Speaking & Teaching

May. 22, 2019

Today, I salute my daughter, Skyler Rose Hall, as she begins this first stage of true adulthood. Skyler will be graduating from Northern High School in the first week of June 2019. She has done some remarkable things during her four years in high school. She was a sometimes not willing student who found her scholastic excellence in her time. We, Robbin and I never attempted to force Skyler beyond what her limits were at any given time. We both as parents wanted Skyler Rose to find her excellence in her own time. We both knew that once Skyler identified her passions in school, in the classroom, and in her social environments the bars she set for herself would far surpass any self-imposed bars of achievements we established. So we both sweated this process out waiting for the moment that her brain clicked.

It started innocently enough. Skyler started going to the area gym during her 9th-grade year preparing to participate in cheerleading. Little did we know that her activation was not cheerleading. Although Skyler did, in fact, participate in cheerleading for all 4 years at Northern High School. Skyler Rose's passion became an avid gymnast who would develop a regiment of training 6 days a week for 120 minutes sets. Skyler also became an avid nutritional specialist who created her own diet that allowed her to be one of the fittest high school students in this country, I believe.

Along with this drive for athletic perfection came a desire to be more competitive in her classrooms. Not competing against other students but competing against herself. Just as in the gym she isn't competing against others in the gym. Skyler took that same level of dedication to a formula of personal growth from the gym to the classrooms. Robbin and I are entirely confident that our daughter will be a significant contributor to the Morgan State University community next fall. The entire family will be joining Skyler on her journey to Baltimore City in the fall because our journey in Calvert County, Maryland ends with Skyler's graduation. We're excited about what new adventures away Skyler as she proceeds to the next stage of her life. I only hope that she is able to instruct others on finding their life's passion as she is beginning to find her's.

May. 22, 2019

On May 22, nineteen years apart two intellectually creative black giants passed away, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes. Claude McKay, a Jamaican-born poet who was a product whose works were instrumental during the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance. Claude McKay's works were significant during the time of the New Negro Movement. It was that movement that was defined by Alain Locke, Howard University intellectual icon, in the article he wrote for Survey Magazine, The New Negro. One of Claude McKay's most famous poetic works and also one of mine as well is:

If We Must Die
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O, kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men, we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

On May 22, 1948, Claude McKay at the age of 58, he passed away leaving behind a vast reservoir of writings that are still relevant today. It seems that our greatest epic writers lived during the days when Harlem was the spotlight of Black American genius. On May 22, 1967, James Mercer Langston Hughes passed away at the age of 65. It is said that our most prolific black writer of all-time was Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes was also a representative of black genius during the Harlem Renaissance, he embodied almost every aspect of Locke's description of the New Negro. Both McKay and Hughes were social activists who fought vigorously against hatred directed by white supremacists during their lives. Langston Hughes was also very close to Zora Neale Hurston. They both traveled many a southern road capturing the black folk history that had been covered up more many years. Sometimes you wish for reincarnations of men like McKay and Hughes, men who could motivate many in our black communities to address and defeat the pressing issue of black illiteracy. It seemed that the farther away we get from the year 1865 when the chains of slavery were unleashed. More and more of our black communities don't seem to value the importance of being absolutely strategic readers, writers, and thinkers. This is one of Langston Hughes more powerful poems and one I really feel strongly about as well. Yes, it is as relevant today as the day Langston Hughes put his pen to a pad and created it.

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

So please take the take to listen to the Blackman Who Reads Aloud as I read some of the works of McKay and Hughes. I have already read the collected works of Langston Hughes on the Blackman Read Aloud Hour. It is almost impossible to give due respect to these intellectual giants but I will try.

May. 21, 2019

"No wonder Magic was put on the managerial shelf this is what Johnson apparently offered the New Orleans Pelicans their entire young core of [Ball], Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac to the Pelicans, as well as veteran guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Which was notably more than had been communicated with owner Jeannie Buss." This would have meant that including D'Angelo Russell who Johnson dumped in 2017 along with dumping Brook Lopez as well who came back in the trade for Russell. Ervin Johnson would have only had Anthony Davis and a soon to be 34-year old LeBron James to compete against the Golden State Warriors. Hell, if I would've been in Lakerville I would've been saying Johnson was out of his mind. What I don't understand is why did Dell Demps even put his cellphone down. I would've been packing Davis's luggage for him. Looking at that team now with the Number One NBA Draft Pick coming in June, Sheesh Louise, that Pelicans team could've been quite competitive quickly."

May. 21, 2019
"Some Republicans truly think the VAGINA is simply a SUPER SHERO WEAPON capable of warding off Bad Sperm, repelling acts of rapes, and also a military weapon of mass destruction geared to the elimination of the white race. Shot if I had any idea of the power of the vagina than I think I might have chosen a life of celibacy. I mean every act of aggressive sexual activity could have been the end of my life. If I didn't please or bow down to the mighty powerful SUPER VAGINA, I could've..."
Seven years ago I wrote the above blog post on Facebook about the fascination that certain white republican politicians had concerning the vagina. Of course, it got me expelled from this social media network for I think a week. At the time it seemed that these white men were fighting in some alternate Marvel Universe against a super powerful force called "Super Vagina". Super Vagina's force was more powerful than Captain Marvel and if "Super Vagina" couldn't be controlled our nation would be destroyed. It was to them a battle for the control of American society. If these white men lost this battle for the control and beatdown of the "Super Vagina" they would lose total control of all of societal virtues and morality.
At that time "Super Vagina" had advocates not only in the White House, Barack, and Michelle Obama as well as a majority vote in the Supreme Court. Well, since 2012 things have definitely changed and the white republican army has defined battlelines with almost every southern state except Florida along with a number of border states creating laws designed specifically to attack at the heart of "Super Vagina". Along with the strategy of state offensive, the White House no longer has advocates to protect the "Super Vagina" and the Supreme Court's majority once held to protect "Super Vagina" now has shifted to the opposition. Can "Super Vagina" be finally taken down. Can white men, hell all men with this line of thought now take absolute control of "Super Vagina". Are we now seeing the last days of defensive marginal line Roe v Wade?
The battle for the heart and soul protecting Super Vagina and every woman in this country seems to be waning. We have a significant number of white male intent on dominating and smashing their sworn enemy, "Super Vagina". The middle ground holds the key to "Super Vagina" retaining its position. Either they bow to the negative forces that are bent on the annihilation of "Super Vagina". Or they allow women all over this country to control what goes in and comes out of their personal vaginas.
May. 21, 2019

One of the great points of creating a blog on black history is that you always have posts that you can go back to. I've had my blog now for over three years (www.joesmokethoughts.com). During that period of time, I have had over 430,000 unique viewers as well as over 3/4 of a million page views. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain an active black educational blog. For one, not many people will take the time to interact with a blog that comes from one individual person, especially if that person is black. I don't like to feed into misconceptions about our black community but it not like we anxiously await reading written blogs. That is why I can always revisit my blog posts that reflect our magnificent black history.

I have 2 objects for today's lesson. First, I will go back to May 21, 2017. On May 21, 1881, Blanche Bruce was appointed the United States Treasurer. Blanche Bruce, former governor of the state of Louisana; elected to the United States House of Representatives and appointed United States Senator from Louisana as well became the first American of African Descent to have his name stamped on paper money in this country. This was quite an achievement since Blanche Bruce came up from being born the son of a freed slave and white plantation owner to working the Mississippi River as a steamboat gambler to serving in the Union Army to defeat the Confederacy. Blanche Bruce endured many struggles to rise above this country's racial barriers to be in the room with the great historical minds in the 1800s. Men like Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, The Black Capitol Men who served in Congress during Reconstruction and all the other black leaders who fought for our civil and social rights. I will read a speech given by Blanche Bruce in my role as the Blackman Who Reads Aloud.

The second object takes me back now 50 years to the campus of North Carolina A&T, a black college that always seemed to be placed first and foremost in our struggle for civil and social rights. 50 years ago today, Willie Grimes, a student at North Carolina A&T was murdered in cold blood during a student demonstration. Willie Grimes's name will not be placed in the pantheon of people like Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, 4 Little Girls at the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama, or may even Jimmie Lee Jackson but Willie Grimes's life was snuffed out by forces intent on fighting against blacks getting full citizenship rights. Willie Grimes paid the ultimate price for those of us who walked behind him today for the rights we take for granted. Not fully understanding the price others have paid previously. Today, The Blackman Who Reads Aloud reads an article that discussed the events that led to Willie Grimes's murder.