Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Revolution Mixtape

During the 17th century, John Locke (social scientist) had theorized a particular relationship between the people and their government. He believed that the people willed a government into existence. As such, the people demanded that the government only protect them and defend their property. Thus, a government can only exist because the people say so. Thus, a government that fails to protect, defend, or becomes tyrannical, the people are obligated to overthrow that government. Therefore, power is with the people.

Peoples of various nations, have long since been in the business of “overthrowing” governments, before Locke’s theory and ever since. Locke’s theory, just helps us to frame and understand our political actions and relationship to a government. A Revolution, albeit political or social knows no political and social class boundary.

The common thread that links all revolutions (political or social) is; governmental oppression, failure to protect the people from outside forces, and a sustained gap between rich and poor.

The African American social revolution of the Civil Rights Movement (1954 to the present), can be characterized by a movement for full social and political inclusion and protection, in every aspect of the American landscape. This resulted from centuries of abuse, neglect, and denial of basic civil liberties within the American political-social system.

The Wisconsin protest (that began on February 14th, 2011) can be characterized as the state government of Wisconsin, under Republican control wanting to strip the people (labor unions) of the right to collective bargain. This resulted because Republicans wanted state employees to contribute more of their salaries to address the state’s budget deficit. The only real tool that can be used as leverage against a giant corporate entity or business is collective bargaining.

Then around the world, we see protests in Tunisia (December, 2010), Egypt (January 25, 2011), Syria (January 26, 2011) and Libya (February 15, 2011). The people in these countries demand better political and social conditions. They also favor a more democratizing spirit in their counties. All three countries, except for Libya (at present), saw their presidents and cabinets flee the country.

Every Revolution will have those who will tell the story (through painting, drawing, or song). Every person will cite something that called them to action. African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement may say; the face of Emmett Till, the Brown Decision, or the water hose sprayed on Black children by fireman. As for the Revolution around the world; Facebook and Twitter are being cited as the mediums spreading the ideas of social democracy to these places.

Provided in a mixtape format, are a collection of songs that have been created in the space of a Revolution or possess a call to action spirit. These songs could even spark Revolutionary ideas still (political or social). These songs could easily be a soundtrack for a Revolution (past or present).

One day governments will realize that “what we want” and “what we need” is “power to the people” and what we call for is better conditions, the best kind of conditions, in order to be have a life, to obtain liberty, and pursue happiness.

Click this link to hear a soundtrack to a REVOLUTION (provided below are the track listings)

1- Last Poets "When the revolution comes"
2- Goodie Mob "Free"
3- Dead Prez "Psychology"
4- The Roots ft Mos Def & Styles P "Rising down"
5- India Irie "Strength, courage & wisdom"
6- Dead Prez "You'll find a way"
7- Goodie Mob "The day after"
8- Gang Starr "Conspiracy"
9- Lupe Fiasco "All black everything"
10- Nas "Ghetto prisoners"
11- Big Daddy Kane "Young, gifted and Black"
12- Mobb Deep "Survival of the fittest"
13- The O'jays "Give the people what they want"
14- Kool G Rap "Road to the riches"
15- Marvin Gaye "What's going on" (Remix)
16- Nas "Black President"
17- Public Enemy "Fight the power"
18- Edwin Star "War"
19- James Brown "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama's Revenge

On Sunday, May 1, 2011, the American people were interrupted in their television watching programs.  The major television networks, around 10:30 p.m. received "Breaking News" coming from the Office of the President.  No one knew exactly what this "Breaking News" could have been.  Those of us on Twitter, along with news reporters (on the major television networks), speculated as to what this news could have been.  Twitter was first to break the news that Usama Bin Laden had been killed (or rather a reporter on Twitter provided the news via Twitter). Usama Bin Laden had been killed by the United States military, in the country of Pakistan.  Then, taking the podium (about 30 minutes after the news broke on Twitter), sometime after 11:30 p.m., the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama, made his announcement to the world.  For this President, this was a campaign vow.  A vow, that he was able to make good on during this his second year of his presidency.
We are now in a moment.  A moment, that is linear.  Linear, in that we are nine years removed from that dark Tuesday, September 11, 2001 day.  But, our landscape has changed much since then and is far more complex.  In the name of 9/11 the United States military is in conflict in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  As a result of 9/11 we have declared war against Terrorism and Terrorist.  Yet for many, we still do not know who they (these Terrorist) are.  Who have been identified them thus far and incorrectly as Muslims.  We as Americans, have been made to feel less secure, as a result of 9/11.  We want our leaders to be ever bolder. We are even more suspicious about our government and governmental officials and their actions, particularly in international matters.

There are those who wish this to be a war of West versus East.  There are those who wish this to be a war of Christianity versus Islam.  Even some, who wish this to be a war of First World versus Third World.  It is however, a war of ideology.  An idea about how we as global citizens ought to live and interact with each other and as nations of a global citizenry.  All nations of the world must and should take a position against terrorism.  Terrorism knows no boundaries and will turn on the very population it grew out of.  The challenge is; how to do find common ground for all these nations.  What will the United States of America do in this Moment?  What will be the reaction of various groups around the world in this Moment?  There are many more questions, with answers that will be revealed over time. 

Click to hear President Barack H. Obama's Bin Laden Announcement

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama and The Challenge from Carnival Barkers

Today, at about 9:45 a.m., the 44th President of the United States of America (Barack H. Obama) re-released his birth certificate to the American people.  No one was expecting this move.  Thus, it came as a shock to the American press.  So much so, that it was "Breaking News."  As stated by the President, he has not ever been able to secure a "breaking news" moment, thus far, while serving as President.  Just before the President made his announcement and juxtaposition, in a split-screen, Donald Trump (who has since fanned the flames of Birtherism), was responding to Obama's announcement.  He did this in New Hampshire, the state the holds the first Presidential primaries for the 2012 Presidential Election.  So of course this raises a level of speculation as to whether or not Donald Trump will make a run for president.

The juxtaposition comes at, while on the one hand, Obama acknowledged what had been a source of much inquiry since he ran for presidency two years ago.  Then on the other hand, he gently asked the American people, is this really what we should be focusing on.  This and many other statements were provided to the Press Corp, during a press conference at the White House.  In his usual fashion, President Barack Obama took the time to create a teachable moment regarding the theme of "what is and what ought to be" in his always adult, calm, and intellectual fashion.  Obama made his remarks and took no questions at the end.  He and his wife would later appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, wherein follow ensued.  Of course all media outlets are a buzz with follow up, analysis, and inquiry.  More to come on this topic at a later date.  As for now, enjoy the concept that FACTS trumps FICTION.

You can learn more by clicking "Obama releases detailed U.S. birth certificate"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Idea: Hampton University

Hampton University opts to celebrate the birth of its Founder, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong.  Most universities will celebrate its founding or maybe the day the school opened its doors.  Perhaps, lost to the Hampton University community is the day that the school was founded, which was April 1, 1868.  Both the school's founder and its history is well documented in books, magazines, scholarly journals and the like.  Generations of students have graduated from this Institution and have gone out and made a way for both themselves and the communities, in which they found themselves.  The Institution's Alma Mater, like the Founder and the founding of the Institution, is packed with vision and ideas.  Equally important, to (the Founder, the reasons for the school, and the Alma Mater), is the way that the school and its residences have been portrayed in pictures.  There is an Idea, also at work.  Here are just a few, to celebrate the Institution's "founding," in which it is both a continuing and evolving, IDEA!

From the lips of the Founder, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong to your eyes:
"The thing to be done was clear: to train selected Negro youth who should go out and teach and lead their people first by example, by getting land and homes; to give them not a dollar that they could earn for themselves; to teach respect for labor, to replace stupid drudgery with skilled hands, and in this way to build up an industrial system for the sake not only of self-support and intelligent labor, but also for the sake of character."

Hamptonians BUILD, LEARN, and HEAL!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Returning U.S. to the Mountaintop

IN THIS MOMENT, we find ourselves 43 years removed from an event that found an iconic African American leader struck down by an assassin's bullet and a social movement that seemed to have been left without a leader.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on this day in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.  He had once again, been called to service, to lead another group of people over troubled waters.  This time King had been called to lead a group of African American sanitation workers in the acquisition of equal pay with their white sanitation workers.  Unlike previous marches, the protesters within the group became rowdy and individuals were injured, hurt, and one person had been killed.  As a result, the police were called to disperse the growing crowd.  Distressed, King took up lodging at the Lorraine Motel to rest, where he would subsequently be shot on it's balcony at 6:01pm.  Martin Luther King was 39.

Often times, we like to cherry-pick our way through United States history and narratives of people to fashion what we like the most.  We have seen both Conservatives and Liberals, over the years, pulling at the fabric of the King Legacy. We most often see this during elections cycles, as politicians search for iconic figures to use to support their positions.  Like then, political forces were tearing apart at labor.  These forces made labor out to be the villains in the United States' growing economic problems.  Again, we find ourselves in a problematic economy.  Currently, the GOP is referring to these people, as a special interest group, as opposed to who they are, the backbone of America.  We see teachers being bashed in the media, as being solely responsible for our failing school systems.  Yet, all Americans, is the educational system.  We also see, the most vulnerable protesting the power of their government from Wisconsin, to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other places around the world.  The United States, also finds itself involved in three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya), not to mention Cold War posts around the world.  Today, Barack Obama (44th President of the United States of America), choose this day to officially launch his re-election campaign for 2012.

Returning back to April of 1968, a distressed and not feeling well King delivered a speech (I've Been to the Mountaintop) at the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.  This speech used biblical references and along with four specific areas of thought; the sanitation strike, the Civil Rights Movement, the ideas of economic boycotts, and he used language that seemed to foreshadow his death.  While the characters are different along with the "movement" but the context remains the same. Today, we see workers striking in Wisconsin, social movements of people in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya are all demanding better treatment from their government.  These people are going to audacious lengths to earn this equal treatment.

Our nation finds itself today, triangulated by a; tittering economy, three wars, and various topics in our continuing domestic culture wars.  On this day that rocked a nation 43 years ago, we should return back to King's "Mountaintop."  Instead of gleaning from the speech, a few sound-bites, perhaps we should ask, what was happening then?  What is happening that is simialr now?  What did he see?  What do I see?  What should I do differently?  Then, we must apply these words to our daily lives, in our interactions with each other, our neighbors, and globally.  It will be at that moment, which we will return U.S. back to the "Mountaintop."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Perfect Union: A Racial Solidarity Blueprint

Immediately following Barack Obama’s oath of office, liberal whites and others rushed to proclaim the dawn of a new day.  They called this dawn a Post-Racial America.  They used the ‘obvious’ fact that whites voted for a black man, that made him president.  Not so fast, most polls suggest that it was minority America coupled with white votes that secured his election.  The fact that Post-Racial enthusiast support a narrative, that does not include the whole picture, undermines the ideology behind being post-racial.  Whites casting votes for a black person (for any political office), by itself does not denote being Post-Racial.  There is still much work left to be done in clearing our American institutions and social spaces free of racism.  Once this is done, perhaps, we can proclaim to be a post-racial nation.  How can Barack Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech be used as a blueprint for racial solidarity?

Barack Obama gave his “More Perfect Union” speech two years ago on March 18, 2008.  Presently, we are seeing an ever increasing critique of Obama (as President) on matters of leadership, his handling of the economy, international awareness, political ideology, and still, his origins.  Politicians are infamous in their use of wedge issues to drive communities apart.  Race in America has always been the card to play, especially during election cycles.  Racism is coded in phrases like “he is not like us.”  It is not by happenstance, that we are two years away from another Presidential election cycle.  The GOP, along with some African Americans continue to question Obama on grounds of loyalty (albeit to America or to the Black Community respectively).  The Birther Movement, the Tea Party, and the GOP, with their respective spokesman, all use tongue and check jabs at Obama’s racial origins to galvanize a specific (albeit dwindling) segment of American society that are still unwilling to accept change.  This segement will believe that race, sexual orientation, and religious afflilation are to blame for America's continual decline and thus, change for them must be resisted.

During Obama’s presidential campaign, he was triangulated by Party Politics, those drawn to his ideas of change, and America’s third rail of race.  Those who sought to tank his bid for president, tried to use charges that he was anti-Americanism.  This belief was rooted in the belief that he shared the militant Black views of his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Obama navigated the rail of race through his belief in the “unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people.”  Barack Obama was alas forced to address the nation regarding these attacks.  In delivering his speech, Barack Obama seemed to understand the intersection of time, space, and symbolism.  All of which served to positively impact the delivery of his “More Perfect Union” speech.

Barack Obama delivered his speech in Philadelphia.  This is the city of “brotherly love.”  When he gave the speech he noted his proximity to Independence Hall.  In United States' historical terms, this is the birth place of our nation, where the Constitutional Convention took place.  It is where certain compromises took place to forge a union.  Also, it is where certain aspects would be left to future generation to solve.

The speech opens with a line from the United States Constitution, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union” immediately grounded the conversation in the spirit of collective nation building.  The question is, however, what are we moving from in order to become perfected?  The Constitution is a document of compromises that is both “unfinished” and “it was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery.”  As it did for the patriots, it continues today, to be “a question that divided.”  Ideas left to “be perfected overtime” include; “the ideas of equal citizenship under the law,” and things “that promised its people liberty, and justice and union…”  For Black people in America, this would not be enough to “deliver slaves from bondage or provide men and women of every color and creed their full right and obligation as citizens of the United States.”  Later generation would have to “protest and struggle, on the streets and in courts, through civil war and civil disobedience” in order “to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”

“The More Perfect Union” speech was presented amid comments made by his then pastor Jeremiah Wright, Jr.  Political pundants, began to believe that Obama shared his pastor’s views on condemnations of the United States.  Obama still was hampered by some within the Black community regarding question of his blackness, being black enough, and if he possessed a Black agenda.  This speech traces the American issue with race through the Constitutional Convention's shortcoming to the way his presidential campaign sought to frame race.  He also addresses himself in racial terms, how race hurts America in various arenas to charting a path for racial solidarity.

He begins his path within the African American community.  He suggests “embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past.”  African Americans must continue to demand justice across the American landscape.  This means demanding more within the community too, on matters of health care, schools, and jobs.  While it is a historic conservative value within the community but to not abandoned the idea of self-help.  As you self help believe that society can change.

Americans must realize that our nation is not “static.”  This nation has made progress.  In fact this “..county that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land…”  For this to have been possible and to sustain all other such possibilities, coalition building is essential (with whites, blacks, Latino, Asian, rich and poor, young and old).

He also charts a path for the white community.  This is a path that begins with acknowledging the legacy of discrimination and current incidents.  This means that they have to embrace that they are very real and not in the heads of the minority.  They should being to invest our schools, the communities, enforcing our civil rights laws, and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system.  This community must also provide “ladders of opportunity” that were not available to previous generations.  Investing in health, welfare, and education of black, brown, and white children will help American prosper, Obama inserts.

He concludes by reminding us that we can continue to talk about what divides us or use race as a spectacle or we can say “Not this time.”  We can at this moment and every moment demand change and work to rebuild what is crumbling, together, for the sake of “one America."  Barack Obama's blueprint for creating racial solidarity is a  path that begins with acknowledgement of racial pains, providing opportunity, investing in each other, and demanding consistent changes.This seems to be the way we ought to use Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech.  As he concludes in his speech but it ought be the beginning of any racial conversation, “But it is where we start.  It is where our union grows stronger.  And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the 221 years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where perfection begins.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Power You Possess: Wonder Woman and Girls

For the past two years, I have been enjoying my new role, as uncle to my niece (Amisah).  A year prior, Ceasar Augustus and Sophia Flowers (both former students) made me Godfather, to their daughter Chloe’.  These are two little girls, for whom I care for greatly.  As a result, I am paying even more attention to the socio-political realities that impact girls.  I have spent many hours collecting materials on the mystique of femininity, of ranging diversity.  One such piece, that my niece adores greatly, is Wonder Woman.  I grew up watching Wonder Woman during its original airing.  I had no idea, that my niece would love the show so much.  She refers to it as “her show.”  I asked my niece what she liked about Wonder Woman (“her show”) and she said her “outfit,” “jumping”, and “rope.”  Unbeknownst to her, she is connecting to the ideas of liberty, freedom, and wisdom that are represented in the aforementioned.  So, what can girls learn from Wonder Woman?

In the past 30 years, since Wonder Woman went off the air, there has been a recession in empowering women through the media.  This includes a recession in women that espouses; femininity, wisdom, American values, and defense of humanity through action or rhetoric.  Women and girls are under attack by politicians, who are creating anti-choice legislation under the guise of fiscal responsibility.  Budget cuts at the Federal, State, and Local will mean cuts in education, health care, and critical media programs (i.e. PBS).  The negative images from the media and selfish politicians combine to further weaken at-risk groups, in this case woman and girls.

Set during the World War II period, when villains (The Third Axis), plundered across the Pacific Ocean, the First Season of Wonder Woman (1975) d├ębuts.  While, World War II (1939-1945) is the war’s years, the United States did not enter the war until 1941 (following the attack on Pearl Harbor).  During this war, the Western idea of freedom and democracy were under assault.  The president of the United States was Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The pilot episode (wherein Wonder Woman is introduced), has FDR delivering his “Four Freedoms” speech stating in a rewrite “the only hope for freedom and democracy is…” enters Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is a super heroine created by DC Comics in 1941.  She is based upon the Greek mythology of Amazons.  She is adorned in the rapture of Americanisms; her outfit is the American flag, her values are republican, and her defense is in the name of America.  The show (1976-1979), appeared during the modern cultural period of the Women’s Movement.  A period that can be characterized by questioning traditional assumptions on sexism, demands for equal pay for equal work, strides in higher education, advancements in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunities enforcement of laws that upended gender based discrimination in employment. This is a work, along with new issues, that continues today for women.

While, the First Season of Wonder Woman is set during WWII, girls today can observe the cultural norms of the period and learn how Wonder Woman both interacted and chipped away at the conventional wisdom of the time, with feminism.  Feminism provided the theory that opened political, economic, and social spaces, in the name of equality between the sexes.  The First Season of Wonder Woman had 13 episodes.  In each episode, Wonder Woman uses strength, wisdom, and beauty, while being triangulated by the political ideology of Nazism-Fascism, American values, and the stereotype and oppression of women.  The overarching themes of this season are liberty, freedom, and wisdom.  There are eight of thirteen episodes that best reflect the best of these themes.

Provided below are the eight best of thriteen episodes.  You can view the entire First Season of Wonder Woman, here on this site.  Click the title "First Season of Wonder Woman."  Then, you will see each episode on the page.  Click the episode and a dropbox will appear.  From here, you can proceed to viewing the show.

Pilot:  The New Original Wonder Woman

Episode 1:  Wonder Woman meets Baroness Von Gunther

Episode 2:  Fausta:  The Nazi Wonder Woman

Episode 3:  Beauty on Parade

Episode 4:  The Feminum Mystique, Part 1

Episode 5:  The Feminum Mystique, Part 2

Episode 9:  Judgment from Outer Space, Part 1

Episode 10:  Judgment from Outer Space, Part 2

In the end, what girls will be presented are the American values of freedom and democracy.  They will learn that despite often physical and ideological space, as well as cultural restrictions, that intelligence will always triumph (it may take some time).  Though not exclusive to women, but they remind us that through compassion, people can learn from their mistakes.  So, let your daughter twirl, jump, and use her mind, she is unleashing her powers that she possesses.  As Wonder Woman reminds us, (girls) "woman can do wonders, when put to the test."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Graphing Change: Obama's State of the Union 2011

Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States of America gave his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.  This address was given at the beginning of his second year of his first term.  This address, however, has been framed by four significant events; a GOP sweep of the House and near sweep of the Senate during midterm elections, extreme political theater between two parties on ideological lines, a de-escalation of American troops in Iraq, while they increase in Afghanistan, and the shooting of Gabby Gifford’s (Congressional member from Arizona).  As a result of the latter event, Congressional members of both parties (Democrats and Republicans), decided to sit an "integrated” fashion, as a show of solidarity, for one of their near fatally shot members.  We are two months removed from the delivery of this address, and President Barack Obama is still unable to shake a coarsening narrative that includes; he is Un-American, has not brought about change, and is alienating the African American base of the Democratic Party.

After reviewing President Obama's second State of the Union speech, the research reveals the following; it took 13 pages to communicate his ideas, his speech can be divided into 6 categories (Arizona, Domestic, Winning the Future, International, U.S Troops, and You Should Know), and the section on "Winning the Future" took about 54 paragraphs to communicate.  Despite President Obama's rhetoric, that contains his philosophic frame (which translates into his leadership style of governing); a coarsening narrative continues to be waged by the Right, with the help from some African Americans. As a result, this warrants the need to ask a few questions:

1.  How many times does he refer to America and Americans (in some form) in a collective and connective sense?

2.  How many examples of change are offered in this speech?

3.  How can African Americans utilize information from the speech, to help their communities?

4.  How many times is American history used as a reminder of American greatness?


As for question 3:  How can African Americans utilize information from the speech, to help their communities?

Pursuant to President Barack H. Obama's speech, there are topics that afflict the African American community, to include; gun violence, school reform, higher education, innovation, small business owning, immigration reform, digital age, health care, debt management, and issues of equality.  The following are recommendations that one can use the Speech to conjugate into meaningful action: (click specific words in the recommendations to learn more)

1.  Lobby the NRA, State, Local and Federal Government for gun control laws.

2.  Demand local school boards to educate African American children earlier and longer.

3.  Encourage African American students to attend America's world best colleges and universities.

4.  Engage in opportunities of innovation that are often supported by the Federal Government.

5.  Create a business to compete in the mark of profit and help rebuild America.

6.  Demand youth to finish high school.

7.  Support immigration reform for those coming from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Diaspora.

8.  Create applications that will move the digital age forward.

9.  Understand the Health Care Law because African Americans are often without insurance, suffer from disease, and visit the emergency room most often.

10.  Reign in their debt and save disposable income.

11.  Demand the repeal of any such laws that demonstrate inequality, to include Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In today's coarsening political culture, wherein conservatives and their supporters seek to define Barack Obama, his presidency, and his rhetoric, we must take another look.  The research that has been provided demonstrates the following (just in the second State of the Union); President Barack Obama used some form of America and Americans a total of 241 times, he uses American history to remind us of our greatness 18 times, he cites specific examples of change 61 times, and lastly there are elements of the speech that African Americans can use to strengthen their communities.  More broadly, the speech addressed our domestic economy, and specific steps of how we can win the future (investments in innovation, education, infrastructure, and mangment of the National debt).   Each of us must do our own research and make reasonable decisions based upon the facts revealed in the research.  The stakes for our country-and for African Americans-are too high to ignore.

"We are part of the American family. We believe that in a county where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed..."-Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States of America, second State of the Union speech


Monday, March 7, 2011

"Brenda's Got A Baby"-An Exegesis

March has been designated as Women’s History Month.  A period of thirty days, in which we celebrate the achievements, contributions, and the Movement of Women in the United States of America.  Like African Americans, Native Americans, and other minority groups, women’s stories have been largely left out of American history books.  These groups have also been blamed for society’s ills and their issues used as political theater, to wedge groups apart during election cycles.  Melissa Harris-Perry writes in The War on Women’s Futures that “aggressive anti-choice legislation coming from the new GOP majority in the House makes perfectly clear that belt-fighting deficit reduction is entirely compatible with an older social agenda committed to pushing American woman out of the public sphere.  In fact, according to Harris-Perry, “these initiatives are well coordinated and poised to make an enormous impact on women’s lives.”

At this point we are poised to examine within the demographic of woman, another group impacted by “these initiatives” are American girls.  This entire demographic is impacted, however, no group is impacted more viciously than those that are poor broadly and African American specifically.  In 1993, a seemingly hip hop tale appeared on Tupac’s 2Pacalypse (1991).  This was the lone single debute from the the album, which appears as the tenth tenth track.  While the narrative is largely about one fictitious character, there are other lesser characters, to include; a mother, father, a cousin, a baby, family, a robber, and clients.  Brenda’s story represented an epidemic that occurred during the early 1990s, while largely unreported today, could become such an epidemic again, pursuant to the political decision being made today that “are well coordinated and poised to make an enormous impact…” on American girls' lives.  How should we understand “Brenda’s Got A Baby” in real terms?

Tupac’s narrative begins with the correlation between Brenda’s pregnancy and her educational preparation.

“I hear Brenda's got a baby
But, Brenda's barely got a brain
A damn shame
The girl can hardly spell her name”

The Black Women’s Health Project reports that one million teenagers become pregnant each year in the United States.  This represents about 13 percent of all U.S. births.  They find that school failure of this group, often precedes early pregnancy and child-bearing.

Tupac proceeds to debunk conventional wisdom, in that Brenda’s pregnancy is not only a personal and private family matter.  He suggests that everyone is impacted (in the home and out) by stating (in his song) that this is “how it affects the whole community.”

“Now Brenda really never knew her moms and her dad was a
Went in death to his arms, it's sad
Cause I bet Brenda doesn't even know
Just cause your in the ghetto doesn't mean ya can't grow”

Tupac invokes a twist in his hip hop narrative and to the accepted studies (on poverty).  Instead of Brenda living with her mother, she lives with her father.  The accepted literature and narrative suggests that half of African Americans almost always live with the mother (Hine, 580).  Still, poverty continues to disproportionately strike children because they live in single-parent households (Hine, 580).  Tupac touched on both social policy and the educational system.  This educational system, for Brenda, failed to help her realize that although she lived in the ghetto, this did not mean that she could not improve her condition.  Thus, Tupac understood that the health of a society depends on a healthy, robust, and loving educational system.

Let us understand the historical narrative that Brenda came of age.  This fictional Brenda was born in 1981.  This means she grew up under the policies of the Conservative Revolution.  A Revolution led by President Ronald Regan-Bush and conservative African Americans.  This Revolution included; opposing equal rights for women, fighting abortion rights, and reversing social programs created during the New Deal era, just to name a few socio-political events.  Attacks on social programs and women specifically continued under the Clinton administration’s signing of the discouraging Welfare Reform Act (1996), Bush Jr’s under-funded No Child Left Behind Act (2000) and we are presently seeing defunding threats made on Planned Parenthood, threats to eliminate 1 billion dollars from Head Start’s budget, to attacking workforces that largely contains women and their ability to organize and collectively-bargain, such as the Teachers’ Unions.  The latter is all occurring under the Obama administration.  This may cause women “to marry younger, to stay in difficult (even abusive) marriages and to rely on male wages (Harris-Perry, “The War on Women’s Futures”).”

“But oh, that's a thought, my own revelation
Do whatever it takes to resist the temptation
Brenda got herself a boyfriend
Her boyfriend was her cousin, now lets watch the joy end”

The Black Women’s Health Project indicates that by age 14, 23 percent of girls will have had sexual intercourse by their teenage years.  Those teenage girls with (developmental disabilities-learning and physical), are at an increased risk of early pregnancy.  In fact, 7 out of 10 girls who had sex before 13 were in the category of unwanted or non-voluntary sex.

“She tried to hide her pregnancy, from her family
Who didn't really care to see, or give a damn if she
Went out and had a church of kids
As long as when the check came they got first dibs
Now Brenda's belly is gettin bigger”

Brenda lives in a male-headed single parent household.  Her father is a junkie.  This means the earning potential is limited, public assistance is meager (as indicated in the song, she lives in the ghetto) and will be poor (Hine, 578).  It could be inferred that she is surrounded by single-parent households.  Additionally, these households are receiving public assistance in the form of (WIC, SSI, and perhaps some other types of assistance).  Therefore, there are children in the community because this assistance is tied to children and single mothers.  Thus, the cycle of dependency becomes a life that is both observable and often continues a life of perpetual poverty.  This guranteed money may be one of many causes for birthing more than one child.  The Black Women’s Health Project reports that half of mothers receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) were less than 17 years old (Hine, 578).  This same population was also with their first child.  In addition, this population will have had a second child within 24 months of the first child (Hine, 578).  As for Black girls, they are 1.6 times more likely than white girls to have a time span of less than 18 months between deliveries (Hine, 578).  By 1992, 39 percent of Black families earned 15,000 or less annually (Hine, 578).  While at the same time, Black families were coming off the poverty rolls beginning in 1992 to 1998 ending at about 1.7 million (Hine, 578).

“But no one seems to notice any change in her figure
She's 12 years old and she's having a baby
In love with the molester, who's seeing her crazy
And yet she thinks that he'll be with her forever
And dreams of a world with the two of them are together,
He left her and she had the baby solo, she had it on the
bathroom floor
And didn't know so, she didn't know, what to throw away and
what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in the trash heep
I guess she thought she'd get away
Wouldn't hear the cries
She didn't realize
How much the the little baby had her eyes
Now the baby's in the trash heep balling
Momma can't help her, but it hurts to hear her calling
Brenda wants to run away
Momma say, you makin' me lose pay, the social workers here

While Brenda was having a baby, from 1991-1996, teenage pregnancy fell in 13 states by 16 percent; declines in 4 of these states exceeded 20 percent ( 3/6/2011).  The states with the largest decline were Maine, Vermont, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana ( 3/6/2011). Brenda was a fictitious African American teenage girl, however, this is not a problem confined to this population.  Both African American and white teenage girls were also afflicted by the narrative authored by Tupac in the 1990s.  The 1990s saw an epidemic known as “birth and hide (Bjorus, “Discarded Babies May Not Be Unusual).”  Teenage girls were carrying babies to term and undetected.  They birthed these babies, in some cases the baby was still born.  In all cases, these teenage girls birthed anywhere from a McDonald’s parking lot to their own parent home, in the toilet (Bjorus, “Discarded Babies May Not Be Unusual).  In each case, these girls discarded the baby, walked away, and were not charged with any crime.  In such cases, it was cited that; lack of access to contraceptives, abortion, peer pressure, and poor sex education were the root causes of these girls’ actions (Bjorus, “Discarded Babies May Not Be Unusual). 

Yet today, we see the cutting of 154, 000 jobs in education and Obama wants a 33 billion dollars cut in spending (Covert, “With State Budgets…”).  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is being phased out and the women who receive Medicaid will more impact than those men receiving the same benefit (Covert, “With State Budgets…”) as a result of the phase out.  Thus the persons that could be satisfactorily teaching students and the assistance needed to sustain single-parent families will not be availabe to this vulunerable population. 
“Now Brenda's gotta make her own way
Can't go to her family, they won't let her stay
No money no babysitter, she couldn't keep a job
She tried to sell crack, but end up getting robbed
So now what's next, there ain't nothing left to sell
So she sees sex as a way of leaving hell
It's paying the rent, so she really can't complain
Prostitute, found slain, and Brenda's her name, she's got a baby”

As a result of being apart of such African American families below the poverty line, Brenda continued on in the cycle of perpetual poverty.  Another person in a home headed by a single parent (working or receiving assistance) means no additional disposable income.  Because Brenda lives in a poor conditioned dwelling, there will be no personal space for her or the baby.  Further, Brenda added to the 33.1 percent of children to unmarried Black mothers 1960-1990 (Hine, 580), she lived in a central city, which means she added to the location of households headed by Black women (1990), which was at 60.9 percent.  Lastly, Brenda and her baby would have faced gang warfare, high rates of HIV infection, and drug addiction (the latter Brenda succumbed and ultimately died) (Hine, 580).

We should understand that “Brenda’s Got A Baby” was and continues to be very real situation for those who are victims of this narrative written by Tupac.  It is a narrative that contains not only personal choices but both political and public policy decisions, with very real implications.  Cuts to social programs (like education and health care), further limits the choices, where options are not readily available to this most vulnerable, which in this case are American girls.  While Brenda died in her teenage years, her baby is 20 year old.  How will we save him?  Will we ever solve the “Brenda” narrative in this country?  This is a narrative that should not be written again by any American rapper.  Unfortunately, the "Brenda" narrative persists because of the looming cuts to Federal and State budgets.  These cuts always strike our educatonal and health systems.  These are for the vulunerable among us, life saving systems that prop-up these communities across America. What is for certain, this is not the way our society should be celebrating American women and girls and not just during the month of March (Women's History Month).

1.  Share your "Brenda" story or
2.  Do you know her baby (he is 20 now), what is he doing?

Jennifer Bjorhus, "Discarded Babies May Not Be Unusual" (March 6, 2011).
Bryce Covert, "With State Budgets Withering, Get Ready for the 'Womancession'" The Nation, (March 6, 2011).
Darlene Clark Hine and others, The African American Odyessy (2004).
Melissa Harris-Perry, "The War on Women's Futures" The Nation, (March 6, 2011).
Teen Pregnancy, (March 6, 2011).
The Black Womens Health Project,
2Pac's Lyrics, (March 6, 2011).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carter G. Woodson, Hip Hop, and The Syllabus

Created as an attempt to "dramatize the achievement of persons of African blood" on February 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson organized Negro History Week.  This Week was expanded to Black History Month during the 1960s.  Woodson's policy was said to be one of "telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth regardless of whom it affected." 

Hip Hop, at its best continues in this tradition of "whole truth" telling in its more than 30 year history.  The artistry of Hip Hop has at times memorialized Black History as best heard in KRS-1 "You Must Learn,"

to calling attention to the Black community's relationship to the police and ambulatory services in urban centers as heard in J. Dilla's "Fuck the Police" and Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke." 

The goal of  THE SYALLBUS (my mixtape project), like any syllabus is to present the HIGHEST quality of education to the people.  This education is distributed through tracks or "lessons" from each teacher or Rapper, on topics ranging from Black Relationships, Diaspora Knowledge, Black Teen Preganancy as heard in Tupac's "Brenda's Got a Baby"

the concept of Blackness, the Urban condition, Black Femininity as heard in Queen Latifah's "Ladies First"

Black Stereotypes, Black Freedom, and the Black Condition as heard in EarthGang's "Thump, Thump, Thump" (Hampton University's emerging sensation from Atlanta, Georgia and on a personal note former students of my History 107 Survey of African American History course).

This project remains true to Dr. Carter G. Woodson's mission, which is to record (in this case collect) the story of the "people of African blood" and to tell this story "regardless of whom it affected."

I hope you enjoy this mixtape.  I hope it encourages you to take action in some creative and positive way. 

I dedicate this project to The Children of the Light who desire a world full of upliftment, concioussness, correct history, and truth; Amisah (my niece, age 2), Donovyn (my cousin, age 3), and Chloe' (my goddaughter, age 3).

QUESTION:  Does Hip Hop reflect WELL the history and issues of "the people of African blood?

With tracks "lessons" from Tupac, Nas, Jay Electronica, and Hampton University's EarthGang.

Why did I create this Project?  I asked myself, Are there songs that have positively memorialized and reflected Black History, Black Relationships, Diaspora Knowledge, Black Teen Pregnancy, Blackness, Black Stereotypes, Black Freedom, and the Black Femininity, and the Black Condition just to name a few?  The ANSWER is YES!  Like any student knows, THE SYLLABUS reflects the HIGHEST of literature that reflects the topics that will be discussed that EVERYONE MUST know.  I present to YOU my research in THE SYLLABUS.

CLICK: THE SYLLABUS on Podcast mixed by @DrUnodAndDubs
Lesson 1The Roots ft Erykah Badu "You got me"
Lesson 2Tupac "Brendas got a Baby"
Lesson 3Earth Gang "Thump thump thump"
Lesson 4Jay Electronica "Exhibit C"
Lesson 5Distant Relative ft Joss Stone & Lil Wayne "My Generation"
Lesson 6Styles P ft Floetry "I'm Black"
Lesson 7Nas "I Can"
Lesson 8J Dilla "Fuck the police"
Lesson 9Grand Master Flash & The Furious 5"The Message"
Lesson 10Pete Rock & CL Smooth "Reminisce"
Lesson 11Public Enemy "911 is a joke"
Lesson 12Doug E. Fresh, KRS One, Kool Moe Dee, Just Ice, Public Enemey, Stetsasonic, D-Nice, Ms. Melody, Mc Lyte "Self Destruction"
Lesson 13Queen Latifah ft Monie Love "Ladies First"
Lesson 14KRS-One "You Must Learn"
Lesson 15Public Enemy"Welcome to the Terrordome"
Lesson 16Public Enemy ft Ice Cube & Big Daddy Kane"Burn Hollywood Burn"
Lesson 17The Jungle Brothers "Black is black"
Lesson 18Mos Def "Umi Says"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kappa Alpha Psi in the Age of Accommodation

A few of the Founders are seated with Elder Watson Diggs over the "Psi"

CLICK HERE to hear the Brothers of the Kappa Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incoporated sing the Fraternity's Hymn.

The turn of the century for African Americans, particularly in the Southern and Border states was a world of Jim Crow.  This was a world denoted with signs of "white only" and colored only" to remind you of your place in society.  The Federal Government upheld these practices through the Supreme Court's opinion in the Plessy v. Ferguson case since 1896. Following this decision, along with other issues, prompted African American leaders to articulate an acceptance of segregation and that Blacks were best served by accommodating white supremacy, as a means of survival.  However, there was a new generation of African Americans (ten black men specifically) born during the 1890s, who would reject the spirit of accommodation and yearn for the social benefits promised in the American Dream.  These ten men would create a Black Greek-Letttered Organization that challenged the very idea of accommodation and the age in which they lived.  Kappa Alpha Psi's "Five Objectives" explains the membership's ability to undermine the Age of Accommodation.

The period that the Ten Founders of Kappa Alpha Psi was born into was the post-Reconstruction period.  The socio-political condition in the Southern and Border states for African Americans found them both socially and politically segregated through the passage of the Black Codes.  They were also terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and put to death by their terror tactics of lynching.  In fact, in the year 1900 alone, 815 African Americans and others were lynched.  In the midwestern states, where the Founders were born, all passed laws that upheld the practice of lynching.  This condition was allowed to worsen because as the memory of the Civil War faded, so did antagnonism between white Northerners and Southerners, along with sympathy some white Northerners held for former slaves, also hostility toward southern rebels began to subside.

Then in 1895, Booker T. Washington, assumed the mantle of Black leadership (at the death of Frederick Douglass in the same year) when he delievered his "Atlanta Exposition Speech.""  An address that articulated acceptance of segregation and submission to white supremacy.  "In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress" stated by Washington in this speech was warmly welcomed by whites but bugrudingly by African Americans (in particulary W.E.B Du Bois).  Most whites desired a more permenant solution to the "Negro Problem" and segregation was the answer.  They got their wish from the Supreme Court's opinion in the 1896 Plessy decision, when it declared that facilities could be separate but equal as to not undermine the 14th Amendment.  It did however usurpt it.  Following the ruling, Democrats with the help of Ku Klux Klan memebers and sypathizers passed the Grandfather Clause in Louisana, along with four significant race wars; Washington County, Texas (1896), the Phoenix Riot (1898), Wilimington Riot (1898), and New Orleans Riot (1900).  These events combined to leave African Americans without political rights (the suffrage) and pushed them out of communities, all of which allowed for the Democratic Party to rule the South and vanquish and reduced the Republican Party to a Northern Party.

African Americans had long since used the Church as their spiritual saviour but they now turned the schoolhouse to improve their lot in life.  Not all of America's colleges denied African Americans admissions to their schools, to include Oberlin, Cornell, Butler, and Indiana University.  However, once enrolled, African Americans were not heard from or their issues and concerns were not addressed.  Most African Americans elected to attend all Black schools, like Fisk, Atlanta, Hampton, and Howard.  It is at Howard that two of the would be Founders (Elder Watson Diggs and Byron Kenneth Armstrong) met in the in the 1909-1910 school year.

Given the level of violence in their respective states of Kentucky and Indiana, this may explain why they decided to attend Howard.  Despite the socio-intellectual promise that the District of Columbia and Howard may have possessed, these two men left the city and the school.  It may have been the inability to connect with Atlantic Coast Black Life, Howard's institutional barriers, cost of attendance, and/or their interaction with the Alpha Phi Alpha's Beta Chapter, these two men would reemerge at Indiana University in the 1910 school year poised to make a change.

Elder Watson Diggs and Byron Kenneth Armstrong arrived at the Bloomington campus and found an socially separated and disconnected Black student body.  More specifically they found ten other men (all that was enrolled that school year) who too were disconnected and working their way through school.  Frequent contact between the men sparked a need for a meeting.  Diggs and Armstrong shared their experiences of attending a Negro university, the intellectual capacity of an all Black environment, their experience with a Black fraternity, all which collectively sowed the idea of another more permanent fraternal movement at Indiana specifically and nationally, more broadly.  Though defunct by 1910-1911, Alpha Kappa Nu (1905) along with the existing white Greek lettered organizations had served as a proxy for what would emerge as Kappa Alpha Nu later changed to Kappa Alpha Psi (in name only).  Ultimately, Diggs and Armstrong, along with 10 other men created a fraternity on the premise of "achievement in every field of human endevour" and that there were five objectives that were necessary to achieve this end.  It would be these five objectives that undermined the idea of accommodation.

The objectives of Kappa Alpha Psi did the following; prompted integration, undermined the idea of Negro self blame, supported the idea of protest and agitation, promoted racial solidarity, and undermined the separtist ideology.  All of this against a backdrop of disfranchisment, lynching, jim crow laws, race riots both North and South, and the acceptance of vocational education over a professional and colligate

An examination of the both the Objectives and the demonstrated act:

1.  To unite college men of culture, patriotism, and honor in a bond of fraternity is an example of integration.  The Constituion and Statutes of the organization has never in practice or jurisprudence barred a man from membership due to race.  When World War I came, Founders Elder Watson Diggs and John Milton Lee served their country on the behalf of all Americans.  The Fraternity's Hymn's underlying message is brotherhood solidarity, reminds members of their connnections, and that their work is only done at death.

2.  To encourage honorable achievement in every field of human endeavor undermines the concept of the Negro blaming himself for his percieved lowly position.  Excepting the Delta Chapter (Wilberforce), nine of the Fraternity's first chapters were estabished at white institutions, where jim crow had the most chilling effect on the Black student population.  The Fraternity's first edition of the Journal (April, 1914) shows that "Kappa Alpha Nu has always manifested lively interest in Athletics," members were holding professorships, earned degrees, and were winning scholarships to attend  such schools like Harvard.  At Wilberforce (an all Black school) were vocational education and working with your hands was expected, Wilberforce had defeated Indiana University at a score of "7 to 6" in football.  What this demonstrated is if given the opportunity, African Americans can overcome thier plight if the playing field is fair and the rules are clear.

3.  To promote the spiritual, social, intellectual and moral welfare of members supports the idea of protest and agitation.  One of the Fraternity's first acts following the founding, was the holding of "three-day house party" in May of 1911.  This party introduced black students to the idea of a social affair of the highest order.  This party was noted in Indiana University's student newspaper the "Daily Student."  The Fraternity also purchased a house for the purpose of sustaining membership, survival and ensuring graduation at 721 Hunter Street.  Additonally, Diggs saw fit to create a fraternal magazine, naming it The Journal, that would be published for all membership to record and view the activities of the Fraterntiy.

4.  To assist in the aims and purposes of colleges and universities demonstrates the ability of the membership to work within the legal structures while launching a campaign of solidarity to overcome racism both social and structural.  The Fraternity's focus included establishing chapters at white institutions and all Black institutions of higher learning.  Prior doing so, a letter was sent, announcing the both the function of the Fraternity and the permission to form a chapter.  `Elder Watson Diggs (Grand Polemarch) fashioned such a letter in early 1914 believing that "every college man ought to belong to some such movement as this.   It broadend his horizons and brings him into vital touch and fellowship with college men everywhere."  Each chapter in the early years created activities for the student body to be affiliated with, to include swimming teams, debate clubs, and football.  The Fraternity did suspend members who did not follow University policy and/or the Fraternity's Constitution and Statutes.

5.  To inspire service in the public interest demonstrates the idea of undermining separatist ideology even held within the African American community.  In the beginning Elder Watson Diggs wanted the Fraternity to be a national organization.  This was achieved in May 15, 1911.  This allowed the Fraternity to openly conduct business both domestically and internationally.  It was in the public interest to know the plight and condition of African American people.  This was made possible by both initiating non-black members that became allies and supporting special commissions such as the American Council on Human Rights (an organization established to protect the rights of minority peoples, and to defeat all measures that were inimical to those interests).  Lastly, Elder Watson Diggs because of his World War I service helped to amend the Indiana's State Constitution to "permit the enlistment of Negroes in the National Guard."

In the end, the Founders understood the Age of Accommodation but they did not accept it.  They undermined its both brutal and hostile effects by creating a Fraternity that has  five objectives aimed at its dismantling.  This dismantling did not happen over-night.  What the Founders established and early members maintained, planted the seeds for the Civil Rights generation.  It has been 100 years (January 5, 2011) of the constant protest and agitation of what began with ten men has grown into over 150,000 men and 700 chapters world wide, that continue to smooth out the rough edges of American society and internationally.  It was the five objectives that saw this Midwestern fraternity undermine and defeat the Age of Accommodation.