Celebration planned for 90th anniversary of historic Coleridge-Taylor School

— Dr. Jannette L. Dates, Dean Emerita of the Howard University School of Communications and Coppin State University graduate, recalled the “good old days” when she attended the Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary, School #122, in Baltimore in the 1940s.

In the face of segregation, the elementary school turned out some of the country’s most sophisticated and successful teachers, doctors and many other professions.

“It was the first elementary school built specifically brand new for colored children in the City of Baltimore and one of the first in the state,” Dates said. “It’s been called a historic building because of the history, and it’s a solid and good building that has so many memories.”

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary, School #122 was the first elementary school built specifically, brand new for colored children in the City of Baltimore and one of the first in the state. Located at 507 W. Preston Street, the school opened in 1927.

Courtesy Photo

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary, School #122 was the first elementary school built specifically, brand new for colored children in the City of Baltimore and one of the first in the state. Located at 507 W. Preston Street, the school opened in 1927.

Those memories will likely be shared aplenty as Dates, alumni, educatiors. and others plan to gather to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the elementary school.

The celebration kicks off June 2, 2017 when Dates and others will go into the school and speak with students about its history. Festivities are planned at the Radisson Hotel in Baltimore on June 3, where elders and young ones alike are expected to attend.

“We are hoping to be able to pass on an understanding of our history to the young ones,” Dates said. “I think it’s important because African-American history needs to be celebrated and we need to remind each other of some of the things that we’ve done.”

Dates went on to become a teacher in the Baltimore City Public School System, a television demonstration teacher and an assistant professor at Morgan State University.

While at Morgan State University, she became the producer, writer and anchor for “North Star”, a weekly hour-long show featuring local and national African-American entertainment and sports personalities that aired on WBAL.

Later, Dates became an assistant professor at Howard University and among other jobs and appointments, she was selected in 2013 by President Barack Obama for the board of directors of the corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“All of us ended up in positions where we were all successful because we had such a great education,” Dates said.

The late and famous Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall also began his education at Coleridge.

“Our 1954 class was the last in the segregated system,” Dates said.

Located at 507 W. Preston Street, the school opened in 1927.

For 59 years in Baltimore, every school building designated for African-American students was either a hand-me-down facility often in poor condition, or was in a few rooms within a church, according to a published history manual. However, School #122, a large brick three-story structure, which almost covered a city block proved different, and in 1999, received landmark designation by the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

During Dates’ tenure, the school developed an enriched curriculum consistent with the theory of progressive education. The “Platoon Method” used by the principal divided the school day between homerooms and subject rooms with appropriate materials taught by subject area specialists.

The physical education teacher designed the field behind the school as an obstacle course on which classes demonstrated high levels of performance in a variety of physical activities that culminated with an annual wrapping of the Maypole.

The marching band was led by the city’s first black majorette of the 1940s, and following World War II, the school included the Baby Boom generation. Later, during the 1960s, children were bused in.

“We were so lucky to have such an outstanding education at that school for a couple of reasons,” Dates said. “The teachers we had were great teachers and they couldn’t go anywhere else because of segregation, so we got them and they were the best in their field.”

The students also enjoyed a top-notch musician who taught music; a historian who taught history and civics; and other specialized instructors.

According to Dates, the principal was highly intelligent and effectively ran the school like a military platoon.

“We had a wonderful experience,” Dates said. “We were so prepared for junior high school and high school, and many of us went on to Coppin State, Morgan State, and Howard universities. We had a great education and it was all because of School 122.”

‘Sons’ at the Reginald Lewis can be a tool for easing race relations in Maryland

— With the recent murder of a promising Bowie State University African American male student over the weekend potentially being classified as a hate crime; the climate of harsh race relations and harmful stereotypes of African American males is being placed front and center right here in Maryland.

In the face of so much negative news about African American males, The Reginald F. Lewis Museum seeks to continue it’s mission of shining light on the full story of the African American experience here in Maryland.

The Lewis exhibit, Sons, focuses on the often, false negative perceptions of African American males and their true stories of success. Each participant is offered up as what you may perceive them to be and then the next image reveals what they really are: thugs are revealed to be college students and dangerous individuals are shown to be doctors and most importantly dads to a new generation of African American males staring down these same stereotypes and blowing them up with success, hard work, integrity and spirituality.

With so much of the narrative on African American males focusing on the negative The Reginald F. Lewis seeks through the Sons, exhibit and through the many programs and events like the upcoming “Story Time and Arts Hour: Celebrating Black Dads” and the book release of Baltimore’s own Devin Allen “A Beautiful Ghetto” to change the story.

The Reginald Lewis is located at 830 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore. For more information about the “Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male,” exhibit, call: 443-263-1800 or visit: www.lewismuseum.org.

Directors of New Rodney King Film Talk 1992 Riots

— Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin were both in grade school when the Los Angeles riots of 1992 erupted in the aftermath of a verdict that acquitted police officers in the shocking videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King.

Lindsay, 13 at the time, lived in Rockford, Illinois and “was probably trying not to get beat up in middle school,” he joked. Martin, 12 at the time, lived in Seattle.

However, as history would have it, the two would come together 25 years later to direct a new movie from National Geographic Documentary Films that explores the infamous King beating and the ensuing riots, one-quarter of century after it gripped the nation.

The documentary LA92 debuted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and it’s scheduled for a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, April 28. The film will then make its television broadcast debut on National Geographic on Sunday, April 30.

Courtesy Photo/National Geographic

The documentary LA92 debuted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and it’s scheduled for a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, April 28. The film will then make its television broadcast debut on National Geographic on Sunday, April 30.

The film, LA92, counts as a riveting look back at the controversial trial of the officers, subsequent protests, police brutality, and judicial bias through rarely seen archival footage.

It debuted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and it’s scheduled for a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, April 28. The film will then make its television broadcast debut on National Geographic on Sunday, April 30.

“We worked on the film for about nine months and because it was archive-driven, we probably squeezed about two years of work into a nine-month period,” said Martin, who along with Lindsay won an Oscar for Undefeated.

The anniversary of that fateful day proved an impetus for mostly everyone involved in the project, Lindsay said.

“For TJ and I, our vision was less about the anniversary and more about an opportunity to explore a moment in history. A very relevant moment that’s important today and it’s one that allows you to explore America through the microcosm of this event,” Lindsay said.

The goal “is to reframe the story of this tragedy for our modern audience, and we hope it will encourage reflection and debate as we wrestle with these very real conflicts that continue to plague America’s cities,” Martin said.

Lindsay and Martin gathered numerous amount of archived footage from news, radio, personal home videos and police reports. Some of the videos, they say, had never seen the light of day.

Thus, LA92 features a host of rarely and never-before-seen video which not only captured the violence and the protests, but the effect the burning of a Los Angeles community had on Korean merchants who fled the area after the riots.

“We had a private screening and a gentleman who grew up in Watts during the 1965 unrest there–and who lived through the 1992 unrest–noted how he still harbored a sense of animosity toward the Korean Merchants because he felt there was a lot of exploitation,” Martin said. “After watching the film, he shared with us that he never really felt emotionally what the merchants had gone through and in doing so, in viewing the film, it shed new light on how he viewed the immigrant experience.”

Even though there are a handful of other films about the 1992 unrest scheduled to be released on the anniversary, this month Martin and Lindsay say they don’t view those as competition.

“Going into the project we realized that many of the takeaways were insufficient,” Lindsay said, noting that, because of their age, there is a bit of a disconnect compared with others who may have been old enough to understand in the moment, the significance of what happened.

“Our disconnect from the material was primarily because of our age,” Martin said. “Revisiting the footage first and thinking of how to make those memories and bring them to life while adding to the conversation [was the goal],” he said.

And, King’s now-famous “Can’t we all just get along” proclamation served as a flashpoint.

“That became a pop culture statement, almost a joke at a certain point,” Lindsay said. “But, you take moments like that and you lead the audience to when Rodney King gets up to speak, now you are there and hopefully, you have more empathy.”

Pioneer in African-American History is subject of book discussion

— Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925) was only the second African American to work at the Library of Congress when he joined the staff in 1871; 10 years later he became assistant librarian, a position he held for 41 years. Murray bequeathed his papers to the Library upon his death in 1925.

The story of Murray and the rise and fall of America’s black upper class of that time in U.S. history is the subject of a new book by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, “The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era” (Amistad, 2017).

Taylor will discuss and sign her work at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. This Books & Beyond event, part of the Library’s observance of African-American History Month, is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book and the Daniel A.P. Murray Association of the Library of Congress. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

When Murray went to work for the Library, government jobs were among the most prestigious jobs available to African Americans. Murray also had a construction business, which made him wealthy, but Jim Crow laws and the proliferation of white supremacist groups during that era halted the rise of elites such as Murray.

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor has worked more than 20 years in museum education and historical research. She was director of interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and director of education at James Madison’s Montpelier. Most recently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Taylor is now an independent scholar and lecturer. She is also the author of “A Slave in the White House.”

The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through its Young Readers Center and its Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at: loc.gov.

Celebrate the 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade

— Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts celebrate the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade. The parade commemorates the life of civil rights leader and icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 16, 2017 at noon. More than 70 groups participate in the parade including high school and community bands, honor/color guards, equestrian units, fraternities & sororities, lively dance squads and civic organizations.

The grand marshal of this year’s parade is singer/songwriter and Baltimore native Brave Williams, most widely known for being cast as a lead singer on the MTV reality show, P. Diddy’s Making The Band. She also co-founded an all-girl group named Rich Girl, which produced a series of Billboard hits. Most recently, Brave appeared on TV One’s R&B Divas: LA series.

For more information on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, call 410-752-8632 or visit www.promotionandarts.org.

African-American doctor, minister of hope inspires youth to stalk their dreams

— If you can’t see it, you have a hard time achieving it. That’s one of the problems, which afflicts kids growing up in poor minority neighborhoods. If youth don’t see doctors, lawyers and other professionals that look like them, it can be hard for them to envision it for themselves. The absence of mentors willing to reveal their own “low lights” can also make dreams seem less obtainable to students that encounter uneven academic performance or other setbacks.

A physician and executive director of a national non-profit association, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck uses his journey from welfare, low expectations and institutionalized racism to acclaim as a nationally recognized health expert to motivate young people.

“I don’t recall hearing a professor or mentor share his or her low lights with me on their road to success,” said Dr. Hasbrouck. “Believing that there is no room for mistakes or failures can make a lofty goal seem almost unobtainable. So I use my setbacks as a blueprint for resilience.”

Dr. Hasbrouck has embarked on a multi-city tour during his spare time to inspire, challenge and encourage youth to reach for their personal dreams despite their tough circumstances. In fact, he emboldens them to embrace their hardships so that they can someday be a source of inspiration for others.

In his recently published memoir titled “G Street Lion: Stalking a Dream” (iUniverse, May 27, 2016) he describes how he overcame obstacles, naysayers, and self-doubts to survive the rigors of a top university, walk-on to a major college football team, eventually becoming captain and jump through countless hoops to gain entrance into medical school. His motto: “you cannot have a testimony without a test.”

Dr. Hasbrouck has begun to share his testimony with students on college campuses, including HBCUs, at high schools and at youth development and mentoring programs. He recently spoke at Harvard University, American University in Washington, D.C. and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Reciting colorful stories of his past low lights and strategies to rebound, he delivers a simple message: your personal story is your personal power.

“Success requires only optimism and a stubborn belief in oneself,” he writes in his memoir. “I remind young people that as long as they stay hungry and humble, success is possible.”

To bare all with absolute honesty is never easy for anyone, let alone a public figure who has reached the top of his field but Dr. Hasbrouck sees it as a part of his legacy to give back.

Whether through his book or during one of his live sharing sessions, he captures the attention and ignites the imagination of young dreamers with his simple epiphany that helped him confront his worst fears, pursue his biggest dreams, and realize a future far brighter than he could have planned.

His book is available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and from other online sellers. For more information about Dr. Hasbrouck visit his website: www.drlamarmd.org.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum hosts teen summit

— Baltimore— The Reginald F. Lewis Museum hosts “Teen Summit: Stop the Violence” on Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. as a part of Free Fall Baltimore.

The forum will provide safe and artistic spaces for youth to process the adversity they have faced in their lives, brainstorm solutions to prevent and reduce gun violence, and become change agents. The event is a related program to the museum’s newest exhibit, Kin Killin’ Kin.

“We saw an important need to gather youth as we host the exhibit Kin Killin’ Kin. The images in KKK expresses the artist James Pate’s concern for the heartbreaking deaths of young people due to gun violence. As a museum based in Baltimore, we are in a community where youth are continuously experiencing trauma from losing their loved ones or peers early in life. The summit lets the problem-solving and healing process begin with the youth themselves,” said Dr. Roni Jolley, director of education at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.

Youth, ages 12-19, will participate in workshops on conflict resolution, skill-building and creative nonviolent expression through music, writing, visual arts, and media. The keynote presentation is writer and political activist, Kevin Powell. Activities include a youth panel moderated by WEAA radio host Farajii Muhammad and a culminating spoken word and hip hop performance by Speak Life Tour that promotes peace and non-violence. Workshop presenters include the Griot’s Eye, Art With A Heart, Kariz Kids Youth Enrichment Services, Warriors Entertainment LLC and Baltimore Peace by Piece.

This event is free, however, online registration is required. To register or for more information, visit: www.lewismuseum.org.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture highlights the history and accomplishments of African Americans, with a special focus on Maryland. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum engages visitors through its permanent and special exhibitions, resource center, as well as programs such as its film series, live music performances, and family programming. For more information about the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, call 443-263-1800 or visit: www.lewismuseum.org.

Black unemployment dips below 10 percent

— The Black unemployment rate fell to single digits (9.6 percent) in April, for the first time since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

Despite the improvement, the Black jobless rate is still double the unemployment rate of White workers, which has remained flat since February at 4.7 percent.

Valerie Wilson, the director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank focused on low- and middle-income families, said that said that the gradual decline in the Black unemployment rate is the result of strong job growth over the past year.

As the economic recovery in the United States continued its slow, uneven climb in April there were still clear disparities, even among adult Black workers.

Wilson said that, since December, Black men have enjoyed most of the larger employment gains compared to Black women.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years old was 11 percent in December 2014 and 9.2 percent in April 2015, while the unemployment rate for Black women increased 0.6 percent over the same period.

Since last April, the labor force participation rate, which is the share of the population that is either employed or looking for work, increased from 66.5 percent to 68.7 percent in April 2015 among Black men. The labor force rate for Black women only increased 0.7 percent since April 2014.

Wilson said that a renewed focus on targeted jobs programs and infrastructure investments would enable the economy to get closer to full employment, but cuts to public sector employment, especially at the state and local levels, may prolong the sluggish recovery.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy group that designs policies aimed at reducing poverty and inequality, the economy has shed nearly 570,000 government jobs, more than 360,000 jobs in local government alone, since February 2010.

“The other part of that is that wage growth isn’t anything to cheer about,” said Wilson, adding that wage growth is still below any indication that the economy has really heated up.

According to the Labor Department, average hourly earnings have only increased 2.2 percent since April 2014.

During recoveries in the past, falling unemployment rates meant that companies were forced to raise wages to compete for available workers

This recovery is different, Wilson said, in part because there’s still a decent amount of slack in the labor market.

In a state-by-state analysis of the unemployment rates, Wilson found that the African American unemployment rate was “lowest in Virginia (7.4 percent) and highest in the District of Columbia (15.8 percent) in the first quarter of 2015, surpassing Michigan, which had the highest black unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2014.”

Wilson also noted that, “although 7.4 percent is the lowest Black unemployment rate in the country, it is still over 1 percentage point above the highest White unemployment rate (Tennessee). Virginia was one of only eight states where the African American unemployment rate was below 10 percent in the first quarter of 2015.”

Wilson’s research also revealed that the Black unemployment rate, “is at or below its pre-recession level in six states: Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. But this numerical recovery must be put in proper context because each of these states also had Black unemployment rates that were among the highest in the nation before the recession.”

The national unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in April down from 5.5 percent in March and the economy added 223,000 jobs in April for a three-month average of 191,000 jobs per month.

In a recent blog post for EPI, Josh Bivens, the research and policy director at EPI, wrote that returning the labor market to pre-Great Recession levels is too unambitious a goal.

“After all, 2007 could hardly be described as a year with the kind of high-pressure labor market that would boost wages across the board,” said Bivens.

Bivens continued: “Instead, we need to target the kind of high-pressure labor market that we haven’t seen since the late 1990s. Anything less than this will leave the majority of American workers frozen out of sharing in economic growth through wage gains.”

Dear White People’ conveys complexity of contemporary race relations

“Dear White People, the minimum requirement of black friends to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man Tyrone does not count,” is just one of the many funny and sly statements said by campus radio host Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) as she addresses the issue of race on campus and in her own life in the clever film, Dear White People.

Reminiscent of Spike Lee’s School Daze about black college life, Dear White People is a provocative satire on the black experience in a “post-racial” society during the age of Obama. Written, directed and produced by Justin Simien, the film follows a group of African American students (starring a cast of relatively unknown actors) as they navigate campus life at the fictional and predominately white Winchester University, while grappling with race, stereotypes and identity.

These issues are quickly pushed to the forefront when a riot breaks out on campus over an annual Halloween party’s creation of the theme “unleash your inner Negro.”

Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Simien earned a spot on Variety’s annual “10 Directors to Watch” for his feature film debut. Prior to directing the film, Simien worked as a publicist and marketing specialist for Paramount Pictures, Focus Features and Sony Television.

Promoting the film on a nationwide college tour recently, Justin Simien was in town and spoke to the Banner about the making of Dear White People and the black experience.

What was the inspiration for Dear White People?

Justin Simien: Just my life. In particular my senior year in college having gone from the culture shock of leaving Houston, Texas for Orange County where I went to college. I was having these conversations with my other black friends about toggling, and how different we answer the phone depending on who’s calling. And, are we hanging out with this group of friends because we’re black? Are we hanging out with that group of friends…? Why are we keeping them separate? We were just having these really funny conversations and I was wondering, ‘Why aren’t these out there in the culture?’ Why aren’t more people talking about this? This is all of my friends’ black experience but particularly in 2005 and 2006, the latest black TV shows and black movies didn’t really reflect us and what our generation was going through. That’s really where the beginning of it came from and also I just really loved that there was a black art house in the late ‘80s that had reached the mainstream and it had completely evaporated by the time I was in college. I wanted to do something in that vein and that’s really where it came from.

The film is definitely reminiscent of School Daze, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Hollywood Shuffle because they were able to comment on society with humor and they were really clever.

JS: It’s nonexistent in film that you have a black comedy that strives to be satire that strives to be social commentary. We’ll do parodies every once in a while. You’ll have this sort of rom-com thing but something that really strives for the art house sensibility and the art houses — that’s a weird word nowadays — but strives for that sensibility. This is a movie that intended to say something, to leave you with something to talk about in the lobby. It’s very rare to find that about black people, about black characters.

It’s easy to find that with the recent movie, for example, This Is Where I Leave You which has a great cast and is a great movie. Why aren’t there more films like that, that represent a more rounded black experience?

JS: I’ve said this before, that those kinds of movies are meant to speak to the human condition. It’s unfortunate that in the marketplace movies that speak to the human condition so rarely have black characters in them or black actors or anybody black in the world. That has a subtle way of suggesting that our experiences aren’t as important and that when it comes to matters of the human condition our experiences and stories are irrelevant to that conversation. Those are the kind of more covert ways that I think culture sort of suggests things to black people about their identities that I think are harmful.

What does it mean to you when you hear about the black experience and identity?

JS: For me it’s been constantly sort of bobbing and weaving other peoples’ presumptions of me because I was never the right kind of black person. My family was Creole and so my understanding just the skin tones of blackness was already very different from what was kind of out there in the culture. My concept of blackness was just not ever the same as mainstream blackness. My mom was really into education and we listened to pop music and then I listened to alternative music. I never was able to properly emulate. When I grew up, the sort of gangsta culture was in vogue. You had kids from really good neighborhoods walking around with a limp. I never did it right. I found I was always sort of “blacking it up and blacking it down” amongst black people and white people. That’s just the way I came up and out in the world. So I think that’s definitely had an influence.

Your film seems like it might have led the way for the new TV show Blackish, which talks about the same issues of what it means to be black, the black experience. Do you think the timing of where we are right now politically is right for this conversation?

JS: I think it’s in the Zeitgeist now. I started in 2005. I don’t know when the creators of Blackish started and I don’t necessarily think one has to do with the other. It’s funny how people start to think about things and it takes so long to develop these projects and it’s impossible to say. It happens in Hollywood all the time. I feel fortunate about it. I think TV has always been a little ahead of the curve too, particularly on this issue, starting with the Dave Chappelle show, the Boondocks, and Key & Peele. Black satire has found a place in television. But film is sorely behind. It’s great that we had a year of black films but Meryl Streep can get an Oscar for playing anything. She doesn’t have to play a tragic role where she dies at the end or is striving at the end. I can’t wait for the time when black actors and black directors and black writers are getting awarded for important movies that have nothing to do with the tragedy of the black experience. That’s when I think things will change a bit.

What do you hope people take away from watching this film?

JS: I love after-movie conversations in the lobbies. I know race will be on people’s lips. The thing that I want people to take away is, you know, ‘Who am I?’ ‘What are the ways in which I have short-changed who I really am to get ahead in life or to meet the demands of other people?’ or ‘What are the ways that culture has sort of brainwashed me?’ That’s what I want people to talk about. ‘Isn’t it interesting I saw myself (whether you’re black, white or whatever), in a movie that featured people of color, and I felt something about the human condition in a movie that featured people of color.’ And, ‘Maybe movies with black and brown people in them and women as the leads, maybe they do have a spot at the table.’ Those are the kinds of things that I ultimately want them to take away.

Have you started thinking about your next project?

JS: I am in Dear White People land a bit. The book is really important to me. I want people to pick it up and tell me what they think. I think the characters belong on the small screen ultimately. I’d love to continue their adventures in a different medium. And beyond that, I’ve been writing for some time now so I have a few screenplays, and I’m writing a new one, and I’m attached to some other things. I want to keep telling people stories that leave people feeling a certain kind of way.

Dear White People opens nationwide in theaters Friday, October 24.

Courtesy of The Bay State Banner

Post-Obama: The Future of the Black Body Politic After the Age of Obama

When then Senator Barack Obama turned into President Barack Obama after his historic 2008 election it had all the pageantry, zeal and aura of a religious revelation for many. It was something a long time coming — a win after a war that has been on-going for decades, centuries. But for all the pomp and excitement, it was short-lived. Once the party was over, on came the political hangover.

People who thought American had overcome a legacy of racial animus and entered some “post-racial” America learned they’d simply entered a new phase. Partisan political posturing and obfuscation turned into irreversible gridlock and an eventual government shutdown. Seeing a black family living at the most famous address in the United States prompted racist outliers to create visions of the White House front lawn with rows of watermelons.

New paradigms ran into old prejudices. But the progress of African Americans has always been met with some form of regression as those most resistant to changed attempted to force blacks back into their status quo position of silent servitude.

For the most part, that effort – in the long-term – has been unsuccessful.

Barrier-breaking started early with hundreds of black men being freely elected to local and state offices in the South during Reconstruction. Unfortunately, their legislative rule was marred with racist rumors of power run amuck and gross money-mismanagement. These lies were used as justification to deny African Americans their natural-born right to vote in the form of punitive Jim Crow laws and voting loopholes. Terrorists, in the form of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists, drove these individuals from their office through a campaign of violence and unconstitutionality that was so detrimental it would be nearly a century before any African Americans would return to those offices, freely elected once again.

We are no longer in a place where the election of a black man or woman could cause a negative reaction so bad that it results in no black person being elected to office for another near 100 years. And while it’s unlikely that 2016 will bring us another black president, the legacy of President Obama’s historic 2008 election and 2012 election cannot be undone. We have progressed. Today’s acts of regression are in the familiar forms of restrictive voting laws and racist dog-whistle name-calling.

From Deval Patrick to Cory Booker to Kamala Harris, well-known, respected black political figures are regular Sunday talk show guests, points of conversation and part of “business as usual” in our political landscape. We’ve gone from the majority of our politicians coming from the realms of activism and the pulpit to Ivy Leaguers and scholars. They are not simply men and women fighting to subvert a system, they have become part of it. And in many ways, that’s the next and final stage.

As blacks representing higher and more numerous offices becomes normal and as restrictive voting laws are defeated, the debate will be more about the relationship between these political leaders – in positions where they must represent all Americans and not just Black Americans – and the African American base who elects them. With issues like social justice, education, unemployment and our punitive drug laws, there is still a need for activists and individuals fighting for black interests, but if a politician has to be part of the system, not an outsider attacking it, what we expect of our politicians versus our social activists may separate completely. Both the fighter and lawmaker are needed, but our days of expecting a black politician to be both are over.