Are Wakandans Black?

This past February, I posed a question, to my Howard University students: “Are Wakandans black folk?” Recognizing that my motives thus far, had been to instigate arguments, challenge beliefs and precipitate life crises, my students approached the discussion with caution. The question successfully evoked lively discussions about how we define blackness. However, one student looked in my black face (or so I thought) and (quite politely) informed me, that I may not in fact be black, due to my non-American status. When confronted by my obvious confusion, the few skeptics acquiesced to my self-identification. However, there subsequently arose real questions about whether I was black, before landing on American soil.

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Apparently, the birthplace of Marcus Garvey and a “black man time now” political party is a post-racial utopia. Who knew? Now, had I predicted that I would have been caught in the cross hairs of my own mischief I would have been better prepared. Luckily, I had a fellow professor, who knew me back in Jamaica, on hand, to testify to the longevity of my blackness. With that settled, a quite contentious debate arose about the racial identification of African immigrants, citing many examples of these immigrants’ denial of blackness to make a case for their non-blackness. For these few skeptical students, Wakandans are Wakandan: definitely not black.

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West Indian Hypocrisy and American Shame

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Charleston North Carolina, I am amused by the outrage of my (mostly Jamaican) counterparts, who just a week ago engaged in finger wagging at the African American community as they protested against racially biased extra judicial killings by the police. Why are they burning down their own communities? There must be a way to address the issues through the system? Why can’t they just be peaceful? Some even went as far as to praise the lord for their mixed heritage and its civilizing effect, signaling African heritage as the source of barbarity, just like the good little colonial pupils we are.

The hypocrisy is blinding. Amusing at first, but then completely aggravating.  We trample on the graves of heroes who literally burnt cities down for our freedom. As we celebrate our heroes, the faces on our money, I am reminded of how many of us, had we lived during the era of Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle, would have sold them out to massa and given them a strong talking to before watching them hang. How quickly we forget the impossibility of working through systems that were designed to oppress. How quick we are to accuse our brothers and sisters in the north of irrationality and barbarism. We feign knowledge of what life is actually like for African Americans, because after all “I lived there for such and such years and never encountered any racism…so”. A thorough investigation of the circumstances under which Americans actually live would require too much effort, and most importantly, undermine our view of ourselves as exceptional (more on this later).

This is us. Burning shit down.

This is us. Burning shit down.

Perhaps you might say, this is not comparable. It is after all 2015, and most reasonable people denounce slavery as an absolute evil. There are systems that we can work through for change.

This response would show a lack of understanding of America and American racism. Firstly the subjugation of black people in America did not begin and end with slavery. American racism continued to be socially, legally and institutionally embedded long after slavery. African Americans have had to live through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Ronald Reagan (whose war on drugs is directly responsible for reinforcing a racial justice system and policing and whose ‘welfare queen’ stereotype persists even in the face of the evidence).

Historically, loss of property, pain and economic consequences are the only things which haves caused oppressive systems to change and adjust. Economic sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa combined with organized, armed and violent resistance by Umkhonto we Sizwe, are the real reasons for that system’s demise. White people did not suddenly have a change of heart.

I am not endorsing violence as a first resort, but I am acknowledging the pain of the oppressed and the fact that violence is historically an effective means for an oppressed people to gain attention for their cause.

I am often baffled at the lack of empathy from West Indians for the plight of African Americans. For decades African Americans have been screaming under the crushing weight of American racism, which is institutional and pervasive. Yet only when it smacks us in the face, as in the case of Charleston, or when Jon Stewart, a white man, says the same thing African Americans have been saying for centuries, only then do we believe.

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Book Review: The Lowland

I’ve been gone for a minute, now back with… a book review. (Not quite as hip as being back with the Jumpoff, but I’m here). I’ve read many great books in the past year and a half and I thought it would be productive to do a short book review.

I was recently impressed by Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. In The Lowland, Lahiri exercises remarkable restraint. She does not overwrite, allowing the reader to easily fall into her world.

Lowland

The Lowland begins with the relationship between two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, and chronicles Udayan’s eventual entanglement with the Naxalite movement in India, in the 1960s. Udayan is portrayed as exuberant and spirited from the very beginning, wheras his brother Subhash is more timid and reserved. In his teenage years, Udayan is impassioned by India’s social and economic inequalities and becomes a disciple of the increasingly violent Naxalite movement. Udayan is killed for his involvement in the movement and the book chronicles the long-term effects of Udayan’s death over four generations. Continue reading

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Ancient Alphabets of Africa

http://www.ted.com/talks/saki_mafundikwa_ingenuity_and_elegance_in_ancient_african_alphabets.html

Interesting how these house slaves still teach children that Sub Saharan Africa had no written language. When will we learn.

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AWESOME SAUCE

This forthcoming author is also a Milton Academy Alum. Taiye Selasi is the name. I will definitely be checking out her book. This conversation stirred my soul. I am strangely excited by not only the similarity of the journey the women I have been discovering lately, but particularly by the similarity of the conclusions we arrive at: the sameness of the  meat of the journey, regardless of the seasoning. Would love to hear more about her creative process.

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Protected: The Art of Doing

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LIFESTYLES OF THE BROKE AND WUTLISS

Jamaicans have mastered the art of delusion.
Jamaicans are delusional about most things, but especially about financial matters. My claims are specifically directed towards a group of particularly quixotic Kingstonians, but make no mistakes; we are all culturally infected with the same disease.
Lets establish a few facts:
  • Jamaica’s debt burden is over139% of GDP (almost as high as Greece’s, in real terms, but higher in terms of the size of the economy)
  •  The country had three consecutive quarters of contraction last year, which means we are officially back in recession after a very brief respite.
  •   According to the Statistical Institutes 2012 labour force survey, the unemployment rate in May 2012, went up to 14.1%, from a stellar 12.9% the previous year. (The unemployment rate does not reflect persons who have dropped out of the labour force entirely and further still, the unemployment rate for youth16-24, is much much higher than the average of the overall population).

Now lets be clear, individuals do not live their lives based on national statistics, nor should they be expected to. However, national context can influence individual financial health. On the surface the upper class Jamaican party lifestyle would have outsiders believing that the country is holding firm and steady economically.
We are just exiting the Christmas season, AKA raving season which is marked by the bombardment of facebook party pictures of the most elegantly coiffed, poised, well dressed, perfect human beings. Christmas is generally a time for celebration, and celebrate we do. What bothers me however, is that the same faces we see in party pictures throughout the year, resurface with a ferocious frequency during this season. Two to three all- inclusive parties during this season can cost upwards of 25,000 JMD. Not to mention the general cost of ‘hot girl/ hot boy’ maintenance which, for just clothes hair and nails, may rack up a monthly bill of 15,000 JMD (conservative estimate).
Lets do some math (not to worry, its all subtraction):

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Making the most of the Quarter Life Crisis

I am assuming that the twenties are both the suckiest and most amazing time of life in general. I am already over the hill of the mid twenties and thus have major anxiety about making the best use of this time. Instinctively I feel this is the time to lay a firm foundation.
The decade of the 20’s has, so far, given me numerous opportunities for renewal. I hit the reset button, this last time, in a quest retrain my brain and re- educate myself towards happiness and prosperity. It’s a learning expedition of sorts.
Even my world- class education has left much to be desired. Unfortunately I wasn’t trained in financial literacy, finding my strengths and how to develop an appropriate daily regimen.

Ask and you shall receive, they say. Well this week the answers started ‘falling off the shelves’ so to speak. Below are two out of the several useful resources I found:

1) Finding your calling:
Marcus Buckingham is the author of several books based around finding personal strengths. Buckingham’s’ course about discovering your strengths can be found here.

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