Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday, December 5, 2008

Are We Living In A Post-Racial Society?

by Kofi Khemet (Reposted 9/13/2013)
This blog was originally posted one month after the first election of Barack Obama. Sadly, it's just as relevant today as it was then.
See if you can answer the question posed by the moderator of the Facebook group The Center of Pan-African Culture. "Can you accurately determine, from looking at these photos, who is Black and who is White?" Write down your answers on a sheet of paper, read the blog and check your answers using the key provided at the end of this post. Then think about the question, is race a biological reality or a social construct designed to keep one group on top and the other on the bottom?
'With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency the question has come up, are we living in a post-racial society? In other words has the concept of race lost its cache, or meaning? Let's examine this and see what we come up with, it may be that we've reached that land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top. Of course, it may be as illusory as a mirage in the Sahara on a hot day.
What lies at the heart of this question is the notion that something fundamental has changed within society, either as a result of Obama's campaign or independent of that campaign. As we consider this question it would be good to lay out some facts that we can take into account. First of all 53% of Americans voted for Obama, or against McCain, as the case may be. While an almost equal number voted for McCain/Palin or against Obama. This being said we're talking about millions of people on each side of the line in almost equal numbers. You'll recall it was the independent/undecided voters that tipped the scales in Obama's favor.
Fact number two: throughout the campaign Obama was dogged by questions of lack of experience, etc. This was not the first time a candidate was labeled with that tag, but it was particularly galling in Obama's case, because it was very reminiscent of the infamous "grandfather clause." Witness the contrast here between McCain, who like Bush had generations of "leadership" experience behind him, while Obama had only his own experience in college and community organizing. How was he to overcome this gap without going back in time and rewriting history. It appeared to be an insurmountable gap.
Fact number three: everything was thrown at him, including the kitchen sink, by Hillary, McCain and Palin. No stone was left unhurled, including the use of his middle name as a label of unfitness for the job.
Fact number four: everything was thrown at him short of playing the obvious race card. Obama was cool enough to never even bring up race, but he did respond forcefully when his opponents tried to broach it in a circuitous manner.
Fact number five: race was an issue, albeit an unspoken issue. It was the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, but Obama deftly avoided it to the consternation of some of his Black supporters, who in the end were understanding enough to know why he was leaving that issue alone.
What his opponents did say about race came through when they spoke of his numbers. They always tried to make him "the Black candidate." In the past other candidates, like Carl Stokes, were dogged with accusations like this and came up with creative ways of addressing it, without alienating his supporters of either race. Obama was just as deft in dealing with the Reverend Wright issue, which was a race issue; his middle name issue "Hussein," which was a race/religious issue and the terrorist association issue, which was not so much a race issue; but spoke to how "different" he was compared to the other candidates.
All of the above issues were couched in a blanket of "difference." All the diversity training in the world was not enough to keep the other candidates from pointing out, "he's not like us." The logical conclusion here is that race is still very much an issue that cannot be overlooked, just like that 800 lb. gorilla in the room.
In the end it appears that Obama won not because of some drastic shift in the status quo, or the racial proclivities of whites, but rather by the use of superior strategy, gamesmanship and good timing.
The fact is America is as backwards when it comes to attitudes about race today as it ever has been. In a presentation I'm readying for publication entitled, "Black Men On The Money," I'll deal with the some of these attitudes and perceptions. Here's a little exercise you can do right now to see where you're really at on the issue of race. Take a look at the picture at the beginning of this article and make a note of what race you think each of these people represent. Some of them you may know by name and/or face and others may be unfamiliar to you. Regardless, without using a reference work, or the internet to try and identify them first, just look at them as people and see if you can correctly identify their "race."
When you're done use the photo key that below for information on each person seen in the picture. This is something that we all need to look at very carefully and consider what our own attitudes are toward the persistent question of racial identity in America."
Photo Key
(As you go down the list of names apply them to the pictures from left to right starting at the top left corner.)

  1. Walt Disney (1901-1966), cartoonist and founder of the Walt Disney, Co. We assume that he's white, but have not done the research to prove it yet.
  2. Adam Clayton Powell IV (1962), son of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. One of a long line of African American politicians in NY. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. had a long and illustrious career as a congressman. What many young people may not remember is the personal side of his story. He had 3 marriages to Isabelle Washington, Hazel Scott and Yvette Diago. Adam Clayton Powell IV was born of his 3rd wife and should not be confused with his nephew, also a New York politician. His half brother Adam Clayton Powell III is the father of the other Adam Clayton Powell IV.
  3. Halle Berry (1966), African American movie star and Academy Award winner.
  4. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972), the African American congressman from NY, who served continuously from 1945-1971.
  5. Walt Disney (1901-1966), an older picture of Disney for comparison with Powell.
  6. Fredi Washington (1903-1994), African American movie star, famous for her portrayal of a mixed child who decided to pass for white in the 1934 movie, “Imitation of Life.” The theme of this film was derived from the idea of the “tragic mulatto.” In other words someone who could not fit in the Black world and wouldn't be accepted in the white world. In part this idea developed as a result of Reconstruction Era politics, where the Black representatives from the south were disparaged as dysfunctional incompetents who were foisted on the southerners. In part this attitude could have developed from the fact that there were no African American representatives from the north until well into the twentieth century. Her sister married Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
  7. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, SC (1947-), African American congressman from South Carolina, showing us that racial standards have not changed. He comes from a well known African American family in South Carolina.
  8. Governor Pio Pico (1801-1894), the last Mexican governor of Alta (upper) California, also of African descent. In dealing with this subject it has to be kept in mind that “racial” designations in Mexico are much different than in the U.S. Pio's mother was described as a mulatta (half white and half Black); his father was described as mestizo (half Indian and half white). In the Wikipedia article on Pico he's described as African, Native American and Spanish. This is very misleading, because the assumption is that Spanish equals pure white. Three hundred years after the Moors were ousted from Spain and they're now white as the driven snow, I don't think so. To this day the Spanish still show traces of their Moorish heritage, which by the way was synonymous in Europe for Black.
  9. Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (1865-1953), an obituary picture of the founder of this powerful NY dynasty showing the similarity and differences in his appearance and that of his offspring. He presided over the well known African American, Abyssinian Baptist Church in NY for years.
  10. Mary Ellen Pleasant (1814-1904), African American civil rights leader from California, entrepreneur and supporter of the abolitionist cause.
  11. Master Fard Muhammad (1877-?), mentor to Elijah Muhammad. Identified only as an Asiatic Black man. No further information on him has been forthcoming. As with the origins of many religious organizations his own origins are shrouded in mystery.
  12. Lt. General José Antonio Maceo y Grajales (1868-1896), second in command of the Cuban Army of Independence. This picture was the first one I've found of him where he actually appears to be of African descent. Many pictures of him have been bleached or altered to the point where he appears to be “white,” however his mother was definitely was definitely of African descent. His father was from Venezuela, which does not exclude the possibility of an African admixture. As of this writing I need further information on him.
  13. Barbara Walters (1929), I haven't done the research on her background yet, but pay close attention to the lips and the nose and compare them with other people in this collage. She admittedly, had an affair with the African American Sen. Edward Brooke and wrote about it in her recent book. Her father also made his living from a well known chain of night clubs known as the Latin Quarter. Even today, many ball players from the Caribbean claim their Latin heritage, while the story of their African heritage is written all over their faces.
  14. Commander Winston Churchill (1874-1965), admittedly had Native American predecessors. His mother was Lady Randolph of the American Randolphs, which were also related to a number of other American aristocratic families. Keep in mind that depending on what tribe we're talking about and when, that could mean an admixture of African blood, as well. Many if not most living descendants of Africans mixed with Native Americans somewhere along the way.
  15. Rep. Augustus Hawkins, CA (1907-2007), African American congressman for many years, often mistaken for white.
  16. Mary Church Terrell, (1863-1954), one of two women founders of the NAACP, her father was believed to be mulatto and she was obviously very light-skinned, but did not pass. She attended two Ohio schools, Antioch and Oberlin and graduated with a Masters from Oberlin in about 1886. She was prominent in the women's movement and the struggle for civil rights up until her death in 1954.
  17. Generalissimo Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña, (1782-1831), here's the 2nd president of Mexico, one of the revolutionary fighters and liberator of the African slaves in Mexico. They say he's the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln of Mexico all in one. Really! Maybe that's more true than they realize. I could do a series of depictions of him also showing the same tendency to downplay his African origins to the point where we could actually call it artistic genocide. This applies to many Mexican and American leaders, as well.
  18. Walter White (1893-1995), former Executive Director of the NAACP, author and NAACP undercover agent. One of his main tasks with the NAACP was to infiltrate white hate groups, like the KKK, and report back with their activities. At one point White had to leave a town when word got out that he was in town as a spy. As he was leaving one of the white train attendants commented on what they were going to do to that “nigger” when they caught up with him. Here's a statement by White as to his appearance,
    "'I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.' Five of his great-great-great-grandparents were black and the other 27 were white. All of his family was light-skinned, and his mother was also blue-eyed and blonde. Her maternal grandparents were Dilsia, a slave, and
    William Henry Harrison, the future President. Her mother Marie Harrison was one of Dilsia's daughters and her father Augustus Ware was also white.
       Here we have one of the best examples of what it means to be and African American in the U.S., even today. I know people right now who are Black in every sense of the word, but in appearance (blonde hair and white skin) appear to be white.
  1. Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1953), African American author. He could have passed for white, but chose not to.
  2. Sen. Edward W. Brooke III (1919), Here we have Senator Brooke. I had a recent picture of him with President G.W. Bush and you could not tell the difference between their skin color as they shook hands or in their hair texture. Obviously, he could have passed for white, but did not. He's in the record books now as the “first” and only African American Senator from Massachusetts.
  3. Mariah Carey (1970), of Afro-Venezuelan extraction. Again, I've seen “white” people with darker tans than hers, but she's admittedly Black.
  4. William Alexander Leidesdorff (1810-1848), of Afro-Germanic extraction from the West Indies. He had a bad experience with race in Louisiana. When he moved to California he passed for white and never looked back. He was a huge landholder in California, leaving an estate valued in excess of 1 million dollars upon his untimely death; a government official for the Mexican government; one of San Francisco's first hoteliers and a ship captain. The California gold rush began on his property out near present day Folsom, California where this picture hangs in the local museum.
  5. James Beckwourth (1798-1866), discoverer of the lowest pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains, rancher, fur trapper, professional gambler, mountain man, trading post operator and Indian chief. His African heritage is clear, however he too has been a victim of artistic genocide and in many pictures appears white. In fact he was portrayed by a white actor in the 1951 film production “Tomahawk.” His first name is changed to Sol, but clearly we recognize in the character Sol Beckworth frontiersman, the real man James Beckwourth.
  6. Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson (1861-1904), here's one of my relatives. I picked her for the similarity in her appearance and that of Empress Menen. They could be sisters. I was originally going to use her brother Henry Ossawa Tanner, but I couldn't find a good copy of the picture I was looking for. Amazingly, with all of her education and knowledge she died birthing her 3rd child.
  7. General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (1762-1806), born Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, the son of a low-ranking French nobleman and a slave woman from Haiti, he was France's answer to Toussaint L'Overture. Totally loyal to France, supporter of the revolution and father of two of the greatest men of France, who are both included in this photo-essay.
  8. Fredi Washington (1903-1994), here's another depiction of Fredi Washington where she appears to be “white.” This was part of the advertisement for the original version of “Imitation of Life.”
  9. Alexandre Dumas, fils (1802-1870), born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, the elder Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers,” “The Man in the Iron Mask,” “The Count of Monte Cristo” and many other full length novels too numerous to mention here. Clearly, you can see his African roots in his face and hair. It was a well known fact that he was of African origin at that time. He was quite wealthy and popular with the ladies of France, but he was advised to pick another vacation venue, besides the U.S., because of the attitude of whites and the fear of a “white backlash” affecting his book sales if it became known that he was Black in the U.S.
  10. Alexandre Dumas, pere (1824-1895), the younger Dumas was famous for his theatrical productions. I am not familiar with his most famous productions, but suffice it to say that all three Dumas' have statues in a place of honor in France today.

  1. Empress Menen of Ethiopia, (1889-1962) born Wolete Giyorgis, she was the consort of Haile Selassie. Despite appearances this woman is actually a dark-skinned Caucasian. It was very difficult to find a good picture of her without her crown on, but I was able to dig this one up. More research needs to be done on her life and accomplishments. To some extent she's been overshadowed by her husband the Emporer.
  2. Dr. William Key (1833-1909), last, but not least. Here we have Dr. William Key, ex-slave turned horse doctor from Shelbyville, TN. Most noted for his “talking” horse. Yes, that's right. I said it. A talking horse. As a matter of fact this horse could do quite a few things. See Blakfacts Volume I for more information on Dr. William Key and his horse Jim Key.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


First of all, what is a trope? A trope is a figure of speech which can boil a complex idea down to a few words. All cultures have tropes. The beauty of all cultures is in discovering the tropes unique to each culture.

In the case of President Obama and the recent comments comparing him to a Tar Baby. Let's examine the evidence carefully before we "jump off the deep end" into instant pundit land. In the story, all Americans know and love, Br'er Rabbit is tricked by Fox into having a fight with a "straw man," or in this case, a "Tar Baby." Fox planned for Br'er Rabbit to get stuck to "Tar Baby" allowing him and Bear to make a meal of him. Instead Br'er Rabbit tricks both of them into tossing him into the briar patch, where he makes good his escape. Watch the video excerpted from Walt Disney's "Song of the South" to refresh your memory on exactly how the story goes.

The point here is that if we follow the story to its logical conclusion, the Democrats/liberals who get stuck to "Tar Baby" Obama come out the winners in this story, only because the Republicans/far right are so stupid Br'er Rabbit/liberals trick them into giving them exactly what they want.

So, what's the downside here? Oh yeah, Obama appears to be foolish for the moment. But, if the story ends anything like it does in "Song of the South" the good guys win. "He who laughs last, laughs best."

Before we "jump off the deep end" we need to know our tropes and how to use them. It certainly wouldn't do for Fox to use our tropes against us. Next time, maybe we oughta beg Fox not to throw us into "the briar patch," instead of "jumping off the deep end" before we look at a situation thoughtfully carefully weighing all of our options and the resulting consequences.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

A filmmaker and public speaker, Reggie Bullock is a vibrant voice and accomplished role model for the youth of today. On March 15, 2009, Reggie’s short film "A War For Your Soul" was independently released on the internet, and has catapulted as a “stirring, epic and inspirational” video for today’s generation”. Over 6 million internet viewers have watched “A War For Your Soul” in 1 year. The video has garnered praise from mayors, city leaders, youth and civic organizations and almost every major country around the world, sparking dialogue in encouraging adults to play a more active role in educating children.

On Oct. 14th, Popular radio host Michael Baisden said "This is a must see film".

On Jan. 20th Reggie received the key to the city award from the city council members from the city of Macon GA.

Reggie is currently active as a noted speaker, conducting speaking engagements throughout the country. For speaking engagements contact warforyoursoul.com or reggie.bullock@comcast.net

This video was created to inspire young at-risk African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The "Master of Darkness" represents that abstract concept of evil that has the potential to reside in the consciousness of mankind.

The use of the images of Richard Pryor and NAS, were used to show how we have publicly displayed the "N" word over the course of time. Richard Pryor, before his death, had gone on record to publicly denounce his use of the word, and the Rapper NAS ( one of the few socially conscious rappers ) intentions of wearing the jacket had nothing to do with the glorification of the word. I have enjoyed some of Pryor's masterful story telling and I have also enjoyed some of the thought provoking music from NAS.

This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White).
This video should not be used to criticize all aspects of hip-hop culture.
This video should not be used to allow the rest of society to escape from their responsibility, to help with financial & academic support.

If used properly, this video will allow our youth to see some of the horrific conditions that their ancestors fought through and some of the horrific conditions they face today.

An extensive commentary about the film can be seen at warforyoursoul.com


Origins of the Word Nigger

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The THIRTIETH ANNUAL AKRON AFRICAN FESTIVAL returns to Akron at a new location, after an absence of one year. This year's
event will take place at Lock 3, in cooperation with the City of Akron and a number of other local sponsors.

This year's festival features a special event, "It's An African Affair" on the evening of July 24th and the music of the legendary band CON FUNK SHUN and numerous other class acts. Starting at 11am on Sunday, July 25th the day's activities will begin with a drum call and recognition of our ancestors, before offering up speakers on a variety of topics and performers from a variety of groups, locally and internationally.

CON FUNK SHUN will take to the stage as the featured artists for the evening's activities. You can find more information about them and all the other groups that will perform that evening at the following link for the 30th Annual Akron African Festival: Part II.

Over the past 40 years, the Akron African Festival has attracted thousands to the Akron area. It is the second oldest cultural festival in Ohio, surpassed only by Youngstown, OH. Individuals have planned family reunions and homecomings around the dates of the festival. This year will be no different, with the exception that for the first time you will be able to solidify your plans using the Facebook group for the festival to connect you to all of your friends and family members, before, during and after the festival. We'll be steadily posting pictures and videos of friends, performers and family members over the next month and beyond. Use it or lose it.

There will also be a special tent for youth activities of all kinds. Vending opportunities are still available, as well.

So, bring on da noise, bring on the Funk! Bring all your family and stay the whole day. Bring your lawn chairs, picnic baskets and blankets. Reserve a prime spot near the stage for the whole family. Before 5pm it's all FREE. After 5pm it's $5 with no jive! Either way, you'll have a good day and a great night.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The history of the state of California is intricately connected to the history of the Mali empire? Say what, how can that be?

At first glance they appear to be totally unrelated. However, on the examination of the history it has been revealed that they have a lot more in common than one would expect. We were taught in school that the year 1492 was the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. What we were not told is that it was also the year the king of Aragon was able to complete the expulsion of the Muslim caliphs from Al Andalusia (Spain), as well.

Mind you these Muslims were primarily from the African nations along the Northern Mediterranean, as well as West Africa proper. They came from the countries now known as Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Egypt and even Ethiopia. Therefore, from all historical evidence we know for sure that a large majority of them were of the African racial type.

The occupation of Spain lasted for 700 years. During that time Spainish culture was alive and vibrant, while the cultures of Europe, as a whole were stagnant and dead, hence the name we've that era, the Dark Ages, meaning there was no significant learning or serious thought going on during that time.

Spain or as the Muslims called it Al Andalusia was just the opposite, with lit streets, indoor plumbing, aquaducts, courtyard fountains and magnificient architectural structures that remain among the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The University of Salamanca was the most prestigious institution of learning in the known world. Under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate science and learning flourished, while the Dark Ages formed a cloud over Europe, where only the priestly class was even allowed, or enouraged to read. In fact, the same kinds of restrictions that were placed on African slaves in the U.S., following the rebellion of Nat Turner, were placed on the entire population of Europe, with punishments which were just as severe.

I'd like to note here that there was some evidence of the mechanical genius of the inhabitants of Europe that came out at that time, unfortunately, it seemed to be mostly in the area of torture. The implements of torture that were devised during this time for the use of the clergy in carrying out the Inquisition were truly ingenious. We've all heard of The Rack, thumbscrews, The Pear, The Iron Maiden, The Gibbet (gallows), The Whipping Post, Stocks, etc. Of course, we wouldn't want to forget the most humane instrument of death every devised, The Guillotine. These are inventions, which are wholly European and I believe unique in the annals of history.

The stated purpose of these Inquisitions as detailed in a 1578 handbook for inquisitors was: ... quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur. [Translation from the Latin: "... for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit."] Note the use of the word terrified in describing the purpose of this practice.



Her latest book is called "Sonata Mulattica" and it's a tour-de-force. Written, as only Rita Dove could write it, we learn about the life of George P. Bridgetower, a virtuoso musician who grows up in Poland and becomes the toast of European royalty. His exquisite performances on the violin inspire Beethoven to write a piece dedicated to him, which they perform before a concert audience, only hours after Beethoven completes it.

That she would pick someone to write about who is a virtual unknown to Americans is not as odd as it may appear, for her subject and her have a lot in common. Rita played the cello when she was going to school right here in Akron, Ohio; she's known for being fluent in German, which was a language Bridgetower undoubtedly spoke and they're both descendants of African immigrants.

Much of the story is told in the title of the book. "Sonata Mulattica" is an abbreviation of the title Beethoven gave to what's been called his penultimate violin sonata (opus 47). The full title was "Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer, gran pazzo e conpositore mulattico," meaning "Sonata composed for the mulatta mulatto Brischdauer, big wild composition and mulatto."

The idea of the "tragic mulatto" came into existence during Bridgetower's lifetime. However, his own story was not quite so ill fated. He actually had quite a bit of success as a musician. The patronage of the young English prince, who continued to support him as the King of England, certainly helped. His affiliation with Beethoven, Haydn and other musical geniuses of his time certainly helped.

But, there was still a cloud of racism hovering over his head, which became even more apparent upon his death, as this book is one of only three full length treatments of his life. Dove's presentation is totally unique, however in that it gives us an entirely new path to Bridgetower. This is the surprise in store for anyone who decides to go on this adventure to discover, just who was this African prince of Poland.

To be continued tomorrow, with a video of Rita reading a selection from her latest work.


The 4th Annual Black Alumni Reunion was held last weekend at Kent's Rathskeller. It was a very successful event with approximately 300 Black Alumni in attendance. Members came from all over the country. The member who came the furthest distance was Adisa Alkebulan from San Diego, CA.

Event organizers Andrea Wright and Kellea Tibbs brought the event into the 21st century by notifying attendees via a new network on Ning.com a relatively new networking website. Ning allows members who sign up to communicate with each other 24/7 using a variety of user created networks for free.

The Kent State Black Alumni Association now has a membership of almost 300 people. Their network on Ning was established in 2008 and is now in full force and effect.

Andrea Wright, one of the founders of the association, which just gained and official status at Kent, states on her personal page that,

"I count it a blessing to be able to greet all of the Black Alumni from Kent State University. Thank you for joining the social networking site designed to be a tool to bring us back together to remember our days on the campus in Kent, Ohio. Kent State University is one of Ohio's top public universities. The university played an important role in all of our lives. It's continuing to make a difference in young student's lives and as Black Alumni, we can play an important role.

The ultimate purpose is to reconnect and unify ourselves for one purpose. The purpose is to be officially recognized again as The Black Alumni Chapter. As an official chapter, we will be able to access budgeted funds to do programming designed with not only bringing us together but assisting those students still matriculating at the university.

Our goal is not just to socialize. However, through socializing and networking, we can broaden our goals and maximize our possibilities."

One of the ways that the organization plans to meet this goal is by creating a scholarship fund, financed initially by the admission fees collected by the association at the reunion. Now that the association has been recognized by the KSU Alumni Association they can apply make funding requests from the university and take the organization to the next level.

The party's over, but the beat goes on. We look forward to covering future events sponsored by the Kent State Black Alumni Association.