Juneteenth, June 19th, is one of my favorite occasions. I look forward to it every year. I keep thinking, maybe next year, Google or Yahoo! will have a special design for their logo to spotlight Juneteenth… One day…

For anyone oblivious to the occasion, it marks the most recognized end to slavery. The story goes thus:

The Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln) was a law abolishing slavery and freeing ALL slaves in ALL of the United States. It was issued on September 22, 1862, and was supposed to be effective as of January 1, 1863. However, that news (and enforcement) didn’t quite make it to the poor slaves in Galveston, Texas (and other Eastern Texan localities) until June 19, 1865. Yeah… a whole flippin’ 2 and a half years after the law was active. (Those law-breaking, self-righteous, Eastern Texan slave-holders really burn me up!!!) On that day, as the story goes, Union General Granger and troops arrived in Galveston not only to enforce the emancipation of the slaves (I bet they didn’t get 2.5 years of back pay… I know!!… efforts should be dedicated to getting their back pay to their ancestors!! I think there’s a word for that…..) but to also take over possession of Texas. Juneteenth started being celebrated in Galveston the VERY NEXT YEAR. Strawberry pop anyone…….?

It’s interesting that recently the Senate apologized for the first time to United State’s African-American descendants for the atrocities of slavery. (They really need to apologize to Africa for the atrocities of the American Slave trade… what? You think pilfering millions of Africa’s strongest men and women didn’t adversely effect their lives for centuries?) Among the apologizers where Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Brownback of Kansas.

Oh well, it just a twisted ritual of America. The apology means little to me (it does little except assuage some people’s guilt, and give others ammunition to rationalize deplorable points of view), but I know it means something to some people, and for that, I smile at it.

!!!!!!!!!!HAPPY JUNETEENTH 2009!!!!!!!!!


NY Post: Power to the Protest

February 20, 2009

I am in awe every time I see the power of the people manifested in demonstrations as it has been for the past few days with the protestors of the New York Post.

Longtime political cartoonist Sean Delonas drew a picture that was published in the Post this Wednesday. Many feel this cartoon played on the racist history of Blacks being compared to primates.*

The strength, tenacity, courage, and determination of protesters is often times inspiring. How awesome that this group of people got together to make a change, and they saw results from it.

The New York Post issued an apology today to those they offended with the cartoon. The apology was a bit back-handed because they refused to apologize to those they believe initiated the opposition. They felt those with long time grievances used this cartoon as an opportunity to enact revenge on the controversial and conservative newspaper. (Though they didn’t name names, the main opponent has been Rev. Al Sharpton, and I think we can infer they are talking about him.)

It is very possible that the Post and Delonas didn’t intended any racial slur with the cartoon. I am willing to take them at their word that the chimp is a parody of Travis the chimp that was shot on Monday by police officers paired with a mock of the economic stimulus bill. However, there is NO WAY they didn’t anticipate the implications that would be felt by comparing the author of the current stimulus bill (not only President Obama, but he IS the face of the bill) to a violent chimpanzee. In addition, they shot the chimp= they shot the author of the stimulus bill= they shot the President!!?? That’s funny?

Many people want to site that President Bush was at times compared to monkeys as well. However, there is no history of whites being compared to primates in a racial defamation. If Bush had been compared to a Ritz of something with a comparative history, then (I would be outraged) a comparison could be made.

The Post shouldn’t be surprised by the public backlash. I didn’t even know about Travis until after I saw the bru-ha-ha over the cartoon. I’m sure many around the world will see this cartoon, know nothing of Travis, and instantly see it as a racial slur.

I am delighted the protestors got a semblance of an apology. We must stay on offensive people/media. We must never give up. Protest reminds us that there is much more that we can/must do for our communities than simply casting a ballot every 4 years.

I want to dedicate this to all the demonstrators (many of whom were college students) in 2003 that were jailed just for protesting the Iraqi War on the streets of Chicago, and to those who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Frankfort, KY in 1965.


* You can see the original cartoon here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/18/national/main4809291.shtml

** You can see an altered version of the cartoon (not by Delonas) here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lee-camp/how-the-new-york-post-mon_b_168199.html

I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but if I see one more image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the misty, air-brushed, reminiscent background of a Photoshopped Barack Obama image as the “Dream” depiction I will scream.

[Oh there’s one.]


What the hell people? At what point in the “I Have a Dream” speech did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say anything about his dream or the dream being to have a Black president? Was it implied? Maybe, but the dream is specifically about achieving equality and if you think that President Obama automatically garnered equality for people of color in America you are turning a blind eye and deceiving yourself. WAKE UP!!! and notice I said people of color, Dr. King speaks of equality for all, does that mean if we had a Latino or Asian president that these images would still surface, I don’t know but I hope that’s not seen as unrelated.

I didn’t want to say anything because I think of people like my mother, father, my aunts and uncles. Who marched and protested with King. Those people who cry out of happiness for Obama’s win (I’m happy but I never cried!). Because they never dreamed they would see an African American President in their lifetime.

I love what Dr. King did, and I love what Barack did and is doing*, but these images are really agitating me. They marginalize both men and more importantly, they marginalize The Struggle. Just the notion that we are done or have even reached the Promised Land is utterly false. When I see this depiction I feel cheated, I feel like we are resting and being lazy America.

It is apparent that society still needs to reach for Dr. King’s dream of equality when we have Latino-Americans (or even Latinos for that matter) in our country being murdered for just that, being brown (Ecuadoran Marcello Lucero to name one). Or when you hear (as I have heard from friend, foe, and family) that Latino’s are “overrunning” America with their numbers. RACISM! INFURIATING!!! Why are people so concerned with their numbers? Some Black Americans have dismay when the speak of the growing number of Latinos in America. Some worry the census is inaccurately portraying the numbers of each ethnic group. The reason why this is an issue is because White America is somehow seen (and this is actually put into practice) as entitled to more of a voice and representation in this country because they supposedly make up the majority. WHY?

In high school I can remember debating the validity of the existence of affirmative action and Black History Month. In the case of Black History Month some actually argued that we should not celebrate it in protest it marginalizing Black history**. How stupid! I haven’t encountered anyone in a long time that has tried to support this argument, but my gut makes me think they are still out there. After all, I am not the only one that has encountered people who think like this. (My predominantly white, conservative, affluent, township school in Indiana refused to even make mention of Black History Month on the morning announcements. When I asked them to do so, they refused. When I asked why, they said it wasn’t necessary. Haters.) Even still, why would I give up the little bit of acknowledgment that Black History month affords because in truth MORE is warranted? I wouldn’t. That’s not even logical (there’s an adage about baby and bathwater that fits well). If I want a slice of pie, but I can only manage to take a forkful of it on Monday, I take a forkful, then on Tuesday I try to take another forkful, however thwarted I am or how much obstacle is in the way of me and my pie, I still got a forkful and that’s one less forkful I need to attain to get my whole slice. You have to chip away at prejudice, and racism, and sexism, and classism, and inequality. Chip chip chip, its an elephant and you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Mai President is Black [* why I “love” OB]

So far, so good. I am thrilled that President Obama will be keeping his Blackberry. This device has often be uncouthly referred to as the Crackberry (implications are obvious). As a lover of gadgets, I’m thrilled to think of the president as a tech savvy, PDA toting, genius. Bravo for shutting down Guantanimo bay in a year. This sends an anti-bully image to others around the world.

First sitting Prez to have a Blackberry, down with Gitmo (recently Iraqi prisoners were handed over to Iraqi officials), not wearing his suit jacket in the oval office, “there are white people, and then there are motherfuckers like you”- OB on confronting racism in his Hawaiian youth, his acceptance of non-believers, the list goes on and one, – Fox News is right, OB is radical, the best, grassroots, up from down, kind of radial anyone could hope to be 🙂

**(No doubt Black History Month is underplayed, however many don’t even know there is a national Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15- October15.)

(My President is Black is an allusion to a Young Jeezy song, if you haven’t hear/read it Google/Youtube it.)

“Black History is Everyone’s History. Enjoy… Uhuru! Hotep!” – mrs.Mai

African-American identities have been perpetually based on lies since the first captive was brought to the Americas. There is no evidence that supports there was ever a class delineation or hostility among household and field slaves, yet this plot has grown to iconic proportions in the Black community even influencing the modern African-American communal identity. The conniving household slave is a myth supported by peer pressure, media popularity, fraudulent, suspect text, and leader endorsement.

There is a constant fear of being seen as a person who oppresses and subjugates your own. The impact and peer pressure evoked by the notion of classism among Blacks is strong. No one wants to be an “Uncle Tom”, or the morally cannibalistic “Sell Out” devouring those like you to get ahead. The household slave and field slave myth even suggest that some people are born to be lapdogs of society, moved and manipulated to do their bidding, for lack of character strength, and common sense.

While I have yet to find any slave narrative support the idea of slave class delineations, they often reference differences among the various labour sects. Most household slaves were female and their jobs were strenuous. They may have kept the longest hours, rising before everyone often beginning their day by milking a dozen cows or more in the dark of the morning. Then resting after everyone at night once preparation and service of dinner and other duties were done. However, it is historically noted that field slaves had the more backbreaking work of the two. In his slave narrative, fugitive slave James Curry notes that not all slaves were “driven” like the field slaves.
“My mother’s labor was very hard. She would go to the house in the morning, take her pail upon her head, and go away to the cow-pen, and milk fourteen cows. She then put on the bread for the family breakfast, and got the cream ready for churning… After I was sixteen, I was put into the field to work in the spring and summer, and in the autumn and winter, I worked in the hatter’s shop with my uncle. We raised on the plantation, principally, tobacco, some cotton, and some grain. We commenced work as soon as we could see in the morning, and worked from that time until 12 o’clock before breakfast, and then until dark, when we had our dinner, and hastened to our night-work for ourselves. We were not driven as field slaves generally are, and yet when I hear people here say they work as hard as the slaves, I can tell them from experience, they know nothing about it.”

In her slave narrative The History of Mary Prince, Prince paints a much more all inclusive work load, where she is demanded to do both household work and field work. This takes place directly after her relatively kind mistress has died, she’s been sold from her mother, and separated from her sister.
“The next morning my mistress set about instructing me in my tasks. She taught me to do all sorts of household work; to wash and bake, pick cotton and wool, and wash floors, and cook. And she taught me (how can I ever forget it!) more things than these; she caused me to know the exact difference between the smart of the rope, the car-whip, and the cow-skin… She was a fearful woman, and a savage mistress to her slaves.”

The household and field slave myth is historically accepted, though not historically noted. This is not to say that there was not conflict and even deception among the slaves. In The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, he recounts a time when an elderly slave woman told on him for accidently killing a chicken while he was helping her cook.
“…I happened to toss a small pebble at one of them, which hit it on the middle, and directly killed it. The old slave having soon after missed the chicken, inquired after it; and on my relating the accident (for I told her the truth, because my mother would never suffer me to tell a lie) she flew into a violent passion, threatened that I should suffer for it; and my master being out, she immediately went and told her mistress what I had done. This alarmed me very much, and I expected and instant flogging.”
Equiano goes on to say that he hid in fear all day, expecting to be found and punished, but when he went undiscovered for the better part of the day, everyone assumed he had fled as a runaway. The next morning he is discovered by the elder slave woman and she conspires to help save him from grave punishment.
“She was very much surprised to see me, and could scarcely believe her own eyes. She now promised to intercede for me, and went for her master, who soon after came, and, having slightly reprimanded me, ordered me to be taken care of, and not ill treated.”
In this case, there was no backstabbing because the old lady was a house servant and he was not. They were both working on the same task, she became angry and impetuous, and later helped save him from certain whipping.

Stories of household slaves betraying field slaves inundate media, books, radios, talk shows, songs, and movies. However, there is little to no evidence of these animosities ever taking place. The atrocities of slavery are horrendous, but no where in the narratives of Prince, Curry, or Frederick Douglass are there any account of scheming spies, working in the house, plotting against the others. This household slave Sell Out character does not exist in their time, but modern people believe this sniveling traitor did. The modern Black community has become an instigator in a fight that never took place. How unfortunate for the image of the household slave!

These myths are long-standing. We have black and white footage of formidable leaders, such as Malcolm X, educating and preaching to the masses about the strife between household and field slaves. Warning those in the audience to not act like the household slave, the eager subject of the master.

One of several speeches in Malcolm X Speaks is entitled The House Negro And the Field Negro. Malcolm X begins his speech talking about the federal governments lack of protection for the millions of Blacks in America against such forces as the Ku Klux Klan and the police. Then he goes on to speak about this notion that there has always been two types of Black people in America: The House Negro And the Field Negro.
“Back during slavery, when Black people like me talked to the slaves, they didn’t kill ‘em, they sent some old house Negro along behind him to undo what he said. You have to read the history of slavery to understand this.
There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negro got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ‘em back on the plantation.
The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the field Negro. He ate better, he dressed better, and he lived in a better house. He lived right up next to his master-in the attic or the basement. He ate the same food his master ate and wore his same clothes. And he could talk just like his master-good diction. And he loved his master more than his master loved himself. That’s why he didn’t want his master hurt.
If the master got sick, he’d say, “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” When the master’s house caught afire, he’d try and put the fire out. He didn’t want his master’s house burned. He never wanted his master’s property threatened. And he was more defensive of it than the master was. That was the house Negro.
But then you had some field Negroes, who lived in huts, had nothing to lose. They wore the worst kind of clothes. They ate the worst food. And they caught hell. They felt the sting of the lash. They hated their master. Oh yes, they did.
If the master got sick, they’d pray that the master died. If the master’d house caught afire, they’d pray for a strong wind to come along. This was the difference between the two.
And today you still have house Negroes and field Negroes. I’m a field Negro. If I can’t live in the house as a human being, I’m praying for a wind to come along. If the master won’t treat me right and he’s sick, I’ll tell the doctor to go in the other direction. But if all of us are going to live as human beings, as brothers, then I’m for a society of human beings that can practice brotherhood.”

The Willie Lynch Letter is a speech purportedly given by William Lynch on the James River in Virginia in 1712 about how to control slaves in a colony. His advice in large part was to pit slaves against each other based on their differences to squash any unity among them and make them weak in the mind while preserving the body for slave labor. Supposedly, the inferiority was going to be felt psychologically by the slaves and their offspring for more than three hundred years.
“I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves, and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies, and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little test of differences and think about them. On the top of my list is “Age”, but it is there because it only starts with an “A”; the second is “Color” or shade; there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action–but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.”

The Willie Lynch Letter supports the notion that slaves were divided into two groups who fought based on differences of class and complexion. There were more than two labour forces of slaves. Besides house and field, what about the welders, the blacksmiths, the hired out slaves, the breeding slaves, and the slaves used as messengers?

The Willie Lynch Letter first appeared on the internet in 1993 after publication in The St. Louis Black Pages a University of Missouri reference librarian posted the text on the library’s server with the warning that its’ origins were not clear. William Jelani Cobb, Ph.D., historian and associate professor of History at Spelman College specializing in post-Civil War African American history, believes the letter is an internet hoax. There has been debate over this though many believe it does not matter if the text is fake or not because the tactics described were certainly used by slave owners to assert more power and manipulate slaves.

Even though the Willie Lynch Letter is absolutely fraudulent, in the 2007 movie The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington’s character Melvin B. Tolson, real life Speech and English professor of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in the 1920s and 1930s, references the Willie Lynch Letter in 1935.
“Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind.”

Why is there no objection? What does this mean for Black youth that grow up with no indication that this is all myth and fallacy? Will they live up to low expectations of themselves? What does this mean for Black elders that may in fact be crippling children, and therefore stumbling the community’s hopes for future advancements? Where does a myth like this come from?

While slave narratives lack accounts of field and household slave strife, they are full of accounts of slaves helping each other get by. Through them it is also apparent how the slave owners knew very little about their slaves true feelings and intentions. Mary Prince said, “Oh the Buckra [white] people who keep slaves think that black people are like cattle, without natural affection. But my heart tells me it is far otherwise.” Frederick Douglass’ narrative tells us that slaves would often claim to have a kind master and to being contented with their lives.
“…when inquired of as to their [slaves] condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind…a still tongue makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it… If they have anything to say of their masters, it is generally in their masters’ favor, especially when speaking to an untried man.”

Mary Prince’s recount is full of affection between slaves. Time and time they are helping each other survive and get by. Hetty the slave woman who looks after Mary, and whom she refers to as her Aunt, and the kind Black man Anthony and his wife who feed her on her four week long journey to Turk’s Island, to name a few. She also has tales of confrontation among Blacks. In one case, a bi-racial freedwoman named Martha Wilcox was very unkind to the slaves no matter there labor position.
“Mrs. Wood…hired a mulatto woman to nurse the child; but she was such a fine lady she wanted to be mistress over me. I thought it very hard for a coloured woman to have rule over me because I was a slave and she was free… she was a saucy woman, very saucy; and she went and complained of me, without cause, to my mistress, and made her angry with me… The mulatto woman was rejoiced to have power to keep me down. She was constantly making mischief; there was no living for the slaves- no peace after she came.”
At another time, a slave who had long doled out harshness to other slaves, is very remorseful for the deeds his master has made him do.
“The husband of the woman I went with was a black driver. His name was Henry. He confessed that he had treated the slaves very cruelly; but said that he was compelled to obey the orders of his master. He prayed them all to forgive him, and he prayed that God would forgive him. He said it was a horrid thing for a ranger to have sometimes to beat his own wife or sister; but he must do so if ordered by his master. I felt sorry for my sins also. I cried the whole night…”

History has failed to act as a guide for the present. These myths have become a poor substitute to fill in the blanks on an otherwise scattered history. The Black community clings to these myths because we do not have a solid foundation for our history. We are always seeking our true selfs and our true origins, constantly trying to figure out why this could have possibly happened to us, where we have come from, and where we are going. So much power, influence, manipulation, and contention is wielded by myths. Fights have been waged over accusations of being a Sell Out. The notion that we will always be divided comes from the notion that we have always been divided. If we can attribute some of this to descention between us it may give us a semblance of an answer.