Tag: featured

mirror tom

Uncle Toms are the greatest threat to black America. In 2017 Uncle Tom might take the form of Dr. Dre on Monday, T.D Jakes on Tuesday, Future on Thursday and morph into Very Smart Brothas by week’s end. Even I, the writer, am guilty. In his autobiography Malcolm X indicated that he could stomach a conservative racist more than an Uncle Tom. Malcolm understood the danger. If black people are to achieve true revolution and freedom, we must eliminate Tom, wherever he might be found.

The trouble in 2017 is that we don’t understand what makes one an Uncle Tom and we resist the notion that each of us, woke as we believe ourselves to be, have some Uncle Tom in us. Again, I myself am not exempt.

The Uncle Tom, for our purpose, is any person who identifies as black but actively or passively undermines black power; black power= black freedom and self determination. This can be momentary or a permanent condition, for some. Holding conservative views does not make one an Uncle Tom. Having liberal views –which I do– does not make one aligned with black power, either. In fact, the most dangerous Uncle Toms in 2017 happen to be liberals/Democrats. The danger we pose is that we think ourselves woke because of our liberalism. When our lives are misaligned with the ideals of black power and independence, however, we have to be convinced that we are in fact Uncle Toms.

By virtue of American citizenship all black people wrestle with some level of internal Tom. Indeed, it is often a necessary evil for survival. In the 1940’s it may have been necessary to buy from white folks to literally escape death. Survival. In today’s world Van Jones went from basically condemning Trump voters on election night as bigots to now traveling the country, holding town halls with Trump supporters to explore their “viewpoints.” Again, survival. But black power is beyond survival and to attain it we must be mature enough to reflect on our level of Uncle Tom and work to kill that son of a bitch. Are you bold enough to join this collective journey and identify which variety of Tom lives in you?

The Religious Uncle Tom

Bishop T.D Jakes has shined brighter than most preachers for years. His books and sermons have reached millions. Still, given his tremendous platform, it is fair to ask how it all has furthered the quest for black freedom. The bishop is to be commended for preaching a message of self-healing and empowerment but he is positioned to actually erect or support institutions to help facilitate that empowerment. Based on the ministries his church website promotes, this is not the case. Further, sermons are fine but black people need his voice to confront the many crises we face on a more consistent basis.

Yes, his ministry helps ex-offenders and needy people but because the Bishop has been given much, more is required. Some might say his role as a preacher is simply to inspire individuals, who then will minister to society. That argument is tempting but disarmed when the history of the black church is considered. The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church is the oldest denomination founded by black people in America, back in 1816. They preached the word but also built colleges like Wilberforce University and by 1880, operated over 2,000 schools. In an era of strict segregation, their congregations raised the money needed to keep those schools operational.

In a time when black people literally risked death for speaking out on social issues, AME bishops like Henry Mcneal Turner were fearless in the political arena. From the dangerous terrain of central Georgia, Turner successfully ran for the state legislature and used his voice as a trumpet for justice. Jakes, on the other hand, speaks loudly on prosperity but historically has been mute on topics of black oppression. He plays it safe, not wanting to alienate supporters. Turner risked his life to speak out but Jakes appears apprehensive about losing offerings or influence. After all, he never would have gotten a talk show had he gone all Jeremiah Wright.

The religious Uncle Tom is dangerous and I have been him. My thoughts were of heaven and developing the self toward godliness. In that state I chose to downplay social issues, having been taught that if we all just stopped sinning everything would be fine. I knew oppression existed but again, I was told that it was the result of sin. I saw racism but rather than call it out, I was taught that we should focus on –you guessed it– the sinful nature. I was told that it was godly to bring people together rather than directly rebuke those who oppress others. Those who taught me seemed unaware that it was Jesus who said that he did “not come to bring peace but a sword.” As we looked to the sky in our piety, we failed to see the urgency on planet earth.

I prayed often but the ills of the world persisted. At times I even tried to feed the hungry but never evolved to the understanding of Archbishop Hélder Câmara, who said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” The religious institutions I belonged to played it safe. Feeding hungry people earned our nonprofit a grant. Speaking against those who oppress the poor and building institutions that promote power, however, might lose offerings and friends. Our nonprofits ultimately rendered us “non-prophets.”

Some of our churches can raise a nice offering. In fact, the black church is one of the few institutions that successfully pools the capital of black people. Those dollars, however, go toward maintaining facilities and the work of the “ministry.” We can’t seem to connect the dots. Our community faces crises in employment and resources and yet, the church’s successful pooling of black capital never results in job creation or combatting the deep disparities our communities face. The church building remains in tact, however, as the neighborhood crumbles. We believe we are doing the Lord’s work but in fact, we hinder the progress of black people.

Black churches have not the luxury to exist as other churches do. No other group in America had to emerge from the depths of chattel slavery, live under neo slavery/Jim Crow and seek equality in the face of constant harassment, void of meaningful reparations. The urgency, focus and commitment required to overcome this legacy leaves no room for passivity. Here are a few tangible ways to take action as a faith community:

  1. Use money collected from members to start a fund to support local entrepreneurs and black institutions, such as your closest HBCU.
  2. Deposit church funds into a black owned bank.
  3. Use the pulpit and church communications to direct members to business owners in the congregation and the community.
  4. Require candidates for public office to articulate their plan for black empowerment through economic development prior to giving them a platform at your church.
  5. Use the pulpit to rebuke policies and policymakers that hinder black freedom, especially locally.

To kill Tom must be a daily fight and it is difficult. On the other side of that fight, however, is a world where black people are free, independent and collectively walk in power. Religion can serve the aim of liberation or pacify both the oppressed and the powerful.

Stay tuned for the next installment on “The Hood Uncle Tom”

 

In this image released by HBO, host Bill Maher, left, appears with actor-rapper Ice Cube during a broadcast of "Real Time with Bill Maher," on Friday, June 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Janet Van Ham/HBO via AP) ORG XMIT: NYET663

After “niggergate” last week, Bill Maher did little on his show this past Friday to convince me that he learned anything. I saw Maher, a political commentator, try to hide under the shield of comedy and throw himself on the altar of, “I made one mistake.” Maher never wrestled with the simple truth that white supremacy and indifference to black suffering are the American norm and that is what brought about this whole thing.

It matters. The world is not a dangerous place for black people because the Klan patrols the streets of our cities. The world is dangerous because although black suffering exists, from the White House to the trailer parks of America, there are too few human responses of compassion. Policymakers have shown the ability to respond to white opioid users in their suffering and they should. Yet black people suffering with addiction are met with law and order. Indifference is dangerous.

I never see (non-Jewish) comedians dare try or get away with Holocaust jokes. I haven’t seen anyone bold enough to joke about 9/11. Yet slavery, somehow, is a subject for white liberals to joke about. How, Sway? It is understood that the suffering of 9/11 and the Holocaust are no laughing matters but Maher was quite comfortable invoking references of house slaves in his attempt at humor last week. The use of the n-word was an obvious offense but the reference to slavery in the most casual and irreverent manner is, on its own, deeply offensive. How is it that the death of millions during the Middle Passage, the raping of women and children, the decimation of families and untold horror over centuries are laughing matters? Only when those who suffer are black.

As I watched this week’s show, it was clear that Maher doesn’t think he, like most Americans, suffers from some deeper condition. Maher continued to insist on this week’s show that he made one mistake, one bad joke and that not rooted in any racist sentiment. I’m sure most members of Congress and state legislatures honestly believe they hold no racial animus either but their indifference to black suffering still yields policies that often have a disparate, if not targeted impact on black communities. From the War on Drugs to the disparities in funding HBCUs receive, many lawmakers who think themselves well intentioned do actual harm to black people. Maher seems unable to connect his actions to this larger machinery of white supremacy and that is unfortunate. That Maher is a liberal, one of the “good guys,” is frightening.

Symone Sanders and Michael Eric Dyson made the point on this week’s Real Time show that slaves in the house were also subject to terror. Still, the message that slavery along with the n-word are off limits was not pressed. Further, Dyson challenged his friend (Maher) to see how his actions as a “good guy” speak to the danger in the world that exists but did not press the matter, choosing rather to highlight some mythical record Maher has fighting for black liberation. Perhaps Dyson did not want to eternally wound a friend or perhaps he sensed Maher’s unwillingness to do more than navigate the bad PR from last week. Who knows? I only know Maher seemed agitated when his guests tried to delve into the matter, repeatedly throwing up his wonderful liberal credentials.

Maher blew it. It is clear he simply wanted the matter to be over, the storm to pass. Maher probably believes in his heart that he is truly one of the good guys and that any energy spent correcting his “one mistake” or other white liberals is better spent on the really bad people in the world. Then again, if my roommate showed signs that he was capable of harming me, I’d probably pay more attention to him than the “n-word” down the block.

 

freedom logo

How many paper towels did you use this month? How many of those paper towels created jobs for black people? If we want different results, we have to take different actions. Once again, Freedom Paper Company is a black owned firm that produces paper products, including paper towels. If you care about ending black unemployment, it’s time to do your part and make the switch.

We can end black unemployment, as I’ve discussed previously. The key is simply identifying one product or service each month that you already use and finding a black owned company to fill that need permanently. I don’t know anyone who doespaper towels not use paper towels. You spill some water: paper towel. You drop an egg on the floor: paper towel. You want to wipe off the countertop: paper towel. You get the point. We already buy paper towels and we will continue to. Why not switch to a great product that gets us closer to our goals as a people?

Would you like to stretch your dollar? Buy the Freedom Super Jumbo Roll. One case should last an entire year. While most competitors sell 78 sheets per roll, the Super Jumbo Roll has 210. You could pay .022 center per sheet but with Freedom Paper, your cost is .013 cents per sheet. Click here to make a purchase now. Freedom is the company name and the promise.

 

 

lavar ball

The modern-day Uncle Tom doesn’t necessarily vote conservative. Tommy in 2017 has reinvented himself as a Lavar Ball hater. Rather than take massa’s crumbs in the form of a shoe endorsement deal, the Ball family opted for true ownership and decided to build their own shoe brand, the Big Baller Brand (Triple B). Rather than say “hell yeah!” the fraternity of Phi-Tom-Phi is determined to tear down Triple B. I suppose it’s more comfortable to stay in the house than do the work to liberate yourself. While I do not expect many Uncle Toms to join our pursuit of black power, I do ask that they keep quiet as we leave the plantation.

Lavar Ball is trying to teach us a lesson. You may not love his delivery but I urge you to stop fighting the messenger and listen to the actual message. What has always been isn’t necessarily better than what could be. Athletes have, for generations, fought to capitalize more on the economic value which they create. LeBron James is better compensated than Magic Johnson was during his playing days for that reason. Still, star athletes have yet to fully capitalize on the value of their brands, allowing Nike and others to reap the benefits and that is the point: why shouldn’t they reap more from their value? More importantly, in a league that is majority-black, why do NBA players consistently benefit less from their brands than their branders? We as consumers are part of the problem.

Branding is everything. A product or service sells, in large part, due to the strength of its brand. Is Tide empirically better than True detergent? No but you trust the brand, having never done an actual scientific experiment to validate its claims. One product will actually make a huge impact on black unemployment and the other clearly does not, that much we know. Still, far too many black people are comfortable on the Tide plantation, consequences be damned. The brand only maintains its strength because we decide to give our strength to uphold it. In the same way, if we decide to pay $200 for a pair of shoes it’s worth $200. There is no law of nature behind it, simply our consent. In a world where black people live in a constant state of rage, it is beyond comprehension that we continue to give our consent to everything that maintains the status quo. That is what Lavar Ball is challenging.

Are you an “Uncle Tom” because you choose not to buy Triple B products? Not at all. There are any number of reasons as to why someone would or would not buy the millions of products offered to them. What determines your level of internal Tom is the approach taken as a consumer. Do you approach Triple B looking for a reason to support or seeking reasons not to? That is the critical question. This discussion is much larger than Lavar Ball. Whether the topic is banking black or buying laundry detergent from a black owned company, your approach is everything. The modern-day Uncle Tom will always seek reasons not to empower their own community and by doing so, continues to support their oppression. Ask yourself, how much Tom is in you?

 

**No one can oppress you unless you give them the money to do so**

gtown

If Michael Jordan scored ten points in a game during his prime, we’d be disappointed. If his teammate Dennis Rodman scored ten, we’d be impressed. The difference is expectations. We expected so little of Rodman, as we do white people on issues of race. Georgetown University is now an anomaly and trailblazer in academia, after the school recently apologized for its role in slavery. The University renamed two buildings after slaves and will now give preference in admissions to descendants of the 272 slaves the school sold in 1838 to settle its debts. It pains me to criticize the university in any way –sincerely– because their actions are lightyears ahead of other institutions. But that just shows how little white folks have to do in order to impress us.

Georgetown University owes its existence to plantations the Jesuits operated –in the name of Jesus, I’m sure– to finance operations and the 272 slaves sold in 1838 to settle the school’s debts at that time. There is no way to erase these offenses. The hope is for some meaningful form of repair toward the untold damage done and that is not what Georgetown has offered. Renaming buildings does not repair the damage done. Giving preference in admissions is cute but the children and grandchildren of Georgetown alumni already receive that perk. Indeed, to receive in 2017 what those who (largely) benefitted from the system of slavery have received for generations is not a radical effort at repair. Still, the most important lesson in this ordeal has largely been overlooked.

Georgetown fails to understand that slavery was a system, not an individual circumstance. That system impacted all black people and their descendants, not just the 272 sold in 1838. Georgetown could only benefit from the sale of those 272 slaves because it participated in a system that made all black people subject to a similar fate. To solely acknowledge the harm done to the descendants of those 272 slaves is tantamount to planting an atomic bomb in one home and refusing to acknowledge the damage done to the entire city which that bomb decimated. It is to deny benefiting from the other slaves that worked the Jesuit plantations that financed the school and the system of slavery as a whole. The life outcomes of the 273rd slave cannot be divorced from the 272 acknowledged by the University.

Even the best known attempts at reparations in the American context are laughable, at best. This is merely the latest chapter in a larger story. But Georgetown is at least pursuing some substantive efforts toward atonement and that makes the institution rare. I want to praise them and perhaps should, but I am conflicted. If I criticize the University, well-meaning whites will undoubtedly be frustrated. They will think, understandably, that any attempt at repair –rare as it may be– is not rewarded but scorned. So why bother? If I praise the University, however, I signal that such paltry efforts at repair satisfy the requirements of true justice. That is one hell of a quandary to live in and yet one more burden black people are asked to carry.

Ultimately we must come to accept, as a nation, that the legacy of slavery is far more dramatic than we have acknowledged. Many have just now begun to understand that academia is yet another staple of American greatness that owes its existence also to slavery. We fail to grasp how deeply our banking, manufacturing and various other sectors are rooted in slavery. More troubling, we fail to discern how damaging its impact was for people of color, even to the present day. Our view is further distorted when we consider the tremendous progress black people have made in this country. It is because we fail to discern the true depth of it all that we struggle to approach repair in a meaningful way. For the sake of survival, black people cannot wait for others to understand. Black power requires committed action, even when others refuse to render justice.

moonlight-19405x

It was not strange to work under white people ten years my senior when I was 18. Around 30, however, I was enraged that I routinely interviewed to work under people who were slightly younger –or the same age– and less credentialed. The moment you realize your graduate degree is no match for your boss’s B.A. in music, you begin to question how “post-racial” we are. Joi McMillon, a black woman, knew very well the rage that stems from seeing whites with less qualifications advance while she did not. She was told she lacked the right experience while her less qualified white peers were advancing. But Joi will not experience that rage again. She is a film editor who made history with her Oscars nomination for her work on Moonlight; a film based on the writing of two black men, directed by a black man with a black cast. The self determination of black people ended Joi’s frustration, not the benevolence of whites.

In a world where discrimination and disparities abound, it is critical that black people create our own opportunities and support those endeavors as a community. Joi was nominated for an academy award precisely because of such an endeavor. Sean Combs became a music mogul only because Uptown Records, a company founded by a black man, gave the young college dropout the opportunity to become a talent director. It is doubtful that Combs would have been given the same opportunity at another major label. In the same way, Moonlight is a work of black self determination which afforded McMillon the opportunity to finally move up from “first assistant editor” into the editor’s role. The quality of her work is obvious, for even the Academy had to give her a nod. McMillon never lacked talent but simply opportunity, in a white male-dominated film industry. Rather than waiting for acknowledgment from benevolent white people, the creators of Moonlight created an opportunity for Joi.

Moonlight’s excellence led to their infamously delayed Oscars award. That mixup was far less controversial than Jada Pinkett-Smith igniting the #OscarsSoWhite firestorm. While several have opined that Pinkett-Smith’s motives may not have been pure (oddly, Denzel failed to take home an Oscar this year and Jada raised no fuss), we should not discount what Jada actually said when she told the world, “Maybe it is time…we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways we see fit.” Also, “Begging for acknowledgement or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power.” Moonlight fulfills much of Jada’s sentiments. We should appreciate that the Academy (after some delay) awarded Moonlight best picture but only celebrating that misses the larger significance of the film. Moonlight gives us yet another model of what we should all be striving toward in every industry. In a world in which even black people with a college degree are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than our non-black peers, we need strong black institutions and creative ventures, brought about by our own self-determination.

There is only one thing that could have made Moonlight even more triumphant and that is if the movie was also financed by our community. By no fault of their own, the creators of the film had to seek financing from outside of our community and thankfully, they found it through A24, an Indie distributor. Still, we must continue striving to attain that next level of independence and power and that is to self finance our own ventures. As we support our own, that will happen. Joi had her day but now let us continue investing in our community to create opportunity for millions more. HopewellThought will continue our campaign each month to help get you started.

**No One Can Oppress You Unless You Give Them The Money To Do So**

trumpprotest

President Obama accomplished a great deal but not as much as he should have. One critical component was missing from Obama’s presidency: you. Us, to be more precise. We failed to raise hell and broadcast Obama’s shortcomings, in the same way we call attention to Trump’s missteps. We look for opportunities to jab the “other” side and hold them accountable but when our side falls short, we are dangerously silent. This would be a different country if progressives at large and black people in particular had sought out opportunities to correct Obama in the same way we now seek confrontation with Trump. Had that energy, fire and protest existed the last eight years, America–and especially black America–might have been made great again.

The phone lines are jammed at the offices of several senators because many are fighting to block Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education. But where was the outrage when Obama appointed a friend of Wall Street to head the FBI, all but guaranteeing that no one responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 would be prosecuted? We scream in terror when considering what a Trump presidency will mean for “the blacks” economically but said not a word when the Obama administration closed all five regional Offices of the Minority Business Development Agency. Those offices existed to help minority-owned businesses in their region navigate the federal contracting landscape and become more competitive but to save $30 million, they were sacrificed and we said nothing. I guess it was because Obama was on our side of the aisle. 

I am no fan of George W. Bush but he did more to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa than any President had before. Obama threatened that progress when he cut funds from a highly effective program aimed at combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis on the continent. Once again, we were silent. It is especially disappointing that people of African descent (like the author) raised no hell in response to this. Is it possible that we would have given “W” a pass if he’d done the same? Not likely. He’s a Republican, after all and we apparently think that being an engaged citizen means only protesting when the other side is in power. This brand of selective civic participation limited the prospects for “Hope and Change.” We had the opportunity of a lifetime and we failed to maximize it, choosing instead to blindly root for our team.

It is without question that Obama was hindered by a Republican opposition determined to see him fail. I would also argue, however, that a base of supporters unwilling to protest its own leadership is also a hindrance. Do we honestly believe that the same vigor in protest and democratic muscle we have shown thus far toward Trump, if pointed toward Obama for eight years, would not have produced better results? Black and white, Democrat and Republican, we are all guilty. We cheer for our team and remain silent when it fails to live up to its ideals. We watch the other side like hawks, hoping for any misstep. Perhaps if we gave the same hawkish glare to all power structures we would have a more perfect union.

black man working

I refuse to see another jobless black person and do nothing about it. You are free to waste time, asking whether black people want to work or join me in creating opportunities for us to work. It will not come from new gun control legislation or a politician. We don’t need the White House or a new program. All we need is for us as black people to love ourselves enough to choose us. 2017 is a year of action and this is a twelve month blueprint. Change your mind and black unemployment ends this year.

Since records have been kept, black people have been unemployed at twice the rate of whites but this year we can change that. The problem is not hard to solve in theory but it requires black people to accept that no one is coming to save us. It requires a commitment to ourselves, unless you believe Trump has a better plan.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2015 there were roughly 1.8 million unemployed blacks in America seeking work. A simple FactFinder search reveals that there are actually over 2 million Black-owned businesses in the country. This means that if every black-owned firm hired just one black person (black companies are more likely to hire black people), black unemployment would no longer exist. Black companies cannot hire unless they have a need for more workers. They will only need more workers if they have more customers. We must become those customers and this blueprint will show you how.

The 12 Month Blueprint

Buying black can seem overwhelming but this blueprint makes it easy; you don’t even have to change your shopping habits overnight. My system is to simply identify ONE product or service each month–one you already buy–and find a black-owned company to fill that need going forward. It’s that simple. This system works because it does not require you to buy things you don’t want or need for the sake of “buying black.” You are only identifying purchases which you already make on a recurring basis and that is what will make you a reliable customer to a black business going forward. Beginning this month, we will shift billions into our community and create jobs for every person who desires to work, one product at a time. Let me help you get started.

The easiest way to begin shifting our buying habits is through household products such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, paper towels and the like–items we frequently buy. Beginning with this post, I will write an article each month featuring one household product from a black-owned business. The featured posts will include product information and new discount codes! All you need to do is read the new post each month to view the product and any new discount codes then click, buy and share. It’s really that easy (subscribing to this blog will help you follow along). As we take this journey together in 2017, the hope is that each month we will not only try the newly featured product of the month but also continue buying previously featured products going forward. We will create jobs one product at a time.

What if you try but don’t like the featured product of the month? There are still 30 days in a month for you to find another product or service–one you purchase on a recurring basis–from a black business and buy it. If you find yourself in that situation, try WeBuyBlack.com, Tuloko.com, Spendefy.com, BlackBizScope.com or MillionsTwoOne.com to find other products and services. The goal is to make sure each month you identify one product or service you already buy and begin buying it from a black-owned company. As we continue purchasing together, we will help black businesses grow and hire. We will also keep our dollars away from companies that don’t care about us as black people. The choice is ours. Below is this month’s featured product.

True Laundry Detergent

True Detergent is one of the most effective laundry detergents available on the market. True Detergent is 4x concentrated and allows consumers to use less soap. While the leading brands cost consumers an average of .25 cents per load, True comes in at .17 cents! It is void of any caustic ingredients and animal essences, thus making it a truly safe detergent for all types of machines and fabrics and also safe for the whole family. Powerful and economical, its concentrated nature allows users to use less soap for more cleaning power leading to tremendous savings and results. Click here to buy and use the code “HopewellThought” to get FREE SHIPPING, when you buy at least two bottles (of any size) by February 12th.

Looking for a business opportunity? True Products is looking for distributors across the country. This brand is growing fast and now is the perfect time to position yourself to take advantage of that growth. If you would like to actually get paid for supporting a black business, check out the True Products affiliate program.

solange

Donald Trump brought old school back. Explicit bigotry and racial violence are now back on the table, thanks to the Donald. Solange is demanding a seat at that same table, however. Her new album, “A Seat at the Table,” matches the open hostility of Trump’s movement with an equally unapologetic affirmation of blackness and self-determination. Solange is trying to tell us something. She gave us the freedom to feel pain and articulate that but more importantly, lessons to overcome it from an unlikely role model: Master P. This is the light we will follow in the age of “President Donald Trump.”

dr-dre

This conversation isn’t for white America–I’m speaking directly to my brothers. Most of my life I wondered how so many white folks could be apathetic to racism and black suffering. I get it now. Although we as black men are intimately familiar with suffering and oppression, a great number of us manage to be wholly apathetic to (at best) our oppression of black women. Nate Parker’s case highlighted many of the misogynistic tendencies we have learned to normalize but “Surviving Compton” took it to a completely different level. Sure, many whites show little urgency in confronting black oppression but just maybe their apathy parallels that of black men who aren’t all that pressed to fight the mistreatment and abuse of the women right in our line of sight.