Rude Awakening

Have you ever woken up from an amazing dream to a reality not so amazing? You know one where your deepest desires were playing out; you could feel, smell and taste it in your dream?

Well imagine that dream is freedom from slavery and attaining political power. In 1892 255 African Americans were lynched across the United States. The amount of lynchings that year were unprecedented.  The lynching of three Black men in Memphis, Tennessee had a significant impact on the life  and activism of Ida B. Wells. Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell and Henry Stewart  and were killed because they posed an economical threat on neighboring White business owners. The success of their business, the “People’s Grocery,”  breed deep resentment among White business owners. A group of White men attacked the store one night while a large group of Black men were present. Shots were fired and White men were injured. The local press went into a frenzy, slandering the reputations on the business owners. The three owners along with one hundred Blacks were charged with conspiracy. After being jailed, they were dragged out and killed. These events, as told by Paula Giddings in her book “When and Where I Enter,” (1996) were the “climax of ugly events.”

During the Reconstruction period many African Americans lived under a state of prosperity. This period brought great economical and political success. However this period was undercut by a backlash of oppressive laws in the South targeting Black people. The right to vote was systemically stripped away from Black men (women were still fighting for the vote) and there were no federal laws addressing racially motivated terrorism and murder. Segregation was not only a cultural norm, it was becoming the legal standard.  The advancement of a formerly enslaved people threatened the identities and status of many Whites in America. As a result, they struck back with terrorism and legalized oppression. However, many Blacks still had faith in the legal system charged with protecting the citizens of the United States. People actually believed that the terrorism wreaked upon Black communities was not endorsed by the state, that it was instead the product of resentment by poorer Whites. For Wells, the 1892 lynchings were a “rude awakening” (Giddings, 1996). These events led her to lead a full journalism assault and expose the false vilification and mass terrorism of African people in America.

Now that we have the brief history lesson out of the way, lets get to 2011. We still live in an age where folks believe in achieving the “American Dream”. We are also now living in times of prosperity for few and hardship for many. We live in times where the wealthiest 5% of Americans control over 60% of the wealth in this country. We have a Black president in the White House and over 2.3 million people behind bars. Over 40% of Black youth are unemployed and the rights of women are being used as political bartering tools. Civil rights are once again undergoing a systemic dismantling process. This time Black folks are not the only targets; the poor, non-male, non-Christian and non-economically stable are firmly under the gun. Just last week the Texas House voted to require all eligible voters to have ID in order to vote. This measure may seem small, but it will impact low-income and voters of color severely. Masked in false claims of voter fraud, the Republicans are; as young organizer I know says, “creating wars on issues that don’t exist.”

These fairy tale narratives of voter fraud are much like those used against Black men and women post-reconstruction. Black men were depicted as hyper-sexual brutes preying on White women. Black women were once again being painted as harlots out to seduce otherwise well-behaved White men. Those perceptions were used to justifying the systemic stripping of rights, resources and humanity of people.

The gospel of prosperity for all if we work hard enough and make sacrifices is another fairy tale being sold to the middle class.  What sacrifices are we asking to make while the countries largest corporation, General Electric, makes none? GE grossed $5.1 billion in US profits and paid not one cent in taxes. Something is wrong there.

To be blunt, the tactics of the political conservative are outright slick. They are launching an assault on the institutions and freedoms men and women fought for tirelessly through various social movements. It snuck up on some, but for those paying attention; it’s not a surprise. Democrats knew on November 4th 2008 that an assault was being readied. The voting machines weren’t even cooled before a plan was set in motion. We lost in 2010 and lost big. The Republicans now control the House and are working to pass legislation to demolish women’s reproductive rights instead of creating jobs for the nearly 14 million unemployed people in America.

The Memphis lynchings served as a catalyst for Ida B. Wells work as a lifelong activist and journalist. They sparked a fire that lead her to embark on an unprecedented and unmatched public education campaign to end terrorism against African Americans. Something close to home woke Wells up.

I believe many Americans are slowly waking up and realizing that the American Dream is an illusion, but we need more. The promises made by those who already attained material wealth are slowly revealing themselves as lies. Whether its the stripping of collective bargaining rights (unions) or the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people; American’s must awaken. Watching the revolutions of other countries and romanticizing over the change we want to make will get us nowhere. We have to decide what “change” and “progress” looks like and not just pay lip service. Not everyone will take to the streets, but everyone can do something.

If you are still sleeping, what would jostle you out of your sleep? What would it take to get you to act, to contribute? There is a lot at stake, my last question is, are you willing to wake up and see it?

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The War on (Black) Women

All war is based on deception

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

When you see the face of the little Black girl above, what do you think? When you read the words above her beautiful curly hair, how do you feel? When you think of Black women and their role in birthing the next generation, what do you invision; danger or an opportunity to build?

The billboard above was placed in SoHo, a neighborhood in New York City not heavily populated by Black people. After seeing it my first question was “why not Harlem or Brooklyn?” Basically why not somewhere where they KNOW Black people who live in New York City will actually see the ad? Well, I can take an educated guess; the ad wasn’t meant for Black women. It was meant to provoke reactions. It was also meant to galvanize people outside of the Black community, basically gain more troops. Fortunately the ad has been taken down. When I first read the ads caption, I thought about my body and why they felt it was the most dangerous place in the world. African women were the first to give birth into this world. How dare they shame us into believing we are less than because we have a right to choose? If the ad meant to empower and educate Black women, it wouldn’t have to attempt to shame us at the same time.

As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “All war is based on deception.”The war on (Black) women is no different. The use of deceptive and offensive images such as the one below from Atlanta, should be considered an act of war. Propaganda is an act of war. We have to see the bigger picture.

BUT these images are only one piece in an intricate web being tightly woven by the politically and socially conservative factions in America. The most recent attacks are hitting women through legislation and media campaigns.

The recent Republican to do list is heavy on reducing women’s rights and light on addressing the toughest economical issues we face today. Attempting to redefine rape is a higher priority than reducing the 16%+ unemployment rates in Black communities. Preventing a doctor from performing a life saving procedure when a woman’s life is at stake is more important than figuring out how not to close half of Detroit’s public schools.  As a Black woman deeply invested in my own freedom and the freedom of my people, I am simply appalled.

The all hands on deck assault of women can be found across the nation, on the state level and in the United States Congress. Click here to read a blog post by Executive Director of the Black Women’s Health Imperative giving a breakdown of the legislative battle ahead of us. House Republicans have already passed an amendment to defund family planning and reproductive services from providers such as Planned Parenthood. I personally remember going to Planned Parenthood as a college student to receive low-cost and quality healthcare services. The loss of their services and others would severly impact women.

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood is not the only provider lined up against the wall with weapons aimed squarely at their mission and services. The Republicans are also trying to cut Headstart, a federally funded preschool program for low-income kids, by 1 billion dollars. If you are a low-income mother depending on childcare through this program and POW it’s gone, what choices would you be faced with? Work to feed your kids and pay your bills or stay at home and depend on state services?

Definition of rape + Choice + Childcare = all things on the list of enemies for the politically and socially conservative faction aiming it’s weapons at women.

But we are not walking like sheep to the slaughter. We can, are and must act.

Since I’m not a 501 (c) 3 organization, I can say “Call your Representative and find out where they stand on these issues.” If they don’t stand on the side of women, tell them they need to reconsider and why. Click here to find out who represents you!

Like I said this is a war on women, and a war on women is a war on the future of this country.

Wanna know and do more? Check out organizations like Sister SongChoice USA, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Advocates for Youth.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below!