Thailand 2014

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Almost a month ago now, we had the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand. Due to the unrest regarding the elections in Bangkok, we chose to visit a more remote area called Rayong and then traveled to Pattaya to explore as well.

Visiting Thailand brought a few revelations to mind for my husband and I. We are blessed beyond our imaginations. This life we’re living was not even on the horizon for the little knock-kneed girl who sang to passersby from her side porch in the SWATs or the precocious little boy who saw the treasures and ails of living in a predominantly black impoverished neighborhood in liberal North Minneapolis.  We knew we were special in the sense that we’ve been afforded opportunities that others have lacked, but we never imagined this; living as a family in Asia and traveling freely through the world around us.

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Most of the time in Thailand was spent relaxing at our resort, which is my type of vacation. Show me scenic mountainous or tropical views, and I’m a very happy woman. I am most at peace in the quiet of it all. My husband prefers a more metropolitan state of mind, so this trip was definitely more for me.

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We made a day trip to visit Pattaya and see “The Big Buddha,”which had to be the largest symbol of any religious figure I’ve ever seen. It was bigger than “touchdown Jesus!” There were other Buddhist deities present as well, each one representing a new day or a type 

2014-01-31 16.25.55of sacrifice or path of life. There were alters for sacrifice and burning incense and oils. The instruments for rituals were all present, but there was no one there “worshipping,” or meditating or reflecting. This was clearly a time and place for the tourists, so we did what tourists do and took pictures.

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We also visited a social enterprise which housed a restaurant, a beach resort, and a school; the two former financially supporting the latter. The theme was based on sexual revolution and looked like the 70’s stopped there for a smoke and never left.  The food left much to be desired as I was served pad thai with spaghetti noodles, but the signs along our path to the restaurant, the great work they’re doing with the school, and the message of peace that echoed throughout the estate made it worth the trip.

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One of the things on my “must do” list while in Thailand was to ride an elephant. It’s just something I probably read somewhere as the thing to do and it stuck; not to mention one of my best friends has the same desire, and because our friends and family are exploring through us, I had to do it for her too.

While mounting the putrid gentle giant and riding along the guided path, a few observations scrolled through my mind:

1. “We on that rich people shit,” he exclaimed when we mounted “Gumbo” (my daughter named him), the elephant and began touring the grounds of a zoo and garden in Pattaya. My husband doesn’t mince words and usually finds himself in a commingled state of disbelief and “survivor’s guilt” when we do extra-ordinary things like this.  The truth is, the things we’re doing as a family, the experiences our daughter is having (that she may or may not remember), are far from the imagination of our parents and youthful selves. We’re doing things with relative ease that our respective upbringings couldn’t have afforded us. All we need and want is within our grasp, AND this is actually true for most of our friends. We’re in a whole new league, and the education and opportunity that our ancestors and families sacrificed to make available to us is the only reason why. We get that. We will always remember that.

1016312_10203023517738671_146898453_n2. If I’m doing well, and everyone in my circle is doing well, and everyone in my network is doing well, but the majority of my people are suffering, then WE are NOT doing well. And, WE have work to do. We must lead with a plan or follow one.

3. Seeing weathered wealthy European men with significantly younger Asian and African women and girls is becoming to commonplace to be bothersome. That, in itself, bothers me. Girls, dressed as working women too afraid to look me in the eye, avoid my inquisitive stares. I’m asking if they’re alright, if they’re safe, but they never hear me or acknowledge me to reply. The exploitation and degradation of women and girls will only stop when it’s no longer profitable and when we say so. 

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4. Oppression has affected every single place I’ve ever seen, some more than others, and all that I’ve seen affected have been black and brown people.  If oppressors saw us as one unit for the purpose of domination, why don’t we see ourselves as such for the purpose of liberation?

5. If nothing else, living abroad has made me more grateful, reflective, fearless, at peace, forgiving, and dismissive of ignorance. I’m definitely feeling this.

Why We Must Forgive

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I was walking through a parking lot today, and I saw a sign that read, “If reason is on your side, show forgiveness. If justice is on your side, show humility.”

At first, it rattled me considering the state of anger wherein I’ve traveled increasingly since the Trayvon Martin trial, and where I’ve resided since this past week’s Jordan Davis trial. Why must they, (justice and reason), be mutually exclusive? Why does the gift of justice come so sparingly to my people? Why must we always be the strongest and forgive? I had to pray about that thing.

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I was reminded of the power of and that comes through forgiveness. It’s not letting anyone off the hook. It’s stopping yourself from being hung by your own rope. It’s letting go so you can progress in healing. It’s the gateway to productivity, and now is certainly time to be productive.

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So, I am choosing to forgive for my sake and ours collectively.

I forgive those who lay in idle complacency and serve as spectators to our genocide.

I forgive those who offer no alternative and do nothing to aid in our collective struggle other than serve their own individual pool, but who feel authorized to criticize, denounce, and ridicule strategies that are devised for the very people they’ve chosen to neglect or pity.

I forgive ignorance.

I forgive those who are so entangled in their own emotions and feelings that they cannot understand our plight enough to even fathom the thought of a group seemingly excluding them to heal within themselves.

I forgive those who throw baseless accusations and antiquated insults because they are afraid and personally offended that we are personally offended by our plight in this country.

I forgive all who are in the position to do so, but fail to empathize.

I forgive all who are in a position to do so, but fail to help.

I forgive those who look like they are African, but offer no other indication of such.

I forgive our would be leaders who have chosen their comfort, status, and fortune over using their platforms to propel the progress of the disenfranchised.

I forgive those in our community who have fallen victim to self-loathing, and in turn hate and seek to destroy us all.

I forgive those who have had the audacity to take a life that they didn’t birth, love, understand, or embrace with little to no remorse.

I forgive the history of America, though it’s never acknowledged its fault or current effects or asked for or felt the need for our forgiveness.

I forgive myself for not being more forgiving sooner and for putting my faith in anyone other than God and the Spirit of God within us.

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I forgive, because I must; because I need to heal; because we need to progress; because you’re worthy even if you don’t believe it; because we’re worthy even when we don’t see it; because that’s what I’ve been instructed to do; because reason is a gift too.

Because we have work to do, I forgive you.

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#blackgirlspeaks #forgiveness #understanding #peace #progress #TheBacktoBlackList #EmpowermentExperiment #justicefortrayvonmartin #justiceforoscargrant #justiceforalfredwright #justiceforjonathanferrell #justiceforjordandavis #justiceforhadiyapendleton #justiceforjonylahwatkins #reasonforusall

A Message to White Privileged People Who Take Offense to “Black Power” Movements

At our nearby park, there is always a nice mix of people from all over the world.  Parents, mothers or fathers, accompany their children and watch from a distance while mingling amongst themselves. Usually, everyone finds their “own kind” and stick together. “Own kind” will change depending on who’s present. Sometimes it means the same gender, or home country, or expatriates vs. locals. Of course, sometimes it means the same race. That feels very familiar. But, when it comes to race, because there are very few of my “own kind” in Singapore in general, I must infiltrate if I want to engage at all, on the playground especially. home

One day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a congenial French woman, who has lived in Singapore for over six years. It began very mundane at first; how’s the weather here compared to our respective countries; how much more expensive is it here compared to home; where our children went to school and why, etc. We watched our daughters, very close in age, play with their toys in the sand box. One was more practiced in the art of sharing than the other, and one tried to take possession of all of the toys from the other.

Somehow the topic of race and white privilege ensued, and honestly I wasn’t the one to present the subject.

“I suppose I can’t help but have white privilege. I’ve never had to think about it.”

She stunned me with this simple truth. I’ve never heard anyone personally say to me that they were equally aware and ignorant of this benefit. She went on to share a story explaining when it first dawned on her that SHE was treated differently than her “African friends.”

A small group of them were on holiday (vacation) together, and went out for a leisurely night. Two in the group were of African descent, but all were French and none of them ever vocalized there being any difference amongst them. When they were denied entry into a pub most of them had frequented many times before, she initially thought that it must’ve been closed even though it didn’t appear so. It did not dawn on her that she had witnessed discrimination until her “African friends” brought it to her attention. They had been denied entry many times in many other locations, even France to her surprise.

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This sole experience allowed her to take notice of other instances where she’d taken her rights for granted and, you could tell, there were revelations happening even in our conversation. Perhaps this was just a French problem she pondered. I assured her it was not and adduced my own examples. She repeated her initial comment about it being out of her control, and expressed disbelief that there could be anything done about it by anyone. She said this as we observed her daughter continue to snatch my daughter’s toys from her. My daughter eventually took her toys and played somewhere else after all of the play negotiation tactics I’d taught her had failed.

I have come to see, even more blatantly here, that the intoxication of white privilege affords one an extensive list of rights or entitlements  far beyond the scope of those who lack such a luxury.  One of which is that it allows one to feel well within their “right” to comment on, analyze, criticize, and belittle the sentiments of those seen as the inferior (whether conscious or subconscious) , all while trying to impose their views upon the perceived wayward thinker. It goes beyond freedom of speech. It’s freedom of control and authority to admonish that which is seen as contradictory to the majority view. This gift of white privilege is inherent for anyone of European descent, even in America, (though it does not have to be consumed to the point of intoxication), and has also been dispensed sparingly to the “passers,” people of color who could very easily be mistaken for otherwise either in appearance, social status, self-identity, or parallelism in thought or actions of superiority. These are the white privileged people.(See Wide Awake Parts I & II)

This particular “right” has been exercised incessantly in the U.S., but much more noticeably in recent years. With the public upset over the disputatious verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, which really have crossed all racial lines, there has been an influx of contending commentary from offended white privileged people expressing their abhorrence of the vocalized disgust with the trial’s outcome. How dare anyone question, challenge, or protest the results of the U.S. justice system? The gall of any group to express disdain for the norm, (exonerating white privileged people), in America is unfathomable and met with great resistance.  (See aforementioned explanation of “white privileged people” as it relates to Trayvon Martin’s killer before you exercise your “right” here.) And, therefore, any discussion of making changes that could prevent such outcomes or such actions in the first place are seen as inflammatory, threatening, exclusive, “racist,” and vile. This idea of change and “black power” must be spawned from a spirit of hatred towards the unassuming white privileged people. It just must.

But alas, I must inform you, that pro-black does not mean anti-white. Black people also struggle with understanding this. Yet, I do understand your confusion. You are perplexed by this because, as historically evidenced, the reverse is not true. Pro-white has meant anti-ANYBODY else. When members of white supremacy groups bolster their views with the term, “White Power,” it is certainly laced in hatred and disdain for anyone other than they.

downloadThe implementation of “white power” in the United States of America has been and is systemically in opposition of any non-white person. It has been since the seizing of this country from the native peoples that already dwelled in and cultivated this land.  I certainly understand how and why many project the sentiments of their ethnic predecessors on the rest of the world, but it is simply inaccurate and false.

After posting “The Back to Black List,” we were met with a few comments of discourse. Some were well-meaning and sincere; some were malicious and irate. We were told this list would be viewed as “racist” if it were reversed, and therefore was racist because surely we did not have a right to avoid such a label when the privileged did not. We were asked if our list still included them; not that they wanted to be a part of it or help in any way because they were very content in the utopian land of equality and diversity as they saw it. They just wanted to ensure that no “right” had been stripped from them. Others expressed how hurt they were that we felt a need to “further divide.” There must be another way they admonished, but offered no alternatives or suggestions or assistance. They just wanted us to know that they were disappointed in us for hurting their feelings by developing an action plan without their permission that didn’t directly include them. Still others, and these were by far the most amusing because they looked “black” but were clearly intoxicated, expressed they had absolutely no interest in living among other black people, supporting black businesses, or  “helping black people because they don’t want to help themselves.” This was in response to our action plan to help ourselves. The list has been viewed as “racist,” unGodly, pretentious, and unattainable, and of course, “anti-white.”

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But, there’s that little thing called history. Our ancestors did not enslave, oppress, and enact genocide upon their European counterparts. The opposite is fact, and it was not so long ago in the context of world history. It is in your ancestral lineage to hate that which is different from yourselves. Those who do not, and there are many, are an anomaly. Therefore, I understand why you would want to project that reflection on others. But, that is not who we (most of us) are. The source of our declaration of “Black Power” is one of love and desire for such. You have always had power within this structure; there has never been a need for you to voice it or cry out for it. We’ve known. We’ve always known.

Your declarations of such were to serve as affirmations and intimidations, not demands or requests. And, they were always stemmed from your self-view of superiority and your disdain for everyone else. That is why a list in the reverse of “The Back to Black List” would be racist and unnecessary because it already has been written, but “The Back to Black List” itself is not. It cannot be. Wait for it…..here comes why.

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Only those in power,(economic, political, social, etc.), have the power to actually be racist. The rest of us are simply the pawn in the malicious enterprise of racism, and every other “ism” for that matter. Anyone can have prejudice, but only white privileged people can be racist because we were the prize, never the participants in the race. The only ones that benefit from racism are those in power. The only ones who are adversely affected by it are those who are oppressed. It is very clear who serves the former and latter positions in terms of race, this man-made divisive factor created long before we adopted “The Back to Black List.”

So, I denounce your baseless accusations that we are racists for having the audacity to love ourselves despite all that’s been done to teach us to do otherwise. I denounce the notion that we are racists because we recognize the importance of healing and restoring ourselves before we can fully and lovingly embrace anyone else. I denounce the accusation that we are racists because we decided not to wait for anyone to show up in a cape and save us.  I denounce the idea that we are racists because we have the brazenness to envision ourselves economically empowered. visions_of_black_economic_empowerment I denounce all claims that we, the educated and empowered few of us, will worsen the problem by restoring the economy, infrastructure, educational access in the already segregated impoverished black communities by moving there. They are actually quite humorous. It tells me that you actually feel somewhat threatened that we are empowered enough to SPEAK against the centuries old social structure that has been steeped in enmity and xenophobic practices in this country, and throughout the world.

Otherwise, you would show absolutely no interest in the messages of black empowerment. You would not engage in debate about issues that absolutely do not concern you or affect you and your general way of life. If you did not feel threatened or personally offended, you would not try to exchange racial epithets or hurl insults masked by the elocutionary critiques of your intelligentsia.

You would simply keep scrolling pass our posts, comments, websites, channels, etc., because you’d be confident in knowing that your quality of life will not be disrupted by ours improving, which is true. Yet, your privilege and fear make you feel a bit froggy.

So, jump, but after this post I will not be engaging in any further discussion with you on the matter, and I encourage other “Black Power” activists to take the same stance. This is a joint course in “How to Deny My White Privilege in Matters of Black Empowerment,” “How to Mind My Own Business,” and “How to Share in the Sandbox.” You either pass or fail. Class dismissed.

(I must state some of my “givens,” so it’s understood that I don’t take them for granted. We know that the term “white privileged people” is not a sweeping generalization to describe every caucasian person. Though, every caucasian person can and does benefit from white privilege, we are aware that not all adopt the mentality of the those who become intoxicated by it. We know “well-meaning white people” exist. This article was not to discredit those of you who support the cause of restoring the basic rights of humanity to all. No need to exercise your right in this forum by declaring your decency. We know you exist. We’ve always known.) 

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Wide Awake Part II : The 10 Lessons I’ve Re-Learned About America While Living Abroad

Living abroad automatically enrolls me in an online course of “Race Relations in America in the Presumed Post-Racial Era.” In the seven months of my course work, I’ve been reintroduced to some invaluable lessons.

1. Black men are seen as inept, incapable, ill-equipped, inferior, invisible “boys” when it comes to standard allowances for the majority such as personal or commercial loans, employment, or scholastic admissions and scholarships.

2. Black boys are seen as dangerous, threatening, thuggish, lethal “men” when it comes to justifying their murders with erroneous claims of self-defense.

3. White men, women, and children can and will be justified and excused for any infliction or infraction upon someone black or brown, and if they’re wealthy, any infliction or infraction period.  If any action of systemic justice is taken such as an indictment, it will be far-reaching and unattainable to convict so as to pacify the cries of the oppressed.

4. Black men, women, and children will not be justified or excused in any infliction or infraction period.

5. Black and brown children are not allowed to be children, to engage in frivolous activity, to be seen as innocent, to be mischievous or given the opportunity to mature and evolve as their white counterparts are.

6. Self-defense only applies to the majority culture. This includes any that have assimilated to the point of being mistaken as a member of the majority culture. Black people are not allowed to feel and act with fear because they are only to be feared.

7. It’s worse in the south.

8. “The south is any state below Canada.” – Malcolm X

9. White entitlement, which is an intoxicating and debilitating drug that can be inherently or mistakenly consumed by anyone,  will lead to the following when any minority voices they want to empower themselves:  they will NOT want you to advance in this way; they will feel entitled to voice their opposing opinions in any forum, even yours; they will always play the victim; they will try to beat you over the head with insults and accusations, specifically that you, the oppressed party, are racist; they will not offer support; they will feel threatened and offended by any thought you have to progress your own as the majority culture has done since the inception of this country; they will not take kindly to any encroaching on their way of life; they will try to steal, kill, and/or destroy you, your ideals, your culture, & your identity.

10. Many educated or influential, middle class or affluent Black people will be afraid to recognize or SPEAK on these matters in fear of disturbing their individual lives of contentment and complacency. Those of us who do will be marred even by our own. So is the price of reading of, thinking for, and loving oneself.

I was aware, but did not fully digest the reality of the aforementioned when I actually dwelled in the midst of it. I was honestly somewhat afraid of truly SPEAKing the truths of my experience for fear of ruining relationships, ostracizing myself, or jeopardizing the safety of those I love. (See number 9.) Now, I realize we are all in jeopardy. Our lives are already vulnerable because they are seen as disposable. Our rights to humanity have already been stripped for many, and can be from us all at any time. We have not progressed nearly as much as we have fooled ourselves into believing. What else do we have to lose?

Now, is the time to pool together to focus on what we have to gain. My husband and I have engaged in many discussions about restoring our culture and community within the states. Our ancestors literally slaved to build a country that has continually terrorized us as its inhabitants. It’s time we do something, well within our rights, about it. He has compiled a list, an action plan if you will, that can and should be implemented by all who are focused on rebuilding and restoring black economy, black neighborhoods, black greatness.  Loving ourselves and wanting to support our own, just like all other cultures do already, does not mean we hate anyone else. There is no room or energy for hate. We have to know and understand this first.

I know posts like this will meet with opposition, and I no longer care to entertain it. Again, those who are intoxicated with supremacy will feel ENTITLED to speak even when they are not addressed at all. These things will apply to any one in opposition, regardless of race. Knowing these things, we must remain focused. We can lovingly educate those who are genuinely interested in our cause, but we will not engage in useless banter. We give credence to their voice when we do. If you are in disagreement with the purpose of this post and the following action plan, feel free to keep moving. We’ve got work to do here.

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For those who are wondering what to do now that it has been repeatedly confirmed that our lives have no value. This list is already being implemented by other cultures, the majority culture in America especially. The oppressed cannot be racist, because we hold no economic power. Be not distracted by the intoxicated.

Resource list to help complete the list:

Black Banks: http://urbanintellectuals.com/2013/10/03/did-you-know-there-were-21-african-american-owned-banks-in-the-country/

Effects of Black Schools: 

How to Support Black Businesses:

Wide Awake Part I

I went to sleep last night somewhat at peace with the fact that I I don’t live in fear (here) of someone taking my child’s life just because their hue makes them look “threatening.” But, I woke up to the sobering reality that I would have that very valid fear if I was still in the states.  I woke up to the sobering, but not shocking, news that a white man, Michael Dunn, could kill a black one (child), Jordan Davis, and we’re still the ones left hung for it.

Only in a country founded upon racial superiority and genocide and built by slavery like America, can a white man be found guilty of leaving three black young men alive, but left in the sea of uncertainty on the charge of actually taking the life of another. Being away from the states, and my home state of Florida particularly, helps me see from such a broader perspective. Being on the outside looking in, I am disappointed, not in the actions of the majority or the system, which is one in the same. Those are not surprising and the country itself was built upon them.

A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.

One could even argue that America has improved in matters of race. I mean after all, we have a black president. Right? Haven’t we been pacified enough?  That seems to be the sentiment of many non-black Americans, and others I’ve met here. Yet, I am disappointed that we, the prey, the targets, the descendants of those who, without any recognition or compensation for centuries, physically and painfully built the land that houses so much disdain for us, have been lulled into apathy, complacency, and reticence; only using our voice to publicly lament, but not to demand or create the world we wish to see.

We are just as afraid of ourselves as the bigoted sentiment that drives our culture is, and because you cannot love that which you fear, our self-hatred is far more detrimental.  We know and understand that being black in America means you have to operate by a completely different and restricted set of ordinances. But, instead of creating our own haven for ourselves, we try our best to lose ourselves, adopt the majority culture, and denounce the rest of us for being the broken product of a hostile environment. There is no safe place, not even in the suburbs to which many of us have tried to escape. All of us, regardless of our zip code, have to teach our children, our sons especially, to:

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