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Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle
by Oliver Taylor

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies from his book Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skill, found in Chapter 6, Preparing for the Next Storm: Fortification. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which they published on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they wanted to achieve and achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book in Chapter 4, The Eye of The Hurricane: Managing Anxiety, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.
Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skills. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

Parham, in a fascinating, inspirational and spirited speech, posted on Youtube entitled What Matters to Me and Why, offers some advice to Blacks on pursuing higher education. He says of his graduate students that they should not avoid White institutions out of fear feeling or being judged as ‘acting White’, no he suggests getting into the White institutions of learning, learning i.e. acquire the skills and getting out i.e. not joining their faculty etc.

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.

Thoughts on Linguistic States

Ambedkar begins the book by saying he wanted to come out on the topic of linguistic states sooner. He admits his views have changed over time, and some of his views contradict. However, the idea of linguistic states needs to be vetted with cold reason. Ambedkar denounced the hooliganism going on during the publication of this work in defense of linguistic states.

Linguistic states facilitate fellow-feeling that leads to cohesive democracy. When people are grouped in states based on a common language, they have a much easier time working together. Mixed states fail because it forces people of different ethnicities to work together. Ambedkar asserts there is no real reason for various ethnicities to have conflict in India. The separation into linguistic states would facilitate democracy by reducing ethnic strife.

The downside of linguistic states is the possibility of the states developing into separate nationalities. If this happened, there could be the possibility of interstate conflict and war. A strong central government could quell the threat of interstate war. So the downside of linguistic states is far smaller than mixed states.

Another way to increase social cohesion with linguistic states is to make the official language the same in all provinces. So all business and government transactions would be done in the official language. Ambedkar recommends Hindi because 48% of the country already speaks the language. At a later date, when the population is ready, India would transition to English. The use of an official language reduces bureaucracy and ensures everyone in the country has access to all levels of government. It is paramount that those that advocate for linguistics states support one central language. Ambedkar goes as far as to state that someone that is against on central language is not fit to be Indian.

The work briefly discusses the partition of Pakistan. Ambedkar says he supported it. Specifically, he says, “I was glad that India was separated from Pakistan.” He feared Muslims would dominate the rest of India. By letting the Muslims leave, it would make way from India to build a prosperous democracy. However, he felt recent developments of ethnic conflict could close the door on Indian prosperity.

Upon the establishment of linguistic states a new problem arises. The south would have much smaller states than the Indian north. How then would power be equated between the north and south? The power distribution mattered because, according to Ambedkar, the south is educationally advanced and modern. The north is superstitious and backward. The solution is to break up the largest states in the north: Utter Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh. The new states would have around 20 million people to put them at par with the southern states.

Maharashtra and Bombay

Maharashtra and Bombay were examples of failed mixed states currently in India. Both areas were plagued with ethnic conflict and violence. There were four proposals that the government was vetting to improve the area:

  1. To retain Bombay as a mixed state of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Bombay
  2. To disrupt the existing state and to separate Maharashtra and Gujarat and make them two separate states.
  3. To make united Maharashtra with Bombay as one state
  4. To separate Bombay from Maharashtra and make it a separate city state

Ambedkar believes none of these proposals go far enough. He proposes breaking the state up into four separate provinces: Maharashtra City State (Bombay), Western Maharashtra, Central Maharashtra, and Eastern Maharashtra. The state of Maharashtra as it is was too big to govern. The smaller states would be easier to administrate and facilitate young leaders emerging. The Maharathi people had few political leaders and lagged in education.

Bombay could also benefit from being independent. At this time, the Maharthi population has not developed political or economic leadership. If the transient population of Gujurathis left the economy of Maharahtra would tank. Formation of Bombay into a separate city-state would allow for those creating industry to be satisfied, while the Maharthi develop. Ambedkar also proposes changing the name of Bombay to a Maharthi name.

Caste System Hindered Political Development

There were many problems with the current political system. The treatise talked explicitly about issues of taxation and alcohol prohibition. As in America, alcohol prohibition in India led to a black market and more consumption. To solve this problem, India needed a system that could could facilitate political change.

The social structure of India based on the Caste System caused political stagnation. The Caste System led to an ascending scale of hatred and a descending scale of contempt. A caste has all the pride of a nation. Those in higher caste see themselves as superior, and that led to them not voting for people of lower caste. However, those of lower caste would vote for someone of high caste because they are used to seeing high caste people in leadership. Political reservation would be essential in developing political leadership in lower caste communities. Also, smaller states would allow for areas with concentrations of lower caste people to hold political office.

There are two types of majorities. The first is a political majority formed to push a political agenda. Entrance into this majority is open and would change as political needs change. Societal norms set communal majorities. Entrance into a communal majority is closed, the status is set at birth. If the communal majority became the political majority tyranny would overtake the country.

India is much too large to have a single capital. There was also historical precedent for two capitals in India. For example, the Moghal Empire had Delhi as one capital and Shrinagar in Kashmir as a second. Calcutta and Simla both served the British as capitals. Those in the south had access to a Central government. Ambedkar proposes consolidating Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Bolraum into a southern capital.

Maharashtra as a Linguistic Province

A linguistic province is an independent political entity formed to ensure that those who speak a similar language can govern together. Ambedkar takes on the idea of reforming the region that includes his hometown of Mhow as a linguistic province.

Those that support linguistic provinces see it as a way to preserve and develop local culture. If the government creates provinces without considering local cultures, they will die. In heterogeneous societies, people tend to advantage their group over others. The group hostilities will hinder nation-building.

Linguistic states would make a national democracy more challenging to develop. Democracies work best in homogenous societies. By having province drawn without linguistic considerations, everyone in the province would be forced to use the common language. The use of the common language builds national identity.

In addition to hindering the construction of national identity, Linguistic states increase government bureaucracy. The central government would have to make documents and provide translators of all the provincial languages.

The compromise solution proposed by Ambedkar was to create provinces based on common local language but use the national language for business and government transactions. The local language could be used for cultural activities. However, if the national language overtakes the provincial, so be it. A culture can stay together without a government entity or a unique language. Cultures can be cohesive through shared history, experience, and tradition.

Maharashtra as a Province

Ambedkar begins by explaining that the proposed province of Maharashtra would be viable. When comparing Maharashtra to the American state of Delaware, it is much larger. The population is greater than the most populous American state, New York. Maharashtra also had enough tax revenue to stay self-sufficient.

The next question was, should the province be unitary or federal. Federal meaning that Maharashtra would be broken into sub-provinces that work in a confederation. Ambedkar takes the stand that a federal province would only increase bureaucracy without any advantage. Maharashtra should be a unitary province.

Bombay

The largest city in Maharashtra would be Bombay, which has historically been an international trading capital. It has a sizeable Gujarathi population. Most work as merchants and liaisons from English and other European business. Many of the Gujaratis wanted Bombay to be independent.

Mostly the argument was that the Gujaratis turn Bombay into an economic powerhouse, and local Maharashtrians should not rule them. Most of the Maharashtrians in Bombay were laborers. They had no idea how to govern correctly. Many of the Gujaratis believed that Maharashtra wanted the surplus revenue of Bombay.

Ambedkar reminds the Gujaratis that they are only captains of industry because the British East India company gave them privileges to work in Bombay. Also, the surrounding provinces provide tax revenue to keep Bombay afloat. Lastly, the wealth of Bombay would not exist without Maharashtrian labor. The Capitalist did not gather their wealth themselves and had no right to its complete control. Wealth is the property of the society because it takes a community to build it.

David Hartful Sr

1971 High School Protest

David Hartful began his senior year by making the honor roll the first semester. The second semester he decided not only to improve his future but the future of all the black kids going to high school in Murfreesboro now and in the future. He and other concerned Black students decide to create Murfreesboro Central High’s first Black Student Union.

The first order of business was to have a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He was assassinated only three years earlier. The first ceremony was at Central High School on April 2, 1971. The second was open to the public and held at First Baptist Church on April 4, 1971.

Later that month the students stage a sit-in at the high school. They wanted better treatment and more opportunities at the high school. The list of demands were:

  1. Two more black cheerleaders
  2. A black speaker at commencement
  3. A black speaker at commencement ceremony
  4. More black literature in the library
  5. More black teachers and coaches

Their actions got the attention of the faculty and the school board. In a Saturday school board meeting, they were able to make their demands and talk about what it was like to be a black student at the recently integrated school. They saw white students being punished more leniently than black students. Many of their concerns were similar to the concerns we have today.

The school board did have some push back. For example, Mrs. Richard Reeves said many blacks have excelled and Central High and cited, David Hartful, as an example. Forever, they ultimately realized they had to capitulate. Principal Swafford said the following:

“This situation would not be where it is if the black students who came to see me on Wednesday morning had not demanded. They not only demanded action, but made it clear I don’t have much time to make up my mind”

The school board did not comply with the demand to give the BSU two black cheerleaders. They compromised at two new cheerleaders, one black and one white. David Hartful was allowed to speak at commencement. His speech can be found on this website.

Jerry Anderson Foundation

Jerry Anderson was a star athlete from Murfreesboro, TN and Vice President of the black student union. After graduation, he went to the University of Oklahoma, where he was a star cornerback. During his college football career, he led the Sooners to the 1974 and 1975 National Championships. He later went on to play in the National Football League as a Cincinnati Bengals and the Canadian Football League.

Football was not Anderson’s only passion. He wanted to help people and especially children. His first act of selflessness came during the Tulsa flood of 1984. Anderson rescued two people trapped in vehicles. However, he was haunted because there was one he could not save. After his football career was over, Anderson headed back to Tennessee to pursue a degree. He wanted to get a job helping children.

On Memorial Day of 1989, Anderson decides to go fishing with two young family members. At the same time, two other boys, Pooh McFarlan and Johny Lodgson decided to fish nearby. The two boys fishing nearby decide they need to move to catch more fish. There was an old dam nearby that was underwater because the river was swollen. The boys decided to cross to the other side of the river by walking on the dam.

When the boys were walking on the damn, one slipped and fell into the river. The current was so strong he started to be pulled underwater. The other boy attempted to save the first, and he fell. Anderson sees the boys in the whirlpool and jumps in the river to save them. The boys that came with Jerry ran to call 911.

Anderson swam out to the whirlpool and was able to toss both boys out of the whirlpool so they can swim to shore. Jerry watched as both boys swam safely to shore. Unfortunately, Jerry would not be able to save himself. He attempts to swim out of the whirlpool, but can’t free himself. He comes up for air three times before losing the battle. A paramedic arrives on the scene, but it is too late. Jerry’s body was exhumed and transported to the hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.

The death of Anderson hit the class of 1971 very hard. Plans began to create someway to honor him. It was decided to create a foundation to help underprivileged children. The scope would begin as local and would grow nationally. The first project the group embarked upon was getting a pool named after Anderson in a low-income part of town. With that mission in mind, The Jerry Anderson Memorial Foundation was born in October 1989.

From the beginning, the foundation had influential Tennesseans on the board and serving as officials. On the board was a Kiwanis Club Governor, County Executives, the President of First City Bank, and a State Representative.

Murfreesboro NAACP eventually absorbed the Jerry Anderson Foundation. They were successful in buying computers for the Boys and Girls Club in 1991. Even without a formal foundation, the class of 1971 has not stopped helping the community. Their reunion in 2006 resulted in a fundraiser to buy books for school children.

Isaac Fulwood Series

Operation Clean Sweep

Notes on History of India

North India

The treatise begins by talking about when greeks ruled a large portion of Central Asia on the border with India. One of Alexander the Great’s heirs, Antiochos III, could not keep control of the ancient provinces of Parthia and Bactria. These provinces broke away to create two separate kingdoms around 261 – 246 BC.

Around 150 BC, a group of invaders called the Huns began invading Central Asia. This invasion pushed the native inhabitants out of Parthia and Bactria into Northwest India. There were two groups of people that came to settle in northwest India was the Tokhanians and the Sakas. They joined with natives to form the Kushan Empire.

The Kushan Empire gives birth to one of the most famous Buddhist lines of royalty after the time of Ashoka. The first in the line is Phises I, who took power sometime between 15 – 40 AD. He is recorded as receiving Jesus’s disciple St. Thomas. Phises I had a son Phises II (78 -123 AD) who took control of most of NW India. After Phises II, King Kanishka came to power (78 – 123 AD). Kanishka is known as a great general who fought the Chinese and the Parthians. Their dynasty continues with Huvishka (123 – 140 AD) and Vasudeva (140 – 178 AD). Then the Kushan Empire mysteriously ends, most historians think the Sassanids of Persia took over.

There is then a period that is lost to history before the Gupta dynasty arose around 320 AD with King Chandragupta I. His son Samudra Gupta conquers most of northern India in 340 AD. The Gupta kings rule until the first invasion of the Huns in 455 AD. The Huns will be repelled, and they will invade again in 490 AD. The Empire of the Huns falls apart in 565 AD.

South India

The history of South India is more obscure, but there is more than enough evidence for historians to know a vibrant civilization survived there. A Roman history records that South Indian King Pandion sent a mission to visit Augustus in 20 BC. Pliny spoke of a Temple to Augustus in the same region. However, there were many kingdoms in this region.

Cera and Kerala lay on the West coast of India in modern-day Travancore. The Cola kingdom stretch from the southeast coast of India to central India. Central Asian invaders established the most famous kingdom called the Pallavas. King Narasimha-Varman 625 – 645 AD ruled over the Deccan, which is in Maharashtra province today. The Pallavas were rivals to the Cola Kingdom.

The Andhras is and ethnic group that was powerful in the Deccan where Narasima- Varman ruled. The Andhras were known to go to war with Buddhist fiefdoms in the region from 220 BC till 236 AD.

There is another large gap in known history before the Calukya dynasty is established. King Pulakesian II (608 – 642 AD) built an empire that stretched from the east to west coast of South India. He even had an embassy in Persia. King Harsha of the Pallavas defeated Pulakesian II, ending his rule.

The Rajput period happens from 650 – 1000 AD. This period hosted many Hindu kingdoms. From 840 – 910, King Panchala is known for waging war with Buddhists in Bengal.

Ledi Sayadaw

Biography of Ledi Sayadaw

Promise for the Future

In the world, everything that marks an end, also marks a beginning. The end of one day is the commencement of another. The end of one task is the beginning of a new one. The tree blossoms, bears fruit, sheds its foliage, and immediately begins preparation for another crop.

Today means different things for each of us. To some it is the commencement of higher education to others it is a career in the world of work.

Select a goal and work earnestly toward it. Know what you want and shape your course of study toward that end. We as graduating students, must not only achieve our goals but bring our honors and awards back to our community, not limiting our help, but to help others help themselves, bridging the gap between one another.

Our parents, teachers, and others have attempted to equip us well. They have tried to instill in us the principle of hard work, honesty, and ambition that would lead to better standards. These are qualities that are essential for us to achieve our respective goals.

We have enjoyed that blessing, which Tennessee has bestowed upon us – free education. To us has been given freely that which great men of the past have obtained only with many sacrifices and much labor.

The future holds a promise. I wonder just what that promise may be. Your future of the next generation is in our hands. It matters little where we were born, or if our parents were rich or poor, but whether we live an honest life and hold our integrity firm in our clutch, I tell you my brother, it matters much.

The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the greatest men that lived in our time. He had a dream that we should further our educational capacities in order to build a better community and to have a brighter tomorrow. If not here, where, if not now, when if not you who. Remember the future of the world is limited by ourselves.

David Hartful Sr Series

1971 Central High Walkout and Jerry Anderson Foundation

Promise For The Future

David Hartful Sr Bio

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