November 13 - November 26, 2014

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Shopping While Black

cameron whye“Watch him,” the Asian store manager broadcasted in our earpieces.  She was referring to a young Black male who had just walked into our clothing store.  As the brother was browsing through the aisles, I, a floor supervisor, detected a casual genuine energy emanating from him, not a spirit of deception.  Immediately I knew that my brother was harmless.

Just then, I watched a White girl walk into a dressing room with one of those large purses and an armful of dresses and blouses.  A spirit of deception loomed all around her.  I felt that energy you feel when someone is trying to get over on you.  After spending a few minutes in the dressing room, she emerged to buy one of the dresses she took into the room. 

After she left the fitting area, I went into the dressing room to find price tags and metallic sensors lying on the floor.  I thought, yes, the White girl used her White privileges.  She took a pair of scissors from her purse and cut the price tags off of the merchandise and removed the metallic sensors. When I saw this, I took off to call for security.

I can’t tell you how many times honest Black folks go into the dressing rooms of retail stores and are asked to be checked before they enter.  White folks have the privilege to feel they never have ask to be checked before they enter a dressing room.

 “Get her!” I demanded.  She had just bought a dress to look legit and was about to walk out of the store with stolen goods stuffed in her purse.  Our security guard grabbed her. She screamed and fought to no avail.  Within minutes, the police had her in handcuffs.  Sure enough, when her purse was searched, there were the other blouses in which she had cut loose the tags. I was enraged because few, if any, of the other salespeople would have suspected that a White girl would rob us blind.  Yet, I am supposed to watch the Black dude.  But, this happens more than you would think.  A few days later, a similar incident happened.  This time, it was an Asian girl robbing us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some Black people will steal at the first opportunity of feeling like they won’t get caught.  But, the reality is that far more Whites commit theft than Blacks.  The U.S. Department of Justice put out a report that tracked crime in the United States in 2011.  The report found that 670,768 Whites committed crimes of theft as opposed to 281,197 Blacks who committed theft.  The report further explained that Whites committed 69% of the total number of theft crimes as opposed to the 29% of the total committed by Blacks.

It hurts me when the stereotype, that Black people do most of the stealing, demeans and devalues Black people who don’t have a thieving bone in their bodiesI can’t tell you how many times honest Black folks go into the dressing rooms of retail stores and are asked to be checked before they enter.  White folks have the privilege to feel they never have ask to be checked before they enter a dressing room. 

But, I tell my brothers and sisters who mean well, go ahead, take as many clothes into the dressing room as you would like.  I don’t need to check you and you don’t need to ask to be checked.

I am also disturbed by how retail store managers can set a discriminatory tone that promotes the racial profiling of all young Black men as potential thieves and Black women as potential shoplifters.  These caricatures rob Black people of dignity and perpetuate the substandard treatment of Black customers. 

Just a few days ago, a well-dressed Black woman rushed into our store for a quick second to pay on her credit.  Being that her car was doubled-parked (for all the parking spaces were taken) and for fear of getting a ticket, she pleaded with the store manager to allow her to pay her bill, which would only take a minute.  The manager did not have any customers at her register.  Yet, I could hear the manager say in our ear-set, “no one better not help her, instead let her wait.” 

In desperation, this sister gravitated over to me, the only Black sales person on the store floor, and asked for my help.  I escorted her over to a vacant register and took care of her need.  No sooner than this happened, a White woman came into the store in a similar urgency.  Do you know that our manager almost broke her neck trying to accommodate the White woman.  When both of these women had left the store, my manager had a nerve to chastise me saying, “Didn’t I tell you to let that woman wait.”  I came back at her with, “Didn’t you teach us that the customer comes first.  I was simply doing what you taught us.  You didn’t tell us who to help and who not to help.”

As the holiday season approaches, what can we do about the racial profiling and outright discrimination that occurs in retail?  Each of us needs to challenge incidents when people are treated unequally.  This will involve reporting these incidents to higher management and to the company’s Human Resource Department, taking legal action, supporting Black owned businesses, and even refusing to shop at retailers who racially profile and discriminate amongst their customers. 

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Hidden Crisis:
Central African Republic

 catherine sanba-panza
Missing Cleveland Women.  Chicago’s Murder Rate. Ukraine. ISIL.  Missing Nigerian Girls. Ferguson. Uprising in Hong Kong.  Ebola. CAR.  No, not a car, but the Central African Republic, where militias have torn the country apart.

CAR’s Interim President Catherine Sanba-Panza was at the Brookings Institute in Washington recently trying to break out of the pack and garner attention to her country’s problems.  On Friday, November 21, the National Geographic Center in Washington will host writer Peter Gwin and photographer Marcus Bleasdale.  The duo will bring more light on the crisis during a talk about their experiences in the Central African Republic with Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Jon Sawyer.

To help stabilize the country, says Bleasdale, the US “is part of a decision process to send 3,000 UN troops to the country.”  Even with 2,000 UN peacekeepers, more than 5,000 Central Africans reportedly have been killed in less than a year, and most of the country’s Muslims have been forced to flee their homes.   One story graphically displayed a Christian eating a Muslim in an act of revenge.

Bleasdale has been using his camera to document events in CAR for more than 10 years.  “I had documented the Lord's Resistance Army in CAR and the US government’s efforts to arrest Joseph Kony, which is what led to over 100 US advisors being sent to CAR,” he said.

At the Brookings Institute, President Samba-Panza said her focus is on bringing peace and stability to her country before the 2015 elections. To keep her promise and make another contribution to the country’s progress, she says she will not run for President.  She is the third female to head an African country; the first in “Francophone” Africa.

Like Samba-Panza, Bleasdale is lending his efforts to bring peace to the region with the talk at the National Geographic Center.  “I hope that the increased education on awareness on the issue in CAR will lead to better understanding of the urgency in the country and the ongoing conflict,” he says. 

Bleasdale at the National Geographic Center

Friday, November 21, 7:30p, $24, National Geographic Live, 1600 M Street, NW. Free underground parking is available for those with a ticket or confirmation form starting at 6:30p.  When turning at the corner of 16th and M onto M Street, the entrance to the underground parking is immediately on the left.

The Center is within walking distance to the Farragut North (Red) and Farragut West and McPherson Square (Blue and Orange) subway lines.

To Know More

Columbia Journalism Review:  Western media: Stop Ignoring the Central African Republic Crisis

Better Books About Africa Awarded

 children's african book awards winner 2014

A passion for distinctive African children’s literature motivated more than 50 people to attend Africa Access’ fundraising dinner last Wednesday at Busboys and Poets and more than 200 people at its festival on Saturday at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Getting “better books about Africa” in the hands of American children is the focus of Africa Access says director Brenda Randolph.

The 25-year-old organization highlighted four books this year including Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home by Mubina Kirmanil.  At the festival, the Kenya native whose family moved from India to Kenya in the 1890s spoke of Africa as being “rich with diversity.”  The group also awarded Desmond Tutu’s Desmond and the Very Mean Word:  A Story of Forgiveness, which Douglas Abrams co-wrote.  A.G. Ford, the book’s illustrator, said he is most impressed with the reaction he gets from kids when he reads the book to them. “They understand why (young) Desmond chose to forgive even if the other kid was or was not willing to do the same,” he explained.

English author Anna Cottrell and Ghanaian translator Togbi Kumassah of Once Upon a Time in Ghana: Traditional Ewe Stories Retold in English were also present during the annual event.  Kumassah had flown in from Ghana and soon found himself working with children at Caesar Chavez Preparatory School in a program organized by Open Book, which takes writers and illustrators into economically-challenged schools.  Africa Access also works with two other reading access groups, Turn the Page and Teaching for Change.

The fourth book Africa Access honored was Monica Edinger’s historical fiction Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad. Edinger says she was inspired to research and write about the young girl on the Amistad slave ship after seeing the movie about the ship with no children being mentioned as captives, but later learning its cargo included nine-year-old Magulu.  “One of the exhibits at the launching of the Amistad replica at the Mystic Seaport Museum mentioned the children and I started to ask questions,” she says.

The awards ceremony is part of Africa Access’ promotion of the availability of books about Africa the organization has reviewed and deemed as being  “more accurate, more balanced,” said Randolph.

The group reviews and lists recently published books and it has a database of older releases on its web site.  “We are not a bookstore. We don’t sell anything,” clarified Randolph.

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ObamaCare Marketplace Re-Opens

 afforable care act
Consumers can visit to review detailed information about each health insurance plan offered  (1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855- 889-4325) in their area before applying ahead of open enrollment, which starts Saturday, November 15.

By answering a few questions, such as location and family size, consumers will also be able to compare plans and get an estimate on how much financial assistance they may qualify for when shopping for coverage, without needing to submit an application.  Open Enrollment runs through Feb. 15, 2015.

Holiday Recipe:
Ginger Pepper Punch

 chilli peppers
Ginger Pepper Punch
6 cups of pineapple juice
6 cups water
¼ pound fresh ginger, cut into one inch chunks
½ c lemon juice (about two juiced lemons)

In a blender, blend the ginger with two cups water and strain the water into a large bowl, reserving the ginger pulp.  In the small pot, simmer the ginger pulp for 10-15 minutes with the other two cups of water. Strain this tea into the large bowl and discard the pulp. 

Mix the pineapple juice and lemon juice.

From previous Snippets: Curry Dip

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Ta-Nehisi Coates on Campus on Reparations

 ta-nehisi coats

It was clear during the question and answer period that Ta-Nehisi Coates, who recently penned Case for Reparations in Atlantic magazine, had educated a new generation on reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans.  During his lecture at American University in Washington, Coates further clarified to the multi-racial audience that the issue has lingered for generations and  is  something that  probably will not take place in his lifetime.

With humor, a few swear words, and much engaging, passionate animations, Coates helped the audience imagine the value of enslaved Africans.  Slavery was not a “bump in the road” in American history he said.  “Slavery is the actual road,” he continued as he talked about the wealthiest of Americans then living in Mississippi where cotton was king.

For those who claim that they are not responsible for slavery because their ancestors did not own any, he retorted, but “your ancestors inspired to own slaves.”  Owning slaves was a part of the social fabric of America he said. “Similar to owning a home today,” he continued.  Just as all Americans celebrate July 4 as American Independence Day, regardless of whether or not they had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, all Americans, he said, are responsible for the debt owed to African-Americans.

The 15,000 word interactive Atlantic magazine article is online and details not only the wrongs during slavery, but provides detailed examples of subsequent government discrimination.

U.S. Election 2014, 2016,
and Race

 election 2014

The Republicans captured the Senate are likely to be giddy going into 2016 says However, two Republican pollsters, Glen Bolger and Neil Newhouse, have written a piece saying that such giddiness will be short lived.

Basically, if the Democrats can replicate their 2012 turnout in 2016, and with a woman on top of the ticket they could probably exceed it, the Republicans would need to win 64% of the White vote to capture the White House.  To put this in perspective, Mitt Romney got 59% and John McCain got 55%. In 2004 George W. Bush got 58%. Getting 64% is not in the cards, especially since a substantial number of White Republican women would vote for Hillary Clinton, just to smash the last glass ceiling.

The pollsters also talk about the big blue wall. The 18 states plus D.C. that have gone Democratic in the last six presidential elections have 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win, and they are getting bluer every cycle. Thus the Republican strategy has to be "win all the swing states." With Virginia (and its 13 electoral votes) becoming more of a blue state that a purple state, that will be a tall order.

It is not hopeless for the Republicans, but another candidate like McCain or Romney won't do the job. A new and exciting ticket like Rand Paul plus Susana Martinez might go a long way, but even that is not a sure thing against Hillary Clinton plus a Latino sidekick.

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 cr gibbs

CR Gibbs

Bad Jews
Studio Theater
1501 14th Street NW
through Sun, Dec 21, $

Caribbean American Heritage Awards
Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert Street
Fri, Nov 14, 6:30p, $150-$1,000

Panel Discussion on Burkina Faso
the panel will include Paul Sankara, brother of
the fomer president and pan-African icon Thomas Sankara

Festival Center
1640 Columbia Road NW
Sat, Nov 15, 3:30p, free

Celebrating 150 years of Freedom
Panelists include C.R. Gibbs
Prince George’s Community College
Largo Student Center
Community Room
301 Largo Road
Largo, Maryland
Sat, Nov 15, 1p-4p, free

Women Empowerment Gift
and Food Market Place
Silver Spring Civic Center
Silver Spring, MD
Nov 16, 10:30a-5p, free

Evening Tea with the Bannekers
Benjamin Banneker Historical Park
and Museum
300 Oella Avenue
Rituals and Lively Discourse
Thu, Nov 13, 6:30p-8p

The Gary Literacy Coalition
Dinner Theater 2014
Genesis Convention Center
Thu, Nov 20, 6p, $

West Africa Live!
A Festival of Music, Food & Dance
Town Hall Seattle
Fri, Nov. 21, 6p-10p, $10-$40

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Obama Tells Republicans It Doesn’t Matter If You Win The Senate Obamacare, Is Here To Stay - Obama at rally in USA. Photo: Obama in China.


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