This month, March, marks Disability Awareness Month in the United States. A disability is defined as “the experience of any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or have equitable access within a given society.” Disabilities can be visible (someone with down syndrome or a wheelchair user), invisible (dyslexia or diabetes), physical (an amputee), mental (PTSD) or a combination of all. According to the CDC, 1 in 4, or 26% of Americans identify as having a disability. As of 2021, that number included 5.5 million African Americans. Unfortunately, many black people are unwilling to disclose or have yet to have their disability diagnosed – and we, the black community, must change that!Continue reading
Rap By The Gun, Die By The Gun
“I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan and I shouldn’t have to run from a Black man ‘cause that’s….”. If you grew up listening to hip-hop then you know the rest. This next lyric though, “Funky fresh dressed to impressed ready to party!” MC Lyte rapped rhetorical, “you not guarding the door so what you got a gun for?” Exactly. That part!
Self-destruction. The hook to this hip-hop classic still waxes prophetic today. It begsthe question and crystallizes my thoughts around the killing of Takeoff, one third of Grammy-award winning multi-platinum rap group Migos. Add Nipsey Hussle, Young Dolph, PNB Rock, Jam Master Jay, Biggie, Tupac, and some I probably missed to the list as well. Sad thing is the list of rap artists killed in nonsensical gun violence is probably as long as the never-ending list of Blacks killed by cops. Tragic how we just can’t name them all. In either category. But I digress, back to Takeoff.
The moment I heard Kirshnik Khari Ball was killed while shooting dice with his uncle,Quavo, at a private birthday party held at a Houston, TX bowling alley, I just shook my head and said, ‘a dayum shame.’ Another black body left for dead. Blood spilt in the streets like roadkill. Here we are months later, and estranged cousin, Offset, is stillmourning according to wifey Cardi B’s recent post. She said she’s ‘hopeless’ trying to console her inconsolable spouse. Was I saddened by Takeoff’s death? Yes, but I found (and still find) it hard to emote because gun violence in hip-hop is so prevalent. Rap by the gun die by the gun.
I shared this exact sentiment a couple weeks later over wine and over-priced bar bites with two girlfriends at a Ruth’s Chris Happy Hour. Shock from one and peppered with lots of questions from the other as I argued not all but most hip-hop is self-destructiveand the reason for Takeoff’s death. I blamed rap music and its videos 1000%. I held itaccountable for another brother — somebody’s son, nephew, uncle, cousin, friend, inspiration, hope – dying over something so stupid. As I swirled my Napa Valley redand adored its legs, I told them you can’t rap about shooting and killing and solving street issues/problems/conflicts with a gun, and not expect that same energy to manifest in your own life. C’mon now, y’all know this. There’s power in words, or scripturally speaking, “life and death in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
I stabbed at my tuna tartare and in my best MC Lyte flowed real saucy-like, rap by the gun die by the gun! I told my girls, how you gone rap about it and not be about it?Hip-hop pushes out so much violence these days, and every other negative destructive narrative imaginable, how can artists expect it not to show up at their doorstep? It’s downright foolish ignoring universal law — you reap what you sow. Takeoff reaped what he rapped. I said it.
Don’t think for a minute life does not imitate art. We’ve heard this argument before. I’m not positing anything new. I’m just bold enough to bring it up again…and again…and again and vouch for it. Now here’s the rub: I’m a 52-year-old, well-educated with two degrees, six-figure earning, professional woman of God that LOVES hip-hop! Ican quote scripture as well as lyrics. My fiancé calls it “speaking in songs.” Ha!! Sad but true. I better articulate myself using rap lyrics instead of my well-paid-for boarding school vocabulary and SAT words. For example, you say karma. I say tables turn suckas burn to learn (Chuck D from Public Enemy shut it down with that one!).Saturday mornings when I’m on the air on New York’s #1 for R&B 107.5 WBLS, I frequently use Migos’ “Stir Fry” as a music bed. No lie, I can spit “Bad and Boujee” like I’m the honorary fourth member of Migos!
As I banged at the bang-bang shrimp I opined that the person who pulled the trigger on 28-year-old Takeoff with a point-blank gunshot to the head and torso, probably modeled what he heard and saw in Migos’ music and videos. One of my girls nearly choked on her Chardonnay. Crazy, I know because we rock to their music and love it!
Yet and still, rap kills. Imho, it’s what took Takeoff’s life. Yep, I said it again.
Flow with me. Most of today’s music normalizes guns, alcoholism, drug-selling, drug use, and condones this whip-out-a-piece-and-pop-off-mentality instead of skillful mature conflict resolution. This is part of the reason why I believe most young men and women today do not know how to deescalate situations that don’t involve aggressive confrontation and/or violence. They react versus respond. I pushed.Furthermore, today’s rap music is not only incredibly violent, but also very rapey andsexist. Now I’m really dragging it with my girls. Cis-gender males and females making non-inclusive, completely tone-deaf lyrical content that breeds ignorance andcontributes to the self-destruction and downfall of our communities.
One of my girls asked as she nearly spit out her pinot gris, so who gone check us, boo? What to do next? Who is accountable for this culture of violence that is bred in hip-hop? The other one chimed in, and on whose shoulders does the responsibility for cleanup and eradication fall. Bluntly, I do not know. Elementary answer yes, but it’s my truth. I really don’t know. If forced, I suppose I could offer up the low-hanging fruit of an answer, ‘it’s socio-economic, the environment these artists come from…blah blah blah.’ Or I could go all esoteric on you and state what former music-mogul-turned-Yogi, Russell Simmons, recently espoused on IG Live: that rappers need to find God and speak from their hearts-center which bear a natural inclination to do good and seek peace. He’s one to speak! Too easy. Cliché. Too earnest.
Like Sway, I didn’t have the answers either. None of us at the Happy Hour that night offered up any viable remedies for changing the trajectory of a long-standing art form that’s misogynistic, rapey, violent, and systemically branded to be that way. The very problem with hip-hop is that the very problem is inherently interwoven throughout the genre that becomes accepted as culture.
I dipped my extra crispy fries in some spicy mayonnaise and boldly said, rap music is doing exactly what’s is supposed to do — and lotsa’ money is being made off it too!Most mainstream (especially trill) rappers glorify gratuitous violence as entertainment in exchange for profit. New and established artists alike, even the icons too, normalizegun violence, sexual violence against women, crime, hustling, prison, and drug culture, and make it sexy in the music. This stuff sells and kills. Massive revenue for artists and labels alike. But truth be told this ain’t all on the artists. If we’re being totally honest, we all have some skin in the game and are accountable for this lucrative violent creative energy that self-destructs. Can hip-hop ever rid itself of this stank? Is there anybody to check rap artists and the music they make?
I roll called the folks I thought should be indicted for enjoying, consuming, programming, promoting, selling, and eating the fruit that kills. People who create, write, scout, A&R, sign, produce, engineer, master, promote, air, perform, program,award, emulate, glorify, mimic, follow, acculturate, listen, and rock to rap. Me included. Record labels, streamers, radio, video outlets, TV & film, social media, and consumers all bear some of the responsibility too. Guilty (pleasure).
By now, Happy Hour started to wind down. Drinking my last drop of cab I proclaimed, I may not have pulled the trigger and taken Takeoff’s life that fateful night or been in the circle of onlookers, but (as a lover of hip-hop) I got blood on my hands too. As I passed down the last cocktail napkin, I reiterated my empathy and said Boogie Down Productions and KRS-One were spot on with their Stop the Violence Movement back in ’89 that prophesied we’re headed for self-destruction.
As I closed my tab, I closed my argument. Our beloved hip-hop is lethal and self-destructive: we’re already there.
Takeoff’s untimely death was both tragic and totally avoidable—and fully blamable on the genre and culture of the music he both participated in and deposited into the landscape. There. I said it one last time.
We dropped the tip and a final time I dropped my take on Takeoff. Rap by the gun die by the gun. Periodt! Clean up the music/lyrics and you’ll clean up the blood in the streets. Roll dice on that.
We all left Ruth’s Chris singing, “self-destruction. You’re headed for….”
Climate Change Mitigation in African Indigenous Communities
By Lori Poutiainen
Anthropogenic climate change and its consequences are a global phenomenon. Its effects are felt more deeply in developing countries, especially those on the African continent. Following the COP26 and 27 convention, it is evident that the failures of the Global North to recognise the need to amplify marginalized voices is not only an issue of justice but also of climate neglect. Other climate change conferences and conventions were criticized for leaving-out certain communities and voices which are imperative to the struggle against climate catastrophe. Therefore, who is it that we need to turn to if not the very institutions claiming to solve these problems?
The answer may lie in the knowledge of Indigenous communities who practice alternative ways of tackling climate change. Many communities either remain untouched or seek to remain separate from the neoliberal systems of capitalist accumulation which have arguably led to our environment’s destruction. The phenomenon of climate change has drastically affected the socio-economic, health and political life of Africans and the livelihoods of the Indigenous communities which remain. A clear example of its effects are the severe droughts in the Horn of Africa, Southern African and Sahel. This article will present the climate-change related challenges African Indigenous communities face, and the adaptations these communities use as climate change mitigation mechanisms. It will then analyze the need for a broader role for Indigenous communities to be ingrained into the decision making process, regarding global environmental issues.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people whose livelihoods are disproportionately negatively affected by climate change, including those located on the African continent. Indigenous communities consist of groups of people who do not recognise or have been placed outside of the dominant state system or governance of an area. These indigenous communities have a different culture and way of living in comparison to the dominant majority living in the area, and are often at threat of extinction. They are also considered vulnerable and suffer from various forms of economic, social and political marginalization. Their way of life is dependent on the rights they are granted to their traditional land and therefore, the resources the land provides. With climate change becoming more serious with extreme weather events such as drought and the burden of serious poverty, the little land that is protected and the communities cultivating it are at risk.
Moreover, Indigenous peoples in Africa, live in a wide array of sensitive ecosystems and use natural resources for pastoralism, hunting or foraging. Their traditional practices involve implementing the wisdom of generations before them to take care of their land such as livestock keeping, biodiversity protection and harboring knowledge on the protection of local nature. This wisdom, experience and most importantly, direct knowledge of their environmental resources in their lands and territories, makes indigenous communities the perfect example of how climate-related challenges can be tackled by African Indigenous communities, and the need for these local strategies to be highlighted on a local, regional and global scale. This is particularly important as the degradation of indigenous livelihoods and ecosystems poses a serious risk to the continent’s sustainability and the lives of their communities.
Despite less consideration having been given to Indigenous communities during the formation of climate-change mitigation strategies, some organizations are pushing for the integration and amplification of Indigenous voices when developing climate change strategies and proposals as this has been previously disregarded. This is because Indigenous knowledge on observing and monitoring climates and natural resources can aid in making informed decisions on utilizing resources and patterns of sustainability. Many Indigenous communities use local and Indigenous derived knowledge which have been passed on for generations and present alternative ways on how to cope with the effects of climate change. This knowledge is derived from Indigenous groups’ experiences of coping with ecological uncertainty such as droughts, good insecurity and displacement due to them being “confined to the least productive and most delicate lands because of historical, social, political, and economic exclusion”. Indigenous communities have had to adapt and combat climate change in order to conserve their lands, territories and resources. This highlights the agency Indigenous communities have when working towards creating change. There needs to be more awareness and push towards learning from the local agro-ecological knowledge that many African Indigenous communities nurture.
The resilience and adaptations of Indigenous communities is challenged by unequal power in decision making, vulnerability amongst populations, poverty and agro-business. The current governing frameworks do not effectively protect indigenous people’s interests, livelihoods, resources and rights. This is a gross injustice considering they are some of the most carbon-neutral populations to exist, thus contributing very little, if anything, to the climate catastrophe.
Fortunately, there are activists and non-profit organizations who have created demands which fit into a climate justice system which places Indigenous communities at the center of climate change mitigation strategies. According to the IPACC, this would include: promoting Indigenous adaptation plans, engagement in UN treaty bodies on the environment (UNFCCC and the like), conserving African Forests with the participation of the tribes and communities who rely on them and the protection and promotion of Indigenous rights over not only their land but of their intellectual property. These demands highlight a greater need for a local human-rights framework, rather than larger global paradigms which are clearly not touching the lives of Indigenous communities in a positive manner. The agency of indigenous people needs to be recognised as a powerful tool for change, with regards to climate change mitigation strategies but also as a part of larger recognition of their rights to their land, and ways of living.
Leal Filho, W., Matandirotya, N.R., Lütz, J.M. et al. Impacts of climate change to African indigenous communities and examples of adaptation responses. Nat Commun 12, 6224 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26540-0
Chulani, N., Cop27: ‘It’s humiliating’ – Indigenous voices say they are being ignored at climate summit – as it happened, The Guardian. <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2022/nov/09/cop27-egypt-negotiations-and-protests-begin-in-sharm-el-sheikh-live>, accessed 04.12.2022
Macchi, M., “Indigenous and Traditional Peoples and Climate Change”, International Union for Conservation of Nature, (2008).
Sanago, G., How Indigenous Peoples in Africa are impacted by climate change, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, <https://www.iwgia.org/en/news/4959-how-indigenous-peoples-in-africa-are-impacted-by-climate-change.html>, accessed 04.12.2022.
The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee, Environmental and Climate Justice, <https://www.ipacc.org.za/environmental-and-climate-justice/>, accessed 04.12.2022
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Africa, <https://lcipp.unfccc.int/about-lcipp/un-indigenous-sociocultural-regions/africa#>, accessed 04.12.2022
United Nations, The effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, <https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/climate-change.html>, accessed 04.12.2022.
Makondo, C. and Thomas, D., “Climate Change Adaptation: Linking Indigenous Knowledge with Western Science for Effective Adaptation.” Environmental Science & Policy 88, (2018) pp. 83–91.
Transforming Education for Just and Sustainable Futures
By Kristina Lekova
On June 28th, the International Commission met to discuss the future of education and the need for educational transformation to make the system more sustainable and just. The IC was summoned in 2019 as an independent institution by UNESCO and is now led by the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde. The Commission focuses on rethinking the role of education regarding current opportunities and obstacles. Following the 2021 UNESCO report “Reimagining our Future together: a new social contract of education”, the IC released a report with a list of changes in the school system, teaching, and the digital sector, which includes five directions of transformation. According to UNESCO, transforming education is a process by which the educational system is altered for entire nations to focus on learners through supporting teaching. The information described in the IC is not a complete overturning, but rather a “metamorphosis”, a sustainable and stable change. Due to current disparities in education, the call sounds relevant, and much needed as the change and progress made worldwide are highly uneven. Under a similar program, the primary school completion rate in Chad significantly improved between 2015 and 2019, with a 24% female and 31% male primary graduation rates increasing to 29% and 38% by 2019. In the nearby country of Mali which has utilized traditional educational models, the percentage of both male and female youth dropped by 2% from the year 2015 to 2018. However, due to differences in educational systems around the world, the approach to education must be constructed in each context according to each state’s spending, social, political, and economic problems, as well as rates of gender and class inequalities.
This UNESCO initiative is organized into five policy changes, what they describe as directions. The first is to make the educational system a place of equal opportunity. The Commission calls for changes in school systems while protecting them as places of “unique social and educational sites, because of the inclusion and equity”. The IC argues that the expertise and knowledge at schools should be distributed equally rather than concentrated in the hands of the few by reducing competition and loosening the selection process. The second direction describes a transformation in curriculum, allowing learners to look beyond the scope of the already existing system of views and widen the perspective to develop “creativity, engagement, and a breadth of capabilities across the lifespan”. The third directives calls for policy-makers to provide teachers with excellent working conditions to support cooperation and solidarity. The fifth direction highlights the need to ensure collaboration across countries. This point asserts that there is a need to move beyond aid and philanthropy and instead work on the reparations of existing inequality and strengthen the North-to-South transfer of resources.
While the directives mentioned above seems like transformative change, several of these proposals have already been featured in previous UN directives. The report “Reimagining our Future together: a new social contract of education” was informed by a consultation process that involved around million people (including governments, institutions, and organizations) and attempted to create a new social contract for education. There are questions, however, about how much authority global initiatives hold to effectuate the change they seek. The educational systems of African countries tend to be inferior to those in Europe and the United States, though there has been some improvement in recent years. In Ethiopia, the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for pre-primary education is at 43%. This is up from 36.7% in the 2020 academic year (UNHCR). It is crucial that global initiatives do more than provide lip service to issues in education. For any proposal to be effective, the directors must provide strategies for resource for the implementation of these projects, particularly when discussing countries with limited financial resources.
“Are We Still Talking About Redlining?”
By Maura Mulholland
In an era of city planning and zoning laws, most Americans fail to understand how much capital investment determines the viability of certain homes and neighborhoods. Money flowing into and out of neighborhoods determines how many amenities, public funding, and private interest they receive, and the futures of these places are affected by how much potential they have in terms of a profitable return on investment. When these neighborhoods are labeled as “unprofitable”, or not worth investing in, they are doomed to be cast to the sidelines of society, with retail chains, businesses, and banks largely avoiding them for fear of limited profit margins.
In the United States, neighborhoods with a high African American population have faced discrimination in property capital investment. This process is called “redlining”, and was a legal practice in minority neighborhoods for much of the 20th century that created an economic and social barrier that made social mobility nearly impossible. In the process of redlining, neighborhoods were assigned “value”, or the potential for a return on investment, that directly correlated with the racial demographics in the area. In white neighborhoods, it was easy to procure a low-interest mortgage, regardless of the applicants’ income level. For Black neighborhoods, even those that had upper- or middle-class incomes, loans and mortgages were nearly impossible to acquire, and often had absurdly high interest rates.
The systematic sabotage of Black neighborhoods led to dire consequences for their residents. As Black and majority-minority neighborhoods faced a deficit in investment levels, food deserts developed. Large retail chains, including supermarkets, were unwilling to open franchises in majority-minority neighborhoods due to the racial makeup of the neighborhoods and the impractically high financial cost of establishing a business there. Because these neighborhoods did not have access to affordable, nutritious food, they commonly became dependent on fast-food chains and processed food available at neighborhood convenience stores. The health of Black communities suffered immensely as a result.
The domino effects of the practice of redlining are legion. Poor nutrition caused by food deserts led to poor health, which led to higher insurance rates for people of color, which in turn led to a disproportionate percentage of people of color who lack health insurance. This lack of health insurance also contributed to a higher rates of Covid-19 in traditionally marginalized neighborhoods. Redlining and its effects have proved incredibly detrimental for communities comprised of minorities, and have only increased the stratification that exists between white and black communities.
Looking Back: The Black Panther Party
By Maura Mulholland
The 1960s were a time of upheaval in U.S. history. The decade seared the idea of freedom into the American psyche, with the hippies, feminist movement, and civil rights campaigns enjoying immense public attention. But many of these attempts to rectify the wrongs of the American condition failed to achieve their loftiest goals, and more extreme groups rose to spread their own truths and directly address the problems they saw in the world.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) emerged in 1966 in Oakland, California. It was the brain-child of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, two students at Merritt College. The organization formed around the ideas of socialism and Black nationalism, particularly opposed to the scourge of police brutality on the Black community. The BPP had many enemies during this era, largely because of their focus on armed self-defense against oppressive figures. Many felt this outlook was extreme, but the BPP saw it as the only way to establish Black communities as an independent force, and to reverse the sidelining of Black opinions and narratives in the media and government.
While the Black Panthers were admirable in their concern and advocacy for the Black community, there was and is a great deal of controversy surrounding the philosophies and actions of the group. One frequent accusation is that the Panthers were unfair and sexist toward the Black women in their midst, perpetuating misogynoir. While early publications of the BPP were centered on the Black male experience, by 1968 two-thirds of the Party was made up of women, and their leadership pushed a more egalitarian “womanist” narrative. Throughout the 1970s, the Panthers worked to promote women to leadership roles within the organization.
The ideas that the Black Panthers pushed brought into the mainstream continue to power progressive activism today. Their unflinching focus on racism and police brutality in the North, which was largely ignored by traditional Civil Rights groups, inspired the formation of modern groups like Black Lives Matter. In addition, the Panthers dedication to mutual aid as the foundation of both community and organization has been copied by a wide array of modern activists. The Black Panthers’ community work has been replicated nationwide, with the installation of community fridges, mutual aid funds, and survival networks in cities all over the country. While the Black Panthers were often portrayed as violent radicals, their contributions to modern activism and neighborhood charity provide a more balanced perspective on their racial platform.
Troubling Home Ownership Rates Continue
By Maura Mulholland
With the rapid increase in rental rates and housing prices, recent years have seen a drastic decrease in home ownership rates among younger generations. Millennials have already experienced the trials of the housing market, and with the new trend of inflation, it seems that Gen Z will have an even tougher time owning their own home. The lack of affordable housing is especially pronounced for young members of the Black community. African Americans trail thirty points behind the white community when it comes to rates of home ownership, with only forty-two percent of black families owning their own home.
Even in eras where white ownership rates were high, African Americans still struggled to purchase and keep their own homes. After World War II, returning white soldiers moved their families from rented places in the cities to the new, expanding suburbs surrounding urban centers. While whites were able to acquire single-family homes with ease, Black families did not have these same opportunities. New suburban developments were often segregated, and white homeowners’ associations reacted violently to Black families moving into their neighborhoods. Racism also prevented many families from getting the loans they would have needed to afford a real-estate purchase.
Black families have also been discriminated against in terms of the values of their homes. Banks and other financial institutions are infamous for appraising Black homes at a lower value than the same type of property, were it owned by a white family. The devaluation of Black homes only reinforces the racist myth that home values sink when Black people start moving into a neighborhood. The houses remain the same, but the value that the real-estate market places on the people who live in them decreases because of the color of their skin.
One of the most recent barriers to Black homeownership is student loan debt. Forty-two percent of Black households have student loan debt, almost twice the amount of either Asian or white households. This financial obligation is compounded by the fact that half of Black renters are burdened by the cost of rent, spending thirty percent or more of their monthly income on housing alone. Thus, a system of institutional racism has emerged in which Black families are barred from owning real property, but find themselves paying exorbitant amounts in rent every month to white landlords who perpetuate the disparity in ownership rates.
HBCU’s: Historically Black and Historically Successful
By Maura Mulholland
When it comes to Black education, HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities, constantly emerge as pathways to success. These prestigious and historic institutions bring together Black students into a community where they can grow as both people and academics, and provide a positive environment for both social and academic aspects of student life. The success that HBCU students have at school has also translated into the workforce. Recent trends show that the average hiring rate of HBCU graduates grew 5.9% from 2016 to 2019, over four times the growth rate of the national average from non-HBCUs, which was 1.3%.
In 2020, graduates of HBCUs faced more overall job resilience, with a hiring rate decline of 11.9%, a third less than the rate of the national LinkedIn average. This trend seems to be accompanied by higher hiring rates in general of HBCU graduates, and is especially prevalent in major companies, like Apple, Bank of America, and Estee Lauder. These companies, among many others, are recent additions to recruiting websites affiliated with HBCUs. Morgan State University, an HBCU in Baltimore, Maryland, saw a 263% increase in employer log-ins to its recruiting site between 2020 and 2021.
Historically Black colleges and universities have also produced numerous famous alumni. In 2020, over 80% of Black judges in the United States graduated from an HBCU. While HBCU’s continue to produce graduates from its humanities programs, they have largely failed to establish pipelines to growing technological fields like robotics, computer sciences, and engineering. This is likely due to the historical emphasis on HBCUs as teacher-training institutions, pushing many of their graduates back into academia. However, HBCUs are, however, are beginning to catch up to other institutions in terms of representation in the hard sciences. As of 2019, almost 30% of STEM bachelor degrees held by Black graduates were from HBCUs.
While experts say the recent surge in HBCU hires may level out in the short term, it is clear that these institutions have established themselves as some of the premier producers of talented workers. HBCU graduates, like alumnae of women’s colleges, have faced proportionately more success in their fields than underrepresented students at other universities, likely as a result of their unique educational experiences. Whatever the long-term ramifications, the latest increase in interest in HBCUs has allowed them to increase academic funding, extend more recruitment offers of their own to high schoolers, and continue the advancement of the Black community.
Unequal Treatment in the “Black League”
By Maura Mulholland
The NBA is overwhelmingly comprised of Black players. Since the 1990s, the majority of NBA rosters have been filled by African American talent. Despite black leadership within organizations and the Players Union, instances or racism from fanbases and league and team executives are still a regular occurrence. These altercations have been on the rise recently, with numerous players and administrative employees speaking out against biases inherent in the sport.
Allegations of racism have recently emerged against Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns. Sarver, a white man, allegedly used the n-word repeatedly when quoting a Black player. When asked to stop, he argued that as an NBA owner, he should be permitted to use the word. The incident was witnessed and reported by former head coach of the Suns, Earl Watson. Since that time, Sarver has been cited by almost seventy current and former Suns employees for fostering a hostile work environment. According to sources, he frequently makes off-color racial comments, and exhibits misogynistic and inappropriate behavior, including making inappropriate sexual comments about his wife to employees. He has also been cited for claiming to “own” someone who works within the Suns organization.
Beyond problematic administration, fans at NBA games have recently exhibited racist behavior against Black players. LeBron James has publicly complained about fans’ racism, especially the fan base of the Boston Celtics. On his HBO show, “The Shop”, James described an incident where a beer was thrown on him while leaving a Celtics game in Boston, a situation that he believes reflects the fan bases racial prejudice. Kyrie Irving, a visiting point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, had a water bottle thrown at him at a Celtics game by Cole Buckley, a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Rhode Island. Buckley was charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. While Buckley was not charged with a civil rights violation, it was noted by investigators that race was likely a contributing factor to his violent acts.
These very prominent examples fail to illustrate the levels of implicit and explicit racism that NBA players face on a regular basis. Since the first non-white player took the court in 1947, African Americans in the NBA have increasingly moved to the forefront of Black celebrity. While the league, pushed by the Players Union, has actively tried to root out racism within the Association, it continues to be a problem at both an administrative and fan base level. By holding anyone involved in professional sports accountable for any racist comments or acts, we can work towards a more inclusive league that reflects the contributions of African American players, coaches, and executives to professional basketball.
The Good and Bad of Black Charter Schools
By Maura Mulholland
The controversy surrounding charter schools has existed almost since their inception. Charter schools were originally conceptualized as an alternative to public schools, where teachers could experiment with new ideas in education. They soon became predominantly Black schools, as Black families jumped at the opportunity to both put their students at the forefront of education, and remove them from rampant racism in largely white public schools. Charter schools now run on a publicly funded “business model”, where they are more responsible for their students’ outcomes than public schools, in exchange for more funding. But have charter schools truly improved the educational experiences of the mostly Black populations they serve?
Many critics of charter schools say that they have simply reinvented segregation. Charter schools mostly serve the Black community and other racial minorities, as many such schools are located in urban areas. Racial isolation within these schools seems to be concentrated within Black and Latino populations: at a typical Black student’s charter high school, three-fourths of their classmates are also likely to be Black. Instead of being governed by a publicly accessible school board, charter schools are run by private organizations, which give community members much less say over what happens in the schools that serve their neighborhoods.
While there is suspicion surrounding charter schools, other members of the Black community have expressed their support for some charter institutions. Schools like the Barbara A. Sizemore Academy in Chicago teach an Afro-centric curriculum in an effort to decolonize the Black students they serve. Parents of the children at Sizemore also appreciate the extra care and attention that their children receive in charter schools, as it prevents them from “slipping through the cracks”, a phenomenon that occurs frequently in larger, traditional schools in big districts. This “leveling of the playing field” is supported by state funding which is often contested by white progressives: people who Black parents say should have no place deciding the futures of schools their own children do not attend.
Whatever the case, charter schools have very powerful supporters, especially in big, urban school districts. Billionaire Eli Broad described a $490 million plan in 2015 that plans to educate half of the student body of Los Angeles in charter schools by 2023, and former California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have held charter schools more accountable to the state legislature. Brown oversaw the opening of multiple charter schools while he was the Mayor of Oakland. An ongoing issue for charter schools will be a lack of transparency that engenders mistrust. There are many in the Black community who question whose interest these intercity charter schools serve.