Work


 

In 1998 when I was planning my pilgrimage to West Africa, I was warned against visiting Mauritania. It was explained to me that slavery against the “Black” African population was still practised there by the “White” Arabs and I could therefore put my self at risk. The fear was not so much my abduction and enslavement, but certainly blatant discrimination in a hostile environment where I would have no protection by (or from) the law. Needless to say, I avoided Mauritania.  

I subsequently read a book by Samuel Cotton entitled: Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery”. Published in 1999, it highlighted his research into the dynamics of modern day slavery in Mauritania and Sudan. I recently read “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, a horrifying autobiography of her 1993 abduction and enslavement in Sudan at age 12, and her flight to freedom 7 years later while working for a Sudanese diplomat in London England.

I have also read a number of articles on the issue of child slavery in West Africa today. While the system of slavery in Mauritania and Sudan is based primarily on historical and traditional social systems, the phenomenon of child slavery in West African countries is based on poverty. Parents sell their children into slavery for a few dollars and false promises that they will only be working part-time, taken care of and sent to school. It’s ironic that I had visited Ghana during my pilgrimage and toured a number of the slave castles along the coast. I even visited the slave castle in the Kormance Region, where it is very likely that my ancestor(s) were housed before being shipped off to Jamaica as slaves. Today, Ghana is one of the West African countries that has a serious problem with child slavery.   

I would like to share an indepth report from last month on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website (CBC.ca), concerning this issues of modern day slavery and child trafficking in West Africa. The link is here. There are links to the 3 articles penned by David Gutnick which discusses these topics in detail. You will also find links to previous CBC articles and other resource materials about modern day slavery. 

Here is a another link to a case study and other articles by the BBC World Service pertaining to Article 4 of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Freedom From Slavery”

The challenge now becomes: “now that we know, what are we going to do or can do about it?”  Suggestions are welcomed.              

 

As I have been following the current news events out of Africa, it is disturbing to see all the images of chaos, death, disease, greed, genocide and corruption. Is that all there is or is that only what is being fed to us? I have always believed that western society’s (and the global) view of those of African descent starts, is influenced and perpetuated by these negative media images from the Motherland. I also believe that these images have an effect on how “we” see ourselves here in the Diaspora.

Africa is indeed resource rich. However, despite the dismal news reports and negative images, Africa has much more to offer the world other than it’s material resources, that is being raped and stolen for the benefit of former neocolonial regimes and to enrich their propped up African overseers! One of the resources we don’t utilize enough as people of African descent, are the many voices that are available to be “mined” for our benefit. There are cultural, political, econimic, artistic, literary and spiritual gems of experiences, knowledge, beliefs, values, insights and opinions, which are available to help bring clarity and strength to our being. The continent is rich in books, films, magazines, music, websites and blogs, etc., which are the invaluable jewels that their best and brightest have to offer the world.  

For this month’s carnival, let’s share and exchange some of the priceless resources from the Motherland that have enriched and brought joy to our lives. Create a post on your page with African based web links, as well as book, music, magazine, movie and blog lists, etc., and submit a link to Afrospear@hotmail.com by this Sunday 10th February. I will compile the links and publish the carnival on Monday the 11th. 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

People,

African-Americans are at a critical point in time. They need to address conditions and circumstances that are preventing them from existing as a free and independent people. In order for them to do this there are many factors they should prepare to embrace. The first one is God and spirituality which will inspire them to want to atone, unite and organize to address conditions in society and this onslaught of racial attacks. The second is numbers. Blacks need to show a force of millions of their people preparing to fight for freedom, justice and equality. That is why the Black Church and the Five Phase Plan will play a crucial role in this movement for respect and reparations.

1. When African-Americans decide to engage in this effort, they will realize they should go through a process to solve differences among their people and prepare to carry on these actions until they receive justice in the form of reparations. They need to atone to make themselves better people in their own eyes and commit to organizing with the purpose of addressing racism, disparities and inequities, and demanding respect and reparations.

2. Blacks should realize that it is of the ut-most importance for them to identify themselves as they see fit. They should not continue to let others name them and dictate their destination. Blacks should know that they can name themselves according to their land of origin, culture and existence. African-Americans should know different terms that have been put forth to identify them, such as Afro Descendents of Slaves, Descendents of Black African Slaves, Indigenous African-Americans, Moors and African Spiritual Beings, among other names. We should learn what it would mean for us to claim an identity for ourselves and move accordingly. This would be a signal to the world that we are claiming our independence. We should not continue to identify ourselves as others see fit.

All groups who claim blacks should call themselves one of these names have good reasons. But there is one name that will give African-Americans a right to land and all forms of reparative measures to recover their heritage, relieve themselves of the mental anguish they suffer from due to 500 years of extreme prejudice or (PTSS) and build cities complete with an infrastructure. Blacks can undergo this task by holding a Plebiscite for Sovereignty, which is a national vote among black folks in America.

3. Blacks need to form a Reparations Union to create a power base to carry out a massive campaign for reparations. It would enable them to address the rise in racial attacks in a strong, united and ever lasting group effort. Instead of the usual manner in which a few folks who normally show up call on thousands to conduct one day protest. It would direct them to put pressure on the government and big corporations that will stimulate real and lasting change. It would enable them to carry out national boycotts, marches and protest that would last for weeks and months and years if necessary, to force policy makers and institutions in this country to respect them. And most important of all, the formation of this union would get others to think twice before they violate African-Americans and their constitutional and civil rights because they would know the union will fight hard to make them accountable for their actions. This would strengthen the Plebiscite and the black condition in America.

4. Blacks need to form a constituency among themselves to label and suggest solutions to solve crimes of slavery, segregation and discrimination, that have a lasting impact. This would be a Reparations Tribunal where African-Americans would place their findings before the public to determine what remedies are most suitable to repair the damages done to their people.

5. Blacks should work with Whites, Jews and others who have enslaved and or exploited them in a Truth and Reconciliation Process to elaborate on findings of the Tribunal and to disclose all others areas where they have been damaged and victims of injustice. This would signal the bearing of human beings to make up for past atrocities and to facilitate a healing between blacks and those who have caused them great pain and suffering. This is the way to bring justice to Black people and reconnect the different races in America in the spirit of God as various peoples with an understanding and degree of tolerance and respect for one another.

In memory of our ancestors,

Brotha Pruitt
Reparations Leader and Chairman
Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR)
Reparations Union Lobbying Association (RULA)

http://hometown.aol.com/blk2day/myhomepage/index.html

I remember watching a couple of the Sherlock Holmes movies when I was a kid. I never thought much of them as the story lines didn’t really hold my interest, plus they were shown in “black and white”. I do remember though the line Sherlock Holmes gave his sidekick, Dr. Watson when he was ready to solve the case and explain how he came to his conclusions. He made it all seem so obvious after he proclaimed: “elementary my dear Watson, elementary,” and then broke it all down. I would wonder why Watson, being a learn-ed “Doctor”, hadn’t figured it out also and would ask the detective dumb questions. hmmmmm

This week another Dr. Watson garnered media attention, not for asking dumb questions, but for making “dumb” comments. Dr. James Watson, biologist, geneticist, Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and 1962 Nobel laureate in science, made some controversial statements regarding “Race” in an interview he gave to The Sunday Times. The interviewer shared these beliefs of Dr. Watson’s in the article:

“He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.   

This is not the first or only time the “good doctor” has made controversial statements, especially regarding race. During a lecture tour in 2000 he hypothesized that there were scientific links between skin colour and sexual prowess, specifically that “dark-skinned people have stronger libidos”. He has also hypothesized that if you could detect babies with “gay genes” pre-natally, women should then have the right to abort the baby “because women want to have grandchildren, period.” He also agreed with what he refers to as the “unpopular but by no means unfounded” theory of ex-Harvard president Larry Summers, who lectured that the low representation of tenured female scientists at universities might be due to, among other things, “the innate differences between the sexes”. Due to the furor caused by his latest comments, he has had to cancel a book tour, scheduled lectures and he has also been suspended from his administrative duties at the Laboratory.

So here’s the deal. I believe the issue isn’t so much with the statements he made…. but that he made them publicly! He simply stated what is the widely held belief among those in the dominant “white” society. It is not the first time (nor the last) that science has been utilized to assert the inferiority of the so-called “Black Race”. Scientists are forever coming up with hypotheses and theories either contending that “whites” and/or “Europeans” and their culture is superior to everyone elses, or that “Blacks” and/or “Africans” and their culture are inferior to all others. However, because it is no longer “socially acceptable” nor “politically correct” to make such assertions publicly, “the rule” now is to do it within private (i.e. where Black people aren’t allowed) confines of the backrooms, the social clubs, the boardrooms, the executive offices… hell even in the bathroom…. but never, never out in the open and certainly not to the media! If you break this rule…. you are on your own!

Dr. Watson has made the usual apologies, claimed the statements don’t reflect what he meant, “and there is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Interestingly he also stated: “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said.”

“Elementary my dear Watson, elementary…. you’re a racist.”  

in-teg-ri-ty (from Dictionary.com):

  1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
  2. the state of being whole, entire or undiminished.
  3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

I have always advocated that one should take responsibility and accountability for what one does, does not do and for what one says. We are not perfect, but that’s not the issue.  In our imperfections, once we make a mistake or do something that isn’t right, we need to own it, apologize if need be and make it right. This is all rooted in the concept of personal integrity. This is what bothers me most: when one does not act with any integrity!

Today, living with any sense of integrity is not seen as a positive attribute. Actually it is seen as a weakness. The latest celebrity figure from our community who has manifested this lack of integrity is Olympic track and field star Marion Jones. These s/heroes from our community once were the standard, the model of hard work and personal integrity. Now they are just a reflection of the the lack of responsibility, lack of accountability and loss of personal integrity which the wider society now perpetuates…. and this wider society includes us! There are those we come in contact with every day, even some of us, who act with no sense of personal integrity. It’s not that we never had it, it’s not that our parents or grandparents never schooled us on theses values…. we’ve either lost it or sold out for selfish accolades and/or material trinkets. 

“Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right.”

I was faced with a situation where I was temporarily assigned as a supervisor towards the end of last year. I didn’t receive the customary supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of this assignment. Why? Because my manager who is “white”, didn’t file the required paper work in time. It is policy that temporary increases in pay for acting supervisory assignments must be filed and approved before it starts. When I enquired about this at the time, my manager lied to me and said that he had filed the paperwork, but his manager who had to also approve it, had at first lost it and when he had filed the paperwork a second time, it sat on his supervisor’s desk and didn’t get approved in time. He assured me that I would receive all my supervisor’s pay in the next period. I didn’t make an issue of it at the time since I felt that getting the experience was beneficial enough at that point. After 6 months of performing supervisory duties, I was finally given my supervisors wage but it was retrograded to the start of 2007…. so I only received 4 months compensation. My manager informed me that I couldn’t get compensated for the first 2 months, since they were in 2006, in another fiscal period. hmmmm ok…

Because it was a temporary assignment, the paperwork for supervisor’s pay has to re-filed for every 3 month period. My manager again filed this paperwork late for the summer period that I had supervised…. he actually filed it at the end of the summer. For this reason, his manager refused to approve the late request for my supervisor’s pay, which I had already received, so I had my pay deducted! Now I got to find out that another colleague of mine, who is “white” and also on temporary supervisory assignment, had all his paperwork filed on time by this same manager and therefore received his due compensation… no problem. Subsequently, I also found out that my manager never filed the original paperwork so I could receive my supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of my assignment!

My manager was informed the same time I was from our human resources department that my pay was being deducted. He never contacted me to explain or apologize for his negligence. There were a number of factors at work here and one of them is “racial”. I believe that subconsciously, my manager felt he had no responsibility to treat me fairly, explain his actions or apologize for his inaction, due to the colour of my skin. It’s a slave masters mentality…. he values my work, but he does not value me as a human being!  So after a month I contacted him and made it known that this issue was not about the money, which I was no doubt entitled to, but for me it was now a matter of principle! So I asked him to explain why:

  1. I was being punished by having my pay deducted, for his not filing the required paperwork on time to extend my supervisory assignment over the summer period?
  2. Why I didn’t receive my supervisor’s pay right from the time I started the assignment as did my white colleague?

Needless to say this has caused a sh*t storm! My manager took no responsibility nor accountability for his failure to treat me fairly, or for lying to me…. and went on the offensive. He made it known, very strongly and in no uncertain terms, that he was disappointed in me for being so ungrateful for the opportunities he had provided me. He attempted to twist the whole affair around to make it my fault…. my problem…. and I was the one who was being unfair and he was the victim! 

“Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that guides your way.”

I now have a son. I have to be the primary example in his life of acting responsible and being accountable for what one does, doesn’t do and/or say. I have to teach him how to stand up for his principles, beliefs and values. I have to educate him on the fact that as a man, especially a Black man in a “white” dominated society, there are those who will try to take advantage of him, who will devalue him as a human being…. and expect him to be quiet and accept his “fate”. I have to impress upon him that you don’t need to “fight every fight” that comes your way…. you need to pick and choose your fights but you always fight for your principles. I have to be a role model to him on having personal integrity…. no matter what the cost. 

I had other co-workers warn me that if I made an issue of this, if I confronted my manager as I had done, that it would seriously jeopardize my chances to get promoted. My reply is “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”. Integrity resides within our soul. Once you lose your integrity, you lose your soul. They say everyone has a price. For Judas, like for some of us, it is 30 pieces of silver. For others it’s the opportunity to eat the scraps from “Massa’s” table. My integrity is not for sale.                            

I was inspired to re-read “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson in an effort to gain some understanding/perspective to what I was observing in the actions of those of African descent in the Diaspora, as well as the Motherland. Misogynous and self-destructive rap lyrics, debates on the viability if the “N” word among us, brutal acts of violence, genocide, exploitation, oppression etc. , are only some of the things we do to each other. Not that these things don’t happen in other communities, but I am not concerned about those other communities right now. I look at our communities around the world and the self-destructive behaviours which we indulge in and it breaks my heart. The question for me isn’t so much: how did we get here? It’s more: why are we still here and why do we always return here?

I was all set to do a post on chapters 8 and 9 of the book, “Professional Education Discouraged” and “Political Education Neglected”, and how they relate to how we as a people are mis-educated today and how we can re-educate ourselves on these points in an effort to begin to move from here. Then I started following the discussions involving our brother, Francis Holland and his ongoing conflict with DailyKos and My LeftWing. I never understood his obsession with the white liberal democratic blog site DailyKos and his being banned from there. He made it his personal crusade to demolish DK and now he is banned from another white liberal democratic blog site, My LeftWing. He was now on another crusade against them and was calling for support. 

Although most Black/Afro-bloggers counseled and advised Francis to not waste his energy engaged in this conflict, but to focus that energy on Black endeavours, I couldn’t understand why he refused to see that this was a more valuable use of his time and energy. The more I read, the more I meditated on it, the more I had to ask myself: “is this the manifestation, the living example of a “mis-educated Negro in the 21st Century”. The more I saw it in this way, the more I understood the roots of his obsession. Now, this is not a personal attack against Francis. I like and respect Francis and the work he is doing within the Afrosphere and Blackosphere. This is just my view from the outside, using this situation involving Francis and these white liberal blog sites as a backdrop, at what I believe drives a significant portion of the African-American psyche. So let me share what I see as 3 aspects that reflect our “mis-education” today: 1) The allegiance of the majority of Black America to the Democratic Party; 2) Our inability to strategize effectively while engaged in the “Art of War”; 3) The bitter fruits of our mis-education. Then I will present what I think we need to do to re-educate ourselves. 

The allegiance of the majority of Black America to the Democratic Party

“Any people who will vote the same way for three generations without thereby obtaining results ought to be ignored and disfranchised…. The Negro should use his vote rather than give it away to reward the dead for some favors done in the distant past.” Carter G. Woodson

These words by Woodson are so profound, however they are lost on the majority of Black America. DailyKos and My LeftWing are white/eurocentric based liberal websites which spew certain ideals of the Democratic Party and therefore attract those in the majority population who identify with those ideals. Whether these white liberal websites are attractive to African-Americans who hold some or most of the same ideals, isn’t the point. The issue is: why the obsession with wanting to be embraced by them? Why debase and demean ourselves to beg for them to give us a voice in their realm? This is what I see by Francis’s obsession. Regardless of whether what he says on their sites is true or not…. whether his challenging of their hypocrisy is noble or not…. whether his perspective brings an alternate but just as significant way of seeing the world or not…. his efforts on their sites is a waste of time and energy. They don’t want to hear it. They dismiss it. Historically and even more so today (DON’T be fooled by the white liberal media creation: “Obamamania”), the voice of the “Negro” has never mattered in any segment of White America, so why should it matter in the Whitosphere…. especially the white liberal segment of the Whitosphere. So they banned him from commenting on their space. Are we surprised? Did we expect anything different to occur?

Francis’s campaign against DailyKos and My LeftWing reminds me of the efforts of a jilted lover, who has now become a stalker…. and his former lover, is now his prey. He will do all that he can, use all his energy and resources to discredit and demonize his former lover. If he can’t have her, no-one else can! And Francis is not alone in his “mis-educated” allegiance and obsession to the white liberal cause. Recently I have seen 2 members of the Afrosphere Bloggers Association cancel their membership for no other reason than an admitted Black Republican was given the opportunity to join their collective! The program of “divide and conquer” is still alive and healthy within the Black/African community at large and with our Afrosphere in particular. Blue vs. Red; Bloods vs. Crips; Hutus vs. Tutsis; Africans vs. African-Americans; African-Americans vs. Afro-Caribbeans; Black Christians vs. Black Muslims; Black liberals vs. Black conservatives etc. 

Our inability to strategize effectively while engaged in the “Art of War”

“In general, whoever occupies the battleground first and awaits the enemy will be at ease; whoever occupies the battleground afterward and must race to the conflict will be fatigued. Thus one who excels at warfare compels men and is not compelled by other men. Sun-Tzu. The Art of War. 

The liberal Whitosphere is not our battleground. They own it. They control it. They manipulate it. They can allow and censure whichever voices they so desire. Are we still so “mis-educated” to believe that it is only through the white man and whatever system(s) he controls – such as the liberal whitosphere, that we can be effective in our struggles? That it is to them and through them alone, that our voices can only have any credibility and therefore needs to be heard…. and acknowledged? And if they do deny us that voice, if they censure and ban us, are we still so “mis-educated” to believe that it is noble to galvanize all our forces to take the fight to their battleground…. for an already lost cause! What is the point of a “mis-educated” strategy to “piss off white liberals” on their own battleground? What is so “radical” about wrapping oneself in the cloak of self-martyrdom? 

“The Negroes have always had sufficient reason to be radical, and it looks silly to see them taking up the cause of others who pretend that they are interested in the Negro when they merely mean to use the race as a means to an end.” Carter G. Woodson

What is truly “radical” is focusing our visions, efforts and energies on creating our own spaces, cells and collectives, to work together, regardless of politics, religion, ideology, gender, orientation, ethnicity, culture, etc., for our own progress! From these bases of operations which are in our control, we can launch our attacks, both offensive and defensive ones, against the system to struggle for pertinent and substantive victories. Naive? Far-fetched? Well look at the successes of the Afrosphere efforts in regards to Kenneth Foster and Shaquanda Cotton. These efforts prove that we have the skills, knowledge, abilities, wisdom to be powerful in our own right… through our own “Afrosphere”…. to bring the fight to those who would oppress and abuse us…. to make a real difference…. to “compel men”…. 

The bitter fruits of our mis-education

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his own special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

Self-delusion and self-destruction are the fruits of the mis-educated Negro. I observed how Francis deluded himself in believing that the 120 daily hits his “Truth about Kos” blog receives is an indication that whites, so-called progressives and Republicans, “are looking for information that they can print at their own blogs against Markos Moulitsas to buttress their belief that Markos Moultisas simply isn’t who he pretends to be.” He goes on to state that: “My “Truth About Kos” blog is providing leadership and information to those who want to discredit and reject this white supremacist blogger. One of the ways they are becoming aware of this information is because I post links at white blogs.  If they could completely prevent me from posting these links, then they could prevent me from disseminating the information I have discovered to white people. What stands out most to me in regards to these comments, are that all of these efforts are being done for the benefit of white people. (Interestingly enough, on Meet the Press on the Sunday of that same week, there was a debate between Markos and the Black former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., now Chairman of the Democratic Leadreship Council, on the direction of the Democratic Party. Markos had Ford sounding like a right wing Nazi sympathizer! lol! However, there was no mention of Markos’s CIA connection or any campaign(s) against his website.)    

I also observed how Francis’s obsession with his crusade against DailyKos and My LeftWing began to sow dissention and polarization within the Afrosphere. He went on to accuse another Black blogger who didn’t support his positions regarding DailyKos and My LeftWing, as defending “CIA-trained Markos Moulitsas” and subsequently refered to her as a “house slave”. This all lead to some calling for his banning in the Afrosphere also, while others declared that if he was banned, then they didn’t want to be a part of the Afrosphere. The seeds of self-destruction had been sown. Thankfully the Afrosphere weathered this storm…. this time. 

So how do we proceed from here today? How do we begin a successful process of re-education. Work and Patience! Let me humbly defer to the words of Carter G. Woodson on this matter, which he wrote in 1933. They are still applicable today:

“The Negro, whether in Africa or America, must be directed toward a serious examination of the fundamentals of education, religion, literature and philosophy as they have been expounded to him. He must be sufficiently enlightened to determine for himself whether these forces have come into his life to bless him or to bless his oppressor. After learning the facts in the case, the Negro must develop the power of execution to deal with these matters as do people of vision. Problems of great importance cannot be worked out in a day. Questions of great moment must be met with far-reaching plans.”                                      

Back in the days of antiquity, one of the most stressful jobs I would imagine, would be that of a messenger. If you returned from the battlefield with a message of victory, you would be hailed a hero and celebrated. If you were sent to an opposing kingdom with a message of goodwill, you would be treated as royalty and given a feast. However if you returned with a message of defeat, or brought a message of war, well your death was pretty much assured and it wouldn’t be pleasant. Hence the term: “Don’t kill the messenger!”

Jason Whitlock brings a message to the African-American community. It’s usually a message of the second type because it’s not popular. It’s not what most of us want to hear. So he is vilified.

Now I don’t regularly read the brother’s column, but I have read it a few times. I don’t agree with everything he says…. actually I agree with a lot of what he says, but hey… for me it’s not about agreeing… it’s about having a point of view. If it’s different from mine… all the better…. maybe I can learn something. I have seen him on Oprah and heard him a few times on a sports radio talk show sitting in as a guest host. The primary message which I get from him, is one of responsibility and accountability within the Black community, primarily when it comes to “our” sports heroes. He is sometimes harsh with his commentary. Yes, he is uncomfortably hard on Jesse and Al… almost to the point of being disrespectful, but there is a lot of truth in his message. During the Imus affair, one thing he said which struck a cord with me, and I am paraphrasing, is that we as a people cannot expect others to respect us more than we respect ourselves. Not a popular message when it is directed at the rappers, other entertainers and sports celebrities of our community. I have read articles where he argues eloquently (in my opinion) against demonizing Barry Bonds and Michael Vick and he supports the NAACP’s call to give Vick an opportunity to return to the NFL, after he pays whatever debt society dictates. Not a popular message to the “white” moralists. Although he acknowledges that racism is the root cause of some, maybe even most of our problems, like me he doesn’t see it as an “excuse” for our self-inflicted woes…. especially by our millionaire sports heroes. Even on the sports talk shows, the majority of the Black callers have an issue with his call for our highly paid athletes to behave better. To be responsible and accountable for their actions, because they are role models to the youth of our community, whether they want to be or not. “Whom much is given, much is expected.”  Not a popular message to our community at large.

Now our sports heroes have always had a special place in our hearts. Historically, every time they were able to beat a “white man” in a competition, overcome the odds whether in track and field, boxing, tennis, etc,…. they were striking a blow for us. They were our champions. Our Davids defeating the Goliaths of white supremacy on our behalf. They were an inspiration. Role models. Jesse Owens. Joe Johnson. Joe Louis. Muhammed Ali. Arthur Ashe. Not any more. Not with our present crop of athletes. Maybe back in the day we were more forgiving and/or accepting of their shortcomings. Times have changed. We have changed. Not to say that today there aren’t any African-American athletes who are positive role models, male and female. Unfortunately they don’t make the headlines, because they quietly go about their business…. and stay out of trouble…. doing the “right” thing. They should be featured and celebrated more…. no doubt. We need to take some blame for not publicly honouring them more. 

However I digress. Back to the messenger: Jason Whitlock. Through the Afrosphere I became aware of a column he did on the “Jena 6″. This led me to a post by my brother blogger, Field Negro and to the Whitlock’s column. I read both articles a number of times in an effort to understand what it was that Whitlock said that…. well…. proves that he has a “problem with Black folks.” What has earned him the unfortunate title as “the LaShawn Barber of the sports world.”? OUCH!!!!! (DAMN…. I gotta admit that I fell down laughing at that one! Cold.) He brings to light certain facts in regards to the “Jena 6″ case, which leads him to the position that “much of the mainstream reporting on this story has been misleading, irresponsible and inflammatory.” He takes issue with the actions of all parties involved: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the school board, the “noose-hanging” white students, the media, Al Sharpton, the community at large (both Black and White), the “Jena 6″ and the parents: of both the white students and the “Jena 6″. He lays at all their feet…. their share of the blame which has lead to this travesty of justice. In his post Field states about Whitlock:

“And every fucking day he rips another black athlete or person who happens to be in the news, for not playing by America’s rules. Like who the fuck died and made him the Martha Stewart of race? On a certain level I almost respect Jason’s hustle. Because you and I both know that he can’t believe all the shit that he writes. But it’s working, Jason is getting more popular by the day, because he is just the latest in a long line of black folks who “Charlie” props up to say what he wants to say, but can’t, because it would be too politically incorrect. Jason can say it, because he is one of them.

Hmmmm. Ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I only wonder if there are any falsehoods in the facts of the situation which Whitlocks contends, regarding the individuals in the “Jena 6″? Not that it justifies what is happening to them, because it doesn’t. However, it gives another perspective which I wasn’t aware of. But in the long run, that doesn’t even matter. It’s the message that is the underlying issue. We now live in an age where you cannot kill the messenger, but you can certainly kill the message. Discredit the messenger and you can discount the message. The easiest way to discredit a Black person in our community, to nullify their voice, opinions and beliefs…. to KILL their message…. is to call them a tool of the “white man”…. a house negro of “Massa Charlie”.

Jason Whitlock is very lucky we aren’t living “back in the day“. Come to think of it… so am I.  

Michael Vick’s statement following his guilty plea in U.S. District Court to a dogfighting conspiracy charge:

“For most of my life, I’ve been a football player, not a public speaker, so, you know, I really don’t know, you know, how to say what I really want to say. You know, I understand it’s – it’s important or not important, you know, as far as what you say but how you say things. So, you know, I take this opportunity just to speak from the heart. First, I want to apologize, you know, for all the things that – that I’ve done and that I have allowed to happen. I want to personally apologize to commissioner Goodell, Arthur Blank, coach Bobby Petrino, my Atlanta Falcons teammates, you know, for our – for our previous discussions that we had. And I was not honest and forthright in our discussions, and, you know, I was ashamed and totally disappointed in myself to say the least. I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts and, you know, what I did was, what I did was very immature so that means I need to grow up. I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player. I take full responsibility for my actions. For one second will I sit right here – not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I’ve done. I’m totally responsible, and those things just didn’t have to happen. I feel like we all make mistakes. It’s just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. And you know, those things, you know, just can’t happen. Dog fighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it. I’m upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that’s the right thing to do as of right now. Like I said, for this – for this entire situation I never pointed the finger at anybody else, I accepted responsibility for my actions of what I did and now I have to pay the consequences for it. But in a sense, I think it will help, you know, me as a person. I got a lot to think about in the next year or so. I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out in there in the world who was affected by this whole situation. And if I’m more disappointed with myself than anything it’s because of all the young people, young kids that I’ve let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model. And to have to go through this and put myself in this situation, you know, I hope that every young kid out there in the world watching this interview right now who’s been following the case will use me as an example to using better judgment and making better decisions. Once again, I offer my deepest apologies to everyone. And I will redeem myself. I have to. So I got a lot of down time, a lot of time to think about my actions and what I’ve done and how to make Michael Vick a better person. Thank you.”

Was Michael Vick sincere in his statement and apology? Was he just going through the motions of reading a statement scripted by his lawyers to say what the courts, NFL and public wanted to hear, in an effort to mitigate his sentence, suspension and rehabilitate his image? 

There is a lot of speculation and most of what I have heard in the media has been cynical. However, I will give Michael Vick the “benefit of the doubt”…. so to speak. I will believe that he was sincere in taking full responsibility for his choices and actions, and in his plea for forgiveness. I for one will wish him the best and hope that he will be successful in transforming his mind, values and spirit to become a much better Michael Vick.

More on responsibility, accountability and values.

I just bought a new set of books and my reading list is getting crazy. My wife is starting to comment on when will I get time to read all these books I’ve been buying, especially with a baby on the way in August. I’ve been spending a lot of time blogging over at AfroSpear and have neglected my reading and posting on this site.

As you can see I have transformed the look and feel of this page. It’s almost like a cleansing. I am now committing some time and effort to get into my reading list and post here more often. Here is my planned reading list:

Religious

  1. The God Delusion.  Richard Dawkins
  2. Epicenter.  Joel C. Rosenberg
  3. The Jesus I Never Knew.  Philip Yancey

 Psychology

  1. Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion.  Robert Cialdini
  2. Social Intelligence.  Daniel Goldman

 Afrocentric

  1. The Bluest Eyes.  Toni Morrison
  2. A Long Way Home.  Ishmael Beah
  3. Slave.  Mende Nazer
  4. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  5. Infidel.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  6. An Ordinary Man.  Paul Rusesabagina
  7. The Assassination of the Black Male Image.  Earl O. Hutchinson
  8. The Slave Community.  John W. Blassingame.

What are you currently reading and what do you plan to read in the next while?

Asa.    

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