All Articles Tagged "activists"

Pop Mom: A Library That Burns…Remembering Maya Angelou On Her Birthday

April 4th, 2016 - By Erickka Sy Savane
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I just heard that my favorite library has burned. When I got the news I wanted to cry, Why this library and not another? This library, though old and frail, had so much more to give. Just recently it was set to be given yet another award for its incredible contribution to the world. I can’t help but wonder what my life might have been without this library.

You see, I discovered it when I was just 12-years-old. It’s not that I had never seen a library, I remember being rolled into libraries in a red wagon alongside my brother before I even knew what to do at a library. There was something special about this one. This library was beautiful. But not in the way of perfectly painted walls or high pristine ceilings, this library was worn and rough around the edges from a life that hadn’t been too kind. This library was filled with character and boasted stories so captivating that one had to stop.

There was tragedy, triumph and enough resilience to make anyone feel that if the worst were to happen in his own life somehow it would all be okay.
And let’s not forget the words. Words zipping around in circles intertwining reconfiguring decomposing creating new ways to say things old and new. Ultimately, landing on the page like a beautiful symphony. This library was cool in the way that Miles Davis was. I would come to this place every day after school because there really was nothing greater to do.

Then one day I moved to the city and discovered bigger libraries in beautiful places with new books filled with slicker vocabulary, hip hop themes and caviar dreams. Before you know it, I forgot all about that library.

Then babies are born, rent is due, and there’s no time for libraries. Books even seem a luxury from a life lived long ago. I’m in the middle of washing dishes when I get the news that my favorite library has burned. I’m stunned into silence because though I knew it would have to happen one day, because let us not forget this library was old enough to be deemed a historical landmark, I can’t help but feel the loss. I would have visited more had I known that it might not be here forever.

‘A Library That Burns’ is taken from the African proverb: “Every elder that dies is a library that burns.”

Today, on her birthday, we’re remembering Maya Angelou.

Rest in Peace, Maya.

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Activism As A Career? Yes, You Can!

August 12th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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You find yourself concerned about the course of society, about social issues that plague the community, about making global change. Well, a career in activism could be the direction you might consider. And it’s never too late to enter the field.

In fact, you can study social activism as an undergraduate degree or a masters program. “The key to creating a career in activism is to find ways to bring your beliefs and values into your work,” reports Amherst College, which offers a social activism degree. Their site goes on to say “Just about any career choice can incorporate an element of activism if you are working towards societal change. Combining activism with your career choice may require creativity and resourcefulness on your part. For example, you could be a teacher contributing to activism by teaching your students about environmental, human rights and global issues. As a doctor you could dedicate your career to offering medical services to children in impoverished areas. Or as the director of an employment agency, you might hear your organization’s efforts towards helping homeless people find work.”

There are several other career options that involve  social activism as well, such as law and public policy, social work, and environmental and community organizing.

According to Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of, activism can be a full-time job. But you not only have to have passion for social change, you must be able to fighting multiple battles at a time, be able to recognize trends, be organized and able to organize others, be able to see the bigger picture and plan your battles strategize, be willing to be on call 24 hours a day (social justice never sleeps), and have leadership qualities.

“There are moments that happen in our lives every single day that make us feel angry or sad or happy, and those are organizing moments. They give us the opportunity, if we respond fast enough, to add more people to the movement. We can give people actionable things to do in that moment. Often times those moments are really about cultural presence. They create a presence in our lives and if we don’t pay attention, that’s all they’ll do is create awareness,” Robinson told Levo.

Felicia Davis, who directs the Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University and is founder of HBCU Green Fund, got bit by the activist bug as a young girl. Fighting for social justice ran in her family. “One of my earliest recollections in the public sphere was as a four-year-old marching with my mother in Englewood, NJ, protesting public school segregation,” recalls Davis in an interview with us. “At 13 my very first campaign was an effort to raise funds to support drug treatment then unavailable at our local hospital.  The action was inspired by my grandmother’s work with the Friends of Dr. Willoughby Auxiliary honoring our town’s first Black doctor and the premature death of a high school basketball star that died from a heroin overdose.  Today, I’m working to combat climate change by creating the HBCU Green Fund to upgrade aging campus infrastructures.  My father taught me African history, my mother taught me that we have healing power, and my grandmother taught me that we each have a duty to serve.”

As she matured, Davis says it wasn’t really a conscious decision to enter activism; it was a path she followed while even in school at Howard University and she’s found activism to be an open career field. “Activists can work in virtually any field, some work within advocacy organizations or even establish organizations, and some of the most impactful activism takes place within mainstream organizations of all types, including corporations,” she says. “Many hires, advancement and progressive change is the result of activists working from the inside out.”

And when it comes to income, yes, you can make money as an activist. “Emerging activists must understand that ‘non-profit’ s a tax designation it does not mean that an organization cannot generate revenue to address problems and sustain their workers,” explains Davis. “If work is not organized in a manner that generates financial resources it will not be sustainable.  Money may not be the primary objective but it is an important consideration for any effective activist or organizer especially when working in under-resourced communities. Activists have families and they need health care, housing, transportation, etc. just like anyone else, therefore they must manage their work in a way that enables them to take care of these essentials.  There is nothing wrong with living well.”

There are various streams of revenue for activists, according to Jenifer R. Daniels, brand strategist and co-host of #WomensWednesday on SiriusXM’s Make It Plain. She tell us, “Activists can earn incomes using the speaker’s circuit or by providing training/workshops on their specialties. Activists can also work for/with political or issue-based campaigns as paid staff.”

Niki Okuk balanced activism with a “regular” job until she found a way to combine the two. She went into business for herself and launched Rco² Material Reuse, a tire waste upcycling company that diverts petroleum waste from landfills into new products and has created green-collar jobs in Compton. “Most of my life I’ve been working my day job and partitioning my activism into my ‘real’ life, after hours,” the lifelong activist tells us. “That meant desk jockeying with my college degree during the day, protesting, canvassing, petitioning, holding community meetings, and planting community gardens on the nights and weekends. More recently I’ve started my own business, with the aim of creating good working class jobs in my community, having a significant environmental impact, and nurturing dignified and democratic workplaces–constantly dismantling hetero-patriarchy, racism, and hierarchies–and hopefully still continuing to support myself.”

If you don’t want to go the organization route, you can create your own non-profit or a social business as Okuk did. “If you get frustrated by the organizations out there, make your own way: There are beautiful examples out there of Black women who have founded, funded, and rocked their own non-profits, and many who are live-streaming, reporting, and authoring from the front lines, funding their work with ad revenue and gofundme campaigns,” she says.

But let’s be clear, activism can have dangers. “Activists working in fields where they must encounter death, devastation and enormous human suffering are very special people that have a unique capacity to work through these tragedies. Activism also requires sacrifice, the secret sauce to create change.  Effective activists solve problems and regard themselves as servant-leaders,” notes Davis.

Activism, however, can satisfy many of your needs–careerwise and personally.  Davis says not only does she feel she’s doing good work, but there are some perks she enjoys. “I thoroughly enjoy traveling and working with people from different places and cultures.  I have been to five of the seven continents…I also know how fortunate I am and this inspires me to work to advance equity and opportunity.  Victories are invigorating but working on social, economic and environmental justice means that victories are few and challenges many.  I am excited about the enormous transformations underway. Activists are change-agents that create new paths for others to follow.  I kind of like that.”

Say It Loud: Celebrity Activists Who Speak Out On Social Injustices

July 30th, 2013 - By Kelly Franklin
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

We march the streets in droves, pitch signs high up in the air and shout out to the masses our stance on certain issues like women’s rights, abortion, gay marriage, and most recently – demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. There is power in numbers, and we know that through speaking out, our voices will be heard and change will come. When celebrities fight for the same causes as us, it gives us a sense of solidarity and humanizes superstars. Here’s a  list of some of the most famous celebrity advocates who lend their fame and voice to many social injustices of the world.

Cameroon Activists Speak Out Against Practice Of Breast Ironing Among Young Girls

February 20th, 2013 - By madamenoire
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Source: The Grio

Source: The Grio

From The Grio

In Cameroon, the breast, one of the most conspicuous signs of a woman’s femininity, is a target for ritual mutilation. Breast ironing, a practice that involves flattening a young girl’s breasts with highly-heated stones, pestles, spatulas or coconut shells among other objects, is typically carried out by an older female relative.

According to Friends of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), one out of every four girls in Cameroon has been affected by breast ironing, equating to nearly 4 million young women. Breast ironing is primarily practiced in the Christian and Animist south of Cameroon, and less frequently in the Muslim north, where only 10 percent of women are affected. It is also practiced in Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Togo, Benin, and Guinea among African countries.

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Say It Loud: 8 Celebrities Whose Parents Were Activists

June 13th, 2012 - By Anthony Jerrod
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"Tupac Shakur"

Arguably the best hip-hop lyricist of all time, the late and legendary Tupac Shakur was born to Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland, who were both active members of the Black Panther Party in its prime.  Afeni was charged with multiple felonies during the late ‘60s for allegedly conspiring to bomb public places in New York.  All of the charges were later dropped.

This Black Girl Rocks: Image Activist Michaela Angela Davis

July 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Amsterdam News) — Midway into a conversation with Michaela Angela Davis, she suggests a slight case of self-deprecation and cracks a warm smile as she comes to grips with her impact on young women.  “It’s not until moments like this when you kind of pause, look at what you’re doing, and go, ‘Oh, I really might mean something to somebody.’ I just still feel like I’m so frivolous,” she says, laughing.  Contrary to the matter, Davis is far from frivolous. The self-described “image activist,” who has worked as a stylist, editor and cultural critic, has made it her mission for the past several decades to promote self-esteem for Black women. Davis has successfully balanced creativity and feminism to encourage conversation.  In fact, her new novel that’s in the works, “The Revolution of Happiness: A Book and Digital Conversation Project,” is a culmination of “honest and innovative cross-generational conversations with revolutionary-thinking Black women about disturbing the pain that has burdened or molested our natural exquisite selves.”

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Malcolm X, Gandhi, And Accepting Our Leaders For Who They Really Were

April 7th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"Yvette Carnell "In a New York Times book review of Manning Marable’s just released biography on Malcolm X, it is revealed that Marable’s quintessential work is embedded with a Trojan horse that, once installed and released, will eviscerate the long held – and mostly cosmetic –representation of one of our most beloved civil rights leaders.  The review reads as follows:

“Malcolm X himself contributed to many of the fictions, Mr. Marable argues, by exaggerating, glossing over or omitting important incidents in his life. These episodes include a criminal career far more modest than he claimed, an early homosexual relationship with a white businessman…”

The claim – that Malcolm X took, or was taken with, a white male lover- is now perfectly poised to ignite a firestorm of debate in the African American community. But just as Marable’s biography affords us the opportunity to reexamine the inner workings of a leader who offered the ultimatum of “the bullet or the ballot box” as the only alternative to a pacifist movement, it also offers African Americans the unique opportunity to examine ourselves and our progress post Malcolm and Martin. Just as we are now peering into the most intimate details of Malcolm’s life, so must we examine our own psychological progress.

And if African-Americans had truly absorbed the historical lessons of race hatred, many of which are drawn directly from the experience of being outsiders in one’s own country, we would demonstrate an inclination toward embracing human complexity.  Instead, however, our tendency is to judge those who deviate outside the bounds of archetypical expressions of manhood, womanhood, and even humankind.

We were shocked at revelations about M. L. King’s extramarital affairs and in the 21st century, Malcolm X is not alone in the category of deceased and deified exemplars that have had their celestial status come crashing down amid claims that their behavior was inconsistent with their ideals.  In the recently released biography, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India”, author Joseph Lelyveld recalls Gahndi’s particularly disparaging view of black South Africans:

“We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the ­Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”

I don’t dispute that Gandhi’s feeling of being a bit higher up on the totem pole than black South Africans, and Malcolm X’s homosexual tryst (or love affair, not sure which since I haven’t read the book), are, if true, revelatory on many levels. However, my reaction to both is the same:  big shrug.

In response to who we are as humans, our individual psychology, our connections, and our desire for connection, we express our humanity in a variety of ways, none of which are identical in their manifestations.  If Malcolm expressed his affection with a man, so be it.

And I’m even less surprised that Gandhi would adopt some of the same traits as his white colonizers. When insults and degrading classifications are heaped upon you, projecting those insults onto another class of people is a neat – albeit destructive- psychological trick.

Gandhi and Malcolm X were–first and foremost–human.  All humans are allowed their own particular incarnation and do not require our approval or acceptance to exist. In fact, any person who requires the approval of another is owned by that person or group. I for one am happy that Gandhi and Malcolm X weren’t owned by anyone. Could they really have accomplished what they did had they been preoccupied with the reactions and petty assessments of others?

In a letter to her husband John Adams, Abigail Adams said that “all men would be tyrants if they could.” Most men, and increasingly many women, gravitate toward tyrannical leadership models once they are in a place of entrenched power.  We should be forever grateful for the few men and women who chose to answer the call to serve.  And we should appreciate the full portrait that biographers like Marable are painting since they teach us that our leaders aren’t gods, but human like us. And what they can do, so can we. An honest portrait empowers us while a dishonest portrait deifies our leaders while caricaturing the masses as weak.

Instead of igniting debate, the new insights into the lives of Malcolm X and Gandhi should inspire us all to apply our talents and embrace the grandest idea of ourselves. These insights actually aren’t a Trojan horse at all, but a gift for the benefit of humanity–but we’ll only reap these benefits if we’re evolved enough to receive them.  Standing around the water cooler discussing the details of Malcolm’s sexuality or Gandhi’s view of blacks doesn’t move us forward in the least.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, and

Should George Clooney Be Pushing For The Monitoring of Sudan?

January 20th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"george clooney in sudan"by Lauren Coleman

Let us be very careful about how technology is utilized within socio-political situations.

Recently, actor/activist George Clooney spoke to CNN by way of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” concerning his plans to actually use satellite technology to monitor the Sudan which was recently in the midst of a week-long referendum on self-determination. Along with Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast, Clooney seeks to use satellite imagery to detect and deter human rights crimes in Darfur and southern Sudan by “denying deniability” and promoting greater accountability under a venture entitled Satellite Sentinel Project. But should we perhaps question if this is the right methodology and approach when dealing with our international neighbors?

In short, the project uses satellite imagery and Google Map Maker, combined with field reports, policy analysis, and tools to involve the public in pressuring policymakers to respond quickly and appropriately. The aim is to head off human rights crimes before they occur. (Yes, if an image of Spielberg’s “Minority Report” came to mind; you are not alone). This is technology and Big Brother on an exponential level. And while no doubt a product of the very best intentions – for, whose heart did not cry and check book did not open upon seeing initial images of Darfur – once again we have Caucasian males and those outside of the continent interjecting their belief system and values onto Africa, which just might be in its current state because of that very same constant tampering.

The intriguing thing particularly about U.S. history is that from the atrocious killing of most of the Native Americans to the brutality of slavery and more; all behavior was primarily executed without any major scrutiny from outside of the country thereby allowing America the luxury, even at its lowest moments, to develop on its own terms.

And while it is undeniable that these times are not those and certainly that no one advocates turning a blind-eye to international horrors, one can’t help but ask how peoples of a certain country can partake in activities of “self-determination” when outside forces, which may perceive themselves as superior in values and behavior to begin with, continue to interject, monitor, and expose.

And how can one actually undertake such actions with seemingly limited input by the peoples themselves, many of whom are young and female.  Sure, one can expose, but without true communication between sides, nothing is ever long-lasting nor is there the fundamental outgrowth of respect and understanding, which is what is ultimately needed for any real stability and progress.

Let us be very careful about how technology is utilized within socio-political situations, and let us be even more careful of becoming the adult who takes it upon ourselves to go so far as to monitor those who we see as the children of the world so that they can finally become strong in their own right and learn to value human life. Perhaps there are more humane methods and alternative uses of technology which can be combined with real-time human participation to actually bring opposing sides together to create lasting peace.

Can We Do a Better Job Taking Care of Our Activists?

January 3rd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"Devin Robinson"If there’s one important thing I learned from working for Reverend Al Sharpton as the Atlanta President of National Action Network is there are tons of people who need help. In addition there are a great number of unknown activists willing to give this help. But can someone be helped if they don’t meet you half way? I had a very intriguing conversation with a close friend the other day and she said that she supported President Obama. I asked, “How did you support him?” She stated, “I supported him by my approval of his campaign.” This really piqued my curiosity to dig further. After a few minutes of badgering her,I learned that she actually believed she supported the president just because she said she supported him.

The more alarming part of this revelation is there are millions of blacks in our community who feel the very same way. They feel that they support someone simply because they say they do. My friend never held campaign signs, voted, contributed to President Obama’s campaign, or participated in a phone bank; yet she confidently believed she supported him. How can we really believe we support someone (or something) if we never translate that endorsement into an action? Pastor Crute, senior pastor of Destiny Metropolitan Church in Marietta, GA, once said “We live out what we believe, regardless of what we say.” Let’s think about this for a second.

We have community activists that commit their efforts, finances, risk their freedom and reputation, and sometimes willing to lay down their lives to help others. But if we do not convert our moral support into tangible actions, we are as opposing to them as those who openly contest their ideology. Minister Louis Farrakhan said in a crowded room I was in a few months ago, “I am able to remain free because of those who contribute to my work.” This was a stellar statement in my opinion. I thought about it for days. There is one of two things that often happen to our activists: they have to resort to the corporate donor or non-black contributor to keep their momentum going, or risk possible failure. When the possibility of failure emerges and a plea for actionable support is needed, the volume of the vocals reduces to a whisper.

True, there are corporations that contribute to black causes, but when they open their checkbooks we must now watch what we say when we open our mouths. I am even witnessing a trend where organizations that were founded for and includes “black” in its name, is carrying images of other races on their paraphernalia. Is this because the organizations know it needs the help of non-black dollars if it expects to be successful? Is it understood that black businesses do not rise to enormous success solely because of the black dollar? What do you think?

To be quite honest, the buying power of the black community is more than enough for us to lift ourselves from suffering. The question is, where are we willing to spend those dollars? Some of us continually pay for what we want but beg for what we need! What we need is self-efficacy, equality, and invasive education that roots out the cosmetic coverings of knowledge we have carried for generations. Activism is tough work. It frequently means working for people who don’t understand the real help they need. But as we witness activism, whether on large or small levels, we must give true support of progressive and effective movements or we can expect that at the end of the day, the activist will be the one crying for help.

Devin Robinson is a business and economics professor and author of Rebuilding in the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation and Blacks: From the Plantation to the Prison. Contact him at

Americans Who Cry Socialism, Want a Government Job

March 26th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Bloomberg) — Tea Party activists, who are becoming a force in U.S. politics, want the federal government out of their lives except when it comes to creating jobs.

More than 90 percent of Tea Party backers interviewed in a new Bloomberg National Poll say the U.S. is verging more toward socialism than capitalism, the federal government is trying to control too many aspects of private life and more decisions should be made at the state level.

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