Tag: Other

Remembering Roger Wilkins (1932-2017)

Mr. Roger Wilkins, a historian, journalist and activist who held a key civil rights post in President Johnson’s administration and helped the Washington Post win a Pulitzer for its Watergate coverage, died Sunday, relatives said. He was 85.

Wilkins, most recently a history professor at George Mason University, died at an assisted-living facility in Kensington, Md., his wife, Patricia King, and his daughter Elizabeth Wilkins said. The cause was complications from dementia, they said.

“Today, whatever our problems are, we have a vastly different and better country than the one we lived in in 1953,” Wilkins told University of Southern Maine graduates.

From the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, he worked for the Johnson administration, the Ford Foundation, the Washington Post and the New York Times. In his 1982 autobiography, “A Man’s Life,” he described the frustrations of being “the lead black in white institutions for 16 years.”

In a Washington Post review, famed author James Baldwin wrote that Wilkins “has written a most beautiful book, has delivered an impeccable testimony out of that implacable private place where a man either lives or dies.”

In 1965 Johnson tapped Wilkins to head the federal Community Relations Service, which was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to mediate racial disputes and foster progress in black communities.

The New York Times said Johnson told him it would be “the toughest job ever given any Negro in the Federal Government…. You have one mandate — to do what is right.”

As many cities were racked by rioting in the mid-1960s, Wilkins advocated efforts to improve conditions there. “We have to change the way people live,” he said in the Times in 1967. “All the rest is Band-Aids and lollipops.”

He joined the Ford Foundation when Johnson left office in early 1969. In 1970, he wrote a Washington Post essay about being almost the only black person at the Gridiron Dinner, the annual Washington frolic of the male power elite. He wrote that its convivial insider jokes about such things as President Nixon’s “Southern strategy” amounted to “a depressing display of gross insensitivity and both conscious and unconscious racism.”

He wound up leaving the Ford Foundation for journalism. His Washington Post editorials in the early months of the Watergate scandal in 1972 contributed to the paper’s 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service, a staff award.

Wilkins left the Post in 1974 to join the New York Times, doing commentary on the final stages of the Watergate scandal from his new post.

Among his other books were “Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism,” 2001; and “Quiet Riots: Race and Poverty in the United States,” a 1988 look back at the Kerner Commission’s 1968 report on urban unrest that Wilkins co-edited with former Sen. Fred R. Harris, who had been a commission member.

In a 1992 Associated Press story on black and white relations, he criticized the notion among some black people that they should stay away from the mainstream white culture lest they be guilty of “selling out” or “acting white.”

“If we tried to enforce a black orthodoxy, then we would fall into the white folks’ trap. They would love for us to all think alike,” Wilkins said.

In a 2009 essay in AARP the Magazine, he recalled his feelings about Obama’s win.

He wrote that in the early stages of the race, he believed Obama had “no chance. This man’s been in the Senate for 15 minutes, and white people just aren’t going to vote for a new black guy. … I thought back to the scores of highly intelligent black men and women I’d known over my lifetime who never even passed Go because whites did not believe they could do serious work.”

He said despite his doubts, he still advised his daughter to join the campaign, telling her, “This is your generation’s Selma, and you dare not miss it.” And as Obama began winning primaries, “I caught that fire.”

In his 1982 memoir, Wilkins discussed his own lapses with alcohol and extramarital affairs. He said “nobody would have believed my messages if I had presented myself as a pristine and innocent victim of all those bad white folks.”

Wilkins was born in 1932 in Kansas City, Mo., where he was forced to attend segregated schools. His father was a journalist and his mother was national leader in the YWCA.

After his father’s death when he was 8, his family moved to New York City and, later, Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Michigan.

In a 1969 New York Times profile of his famous uncle, Wilkins said that once when he was fresh out of law school, a member of a prominent law firm asked his uncle if he should be hired.

The elder Wilkins responded, “Well, how do you usually judge people you are going to hire? Judge Roger the same way, hire him or not, as you would anyone else.”

*Originally published on LA Times.

Advertisements

Is Oversharing The New Sharing?

I like to think I’m aging well, but what it means to age well has been dramatically redefined. It used to mean eating healthfully and staying in reasonable shape. Now, it means one thing: looking young. By 31, I was done having kids. For years, I’d bask in the surprise of others when they’d hear I had three sons. Once, when I told a new coworker, she responded, “You must mean you married someone who already had three kids!” Ah, the warm sun of vanity — and how quickly it was eclipsed by the cold cloud of reality.

I’m old. And if you’re post-40, so are you. Pick up an Us Weekly. Go ahead, flip through it. Chances are you won’t recognize half the “celebrities” featured. Who wore it best? Who cares? I don’t know who they are, anyway. And, likely, neither do you.

But I digress.

Maturity, especially of late, seems to come with the irrepressible urge for many to take to the internet roofs and scream their truths. I was one of the stampede and I’ve been blogging a long while now. I loved it at first. My voice, having wandered off in an unhappy marriage, was re-found. I wrote about parenting and relationships, sharing lightly on the personal to keep it real, and more heavily on the professional to keep it informative. But now, the landscape of blogging is changing. And the read-this-and-you’ll-learn-something model has been replaced with the read-this-and-you’ll-know-my-deepest-secrets model. And I’m concerned that oversharing has become the new black.

The voyeur in all of us enjoys reading about your extramarital affairs, relationship and/or substance abuse history, and the wild sexual escapades of your youth. I also know firsthand how cathartic writing can be. But I’m not sure how the younger generations will react when they Google (or whatever it is they’ll be doing) their parents one day to find that Daddy cheated on Mommy with Auntie, and then Mommy drank so much she had to go to rehab.

Should kids really sit in a pile of their parents’ dirty laundry? I say nay and I’m sticking to it.

I knew things about my parents’ marriage I never, ever should have. And that information made it very difficult for me to figure out my own relationships in ways too many to count. For one, I still grapple with trust, and probably always will. And that’s no small thing.

In the tsunami of accolades for Beyoncé’s new album, Lemonade, I can’t help but think about her daughter, Blue Ivy. Beyoncé’s pained response to her husband’s alleged infidelity is now public record. That she was able to turn her heartbreak into art is a testament to her talent. I’m not arguing that. She’s become an infidelity warrior, sage, and survivor. But what happens when her now 4-year-old daughter understands these songs, and the intention in their words? She’s got a good 30 years ahead of her before she can even begin to conceptualize the nuances of marriage and infidelity. In the meantime, she’ll be navigating her own relationships with her dad’s less-than-stellar behaviors as her backdrop.

I’m not suggesting parents attempt Stepford-like perfection. We’d wither trying. And I’m not recommending militaristic secret-keeping as the way to go either. But there’s a healthy balance in there somewhere. And you don’t have to be a published writer or worldwide superstar to find it, you just need to parent thoughtfully. Your kids should be culling wisdom from your fading scars, not from the actual bloody wounds.

The gift of aging is in the knowing. No longer fueled by untethered hormones, our impulses are weighed heavily against consequences. And, even so, we continue to make unhealthy choices, sin mightily, and regret last night. We know better, and we do it anyway. But sharing your missteps with your kids won’t make them smarter, or savvier, or happier. What it will do is require their young brains to process situations they can’t yet begin to understand. What it will also do is create destructive imprints for them that will last a lifetime.

There’s value to maturity, and it needs embracing. The more we deny growing old, the more we feed the collective obsession with youth. The more energy we spend fighting aging, the less time we spend imparting appropriate wisdom to our kids. And that wisdom should include knowing who’s an appropriate audience for our tawdry tales, and who, most certainly, is not.

For writers, our desire to be embraced by the public at large, to be published in well-respected periodicals, to use the written word as self-directed therapy, have blurred our optic. Of course, we should reference our hard-earned lessons to help guide our children toward better decisions and healthier outcomes. Isn’t that, above all, what we want for them? And isn’t imbuing our kids with the ability to love without sentry — and trust without fear — the only proof we need that we have, in fact, aged well?

parents

*Originally published on Huffington Post.

Questions To Ask White People

White ppl

In all my years as an African American in the United States, I’ve encountered some very weird & even unorthodoxed questions by White people. Now I’d like to ask them some questions back:

1) I have a very distinctive name & have always had to correct people when they meet me. But what I don’t understand is why White people find it so hard to pronounce names that are phonetic. For example, why can’t you pronounce names like Quvenzhané or Gabourey but you have no problems pronouncing Galifianakis, or Leguizamo?

pronounce

2) Why is it so hard to comprehend that everyone doesn’t need to wash their hair every day or even every other day? As an African American woman, I don’t wash my hair nearly as often as ya’ll do. It’s still clean, so what’s the big deal?!

dont wash hair

3) Why are full lips & a bigger behind okay on white women but not on African American women? We invented both!

fulllips

4) Why do you all like to harp on the fact that there is Black on Black crime but don’t focus on all the White child molesters & rapists there are?

molesters

5) How can there be so many White homeless people? Studies indicate that of the entire homeless population, nearly 30% of them are white. While misfortune can strike us all, I just don’t understand how the one segment of the population that has had EVERY advantage in this country can end up on the streets?

homeless

6) Why do white people kiss their pets in the mouth? I think that is so gross & I know I’m not the only one. A dog’s saliva can be full of germs as we all know that dogs lick & sniff all kinds of things throughout the day. From dead rodents to their own feces, a dogs tongue tastes everything so why would you want to put your mouth on that?

kising dogs

7) Why do you freak out when people of color are cast to play white fictional characters? There was so much of an uproar when Star Wars came out. How come?

Starwars

8) How do you define your Whiteness? We’ve all heard of the stereotypes for African Americans, but which stereotypes do you think define who you are?

steroptype

African American Greek Life: Our Fraternities & Sororities

African Americans have a very rich Greek legacy. With 5 fraternities & 4 sororities, Greek life plays a very pivotal role in the African American collegiate community.

Unlike white Greek lettered organizations, the African American Greek lettered organizations are lifetime memberships. In other words, the community service, sisterhood (and even fun!) doesn’t end once you graduate college. It is truly a lifetime commitment. Even as a 4-year college graduate, membership is still available (if you are invited & selected to join).

These Greek lettered organizations have played a pivotal role in the civil rights movements & African American history. They represent the educated, informed and civilly concerned within the African American community.

FRATERNITIES

Alpha Phi Alpha Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men, was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of brotherhood among African descendants in this country. The fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially, at Cornell. The Jewel founders and early leaders of the fraternity succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Alpha Phi Alpha’s principles of scholarship, fellowship, good character, and the uplifting of humanity. While continuing to stress academic excellence among its members, Alpha also recognized the need to help correct the educational, economic, political, and social injustices faced by African Americans.

alphas

Kappa Alpha Psi

The night of January 5, 1911, on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana, Kappa Alpha Psi was founded to sow the seed of a fraternal tree whose fruit is available to, and now enjoyed by, college men everywhere, regardless of their color, religion or national origin. The Constitution of KAPPA ALPHA PSI is predicated upon, and dedicated to, the principles of achievement through a truly democratic Fraternity.

kappa

Omega Psi Phi

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college. Since its humble beginnings on the Howard University campus, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity continues to be on the front line, leveraging its power, influence and more than 100 years of commitment to the uplift of our people and our communities.

Omega

Sigma Phi Beta

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The Founders wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service. The Founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as “a part of” the general community rather than “apart from” the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits, rather than his family background or affluence…without regard to race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. They desired for their fraternity to exist as part of an even greater brotherhood which would be devoted to the “inclusive we” rather than the “exclusive we”. From its inception, the Founders also conceived Phi Beta Sigma as a mechanism to deliver services to the general community. Rather than gaining skills to be utilized exclusively for themselves and their immediate families, they held a deep conviction that they should return their newly acquired skills to the communities from which they had come. This deep conviction was mirrored in the Fraternity’s motto, “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity”.

sigma

Iota Phi Theta

On September 19, 1963, at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), 12 students founded what is now the nation’s fifth largest, predominately African-American social service fraternity. Based upon the founders ages, heightened responsibilities, and increased level of maturity, this group had a slightly different perspective than the norm for college students. It was this perspective from which they established the Fraternity’s purpose, “The development and perpetuation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and Brotherhood among Men.” Additionally, they conceived the Fraternity’s motto, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!”

Iota

SORORITIES

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated had its humble beginnings as the vision of nine college students on the campus of Howard University in 1908. Since then, the sorority has flourished into a globally-impactful organization of over 283,000 college-trained members, bound by the bonds of sisterhood and empowered by a commitment to servant-leadership that is both domestic and international in its scope.

As Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown, it has maintained its focus in two key arenas: the lifelong personal and professional development of each of its members; and galvanizing its membership into an organization of respected power and influence, consistently at the forefront of effective advocacy and social change that results in equality and equity for all citizens of the world.

AKA

Delta Sigma Theta

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded on January 13, 1913 by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to those in need. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. is a private, not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world. Since its founding more than 200,000 women have joined the organization. The organization is a sisterhood of predominantly Black, college educated women.

Delta

Zeta Phi Beta

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded January 16, 1920, at Howard University, Washington, D.C. Since its inception, Zeta has continued its steady climb into the national spotlight with programs designed to demonstrate concern for the human condition both nationally and internationally. The sorority takes pride in its continued participation in transforming communities through volunteer services from members and its auxiliaries.  Zeta Phi Beta has chartered hundreds of chapters worldwide and has a membership of 100,000+. Zeta‘s national and local programs include the endowment of its National Educational Foundation community outreach services and support of multiple affiliate organizations.  Zeta chapters and auxiliaries have given untotaled hours of voluntary service to educate the public, assist youth, provide scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change.

Zeta

Sigma Gamma Rho

Organized on November 12, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana, by seven young educators, Sigma Gamma Rho became an incorporated national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929. It is the mission of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority to enhance the quality of life for women and their families in the U.S. and globally through community service. Our goal is to achieve greater progress in the areas of education, healthcare, and leadership development. Our members, affiliates, staff and community partners work to create and support initiatives that align with our vision. Soaring To Greater Heights Of Attainment Around The World, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., as a leading national service organization, has met the challenges of the day and continues to grow through Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service.

GRho

 

All of these fraternities & sororities are a part of the National Pan Hellanic Council which is a group that is dedicated to the unification of all African American Greek lettered organizations. The stated purpose and mission of the organization in 1930 was “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.” With that said, there are chapters in every major city across the country.

While all of these organizations have been around for nearly a century (or more), there is no doubt that they are leaving a lasting legacy for the next generation of African American college students.

Are you in a sorority or fraternity? If so, which one & what attracted you to that organization? For those of you who are not Greek, do you think these organizations are making a positive impact on African American society today? Please share in the comments section below –