Black Is…Russian

Jean Gregoire Sagbo recently made history as the first Black person elected to office in Russia. Sagbo, originally from the county of Benin is West Africa has been a resident of Novozavidovo, Russia for the last 21 years and was elected to the office of municipal councilor by other residents because they believe him to be an honest man. Click here to read more about his fascinating journey to office.

Photo courtesy of AP Images

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

From CNN:

President Barack Obama called Sunday for Americans to perform community service in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday.

“On behalf of the United States, I wish Nelson Mandela a very happy 92nd birthday,” Obama said in White House statement, referring to the former South African president who spent 27 years in prison before leading his country from white-minority rule to all-race democratic elections.

“We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit. And we strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation.,” Obama said of Mandela, who is known around the world by his clan name, “Madiba.”

Obama noted that Sunday was the first annual Nelson Mandela International Day, as proclaimed by the United Nations.

“I encourage us all to heed the call to engage in some form of service to others, in honor of the 67 years of sacrifice and service Madiba gave to us,” Obama’s statement said. “We strive to follow his example of what it means to truly give back to our communities, our nations, and our world.”

BLACK is…Exploration

I present to you Matthew Alexander Henson and Dr. S. Allen Counter.

Matthew Alexander Henson (August 8, 1866 – March 9, 1955) was an African American explorer, during various expeditions, the most famous being a 1909 expedition which claimed to be the first to reach the Geographic North Pole.

Henson was born on a farm in Nanjemoy, Maryland on August 8, 1866. He was still a child when his parents Lemuel and Caroline died, and at the age of twelve he went to sea as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. He sailed around the world for the next several years, educating himself and becoming a skilled navigator. For years Henson made many trips together with Robert Peary, including Arctic voyages in which Henson traded with the Inuit and mastered their language, built sleds, and trained dog teams. In 1909, Peary selected Henson to be one of  the first to reach the Pole. In a newspaper interview Henson said: “I was in the lead that had overshot the mark a couple of miles. We went back then and I could see that my footprints were the first at the spot.”

In 1912 Matthew Henson wrote the book A Negro Explorer at the North Pole about his arctic exploration.

Dr. Counter has served Harvard University as a neuroscience professor and administrator for the past twenty years. He frequently receives inquiries about his work at The Harvard Foundation and his scientific exploration into different parts of the world. This webpage is set up to provide information to interested persons about Dr. Counter’s work, interests, and pursuits.

Dr. Counter is presently working to establish the first memorial to African-American slaves. He has petitioned the President of the United States for the establishment of the American Slavery Memorial on the historic Washington Mall in D.C. He is currently working on motion picture films based on his books about international exploration and completing new books on intercultural and race relations and on neurobiology. (visit Dr.Counter’s website here)

Will Smiths Overbrook Entertainment is currently developing a movie for Sony that will be based on modern-day explorer/neuroscience professor Dr. S. Allen Counter. (more info here)

I personally would like to salute these two Black men for just being who they are…amazing!


Black is…Atheist?

Blackness and Christianity are at times, almost synonymous. There’s no discussing our sordid past without mentioning the role of the Black church as both the meeting place and support system of the community. And of course there’s no overlooking the fact that many of our leaders that helped get us to the promise land were men of the cloth. So it is a rare occurrence when one of our own claims to be a non-believer.

When a group of Black folks get together to discuss their non-belief it’s newsworthy. Most recently in Washington, DC, the largest gathering of Black Atheists came together to discuss “coming out” and being more vocal about their stance and their role in the Black community. On one of my favorite Black websites, The Root, a writer, and member of the atheist group, shares her experience of that DC event.

The article begs the question: Are Black people brainwashed by Christianity? Has it been more of a help or a hindrance to our community? Talk to us!

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Happy Juneteenth!

June 19th marks the 145th anniversary of the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery known as Juneteenth.  Taken from the website, here are some historical facts about this day:

Though Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, it had minimal immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas. Texas was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation, and though slavery was very prevalent in East Texas, it was not as common in the Western areas of Texas, particularly the Hill Country, where most German-Americans were opposed to the practice. Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865. June 18 is the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name derived from a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth.

Former slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings — including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.

As Juneteenth is a World Wide Celebration, many events will be taking place in Los Angeles today. Click here to find an event near you.

Happy Juneteenth!!!