No Disrespect–A Review

Quiet, that’s what Ebro from Hot 97 calls Sister Souljah–“I don’t see you speaking the same way you used to,” is the direct quote. Quiet seems an ill-fitted adjective for the once forceful Bronx-accented voice that rattled radio waves, television screens, and college auditoriums urging the African and Latino youth to wake up, fight against white supremacy, and to, most importantly, love and respect themselves. Her voice was voracious but clear, ferocious but honest. When Souljah spoke, you listened. Quiet she certainly was not. But that was twenty some years ago, before The Coldest Winter Ever and the Midnight Sagas that launched Souljah into the literary world capturing a loyal readership and the attention of Jada Pinkett-Smith, who is still trying to get The Coldest Winter Ever to the big screen.

“If you see me speaking, you’ll see me speaking the same way, plus the additional wisdom–hopefully,” she responds to Ebro. Today her voice packs less potency in volume but retains its clarity when speaking with the Hot 97 radio team. She’s been making her media rounds promoting her latest novel, A Moment of Silence: Midnight III, while still, always, managing to speak on the matter most dear to her heart–black people.

Though I didn’t grow up listening to Sister Souljah, my own affection for the black diasporic community introduced me to the force that was her presence. I ingested every YouTube clip/interview/song of hers I could find allowing her energy, dominance, and belief in black unity to fill me with enough optimism to navigate my PWI (predominately white institution). There was comfort in listening to a confident, loud, black woman profess her love and commitment to the people.

A sense of nostalgia came over me as I watched Souljah’s Hot 97 interview. I began to remember not only her confident character that was willing to challenge white supremacy, and Bill Clinton, but her autobiography I picked up yet never got around to reading. I went searching for the book with excitement, wanting to uncover more on the woman who rallied up the black youth, worked with Public Enemy and P.Diddy, and debated with Cornel West. What I discovered was…revealing.

sister souljah

Described as:

“a fiercely candid autobiography and a survival manual for any African American woman who wants to keep her heart open and her integrity intact in 1990s America,”

No Disrespect delivers seven chapters dedicated to people—specifically men–who “educated (and mis-educated) her [Sister Souljah] about love,” and introduces readers to the ways the black family structure–or lack thereof—has been deeply damaged by white-supremacy and has, as a result, failed the black youth.

Sister Souljah likens herself to Harriet Tubman, who she believes had “African spiritual eyes,” a gift Souljah claims to be blessed with as well. This spiritual eye allows for both women to penetrate the dangers of oppression and be guided the philosophy that:

“If one is not safe, all are not safe…If life is not fair and balanced, tragedy will fall on all our houses”

Her belief in African spirituality—something that often seemed like an over-romanticized myth—and profound love for, faith in, and devotion to black people drives her to challenge institutionalized structures that set black people, and black families, up for failure. This love propels her to create a survival camp in North Carolina for black youth in the “welfare hotels” of New York. This love encourages her to open her home and heart to her students. This love ignites her to rally up influential entertainers and businesspeople to invest in a benefit concert for her camp. This love also blinds her particularly when it comes to men.

“I am no angel,” Sister Souljah professes in the first line of the note to her readers, “I am a young black sister with an unselfish heart who overdosed on love long ago.” It is with this love that Souljah bares her soul in an intimately candid memoir.

“By exposing my experiences and the experiences of many of the people around me, I hope and pray that many African men and women will gain an understanding of love and life, that they will have a chance to save themselves the pain of ignorance.”

I found myself flinching through most of the autobiography, not due to any lack of depth or one-dimensional characters, but from its brutal honesty. Souljah holds nothing back as she takes us into the heart and soul of a young woman battling severe loneliness. Being an intelligent, confident, self-aware black woman did not have men lining up to treat Sister Souljah with the respect, love, and kindness she longed for. But despite that fact, one thing remained sure, her devout love for black people. 

“No matter how backward and negative the mainstream view and image of black people, I feel compelled to reshape that image and to explore our many positive angels—because I love my own people”

That exploration of black people’s positive angles—which are prodigious—has Souljah looking quite desperate in some of her romantic choices.For a woman who is so book-smart she is rendered incapable of separating intellectual theory from romantic relationships. There comes a point when she forgoes her own principals and beliefs in the black family structure for “love.” It is then where one can see how loneliness, naiveté, and idealism can bring even the strongest woman to her knees.

“I have a problem: I love hard. Maybe too hard,” she confesses. Most of us have probably not used our theoretical notions on the broken black family structure as an excuse to remain in dysfunctional relationships, but we were all young and dumb once. We’ve often ignored the signs, the warnings from our friends, the inner-voice urging us to turn away. Love, or the many flawed and fragmented ideas of it, is equally dangerous and redemptive. Without it for ourselves we are lost, without it for our fellow human we are doomed. However, we have to find a balance between loving someone and making excuses for their inadequacies. This, I believe, is the ultimate lesson Souljah risked her vulnerability to share.

“I finally figured out what takes many people a lifetime to discover. I figured out: to love myself, to understand my value and power…”

The road to self-love is a bumpy one full of detours to places most wouldn’t shine a light on, but Souljah bravely illuminated many of her own pit-falls in an attempt to be a beacon for the lost ones she devoted a career to saving. Despite a few questionable sentiments (like homosexuality being a “lifestyle” of choice), which we can only hope have evolved in the twenty years since the publication of the book, Sister Souljah is a brilliant mind and brave soul who readily gave of herself for the progression of those she loved—black people.

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The Autobiography of my Mother: A Review

the autobiography of my mother

When Meursault learns of his mother’s death in Albert Camus’ The Stranger, he is apathetic to say the least. It is this strange detachment from emotion Camus explores in his existential search of meaning and existence. Fifty-four years later Jamaica Kincaid’s Xuela is also confronted with the loss of her mother and regards it with Mersault’s similar apathetic detachment as she states:

“My mother died at the moment I was born, and so for my whole life there was nothing standing between myself and eternity; at my back was always a bleak, black wind”

but unlike Meursault, Xuela does not get to attend her mother’s funeral as she is but a newborn when her mother dies. Much like Camus’ interrogation of the existential question of existence, Kincaid explores the affects of a severed bond between mother and child in a theme that stretches far beyond Xuela’s personal story. 

Mother’s are always much more than the women who push us into the world and that is especially so in the works of Jamaica Kincaid. Like many of Kincaid’s female protagonists the quest, the desire, the desperation for self-identification is so intimately and intricately intertwined with their mother that only a violent break from one can grant autonomy to the other. This break is delivered early on for Xuela, the daughter of a half Scot, half African father and a Carib mother, which leaves her stumbling through turbulent relationships with older women who could easily be mistaken as substitute mother figures for the young girl if only they were not beating her, attempting to kill her, or prostituting her to their husbands. And yet, in spite of all of this chaotic mistreatment, Xuela learns how to defend herself with a myriad of weapons, one of them being Kincaid’s most famously given to her female protagonists–self-love.

Whatever about me caused offense, whatever was native to me, whatever I could not help and was not a moral failing–those things about me I loved with the fervor of the devoted.

This self-love is a visceral and intensely sexual awakening; it’s a foraging into a place many women–for reasons complex–cannot go and for that reason again she faces violent confrontations with those of whom look just like her.

that people who looked so very much like each other, who shared a common history of suffering and humiliation and enslavement, should be taught to mistrust each other, even as children, is no longer a mystery to me.

The act of self-love is also an act of defiance and rebellion against a history that teaches her that her skin and lineage makes her of the vanquished, the conquered, the defeated sect of people: African People who “had been defeated but had survived,” and the Carib people who “had been defeated and then exterminated.” Kincaid explores this history through the ways in which it still lived on in the firey red tendrils of her father’s hair and “the color of corruption,” that was his skin, she explores this history’s manifestation on her own body, the faces, the gestures, and the language(s) of all who live on the island in their ascribed roles. This a-chronological tale follows Xuela from her early childhood through her seventies. In these transitions are exertion of certainties that transform into stream of conscience questions about life, about love, about death. What you read is not simply an autobiography about Xuela’s mother, you read an autobiography of Xuela herself

In me is the voice I never heard, the face I never saw, the being I came from

The two women share more than a name, more than blood, but a historical connection as vanquished women, motherless women, forced to traverse the tiny island of Dominica and make sense of a world forced on to them by the victors, the colonizers who violently rewrote the history of the land and its human habitants. Xuela’s mother was a part of the almost extinct evidence of life pre-European-colonial-genocide and when she died she left Xuela half of that blood; her father’s racial and cultural tense mixture of African and Scottish make up her other half and through this creolized woman who refuses to adopt to one specific race or nation gives us the story of how she, and those who made her, came to be.

And so my mother and father then were a mystery to me: one through death, the other through the maze of living; one I had never seen, the other I saw constantly.

Reading Kincaid is imperative, intimate, and intense. She will take your senses, and sensibilities, on a journey through the Caribbean–a place deemed as paradise–and introduce to you the startling dark truth in a way that blends folk with fact, myth with logic. There’s no way you won’t re-read this novel.

I’m on Superselected.com!

Recently I had the honor of having an essay published on one of my revered sites, SuperSelected. SuperSelected is an inclusive space “all about representations of black women.” From art to fashion to literary work, Superselected is committed to bringing awareness to the dynamic expression of black women across the diaspora.

I submitted an essay about how, even at 23, I can relate to the late-thirty-something character of Mary Jane Paul, which is a testament to Mara Brock Akil’s character driven work.

Check it out here!

Kindred, a review

kindred

Finding yourself forcibly removed from your modern time to a slave plantation in the 19th century is the stuff of science fiction (Octavia Butler’s to be exact), but for Dana it’s reality—a reality as difficult to grapple with as the plot itself, but despite the inhumane circumstances, Octavia Butler cultivates a tale as hauntingly complex as the time she’s writing about while still managing to cloak each character in their unique brand of humanity. 

Dana is in the process of beginning a new family when she is taken far beyond her own ancestral recognizance to a time and a place that began her origins. That place, for some, would be an opportunity of great intrigue, but for Dana it is a place of great violence and trauma because in Dana’s modern time of 1976 she is a writer, a wife, a free woman, but in 1815 on the plantation of her soon to be great-great-great grandfather she is a slave—a role she struggles to define and play throughout the novel.

She quickly discovers that she is not being transported back to this plantation for the fun of it, she’s been casted in a dual-role of slave and savior. Her damsel in distress isn’t the slave woman forced to bring about the beginning of Dana’s family-line, not the other slave women whose bodies are used and broken at the will of their owner, not the slaves at constant risk of being sold, or killed, but their master, Rufus–who just happens to be her great-great-great grandfather. This ascribed responsibility is the test of her humanity, her strength, and her will to survive. Yet, despite all of this, Butler sets out to develop the most impractical, improbable, impossible relationship of the antebellum years—a friendship between a white, male, slave-owner and a black, female, slave. And, surprisingly, it works.

How? 

Butler’s language. It’s blunt and sharp. There is no palatable way to present slavery, so Butler disregards pleasantries and caution as she drops Dana, and the readers, into the thick of its ugliness forcing us to stumble along the way until we think we’ve gained our footing–only to have the wind, and sometimes the will, knocked out of us. But no matter how difficult–which isn’t even the word for how difficult–it gets, we are made to remain in its presence with little respite. This consistent exposure to such a harsh and bitter truth is a reminder that if actual humans could not only live it, but survive it, you surely can read it. Understand it. Understand how you got here, your connections to a root that is tangled and not always beautiful to look it, but must remain in sight. 

“Without knowing it, they prepared me to survive” – Kindred

 Butler offers no balm of romanticism to the reality of fierce tyrannical violence. It is that un-flinching honesty that allows readers to engage in the complex relationship of Dana and Rufus. A relationship critical for both; they depend on one another for survival—literally—requiring, demanding, a sense of trust between the two. But the inability of either to fully understand and trust the other gives way to consistent attempts to outsmart and undermine the other resulting in violent outbursts perpetrated exclusively against Dana. Such repercussions are ones modern-day readers know to be as tactics to remind a slave of their place, but it is Dana who—after multiple encounters with such violence—sees that love is the driving force, at least when dealing with her. Whether or not she agrees with Rufus’ expression of such “love,” the fact remains that in his world she is 3/5 of a human, his property, and he holds the power to love her, to destroy her as he pleases.

So why not leave?

Besides the obvious fact of her inability to control her departure and arrival from the world, without Rufus there is no Dana. Without his relationship with an unwilling slave-woman there is no origins for Dana.

“Was that why I was here? Not only to insure the survival of one accident-prone small boy, but to insure my family’s survival, my own birth” – Kindred

Kindred is a novel that traverses “one’s family and relations,” beyond the bonds created out of freewill and love, deeper, further back into the memory, the existence of a time when one’s family and relations were the result of bonds forced by people who created and upheld a system voiding one people of their humanity and ordaining the other people as the masters, owners, controllers of it–bonds Dana had to protect in order to secure her own destiny.   

Throw in Dana’s white husband–who accompanies her on one of these time-travel trips–and their vastly different vantage points of the time period, colorism, plus the fact that every one pretty much views her as some mythical creature with superior medical knowledge and you’ve got enough twists and turns to keep you locked on Butler’s psychologically thrilling tale.

Library Haul

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Ok, so not exactly a haul, but I have heard so much about Octavia Butler’s Kindred that I had to pick it up! Hopefully I get to it before its return date.

Resisting Resistance

resisting

I did two things last week: listened to Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp a Butterfly–for the first time–and started  Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me. Neither piece was approached with jubilant anticipation–Lamar’s album has been out for half a year. I resisted the exploration of both for a number of reasons–all of which boil down to bias. Growing up in a digital world where everyone has license to publish an opinion makes it difficult to have an original thought, or at least an autonomous experience of a piece of work, without the assistance, or distraction, of someone else’s view. Of course I could join generation X in blaming the Internet for…everything, but as an adult (who is still growing) I can acknowledge that I resisted both pieces of work out of fear and ignorance. Fear of what? Having my views challenged, liking something I thought I wasn’t supposed to, changing my mind? It was a culmination of all three. K. Dot’s album dropped at a time where everyone who looked like me was dying at once and the ones who looked like me with money and “power” were either blaming us, ignoring us, or pimping us. Kendrick had his infamous interview with Billboard where he stated:

“What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us?” – Kendrick Lamaar

without even reading the full article, I tuned him out–decided he had nothing worthy for me to listen to. That’s where my own ignorance came in. I couldn’t have been more wrong about Kendrick. At the time, I felt like an exposed nerve that was being hit and hit and hit. I couldn’t take anymore thinking, feeling, healing, whatever–I was just raw, raw and angry.

Those feelings seemed to sew my mind up and leave my conscience huddled in a safe corner clinging on to the things that either justified my anger or made me feel good. I wasn’t challenging myself. I was even proposing the expulsion of books and writers who didn’t speak specifically to “me” and those who forms of my identity.  My ignorance, my resistance was slowly forming a cave and I was blinding  myself to my own manipulation of images. This affected my ability to socialize, my ability to explore, my ability to grow. 

Coates talks about a similar moment during his time at Howard, “The Mecca”, where the notions he walked in with were being conflicted and challenged. He believed that his search for the history of Europe’s violent under development of Africa would be “a unified narrative, free of debate, which, once uncovered, would simply verify everything I had always suspected,” but, through his readings, his exploration, he found “factions,” and “factions within factions,” where one black scholar/theorist/artists’ plausible idea was “smashed to splinters by another,” equally plausible idea, leaving “a brawl of ancestors, a herd of dissenters, sometimes marching together but just often marching away from each other.” His comforting singular ideas were being shredded; leaving him open, conflicted, confused with multiple ways to go. But where I shied away from the “intellectual vertigo” he indulged. He continued to read, even pieces that dismantled his dream. Where I shut myself up in the cave of my limited thoughts he made the painful process of stepping out into the light. Such is the journey Kendrick takes throughout his album. In To Pimp a Butterfly there is a poem that begins as follows: 

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in a hotel room
I didn’t want to self-destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers

the poem continues to weave through the rest of the album, taking us deeper into his existential, intellectual, and moral crisis of battling what he knew and what he’s learning all while trying to remain a humble leader and lover is his people. We see that same indulgence in “intellectual vertigo” Coates also relished in. Like Coates he too took a trip away from his streets, his home, away his world, and into a world that challenged, conflicted and, ultimately, changed him:

“I know what I know and I know it well not to ever forget/until I realized I didn’t know shit” – “Momma”

There is no way To Pimp A Butterfly could exist without Lamar’s own personal metamorphosis. It’s the very thing he discusses on the final track of the album, “Mortal Man,” where he engages in a conversation with Tupac about a series of things, one of those being Lamar’s poem on the caterpillar’s pimping of a butterfly:

“Already surrounded by this mad city the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots” – “Mortal Man”

Like Plato’s, Allegory of the Cave, the caterpillar is shrouded in the darkness of its cocoon–never breaking free of the projected images in order to walk into the light of consciousness. Though I am a woman from an upper-middle class suburb, who can only look into Coates’ and Kendrick’s childhood worlds from the outside, I can relate to the darkness. I can relate to the resistance of the light, the pain, the journey of becoming a butterfly. But where both Lamar and Coates pushed forward, I remained inert. Where both took on the work of metamorphosing, I was stationary, comfortable, stagnant. Until now.

When I was interviewing my friend, Kopano, for my Why I Read docu-series she said something that always stuck with me: “when you’re reading something that’s uncomfortable…keep reading it.” I was astonished. Though, in romantic theory, I agreed with her I was totally incapable of practicing it. My biases, my ignorance, my resistance couldn’t, wouldn’t, allow me to come in contact with what offended, challenged, or contradicted me. I was afraid. Of what? Confrontation? Transformation? Both? 

My bias, my ignorance is my cocoon, my cave, but my recognition of both and my continuous desire to challenge both is what brings about a metamorphosis that is perpetual for there is, as Coates articulates, power in “discord, argument, chaos, perhaps even fear.” Constant challenging, defending, learning, and unlearning is how evolution works. The mind must remain kinetic or it risks a dormancy worse than death.

Each day is a conscious act to fight my resistance. Where others run into the wind open to its ever changing direction I step in, cautiously, with my windbreaker stubbornly walking in my own direction–fighting its current. In some respects I am thankful for my stubbornness–it is a testament to my independence–but in some cases where it renders me provincial I am…not ashamed, but alarmed and determined to change. I’m determined to enter my journey of “intellectual vertigo,” to forage through my cocoon and emerge a butterfly, who is by no means perfect, but who is constantly trying to soar higher. It is the same journey I read in Coates’ book and it is the same journey I hear in Lamar’s album.

I’ve had my mind, my emotions, my sensibilities on training wheels. I’m a big girl now and it’s time I take them off. It’s time I embrace challenges of the mind. Holding on too tightly of previous notions will never allow space for growth or inspiration. The Bible says “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” Erykah says, “The man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all,” Whitman says, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes,” I say, resist your resistance; you’ll be a better person for it. 

Your Job is to be Happy

  At around the time you entered pre-school or kindergarten you were probably asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,”—because, somehow, at the age of five you had enough exposure to the world and its many career fields to have meticulously map out your career-goals.

  If you’re like Beyoncé, at the age of five you were able to confidently respond with what you wanted to be and by your 34th you’re able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your dedicated and tenacious labor. 

  If you’re like me, at the age of 22 you’re still trying to figure out the answer to that question. 

  After graduating college with an extensive resume and an even more extensive network you would think I’d be on my way toward that answer right—wrong. Weeks before my graduation I kept being accosted with that question as if the fate of the asker’s life depended on my answer— side-note: it is incredibly rude to ask a graduating senior what their post-graduation plans are. I was just trying to make it to the graduation stage, I hadn’t exactly planned my life further than that moment. But as a sufferer of chronic first-child syndrome I knew I could not just go wherever the wind blew me, in fact, I was always resisting the wind’s persistent urging of me away from the path of logic. I needed a plan. I had spent four years exerting my independence, attempting to establish an identity, there was no way I could go back home. And yet here I sit typing this from my childhood bedroom, which is currently stuffed with all of my college memorabilia. I had packed up that independence and identity and brought it underneath the roof of my beloved mother’s home. But! I was not jobless. 

  Instead of going for the glossy starter positions with companies I had interned for I decided to join Americorps. It was a decision so out of the blue my own grandmother still needs constant reassurance that I haven’t gone insane. Why would I, a graduate of a well-respected university who worked hard to gain experience and contacts in a particular field, suddenly drop all of those opportunities to become a volunteer? Well, the answer is simple, I wasn’t happy.

  I had never truly enjoyed college and I felt like I was sacrificing my emotional well-being for the expectations of others. In Eat Pray Love style I dropped everything and went in search of this so-called Happiness. But in our current economic climate, and with the current interest rate on my looming student loan debt, could I really afford happiness? It was a question I asked after having my first interaction with Sallie Mae post-graduation–let’s just say she’s not as generous when you’re no longer a student. I was comparing my current income to my current debt and happiness did not seem like a wise investment, but in the spirit of Oprah, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and many others I decided to make that risky investment in myself. Now whether or not I’ll have a billion dollar return remains to be seen.

  Like Oprah, Bill, and Steve walking away from convention isn’t easy, especially when you live in a capitalistic society where your self-worth is directly correlated to your bank account. I grew up in a family where corporate America was the logical route. My grandmother had taken it, my mother had taken it, I would lead the third generation of women into that life of power-suits and executive moves. I had never truly imagined my life after college anywhere other than behind a desk, anything else just wasn’t logical for me. There was one problem, I began to dread every interview I went to—and I went to a lot. My resume was getting so many call backs that the average graduating senior would have been pleased, but I was physically sick. My body, my spirit, and my mind did not want to put on that blazer and creased pants and discuss why I would be a great candidate for a particular company. I went to each interview and conducted myself professionally, but I would be praying not to get the job. Was I crazy, yes, but my spirit was screaming it didn’t want to be in corporate America and the screams were becoming so deafening that I finally relented and stopped filling out applications. Now, there was another problem, how was I going to support myself financially?

  The battle of financial security and emotional well-being isn’t new: for some individuals there is no choice and for others the choices are endless. My need for emotional wellness had gotten so desperate that it eclipsed my drive or my willingness to see opportunities that would continue my avoiding it. I finally sat myself down and posed that same question I’d been hounded with for half my entire life: “what do I want to be when I grow up” and while I can’t answer with the same tunnel-vision as Beyoncé I’ve promised myself to try every option that feels right to me with no goal of arriving at one specific answer. I am not interested in having the definition of my life be summed up in a job-title. I am not romantic nor am I privileged enough to ignore the fact that I need money for basic survival, and I do aspire to have financial security, but I have realized that I cannot compromise my emotional well-being for financial gain. I watched two generations of women work with such tenacity in their specific fields for the majority of their lives. That work-ethic is definitely hereditary as I find myself with the same dedication and ambition the only difference is that I cannot fathom the idea of working at one company for thirty consecutive years. I’ve seen and enjoyed the perks of working for corporate America, but I’ve also witnessed the toll it will take on you, the pressure and the stress, and the micro-aggression, and the isolation—especially when you’re a black woman. I couldn’t find my purpose in any of the companies I had interviewed there. Beyond the financial gain I could not see any other reason for being there and that scared me.

  Today I sat in my Americorps training session and my coordinator summarized our job requirement as, “to be happy, to show up with a positive attitude.” It was the most illogical sounding job requirement I had ever heard; work and happiness were not two words I’d ever put in the same sentence and yet here I am at work and happy. Of course the job has just started, so I might be using a different adjective a month from now, but it was such a foreign feeling to wake up and be excited to start my day. I had been so conditioned to dread the work and the school day. I moved around lethargically spending my day counting down the hours until it would finally be over. I couldn’t keep doing that. I couldn’t spend the next thirty years of my life waiting for it to be over. So, I finally submitted to the wind and that Edgar Allan Poe poem and set about my journey on the road less travelled.

  Four years ago I did not see myself here. The person I was when I entered college is vastly different from the person I am now that I’ve left. Call me a naive young optimist sheltered under her mother’s roof and away from life’s harsh reality, but I believe our one true job in life is to be happy, to show up with a positive mind. 

Negroes with Guns: A Review

robert williams

“…the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching” 

This was the statement made by Mr. Robert F. Williams that launched him into mainstream notoriety, resulted in his suspension as the president of his Monroe, N.C. NAACP chapter, and forced him to, eventually, flee the country in political exile. It was this ideology of self-defense that also inspired Huey P. Newton who, with Bobby Seale, created The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense—a community activist group that introduced over 60 instrumental initiatives to better serve, govern, and defend their communities. 

This statement was delivered after a white man was acquitted after being accused of attempting to rape a pregnant black woman. When Mr. Williams was approached by the woman’s brothers, and other men in the community. to defend this woman’s honor Mr. Williams told them to put the faith in the law. After the case was dropped the black women looked upon Mr. Williams and declared that he had now left them vulnerable to any white man who should ever choose to take them women by force. When asked what he was going to do about it, Mr. Williams delivered the aforementioned statement. 

Negroes with Guns is an account of how Robert F. Williams arrived at this belief in armed self-defense. To be clear, Robert never called for violent provocation by black individuals, “I do not mean that Negroes should go out and attempt to get revenge for mistreatments or injustices,” he advocated for black individuals to defend themselves and the lives of their loved ones. 

This account of life in Monroe reveals a time that is not to foreign to today. Williams recalls the atrocities he and black citizens of the south, particularly Monroe, faced as they tried to push for integration—specifically a white’s only pool that refused to permit black children, forcing them to swim in creeks resulting in several drownings. Williams talks of how he leaned on the law for protection and for enforcement of the 14th amendment and all inalienable rights supposedly due to American citizens. When the law repeatedly failed to do either, Williams reveals how self-defense thwarted many situations that could have resulted in the death’s of innocent black citizens of Monroe. 

Without giving too much of the book away, this read is one that counters the largely popular myth that all black people of the 50s and 60s adopted this idea of non-violent resistance. Though Williams never denounces the beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr., and even welcomes the arrival of Freedom Riders in his community, he stood firm in his anti-pacifist beliefs. Negroes with Guns helps provide plurality to the ideologies of black individuals fighting for freedom. It is a tale of resistance, a manifesto of empowerment that encourages oppressed people to know the law–and when the enforcers of the law fail to do their job–to defend one’s self and the lives of whom one loves.

The book was published at the same time that racist citizens of Monroe were asking for Mr. Williams to be released from Michigan and returned to Monroe. Williams’ courage inspired the pleas of thousands of people across the world for the Federal Government to spare his life and not release him to Monroe where a lynch mob was sure to make assassination attempts. The introduction of this book concludes with a sentiment that rings true some thirty-odd years later; Negroes with Guns is a must-read because “this book and this case effects an entire people.”

May 2, 2015: Women of African Descent Film Festival

Black Chick Media®

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:
The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links Inc.
P.O. Box 50013
Brooklyn, NY 11205-0013
Attn: WADFF

The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links Presents the 14th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival

April 22, 2015

For Immediate Release

Brooklyn, NY April 15, 2015: The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links announces the 14th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival (WADFF). The WADFF will showcase films focused on Women, their families, neighborhoods, and the global community..

Continuing its legacy of showcasing the talent and accomplishments of artists of African descent, The Women of African Descent Film Festival is celebrating its 14th Anniversary in 2015.

Featuring an international roster of films, the festival will take place on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at LIU Brooklyn, Media Arts Department, Spike Lee Screening Room, 10 am – 6 pm.

“The Brooklyn Chapter realizes that many societal misconceptions start with how we…

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