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ODE TO THE ONLY BLACK KID IN THE CLASS – CLINT SMITH III

You, it seems,
are the manifestion
of several lifetimes
of toil. Brown v. Board
in the flesh. Most days
the classroom feels 
like an antechamber. 
You are deemed expert
on all things Morrison,
King, Malcolm, Rosa. 
Hell, weren't you sitting 
on that bus, too?
You are everybody's 
best friend 
until you are not. 
Hip-hop lyricologist. 
Presumed athlete. 
Free & Reduced sideshow. 
Exception & caricature.
Too black & too white
all at once. If you are successful
it is because of affirmative action. 
If you fail it is because
you were destined to. 
You are invisible until 
they turn on the Friday
night lights. Here you are —
star before they render
you asteroid. Before they
watch you turn to dust. 

An Update

Hi everybody!

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been as active as I usually am on this blog. This is because my school has started back up again, and I am swamped with homework and deadlines. However, I will make it my mission to have one post up each week! My posting date will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. If you have any requests for topics, please leave them in the comments!

If you want to explore more about Black History and Literature, click here to access a google drive full of documents covering topics from Afrofuturism to Black Feminism!

THE OTHER AMERICA – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the two Americas: one America where the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity flows through the streets like water in a river; where no one is hungry, no one is oppressed, and everybody’s needs are met, mentally and physically. The other America tragically also exists. In this other America, “millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America, millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

America is considered the “mixing pot” where people of all cultures live. However, the vast majority of BIPOC live in the “other America.” King specifically describes black people. Black people live in “a ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery.” The Civil Rights Movement aims to deal with the division of the Americas, trying to mend America so it can be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. As of 1967 (when King had said this speech), America had overcome many struggles in the fight for equality: legal segregation (getting rid of Jim Crow laws). But, they are facing their biggest challenge now: genuine equality. Black people and other minorities (specifically Indigenous and Hispanic people) still live in under served/low-income areas because of redlining that had taken place 50+ years ago. At the time of King’s speech, black people had an unemployment rate more than double that of the nation’s unemployment rate. America has made advances in racial justice and racial equality, but it has also taken steps backward.

Thus, we are met with riots to enforce the changes that the people want. Riots do not appear out of thin air, rather they are the result of continued oppression and the language of the unheard. “And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Black poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity… Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

A/N: I only took extracts from the speech. I have attached the speech transcript here.

CUT THE STRAPS OFF YOUR MASK

With the ongoing pandemic, you should be wearing a face mask. However, if you are using disposable face masks, please cut the straps off your face mask and properly dispose of them! Do not leave any PPE on the ground as this is littering! Also, if you can, please do not dispose of your mask in any outdoor trash cans as it can be blown into nature. Leaving your face mask in nature can harm animals. In the tweet above, employees of a car dealership had seen a young gull trying to walk with a face mask tied and twisted around its legs. Because of the face mask, it could not walk and its joints were swollen and sore.

Save an animal’s life, cut the straps off your mask!

MINORITY HEALTH AND COLORECTAL CANCER

In light of the death of Chadwick Boseman, a black man most famously known for his role in Black Panther and other Marvel movies (may he rest in power), we must realize the racial disparities that occur in colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third-most common cancer in all adults in the USA. Colorectal cancer affects men and women and impacts people of all nationalities and ethnic groups. However, they are not impacted equally.

African Americans

  • 15 to 20% more likely to die from the disease than patients of any other race
  • higher chance of being diagnosed at a later stage and with a higher morality rate
  • recommended to be screened at 45 instead of 50 because of genetic factors (“African Americans with colorectal cancer are more likely to cope with an aggressive subtype fueled by a mutation in the KRAS gene, which drives cancer growth )
  • affected by socioeconomic barriers (low income, difficult to find transportation, lack of health insurance, lack of medical literacy, and access to care)

Asian Americans

  • 52% of Asian American adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Asian Americans
  • risk of colorectal cancer increases greatly upon immigration to the United States
  • many Asian Americans are unfamiliar with colorectal cancer as disease rates in native countries are very low

Hispanics/Latinx

  • 47% of Hispanic adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • also affected by socioeconomic barriers
  • cultural barriers (misconceptions about western medicine, language barrier in communicating with medical personnel)
  • talking about disease and death is culturally taboo

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • fewer than half are current with colorectal cancer screening
  • colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and second deadliest cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • they live in rural and isolated communities so it is hard to find screening
  • higher burden of cancer risk factors
  • socioeconomic barriers (lack of funding for tribal health clinics, high rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, etc. )

SYMPTOMS OF COLON CANCER

  • changes in bowel habits and stomach pain (diarrhea/constipation)
  • unexplained or unintentional weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue
  • anemia
  • cramping pain in the lower stomach
  • rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • blood in the stool
  • cramps/abdominal pain

Symptoms of colon cancer mimic other GI disorders, so doctors are less likely to screen patients under 50 with these symptoms. If you have access to healthcare and you are experiencing any of these conditions, please see a doctor!

In honor of Chadwick Boseman, please consider donating to organizations like the Colon Cancer Coalition that raises awareness for early colon cancer detection and effective treatment for colon cancer patients.

sources:

https://www.inovanewsroom.org/featured-posts/2020/02/colon-cancer-and-the-black-community/

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS TO EDUCATE

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

Toni Morrison

Here are some book recommendations that focus on the subject of Black Lives Matter and Black History.

*note I have taken the summaries from websites like goodreads and amazon

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

This book has been turned into a film, and you can watch the trailer here.

  • When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter MemoirPatrisse Khan-Cullors

A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.

Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.

Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.

  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.

  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

This book has also been turned into a movie. You can watch the trailer here.

WHO IS JACOB BLAKE?

Yesterday, August 23rd, a police officer shot Jacob Blake 7 times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin. While his 3 children were in the car watching. Attorney Benjamin Crump, a civil rights lawyer retained by Blake’s family, said Blake was attempting to de-escalate a fight between two other people when officers arrived at the scene, drew their weapons, and tased him. Currently, he is alive and in the ICU fighting for his life. However, he shouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place. His kids should not be traumatized from watching their own father being shot repeatedly in the back by the police. We must have an immediate and transparent investigation and the officers involved should be held accountable for their actions. We must demand justice. #JusticeForJacobBlake

Here are some resources to help demand justice for Jacob Blake:

  • Sign the petition calling for justice for Jacob Blake here.
  • Donate to the official gofundme for Jacob Blake’s family here
  • Donate to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund which is assisting protestors in Kenosha with bail funds here
  • Call/Email Kenosha state officials from this list created by @ankita_71 on twitter https://twitter.com/ankita_71/status/1297805867455307777

If you go to the next page, there will be footage of the whole ordeal. Please do not click if you are triggered by gunshots.

Maya Angelou – Caged Bird

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou | Share My Lesson
no credited illustrator, London [Public domain]

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

BLACK WOMEN I WISH I LEARNED ABOUT IN SCIENCE CLASS

Let’s be real, students are continuously lectured on the groundbreaking experiments and discoveries that white men have made. Black women, particularly Black woman in STEM, aren’t given the recognition and honor that they deserve. This is why I have created this post to honor the Black women who have impacted and shaped medicine/science.

Dr. Gladys West

Image result for dr gladys west
Dr. Gladys West, an American mathematician. The hidden figure behind the GPS; 1930-?

Dr. Gladys West is an American mathematician known for her contributions in a device that is essential to everybody all over the world: the GPS. Prior to her mathematical model of the earth, the precise measurement of distances over the Earth’s surface was nearly impossible. The imperfect shape of the earth and the variation of sea levels make calculating these distances challenging. Dr. West used the information from satellites to refine an increasingly detailed and accurate mathematical model of the actual shape of the earth, a “geoid.” Her work wasn’t officially recognized until early 2018 when the United States Military recognized her in a press release issued by the Air Force Space Command. She was later commended by the Virginia State Senate and inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson - Wikipedia
Katherine Johnson 1918-2020

Katherine Johnson was a person who pushed the limits. Despite being both African-American and a female, she excelled both academically (graduating with highest honors and one of three black students to be integrated into West Virginia’s graduate school) and in her workplace (NASA, referred to as NACA at the time). In 1962, the United States decided to send people to the moon; Johnson was one of the members on the team that figured out the calculations and math surrounding the trip. Johnson figured out the paths for the spacecraft to orbit Earth and to land on the moon. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks and Her Remarkable Cells Will Finally See Some ...
Henrietta Lacks circa 1945-1951; pic creds. The Wall Street Journal; 1920-1951

Henrietta Lacks visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of only a few hospitals that treated poor African-Americans, in 1951 due to vaginal bleeding. Upon examination, the doctor discovered a large, malignant tumor on her cervix and immediately began radium treatment on her. As standard procedure, they got a sample of her cancer cells and sent it to another doctor, Dr. George Gey. Typically, each sample quickly dies in Gey’s lab. However, Lacks’ cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours. Today, these cells—nicknamed “HeLa cells”— are used in a variety of ways including studying the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones without experimenting on humans. Her cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine and went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Between the years 1953-2018, HeLa cells have been used by researchers from 142 countries and in 110,000 publications.

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson; 1925-?

Dr. Angella Ferguson is an American pediatrician known for her groundbreaking research on sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease that causes improper folding of red blood cells. The folding results in improper blood flow to organs and deprive the affected organs of blood and oxygen. Dr. Ferguson’s research focused on the development of the sickle cell disease among African American infants. She developed a blood test to detect sickle cell at birth which eventually became the standard for forty U.S. states by 2010. Her research set the guidelines on how to diagnose and treat sickle cell anemia.

Alice Ball

Alice Ball - Death, Facts & Leprosy - Biography
Alice Ball; 1892-1916

Alice Augusta Ball was an American chemist who developed the “Ball Method,” the most effective treatment for leprosy at the age of 23. In 1915, an infection with leprosy—a chronic disease causing skin lesions and nerve damage—was a death sentence. If infected, patients were commonly sent into mandatory quarantine in “leper colonies,” never to return. Prior to the Ball Method, a somewhat-effective treatment for leprosy was the use of an oil extracted from the chaulmoogra tree. However, that oil wasn’t readily water soluble, making it difficult for the human body to absorb. Ball was able to discover a method for extracting compounds from the oil and modifying them to become more soluble (ester ethyl form) which led to the development of an injectable treatment for leprosy.