Tag Archives: Booker T. Washington

Live in the Moment. Learn From History. Forge A Better Future.

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“The mere imparting of information is not education” – Carter G. Woodson

As I look up quotes about the future, there are a lot of people who say it in several different ways, but the gist is ….”Don’t look to the past or worry about the future…. live in the moment.” You know those quotes that I am talking about don’t you?

Because you can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, and so on, so it’s best to just go day by day. But the way these days are going since Trump’s inauguration, it’s been really hard to not worry about the future. You have supporters, in my opinion, blindly agreeing with anything to an absolute fault, and then you have angry non-supporters, in my opinion, who literally think we are the verge of WWWIV. Is it me or does that not seem like an exaggeration?

So today, I decided to bump thinking about right now, I want to think about the past.

Not necessarily looking into “better days”, but it is Black History Month. In my 3 years of blogging, I have never written a “black history” post. To some extent, writing about black history is over kill in February and I prefer to mention or write about past leaders and heroes when it is relevant to things going on and not just in a particular month. And people make this argument all the time. That black history should be celebrated every day or incorporated throughout the year in American History.

However, there is a place for separating out a time to celebrate black history just as it is important as to have a museum completely dedicated to black history. It is important for others, non-blacks, to learn our history, but it’s about more than that. The celebration of black history reminds black people that their lives matter, not to sound cliché. That years of slavery which completely ripped our families apart and tore our identities from us simply based on the color of our skin was wrong, and that we are meant for more.

Now, I am sure there are some people, even black people, who are out there thinking I shouldn’t focus on the negative. That we have “overcome” and “arrived” so dwelling on the past doesn’t improve anything.

So yeah….

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When people, and by people I am actually talking about experts, talk about trauma, there is this thing called generational trauma that we know is handed down, from generation to generation. When we look at Black Americans, this trauma didn’t stop at slavery. We haven’t had 200 years to “get over” it.

….Reconstruction happened…

…Jim Crow happened….

….The Civil Rights Movement happened….

…The crack “epidemic” and the mass incarceration of black lives happened…

….Then the first Black President happened….

I am just going to stop there, because we are still unpacking the last 8 years of the Obama presidency and what impact that will have on Black Americans. (i.e. Police and Race relations, the rise of hate groups, etc. )

Talk about some serious ish, and check this though… this is just a few of the popular and national things that occurred. Who knows of the struggles and successes that happened across America from the back woods to the larger cities? The role of the church, sports, the rise of the single parent household, and the list goes on. Because of these major events, we often talk about the resiliency of Black Americans to go through so many ups and down and still accomplish amazing things. So for me…learning about the lives of scientists, artists, writers, educators, athletes, mathematicians who broke barriers… I am here for it EVERY February. It’s cathartic. Because as a reminder for those who don’t understand, every time that I am mistreated or terrorized, because of the color of my skin, the trauma comes back to me subconsciously. That there is something about me that is wrong about the color of my skin, not because I believe it, but there will always be people who believe it and act on it.

For every mistreatment I experience, I am not being beat, harassed or killed but my ancestors experienced it in a way I could never know or imagine. Which means I started this blog all wrong about not being able to deal with the present. I can’t even begin to imagine what my ancestors had to go through day in and day out.

So yes, you can imagine if I feel this way about myself, I am very tired of people complaining about Trump all day and all night. It really is not accomplishing anything. Like at all.

As I sit here and write this piece, families across central and south Texas are experiencing raids from Federal immigration agents. Parents, who are here illegally in the country, do have some rights and have children in this country who are legal citizens. It’s hard not to see the correlation between these families and my ancestors. Separating children from their parents is an irreversible trauma that Black Americans are still dealing with so of course I wouldn’t want another family to experience this. Now, I know being in this country illegally is not ideal. I am not really here for that either, just like many other Americans, but we have to go about this is in a better way. We have to be better. The scariest part is that people are just denying that it is happening for no other reason than they just don’t want to believe the truth.

You can read about it here, here and here.

When you separate families, you never know if they will be reunited. History will be lost. Identities forgotten. Something that only Black History couldn’t magnify more by the stories of countless black heroes who don’t know their history.

A man, born a slave, freed upon emancipation, worked in salt furnaces and coal mines in West Virginia for several years to earn money. In 1872, he made his way east to Hampton Institute, a school established to educate freedmen and their descendants, where he worked to pay for his studies. In 1881, the Hampton Institute president Samuel C. Armstrong recommended this to become the first leader of Tuskegee Institute, the new normal school (teachers’ college) in Alabama. He led the institution for the rest of his life, more than 30 years.

This was Booker T. Washington. My favorite black history story. Attending Tuskegee University will always be the best years of my life. Being Black. Surrounded by Blackness. Learning enough Black History to last a lifetime. But there is a line in his famous book, “Up from Slavery”, that can be seen as insignificant, but rings a harsh truth to our history:

“Of my ancestry, I know almost nothing.”

As many other slaves who were free and forced to begin a life in a land stripped of their identity and heritage. It’s important to celebrate and learn our history, because for many of us, it is all the history we’ve got. And to build a better future, we must know our identity, who we are, to forge a better future.

M/P

This One is For the Home Team: Tuskegee

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“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Graham Greene, Ways of Escape

 I write often about what’s going in the larger society in our communities, whether it’s politics, feminism, the economy, race or a critique about the other million other things going wrong in our world.  But one thing I don’t write enough about is the black experience. Walking the halls of Tuskegee University, a historically black university, it was something that we talked about in several classes, and it was never taboo or inappropriate, it was just as important as every other subject, because after we graduated, and left the comforts of “home”, Tuskegee University, we would have to face the challenges of a world that was very different than the one we thrived in for 4 (or 5) years.

 The founder of Tuskegee University (formerly Tuskegee Institute), the great Booker T. Washington, would be proud, not only for the famous or successful alumnus that made it through, but for the magnetic sense of family his institution and legacy has created. What I talk about goes so deep that few people on the outside can truly understand, it’s richness, but I will share a little piece of our soul.

The black experience at Tuskegee University created a family in all of us, because you have to learn several lessons at Tuskegee.  Some of those lessons and experiences were good and others bad, but they continue to shape my life and grow the bond with the people who will forever be called my family.  About two weeks ago, our Tuskegee family, suffered a big loss.  We lost what some would call “The People’s Champ”, and I personally lost an old friend, Andrew Brown. Every loss is hard, but the hardest part of losing Drew is that he embodied the Tuskegee spirit, one of those people you were always going to look for at homecoming, and have a funny, sad or crazy story to talk about. And not just for his very close friends, but for many people who walked the halls during his time.

 And as much as I wish I could say this was the first time Tuskegee had taught me this lesson of loss, it wouldn’t be true. But the deeper lesson I learned besides loss, was learning how to  to fight even when you’re grieving with a loss, and I remember a time when I, Andrew, and large part of the Tuskegee family had to learn this lesson. There are so many memories written about Andrew over the last week or so, I figured I’d write another one. Because today, I write for a little therapy for my family, my Tuskegee Family, and for me, because sometimes, memories are all that you have.

During my four years at Tuskegee University, we lost a number of students, for a number of reasons, but there was one loss in particular that reminded me so much about our family and how tragic it was.  During the spring time, before I became the student-body President, I was the “President-Elect”, a Freshman member of the University Choir was tragically murdered off campus. The choir wanted to gather a few days after on campus to sing and pray in his remembrance. Due to an unsatisfactory school policy at the time, students weren’t allowed to gather unless paperwork was filled out 7 days in advance even if a tragedy occurred. (7 DAYS ya’ll, it was one of those very stupid “Tuskegee” rules I had come to love).  While I’m sure it had it’s place, we really did not need it at the time. And Tuskegee definitely taught us that tradition has it’s place, but sometimes you need to break the mold.

We had already been warned what would happen if the choir came together, they were to be broken up by the campus police. Some of the members of choir had already tried to get the paperwork rushed through and a few of my friends (Drew being one of them) had approached me about their options, but unfortunately our hands were tied.  But as true Tuskegeans would do, the choir members decided to congregate anyways. These next few moments run in my mind kind of like a movie, so long ago, you think, did we really have the guts to do that?

 So when the choir gathered, and the Police began to walk towards the crowd, I, Drew, and a couple other choir members jumped in to diffuse the situation. Drew had also been elected to be Mr. Tuskegee for the next year with me, and his passion for the university and the choir was self-evident. I can’t remember our exact words, but I know they were hurting, and we were having to deal with this bureaucracy crap. The choir did not get to do all they wanted that day, but we didn’t stop there.  After this incident was over the students were still upset and the policy was still in place. Instead of letting the policy stay the same, we acted.  I wrote the President of our University to fix the policy urgently and with my persistence, changes were made. What we didn’t know then, that our actions would make a difference. The following semester as student body President, another student died, if we had not acted when no one else had told us, the same thing would have ensued or something worse could have happened.

I tell this story now, because this experience had a lasting impression on me as I pursued my legal career. That was the first time I really got to FIGHT for what was right, for the stupid rules that we let run our lives. I write it, because I  don’t think anyone from the Tuskegee choir, Drew, and my other choir friends involved,  know how in awe I was in that moment for their spirit in that moment. (I forgot to mention that I’m pretty sure I told them NOT to congregate and follow the rules).

And that’s the lesson, Tuskegee has taught me with this loss of Drew.  We must take the time to talk about our stories, remember the good times and bad times, because you never know when they will end. Back in 2006, Andrew had lost an old friend, that he that he had fell out of touch with, and thought he was a bad friend; reading the messages where I told him he was good friend, and that he just had to make sure he was more diligent in the future with his friends, was hard to read. I gave advice to him, that I needed at the moment I heard of his loss. I had lost touch, and I felt like a bad friend. But hearing all the wonderful stories of Drew made me realize he was so diligent with his time with the people he cared about, that he did take the time with so many people, and I will take this lesson with me, and I hope you do too.

I want to end with a saying we coined in my final year at Tuskegee,  as a young 21 year old not knowing exactly what it would mean, but almost nine years later, it has been engrained into my individual experience at every step. I love my Tuskegee family:

“Your Story is My Story, We are Tuskegee, the strengths, the struggles, the successes, Make us who we are”.

The Monday Fits: Episode 5

What I am about to say may be coming from left field, and I may be totally out of the ballpark, but I just have a bone to pick and mostly with my fellow ladies. I wrote about Bill Cosby about 4 weeks ago, (click: here ), at the time, the allegations against Mr. Cosby felt like pure speculation.  But one thing that always puzzles me is when people say, “If the allegations were true,  they would have come forward sooner?”

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If you read the allegations, the details were so similar and particular to the point, why would someone make this up, but I understand, if they were true, why they wouldn’t come forward.  Bill Cosby would either have not be prosecuted or based on the details, any jury probably would have returned a not guilty verdict. The details surrounding being drugged adds a certain  fuzziness to the story that can’t be overcome. Therefore, it makes sense why some of these women did not come forward during the statute of limitations. Why accuse Bill Cosby when there’s not enough evidence to prove it, because they would be treated the exact same way they are being treated right now! Earl Ofari Hutchinson from the Huffington post summarizes this point well, “Cosby is the classic textbook example of how men who are alleged to commit rape routinely get away with it. Contrary to the non-stop slanders of his accusers, some did go to the police, attorneys, and their agents at the time he allegedly victimized them. But they quickly ran up against the wall of suspicion, indifference, and flat-out contempt and blame. Decades later when they again came forth little had changed. They have been hit with the same wall of suspicion, ridicule, snickers, and even wisecracks about their motives and morals.” (source)See, so don’t give me the, “since they didn’t come out immediately” it is not true. Most people would not believe them whenever they came out, before and now.

Now, I am a huge Bill Cosby fan, so a part of me still wants to believe this is all a dream. As the weeks have past, there has been more allegations, questionable information, and with Cosby’s silence, it makes it harder and harder for people, for me, to view Mr. Cosby in such a favorable light while others have a blind allegiance to him; and that’s my problem. We expect too much out of people who get paid to act, and in all fairness, to be a LIARs of sorts. Bill Cosby is not Cliff Huxtable, whether the allegations are true or not true, the character he played should not dictate real life. There is a part of us that believes, how could a man play such a wonderful family man, and not believe in the ideals, or he himself, be a family man. Give.me. a. break.people.

As that’s the problem I have with some of the responses by women and their defense of Bill Cosby and the condemnation of the women accusers. Just two years ago, we had a bunch of politicians, who were ALL men, who wrongfully talked about rape in very public settings, and each one of their political races ended tumultuously, because at the end of the day, they were talking about something they knew very little about, and were quick to make statements and give judgements about a very fragile topic thats happens to both men and women, but disproportionately to us ladies.

So for my ladies, I have been disappointed. I’ve read a lot of posts, that say, “You all still support Bill Clinton” , SNL jokingly compared him to “Kramer” (not funny, SNL), I even had someone from my alma mater, Tuskegee University go as far to defend Cosby by comparing the situation of the Founder of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, who was suspected to have died with a venereal disease among other suspicious actions. The comparison indicated do we think any less of Booker T, because of this information? Now, I am going to say this once:

Men who cheat, are sexually promiscuous, solicit prostitutes, womanizers, even chauvinistic pigs aren’t rapists. Rape is serious, and when men are so casual about it, it’s one thing, but it’s not okay when fellow women are so quick to brush it aside, and blame the female.  This is my opinion the true WAR ON WOMEN, we are fighting ourselves. ( I understand men are raped as well, but for the purposes of this post I’m talking to women). When I wrote my article previously, I would compare Bill Cosby ( if the allegations were true) to R-Kelly and Jerry Sandusky. We are talking about rape and it’s so much more serious, and then just a man who can’t keep “it” in his pants or only in his wife. I have no doubt that Bill Clinton might have preyed on Monica Lewinsky, but ultimately she made the hard choice many young women face, but she wasn’t forced. Paula Jones, say her allegations are all true, and Bill propositioned and exposed himself, she did walk out traumatized, I’m sure,  but he didn’t force himself on her and rape her.

So what do I think should happen when women hear about a woman who cries rape from a celebrity, just do nothing. You can love your celebrity or sports star without foolishly condemning a women if the situation were true or false, the reality is that there is a possibility she experienced something very traumatic that you hope you never have to experience. Why do women always support the man in a situation is our problem. It is why thousands of young girls, across the country continue to be raped on our college campuses, and the young men are going away scott free.

I look at the two sport stars in Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger. My bias in reading the allegations, I am more inclined to believe the allegations that were made against Ben are true, than Kobe Bryant. But when Kobe’s trial was going on would I have thought to bash the women victim, no, I just don’t get it. We talk about wanting to break glass ceilings, and people say we need to learn how to “Lean In”, maybe we’re having trouble, because we have a cowardice about ourselves. That somewhere in our psyche, we place men on pedestals who don’t deserve them. Of course the women who cries rape must be a promiscuous, money grabbing whore, versus being at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Why can we not think more  of ourselves. In each women accuser, I look inside and think what if it was me, before I immediately bash, maybe you should try it too.

Now Bill Clinton was accused of raping at least one young lady, during his early days as the Attorney General, and settled the case out of court.  Bill Cosby has been accused of rape 13 times, and still refuses to speak on it. Until he is man enough to come out, defend himself and deny the allegations, I would never call any of the accusers liars, because as a women they have exhibited a courage that I hope I never have to experience. Yet, many of the women have done just that, and they wonder why feminism still needs to exist, we  view ourselves as the weaker sex, and I have a problem with that.