Monday, January 1, 2018

Kwanzaa Day 7: Be Reminded of Our Legacy & Who We Are...



Imani (ee-MAH-nee) 
Faith

"To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and 
the righteousness and victory of our struggle."


Imani, the final principle of Kwanzaa is likely the most important. It serves to remind us to recall our legacy, remember who we are and to believe in ourselves.  It reminds us of how far we have come, what we have accomplished and that we can do anything by faith when we set our minds to it...  

Against all odds, Black Americans have overcome struggles to see victory in so many ways; we survived slavery, we stood strong against jim crow, our valiant fight for civil rights still today, inspires so many. Worldwide, some have been inspired to start their own movements of resistance in their own lands. President Nelson Mandela was clear that his inspiration to dismantle apartheid in South Africa came from watching his people fight for our rights here in America. Others were so inspired by our might that they migrated to the US, some to be by our side and to aid in the struggle, others to benefit from the rewards of our struggles. No matter, we inspired many...  There exists no domestic group that can dare deny that the civil rights they enjoy in America today were not achieved based upon the groundwork laid by us or by employing the blue print we created in the 60's. Yes, we are a mighty people, we need to shout it, we need to always remind ourselves...  

Our faith and belief in ourselves was strong, our resilience knew no boundaries, our spirit was unbreakable, our pride was unmatched. Our heads may have been bloodied but never were they bowed...  

On this last day of Kwanzaa, it is my desire that we get back to our basics, that we are reminded to return to our roots, resume our inter-generational and transatlantic conversations passing down our stories and our traditions. I want that in 2018 we believe in and have faith in ourselves, that we stand tall, stand together in admiration and respect of one another, those who came before us, the fearless leaders who made a way for us and as examples to those who will succeed us. Our work is far from done... 


 
Happy Kwanzaa & New Year Day 2018!!!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Kwanzaa Day 6: Be Reminded to Be Creative About the Protection of Us...


Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) 
Creativity

"To do always as much as we can in the way that we can in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it."


Principle 6 of the celebration of Kwanzaa has a lot to do with our being creative in how we respect and protect our environments, our communities, our homes, our neighborhoods, our legacy...

As so many of us are at risk of being displaced from the place we call home due to the hostile take over of our communities by those vested in the very mean spirited sport of gentry-fication. Kuumba, the 6th Principle of Kwanzaa, is all the more relevant.

Our neglect of our environment, sometimes beyond our control, other times purposeful and carelessness on our part, makes us very vulnerable to being displaced from that which is familiar to us. We look up and before we know it, we don't recognize our own neighborhoods, that in which we have invested ourselves, our time, our energy, our creativity, raised our Families, fell in love, went to school, buried our ancestors, etc., etc...

Our Chocolate Cities are Chocolate no longer... Even where we were homeowners, our relevance and welcoming has been reduced to that of a tenant, a mere borrower of someone else's land or property and our presence is no longer wanted or welcome in these places we used to call home...

We must fight to preserve and protect our communities long before the greed and insensitivity of gentry-fication invades us. It's an old trick. Nothing new in this play book of "grab the land by any means necessary". Still, we fall victim to the game time and time again...

To protect our communities, we must be engaged in our communities, We must attend city council, school board and homeowner association meetings. We must MAKE elected officials work FOR us, make the cops servicing our communities engage our community, demand that merchants in our community respect and employ us; if not, boycott their stores... We must VOTE!, VOTE!, VOTE! & where possible RUN! RUN! RUN! for elected office, volunteer for board or commission seats, housing associations, involved ourselves in the courts, social service and other government agencies that wreak havoc on our lives and the like.

Hold members of our village who live amongst us accountable for violations of our peace and serenity in any kind of way; defacing our property, littering our streets. Snitching? Eliminate the concept... No such thing!!! Get back to truly being a village where certain behaviors are not tolerated and we are our children's, our Brothers' and our Sisters' keepers. Be bothered even when it, the problem, does not directly involve or affect us. Don't wait for the problem to knock on our door before we give a damn... Deal with the matter BECAUSE it is in the village, BECAUSE it is OUR village...

I know, this sounds like some Utopia like dream but is that not how all realities begin? Where necessary, we must be willing to take over or take back, our own neighborhoods before others do and we can no longer afford to call them home. WE can take leadership in making our communities better places to live and beneficial to us. Standing around scratching our heads after the fact does not serve us well as we get duped once again by the same ole' trick...

In 2018, let's get creative, purposeful, focused and damn busy about the business of protecting our legacy by becoming vested in the continuity of that which we have created in the communities in which we live and have come to call home...



Happy Kwanzaa & Happy New Year Folks!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Kwanzaa Day 5: Be Reminded to Celebrate Us...


Nia (nee-AH)
Purpose

"To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. To be responsible to those who came before (our Ancestors) and those who will follow (our descendants)"


Nia, our fifth principle and cause to celebrate Kwanzaa reminds me that unless and until we, Black Americans, respect, value, celebrate and appreciate ourselves, our history and our amazing journey, there is no real incentive for others to do so, no matter our insistence. We will lead by our example..

Unless and until we start shouting our story for ALL to hear, for ALL to know, most importantly our descendants to hear and know, we will remain vulnerable to the narratives, truthful or not, that others fabricate and choose to tell about us. Our truth, essence and beauty of US and OUR story will be lost, forever untold, shaped and/or defined by others...

Unless and until, we step into our greatness and recognize the magnificence of us, as do so many others as is evidenced by the endless acts of imitations of us when not by words about us, nor shall, nor should any other...

We, Black Americans, come from and have created in our own right a very rich and enviable culture and traditions that all too often we too take for granted, all too often we share too freely, all too often we do not protect and all too often we fail to fervently, consistently and proudly celebrate loudly and often enough...

Understandably someone recently asked about my interest in tracing my African roots. My response is always the same. While knowing the origin of my roots in Africa might make for interesting conversation, historical and/or contextual reference, to discover that I am a descendant of the likes of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Richard Smalls, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Ida B. Wells or more recently Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and so many other of our Black American heroes and soldiers would send me over the moon with boundless, un-containable, uncontrollable and exuberant pride and joy!

Since the presidency of Barack Obama we, ourselves, have come to terms with and made it abundantly clear to all that "We Built This", this America so many call home, this America so many others are vested in claiming as their own and vowing to make it great again... Now is time we start living in and believing it as our truth, now is the time that we start being inspired by the countless examples of the power of us; from our mere presence and influence, to the power of our votes, to the value of our countless contributions.

Black Americans have given so much to this country and are so very much a core component of the story of success about which America so proudly loves to boast. We allow however, that our role in that story of American success is downplayed, distorted, not told, not celebrated. Seemingly we wait for permission, acceptance of and/or validation from or by others for us to tell our story. We don't need permission to celebrate us and certainly it is not required that any, other than US, validates US... We are a resilient, resourceful and proud people. We are a people who MUST tell and celebrate OUR own story. It is OUR story to tell...

Unless and until WE start protecting and telling the stories of OUR Ancestors, telling it loudly, telling it proudly and telling it often, there will be no story for our future generations to know, to tell, to celebrate.

In 2018, I demand that often and loudly, with purpose and conviction, that WE Lift Our Collective Voice to tell OUR stories and that often and regularly WE find cause to boldly, audaciously and unapologetically come together in Honor, Celebration and Restoration of the greatness of OUR Ancestors, OUR legacy, and to pass on OUR traditions through recitation of OUR stories in OUR fashion, in OUR tongue, with OUR flare as told by US about US! 

Building & Restoring Our Community through Celebration of Ourselves & Our History 365!   


Happy Kwanzaa Folks!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Kwanzaa Day 4: Be Reminded to Support US!



Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah)
Cooperative Economics

"To build our own businesses, control the economics of our own community and share in all its work and wealth. The Fourth Principle, Ujamaa, is essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it."


I conceptualize Ujamaa as our pre-integration condition. Pre-Integration Black Americans supported our own; our own businesses, our own schools, our own banks, doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, communities and Families. We even had our own hotels, in the form of the Negro Motorist Green Book. We revered our teachers in our one room schools with hand me down and defaced books and honored them and their craft in our commitment to learn! We were thirsty and sought only our own approval and acceptance. Thriving Black communities were a reality and a goal, not an anomaly...

Post integration, we abandoned us. In our quest for "integration" and our rejection of "separate but equal" we got lost. We, even the best, most accomplished and most confident of us, got caught up in acceptance and approval of others, we became fixated on emulating other people's lives, other people's values...

Like unloved children we longed for acceptance from parents who had abused and rejected us, no matter our loyalty, no matter our forgiveness. We wanted so much to be in their presence, in their good graces, showered with their love, our loyalty reciprocated. We wanted to go to their schools, eat at their restaurants, shop in their stores, sleep in their hotels, live in their neighborhoods, so on and so on... So much so that we forgot about the brilliance of US...

We had already learned to shine in our own right. Despite inhumane and what might have been for others, insurmountable odds, we made a way out of no way, a meal out of oatmeal... We were, we are, survivors. Other folks knew it, know it, never forgot it. And in this capitalistic society, capitalize(d) on it.

Still they do not want us in their schools, neighborhoods, places of employment, etc. but they love our brilliance, our magic, our uniqueness and our dollars. They love that we are not committed to ourselves, our principles, our values, our survival and that no matter how they treat us, STILL we long for their acceptance, STILL we think their ice is colder, their grass is greener, STILL we continue to step over our folks selling the same product or service to bring them our hard earned dollar even when they don't respect us, don't hire us and take us and our dollar for granted...

Sadly, our lack of faith and failure to practice Ujamaa, the fourth principle of Kwanzaa is not unique to Blacks in America. I have seen the same mindset at play in the Motherland and throughout the Caribbean; that which others bring to the table is somehow better than that which we bring... Maya Angelou wrote that we have "Africanisms", traits and behavior common to all of African descent no matter the land we call home. While some of us are more aware and conscious than others, collectively we are not immune. Collectively we are vulnerable. Collectively we suffer...

Recently I read that perhaps we glorify those days of old as a means to soothe the reality that we actually lacked choice on where to live, where to work, where we were educated, etc... I request in 2018, that we PLEASE make a concerted and conscious effort to return to our "deluded" selves, that we return to glorifying those days of old, that we resume supporting OUR own and our collective selves not because we HAVE to but because we WANT to! I'm Just Hopin'... 


Happy Kwanzaa Folks!

Ujamaa!!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kwanzaa, Day 2: Be Reminded to Be the Voice!


I have the pleasure of having a Black female primary physician whose attention to my health, I truly appreciate. One day last week, before Christmas, I was doing my Santa thing and dropped by her office just a small token of appreciation for her to enjoy at this time of year. I was double parked, left my flashers on and just ran in. I asked if she was in and before the clerk could say anything beyond yes, I dropped the gift telling the clerk to give it to her and ran out....

Before the day was over, I got a message that I must come back to collect the gift because doctors are not allowed to accept gifts from patients. They tried to tell me before I left but I did not give them a chance. What the What? I have never heard anything so ridiculous. Why not? I am not a vendor. I cannot influence or bribe her any more than do the pharma reps and other vendors who, hopeful for a contract, peddle their wares to doctors all the time... I was hurt and offended! Yeah, I'm "special" like that. LOL!!!

So I called Mt. Sinai hospital and demanded to speak to someone on the executive team to tell me why I could not gift my doctor with a small token of appreciation. Yeah, I wanted to know... I wanted an explanation. As an attorney who works in compliance, I could not see the ethical violation. The gift I left was nominal, nothing that could persuade anyone to do or not do anything.

It took six days but finally someone called me back on yesterday, the day after Christmas. She called in the middle of my breakfast with friends so I did not allow her much of an opportunity to talk. I spoke, cut her off and she listened... I explained my displeasure with and failure to understand the policy. I told her that if I can give my post man a gift, surely I could give my doctor a gift. But my friend over hearing my conversation and who also thinks I am crazy passionate sometimes but who mostly appreciates my fight, thought my most compelling argument was that the hospital wants me to rate their service, tell them and others that my doctor is good but does not think it appropriate for me to show an act of kindness to let my doctor know how that I appreciate and think she is good? Come on now!

The lady went on to explain that the policy relates to vendors and that doctors can accept de minimis, non-cash gifts from their patients. She said that at this time of year she sends an annual reminder telling them not to accept gifts but that it applies only to vendors not grateful patients. She conceded there could be some confusion. I explained then that she needs to clarify that because clearly there was a misunderstanding. She assured me she would do so right away. Later that morning I received a most appreciative message thanking me and letting me know that my call had triggered a response and my doctor would get her gift! I was pleased...

Merry Christmas Folks! I know it can be exhausting sometimes and surely you should choose your battles, but in 2018 take the time to lift your voice to speak on that which is important to you. Be an example to empower others to do the same to address that which is important to them. That is how we change things. Being silent is not the answer, especially not now... How many tokens of appreciation did my doctor turn away from grateful patients before my call? Sometimes, just sometimes folks, sweating the small stuff really does matter...

I am hopeful that my doctor spent some portion of her evening yesterday sipping on wine, wearing her daishiki, enjoying her Black Santa figurine and feeling warmed to know that this patient appreciates her and her good work! Yeah, it's the little things folks! They add up and they DO matter... Ungawa!!! (smile)



In 2018, BE the Voice!!!

Celebrating Kujichagulia,Self-Determination on this second day of Kwanzaa. 
Encouraging You to Find and Lift Your Inner Voice!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rock the Boat!

No automatic alt text available.Yesterday I walked pass a Harlem development project; the Victoria Hotel. As I strolled by, I was stopped in my tracks as I saw all Latino laborer/workers and ONE Black laborer IN HARLEM!!! He, the lone Black guy, of course was the flag guy. SMH...

I asked who was the foreman. I was told "Jimmy." I was instructed to knock at a door. As no one seemed to hear my knock, I stepped inside the door and called for Jimmy. A middle age White guy in street clothes, no white hat, emerged out of what looked like a meeting with other "suits" seated around a table. He asked what was the problem. I asked was he Jimmy. He said no. I told him my problem was that I did not see diversity on his project and that I was disturbed that here IN HARLEM where Black men & women undoubtedly need work, I did not appreciate seeing a work force that did not include them.

At this he got upset and wanted me to leave. His first "go to" was to threaten to call the police, which I welcomed. He was visibly angered by my questions, perhaps by my mere presence... We had a back and forth exchange wherein he continued to threaten to call the police. I encouraged him to do so and responded that in kind, I would call the press and he could explain to both why there was no diversity on his project IN HARLEM & whether he was paying the Latino workers a fair wage! I wanted him to call the police as I was violating no law. Unbeknownst to me, despite the presence of their giant inflated bear mounted on the sidewalk outside the construction site, this project is being picketed by a local union for not using union labor. I was not taking up their issue. I just want Black folks working union or no union...

Of course the angry White guy did not place that call to the police. Instead, he sent a Black female project manager to speak to, to perhaps pacify me, another Black female, who did not identify herself except to say that she is a "project manager" and who had no business card. She suggested that I should return on next Monday when she would have a card to give me... Really?

She gave me some lip service about having had reached out to the community to fill the positions and then kept deflecting the conversation about the dangers of my being on the site. We were speaking outside the site, on a public sidewalk. I pointed out that the danger could not be that imminent as she nor her colleague were wearing white hats. Of course she offered that age old argument about skill. Oh no she didn't! Oh yes she did!!! And she continued to insist that they had done community outreach to fill their positions and that as the project continued, there would be many more workers hired. I asked had she contacted the NAACP, Al Sharpton's organization or any one of the many Black churches found on every other corner IN HARLEM. She could not answer. Only that they had done "community outreach". I schooled her on not allowing herself to be pimped to make their argument to the Black and/or female public by her colleagues and assured her that her being able to eat had no bearing on the rest of us Black folks being able to eat at that table with her... She seemed not to get it. Still I drummed it home.. Someday soon, it will be her turn and she will be forced to get it!

Long story short, we all know that this is not an isolated incident. I only wish more citizens would complain. We teach folks how to treat us. I was one of how many who have walked pass this project neighboring the Apollo Theater on busy 125th Street. How many others have stopped in to ask about the lack of diversity of the work force? I called 311, the NAACP and stopped to complain at the office of 5 elected officials all on my way home. I asked for some type of intervention; at least a phone inquiry... We must all be vigilant as we claim to resist. We must also defend, advocate for ourselves as we complain that gentry-fication is consuming us and our neighborhoods. We are expected to take on the helpless victim role. We comply...

I don't doubt for one minute that if I were to visit the websites for the developers and construction companies for this project, their websites and employment applications would boast of them being "equal opportunity" employers as they encourage "women and minorities to apply". Really? I can't tell. Hold them accountable to their claims of workforce diversity and inclusion. Drink the Kool-Aid that is being served and dare to demand a flavor most palatable to your taste! This job site was lacking not only in terms of race, some White guy trying to feed his family probably needs work too, but gender as well... Sadly, I am told that the two developers of this project are minority; Lam Group, an Asian company and Danforth Developers, a Black owned company. Damn Shame!

While watching the evening news, I saw coverage of a story wherein residents in another Manhattan neighborhood were able to halt a project objecting to the height of the building being constructed. I posted my story on the reporter's Facebook page and asked her to please follow up and cover this incident and possibly other employers who are at the very least giving the appearance of blatant discrimination in their willful and unapologetic displacement of local residents as they tear down and reconstruct neighborhoods under the protective & capitalistic umbrella of gentry-fication. I requested that she do a drive by of this site to see for herself and specifically to ask why there are no Black laborers working on this project IN HARLEM? I am curious what they will say to her, if they will answer her questions, if they will send some female to appease her and if they will threaten to call the cops on her. I seriously doubt it...

Get involved folks! Take time to at least ask questions. We are sure to drown if we are too afraid to  ROCK THE BOAT!!! IJS...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Call It What It Is...

He summoned her into his office and locked the door behind her from a button on his desk. He asked her to unbutton her blouse. She complied. He bent her over a chair and entered her from behind. She passed out and woke up with her pants off. He called his assistant to take her away. She was taken to the company nurse. The year was 2001. She was 40 years old. She worked there for another year seeing him everyday. She never uttered a word, not to him, not to anyone else, about what he did to her. It is now 2017. The company and all others who have worked with him for more than 20 years deny having any knowledge of his "misconduct".

Excuse me, but I'm pretty damn sure that his "misconduct" is called RAPE. I am positive that his "misconduct" is called rape when the perpetrator is named Jamahl, Jose', Abdullah OR COSBY even if it happened more than 40 years ago. So let's be very clear America and call it RAPE and respond in kind when the perpetrator is named MATT!

That was one of the last stories I heard on the boob tube before going to bed last night. It disturbed my sleep as I grappled with the notion that America has a REAL problem the depth of which I am thankful to have never experienced, the depth of which I never could have imagined; the depth of which has only begun to reveal itself...

This news disturbed my sleep as my mind drifted to the trauma of my ancestral fore-mothers who were raped at will much more brutally and viciously than what we are hearing about now... Wasn't she a woman too? Maybe, just maybe, if we had regarded her human, not chattel, and called it rape then, we would know 400+ years later that it is rape now.. I'm Just Thinkin'...

As these stories continue to unfold and become more and more outrageous with every passing day, it is abundantly clear that America has REAL problems and it is so much deeper than sexual harassment. Call it what it is...