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.

Something Positive for Black America With Trump’s Election

For Black America, the election of Donald Trump might become a positive over the next four years. I know, many of you might think that this writer has become delusional. Let me try to explain why I would make such an assertion. I believe a certain degree of apathy has taken hold, and set in on most Black Americans after the election of Barack Obama. We became rather content, after all, we had a Black President. It couldn’t get any better than that. If you couple that with the fact that many of us are living a very comfortable middle class life, then our condition wasn’t so bad after all. We didn’t need another Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead us to the promise land. We were already there.

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But while we were playing golf on Saturday and attending one of our prosperity churches, listening to our ministers who drove up in Mercedes or Jaguars on Sunday, crime in our communities was escalating, police were using our young as target practice, and the job market was not friendly to our men and women seeking employment. And for eight years, the first Black President was constantly under attack by those detractors determined to make his presidency a failure, and by the way Trump led them. We saw this coming but did nothing to prepare. We just kept playing our golf, watching our games on television, and totally ignoring what was happening all around us.

mv5bmtqzmja5njq0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjgwmzyxmq-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_But we now know that the lackadaisical attitudes of the past can no longer continue. We all must make a commitment to use our talents in ways that can improve the conditions of our brothers and sisters whose struggles are going to get real tense over the next four years. We all have a lot of work to do as we move forward into the Trump years in the White House. And even though Charles Dutton’s final speech in Spike Lee’s movie, Get on the Bus was geared toward Black men, it is applicable to the entire race. For that reason, I am compelled to share it with those of you who never saw the movie and the others that gave very little importance to what he said.

In the very last scene in the movie, Dutton addresses all the brothers who have made the trip to Washington, D.C. but did not participate in the Million Man March because one of the characters, Ozzie Davis, suffered a heart attack just before the march and many of the men chose to remain with him at the hospital. But once they do arrive at the Lincoln Monument, it is very late and the men are depressed. That is when Dutton walks toward the back of the bus, and delivers the most important and poignant message of the entire movie. And one that all of us, men and women, can use as a measurement of where we go from here. Dutton tells the men:

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“We’re here because God Almighty wanted us here. And he doesn’t care so much about what you already done. God asks what you going to do now…The real march ain’t even started yet. This was only the prelim, the warm up….The real Million Man March won’t start until we Black men take charge of our own lives, and start dealing with crime, drugs, and guns and gangs and children having children and children killing children all across this country. If you all are ready to quit your apathetic and unsympathetic ways as I am and take back control of the Black community. If you’re ready to stop being the boys and be the men that our wives, and our mothers and our children are waiting for and stand up against all the evils lined up against the Black man…and just say we’re tired of this shit and we ain’t going to take it anymore. If you’re ready to do that, then we got work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

For the next four years, the intensity of that work is going to double. Despite his promise to be President for all the people, Trump’s early appointments signal that once again he is not being truthful, at least not with us. But Black America has risen to this challenge in the past. We have precedent on our side. We know how to survive under the roughest of conditions. Men and women such as Frederick Douglass, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not even consider the possibility of giving up. These great leaders struggled and survived and we must pick up their mantle of commitment and continue the work so that four years from now, when Trump is defeated, we will be stronger and wiser as a people.

 

 Be Strong and Stay Strong Black America!

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