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.

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The Need for a Renewed Black-Operated Freedmen’s Bureau

A Bureau agent stands between armed groups of Southern Whites and freedmen

By Jasmine E. Tucker

New York City is the home to the largest population of African-Americans in the country, however only 1 out of 10 students out of the five boroughs will graduate from college. There are 33,000 abandoned homes in the city of Detroit. Cleveland has the highest unemployment rate for African-Americans in the country. Los Angeles has the highest population of homeless African-Americans in the nation. Sadly in Washington, D.C., almost half of the African-American population is suffering from AIDs.

All of these barefaced statistics are statements that we as a people have been marred by everyday in this generation’s existence. With this epidemic of suffering that is affecting millions of African-Americans; one can only wonder what the future will hold for our race. Relying on one’s faith can only get us so far. Being in America to suffer because of our race has been an underlying theme since the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

I can only recall one circumstance where this nation’s government has created a reform program geared specifically towards African-Americans. The establishment of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands – more commonly called the Freedmen’s Bureau – is to this day the only reform system that was geared toward the well-being of African-Americans. Even though the Bureau’s goal was to also assist poor Caucasian refugees, their main goal was to give newly- freed slaves a clean slate after emancipation to work and learn.

A renewed Black-operated Freedmen’s Bureau in today’s society may be beneficial in correcting the social injustices plaguing the African-American community. The Bureau of Reconstruction was not able to completely renovate the African-American community; however it made many strides to improve the quality of life for African-Americans after the emancipation.

By the end of the Civil War, the South had been distraught. Many former slaves and White refugees faced starvation and lacked basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. It soon became obvious to the U.S. government that additional aid was required to end the anguish in the South and help Whites and Blacks to restructure their lives. In response to this need, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Act in 1865. The agency provided food, clothing, and shelter for hungry and homeless Whites and Blacks. The Bureau was also accountable for supporting former slaves in negotiating fair labor contracts with Whites and building schools to help educate their children and themselves.

General Oliver Otis Howard

One of the first Black colleges created during the Reconstruction era was Howard University, founded in 1867 by General Oliver Otis Howard, who was also the first head of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau established camps for the homeless, fed the hungry, and cared for orphans to the best of its ability. Additionally, the Bureau provided medical care to half a million freedmen and was responsible for implementing the Special Order #15, which we all know as “forty acres and a mule.” Despite all these accomplishments, the Bureau was also very flawed.

Congress never provided adequate funds or personnel to carry out the task of assisting the poor. The allocation of Bureau agents was scarce across the South, with usually one agent representing up to 20,000 people. There were few African-American agents, because only a small number of military officers were Black. Although the bureau’s primary concern was the welfare of former slaves, it actually served more poor Whites than Blacks.

Sharecropping was in fact introduced to the South on a sweeping basis by the Freemen’s Bureau. After emancipation and the abolition of the plantation system, the Freedmen’s Bureau assisted Blacks in negotiating contracts for pay or a share of what they produced for their former masters. Sadly, once President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the new president, he began to pardon thousands of former Confederates and returned their land to them ending the Special Order #15.

40 acres and a mule

As stated previously, America needs a new Black-operated Freedmen’s Bureau. This bureau, which was a part of the Department of War, was created to not only assist poor White refugees, but mostly to assist the approximately four million newly freed slaves. Yet Congress and its White agents manipulated their power and misappropriated funds that could have helped the poor.

In today’s society, we are not physically enslaved like our ancestors were; however we are suffering from hunger, poverty, inadequate education, unemployment, and a lack of health coverage. Maybe a new federal program that is anchored specifically towards the African-American community will usher in improvements for the well being of our people and our children in the generations to come.

If the theory of the Dubois’ Talented Tenth can be applied, I’m sure the leaders in our community can create a movement of social change. We do not only owe it to ourselves, but we owe it to our children who are going to be in this world with skin that will forever hinder them. If it could be done in 1865, I believe our brothers and sisters can bring it into fruition now.

Jasmine Tucker is a senior sociology major and African-American studies minor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She’s also currently an Educational Issues Intern at the American Federation of Teachers. 

Remembering Professor Mark E. Mack

If it were not for a medical hold on my account preventing me from registering early for classes, I probably would have never been exposed to professor Mark E. Mack’s biological anthropology class. Nearly all of the classes I needed for my first semester at Howard were filled. With hardly any options, I chose biological anthropology as my general elective. Let me emphasize that journalism majors only get ONE elective. My academic adviser told me it would be a difficult, but interesting class. That course would not only be challenging and mentally stimulating, but it would be life changing.

Regardless of who the professor was, the class would have been interesting, but having Mack as an instructor was an experience in itself. Mack was unquestionably passionate about the subject. He not only taught us the material, but he allowed space for self-learning, urging us to read the text prior to class.

In addition to teaching us diligence in preparing for class, Mack taught us discipline. Certainly adamant on punctuality, he started class on time and had a low tolerance for tardiness and poor attendance. I recall a specific lab day towards the end of the semester in which I had arrived to the lab about five minutes before the official class time, and Mack had already locked the door.

You did not want to earn low grades on exams. Yes, students are concerned about what grade they will receive in the class and how it will affect their GPAs, but if you had Mack for class, you would be afraid of his reaction. Upon grading a particular exam, Mack verbalized an expletive-filled rant and dismissed the class for its unsatisfactory performance. I feel sorry for that afternoon class, but luckily it was not my class.

His reaction was a bit extreme, but as I mentioned previously, Mack was passionate about anthropology and wanted his students to grasp the material and succeed. Mack was tough and strict, but it was in good reason. In essence, biological anthropology is about US! When we are learning anthropology, we are learning about ourselves, and I believe professor Mack taught his classes with this in mind.

We learned through archaeological evidence that humans originated from Africa. This was an important lesson in debunking the myth of White superiority and Black inferiority. Mack exposed us to historical racism within the field of biology, how Eurocentric scientists have attempted to promote Black inferiority through science. Some of these examples can be found in one of my previous posts, “Race, Racism and Science.”

We learned the differences between race, ethnicity and nationality as well as the dilemma of choosing your race/ethnicity on the census form. Mack used our class’s inability to fill out maps of Africa with the continent’s countries as a point that we should not classify ourselves as “African American” if we do not know anything about Africa. And unlike other biology professors, teachers, etc., Mack taught us about evolution, but he stopped short in suggesting that we believe evolution. A supporter of the creationism theory, he would say, “I ain’t going to hell y’all.” And, I’m not going either.

Mack was definitely a contender in his field. Along with teaching, he was the curator of the W. Montague Cobb Biological Anthropology Laboratory at Howard University. He served as the Osteological Supervisor for the Foley Square New York African Burial Ground project, and he worked on the Archeological Survey of the Walter C. Pierce Community Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Most importantly, Mark Mack was a loving husband and father who took pride in his family. His daughter was born during the semester that I had his class. I remember the smile on his face and the joy he had when he told us the good news. Last October, I had the chance to see her on campus with her father.  Around this time, President Obama apologized for the Guatemala syphilis experiment. Standing next to the football field, Mack and I briefly discussed the craziness of this revelation.

Outside of class, Mack was a cool brother. He would “dap me up” in Douglass Hall or express love while posting up outside of the building. Mack wanted his students to succeed and to make change in the global community. Anthropology has nothing to do with my major, but the class taught me about myself. It was one of the most difficult classes I have taken at Howard, and it is the ONLY class I got a C in. But, I do not regret taking the course. It was one of the best choices I made, but I do regret earning that C. Mack left his legacy and mark at Howard University and will be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace Professor Mack