BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2007 (2/20/07)
Every year in the month of February - African Americans celebrate Black History Month. It is the shortest month in any year and they say delving into history two famous African Americans were born in February. Suffice to say some always get the short end of the stick.
Black History month plays some role and highlights the diversity of this Nation - but, just like any other holiday or festivity, the significance of the ambience of the meaning of what it means to be Black in America is getting clouded. Some want the link with Jim Crow and Slavery to be hall mark of the DNA testing of what it means to be African American.
Over 18 years ago I remember at the Presidio of San Francisco some of us African Americans in unity decided to celebrate Black History Month. It is kind of interesting how I feel about Black History Month since those early days and before - when it meant something and more to celebrate Black History Month.
In the U.S. Army and more precise the Sixth U.S. Army and Presidio of San Francisco that was NOT a difficult thing to do for some of us. There was leadership, there was money, the only issue was a theme - a little brain storming and we were ready for the day - complete with a location, speakers, the room well decorated and of course the best - cuisine.
I am talking quality greens, corn bread, fried chicken, the best short ribs - you get the picture. When the White officers went for a third helping you knew something was right and then you saw the smiles a mile wide.
Black History Month meant something to all of us Latinos, Whites, Asians, Blacks, others - we enjoyed listening to the key note speaker and always learned something from the exhibits some focusing on Black inventions, others on history and Blacks, others the history of African Americans closer to home like Mary Pleasant. I always liked the Buffalo Soldiers and stuck with that part of history to this day. We had the Officers' Club and the Non-Commissioned Officers' Club, we had other places complete with sitting arrangements and we could within two hours put on a show that made every one proud. That one day every one felt they appreciated the efforts of Blacks in America.
It was different when I joined the National Park Service (NPS). The Whites wondered why it was necessary to have a Black History Month. Another paradox was the few Blacks within the NPS who were House Negroes - they could not be independent and were always doing the Master's bidding. "Screw that", I said and took the lead and made things happen.
Lucky for me I was still at the Presidio of San Francisco working for the NPS and had the contacts and other means necessary to celebrate Black History month - but, as I said I had to deal with blatant racism and the Uncle Tom syndrome that bit some of the NPS Blacks in the ass to the detriment of those that stood for Black contribution and culture.
Perhaps the best solution that ever came from the lack of support at the NPS towards anyone of color was creating the African American Association - a 501 C 3 - the first non-profit in the National Park Service linked to African Americans and approved by the NPS Regional Office.
Joe Oliver my Army buddy now working for the NPS was chosen President of the NPS, African American Association. I acted as the vice-president to make the events linked to Black History Month possible every single year. As I said every single year it was a pain in the ass to jump through the hurdles to do the simplest of things working for the NPS and the rampant discrimination prevalent on every level.
But, we did it and did it well under difficult NPS circumstances. I still remember Darlene Williams, Millie Bristow, Cherlynn Hubbard, William Jones, Geoffrey Upshaw, Angela Cannon, Fabian Brown, Ruth Foster, R.W. Jenkins, Barbara Riddick, Veno Bender and others all members of the African American Association.
The bigots that I remember most giving us a hard time one Susan Hurst and Leo Guillory- these scum bags would simile at your face and stab you in the back. Perhaps what bothered these folks is that they could not celebrate White History Month because every single day Whites celebrate in this Nation - doing what they do most propagating - greed. It is bad to generalize but observing them it surely seems that most of them do just that - love materialism, constantly massaging their ego.
Looking back I do treasure the memories celebrating Black History Month when the Army reigned supreme at the Presidio of San Francisco. The events held at the Presidio Officers' Club complete with table service, a five course meal and surrounded by educated and well manner people spoke well of the Army and more of the personnel.
Celebrating Black History Month - working for the NPS and the U.S. Park Police was a pain in the ass. The Supervisors did all in their power to see that you were given the minimum time to organize Black History Month. The White Supervisors even turned some Asian and Black Uncle Tom employees against you - but all that is fine - time will tell.
The scum bags watched you like a hawk and were surprised when the day came - how the hell we managed to pull it off and put on a first class show. Every single year I contributed from my own pocket and every year I video taped the Black History event and have a record of proof.
Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr was chosen one year to be the key note speaker. Another year we had my good friend Doctor Ramona Tascoe, we had Aileen Hernandez, Chief of Police Earl Sanders, the Buffalo Soldiers Historian, Anthony Powell, Marjorie Ann Williams my Army co-worker and good friend - we had powerful speakers that put to shame the White Managers from the Presidio Trust and the NPS.
Today, all over this Nation, African Americans have forgotten their roots and more the pain and suffering that many endured - many laying down their lives because they were not considered human beings and property of the Master who was White and ruthless. Less then sixty years ago Blacks were lynched and killed and while no one wants to talk about it - Emit Tell.
Up until 1924 you could kill a Native American and get money for the scalp- a meager five dollars. Whites did not treat Blacks with dignity and the few exceptions were far and wide. Mary Pleasant and a few other Blacks ruled supreme in California. On the East Coast we would like to say that Blacks did well but the fact of the matter is they did not.
I treasure my talks with the Elders mostly Blacks who tell me stuff that is not written in books. Those stories that I have heard opens one's eyes but more your heart to a time long gone but should never, ever be forgotten. But, some how lingering there still are ghosts who prop up every now and then - reminding us all that not all is well in America and all will not be well until there is acknowledgement of an evil past, healing and restitution.
The 40 acres of land and a couple of mule deal did not materialize. One more promise from those that speak is fork tongues. The syndrome keeps buzzing in the ears and now and then there is eruption - pointing in the direction of the worst discrimination meted out to innocent human beings in the history of the world - slavery.
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and proud to be a Kenyan. I am an American Citizen and have served my Nation well especially when I worked for the Sixth U.S. Army and Presidio of San Francisco. The awards I received from the Army are those I treasure the most - given to me because I earned them but more because they were presented by genuine leaders, good men, and many of them paradoxically - White.
Today, the Nation has a leader that has joined the Presidential Race his father is Black and from Kenya - his mother is White. His name is Senator Barack Obama. I have studied American History and read the biographies of many a Black American leader.
Some of them were born in Jamaica, other Barbados, others some African country, they were called colored, then Negroes, then Blacks, now African American and in between many bad names - a list too long to mention and it would do no good. After all when humans stoop into the dirty cesspool they become one. Slavery and the history of this Nation has been embedded on the minds of many and carved out in stone for millions to remember that this Nation did wrong to millions of innocent fellow human beings. Our Nation's Constitution takes much light from the First People and the Six Nations. The Iroquois practiced sound democracy much before the Whites who landed on this land and found much more civilized people then their dirty, filthy, disease carrying selves.
The Founding Fathers in eloquent words wrote a Constitution that read well and sounded well. We know that many of them practiced slavery and that is and was right. We tend to look the other way saying those were the times. Well, the times have not changed - in more subtle ways today, racism is alive and well especially in high decision making circles.
Throughout history this Nation has produced many Black leaders. They were Black first and then what some one perceived them to be. The few Black Ministers who have lost touch with the real world have no right to say "he is not of our kind" or words to that affect, referring to Obama. It is a fact that the current Black Church Ministers have let Americans down. The loud mouthed rhetoric of past years drowns the good actions that should sprout from the Holy Book. Many talk the talk but cannot walk the walk and many minister to mundane ways.
We have the same mentality closer to home in the Bay Area with Black Church Minister driving the best of cars and eating the best of food. These Black Church Ministers dress in the most expensive clothes while those that are poor and members of their church suffer - each and every day - there is no Accountability and less Transparency.
Every year Black History Month should evolve to bring a better understanding and more a unity of the minds and more of the heart. Africa is the home of humankind - I feel proud I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. I have traveled the world and seen and felt the pangs of discrimination. I have over come and I am a survivor.
Even today with all the support and so called progress - this Nation and San Francisco still remains a Racist City. As Blacks we must understand that unity is critical but more being educated on issues and having a sense of history that should take all of us to a better place.
Anyone who is born in America and is linked to Africa has a right to be called Black. After all we went through colored, Negro, Black, African American and what do we want to be called - next? This Black History Month 2007 - I have witnessed more racism then ever before. Right here in our backyard a Black Supervisor from District 10 is making plans to rid Blacks from low and no income Public Housing at Alice Griffith in the Bayview Hunters Point. This is the height of being an Uncle Tom.
Since 1964, Blacks that once owned homes in the Fillmore now called Western Addition and thrown out of their home and still seeking restitution. Certificates given by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) have not been honored. So many homeless and so many dead and no one in their right mind are doing anything. All this in San Francisco, the most Racist City and time to rename Justine Herman Plaza the author of all this Racism and former Mayor of San Francisco.
One Black woman lost over $5 million in property and after all these years is still fighting her fight. We had to collect over 33,200 signatures to fight SF Redevelopment Agency in the Bayview Hunters Point. In our struggle we did not see one single Black Christian Pastor or Minister help us. We did not see these scum bags fight for the poor but we saw the likes of Aurelious Walker, Calvin Jones, those of the Tabernacle Group work with Lennar Corp. and San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to make a fast buck and get millions in loans.
Black History Month must mean something daily in our lives, throughout the year. It is not some Circus that one attends only to amuse oneself and move on doing other mundane stuff. It is not some bling, bling but rather a pondering of some pertinent issues and relationships with this Nation. Millions died just because they were Black. Now, why would that have happened?
In past years we have seen enough and if Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. were here today - he would agree with me. Not everything he did was perfect and he made many mistakes. He was fearful because he was human. He was slow to put down anyone, including our Black youth. Our Black leaders today cannot walk the walk but are quick to put down our youth. Nothing pleases the enemy more then this - when will Black leaders ever learn to appreciate the youth and offer them unconditional love? Good leaders know the way, show the way, and go the way. Black History Month is about going to a better place but you have to be a better Sister and Brother to do that. You have to be educated and you have to respect the past with all its faults to better the present and try to present the best in the future - put our best foot forward.
The steps of slavery are many and painful. The chains were heavy and many died because of evil circumstances. Today, the children of slaves live that they may walk with dignity and freedom. Freedom does not beget license and that is what we see in our Black Leadership today. Most have lost a sense of knowing the truth because they have numbed their conscience. Money is not everything but that does seem to be the case. Too many sell outs doing the will of the Greedy Mongers.
Black leaders will take you to the Civil Rights movement but fail to show you what they have done to better Black Society today. Black leaders have failed to help our youth because they cannot go to a place where the youth will call a spade a spade.
Black leaders will whisper platitudes in private but pretend they are Jesus in the public. We must not generalize but that is what I have witnessed all over this Nation.
Our youth are poised to lead but that cannot happen without support from the Black Community and without unconditional love for our youth.
Black History Month and the circus like activities that are put on in some communities do more disservice to the good that is and was and fails to take us to a better place. Disinformation is our worse enemy.
The blood spilled, the pangs and cries in the fields, the long journeys to the Slave Master's domain, the endurance for years in slavery, the escape and lynching are all part of Black History. The cries have to be recognized because only through the birth pangs can one really fathom the birth of freedom and the deeper understanding of the psyche of the White Man and his doings - before, now, and in the future. One must be vigilant at all times - let down your guard and you are at the mercy of a system that embraces "incarceration" and shuns liberation to some. Few have the guts to tell the truth, as it is and if told as it happened - reality would strike home and hearts and minds would open. The time is now and the time is ripe to unite. You may have your roots in Kenya but we need the right leadership, a Black leadership to put on track what is out of whack. Who will take on the challenge and fight the Uncle Tom of today?
Black History Month 2007.
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