Archive for the ‘community’ Tag

Independence Day Reality by Angenita Williams


Picture taken in St. Louis, MO.

I visited St. Louis over the Independence holiday. My family resides literally around the corner from Ferguson. I asked my cousin to take me through the neighborhood that was engulfed in flames about two years ago.

As she drove through the streets, I saw emptiness. I saw a shell of a place that was teetering on the brinks of poverty. I saw Mom and Pop stores that once serviced the neighborhood, and I saw some still striving.

Something stirred in me as we drove to the place where it happened…where he was shot.

There was no mark on this site. There was no memorial. There wasn’t a trace of Michael Brown. But there was an aura…a hanging loneliness marked by life taken too soon. A wave of despair as I visualized that day for him. My heart pained for his parents. My soul searched for words that I couldn’t say. I felt an eerie chill go up my spine. I was there.

I envisioned what I saw on the TV during the days of the riots. My cousin pointed out the places that were in flames, she showed me where they marched on the police station. She showed me empty lots where businesses once stood, proud to be a part of the economy.

Remnants of seething anger were left behind. I saw it all. And I felt empty. Hollow. Missing. The uproar happened…and it left the TV screen. People went back to living as they were, although the undercurrent of the event is still there. The aftermath is still there. People lost a lot those days: a mother and father lost a son. Some people lost their jobs. Business owners lost their businesses.

And yet, after all of that, the killings of unarmed Black people still continue. As I write this, a 37-year-old father was killed in Baton Rouge, LA. By cops. On video. Plain as day. And a 32-year-old man was shot for a traffic stop. Eleven Dallas cops were shot and five died.

These stories permeate our timelines on social media. We speak behind keyboards about our rage, how saddening this is, and how we pray for their families. Empty #RIP hashtags don our newsfeeds. Tears fall. We say not another one. We say how can this continue to happen. We say let’s fight against this. Then we have those that say well, you only get angry when it’s a cop murdering unarmed Black people, and talk about Black on Black crime.

The Black on Black crime stance always rubs me the wrong way. There are so many people that say if our young Black men would stop killing each other, then the police would stop killing our sons and daughters. This line of thinking is backwards. Here’s why:

Black lives never mattered to the powers that be. If they did, slavery would not have existed to the brutal level that it did. Reconstruction would have leveled the playing field by really giving the freed slaves their forty-acres and a mule to get a jump-start instead of the mess of sharecropping.  Actually help with the bootstraps to pull up. It would not have been against the law for slaves to read or write. Jim Crow would have never existed. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been necessary.

The only way that Black lives mattered were when our ancestors worked the fields in toil to build empires. When Black women were raped and used as sexual slaves for the master…to procreate and increase the property value of the master.  And most of all, introduce a religion, use a religion, to keep the slaves scared and in “their place.” When you consistently and constantly show a group of people that their lives don’t matter, when you show nothing but contempt and hate, it becomes internalized. They hate their skin…and the skin of their peers. Take dads from the home; remove the foundation, and you have this so-called Black-on-Black crime.

As with any crime, we victimized what we know, who we know. More than likely, that looks just like us. This goes for every race. Black on Black crime has been sensationalized to somehow be worse than any other race. But I’m sure one will find that White-on-White or Hispanic-on-Hispanic or Asian-on-Asian, or Native American-on-Native American crime has probably the same amount of crime per capita simply because people tend to  live in the same neighborhoods where your neighbors look a lot like them.

Michael Brown was headed to college. Sandra Bland was headed to her Alma mater. Freddie Gray was headed home…just like Trayvon, Oscar, Akai. Eric and Alton tried to make a little money to support a family. Rekia was laughing with friends. Jordan was listening to music with his friends. Tamir was playing in the park with a BB gun – something that many kids play with. John Crawford was in Wal-Mart walking around on the phone.  Tanisha, Donte, and Ezell had mental illnesses. LaQuan crossed the street. Philandro followed orders.

Yet Dylann can murder nine people in a church in cold blood, and be escorted out in a bulletproof vest. George Zimmerman is still free. Darren Wilson is in jail for assaulting his wife. Countless videos of non-minority people  who hit, spit, have weapons such as hatchets or knives show how these particular people manage to be subdued without a gun…or they are let go. The shooters of Alton and Philandro are on paid administrative leave (AKA vacation).

We drove away from the scene. I took everything in. My heart fluttered and felt pain when we turned around. I left the city of Ferguson behind, but the streets, the uproar, the feelings of anger brewed under my skin. The things I saw are forever etched in my memory. I leave this blog with a few quotes:

If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. ~ Maya Angelou

Black power can be clearly defined for those who do not attach the fears of white America to their questions about it. ~ Stokely Carmichael

There’re two people in the world that are not likeable: a master and a slave. ~ Nikki Giovanni

Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own. ~ Jean Toomer

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ Shirley Chisholm

You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity. ~ Bobby Seale

Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine? ~ Tupac Shakur



Tragedy and Travesty of Violence by Angenita Williams




We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

I cried when the Trayvon Martin verdict was read….I cried when I learned that Jordan Davis’ killer didn’t get convicted of his murder, but of attempted murder of his friends…I was in dismay and utter disbelief when Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, yet it doesn’t appear an arrest has been made…and angered at how long it took to even get a name of the police officer that shot Michael Brown…

I’m left with the questions of how can my son, grandsons, and nephews trust the police to protect and serve them when they are viewed threats and unworthy of living? How can the community not be in a state of fear and depression when oppressors are all around them? How do these actions and circumstances differ from a 1960’s state of America? Isn’t this modern-day lynching? When is that change gone come? How is it gonna come?

Our men are accustomed to being the last rung on the ladder when it comes to this country. They are put down as nothing; regarded to animals. A professor by the name of Charles Carroll details this in his book “The Negro A Beast” or “In the Image of God” published in 1900. And something from so long ago still resonates in our country. It’s also worthy to note, the Bible is also used in this book to justify that Black people are not human, and according to page 138 of that text, scientific research demonstrates that “no wooly-haired nation has ever had an important history.”

It doesn’t help that Black America cannot unite unless some tragedy occurs; nor does it help that our youth of today buck authority, and just don’t care. But how can they when they are resorted to being shot like raging beasts when all they try to do is surrender, break up a fight, or lay face down and follow orders? Can one even imagine how depressing living in that manner is? It’s a wonder that we still have some strong men left in our community.

The stereotype of Black America will always supersede the accomplishments of Black America, and that alone makes for a bleak existence in this country. What is extremely disheartening is that many folks in the community either believe the stereotype completely or perpetuate it. Look at those who leave the ‘hood never to return, and snub their noses at where they came from. What about those who don’t reach back to the ‘hood to help those in need? What about those who refer to their own people as “useless, unkempt, and unnecessary?” Whatever the case, though, stereotypes should never, ever equal death. Books should never be judged by their cover, and when it comes to our men, the covering of their skin is justifiable homicide…simply because of America’s belief that black men are simply unworthy and animalistic. Men who were once deemed as kings are resorted to being less important that mistreated dogs. (See Michael Vick.)

The protests happening in Missouri attempt to thwart the notion that we can be peaceful. But it’s kinda hard to do when you have armored tanks, weapons, and tear gas descending upon you when all you want is justice. It’s hard to turn a cheek when you are being bullied by the powers that be. It’s really difficult when your questions have no answers. Peace is extremely hard to attain when there are a few indignant people causing mayhem. At this stage, no one will remember the good about the situation (peaceful protestors protecting businesses), but the bad that is being done out there right now.

My favorite author, Maya Angelou said it best: “If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” The best way to get our respect – is to LOVE each other, and stand together to not only right the wrongs of the forces that are upon us, but to also dismantle the killing of our own people by our own people. The youth of today have generations of worthlessness upon them. I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it – fathers need to return to the home. The trends of the downfall of Black America can be directly correlated to the absence of a real dad. And when I say return to the home, I mean DO SOMETHING. Parent, participate, love, discipline, listen, and respect your kids. Because in all honesty, if we cannot come together and show that we are worthy, there are going to be many more Mike Browns, Eric Garners, Oscar Grants, Ezell Fords, Sean Bells, Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davis’s, Ramarley Grahams, etc…and justice will simply refuse to prevail.

Violence…Gotta Stop…by Angenita Williams

Gang members on the street, focus on guns - stock photo

I am appalled, saddened, heartbroken. Angry. Confused. Distraught.

My city is turning into a war zone. It brings up so much pain. I lost my young cousin at the age of twenty-two a few years ago due to violence. Every young man maimed by a bullet reminds me of him. Just last week, a friend of mine lost his sixteen-year-old brother. I ask myself when will it end.

I hate to watch the news now. I’m so afraid for my young son, his brothers, his closest friends. I am afraid for my brothers. My cousins. My friends. My sisters. My mothers. My grandmothers.

No one should have to endure the pain and agony of loosing their loved one in a senseless manner. And the sad part about the whole situation is that…absolutely NOTHING is being done to curb the violence. The ‘education’ system…or the pipeline to prison…is failing our kids miserably. The parents without a clue are failing our kids miserably. The VILLAGE is FAILING our KIDS.

Our young ladies do not respect themselves or love themselves enough to know that being a ‘bitch’ or a ‘bad bitch’ or a ‘main bitch’ is not an honor, it’s a disgrace. They are having babies by grown ass boys who probably didn’t have daddy there to show them the way…or maybe they did, and follow in his footsteps they shall. The family structure is deteriorating. And the kids are suffering.

And the legislature wants to ‘protect’ the nature of marriage between men and women. I’m sorry, but…it doesn’t look like the institution of heterosexual marriage is working. If the sex partners make it to the altar, there is a 50% chance it’s gonna end before either of them get to ’til death do us part.’

And when it’s all said and done….we’ve got angry boys out here mad at a world that frankly doesn’t give a damn about them. The President of the United States even acknowledged that our little black and brown boys have to fight extra hard just to make it. And when momma and daddy can’t get it together, grow up, and realize that this life is not about them, we leave the children to be raised by song lyrics, and aspirations to be a Basketball Wife, or to be on Bad Girls Club.

Seriously? We brought our kids into this?

What happened to the community that fought together to ensure we all got rights? The women with linked arms to make sure we could get jobs and work just like the men? What happened to the leaders who only want to pray and walk away? God can and will help the situation, but faith without works is dead. So we can either keep praying, and standby as our kids fall victim to what society wants them to, or we can rise as a community, build that strong family unit, and take it back from those who seek to destroy it.

I have two grandsons. Four nephews. And I cry because I know that before they will be men, they will be judged based on how they look. They are smart kids. Funny. Full of personality. I love them with all my heart. But my heart also weeps for them. I mean, it seems like if they make it to thirty, they will be considered seniors.

America…we’ve got to do better.

No Unity by Angenita Williams

I just have one question – Why are Black women scapegoats in the deterioration of our community?

I ask this question for a few reasons. One, I have seen at least three videos of Black men who say that Black women are the reason behind the fall of our community. One agreed with Bill O’Reilly when he said that is Black young ladies getting pregnant at a young age, not holding kids to being responsible, thwarting the notion of education, and raising violent kids as the reasons for the rise in Black on Black crime. Oh?

So, we just absolve the men of their responsibility in this as if pregnancy occurs without the input of a man. As if being a single parent is a dream. As if other young ladies of other races don’t get pregnant early.

The reason our community has fallen to the wayside is because there is no unity in the community, and no family unit. To thwart the notion that our history has nothing to do with it is straight tomfoolery.

Historically, the poor man, Black or White, was kept out of the home so that the mother could receive assistance. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the men of the home could not find employment to take care of his family. If he lived in the home, he stopped his children from eating. That helped create the cycle of fatherlessness as well. I mean, why would not ensure the entire family can eat? Why not promote the family unit? I don’t care what Bill O’Reilly says, our society now is a direct consequence of certain laws and stigmas created way back then. (Not to mention, Congress wants to eliminate abortion rights, and birth control. Not only that, they want to do away with programs to help the poor class. So, they want to tell me I can’t decided on when and where to have a kid, but they don’t want to assist with the raising of it…that’s another blog.)

Being a single parent is not a dream situation especially if you are young. People make mistakes, and younger people tend the have the thoughts of being invincible – the perpetual “It will never happen to me” thought process. What’s sad is that many go through these stages without the proper information about life. As parents, it is up to ALL of us to school our kids on the realness of life as a whole. And sex education is a part of that. The sex talk needs to be done in the home and at school, and not just the physical aspects. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy is only ONE aspect of the danger of having sex too early. Like the emotional ties, the self worth consequences, the disappointments, diseases, and labels. We tell our sons to sow their oats, and tell our daughters to keep it tight. That is a mixed message if I’ve ever heard one. It’s ok for a man to have hundreds of women, but a woman is a whore. #DoubleStandard

Our kids see so much ratchetness and think that’s how life is supposed to be. Our entertainment influences (which is one thing I had to agree with) need to have a little more responsibility. I know it’s about money. I know the stars want to ‘get it.’ Being rich is virtually the American Dream. But to whom much is given, much is required. For Bible thumpers –It’s in the Bible. Luke 12:48.

The funny thing is, shows like All in the Family pushed the envelope, and it was not censored. It showed bigotry and sexism on a new level that could not be done today. But that has been replaced with shows like Basketball Wives and Love & Hip Hop. Notice the focus. Basketball and Hip-Hop – two areas that little Black kids aspire to be in. Is that a coincidence? Big booties and the illusion of having money. We, as a people, have turned into materialistic, amoral, and worst of all, selfish.

But it’s not just on the women. Men, you share your part in this whole cycle. We have created children out of lust, not love. And men and women BOTH have a part in that. The point where a man decides that having responsibility is too much or taking away from him is the point at which his children lose. What’s really messed up is that his father probably did it to him. Fatherlessness is a real epidemic, and these children are hurt, angry, and they feel worthless. So what do they do? Get aggressive. Resort to guns and the glorified lifestyle of drugs, cars (whips), jewelry (chains), and sex.

Let’s not forget – the Black woman had to put the master’s children before her own. She carried the weight of raising kids that were not hers, as she watched hers be taken from her and sold off. Remember, the Black woman had to carry the weight of the world, and still does, because she is not only a woman, but she is also Black. And to hear our Black men tear us down, and blame us for the breakdown of the community, well, it breaks my heart. I mean, we are supposed to have each other’s back, right? So I ask them – what are YOU doing to benefit YOUR community?

An Unfulfilled Dream by Venessa Schade-Bowers


On January 15, 2013, Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 84 years old. Reflecting on the day that honors him always leads me to wonder just what this man would think of the world today. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his profound “I Have a Dream” speech (August, 28, 1963).  Had he lived, would he believe that President Obama, who will deliver his second Inaugural Address to the nation on the day that we honor Dr. King, was the fulfillment of his dream or would he believe as Tavis Smiley suggests, that the President is a down-payment on the dream (January 20, 2013 commentary on CBS)? I wonder.


What would he think about the limits of freedom for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? What would he say about this fight over reproductive rights and freedom for women? What would he suggest we do about gun violence, especially in the wake of Newtown, Connecticut? What would he preach as a way to assist us in restoring some sort of brotherhood/sisterhood with people who are different from us? Dr. King once said that “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” It seems to me that many of our backs are bent and I wonder what it will take for us to stand up.


Let’s take a look at history for a moment:


To begin, it is important to remember that everything that happened in the 1960s was seeded in the 1950s. People were filled with uncertainty after the end of World War II especially because for one reason, they were now “living with the bomb.” This fear was incubated by segregation, oppression, and isolation. Fear and uncertainty can be contagious.


Dr. King taught that “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” During the 1950s a woman’s biggest fear was not being married. Her BIGGEST fear. Today many women say that their biggest fear is being raped. And if she is raped, that she will become pregnant. Worse still, there is legislation proposed in Congress that would allow her rapist to sue her when she gets an abortion in a state that allows it, if she was unlucky enough to be raped in a state that does not allow abortion. WHAT?  Is that the type of interrelated structure of reality Dr. King was talking about? I think not.


Also during the 1950s, McCarthyism was a huge thing to fear – what if we were investigated for “Un-American Activities” and what the hell were they anyway? Well, our professional careers and in some cases, our very lives would end (some people who were investigated by this fear-based organization committed suicide). During this time, words like “Democrat” and “Liberal” were equated with communist sympathizing and therefore, un-American. Sound familiar? Today, we hear phrases like “Liberal Media,” “Liberal Conspiracy,” and “Liberal Bias.” We believe that “liberals” are going to take our guns while still allowing abortions. We are still apoplectic with fear because we are uncertain. We remain silent on issues that are personal and political. Often, we care only about ourselves but do nothing to advance opportunities for everyone.

During the 1960s, we know that a good portion of people were fighting for civil rights for African Americans and women. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that civil rights were being fought for on behalf of gay and lesbian people. We have yet to see a real fight for equality for First Nation’s People or Latino people. Are these folks’ rights less important than other people’s rights? Think about that for a minute, because according to Dr. King “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Why do we not speak up and stand up for these folks?


There is a great debate raging in this country right now about gun control. We have seen in the last several years an increase in gun violence as well as an increase in mental illness in this country. We wonder if there is a correlation between the two. However what we know for sure is that for every fatal gun shooting there are three non-fatal shootings. Does that not seem like something we should talk about with patience and without political rhetoric? Should we not discuss the fact that more people are buying guns, especially assault weapons since the Newtown, Connecticut massacre? Just as recently as January 19, 2013, five people were accidently shot at National Gun Appreciation Day in three states (Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina). One of the people shot actually shot himself. ( These are supposed to be people who know how to handle guns! The unfounded fear of the government taking guns from citizens is shocking. No one has said anything about overturning the Second Amendment. They’ve only said maybe one doesn’t need to have 30 bullets in an assault weapon to shoot an unarmed deer. My opinion is that if you can’t hit the deer in 2 shots you need to go to the grocery store to purchase your venison. You certainly don’t belong owning a gun if you can’t shoot straight. But nonetheless, that’s not the debate. I’m not really sure what the debate is because all I hear is fear. From all of us. One radio call-in listener went really far when he told Shannyn Moore that President Obama orchestrated that massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school to win the election – but the shooting occurred after the election – a month and eight days after the election as a matter of fact (Shannyn Moore; And to that statement, I can only share another quote from Dr. King which states “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” I truly believe that people are smarter than this but fear makes us stupid. Literally.


It also seems that people in this country are not only polarized, they appear to be filled with hate. We don’t disagree with people on the other side of the political spectrum – we hate them. We don’t disagree with liberal or conservative thinking, we hate it. We don’t argue with fiscal irresponsibility, we hate it. We hate TV characters, our neighbors, our leaders, and sometimes our spouses. We often hate ourselves. And as we do this, we sink further into darkness. Sometimes the darkness is mental illness. Sometimes it is addiction. Sometimes it is isolation. And sometimes it becomes rage. And we act on that rage and darkness. We are cruel to each other. We take pleasure in the humiliation of our fellow (wo)man. But Dr. King said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Are we willing to try love?


So, in all, what would Dr. King think today? My guess is that he would think that much is still left to be done. That we commodify him and package what he said as symbolism but rarely engage in the real work of social change. Some things are better, to be sure. For example, not so long ago woman like me, born into a poor, working class family of immigrants, could go to college and earn three degrees. The women’s movement did that for me. We see an African American president in the White House. Without the Civil Rights movement, that could never have happened. We see interracial and inter-faith marriages working. We see gay and lesbian folks marrying (albeit in only a few states, but it is happening). We see more tolerance in unexpected places. But. We are still afraid of each other. We covet our neighbors’ wealth, families, spouses, and things. We do not honor our parents and grandparents. We do not take care of each other. And far too often in the face of adversity, we do nothing but wring our hands. And in the end, Dr. King said that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Where do you stand? For what do you stand?


I challenge all of us to reach beyond the paralytic fear we live in – that cynical space of criticism of everything and foster a way in our own lives to pragmatically reach for that dream Dr. King had for all of us. Because it is still really, only a dream. Dr. King has been mythologized and idolized and that turns him into a commodity to be bought and sold. We can quote him and talk about his dream but until we leave our homes and extend our hand to another, we dishonor him. The day that we are supposed to remember him becomes nothing more than a day off work or school. It means nothing. However, if we try to be our best person everyday – even if we fail, we do pay homage to this man – this human…this fallible person. And we become the better for it.


Bright Blessings

Dear Dr. King by Angenita Williams


Dear Dr. King,

On this twenty-seventh anniversary of celebrating your birth, I think about what you gave so that my children and I could go to school where we wanted, eat where we wanted, and be afforded the same opportunities of our Caucasian brothers and sisters. You died so future generations could live. You preached non-violence. You got things done for oppressed people. I salute you.

Dr. King, I know it was hectic for you. I know that it takes a person who is extremely strong in nature to do what you did. You fought with your words and your spirit, rather than your fists. You sacrificed the life of a quiet pastor to ensure that everyone was treated equally. You were away from your family a lot, and Coretta, Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice missed you. Your mother and father adored you. They were understanding in your fight; they were so unselfish to let us have you. For that, I thank them.

Dr. King, we have Black President. Yes, we do. Your work gave us a Black President. And as we celebrate your birth, he is inaugurated for a second term. There are people who really don’t like him, and they let him know it. But he believes in what he’s doing, and although I don’t always agree with him, I stand behind him.

But, Dr. King, we are in trouble. Although your work afforded us with opportunity, it’s gone awry. We have young men planting seeds and not watching them grow. We have young women more than willing to be the soil for which those seeds are planted, without the sustenance to have those seeds grow. We have children in an age where everything is given, nothing is earned. We have people dying due to violence. We have people threatening violence for something as common sense as gun control. We have leaders who basically want nothing to do with our President based on the color of his skin, instead of the content of his character. And even though you worked so hard, and you died trying to end it, racism still exists. Poverty is still rampant. The powers that be want to keep the poor at a disadvantage. They want to take the small things that the poor are given. They don’t believe it is a civic duty to assist those in need. So, Dr. King, you worked so hard, but we have so much further to go.

Your legacy is one that will never be forgotten. It will be appreciated by generations to come, although they really don’t understand the ultimate sacrifice that you made for us all. Those who wanted segregation to last didn’t get that if we all were equal, we could all strive and make something out of our lives. The better the oppressed do, the better the country does. And Dr. King, they still don’t get it.

I watch a movie dedicated to your life and your story yesterday. I discussed it with my daughter. She had a ton of questions that I tried my best to answer about you, your life, your family, and most of all the movement. We discussed you, Mr. Evers, Mr. John Kennedy, Mr. Robert Kennedy, Mr. Hoover, Mr. Connor, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Young, and Mr. Shuttlesworth. We discussed the four little girls who died. We discussed the hoses and the dogs. We talked about COINTELPRO. We talked about Mr. Ray, your assassin.

Dr. King, I know you see what’s going on. I know this is not what you had in mind. I know this probably disappoints you. But, I will try to uplift those in my community. I will try to instill the action of forgiveness and healing. Your spirit keeps us going, striving to new heights. I hope that one day, you can be overly proud of the America you worked so hard to change.

Lastly, I just want to say happy birthday.



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