Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Views on Jay-Z, Kaepernick and the NFL

I've taken a few days to formulate my opinion on this matter.  Snoop Dogg in an interview on the Breakfast Club published on August 21, 2019 gave a perspective that speaks to me, and Charlemange Tha God was also of a similar view, that the question is why do we need to pit one (Colin Kaepernick) against the other (Jay-Z)?

This Is Not A Contest, It's Not An Either Or
For our sake, and the cause of addressing injustice, we should want both these individuals to succeed because both have a role to play in keeping the attention on the unwarranted killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement - this is presumably the objective and not some other agenda that keeps us distracted. Take a listen to Snoop's comments here:

I have seen that many who have commented are more concerned about their own agendas and pushing ideological positions that are more distractions than adding clarity to an understanding of what we are witnessing. I think we should be careful we don't get carried away with these ideological labels.

Economic Activism and  Social Activism
Dr. Boyce Watkins made an interesting commentary on August 20, 2019 about ultra left socialists who he describes as idealists. To paraphrase, he said that they tend to be so blinded by their ideology that they harbor very little understanding of the value and power of money in helping their own struggles. I’m in agreement. I would like to point out that economic activism is just as legitimate as social activism, who is to say one has more legitimacy than the other? Below is the video of Dr Watkins' commentary:

Capitalism and Socialism
Further, I read one critique titled, Jay-Z has crossed the picket line with his NFL deal, where the writer tore into Jay-Z’s move and concluded that corporations and billionaires will not help the poor and the oppressed, but rather the solution is socialism. My question was what kind of socialism are they referring to? For example, Bernie Sanders, whose policy proposals I support for the most part, refers to himself as a democratic socialist, but I’ve never heard him claim himself to be anti-capitalist, for one because he recognizes fully well that profits are needed to fund social agendas. (Speaking of which, the converse is also true, what does it mean to be capitalist, because this too is not a single-version concept or system?)  In fact, I have read literature from some socialist groups denouncing Sanders and his proposals as not in fact being socialist enough, so what are we really talking about here when the article ends with saying socialism is the answer? This is a point that needs unpacking, because in my view the answer is not one or the other, each has some merit. 

All About The Money
I’ve read others articles like, Jay-Z Isn’t a Sellout, He’s a Capitalist, as well as heard commentary that Jay-Z is all about himself, as if he is the only party that includes self-interest as an element of their agenda. Yes, any deal made must be perceived to be mutually beneficial to all parties.  Have we forgotten that Kaepernick settled with the NFL - for money, presumably on an amount that was satisfactory to him? Have we also forgotten that if Kaepernick were to be given a job it would be for money? So I think we should be very careful not to paint ourselves into a corner. Kaepernick is as much about the money as is Jay-Z and it’s the reason his tongue is tied. So many have called for him to speak and to offer leadership beyond tweets, but, unfortunately for him, he is missing in action. From all indications if he were offered a job playing he would have taken it, and then what about 'the cause'? Nothing. We would still need to be activists the following day because the fundamental factors that give rise to the injustice being protested would still have not changed. Are any of the NFL players playing for free? Including Eric Reid and others who don the cause of social justice in a seemingly ultra righteous fashion?  Let’s be real, money is at the center of it all. And, by the tone of some of the commentary on this matter, the money itself and the ownership it can buy you is a bad thing, so the virtue remains in being a worker indefinitely. This is problematic because it does not allow for any other view or approach, and that is flawed.

It is naive to not recognize the value and power of money in a capitalist society. In case we forgot, it was Marcus Garvey who pointed out very early in the 20th century to black folks that, “wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is influence, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights. The system of our world politics suggests such, and as a fact it is.” Nearly a hundred years later today we still see this manifest as reality. The challenge today in my view is those who may be conscious, but who are not Jay-Z have not quite figured out how to use money to their advantage, beyond the flashy displays. Jay-Z is going places and making moves very few black men have gone and can go while learning as he goes along, and that makes many black folks uncomfortable because it is not something we're used to seeing. It’s his hustle and it is just as good as anyone else’s, and we might want to muster up the courage to support him as he goes into uncharted territory. It not an either or, both Kaepernick and Jay-Z would like similar outcomes, so why are we offering those who have no interest in fairness and justice fodder by pitting them one against the other? Both strategies have merit. We can offer to support them equally.

Challenge Our Thinking: Ownership and Employment
A few days ago I came across the article, Colin Kaepernick Posts New Workout Video to Prove NFL Readiness Amid Jay-Z’s Partnership with the Organization. I found it disappointing because it conflicted with a point that is at the core of my beliefs - business and enterprise are a critical source of empowerment (NB. not the critical source of empowerment). 

I thought the article was a travesty and felt that Colin Kaepernick should stop hurting his legacy by his incessant begging for work even at this stage.  I feel he is now at a point where he can use his network to create workout videos, for example, and release them now that he has the ability to parlay his persona into so many things that can earn him way more than he will make in the NFL over time. So I felt then that he was missing Jay-Z’s point.  In my view he should now be thinking how he and his friends can own NFL teams so that they can truly prevent future blackballing of other players. In one report Jay-Z is quoted when asked about Kaepernick's involvement as saying, “I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.” Which suggests to me the door is open for Colin.  So in my view they should both be talking at this point. 

Kaepernick seems to be playing checkers while Jay-Z is playing chess in my view, which means that one has a longer term goal in mind, which may not be immediately apparent to the onlooker. However, I don't wish to unfairly blame Kaepernick since as individuals we ultimately have to play where we're comfortable. Jay’s move is a call for us to challenge our thinking. Has any of those who are voicing disagreement about this given thought to the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling opened the door and has given rise to a movement that could result with more black folks moving to own more of the NFL teams?  It could. It’s the what’s next, because protest is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Hopefully, those highly paid sports stars and celebrities come to recognize that there are more uses for their money than showing off. Jay-Z has been on this message for years, and he evidently not only makes music about it, but he also does it.  What a concept, take action, act in spite of fear even as you venture into the unknown.

Instead of it being about a job, it has to become about owning the jobs that employ your people; become a decision-maker within the NFL. I wonder how many of the disenfranchised and oppressed can visualize a day when people who look like the players own more than half of the teams in the league with some of their companies also supplying the support services. It is helpful to remember that integration should work both ways, we first integrated as subordinates to white ownership, now it is high time to integrate as equal owners and decision makers. We’ve got a lot of learning to do among ourselves and we can see that the road won't be easy.

Find the Points of Unity and Celebrate Our Wins
Increasingly, black celebrities and investors are by now seized upon the importance of ownership in sports and other arena, and some recognize that each small step is a move that can in some small way help the overall African American community. So, if Jay-Z is successful at opening the door for other black owners to follow, would we not celebrate that victory? My hope is that as a community we would support him for making that breakthrough even while we work for breakthroughs at the level at which we operate.

Steve Biko once said, “the most potent weapon is the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” and we should be more careful we are not sowing the seeds of our own destruction by fueling unwarranted divisions. 

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Emancipation Day 2019: Out Of Many Africans We Are One People

Best wishes on this Emancipation Day my fellow Jamaicans. I hope this Emancipation Day is one that is filled with deep reflection and meaning. I trust the significance of the day empowers.

I remain a proud Jamaican descendant of Africans who were primarily from the Yoruba and Fulani peoples of West Africa, but who today have united with the many other Africans (the Akan and Igbo, among others) who were taken to the island and enslaved. The common goal of our people became the doing of what is necessary to move forward in freedom, unity and prosperity.

From the cross-section of Africans who were taken to the shores of this incredibly beautiful island we have in a very remarkable way become one - we are admired by many. Our circumstances produced the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of the greatest early exponents of Pan Africanism and global African unity, whose legacy lives on today in the lives of so many Africans on the continent and outside of it. 

We now have a nascent African Union slowly coming into its own as a manifestation of the vision of Marcus Garvey and others then and now. So, for this reality, Jamaicans have even more reasons to celebrate because in some small way our tumultuous Jamaican struggles have helped to shape this reality the world now sees and lives today. Out of many Africans, we are one people.

Nuff respek Jamaica 🇯🇲.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day Reflections 2019

One of my social media handles reminded me of this July 4, 2010 post:
Someone put it this way, "Independence Day is also a celebration of entrepreneurship! ... The freedom to launch and grow our companies. The freedom to see our ideas become reality. The freedom to live outrageously successful lives." I'll add, the freedom/obligation to do so responsibly. Happy Independence!
I came across an article this morning that speaks about an African American community named Seneca Village in what was in the now Central Park of New York City.  The writer tells us, "the community, called Seneca Village, began in 1825 and eventually spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street along what is now the western edge of Central Park. By the time it was finally razed in 1857, it had become a refuge for African Americans."

I have no recollection of ever hearing about this community before so I found the story intriguing.  The story was originally published in February 2017 and is titled, An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park.

Prominent abolitionist Albro Lyons and Mary Joseph Lyons were residents of Seneca Village. (NY Public Library)

What I found fascinating in this story was the independence of the African community in New York, a community that was probably also a stop on the Underground Railroad. Reading about Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two prominent members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then apparently another organization named the African Society (or maybe it’s the same organization with the name shortened for convenience), whose purpose was in part to build black communities, and also the AME Zion Church who collectively bought land was definitely empowering.

So my question then became, what happened to these organizations? 

The article states that “more than three-fourths of the children who lived in Seneca Village attended Colored School №3 in the church basement. Half of the African Americans who lived there owned their own property, a rate five times higher than the city average.” Imagine that for the 1850s.

The article leaves very little doubt that some Africans in New York had actively taken charge of lifting their community. It points out that, "owning land in Seneca Village meant more than finding a refuge from the slums and violence of Manhattan proper. Buying property meant voting rights (at least for men), as laws in New York at the time required that all voters own at least $250 worth of real estate." This paints a very unpopular picture of Africans in the early development of the city, and perhaps we should be learning more about some of these individuals because stories like these go a long way in changing the narratives we have been fed.

I definitely would like to know more about The New York African Society for Mutual Relief and The African Society. These are clear demonstrations that Africans would like to claim responsibility to be in charge of matters that are important to them, to the extent that they can. Being left alone to develop independently is not at all a bad idea for Africans when examples such as these come to light. If only all people could be left to enjoy unbridled freedom -- the freedom to live outrageously successful lives."

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Monday, May 27, 2019

In Memory of Lady Liberty

On this Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, I find myself reflecting on a recent article that I read in the Washington Post, published on May 23, 2019, about America's Lady Liberty. The article is titled, The Statue of Liberty was created to celebrate freed slaves, not immigrants, its new museum recounts.

Left to right: The bust of the Statue of Liberty on display in Paris in 1884 before it was shipped to the United States. The statue towers over Paris rooftops in 1884. The right arm of the statue on display in Philadelphia in 1876. (AP)

This was a shocking revelation to me, because from all we’ve been told to this point, the story of Lady Liberty had been all about immigrants. So evidently, the propaganda to sell this story has indeed been successful, and that story may indeed remain the version of the story that will be forever popular across the world, regardless of the facts behind its origins.

You may use this link to check out the full article if you wish, and I even encourage doing further research and reading some of the books mentioned. Some lines from the article read: 
Lady Liberty was originally designed to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants.
One of the first meanings [of the statue] had to do with abolition, but it’s a meaning that didn’t stick,” Edward Berenson, a history professor at New York University and author of the book “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story,” said in an interview with The Washington Post. 
The monument, which draws 4.5 million visitors a year, was first imagined by a man named Édouard de Laboulaye. In France, he was an expert on the U.S. Constitution and, at the close of the American Civil War, the president of a committee that raised and disbursed funds to newly freed slaves, according to Yasmin Sabina Khan, author of the book “Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.”
Laboulaye loved America — often giving speeches described by a New York Times correspondent in 1867 as “feasts of liberty which move the souls of men to their deepest depths” — and he loved it even more when slavery was abolished.
... An early model, circa 1870, shows Lady Liberty with her right arm in the position we are familiar with, raised and illuminating the world with a torch. But in her left hand she holds broken shackles, an homage to the end of slavery. 
(A terra cotta model still survives at the Museum of the City of New York.)
Makes you think, doesn’t it? With all of its opportunities and the best of intentions, America does have limits to the kind of progress she can stomach.

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