Saturday, February 26, 2005

Good Parenting?

I am of the firm opinion that modern parents between the ages of 30-50 years old have totaly lost all perspective as it regards good parenting. I appreciate that they have a hard row to hoe b/c they have to grow confident not rude, polite but not broken children. It is a balancing act trying to keep some of what your mother's and grandmother's generations utilized and introducing some of the modern practices.

Who Determines the Child's Diet
For example I am of the view that to grow some belief in making choices that a child can decide within reason what they will have for dinner. But the child dictating their entire diet and nutritional intake is something else altogether. I have seen parents who give their child only what they like to eat for meals; not a vegetable in sight. Sometimes no protien source except maybe for cheese and milk.

Respect For Authority and Adults?
How do parents attempt to grow respect for elders and not the attitude that the adult is always right? I see often kids ignoring requests or directives from their own parents muchless other adults.

Typical Scenario: Seven year old girl watching tv, Mummy calls out to kid "Can you please bring me the broom?"...Kid does not answer, does not even indicated she hears..not a movement in any muscle in response to her mother's request.

Mother calls out louder this time...asking if the kid had not heard her...kid responds "I am coming" and is just getting up but pausing to watch a few more seconds before she does anything about meeting her mother's request. Most times the mother comes, gets whatever it was she wanted, asking the child for the third or fourth time: "Didn't you hear me?"

Mind you this is not a one-of situation it happens all the time. Now if the child pays no attention to her mother's requests and directive can you imagine how she is at school, sunday school or girl scouts?

Responsibility through Chore
Another area I see most modern parenting having much trouble, is with getting their kids to do any chores regularly and properly. Kids refuse to clean their rooms and they don't have to do regular chores like we did growing up. When I was a kid I woke every morning knowing what I was supposed to do around the house and as I grew older the chores became more difficult etc.

Today most kids do nothing at home. Not even picking up their place mats from the table after a meal. They have maids to do that or an overworked mother who tries to keep-up with getting it all done herself but failing miserably.

From my observations of modern parents, I feel they have high ideals about the kind of parents they should be but there appears a hugh gulf between those ideals and practice. There has to be more effort put into marrying the old and good with the modern and improved parenting techniques. Most importantly though parents must be willing to use consistently the married parenting techniques.

Many parents in the West Indies I feel are exhibiting characteristics of the guilty parent b/c they spend so much time away from their children while working. Others have thrown out the old ways entirely because the hated the discipline they received as children. Unfortunately they have replaced it with nothing or with something they don't really have a handle on.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Leave the Past in the Past

Is that the same as the Christian quote : Let the dead bury the dead? I never really understood this biblical quote. How is the dead to bury themselves? Does it mean that the people who concern themselves with the cultural and health related practice of burying the dead, are themselves dead? Should the dead be tossed out to rut in the open? Would the tossing of the body constitute burial? So should it be left to decay where it died? Maybe it was just a quote for an instant not be used in any other context.

Alright alright I am being too literal. But both quotes suggest a disconnect of present and past,right? That what is done is done and all concerned need to forget about it? Or is it that the advice is not to dwell on the past b/c one can't change it?

The quote in the title I hear it often during Black History month. I also hear it when others mostly black people do not want to discuss slavery and its effect on our societies. I know a lot of people who hate discussing African history whether here in the West or on the continent itself and those who really dislike any mention of affirmative action because it brings up the past too.

I have been told that the past has nothing to do with the present nor the future. Knowing ones history does noting for them. At the same time though it is told that if you don't know where you come from you wont know where you are going to.

Hmmmn.. I done wasting time :)

Do others know vexing quotes or idioms they just don't understand?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Harvard President, Summers, Sexist or Thought Provoking?

Full Discussion on Statement
The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, suggested at a scholarly meeting this month that one reason fewer women make it to the top in mathematics and science may be because of innate differences of ability from men. That proposition has landed him in hot water with scholars who are berating him for advancing a dangerous and untrue stereotype.

But some researchers say that perhaps he has a point: that differences in performance between the sexes may be partly attributed to biological factors. Still other social scientists say that while the suggestion is fair, the proof just isn't there.

BBC's Take

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers argued one group outperformed the other because of genetics, not just experience, the Boston Globe said.

Considering that the
the conference (was held) in Cambridge, Mass., sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research and titled "Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and Their S&E Careers."
you would probably think that this man made the damning statement to provoke discussion. Taking into consideration however that news reports say that this is not the first time that this man has been publicly disparaging of women's intellegence one has to wonder.

To me however, the word "innate" as used by Summers is worrying. According to one of the sociologist who disagreed with the distinguished Dr. Summers:
The sociologist says Mr. Summers made an illogical leap at the meeting by inferring that the underrepresentation of women in the top ranks of science and math could be due to differences in ability. "He made a simple analogy that high achievement means participation in math and science careers," Mr. Xie says. But research, he adds, shows that at the highest levels of mathematical achievement, women are still less likely to pursue math and science careers.

It must be noted however that there are scientists who support either side of the argument. I just wonder if a person in Mr. Summers' influencial position should be showing such prejudice even if he wonders about it privately? He lost credibility as provoking thought when he tried to apologise by saying he meant something else entirely. Well the majority of the people who matter at Harvard took Dr. SUmmers to task for his politically incorrect public statement by firing him but he was soon after reinstated.

I saw Allan Dershowitz say that a man should never lose his job over a statement especially if his area is in academia. I don't know about that. If Dr. Summers had said the same thing about African-Americans or Jews, because they are in the minority in maths and science fields inspite of brilliant individual achievements from both groups,would he be saying the same thing? Would Summers have kept his job?

Update Nov 08: Summers is on Obama's short list for Treasury Secretary.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

How Do We Fight The Silent Pandemic: Child Sexual Abuse

My main thing is how can it be reduced, if not stopped? How people who care can raise kids who are less susceptible to the seduction and less forceful or violent approaches of predators?

I remember Toni Morrison having this conversation with Oprah about making children understand their intrinsic value. Not the irrelevant pretty or cute but the deep down earnest recognition of their human value. That according to Morrison is the way to arm children with the strength to say "no!" and to speak up in their own defense.

I also will add that a more honest and continuous discussion about sex and sexuality that is age appropriate would help tremendously.

I believe however for African women in the Western world these are huge demands. According to an article I just read in Essence Magazine
:"You also see it in how we feel about our bodies and how we teach our daughters to feel about theirs. A woman who has been sexually molested or abused feels intense fear shame and anger, even though she may not share it. During slavery we had generations of women who were sexually abused, women who learned that their bodies were not their own. The legacy is that we teach our daughters to be ashamed of their bodies. We try to protect them by explaining sex and sexuality in a punitive, prohibitive way. We say" Girl, keep your legs together," rather than arming them with real information about healthy sexuality, relationships, pregnancy and birth control."
And that is when anything is shared at all.

I know it is a big ask for women steeped in the wrong way for centuries but women especially African women have performed miracles in dire circumstances before. Can we do it and can we wage war on sexual abuse by bringing forth children and daughters, who know their value, who know they are so loved that they can speak up? Are we ready to change so we can also listen to and believe our children when they do find the courage to speak up?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Of Women, Economics and Marriage

As provocative as it may sound to some, it was a well argued view in some circles that marriage for most woman is glorified prostitution. For these people, often Western feminists, marriage from a cold and cynical view was most times a contract of women selling their bodies for financial return and economic stability. The woman gave sex and their reproductive functions in return for the house, etc etc.

While this view held up really well up to a few decades ago for most women, does it still hold now? For some women around the world, marriage can still be described aptly as a contract with their financial benefactor, a husband. The husband provides for them financially. He is the only one who can own property so he provides the shelter. They women usually 'work' at or around the home and they may get money actual dollars to support this 'work'.

But for modern day women in the Western world this can't apply? The women I know earn their own money, most times are an active partner in their marriages. They certainly don't get matched up with the highest bidder. The terms and conditions of their marriage contracts are negotiated partly on their terms. They have much say about reproduction and their partners share in the traditionally unpaid women's house/home work.

As women gain more economic power and share in the financial and economic responsibilities of marriage, family and home, the old definition of wife equals glorified prostitution no longer holds its sting; at least not for the majority of Western women.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eulogie for Malcolm X by Ossie Davis

The following eulogy was delivered by Ossie Davis at the funeral of Malcolm X on 27 February 1965 at the Faith Temple Church Of God

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Here—at this final hour, in this quiet place—Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes—extinguished now, and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought—his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are—and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again—in Harlem—to share these last moments with him.

For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who have loved her, have fought for her and have defended her honor even to the death. It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us—unconquered still.

I say the word again, as he would want me to: Afro-American—Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men.

Malcolm had stopped being a Negro years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American, and he wanted—so desperately—that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans, too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times.

Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain—and we will smile. Many will say turn away—away from this man; for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man—and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them:

Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did, you would know him. And if you knew him, you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood!

This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words to a friend: My journey, he says, is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and honor and dignity in the States.

I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our human rights struggle. The main thing is that we keep a united front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.

However we may have differed with him—or with each other about him and his value as a man—let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.

Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man—but a seed—which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us.

And we will know him then for what he was and is—a prince—our own black shining prince!—who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.

I wonder what Ossie's Eulogy was like today and who will deliver it tomorrow? Rest In Peace Ossie Davis...I hope Malcolm welcomed you home almost 40 yrs to the day when you gave im his grand send-off and farewell. RIP.

David Walker's Appeal-(circa)1829-A Call To Action and Self-Liberation

David Walker's Appeal

Excerpts from the Appeal

My dearly beloved Brethren and Fellow Citizens.

Having travelled over a considerable portion of these United States, and having, in the course of my travels, taken the most accurate observations of things as they exist -- the result of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we, (coloured people of these United States,) are the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began; and I pray God that none like us ever may live again until time shall be no more. They tell us of the Israelites in Egypt, the Helots in Sparta, and of the Roman Slaves, which last were made up from almost every nation under heaven, whose sufferings under those ancient and heathen nations, were, in comparison with ours, under this enlightened and Christian nation, no more than a cypher -- or, in other words, those heathen nations of antiquity, had but little more among them than the name and form of slavery; while wretchedness and endless miseries were reserved, apparently in a phial, to be poured out upon, our fathers ourselves and our children, by Christian Americans!

... I call upon the professing Christians, I call upon the philanthropist, I call upon the very tyrant himself, to show me a page of history, either sacred or profane, on which a verse can be found, which maintains, that the Egyptians heaped the insupportable insult upon the children of Israel, by telling them that they were not of the human family. Can the whites deny this charge? Have they not, after having reduced us to the deplorable condition of slaves under their feet, held us up as descending originally from the tribes of Monkeys or Orang-Outangs? O! my God! I appeal to every man of feeling-is not this insupportable? Is it not heaping the most gross insult upon our miseries, because they have got us under their feet and we cannot help ourselves? Oh! pity us we pray thee, Lord Jesus, Master. -- Has Mr. Jefferson declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and our minds? It is indeed surprising, that a man of such great learning, combined with such excellent natural parts, should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to, unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, and hold another by the side of the same, then let it go, and expect the one in the cage to run as fast as the one at liberty. So far, my brethren, were the Egyptians from heaping these insults upon their slaves, that Pharaoh's daughter took Moses, a son of Israel for her own, as will appear by the following.

The world knows, that slavery as it existed was, mans, (which was the primary cause of their destruction) was, comparatively speaking, no more than a cypher, when compared with ours under the Americans. Indeed I should not have noticed the Roman slaves, had not the very learned and penetrating Mr. Jefferson said, "when a master was murdered, all his slaves in the same house, or within hearing, were condemned to death." -- Here let me ask Mr. Jefferson, (but he is gone to answer at the bar of God, for the deeds done in his body while living,) I therefore ask the whole American people, had I not rather die, or be put to death, than to be a slave to any tyrant, who takes not only my own, but my wife and children's lives by the inches? Yea, would I meet death with avidity far! far!! in preference to such servile submission to the murderous hands of tyrants. Mr. Jefferson's very severe remarks on us have been so extensively argued upon by men whose attainments in literature, I shall never be able to reach, that I would not have meddled with it, were it not to solicit each of my brethren, who has the spirit of a man, to buy a copy of Mr. Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," and put it in the hand of his son.

But let us review Mr. Jefferson's remarks respecting us some further. Comparing our miserable fathers, with the learned philosophers of Greece, he says: "Yet notwithstanding these and other discouraging circumstances among the Romans, their slaves were often their rarest artists. They excelled too, in science, insomuch as to be usually employed as tutors to their master's children; Epictetus, Terence and Phaedrus, were slaves, -- but they were of the race of whites. It is not their condition then, but nature, which has produced the distinction." See this, my brethren! ! Do you believe that this assertion is swallowed by millions of the whites? Do you know that Mr. Jefferson was one of as great characters as ever lived among the whites? See his writings for the world, and public labours for the United States of America. Do you believe that the assertions of such a man, will pass away into oblivion unobserved by this people and the world? If you do you are much mistaken-See how the American people treat us -- have we souls in our bodies? Are we men who have any spirits at all? I know that there are many swell-bellied fellows among us, whose greatest object is to fill their stomachs. Such I do not mean -- I am after those who know and feel, that we are MEN, as well as other people; to them, I say, that unless we try to refute Mr. Jefferson's arguments respecting us, we will only establish them.

...I must observe to my brethren that at the close of the first Revolution in this country, with Great Britain, there were but thirteen States in the Union, now there are twenty-four, most of which are slave-holding States, and the whites are dragging us around in chains and in handcuffs, to their new States and Territories to work their mines and farms, to enrich them and their children-and millions of them believing firmly that we being a little darker than they, were made by our Creator to be an inheritance to them and their children for ever-the same as a parcel of brutes.

Are we MEN! ! -- I ask you, 0 my brethren I are we MEN? Did our Creator make us to be slaves to dust and ashes like ourselves? Are they not dying worms as well as we? Have they not to make their appearance before the tribunal of Heaven, to answer for the deeds done in the body, as well as we? Have we any other Master but Jesus Christ alone? Is he not their Master as well as ours? -- What right then, have we to obey and call any other Master, but Himself? How we could be so submissive to a gang of men, whom we cannot tell whether they are as good as ourselves or not, I never could conceive. However, this is shut up with the Lord, and we cannot precisely tell -- but I declare, we judge men by their works.

The whites have always been an unjust, jealous, unmerciful, avaricious and blood-thirsty set of beings, always seeking after power and authority. my no ordinary astonishment, [a] Reverend gentleman got up and told us (coloured people) that slaves must be obedient to their masters -- must do their duty to their masters or be whipped -- the whip was made for the backs of fools, &c. Here I pause for a moment, to give the world time to consider what was my surprise, to hear such preaching from a minister of my Master, whose very gospel is that of peace and not of blood and whips, as this pretended preacher tried to make us believe. What the American preachers can think of us, I aver this day before my God, I have never been able to define. They have newspapers and monthly periodicals, which they receive in continual succession, but on the pages of which, you will scarcely ever find a paragraph respecting slavery, which is ten thousand times more injurious to this country than all the other evils put together; and which will be the final overthrow of its government, unless something is very speedily done; for their cup is nearly full.-Perhaps they will laugh at or make light of this; but I tell you Americans! that unless you speedily alter your course, you and your Country are gone! ! ! ! !

...If any of us see fit to go away, go to those who have been for many years, and are now our greatest earthly friends and benefactors -- the English. If not so, go to our brethren, the Haytians, who, according to their word, are bound to protect and comfort us. The Americans say, that we are ungrateful-but I ask them for heaven's sake, what should we be grateful to them for -- for murdering our fathers and mothers ? -- Or do they wish us to return thanks to them for chaining and handcuffing us, branding us, cramming fire down our throats, or for keeping us in slavery, and beating us nearly or quite to death to make us work in ignorance and miseries, to support them and their families. They certainly think that we are a gang of fools. Those among them, who have volunteered their services for our redemption, though we are unable to compensate them for their labours, we nevertheless thank them from the bottom of our hearts, and have our eyes steadfastly fixed upon them, and their labours of love for God and man. -- But do slave-holders think that we thank them for keeping us in miseries, and taking our lives by the inches?

Let no man of us budge one step, and let slave-holders come to beat us from our country. America is more our country, than it is the whites-we have enriched it with our blood and tears. The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears: -- and will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood? They must look sharp or this very thing will bring swift destruction upon them. The Americans have got so fat on our blood and groans, that they have almost forgotten the God of armies. But let the go on.

Do the colonizationists think to send us off without first being reconciled to us? Do they think to bundle us up like brutes and send us off, as they did our brethren of the State of Ohio? Have they not to be reconciled to us, or reconcile us to them, for the cruelties with which they have afflicted our fathers and us? Methinks colonizationists think they have a set of brutes to deal with, sure enough. Do they think to drive us from our country and homes, after having enriched it with our blood and tears, and keep back millions of our dear brethren, sunk in the most barbarous wretchedness, to dig up gold and silver for them and their children? Surely, the Americans must think that we are brutes, as some of them have represented us to be. They think that we do not feel for our brethren, whom they are murdering by the inches, but they are dreadfully deceived.

What nation under heaven, will be able to do any thing with us, unless God gives us up into its hand? But Americans. I declare to you, while you keep us and our children in bondage, and treat us like brutes, to make us support you and your families, we cannot be your friends. You do not look for it do you? Treat us then like men, and we will be your friends. And there is not a doubt in my mind, but that the whole of the past will be sunk into oblivion, and we yet, under God, will become a united and happy people. The whites may say it is impossible, but remember that nothing is impossible with God.

I count my life not dear unto me, but I am ready to be offered at any moment, For what is the use of living, when in fact I am dead. But remember, Americans, that as miserable, wretched, degraded and abject as you have made us in preceding, and in this generation, to support you and your families, that some of you, (whites) on the continent of America, will yet curse the day that you ever were born. You want slaves, and want us for your slaves ! ! ! My colour will yet, root some of you out of the very face of the earth ! ! ! ! ! ! You may doubt it if you please. I know that thousands will doubt-they think they have us so well secured in wretchedness, to them and their children, that it is impossible for such things to occur.

See your Declaration Americans! ! ! Do you understand your won language? Hear your languages, proclaimed to the world, July 4th, 1776 -- "We hold these truths to be self evident -- that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL! ! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! !" Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us -- men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! ! ! ! ! !

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Unlikely Artists-Gee's Bend Quiltmakers

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They sang it often : "Look Where He's Brought Me From!". Highly religious people, older black women 70+ years of age, 70 odd of them in all. They are the artists, unlikely as it sounds, they are! They have other things in common too. All descendants of slaves from mainly Pettway Plantation, they lived a thirdworld existence of adject poverty from generation to generation in the poorest county in the USA, in the state of Alabama.

But about ten years ago things changed for the women and the community of Gee's Bend in a very unexpected way. The skill of quiltmaking handed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter is now the source of remarkedly improved standard of living. An art historian, "discovered" the discarded and undervalued art form among the women. The quilts had been made to keep desparately poor families warm. They were made from old scraps of cloth, from strips of discared clotes, old bags etc. One of the women for example made an entire quilt of all her deceased husband's clothes. She made it solely to comfort herself at the times she missed him most.

Through the art historian, the women of Gee's Bend discovered that their quilts were works of modern art, historical peices and that they could fetch up to US$2000 for one quilt. No wonder they sing as often as they can: Look Where He's Brought Me From". The quilts have been sold to art museums, books have been written about them and the women are an integral part of the gallerry shows presenting their works.

Unfortunately however very few of the younger women of Gee's Bend have the slightest interest in quiltmaking. Of 70+ quiltmakers in Gee's Beend only one or two grandchildren appear interested in carrying on the tradition and skill. It is sad to realise that this generation of quiltmakers may very well be the last. The irony is that the skill and art form may die soon beacuse now these women can afford to keep themselves and their families warm by other means thus reducing the need for homemade quilts.