Archive | February 2006

The power and irony of Wal-mart’s relationship with Black folk

For better or for worse, Wal-Mart is making big moves in the Black community. For starters, “Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of community leaders from across the country, was set to announce Monday that Andrew Young will be the chairman of its 16 member steering committee formed in December to counter charges from two union-backed groups that are pressuring Wal-Mart to improve wages and benefits.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I read this article that I realized how noticeably absent Black folk have been with respect to debating Wal-Mart’s corporate policies.

We may have been silent because we are all clamoring over the Covenant with Black America that was announced at the State of the Black Union hosted by Tavis Smiley. And I love Tavis Smiley and whenever I turn on the Tom Joyner show, I look forward to hearing his commentary. And when Tavis finishes, Tom Joyner informs us that Tavis’ commentary was sponsored by Wal-Mart. Now if the allegations against Wal-Mart are true that they drive out local businesses, are hostile to their employees in terms of not providing adequate living wages or healthcare, then what does that imply about the potency of Tavis Smiley’s commentaries, given the fact they focus on Black empowerment? And does this say anything about the Covenant with Black America?

And As I stated in the introduction, Andrew Young is spearheading a pro-Wal-Mart group that is at odds with two union-backed groups. I readily admit that sometimes unions can cause more harm than good but that is beside the point for now. The article pointed out that “Young, himself a former union organizer, said he decided to get involved because he believed much of the criticism levied at Wal-Mart by unions was one-sided and wrong.” In Young’s own words he said “The union position is talking about the redistribution of wealth, but they’re not talking about generating new wealth. Wal-Mart is generating new wealth when it comes in.”

For the purposes of this post, I am less concerned with the logic of Andrew Young’s defense of Wal-Mart, but what are the implications of Young being a “public face for the group, giving interviews and publishing opinion articles defending the company.” Now don’t get me wrong, Andrew Young is a bad boy. He is an ordained minister, former US congressman, ambassador to the UN, former mayor of Atlanta, and even helped draft the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1970. And his work as a Civil Rights Activist is fierce. Young was a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, and was with him the day he was assassinated. In 1964, Young was named executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And I could go on and on, but where are we as a people when a civil rights leader with that much clout puts his reputation on the line for Wal-Mart? Is this just a case where businesses need civil rights protection too, or is it a case of selling the richness of our legacy to the highest bidder?

And what do you think Young’s activities will have on Black people’s perception of Wal-Mart? Because not only are Old School Civil Rights leaders (Young) sticking up for Wal-Mart, but New School Civil Rights leaders (Smiley) are as well.

Somebody talk to me,

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Nigga clothing?

I am not sure if you heard yet, but for 14 months now, Damon Wayans has been trying “to trademark the term Nigga for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.” I guess in my short 23 years, I have almost heard it all.

This is the most outlandish idea I have heard in a while. I actually wanted to write on the war today but whoever sent me this email made me detour. Now I won’t front like I don’t use nigga but could he not have thought of anything more creative? For all the comedic genius that the Wayans are famous for, this is not funny. In fact, I feel tricked, I feel hoodwinked, I feel bamboozled!!! (In case you forgot, Damon Wayans played the leading role in Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled)

But this is not the movies and even if this is an attempt on Damon’s part to spark a national discussion on race while getting paid, he is sorely mistaken. Aside from the myriad of problems that will be raised from White people rocking these clothes, is it really good for uplifting the Black Community? I remember growing up wearing Karl Kani and Cross Colours and these clothing lines were designed by Black folk and it caused a sense of pride. I feel the same today about Sean John and RocaWear. I say all that to say I wouldn’t mind wearing “Wayans Wear” if his stuff was on point. But why nigga?

And I realize my contradiction in using nigga in private amongst my people but being against the idea of this clothing line. But what do you think? Is it hypocritical for Black folk to use nigga amongst Black people but to be against Damon Wayan’s idea? And how is it different from rappers using the word nigga in their lyrics? Could Damon be on to something that will ultimately help Black folk?

Looking forward to your comments.

Stay up fam,
Brandon

The Weekly Dream: The Greatest Love of All

The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men”
-Isaiah 29:13
As the final week of Love Month, I struggled with how to close out this series. I began to reminisce on the times I have felt love and been loved, when I have experienced tough love and had to sacrifice. I really wanted to understand the character of love and its effect on me as a person. Eventually, as I followed this line of thought, I came to how I have developed as a person and how my understanding of God developed over time. Now walk with me for a moment. I am not doing an altar call or nothing like that, and I do not expect to win any popularity contests, but this is too important to sweep under the rug.

I grew up in a Christian household, reading the Bible, praying before meals and going to Church on Sundays. Do not get me wrong, I broke my fair share of commandments, but I did what I thought a good Christian should do for the most part.

Make it real for you…

But as I entered manhood, and no one was there to “make” me go to Church, I began to question my upbringing. Not that I wanted to switch religions or anything, but I had become frustrated with the imposition of rules and judgment by other people. I was tired of people bringing God into things He had no part of. I did not like what I had seen and the world I was entering. My interactions with others just caused more confusion. So I went through this real selfish phase, where I was just out for me. I was going to “figure it out for myself”. I was not going to bother God with the small everyday things, I would just tap him for the “big stuff.” I was full of pride. I wanted things to go my way and God to ride shotgun.

The reality was that I needed to get to know God for myself.

Up to this point, God had not yet become real to me, like really real. He was still in the sky.

You Got It Bad

One day, it sunk in that God wanted a relationship with me. I thought about how I acted when I first fell in love. Let me tell you, I love hard; it is all or nothing with me. So, when I fell in love with that special person, there was no more “me”, it was “us” from that day forward. When I looked around, everything reminded me of her. There is nothing I would not do or give if she needed or asked. And I didn’t expect anything in return. I was just glad to be able to come through for her. If she hurt me, I just couldn’t stop loving her, though I wanted to. I would not eat or sleep until things were right with us.

If I was having a bad day, just hearing her voice was enough to make everything all right. All I wanted to talk about was her. All roads lead back to her. I would move heaven and earth to make them happy. There were times when I did not have a dime to my name, but I would hustle up some change to make sure she did not have to go without. I was literally in my own world and she was queen.

This behavior was so irrational that people who have never experienced it think you are crazy. My family and friends thought I had developed a drug habit or something, because I was sooo not me anymore. I had lost all control and I did not care. I was consumed with love.

Once I experienced this, I understood it when in the Bible it said that God wants us to love Him with everything we have. It became real for me.

So from that day forward, I began to treat God as if He were a real person.

Love Makes Things Easy

A lot of people treat God as an option and not a necessity. Would you go days without saying anything to your significant other or children? How would you feel if your girlfriend or boyfriend never said “thank you” or “I love you”, ever? Or if you gave them everything they needed and wanted and they did not recognize how much effort you put forth and took you for granted?

If we treated people the way we treat God sometimes, no one would want anything to do with us. We would find ourselves alone very quickly. Yet, I believe that until you get that first relationship right, you cannot truly love others to your fullest potential.

The real question is why we treat God this way. Why do people treat God as a chore? For me, it was because I had not fully embraced God’s love. Love makes those things that are hard, easy. For example, if you love what you do, you can do it for hours. But if you hate it, time drags on. It is the same with spiritual matters. If you find that you possess this same attitude, and that you do not have the same joy doing what God wants or spending time seeking Him, then you might take a step back. It is a privilege to have God in our lives, because loving us is not easy. You and I are not good people all the time.

So how can we make a change? Make God real. Like human relationships, every one’s relationship with God will be different. Just like your marriage is going to be different than your best friends’ marriage. However, there are common traits that every normal and functional relationship has: good communication, concern, understanding, fidelity, etc. That is how you can measure the development of the relationship, by the fruit or characteristics of it.

In my generation, I run into a lot of my peers who use their distrust of the Church as a reason to not fully pursue their spiritual development. They think the pastors are crooked, the church folks were hypocrites, they would rather pay their tithes to a charity than to the Church and it was just phony. Others would say, “Well I just try to be a good person.”

I heard this with such frequency, I never stopped to think of it. When I did, I realized these statements arose out of ignorance and a misconception. If you think a pastor is crooked, you should not be a part of that ministry. You should go to a ministry that is not crooked. It is not about the church people being hypocrites, there are hypocrites inside and outside the church. If you have it all together, go and help those individuals out. Rare is the person whose words line up completely with their actions.

As far as tithes, you are not paying them to man, or an establishment, but because God wants you to. What the pastor or the church government does with those is between them and God, you did your part. And being a good person is just the beginning, God still wants to know you. And more importantly, that does not mean you know Him.

So the real issue is that people do not want to change. And when love comes, along with that comes the challenge to change and grow.

You Got It Bad

As with any relationship, it takes time and experience to develop. Maturity and perfection is a constant striving in order to manifest potential. Some days are going to be better than others, but the important point is to keep pressing forward. God is not going to send you to hell for a curse word or because you have a drink. But eventually He wants us to get to a place where we do not even have the desire to do the things we use to. God wants your heart. He knows it is a process, you should know it too.

It was not my intent to sermonize anyone. Everyone must walk their own path and come to their own spiritual awakening. Some people are further along than others. Nor am I saying that you should blindly adhere to any man’s doctrine or religion. Religion is no substitute for relationship. The truth is more than capable of withstanding scrutiny.

However, I felt I would be doing a great injustice to not at least touch on this. You may or may not agree with me. Even today, when an overwhelming majority of Americans profess to believe in God, the topic of religion is still an extremely sensitive subject. I am not saying I have it down. If I have learned anything this last year, it is that walking in love is not easy. I still struggle, I still want to do things my way, but I have to remember that there is no more “me”, it is “us”.

Take God out of Heaven and put Him in your heart.

Get to know God as a Father and Friend, in your own special way.

Walk in love. God is love.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: How did God become real to you?

Blacks and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Middle East is going to be the center of world attention for many years to come. And if you think that what happens in the Middle East doesn’t affect you, think again. So as we witness the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections, along with the war in Iraq and the brewing battle over Iran’s nuclear program, what will history say about where Black people stood during these tumultuous times?

And although we could break down every conflict in the Middle East, no situation is more controversial than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So my question is simple but the issue is complex.

Where do you stand in the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Should Black people have a natural bias towards either group? Is it any of our business?

I have heard some say that Palestinians are victims of Israeli aggression in much the same way Black Americans suffered under slavery and segregation. Likewise I have heard some say that Blacks have a natural bias towards Jews/Israel due to the support Jews they showed Blacks before and during the Civil Rights movement.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Personal upkeep/hygiene help for the fellas

What’s up fam, I was talking to a nephew of mine about hygiene and he is pretty much on point. But a lot of us are not holding it down in this department. And hygiene is bigger than looking right for the ladies because it also major affects as you traverse the workplace. So whether you are Scruff McGruff or consider yourself metrosexual, please look over this list and add comments as you see fit. And ladies please, help us out if you have any suggestions.

Fellas, we are too old to be having boo boo stains in our underwear. And if the only time your butt feels clean is when get out the shower, you have a problem. But it’s OK. Get some wet wipes and keep some on you and keep a pack at the house. And think about how much little time you spend wiping your butt. Sorry fellas, I had to take it there.

Black belt = Black shoes and Brown belt = Brown shoes. And matching socks never hurt anybody either.

I know you have heard the ladies talk about how much they love LL Cool J’s lips right? You are not him. Stop licking your lips all the time and get some Chapstick, Burt’s Bees Wax, Carmex, or something. When you lick your lips all the time trying to be cool or what not (especially if its cold), they are more susceptible to getting chapped and that is unacceptable. Period. This advice will help you from looking like a crack head and it will help the ladies know you take care of yourself.

Clip your hang nail. Just glance at your hands right now. If you have hang nail that is growing sideways, clip it off. And if you keep a small nail clipper on you, you won’t have to wait until you get home to take care of your situation

Just because you don’t stains in your jeans, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash them. Keep it real, when was the last time you either washed/dry-cleaned your jeans? My point exactly.

Women still pay attention to your shoes, so keep them looking decent. By decent, I don’t the most expensive, but if you bought white gym shoes and they look like you have been playing in the mud, it’s time for some new ones. And as for dress shoes, try to keep them shined up. You should either take them to the shoe shine parlor if you can and if you can’t do that, keep a little shoe shine kit at the house. (this kit usually includes shoe polish (brown or black), a brush, and a shine rag)

Assuming you wash your hands after you use the bathroom, then you know your hands end up looking ashy when you’re done. So keep a small bottle of lotion so the ladies don’t think you don’t use lotion.

Just because you have a close cut doesn’t mean you don’t need to wash your hair/scalp.

Learn how to blouse your dress shirts such that after you lift your arms, you are not looking sloppy.

There is nothing wrong with investing in nice cologne but know that you should pay attention to the type of soap you are using because every product you use (i.e. soap, aftershave, hair grease, etc.) work together to produce the scent that people ultimately smell. So be careful and if you are not sure, ask a woman who won’t lie to you.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Why I love Black folks

You know what I hate sometimes? It is when high fallutin’ Black folk forget their roots. And you know what I’m talking about, the Black folk who get a little education and all of a sudden they are Cornel West and have a ready answer for any and all of the ills Black people encounter. But what I fear sometimes is that in all our intellectuality (yes that is a word and an example of the terminology you often find in high fallutin’ Black folk) we forget the basic things that make us love and appreciate our people.

Black history is so replete with Black people not only overcoming extraordinary circumstances but being the absolute best at everything they put their hands to. My history sustains me and is a constant source of inspiration.

I love how Black skin glistens in the summertime.

I grew up in the hood on the Westside of Detroit off of 7 Mile and I also went to private school when my parents could afford it. So to all the hardcore cats I grew up with and looked up to, thank you for not letting me get caught up in foolishness.

It’s amazing how Black people can talk to each other without talking and know exactly what the other person is saying.

I always chuckle when I learn that a Black man who is a junior has “Junebug” as a nickname.

And don’t the sisters get upset when the brothers get real particular about their feet? “Let me see them toes girl!” Blame Boomerang.

God must have invented Spades on the seventh day of creating the world, when he was chillin’ because I can’t think of any other game that brings Black folk together like Spades. And let me give a special shot out to my people who don’t re-nig.

To my beautiful sisters, the little pouch in your stomach is fine so please don’t try to work it off. A brother needs something to hold.

I love it when I am at a BBQ manning the grill because as I finish cooking the last tray of meat, a beautiful Black woman asks me what I want on my plate. And then she is so sweet because she will hook a brother up with the big piece of chicken. Let’s go!

I smile when I feel the pressure to see every new Black movie no matter how good or bad it will be. Because if we don’t support our movies, who will?

Isn’t it funny how Black folk can start bobbing their head to a song during the interlude and catch the beat right on time?

And I know the brothers remember trying to freestyle during lunchtime or having like 12 dudes at a table all making beats with their fists and knuckles, resulting in a fierce rhythm that made you thicken the wrinkles in your forehead.

I love the universal pound/dap that most Black men know like the back of their hands.

And a big thank you goes out to all of the Black singers and musicians from the church that moved me to tears by allowing God to move through your instruments and your voice.

I could go and on but sometimes, you just have to say it plain. But I want to know why you love Black people.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

The Black State of Beating Children

In the spirit of Steve’s post on tough love, I wanted to know what you think about beating your current or future children.

Yesterday, my sister sent me an email praising older Black mothers who were very strict and used a no-nonsense approach to raising their children. The email ended by thanking our Black mothers for setting us on the straight path while simultaneously challenging current younger Black mothers to learn from their elders as it relates to child rearing. And that got me thinking about the Black State of the butt whoopin’.

And just so we are clear, by butt whoopin’, I mean using a belt that will primarily be used on the buttocks but sometimes you might catch some thigh. Moreover, I am not talking about open handed slaps or beating kids upside their head. There is a difference between child abuse and corporal punishment.

Now I don’t have any statistics on how many Black parents beat their children and I think it would be difficult to find reliable statistics because you would probably end up with over or under reporting. And are you asking the parents or the child? Won’t the child be afraid of “telling” on his parents and won’t parents try to make it look like they are the best parents in the world?

In any event, I think Black people need to get back to beating. And I won’t say that beating is any less popular now, I just believe that as an aggregate, we forgot the purpose for beating their children. “Spare the rod, save the child,” is what I heard growing up and I think it is true as it ever was. But now I sense that Black parents are beating their kids trying to work out the anger or frustration in their own lives. Moreover, there are no rules, and if they are, they are enforced to varying degrees depending on how Mommy or Daddy “feels” that day. And kids are so conniving because they pick up on contradictions real fast and will play you like a fiddle. And parents need to realize that the innocent phase of childhood is getting shorter and shorter so it might be better to get out of the mindset that you won’t use corporal punishment until a certain time and nip things in the bud before it gets out of control.

All kids?
Now do all kids need to be beat? Of course not, because every child is different and therefore requires different needs. But I hate when the people who don’t believe in corporal punishment try to paint me as an aggressive person who will take pleasure in beating my children. Beating your kids is not fun and I will probably be crying myself if I have to do it. So I don’t have a pre-determined goal to beat my children, but if I see they understand the rules of my household and persist to disobey, please believe the belt will be in full effect.

What about fathers and daughters?
I had a conversation about a year ago that involved the issues surrounding father beating their daughters and the ramifications that may cause for the daughter. I started out the conversation stating that I would beat my son and my daughter. And I went on to say that don’t want my beautiful daughter to think that because she is cute, she can’t be disciplined. But the woman I was talking to pointed out that she would prefer that fathers beat their sons and mothers beat their daughters. And her logic was that fathers who beat their daughters may cause them to think it is ok for a man to put their hands on them. I was on the fence at first but I think she made a valid point so that is something I want to hear your feedback on. Should fathers beat their daughters? And what about single fathers raising girls?

I could go on and on about this because parenting is one of the most sacred acts of the human experience. And sometimes parenting requires punishment for hard-headed kids. Unfortunately, I have seen Black parents use corporal punishment for the better and for the worse. And for that reason, we need to get in each other’s business like we used to do back in the day. I was raised by almost everyone on my block and my mother was raising four kids by herself but the checks and balances of the “block” made her life easier because if she couldn’t come home at a decent time, I would eat dinner across the street. I say all that to say that the way you raise your kids is my business and vice versa. Not everyone will do the same thing and I understand that but it takes a lot more than a village with all of the madness of this world. Love your kids and as it says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Stay up fam,

Brandon

The Weekly Dream: Tough Love

Love as Correction

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

As children, I am sure we have heard this phrase in one context or another from our parents in response to some wayward act on our parts. If you were like me, you could not help but scoff at this statement. However, as I began to get older, I understood that discipline/correction is an unpleasant but necessary part of a true love relationship.

I think back to the days when I could not wait to be free from the control and direction of my parents, when they could no longer punish me and I could do whatever I wanted. I have since learned that “grown folks” whippings is far worse than anything that my family could ever do. Life can inflict a pain all its own. Looking back, my parents did my siblings and I a tremendous service by correcting us out of love, rather than letting us learn everything the hard way.

I may not have always agreed with my parents or where they were coming from, but I always respected having that external point of view. And I knew that they only wanted the best for me.

“Open Rebuke is better than secret love”

This tough love is not easy to give nor is it easy to receive. Most of us would rather hear our praises than our faults. We would love to shower or be showered with tendering loving care. But that is not real. No one is all good and no one is all bad. Love is about truth and to not speak out when our loved one is wrong is to commit an egregious error.

So why can strangers, who may not have our best interest at heart, criticize us and not those who are closer?

At school or work, we learn how to take criticism because it is suppose to concern an external, objective product. Normally, your teacher or boss doesn’t have access to the real you. But your family, significant other and friends, they know you. When they say things, it hits a little closer to home. Their words put us on the defensive. They know how to hurt you, they know your weaknesses. However, is this reaction love? Love is predicated on a voluntary openness and vulnerability. Also, love takes a trust that those who you are in relationship with will not do anything to take advantage of that. If they would, then you may need to move some people around (but that is another article).

We discount what these individuals say because we did not like the delivery. But most of the time, it is something our conscience is already dealing with us about. We might say things like, “I don’t want to hear that” or “Mama doesn’t know what she is talking about.” But if you react, it must be worth a little consideration.

“If you correct a wise man, he will love you.”

In truth, our loved ones only want us to flourish. It truly is a sign of maturity to let someone from the outside looking in tell us about ourselves. However, when on the receiving end, we need to take a step back and see it from their viewpoint, and understand that whether right or wrong, they mean well. Check in with your “committee” of trusted personal advisors.

When we are giving the tough love, we need to be empathetic to the other person and speak to them in a way that will foster a productive exchange. The ultimate goal is communication and understanding.

This is not to say that there are not times when you just have to come out with it, rough and raw. You may have to cut them off for a time or take extreme measures to shield yourself from the repercussions. However, you want the other person to realize the effect their actions are having on you and on them. But understand, it is their decision to make. God gave us freewill for a reason. Let them take it for what it is worth and protect yourself from any unfortunate repercussions.

It is hard at first

We are going to lose our way from time to time. That is why it is invaluable to have people around you who remember who you are at your best and care enough to let you know when you are not reflecting that. This type of honesty and openness is rare and should be preserved at all costs. The party receiving it may not appreciate it at the time, but with a little patience, they will eventually get the message (resist the urge to say I told you so). If you find yourself getting that wake up call, step back and look at the motives of the person and if they have a valid assessment. If not, instead of shutting down, help them to understand you better. But it is imperative to listen to your conscience and remain true to your internal compass for better or worse. If your life is inconsistent with that, it will shine through sooner than later.

We only have so many people who truly love us in life, let’s not let situations alienate us from them.

Speak the truth in love, as hard as it may be.

Thanks to everyone who has ever done it for me. You know who you are.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: Can you recall an instance where you experienced some tough love?

Don’t you hate liars?

I am sure you thinking, “heck yeah!” But have you ever thought about what effects your so-called “white lies” have on your conscious?

On a basic level, there are two questions most everyone hear everyday and most people routinely lie about everyday. The first is, “How are you doing?” And the variant of this question is, “How was your day?” And I would guess that often times you respond by saying, “Fine.” But what if you are having a bad day and you don’t care to divulge the details? Do you still say fine or do you say that you are having a bad day and care not to talk about it? You probably still respond by saying fine because you probably want to avoid the inevitable follow up question; “So why are you having a bad day?”

And I am guilty of this as anybody else, but I am striving towards being honest all the time, not just in so-called big lies. Because if you really think about it, every time we conceal that we are going through a hard time, we lose an opportunity for someone to give us advice or words of wisdom. Of course, I am not saying that you say everything to everyone, but there is a way of telling the truth that is clear and respectful. So when someone asks you how you are doing, just think about your response and whether or not you are being truthful.


And a more insidious form of lying that is harder to detect is lies of omission. A rough definition of a lie of omission involves information known to be important that is deliberately withheld. One example of a lie of omission involves a college student getting requesting an extension for a paper deadline claiming that he was sick. But if the student was sick because he was out drinking all night, then should that be considered a lie? I think it does and I could think of many more examples but I think you get my drift. So many of our conversations in everyday life are so scripted that lying I think has become somewhat of an accepted norm, but how do we break this cycle? I believe that there should be no hierarchy of sins, such that lying about murder and lying about your weight is still lying, and are both sins. It amazes me how lying has become the lubricant that our society uses to not offend others while often misleading people into thinking and therefore believing lies.


Stay up fam,

Brandon

And I have some discussion questions for you that I look forward to seeing in the comments section.

Are lies of omission really lies? And if not, why?
Is lying ever justified?
How do you the lies I described above affect your spiritual/moral life, if at all?
How have you overcome telling so-called “white lies”?

Finding Our Roots in Africa, Part 2

Brandon’s post on Finding Our Roots in Africa posed a series of questions. To help the dialogue along, I would like to post here my answers to his 7 questions. Please do the same in the comments section of either post.

1) If you could, would you like to able to learn about your ancestry going back to and before slavery? And if so, what do you think are the possible benefits or drawbacks?
Benefits
Anything that a person can learn about where and whence they came is a great thing. It definitely instills a sense of self-worth and pride knowing what people who bled the same blood as you have experienced. This gives you the opportunity to connect with them spiritually as well as intellectually, and engage both living and dead ancestors in ways that will enlighten you as to what you are made of, literally. There is also the benefit of being able to give a definitive answer about where you come from. Immigrants can do this. Refugees can do this. We, the descendants of slaves, cannot readily answer this question. I for one am envious of those that can point to the specific section of India that there family is from and has been for the past 300 years. I think that is absolutely awesome. I want to be able to do that as well.
Drawbacks
I am concerned that folks at racist organizations such as the Pioneer Fund, has a long history of subsidizing efforts to prove blacks are genetically inferior to whites, will take this DNA mapping of Black people to certain places and equate it to Black inferiority. Those who agreed and still agree with Thomas Jefferson that Black people are physically inferior to white people or with David Hume who believed that Black people were “naturally inferior” to white people will likely want to twist this to support their claims. Think about this in the same way that conservatives spun Bill Cosby’s crusade to fit their own messages. I don’t want that, and I don’t think too many other people do either. I think that the same can be said of those who believe in eugenics as legitimate science, and YES, there are people alive who believe in such nonsense. I also think that I may have mixed feelings if I were to find out that I was not “wholly” Black. That might complicate my world view a bit. I did not see the special, so I would like to further understand the science behind this research. The engineer in me can’t help but be a little bit skeptical. Finally, being a complete skeptic, I’d be worried about this stuff ending up in some US government database.

I don’t want to give those I disagree with any ammunition. However, none of these drawbacks are worth the price of ignorance.

2) Is it important for you to have a working knowledge of current events in Africa or its history? And if so, what books/articles/internet sources have been particularly useful?
This is absolutely important, as such knowledge helps one to gain perspective on who they are. Knowledge of history and knowledge of current events contribute to knowledge of self in the same way that knowledge of your family history and knowledge of your personal thoughts, emotions, and preferences are part of knowledge of self. They all lead you down the path to answering that all important question: who are you?

3) Have you ever heard family members or friends say disparaging comments about African people? How did you respond?
Absolutely, and it is truly sad. I am ignorant to my concrete ties to my ancestry in any part of the African continent, but I do know that they are people like me. “Civilization” is a subjective term. People today equate non-Westernized lifestyles to barbarism the same way they did hundreds of years ago. The difference is that hundreds of years ago, we had a lot fewer black people peddling those messages.

4) Do you view Africans with the same kinship that you show towards Blacks in America?
I almost do, and I know many people do not. That is terribly sad because I am fighting through the lie that says that they area not me and I am not them. That is the same lie that labels me as an “African-American” and not Black. What does that really mean? Can you point to “Africa-America” on a map? I can’t. It’s all B.S. See my answer to question #6 for more on this lack of kinship.

5) How far can you trace your lineage?
My family has actually traced its history back to being brought to the West Indies. I would be interested in tracing it further. We did this back in 1990 when technology was not accessible, so I can only imagine what we may find out if we combined today’s methods with the information we already have.

6) Do you think there could ever be true unity/appreciation between Blacks in America and Africa?
There could be, since peace is a possibility between all groups of peoples, especially those with some sort of inherent connection. Ignorance about one another is the main barrier, as we tend to look at “Africans” through our “american” eyes as opposed to looking at them for who they are: us. “Divide and conquer” is the most effective way to destroy anything, and it has been successful in murdering our identities, our self-esteems, and our dreams for tomorrow. The fact that this question is even posed is a sign that we need to tear down these negative perceptions we have about one another and build tangible, positive relationships.

7) If you could trace your family tree back to slavery, what questions would you like the answers to the most?
The question I would be most interested in knowing is if I had blood relatives walking some part of this planet that I have never dreamed of. I would like to know if things about my person (e.g. my size/shape, my affinity for technology, etc.) were things common in people from the place where my family originated. That would be fascinating.

These are all important and thought-provoking questions. It is therapeutic simply answering these. Think how much more healing could be realized after finding out who we really are.

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