Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving: Some things you may not know

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. My holiday was special this year because I unearthed some information I didn’t know about the Thanksgiving. My findings made my holiday very satisfying.

Last week I was thinking to myself how Thanksgiving was rapidly approaching. I knew it’s celebrated every fourth Thursday and saw it was November 27th. So I wondered why is Thanksgiving celebrated every fourth Thursday of November.

After some researching not only did I find the answer to my question I found much more. First off, a man born in 1715 named John Hanson declared every fourth Thursday Thanksgiving shall be celebrated.

There’s more.

Hanson was the first President of the United States, not George Washington. Also, if Hanson were alive today he’d be considered an African American thereby making him the first African American President of the United States.

Some may wonder, ‘How can this be true if Africans were entrenched in American slavery during the 1700’s?’ Well, in an Act proposed in 1705 made Turks and Moors exempt from American slavery. Hanson was a Moor so he evaded the chains of slavery because of ancestry.

Yes, Hanson, was first President of the United States and the first African American President. But it was under the Articles of Confederation and not the Constitution.

Hanson was the leader during a vital part of the American Revolution.
On March 1, 1781 The Articles of Confederation were signed into law. After the signing took place Congress needed a President in place-someone to be charge. Through a unanimous vote the members of Congress, which included George Washington, elected Hanson to lead the country.

The role of President was loosely defined under the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles the President only served one-year terms not four which is currently in place under the Constitution.

Hanson officially took office right after the Revolutionary War where he faced an array of problems. His biggest problem was soldiers who fought in the war wanted to be paid. If they weren’t compensated they threatened to overthrown the government and put George Washington in charge as a monarch.

Fearing the revolt of the soldiers most members of Congress abandoned Hanson so he was left to fend for himself. He managed to restore order and get money to the troops.

During his year in office Hanson instituted many of the government departments which are still in use today.

*Hanson established the Great Seal of the United States, which all Presidents are required to use on all official documents while in office.

*Hanson also established the first Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department.

*Lastly, he declared the fourth Thursday of every November was to be Thanksgiving Day, which is still true today.

After Hanson’s term was finished there were six other Presidents who followed- Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), Nathan Gorman (1786), Arthur St. Clair (1787), and Cyrus Griffin (1788).

In 1789 the United States Constitution was proposed and adopted by all states in 1791. George Washington was elected the first President under the much stronger Constitution. Therefore, John Hanson was the first African American President under the Articles of Confederation and Barack Obama is the first African American President under the United States Constitution.

It’s a shame Hanson and the others have been omitted from history. For centuries we’ve been scientifically hypnotized to embrace Eurocentric mythology. Many of us have been conditioned embrace the man’s script. For instance, why do we still celebrate Christopher Columbus discovering America when we all now know he discovered nothing?

Once a piece of Eurocentric mythology is challenged it often solicits ridicule and resentment. In clutching to myth often the messenger is ridiculed and labeled as divisive or radical. This stratagem is utilized to eliminate the sting from the message being conveyed by the messenger.

Myths told over centuries have cemented themselves into American lore. Repetition of erroneous facts doesn't imply fact in my book. I don’t know about you, but considering how a large degree of American history has been distorted I give this information a high degree of credence.

Again, I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama should use his presence to diffuse racism

President Elect Barack Obama has been busy from his offices in Chicago assembling his cabinet, meeting with former foes (Hillary Clinton and John McCain), and mapping out his strategy to get America back on track before he takes office January 20, 2009. Obama asserts his preeminent concern is to get the economy back in good standing-that’s a tall order but considering how he orchestrated his campaign perhaps he will deliver the change he’s often professed.

One of the things I marveled at during Obama’s historical run is how he diffused racism enough to win the election. I believe the reasons why this event is historic should serve as the catalysts to engage in dialogue to finally get that elephant out of the room. The elephant I’m referring to is racism.

Obama’s ascendance demonstrates he has the capacity and the means to make a difference along racial grounds. How big a priority is this to Obama? That remains to be seen.

Given the historical development of this country few thought Obama would ascended so quickly. Obama was able to neutralize race and not allow it to derail his campaign. He even managed to paint Indiana blue for the first time since 1964 along the way.

During the South Carolina primary Bill Clinton tried to invoke race by suggesting Obama was living a “fairytale.” Despite Clinton’s comments Obama marched on.

When mainstream media utilized snippets of his former pastor and friend Reverend Jeremiah Wright to thwart his campaign Obama was forced to denounce his friend and his teachings. Yet Obama still marched on.

When F.O.X.’s Bill O’Reilly suggested getting a “lynch mob” out for Michelle Obama for suggesting, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback,” the President Elect didn’t utter a word. He just marched on.

Without question if Obama would have consistently engaged in race-based topics he wouldn’t have won the election. By deflecting the attention away from race and focusing on winning ‘the race’ Obama cleverly drew more attention to his campaign theme of “change.”

Ignoring the elephant in the room was fine to win the election but will that strategy heal the historical wounds of racism?

When certain African Americans engage with the white rich and powerful they sometimes become entrenched in that world. Over time having such relationships causes one to further distance themselves from the struggles that exist in the lower rungs of society.

On an individual level Obama’s journey will induce people to dream and aspire to greater heights. But I don’t believe Obama securing a job will diffuse racism on a universal basis unless he’s committed.

What we witnessed November 4th is what life should have been if such savage inequality didn't exist in the past. Obama’s glory for the first time gave some credence that "all men are created equal." Temporarily people in America witnessed what harmony is all about.

Typically when African American pioneers enter into a domain historically dominated by whites a huge influx of participation is expected but doesn’t happen instantaneously.

I’ll use sports to illustrate my point.

When Jackie Robinson broke the barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 African American participation for decades was fleeting. The highest percentage was in 1983 when it was 23 percent-now African American participation is 8.2 percent and rapidly dropping.

When a 21 year old Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997 many expected an influx of young African American talent but it hasn’t happened yet. Without question Woods is the greatest golfer of all-time and he’s the only notable African American on P.G.A. tour.

Arthur Ashe broke racial barriers in tennis when he won the U.S. Open in 1968 yet forty years later few African Americans reside at the top of the game. James Blake is a top ten player and Donald Young is on the horizon but that’s where it stops.

Venus and Serena Williams are dominating women’s tennis yet few African American women are on the radar otherwise.

Bottom line, at some point we must address the elephant in the room. Race will continue to be a factor in this country unless the subject is critically addressed.

Obama did a good job of neutralizing race to win the election but I don’t think it’s the way to go for long-term societal growth. Before we are to properly live in the present we must recognize Americas checkered past in a constructive fashion.

I know all lasting change takes time. But I believe there’s no time like the present. Change is what Obama professed. I just hope he delivers it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reparations: The time has come to right a wrong

The government has once again come to the aid of big business. A.I.G. just received an additional 55 million dollars from the 700 billion rescue plan. This brings the total outlay to the insurance giant to 150 billion.

I don’t know about you but this rubs me the wrong way on two fronts. One, the American people are being screwed. Two, it reminds me of a wrong that’s yet to remedied.

Historically government and big business has gone hand in hand commencing with the rise of American slavery. Slavery is a topic most shun but I think it’s a perfect opportunity to provide insight into the past so we can better understand what’s happening today with the economy from an African American standpoint.

First, we must acknowledge slavery did happen. This country still suffers from the effects of slavery but, like racism, no constructive collective dialogue has taken place to put the scars of slavery in its proper historical context.

The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 as indentured servants but by the 1640’s the institution intensified to full-blown bondage. Slaves weren’t considered human beings with rights-they were considered sub-human and were treated as such.

The preeminent factor regarding slavery wasn’t race as, but economics. Oppressors saw an opportunity to take advantage of forcing servitude on African slaves. The latter allowed the institution to thrive economically at expense of innocent people.

Slaves weren’t paid a dime for centuries of service. Mind you, there were no 401K's, mutual funds, or IRA's. Slaves worked from sun up to sun down to fill the pockets of their self-anointed masters.

Can you imagine working for an entire year and have your earnings revert back to your employer instead of your pocket? The latter would ensure your family would suffer. Now, imagine the latter setup being in place for four centuries.

This country’s economic base was built on free African labor that was sanctioned by the government. When the economics of slavery was threatened the government instituted legislation to ensure slavery would pervade. The same thing is happening right before our eyes but many just don’t see it.

The monies amassed by plantation owners were kept in the family and handed down to future generations with government support. I think African Americans have a human, moral and legal right to collect monies owed to our forefathers who were forced to work for free.

How do African Americans get paid?

I think suing the government would be practical. Taking the United States government to the world court of the United Nations is the way to go. Taking the case to the Supreme Court would be merely taking your case to the government’s predecessors.

In short, you don’t take your case to the criminal-you take your criminal to court.

How would the funds be allocated?

President Bush provided some Americans a few crumbs via stimulus checks. In essence, the money and the means to distribute the funds are already in place. We just have to arrive at a number that’s fair and have the government begin paying what’s owed.

The notion of reparations may seem outlandish but it makes sense to me. Slavery was the most notorious crime ever committed. Murder, rape, kidnapping, assault, battery, are among the many laws broken yet no one has served a day in jail or paid a fine for their collective wrong-doings.
In March of 1953 the West Germans signed a treaty with Isreal that acknowleged the persecution and enslavement of Jews during the Holocaust. Jews were compensates for the latter and for the property stolen from them by the Nazis.
Under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 President Ronald Reagan apologized to Japanese Americans internment during World War II. He also provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor to compensate for loss of property and liberty during the war.
Native American tribes over time have received compensation for lands ceded to the United States by them in various treaties.
As you can see others have gotten paid reparations, why shouldn’t African Americans?

Today everyone in America except big business and government are being pimped with systematic precision-but African Americans have been pimped from the jump beginning with the rise of American slavery.

The precedent was set by the Founding Fathers allowed institutionalized slavery to thrive-obviously they can’t pay up but their predecessors can.

The time has come to begin to correct a wrong that certainly wasn’t right.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Official: Barack Obama is the President of the United States!

It’s a done deal. Barack Obama has officially broken the ultimate color barrier in politics. With Obama’s historic presidential victory the flood gates are now officially opened to the White House.

One of my favorite CD’s is Sam Cooke’s Greatest Hits. When Obama sealed the deal in becoming the first African American president of the United States it reminded me of my favorite song on Cooke’s CD titled, “A Change is Gonna Come.” The lyrics state: “It’s been a long, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”

Though Cooke’s song was made in 1964 his lyrics certainly ring true today.

African Americans historically have triumphed despite racism and a lack of societal inclusion. Obama’s journey surely hasn’t been absent of obstacle. Despite the Clinton’s antics, a biased media, and threats on his life Obama was the last man standing. Obama just kept his eye on the ball and took care of business.

I view Obama’s run at political glory as an extension of history because nothing in life stays the same. To me Obama is the Jackie Robinson of politics. There was a time whites didn’t want African Americans playing Major League baseball-Robinson’s presence in 1947 changed that. Robinson integrated Americas’ favorite sport which planted the initial seeds for society to one day follow suit. Now Obama holds the keys to the White House for other aspiring African Americans to one day reside.

It’s vital to understand history to properly appreciate what’s going on before our eyes. Though Obama is the first African American to be the man he’s had a lot help. I think Obama’s accomplishment isn’t about a man making history: it’s more about those who paved the way which allowed for history to be made.

Obama’s presidential run is like running a relay. Too often the person who crosses the finish line gets the glory. Obama just crossed the finish line and he should get the glory: but if you look at the historical development of this country Obama is simply running his leg of his leg of the race.

In the 1960’s Malcolm X wanted to liberate the minds of African Americans. He suggested African Americans should stake claims to ones civil and human rights. Malcolm X thought no one should take away something that’s supposed to be already yours. His leg of the race ended when he was slain in 1965.

Also, in the 1960’s Martin Luther King introduced America to his dream. He wanted a society filled with love and harmony. King ascended when African American churches were being bombed, citizens were sprayed with fire hoses, and stripped of their rights. King’s leg of the race was sadly derailed when he slain in 1968.

Democrat Shirley Chisholm ran her leg of the race when she became the first African American to run for president in 1972. She knew she wasn’t a serious threat to win but she had to run her leg of the race. She ran because, "in spite of hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo."

Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1984 and 1988. Like Chisholm he wasn’t expected to win but Jackson’s leg of the race further opened the door cracked open by Chisholm.

Obama also stands of the shoulders of many nameless warriors who sacrificed their lives throughout history. Obama stands on the shoulders of slaves who endured bitter cruelties to survive in America. He stands on the shoulders of activists, both African American and white, who gave up their lives fighting in every major American war. He also stands on the shoulders of those nameless African Americans who were attacked by whites while protesting and sprayed with fire hoses in the streets during the Civil Rights Movement.

Now Obama has ascended to finally walk through the door so many had a hand in opening. In the future someone else will raise the bar even higher and America will be better for it. We should enjoy what we are witnessing but also acknowledge the sacrifices others have made that’s’ allowing Obama to do his thing.

As Sam Cooke’s lyrics beautifully state, “It’s been a long time coming but I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”

Obama’s presence surely demonstrates a change has finally arrived.