#BlackDollarsMatter Too!

For those who wonder how they can help during this tumultuous summer of violence and racial inequality, I understand. Many blacks feel helpless in their anger and frustration, unable to find ways to actively participate in the revolution. I understand that too. If you’re unable to find a protest or vigil in your city, what ways can you contribute to Black Lives Matter?

Sometimes we have to remember to “hit ’em where it hurts. In the pocket.” Don’t forget that Black Dollars Matter too. I’m not an idealistic Marxist, who is convinced that we can stop buying things altogether. I know that in this country, we’re addicted consumers. But if we’re stuck in a capitalist society, perhaps we should take the white supremacy part out of it.

The first thing you can do is #BankBlack. This is actually already starting to happen. Since Killer Mike’s challenge to the black community to change their banks, black-owned banking institutions have seen a huge spike in deposits.

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Here’s a map of all the Black-owned banks in our country. The green dots highlight One United Bank (member FDIC), which allows anyone to set up an account from any state. This takes care of ATMs, online bill pay, and secure credit cards without having to make a personal visit. It’s time for a “bank-in.”

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I found what I can confidently describe as the “Black Amazon.com”, in the website, We Buy Black. Here, you can find all kinds of products ranging from apparel to electronics to pet supplies, all black-own or produced. Also, Afrobella has compiled a list of independent black-owned businesses to patronize. This list started in 2015 and it’s still growing.

What about vacations? There are a growing number of black-owned Bed and Breakfasts popping up around the nation. Here’s a list of lovely B&Bs that are breaking through the hospitality color barrier.

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Morehead Manor in Durham, North Carolina

Black women have long shared their frustrations regarding beauty supply stores and treatment they receive as patrons. These beauty supply stores are generally owned by Korean immigrants who sometimes don’t understand the community they’re serving. However, that is slowly changing. Since, 2004, the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association (BOBSA) has been keeping tabs on on black salons, barbershops and beauty supply locations in America. Check out their listings here.

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We have to start somewhere. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called on the black community to boycott the bus line in Montgomery, Alabama, which worked to change legislation within a year. The protest started in 1955 and segregated bus-lines were ruled unconstitutional in 1956. While something like this might not sound feasible today, King also called urged us to invest in black banks. This is a small segment from the speech he made just one day before his assassination:

I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank-we want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis. So go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We’re just telling you to follow what we’re doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies in Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an ‘insurance-in.’ Now these are some practical things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.”

Consider what you buy and who it helps. You work hard to earn your dollar; who are you giving it back to? And do they have your best interests in mind? Frankly, I’m tired of rewarding bad behavior. I want to encourage black entrepreneurs and build the economic foundation that Dr. King spoke of. We can do that if we are vigilant with our money.

#TMN Stands with #BLM

The Motley News pledges its allegiance with Black Lives Matter. It shouldn’t be a surprise, I’m just sorry that we’ve waiting so long to throw our hat in the ring. Evelyn has gone off to create her own chapter in Champaign, IL, while I’m still on the journalism front, getting angrier and angrier with American politics and culture.

I’m angry that this year is no different from last year. #SandraBland, #WalterScott, #TamirRice, #EricGarner (are just a few of the names we can’t forget). There are more body cams attached to policemen, but this year none of them seem to be working (in both of the killings of #AltonSterling and #PhilandroCastile, body cams “fell off”)

I’m angry that #BLM rally aren’t even allowed their first amendment: the right to free speech and assembly, and have been busted up by militant police and SWAT before they were able to march

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Source: RawStory.com

I’m angry that even journalists can’t cover the news without getting arrested for being black.

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Carlet Cleare and Justin Carter, reporters for WHAM-TV, arrested

I’m angry that WhiteAmerica got conveniently distracted by the Dallas Shooting to even understand how such a shooting could take place. And now the conversation returns to #alllivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter and other inane, unsympathetic arguments.

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Most of all, I’m exhausted from having to hide my anger and disgust with this country. Blacks should have the right to be in their feelings right about now. Anger is an emotion that we’ve been deprived of for decades. We’ve had to put our anger and frustration on the back burner in favor of assimilation and respectability. We’ve had to dismiss our own anger to quietly remind whites that we are no longer property or animals. No group of people should have to defend their existence in the country they were born in.

2016 is the year The Motley News says fuck the niceties, fuck respectability, and fuck #alllives. Because #alllives cannot happen without #BlackLive mattering. And that is a fact.

 

Being Black in Finland

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I lay on the hotel bed, laptop propped on my belly, grading student papers. Ru Paul’s Drag Race is on in the background, a queen tells us about her withholding mother. I’m in Estonia and it’s still hard to imagine why. My husband, who is out scouting Tallinn alone, is having the time of his life. I, on the other hand, am still stuck in the surreal daze of: “I’ve just been to Finland, I took a ferry across the Baltic Sea for Tallinn, Estonia. And here I am, in Estonia, grading papers.” I’m teaching an online English class for my university.

When my sister calls through Skype (invented in Estonia), she’s with her best friend, J. Through the jerky pixelated screen I can see their smiling faces. “How are you? What’s it like there? What are you eating? What’s the city called again?”

I pause the Drag Race and laugh at them. I answer all of the questions as fast as I can, trying to add meaningful details and pausing to remember what I’ve eaten. It probably sounded like: Cobblestone streets, fresh salmon, black bread and bicycles! I ended with a “I still can’t believe we’re here.”

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My sister grins. I know she’s excited that I’m here. “Hey,” she starts. “Have you seen any black people yet?” It’s a loaded question. She’s my big sister and I know she’s concerned about my comfort and safety. “Have you seen any black people yet?” means, “How do they treat blacks over there?” “Have you been harassed yet?” “How do service workers interact with you?” and possibly, “Do you recommend it to other black people?” I think of all of these questions before going anywhere. Understanding a country’s history, geo-political atmosphere, and their class system is always helpful before you take a trip. Black people, especially, are always concerned about comfort and security while traveling abroad. But sometimes we’re so concerned about comfort and safety, that we stop ourselves from going off the beaten track. Did I ever see myself going to a Scandinavian country, then crossing the sea to a former Soviet state? Not at all. But I also happen to be married to mischief making man (our original plan was to go to Russia). I’ve learned to have a sense of adventure because of him.

But to answer my sister’s question: “Have you seen any black people yet?” I did see black people! While we were in Helsinki, I saw lots of Somalians in the suburbs and a few other Africans in the city center. They were all living a Finnish life, walking or cycling to their jobs or shops. Not a big deal.

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I could have stay hung up on how many black people I saw while traveling to the whitest parts of the world, or I could have enjoyed myself. I chose the latter. Because coming back to America was truly slap in the face. When my husband and I returned to the states, we were once again confronted by the idea that the United States is not a safe or comforting place for black people to live, work, and play. Since we’ve been back, two more black men have been killed by policemen. Blacks have taken to the streets in anger and frustration and whites have made excuses for hundreds of years of oppression. This is where I come from. This is what my blue passport shows the world.

I hope the next time either I, or my sister, leave the country, we each skip the question of “have you seen any black people yet?” While we might get funny looks in foreign lands, we’re probably going to be safe. We’ll most likely learn something wonderful about another country, before returning to a home that treats us like second-class citizens.

I’ll leave you with a quick anecdote before signing off.

Finnish Customs in the Helsinki Airport: I lug my bag to the desk to see a large blonde viking man, named Lars or Gunter or whatever. He’s dressed in black and I assume he’s got a gun strapped to his thigh. He asks for my passport, he wants to know if this is a trip for business or pleasure. I give him the dates of my stay and he smiles before saying “Wonderful, have a nice stay.” Sure, there’s something eerily Bond-villain-like about him, but he’s polite and I keep it moving. My husband’s experience is nearly the same, as his customs agent has told him: “Two weeks? You should stay longer!”

American Customs in Chicago’s O’Hare: We’re quickly trying to catch our connecting St. Louis flight, but we have been corralled along with other harried travelers. I see that my husband has made it past customs ahead of me and when I lug my bags up to “Derek,” I’m sweaty and I have to pee. Derek looks at my passport and travel itinerary before asking where I’ve been. “Helsinki.” How long? “Two weeks.” Business or pleasure? “I was on vacation” He studies my face, while I’m about to pass out from the heat. Derek asks if I met friends while I was there? I told him I didn’t. He asks me why I went to Helsinki if I didn’t have friends there. I was at a lost for words. I don’t know, to experience Finland? He wanted to know where else I’d been. “Estonia.” The smirk on his face as he watched sweat roll down my temple, made me want to scream at him. He said in a snide voice that he assumed I didn’t have any friends there either. That’s when he asked me for another form of identification. I looked over to where my husband stood, he was frowning and mouthing “what’s wrong?” While I dug through my unorganized travel bag to find another ID that was better than a US passport, I watched Derek show my passport to the agent next to him and whisper something in his ear. I angrily slapped all of my ID on the counter. “Here, I’m from Ohio, I’m a university professor, and I have a Capital One credit card. Does that help?” He gives me a slight nod and tells I can go. No explanation for the extra scrutiny and certainly no, “Welcome back home!”

All of this is to say, Black folks: Don’t let fear keep you from exploring the world. You will be pleasantly surprised by who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn. Other countries have an idea about us that will quickly be refuted once you open your mouth and speak to them. I can’t say the same about America. I’ve been talking, bargaining, and trying to appease white people since I was a child and at age thirty-one, I still haven’t gotten anywhere new.

 

 

Interview with Filmmaker Vanessa Block [Audio]

In the short documentary, The Testimony, Congolese women are used as weapons in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. In all conflicts, it’s usually women and children who are caught in the crossfires and made to pay for it.  Rape is usually the “tool” which exacts the most damage to the opposition, since it leads to the destruction of a community and, in many cases, an entire ethnic group. But what if there’s no clear opposition for a government military destroy? The sinister part of this story is that the country’s own military is responsible for the majority of rape cases. Frustrated with their losing battle against destabilizing militants (M23), the Congolese military take those frustrations out on civilian women. The Testimony, tells the stories of some of these women. They share their terrifying experiences, the fall-out from their families and villages, and how they pick up the pieces.

What happens when women don’t testify? The rest of the world will never know the truth. Oppressors depend on that silence. And once we know, what do we do? We’re an ever-shrinking global community and we no longer have an excuse for being ignorant. We must repeat their stories and spread them far and wide. Some of us have to get in fray and get our hands dirty.

That’s where Vanessa Block comes in. I got the chance to talk to Block about her documentary debut, which was short-listed for an Oscar nomination and distributed through Netflix. She described how she found her start in film making and what led her to the DRC to film the historic Minova Rape Trial. I asked her about the challenges of finding survivors to interview, the work needed to heal a nation, and what her next project will be. Please watch the film and listen to our interview for a deeper understanding on this pressing issue affecting women in the Congo.

[AUDIO]

Why Organic Cotton Should Rule Your Wardrobe

Guest post: Sophie Smith

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For the majority of people, the words ‘organic clothes’ bring shapeless tops, dull colours, and Birkenstock sandals into mind. But natural fashion has changed a lot since its beginnings, and now you can create your own distinctive style and be as fashionable as ever, while still making ecologically and socially responsible fashion choices.

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The significance of eco fashion reflects in its impact on our health, but also on stopping the progression of fast fashion and consumerism, as well as on the preservation of our planet. Wouldn’t you feel much better in your cute new dress if you knew how and where it was made?

Here are the main reasons you should make your wardrobe entirely natural.

Organic Materials Are Healthier than Conventional Ones

Some estimates say that conventional cotton manufacturers spend 25% of all the insecticides used worldwide each year. The farmers who work in cotton fields are forced to inhale all these chemicals every day, same as the factory workers who process the fibres and fabrics. And finally, we wear these clothes close to our skin.

Moreover, the pesticides used in the farming processes drain off into the rivers and lakes, which are our main source of drinking water. Due to this, non-organic clothes can have very serious repercussions on our health. Cancers are by far the most dangerous, but even milder ones, like skin irritation can be very annoying.

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On the other hand, all pieces of clothing labelled ‘organic’ need to meet certain criteria regarding the fibre manufacturing, dying, and handling processes. The greatest advantage of organic materials is that they are produced without the use of any pesticides, or other synthetic chemicals, from plants that have not been radiated or genetically modified, and with the emphases on reduced environmental pollution. This makes them less harmful to farmers, workers, and consumers alike.

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Organic cotton is by far the most commonly used fabric in today’s eco fashion industry. But lately, you can also find clothes made of organically grown hemp, bamboo, and silk.

Social Impact of Organic Fashion

The 2013 disaster in Savar Upazila, Bangladesh, when over 1,100 people died in one day, was a sobering moment for the representatives of the fashion industry. Especially for those concerned about the ethical dimension of sustainability of the current trends. After that day, the naturalist movement started looking for a solution to the safety and working issues that are present in all developing countries around the globe. Some of these problems include various kinds of discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion, then child labour, and extremely inhumane working conditions in which employees are forced to risk their lives every day.

Fair Trade is a social movement that is looking to help the marginalized textile workers in third world countries, by ensuring fair and equal conditions for all. This means fixed working hours, guaranteed wages at the end of the month, vacation, sick leave, and other rights.

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But the movement can only do part of the work. The rest is on us consumers. The next time you decide to buy a new shirt, check where and how it was made and only choose sustainable clothing, boycotting those brands that still stick to the old ways. Luckily, more and more brands are making the transfer to organic production, so there are no limitations in terms of available styles. There is only our consciousness to make us do the right thing.

How important is organic fashion to you? How much attention do you pay to the origin of the clothes when you are shopping?

Author BIO: Sophia Smith is Australian based fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger. She could be described as fashion addict and life lover. She writes mostly in fashion and beauty related topics, mainly through blogs and articles. Sophia is regular contributor at High Style Life.

Find her on: Facebook  Twitter  Google +

Interview with Erica Buddington (Video)

I can do quite a bit of Facebook scrolling without finding anything especially helpful, but that changed when I stumbled across the BookNoire page. It was a collection of everything I needed to know about literature brought to you by people of color. Current trends in black Sci-Fi, lists of novels I could read that are written by black female authors, and articles I could use to motivate my own writing. I desperately needed to know who curating this page.

erica at upworthy

Meet Erica “Riva Flowz” Buddington. BlackNoire isn’t the only thing she’s about. Buddington is a Def Poet, an educator in Brooklyn, columnist, novelist and memoirist.

Can you handle it?

I talked to Erica about all of her work; writing and teaching. She was candid about what it takes to teacher in today’s broken education system. She fully commits herself to teaching young people in a way that pushes past the traditional boundaries of: “Sit still and be quiet.”

When asked how she motivates herself to keep writing so prolifically, Buddington recommended we “get into a little trouble.” I’m all for that. Her next project involves writing about her family, which means going to Jamaica to listen to powerful stories and researching the history of sugar plantations.

Watch the interview here: