical center in Port de Paix. All three had died, two at the hospital and one in the ambulance. That was just the beginning. Over the next couple of days, it was said that nearly a dozen people had died from the cholera exposure.

I began to brainstorm about what I could do to help. Sitting around and feeling hopeless wasn’t going to solve anything, so I told Ray that I would call him back. First I went online and searched the internet for any new stories or releases talking about the most recent cholera outbreak in Northwest Haiti; The Miami Herald, New York Times, CNN, Google, nothing . No one was reporting anything.

My next step was to call my father down in Miami. He is an immigration consultant who primarily helps Haitians who are seeking to become American citizens. He’s been serving the Haitian community in Miami for over 20 years, if anybody knew about what was going on in Port de Paix, it would be my father. I called him and what he told me was even more graphic and detailed than what my brother had described.

One of his clients had just left his office in tears. The man had just come back from Port de Paix and said that dozens of people were sick and that the situation was dire. He said that they were running out of beds in the hospital, even worse, as people began dying, they would simply bury their corpses in a lot adjacent to the hospital. The potential ramifications of these actions were unimaginable.

If all this had happened within the course of three days, imagine what possible tragedies loomed ahead. As I began to brainstorm, I started to think about all the people I could call upon that would have ideas, resources or experience with this sort of situation and the name “Marie,” popped into my head.  Within seconds I was on the phone calling Marie Eusebe, founder of C2C, a New York based organization that has been doing incredible work in Haiti. We spoke briefly.  She was in a meeting and she said that should would have to call me back. Hours later, the phone rang. It was her and we began an ongoing dialogue and plan of action on what we were going to do, to help the people of Port de Paix…

Two weeks had gone by and thankfully the situation improved. Aqua tabs and medicine were distributed by local NGO’s and Sister City International.  I continue to receive updates from Ray about what’s happening on the ground.

Sadly, the local government of Port de Paix have been very slow to act and respond to the needs of the people. It has been rumored that the mayor had been in South Florida in the midst of the outbreak and essentially did nothing to improve the situation. As a result of his apparent apathy, many citizens of Port de Paix have lost faith in their local government, therefore taking matters into their own hands. When the people needed leadership the most, is when their local officials abandoned them.

As the rainy season persists the Northwest becomes more vulnerable to another cholera outbreak. The mud along with the trash and litter that piles and accumulates after each storm creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. The people of Port de Paix need the local government to get more actively involved, they need community leadership and some good fortune.

What makes the situation sad, yet hopeful is that it’s just as simple as giving people a tablet that can save their lives.  I hope that the people can make it through the next hurricane season without unnecessary loss. The resilient spirit of the people is a miracle in itself, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

This map illustrates the outbreaks of cholera in Haiti in the fall of 2010. Port-de-Paix is located in the Northwest Province of Haiti.
This map illustrates the outbreaks of cholera in Haiti in the fall of 2010. Port-de-Paix is located in the Northwest Province of Haiti.