Mindful Rant

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Month: December 2014

I can’t celebrate Kwanzaa

As a Black feminist, I can’t ever celebrate Kwanzaa. I can never get down with the cultural imaginings of Ron Karenga, who kidnapped and brutally tortured two women from his own liberation organization, came out from prison and renamed/refashioned himself, and continues to this day to enjoy a leadership position and influence he does not deserve.

I’m in the Pearl Cleage “Mad at Miles” camp about a lot of influential/famous folks who find favor despite wrongdoing. If you haven’t read her powerful essay or the book containing it, “Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot,” please check it out!

In the case of Karenga, he’s never acknowledged his role in the water-hosing, beating, burning, and confinement of these female followers. I’m a believer in the human right and ability to change. But until the likes of Karenga, R. Kelly, ‘n ’em cop to their abuses and seek some kind of atonement…I keep my distance from their legacy as best I can. Even if that means I lose something–like the principles of Kwanzaa–for honoring my *own* principles.

Fortunately, the principles promoted in Kwanzaa already exist in indigenous African traditions, so we are able to celebrate those without signing off on the legitimacy of Karenga’s invention.

I imagine Afrofuturism without misogyny.
Having said that, if you find meaning and connection in the principles of Kwanzaa, then I celebrate you and the community that comes together.


Shirley Chisholm Forever

shirley chisolm stampI love the United States Postal Service! Was at my local post office this morning to mail out a letter and pick up stamps. Saw a poster featuring Shirley Chisholm on a stamp and got super excited. Sadly, no more sheets available at this location. Plus the mail pickup wasn’t until 5:30 pm and I was there at 9 am.

Had the time, so headed downtown to the main post office. Hourly mail pick-up, so in goes the letter. Super-friendly postal agent at the counter. Asked about the Chisholm stamp, and she knew exactly what I was talking about. After a search in her collection…no stamps. But wait! She was SURE that she’d seen a sheet in someone else’s drawer, so she signed out of her computer and made her way through the post office looking for some Shirley Chisholm stamps for me. And this despite commentary from her neighboring coworker that there were no more Chisholm stamps left, and most certainly none in the back.

Wouldn’t you know that in fewer than 3 minutes, she was back–with four sheets of Shirley Chisholm stamps in hand? I was so excited, I purchased them all. I expressed my deep appreciation and was out the door with my stamps, feeling all kinds of love for the USPS. And Shirley Chisholm.

Read the great description they have of her at the USPS website!


Operation Breadbasket

Operation Breadbasket: Urban Economic Justice Organizing during the Civil Rights Era:  In 1962 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) launched Operation Breadbasket in Atlanta. According to King, ‘‘the fundamental premise of Breadbasket is a simple one. Negroes need not patronize a business which denies them jobs, or advancement [or] plain courtesy’’ (King, 11 July 1967). ‘‘Many retail operation bread basketbusinesses and consumer-goods industries,’’ King explained, ‘‘deplete the ghetto by selling to Negroes without returning to the community any of the profits through fair hiring practices’’ (King, January 1967). 

In his 1967 speech, “Where Do We Go From Here?”, Martin Luther King, Jr. said about the program: “And so Operation Breadbasket has a very simple program, but a powerful one. It simply says, “If you respect my dollar, you must respect my person.” It simply says that we will no longer spend our money where we can not get substantial jobs.”

Jesse Jackson, a young theological student in Chicago, was selected by King to run the national Operation Breadbasket efforts. This was the origin of his later Operation P.U.S.H.


Murder Is Not Justice

Let’s be clear: the tragic events in Brooklyn today started as an act of intimate partner violence–violence against women. He first traveled from GA to Maryland–near Baltimore–where he shot and seriously wounded his ex-girlfriend before taking his illness further up north.

In no way were this man’s actions about social justice or even “revenge” against murderous cops. As I’m sure the more sane reporting will reveal, this man has a history of erratic, violent, unbalanced behavior. And a history of violence against women.

This is not the time to be defensive about the call to end police brutality and state-sanctioned uniformed murder. This is the time to call for proper mental health systems and increased awareness of and vigilance against violence against women. This is not the first murder-suicide centered around an unbalanced man’s unwillingness to release his ex-girlfriend.

Compassion for the murdered police officers, compassion for the grievously-wounded ex-girlfriend, compassion for the mentally ill. And compassion for everyone who is working hard to stay focused on the groundswell of energy against police brutality even in the face of this singular, unrelated incident.


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