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Op-Ed

A Young Sister ‘Hashtagged’ Me Out of My Silo

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Julianne Malveaux

By Julianne Malveaux
NNPA Columnist

 

When a colleague dropped the line, “You can’t hashtag your way to freedom,” I loved it! I laughed out loud, and promised that I’d not borrow the line, but steal it because I was so enamored of it. I’ve used it quite a few times since then, and gotten my share of grins and guffaws. So I used it again and again, always getting the same reaction.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Frenchie Davis, 35, the Howard University alumna who burst onto the music scene with her 2003 turn on “American Idol,” took me to school by telling me she thought my remark was “condescending.” I didn’t mean to be condescending, just to make the point that there is a difference between tweeting and fighting for change. Hashtags are not votes. Even if a million people hashtagged #bringbackourgirls, the hundreds of Nigerian young women abducted by Boko Haram are still missing.

Frenchie Davis thought my glib remark dismissed a form of communication that young people find effective, a form of communication that raises their awareness. She is right to point out that electronic and social media is far more consequential today than it was just a decade ago, and that her generation relies on social media more heavily than it does traditional media. While many people of my Baby Boomer generation use electronic media, we are not as immersed in it as younger folks are.

Reality check. The median age of the African American recorded in the 2000 Census was 30.4, compared to the national mean of 34.4. As of 2013, the mean age of U.S. born Blacks was 29, compared to a national mean of 37. That means the average African American is closer in age to Frenchie Davis than to to me.

Members of that generation – too often disdained by their elders for their work ethic, commitment to civil rights, or style of dress – are the ones who will propel the Civil Rights Movement into the future. So Sister Frenchie was right to call me on my snarly/funny remark about hashtagging to freedom. If the hashtag takes you to a conversation, and that takes you to action, then the hashtag may be a step in the right direction.

My conversation with Frenchie Davis took place when I moderated a panel on “Race, Justice, and Change,” as part of the Washington, D.C. Emancipation Day commemoration. By way of background, the Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 paid the owners of 3,100 slaves $300 each to emancipate them; for the past decade D.C. commemorates this day with an official holiday.

The other panelists, Malik Yoba, Doug E. Fresh, and Mali Music, are, like Davis, socially and politically active artists, who are also concerned with ways to increase involvement in civil rights matters. Mali Music, 27, was the youngest member of the panel. His comments about young Black male alienation offered an important perspective in a conversation structured to address voting, policing, and organizing. I’d not heard of the Grammy Award nominee before, which perhaps reveals the generational silo I occupy.

I’m uncomfortable in my silo. Uncomfortable with how easy it is to join a conversation about generational differences without embracing generational similarities. “Back in the day,” a phrase I probably should use much less, many of our radio shows or stations were called “The Drum,” after the drumbeat form of communication. Hashtag can rightly be seen as another word for drum. And getting out of my silo, it’s important that drummers (or hashtaggers) both teach and learn.

How do we get young people involved in the Civil Rights Movement? Many already are involved – check them out at #Blacklivesmatter. More than conversation, this communication has galvanized tens of thousands to stay focused on continued police violence and the attacks on Black life. The hashtag has connected people planning marches and protests. That’s involvement.

Are we insisting that young people be involved in the movement as we know it? New organizations and movements are emerging, and some younger folks won’t embrace or engage in organizations they consider irrelevant. Has anyone marketed the contemporary Civil Rights Movement to younger African Americans? Do we feel that we need to? Do we expect people to show up (where?) and roll their sleeves up, task undefined?

How do we get young people involved? Ask them. Sit back and listen, really listen, to their reply. And understand that there are some, not so young, who may also need a nudge to get involved.

I am energized, enlightened, and privileged when I am pushed out of my silo. I am grateful to Frenchie Davis, Malik Yoba, Mali Music and Doug E. Fresh for helping me connect the drums with the hashtags. The generational conversation is engaging, frustrating, and effervescent. It is an essential part of our movement for social and economic justices, and its many definitions and experiences.

 

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington-based writer and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.

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#NNPA BlackPress

OP-ED: Women’s Suffrage Forged by Founding Sisters: Happy Birthday to Ida B.

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Ida B. revered the Black press as an organizing tool. Though her newspaper The Memphis Free Speech was destroyed by racist mobs, she was never silenced. During her life, she would publish three newspapers and authored “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” and “The Red Record,” investigative reports that remain definitive sources on racist violence more than 100 years later.

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Gwen McKinney is President and Founder of McKinney & Associates Public Relations, for which she is responsible for translating the vision of "public relations with a conscience" into a sustained, bold and tested suite of communications services and activities. She is also the founder and lead collaborator for Suffrage.Race.Power.

By Gwen McKinney

“The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

So proclaimed Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who fearlessly shined a light with words on the abominable dark days after slavery and into the 20th century.

Journalist, publisher, author, activist, and suffragist leader, Ida B.’s spirit soars. July 16 marks the 157th anniversary of her birth. Blood, sweat, and ink sealed her legacy and the future of a nation still struggling to be whole.

Ida B. revered the Black press as an organizing tool. Though her newspaper The Memphis Free Speech was destroyed by racist mobs, she was never silenced. During her life, she would publish three newspapers and authored “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” and “The Red Record,” investigative reports that remain definitive sources on racist violence more than 100 years later.

Small in stature but huge in courage, Wells, an emancipated slave, joined a cadre of Black contemporaries – scholars, activists, and thought leaders – who pledged to change the trajectory of bondage and demand that Black women have a voice.

They defy the clichés and caricatures planted in popular culture with their searing voices. Their cadence would not be paraphrased or translated into the often quoted “Ain’t I A Woman” reprise. But forever burdened by their womanhood and Blackness, their path – then and now – is littered with obstacles.

Educator and writer Mary Church Terrell observed, “Nobody wants to know a colored woman’s opinion about her own status [or] that of her group. When she dares express it, no matter how mild or tactful…, it is called ‘propaganda,’ or is labeled ‘controversial.’”

Poet, teacher, and Baltimore abolitionist Frances Ellen Harper was among the suffragists who pleaded the case for linked fate unity. “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity,” she said. “Society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.”

These Founding Sisters forged civil rights organizations with Black men, sororities, and service clubs with their women peers, and joined “woke” White women against lynching and disenfranchisement and for education and economic development.

It was Ida B. and a coterie of Black women publishers, writers, and teachers of the era who led the movement for universal suffrage even when Black women were shunned and excluded.

Nonetheless, women’s suffrage, deeply rooted in abolitionism, is depicted in a single dimension as the jumpstart for the white feminist/voting rights movement.

Regarded as social reformers, White suffragist – many of them supporters of abolition – confronted a fork in the road, conflicted between the “Negro question” and universal suffrage.

With passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 granting Black men voting rights, universal suffrage would be sacrificed on the altar of patriarchy and white supremacy. Defended or oversimplified, the words of Susan B. Anthony, crowned the mother of women’s suffrage, illustrate the entrenched stranglehold of whiteness.

Though she counted abolitionist Frederick Douglas as an admired cohort, Anthony’s contradictions can only be measured today in the context of racism and exclusion.

“I would sooner cut off this right arm of mine before I would ever work for or demand the ballot for the black man and not the woman,” she said. One might conclude that she was seduced by the divide-and-conquer tactics of the male proponents of the 15th Amendment. But Anthony’s view was widely embraced by the White women’s suffrage movement.

Her friend and suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, arguing against the 15th Amendment, protested: “It’s better to be the slave of an educated white man than of a degraded black one.”

One year away from the centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, how much ground have we gained as women and a nation? How much of the conversation about gender equality denies the overlapping impact of white nationalism, patriarchy, and privilege? Where and when do the voices of Black and Brown women enter?

But first and foremost, when do Black women get the recognition that they have earned in their unbroken march to freedom?

Our compass should be guided by that path forged by Ida B. Wells and other courageous Black women whose intersectional quest to make America stand upright changed the world.

This opening salvo embraces Suffrage. Race. Power. Spurred by my collaboration with a small collective of women that is Black-led, cross-generational, and supported by “woke” White women, we’ve named ourselves “Founding Sisters.” This space will offer regular installments that honor our Founding Sisters of the last centuries and spotlight the unfinished business of Suffrage. Race. Power.

To kick it off: Happy birthday Ida B.!

Gwen McKinney is President and Founder of McKinney & Associates Public Relations, for which she is responsible for translating the vision of “public relations with a conscience” into a sustained, bold and tested suite of communications services and activities. She is also the founder and lead collaborator for Suffrage.Race.Power.

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Op-Ed

OP-ED: Preparing for the Coming of 5G in D.C.

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Life as we know it is about to change in less than a nanosecond when 5G comes to neighborhoods in D.C. and across the U.S., and for some, it may be coming sooner than later. There’s good news and bad news.

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Washington D.C. (Photo by: washingtoninformer.com)
By WI Editorial Staff

Life as we know it is about to change in less than a nanosecond when 5G comes to neighborhoods in D.C. and across the U.S., and for some, it may be coming sooner than later. There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news surrounds the real concern that the rollout of the latest and fastest high-speed Internet technology providing wide-ranging capabilities and cellular adaptations could bypass communities of color, specifically Black people. We know the Digital Divide is real, and we implore the Black community not to ignore what’s coming, fail to prepare for it or remain ill-equipped to ask the right questions.

The good news is that those who are aware and focused on the potential of the new technology, will know what questions to ask to either welcome 5G with high expectations, or resist it until issues of safety, security, opportunities and equity are thoroughly vetted.

At a recent 5G and Communities of Color Town Hall sponsored by The Washington Informer and Washington Informer Charities, organizers were satisfied that their mission was accomplished when attendees announced they were leaving with more questions than answers about 5G to be later explored. It is imperative that all communities take a hard look at the impending deployment of the fifth-generation of cellular technology and assess for themselves the policy decisions being made about 5G before it reaches their front door.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, said at a roundtable on 5G in November 2018 that lasted nearly seven hours, “This is an exciting time in the District’s technological evolution.”

But, she acknowledged that District leaders, including advisory neighborhood commissioners, are limited in their ability to approve or disapprove aspects of 5G deployment, and she referred to the “FCC’s ruling [that] gives the federal government the power to decide how these local issues will play out, not the District” as an additional obstacle.

That’s why Montgomery County and other jurisdictions across the country are petitioning the federal courts to halt the national deployment of 5G and order the Federal Communications Commission to provide data on the safety of radio frequency emissions and its impact on human health. The FCC, according to the petition, has refused requests and is relying on 25-year-old R.F. exposure standards to determine the safety of 5G. The petitioners are concerned that these 1996 scientific standards may not adequately protect public health and safety today.

The fact is, the U.S. government has proclaimed it is in a “race to 5G” and it is determined to win against such countries as China, South Korea and Japan. To maintain its leadership position, the Trump administration has welcomed private sector technology companies to deploy 5G across the country with billions of dollars already having been invested in life-changing innovations enabling greater use of artificial intelligence, digital health, emergency communications, self-driving vehicles and smart cities.

There is no doubt that 5G is on its way. Thus, we encourage everyone to keep a watchful eye on its deployment, and explore the tremendous opportunities 5G presents, as well as generational consequences it could have.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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#NNPA BlackPress

OP-ED: On Juneteenth we must remember our fight for freedom continues

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The NAACP stands at a significant moment in time when racial subordination and racial hierarchy is being reinforced at the highest level of leadership in this country. The recent accounts of domestic terrorism at black churches, images of Blackface populating the airwaves, the increase in hate crimes, and Black lives senselessly taken at the hands of over policing and brutality, shows that we are living in a world that often devalues us as people who have the right to live freely.”

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“Many diverse groups, including NAACP units throughout the country, are rising up to advocate for policies that ensure that we empower communities of color to make our voices heard and implement effective strategies to address the growing impact of the rise of white nationalism and emboldened racial rhetoric.” — Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO

By Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO

On June 19, 1865, Texan slaves found out they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, two and a half years after it was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Since then, annual celebrations of the emancipation have been referred to as Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and honoring African American freedom and liberation.

As we have for years, we celebrate Juneteenth through food, prayer and festivities honoring a rich tradition that continues to promote education and self-improvement. We’ve seen this holiday take root within communities and organizations throughout the country, taking on a national and even global presence with a mission to promote African American culture and respect for all cultures.

But as we continue to cultivate knowledge and appreciation of our history and reflect upon the monumental challenges that our ancestors faced in fighting for freedom from bondage, we must also consider the ways in which the Black community continues to be under the threat of hate, xenophobia, and bigotry.

The NAACP stands at a significant moment in time when racial subordination and racial hierarchy is being reinforced at the highest level of leadership in this country. The recent accounts of domestic terrorism at black churches, images of Blackface populating the airwaves, the increase in hate crimes, and Black lives senselessly taken at the hands of over policing and brutality, shows that we are living in a world that often devalues us as people who have the right to live freely.

However, what we saw during the historic wave of grassroots activism that swept across the country during the 2018 midterms — with women and people of color leading the way — was an overwhelming rebuke of these heinous acts, and a show of support for an America with a bold, forward-looking and inclusive vision.

As the nation’s foremost civil rights organization, the NAACP has been a leader in the struggle to improve the lives of Black people in America. However, the historic importance and impending impact of the 2018 midterm elections, have propelled us to bring our activist roots to the forefront.

Many diverse groups, including NAACP units throughout the country, are rising up to advocate for policies that ensure that we empower communities of color to make our voices heard and implement effective strategies to address the growing impact of the rise of white nationalism and emboldened racial rhetoric.

As we celebrate Black liberation, let us continue to unite and fight together to confront the challenges we face today.

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