HOW TO HONOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES THIS THANKSGIVING

Today is Thanksgiving. I hope all of you can celebrate with your family whether it be virtually or in person. Reminder: the virus does not stop just because it’s a holiday! This holiday can be emotionally complex as it is a day of mourning for Indigenous and First Nation Folks. Here are some ways we can honor Indigenous folks, disrupt erasure and tokenization, interrupt false narratives and move towards reparations.

  1. Decolonize your historical lens. Check out my last blog post or do your own research about the real history of Thanksgiving and the Wampanoag tribe
  2. Support Indigenous Business and Buy Indigenous Goods
  3. Verbally acknowledge the land you are on and which tribe inhabits it
  4. Raise awareness of the current disenfranchisement and racism facing Indigenous peoples to family and friends who may not be educated on the subject

If you want to check out some Indigenous artisans and artists, please check out @kinsalehues on Instagram! Her insta highlights have plenty of resources to support artists and her community. I have linked her account down below.

https://www.instagram.com/kinsalehues/

THE HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING

Growing up, one is always taught about the First Thanksgiving as a celebratory feast that the Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims to. After this, the pilgrims hand off America to white people so they can create a great nation dedicated to liberty, opportunity and Christianity for the rest of the world to profit. However, this story is riddled with historical inaccuracies.

The Native Americans that the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth met with were the Wampanoags. The pilgrims landed in 1620 and the chief (sachem) Ousamequin offered them an entente—a friendly understanding or informal alliance—as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts. This was not because he wanted to be friends; he and his people had been decimated by an epidemic disease and the English would be able to help him fend off his tribal rebels.

Moreover, the arrival of the Mayflower is not the first instance of the Wampanoags coming into contact with Europeans. Prior, they had been in contact with Europeans, but not in a friendly way. This history involves slave raiding and violence.

The result of telling and retelling the false origin of Thanksgiving is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth. Some adults have said that they remember sitting in school during Thanksgiving and feeling invisible. Not only their classes, but society in general was making light of the historical trauma which weighs around their neck. The traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relationships between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, concealing the long and bloody history of conflict between the Native Americans and European settlers.

For more information about the first Thanksgiving, please check out this article! In it, David Silverman discusses his book This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAIR IN NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE

Throughout Native American Culture, there are many teachings and practices that vary depending on location and culture. One of the many things important to Native Americans’ cultural identity is their hair. Hair is seen as an intimate extension of the self as well as a connection to the world. Long hair signifies a strong cultural identity in many tribes. One typically cuts their hear only if he or she has experienced a significant loss like the death of a family member, traumatic event or significant life change.

Furthermore, grooming another’s hair represents a nurturing bond between persons. The braid signifies the sacredness of relationships. Single strands of hair are weak when tugged on; however, when you pull all of the hair together in a braid, the hair is strong. This is a representation of the value of family and tribe along with the connection to all of creation.

Julian Brave Noisecat, a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen Nation says that he wears his hair long because it is “an expression of cultural and political pride and defiance against a brutal history of forced assimilation through boarding and residential schools where our grandparents were incarcerated, forced to cut their hair and become white. It’s a subtle way to flip the bird to the white men who tried to kill and assimilate our ancestors.”

Throughout history, there are numerous instances where indigenous persons face discrimination for their hairstyles. Indian boarding schools—institutions established in the early 20th century as a way to “kill the Indian and save the man”—were brought to schools and forced to assimilate into foreign culture and cut their hair and throw it away. To the Native Americans, throwing their hair away is a form of personal disrespect. Some cultures burn the hair with sage or sweet grass and their prayers rise with the smoke to the Creator. By throwing away the hair, the culture and value of everything the person had been taught was thrown away. Today, there are still instances where children are sent home from school because of their hair. Long hair shouldn’t be seen as a “rebel” act; it is a religious right.

Note: do not touch someone’s hair without permission!! Some might even find that asking permission is a form of disrespect.

WHO IS MARCUS GARVEY?

Marcus Garvey - Beliefs, Books & Death - Biography
Marcus Garvey; 1887-1940

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots

Marcus Garvey

Born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Marcus Garvey was a nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement which sought to unify and connect people of african descent worldwide. He founded the Negro World Newspaper, a shipping company called Black Star Line and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was a fraternal organization of black nationalists. This group advocated around the world to establish independent black states, most notably in Liberia on the west coast of Africa, and “separate but equal” status for persons of African ancestry.

As an adolescent, Garvey was a victim of racism especially from his white teachers in Jamaica. In addition, he had left his hometown (St. Ann’s Bay) for Kingston, the island nation’s capital where he worked as an apprentice in a print shop. While working there, Garvey became involved in the labor union for print tradesmen in Kingston which many attribute as Garvey’s first step in activism. Marcus Garvey was both a racial purist and a Black separatist. He believed that all black people should return to their rightful homeland Africa. This message is very controversial, and prominent activists like W.E.B. Du Bois referred to him as “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world.” Du Bois believed and hoped for a self-sustaining Black ecosystem within a predominantly white America.

To be honest, I do not know where I stand on Garvey and his ideals. On the one hand, I believe that there should be no distinction between cultures and one should intermingle with others. However, I do agree with some points in Garvey’s ideology where he denotes that he, as a black man, is the equal of any white man and that black is beautiful. If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to leave them in the comments!

powerful speech about police brutality

Hello! I know this isn’t my usual day to post, but I wanted to share with you a post that I saw on my Instagram feed today. This video, posted by Columbia University, shares one man’s take and reflection on his experiences as a black man in a world of police brutality. His name is Marquavious Moore. His words are extremely powerful and shine a light on police brutality and white privilege when it comes to the police. I hope you take the time to listen and reflect on this!

REMINDER: DO NOT APPROPRIATE SOMEONE’S CULTURE THIS HALLOWEEN

Halloween is approaching fast, and this means it is time to start thinking of a costume to wear (for your virtual zoom party or around the house of course). So, this post is a reminder to everyone that one should not appropriate someone’s culture as a costume! This is Cultural Appropriation. The definition of cultural appropriation is “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.” This could mean taking intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge, parts (symbols, artifacts, dress, practices) or any instance that is commonly associated with and/or perceived as belonging to another. A common result to cultural appropriation is commodification. Commodification is the process in which the dominant culture has the freedom and/or power to take objects or artifacts from other cultures. Through this process, the relationship between these objects or artifacts and their intrinsic value is lost.

Some examples of cultural appropriation:

  • black face
  • simply being “a different race for halloween”
  • gypsies
  • geishas

Some ways that you can address this issue:

  • Reflect on yourself – ask yourself, do you know what is cultural appropriation and have you done it before?
  • Talk to your friends and bring up the subject – what do they think of it?
  • Reflect on your costume this year – is your costume based on someone’s race, ethnicity, or culture? Does my costume use stereotypes to make a joke or to be sexy? Is it exploiting another culture?
  • Advocate!!!

A good resource that I found that touches on this subject is University of Denver’s “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” photo campaign that aims to raise awareness and create a respectful and inclusive community for the students. What do you think about cultural appropriation? I have researched this topic and have found that there is a fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation.

WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY

White Australia policy | National Museum of Australia
Brass “White Australia” protection badge, 1906; source: National Museum of Australia

White Australia policy, formally known as the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, effectively stopped all non-European immigration into Australia.

“That end, put in plain and unequivocal terms… means the prohibition of all alien coloured immigration, and more, it means at the earliest time, by reasonable and just means, the deportation or reduction of the number of aliens now in our midst. The two things go hand in hand, and are the necessary complement of a single police – the policy of securing a ‘white Australia.'”

This, alongside other policies discriminating against BIPOC, developed from the racist ideas and criticisms against non-white groups that generally depicted those groups as less advanced than white people in all ways, especially morally and intellectually. This idea primarily aimed at people of Asian descent but applied to all BIPOC, including Indigenous Australians. Ironically, Australia saw itself as a utopia and a working man’s paradise. Thus, they aimed to attract a well-paid, male, white, and skilled labor force to uphold this image. Consequently, BIPOC and even working women were seen as a threat to this ideal and would be paid less.

The Immigration Restrication Act gave immigration officers the power to make any non-European migrant sit a 50 word dictation test. Since the language chosen for the dictation test was chosen by the immigration officer, it was easy to ensure failure for all migrants deemed undesirable. For example, a South Asian that knows English could be given a test in French, German, or, if need be, Lithuanian. The test was administered 1359 times prior to 1909, and only 52 people were granted entry to Australia. After 1909, not one migrant that was forced to take the test passed.

These policies would continue with full fervor until the late 1940s. After the Second World War, Arthur Calwell, the Chifley government’s immigration minister, started to relax the policy to allow refugees to come to Australia. However, the majority of the refugees reflected the White Australia ideal with only limited numbers of migrants from other backgrounds. In the 1970s, the Whitlam government completely eliminated the acts with the introduction of policies like the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.

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!

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.

THE RACIST HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN POLICE

History of police in the US: How policing has evolved since the ...
The evolution of a police officer. Picture creds: Bettman & Anadolu Agency/ Getty

When people say abolish the police or ACAB, it’s necessary to know why exactly they are saying this. You might say, “but not all cops…” However, this is not what they are referring to. Rather, they are referring to the fact that cops uphold a racist and corrupt system that should be changed and abolished in order to create a new one.

The American police originally started as slave patrols and has since evolved into the American police force that we know today. It has set its foundation as racist and broken. It was created to protect white wealth at the expense of Black people, immigrants, and minorities. In the South, after slavery was abolished and slave patrols became uncommon, police took on new forms such as sheriffs who enforced segregation or groups like the KKK. In the North, police were used to control the increasing numbers of immigrant workers and would block labor strikes to suppress poor Americans.

In the 1800s, centralized white, male police departments formed in big cities like Boston, NYC, and Chicago. Springing from these police departments were patrols like Mounted Guards (now the Border Patrol) who maintained minority quotas and prevented illegal crossings. This was due to the increasing fear of labor uprisings and xenophobia. During Jim Crow, the police would enforce laws called “Black Codes” which upheld racism and segregation. The police would suppress protests during the Civil Rights movement, much like what they are doing right now. Black Americans would protest police abuse and racial profiling and would be met with violence–tear gas, high pressure hoses, and attack dogs.

Now, you might be wondering, would abolishing the police actually work? It has before! Several cities like Durham have implemented successful no-cop zones and harm-free zones where communities self-protect. Police abolition is not a new idea. It has been around since the 18th century. Additionally, the USA today spends approximately $100 billion a year on policing and a further $80 billion on incarceration. Defunding the police could result in more focus on education and health.

If you are still on the edge, I have included a story that I found on twitter about the corrupt police system. Adrian Schoolcraft went into the police force because he thought that he, along with the other police, would make the world a better place. So when he realized that some of his colleagues were lying and fudging numbers in order to meet their quotas, he reported them to his higher ups. The higher ups responded by saying that if he didn’t like it, then he could find a different job. Schoolcraft woke up on October 31, 2009 to the NYPD entering his home and forcibly interring him into a mental hospital. After he was discharged, he released the tapes of the conversations he overhead by officers about the faulty arrests, the clear issues in stop and frisk, and the general corruption of the NYPD. The Village Voice published them in their series “The NYPD Tapes.” The good cops are otracised, abused, and kidnapped by the “bad apples.”

https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/05/04/the-nypd-tapes-inside-bed-stuys-81st-precinct/