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The New Struggle (lyrics)

I didn’t live at the time of martin & Malcolm
Read about their struggles kept wonderin how come
How could one deny another’s human rights?
How could you lynch a brother right at first sight?
I’m like damn, is this what we call human-ity?
Surprised more didn’t die from insanity
But now in 2017 I see history rhymin’
Everywhere I look I see my civil rights dyin
Tryin to keep a positive outlook
But then I turn on the news see Sandy hook
Go and talk to a school and they got no books
Tried to see my man Malik but his visa’s took
Hate crimes on the rise, I close my eyes
In my minds the only place they care for black lives
Cause alllivesdontmatter when our blood gets splattered
Whether we got phds or homeless clothes tattered
They buck is in the head spillin out our views
Then they broadcast it on the nightly news
Remindin you and me they don’t care about us
Declining youth jobs, jails disappearin us
Mr. President I heard you wanna drain the swamp
But it’s the little fish every day getting’ stomped
You and your boy bannon got eyes like they cannons
Shootin down our dreams but you’re not understandin
I used to believe in the public schools
Despite its flaws knew it could be something new
But under Betsy let’s see I think what’ll be
Is the death of the system for you and me
They wanna privatize schools privatize our lives
Prolly privatize air we breathe before our eyes
While they keep lyin’ with #alternativefacts
Trump sotckin up his staff with alternative blacks
Oil pipelines they wanna shove down our throats
While his cabinet gets richer man we better stay woke
Cause why we sleepin they creepin into all we do
Kickin’ out immigrants even legal ones too
But if it’s gonna change its up to me and you
To get up and resist whether muslim or jew
Republican, democrat, black or white,
Hetero to homosexuals let’s do what’s right
We must never give up we must always fight
In the courts on the streets and hell yes on the mic
Time’s always right to do right so said mlk
So we gonna keep marchin cross the USA
Gonna keep fightin for that equal pay
Gonna uplift our own hombre it’s a new day
Don’t think for a second that we gonna give up
Cause on shoulders of the ancestors where stand up

Teachable Leadership Moments from the Rachel Dolezal Story

So by now you have most likely heard the story of Rachel Dolezal, the former head of The NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. Dolezal was born white but started telling people she was a black woman over the past few years. At the time of this writing, she has appeared on national television and is in talks to have her own reality show. We can debate ad nauseam the ramifications of her actions, but there are certain aspects of this controversy that you as a leader must pay attention to. If you miss the key teachable moments from this story, you can hurt yourself in the future.

Teachable Moment #1: Be honest to yourself first and foremost

Dolezal apparently told her brother to not blow her cover as her appearance started to change over the years. A statement like this shows a clear aspect of deception on her part. As a leader, you have to come to terms with your identity before you engage the masses for two reasons: 1) You will have more clarity of mind, which is crucial for a leader; and 2) You won’t have to worry about being exposed as a fraud and losing credibility to the people that mattered most—your original constituency. As the African proverb goes, “When you tell the truth, you don’t need a good memory.” Be honest now to save yourself from unnecessary drama later.

Teachable Moment #2: Your diversity is an asset so don’t try to blend in

I work in the area of social justice. On a daily basis, I work to end serious issues like child trafficking, slavery, homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and more. In this work, I have met people of all races and backgrounds all dedicated to a common cause. The leaders who were the most ineffective were the ones who believe they have to shun who they are in order to better contribute to a movement. I am reminded of a recent example of Ben Affleck who tried to hide a story about his ancestors possibly owning slaves. Everyone knows that Affleck is a humanitarian and committed to human rights so why does he need to hide “his” history? If anything, his story shows that we do not have to inherit the prejudices of our ancestors. It’s a story to be told! We’re stronger as a community when we embrace our background and use it as a place of reference, not residence.

Teachable Moment #3: Do you want to be Kim Kardashian or a Dr. King?

Wow, tough comparison right? Both are public figures right? Both are talked about throughout the world right? The question becomes: what are people saying when they talk about Kardashian and King? Note: I am not judging or condemning Kardashian. I’m just using her story for comparison purposes. Dr. King’s claim to fame despite any flaws he had was being a servant to humanity. Kardashian will be remembered by many as someone who rose to fame from her recorded sexual encounter with singer Ray-J. Decades from now as we ignore more and more history, Kardashian may be remembered as a great humanitarian on her chosen causes. After all, there are many illegal and nefarious activities behind some of the greatest names and corporations in history but we have selective memories right? Dolezal is about to cash in with reality shows and book deals not based on her commendable work as a civil rights leader, but as someone who turned out to be a fraud. What do you want to be remembered for? A leader is only as good as her legacy.

At the end of the day, you have to decide what type of leader you want to be. We live in a pop-culture world that celebrates the worst of us. Don’t be so hungry for fame and exposure that you’re willing to sell your soul to the highest bidder. Don’t compromise your integrity for a paycheck. You may argue that Kim Kardashian is ultra-rich and can do whatever she wants right now. Yes, that is true. There is great benefit to having wealth but I believe there is a greater benefit to service to others, especially public service if you are a leader. Be honest with yourself, respect the diversity you bring to the table, and do your best to choose a positive legacy to be remembered for despite what others may say about you. The rise, fall, and rise again of Rachel Dolezal is a cautionary story for us all, but only if you read the story!

The future of youth: when your child gets called a monkey

 

“You’re a monkey.” “I can’t play with brown kids.”

 

If only I was fortunate enough for these to be the only insults I ever heard as a child. If only I had to deal with this instead of white kids wearing KKK masks to school in Boston in 1994 when I ran for class president. If only I had to deal with this instead of seeing my Harvard-PhD recipient mother be thrown in a jail cell because a random white girl told the police my mom tried to sell her drugs and the cop immediately took said white girl’s side (yes, we lost the court case). If only I had to deal with this instead of having police officers drive up to my car, flash the light in to ensure I was black and then pull me over and attempt to convince me that I was drinking even though I’ve never consumed an alcoholic beverage in my life. If only. In reality, the two quotations above are worse than all of the aforementioned experiences because they were said to my toddler daughter 2 years ago when she was 5.

There can’t be anything worse in life than seeing your children experience hardship. By the time I became a parent, I felt like I had dealt with all of my issues of racism. I knew it existed and that it permeated every aspect of American society. I was forced to join the anti-racism movement at a very early age growing up in Boston where my siblings and I were bullied everyday because of our background. Rocks thrown at us. Called all types of names at school. My oldest brother shot in the eye with a metal BB gun. Add this to the fact that between grades 7 & 12, I read one book in school by a black author, which was aptly titled “The Invisible Man.” America didn’t even have to work hard at making feel insignificant. By the time I had my kids though, I felt like I had this racism thing down. That was before my daughter came home and told me what her class[less]mates said to her.

When my daughter came home to tell me that her classmates told her this, it was depressing. I really thought I could shield my girls from issues relating to race until they were at least 7 years old. At that age we could have “the talk” that many black parents hate having with their kids but deem necessary in a world where racism exists. “You have to be two times better than everyone else because people expect less of you,” etc., etc. I was shocked to realize that I actually had to start teaching my daughter to be proud of her heritage at the age of 2 thanks to a little thing we call cartoons.

We didn’t watch much TV with our daughter during her first few years but it is almost impossible to avoid cartoon images when you’re shopping for your kids and they are with you. I remember one day I called my daughter a princess and she said quickly that she wasn’t one. It was easy to figure out why. Every image she saw outside of the house was of a non-black girl as a princess. I couldn’t even find products like pull-ups without these princess images on them. This was years before the movie “The Princess & The Frog.” Before that, not only were the princesses mostly white, their names also suggest that they are the purest girls on the planet. Just think: “Snow White.” “Belle” (“beautiful” in French). “Sleeping Beauty.” These names plus the images of them hold white girls up as the standard of beauty, even up until this day.

It didn’t take long for my wife & I to build our daughter’s belief that she was a princess too. Within a month or so, she was walking around telling people she was a princess and asking adults if they were kings and queens. It wasn’t that we wanted her to buy into this princess model as some needy woman who always needed to be pampered. It was more about showing her that she can be anything including a princess. When “The Princess & The Frog” movie finally did come out, I’ll never forget seeing my daughter just looking at the pillow set we bought her with Princess Tiana’s image. Though she had believed what we told her, children who watch cartoons have this weird belief that the cartoon images are real and real people on TV are fake. The black princess image on TV meant a lot for us and many other parents who heretofore had to buy “Dora the Explorer” merchandise to have an image as close to brown as possible. That’s just real talk right there.

Living with everyday racism as a father means always being prepared for my 2 daughters to come home with stories like this. Their hair is locked like mine so I have no issues when kids tease them and say “spaghetti hair” because I just tell them to laugh it off or play elsewhere if the kids don’t stop. Calling them a monkey, however, is different from calling them an elephant or a cat because of the racist history of blacks being compared to monkeys and apes in America. For a child to say that to my kids, that child had to learn that from their parents and that’s what is the even scarier—seeing racist behavior be passed down to the next generation.

The author William Cross talks about stages of racialized development. In short, he says that as human beings, we have experiences that take us all across the racial spectrum. For example, I was so happy to be a black man in America when President Obama was elected, but I was brought back down from cloud 9 when I went to do my diversity trainings at the schools I work in and my colleagues were told not to talk about Obama in the trainings because white teachers were still pissed off. As a white person, you may have a high when you see a multicultural rally for unity but then feel low as a white person when you see a racist attack by your neighbor against a non-white person. This is what everyday racism is about in America. Some days we’re up and some days we’re down.

My daughters motivate me to work even harder towards ending racism in America. Even if I cannot do that, my goal in my work as a diversity consultant is to at least give people the tools to analyze their own racist behavior or the behavior of others and be upstanders and not bystanders when they witness it. I don’t have time to dream about racism ending one day. I only have time to do the work as a youth speaker and diversity educator and continue on the path set for me by Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Harry Belafonte, and so many people of all races who fought and fight for peace. I do this work because “deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”

 

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