Monday, June 29, 2009

Beneath Low: BET, Lil Wayne Set the Stage for Child Pornography

Last night, live at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, a room full of head-bobbing, consenting adults bounced to Drake and Lil Wayne’s back-to-back performances of the hit songs “Best I Ever Had” and “Every Girl.” I watched, underwhelmed. I wanted more “Michael” in what was supposed to be this award-show-turned-Michael-Jackson-tribute. I watched, ever puzzled by the Lil Wayne phenomena that has captivated the music industry. I watched, wondering when the set was going to end.

Then the little girls came onstage…literally the little girls. “Are those children?” I asked out loud, in disbelief. Then the camera panned the audience. Everyone was still head-bobbing as the little Black girls huddled around these superstars.

“Are those little girls on stage…for this song?!?!” I, still in disbelief, lost breath and forced myself to exhale. “Why are these little girls featured on this performance? Is somebody going to stop this?” Again, the show was live, though for a nano-second, I was hoping that a hunched-over stage manager would bust through from back stage to scoop up the children, rescuing them from harm’s way…from being associated from this song. But instead, what those girls witnessed from the stage was hundreds and hundreds of adults (mostly Black people) staring back at them, co-signing the performance. These girls, who all appeared to be pre-teens, were having their 15 minutes of glam on one of the biggest nights in televised Black entertainment history, with two of pop culture’s biggest stars at the moment, with millions of people watching. They must have been bubbling with girlish excitement, shimmering like princesses all night. Pure irony: one of them wore a red ballerina tutu for the special occasion. And we applauded them.

But did no one care that Lil Wayne’s song Every Girl is about grown men and their sexual escapades with women? Did the meaning and intent of the song matter to anyone, this song whose hook and other lyrics required a re-write in order to get air play? “I wish I could love every girl in the world.” That’s the radio-friendly version of “I wish I could f--k every girl in the world.” But Lil Wayne’s BET performance was the clean edit of the song. Perhaps he (and the show producers) thought that there was nothing wrong in featuring the children in the clean version. Perhaps we were supposed to see the whole bit as cute and innocent. Absolutely not. There’s no other way to cut it: in presenting little girls in a performance of a song that is about sex, group sex, and more sex, BET and Lil Wayne set the stage for child pornography. It doesn’t matter what version of the song was played, much like a man who batters women is still an abusive man, even if uses flowery phrases while battering.

In the song, Lil Wayne mentions superstar Miley Cyrus, but Cyrus gets a pass on this lyrical sex escapade because, as he acknowledges, she is a minor. Huh? Why, then, is he comfortable with featuring four minors, these four little Black girls, in the show? How deep exactly is this inability of some men to respect women, and how deep is Lil Wayne’s disregard for the safety of little girls?

I’m told that one of the girls is Lil Wayne’s daughter. That doesn’t matter. In fact that makes it worse. Last night we were reminded that there are few safe spaces for our little girls to be children; that some of us are willing to trade their innocence for a good head nod. BET and Lil Wayne are beneath low because, in effect, they have given premium assurance to these and other little girls that their best value, their shining moment, their gifts to display to the world, all lie within a context that says they are f**kable.

- - - - - - - -

The programming at BET has been heavily criticized by artists, concerned citizens, college students, parent groups, social justice organizations, media reform activists, and many others for over a decade now. Their programming seems hell bent on broadcasting the worst pathologies in the Black community. Some have joined the anti-BET movement by simply tuning out. Others have been more pro-active. National letter-writing campaigns and other activities designed to shame and/or pressure the network into improving its programming have been in play for some time now. Boycotts have been called as well. Two years ago, for example, the network found itself in the line of fire as it planned to air the very controversial series “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Advertisers, such as State Farm Insurance and Home Depot, responded to pressure and requested that their ads be disassociated with the series (though, their ads could be placed in other programming slots). None of this has made a difference. In fact, it seems to have emboldened the network, for it is now expanding. In the fall, BET is due to launch another channel.

As a social entrepreneur and activist, my entire life/work has been dedicated to standing up for what’s right, especially within the culture of hip hop. When identifying what cancerous elements exist within the Black community, many fellow activists agree with Chuck D (of Public Enemy), and even Aaron McGruder (of The Boondocks), when they targeted BET as one of those elements. That said, I didn’t think that we would ever have to take the network to task for what amounts to child pornography.

But millions of Black people are not offended by the network and welcome anything BET has to offer, no matter how much it continues to unravel the fabric of our community. Imagine, if you will, BET as a human being and the viewers as the community. You would have to imagine BET as a drug dealer, with his swag on…perhaps outside standing atop a truck, the community crowded beneath him. Imagine him throwing nicely wrapped gifts into the crowed, or giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving. Or maybe it’s Mother’s Day and he buys dinner and teddy bears to all the single moms and grandmothers around the way. Despite his best efforts and despite the approval of his fans, he is still a drug dealer, pimping death to the masses.

Proverbs is full of sacred text that teaches us that there will always be fools amongst us. Some of them will be highly paid, protected, and given world-wide platforms to show off what they do best. And these fools (be they performers, corporate executives, or others), will have fans and loyal supporters, and a place to call home, like a BET.

But as long as there will be fools amongst us, there will also be wise ones - a small group of people concerned about the long term health and well being of the community. This small group will often go unheard and they will be outmatched. They will struggle over which problem to address first: the child pornographer, the batterer, the pimp, the prostitute, the thief, the slumlord, or the system that enables it all. They will get tired and their defense will pale in comparison to the almost crushing offense. And they will be betrayed from within. Historically and universally, this is what happens in the struggle for what is right. But eventually, with continued pressure, something will shift. A radical new thinking will emerge, and the fools will lose their stronghold.

The sure expectation of victory, however, can not be understated. It is a concrete ingredient in the struggle against the death that is being paraded in our community…as necessary as letter writing campaigns, economic boycotts, symbolic and actual protests, and other pressure-oriented activities. It is indeed possible to bring more life into our community.


1. List the copyright info as: © 2009 by April R. Silver or Copyright 2009, by April R. Silver
2. Include this entire blurb directly under the article: "April R. Silver is a social entrepreneur, activist, and writer/editor. She is also founder of the communications agency AKILA WORKSONGS, Inc. Her first book is the critically acclaimed anthology "BE A FATHER TO YOUR CHILD: REAL TALK FROM BLACK MEN ON FAMILY, LOVE, AND FATHERHOOD." Contact Info: or"

"To Black Women" (An Excerpt)

"To Black Women"
An excerpt from "Invisible Women? A Black Woman’s Response to Don Imus Most Recent Sexist-Racist Remarks" By April R. Silver (April 9, 2007). Revised June 2009

When she reached adulthood, an enslaved African from long ago - Isabella Baumfree - changed her name. We know her now as Sojourner Truth. When Harriet Tubman fully grasped an understanding of the world in which she lived, she began to map out her own survival and that of her family larger community.

Both women, and others like them, were keenly aware of their unique skills, talents, and missions in life. They granted themselves permission to think, organize, speak, and lead. The weight of racism and sexism was ever present for them, but it did not immobile them. When they weren’t invited to help solve or speak about the problems of the day, they crashed the party. They did not wait for any common man or any leader to encourage them to stand up for their right to be free and live well. Tubman, for example, was one of the first social entrepreneurs in our ancestral line. She owned 27 acres of land in upstate New York. She acquired it and other properties so that she could establish safe havens for her family and her community. Truth and Tubman are sacred models of woman leadership, a legacy of power that is our ancestral inheritance.

Though from over a hundred years ago, the examples are relevant today. But we need not dig so far in time to be encouraged and ignited. Fast forward to the 20th and 21st centuries. We have modern models of leadership that range from Camille Yarbrough and Sonia Sanchez to Fannie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisholm, to countless others. And there are millions of unrecognized Black women who have made a hard decision to combat hate, whenever it emerges.

Ignorance can be combated in various ways. If you are a writer, write on our behalf. Let some of your stories be about helping us heal from this often loveless world. If you are a performer, then dance with us, sing about us…more. If you are an organizer, then embed fairness amongst men and women in everything that you do. And if you are without a means to support yourself at any given time, or without a loving partner to ease the burdens of the day, keep pushing anyway. Never mind about finding fault, “find another way,” as my mother says. In every single aspect of our lives, we must be self-permitted to tell the truth about our lives and stories that shape them. Somebody, quite naturally, is going to be offended in the process. Invariably, someone is going to tell us how wrong we are for focusing on our lives and our stories. But we get to tell the truth regardless of who is offended or is made uncomfortable.

And I strongly believe that we should partner with Black men and anyone else who stands in support of our truth-telling. The battle for the respect of Black women, however, is ours to lead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Myth of the Happy Slave" and 6 Other Comments on The Senate's Apology for Slavery

Earlier this morning, the weekly media panel on WBAI's "Wake Up Call" (which featured regulars Stacy Patton and April R. Silver and this week, guests Chole and Hilary Crossley) was asked to dissect and comment on an article about The Senate's apology for slavery. The Washington Post article can be found on this site (scroll down to see the "Senate Apologies for Slavery" entry for June 23). This was a good find by Esther Armah, host and moderator of the media panel. The article triggered a lot for me. My initial thoughts:

1. The article used the word "slave." Que my regular song and dance routine: "Stop calling Black people "slaves!" Enslaved Africans is more precise. To call someone a "slave" directs attention away from and subtly absolves oppressors and thieves.

2. A 21st century government apology for the enslavement of Africans during the 16th and 17th century is a wonderful, polite, and richly grand example of what it means to be ignorant of (a) the traumatizing, generational affects of this once legal institution, and (b) how to heal those wounds.

3. When this so called "peculiar institution" was legal in this country, there emerged a perspective that enslaved Africans were actually happy with the overall treatment they received from those that enslaved them. These "slaves," it was promoted, were grateful for the food, the shelter, the health care, the time off at sundown, and the fact that Ol' Master was, for the most part, a fair and principled, God-fearing man. Why, he only issued beatings to niggas that tried to escape from the plantation. But to those niggas that minded their business, did what they were told, and didn't cause no trouble...well then, slavery time was good living!

4. It's the happy niggas that will accept an apology without restitution. Who does that? There are laws of nature that don't support this lack of reciprocity.

5. What are the determining factors - political and philosophical - that guide a government's stance when said government decides to offer one race or class of "harmed" people an apology, while offering another race or class an apology and economic reparations?

This question is raised when I contemplate the following: In 1988, President Ronald Regan issued a formal apology to Japanese Americans who were held in concentration camps during World War II. That same year, congress passed legislation that awarded formal payments of $20,000 to each of the survivors of those camps (estimated at 60,000 people). That year, the Canadian government also issued formal apologies to Japanese Canadian survivors. They were each paid a sum of $21,000 Canadian dollars. The Japanese Reparations Movement lasted from 1945 (the year the last government ordered interment camp was closed) to 1988...forty-three years (one lifetime). Fast forward to 2009. There are no reparations for the indigenous people of this country nor the children of ex-slaves - both representing races and classes of "harmed" people.

6. In this morning's discussion on WBAI, Stacey Patton inserted an excellent point that people often forget: Reparations is bigger than mere financial repayment. There must be some accountability, for example, for the land that was stolen from African Americans during the times surrounding slavery, including the Jim Crow era. Her point reminded me of this excellent film by MARCO WILLIAMS, Banished: American Ethnic Cleansing. This documentary makes the case for reparations in a way that only a film can.

7. I believe in reparations and the fighter in me won't let injustices and crimes go unchecked. Still I ask: What would a repaired relationship look like between the descendants of those who benefited from slavery and those that who did not? What if the United States government issued, to every African American, for example, a hefty check, a sizable piece of land, free tuition, free rent or waived mortgage's for a year, free health care for the family for a year, a decent paying job and/or or job training...all wrapped up in a pretty bow with an apology from President Obama, and what if the government did that today...what would I do?

Be critical.

The fact is, there not an altruistic fiber in the fabric that makes up the American government. Not one. It is an institution that may best be characterized as a sheep in wolf's clothing. If it were a "he" he'd be a clean-cut Goliath holding olive branches with honey dripping from his lips. If "he" packaged all these things in one gift, I'd not let down my slingshot.

As with a physically and psychologically abusive husband who attempts to bait his abused wife with shiny trinkets, the relationship can not be repaired with things. Maybe it would take a few centuries for me to be convinced that the monster has morphed into someone I can trust.

"Senate Backs Apology for Slavery"

[The following news article was one of the topics of discussion for the weekly media panel on WBAI Radio's "Wake Up Call," conceived and hosted by ESTHER ARMAH and featuring regulars STACEY PATTON and APRIL R. SILVER. Click the post title above to get the link to the article.]

"Senate Backs Apology for Slavery
. Resolution Specifies That It Cannot Be Used in Reparations Cases"
By Krissah Thompson, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, June 19, 2009

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2 1/2 centuries of slavery.

"You wonder why we didn't do it 100 years ago," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. "It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice."

The Senate's apology follows a similar apology passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution. The House is expected to revisit the issue next week to conform its resolution to the Senate version.

Harkin, who called the Senate's vote an "important and significant milestone," said he wanted the resolution passed yesterday to closely coincide with Juneteenth, a holiday first celebrated by former slaves to mark their emancipation.

This recent willingness to deal with the nation's difficult racial history has come about in part because of President Obama's election, said Rep. Stephen I. Cohen (D-Tenn.), who began pushing for an apology more than a decade ago when he was a state senator and pronounced himself "pleased" with the Senate vote.

Still, Cohen said, "there are going to be African Americans who think that [the apology] is not reparations, and it's not action, and there are going to be Caucasians who say, 'Get over it.' . . . I look at it as something that makes people think."

Even among proponents of a congressional apology, reaction to yesterday's vote was mixed. Carol M. Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University who had pushed for the Bush administration to issue an apology, called the Democratic-controlled Senate's resolution "meaningless" since the party and federal government are led by a black president and black voters are closely aligned with the Democratic party.

"The Republican Party needed to do it," Swain said. "It would have shed that racist scab on the party."

Republicans, however, were supportive of the resolution. "It doesn't fix everything, but it does go a long way toward acknowledgment and moving us on to the next steps to building a more perfect union, doing the things that Martin Luther King would talk about, like building a colorblind society," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

As with all congressional apologies -- but especially this one -- concerns about liability for restitution were part of the political calculations, in this case because of the long-running debate about whether the descendants of slaves should be compensated.

Charles Ogletree, the Harvard law professor who has championed restitution, was consulted on the Senate's resolution and supports it, but he said it is not a substitute for reparations. "That battle will be prolonged," he said.

Randall Robinson, author of "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks," said he sees the Senate's apology as a "confession" that should lead to a next step of reparations. "Much is owed, and it is very quantifiable," he said. "It is owed as one would owe for any labor that one has not paid for, and until steps are taken in that direction we haven't accomplished anything."

Cohen said he and Harkin worked closely with the NAACP and other civil rights groups on language that would not endorse or preclude any future claims to reparations. "It will not harm reparations but won't give any standing to it," Cohen said.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Me and President Barack Obama? Part 2

The National Father's Day rally was as much of a success as it could be considering the torrential rain, thunder, and lightening that punctuated the day. For a rally that was scheduled from 10 am to 2 pm at the Lincoln Memorial and with rain that started at 8:30 that morning, the rally didn't have a chance for a good turn out. The rain, mostly the lighting bolts, I'm sure, kept everyone away, including President Barack Obama. He did send a video message, though.

The celebration of fathers is taking center stage these days and The President has committed to making that a steady happening, all while encouraging more fathers to step up to the plate. He has also committed to doing a series of town halls on the topic of fatherhood throughout the country, so stay tuned to this blog, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter for updates.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear, Mr. Silver. I Love You, Dearly!

My father is Eddie Silver, Jr. from Suffolk, VA. I am his first born and for that and other reasons, we share a special bond. I love him dearly and I'm a better woman for the man and father that he is.

Happy Father's Day, "Diedy"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Me and President Barack Obama? GTFOH!

The 44th President of the United States of America is supposed to be speaking at the National Father's Day Rally tomorrow...the same rally where I'm speaking (see June 18 post below). I heard that he couldn't wait to hear my remarks about "BE A FATHER TO YOUR CHILD," and its 24 amazing contributors!

No seriously, President Obama is supposed to speak on the segment after my segment. Just found out. Wow. Stay tuned.

If I had five minutes with the president, what would I say??

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm a Featured Speaker at the National Father's Day Rally THIS SATURDAY

Father's Day 2009 marks the 100th anniversary of Father's Day. Who knew?

This Saturday (June 20) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, there's going to be a national rally to bring attention to a number of issues related to the topics of fatherhood and strong families. I'm honored to be among many of the distinguished guests who have been invited to speak. As editor of the anthology "BE A FATHER TO YOUR CHILD: REAL TALK FROM BLACK MEN ON FAMILY, LOVE, AND FATHERHOOD" (Soft Skull/Counterpoint), and as the loving daughter of a responsible father, I will have 3 minutes to address speak about what all that means to me and the community that I serve. Because it looks like it will be a mixed audience, I'll have to use my time wisely. Gotta speak in sound bites. Three minutes is like a nano-second when you think about all that could be said. Whew! We'll see if it goes well. Stay tuned.

The official name of the event is THE NATIONAL RALLY FOR RESPONSIBLE FATHERHOOD, ON BEHALF OF AMERICA'S CHILDREN: A CALL TO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. It's going to be huge. If you're in Washington, DC on June 20, come through. There will be plenty to absorb. And copies of BE A FATHER will be on sale, of course.

Here's a link to the National Father's Day Rally website for more info, the agenda, and a list of other speakers:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me :-)

Welcome to any of my nearly 1300 Facebook friends who may be visiting this site for the first time. My blog site, "aprilisms" is where I houses my writings (essays, poetry...yeah, I write poetry, too. Who knew?).

Because so many of you have stopped by my Facebook page to say "Happy Birthday" (THANK YOU!) and obviously taken the bait from my status update and found yourself here (LOL!), allow me to share one of my more popular pieces, a little didy I wrote four years ago. Tell me what you think.

Forty Backwards
by April R. Silver (2006)

Last month I turned 38. With 40 fast approaching, I’ve been more reflective than usual. I’ve begun to observe life from over my shoulder, glancing back at how things used to be. I’m ever cognizant of how me and my momma’s 40 is going to be so very different. When Jenny B. was my age, she had a 16-year-old daughter, a 15-year-old son, and had been married for 18 years. She came from the “stand by your man” era, when “shacking up” was not nearly as common as it is today.

Dr. King was assassinated the year I was born. Jenny B. wasn’t at a college campus protesting, or in the streets. She was a “country” newcomer living in a big city with a baby. Plus, she had a husband, a house, and a job to manage. Her journey was a proud domestic one, but her little girl would chart a different course.

Unlike my mother, I went to college right after high school. She and daddy insisted. And unlike many of her Baby Booming peers, I have never been married and don’t have any illusions about that institution. Children would be a welcome blessing, but I have chosen not to have any right now because the conditions just ain’t what they should be. I do, however, own my own company...working with artists. That’s about as much nipple-grabbing as I can stand at the moment.

I’m a far reach from my elder’s crown, but I’ve found a few gems to set. Wrote some notes about 'em. Would you like to hear 'em? Here they go:

From Jenny B.
• Always give God the glory in all that you do.
• In whatever you do, you’re either going to spend time or money. Make your best choices knowing that you have to give up one of them, sometimes both.
• You cannot control people’s actions. You can only control your response to those actions.
• There are certain people you have to treat with a long-ladled spoon so that they don’t bite your finger.
• You have to train people how to deal with you. Always be loving and sweet as you let people know that you are not the one to f**k with.
• You cannot depend on me and f**k with me at the same time.
• The best way to get a man is to chase him until he catches you.

My Father, Eddie
• Whenever I lost hope or missed my mark, Eddie Silver, an eternal optimist, would say, “You’re closer today, than you were yesterday, baby!”
• My father’s simplest observations often reveal how discerning he is. I learned from him first, for example, that when dictating a telephone number, “‘O’ is a letter and ‘0’ is a number…as in, “our telephone number is (212) 555-62 "zero" 1, not 62 "oh" 1.
• “Smooth talking men will gladly give nice women like you $20 today because he knows that he’ll get $100 from you tomorrow.” Those were my father’s sober words of wisdom after a nasty breakup from my first BIG relationship. At the time, I didn’t know that the man I was dating was a con artist. Well…I saw him conning other people, but I never thought that he’d con me. How silly. That warning from my father helped me to armor up a bit. Since then, I’ve been suspicious of, not mesmerized by all smooth talkers.
• “If a man greets you on the street and says ‘hi,’ sometimes all he really means is ‘hi.’ He’s not always trying to pick you up. It’s okay to smile back."
• Daddy was the music man of the family. Romping through his record crates ignited my passion for music. My tastes would mirror his…from Nina to Stevie to Hugh to Prince.

My Brother Omar
• There is a quiet innocence and deep-rooted gentleness even in the coarsest of exteriors.
• Sometimes, people don’t want you to give them advice, even if that’s what you do in life. Sometimes they just want you to listen.
• You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for.
• “I don’t work for my boss, I work for my money.”
• “Of course, a woman can get her man to do just about anything...but she can’t make him mean it!”

Lessons From My Ex-Boyfriends and Other Adventurous Episodes
• Men and women are not equal, but we are equivalent. We have different (not inadequate) ways of communicating what we need and want.
• The truth is always used to sell the lie.
• Con artists tend to talk a lot. Overly chatty people are either lying to you or themselves.
• Never date a man that won’t show you his ID or driver’s license.
• Even romantic relationships are about power. They move forward best when both people are on equal footing.
• We are all dating the same man! Despite how loving and different they appear during courtship, there remains one indisputable fact: most (not all) men will eventually reveal themselves to be powerfully self-centered and/or emotionally under-developed. I have found that women who seek romantic love relationships with men - be the women Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Yoruba, Atheist, bohemian, corporate, Black, Latina, Asian, White, under and over 30, big-boned, slim, sweet or tart - have this same problem with men. It’s best to resolve that the depth of a man’s ego is unfathomable. We should stop trying to figure them out because it is never going to make sense how deftly he disregards your once cherished feelings. And if you think that your man is different, please go gather more gems for your crown.

So cheers to the next forty years! And here’s one parting gem that is sure to bring you a sigh of relief:
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

- Don Miguel Ruiz (author of “Four Agreements”).

© July 2006, August 2008, April R. Silver

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quote of the Week: "On Children" by Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran is a poet, philosopher, and artist...born in Lebanon (1883 - 1931). He is one on my favorite poets. My father introduced me to him when I was a child.

On the ocassion of Byron and Kenya's baby shower today and because they asked me to offer a blessing or a prayer, I hope to share this poetic prose from Gibran at the gathering. It is from "The Prophet." The Prophet of God, Almustafa, left these parting words of wisdom for the people of Orphalese before he returnd to his homeland :

"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's long for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from wich your children as living arrows are sent froth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swit and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Quote of the Week: Powerful People

"Powerful people never have to prove anything to anyone, and by extension, powerful people never apologize to powerless people for the actions they take in order to stay in power."

~ John Henrick Clarke (Historian, Author, Professor)

I'm Sweatin' Youssou N'Dour

I'm embarrassed. Saturday night was the first time seeing Youssou N'Dour perform. I knew him by name, knew he was famous, knew he was widely respected, and that he played in Brooklyn and/or NYC often. I also knew that I would, one day, check him out. That was it.

I caught his show at BAM (along with the other 2,100+ fans) and it was AMAZING! I'm officially sweatin' him now!! Before the show, the organizers screened the upcoming documentary: "I BRING WHAT I LOVE." It chronicles him recording and touring his GRAMMY award-winning album, "Egypt" (2004). Watch the trailer at If you're new to him like I am, the film will prove to be very insightful.

After the show, I went straight to the gift shop. Bought the "Egypt" CD and a tee-shirt. It's beautiful.

Learn more at and

ps - The CD features traditional musicians playing in Dakar (Senegal) & in Cario (Egypt). As alluded to at the show: "Youssou N'Dour in USA (Brooklyn) and Obama's speech in Cario...what a great weekend for Islam!"

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Identify yourself, please."

In the "Two Lesbian Women of Color Beat Down by NYPD!" post that I announced earlier today, there's an acronym in that announcement that might stump you, as it did me: LGBTSTGNC. When I was in college I once saw a slogan posted on one of the bulletin boards: "DEFINE, EXPLAIN, CLARIFY." That's all it said but it stuck with me all these years. So today, I looked up LGBTSTGNC to find its meaning and here is what I found: More specifically, here's a direct quote (the links marked in this quote are not mine):

"LGBTSTGNC refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people, according to an article in Left Turn magazine’s April-May issue (original article available here)."

A teachable moment was lost in the announcement today. The larger issue was clear: "The NYPD remains out of control and we will not stand for aggression nor violence against the LGBTSTGNC community. Let's come together!" With my organizer's hat on, however, I wondered how many people would get stuck on and turned off by what seems so foreign, this new label of "LGBTSTGNC." Plenty. In fact one comment spoke to one person's willingness to attend but the "LGBTSTGNC" was off-putting. It's childish to be so shallow or narrowly-focused. That said, a teachable moment was lost, nonetheless.

Practicality is important if the goal is to ignite an at-large community into positive action. To explain to an ignorant audience what LGBTSTGNC means would go a long way. It matters not if we think that people should be knowledgeable about social justice and human rights issues. Too many people are not. And it doesn't matter about what internal struggles a group endures when they try to define and re-define themselves. Many people outside that group could care less about that struggle. It's all fodder for the laugh mill for some it: Negro vs. Black vs. African-American vs. Afro-American vs. African-In-America vs. Colored. Or be it feminist vs. womanist. Even funnier to some is "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual."

At every corner, it's important use our communications to identify and explain who we are and what we 30 seconds or less (or in under 140 characters ), lest the masses flip the channel.

Two Lesbian Women Beat Down by NYPD

Important News That's Been Circulating...Especially on Facebook:

No Justice No Peace!! Protest the NYPD's 77th Precinct's Racist and Homophobic Attacks Against Lesbians of Color

On Saturday May 16, 2009 two Lesbians of Color were brutally attacked outside of the Ife Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. After being beaten by several officers yelling sexist and homophobic slurs they were arrested. Join the S.O.S. (Safe OUTside the System) Collective and GLOBE (A group to Support and Empower the LGBT community of Bushwick) to show the 77th Precinct that our community will not allow racist and homophobic cops to brutalize and harrass our parties and our communities. The S.O.S. Collective is a program of the Audre Lorde Project. GLOBE is a program of Make the Road NY.

Current Endorsers:

CAAAV, Nodutol, Casa Atabex Ache, Girls for Gender Equity, Immigrant Justice Solidarity Project, INCITE, New Yorkers for Safe Transit, Right Rides, SWOP-NYC (Sex Workers Outreach Project - NYC), SWANK (Sex Workers Action New York) The Justice Committee,The Malcolm x Grassroots Movement, and The Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact either Ejeris Dixon or Karina Claudio If your organizations is interested in endorsing please contact Ejeris

About the S.O.S. Collective and the Audre Lorde Project
The S.O.S. Collective works to challenge hate and police violence that affects LGBTSTGNC people of color in Central Brooklyn. We are guided by the belief that strategies that increase the police presence within our communities do not create safety. Therefore we believe in fighting the root causes of violence by building stronger relationships within our communities to prevent, intervene, and hold attackers accountable outside of the system.

The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center of LGBTSTGNC people of color. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.

About GLOBE and Make the Road New York.
GLOBE is a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer people primarily from communities of color in Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and other parts of central and north Brooklyn. Our mission is to empower our communities through organizing and education. Our membership is intergenerational, ranging from age 14-50+. Globe is one of the few New York City groups founded by, led and constituted by low-income LGBTQ people of color organizing around public policy issues that have impact at the city-wide, state-wide and national level. Globe is a project of Make the Road New York.

With over 5900 members, and offices in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, Make the Road New York (MRNY) is the largest membership-based immigrant organization in New York City. Make the Road New York promotes economic justice, equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers through community and electoral organizing, strategic policy advocacy, leadership development, youth and adult education, and high quality legal and support services.
I plan to attend!