Category Archives: Blackness

FINDING BLACKNESS

I have a friend who does an outstanding presentation to young Black American men. The title of his talk is, “What I would Tell You If I Were Your Father.” By the end of his talk, he is encouraging the young men that it is time to jettison the “Bling-Bling,” of all the superficial chains, rings, sagging pants, disrespectful and vulgar language for a new lifestyle. But unlike many other black leaders, he does not attack the young for their behavior, but instead tries to explain to them why they have a very negative mindset, one that is destructive and detrimental to their growth and demeaning to their culture. The basis of his approach is to reject the assumption made by many conservatives, both black and white, that the young black man’s behavior is of his own doing. That he is not the victim of centuries of an oppressive system, deliberately designed to destroy the black youth’s feelings of self-worth, of pride in who he is, and of the race and culture from which he comes.

But the conservatives are wrong. Two centuries of purposeful and vicious attacks on the most important principle in the growth for a healthy and positive young man, be it black or white or any other race, the belief in one’s self, is still being denied black youth in this country. But shame on us who have allowed this to happen. Shame on us who admire the negative portrayals of blacks in books, movies and on television. It is like we have come to the point that we get the same kind of enjoyment out of the negative images of the race, in the same manner that whites have gotten for over two hundred years. It is time for us to reverse this trend and change the paradigm. It is time for us to no longer be the exception, but instead to be exceptional. Let us begin to point out the great accomplishments of our race, and the exceptional men and women who have accelerated in their particular fields of endeavor. Let’s do something different for a change and take the high road, instead of settling for the ditch. We accomplish change by finding our blackness as a people and a culture. There is a war for the soul of our culture, and it calls for drastic steps from all who are concerned. Here are a few facts that we all can begin to share with our young; facts they need to know so they will know “they are somebody.”

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They NEED TO KNOW that Blacks excelled as jockeys soon after the Civil War. The first winner of the Kentucky Derby was Jimmy Winfield. In fact, 15 of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by Black jockeys. And the greatest jockey in the history of the sport was Isaac Murphy who won three Kentucky Derby races and 44% of all his races throughout his career.

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They NEED TO KNOW that Jesse Owens embarrassed the German dictator Hitler who had claimed the German runners were invincible, but defeated them in the 100-yard-dash. In fact, Owens won four gold medals in the Olympics that year, proving that Black excellence was unstoppable.

lockebuncheaydavisThey NEED TO KNOW Black exceptionalism does not end with sports, but can be found in academic circles also. There is no question that Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois was the country’s most gifted scholar of the 20th Century. He was the first Black man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University and was a historian, sociologists, philosopher, novelist and all around brilliant thinker. Dr. Alain Locke, also a philosopher, attained Phi Beta Kappa status and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. He was the first Black Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and was known as the “Godfather of the Harlem Renaissance.” Jesse Fausett was the literary editor for Crisis Magazine during the Renaissance. She was the first Black female graduate from Cornell University and first Black woman to achieve Phi Beta Kappa status. Dr. Ralph Bunche became the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward bringing peace in the Middle East in the late 1940’s. Dr. Angela Davis is an accomplished scholar who has taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and wrote many political tracts critical of the oppression Blacks have suffered in this country.

opptymagcrisismagladyThey NEED TO KNOW that Black Americans have been publishers since 1827 when Samuel Cornish and John Russwum published Freedom’s Journal. Frederick Douglass published North Star in 1847, Robert S. Abbott, the Chicago Defender in 1905 and Edwin Nathaniel Harleston, Pittsburgh Courier in 1907. Black Americans also published some very influential magazines. Dr. Du Bois was editor and publisher of the Crisis Magazine associated with the NAACP, Charles Johnson published Opportunity Magazine for the Urban League, John Johnson published Ebony and Jet, Earl Graves Black Enterprise and Edward Lewis, Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingswroth and Johnathan Blount founded Essence Magazine, first published in 1970.

jb_stratfordluoullawilliamsThey NEED TO KNOW that Black Americans were successful entrepreneurs and that they can accomplish the same. They need to read about the great businessmen in 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma. Blacks had built a self-sustaining infra-structure of businesses, led by the great John Stradford, the richest man on Black Wall Street. He owned the most luxurious 54 room hotel and it was said that it matched for beauty, extravagance and comfort any hotel in the state of Oklahoma. Laurel Stradford, his great granddaughter is presently working on publication of his memoirs, and when they are released they should be required reading in every Black high school in this country. Other business men and women included O. W. Gurley who owned property in Tulsa, John and Loulla Williams and Dr. Andrew Jackson, all a part of the successful business class on Black Wall Street. Tulsa was not the only city where Black businesses flourished, just the most glaring example of success.

The NEED TO KNOW categories are extensive and I could go on for pages writing about successful Black Americans whom we must begin to share with our youth. I know there are many different organizations that are doing that very task as I write. But we must do more and I will continue to write about the successes either on this blog or through future novels and anthologies. Hopefully, you all will do your part and together we can help our young find their Blackness from a very different perspective than what they have received over generations, from a racially biased education system.

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Santa Claus at Christmas

black-santa-clausThis Christmas, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Claus. And for all of you who might think I am digressing to a time in my life when Mr. Claus was relevant, that is not the case. But I have thought about the jolly ole Saint Nick in relation to his symbolic meaning, and exactly where we are as a country this late in a very turbulent year. As I recall from my much younger days in the past, Santa Claus spied on all of us from his perch in the North Pole, and kept a record as to whether we had been naughty or nice. On Christmas Eve, as he loaded all the toys into his sleigh and fed the reindeer who would take him all over the world, he also reviewed the list of young folks whose chimneys he would come down and leave requested gifts, under the Christmas tree.

Using our creative imagination, let’s consider our country as one big kid who has been under surveillance by Santa and his helpers for the past twelve months. As early as January 2016, he knew there might be problems with this child. The bickering was getting out of hand, as the country prepared for what would be a nasty election. This was something that Santa did not condone. After all, he was always jovial and happy and wanted others to display the same demeanor all the time. One man in particular caught his attention. He sought the highest elected office in the country, and was willing to use bully tactics against his opponents to achieve his goal. According to Santa’s standards, he never made a stop at the homes where bullies resided.

The other person seeking the highest office wasn’t quite as bad as her opponent, but she also lacked the kind of values that Santa expected from anyone who would receive a visit from him. She often stretched the truth to cover up her misdeeds, especially with her use of emails. As of Christmas Eve, he wasn’t sure if she would get a visit from him because of the ambivalence he felt toward her.

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Then there is the rest of the country, divided in support of these candidates.  Both sides were willing to step outside the bounds of civility in support of their candidate. In fact, grown men often went to blows in the heat of the battle. But according to Santa Claus, it should never have been a battle, but simply an election. They all lost a sense of comity, and carried on in a manner unsatisfactory to Santa. There was a slight possibility that the old man might just skip over the United States, and keep on South into Mexico.

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But on second thought, as he prepared to take off, he considered that maybe his presence could make a difference and bring peace, love, and unity back to this country, desperately in need of help. Maybe he could influence this obstreperous child to change its ways, and help the occupants of this country to understand that they all have too much to lose to carry on in this manner. Maybe his presence for just a little while, on the eve of the birth of the person who came to earth to save mankind from its own self-destruction, would make a difference in how they treat each other, going into the new year. Maybe in 2017 they would all come to their senses, and realize this selfish and vicious behavior must end.

He thought he might leave gifts of a different nature than in the past. These gifts would be for a better understanding that we all must reach out, and do what is in our power to make sure that Santa returns every year. A gift to understand that it would be cruel and deplorable for the country to repeal Obamacare and leave over twenty million men and women without health care coverage. A gift to understand that it is necessary to raise the minimum wage, so that those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder might live more prosperous lives. Instead of the top one percent hording the resources, they should be shared more equitably among all the people. Santa could remind the country that Jesus left the message, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.”  Yes, Santa might be able to get us back on the right track, and live up to all the promises made in the United States Constitution that all men (and women) are created equal and should be treated as such. And that the values found in the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments far exceed the perceived guarantees of the Second. Maybe, just maybe Santa Claus could bring all of us back to our senses and recognize we must give, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill toward men and women.” And we all will be better off as we head into a new year.

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL FROM SANTA CLAUS

AND

THE WRITER FRED AND FAMILY!

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Two Black Ministers: Two Divergent Views

Now that both the Republican and Democratic Conventions are over and all the speeches tucked away in the storage bin of patriotic rhetoric about just how great this  country happens to be, it is time to take a closer examination of the messages delivered by over 300 spokespersons for different constituent groups throughout the country.

Alexander_CrummelFor Black Americans two of the more interesting speeches were delivered by two ministers, one at the Republican and one the Democratic Conventions. Some may argue that 1) the two were not speaking for the majority of African Americans, and 2) it is an erroneous assumption for me to assume they were more important to Blacks than any other spokesperson. I will respectfully disagree because for centuries, Black ministers have assumed to role of spokesperson for the race. Alexander Crummell in the 1800’s as well Howard Tsharptonhurman in the 1930’s, to Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr., in the middle 1950’s and the 1960’s, Reverend Jesse Jackson in the 1970’s and 1980’s and Reverend Al Sharpton from the 1990’s to the present serve as proof to support my position that Reverend Darrell Scott at the Republican Convention and Reverend William Barber at the Democratic Convention were fulfilling a long historical tradition, as spokespersons for the interest of Black America.

We as a race, are so deeply immersed in our love of God that we often fail to assess the person delivering the message. We seem to assume that they have been given a special anointment from above to be our spokesperson, and what they deliver is straight from God. However, these men and women who wear the cloth are no more anointed than any of us. But we listen to them and internalize their words, and that is what happened at both conventions.

What is critically important for Black America, is how divergent are the views of these two ministers; and if they do represent the race, it is an indication as to how bifurcated the culture is today.  A close examination of their speeches will substantiate my assertion. Let’s begin our analysis with Reverend Scott at the Republican Convention.

DrScottReverend Darrell Scott of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, extolled the virtues of Donald Trump while attacking the eight years of leadership under President Barack Obama, and what Scott alluded to as the President’s legacy of leaving the country “spiritually empty and  divided, now more than ever before.” He was careful not to mention the President by name, but instead aimed his attack at the Democratic Party stating, “The truth is the Democratic Party has failed us. At home our growth is lethargic…This is their legacy, and we need to make a sharp turn. We need to put into practice the great ideals and principles that our country was founded on and which, after God, are the source of our strength that has made this nation great.”

If I had only the audio of his speech and not the visual also, I would have assumed this to be a European American and not an African American. His words about great ideals and principles coming out of the Constitutional Convention, definitely didn’t apply to our ancestors. What is great and principled about a compromise that in effect considered our ancestors as 3/5ths of a human being? His final attack on the President makes a mockery of Obama’s “Audacity of Hope,” when he refers to the last eight years as nothing more than the “rhetoric of hope.” Reverend Scott ends his peroration with a claim that Donald Trump will become a President that everyone can be proud of. And just as if he was one of the many at the convention longing for a return to the past, he shouted to the audience that, “we can become great again.” Scott essentially spoke well of Donald Trump and ill of President Barack Obama, despite the fact that Trump made what I consider a blatant racist proclamation, when he referred to Obama as “the most ignorant president in the history of the country,” therefore leading me to wonder if he really does represent a legitimate Black perspective on the state of affairs, as we approach the national election.

Barber_Headshot_OfficialOne week later, Reverend William Barber, President of the state NAACP in North Carolina and Pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, took to the podium and immediately refuted Scott when he said, “I’m troubled and worried by the way faith is cynically used by some to serve hate, fear, racism and greed.” He went on to not applaud the brilliance of the founding fathers, but to state, “now to be true, we have never lived this vision perfectly, but it ought to be the goal at the heart of our democracy.” This appears to be a much more correct assessment of the history of this country. Again, taking direct aim at Scott he goes on to say, “And when religion is used to camouflage meanness, we know that we have a heart problem in America.”

What I consider a legitimate Black perspective on the state of affairs was articulated by Reverend Barber as he suggested that “We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival of the heart of our democracy. When we fight to reinstate the power of the Voting Rights Act and we break the interposition and nullification of the current Congress we in the South especially know, when we do that, we are reviving the heart of democracy.”

Most Black Americans recognize, with the exception of Scott and his ilk, that there has been a concerted effort to disenfranchise the Black vote, especially eight years ago when the Trump supporters recognized what could happen when President Obama won the election two  times. In the image of the great Social Gospel preachers of the 20th Century, Barber went on to say, “When we fight for…universal health care and public education and immigrant rights and LBGTQ rights, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.” The Reverend ended his speech with words that best symbolize the nature of the Black culture with, “We must shock this nation with the power of love and the power of mercy.”

No doubt that the two ministers delivered contrasting messages to the country. Just how deeply entrenched Scott’s message is a part of Black America is questionable. I would argue that President Obama is still the most loved and admired Black in this country and will remain so well after he leaves the White House. The fact that Scott attacked him for the benefit of the Trump lovers, probably left a bitter feeling among the mass of Blacks and he definitely failed as a spokesperson for the race. On the other hand, Reverend Barber addressed those issues of importance to the Black community. He did not extol the virtues of Hillary Clinton, but instead talked of the problems that must be addressed by the Congress and the next President, as well as the Supreme Court if this country ever expects to live up to what Scott claimed are the ideals and principles of the United States, and make it the greatest nation in the history of the world.

These are the two divergent views articulated by two of our Black ministers. You be the judge of who best represents the interest of the Black race.

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