Ava DuVernay Is Even Greater Than You Thought

In recent years, Ava DuVernay has created masterpiece after masterpiece. From her gripping and thought-provoking piece, Thirteen to her groundbreaking work with Queen Sugar. In Queen Sugar, DuVernay uses her platform to highlight female directors of color which is ALL she uses on the show.

Duverney is an American gem who moves with the intentionality of a military general trying to win a war with all the lives of her army in tact. Selma, which is arguably Duverney's best known work highlights both her brilliance and her struggle.

I was recently listening to the Black Men Can't Jump in Hollywood podcast. The podcast focuses on Black movies and ultimately rates their importance to the Black cause in Hollywood. It's rather entertaining and I'm a fan, to say the least. In the episode focused on Selma, I learned some amazing things. (1) Steven Spielberg OWNS the rights to all of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches and (2) Ava DuVernay was robbed of writing credit for Selma.

Yes, you heard me, Steven Spielberg owns the rights to MLK's speeches. He bought them from King's estate in 2009. DuVernay was not allowed to use any of the speeches in Selma, which meant that every word in every speech you heard King give in Selma came directly from DuVernay's pen.

One would think that rewriting the speeches of one of the world's greatest orators would gain DuVernay acclaim for her amazing writing. Well, you would be wrong. Selma was originally written by this guy named Paul Webb. Paul Webb originally wrote the screenplay in 2008 focusing on both King and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Once the script made it's way to DuVernay, she did a complete rewrite. Because of Webb's contract, the choice was solely his as to whether he wanted to share credit with DuVernay. He declined.

He. Declined.

To be clear, DuVernay rewrote the entire movie. She chose to focus solely on King and the events of Selma. She wrote in Black authenticity an older white man just couldn't understand. Think about the scene when MLK and company show up to their friend's home, played by Niecy Nash. The beauty of that scene could only have been captured by a person that grew up in an environment where they saw Black men of the clergy interacting with the public mask off. It has beauty that bled authenticity.

Again. Paul Webb declined to share credit. Not give up all credit, but to just share credit.

...and the gracious and deathly talented Ava DuVernay never publicly complained. Not once. She put her head down and took that abuse so a new generation could experience Selma and know its importance.

In my mind, this makes DuVernay even more amazing than I ever could have imagined. She is the living embodiment of what the movie Hidden Figures embodied right in front of us. Ms. DuVerney, you are amazing. Thank you.

The Luxury of Disengagement: Education Advocacy in a Trump Era

Co-written with Sharif El-Mekki

“Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy.” - Malcolm X

Should social justice activists and educators engage policymakers in the Trump administration?

As educators hellbent on educational justice for our children and communities, the question is real. Even the remote idea of engaging with people who use the divisiveness of bigotry, misogyny, and racism is revolting. However, engaging doesn’t have to mean selling out, cowering, or bootlicking-it also means fighting, advocating, and agitating.

For us, it certainly does not mean divorcing ourselves from our core beliefs, priorities, or not serving as the staunch advocates on behalf of, and, in partnership with, the best interests of our communities. We have been raised to speak truth to power, regardless of covert or overt bigotry, misogyny, and racism. We remain standard bearers for our communities.

While fraught with challenges, we cannot afford to avoid speaking the necessary unapologetic truth to power and trying everything we can to ensure our communities’ most precious investments—our students—are helped, and, at least, not harmed further. That can’t always be done from afar. Often, politics is hand-to-hand combat—up close, strategic, and with the endgame in mind. Educators, like other activists, fight the power and bring the noise to elevate our communities’ voices to those who not only demonstrate that they don’t agree, but have the power to enforce their will on America’s most vulnerable students.

What Federal Failure Can Mean for the Most Vulnerable Communities

Ultimately, federal failure affects marginalized communities the most. And despite the new level of angst around the president elect’s horrific words and actions, our teachers had similar anger, anxiety, and frustration in 1980 when another TV star rose to The White House determined to do irreparable damage to our communities.

With the selection of Betsy Devos as the US Secretary of Education, an advocate of Wild West style charter authorization, who appears silent in regard to school accountability, we know which communities are poised to suffer the most. And, this is not an anti-Republican stance. The recent unholy and conniving bi-partisan support of portability of Title I dollars shows that we cannot assume any “party” is naturally pro-children. It behooves us to remain vigilant and engaged in the conversation as vouchers and other initiatives, possibly funded by Title I dollars, come to the federal forefront again.

Policies will continue to be crafted. With ESSA punting of accountability to states and states’ historic neglect of Black and Brown schools and the dearth of accountability to support our communities’ schools, most of our work would be likely best served at the local levels. Ensuring that our students are safe, fighting against “savage inequalities” and holding paid adults accountable for students, are all issues that can and must be addressed at state and district levels.

Soft bigotry (and hard bigotry for that matter) isn’t just couched in the rhetoric of staunch bigots—it’s also baked into the policies of so-called allies. Holding the new administration accountable can’t just be from afar. Sometimes the spooks must be on the inside, at the table-not just by the door. The voice of dissent is heard best up close.

What Needs to Happen

Recently, Solomon Jones remarked on his radio show that history doesn’t only show what happened, it shows what will happen. Our forefathers engaged with the fiercest racists to get policies changed. Marcus Garvey, Martin, Frederick all needed to engage folks they vehemently disagreed with.

We should also keep in mind that there are some Republicans aghast about the rhetoric and divisiveness of the president elect’s campaign as well. I must believe that some of them would be open to dialogue and action toward equity even if we don’t agree on the specific paths. At the very least, perhaps they don’t want to roll back progress that has been made—and at the very best, they’d champion more accountability for all schools, ensure better charter laws within states, secure universal enrollment or Pre-K funding, and ensure that portability of Title I funds isn’t instituted or revisited.

There are also career educators in many sectors of the general government who are committed to our youth. Is it wise to disengage from them as well under the new administration? Ultimately, what is imperative is that we do not lose sight of our ideals and commitment to justice. Even as we fiercely and professionally let them know what we believe in as conscious Black and Brown leaders and activists.

By disengaging, a dangerous vacuum can be created and vacuums are always filled. The Black and Brown folks who may fill the void left by the four to eight year hibernation of the conscious and committed practitioners, may not be committed to kids, may not be practitioners, and may be ideologically aligned to the administration soon to be in power. Ultimately, are we going to use a telescope or a magnifying glass to protect our children?

However, total disengagement, which means totally removing our kids from public schools, an unlikely path for most Black and Brown families, may mean leaving communities in substantial harm’s way. That’s not something we are willing to do. We’ve never been comfortable abdicating responsibility to teach people—even those who come from the exact opposite positions.

What We Are Committed to Doing

There is an emerging crop of Black and Brown leaders that have risen from the underbelly of America and sat in classrooms that did not move them forward on the educational spectrum yet they have clawed and built their own seat at a table where they were not wanted or welcomed. As part of this group, we cannot fully disengage, to do so would be a slap in the face of those that were murdered for learning how to read, voting, raising their voice in the face of bigots. It would not carry on the other part of the tradition of the resistance, demanding a seat at the table whenever it impacted our communities—and, the new administration will most certainly impact our communities.

Fully disengaging would be resting in our newfound warmth of privilege and leaving children out in the cold without as much of an attempt to bring them out of the blizzard that is the pervasive educational outcomes we continue to see for Black and Brown children. Making noise and raising hell from afar, out organizing, and holistically educating our people are all a part of resistance movements, and these need to be coupled with direct elevation of our voices; with allies within the administration (think career policymakers, closer-to-the middle Republicans, and others).

As Black men, what does it mean for us to do meaningful work when the backdrop is a publicly xenophobic leader that openly discusses building a wall to keep Mexicans out of a country that they once owned? What is our path when we have a pending leader who believes Muslims should be persecuted for their beliefs and that America’s greatness is mothballed in internment camps, Jim Crow laws and mindsets, and other human rights assaults?

Well, we think think there are many answers, but what we are committed to doing is stepping up to the table and with every breath and opportunity, working with every bit of power at our disposal to do what we know is best for our babies. This requires us to bring compatriots along so when our voices have dried up and our will depleted, they can step into that space while we recover. It means telling the truth in the face of power while building out space for more Black and Brown people hardwired to see our children succeed. We must be there at every turn, every discussion, and every convening being the booming voice of reason and clarity during this entire presidency. We must be so present, so loud and resolute that we cannot be ignored.

Our coalitions have to be on point and ready to move, the dissidence amongst ourselves will be much more dangerous in the coming years. Although we are not a monolith as school reform advocates and social justice warriors, we need our demands to be ever ready and our principles to be in sync. Unity doesn’t mean disagreement is non existing. Unity means that we are pursuing the same goals: Black and Brown liberation and the dismantling of white supremacy in all its nefarious forms.

At the end of the day, we need to put on our shields and voice our demands at the table in the same way representatives from warring nations would do and at the same time, organize the resistance at home.

Are You Suffering From A Blackache?

Are you experiencing a Blackache?

Diagnosis

Blackache [blak-eyk] noun

  1. Emotional and physical pain from hearing dumb *ss rationales as to why it’s ok to deny Black humanity constantly.

  2. A condition that occurs when the confluence of rage, pain, and hopelessness consume you to the point where you shut down, take a knee or feel the urge to pick up some blunt object and throw it directly at a person asking you why you’re so mad about the police killing Black people when Black on Black crime is so ramped.

  3. A loss of bodily function as your fists clinch and you yell obscenities as you watch privileged Black people sit with white people and echo “ALL LIVES MATTER” sentiments.

Circumstances that can lead to Blackache

Below are some circumstances that can make your Blackache flare up. New causes of Blackache are being discovered by the minute.

  • You may find yourself caught up in conversations with people asking you why Blacks get so mad about cops instead of Black on Black crime.

  • Meeting a white person that tells you silly things like, “I don’t see color.”

  • Constantly watching videos of Black people gunned down in the streets by jumpy police officers that then receive a paid vacation instead of jail time.

  • When people get outraged that a ball player sat through the national anthem.

  • When right after a Black person gets murdered by the police the media posts up all of his/her personal business that had absolutely nothing to do with what just happened.

  • When Dylann Roof shoots up a church full of Black people and then on the way to jail, the cops turn into uber drivers and take him to get food because he hasn’t eaten all day.

  • When you have to comfort white people after Black people get shot.

  • When people assume Black parents don’t care about education because they can’t show up to the 10am meeting at the school.

  • When professional and educational environments are banning dreadlocks.

  • When non-Black people refer to cornrows as “Boxer Braids.”

  • When you are having a discussion with a non-Black person that is or has dated a Black person and feel that they are now honorary Black.

  • When you find yourself having to defend the murdered Black victim because the media puts him or her on trial in the eyes of the public as opposed to the actual murderer.

  • When you hear that textbooks in Texas got updated to call slavery “unpaid interns.”

Possible Effects of Blackache

  • You may get the urge to show up to your job wearing an all-black hoodie in some Timbs playing hardcore DMX (or insert another artist that scares people outside of Black hip hop culture) at a disrespectful volume.

  • You may get the urge to want to slap everyone on Fox News.

  • You may get the urge to tell white people how you really feel but can’t because you got bills and you know they’ll find some way to get rid of you.

  • You may find yourself wishing you could be nose to nose with anonymous racist commenters on the internet.

  • You may remember back to when Hillary Clinton said she kept hot sauce in her bag and you get angry all over again but then you realize you still have to vote for her because Trump is crazy so then you get even madder.

  • You may find yourself wishing that your job had a ratchet room so you can go decompress all the micro aggressions you constantly experience safely with other Black people in extra ratchet ways right before your 2pm meeting.

  • You may begin to notice people trying to police your body, thoughts, and words more and more in your everyday life.

  • You may not care how this blog post is received and not even doing spell check because you just had to get your thoughts out before you exploded.

Cure/Remedy

  • At this moment, I do not know.

This isn’t a closed article. This is now open source. Blackache is a real thing so add to this. Use it. I don’t even care if you give me credit. Share your thoughts and encourage others to as well. Add to this list because when this Blackache builds up, it takes us out.

God Bless.

Honest and Unfiltered Advice From a Black Man to Black Boys

I was talking to some young folks in Chicago early Monday and I was talking about living there when I was younger. None of them had even been outside of their suburb. That means there are thousands of kids living in Chicago that have never even seen how beautiful their city is.

They asked me for advice. It was simple, I said you'll need a little opportunity and a lot of hard work. They saw a suit and some pictures in Paris. They didn't see me up at 3:30am (like I am right now writing this) studying and reading the same thing over and over and over because it takes me a while to get it. They don't see the sacrifices or hear the phone calls where you're telling everyone no because you gotta get to greatness. They don't see the arguments with colleagues and mentors about the lie that I call patience.

But I told them. I told them folks will tell them to be patient and they need to know that patience ain't a luxury we can afford, especially when you live in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Philly or any other place where Black folks are getting their heads blown off.

Little Bruh, you don't have to be the smartest, or the quickest, or the richest, but you gotta be ready to outwork, outrun and smash whatever competition or barrier in front of you in the mouth over and over again.

Sometimes it takes something ugly, painful, lonely, aggressive and uncertain to birth the most beautiful life you or anyone you've ever grown up with to experience.

It's 3:30am on a Saturday and I'll be working until about 10pm tonight. That grind don't stop. One. ✊🏾

#BeAnEnergyConvertor #DoWork

Supporting Our Black Parents and Cutting Through Political Slush

Supporting Our Black Parents and Cutting Through Political Slush

Recently, the NAACP called for a moratorium on Charter Schools, which would deal a blow to African American families and their right to choice in places such as California. There are a lot of families not sure what to make of the call by the NAACP but here is my message directly to parents most impacted. It is important to note that at the time of this publication, this resolution is still awaiting a vote from its national board. I say all of this as a member of the NAACP as well. 

 

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

Again, HERE’S WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT YOU! Just read the comments from the Katie Couric and Deray interview on Giuliani’s comments about #BlackLivesMatter. #BLM is currently being painted as a hate group with all of the recent violence against officers being erroneously place on them. However, the article isn’t even the focal point here. Read the comments! The comments here, MY GOD, the comments. White folks, is this how y’all feel? Keep it real with me? I just read over and over and over how I’m viewed in this country.

CNN, Putting Murdered Black Men on Trial Makes You the WORST Type of Sucka

CNN, Putting Murdered Black Men on Trial Makes You the WORST Type of Sucka

I’m upset, so I’m just going to get to the point. Posting mugshots of Black men that were just murdered by cops just hours after makes you a sucka. Sure, I can write that in a more flowery way. I can discuss how the racist undertones and dog whistle reporting actually does nothing but further numb the masses to the value of Black life.