Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Breastfeeding shouldn’t be on Sesame Street

January 15, 2012

Video on CNN.com: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-729675

Summary: While I am definitely not against breastfeeding, I do not believe there need to be sections on Sesame Street dealing with it. What do you think?

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RAPping up 2011 (a real rap)!

January 15, 2012

Video on CNN.com: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-724522

I was thinking last night of all the top stories of 2011 and decided, why not have some fun and write another rap! I wrote this! Happy new year!

Kevin Powell is wrong about the elite black athete

October 19, 2011

Earlier this fall, I was vacationing in Puerto Rico with several of my friends. While walking near the coast of an historic castle, I saw one of the cleanest and colorful basketball courts I have ever seen. I looked more closely at the court to try to make out the name of the court. To my amazement, it said “The Carmelo Anthony Court.” I was shocked for two reasons. The first reason is that I was not aware of Carmelo’s half Puerto Rican ancestry. The other reason was that I never heard of this park dedication on the news, which is one of two that Anthony created through his “Courts 4 Kids” program in Puerto Rico.

What I witnessed in Puerto Rico is really at the heart of my frustration with Mr. Kevin Powell’s Ebony Magazine article entitled “The Decline of the Elite Black Athlete.” While well-intentioned, the article serves to scold our young athletes as if they are little careless boys running around like chickens with their heads cut off. He also chides them for not being involved in political issues of the day as iconic athletes such as Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali were. While this may be true to some degree, an argument can be made that elite black male athletes are more engaged in their community and more engaged in being positive role models than they ever have since Jim Brown’s time.

I do not think I could have said this nearly a decade ago. This was around the time where Ron Artest, then with the Indiana Pacers, charged a fan in the stands and initiated what came to be known as the “basket brawl” involving several players and fans. This was the time where the NBA Portland Trailblazers were referred to frequently as the Portland “Jailblazers” due to members of that team frequently being involved with legal matters. Weapons and weed being found in the passenger seats of these athlete’s cars also seemed to be a weekly headline. While Powell’s article takes more of a paternalistic tone, it may have been more appropriate back then, though it may have fallen on deaf ears given that many of these athletes were probably not reading Ebony Magazine. In this new decade, however, the game has changed.

It is important to note that Powell said the “elite” black athlete. Just taking the NBA into account, I think of the elite athletes being Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul. Of course there are others. I cannot think of a single incident where any of these men have been involved in illegal activity. They have not only been upstanding citizens, but also dedicated fathers in the example of Dwayne Wade fighting for his children in a bitter custody battle. Several of them are married or in serious relationships, and they all have some form of foundation such as Carmelo’s where they are investing in athletic endeavors as well as educational programs such as LeBron’s foundation.

Lastly, the NBA lockout has solidified my positive view of these athletes. Without getting paid, these athletes have traveled the country playing basketball and have paid for their own travel arrangements. Ticket prices for these games have ranged from $5-50 in some cases. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities and have given NBA wannabes a shot at them. Some of these games have taken place at nice colleges, while other games have taken place in some of the most notorious areas of major cities such as Anacostia in Washington DC, where I happen to live. I have seen Kobe Bryant hit game winning shots at the Drew League gym and let kids swamp him who would never have a chance to pay for a game at the Staples Center. To cap it all off, Amare spoke publicly that these players have spoken seriously about starting their own league should the lockout continue. Is that not black entrepreneurship at its best?

It is time that we who have a platform within the black media sphere start celebrating our athletes. Let the rest of the media condemn the thug actions of a select few. The athletes of today will never be able to achieve the political stature of an Ali or Jim Brown because there are not as many examples of overt racism and oppression as existed during those times where the State was just as much the enemy of blacks as the KKK. Having said that, these athletes have flexed their political muscle in support of then-candidate Barack Obama, contrary to Michael Jordan who, at the same age of these players, refused to endorse a democrat for political office because “republicans buy sneakers too.”

Let’s prop up all that is great about our athletes. Most of these men (and women) will not speak about their charitable endeavors so let’s do it for them. During the NFL lockout we have seen a player go into teaching and another player turn down a multi-million dollar contract in order to go to business school. Let’s be the ones responsible for showing our youth how they can look at these athletes as role models. Let’s praise our elders like Magic Johnson and Tony Dungy willing to be mentors. Lastly, let’s not act as if it is only our black athletes have a void to fill in our community as it relates to black male role models. We are missing black male teachers, doctors, lawyers, and others who can be role models. Let’s stop criticizing what we are against and celebrate what we are for and the athletes who represent that in every sense of the word because the elite black athlete is reflecting a positive image on black America that we have not seen in quite some time.

Omékongo Dibinga, M.A., is a diversity consultant, motivational speaker, and musician. He is the author of several books including G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps To Living Your Best Life and The UPstander’s Guide To An Outstanding Life. He serves as Director for UPstander International. Email him at omekongo@iupstand.com or follow him on Twitter @omekongo.

Bully (a poem)

October 13, 2011

I.

I just don’t feel nothing anymore

School just used to be a bore but now I abhor

It, wanna quit I just can’t take it

Used to front like I was happy now I can’t fake it

Hundreds of kids at my school but I’m alone

Bystanders standin by like talkin’ on phones

Math teacher wants to help but her hands are tied

She can handles squares and tris but can’t deal with bi

Wonder why I can’t cry like I did last year

Live in fear when ears hear being called a “queer”

Queer enough that’s the nicest thing I’ve heard all day

Folks come up with the meanest ways to call me gay

G-a-g-a sang today “I was born this way”

But now I wanna die being torn this way

Counselors and principals—no principles

Hung me out to hang myself I’m invisible

 II.

I know you think I don’t see you but my hands are tied

I’m running this school but school’s runnin me I tried

I got teachers wanna help but they need training

But the district cut the budget I keep complaining

Hard to watch what you’re going through it hurts to see

Cause when I was young kids used to pick on me

That’s really why I went into education

To build a place where students could have safe haven

For their dreams but it seems that you’re caught in the seems

You have no idea how much I want to intervene

But I got parents that’ll say that I’m pro-gay rights

Church groups that’ll call me the antichrist

Damn I’ll be damned if I plug this dam

But behind the scenes I swear I’m gonna do what I can

If you could just hold on for just one more day

I’ll do my best to make you feel you belong OK?

 III.

Got this kid at this school that I punched in the face

Didn’t do me no wrong, he was just in my space

Teacher didn’t care, didn’t gimme detention

Kinda crazy cause really I just want some attention

When I’m smackin’ up a kid I’m on top of the world

When I stop I’m nobody, the boys and girls

Don’t pay me no mind unless I’m spendin my time

Callin’ kids names and playing tricks on their mind

But does anyone wonder why I act this way?

Just saw my dad punch my mom in her chest today

Happened right on the street and no one said a word

Guess hittin on people is just how you get heard

So I’m a keep hittin ‘em til folks are hearin’ I’m

Looking for some guidance, an intervention sign

If you could just hear me when all the kids fear me

Maybe I’ll stop bullying  and see my life more clearly

My Name Is Sally Hemings

September 26, 2011

Get your violins out, your flutes and cellos

As I recount my days back in Monticello

The year America breaks from Europe’s chains

I’m still a slave shackled in America’s chains

And I’ll make it plain I was more than a slave

A founding father found me and he couldn’t behave

Y’all can call him what you want, America’s son

I call him a rapist under Virginia’s sun

Put him in the books for the country he claimed

But me, I’m just a blip y’all don’t know my name

Know nothing about from whence I came

Call me Sally or Sarah, some say I’m to blame

But I ain’t ask for this I was part of a deal

So hear my story as a slave just recountin’ the real

While Jefferson was workin’ so hard to plant nation

I was his concubine on his plantation

Tried to make it slick and just call me a nurse

While I was savin’ lives they put my soul in a hearse

Doin’ nothing but my best to help heal Mary

Then she go to sleep and I’m screamin’ hail Marys

Prayin’ I won’t be raped by this man so scary

Y’all venerate this man but on the contrary

I was in the room taking care of wardrobe

He comin’ from behind and he never wore clothes

Now he comin’ from behind and I’m caught in the throws

I’m special, presidential w-h-o

R-e, he birthed nation, I birthed his kids see

Y’all see his face everywhere but mine don’t exist see

I’m Sally Hemings case you didn’t know

And I was more than a slave more than Jefferson’s ho

So know my story it’s an American classic

How I survived for centuries from life so tragic

See I rep for my sisters that you’ll never know

The ones mastered by the masters, sexed on the low

Y’all say it was just a sign of the times

Then you rewrite history, rewrite the lines

But I ain’t ask for this and some say it’s my fault

Look down at my sisters now it’s still their fault

Janet sabotaged her bra, it wasn’t Justin

Rihanna pissed off Chris Brown—musta been

Tina Ike-d up just cause she tried to mic-up

Anita knocked off the Hill she tried to rise up

Halle Berry had it comin’ who she think she be

Damn… in retro she kinda look like me

But I digress, I distress when I have to digest

Centuries of women being blamed for men stress

But until we tell our story won’t nobody care

So sisters rise up and tell your tales without fear

How long will we all be Americans for THIS time?

May 2, 2011

Video: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-600228

As I see the celebrations taking place over the death of Osama bin Laden, I know tomorrow (if not already) that on both sides of the aisle, the battle for who deserves credit for his death will brew mightily. President Obama mentioned Bush in his speech. Bush said he congratulated Obama. That should be it, but we already see people outside the White House carrying Bush/Cheney signs. Maybe some have Obama signs but I don’t see them. It’s not about that! Both parties could have a president in power and this still could have happened. Let’s give Obama credit for carrying out on the promise made by the American government as we would if McCain was president. Let’s focus on the feeling we have right now and figure out how we can manifest it in our daily lives, especially as we move towards the next election. Congratulations America.

For Maya, a healer for all humanity

April 4, 2011

This is a love letter

From a poetic son,

To mother of poetry for the human spirit

From South Africa,

To far away places like Southeast Arkanasia

Your words of wisdom touch all humanity,

From a lover of literacy like Oprah,

To a freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela

In a time where fightin’ was natural,

You reminded us to never forget

That we are a human family

From the prisoner to the pusher to the poor girl,

Your prose and poetry puts all people on a parallel podium

From the aspiring junkie and the melancholy men,

To a man bigot and the phenomenal woman

You make us run the gamut

From tears of personal pleasure and pain,

To a manageable mourning grace

It’s no accident that you have become our mothering blackness,

Nurturing a society suffering from the sickness of senses of insecurity

You write for us,

Who dare not dare to challenge the status quo

And you champion the cause of equality,

Only making ignorance feel insignificant

With you Maya, we saw beyond our seeming

And dreamed beyond our dreaming,

And, in retrospect,

You helped me have the prescience to also promote healing

Oh, Maya Angelou,

Maya Angelou,

May-a-angel-o-u all the blessings in heaven

That you bestow on the often heavy heart of humanity

Avec merci, Mother Maya for your vision,

And being willing to take time out to help us all be free,

And for helping me realize that when I think about myself,

It ain’t that bad to me

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: we’re on the wrong side of history

December 20, 2010

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-530923

History has shown us that we have always been on the wrong side of history as it relates to segregation, especially with the military. We said blacks couldn’t serve and we were wrong. We said women couldn’t serve and we were wrong. Now with DADT, we see that we have been wrong again. Our country is stronger when we allow everyone in this country to bring their talents to the table. America has corrected many of its injustices over the years. I am happy with this latest correction that will put us once again on the right side of history.

And I don’t even know her name (a poem on AIDS Day)

December 1, 2010

***This poem is a true story***

Did you know I used to be a conspiracy theorist?
Actually,
I’m still a conspiracy theorist
I’ve conspired about everything
From Klan contraceptive pills in
Kentucky Fried “Chickens”
To why so many poor children I’ve taught
Are now on Ridlin

I believe in almost every conspiracy
Designed to assassinate black leaders
From Shaka Zulu to Patrice Lumumba to Dr. King
And up to the present

I also used to opine
About AIDS being a disease,
Created in Western labs
To dispose of Black people around the world
But then I had to realize
That my theories on conspiracies
Won’t change the fact
That my cousin in Zambia is dying of AIDS
…And I don’t even know her name

Thoughts of AIDS
Coming from gays, junkies,
Or Vietnamese Rhesus monkeys
In Western laboratories
Won’t help my cousin see her next birthday
Or the birthday of her child

It’s insane when I think of those slain in vain
By this disease with “unknown origins”
But of course it’s worse now
Because it’s closer to home

I often think about my cousin
And how she lost her husband
To the AIDS Grim Reaper
But then I dug deeper
And found out that he died
Because he had to choose
Between money for expensive AIDS drugs
And financial aid to feed his children

So now that they are going hungry,
He must have died in vain
…And I don’t even know her name

US drug companies
Won’t lower the prices of their medicine
And so now she too waits to die
Impoverished and ashamed
… And I don’t even know her name

No more school for her sons
…And I don’t even know her name

Her daughter might be raped
By a gang of infected men
In a futile search to cure their pain
… And I don’t even know her name

Will her children die too
Because of this damn Western drug game?
… And I don’t even know her name
My cousin is dying of AIDS
…And I don’t even know her name!

And I know this sounds repetitive
But for my entire life
Her existence in my mind was negative

And so now that she’s HIV positive
I feel like I have to make up for lost time
Because there’s too much time lost
Before she’s tossed
Into that statistical group of Africans
That die from AIDS, malaria, TB,
And probably common colds

But since we don’t know their names,
And most Americans believe
That all Africans are the same,
Then unless they died from war or famine
Then they must have died from AIDS!

Not old age, not rabies,
Even the babies,
Let them all die
From that disease we call AIDS,

You know that “AIDS”
Some say it means
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
But it might as well mean
“Africans Impoverished Death Syndrome”
Because no one cares for their names right?
Well wrong!

Because from now on,
I’m gonna sing my cousin’s song
And the songs of the throngs
Of those who are dying
In numbers so large
That rivers form from tears of the crying
And mounting AIDS deaths
Keep these rivers from ever drying

But I’m gonna stand strong for my cousin
And fight the fight for her and her husband

Because inability to pay exorbitant prices
For name-brand drugs
Means my cousin might die in shame
But at least for this one soul
It won’t be in vain
Because by the time you read this testimony
I will have known her name

Her name is not “African statistic #10,000,001”
Or whatever figure
Will get these drug companies more money
And by the way I gotta inform my friends
That joking about AIDS
Never was and still isn’t funny

And if they or you ask why,
I will tell them you that my cousin,
*Kuishi,
She is dying of AIDS
And though some of you may not give a damn,
For those of you who care,
Please join me for a moment of silence
For Kuishi ‘s prayer…

*Kuishi: “to live” in Swahili

What Does Development Aid Really Mean?* (a poem)

September 23, 2010

What does development aid really mean?

Does it mean managing money to mobilize against HIV

Or driving through southern Sudan in an SUV?

Does it mean the improvement of life,

Since many join the development enterprise to improve their lifestyle?

Does it mean giving 1/10 of 1% of your GNP

And having 1/3 of that funnel its way to those in need,

Since most of the aid goes to pay aid agency staff salary?

What does it mean?

Development aid is well-intentioned

But in this new millennium we have to learn our lesson

Because I’d rather have no aid than slow aid or low aid

If it means that development agencies will give funds

To governments for pipelines and pesticides

But indirectly support a genocide

Or have we forgotten the extreme case of Rwanda,

Where 80% of development aid went to the pre-genocide government

Even though all of the signs of the genocide were in place

But agencies for aid

Paid it no mind as long as that well-water became potable

…or that fertilizer ferry became floatable

… or that minimal rise in literacy became notable

Just noticeable enough to give uplifting quotable statistics on report backs to donors

Please!

Misguided, top-down development enforces the politics of exclusion

Because in collusion with repressive governments,

The poorest of the poor never receive assistance in fields like subsistence farming

And it’s quite alarming

Because aid agencies never realize their agency in societal conflicts

Because they claim to take an “apolitical” approach

But they fail to see how misdirected, top-down aid can encroach

On a politically fragmented society

And exacerbate it by further disempowering the disempowered

Primarily by working with government-appointed elites

So we have to rethink development

Because many of us don’t understand what to “develop” meant in the first place

I’m calling for a structural adjustment program of Structural Adjustment Programs

And other policies that claim or claimed to assist developing homelands

Because development doesn’t mean that we can have Afrikan Growth & Opportunity

When the resources we use don’t come from our own community

It doesn’t mean fancy dinners in classy hotels

With money given to decrease mortality rates for newborn children

And if aid can’t be given to a government

Without a care for ensuring the rights of every child, woman and man

Then I’ll be damned before I say that everything is “ok” with development aid

It’s time to ensure that our dollars are being spent on education and public health

As opposed to Safari vacations and private wealth

For foreign experts and host government hierarchies

And if we can have vouchers at home

Why not have developing country vouchers

So good governments can choose the best development projects for their land

Instead of generic plans from those claiming to know what’s best for the destitute?

Development aid can’t be looked at as a Wall Street business transaction

Where investors are only worried about the comeback

We need to come back and revise our strategy

Because we’ll all be glad to see the day

When development aid is not only concerned

With promising statistics on cocoa revenues, crop distribution,

And more village midwives

Because few lives will be improved or saved

Unless the poorest of the poor truly receive the majority of the aid

So until the day when underdeveloped development dreams

Are redeveloped for developing countries

Development aid will never be what is seems

And if we continue to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to this preventable predicament

Then the poorest of the world’s poor will continue to ask:

“What does development aid really mean?”

*Partially inspired by Dr. Peter Uvin’s Aiding Violence