Category: Lifestyle

African American Heritage Commission of South Carolina Launches New ‘Green Book,’ Names State’s Top Black History Sites

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The African-American History Monument on grounds of Statehouse in Columbia, SC (photo via postandcourier.com)

by Adam Parker via postandcourier.com

Many — perhaps most — African Americans can trace family roots back to Charleston. About 40 percent of enslaved Africans brought to North America arrived on ships that docked in Charleston Harbor.

Slaves then were sold to plantation owners throughout the Antebellum South. During the “Great Migration,” about 6 million blacks moved from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West between 1916 and 1970, chastened by the ghosts of their oppressed ancestors and motivated by the prospect of a better life.

On the cusp of the Civil War, the U.S. was home to 4 million slaves, 400,000 of whom lived in South Carolina. Their labor created enormous wealth for white rice and cotton planters, and it built whole cities, including Charleston.

Now, 50 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission has named 10 top black history sites to visit in the state, including several associated with King and the civil rights movement. The commission also has compiled a much larger list of about 300 sites for its new online travel guide, Green Book of South Carolina (www.GreenBookofSC.com).

Dawn Dawson-House, an ex officio board member who works for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said the initiative is meant to raise awareness of black history and to assist the commission’s efforts to identify, preserve, mark and protect the state’s many sites connected to black history and heritage.

Black history sites abundant in Charleston

“In the past 24 years, more than 200 markers have been added to the official state markers program,” Dawson-House said. “When the commission started, there were only about 35 markers dedicated to black history.”

She said historical sites can be found throughout the state, and many local people know about the ones near them.

“No matter where you are in South Carolina, there is an important African-American heritage element or place to visit,” Dawson-House said. “But the entire story is not told collectively. It’s told in bits and pieces in everybody’s community. At the commission we’ve decided we have to pull together an entire portrait of this history.”

Michael Allen, a founding board member of the commission, said the Green Book — “a manifestation of out 24-year journey” meant to assist anyone interested in black history — is a reference to the Jim Crow-era guide that African Americans used when traveling through the South. The old guide provided information about black-owned businesses (gas stations, hotels, restaurants, hospitals) that were safe for black travelers during the period of legal segregation.

“When you went traveling some place, you cooked your food, packed your food, the food was in your car,” Allen said. “You planned visits according to where relatives lived, or drove straight to where you needed to be.”

The modern iteration of the Green Book, instead, is meant for everybody, Allen said. “We think this is a great opportunity to connect the community, the history, the legacy and the African American experience of South Carolinians and the traveling public,” he said. Continue reading “African American Heritage Commission of South Carolina Launches New ‘Green Book,’ Names State’s Top Black History Sites”

FASHION: Entrepreneur Ayanna Smith Creates #AskMe Tees to Encourage Thoughtful Conversation

#AskMe Tees Creator Ayanna Smith (Photo courtesy Ayanna Smith)

#AskMe Tees are the brainchild of Washington D.C. entrepreneur Ayanna Smith. Ayanna has created a timely remix of the slogan tee – and we love it! These T-shirts encourage people, friends and strangers alike, to talk to each other by offering intriguing questions as conversation starters.

It’s a clever concept. #AskMe Tees promote listening and discussion in an age where it has become increasingly common for people to dismiss each other or make unfounded assumptions. The #AskMe Tees (and other #AskMe accessories) are emblazoned with light-hearted questions such as #AskMe who made the potato salad and #AskMe about my superpowers to other more provocative and socially-conscious questions like #AskMe Why Black Lives Matter, #AskMe why I voted for him, and #AskMe about autism… don’t assume. Whichever #AskMe Tee you choose, remember to be ready for a conversation!

You can find the entire collection here: https://askmetees.com To find out more about the #AskMe Tee mission: https://askmetees.com/pages/about

Ayanna Smith is also the founder of The Escape Lounge in Washington DC https://escapeloungedc.com and Ridlz (an escape game app launching next month. http://www.ridlz.com)

by Lesa Lakin, GBN Lifestyle Editor | follow me @whaatzgood

“Woman In The Mirror”: GBN Editor Lori Lakin Hutcherson’s Personal Essay on Women, Power and Leadership

(Image by Amandine Thomas via dumbofeather.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson via dumbofeather.com

Ever since I was four years old, I remember feeling powerless. I didn’t know it by name then, but looking back, powerlessness is what drove me every night, after I slid under my Raggedy Ann sheets and comforter, to wish and pray that when I woke up, I’d wake up a boy. Not because I felt like a boy inside, but because boys got to have what I couldn’t. Hair that didn’t have to be detangled or combed or braided. Action figures instead of dolls. Race cars with race tracks and pants to play in—always pants. In my four-year-old mind, boys had everything. Freedom. Choices. Power. Pants. But every morning like clockwork, the sun rose, I looked down, and I was denied yet again by The Man Upstairs. I was still Team Pink. I was still a girl.

I wore my disappointment more stoically than my dresses, because somehow I knew this was not a conversation to be had with either parent, or even my big sister (who was obsessed with boys in the acceptable way—with crushes and smiles and day dates to ice skating shows). I didn’t know how to voice the palpable inequity I was absorbing from our society, my culture, the media. That boys were considered the stronger, smarter, faster sex, who should be deferred to and in control. What I couldn’t find words for, but knew from the tips of my bobble ball hair ties to the soles of my patent leather Mary Janes, was that the way girls were devalued wasn’t fair, square or remotely close to justified.

Girls were just as smart and fast and valuable as boys—and once in a while, in between ads for EZ bake ovens and hungry toy babies and household products that would save me from a lifetime of dishpan hands, my TV echoed parts of this truth to me. I saw the “Bionic Woman” and “Wonder Woman” and Billie Jean King with the big glasses and small tennis racket beat the old, blustering Bobby guy in “The Battle of the Sexes.” And then there was Nadia from Romania who proved her ability at the Montreal Olympics, though her dainty and pretty were remarked upon more often than her athleticism and artistry. Even after her repeated displays of superlativeness, she stood there, half-smiling, as they gave most of the credit to her male coach. They might not have been black like me but they were girls like me, girls who liked to rip and run and use their bodies and brains for something other than to attract boys.

In my home, the messages were similarly mixed. My mom had a job just like my dad did. And as a teacher, when I went to work with her, I got to see a woman in charge. Of the space, the lessons, the students. I saw her leadership there, as well as in the house. Mom had as much authority as Dad (if not more) and my dad did the cooking. And since both parents were college graduates and educators, my sister and I were expected to do well in school, go to college and have a career.

Mom even gave my sister and me “School Years” memory books so we could track our progress from Kindergarten through High School. Who our friends and teachers were, our activities, awards, and what we wanted to be when we grew up. This aid to success ended up being one of the most painful reminders of the limited expectations the world had for me. The occupations listed for “Boys”? Policeman, Fireman, Astronaut, Soldier, Cowboy, Baseball Player. But for “Girls”? Mother, Nurse, School Teacher, Airline Hostess, Model, Secretary. In that order.

There was a “fill in the blank” space, so every year from Kinder on I filled it in with “Doctor.” By third grade, someone with a pink marker lined through my “Doctor” and checked “Secretary” instead. I rebelled with my blue marker and rubbed over the pink check next to “Secretary.” I didn’t remember this until I recently found the book, but it spoke volumes that someone in my life thought I was fantasizing if I wanted to be a doctor. In 1976. The same year of the U.S. Bicentennial, 200 years after independence from tyranny was declared and where colonists believed their liberty was worth their death. I, too, was fighting for liberty. My liberty. I wanted Batman, not Barbie, and I was tired of feeling wrong about it.

Years pass, and compliments about my cuteness are directed to me instead of my parents. I didn’t do anything to be cute—DNA did that—so this always feels weird. My mum tells me to not question or argue but just say “thank you.” Dutifully, I do. But being valued solely this way never sits right with me. I wanted “boy-style” compliments, about how clever or strong or skilled at whatever I was—praise that felt earned. I did receive some of this from the adults in my life, right alongside advice like, “Always have bus money so you don’t have to depend on boys for rides,” or, “No one buys the cow if the milk is free,” or, “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor one.”

When my parents separate and divorce, this family fracture ironically gets me more of what I want. Guilt presents include video games and model cars and Star Wars toys. And pants—jeans and corduroys! My mom says when she was younger, she was a tomboy too. She enrolls my sister (and eventually me) in softball, and buys me books about skateboarding but stops short of the skateboard—she thinks I will fall and break my head. If I were a boy, I think, she’d let me break my head. I try to build my own with a plank of wood and wheels from Mom’s ancient metal roller skates. It travels six inches, I fall off and it falls apart. When my dad gets a housekeeper for his new townhouse, she cleans my room and asks him how old his son is. Suddenly Dad won’t buy me any more model cars.

As puberty dawns, boys are still getting the better deal. Most of them grow into muscles and height and undeniable physical dominance. But should this give them more rights? Should more strength automatically equal more power? Boys (and several girls) seem to think so and this thinking is validated at every turn. In government, in movies, in the workplace, in classrooms. They can pick up girls at random and the girls squeal and laugh and cajole the boys to put them down instead of throwing them into the ocean/pool/sofa cushions. All in good fun, right? Not at all a display or reminder of dominance, right? Boys get to act on crushes and initiate kisses and ask for dates without being considered “fast” or “sluts” or “whores.” They also get no periods, no pregnancies, no abortions.

I am handed deodorant, pads and Judy Blume books as my teenage girl starter kit. I dislike the changes and growing pains and expectations of “blossoming into a young woman.” I focus on grades instead of gregariousness—studying instead of a social life. My big sister Lesa, a natural at young womanhood, follows in our grandmother and mother’s kick steps and becomes a varsity cheerleader. I scoff and diminish her choice by saying I’d rather be who people cheer for. Because some girls make fun of other girls for being too “girly.” I do not see the insidious danger of this for decades.

By 1986 I am a senior in high school, and being in the “smart girl” category has been a boon for me. I am not offered a cent for a cute outfit or a good hair day, but Dad pays good money for As and Bs. I also get to wear pants and sneakers and no make up everyday and no one cares. Mom and Lesa are officially the “pretty girls” with pretty power and that is alright by me. I have no jealousy or longing for “pretty” status— though most girls aspire to this, it seems more like a curse than a gift to me. Yes, my mother and sister get preferential treatment and constant compliments, which they enjoy. But I also see them experience the flip side. Men and boys would stalk them both. Put their hands on them without permission. Recklessly follow after them in traffic. This was weekly if not daily for them; for me it was rarely, but it should have been never. It should always be never. But as 99 percent of girls and women will tell you, it’s never never. I am approached by a pimp on a bus who tells me I look sad and he can take care of me. I exit at the next stop and walk the extra mile home to escape him. I am told to smile more times than I am asked for my opinion. One afternoon I’m followed by a man who screams I should be walking behind him and don’t know my place. I run into a 7-11 and stay huddled near the Ms. Pacman machine until he disappears. Oh hell no. Screw being treated like prey. Screw pretty.

Instead I want to be strong and quick. And thanks to Title IX, I can put my body in service to sports—softball, basketball, cross country. I do them all and excel at none. I am average in every way, but the existence of these girls’ teams does not live or die by any one of us having to prove exceptional ability. We have the freedom to suck and stay funded, just like the boys’ teams. This makes me wonder if society needs a version of Title IX not just for the sports field, but for every field. Shouldn’t we demand and legislate programs that provide equal opportunity for both sexes everywhere? So then over time, like with sports, this parity would become the norm? Why not try this out in politics, I think—like maybe in the Senate? After all, there are 100 senators, two from each state, so why not make them 50:50, one male and one female? Wouldn’t that be true equal representation? But I don’t know what to do with these notions, so I keep them to myself. What kind of power do I have to make them happen, anyway? I don’t my want my “smart girl” rep to become a “naive, silly, pie-in-the-sky girl” rep.

High school also offers me a lifelong mentor in the unlikely form of tough-as-nails, no nonsense, AP U.S. history teacher Mr. Safier. He values effort, intelligence and discipline above gender, race, class… or anything else, really. Finally I am celebrated for what I believe counts. Safier is more than safe harbor. He is an equalizer. After repeatedly killing it in his classes, one boy writes in my senior yearbook he’s lived in academic fear of me for almost two years. I love this. Now I have proof. Brains are my field-levelling power. And they are what get me into a top-notch university.

At first, college feels different than high school—better—like there is gender parity. Like “smart” is all that matters. Smart whomevers travel to Boston from wherever to spend four focused years getting smarter. But then the parties start. The blue lights, safety phones and shuttle bus stops are pointed out. Boys casually notice, girls mark their maps. We have political debates. Ideological tangles. We openly protest to take back the night. I make male and female friends of every race and religion and orientation and it all feels equitable and the way the real world should be. I don’t shave my legs all winter. I march with the Black Student Union to the freshman quad to demand I don’t remember what from the Dean. One Christmas I fly home sporting fake Malcolm X glasses, leather Africa medallions and a lot of opinions. My dad picks me up at the airport and later asks everyone in the family but me if I’m a lesbian. Dressed like that, politicized like that, with my “tomboy” history—what else could I be?

What my father does ask me about is what I want to do after college. Whatever it is, I’m told, I should want my boss’ job. That’s where the power is. If you don’t want your boss’ job, you have the wrong job. So if I still want to be a doctor, become Chief of Surgery. If I want to teach, become Teacher of the Year. I do journalism for fun at college because there’s no television station, so I tell him maybe I want to write. Then, Dad says, become the publisher. He sends me articles on mastery and how to achieve it. The bar is set high—as high for me as for the boy he never had, I think, so I accept his challenge. I try to jump that high. Into top positions. Into leadership. Into power.

Unlike Dad though, I think public sector work is for the birds, even when in the “power position.” Dad had achieved that – he rose from community college counsellor to assistant Dean, Dean (the youngest dean in California ever at the time), Vice President, President, then Chancellor of an entire district. He was the top dog, the leader. But then sometimes he would say if he were in the private sector, he would be a CEO making ten times as much money. But it just so happened his heart was in education, and he chose it over what could have been real wealth. Another mixed message I struggled to process. Go for heart or for money or for power? And do they have to be separate?

My power equation, I came to realize, extended beyond my father’s. Mine was leadership, plus affinity, plus money. And, luckily, I told myself, my heart was in writing—television to be specific—a very lucrative field. (Journalism, I’d discovered, paid even less than teaching). So I told him I wanted to follow the Hollywood path. I wanted to come back to California. Come back home.

Continue reading ““Woman In The Mirror”: GBN Editor Lori Lakin Hutcherson’s Personal Essay on Women, Power and Leadership”

Obamacare Enrollment Blows Away Expectations at Nearly 9 Million, Despite Shortened Sign-Up Window

by Dan Managan via cnbc.com

Final open enrollment numbers for the Obamacare federal marketplace were surprisingly strong, with 8.8 million customers selecting a plan by the sign-up deadline, officials said Thursday.’

In the final week of enrollment, 4.1 million people signed up on Healthcare.gov, with 1 million of those being new customers, according to snapshot figures published by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday.

CMS said, however, that these figures are not final because they do not include those who signed up after midnight Friday, Eastern Time. These numbers also do not account for people who were in line to enroll and left their callback number.

The high level of demand came despite fears that an enrollment season cut in half and a sharp reduction in outreach budgets would depress the number of sign-ups. The sign-up season, the first full one under the Trump administration, ran from Nov. 1 through last Friday — but many customers were unaware of the deadline.

The number of people who enrolled in the plans sold on Healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace that serves 39 states, was just about 400,000 fewer than the number that signed up during the prior enrollment season.

Lori Lodes, co-founder of the Get America Covered campaign, said these enrollment numbers are “huge.” She said the sign-up totals from the final week of enrollment were “likely the biggest in the history of the marketplaces.” Lodes, who served as a top health care official in the Obama administration, said these figures are an “incredible indicator of just how much people want quality, affordable coverage.”

“No wonder the administration scuttled their plans to release the enrollment numbers yesterday. Despite [President Donald] Trump declaring Obamacare dead just yesterday and all of his administration’s efforts to undermine enrollment this year, we saw record demand and enrollments,” she said.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted that he was “very surprised” that enrollment was only down slightly year over year. “That didn’t seem possible with a 90% reduction in outreach, an enrollment period cut in half, and a constant refrain that the program is dead,” Levitt said on Twitter.

There is now a chance that the final enrollment tally for all of the United States could match or exceed the 12.2 million people who signed up throughout the country in the last sign-up period.

Nine state-run Obamacare marketplaces are still selling individual health plans that take effect in 2018. Officials at a number of those exchanges have reported higher enrollment this season than last season. Washington state’s Obamacare marketplace said enrollment so far this year is 35 percent higher than the same time period last year. California’s exchange, the nation’s largest state-run marketplace, said sign-ups are 10 percent higher.

Also, people in a number of Healthcare.gov states — including all of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and more than 50 counties in Texas — are still allowed to enroll in Obamacare plans because of a waiver given to those affected by hurricanes this year.
Continue reading “Obamacare Enrollment Blows Away Expectations at Nearly 9 Million, Despite Shortened Sign-Up Window”

Madam C.J. Walker’s “Villa Lewaro” Estate in New York Protected as National Treasure with Preservation Easement

Madame CJ Walker; Villa Lewaro, exterior and interior (photos: David Bohl; Walker Family Archives)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

On the heels of launching the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African-American history, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a preservation easement on Madam C.J. Walker’s estate, Villa Lewaro. A powerful preservation tool, the easement prevents current and future owners from making adverse changes to or demolishing the estate’s historic, cultural and architectural features.

Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867–May 25, 1919), America’s first self-made female millionaire, commissioned Villa Lewaro, her “Dream of Dreams,” at the height of her wealth and prominence as inventor and entrepreneur of haircare products for African-American women. Constructed in 1918, alongside the Hudson River in Irvington, New York, Madam Walker’s elegant residence was built to inspire African-Americans to reach their highest potential.

Designed by Vertner Tandy—the first African-American registered architect in the state of New York and one of the seven founders of  Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—the 34-room mansion served as the intellectual gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

“On the 150th anniversary of her birth, we are delighted to have played a lead role in the lasting protection of Madam C.J. Walker’s tangible legacy,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust’s African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “The legal protection of irreplaceable historic sites like Villa Lewaro, one of the most significant places in women’s history, is essential in telling the full American story and inspiring future generations.”

Since designating the site as a National Treasure in 2014, the National Trust has worked with Villa Lewaro’s current owners and exceptional stewards, Ambassador and Mrs. Harold E. Doley, Jr., to recognize its architectural and historical significance and secure long-term protections before the property changes hands. The easement marks a successful culmination of those efforts.

Villa Lewaro stands as a living monument to Madam Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit and remains central to understanding her unprecedented achievement during an era when neither women nor African Americans were considered full citizens. Soon to be portrayed by award-winning actress Octavia Spencer in a series produced by LeBron James, Madam Walker’s story of persistence continues to inspire a growing number of African-American women taking leadership roles in business, politics, philanthropy, and other industries.

To learn more about the National Trust’s commitment to expand America’s view of history and bring attention to centuries of African-American activism and achievement, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/african-american-cultural-heritage

T’yanna Wallace, Daughter of Late Rapper Notorious B.I.G., Opens Brooklyn Boutique “Notoriouss”

Notoriouss owner T’yanna Wallace (photo via Instagram)

via thegrio.com

T’yanna Wallace, the daughter of the luminary Notorious B.I.G., has just opened her first brick and mortar clothing store.

Notoriouss, which opened this weekend on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, not only draws from Biggie’s name and branding but from hip-hop as a whole as well as New York City itself, from which Biggie drew a lot of the inspiration for his songs.

On Saturday, people packed the newly opened shop to celebrate not only Wallace’s success but Biggie’s life as family members reminisced about him. Others in attendance included the likes of Jadakiss, Lil Cease, DJ Snuff and DJ Mr. Cee.

“This is a huge, huge, huge monument, huge milestone for her. We’re happy for her, and we’re just excited to be here,” said CJ Wallace, Biggie’s son and T’yanna’s brother.

As for how Wallace is distinguishing herself from her father while still paying tribute to him, CJ Wallace pointed to the spelling of the store: “Two S’s for her individuality. She wanted to do something a little different but still be tied to her father, our father.”

Notoriouss brand clothing has been available online since 2013, but the store in Brooklyn marks the first brick-and-mortar boutique for Wallace.

To see more, go to: https://thegrio.com/2017/12/04/biggies-daughter-opens-brooklyn-boutique-fathers-honor/

American Airlines Employees Must Take Anti-Racism Training Since NAACP Issued Travel Advisory

(photo via newsone.com)

via ktla.com

American Airlines is making employees undergo anti-racism training after the NAACP issued a “travel advisory” for the carrier in October. Starting in 2018, everyone at the company will need to complete annual implicit bias training, the company announced Thursday.

“We are proud of the diversity and inclusion initiatives already in place at American, but we know we can do even better. So we viewed the feedback as an opportunity,” CEO Doug Parker said in a letter to staff.

The training program’s curriculum is still being developed, and will be conducted both in-person and through an online module, according to a company spokeswoman. Parker said that airline executives met with NAACP leaders earlier Thursday.

In October, the NAACP issued a warning to black fliers, urging them to be careful when flying American Airlines. The organization said it had noticed “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” citing four examples of black fliers who were forced to give up their seats or were removed from flights.

The NAACP, in a statement released Friday, said the organization supports American’s plan, but will keep its travel advisory in place for now. “We think we’re on the right road, but the NAACP will continue to meet with Doug Parker and other senior‎ American Airline[s] employees to ensure that the company walks the walk as well as it talks the talk,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said.

In addition to the implicit bias training, American is bringing in an independent firm to review its hiring practices, and has pledged to overhaul its system for managing discrimination complaints. “American Airlines can set a new standard in corporate diversity and inclusion, and we are humbled by the opportunity before us to do so,” Parker said.

Source: http://ktla.com/2017/12/01/american-airlines-employees-will-now-have-to-undergo-anti-racism-training/