Resolved

I resolve to work hard at standing up for what is right.

I resolve to fight against injustice.

I resolve to engage in discourse around inequity daily.

I resolve to deliberately provoke and challenge stagnant thinking.

I resolve to always welcome anyone who would challenge my thinking for the better.

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I admit I have been quiet lately. The events since the election have been a lot to process. I go back and forth from feeling extremely violent, to extremely melancholy, and always ending with utter disbelief. Then, because I have a conscious, contrary to popular “white” belief, and those who feel that my perspective is too narrow or unrealistic, I beat myself up…

 

Because maybe I am too hard on Trump and White America… (she says cautiously).

 

Maybe I should listen to Barack and have some sympathy/understanding  for those in power; those with privilege; who are struggling to accept the changes in social and economic structures that have come to pass under Obama’s administration. I mean, their way of life has been literally under threat for the last 8 years….(she says as she rolls her eyes).

 

The real reason I have been quiet is because I literally have had nothing nice to say…and while that usually hasn’t stopped me, I really needed to get myself in check so that I could write coherently and intelligently. Otherwise, this post would just have be a page full of expletives.

 

Today is MLK day, and at the end of the week Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States of America. If it wasn’t so absurd, I would be rolling around laughing in my bed right now. This is our reality. I am no longer in shock. I have accepted our nation’s fate, and have decided to move on with my new year’s resolutions.

 

I resolve to work hard at standing up for what is right.

I resolve to fight against injustice.

I resolve to engage in discourse around inequity daily.

I resolve to deliberately provoke and challenge stagnant thinking.

I resolve to always welcome anyone who would challenge my thinking for the better.

 

Trump’s America is a America I plan to challenge daily. Today, I rededicate myself to the mission and vision of Parlae, and I want to personally thank all of the folks who have supported us in our first year. We have a lot of plans for this upcoming year, and we are very excited. We have a dream, and we honor our forefathers and mothers today. Without them, there is no platform. Without them, there is no us…

 

PS…

 

I am not for all of the MLK posts on social media from all of my followers and the people I follow who never say anything about social justice on any other day….

 

Let’s be real. I am about this life 365, and yes I wasn’t always, but I am WOKE now. It irks me when I see posts about social justice just because it’s trending. Do me a favor and don’t bother. Consciousness is not a trend. Heads up…Black History Month is coming….please don’t get on my nerves…

 

There is a campaign to turn off all tv’s during the inauguration Friday. I have also heard many people of color say they plan to ignore the event altogether. My response to this: NOOOOOO!!!! What this man has to say on Friday is important. Why? Because we need to know what we are up against. You don’t want to watch on tv? Fine…then live stream that shit. Read the transcript. Make sure you read it to your children, your students, share it with your family. Spread the word!!! There is nothing more deadly than an unseen enemy. Knowledge is power.
Julia

The Journey Towards Freedom, A Reflection of the NMAAHC

A woman speaks over the already hushed crowd and tells us that we’re traveling 70 feet below ground back to the year 1400. She gives brief histories about the importance of the museum and the power of our culture. The elevator continues to fall all while years tick by through the glass . . . 1968, 1948, 1865, 1863, 1808, 1776, 1565, 1400.

The Journey Towards Freedom:

I’ll say first – there are no people stronger than us. And though I’ve always known this, on this day I was able to feel this. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a magical place. Curators tell us that it’s 100 years in the making and I wholeheartedly believe that it couldn’t have come at a better time.  

Tickets to this gem of a place are few and far between; but I was able to join my sister on Christmas Eve, ’16. I can’t fathom putting into words what I felt in my heart & spirit in a way that will feel as worthwhile to a reader as it did to be there in flesh. I’ll share some photos, below; but, only a few because even those won’t do it justice. 

I spent about 3 1/2 hours at the NMAAHC, and covered possibly half (I’m guessing) of the museum. I spent that time in the space called “The Journey Towards Freedom, 15th-21st centuries.”

We started the journey in a large glass elevator. A woman speaks over the already hushed crowd and tells us that we’re traveling 70 feet below ground back to the year 1400. She gives brief histories about the importance of the museum and the power of our culture. The elevator continues to fall all while years tick by through the glass . . . 1968, 1948, 1865, 1863, 1808, 1776, 1565, 1400. 

What I saw:

– Real live slave chains 

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Chains worn by enslaved people with picture as background.
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Chains.

-The power of sugar, appropriately named the “driver of the slave trade,” and “more deadly than gold.”

Sugar bowl

-The names of so many ships carrying enslaved people carved into the walls.

It reads: “Ship Name, Country, Voyage Began, Enslaved Boarded/Survived.”

 *Saint Michel embarked in 1730 with 170 slaves. Just one enslaved person survived. 

– Harriet Tubman’s shawl and hymnal as well as Nat Turner’s bible. 


– A replica of a segregated Greensboro Lunch Counter which recounted videos of experiences. 

Visitors sit at a replica of the Greensboro Lunch Counter and read from information in front of them as video plays above. 

– Black power, everywhere. 

Videos of Dr. King
Video of marches 
Information about the Civil Rights Act and KKK Resistance.   
Black Panther Weaponry
The ideology of Black Power
Medgar Evers
Brother Malcolm

– Reflections on black women. 

Black, always beautiful
Video: women of the movement 
Video: Sister Fannie Lou Hamer 
Mamie Till-Mobley reflection
Women’s Groups 
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Rosa Parks, garment

What I felt:

Disgust for the treatment of our people dating back to the 1400s. I learned so much – and couldn’t absorb it all. 

Awe at the resilience and comradery within and amongst one another to deal with and overcome hatred, bigotry, thievery, malice … Awe at the leadership of our people. Awe at survivorship. 

Angst about the idea that many of the things we went through 50, 100, 150 years ago we’re still going through now. 

Anxiety. An anxiety so thick that all I could do was breathe at times. 

Fear – when I saw a young John Lewis speaking about police brutality. Makes me think of how often “police brutality” is used today. It feels new. Like a new phenomenon. A fad. Reflection reminds me that point 7 of the Black Panther’s 1967 Ten Point Program reads: 

We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.

Not new. Not a fad. A longstanding tradition. 

Joy for all of the beautiful black men, women and children (allies too) visiting the museum. 

Overwhelmed by what is still to be done. 

Pride because when we do things, we do them well. EVERYTHING about the museum was done well. Over 100 years it took to commission this place – twice as hard, half as much. 

Hope. Generally speaking, I hope the hype of the museum never dissipates. I hope tickets are always scarce. I hope that you have to put in a request 6 months in advance to view this magical place, five years from now. I hope people travel from near and far to stop in – and that they book their trips around the visit. I hope that everyone who visits is forever moved and transformed and that they leave with a sense of purpose and place. I hope that allies visit and leave with a mission – that they plan to fight hard and speak up. That they tell the people that look like them and share similar demographics as their families about racism, sexism & classism,  like young Bernie Sanders. 

Image result for bernie sanders getting arrested Image result for bernie sanders getting arrested

What I’m (we’re) going to do next: 

I plan to continue what I’m doing but, with a different type of purpose. An even more educated purpose. An urgent and premeditated purpose. 

I implore you to make a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Think of it as your first trip to the NMAAHC – there is no way it will be your last. Go. Be inspired. 

Check out the Injustice Boycott. I’m of the opinion that Shaun King has started something big – and most importantly, worthwhile. 

Moreover, Parlae is entering its second year in just a few days.

With age comes wisdom and responsibility.

Julia and I plan to live up to those expectations. There is a lot more in store from us.

Join us.

Parlae with us.

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The Contemplation Room, was a refreshing and necessary end to “The Journey Towards Freedom.”
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Contemplation Room. Four walls and a waterfall. Quiet & calm. Breathtaking and painstakingly necessary.

I’ll leave you with this. 

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.  

– Dr. King, April 3, 1968 

Peace & Love, Forever.

-Shamira

The Plight of the Safe Black Man

The plight of the safe black man.

Sitting in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture “A Deeper Black: Race in America,” at Temple University,  I was frustrated.

A black man had a platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016. Most importantly – a black man had the platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016, to a room full of non-black men.

After the very public murders of . . .

Alton Sterling,

Philado Castille,

Keith Lamont Scott,

Terence Crutcher,

a black man had a platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016, to a room full of non-black men.

Given that platform, I wanted Coates to get up on stage and be the angry black man. I wanted him to make the audience feel what we as black and brown people feel on a daily basis.

At one point Coates said, “When people say we’re entering a new era of domestic terrorism it’s because they’ve never been black.”

I heard that.

I felt that.

And, I wondered who else heard and felt the same.

All too often black men (boys, girls and women as well) are criminalized.

Criminalized at work, in school, in the neighborhood and on the news.

It takes a special kind of black man to be welcomed into a fairly non-black space (Academia) to talk about blackness.

Just to be clear – it’s not that black people aren’t academic – but, black people, as we know, haven’t always had the opportunity to engage in academia. Even still the five faces of oppression (violence exploitation, marginalization,  powerlessness and cultural imperialism) and continual systemic debilitation of black people continue to keep us out of Academia. Thus, the academic world, in large part, is still fairly white.

What kind of black man does it take to be welcomed into the living room of white men and women?

The answer is simple: a non threatening one.

One that code switches appropriately.

What does that mean?

One that is black (skinned) but not too black.

Remember how many times Obama was called a monkey?

One that can address issues in an urgent but not irate tone.

Not doing so didn’t work out too well for Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Fred Hampton.

So, I wonder how many times we (black/brown people) lose out on the opportunity to speak our truths based solely on audience.

If I had to assume – I’d think that those of us who’ve earned and been given a platform have to loosen/lessen/rid of some parts of our truths in order to be heard non-threateningly.

My concern is that if we continue to go that route we might not ever be actually heard.

Lastly. I’m ready for another round of the 10 point program.

Same points.

New generation.

-Shamira

…But, if you want to be basic, be basic.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

. . . But, if you want to be basic, be basic. A Response to, “Why I Can’t Be Basic.”

There are so many outlets telling us what to do, how to look, what to say, how to feel, when to breathe. . . that sometimes it’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is what we really want to do or if we’re falling for the either implicit or explicit trends that we see everywhere, everyday.

I think what you’re arguing, Julia,  is that a black woman cannot and should not be called basic because she is the epitome of everything . . . and what I’m arguing is that regardless of what a black woman is being called – she may act in any so way that she pleases and you can call it what you want.

I feel compelled to argue that if a black woman wants to be basic, then let her be basic.

By definition, a basic b**** is someone that follows the latest trends (be they good or bad) and is just one in a sea of many.

The idea of a black woman being whatever she wants to be is so important to me because I recently saw a meme that made me think twice about this ideal.

It was something along the lines of black women not needing to believe in (black) feminism because we believe in sisterhood.

I was so annoyed because no one ever said that (black) feminism and sisterhood had to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t we have both? Are they not one in the same?

Black feminism is sisterhood and sisterhood is black feminism.

Black feminism is the intersectionality of sex, class, gender and race.   

If  I had to theorize the idea of sisterhood, I think I’d copy and paste the definition of black feminism.

The idea that we can have one and not the other in and of itself is why we need them both in the first place. It’s another example of oppression – limiting what we can and cannot have.

When I’m asked to identify who I am, hands down, top 5 identifies always include black feminist. I am a black woman – never black and happening to be a woman or a woman who happens to be black. And, I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

Point. Blank. Period.

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. We keep saying it and then we walk around perpetuating stereotypes that deem it true.

#staywoke

And for the record – let’s stop stereotyping women all together.

I don’t believe even halfheartedly in the idea of a basic b****.

Not one woman should be called a basic b**** in the first place.  

Men shouldn’t be walking around calling women anything (feminism in its truest form).

And those of us in the sisterhood definitely shouldn’t be walking around bashing our gendered kinfolk (also feminism in its truest form).

Black woman, be whatever you want to be and get your life with this spoken word.

– Shamira

Code switching

Code switching, the practice of alternating between a variety of languages and/or dialects,  is a skill that has proven to be necessary in this ever changing and evolving world.

Code switching is so beautiful.

Code switching is so complicated.

Code switching, in and of itself, is the way Obama greets people at the White House as demonstrated by this Key & Peele skit.

It’s the way the internet went crazy when Obama greeted the 2012 Olympic Basketball Team as they headed to London. 

Code switching is being able to speak three “kinds” of English, as detailed by Jamila Lyiscott’s 2014 TED Talk, and not blink an eye.

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I call code switching complicated because if it wasn’t “a thing,” there wouldn’t be a sketch about the many handshakes of Barack Obama.

Moreover, I call it complicated because I actually find it intricate at times.

Being an educator and code switching in and out of the classroom can get messy.

I began to actively practice code switching when I began to “lose my blackness” as a teacher.

I began to actively think about the ratio of academic versus non-academic language that I use on a daily basis in order to hang on to some of the connections I make with students during down time.

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What I mean by lose my blackness is – students began to view me as just a teacher, instead of a black teacher. Instead of their black teacher. Instead of their black teacher teaching a classroom of 99% black students.

I think this happened due to lack of academic versus non-academic language balance…lack of code switching.

With 85% of the teaching force being white, middle class, women,  I wanted the fact that I am an educator who shares some of the same demographics of my students to mean something.

And, it does.

But, I want it to mean something to those whom it will impact the most. I want it to mean something to the students.

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To me it’s very important to engage in academic dialogue with students. This is especially true when talking specifically about academics – like English and Math. And, for me, is most important when actively teaching – whether a one on one tutoring situation, leading a small group or introducing a new topic to a class of 30 students.

The mess comes when the teaching role and identity take precedent over cultural identities.

To me this sounds like a student saying, “How do you know what _________ means?!”

Well all innuendos are easy to figure out — and my friends and I say (or used to say) the same or similar things.

“You listen to this music?”

Well of course. We probably listen to the same radio station. I like hip hop, too.

“You saw that movie? I didn’t know you watched ‘stuff like that’”

Yes. Yes, I did. I watched it, and I enjoyed it. 

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I find that when students forget that we likely share the same taste in music, food, entertainment and/or word choice (among so many other cultural characteristics) – they may have unknowingly prioritized one identity over the other.

Not too long ago a student was hanging around as I answered a phone call from my sister. When I hung up she said, “I didn’t know you talked hood.”

First of all – – – there is no such thing as talking hood. Second of all – – – what do you say to a child that just accused their teacher of “talking hood?”

I was stumbling to explain how and why a belief in the idea of “hood talk” was a form of self defamation and suppression. In that moment, that teaching moment, I was attempting to properly convey all of the intricacies of code switching. 

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Reflecting on experiences like these make me think, maybe I’m not code switching enough. That academic versus non-academic language balance, may not be as balanced as I think it is. And, though I think of code switching as something that happens naturally,  it’s times like this that influence my intentional use of code switching.

I don’t want to be the exception to the rule. I don’t want students to look at me as the one who “made it.” The lucky one. 

I want students to look at me and see themselves. I want them to see their future. I want them to see opportunity. 

I recently heard someone on a panel say, “If you don’t expect your students to say they want to be teachers – I want to be just like you – then you’re doing something wrong.”

Those are big shoes to fill. But, if intentional code switching will help me do so, then so be it. 

by: Shamira