Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Read: No More Excuses

This past Saturday's NYT had a great op-ed by columnist Charles Blow - who finally said what I've been saying all along: Just because Obama is the president doesn't mean that every form of injustice, institutional racism, poverty, and structural inequity will disappear for black people. Especially for black people. Read as he puts Congressman Clyburn in his place after he made the ludicrous comment that "Every child has lost every excuse."
What? That’s where I have to put my foot down. That’s going a bridge too far.

I’m a big proponent of personal responsibility, but children too often don’t have a choice. They are either prisoners of their parentage or privileged by it. Some of their excuses are hollow. But other excuses are legitimate, and they didn’t magically disappear when Obama put his left hand on the Lincoln Bible.
He then goes on to list some really daunting stats about African American children and closes with this sharp comment:

So black people have to keep their feet on the ground even as their heads are in the clouds. If we want to give these children a fighting chance, we must change the worlds they inhabit. That change requires both better policies and better parenting — a change in our houses as well as the White House.

President Obama is a potent symbol, but he’s no panacea.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Check out the full piece here

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My President is Black!!!!

(listening to Jay-Z's DC mix of this post's title on repeat right now...) 

I can't even begin to explain yesterday - the excitement, the emotion, the fun, the was truly a remarkable time to be in D.C., to be young, to be black, and, frankly, to be American. For the first time since election night, I didn't bother to pepper my joy with the cynicism and reality that colors my speech daily in order to temper expectations and be honest about the work that is to come. Instead I walked and stood for a total of 8 hours in freezing D.C. weather and partied all night long. 

Check out live - and slightly shaky - footage from Barack & Michelle's appearance at our ball, the Official Youth Ball at the Washington Hilton:

To a Black Man Who Died Too Soon

reposted over at

As the nation honors the legacy of one black man with a dream and anticipates the first black man in the White House, one in nine black men is in prison. Today, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the eve of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, we find ourselves in this reality. I wish that you, the man who died too soon, were here to see this climactic and prosaic moment. But your life was cut senselessly short by the structural violence perpetrated by our education, health, and criminal justice systems. Today, even as we look at our stamps, and read our poems, and stay home from work, men that look like you are more likely to be murdered than graduate college. And I can’t get over that.

You could of course be Fred Hampton, who was killed by racism, Tupac Shakur, who was killed by urban discontent, or Oscar Grant, who was killed just this month by police brutality. You could also be any of the one quarter of deaths among black men caused by heart disease every year, brought about by the inequities in our food systems that disproportionately place more fast food than fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods. You could also be one of 21 percent of uninsured black men who didn’t have the “magical” healthcare that Magic Johnson can afford to buy, and instead died of HIV/AIDS.

You could also be my father, a man who would, if he were alive, truly understand the meaning of this moment—the acknowledgement of our history, the hope for our future, and the multi-dimensional but overwhelmingly dire state of black men in America. Daddy, you were a man who, like President Obama, raised two beautiful daughters. You are a man who, like Dr. King, was a minister working to better his community. You are a man who, like so many others, was pulled over often for driving in white neighborhoods, just for being black. You are a man who the media has never quite been able to capture—not in CNN’s two-hour long special focused on you or the Washington Post’s series covering the lives of men like you. You are a man of service and integrity that accomplished great things and achieved success—spiritual, familial, professional—in a nation fundamentally set up for your failure.

If you were here today, what would you say? You would undoubtedly have a more nuanced analysis of our times than that given by media outlets struggling to balance the ascendancy and historical significance of this moment with the present day context and realities in which many black men still exist. Without you here I am lost. Should I intellectualize the discourse and highlight the substantive differences between Dr. King and President Obama so that African American history doesn’t compress two great, but very different leaders to be one and the same?

Or should I instead use this moment as an opportunity to draw the stark contrast between the two of them and the alarming rate of social devastation that millions of other black men are facing … even as children read “Ode to Dr. King” poems and parents prepare for inaugural balls?

Or should I highlight the fact that there are also millions of other African American men just as great as Dr. King and President Obama, in cities and neighborhoods all around the country taking care of their family responsibilities and working hard for their communities? If too many comparisons have been made between Dr. King and President Obama, too few have been made between you and them both. You were the touchable Obama, the everyday Dr. King, a person that believed, like Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

I struggle with the question of whether celebration leads to complacency and a false sense of utopia or if it instead inspires and uplifts. You would probably see it as inspiration without the guarantee of redemption. After all, redemption only comes through justice. Maybe you’ve made me too cynical. I do not make the assumption that the color of President Obama’s skin guarantees the advancement of a full civil rights agenda, just as I am not confident that Dr. King’s belief of love and equality would have extended to transgender rights or full workplace equity for women. The vision of equality King proposed was incomplete, just as the vision Obama proposes today is. You would tell me to get to work fighting for a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing, abolishment of the death penalty, equal prosecution of crack and cocaine, an end to the war on drugs, an end to police brutality and racial profiling, an increase of resources given to public schools in lower income communities, an increase in the Pell grant, universal and preventative health care, and many other policies that will close the gap between black men and the rest of society.

As I struggle with these questions and the daunting challenges that face our generation, maybe I should do more than stay home from work today. Maybe I should do more than party like a rock star for Obama’s inauguration tomorrow. Maybe I should ask the question to all black man who die too soon. What should I do to fight for you?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A new blogger, a new me

Hey fam - First let me apologize for being AWOL lately. I wish I could say that its simply a result of me being ridiculously busy. Although I have been, without a doubt (New Orleans, New York, Denver, Oakland, etc.), the real reason that I haven't logged on is because...drumroll please...the blog intimidated me. There, I said it. See, when I speak, I rely on passion. Talking about politics and social justice and the world around me is so much easier than throwing myself into a written world dominated - much like mainstream media - by snide, liberal white men (and this "world" that I'm referring to is the progressive political blogosphere). I would write and be riddled with self-doubt, so much so that when one of my posts was "discovered" by a group of my political peers online, I was mortified and did not log back on for nearly two months. 

Although thoughts, observation, commentary and recommendations flood my mind on a daily basis, popping open my laptop and putting fingers to keys has always been a challenge for me. I struggle with how to make my blog something that I would actually read...and therein lied the problem... and the solution. I am not Matt Yglesias. I am not Ezra Klein. Nor do I want to be. I am not all political, or all cutlural, or all black, or all woman, or all young and trying to find the voice of my blog reminded me that a category just won't work. I am a full woman who believes that politics are both policy and culture...that everyday injustices are found not just in state legislatures and prisons but in movie theatres and ipods and fashion magazines. Because injustice in all of these areas is what put out that beautiful fire that Sonia Sanchez talks about in her poem (one of my favorites)  "Catch the Fire":  
Where is our beautiful fire that gave light to the world? The fire of pyramids; The fire that burned through the holes of slaveships and made us breath; The fire that made guts into chitterlings; The fire that took rhythms and made jazz; The fire of sit-ins and marches that made us jump boundaries and barriers; The fire that took street talk and sounds and made righteous imhotep raps. Where is your fire, the torch of life full of Nzingha and Nat Turner and Garvey and Du Bois and Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin and Malcolm and Mandela. 
Well I believe that the answer is right here in this generation. I believe that I and my peers are a spark in that beautiful fire, and that my blog doesn't need to be the Huffington Post to show it. 

So from now on, the posts on this blog can be culture and political and public and personal and earnest and cynical and long and short and wordy and pictoral and whatever else they need to be to show the potential, and the hope, and the righteous anger and the hypocrisy and the frustration and the silliness and the innovation and the reality of the America that I see and the journey that we are walking through together in this next phase of American history. 

So welcome to the re/launch. And thanks for reading.