Thursday, November 20, 2008
As we bring 2008 to a close I'd like to reflect on some of the commentary regarding President elect Obama. The media pundits seem to have achieved a state of nirvana regarding the election of Obama to the presidency of the United States. They act as if a Black man had never run a country before. For their information I'd like to speak on this matter.
Clearly, the election of Obama to the presidency is something that many of us thought we would not see in our lifetime. However, it's not all that the media would like to make out of it.
Number One: Africa's descendants have led many great nations, down through the ages.
Number Two: Some of these great leaders have led the United States of America.
Number Three: Great nations continue to be led by Black men today.
Let's look at these three points. The word president is a title to describe the leader of a country. Many countries around the globe now use this title in emulation of the government of the United States of America. Many countries also use the title prime minister, some continue to use the word king and, or queen. However, you want to look at it, it's just a title. It conveys no more status than any other title. In fact, it conveys less status than the title emperor or king.
The descendants of Africa have ruled as many, if not more, nations as any other group of people on the globe. So, why should it be so amazing that Obama could be elected president of this nation? Well, as a matter of fact the descendants of Africa have occupied this office before. Admittedly, we were not taught this in school, but I think the facts will bear me out.
The economy of the U.S. was based on the chattel slavery of Africans for over a hundred years. During the course of this enslavement a doctrine of "white supremacy" developed. This doctrine had as one of its basic tenets the idea of the purity and sanctity of the white race. Therefore, even one drop of "Black blood" would cause one's lineage to be tainted, and would also cause all of one's progeny to no longer be of the white race, but rather of the "Black" race.
Oftentimes this led to the labeling of people that appeared to be white as Black. This was a handy device, especially in the later years of slavery, when the importation of new slaves had been outlawed. Many a "white person" was enslaved after having been accused of being Black. If they could not produce paperwork proving their "whiteness" slave-catchers could snatch them up and spirit them away to a slave state where they would be bought and sold. There are a number of well documented cases where this happened and the family eventually "proved" the person was not Black and should therefore be released.
It's also been documented and attested to by eyewitnesses that a number of presidents of the United States of America were known to have been from Black families. These presidents include Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower. There are other prominent Americans still "passing" for white, as did Alexander Hamilton.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term "passing" as it is used in the Black community. Passing is when you cross over the color line by denying any and all association with your blood relations and create a new life out of sheer fiction. This is something that is quite common in the Black community. Examples of this phenomenon abound. Some prominent people who could and did pass, on occasion, include Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Walter White, John G. Jackson, T. John McKee, Mariah Carey, Queen Charlotte Sophia, Alexander Dumas, Alexander Leidesdorff, Alexander Pushkin and President Warren G. Harding. Many of these individuals accepted their "Blackness" and even reveled in it. But, this was not true across the board.
Alexander Leidesdorff's story was particularly tragic. He lost his first love when he informed her of his "tainted" background. Following that incident he moved to the other side of the country and kept his background in the closet. Alexander Dumas the French author of "The Three Musketeers," "The Man In the Iron Mask" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" was told, in no uncertain terms by his agent, that he should not even consider vacationing in America, for fear of losing a major market due to the endemic racism of the times.
On the other hand there were individuals like Adam Clayton Powell, Alexander Pushkin, Walter White and James G. Jackson who not only reveled in their "Blackness," but at times used their white appearance to infiltrate "white supremacist" organizations as spies.
So, when we hear of someone passing it's not far-fetched at all, because oftentimes we have people in our families who have been passing for years.
Last, but not least there should be no doubt that the descendants of Africa have been leaders in every field including cotton, since we arrived on these shores. So, why in heaven's name should it be amazing that a Black man could be elected to the presidency. There's a poem by "Straight Out Scribes," entitled "I Never Thought I'd Live To See The Day," that talks about the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of the unabashedly racist country of South Africa. If Mandela could be released from a life sentence for treason, after 30 years smashing rocks and then become President of South Africa, surely this could happen in the U.S.
The thing that's most "amazing" is that in spite of the racist policies still in force in this country, a Black man has risen to the top without having to deny his racial heritage. Yes, he's Black! They'll never let him forget. He's Black all right, he'll never let them forget.
Black United Students (BUS) was founded 40 years ago this year, on the campus of Kent State University. The organization has gone through many changes over time. But, much remains the same.
Dr. Larry Simpson, the first president of BUS, returned to the campus November 8, 2008 for a celebration of the past 40 years. He's now the Senior Vice President of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, in charge of academic affairs. Over the years his experience with BUS has served him well. As he stated in his keynote address the other night. Being involved in BUS gave him a window into the adult world that he may not have experienced had it not been for BUS. Mostly, it was about learning how to work with other people and function as a member of society.
In his work at Berklee, the world's largest music school, he is still an advocate for students and their success within an institutional environment, as is another former BUS president Dean Tim Moore. Dean Moore is an Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University. He's also a professor in Pan-African Studies where he's taught for over 30 years.
A number of other past presidents of BUS and BUS members were present for the celebration and awarding of Dr. Edward W. Crosby with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also spoke about the significance of BUS in the formation of 3 academic departments at Kent State University. The Pan-African Studies Department is one of those departments. In 1968 there was no Pan-African Studies Department. Dr. Crosby was brought to Kent to form just such a department. In the beginning it was known as the Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA).
Affirmative Action laws were in place, but in some ways it seemed as if IAAA was doing all the heavy lifting in that regard. No department on campus had as many Black faculty. To this day many of those Black faculty are still teaching at Kent, although few of them were seen that night. This was a night for the students.
Following the parade of presidents the current members of the BUS executive board outlined their goals for this year. Some of the highlights included working on the Obama campaign and going into neighboring communities to work with the youth. The Progressive Education Community School which was initiated in the late 60's as the African Liberation Tutoring program has had new life breathed into it by the current BUS board. Kaisha Sherills has been instrumental in bringing this program back to life. She is the Community Affairs Officer of BUS and is a real spark plug.
Ashley Tolliver current BUS president and her board did a fine job of putting together a program in less than 2 months. They are to be commended for their efforts. Hopefully, their experience with BUS will be as noteworthy and invigorating as that of past BUS members.
Monday, November 10, 2008
This book is for young and old! You'll learn about things your teacher never told you in school. They say,
"those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it!"
This fully illustrated volume is the first in a series of books which will broaden the horizons of its readers. If you thought you knew something about African American history, think again.
As the editor of this series, based on the research of J.A. Rogers and the illustrations of A.S. Milai, I am particularly proud to present this unique offering to the children of today following the most auspicious occasion of the election of the first Black President of the United States, in the 21st century.
Buy it now by selecting this live link to PayPal's secure server. PayPal can accept Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express and other forms of payment. Take advantage of our low introductory price.
Shipping is free and tax is included!
For those of you unfamiliar with eBooks, you will be sent a link to your eMail address within 24 hours of your payment, which will allow you to download this digital book and print it out in its entirety or one page at a time.
This book is recommended for children and adults alike. The short bios are no more than 1-2 paragraphs and there are numerous illustrations on each page to engage your readers. They're perfect for ages 8 and up. Download your copy now and give them away as Kwanzaa gifts! Use the colorful depictions on the cover to inspire further research by your students.
Please feel free to suggest new subjects for upcoming volumes.
Kofi Khemet, M.Ed.
Editor and Researcher
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This is a significant occurrence in American history, but not like some of us may think. "Race" has been a significant issue during this run for the White House. However, this is not the first time an African American has occupied the White House!! According to J.A. Rogers, their have been 4-5 African American presidents already! Now, just in case you missed this lesson during American history class I'll give you a quick recap.
In 1963 Attorney-General Robert Kennedy and Senator Jacob Javits stated:
"there might be a Negro President in the next thirty or forty years, FACT, most outspoken of the big magazines, replied there was already one and in its January-February, 1964 issue had an article 'America's First Negro President.' It named Warren G. Harding as the one and had affidavits from elderly whites who knew the Harding family.
But before Harding three other Presidents had been loudly proclaimed by white people as being of Negro ancestry . . . . Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln."
J. A. Rogers published a small booklet entitled "The Five Negro Presidents: according to what white people said they were" in 1965, offers up more evidence to back up these claims. Oftentimes, these claims of the first Black this and the first Black that is not only overblown, but is actually incorrect.
Ask anyone who the first African American in professional baseball was and they'll readily cite Jackie Robinson. When were the first "Freedom Rides?" Of course, everyone knows they occurred in the 1960's. Who was the first Black Astronaut? That's an easy one, Guion Bluford. However, when we go back and check the records we find that Moses "Fleetwood" Walker preceded Jackie Robinson by about 50 years. The first "Freedom Rides?" Well, as a matter of fact my cousin's husband went on the "Journey of Reconciliation," with Bayard Rutsin and other members of CORE in 1948. This was a test of an interstate transportation law enacted by President Truman outlawing segregation in interstate transportation. Last, but not least, Guion Bluford, one of our best and our brightest was preceded by Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. who entered an astronaut training program in the early 60's.As you can see from this short list, it can be a lot more difficult to nail down some of these so-called firsts than is apparent at first glance. I have purposely left a lot unsaid. My feeling is that in order to really know something it's best if you find it out for yourself. I will be returning to this topic as we continue to cover the story of Barack Obama, which has become decidedly presidential at this point.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Young people turned out in force for a political rally at the Quicken Loans Arena on October 29th, 2008. LeBron James, Jay-Z, the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party held a large rally in downtown Cleveland that was well staged and attended.
News media from around the world were represented, including a Kenyan paper called "The Nation," "Al-Jazeera English," and all the major U.S. news outlets.
The event was significant in that it drew a large crowd of young people during the middle of the week. The program opened up with prayer by a local preacher and continued with appeals to the youth to vote early and in massive numbers. Chris Redfern the head of the Ohio Democratic Party and field organizers within the Obama organization urged the youth to go to the polls enmasse and cast their ballot no matter what the difficulties involved.
They were warned about long lines, lack of food and water. Event host LeBron James and recording artist/entrepreneur Jay-Z implored them to go to the polls and stay there until they had cast their ballot. These were not exactly prophetic words, since long lines have already been noted in Atlanta, GA and other swing states, as well. Some of these lines have people waiting in line for up to 8 hours or more. It's been noted that the majority of these voters are new, young voters supporting Obama. It's a testament to their tenacity and the seriousness of the times that they continue to spend this much time waiting in line to cast their ballots. The much maligned youth have been cast as apathetic and unreliable, however it's this reporters' opinion that they are about to destroy this particular myth.
Senator and Mrs. Obama will be in Cleveland this Sunday at the "Change We Need Rally," Lakeside Malls A, B and C on Lakeside Avenue. The doors open at 2pm and the program begins at 3:45pm on November 2nd. Now we all love Barack, Michelle and the children, but this rally will feature the "real" BOSS! That's right Bruce Springsteen himself will be on the stage with the man we want to be the "BOSS" of the U.S. government. Wow!!! Does it get any better than this?
The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you can't make it to the rally remember this, "power concedes nothing without a fight." We've all got to do our part. Don't wait for the last minute to go to the polls. The earlier you go the more likely you are to successfully cast your ballot and be one in 100 million to begin to turn this country around. Your children's posterity and your posterior hang in the balance. Do your duty.