Melanin is strong, melanin is beautiful

I am black

with skin like mocha, and a spirit of fire.

I try to imagine a world where this is considered beauty

to no avail.

I awake every morning bathed in light,

the very light that breathes into me, life.

Why am I plagued with such insecurity,

with such inconsistency, in that way that i view myself?

I am young

full of intelligence and an unwavering belief that things will be better tomorrow.

A belief in a brighter world,

a world where I can breathe without wondering how much it’s gonna cost me.

How much it’s already cost me.

I am resilient.

I am unwavering.

I am determined.

I am incorrigible.

I am revolutionary.

I am black.




Dear Beautiful Black Child

You are black

You are not a burden

You are not bothersome

You are not bad

You are not blameworthy

You are not brainwashed

You are not a bastardized

You are not brutal

You are not bland

You are not blind

You are not boneheaded

You are not barbaric

You are not behind bars

You are not beneath

You are not burnt

You are not beaten

You are not battered

You are not broken

You are not buried

You are not bitter


You are bigger

You are better

You are beyond

You are blessed

You are brave

You are bold

You are behaved

You are becoming

You are blameless

You are believable

You are bearable

You are beneficial

You are brilliant

You are bighearted

You are blissful

You are breathtaking

You are beautiful

You are black

The Age of Mass Incarceration

“Few Americans today recognize mass incarceration for what it is: a new caste system thinly veiled by the cloak of colorblindness.” “One day, civil rights organizations may be embarrassed by how long it took them to move out of denial and do the hard work necessary to end mass incarceration.” (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow)

When first presented with this idea of a ‘new Jim Crow’, I was of course a bit skeptical. The thought that there may be a cyclical caste system that presents itself in many different ways, but ultimately has the same outcome. I had never before thought of mass incarceration as one of these many systems of injustice, meant to destabilize and disassemble black communities. But despite this fact I took it upon myself to begin reading, with an open mind and it didn’t take very long for me to get on board. I will say that my previous skepticism was rooted for a place of ignorance and maybe even a little bit of denial. But as I read I couldn’t help but draw similarities between my own life and the system and the many systemic ways that it disassembles our communities, with us being none the wiser.

Throughout the course of the book Michelle Alexander raises many important points and issues, that I for one had never before thought of. But it is not until the end of the book that she then gives possible solutions to these issues. She discusses mass incarceration and the way that it is deeply woven into our society, and how much work will have to be done if we ever hope to put an end to this. She also brings up today’s civil rights groups and the fact that they are doing little to help the cause, she states that this may be due to the fact that they are still in denial. This is a scary fact but it would not surprise me, considering that before reading this I was in the same position. But if real progress is to be done then we need to rally together to educate our peers, and to right the wrongs that have been done and that are still being committed.

After this reading I feel that my eyes have been opened, I’ve learned a lot which I believe is the first step. So when presented with a critique of this book I expected the author to have had a similar reaction. And although that is not the truth of the matter, I can understand some of the views held by this author. Michelle Alexander while giving a very detailed overview of the history behind and many examples found in today’s society, there are of course somethings over-looked. James Foreman discusses the fact that she tends to avoid any evidence that does not support this idea of mass incarceration being a new reiteration of Jim Crow, and that can be problematic. But all in all I have learned a lot, and education I believe is the first step to creating change.

The Concept of Black Power

“I know how black it looks today, for you. It looked bad that day, too, yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.” “Know whence you came from. If you know from whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear” (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time)

In our society there have been many reiterations of systems of injustice meant to “cage” and stifle the progression of African Americans. When we first began looking at mass incarceration as one of these systems, I was at first skeptical. But although there are many differences between the iterations, are many similarities. Within every generation of my family (on both sides) I can think of at least two people who have gone to prison, or who are currently in prison. And of course I had always questioned this fact, especially when they’ve been in prison for decades, for minor offences. But growing up it wasn’t out of the ordinary in the neighborhood that I grew up in, I would even say that it was pretty ordinary. People died and people went to prison, I wasn’t something we talked about. But one thing people really didn’t do, was go to college.

Throughout all of my years in the education system, I’ve always felt that the system was not built for me, or ‘people like me’. And because of this I’ve always had to work twice, sometimes three times as hard only to still, constantly have to play catch-up. I’ve had teachers and guidance counselors tell me that college wasn’t meant for me. And yet here I am in my junior year of college, and even now it can be difficult to get past this barrier, that I fell is still between me and higher education. Stokely Carmichael discusses the urgency, with which black people need to get themselves together and contribute to the development of larger society. This I believe is reflected in the many actions that black people make, in order to survive in a society that is built on the opposite.

Sometimes it seems as if this society that we live in feeds off the ‘suffering’ of black people. There is already a stigma placed on every black person within this society. But to be both a black person and a felon, is to experience the loss of all of ones freedoms and rights. Michelle Alexander talks about prison, and the huge amount of restrictions that are placed on prisoners after they are released. When they are released that is not the end of it, this goes on to affect their lives forever. They struggle to get jobs, and houses, this makes getting on the ‘straight and narrow’ next to impossible. And as mass incarceration is only the most recently reiteration of this system, I am truly afraid to see what comes next.

Living the “black” truth

“You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to existence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.” (The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin)

For my entire college career I have felt as if I had to constantly prove my place among the academic community in an environment where I am supposed to become more academically advanced and challenged. Going to school and getting an education is the one thing that was always made clear to me by my family and teachers, this was the normal path that I was intended to take. However, I did not see another side of this until I went away to college, where I was visible the minority. Everyday I go to class, I am most likely going to be the representation of the minority population that exits on campus. This may seem as a complaint, however, it is far from that. This situation has helped me realized that even though for me it is normal to be doing what I am doing, in reality the problems that plagues my community has created a stereotype that overwhelm the success of me and my peers. Its heart breaking to realize that you have to work twice as hard in and outside the classroom to feel some recognition of what you have been doing just because you are part of the population that has “made it out”, even though the circumstances are different.

As hard as this is for me to accept, it is the reality of things, it is my day to day reality. After watching a Donald Trump rally in Ohio, I realized why young black college students like myself, has to fight for a place in the college environment. Watching Trump stand before an all white audience and proclaim that, “no housing, no homes, no ownership. And I ask you this, I ask you this- crime, all of the problems- to the African Americans, who I employ, what the hell do you have to lose?”, These comments are a reflection of the society as a whole, while the crowd cheers upon hearing some generalize, stereotype and insult an entire group of people. It then made a lot of sense to me why people at school are often taken back my intelligence, because we have terrible schools, we are uneducated and we are all criminals therefore we have nothing to lose when worse comes to worse.

Historically, we were not meant for success, we were not even considered to be humans. But looking back through history and the writings of James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael & Charles Hamilton, we must recognize where we come from in order to understand our place in society today. When James Baldwin says, “well, the black man has functioned in the white mans world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations”, we must understand where that comes from and why it is so dangerous to see politicians spew these stereotypical rhetorics that brings out the worse of society.  When I fight for my place my college i’m continuing the work that my ancestors created for me, I am establishing my self worth and the worth of those who will come after me, and the empowerment of black knowledge, power and excellence.


If You Don’t See Color, You’re not Seeing the Entire Picture


In the 21st century,a fresh wave of consumerism has taken over. People are desperate for the newest fashion trend or newest gadget. Along with it, a new wave of rebellion has washed over Western culture almost parallel to that of the 60’s and 70’s. Oddly enough, the media does not often cover the impact of the clashing of the two generational waves. Madison Van Oort explains the mingling of the two in her writing piece Shut it Down!

What’s shown in the news way more often than not today, is the “violence” of the Black Lives Matter movement. Combined with the already obscene and vulgar language of rap music today, it is clear to see why someone’s idea of the black community could follow the guidelines of “violent, obsessed with high priced clothing, and uneducated.” However, what they rarely ever pick up on is the piece that Van Oort crafts about her experience in the middle of protestors and fashion stores. On top of accounts of direct and indirect racism from store representatives, people of color tend to be on the exploited end of Western fashion trends. Holidays such as Black Friday are great targets, as Van Oort points out, for black protestors to make their statements. Black people have always been on the bad side of consumerism. We buy super expensive clothing, but instead of being acknowledged for being able to afford like everybody else, there is always suspicion or harassment. Unfortunately, black people have gotten sucked into capitalism and consumerism as deep as they were meant to. Coming from a place of no money and having to endure years of having nice things being dangled over your head and told, “if you work hard enough you can get it too,” but not seeing the end of the deal, is frankly hard to overcome. From this exact stance has BLM pushed back on the fashion industry. Blacks being the top fashion consumer in the country, fashion companies have definitely attempted to turn the appeal towards the task of trendsetting this new black generation has put on its shoulders.

The Era of the Colorblind

“African American criminality became one of the most widely accepted bases for justifying prejudicial thinking, discriminatory treatment, and/or acceptance of racial violence as an instrument of public safety” (The Condemnation of Blackness Khalil Gibran Muhammad)

I often ponder with the idea that I have to constantly show one side of my personality to people who I feel comfortable with and have a lot in common with culturally and physically and the other side with a different group. This stems from having to acknowledge the negative stereotypes that comes with being an African America. But where did this negative connotation come form with the black community? Whenever a black man is walking in a neighborhood where he is not the norm, then he might have to encounter the police at some point questioning his presence in such an environment, and this is the sad truth. There is an overwhelming belief that African Americans are not successful, educated and we are all prone to violence and becoming criminals, however there are other factors that contribute to this argument whether there is evidence or not. The biggest issue with these beliefs is the link between race and crime, you could in fact have the same amount of crime being committed by another racial group but it still does not have the same effect. According to Khalil Muhammad, “to change the future of race relations- because crime itself was not a core issue. Rather, the problem was racial criminalization: the stigmatization of crime as “black” and the masking of crime among whites as individual failure. The practice of linking crime to blacks, as a racial group, but not whites, reinforced and reproduced racial inequality”.

This makes me think, and should make everyone who feels as if there is not a problem think too. If I thought about the many times where my friends and I have been walking around campus minding our business at night, and people are visible uncomfortable walking by us, as if we are up to no good or we are going to do something to them. Every time I have this discussion questioning these stereotypes and its historical background, I always get the response of “I am colorblind” and “it has nothing to with race” but “it is shown that there are a lot of African Americans who have been arrested or is involved with criminal activities”. It is very common to hear people coin the term “colorblind” when asked about racial injustices and discrimination of a certain ethnic group. This may be viewed as an innocent comment that does not mean any harm, however, for African Americans and other minority groups it can be very challenging. Here is why, when a person response to racial inequality as “I am colorblind, I don’t see color” it neglects the constant battle that African Americans have been facing since the establishment of the United States. This is seen as another way of not dealing with/addressing the issues at hand, which is further creating a bigger problem, when the problem is being constantly brushed under the rug.

Looking from a historical point of view Khalil mentions, “how did European immigrants, the Irish and the Italians and the Polish, for example- gradually shed their criminal identities while blacks did not? In other words, how did criminality go from plural to singular?”. This very important to note because this idea is still alive in 2016. It may not be explicitly said that African Americans are prone to crime and violence but the implication is there. The thing that bothers me the most about this is the argument that most people make claiming that people are genetically predisposed to committing violent crimes, which is an ancient stereotype that has lived on for years. According to the excerpt from The Condemnation of Blackness, “but where the “negro factor” is concerned, Henderson continued, “racial inheritance, physical and mental inferiority, barbarian and slave ancestry and culture”. Because of these existing stereotypes, claiming to be colorblind in the hight of racial inequality and tensions, negate the importance of having conversations about these things and addressing them, but more importantly, having political figures reinstate this rhetoric and stereotypes for the younger generation is detrimental to having the progress that is needed to understanding the severity of racial inequality.     maxresdefault




The Reiteration of Jim Crow

“Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises—the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole”. (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow)

I would never have thought that a book details the happenings during the time of Jim Crow, would be so reminiscent of the actions being portrayed in the media today. I’ve often heard that what is happening today “is nothing new, and that it is only technology that has evolved”, as things are now being recorded for all to see. But those actions (Murders, beatings, etc.) are very much parallel to the actions happening today. Michelle Alexander explains in detail, the many reiterations of systems built upon the backs of African American’s in this country.

Slavery was the first wave of this system, she begins by addressing the issue of race. She sheds light upon the fact that this idea of ‘race’ is a fairly recent development, implemented here in America in order to classify people. ‘Blacks” were shipped in directly from Africa (instead of an English speaking country), in an effort for whites to protect their superior status and maintain dominance (non-English speaking slaves, were much easier to control). The next wave to come was the era of Jim Crow. When I think of the Jim Crow era, I often think of this idea of ‘separate but equal’ and lynching. Considered technically ‘free’ blacks were often killed, beaten, and terrorized by ‘superior whites’. The men were feared, the women were raped, and the children were sold. And although America was thought to have been built on values such as liberty, freedom and equality, blacks were seen and treated as second-class citizens. She then speaks about the era of mass incarceration. The increased population of African Americans in prisons, and the deterioration of the black community.

Today these actions (killings, beatings, etc.) are not only seen and witnessed by those in the community, but they are also filmed and televised for all to see. W.E.B. Du Bois discussed the idea of the “Emmett Till Generation” and how blacks were traumatized by the lynching’s happening, within their communities. And with the rise of modern lynching’s (police brutality and killings) happening today, I wonder how the active media presence during this time will impact future generations? Ida B. Wells discussed the role that media platforms can play in documenting historical events that are often overlooked and brushed under the rug. As a journalist she keep a record of the atrocities taking place, and kept her community informed on these happenings. Going forward I believe that the media will be a key component, in the spread and documentation of these recent events. And I believe that more people will begin to utilize this platform to bring attention to these happenings within our own community.

The Cycle of the Racial Caste System

What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt.

-Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

We are now in the time period of what Michelle Alexander labels “The New Jim Crow,” which encompasses mass incarceration, institutional and systematic racism, and a racial cast system. During this era we have witnessed things from police shootings based on suspicion and fear, to mass incarceration of blacks and minorities.

The previous era of Jim Crow laws existed to keep blacks oppressed in order to “keep them in their place” post-slavery. The actions that were taken to enforce this racial caste system included violence and sometimes murder. The idea of racial caste is important because it highlights the difference between the class system and the caste system, but also compares the two on the basis of race. In the US, class consists of economic standing, and can be achieved over time. Some people are mobile within the classes, meaning they move from one class to another due to their economic standing, their wealth accumulation, and value of possessions. The caste system, however, is a system of ascribed status. Within the caste system, people are born into the status they have for the rest of their lives. The caste system parallel with the race system we’ve constructed in the US is an idea that highlights a lot of the issues within the conversation about racial tension in the US. Since slavery, race has been a mark of the status a person has in society. One of my favorite things the famous rapper Kanye West has ever said in his music is, “Even if you in a Benz, you still a ni**a, in a coup (Kanye West, All Falls Down).” The system that has been created in this country tells blacks that no matter what they have achieved, there is still something negative about being black. And this is what Michelle Alexander is talking about when talking about the New Jim Crow.

Mass incarceration has created a new mentality that has simply just tipped off the effects of slavery. If a black child is born into poverty and hopelessness, that is all they know until they are old enough to know beyond the limits of this environment. A young mind affected by such tragic struggle can turn a young heart cold, causing youth to resort to violence and crime as a means to providing for themselves and their family. Faced with a choice between an education and fast money from distributing illicit or illegal drugs, it is rare that any young man put in this position will pick education. With no one enforcing the importance of education, the only idea of education he has is that he isn’t good enough to make it to college. In his mind, why should he go into debt getting an education he cant afford when money is right in front of him? His dad did it, his brother did it, his uncle did, why can’t he?  In this scenario, the youth is arrested, and is labeled as a felon. Once released, still labeled as felon, the newly learned black man is released back into society without his right to vote or his right to compete within the job sphere. Some argue that the idea of taking away the Constitutional right to vote from a felon goes hand in hand with the mass incarceration of black men. The coincidence of the correspondence makes this idea seem all too real. This is the vicious cycle of the New Jim Crow.

This cycle has to be infiltrated, and politicians have yet to show that they care about this system. Racial profiling and the rumors spread about it by the media cause greater tension between the black community and law enforcement, which in turn gives those law officials with any bit of racial prejudice an upper hand. The portrayal of blacks in the media has become so negative that the fact that we have  black president means absolutely nothing. The so called “War on Drugs” has just made it worse, creating a stereotype for black men that police and law officials have turned to for an excuse of racial profiling and prejudice. A lot of times, this excuse gets an unjustified act by law enforcement brushed over instead of being eligible for an indictment. Black youth are still being beaten, murdered, and oppressed. Until education is fairly spread out to such under-attack communities, the cycle will continue, and more youth will be exposed to a life of imprisonment both mentally and physically.



One Click Away from Jim Crow

“Slavery ended over a hundred years ago. Why can’t you people just get over it and realize that racism doesn’t exist anymore?”

Slavery “ended” on January 1, 1863. The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865. The Civil Rights Movement began in 1954. Emmitt Till was murdered at the age of 14 in 1955. Oscar Grant was shot in the back by an officer who “thought it was his taser” in 2009. Sandy Hook Elementary school was attacked, children were murdered, and families were left devastated in 2012. The shooter was only taken out by his own bullet. A movie theater was attacked, 12 people died, and the shooter was deemed insane. Trayvon Martin  at 17 years old was shot and killed in 2012 for looking suspicious to a trigger happy neighbor. Eric Garner, father of six, was choked on film in 2014 for selling untaxed cigarettes. Michael Brown at the age of 18 was shot to death in 2014. Sandra Bland died from asphyxiation in her jail cell 2015. A black church in Charleston, SC was attacked by a gunman who was there to “kill black people.” Nine people were killed, including the head pastor of the church, and the killer was arrested alive. Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were both shot point blank in 2016 by law enforcement. A massacre took place at a night club in Orlando in 2016 due to homophobia. How far removed are we really from the Jim Crow law era?

Black people have been treated poorly in this country for centuries. Injustice has become something not that we face, but something we are taught to deal with from birth. But in the midst of being learned citizens about our history, we are taught to be strong, independent, and unbothered by oppressive circumstances. This is what Du Bois calls “double consciousness (The Souls of Black Folk, 45).” We are made to be fully aware of a two-sided perception society gives us, which includes knowing the person we are, as well as being fully perceptive of how society views us. It would seem that in the late 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s this idea would be more prominent than it would be in the 21st century, but that isn’t the case. Injustice has been taking place all over the world regardless of the legislation put in place to stop it. The only difference between today and 100 years ago is the injustice is being filmed more often. People who are unarmed are being killed by the people who are supposed to be protecting them, people are still being killed for their sexual orientation, and there has been minimal results in the minimal legal acts taken to stop it.

I do not think that rioting is our best way to counteract injustices, even though when peaceful protests and political sit-downs take place nothing really happens. Instead, how about we come up with better ways to educate our communities such as funding our public schools better. How about building more infrastructure or funding more programs that will give kids more incentive to go to school so they can be better prepared to work and less interested in street crime because they have no hope for gaining a decent income. How about we have a better screening policy for the police who are in each community so that they are trained to be better prepared in situations where they feel threatened which excludes being trigger happy. Du Bois talks about during slavery, when poor white workers were put in place to “police” the black slaves. This gave the white workers some feeling of status as to always keep them feeling better or more important than blacks. This feeling of superiority has left most “red” state populations with still, very similar feelings. I’ve said before, the worst thing you can be born as in this country is a black male. How about we be honest for once in history and accept and try to understand that injustice is happening and instead of just always “talking about it” why don’t we get off our assess to force the government into a corner to where they have to do something about it. How about we stop being so capitalistic and selfish and realize that as a nation we are suffering and in order to stop, we need to begin helping one another more often. The great thing about our society is that everybody gets a piece of this great big economic pie, but if the people in power are hoarding the big pieces for themselves and their families, the people who the economy needs to prosper the most are not going to get enough of the pie. And then riots happen. How about we stop making people feel so oppressed. Can we begin learning from the history and instead of regressing into it, how abut we begin turning away from it. I don’t understand how Germany can get it right after all these years, yet we still can’t get our shit together here. People were enslaved, persecuted and left to die because of their skin color or ethnic background. But yet we love to fly our flag high in the sky as the most accepting and free country in the world. Well it’s not. It’s becoming the opposite. People are still being persecuted in ways that aren’t necessarily face to face or physical but they are still feeling it. Until the tragedies end, there will be people up in arms. We need to educate our society better. We need to put an end to injustice.