Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Thanksgiving Beyond Your Table and Household – Thanksgiving Myth Creates Fairytale of Land Theft, Betrayal, Genocide

As many of us spend time with family today, let's be sure and explicitly acknowledge the dishonest, inhumane and brutal history and tradition upon which this nation's Thanksgiving Day tradition and ritual rests.

While the family-centered rituals we all engage in at this time every year likely carry very different meaning and significance in our lives, let's not erase the history of the indigenous peoples of this land by not acknowledging the thievery, the rape and the murder that rests at the foundation of this nation's Thanksgiving Day holiday, including the traditions and rituals that have evolved with it.

Moreover, let's also consider and actively support ways to press this nation to honor and do justice to indigenous peoples, and all of the peoples with similar histories in this space now recognized as the United States of America. This is our collective living history. Indeed, Indigenous and African peoples' histories are not actually that dissimilar in many respects. It can be argued that this history is in many ways a single shared history.

Below is an excerpt from a recent article at Indian Country Today Media Network. One can begin with the excerpt below, and be sure and click through to read the fuller summary of this brutal history we must all acknowledge, commemorate and lift up.

From Indian Country Today Media Network, by Sarah Sunshine Manning (11/23/2015)...

As Thanksgiving approaches, many schools throughout the U.S. are making preparations for the standard, and all too cliché, Thanksgiving Day lessons, and fairy tale-esque Thanksgiving plays.

And more often than not, the school Thanksgiving activities are largely based on what ultimately amounts to myth, created to serve the imaginations of the dominant society, and simultaneously functioning to erase the tragedies of Indigenous nations.

The myth usually goes a little something like this:

Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn’t long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End.

From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. Firstly, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Secondly, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this “great American nation.”

So, what exactly is the harm in this school-sanctioned account of history? Understandably, the untrained eye may not notice the harm in such a myth, as most Americans are victim to the same whitewashed lie as the rest, and dismantling a centuries-old myth certainly does prove challenging.

But the first lesson for educators and adults to digest is the fact that this narrative is egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many levels. Moreover, it is a lie, which serves to rob American children of valuable historical lessons.

Truth be told, this beloved lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, following the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then, Americans were desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the first Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.

Beyond the myth, and the seemingly good intentions of Abraham Lincoln (who actually despised Indians) the actual story of pilgrims and indigenous people went down much differently.

As a social science educator, I strongly advocate for the unabridged study of human history; for the many valuable lessons imbedded in the stories of our past. Changing any story, essentially, means short-changing American society from some extremely valuable lessons – lessons that function to plant the seeds of social consciousness and humanitarian evolution.

So let’s take a look at a different version of history; a fuller version, and hopefully, extract some meaningful lessons from our shared past:

(Click here to keep to keep reading.)



As Chicago braces for release of Laquan McDonald shooting video; Learn about the 86 minutes of missing surveillance video

As the local and national news reporters talk more about the Laquan McDonald case in Chicago, and the impending release of the police officer shooting video, there's a lot more to this case that seems really troubling, and unfortunately consistent with the accusations Black youth and activists have been making for years about police misconduct, excessive force and department cover-ups in Chicago.

By now many people are aware of the shooting and killing of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke. According to reports and multiple media accounts, Laquan was shot 16 times from around 15 feet away, with 13 of the 16 bullets entering after his body had already fallen to the ground. Witness accounts and the medical examiner's report suggest that at least half of the bullets entered Laquan's back, or the back of Laquan's arms. Witnesses and the family's attorney have all said that Laquan McDonald was clearly walking away from the officer when fired upon, and that the lone officer continued opening fire on Laquan for more than 10 seconds after his body was already on the ground.

The shooting took place in October 2014, and officials investigating the shooting have thus far been unwilling to indict and prosecute the officer involved.

Early on, the story of the officers involved (note that only one officer actually decided to open fire) and other city and police department spokespersons, suggests that the officer was in reasonable fear for his life, and that the officer appeared to have acted appropriately. Contradicting the video evidence, the officer even stated that McDonald was lunging at the officer with a knife. Over time, the department and the city were less forthcoming about what happened, stating that they wanted to let the investigation run its course. Now, with the judge's requirement that the video be made public, we hear far stronger language from the mayor and others about the shocking, horrific and disgusting nature of the tragic shooting.

For more than a year, multiple media organizations have requested the video footage, and have been denied. In each of the instances, the city and police department indicated that sharing the video might hamper an ongoing federal investigation. Meanwhile, the city reached a five million dollar settlement agreement with McDonald's family, including a stipulation that forbids the family attorney from sharing the video. Now, after repeated refusals to release the video by the mayor's office and the police department, a Cook County judge has ordered the release of the video.

After all of this back and forth, and with the judge's ordering that the video be released, the mayor is for the first time unequivocally condemning the shooting, and acknowledging how horrific and tragic the shooting was. Moreover, he's gone out of his way over the weekend and this afternoon to meet with community activists and community organizers, including many who are critical of his polices and who he has otherwise been unwilling to meet with, all focused on preparing the community for the video's release and the potential anger and outcry it's expected to produce.

Now, and in the midst of all of this, there still is very little discussion of other and deeply concerning circumstances surrounding this shooting and its aftermath. More of this is described in the video below - dating back to May 2015 - with MSNBC host Chris Hayes interviewing McDonald family attorney Michael Robbins. In the video, Hayes and the family attorney talk about the lack of transparency from the department and the lack of an explanation for 86 minutes of missing surveillance footage from a nearby Burger King restaurant. The missing footage was detected after officers were allowed to spend 3 hours alone with the recording equipment in Burger King. Interestingly, this happened the day before officials from the department's internal affairs office came to inspect the video footage.

All of this is troubling to say the least. And unfortunately, it doesn't appear any of the major news organizations are willing to do the deeper investigative work that - in years past - used to characterize journalism in some parts of this country.

I really do hope something more akin to justice comes out of this more visible Chicago episode.  Even if not for the officer, who has the law stacked in his favor, at least for some more departmental changes. Not likely perhaps, but the struggle continues nonetheless.

Chris Hayes speaks to the McDonald family lawyer, Michael Robbins, about missing surveillance footage that may have shown moments before and after 17-year old Laquan McDonald was shot and killed by Chicago Police last October.


Some States Are Trying to Find Better Ways of Ordering and Collecting Unpaid Child Support – The System is Still Broken

The child support system in this country is still broken. And for sure, that 'brokenness' is felt differently by the various parties involved.

Single parents - most often mothers - don't get the financial support they need to care for their child (or children). The other parent - typically fathers - have court-ordered (financial) child support obligations that they can't meet. Complicating matters more is that the little money the fathers do have they frequently prefer to use in ways they see as being in direct support of the child, including buying clothes, shoes, games and other toys, and even more generally doing activities with their children. In reality, however, for many men, the money they pay actually goes to the state, to recover the expenses they incur when the mother receives public assistance.

Furthermore, given the way many men are treated when they do get involved in the child support process, by each of the various parties involved (the public agency staff, the courts, etc.), we shouldn't be surprised so many of them stay away. Whether you or I would do the same, or perhaps handle things differently, isn't the point. The point is that the process for so many fathers is far more of a punitive and punishment-oriented process, with far less understanding and responsiveness to what so many fathers and mothers are dealing with every day in trying to meet the all around developmental needs of their children.

The bottom line, and one that more and more state and local governments and organizations are realizing, is that for many tens of thousands of people the current process doesn't work, and frequently undermines one parent's desire to have more consistent and substantive contact (not to mention relationship, something very much different from 'contact') with their children.

The brief NPR piece below gets at this dynamic a bit more, including some of the creative work being done between the child support administration in Maryland, the fatherhood programs at the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, and the federal government.

I should also note that I found the title of this NPR piece offensive, Some States Are Cutting Poor Dads A Deal On Unpaid Child Support. I wouldn't call these innovative and experimental efforts some states are trying out as cutting the fathers some slack. I would call it waking up and realizing they have, for way too long, had the idea of strengthening families and supporting both mothers and fathers all wrong. I call that catching up with stupid, and finally realizing they have to do something different. This tinkering is usually good for the relatively few fathers and mothers involved, but the system is still - in the whole, and across this country - operating much more like it always has.

To the credit of the child support administration folks working in Maryland, however, and certainly the folks doing the fatherhood work in Baltimore and other parts of the state, they have been working to get at this for many years now.

My issue with the title is certainly more of an example of why I'm not a huge fan of NPR. The tone and substantive of their story-telling format tends to dumb down so many issues, and the presenters of the information couldn't be more disinterested in the content. Perhaps that's also because the stories I'm most interested in tend to have more impact on Black and Brown people, and the storytellers most often don't fit that profile. But... at least in this actual piece they get at some of the substantive dynamics behind the scapegoating and blaming of fathers our society does way too often.

You can listen to the full 4 and 1/2 minute report below.

Here's a brief excerpt...

When the state of Maryland wanted to reach dads who were behind on their child support payments, it started in the boarded-up blocks of West Baltimore, in neighborhoods marked by drugs, violence and unemployment.

In just four zip code areas, the state identified 4,642 people who owed more than $30 million in back child support. Most of that was "state-owed," meaning that rather than going to the child through the custodial parent, it's supposed to reimburse taxpayers for welfare paid to the child's mother.

This is a source of great resentment for many men, who say they want their money to go to their children. But most who owe it can't pay anyway, as they earn less than $10,000 a year.

"So even if we use taxpayer dollars to chase 'em down, and we catch 'em, right, and we go into their pockets, there's nothing in there," says Joe Jones of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families.

[Read the full article at NPR.]


Bobby Ross Avila featuring Jasiri-X – “No Apology”

A push to stop the violence against Black and Brown people...


Ta-Nehisi Coates: 2015 National Book Awards Non-Fiction Award Winner (Full Acceptance Speech)

Here's Ta-Nehisi Coates' full speech after receiving the Non-Fiction Award at this week's National Book Awards. In his brief speech he dedicates the award, and the perspective and inspiration for the award-winning book, Between the World and Me, to the life and memory of Prince Jones.

Direct, and very compelling.

You won't enroll me in this lie. You won't make me a part of it. That is what we did with Between the World and Me.

A little less than 7 minutes...


The Babies – Jasiri X

Introductory comments by Jasiri X, via The Perception Institute...

Samuel DuBose was on his way home to watch a movie with his 9-year-old son, Samuel Jr. According to Samuel Jr., “He was coming home that night and we had a projector so we were going to watch a movie on it but we didn’t get to do that … because he died.” University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing shot Samuel in his head after pulling him over for a missing license plate. And while Officer Tensing gets to go home to his family after posting bond, Samuel Jr. and his 12 brothers and sisters will never see their father again.

“I can’t get him back,” Samuel Jr. told WLWT-TV, “he’s gone, he’s watching me right now, I can’t see him or talk to him or nothing.”

In April of this year the New York Times published an article called “1.5 Million Missing Black Men“:

In New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South — from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. — hundreds of thousands more are missing.

They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars.

What effect do these missing black men have on the most vulnerable members of our community, our babies? What impact does it have on children to be denied invaluable time with their parents? What does it do to the psyche of black youth to see the people they love being mass incarcerated or murdered? How do they feel when they see their peers killed by the police and their families receive no justice? These are the questions I attempted to explore in my latest video, “The Babies.”

Produced by Idasa Tariq, “The Babies” contains a sample of legendary poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron singing, “but no one stops to think about the babies.”  Sadly, I believe he’s 100 percent correct. We are often so contradictory in what we say to our children and the way we actually behave, it’s laughable. We suspend children for fighting, while we bomb our enemies. We punish them for lying and stealing, yet reward corporations and politicians for doing the very same thing. It’s my hope that this video will make us think deeply about the need for us to be involved in our communities, and what steps we have to take as a country, to truly make America a place of freedom and justice for all.


The moral bias behind your search results: TED Talk by Andreas Ekström

Interesting listen... Especially for those who believe there is something objective about the internet search results you get whenever you look for information online.

Search engines have become our most trusted sources of information and arbiters of truth. But can we ever get an unbiased search result? Swedish author and journalist Andreas Ekström argues that such a thing is a philosophical impossibility. In this thoughtful talk, he calls on us to strengthen the bonds between technology and the humanities, and he reminds us that behind every algorithm is a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate.


Educate Girls

Took a picture of this sign at a charter school primarily serving African American and Latina girls in Los Angeles last week. We must prioritize the full education and healthy development of our young girls.

Given the increasing rates of incarceration, the increasing exploitation of our young girls through sex trafficking, and the relative inattention to the abuse of our young girls and women at the hands of law enforcement, one might reasonably conclude that the full and healthy development of our young girls is not a priority for our community.

While I, like most of you, remain clear about how important girls and women are within our community, I would also argue that we all need to express and affirm this in increasingly public ways.


Ta-Nehisi Coates w/ Fareed Zakaria

Here's a brief discussion between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Fareed Zakaria; a discussion that more directly addresses some of the most frequently used diversions so as not to address the history and present impact of racism in pubic policy.

(approx. 7 minutes; starts after the first 16 seconds)


Black Student Activists and Black Athletes Stand in Solidarity Against Racism on University Campuses

Yesterday on Democracy Now...

Despite what some people say, the landscape of anti-racism organizing is very different today. Universities, as with other institutions, will have to be far more responsive to the increasingly public student protests against racism and hostile educational environments experienced by Black students and other groups of students who find themselves on the receiving in of white racism and related hostility. Whether it will fundamentally transform the mission, nature and culture of these educational institutions, I'm not as convinced; however, that has to remain the goal.

Black Student Revolt Against Racism Ousts 2 Top Officials at University of Missouri

A revolt by African-American students at the University of Missouri has forced two top officials to resign. On Monday, President Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced they will step down in the face of protests over their handling of racism on campus. African-American students have staged weeks of demonstrations against what they called a lax response to bigotry and vandalism. In a key moment Saturday, African-American football players joined the protest, vowing to boycott games and other team activities until Wolfe resigned. We are joined by Mizzou student Danielle Walker, who has organized "Racism Lives Here" demonstrations on campus; and University of Missouri Black Studies Chair Stephanie Shonekan. "[Racist] incidents just seem to be almost a rite of passage for black students when they enter the University of Missouri," Walker says. "I think it is atrocious that these protests had to get to this point in order to truly bring about change, that a student was willing to give their life in order to bring the necessary attention [to] what we have been experiencing so long at this university."

(approx. 23 minutes)

How Black Football Players at University of Missouri Changed the Game on Racism

The protests at the University of Missouri have been growing for weeks, but a turning point came this weekend when African-American players on the school’s football team joined in. In a tweet quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the players wrote: "The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe 'Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere.'" They announced they will no longer take part in any football activities until Wolfe resigned or was removed "due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience." The coach and athletic department soon came out in support. We are joined by Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and the host of the Edge of Sports podcast.

(approx. 9 minutes)

"Another Yale is Possible": Students Confront Racism at Ivy League School

The protests at the University of Missouri come as a similar dynamic plays out at one of the nation’s top Ivy League schools. On Monday, more than 1,000 students at Yale University in Connecticut held a march over racism on campus. The "March of Resilience" comes after several incidents where students of color said they faced discrimination. One woman of color was reportedly denied entry to a fraternity party because she is not white, and a faculty member drew criticism after rejecting calls for students to avoid culturally offensive costumes on Halloween. Monday’s crowd chanted slogans including: "We are unstoppable, another Yale is possible." We are joined by Lex Barlowe, African American studies major at Yale University and the president of the Black Student Alliance.

(approx. 9 minutes)