"He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” - W.E.B. Du Bois (Souls of Black Folks)As black people, how can we truly gain equal footing with our counterparts, after years of intimidation, manipulation, and segregation?Now, while you think of a response to that question, I’ll say that it has weighed heavy on my heart for some time now with the recent and past killings of our brothers and sisters, and also with all of the chaos surrounding the recent transition of power.As a community, most if not all of us stand behind the movement of wanting our lives to matter to the world. But, have you really considered what steps to take to make that our reality? Acting beyond protests and political debates in favor of black interests, we need to uncover the root/history of the problem in order to move forward and to provide a solution to the inequities that we’re experiencing today. Now, I can address a variety of different factors that have led to us being on the lower end of the totem pole as it pertains to socio-economic status. But, for this particular discussion, I want us to zero-in on the aspect of land/property ownership.Get This: According to a report done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the five largest white land owners in America together own more rural land than all of black America combined. Black people own just under 8 million acres, which is under 1 percent, whereas white Americans own 98 percent of land accounting for 856 million acres.So, you may be wondering what’s the correlation between our reality of second-class citizenship and land ownership.Well, here it is plain and simple: If you don’t have anything to bring to the table, you can’t sit at the table. It is a harsh reality, but it is the truth.In the U.S., land ownership holds great significance in social, cultural, political and economic affairs. It is an indicator of power and influence in our country. Without control over it, we have no choice but to become subordinates to those in power. Now, I'm sure that you have some sort of idea of the abuse and disenfranchisement that our ancestors have endured through the years; so I won't waste time going into great detail about that, but I want to make very clear if it isn't already obvious, that from the time our ancestors stepped foot on this American soil, they have been held back day after day from reaching their full potential. And, because of that now hundred's of years later, the distance between us and our counterparts from an economic standpoint, is becoming greater and greater.There are two primary ways that white Americans have been able to maintain wealth, power, and land ownership:1. Inheritance (Typically titles, debts, assets or property that is passed on to an individual or group after the death of the owner)2. In Vivo transfers (Typically gifts that are rewarded to adult children from their living parents)To break that point down even further, most of the wealth in the white community comes from the transfer of assets from the older to the younger generation. Due to us being cheated out of our land and property, we were not able to institute widespread generational wealth, which has had damaging effects on generations to follow. Given the information above, let's try to achieve some real clarity on what have been some of the barriers that have prevented us from maintaining our ownership and wealth on a large scale:1. SlaveryPhoto: History.comBlack people were considered property themselves, so they had no rights to owning/acquiring land. 2. "40 acres and a Mule"Photo: Google ImagesGeneral William T. Sherman issued an order titled Special Field Order No. 15, on January 16, 1865. It was supposed to serve as reparations for the "freed slaves". The order was intended to give 40 acres to each person on, "The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice-fields along the rivers for 30 miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida..." But, the deal was soon overturned after the assassination of President Lincoln. His successor Andrew Johnson reversed the order in the fall of 1865, which ultimately returned the land to plantation owners.(** This deal would have been historic if maintained because it would've afforded black people with the opportunity to govern themselves, and lay the seeds needed to create generational success.)3. Jim Crow eraPhoto: Encyclopedia BritannicaDuring this era, in a lot of cases, black people had their land/property violently seized from them, and documents destroyed. The severity of these instances varied, but one of the most extreme acts were the lynching practices. Government programs such as the G.I. Bill and the Federal Housing Authority worked to help white Americans with access to education, jobs, business loans, etc., helping them to move into the "middle-class." Whereas black Americans weren't afforded the same opportunities. Policies such as redlining were enforced, which restricted black people from homeownership, jobs, and getting access to things like healthcare and banking. Leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, these practices furthered the economic/equality gap between black and white Americans. 4. Urbanization (20th century)Photo: Google ImagesIn an attempt to escape the perils of the south, a large amount black people moved to large cities like Chicago, Detroit, and New York, in search of a better, more equal life. But, unfortunately, the racism still remained with some restrictions on living in the suburbs, unequal wages, and troubles with finding good housing.By presenting the facts mentioned above, by no means am I trying to victimize our race. What I want to do is inform you so that moving forward you know how to operate in a manner that will help to establish your future family and community.What are your thoughts on this topic? Let's chat...
I live in Washington, D.C., formerly known as Chocolate City. To me, it will forever be Chocolate City, because that’s how it was introduced to me. Nonetheless, gentrification is rampant. It’s happening in every quadrant. At first, it seemed like it was just Northwest Washington, then it extended to Northeast and Southeast D.C. I guess Arlington, DuPont Circle, and Woodley Park weren’t enough anymore. Block by block historically black and Latino neighborhoods like U Street, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Petworth, H Street and Brightwood are getting paler and paler.Black-owned restaurants and bars are being replaced with coffee shops and “bring your dog” brunch spots. “There goes the neighborhood,” is the attitude shared by many of my black millennial counterparts. As one friend put it, “Going uptown after the workday used to feel like an escape, now I feel like it’s an extension of downtown. I miss the old Georgia Avenue.” I miss it too, to an extent. One of the staples of the old Georgia Avenue was the 60-year-old Safeway which was renovated in 2012. Shopping there was an almost always unpleasant experience. Following redevelopment, the Safeway now sits under a five-story residential building and boasts an underground parking garage. I don’t see too many black folks coming from the high-priced residences above, but I cannot lie, the store itself is a huge improvement.In conversations with millennials transplants and Washingtonians, there seems to be a yearning for the old days, even though some of us were not even there. Or, some of us were too young to remember the old days. We are reinvesting in our communities by owning homes, opening businesses and joining neighborhood associations, but that doesn’t replace the seemingly evaporating culture. Funny thing is, as black millennials we are also contributing to the changing landscape via “youthification.” In fact, D.C. is one of the most youthified cities in America.The white suburban flight in the 1950s caused Washington, D.C. to become a majority black city. In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, inciting five days of riots that burned businesses and damaged homes. Hordes of the black middle and working class families fled to the suburbs. Popular D.C. neighborhoods like U Street Corridor and Columbia Heights were left untouched and unrepaired for years causing the black population to drop from 538,000 in 1970 to 309,000 in 2010. Meanwhile, the white population steadied and development ensued. In 2010, when I first lived in D.C., 51 percent of the city's residents identified as African-American or black, now it's 48.3 percent. Since 2000, 51.9 percent of the city's low-income areas have become eligible or have experienced gentrification. Washington isn't the only urban city to experience drastic change. In the country's 50 largest cities, 20 percent of neighborhoods with lower incomes and home values have experienced gentrification since 2000, contrasted with only 9 percent during the 1990s.I frequent a corner store around the block. It’s not the fanciest but it has what I need when I don’t feel like waiting in never-ending line at the grocery store. If it were to be replaced with a Walgreens, I would feel some type of way. While Walgreens is a first world convenience, it’s so commonplace, you can visit one anywhere. Chain retailers don’t contribute to culture or community, despite their advertisements. There is something special about talking to the store clerk, chuckling about what the kids are saying after school or joining everyone in rolling their eyes at someone in line who is searching for exact change. Needless to say, a Walgreen's pop-up would only happen if the demographics dramatically shifted, which isn’t fair. Were we not good enough for Walgreens before?On the flip side, I recently rode with a 70-year-old, black D.C. cabbie, born and raised in the District. I posed the question, “So what do you think about all the change in the city?” He said, “I think it’s about time.” I was surprised. He said he remembers when the city was dark, dreary and dangerous. “Dope fiends and ladies of the night all up and down these parts. Now, we have something to offer. What’s a neighborhood if you can’t really enjoy it? The development brought value to our city.”To be clear, I know this man’s opinions are not indicative of other lifelong D.C. residents. Furthermore, I will never try to have the wisdom of a senior citizen. His eyes have surely seen more than mine. Our experiences, upbringings, and views on neighborhood culture are different. He did make a good observation. City living should be easy for everyone, regardless of the neighborhood. Cities should have valued spaces, industry and ongoing development for their residents. Everyone should be able to walk to the store in good lighting and without fear of violence. In many cases improving infrastructure and crime rates doesn’t happen unless a certain population starts moving to a specific area.Just before dropping me off, we passed my beloved corner store. Outside stood a group of young black men under a dim streetlight. They were boisterous, exchanging jokes and fake jabs. He gave a scornful look. “They are always hanging out, it’s late.” I get it. Old folks just want peace and quiet. No, maybe he associates that image with the D.C., a quarter century ago, when it was a predominately black city known for crack abuse and rampant gun violence.I see it differently. I don’t see anything wrong. I see young men fellowshipping on their daily stomping grounds. Why should that be replaced with a high-rise...
There are just a few days left until we choose the next President of the United States. If you haven't taken advantage of early voting, do so. If you don't know where to go to vote look here. This election is an opportunity to exercise your voting rights and participate in what has turned out to be an interesting election. By now, we can think of several reasons as to why Donald Trump should not be the next president. If you can not think of one, check out his "urban renewal proposal." That should be enough to at least say #IGuessImWithHer.
One mother is #WithHer and there is no guessing. It's quite obvious that the mother of Twitter user @xxxjayglo, voted for Hillary Clinton. She wants to make sure that her son does the same. In a video captured by him, his mom asks that he circle Clinton's name on the ballot. After circling her name, she says needs proof that he did so, so she asks him to take a picture and send it to her. When he jokingly tells her that he isn't voting for Clinton or Trump, her reaction is priceless. She comes at her son with no holds barred. If he doesn't vote for Hillary, she threatens to seize his phone and car. Take a look at this mama teaching her son a thing or two about this election.
JUST TOLD MY MOM IM NOT VOTING FOR HILLARY CLINTON AND THIS HAPPENED 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/bUUkzgOA2E— kenny (@xxxjayglo) October 28, 2016
If she doesn't make you want to go out and exercise your civic duties as an American, I don't know what will. President Obama said "Don't boo, vote" and mama says "Don't be a moron, go vote."
Appreciate all the love! My mom says Don't be a moron, go and vote!— kenny (@xxxjayglo) October 30, 2016
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I grew up in South Carolina, one of America’s poorest states, with two high school-educated parents. My family has a long history of doing the best they can with the little they have. They were, and are, far from unintelligent. However, due to our financial situation, I was fed by the free and reduced meal program throughout my childhood. This gave me a title I could not escape: poor. It was a scarlet letter that put me in an enclosed box for what I could achieve. No matter how well I performed in school, how many clubs I participated in, or how well-spoken I was, that title was paired with my racial identity—I was black and poor above all else, attaching me to a host of powerful and oppressive societal stereotypes.
I can recall sitting in my 12th grade AP Calculus class when my friend—who was white—turned to me and said casually, “Donovan, you’re the whitest black guy I know.” At the time, I could not articulate why that comment offended me, but I knew I felt like an outsider. I was not only the lone black person in that class, but I was the only black person in my AP Literature and AP Language classes too. I was the only black class president at the time, the only black person ranked in the top 10 my senior year, and the only black marching band drum major in my county.
According to those around me, there was no way could I be black, poor, smart and driven. I must be an “Oreo,” a term that my peers still label me with—black on the outside and white on the inside, as if only whiteness could be associated with intelligence and potential. There were many times when I questioned whether I should even aspire to a better life. It was not until I started college that I began to question the origin of such distorted opinions like those of my peers and countless others on race and poverty.
I now know this phenomenon is deeply American. As historian Thomas Sugrue argues, such is the “fundamental reality of the economic inequality in American history that race and class were—and are—fundamentally intertwined.” Consequently, black and poor are two labels that together seem to define the majority of those experiencing poverty. This reality is nowhere more apparent than with our nation’s modest welfare program. Welfare has long been implicitly and stereotypically defined as a “black issue,” reinforced by the media’s continuous and careless portrayal of poverty as black and “lazy.” As a result, the public attaches these labels to the black community as a whole, with devastating sociocultural, economic, and political consequences for everyone. Furthermore, as demonstrated in the renowned work by political scientist Martin Gilens, over-racializing poverty creates a negative feedback loop, where “negative stereotypes of African Americans as lazy and misperceptions of the poor as predominantly black reinforce each other.”
Severe sociocultural, economic and political consequences aside, attaching blackness to poverty is just not accurate. The truth is that while blacks experience poverty at more than twice the rate of white non-Hispanics, they represent less than one in four people in poverty. And yet, stereotypes still plague poverty politics today, as seen in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, which assumes that the poor abuse welfare benefits and refuse to work. As such, the plan creates barriers to public insurance programs, increases penalties for food stamps participants who can’t find jobs, and reduces Social Security benefits. Relying on such rote assumptions allows politicians and the media to sidestep facts that do not align with their narrative—like the fact that the majority of households receiving public assistance are headed by working adults in low-paid jobs.
Reinforcing half-truths about blacks and poverty not only hinders long-term progress in addressing poverty, but also likely harms struggling individuals now. A study from the Human Communication Research Journal suggests that while news consumption is positively associated with greater social capital (as measured by membership in associations, neighborliness, interpersonal trust and community trust), the opposite is true for black Americans, potentially because of the media’s persistent and problematic portrayal of black faces. And, perhaps most damning, a Harvard Law Review study shows that the subliminal flashes of black faces contributes to unconscious racial bias in popular attitudes held about the black community.
Stereotypes are all too attractive and powerful. My truth, being black and poor, fit the exact preconceived notions that society has attempted to link together—that my blackness was the cause of my hardship. But then I became a Phi Beta Kappa first-generation college graduate, and now a Harry S. Truman Scholar. Poverty was my situation, not my limitation. To address poverty, we must first understand how oppressive the ways we describe it are.
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After the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department. In a 163-page report, the DOJ discovered that the police department routinely violated the rights of Baltimore's residents. This info is startling but not surprising to the black residents of Baltimore, who were overwhelmingly affected by the practices detailed in the report. The data collected by the DOJ is from 2010 and 2015 and includes interviews with community leaders, officers, prosecutors and residents.
The report also determined the following:
Officers retaliated against residents for exercising their right to free speech and free assembly
Officers used excessive force in matters that didn't call for such aggressive behavior
Officers disproportionately stopped, frisked and arrested black residents without legal justification
The police department didn't properly train or hold officers accountable for their actions
The department failed to have a system that deters and detects improper conduct
The department failed to collect and analyze data that might eliminate abuse or abusers
The department failed to provide officers with the tools they need to effectively do their jobs
Thanks to this report confirming what many already knew, the city has started to take action. For starters, there's now a revised use of force policy and new training. They have also redesigned and placed cameras in transport vans and created a tracking system for getting info to officers regarding training materials and policies. Both the cameras and ways of getting information were crucial parts of the Freddie Gray case.
City officials and the police department were cooperative during the investigation, and according to Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, they'll use the report as a road map of how the city shall proceed. As for the DOJ, in a statement released by their spokesperson David Jacobs: “We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws."
In the end, we can only hope that this serves as a wake-up call for not only the City of Baltimore, but also other police departments around the country. Instead of having to ask if we're next, hopefully we can focus on next steps to reform and actual change.
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If you're like me, you've received interesting texts or GroupMe messages suggesting that we as black people need to boycott certain products, stores and institutions. While the origins of the message are unknown, the rhetoric of the bombastic proposal is congruent with hotep black nationalist culture. Hoteps are said to only be concerned for the "freedom of cis-het black men," and they "deny the existence of rape culture and erase women, trans and queer lives" in an effort to achieve black nationalism. They believe the intersection of identities draw attention from the "real issues."After the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, pyramid scheme-esque messages encouraging black people to boycott random corporations spread like wildfire.
Similar to a pyramid scheme, these boycott messages are being spread without knowledge of their perceived impact, requesting those involved to bring their friends into the mix while offering little to no tangible outcomes.
Here is an example of one:
**My friends, Please be extremely selective in who you share this with especially right now at the front of this. We need to gain traction.**
THIS WAS SENT TO ME. PLEASE READ THIS AND PASS IT ON! DO NOT "share" or "post" this on social media! THIS MUST BE DONE in silence! PEOPLE THIS BOYCOTT IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY!!!!! WE MUST COLLECTIVELY REFUSE to sit back and WATCH ANY MORE BLOODSHED WITHOUT JUSTICE AND CHANGE!!!
Therefore, as of July 8, 2016, 11:59 p.m., PLEASE JOIN OTHERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY COLLECTIVELY AGREEING TO BOYCOTT one major retailer for 30 days at a time. The retailer, TARGET, will be the FIRST COMPANY IMPACTED by our boycott. We are simply asking ANYONE WHO IS ACTIVELY INTERESTED in MAKING A SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STANCE AGAINST THE UNJUST SLAUGHTERING OF BLACK LIVES, to REFRAIN FROM SPENDING ANY MONEY AT TARGET. Please SAVE any money you would have spent at Target in your banking account(s) until August 8, 2016, 11:59 p.m.
We are also asking people not to purchase any Coca Cola products until August 9, 2016, 12:01 a.m. And finally, organizing at least ONE MILLION BLACK PEOPLE to move $100 to BLACK OWNED BANKS, such as, Citizens' Bank, One United, or ANY BLACK OWNED BANK IN YOUR AREA.
We are NOT POSTING this on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, OR ANY FORM OF SOCIAL MEDIA, but instead, SHARING IT via text messages or word of mouth. Hopefully, you will PASS THIS MESSAGE TO AT LEAST SEVEN PEOPLE, who will in turn, reach out to another SEVEN that will do the same."
Here is another:
NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT! Only buy from "minority" owned businesses. Shut them down. #BlackLivesMatter #UnitedWeStand pic.twitter.com/zJU4nFEJlZ
— Cocoa Butter King (@KingNaij) July 10, 2016
In theory, this is a good idea.
The University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth projects "black buying power" to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020. By forcing corporations (with lobbying influence) to recognize that the black people (by contributing to their revenue) contributing to their revenue are unjustly killed by law enforcement, police reform on federal and state levels can become a reality. But these random "calls to action" are incredibly problematic and disorganized.
These boycotts are impractical because they claim to rely on a code of silence.
What is the logic behind silent boycotts? Giving a list of demands to specific companies allots space for constructive dialogue and alliances. If corporations do not know their black buyers have complaints, how can they begin to adjust policies to meet concerns? These invisible organizers can't just come out the cut like "Hey Target, remember that 3 percent decline in revenue at 7:43 p.m. last Thursday? Well, that's because of an unlisted group of black people who decided to boycott your company."
Who are we really trying to target? Does this really help us?
We need to know the specific ways these corporations contribute to state-sanctioned violence against black people. How is Target complicit in the "slaughtering of black lives?" Is Target being picked for a real reason, or are hoteps still salty about their policy of gender-inclusive bathrooms? How exactly is Coca-Cola contributing to white supremacy?
Don't tell poor people to boycott the cheapest grocery store. Don't tell people to boycott unless you're ready to help provide for them.
— Brotha B (@BlakeDontCrack) July 12, 2016
These proposed boycotts do not provide alternative forms of consumption for participants. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was successful because the Montgomery Improvement Association provided alternative transportation for black boycotters who relied on the bus to get to work. Shaming black people into this random boycott but not providing alternatives to sustain their lives is classist.
This doesn't mean boycotting is useless.
Contrary to recent oratory from Chrisette Michele, boycotting is still effective. For example, in an effort to stand "against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights," the Bond, Divestment and Sanctions movement nonviolently protests Israeli occupation. Through an academic and consumer boycott, coalitions of individuals resist illegal occupation.
Supporting black business is great, but preying on black people through pyramid schemes and messy boycotts is not. Instead of sending threads of unorganized ideas, boycott BP because they hired mostly black prisoners to clean up their oil spill in 2010. Boycott Walmart, because they do not pay their workers a living wage and purchase products from abusive farmers. Boycott Chick-Fil-A because of their homophobic tendencies.
Get organized and identify specific companies who contribute to hetero-white supremacist oppression. But please, for our collective sanity, stop sharing sloppy calls to boycott random companies at 11:29 p.m. on the third Tuesdays of every other month.
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Far too often we are misinformed, miseducated and downright lied to about what we mean to this world, our respective nations and to each other. Our contributions are downplayed while our shortcomings are exaggerated. Our history is distorted while our future is constantly being jeopardized or outright taken away. That being said, we are powerful beyond measure, sometimes we just need a little reminder.
1. You represent yourself, not every other black person on Earth.
2. You are more than a target, victim or hashtag.
3. Your dark skin, bold features and thick, curly hair is beautiful.
4. You are allowed to feel rage, sadness, pain and the full range of emotions unabashedly. This is not a sign of wavering or weakness. It is a sign of humanity.
5. You are not inherently a threat, a risk or a danger to anyone because of the way you dress.
6. You aren’t resisting arrest simply because you don’t fold, twist or fracture the way law enforcement officials want you to.
7. You are more than a mugshot to be demonized and criminalized by mainstream media and hate groups.
8. You are the pinnacle of patience, compassion, understanding, tolerance, resilience and sacrifice.
9. A hoodie, a wallet, a toy gun, a CD or a cigarette are not reasons for your execution.
10. You are sacred.
11. You are more than a professional athlete, musician or entertainer.
12. You are not a "nigger, nigga, negro" or any other derogatory term, no matter how hateful or endearing the intent.
13. You are a hero.
14. You are the foundation and the backbone of many a nation.
15. You are a pioneer.
16. Your history does not begin with slavery.
17. You are loved, deeply and fiercely.
18. Your children are just as smart, qualified and worthy of love as anyone else’s.
19. Your past and the sum of your failures do not equate to your future.
20. Your life matters. You are valuable and your potential is enormous.
21. Your culture deserves to be protected. It also needs to be acknowledged by those who benefit from it. You deserve that credit.
22. Your religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status do not make you less of a person.
23. You are on the short end of a longstanding structural problem ignored by far too many, but you will persevere.
24. You are an amazing mother, father, son, daughter, sibling, family member, lover and friend.
25. Your emotional, mental and spiritual well-being are important.
26. You are not an object or sexual commodity.
27. You do not have too much attitude. You are not too cocky. You are not arrogant. Your heart, bravery and confidence are golden.
28. Every one of your accomplishments is worthy of a celebration, no matter how big or how small
29. Your brothers and sisters always have your back.
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By middle school, pledging allegiance to the flag was out. I'd learned a enough about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Marcus Garvey to say peace out to the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance. When my teachers called my mother to complain about my refusal to blithely put my hand across my chest and join in with the rest of the class, she simply told them, "It's her choice." "You're DARN right, mom" is what I thought every time, and I'd go to class the next day with a smirk on my face. Who was I to refuse my loyalty to this country? I was a child who was taught to learn about my ancestors, critically think about my history and how it related to my present, and to question anything I was taught in school — especially if it seemed suspect to me.
Being that the library has always been one my favorite places in the world, I read a lot. I learned a lot. I then acted accordingly. Even Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, knew they never loved us (and made a song about it). After that, I pledged my allegiance to Africa.
Hold up, though. Africa is a whole continent. I knew I was African, but didn't know what part I was from. This was a vague allegiance, and it didn't hold water with the Africans I met who were either actual transplants from Africa or knew their lineage clearly. They met me with hostility or pity or both. It was maddening. Some felt better than me just because they were born in Africa and I wasn't. Others touted having never been captured and dragged from their land as their source of superiority (I didn't know enough back then to bring up the colonization of Africa by other European nations). I was just like, "Why are we debating who has been enslaved more or less than whom? There were even those who held being bilingual and having a familial history of ownership above my head.
I was glad when I learned the term 'diaspora.' I would ask them, "Aren't we all a part of the African Diaspora, though?" Most of the time, they would sigh a sigh of disdain and walk away. I was still hell bent on pledging my allegiance to Africa — all of it, for now — hoping to eventually find out where exactly I came from.
Then, this article came out about black Americans appropriating African culture. It was cognitive dissonance like a mug, in my opinion. How could I appropriate my own heritage? When I say "my own heritage," I'm not referring to one tribe or one country, I am referring to the entire diaspora. Instead of using the obvious interest in African clothing, jewelry, markings, religion and culture as a moment to educate, this article felt hostile. It felt like I was an African being kicked out of Africa by Africans. That's lame.
I'm all about respecting sacred cultural traditions, clothing, language and markings, but I'm also about educating a segment of the greater tribe of Africa who lost everything on a boat ride across the sea and four centuries of torture, oppression and programming. I haven't known my full lineage, but I've always wanted to. Are you telling me not to pledge allegiance to myself? How could something so beautiful to me spark something so ugly toward me?
Finally, my sister took an African ancestry DNA test, and we traced our lineage back to a country and a tribe on our maternal side. I felt relief when I learned this information, yet was still filled with curiosity to find out about my paternal side as well. I was also still filled with conflict. African nature is, at its core, communal. I could pledge allegiance to only myself or only my family, but this would feel at conflict with who I am in relation to my origin.
So who am I supposed to pledge allegiance to when everyone is telling me to bow down or get out? For now, I pledge allegiance to knowledge —to learning as much as I can about who I am (and who we are and were) and sharing that information with anyone who will listen. This is my way forward. This is my way home.
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Tainted water in Flint. Lead poisoning in cities across the country. Toxic waste dumps placed in struggling communities. Air pollution so thick that it makes even breathing a hazard. Black communities are among the worst impacted by such problems, and often the last to receive support or relief. Environmental racism manipulates the contexts that shape our lives, ensuring that black people and other people of color are constantly endangered while being deprived of resources.
Yet the face of the environmental movement is a white one.
That status quo ignores the realities of environmental racism and the long years that black communities have spent working against it. It assumes that everyone faces the same level of harm when it comes to environmental issues, and that a ‘one size fits all’ solution will produce equitable solutions for everyone.
Black people have long been left exposed and vulnerable to pollution and other environmental hazards due to racial oppression and discrimination, which constrains their social mobility, political power and economic opportunity. Black children suffer disproportionately from asthma and are seven to eight times more likely to die of asthma than white children. Communities of color face nearly 40 percent more exposure to toxic air pollution than white communities due to housing discrimination and lax environmental protections. Environmental racism continues to place minorities in close proximity to pollution and other environmental hazards. At a time when global challenges like climate change loom large on the horizon, it’s necessary to include a plurality of voices and a diversity of perspectives. Solutions must portray, elevate and focus attention on the most vulnerable, not only to prevent future instability, but to rectify past injustices and present inequities.
But we can’t just rely on portrayals created by others. Black folks deserve our own.
With this in mind, ColorOfChange.org commissioned eight artists of color from all across the United States to create depictions of what the future could look like for black communities. Utilizing diverse styles and vibrant imagery, these artists have created works that juxtapose possibilities of a brighter, more sustainable future with portrayals of dystopias where social ills and inequities remain entrenched. Each piece draws on the experiences and insights of the artists, as well as their hopes and dreams for what the future could hold. From literature to music to dance, art has always been a catalyst for social progress for black communities. The Future of Equality art project aims to spark change in the movement for environmental justice, bringing the voices of black folk to the forefront and ensuring that sustainable futures are also equitable ones.
For more than 10 years, ColorOfChange.org has been dedicated to fighting racism, sexism, bigotry, inequality and injustice at every level of society. Now we’re going to bring that same fervor to the environmental justice movement. We won’t stop until black communities and other communities of color are centered as we all fight to create a healthier, more sustainable world.
ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest Black, online civil rights organization. Sign up and join more than 1 million members in the movement for justice. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
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Black Twitter pulled together last night to drag Buzzfeed Video after the video entity shared one of its latest creations; "27 Questions Black People Have For Black People". The video depicts black Buzzfeed Video employees asking questions that many felt were rude, lazy, and outright offensive to persons whom identify as Black.
Questions Black People Have For Black People 👀https://t.co/lj53cs6Xe1
— BuzzFeedVideo (@BuzzFeedVideo) April 13, 2016
Well... it could have been worse, but then again, it had a lot of room for improvement.
Let's get on the level: Almost every question in that video could be answered with "because we're still affected by systemic racism".
— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) April 13, 2016
And it didn't take long for Black Twitter to get in formation
The Buzzfeed Writers Room Team. (#BuzzFeedVideoQuestions) pic.twitter.com/705g11SJBj
— chris (@chrislaawrence) April 13, 2016
And for MJ to make his appearance
@BuzzFeedVideo #buzzfeedvideoquestions pic.twitter.com/j09fmej13X
— YWB (@YoungWoke_Broke) April 13, 2016
The satire came in #BuzzfeedVideoQuestions
"If you spend so much time in the club, with a bottle full of bub, how will you pay your mortgage?"#BuzzfeedVideoQuestions
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) April 13, 2016
Why did Cash Money take over for the 99 and the 2000's instead of building the community in the 99 and the 2000's? #BuzzfeedVideoQuestions
— Victoria M. Walker (@VikkieNotVicky) April 13, 2016
How do you expect Felicia to make something of her life if you never say hello to her? #BuzzFeedVideoQuestions
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) April 13, 2016
"Why do folk know how to do the Nae Nae, but they don't know how to PRAY PRAY amirite?" #buzzfeedvideoquestions pic.twitter.com/XqKoanfRDe
— Melech E. M. Thomas (@MelechThomas) April 13, 2016
Then the hashtag #RealBlackPeopleQuestions, created by twitter-user @jozenc, took off and asked more accurate questions that black people do inquire from one another, rather than questions that reflect stereotypes and preconceived notions.
For example: Do you have some lotion?#realblackpeoplequestion
— Jozen C. (@jozenc) April 13, 2016
Check out some of the best tweets from this Black Twitter gathering!
"Shiddddd, what y'all finna do?" #RealBlackPeopleQuestionspic.twitter.com/WjMDWPyvFB
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 13, 2016
What is "I bet it ain't me!" Alex?
"Who you finna try?" #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— ladykilla96 (@Namastaywoke) April 13, 2016
Is there a safe way to answer this?
Where ya lil girlfriend at? #RealBlackPeopleQuestionspic.twitter.com/BNAXLJeHE7
— Reagan Gomez (@ReaganGomez) April 13, 2016
And she arrived on CP Time
"Who invited her?" #RealBlackPeopleQuestionspic.twitter.com/1mcSQsHvpI
— anthony j. willyams (@anthoknees) April 13, 2016
Is that a twistout? #realblackpeoplequestions
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) April 13, 2016
The struggles of childhood
"If I ask her she gone say no, so can you ask her for me?" #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Faygo Mami (@kashmirVIII) April 13, 2016
Because you know Beyoncé coming, right?
What you use on your edges? #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Jouelzy (@Jouelzy) April 13, 2016
"How much she charge?" #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) April 13, 2016
Don't set Mama off
“You think I care about what *insert name* mama let them do?!#RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Rogue (@INeedja_Kadeeja) April 13, 2016
If it's not live, then you know where I won't be
You at the party yet? Who’s There? #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Jeff (@JeffJSays) April 13, 2016
Your Mama's favorite question
You got McDonalds money? #RealblackPeopleQuestions #BuzzfeedVideoQuestions
— SirRatchettness (@SirRatchettness) April 13, 2016
Who. Made. The. Potato. Salad? #RealBlackPeopleQuestions
— Lemon Cake✨ (@TheSlimGoddess) April 13, 2016
Now THAT is how black people ask other black people questions that need answers.
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Attention all my beautiful black people — a career in User Experience (UX) design is where it’s at.
Let’s be real for a minute, most of us want solid jobs with a nice salary. Many of us also believe you have to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or finance person to get an awesome paycheck. False. It’s time we start challenging ourselves to venture outside of what has historically been seen as a “good job.” I graduated with a psychology degree and I’m making the same entry level wages that people in those fields are making.
First, let’s start with a basic definition, “UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use and delightful to interact with.” You might see other titles associated with UX, such as UI designer, product designer, UX architect or UX researcher. These aren’t all the same thing, but they all have overlapping responsibilities and are heavily intertwined. Here’s an awesome infographic that helps break down the intricacies of this field.
Let’s get into why you should check out this field and why it’s an excellent fit for us black folk.
1. This industry is super lucrative
The tech industry is booming, every business has or is building a digital presence, and this trend is not slowing down anytime soon. Likewise, there’s an enormous demand for UX designers and there simply aren't enough good designers, meaning the barrier of entry is low. People assume that you have to be some computer wiz who knows six coding languages to start a career in tech. Let me be the one to tell you that this is far from true. You can become a UX Designer without having a technical background at all.
Furthermore, as a UX designer you get access to almost all of the same perks as a developer in the tech industry. By perks I mean competitive salaries, flexible (or unlimited) vacation time, location independence at many companies (yay for traveling!), conference budgets to continue learning, food, liquor and more liquor at the office, and much more. Also, once you become a UX designer you automatically become seen as one of those cool creative people.
2. We’ve been code-switching since day 1
We all know why we code-switch: To make our listener (usually caucasian) respect, understand and not feel threatened by us. Doesn’t mean we like it, but we do it. What we're actually doing is thinking about our user’s experience. We are thinking about how our listener will perceive us, which is what a UX Designer does every day. When designing the user experience of a product, you must be constantly thinking about how the user will perceive, judge and interpret your product. You then make adjustments to your design to promote the best understanding between the user and product.
3. We know the struggle
As a minority in this country, you are eye-to-eye with various struggles every single day. We’ve experienced a range of aggressions and oppressions, which has allowed many of us to be able to empathize and identify with forms of struggle. Being able to empathize with others is an extremely important skill that every great UX designer has. Building empathy for your product’s user base will allow you to create products that eliminate struggle and pain.
For example, remember how frustrating it was to watch stories on Snapchat? You had to keep your finger held on the screen for what seemed like an eternity just to watch someone lip-sync the latest Drake song. Well, Snapchat listened to their users’ feedback and made the design decision to eliminate the need to keep your finger on the screen. This created a much more enjoyable user experience and probably increased their user engagement metrics.
4. We know how to season our food
Chicken tastes better with salt, pepper, paprika, Lowry’s, etc. We’ve been throwing down in the kitchen for centuries. We know how to turn an otherwise grotesque dish (read: chitterlings) into something edible. If that’s not a superb example of creativity, I’m not sure what is. Fostering creativity is a major key to being a great designer. This does not mean you have to be a world-renowned artist, and I’ll be the first to say that I can’t illustrate for sh*t. However, creativity doesn’t just mean making beautiful art pieces, it also means creating experiences in a way that others don't. Or thinking outside of the box to design a solution when you’re up against a dozen constraints. It also means finding creative ways to effectively communicate when you can’t just explain something with words.
Finding what makes you creative is the first step to designing innovative and delightful user experiences.
5. We need stuff designed FOR black people BY black people
This point is probably the most important and merits its own blog post, but in short, we as black people deserve to have products designed for our own unique needs. There’s no better way to do that than to actually do it ourselves. It’s extremely difficult to convince a board of white stakeholders (men usually) why it’s not okay to use a policeman icon to symbolize help or care in an app designed mainly for black people (yes, this really did happen to a friend of mine). If we were designing our own applications, there would be no need to explain.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to at least do a quick Google search on UX. Getting started might seem intimidating at first, but there’s a ton of resources to help you out. Many UX designers (including myself) are heavily self-taught and they succeed at this by constantly reading and absorbing content.
Here’s a few links to get you started, and if you ever want to chat more about UX feel free to hit up your girl on Twitter.
How To Get Started In UX Design -
Update: Since launching UX Mastery, this has been the most popular article we've published by a country mile. As a…uxmastery.com
Smashing Magazine - for professional Web Designers and Developers
Working on very different projects, in different teams and with different people can sometimes be a challenge. But one…www.smashingmagazine.com
3 Books to Get You Started as a User Experience Professional
There are a lot of books out there that discuss the topics of user experience, user interface, information architecture…medium.com
22-year-old product designer in Chicago | Currently in Formation | Hit me up on Twitter @mayagpatterson or IG @mayapatterson
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If you walk up to someone and ask them their thoughts on racism, they might hesitate, but perhaps if you ask them what would the world look like without black people, they'd answer. This is the exact theory that the Jubilee Project tested out — they traveled across the country, asking people one question in order to create a dialogue about race and racism. Watch everyone's sentiments above.
What are your thoughts? What would a world without black people look like for...