Tag Archives: Black America

Beyond Beyoncé: A Lesson In Colorism

I remember when I first began performing spoken word with the poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme.  I was introduced by the stage name “Black Girl.” Hisses and heckling greeting me as I graced the stage. “She ain’t black,” darted from the back of the room and hit me in the face like a paper bag of dog shit. I laughed and addressed the echo of our collective self-loathing. I knew exactly what they meant. It was a sentiment I’d heard my entire life.

If (we know that it is) the darker sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as beautiful, the lighter sister’s struggle is that she is not seen as black, by her own people. And then enters Beyoncé, stage left to center.

This past weekend she dropped a single so revolutionarily black (for an artist of her celebrity) that she has E-VER-RY-BODY talking about it. Even thosebeyonce-formation-video-thumb that don’t want to entertain it, write about how much they don’t want to entertain it. Not one white person is able to sing along with this song without looking crazy, but any black person can. We all know and understand what it means to be culturally “mixed” without being racially so. She’s black mixed with black, but we know the difference. Some of us cringed and clutched our pearls, others of us rocked in bold affirmation when we heard her bellow, “My daddy Alabama. Mama Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole, you get Texas ‘Bama.”   But, we’ve all claimed to have “Indian” in our family because we wanted to be “special” black and not just regular. And, when there was no evidence of anything other than pure blackness in our melanated skin and the tight coils of our natural hair; when we couldn’t mask it with concealer and flowing weaves; when our perfection of grammar and European languages didn’t erase our broad features; when we realized we could never “pass” and therefore a certain level of privilege within blackness would not be afforded to us, we began to hate….ourselves and anyone (of us) that represented the other end of the color spectrum. This isn’t some universal language song. This is an undeniably, unapologetically black song. It exposes the good, the bad, and the shameful self-loathing.

beyonce-formation-halftime-640x639She did this the first weekend in Black History Month. She did this on an international stage Super Bowl weekend.  She did this with an army of black women in afros. She did this in the state that houses Oakland. She did this with black berets and Black Power fists plunging in the air. She did this without any men in her squad (to correct the ails of the misogyny within the Black Panther Movement.) She did this in an “X” Formation.  She did this for every person from NOLA that was called a “refugee” in their native land. She did this while referencing Katrina, hot sauce, the Jacksons and their original noses, how we grind, black lives, systemic genocide, our non-monolithic subcultures and her “baby hair in baby hair and afros.” For the power of the impact alone regardless of how we feel about the music sonically and lyrically, we should collectively be proud. And, yet, the internal struggle is real.

I’ve seen the comments repeatedly that she’s self-serving and that her lyrics are just about her.  But, what black woman song isn’t? Cue I’m Every Woman . Yet, we still all relate. I’ve heard that she and the song lack substance; as if every song we’ve ever rocked to was the Black Revolution Manifesto. I’ve heard that she’s opportunistic and capitalizing on this vital time in black uprising. When wasn’t it a vital time?nick-young-confused-face-300x256 I’ve heard critiques of the song’s usage of stereotypes, but I fully embrace stereotypes that are true and rooted in our culture. There is no negative connotation to carrying hot sauce in your bag, taking your man to Red Lobster or making him tacos if he put in work unless, out of shame, you have detached yourself from parts of our black subculture; the parts birthed from poverty. We can’t even adopt the lyrics to her music because we don’t feel connected to her. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t pretty enough and therefore she cannot fully understand the black girl’s plight. Her struggle has never been that she wasn’t popular enough,or loved enough, or accepted (we assume.) Whatever struggles she may have faced pale in comparison and therefore, her music, her lyrics, her voice is self-serving because she cannot possibly associate herself with the core trials of black womanhood. Damn! We have some healing to do. 

We aren’t even conscious of this internal struggle and that this is the source for many of the palpable disdain for her; not just her music, her. Colorism is visceral. It’s intrinsic for black people, especially in regards to black women. The well read of us understand that this is rooted in the division intentionally perpetuated through centuries of chattel slavery and forced miscegenation, but we own it anyway. We rally behind it with  banners that read “Team Light-Skin” vs. “Team Dark-Skin.” It’s cancerous to the core. It is the vile excrement and pus of the layered wounds of an earthed history cloaked in colonialism. Colorism

When I see black women divisive on this issue, I find it easier to be a vocal advocate for my darker-hued sisters because I too have been considered “privileged.” Erykah Badu can do no wrong. She’s the safe color. Her hair is just kinky enough to be black, but just soft and textured enough to be considered “good.” Mary J. Blige is safe. She can rock platinum blonde hair for her entire career and never be questioned about her identity struggles. Her music has always been undeniably black. She has so many black girl anthems in her catalog that we each feel she has read our personal journals and put our business in the streets. But, the others, the Janell Monaes and India Aries aren’t getting all of their just due praise. And, I call all of my lighter-hued sisters to the carpet about it.  I can because I share ALL of their struggles. They can hear me.

It is undeniable that darker women have been marginalized and that their beauty has been overlooked. We, as black women of every shade, can stand in solidarity on that fact. We watched the documentary “Dark Girls” in horror and stood together against colorism, even though I was literally and figuratively given the side-eye because I just couldn’t possibly understand. However, I feel less supported by and less empowered to check my darker sisters on the visceral disdain for any black woman that doesn’t pass their paper bag test because they aren’t dark enough. Yes, it cuts both ways. no-one-cares-about-your-white-feelingsThe hatred of darker black women against lighter black women for that sole reason is dismissed and denied. It’s lumped in the same box with “white tears.” To offer such an accusation is internalized as insulting and demeaning immediately; the mirror is never held. No one wants to accept or hear these truths because to allow lightness (which we equate with whiteness) to play the victim in any way usurps the power of victimization from our darker sisters who’ve been denied so much already.   When our refusal to recognize it in ourselves is presented in our defensiveness and justification for our feelings, I bow out.

I was talking to a girlfriend last night, a sister who shares a lighter complexion and a rational love for Beyoncé and black women in general. I was confirmed in what I was feeling. I shared with her a reluctance to recognize the reaction to Beyoncé because I feared putting a name to it. Though it was cellularly familiar, I didn’t want to make the bold accusation that we, as black women, still hate ourselves and therefore cannot fully embrace each other as a reflection of ourselves. “You know what you’re feeling as a thirty-five-year-old light-skinned black woman. I know it too.” I was feeling the discourse and challenge of my own blackness, just as I did on that stage years ago. I was feeling even more connected to Beyoncé in a way that I didn’t want to share. Beyoncé didn’t just have the nerve to be light. She had the audacity to come from a middle-class, two-parent household and be able to sing and dance as the leader of a black girl group where she was by far the lightest. How dare she?! confusion

But, I saw an uprising when Faux News came for her. Nobody can talk about us, but us. That’s code. It is not until she is attacked by whites for her blackness that we will rally around her and collectively support her. A black woman is not a black woman unless she has scars.

The black women who have healed are obvious. It’s not just her fans, because there are those of us who are her fans because she’s light. No, they have not healed. There are those who dismiss her as an artist completely and overanalyze every single step she makes. “She did this too late, too quietly, too loudly, too….white.” They are those who look at her with the expression one makes when they walk in a house of someone cleaning chitlin’s. No, they have not healed. There are those who share her hue but who have denounced their “light privilege” and therefore hate her for benefitting from it. No, they have not healed. There are those who will only come to her defense when the attacks against her can clearly be defined as racially motivated and spirited with hate towards our collective. Then, they’ll jump to her/our aid. No, they have not healed.  It is those who love her just as they love every other black girl using her voice; not necessarily all of her music or decisions, but the woman that she is and is becoming because they see her as a reflection of us all. They are the ones who have healed in this way, because be certain, we are all still wounded.

We believe that if you’re of a darker hue, you’re black and could be “pretty for a dark girl.” If you’re of a lighter hue, you’re beautiful, but “not black enough.” Our darker and lighter sisters feel the sentiments, “I hate you because you’re seen as beautiful,” and “I hate you because you’re seen as black,” respectively. We divide our blackness and beauty while failing to realize the two are synonymous.

Nina Simone is praised for her boldness in creating music that edified our people, our struggles, our resilience, our inevitable rise.  She was unapologetically black and beautiful, though the latter was often overlooked. She did not have crossover appeal in the states because of her black brilliance and skin. We see Beyoncé draped in mass appeal and we challenge her allegiance to us. If white folks embrace her, then she must not really be for us we think. But, she is undeniably beautiful and black.

Beyonce is ours.

 

 

2015, The Reflection

So many thoughts as  I reflect on 2015. It was a time of heartbreak for me and many very dear to me. This year took a friend’s son, paralyzed another, a friend’s brother, my last two grandparents, and a friend from her son in the most painful way.

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The Lifeblood of Atlanta

It was a year of shifts. It shifted my entire family from one side of the world to another. It shifted my husband into entrepreneurship. It shifted family members into unemployment or underemployment. It shifted our collective paradigm from being complacent bystanders in the face of systemic injustices to being vocal advocates for social change. 

Charleston-Emanuel-AME-Church-Shooting-Victims-with-Names1It awakened our consciousness, and in many, our fears. It reminded us of the fragility of life and the devaluation thereof by many in positions of man-made power. It tested us. Some failed, but many of us found purpose in the wake of tragedies. 

Even in this, I am grateful. I am grateful that I’m still here. It means my work is not done and because I’m clear about my life’s work, I’m more focused on its execution. I’m grateful that those I know who’ve transitioned, some peacefully and others violently, are on the side of justice and are now guiding forces in our fight for it. I’m grateful that my marriage and my children, my infant son especially, survived my functional depression and state of melancholy at long stretches this year. I’m thankful that joy is still at the root of it all. I’m thankful that I have a direct line of communication with the Divine, and that I can be used as a vessel for Its work. I’m thankful that I have black friends who are aware of all that means and take pride in it, take an active role in our quest for liberation, and recognize the importance of coming together within ourselves first to heal and restore before we continue to offer our culture, traditions, and greatness to everyone else while being excluded from power by everyone else. I’m thankful for my very few white and non-black friends who get it; I mean really get it and support the fight for justice despite their inherited privilege. I’m thankful that we’ve finally found a pastor and a church that’s ’bout that life! 

Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of gratitude in the midst of the chaos of the world. Farewell 2015. May we all learn from your lessons so they need not be repeated; gain from your blessings, and move forward renewed and ready to face all that 2016 has to offer. 

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Fuck You and Your Simple Ass

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Guest Blogger 

All ya’ll simple, handkerchief head, funky-breath, sell-out, booty clinchin’, holes of ass that think the girl being flung like a dingy wife beater at a pick up game was deserving can suck loose shit from a straw and die!

We got rebel flag waving, third-grade level reading, squinty-eyed, slimy motherfuckas with bowl haircuts shooting up our history in a black church, and our leader, and our aunties, and our uncle, and our brother, and our grandmas,  and he gets a double Whopper with cheese. Prolly’ got fresh fries and pop. And you think the little black girl SITTING in her desk deserves a wrestling match with the Incredible Fuck because she… wait for it….decided to be a teenager and defy some shit?!Charleston-Emanuel-AME-Church-Shooting-Victims-with-Names1

Did she blow a motherfucka up?!  Was she packing weapons of mass motherfuckin’ destruction?!  Did she shoot up a fuckin’ movie theater while folks tryin’ to watch the Batman?! (Best Superhero Ever) Hell nawl! And, THAT crazy motherfucka got to walk back to his car before his peaceful arrest!

Ya’ll backwards ass motherfuckas out here believing it’s ok to suspend a black man from work because he put hands on his own damn child or that another one should go to FUCKING JAIL for some FUCKING DOGS, but this swollen motherfuckin’ rent-a-cop can body slam a sitting teenage girl in front of an entire classroom and arrest her ass for disrupting the peace.  You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me!

vick71I know kids in a classroom ain’t nothin’ nice in high school. And, some of them shits is bad as fuck.  But, this was beyond the call of duty boy scout. And, I don’t give two fucks or a bag of Flamin’ Hots about what racist ass white motherfuckas gotta say about any fucking thing. They been saying the same dog shit since they drug, maimed, raped, killed, and stole our asses to bring us here and build this whole fuckin’ country!

I’m talking to your ignant black, brown, wanna-be special-black ass!  We gotta protect our kids from motherfuckas who think they can do any fucking thing they want to them. Unless you motherfuckin’ feed a child, unless you motherfuckin’ clothe a child, unless you motherfuckin’ LOVE a child, you ain’t got right the first to put your motherfuckin’ hands on a child…unless they drop kick your ass. Then, that’s a different story.

Signed,

Motherfuckin’ Rose

 (Because sometimes civility doesn’t get the point across.) 

The Long Roads, Flights, & Tracks Home

Michael BrownA year ago, my husband and I watched the streets of Ferguson erupt in horror. We watched pictures and videos of the lifeless body of one of our young brothers fester in the street for hours and heard about the culprit’s, an officer of the law, flee from the scene.  We learned that Mike Brown, a recent high school graduate,  was struck six times with bullets, at least once with his hands raised in surrender, and later heard the trigger-puller’s legally justifiable defense was that he looked like a “demon.” (How can one be executed for looking like a mythical creature?) Our eyes widened and spirits were awakened and angered as we witnessed the unfolding of a war zone in Ferguson. Gas masks, full artillery, violent and silent protests, arson, police antagonists, and antagonizing police officers, all painted a vivid and horrific picture that resembled that of which we’d seen in visuals after the King riots, both Rodney and Rev. Dr.

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We waited like the rest of Black America for some semblance of justice in the name of the fallen. We waited, though we had still not recovered from the verdict in the trial of Trayvon Martin, who was posthumously convicted of his own death. We waited, though we’d be told of the imbalance of Ferguson’s demographics in terms of police vs. residents, and its sordid history because of it. We waited though the media had already begun assassinating the character of the victim before his body had even been removed from the scene of the crime. We waited like viewers wait for the moment in a scary movie for the running, screaming, female character to get caught. We hoped for the best, but we all knew she would fall and fail. And, so did justice in this instance. I watched Mike Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden wail and weep and scream out of agony. Then, I watched her transform and become swathed with a supernatural strength. She reminded me of Sybrina Fulton. She reminded me of Wanda Johnson. She reminded me of Mamie Till Mobley. She reminded me of too many black mothers that have buried their children due to senseless violence that’s sanctioned by the government that should protect them.

We sat in silent reverence, imbued with fury, and watched images of our home country burning from the comforts of our _79245004_024867989-1foreign home in Singapore. We watched, just as we had watched the marches, protests, and riots after Trayvon Martin’s injustice unfold while being surrounded by the opulence and newfound freedom of self-expatriation.  We felt, for the first time in our lives, disconnected from our people as though we’d absconded from the plight and constant terror that it means to be black in America. We decided, with much reluctance on my part, that we needed to move back to the states; that despite the intoxicating and unfamiliar feelings of privilege, entitlement, and freedom, true uninhibited freedom to live and be who we culturally are without judgment or persecution, we needed to commit to our life’s work of helping to restore and rebuild black communities for the sake of our children and our people.  We needed to sacrifice the contentment of our bubble in Asia where we had helped to establish a vibrant black community to begin the Back to Black List that my husband authored where it was needed most. We had to do more than use words to empower. We had to be examples and SPEAK with our actions. The decision was less noble than necessary.

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A year later, our feet are on the ground. We’re back now. We’ve used this entire summer to live as nomads in different states as we researched our selection of cities to live. We gave ourselves the freedom to choose exactly where we wanted to live instead of being mandated by a professional position. (See another post that I’ll find the time to write one day.) Our original list of five plus one had been narrowed to two and a possible by the time we landed on U.S. soil for the first time in two years, but we kept all options open for discussion and consideration.  New Orleans and Oakland were both individual choices vetoed by the other for various reasons. [Insert sigh.] The wonderful city of Chicago which offers all of the culture, food, arts, and opportunities to build and restore is just too cold for too many months out of the year for this Southern girl and this adapted N. Minneapolis snowbird. My flashbacks from living in upstate NY for one year kept haunting me.  That left Dallas, Atlanta, & S. Florida as possible contenders.

map1_dallasOur first choice of Dallas was a practical one. The primary reason for moving back more urgently was because of my mother-in-law’s crippling illness and my sister-in-law’s need for assistance in her care. Living in Singapore made any necessary trips to visit very difficult and even scheduling phone calls could be a nuisance with the time difference. We needed to be in the same country to be able to reach them when needed. They both reside in Dallas. Dallas also boasted of thriving predominantly black suburbs [read communities], a once thriving black community in South Dallas that could be restored, and many fellow FAMU graduates that we knew would be willing counterparts in the process of rebuilding.  Though I’d never been, I encouraged the decision to have all of our items from Singapore shipped to Dallas as a gesture of my commitment to both the Back to Black List and to my mother-in-law and husband.

Atlanta is Atlanta. Those who get that just do. I love just about everything about my native city and I’ve converted a man who once denounced the very thought of visiting to possibly considering it as a place to settle.  We knew it’d be easy to a certain degree to just plug into the well established black network we have there. There are many like-minded people of all races that live in the city and many upper middle-class and affluent black families that haven’t forgotten that they are and the responsibility that comes with that. But, it’s still in Georgia; red state, redneck, red clay, historically black lynching Georgia. So, there’s that.

South Florida is all things tropical and beautiful. Who wouldn’t want year-round summers, mango and avocado trees in your backyard, free daily lessons in a foreign language, and access to the beach whenever? The king’s company, logowww.madalihair.com, also has its main large clients and distributors in Miami. But aside from the aesthetics and his professional benefit, it proved not to offer much for black families in general and didn’t feel as though our vision would be well-received.

Surprisingly, Tampa, my maternal families’ home base made an addition to the list after we arrived. We used it as our home for the summer, renting an airbnb home from a wonderful couple who lived just two doors down from us in the newly gentrified West Tampa. We caught wind of some exciting and new opportunities in the area and were reminded of how wonderful it is to be near family and a familial support system, especially when raising children. There were definitely pros and cons as with each location. We had all the offerings of tropical life and there are many avenues for rebuilding, but the black community is built around elite organizations, historic churches, or childhood allegiances that are all difficult to penetrate for transplants. I went to high school in Tampa and I’m a member of one of the elite organizations and a former member of one of the historic churches, and I still feel like an outsider at times. We needed a city that would welcome newcomers as people migrated to help implement the Back to Black List and one that offered varying commercial industries for those who’d seek employment rather than create it. Tampa became possible, but not likely.

224We spent time in each of the cities searching for homes to either rent or buy, looking for black schools, black banks, and black neighborhoods that could be the foundation for black communities.  We were repeatedly disappointed in them all, but especially Dallas initially because that’s where we put the most effort. Our first visit there in June proved to be surprisingly underwhelming. The article we’d read about one of Dallas’s suburbs becoming the new Black Wall Street was a bit misleading, or perhaps we misinterpreted. Black Wall Street was replete with black businesses that were supported and employed by black people in a community built around strong black schools. I think we are collectively and mistakenly interchanging community and neighborhood. Black Wall Street was a community. The black suburbs of Dallas appear to be black neighborhoods. Communities have their own economies and a sense of collectivism. Neighborhoods are just people who share the same zip code or grocery store. We didn’t find the former there.  [Please let us know if we overlooked something Dallastons.] More importantly to me, the school that we fell in love with proved not to be the best fit for our daughter.

Very long story short, or written in another post, that’s not going to happen. While in Dallas on our last visit, a sister friend reminded me that we have the power to manifest the desires of our heart when in the will of God. She challenged me to write

540x293_20140102_8b7da98709a1ab48d447479d93832c18_jpg down exactly what I wanted, not my husband or children, and to be as specific as possible. All summer, we were leaning on the kindness of others or spending far more than we should to ensure that we, our children especially, were comfortable as we scoured the internet, traveled the highways, and rested in airports in search of our next home. I knew I wanted an African-focused accelerated educational venue for my daughter where I too could contribute my educational experience and knowledge. I knew I wanted a community that spawned from that school, neighboring schools like it, and like-minded people and families. I knew I wanted to finally find a church that espoused the beliefs and understanding that Africans throughout the Diaspora are disenfranchised and that we can be liberated through our faith and collective actions. But, those things weren’t specific enough. So, I made it plain.

I want:

-to live in my native city this year.

-to have my daughter enrolled at the African-focused school of my choice there in Kindergarten or based on her aptitude and social development instead of age.

-to have a support system of like-minded people.

-to live in a house in the actual city limits, within 20 minutes of the school.

-to have at least three bedrooms in said house.

-to have a church home within the community.

-to begin working together with others to implement the Back to Black List as soon as possible.

-peace.

In one day, after many days of tirelessly searching and being disappointed repeatedly in multiple cities, we have finally found a place to call home and truly begin to work towards the liberation and advancement of the disenfranchised. That’s putting a lot on it as my husband would say, but we’ve already put a lot on the whole decision to move back to the U.S. As soon as I decided to envision and ask for exactly what I wanted, the path became clear and easy. I found a house in the exact area we wanted to live. It was available, move-in ready, and we were able to negotiate all of the terms we wanted in less than a week. I’m able to enroll my daughter in her proper placement in the African-focused school of my choice, and I’ll be surrounded by people of all backgrounds and ethnicities who understand the importance of elevating those who’ve been oppressed. And, we both have family there, so that’s built-in babysitters!!

All is not final. We will still be living out of suitcases and boxes for a while, but we’ll be in our own space soon enough ready to do more than watch the plight of those we love. After much indecision, insight, trials, and prayer, we are moving to……….A-T-L-A-N-T-A!!!

Our New Home

Re-dressing Room: Repatriating into Racism

DallasLogoAll week, we’ve been tirelessly researching and riding through Dallas to determine if it is where we’ll plant roots and begin the process of helping to build a community. It was such an overwhelmingly exhausting and frustrating week as everything we found continuously missed the mark; the details of which I’ll share at another time. Yet, I’m led to share one of a few moments that resonated with me and illustrate exactly what it means to re-dress in the weighted armor of being black in America after being released from its burden for a time.

As we were traveling from house to house in the unforgiving summer inferno that is Dallas with our two young children, we were often driving slowly or parked in the wings of the road to look for our next destination. In one such instance, all of us were preoccupied in the legally parked car and suddenly come upon by two towering horses within hand’s reach of my husband’s window. The silent and steady stroll of the enormous and statuesque figures startled us all as we watched them saunter ahead of us mounted by two men dressed in full police officer regalia. Neither of them looked like the residents of the neighborhood in which we were looking.

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My husband jumped into a protective posture and shouted some expletive. I clutched the knot I was trying hard to swallow in my throat, while my daughter excitedly asked if she could ride them as they kept gliding and canvassing the neighborhood. We had no interaction with them, and didn’t want one. Though we had stopped several other passersby all week to ask one question or another about a particular area, we had no interest in the insight or directions from the Officers Friendly.

My mind became haunted with an imagined altercation between them and my husband that left me breathless for a moment; so much so that I feared sharing it with him then or even describing the scene now. That’s when it struck me.

For almost two years, when living in Singapore, I was completely free to operate in my daily tasks without any fear of being snuffed out like a candle in a cabin in a blustery storm. I don’t mean the type of black woman warrior hear me roar conquering hero type of fearlessness that we must possess in America. I’m speaking of the type of freedom from fear that comes when there is absolutely nothing to fear. I had not one terrifying thought of interacting with international police officers and not living to tell the story because my skin offended them and caused a murderous frenzy. I never feared entering a sacred space and not emerging from it because some wanderer riddled with hatred decided my life had no value. I was, in every instance that my white counterparts are, free from the terminal tumor of racism for just a moment as an expatriate. (I’ll definitely be discussing that in more detail. You know, when I have time and all.)

The freedom from racism is fleeting for it has been completely shed now that I’ve steeped in its bondage all summer. Every week, it seems, there’s another occurrence, a reminder,  where a vibrant black person becomes a lifeless black body at the hands of someone in a position of authority, whether self-imposed or government sanctioned. Just yesterday, as we were leaving Texas, the state that offered the gruesome attack on an unarmed adolescent in McKinney and the brutal silence of our sister in advocacy, Sandra Bland, as warnings of its nature just in this past year, news of the death of nineteen-year-old Christian Taylor surfaced.  And, as is custom, the process of assassinating his character and lauding that of the officer [trainee] involved is happening almost effortlessly; a campaign in which I won’t participate. Christian Taylor, Unarmed, Black, and Deceased

To state that it is burdensome and distressing to re-dress in the constant awareness and fear thacartoon3613t at any moment, any white American can take your life and that of those you hold most dear and there will be no redress, only absolution; that in fact, their actions will be justified, and you posthumously vilified is a grave understatement. We have scoured the states the entire summer aiming for a place to be free again, and unlike the target on Black America, it’s been missed every time.

Something’s Gotta Give

This is why….

“We know this place…,”
This scene is all too familiar;
All too freshly sketched on the canvas of our memory.
We can no longer boast of progression
When we’ve only suffered from the repression of our history,
the continual oppression of our people,
and witness the protection of our enemies.
Amerikkka,
the land of the free and the home of the slave….

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling equally homesick and sick of home with all of the horrendous acts of terrorism against people who reflect me. It makes me feel homeless more than anything. Watching the reports of the events unfolding in Ferguson, New York, Los Angeles and all over the U.S. from abroad makes me feel like I escaped a war zone, but it also beckons me to go back and report for duty.

These images of unarmed civilians being executed in the streets by people who’ve used authority to seek complete control and exercise their expression of hatred solidify my thoughts about what Black America’s next step should be. Make no mistake, there are multiple Americas in our “United States.”  We can no longer afford to pretend that we live in a peaceful, post-racial and fully integrated society in America. We really never could afford the thought. It has cost us greatly.

Tragically, the tremendous efforts and results of the Civil Rights Movement were thought of as a completion of the task to secure our inalienable human rights in American society, instead of as the launching pad to keep pursuing them as they were. Now, most of us uneducated about the plight and goals of our predecessors, look at some of their tactics and recycle them without aim. We march now without a collective and concrete purpose other than unity. We hold rallies and sit-ins without understanding its intended impact and with no strategy to implement once the sit-in is complete. And, those of us with the greatest assets still pursue “The American Dream,” as though we were ever intended to be a part of that script.  

We so desperately want the diverse, peaceful, harmonious democracy America advertises, but we have not completed our healing process and we have yet to fully reconnect within our own community first. We also fail to see that the America we idealize does not exist. We talk about segregation like it’s a malediction and we mistakenly believe that the America we’re seeing is the one of which our forefathers dreamed. This was not the intended result of integration.  And, Martin Luther King, Jr. had an ominous feeling about that.  

“We’ve fought long for integration. It looks like we’re gonna get it. I think we’ll get the laws. But I’m afraid that I’ve come upon something that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m afraid that we’re integrating into a burning house.”

The primary thing integration did was integrate black people out of power and extract the most educated and affluent of us from those with less means and opportunities. It resulted in the separation and division of those of us with the most in terms of education, resources, & affluence from those of us with the least. It taught the two divided groups to detach themselves from the other and be ashamed of that which has been separated. It taught us to assimilate and embrace majority culture so much so that we despise and forget our own. It allowed us to become walking targets and victims of systemic oppression and racist policies. 

Until we pour back into our people by building and supporting black businesses, schools, and communities that uplift us, then we will see this cycle again and again. Anybody can support this mission, but we can let no one thwart it. We’ve had too many casualites in a war we haven’t been strategically fighting. 

We just want the freedom to live in viable and healthy environments and conditions for our families. We want our own {land, resources, authority figures, etc.}  in our own communities because we can’t even knock on a “neighbor’s” door when we need assistance without being murdered (Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride.) We have never experienced “separate but equal,” so we fought for desegregation unaware of the fact that it would only extract us from power and further diminish our humanity in our own eyes. Now, we fear ourselves. We blame ourselves for our own lynchings because we’ve been taught we deserve it. We believe it because we hate ourselves; a direct lesson that is taught with little subtlety in the curriculum of American education. This self-loathing leads to our annihilation.

When we teach our children about sex, we can tell them with certainty that abstinence is a 100% guarantee that you will not contract an STD or get pregnant prematurely. We can teach them how to avoid the pitfalls of drug addiction completely by avoiding drug use altogether.  We can teach them to refuse the candy and advances of strangers and to look both ways before crossing the street.  We can offer them advice to protect them in most circumstances.  But, there is nothing we can say to our children that will offer the same guarantee that they will come back home after an interaction with the police or anyone who places themselves in such authority. Nothing.

We were given this harsh lesson as a nation publicly with the heinous torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and his murderers’ unjust acquittal.  The lesson has repeated itself over and over again in recent years with lifeless black bodies standing trial for their own murders while their killers walk free.  If you are black in America, your very existence poses a threat, incites violence, and is used to justify another person’s “self-defense” claim against the criminality that is your skin.

Black people, males especially, have no right to just be themselves. They are not afforded the right of “freedom of expression,” and certainly have no claim to
stand their ground as self-defense.  Where was Trayvon Martin’s right to defend himself against a stalking over-zealous, self-appointed neighborhood watchman?  Where was Michael Brown’s right to humanity when he was gunned down unarmed in the streets and left to rot for hours?  Where was Aiyana Jones’ right to be safe from police in her own home? Where are the rights of all the victims to face their accusers when they are  tried in the court of public opinion posthumously for being the cause of their own murder?

We cannot be dormant and await a rescue. The time for action, true mobilizing, is now. Join us in The Back to Black List Movement!

#TheBacktoBlackList #BackToBlackList #BlackList #BacktoBlack