Black women key to American progress

March 2nd

By Merdies Hayes

Editor In Chief

Throughout the nation’s history, African American women have played historic—and often pivotal—roles in shaping the foundation of the nation. Many of these women served as key figures in the struggle for civil rights, while others made major contributions to the arts, sciences and civil society in general.

Phillis Wheatley

With Africans arriving in the New World in 1619 to serve as slaves, it wasn’t until 1780 that Massachusetts formally outlawed slavery, the first colony to do so. During this period, there were a few African Americans living as free persons and their civil rights were sharply limited in most states. Phillis Wheatley was one of the few Black women of the Colonial period to rise to prominence. Born in Africa, she was sold at age 8 to John Wheatley, a wealthy Bostonian, who gave Phillis to his first wife, Sussana, as a handmaid. The Wheatley’s were quickly impressed by the Phillis’s sharp intellect and taught her to read and write, specifically schooling her in literature. Her first poem was published in 1767 and she would go on to publish a highly acclaimed volume of poetry, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” (1773) before dying in 1784—impoverished—but no longer a slave.

The Atlantic Slave Trade had reportedly had ceased by 1783 (the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the future states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois), but slavery remained legal in the South. Two Black women played historic roles in the fight against slavery. Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist from New York, became active in evangelical communities and by the mid 1840s, she was speaking regularly on abolition and women’s rights in New York and New England. History would remember her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman,” at the Ohio’s Women’s Rights Conference in 1851.

Harriet Tubman escaped slavery then risked her life repeatedly to guide other slaves to freedom. Born in Maryland, Tubman fled north in 1849 to avoid being sold “down the river” and she would make nearly 20 trips back to the South to shepherd some 300 runaway slaves to freedom. Tubman made frequent public appearances in speaking out against slavery, and during the Civil War she served as a spy for Union forces and nursed wounded soldiers. Tubman died in 1913.

Ida B. Wells

After the Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments granted African Americans rights they had been denied for 245 years. This progress, however, was hobbled by overt racism and discrimination, particularly in the South. Despite these barriers, a number of prominent Black women would lend their collective voices to the cause of freedom.


Black Panther Mania

March 16th

by Cory alexander haywood

ow contributor

Like hungry mice flocking to a cube of cheese, African American moviegoers across the nation will converge for a forth consecutive weekend to watch “Black Panther” – Marvel’s cultural juggernaut of a film.

This didactic superhero tale has triggered a continuous wave of verve and pride among the urban community, which underscores the power of a well-worked storyline (and an effective marketing strategy).

As the largest consumers of goods and services in the country, Blacks are ideal targets for any company equipped with a robust advertising budget.

With that in mind, Marvel’s release of a film based in Africa during Black History Month was neither a coincidence or a sincere gesture. Frankly, they wanted a share of the $1.2 trillion that African Americans spend every year on fashion, technology, and entertainment. 

Black buying power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to a report from the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.This trend will continue as the country becomes more diverse, driven in part by growth in immigration from the Caribbean and Africa. As a result, it’s a key time for companies to “build and sustain deeper, more meaningful connections” with Black consumers, according to a recent Nielsen Report.

In other words, for the next several years, White CEOs will do whatever they can to make Black people feel special – and at the same time secure a hefty profit. Therefore, Marvel worked tirelessly in 2016 to convince minorities that Black Panther would be “culturally significant”. Many believe it was more of a ploy to ensure maximal gain at the box office.

In North America, it debuted to $242 million, coming in second only to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” To date, the film has taken in more than $1 billion worldwide. 

A breakdown of Black Panther’s viewership reveals that 37 percent of ticket buyers were African-American, Whites made up 35 percent, and Hispanics were 18 percent of the ticket-buying population over the film’s opening weekend.

These numbers are a far cry from the 15 percent of an audience that African-American viewers typically occupy for superhero films. Similarly, women were 45 percent of ticket buyers, up 10 percent for a normal movie opening. In other words, Marvel’s lining their pockets with tons of black dollars.

By the end of its second night, Black Panther had already become the highest-grossing title in history at 33 AMC theaters across the country, according to the Hollywood Reporter.


The Black church continues as source of comfort

March 29th

By Merdies Hayes

Editor In Chief

Americans are observing a bittersweet Holy Week as we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During his brief but fruitful sojourn to bring about social justice—and to encourage racial harmony—it may be easy to overlook that King was part of the young generation of his era in attracting those of persons of faith who remained courageous no matter what difficulties lay ahead during the Civil Rights Movement.

Jesus, obviously, was at the forefront of this movement, but the considerable strides toward Black progress could not have occurred without young people. Devotion to Jesus has always been a large part of the African American experience. And while the church has been and continues to be a dynamic and vital force of encouragement in the Black community, many young people may question the propriety of following Jesus. Is Christ still relevant today?

Slavery and accepting Jesus

Some may suggest that Jesus was a foreign deity forced upon African slaves. Others may imply that Jesus was nothing more than a psychological ploy to deaden the pain of an oppressed existence. Still more opinions may contend that our forefathers’ worship of Jesus was nothing more than a mask for the expression of more ancient religious practices or, at the very least, a “cover” for the practice of more traditional African religions. Because slaves didn’t read a great deal about Black persons in the Bible, it may be convenient to discount the power that scripture has had on African Americans for the past 400 years.

Black people have appeared on the stage of biblical history many times. One notable biblical character was Zipporah, Moses’ Midianite wife, in the Book of Exodus. With this marriage in place, the story reveals that Zipporah’s father, Jethrow, was also Black. The New Testament features several characters whom scholars believe were likely Black due to the location of their cities.