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Remembering Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is an American federal holiday currently observed on the last Monday in May. The holiday remembers and honors military men and women who died while on duty in service to America. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was observed on May 30 of each year. That practice would remain from 1868, when it was first observed, until 1970.

On Memorial Day, many Americans are given the day off from work, schools and government offices are closed, stores entice customers to spend money via sales, and families enjoy cookouts.

Still, others will remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice via parades and ceremonies placing the American flag and flowers on the graves of the fallen heroes.

Frequently, Memorial Day acknowledgments are made “to all who served.” While it is true that we appreciate and honor everyone who has fought for our country, Memorial Day remembers and honors those who died while serving our country. Veterans Day, which is observed on November 11, honors all who served in the American military.

On this day of solemnity and remembrance, it also seems inappropriate to use the greeting, “Happy Memorial Day.” Let us honor our fallen heroes and pray for their families who are still with us.

 

 

In remembrance of Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr. of Miami Gardens who became the first documented South Florida soldier to be killed by anti-US insurgents in Iraq on January 17, 2004. Randle was one of three soldiers who died that day when their vehicle was struck by a homemade explosive device near Baghdad.


Happy Founders’ Day, Alpha Kappa Alpha! Happy Birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!

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Today is January 15, a glorious day in American history. It is the birthday of one of the most outstanding civil rights leaders of our time, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the anniversary of the founding of the first Greek-lettered sorority for college-educated African American women, Alpha Kappa Alpha.  

 

Since 1986, Dr. King’s birthday has been recognized as a federal holiday. Because of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, it is observed on the third Monday of January. This year, the King holiday is celebrated on January 18. Due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities around the country are foregoing typical MLK festivities and opting for virtual commemorative celebrations. 

 

On January 15, 1908, one generation removed from slavery and just 21 years before the birth of Michael King Jr., who would later change his name to Martin, 16 African American women students at Howard University, in Washington DC, officially united to form Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, with a mission to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be “Supreme in Service to All Mankind."

 

Today, Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown to a membership of 300,000 throughout the United States and abroad. While several notable women are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, currently, its most famous member is Kamala Harris, the next vice-president of the United States. Harris was initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha while a student at Howard University.

 

Dr. King’s personal history is also intertwined with Alpha Kappa Alpha. While a graduate student at Boston University, he was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha, the first collegiate Greek-letter fraternity for African American men. It was not uncommon for Alpha Phi Alpha and Alpha Kappa Alpha members to become couples, as was the case with King and his wife, Coretta, an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. 

 

So on this day, if you see a woman wearing pink and green, AKA letters, and a pearl necklace, be sure to wish her a Happy Founders’ Day. Also, be mindful that Dr. King would be 92 years-old today had he not been assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Let us remember these two icons of African American culture and American culture; both focused on civil rights and service to all. Happy Founders’ Day, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated! Happy Heavenly Birthday, Rev. Dr. King! 



To Survive and Thrive, Blacks Need to Live Kwanzaa All-Year-Long

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Today is the first day of the week long celebration of Kwanzaa. It is a Pan-African holiday based on seven principles with seven main symbols that is celebrated for seven days starting December 26. A candle representing each principle is lit daily starting with the black candle in the center which represents umoja [OO-MO-JAH], unity.

Nguzo Saba [IN-GOO-ZO SAH-BAH] - The Seven Principles

Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. Developed in 1966, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the Nguzo Saba stand at the heart of the origin and meaning of Kwanzaa, for it is these values which are not only the building blocks for community but also serve to reinforce and enhance them.

Umoja [OO-MO-JAH] (Unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, race.
 
Kujichagulia [KOO-JEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH] (Self-Determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
 
Ujima [OO-JEE-MAH] (Collective Work & Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters' and brothers' problems our problems and solve them together.
 
Ujamaa [OO-JAH-MAH] (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores and other businesses and to profit from them together.
 
Nia [NEE-YAH] (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
 
Kuumba [KOO-OOM-BAH] (Creativity) - To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
 
Imani [EE-MAH-NEE] (Faith) - To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa
 
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:

Mazao [MAH-ZAH-O](The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Mkeka [EM-KAY-KAH](The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.

Kinara [KEE-NAH-RAH] (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Muhindi [MOO-HEEN-DEE] (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.



Mishumaa Saba [MEE-SHOO-MAH-AH SAH-BAH] (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.



Kikombe cha Umoja [KEE-KOHM-BAY CHAH OO-MO-JAH] (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.



Zawadi [ZAH-WAH-DEE] (The Gifts)
These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children. 



The two supplemental symbols are:



Bendera (The Flag)
The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.


Nguzo Saba Poster (Poster of The Seven Principles)

Kwanzaa is not anti-Christmas neither is it the black Christmas or the black Hanukkah. Kwanzaa is a non-religious and non-political holiday. It can be celebrated with family and friends of different religious practices and beliefs. Kwanzaa is celebrated for one week of the year but practiced all year-long.

The current sociological and political atmosphere in the United States makes adopting a Kwanzaa lifestyle a matter of survival for black people. Advocating for black communities, supporting black businesses and supporting black schools is imperative as more and more safety net programs are cut as well as quality public education opportunities. 

 


Thank you, Gwen Ifill!

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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.

 

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Donovan Livingston's Spoken Word Convocation Speech at Harvard is a Classic

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. 

Donovan Lingston

 

Lift Off

 

“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? —

“Diversity. Inclusion.”

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.

Lift off.

 

~ Donovan Livingston

 

 

 

 


The Coronation of Bishop Eddie Long, Not a Good Move [VIDEO]

 

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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?

 

 

 


Florida GOP Courts Black Voters on Juneteenth

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.
 
 
 

Tancredo Does It Again and The Truth About La Raza

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.

The Translation of Our Name: National Council of La Raza

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...


Desperation and the Economy

Crime-scene-tape 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.

 

   

© 2009, Vanessa: Unplugged!, www.vanessabyers.net

Vote for this blog for Best Political Blog and for Best Blog Design in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.

   


Gratitude for the King

"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.

Thank you, Dr. King!

   

© 2009, Vanessa: Unplugged!, www.vanessabyers.net

Vote for this blog for Best Political Blog and for Best Blog Design in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.