Week 26 Recap

With this week at a close, I’m going to attempt to give race issues a break for a while to cover some other stuff that I’ve been working on since before February. It is not that I have run out of topics on the issue, but because there is a lot more to my interests as a writer. I want to share, ask, and explore the blogging community as a writer too; and not just use it for bringing attention to what is the most obvious and overlooked problem in America. For example, I have seen more support and awareness driven towards the NCAA March Madness tournament than I saw for Black History during the month of February. I say that without any bias as I am a sports fan and black man. This also speaks to the profit-driven culture of our country. I am not complaining though; it is what it is, and all we can do is play our part in changing things for the better.

Last week though, I shared my experience in marching at the 50th Anniversary of the March at Selma. As pro-black as I am, I do not rush to every single event just because it bears the image of Black American rights or justice. I have to be thoroughly informed on the purpose of the event, organizers of the event, and whether or not I personally feel that it is for a just cause. Well, this march was to commemorate the pain and hardships that went into granting voting rights for Black Americans; a feat that changed the course of justice for our people from that point on. I had to be a part of it. I described as much as I could of it in #Selma50: To The Bridge. One part that I left out though was the exchange of money from black hands to other black hands. It was so refreshing to see our people spending money amongst ourselves via the hundreds of vendors there. I feel as though that is a major downfall within our communities — we spend the more money than any other people, but over 90% of that money goes outside of our own business. Seeing the unity among the people that day though gave me hope that things will get better. You can never lose hope; and if in fact you do lose it, you will have find it again if the cause is great enough.

Wednesday, March 12th, I wrote added another encounter to the Thirty Seconds Ago… series. I honestly thought I was done with that and considered removing it from the blog altogether. However, as long as I am me, weird stuff is bound to happen. I mean, weird stuff happens to everyone, but I seem take a large percentage of everyone else’s occurrences (keep in mind, to maintain a reasonable level of dignity, I do not share everything). Well, in Speechless, I described how I was saluted with the black power fist… by an Asian man. It was definitely a first; I had not even been greeted by another brother in that fashion. Interestingly enough, I heard that he was married to a black woman. I feel that I have a right to ask and confirm if you take into consideration the awkward place he put me in… I just haven’t figure out how to do it yet.

Me: Good afternoon.

He: ‘Sup.

Me: So… Married to black lady, huh?

He: …

That is all for now. I hope everyone had a great Monday, and hope that you have a great week going forward. Thank you for reading and being open to my perspectives as I try to make sense of the some of the unnecessary issues surrounding us all. Until next Sunday (or Monday), try to share perspectives, show compassion and spread the love.

Selma – 50 Years Later

Disappointed that plans to be in Selma, Alabama this morning fell through, I sit and watch the program on CNN. This may be a once in a lifetime occurrence to be in a reunion of the Civil Rights Movement that changed the face of this nation hosted by an African-American president. Usually I refer to our people as Black American as we all identify differently. In this case, however, our president is in fact half Kenyan! He is African American.

I am in part, surprised and relieved of his blatant admittance of the existence of America’s lingering racial issues. It is not a dead horse that we continue to beat. I am no criminal and never have been, but I feel as though I have experienced enough discrimination to know personally, that skin color is enough to get you in trouble. Over the last few years, with the publicized deaths of a few innocent blacks, I believe that the nation is becoming more aware as well.

I am glad too that he is discussing the personal responsibility of Black Americans to vote and make sure that our call for equal rights are met. As we grow more and more complacent with the  illusion of equality, actual equality start to slip back into nonexistence.

I have just as much patriotism as the next man, but it comes in a different form as I come from a different branch in our nation’s history.

February Recap

Unfortunately, I did not cover half the topics that I wanted to cover. The topics could have waited, but I really wanted to cover key people whose actions contributed to my personal outlook on races relations; or people that I relate to or would like to relate to. That’s a long list too.

The good thing is that I learned way more than I had expected to learn. There are so many things that you think you already know, but every once in a while you need a refresher. Your understanding change as you grow older and add experience to your life. Malcolm and Martin are not the same Malcolm and Martin that I had learned about in grade school; I had not even been called a nigger yet. 🙂

I have literally fell into a pit of questions ranging from music to how county zoning works. America’s foundation —the very foundation — was built along lines drawn by race. How is it then that race is no longer an issue when it is what our country is built on? People act as if talking about race relations is beating a dead horse. That horse isn’t dead at all. Just because we choose to ignore it, or act as though we have risen above it, does not mean that it does not exist. I was told that black people still make it such a big deal because we teach it to our children from generation to generation. To logically refute that, I simply ask, “Are black parents the only parents teaching?”

As the country grows and more social developments take place, there seems to be less and less room on the political agenda to ensure that black people are treated fairly. We have just enough equalities (on paper) for there to be nothing left to profit any political candidate, so the fight and struggle becomes the responsibility of each black individual. While I worry about the condition of Black Americans, I question whether or not there is actually a fight to be fought at all. If the majority of our people are content with how we are portrayed in the media, who am I to challenge that mass opinion? If we are content with being the most marketed people in the country, who am I to change that? I cannot say that injustices happen everywhere all the time to black people, but I can say that it happens so much that I see personally that I am numb to it.

There was speculation that the low Oscar ratings this year was due to a boycott of blacks refusing to watch. I had hoped that there be some press coverage on it, but then I considered, it would not be smart for media to bring awareness to the power of our numbers. We have power to change whatever we have problem with. However, if we continue to learn from television and social media, what is important and what it not, we will continue to be molded into the consumers that we have been led to become.

The best example of a family I can find on TV is the Duggar’s from 19 Kids and Counting. I cannot even think of a current TV show where black people are shown in a positive light. Then we wonder why  black children think like this:

There is a fight to be fought, but we have to be awakened to it. The unfortunate and scary thing is that the time for fighting for Black Rights is running down, while the time for fighting for Christian Rights are just beginning.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Revelations

Recently, I had the pleasure of finally seeing the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations.

It was everything I thought it would be… except better.

Now it may be because I have a proclivity to dance that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Tap, ballet and modern dance have always been interest that I have had neither the time nor the courage (simultaneously) to explore. When I was younger and had the time, I had not the courage. Now that I am an adult and have the courage, I have not the time. So I have enjoyed the explanations of their histories primarily through documentaries and Youtube. 🙂

Like most other things I enjoy, I tried to find where dance most closely linked with the overall powerful sense of strength and unity within Black American culture. It started when I was younger watching Savion Glover on Sesame Street. As I grew I learned the history of our culture and our roles as entertainment to whites. It did put a damper on my interest a bit; but after growing even older and learning of systemic progress needed for people like Glover to exist, I took a second round of interest. By this time though, I had already committed to writing; feeling as though there was never any shame in the practice.

However, when I finally sat in my seat at the FOX Theater, I witnessed a display of art through dance that embodied Black history in a way that could be explained in the fashion that it was before me. Alvin Ailey’s Revelations reminded me of one of my favorite books called, The People Could Fly, by Virginia Hamilton. It is an advanced children’s book telling a tale of slavery through folklore passed down from generation to generation. The book was written in a way where you feel as though nothing was lost through reading it, as nothing would have been lost if you were listening to the story being told for the first time. That’s what I felt about Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. The dancers brought life to the music; the music gave life to their movements, and combined they gave me an experience that is nearly unmatched in my lifetime.

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Was it something that I feel every Black American should put on their bucket list?

No. It did not shed light on anything we don’t already know.

Did it teach me anything from a Christian perspective?

No. Even though it was based in the Christian faith that our ancestors had, it did not enlighten my understanding any as we have advanced in our knowledge of the gospel since then. It depicted what their faith would have been like in that day, and stayed true to the time period.

So what was so special about it?

It was an overall experience. The music, the dancing and all around showmanship was nothing short of passionate perfection. Alvin Ailey shared his perspective of the hate stricken south perfectly through song and dance.

I would recommend any cultural or art enthusiast to go see it. I find it hard to believe that you would be disappointed. I would even recommend purchasing the album from iTunes just to hear the songs; you will not be disappointed. I’m looking for something to top that for 2015 — the bar has been set.

Mediaheads

I scrolled past this picture on Facebook the other day. It was the first time in a long time that I had seen anything that actually made me think on social media.

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Do I agree with what this picture says? Yes, but it surpasses this month.

Black History Month is not the only thing that media targets. A majority of enjoying life has been subjected to media and how it interprets life for us. It actually speeds time up to the point where you can’t enjoy life for what you have — especially if it isn’t what you see in movies, on television and social media. That goes for whites and blacks and every month of the year… Not just February.

I believe a person’s level of success in anything will have some correlation in his/her ability to tune out unnecessary distractions in the world (or media). For me personally, I like sports. But I have  to realize that it’s hard from me to tell how fast time is going by because I’m living for the next game, series and championship. The NBA, NFL, MLB and NASCAR all profit from me; I profit nothing from them. These luxuries, must be enjoyed under strict regulations in order to attain spiritual, financial or any other personal growth. I call them luxuries because I can’t afford to entertain myself with someone else’s success.

In short, if you let these four events in the picture distract you from Black History Month, maybe you should reprioritize. If you let anything distract you from a goal, you should reprioritize. Life can pass by you regardless of your race and there are no shortages of distractions to keep it from happening. Set your own priorities.

The N(igga) Word

Is the N-word acceptable?

I think this is the most debated question amongst Black Americans… Ever. It is the question where we are split right down the middle. Rarely, will you even find a family where they all agree on whether or not the term is appropriate.

Well first of all, I’m not even going to discuss the word ending in -er. It’s pretty much understood that the -er makes it what we were called during the most trying times of our development as a people. That’s the general white pronunciation of the word, and the sharpness that Black American hear when they hear the -er may never be understood by any other races. As silly as it may sound, it’s true. Most Black Americans, like myself, draw a distinctive line between the two pronunciations.

Last year, after the continuos racial tensions that the media consistently bombarded me with, I was forced to think about the word. I was forced to think whether or not I wanted to use a word that was used to degrade my ancestors, equating them to less-than-human. I thought about it; I thought about it long and hard. I thought about the way my people had to withstand being called that to their faces, and take it; defenseless. I thought about whether there was really a difference between the original word and our derivative of it. I thought about it for a whole weekend before deciding, I’ll probably always say nigga.

The reason why is because it just does not carry the same baggage that it did in the 60s and prior. The word evolved. It changed. The way we use it, say it and it’s definition all changed. It’s almost a completely different word. I was born in a generation where the only negative way the word could be used was either by a white person or with the -er attached. I didn’t set that standard and I’m not trying to change it. I actually like the word and the way I use it. I knew the word nigga and I knew who my niggas were before I fully understood the magnitude and history of the word. That is the culture. I understand how ignorant it may sound to some, but culture is not and will not be completely understood by those who do not participate in it; and I should not and will not be ashamed of it.

We all have different levels of acquaintances. There are colleagues, coworkers, friends, associates and so-on and so-forth. How you group these people is completely up to you. I’m sure that you can understand how thin the line is between some of these groups. For example, you may work with a person that you chat with from time to time in the halls or in the break room, but you wouldn’t call that person your friend. You haven’t had any bad interactions with him, but just knowing his last name and some family information doesn’t make him your friend. It works the same way with young Black Americans — just because you’re my friend, doesn’t make you my nigga. That is the highest level of camaraderie anyone within a black circle of friends can be awarded. That’s what the word means to me; it’s simply the highest bond of friendship within my race. It is not derogatory. It is not negative. It is not a reminder of struggle and pain or oppression. I was born in a time when the word had lost nearly all of those connotations; nigger had not… But we’re not talking about that right now.

Now with my personal use of the word, there comes a responsibility to discern when and with whom to use it. I highly doubt if any older people I know have ever heard me use it. I recognize what it could mean to them, and I reserve what I feel is my right to use it. They may be completely comfortable with it, but I will not take that chance. The use of that word around a person who struggled through the Civil Rights Movement can easily be taken as disrespect. (If you know me, you know that I am completely against disrespect; especially against elders.) So I am very careful that I only use nigga when I’m with my peers. However, even with my peers, I have a few friends that have expressed that they do not like the word, do not use the word and would appreciate if they would not be referenced as the word, and with those peers, I refrain from using the word. Like I started, Black Americans are split with legitimate terms on each side. I believe that we should at least have a level of respect for each other choice though. For example, my friends never told me not to say it, but with their expressed discontent for the word, I chose not to say it around them so that we have a mutual agreement. But the minute you tell me not to say it because you don’t think it’s right, “Nigga please.” You will quickly get the other side of nigga.

How do I feel about white people using the word?  I don’t think they should, but I can’t stop anyone from doing anything. My request has always been that anyone who feels the urge or freedom to say it, that is not of African descent have enough tact to not say it around people who are. There is still a weight that comes with the word that you have to be black to understand. After I grew older and went through a few scenarios that made me feel the weight of what it might have been like to have been called a nigger, I had to fall back and reevaluate my own personal usage and make a decision to continue or to quit. The University of Georgia has a tradition that students do not walk through the UGA Arches until they have graduated. Until you have put in the time required to earn that degree from that school, you will not be legitimately permitted passage through those arches. Now if you decide to walk through anyway, it’s not like the previous alumni are going to go crazy trying to get you to undo your actions, but there will be some kickback. It’s the same way with the saying nigga. I see it as whites wanting the privilege of using nigga, without ever experiencing what it is to be a nigger. Is there a double-standard there? Yes it is. And men still make more than women in the workforce for the same jobs. Women are still called whores for doing the same things that men do which bring them praise.No one is a stranger to the unfairness of double-standards, so the understanding that it’s going nowhere should be of no shock to anyone.

Now all of this is from my perspective; and until we come to an overall consensus that the word will not be used, this nigga is here to stay.