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

29May/150

This Moment Is Not Ours By Accident – We Can and Will Prosper Through It

One thing I'm always mindful of is the balance of positive and inspiring messages, resources or other stories to share on this page, versus information and updates about the tragedies and other challenges our community is confronted with and forced to endure on a daily basis.

The reality, however, is that all of this is a part of our lived experience. My best sense is that we need to be reminded of all of this, the good and the tragedies.

There are many folks doing really inspiring work to heal and develop individuals, families and institutions within our community every single day; and we absolutely need to hear more about as many of these people, organizations and efforts as possible. I'd also argue that we are presently living through one of the most pronounced periods of racial retrenchment in this nation's history, certainly within the last several decades.
As much progress as we've made with respect to legal guarantees in this country, a great deal of it is being undermined annually by the Supreme Court, not to mention the many other lower courts throughout the country. The same can be said about the relative rate of return on our improved educational access over the years, levels of homeownership, levels of wealth generation, and other aspects of our family and community well-being.

So while the unflattering news about the experiences of our people in this country might seem depressing - especially if only based on the daily updates and news cycles, I hope people understand these trends within the larger picture of our peoples' status over time in this country.

I hope people recognize that the frustration, outrage and exasperation with these trends is exactly because so many of us know what the possibilities are, or at the very least what our individual and collective aspirations are. We have always recognized and believed in our capacity to succeed, our right to justice, and to be healthy and well. So we pay attention to the negative things, the tragedies and the challenges not because we're depressed or preoccupied, but because we expect and continue to push for (demand) so much more.

Moreover, we want everyone else to be reminded of our unfinished agenda, and our collective responsibility to continue the path started by our ancestors.

So worry and panic not, but do stay focused on our journey ahead. We are here today because of the hopes, dreams and prayers of those who came many generations before us. And we will continue to do everything we can each and every single day for the many generations that are still awaiting their moment in this space.

Our path is a sacred one. And we shall treat it as such.

28May/150

Black Women Not Immune to Police Brutality and Unjustified Use of Force By Law Enforcement

For anyone who believes that tension and conflict between law enforcement and the general community is reserved for Black males...

The incident captured in this video reveals the sheer horror and terror experienced by Charlena Michelle Cooks, an African American woman who was eight months pregnant, at the hands of law enforcement. This happened in Barstow, California in January of this year, apparently after a white woman called the police complaining about the woman in a school parking lot.

The white woman appears to have experienced the 'protect and serve' version of law enforcement the public is socialized to believe in, while Ms. Cooks received the 'command and control' version of law enforcement that too many African Americans are more familiar with. Also note that this treatment is not reserved for Black folks in the inner city, as Barstow, California would not fit the profile.

Officers charged Ms. Cooks with resisting arrest, a charge quickly dismissed by a judge.

You can read more about this incident, including the enduring traumatic aftermath, here, here and here.

Please don't forget that some of our sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers are also subject to brutality at the hands of law enforcement.

Racism has never preferred some in our community more than others. We remain in this struggle for justice, together.

28May/150

Paid the Crime But Still Doing the Time: Challenges and Possibilities for Returning Citizens After Serving Time in Jail/Prison

Individuals returning to the community after serving jail and prison sentences are faced with a lifetime of stigma and discrimination, even after paying the 'debt' decided upon by a judge and/or jury. When returning, individuals should be able to do so with the full rights of any other citizen.  Doing otherwise is an injustice, and even undermines the well-being of the larger community and society.

Originally aired on Howard University Television (WHUT),  May 26, 2015.

If you ask most people what comes to mine when they hear the term criminal justice system, they say things like the police force and crime control or sentencing and the parole system. But for the returning citizen, those who have served their time and are eager to rejoin society-at-large it means much more. It means dealing with the challenges of education, facing housing and employment discrimination,and addressing healthcare issues, with the statistical cloud of recidivism hanging over their heads.

27May/150

Jazz – The African (American) Art Form: From Deep Within the 40(plus) Year Archives of ‘Like It Is’ with Gil Noble

Below is an informative and under-told discussion about the historical context and origin of jazz music.  It's well worth watching, and using as a cultural enrichment and educational resource - for youth and adults alike.

From the opening exchange:

Question:  Do you all know the story of 'Paul Revere'?

Response:  Indeed.

Question:  But do you know the name of the horse that Paul Revere rode?

Response:  Nobody knows that.

Final question:  You know why they don't know it?

Final response:  That's because the horse did not write the story!

The story of jazz is ours to tell.  Gil Noble tells a part of that story in this early episode of his 43-year educational show, Like It Is.

Originally aired in May, 1970. Note that this was developed and aired some 30+ years before the mass marketed documentary by Ken Burns aired on PBS during 2001.

26May/150

Hezekiah Walker’s “Every Praise”: Toward a Revolutionary Movement to Protect, Heal and Develop Our Communities – A Monday Morning Meditation (on Tuesday)

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Churches shutting down the intersection!

Imagine more church congregations, and their politically and financially connected ministers and pastors, doing this sort of activity today in their respective cities across this country, while simultaneously (re-)connecting the great and moving gospel music tradition to the emerging youth-driven #BlackLivesMatter movement. There's a natural bridge ready for the journey, with the younger generations already mobilizing and organizing consistent and targeted civil disobedience campaigns in cities across the country, all the while drawing upon the tradition of the freedom songs, the SNCC freedom singers, etc.

This would be an inspiring new movement grounded in the vision, advocacy and activism represented in the revolutionary and justice-minded Christ... the Christ figure I grew up learning about in Detroit and that isn't popular to speak of. Indeed, these are also the churches that will have (and for the few who are aligned with this tradition, currently have) their pews filled every single Sunday. Moreover, in this new movement, it wouldn't be about the churches "leading" and "directing" the movement; it would be about the churches fulfilling an extension of their role as a natural information sharing, mobilizing and organizing institution.

Clearly, however, this is the kind of church centered NOT exclusively on individual healing and transformation (and certainly not those focused on individual material comfort and wealth), but on the healing, development and transformation of individuals within the context of - and through their engagement of - the collective society and community. This engagement is deeply rooted in a fundamental disruption and transformation of the power arrangements that influence and shape the collective.

A new power arrangement must then emerge that places the well-being of the collective at the center of human institutions, beginning with those who are most marginalized. And be clear, this requires a worldview very different from that which drives our society today - a worldview in which individualism, conquest, control and all manner of ways of assigning different levels of human value to people predominates. Also be clear that people in positions of power and who control the world's resources, and the processes for distributing the same, are not willing to give this up without a fight. And thus, the increasing social upheaval we see in this country today (and the world as well).

If, in fact, we believe in a God figure or concept that represents the passionate and courageous pursuit of healing, dignity and justice for our people, then the phrase and reference 'Every praise is to our God!' can and should effectively be translated to be 'Every Praise toward the fight for healing, dignity and justice for our people!'.

It might not be as catchy, but it sure does carry with it a tangible and powerful outcome.

The people are ready...

24May/150

What Is Lacking In Police Training For Rookies?

Below is an interesting discussion about the woefully inadequate selection, training and accountability processes in place within the law enforcement profession and community in this country. In addition to the perspective, there are some interesting points made about the lack of de-escalation training for officers, and the importance of racial bias / racial sensitivity trainings that are co-led by racial bias / racial equity experts, law enforcement professionals as well as community members.

It's really interesting that so few of the 'insiders' within the law enforcement community, particularly insiders who are transparent about the racism and bias within law enforcement, get lifted up in media discussions when Black people are killed by police.

This discussion notwithstanding, I still maintain that the very idea and function of law enforcement in this country is what needs to change. The increasing number of officer-involved shootings, especially involving Black people, without the corresponding reforms this should absolutely necessitate, suggests that the broader law enforcement community and judicial system sees no inherent problem.

Guests:

  • Chris Gebhardt (Salt Lake City, UT)Former Police Lieutenant
  • Chris Rosbough (Tallahassee, FL)Criminal Justice Program Director, Pegasus; Former Tampa Police Officer
  • Page Pate (Atlanta, GA)Criminal Defense Attorney
  • Ellen Kirschman Ph.D (Redwood City, CA)Police and Public Safety Psychologist

21May/150

#SayHerName – Lifting Up and Fighting Against the Injustices Committed Against Women Within Our Community

Black women experience many of the same types of police violence as Black men - and some different, yet their stories are not lifted up as frequently or with the same level of intensity as the stories involving injustices against men. We must be far more vigilant in lifting up and fighting against the injustices committed against women within our community.

From HuffPost Live, Aired on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

  • Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Co-Founder and Executive Director, African American Policy Forum
  • Cassandra Johnson, New York , NY, Mother of Tanisha Anderson
  • Valerie CareySister of Miriam Carey

20May/150

The Lady Lifers: A moving song from women in prison for life

While prisons may be structured in such a way that suggests an attempt to, they cannot take away the humanity of human beings that have been imprisoned.

They cry.

They reflect.

They ask for forgiveness.

They grow, and they change.

They dream of freedom.

They hope for mercy.

They want to see and spend time with their children, and their families.

They don't want to die alone.

Most importantly... they have faces, voices, histories; and they long to tell their stories.

Below is a very powerful 'TED Talk', filmed in November 2014, at Muncy State Prison.

The ten women in this chorus have all been sentenced to life in prison. They share a moving song about their experiences — one that reveals their hopes, regrets and fears. "I'm not an angel," sings one, "but I'm not the devil." Filmed at an independent TEDx event inside Muncy State Prison, it's a rare and poignant look inside the world of people imprisoned with no hope of parole. (Note: The prison's Office of Victim Advocacy has ensured that victims were treated fairly and respectfully around this TEDx event.)

19May/150

Branding Malcolm X: Reclaiming the Substance and the Symbol of Malcolm X for Today’s and Tomorrow’s Generations

Dr. Jared Ball, and/of I Mix What I Like!, shares with us a timely discussion about the life, and especially the legacy, of Malcolm X...

Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, was quoted recently as saying that, “It was when I was watching the second Obama inauguration that I started to really worry that my father was being written out of history…” Her comment speaks to the concern discussed in this presentation by Dr. Jared Ball, the branding of Malcolm X and the revolutionary ideas with which he worked.

A special thanks to Dr. Conrad Worrill and The Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS) for the invitation and a wonderful event.

18May/150

In Relationships, Today Matters Most – A Monday Morning Meditation

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Seasonal Lesson: Place family and close relationships first.

When I was in graduate school I worked as a graduate assistant at a research and school reform institution based on the campus of Howard University. I loved the work, and especially the opportunity to engage with some of the young children at that particular school. Despite the school's designation as one of the most under-performing, our kids were, like all of the kids I've ever engaged in DC, among the brightest and talented you'd ever come across. Labels mean little, especially when applied by folks who know little to nothing about what happens in the school, or better yet in the classroom.

One of the other treats from this experience, however, was the chance I had to work with - and learn from - the school's designated teacher representative for the program. Her name was Mrs. Hill. The way the program worked, we (the team based at Howard University) organized Howard University students to be trained and to serve as the after school program instructors. We worked directly with Mrs. Hill to prepare the program instructors, and to plan out the lessons for each week. The program went strong for several years, after which time Mrs. Hill retired from the school system to spend more time with her family, a well deserved reprieve after decades of service to the profession. Within months of her retirement, something she'd excitedly planned for because of the new season of family life it was ushering in, Mrs. Hill passed away. It was a devastating moment for all who knew Mrs. Hill and the many plans she'd been developing for and with her grandchildren.

I've never forgotten Mrs. Hill. Her experience is like so many of our collective family members' experiences. We 'work' so hard and for so long during our lifetimes, frequently as employees with demanding schedules, and frequently within anti-family working environments, that we sacrifice the relationships and life moments that bring the kind of fulfillment and the kinds of positive memories that carry on for future generations.

My simple message for anyone within reach of these words is to (re-)consider the many commitments you make on a daily basis. Where does family fall into that mix? How would your children respond if I asked their assessment? What about other close family members and friends?

It's tough to lose family members and close friends to what is frequently an early death. It's even worse when you know you haven't spent the kind of quality time you wanted with them, and didn't share or hear the range of stories you always wanted to hear and share.

If we think about our lives as isolated years that begin with our birth, and end with our departure from this physical form of life, we think we have to do everything and accomplish everything ourselves. But when we think of our lives as but one leg of a relay race that began with generations that have gone before us, and that will continue with generations that are still to come, then it helps us to rethink the meaning and purpose of our lives.

We don't have to do it all and accomplish it all within our lifetimes. Our responsibility is to build on the traditions and ways of living we inherit, and make the space healthier for the generations that will come after us. That's our task.

As for me, my children are my reminder. They are far wiser in their young years than I would have imagined. In so many ways, they remind me of the ways and personalities of family members that have transitioned into the great community of ancestors.

And while they remind me of the family members that I miss so much, they also remind me every morning and every night how much I appreciate and value the living family members whose company, experiences and stories I still get to cherish.