Black names: What’s the problem?

black-baby-names-400Jamelle Bouie, writing at the Daily Beast, concludes that the perennial debate among some whites about so-called unconventional black names says more about white ethnocentrism and racial inequality than black culture.

Reddit (the website) isn't just a clearinghouse for interviews, animal pictures, and crazy stories. It's also a place where people ask questions and have discussions. Yesterday, one user wondered about "black" names, posing a question to the "Black American parents of Reddit," as he put it. "Before racism is called out, I have plenty of black friends," he noted, raising the question of why he didn't ask these alleged friends. "(I'm) just curious why you name your kids names like D'brickishaw, Barkevious D'quell and so on?" ...


Our rotten prison system

Harry-Alford-160In the name of "full disclosure" let me say that I have a bachelor's degree in Correctional Administration (School of Sociology, University of Wisconsin). During the summer of 1969, I did my required internship at the Wisconsin School for Girls located in Oregon, Wisconsin. These were underage offenders who were found guilty of petty crimes or "bad behavior".

My ambition was to change bad human behavior into honorable behavior. The curriculum I was reading promoted the best models of rehabilitation. I was so pumped but the internship showed me the reality of our system of corrections.

None, I really mean none, of the girls in the reform school were evil or bad. They all had a messed up family life. The overwhelming majority had no fathers and their mothers lacked a work ethic (welfare dependence). Role models were nowhere to be found. For those three months I basically became their father (whites, Hispanics and Blacks alike).


Beef up your plate with a new health journey

Chef Timothy Moore-160It's back-to-school time and students are faced with so many weighty challenges – what clothes to wear, food to eat, which hair style is best, who to hang out with and the perception of peers.

What happened to the good old days when a child could just be child? Back then a lot of these concerns really didn't matter as much because everyone tended to look and dress alike. People bought their clothes from the same five-and-dime store.

It was a rare occurrence that someone missed school or was sick. If that happened, someone went out the way and checked on them; and usually there was a health situation going on, but not for long.


New football season, same offensive names

Bill-Fletcher-Jr-160I cannot let a football season open without raising the question of the names of sports teams generally and the Washington "Redskins" in particular. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the resistance on the part of team owners to changing the names of these teams, but also the tolerance by so many fans of these racist names.

I have to pick on the Washington Redskins both because I was once a fan of the team and also because I live in the D.C.-area and have watched this situation close-up. As I raised in a column a few months ago, a poll was released this spring that indicated that most fans wanted to leave the name of the team as it is, despite the fact that it insults Native Americans. For some this was seen as the end of the discussion because it appeared to vindicate the position taken by the team's owners.


Sounds odd but Jamal & Ebony do love America

Theodore R Johnson III-160The concept of patriotism is not readily associated with inner city black children. Modern-day images of patriotism that usually come to mind reflect the iconic look of Uncle Sam – suburban and rural whites clad in American flags. This traditional conception, coupled with prevalent depictions of inner city black youth as self-interested malcontents, complicates any attempt at putting a young, indigent, black face on patriotism.

But as many Americans know, though there are numerous challenges that face inner city youth, there is also a patriotism often overlooked in favor of a fixation on the tragedies.


African-American jobs crisis: Could GOP do better?

obama GOP unemployment-400After five years of nonstop bad news regarding African-American unemployment, the Obama administration was finally able to celebrate some good news last month, or so it seemed. In July, African-American unemployment dipped to 12.6 percent, a small but significant change from June's 13.7 percent unemployment rate – and substantially lower than the high of 16.5 percent that it reached in January 2010.

But any celebration was likely short-lived. While the national unemployment rate decreased slightly in August, to 7.3 percent, reaching a five-year low, that same month, African-American unemployment rose to 13 percent.

So at this point, who exactly is to blame for the seemingly unshakable epidemic of unemployment in the African-American community? Bob Woodson, an African-American conservative, generated headlines for his fiery speech at a Republican National Committee luncheon commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. During his address he argued that when it comes to policy and progress, all other demographic groups have taken precedence over poor African Americans.


Cheating our students

Harry-Alford-160There are very few things that are as vile and predatory than cheating young black students out of a decent education. There are two things that quickly come to my mind when I ponder this subject. There is also a third event that has developed in the last few years. Let's begin at the beginning.

When school segregation was ending as the civil rights era was beginning to yield results, two groups got together and concocted a scheme. In order to quickly integrate schools the idea of school busing evolved. It seemed like a good idea to many who thought by having their children sit next to white people, their skills would automatically improve. Those who stood to gain from this were bus manufacturers (many more buses will be needed) and unions that would increase their membership through the numerous number of bus drivers. So, groups such as the NAACP and others were encouraged to lead the charge for school busing.

The busing was pretty much one-way. Whites weren't going to send their kids on a bus to sit with black students. When two-way busing was being forced, the white students enrolled in private schools even if they had to quickly build the private school.


Natural hair and black-on-black shame

Demetria L Lucas-160You know how sometimes you just know something, even when you have no proof? Call it a "feeling" in my gut or the past being a predictor of the future. But whatever it was, when I heard about 7-year-old Tiana Parker, who was being harassed by her school because of her locks, I just knew this wasn't some wild misunderstanding by an all-white school board with no understanding of black hair.

It easily could have been, and I kind of hoped it was. I've learned to process hate. I haven't quite wrapped my head around self-hate.

As it turned out, dear Tiana's antagonist was a black woman, Deborah Brown. Based on on the picture circling the Internet, Brown wears her hair in a weave or a wig that imitates the texture of natural hair. In the charter school named after her, Brown's dress code denies black children the right to wear natural styles such as dreadlocks, Afros and other "faddish styles." Oh, the irony.


Obama selling ‘Wolf Tickets’ on Syria

Julianne-malveaux-160President Barack Obama stepped on a big limb when he threatened "limited action" against Syria because the country's leaders allegedly used chemical weapons against their own people. There are international bans against the use of chemical weapons, with Syria one of the few countries not supporting the ban. Chemical weapons allegedly killed more than 1,400 Syrians, and the ongoing civil war may have killed as many as 100,000.

President Obama announced his willingness to act on Syria's domestic chemical intrusion before Labor Day, but he has backpedaled and asked for Congressional approval. What will he do if Congress says no? Will he face the international community conceding that he has less power than he thought, or will he go ahead and take military action without congressional approval?

Reportedly, U.S. troops in the Middle East were ready to follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief before they got orders to slow down any action. Perhaps President Obama is finally listening to the sentiment of the American people, who, according to several polls, do not support action against Syria. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and dozens of other members of Congress sent the president a letter urging debate on any military action against Syria. Does the urgency of a strike against Syria recede over time?


D.C. marches inclusive – up to a point

George Curry-160Organizers of the two recent marches on Washington – one called by Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III and the other engineered primarily by King's sister, Bernice – almost stumbled over one another praising the diversity of their respective marches.

However, not one addressed the elephant in the room: Why was more emphasis placed on bringing in groups that were not part of the push for jobs and freedom in 1963 than assembling a broad coalition of black leaders?

To be even more direct: How can you justify excluding Minister Louis Farrakhan? After all, he managed to draw more black men to the nation's capital on Oct. 16, 1995 than the combined crowds at the 1963 March on Washington, the Sharpton-led march on Aug. 24 and the Aug. 28 commemorative march. In fact, the Million Man March at least doubled their combined attendance.


All children deserve teachers who care about them

janolvinson-500"You see a lot of teachers judge and stigmatize their students based on where they come from. A lot of my teachers thought that since I was from the South End of Louisville and I grew up in Section 8 housing that I wasn't capable of doing all the things that I did, and the first time that I really felt like I was someone, it was the first time my fifth grade teacher actually pulled me to the side and said, 'What can I do for you to help you as a student?' And I ask my students that now. I pull them to the side and I say, 'What can I do as an adult to help you?'... I feel like every time I talk to someone, I should instill something in them, and I want that in return. And that happens just through treating people with love."

– Janol Vinson


We are all toxic – really?

Chef Timothy Moore-160In the past 50 to 60 years our environment has become progressively more polluted, which has resulted in a larger human toxic burden than ever before. Chemicals are being produced, tested and introduced into our environment at a frightening rate. It doesn't matter where we are or in what part of the county we live, everyone will have some level of exposure to toxins.

These invisible toxins are in our prescription drugs, household cleaners, alcohol, tobacco, and over-the-counter drugs. It is virtually impossible to keep our bodies free of these substances, unless of course we live in a bubble.

Our bodies are composed of many organs, but our liver carries the greatest burden. The liver has the task of disposing of foreign substances, as well as body-produced hormones. We can assist in this process by providing our body with enough of the proper nutrients to help the liver function.


50 years later What do we do NOW?

Bernal-E-Smith-ii-160Fifty years, half a century, five decades – a milestone by any standard, and a sufficient passing of time to allow for deep reflection and measurement of one's relative position and progress with great expectation of significant growth and accomplishment.

One might simultaneously reflect in some disappointment with a lack of forward progress and achievement and even more so with a retardation of growth during a space of 600 months.

Understanding of both are necessary to answer the most urgent question of today: Where do we go from here?