I Admit It: My PWI Experience Doesn’t Compare to an HBCU

A friend of mine shared the article, I went to a PWI and still had a black college experience. I read through the comments (on his post) and saw a lot of predominately white Institutions (PWI) graduates defending and affirming the author’s perspective. But I have a different one. Here’s the (slightly edited) comment  that I left:

As someone who attended PWIs, I had GREAT experiences and I LOVE my schools. However, I won’t compare my experience to that of an HBCU. Yes, at many PWIs, black people come together and make our own community within the greater university. But I acknowledge that that “black experience” is not comparable to an HBCU. To make the comparison that it is similar is to minimize the HBCU experience. Even this article does so by equating the HBCU experience to their “black experience” of social events with chicken, etc.

The HBCU experience (and I’m speaking more from my knowledge as a higher ed professional, not as an attendee) is much more than the social piece, but unfortunately, that’s often the only piece we discuss; the soul food and the swag surfing, and that’s not right.

HBCUs provide students with support and community that cannot be compared to PWIs. There is much value to being in a space that is full of black people…faculty, students, and staff. That type of environment doesn’t just make school “fun” but it impacts retention and academic success because it’s free of (anti-black) racial bias. And as people who attended PWIs (and just living in America), we can acknowledge that racial bias is very real at our schools and manifests in many ways: microagressions like people asking you bizarre questions about culture, people not wanting to work with you in groups, roommate issues, professors already counting you out, financial aid counselors not doing all they can to help you, being the only black person in a class/major, very few scholarship opportunities, poorly staffed “diversity” offices, a struggle to get funding and support for black initiatives and events, every institutional aspect being shaped from a white lens…I could go on and on. And while some of us made it through and graduated (shout out to us!), so many people didn’t, or never even had the chance to be admitted or attend because of these biases. So we HAVE to acknowledge and appreciate HBCUs for providing an opportunity and experience free from (anti-black) racism.

We need to ask ourselves why we feel the need to prove that we had “a black experience?” We went to white schools…its okay. We knew what we were getting into and we still found community with other black students. Great! But why do we feel we need to prove “a black experience?”

The root issue behind this article and repetitious conversation is the debate (among black people) on attending PWIs or HBCUs. As black people, we continue to argue about this and it needs to stop. PWI attendees feel like we have to defend and prove that we are still black and love blackness to HBCU attendees who condemn us for attending PWIs. And HBCU attendees feel like they have to defend their institutions as being “good enough” to PWI attendees that feel like their (white) schools are better. This is the real issue.

You can go to a PWI and still love your blackness. You can go to a an HBCU and still be successful.

The debate is nothing more than divisive because as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to both experiences. There’s no wrong or right answer. If we would just support all black people getting educated, regardless of the racial make up of the school, articles and conversations like this wouldn’t even be necessary.

I went to a PWI but I will be the first to support HBCUs and HBCU grads. And the opposite should be true for HBCU attendees. It’s possible for us to be proud of and support both.

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#STLVerdict: Let’s Talk About Vandalism and “Peaceful Protests”

Three years after the murder of Mike Brown and the St. Louis region finds itself in a similar situation. Another police officer has walked free, a family is reliving the pain of their loved one’s murder while being denied justice, and the community has taken to the streets to show that we will not tolerate the continuous killings of black people by police, nor officers doing so without conviction.

What’s also the same is how elected government officials and the St. Louis Police Department (STLPD) are responding. Before to the verdict was released and prior to any protests occurring, the governor of Missouri activated the National Guard and the STLPD announced that they would be moving to 12-hour shifts. Then, as soon as the protests began, multiple transit buses of STLPD met protestors outside the courthouse dressed in riot gear with shields and batons, in broad daylight. The police showed up with the intention to antagonize, literally from the moment people arrived to protest…before ANYTHING had happened.

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Photo of STLPD officer, surrounded by rows of other officers in riot gear, on 9/15/17, about 3 hours after the verdict was released.

So knowing that, it’s by no surprise that the police and the media are pushing the same narrative from three years ago: the protestors are violent and vandalizing property. I really don’t want to spend a ton of time on this point because I really feel like the conversation has been exhausted. But I’ll say it one more time, briefly: we are not doing this. The people who come out and protest are not interested in nor do we condone vandalism. However, there are agitators who come to our spaces of protest and do these things. You all should notice that this typically happens after nightfall. If you all pay attention to our protests, we don’t begin at nightfall. We have literally been protesting all day for the past 48 hours. The large majority of the time, you hear and see no reports of anything being vandalized, because nothing is being vandalized. But when a window gets broken at 11 pm the police and the media use this as an opportunity to change the narrative and make it about violent “protestors” instead of focusing on how hundreds of people of all different backgrounds have continued to show community and take a stand against the continuous non-convicted murders of black people by police.

But again, I’m not surprised by this. The police are a part of the system and the system is guilty. So of course they’re going to try to turn this around and divert the attention from their corruption. But what I am so frustrated by and tired of is the people buying into this narrative. All the statuses and comments about how you don’t understand what breaking things is going to do only elevates this false narrative that the police and media are trying to create. You are helping them achieve exactly what they want because now we’re all talking about vandalism instead of the fact that this officer murdered a black person and walked free. The protestors are not the ones vandalizing property. It’s a small group of agitators. Understand that and stop mentioning it in association to the protests. Every time you do, you are assisting the police and media in smearing this movement.

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However, while we do not condone vandalism, we understand that people are hurting and hurt people hurt people. So try to be less judgmental and think more about what has happened that has caused people to resort to vandalism. A broken window matters less than a life taken by police brutality. So for every post or comment you’ve made about vandalism, I hope you have 50 times more posts and comments about black people being killed by officers, and the officers walking free.

And also, don’t believe that all of the vandalism is coming from the agitators. There’s video of police breaking the window of a local business in the Central West End on 9/15/2017.

Lastly, I want to request that everyone stop saying “peaceful protest.” Our goal is not to be peaceful. There is nothing peaceful about a protest– that would not be a protest. You can say non-violent protest, but not peaceful. As the familiar protest chant goes, “no justice, no peace.”

Simply put, Anthony Lamar Smith did not receive justice so St. Louis will not have peace. Traffic flow will be disrupted and people will not commute in peace. Neighborhoods will be disrupted and people will not lounge in peace. Malls will be disrupted and people will not shop in peace. Restaurant strips will be disrupted and people will not eat in peace. Business will be disrupted and profit will be lost. But that’s the exact point. The judicial system did not render justice so we will continue to disrupt and keep the attention on this unjust situation, impacting people and profits directly until we get justice. Because we know that, unfortunately, people often tolerate injustice until it impacts them directly. Once it impacts folks directly, they are then motivated to act and make decisions that render the justice we’ve been demanding all along.

Any disruption that people experience from our protests pales in comparison to the disruption of the lives of the families of victims of police brutality. We just want justice. The sooner we get it, the sooner there will be peace. Know justice, know peace.

I Prayed About Tithing and Then This Happened…

I was literally just going through my monthly expenses. I have a monthly line item, “tithes.”

In full disclosure, my finances are not the best right now. So I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t tithe this month. But because I am a true church kid and as churched as they come, I felt guilty for even thinking that and in my head, I could hear Malachi 3:8-12 (“Will a man rob God?…”) being read from the pulpit. So, I was like, let me pray on that.

FullSizeRender (1)I went back to laying in the bed (cause for the first time in the longest I don’t have anything to do on a Saturday). A little while ago, I picked up my iPhone and used my fingerprint to unlock it. I kid you not that this video was open on my phone, in landscape view. I was like, what is this and how did it get opened? Then I read the caption, “Should Christians Give Tithes?,” and was like, wow. So I hit play.

I believe I just got my answer about tithing this month, and a new perspective on tithing in general.

There are so many scriptures that we have taken and used to establish church/Christian “norms” that are to our liking/advantage. We then repeat them over and over and make people feel that if they don’t do whatever is being stated, they aren’t a “good Christian” and God isn’t pleased, when the fact of the matter is: this was never God’s requirement– this is just us, at best, misinterpreting scripture and, at worst, using scripture to get people to do what we want.

We do this with so many other aspects in society and all it does it cause Christians to be/come off as super judgmental and push people away for the church and Christ.

So I say all that to say, let’s be more careful with our interpretations of scripture and stop passing down these rules and regulations of Christianity that really are not required by God.

Christ set us free.

 

I’m Not Here to Tell You What to Think about Jesse Williams…

I’m not here to tell you what to think. I’m just here to help you think critically.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee’s divorce. This very unfortunate situation has rendered various responses, specifically from the black community and especially because Jesse is now dating Minka Kelly, a white woman. While this dialogue started around Jesse and Aryn, this blog post is less about them and more about unpacking what our reactions/responses mean for “the movement,” and expressions and definitions of blackness.

Do personal shortcomings discredit one’s advocacy work/activism?

Some believe that Jesse’s actions show poor character, a lack of integrity, and warrant us to revoke our support of him. It is important to acknowledge that this perspective is based on the assumption that Jesse cheated on his ex-wife, which he has denied. However, this brings up an interesting notion: do we expect activists and leaders of “the movement” to be faultless? Is perfection required for them to be credible and receive our support?IMG_0407

I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While we hold him in very high regard for his work and advocacy for civil rights, we’ are aware of his infidelity allegations. Does Dr. King cheating on Coretta Scott King discredit his work? Should we cancel Dr. King?

With great power comes great responsibility so leaders will be held to high standards. However, no one is perfect and we all (continuously) make mistakes. While one may be an “expert” in one area, they may not have it all together in another. So where is the threshold? What shortcomings will we tolerate and which will we not?

Can a black person be pro-black but date/love someone who is not black?

Some are challenging Jesse’s (pro)blackness, finding his divorce from a black woman and/or dating a white woman to be hypocritical and negating of his advocacy for black lives, and more specifically, for black women (listen to his words about black women during his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award acceptancIMG_0409e speech).

Blackness is often put in a (small) box.  Depending on how you speak, eat, your hobbies, neighborhood, being multi-racial…your black card comes into question and it just may be revoked. Could this be another example of this? Does dating/loving a non-back person get your black card revoked? Can a black person be pro-black without dating/loving someone who is black? Do we see black people who date non-black people as credible activists and advocates?

 

Do black men really get on and leave our a** for a white girl?

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Now that Jesse’s relationship with Minka is public, some black women suspect that this is another example of a black man leaving for a white woman. The fact of the matter is that it may not be. Maybe this is just how love is happening for Jesse— maybe this is truly someone he has hit if off with and who he cares about. And he is totally free to pursue that.

However, that fact that this thought crosses the minds of many black women speaks to something with much deeper roots.

After quoting Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” lyrics, Michael Harriot explained,

There is always truth in humor. The reason Kanye West’s line is so memorable is that we’ve all seen it happen. The idea that white women have always been a graduation present or lifetime achievement award for black men has become an accepted trope among black people. We quietly talk about it among ourselves, in barbershops and at cookouts.

The thought that rich, successful and famous black men eventually trade in black women for white women is such an acknowledged fact that we don’t even bother pointing out that the guy who wrote and rapped it left our ass for a white girl.

 

IMG_0410Again, this may not be what’s going on in Jesse’s situation, but it is still something to think about. How do we react to black men dating non-black people? How do we react to black women dating non-black people? What causes those reactions?  Why do some black men get on and leave our a** for a white girl?

 

 

 

And after you’ve thought through all of that, ask yourself, would we even be having this conversation if Jesse was now dating a black woman? What does that mean?

I’m not here to tell you what to think. I’m just here to help you think critically. We must think beyond the surface. Take this information, think, and determine your truth.

2 Years Later: Anniversary of the Murder of Mike Brown, Jr.

8.9.14. The day that changed everything. 2 years.

I’ve been anxious about this day coming ever since August arrived. I could feel the heaviness of my heart as soon as I opened my eyes today.

I’m thankful for Mike, and for everyone who refused to be silent about his murder. I’m thankful that the movement (that’s always existed) was ignited on a new level. I’m thankful that we are no longer tolerating the racial injustice that very much exists in what so many want to believe is a “post-racial society.”

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not impacted or concerned by the trauma that black people have relived over and over in just these 2 years alone.

2 years of police murders, hashtags, protests, non-indictments in a never ending cycle.

2 years of listening to the media criminalize the victims and prove they deserved to die, in a way that we never see done to non-black victims.

2 years of our friends, people we grew up with and love, showing us their bias and racism through social media posts.

2 years of the overall society constantly reminding us that our lives don’t matter, through the condoning and justification of our murders.

2 years of selective grief, where America can mourn and show empathy for the deaths of animals, police officers, and victims of foreign terrorism but show not an ounce of those feelings for black lives.

2 years of people bringing up “black on black crime” as if black people have this phenomenon of killing each other when statics tell us that the majority of ALL crime is intraracial (not to be confused with interracial…I literally have had to explain this to people).

2 years of debating #BlackLivesMatter and all lives matter but then those same people say blue lives matter, proving that it’s solely the ‘black’ that’s the issue.

2 years later, all these feelings are pouring out of my eyes. I’m tired. I’m traumatized. I’m hurting. I’m grieving. Im educating. I’m fighting. And I’m thankful for all the people who are on the ground, organizing, educating, running for office, and any other effort towards freedom.

2 years later, the movement lives and we will win.

Your Unity Posts Aren’t Saying What You Think 

I’m struggling so I’m gonna have a vulnerable moment with y’all, and I know many won’t agree and that is totally fine.

 

 I can’t take much more of y’all posting these pictures and videos of black people hugging and praying with (white) counter protestors, black people smiling with the police, little black and white kids being friends, etc. I mean, it is wearing me out.

 

 

It’s not because I don’t believe these things happen or should happen. It’s just that clearly, these things do not keep black people from experiencing injustice. So clearly, they are not the solution. Even with “good officers” and black people and white people being friends, black people are still being murdered by police, receiving harsher sentences in court, going to under resourced schools, making lesser wages in the same positions as white people, and experiencing many other forms of injustice. None of these posts and videos acknowledge or address this. These color-blind, “we’re all one” videos and posts are not going to get black people free.

 

They actually are keeping us from freedom. Every time you post these things (and I see both black and white people doing this), you give people the opportunity to ignore the plight of black people. You are sending the message of, “see, it’s not that bad. There are still good people.” And that causes you and others to ignore the injustice and issues that ARE actually happening. This only causes people who don’t understand #BlackLivesMatter to further believe that this movement is not necessary. These messages are so neutral and we know that if you’re neutral, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

 

Stop being neutral. Your neutrality does absolutely nothing for those being oppressed. Your neutrality is not helping the families of #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, or any other police brutality victim get justice. It’s actually making it harder for them to because you’re countering what their loved one experienced. You’re basically saying, “yeah I know an officer killed your family member but look at this officer playing with this cute kid…everything is fine.” This stuff is the biggest slap in the face to these families and this movement.

 

Change will require us to acknowledge and call out these issues directly, not generally or subliminally (that’s the problem with #AllLivesMatter). If you were at work or having an issue at home, you would not go about developing and identifying a solution in a indirect way. If you were sick, you wouldn’t want your doctor focusing on less relevant, indirectly related parts of your body to heal you. You would want them to address the problem head on. So why do we think this is an appropriate solution when it comes to the injustice of black people?

 

Some of you need to realize that you are in denial. And honestly, I get that. No one wants to accept that our world is this messed up. It’s hurtful, depressing, frustrating, all of that. But we know that the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that we have one. So please, if you really want change to happen, please get out of denial and call it what it is.

 

I am not anti-unity but what I am not going to do is promote (a neutral) unity as the ultimate solution at the expense of us ignoring the real issue. No. Not when people are being murdered. Unity is necessary but what’s really going to bring justice and keep more people from becoming hashtags is acknowledgement and change to the systems, like police organizations, that are systemically racist. Not your little touchy, feely video.

 

If you want to promote true unity, unite with us and stand up against these racist and unjust systems. People coming together and fighting against wrong, regardless of their race, socio-economic status, religion, nationality, sexuality, and any other identity, will show organizations and our government officials that it’s truly time for change. And that’s the radical type of unity we need. 

 

3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture

Aleidra’s piece is featured on watchtheyard.com.

Should Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) teach white, non-BGLO people how to step? This is an ongoing question and debate within the BGLO community, and honestly, I understand all the various perspectives.

With that, I understand that teaching stepping and strolling to non-BGLO members has become a popular collegiate norm. So for our members that are partaking in this new college tradition, here’s my piece,  3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture, to help you do so in a meaningful way.

Can White People Talk About the #StateOfBlackAmerica? 

There was some controversy over SamWhiteout‘s appearance on #StateOfBlackAmerica. I tweeted Sam about it, and you can check out my tweet in this article.

The topic of the panel was “Confronting Race and Privilege.” Allyship is important and necessary to deconstruct white privilege and white supremacy. White people cannot and should not speak to the black experience; they have not lived it. However, white people can acknowledge how they benefit from white privilege and white supremacy, AND intentionally work against those systems.

What do y’all think about this?

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 9- Who were the Black Panthers?

bp.jpgSince Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 half time performance, there has been lots of conversation around the Black Panthers. Many (white) Americans seem appalled that Bey would pay tribute to such an organization,  falsely comparing the Black Panthers to the Ku Klux Klan (the Black Panthers were NOT terrorists who bombed, murdered, and lynched innocent people like the KKK). But do we really know who the Black Panthers were? Unfortunately, the American education system has a way of painting historic black leaders and organizations in a negative light, and/or watering down the truth to fit its preferred narrative. So let’s educate ourselves and learn who the Black Panthers truly were.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party. The two had worked together for years prior through activism in black politics. Bobby  Seale was involved in RAM (Revolutionary Action Movement) and both of the men were in the Soul Students Advisory Committee, a collegiate organization. The philosophy for the Panthers was developed through these experiences.

But the Panthers were not just about philosophy. They had demands and outlined action to achieve them. Recently, people have talked about the Panthers possession of guns. The Panthers did indeed exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. This was done to implement Malcolm X’s self-defense philosophy and patrol the police. At the time, police brutality was rampant, with officers beating and killing black people randomly. Police departments were even recruiting officers from the racist south to police the northern ghettos.

The Socialist Alternative recalls this instance:

On one occasion, whilst on patrol, they witnessed an officer stop and search a young guy. The Panthers got out of their car and went over to the scene and stood watching their guns on full display. Angrily, the policeman began to question them and tried to intimidate them with threats of arrest. But Huey P. Newton had studied the law intimately and could quote every law and court ruling relevant to their situation.

During these situations, the Panthers made it clear that they did not want to have a shoot-out with the police and that they would only use their guns in self-defense. They would also hand out information, to the crowd that formed, about the Black Panthers philosophy and meeting details.

Outside of their self-defense, we rarely talk about the notable community programs that the Panthers organized. They organized many “revolutionary program,” as they called them, such as free breakfast for children, health clinics, and shoes for children. Bobby Seale explained, “A revolutionary program is onset forth by revolutionaries, by those who want to change the existing system for a better system.”

The Black Panther Party grew to have 5,000 full time employees and 45 chapters throughout America. They sold 250,000 papers a week. At the time, polls showed that the organization had 90 percent support from black people in major cities. The group was largely impactful, with the FBI describing them as “the number one threat to the internal security of the United States.”

Today, we remember the Black Panther Party, for being one of the most widely know black political organizations that protected and met people’s needs through programs that provided food, clothes, medical care and more. We thank them for showing us what we can accomplish through organization. Today, unfortunately,  we still see many of the same issues that they combated. We can learn much from them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 8- Visual Artist John Jennings

jjThere’s a space and place for all of us in this movement. How we express our perspectives and seek justice and freedom will look differently for each of us, and that’s okay. Some of us will educate, some will protest, some will open non-profit organizations or businesses, some will meet with government leaders…and the list goes on. But one man, John Jennings, is using his art to start a revolution.

John Jennings is a visual artists who challenges the typical portrayal of black expression by creating work that goes outside of that confine. He bases his work on these questionsHow can we show the work of underrepresented artists, especially those who do comics (see list of books below)? How can we go beyond the racial stereotypes of traditional comic art to show the rich expression of black artists, past and present? John Jennings explains, “we have to understand that stereotypical images are designed to function in a particular way. They all have purposes in how the Black body is perceived. The work that I do and that my colleagues create offer alternatives to those constructions and gives the Black audience choices on multiple levels.

Black TwitterYou may have come across some of John Jennings work withoutmother even realizing it. John Jennings is the creator of #BLKPWRTWITTR, a remake of the Twitter logo that was created after the murders of nine innocent black lives at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. John Jennings was looking for a way to express his range of emotions and show unity. He also created the piece, Tears of Mother Emanuel.

Today, we celebrate John Jennings for using his gift to tear down stereotypes, create a space for underrepresented artists, and giving us a visual component to the movement. We are thankful to experience this black history in the making.

#EverydayBlackHistory

Here are some books by John Jennings:

Black Comix

What “black,” “art” and “culture” mean to a group of African-American artists.

 

 

 

Graphic novel is science fiction/horror story about buying and selling of race.

 

 

 Out of Sequence

 Underrepresented voices showcase their imaginative comic art.

 

 

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