Reading the headline announcing the death of iconic, trailblazing journalist Gwen Ifill made me nauseous. Although I’ve never met her, I felt as though I’d lost another family member. I loved watching her on television. Whether she was delivering the news, on moderating a debate or commenting as a panelist, Gwen Ifill was the consummate professional. Ifill was the journalist I wish other journalists modeled nowadays. I would be less than honest if I didn’t share that I was proud when I saw her on television. She was a rarity as black and female in nationally televised news dominated by white males. Cool. Calm. Collected. Prepared. Thank you, Gwen Ifill. Job well done.
Enjoy this speech, in video and text, by Donovan Livingston, Ed.M.'16, student speaker at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 Convocation exercises. Instead of a traditional speech, he chose to communicate via spoken word and he is awesome.
“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — I couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we have never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering
In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —
Like tokens in coined phrases? —
There are days I feel like one, like only —
A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.
But, hey, I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.
Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.
With a passion that transcends the confines of my own consciousness —
Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.
I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,
With veins pumping revolution.
I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.
I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.
And a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like my mind
Cannot be contained.
As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
Unencumbered by the lumbering weight
Of poverty and privilege,
Policy and ignorance.
I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put all of your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are the ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.
To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.
I look each of my students in the eyes,
And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt
And the pyramids of Giza.
I see the same twinkle
That guided Harriet to freedom.
I see them. Beneath their masks and their mischief,
Exists an authentic frustration;
An enslavement to your standardized assessments.
At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened right here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — searching for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their true potential from right where they stand.
An injustice is telling them they are stars
Without acknowledging the night that surrounds them.
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.
Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been the Black hole in a classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light to escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
So no — no, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
UPDATE: Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for the inappropriate use of Jewish religious symbols during the coronation ceremony at New Birth.
I finally saw the controversial video of Bishop Eddie Long being anointed a king at New Birth Church in Lithonia, GA. Rabbi Ralph Messer who is unlike any rabbi I’ve ever met or even seen conducted this anointing or coronation ceremony.
You have to watch the video to see the show and that’s exactly what it was. At one point Long is wrapped in a torah. He is also seated and in chair, lifted and carried by four men as if he is on a throne. The sight is amazing; I understand why there was so much controversy.
I have largely not taken a public position on Bishop Long’s challenges of the sexual scandal or his marital strife. I can only say that this latest “crowning” incident does nothing to help him in the eyes of reasonable, prudent individuals. This is just sad and disgusting.
Moreover, since this crowning ceremony used sacred symbols of the Jewish religion, an even larger audience of religious practitioners offended by his actions will now form opinions about Long’s troubles --- and not in a good way.
By the way, Bishop Eddie Long is now king of what?
Today is Juneteenth. The Republican Party of Florida sent out the message below regarding the celebration:
Republicans Herald "Juneteenth" And The End Of Slavery
Tallahassee - Representative Jennifer Carroll, Chairperson of the Republican Party of Florida’s African American Republican Leadership Council, and RPOF Chairman Jim Greer today released the following statement regarding "Juneteenth," a celebration recognizing June 19, 1865, the day the last American slaves learned that they were free:
"'Juneteenth' is a celebration of the day when the last remaining slaves received word that President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, resulting in their freedom. As the Party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party of Florida is built on the foundation of freedom, and this principle is as important to us today it was so many years ago, when President Lincoln helped to found the Republican Party as the anti-slavery party," said Representative Carroll. "Over 140 years, we have championed these convictions. From the Civil Rights laws of the 1860s to the landmark 1954 decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, which called for the end of segregation in public schools, the Republican Party has always been an advocate for civil rights."
"Republicans are still spearheading reform today, including efforts to increase access to homeownership among African Americans, provide quality education for all children, and ensure strong support for small businesses. We are proud to share the same core beliefs of lower taxes, less government, and more freedom as many African American families, and this is why we will continue to fight for the African American vote," said Chairman Greer.
That is a very nice message but what does it really mean when leading Republicans such as Rush Limbaugh continue to spew hatred and treason in this country? And what does it mean when GOP activists such as Rusty DePass feel comfortable openly insulting first Lady Michelle Obama?
Is the GOP finally getting it? Rep. Jennifer Carroll, my sorority sister, is a very attractive black woman. Is she the face the GOP want us to envision instead of Rush? There's a lot more work to do to overcome the damage some Republicans have done. I guess this is a move in the right direction for Florida but action speaks louder than words.
Former Colorado U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo ignited controversy here in Miami almost three years ago with his characterization of the area as a third world country. He made other statements that were far from complimentary and let's just say things got ugly. He's now surpassed that deed bycalling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist because she is a member of the Latino civil rights organization, La Raza. He went on to equate La Raza to the "KKK without the hoods or the nooses."
La Raza chief Janet Murguia disputed Tancredo's description of the organization and refuted his translation of the group's name and motto among other things.
Many people incorrectly translate our name, "La Raza," as "the race." While it is true that one meaning of "raza" in Spanish is indeed "race," in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, "La Raza" means "the people" or "the community." Translating our name as "the race" is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. "Hispanic" is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.
The term "La Raza" has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as "the people" or, according to some scholars, as "the Hispanic people of the New World." The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world's races, cultures, and religions. Mistranslating "La Raza" to mean "the race" implies that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, "La Raza Cósmica," meaning the "cosmic people," was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.
Tom Delay adds to the mayhem and foolishness and injects the name of LULAC. Hmmm...
Too many people in America seem to have lost their minds and it’s not even summer yet. Every couple of days we hear of a murder somewhere in America and that is very discomforting.
We’re not talking gang violence but murder-suicides, ambushing of police officers, murdering hostages and robbery-homicides.
Heck that father taking his nine year-old daughter on his robbery of a convenience store and the elderly female who’s been robbing banks are a sign of the times. It’s a shame that folks have been forced to such levels of desperation. Americans are not accustomed to such struggle and sacrifice as this economy has imposed upon us.
It is crucial that we are more attentive of the moods of our family, friends and co-workers. These are desperate times and far too many have resorted to crime because they don’t have money to pay bills and other necessities. Not being able to provide for family makes many, especially men, feel worthless.
The sad reality we are faced with is that we must be aware of the personal casualties of our economic downfall. Innocent people will become collateral damage and in some instances little can be done to prevent such actions.
We can talk gun control and other measures but there are no 100% preventive measures available now. We can and should pray this crisis is lifted soon and then pay more attention to signs of mental stress in our family and friends. Be safe and not afraid.
"I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned with that now. I just want to do God's will." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is the 41st anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Several streets are closed here in Miami and his son Martin III spoke at a gathering today. I tried but I wasn't really feeling this day. For various reasons that I won't discuss right now; I don't like remembering and celebrating the death of someone especially someone who dies tragically.
Celebrating birth and life? I'm down for that. There is so much written and otherwise documented about Martin Luther the King that I have my personal, internal celebration similar to the Moments of gratitude shared on January 15.
Regardless the reason, it's always great to see people come together to celebrate Dr. King. His name must mean more than a day off or a name on streets and schools throughout the United States. As a matter of fact, now, more than ever the lessons of Dr. King are needed as we overcome the dire straits this nation world finds itself in.
The furor over the New York Post chimpanzee editorial cartoon is far from over for me. You see, I was immediately angered by it for several reasons; its racist connotation being one of them.
I observed executives from the Post attempt to deflect the backlash from the cartoon to protest leader, Rev. Al Sharpton. I don’t always agree with the Reverend but that was just wrong on their part. I also heard their so-called apology and learned of the company’s internal turmoil because of the cartoon.
I tried to understand the perspective of folks, even blacks, who thought the cartoon wasn’t as bad as the publicity that exploded around it. I still wasn’t able to make that stretch. I really tired objectivity but it is what it is.
You know, even if you don’t think the cartoon was racist, there was no humor to be made of a woman tragically disfigured by a chimpanzee and the death of that chimpanzee. There was no humor in two police officers shooting an animal. Was the animal a representation of President Obama? Perhaps it was supposed represent Nancy Pelosi or even Congress. It's just wrong.
There have been calls for the firing of the Post’s editor. I support that unequivocally. I also support the demand for a real public apology from the New York Post.
It was pointed out that President Obama and New York Gov. Paterson did not make a big deal of the situation. Gov. Paterson accepted the Post’s apology. Well, my response to that is, “Did you expect them to go Eric Holder and say what they really feel? I think not.”
This situation could be over quickly. The Post’s lame attempt at an apology is far more acquiescence than they’ve offered in the past. I do hope the NAACP and other civil rights organizations will not cave under the pressure.
Rev. Sharpton’s spotlight on the media influence is an issue that definitely deserves more coverage but by which media outlet since he owns so many.
It seems that in a few more days, President-elect Barack Obama will have to give up his trusty BlackBerry for a humongous Windows-based gadget. While the folks at RIM (Research in Motion) are happy for the free publicity that Obama has provided their company through his chronicled obsession for their product, quite frankly, they'd be pleased if he actually stopped using it now.
Why? Well, quite simply, their system becomes the target of hackers from other countries. Who wants their security system constantly under attack, right?
Anyhoo, it seems that all the Obama-BlackBerry coverage has been valued at $50-$100 MM. The Obama effect on merchandise sales has totally eclipsed the madness of an Oprah endorsement. Ben's Chili Bowl probably can't keep enough chili and hot dogs. It's incredible.
A temporary worker was trampled and killed at a Long Island, NY Wal-mart store. Hundreds of people stampeded the door, trampled the worker and even tore doors off the hinges. Those big metal doors torn off the hinges? What kind of foolishness is that? Since shoppers have said there was no organization for controlling the crowd or any security present, Wal-mart is likely looking at a lawsuit. A pregnant shopper was hospitalized because of the turmoil but it seems that she was okay.
Shoppers were said to have stepped on the worker or over him or around him. "Savages" was a term used to describe the shoppers.