A Prayer for America at the End of 2017

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II with Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and other moral leaders at the US Capitol building on Jan. 9 2017, following a #MoralMarch and protest against the nomination of former Sen. Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General.

A Prayer for America at the End of 2017

Gracious, eternal, and all wise God; Thou who formed what is out of nothing and called us into being to serve You — You, O Lord, who weigh every nation in the balance of Your own standards:

Today, we acknowledge how great Thou art, the marvelous mystery of Your mercy and the excellence of Your name. Because Your Holy Spirit brings all things to remembrance, breathe on us now, that we might remember how gracious You have been to this nation we call America.

 

As a nation, we have our faith and frailties, strengths and shortcomings, yet You have allowed grace to be shed upon us. When we have honored Your ways and when we have fallen short, You have been a merciful God. Remind us that the history of this nation is more about Your grace than about our greatness. When we are not where we should be, let us hear and follow what You said to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will I forgive their sin, and will I heal their land.”

In our land we need healing. For a land so blessed by grace, there is too much poverty, too much sickness, too many children dying, and too much war. We need a healing. A tax bill that guts government to give a windfall to the wealthiest when income inequality is greater than it has been since the Gilded Age is more than bad policy; it is a symptom of spiritual sickness and a moral malady. We need a healing in America.

In Your word You have said that those who rule the nation must be just, and if we are to please You, we must learn to do justice, care for the fatherless, support the widow, loose the bands of wickedness, pay people what they deserve, care for the sick, the homeless, and the hungry. If we are to please You, we must hope to hear you say, “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

Trouble the soul of this nation as in the days of Amos so that no one is at ease in Zion. Use our prophetic words and our prophetic actions to remind those in the seats of power that they are not God. Trouble this nation with the voice of concern and the voice of compassion. Make us mindful of the thousands without paths to the pursuit of happiness.

Shake the foundations of our conscience until we cannot help but change our course. Move on us to study war no more. Cause us to live our lives to serve others. Teach us that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness requires justice and hope and help and caring. Expand our morality beyond the narrowness of personal piety into the broadness of public policy. Give us the strength to challenge racism, poverty, unchecked militarism, and ecological devastation.

Empower us with Your Spirit that we might be a nation unto God, not unto fear; show us again that America is only here by your grace.

Show us that grace carries responsibility — that a nation under grace must lead the world, not merely police the world. A nation under grace must care, must remember her past so that she will not be arrogant in her present. A nation under grace must bring the world together and not tear it apart. A nation under grace cannot refer to people as aliens when we all were created with one blood. A nation under grace cannot leave cities decaying and flood victims barely surviving. Grace demands something better than that. So Lord, as you stirred up dry bones in the valley, stir up hope, and stir up righteousness.

Restore the Prophets and the prophetic voices to the land. Revive the spirit of Medgar, Martin, Malcolm, Corretta, Harriet, Rosa, Cinque, Douglass, Dubois, Sojourner, Jordan, Wilkins and Bethune. Call us and challenge us again. Teach even this nation that with all our power and all our resources, we will still have to stand before Your judgment one day. Give us leaders who understand that the purpose of power and influence is to help someone. Grant us a citizenry determined to be yoked together in common humanity. Let us know the only way to a more perfect union is for our laws and policies to reflect Your kind of love.

Let faith be a conviction, not a convenience. Help us, O God, to smooth out every wrinkle in the flag of our common life until we are one nation under God, with one justice system for all, with living wages for all, with quality education for all.

Finally, O Lord, we pray that the mind of the Psalmist will be ours:

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:

Sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious.

Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.

All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name.

Come and see the works of God: He is terrible in His doing toward the children of men.

He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in Him.

He ruleth by His power for ever; His eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves (Ps 66).

We thank You, O God, that Your eyes still behold the nation. We thank You that You still see injustice, You still see poverty. And because You can still see it, these things don’t have the last word. We thank You God that you still see America. You still see our leadership. You know how to bring down the high and lift up the humble. O God, we bless Your name, we lift up every voice, we declare and rejoice that You are still the God of our weary years, the God who is able to bring life out of death. Help us to know as our foreparents sang,

Time is filled with swift transition, naught of earth unmoved can stand, Build your hope on things eternal, Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

In the name of the Father who sticketh closer than a brother, watches us like a mother, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

Go to the profile of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II

Barack Hussein Obama II, 44th President of the United States—how good must we be to gain their respect? :: Christian Fabien

Christian Fabien
January 12, 2017

12119159_183744165297349_7008125353807309659_nIf Barack Obama doesn’t represent the end of respectability politics, nothing does.

If the way that man dropped his middle name and lost all accent and did limbo—drinking in Irish pubs and eating sloppy joes and casseroles and killing Muslims and keeping the military industrial complex’s wars and not taking Billy John’s guns; toning down his own swag and terrorist fist bumps, no longer brushing off his shoulder—did nothing to make whyte America feel safe, there’s no argument to be made for appeasing the boogey men in the minds of whyte folks. There’s no PhD that can match the degree of servitude Our Shining Black Hope expressed over eight years in the face of the fears of ignorant, pre-logical, post-factual whyte folks.

The only thing that matches his kowtowing at their runaway imaginations is the utter contempt they showed by coming out of their Middle American caves to the polls two months ago. The only thing that matches the amount of way he gave them is the amount of power rich whyte men wielded to make sure that his crowning achievement would be passing the baton to the least worthy of them as if to say, “A monkey could do this job; an abject failure—more of a failure than the buffon who came before Obama can do this job.”

No, America: This replacement is not of equal or greater value. Maybe the Russian prostitutes are not a fact, but the way you’ve urinated on the legacy of Hope is all too true.

Barack Obama—President 44 of the United States of America Barack Obama—was a Good Negro. So good that some of us in the field saw him go into the House every night while the slave patrols murdered us in the streets for snuff films and left our bodies out in the street like Willie Lynch letters and we still meme’d him and loved him and wanted him to win and are praying to this day and every other of his life that he dies the natural death of a man, not that of a King on a balcony.

President Barack Obama pulled his pants up so high we couldn’t see his eyes; just his smile. He crossed his T’s and dotted his I’s and spoke the Queen’s English so well that his words smelled like tea and crumpets and tasted like Marmite. Love it or hate it, he spread his obsequiousness all over their daily bread, knowing where his was buttered.

Barack Hussein Obama II, 44th President of the United States spoke the Lie of Progress in the only way a whyte folks will hear it; in the way that says, “We will be patient and submerge our desire—our right—to be treated as men and women and human children to your comfort. We will not ask anything of you that disturbs your predilection for treating our cultures and religions like fashion accessories and glurges.”

He spoke the Lie of Progress in living rooms and in schools, at farms and on factory floors, at diners and on distant military outposts, wearing bullet-proof suits that covered the whipping scars on his back, his pants up to his eyes so that no one would see him cry.

He spoke the Great Lie to those who asked for his birth certificate, to those who asked what he did for a living and how he earned that car he was riding in and marveled at how articulate he was while telling his wife to go back to Africa to dance with simians because they were her family.

Through it all, 44—the Man, the Legend, the living history and culmination of so much Hope—smiled, rarely giving glimpse to the enervation borne of submission. In that way, he was like us, and we saw ourselves in him.

So, now what do we see? What do we see as he walks into the pages of history, retreating to the relative protection of his legacy and status and opportunity while the worst of our lifetimes is about to happen? How well-dressed and smart must we be? Is it possible to be well-dressed and smart and articulate enough to assuage the fears of whyte folk who think that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is prediction while thinking that 1984 is not?

We’re not that good.

In spite of his flaws, and because of the way he carried them, Barack Obama was twice as good as at the best of us and he got half the respect of the worst of us. He got half the respect and is being replaced by a guy who would not be the smartest man in the room were he the only man in the room.

When they believe that the top pick of the Talented Tenth is equal to a man who is one-tenth of his predecessor; that a man who sits on a gold throne in a gold tower at the bottom percentile of emotional intelligence can occupy the same seat as Barack Hussein Obama II, 44th President of the United States—how good must we be to gain their respect?

Why would we even want to?

About Christian Fabien

Christian Fabien·

Check him out on Facebook  Lives in Los Angeles, California From Port-au-Prince, Haiti · Lived in Houston, Texas

OUR COMMON GROUND :: Watch Night 2016

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We have explored and examined the many issues, events and collective experiences of our time all through this year, 2016. As a people we have been challenged with disappointment; thunders of terror at the extra-judicial murders of our Brothers and Sisters; the continuing captured of them in enslavement camps by the millions;the covert oppression of children in schools that fail them or prepare them for imprisonment camps; and the failure of our government to makes us whole. As on this night in 1862, we search for the ‘North Star’ still. I impress my life and the spirit of this radio broadcast each week in the lessons of the N’Guzo Saba, striving to respect and honor Black Truth, our TRUTH.
Each week, we make a place, a sanctuary to say and claim that truth. In this coming year, we are faced with the gravest form of oppression and racism seen by none of us in our lives.  Make no mistake, on the bed of a fledgling fascism they will make every effort to eviscerate our belief in our historical accomplishments, ourselves as a people, what is ours and what is owed. We must stand tall in the dancing glow of our Ancestors and stand strong and tall. We must be strategically vigilant and believe in our Truth and the possibilities of our people still.
OUR COMMON GROUND will continue to provide the sanctuary that offers clarity, armament, comfort and a secure place for our voice, with respect and passion.  We are committed to serious analysis, seeking appropriate outcomes and input and answers.  I recently passed my 35th anniversary as host of OUR COMMON GROUND, there will be changes but our mission will never waver.  We are ALTERNATIVE ACTIVIST RADICAL RADIO and will continue in that tradition. WE least afford to let up in the face of what is coming.  We must careful about how we adjust our lenses in lunging into the “new struggle” era. Credible, useful, accurate and clear examination and action is more necessary than ever.  We are in a period of “post reconstruction” with the most visceral and evil forces controlling our public agency. We are a people who know how to survive.  For our children we continue thus.  As for our government, we may be unable to stop what will happen, however, we must stand on our Truth.
Throughout our history, the only thing that we have ever asked the OCG Family is do what you can (UJIMA, NIA) to help us grow and to bring more comrades to the Sanctuary.
Thank you for your support throughout the year. We return LIVE on January 7th.
Wishing for us the Victories of our Past and Abundance and Prosperity in our Future.
Janice Graham
Executive Producer, Host
OUR COMMON GROUND
kwanzaa16
watchnight
Date: December 31
Wed, 1862-12-31

*On This date in 1862 the first Watch Night Services were celebrated in Back communities in America.

The Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” On that night, Black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law.  At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.

Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year. It’s been over a century since the first Freedom’s Eve and tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate “how we got over.” This celebration takes many African American decendants of slaves into a new year with praise and worship. The service usually begins anywhere from 7 p.m. To 10 p.m. And ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year. Some people come to church first, before going out to celebrate, for others, church is the only New Year’s Eve event.

There have been instances where clergy in mainline denominations questioned the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year’s Eve. However, there is a reason for the importance of New Year’s Eve services in the Black experience in America.

Reference:
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-

“The Flames of Liberation: Rebellion and Resistance” ll September 5, 2015 with Ruby N. Sales

Activist and Organizer, Ruby N. Sales

  “The Flames of Liberation: Rebellion and Resistance”

Saturday, September 5, 2015    Φ     LIVE  10 pm EDT

 “Transforming Truth to Power, One Broadcast At a Time” 

           OUR COMMON GROUND  Session II 2015 SEASON 

     33rd BROADCAST SEASON 

                               We open our 2nd Session of the 2015 Season continuing to examine the depth of structural and institutionalized racism, the impact of white supremacy and the concept of #BlackLivesMatter as a clarion call and the its promise as a movement.  As always we ask, “What is your End Game?”                      We invite you to join us and be part of the response to THE STATE OF EMERGENCY.

 

Guest Moderator, Ruby N. Sales, Founder & Director, The Spirit House Project

 

To help us kick off this session we have asked Rev. Ruby N. Sales to join us a co-moderator on the critical questions and issues that challenge, trembling like a swelling tsunami beneath the ocean. A seasoned veteran of the civil and human rights campaigns of our time and a fierce and clear visionary of Black Power, we believe that she is most appropriate to help us press out an authentic narrative on these issues.

Institutionalized Racism is the concept and practice of white supremacy. It is the practice of discrimination and oppression based on skin color, physical characteristics, continent of origin and culture. It has its origins as a justification for slavery and the conquest of the Americas. From the beginning, slavery in the United States was tied to the development and growth of capitalism. Founded on the sale and ownership of human beings on the basis of their physical characteristics and color, its purpose was the exploitation of unpaid labor for super profits. As chattels, Africans were hunted like animals, transported to the “New World,” and then sold on the auction block like beasts of burden. In like manner Native American Indians were exterminated on a massive scale.

Moral and intellectual rationales were invented and continue to justify this kidnapping, sale, enslavement and genocide against human beings. As an ideology, racism provided the moral and intellectual underpinnings of slavery, the westward expansion of colonialism and the seizure of half of Mexico. Thus the purpose of this doctrine was, and still is, to put forward ideas and theories founded on the myth that Black people and other people of color are inherently inferior.

Almost 130 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the legacy of slavery remains. It is embedded in and influences every aspect of social, economic and political life. Institutionalized racism is the combined economic, political, social, cultural, legal, ideological and other structures that exist to maintain the system of inequality. #RaceMatters

Institutionalized racism has economic, social, political, ideological and cultural forms, and denies equality, justice and dignity to all people of color.  There are new problems because of the systemic nature of crisis. Our discussions should examine what adjustments must be made in these new efforts to eradicate our place in this society. We rebel and resist the effort to force us into the margins, to make us invisible and to remove us to prison for profit camps.

Our discussions must explore and examine how to elevate our voices in the fight against police brutality, housing discrimination, immigrant rights, and the dismantlement of public education to mention a few issues. At OUR COMMON GROUND provide “a place for our unfiltered voices”.  With the brightest, most loyal and insightful Black activists, community organizers and servants, scholars, researchers, journalists and social scientists we raise, clarify and illuminate the racist dimension of these issues, show how their roots lie in the system of capitalism and its new stage of crisis, and come up with concrete ideas to launch new initiatives and support existing ones.

As a set of institutions, racism is infused in the very foundations of our society and is inseparable from the economic foundations of U.S. capitalist society. The “new domestic military policing” is implemented to intimidate and destroy racially homogenous communities and put into place a ‘superexploitation’ of racial oppression that ensures our silence and to fill prisons serves to create and make real the essence of white supremacy.  We are living in an increasingly surreal special system of oppression and racism perpetrated by a narrative dictated outside of our community. None of this is new; the struggle to liberate ourselves has been before us since our time on these shores. One of our most effective weapons is to ensure that we work from an authentic narrative and that its formulation comes from our Truth. OUR COMMON GROUND for more than 33 years has focused its broadcast mission on ensuring that the Black Truth illuminates and informs our struggle.  #BlackTruthMatters #BlackVoiceMatters

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   BOLD      BRAVE       BLACK 

           OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

                                 “Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves” 

                                email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

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David Goodman: Time for a new ‘Freedom Summer’

David Goodman Photo: The Andrew Goodman Foundation

Fifty years ago, on June 21, 1964, my older brother, Andrew Goodman, was murdered near Philadelphia, Miss. He and his colleagues Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were ambushed by more than a dozen members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the county’s deputy sheriff. They were taken to an unmarked dirt road and shot, one by one.

Their bodies weren’t discovered for 44 days, a mystery and a tragedy that continues to elicit raw emotions even a half-century later.It happened on the first day of Freedom Summer, an effort by the black leadership to flood Mississippi with northern college students who would help register African-American voters.At the time, barely 7 percent of Mississippi’s black residents were registered to vote. In eight of the 13 mostly black counties in the state, not a single African American had ever voted.

A century after the Civil War, they remained disenfranchised — citizens without a voice. It was more than segregation; it was subjugation. Something had to be done.The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was a bold initiative. Given the widespread hatred of “outside agitators,” it was an act of remarkable bravery by all who participated.As the late Maya Angelou wrote in the foreword to My Mantelpiece, the recently published posthumous memoir of my mother, Carolyn Goodman, “Those three young men represent 300,000 young men and women who dared, who had the courage to go to the lion’s den and try to scrub the lion’s teeth.

“When 20-year-old Andy asked my parents for permission to volunteer in Mississippi, their urge to protect their son was trumped by the understanding that he was a spiritual reflection of themselves and their willingness to take action. His death devastated my family, but the brazenness of the act also shocked the nation.

Sadly, it was largely because two of the three victims were white.In fact, as officials searched through the forests and swamps of Mississippi, they discovered many black lynching victims who simply had been ignored because their tragic fate had become commonplace. So the case, which inspired the movie Mississippi Burning, lit a fire for the cause. It is no coincidence that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed the following year.Yet here we go again. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of that landmark piece of legislation, and immediately a number of states moved to implement laws that would essentially reduce voter turnout among minority groups. Dubious claims of voter fraud are being used to once again disenfranchise a portion of the population.In 1964, black would-be voters were turned away by intimidation and poll tests. Now, voter ID requirements and limited voting hours will disproportionately turn away, or inconvenience, low-income and minority voters. It is a more sophisticated and insidious form of voter suppression.Something has to be done.

After Andy’s death, my mother devoted the rest of her life to ensuring that he did not die in vain. She formed The Andrew Goodman Foundation, celebrated youth activists, and worked tirelessly for voting rights and human rights she was even arrested during a protest at age 83.As the estimable Rep. John Lewis put it, “She got in trouble. … It was necessary trouble. And she inspired many of us to continue to get in trouble.”But 50 years after Freedom Summer, we once again need to cause some trouble. The tragedy of the “Mississippi Burning” murders became a travesty of justice when only a handful of the perpetrators were convicted on federal charges, none spending more than a half-dozen years in prison because the state wouldn’t pursue a murder prosecution.It wasn’t until 41 years later that the ringleader of the group was convicted of three counts of manslaughter. My 89-year-old mother testified at the trial, a trial that happened because a few determined folks, inside and outside of Mississippi, wouldn’t let it go.

So we cannot let this new movement — these cynical and sinister attempts to disenfranchise Americans — go. If it takes an act of “outside agitation,” so be it. If it requires courage, we can summon it. If it means replacing cynicism with optimism and apathy with action, we can accomplish it. After all, there is a tiny hamlet right next to Philadelphia, Miss.

It is a town called Hope.David Goodman is The Andrew Goodman Foundation president.

via David Goodman: Time for a new ‘Freedom Summer’.

From Prostitute to Professor: The 7 Lessons of Maya Angelou’s Messy Life φ Yolanda Young

From Prostitute to Professor: The 7 Lessons of Maya Angelou’s Messy Life

Yolanda Young

Yolanda Young Become a fan

Yolanda Young is the author of On Our Way To Beautiful founder of http://www.onbeingablacklawyer.com.

Posted: 06/12/2014
MAYA ANGELOU

The death of Dr. Maya Angelou provided us the opportunity to once again delight in her memoirs, which chronicle the eclectic, bohemian first half of her life. Yet, we know from her writings that such praise was often withheld as she pursued her dreams of being a dancer and poet while raising a young child as a single mother. How many times must she have been urged to settle down and give up her artistic and cultural pursuits, which time and time again left her broke and broken? While we now refer to Angelou as a renaissance woman, until she published I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in her 40s, her life resembled what is referred to in ghetto parlance as a hot mess.

This messiness is what we all fear. It is why rather than pursue our dreams, we settle into the lives expected of us. Cubicles and cul-de-sacs become the things of our imagination. Only happiness and satisfaction studies suggest they are not enough. A GALLUP Poll last year found that only 30 percent of U.S. workers are passionate about their work. The majority (52 percent) are unhappy with their jobs and put little energy into their work while another 18 percent actually hate their jobs and actively work to undermine coworkers. We sacrifice our dreams only to find ourselves restless, bored and frustrated in midlife having realized what Angelou told us all along; “making a living is not the same thing as making a life.” Worse still, we recognize the irony in discovering after layoffs, financial setbacks and divorce that the “mess” is unavoidable.

These unmet expectations and realization that youthful aspirations have been abandoned are suspected as the cause of feelings of discouragement and depression among those in midlife. The British think tank NatCen Social Research found that studies show that people between 35 and 55 suffer a dip in well-being. A separate study that analyzed data from “nationally representative” surveys in Australia, Britain and Germany found that the bell curve in well-being dips to its lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42.

Even those who choose to pursue unconventional dreams don’t escape these feelings, especially if such pursuits have come at the expense of nearly everything else. I abandoned life as a lawyer in favor of one as a writer, activist and entrepreneur. Now having entered midlife without any of our culture’s success markers — husband, children, two-car garage — I have had to answer, both to myself and to others, the question of whether the path I’ve chosen was a wise one. Reflecting on Angelou’s has helped me find the answers.

1. Be uniquely you.

Angelou described herself in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as “a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” She knew such a girl would’ve perished trying to conform to mainstream conventions. “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Instead of fretting over not being a swan, Angelou reinvented herself as a rare bird. As many biographers have noted, she won’t be remembered for her poems or plays, but for her memoirs and for being Maya Angelou. The key to discerning one’s authenticity is quite simple: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

2. When it comes to failure, be courageous.

Angelou was a marvelous failure. Her most noteworthy stage performance, playing the seamstress in the two-woman play Mary Todd Lincoln, earned her a Tony nomination but closed on opening night. The rolling stone never stuck to one thing for long. She moved from coast to coast, continent to continent, sometimes making poor childcare decisions, one of which resulted in her son’s brief abduction. She didn’t have a stable home or steady job until she was in her 50s, an age at which many are preparing for retirement. She divorced several times but would would never confirm the exact number, “for fear of sounding frivolous.” Aware of all her failings, Angelou was brave enough to look at herself. “We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay — and rise!”

3. Know who your friends are.

One would be hard-pressed to identify a significant black figure Angelou didn’t know. She danced with Amiri Baraka. Billie Holiday visited her home and explained the meaning of Strange Fruit to her young son. While a calypso dancer she worked with Alvin Ailey. James Baldwin gave her the introductions that would lead to the publication of her first memoir. These were people she deeply cared for, but in anEssence interview, she had this to say of friendship.

There’s a marked difference between acquaintances and friends. Most people really don’t become friends. They become deep and serious acquaintances. But in a friendship you get to know the spirit of another person, and your values coincide. Friends may disagree, but not about serious matters. A friend will stand for you when you are no longer able… Years ago one of the slick White women’s magazines asked if they could photograph me with my closest friends for an issue they were doing on friends. The editor wanted me to bring Oprah. I have 30 years on Oprah. She calls me her friend, her mother, all that. I am very close to her in a motherly way. So I told [the magazine], ‘I have three dear friends — Dolly McPherson, Jessica ‘Decca’ Mitford and M.J. Hewitt — they are sisters to me.’

4. Believe you can do anything.

For Angelou, inexperience was never a reason not to take on an interesting job. Angelou’s only criterion was seemingly that a new occupation share little to no similarities with her previous one. At sixteen, she became San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor and later passed herself off as an experienced Creole chef. She held jobs dancing in a nightclub, stripping paint from old cars, and singing Calypso. She knew nothing about being a journalist when she accepted a position as an editor for The Arab Observer,” an English-language magazine. She said of the experience,

I stayed at the Arab Observer for over a year and gradually my ignorance receded. I learned from Abdul Hassan how to write an opinionated article with such subtlety that the reader would think the opinion his own…I received a raise from Dr. Nagati, the respect of my fellow workers and a few compliments from strangers…

She made her television debut as Kunte Kinte’s grandmother in the acclaimed television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots. And in the one-time high school dropout who never attended college became the Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

5. Forgive others and yourself.

In addition to enduring the injustices that came along with being poor, black and female in the South, Angelou was also raped as a child and beaten as a young woman. In a May 9th interview at her home she told Armstrong Williams, “I’ve learned that forgiving is one of the greatest gifts that I can give myself…And as soon as I do I feel lighter, brighter and better.”

In Gather Together in My Name, Angelou shares one of her lowest periods when she served as a pimp for two lesbian prostitutes and sometimes worked as a prostitute herself. In one interview, she said of the experience.

If you happen to fall into that sort of experience, what you have to do is forgive yourself. If you’re in the very gutter, see where you are and admit it. As soon as you admit it, you can be like the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter. Get up and go home — wherever home is. Get up and go to a safe place, someplace where your spirit is not kicked and brutalized and your body not misused and abused. Get up. But you can’t get up unless you see where you are and admit it.

6. Persevere.

In A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Angelou tells of her midlife crisis which was accompanied by great sorrow. Returning to the States after the end of a romance in Africa, Angelou became a Civil Rights activist only to be witness to the Movement’s greatest tragedies. She was working with Malcolm X to establish his foundation when he was assassinated New York City. Three years later she was working as the northern coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was gunned down in Memphis on Angelou’s 40th birthday. For a time, Angelou withdrew from society unable to deal with the tragedy, but eventually she harnessed her grief and regrets to write her seminal work, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. From then on, she would rise at dawn and set out for the motel room where she would write. Her only companions were a Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a stack of legal pads, and a bottle of sherry. Having written her way out of the worst time in her life, she credited it with her survival. “All my work is meant to say, ‘You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated…Nothing will work unless you do.”

7. Change.

Angelou was a master of reinvention. She didn’t settle on a name until after her first marriage, claiming her childhood nickname and a twist on her first husband’s last name. For Angelou, change was essential. Perhaps more so when one decides nothing can be done at all. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

 

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America’s Moral Debt To African Americans l Smithsonian.com

America’s Moral Debt To African Americans

SLAVERY
 As a historian, I know slavery has left a deep scar on America. The reasons are many. I have found wisdom in the words of Cornelius Holmes, a former slave, interviewed in 1939, a man who saw brutality and separation of families. Holmes shared the dreams and melodies before freedom and then witnessed the reality of freedom.

One reason for my current retrospection is the fine essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the June issue of the Atlantic arguing that reparations are deserved and long overdue. He has gathered an amazing array of facts about racism, economics, violence and the role of the U.S. government, implicit and explicit. With pinpoint clarity, Coates has focused a scholarly light that shines into all the dark corners of this shameful chapter in our history.

Read the whole story at Smithsonian.com

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