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By Brett Johnson, theRoot.com
Click here to learn about the best and worst attempts at depicting the shackled past of African Americans.
These include two movies by famous (non African American) directors that have recently been released.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States (and, more recently, Canada) but also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora.
The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966-1967.
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Dr. Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what he called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:
• Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
• Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
• Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
• Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
• Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
• Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
• Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed,
corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.
Read more about Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated, here.
By Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D., Hartford Guardian
More than a week after 20-year-old Adam Lanza massacred 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School, plunging a seemingly bucolic New England town into unspeakable grief, Connecticut still mourns.
For some, their pain is tinged with weariness because innocent children in affluent Newtown died and exposed an inconvenient truth: race and class matter….
The latest and most deadly school massacre in America, the Newtown mass shooting presents an opportune moment to address these issues, including gun control laws. But unfortunately too much of the discussion has been focused on “assault weapons” with lethal firepower. …
Sadly, many have unwittingly implied that people in urban areas are not violently assaulted by handguns. In fact, some have normalized tragedy in urban communities.
…[H]andguns create daily carnage in cities across the nation. U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, (D-Illinois) lost his son to gun violence in 1999. For decades, he has introduced bills to stem the flow of guns into cities. In January when Congress convenes, he will renew his push with H.R. 6680. In a phone interview on Thursday, Rush said the “Blair Bill” would, among other things, mandate serial numbers on all handguns. He added that most homicides are left unsolved because it is difficult to trace handguns.
Rush represents the first district in Chicago, now the homicide capital of the world. In June, 240 people in Chicago were killed mostly in shootings, according to a New York Times article. And a significant number of the 30,000 Americans who died by gun violence each year are African Americans and Latinos. Not all are criminals. And almost everyone is somebody’s brother, sister, father or child—just like in Newtown….
As we watch many around the world memorialize 26 people, who died in Lanza’s rampage before he took his own life and the life of his mother, we recognize a familiar truth: some lives are worth more than others. And race and class matter in how the story unfolds in the media and how some politicians address this longstanding issue….
[P]eople of color must also seize this opportunity to ensure that their lives matter just as much as those lives in Newtown. Indeed, they must work to improve civil society. Precious lives depend on it.
Read the complete opinion piece here.
Do you agree with the author? Leave a comment below.
Nelson Mandela in South African Hospital over Christmas
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s president says former leader Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital.
The presidency says in a statement that Mandela’s doctors confirmed the news on Monday. The anti-apartheid figure was admitted Dec. 8 to a hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and had a procedure to remove gallstones; officials have said Mandela is improving and is responding to treatment.
South African President Jacob Zuma says the whole country is behind Mandela and he is urging people to keep the former president in their thoughts on Christmas Day and throughout the holiday season. Zuma describes Mandela, who was imprisoned under apartheid for 27 years, as an “ardent fighter.”
Read more about Mandela’s past, his future, and his legacy here.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
…Revealing a social concern far beyond his years, in “Stop Da Violence” and its accompanying video, Amor [“Lilman” Arteaga] recites thoughtful lyrics about the impact of abuse and the easy access to guns on our communities.
“People, people, we need to change our ways,” he sings on the hook of the track. “There’s too much violence in our world today.”
Between stanzas, Lilman raps, ”Put the guns down, put the guns down/Stop the violence/Stop the violence.” This linking theme led the emerging artist to sympathize with Newtown.
“I’m trying to stop all violence,” the talented tyke explained. “I hope that the result of people viewing my new video will be for people to just try to come together… just by trying to help each other out once in a while. …We also need to try to make it harder for people on the streets to get guns that easily,” Amor added.
Hoping to take his platform of change across the country in a school tour next year, and eventually to the White House, Lilman also has a message for President Obama. “I would talk to him about how I want to make it harder for people on the streets to get guns,” Amor said. “I [also] think in schools there should be counseling and help for each kid, the ones that are being bullied and the ones that are bullies.”
Where does he get his broad perspective and deep concern for both the victims and perpetrators of hurtful deeds? “I basically get all my thoughtfulness through the violence I see on the news, in newspapers, and in different places in my neighborhood,” Amor said….
Read more about young Amor and learn about his father’s fears for him here.
Cameron Clarke, an African-American high school senior from Philadelphia,
is being celebrated for getting a perfect score on the SAT exam. His academic achievement is enormous, but we’re equally impressed by what he said to local news station Fox 29 about his priorities, his real passion and the beyond-his-years value he places on the support of his community.
Read more about this impressive young man here.
The War on Drugs has failed.
After 50 years of prohibition, illicit drugs are now the third most valuable industry in the world after food and oil, all in the control of criminals. Drugs are cheaper and more available than ever before. Millions of people are in prison for drugs offences. Corruption and violence, especially in producer and transit countries, endangers democracy. Tens of thousands of people die each year in drug wars.
Breaking the Taboo is a Morgan Freeman-narrated feature documentary. It follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States-led War on Drugs and expose what it calls the “biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.”
The movie features interviews with several current or former presidents from around the world, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter,
Sundog Pictures put the entire film online, on YouTube, giving us all free access to it. Watch it in full below:
Read more and take action to improve our drug policies here.
The FBI released its yearly report on hate crimes last week and it showed a slight decrease in 2011….In 2011, law enforcement agencies reported 7,713 victims of hate crimes nationally and all but 16 of the total incidents were based on one bias. Overall, 46.9 percent of hate crimes were racially motivated, 20.8 percent from sexual orientation, and 19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias.
Out of those who committed hate crimes nationwide, nearly 60 percent were white while 20 percent were black.
Justin Alesna, a 23-year-old Detroit man, was the victim of a black-on-black hate crime in March 2011, when he was assaulted in a Detroit gas station by a man who claimed that he was standing too close to him in line and peppered him with gay slurs before assaulting him….Alesna also said that as the assault happened, bystanders encouraged the beating and laughed while the clerk working in the store refused to call police.
Police eventually arrested 36-year-old Everett Dwayne Avery, who plead guilty to the assault this past August and faces 12 years in federal prison. Avery was the second person convicted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Obama signed into law in 2009.
“A hate crime is different than a simple assault because it is an attack on not just one individual victim, but an attack on everyone who shares a particular characteristic,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said after the guilty plea. “By passing this statute, Congress made it clear that an attack based on a victim’s sexual orientation will not be tolerated in America.”
Read more here.
Watch the intelligent and moving video testimonial of Justin Alesna about being victimized in a hate crime.
Now that the South Carolina congressman has been tapped to fill a U.S. Senate seat, he just might be.
…As a senator, [Scott will] likely be called upon to be …more of an ambassador to voters of color from the Republican Party and for a farther-right worldview ….
To do that effectively, however, he’ll have to find overlap between his view that “reducing the tax burden, decreasing government interference in the private sector and restoring fiscal responsibility” — themes that resonate among black, Latino and Asian-American voters — and some of the harsher stances that in recent years have put up a wall between the GOP and the voters it will need to win future national elections.
Like when Scott suggested last year that if Obama opted to sidestep Congress on raising the debt ceiling, he’d consider it “an impeachable act.” Or Scott’s 2011 proposal to deny food stamp eligibility for union members on strike — stances that fall squarely within today’s mainstream conservative thought but are generally nonstarters with black voters.
And ideologically, he’ll stand in contrast with the last black GOP senator, Massachusetts’ Ed Brooke, who was pro-choice, an advocate of the Fair Housing Act and arguably more liberal than Obama. It’s a contrast that underscores both the rightward drift of Republicans and the flight of black voters from the GOP over four decades.
Read more here.
It’s a sad truth that our leaders only talk gun control when unspeakable tragedy hits close to home.
Shortly after the Jovan Belcher tragedy I was asked on a television program whether or not the NFL player’s high-profile murder-suicide and sports announcer Bob Costas’ courageous comments about gun violence in the incident’s aftermath would have any impact on gun control in America. I answered that they would not. The reason? Because as I noted during that interview, historically our country has only addressed the issue of gun violence when it touches the lives of those with whom our leaders are most likely to identify. Rarely are those likely to be incidents involving people of color suffering domestic violence or teens of color from low-income communities who are victims of urban gun violence.
Instead the gun tragedies that have actually moved our elected officials to significant action on gun control have been those incidents in which victims are most likely to remind our leaders of their own friends, families and communities, incidents like the 1993 shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train, which killed commuters from New York’s professional class or the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which made gun control the cause célèbre of white suburban moms, culminating in the Million Mom March in 2000.
Now it appears another incident is poised to finally move our leaders to action once again, 13 years after Columbine. The murder of 20 children and six adults in the quiet and normally safe enclave of Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 is forcing a conversation about gun control that the shooting of 26 residents in one night in Chicago this summer — resulting in the deaths of two teens and injury of 24 others — could not. As previously noted in an analysis by the now-defunct the Daily, more Chicago residents, many of them urban youth, were killed by gun violence in the first half of 2012 than American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during the same period.
Just think about those numbers for a moment.
Read the rest here.