Faith of Our Mothers: Part One

Last year, I stayed on campus for Mother’s Day, but this year I made sure I was home to sit next to my mother and grandmother in church on Sunday. Along with sitting next to two of my favorite girls, I was highly anticipating the Mother’s Day word from my dear pastor, the Rev. Dr. Dwight C. Northington.

Referencing 2 Timothy, the preacher focused on the first chapter and the fifth verse in which Jesus remembers the “unfeigned faith” of Timothy’s mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois. The “unfeigned faith” of the two biblical mothers is the faith that our mothers should strive to achieve. This is the same faith that is sung about in that classic congregational hymn that churches sing every year at this time, “Faith of Our Mothers.”

We were encouraged to pray for our mothers, for they “go through many things men wouldn’t go through.” The biggest task of them all, the pastor said, is carrying a child for nearly a year and giving birth: “Lord have mercy, I know brothers couldn’t deal with that nine months of kicking and moving.” I know I could not deal with it. Women are especially blessed with the God-given ability to bring forth life.

There was a word of encouragement for our mothers who face unfortunate circumstances with their children. Whether the child is not doing right or the child’s father is not doing right, the preacher man urged those mothers to not let the negative hand they have been dealt to interfere with the love of their children.

In order to survive those troubling times, mothers “must have unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is deeply grounded in the word of God.” Also in the words of the reverend,

“Don’t hit the panic button, hit the prayer button.”

Having that steadfast faith, that faith of Eunice and Lois, means mothers should bring their children to the house of the Lord so they may learn about Jesus and learn that “God is good.” Not only should mothers bring their children to church and Sunday school, but they should come and learn WITH their children. In this manner, mothers adhere to Proverbs 22:6 which instructs parents to “train up a child in the way that he should go…”

Every day should be Mother’s Day. On this day, we should pray for their continued strength and be thankful for their faithfulness and nurturing love. Most importantly, we should honor our mothers just as the Word says. I pray that all mothers be encouraged and continue to have genuine faith.

Look out for part two.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Fear is Preparation

Earlier this week, I briefly conversed with an OG (original gentleman). He asked me about school and when I’m supposed to graduate. I told him I would be graduating in December, which is not a long time from now. He then asked that dreaded question that many prospective graduates hate to hear: “What are your plans after graduation?” I have some idea of what I want to do, but my goals are not specific, so I simply responded, “I don’t know.”

His response to me was “I bet that’s scary.” With less than eight months until graduation, I undoubtedly agreed with him. At this point, he shared with me a jewel about dealing with fear. He started out by asking, “When an animal becomes afraid, what does it do? It tenses up.” The OG explained that when an animal tenses up, it means that it is either preparing itself to either attack or run away. Furthermore, he said that when you are experiencing fear, it only means that you are in preparation. Therefore, fear is something to embrace, not to be afraid of.

I believe my fear lies in the uncertainty of the future and the unknown. I have somewhat overcome the fear of failure, but I have struggled with not knowing what I specifically want to do with my life, or rather what God’s will is for my life. While time was passing me by, I have not been making the moves I need to in order to establish a career where I am earning a living while changing the world.

The words from the OG reminded me of a sermon that I heard sometime last year. The preacher stressed the importance of distinguishing between concern and worry. I have to learn how to eliminate the worry from my mind and only allow he spirit of concern to dwell in me. I cannot allow myself to be become worried about the future. With concern and no worry, I maintain the faith that God will supply my needs and provide guidance while using the power He has given me to take steps towards doing His will.

I agree with the famous quote from President FDR’s inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” My attitude towards fear may hinder me from reaching my fullest potential. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In accordance with this scripture, I am not embracing fear as an acceptable emotion, but I am embracing it as a feeling that can be transformed from something negative into something positive.

As I attempt to transform the spirit of fear into a spirit of power and rely on the success of my faith, I recognize that fear should be received rather than rejected, and I remind myself that I am preparing to make major moves, and God is preparing me for those moves. All I have to do is stay prayed up, educate my mind, leave everything in the God’s hands and simply be cool like I know how to do.

Having the Upper Hand: WABJ’s Urban Journalism Workshop

Last weekend was the orientation for the Washington Association of Black Journalists’ Urban Journalism Workshop. A fresh group of eager, young and bright high school students from the Washington, D.C. metro area came to National Public Radio to meet their section leaders and mentors and to embark on a journey exploring the ins and outs of the journalism field.

The section leaders and mentors are mostly professionals who have been in the journalism industry for years. I’m one of the few college students that volunteer for the workshop. In fact, I was the only college student mentor present at orientation. It is my third year volunteering, and I look forward to another year of mentoring the youth and working alongside the professionals.

If this program were available to me and if I knew wanted to pursue journalism while I was in high school, I would have applied to this workshop. It is an incredible opportunity for high schoolers to get hands-on experience fairly early. Over the course of eight weeks, the professionals teach them the fundamentals of journalism while the students form story ideas and produce news. Depending on the section they are assigned to, they either write articles for print, produce packages for radio or produce packages and a newscast for television.

Participating in the UJW provides a clear advantage for the students over their future college classmates. While attending high school, they experience aspects of journalism that college students do not experience until their sophomore or junior years unless they join extracurricular groups such as the campus newspaper, radio or TV station.

Prior to entering college, UJW students already know how to deal with ethical issues, and they know how to stay informed on what is happening in the world — an integral part of being a journalist. They have had news quizzes every Saturday over the eight weeks of the workshop. They will not be the students with their feet in their mouths when they receive their first news quiz in their introductory journalism course.

These students will also know the technical aspects of journalism before they enter their first year of college. They will know how to shoot and edit video, record and edit audio and take pictures using equipment comparable to that of college facilities.

Writing is a necessary skill to master regardless of the career field one pursues, but the UJW students will know how to to write correctly for their respective platforms. Beyond the workshop, they will most likely master how to write for all platforms and be skillful enough to flawlessly change from broadcast to print style and vice versa.

Most importantly, these high school students already have the right attitude towards learning journalism. Right from the first day, they came in motivated, driven and even prepared. Some of the students that I have met have already anchored newscasts and shows at their high schools, edited their school newspapers and are knowledgeable of current events.

I cannot speak on behalf of all college journalism students, but some at the institution I attend are not on top of their game. I admit, I’m not doing enough in regards to pumping out content and doing enough internships, but when it’s time to graduate and compete for jobs, the individuals who participated in the UJW and made the most out of their experience will be the ones beating everyone out for those competitive positions.

I feel grateful and honored to be able to share some of my expertise and invest my time in the futures of these young journalists. I’m hoping I will be able to learn from them as they learn from me.

Interdisciplinary Studies in African American Research (Written in November 2009)

Howard University

Interdisciplinary Studies in African American Research

Submitted to

Dr. Mark E. Mack

For

Intro to Biological Anthropology

By

Nick Westbrooks

11/23/09

Often times, we notice that different academic disciplines are closely related to each other. In the concept of interdisciplinary studies, educators and students combine different disciplines. The results lead to new discoveries and answers to problems and questions. Anthropology professor Dr. Fatima Jackson, engages in interdisciplinary studies in African American and anthropological research. Last Thursday at the freshman seminar colloquia, Dr. Jackson explained what she does with interdisciplinary studies and why.

In her presentation, Dr. Jackson discussed several topics so I will highlight the key topics I found interest in. The professor started off the presentation by discussing why interdisciplinary studies are important. The main reason was that the human race is facing problems. Along with people suffering from sickness and other health conditions, our genetic variability doesn’t fit the 19th century racial categories. Although humans may look quite different in relation to race, the biological differences are relatively small, and researchers have to look very carefully to find any differences. Dr. Jackson practices interdisciplinary studies to solve such problems as these.

The next topic of interest was the relationship between the human genotype and the normal filters humans deal with on the daily basis. In order for our genotype to be expressed, it has to pass through the three environmental filters: abiotic, biotic, and sociocultural. Abiotic and biotic environmental filters include diet, subsistence, occupation, body form, toxicants, humidity, altitude, radiation, precipitation, and pharmaceuticals. The sociocultural filters are language, religion, ethnic identity, socialization, and class structure. All of these environmental filters in turn influence the human phenotype.

After that, Dr. Jackson described the Ethnogenetic Layering approach. This approach addresses human variation and health disparity issues. Like Dr. Jackson stated at the beginning of the presentation, using race as the model alone is too general. It is inaccurate to generalize the entire human race from observing only one individual race. Furthermore, the Ethnogenetic Layering approach “helps to better understand the role of population sub structuring.” Identifying and assessing the biological, cultural, and bicultural risks, the origins of and the reasons for certain may expose health disparitie

Two of the specific health disparities that were addressed during the presentation were hypertension and stroke. The areas of West and West Central Africa were sodium deficient; so the inhabitants of that region were unaccustomed to having salt in their diets. Then, these same Africans were forcefully brought to the Carolinas where salt was plentiful. The elevated sodium intake in the black diet led to more cases of hypertension and strokes. The curse of high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases in the black population still exists presently. Through the use of the Ethnogenetic Layering approach, this discovery was made.

Other key topics Dr. Jackson discussed were Ethnogenteic Layering in relation to breast cancer in African American women, the major historical African cultural influences on African Americans, and converging lineages. Converging lineages was interesting that it identified the relationship between the cadence in blues music and Muslim prayer. This was my first time ever being exposed to this type of information, and it was enlightening. Speaking as a person who has not focused on interdisciplinary studies, I can see the importance of it. I feel that no matter what a person’s academic concentration is, he or she should practice some type of interdisciplinary study. It is practical because everyone should and should want to know where he or she came from and why humans have gone through certain biological and cultural variations. I have no interest in science, but learning about myself intrigues me. I can use what I have learned as a weapon against the dominant culture. Eurocentric “thinkers” have tried to give us false information about our past. They tried to tell us that blacks were not the first people. They tried to credit the Greeks for achievements the Egyptians made. Now they’re trying to make us question the relevance of HBCU’s. Unfortunately, many people who are ignorant to the truth accept false information. On another note, Dr. Jackson being both a Muslim and an anthropologist is fascinating. In her own unique way, she has broken the barrier between religion and science. Her explanation is that God is responsible for all of the evolutionary phenomena that have occurred. The bottom line is that interdisciplinary studies, especially in African American research, are absolutely necessary, relevant, and should be included more in academic curriculum.

Race, Racism and Science (Written in 2009)

Howard University

Race, Racism, and Science

Submitted to

Dr. Mark E. Mack

For

Introduction to Biological Anthropology

By

Nick Westbrooks

12/2/09

Race has always been an issue that affects everyone in some form. Whether it is social, political, or economical race is something that is a concern to all. Throughout history up to the present day, race has also been an issue in relation to the field of science. Because race has some biological foundation, scientists have used it to explain certain phenomena and open up new doors for scientific research. In the articles “Bred in the Bone” by Alan H. Goodman and “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment ‘A Moral Astigmatism”’ by James Jones, the close correlation between the topic of race and the field of science is discussed at length.

In “Bred in the Bone,” Goodman discusses the effectiveness and accuracy of physicians and forensic anthropologists using race to identify human remains. The article opens up with the story of rescue workers discovering a human left leg in the remains of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building after the Oklahoma City bombings. Clyde Snow was a forensic anthropologist whose job usually involved identifying victims in such crimes as this. After reviewing the individuals that survived the bombing, going through autopsy records, pathology reports, and photographs, Snow and the other forensic anthropologists couldn’t figure out who the leg belonged to. After measuring the leg and categorizing the leg bone through the use of technology, Snow eventually concluded that the leg belonged to “a darkly complected Caucasoid.”

The problem of using race to identify human remains came up after the discovery that the leg actually belonged to 21 year- old black female by the name of Lakesha R. Levy. Misidentifying people based on race has been a common mistake committed by forensic anthropologists. Without a skull to observe, identifying people accurately becomes even more difficult since the skulls provide more clues about a person’s race.

Over time, scientists have formulated different concepts of race. One concept that comes from the Greek idea of the great chain of being and the ideal types has been deemed anti- evolutionary, and it should not be used to explain race. In fact, anthropologists believe that race should have been eliminated several decades ago. After Darwin published Origin of Species, physical anthropologists used the theory of evolution to help explain human variation rather than the Greek scientific concept of race. Many believe that race itself is a myth, but the idea of race still exists.

Other scientists believe there are three main races: Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid. These races in turn are ranked according to intelligence and procreative ability. The Mongoloids were ranked the most intelligent, Negroids had the strongest sexual drive, and the Caucasoids were placed in the middle. For people who disagree with this idea and believe race is a myth defends that races do not exist, and sociopolitical policies should not be based on race. Others believe that social policy does not need a biological base, and racism does exist even though true races may not exist. The remainder of the people includes public health/medical professionals and anthropologists who are confused about the existence of race. They believe that racial biology is political, but at the same time they do not see race biology as bad.

Several anthropologists defend the argument that forensic anthropologists are good at identifying humans by race. They argue that racial variations correspond with regional differences. Along with the existence of race and using race to identify people, pre- World War Two physicians use to associate certain health disparities with specific races. All of these tactics have been proven to be inaccurate, and Goodman provides reasons why using race explain human variation is inaccurate.

First of all, race is skin deep. A person’s height, weight, eye and skin color cannot be accurately determined by using race as the identifier. Next, variations in genetic traits occur within the individual races rather than among different races. After that, Goodman states that racial analysis should not be based on the mix of genetics with culture and class with lived experiences. Lastly, race cannot be defined in a stable, repeatable way because race biology varies with time and place. In other words, the color line is always changing so there are a lot more than merely three main races in existence. Goodman also offers alternatives to classifying humans by race, and these include focusing on specific traits and describing human remains as well as possible. It may be true that race is a myth, but the issue of racism still exists.

Personally, I have been exposed to a concept of race that is similar to Philippe Rushton’s idea that there are three main races. Another source expresses that the races of the world originated with the Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid races. In Blacks In The Bible, James H. Warden Jr. explains that Noah’s sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth became the fathers of the Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid races after the Great Flood. All of the other races came about “from mixing and mingling of the progeny of Noah’s sons.” As a believer of the Bible, I generally agree with this story about the origin of races. In a way, this biblical explanation supports Alan Goodman’s argument that there are various races and the color line never stays the same. Anthropologists usually do not address religion, and religious believers usually do not address science, but a connection can be seen in this discussion.

As far as using race to identify remains, I agree that using race is inaccurate. For example, the leg that was found after the Oklahoma City bombing had to have belonged to woman but it could have belonged to anyone in regards to race. In examining race, the differences I notice are more visual than physical. Underneath the skin, humans are the same for the most part.

In the article “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment,” James Jones discusses exactly what the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was and the morality of the group that conducted the study. 399 men who had syphilis were denied treatment so doctors could observe the effects of untreated syphilis during the late stage of the disease on black men. An additional 201 men who were free of the disease were used as the controls. The Public Health Service conducted the study and the results were high rates of mortality and morbidity among the syphilis victims than the controls. No treatment was involved, and the study was done solely for data.

Next, Jones explained what syphilis is. It is a contagious disease that can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or sexual and other bodily contact. The three stages of syphilis are the primary, secondary, and tertiary stages. Syphilis at its worst results is death. With this in mind, the question of ethics arose.

The public could not understand why these men agreed to participate in this study assuming they knew the risks of leaving syphilis untreated. One explanation was that the subjects did not know they had syphilis nor did they know what syphilis was. Also, the men were offered incentives for participating in the study. They were given such benefits as free meals and physical examinations. These factors questioned the morality of the experiment.

After being questioned, Public Health Service officers denied that the experiment was unethical. PHS officials also defended themselves against not giving the subjects treatment by claiming that penicillin would affect them negatively. The subjects may suffer from allergic drug reactions. Others argued that the immorality of the study was evident well before the men were denied treatments with penicillin. The disease could have been controlled at an earlier stage rather than reaching the life- threatening stage. The Public Health Service did not appear to be remorseful about using human beings as laboratory animals.

In the eyes of the public, the value of human lives outweighed the scientific merits. Some even found the study severe enough to be labeled as genocide. Some classified the experiment as racism, but the PHS denied both claims. Others associated the subjects with their social class instead of their race. Americans felt that anyone who was poor and helpless could have been a victim. The claim was that the men were tricked into participating in the study, and they were incapable of giving an informed consent to be a part of the experiment. After seeing this horrible display, Americans came to the realization that they need to protect society against scientific pursuits that ignore human values.

I find it no coincidence that all of the subjects were black males. If the PHS wanted to do an honest study, they would have mixed different ethnicities into the study to use as a comparison. This experiment is obviously racism because the article fails to mention any record of the effects of syphilis amongst any other ethnic group. If any black person questions why it is important to be aware and educated about what is going on around them, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is the answer. This is a prime example of how the dominant culture takes advantage of the ignorant. People don’t need to be scientists but they need the knowledge of what’s going on.

First National Ceremony Dedicated to Black Civil War Troops

The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were comprised of African soldiers, many of whom were slaves. First recruited in 1863, the 175 regiments of USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union Army. (Sons & Daughters of the U.S. Colored Troops)

@NickWestbrooks reports:

WASHINGTON- As a part of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial honored the United States Colored Troops (USCT) with a candlelighting ceremony, making it the first national commemoration of its kind.

In addition to the candlelighting ceremony, the November 5th event included Civil War-era performances, a presentation of charters to the Sons and Daughters of the USCT and a keynote speech by NY1 News TV anchor and author, Cheryl Wills. 

Although America’s domestic conflict, which pitted the North (Union) against the South (Confederacy) between the years 1861 and 1865, is a century and a half old, Wills explained that the national moment of recognition for the USCT has never happened before.

“There hasn’t been a national ceremony or a national recognition of them at all during this 150th anniversary. This is the first one,” Wills said. “There have been national recognitions of the Confederate soldiers who fought to preserve slavery.”

Wills is also the great-great-great granddaughter of Sandy Wills, a Black Civil War soldier whom she wrote about in her book Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale. She said knowing this history of her family has been profoundly influential.

It has changed my entire life,” Wills said. “It’s given me a new sense of pride, and it’s reenergized me to be the very best that I can be.”

Prior to the inaugural national dedication, the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial has been conducting monthly presentations in which it invites the descendants of the USCT to attend similar dedication programs on the first Saturday of each month. Frank Smith, the founding director of the museum and memorial got the idea from Wills to include the national ceremony as an addition to the monthly program.

Smith said the event was necessary to help combat the rising historical misconceptions concerning the involvement of the Black troops in the war.

“The Confederates and the neo-Confederates have succeeded in getting Americans to believe that there were only White people in the Civil War,” Smith said.

Among the other inconsistencies Smith hopes to dispel through the museum and its programs are the benevolence of the Confederacy, the lack of Black self-help and the slaves’ preference to remain in bondage.

Smith said of the misconceptions: “They [Confederates and neo-Confederates] got the world believing a story that’s really outrageous and ridiculous. What we had to do was build a monument or museum big enough where we could change that and get people now to look at this war more seriously as a war of liberation not only for Black people, but liberation for America.”

During the time of reflection, Wills emphasized the timeliness and importance of keeping the Black soldiers in mind.

“It’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and Americans are remembering that epic battle. Once again, they’re largely forgetting the United States Colored Troops, so this is relevant because we cannot allow them to be forgotten,” Wills said.

“It’s fitting that we lit a candle highlighting a national remembrance of them in the nation’s capital with the national museum that’s dedicated in their honor.”