Dear Lorraine | Book Review: To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry

Dear Lorraine,

As I reflect on To Be Young, Gifted and Black I’ve decided to write you a letter.  Your writing has inspired me to get back to the simpler things that our society and culture must have forgotten about.  I think that the human race concerns me too, as it should, concern most young Black Americans.  The things in which concerned you about the state of Black people may have only intensified for us with time.  The education system has failed a lot of us and we don’t even realize it.  Even the idea that writing a letter to someone, really writing in our own handwriting, is strange to most people now.  And while I still suspect that most African American writers are heavily involved in the liberation of Black minds, many Black artists today only contribute to the degradation of Black culture.  Be hopeful though, the culture is shifting.

I found so much of myself in your work!  I want “young, gifted, and black” to be a state of being–one that all Black youth can see themselves in, because they are.  I found myself scribbling in the margins of my book, noting things and ideas to remember and words to define later.  I had to watch A Raisin In The Sun again.  I had a much better understanding of it now, while reading this and studying about you.  Its relevance to today is partly sad and partly revolutionary.  Both pieces, A Raisin In The Sun and  To Be Young, Gifted and Black, should be taught and discussed with every young person.   I need more people to see the fearlessness that Black youth of your day had for revolutionary causes.  It is appropriate and necessary for Black youth to resist oppression in every single thing we do in this society.  I am afraid that too many of us have given up or simply don’t care enough for freedom.  I’ll keep fighting though, and writing.

You discussed many things in your book that I feel more Black people should at least think about.  The problem of today, I see, is that people are not thinking.  Not critically not analytically.  “I don’t attack people who are religious at all, as you can tell from the play; I rather admire this human quality to make our own crutches as long as we need them.  The only thing I am saying is that once we can walk, you know–then drop them.”  The problem of the Black man in America is very much a human problem, as you have stated, as Malcolm X has stated, as James Baldwin has stated.  Black folks really do unknowingly think of themselves as less than human, less than deserving and most will attest that the only way to change their circumstance is by being saved.  Religion is, in fact, still a crutch that seems to unconsciously keep Black folks in an inferior state of being.  Many of us just simply refuse to drop our crutches.

Furthermore, as Black intellectuals and artists were, as you said, not interested in the idea of the “Exceptional Negro” in your day, many people today aim to be The Most Exceptional Negro possible and would probably do anything to have tea at the White House.  “What we are interested in is making perfectly clear that between Negro Intelligentsia, the Negro middle class, and the Negro this-and-that- we are one people.  And that as far as we are concerned, we are represented by the Negroes in the streets of Birmingham!” Oh how I wish to hear this spoken from the black bourgeoisie of today! The so-called Black elite has not dared to consider the Black youth in Ferguson (or even us in Chicago) as of the same people as them!  This is a direct reflection of how money and class has created a huge divide among Black people whereas someone’s connection to wealth excludes them from being Black, no less relating to the masses of Black people.  I long for us to be one, again.

I know that I have been young, gifted, and black my entire life but what is frightening in that for me is the gifted part.  At which point should I consider myself an intellectual? At which point do I call myself a writer?  I’m thinking now is as good a time as any as the youngers are desperately in need of influences like you–like me: a Black intellectual, writer, and revolutionary.

From you, I’ve learned to measure people right.  I’ve learned to be patient when people are unable to see my truth within the small eye of a needle.  I’ve learned that “though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic—to be young, gifted and black.”  As I know I will never be able to thank you enough for truly being that, at best, I will complete your thoughts.



Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Quote: Lorraine Hansberry

“Though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic–to be young, gifted, and black.”

-Lorraine Hansberry

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Leave a comment

February 22, 2015 · 5:18 pm

The Cost of an American Education

“Education is the passport to the future; for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

Institutions of higher learning in America have created many opportunities for its citizens and people who live abroad to seek educational opportunities that would not be afforded to them otherwise. Colleges and universities are a very useful businesses in a country so driven on capitalism, as is America. In creating a pathway to achieve “The American Dream,” college and universities are very important to our society. The act of going to college is seen as not only a Rites of Passage by today’s standard but it is the expected norm that one must go to college in order to be successful in America.   Many jobs require at least some form of a college degree or post-secondary credential post high-school diploma. High school students are taught that going to college is the only way to be successful in maintaining a livable income and being effective in any future career. Our society is set up in such a way that one has to buy into this straight and narrow path to success: go to college, graduate, get a good paying job, live the American Dream.

As higher education has created opportunities for millions of students, it has also been just as successful in hindering students of their maximum human potential.  American education has created more consumers of capitalist greed and perpetrators of terror, and rather most importantly, it has allowed more people to fall victim to bankers and corporations who thrive off of the high cost of American education.

What capitalism has done to the education system in America is despicable. It has turned a practice of higher learning and academia that should be a natural human right into a system of greed for power and wealth. Many university administrators conduct business considering the interests of their donors and partners rather than what is of the best interest of their students. University officials can easily dismiss the needs of students, many of whom are too poor to pay for tuition out-of-pocket and too grateful for the opportunity to ever question the usefulness and authenticity of the colleges they attend. It is quite an honor for many people to make it to college and graduate, especially for people who, for generations, weren’t allowed to attend institutions of higher learning, let alone given respect for knowing how to read at all.

American universities are much like modern day slave plantations. These institutions have made a business of taking advantage of young people who are seeking better opportunities for themselves and their communities thus getting rich off of the labor of it’s students. They use the bodies and skills of college athletes to make millions of dollars to appeal to wealthy donors to increase corporate sponsorship and takeover.  As administrators and coaches, whose yearly salaries can range up in to the millions, gain the benefits of these partnerships, many student athletes will be left with the long term costs, health related and otherwise, of being a student-athlete in a society where the role of athlete is superior and more prized than the role of student.  As the cost of tuition and housing on campuses across the nation increases, more and more students and families are falling victim to student loan debt that they’ll be working an entire lifetime to pay back.  I’d argue that national fraternity and sorority officials themselves have acquired massive amounts of wealth by effectively managing the free labor of students.  This wealth is not at all used in the communities or for the populations they intended to serve but to further appeal to corporate politics.  There is a lot of money to be made in higher education and on the backs of students.  The marketing of colleges and universities in itself is a big business.

Whether on the campus of a Predominantly White Institution or a Historically Black College or University that was founded by white investors, many of the oldest and most revered institutions of higher learning had significant roles in the shaping, framing, and establishment of racism in America and still continue to do so today.   Students on campuses across the nation are being taught to be followers and contributors to American terror and racism. Students are being mis-educated and their voices are being suppressed. Students are being improperly advised, overcharged for classes, books and supplies, housing and food. Like slaves on a plantation, students are working (and studying) long hours to feed the American economy and its inhumane military conquests abroad and at home. Although students may not yet consider their time–studying, working minimum waged jobs and attending lectures, managing student organizations and volunteer work– as free labor, they should. For education and the acquiring of knowledge is just another birthright that America has found a way to exploit and get rich from. Paying a university thousands of dollars of borrowed money for what America considers education is essentially agreeing to free labor. For many of us will never be able to pay off the money that we have borrowed forever indenturing ourselves to our lenders and our universities.

For many students graduating with a degree that does not favor the current American economy of science, technology, engineering, math, or medicine, jobs will be scarce; unemployment or underemployment should be expected. A bachelor’s degree will leave many recent college grads overworked to prove their education and underpaid for their lack of experience. Many recent college graduates will find themselves attending graduate school, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars of money they’ll never see, not for an increase in opportunity per se but because of the perceived lack of opportunity available. This is especially so for minority students who are more likely to be unemployed post-college than their white counterparts. College does not teach students to be innovators or to create their own jobs to change their communities. It teaches students to get the best jobs with the best people. It does not teach students to challenge the people who control our society and the systems that are in place, only to aspire to be like them and to continue their best practices.

As long as students are silent in the injustices that they face on college campuses, or blind to them altogether, the culture of greed reflected in American capitalism will continue to perpetuate within the system of education, trickling down from corporate bankers to university administrators to faculty and staff, and inevitably to the students whose very task is to endeavor to change the system that binds them in the first place.

I write this only to encourage people to be critical and to question, everything. Use the education that you have paid for with a lifetime of work to affect change for youth so that future generations will not fall victim to the same failing system. I write this not to discourage anyone from going to college, but to encourage people to educate themselves and think for themselves, first and foremost. I write this to encourage students to take advantage of and run their own campuses and to rid institutions of administrators, faculty, or staff who insists on placing political gain and capitalistic tyranny over the educational advancement of its most at-risk student populations.  I write this for the youth who complain about the education system in America and everyday submit to their own oppression: rebel against the system of education and rebuild your own.

If, as Malcolm X stated, education is the passport to the future, will our future generation survive on the education of today?  Will we be too busy paying for our education today to prepare for tomorrow?  Further, has the cost of American education limited our passports?

“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.” -Assata Shakur

Leave a comment

Filed under Black Life + Culture, Education + Literature, Social Activism

Quote: Lorraine Hansberry

“When do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning-because that ain’t the time at all…when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.” -Lorraine Hansberry ‪

#‎YoungGiftedandBlack‬ ‪#‎MelaninBookClub‬

Let’s learn to love again. Simply,  let’s measure each other right.

Leave a comment

Filed under Quotes

Trayvon Martin, Never Forget.


Throwback to when hoodies were up for Trayvon Martin

To when we were protesting,


signing petitions

just to get Zimmerman to trial.

Then he was acquitted.

That moment changed me.

That year

from the time Trayvon Martin was killed

to the moment they announced the acquittal of George Zimmerman

things shifted.

What was so unbelievable to us then is happening everyday now.

and my hoodie is still up.

But this time,

fast forward to today,

I am no longer waiting for justice

to be served,

but rather,

I am taking it.

Happy Birthday, Trayvon Martin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Activism

A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk on Race) presents: Assata in Her Own Words – A Discussion on the Life and Legacy of Assata Shakur

Happy Black History  Month.  Let this month be fruitful and prosperous to us all.  Let our aspirations be manifested for many days to come. May love and culture be shared amongst us to honor our elders and praise our ancestors.

All Power to The People.

Today I attended a community discussion on Assata Shakur at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. The event featured group discussion on the quotes of Assata Shakur and our definitions and views on terrorism.

To share some insight on our discussion, please read the quotes of Assata Shakur below most taken from Assata, The Autobiography of Assata Shakur, as we move into Black History Month with purpose and distinction.

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Black Life + Culture, Education + Literature