#BlackLivesMatter a social movement, a symbol of hope

Growing up in a society that seems to value all lives except for those who look like you can be a harrowing experience. Seeing and hearing things that you thought were of the past, stories passed own from ancestors you never got the chance to meet. Except now its reality. Prior to this class I’d never thought in depth about the many issues faced by people of color in this country in terms of how we can fix it. We all face issue (sometimes life and death issues) that has always been a fact of life. I’d never really thought too much of it. Life was just this in between place, you come here you gain some experiences and then you’re gone, everyone has a unique set of experiences and that’s just the way it is. I can distinctly remember a time in my life when I had no idea that there was anything other than the poverty, struggle and violence that I saw all around me. When the view outside of your bedroom is the local drug dealer standing on the corner, a few social injustices don’t seem all that important.

#BlackLivesMatter swept through the world like nothing I’d ever seen before. This movement gave people of color a voice in a multitude of platform (social media, tv, etc.) in a way that they never had before. All of a sudden there was a sense of hope even throughout all of the horrendous things that were happening all over the country. The election of Donald J. Trump for president of the United States was not so much a surprise as it was a disappointment. Despite everything that was happening I still held out hope that American voter would get past the idea of voting for ‘the lesser of two evils’ and vote based on competency. After riding on the eight year reign of hope that came with the election and re-election of Obama. having a man who spews hate laced rhetoric in the white house was quite daunting. All that we can do as a community is keep moving forward and have hope that things will turn around.  We have never been ones to take things lying down, and I don’t suspect that we will start now. I believe that this moment will be one of the stories that I pass down to descendants, who never got to the chance to meet me. I will leave them stories of hate and fear and most of all hope.


Police officers, protectors or wardens?

“America became white-the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white-because of the necessity of denying the Black presence and justifying the Black subjugation. No community can be based on such a principle-or, in other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie. White men-from Norway, for example, where they were Norwegians-became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women.” (James Baldwin Black on White)

Baldwin discusses this idea of ‘whiteness’, as far as I can remember ‘whiteness’ has been this unattainable standard of not only beauty but, also living. Growing up it seemed that ‘white people’ had everything, they had nice houses cars and their children went to the best schools. I come from a long line of traditions and culture, many of which have no real context for me personally as I was born and raised in America. But even so I still adhere to these traditions and I treat them as my own. This country has a way of taking people from diverse backgrounds and stamping them with one synonymous identity ‘white’, which effectively strips them of their cultural identity.

When living a society where you a very much a part of the minority population, you would think that having ‘one of your own’ in high places (Politicians, police officers etc.) would help to make the situation easier (livable). But that is actually not the case Taylor discusses this disparity between what we would expect and what actually happens. Black police officer are just as likely if not more likely to discriminate when stopping or arresting individuals. Police officers are meant to represent hope, they are supposed to be here to protect you and to help make you feel safe and secure. But once again there is a disparity between what should be and what really is.

Growing up I’d always been taught not to trust or respect police officers, for some they resemble protectors and for some they resemble wardens. I grew up in a neighborhood where police were always canvasing the area but would take hours to respond to your calls. This was not only my reality but the reality of millions of Black Americans. Taylor also discussed the ‘reign’ of Obama and the way that he discusses and addresses the issues of Black Americans in this country. Many were disappointed with the way that he handled many serious social issues pertaining to the #Blacklivesmatter movement and the killing of Black people. And although I understand the position that he is in as America’s first Black president, I can also understand the people’s frustrations.

There have been many positive changes in our society over the years, most of them positive. But there are many lingering issues, and even a few newly arisen issues that need to be addressed. Obama’s campaign was a campaign of hope, and although we did not achieve all that we had hoped, I hope that we do not lose that sense of “YES WE CAN”.


From Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter

” I cannot imagine how I would begin to answer her. My “rights” and my “freedom” and my “desire” and a slew of other New World values; what would they sound like to this Black woman described on the card atop my hotel bureau as “Olive the Maid”? “Olive” is older than I am and I may smoke a cigarette while she changes the sheets on my bed. Whose rights? Whose freedom? Whose desire? And why would she give a shit about mine unless I do something, for real, about hers?” (June Jordan, Report from the Bahamas)

With the recent presidential election and the presidential debates between Trump and Clinton the idea of intersectionality is a very relevant one.  Knowing that so many women and minorities voted for Trump, which personally feels as if they are voting against their own best interests, really put into perspective the question of whether people will choose one cause over another (gender over race, etc.). I for one understand how difficult this can be when it comes to real life application, especially when some part of your identity is looked down upon in another community that you are also apart of. I think that we often have a habit of prioritizing some social issues over others, when in reality bring the movements together could benefit everyone.

Taylor talks about this idea of colorblindness and how Nixon discussed this idea and how it could be useful when attempting to do away with “intentional racism”. Taylor also talks about how after sometime colorblindness stopped being utilized simply as a way to deny racism. She talks about how this idea has become the default setting for many Americans, this is how they understand race. They have this radical notion that is they deny that race ‘color’ exists, then no one can claim racial discrimination or racial harm. This is very much reflected in today’s society, where instead of addressing the very relevant issues, everyone would just rather deny that there is a problem. But rather than helping the cause this just adds to the multitude of hindrance’s in the lives of colored folk.

It is not secret that being a minority in this country can be quite difficulties, especially in times of civil unrest such as these. Especially being a minority and a women, but there is also no denying that things are often much more difficult for women in the Caribbean. I can see this difference very clearly in my two grandmother’s from either side of my family. My grandmother on my mothers side was born in Virginia, while my grandmother on my fathers side was born in the Bahamas. Growing up we would visit the Bahamas for family reunions (every two years) I can recall stark differences. Both of my grandmother are extremely hard working women who often had to work several jobs just to provide for their families. One immediate difference I can recall; my maternal grandmother worked two jobs to be able to provide her children with a decent life. While my paternal grandmother worked equally as hard, if not harder, only to not be able to afford even a sustainable lifestyle for her family. These kinds of differences are not ones that we typically think about but they are there.


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.




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.

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.

Songs of the Black Soul

“Lo! We are diseased and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our writing is in vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and serve? And the nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism, saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more; what need of higher culture for half-men? (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk)

In a world that demands nothing less of excellence from all of its inhabitants, and yet condemns education and innovation from within the black community. How are we to grow as a community, and strive for greatness when we are consistently being seen as nothing more than ‘hired help’? This narrative is still very much prevalent today, this idea that we shouldn’t strive for better, and that we should just settle for the roles assigned to us, by a society, not made for us.

In the Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B Du Bois begins every chapter  with a song, a negro spiritual if you will. This sets the tone for the chapter and gives a little peak into to the ‘inter-workings’ of the black community.  Slavery is a very uncomfortable topic for most people, and whenever the topic of slavery is brought up in conversation, others are quick to dismiss or justify the injustices done, without taking the time to listen. Each song gives the reader a taste of what is to come without ‘overwhelming’ them with facts. W.E.B. Du Bois begins with the question “How does it feel to be a problem?”, and goes on to tell us that being a ‘negro’ in America is synonymous with having little to no rights or respect. And although things have evolved since then, mostly for the better, I do not think this has changed very much. Du Bois introduces this idea of a double-consciousness, and talks about how young black children have to develop this at such a young age. He also talks about how blacks often had to work twice as hard and be twice as educated just to receive not even half the respect. And, although this is not a new concept, it is very problematic, newly freed slaves believed that they were owed ‘carefree lives’. Suffice to say this was not the case, after being freed many slaves were arrested for thieving. And although all of this is true, W.E.B Du Bois discusses the fact that history makes it seem as if slavery was unwillingly thrust upon America, and as if the south was completely blameless.

After this we take a shift to the civil rights march, arguably one of the most famous and influential social justice movement in American history. Today there are so many different movements (ex. movements in support of minority groups in America), and so many different groups of people seeking the rights and justices that they have been denied for so long. Actively being a part of and supporting one social movement is a huge commitment, but what if you belong to more than one of these minority groups? Many times people are forced to choose which movement (ex. black rights vs. feminism) is most important. Angela Davis discussed the importance of understanding the intersections and connections between the many different movements in occurrence. I believe that this thought, will be key in the coming years as many different movements begin to evolve and gain traction.