Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Statement for Everyone

As an openly gay Black citizen of the United States and professor, I am proud to acknowledge and receive the news that President Obama’s administration has chosen to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996. DOMA denies married same-sex couples over 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law.

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This statement is not only a testament to the equal rights of non-heterosexual persons living in the United States. However, this decision, by a former constitutional law professor, the first Black president, and through the office of the Attorney General, Eric Holder (the first African American to serve in that capacity), is a thunderous, bold declaration to all that marriage equality is a civil rights issue worthy of aggressive defense.

Given the history of marriage equality debates in the United States, and particularly within the African American community, President Obama, undoubtedly, has drawn a line in the sand for many Blacks, as most still believe homosexuality is an immoral choice. He is sure to have to mend relationships with many Black religious communities as he seeks re-election in 2012.

Yet, this statement reminds me of the ‘Senator Obama’ Americans fell in love with and wanted to be president in 2008. Americans elected a president who they believed would represent a steady, principled approach to American problems. One such ‘problem’ is the continued federal support for discriminatory actions, such as the administration’s defense of a law that is unjust.

I am encouraged that President Obama has chosen to follow the spirit of Dr. King who reminds us that, “an unjust law, is no law at all.”

The fact that this declaration is to be enforced by a black president and a black attorney general is historic. The religiously conservative Black community will now have to wrestle with the fact that the two highest-ranking black officials in the country, whom they overwhelmingly elected in 2008, are making a clear stand for marriage equality, albeit indirectly.

While DOMA will still remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or a judge strikes it down, and the administration is still obligated to enforce the law, the fact that the solicitor general will no longer be defending its constitutionality is monumental.

This statement changes, not only America, but also will likely force changes within the Black community concerning many religious leaders’ approach to marriage equality. It has, indeed, changed my life. To know that the president of the United States and the Attorney General believe my right to marry is constitutional, is profound. It is fitting that this statement is made during Black history. For, President Obama and Attorney General Holder have indeed made history, as Black Americans, with this bold statement.

Sunday, January 30, 2011 Site launched

The website is officially launched! Please bookmark it and visit often for updates on, well, everything!

Emanuel's Chicago

It appears Emanuel will likely be Chicago's next mayor if history is any indication. Unless Blacks vote in droves for Moseley-Braun, Emanuel's support is unlikely to be diminished.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

“The King In You”

In June 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., first uttered his ‘dream’ to 500,000 onlookers at the Great March on Detroit. He summed up the social movement this way: “we want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.” First bellowed in Detroit and made famous two months later in Washington, D.C., the dream has been recorded as one of the greatest speeches ever. At age 34, King changed the world. But the dream began much earlier. Beginning at the age of 26, Dr. King did what most consider an impossibility – he devoted his life to seriously eradicating injustice. And, what’s really interesting, is that older people in the Montgomery, Alabama community where King got his start trusted a younger person with that powerful role of leader. How often does that happen today? How many young people have tried to introduce an initiative, lead a change or just make something happen and it’s the older people who place the roadblocks in their way?

Young people and older leaders working together is what made a successful movement. It must be stated that we likely would not honor King had it not been for E.D. Nixon. Without Nixon’s insurgence, the nation would not know Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement’s beginnings would have been written so drastically differently. It was Nixon who helped bail Rosa Parks out of jail and solicited the help of white liberal lawyers when she landed in jail. An organizer for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and a long time member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), it was because of his foresight that we honor King’s birthday - as he thought people would pay attention to Parks’ arrest because of her relationship to the NAACP; he thought that it would be good to capitalize on the opportunity to start a boycott.

It was E. D. Nixon who called Martin Luther King, Jr. to ask whether or not the first boycott meetings might be held at his church. Nixon looked to King to lead the meetings because King, a new Montgomery resident, had not been around the community enough to have been intimidated by the white power structure as had many other longstanding black figures. Nixon’s efforts demonstrate what makes movements spark – one person somewhere in concert with others chooses to make a difference.

And there are more stories and more stories of young people like King striving and dying for freedom. Stories of American youth singing and clinging for their lives as a result of the impact the movement had on them. It was the young people who organized and led the Black Panther Party. It was the young people, encouraged by older supporters like E.D. Nixon and Ella Baker, who developed and led the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was the young people who were often the marching backbone during events organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). It was the young people who integrated the Topeka Kansas School System, Little Rock’s Central High and the University of Mississippi. It was the young people who carried King’s dream from Detroit to Chicago to Washington and all over this country. Young people like Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez and Huey Newton. All people affected by King’s role as a mover of people in the movement for millions. Some criticized his consistent nonviolence, others lamented at the presumed slow pace toward freedom, still others cheered King for his defiance of the white power structure and his insistence in pressing on through house bombings, police billy-clubbing and multiple arrests – no matter their view of King, all respected him. Even Malcolm came around.

Each of these players and others so unnamed are important because they are the leaders King praised from his pulpit, they are the fallen whom King eulogized at cemeteries. Many are in fact the few who King shared tactics and plans with. We should know them because King’s movements – the bellowing voice through the airwaves and his gentle footsteps mile after mile - are so well known to us today, and were in large part successful because of them, the young supporters of his dream. Thus, the federal holiday in honor of King, is not solely about the man and his efforts. It is about that. But the federal holiday is also about the leadership coalition King was able to directly inspire and indirectly manage.

I encourage us all to seriously consider the life of the man we celebrate and honor this month, who became a leader when called upon, who saw a need of the people and fill it, who became a spokesperson for a local crisis and eventually a global movement. Consider, as he did, that your intellectual studies of whatever genre may not solve the many burning questions in your head concerning what you can do about advocating freedom and justice and equity today. But, if you step into the ring, onto the court, onto the saddle of life, by your practical action, by living through the actual experience of your efforts, you will lead a life, as Plato reminds, that is worth living. You will live a life, as King highlighted, that is “fit to live” because you would have found “something worth dying for.” You will live your life. Because, in the end that’s all you have. As, James Baldwin once stated, “People pay for what they do and still more for what they have become, and they pay for it simply by the lives they lead.” Therefore, it is my hope that as we celebrate King’s birthday, we go out into the world and share the dream to make real those promises of democracy of old, share the dream to make justice a reality for all (not some), share the dream for freedom and jobs for the disadvantaged (not just the advantaged), share the dream that civil rights and human rights are not idealistic waves of thunderous vocabulary glamour. No, civil and human rights are the doctrine for doers who choose to live the reality that everyone is created equal.

As we pause to honor a movement and a man named King who made it so, let’s make sure our homage is worthy of those, including King, we have lost along the way on this road toward equity and freedom. Let us not forget about their toils and struggles, their difficulties, their blood, pain and anguish as King Celebrations and Black History month concludes. Rather, let us, especially the young, learn from them. It’s up to us to secure jobs and freedom from the disadvantaged. It’s up to us to make sure every person enjoys the benefits of every right. It’s up to us to pick up the torch and work to edify King’s dream for future generations. It’s up to us. It’s up to you.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pulse Magazine: People to Watch 2011

I'm Evidently One to Watch

Chicago Mayoral FunRace!

The Chicago mayoral race is proving to be quite interesting. Finally, long shot candidates Rev. Meeks and Rep. Davis have lined up behind former Amb. and Sen. Moseley-Braun - now, if only Chicago's black residents can do the same, the black community may have the chance for descriptive representation at city hall in the windy city.