By: Judson L. Jeffries, PhD

shabaka ture and dr nelson
Last week when I was told that Brother Shabaka Ture had made the transition the news hit me like a punch in the gut. Brother Ture was by any measure a dedicated freedom fighter and an ardent supporter of the Community Extension Center. Whenever I or those affiliated with me needed his assistance he was there. I first met Brother Ture a year after arriving in Columbus in 2007. I reached out to him in hopes that he would serve on a panel on the History of Black Columbus conference. We had a haughty conversation, ranging from local politics to the prospect of electing the first Black president and what that would and wouldn’t mean for Black America. In the following weeks and months, Brother Ture introduced me to a leftist community that I didn’t know existed here in Columbus. In fact it was he who introduced me to Nommo X.


To say that Brother Ture was a friend of the CEC is an understatement. Over the years, he became a fixture at the CEC, so much so that he was put in charge of the African Affairs Symposium, before giving way to Professor Paul Cook in later years. I last saw him when Dr. Kevin L. Brooks and I visited with him in the hospital late last fall following his surgery. Our stay lasted more than an hour. His spirits were up, even though his body was weakened, understandably so. Our conversations in the ensuing months suggested things were coming along more slowly than he had hoped. Still myself and others were confident that his recovery would be full and without setback.

Every summer for the past several years, we at the CEC joined Brother Ture and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party in offering the Marcus Garvey Celebration at the center, an extraordinarily uplifting affair that draws people from all walks of life. Brother Ture brought life to the CEC during the dog days of summer.

Brother Ture was a throwback, the type of guy who comes along every ten years or so. He did what he said he was going to do. Once he entered a fight there was no quit and he refused to compromise his values. Nobody that I know of ever wondered which side Brother Ture was on. It wasn’t on the side of the status quo—that’s for sure. Despite the fact that he attended The Ohio State University he did not hesitate to speak out against his alma mater if he believed the actions of its administrators adversely impacted local residents.

Brother Ture’s death creates a tremendous void in the struggle for Black liberation here locally. Filling it won’t be easy, if indeed it’s even possible. I firmly salute this OSU alum, indefatigable organizer, truth-telling street journalist, plain speaking orator, comrade, and friend.

Witnessing While White and the Violence of Silence

By: Simone Drake, PhD

pool party

On June 5, 2015, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan did an interview with New York’s 105.1 The Breakfast Club radio program that was an hour and a half long black public service announcement. Compared to his heyday in the late decades of the twentieth century, Farrakhan has been relatively invisible lately, an invisibility he attributes to mainstream media censorship. The Black Lives Matter movement, however, along with the upcoming twenty-year anniversary of the Million Man March, has compelled Farrakhan to return to more frequent public instructions for black people and the damnation of white supremacy. His messages have been calls for social and cultural reparations. In January he called for black military personnel to divest from military service and fight racial inequalities right here in the United States. In his most recent commentary, drawing comparisons to Palestinian resistance, he proposed that peaceful protests cannot produce change for people who are already socially dead.

His speech was an ominous prelude to a doubly tragic weekend for the nation. That same evening a pool party in McKinney, Texas would turn into a scene straight out of the heyday of Jim Crow when black children are forced to leave a community pool and a 14-year-old bikini-clad black girl is thrown to the ground and pinned by a white police officer. The next day, in New York City, Kalief Browder, who as a teenager was held on Rikers Island for three years without being convicted of a crime and during that time was subjected to severe abuse by authorities and inmates, would commit suicide. The violation of civil liberties—most notably a complete disregard for freedom of speech in Texas and an appallingly undemocratic criminal justice system in New York—received immediate media attention and public outcry.

In Texas, over seven minutes of the mayhem was caught on video. From the opening of the clip with blurred images of teenagers standing on sidewalks and in streets, and an officer running, assumedly tripping, and then MMA style rolling and jumping up to continue pursuit, I knew something was amiss. What ensued was a shameful display of the abuse of police power, and if not bad enough, the abuse was being committed by a supervisor, judging by the stripes on his uniform. The young girl who was the subject of the violence caught on camera (who knows what happened off camera) will perhaps force mainstream media to gender the Black Lives Matter movement in ways aligned with the African American Policy Forum’s efforts to compel policymakers to bring black women and girls into dialogues on racial injustice and violence.

There is, however, culpability beyond that of the offending officer. As the teenagers stood around (or were forced to sit and lay on the ground), some seemingly confused while others indignantly expressed their contempt for the treatment, the camera periodically captured white (assumed) residents of the community. Caddy-corner to the altercation, there was a group of white men and women watching the policing, almost like they were attending a lynching-bee. No one thought to question why the children were being treated as dangerous criminals. As the tensions escalated, several white men appeared, apparently acting as George Zimmerman-style “community watchmen.” Once the officer forces the girl to the ground by her neck and black teenage boys and girls rush toward them, a large white man stands between the two groups, keeping the teenagers from intervening. It was clear that neither he nor the other white man were attempting to protect the girl or the teenagers from police violence being inflicted upon them, too—they were acting as perpetrators of white supremacy and heralding the abuse of police power upon black bodies. This troubling scenario of dual culpability—officer and civilian—was further evidenced by the officer’s persistent profane demands that the black teenagers disperse, while he never once told the white men to stop interfering in police business. His tacit acceptance of their presence, and their tacit complicity in the violence (and inciting of a riot, ultimately, by those who called the police) brings Farrakhan’s commentary full circle.

Farrakhan was and remains a controversial political figure; one who has repeatedly been subjected to often times unbelievable misconstruing of his words. The fact that young people are finding his words and ideas relevant today perhaps suggests why certain unnamed race leaders have sustained popularity in the mainstream public sphere and Farrakhan has not. His promise of a fearless, non-passive revolution just prior to the tragedies in Texas and New York this past weekend should rightfully have the media and authorities concerned. When both State authorities (police officers) and civilians have the right to police black bodies, stripping those bodies of rights and dignity, people being subjected to the hypocrisy of U.S. democracy just might fight back as they did in Baltimore. And such a response would not be unprecedented—perhaps Texas has forgotten the Houston Riots of 1917, but when one history repeats itself so can another.

this blog was also ran on the NewBlackMan blogspot

#Hereforcookie: Empire, Hip-Hop Reparations, and Cookie

By: Simone Drake, PhD



cookie lyons

There is perhaps no better litmus test for race relations and the continuing perseverance of anti-blackness in the United States than for a Fox news host to propose President Obama will offer an apology for slavery “and then there’s going to be a major push to get cash. And I’m talking lots of cash.” And there is perhaps no better evidence for U.S. citizens’ pervasive ignorance of history, across racial lines, than to read the “Comments” section of online news sites. Not surprisingly, in a consumer-driven, capitalist economy, the idea of reparations becomes synonymous with cash payouts. Or, perhaps monetary payments is logically deduced because slaves did not earn wages and institutionalized racism has resulted in descendants of slaves, as a group, earning less than their white (and Asian) counter-parts and possessing significantly less wealth.

It could be the entanglement of this logic—wrongs are righted through cash—and this reality—social and economic status of African Americans are inherited from the past—that makes a night time soap opera like Lee Daniel’s Empire appealing to a multiracial audience. Through its undeniable “blackness” and the foregrounding of consumption, excess, and privilege (and black art) the series creates a world in which discussions of reparations is moot. However, I would propose an implicit dialogue about reparations frames the series.

The media has been quick to label Empire a black version of the 1980s primetime soap opera Dynasty. The New York Post, for example, proposes “‘Empire’ feels a bit like early-era ‘Dynasty,’ only with the Carringtons having gone gangsta.” While Empire is a soap opera and not a sitcom, it is nonetheless interesting that media comparisons have focused almost exclusively on Dynasty with only Dick Gregory making a widely circulated comparison with The Cosby Show. Although the genres differ, the predominately black cast of Empire shares significant commonalities with The Cosby Show, as does the fact that both series revived their respective television networks. What distinguishes Empire from both Dynasty and The Cosby Show, however, is the black production of black narratives. Daniels is the executive producer of Empire. Aside from Diahann Carroll (Dominique Devereaux) there is no recurring black character on Dynasty and neither Dynasty nor The Cosby Show had black executive producers (although Cosby did write for all episodes). Black production of black narratives is reparative—it is a cultural reparation.

If reparations is about making amends for a wrong, then black people having the opportunity to tell their own stories and chose how they will be represented is a form of reparations. In this same vein, the way in which, to channel Jill Scott, Daniels is “taking [his] freedom” in an industry that has been central to producing and perpetuating racial stereotypes is doing more than repairing wrongs. The black production of black narratives ultimately provides black audiences viewing pleasure. The need for oppositional gazes disappears for many of the African American viewers who according to Fox make up 62% of the show’s audience aged 18-49 (and this percentage must raise some when you move to the next age bracket up, because my parents were regular viewers). Being able to experience pleasure, even if only for forty-two minutes once a week, in a nation that fosters racial animus and hostility—see online comments on pretty much any subject regarding African Americans and social, political, or economic plight—being able to simply enjoy seeing those who look like you on a screen is reparative. And, bringing the series to network television rather than cable is an inclusive act.

If Lee Daniels is “[p]ulling [his freedom] off the shelf,” then Cookie Lyons (Taraji P. Henson) is Putting it on [her] chain/Wearing it ’round [her] neck.” There seems to be a consensus that Cookie is the most beloved character of the series. Her tenacity, hustle, and steadfast commitment to her children have made 17 million viewers love her. Daniels did not set out intent on casting Henson and Terrance Howard (Luscious Lyons, Cookie’s ex-husband) as leads in this series. It is therefore ironic that these two actors would reunite in a hip-hop-themed series after starring in Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow (2005) together. I have previously written about how Henson’s character (Shug) singing the hook on a rap single only to result in a white woman and black man making a profit in Hustle reflects a failed intersectional consciousness in Brewer’s efforts to “rebuild the South.” Thus, to see Henson and Howard reunite on Empire, it is hard not to think of this being Shug’s/Cookie’s moment to seek amends for not just seventeen years of incarceration but also for everyone but her profiting off of her sound. Whether Daniels will take us there is unknown. His questionable gender politics when it comes to black women makes restitution for Cookie even more questionable. Nonetheless, through her 90s style and channeling of Lil’ Kim, Salt-N-Pepa, and Foxy Brown, Cookie amends the wrong of sexism in hip-hop, as she demands a voice, authority, and power. Daniels better not do wrong by Cookie, because we are #hereforcookie.


this blog was also ran on the NewBlackMan blogspot

“All My Life I Had to Fight…”: Black Women’s Ongoing Struggle for Inclusion in Civil Rights Narratives

By: Tiyi M. Morris, PhD

Like many of us, I welcome diverse representations of Blacks in the media, in general, particularly on the silver screen. So as much as I enjoyed the movie, Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay, I would be remiss if I failed to point out issues around representation in Selma that must be addressed in order to produce the kind of historically accurate narrative that moves us forward. Still, I hope the film will inspire moviegoers to explore the rich history of the Black freedom struggle in America.

Selma’s largest flaw is both the misrepresentation and the underrepresentation of women who were centrally involved in the modern Civil Rights Movement, even with the acknowledgement that Duvernay had to incorporate most of the women in the script that we saw. Reportedly, the original script for Selma was devoid of any significant female characters. With the abundance of recent scholarship on the Black freedom struggle that centers women’s activism (i.e. Faith S. Holsaert, et. al., Hands on the Freedom Plow, Francoise Hamlin, Crossroads at Clarksdale, Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement) it is difficult to comprehend how such an egregious and glaring mistake could be made. Perhaps this is why intentionality is most important when sharing Civil Rights Movement narratives, as Duvernay’s attempt to rectify the script still fell short of giving the women proper representation in the film in several key ways.

First, one cannot talk about the modern Civil Rights Movement, and especially not the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), without including Ella Baker. Anyone who knows anything about SNCC knows that the organization would not have been as transformative and effective without Baker’s guidance. Baker secured the funding from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for the students to convene at her alma mater, Shaw University, for what would be its founding meeting in 1960. It was also Baker who encouraged the students to create an autonomous organization that would not be beholden to, or limited by, the ideologies of the SCLC. In the film, having Reverend Hosea Williams (played by Wendell Pierce) state that it was Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. who told student activists to organize SNCC is a blatant denial of Baker’s key role. Furthermore, such a statement was part of a larger portrayal of SNCC as a group of politically immature “kids” challenging the older and wiser King. Not only were King and James Forman the same age, but by this time many SNCCers were seasoned activists whose disagreements with SCLC strategy were based on wisdom and experience gained on the front lines of civil rights activism in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and other Southern states. Baker’s influence on the organizing of SNCC as a whole and SNCC activists, as individuals, changed the trajectory of the entire Movement. Giving credit to Martin Luther King, Jr. for the organization’s development is unforgivable and a classic case of the erasure of Black women’s activism and leadership.

Second, another woman who is synonymous with SNCC is Diane Nash (played by Tessa Thompson). A leader of the Nashville student movement while a student at Fisk University, Nash spearheaded SNCC’s efforts to continue the Freedom Rides in 1961 after extreme violence in Birmingham caused the initial group to abort the rides and fly to their final destination of New Orleans. She coordinated SNCC’s efforts and trained youth activists in Mississippi during (and after) the Freedom Rides. Nash also did much of the groundwork for the SCLC in Selma before King’s arrival. Yet, she has little more than a few cameos in the film and didn’t even get a biographical summary at the conclusion of the film.

Third, two local women who were inadequately portrayed in the film were Mrs. Annie Lee Cooper (played by Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Amelia Boynton (played by Lorraine Toussaint). Cooper’s physical resistance to authority (hitting Sherriff Jim Clark) was an important inclusion because it demonstrates the reality that self-defense existed alongside the practice of non-violence. But to have Cooper react violently in response to the abuse of a Black man re-centers men in the civil rights narrative and obscures the many ways in which Black women have historically defended themselves. Black women from Ida B. Wells to Joan Little have physically resisted abusive, authority figures, who violated their bodies, in defense of their womanhood. Why does a woman’s physical retaliation have to revolve around a man? Weren’t the injustices Black women faced sufficient to produce the rage that would inspire one to retaliate? All too often, narratives of the Black freedom struggle have overlooked the assaults on Black women’s bodies (see, Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street). If Winfrey had channeled Sophia to defend herself against white male brutality, the audience would have been just as proud, perhaps even more so. In this case, the truth would have been more powerful than the fiction we saw.

Finally, Amelia Boynton, like Diane Nash, received short shrift in Selma, despite her slightly greater visibility because of the magnitude in which her leadership shaped history. Boynton was the president of the Dallas County, Alabama NAACP. When the NAACP was outlawed Boynton ushered the members into the Dallas County Voters League, which she and her husband had revived. She was the force behind much of the grassroots organizing in Selma. In fact, the Selma march would not have happened without bridge leaders like Boynton. Yet, one leaves the theater without a full and important understanding of the integral role she played. For a film about Selma, Boynton should have had a more prominent role in both lines and visual representation. Unfortunately Selma proved to be more about Martin Luther King, Jr., the individual, in Selma than the Selma movement, itself. Some might argue that the presence of women in a film such as this represents progress, that I should be happy about that. But, haven’t we moved beyond that type of reductive analysis? Black women’s mere inclusion is necessary, but far from sufficient. Any civil rights narrative, in print or on the silver screen, must re-center Black women’s leadership role and its importance to the Movement.

Tiyi M. Morris is Assistant Professor in the Department of African-American and African Studies at OSU-Newark and author of Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi (University of Georgia Press, 2015).

I’m Not Your Superwoman, but I Can Have It All

By: Simone Drake, PhD

As a professional woman who is often viewed as a hybrid of Chaka Khan’s “every woman” and Karyn White’s “superwoman,” I appreciated the nuance of Lisa B. Thompson’s recent Washington Post commentary on gender realism in Shonda Rhimes’s award-winning televisual productions. Rhimes’s pattern of resisting both the superwoman and “happily ever after” narrative is good for popular culture. The conclusion Professor Thompson drew from that pattern, however, made me bristle: women can’t have it all. I would propose that having it all and being a superwoman—what Rhimes seems to actually be disrupting—are quite different.

I am a university professor who has five degrees in several fields, a husband, a suburban home, three children, a dog, and the obligatory minivan. Already, I am on overkill with the number of degrees and number of children, as the vast majority of university professors cannot match those figures. Then, I published like crazy, largely because early on I was told “as a mother of young children” a job search committee was concerned I “could not do the work of tenure or complete my dissertation,” not to mention doctoral English professor comments along the way that I was challenged with “basic English skills.” With one book out last year, a second projected for next year, and a third grant-funded book project well under way, in addition to a solid list of journal articles and book chapters, in the area of publishing, I am also on overkill. This, I suppose, is what happens when you tell a stubborn person she cannot have the things she wants. But, does this mean I have it all? It does and it does not.

While the realm of popular culture and particularly television has functioned as a post-civil rights space to measure social progress and incorporation for marginalized groups, there should be cautionary limits to just how much it is allowed to shape our understanding of real life. From Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique to watching Michelle Obama transform from corporate business woman to mom-in-chief, the fact that women make career sacrifices for others and, thus, often are disproportionately burdened by an inequitable work-pleasure burden is well noted, even if very little has been done politically, socially, or economically to make critical inroads in improving the predicament. Thompson encourages spectators to “see” the work Rhimes does to pushback against a patriarchal system by making life, and especially the life of professional women, messy and complicated. This is real. Veronica Chambers famously offered a glimpse of how real it is for the women she interviewed in Having It All?: Black Women and Success. What emerged from Chambers’s narratives is what Rhimes shows the world—it is not easy for women to have it all in a heteropatriarchal, capitalist society. But, I question what the rhetorical limitations are in such an absolute conclusion.

A primary concern is one of definition: how “all” is being defined. This is critical because the phrase itself proceeds from the assumption that there is a standardized set of “things” all women want. Career, opposite sex spouse, children, home, and material goods that mark social and economic status are typically the things understood to constitute the “all” professional women want to have. According to Thompson, ShondaLand separates itself from other primetime television programming because of Rhimes’s brutal honesty when every other producer opts for fairytales. I get this, and I register the importance of the narrative intervention, but all women do not want all of these things and, even among those who do, there are often variations. There are women who want a career but do not desire mobility within it. There are women who want the career and to be powerful. There are women who want the career, a life partner, and children. There are women who have professional credentials and choose to restrict their work to one shift—the home space. Any of these women could understand herself as having it all, regardless of what anyone else might think.

In addition to definition, language is also a problem. The phrase is a second wave feminist term that pushes back against the sexist parameters that limited women’s educational and vocational opportunities. Although there have been efforts to change the language—Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s “doing it all,” etc.—the bottom line of calling for gender equality in the home and work space remains constant. Yet, all iterations of the phrase seem to still evoke doubt, which resonates with Thompson’s quoting of Rhimes:

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.… That is the trade-off. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel 100 percent okay; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous.

What Rhimes reveals is a humanism that speaks to the dubiousness of the phraseology that suggests there is a magical state when women, or even men, as Richard Dorment’s controversial Esquire essay proposes, can have or do it all.

This utopian ideology, then, is not only complicated by presumed definitions of what “all” might be, but also by the reality of humanness that demands sacrifices. Rhimes demonstrates a clear investment in replicating real-life narratives of professional women (and men) in her television series, as far as the work-home balance goes, but there is a limitation. Thompson points out that Leslie Knope on “‘Parks and Recreation’ is running a branch of the National Park Service while raising triplet toddlers, and she never breaks a sweat.” This is a point where I must admit my understanding of the fascination with ShondaLand, especially black, professional women’s fascination, yet acknowledge my own disinterest in the hoopla. Yes, hard decisions between career and relationships are made in ShondaLand, showing viewers the “sweat.” But, whether viewers see the sweat or not, ShondaLand is just as circumscribed by the very ideology that disallows Knope to break the sweat we are not supposed to see. Thus, unlike Thompson suggests, I am not convinced Christina Yang’s character on Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy is offering significantly more progressivism via an elective abortion than Knope’s character, who lives a charmed life, because the analysis of both women relies on employing a troubled trope for assessing gender progressivism. Yang is only not having it all if we accept a particular definition of having it all. If we instead think of having it all as a concept uniquely tailored to individual women who determine for themselves what “all” constitutes in their lives, then Rhimes might be showing viewers something quite different than “women can’t have it all.”

I am reluctant to view Rhimes’s depiction of the “trade-off” as exemplary of women not being able to have it all. Instead, I see a pushback against the superwoman or “every woman” who is “whatever you want / whatever you need / anything you want done baby / I do it naturally.” Can one not have “all” of the things that defines one’s definition of “all” and escape the superwoman trap? I would say most certainly professional women can have all the things they decide are important to them and worth working toward. What those things are will look different for each woman. What choices are made to determine which things are given lower or no priority in order to have the things desired will also differ. For this reason, I, personally, say I can have all the things I deem to be important to me, but I’m not your superwoman.

Ohio State Lacks Commitment to Students of Color

By: Navid Farnia, M.A.

A of couple weeks ago, I decided to seek out Ohio State’s Middle East Studies Center. Having been at Ohio State for over a semester, I hadn’t heard about any activity relating to the Middle East on campus, be it lectures, discussions, or other events. I felt disconnected from my own background and wanted to engage important political issues regarding US involvement in the region.

The Middle East Studies Center is located on the third floor of Oxley Hall, but I couldn’t have imagined what I’d discover upon arriving there. Oxley Hall’s third floor not only houses the Middle East Studies Center, but also the Center for African Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, the East Asian Studies Center, and the Center for Slavic and East European Studies. In other words, one floor in one building on Ohio State’s enormous (and expanding) campus covers the vast majority of the populated world. Needless to say, that finding upset me.

Now to be fair, the university has a Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (“Near Eastern” being a completely dated term referring to the Middle East), a Department of African American and African Studies (my home department), the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and an International Studies program, which includes majors for Latin American Studies, African Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, etc., each located in different buildings, but I’ve found little programming and overall political engagement with current world events on campus. That’s why I thought the Middle East Studies Center would alleviate my anxieties. Unfortunately, I was wrong. (Just to be clear, my frustration isn’t with those running the center; I’m sure they are doing their best with what’s given to them.)

Admittedly, I’m very new to Ohio State. It’s still difficult for me to truly understand the racial dynamics on campus and the school’s attention to international political issues, but my experience thus far has been disappointing to say the least. At this point, I’m convinced that Ohio State does little for people of color, which includes people originally from the US, first- and second-generation immigrants, and international students.

Some surface research confirms my suspicions. According to the website, The Ohio State University’s main campus ranks 1060th in ethnic diversity nationwide, with White students encompassing anywhere from 75 to 83 percent of the student population (information regarding the racial breakdown of international students isn’t available, hence the variance). Conversely, the student body is roughly 6% Black, 5% Asian, 3.5% Latin, and a paltry .14% Native American. In total, US students of color account for just 17% and international students only 8% of the population. Racial discrepancies in the faculty population aren’t any better. Faculty are 75 percent White and women comprise only 36 percent of the population, which means there are even fewer women of color on the faculty.

Moreover, the disparity between racial demographics on campus and Columbus at-large provides an even more startling context. As of 2010, Columbus’s general population was 28% Black and 61% White, meaning that White students are overrepresented and Black students are underrepresented at Ohio State, according to both local and national racial statistics, and the university isn’t doing anything to help racialized communities in the city either. Ohio State is directly responsible for gentrification in certain neighborhoods (including the largely Black Poindexter Village), as school officials press to expand the campus. Low Black student enrollment combined with forcibly relocating Black residents shows how the university lacks commitment to people of color.

Student demographics provide only part of the racial story on campus, however. The relationship between the student body’s racial composition, local politics, and the university’s apathy regarding international issues is more nuanced. In my short time here, Ohio State has facilitated very little political engagement, especially regarding current national and global events. For example, with so much happening in the Middle East, I expected to find more campus activities (lectures, community dialogues, panels, etc.) concerning the region. This is particularly true given the US’s repeated and seemingly unending interventions in the Middle East and surrounding regions, but little such campus activity exists. All told, Ohio State allocates minimal resources to serve people of color. More importantly, the university’s local ambitions along with a lack of political engagement with the world speak to its racial politics. By marginalizing students of color and non-Eurocentric worldviews, the university shows its ideological investment in whiteness.

As I become more acclimated to this school, I hope I’ll find less apathy and more engagement with issues affecting people of color. Nevertheless, I’ve been at three universities now and have so far found that Ohio State is the least committed of the schools I’ve attended (and that says a lot). Ohio State has 65,000 students and an endowment of over $3.5 billion and, yet, little commitment to enhancing the experiences of students who aren’t White.


Navid Farnia is a Ph.D. student in the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University.

“Don’t You Know About Ferguson?!”: Making Sense of Police Training

By: Simone Drake, PhD

Having a spouse who is a police officer does not worry me as much as most people think it would. I tend to agonize more over figuring out how to juggle a career while prioritizing the needs of my three sons when my husband is at work nights and weekends. I thought it a wise move, however, when he switched from being a regular patrol officer to working on the local police department’s bike patrol unit that collaborates with bike patrol at the university I work at. In this position, he rarely is dispatched on the high-risk “runs” that regular patrol units pick up. Instead, he spends a lot of time responding to cell phone thefts at 2:00 AM, when the victims are walking down alleys, underage drinking citations, and various misdemeanor disturbances in the residential areas surrounding campus. A recent event, however, made me think about the complicated relationship that exists between the critical race studies scholarship I produce and my marriage to a cop.

My husband casually—too casually, in my opinion—told me that someone tried to take his partner’s gun. I exclaimed, “What?!” and demanded more details. It was almost midnight on a weekend and he and his partner were riding at a walking pace as they answered questions about their bikes and duties for several pedestrians walking down the main retail street and thoroughfare of campus. My husband was startled to attention when his partner, who was riding behind him, hollered, “Get off my gun!” My husband turned to see an African American male attempting to remove the officer’s gun from his holster. Before my husband got to his partner, his partner had subdued the assailant; these incidences happen lightening fast. Surely high on adrenaline, upon arriving at the scene, my husband blurted out, “Don’t you know about Ferguson—I could’ve shot you!” Hearing that, I immediately asked, “Would you have really shot him?” Looking at me with bewilderment, he instantly replied, “Yes, he was wrestling with my partner for his gun; the only thing that stopped me was not having a clean shot.”

That was a sobering moment for two reasons. First, I really do not spend much time worrying about his safety; of course, freak accidents can happen, but he is well trained and smart. Hearing about that moment, however, and the necessity of him drawing his weapon and potentially firing it, created a sense of anxiety about the work he does. The second sobering aspect of the event is how one bad decision can ruin, and in this case ought to have ended, someone’s life. The assailant was, as my husband described it, “very high on marijuana” and the officers had numerous resistance problems with him even after he was handcuffed. Because of his actions, he now has a felony charge against him. My husband’s explanation of police protocol makes sense to me now. Thus, if the positions were reversed between him and his partner, I would have expected my husband’s partner to look for a clean shot to shoot whomever was attempting to take my husband’s gun at the very same time that I wish he did not have to do that because it would have meant someone else’s life would end, either figuratively (in a cell) or literally (in a coffin).

I know police violence toward people of African descent and especially African American men is a sensitive issue. It is one that does not go away because so many unarmed Black men, women, and children are victims of police violence. It is for this reason that many social justice advocates are quick to dismiss any defense of the police or police training. I occupy a complex space then as someone who is often suspicious of police, generally speaking, but who lives with an officer and, consequently, am learning that police work is complicated and therefore standardized to protect both the officer and the civilian.

What I mean by complicated is that, like many civilians, I have asked my husband questions like, “Why didn’t he [the officer] shoot him [the suspect] in the leg or somewhere non-fatal?” (Relatives of the deceased regularly ask this question on the local news.) What I have learned is real life and movies share little in common. Very early in his career my husband explained to me that at the point that you need to discharge your fire arm, your training is not to injure the assailant, you are trained to stop or neutralize the threat. The manner in which he was trained to shoot makes that clear: you aim center mass and you shoot at an angle in which the shot will go through and through. This means that shooting, or neutralizing the threat, in the aforementioned incident or, for example, when encountering an active rape is a facially neutral safety protocol for police working in my husband’s department. Again, this makes sense—I would rather shoot you than you shoot me—but I still struggled with the reality of having to make these decisions.

An easier topic for me to understand, but one also associated with police violence, is jaywalking. Work in the off-campus area of one of the largest universities in the United States results in my husband issuing hundreds of jaywalking citations. I have always known jaywalking is “illegal,” but I do it regularly because I figure I know how to cross the street without getting hit by a car. During the 2012–2013 academic year at my university, however, an alarming rate of students were struck by motor vehicles when walking in non-pedestrian roadways on campus. In fact, the university allocated an obscene amount of money to a task force created to figure out how to keep pedestrians safe. So the jaywalking laws have a function; they are not culturally or racially insensitive on their face. The insidious ways in which racism and law enforcement become entangled, however, make it difficult to parse out the racism from common sense police safety measures—measures that protect both the officer and the civilian. The entanglement is a most tragic legacy this nation inherited from its forefathers and that is now deeply ingrained in every facet of society. Thus, the reality of police departments nationwide increasingly making sure their protocols are race neutral (to avoid lawsuits) is complicated by the continuing problem of unarmed Black people being shot or otherwise caused physical harm by police officers who sometimes are following protocol and other times are dead wrong. This reality creates an ambivalence for me about both law enforcement agencies and protests against them.

Michael Dunn Sentenced To Life in ‘Loud Music’ Trial

This article is from

By: Michele Richinick


APTOPIX Loud Music Killing
Michael Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on Friday for the 2012 Florida shooting death of unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis. The sentence, in what was deemed the “loud music trial,” also carries an additional 90 years for three previous convictions of attempted murder — 30 consecutive years for each count — and 15 concurrent years for firing a gun into an occupied vehicle.

Dunn, 47, who is white, fired 10 rounds at the 17-year-old African-American and his friends in November 2012 after fighting with them about music coming from their SUV in a Jacksonville parking lot. During a retrial on Oct. 1, jurors unanimously found Dunn guilty of first-degree murder for Davis’ death. In Florida, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole.

In February, Dunn was convicted of three counts of second-degree attempted murder toward Davis’ friends. But after more than 30 hours, jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on his first-degree murder charge, resulting in a mistrial on that count.

At the hearing on Friday, Dunn read a brief statement and, for the first time, publicly apologized for killing the teen. Several of Davis’ family members and friends attended the hearing and addressed Dunn.

“I miss his big, wide, toothy smile,” Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, said through tears. “For me, there will be no college graduation. There will be no daughter-in-law. For me, there will be no future generation.”

She went on to add, “I, too, must be willing to forgive. And so I choose to forgive you, Mr. Dunn, for taking my son’s life. I pray that God has mercy on your soul.”

Dunn, a software engineer who has a concealed-weapons permit, previously testified in his own defense. He said he felt threatened when he thought he saw “the barrel of a gun” emerge from a window of the vehicle and acted in self-defense. Police later discovered that Davis had been unarmed. Officers also didn’t find any weapons inside the SUV.

After the shooting, Dunn and his girlfriend returned to their nearby hotel and ordered pizza. The next day, the couple drove 175 miles south of Jacksonville, to Dunn’s home, where he was later arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.

The case made national headlines when it occurred just months after former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Last summer, Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges related to Martin’s death.

Both cases struck racial cords and prompted protests. National dialogue about the often deadly interactions between armed whites and unarmed black men again restarted in August after the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Florida was the first state to adopt the so-called “Stand-Your-Ground” law in 2005 as an expansion of the “Castle Doctrine.” The current measure gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without retreating from potentially harmful situations. Although Stand-Your-Ground was not used in the Zimmerman defense, Florida police initially said they could not arrest him because of such state laws. Nearly half of the country has joined the state in adopting a similar policy, most often originally aimed at addressing domestic abuse cases.

Another U.S. Military Intervention

By: Navid Farnia, M.A.

On September 10th, President Barack Obama announced plans to expand US military operations in Iraq and authorized strikes on Syria. In this new campaign, the US is targeting the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “Our objective is clear,” Obama explained. “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy. First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists… I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.” Obama outlined his administration’s strategy, which included four major courses of action.

But the aggressive rhetoric didn’t end there. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama declared. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” In the past week, European and Arab countries also pledged their military support.
Obama’s speech is noteworthy for several reasons. First, his use of words like “comprehensive,” “sustained,” and “systematic” doesn’t just signify the US’s most recent military campaign. Those terms describe the US’s activities in the Middle East and its surrounding countries for the past generation. The United States’ involvement has already been comprehensive, sustained, and systematic. This is the newest episode within a larger history of American intervention. And I argue the White House’s current strategy is merely an avenue to entrench the US’s permanence in the region.

Just a year ago, Obama attempted to gather public support for military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. At the time, the Obama administration was backing the opposition in Syria’s civil war, which included the same Islamic State group the US now targets. It wasn’t until later that the different Syrian opposition groups (which include the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, and Western-backed factions the Syrian National Coalition) completely splintered. In a year’s time, the US government shifted its military aspirations from the Syrian establishment to its most powerful adversary. Such a drastic shift reveals that, in reality, the enemy matters little for the US. What does matter is the US’s ability to justify a sustained presence in the Middle East and this can only happen by creating, supporting, maintaining, and reproducing regional instability.

This brings us back to the Islamic State. In his speech, Obama denounced the group as having a “warped ideology.” However, there’s a subtext behind those words. The Islamic State is a direct product of the US’s criminal war and occupation in Iraq. The ruthless group didn’t even exist until the US had already ruined the country and slaughtered and displaced countless Iraqi civilians. The same can be said about every country in which the US has intervened during the 21st century. The Taliban and al-Qaeda substantially grew only after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Aerial strikes in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen have also produced anger, despair, and, ultimately, militant opposition. Warped bodies and warped lands create “warped ideologies”—i.e., ideologies that aren’t aligned with or subservient to US interests.

In reality, neither the Islamic State, nor the Syrian government or any other regional actor is even a remote threat to the US. Thus, when Obama said there’s no safe haven for those who threaten America, he’s really talking about America’s interests. Those interests include “American personnel and facilities” that colonize the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, in addition to the US’s trade prospects and other economic pursuits.

US officials are working toward establishing a permanent presence in the Middle East because they see it as necessary for securing American interests. The inconsistencies and contradictions in US rhetoric and action reveal this to be the case. And the US’s constant war-making proves there really is no safety for those who oppose American interests. To be sure, the Islamic State poses a significant threat to Iraqis and Syrians, but the United States is a considerably greater threat. Moreover, if US military strikes are directly responsible for the Islamic State’s creation, then more strikes will only strengthen the group and others like it. History has taught us that much.

Navid Farnia is a Ph.D. student in the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University.

Improving the lives of Black girls is as important as saving Black boys

By: Kevin L. Brooks, PhD


young black girl

Mentoring is one of the hottest topics concerning today’s youth in the United States, especially for Black males. However, the attention given to the mentoring of Black girls in the media and community forums pale in comparison to that of young males. This occurrence has stirred youth advocates to be more committed not only to developing Black boys, but to generating more responsiveness to the concerns facing Black girls.

Last February, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative as an effort to work toward enhancing the life trajectories of Black males. The initiative was created and implemented to improve Black boys’ experiences with early childhood education, college readiness and mentoring, as well as reducing their involvement with the criminal justice system and violent crime. President Obama has called on politicians, entrepreneurs, entertainers, actors, athletes, business and religious leaders, along with lay persons to provide financial and human capital to support this cause. And preliminary reports suggest some improvements are being made, particularly in regard to financial contributions.

But, the initiative has not been free of criticism. Many critics have admonished the president and the initiative for the lack of funds allocated to Black organizations that work with Black males and for not addressing adequately structural racism, as well as issues concerning mental health and gun violence. However, the most perceptive critique of the initiative is its sole focus on Black boys.

Many have argued that the addition of Black girls to this endeavor is paramount to strengthening the Black community. More than 200 Black men have composed a letter to the president expressing their concern for Black girls and calling for their inclusion in the initiative. This support of Black girls is not to take away from the challenges affecting Black boys. On the contrary, it is to raise awareness of the distressful events in their lives as well.

According to several reports, Black girls tend to battle greater stressful life events than any other group. For instance, the Girl Scouts’ 2013 State of the Girls report found that Black girls are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to: have a poverty rate that is double that of White girls, live in single-parent households, have a teen birth rate two times the national average, report being hit by a boyfriend, and be overweight or obese.

Another study, the Rise Sister Rise Project, examined trauma and resilience among 400 Ohio African American girls, ages 11–18. The results showed that African American girls are more prone to encounter traumatic stressors than adolescents of other races. To help offset this anguish, the project uses positive socialization through mentoring to improve the girls’ life chances, educational achievement and leadership potential.

The psychosocial development of Black girls has been one of the foremost concerns of their transition to womanhood throughout history. It is generally propagated and widely accepted that men are providers and protectors. This is only a partial truth, given that Black women serve in these capacities alongside men, not behind the scenes.
As mothers of civilization and culture, Black women function as leaders, activists, educators and role models. They have been the CEOs of Black communities as producers and cultivators of spirituality, generational legacies, cultural heritage, and historical knowledge, which were developed when they were girls in youth development programs such as Rites of Passage and other sisterhood programming.

It is critical that programs and initiatives are implemented not only to help Black boys maximize their full potential, but to assist Black girls reach their greatest promise too. These endeavors need to be more inclusive of the diverse needs of boys and girls individually, as well as offer a more holistic approach to their collective development.
Both Black girls and Black boys are needed to uplift and advance the Black community as well as humanity. To shed some light on the severity of the topic consider this. The Liberator journeyed from one civilization to the next instilling virtues of righteousness, faithfulness, and trustworthiness while showing grace and mercy. He carried within him the heart and spirit of woman.

As novelist Pauline E. Hopkins proclaimed in the title of one of her short stories: “As the Lord lives, he is one of our mother’s children.” Transforming the lives of Black girls is as necessary as enhancing the lives of Black boys, perhaps even more crucial.