MLK Day

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and inspired by the FANTASTIC episode of Black-ish this week, I wanted to post the entire transcript of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and highlight the parts I think have been conveniently glossed over. I feel like the history books have whitewashed both Dr. King and his words in an effort to make him “more palatable” and erase his legacy of radicalism. People who say things like “I agree with Dr. King’s type of protest but I can’t support rioting” miss the entire point when it comes to the revolution he lead. And let me tell you, that revolution is not over. “Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance” — quote from someone not me. So enjoy reading this and feeling uncomfortable as we look forward to this weekend, and also to the inauguration of that one guy America elected to office a couple months ago who ran his entire campaign on hate. Cheers everybody.

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I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

 

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

 

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

 

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

*Taken from AmericanRhetoric.com

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Powerful and Divine

Alright sooooo this year I decided to be a witch for Halloween. Technically I decided last year, but how far in advance I come up with my costume ideas is a separate issue.

I wanted to be a witch because I feel like the traditional idea of a Witch as we know her was born out of a patriarchal society’s basic fear of women. **steps up onto soapbox, clears throat** Fear of their power and sexuality, primarily. I think a “witch” is actually just the image of a woman who has a strong sense of her Self, owns and inhabits her own body/sexuality, is maybe unbound by familial ties, is definitely unconcerned with being palatable to men, and is deeply/spiritually connected with the earth and nature. She has nothing to prove to you or anyone else, you know? Witches are the antithesis to a puritanical, male-dominated culture, so obviously I was like, YUP. Found my costume.

I also liked the idea of taking a basic concept for a costume and giving it more interesting execution, so in wanting to keep away from the archetypal representation of a witch (hook nose, green skin, pointy hat), I decided to go with a look that was informed more by pagan European and Yoruba tribal traditions. Kind offfff nodding towards the duality of and tension between my Nigerian and American identities, but it’s like whatever. I wanted my witch to be earthy and dreamy; alluring but also like she might kill you without laying a hand on you or saying a word, you know? Normal witch shit.

My beautiful friends Madi and Steph were kind enough to take pictures of me as I traipsed and at times stumbled (#SixInchHeels) across Kate Sessions Park. You can see my favorite ones below, and at the end I’ll detail where I got different elements of my outfit. Hope you love it!

“…To reclaim the word ‘Witch’ is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful; as men, to know the feminine within as divine.” – Starhawk


Dress: NastyGal | Shoes: Zappos | Crown: Michael’s/My Friend Kara’s Genius | Temporary Henna: Etsy | Nails: Hello Birdie Nail Salon

Beyoncé, the Black Panthers, the KKK, Police Brutality, and Slavery

First of all, I feel like I need to apologize for not posting last week. I’m sorry guys, it’s been a bit of a rough go. Maybe I’ll write something beautiful and poetic about it when it’s over, maybe I’ll just create the largest pile of empty wine bottles the world has ever seen, who knows? I’m not gonna limit myself. But in any case, I’m sorry, and I promise it won’t happen again unless I’m like dead or something. In which case, we got bigger fish to fry, ya know?

Now onto the order of the day: Beyoncé. (duh)
A lotttttttt of people were mad about her newest video for “Formation” and subsequent Super Bowl Halftime performance where she dressed her dancers like members of the Black Panther Party.
“It’s anti-police!” they said.
“She’s using racist imagery!” they said.
“What if a white performer had gone out there with dancers in white hoods and cloaks?! There’s a double standard!” they said.
*SIGHHHHHHHHHHH* okay y’all.

Let us begin with the definition of racism. Racism describes a system, say it with me, a SYS-TEM of power in which certain groups of people are purposefully disadvantaged based on their race. It is not limited to just the belief that some races are better than others, though that is included. Some might argue that the definition I’ve presented is not the “dictionary definition” of the word, to which I would ask, as Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum did in her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, “Who wrote the dictionary?” *sips tea* Sociologists are using the systemic definition of the word, and since they’ve actually studied this shit, I’ll take their word for it. Tim Wise actually describes it perfectly in this handy-dandy little FAQ about racism, I highly recommend reading it.

Okay, so racism is a system of power. In this system, certain groups have been given more power because of their race (we’ll call them the dominant group) which means that other groups of different races have been allotted less power (the subordinate group). Because of this set up, and the definition of racism that we discovered earlier, it is impossible for members of the subordinate group to be racist. Please hear me. IMPOSSIBLE. Can they be prejudiced? Yes! Assholes? Certainly! A combination of the two? 100%! But to be racist means to be in a position to wield the power. And members of the subordinate group will never have that power to wield, unless they somehow become the dominant group. (Also quick side note here: “dominant” does not mean “increasing in number”. Just because non-white populations are increasing does not mean that they now wield more social power – look up “Apartheid South Africa” for more on how numbers mean nothing in that regard. Had to clear that up for all you “In 2030 white people will be the minority!” assholes. Shut up.)

This is not to say that all members of the dominant group are doing better than all members of the subordinate group. As Fox News loves to remind us, Jay-Z is rich, Oprah is one of the most influential people on earth, and our president is black. I’ll even throw myself into the mix, I’ve experienced certain privileges that some white people, perhaps in a lower socioeconomic class, have not. As with literally any other thing, there are no absolutes. But there ARE overwhelming trends that point to the existence of a system of power in which certain groups of people are purposefully disadvantaged based on their race. The election of President Obama does not negate the fact that if you drive through most American communities, the richer neighborhoods are predominantly white and the poorer neighborhoods are predominantly black and Hispanic. Oprah’s success does not annul the fact that black and Hispanic men are incarcerated at an alarmingly higher rate than their white counterparts. There are success stories, but those stories in no way undermine the existence of racism, which again by definition cannot be inflicted by the subordinate group upon the dominant group.

So I don’t know if you guys know this but Beyoncé is black (SNL has a really great skit about it if you need to get caught up). All of her dancers were black. The Black Panthers were black. So already, if you’re sitting on your couch saying something about how the Black Panthers were racist, or Beyoncé is racist for dressing her dancers like the Black Panthers, you’re wrong. You’re already wrong. If you don’t understand why, please return to the top of this post and begin again. To say that dressing up as a Black Panther is the same as donning the white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan is again, WRONG. And not just “this is my opinion” wrong, I mean “2+2=5” wrong. Lacking factual support. The Ku Klux Klan is a TERRORIST ORGANIZATION founded on the premise of White Supremacy. They got together way before the Black Panthers (WHICH SHOULD REALLY TELL YOU SOMETHING) because they felt like black people should still be owned as property and now that we weren’t, we were ruining “their” country. To “fix” that, they lynched, shot, beat up, or bombed us at any chance they got.

The Black Panthers, by contrast— look, I’m just gonna straight up grab a quote from Wikipedia, zero shame: “the Black Panther Party’s core practice was its armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the behavior of police officers and challenge police brutality in Oakland, CA. In 1969, community social programs became a core activity of party members. The Black Panther Party instituted a variety of community social programs, most extensively the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and community health clinics.” Let me paraphrase: The Black Panthers were created because they were like “We’d like the police to stop killing us” (sound familiar?) “so we’re gonna create an armed patrol to defend ourselves. Hey while we’re at it, why don’t we feed some poor kids?” That was it. And of the two (the KKK and the Black Panthers), guess which one was called a threat to national security and got disbanded by the government? Hint: it wasn’t the white guys. #America.

I think the most difficult critique of Beyoncé’s performance for me to understand though is the claim that it, or she, is anti-police. LOL pardon? As I saw on Tumblr the other day, “If ‘Stop killing us’ is anti-police, what is pro-police? ‘Keep killing us’?” It’s a good goddamn question. Shouldn’t we all be weary of the unnecessary killings of unarmed black men? Shouldn’t we all want to check police brutality? Shouldn’t the police themselves be included in that group?

Honestly the issue goes beyond all of this. It’s bigger than Beyonce or the KKK or the Black Panthers or police brutality. The issue is slavery, and America’s piss poor job of reconciling her history. The book I’m reading right now is called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and it’s based on the importance of becoming an emotionally mature human being so you can form healthy relationships with God and all your friends. Chapter 5 is called “Going Back In Order To Go Forward”, and talks about how in order to be emotionally mature, you have to deal with your past. In order to deal with your past, you have to not only look at it but dive into it. Examine all of the painful parts of your history and draw connections to how those painful parts might be affecting your present behavior and relationships. Let me tell you, it’s not fun. No one wants to talk about how their alcoholic father got when he was angry, or how much they struggled making real friendships because they moved so often, or how their mother abandoned them. But unless you learn about yourself and your history and connect the dots when it comes to the present, you’ll be doomed to repeat it (surprise plot twist!) You’ll continue to be unable to form close relationships, or not understand why you can’t get your anger under control. And looking at your past doesn’t mean you dwell there, nor does it mean that once you’ve done it, you’ll be “cured”. Overcoming our baggage is a lifelong process, so much so that I don’t even like the word “overcoming” there because that’s impossible. More like “working with”. It will never be gone but learning to deal with it will make you better.

I don’t think this concept is far off the mark when it comes to America. There is this AWFUL history behind us and we don’t want to look at it. Sure we teach about slavery in schools, but it’s for like a week and at the end of it we get graduates who think the KKK and the Black Panther party are the same thing, or if you’re in the South, people saying things like “I mean, was slavery really THAT bad? People were taken care of!” I mean the confederate flag is still everywhere – EVERYWHERE. And people maintain that the Confederacy was created and the Civil War was fought over taxes and states’ rights, despite the Vice President of the Confederacy’s OWN QUOTE stating “Our new [government’s]… corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” Like if anyone knew what the Confederacy was about, it would have been that guy. And his government’s flag is currently still being sold as an iPhone case on Amazon.

There has been such great effort put towards underestimating, rationalizing, and brushing off America’s racism problem instead of facing it. Diving into it. Understanding the many painful parts of it so we stop triggering each other. And much like personal baggage, our country’s baggage is not going to go away. There will never be a time when we won’t live in the shadow of slavery, when it won’t inform every interaction between white people and black people. But ignoring it makes it worse. Contrary to idiotic belief, talking about racism doesn’t somehow “increase racism”. To be honest I can’t even find the logic behind that sentence and I’m too tired to try. But I have seen in my own life that talking and learning about my baggage has made me better. And again, it’s uncomfortable. It’s going to take a lot of listening when you want to yell, vulnerability when you want to be defensive, and open mindedness when you want to be myopic. But we have to go back to go forward, and we we have to look back to heal.