“It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, but how you play the game that matters.” That’s what my people are often told. But we are not told that this so-called game is rigged, and it’s rigged against us even before we are born. This “game” is life in the divided states of America. This is especially true in the system of criminal justice, a system that has been rigged against Black people since its inception. There Is no better example than this country’s morbid use and fascination with the cold-blooded and premeditated imposition of the death penalty against poor people and its disproportionate use on Black people.
A number of years ago, following an undoing racism workshop I was a panelist on, a participant approached me to further discuss a point I had made regarding the importance of maintaining cultural identity and reclaiming traditional languages in our decolonization efforts. The individual stated that as a person of African descent they wished they could know who they were and where they truly came from and that they deeply desired to know the traditional songs, ceremonies, and languages of their ancestors. He went on to say that we, Native peoples, were blessed to be able to have access to knowing who we are and where we come from.
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere." General Order Number 3, June 19, 1865 *The fact that members of the United States Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a federal holiday proved that the commemoration is of no political value.
Trenton, NJ - Ebele Azikiwe was in the sixth grade last year when February came and it was time to learn about Black history again. She was, by then, familiar with the curriculum: Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a discussion on slavery. Just like the year before, she said, and the year before that. Then came George Floyd’s death in May, and she wrote to the administration at her school in Cherry Hill, in New Jersey’s Philadelphia suburbs, to ask for more than the same lessons. “We learned about slavery, but did we go into the roots of slavery?” Ebele, 12, said in an interview. “You learned about how they had to sail across, but did you learn about how they felt being tied down on those boats?”
Since its founding in 1920 as Negro History and Literature Week, Black History Month has served as an “annual celebration of achievements by ‘African Americans’ and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.” Many of us share fond (and some unpleasant) memories of the yearly church programs, school assemblies, and essay contests all organized around that shared sense of identity and history of perseverance. But as critical and principled Africans that know what’s happenin’, the time has passed for us to engage with what this month has come to represent. We can look as recently as the liberalizing of “Black Lives Matter” to see an example of how Black political agendas can be stolen and repurposed.
Ranson, W.Va.–Granny Smith Lane was until recently riddled with almost impassable potholes. If you navigated them successfully and wound your way to the end of the narrow, tree-lined roadway, you would reach a secluded corner of what used to be an apple orchard. Hardly noticeable, a few gravestones sit atop a small grassy knoll. More grave markers are jumbled among trees, vines and thorny bushes. Little effort has been made to clean up the trash strewn about or curb the groundhogs, who have constructed an elaborate burrow. A giant sinkhole warps the ground, and many graves are sunken depressions in the earth.
Minneapolis, MN – The Black Storytellers Alliance (BSA) finished its 27th year of showcasing Black master storytellers from around the United States with a weekend of free events for the “Signifyin’ & Testifyin’” festival in late 2018. Vusumuzi Zulu, the director of the Black Master Storytelling Festival, told Unicorn Riot that storytelling is “one of the most powerful ways to transmit culture“, history, and traditions. Unicorn Riot livestreamed the grand finale event of the three day festival and spoke with the festival director and five master storytellers (videos further below).
“This bank is just what the freedmen need,” remarked President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1865, as he signed the Freedman’s Bank Act, authorizing the organization of a national bank for recently emancipated black Americans. A little more than a month later he was killed, making the Freedman’s Bank Lincoln’s last act of emancipation. His assassination, however, did not impede its rapid growth. By January 1874, less than ten years after the establishment of the Freedman’s Bank, deposits at its 34 branches across the United States totaled US$3,299,201 ($65,200,000 in current dollars). Despite such successful expansion, the Freedman’s Bank closed on June 28, 1874 under a shroud of suspicion and accusation. The story of the rise and collapse of the Freedman’s Bank is an important and little known episode in black and American history in the years following Emancipation.
Rosa Parks — my Auntie Rosa — was not just a tired old lady who sat down on a bus one day. With February 4 being (what would have been) my great aunt’s 105th birthday, I’m going to Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit to pay her my respects. But I also pay her my respects by refusing to let her legacy be turned into a caricature. I believe her story is more relevant than ever because she and people like her laid a foundation so that women today can be more vocal, can run for office, can demand equal rights and equal pay, and say we don’t have to be harassed.
Death Row, San Quentin Prison—From Dec. 17, 2003, to Feb. 9, 2004, the prison guards and administration at this modern-day plantation changed me, rearranged me, oppressed me, regressed me, repressed me, depressed me and undressed me in order to murder me. They had me bend over so that they could illuminate my bowels with their flashlight in order to look for some type of contraband that they knew I did not have. They watched me, clocked me, kept tabs on me, wrote notes about me and what I did and did not do. They questioned me, upset me, saddened me, distressed me, laughed at me, talked about me and searched my arms for good veins into which to insert their razor-sharp needles. They heckled me, pointed at me, stared at me, hated me, isolated me and lied to me by telling me everything was going to be all right because I would not feel any pain.
By Chad Williams for The Conversation - The only sounds were those of muffled drums, the shuffling of feet and the gentle sobs of some of the estimated 20,000 onlookers. The women and children wore all white. The men dressed in black. On the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, 1917, nearly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue, in silence, to protest racial violence and white supremacy in the United States. New York City, and the nation, had never before witnessed such a remarkable scene. The “Silent Protest Parade,” as it came to be known, was the first mass African-American demonstration of its kind and marked a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement. As I have written in my book “Torchbearers of Democracy,” African-Americans during the World War I era challenged racism both abroad and at home. In taking to the streets to dramatize the brutal treatment of black people, the participants of the “Silent Protest Parade” indicted the United States as an unjust nation. This charge remains true today.
By Premilla Nadasen for Yes! Magazine - In the late 1990s, household workers around the country began to organize to address the exploitation and abuse in their occupation. These domestic workers, immigrant nannies, housecleaners, and elder-care workers from all over the world—the Philippines, Barbados, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Nepal—used public shaming strategies to draw attention to particularly egregious employers, sued for back pay, developed support groups, organized training and certificate programs, and lobbied for statewide domestic workers’ bills of rights. In building a movement, domestic workers used storytelling to connect workers with one another. Barbara Young, for example, a former nanny and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, joined Domestic Workers United in New York City in the early 2000s. Young was in a park one day with the child she cared for when another household worker, Erline Brown, invited her to a DWU meeting in Brooklyn. “People were telling the stories about the work that they were doing, not getting vacation, not getting paid for holidays.,” she explained. “It was the first time I was hearing stories from workers coming together.”
By Ben Becker for Dominion of New York - What we now know as Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died for that cause. These days, Memorial Day is arranged as a day “without politics”—a general patriotic celebration of all soldiers and veterans, regardless of the nature of the wars in which they participated. This is the opposite of how the day emerged, with explicitly partisan motivations, to celebrate those who fought for justice and liberation.
By Marsha Adebayo for Black Agenda Report - Black community members attempting to preserve an ancestral burial ground charge they were “deceived, misled and ambushed” by officials in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland. The Bethesda African Cemetery was already buried under a parking lot. Now the county has assigned an all-white team to determine if there are bodies in the cemetery – after booting two renowned Black experts off the case. Activists call the county’s conduct “criminal.” The Community Had a Duty to Shut Down the Montgomery County Hearing on the Bethesda African Burial Ground “An all-white cultural resource management firm was awarded the contract to investigate the Bethesda African cemetery.”
By Allison Keyes for Smithsonian - The manuscript, "The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims," by B.C. Franklin was recovered from a storage area in 2015 and donated to the African American History Museum. (NMAAHC), Gift from Tulsa Friends and John W. and Karen R. Franklin) An Oklahoma lawyer details the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood where hundreds died 95 years ago. The ten-page manuscript is typewritten, on yellowed legal paper, and folded in thirds. But the words, an eyewitness account of the May 31, 1921, racial massacre that destroyed what was known as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” are searing. “I could see planes circling in mid-air.