The Ascendancy of Black America (Part Four of Four)

I believe that the sun shines brightly on the African American future, just as I ultimately believe that this country’s best days are still ahead of it. I believe in the cliche that the future is what you make it. I believe in the power of belief itself, and that faith in a righteous cause is in time rewarded. Those black American’s who will accept it have before them a righteous cause in which to believe. It is the cause of black nationalism but it is also the cause of black patriotism. It is the reclamation of black culture from the hands of degenerate cultural influences and amoral corporate interests. It is the understanding that, whether we originally chose it or not we have 400 hundred years of blood and sweat invested in this country and are only now coming to understand that we have both the right and the ability to lead it. Barack Obama, whether he remains in office but another one and a half years or another five and a half years, will not be president forever. Let his ascendency not be the end of The Ascendancy of Black America. Let it be but another great step forward on the way to the promised land that King saw long before.

The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. is the vision that has propelled black America to this fateful moment in time, just as it has guided America towards the fuller realization of the spirit of freedom and equality contained in her founding documents. King’s dream that one day “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers” calls us to remember that even as black Americans our ultimate allegiance in this world is to the human race as a whole, recognizing that in God we are one human family. This was the vision of Dr. King and this is the conclusion drawn by our founding ideals as illuminated in the simple words that “all men are created equal.” The election of President Obama was indeed striking proof of the power of these ideals as they have matured and developed throughout our collective American experience, culminating in in the compelling story of a single man who found himself poised to scale the heights of history in an election which justified the faith that her citizens and the world have placed in America as the single greatest beacon of freedom and opportunity on earth. It was therefore easy to think, for a brief moment, that we had come to the promised land that King prophesied from his mountain top. But we have a long way to go before we come to that place.  For King did not pursue a primarily political agenda; though he fought segregation, though he tried to see to it that all Americans, black and white, could have jobs if they were willing to work, and though he strove to turn America away from rash wars waged over seas, he had a higher cause than politics for which he struggled. Neither was his aim primarily social, for although he persevered in the effort to bridge the gaps between whites and blacks and more broadly all people everywhere, he had a higher calling than even this. Martin Luther King, Jr. waged a spiritual battle, against sin itself if you will. He wanted to remind people that there is only one truth, one power and one moral absolute at the end of the day and that is that of love. He wished to return love to the center of America’s consciousness, and to rally the righteous behind it’s banner. But as he said:

“In speaking of love at this point, we are not referring to some sentimental emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. “Love” in this connection means understanding good will…we speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or basically affectionate; it means understanding, redeeming good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of men. When we love on the agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.”

Earlier in this series I briefly mentioned my white Grandfather, saying that he felt my father had committed a disgrace by marrying my mother. But I should clarify, it was not that he himself felt disgraced but rather that he felt, even in the mid-eighties, that the world would see it that way and that my father had committed a grave error by doing what he did. Nevertheless, and though my grandparents may have felt once upon a time that the reality of segregation was something that had to be accepted, I do know that that my Grandfather told my father once once with respect to black people that “they’re smarter than we are. They have to be to survive.” But though the cleverness of black people may derive in large measure from the direness of our historical circumstance, the wisdom of black people has been the hard understanding that in spite of all our wounds, and though they have been received at the hands of a people different from us, there is nevertheless reason to love our oppressors just as there is reason for us, in spite of our long tragedies, to love ourselves.

Now then is the time for us to call upon the instruments of our love, our spirit, our wisdom and our righteousness, to move the world forward. Love has overcome the divide between white and black, so too can understanding defeat the chasm between liberalism and conservatism that was truly the promise of the Obama candidacy. (Martin Luther King, Jr. loved George Wallace and Bull Connor, never disparaging them personally, so do you think we might somehow be righteous enough to do the same for Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin?) Love gave us music and literature and poetry to inspire Americans and people around he world for generations, so too can it inspire artistry and intellect in our own time to beat back the relentless waves of materialism, sexual gratuitousness, cynicism and moral relativism running rampant in our culture and our American society at large. Websites like Black Is are a part of the movement to reclaim our black nobility, our intellectual honesty, and to assert ourselves at the helm of American society. Every poem and every song that a child writes in the name of love and the honor of black women is a step in this direction, a declaration against the false Rap, Hip-Hop and BET culture that says we are better than what you are telling us we are. (Shout out to my girls Watoto from the Nile for really keeping it real. Google it if you don’t know.) Let us understand then that we do not need BET or big record labels to be the arbiters of our cultural expression. You can start a blog, a YouTube channel, a website and communicate a higher level of cultural consciousness to our people in whatever way you are gifted to do so. You can speak out in your church about our moral complacency and urge the people of your community to recognize that they do not have to accept Roc-A-Fella and Bad Boy records as the standard of black art and culture, not even in this time. If you have children, play for them your old Sam Cooke albums, your Motown records. Add some Miles Davis and some Duke Ellington if you have it, and you can always find some Ella Fitzgerald and some Billie Holiday if you look. And by all means, let them hear some Tupac too: let them hear “Mama’s Just a Little Girl,” “Changes,” I Ain’t Mad at You,” and and the many thoughtful and provocative RAP songs that have been and still are being made in some circles. Progress is about winning the future, not living in the past. But we cannot win the future without knowing our past. Soon black people who know their history and who understand their true importance and necessity in America will join hands and stand firm to change the cultural equation, in and beyond black America. We can only live with our ethnic hypocrisy for so long. Every time we look in the mirror, we see a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, who should be a priest of grace and righteousness, but the face we paint before the world is something less. But we are, we are meant to be, a holy tribe with a commission to do right. The opportunity to do so is coming and has come. Black America will take a stand before it has gone.


The Ascendancy of Black America (Part Three of Four)

What is the power of the African-American? What makes us special, unique, or able to contribute anything of great value in the context of America? Is it our artists, our singers, dancers, our authors, our  poets and painters that grant our people an invaluable square on the quilt of this country? Is it our athletes who have broken down walls of separation in every major sport by not only their talent but their tenacity, their toughness of character? Or is it the legacy of black intellectuals and civil rights leaders, of preachers and professors who have been bold enough to stand and to decry the evils of our persecution in the face of the mighty and the wrong? It is indeed Maya Angelou and Sam Cooke. It is Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson. It is W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is all of these of course. Yet our power comes from more than any of these. The seat of our power lies seeded in a place deep within our moral memory and lights our path forward as we try to determine how it is that we as a people will win the future.

Black Americans are a proud people. And sure, we have accomplished much that gives us cause to be proud. And I know that pride may seem to be a virtue, but the truth is many people are proud. The Bible urges us, in the words of Zephaniah, “Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3). Believer or non-believer, what the Bible here seeks to tell us is what we African-Americans should from our own experience already know: that it is not pride that is the face of righteousness but humility, and that in those inevitable days which history in its cycles always brings about wherein the deeds of men are placed squarely before the judgment seat of their own consciences, our best defense from the judgment of mankind and our very our own souls is simple innocence. In our own time, we can be innocent again.

Now as I say “we can be innocent again,” I speak as to be heard. But I know that man is never innocent. We must know even as we consider the tragedy of our tribal history that we came here as the children of evil men. We made war on our brothers like evil men, as did the Native Americans even after the nations of Europe established themselves on their shores. We fell into slavery at the hands of evil men. We were sold into slavery by the hands of evil men, into to the hands of men whose wickedness was driven not only by  vendetta-less greed, but a dark and subconscious fear of everything they did not understand. And as we know, fear bubbles over into hatred and covers the land when the spirit of scorn marries profitability. Still it remains true that our mothers and fathers reaped much evil in the grounds of Africa before her soils gave them up. Just as the fathers of God’s tribe sold their youngest brother into slavery, so our brothers in Africa once sold us as Joseph into Egypt. Yet like Joseph we through our misery have gained an understanding of the price of freedom that informs us both as to how it is obtained in a hostile land, as well as how it is cultivated with people vastly different from ourselves. The answer is that we like Joseph must love our enemies as Joseph loved the king of Egypt, transcending their spiteful fear. We must love one another, coming together in what is most excellent about us, our culture and our values. Only then can we rise up and speak to America in one mighty voice in declaration of what is wrong and what is right.

Today our country is paralyzed in the twin grips of a broken political system and a broadly degenerating culture. In the first instance, the people who dominate our media and our government are so invested in exploiting their own differences, whether for money or political gamesmanship, that they bring all progress this nation could make on the problems that it faces to a screeching halt. On the other, we find that the dysfunction in our politics is mirrored by the vast fragmentation of the American people themselves. In a nation where a vast and ever heterogeneous people section themselves off according to subcultures, to ever narrowing musical and cinematic tastes, to ever more particular forms of news media, and to ever drifting standards of moral conduct, the less we are able to come together as a people in times of crisis. This problem exists for black America as much as it does for the rest of the nation. But in our case we are better positioned to overcome these symptoms of disintegration.

First however we must recognize the peculiar nature of the cancers that lie within the black American community. Yes, we understand the daunting challenges represented in our high unemployment, our high imprisonment rate, our rate of births outside of wedlock. But these problems themselves could be more effectively challenged if black America herself came together on what values she stands for. We embrace a hip-hop culture, a reality t.v. culture and a culture of materialism that prevents us from uniting as a cohesive moral force in this country. It is not that I have any problem with Hip-Hop or reality t.v. in and of themselves. There are always some things that are good to be found, (if Hip Hop were more about real love and substance in the Common and Talib Kweli variety and less about gratuitousness, and if there were actual values to be discerned in shows like “Flavor of Love” or “Basketball Wives,” I would be all for them). But the fact is that there is little nourishing substance in the art of the black community today, a community which has long reaped from the most fertile soil of this country’s great artists. Our music, our shows and our films may still make money. But little enough do they edify the soul. We need to think about the implications of that fact.

Now you might think that I am wrong, or least simplistic in placing so much significance on the impact of certain types of figures in our culture. Pardon me if I sound a little like Bill Cosby, for I do largely sympathize with the no none-sense style criticism’s he himself fielded so much criticism for voicing against our contemporary black culture. But the only partially justified indignities of Professor Michael Eric Dyson and others on behalf of our contemporary black culture aside, the source of Mr. Cosby’s righteous, albeit sometimes condescending, anger and disappointment is that he well remembers a time in this country’s history when even though the chips were stacked against us we could largely unite around the positivity of our art and our culture. (That now somewhat iconic episode of Aaron McGruder’s controversial cartoon The Boondocks wherein he brings Martin Luther King Jr. out of a forty year coma to see what has become of black America, pointedly if stingingly throws in our faces the extent to which we have sunk into a cultural perversion that serves us neither politically or socially.)

There are people in our communities of course who do not want to hear such talk. Some people like Professor Dyson are quick to point out, and rightly so, that there is a myriad of structural obstacles that still vie against black America’s equal  acquisition of the American dream. Even still, can those who might call themselves advocates of our cultural status quo suggest with a straight face that our culture sustains us now in the face of adversity as it did for our enslaved ancestors? Does it nurture us in the way that the stirring, primal and majestic melodies of our “negro  spirituals” provided hope and solace for those enduring the the cruel malice of the slave master’s whip? Does our culture today provide for the moral center of gravity upon which a Dr. King as well as a Malcolm X could stand; two men who both rejected materialism, who were both intolerant towards profane speech, who upheld a standard of black manhood which itself could only abide within it a high standard of reverence for black womanhood? Is their legacy reflected in the music of Lil’ Wayne and of Jay Z, for the most part? Are the values we teach in our churches reflected in the values imparted by the lyrical sentiments of Rick Ross or Rihanna? Do we uphold the standard of respect and admiration we should have for our women in these songs and videos of these artists, particularly when Black Entertainment Television is willing to show us these images over and over again but does not cover the deaths of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King at the time that they happen? I speak here of the vast trends of our culture. Surely I could think of a couple positive songs that Snoop Dogg has written, but I can’t think of a single song Marvin Gaye ever sang that was demeaning to women or disrespectful to anyone. The image we construct of ourselves in our culture, that we accept of ourselves, is wholly unbefitting a great people. But it’s so easy to accept it. That is why those among us who are willing to must band together on a higher plane of cultural observance. One which upholds the higher trends of our history and which cares not to appease the rest.

I am called to remember W.E.B. Du Bois’s belief that Afro-America could only uplift itself if “the advance guard of the race,” pursued a cultural awakening within the black community.  (W.E.B. Du Bois labeled those blacks who would take up this charge, perhaps a bit snobbishly, as the “talented tenth,”) It was this conviction on the part of W.E.B. Du Bois and other prominent black artists and intellectuals including the NAACP, which prompted the direct engineering of the Harlem Renaissance, which really did elevate both black and white America’s view of the negro people. So did black operatic performance, black drama, poetry, literature and Jazz find their first major platform from which to leap into the imagination of the country at large. From this conscientious attempt to change the nation through high art did we get Langston Hughes, Bill Robinson and even Duke Ellington and these artists and many others of the time largely paved the way for every great black actor, singer and author who would come after.  Art was the vehicle by which black America reached out across racial lines because in art and literature we were able to speak a language of the heart that was defiant of our differences. What language do we speak now with our artistry of materialism, sexual gratuity, disrespect and violence? Even if we do bring people together with these, what do we bring people together for?

Dr. King described the movement he led as a spiritual movement, one in which agape love and goodwill for mankind was recognized as the central element of their striving.  In this is the ultimate show of humility. In this is the long-suffering self-sacrifice that I know some determined African-Americans will embody as they set the moral compass for this country in the 21rst century. Yet we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves to enduring the bitterness of those black people, those white people, and all those cynical voices so automatically arrayed against those who would labor to lift our consciousness to a higher state of mind. In this we make the path straight for the ultimate liberation of black America, which is the ultimate liberation of America herself. Those who carry this burden are the sons and daughters of slave heroes and martyrs. We are the Day Breakers, in the words of Renaissance  poet Arna Bontemps. Non-violent resisters of a decadent social order. But even so:

“We are not come to wage a strife,

With swords upon this hill,

It is not wise to waste the life

Against a stubborn will.

Yet would we die as some have done.

Beating a way for the rising sun…”

The Ascendancy of Black America (Part Two of Four)

What does it mean to be an American? I suppose it would mean, or should mean at least, that one stands for liberty, for equal opportunity, and the right of all peoples to have a say in the governing system that oversees their existence. In this, we as black Americans are Americans like any other. But to be an African American does make one the heir of  a unique history and a powerful legacy that runs through the heart of the overall American experience. It is a history that gives us strength, but only in proportion to the degree to which we know it and embrace it. In my opinion therefore, it is important for us to claim this legacy knowing that ours is an American legacy. We, as much as the whites who brought us here, built this country. We, man for man, woman for woman, have helped to shape it by our endurance and our innovation as much as  European Americans. Our struggle has been different from theirs. Indeed, our struggle has been against them, to a significant degree. Yet our pains followed us here from Africa as well, sold into the hands of one group of slave owners by slave owners whose colors were our own. As such we were forced to start over, in a way that perhaps no people has ever had to before. Indeed, we are still starting over. In the last fifty years we have called ourselves negro, black, African-American, then Nigga with an “a” because, (I suppose), that makes a difference, and indeed some black people will take exception to any of these labels because as a whole people we have still not agreed upon who precisely we are. No, not after all this time. Part of the reason for this, I’ve decided, is because we are still uncertain as to whether or not we with our tormented history at the hands of the mighty in this country should really consider ourselves American at all. The answer to this question is that we should because we are, and that our Americanism is more than just a technicality. Our experience has colored the American experience, our culture lies at the heart of America’s culture, and our minds claim great shares in the authorship of America’s ideals as they’ve been further defined through the many generations succeeding the moment of this nations founding. But all of that is for not if we don’t see ourselves as Americans.

Though I was never ignorant of the struggles of African-Americans in this country, I was raised by both my white father and my black mother to think of myself as an American, and to be proud of that fact. That’s why, one day in the seventh grade, I was more than a little shocked when, after we we’re all asked to stand for the pledge of allegiance, one of the black girls in my class pointedly refused. Our teacher asked why she refused and she said, “why should I? This is the country that enslaved me, that wouldn’t let my people use the same bathroom or go to the same schools as white people. Why the hell should I pledge allegiance to that?” Though she wasn’t talking to me I vividly remember feeling hurt by her words. “We’re all in the same schools now,” I thought. Still, her anger struck me and I wondered, was I naive to love this country? Later in my life, and after having argued the case for black American patriotism many times, many ways, I heard another man artfully put in words what I had long understood and had long tried to explain to those black friends of mine who wanted still to hold tightly to their anger towards this country.

When Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was shaken by the uproar over the anti-American tirade of Pastor Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church in Chicago,(then Senator Obama’s longtime pastor), Barack Obama delivered a speech in Philadelphia to address the issue. In this speech he said a thing that sounded curious to many people, that didn’t satisfy many of his critics, but which I understood perfectly well. His words were as follows:

“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are part of America, this country that I love.”

Many critics of the president’s felt this to be not but an artful alibi for suffering the anti-American rhetoric of a radical religious figure, something that should have disqualified any candidate seeking the presidency from obtaining that office. But as a black and as a (if you will) mulatto myself, I recognized both sides of the coin which he described. For many of the people I love most in my life, black people of intelligence and integrity, have disparaged America in my presence in similar terms, something I have often cringed at. Yet how can I be angry at them for reacting to a pain that didn’t end with the passage of the Civil Rights Act? How can I judge them for expressing the bitterness that still trickles into our hearts as African-Americans from the time of slavery to now? I need inform no black person with the slightest bit of awareness of our circumstance of the statistics: we are the poorest people in the nation. We are the most undereducated people in the nation. We are the most imprisoned, the most murdered, and the latter by our own. We are self-hating so why would we not hate the country that left us this legacy of poverty, that actively sought to turn us against each other, destroying our hearts and minds and all that in the name of God? Yet hatred and distrust is not the only dynamic that exists between white and black in our society. For while we can bare witness to the prejudice of whites directed towards us throughout our history, we can also see that the power of love and God has also been present in the midst of our American confusion. How else could Barack Obama’s grandmother love him as she did in spite of the fear she may occasionally of felt towards black men? How could I myself have come to be so loved by my own white grandparents in spite of their segregationist tendencies, in spite of the fact that at the time my grandfather learned of my father’s marriage to my mother he angrily felt that my father had committed a disgrace? But love transcended these fading lines of color, both for Senator Obama and myself, and through the painful process of time for America herself to a great degree. So then did Barack Obama identify the mistaken cynicism of Jeremiah Wright and the many blacks who share his point of view regarding America, saying:

“The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress had been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity to hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

Some countries never change. Throughout history, many nations have not emerged from their tribal conflicts but have burned to the ground in such fires. America however has changed. Not enough of course, but enough to where we whose faith is not so great as a warrior like Martin Luther King, Jr. can too say that we have glimpsed the mountain top of which he spoke. We must recognize the moment we’ve come to as black people, a moment that allows for us to take the lead in rescuing our country from itself, a moment when our nation and our children white and black need us most. For today our national peril is not so dissimilar from what we faced back in the 1960’s, except that today the roots of our divisions are not-primarily-racial, but rather we suffer from an ideological and a cultural divide that prevents us both from solving problems in our government and coming together as a people. With respect to these near insurmountable problems they cannot be solved unless the lessons of the African-American experience are applied and our special position on the societal spectrum utilized. How will we do this? By digging deep into the soil of our pain to raise the flower of our faith as a people, which once made us the moral leaders of a nation. We, the African-American people, have the power to move hearts and minds because of who we are and what we’ve been through, and in this potential lies our power to lift ourselves out of our own tragic circumstances in the process. We who have healed from the wounds of generations long persecution must now be the delivers of healing for an injured nation and our injured brothers and sisters who struggle to see the power that they have. In this is the Christian promise of triumph and reconciliation of which King wrote when he penned these words that are as relevant to our time and mission as they were to his: “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our condition.”

Black America, we have a choice to make…

The Rising Political Voice of Black Youth

During the 2008 Presidential election America made a major shift, and not solely because our first African-American president was elected. Something else generationally profound was beginning. Politics was no longer sealed off as a topic of interest to citizens over the age of thirty. The youth were getting involved. According to polls, the election brought out the second largest youth vote in American History. Up to 24 million voters were between the ages of 18-29 – an 8-13% increase since the 2000 election. Professionals even stated that Obama would have lost the election without the youth vote. Since the new term, voting isn’t the only way young people have been getting involved, African-Americans to be specific. Some have started their own organizations, participated in political rallies, and are even becoming a part of the race. With millions of dollars going towards social network and technology-based campaigning and surges in the polls among youth, it is clear that young people are playing a larger role in politics more than ever before, and black youth are not excluded from the change. In many cases African-Americans are leading it.

Although many are getting involved now, some of our young leaders got an early start. Baraki Sellers, a South Carolina democratic member of the House of Representatives began his venture into politics in 2006 at the young age of 22. He was formally Student Government Association President at Morehouse University where he completed undergrad before attending law school at University of South Carolina. He is one of the youngest lawmakers in the country and has led the way inintroducing legislator dealing with texting while driving and placing bans on the unhealthy food served in public schools. He regularly visits college campuses in his state to stress the importance of other young people having a political voice. Others are getting involved in different ways. As the co-founder of Progress 2050 (A center for American progress) Erica Williams is serving as an advocate on numerous issues African-Americans under thirty care about. She regularly participates in debates on energy efficiency as well as the perspective of racial diversity in America. Other groups the youth are active participants of are The Earth Day Network, Americans for the Arts, and The NAACP. Others are taking more common approaches attending rallies, political debates, or hosting forums to voice their opinions on what they think the biggest issues in America are.

So what has brought about this change? Is it because of the last presidential election or were things gearing up before then? It seems to be a collaboration of different changes taking place to cause this new interest in the rapidly evolving U.S. With one of the largest generations, the “baby boomers” reaching old age and so many changes going on in the world, young people realize that they do have a role in the direction the U.S. is taking and feel obligated to represent and impact the future they are creating for themselves. “We hold the power to steer the young to become interested in politics and what’s going on in this country and that could be our greatest impact.” says Cory France, a rising junior at Howard University in Washington D.C. He goes on to express that with everything going on, its hard not to be paying attention.

Major events in the world have taken an unusually fast pace: the way FEMA handled Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the first black president in 2008, national disasters in Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, the Egyptian Revolution, and vanquish of Osama Bin Laden is more than enough for people to want to take action. Noticeably, Historically Black Colleges and Universities are serving as the catalysts that have gotten more of the African-American youth involved. “Here in the capitol there are always conventions, events, rallies, and debates on the issues and once you witness that on a regular basis, you and your peers become conscious of changes that need to be made and you are allowed to visibly see what you need to do to make those changes occur”, France added. A domino affect is taking place. Students who have gathered from different parts of the country some from lower class families, small towns, and single parent homes are going back home to those who may not feel as though they have a voice to address the issues they are concerned with. Young blacks are serving as voices not only for those in the same age group as them but for their communities as well. First Lady Michelle Obama and Former Defense Secretary Colin Powell both served as commencement speakers at Black colleges this year and it is apparent that the platform is in place.

Issues with educational funding, the economic crisis, war on terrorism, and global warming are among the top concerns of young people and college students. For quite some time it seemed as though the resolve that many Blacks had during the civil rights movement and a few decades after was beginning to fade. Many thought that this generation lacked the passion to create change. But in the recent years those notions are being proved wrong and now it is the African-American youth of American that is providing new hope during a time when we so desperately need it.



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Mothers and Politics

Having sons rather than daughters, can change a mother’s politics and vice versa, say British researchers. Recent study (via NY Times) showed that having boys makes moms more right-wing, while having daughters makes dads more left-wing over time. The same can be said about having daughters rather than sons, or vice versa, can change a father’s politics.

The theory goes something like this: “Having daughters made men “gradually shift their political stance and become more sympathetic to the ‘female’ desire for a… larger amount for the public good. They become more left-wing. Similarly, a mother with sons becomes sympathetic to the ‘male’ case for lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods.”

That is the conclusion of British researchers Andrew Oswald, of the University of Warwick and Cornell University, and Nattavudh Pawdthavee, of the University of York. They analyzed data from the British Household Panel Survey — a study of British families who have been interviewed once a year since 1991 — and found that fathers with three sons and no daughters were far more likely to vote for conservative candidates than were fathers of three daughters and no sons.

In the United States, research has shown similar results. In 2004 and 2008, economist Ebonya Washington studied the floor voting records of US congressmen and found that those with daughters voted more liberally on issues relating to reproductive rights, flexible work policies, and government support for education.

Read: “Mothers and Children: Feminist Analyses and Personal Narratives” by Susan E. Chase & Mary F. Rogers.

One question this research doesn’t answer: What happens if you have kids of both genders? Do your political beliefs somehow balance out?

Do you think that your kid’s gender shapes your political beliefs? Do you have boys? Have you become more conservative over the years than you use to be?

Who is Jimmy McMillan?

If you can win a debate on buzz alone, Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party was the undisputed victor in Monday night’s New York gubernatorial debate at Hofstra University

Sporting a throwback mustache and beard – and wearing black gloves – his repeated refrain of “rent is too damn high” won over the audience, and sent curious New Yorkers flocking to the Internet Tuesday morning.

His named popped all over Twitter, and his own website,, crashed at points during the morning.

McMillan said he “appreciated the love” – and was gratified he stole the show.

“The mustache and the Rent Is Too Damn High is what got me here,” he quipped.

One thing most New Yorkers wanted to know: Who is Jimmy McMillan?

He’s a 64-year old retired postal worker from Flatbush, Brooklyn.

He served in Vietnam, and he cited his service as the reason he wore gloves on stage for the debate.

“The chemicals of agent orange – dioxin and a lot of other chemicals mixed up – I would get sick,” he explained after the debate with Andrew Cuomo, Carl Paladino and four other minor-party candidates.

“I know I’m not going to be able to breathe if I take them off. It could be psychological, I don’t know, but I just put ’em on and wear them anyway,” he added.

This isn’t McMillan’s first foray into politics. He ran for mayor in the city in 2005, but pulled in less than 1% of the vote.

He was criticized for blaming soaring rents on Jewish landlords.

In Monday night’s debate, McMillan touted lower rents as the cure for the state’s economic ills.

“It all boils down to one thing, rent, it’s too damn high,” he said.

Not everyone was wowed by McMillan’s large personality on the debate stage, with some critics contending he added to the circus-like atmosphere.

“Pity the poor people of New York,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Tunku Varadarajan. “Can there ever have been a state so rich, so abundantly endowed with talent and enterprise, to have had a political choice so abject, so meager, so embarrassing?”

McMillan appeared alongside six of his competitors, displaying notable facial hair as well as black gloves. Throughout the forum, the candidate rattled off soundbites that are still reverberating Tuesday.

“Listen! Someone’s … child’s stomach just growled! Did you hear it?” he shouted in his opening statement, before being cut off by the moderators and eliciting laughter from the audience.

You can watch a clip of his appearance here, courtesy of ABC News:

McMillan has long been a fringe fixture in New York politics, running for mayor of New York City in 2005 and 2009. During the 2005 campaign he ran under the moniker “Prince Jimmy McMillan (a.k.a. Papa Smurf),” theVillage Voice reported at the time. In 2000 he tried to qualify to run against Hillary Clinton for Senate but was bounced from the ballot, the newspaper said; in 1994, he walked across the state in a bid for the

Democratic-gubernatorial nomination, but was kicked out of the state convention for heckling former Gov. Mario Cuomo. And in a 1993 run at the New York City mayorship, McMillan scaled a cable on the Brooklyn Bridge, the paper said (police coaxed him down, and he was hospitalized).

So Monday night’s debate marked McMillan’s debut before a mainstream political audience. There’s no doubt he made the most of it, with his fiery opening remarks and his striking appearance. He was hard to miss on the crowded seven-candidate stage, sporting a grandiloquent array of gray facial hair and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

You can watch a clip of his appearance here, at ABC News:

U.S. to end it’s tour in Iraq

Vice President Biden was to sit down with Iraq’s political leaders today to mark the end of the American combat mission and to encourage Iraq to end a political impasse and form a new government.

The United States will formally mark the transition this week from combat to a mission primarily focused on helping Iraqi troops handle security for themselves. Biden assured the Iraqis shortly after his arrival Monday that the transition would be smooth.

“We’re going to be just fine. They’re going to be just fine,” Biden said at the U.S. Embassy.

Fewer than 50,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 160,000 in 2007. All American forces are to be out of Iraq by the end of next year.

U.S. officials emphasize that the transition has been an ongoing process.

“We’re not flipping a switch this week,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s national security adviser. “The president and this administration are making good on our commitment to end the war in Iraq responsibly and to help build a stable, self-reliant and sovereign Iraq.”

But the political uncertainty here has underscored some of the risks. Iraq’s politicians have yet to form a government nearly six months after inconclusive parliamentary elections.

Insurgents launched a series of attacks last week as the formal transition deadline neared, worrying Iraqis.

“I don’t support the U.S. troops’ withdrawal for the time being,” Baghdad resident Samira Gorgess said. “Iraq is still in need of U.S. forces as the security situation in Iraq is still unstable.”

Blinken said Iraq’s caretaker government has been able to keep basic services running, but a new government is needed to tackle more fundamental issues, such as constitutional changes and formulas to distribute energy revenue.

“The vice president is going to urge the leaders to bring this process to a conclusion,” Blinken told reporters.

Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and other government officials, according to a White House statement. He will also meet with Ayad Allawi, al-Maliki’s chief rival in March elections.

Biden will also emphasize to Iraqi leaders that the change in mission does not mean the United States is disengaging from Iraq. He said the United States would step up diplomatic, cultural and economic ties as the military withdraws.

General Dubik says any request for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011 must come from Iraqi leaders.  And he and other experts note that can’t happen until Iraq forms a new government. “The Iraqi government will have to form.  They’ll have to recognize that our legal standing for being in Iraq ends in 2011, and should they want our help they’ll have to ask and the governments will have to negotiate some satisfactory arrangement,” he stated.

As U.S. combat troops exit and bomb blasts ring out across the country, Iraqi leaders face even more pressure to form a new government — some five months after the elections.  For those feuding politicians, Tuesday’s formal handover will be yet another reminder that their country’s future is in their hands.

The U.S. and Iraq will mark the transition in a Wednesday ceremony.

BLACK is…the New Sheriff UPDATE!

Allow me to introduce you to Ryan Anthony Lumas. Who is  Ryan Anthony Lumas? Besides being my friend and  former member of the US Navy, whom I’ve had the pleasure  of serving with, Ryan is a writer, artist, cartoonist, actor,  comedian, rapper, verteran and he recently, by chance, added political activist to his resume. How so? By simply doing a family member a favor and writing a song.

Ryan was asked to put together a rap about Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and professor of law at Harvard University. In a new western-themed music video from Main Street Brigade, featuring Ryan, Warren is hailed as “the new sheriff.” The spot highlights her deep credentials and makes the case for why she should be the Obama administration’s pick to head the recently-established CFPA.

A Time Magazine cover story published in May, lauded Warren as one of “the new sheriffs of Wall Street.” Ryan, and the Main Street Brigade took it from there.

Since the  video’s viral appearance on YouTube and , it has caught the attention of other sites, including the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Federal Times, Washington Post,  and even BloombergTV.

I’d like to give a BLACKis shout out and congrats to Ryan Anthony Lumas. Keep entertaining while educating, and inspiring us ALL!


Ryan was recently featured in a New York Times arcticle! here


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