It is a good thing to be here for another August, another Black August. Each year, I and many others, use August as a recalibration of our work and recommitment to the struggle for the liberation of African peoples locally and globally. It’s been a few years since many of us have been able to participate in MXGM’s Black August celebrations such as the long standing hip-hop benefit show, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. As is tradition, I’ll be fasting in August from a few things and doing some things to help sharpen myself. Below are a few things I’m doing this year:
1) Fasting from alcohol
2) Fasting from additional sugar and sweets
3) Reading Joy James’ “Imprisoned Intellectuals”
4) Leading and participating in a weekly study group for male identified friends on “uprooting patriarchy”
5) Connecting with and building with justice oriented sociologists
There are a million ways to become better and to take inventory of what you’ve done over the past year. In a year where we’ve seen 551 people killed by police, there is much work to be done. In a time when the Black child poverty rate has remained steady while all other groups have declined, there is much work to be done. I’m proud to have such amazing comrades who join me in this month and work daily for liberation. One such person is Marc Lamont Hill. If you haven’t done so already, pick up his new book Nobody: Causalities of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond. It’s a powerful read about where we are, how we got here, and what it’s going to take to move us forward!
So the internet is a peculiar place. Some days you’ll find everything you need, other days you’ll search low and high and turn up empty handed. Yesterday, I was randomly reminded of an Opinion piece I published with The Grio in 2010 on gender bending and Morehouse. I tried to find the article in The Grio’s archives but I came up with nothing. I found scattered references to it with a web search but all the links were dead. When it got published at the Grio, they chose the title, “Are Morehouse Men Allowed to be Women?” I immediately hit them up because i thought the title was off for a number of reasons (not to mention we did have women students for a brief period). The title was updated but a number of the references still out there use the Grio title, not mine. Last night, in a Morehouse group on fb, I was introduced to the Du Bois Divas (presumably, these are students from Du Bois Hall a freshmen dorm).
Since seeing the video last night, it looks like the title has been changed from “Morehouse College Dubois Divas” to “The Du Bois Dance Team.” According to the description, this was a performance at 2015-2016 Mr. Freshman Pageant. The video was shared with ire in a Morehouse fb group I’m in. Brothers raised questions about damaging the brand of Morehouse, why these young folks should not attend our alma mater, and comments were laced with a host of homo and femmephobic rhetoric. I was glad to see the video and to see the four young cats work it out and turn up the crowd. Why you ask? Give my piece for 2010 a read and you’ll understand a bit more. [i uploaded a pdf so it doesn’t get washed away in url scraping].
Too often, people see folks like the ones in this video and write them off as “deviant”, “damaging” and “not-men” without knowing anything of their identification, character or constitution. The Morehouse we should be is one where diversities of gender expression, as well as sexual expression, are welcomed as long as you are doing your best to meet the crown that is placed above your head.
This Wednesday, December 2nd, I will be in conversation with the prolific author Colson Whitehead. It’s going to be a special conversation that is sponsored by CCNY’s Black Studies Program. The talk is free and open to the public, but please RSVP here. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.
I recently had the honor of being featured in Huffington Post’s Science in their exploration of “the science of racism.” While sociology is a social science, I certainly think our theories and accumulated knowledge can help shine light on the contemporary nature of race and racism. Check out my responses in full at this link. Here’s an excerpt.
Southern culture in particular and American culture in general often casually perpetuate racism in the present, often by recrafting narratives of the past. The Confederate flag, which flies over South Carolina, was not a long-lived historical symbol — it was the symbol of a rebel force against the United States. The “heritage not hate” trope conveniently skips over the central issues of the Civil War, the position of black people who labored in the antebellum South, as well as the costs that the war had on the nation. Symbols like the Confederate flag are common among hate groups, but also are part of the state’s image. The history of those symbols, along with the large number of schools and statues named for Confederate soldiers and even [Ku Klux] Klan members, create a hostile environment for those who understand the history of race in the nation, and those whose ancestors were painfully forced to labor under those flags during and after the end of slavery, and who had their lives terrorized by groups like the KKK.
Dylann Storm Roof is seen in his booking photo after he was apprehended as the main suspect in the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Were you surprised by Roof’s age of 21? Why do you think a young white man from a young generation could be motivated to commit a racially motivated hate crime?
I was not surprised by Roof’s age. Outspokenness of white supremacists may be on the decline, but white supremacist ideology exists in a range of ages. Hate groups often have events where children are socialized into racial hate. As well, the Internet has democratized access to white supremacist information. If I am a white high-schooler who feels he has been mistreated while racial minorities have been favored, I’m only a couple of clicks away from a myriad of sites and message boards where I’ll find kinship with folks who are in legion of racial hatred or racial nationalism.
I was recently interviewed by Rose Hackmen for the Guardian on their story about the McKinney Pool incident. In the viral video, we see Corporal Eric Casebolt aggressively engaging Black teenagers, drawing his gun on them and ultimately forcing a Dajerria Becton to lay prone with his knee lodged in her back. The video, while shocking to many, in my estimation, simply captures the everyday inequities that Black folks experiences, even in suburbia.(Be on the look out for a more lengthy commentary soon.) Here’s a quote I offer.
“Whenever you define who are legitimate in suburbs, black residents are excluded. For black families that means the suburbs will not save them. The issues that they have been dealing with in terms of racial profiling will follow them,”
New York Magazine’s recent cover story on Ethical Culture Fieldston School’s program on confronting racism is both interesting and controversial. In the segment below, I join Huffington Post Live to discuss why I think the program is not only provocative but also has significant potential to evolve our conversations on race and racism.
This week I had the pleasure of joining Brian Lehrer on his television show to talk about the uprisings in Baltimore and the path forward. The other panel guest, James Meyerson, is a Civil Rights attorney who has called for a new Kerner Commission. Check out the segment, it’s about 10 minutes long, as well as the rest of the show.
FYI- I have been writing a couple of things on Baltimore but hadn’t decided where to share them. I’m hoping to share them with y’all very soon.
Tomorrow, Tuesday April 28th, I am honored to join a cadre of talented thinkers and activists at the second annual Congressman Parren Mitchell Symposium, “Intellectual Activism, Social Justice, and Criminalization” at the University of Maryland-College Park. The day will be full of conversation with folks who are advancing social justice on the ground, in academia and in legislative halls. The symposium is free and open to the public, please RSVP here. Come out and spread the word!
Next Friday, May 1st, I will be presenting on research that I have been conducting with Brittany N. Fox (Columbia University) on demographic changes in Upper Manhattan (bka Uptown). The gathering, and part of our research, is the product of a collaboration between the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and Hunter’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies. There will be a host of scholars and community members present to discuss what is happening in New York City around lines of race, ethnicity, class and change. The conference is free and open to the public, but you should register at this eventbrite link.
I am thrilled and humbled that I was selected as the Amsterdam News Black New Yorker in their latest edition. The article, written by Demetria Irwin, provides a nice look inside my life, not just what I do in the classroom or as a scholar. Check it out and remember to support Black news media, heck media of color or any media with a truly critical voice!!
Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy merges academics and activism
Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy’s daughter was born with activist blood in her veins. The precious baby girl was born to Lewis-McCoy and his wife the day a grand jury voted not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“My wife and I are very active when it comes to getting out into the community. But when she was six months pregnant and it was 90 degrees outside, we couldn’t do our usual passing out flyers at a parade. Now with a baby with us, we are still active, but we figure out different ways to contribute as a family,” said Lewis-McCoy.
The Connecticut native utilizes numerous avenues to fight for causes he believes in. One avenue is the classroom. Lewis-McCoy is an associate professor of sociology and Black studies at the City College of New York-CUNY.