Opinion

5 Times MLK Clarified My Role In The Fight of Injustice

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"What is my role?"

... I asked myself this question as I witnessed droves of people on social media express their frustration with another non-indictment of a police officer who killed an unarmed Black man.

Feeling helpless and frustrated as to whether I should march or picket, I decided to do something else constructive: read.

Reading has always been therapeutic for me, especially when trying to find others in history who attempted to articulate the angst of their times in profound ways. I then decided to read up on Martin Luther King Jr. and his views on injustice. After reading his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I learned it was eerily addressing all of what was going on in 2017.

As I read through the letter, my mouth fell open. I finally got clarification on how I should respond to everything.

Hence, these are the five takeaways I had from reading Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Each of which explain why fighting injustice and inequality today matters as much as it did in 1963.

1. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny: “...Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

2. A Justice delayed is in fact a justice denied: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied.

3. Direct action opens the doors of negotiation and reform: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue."".. Direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. …The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."

4. Extremism for Love or for Hate: "..Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

5. The Church will serve as our thermostat: “There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are. “If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

 

Happy MLK DAY!

Kim Burrell And The Problem With ‘Praying The Gay Away’...

 Kim Burrell

Kim Burrell

My experience with the Black Church

Now, If you‘ve spent a significant time around the Black Church, you've probably heard the terms sissy, jelly back, or flip-wrist thrown around one too many times.

Having been formally introduced to Christ through the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), I know I have. As a younger man, I didn’t see these names as an issue, but after seeing the viral video of the young man being “delivert” from homosexuality last year, and now, Kim Burrell’s rant about the LGBTQI community, I’ve now converted to a new opinion.

After watching the video, I couldn't help but think about the young men who have been feeling the brunt of those homophobic statements for years.

We all know the Black Church has always had an issue with homosexuality - even becoming the most outspoken of communities against it. However, we tend to neglect the complexity of its relationship with this targeted sin and the nuances that inform its objection.

COGIC churches, like other Black and white Pentecostal denominations, usually have fundamental beliefs that are soundly built on biblical doctrine, i.e. eschatology, soteriology, and other big words. However, their praxis usually ignores the context and approach taken by Jesus, the first church, and others. Now don’t get me wrong. While they espouse the biblical importance of the laying of hands (Acts 8:17) and personal confession/testimony (Revelations 12:11), they forget the most important thing: Grace, especially when attempting to provide more "deliverance" for the people they service weekly.

What does it mean to be delivered?

Now let me start by saying: there’s no such thing as being “more delivert”. Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” In the Old Testament, deliverance manifested itself in God’s removal of those who were in the midst of trouble or danger. But in the New Testament, God becomes the subject—and His people— the object of his deliverance. Fascinating, right?

I think most Christians would agree with me that we are ALREADY delivered from the grips of sin and Satan. But our bad theology has prompted us to seek to be "Delivert more" as the young man approached the altar saying without considering the role God already played in the matter.

Bibliclaly Speaking

Biblically speaking, one cannot be more 'delivert' than they already are after accepting Christ. Biblical deliverance is already bought and dispensed by God’s Grace. According to Hebrews 10:18, our sins have been forgiven and due to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. So any more desire for deliverance is pointless and misguided. Any hope of becoming more delivered only perpetuates an inordinate desire to want to reestablish righteousness with God – a righteousness that we never could have earned ourselves to begin with (Ephesians 2:8). Our distrust in the fact that we are already righteous through Christ is what has created a fallacy in our theology.

In addition, neither Jesus nor his apostles ever delivered anyone from homosexuality in the Bible. The only instance where deliverance is mentioned in the New Testament was when Christ delivered people from disease and death (Luke 17: 11-19, John 11:44, etc.) To conflate or liken homosexuality to death and disease has large implications and, in my opinion, is biblically irresponsible and anti-Christ. Not to mention, it highlights other problems present in our congregations and raises some crucial questions: Why are we not praying for deliverance from fornication among heterosexual Christians, idolatry of our leaders, and greed in the pulpits as adamantly as we are against homosexuality?

The Problem with 'Praying the Gay Away'..

Many people don't know this but “praying the gay away” is not a biblical concept. In fact, it is entrenched in a homophobic opinion of Christianity that isn’t supported with scripture in its proper context.

In many instances, references from the Old Testament are poorly framed for contemporary audiences, i.e. the Levitical reference: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22). This verse was spoken to Moses for the Jews about God’s ordinances for purity.

Though such verses are important for attaining biblical knowledge, they were not meant to be the basis of Christian life, post-Jesus. Jesus’ words about purity were simple : anyone who looks at a woman [or man] lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). This verse makes us all rather culpable if you ask me, but our pride, clergy or not, would never let us admit that. That’s why the concept of 'praying the gay away' is not a biblical concept, but rather, a social construction.

 

What if you can't pray the Gay away... Would the church be ok with that?

In many Christian communities, the desire for conversion/deliverance from a homosexual lifestyle is more for social reasons than it is for actual spiritual transformation. In the church, homosexuality is usually framed as being unredeemable and unregenerate by hateful preachers. However, these diatribes are rarely, if ever, in tune with God’s current sentiments concerning the world and man’s sinful condition (John 3:16) due to the Church’s fears and discomforts. However, our discomfort does not grant us the right to condemn sins. We are called to love and show grace. Since Jesus himself didn’t condemn, we can’t either. But these preachers’ warped view of God has led them to do the opposite. And it’s that kind of pride and piety that is being displayed in pulpits, instead of God’s Mercy, that is causing more and more people to come to altars under condemnation...

And trust me, I know.

Like Andrew Caldwell, I have gone to the altar a number of times seeking my own personal "deliverance” from my own indiscretion, and now understand how easy it is to fall into the theatrics of getting "delivert" more.

...You know, the falling back, foaming at the mouth, screaming, shouting, and other hoopla that, to others, is evidence of transformation in front of the entire congregation. To be honest, most of those displays of religious exuberance are disingenuous, having been taught, rehearsed, practiced, or even fabricated in some cases. Now, I don't want to paint what you see at most churches with a large brush of insincerity, because I'm no one's judge, but please know that not all of the “deliverances” you see at the altar are “Spirit-led.” Deliverance happens internally first and foremost. Any external “signs” are only a manifestation of the work that occurred within through the Spirit. But more on that in another post…

...not all of what you see at the altar are "Spirit-led."

Now I know this may be controversial to some, but I don’t believe that the gay is meant to be prayed away. Rather, it is meant to be lived beside and addressed in love, not phobia. Why? Because Jesus did the very same with sinners of all kinds and none of them, from Peter, Mary, Zaccheus, and even Judas, were never turned away.

That being said, I have one simple call to action to the Church:

In response to both videos, the social stigma surrounding homosexuality, and appropriate Christian responses, we as the church, COGIC and otherwise, need to do away with this hierarchy of sin that, though culturally touted, is biblically irresponsible and insensitive. As Andrew Caldwell, and so many others in pulpits and pews are attempting to reconcile their sexual identity with God, we as the church need to begin to WALK with them through it with a Grace that resembles that of Jesus. And not with pious convocations and theatrical testimonies, but with honest conversation that uproot our bad theology to allow us to repent for the phobia we have toward one another. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what true deliverance will really look like.

..Can I get an Amen?

 

#TrustTheProcess | 2016: a Year in Review

...If you've followed me on social media for sometime, you’ve probably seen me share my favorite hashtag: #TrustTheProcess. The trusting of my process began in 2014 when a still small voice told me to forgo my doctoral studies on the East Coast and instead, come home to Los Angeles. After coming home in 2014, I saw how much trustworthiness I had to have in the process as I found myself career-less, sleeping on my Grandmother's couch, working a part-time job - making $9.25/hour at my local YMCA with a master's degree. If you need a refresh er, here is my 2015 year-in-review. As you can recall, 2015 had its highs and lows, but 2016 took me to new career and social heights in ways I couldn't have ever anticipated! Hopefully, this will convey to most  just how good God is!

Here's my recap of how I trusted the process in 2016:

January

In the month of January, I came across an image of literary giant Octavia Butler's handwritten notes from 1988 that conveyed her desires and dream to be remembered as one of the greatest writers of all time. Her list of self-actualization and affirmation was powerful to me and I decided to replicate one for myself and use the same words she used: "So be it. See to it." This practice in self-actualization would prove to be the best thing I've ever done.

In January, my partner, Makiah, and I went to New York City as social media managers for #MLKNOW with United Blackout - a network of concerned artists, entertainers, advocates, religious leaders & citizens united to end human rights violations against fellow Americans. With an amazing turnout online, we were able to have it trend #1 in the country.

Afterward, we wrote about the event’s social impact on us and the rest of the country for Huffington Post. #TrustTheProcess

February

In February, while still teaching at CSUDH, I was selected by Fusion's inaugural Rise Up Be Heard Fellowship as a journalist and reporter for Southern California.

I also wrote about Cam Newton and White America's issues with Black athletes.

One of my goals for 2016 was to fly regularly - and have people pay for it - and I had the amazing opportunity to do so several times. I went to Miami to cover the Power Moves conference for Black Tech Week. I went to Louisiana to cover the inauguration of Xavier University newest President. Heck, I even went to Ohio for a business trip. 3 words: #TrustTheProcess

March

In March, I wrote one of my most important pieces regarding politics: "Are Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders Exploiting the Families of Black Victims for Votes?" In conducting research for this article, I had the honor of speaking to #SandraBland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, to get her thoughts on the subject. Although this piece was a labor of love over many hard and sometimes frustrating weeks, it was completely worth it. #TrustTheProcess

April

In April, I had the pleasure of serving on my first panel for NPR's KPCC at CSU Fullerton regarding student activism + politics.

Moreover, I wrote my first piece for Fusion's Rise Up Be Heard Fellowship, in which I interviewed Black Millennials, Pastors, and Clergy across the country to ask why Black millennials were hopping from church-to-church. #TrustTheProcess

MAY


Inspired by the trip I had taken in February to Miami for the Power Moves Conference and Black Tech Week, I finally decided to step out and start a venture of my own, Black Book LA.

From events and concerts to museums and Black-owned businesses, Black Book LA is now the one-stop shop for everything Black in LA. But it's more than a newsletter–it's a community. Currently, we reach over 7000+ Black millennials in LA. #TrustTheProcess

Moreover, in the same month, I was invited to Greater Harvest Church in Bakersfield, California, to speak to their 2016 graduates about how they, too, can #TrustTheProcess out of school.

June

After providing commentary on NPR several more times on The Black Family in Southern California to MLK and the future of Black activism, I was asked to deliver a keynote address at CSU Bakersfield's Black Graduation for the entire class of 2016. Wow! Just 4 years out of undergrad, and I was up there encouraging people to face what laid before them. It's so crazy how things came full circle. #TrustTheProcess

July

In the month of July, ready and willing, I embarked on a 4-day investigative reporting assignment for Fusion to cover Police & Detention Centers. While there, I was able to speak to victims of police violence. I later learned that our video piece went viral, receiving over 5 million views.

Crazy enough, in the same month, it was confirmed that in October, I'd be a featured TED Talk speaker at Los Angeles' TedxCrenshaw! Yes. There's no way this year could get any better. #TrustTheProcess

 

August

August was even more lit! With #BlackBookLA fully underway, Makiah and I decided to step out of our comfort zone to do our first event, #JAMBALAYA. Crazy, right? What started out with 10 subscribers now reaches over 7,000. Here’s a snapshot from our first mixer.

Moreover, in August, I was featured in a Fusion Documentary that followed my journalism assignment in Bakersfield that aired on NATIONAL TELEVISION. #TrustTheProcess

September

Out of all the months, September was hands down the most epic one of them all!

Chiefly, Twitter finally decided to verify me.

I was selected as the California African American Museum's newest Curator & Program Manager of History and Culture! From here on out, I have the esteemed pleasure of curating the dopest exhibitions, programs, and lectures that will reimagine and reclaim the beauty and illustriousness of the Black experience in the U.S.! I'm so honored to do so and assist CAAM in making its mark in the art world!

It was also in the same month that I went to the NMAAHC in Washington D.C. for the grand opening and had my life changed by the beauty of the edifice and the exhibitions. #TrustTheProcess

October

In October, out of 20,000 applicants, the White House invited me to attend the first ever #SXSL festival with some of the best and brightest. Humbled is not even the word. Gratefulness is all I have.

In addition, within the same week, I shared my Ted Talk to an entire auditorium full of people - which will be available online in 2017! (Note: Doing this #TEDtalk was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I was stretched, contorted, challenged and pushed to produce the best speech I possibly could. And it was. It was me sharing my frustration, love, and passion for my PEOPLE in this complicated place we call our country. With this one, I gave my all and felt lifted with every word off my lips.) #TrustTheProcess

November + December

With such an amazing year under my belt, I told myself for the last two months of the year i would finally rest and recalibrate to focus on my work at the Museum and my next creative projects. Why? Because I've learned that resting is equally as important as working to any process one is undergoing.
 

In Conclusion....
 

2016 has been quite the year. Not only did I reach career and social heights that I could only dream of, I found purpose. 2015 year was not easy, but I now see why. 2016 was being prepared for as I was learning significant lessons along the way. So, for all those who find themselves in the middle of a difficult process, I encourage you to keep trusting and never give up! Theres something always better on the other side.

If this was 2016, I can't imagine what the process has for me in 2017!
 

#TrustTheProcess

 

Why Black People Can't Swim

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We need to have a conversation about the myth/stereotype about why "Black people can't swim!"

This stereotype - though often laughed at - is not only racist it's couched in American exclusionary practices. The reason why vast amounts of Black americans today (70% to be exact) can't swim is historically due to government sanctioned redlining and de-facto segregation that would limit Black american access to pools in the summertime. 

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Disastrous redlining practices of the 1930's meant to segregate whites from Blacks, corralled Black americans into poor sections of cities (ghettos) that did not have access to reliable water, let alone recreational-sized pools for the next 60 years. Of the pools that were available in sections of cities in the 1910's-60s, Black people were rabidly denied  pool access (some even draining entires pools if a Black person's toe even touched it. i.e. Dorothy Dandridge) because of de-facto segregation and red-neck whites.

 Motel manager pouring acid in the water when black people swam in his pool, 

Motel manager pouring acid in the water when black people swam in his pool, 

Motel manager pouring acid in the water when black people swam in his pool, 1964.

Consequentially, with little access to recreational-sized pools because of neighborhood proximity and white-racism, this created future generations of urban Black americans who'd never learnt to swim. Accordingly, this generational inaccessibility to pools would persist for many decades, excluding generations of Black Americans from the leisure of the exercise of swimming, thusly allowing the myth that "Blacks can't swim" to persist - as if black people never sought to learn. 

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Simone Manuel, first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.

Nonetheless, despite access to recreational swimming, we ALL learned that Black people do swim, and because of Simone  Manuel, if given a shot, they too, can swim laps around anybody and win gold medals, if given access to! #Rio2016

Why WGN’s Underground is an Emmy Contender

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For every generation, there is a television show that audaciously attempts to tackle history in a way that the American public hasn’t yet seen. In the 1970’s it was Alex Haley’s Roots, and for this generation, it’s Misha Green and Joe Pokaski’s WGN Drama, Underground.

As the show revels in its Season 2 renewal, the team behind it has launched a campaign to be considered in the upcoming round of Emmy considerations. But with a show that addresses such sensitive and intense subject matter, their efforts carry a special significance.

A few weeks ago, WGN America and Sony Pictures Television hosted a gospel brunch and exclusive pilot screening for Academy members. As audience members filed into the Beverly Hilton, the excitement was palpable.

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The brunch kicked off with a power-packed performance from Jason McGee and The Choir, who delivered moving renditions of “Ride On, King Jesus” and “Walk Over God’s Heaven.” With each song, they set the atmosphere for the resilient and triumphant tone of the show. Shortly afterward, we watched the pilot episode, which opened with none other than Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.”

Set in the Antebellum South, we follow the Macon 7, a group of seven enslaved African Americans, who bravely escape from the plantation to make the 600-mile trek to freedom.

The protagonists of the show are Noah (Aldis Hodge) and Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett), who are marvelously supported by an amazing cast of characters, many of whom were in attendance. Christopher Meloni (August Pullman), Alano Miller, (Cato), Jessica De Gouw (Elizabeth Hawkes) and Amirah Vann, (Ernestine) graced the stage to talk about their experiences on the show. The event was also attended by the show’s creative team, including co-creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Director and Executive Producer Anthony Hemingway, and was moderated by Michelle Turner from Entertainment Tonight.

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Jurnee Smollett, an actress who unapologetically combines her activism and acting, shared why Underground initially caught her attention: “It gives voice to the stories of those who did fight back-the revolutionaries who said ‘I’m taking agency over my life.’”

Her performance as Rosalee is nothing short of impressive. With every episode, we see an incremental transformation and realization of agency by Smollett’s character. Initially, we are introduced to a frail and timid woman, but throughout the first season we watch her blossom into a courageous woman who’s willing to put her life on the line for her companions.

Smollett explained that most of Rosalee’s struggles came byways of the effectiveness of slavery’s ability to separate slaves by skin tone. “The most tragic thing about slavery is that they succeeded at pitting us against each other,” she shared. “They made us believe that something like the house is a position we should settle for.”

Aldis Hodge discussed the importance of solidarity among runaway slaves. “Even if you make it, you still haven’t made it,” he said in reference to the dissonance many slaves felt after leaving their families behind. Hodge’s character expresses this sentiment weekly, as he struggles to encourage the group and keep everyone together.

In one of the breakthrough roles of the season, Amirah Vann (Ernestine), provides us with an introspective look into what it was like to be a house slave. Her character embodies the weight of what it means to be a mother who literally puts herself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of her children. Her gripping scenes and subtle gestures illustrate the dignity of enslaved women despite her incessant degradation.

With such a dynamic cast and creative force behind it, the announcement of a second season comes as no surprise. As Underground continues to engage key audiences, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of Hollywood takes notice.

Underground is worthy of Emmy consideration not only for the superb acting and complex storylines, but for the profound impact it is having on the way we talk about and remember America’s dark past. This classic tale with a modern twist brilliantly lures us in and encourages viewers to break free from the monotony of other, less nuanced portrayals of slavery. As the nation continues to engage in conversations surrounding race and social justice, Underground could not have come at a better time.

Xavier University of Louisiana Welcomes A Brand New President

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On February 26 2016, Xavier University of Louisiana celebrated the inauguration and investment of its new president, Dr. Reynold C. Verret - a man of great esteem, faith, and leadership.

Dr. C. Reynold Verret is an experienced higher education administrator and a widely respected scholar. He earned his undergraduate degree cum laude in Biochemistry from Columbia University and holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Unanimously elected by the Board of the Trustees last spring, Dr. Verret began his tenure on July 1, 2015 following the retirement of Dr. Norman C. Francis, who served as president for 47 years - the sixth president of Xavier University.

Founded in 1915 by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Xavier University is a premier track HBCU and is the only Catholic HBCU in North America. Xavier also serves as the top producer of African American undergraduates who go on to complete medical school; and one of the top three producers of African American Doctor of Pharmacy degree recipients. All areas Dr. Verret believes that he can assist with Xavier propelling forward.

“My vision for Xavier as the next president is to increase our reach not just locally, but nationally,” Dr. Verret stated. “Our sense of purpose is blessed and is a sacred mission to build people and to help people.” With such a forward-thinking and communal approach, Dr. Verret is carrying on in the tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities that pride themselves on serving students on the margins. “Xavier is very intentional in meeting students where they are. Understanding that every student comes with some different gaps, but we’re here to fill those gaps.” Dr. Verret also explained where his commitment to students stems from: “No matter who you are, there was someone who has spoken up for us when we weren’t in the room. And there is an expectation that I would support others in the same way.”

Many within the Xavier community echoed the same sentiments. Sierra Hodge, a Junior Political Science major and Business Administration minor, who also serves as junior class president shared her excitement to have Dr. Verret join the Xavier family. As a student leader, she could clearly see Dr. Verret’s vision for Xavier and welcomed its future growth. “He has a lot of good plans and has a great team around him and he wants to make us not just a great university known around New Orleans, but around the world.” She went on to state that, “Dr. Verret recognizes the importance of education and the importance of youth in the future...Dr. Verret has the entire student body behind him.”

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Chair of Xavier’s Public Health Department and the President Obama appointed 18th Surgeon General of the United States, thought that Xavier was very lucky to have Dr. Verret. “Dr. Verret comes with an understanding of the humanities and sciences and how to bridge the two together in order to prepare students to compete in the global market.” She also mentioned that Dr. Verret’s presidency couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time. “He understands the importance of being involved with the community and it fits in the with the ethos of the campus. Dr. Verret is going to be a wonderful continuation of that.”

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Xavier University is a shining example of Black scholarship and ingenuity. As a university, Xavier continues to set a new precedent for students of various backgrounds and pronounces that Black America’s future leaders are already in our midst. In fact, Xavier currently ranks first nationally in the number of African American students earning undergraduate degrees in biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy.

Bearing witness to the jubilant and sacred sentiments shared by both faculty and students at the inauguration that morning exemplified that.

Dr. Verret’s installation as Xavier University’s new president represents a new era of innovation, not only for the Xavier Community, but for New Orleans at large. His presidency comes at a time when HBCUs nationwide are reclaiming their rightful place within higher-ed by producing the nation’s largest concentration of Black college graduates. And with Dr. Verret at the helm of Xavier, we can expect to hear even more great things about this wonderful institution. With such an extensive track record and comprehensive vision for the future, there is no doubt that Dr. Verret will add to the rich and illustrious legacy of Xavier University of Louisiana.

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Go XULA!

15 reasons why Harriet Tubman deserves the $100 Dollar Bill too..

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Racks on racks on racks! With the news that Harriet Tubman is being placed on half of the $20 dollar bill has everyone very excited - and they should be. However, contrary to popular belief,  I think the American Treasury's Jack Lew still has short changed her. Why? Harriet has been keeping it 100 her entire life.

Urban Dictionary defines 100  as: to stay true; to be real; straight up

...And if you ask me,  Harriet Tubman has been keeping it 100 her whole life. Don't believe me? Here are 15 ways Harriet Tubman kept it '1o0 throughout her life:

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  • Tubman or the slaves she guided were never captured.
  • Tubman used disguises to avoid getting caught. She dressed as a man, old woman or middle class free African American.
  • During the Civil War she was paid $200 over a period of 3 years. She supported herself by selling pies.
  • During the Civil War she worked as a nurse and a cook. Her knowledge of local plants helped her cure soldiers with dysentery.
  • Tubman was the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War. She conducted the Combahee River Raid which set free 700 slaves.
  • After the Civil War she became involved in the cause for women’s suffrage. She gave speeches in Boston, New York and Washington.

 

  • Unable to sleep, Tubman underwent brain surgery in Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. She refused anesthesia, instead she insisted to chew a bullet just like soldiers did when they had their legs amputated.

In conclusion:

 Harriet Tubman was a G! 

...In my opinion, Harriet Tubman is worth far more than just a $20 dollar bill. Not only was she enslaved, she was a cook, a nurse, a spy, and also a soldier in the Union Army,  on top of being an abolitionist, too.  And because of these achievements, she not only deserves a $20, she deserves a grand stack of  $100 dollar bills, too. Why? Harriet's been keeping it '100 her entire life.

..Keep it 100 and share this with someone else!

Erykah Badu, You Betta Call Tyrone about your Sexism...

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...Erykah Badu really threw me for a loop today!

The Queen-Mother of all things woke chimed in on Twitter about how she thinks that girls should "pull down their skirts" because they might serve as a distraction to the boys in school settings. Check it out below:

In her tweets, Erykah Badu makes 3 egregious mistakes:

 

1) Telling little girls to lengthen their skirt to avoid gawking from men reinforces rape culture. Rape Culture, or a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality, is extremely harmful to little girls. Why? Because it places the blame on women instead of the men who commit the assault or harassment.

2) Following Ms. Badu’s logic allows us to blame girls for the unwanted advances they receive because of their uniforms instead of focusing on the perpetrators who make the advances. According to Justice Department statistics, nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. And sadly, in U.S. high schools, 10.5 percent of high school girls have been forced to have sex. Another study reports that only half of them told a third party or reported their assault.

3) Trying to justify that men are naturally wired to look at underage women is creepy and very R.Kelly-esque. Again, reinforcing rape culture. Back during the Soul Train Awards, Badu sang R. Kelly's praises. But although he is a musical genius, according to the Village Voice, close to two dozen women have claimed that he sexually abused them. Virtually all of the allegations are said to have occurred in or near Chicago, where Kelly is from, and involve claims Kelly repeatedly pursued minors for sex. Erykah... Is that someone you really want to step in the name of love with, too?

Ultimately, I've arrived to one conclusion:

Erykah Badu is not as WOKE as we thought.

Little girls should never be held responsible for gawking eyes of adults–especially grown men. Men who prey on little girls who wear short skirts, long skirts, or tunics are perverts–plain and simple. And rationalizing that type of behavior doesn't make you woke; it just indicates that you’re asleep!

Sorry, Erykah ...I will always be one of your biggest fans, but after your rant on Twitter this week, I think it's time to call Tyrone and tell him to pick up your ideological sh*t...Why, because I, like Black Twitter, ain't here for it.

 

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Why Black Millennials Are Hopping from Church-to-Church

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Why Black Millennials Are Hopping from Church-to-Church

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I stopped going to church about six months after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. My church at the time, a Pentecostal black church in South Los Angeles, had made no mention of police brutality or Black Lives Matter, and I couldn’t help but interpret their silence to mean that my life didn’t matter much either.

I just couldn’t understand how a black church could be so slow to pick a side on such a topical and dire social justice issue. So I started seeking other churches, including a white church, but quickly learned that both the black and white churches I tried were incapable of meeting me where I was at, culturally or politically.

I began to think that if the black church couldn’t take a basic stance on my life, maybe God was incapable of it, too. Yes, tragic, I know.

In the 1960s, the black church played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, organizing carpools to protests and injecting songs of resistance into Sunday mass. But today, the church is mostly absent from black and youth-led organizing efforts.

“Jesus was in those streets and so should we [be],” said LA-based Black Lives Matter activist Shamell Bell, who stopped attending her church after it didn’t take the time to acknowledge the Charleston church shooting last year.

LA-based Black Lives Matter activist Shamell Bell

“If the church is not going to get on board, then young black folks will continue to hop from church to church getting their fix of religion until they stop going altogether and imagine church in a new way,” Bell said. “That means if we get together in our homes weekly and love each other and show the fruit of the spirit, that is where our church will be.”

Like Bell, many of my peers have practiced church-hopping between traditional Protestant and non-traditional church services.

The numbers prove it, according to a 2014 Pew study. While the number of churchgoers at historical black churches has remained relatively steady, the number of people going to nondenominational churches has increased by the millions.

Twenty-four year old Steven Spicer, a student at West LA College, left his Baptist church to attend a nondenominational church in South LA. He said his church “feels extremely static and stuck on individualistic preaching,” rarely ever “touching on the importance of community or social justice.”

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Princeton Parker

Caught in-between the old school and the new, Princeton Parker, a 22-year-old minister and recent college grad, attends both his traditional Pentecostal church and non-denominational churches weekly.

“Black men need to hear conversations about family, sexuality, and finance, and most importantly, we want to hear conversations about social justice,” Parker said. “You cannot find identity in a place that won’t talk about the difficulty about your identity.”

And it’s not just about black men. Christina Peterson, 24, a queer black woman from Philadelphia, was once a part of a Baptist church, but hasn’t been an active member in six years because she hasn’t found a space where she feels comfortable.

“I’m always greeted with stares and rude looks from others because I’m not dressed the way they think I should be,” said Peterson, who observes that people don’t participate with her in the interactive portions of a service. “Queer people love the Lord too, and we don’t want to go to church and feel attacked constantly.”

At nondenominational churches, churchgoers can dress more casually, music is more contemporary and sermons are more currently relevant.

Thabiti Anyabwile, 46-year-old pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, takes this approach at his church.

“Whether you wear church hats or snapbacks, timberlands or flats—all are welcome,” said Anyabwile, who has seen an influx of black youth join his congregation. “The [black] church has to have a seriousness, authenticity and engagement with the world as it is, that helps to root young people.”

In addition to seeking an acceptance of all identities, some black youth are also craving diverse voices. Martoinne and Rhea Williams, a young married couple from Long Beach, Calif., discussed why they’ve decided to hop and, ultimately, leave their black church for a multicultural church across town.

Martoinne and Rhea Williams

Martoinne and Rhea Williams

“When I asked my pastor about a desire for the black church to be more multicultural, my pastor said, ‘So, you want heaven on earth?…You can’t have that here. That’s reserved for heaven.”

After hearing this, Martoinne and Rhea left their church to join a more racially diverse congregation across town. On their first visit, Martoinne looked over at his wife and joked, “I guessed we walked into heaven.”

In a world of dating apps and social media networks, it’s just easier to find things that specifically fit your needs. The same goes with churches.

Ekemini Uwan, a Master of Divinity Counseling student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, believes that sporadic church attendance is emblematic of the results of internet culture where thousands of choices are at your fingertips.

“We live in a time where people like to shop and we take that mentality to church,” Uwan shared. “Some might leave for churches that are culturally relevant or they might leave because they want to identify.”

I’m still hopping around churches today, but honestly, I’ve been underwhelmed with each one I’ve found. So, now I congregate regularly and informally with friends.

I’m not leaving the black church per-se, but if the church doesn’t collectively do more listening than talking to recognize our intersecting identities as black people, I will be gone for good. Black youth believe God inherently sees us; we’re just waiting for the black church to catch up.

... Can I get an amen?

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Why I'm Not Here for Bill Clinton...

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Today, Bill Clinton showed me who he really is.

At a rally in Philadelphia this afternoon, Bill Clinton had a heated argument with Black Lives Matter protestors about what he really thought about Black crime once-and-for-damn-all. Here's the video:

In the video, Bill Clinton makes 3 egregious mistakes:

  1. He justified his notorious ‘94 crime bill that was ultimately responsible for the Mass-Incarceration of Black men and women
  2. Attempted to vindicate his wife and her use of the phrase “Super Predators” and its application toward Black + Brown kids in urban areas (me included)
  3. Fallaciously tried to convince a liberal audience that Black Lives Matter protesters are actually responsible for America's failure of urban revitalization caused historically by policy  ( i.e. Slavery + Segregation + Redlining + G.I. bill), which gainfully contributed to areas where over-policing/police brutality/ high-crime tend to happen: Section 8 housing and ghettos

Ultimately, I've arrived to one conclusion:

The Clinton's don't care about Black people.

The Clintons, in my opinion, are just two southern-style politicians whose paternalism toward Black americans is far to egregious to ignore. Sista Souljah was right. From this point on, I'm over Bill Clinton. I'm not drinking the proverbial Democratic Kool-Aid they like to slang to Black people every four years. Bill Clinton sucks, and by affiliation, so does Hillary, too.

#ImNotWithThem

 

Are Candidates Exploiting the Families of Black Victims for Votes? Sandra Bland’s Mom Says “No”

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When most mothers endorse presidential candidates, their voices have limited impact. But an endorsement by the mother of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody? That holds weight.

Geneva Reed-Veal endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago—and she’s proud. “Hillary has been championing women and families for over a decade.”

Is it appropriate for candidates to approach mourning mothers?

She’s not alone: The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Dontre Hamilton, and Eric Garner are also supporting Clinton through Mothers of the Movement, a coalition they, along with Reed-Veal, formed for mothers whose children were killed by state violence. This may have boosted Clinton’s numbers in the South Carolina and Georgia Democratic primaries—she received more than 80 percent of black voters’ support in both states.

Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner, disagrees with her grandmother on who should become our next president. She has endorsed Bernie Sanders. “He heard us, and I believe he’ll continue to listen,” Erica wrote in op-ed for the Washington Post . “I’m behind anyone who’s going to listen and speak up for us, and I think we need to believe in a leader like Bernie Sanders.”

The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to interview requests, and the Clinton campaign directed YES! to MSNBC, which was streaming live coverage of Mothers of the Movement from South Carolina.

These endorsements may be crucial to the candidates’ chances, as black voters will play a major role this election season. But is it appropriate for candidates to approach mourning mothers? Or is it exploitative?

Bland’s mother finds offensive the idea that she is being exploited. “I am over 50, and I understand exploitation and what it is,” she says. “We were all offended that it’s being said that we are being exploited—because we’re not.”

Reed-Veal, is excited to work with Clinton, even if others within the movement find the candidates’ alignment with black victims insulting and disingenuous.

“For these [deaths] to be used as a campaign tool is one of the worst things that can be done. How dare you?” says Los Angeles-based Black Lives Matter organizer Melina Abdullah, who is also the chair of the Pan-African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles.

“We were all offended that it’s being said that we are being exploited—because we’re not.”

Some activists would like to see candidates focus instead on reparations. “Political engagement with the black community should be like a bank,” says Marissa Johnson, Seattle Black Lives Matter co-founder. “If the engagement is not quantifiable or monetizing, it isn’t really engagement.” The Black Youth Project 100’s proposed Agenda to Build Black Futures Campaign also mentions reparations.

Charlene Carruthers, national director of BYP 100, an activist organization comprised of black millennials dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people, says she is more concerned about the candidates’ strategies to win black voters than whom the families of state violence endorse.

But these strategies aren’t new. Consider JFK.

In the 1960 presidential race, John F. Kennedy successfully secured 70 percent of the black vote. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, used their political influence to get Martin Luther King Jr. released from jail, where he was being held following peaceful protests. That led to Kennedy’s endorsment by King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr.

That, in conjunction with Lyndon B. Johnson’s support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was the beginning of what would become overwhelming black democratic allegiance for the next 50 years. In fact, according to a 2015 Pew report, almost two-thirds of blacks identify as democrats, with most of the rest identifying as independents. Only 5 percent identify as republicans.

Black voters matter, especially to the Democratic Party.

The 2008 election, when Barack Obama became our first black president, was the most diverse ever, turning out 65 percent of black voters. In 2012, 66 percent showed up at the polls.

Almost two-thirds of blacks identify as democrats.

Black Americans do more than increase voter turnout. They increase winning margins, too. In 1992, former president Bill Clinton, deemed the “first black president” by novelist Toni Morrison, received 83 percent of the black vote as opposed to only 39 percent of the white vote. Four years later, he won again, receiving 84 percent of the black vote compared to 43 percent of the white vote. Although black Americans did not fare any better under his presidency—his policies, in fact, destroyed and displaced millions of black men and women via mass incarceration—Bill’s appearances at black churches and black hubs won him eight years in office and solidified a reputation that even facts can’t dispute.

Bland’s mom doesn’t let Bill’s legacy taint her appreciation for Hillary. “Do not judge her based off what Bill did,” she says. “This is not about Bill. This is her time to show to show her abilities, and I’m standing with her because I know she’s capable of getting the job done.”

Hillary has convinced enough black voters in two predominantly black states, but Sanders still has a chance at those that remain. Over the last few months we’ve heard both candidates announce that “Black Lives Matter,” but, in the coming weeks, we can expect to see more from them to show us whether black votes matter, too.

This piece was originally featured in Yes! Magazine.

DAB: Cam Newton and the Threat of the White Gaze

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Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) reacts after running for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. The Panthers won 35-27. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) reacts after running for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. The Panthers won 35-27. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Over the course of the last season, much has been said about the Carolina Panther's MVP, Cam Newton. He has a sizzle reel of highlights often parading his prowess, talent, and athletic ability on the gridiron for all of America to watch in awe–or in some cases, disgust.

Recently, as Cam Newton has performed on the field (45 total touchdowns, 3,837 Passing yards, 636 rushing), he has been strongly criticized for his end zone displays of enthusiasm. Many of the detractors who feel that way are white sports fans who have reached their limit with Cam - some even demanding Cam to apologize. After perusing their grievances and trying to ground them in some type of logic, I found that what they were asking Cam to apologize for wasn’t logical at all. They weren’t asking him to apologize for his flashy play, his supposed lack of sportsmanship, or even his arrogance, but for his blackness itself.

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At its core, White America’s dislike of Cam Newton is steeped in a long tradition of paternalistic attitudes towards Black male athletes. Cam Newton isn’t the first athlete to threaten whites with his sheer existence. We recently saw Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch face scrutiny for their unapologetic Black appearances. Serena Williams even found the same kind of hate following her Grand Slam appearances. Going even further, Muhammad Ali experienced something eerily similar to what Cam is going through now and, like Cam, addressed it head-on. The issue: the white gaze.

The white gaze  defined by George Yancy, Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University, is described as looking at the world through the eyes of a white person who has undertones of, or is blatant in, their racism. And this gaze has a thread throughout American history between Black men and their white observationists.

The issue: the white gaze

This same gaze empowered white overseers as they monitored slaves and policed their every move on the plantation. Throughout the prolonged and brutal era of enslavement, any slave who looked as if he was threatening or subverting The Establishment was labeled as a rebel and dealt with accordingly.

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In the same vein, Cam Newton’s refusal to comply with the belief that a Black quarterback must be gentle or even docile is what makes him less palatable to white audiences and subsequently more threatening. However, Cam’s mischaracterization by white sports fans and media has nothing to do with Cam, but everything to do with their deep and historical desire to paternalize the Black body. 

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What most don't understand is that Cam’s tendency to diverge from white expectation has sent racist fans into a frenzy for the same reasons that whites have criticized Black athletes since the beginning of integrated sports. Most of the critiques of his sportsmanship are based on how he refuses to play football in the “traditional” (i.e. white) way. Which has always threatened organized sports.

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Traditionally, America has always found the stereotype of the docile negro more digestible than the one who is more confident and comfortable in his/her Blackness. Cam is no different. His refusal to submit to the white gaze triggers the deeply ingrained fear of the uncontrollable negro.

Fueling much of white fear of Cam is his influence on white children. In fact, the article that first brought his conduct into question came from a white mother who complained that Cam’s behavior had made a bad impression on her 9 year-old daughter:  “Won’t he get in trouble for doing that? Is he trying to make people mad? Do you think he knows he looks like a spoiled brat?”

From the tone of both Rosemary Plorin and her child, it’s clear that they don’t see Cam as the 26 year-old man and multi-million dollar athlete that he is, but more so, a misbehaving child that doesn’t have good home training. This serves an example of the paternalistic gaze that is often projected onto black men regularly - despite multi million dollar contracts and endorsement deals, let alone talent and agency.

Many white sports fans - especially Carolina Panther fans - think that they own Cam Newton and have stake in telling him what is and isn't acceptable. But to all of Cam’s detractors trying to police his behavior, I pose the following question:

Would you be equally as critical of Cameron Newton and his style of play if he was a white quarterback who decided to celebrate in the end zone?

From the condescending op-eds to the racist comments on social media, it’s clear that White America is broken up over the fact that they can’t police Cam, his style, or his behavior. Black men aren’t children. They cannot be quelled, tamed, or contained– especially by white perception.

Cam’s refusal to acquiesce to these incessant demands is nothing short of revolutionary. At a time when Black people across the nation are reclaiming their freedom, it’s refreshing to see Black athletes do the same. Super Bowl win or not, Cam Newton is already a winner in my book. His unapologetic Blackness has championed a new standard for Black quarterbacks and athletes at-large. And those are the kinds of touchdowns we need to see more of in every end zone.  *DAB*

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Cropped Avi | Tyreebp
Cropped Avi | Tyreebp

I am a man on a mission! As a writer, I expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower marginalized communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, I’m also the creator of The Corner, a one-hour student run weekly radio at Temple University. Follow me on Twitter: @Tyreebp..

#TrustTheProcess | 2015: a Year in Review

...If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen me post the now infamous hashtag, #TrustTheProcess. This process began in 2014 when a still small voice told me not to pursue my doctoral studies on the East Coast and, instead, to come back home to Los Angeles to be with my Grandmother. After coming home, I saw just how much the process needed to be trusted as I found myself unable to find gainful full-time work, living on my Grandmother's couch,  and working part-time, making $9.25/hour at my local YMCA, even with a master's degree. Although 2015 had its ebbs and flows, I have plenty good news to share and want to chronicle the months to show you just how much has transpired over the last year.

Here's my recap of how I trusted the process in 2015:

March

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In March of 2015, I started my first podcast entitled the #TheCut  with the support of my lovely girlfriend, Makiah. I also wrote what would become one of my most popular blog posts: On Mo’ne, SAE, & The Burden of Black Forgiveness, which was shared by my professional role model, Marc Lamont Hill! #TrustTheProcess

April

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In April, I was invited by Huffington Post Black Voices  to become a blogger and contributor for their site! Being excited from the responses to my writing, I decided educate Raven Symone on the importance of knowing what continent you come from in 5 things Raven-Symonè Still Doesn’t Know About Africa | List. #TrustTheProcess

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May

In May, I wrote my most poignant essay entitled, The Theology of Black Unrest. Though it wasn't as widely circulated as I originally anticipated, it allowed me to grapple with how my faith informs the rising social unrest in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. #TrustTheProcess

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June

In June, I still found myself working diligently at the YMCA part-time. While there, I was configuring ways to use my writing as an outlet to chime in on cultural matters while still looking for full-time work.

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Shortly afterward,  I was inspired to write about Rachel Dolezal on Huffington Post in a essay called: Post Rachel: 5 Things Rachel Dolezal Taught us About Race. In the same month, I also was featured on MadameNoir's #AskABlackManLA video shoot (dropping in 2016). During the same month, I also got to meet a major inspiration of mine, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill at Th BET's Experience Genius Talks. It was quite clear that the process was being trusted and I was right where I needed to be. #TrustTheProcess

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July

In July, I wrote my next piece,The Color of Hatred, an essay surrounding the failure of the media to portray the humanity of the nine African-Americans killed in the Charleston attack.

Shortly after writing this piece, I was unexpectedly invited to become an Adjunct Professor at Pacific Oaks College to teach Race + Culture courses.

In the same month, while working on a fellowship application, my Macbook was stolen at my local Starbucks.:( Primed by friends to start a GoFundMe to raise donations for a new one, I created #TheBounceBack Campaign, and by the grace of numerous friends and loved ones, I raised enough money to buy a BRAND NEW laptop! #TrustTheProcess

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August

On a high from July, I was even more excited about August 2015! As I made preparations to begin teaching at Pacific Oaks, I received an opportunity to host a screening of Ava Duvernay's Selma at the California African American Museum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km5bcGNrwLA

Shortly after that,  I was invited to attend Amnesty International's Human Rights Leadership Conference in St. Louis. While there, I went to Ferguson to support the activism surrounding Michael Brown, who had been murdered a year prior. #TrustTheProcess

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Upon my arrival in California, I was invited to teach at Cal State Dominguez Hills Africana Studies Department, and by the grace of God, was finally able to resign from the YMCA! #TrustTheProcess

September

September of 2015 was even crazier in relationship to the process! As the beginning of the quarter started at both CSUDH & Pacific Oaks, I wrote Dashikis and Face Paint: Decolonizing The African Cultural Line. This essay was so popular, it became the top post in the country on Huffington Post Black Voices. And graciously, because of that essay, I was then invited for an  interview on Philadelphia's 900AM WURD. #TrustTheProcess

https://soundcloud.com/900amwurd/wurd-up-91915-tyree-boyd-pates

WURDFM Radio Interview - September

October

In October, I hit more of a stride regarding my process. Inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates' Book Between The World and Me and the classes I was teaching,I decided to create a book club for Black millennials called #BarnesAndNobleAndChill.

 

Then, I was randomly was named a Herb Carter & Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke Distinguished Lecturer of CSUDH, where I gave the first public lecture of my career, On Dashikis and Face Paint: Decolonizing the African Cultural Line, based on my article.#TrustTheProcess

November

November was even more turnt! Inspired from reading and teaching about Harold Cruse and pluralism in my classes, I decided to challenge myself to model economic solidarity in my community. So, after a discussion with my  wonderful girlfriend,  Makiah, we decided to create a list to support Black businesses in Los Angeles: 15 Black Businesses for Black Friday in L.A.

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Because of that list, I was invited for an interview in the The Wave newspaper regarding the power of Black businesses. #TrustTheProcess

December

As the year came to a close, I  decided that addition work was needed to further advance Black culture in LA. After approaching the Executive Director of CAAM, I created the museum's first Millennial Advisory Council. 

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While visiting the memorial for Nicholas Robertson,  a young man who was senselessly murdered by the LA County Sheriff's in Lynwood, I was interviewed by the New York Times regarding #BlackLivesMatter and the unjust treatment of Black people by the Los Angeles Police Department. And last but not least, I was interviewed by 2Urban Girls  regarding my thoughts on the plight of minority students in higher education. #TrustTheProcess

In Conclusion....

2015 has been quite the year. Not only did I find growth in trusting the process, I found strength. This year was not easy, but it was worth it and I've learned significant lessons along the way. For all those who find themselves in the middle of a difficult process, I encourage you to keep trusting and never give up!

If this was 2015, I can't imagine what the process has for me in 2016!

#TrustTheProcess

On Dashikis & Face Paint: Decolonizing the African Culture Line

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Recently, a post written by Zipporah Gene posed the question, “Can Black people culturally appropriate one another? The piece accused African Americans of committing cultural appropriation in the same way white people do. Needless to say, her piece has caused quite the stir on my Facebook timeline. Though well intentioned, she missed the mark tremendously. By asserting that Black people are guilty of the same appropriation that whites are, the author failed to factor in the forced dislocation of an entire population of African people and dismissed their attempts at reconfiguring any semblance of African identity, which brings me to my thesis.When native African people restrict the cultural involvement of others based on their Diasporic location, they implicitly perpetuate the same colonialism that separated Africans from Africa.Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon. In Gene’s piece, she states that Black Americans, because of their misuse of African fashion and tribal markings, are responsible for the same type of cultural appropriation that white people are. Though well-meaning, she has a very eurocentric way of looking at things, including her own people. However, this isn't unique to her. Quite honestly, it’s a problem that many people across the diaspora have when attempting to make cultural distinctions among themselves.

The reason this piece garnered so much support is simple––colonialism. Attempting to define someone else’s Africanness by where they fall on the globe is a direct byproduct of the colonialism that removed Black people from Africa in the first place. It is deeply misguided and disrespectful to disqualify non-native Africans from partaking in African customs and practices solely because of their dislocation from the continent. Such narrow and exclusionary definitions––cultural and otherwise––reinforce the colonial separation people across the Diaspora are still grappling with today.

This line of reasoning shames non-native Africans for a problem that they did not start. Black Americans, Afro-Brazilians, West Indians, and others are not responsible for their dislocation from the Motherland. Need we be reminded that during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas. Do these facts make those who traveled that tumultuous middle passage and their ancestors less African? Of course not! Black people have just as much stake in the continent as native Africans do. This includes access to traditional African religions, customs, and rituals, and most certainly includes the right to wear a dashiki.

Our relationship to African practices directly correlates to how we identify with the continent itself, both ideologically and culturally. Many Africans––both on and off the continent––tend to identify more with their specific region than with the continent as a whole. As a result, they define their differences based on the territorial demarcations that they have known all their lives. However, unbeknownst to them, most of these demarcations are colonial in nature and were imposed on them by white powers. When we use these same distinctions to isolate one Black culture from the next, we are reinforcing the white supremacy that begat it to begin with. This becomes clear when engaging in conversations regarding intracultural appropriation.

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To be clear, appropriation is a viable concern and it is problematic when we don’t take time to educate one another on the the customs we are choosing to adopt. In the states, Black people, like white people, benefit from American privilege. As we all know, some Black Americans use their privilege to disregard and lump the diversity of Africa into stereotypical slogans and  catchphrases. Some utilize this same privilege even more by not educating themselves on their own cultures and customs. And although this is indicative of a certain kind of privilege, it isn't appropriation. When Black Americans and others within the Diaspora employ aspects of African culture, they do so in an attempt to associate themselves with their long lost homeland. Some do this more consciously than others, but regardless of the surface-level motivation, it is all rooted in a genuine desire to connect with a stolen legacy.

Conversely, first generation Africans in America have the privilege of identification and access to customs that Black Americans and others across the Diaspora do not due to their native affiliations. When this association to Africa is leveraged to exclude other Africans (native or not), this claim to relative fame only promotes a false sense of entitlement to Africa that is based on location instead of ancestry.  

Recognizing the dislocation of nearly 169 million African people from the continent, conversations like these must be had. While there may indeed be a misuse of African customs and symbols by Black Americans in the U.S., this should not be classified asappropriation. If anything, it highlights our relentless attempt to create an identity of Africanness here in the states, despite the dislocation we've had imposed on us. The sooner our native Africans brothers and sisters see that, the better.

The Color of Hatred

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Over the last year, we’ve lost a countless number of Black lives to police brutality and senseless murder. After losing nine lives at Charleston AME Church in South Carolina, discussions surrounding the Confederate flag surfaced, and several southern Black churches burned to the ground. Though all of these events were racially motivated, none of them were accurately reported as such. Instead, networks like Fox News attempted to cover black pain through a color-blind prism that merely deflected from the real issues at play. In true fashion, the media placed a color-blind lens on an explicitly color-based issue. Due to the media’s refusal to see this crime as a race issue, we witnessed the siphoning of Black pain, the normalization of white terrorism, and the imperviousness of social accountability in America. Each of these contributed to the myth of post-racialism and emptied hatred of its color. This projected absence of color was most evident after Dylann Roof ruthlessly murdered the Charleston 9.

After Dylann Roof was taken into custody, mainstream media immediately devised a campaign to humanize him at the expense of his Black victims. They projected his baby pictures and shared stories of his troubled past, while not delving nearly as deep into the lives of the actual victims, including State Senator, Clementa Pinckney.

As I perused my timeline, I noticed a deep hesitation to call Mr. Roof what he was: a racist and a terrorist. Instead, the media invited pundits to temper the discussion by providing diagnoses of his sanity. They muddied the conversation with discussion of gun reform, mental illness and religious freedom, all to avoid categorizing the massacre as a racist attack on Black people. And by omitting the racial component of the massacre, they furthered the normalization of white terrorism, which only gave way to the next phase in draining hatred of its hue - the expectation of Black forgiveness. This expectation routinely minimizes racism and excuses the perpetrators of it, completely dismissing the need for sincere apology and repentance.

America has always relied on black forgiveness to absolve itself of white guilt. The Charleston massacre was no different. By choosing to highlight the forgiveness of the Black faith community, they shifted the burden of responsibility onto the oppressed in a classic display of deflection.

In the name of being a model Christian, these Black families waived their right to exercise their justified anger. As the headlines touted Black America’s ability to take higher ground in racially oppressive moments, the Charleston narrative morphed into an endorsement of the gospel of colorblindness. This doctrine calls for reconciliation in the midst of Black suffering, and bypasses the healing necessary to sustain it.

By rushing the healing of the Black community in Charleston, society assumes that the Black community is immune to issues that threaten its very existence, such as racism and systemic oppression. This assumption asserts that terrorism and trauma are not worthy of diagnosis or treatment. Due to our resilient history, society assumes that Black people are able to withstand consistent onslaughts of racism to no avail.

When delivering the eulogy at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, President Obama emphasized the significance of God’s grace, even going so far to sing his own rendition of Amazing Grace. While the moment was refreshing, President Obama’s solicitation for reconciliation is nothing new for Black people. From chattel slavery to Jim Crow, Black folks have had to summon this resolve in order to survive.

But now, Black people have another adversary. This enemy remains wading in the shadows, hiding his candor. This enemy is named post-racialism, and almost managed to rid Charleston of its black hue, but didn’t. And though the myth of colorblindness was debunked this time, the same threat is still exists, whether we're aware of it or not.

You see, colorblindness is the social cataract that makes America visionless to the reality of race, and thus, the possibility of pain--a pain that unleashes itself in the pews of Black churches and in the embers of sacred crosses burned to the ground by white supremacists.

Dylann Roof’s manifesto ferociously outlines his hatred for Black people. And yet, the media still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Even as he is charged with multiple hate crimes, the FBI has failed to label him a terrorist. He single-handedly, on the canvas of nine innocent lives, painted with the hue that has historically haunted Black Americans. This shade of hate poignantly eliminates the trace of color -- whitewashing any vestiges of pigment in order to cover its  tracks.What is the color of hate? It is not a color at all, but rather, the intentional and utter erasure of it.

Tyree Boyd-Pates is a man on a mission. As a writer, he aspires to expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, he also is the creator of#TheCut, a brand new podcast! You can follow him on Twitter: @Tyreebp.

Post-Rachel: 5 Things Rachel Dolezal Taught Us About Race | List

Post-Rachel: 5 Things Rachel Dolezal Taught Us About Race | List

Aside from ‪Rachel Dolezal’s hair deserving a BET award for being so on point, I am still disturbed by this bizarre story. I’m not particularly disturbed at her high levels of delusion (though, it would be valid), but moreso of how delicate our definition of race is in 2015.

The Theology of Black Unrest

In the wake of the budding unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, and the terrorist attack at Emmanuel AME, Black Christians are trying to comprehend how Christianity informs their forms of resistance. While some have dismissed the faith altogether, others are attempting to fit their radical ideologies within the confines of their faith. This dichotomy is emblematic of a double consciousness that can be paralyzing in moments of social unrest. But in order to reconcile our Blackness with Christianity, we must reexamine the attributes of God, reconsider the role of the church, and reclaim the Gospel.

In seeking to qualify God and his attributes, it is imperative that we situate God alongside us in our distresses along our quest of liberation. Much like the Hebrews marching out of Egypt from Pharaoh, Black people need to situate God in their exodus from racism.

To do so, we must strip Jesus of his whiteness and center Him in his otherness and marginalization. Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, we must reimagine Him as a God who is completely given to the notion of grace and a love that transcends human performance. Instead of requiring perfect adherence to the law, the true God extends unmerited exchanges of love and forgiveness. And the true Jesus is one who loves and forgives unconditionally, consistently empathizing with those on the fringes.

The Black soul recognizes that bigotry was not a part of the creation story, nor was it outlined in the attributes of God himself, but is still confronted with the absolute of it’s existence. But the Black soul rejects this false gospel. Any gospel with tinges of tyranny and exclusion could never proselytize this soul. In the interim, the Black soul, due to this false gospel of intolerance, attaches itself to the evidence of any faith at all, which often manifests as unrest. This unrest is indicative of the symbolic groaning of all creation—the same groaning outlined in Romans 8:22-24. A day where Black souls long for our bodies to be released from sin, suffering, and societal oppression.

In the climate of Black unrest, the Black soul is confronted with the perceived sinfulness of his/her resistance. In these moments, the Black Christian is often paralyzed, unsure of where their allegiance lies. They can either defend their blackness against the onslaught of systemic aggression, or defend their Christianity by remaining patient and complacent in their own oppression as they await spiritual deliverance.

In the same way that self-righteous Christians attempt to make amends for their moral indiscretions, the Black soul is constantly attempting to atone for the sin of his predicament - but to no avail. Unaware of the fact that the quandary of his social position is not of his own doing, he tries to satisfy the demands of white supremacy through respectability. But even after integrating, assimilating, and whitewashing, it still doesn’t remedy his distress. The sin of his skin is ever-present, unyielding to his efforts.

This devotion to respectability is so deep that it has driven some to believe that Black bodies are to be offered up as sacrifices to a fictive white supremacist, Old Testament God. From Emmitt Till to Renisha McBride, we consider these figures as covenantal lambs. But no Black lamb will ever be without blemish in the eyes of white America due to the perceived sinfulness of black skin. From Michael Brown to Rekia Boyd, these bodies are offered in hopes that they will satisfy a false god built in the image of white greed, who has a never-ending appetite for Black Death. But unlike the fabricated god of white supremacy and political repression, the real God is eternally satisfied with the sacrifice that Jesus made once and for all.

The true God is a divine figure void of the trappings of racial bias, exclusion, and an insatiable desire for destruction and demise. God, personified in his Hebrewness through the life and death of Jesus, was sent to proclaim a simple and radical message that has the power to release captives, heal the blind, and free the oppressed. However, today, that Gospel message remains largely unemployed to address societal unrest in spiritually productive ways.

In an attempt to maintain the status quo, the church has exalted white supremacist values over the true message of the gospel. Their modern interpretation of the gospel misses the opportunity to cast down the systemic apathy responsible for the Black soul’s unrest. To do so would invalidate the politics of respectability that society places on Black people in times of turmoil. And instead of encouraging righteous indignation, the church often uses religion to quell rebellion and reasonable outrage.

The indignation that should be directed towards the infrastructures of white Christian indifference is instead inverted. In the same way that victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them, the poor in spirit are met with more rules and regulations rather than support. These pillars, erected by white privilege, are so lofty that they shut out those on the margins and unwittingly cooperate with racial exclusion. Until there is an adequate gospel response to Black unrest, this contention will persist and religion will be of no utility to us.

As Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” I assert the same. I believe that God can indeed make us larger, freer, and more loving; it is our current conception of Him that has rendered Him null and void. God, in light of the work of Jesus, still situates Himself alongside the oppressed and afflicted. But until we reclaim the Gospel and contextualize the unrest that surrounds us theologically, historically, and spiritually, God will be of no use to Black people—or anyone else for that matter.

My (Brief) Thoughts on Walter Scott!

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[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXO3Ix_GIyI[/embed]

There was something extremely visceral about the video of  Walter Scott being gunned down with 8 bullets. A video, with the same visceral quality that one had witnessing Michael Brown lay on the ground for 4.5 hours or watching Eric Garner gasp for air. Visceral. Visceral. Visceral.

However, for many African Americans, this incident was too visceral. Viscerally triggering something devastatingly instinctive. An instinct, I sense, so situated in survival, that it's only credit to fame is a acute awareness of systemic endangerment. Presentiment, almost.

African American men (women and children) - whether acknowledged or not - are in jeopardy inside of this society; from infancy to eldership. Their deaths: expected; Their success: mitigated - without contrition or legitimacy. Constantly being forced - even beyond the grave - to explain their existence; almost always searing the conscience. And everyone aware of  the Black condition in America is cognizant of it.

There's an implicit fatigue. An unexpressed exhaustion. An unutterable desire for absolution. A desire for miraculous exoneration.  An exoneration from a menacing white gaze that constantly threatens black lives  - especially when it relates to power and authority.

Power, in relation to the uncompromising expectation that Blacks must submit. Authority, when it comes to carrying out unlawful punishments on those who decide to leave that gaze - without remorse. It's this white gaze - and any deviation from it - is where we find Walter Scott's body lying: lifeless and handcuffed. That's the kind of exoneration Black people are seeking reprieve from. Reprieve from a state sanctioned gaze that seemingly is snuffing out Black men, women, and children routinely.

When will that occur? I'm unsure. I just know that the Earth (and its hearts) are groaning for change- at least, I know I am.

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#BlackLivesMatter

On Mo’ne, SAE, & The Burden of Black Forgiveness

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Mo’ne Davis, an All-American little league pitcher was called a “slut” by a White male college student after receiving a movie deal from Disney. In equally outrageous news, SAE chant leader, Levi Pettit, called a press conference to collect support from the Black community in Oklahoma after leading a rendition of a colonial lynching song.

Although both incidents were commenced by white male students, both incidents became black people’s responsibility, as we were left to bear the burden of forgiveness.

Is it me, or is anyone else frustrated that there is an implicit expectation on Black people to absolve the guilt and racist behavior of white people?

We recently witnessed Mo’ne Davis, a 13-year-old black girl, express maturity in her magnanimous approach to forgive despite being called a whore by an adult. And instead of seeking any kind of retribution, Mo’ne turned the other cheek – going so far as to request that the college student be reinstated to his sports team. And though this act of forgiveness was a very noble thing to do, I’m frustrated by the implicit cost she had to pay for it.

After forgiving the man who called her a slut, many on social media celebrated Mo’ne for being a “class act.” And in fact she was, and is. But to measure her character based on her capacity to forgive an act of racism was - and is - still erroneous.

The media labeling Mo'ne a 'class act' is double-pronged. In addition to dismissing the accountability necessary for his actions, it normalizes Mo'ne's response to racism and sexism, and consequently deems more confrontational methods as illegitimate.

By not confronting his racism and sexism, Mo’ne’s actions suggest that it is appropriate for people to say and do whatever they want. It insinuates that Black men, women, and children are meant to carry the burden of inflammatory claims, and suggests that people aren't exemplifying classy behavior when they decide to challenge it publicly.

The public’s celebration of Mo’ne was not about her integrity on the field, but her inadvertent compliance with oppression. She, having been the victim, forfeited her right to be outraged because she believed his comments were isolated, when in fact they are a part of a larger system. A system that perpetually demands black people to forgive their oppressors – even in the absence of accountability.

An all too familiar scene - almost identical to SAE's Levi Pettit's Press conference.


Similarly, instead of placing the burden of correction on SAE’s Levi Pettit, it fell on the Black Oklahomans he targeted in the video , who, ironically, flanked to his side during his poor excuse of a press conference.

Pettit's apology and press conference was a complete farce and showed no real signs of remorse or empathy that would lead me to believe that Pettit actually gets it. When you listen to the video, you hear traces of indignation and apathy. None of it confirming that he understands the ramifications of his actions – just that he’s sorry he got caught. *Cue further frustration*

I am frustrated because I did not watch Pettit apologize for himself or his actions. Instead, I watched Black community leaders apologizing for Pettit.

Black community leaders and clergy, in routine fashion, came together to cape for the indiscretions of dominant culture instead of being bold enough to hold it accountable. To see those leaders standing behind him made me sick because it was an obvious (and strategic) publicity stunt. And though the individuals behind him didn't actually speak during the conference, their silence verified their buy-in.

But why did they feel so compelled to stand behind someone who chanted his preference of seeing their sons hung from a tree as opposed to joining his fraternity? And what kind of message does it send out to OU's Black student population? And to the larger community? That one should feel inclined to forgive those who desire to kill you, because you'd want the same done for you? Frankly, I 'm beginning to think so.

That's why I pose this very simple hypothetical to those Black Oklahoman leaders that stood behind Pettit: If the shoe was on the other foot, and their son had sung a similarly racist and hate-filled chant directed towards White students, would Levi Pettit’s father be standing in solidarity with one of their Black sons? 


Quite simply, in this society, even when White people are to blame for racial indiscretion, Black people are always expected to absolve the crime, its guilt, and the repercussions of the actions in a timely fashion. It is for this reason that the media was so quick to celebrate Mo’ne Davis’ willingness to forgive. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they then attempted to measure her character based on her decision to excuse racist and sexist behavior.

But contrary to popular belief, Black people are not responsible for carrying the burden of white remorse. We are no one’s moral mules and neither are we anyone’s ethical scapegoats. We are more than that. Much more. Black people are autonomous and responsible for none other than themselves and deserve to operate as such. And gratefully, people of color are starting to redefine morality on their own terms and are casting off the burden of forgiveness, one highly publicized racist incident at a time.


cropped-cropped-p1130772Tyree Boyd-Pates is a man on a mission. As a writer, he aspires to expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, he also is the creator of #TheCut, a brand new podcast! You can follow him on Twitter: @Tyreebp.

#TheCut Podcast | Creflo & the $65M Gospel

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On this episode of #TheCut, I had a another enthralling discussion with Makiah Green, about Creflo Dollar and his latest fundraiser to purchase a $60M jet in order to share the Gospel. 

In this passionate discussion, Makiah and I go in depth about the dangers of the prosperity gospel in exchange for the real thing, the ways in which the Black church exploits  its own community, and lastly, offer advice on what we'd do differentyl if ever asked by a Pastor to pledge to such a cause.  It got really really real. 

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