Peace to Donald Hill: A Recent Memory of My Brother

Donald Hill

Donald Hill

By Nick Westbrooks

Peace to my brother in Christ Donald Hill who is now in the spiritual essence. He left this physical space earlier this week, and it was shocking and unexpected. He was a fellow disciple of Christian Brothers United (CBU), a Howard Bison and a friend.

Our last conversation centered on the upcoming Alternative Spring Break (ASB) season. While I was in the computer lab getting some work done, he encouraged me to apply for ASB. It was something I always wanted to do, but I seem to consistently miss the application deadlines. He told me he was the coordinator for the Chicago trip, and that alone revealed his passion for the youth and ending gun violence in the urban war zone.

And Chicago was exactly the place where I’ve always wanted to go for ASB. In addition to being followers of Christ and stand up Howard men, we connected on another level as young brothers passionate about ending gun violence in both Chicago and everywhere else.

To make his ASB pitch more appealing, he stressed the selection committee’s overwhelming need for men to apply. He even joked about the opportunity for me to be around a cluster of Howard’s beautiful and dynamic sisters. I was already convinced before we had this conversation, but he definitely had me sold on that point! (laughs)

Now, I have the obligation to apply for ASB – not only because I owe it to the Chicago’s youth, but I should do it in honor of the life of my dear brother Donald. He was truly a caring friend, man of God and gentleman. He was a brother with ambitious aspirations, a communicator in the School of Communications and a future lawyer. He offered encouragement to everyone he interacted with and advice to those who needed guidance. He was a loyal and loving boyfriend to a wonderful young woman. Everyone including myself will miss him, and Howard won’t be same without him.

Donald’s unexpected and too-soon passing reminds us of how precious life is and to cherish the people we have in our lives and to not take them for granted. To my brother Donald, I love you and I’ll miss you; to everyone else who isn’t here, I love and miss you all. To everyone that’s missing someone, they may not be here physically, but their memory and spirit will always be alive. When you start to think of them and miss them, lay it down for the Lord. Peace. Ase.

James Clingman Speaks on Black Entrepreneurship

By Nick Westbrooks

Throughout the past three and a half years, I’ve had the opportunity to see and hear some of Black America’s top leaders and thinkers as a student at Howard University. In fact, this past weekend, the Institute of the Black World held hosted its State of the Black World Conference on campus. On a smaller scale, professors have brought some movers and shakers to their individual classrooms to influence, inform and inspire their students.

My entrepreneurship professor tapped into her network, and invited a few Black entrepreneurs and representatives from business-related organizations to speak with us about business planning and ownership. We’ve had Ron Busby, the president of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce; Michael Grant, president of the National Bankers Association, a representative from the Small Business Administration and two bankers from Wells Fargo (I have mixed feelings towards Wells Fargo). Last week, our guest speaker was Omarosa from The Apprentice, but our last and best speaker was author, activist, speaker and educator James Clingman.

Allow me to tell you a little bit about Mr. Clingman. The first paragraph of his bio found on his website puts into perspective why this man is so significant:

James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His weekly syndicated newspaper column, Blackonomics, is featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters (My professor Hazel Trice Edney is the owner of Trice Edney Newswire, one of the many outlets that carries Climgman’s column). He has written six books, the latest of which is Black Empowerment with an Attitude, and has been the featured speaker for numerous organizations, schools, churches, and events across the United States.

Former Editor of the Cincinnati Herald Newspaper, Clingman is the founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce…He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati, where he teaches Black Entrepreneurship; he also founded Cincinnati, Ohio’s Entrepreneurship High School in 2001. Clingman has received many awards for his journalistic work, including the prestigious Black Press of America’s 2008 Black Press Champion Award, from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and Foundation.

Clingman’s presentation to our class was more motivational than technical in nature as it related to Black entrepreneurship. I left class that day with many jewels, but I’ll share a few points of valuable information that everyone needs to hear and can use.

Blackonomics is a term Clingman coined in 1998, and it stresses the importance of Blacks being a part of the economy. He urges us to be active in the system by getting back “the semblance of owning and controlling” businesses as well as demanding market reciprocity from the businesses that we support.

Three questions framed Clingman’s discussion of Black Entrepreneurship: What? So What? And Now what?

1. What?

Clingman gave us some alarming statistics about entrepreneurship and economics. He told us less than 5% of entrepreneurs are African American, and the net worth of White families is 20 times that of Black families. These dismal statistics are a rallying cry for Africans in America to change the way they look at jobs and the economy and to shift from getting jobs to owning jobs. Clingman told us that we own jobs by starting and growing businesses. It’s not enough to merely start a business. You must grow the business to employee people.

2. So what?

Statistics regarding Black economic empowerment are depressing, but why should we care when we can get a good education and a good job? Clingman calls Blacks to step out of the individualistic mentality and do something beyond their “own personal enrichment.” Either way, having a job doesn’t grant you true economic independence and empowerment. It provides income, but not wealth creation. According to Clingman, wealth is only created through investments, real estate and business ownership.

Clingman also calls for Africans to demystify the myth of Black inferiority and to break the chains of psychological slavery.

We have been made to believe we don’t have the acclivity and inclination to own businesses,” Clingman said. “This myth has been allowed to permeate so deeply, because we don’t know our history.

History reveals that Black people were successful business owners and had an entrepreneurial spirit even before arriving in the United States. Clingman cleverly stated, “We didn’t come to America on slave ships. We came here on entrepreneur ships.” The entrepreneurship professor finds it necessary to teach Black business history before anything else, so his students may know where they’ve came from.

An overall change in mindset will not only free us from the mental slavery that discourages us from starting businesses, but it changes how willing we are to support our own people. As Carter G. Woodson wrote in The Mis-Education of the Negro, Black people have been led to believe that our products and services were inferior to White’s. For National Negro Business League organizer Fred Moore, this notion transcended Blacks and Whites:

Jews support Jews, Germans support Germans; Italians support Italians until they get strong enough to compete with their brother in the professions and trades; Negroes should now begin to support Negroes.

We’ve bought everything everyone else has made, but we don’t buy our own products.

3. Now what?

After examining the statistics and thinking about why they should matter to us, Clingman urged us to take action and regain our “economic enclaves.” Prior to finishing this post, I read an article that said Black spending power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2015. This proves that our neighborhoods aren’t broke, our money merely leaves our areas. As Clingman put it, “Our dollars don’t make any sense.”

A part of taking action is transforming our Black neighborhoods into Black communities, which are virtually nonexistent. Clingman identified the three necessary components that make up Black communities.

–       Control of the political environment

–       Control of the economic environment

–       An enforced code of conduct

We control the economic environment through ownership.  The bottom line of Black entrepreneurship is that owning and controlling businesses is one of the most important things we can do with our lives for our own likelihoods and for the betterment of people as a whole.  We must regain our economic communities, discredit the myth of Black inferiority by learning our history, break the chains of mental slavery, and strive towards true economic empowerment.

The Holy Spirit is the Treasure Within You

By Nick Westbrooks

Interpreted by Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent Jr.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us, we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. –2 Corinthians 4:7-10

It was an amazing testimony of the human spirit when Manteo Mitchell broke his left fibula while running his final 200 meters of the preliminary 4×400 meter relay. Most runners would have stopped once they felt the pop and limped off of the track. But determined by his teammates’ dependence, he fought through the pain and finished his leg, allowing Team USA to make the finals. They would eventually earn a silver medal in the event.

Mitchell’s human spirit was the force that helped him finish the race. As followers of Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the force that keeps us going day after ordinary day.

Take the apostle Paul, the author of the first and second books of Corinthians. Before changing his name and undergoing a life-changing experience, Paul was a Pharisee named Saul who used to persecute the same people he advocated for when he was writing to the church of Corinth.

After his life-changing experience, Paul became a missionary, building churches and spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Throughout his transformation and ministry, Paul faced challenges that he had to overcome through only the power of God inside of him.

Paul lets the church know that it was not him that overcame his obstacles. He puts this idea into perspective by comparing the physical body to frail and easily-broken jars of clay filled with a valuable treasure—the spirit and power of God (v7).

Paul’s analogy is a reminder for us today as we endure struggles and challenges daily. It is not us that gets us through tough times, but it is God’s power within us that is the driving force. We are mere frail, vulnerable and easily-broken jars of clay. But in our brokeness, the Holy Spirit inside of us provides the power to finish our race.

Nick Westbrooks: For the Ladies: 4 Reasons Why You Should Tell Him You’re Not Interested

By Nick Westbrooks

From time to time, I log onto Facebook, and see one of my female “friends” post a status stating something to this effect: “If I didn’t answer after the fifth time, why does he think I’m gonna answer now? He should get the hint.”

I don’t know. He may have gotten the hint or he may just believe that persistence is attractive, there was a technical issue, she overlooked his message or she was busy and didn’t get around to writing him back. I just named four possibilities why a guy would continue to message a female after not receiving a reply back, but there are probably many more.

I’m not a relationship expert, but I’m a logical thinker and I try to say and do what makes sense. The logical thing to do in this type of situation would be for the young lady to end the speculation and tell this guy directly that she’s not interested. But it seems like my generation is a generation of cowards in terms of communication. For whatever reason, we love to “beat around the bush” and avoid expressing our feelings openly. And being a part of the era of text messaging and social networks, we also avoid verbal and face-to-face communication.

I’ve provided four possible reasons why young women should tell young men that they’re not interested instead of hoping they get the hint. This isn’t gender specific; both young men and women avoid straight-to-the-point honesty, but I chose to address the young ladies, since they openly complain about this issue the most.

1. Telling him how you feel saves time.

You complain that he keeps texting and sending messages to your inbox, but you never asked him to stop or tell him that you’re not interested in conversing with him. Maybe if you did this, he wouldn’t have any doubts that you don’t want to talk to him. He won’t believe that you just didn’t receive his message or forgot to write back, because people do honestly forget to respond or mistakenly overlook messages.

It works in favor of both parties. The guy may be hurt that you’re not interested, but at least he knows that he can stop wasting his time by contacting a girl who doesn’t want to be bothered. He can move on to someone or something else if he pleases.

2. Telling him how you feel may minimize harm.

I had a good friend that told me she wasn’t interested in a particular young man, but she didn’t want to tell him because he’s a “sweet” person, and she didn’t want to hurt him. Personally, I’ve been in situations where I tried to find ways to let a girl down easily. Based on experience and observation, the best way to turn someone down without hurting him or her too much is to let that person know from the start that you’re not interested.

There’s no way to absolutely avoid hurting someone, but you inflict more pain when you leave that person guessing for a long period of time, while that individual builds up more feelings for you as time passes. You can’t be afraid to express your feelings, and you can’t be afraid of hurting someone, because in most instances, it will be unavoidable.

3. Telling him how you feel leads to less miscommunication.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are several reasons why a woman doesn’t respond to a man’s messages or texts that are unrelated to her interest in him. Women may believe they’re ignoring them, but men may misinterpret their nonresponses as “She probably didn’t get it, she just forgot to write back. Let me send another message to remind her, or if I’m persistent she’ll see that I’m really serious about wanting to get with her.”  

Ladies, tell him clearly and directly how you feel so he knows for sure that the reason why you’re not responding is that you’re not interested in him. There is no room for misinterpreted messages.

4. Telling him how you feel may lead to better overall communication habits.

It takes courage to express your feelings to someone, especially if you have to tell them something that he or she probably doesn’t want to hear. Once you do it, you realize that it’s not that bad, and you start the habit of being direct with people. You’re not only open enough to directly turn down a love or lust interest, but you’re also direct with the sales rep in the mall, your uncle asking for money and that co-worker that gets under your skin.

He may very well pick up on your hint, but he can never be too sure, and he knows better not to give up too easily. End all of the doubt, consider his feelings and save everyone some time by being straightforward and to the point. And ladies keep this in mind: He may be annoying you with all of the messages, but he still deserves respect. Be as honest and direct as possible, but be respectful.

On the other hand, some guys just don’t take no for an answer. In this case you may have to “unfriend” or block him on your social networking site, but at least you decreased the room for miscommunication by expressing directly and clearly how you feel.

Nick Westbrooks: Why Black Athletes Should be Educated

By Nick Westbrooks

Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant

In the midst of the controversy over Chick-Fil-A’s opposition to gay marriage, Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant decided to chime in on the debate. On Twitter he first talked about the company’s position on gay marriage and asked how “people not gon get the best chicken sammich and lemonade on the planet because of a personal belief…” Durant was then asked if he would continue to buy Chick-Fil-A if the company supported slavery. He said he would because the “chicken too tasty.”

Whether Durant was joking or not, it’s needless to say that his comment was ignorant and only reinforces the stereotype that Black athletes and entertainers are unenlightened. There is truth to the claim that historically slaves were trained to be physically strong and mentally weak. I won’t debate on whether the Willie Lynch letter is real or fake, but it’s undeniable that Blacks were bred and trained to be strong workers in the field, and the present-day manifestation is the superb athletic ability of slave descendants as Michael Johnson said.

We inherited the physical strength gene, but unfortunately, many of us inherited the mental weakness gene as well. Slaves were bred to be mentally weak as a method to dissuade them from resisting the oppressive force of the slaveholders. In 2012, White supremacists want Black athletes as well as the entire Black race to remain in a state of psychological slavery, and this is a reminder that our athletes should be educated even if they earn millions of dollars yearly to play sports.

We often make the mistake of stressing the importance of education to our elementary, middle and high school student-athletes merely for the purposes of meeting the minimal GPA and standardized test score requirements for the NCAA Clearinghouse, and we stress education as a “back-up plan” just in case they don’t make it to the NFL or NBA. Sadly, too many parents and coaches don’t even consider these reasons.

It’s true that student-athletes have to perform academically to play sports in college, and it’s true that the odds of going pro after college are slim. According to Beyond Sports U, 1.7% of college players go to the NFL and 1.2% of college players get drafted to the NBA.

But for those aspiring professional athletes and those who’ve already made it and are multi-millionaires now, they should realize that being educated is much more than earning a living. Education is a key that opens doors of opportunities and options, but it’s much deeper than employment and dollars and cents. It’s important that our Black athletes, both aspiring and professional, be educated in order to change their consciousness and not to make themselves and the rest of the race look like buffoons.

Furthermore, Black athletes should be financially literate. They hire agents and lawyers to ensure they receive the correct amount of millions, but with so many sports stars going broke, one has to wonder who’s managing the Black athletes’ finances and if they’re operating in the best interests of their clients. I also wonder about the conspicuous consumption and materialism that’s all too common with our Black professional competitors.

If Black athletes aren’t educated for themselves, they should at least be educated for the young Black boys that look up to them and aspire to the dream of becoming professional sports stars.

I’m not suggesting that every athlete needs to enroll in a university and get a degree. There are many professional athletes, who finished college or spent some time in college (Durant attended Hampton University), but a degree doesn’t make one educated, and a person can become educated without attending college. Additionally, we all know people — either personally or in the public scene — that graduated from Ivy League schools but make some mainstream rap artists look like scholars.

Black athletes should be able to read and think at a college level and most importantly, have adequate knowledge of themselves and their history, so they won’t make comments similar to Durant’s. With this, we can take steps to combat racism and stereotypes by proving to the world that we can be both athletic on the field and court and mentally competent as well.

Mature Faith in the Time of Adversity

By Nick Westbrooks

As interpreted by Rev. Peggy Fields

Habakkuk 3:16-19

In the book of Habakkuk, the writer talks to God on behalf of the people of Judah. The prophet Habakkuk questions God and wonders why He allows righteous people to suffer and endure so much evil throughout the land (Chp 1:2-4).

God responds to Habakkuk by telling him that the individuals engaged in the evil activity will eventually be judged. Meanwhile, the people of faith will await the “revelation” to be fulfilled as the earth becomes filled “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…” He encourages Habakkuk as well as his followers to be patient and trust Him.

Just like the people of Judah, many of us now tend to question God and wonder why He allows righteous people to suffer and those who practice evil appear to be prosperous. We question why we can have “three college degrees and be unemployed,” why a couple “can divorce after 25 years of marriage,” how adults can get away with abusing children and how a gunmen can kill 12 people in a movie theater.

Instead of asking why, we should remind ourselves of who God is. We must be like the people of Judah and be patient and trust the Lord. Trust God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. God’s plans are often different from our own, and quite frankly, better than ours.

Don’t worry about the evil in the world for God has everything under control. With the Lord’s strength, we will survive these trying times. “When you don’t understand God, rest in it. Don’t rebel. Your arms are too short to box with God.”

Reconstruction-Era Disfranchisement and Present-Day Voter Suppression

By Jasmine Tucker

Blacks exercising the right to vote during Reconstruction

Disfranchisement for African-Americans has been one of the many hurdles that Blacks have had to jump over. As early as the late 1870s, southern Democrats have worked to weaken Black political power. Violence and intimidation scared many Blacks from voting. White landlords would sometimes threaten or bribe Black sharecroppers and renters not to vote or to vote for the landlord’s candidates.

White leaders were concerned that if they forced what were then legally suitable barriers to voting – literacy tests, poll taxes, and property qualifications – they would also disfranchise many White voters. However, in 1882, South Carolina passed the Eight Box Law, a primal literacy test that required voters to deposit separate ballots for separate election races in the proper ballot box. Illiterate voters could not recognize the boxes unless White officials assisted them.

Mississippi made the most triumphant attempt to eliminate Black voters without openly violating the Fifteenth Amendment. In 1889, Black leaders from 40 Mississippi counties protested the “violent and criminal suppression of the black vote.” In response, White men called a constitutional convention to do away with the Black vote.

With 1 Black delegate and 134 White delegates, the convention formulated meticulous voting standards that – without mentioning race – disfranchised Black voters. Voting required proof of residency and payment of all taxes, including a $2 poll tax. A person convicted of arson or petty theft – crimes the delegates linked with Black people – could not vote. However, people convicted of so-called “White crimes” such as murder and rape could vote. The new Mississippi constitution also required voters to be literate, but illiterate men could still meet the criteria to vote by proving that they understood the constitution if it was read to them.

Black voting in South Carolina waned since the end of Reconstruction. Unhappy that even so few voters might decide an election, U.S. Senator Benjamin R. Tillman won support for a constitutional convention in 1895. The convention followed Mississippi’s lead and fashioned an “understanding clause” but not without a protest from Black leaders. Six Black men and 154 White men were elected to the South Carolina Convention including Robert Smalls who had been a delegate to the 1868 constitutional convention. The six Black men protested Black disfranchisement, even though their cries were not considered. White delegates didn’t even pretend that the elections should be fair.

In 1898, Louisiana added a new twist to disfranchisement. Its grandfather clause predetermined that only men who had been eligible to vote before 1867 – or whose father or grandfather had been eligible before that year – would be qualified to vote. Because most Black men had just emerged from slavery, practically none were qualified to vote before 1867, thus the law instantly disfranchised almost all Black voters. Except for Kentucky and West Virginia, each southern state had enacted complicated limitations on voting by the 1890s. As a result, very few Black men continued to vote, and none were elected to office.

In the meantime, Congressional Republicans made a last, ineffective attempt to protect Black- voting rights. In 1890, Massachusetts Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a bill to necessitate federal supervision of elections in congressional districts where fraud and intimidation were suspected. White southerners were furious and labeled it the “Force bill,” because they wrongly believed that it would force Black rule over White people.

This Federal Elections bill easily passed the House but failed in the Senate after a 33-day Democratic filibuster. That ended the last important congressional attempt to defend Black-voting rights in the South until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This week, Gene Demby of the Huffington Post wrote a truly compelling article that put a major emphasis on the importance of Black participation in the upcoming election season. The National Urban League recently posted a report that acknowledged the importance of black voter turnout in this upcoming election. The report focused on North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio, which are significant swing states during the election period.

According to the report, from 2004 to 2008, the Black voter turnout rate increased from 60% in 2004 to 65% in 2008. The study also revealed that Blacks are more likely to vote if they are registered. About 93% of registered Blacks voted in national elections compared to 90% of Whites and 84% of Hispanics. Young Blacks were the driving force behind the rush of African-Americans at the polls.

Voter ID laws may prevent certain groups of people from voting.

Due to these significant trends, Republican-dominated legislatures have approved voter ID laws that will require voters to present certain forms of official ID in order to vote. Proponents of the laws say they are intended to reduce voter fraud. However, voting rights organizations like the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, pinpointed that voter fraud is extremely uncommon, while others noticed that the demographic populations most affected by the legislation are African-Americans, Latinos, young people, and the poor, who usually vote Democrat.

In light of this new information, I could only think back to the many methods that were imposed on African-Americans to prevent them for voting. The ludicrous thing about this circumstance is that it’s preventing Blacks, but young people, the poor, and Latinos from voting for a Black man. I still find it hard to believe that there are still people trying to institutionalize racist acts and policies on people. However this time, it doesn’t only affect African-Americans, but a whole rainbow coalition of people.

The question now is, how do we make it stop? We teach our young children about all the barriers that Blacks had to fight to receive the right to vote. Nonetheless, they are living in a time were these barriers are being recycled into legislations that now require IDs to vote. All I can hope for is that in the midst of this political war of a campaign, someone in Congress will find the heart to deter these acts, so that our children will not have to fight for the same rights our ancestors fought for years before our time.

Jasmine Tucker is a senior sociology major/African-American Studies minor at Howard University. She’s also an educational issues intern at the American Federation of Teachers. Follow Jasmine on Twitter @YourQueen2Bee and friend her on Facebook.

Celebrating the Foundations of the Future: Florida Avenue Baptist Church’s 100-Year Anniversary

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

This week, the historic Florida Avenue Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. celebrates its centennial anniversary. During my summer stay in the District, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the church and being a part of the momentous occasion under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr. Many institutions observe anniversaries, but very few can say they’ve been around for 100 years, especially those established by the hands, heads and hearts of African Americans.

FABC was founded approximately four decades after Reconstruction, a time of illicit racism and segregation all over the United States. Already facing the problem of the “color line” in addition to scores of other challenges, the faith of the founders and members allowed the holy institution to thrive in the midst of those trials.

The 1919 Red Summer gruesomely afflicted Blacks across the country, including the nation’s capital. An exorbitant number of Blacks were violently attacked and killed at the heels of arguably America’s bloodiest race riots circa post-World War I. Despite the riots and the youth of the newly founded establishment, FABC survived the unrest.

In the late 1960s, FABC would also survive the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Some of the church’s congregants would faithfully serve and bravely fight in each of America’s conflicts overseas. Through all of the major events–positive and negative—in America’s history, FABC is still standing strong.

It’s a blessing to see three and four generations of families congregating the pews and completing the Lord’s work at FABC. Members rearing their children and their children’s children in the church teaches them to love Jesus and live righteous lives, but it also maintains the church’s rich legacy.

As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright noted when he delivered the centennial Sunday service message on July 8, African Americans are the only group of people that doesn’t document its history or revolution, which is detrimental to our livelihood.

“Failure to write down your revolution means it will die when we die.”

One of the key points Wright had for the FABC family was that people have to teach their history to the youth, because they don’t know it. This isn’t necessarily the church’s history, but Black history in general. Unfortunately, Black children learn distorted and destroyed history from their oppressor; HIStory instead of OUR story. In turn, this disempowers Black children and negatively affects their perceptions of themselves.

With teaching the youth our story, both the good and the bad must be taught. Wright calls this repentance. Despite our achievements, there are many things that we are ashamed of as a people. On many occasions, we’ve turned our backs on our African past, but we have to tell all sides of our story.

Most importantly, the 100-year anniversary is a moment of celebration. It’s a time for the church to rejoice at its wealthy history and the faith that has brought it this far as it optimistically looks toward the future.  The centennial also serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done, and more laborers are needed now more than ever to spread the Gospel and tackle the many issues facing Washington, D.C.’s Black community.

Congratulations to Florida Avenue Baptist Church on achieving 100 years of stewardship, evangelism, missions, social justice and education. You’ve come this far by faith feeling no ways tired. And with that steadfast faith, there’s no limit to where you can go. I wish you 100 more years of continued blessings and success.

The Fourth of July Isn’t for Black People

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in which he asked, “What to the American slave, is the Fourth of July?” His answer was “a day that reveals to him [the slave], more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim.” And prior to this question and answer, Douglass tells his predominately White audience “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.”

In 2012, this message still holds true. Whether enslaved physically by mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, or enslaved mentally by the psychological chains of Black-on-Black carnage, the myth of Black inferiority, dysfunctional families, overall disunity and economic disempowerment, the Fourth of July still isn’t ours. African Americans who have a false sense of freedom and believe that they’ve “made it,” aren’t exempt either.

But, keep in mind that regardless of whether we’re slaves or free people, the Fourth of July will continue to not belong to us. As long as racism endures, Blacks will be excluded. Years of loyalty, building the United States into what it is today, fighting in wars (including the Revolutionary War that led to the colonies’ independence from Great Britain) and contributing to America’s economy doesn’t mean anything. With all of our contributions, we remain to be considered second-class citizens, or worse, less than human beings.

Yes, we are excluded from the Fourth of July celebration, but on the other hand, we must ask ourselves this fundamental question: Should we even want to be included in a celebration that continues to be, as Douglass calls it, “mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disagree a nation of savages?” I’ll leave that up to you to think about and decide. By the way, there’s no need to expound on the crimes and hypocrisy America is guilty of.

Despite America’s corruption and racist ideologies, African Americans have been surviving and making the best of their situation. At the end of his speech, Douglass said he does not “despair of this country,” and I do not despair of it either. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, as Douglass acknowledged, were brave men who were able to achieve freedoms that may not have been available to Americans had they not taken the courage to break away from Britain. Much work remains to be done, but the United States has come a long way.

Today, I have the limited freedom to write this post speaking critically of this country without being detained, tortured or executed unlike other countries in the world. In conclusion, the message to my brothers and sisters of color is this: As you eat barbeque, watch fireworks and snatch sale items off of the racks, be aware that America’s celebration of independence still isn’t ours. It is a celebration for the descendants of the Founding Fathers, but it’s mockery to the descendants of slaves.

Who Will Continue the Race for Social and Civil Rights?

Last week, I read a USA Today column by DeWayne Wickham discussing the legendary Jesse Jackson’s plan to rally against black-on-black violence.  A major crusade, Wickham writes that Jackson plans to galvanize followers and march in 20 cities “hard hit by the gun violence that has made the streets of America a bigger killing field for young black men in the United States than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been for U.S. troops.”

I don’t know if the marches will be an effective solution or not, but Jackson is definitely tackling one of the more important issues devastating the Black community along with mass incarceration and unemployment. In another space, we can discuss tactics and strategies, but here it’s necessary to address leadership and participation.

As Wickham mentioned, Jackson turned 70 in October. While many individuals have been questioning the civil rights leader’s relevance, the writer of the column suggests that this may be Jackson’s “last big campaign.” For many, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Simply but respectfully affirmed, the man is old. He doesn’t have the energy and influence that he had in his heyday of his career.

But the question now shouldn’t be, “How do we expedite the process of getting Jesse out?” The questions we should be asking are, “Who will continue where Jesse Jackson left off?” and “How will we transfer his and his contemporaries’ leadership position to some new organizers?”

From a historical perspective, it was the young people transitioning into adulthood who were leading the Civil Rights Movement. They were Black men and women in college executing marches, freedom rides, rallies, sit-ins and voter registration drives.

With voter suppression laws, black-on-black carnage and mass incarceration, there is no time better than now to stir up and usher in a fresh group of young and energetic leaders. As a young man in college, I’m more than willing and able to take on the role, but I don’t have the training or the blueprint for action.

Although times have changed, the same social ills plaguing the Black community remain. Jackson’s relevance lies in taking under his wing, the 18-year-olds through the 30-somethings and teaching them the strategies that earned victories in the Black community. Combining those age-old tactics, education, new media and the youthful energy of the present, we may successfully exterminate black-on-black bloodshed.

It will take the cooperation of both the older and younger generations. The older generations must be willing to reach out to the younger generations and teach them how to organize. The younger generations must be willing to reject apathy and the diversions that distract us from the real issues. The youth must also be willing to sacrifice, which is the foundation of service and leadership. We must be willing to sacrifice status and prestige. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with appealing to a liberal, conservative or mainstream media’s agenda.

Jesse Jackson is one of last veterans still running the race for social and civil rights. Many of the men and women that were running with him have dropped out and have earned the right to do so. They either no longer have the energy and ability, or they are no longer with us.

For the leaders like Jackson and his contemporaries who are still with us, we should be waiting in the hand-off zone to receive the baton as they run their last 200 meters of this relay for human rights.

For the leaders like Jackson and his contemporaries who are still with us, we should be waiting in the hand-off zone to receive the baton as they run their last 200 meters of this relay for human rights. The livelihood and preservation of our Black communities and people depend on a new movement supported by the leaders of yesterday and spearheaded by the young leaders of today.