Monday, January 17, 2011

In Honor of A King: Keep on Keeping On

I wrote this last year, but Dr. King's message is timeless...

I must warn this is long; it is more of a lecture than a note, but I hope when you have a moment, you will read, comment, and share if inclined.
Today we remember Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and his service to humanity.

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. you only need a heart full of grace. a soul generated by love. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King Jr.

In his own words:
MLK Jr. =

From Miseducation to Re-Education

last night I wrote a note titled: Wake Up Everybody! Seize, don't cede OUR Power...
link =

In it I expressed some concern with our lack of we take our eyes off the prize and are easily manipulated by political rancor.
This is no different than the tactics used to cause friction between Washington & DuBois and DuBois and Garvey...
It is ironic that most who followed Garvey's philosophy believed BTW to be a sell out, when it was Washington's strategy that most influenced Garvey.

Malcolm X and Dr. King Jr. were also often (purposely) pitted against each other, forcing community members to pick a "leader" and "strategy". But the masses of our people loved both men because they recognized that both men loved them and wanted the same thing...our freedom.

Some may not have realized how similar MLK Jr. and Malcolm X were in their visions for our people.

I found this series and hope all will take a look:

1. Martin Luther King & Malcolm X: Striking Similarities Part 1 of 3
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2. Martin Luther King & Malcolm X: Striking Similarities Part 2 of 3
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3. Martin Luther King & Malcolm X: Striking Similarities Part 3 of 3
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It is very significant that Malcolm X reached out to MLK Jr. in his later years, going from calling MLK Jr. a pawn of white power structure to publicly recognizing that "Dr. King wants the same thing I want -- freedom!"

It is important to understand this because it is extremely relevant to today's ongoing debates between more progressive community members and the masses of African Americans that support President Obama.

The Transformation:
Early Malcolm X = The "white man pays Reverend Martin Luther King, subsidizes Reverend Martin Luther King, so that Reverend Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless."

but in one of his last speeches Malcolm X goes to Selma to speak in front of SNCC and says this:

MALCOLM X: And I think that the people in this part of the world would do well to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he's asking for and give to him fast before some other factions come along and try to do it another way. (February 4, 1965)

In his effort to support a black united front, Malcolm accepted an invitation from SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, to speak in Selma, Alabama. It was the first time he had traveled south to work with the civil rights movement.

OSSIE DAVIS: Malcolm was always involved somewhere in the struggle, and I remember, in January of 1965, Juanita Poitier set up a meeting at her house for the regular civil rights leaders to meet with Malcolm X to work out the differences between us so we could come from that meeting with a common platform. Once again, A. Phillip Randolph were there, Whitney Young was there, Dorothy Hieght was there. Malcolm X was there. Several others were there. Martin Luther King couldn't make it, but he sent a representative. And we spent that day discussing Malcolm's philosophy, the mistakes he made, what he wanted to do now and how he could get on board the people's struggle that was taking place.

I remember during the height of black nationalism in hip hop most were students of Malcolm X and many believed the caricature of Dr. King the media fed us..."the one dimensional i have a dream" was not until we got older and wiser that we embraced Dr. King more fully and understood he was no passive integrationist he had been made into (purposely), but a committed servant of all oppressed people with true vision and integrity.

Given the context of their shared vision, I am reminded of Malcolm X's description of liberals, and their need to control black leaders in order to control the black community. From a 1963 speech Malcolm said:

"The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.

The job of the Negro civil rights leader is to make the Negro forget that the wolf and the fox both belong to the (same) family. Both are canines; and no matter which one of them the Negro places his trust in, he never ends up in the White House, but always in the dog house. (peep that

The white liberals control the Negro and the Negro vote by controlling the Negro civil rights leaders. As long as they control the Negro civil rights leaders, they can also control and contain the Negro’s struggle, and they can control the Negro’s so-called revolt."

Are white liberals controlling Obama? If so, why are they turning on him? Or are they controlling US and OUR revolt to serve OUR communities and unite with OUR people?

Who best fits the description when Malcolm X describes "civil rights leaders"? Is he speaking of MLK Jr.? Leaders like Obama? or "Black progressives" who find themselves more aligned with white "liberals" (and conservatives for that matter) than the oppressed communities they supposedly are fighting for?

Every day, posts about Obama highlight the honeymoon between Obama and progressives is over. I understand people's frustration, but by making Obama the issue, we have been bamboozled by the media....and conservatives and liberals alike. It is always important to watch the company one keeps. If 90+% of Black people are with Obama but white progressives (or liberals) are against him, the progressive hip hop community needs to consider its alliances VERY carefully.

And while the reasons the masses of our community are supporting Obama may not be the most principled or conscious, they still are united. That is a starting point we must build on, not work against. Consciousness is a luxury few can afford in these serious times....survival is key... A friend of mine teaches in LA and most of her black students know only the caricature of MLK Jr. the mainstream has created...and many don’t even know who Malcolm X is! One asked if he was an extreme sports star! And we think our problem is that Obama is not addressing political issues like we want in this country where millions still deny our humanity? I’m sorry….it doesn’t even make the top 10. ...and systemic racism and poverty which are at the top of the list won't be fixed by Obama, period. It can only be fixed by US when we seize and stop ceding our power.

It is interesting how we criticize Black politicians and leaders who disappoint but never do the same with white politicians and leaders with the same level of passion, as if we take it more personally with the black leader...In Obama's case, that is a stretch given his biracial lineage and upbringing in I'm as guilty of this higher standard for black leaders as the next person. A favorite line I use in class when teaching about Thurgood Marshall is to call him the "first and only Black Supreme Court justice". lol...Clarence Thomas is no worse than Scalia..but our hatred is saved for Thomas. Why is that? Miseducation and mental slavery. Emancipate ourselves from mental slavery..none but ourselves can free our minds (Marley).

A King's Example

King himself took the higher road, rarely criticizing Malcolm but also refusing to publicly debate him. King would not debate, his secretary told Malcolm, because "he has always considered his work in a positive action framework rather than engaging in consistent negative debate." (

On this note, Dr. King was a true visionary because this "consistent negative debate" is still a problem today and takes up critical time that could be spent serving our communities.

Keep On Keeping On

To honor Dr. King, let us understand his philosophy completely, honor his sacrifice, and live his example, not just on this day of national service, but everyday. But more than anything, we must keep on keeping on, understanding that the promise land (progress) is not a is a journey.

Thank you Dr. King for giving us your love, your vision, your service...your life.

Song Title
Keep on Keeping On
link =

Curtis Mayfield

Gospel Greats

Everybody gather round and listen to my song
I've only got one

We who are young, should now take a stand
Don't run from the burdens of women and men
Continue to give, continue to live
For what you know is right

Most of your life can be out of sight
Withdraw from the darkness and look to the light
Where everyone's free
At least that's the way it's supposed to be

We just keep on keeping on
We just keep on keeping on

Many think that we have blown it
But they too will soon admit
That there's still a lot of love among us

And there's still a lot of faith and warmth and trust
When we keep on keeping on

Before we dismiss, one thing I insist
When you have your young, remember this song
And our world surroundings, its leaps and bounds
Ups and downs, is reality

Teach them to be strong, and when they are grown
They can proudly imply that we were an alright guy
For all the wrong now is right
This nation's people are now united as one

And we just keep on keeping on
We just keep on keeping on

Many think that we have blown it
But they too will soon admit
That there's still a lot of love among us

And there's still a lot of faith, warmth, and trust
When we keep on keeping on

Keep on keeping on, ya'll
Keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on
Keep on, keeping on
(Keep on, keeping on)

We got to move on up, ya'll
(We got to move on up)
Keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on

Some years back I remember
Still in my mind so well
My mama made this [Incomprehensible]
And I found it never fails

Never worry too long
(Worry too long)
About what goes on
(About what goes on)
Today it's sorrow
(Today it's sorrow)
Look like joy tomorrow
(Look like joy tomorrow)

Keep on keeping on
(Keep on keeping on)
Keep on, keep on
(Keep on, keep on)

We just keep on keeping on
We just keep on keeping on

Many think that we have blown it
But they too will soon admit
That there's still a lot of love among us

And there's still a lot of faith, warmth, and trust
When we keep on keeping on

Ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Ooh ooh ooh ooh)

We're gonna move on up
(We’re gonna move on up)

Keep on keeping on
(Keep on keeping on)
Move on, move now
(Move on, move now)
Keep on keeping on
(Keep on keeping on)


Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: A New Year...Time to Try Anew

May 2011 be a reflection of our collective actions for peace and sustenance for all.

As the ball dropped on 2010, millions listened and sang along to this has become the "THEME" of renewed hope in humanity to start each year for today and everyday, let's celebrate the infinite possibilities humanity brings...year in and year out...

Happy New Year Fam.

We hope all had a safe and love-filled holiday season. While I know it has been a very trying year for many, tough times will come and go, but bonds of love and fond memories created with family and friends really are everlasting. Please keep working for peace, sustenance, and justice for all, doing what you can to make the world a better place. Bless up!

Rise up Hip Hop Nation: Creating Sustainable Change

Original link =

At the end of 2006, I wrote this original essay (link above) and offered specific actions for individuals to consider for sustainable progressive change. I share it each semester with my students because while there are many things they want to see change (in their lives in particular, and the world more broadly), many do not know how individual actions they take can lead to major societal change. And I know many don't even know where to start in a world where social problems often seem larger than life. But Margeret Mead said it best:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

So in that spirit, I am reposting an edited version of the original essay, and will continue mentoring students on how to be the change they want to see.

I'd like to begin by offering peace and respect to everyone everywhere. While many are celebrating the holiday season, many more are suffering. Some are reflecting on the year gone by, while others are just praying the New Year will bring new possibilities for joy, peace, sustenance and justice. This is the time of year for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future. For me, this annual process led me to important questions. How can we make this a year of sustainable change? What concrete steps can we take to address what ails our communities and our global village more broadly? Wherever we are in life, whether blessed or oppressed, affluent or struggling, the condition of the global village will directly affect us all sooner or later, and it is in our best interest to work towards sustainable change.

The first thing we must do is realize that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We can no longer wish for better and act the same, maintaining status quo by default. To get out of the hell that corporate greed, concentrated power, western imperialism, religious fanaticism, and “ideology over reality” have created, we must get specific about what it will take to realize people power. It is not enough to be compassionate, you must act (14th Dalai Lama, 1992). And here are a few specific things you can do:

1. Pick one local issue and one global issue that you will educate your self about and stay informed!

2. Join two organizations that deal with your issues of choice (feel free to email me if you need some suggestions).

3. Mentor one child (For parents, mentor your children fully and completely). For childless adults (21+), mentor a child at your local school, Boys/Girls Club, or Big Brother/Big Sister organizations. Each One Teach One; Each One Reach One.

4. Sign at least one petition a month. Activism in the digital age is much easier than in previous ages, and it is easier to stay informed via the internet and email. For those that do not have internet access at home, utilize your city’s public library.

5. Recognizing that all media is framed (left/right, conservative/liberal), get your news from multiple media sources. By doing this, you will learn to separate facts from ideology.

6. Attend three community meetings or rallies a year or volunteer at community service centers at least three times a year. Getting involved in your community will lead to changes on the community level which will manifest on the global level eventually.

7. Be a conscious consumer. It’s a simple as this: support what you believe helps your community, reject what does not.

8. Vote. Whether the system works or doesn’t; whether elections are stolen or not. Too many of our forefather and foremothers died to give us the right to vote, and for no other reason than that, we need to honor that right. I strongly recommend all, particularly full time workers, consider absentee voting (this way you don’t have to worry about making it to the polls on the day of the election). Visit your state’s Secretary of the State page to register to vote and/or sign up as an absentee voter. Voting is easy and doesn’t cost to do, but it might cost greatly when we do not. Do not buy into the idea that two evils are the same. Voting may not directly affect your community but not voting could. To directly affect your community, it takes activism by community members and this list hopefully provides some guidance.

9. Make a sincere effort to communicate across class, color and generational lines. Most of what ails our community can be fixed with honest, open dialogue. With this we can overcome the internal divisions that separate us, and unity (which is necessary for self determination) can be realized.

10. FORGIVE. No sustainable change will be possible until we develop the ability to be critical but forgiving, unyielding on principle but yielding on people and humanity. Mistakes have been made but if we let our mistakes keep us divided, it will impede our progress. We have to embrace our mutual interests and avoid getting clogged down in our differences. A community divided is a community conquered indeed. I challenge those in conflict to take time to dialogue on what divides us (hip hop v. civil rights generation, mainstream v. underground, rapper v. rapper, bourgeois v. proletariat) and find common ground to work together on. Sustainable change will require that brothers and sisters reconcile with our humanity, and forgive past (as well as future) shortfalls and indiscretions. It is in human nature to be self-preserving, even at the expense of our progress at times. Informants have sold out movements for personal reward – and will again; some leaders have played politics at the community’s expense for power – and continue to; brothers and sisters have disrespected themselves and their ancestors through some thoughtless actions (and even profit from some of this in hip hop). Our inability to forgive one another’s trespasses will be our biggest impediment toward self determination. While I believe critical analysis of people that hurt our cause is essential, making criticism of others our primary focus makes it that more difficult to find common ground and unify around common interests. In the words of Iyanla Vanzant, Be against nothing…just be clear what you are for.

This list is a start. It is in no way definitive, but it will bring sustainable community change if each and every one of us acts on some of the suggestions listed (and others). The reason I focus on sustainable change is because our history shows us that we are very capable of big movements (Abolition, U.N.I.A., Civil Rights, Black Power), but what we have not been able to do as yet is sustain these progressive movements. To sustain them, we need continual people power and community involvement. Micro level activism can off set macro level power imbalances.

Sustainable change will take more than just vision for a better tomorrow; it will take reconciliation with the past and acceptance of the present reality. The reality is that social structure rules our lives. And like the entire natural world, humans must adapt to survive whatever structural conditions they must bear, and today that entails an uneven distribution of resources where 6% control most and 94% have little. When we reconcile with this reality, we can move to build solutions, based on “what is” instead of “what ifs”. So while the Panthers tried to build consciousness they also served the community with hot meals and health care. Bob Marley inspired souljahs across the globe, but those in most need in his native country, he gave food and shelter to daily. It is the only way to liberation: people must live before they can grow in consciousness and self determination, and each of us can take these specific actions to help our fellow beings live, learn and grow, both physically and consciously. Through self determination, we can free ourselves from dependency on a system that has never, and will never, serve us well. So for the New Year, I offer this list of specific actions individuals and communities can adopt, and if we follow it and work together to build on it, we can finally move the crowd…to freedom. One love.

* One God! One Aim! One Destiny! – Marcus Garvey and the UNIA

* Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no wars....When we have learned what Christmas is for...When we have found what life’s really worth, there’ll be peace on Earth – Stevie Wonder