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Freedom Summer Redux

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

In the wake of the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Summer Project or Freedom Summer, yesterday I was faced with showing my state issued identification to cast my ballot in the primaries. A flood of thoughts rushed my mind – from thoughts of listening to my grandmother speak about paying poll taxes to cast her vote to recalling many of the readings and audio and video images where Blacks and Whites alike stormed Mississippi so that people who looked like me could fully participate in this democratic society. And so, in the spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer, I dressed the part yesterday – put on my finest clothes and with my freedom in my hands (or in my pocket because that is where I keep my identification) – only to arrive at the precinct to be told I could not vote because the poll worker could not verify my residency – “can you show me your bills? Something that let me know you indeed live at this address?” As I recall, the state of Mississippi’s voter identification law is to verify that I am who I say I am – and that I am indeed listed on the books, so what’s the problem? The problem is the voter identification law can lead to voter suppression, can limit a people’s right to fully participate in democracy. Contrary to Fannie Lou Hamer, the law was on my side; he was corrected by an older white female poll worker…

We have indeed come a very long way in a very short period of time – 50 years – and there is still room to grow; still battles to fight, still hills to climb and victories to grab. The potential for voter suppression exists, and still we march, maybe not as before, but we march via social media, spreading the message through Twitter, Facebook, and any other media we can find. We march through the communities with information sessions, community and church meetings, we march, perhaps more behind the scenes, but the key is that we all continue to march toward freedom…

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“It’s been a while…”

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

As Staind puts it in their 2001 hit, “It’s been a while…since I first saw you.” It’s been a while since I last blogged, much and little has happened–all at the same time. Newtown, sequestration, Boston Marathon bombing, West, Texas fertilizer company explosion, and yet Congress continues to be in political gridlock . So much is happening and not happening. Jason Collins, Stanford alum and NBA journey big man, became the first athlete to come out while still playing in one of the four major American male sports. So much to do, so much to know, and these levels of knowing and understanding vary – some concerning our public safety, some for our sheer enjoyment. But today is meant to reintroduce myself back to the blogosphere.

And so I march on…

My Lights

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

 

 

It does not take much to become lost. When driving, especially without my Odessa (my handy dandy GPS), driving can be an adventure. As a college freshman or as a graduating college senior, my mom was inundated with calls, pleas, prayers from me–I needed to find my way. Being lost can be a very real and physical event, or being lost can be very philosophical.  

There are other ways where we could be lost, get lost, or lose sight of something: we can lose track of time; we can lose sight of the good things right in front of our eyes; we can get lost in work, family, or mind-numbing things; we can hideaway from the world–in effect, there are a varied of ways where we can practice the art of being lost.

No matter how I am lost or how deep in being lost I am, I always find my way back.  I find my way because of people; folk who, at times unbeknownst to them, shine light to my path–that could be a relative, a friend, a stranger, a child, or a colleague.

Two individuals, in particular, fit this bill.  They gave of themselves often and frequently. They sacrificed for countless others and me. In the last couple of weeks, Mississippi has lost two of its greatest state leaders in Senator Bennie Turner and Senator Alice Harden

According to now United States Representative Alan Nunnelee, “Bennie Turner had the ability to calm troubled waters better than anyone I served with in the Legislature.” Congressman Nunnelee continued, “Where ever I stood politically, I always respected his position.” Of Senator Harden, who became the first Black woman elected to the Mississippi state senate, Governor Phil Bryant said, “Having served in the Mississippi Senate for 24 years, Sen. Alice Harden was a pioneer for civil rights and a staunch supporter of public education.” When it was needed, between the two of them, trouble was averted, and instead, they brought with them reason, logic, passion, and a love to improve all of Mississippi.

These two may be viewed as great Black leaders; frankly, they were two of the best leaders to grace the halls of the Mississippi state legislature, regardless of race. They put the “public” in public service–because of their selfless service, they shone light to my path. No matter which side of the political aisle you may sit, we all would be remiss not to return the favor to these two champions: today I lift them up and shine light on the people behind the titles, the work, and the tireless sacrifices and demands that come with being a leader. Today I shine light to the legacies they leave behind. For without them, we would be meandering and wandering aimlessly—they shone lights to all of our paths.

“He did smile and laugh…”

In Uncategorized on September 11, 2012 at 1:15 am

Tulane’s football coach Curtis Johnson gave reporters an update on his senior defensive player Devon Walker. On Saturday, Walker broke his neck in a head-to-head collision with a teammate against Tulsa. After visiting with Walker, Coach Johnson said “he did smile and laugh.” Those are encouraging words. Devon, through adversity, found it in him, found it in his faith, to smile and laugh through the pain and the unknown he is experiencing.

We face adversity and challenges of different sizes, shapes, and magnitude. On this 11th anniversary of 9/11, I think about the adversity and great loss we experienced that day. Some of us experienced loss more personally and more intimately than others, but we, as a country, lost something that day. And some 11 years later, we remain steadfast and resilient despite adversity. We remember. We fight for healing. We somehow smile and laugh. This is our way to claim the love, memories, and peace, for our understanding will soon arrive.

Many prayers to you Devon as you recover. And many prayers to the victims and their families as we commemorate 9/11.

“It’s On”

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

The fresh crisp air; fall is quickly approaching and yep, football is back. The bruising, the punishment, the gasp, oohs and ahhhs, the unbelievable, the remarkable, the “catch of the year” in the first game of the season. It is time for the unexpected, the protested, the “can you believe that just happen?” Through it all, football embodies the excitement, entertainment and thrill that keep me coming back for more. Yep, or wait, is that politics? Last week was the Republican National Convention, this week the Democratic National Convention. Head-to-head action, bruising blows, half-time adjustments, strategies and games.

This week’s DNC, one question, can it outdo Dana Owens’ (aka Queen Latifah) singing the national anthem??? Therefore, it begins, the jostling, the maneuverings, the back and forth. What can Romney do for you? Can you afford another 4 years of Obama?

The sports enthusiast in me loves it; the realist in me understands that this is not a zero-sum game. Moreover, the future has never looked so bright or bleak, depending on whom you listen to. And so, we will watch for the illegal hits and contact. We will watch the replacement refs with keen eyes. But when it comes to the vote, we can ill afford to watch with keen eyes alone: watch, educate, and act. Regardless of your views, in this representative democracy that makes us so great, we employ politicians. Let us not lose sight of the prize: preserve democracy, preserves our voice.

Carpe Diem

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 at 2:12 am

Timing and opportunity. When they meet, what a show, an event to remember. Timing and opportunity, there’s much to be said about them. Timing and opportunity. Recall President Obama being heckled during an address to Congress? Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina stated that he allowed his emotions to dictate his actions. Rep. Wilson saw an opportunity to express his frustrations with the President’s policies. Whether the timing was right remains up for debate. What about Tim Tebow? Impeccable timing and opportunity. The sports fanatic that I am, I caught a glimpse of the ESPY’s, of which then Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (now of the New York Jets) and his former wide out teammate Demaryius Thomas won an award for Best Moment of the Year. Last season, the duo hooked up for a game winning touchdown in overtime. Talk about seizing the time or the moment and opportunity. Carpe Diem!

My mentor and political analyst Marty Wiseman often says, “Kesha, politics is a blood sport. It is the game within the game, and I don’t like being apart of it. I want to have tickets for a ringside seat though.” He’s right. There is competition, training, gamesmanship, and strategy involved. Seize the day, take hold of the moment, and that’s exactly what Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney did yesterday at the NAACP’s annual convention in Houston. He effectively got the dialogue focused on race, particularly Blacks and President Obama’s responsiveness or lack thereof, according to some analysts, to Blacks. Specifically, the question has shifted to “Are Blacks better off today than they were prior to President Obama taking office?” The Reagan question, but now posed on a much smaller scale and aimed at Blacks because President Obama is himself Black.

The premise is: First Black president = Black improvement. Representative democracy at its core. I think the greater question should be: How has America fared since President Obama’s election? Romney stated that he is the better choice for President, asserting “If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him…You take a look!”

Candidate Romney took the opportunity to continue the momentum from the revelation that he outraised President Obama again. Romney seized an opportunity to turn the tables on the President. President Obama has not attended an NAACP convention since 2009. Candidate Romney questioned the President’s civil rights report card. Citing education as the civil rights issue of today, Candidate Romney is looking to seize the opportunity to recruit Blacks to the Republican Party at a time where unemployment among Blacks is 14.4 percent, compared to the national average of 8.2 percent. In 2005, Black unemployment under President George W. Bush dropped to 9.4%, which was lower than the average of 10% under President Clinton. Black unemployment rates under those presidents doubled that of whites.

Briefly: through relative economic good times, Black unemployment still is roughly doubled that of whites. And during economic bad times: Blacks and other racial minorities unemployment rates are further exacerbated. Thus, as America struggles, we all struggle; when America succeeds, we all, relatively speaking, experience success.

Candidate Romney encountered boos–the timing and opportunity–well, let’s say, if he becomes President-elect, it is just a warm-up act of possible things to come—boos have no race nor party identification, and clearly the precedent has been set. What has been clear since President Obama’s election, political vitriol has increased, from top to bottom (leaders to citizens). Democracy is not meant for the faint of heart (I wish that statement belonged to me, but see Michael Douglas in the American President), but when we battle ourselves, we further divide. Through heckling and booing, the issues remain, can we take this moment in history to Carpe Diem!?!

Tokenism? Or the First of Many?

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm

On the election of Fred Luter, Jr. as the first Black President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), columnist Jena McGregor opined that “tokenism is a risky approach to choosing leaders, but that hardly seems to be the case here. By all accounts, Luter is an exceedingly successful, charismatic and motivated leader of his church who happens to be black.” Luter, pastor of the Franklin Baptist Avenue Church in New Orleans, a predominant Black congregation, now is tasked with stemming the declining SBC membership, while also developing a strategy that would result in the SBC becoming more racially and ethnically inclusive.

An estimated 20 percent of SBC’s membership base is minority. Luter, “a former street pastor,” is no stranger to the problems that challenge the SBC. In 2005, his church, which was one of the largest in Louisiana, was decimated by Hurricane Katrina. At one time boasting some 7,000 members, post-Katrina, Luter saw his congregation dwindle to 50 or 60 members. With some patience and time, Luter has been able to get his membership base up to about 5,000.

There is something about Luter. People seem to be attracted to his personality, his style, and persona. SBC is hoping that his election is not viewed as a token attempt of bridging a racial divide, but viewed as a concerted attempt of reversing the SBC’s image and failed attempts of reaching across the divide. Luter anticipates on developing a pipeline of leaders of varying races and colors; this commitment also coincided with the convention adopting an alternate name–the Great Commission Baptists.

Is it irony, faith, or happenstance that the largely socially conservative SBC has elected its first Black president in the year that the United States first Black president is up for reelection? It is safe to say that Luter is blazing a trail, one that SBC hopes will yield significant returns.

Timing is Everything

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Whether you believe in God, Nature, a spirit, or whatever you so choose, at some point in time, we have asked to receive our heart’s desire. Seemingly, when we least expect it, our wildest dreams are fulfilled. The question is: when we do receive it, are we prepared to be the receiver of such gifts, information, talents, etc.? Tonight, the Charlotte Bobcats are hoping, that after a horrific (and may I remind, a lockout shortened) season, their time is now–getting the top pick in the 2012 draft (and with it may come Anthony Davis). Yesterday, the timing was right for Virginie Razzano, defeating Serena Williams in the first round of the French Open.

When the timing is right, there are no questions asked, you just know you are supposed to be at that place and time on that day. For Mississippi, the time is now; we are at a crossroads, where elected leaders, parents, teachers and administrators, health professionals, and communities are coming together to address the high teen pregnancy rate. For the timing is only right–school districts must decide whether to continue on with an abstinence-only program or abstinence-plus. Mississippi school districts are split over how to approach the subject, but what we do know is that the time is now–how will we capitalize on the opportunity, the moment, the instant that we have all asked for–how do we stop our children from having children?

For more information, please visit Mississippi First.

Next…

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

I distinctly remember the day that my basketball idol, Magic Johnson, announced that he contracted the HIV virus. That was 1991. In my house, and I suspect many other homes, when I got “the talk,” it definitely did not include HIV or AIDS. But as time would illustrate, HIV and AIDS would take center stage as Ryan White put a uniquely different face to the disease–challenging the notion the disease was a gay disease. As unfortunate as Ryan’s circumstance was, I attribute Ryan White’s trials and struggles to opening that dialogue between my mother and me. And as did Ryan, Magic challenged that dialogue, and again changed the face of HIV and AIDS.

I can recall the television specials, Salt N Pepa’s song “Let’s Talk About Sex,” but it was one Hydeia Broadbent who left an indelible mark on me. I remember wanting to hold her to tell her, it will be “ok,” and that “life was not fair,” and then I got angry and cried my eyes out. But while I saw the pain in her face on that Nickelodeon special, Magic comforted her (and I thought she brought him some peace and comfort with his recent diagnosis) and there I saw the possibility of living and educating others.

Since then, the face of HIV is disproportionately Black. According to CDC’s November 2011 news release, “African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States (US). Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths.” And while the statistics keep mounting, more generally, the statistics reflect that behavior is not changing. In an opinion piece, Stacey Latimer asks a very simple, yet poignant question: “The question remains, why does HIV/AIDS have such a stronghold in the African-American community?” His response: “The answer is as complex as the forces that fuel its spread. We live in one of the richest, most powerful countries in the free world, yet we have been absolutely powerless in ending poverty, illiteracy, classism, racism, oppression and ignorance…The weight of the evidence, from my perspective, suggests the virus is spreading due to the dehumanizing force of homophobia. I believe that homophobia is perpetuated by fundamentalist religions which refuse to operate in Agape – a divine, unconditional love…”

And so, for Blacks and Black clergy, where to go now? Is teaching abstinence the best way? Most recently, with President Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage, only to be followed by the NAACP announcing same-sex marriage as a civil right, the dialogue became increasingly complex. At its core, fundamental religious views are brought front and center, from discussing homosexuality, premarital sex, children born out of wedlock, HIV and other STIs, the social and religious context converge to perhaps fuel the next great movement in the Black community, in the Black church in general, not too dissimilar from the Civil Rights Movement–instead march for education, empowerment, and embracing. Would Jesus do that?

Starting Over

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

Starting over sometimes require hard work; then again, it can be effortless. Starting over may come after a significant loss or unintended consequences or it can be carefully planned. Starting over inevitably suggests new beginnings and with these new beginnings come many emotions and even a few suitcases. Starting over for North Carolina’s Governor Beverly Perdue has come at a little expense: controversy. Following the passage of Amendment One, a ballot measure defining marriage between one man and one woman, Governor Perdue responded “It’s wrong for North Carolina, clearly, clearly and simply…People around the country are watching us, and they’re really confused. To have been such a progressive, forward-thinking, economically driven state that invested in education and that stood up for the civil rights of people, including the civil rights marches back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s — folks are saying, ‘What in the world is going on in North Carolina?’ We look like Mississippi.”

Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant did not hesitate to stand up for his state: “To be able to use Mississippi in a disparaging way on a popular vote in her own state is, I think, something that’s certainly petty and something I think she will reflect on and hopefully apologize for those types of remarks.” Governor Perdue, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election. And so starting over in this instance means for many starting over with the fight to recognize same-sex marriage as a civil right. For North Carolina, Governor Perdue was correct, they were a bit more progressive, especially compared to such states as Mississippi. Starting over comes in many forms, shapes, and sizes…

Starting over…we all do it, the seasons change and for North Carolina starting over, many argue that there will be unintended consequences to such a law. In starting over, opponents to Amendment One also argue that they will continue to fight. In starting over, proponents of Amendment One see the preservation of morality and a fundamental religious right, and no matter where you sit on this issue, the proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage alike will start over with the campaigns and slogans. And so it continues: is same-sex marriage or providing gays and lesbians with civil liberties the next civil rights movement? And so it continues…in another state, I think Minnesota, you are next.