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Opinion

In the battle to end ‘the seduction of inadequacy,’ I’m with Lupita

lucyandlupita-600For me, nothing could eclipse my happiness for Lupita Nyong'o when she won her Oscar as Best Supporting Actress a few nights ago. I was not only thrilled for her but for the profound, timely and necessary message brought to the world by the movie, "12 Years a Slave." This young woman has taken Hollywood and the movie-viewing world with her extraordinary poise and humility wrapped around her awesome talent.

What may not be widely known is that just a few days before her Oscar win, Lupita received an award at the seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence Magazine. Her award was for Best Breakthrough Performance. On this occasion she delivered the speech below.

I concur with most who heard it that it is (sadly in 2014) a speech about beauty and self-image that every young brown, black, red or yellow girl should get to hear. It was first posted online by Time Magazine. I found a video and transcript at upworthy.com.

Redefining truth has consequences

raynard jacksonIn all organized sports, there are clearly defined rules that must be adhered to. In all universities, there are clearly stated guidelines for admittance. In all religions, there are shared beliefs that all members must adhere to. Without these clearly defined rules of engagement (ROEs), there can be no order within groups; and without order there is nothing left but chaos.

Groups and organizations, by definition are all predicated upon certain agreed upon principles and values. These agreed upon principles and values are the raison d'etre of these entities.

You join the Boy Scouts, for example, because you are a boy and you join the Girl Scouts because you are a girl. You are a male because you are born with a penis and you are a girl because you are born with a vagina. These things used to be unquestioned statements of fact.

Teachers are key to our children’s success

As a pastor and longtime member of the Frayser community, I have a strong interest in seeing our children do well in school. And although I believe their success is driven by a range of factors such as class sizes and the availability of good texts and other materials, I also know that having a great teacher is the most important school-based factor in student achievement.

Research in a recent report by Shepherding the Next Generation shows that a student assigned to an excellent teacher may gain more than a full year's worth of additional academic growth compared to a student assigned to a weak teacher. Indeed, a highly effective teacher has a greater impact on achievement than any other factor within the school environment.

That report also examined a Tennessee study that found that an average student with three highly effective teachers scored in the top 10 percent of students after three years, while a similar student with ineffective teachers scored in the bottom 40 percent after the same period of time.

‘The key turns twice’

Earnest Townes-160All too often when media coverage speaks of an individual who has been formerly incarcerated, it is usually in a negative context (i.e. arrested again, person of interest, not new to the criminal justice system, lengthy arrest record).

Following this coverage, depending on the gravity of the crime, there may be public outcry as to "why was he/she released in the first place?" As a result, seemingly all offenders are then cast into that same category.

It would be asinine to even suggest every offender returns to society with positive goals and the desire to be a productive member of his/her community. I, too, cringe upon hearing the news of another ex-offender having committed the same or a more appalling crime. Yet, I do contend that amidst that population is a sector with aspirations and hopes of moving forward in their lives!

‘Head start’ for children merits pre-K sales tax

keith norman-160If every child in Shelby County is given a head start in life, there is a preponderance of evidence that that child would go on to become a productive member of society – which means skilled workers would be added to the workforce, crime and poverty would decrease, and the need for public assistance would be reduced.

We're at a crossroad where a decision has to be made to bring the aforementioned scenario into reality. But that decision would have to be made by the voters of Memphis via a referendum that will be on the ballot this fall to increase the sales tax by a half-cent. If approved, $47 million could be generated, with about $30 million earmarked for pre-K and $17 million to reduce property tax rates.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is not alone in its support of a half-cent sales tax increase for early childhood education. It is a civil rights issue and one of the NAACP's "5 Game Changers for the 21st Century." There are others in support of this initiative as well, including city officials and a number of education advocates who see the significance and critical need of supporting the education of children at the pre-K level.

Positive parenting protects and pays

Tarrin McGhee-160"I grew up poor, but I didn't know it."

Many of us have heard and been inspired by rags to riches stories told by adults who overcame risk factors in their childhood, and avoided becoming products of their environment.

Poor upbringing, single-parent family homes, resource-deprived neighborhoods and communities are all conditions that many young children confront, but still manage to excel and beat the odds stacked against them.

So what is it that separates the stories of triumph from those of defeat?

Common Sense Rules: Black Boss Pays Price for Using N-Word at Work

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There are few social ills in the African American community that can’t be solved by listening to a little bit of old Public Enemy. There’s  a great song on the Apocalypse 91 album called “I Don’t Wanna be Called Yo Nigga”  The song is pretty simple actually, it’s just Flava Flav (the pre - Flavor of Love version) rapping about how he and most black people don’t want to be called “Nigga” by anybody, under any circumstances.

How can you say to me, "Yo my nigga!"

Cursin' up a storm with your finger on a trigger

Feelin' all the girls like a big gold digger

Take a small problem

Make a small problem bigger

You say, "Yo; I ain't poor I got dough

You Don't consider me your brother no more?"

Goddamn kilogram, how do you figure

I don't want to be called yo nigga!

The point of the song is that no matter how common the term is amongst black people, and black culture it’s still stings and there are very, very few circumstances in which calling somebody “nigger,” or “nigga,” or “niggaz” is appropriate. Perhaps someone should have explained this to Robert Carmona, the head of the STRIVE work program. It might’ve saved him $30,000.

Rob Carmona, 61, is the founder and director of STRIVE an employment agency in East Harlem that focuses on helping convicted criminals find work and get back into the economy. Brandi Johnson, 38, was a STRIVE employee. Both are African American. It’s not hard to figure that the N-Word was going to come up eventually right?

Apparently on March 14 of 2012 Carmona went on a four-minute expletive and racial slur laden rant on Johnson about her workplace attire and professionalism. However this wasn’t the first time that Carmona had gone off on Johnson at work, and because her previous complaints had been ignored she secretly recorded the entire conversation. After the tirade, she claims she ran to the bathroom and cried for 45 minutes. On the stand in her workplace discrimination case she testified: "I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed," At this point this is still a simple discrimination suit, something that happens all of the time in America, just ask Paula Deen, or anybody who’s ever worked at Denny’s. But the reason ganered national attention is because Rob Carmona and his defense lawyers tried to argue that he was using the term “nigger” as a term of endearment,  and since nigger has different meanings in different contexts that he in fact wasn’t really creating a hostile work environment for Brandi Johnson.

When asked to be more specific as to why he called her nigger eight times in the span of four minutes Carmona testified he was trying to tell Johnson that she was being  "….too emotional, wrapped up in her[self], at least the negative aspects of human nature." You know…. being a nigger. Of course the jury didn’t buy his ridiculous story either, and Carmona will pay Johnson $25,000 in punitive damages and STRIVE will pay another $5,000 on top of that.

To be honest with you, if every black person in America got paid $30,000 every time we’ve been called ‘’nigger,’ collectively or individually I think I’d stop complaining about reparations, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. Already many press outlets are reporting this court ruling as some sort of major sea change in language, now that there is no longer this “double-standard” where black people can say “nigger” and white people can’t.

This is completely wrong of course and another example of the disingenuous double standard of race that we all still live under. The workplace is the workplace; you are not supposed to use foul language at any job, no matter what race you are, or who happens to be working there that day. If Carmona was a woman and had gone on a four-minute rant calling Brandi Johnson a “bitch” eight times and lost a discrimination suit, nobody would be calling this ruling a sea change in language or culture. Why? Because anyone with a lick of common sense and professionalism knows that words like bitch, faggot and especially nigger, may be okay when you’re joking with your friends and family, but those words never have, and never will have a place in a workplace that isn’t a recording studio or on the set of the newest Showtime drama.

Only white Americans who obsess over “not” being able to use the n-word and black people who don’t know any better, would view this court ruling as anything significant. The rest of us know better.

Of course Robert Carmona knew this from day one and simply got caught for being a verbally abusive boss. He could have saved himself $30,000 if he’d just listened to Flava Flav, nobody wants to be called “Yo nigger”.

Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College and an analyst for CNN, HLN and Al Jazeera English.

He can be found at @Drjasonjohnson on Twitter and at www.drjasonjohnson.com

  • Written by Dr. Jason Johnson

Is being fat normal?

Chef Timothy Moore-160Pants with expanding waistlines are sold in most stores now, and big and tall retail shops are popping up everywhere. More and more, society is moving toward the acceptance of being overweight and obese as "normal."

It's official that the United States is fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, two thirds of Americans are obese. Even though some seem to be taking such news lightly and as if it's just a fad, it is no laughing matter. Millions of people die each year from overusing a fork, spoon and a latte.

I frequently talk with individuals who deny they even have a weight problem. They argue that God created them to eat and enjoy life to the fullest and not worry about the outcome. I've also found that overweight people often overlook their weight because they feel everyone looks like them.