The two began a correspondence and eventually decided to launch the program together. In October, 2016, Johnson, who is thirty-three, and Elsheikh, who is thirty-eight, travelled to Ghana, where they met local entrepreneurs and saw relevant sights: everything from the notorious Cape Coast Castle, the center of the transatlantic slave trade, with its “door of no return,” to W. E. B. Du Bois’s last home, in Accra.
Elsheikh, who grew up in Uganda, Sudan, and Sweden, said, “Ghana is really seen as the gateway to Africa. Birthright AFRICA is built around the Ghanaian principal of sankofa—in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’re from.” The organization has, to date, financed a trip enabling seven young Americans to make the journey.
One evening, a City University program called Black Male Initiative, which supports access to higher education for students from underrepresented demographics, held a fund-raiser, in part for Birthright AFRICA. The m.c. was Jeff Gardere, also known as Dr. Jeff, a popular TV psychologist (Orion TV’s “Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court,” Reelz’s “They Got Away with It”). Lots of B.M.I. students attended the event, which featured an open bar and trays of chocolate desserts. Guests could be overheard chatting about clubbing (“We used to slow-jam at Leviticus back in the day”) and medical appointments (“Black men don’t like two things: prostate exams and therapy”).
All CUNY B.M.I. students of African descent between the ages of eighteen and thirty are eligible to apply for free Birthright AFRICA trips. Those who make the cut, Gardere said, explaining the program to the crowd, will first visit the African Burial Ground National Monument, in downtown Manhattan, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. Then, he said, dropping his voice to a whisper—“we’re going to give them ten days in Ghana.”
At Gardere’s prompting, guests began to raise their hands and pledge donations. An employee of Brooklyn College said, “A hundred dollars!” Gardere encouraged the crowd with impromptu personal incentives—“You wanna meet Phaedra from ‘Real Housewives’?”
Meanwhile, prospective Birthright AFRICA applicants were learning about the program for the first time. Jaleel Thomas, a young man in a suit, who was from Chicago, said he was intrigued. “I have a potential internship with Deloitte this summer,” he said. “But if you say, ‘Hey, Jaleel, I want you here in Ghana for ten days,’ I will make it happen.”
Devon Simmons, a tall criminal-justice student at John Jay, is the first graduate of CUNY’s Prison-to-College Pipeline, and he was interested in Birthright AFRICA’s international opportunities. “I just came back from study abroad in Cape Town, doing some research in regards to incarceration over there,” he said. “Next stop is Cuba, this summer.”
Elsheikh, Birthright AFRICA’s co-founder, is still in New York, but Johnson, now the program director, moved to Langma, Ghana, last year, in order to oversee ground operations. Elsheikh said, “Some of the scholars who made the trip were so into this myth” fuelled by the negative image of Africa presented to Americans. Making the trip “changed their life trajectory.”
The myth was further fuelled when President Trump referred to Haiti and some of the nations of Africa as “shithole” countries. “So it’s that much more relevant to dispel,” Elsheikh said, “particularly for people of African descent. Because it really hits your soul.” Johnson said, “We are not pushing a political agenda. But it’s inherently political to educate and empower black people.”
On the evening of the B.M.I. fund-raiser, a New York State assemblyman named Michael Blake gave the closing comments. “Don’t tell us our kids are not exceptional!” he shouted. “And I say to you, in the words of the great philosopher Fat Joe”—the Bronx’s own—“Nothing can stop you, you’re all the way up!”
READ MORE AT: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/roots/amp
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By Elliot Booker — 2 years agoGlen Ford, BAR executive editor
“The grand plan is to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban centers.”
The urban saga of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s was white flight from the cities, fueled by massive public and private investment in the invention of suburbia. In the 21st century, the racial dynamic has been purposely reversed, as the window closes on Black majority cities—and on dreams of concentrated, Black urban political power.
The rapidly unfolding dispersal of Blacks from the cities, like the white invasion of the surrounding hinterlands in the previous era, is the result of deliberate state policies, dictated by finance capital. But, this time, the demographic makeover has been effectuated and politically finessed with the active collaboration of a Black misleadership class that, paradoxically, owes its existence to the concentration of Black populations during the Sixties and Seventies.
The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-progress. In a frenzy of demolition, the U.S. has lost a quarter million units of public housing since the mid-1990s, only a small fraction of which has been replaced with new public housing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Black mayors and heavily Black city councils have, typically, bought into the notion that concentrations of poor Black people are, by definition, vectors of pathology, while concentrations of affluent whites are the indispensable ingredients of urban “renaissance.” It is the logic of apartheid, cloaked in phony economics.
“The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-progress.”
Gentrification and renaissance-making—euphemisms for Black-removal—are violent processes. Whole neighborhoods are condemned for “rehabilitation” from “blight”—another euphemism, since the targeted infestation is human. The real estate industry covets the land, but demands that it first be cleansed of undesirable inhabitants. This requires the ruthless application of police force, creating a hostile environment, especially for young Black males, whose mothers begin to seek an exit to the South or a nearby, Blackening suburb. It is no coincidence that police forces in “renaissance”-minded cities across the nation introduced draconian “stop-and-frisk,” “designated drug zone” and “anti-gang” policies in the Nineties, as gentrification went into high gear. They methodically created an unbearably hostile environment for unwanted families.
Gentrification requires the destabilization of the existing populations in targeted neighborhoods. Politicians that respond to the imperatives of capital—and that means virtually all big-city Democrats, of all races—acquiesce to or champion policies that destabilize the lives of their poor Black constituents, all the while claiming it is for their own good. The most powerful local government tool, other than the police, is the public school system. Gentrifying mayors across the country have sought and won control of local schools and used that power to make city life untenable for the “excess” Black populations of their cities.
“The school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides.”
No mayor has been more intent on driving Blacks from his city than Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff and close political ally. Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50 schools. The result was catastrophic, as students were forced to transit unfamiliar gang turf to attend schools that were often no better than the shuttered ones in the own neighborhoods. Many kids died. “What people don’t understand is that if you are 16 years old and get on a bus, when you get off that bus you are gang-affiliated whether you are gang-affiliated or not,” said activist Jitu Brown .
Just as the closing of Chicago’s public housing disrupted gang turf and drug markets, setting off a huge increase in street killings, the school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides, the besieged neighborhoods where closings were concentrated. It was the last straw for some parents. As the Chicago Reporter wrote, in an article last December: “Some academics blame city officials for making it harder for poor African-Americans, in particular, to live in Chicago. They closed neighborhood schools and mental health clinics ; failed to rebuild public housing, dispersing thousands of poor black families across the region, and inadequately responded to gun violence, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities.”
“Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50 schools.”
“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that’s OK.”
The message is intentional—and effective. “Chicago’s public schools have lost more than 52,000 students in the past 10 years,” according to a report titled “The Bleeding of Chicago ,” by CityLab. “That’s because school closures sometimes prompt parents to leave the city altogether.” (Thanks to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms for bringing this information to a larger audience.)
In less than two decades, Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population. That’s more than the Black populations of New Orleans and Atlanta , and equal to the Black population of Manhattan, New York City. And, it’s happening all over the country, because Black removal from the cities is the national policy of both corporate parties.
The grand plan is to dilute the Black presence, to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, leaving the cities to affluent whites and rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban centers.
“Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population.”
Black politics is in an existential crisis. This state of affairs has come about, not because Black people failed to vote or to exercise political agency, but because they followed the lead of a grasping and self-centered Black misleadership class that is hopelessly entangled with the Democratic Party and its Wall Street and Silicon Valley funders—the same forces that seek to neutralize the Black political presence in the U.S. Barack Obama gave the game away in his address to the Democratic National Convention, in 2004: “There is no Black America…there is only the United States of America.” But most Black people failed to understand his meaning.
However, the folks that formed the Black Is Back Coalition, in 2009, had heard Obama, loud and clear. There is little time left to preserve Black majorities in Baltimore, Birmingham, Detroit, Cleveland, Savannah and Newark (it’s has already been lost in Washington, DC, and will soon slip away in Atlanta), or to maintain strong pluralities in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Norfolk.
Black people can only maintain a powerful and secure presence in the cities through a vibrant, independent, self-determinationist politics. Otherwise, Black dispersal will proceed along its bloody, maddening course, and at a quickening pace.
That’s why the Black is Back Coalition is holding an Electoral School, April 7 to 9 , in St. Louis, Missouri (which lost its slim Black majority in this century). The Coalition is guided by a 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination, a document that addresses virtually every issue confronting Black people. Below are four points that are particularly relevant to the push-out of Blacks from the cities:
Black Community Control of the Police. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.
Roll Back and End Mass Black Incarceration. The U.S. mass Black incarceration regime is designed to contain, terrorize and criminalize an entire people, with the result that one out of eight prison inmates on the planet is a Black person in the U.S. As a minimal demand, every U.S. incarcerating authority must take immediate steps to roll back the national prison and jail population to 1972 levels, resulting in the release of 4 out of 5 current inmates in a process overseen by representatives of the imprisoned peoples’ communities––primarily people of color. As a maximum demand, all Africans must be immediately released from U.S. prisons and jails and our community given the democratic right to determine their fate.
Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own communities. No project shall be considered “development” that does not serve the interests of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the Right to Return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.
Right to Free Education through post-graduate level. Public schools must meet the highest standards of excellence, under the supervision of educational boards directly elected by the communities they serve. We oppose both for-profit schooling and philosophies of teaching that put profit over human development, and we support democratic educational values and strategies that empower students and their communities to determine their own destinies. In the immediate term, Black people in the U.S. need education that facilitates our liberation from white supremacy and corporate hegemony.
Make arrangements to attend the Black Is Back Coalition Electoral School. It’s a lot later than you think.Post Views: 757
By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
In my Freedom’s Journal columns on February 24 and March 3 here in The Philadelphia Tribune, I exposed the lies about President George Washington’s supposed wooden teeth and Thomas Jefferson’s supposed innocently romantic love affair with Sally Hemings.
Washington’s teeth were actually yanked from the mouths of our enslaved ancestors and Jefferson actually raped Sally repeatedly while she was just a child.
In response to both columns, white racists went certifiably crazy (I mean crazier) and denied and yelled and screamed and hollered and insulted. They also trolled on social media. Unfortunately for them, they’re gonna need a straight-jacket after reading this.
This week’s topic is about the twelve United States presidents who enslaved Black men, women, boys, and girls. And before you crazy racists start talking nonsense about those so-called “great” patriots simply being “men of their times,” you need to know that the anti-slavery movement amongst good white folks began in the 1730s and spread throughout the Thirteen Colonies as a result of the abolitionist activities during the First Great Awakening, which was early America’s Christian revival movement. Furthermore, the anti-slavery gospel of the Second Great Awakening was all over the nation from around 1790 through the 1850s.
America is and always has been a Christian country, right? Therefore, if the Christian revivalists weren’t men (and women) of that slaveholding time, why weren’t those twelve presidents who led this Christian country?
Beyond the religious abolitionist movement, the secular abolitionist movement was in full effect in the 1830s, thanks to the likes of the great newspaper publisher William Lloyd Garrison. Presidents knew how to read, right?
By the way, John Adams, the second president (from 1797-1801) and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president (from 1825-1829), never enslaved anybody. And they certainly were men of their times. Maybe they knew slavery was, is, and forever will be evil and inhumane.
Here are the evil and inhumane 12 slaveholding presidents listed from bad to worse to worst:
12. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, enslaved 1 but not during his presidency. By the way, that 1 escaped.
11. Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth president, enslaved 5 but not during his presidency. In office from 1869-1877, he was the last slaveholding president.
10. Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president, enslaved 8 but not during his presidency. However, when he was Military Governor of Tennessee, he persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to remove that state from those subject to “Honest Abe’s” Emancipation Proclamation.
9. William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, enslaved 11 but not during his presidency. However, as Governor of the Indiana Territory, he petitioned Congress to make slavery legal there. Fortunately, he was unsuccessful.
8. James K. Polk, the eleventh president, enslaved 25 and held many of them during his presidency. He also stole much of Mexico from the Mexicans during the 1846-1848 war in which those Brown people were robbed of California and almost all of today’s Southwest.
7. John Tyler, the tenth president, enslaved 70 and held many of them during his presidency. He was a states’ rights bigot and a jingoist flag-waver who robbed Mexico of Texas in 1845.
6. James Monroe, the fifth president, enslaved 75 and held many of them during his presidency. He hated Blacks so much that he wanted them sent back to Africa. That’s why he supported the racist American Colonization Society, robbed West Africans of a large piece of coastal land in 1821, and created a colony that later became Liberia. The Liberian state of Monrovia is named after that racist thug.
5. James Madison, the fourth president, enslaved approximately 100-125 and did so during his presidency. He’s the very same guy who proposed the Constitution’s Three-Fifths Clause.
4. Zachary Taylor, the twelfth president, enslaved approximately 150 and held many of them during his presidency. During his run for president in 1849, he campaigned on and bragged about his wholesale slaughter of Brown people when he was a Major General in the Mexican-American War. And white folks in America elected him.
3. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, enslaved 150-200 and held many of them during his presidency. By the way, Jackson, nicknamed “Indian Killer”- whom fake President Donald Trump describes as his all-time favorite- wasn’t just a brutal slaveholder. He was also a genocidal monster who was responsible for the slaughter of approximately 30,000-50,000 Red men, women, and children. Moreover, he signed the horrific Indian Removal Act of 1830 that robbed the indigenous people of 25 million acres of fertile land and doomed them and their descendants to reservation ghettos.
2. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, enslaved 267 and held many of them during his presidency. For more info about this child rapist, read my March 3 column
1. George Washington, the first president, enslaved 316 and held many of them during his presidency. For more info about the man whose teeth were “yanked from the heads of his slaves,” read my February 24 column.Post Views: 813
By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
By Zack Linly
As reports of police overreach and brutality in the black community become more and more commonplace in mainstream news, many black people are feeling a strange combination of frustration and relief — relief because the shootings of unarmed citizens have become part of a national discussion, but frustration because, time and time again, we hear the same dismissive and deflective responses from white America:
“There must be more to the story.”
“If you people would just do what you’re told.”
“Cops have a hard job.”
“White people get shot too.”
“He was just another thug. Good riddance!”
“Why do you people make everything about race?”
“What about black on black crime?”
“All lives matter.”
I’ve grown too disillusioned to be relieved and too numb to be frustrated. I’m just tired.
I’m tired from sacrificing millions of once healthy brain cells reading through the comment sections of race-based web articles — thread after thread, chock-full of black folks trying to navigate oblivious whiteness. At some point, we really need to ask ourselves: Why even bother?
Why are we losing solid hours out of our day, wearing our fingertips numb on keyboards and touch screens in an attempt to explain to some dense dude-bro why “All lives matter” is a messed up and functionally redundant response to “Black lives matter”?
We’ve spelled it out for white America a hundred different ways that their beloved police forces are full of officers who are simply more volatile, fearful and prone to harassment and abuse of power when dealing with us — and it’s costing us our lives. We’ve laid out all the statistics and all of our millions of personal testimonies. We’ve made it clear that even though the subject of police brutality, as a sensationalized national discussion covered by mainstream media, is a relatively new phenomenon, it is an issue as old as our involuntary occupation of this country. With all of this information readily available and reiterated constantly, it’s beyond ridiculous that the simple words “black lives matter” require any added explanation at all. And yet, here we are coming up with a dozen analogies trying to, even further, simplify it.
“Hey man, you wouldn’t go to a cancer rally shouting ‘All diseases matter,’ would ya?”
“Hey Scottie, ‘Save the rain forest’ doesn’t mean ‘Kill all the other forests.’ ”
“Hey Kip, when a house is burning, you don’t turn the fire hose on some non-burning house because #AllHousesMatter.”
Can we please stop?
We need to stop acting like white people don’t take the same reading comprehension portions of standardized tests all through middle and high school that we do. They know how analogies work. They got it the first time — they just didn’t care.
If they really considered the affirmation of one life mattering to be a denial of the same for all others, then they would consider “Blue Lives Matter” to be just as offensive as “Black Lives Matter.” But they don’t.
Not only are they unoffended by #BlueLivesMatter, but they consider any concession or policy change aimed at countering black vulnerability to be unearned special treatment — while they actively advocate giving police officers protected class status, oblivious to the fact that they already have it.
Only, I’m not sure they’re legitimately oblivious. They know damn well there isn’t a state, city or county in this country where the penalties for crimes committed against cops aren’t a hell of a lot steeper than they are for civilians. They know they don’t need a protest, riot or hash tag to ensure that thorough investigations will be done to bring cop killers to justice. They’re not worried about dead cops being put on trial for their own murders. They’re not worried about a not guilty verdict for the murderers of police officers or even a reluctance to bring charges. No one’s looking into a dead cop’s record, fishing for reasons to justify his or her demise. They know that cops have the delusional admiration of the vast majority of (white) America in their corner.
So how could anyone possibly believe that we, as a society and as a system, don’t already do everything in our collective powers to ensure that value be placed on police lives?
Could it be that white people actually aren’t as concerned with supporting the police as they are in maintaining a counter-narrative to black complaints about racist police misconduct? Could it be that their counter-narratives to race issues in general are largely disingenuous and, often, just plain spiteful?
Could it be, and I’m just spit-balling here, but could it be that white folks are … completely full of it?
This is why I submit that black people should simply disengage with white America in discussions about race altogether. Let them have their little Klan-esque chats in the Yahoo and USA Today comment sections. We need to stop arguing with them because, in the end, they aren’t invested like we are. They aren’t paying attention to these stories out of fear for their lives and the lives of their children and spouses; they are only tuned in out of black and brown contempt. This is trivial to them, a contest to see who can be the most smug, condescending and dismissive. When black people debate these issues, we do so passionately — not always articulately, and often without a whole lot of depth to our arguments — but we always come from a place of genuine frustration, outrage and fear. When most white people debate the very same issues from an opposing stance, they do so from a place of perpetual obtuseness and indifference. Their arguments always seem to boil down to “If it isn’t my experience, it couldn’t possibly be yours.” Even “well meaning” white folks tend to center themselves in the discussion
(#NotAllWhitePeople #IDontSeeColor). Yes, there are plenty of white people who aren’t racist, who think shouting “Blue Lives Matter” is wrong, who truly do wish things would change. But the fact is, they figuratively and literally have no skin in the game.
I understand that white people are mad. They’ve gone their whole lives being the default for social and cultural normalcy and never really had to think critically about race at all. Now a black first lady addresses the nation, and she talks about slavery. Now social media identifies and challenges their micro-aggressions. They’re getting the tint snatched off of their rose-colored glasses; that “Shining City on the Hill” they know as America is starting to lose some of its gloss. And they ain’t here for that — but we are.
When Beyoncé released the video for “Formation,” featuring a black kid in a hoodie, a “hands up, don’t shoot” banner and a sinking police car — then performed the song while paying homage to the Black Panther Party smack in the face of white America during the Super Bowl halftime show — she provided us with a bottomless open bar of white tears. But instead of getting good and drunk like we should’ve, too many of us were arguing with white folks about why nothing she did was racist, “reverse racist” or anti-cop. We should’ve just taken the win and left the field.
During the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump plagiarized a chunk of a Michelle Obama speech. And a lot of you were out here arguing with Trump supporters and other assorted delusional white folks who had the audacity to claim there was never any plagiarism at all. What you should’ve been doing was joining me, Jesse Williams and our beloved Black Twitter in intentionally misattributing black quotes to Mrs. Trump because it was fun.
I had a field day:
“Until you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna crumble” – Melania Trump
“When he f— me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cuz I slay” – Melania Trump
If Colin Kaepernik’s decision to stand against social injustice by sitting during the National Anthem has shown us anything else, it’s that much of white America is more bothered by our methods of protest than they ever will be about the injustices we’re protesting. Let’s dispel the notion that if we only protested better, white people will miraculously become more receptive of our message and less scornful of our audacity in speaking out.
The fact is, we can fight systemic racism without white validation. We can continue shutting down bridges and highways every time there’s a new Alton Sterling, Philando Castile or Korryn Gaines in the news and let white folks complain about the intrusion on their lives. We can continue moving our black dollars into black banks and keeping our money in our businesses and communities. We don’t need them to “get it” for us to keep fighting.
And likewise, white people who truly want to be allies can find their path to ally-ship without black validation and without us having to take time out of our days to educate them. They can find their own curriculum and figure out for themselves how they can do their part in fighting the good fight. And they can do it without the promise of black praise. And, I’m not about to keep checking to see if they’re doing that much. Because it’s not my job – and it’s not yours, either.
Black people, it is long past time for us to start practicing self-care. And if that means completely disengaging with white America altogether, then so be it.Post Views: 1,045