Category Archives: African American History 2011

We Want Justice…Now.


I read this piece by Questlove today and can’t get it out of my mind.

I recognized the honesty of Questlove’s story because it mirrors so many stories told by African American’s across the socio-economic spectrum…for those who have the courage to listen.

Also? As a 6’2 African American female, I have lived a portion of his truth. Many people are jarred when they first see me as they take in my height. Most of these people are White. Some shrink away from me, some don’t answer doors when I make business calls, and some are just rude and dismissive.

Their dislike, fueled by racism, and real or imaginary stereotypes, is hard enough to bear. But to see fear on someone else’s face because of your race and physicality is always deeply disturbing. It always blows your mind and creates cognitive dissonance. Especially, if like Amir describes, you have diligently worked to craft your demeanor, speech, or appearance so as to be less “threatening”…to no avail.

Like I did, for years, slumping in attempt to hide myself and diminish my stature. As if that was possible. Or, crafting my speech to not sound “ghetto” as if I could separate myself from the shadows of neo-racism. Or, most telling and shamefully, the years that I closed myself off from Black friends because of self hate that I failed to recognize and worked hard to overcome.

Disturbing psychological ramifications are manifold…

– The feeling that you will not be judged as individual no matter what you do.

– The knowledge that to some “people” you will never be “right” (or worthy of human consideration) because they have shrunk your human possibility and potential to fit in with what they’ve been told, taught, or see on some stupid ass reality show.

– The fact that you must find a way of coping with this injustice and work around the people and systems who uphold it in order to survive.

…is a pretty fucking horrible feeling.

I feel Questlove and honestly, I doubt there is a single African American who read this story that did not. I applaud him for the courage to speak on this deeply personal subject, in direct contradiction to his famed persona, and reveal his very human, vulnerability and pain.

No one knows the shoes you walk in.

We love to say that but sadly it’s not always true. Some parts of the human experience are not individual but collective.

And when the Zimmerman verdict was announced, the pain, the rage, the shame, the horror and the sadness seemed collectively shared by Black America. You could read it on social media and hear it on TV, all before the search for equality and justice took us to the streets again.

I have no children but if I did this is not the reality that I would wish them to grow up with. Pain, that they did not ask for or deserve. Realities that they must learn to cope with our be broken by. The psychological scars of racism that ‘post racial’ America would like to pretend does not exist, in order for some to assuage their guilt and for others to perpetuate the system which their forefathers created.

I learned of the verdict on Sunday and spent most of it in a black cloud.

It was NOT just another day…for millions of Americans.

I sobbed inconsolably for the Martin family and my people. Some unlucky person tried conversing with me on Twitter about Black on Black crime and how things would not change until we treated ourselves better. So great was my rage and pain that I nearly imploded. before I could combust I blocked her instead.

My overriding thought was how insane it is that my pain must be the lowest possible denomination of what my ancestors must have felt, in the 60’s, in the 50’s, in the 40’s, in the 30’s…going back to the 18th century.

But America has changed, yes?

It has not changed enough and we must demand for future generations that it does.

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Pirate Jenny is My Grandmother by Black Amazon

Nina Simone

I’m on Tumblr now. 🙂 Yes, I’m rapidly becoming a proud, social media addict. I enjoy it for the cool people I meet and the exposure to myriad subjects from great minds.

I’m digging the poem below, Pirate Jenny is My Grandmother by Black Amazon. It’s intelligence, unabashed veracity, power, complexity and anger resonated with me. The author is 28, which to me, gives the piece a different articulation and a too rarely expressed perspective.

It was written, amongst other things, in response to a news report being about a 12 year old girl who was beaten up by two grown women. It makes absolutely no sense to me that they are not being prosecuted for hate crimes since the video clearly substantiates that charge.


But I read the news about women’s rights / health struggles and go “Good”

Because a 12 year old girl can catch a broken limb beating from TWO thirty year olds

that ” activism” of the past what 100+ years hasn’t changed any of that

And with FEW exceptions folks don’t care

Because a 12 year old girl can catch a broken limb beating from TWO thirty year olds

and no one gets arrested till it makes the Internet.

But folks think we’re too angry

It’s no one’s fault.

She “get’s her arm broken”

You see these things just “happen” to girls of color

Nobody means it so no one should be held accountable

It’s a nebulous society and forces of which no one is complicit, no one is culpable

Until a 12 year old gets used to being called nigger and “only” breaks her arm.

And if no one is doing it to us?

Then we must be doing it to ourselves…

Read full poem here

**Artwork: Art Imitating Life: Rabbit by Citruquinz. Visit site**

MLK & Racial Inequality: State of the Dream

I cried three times yesterday.

Once, at historic nature of President Obama’s second inaugural address. Listening to him, I was seized by an enormous feeling of pride. Proud at the collective struggle required and achieved, all bound up in his re-election, pride in his personal achievements, as this battle has been hard fought. I can only applaud his perseverance, strength and determination, it is nothing short of inspirational considering the forces working against him.

My pride was multi-dimensional, for as I looked at him, I felt strongly that his place in the world is a shining example of what change times has wrought. I could feel a heavenly chorus of my ancestors applauding him, for he is the living embodiment of a long line of bloody human sacrifices, strife and struggle.

I do not have to invoke the names of Martin Luther, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, or Nat Turner, all of whom are a drop in the ocean of humanity that made this moment possible. But I invoke them anyway because to say their names fills me with love, respect and power. They’d probably be the first to say that they were but the righteous arm of justice… Of progress.

So yesterday, my heart could not help but remember the nameless slaves who died waiting for salvation; those who were beaten bloody as they fought for freedom, my Great Grandmother included, and those who had the strength of character to continue standing long after their spirits should have been broken. The Everyman and woman without whom I would not be who I am today.

And just as I grappled with the largeness of those thoughts, Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, One Today, which echoed many of my thoughts. We are, no matter our own individual strivings, the culmination of ancestral hopes, dreams and efforts, which brought on a second wave of happy tears.

I am truly happy that this moment occurred in my lifetime.

Many hours later, watching a special on MLK, I wept a final time in recognition of all that remains to be done.

President Obama, as I continually point out to all whom will listen, is not a civil rights leader. He wears the mantle of president and works well in the confines and dictates of his office. He’s been accused of not taking up the mantle for the poor and not speaking directly to the issues of African Americans which is largely true.

However, that truth sits inside another one. You can’t voice that without recognition of his position. I believe that his silence is not a falling of conscience, but mostly due to the politicization and polarization that still surrounds race in America. His seeming unwillingness to confront the myriad issues head on underscore the limitations of his reach as an American president. “Past is Prologue.”

You might be thinking, African Americans no longer need a civil rights leader. After all the progress that has been made, what for? I know you’re probably a bootstrap-believer-type. If so, you probably think we don’t need Affirmative Action anymore either. Look at Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson and Tiger Woods, to name a few. There is a long list of highly, visible celebrities who are…

NOT in the least bit indicative of the average African American.

In matters of racism, it’s best to rely on facts and barring that, the personal experience of those who fall victim to it. Opinions are not facts and if you are thinking some version of the above, you should know the statistics do NOT bear you out.

These days, people love to argue about why African Americans still talk about slavery and racism. *sigh* Frequently, we are accused of “race baiting” when we, or anyone else armed with a few facts, dares to mention the R word.

Ponder if you will the following statistics:

– The African American unemployment rate is 13.2%, higher than any other ethnic group. It has been twice that of Whites for the last 60 years. Check out this video by the Coalition for Change.
– Of the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans, approx. 1 million are African American incarcerated. . Statistically speaking, every minority in America is more likely to be incarcerated than their White counterparts.
– African American home ownership is 44.8%, at it’s lowest level in 16 years, compared to Whites at 74.1%. Home ownership is one of the single biggest indicators of the middle class.

See the following link for The State of the Dream 2013 by United for a Fair Economy.

The statistics speak of a systemic inequality that can’t be overcome on a strictly, individual level. It is illustrative of institutional racism. It may even speak to ongoing, pervasive feeling of devaluation by African Americans. The one thing most people seem most unwilling to grapple with is the psychological effects of racism, yet they are absolutely germane to discussions on race.

The statistics show that while inequality has, arguably, changed on it’s face, it is still alive and well. To fight that on myriad fronts, we need a leader outside the constraints of politics, who will serve as a marshaling force, inspire a movement. A movement that will wake us up and bring us together collectively to fight for changes that are sorely needed, within and without. More progress. More action. More eradication of injustice. Only then will the majority be able to reach for a dream that is full of their God-given potential as human beings. Then, our ancestors could truly be at peace. #happythankyoumoreplease

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

Updated: Black History Month: Josephine Baker “The Black Venus”

5/19/12 – The tweet below exposed me to an aspect of Josephine Baker’s life that my internet research did not uncover. Color me unsurprised.

Since this post attempts, in some small measure, to reveal the totality of her person, I thought such salient information should be included. Notice that I say salient, not salacious. To me, it is especially important in light of the recent conversation about marriage equality. Sexuality in no way defines, limits, or reveals the measure of a man (or woman) regardless of the judgements of others and what we like to believe is “normal”. Whatever it is that we deem normal, at any given point in time ;).

An excerpt from the excellent blog, “Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters” reads:

“Baker was bisexual. Her son Jean-Claude Baker and co-author Chris Chase state in Josephine: The Hungry Heart that she was involved in numerous lesbian affairs, both while she was single and married, and mention six of her female lovers by name. Clara Smith, Evelyn Sheppard, Bessie Allison, Ada “Bricktop” Smith, and Mildred Smallwood were all African-American women whom she met while touring on the black performing circuit early in her career. She was also reportedly involved intimately with French writer Colette. Not mentioned, but confirmed since, was her affair with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.”

Read the whole post here. Excellent content.


Original post 2/7/12

I’ve had a love thing for Josephine Baker since I was in my early 20’s. She encapsulates so many things that I love, the glitz and glamour of the 1920’s, jazz, goofy humor, unabashed sexuality, freedom and exotic beauty.

She was born Freda Josephine McDonald on  June 3, 1906 in Saint Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Carrie McDonald and Vaudeville drummer, Eddie Carson. Her father left the family shortly after she was born and although her mother remarried, there’s was a poor household. Josephine started working early, cleaning the homes and babysitting for wealthy White families.

At 13, she landed a job at The Old Chaffeur’s Club waiting tables where she met her first husband, Willie Wells. She was married four times, twice to Americans and twice to Frenchmen. Her surname comes from her second husband, Willie Baker, whom she married in 1921. Unlike many women of that time, she was always financially independent and never dependent on her husbands for financial support. During her lifetime, she received over 1,500 marriage proposals. How unbelievable is that? 🙂

She left the Old Chaffeur’s Club to begin touring the US with the Dixie Steppers and The Jones Family Band in 1919. True to her comedic nature, she performed comedic skits for them. The next show which they performed was Sissle and Blake’s production of Shuffle Along where she was employed as a dresser. She auditioned for the Chorus girl role but was told that she was “too skinny and too dark”. She learned the routines anyway, which allowed her to act as a replacement when someone was out. Her performance was peppered with goofy comedy that engaged the audience and served as box office draw.

A Woman of Firsts

She was a first to break down the walls, becoming the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture and world renowned entertainer.

Her next venture, La Revue Negre, was a turning point in her career as it took her to Paris. She performed a routine called Danse Sauvage where she danced in nothing but a feather skirt. In integrated Paris, her career thrived as she became an overnight sensation. Next, she performed La Folie du Jour at the world renowned Follies-Bergere. Her act included, what is now known as, the Banana Dance where she wore a skirt made of 16 bananas. And thus, a star was born.

In 1927, she rivaled Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford for the title of world’s most photographed woman and earned more than any other entertainer in Paris. In the 1930’s she  debuted in two films, Princess Tam-Tam and Zou Zou. She also used her wealth to move her family from St. Louis to her estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, France, Les Millandes. She was beloved of many artists, like Piet Mondrian, and served as an inspiration to famous writers like Ernest Hemingway.

She returned to the states in 1936 to perform with the Ziegfield Follies which proved disastrous. She was reviled by the critics and audiences alike. The New York Times called her “a Negro wench.”

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Josephine Baker is renowned for the Banana dance but she was more than just a force celebre. Her talent and beauty were the things that drew me to her but I had no idea what a significant part she played in our history and I am awed by her contributions. Like many other notable Black figures throughout history, Josephine’s experiences with racism, were transformative, turning her into a lifelong civil rights activist. She never stopped fighting for justice and racial equality and displayed a passion for civil liberties.

She was awarded the Legion of Honor and given a Medal of Resistance for her work during World War II. Not only did she perform for the French soldiers, she also served as a correspondent for the French Resistance, performing undercover work that included encoding messages on her music sheets, and as a sub-lieutenant in the Woman’s Auxiliary Airforce. She was also the first American woman to receive the Croix du Guerre, a notable French military honor.

She fought diligently against racism and in the 1950’s and 60’s frequently returned to the United States to join the struggle for Civil Rights. When the New York Stork Club famously refused to serve her, she wrote telegrams to President Truman and enlisted the help of the NAACP, resulting in a media brawl highlighting the discriminatory practices of such popular establishments.

She was one of the few Black female speakers at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, introducing “Negro Woman Fighters For Freedom”, including Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. and now Congressman John Lewis  were driving forces of that protest. The NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, named May 20th Josephine Baker day in her honor. She is said to have been offered the unofficial leadership of the Civil Rights Movement by Coretta Scott King after King was assassinated but turned it down.

She adopted 12 children of different ethnicities from around the world and dubbed them “The Rainbow Tribe”. She wanted to show that children of different races could be a happy and whole family. Such generosity may be commonplace amongst stars today but it was unique in that time. She was also a lover of animals, owning a famous Cheetah called Chiquita.

She died on April 12, 1975 of a cerebral hemorrhage. 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to watch her funeral procession. She received a 21 gun salute, making her the first Black American female to be buried with military honors in France. It does my heart good to know that she remains, justifiably so, an iconic figure and was so loved.

Why I Don’t Need To See The Help (Updated)

So, tomorrow night is the Oscar’s and vying for Best Picture is The Help.

Woop! Woop! Not.

You had to have heard about it, it’s popularity makes it hard to escape. Critiques and accolades are indeed everywhere. In fact, in keeping with Capitalism American Style, there is a product line on the Home Shopping Network. You know, to be sure that they feed our atavistic  consumerism and pimp us for every dollar.

And yet, I have not seen it.

My initial reaction was, “Who needs to see yet another movie about Blacks in a menial position being “rescued” by a White Savior?” It’s a story as old as the world and I for one would much rather not.

But I try to keep an open mind so rather than run screaming in the other direction, I sought out the opinions of others and have watched with great curiosity the dearth of commentary about the film on Twitter. I follow a pretty diverse group of smart folks, writers, feminists, political pundits, pop icons, intellectuals, activists and the like. It has been extremely enlightening to listen to the array of voices dissect and analyze The Help. Unsurprisingly, their criticism echoed my initial reaction and cemented my reluctance.

Someone on my TL Tweeted, “The Help was no help to me.” LOL. Succinct but accurate.

The opinions follow a general trend, that the story itself, is a false depiction of the historical record and insulting to the struggles of African Americans. That it is wrong to depict the perpetually smiling, loving, jovial, self-sacrificing, stereotype of the “Mammy” in the face of racism and debasement. It’s undignified and plain stupid, to say the very least. To boot, that such depictions inform the misconception of Black women as victims, incapable of saving themselves and reliant upon, in this case, White liberals “do-gooders” to save/enlighten them.

It should be noted that the author, Kathryn Stockett, based the story on her experiences growing up in Mississippi and her family maid. Sadly, it seems she did much more than that. Click here to read the article about Abilene Cooper’s court case against Kathryn Stockett.

Of course, not all African Americans agree, we are nothing if not a heterogeneous group. I think those who disagree are giving a nod to revisionist history and downplaying the importance of media representations which inform, or reflect, social norms. This is an all too common meme in Hollywood which hearkens back to the good ol’ days of Gone With The Wind, Butterfly McQueen and Hattie McDaniel.

The Help is defended as a “feel good” story and I don’t doubt it has some redeeming qualities but that doesn’t give it the right to obscure history with fantasy. Nor, can any rational person argue that revisionist history is good for mankind.

There is an alarming trend towards revisionist history that seems to be gaining momentum in America. I believe that it’s the driving force behind censorship of Huckleberry Finn removing the word Nigger, HD 2281, the Arizona law that deems it unlawful to teach Ethnic studies in schools and Texas Board of Education’s attempts to revise history books, changing slavery to the Altantic Triangular Trade. *snort*

The mindset seems to say, “Let’s erase the evil deeds of our ancestors because it’s over. Why harp on slavery and Jim Crow?” We have the Civil Rights Amendment, Affirmative Action and a Black president now.

Right, like women have ERA and Roe v. Wade and are still fighting today for equal pay and the right to control our bodies. Let that be a lesson to you.

Would you ask a rape victim to forget about her rape? Would you ask a victim of child abuse to forget that their abuse?” I didn’t think so.

History teaches us, collectively and personally, informing who we are and where we came from. It encapsulates the full spectrum of possibility, achievements and atrocities. In many cases, it is a cautionary lesson. Erasure does not encourage critical thinking or evolution. Which is why such stories, parroting as truth, offend me.

When I saw For Colored Girl’s Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” it devastated me, hit me right in my core and left me sobbing in the theater. Why? Because it was so REAL. Those women told the often marginalized, undiluted tales of Black women who rise or fall, in the wake of emotional and physical trauma. Their voices reflect a reality that women face and it would be a completely different story if the guts were taken away because it’s too controversial, or some such mess. No, it’s not the uplifting escape from reality you seek but hey, life is not a perpetual party and people should not be reduced to caricatures for material gain, or personal appeasement. And never, never, should fiction be paraded as history for convenience sake…

Once in a Lifetime: The Incomparable Whitney Houston RIP

On August 9, 1963, a star was born.

On February 11, 2012, human consciousness dimmed as spirits around the world mourned her passing.

We’ve lost a legend.

A star whose trajectory across the music world shone so bright it was almost blinding.

There are few people I can think of who were more deserving of the love, admiration and accolades heaped upon her name…

Whitney Elizabeth Houston

Once in a lifetime, if you are lucky, you witness the unfolding greatness of a legendary artist. I consider myself blessed to have grown up to the sounds of Whitney Houston who will always remain, in the hearts of those who loved her, an icon. Her voice was positively transcendent. She had a 5 octave range, possessing a strength, depth and emotional delivery that transported you somewhere else – with every note she sang.

Nippy, her childhood nickname, was born in Newark, New Jersey. She hailed from greatness. She was the third child of Cissy Houston, a legend in her own time, and cousin to the unforgettable Dionne Warwick. So it is fitting that her godmother was the legendary queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.

She grew up singing gospel at New Hope Baptist Church and was discovered by Clive Davis of Arista Records in the 1980’s, the rest is history.

Whitney is the most awarded female artist of all time having received 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. Whitney was also one of the world’s best selling international artists, selling 170 million albums in her lifetime.

She is still the only artist to have 7 consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 singles.

Her 1985 debut album Whitney Houston was the best selling debut album at that time. It was also named best album of 1986 by Rolling Stone Magazine and is in their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

But that’s not all. She was also a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a model and an actress.  She starred in unforgettable movies like The Bodyguard, The Preacher’s Wife and Waiting To Exhale.

She was more than we knew.

It is easy to run down her list of accolades and memorable performances but they don’t tell her complete story. None of us will ever understand how such a gifted and special person’s life and career could be marred by drug addiction, troubled relationships and sadness.

Many of us, wish for money and fame, strive for power and recognition, pray for a talent that will outshine all others, and yet none of those things saved her from the darkness and despair that all too often destroys human lives.

Her cause of death is as yet unknown but we were all witness to the spiraling destruction and repercussions of her choices.

It is a lesson well worth remembering.

Make every day count because tomorrow is not promised.

And while we mourn the loss of one so talented, so beloved and so young, we should give thanks. Thanks that she was here and that we got to share, all too briefly, in the beauty and magnificence of her talent. She was more than a star, more than an icon, her life encapsulated the full spectrum of love, angst, vulnerability, strength, weakness and beauty that is mankind.

The love, music and joy remain.

Wish her well on her journey and pray for her friends, daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, and the Houston family.

Black History Month: Giving From The Heart

Back in December, I was overcome with tears at the secret Santa’s who gave anonymously so that families in need could have a better Christmas. As I know first hand, it is easy to feel isolated and forgotten when you are overwhelmed. Many people are struggling and feeling subsumed beneath the ongoing grind of economic strife and lack of employment.

People hear the economic numbers and the unaffected find it convenient to dismiss them, forgetting that they translate into actual families and individuals.

The 4 million foreclosures forecasted this year, are 4 million crushed dreams. More than just shelter, it is the hard work, the hoping, planning and sweat it took to carve out one place on the planet to call your own, to retreat, renew and build – gone. In many cases, after years of sacrifice.

How about the inability to meet basic needs like buy healthy food, pay for health insurance, or keep the heat on?

As the events of 2008 proved, life can flip you on your head with no warning. Unless you are someone like Romney whose safety net extends beyond our shores.  Say for instance…

  • The bank cuts off your equity line of credit, or claim (repeatedly) that they lost your HAMP application.
  • Your food stamps get cut without warning, or the state announces that they have no money to keep your child’s school running.
  • The GOP decides another unemployment insurance extension is not a priority, or heartless maniacs cheer at the thought of letting the uninsured die while the insurance companies make billions off the sick.

It can, or has happened, to someone you know right now.

Sometimes, the so called safety net is not enough. Only the Romneyesque with the convenience of many mansions, servants and staff, who buffer him from the hardships or every day life, can believe that it is.

So many more of us have been fighting to fulfill our basic needs for longer than 2008 and it is only now that the house of cards almost collapsed and numbers of the poor are increasing that the embattled have moved – center stage.

In my opinion, man is at his best during times of stress. People find unknown stores of strength to fight and others feel compelled to lend a helping hand. It is the good thing about crises, seeing how people come together and forget about race, class, sexuality and all the other factors that we use to divide ourselves.

Which is why I am totally psyched and inspired by my latest find.

Kudos to Chris Jansing and The Grio.

The Grio, which I love, is a great online publication for African American news. The’s 100 showcases 100 African Americans who are making history. Browsing the diversity of categories is nothing short of inspiring and informative but my favorite is Service & Activism.

Take a look at the following story about the emerging phenomenon of online giving, featuring the fantastic Andrew Bo Young III. Andrew is the CEO of Givelocally which connects charitable individuals, in a new and personal way, with those who are in need.

Make no mistake, the gift of giving is not quantified by dollars, but the currency of caring and kindness. It is the greatest gift you can give, one straight from the heart.

Blessings to all who sacrifice and uphold their fellow man. They make me proud to be human, unlike the GOP who make me wish I could become a tree ;). Hey, it could happen lol.

Happy Black History Month: Who’s Your Unsung Hero?

I’m big into sharing and I had to share this, it’s such an auspicious way to start the month. Their idea so closely mirrors mine but the dividends are so much bigger 🙂 . The NAACP is looking for unsung heroes in honor of Black History Month. Check it out and spread the word!

You can also check out a video on the Origins of Black History Month here.


DuBois. King. Parks. Aaron.We know the names of these African American heroes and many others by heart. Their legacies are synonymous with our centuries-long struggle for civil rights and social justice.But while America lauds the achievements of these inspiring historical figures, recognition, acclaim and fanfare too often elude those within our communities whose names aren’t quite so familiar, but whose impact is just as vital.Black History Month is a time to celebrate the full range of achievements African-Americans have contributed to our nation — not just those whose names have been inscribed in our history books. That’s why this year we’re continuing our new tradition of celebrating the unsung heroes of black history.Who’s your unsung hero? Nominate him/her now for our 2012 Black History Month Unsung Heroes campaign:

Last February, we received hundreds of great nominations. We heard about community leaders like John Brown Erwin, who mentored students from North Carolina A&T State University during the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, professionals like Michael Coard, a pro bono attorney who in 2010 helped secure the creation of the first slavery memorial on federal property, and athletes like Major Taylor, a cyclist who became the first African American athlete to be named world champion and the highest paid athlete – black or white – of his generation.

Each of their stories moved me, as did their unyielding desire to make the world a better place. Their achievements inspire me, and serve as timeless examples of the need to celebrate our unsung heroes.

This is your time to recognize the teachers who ingrain Banneker and Bethune into the hearts and minds of the next generation, the civic activists who evoke Truth and Evers in their fights for civil rights, or the youth leaders who channel Poitier and Fitzgerald to help our children reach for the stars.

We are lucky to have people who go above and beyond what is asked of them in communities all over our great country, and it is an honor to recognize them for the important work they do to make tomorrow a little brighter.

Take a moment to nominate a hero in your own life for our Black History Month Unsung Heroes campaign:

Thank you – we look forward to reading your nominations and sharing your hero’s great work with our community.


Benjamin Todd Jealous
Pesident & CEO

P.S. Throughout Black History Month we’ll be texting daily facts about important accomplishments of African-American artists, inventors, teachers, soldiers and leaders. Text HISTORY to 62227 for daily black history facts and information.

Standard data and messaging rates may apply.

African American History Month: Guest Author Submissions

4..3..2..1. The countdown to African American History month has begun. February denotes the celebration of historical African Americans, their lives and achievements. I will be contributing a slew of posts to the Blogosphere in homage. While it is important every year, this year is particularly special, in my opinion, to combat the rising tide of racist messages that are infesting the media.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to feature Guest Authors on my blog for some time and this seems like an ideal occasion. Since I have elicited such a wonderful following of impassioned and talented writers, I would like to invite y’all to participate with me.

Guidelines are as follows:

  • Posts that feature notable achievements by an African American, but are not limited to the past. In the historical map, their is living history as well, so “contemporary” achievers and their accomplishments are also welcomed. I’m especially interested in literary, musical, poetic, artistic, political and activist contributions.
  • Because I am a firm believer that not all greatness is recognized and the world is a better place because of unsung heroes, I welcome “personal” reflections as well. If you know an African American, related or otherwise, who is an example, or has made a significant impact on the lives of others, show them some love.
  • Posts should be limited to 1,000 words or less.
  • Posts will be posted on your blog and will be reblogged, or linked back to mine.
  • Questions and submissions should be sent to

Educate, Inform, Encourage and Inspire.

Happy writing!