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

10Apr/151

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

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Dr. Ben lecturing (left); with several of his many books (middle); and with his friends and our great teachers Dr. John Henrik Clarke (to Dr. Ben's left in picture) and Dr. Chancellor Williams (to Dr. Ben's right in picture)

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...

Be sure and review, purchase and read some of the books written by Dr. Ben. Click here to review many of these titles, beginning with those immediately available through Black Classic Press.

23Jan/140

Remembering the Example and Legacy of Paul Robeson

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Today marks 38 years since the great Paul Robeson's death (January 23, 1976).

Paul Robeson remains one of the great and widely under-acknowledged figures in American history. Indeed Robeson stands tall as one of the great figures in the history of African / African American resistance against racism, exploitation and oppression. Paul Robeson was a remarkably gifted scholar, athlete, actor, singer, orator, author and activist. Known and celebrated by audiences worldwide, Robeson made a deliberate decision to use his celebrity, influence and all of his talents and skills to advocate for freedom and justice for African people around the world, including the continuing injustices experienced daily by African American people.

For his outspokenness, and his scathing critique of racism in the United States and abroad, Robeson came under intense pressure by the United States government, including being called upon to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, during which Robeson takes the committee to task for their, and this country's hypocrisy and racism.

More resources about the life and legacy of Paul Robeson are available at the PBS American Masters page.

Additionally, here's another great piece about Paul Robeson, written by Professor John Henrik Clarke.

Just below are a few brief excerpts from Robeson's powerful testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (June 12, 1956; Courtesy of History Matters), followed by a February 1958 KPFA interview with Paul Robeson. Both of these resources provide a really good sense of Robeson's great intellect, courage, clarity of analysis and conviction.

Could I say that the reason that I am here today, you know, from the mouth of the State Department itself, is: I should not be allowed to travel because I have struggled for years for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa. For many years I have so labored and I can say modestly that my name is very much honored all over Africa, in my struggles for their independence. That is the kind of independence like Sukarno got in Indonesia. Unless we are double-talking, then these efforts in the interest of Africa would be in the same context. The other reason that I am here today, again from the State Department and from the court record of the court of appeals, is that when I am abroad I speak out against the injustices against the Negro people of this land. I sent a message to the Bandung Conference and so forth. That is why I am here. This is the basis, and I am not being tried for whether I am a Communist, I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people, who are still second-class citizens in this United States of America. My mother was born in your state, Mr. Walter, and my mother was a Quaker, and my ancestors in the time of Washington
baked bread for George Washington’s troops when they crossed the Delaware, and my own father was a slave. I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country. And they are not. They are not in Mississippi. And they are not in Montgomery, Alabama. And they are not in Washington. They are nowhere, and that is why I am here today. You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people, for the rights of workers, and I have been on many a picket line for the steelworkers too. And that is why I am here today. . . .

 

Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no Fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?

 

Just a moment. This is something that I challenge very deeply, and very sincerely: that the success of a few Negroes, including myself or Jackie Robinson can make up—and here is a study from Columbia University—for seven hundred dollars a year for thousands of Negro families in the South. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers, and I do not see my success in terms of myself. That is the reason my own success has not meant what it should mean: I have sacrificed literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for what I believe in.

 

22Jan/140

MLK Boulevard: A Snapshot of King’s Dream Deferred

Below is a visual that captures what many of us have always commented on... the fact that so many Martin Luther King Streets, Highways and Boulevards stretch through poorly maintained, and largely African American, communities. The streets in many ways highlight the unfinished agenda of race, forced segregation and economic injustice in this country - an agenda Dr. King actively organized for (not only dreamed about) throughout his life.

Building and rebuilding (forming and reforming) our communities must remain our priority, and it's certainly not the work that brings immediate gratification. I think of the analysis and encouragement Professor John Henrik Clarke frequently offered, that more of us need to appreciate the importance of starting efforts now that future generations must continue and complete. I don't offer that as an easy-to-pass judgment of the work people do, nor to take shots at anyone. I often find myself reflecting on what I can contribute today, that will make a difference in real-time. That's important, yet I/we still have to be thinking way bigger. That's our charge. We need to be building for eternity for our children and families, and not only for a better today.

Check out the video below, as well as the corresponding piece at Colorlines by Jamilah King and Josh Begley. The fuller piece includes graphs and links to additional data and research. Nicely done.

Short excerpt:

In the nearly 50 years since his death, King’s physical legacy is seen most frequently in the streets that are named after him. There are more than 900 in the United States, the vast majority of them located in the Southeast, according to University of Tennessee geographer Derek Alderman. It’s a number that far outpaces any other comparable political icon of color, and is a testament to the hard work of many activists across several generations who have fought for the right to name public spaces in their communities. In this hyperlapse video, you can take a tour of 33 of America’s MLK streets, which is just 3.6 percent of the total.

The existence of so many Martin Luther King streets is complicated by the fact that so little of the economic justice that King fought for five decades ago has come to fruition. According to researchers at the University of North Texas, residents in neighborhoods with streets named after King are $6,000 poorer than residents in neighborhoods without one. It’s a fact that’s not surprising considering the racial wealth divide has remained stubbornly high since the Census Bureau began counting it 26 years ago.

Many thanks to Colorlines for putting this together.

28Aug/130

Remembering the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington

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As we remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, I encourage all of us to expand our understanding of the March beyond Dr. King's moving speech.

While there are numerous resources available that chronicle some aspect of the 1963 march, I recommend the following online resource, which includes a 13-page document chronicling the March from its inception through its aftermath, and explores in detail the original vision, the controversies and the compromises that produced the actual event we now know as the 1963 March on Washington - the March for Jobs and Freedom.

I especially appreciate these resources because they tell the stories, and explore the experiences, from the perspectives of those civil rights activists who were actually involved.

There are many lessons to be learned in here, many of which we - and our children - need to appreciate as we reflect on this event, and one of the critical periods in our history in this country.  The sensibilities and differences of perspective shared by the many individuals and organizations at that time are not unlike the same conversations we have today about the form and tone our continuing struggle for justice should take, and no less so given that we have an African American president.

If only we could envision the bold and bright future our ancestors, and those generations yet unborn deserve!  It's up to us to envision it, and to bring it into being.  And paraphrasing the words of our great Ancestor and historian, Dr. John Henrik Clarke... We have to start things today that will take future generations to complete.  This is the larger arc of our journey as a people, from our early African beginnings pre-Europe through the present day.  We need to start thinking in those terms.  Our bright future begins today!

Here are a few excerpts from the 13-page overview of the March on Washington.

For more than two decades, A. Philip Randolph had dreamed of a massive march on Washington for jobs and justice. As President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, President of the Negro American Labor Council, and Vice President of the AFL-CIO, he is the towering senior statesman of the Black struggle for equality and opportunity. Back in 1941, with the support of Bayard Rustin and A.J. Muste, Randolph had threatened to mobilize 100,000 Blacks to march on Washington to protest segregation in the armed forces and employment discrimination in the burgeoning war industries. To forestall Randolph's march, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 (later known as the Fair Employment Act) which outlawed racial discrimination in the national defense industry. This was the first Federal action ever taken against racially-biased employment practices.

In the closing days of 1962, as the Freedom Movement intensifies across the nation, Randolph asks Rustin to draw up plans for a large jobs-oriented protest in Washington.

After Birmingham, direct-action protests flare across the country in the Spring of '63, but the Kennedy administration still hesitates over committing its energies to passage of new civil rights legislation. In May, Dr. King begins to consider the need for national-scale action in Washington to push for an effective civil rights bill. "We are on a breakthrough," King tells his staff, "We need a mass protest... to unite in one luminous action all of the forces along the far flung front."

On June 11, 1963 — the same day as President Kennedy's address to the nation on civil rights — SCLC leaders announce plans to demonstrate in Washington for new civil rights legislation. They call for: “Massive, militant, monumental sit-ins on Congress...” and Massive acts of civil disobedience all over this nation. We will tie up public transportation by laying our bodies prostrate on runways of airports, across railroad tracks, and in bus depots.” Later that night Medgar Evers is assassinated.

King, Randolph, and Rustin join forces. Their calls for large-scale direct-action in Washington disturb the Kennedys and annoy members of Congress. On June 22nd, President Kennedy meets with civil rights leaders at the White House to get them to call off the march (which still has no date, no formal plan, no office, no staff, and no funds). Attending are: A. Phillip Randolph, Jim Farmer (CORE), Dr. King (SCLC), John Lewis (SNCC), Roy Wilkens (NAACP), and Whitney Young (Urban League). The press dub them the “Big Six” of civil rights. Though Wilkens and Young are undecided about the march, the direct- action wing of the Movement — Randolph, Farmer, King, and Lewis — refuse to cancel it.

After the meeting, JFK tells his aides: “Well, if we can't stop it, we'll run the damn thing.”

And this of course is when the Coalition Politics began to shape - or reshape as it were - this historic event.  There was so much more to the makings of what we have come to know as this historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  We should all read on to more fully appreciate what took place on that day 50 years ago today.  It should also help us in putting this past Saturday's anniversary march and event into perspective (organized by Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III), as well as the remaining events going on today, including President Obama's scheduled address to the nation from the Lincoln Memorial steps.