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The Village: Beyond the Bricks

The Village: Beyond the Bricks

The Village

BeyondtheBricks-2

The Beyond the Bricks Project (BTBP) is a media and international community engagement initiative to encourage and promote community based solutions to increase educational and social outcomes for school age Black males. The BTBP takes a grassroots approach to improving those outcomes by engaging community members including the young men themselves, educators, civic leaders, and other stakeholders to craft solutions to the challenges the young men face in their schools, neighborhoods, and cities. Importantly, we encourage the young men to examine their roles as leaders and community citizens.

The BTBP believes that taking an asset-based attitude that seeks to build on young Black males’ strengths, both individually and collectively, helps to prepare them to be leaders in advancing themselves, each other, and their communities. To that end, the project aims to create a national network of communities, organizations and foundations, universities, industries and individuals who are committed to shifting the trajectory of all our young people towards success and community advocacy.

We work towards establishing partnerships throughout the country and the world to encourage communities to address not only the educational and social inequities that contribute to failure, but also to look at the change that’s necessary within communities so that everyone is accountable and takes responsibility for the success of our children.

We at the BTBP operate from the standpoint that we all–both individually and as members of various institutions and communities–must be accountable for how we recognize, invest in, support and structure the removal of barriers for all our children, and our Black male youth in particular. When we carefully attend to and provide a holistic network of support for our Black male youth, we are connecting to the ideals that have framed our nation–that when we view all of our children as untapped resources and sources of greatness, we are encouraging them to dare to expand the spectrum of who they are and be better positioned to be leaders in their lives, their communities and the world.

There are 3 overarching objectives for the BTBP as a social change project:
1) Help refocus the agenda away from merely identifying the problems among Black male youth to promoting and encouraging schools and communities to work together on solutions to educating and supporting these young men
2) Increase positive community engagement in the everyday lives of Black male youth
3) Encourage the development of youth achievement, leadership and activism through emphasizing community citizenship

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The BTBP is organized into 4 project streams to address our 3 overarching objectives for this work. The 4 project streams are the following:

Media and Film Productions and Screenings
Out of School Programming
BTBP Focused Research and Research based Publications
Direct Community Outreach

Visit Beyond the Bricks Now Click Here.

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Exquisite Women: Aiesha Turman

Exquisite Women: Aiesha Turman

Exquisite Women

TheBlackManCan: Aiehsa, What is the The Black Girl Project and what inspired you to make this documentary?

 

AT: The Black Girl Project is both a documentary film and a non-profit organization. I have worked with young people in New York for over a decade, with the past few years being dedicated primarily to high school students. It was in this work, I began to hear the stories of young women, many of whom were outwardly accomplished, but were dealing with a lot of issues from homelessness to sexual assault and depression. I was lucky enough to be trusted enough by them that they would talk to me. Their lives reminded me of mine as a teen aged girl. I was highly accomplished academically, but when it came to dealing with issues, many of which were shared with my peers, I turned inward for fear of embarrassment or disappointing my parents. The non-profit (http://blackgirlproject.org) is an outgrowth of the film and my commitment to helping young women reach their fullest potential.

 

TheBlackManCan: How did you go about choosing the participants in The Black Girl Project?

 

AT: Just about all of the participants in the film were young women I had worked with in the past. When I conceived of the idea, I began contacting them and they showed up, ready.

 


TheBlackManCan: How did you become so passionate about being an advocate about the segment of society which is Black girls?

 

AT: I became passionate about advocating for Black girls the more I worked with them. Actually, I’d probably have to say it’s always been a passion, albeit dormant. However, as I began working with young people, it became much clearer. I began to realize that my life is a tool for transformation. Not many people know this about me, but I’ve gone from college dropout, to having an MA. I have gone from a depression so deep that it almost ended my life on several occasions, to a woman who is fully invested in making the best life for myself, my family and Black girls. There is nothing that a young woman can say to me that will shock me or make me love her any less.

TheBlackManCan: You are the owner of Super Hussy Media. What is the company about? How did you choose the name Super Hussy?

 

AT: Super Hussy Media, LLC is a Brooklyn-based, independent content creation company which focuses on the lives of women in the African Diaspora. Basically, Super Hussy uses film, traditional and emerging media to explore and an illuminate the lives of Black women. On the name Super Hussy: “hussy” was my maternal grandmother’s favorite/only swear word. Regardless of your age, if you pissed Nana off and you were a female, you were pretty much a hussy. Now, after looking up the etymology of the word, I found out “hussy” was derived from the German for housewife and began thinking about how patriarchy (particularly the white supremacist brand) twists, labels and misconstrues anything that does not fit into its neat little power structure. Hussy became to be known as a wanton, lascivious, ruthless and sexually promiscuous heathen.

Language can be used to both uplift and nourish or belittle and hurt. Any woman who goes against the grain and/or lives lives by her own rules, not the ones forced upon her, has been labeled something or other (bitch and whore come to mind) which seeks to minimize who she is in the world. As far as the “super” goes, I’ve always loved comics, so I might as well be a hero!

 

TheBlackManCan: You have various platforms that you can speak out but your flagship workshop is You Rock! Can you give us more insight into this workshop you have created for Young Girls?

 

AT: You Rock! is a workshop that uses literature, art, culture and media to help foster self-esteem and build critical thinking in girls. It helps to show them that they are the architects of their lives and that they can do or be anything they want.

TheBlackManCan: What is Okra Stew? Where did the name evolve from and what can we expect when this art project is finished?

 

AT: Okra Stew pretty much means “a little bit of everything”. Okra has to be one of my favorite vegetables and I’d love it when my maternal grandmother mixed okra, corn, tomatoes and lima beans and served her succotash with rice. But it also is a bit of a euphemism for the African Diaspora, since pretty much everywhere Africans who were affected by the slave trade has landed, now has a signature okra dish. I can’t reveal much about what’ll happen when the project is finish, but I guarantee it will make you laugh, cry, get angry and think!

 

TheBlackManCan: How did you develop you passion for multimedia and video production?

 

AT: I have always loved film, media and technology. I have friends who are filmmakers and have led young folks through creating their own film projects. I’ve always been a storyteller and I see this as an amazing way to communicate.

TheBlackManCan: Aiesha, you truly are an Exquisite Woman, what advice can you leave with the youth of today?

 

AT: My advice for youth of today would be to chart your own course. Sit down with yourself and truly figure out what you are passionate about and go for it. Don’t let anyone dissuade you — even your well-meaning family members. I’d also say, develop your own set of moral codes nad standards. Know what you will and will not accept of yourself and from others. It will take you a long way.

 

 

Exquisite Women is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Women who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society.  Nominate a Black Woman today on the contact page or e-mail team@theblackmancan.org, subject line: Exquisite Woman!

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Exquisite Women: Shonika Proctor

Exquisite Women: Shonika Proctor

Exquisite Women

TheBlackManCan: Shonika, You are the founder of Group Interactive, Inc. What is the company all about?

 

SP:  Group Interactive, Inc. is a Washington, DC based for purpose small business that designs non-conventional entrepreneurial and vocational training curriculum for teenagers. What makes the programs ‘non-conventional’ is that teenagers who are in my private coaching program (aka Renegade CEO’s) are essentially the pilot group for inspiration and creation of the curriculum. They support in every capacity from content creation to branding and training.


TheBlackManCan: You are an award winning blogger and you have written several book including Teen Entrepreneur Success Secrets and Double Click on This Preschoolers and computers. When did you realize you had a passion for writing?

 

SP:  Hmmm, I realized I had a gift for writing in the first grade because my teacher pointed it out to me. But I never actually did much with my writing (beyond journaling) until my early 20′s. Patrick Oberman (my then employer) told me that I had an incredible gift and he also told me that history belongs who write it. So I began to write to document ideas and my vision long before I would see many of those concepts become mainstream. With his encouragement and support we co-wrote Double Click on This Preschoolers and Computers together (it took nearly 8 months). And then after that, I found my groove and I went on to write 5 more books, with each book taking me anywhere from 1 day to 12 days to write in its entirety.


TheBlackManCan: You are widely considered the Pioneer of the Teen Entrepreneur Coaching Industry. How did this come to be?

 

SP:  Completely by accident!!! I realized there were programs and books on the market geared towards entrepreneurial teens but none that worked with teens (exclusively) and in an individual capacity over a certain period of time to support them with the ideas regardless of what phase of business they were in. So after 2,500+ hours of volunteering with teens I decided to co-create a formal industry with and for them.


TheBlackManCan: Why is important that we build the mindset that Entrepreneurship knows no age?

 

SP:  I have come to un-learn that entrepreneurship is not a ‘mindset’. It is a level of consciousness. It is important because it determines your ultimate quality of life or lack thereof, regardless if you run a business or work for someone else or want to accomplish anything in your academic, family or community life.


TheBlackManCan: Who are some of your teens and what businesses have they created?

 

SP: WOW! I have so many incredibly talented teens across the globe doing all kinds of interesting things from service to manufacturing based businesses, but today I want to expose some of my teens that I seldom talk about:

 

Edward Nash, 18 (UK) – iPhone apps and mobile applications including one app that received nearly 10,000 paid downloads in a week

 

Ismael Oates, 13 (USA) – He is an industrial designer (currently working on some designs of skateboards and bicycles)

 

Whitney Washington, 19 (USA) – She is an extremely gifted videographer and ‘creative entrepreneur’ that promotes emerging collegiate dancers and artists

 

Emil Hajric, 16 (Bosnia/Sarajevo/Herzegovina) Software Programmer/Developer: His company designs high end business specialty applications for corporations

 


TheBlackManCan: You are the co-founder/strategist for the first Cisco Entrepreneur Institute in North America – Adreamz Institute. What is the goal and mission of this Institute?

 

SP:  The Adreamz Institute (in collaboration with Carmen Scott Dawson, Advanz LLC) launched in 2009 mission centers around advocating for entrepreneurial resources for all walks of life leveraging best of breed practitioners, web 2.0 and the Cisco branded curriculum (available in 8 languages). Our programs are focused on supporting individuals to accomplish their personal and professional dreams. We have developed a complete poverty reduction strategy that leverages web 2.0, mentoring, and assistive technologies.


TheBlackManCan: You and your Chile based business partner Felipe Gonzalez recently shared a vision to rebuild Chile through the youth. Can you tell us more about this vision?

 

SP:  Felipe Gonzalez and I, along with our other Santiago, Chile based business partners Matias Gonzalez and Rodrigo Bello V are awakening and inspiring the entrepreneurial culture in Latin America starting with our work in Chile. They are Chilean nationals and are excited to help their country achieve its goal of becoming a first world nation by 2018. I started working with them in November 2009 and it has been an incredible and unbelievable experience. Together, we created a culturally sensitive bilingual entrepreneurship training program for youth and adults. And we also founded the Consortium of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Latin Americans (CEILA) so that we can better support Latin American entrepreneurs especially in the Americas.

 

Our vision is to leverage our international partners so that we can proactively support Chile, using global best practices, as it rebuilds its country and economy after a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake (Feb 2010). We will start with providing entrepreneurship education to youth in the affected communities. By working with youth and connecting them with the opportunities in the economic development pipeline (locally and globally), we are hoping that other Latinos will be inspired and follow suit.

 

TheBlackManCan: How and why should we have our youth thinking “Global Economy”?

 

SP:  Any youth who is registered and active on a social networking site should already be thinking global. Their ‘friends’ should not all ‘look’ and ‘think’ like them! They can easily make connections with other young people by simply looking for others who share their interest i.e. entrepreneurship, skateboarding, hip hop music etc. I think for the most part, young people are already doing this. It’s adults that need to get with the program ;-)

 

TheBlackManCan: WHY think Global Economy?

SP: Right now, we are in a very unique period in time in that we are experiencing both a global phenomenon and a global opportunity. Over the last half of the century, the majority of jobs have been reduced to a handful of major multinational companies. And with the near collapse of the global financial system, many individuals are having to create their own jobs. With access to the internet and technology almost ANYBODY can get online and start a business that provides a product or service to anyone who can find them with the click of a button. They can also manufacture things in short runs for a low cost, relatively speaking. This opens up tremendous opportunities, even for those with limited business experience or money.

 

You have to be thinking Global Economy and be culturally sensitive because depending on the product or service you offer you never know where it will be well-received. When I first launched my blog and introduced my company, I had no idea that the majority of my inquiries would come from outside of DC let alone the U.S. and now more than 50% of business is done internationally. Some of the countries where I received the most interest from I never even heard of the country before! Chile or Latin America was not even on my radar and now they could quickly become my largest market over the next year.

 

TheBlackManCan: You also go by the name Nika’Nator, what does this nickname come from and mean?

SP:  Ha ha – Daniel Uribe one of my young entrepreneurs from Southern California (originally from Colombia) gave me this nickname.  When others started calling me NikaNator he changed it to NN.  The name was basically a shortened version of my name and Nator meant ’destroying’ , in this case it was demolishing doubt and building dreams. Daniel still calls me this but some other people now call me The Dream Walker.


TheBlackManCan: If people are interested in your services, what is the best way to contact you?

SP:  I can be found on all the major social networking sites Facebook, Linked In, Twitter. Or they can email me teensrule@renegadeceos.com


TheBlackManCan: What words of advice would you like to share with the youth?

SP:  Your passion and enthusiasm is contagious so don’t be afraid to share your dreams with everyone you meet until someone you connect with supports you on that mission. And more importantly, no matter how much resistance you meet, stay fearless and crazy – ‘Keep it Renegade’ and I’ll meet you halfway.

 

Exquisite Women is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Women who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society.  Nominate a Black Woman today on the contact page or e-mail team@theblackmancan.org, subject line: Exquisite Woman!

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The Village: Kuntry Kidz, Inc.

The Village: Kuntry Kidz, Inc.

The Village

kuntry kidzElisha Barnes Booth founded Kuntry Kidz, Inc. and the Kuntry Kidz Youth Foundation in 2008 with the purpose of meeting a need for programming that nurtured character building, social responsibility, leadership skills and academic excellence and to provide EXPOSURE, INSPIRATION, and ENCOURAGMENT to youth residing in rural areas, which are not often times afforded the accessibility to youth programs that inner city youth have.

Kuntry KIdz Youth Foundation was established to provide opportunity for youth to participate in activities that were designed to instill personal integrity and excellence, emphasize positive family values, and give youth some of the much-needed tools to make them competitive and productive on a local, state and national level. We also offer public workshops that promote a positive self-image and life skills education

In 2012 The SOUTHERN GEMZ & GENTZ program was created which allows selected participants to have access to community mentoring volunteers that are willing to utilize their personal, professional and educational experiences to broaden the participants thinking. Additionally, participatants are provided with assistance in academic and career tracking; assistance in scholarship research for post-secondary education including college tours as well as application assistance to higher institutions via our partnership with the College Club program. The GEMZ & GENTZ program includes an annual leadership retreat that further develops skills in leadership, communication, teamwork and critical thinking.

Ultimately, the goal of our founder is that Kuntry Kidz Inc. be successful in inspiring and lead youth to a personal commitment to integrity and excellence for many years to come and that MISSISSIPPI youth and beyond will understand their uniqueness and their strengths to become leaders in their own communities.  Learn more about Kuntry Kidz, Inc.

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Exquisite Women: Dr. Rema Reynolds

Exquisite Women: Dr. Rema Reynolds

Exquisite Women

TheBlackManCan: Dr. Reynolds, you have served time in jobs that position you as a servant leader. What point in your life did you realize that you wanted to serve others?

 

DRR: I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to serve others. My life’s experiences positioned me as a champion for the underdog. I’m keenly sensitive to those in need. I see myself as strong. I have overcome many obstacles throughout my life. Every step of the way, I have had the assistance of others, those who helped me directly, those who took the time to write their narratives and share their wisdom, those who have come before me. People have invested in me, loved me, empowered me at critical developmental instances in my life. With my sense of agency, I often feel it my obligation to use what resources, skills, talents I have in meeting the needs of others, in assisting folks. I service the underrepresented, the underserved, the dispossessed, the wretched of the earth because I see me in them. We are all interdependent. I believe in the collective. I just happen to relate more with those who have been counted out.

 

I can point to a few moments in my life that left the indelible impression, the calling to serve. In kindergarten, my brother and I were the only Black kids in the school we attended. The first day ended abruptly with an altercation. At the first recess, a boy called me a nigger. I responded, as I was instructed by my parents, with a beat down. My mother was called. After listening to the principal detail my brutish acts, my mother asked what punishment the boy would receive for calling me a nigger. The principal who was suspending me, said that the boy was the victim; after all, he was pretty mangled. My mother’s response set the trajectory of my life. She told the principal that I would not be suspended. She also told the principal that she could expect this response, physical violence, every time my humanity was attacked. “Rema will have to fight to protect and defend her humanity because you won’t.” The principal and I were both stunned. My mother took me to McDonald’s (a RARE treat) and let me relax in her waterbed for the rest of the afternoon watching cable (another rare treat).

 

There were two lessons I took from that experience; 1) protect human dignity at all costs, and 2) heal yourself and others after engaging in battle. I have remembered those lessons and carried them with me in my work.

 

The second defining moment came after reading Malcolm X’s autobiography. Enough said.

 

Being that my work is my passion and my passion is my life, within my career, regardless of the title I held, I have naturally served others.

 

TheBlackManCan: As a professor at Azusa Pacific University, you are teaching aspiring counselors and school psychologists. What are a few keys to success that you provide to your students?

 

DRR: I provide to aspiring educators a guiding principle of love. Love is a radical concept. True love is best expressed through Rogers’ notion of unconditional positive regard for others. Real love, agape love, sees school counselors and school psychologists patterned after Christ, a social justice rider who always protected, always trusted, always hoped, always persevered. In my classes we undertake an examination of sociocultural implications present within schools grounded with an integration of scripture that direct us to act as advocates for our most vulnerable students and families.

 

Jesus Christ provides an example of what social justice should look like. Students who are not Christians learn from Christ’s example. His love for those who were struggling resonates with those interested in acting as change agents. Schools are microcosms of society, and society is reproduced within these institutions. Change the institution, and change the world. I believe this quite literally and work hard to impart this belief to students who engage me in class.

 

TheBlackManCan: You received the prestigious and very competitive University of California Office of the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. How did it feel to receive such an award and what was the focus of your study?

 

DRR: I was honored to receive the award because it served to lend credence to my work that is sometimes not recognized as relevant given that we live in a post-racial society and my research centralizes race and racism as core elements in the structure and function of schools.

 

My study focuses on parent involvement and engagement and the experiences Black middle class parents have in public secondary schools. Increasing numbers of Black families are finding their way to more affluent neighborhoods with seemingly successful schools yet, an analysis of educational outcomes for Black middle class students reveals that their academic performance still warrants a look into their parent-school relationships.  With this objective, my research seeks to derive answers to the following questions; 1) what do Black middle class parents articulate as their experiences with school officials, and 2) according to these parents, how does race influence these experiences?

 

The questions I raise in my study have responses to be garnered from the experiences of Black middle class parents that can serve to further inform the knowledge and research base regarding this specific and unique group. Ultimately, how can Black middle class parents and school officials work together to ensure the actualization of academic potential for Black all middle class students?

 

TheBlackManCan: How can we do a better job or preparing culturally competent educators, administrators and professionals in other fields?

 

DRR: This is a difficult question because culture is so multi-faceted, ever changing, and contextually complex that competence is elusive sometimes. More importantly, I think cultural competence is hard gained, as it requires a candid, open, honest self-examination of biases and prejudices. Most people are not comfortable confronting their own bigoted thoughts and actions, especially those centered in race. Since we avoid conflict, even self-conflict, that is necessary for change, our cultural competence growth is stunted if allowed to develop at all.

 

It seems that the only way to do a better job preparing culturally competent educators would be to start the conversation in every other field, in every corner, nook, and cranny of our society and sustain it. Until folks are comfortable talking about differences, we will not be able to accept them as they occur organically among us.

 

Then, institutions of higher learning must be committed to the study of culture and do the hard work of reflection with those preparing to work with diverse people, particularly children. Sociocultural implications in education is often considered an optional or supplemental topic of study even in Teacher Education Programs claiming to be committed to social justice! This practice is unacceptable and negligent even as we consider the fact that this country will look vastly different racially and culturally in a few short years.

 

The stakes are high. If we continue to willfully ignore all of the isms we’re plagued with and subscribe to, we will inevitably perpetuate them—even unwittingly. This perpetuation, again, contributes to the reproduction of societal ills. Educational malpractice will continue to occur for our most vulnerable children; poor students of color.

 

TheBlackManCan: What is the Critical Race Studies in Education Association? What should racial justice look like within America’s schools today?

 

DRR: I am proud of the work I did with the Leadership Team to comprise the Mission and Vision of this organization:

Our Mission

The Critical Race Studies in Education Association is a collective of scholar activists committed to the larger project of racial justice in schools within the P-20 spectrum.

Our Vision

  • We are an interdisciplinary consortium of experts who recognize global implications of race and education for minoritized people.
  • Through scholarship we identify and expose inequities for the ultimate eradication of white supremacy.
  • We counter and combat systemic and structural racism with scholarship and praxis.
  • We recognize the multiple locations of oppression and the myriad manifestations and effects of their intersections.
  • We co-construct liberating knowledge that facilitates collective agency to transform schools and communities.

 

CRSEA is committed to realizing racial justice in schools. Racial justice in schools, to me, begins first with the recognition of race as a mitigating factor in determining student outcomes. Next, racial justice would see educators creating equity, not equality, in schools.  We’ve been victims of botched attempts at equality. Equality has not served minoritized students and their families well. Racial justice considers the needs of diverse groups and seeks to meet those unique needs as opposed to giving everyone the same treatment, same services, same resources, etc.

 

Seemingly hackneyed catch phrases like, “level the playing field” are actually relevant and should seriously be considered when thinking of policy and practice. Culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally responsive instruction, and culturally competent educators could serve to actualize such trite terms for students in need of equitable schooling conditions.

 

We suffered a heavy loss when we integrated. We fought for equality and inclusion when the core concern, our primary demand should have been equity.

 

TheBlackManCan: When people say we live in a post racial and color-blind world, what is your response?

 

DRR: The lie is sweet, but a lie nonetheless.

 

I understand. People want to get past race. They want to think that we’ve arrived to a space of enlightenment and acceptance. Enlightenment cannot come from denial which, in this case, is rooted in fear.

 

When people say that they don’t see race, they are attempting to deny the feelings they have around race; they are masking for themselves and they think for others their biases and bigotry. I’m not fooled.

 

Everyone sees phenotype. They acknowledge color in all sorts of ways; some ways are detrimental to themselves and others. A cleansing truth telling must occur if we want to discontinue destructive ways of dealing with race. People need to tell the truth to themselves first.

 

We all have biases and prejudices. All of us do. Know thyself. First, folks need to really grapple with the ugliness harbored in the deep and shallow recesses of their hearts and minds and do the work of self-examination before we can even begin to move toward reconciliation of what is and what ought to be concerning race relations.

 

What most troubles me is when people of color, particularly Black folks with sincerity shake their heads and say that they don’t see color. Fatha! I just want to lose it in a real way. Yet I understand that too. The pain and shame of racial injustice is taxing. Indeed, we know that the stress of racism takes years off ones’ life. I think the denial of race and racism is more lethal. I’ll come to Black folks in a minute.

 

I also think that this declaration of a post-racial society is an attempt to waylay any retaliation that folks think may be exacted by President Obama upon white America. It’s a Jedi mind trick at play. Hold up. I know it’s kind of a radical notion, but bear with me.

 

When I was in Ethiopia during the US presidential elections, my white colleagues who also travelled to teach there were fielding questions of President Obama. Everyone recognized and adhered to an unspoken protocol–appear racially unbiased and Christian when talking about Obama because the Ethiopians openly favor him, and Rema will challenge you to defend your McCain choice. They never openly opposed or supported Obama.  They lauded his position on change and conceded that there were not many reasons to vote for McCain.  They were astutely cagey and elusive in their speech.  Yet, I remained hopeful.  At least they were not blatantly declaring their allegiance to McCain, saying instead, that they were undecided, they didn’t know yet for whom they would vote.  My hope was that after our conversation, sanity and scruples would overcome and subdue them and they would have no choice but to do the right thing, vote for Obama.  Sally[1] spit on my hope with her hot words, “That’s why we can’t trust Obama.” I can’t give the full context of her statement, just know that we were talking about white supremacy and its effects on Michael Jackson. Long story.

 

Sally, a newcomer to the already established group of teachers, boldly proclaimed what most Black Americans knew all along though no one would co-sign our suspicions—white America is afraid of Barrack Obama.  White America is afraid of revenge.

 

Paranoid white folks think that Obama is going to get them back for all of the atrocities exacted against Blacks—unfair judicial practices, inequitable schooling, a dehumanizing portrayal in the media to further spur the fear, and a consistently demoralizing economic system based on bias and prejudice that sees Blacks as less worthy of credit, adequate housing, and good paying jobs(we can debate whether they have anything to fear thus far another time).

 

I guess, logically, they should be afraid.  It is human nature, when engaged in a win-lose conflict situation, for the losers to want to win, to want to compete with and beat their opponents.  Black people have been the losers in varying degrees in the racial conflict America has been embroiled in since importing its first slave.  This country has been struggling to establish dignity and respect for some time.  White America won’t allow it.  Dignity and respect comes after admitting to and rectifying the wrongs of the past.  White America is not prepared to own its indecent history. “Get over it Black America,” is what they continue to both implicitly and directly convey over and over in their policies and practices and speech. Yet, they’re not over it.  Really.  They are still ever mindful of prior bad acts that have their effects still today in American society.  White America is cognizant of the condition of Black America and the relationship the past has to the present.  As much as they try to deny it, they know the ugly truth and biting sting of racism.  And they’re afraid.

 

Afraid that Mr. Obama will try to right the wrongs of the past and eradicate the injustice of today.  Even more afraid that he will subject them to the very maltreatment that has been doled out in heaping spoonfuls for Blacks to swallow on a daily basis.  Oh they’re scared alright.  Sally let the proverbial cat out of the proverbial bag.  Frightened.

 

So the strategy to quell any hard feelings, declare a victory. Racism no longer exists folks. Dr. Martin Luther the King’s dream has been realized. President Obama was measured by the content of his character, not his color. If only….

 

Yet, if White America would look outside themselves for a moment, redirect their egocentric gaze and really examine the practices of Black people, they would see that they really do not have anything to fear.  Black folks are harmless in this matter.  A glimpse into history and current conditions reassure us that Black citizens are not retaliatory in nature.  We’re a peaceful people when it comes to whites.  We really do just want to get along.  We have hope for harmony: a wish for peace with the white world.  Blacks are so willing to forgive and forget to a fault.  We continue to experience the same mistreatment because of our audacity to hope for a better relationship with White America.  We’ll even blame ourselves for the deplorable conditions we find ourselves in instead of the systemic structures erected and maintained by White America to keep us subjugated, dependent, and oftentimes defenseless[2].  We make every attempt to garner and maintain the healthy relationships we have with white friends and co-workers—often for our survival.  We don’t want to instigate bad relations with White America.  We want to live in tranquility with whites.  Revenge is furthest from our minds. A post-racial society is the goal.

 

Unless we all are ready to cop to the past, take responsibility for present wrongs, acknowledge and denounce racism and white supremacy, all isms will remain woven into the fabric of our society.

 

If this colorblind, post-racial rhetoric continues to go unchallenged, I am afraid not.

 

TheBlackManCan: How has white supremacy and white privilege affected white as well as black people?

 

DRR: These are loaded questions. Dissertation worthy questions. Sheesh. Where to start?

 

Let me go back to Michael Jackson and Sally. Those of us who had been in Ethiopia the week prior greeted the newcomers over dinner.  As I mentioned earlier, Sally was a newcomer.  We all chatted pleasantly about the weather, about our curriculum, about our summers thus far when the conversation turned to Michael Jackson who was still alive at the time (I’m still hurt by the loss humanity suffered through his death, by the way). We were talking about worshipping false gods and idols when I recalled the time my grandmother, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, made me take down all of my posters of Michael Jackson declaring, “He is not your God!” We all chuckled and then considered the man for a moment.  Sally (nor I, for that matter) just could not understand why he would mutilate himself as he has.  I agreed that his transformation was tragic. Michael was beautiful as a Black man, gorgeous as a Puerto Rican, when he took on Asian coloring, his features started to become distorted, as a clear man, his face was veritably falling apart.

 

In response to that observation, stroking her nose, Sally wondered aloud, “Yeah, I know why he would want plastic surgery, to get rid of his harsh features, but why change his skin color?”

 

Harsh features?  What did she mean by that?  African features?  Black features?  Negroid features?  What the truck?!

 

Now, I have been non-violent since 1999.  This proclamation that I verbalize often to remind myself of my commitment to peace, saved Sally’s life. My violent past and tendencies all rushed before me.  I rubbed my left eye, to get the images of turning the table over and smashing her in the mouth out of it.  I cleared my throat of the vile words I had formed in my mind to answer her question.  After all, I was here in Ethiopia teaching the country’s leaders how to respond positively to conflict, to reframe conflict as an opportunity to grow, learn, and develop new understanding.  I was teaching a non-violent, peacemaking approach to conflict.  Though I am a hypocrite at times, for myriad reasons, I did not see this as a safe time to practice hypocrisy.  Besides, if I beat her down, I could be thrown into a foreign jail.  I did want to return to the US despite its racist ways.  I wanted central heating back in my life again.  I couldn’t go to prison there.  Too cold.  I had to refrain from a violent response.  I thought about all this before I settled on peace.

 

I am an educator.  I used this opportunity/conflict to educate Sally, to enlighten her and provide a small piece of understanding about Black people living in America.  Before I began my lecture, I let her know that the explanation I was going to provide was based on controversial theories.  I asked if she still wanted an answer to her question.  She said yes.  She had a Black friend once in grade school (by the way, she let us know that she was the only one to befriend this girl while everyone else shunned her—such a missionary) and she knew all about our struggles.  I warned her one last time, noted her nod and her hand waving her welcome of the information, and proceeded to let her know of the effects of slavery and internalized racism and hatred Black people in America and around the world still suffer today.  I was in the middle of delineating just how the slave master expertly established and reified white supremacy by pitting darker skinned slaves against lighter skinned slaves when she interrupted with, “But Michael Jackson wasn’t a slave.”

 

After physically biting my lip and employing my hands in the task of providing extra emphasis to my points so that they wouldn’t involuntarily reach out and slap Sally in her lips that seemed to taunt me, I patiently continued with further explanation about the far-reaching, long-lasting effects of the most inhumane system of slavery known to humankind.  “Oh, I don’t know about that,” retorted Sally in the middle of my well constructed sentence regarding the length of this barbaric human trafficking, “Brazil was pretty bad.”  What the hezy?!  Why was I being tried like this?  Ever so patiently, with tenderness even, I let Sally know that I was against injustice anywhere and that I was not going to compare unjust practices and enter into an oppression Olympics with her.  I was simply trying to get her to see why Michael Jackson was socialized, yes racialized to hate his very skin.

 

“That’s why we can’t trust Obama.”

 

Yeah.

 

So.

 

White supremacy is so slimy, slick, and sinister that most folks cannot even detect its omnipresence. When I was in Hong Kong, I saw its effects when I went into the drugstore and found bleaching cream on the shelf. Bleaching cream is sold worldwide. The universal standard of beauty is situated in white supremacy. People of color suffer all types of psychosis as they strive to become someone they can never be, and white folks, often unwittingly, continue a damaging system of white privilege in which a disproportionate number of their fellow humans are dehumanized.

 

How are whites affected by white supremacy? Tangibly, physically they undoubtedly reap benefits that come from being supreme. Spiritually they lose.

 

When we accept white supremacy and fail to challenge its permanence in our lives, people of color lose in every category.

 

TheBlackManCan: You belong to Sisters of the Academy. Can you tell us more about that organization?

 

DRR: Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) was formed shortly after the Brothers of the Academy (BOTA) was established.

 

Mission

As Sisters of the Academy, our mission is to create an educational network of Black women in higher education committed to fostering collaborative scholarship and achievement. Through this commitment, members of the organization will impact Black people, schools, and communities.

 

Every other year, this is the year by the way, SOTA hosts a Research Bootcamp for doctoral students and Junior Faculty. I attended as a doctoral student in ’07 and the Black women who ran the organization blew my mind with their intellect, but they stunned me most with their display of genuine care and concern for my emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. To encounter that kind of love from strangers is rare. I purposed to get to know them and after completing my doctorate, I joined the leadership team heading up their community outreach.

 

Plug:

 

The Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) sponsor an annual Book Drive. The Literacy Project aims to provide books to underserved, underrepresented students who often attend under resourced schools. Last year, we collected over 550 books! This year, we hope to provide that same service to families in Leon County Schools in Tallahassee, FL.

 

There is an enormous need for books in communities like Tallahassee. Studies have shown that access to printed materials is critical for the development of literacy skills. However, almost two thirds of low-income families across the nation have no age-appropriate books available in their homes for their children. The impacts are far-reaching given that the inability to read is linked to poverty, unemployment, and incarceration. Your tax-exempt donation will help to diminish these possibilities for one small elementary school.

 

Help us in our goal to purchase enough books to provide each child in one school a book to take home. You can make your donations at http://www.sistersoftheacademy.org/support-sota/

 

Questions or concerns can be directed to Rema Reynolds, Community Outreach Chair, at rema.reynolds@gmail.com

 

*If you donate using PayPal, under “Instructions to the Seller”, please indicate that you wish to give to the Book Drive.

 

Years the bootcamp is not offered, a writing seminar is accessible for women in the academy; students and faculty alike. I attended this as well and my assigned mentor assisted me in writing an article for publication. That same mentor later served on my dissertation committee.

 

I have forged lifelong relationships and friendships with women I’ve met through SOTA (shout out to newly minted PhD, Nia Cantey). We should all avail ourselves to organizations like SOTA that endeavor to mobilize, energize, and uplift Black folks. Please get involved.

 

TheBlackManCan: Can you share some words on your scholarly article “An exploration of critical race theory in examination of the Educational Outcomes for Black Males.”

 

DRR: I wrote this article from my dissertation research. Within my dissertation, I wasn’t able to fully attend to a recurring conversation I had with parents I interviewed. Participants in this study were Black middle class parents who had migrated to middle class neighborhoods touting high-performing schools. I interviewed them to examine the experiences they had in those schools. I wanted to note their perceptions of race and class. Again, in this post-racial society we find ourselves in, folks tend to shy away from candid conversations about race and racism and instead opt to discuss injustice and inequity within a class analysis. I was interested to see if these folks would follow suit.

 

The short of it is that they discussed class and race and stated that racism primarily served to mitigate the experiences they had in schools with school officials. When they talked about disparate, unfair treatment suffered at the hands of school officials, they always brought up their sons. Black boys have a very different experience in schools than any other group of students. In this article I discuss the observations of parents as they give accounts of low expectations held by educators for their sons, an overemphasis on behavior by educators regarding their sons, and a heavy-handed zero tolerance disciplinary approach exacted by educators against their sons. These parents’ stories should serve to alarm researchers, educators, parents, and students as they are common and the policy and practices described are prevalent across schools, across class.

 

While there is no documented correlation between parent involvement and educational outcomes, we do know that parent participation in school-related activity is associated with favorable academic and behavior performance in schools. Students with involved parents go to college and finish, have higher math scores, and lower truancy and drop out rates than students whose parents do not participate in school sanctioned activities or monitor student work at home. Involvement, however, looks different for different parent groups. School culture, which is normed on a white middle class paradigm, often runs counter to the norms and values of Black parents. The more knowledge Black parents have of schools and systemic inequities, the better equipped they are to advocate on behalf of their children, particularly their sons.

 

TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for the youth trying to find their own identity?

 

DRR: Read. Read. Read.

 

Read everything. Read widely. Read cross-culturally.

 

As we continue to derive ourselves from media images of who we ought to be, we will continue to see death and destruction generationally.

 

If we really want to understand who we are, whose we are, and who we are to become, we must be quiet, still, contemplative, reflective, and analyze our lives in relation to history, to theory, to policy, to practice, and to others. Be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Read.

 

Then discuss.

 

Engage in discourse with the foolish and the wise, the youngins and the seasoned folk, the rich, the poor. Dialogue with anyone willing to stop and talk. Through relationship, through the connection we make with others on a basic human level, we learn about ourselves. Get to know us. Find out who the collective we is. Manufacture the collective if you have to. Interdependence makes us great; shows us who we are. And through these relationships you find mentors to help guide you through life. Invaluable.

 

Work.

 

Get a job. Even if you have no wants (parents, rethink this. If your child has no wants, you are messing up), earning your own money feels good, establishes a work ethic, forces you to learn time management, and keeps you off twitter, facebook, and other time suckers that facilitate tomfoolery.

 

Finally, lead.

 

Through leadership roles, character is developed, many valuable life lessons are learned. Seek varied opportunities to lead. The exposure, experience, and relationships will chart the course of your life.

 

Oh, and turn off the reality shows, and BET; garbage in, garbage out.

 

Exquisite Women is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Women who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society.  Nominate a Black Woman today on the contact page or e-mail team@theblackmancan.org, subject line: Exquisite Woman!

 



[1] Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, the guilty as it were

[2] See Bill Cosby

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Black men step up as mentors and role models for Fairbanks youth

Black men step up as mentors and role models for Fairbanks youth

Positive Black Male News

Pizza lures them in, but the main course is conversation with an emphasis on the value of education.

That’s the way it is at the Tuesday noon mentoring sessions at Tanana Middle School and at an after-school Tuesday robotics program at Hunter Elementary School. To read more click here: http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/7114953/article-Black-men-step-up-as-mentors-and-role-models-for-Fairbanks-youth?instance=home_lead_story

theblackmancan.org wants to provide you with news stories from across the world that promote a positive black male image. Many of the stories featured here may not be on the front page of your local newspaper, but we believe that it is our job to inform you on all the positive black male news circulating the world.

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