SILENCE = CONSENT

Posts tagged “education

Are You Afraid of My Blackness?

A young man I was mentoring called me to vent about what he perceived as a negative experience.  He was FURIOUS!!!  He was leaving a job interview in a building downtown when he was joined on the elevator by an older white woman.  Though he was professionally dressed, his “swagger” still seemed to show.

According to his account, when the elevator door closed the lady moved as close as she could on the other side of the elevator and clutched her purse, being sure to not make eye contact with him.  He said it was obvious she was afraid.  She honestly thought he would do something to her or try to take her purse.

He was livid that she would think that of him.  “Don’t nobody want that ol’ woman, her p***y, OR her dayum purse!” he said.  He rode the bus and walked home from his stop insulted that someone who didn’t even know him would thing that about him, and would make it known with their actions.

When he finished venting, I asked him to listen to what he told me.  I repeated, “The white woman got on the elevator. When the door closed, she retreated to the opposite side and clutched her purse. Why?  Because she was afraid of you.”

“Yeah”, he said.

I asked him, “when are you gonna realize the power you have?” When will you glory in the fact that as a young black man, your very presence is so intense that it intimidates people who aren’t as strong as you are, and it challenges their ignorance?”

“Dayum!  I didn’t think about it like that,” he responded.

Even though I was in a position to minister to him, this entire scenario was a lesson to me as well.  I should no longer view my blackness as a hindrance or curse. I should embrace and glory in it.  Hell, my blackness is more than beautiful…it’s downright powerful!   The fact that I’m a black man is a gift.  It’s a blessing.  It’s an honor that God saw fit to bestow.  It’s a reason to celebrate.  I also realized that my blackness is a call to responsibility.  The power that black men possess is one that should be used to bless the earth.  When I think of the intelligence and talent we possess, it makes me so proud to be who I am.  I just wish there were more black men who were vocal about their Black Pride.

The funny thing is how white people get afraid, offended and worried about black men having, vocalizing and displaying their pride.  It truly incites fear within their very souls.  I think that fear is a response to their internalized guilt for how we’ve been treated in the United States of Amerikkka.  I think Black Pride is such a bright light that it shows them their inferiority.  Maybe they are afraid because they know if we ever start to walk in all the greatness that lives within us, the white privilege bullshit will end, and the chickens will TRULY come home to roost.

It’s sad to think an entire generation of black men know nothing of their history.  They have no clue of the greatness that is manifested on the earth because of their presence.  I think knowing how Benjamin Banniker, a black man, contributed inventions that changed history would make them proud.  Knowing of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, black men, giving us literature that transcends time would get them excited.  To know how the athletic accomplishments of Jackie Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Arthur Ashe, Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan revolutionized sports forever is simply amazing.  To have knowledge of  Medgar Evers, Malcolm X,  Bayard Rustin, Dr. MLK,  and countless other civil rights icons would make them proud of their blackness.  To know of men like Thelonius Monk, James Cleveland, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince and countless others who personify musical excellence and genius, would be an inspiration.

Having the opportunity to mentor younger black men has helped me realize that we, as a black men, cannot allow the fear or ignorance of others to make us think negative things about ourselves.  We cannot allow anyone but us to define who we are.  We cannot accept what the media says about black men as our personal truth, but rather present such a positive and powerful image they can’t help but tell the truth we want told.

It’s time we get back to teaching our sons, nephews and cousins about the greatness from whence they come.  We have to embrace the beauty in our diversity.  We can no longer use the evil perpetrated by white men as an excuse to dwell in mediocrity.  We have to accept our blackness as a “something extra” that God gave us to succeed, whether white men are afraid of it or not.

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Open Letter to Pastor Xavier Thompson in Support of California SB 48

September 1, 2011

Southern Missionary Baptist Church

Attn:  Pastor X. Thompson

4678 WestAdams Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90016

Pastor Thompson,

I am writing you and the entire Southern Missionary Baptist Church family to express my concern about the misinformation that is being spread about California’s SB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act.  This act is important to everyone as it gives our children the opportunity to learn that every community has contributed to the greatness of our society in diverse ways.  Without this piece of legislation, we are all subject to our future being misinformed about the beauty of diversity.
When I look back over my own life and remember how in the public school system, I was taught that slavery “wasn’t all that bad” and being made to feel the contributions my ancestors made to our society weren’t really great, it makes me sad to think that there are African-American people like you and those you lead who would support the repeal of a law that makes that travesty the norm for our kids.  It’s reprehensible that African-American people would support this immoral and racist agenda under the guise of standing up for morality.

As for “sexualizing history”… sir, nobody has said anything about sex but you and those who support your crusade.  This law is CLEARLY about diversity in education.  It’s important that our children know that our African-American ancestors who were slaves were NOT savages who were saved by the good Christian white people.  They should know that the very Christianity you
preach and teach was forced upon our people after they were stripped their identity, language, culture, and religion so they could be controlled and enslaved mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  It’s important that our children know that their Blackness, their Latin heritage, their Asian culture, and any other culture they may represent is not something that should divide us, but it’s what makes us beautiful and it should be celebrated. NOWHERE in this law is sexual behavior mentioned.

Contrary to your statements about homophobia, your stance on this issue IS homophobic.  Homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexual people and the things related to theirlives.  It is also a fear that one may indeed be homosexual.  What’s so wrong
about our kids knowing that the organizer of the Civil Rights March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was not just black but a same   gender loving man?  What’s wrong with our children knowing that people who are different from them can also be good people who do great things that change the world?  Fearing that reality IS INDEED homophobic.  Not only is that, to think and perpetuate the notion that all there is to same gender loving people is what they do in their bedrooms ridiculous.  How dare we reduce an entire community to sex!  It’s like saying all black people do is play sports, eat fried chicken and watermelon, have children out of wedlock and drain the economy of its resources with their laziness.  Please remember that during the Reconstruction Era, black men were considered to be the greatest threat to white women, and black women were categorized as highly sexual.  Black people as a whole were once reduced to sexual stereotypes.

Your act of asking those who support SB 48 to leave your church meeting was not only bigoted, and irrationally fearful, but
anti-Christian.  When did Jesus (the one you are supposed to follow and imitate) EVER send anyone away from being close
to Him?  I can’t find that in any Bible that I read.  When did Jesus ever treat people that way?

My prayer for you is that GOD would open your heart and mind to see that what you are doing will have horrible consequences.  Without SB 48, what’s to stop the government from mandating that ALL education relating to anything other than “American”
(or white) people is inappropriate and should never be taught in the classroom?  What will that do to Native American History, Black History, Latin History, Asian History, being taught in the classroom?  Whether or not we believe it, or accept it there are gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersexed and same gender loving people within ALL those
cultures.  We all contribute greatness and beauty to our society.  Who are we to rob our children of knowledge of that reality?

As co-founder of the OpREBIRTH movement (www.operationrebirth.com), I would like to invite you to further discuss this issue.  We at OpREBIRTH are more than happy to have this conversation (not debate) with you in an effort to bring peace, heal this
divide, and to let the community know that we are more alike than we are different.  At the end of the day, we all want the same things… to be loved, to be respected, and to be treated with fairness and equity.  The only way we are going to grow as a people is if we stop being afraid of people who are not like us in every way.  Now is the time that we stop being manipulated into letting our differences be used to divide us.  We must stand together on the things that make us the same.  It would be foolish for an entire generation to perish due to lack of knowledge, as a result of the fears and prejudice of people who should be teaching them how to love.

Sincerely,

Tuan  N’Gai

Operation: REBIRTH


Random Violence or Revolution?

Over the past few days I have been really troubled to hear about the “flash mob violence” that isgoing on in Wisconsin and in Pennsylvania.  I’m troubled, not just because black youth are acting out and behaving very violently, but because of the media spin that is making it all look like horrible and violent black youth are randomly attacking innocent good white folks.

I don’t condone random unprovoked violence in any fashion.  But I must say I understand the reason why these young people are acting out in such a way.  I can see their frustration and their feeling of hopelessness.  Most of these kids have no stable home life.  They go to schools that have been stripped of music and arts programs.  They live in neighborhoods where there are no community centers or anything constructive for them to do.  Playgrounds are being torn down and parks are being closed. Their very existence is a reflection of what it is like to live in every form of poverty.  What alternative is there for them?

Having been raised in the south, I also understand what it’s like to be treated unfairly because of the color of your skin.  I know what it’s like to be made to feel like you are less than everyone else.  That makes angry after awhile.  To realize that no matter how good you are at anything, your options are few and your chances of living your dreams are slim to none could push anyone over the edge.

Do all these things excuse their actions?  Absolutely not!  Should the perpetrators of these violent acts be punished?  ABSOLUTELY!  But we have to understand that finding the guilty ones and punishing them does NOT solve the problem.  As a country, do we feel that treating the symptoms of a problem so we can say we did something is enough?  Do we even care about solving the real problem?  If we take care of the root of the problem, the symptoms will go away.

Or maybe the problem is deeper than that.  Maybe this is a forecast of what is to come.  Maybe the kids are acting out because they feel the only way they are going to get whatever they feel they deserve is to take it by force.  I mean, our country was built as a result of  violence, rape, theft, treachery and slavery.  Could it be that those seeds are finally springing up?  The very religion our country was supposedly built upon teaches that “whatsoever a man sows, THAT shall he also reap”.  I don’t know.  Maybe there’s nothing that can be done.  Maybe the damage is already done and we just have to live in the environment that was created for us by those who came before.

If the media is going to report on these types of stories, I hope they do so with true journalistic integrity.  I hope these issues are reported in a way that makes people think and inspire people to do what they can to change the situations causing the issues in the first place.  If the revolution is to be televised, hopefully it will be in such a way that all of us can learn something and not spun into something that is divisive and perpetuates the problem.


Operation: REBIRTH

Since 2004, I have been proudly working in social justice ministry.  Being the co-founder of Operation:  REBIRTH (www.operationrebirth.com) has been a joyous (and sometimes frustrating) labor of love.  Over the years, I’ve been blessed to meet hundreds of people, speak on countless panels, conduct workshops, appear at book signings and preach at churches all over the country.  I have been adamant that Operation: REBIRTH would not be an organization, but a movement whereby homophobia is defeated, and justice reigns for all people.

The first thing we did with Operation: REBIRTH was to call the churches who preach and practice homophobia to the carpet in hopes of creating dialogue that would bring the community together so much needed healing could begin.  We learned early on that as marginalized people, if we are ever going to make ground in claiming our rightful places we will have to work together to make it happen.  Unfortunately, the church seems to be uninterested in embracing diversity.  So, Operation: REBIRTH took the stance that we would support the LGBT affirming or “radically inclusive” churches to build.  Once again we found that in most cases, the affirming churches were more interested in building big churches vs. building strong communities.

So, here we are in 2011.  After years of not updating the O.R. website, we are still seeing thousands of hits per month.  We are still getting hundreds of emails from all over the world asking for support, pleas for prayer, and asking if there is anything we can do to help people gain momentum in their communities.  We are proud to say we have helped people and are still regarded as leaders in the fight to kill homophobia and injustice.  Me and my partner in crime are amazed that something started seven years ago is still relevant work.  And no matter how badly we wanted to just let it go and be whatever it has been, we can’t.  The need for Operation: REBIRTH is too great.  This is something that is bigger than we thought it would be.  The work is bigger than us.

So, as co-founder of this profound movement, I would like to reiterate that YOU are Operation: REBIRTH!  I also ask what are you doing… what work CAN you do to help take the movement further?  What can you do to make Operation: REBIRTH a living and breathing organism, and not just a website or group on Facebook?  And since “silence equals consent”, what is your voice saying?

I promised GOD that I would honor the ancestors and the loved ones I’ve lost over the years by fighting the good fight of faith by empowering as many people as I could to lift their voices and cry out against injustice or abuse in any form.  Join with me and countless others all over the world.  Together, we can continue the legacy of those who came before us and make the world a better place for those following in our footsteps.


Childish Things

When I was a child I spoke as a child, understood as a child, I thought as a child.  But when I became a man, I put away childish things.  Sometimes I wonder if putting away those things was the wisest thing to do, realizing now as a man, that the foundation on which I stand was laid for me when I was a child.  Sometimes I think if maybe I put away the wrong things, because as I grew, the adult things I now hold on to like excess baggage only make me wish for the childish things that I hid in the name of growing up.  If I only knew now, what I knew then, things would be much different.

When I was a child I spoke as a child.  I spoke from my heart.  I said what was on my mind.  The words that came out of my mouth were honest, because I was taught to always tell the truth.  I was encouraged to always ask questions, especially if there was something I didn’t understand.  But when the questions got too hard for grown folks to answer, or they thought the answer was something a child couldn’t handle, I was in trouble for having a smart mouth.  So I learned how to keep it shut.   And from fear of getting in trouble, I learned how to lie.  Speaking the truth and pursuing questions was a childish thing that when I became a man, I put it away.

When I was a child I understood as a child.  I understood from an early age that when I went to school I was different.  I enjoyed being different.  While other kids had long stringy hair, my lil afro was tight.  The skin given to me by Divinity was just as beautiful. I understood that I was just as intelligent and talented as everyone else. I understood that I was genuine and unique, and my uniqueness made me special.  I was proud and unashamed.  I also understood all too well why other little boys didn’t want to play with me.  I understood that being called a sissy wasn’t a good thing, so maybe my being so unique was God’s mistake.  So I put away all that pride, and learned how to hide myself.  I learned how to be what people wanted so they could be comfortable around me.  I understood very young that if I was to survive, my uniqueness had to be a secret.  Being proud of who I naturally am was a childish thing.  When I became a man I put it away.

When I was a child I thought as a I child.  I thought I could change the world.  Whether by non-violence like Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King or Ghandi.  Or like Malcolm X,  by any means necessary.    I thought I could make a difference.  I could be the First Black President, but Barak Obama beat me to it.  “Happily ever after” was mine I believed.  I don’t know when I stopped believing that.  Somewhere along the way I did, but after hard times, disappointments, and having my heart broken repeatedly, I learned that putting away this childish thing could be the death of me.   I couldn’t think what everyone else thought of me.  I’d have to guard my thoughts like I’m guarding my most valuable possessions, because my thoughts keep hope alive in me.  My thoughts make me who i’m supposed to be.  As a man thinks, so is he.

I shouldn’t have put away dreaming big dreams.  Now I fight to hold on to thinking good things.  I now know that love of God, self and others is something I should constantly build on instead of putting it away.

Now that I’m a man, I speak as a man.  I understand as a man.  I think as a man. The childish things were not to be put away, because they are the foundation on which my life I was meant to build.  Those childish things are what make me the strong man that I am.