On Independence Day, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile

This past weekend was “Independence Day”. It was my first 4th of July back in the United States and I just didn’t want to celebrate.  I love the United States and I am so proud of the fact that I am a United States citizen.  I am even more proud of the fact that I am an Iowan.  For those of you that know me well, and especially those I met while living abroad, you know that I cannot shut up about Iowa on any given day.  It courses through my veins and the Iowa niceness literally cannot be stopped at times.  However, being proud does not stop me from telling the home I love that we are wrong.  Tough love as it were.  We are wrong for allowing our country to continue to put people in the ground because we have concocted this view that they are scary or delinquent or violent.  Black people are not what our school history books have told us they are.

I was encouraged to watch the documentary “Slavery By Another Name” this past week.  I took Saturday to do so and have had a slow boil of anger bubbling up ever since.  This documentary provides us with information regarding the time between the abolition of slavery and World War II.  It tells of the convict leasing system that allowed private industry to hire convicts for pennies and continue to keep Black people under a system that led to more Black death and more Black folks locked up for ‘crime’. It allowed me to understand the beginnings of our prison industrial complex and why we can’t seem to change the way we view Black people in this country.

https://youtu.be/gLmcmF6qWL8

A week after watching Jesse Williams proclaim to us all why Black lives really do matter I was again defeated by the damning evidence presented in this documentary.  I was feeling gutted and very unpatriotic going into Monday.  I spent my time with my family on Sunday and Monday – got to enjoy the innocence of my nieces being silly – and then it was back to the grind on Tuesday.  A grind that I have been happy to be on since starting my new job in May.

Then on Wednesday the name Alton Sterling started floating around the Facebook and Twitter worlds.  I can’t bring myself to watch another video of a Black man or woman being brutally taken away from this world.  I can’t do it.  As Luvvie Ajayi says – it’s a snuff film – and I for one won’t be partaking in it anymore.  She also spent a lot of time discussing how we protect white life and animal life – those videos get taken off of social media quick so we don’t have to see it – but Black life?  Nah, it gets paraded around with no regard for LIFE – played automatically like it is for sport.  I did, however, listen to a fifteen year old weep for the loss of his father and that is something I will never forget.

Then I wake up today – Thursday – one day after learning about Alton Sterling to learn the name Philando Castile.  This is a man who was shot in his car after being stopped for a taillight being broken.  Again, I will not be partaking in this video watching.  I will not be complicit in this awful reality we live in.

What I will do is continue to provide people with information and continue to talk to others about realities that they may not believe exist.  I will continue becoming involved with my local NAACP chapter and try to bring more white people together to discuss these things and find outlets for being a true ally.  I will do so because it is right and I am tired of going to sleep every night worrying that the next hashtag will hit directly home.  I did not return to the United States to stand idly by.  You shouldn’t either.

Marvin’s Black History Timeline Part 2

Our Leaders Are Taken From Us!

They took Malcolm and John and Martin, and in doing so they broke our spirits and took our hearts and souls. We will still fight and move forward because we are survivors, but without our strong and wise leaders we as a people will never ever be truly united as one. If only the color of our skin could be the glue that binds then we would be strong. However, we, as black people, suffer the same unjust, unequal, and unfair lies that were promised to us. Sadly we do not think or act the same since we come from a slave mentality, broken houses, and a lack of education. We, as a people, will never be unified. There is not one message that touches us all the same way. We have no trust in the establishment.

1965 Malcolm X, Black Nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is assassinated (Feb. 21)

• State troopers violently attack peaceful demonstrators, led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they try to cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Fifty marchers are hospitalized, on what is now called “Bloody Sunday”, after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the Voting Rights Act five months later (March 7)

• Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern Blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal (Aug. 10)

• In six days of rioting in Watts, a black section of Los Angeles, 35 people are killed and 883 injured (Aug. 11-16)

1966 The Black Panthers are founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (Oct.)

1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. (April 4)

“Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud! James Brown, Ali, Vietnam, segregation, the projects, drugs. It’s all starting to take its toll on us, we are angry, and it’s time to burn this MoFo to the ground! I ain’t no damn slave and I ain’t bailing no hay or picking no cotton. Try to make me do it and see what I do to you! I’m a strong, angry black man and the gate is open. I’m out here, so look out, here I come to get you!!”

I think this image is what scared the hell out of whitey and that’s when the establishment went into protection mode, “We must not let them niggers succeed! We must keep them down, send the watch dogs (the police) to police them, give them drugs and guns, and let them kill themselves. This will prove that they are the animals we know them to be!!”

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1970’s ~ 2000 Social and economical issues

Since the gains of the 1950s–1970s, African-American communities have been suffering from extremely high incarceration rates of their young males. This is due to a variety of factors that include the Drug War, imposition of sentencing guidelines, cutbacks in government assistance, and restructuring of industry (including the loss of working-class jobs) that lead to high poverty rates, government neglect, a breakdown in traditional family units, and unfavorable social policies. African-Americans have the highest imprisonment rate of any major ethnic group in the world.

The Southern states of the former Confederacy, which had historically maintained slavery longer than the remainder of the country and imposed post-Reconstruction oppression, have the highest rates of incarceration and application of the death penalty.

Marvin’s Black History Timeline Part I

Hello everyone! The next three posts will be from my good friend Marvin Dangerfield. Besides having the greatest name of all time he is a Funk/Soul DJ from Detroit who has been living in Japan for awhile. He was a US Marine and found his niche in Japanese Radio and the English Conversation School industries. He is an incredible man who constantly mentors me and makes me sit down when I need it. 🙂 Love you Marvin and thank you for always being willing to contribute to my blog.

Disclaimer: Marvin’s thoughts will be in italics below.

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Black History in America, land of the free, home of the brave!!

When it all began!

Hello brothers and sisters may peace and joy be with you and yours. My little sister Heather has asked me to make some comments about Black history in the 60’s, 1965 to be exact, or current Black American history, so I felt it would be best to do a timeline, go back to the roots, and summarize different eras of importance, so please follow me as I try to do this in a simple and hopefully informative fashion.

1619 First slave arrives in Virginia
1793 Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin greatly increases the demand for slave labor
1857 The Dred Scott case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not citizens.

What if the cotton gin had never been created? What if the first slaves brought to the US had been weak and fragile, un-trainable, and violent to the point of death? Would more slaves have been brought to replenish and replace them? What if?

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Free at last, free at last, thank you Jesus, free at last!! Hold up! Wait a minute! Not, so fast?

The Civil War was fought and won by the North and Lincoln freed the slaves. Free to do what? Free to prosper and live a fair equal life as all other Americans? Or, free to choose your own poison? Stay in the South, work on a plantation and be treated as a slave, but only making a penny for your back breaking effort; or move to the North to only find out that they don’t like you too much there as well and although you’re bailing hay or picking cotton you’re still a third class citizen gathered in the worst areas and treated like animals. It’s an all new hell for us to adapt to.

1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward, shall be free.”

1865 Congress establishes the Freedmen’s Bureau to protect the rights of newly emancipated blacks (March)

•The Civil War ends (April 9)

•Lincoln is assassinated (April 14)

The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee by ex-Confederates (May)

•Slavery in the United States is effectively ended when 250,000 slaves in Texas finally receive the news that the Civil War had ended two months earlier (June 19)

Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery (Dec. 6)

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My vote should count; if only I could read, write, know where to vote, and had candidates that actually represented my interests!

Ok, darky don’t get so high and mighty, yeah so your kind are doing well and moving on up to the big leagues, but the man, still controls it all and don’t forget that, so shut up and get back in your place. This here table is for White folks only! Same as this bus, this school, this neighborhood, this everything, casting your little nigger vote ain’t gone change a damn thing!!

1870 Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote

Hiram Revels, of Mississippi, is elected the country’s first African-American senator

・During Reconstruction, sixteen blacks served in Congress and about 600 served in states legislatures

1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the “colored section” of a bus to a white passenger (Dec.1).

・In response to her arrest, Montgomery’s black community launch a successful year-long bus boycott. Montgomery’s buses are desegregated on Dec. 21, 1956.

It’s time for us to unite and stand up for what we know is right. We see now that to win the battle it has to be a team effort and there has to be a negative economical effect on the white community before the white man will listen to our demands. Power in numbers! If we don’t work together nothing moves. We can do this if we follow our strong and wise leaders into battle. We can and we shall overcome, if not peacefully, then by any means necessary!

Tune in for Part II tomorrow! Thank you for reading! –Heather–

SNCC and BYP 100

Today’s topic will be about two organizations that are nearly 50 years apart in their inception, but have some similarities in their movements and structure.

SNCC (often pronounced “snick”) or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a group that emerged from a student meeting at Shaw University led by Ella Baker. The first chairman of the organization was the late Marion Barry who went on to be the Mayor of Washington DC and passed away this past November. Other notable people from Black History served as the chairman of SNCC throughout it’s existence. Those included were John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, and H. Rap Brown.

The organization was started from an $800 grant from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), but was it’s own organization. James Forman explains in the video below what SNCC wanted to be and achieve.

SNCC was one of the driving forces behind campaigns such as Freedom Summer, the March on Washington, and Voting Rights. During the march from Selma to Montgomery, SNCC was there being led by the current chairman at the time, John Lewis. SNCC members were some of the people jailed, hosed down, trampled, and beaten.

SNCC carried on after the Voting Rights Act was passed, but so many of the members were becoming more disillusioned with the idea that the government would protect their rights to protest and some members started to believe that non-violence was not the answer so the group eventually disbanded in the early 1970s. The last leader of SNCC, Stokely Carmichael, was one of the people that championed the call for Black Power and spoke at a conference at Berkeley in 1966 which helped lead into the Black Panther Party movement.

Jumping forward 45 years I bring you the Black Youth Project, and more specifically BYP100. BYP100 is a grassroots movement being led by incredibly inspirational people like Charlene A. Carruthers. Carruthers, who was born and bred in Chicago, came to be the National Director of BYP100 after she led multiple campaigns with organizations like the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People’s Action. Basically, she is one of the coolest women ever.

BYP100 itself has stepped out to be one of the organizations that has been leading this movement. It formed in July of 2013 after the Trayvon Martin verdict.

BYP100 is focused on the broad goal of ending the criminalization of Black youth in America. This includes all Black youth whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, trans-gender, cis-gender, bi-sexual, or queer. All. Their mission is as follows:

“We train young Black activists in direct action grassroots organizing skills, so they can build the power we need to transform our communities. We mobilize young Black leaders on issues including ending criminalization and dismantling the prison industrial complex, expanding and securing LGBT and women’s rights. We run campaigns using on the ground and digital tactics towards the goal of ending the criminalization of Black youth, racial profiling and police brutality.”

Their campaigns are being run out of chapters in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and the Bay Area. They are empowering youth to use their voice, their skills, and their power to protest. They are teaching youth to be the change. And it is incredible to watch.

These two organizations are different, of course, but what strikes me the most is that they are organized and ran by youth and young professionals. Each organization did and is using it’s voice to speak up and show it’s solidarity to the movement and what’s right. Amazing stuff here. Please take a look at the links throughout this post for more information.

Here are a few other links for your reference regarding SNCC:

http://www.crmvet.org/docs/orgsdocs.htm#docssncc
http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/index.html
http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sncc
http://zinnedproject.org/materials/sncc/

It’s February! Black History Month 2015 Begins

Hello Everybody!

I wanted to start off this year by telling you thank you, again, for always reading and supporting me. I always genuinely appreciate all your comments, thoughts, and kind words. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr you have probably seen quite a bit from me during the last half of 2014. I have been reading a lot of different media outlets and struggling with a lot of what is happening back home. It has been an incredibly tough 8 months for me in regards to social justice. That being said, I have never been prouder to an American. Seeing so many people take to the streets to protest injustice and using their social media saavy to engage others in digital townhalls and/or discussions has been an incredible thing to watch. I am lucky to have an incredible support system here in Japan and back home. I couldn’t make it through these struggles without all of you. I would also not be able to stay motivated to work harder and smarter without you all.

I want to take a moment, okay a long moment, to thank some of these people individually before we jump into this year’s focus. In Japan I have had constant support from Jeff Horton and Roberte Foster. I am thankful that you two are with me every step of the way and that we understand each other, truly. These two are always willing to hear me vent and are always willing to vent back. They are also willing to brainstorm and that is crucial. We went to the Tokyo Solidarity March together back in December and it was an incredible experience that I will never forget. It was a great way to feel like we were able to DO something.

I’ve also had some amazing support from my faithful friend Ai. She listens and offers new perspectives. Plus, she’s a fierce friend. Ann Tonpakdeethum, Paul Richards, Jamie Duck, and Brett Hamilton have been amazing. It’s not always easy when we grew up in different countries to see where we are all coming from, but there has never been a time where we make each other feel invalid and that is invaluable. Marvin Dangerfield has become my big brother in every aspect of the word. His life experience gives me a new perspective whenever we speak and sometimes when I get too loud he puts me in my place. Thank you. Katie Martin, through teaching me about feminism, has also given me new tools to discuss systemic racism. I am grateful for always receiving articles from you and lunches where we get to shake our fists at the world. Jarrett Gonzalez, I am thankful for you because we get to laugh at the hypocrisy together and you introduced me to the GREAT Ta-Nehisi Coates. Eternally grateful.

Back home, I would like to thank my parents and my brother for always letting me discuss these things with you. Seriously, it is such a lucky thing that I can discuss stuff that is so important to me with you. It gives me a chance for you to know me more and for me to know you. These discussions aren’t always easy, but I thank you for always listening and telling me what you think. This goes for you too Elaine and Jeff. You too, Uncle P and Aunt Cheech.

Asheley Brown, who is constantly volunteering her incredible skills to make me banners every year and helping me make my blog look more snazzy, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Patricia Fitzwater, Staci Robinson, Adam Ragan, Stephanie Thorson, Shaleese Beasley, Asheley Brown (again), Matthew Ferguson, Jeff Williams, and Michael Weeks. You guys are always down to listen. You are always down to talk. I am forever grateful for that and for your constant and INCREDIBLE friendship. Staci and Adam have read over my thoughts before posting countless times and I can’t thank you enough for feedback. Tyler Olson, Frank Ugochukwu, Chris Carr, Lilia Toson, Kimberly Swanner, NaKenya Shumate, Kim Morris, Paul Washington, Lemmie Nelson, and Amber Richards are constantly giving me articles on Facebook (ie I stalk your pages) and inspiring me to do more. Thank you.

Rick Fearnley and Shona Lawley. I have been so appreciative of your listening ears and hearing your thoughts. I have also appreciated your support immensely.

Ben Murray. We have vehemently disagreed about almost everything. Not everything, but close. However, I am thankful for your constant discussion and respect. I think we have been able to facilitate some discussions online that may not have brought some people in before. I thank you for this and look forward to continuing our discussions as time goes by.

I am also thankful for the resources I have accumulated over the last couple years. Whether it is Eunique Jones-Gibson and her amazing Because of Them, We Can campaign or Luuvie Ajayi and her humor blog that is also insightful or the BYP 100 and their incredible non-stop organizing or Urban Cusp and their amazing online campaigns like #NotOneDime or #BlackOutBlackFriday. Thank you for constantly feeding me with new information and thoughts.

Okay, so that’s enough thanking. 🙂 It’s getting too mushy over here. Lol.

Here is what we are doing this year! Since this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Selma march, the Malcolm X assassination, and the Voting Rights Act I thought it may be a good idea to reflect on 1965. I would also like to reflect on how what happened 50 years ago is effecting today, but also how they are similar. I will have some guest writers this year so please be on the lookout for them.

Thank you again, and Happy February 1st!

Hugs and Love,

Heather

Misunderstanding and Feelings

There is a lot of misunderstanding going around right now. People that feel that Darren Wilson was in his right to shoot Mike Brown don’t understand why people aren’t trusting the system. People that feel that Mike Brown was murdered by Darren Wilson don’t understand why people can’t understand that Black America is still living under a system of oppression that is constantly to its disadvantage.

Then we got feelings. People are outraged, angry, sad, frustrated, distraught, depressed, and scared. These feelings are being felt on both sides of the issue. Police officers are in fear because they either haven’t had proper training or they are in fear of what the civilian they are encountering is going to do. Black Americans are in fear because they are in fear of dying. Literally. Outrage is being felt due to some looting and rioting going on; people who are outraged about this aren’t seeing the bigger picture. Yes, it isn’t good. Yes, it is not exactly helpful. Yes, it damages property. Outrage is also being felt because Black Americans are dying. Literally.

Luvvie Ayaji (if you don’t know her, I recommend you get on this bandwagon) broke it down best when she said “Those people who are rioting in Ferguson? Well, I can’t say I blame them. Because anger can be so palpable that it gurgles up your throat and makes your flesh break out in hives. We rage because feeling powerless makes you want to burn something to the ground.” It may not be the most productive way to deal with anger, but it makes sense. It doesn’t mean that anyone is condoning it. But, Black Americans are dying. Literally.

I have spoken with a lot of folks over the last 10 days and I can say that I haven’t always agreed with people. Some folks feel me so much that we sit together in frustration. I have weeped, my friends have cried. This shit has just got real for mainstream America. But this shit has been real for Black Americans since they came over shackled head to toe on a slave ship. Because we’ve been killing Black Americans since they stepped foot onto this country we call the USA. Before we even became the USA.

I have enjoyed talking with others and I hope they have enjoyed talking with me. I know that these conversations can be difficult, but know that they are beneficial to all of us. The most important thing to remember is to discuss the issues with people, ask questions, and be kind. We may get angry, but we can’t get personal. We can tell stories and we can give anecdotes, but if we attack each other individually we are never going to get anywhere. Remembering our common humanity when having these discussions is imperative.

This all being said, I will continue to rage and I hope you will rage with me. If you are looking for some resources to understand people’s perspective please see below.

Websites:
Colorlines: http://colorlines.com/
BYP100: http://byp100.org/
The Root: http://www.theroot.com/
The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/
Urban Cusp: http://www.urbancusp.com/
Salon: http://www.salon.com/
The Grio: http://thegrio.com/
TakePart: http://www.takepart.com/
Slate: http://www.slate.com/

Essays:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Books:
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby

People:
W.E.B. Du Bois: http://www.webdubois.org/
James Baldwin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baldwin
Tim Wise: http://www.timwise.org/
Ta-Nehisi Coates: http://www.theatlantic.com/ta-nehisi-coates/
Melissa Harris-Perry: http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry
AwesomelyLuvvie: http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/
MochaMomma: http://www.kellywickham.com/mochamomma
W.Kamau Bell: http://www.wkamaubell.com/