Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Quotes from Mis-Education of the Negro That Have Stood the Test of Time

I have started Carter G. Woodson's classic text, The Mis-Education of the Negro, multiple times. Each time something distracted me from finishing.  I knew, however, given the nature of my work as an educator, that at some point, I would need to finish it, and that time has finally come.  As I read the text first published in 1933, I found myself shaking my head about how relevant many of Woodson's assertions are eighty-two years later.  I started dog-earing pages that contained quotes that struck me as instructive and necessary if Black people are to wage in productive struggle for equality and justice.  Below are my favorites:

1.  "It was well understood that if by the teaching of history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary the freedman, then, would still be a slave."

COMMENT: In the same way that Jews, Russians, Armenians, and other affinity groups take pains to preserve their culture/history in America, there need to be many more institutions doing the same for the African Diaspora.  The creation of such an institution has been the greatest stirring in my spirit recently.

2.  "How the whites can expect to make of the Negroes better citizens by leading them to think that they should have no part in the government of this country is a mystery.  To keep a man above vagabondage and crime he needs among other things the stimulus of patriotism, but how can a man be patriotic when the effect of his education is to the contrary."

COMMENT:  What blows my mind the most about the lack of justice in the murders of Trayvon Martin, Samuel DuBose, and others is that it pushes Black communities to feel less and less a part of this country.  At some point the powder keg explodes and disenfranchised citizens take matters into their own hands.  I pray that day does not come.

3.  "In this way the large majority of "educated" Negroes in the United States have accepted segregation and have become its fearless champions.  Their filled but undeveloped do not enable them to understand that, although an opiate furnishes temporary relief, it does not remove the cause of the pain."

COMMENT:  The crabs in a bucket mentality is real and must be resisted fiercely.

4.  "The lack of confidence of the Negro in himself and in his possibilities is what has kept him down.  His mis-education has been a perfect success in this respect.  Yet it is not necessary for the Negro to have more confidence in his own workers than in others.  If the Negro would be as fair to his own as he has been to others, this would be all that is necessary to give him a new lease on life and start the trend upward."

COMMENT:  Black communities MUST cultivate and support their own businesses instead of allowing for the continual drainage of our capital.

5.  "If the Negro could abandon the idea of leadership and instead stimulate a larger number of hte race to take up definite tasks and sacrifice their time and energy in doing these things efficiently the race might accomplish something.  The race needs workers, not leaders.  Such workers will solve the problems which race leaders talk about and raise money to enable them to talk more and more about.  When you hear a man talking, then always inquire as to what he is doing or what he has done for humanity.  Oratory and resolutions do not avail much.  If they did, the Negro race would be in paradise on earth."

COMMENT:  The siren song of being a public intellectual is melodic and enticing.  However, it CANNOT distract one from being a worker or be intimately connected to them.  In addition, one must seriously examine whether they are supposed to be the chief or a lieutenant.

6.  "No people can go forward when the majority of those who should know better have chosen to go backward, but this is exactly what most of our misleaders do.  Not being learned in the history and background of the race, they figure out that there is no hope for the masses; and they decide, then, that the best thing that they can do is exploit these people for all they can and use the accumulations selfishly.  Such persons have no vision and therefore perish at their own hands."

COMMENT:  To whom much is given, much is expected.  I take this one personally.  The fact that I've been able to accumulate the credentials that I have meens that I must reach back to pull the next group of kids up the ladder.

7.  "It is all right to have a white man as the head of a Negro college or to have a red man at the head of a yellow one, if in each case the incumbent has taken out his naturalization papers and has identified himself as one of the group which he is trying to serve.  It seems that the white educators of this day are unwilling to do this, and for that reason they can never contribute to the actual development of the Negro from within.  You cannot serve people by giving them orders as to what to do.  The real servant of the people must live among them, think with them, feel for them, and die for them."

COMMENT:  Black communities must be overprotective of who the allow to lead the few institutions over which we have say.  Black, white, or otherwise, there are too many examples of people who have taken advantage of the blind faith of Black people for personal gain and destruction.

8.  "To educate the Negro we must find out exactly what his background is, what he is today, what his possibilities are, and how to begin with him as he is and make him a better individual of the kind that he is.  Instead of cramming the Negro's mind with what others have shown that they can do, we should develop his latent powers that he may perform in society a part of which others are not capable."

COMMENT:  Sounds like a precursor to culturally relevant pedagogy.  In order to make Black children the best individuals that they can be, they certainly can't be schooled to believe that they are inferior, second-class citizens in their own country.

9.  "Negroes do not need someone to guide them to what persons of another race have developed.  They must be taught to think and develop something for themselves.  It is most pathetic to see Negroes begging others for a chance as we have been doing recently.  "Do not force us into starvation." we said.  "Let us come into your stores and factories and do a part of what you are doing to profit by our trade."  The Negro as a slave developed this fatal sort of dependency; and, restricted mainly to menial service and drudgery during nominal freedom, he has not grown out of it. Now the Negro is facing the ordeal of either learning to do for himself or to die out gradually in the bread line in the ghetto."

COMMENT:  Black people must be equipped to be self-determinant.  Our history is littered with tales of how we are most successful when we strike out on our own independent of institutions built on foundations of discrimination and social reproduction.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Moving Beyond McGraw-Hill's Whitewashing of History

McGraw Hill publishers recently put out a history textbook approved by the state of Texas where the trans-atlantic slave trade is painted more as a migration of workers than a culture-stripping death voyage where survivors were forced to jump start the engine of capitalism or die.  It was not until a parent, Roni Dean-Burren, objected to the characterization that McGraw Hill admitted they could "do better" in communicating the facts about slavery in this country.  It is rare the textbook that actually gets it "right" when it comes to describing the ramifications of the slave trade on people of African descent, however this case is among the more egregious.  There are many astute people who lend their brain power to the creation of a textbook, and to believe that something like this is just an oversight is a stretch at best.  I am at the point now where I no longer expect those who guide the institution of education to accurately tell the stories of underrepresented minority groups.  It is simply beyond the scope of their mission.

At its best, American public education was designed to develop an informed citizenry so that the democratic process at the foundation of the country could flourish.  At its worst, public education serves to maintain a status quo of haves and have nots so that the bourgeoise will always be able to depend on the proletariat to do the work necessary to uphold their way of life.  Those who manage to combat the oppressive nature of public education manage to do so by augmenting what is offered in school through alternative methods.  Most notably I think of Chinese communities in America whose children attend weekend schools so that they have a full understanding of their language, history and practices.  I have seen the same model employed by both Russian and Jewish families as well.  There are great African-centered rites of passage programs that need to be scaled up in response to the continued revision of the history of African descendants in this country.  It is the only way the story will be told properly. One of favorite college professors, Dr. Howard Stevenson, would often say in class, "The lion's story will never be told as long as the hunter is the one to tell it."

More important than anything else, this most recent example of whitewashing the history books further motivates me to act and I hope that for all those who have read about this and other incidents, that they will do the same.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Blast Master Can Still Teach

Got the distinct pleasure to see KRS-1 perform at Whisky A Go-Go this weekend, and he did not disappoint.  The Teacha is on my Mount Rushmore of MCs and he showed why as he performed hits that are almost thirty years old and can still move a crowd.  In addition, he previewed songs off of a forthcoming album that display the unique mix of lyrical skill and depth of thought that put KRS in a stratosphere few others occupy.  A couple of other takeaways from watching Chris Parker do his thing:

1.  His voice is an instrument unto itself - Over and over again he told the DJ (his son) to turn the track down so he could showcase the lyrics or the freestyle that he was about to go into.  His voice thundered over the crowd and commanded their attention in the same way that you snapped to attention when he yelled "YOU MUST LEARN!" through the radio.

2.  When you are authentically talented, you will find your crowd - Whisky A Go-Go is far from doing the Tunnel in NYC or other famous spots where KRS made his name, but it didn't matter.  Fans of all sorts came out and sat through some awful openers to hear The Teacha do his thing.  He signed LPs that fans brought, and any other item that people handed him.  Most importantly, he showed that he remains a different breed from rappers who simply try to make a "hit" while saying nothing.  For that, the fans have remained loyal all over the world.

3.  I'm now a Hip-Hop old head - I'm officially of the age where I believe that the music of my generation trumps anything that will be made in the future.  In Hip-Hop that means that the music of the late eighties into the early oughts can't be touched as a body of work.  Are there certain albums/artists that are outliers?  Certainly, but as someone who tries to stay true to the culture that was a large part of my youth identity, I don't see the same kind of creativity of style and message that there was in the golden age of Hip-Hop.

As soon as I can get my hands on the new album Now Hear This, I'm getting it.  KRS clearly still has lessons to teach.  I'll be taking notes the same way I have for the last twenty years.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

They Will Always Let You Know When They're Ready

I try really hard as a parent to talk with my peers so that I can be equipped with strategies so that when "milestone moments" happen, I can handle the situation like it was no problem and keep it moving without getting my blood pressure up.  Sometimes this works, as in preparing for going to a new school or starting out a new sport.  There are occasions like yesterday, however, where you're just not ready for when the kiddos drop an unexpected bomb on you and you're left to improvise like Wayne Brady playing Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I was pulling into the driveway with the ever-growing Lil Man feeling good as we had just worked through a situation where he had missed an after school activity.  Turned out there was some miscommunication and it wasn't totally his fault, but he expected that when I found out, I was going to unleash my inner Jules Winnfield (And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger...)  Clearly I did a good job of reassuring the young man that he had steered clear of danger by fessing up and telling the truth because he felt confident enough to reveal other things on his mind as we hit the driveway.  I should have known I was in trouble when he started with:

"Daddy, there's just one thing I've been thinking about"

To which I replied "What's that buddy?"

"So like when you're having a baby, how does God know?  Like how does it get there to start growing?  How does he know if you want a boy or a girl?

Uh oh.  Those three questions hit me like tranquilizer darts.  I couldn't move.  I didn't even look in the rearview mirror.  My mind was on overdrive, and I just kept saying to myself Don't you punk out and punt on this question.  If you don't answer it, one of his little third grade friends will.  After what seemed like minutes, I calmly said

"Well buddy, Women have eggs in their body that must be fertilized before they can grow into babies. There's a process for that, but you're too young to hear about that now."

To which he replied "How old do I have to be to learn the process"


Which sent him into math mode figuring out approximately how many days he has before his tenth birthday (approx. 400).  Plenty of time to consult the village for how to Sex 101 talk.

LESSON:  No matter how much I want to be out in front of the development of young Isaiah and his brother, I will never fully grasp the rate at which they pick up information and seek to act on it.  The Munchkin, for example, went from only wanting to sit on the Elmo potty to only wanting to stand and "take aim" overnight.  It's good to know that when necessary, I've got some Improv skillz in the tool belt.  I'm sure I'll be calling on them again soon.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How ironic that the same cotton that Nubians grew and used to make clothing is the same cash crop that would be used to fuel American capitalism on the backs of Black slaves.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Nabta Playa is an ancient ceremonial stone formation which 

indicates the social nuance of Nubian civilization.  It dates

back to between 6500-4000 BC.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New School Year, New Mission to Struggle with Race

Now that the focus of my work centers around helping young middle-schoolers figure out who they are and what they want to become, I have felt an increased urge to think about my own identity. As I build relationships with new students and converse with them about their struggles, I want to be able to share my own journey and perhaps some of the strategies that I have used through the years to help me figure things out.  The discussions that I have had with students over the last few years have revealed that students travel a vastly different path to owning their identity than I have.  During these conversations, I have done more listening and reacting than "preaching".  More than anything I have been inspired to see how connected students seem to feel to one another and the fluidity with which they move in and out of social circles.

I aspire to see my own boys be able to parachute into any social situation as comfortably as some of the students who I've recently sent off to college.  To that end, they need to be able to understand #BlackLivesMattter and #BringBackOurGirls, the significance of #JeSuisCharlie and the dynamics of #FreePalestine.  To prepare for those conversations I will have with my boys and their peers, I am going to use this space moving forward to post historical facts about the African Diaspora of which I am a proud member.  Nothing has helped me gain a sense of who I am and pushed me to keep moving forward than knowing the heritage of which I am a part .  The more I understand about that legacy, the greater sense of purpose I have.  My mission is to inspire a similar sense of purpose in my boys and all young people with whom I come into contact so that travelling the identity path doesn't have to be so difficult.

FACT:  Ancient Nubia, a civilization dating to over 300,000 years ago, was originally named 
"Ta Sety", meaning "Land of the Bow"

Monday, August 10, 2015

13 Wins the Books for Team Carroll

Each year as my anniversary approaches, I start to ponder what I have learned about myself as a husband and father that is worth sharing and does not sound cliche.  I am finding that each year this becomes more difficult.  On the face of it, things have not changed much from last year.  We remain incredibly blessed.  This time last year, the Mrs. sold her first show.  A year later she has sold another.  Last year, Isaiah had just finished his first summer playing All-Star baseball.  This summer he had the privilege to do it again.  Of course, there have been changes, but they also have largely been for the good.  When the school year opens at the end of the month, I won't be sporting new Air Max's for the first time in years as a promotion to Dean means that I'll be a shirt and tie guy moving forward.  A year ago, we started taking Elijah to speech therapy to help increase his vocabulary in the hopes that he'd be able to express his frustrations better.  We have been delighted with his progress and are happy that we decided to seek help.  All of this good means that when it comes to assessing where there is room for improvement as we try to get "win" number 14 for the Team, I have to dig a little deeper and spend a little more time reflecting.  Thankfully a recent discussion with the Mrs. revealed an area that I'll need to devote more attention to moving forward.

With each passing year, it seems like the decisions we have to make have higher and higher stakes, particularly where the kids are involved.  Picking the wrong school can have a lasting impact. Deciding which extracurricular activities to involve the kids in among the endless pool of opportunities is daunting.  Each choice has an influence on the type of person we want them to be which makes the hand-wringing and stress around each decision high.  It also means that the conversations are bound to become emotional and intense.

The conversation that sparked my epiphany had to do with Isaiah's activity schedule for the Fall.  He'll be starting a new school and after two years of year round baseball, we decided long ago that he needed a break.  The parent-coach in me knows that it's best for him to try new things, work different muscle groups and be excited to return to baseball in the Spring.  However, there's also the competitive rogue coach (Coach Crazy Dad) in me who can fall prey to what others are doing and gets enticed by the opportunities that have come Isaiah's way based on the skill that he has shown.   One option that came up excited me because I thought it would be a good compromise between what the Mrs and I discussed and what might be best for Isaiah.  When I brought it to the Mrs, she reminded me why we made the plan that we did in the first place.  She also noted the reason we make team decisions in the first place is so that Coach Crazy Dad can't run amuck.  I heard the Mrs. and appreciated the reminder, but I didn't think she was understanding the case I was presenting, so I tried to restate it in a different way.  That wasn't the brightest idea, and when she hit me with this statement, Coach Crazy Dad was immediately put in check:

"You know what, go ahead and do what you want because everything I say, you have a counter for.."

Once I heard the "You know what..", I knew there was going to be trouble.  The Mrs and I have not kept the record spinning for 13 years based on making decisions together for our best interest only to have one of us audible the play at the last minute.  I realized later in thinking about the conversation that there is a higher level of patience that I need to aspire to.  Most of the time I can be more strategic and think in broader terms, but I have a weak spot when it comes to the kids and their sports.  I am sure that my involvement in athletics past and present plays a big part.

Beyond the sports, I am quickly realizing that Isaiah is quickly reaching the age where he will no longer hang on Daddy's every word.  To say that that thought concerns me is an understatement.  So as I prepare to start Season 14 for Team Carroll, I'm praying for more patience because on a day when we commemorate Mike Brown's life I am hyper-aware of the need to keep my boys close.  This is an increasingly violent world they are being raised in, and I want them properly prepared when they set out on their own.  To properly equip them, they will need both the Mrs and I in lock-step.  They will also need Dad to be patient enough to walk them through their mistakes as many times as necessary so that they don't end up making one down the road that costs them more than they are able to handle.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reasons to love SELMA

I eagerly awaited my chance to see SELMA because from all that I knew about the project, it was going to be a classic.  I am proud to say that it did not disappoint.  I look forward to sitting down with my sons at some point in the near future to share this with them so that they have a full understanding of the significance of Bloody Sunday and the march to Montgomery.  My Top 5 reasons to love this movie:

Civil Rights leaders portrayed as humans not Superheroes
This movie depicted the vulnerable moments when the leaders were not doing the work and how they made sense of what they were doing as it related to their families. You get a glimpse into the toll that it took on these men to keep risking their lives and losing peers to violence.

Recognition of the unsung heroes who also sacrificed
I didn't know the names Annie Lee Cooper, Sullivan Jackson, Cager Lee, or Viola Liuzzo before seeing this movie, but they are just as important as Bevel, Abernathy, and Young because they were the people who believed in the message and readily joined the front lines. In some cases they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Layers to the history
- Martin and Malcolm: It is very easy to believe the narrative that Martin and Malcolm were diametrically opposed and therefore enemies. At it's most sinister the popular narrative of their relationship pushes you as a Black person to decide whether you're with Malcolm (By Any Means Necessary) or Martin (Nonviolent Nonviolent). The movie complicates the popular perception and at least gets you to understand that Brother Malcolm had respect for Dr. King and that there were ways they could work in tandem.

- Presence and importance of women
When I think of the way the Civil Rights Movement is taught in schools, the talking points are Rosa Parks, and then the famous male leaders like Medger Evers, King, and X. The contributions of women are largely ignored. SELMA portrays how central to the movement women like Diane Nash and Amelia Boynton were. It even gives Corretta Scott King a stronger voice than she is often credited with in most narratives.

Gripping imagery
You read about Bloody Sunday and Birmingham when you are a child and you remember the dates and the death toll.  You understand that it happened. It is a whole different experience to watch a dramatization of these events and have to sit with the emotion of it. The emotion makes the stamp even more indelible in my mind so that when I think about my right to vote, those images will always spring forth.

Superb casting
Unlike the Aaliyah movie where casting alone discredited its believability, this movie had superb casting. From David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo as Mr and Mrs King to  Tim Roth as George Wallace, it all fit and the performances were brilliant. Tom Wilkinson as LBJ should have gotten some award consideration.

Finally, I salute David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay for their commitment to making sure this project made it to the screen.  When I was a young student, I had Paul Winfield's portrayal of Dr. King to learn from and understand the Movement.  Now the current generation has their upgraded version to use as a teachable moment.  I hope all parents, educators, mentors and stakeholders in the lives of children will take advantage of this film as a resource.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reasons to love Bobby Seale's Seize the Time

Got a chance to do some independent reading over the Holidays.  With all that is going on in the world concerning young Black men and communities of color, I was moved to pick up Bobby Seale's Seize the Time to understand the rise of the Black Panther Party and why we don't have more organizations like it today in the face of increased predation in predominantly Black communities.  My Top Five takeaways:

1.  The Panthers were deeply dedicated to the community
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton came up advocating for and the poorest members of their community. They had a firm understanding of the needs and frustrations of the people of Oakland and they developed the Party to directly address those needs.  Early in the book, Seale tells the story of how hard he and Huey Newton fought to get a traffic light installed in the community and how important that was.  They were equally committed to resisting an increasingly militarized police for which was unjustly targeting Black residents of Oakland (that sounds familiar).  There are lessons here for today's Black leaders who often rise from more affluent backgrounds and struggle to connect with poorer members of the community.

2.  The Panthers advocated an Anti-Racist philosophy
The imagery of the Panthers is all about the Black leather jackets, the berets and the guns.  What is lost in that is the message that the Panthers were pushing for the eradication of racism in all forms. Throughout Seize the Power, Seale denounces Black Cultural Nationalists who espoused an
anti-white agenda.  The Panthers put actions to these words by forming coalitions with predominantly White groups who shared similar goals.

3.  Members were not only educated, but were held accountable
Newton and Seale were so adamant that members adhere to the principles of the Party that they were willing to kick people out when their actions ran counter to the beliefs of the organization.  It was not simply about how many people they could boast about on their member rolls, but who was willing to commit to the work of fighting inequality.

4.  The Panthers sought to sustain themselves without strings attached
Speaking engagements and the sale of the Panther newspaper were the main revenue streams for the Panthers and many of the leaders broke their backs to do this revolutionary work without getting paid.  They did not seek to be in bed with corporate entities who might try to dilute their message or divert them from their mission.

5.  The Panthers actively sought to broker coalitions that would serve their mission
The Panthers knew that to maximize the spread of their mission they would need to work with like-minded organizations.  This shows a willingness to put egos aside for the greater good.  It also shows how much the actual work of improving the plight of the poor and disenfranchised meant to Seale and Newton.