Trump cutting off aid while Americans are dying is treacherous

Today I woke up to read the headline: “Trump administration overrules Jerome Powell and cuts off Fed emergency lending programs.” Not only is President Trump attempting to steal an election where he lost the popular and electoral college vote, he is literally starving Americans by cutting off money to hard working people literally trying to survive a pandemic. This is treacherous. This is not leadership and as upstanders, we cannot be bystanders to this.

Millions of Americans are literally starving, don’t have a job, or are losing their homes or a combination of all three. Suicides are on the rise and, by the way, we’ve lost over 250,000 people to the pandemic. Families will have to meet by Zoom this year for Thanksgiving, if they can afford a computer and have enough money to pay for access to the Internet. With all of this, Trump is not only not creating real programs to help people, he is cutting off funds that already allocated. The is savage, inhumane, and a betrayal of his oath of office. America deserves better.

Border children: charge Trump with crimes against against humanity

This past week, my son turned 6-years old. We celebrated with cupcakes, board games, and video games. It was a great day that I was so looking forward to. Yesterday I was reminded that under the Trump administration, there are at least 540 children who are still separated from their parents from babies to toddlers. On the news I saw a child staying with an uncle in the U.S. and when asked what he wanted for his birthday, his immediate response was his father. What the Trump administration has done to these families is the ultimate crime and he needs to be charged with crimes against humanity charges.

The only more inhumane action he could take is to kill these parents physically after he has killed them metaphorically, These children need to be united with the family but Trump’s administration is now stating that these parents don’t even want to be reunited with their children. These parents deserve the same right to be with their children in the same way we are with our son and daughters. What would you do if it was YOUR kids taken from you? The nerve of such ignorance only speaks to the arrogance coursing through the veins of this corrupt administration. Justice delayed is justice denied and he must face justice for this heinous act!

The President is not a leader for us on Coronavirus

President Trump said that as our leader he had to do what he had to do as he urged us not to let the coronavirus dominate our lives. When the President has to worry about losing a job because if covid, losing a business because of covid, becoming his child’s teacher because of covid, losing insurance because of covid, losing his physical or mental capacities because of covid, losing a loved one because of covid, or losing his own life because of covid and possibly dying alone, then the President of the United States can talk about being the leader for all of us on covid.

The President is a leader in spreading this virus. From his joyride at Walter Reed to his removing his mask before possibly infecting whoever was waiting for him in the White House or spreading the virus via helicopter blades, Trump never has and never will have the ability or desire to lead by example in ending the coronavirus. He uniquely has the ability to spread two viruses at the same time: the coronavirus and the virus of hate and this is all happening while he takes advantage of the best healthcare that is free to him while attempting to rip away the Affordable Care Act from those who need it most. President Trump is not a leader. He is public enemy #1.

Breonna Taylor deserves better

191 days all for a charge that had nothing to do with the killing of Breonna Taylor. The charges of wanton endangerment were made against apartments other than Breonna’s that were shot into. Taylor’s life was taken and no one is accountable. This is why we march. We launched a global protest for 6 months to only be denied the possibility of justice once again. State attorney general Daniel Cameron has made good on his campaign promise to make the police untouchable. Until white people know what it’s like to fight 6 months for no charges, to March for 191 days for no charges, and to bring our case to a global stage only for no charges, there will continue to be an empathy gap in America. Justice delayed is justice denied yet today we’ve been denied even the attempt at justice. Breonna should be here today. She didn’t die. She was killed and Cameron couldn’t even bring himself to say that. The fact that so many of us aren’t even surprised speaks to the decades of injustice we have had to endure at the hands of the police. #blacklivesmatter #BreonnaTaylor

Should schools also speak separately to white students, parents, and staff?

I have been really impressed by the steps taken by schools to speak to the racial tensions engulfing America right now. I have had the honor in my work to also lead some of these discussions as well and will be leading more. As a parent of K-12 children, I have also watched my own school’s response to the crisis in America today. Moreover, I have spent a great deal of time reviewing the responses of schools at the university level. While I have appreciated the fact that so many of these institutions have initiated or renewed a commitment to ensuring that black lives matter, I have found myself asking one question over and over again: what direct message is going out to white students, students, and staff?

            Across the country, many social media posts have popped with some form of @blackat… handle. These are accounts where black students as well as alumni have posted their negative experiences being black at their schools. These stories started to really trend in 2016 after incidents of racism at schools like American University, where I teach. I was inspired by this movement to finally write about my own “black at” experience from 7th-12th grade at Boston Latin School. I believe the @blackat… postings are also a large part of the reason why schools have been feeling more pressure to respond to their black students in ways they have not before. I wonder if, in some unintentional way, that this is leading to black students being singled out in ways that might do more harm than good despite the best intentions of schools. Let’s look at an example.

            One high school I was watching sent out an email that they were having a zoom call for black students, another call for multiracial students, and a third one for all students. I have spoken at enough schools to know that this can backfire. While many black students can be vocal and will speak up on issues, this type of action can lead to black students feeling they have to be the representative for all black people, which is an added burden, particularly in schools where they are not in the majority. Furthermore, not meeting with the white students separately can make it seem like they’re being brought in as allies and not as partners. I have writtenabout how this concept of “allyship” can create more problems than it solves. Another reason this is problematic is because many of the challenges black students face come at the hands of white students in addition to other issues, such as curriculum and staffing. Did I expect the students who wore white hoods in protest of my running for class president to really care for a call to all students about racial unity? Those students needed separate interventions, which never came and made me feel more marginalized. Schools therefore need to create environments where white students can be organized and spoken to directly about the antiracist work they must be doing amongst themselves. Robin DiAngelo speaks in White Fragility to the work white people must do to challenge racism. The book is primarily for adults but much of the work can be instructive for students as well.

            This takes us also to white parents and staff. I have appreciated the calls I have been on and led with parents of all backgrounds, and oftentimes the white parents and staff outnumber the black parents and staff. This makes sense given the makeup of these schools but if the black parents and staff are going to be separated or addressed in separate conversations, which happens, wouldn’t the fight for equity and equality necessitate that white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American parents and staff be spoken to separately as well? Are schools equipped to even have that conversation? Are they ready to discuss, for example, how many private schools always use a black child as the face for the financial aid campaigns although the school may have more white students in the school on some form of financial aid? Are they ready to discuss the social networks that often form among white parents and staff that often exclude black people unless some form of representation is needed? My wife and I have had to often think twice before sending our kids to some birthday parties because we had to be sure that our kids were really invited because of friendship and not out of a desire to have diversity at a party. Examples like these are endless.

            At the end of the day, I could write an entire dissertation on the ways in which our schools are failing its black students. Many like Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Glenn Singleton have already done that work and more are doing it now. What is most important now is that schools realize that black students are suffering for real reasons that go beyond lack of representation of their full history in the curriculum. Much of what we suffer as black students, parents, and staff in these schools comes at the hands of our interactions, or lack thereof, with white students, parents, and staff. If schools are going to be really serious about addressing issues related to the black lives matter movement, they must be equally dedicated to challenging white students, parents, and staff in an authentic way that leads them to understanding their role in this movement. It is obvious that all white people are not to blame and I commend the white student, parents, and staff who are out there doing the work every single day to condemn ignorance and create true equity and equality. It is high time, however, that schools directly challenge their white students, parents, and staff in ways that go beyond a book club and curriculum review. Those are good points of departure but the journey is long and must go deeper beyond this moment.

           

Everyday is Father’s Day (lyrics)

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Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

Just a little something for the dads, I see you

Just know that no one else can ever be you

Only time you’re discussed is when it’s to demean you

I see through media views that’ll leave you

Feelin’ you ain’t worth a damn, yo I believe you

For y’all who doubt don’t let the media deceive you

Only talk about our absence but those of us there

It’s like we’re Homer Simpson, yeah it’s time to compare

Cause is it just me? Am I buggin’ because

The strong men on tv are the uncle or cuz?

I mean is it really me? Am I goin’ buckwild

To see how they make us look like an extra child?

And no shade to the moms, you deserve all the praises

I’m just brining up some issues that fatherhood raises

All praises due to real dads out there

Hope the world sees that we got a story to share

 

Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

Now dads I know it’s tough when you take your kids

To afterschool activities then back to your crib

Know it’s tough when with your kid standin’ right there

And teachers tell ‘em “talk to mom” like you ain’t right there!

Know it’s hard when you decide to be the stay-at-home dad

And the world sees you as weak or part of a fad

Paid paternity leave ain’t here federally

But we do what’s best for the fam, it’s necessary

But in times like these I acknowledge your worth

The world’s better with good dads walkin’ this earth

So dads do your thing like you were meant to do

Don’t worry about haters know your kids need you

And if you ain’t seen ‘em in a while time to reach out too

It ain’t never too late to tell em “I love you.”

And if you got ‘em next to you just hug ‘em too

And Let ‘em know nothing will ever come between you

 

Happy Father’s Day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you, no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family

Happy father’s day to real dads out there

Ain’t no one built like you no one compares

Stand proud of who you are for the world to see

But most importantly stand proud for your whole family!

 

How companies can avoid “Black Lives Matter” and Juneteenth becoming the new Kwanzaa

Over the past few weeks, I have seen “Black Lives Matter” stated by companies, schools, famous people, and everyday people. It has been spray painted across stores in protest and even the Mayor of Washington, DC Muriel Bowser had it spray painted across a prominent street leading up to the White House. I opened up my iTunes account, Amazon Prime and even turned on my PlayStation and there it was again, “Black Lives Matter.” This has been followed by companies like Nike and Twitter deciding to honor Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when the last group of enslaved people in America found out they were emancipated, with days off or some other form of acknowledgment. While I think that these gestures of solidarity with those of us in the black community are indeed appreciated, I find myself asking, “What happens on June 20th?” “What happens after ‘Black Lives Matter’ comes off the website?” Enter Kwanzaa.

I come from a family that has always celebrated Kwanzaa, the holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga for African Americans to honor their African heritage. Though it starts on December 26th, it has always been a cultural celebration and not a replacement for Christmas, which is a religious holiday. This is the reason why some black families celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas. For those of us who celebrate Kwanzaa, it’s a sacred holiday, which is why many of us became frustrated when it started to become commercialized, starting with Hallmark issuing Kwanzaa cards in 1992. Now there are stamps and debit cards where the 7 candles of Kwanzaa are prominently displayed. Some companies issue statements honoring Kwanzaa or will put out some form of display in their lobbies. This superficial nature of Kwanzaa causes the true nature of it to get lost or never even learned. The true nature of Kwanzaa is black empowerment. To quote professor Keith Hayes, author of Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition:

Whereas black power uses Kwanzaa to connect black Americans with the continent of Africa, multicultural America uses Kwanzaa to sell products and consumer goods. Whereas black power expected Kwanzaa to liberate African-Americans, multicultural America has tried to use Kwanzaa as evidence of racial diversity and black inclusion.

But is there real diversity and black inclusion in your organization? While “Black Lives Matter” has become a great slogan to show solidarity with black causes, there are black employees in every sector from schools to corporations who have been saying for years that they want to matter within their organizations. They’ve called for this in the form of demanding equal pay, demanding a shattering of the glass ceiling, challenging everyday discrimination on the job, and so much more. And this is also happening with Juneteenth. Most black employees I know would rather have a shot at equal pay or an opportunity to advance in their positions than a day off, which in reality should be a day on in terms of continuing the work of racial and social justice.

If companies are serious about “Black Lives Matter” and Juneteenth they have to immediately re-evaluate their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They have to do the work to finally hear the complaints and concerns of their blackstaff. They need to challenge systemic racism that may have existed in their organization for years. This is the same country where a statue was built to the father of American gynecology James Marion Sims, whose work was performed on black enslaved women without anesthesia. It’s the same country that touts having some of the most prominent universities in the world, but they were built by enslaved Africans. And it’s the same country where some companies have engaged in global travesties such as the Holocaust and apartheid.

But this country has the ability to self-correct and so do companies, schools, and other organizations. The statue of Sims came down. Schools like Georgetown have begun to create programs so descendants of enslaved Africans that were sold to keep the university afloat can go to Georgetown for free. Companies like Kodak, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, and I.B.M. did end up divesting from apartheid but none of this happened without activism, similar to what we are seeing now. This is how you show that Black Lives Matter, which is an organization started by three incredible women named Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Before organizations state “Black Lives Matter” I would strongly suggest visiting the Black Lives Matter website to truly understand its commitment to social, racial, and economic justice. “Black Lives Matter” is about a way of life for society that is truly committed to equality, not band-aids on an open wound still seeping blood from the sword of systemic racism.

I have had some very powerful courageous conversations with companies and schools in the past few weeks. Some organizations are very far ahead in their work on diversity, equity, and inclusion and some are just starting out. Wherever your organization may be on the road, what’s most important is to stay on that road and not veer off. If we’re honest, almost everything organizations need to do in order to bring true diversity, equity, and inclusion matters to the forefront has already been documented by the black employees in those organizations. Companies must go beyond the external displays of solidarity to internal responses to the concerns of their employees. This is the best way to truly show that #blacklivesmatter beyond the hashtag and to celebrate Juneteenth 365 days a year.

From allies to partners: how white people can be better listeners

I’ve heard and read several stories about what white people need to do right now. Many of those stories talked about the need for white people to listen. That is absolutely true, but there are two points that need to be added: how to listen, and what to do after whites listen. I must say that I have heard for years that white people will only listen to other white people and they need to have their own conversations. While I do believe that white people need to do more amongst each other to further the work to end racism, we must ask what would happen if people like Dr. King believed he couldn’t speak to white people? With that, I am going to share my thoughts on how white people need to listen and what to do after they do so.

Les Brown once said to me that we have two ears and one mouth and that we should use them in proportion. So the first step in listening is to truly commit to not responding to every point brought up by black people who are speaking up about racism. For example, when I conduct my trainings on black boys in our educational system, I’ve been told by white educators that the issue isn’t race, it’s class. It’s not race, it’s gender. It’s not race, it’s this or that. Are you someone who is quick to say you want to listen but then shoot down the arguments made by the person you claim to be listening to? There is a difference between listening to what you want to hear and what the person speaking has to and often needs to say.

So rather than listen to correct, listen to respect. Rather than listen to analyze, listen to empathize. Rather than listen to teach, listen to learn. After you listen, acknowledge the words shared with you and acknowledge what you didn’t know. You don’t lose anything by being honest. I’ve had multiple conversations with white people in the last few days who have said things like “I really didn’t understand until I saw that video of George Floyd being killed” or “I really thought we had turned a corner once Obama was elected” or “I don’t know what to do as a white person right now.” Many of us in the black community get frustrated by these comments but I have also heard these and similar comments from black people who also thought these days were behind us. We have to take people for what they know when they know it but then it’s time for action.

The next step after listening is not take the patronizing mentality of “I’ll be your ally.” There is a certain level of arrogance that has started to develop with this term “ally.” We don’t need allies. We need partners. Allies help out and go home. Partners work together for a common good. Allies go to the sporting venue to cheer on their team and go home after the win (or loss). Partners are on the court as a player on the team and fight together for a common cause, win or lose. Where do you fit in the stadium of effective listening?

Once you believe you have become an effective listener, it’s now time for action. Action takes many forms but the first form is educating yourself. What’s on your bookshelf? Who is on your podcast favorites? What documentaries are you watching? Reading lists such as these are great ways to get started. Dr. King said that the two most dangerous things in this world are sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. You don’t know what you don’t know. You have to get out and learn so that you can engage from an informed position. That way after you start to listen, you can simultaneously engage in the work needed to challenge racism, systemically and individually. Systemic work looks at ways you can challenge racism wherever it presents itself in society. Individual work looks at conversations you should be having with your neighbors, co-workers, and especially family members who espouse racist ideas.

I saw a sign during the protest that said “White silence equals police violence” and several spins on that. Whether you agree with that or not, it is indeed true that silence equals compliance. By not becoming an engaged listener, educating yourself, and speaking up when you witness ignorance or injustice, you are part of the problem. There is no middle ground. As you can see, this country is in an all hands-on deck approach. Where do you stand? How will you stand? We are working with or without you but I believe that success is better together. Dr. King said that he would rather see a good sermon than hear one. The world is waiting to see your sermon. Let’s go!

We need you NOW to stand with us for Ahmaud Arbery

I want to start this off by saying happy birthday to Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud, you’re a man who should be here today. An all-American athlete, and kind and loving person as described by family. I’m not going by these false media reports and narratives working to put you, the victim, on trial. In my course at American University entitled Intercultural Communication, we talk about a wide range of issues from Islamophobia and homophobia to anti-Semitism and sexism. One of our sections deals with #blacklivesmatter and unarmed killings of people, primarily of black people by law enforcement, but also in situations like this as well as the case with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, who were slain by vigilantes. I stopped watching videos of black people being slain until it’s time to teach this course so I have not watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery being slain.

One of the questions that I ask to my majority white students in class is the same question I’m asking you if you are not black: do you see yourself or your family members or people you know who are not black in those same situations? And the overwhelming response for the majority of my students is that they do not. And this is where the problem lies. This thing we call common humanity, many people don’t have it as it relates to black people. There’s still this mentality of “Well, he must have done something…” or “Well if he wasn’t running…” then Arbery would still be alive. These questions are never asked of white people.

There is always a reason to justify black death because we all don’t see ourselves in the lives of black people. People don’t see themselves in our predicament. When I see somebody get killed who’s Jewish in an antisemitic attack, I see myself and people I know in that situation. When I see somebody get attacked and beaten or bullied because they’re gay, I see myself in that situation even though I’m not gay because they’re human beings. As Dr. Maya Angelou said that, we’re human beings so nothing should be foreign to us. If we are going to find common ground in these uncommon times, I need you to start seeing your own children, your own mother, your own father, and your own brothers and sisters in these situations and really take a deep reflective stance as to how you’re going to be an upstander for all humanity. If all lives really matter, then we need you to join the fight to prove it!

The Arbery tragedy is every day for us. Many of us don’t even click on these videos anymore because we’re tired and it hurts in our soul. A recent study spoke about how racism itself should be considered a disease or linked to disease because of the way it shortens our lives. Do you think about this if you are not black? Do you just call yourself an “ally” and call it a day? We don’t need allies right now. I don’t believe in allies. I believe that the term allies has become a very arrogant term. And it’s the term that people have used to act like they’re kind of better than people. Allies go to sports games, cheer their home team, and go home. We need people to see common humanity and do something about it!

We have to get out there and do the work. We need all of you to get out there. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you’re running because he can’t run anymore. Keep Ahmaud in mind when you get out and exercise. Keep him in mind when you’re out there doing your best and forgetting the rest. Think about his parents and think about his mom on Mother’s Day, his father and Father’s Day and all of the people out there from the Sandra Blands to the Trayvon Martins of the world. Live and fight for the people who we won’t be able to get back.

We don’t have time to wait. We need you to get out there with us in solidarity because we are human beings and we deserve that respect that we have given to so many of you all across diverse communities around the world. That support has always been shown, oftentimes at the expense of our own community and now we’re asking for just a little of that back. I think that’s the least that many of you out there can do. We’re not waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready, come out and hit the streets, hit the airwaves, hit whatever with us because we are hitting it hard to get justice for Mr. Ahmad Arbery and so many other people. So I say to Mr. Arbery, rest in peace and rest in power. Whenever the rest of you are ready to join us in this common fight for humanity and dignity and decency, you have a place with us. Peace.

COVID-19: Tough Times Don’t Last but Tough People Do!

Great speaker Robert Schuyler stated that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I really find myself coming back to that quotation a lot during these COVID times because people are going through different challenges, be they physical or financial. There are challenges as it relates to what’s going on with our loved ones or even in our own personal lives. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re not given anything that you don’t have the ability to handle. And one of the things I often say in many of my speeches is that there may be challenges that I have been given that if they were given to you, you might not be able to handle. And on the flip side, there might be challenges that are given to you that if they hit my doorstep, I may not be able to handle.

I like what Les Brown said that oftentimes, we’ve been picked out to be picked on and sometimes you just feel like life’s always beating you down and always trying to get at you and take something from you. You have to understand, at this particular time, that this is something that it’s just testing you. There’s a difference between school and life. In school you get the lesson and then you get the test. In life you get the test and then you get the lesson. I want you to think about how you’re being tested today and how you’re going to pass this test!

How are you being challenged right now and what are you doing that’s going to allow you to be able to step up to the challenge? You have to decide to fight because once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want automatically takes over. As soon as you give up, you’ve lost. One of the things I want you to remember is to understand the importance of community and the importance of reaching out and asking for help. Like someone once said, ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong and you are strong!

We are all strong people and the strongest people get tested in the strongest ways. So don’t put yourself in a position where you feel like you have to go through all of this alone. Put yourself in a position where you tell yourself that you’re going to thrive! Reach out to your community and ask for assistance and offer assistance too! As the late Bill Withers sang, “Lean On Me.” It’s a powerful and this is a song that I’ve been playing in some of my fitness classes at the end because it’s something that we need to do. You need to lean on people and you also need to let people lean on you.

Another thing we have to do is you have to decide that you are going to come out of this on the other side in a better way. One of the things I realized when I was going to be home with all of us in terms of my family was to commit to getting myself into better shape before this shutdown happened than when I went in. I had to say that to myself because even if I didn’t say that I would have been succumbing to what some people are already calling the COVID-15 or COVID-30 as it relates to gaining 15 or 30 pounds from not being able to maintain a regular exercise routine. I’ve had some setbacks in this process but I am still on the path. Without that affirmation, I would have given in to my injuries and my appetite would’ve taken over, trust me!

I knew I was going to have to make certain dietary changes. I was going to have to maintain my workout program with adjustments. Before the quarantine I had to wake up at 5:30 to get the kids ready and out the door to school by 8. Now I don’t have to do that so there are two and a half hours to get it in at least 30 minutes to work out. We’ve also started doing bike rides as a family together and weekends in, which also wasn’t really happening before with our schedules.

This is just one example. What can you do where you’re at, what can you do with what you have right now where you are? Are there new opportunities to find a workout or the new opportunities to find and spend time with the kids? Are there new opportunities just to do anything different or special right now that you weren’t able to do before? We can talk about all of the challenges that the COVID situation presents, but it also presents a lot of opportunities and you have to ask yourself, are you positioning yourself to take advantage of them? These are some of the things I want you to think about as you go through your week, as you go through your month, the next couple of months, and possibly beyond.

You CAN get through this. We just have to do some mind shifts, some changing of our thinking, and lean on the people that we need to lean on. Set your intentions from the beginning so that this whole crisis and pandemic doesn’t set them for you. If you’re able to do these things, you’ll be able to take control of your own destiny and you’ll be able to take control during this crisis. And just remember, you’re never alone and never, ever, ever give up. Tell yourself every single day that you are not alone, that you’re not going to give up, and that you know you’re a tough person who’s going to last through these tough times. We are going to get through this together. I wish you all the best. I hope that you continue to do your best and forget the rest and let’s get through this together! I know you can handle this because you’re not giving anything that you don’t have the ability to handle! Let’s go!