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Gender: Male
Hometown: VA
Home country: USA
Current location: VA
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 38,237

Journal Archives

African beats are back, under new management

A new sound is bringing sunny positivity to the charts thanks to the input of African and African-heritage artists. Pop-dance hits with links to Nigeria and Ghana have been enjoying both high placings and longevity – a sign that something significant is taking place.

This phenomenon has acquired a name – Afrobeats – to differentiate the fusion of polished house/R&B production, Jamaican dancehall and African rhythms from the classic big-band Afrobeat purveyed by the likes of Fela Kuti. It is a multifarious scene that encompasses both first-generation British talents and African producers with their increasing ambitions to reach into global markets.

It has been bubbling up for a couple of years, though this month sees releases from two key players – Nigerian star D’Banj’s “Bother You”, the follow-up to his breakthrough UK hit “Oliver Twist”, while “Dangerous Love” features reggae star Sean Paul, though fans will be excited that it is the latest single from a Londoner of Ghanaian descent, Richard Abiona, aka Fuse ODG.

Abiona’s three releases to date have all been sizeable hits – his party-starting debut “Azonto” spread the eponymous Ghanaian dance worldwide via word of mouth and a viral video, then came Top 10 entry “Antenna”, aided by a remix cameo from Wyclef Jean. Finally, “Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)” peaked at No 5 in January of this year, so there are high expectations surrounding his propulsive follow-up. The ease with which a former Fugees star and now Paul have collaborated with Abiona suggest parallels with western sounds, though you do pick up recognisable Afrobeat rhythms.

Much of this is down to Abiona’s varied upbringing. Born in the UK, he went to primary school in Ghana when his parents returned there, but came back aged 11. During this period, he struggled at first to fit in, imbibing high-life groups from his mum and dad’s heritage at home, while hearing So Solid Crew on the radio and getting into US hip-hop. “ constantly hearing being played in the house by my parents,” he explains. “I grew up on hip-hop so that’s had a huge impact on me and still does today. But also just being in the UK and listening to the radio and music here like garage, grime and synth-driven dance music.”


A Tyson (not named Mike) who more young black males should know

I was watching the noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson review the history of electromagnetic power on the fascinating TV series “Cosmos” the other night and got to thinking ... about AAU basketball.

Now, bear with me, please. There is a connection. Sort of.

I wondered how many black kids are aware that Tyson was once one of them: young and black.

If you’re not familiar, Tyson is a very smart man.

He’s the guy who pointed out the scientific implausibilities in the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney hit space opera “Gravity.”

His background is as impressive as it is eclectic.

He was a high school wrestler — in fact, captain of the team while growing up in New York.

In college at Harvard, he was a member of the crew and wrestling teams — and an award-winning dancer (his specialties were ballet, jazz, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom.

He is the winner of NASA’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, and has even appeared as himself in the pages of a Superman comic book.

When he is not hosting network TV series, he serves as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York.

I could go on.


Candomble and Umbanda Declared Not Religions by Brazilian Judge!

According to a decision by a Brazilian judge on April 28, 2014 Candomble and Umbanda are not to be legally considered religions in Brazil anymore. We have entered the 21st century but prejudice and oppression are as alive as they ever were.

Candomble and Umbanda are Afro-Brazilian religions that have been practiced for centuries. In my book Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism I mention that one of the earliest records of related practices date to 1618 when “an informant named Sebastian Beretto reported to the Jesuit priests an African-derived funeral practice of slaughtering animals and using the blood as a sacrifice to ensure passage to heaven.” The religions can be said to have similarities with other Afro-Diasporan religions like Santeria (Lucumi,) there is honoring of the Orixa, sacred drumming, dances, calls and prayers.

This entire legal mess started when a local group tried to have some Youtube videos removed which they considered offensive to their spiritual practices. The videos in question show the power of Christianity over the Afro-Brazilian religion, you can see one here:

The end result was the declaration by Judge Rosa Eugenio de Araujo , reported by O Globo news, “African-Brazilian practices do not constitute religion….they do not contain the necessary traits of a religion namely a basic text ( Koran, Bible, etc.), lack of a hierarchical structure and the absence of a God to be worshiped.” Why does this judge get to decide what is “necessary” for a religion?

Obviously Brazilian worshipers are up in arms and an appeal to the decision is in the works. This is a violation of Human Rights and religious freedoms everywhere. There are many of the world’s religions that do not follow a centralized text. The Bible itself has many different versions, and several different authors. All Afro-Disporan religions are oral traditions. They were passed on in secret by slaves that had been forcibly removed from their families and their homelands. This was the only method they had to preserve their traditions. Now this Judge has the audacity to penalize them again because of their tenacious difference.


Cuomo picks Paterson to head state Democratic Party

Former Gov. David Paterson will take over as chairman of the state Democratic Party, as party leaders from across New York kick off their convention today on Long Island.

Elected lieutenant governor in 2006, Paterson was abruptly elevated to governor in 2008 when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Paterson, who is legally blind, was the state’s first African American governor.

“I am honored to have been asked by Governor Cuomo to lead the New York State Democratic Party as we prepare for an exciting path to victory this November,” Paterson said in a statement.

The announcement was made on the first day of the state Democratic convention, which will kick off at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Long Island Huntington in Suffolk County.

Cuomo, as the top state elected official, is the de facto head of the state Democratic Party. In 2012, he chose Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright to co-chair the party, replacing Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was tapped by Paterson.

Miner and Cuomo's relationship quickly soured, however, and Miner resigned in April. Wright told Newsday this morning that he was also stepping down.

“Governor Paterson is one of New York State’s finest public servants with a lifetime of fighting for a stronger and more progressive State, and there is no one better prepared to lead the State Democratic Party," Cuomo said in a statement. "I am pleased to welcome him on board and look forward to working together with him to strengthen our State and our Party."


How African-American Success Stories Undermine Sympathy for Racial Inequalities

This article is by Clayton Critcher, an assistant professor of marketing, cognitive science, and psychology at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

In his majority opinion that struck down the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Our country has changed,” essentially stating that the 1965 civil rights legislation was outdated. But the recent racist rants of Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy have had some wondering just how far we have actually come.

What these episodes may most clearly illustrate is how difficult it is to gauge the prevalence of racism in modern America. Do Sterling and Bundy reflect a widespread racism that typically resides just outside of the limelight, or does the swiftness with which the NBA and Republican Party distanced themselves from these pariahs reinforce Roberts’ claim?

University of Chicago professor Jane Risen and I, recognizing that the racial climate is difficult to assess, set out to understand what guides people’s beliefs. After all, it matters whether you see modern America as a nation plagued by racism or as one where equal opportunity is real. It affects how you make sense of why racial disparities persist (and thus what, if anything, you think can be done about them).

We found that when non-blacks were exposed to African-American success stories—tales of those who defied the odds, like Merck chief executive Kenneth Frazier, Brown University President Ruth Simmons, and even President Obama—they became less sympathetic to more average African-Americans, without even realizing it. They unknowingly reasoned, “If he can do it, so can they.”

Risen and I conducted eight experiments with both college undergraduates and non-students. We had participants complete a supposedly unrelated task before expressing their opinion about why racial disparities persist in modern America. In the first part, participants answered numerous questions like, “Which of the two men shown below do you think is famous author John Grisham?” For some participants, one or two of these questions involved especially successful African-Americans. These key questions appeared straightforward (e.g., “Which of the two men shown below is the CEO of Merck?), but their true purpose was to subtly inform participants (through the provided pictures) that a particular high-level position was occupied by an African-American. As a control, other participants were asked only about whites.


Marker to note Boston’s first African American-owned home

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to officiate at a ceremony noting the location of the first home in Boston owned by an American-American.

The historic marker will be placed Tuesday where Zipporah Potter Atkins’ 1670 home once stood. The location is now part of the city’s Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Atkins was born free at a time when Africans in Massachusetts were more often enslaved. She lived from 1645 to 1705.

Researchers at the Heritage Guild said Atkins was also the only 17th century woman of African descent known to have purchased land in Boston.

Atkins purchased her house in 1670 and remained a North End resident until 1699 when she sold her house and became the first woman of African-descent to sign her initials to a deed in Suffolk County.


New Emory dean to women: "There is no one way to do your life!"

FORTUNE -- Erika Hayes James never thought she would end up with a career in academia. After finishing her doctoral dissertation at the University Of Michigan in 1995, the Bermuda native pursued job offers in the corporate and consulting world. Yet a well-trusted advisor asked that she try working as a professor for just one year. James decided to give it a go.

Twenty years later, James finds herself making history as the first African-American woman to lead an elite American business school. Calling herself the "accidental academic," James will become dean of Emory's Goizueta Business School on July 15th. In an exclusive interview with Fortune, James discusses her plans for her new role as well as the role she sees herself playing to correct the diversity imbalance plaguing business education.

Edited excerpts:

How did you react when you found out you got the job as dean of Emory?

The reaction was one of pure joy for me and for the opportunity this creates for Goizueta. There is such a strong alignment with my vision and the school's visions and needs. The overarching values of the school are focused on principle leadership, integrity and ethics, and excellence in all dimensions. Excellence is what it's trying to create for the students at the school and excellence in the faculty and that's something that I've tried to make a cornerstone of my own career. It seemed like a natural fit.

Has the historical significance of your appointment as dean to a top business school impacted you at all?

Going through the process, it really had not. But after seeing the press and how people are reacting to my appointment as a woman and an African-American leading a top business school, it has. When I see it in print, the reality of what that really means hits me. It is not something I spent a lot of time contemplating, but I see why it is so significant. I want to make sure to live up to the expectations I have for myself and the expectations that everyone who cares about business education have for me for this role.


On Racism, Conservatives Fail to Self-police

Late last month the U.S. experienced a couple of high-profile racist statements -- one from then NBA owner Donald Sterling and the other from conservative hero, rancher, lawbreaker and "taker" Cliven Bundy.

If nothing else, these comments proved that we are not in a post-racial era, as many would have you believe. Obviously given the status of both of these me, their comments garnered national media attention and started a number of conversations.

As you might expect, these conversations revealed just how far we have to go but one of the unexpected comments I received when discussing race issues in America was "you bloggers and opinion writers need to let the race thing rest for a while. It's getting old and tiring."

Gee, you mean to tell me old white conservatives don't want to talk about how the statements of other old white conservatives could be seen as racist?

Back when "black-on-black crime" was all the rage in the conservative media, talking heads like Bill O'Reilly were out in front calling on black leaders to address this issue. After all it was their community -- shouldn't they do something? Now that the shoe is on the other foot, conservatives no longer sees any value in a community policing their own?

Funny how that works.


African American historic sites focus of work in Oregon

The following is a news release from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office:

#In honor of Historic Preservation Month, the Oregon Black Pioneers, in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office, announces a property survey project entitled "Preserving Oregon's African American Historic Places." Working with community partners and a dedicated community volunteers we endeavor to protect and preserve Oregon's African American historic sites and places from the time period of 1844 to 1984.

#The revelation of relatively unknown and/or hidden African American historic sites and places promises to add yet another dimension to Oregon's rich history. An early settlement era, gothic revival style home belonged to Black pioneers Hannah and Eliza Gorman, and is still standing in Corvallis, Oregon. Hannah and her six years old daughter, Eliza came across the Oregon Trail in 1844 with the John Thorp family. In La Grande there is the little-known church, Boyd Memorial Baptist Church, now known as Amazing Grace Fellowship. Constructed in 1920, Amazing Grace Fellowship represents one of the oldest African American church in Oregon.

#Preserving Oregon African American Historic Places is a crowd-sourcing survey project that allows the general public to contribute information online that pertains to existing structures with any African American association in their histories and cemeteries with African American burials. These places can be buildings ANYWHERE in Oregon where African Americans worked, sites where important events happened, or objects created, installed, or inspired by African Americans. Our ultimate goal is to create a multiple property document that identifies sites for nomination to the national register of historic places.

#Please share your information! If you know of any places like this, please share your information! The information will be added to the collection of the Oregon Black Pioneers and the Oregon Historic Sites Database. Provide as much information as you can, but it is OK to leave blanks if you do not know the particular information requested. Go to www.makeoregonhistory.org to submit online.

#If you have any questions about the survey project you may email Kimberly Moreland, Oregon Black Pioneers, Project Manager at historic_places@qwestoffice.net or Kuri Gill, Oregon Heritage, Grants and Outreach Coordinator at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov. For more information about the Oregon Black Pioneers please visit www.oregonblackpioneers.org. Additional information about SHPO can be found at www.oregonheritage.org.


The first African-American female pilot for the D.C. National Guard always wanted to fly

As a young girl growing up in Tennessee, Demetria “Dina” Elosiebo’s nights were filled with dreams of her soaring through the night sky, her four younger siblings giddily clinging to her back. Sometimes they reached 30 feet, other times 1,000 – depending on her faith that day.

“Ever since I was 7 or 8, I would have dreams about literally carrying my siblings on my back,” Elosiebo said. “And in my dreams, I was like flapping my wings like a chicken, and I could at some point carry two of them. But as they got bigger, I could only carry one. And I was like, ‘I’m going to have to do something about this.’”

Now, those long ago dreams of taking flight have become reality. Thirty-three-year-old Elosiebo recently graduated from Army flight school, becoming the first African-American female aviator in the District of Columbia National Guard. She joins an elite group; only 5 percent of the Army National Guard’s 5,763 pilots are women.

“It’s an honor to come behind so many people,” said Elosiebo, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

No one in her family was in the military or knew how to fly, but from an early age, Elosiebo knew she wanted to be a pilot.

So she started taking flying lessons at small aviation programs for children near her Memphis home. While visiting a flying group called the Memphis Blackhawks Aviation Association, her mother said, her then 12-year-old daughter learned a valuable lesson: Your gender doesn’t matter when it comes to flying a plane.

“I clearly remember her saying, ‘Oh, women can fly?’ said her mom, Renee Elosiebo. “And the pilot (who was a woman) said, ‘Of course they can.’”

That day, Elosiebo got to “co-pilot” the plane. And from then on she was “giddy” and “wanted to go back again and again.

“Most children say they want to do something when they’re younger, and then they change their desires many times,” Renee Elosiebo said. “But hers never changed — she wanted to fly.”

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