From Democracy Now...
We are joined by the groundbreaking neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart. He is the first tenured African-American professor in the sciences at Columbia University, where he is an associate professor in the psychology and psychiatry departments. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse and a research scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, long before he entered the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, Hart gained firsthand knowledge about drug usage while growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods. He recently wrote a memoir titled "High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society." In the book, he recalls his journey of self-discovery, how he escaped a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies.
A TED Talks Overview:
Is the War on Drugs doing more harm than good? In a bold talk, drug policy reformist Ethan Nadelmann makes an impassioned plea to end the "backward, heartless, disastrous" movement to stamp out the drug trade. He gives two big reasons we should focus on intelligent regulation instead.
Today would have been my brother's 44th birthday. He transitioned from this physical space in 2012, approximately 12 years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
During the later years of his life he was a motivational speaker and a trainer, helping people to reflect on the relationships and other interests that matter most to them, and also helping people develop some of the skills needed to live out their purpose.
Just below is a recording of a presentation Khari gave at an adoption conference back in 2005. In the video, he reminds all of us that life is precious, and that we have to be more thoughtful and deliberate about carving out the time for relationships and other things that matter most to us.
I'm hopeful that many of you will also find value in Khari's reflections.
African people were world travelers far before Europeans understood maritime technology and the geography of the world. In the video below, Gil Noble interviews Dr. Ivan Van Sertima about his studies of African people and our presence throughout the world. So much of that presence was well established long before the entrance of European people to the world scene.
It should be noted that sharing this kind of information (and this is not new information by any means) will still create severe discomfort among some people - and not only 'white' people. So much that is written or otherwise depicted about the presence and background of African people in the world prior to and after the entrance of European or white people to the world scene is negative and pathological. It attempts to depict African people as unintelligent and uncivilized, which is so interesting given the real history of Africa and Europe. So if you know some of those people who get uncomfortable hearing about African genius, try to help them understand where this discomfort comes from, and encourage them to be less dismissive of this accurate information about the history of the world and her people.
I encourage people to read and watch these types of resources that are available to us - in your own private space but also with groups of family members and students - so that we all might continue to turn history, and the larger society we live in, right side up.
- African people came to the sacred land that would later become the Americas far before Christopher Columbus did. These African people interacted with and co-created societies with the people we now call Native Americans, or American Indians. There is no evidence of exploitation and/or underlying ill regard between African people and the Native Americans, as was the case with Christopher Columbus and his traveling band of exploiters.
- It is also the case that groups of African people in those days had superior navigational and maritime engineering skills, evident in their repeated travels between this side of the world and Africa many times. Christopher Columbus was not a very good sailor, with little knowledge of the world he supposedly set out to explore - neither before nor as a result of his 'exploration'.
- There are images and artifacts that depict and document the African presence in the "early Americas" prior to and after European contact with the Native Americans.
- Christopher Columbus initiated slavery-like precedents with Native Americans when he took at least a half-dozen to Spain against their will, when returning and reporting on his findings from his exploration. He inflicted horrible tragedies upon the people in pursuit of wealth and land acquisition.
- Christopher Columbus was a fraud, with a known track record of exploitation, violence and thievery. He was brought up on charges in Europe because of his attempts to defraud the Spanish and the Portuguese, lying to all about his discoveries in order to get more investment and money. He was actually tried in court but not convicted.
- The reality, however, is that the expeditions and exploitation of Native peoples by Christopher Columbus resulted in the ascendancy of Europe and her people, benefiting from the wealth derived from Native American exploitation and the many lessons on how to live, what to eat, how to use plants and nature to heal human ailments, etc.
Listen to the video, but also read Ivan Van Sertima's book: They Came Before Columbus.
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Happy 18th Anniversary!
Museum opened the current space (pictured below) to the public on this day in 1997!
The museum was originally founded by Dr. Charles H. Wright in 1965.
From the museum's website:
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. Our mission is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture. Our vision is of a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history inspire everyone toward greater understanding, acceptance and unity!
The Wright Museum houses over 35,000 artifacts and archival materials and is home to the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection, Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, Coleman A. Young Collection and the Sheffield Collection, a repository of documents of the labor movement in Detroit.
After outgrowing several previous locations and physical spaces, the museum's current 125,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility was opened to the public on this day in 1997.
If you ever find yourself in Detroit for a meeting, I encourage you to carve out a few hours to visit the museum - especially with your children and other relatives. Make it a family experience. And if you're responsible for organizing a meeting in Detroit, I also encourage you to reach out to the museum to coordinate a bus trip to the museum, and also to consider coordinating a reception, awards program or other group event in one of the museum's spacious meeting and auditorium spaces.
For those interested, here's a quick video window into some of the museum's spaces and exhibits...
Celebrating the Life and Spiritual Transition of Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan (Dr Ben) – w/ Official Video Tribute
Celebrating the Life and Transition of...
Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan
December 31, 1918 - March 19, 2015
African Writer, Historian, Thinker, Teacher
Every day is a sacred day. We become more clear about this on some days more than on others, however, because of the circumstances and reminders we have of our place in the larger and longer scheme of space and time. Today is one of those days, as the world African community paused in recognition and celebration of Dr. Yosef ben-Yochannan's transition into the community of Ancestors. A celebratory ceremony and African funeral rites were held today at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York.
During his lifetime, Dr. Ben, as he has long been affectionately called, reminded the world of the greatness of African people and African civilizations, but more importantly, he modeled the importance of impeccable scholarship, integrity, consistency and commitment in truth-telling about history and its impact on world affairs - past and present. He did so in direct partnership with many of his generation's notable scholars and historians and activists, including Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Drs. Rosalind and Leonard Jeffries, Edward Scobie, James Smalls, Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, George G.M. James, Dr. John G. Jackson, Dr. Chancellor Williams among others.
There are many places to get detailed information about Dr. Ben's life and contribution, including writings, lectures and other events documented in print or on video. We should all take more time to further investigate Dr. Ben's scholarship and legacy, and most importantly reflect on the larger questions raised by Dr. Ben's work... namely why it was necessary for Europe and her descendants to: a) delete the truth about African people and African civilization from the systematic and positive commentary about world history and the evolution of human civilizations, and b) resist at every turn every attempt to set the historical record straight. This reflection, and the understandings that it brings forth, will continue to prepare us and future generations as we continue the journey.
We must worry not, however, as the intergenerational transfer of knowledge and wisdom about Africa and her gifts to world civilization continues.
Read additional bios and tributes...
Get and Read the Books...
Extra-Judicial Lynchings: White Officer Charged with Murder in Killing of Walter Scott – North Charleston, South Carolina
Many people have now heard about the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday. He was shot and killed by Officer Michael Slager while running away from the officer after a traffic stop on Saturday morning. The officer fired eight shots while watching him run away, striking Scott five times - four of those five shots hitting Scott's back, with one of those hitting his heart.
The initial reports of this shooting repeated the same story line we always hear - suspect turns and begins confrontation with officer; officer fears for safety or life; officer shoots suspect; suspect dies. Fortunately in this case, a video surfaced by a bystander who was mindful enough to record what was happening. The video was shared with the attorney representing the family of Walter Scott, who then turned it over to law enforcement officials.
While we hope this incident ends in some level of justice for the officer, there is no undoing the tragic killing of Walter Scott. We need all officers who consider themselves to be good and community-supporting officers to stand up and stand against the culture that produces this kind of incident. It's clear to me from watching the video - and listening to the usual story line that followed - that this officer felt extremely comfortable shooting and then trying to get away with this. Given the usual outcome of these situations, and the typical way the media rallies around the officer, we can assume that he felt emboldened in his behavior.
The video can be seen online.
The front page of today's local paper, The Post and Courier, appears below.
I had a chance to check out The Soul Rebels brass band while I was in New Orleans. They were playing at their usual Thursday night spot, Le Bons Temps Roule in the Garden District. Aside from some of the entitled and rude white college kids up in the spot (like me, most of them not from New Orleans), the music was on point. Such energy and soul! Any chance you get to check them out... you have to make it happen.
Here's the band playing one of their tracks, Let it Roll, at the Blue Nile.
A real treat!
Cassandra Wilson's Coming forth By Day - Available today!
Via NPR Music:
Vocalist Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago this week. Today, her place in music history is clear.
"I think we witness in Billie Holiday's music the beginning of the jazz vocal age, really," fellow vocalist Cassandra Wilson says. "Her phrasing is very conversational, and it swings — it moves with the musicians. She's very much in charge of her place in the music. She's in control of the story, and in control of her cadence."
Wilson — one of the premier jazz singers of her own age — is about to release a tribute album to Holiday, titledComing Forth By Day. But as she says in an interview with NPR's Arun Rath, she aspired to much more than re-creating the original iconic recordings.
"I couldn't wait to get inside of this material and spruce it up, reinvent it, do some wild and crazy things to it," Wilson says. "I'm in that line of singers that really mine the emotional content of a song. You steer clear of the cliches and go straight for the heart of the song.
"It's beyond improper — it's considered rude, in jazz, to imitate someone. So for me to do a tribute to Billie Holiday and imitate her style or her context would be almost insulting."
For example, Wilson's take on "Don't Explain," a song Holiday wrote about a cheating lover, comes from an empowered perspective.
"It's a different version, because it takes more of a womanist reading," Wilson says. "The reading is not so much, 'I'm the victim,' or 'You cheated on me.' It's more of a sense of, 'You may be doing something, but it needs to stop right now.'"
Wilson also takes on "Strange Fruit," a protest against racism — specifically, the lynching of African-Americans. Her version takes on renewed purpose in light of the recent high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement which rose in their wake.
"When I sing this song, it sounds more like there's a chorus, in terms of the musicians who join me," Wilson says. "And it is more emphatic, because it's ridiculous that we would still be dealing with these issues in 2015."
Wilson did contribute one original song, which she calls "Last Song (For Lester)." Holiday and tenor saxophonist Lester Young were the closest of collaborators — "musical soulmates," Wilson says — who had a falling out. When Holiday first learned of Young's death, Holiday immediately flew back to the U.S. from London to be at the funeral, where she expected to be able to sing for her dear friend. When she was barred from performing, she was devastated. "I'll be the next to go," she predicted — and indeed, Holiday died four months later.
Wilson's song imagines a message from Holiday to Young. As she sings:
You are my morning star
Forever rising, forever breaking my heart
But I'd do it — I'd do it all again
If they would let me sing the last song for you