I’ve spent my entire career as a civil rights activist and anti-violence advocate. I hear from folks all over the country about how fed-up they are—how much they want change—but they don’t know where to start. It’s not enough just to be informed, we’ve got to work tirelessly to do better. With the “The Lookout,” I’ll collect the most important stories and action items that you need to know about and things you can do each week, keeping you involved so you can create positive change for yourself and your community.
1. Do We Take Our Struggle Seriously?
Whether or not we like Nicki Minaj and her crazy antics, her latest shenanigan is unacceptable. Her single, “Lookin’ A** Ni**a,” features a famous picture of Malcolm X holding his gun when he was under attack in the last days of his life. When Nicki uses Malcolm X to represent a song with the n-word in it, or when one of her partners in music, Lil Wayne, uses the imagery of Emmett Till getting beaten to death to talk about what he would do to a woman’s private parts, it diminishes our story and the struggle for equality that has allowed these artists to even put out their music today. When we sit back and get mad about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, or stop-and-frisk, we can’t at the same time promote the use of our struggle in forms of entertainment that perpetuate the hatred in and around our community. If we’re ok with Nicki and other entertainers taking our struggle for granted, making light of the issues that we are still facing today, then we can’t get mad when nothing changes. Nicki released an apology yesterday saying:
“What seems to be the issue now? [...] I am in the video shooting at Looking A** Ni**as and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing […] I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued.”
Nicki’s apology is not about understanding the offensiveness of her actions; it’s about some people getting upset and making noise that she now has to deal with. The bottom line is that her actions are unacceptable. Do we take our own struggle seriously? Because we must recognize that our struggle is real, and it’s yet to be won.
2. Justice For All: The Jordan Davis Trial and Stand-Your-Ground
The jury is deliberating and very soon there will be a verdict in the 2012 murder of 17 year-old Jordan Davis, a young black man gunned down for the audacity of playing loud music in a car with his friends. Jordan’s killer is claiming self-defense under stand-your-ground, the law that we learned so much about during the Trayvon tragedy. If Jordan’s killer, Michael Dunn, is found guilty for this crime then there may be some peace for Jordan’s family and his memory. But until we can put an end to the stand-your-ground law that threatens the lives of every black and brown person, there will be no justice and no safety for our community. So let’s turn the tables, let’s stand our ground. Don’t take your eyes off this issue, midterm elections are coming up with some candidates who support or oppose stand-your-ground. We gotta know who those people are and elect the ones who will help our cause. So get registered, get your family registered and be prepared to vote for those who will help us get rid of this law. There is something we can do today to end stand-your-ground and honor the memory of Jordan Davis and others like him.
3. History Has Been Made, and A Black Man Led the Way
University of Missouri football player, Michael Sam, made history this week coming out as gay before the NFL draft, in which he would become the first openly gay football player signed to a professional team. This is major, and his acceptance is a huge step forward for the gay community and professional sports where homophobia is typical. More than that, I think this is a major moment in our own community. There is a lot of shame and taboo towards gays in the black community. With each high-profile black sports player, entertainer, or politician who comes out and is judged solely on their merit and their worth as a human being, we should celebrate it. We’ve got to have harmony in our community and accept people of all kinds if we want that same equality for ourselves. After all that we’ve been through as people of color, we must be the last ones to discriminate against gays or anyone else. Hopefully, Michael Sam’s courage will open the door for more people to be honest about who they are.
4. Leading The Way With Universal Pre-K
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration are working hard to make universal pre-kindergarten a reality for every child, and we should all follow his lead. This is our next fight—this is what we have to do to get ahead. The results are in—there is no debate—early childhood development is the key to success. Children who have access to education before they enter kindergarten improves their chances of graduating high school, going to college, and staying out of prison. To move our country forward and end the cycle of disadvantage in education that has plagued minority communities for so long, we need to start much, much earlier. Anything we can do to ensure the success of our children has to be a number one priority, especially if we’re looking at the black community with our children falling behind their white counterparts on the other side of town who are getting educated from day one. We need to do whatever it takes to give all children an equal head start on learning to end disparities before they start. Despite protest from many, this is not just an issue in minority communities; American students are falling behind equally-developed nations in education. We need to figure out ways to do more, even if that means paying more. It’s our duty as citizens and as an American community to give back for the future of this country.
I want to hear from you; what’s going on in your community? What stories or events should folks know about? Leave a comment below.
Called “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett, Tamika D. Mallory is a nationally recognized leader and civil rights activist. Tamika is the Founder/President of Mallory Consulting, LLC and the former Executive Director of the National Action Network (NAN), one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. She is featured regularly as a leading voice on key social justice issues and is currently making headlines around the country for her tireless activism and strong stance on women’s issues, anti-violence, young adult advocacy, and decency.