Archive for February, 2013

harriet wilson

Harriet “Hattie” E. Wilson was born in Milford, New Hampshire, around 1825 and is believed to be the first African American to publish a novel on the North American continent. Up until the unveiling and republishing of that novel, Our Nig, little was known about her life. It wasn’t until the realization that the book is an autobiography of her life that facts were gathered about her life’s timeline. Until its rediscovery 120 years after original publication in the 1980’s, the book was believed to be written by a white author.

It is speculated that her father was Joshua Green, an African American who worked at a cooperage and her mother, Mag Smith – a poor white washerwoman. Her father died when she was five or six, and her mother abandoned her to the home of a local family, the Haywards, after that. Wilson worked as an indentured servant for the Haywards until the mid-1840s then left and worked as a servant in other local households.

In 1851 she married Thomas Wilson and had a son, George Mason Wilson, in 1852. Her husband died in 1853, and Harriet was forced to leave her son with foster parents. He died before his eighth birthday, after years in and out of poor houses while Wilson struggled to make a living through writing. In 1859 Wilson published Our Nig, her indictment of indentured servitude and hidden racism in the North. The remainder of Wilson’s life is the subject of scholarly speculation. Some have her back in a poor house in Milford. Others have her prospering as a businesswoman and spiritualistic Doctor in Boston. Unfortunately, the book did not provide much financial success, and Wilson is said to have died in Massachusetts in June of 1900. Until the rediscovery of Wilson’s novel, records sited Frances Ellen Watkins Harper as the first published African American.

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proper grammar“You talk like a white girl.” Boy if I had a nickel for every time that’s been said to me lol…I still haven’t figured out what that means exactly. I mean I know the message the person is trying to convey when they say that to me but I don’t think they really understand their own choice of words in calling me a white girl. I don’t think they understand the strain of ignorance behind that statement.

I’ve even been asked why I talk like this. Really? Speaking properly requires an explanation? I had no idea. Well here are a few reasons why I talk the way that I do:

1. English is my first language. I should know the correct way to use it.

2. I went to a very diverse high school and I actually paid attention in English class. Please forgive me.

3. Most of my friends growing up also used correct English and so did my momma! I don’t know. Call us crazy!

I know I’m not alone in this either. Other people I know who speak properly have had this said to them as well. My question is why are we mocked for speaking properly? Why is it such a problem?

Some people get really annoyed when that statement is said to them. I actually find it funny, especially coming from the individuals who say it to me. You’re dressed in Polo from head to toe (not knowing the first damn thing about the sport) but I’m trying to be white? You’re bleaching your skin and gluing straight hair in your head. Oh, but I’m the one trying to be white. Getcha mind right! (Is that black enough for you?)

Black Americans will pour thousands upon thousands into the economy on designer clothes, cars, and toys – most of which are white owned without even realizing it. Yet, let it be anything black owned and we won’t support it because we didn’t hear about it in a music video and it’s not what’s “in”. So we continue doing what we’ve been doing since our ancestors were brought here, build the white empire. Meanwhile we’re busy worrying about somebody talking too white. If you go for an interview, I’m pretty sure phrases like “nah mean”, “huh”, “nigga please”, “fa sho”, etc. will not land you the job. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think we like being on the bottom. We love coming in last place over and over.

And I just love the assumptions that come along with my talking properly. People who speak properly are not necessarily squares, Uncle Toms, or house niggers. Some of us are people who understand how the game works. To beat your oppressors at their own game, you must know how to play it. Otherwise you’re just another one of their pawns and you’re too ignorant to even realize it. If I were born in Spain, I’d speak Spanish properly. If I were born in China, I’d speak Chinese properly. It just so happens I was born in the U.S. So yeah, I speak English properly. Don’t get me wrong; I can easily slip into the “Ebonics” dialect (gosh I hate that term with a passion) given certain social situations. But it’s not something that comes naturally to me. So why should I switch the way I speak to try to be “down”? I will never try to be anything I’m not. That’s just plain stupid, and people who do that also look and sound stupid. It’s not about trying to hide or forget where you came from. It’s about progression.

Those of us who use proper grammar do not “talk white”. We talk like we paid attention in school. We talk like we have limitless vocabulary. We talk like we’re competing with hundreds of others for the same job. We talk like we are not ashamed or embarrassed of our intellect. We talk like we are not lazy. We talk like we know ignorance is just another small part of the plan for black people to fail as a whole, and we will not be a part of that plan. That’s what we talk like!

bobAlthough I said I’m not doing monthly themes anymore, I still feel it appropriate to discuss a lot of “black issues” during Black History Month because it’s one of the only times of the year that black people might just pay attention to them. Hence the common thread of “black topics” this month. I stumbled across this video on YouTube and while I don’t agree with every single thing that is stated or the language and terms used, I still think the overall points being made are important to recognize. I apologize for the poor quality as well, but hopefully you’ll still get the gist. ALSO, PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THE VIDEO IS PRETTY EXPLICIT.

Like many my age or older, I don’t remember learning a whole lot about slavery growing up. Sure the fact that it happened was mentioned, but it was never delved into at length or in detail. The overall storyline was always this: it happened 400 years ago, Africans were forced to come to America against their will via slave ships, they worked on plantations picking cotton and other things, they were beaten and treated unfairly, and Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. That was generally it. So whenever I heard the word slavery in regards to black people I just always pictured Africans in shackles or plantation workers picking cotton. That was about as far as my imagination went.

It wasn’t until I watched this video, that my interest was sparked to dig deeper and find out more specifics. That’s when I went and watched the movie “Goodbye Uncle Tom” (the movie that these scenes were pulled from). That’s when I got a real idea of what had really been done in detail to my ancestors. It also opened my eyes to the parallel themes we witness today in the media, the black music industry, and the black culture period. Basically it explains a lot as far as the high sexual energies in media today, the exploitation of black women in the media, the black male’s agreement and participation in the exploitation, and the acceptance of that exploitation by black women.

The women we see in the media, in these music videos, etc. who are practically naked, twerking, booty shaking for the world to see, selling their sex, and leaving nothing to the imagination are the minority. That’s right! There are more black women who are against that type of behavior than not. The issue is that those women will never get major platforms in mainstream media. Therefore, all you see is the same ole’ faces (pardon same ole’ asses) because that is what appears on TV. The media is how the majority of black people are being raised and guided in this day and age. Children don’t go out and play anymore. They plop right down in front of the TV and MTV and BET are spending more quality time with them than the parents. So because we see these images over and over and hear it talked about and glorified in the music we listen to from early on, we really start to believe that this is what we should be doing – walking around wearing as little as possible and shaking our ass for cash and attention. The black male thinks it’s cool and adoring to put his black women in front of the camera to bust it open for the entire world to see. This means he’s “big pimpin”. He’s running sh*t. He doesn’t even realize, in actuality, that he’s telling all the world to take his black queens and have their way with them. I love the comparison the video points out when they show how the women were being exploited by the effeminized black male during slavery and how, ironically, it looks exactly like a lot of the music videos we see today. The problem is that most black men and women won’t admit this because they don’t see the similarity. They don’t see the similarity because they can’t! Why? Because we’ve never learned exactly what slavery really was. So if you don’t really know what something is, how can you possibly know when you’ve become a part of it, an aid to it?

Don’t get me wrong. I listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop. Yes, I enjoy the music. However, I think it’s important to draw the line between listening to something cool to bop your head along to and actually taking it far enough to draw your principles of life from it. Dig deeper. Know where and why this behavior started before you join the mass minority in the movement to make the mass majority of black people appear as sex crazed, self-exploiting, modern day, mentally enslaved ignorant numskulls.

jpJason Pezant – The Artist

I know Black History Month is normally a time when we focus primarily on great black figures of our past. We see articles, celebrations, and pictures honoring names like Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Madame C.J. Walker, etc. While this is great and it’s important not to forget those who’ve paved the way, sometimes I feel like it’s redundant information. So I’ve decided to take my own different approach to black history this time. Instead of only focusing on the great black men and women of the past, I’d like to also include those in our present. Black history doesn’t only have to be about those who were the first in their fields or who made groundbreaking history. Black history can also be about those who are overcoming obstacles, paving their own way, and are on the rise to becoming someone great. There is black history that is happening right now and that too needs to be celebrated!

I’d like to start “Black History Happening Now” with a feature focus on an up and coming artist, Jason Pezant. Jason is a San Bernadino, CA native whose inspiration to become an artist came through his own bloodline, as his father too is an artist. This sparked an interest in Jason at the early age of 7. Seeing his young, raw talent, Jason’s parents sent him to take art classes at Fontana Art Center where he honed his craft. Being the only child there, he excelled in his class full of adults. IMG957325

But we all know no black history story is complete without obstacles. Unfortunately, at the age of 15, Jason started on a path of street life and incarceration that would stretch for eleven years on and off. During those times he struggled with choosing between gang life and his art. In 2012 Jason decided to make a positive change. He is currently pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts at Riverside City College. After that, he intends to continue on to get his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts as well with the determination to become a college professor.

Even with obstacles and setbacks, Jason has had one past exhibit at a Starbucks in Orange County, CA and is currently working hard to plan his next exhibit. In addition to working towards his next exhibit and attending college, Jason is also working on a project for a Northern California newspaper and designing a logo for the well-known Mommie Helen’s Bakery.

Jason Pezant hard at work

He uses everything from charcoal, to water colors, to oil paints, and even Jolly Ranchers. He is most known for his work with Impressionism, and has produced such paintings as “The Golden Gabby”, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Houston, and more. What can’t this man do! Jason Pezant is an example to all that it is possible to change your life around for the better using the talents you were given. Though he may not be as well known as Jackie Robinson or Dr. Charles Drew, Jason Pezant is on the rise and he is black history that is happening now.

IMG951706

Done while attending Fontana Art Center at age 7

gabby

“The Golden Gabby”

IMG950050

A rose made from Jolly Ranchers

*Get in touch with Jason here: https://www.facebook.com/jason.theartist

I was hired to do a freelance article a couple weeks ago on Madame C.J. Walker. Even though I knew who she was and had heard reports on her growing up, always during Black History Month of course, there were still some things that I just learned. One thing was that she did not invent the hot comb or relaxer as many have been lead to believe, but the one that somewhat sparked this topic was the way she ran her business.

She started out using products by another black female entrepreneur, Annie Malone. She then went on to work with Malone as a sales agent. Once Walker created her own products, an all-inclusive hair growing system, she then recruited other black females as agents. She created different beauty schools to train them and held conferences to coach them on entrepreneurship as well as other things. Her daughter was right there holding down home base while Walker travelled around the world promoting her products and recruiting more agents, and once she decided to move to NY she left her headquarters’ operations in the hands of two other black females. What is my point in all this? Madam C.J. Walker wasn’t selfish. She was a team player and wanted everybody on her team to eat and prosper. She taught and provided opportunities to other black women who shared her same desire to be successful businesswomen. She became the United States’ first black millionaire and she wanted the same for the other women around her.

Fast forward to the present. I have had several of my black female friends tell me they absolutely hate working for other women. They’d much rather have male bosses. I personally never liked having a boss period so it never mattered much to me lol. Then I hear a lot of black females saying (myself included) they don’t keep too many female friends and that they have more guy friends because they’re just easier to get along with. I stopped watching reality shows a while back, but you turn on TV to all these black reality shows and what do you see? All you see is fighting, backstabbing, arguing, and more fighting. Turn on the computer and what do you see? A million statuses on Facebook about all this hatin’ from this one or that one. You see Worldstar HipHop videos posted of young black females beating each other’s asses. When did it get like this? Every time I hear this song “Ladies Night” and/or see the video, I just feel nostalgic. It reminds me of a time when black women could come together and make something happen.

You got everybody from Lil Kim to Missy Elliot to SWV to Escape to Changing Faces to Da Brat and so many more in this video. There’s actresses, models, singers, rappers all from different areas, backgrounds, and genres. I love the song, but I love the video more because it makes me proud to see all these women coming together like this – no fighting. What happened to that spirit? That female team bonding? Today it seems more like black females are like crabs in a basket. How can we get that Madame C.J. Walker spirit back?

charles

1904-1950

Physician | Medical Researcher | Surgeon

Charles Richard Drew was a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher who made history in more ways than one. Drew was born in 1904 in Washington D.C. His athletic achievements in high school helped him gain a scholarship to Amherst College in MA where he graduated in 1926. There he also joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and thrived in sports. He went on to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, receiving his M.D. in 1933 as well as a Master of Surgery degree ranking 2nd in his class of 127 students. He did his graduate work at Columbia University where he earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree. He was the first African American to do so.

While in New York, Drew researched blood plasma and transfusions. By separating the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and used at a later date. He also established the American Red Cross blood bank, where he was the first director, and he organized the world’s first blood bank drive, nicknamed “Blood for Britain”. The British military used his process extensively during World War II, establishing mobile blood banks to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers at the front lines. In 1941, the American Red Cross decided to set up blood donor stations to collect plasma for the U.S. armed forces.

After the war, Charles Drew took up the Chair of Surgery at Howard University, Washington, D.C. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1944 for his contributions to medical science. In 1950 Charles Drew died at age 46 from injuries suffered in a car accident in North Carolina, but we will remember him any time we visit the blood bank, or if we or a loved one is ever in need of a blood transfusion. Thank you Dr. Drew for your contributions to health and science.