(Editor’s note: While scanning through the Community Journal’s archives, I ran across this column from 20 years ago, which could easily have been published 20 days ago. Aside from a couple of minor changes that date the column, it is being republished as it appeared on the eve of the new millennium.)
I don’t know any member of the Global Majority who celebrates the “traditional” Thanksgiving holiday. Most African Americans celebrate the paradoxical holiday as a religious family event, a time to give thanks and blessings, if for no other reason than we have survived, in spite of…
For Native Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday is a cruel hoax. In fact, if you read their history, thanksgiving serves as the launching pad for the government sanctioned genocide of millions of indigenous residents, a racist campaign that all but annihilated their race.
The so-called Pilgrims, it would turn out, brought to the Thanksgiving dinner not only desert, but deceit.
They talked about Christianity and brotherhood, but instead opened the door for exploitation and murder of natives, all under the watchful eye of their god—someone pictured by them as a White man who looks remarkably like Uncle Sam.
Our African ancestors did not participate in the original “Thanksgiving,” unless they were servants or slaves.
We did not enjoy the fruits of the harvest, nor did we benefit from their quest for religious freedom.
Instead, the “Pimping Pilgrims” and their descendants used the Bible to justify their enslavement and inhumane cruelty of Africans while they simultaneously raped the American frontier and its inhabitants.
That said, I, like most Black Americans who refuse to participate in the “ceremonial” hypocrisy, will nonetheless pause on Thursday to give thanks, to fellowship and to count our blessings.
We have rebranded Thanksgiving, making it a day of fellowship. There will probably be a knock-kneed turkey on the table, next to traditional African dishes like greens and yams. And there will be dressing (made with cornbread) instead of stuffing (made with white bread), and hot sauce instead of Tabasco. But most importantly, there will be fellowship, which will begin with a circle of family members who will proclaim what they have to be thankful for, ending with a prayer for prosperity and good health.
And this year, like none other, will provide much to be thankful for. Here’s a dozen that immediately come to mind:
I’m thankful for being blessed with another day, another column, and another opportunity to call folks out!
I’m particularly thankful for my children and theirs. Because of them, I have hope and history.
I’ve been to more funerals in the last year than I have in any year of my life, yet I’m blessed that so many of those who have shaped, molded and moved me are still among us, providing wisdom and direction to yet another generation, if not personally, through those they previously influenced.
I’m thankful to have discovered by purpose in life, the reason for my being.
They say the Creator (aka God, Allah, Jehovah, Nyame) has put each of us here for a special purpose, through many of us live and die without understanding the Divine Plan and our role in that script.
I’ve been blessed because I learned my role many eons ago.
As my African name—Osh—means, I am the bearer and shaper of the news, the maker of the great. I am a griot, keeping alive our history and link to the Motherland.
I’m blessed to have published a book in 2000 that has made a tremendous impact on my life, but more importantly, served to help us reclaim the keys to the Freedom Train.
“Not Yet Free at Last, the Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement,” is an achievement I could not have comprehended as a manchild.
The book has made an impact in the Movement and was used in three colleges and cited numerously as a case study for Black empowerment. It was even cited in a presidential campaign and was the catalyst for several protests and demonstrations by teachers’ unions, Democrats (insane as that sounds) and a couple of so-called civil rights organizations (including the NAACP), but it dared challenge the failing educational status quo, and offer options for Black people who were unwilling to settle for mediocrity and brainwashing.
Even though she is no longer with us, I am blessed to have been part of State Representative Annette Polly Williams’ school choice army. Milwaukee’s program not only changed the political landscape locally but started an educational revolution nationally.
The School Choice Movement was not just about empowering low-income parents with additional options, or in freeing our children from the government plantation. It was also about forcing the public-school system—government to compete.
I freely admit, far too many poverty pimps (most of which were African American—were allowed to enter the market, thus undermining our original intent.
Initiated under a cloud of uncertainty and hindered by poverty pimps and novice educators, over the years the substandard participants have been weeded out, and the program grew in popularity and progress until this year state analysis showed it has exceeded the proficiency of government schools.
This year, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s annual “report card” of school progress—and failure—schools participating in the choice program exceeded the academic status quo of government schools.
A much higher percentage of private schools participating in the choice program (I use that description because there are no “choice schools”) are rated as more proficient than government schools. A much higher percentage of students in those private schools graduate and finish college. And, the only Milwaukee public schools listed in the top 10 statewide are in fact independent charter schools under contract with MPS.
Of equal significance, there are at least twice as many Black teachers in private and charter schools than are in government schools. While MPS is 90% minority, only 16% of its teaching corps is African American. To answer the question about that abysmal statistic, you have to look beyond the rhetoric and racism.
I’m grateful that people are finally starting to understand the necessity of replacing a public-school system, with a system of public schools.
I’m thankful for having the opportunity to work for an African American business my entire adult life, and for its owner, Patricia Pattillo, in particular.
She has sacrificed much to keep this business going; to provide our community with a voice.
I’m eternally grateful that she took me along for the ride, supporting me and my ideology of Black empowerment even when she might have personally disagreed or was ambivalent.
For example, Mrs. P is a former teacher and thus had mixed feelings about school choice. And she came under significant scrutiny and criticism from peers and the Black establishment for allowing me to engage in this war—not only with the status quo, but African Americans under its thumb.
Few know of the pressure this paper underwent because of our support for school choice. The teachers’ union threatened advertisers (which is the primary reason the other two Black-owned newspapers stayed away from this issue like it was a STD.
We’ve been bad mouthed by friend and foe. As you may recall, the NAACP held a press conference to denounce me. And while it backfired when they couldn’t get key Black leaders to endorse the NAACP position, it was painful, nonetheless.
I’m grateful, nonetheless for Nyame giving me the fortitude to stand firm in my beliefs. And I’m also grateful that there are key African American leaders and stakeholders who respect my position and value my commitment to the struggle.
I’m thankful to have witnessed a true exhibition of Black political power as demonstrated in the election of President Barack Obama.
It was the Black vote that tipped the scales for Barack.
And for those that don’t fully understand the importance of the Black vote, on Meet the Press last Sunday, it was posited that the disrespect shown to African American voters by Hillary Clinton in 2016, resulted in a significant drop in the Black vote in Milwaukee, costing her the election.
It was also implied on the news program that the Black vote holds the key to the 2020 presidential election. And if the Democratic Party treats our vote as it has in the past—taking us for granted and ignoring our myriad interests—it will cost the party dearly.
I could say a lot about our blind obedience to a party that often spits in our face, or for candidates who are the lesser of two evils.
We have become a political power that has the clout to control our own destiny and it would be foolish not to seek restitution for our vote. That’s restitution, not rhetoric or false and empty promises.
My ultimate desire is to see the founding of an independent Black political party, one that prioritizes our needs over those of other special interests and deals with the various cancers that limit our growth.
That is down the road, if ever. For now, we must learn to utilize the power we have to maximize our interests.
I’m thankful to have lived through both the Million Man and Million Family marches, important events in our history, which will someday prove to be defining moments in Black history.
I’m thankful to have been able to travel the world to meet brothers and sisters who not only share my worldviews and my commitment to Black empowerment, but who also are working diligently toward that aim.
In Indianapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, D.C., Charlotte and Chicago, everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve fellowshipped and strategized with people who have dedicated their lives to our movement and our people.
Cultural Nationalism is alive and thrieving; it is gaining momentum and making an impact.
I’m grateful to have lived long enough to have witnessed an awakening among Black millennials who have taken our lessons to heart; who appreciate the road we paved and the efforts made for them.
They speak as representatives of a new Global Majority. They are open-minded and wise enough to know in which footprints they must follow.
As I mentioned last week, their “natural” hairstyles are more than a cultural statement.
Lastly, I’m blessed to have been given a second and third chance.
The second came when I flat-lined after a triple bypass surgery a lifetime ago.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that the night of the surgery Milwaukee was hit by one of the worst snow storms in decades. As a result, the surgeons were still at the hospital when I flat-lined, and thus returned me to the operating room to save my life.
The third chance occurred when my family and friends rejected the doctor’s suggestion to pull the plug on me after I was concluding a month in an induced coma.
While I entered the hospital (unconscious) hesitant about the power of prayer, I didn’t leave there six months later with that negative belief.
Prayer does work for those who believe, I learned, which is why we form a circle of prayer prior to Thanksgiving dinner, each member of the tribe revealing what they are thankful for.
We conclude with a prayer for safety, good health and the most important quality Nyame can bless us with: wisdom.