Saturday, March 3, 2012

African-American Masculinity in the 21st Century

              Black masculinity is an interesting topic and very much worth discussing.  It has not always been clear what black masculinity was because it is always changing.  While it has changed over time there are some things that have been constant in the practice of black masculinity. 
       The black man’s masculinity was stripped from him during the time of slavery.  It was the duty of slave masters to make male slaves feel like they were not men.  Often times, the strongest of the slaves would be beaten in front of the rest of the slaves to be made an example out of to show the rest of the slaves that they were inferior.  This severely damaged what the black man’s masculinity since their pride and understanding of what it meant to be a man was destroyed by the institution of slavery.
       After slaves were freed black men started to do things to redefine black masculinity and prove that they were really men.  This is how prominent figures in the black community such as W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X started to emerge. Although each figure was different in his own unique way, but each a figure that represented the black masculinity of their time.  During the times where blacks were trying to achieve equality these figures were the leaders in the forefront and got the most credit.  Although there were women and homosexual leaders during these times their work was often overshadowed due to the fact that they were either women or homosexual and this would threaten not only the back agenda, but threatened black masculinity as well.  A prime example of this was Rustin Bayard.  Bayard did a lot of work during the Civil Rights Movement, but a lot of people do not even know who he is due to the fact he was homosexual and therefore not a leader that was brought to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. 
       The black community has since then struggled with issues of homophobia as well as misogyny in an effort to define black masculinity.  While the concept of black masculinity has grown over time, these are issues that are somehow embedded in black masculinity in the twenty first century.  We see the problem in the black community, specifically the black male community of misogynistic views in a lot of media from the music we listen to to the television programs that we watch.  We have coined such terms as “no homo” out of fear of being perceived as homosexual and threatening black masculinity.  Although these are issues we see that some progress is being made and changes to black masculinity are still occurring in the twenty-first century.  More black men are starting to speak out about the issues that once were a threat to black community but only further damage it.  Such voices as the one of Mark Anthony Neal have started to emerge to combat misogyny and homophobia in the black community.  In his book The New Black Male he speaks about being a black male feminist and how it does not make him any less of a man.  He admits to once upholding the issues of misogyny and homophobia, but only once he overcomes these issues does he feel liberated.  In my opinion such ideas will only enhance the concept of black masculinity.

Written By: Greg O. Huey

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Influence of Carter G. Woodson

     Few men, if any, can claim the title “father of black history”, but Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is definitely one of the first to come to mind for many black history enthusiasts. Even though he is not considered a part of the modern civil rights movement, Woodson was still a founding father of sorts. As a self-educated scholar, from a poor, former slave family is surprised many that Woodson would later attend the University of Chicago and Harvard. Woodson was one of the first black scholars to study African American history. Ultimately he would come to establish the Journal of African-American History.
     Woodson is important because he acknowledged the significance of the history that was being ignored, particularly the social and economic aspects. The parts of history, that to him, described virtue and potential. Malcolm X, a relatively more popular civil rights leader had a similar ideology. Both of these men saw value in African-American history, value that held young blacks to a higher standards than was being propagandasized around the country. 
     Woodson ideas and theories founded the highlighting principles of the Civil Rights Movement we all know. He had stressed the power of speech before civil rights leaders were even born; knowing that writing could never confine the same essence and power as a speech. It’s hard to imagine how the civil rights movement would have gone without Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful preaching and Malcolm X’s stress on black pride. 
     Ultimately through the journal he founded, Journal of African-American History, and his other scholarly activities, Woodson would come to inspire and establish the Harlem Renaissance. Through Renaissance writers like James Weldon Johnson and Claude McKay Woodson’s legacy would live on. At the MXI we not only create our own history, but we recognize the ideas of Carter Woodson and don’t forget the history of how our founding fathers had pride in their heritage, and conducted their actions with higher standards.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Death of Malcolm X

     It is clear that Malcolm X experienced death threats throughout his activist career, but that never turned him away from what he felt was right. Often considered a more radical leader Malcolm X stressed the need for black men to defend themselves. The fact that he wasn’t shy about confronting the injustices taking place across America probably made his life even less safe. Many people criticized and attacked him because he used popular avenues of media to spread his message, such as television and radio
     On February 21, 1965, as Malcolm X prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, three armed men shot Malcolm X multiple times leaving him with 21 gunshot wounds. The three men were seized and it was discovered that they were men from members of the Nation of Islam. The exact reason or blame of why and who exactly assassinated Malcolm X is not truly known however. All three mean have since then served their time and are free, but they still claim their innocence and so do the Leaders of the Nation of Islam. Some have accused undercover FBI and CIA programs that were founded on the disruption of the civil rights movement.
     The reason why he was assassinated should be quite obvious, Malcolm X was a powerful man and behind him he left wisdom. He went against the norm of times and spoke differently towards Islam and the civil rights movement. He inspired people to listen and be advocates for themselves, to stand up rather than sit back and watch. People feared him because he seemed radical according to MLK Jr.’s peaceful protest. He was starting a new movement across the country, black men we becoming more intelligent and fighting civil rights in a new way.
     For the Malcolm X Institute, Malcolm is strength, pride and brotherhood. The men who created the MXI would not let others choose for them, they would educate themselves and fight back against injustice. Malcolm X taught them to be proud of their heritage, to be leaders not just advocates, and the MXI would be a symbol of their pride as brothers.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Influence of Fannie Lou Hamer

     Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), was an outspoken advocate for civil rights for African Americans. Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie was the last of twenty children born to Jim and Ella Townsend. When she was two years old her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi, where she started working as a sharecropper picking cotton. By 13 she could pick between two and three hundred pounds of cotton a day, sadly Fannie spent most of her life as an agricultural worker who saw no end to the cycle of poverty and humiliation of African Americans.
     Most would say that Fannie’s activism started on August 23, 1962, when an associate organizer of Martin Luther King Jr. for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gave a sermon in Ruleville, Mississippi and appealed for African Americans to register to vote. Fannie was the first to volunteer, totally disregarding the dangers associated with black registered voters; who often faced excessive verbal harassment, beatings, and lynching
     When it came time to actually register Fannie Lou didn’t back down, but instead lifted those around her with hymns of courage and faith. As a result for her uplifting work she was taken in as a member of the SNCC and traveled all around the south doing what she did best. Later in life Fannie continued to work in Mississippi for the Freedom Democrats and for local civil rights causes, but her focus always remained to those from the rural areas of Mississippi. Where she started and supported multiple programs for the poor in Mississippi, and all though that grew up in the same position as she did.
     When Fannie Lou Hamer died of breast cancer in 1997, her tombstone reads her famous quote, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired". Fannie is a symbol of how even the smallest voice can become the biggest as long as they have courage. At a very young age she started questioning the social order, and as injustice takes place all over the word Fannie Lou Hamer should stand as a symbol of courage. Even under the threat of death those that have courage can make change.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Influence of Bayard Rustin

     When you think of the civil rights Bayard Rustin is obviously not the first name to come to mind. However, Rustin deserves a lot more respect than he is given; few people know that Rustin was actually the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” As a leading member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Rustin put to use the same practices and principles as Mohandas Gandhi in his non-violent movement against British rule in India. Rustin then used his training to advise almost all the major civil rights leaders. If it were not for Bayard Rustin, who met with King to help organize the Montgomery Boycott on transportation, Martin Luther king, Jr. may have never adopted the non-violence tactics that the world has come to know today.
     It’s hard to imagine how such an important figure slipped through the cracks, but one of the main reasons that Rustin never gained the same public recognition as his civil rights counter parts may have been because of his homosexuality. During the civil rights era Rustin not only received criticism from the general public, but even other civil rights leaders.  Groups that wanted to impede the black agenda often used Rustin’s sexuality as a weapon.
     Although Rustin let his homosexuality keep him from the public light, he still did very important work in the background. Rustin’s strategic insight and pacifist values helped unite the black movement behind many black improvement programs, like the 1963 March on Washington, which lead to the1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. Rustin also served as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and joined American Friends Service Committee to write "Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence" one of the most influential pacifist essays in the country.
     Even after much of the civil rights work had been done, Rustin kept fighting for equality. In his final years he stood as a key advocator for the Gay Rights Bill of New York, and as minority and gay rights gain their ground across the country, Rustin’s pacifist examples continue to shed light on the power of unity through pacifism.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Influence of Malcolm X

     It can be said with confidence, not just today, but even during his era, that Malcolm X was a different kind of man. Not that he held any less importance during the civil rights movement, but that he was in many ways a radical leader. While King was leading peaceful rallies, Malcolm X was redefining the African-American man. With his powerful and intellectual speeches he inspired many African-Americans to fight racism in a new and proactive manner.
     Today, many people don't understand what exactly Malcolm X stood for in terms of civil rights. It is true that Malcolm’s message differed from King’s message of peaceful protest, but he was not literally, a pro-violence advocator. What Malcolm X wanted was for African-American’s not to be defenseless against their oppressors. For African-Americans to understand how they were being attacked, and how many of their African traditions were being stripped from them. It was Malcolm X who pointed out many of the discriminations taking place in America. On multiple occasions he commented on the so called separate, but equal education system, the injustice in the laws “protecting” blacks, and most importantly he did this in the public light, such as television, so that what he was saying was not forgotten.
     Many civil rights leaders at the time feared that Malcolm X would harm the movement, but on the contrary he brought to the table a determination not yet seen. He let the nation know that if African-Americans did not get the equality they deserved, that sooner or later they would not stand idly by. In coordination with MLK, Jr., Malcolm X may have helped the civil right movement move along faster, because it was  both of these leaders that gave the minority struggle the respect it deserved on the national spot light.
     When our founding fathers Keith Nelson, Charles Ransom, Finley Campbell, and Peter Frederick chose the name Malcolm X to symbolize our institution they did so because Malcolm X symbolized several things, contrary to public understanding. For us at the MXI, Malcolm X symbolized, “a choice of activism and nationalism that permeated the era of the late 1960's and 1970's. It also symbolized a refusal to let anyone else select a name for them. African-Americans would no longer allow others to decide how they should be identified.” (MXI History) Malcolm X’s teachings help us to identify ourselves, to defend ourselves when we must, and fight for what we believe in.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Influence of MLK, Jr.

     As Monday, January 16th approaches we find ourselves overwhelmed by classes, flights and goodbyes taking place all over america. Many of us don't get the liberity of having the day off from work or school, but then again some people do. However, instead of just thinking of this holiday as another day to rest, I challenge everyone to consider the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
     It's not uncommon for many modern day americans to feel as if MLK, Jr. has had no effect on todays current affairs, or even to think of King as an irrevalent relect of the past. However,  when you really think about it, and you consider the election of Barrack Obama, it seems as if King had almost prophetized the future, a feat that if he had not been assinated, could have possibly lived long enough to see for himself. 

     Today, it is almost impossible to be ignorant to equality for all people. With the development of mainstream media we see cohessive and global protests for all kinds of identities. When MLK, Jr. led the march on Washington it was an unbelievable feat, even for today. If not for King it is safe to say that most minorities would probably still be struggling for the same rights they gained over 40 years ago. Here on Wabash College equally meant the foundation of what would later be the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, something that not all minorities on other colleges campuses and even here have the privilege of.
     King made it known that he believed in the same principles as Mohandas Ghandi, but it is because of King most people today understand that a peaceful protest can be a succesful one. As we reflect on what King stood for as a civil rights leader we should understand that the war for equality is in no way over, and stand up for what we believe in. That is why although we didn't quite name our organization after the civil rights leader we do live by his beliefs and promote freedom, equality, justice and humanity for all people.