23.May – { WHY? } by Tina Ngbare

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WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

Last week marked the 60th Anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. As you can imagine there were a lot of reports, photo essays, op-ed pieces, etc., but one of them completely ruined my Saturday. I mean literally.

There was this >>

60 years after Brown v. Board, inequality in America’s birthplace grows

And then for good measure >> Still Separate and Unequal

After hearing and/or reading these reports, I was angry – literally angry – because I’m struggling to understand why this is still something we haven’t figured out.  We live in a country where everyone from community leaders to pastors to politicians (including our president) and corporate leaders have stated that getting an education is the great American equalizer.   No matter your background or story – getting a good education and working hard is everyones opportunity to chart their own path in life.  So why is it that we as a nation haven’t been able to figure to a way to provide the same educational opportunities to all students regardless of their background (socioeconomic, race, geography, etc.)?  WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.”

– Chief Justice Earl Warren (1954)

And why isn’t this an issue that has bi-partisan support or any at all? We clearly all agree that education is important – so why haven’t any of our politicians made it a priority? Is it because k-12 students are voiceless in our political process? Or is it because they’re intentionally making it difficult for lower income students to compete with their wealthier counterparts (since they have fewer resources yet are held to the same standards)?

I work in the Ed Reform space & even I don’t have the answers. I have no idea how to get to the answers, but this reaffirms for me that so much work still needs to be done. And no matter how frustrating it is at times – this work is too important. Ultimately its about how we level the playing field and set our kids up to succeed. And everyone needs to know / understand how critical it is for us to fix our public education system – not all of it, just the parts that are severly under-resourced.

And no – charter schools are not the answer.

 

21.May { The Relevance of Black Greek Lettered Organizations } – by Tina Ngbare

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A few months ago a BLGO (Black Greek Lettered Organizations) member penned an article for The Grio questioning whether these organizations are still relevant. [Check it out]  I’ll admit that I needed a few moments to ponder myself. As a member of a BGLO – maybe I’m biased. But I also have the ability to separate my feelings from the facts and I was able to pretty quickly identify 3 reasons why the answer is simply -Yes.

1. The measure of our influence is NOT in our popularity, but our impact.

His main point was that he saw a decline in BGLO membership among “prominent” blacks. (I have issues with the phrase ‘prominent blacks, but that’s a rant post for another day.) And I questioned –  Was that ever the goal or was the goal to identify and cultivate leaders within the African-American community? Was the goal to provide African-American students who were minorities facing discrimination and being ostracized on their campuses with a support system while they earned an education? I believe the answer is the latter and that’s what these organizations continue to do.

Don’t judge us by the number of “prominent blacks” we produce (whatever that means), but by the number of students that these organizations have helped make it to their commencement ceremony. Judge us by the number of educational programs, community partnerships, and scholarships we provide. Judge us by our youth mentoring programs, the amount of money we raise for national and international charities, our community service hours, and leadership development programs and NOT by our ability to navigate corporate or public politics. I don’t care if you find members of BGLOs among nationally-recognized black figures – that’s not my measure of success.

2. The BGLOs (specifically the NPHC) is a part of African-American history, culture, and community.

The role that BGLOs have played and continue to play in the African-American community cannot be denied. These organizations maintain a clear link to our community through a solid commitment to community service and are rooted in brother- and/or sisterhood. Maybe the priorities have changed, but the need remains. And maybe – just maybe – our goal is no longer to be a viaduct for black achievement but to remind us to lift as we climb and not forget about the members of the diaspora who still need our help.

Also, the sense of community that these organizations embed in your psyche is insane. And quite frankly, they’re one of the few organizations in the African-American community that does it so intentionally. For members, BGLOs become a support system that allows you the space to grow and learn, and the freedom to mess up.

It’s also your family when you’re far from home. STORY: I live across the country from my family and a few months ago I ended up in the ER. Once my sorority sisters found out, 2 of them drove straight to the hospital after work to spend time with me and make sure I was ok – even after I told them not to worry, they showed up anyway. Another (whom I’d only met once before) came to my home twice a day for a week to give me injections – I have a TERRIBLE needle-phobia. Another brought me food because I was too weak to cook or get anything for myself. Did I mention I’d just moved and had known them for less than 6 months? Do I have family? Yes. Friends? Of course. – But hands down in every city I’ve moved to I’ve found an instant support system in my sorority sisters.

3. Let’s be real – have you asked this same question of Predominantly White Fraternities & Sororities? If not, have a seat.

It seems to me that we’re often over critical of the organizations in minority communities while not offering any alternatives or stepping up to the plate to fill in the perceived gaps. What is it that BGLOs (or the Urban League or INROADS, etc.) are not doing for minorities that our counterparts are?

To that point, BGLOs offer their members something that few minority organizations do well these days – networking.  I work in human resources and I’ll tell you very bluntly we don’t do a great job of supporting each other professionally. BGLOs do this well and support each other professionally through establishing connections, providing career advice, and sometimes coaching while expecting nothing in return.

If you question our relevance, I challenge you to ask yourself if you question the relevance of all organizations similar to us regardless of race affiliation.

I’ll agree with the author that we have a PR issue. We’ve allowed headlines about hazing to overshadow the good (and often hard) work that we do. While I’m not concerned with re-establishing our influence or prominence among black national leaders for PR purposes, I DO think we could afford to spend some concerted time and effort evaluating our strategies moving forward to make sure we’re driving impact in a meaningful and sustainable way in our communities.

And yes we will continue to step. And why shouldn’t we? It’s one of the few pieces of African-American culture that many haven’t been able misappropriate AND its GREAT exercise. I mean really, it does wonders for your abs, legs, and glutes.

-Me

A Proud, Active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. since 2003

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19.May { Ken’s Honest Attempt at Fathering }

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So…In less than a week I leave – and I leave for awhile…away from my family – leaving the two man-cubs behind.  So my approach to fatherhood will have to be different and very creative.  It’s been a couple of years since I was on deployment and they were a lot younger.   They are definitely more cognizant of what’s going on, and major shifts in home life can have a greater affect on them now.  My first attempt to thwart any negativity was to instill some sense of pride in what daddy does – I’m proud to report that it went well, I only hope that it lasts and that they continue to be proud of not only my service – but their mother’s as well.

With technology these days – we should be able to have some sense of closeness, even with being states apart.   My main concern is the disciplinary aspect of bringing up two kings.  I mean…don’t get me wrong they’re great kids – but they are energetic and mischievous lil’ rock head boys.  I’m sure some stern looks via Skype will assist in laying the virtual hammer.

Frequent trips home, and visits for them and mom up to where I’ll be will be a must – the aim is to kill any resentment by having healthy discussions with them – and allowing them to feel, and address the emotion.

Pray for your boy – still aiming to be the dad of the century!

– Kenneth

15.May { Identity }

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It’s a common thing in the black community when discussing ethnicity – to associate and identify with everything other than afrikan…

“I’m mixed with this…I’m part that” – really? – and god forbid the person  is ‘lightskinneded’ – these folks will rarely embrace how everyone else sees them (and no, it’s not that we all see them as extended DeBarge members)

How’s about researching to find out what flows through those veins.  Most of us can only name the continent…Afrika, but seem to forget that there are 53 countries/island nations over there.   I think one of the most interesting points here is that this rarely crosses black american’s minds.  Our whole identity is traced back to whatever state our ancestors were slaves – and that’s a doggone shame.

Our lack of identity is a key factor in our current state.  I encourage you to learn more about self.

– Kenneth

**and if you’re wondering – i’ve been on this search for awhile now – this wasn’t a hypocritical rant…

14.May { Comparison Comshmarison }

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You know what really grinds my gears? – COMPARISON.

Comparing; estimate, measure, or note the similarity or dissimilarity between.

I guess I should narrow this down – human comparison – whether it be physical or based on behavior…human comparison is one of the most unfair, unrealistic things to exist.  Physically speaking, no one can help how they look, or should I say how they look based on genes and not the knife.  To compare yourself to someone and look at yourself as lesser is so unhealthy.  Now it’s another thing to see someone that’s in peak physical condition and use them for motivation to get where you desire – but how you look is how you look and you need to be comfy with self.  Love yourself…and I know that this is the month of May, but I’m not talking about ‘that’.

Now the behavior side is a completely different beast!   The actions of people are based on their personality which is part nurture and part nature.  To think that the socialized views they hold took however many years they have existed to see the world like they do, and cause them to make the decisions they make is astonishing.  It’s even more amazing to think that two people can grow up in the same household and hold completely different views on something, or behave two completely different ways – even though they might have been raised with the same moral standards and views.  With all of that being said – WHY….WHY, WHY WHY would you look at how someone does something – and then begin to compare that to your reality.  Be you – accept you.   Stay true to your convictions without reservation or apology.  The world has enough puppets and sheep.

People can either choose to deal with you – or they can …..not.

Either way – I’m cool….and you know what? You should be too

– Kennethology

12.May { It’s the micro-aggressors }

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So….I was talking to a friend this morning (who shall remain nameless)…and they told me about something that took place over the weekend – a very “micro-aggressive” slight towards some people of color…

If you’re not familiar with the  term – here you go…

micro-aggressions: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward a people group.

What really grinds my gears about this is that the offender often times – doesn’t have a CLUE that they are reinforcing  negative relations.  Kind of like that time that I was at a meeting at work, and my boss called me buckwheat! – in 2014 this happened..the entire room was in shock – more so of the fact that the aggressor had NO clue that he had offended people. – NOW LET ME GET BACK TO LE STORY.

She told me that she had gone to a little shindig with some of her friends, all of them happened to be black…while they were there – a guy comes to the table and says (and this is me paraphrasing)

“You guys are all cool, I have a black friend and I hung out with his family one time and they were cool, and we had a great time…you all remind me of them”

Now mind you – up to this point, he had had no interaction with them , and the only similarity that he could come to is that just like his black friend’s family – they were a group of black people. – nice.  I can only imagine the gathered group of straight-faces at the table (all of which were probably bourgie, considering the source).

I wanted to post this to make some of my readers aware that this behavior is never okay – check your conversation piece and don’t go around offending people with your “black friend” references.

– Kennethology.