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Five Radical Ways to Put the Black in Black Friday

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Artwork by Ernest E. Varner

Artwork by Ernest E. Varner

I’m sure many of you are getting ready for the holiday season, checking those turkey recipes, getting your cornucopia table decorations ready, yes, all the fun stuff that makes Turkey Day so very yummy and fun. But have you noticed that every year Thanksgiving seems less important while Black Friday gains in popularity. It’s like the only reason we’re feasting is to power up to shop on Black Friday. While I’m sure the spirits of Thanksgiving past are rattling their chains over this unfortunate turn of events, I’ve decided to embrace the fact that all of America is excited about anything with the word black in it. And on that note, I’ve come up with five radical ways to really put the Black into Black Friday. Try one or try them all, but just remember to do Black responsibly.

1. Buy Black. If you’re going to get up at the crack of dawn and spend all of your hard-earned money on consumer goods you may or may not need, why not buy stuff from Black-owned businesses? Then your Black Friday is like Black squared. And that’s cool. And luckily, other people had this idea way before I did and have already put together a list of Black-owned businesses to patronize on this special day.

2. Buy a book by a Black author. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement is all about the publishing industry’s lack of support of authors of color. Well, while you wait for mainstream publishers to get it together and start publishing a slew of books by Black authors, just go buy a bunch that already exist. And trust, there are a lot of books by Black authors on the shelves of your average Barnes and Noble. Books for kids, adults and teens. Yes, Virginia, there are books written by Black people out there and you should buy some on Black Friday. You should read them too.

3. Put a #BlackLivesMatter sign in your front yard. Think of this as your decoration for Black Friday, like a Black Friday Christmas Tree, but without the messy needles to clean up later. Alternately, get a #BlackLivesMatter tattoo on your arm.

4. Capitalize the B all day long whenever you write something about Black people. If you are a journalist, you will really piss off the copy editors at your job, but that’s what makes this so revolutionary. It’s Black Friday, yo! You can also zip on over to change.org and sign my petition that’s still up asking The New York Times and The Associated Press to change their policy on keeping Black people in the lower case. Just recently Colorlines walked away from using AP style and decided to start capitalizing the B so there’s proof that these little radical acts can make a difference.

5. Binge watch as many Spike Lee movies as you can, then go outside and yell, “Wake up” as loud as you can. On Saturday morning see if you feel any different. Act as if everyday is Black Friday.

Happy Black Friday, people!

ICYMI: “100 Men of Color Greeted Kids on Their First Day of School”

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

The Meltingpot is now dedicated to promoting what I love. Stay tuned.

The Meltingpot is now dedicated to promoting what I love. Stay tuned.

This morning I posted the following quote by David Wolfe on my Facebook page, “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.” Ironic because I fell asleep last night wondering if focusing on the positive and the good could be the antidote to the horror unfolding daily in this world. I get exhausted just thinking about working to undo the damage being done by racist politicians, hyper-violent cops, the NRA, and countless other “evil doers” in our midst. But I have to do something. I have the platform of this blog and my books and my voice and I really cannot sit by and wait for change to just come.

But my puny efforts to take down the evil would be like a hummingbird’s futile peck at a stone wall. So, I will not try to destroy the wall, rather I will plant seeds all around it, seeds of love, laughter, and light and hope that they will grow strong and fragrant all over the wall, until that wall is covered with the flowers of my efforts.

So, with that, I give you a fabulous story to inspire – and provide another example of folks sparking change with positive intentions – about a group of Black men who showed up on the first day of school to welcome the kids with a handshake and a high-five. It’s a sweet little piece and it appears on a fabulous (relatively) new website that’s all about promoting positive journalism. It’s called A Plus.com. Imagine if the mainstream media spent more time highlighting positive news stories. Would that make a difference in this world? I think so. Check out A Plus and let me know what you think (FYI, A Plus was co-founded by the actor, Ashton Kutcher.) Do you have any positive news websites that you enjoy? Don’t keep it to yourself, share in the comments, please. And then, enjoy my favorite song from Will. i. am that perfectly captures my mood after writing this post.

Peace!

In Honor of MLK: Do Something!

Martin-Luther-King-Day-Quotes-10Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Happy MLK Day! I hope those of you with the day off, enjoyed a break from your regular routine, however you spent it, even if that meant catching up on your laundry.

Since I’ve been sick and missed an entire week’s worth of work, I spent the majority of my day at my office playing catch up. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find a way to honor Dr. King’s Legacy today, and every day for that matter, because I think that’s what this day is really about. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t wait for one day in January to do some great service project, instead we’d look at Dr. King’s life of protest and service as an example of what we are all capable of because at the end of the day, Martin was just a man. A man who looked around and said, enough. Enough of the injustice, enough of the poverty. Enough of the violence. And then he decided to do something. And he didn’t stop until somebody stopped him.

So, we all have busy lives and families. Most of us have to work to keep food on the table and a roof on our heads. And many people are already doing for others on the regular. But just in case, here are some things anybody can do to help Dr. King’s dreams come true. And none of them have a January 19 expiration date.

1. Go see the movie Selma to get inspired and understand that regular people make a movement, not miracle workers. And take a teenager with you if you know one. After the movie discuss over hot chocolate.

2. Educate yourself and read a good book about social justice, racism and/or poverty.

3. Volunteer at any organization that promotes social justice, even if it’s just once or twice.

4. Write a check for an organization that is doing good work. If you don’t have the time to do the work, your dollars can support those who do.

5. Sign my petition on Change.org to capitalize the B in Black when referring to Black people. And while you’re over there, sign some other petitions. Lending your voice to a cause is the easiest and yet potentially most powerful thing you can do.

What other things can be added to this list? Tell us how you celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day and any day. I’m totally listening.

Peace!

My Protest on the Page: The #CapitalBCampaign is Launched!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I’ve been busy since the last time I wrote. Besides making a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner for 15 people, I’ve started a revolution in the name of respect.

Dear readers, you all know how I feel about the capital B situation in printed work. It drives me nuts that Black Americans are written in the lowercase, as if Black culture was something less than Latino, Asian or Native American culture. I wrote about my feelings here on the Meltingpot as well as in the New York Times in an Op-Ed piece that ran last month. And now, I’ve formally created a petition on Change.org asking the New York Times and the Associated Press to officially change their style books to say that when referring to Black Americans, always use the uppercase. Always.

I think it’s so silly that all of the major media outlets agreed to capitalize the N in Negro in 1930 and yet black is still written in the lowercase. What’s up with that? Is there some sort of collective amnesia going on in media circles?

If you agree that Black people deserve the respect of the uppercase, would you please be so kind as to sign the petition at Change.org and share the link with your networks? Bring your protests to the page and join me in the #CapitalBCampaign.

Thank you.

Peace!

This Thanksgiving, I’m Giving Thanks that I am Black!

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

There’s a lot of sadness and anger in the United States right now, most of it stemming from the situation happening in Ferguson, Missouri and the continual assault on Black lives. And then if you throw in the pathetic and disturbing downfall of Bill Cosby, as his secret life as a sexual predator comes to light, it’s enough to make any self-respecting Black person want to curl up and hide for the next 100 years or so.

There is so much pain and sorrow blowing through our world, I don’t want to add to the negativity. It’s hard not to express my anger in a public format, but I am trying to offer something different here on the Meltingpot. So, I started thinking about the things I was truly thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being healthy and having my family nearby is definitely at the top of my list. The fact that my children are healthy and happy makes me incredibly thankful. And of course, the fact that I have a job that I love is indeed a glorious blessing.

But there’s something else I’m really thankful for that might not seem possible at this particular moment in time. I am really thankful that I was born Black. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in a state deemed the most inhospitable to Black people. Despite the fact that I grew up surrounded by White people. Despite the fact that my own country still has yet to recognize Black people as first-class citizens. Despite the fact that this nation currently seems to be at war with my people, I am truly, hands-down happy and grateful that I was born Black in America. Here’s why.

I am thankful that my skin is this warm chocolate hue that looks fantastic draped in bright, radiant colors. I am thankful that this brown skin is also aging so well, people think I’m a decade younger than I really am. (It’s true, my Black don’t crack.) I am thankful that my thick, kinky hair is so versatile and full of personality. I am thankful that I come from a large family with a distinct cultural heritage that pulls from our southern roots, African heritage and Midwestern sensibilities. I am thankful that I feel a genuine kinship with other people around the globe whose life journey parallels my own. I am thankful that Black men above a certain age give me the nod on the street. I am thankful that Black women above a certain age will smile at me and my children when I encounter them on the street. I am thankful that I can claim some of the most brilliant, strong, creative, dedicated, amazing human beings ever to walk on the face of this earth as “my people.” I am thankful that I am the offspring of ancestors who were battered, beaten and brutalized so terribly, yet they were never broken. Never, ever, broken. Imagine the physical and emotional strength necessary to not only survive the middle passage, slavery, and Jim Crow Segregation, but to thrive and create and surpass the greatest expectations placed on you by your oppressors. That’s like superhuman shit right there. And I have their superhuman blood rolling through my veins today. Hell yeah, I’m Black and I’m proud…and very, very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! And please know I am extremely thankful that you all continue to visit the Meltingpot. I hope you have a warm and tasty holiday. (And pardon my potty mouth above.)

Peace!

I Refuse to Remain in the Lower Case

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Please enjoy this essay I penned and if you agree with it, please pass it on, share it with your networks, re-post it (with credit please) tell your parents and their friends. I’m seriously trying to start a revolution here and I need your help. Thank you!

Black People Deserve a Capital “B”

This is the face of a revolutionary.

This is the face of a revolutionary.

I am a writer. My husband is a linguist. Words matter to us. I am Black, not African-American. My husband is Spanish, not to be confused with Hispanic or Latino. Labels matter to us as well, especially the labels we give ourselves. Our children, ages 12, nine and two, have yet to find a label for their own unique blend of Spanish and Black that feels authentic and appropriate, but I believe it is important for them to claim a label that gives them both comfort and a connection to a history and a culture. I would be perfectly happy if they identify as Black or Spanish or Mixed. They can call themselves “Blannish” if it works for them, but I resent the fact that my children, myself and any other American who might identify as Black, has to be satisfied with a label that is too often written in the lower case.

This could be viewed as a simple style issue, one that only us writers would take seriously, but I’m not looking to start a revolution over grammar. This is about identity and respect. With a mere slash of a copyeditor’s pen, my culture is reduced to a color. It seems silly to have to spell it out, that black with a lower case “b” is a color, whereas Black with a capital “B” refers to a group of people whose ancestors were born in Africa, were brought to the United States against their will, spilled their blood, sweat and tears to build this nation into a world power and along the way managed to create glorious works of art, passionate music, scientific discoveries, a marvelous cuisine, and untold literary masterpieces. When a copyeditor deletes the capital “B,” they are in effect deleting the history and contributions of my people.

As a wordsmith myself, I cannot understand how any editor, who understands the significance of an errant comma or a “there” instead of a “their,” can sanction the use of a lower case “b” to signify a culture of people. Latinos get a capital “L,” Asians get their “A,” Native Americans get both the “N” and the “A” in capital letters, but Black people don’t deserve the same? Even visually, seeing that lower case “b” in a sentence where blacks stand beside Latinos and Asians, reeks of second-class citizenry and disrespect on the page. How can one avoid feeling inferior when even the nomenclature associated with our group label doesn’t merit the upper case?

Some like to argue that if we capitalize the “b” in Black than we have to do the same for the “w” in White, when referring to White Americans. I have no problem with that. White Americans deserve their capital letter too, but I’m not here to fight their battles, mainly because most White Americans haven’t spent the last 400 years trying to disassociate their cultural heritage from models of inferiority and endemic pathologies.

Another problem we’re dealing with is that there isn’t a consensus around this issue. Some publications, mostly academic ones, capitalize Black when speaking of Black people. But most news organizations, including The New York Times as well as any publication that relies on the ubiquitous AP Stylebook, use the lower case for any “racial designations derived from color.” Yes, some lifestyle magazines capitalize the “b” – see Essence and Ebony – but most of those publications cater to the Black community. The fact is, even the dictionary is divided on this issue, proclaiming that when referring to Black people, either upper or lower case is acceptable.

So, if capital “B” is acceptable, what’s keeping news organizations like The New York Times and The Associated Press from taking a stand for equality on the page? If both are correct, then why not offer a capital “B” as a token of respect if nothing else? Is it inertia or racism? Not for nothing, the editors of the AP Stylebook just recently updated not one but five !!!! of their rules, so we know that change is possible despite what many editors say.

Ironically, W.E.B. Du Bois fought this very same fight almost 100 years ago. Only back then, he and other activists were demanding to have the “n” in Negro capitalized. Du Bois targeted local and national newspapers and like me, viewed the lower case letter as a form of disrespect and overt racism. And he wasn’t wrong. Reportedly, one editor of a Georgia newspaper said he’d never capitalize the “n” because it might, “lead to social equality.” Finally, on March 7, 1930, The New York Times agreed to change their policy and wrote in a stirring editorial, “In our ‘style book’ ‘Negro’ is now added to the list of words to be capitalized. It is not merely a typographical change; it is an act of recognition of racial self-respect for those who have been for generations in ‘the lower case.”

If The New York Times editorial staff had the courage and the insight to make that change in 1930, I wonder why they and other mainstream publishers can’t do the same today? Clearly I am not the first person to bring this issue up and I know I’m not the only one who cares. But I will take my cue from Du Bois and wage a campaign that will not cease until everyone from the copyeditor at the Times to the spellcheck robot on Microsoft Word agrees upon this issue. Because we must be a people who refuse to remain “in the lower case.”

# # #

Black History Month Needs a Name Change

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

It’s officially Black History Month. Back in 2010, I wrote the following post about how I think Black History Month should be celebrated. While I received a fair amount of comments and the piece was picked up by Forbes.com, my suggestions for honoring my people didn’t take off like gangbusters. And I think I know why. It’s the name. Black History Month sounds as exciting as a tax seminar. *yawn* I get it. So, let’s give Black History Month a facelift. From now on, let’s call February, Black Achievement month. No, that sounds like we’re cheering for the underdogs. How about, Black Pride month? No, that might come across as too militant to some folks who still haven’t gotten over the Black Power Movement. Okay, I got it. Let’s just call February, Black Cool Month. And all month long we will take pride in just how cool Black people are, have always been and always will be. Who’s with me?

And just because I feel it is okay to plagiarise myself, here are my original five tips to help you enjoy Black History Black Cool Month. (updated and edited from 2010)

James McBride's Latest Book won a National Book Award. You could read it for Black Cool Month!

James McBride’s Latest Book won a National Book Award. You could read it for Black Cool Month!

1. Read a book by a Black author! And I don’t mean a dry, historical tome with big words that won’t fit in your purse. I mean a really good, juicy novel or heart wrenching memoir by a Black author that seems interesting to you. It could be a romance, a comedy, or even a thriller. It just cannot be written by Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. Are you stuck because you don’t know any Black authors? That’s no problem, just go to goodreads and search Black authors.You will definitely find something you like. And if you’re too lazy to even do that, go read anything by James McBride.

2. Go out to eat at restaurant that is owned by a Black person, or has a Black executive chef. Now, before you wrinkle your nose in distaste because you don’t like collard greens, fried chicken or chitterlings, let me tell you, Black chefs don’t just make soul food anymore. They have expanded their repertoire. If you live in New York City, you could dine on lingonberries and Swedish meatballs at Red Rooster, owned by Ethiopian chef extraordinaire, Marcus Samuelsson. He’s black. Or if you live in my new home town of Philly, you could stop in for a healthy bite at Green Soul cafe, also owned by Black people. So as you’re munching on Swedish meatballs or sipping a green smoothie you can say to yourself, ‘Man, Black people really can throw down in the kitchen. I had no idea Black History Cool month could be so tasty!’

3. Go to a movie with at least one significant Black leading character. If you live someplace where this isn’t possible because the cineplex only offers movies with White people, you can still go to the video rental store, or search on Netflix for a good movie with Black characters in it. But just to stretch people, you may not watch The Color Purple or Roots. We have moved on as a people. Want some suggestions? Okay. In no particular order; Anything by Spike Lee, but try The Miracle at St. Anna for something a little different from Spike. The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. Ali, starring Will Smith, Akeelah and the Bee for those of you with kids, and Eve’s Bayou, directed by the very talented Kasi Lemmons. These are some of my personal favs. For more suggestions, check out, Shadow and Act.com.

4. Just for kicks, try to imagine how Black people feel about current events. Try to get into our skin and see how things may be different. Not into role playing? Well then, for the month of February, just bookmark The Root.com and read the news as it is reported by Black reporters. If you want an alternative to The Root, visit, NBC’s The Grio.com. They have lots of video on their site for those of you who don’t like to read all that much.

5. And finally, this is the big challenge but you have a whole month to try to accomplish it. Try to find a Black friend. Really, make the effort to make friends with someone who is Black and see how your life changes. (spoiler alert: Having a Black friend probably won’t change your life at all.). If you live in a part of the world where there just aren’t very many Black people, well you can try to find a Black friend on Facebook. Heck, I’ll be your friend. Just go out there and do the work to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Why? Because ultimately Black History Cool month is not about going back into the past, it’s about celebrating the here and now. By celebrating the authors, chefs, musicians, politicians, teachers, moms and dads of color of today, we are acknowledging the ones that came before.

I say Black History Cool Month should be lived in the present day. It should be about celebrating the diversity and beauty of Black culture. As a Black person, I would really love it if people acknowledged our artists, authors, cuisine, intellectuals, and politicians of today, instead of only reaching into the past to find the Black greats. Not that they don’t deserve mention, but their profound legacy needs to be incorporated with the rest of American history in the text books and history lessons, not segregated into one short month. Instead, leave the month of February for celebrating how cool we are today.

Happy Black Cool Month! What are you going to do celebrate?

Peace!

p.s. (Here’s a little bonus: You can continue to celebrate these 5 tips March – January!)

Flashback Friday: Black People Deserve a Capital “B”

This book has nothing to do with this post, but you see Black is capitalized.

This book has nothing to do with this post, but you see Black is capitalized.

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I don’t know if I’m still feeling extra Black because we just celebrated Black Friday or because with all the media hoopla about how many Black themed movies are currently being shown at a theater near you, I’ve caught the bug. Or maybe I’m feeling revolutionary in honor of the great Nelson Mandela, may he truly rest in peace. Regardless, I felt it appropriate to revisit my post on capitalizing the letter “B” when referring to Black people. It really irks me to see Black written in lower case, as if it were only a color when referring to an entire culture of people. Here’s what I wrote and posted on the original My American Meltingpot in 2007. It is re-posted here in its entirety and I still feel the same way. Onward!

I am a writer, so words mean a lot to me. I use my words to tell stories, to make people think and to express my ideas. We all know, despite the childhood refrain, that words have the power to wound and likewise they can heal (think Hallmark). And for that very reason, I have a problem with the way a certain letter is treated.

It’s the letter B. Why is the letter B lower cased when describing Black people? I know black is a color but when I’m talking about my people, Black is not referring to the color of our skin (duh, Black people range in actual color from the lightest light to almost midnight black) it is the name of our culture. Black culture. A unique culture that is an amalgam of African, European, and Native American influences.

And whether you agree or not on what constitutes a Black American, the fact of the matter is that a lot of us colored folk identify as Black Americans, so that classification should be given all of the respect given other ethnic/cultural identifiers.

Let me make my point: If you see a sentence that says: “The school has an equal number of Asian, Hispanic and black students.” How can you not feel like black is less than when it doesn’t even merit a capital letter?

And I’m going to say further, how as a people, are we supposed to feel a pride in our culture when we can’t even get a capital letter recognized as grammatically correct? In all of my writing, I always capitalize the letter b in Black. Many times it is struck down by a racist copy chief (just kidding, they’re not intentionally racist, just probably afraid to buck the system)but I’ll go to the mat to fight the change. In my books, where I have a little bit more control I beg for the change. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But as a writer, a woman who uses words as her weapons for change, I never give up the fight.

And neither should you.

In the words of Bill Cosby, “Come on people!” If we all start capitalizing the “b” in Black when referring to Black people, then eventually the change will come. I mean, if Bling can make it into Webster’s Dictionary, then we can capitalize the B.

Are you with me? Start with the man in the mirror and make that change (thank you Michael Jackson). You start the campaign, tell your friends. Tell your co-workers. Kids, tell your teachers. Black people deserve a capital B. We can start this revolution right now. And you don’t have to be Black to believe in the the capital B. This is an issue that effects everyone who will ever put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard and write. This means you.”

Peace!
P.S. I also capitalize White people as well as Mixed people. I am an equal opportunity capital queen.