All Articles Tagged "slavery"

Georgetown To Treat Descendants Of Slaves It Owned As Legacy Students, Giving Them An Edge In Admissions Process

September 2nd, 2016 - By Ann Brown
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Slavery is widely regarded as America’s ugliest era and the remnants of slavery still affect the entire country, even more than 150 years after its termination. That’s why Georgetown University is now trying its best to reconcile slavery by offering an admissions advantage to those affected by its direct involvement in the brutal system.

The university’s relationship with slavery goes back to 1838, a time when the school carried major debt. “In order to satisfy their financial needs and keep the schools doors open, they sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana. The lives of the men, women and children sold equated to $3.3 million dollars, enough to save the school. Jesuit Priests aided in the sale of these slaves and more on behalf of the University,” reported Blavity.

So now in “an effort to help counter that history,” Georgetown announced it is offering “an advantage in the admissions process” to the descendants of slaves that were owned by the University. Descendants will be treated like legacy students, and this gives them preferential treatment during the admissions process.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia wrote in a letter  that a working group is organizing how this process will take place. The group is also suggesting naming halls after former slaves, developing a public memorial, and offering an official apology for its part in slavery. Still, said DeGioia, “there will never be an admissions edge, scholarship packet, or free room and board, that can help us come to terms with slavery.”

But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to develop one. What do you think about this gesture?

Abigail Adams, The Woman Who Was In The White House When It Was Built, Refutes Bill O’Reilly’s “Well-Fed” Claim

July 28th, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Earlier today, we wrote about actress Audra McDonald checking Bill O’Reilly and his inaccurate thoughts on slavery in a series of tweets, complete with pictorial evidence of the horrific nature of the institution.

In case you missed what O’Reilly said, he, in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s comment about the White House being built by slaves,

“Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor.”

I know you see the problem with this statement. It completely belittles the devastating and dehumanizing realities of slavery. It makes it seem like these men, literally building the home that would house the nation’s leaders, were happy to be doing it. Like it was a pleasant experience. Like they were serving their country willingly, instead of serving a country that benefited and grew rich from their labor without even recognizing their humanity.

What really would it have matter if they were well-fed or not? I’ll take freedom over food any day.

But since Bill O’Reilly had it all wrong, let’s hear from a first person source, Abigail Adams, wife to our second president John Adams. She’s also the woman who was living in the White House as it was being built by these so-called well-fed slaves. (Note: All spelling errors are her own.)

“The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employed with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. the four carts are all loaded at the same time, and whilst four carry this rubbish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, or fit for … to labour, whilst the owner watches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast, Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place.”

Well there you have it.

Considering she was actually looking out the window and Bill O’Reilly was just making sh*t up, I’ll take her word for it.

Why Is Jesse Jackson Comparing Dish Network’s Blackout Of WGN America To Slavery?

June 30th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Sony Pictures Television

Sony Pictures Television

Maybe the All Lives Matter folks are right. Maybe it isn’t always about race.

Just kidding. Those people never have a point.

Besides, this is America. And racism is as American as grandma’s racist apple pie made from the recipe that her grandmother appropriated from some colored folks.

Just ask noted civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. He sees race in everything, including Dish Network’s decision to drop the Tribune Broadcasting Network and, in turn, the WGN America channel from its lineup. Dish is a direct-broadcast satellite service (in layman’s terms, cable) provider. For the unaware, the carriage agreement between the cable provider and Tribune Broadcasting expired on June 13. And of course, money was the issue.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

At issue are fees Tribune is seeking for carriage of its stations and WGN America. In a statement, Dish Network said Tribune was demanding an unreasonable price increase for its local channels, which are available free with an antenna. In addition, an increase for WGN America isn’t warranted because the channel no longer carries Chicago Cubs games and its ratings are down in Dish homes, the satellite broadcaster said.

“Tribune is using local viewers as leverage to raise rates for WGN America—a channel that is in decline,” said Warren Schlichting, executive vice president of programming for Dish.

Tribune Broadcasting, which is based out of Chicago, currently operates 42 local stations (mostly Fox and CW affiliates) as well as the WGN America cable channel. As a result of the breakdown in negotiations, five million Dish subscribers in 34 states lost access to all of its stations.

That’s messed up. But what does any of this have to do with civil rights?

Well, according to Jackson, WGN America produces the television series Underground, which was breaking all sorts of ratings during the spring. And since folks, particularly Black folks with Dish, can’t watch Underground, then obviously the network is “using the same kind of math with ratings that the old south employed when enacting laws that counted African-Americans as three-fifths of a man” to hold us back.

No really, he said that.

It’s right here in this letter addressed to Dish chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen:

Dear Mr. Ergen:

While DISH’s decision to pull WGN America from its lineup might seem, on the surface, like a disagreement between two parties – the ripple effect of that decision is greater than anyone might realize. This news is disappointing on so many levels. As illustrated by their critically acclaimed series, “Underground,” WGN America is deeply committed to sharing positive portrayals of African Americans and instilling a sense of hope and positivity at a time when our nation needs it most. Its impact, at the most basic level, is to promote the African American experience in a way that speaks to the next generation-something that the executives at DISH should keep in mind.

For far too long African Americans have been underrepresented and unfavorably portrayed on television, silencing the significant contributions they have made to this country. “Underground” is a crucial part of a brand-new day of diversity on television that sheds a bright light on the bravery, ingenuity and power of the African-American experience, and is being used as teachable moments in homes and history classes around the nation at a time when we need it most. Never before have we seen a serialized program focusing on the American heroes of the Underground Railroad, those who had nothing yet used what little they had to make it to freedom. It is an inspiring and moving narrative that we need to retell again and again if we are to heal this country and the shift the divisive dialogue to one of hope and understanding.

“Underground” not only reached milestones as must-watch art, but it’s also produced measurable metrics in commerce that DISH continues to ignore. Is DISH using the same kind of math with ratings that the old south employed when enacting laws that counted African-Americans as three-fifths of a man? DISH is not taking into account that “Underground” has broken records for WGN America as their highest-rated original program in nearly 18 years, ranked as the top cable program on Wednesday nights throughout its run, and averaged 3 million viewers weekly.

By disparaging the network that created “Underground” and counting out millions of African Americans who watch the show and doubly discounting them by seeking to yet again erase the strength of a people on whose bloodied hands and backs we stand, raises troubling questions.

Every other distributor has recognized the value of “Underground,” and we’re extremely saddened to hear that the Underground train has literally left the station and DISH is not on board. It’s a move that impacts viewers in a way that is palpable and reminds those in the African American community that their stories don’t hold much weight when it comes to addressing differences among partners.

We need to keep hope alive and a decision to put WGN America back on the air will reignite a conversation that America needs to have right here and right now. So we ask that DISH act on Tribune Media’s same fair-market offer that all other cable, satellite and telco distributors have agreed to so we have a platform that allows us to keep the conversation going; a conversation that matters.

I love how Jackson is still asking us to “keep hope alive…”

You know, I love to nail folks for racism. And Lord knows the fight for inclusion and fair representation is a very important cause both near and dear to my heart. But even I have to blink a few times at this one. I mean, I would be more sympathetic to WGN America’s civil rights plight if the station were a minority-owned channel. But not even its general manager is Black (or other). Therefore, what has this got to do with us?

If Jackson was truly concerned about the impact the blackout would have on the ability for the network to share our stories then why isn’t he writing letters to WGN about how it needs to upload this important series to the Internet, where it can be seen by all – for free (blackout or not, the show is behind a paywall). Or better yet, why isn’t he writing letters to Dish demanding that it add more Black-owned stations to its network? Or at the very least, why isn’t the letter addressed to both sides, which seem to be doing a good job of using that old Southern math?

What I’m trying to say is, we see you, Jesse. And using us in this way, isn’t cool.

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and queen of unpopular opinions from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.

Where Was Snoop Dogg’s Concern for Our Image when C. Delores Tucker Called Out Gangsta Rap?

June 1st, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Source: A&E

Source: History

I have no intention on watching the revamped version of Alex Haley’s classic television mini-series Roots not because I’m tired of slave films, but because I don’t have cable.
After all, the practice of bondage and forced labor is as American as apple pie and baseball. So why should we forget?

Nevertheless, the anti-slave narrative movement marches on…

And championing the cause is none other than the distinguishable  and honorable crusader for the downtrodden and oppressed, Mr Snoop Doggy Dog.

In an Instagram posting on Monday, the “Ain’t No Fun If The Homies Can’t Have None” rapper courageously spoke out against the eight hour, four-night re-production, which is currently airing on the History Channel.

More specifically, he said:

“How the f— they gonna put Roots on on Memorial Day? They gonna just keep beating that s— in our heads of how they did us, huh?” he said in the video. “I don’t understand America. They just want to keep showing the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But, guess what? We taking the same abuse.”

And after going on an explicit laden rant about how he “ain’t watching that sh*t,” he also added: “Let’s create our own shit based on today, how we live and how we inspire people today. Black is what’s real. F— that old shit.”

I swear this dude is giving weed heads a bad name.

Look, I appreciate his concern and all, but honestly he is reaffirming my belief that entertainers shouldn’t say or do anything other than entertain us. Because really, who asked him?
Matter of fact, when folks were asking him to stand up, be conscientious and be an inspiration to other Black folks, he and his crew were singing an entirely different Gin and Juice-induced tune.

What am I talking about?

Well I’m talking about Civil Rights activist C. Delores Tucker and her massive campaign against what she called “gangsta rap.” Back in the early 90s, the convening founder of the National Congress of Black Women called on the Black community to protest the recording and distribution of what she felt were violent and misogyny lyrics aimed at young adults. Her targets were record companies like Interscope and Death Row records, which produced such controversial acts as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and the Dogg Pound, who at the time had just dropped their first major label album entitled Doggystyle.

And through her campaign, she would regularly hold protests and demonstrations in front of these record companies as well as the record shops that sold their albums.

Needless to say, Tucker was not a very popular woman at the time. In fact, her efforts to hold the record companies as well as other businesses accountable for their contribution to the destruction of our community was met with a lot of backlash, including from the late Tupac Shakur who once called her a “motherf**ker in the single, “How Do You Want It?” and Eminen who in the song “D 12” said: “Tell that C. Delores Tucker slut to suck a d**k.”

Yeah, what a nice way to talk to a 60-something-year-old at the time Black woman. But folks insist Em is down…

And what did Snoop Dogg have to say about Tucker’s campaign?

Well at the time the Dr. Dre’s protege wasn’t saying much because he was too busy collecting those checks and getting famous. And since then he has been living high off the hog for his image of a weed-addicted former gang member turned womanizing pimp who likes to walk topless women around on leases.

But yeah, historically-themed slave narratives are the problem…

In spite of his hypocrisy and, quite frankly, attention-seeking behavior, I know Snoop is not alone in his objection to slave films. A lot of folks have objected to series and films like Roots because they want us to forget about the past and focus on what is happening now. I always found this quite curious considering what is happening now has a lot to do with what happened then. And how do we accurately find a solution to all that ails us if we are too chicken sh*t to face the actual problem (i.e America’s deep-rooted White supremacy)?

Not to mention, Jewish people remember the Holocaust and have made it required learning in some parts of the world including in Israel and Germany. They do this because of a sound belief that remembering keeps such tragedies from happening again. Unfortunately, we as Black folks have yet to learn that lesson. And we wonder why mass incarceration continues to be such a major issue in our community.

Of course, the obvious answer to why folks like Snoop Dogg want us to forget might have a lot to do with not wanting to hurt his bottom line. After all, if we begin to seriously contemplating what it meant to be 12 Years a Slave, folks might not have the tolerance they do now for music and other alleged entertainment that denigrates women and compels the brothers to take up arms against their own.

‘Roots’ Returns: But Should Kids See It?

May 25th, 2016 - By Chuck Creekmur
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Roots is coming back. Why?

I’m not sure why, but The History Channel has updated and reprised Alex Haley’s mini-series for 2016 with a fresh coating of realism. I have not seen it, nor do I intend to even give it a shot. However, if the trailer is any indication, fans of slave pieces are going to be chomping on popcorn for weeks, generations even! This one looks extra good. Just like 12 Years a Slave. Just like Underground. Just like the original Roots, when it debuted in the 1970’s. Riveting.

Now, we are all set to peddle to a new era of kids that they were chiefly slaves, maids, servants and only partially human (per systemic racism and so-called White Supremacy) when they arrived on these shore of the United States. It reminds us that our women were raped. Our men were  emasculated. And our families were systemically destroyed through a variety of means. Awesome. This incarnation of 2016’s Roots has an all-star cast that includes rapper T.I., Mekhi Phifer, Anika Noni Rose, Forest Whitaker, and Laurence Fishburne, who pays author Alex Haley. My friends that have seen the beginnings of the series have said it was “exceptional” so I have no doubt that they have shoveled millions and millions into making this epic saga more epic. So the “why” boils down to remembering where we came from.

Certainly, we have to know our history, right? Sure, thing…but I have some other ideas that I have come to implement in my home. My daughter is not going out like that.

If we are going to study history, direct your texts to Mansa Musa. African King Musa is widely regarded at the richest person to have ever lived on Earth. He also happened to be a Black man from Africa. During his reign, Europe was starving and waging war against each other, but King Musa was rolling thousands deep, giving gold to the poor to the point where Europeans had his face on their maps. If he lived today, Mansa Musa would be worth about $400 billion. When he died, his son took over. I’m thinking The History Channel could craft a Game of Thrones-like series on the exploits of King Mansa Musa. Right?

No, the powers-that-be would rather beat us in the head with another “period piece.” I know I am not the only person that feels this way. Another friend took her daughter to see the new Roots and she had to leave early. Her daughter was essentially traumatized by what she saw. I theorize this is why I have rejected every such movie since watching 12 Years A Slave. I no longer wanted to internalize the horrors of that time, which bear a resemblance to what Black folks are going through. If having been completely desensitized, you’ll notice cops are still killing defenseless Blacks and incarcerated people of color are the new slaves.

Lastly, there is mental slavery.

I am just going to end this here. There is a very clear and present reason slavery continues to be thrown in our faces. It keeps you feeling low about who you are – defining you even when you don’t know. It distracts you and your kids from the rich history that exists and thrived in Mama Africa. This Euro-centric way has mad victims of us all in one way or another. And right here at home, they don’t create movies about Marcus Garvey, who commanded millions of followers towards complete self-reliance. They don’t make remakes about great kings like Shaka Zulu or warriors such as Hannibal. Nate Parker was inspired to independently create “Birth of a Nation” – the story of Nat Turner and a slave revolt – after turning down Quentin Tarantino’s filthy pulp “D’Jango.”

I’m not in support of these movies anymore. I’d sooner take my daughter to see Black Panther, a fictitious, rich super hero king.

Why Underground Is One Of The Most Important Shows On TV Right Now

April 21st, 2016 - By Niki McGloster
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Sony Pictures Television

Sony Pictures Television

Lately, Hollywood has pillaged Black slave history in exhausting amounts to make money and receive awards. In the wake of films like Django Unchained and 12 Years A Slave, actor Nate Parker’s Sundance winner, Birth Of A Nation, and a star-studded remake of Alex Haley’s Roots are set for release later this year. No matter how imaginative or accurate, though, these cinematic productions play barbaric mistreatment on constant loop, warranting plenty of my Black girl side-eyes. And while I was skeptical at first of yet another slave story, especially one with commercials set to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead,” WGN America’s new hit series, Underground, is one of the most important shows on television right now.

Executive produced by John Legend, the show’s cast is led by Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Rosalee) and Aldis Hodge (Noah), whose characters plot an escape from their Georgia plantation and attempt to lead a group of slaves to freedom. While history books herald Harriet Tubman’s countless journeys to freedom and helping others obtain it, this show helps visualize the intimate happenings of such life or death travels in a raw way. Unlike Django and 12 Years, Underground doesn’t make you feel as hopeless, though it’s still a very heart-wrenching tale. Thanks to the show’s direction, Underground caters to thrill-seeking action lovers. There’s more than enough suspense and danger to keep you on the edge of your seat. However, that’s just the bells and whistles of it all. What’s most important is how this story illuminates both the psychological devastation of slaves and the resilience of Black people then and now.

During a bone-chilling moment in the first episode, a mother drowns her newborn son in order to free him from the emotional and physical chains that surely await him. There’s also a unique dichotomy of house slaves and field slaves on display. Rosalee’s mother, Ernestine, played by Amirah Vann, is a seemingly favored house slave who finds herself jealous of Pearly Mae, a field slave who is, at least, allowed to be with her family at the end of each day.

Ultimately, the beauty of this show lies in the narrative of breaking free. This hour-long spot presents us as prevailing, without cracking a joke or pouring on the beatings too thick. It’s promising and hopeful in the face of adversity, not unlike the current unapologetic blackness on display currently.

So, while it’s easy to gloss over a slave show and roll your eyes at the thought of it, I implore you to give this one a shot. There’s interracial relationship drama, action, complicated plot twists, and a Black love story at the center of it all. It has all the richness and warmth reminiscent of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and the edge of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.” More cinematic callbacks to our tattered past are coming down the pipeline, and while I could surely live without seeing another Black person beaten down, whipped and shackled on screen, if I have to endure that to witness the triumph, I’m OK with it.

At least in this show, the most important theme is front and center: No matter how long it takes, Black folks will be alright.

Black Woman On Your Money: Harriet Tubman To Replace Andrew Jackson On The $20 Bill

April 20th, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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AP Images

AP Images

America has spoken. We’ve been writing about the possibility of Harriet Tubman gracing the front of the 20 dollar bill for over a year now. And according to several sources it’s finally going to happen.

Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the U.S. $20 bill.

According to CNBC, treasury secretary Jack Lew will announce the decision later today. The decision comes a year after Women on 20s, a non-profit organization began the movement to replace Jackson with a woman.

Back in 2013, the treasury announced that the it was the $10 bill, and not the 20 that was going to undergo a redesign. But a little over a month ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda, author and star of the Broadway hit Hamilton, spoke with the treasury secretary asking that he keep Hamilton on the 10.

If you ask me, the removal of Andrew Jackson, particularly with his role in killing and forcing Native Americans off of their land, is far more appropriate.

According to the Independent, Jackson may remain on the $20 bill in some capacity.

Other sources reported that there will also be changes coming to the $5 bill, featuring Civil Rights era leaders.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this news. There are many who will argue that having Tubman on the bill, the literal symbol of the American corruption and capitalism that allowed slavery to happen in the first place, is misplaced, ironic or unfitting. And I understand that. But I also see it as a way for the innumerable contributions African Americans made to this country, particularly the financial ones, to be at least partially acknowledged, discussed and valued.

I think it’s powerful that a woman, who the government didn’t even regarded as fully human, is now placing her face on some of the wealth she and millions of others built for this country.

Betsey, Anarcha & Lucy: How The Foundation Of Modern Gynecology Is Based On Bodies Of Black Women

February 22nd, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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A colleague sent me an NPR story this afternoon that was tremendously fascinating while also being painful to hear. As she shared it with me, I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that we can all learn something new about our history, and the part Black women played in the advancement of medicine.

Their names were Betsey, Anarcha, and Lucy. They were the women whose bodies were used by physician J. Marion Sims for study and experiment. Trials and attempts that would eventually make him the “Father of modern gynecology.” But as Vanessa Northington Gamble pointed out in the Hidden Brain broadcast, “We can’t forget how that came to be.”

Dr. Sims opened a clinic in Montgomery, Ala. and to stay afloat monetarily, he started doing work on plantations, providing medical care to slaves. But during that time, he came across captive women who had what we now know as vesicovaginal fistula. Gamble called it “an opening between the vagina and also the bladder or the vagina and the rectum, which usually comes after traumatic childbirth.”

Sims decided to do tests on three particular slaves: Betsey, Anarcha, and Lucy. They were painful procedures, sutures done without anesthesia. And while Sims wrote in his findings that the women were eager to have the procedures done because the fistulas left them struggling to work and have babies, as slaves, they didn’t have the option to give consent for such things either way. And when Sims did more and more of these procedures, conducting them in front of groups of medical professionals, the women had no say in being naked and experimented on in front of others.

To make matters worse, the surgeries were not successful early on, tearing, and causing even more pain. Sims did them from 1846 to 1849. Gamble stated that after 30 procedures on Anarcha, “he was able to perfect his technique.”

And such advancements helped him succeed greatly in the medical field. He became president of the American Medical Association and a member of the New York Academy of Medicine. He became a renowned surgeon, and statues were eventually erected in his honor, including ones in South Carolina and Alabama. But knowing the truth behind such headways made in medicine, Gamble believes that the three women, whose voices and thoughts — aside from screams during procedures — were left out of Sims findings, deserve to have people know of their contributions. Muting them “mutes the story that the foundations of modern gynecology are based on the body and the pain of enslaved black women.”

She continued, “He did treat white women. But he treated white women with anesthesia. Sims left – in the 1850s, he left Alabama and moved to New York City for health reasons. And he started a women’s hospital in 1855 there. He gained a reputation as an excellent surgeon. And so that he did treat white women. But the technique had been perfected on the bodies of black women.”

Please, when you have a chance, check out the thought-provoking NPR story below. How do you think Betsey, Anarcha, and Lucy should have their contributions recognized? And what should happen to Sims’s statutes and legacy?

Harvard & Princeton Do Away With Titling Head Professors As “Master”

December 5th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

After decades of using the title “master” to refer to leaders of residential colleges, some Ivy League universities are doing away with it, as many have complaints regarding its connection to slavery. With the racial climate and numerous tragic incidents occurring on campuses nationwide, the push for this change has been strong.

The title, whose roots can be traced back to universities of medieval Europe, are given to university faculty members who oversee social and academic programs and serve as advisers.

According to the New York Daily News, both Harvard and Princeton have eliminated the title, and Yale is in talks of whether or not they should do the same.

Princeton, whose administrators announced last month that the masters at its six colleges decided to drop title , described it as “anachronistic and historically vexed.”

“We believe that calling them ‘head of college’ better captures the spirit of their work and their contributions to campus residential life,” Dean Jill Dolan said.

Harvard, who also is breaking away from the title, announced just last week it’s plans for changing “house master” to one that has yet to be determined.
“The desire to change this title has taken place over time and has been a thoughtful one, rooted in a broad effort to ensure that the college’s rhetoric, expectations, and practices around our historically unique roles reflects and serves the 21st century needs of residential student life,” Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana wrote to students.“The house masters feel confident that a change in title at this point in time makes sense on very many levels.”
Yale’s Stephen Davis, a head professor of Pierson College, also agrees on rejecting the title. Back in August, he wrote to the college: “I think there should be no context in our society or in our university in which an African-American student, professor or staff member — or any person, for that matter — should be asked to call anyone ‘master,”’ according to Yale Daily News.
Yale President Peter Salovey has  yet ot make a decision on the future of the term “master” at their prestigious university, but is expecting to share the decision on the pressing matter before the summer.
In the meantime, Yale has made several changes that may promote their pending decision including building a new center devoted to race and ethnicity and new faculty positions dedicated to the histories, lives and cultures of under-represented communities.

Why Patti LaBelle’s Pie Is The Blackest Moment This Year

November 17th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Patti Labelle's Pie

Walmart.com

The next time someone tries to tell you that Black people in America have no culture, give them four dollars, point them to the nearest Walmart and tell them to get one of Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pies.

Because seriously, what is more Black American than the weekend we had debating the authenticity of Patti’s sweet potato pie?

Patti’s pies are blacker than the “Black Jesus” Ned the Wino episode on Good Times. Patti’s pies are blacker than the first Black president of the United States of America. Patti’s pies are even blacker than Colored People Time. And you don’t get no blacker than showing up late to things. Heck, even this essay is late…

The point is, Patti’s pies are pretty Black.

And ever since YouTube sensation James Wright promised that eating a slice of her pie would turn you into the legendary diva, many Black folks ran to Walmart just to see if the review measured up to the hype. But don’t get it twisted: this wasn’t about wanting to sing like Patti. And it wasn’t even about seeing if Patti, who brags religiously about her ability to burn in the kitchen, could really bake.

I guarantee you that had this pie been apple, key lime or even peach pie, folks would not have given Wright’s video a second view. I mean, what self-respecting Black person would stand for 45 minutes in the only open checkout lane in Walmart out of 75 unopened checkout lanes for a damn cherry pie?

Nobody I know.

Instead, this was about the sweet potato pie. And honor.

After all, nobody makes sweet potato pies like a Black grandma. And everybody swears that their Black grandmas make the best pie. Not to mention, there is no greater symbol of Black people’s ability to turn our tragedy into triumph than the sweet potato pie.

In fact, sweet potato pie is almost the antihero to the villainous pumpkin pie. As we all know that pie is a symbol of conquest. As some questionable history of the sweet potato pie suggests, it was the Europeans who first brought pumpkin pie to West Africa. Because that’s what Europeans did back then. They would show up on indigenous shores, waving around a welcoming pumpkin pie. And while the native people were gagging because of how awful it tasted, they stole our land.

That’s why you’re not supposed to touch the stuff (that includes the pumpkin spice). It is a trap. Don’t believe me? Ask the Native Americans.

Anyway, after our conquest and kidnapping to the Americas, Black people took the pumpkin pie, threw it in the trash and used the pie tins to invent a whole new kind of pie made out of local potatoes and spices that White people stole from all the colored people in the world.

And that’s the story of how the sweet potato pie helped us survive all these years.

While I certainly can’t prove this, I am almost certain there was sweet potato pie around when General Granger read aloud the special decree that ordered the freeing of the last enslaved Blacks in Texas. And I am also certain that the kitchen ministry evil-eyed and slapped the hands of anybody daring to touch that sweet potato pie they made special for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was still in the pulpit giving his “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech. And I am also certain that long after civilization ceases to exist, the only Black person left in the New World Order will be trading and bartering her possessions for some nutmeg and a pound of North Carolina premium sweet spuds.

Of course, those New Negro weirdos who say they don’t like sweet potato pie do not count. Obviously, there is something wrong with them. Obviously, they’re trying too hard to be “different.” These are the same folks who use words like “classy” and “professional” (Bougie black people love calling things “unprofessional”) and who won’t eat watermelon and fried chicken in front of White people out of fear of being called the n-word. And these are the same folks who then act shocked when those same White people they have been hiding their proclivities from, still treat them like the n-words even without the chicken and watermelon.

I’m telling you, those people are just jealous. They are jealous because they spent most of their lives suffering through the nasty taste of conquest pies while depriving themselves of everything Black. Meanwhile, there you are: acting both blackly and proudly as you enjoy your chicken and sweet potato pie in front of whomever while wishing somebody would have something to say…

Also not to be counted are the folks who have used our celebration of the sweet potato pie as an opportunity to rail against Black people for supporting the White man’s capitalism. Those folks are just jealous too. And despite their proclamations of saving us from ourselves, they’re the reason we can’t have nice things.

According to Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Daily News, Patti’s pies were selling at one pie per second during the weekend blitz. As a result of the hype, Walmart is unable to meet demand. As Kerry Robinson, vice president of bakery and deli for Walmart said to Armstrong, “We need probably two million pounds of sweet potatoes.”

What that means is that not only did Black people help to put money into a Black woman’s pocket (to the tune of $2.3 million in a single weekend), but we achieved what no recent boycott could ever do: We shut it down!

That’s right Walmart: You are not getting our pie money during this holiday season.

But seriously, what’s really special about the Patti’s pies hype is that it was a true testament of our love for one another. It shows that we support each other, despite what most believe. And that we do want to see one another prosper.

It also showed that we do value our culture. There is no doubt in my mind that if those sweet potato pies had tasted like oppression, Patti would have been “On Her Own.”