Why We Must Boycott Black Friday

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Why we must boycott Black Friday:

1. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted for 381 days. It started with one.
2. It did NOT include all black people. It worked anyway.
3. It did NOT include only black people. It worked anyway.
4. The sacrifice of avoiding the only means of transportation many had, of traveling several miles to segregated areas to work on foot, of taking the risk of actually losing your job or your life because of your revolutionary stance was far greater than not buying some stuff.
5. The economic impact was tremendous even though it was only concentrated on one main area: transportation.
6. Rosa Parks was not the first or last black person to refuse to comply with the bigoted law to give up her seat to a white person on the bus. She was not perfect. She was still the face of the movement and her name is echoed decades later when it’s referenced. She became a symbol, not of perfection, but of the necessity for action. Sean, Amadou, Trayvon, Jordan, Renisha, Ezell, Jonathan, Rekia, Aiyana, Tamir….Mike Brown. Pick one. Pick them all. We’ve got several. No need to add more to the list.
7. Those who cannot afford to shop for luxury items or things other than necessities when items are not on sale, need something other than the flat screen that was marked down just for today. They need those of us who are more financially literate to educate and empower them. Teach a man to fish and all that.
8. Sacrifice is not easy. It is a necessity. New TVs, luxury handbags, and items for which we pay exorbitant amounts of money so that we can advertise for some European designer are not.
9. Necessities are food, clothing (not necessarily designer label and certainly not in excess), shelter, and FREEDOM. Most of us have the former three. None of us have the latter.
10.  There is no political impact without economic power. 635525111308302359-black-friday2
11. There is no desire for morality without economic power.
12. There is no freedom without economic power.
13. There is no generational prosperity without economic power.
14. There is no catalyst for change without economic power.
15. We have no economic power.

We’re in a very powerful position right now. We’ve already lost a great deal. We have many casualties in this war, and make no mistake, black people in America are at war with the systemic oppression that runs the country.  But, we are not defeated and we are hungry for real, tangible change. Now is the time to implement strategy.  It starts with one day. We must take one day away from pouring our income into the pockets of those who do not value black lives. This one day will restore the hope that it’s possible to galvanize for a common cause. It will ignite a spirit of activism in many and inspire others to join the effort. We need the one day to spark the emotive response necessary to begin the more laborious and lengthy commitment required to enact change.

orig-21127261After this one day, (and this is MOST important), let’s agree that beginning December 5, 2014, we will refrain from shopping for anything other than necessities (see number 9) unless it’s from a black-owned business. Let’s agree that those of us who’ve been sitting on an entrepreneurial dream will pursue it, and the rest of us will support it with our financial investment or sweat equity. Let’s agree that presents will become more meaningful and less materialistic; that building up the esteem and confidence of our children will supersede sales; that ensuring the safety of those we love will overcome our desire to spend. Let’s agree on what we want to yield from this effort. These are some things I desire. Please help me amend or add to the list.

1. We desire an marked increase in black-owned banks, and therefore business loans and businesses.

2. We desire a complete demilitarization of the police force, especially in neighborhoods that are  predominantly black.

3. We require that every police officer live within the area they police. You must know us in order to value us.

4. We require cultural sensitivity training to be a continuous educational requirement for every police officer and politician. The training should be designed and administered by a panel consisting of a majority of people of color.

5. We require every police officer to wear a camera on their person and to be fined or fired in the event of tampering or neglecting to wear it.

6. We require any person that shoots and kills an unarmed person to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law regardless of stature, and that the jury reflects the victim as well as the defendant.

7. We require that any person that stalks, accosts, or pursues another person be identified as the aggressor and the one being pursued as the victim with the right to self-defense regardless of professional position of either party.

8. We require that every officer of the law be trained in shooting to wound rather than kill.

9. We require a repeal of Stand Your Ground and any law that resembles it.

10. We require every company that desires our financial support to publicly support our initiatives.



Everybody’s a Genius

GENIOUS-POSTERIt’s important to know your child and to be their advocate. I always want to be receptive to any feedback and criticism I get about my children, but I also want to praise their positive attributes and encourage who they naturally are. This is vital to their holistic development.

So, I got the kibibi’s progress report from her part-time local school yesterday. According to the assessments, she did well in all areas EXCEPT “Music & Movement,” where it was determined that she doesn’t “respond to rhythm,” “participate in music and movement,” “enjoy singing/dancing,” “understand musical concepts,” or “keep a steady beat.”

Now, if you know my child at all, you know she LOVES music and dancing. At first, I thought that maybe she’s not being herself at school. This happens. Then, I remembered she comes home singing all the songs from school daily. And, the posted video where she executed the choreography for the school’s performance with such exuberance certainly displays a response to rhythm and participation in music and movement. Her behavior must be consistent, so that’s not it. (Guess which one is mine.)

In the states, I witnessed many occasions when a student’s cultural differences caused criticism and punitive consequences. This made me reflect on why I loved Sakkara Youth Institute so much and why I started ISIS, (my own school) for her in the first place. I remembered that our children are often mislabeled, misunderstood, misplaced, misdiagnosed, or just missed in the classroom altogether. This is why we need our own schools and educators who are culturally sensitive and aware.

Yet, we are in a foreign land now. And, I have another genius that needs my full-time attention for a while, so we have to operate within the scope. Teacher conferences will be essential. Students aren’t the only ones that need to be educated. Good thing I have a passion for education. Class is in session.


It’s All in a Name

maxresdefaultThe first time I saw a naming ceremony in person was in Tallahassee.  A young couple presented their first born son to a community of elders, peers, and children and charged us to be his collective guiding force, protector, and reminder of his purpose by helping him uphold the weight of his name’s meaning. The experience had a profound affect on me as a young educator unfolding into the woman I was meant to become. It solidified my belief that a person’s name can be empowering and prophetic, as my name had been.

Years later,before we had any children, my husband and I decided that I would name any that we had because he chose our family’s last name; it’s an African name that defines the mission of our family. We agreed that our children would all have names reflective of their heritage and lineage and that defined their purpose and legacy.  We also agreed that they too would be presented to our community in a naming ceremony, though he had never seen one. I knew, long before either was conceived, that we would have a daughter and a son and their names came to me very clearly after much thought and consideration.

Because my husband could not wait the typical month to reveal the name, our daughter’s naming ceremony was just days after her birth. In her nursery encircled by love, we introduced our newborn, Aminata Louise, to her maternal grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and Godmother. We informed them that she was named after Queen Aminata of northern Nigeria and that we would call her Amina, both of which mean honest, faithful, & trustworthy.  Her middle name, though not of African origin, is to honor each her paternal great-grandmother, and maternal aunt and great-great-grandmother. Its German and French roots mean “renowned warrior.”  We remind her through the echoing of her name that she is of regal lineage because of her ancestors; that she must exhibit integrity and honor in all she does and that she must be courageous and brilliant.

Our son, a month old already, still has me in awe of having a son at all. The thoughts of mothering a son as opposed to a daughter are completely different. I was equally excited about both, but I was much more concerned this time around than I was with my little girl. I know girls. Connecting with them is innate for me.  Boys offer me a challenge, and I feel less equipped to guide them. I knew his name needed to embody strength and offer him encouragement if ever I couldn’t.  I knew he needed to be reminded of his greatness because the world would tell him otherwise.

Ceremony ProgramWe presented Amiri Jasir James to our beautiful village in Singapore just days after his prolonged birth. We were so fortunate to have my parents present along with our new extended family here. Everyone stood in a circle as we explained that the name “Amiri” honors the late renowned poet and prophet Amiri Baraka, who just transitioned months earlier. It means “Prince” or “Leader” in Arabic; “the height of trees” in Hebrew, and “the East Wind” in Maori. All of which are fitting because he too must know he is regal, must strive to reach higher heights, and know that he was born in a very foreign land by no accident. His first middle name means “bold, courageous, honest and inventive” & the second is the name of his paternal great-grandfather, great-uncle, and a host of other men in our family.

During the ceremony, we explained and demonstrated libation before taking a parental pledge. The present Godparent and Community also took a pledge to offer guidance, counsel, support, and love. My husband read a rousing tribute to our son, echoing the lessons he has been charged to teach him. Amiri was then anointed with oils and milk to symbolize God’s protection and good fortune. Lastly, the community welcomed him into this world and we, as his parents, rededicated him to God.  My father closed us in prayer as we sang “Thank You Lord” together and tears scrolled down my face as I reflected on the auspiciousness of the moment. The event was celebrated with soulful dishes from each household as we feasted and rejoiced for our new addition.

Both of my children will know how their names came to be what they are; why they must uphold their meanings, and the wealth of love that is their birthright as it was displayed in their naming ceremonies.  I am so fortunate to have seen a glimpse into what we as Africans in America have lost when I witnessed my first naming ceremony in Tallahassee, and to be able to recreate the experience with our own community here in Asia.


Notes For a Speech

African blues
does not know me. Their steps, in sands
of their own
land. A country
in black & white, newspapers
blown down pavements
of the world. Does
not feel
what I am.


in the dream, an oblique
suckling of nerve, the wind
throws up sand, eyes
are something locked in
hate, of hate, of hate, to
walk abroad, they conduct
their deaths apart
from my own. Those
heads, I call
my “people.”

(And who are they. People. To concern

myself, ugly man. Who
you, to concern
the white flat stomachs
of maidens, inside houses
dying. Black. Peeled moon
light on my fingers
move under
her clothes. Where
is her husband. Black
words throw up sand
to eyes, fingers of
their private dead. Whose
soul, eyes, in sand. My color
is not theirs. Lighter, white man
talk. They shy away. My own
dead souls, my, so called
people. Africa
is a foreign place. You are
as any other sad man here

-Amiri Baraka