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


‘Guns Kept People Alive’ During The Civil Rights Movement

nonviolent stuff will kill - charles cobb

From yesterday's Tell Me More broadcast on NPR.  You can also check out the full transcript here.

One of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement was non-violent resistance. During lunch counter sit-ins and protest marches Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders instructed participants not to take up arms. Instead, when violence erupted or force was used to disrupt their activities, people would non-violently resist attempts by law enforcement to end the protest.

But this passive resistance did not necessarily mean an unwillingness to use force to protect themselves from violence in other circumstances.

This hiding in plain sight story is recounted to NPR's Michel Martin by author, professor and former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary Charles E. Cobb Jr. in his new book, This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.


Ta-Nehisi Coates On Reparations (via NPR): ‘We’re Going To Be In For A Fight’

Below is an interesting discussion from today on NPR's Tell Me More.

So, if I say I want to talk about reparations for African-Americans - you say what? It's about time, that's ridiculous - who cares? - it's never going to happen - or maybe even, what's that? Outside of academic circles and the occasional gathering of Black Nationalists, it would seem that very few people talk about reparations for African-Americans these days.

But that is about to change. In a 15,000 word essay for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the magazine, describes generations of government-directed or sanctioned efforts to deprive black people of the ability to generate wealth. And, as well, he describes black people's efforts to overcome that. He describes this as a moral debt to African-Americans, and says until it is paid, this country cannot be whole. He joins us today from our bureau in New York to talk about this piece, which is already getting a lot of attention. It's called, "The Case For Reparations." And Ta-Nehisi Coates is with us now. Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.


How African Americans See Their Lives

The well-being of the black family has been the subject of public debate. Ebony and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation are out with the Survey of African American Families. NPR's Tell Me More takes a look.

Joining Michel Martin for this conversation are Ron Lester of Ebony Magazine, who led the survey study, and Dr. Gail Christopher of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  The Kellogg Foundation provided the financial support for the study.

While there was more detailed information and findings from the actual study shared during this NPR discussion (full transcript), the following early exchange - for me at least - gets at the major highlight, and the contradiction we must continue to work through as a community:

MARTIN: OK. So, Gail Christopher, one of the numbers that stuck with you was that 88 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the quality of their lives, and that number actually disturbed you. And you wrote actually a whole piece about this for Ebony magazine in a column accompanying the poll results. Why did that disturb you?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think that the satisfaction with the quality of life reflects being lulled into, in some cases, too much complacency. The actual facts about our economic situation and about the achievement gaps in school and the overrepresentation in suspension rates and the incarceration disparities tell us as a community that we have a lot of work to do. And we have to be not satisfied if we're going to drive for the kinds of social change that's required.



Are African-American Men ‘Invisible?’

President Obama recently called on the nation to rally around young African-American men. But is that easier said than done? Listen as host Michel Martin asks a panel of dads on NPR (approximately 18 minutes)...

  • Eugene Robinson, Writer for The Washington Post, and father of two
  • Leonard Pitts, Columnist for The Miami Herald, and father of five
  • Gregory Ellison, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Emory University, and father of three

The transcript is also available at NPR.




Youth Violence in America’s Cities… Remembering Chicago’s Hadiya Pendleton

On January 29th, 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago.  As has been widely reported and discussed, she was killed just days after returning to Chicago from Washington, DC, where she performed in the inaugural parade celebrating President Obama's election to a second term.  As described in all of the reports I've seen and read, Hadiya was a great student, a fun and loving daughter, sister and friend, and an all-around great person.  Similarly, she seems to have made all of the right decisions, remained in all of the right places, with all of the right people, and still fell victim to the senseless violence that pervades our nation's cities.

This young girl's murder struck a nerve in me that was different, in many ways, than the many murders we read about almost every day in this country.  It bothers me to acknowledge this, but it's true.  I feel a sense of pain and loss whenever I hear of these murders of our young children -  especially in and around our major cities, which is where I grew up and have spent much of my adult life.  Helping people to understand and be more responsive to the root causes of this type of violence that pervades our predominantly Black and Brown inner cities and close-in suburbs is a part of the work I do professionally.  But still, what I felt when I heard of Hadiya's murder was different.

I've thought a lot about why this affected me the way it did.  I think it's because the circumstances surrounding this tragedy are very familiar to me.  I grew up in Detroit during the 1970's and 80's.  Detroit was considered the world's murder capital during most of my high school years.  (Interestingly, I moved to Washington, DC just as the nation's capital was taking this not-so-distinguished 'title' from Detroit.  More to say about this, perhaps, some other time.)  Like many people I know and grew up with, my family has been directly impacted by this violence, as have many of my friends and their families over time.  My proximity to and understanding of this violence has greatly shaped my views of this nation's history, of culture, racism (in all of its forms - individual, institutional and structural), politics and the mass media in this country.

Everything I read about this young girl's upbringing reminded me of my own, and that of my closest friends.  My parents, relatives and other extended family were always trying to shield us from the craziness that was happening all around us.  My parents were really close to our friends' families.  We participated in many similar types of say-no-to-drugs and stop-the-violence campaigns and rallies throughout our years of school.  During high school, we took similar leisurely walks away from school grounds after half-days, early dismissals, mid-terms and final exams.  Sometimes these walks led to the movies, sometimes to or through the neighborhood park or playground, or sometimes to one of the nearby restaurants and fast food joints.

And guns were definitely plentiful and easily accessible.  I knew who carried guns and also buy 5.56 ammo online, and I knew who had more experience using them.  They were closer than many of my peers today would imagine.  And they weren't for sport or for hunting - at least not in the sense that America's gun advocates talk about.  I was fortunate in some ways because I was able to steer clear of the more extreme craziness that affected too many of my peers throughout Detroit in the late 80's.

Given my experiences growing up, it bothers me to see some of these people and pundits that talk about these issues with either no reference point for what life is like growing up in our cities, or in some cases trying to pretend like they don't.  And so that brings me to this afternoon's discussion by President Obama concerning gun violence.  I look forward to his remarks, and any ensuing discussion that follows with some of Chicago's youth.  He can't solve this problem alone, but he can do a lot to get more people engaged, and in a more meaningful way, in the types of efforts that will make a difference.  While both types of gun violence are severely problematic and tragic, what happened in Newtown, Connecticut is not the same as what plays out on the Black and Brown streets of America's cities every day.

In the meantime, I wanted to share an emotional discussion that was featured on NPR's Tell Me More with Hadiya Pendleton's mother and some of Chicago's youth.  When I hear her voice, I see so many of the mothers that I have known growing up and now as a father.  I feel the hurt that I observed among my family members, and other friends I have met over the years, who have personally experienced the effects of this senseless gun violence.  When I hear the voices of the youth, I similarly hear and feel - as I did growing up and now as a father - the fear, the anger and the frustration of growing up in a space that others don't see, choose not to see, or even worse, a space that others do see and choose to ignore.