Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010)

Pioneering civil rights activist, Dorothy Irene Height, died at the age of 98 at Howard University Hospital, where she had been in serious condition for many weeks.

Height, who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, was known for her determination and grace. She remained active and outspoken well into her 90s and often received rousing ovations at events around Washington, where she was easily recognizable in the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore.

Dorothy Height was recognized by President Obama as “the godmother of the civil rights movement” and a hero to Americans.  More importantly, she was also a hero to Black-Americans

Some of Height’s notable accomplishments include:

  • Received two of the nation’s highest honors: the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004
  • In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997
  • In 2004, Height was recognized by Barnard for her achievements as an honorary alumna during its commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision
  • Pledged and served as National President of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority
  • Listed on Molefi Kete Asante’s list of 100 Greatest African=Americans

Just four days after I buried my maternal grandmother, the world loses yet another civil rights icon.  The question begs whether or not we will ever experience the kind of significant Black leadership that stapled the 60’s. 

On April 20, 2010, the world lost a notable African-American Administrator, Educator, and Civil Rights Activist.  It literally took Dorothy almost 100 years to witness the first African-American to be elected to the office of President of the United States.  It is without question that her diligence past efforts helped to paved the way for a White House with two little Black girls.

Reaching higher Heights,

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Those who follow FathersFootprints.com know that Black History is not just something we feature in February.

The Harlem Renaissance (also known as the Black Literary Renaissance and the New Negro Movement) refers to the flowering of African American cultural and intellectual life during the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement”, named after the 1925 anthology The New Negro edited by Alain Locke. Centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, the movement influenced urban centers throughout the United States. Across the cultural spectrum (literature, drama, music, visual art, dance) and also in the realm of social thought (sociology, historiography, philosophy), artists and intellectuals found new ways to explore the historical experiences of black America and the contemporary experiences of black life in the urban North.

Challenging white paternalism and racism, African-American artists and intellectuals rejected imitating the styles of Europeans and white Americans and instead celebrated black dignity and creativity. Asserting their freedom to express themselves on their own terms, they explored their identities as black Americans, celebrating the black culture that had emerged out of slavery, as well as cultural ties to Africa. Wiki

There are several critical writers that helped to birth and define the era known to us as the Black Literary Renaissance.  In no particular order, the literary giants of that era included: 1) Zora Neale Hurston; 2) Langston Hughes; 3) Jesse Redman Fauset; 4) Walter White; 5) Claude McKay; and 6) Rudolph Fisher. Today’s feature highlights the lady widely known by her first name.

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was a utopian, who believed that black Americans could attain sovereignty from white American society and all its bigotry, as proven by her hometown of Eatonville. She was born in 1891 and her father was a Baptist preacher, tenant farmer, and carpenter. At age three her family moved to Eatonville, Fla., the first incorporated black community in America. Her father would also become mayor of that town. In her writings she would glorify Eatonville as a utopia where black Americans could live independent of the prejudices of white society.

Zora was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist and an authority on black culture from the Harlem Renaissance. In this artistic movement of the 1920s black artists moved from traditional dialectical works and imitation of white writers to explore their own culture and affirm pride in their race. Zora pursued this objective by combining literature with anthropology. She first gained attention with her short stories such as “John Redding Goes to Sea” and “Spunk” which appeared in black literary magazines. After several years of anthropological research financed through grants and fellowships, Zora’s first novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine was published in 1934 to critical success.

In 1935, her book Mules and Men, which investigated voodoo practices in black communities in Florida and New Orleans, also brought her kudos. The publication of what is considered Hurston’s greatest novel was Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. Published works by Hurston over the next ten years either received mixed reviews or failed according to literary standards. Zora never addressed the issue of racism of whites toward blacks, and as this became a developing theme among black writers in the post World War II era of civil rights, Zora’s literary influence faded. She further scathed her own reputation by railing the civil rights movement and supporting ultraconservative politicians. She died in poverty and obscurity in 1960.

Copyright © 2009

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Ms. Rachel Araya  (pictured right) is a guest columnist sharing her skills and talents with the FathersFootprints’ readers. For a topic that was considered by many to be either too “taboo” to debate or simply too irrelevant to discuss, Rachel has convinced us there is more to be said about the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program.  Consider this part 2 of a 3 part series on this subject. 

 

During the Black Power Movement, racism presented many dangers which were both   stark and terrifying. We should not be surprised that a society that once legalized slavery was and is faced with race rage. In a long continuum of risks faced and survived, we have internalized this rage (aimed at everyone) with dire consequences. While the ten point program seems very desirable, the attainability of all ten points seems very bleak right now even with a black president. It has been proven in the past that universal black militance cannot get us what we want for our people. The goal should be to eliminate racism altogether so that President Obama can make it possible to reach all ten goals on the list and add more goals as well. Unfortunately, due to the length constraint of this blog, I can only touch on 4 of the 10 demands from the Black Panther Party.

 

First and foremost, the Black Panther’s two demands about wanting education that teaches us our true history and that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society for our people were very reasonable. Without a doubt, education is the key to ending racism and attaining all of the goals on the list and then some. Not only does education enlighten people but it also teaches people how to be empathetic and strong. We dismantled de jure segregation because we were a strong people who had educated leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Seale, and Huey Newton.  Since education enlightens people on the evils of racism, we need to produce more educated leaders to dismantle de facto discrimination at its institutionalized foundation. Yes, I am talking about the U.S. Constitution. How can the U.S. Constitution truly be free of discrimination when it uses legal terminology that pretends to be civilized as it obscures the racist realities penetrating America? America founded its laws with color being the sole determinant for who was able to enjoy full citizenship with all of the accompanying rights and privileges. Today, President Obama is investing billions of dollars in the educational system in order for us to regain lost ground. A great education is now available to all Americans. Hopefully, in this land of so-called freedom, our education will teach all of us how to truly be free.

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Next, The Black Panther’s demand about obtaining completely free healthcare for all black and oppressed people is a very desirable goal. However, this socialist idea of completely free health care is not attainable without a cost. While I agree that free health care is a human right, I also know that nothing in life is truly free. For example, Canada’s “free” health care system has many hidden costs. The hidden costs are the poor quality of health care and the long wait for medical attention in queues along with the fact that the citizen’s taxes are really paying for health care. A sweeping socialization of the United State’s health care system may not be what America needs right now because it may very well make us a poor people, and it may turn patients into victims. For example, our loved ones can die because they were too far down on a waiting list.  Further, we are already on the right track with President Obama’s new health care reform. President Obama said on February 24, 2009: “I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” Health care reform should reduce long-term growth of health care costs; protect families from bankruptcy or debt; guarantee choice of doctors and health plans; invest in prevention and wellness; improve patient safety and quality of care; assure affordable, quality health coverage; maintain coverage when you change or lose a job; and end barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Health care may not be completely free under the Obama Administration but health care reform sur’ sounds good to me.

 

Finally, The Black Panther’s demand about wanting an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of black people, people of color and all oppressed people in America is very important if we want to keep the peace and avoid race riots (uprisings). A scrutinizing look into the past exposes the truth: The truth is Abraham Lincoln didn’t free the slaves. The slaves freed themselves because there was always resistance, which was demonstrated by all of the uprisings in the South. Lincoln had no choice but to free the slaves with all of the bloody uprisings and the Civil War. African Americans have proven through their resilient struggles against legal sanctions such as slavery, Crop Lien Laws, and Jim Crow Laws that we needed to break away from the oppressive social order in order to thrive as human beings with full citizenship and not the deemed 3/5 human beings sanctioned in the U.S. Constitution.  Racism has systematically guided the lawmakers and law-enforcers in America. Even with the passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, the laws were designed for the majority’s benefit and to the detriment of African Americans. The idea of defending ourselves against police brutality and the murder of black people, people of color, and all oppressed people is very scary. Since the police specialize in unsolicited attacks of black people, people of color, and oppressed people, the Constitutional right to bear arms and self defense is very important in protecting us from racist police officers. However, if we protect ourselves with weapons, the violence will, undoubtedly, dramatically increase. President Obama and his Administration need to implement a more progressive and, perhaps, a more peaceful plan to end unsolicited racial attacks against our people.

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In the end, the skin color of our president is inconsequential. What is of consequence are the Acts that Obama and a democratic Congress passes in order to eradicate racism in America. And guess what? So far so good: If it isn’t love it’s in the neighborhood. All we needed was the right leadership. I, for one, think we need more spiritual leadership. And I thank God that our president is a spiritual man. We must be careful not to let our fears (derived from our past) grow bigger than our faith. On a personal note, I’m not a “hatemonger”, and I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that we are a healthy, educated, spiritual people who know the value of self-reliance and black pride. Malcolm X once said, “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” There it is! Finally, I’m finished with my trite political platitude at exactly ten o’clock on a Friday night. With that said, I’m going to bed.  Thanks Damon for this opportunity.

Peace & Love,

 Rachel Araya

 

Born Rachel Diane Frederick (Araya is her Eritrean name) in Detroit in 1969. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with distinction, and the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison. Early in her my academic career, she developed a love for writing, which is how she spends most of her time. Rachel is currently working on a book about the human condition and the spiritual (we can’t give away too much). When she is not writing, she enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, and studying for the Michigan Bar Exam.