White People, Speak Up

Friends, enemies, colleagues, I implore you. This week, talk to another white person. Tell them white supremacy is terrorism.

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How does one go about their daily life without acknowledging what is happening in the world around them? How does one socially interact with human beings each day, and not engage in discourse around many of the social issues of which we are currently plagued? I ask because, this oblivion must be nice. This privilege of not having to worry about your general safety and human rights is a privilege I would love to have and live.

I wish my days could be carefree, but they aren’t. As long as there are folks who walk the Earth believing that “White” and “Black” are ethnicities, I will never be carefree. As long as folks call me militant or make jokes about being conscious, I will never be carefree. As long as white men are in power, I will never be carefree. Call me pessimistic. Call me negative. Call me hype or too serious. Tell me I am doing too much. I don’t really care.

Society has moved forward because of people who did too much. Malcolm X did too much. MLK did too much. Fred Hampton did too much. Harriet Tubman did too much, and Nat Turner, a personal fave, definitely did too much as well. I can’t think of any better shoes to follow behind.

Each headline that concerns a marginalized group is a headline that matters to me… I can sit on a beach with a good book and relax, but you better believe that book is going to push my thinking as another resource to build my knowledge base. Knowledge is power, and it is the only power I can somewhat safely obtain. I am hungry for knowledge, and I am hungry for the power to have true dominion over my body.

Each day I do not learn something new about the pursuit of true liberation is a day that was wasted. Whether the discipline be spirituality, education, politics, the arts, etc. The medium does not matter. What matters is that with each word, and every discussion I am one step closer to mental freedom. 

I admit, many days I am discouraged. It can feel like a burden to see the world we live in for what it truly is… man has turned a place of peace and beauty into a place of violence and disarray. Yet, even on my worst day, I am thankful to know and see the truth. I woke up four years ago when Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets. That was the beginning of a journey that I feel will never end. It is my hope that the events of the past few days will wake up my white counterparts.

Friends, enemies, colleagues, I implore you. This week, talk to another white person. Tell them white supremacy is terrorism. Don’t let micro-aggressions slide, speak up. Discard your fragility. Work through the guilt. Give a damn about the millions of people in this world that don’t have the power that you do without asking. Reflect on this fact everyday. Then maybe, you may understand a tenth of what marginalized groups feel on a daily basis.

Julia

Freedom to Agitate

Happy Birthday U.S.A. and blessings and honor to the Black ancestors who birthed you.

As our nation’s birthday arrives I am forced to focus on it’s development overtime, and it’s history of colonization and appropriation. I am angered by the irony of celebrating freedom in a nation where freedom is elusive. This isn’t speculation. This is just facts.

It’s 2017 and I feel we are no closer to the true freedom marginalized groups seek. Plantation slavery has morphed into the financial slavery of school loans; the prison system; and the world of media and sports entertainment. Major corporations have taken the place of plantation owners, but the one thing thing that remains constant is the people at the top. The group is small, male, and white.

Julia, what about Beyonce and Jay Z, or Oprah? My response, what about them? They have accomplished a lot, amassed a lot, and given back a lot. But please do not be fooled. When the men at the top wake up and say “no more”, then they too can fall victim to bad press and negative headlines. Just ask Dave Chapelle, Martin Lawrence, and dare I say Bill Cosby?

I’m wondering, tomorrow as fireworks blast off across the nation, how many folks will be proud to be an American? Even at my worst, I could find something to cling to as a citizen of this country. But at the moment, I am very very stuck. So much is happening around us, and yes it always has been…but this feels different to me. What about you? Do you feel like you can’t breathe sometimes when you read or watch the news. Another Black man shot; another presidential tweet; another war threat… and now, he wants our personal identification information. Why? A registry? Further policing?

I live in fear, but it fuels me. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed and ignore the world, but most days I want to fight. So, tomorrow I am celebrating the freedom to fight and agitate. I fight for true liberation of minds, hearts, and bodies. One day at a time.

Happy Birthday U.S.A. and blessings and honor to the Black ancestors who birthed you.

Julia

 

Black Educators At Work

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness!

As a black woman and black educator I find that I often have to prove my blackness to the children I teach. #blackwomenatwork 

I’m a firm believer that black children need black teachers. It’s what keeps me going on the hardest of days. It’s what keeps me patient in what can sometimes be a sea of (controlled. . . always controlled) chaos. It’s what keeps me sane when the lesson – be it social or academic – is just not sinking in.

All too often – kids simply forget that I am more like them than not.

It’s as if one can’t be smart and black.

It’s baffling to me because after having passed the ever changing five year average teacher hump – I find it really easy to connect with kids, especially the ones that look like me and grow up similar to how I grew up.  And, I thought that they’d feel the same way.

Sometimes, adults that look like you and live how you live just get it.

But, that’s not always the case – I’ve found.

Though kids often say to me –

“You sound like my mama,” or “you remind me of my [x, y, z].”

They also say things like –

“I didn’t think somebody like you listened to our kind of music.” Or, “Oh, you know that song?”

“I thought you only shopped at Whole Foods”

And, “You know what this [what some people, not me, would call slang] word means?”

 

Well, yes, black child. Yes, I do. 

Yes because I am black, like you. 

That is why I take every opportunity to remind the students that I teach that I’m just like them.

It is why codeswitching is so important to me.

It’s why laughing, playing AND learning together are one in the same. 

Yesterday I told an 8 year old that the song he was singing (so passionately as he wrote his acrostic poem about pride), was about selling drugs.

He literally said, “Oh my God, what?! How do you know that song? I thought you only knew like Gospel songs or something like that.”

Cute.

But, no.

It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!

Though I do listen to Gospel music (which the same child also sings allllll the time), I also like Andra Day, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Maybe a little older than their taste of Migos, but, I can still keep up. 

And in the same breath, I also know trigonometry and love alliterations – and neither of those things should be wow factors. 

It’s disheartening that the idea of a black man or woman in many instances is the exception and not the given to the rule.

It’s our media, it’s our language and it’s our actions.

 “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeing black magic as exceptions to the rules written by the white forefathers of the constitution is another form of oppression. 

I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness! 

 

Be Black and hardworking.

Be Black and inquisitive

Be Black and love to write.

Be Black and sing and dance and play from your heart.

Be Black and be the smartest person in the room.

Be Black . . . Be Proud.

Be Black, be proud and know that you, Black child, can be anything you want to be.

 

-Shamira

Always Cloudy

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege.

The things that bring us the most happiness also bring us the most pain.

Little black boys are rays of sunshine and little black girls are breaths of fresh air.

Such joy I get from their laughter.

And, torment from their cries.

Where we’re from it’s always cloudy without the social, economic and political advantages of white privilege. Rain is just over the mountain, always on its way.

This week when I looked into the eyes of our children, I saw rain.

Underneath their laughter, I saw pain.

It was the reflection of my eyes, in theirs, looking back at me.

 

 

I’d heard about our missing girls and boys from DC early on in the week. And, every single day as I looked at a student, I wondered what it’d be like to no longer hear their voice.

I can’t compare the love of a child that I’ve conceived to the love of the children that I’ve taught, as I’ve not participated in the miracle of the former. But, I’d hope to think that they’d be about the same.

The power of the media is unprecedented. And, many of the numbers of reported girls and boys missing are (allegedly) false.

Whatever the rhetoric, whether the number of missing children is that of the past week or the past decade – the fact remains:

 

Black bodies have been stolen for hundreds of years and during slavery black babies were removed from the care of their enslaved mothers as early as 12 months.  

 

Here we are, 2017 – still enslaved, and still having our bodies and those of our children snatched.

Like crabs in a barrel, Julia says, we’re struggling trying to keep up. Fighting and fussing over each other trying to make due.

So, on my happiest days, I’m still weary.

Sometimes when everyone is laughing, I pause and think about the clouds.

 

Until the systemic barriers that we face on a regular basis are dismantled, it’ll always be cloudy.

 

On the bright side, I’m so happy to have hundreds of rays of sunshine and hundreds of breaths of fresh air.

 

-Shamira

Finding my “Black”

As people of color, someone else is always defining who we are, and communicating that to the world…

I have written in the past about racial identity and what it means to be Black in this country. This is something that I constantly reflect upon. It’s important to me, because we all struggle to discover/embrace/cultivate our identities.

Recently, I was at a conference where I was asked to share what my racial identity means to me, and for the first time I couldn’t identify as Black as easily as I once could. Being Black in this country means so many things, and comes with a burden that takes a daily toll. I couldn’t identify with ease because I refuse to identify with a term that was created to confine people who look like me. I refuse to ascribe to a classification created to subjugate me and minimize my worth. Black and White are social constructs. They are not racial identities.

Listening to the group at the conference share, I was saddened to think that as adults we still have trouble separating our social class from our ethnicity. Black is an identity that was given to us, forced upon us. Considering this, two questions come to mind.

One: As an African-American if I am not Black, then what am I?

Two: How do I identify with the Black experience without conforming to social constructs created to divide?

I am angry that at 33 I am still discovering, embracing, and cultivating my identity. However, I do believe that as an African-American this is normal. So much of what we see and hear in the media is crafted to confuse and cause us to question our self-worth. As people of color, someone else is always defining who we are, and communicating that to the world. 

This is in part why I decided to explore and learn more about my DNA. It has always troubled me, not knowing where I am from. Some of my friends of color have challenged me in my search, suggesting that I am American and that is all. I disagree; this is not enough. Saying that I am just American robs me of a rich cultural history that defines resiliency and strength. Robbing me of my African roots, encouraging me to just accept that I am American, is akin to telling me that “all lives matter” when they clearly do not. 

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So how do I answer when asked about how I identify racially? I could just say that I am African-American, but for me that still isn’t enough. That only tells part of the story. I take pride in our history of struggle and perseverance in a land that continues to view us as “other”. And, I also take pride in the history of our African roots. I choose to identify with the entire story, because in wholeness there is truth. I am African-American. I am African. In me is the blood of kings and queens. This is me finding my “Black” and owning it. I am a person of color living in the United States of America, and I fight daily to never lose sight of that fact and what it means.

Julia

 

Politics Not As Usual

“Nothing about Trumps administration is the norm, and nothing about how we respond should be the norm either. This includes the way we educate and speak to our children about the past, present and future.”

img_1471There is so much going on in this country right now, and it’s super hard to process at times. I find myself on a daily emotional roller coaster. It’s hard to know how to focus my attention as a black woman. There are so many issues that affect and concern me simultaneously.

There are many national debates at the moment, one prevalent debate being, “Should we give Donald Trump A Chance?” This is a question I am not going to answer at the moment. I don’t feel my opinion on the matter is important. What is important however, is what informs my opinion; and I feel that is true for all of us as American Citizens.

It’s Black History Month, and while I am not a fan of the absurdity of celebrating Black History during the shortest month of the year, I think it’s pretty shady that the White house has done a piss poor job of recognizing the rich culture and contribution of African Americans to our nations’ history. To be honest, I didn’t expect much anyway, but it would have been nice to have been pleasantly surprised. Bottom line, it really isn’t the President’s responsibility to educate the public about anything. Nor is it the media’s. We operate on this false expectation that these institutions are going to follow a moral compass and do what is in the best interests of the people; historically, the men in power have always done what is best for them unless the less privileged have put up one hell of a fight.

That being said, Black people, people of color, we have a responsibility to educate our youth on our own. Our schools are not teaching them about their history. Our schools are not teaching them that their lives matter. The television they watch, the music they listen to, the images they see on social media…none of it is crafted with their empowerment in mind. We have a responsibility to take their education into our own hands and change the narrative in Trumps America.

Right now in Washington, D. C. our President is changing the way government works right before our very eyes, and the media and congress are still behaving like it is politics as usual. This is absurd. The way he came into power was unusual. Nothing about Trump’s administration is the norm, and nothing about how we respond should be the norm either. This includes the way we educate and speak to our children about the past, present and future. 

I believe it is equally as important to educate our youth about their past as is about the future of this country. There is a very nationalistic tone coming from the White House, and if it continues where does that leave people of color? If we are to educate our youth with fidelity, that means we also need to educate ourselves as adults. What does that look like, sound like, feel like? I don’t have the answers, but I would love to have the conversation. Everything feels very important right now…scarily and eerily so. These 28 days can’t just be about Rosa Parks and MLK…just saying. They are important, but it’s not enough.

If you are stuck with how to start the conversation and you happen to live in the Philadelphia area, allow me to suggest a trip to the African American Museum in Philadelphia. They have a great new exhibit, Waging Peace: 100 Years of Action. The exhibit is presented by the American Friends Service Committee and it is on display January 14-April 23rd. It’s a great way to start conversations about immigration, prison reform, just economics, ending discrimination, building peace, and how to engage in justice work.

Teachers, take your students. Parents, take your children. Adults, take your friends or a stranger. Just have a conversation. Spread the word. Share some information. Engage in debate and live the discourse. We have to change the narrative that surrounds us.

Julia

Enjoy some pics from our visit to the exhibit!

 

 

 

And how are the children?

If we want to ensure that all of our children are fed, we have have to feed them ourselves.

We have to teach our children that this is not the first time and it will not be the last that their livelihood will feel threatened.

And how are the children?

If there is one thing we as people care about it is our babies.

Black, brown, orange or otherwise. . .

The children . . . our children, are our future.

We protect them.

We provide for them.

We ensure that all is well in the universe, for them.

 

Troublesome to think that the tribulations the black and brown community has gone through, continues to go through, may gradually escalate under new policy and executive order.

So, a question arises.

How do we feed the children under this new administration?

When I think about feeding the children – i’m actively thinking both literally and figuratively.

How do we aggressively address how we will educate black and brown children during the Trump Era?

How do we ensure that their bellies are full; their minds are overflowing with knowledge and their hearts have swelled with pride and preservation of their identities, culture and and inherent innocence?

How do we ensure preservation of their bodies when everything surrounding them details otherwise?

When black spirit is being attacked from every angle . . . how do we ensure longevity and perseverance?

How do we ensure that we will have enough resources (as a community) to fill their bellies with nutritious meals on a daily basis? . . . when we are struggling to do that today.

How do we ensure safety and security, among violence and ill manner and intent?

 

Do we tell our children the truth. . .?

Do we explain to them that this is nothing new? That we haven’t been free since we crossed the Atlantic.

Do we remind them that #blacklivesmatter was a trend before Trump was elected to the highest office of the land?

Do we teach them about mass incarceration and relate it back to all of the black men and women who are missing from our communities because they are behind bars? That Malcolm X said, “if you’re black, you were born in jail,” more than 50 years ago.

Do we ask them about their schooling? Then teach them about lack of funding, resources and redlining?

Do we teach them that they are black and they are beautiful – and simply because they are both black and beautiful- they will be under attack every single day?

 

The answer is yes.

 

Yes to everything.

 

We have to be aggressive in educating our children. Now, more than ever.

If we want to ensure that all of our children are fed, we have have to feed them ourselves.

We have to teach our children that this is not the first time and it will not be the last that their livelihood will feel threatened.

We have to explain to our babies that we’ve been fighting the same fight all along.

Maybe we don’t have to fight behind closed doors anymore.  And, maybe we’ve garnered enough people to fight the good fight.

Then again, maybe we haven’t.

Because it was the people who elected the current administration.

 

Moving forward, those that want to fight the good fight must understand – there can only be one fight.

It is intersectional.

It is intentional.

It is big.

And, it is so complicated.

It always is and it always will be.

Our experiences are vast and our ideologies are diverse.

Though, at the core, the question remains. . .

 

How are the children?

 

This is a call to action.

Join us.

Support us.

 

We will have more, soon.

This is a promise.

So. Much. More.

 

For now, parlae on.

 

-Shamira