Peace and Reconciliation

I attended John Patterson’s memorial service yesterday. John was the President of the Monroe Visitors and Tourism Bureau. He was only 58 and died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  John was my friend. This coming Saturday, my family will be burying my cousin, who also died unexpectedly; he was 63. After that we will bury my cousin’s wife, who also died unexpectedly last week, she was 62. There is so much death and tragedy around us, but as difficult as it is, we must persevere and stay positive. Why sweat the small stuff when we are confronted by life and death issues every day?

On the national and global front, there is a lot happening, much of which is not very positive:

  • Our children are being shot and killed in our schools
  • There are protests and chaos in our streets
  • There is racial unrest
  • Our mothers, sisters, and daughters are saying “never again” and “me too”
  • The political landscape is uncertain and highly volatile
  • Our national debt continues to climb and stock prices are tumbling
  • The war on terror continues with no signs of ending

The world is in trouble but we must continue to keep hope alive! Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed because he espoused peace and reconciliation. A little over 2,000 years ago Jesus died to bring about greater peace and reconciliation.

Are we there yet? No. But progress is being made and we must continue to show love and care for one another to make a better world for all of us.  Let’s stay positive and keep hope and love alive. That is the only way we can bring about greater peace and reconciliation.

 

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The NAACP Stands for Equal Rights and Justice for ALL People

I was featured on the front page of the Tuesday February 20, 2018 Monroe News. The article was titled “Resurgence: Push is on to reactivate the NAACP in Monroe”. Coincidentally, on page 8A of the same edition was another article titled “Diversity Pays: ‘Black Panther’ scratches hunger for inclusivity”.  Some key words common to both articles are “diversity”, “inclusivity”, and “unity”. One article focused on entertainment, the other focused on action, both with a common purpose.

I am writing this article to dispel any notions about the NAACP being an African-American only organization or one that is divisive. To the contrary, the purpose of the NAACP is to unify all people with a common cause. The Monroe News NAACP article states that “…one’s skin color or ethnicity shouldn’t have an impact on whether a person wants to join the organization. The group focuses on civil rights for all people.” Indeed, the NAACP is about ALL people. That is clear in its mission, which is “To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Here are a few salient facts about the NAACP.

The NAACP or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established in 1909 and is America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. It was formed in New York City by white and black activists, partially in response to the ongoing violence against African Americans around the country. In the NAACP’s early decades, its anti-lynching campaign was central to its agenda. During the civil rights era in the 1950s and 1960s, the group won major legal victories, and today the NAACP has more than 2,200 branches and some half a million members worldwide.

Some additional facts:

  • Former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was NAACP’s chief legal counsel who argued and won Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954 – desegregating public schools.
  • Mary White Ovington, a white female was first Board chair, and a white lawyer, Moorfield Storey was its first president; the only black person on the initial leadership team was W.E.B. Du Bois
  • The NAACP successfully lobbied for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, barring racial discrimination in voting,.

Among famous whites who belonged to the NAACP were: Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt served on the NAACP board of directors. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. both belonged to the Montgomery, Ala., NAACP. But as a result of the Montgomery bus boycott, Alabama outlawed the NAACP, and so King and others formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). Unlike the NAACP, which tended to wage its battles in the court, the SCLC emphasized nonviolent direct action.

So for those who are interested in ensuring civil rights, racial justice, non-discrimination, social justice equal rights for all, unity,  and believe that America and Monroe are not where we need to be, this is an opportunity to join other like-minded individuals as we attempt to take our entire community to the next level.

 

On Kindness and Making a Difference

As we bring the celebration of Diversity Week at MCCC to a close. I wanted to share with my readers some excerpts of a talk I gave earlier this week. I was honored and privileged to have been invited again this year to speak at the MLK Day Celebration event at La-Z-Boy headquarters. I was the speaker last year and focused on Dr. King and community service. This year I focused on kindness and making a difference.

I quote and paraphrase parts of my talk below:

“As we observe Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, I encourage all of us to observe it as a day of reflection and a day of service, i.e. “a day on, not a day off”. On campus it is ‘a day off for a week on’”

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

How can you make your corner of the world just a little brighter for other people?

Be kind, care. Here are few quotes about kindness and making a difference

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”-
Mark Twain

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most.” – Ashliiegh Brilliant

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo F. Buscaglia

“Kindness is never wasted. If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower.” – S. H. Simmons

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” – Robert F. Kennedy

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world is and remains immortal. – Albert Pine

“You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” – Jimmy Carter

“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

“Service to others is the rent you pay for living on this planet.” – Marian Wright-Edelman

I provided them with the following advice:

  • Think beyond just you and yours.
  • Find a cause that you so believe in that you are willing to dedicate hands-on time to it.
  • Find organizations that you are willing to support financially and just give.
  • If you have a special talent, share it with others.

I told several stories about kindness and making a difference.  Most of the stories were personal and involved kindness that others had shown toward me.  I then asked them to write down how they were making a difference for others and how they could do more for others. Several individuals reported out to the group.

Special thanks to Sue Vanisacker of La-Z-Boy for inviting me to share my thoughts with them. I truly hope it makes a difference.

 

 

African Immigrants have a Higher Educational Attainment than any Other Group in the U.S.

I was disappointed to hear that our president had referred to Haiti and African countries and their immigrants in unflattering terms. Unfortunately, like many others, he is ignorant (lacks knowledge) of the facts. I see this as a teachable moment for our president and the general public. I write this, not because I am an African immigrant, but primarily because I am an educator who feels compelled to educate the general public about this and set the record straight. Below are a few salient facts about African immigrants and their educational attainment.

I focus here on sub-Saharan Africa, which consists primarily of black African nations, south of the Sahara Desert. This would include countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa, and would exclude countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. My data and facts are from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 ACS. Please feel free to fact check me.  To provide the background context, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans lived in the U.S., accounting for 4 percent of the 43.3 million immigrants in the United States. Sub-Saharan Africans made up 83 percent of the 2.1 million immigrants to the U.S. from Africa, the remainder coming from North Africa. The flow of sub-Saharan Africans consists of skilled professionals, individuals seeking reunification with relatives, and refugees from war-torn countries.

In 2015, 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africans came from Eastern and Western Africa, with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa comprising the top sending countries. Together, these five countries accounted for more than 54 percent of all sub-Saharan Africans in the United States.

Now, to my key point. Again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, sub-Saharan African immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2015, 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population and 31 percent of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians and South Africans were the most highly educated, with 57 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by Kenyans (44 percent), Ghanaians (40 percent), Liberians (32 percent), and Ethiopians (29 percent).

It is important for all of us, in this great nation of immigrants, to be keenly aware of the contributions of our immigrant population. The United States is the greatest country in the world today because of immigrants, and according to a recent SEMCOG report, the state of Michigan will only grow over the next several years because of our immigrant population. Let’s get the facts so we can speak from a position of knowledge and not ignorance.

Hoping for a Better 2018

The year 2017 was an especially difficult year all around the world and for some of us personally. There were earthquakes, devastating hurricanes, refugee crises, and other man-made and natural disasters. The year 2018 has begun with terrible winter weather conditions in the U.S., other man-made and natural disasters around the world, and now mudslides which have claimed so many lives in the United States.

As you read this, please just pause and observe a moment of silence in memory and honor of those who have been affected by these disasters and unfortunate events. Please join me as we keep those impacted by these events in our thoughts and prayers.  While some of these occurrences are unavoidable, I for one, am praying and hoping for a better 2018.

Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way

It always amazes me when people do not realize when they are being discourteous. They may just not know any better. As I interact constantly with adults and kids in the community and the world, you would be surprised at how many really do not know any better. While some of my advice below is meant to be humorous, it is also serious. I encounter these situations daily, and it is irksome. Here are a few tips that I would like to share with you regarding personal courtesy.

  • When asking someone for something, please use the word “please”. This is what we teach our children, unfortunately, some adults have still not learned this.
  • If you do not hear or understand what someone has said, do not say “huh” – instead, please say “excuse me”, or “pardon”.
  • Do not refer to humans as “hey”. “Hey” is for horses, dogs, birds, insects, reptiles…. Just recently in the community, someone called me “hey”. I promptly asked the person, “what did you call me?”, and he/she apologized immediately. Did he/she know better? Yes he/she did, but he/she thought he/she could get away with it.
  • Never, ever, ever, show someone your middle finger as an insult; if want to insult someone, use words. Better still, keep those words to yourself.
  • When sending someone an email, always begin with a salutation such as “Dear Joe”, “Hello Joe”, etc. You may also want to check to see if the person is still alive first, with a statement such as “I hope you are well.” You may skip this only if you are in a back-and-forth conversation.
  • Always say “thank you” when someone does something for you; this includes waiters and waitresses, flight attendants and others.
  • When talking on the phone in a public place, please keep your conversation to a minimum and as private as you can. Most people do not want to hear your mess!
  • It is plain rude to hold an extended phone conversation when you are in the presence of others. Just simply say, “I will call you back.”
  • When at a public place such as a store, and you walk in front of somebody who is looking at items on a shelf, say “excuse me”.
  • Say “excuse me” when you interrupt someone who is speaking; better yet do not interrupt people! That’s just rude!
  • Last but not least, when you pass anybody on campus, please say a simple “hello.” You can try that is public, but some people might think that you are just weird.

Life is about relationships and the nicer and the more courteous we are to others, the better this world will be for all of us. The above advice is of course not meant to be exhaustive, but this is all I could think of at this time.

A Tribute to Charles Silver Wolf and Native American Heritage

Charles Silver Wolf was my friend. He died a couple of months ago and I found that out only earlier this month. He was a Native American/American Indian, and I find it appropriate to write this tribute to him during this Native American Heritage Month of November.

Silver Wolf, as I called him, was a mild mannered individual who had a calm and giving spirit. I met him a few years ago when I joined the Turtle Island Dream Keepers – a Native American Group that meets here at MCCC every month. Silver Wolf would bring me symbolic Native American gifts from time to time and gifted me with a leather bound collector’s edition copy of the book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. The book recounts the struggles encountered by American Indians as their land was being settled between 1860 and 1890. After reading almost half of the book, I was unable to read any further because of the violence perpetrated against American Indian women and children. I just had to stop reading it. He inscribed a note in the book that read, “To Kojo, my friend and brother, Charles Silver Wolf.” He will be missed.

I remember my conversations with Silver Wolf were educational, edifying, and illuminating.  He was a gentle and caring soul and was always willing to impart knowledge in a kind and understanding manner. Silver Wolf was a member of our county-wide Diversity Committee and was always willing to share his thoughts and knowledge in a non-accusatory manner.

As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month this November, we have a display in the hallway of the A Building.  Silver Wolf used to provide the material for that display and decorated it himself every year. We found out of his death when we reached out to him for display material. May his soul rest in peace.  There will be two presentations this week on Native American Heritage here at MCCC, please check our website and email for details.

When I found out he had died, I called his wife, who told me that he had been in ill health for some time and died in his sleep. He asked that no obituary or announcement be printed and was cremated per his wishes.

Silver Wolf is no longer with us physically, but he is with us in spirit as we celebrate his life and legacy and the heritage of Native Americans this month and every month of the year.