Archive for howard university

Free in DC For MOW 50: What Happened To God?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Free Smith

MLK Cross



Malcolm Mecca

The impact of the spiritual community on the Civil Rights Movement cannot be overstated. Many of its leaders were religious leaders, and the love and peacefulness that helped define the Movement are deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Author of King’s Vision of Justice: Rooted in the Bible, David J. Lull wrote, “Dr. King often pointed out that it was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that inspired the ‘dignified social action’ of the civil rights movement. His notion of “creative suffering” – borne by civil rights activists who endured persecution and police brutality – came from his Christian faith in the redemptive suffering of Jesus.”

Usage of scriptural innuendoes was favored rhetorical practice for King, especially hopes for “God’s children” he pled for in the “I Have A Dream” speech. Even his ominous, final speech was closed with the biblical allusion of being at the “mountaintop” and seeing the “Promised Land” referencing Moses who, as a punishment from God, could only see the Hebrews’ “Promised Land” from Mount Nebo where he died. Use of this passage evidenced that King sensed his impending death, which was the next day.

Furthermore, Dr. King saw the Church as a microcosm of racism in America. According to Aldon Morris, sociologist at Northwestern University and writer of The Origins of the Civil Right Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change, cited King’s labeling of Sunday church services as “the most segregated hour in America.” “He felt the church hadn’t stood up enough and supported the movement.  They were needing allies from many different groups, and with the movement rooted in moral and religious precepts it made a great deal of sense to reach out to various religious groups.”

In his book, Gospel of Freedom, author John Rieder examined King’s moving “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” expressed that King’s letter (also strewn with biblical references) helped to highlight the contradiction of Jim Crow to religious values held by institutions and spurred them to action, creating a “confluence of a major part of the black movement with the larger ferment in American Christianity and Judaism.”

Other some of  King’s more radical counterparts also used spirituality as a foundation to their fight. Muslim doctrine and his post as head voice of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam heavily influenced Malcolm X’s noble campaign. In his quest to liberate Blacks in America, founder of the UNIA, counterpart to W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP, Marcus Garvey, put his separatist mission in a religious context, “As the Jew is held together by his religion… so likewise the Negro must be united in one grand racial hierarchy…Like the great Church of Rome, Negroes the world over must practice one faith, that of Confidence in themselves, with One God! One Aim! One Destiny! Let no religious scruples, no political machination divide us, but let us hold together under all climes and in every country, making among ourselves a Racial Empire upon which ’the sun shall never set.’”

Seeing how spirituality and faith were so influential in the Civil Rights Movement, one might wonder, what happened? Today, the leaders of thought in the Black community are predominately entertainers, replacing the ministers who led during times of oppression. According to Yeadon’s Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear (“Uncle Dean” to me), reputable director of Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Reentry Initiative and professor at Howard University, “Media has taken center stage and it’s so powerful that it creates more of a sense of being a spectator and being more passive. The action is up front on the screen. The spiritual people on television are giving more of a message of individual prosperity and individual solutions to social problems than they are looking at the collective.” This focus on the self has been said to be a somewhat destructive imposition of feudalistic, European ideals foreign and incompatible to Black/African culture (stemming from a lesson I learned from Howard University’s Dr. Gregory Carr in his “Black Aesthetics” course). Trulear partially jested, “If Rosa Parks came to church to today and said she’d been discriminated against on the bus, somebody would’ve told her to ask God for a car.” He continued, “That’s an individual solution to social problem, that people overcome individually rather than transform society itself.”

Trulear calls this plight, “uncritical integration,” which he attributes to the Black community’s replication of “rampant individualism”, imperialistic mindsets and discrimination against subsets. “If the society was sick, then you don’t want to integrate into a sick society. You want to transform it. There’s plenty of stuff that we just took a from a very sick society,” he surmised. He deems that Black people have “uncritically adopted” a “flawed” American Dream. “There are number of things we do as Americans that is not the medicine. Rather than challenging the status quo about everything, we just got our piece of the pie.”

Since Blacks got their “piece of the pie, Trulear says revolutionary attitudes in the church have been tamed referencing H. Richard Niebuhr’s 1929 text, The Social Sources of Denominations, “I do think that Black churches have done what all churches have done which is the more affluent the congregation becomes, the less likely it is that they be involved in activism. They become more integrated in the mainstream society.”

Trulear also pointed out that, at the time, fellow Morehouse alum, Dr. King was not a pastor of a church. For six years, he was a senior pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, but his responsibilities hindered his leadership of the SCLC. “He couldn’t do it. There wasn’t enough time, so when he goes back to Atlanta as co-pastor (of Ebenezer Baptist Church) he has very different duties that allow him to spend time on a movement that he could have had he been confined to one church,” explained Trulear. He credited the work of the organizations’ full-time staffs with helping King and other leaders by “doing the organizing work on the ground.“

Trulear gave his blueprint to attaining “The Dream,” heavily influenced by  Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”): “One thing you can do is refuse to allow society to define you by the fact that you’re homeless or have a criminal record and then you can work with other people who have accepted that and help turn their lives around. That includes accepting the designation of subhuman because you’re Black or gay and because you’re an ex-convict or sitting in a homeless shelter. The situation doesn’t define me, I’m defined by Christ and because I’m defined by Christ, I can handle all situations.”


White Education

Posted in The Man with tags , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2012 by Free Smith

I’ll admit it. I went to white schools for the majority of my educational career. That’s just for all of you who think it’s lame to go to a white school (I know you’re out there). But, I have enjoyed some advantages by going to these institutions. I received a great education. I learned how to write and speak well. I learned the classics. Most important of all, I learned how to interact with people of all different backgrounds which I believe gives me a good perspective on things. However, I went to school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I don’t know if you know it, but the ‘burbs are pretty wild racially. I can imagine that Philly ‘burbs mirror other ones in the country, but while at Howard University, I was shocked one day by a professor. I was sitting at the shuttle bus stop with one of my professors. We had never had a conversation, but we were having a nice exchange. All of a sudden, I told her where I was from and went to school. To my surprise, she said that she taught in one of the neighboring districts and she said to me, “These kids from the South think they have a hard time. They have no idea.” This made me think back to my grade-school days. She really confirmed my thought and feelings that I had inside, but never really thought about since it was just my normal, daily life.

Elementary school was definitely my favorite time during my school years. Everything was fair and everybody got along for the most part. There are a few pitfalls though. In white schools, black history education is all but reduced to Black History Month, which should be called Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson and possibly George Washington Carver Month (though you are taught that Carver was the inventor of peanut butter, sigh).  It got to the point almost that Dr. King was devalued. He’s just depicted as this lovey-dovey “dreamer” who made a great speech when he was in actuality a revolutionary that put his life on the line everyday to make life better for his people and the world as a whole. Luckily, I had a mother (who was also a teacher at the school) who taught us at home the real deal on who we were and are. It’s because of her that I developed a deep love for and interest in the struggle. She shared her perspectives and experiences and had us reading books, watching programs and visiting museums to increase our knowledge on our history. Here’s a funny side story though: One day a kid asked my brother, “You guys have Black History Month. How come there’s no White History Month.” Frustrated, my brother responded, “BECAUSE EVERY MONTH IS WHITE HISTORY MONTH!”

As young’ins, we all are curious about many things and to my fellow classmates, blacks were a mystery.  I can remember times when they would actually feel our hair because it amazed them so.  Another example of this came from a friend of mine who came to my district from Philly when she was in about 6th grade. She had her hair beaded and came to school and had so many kids touching her hair and asking questions that she just decided to stop wearing them all together. This may seem like a small thing, but my mother deaded that inkling when she told us to never let anybody just feel our hair. She compared it to slaves on the trading block when white slave traders would examine their potential buy. I never let anybody lay a pinky on my head after that.

Another unfortunate aspect of attending a predominantly white school is that you WILL hear some racial slurs and jokes. Taking a number 2 can be referred to as “dropping your kids of at the pool”. White girls who like black guys may be referred to as “mud chasers”. You may hear jokes like, “What’s the difference between a black man and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family.” Somebody may come out and say that their family used to own yours. One time in school, a white guy called a black kid a “black son of a bitch” and was body slammed on a lunch table as a result. The black guy was suspended. His mother was then ridiculed for protesting outside every morning with a sign reading “STOP THE RACIAL SLURS AT THIS SCHOOL”. Oh yeah, don’t think they’ll be afraid to throw around the N-word, an action is sure to cause a rumble.

These are just a few things that you may experience going to a white school. Now don’t get me wrong. There are advantages. As I said before, you will learn a lot of useful things that will help you in the future and you will develop a more diverse mindset that will help you when dealing with people in the outside world. But be prepared for some difficult times racially. To parents, I urge you to teach your kids as much as you can in the home about our history, where we come from and what we’ve been through and prepare them to be strong and resist the urge to whoop a white kid for saying something out of pocket no matter how justified they may be. It will just make things worse for your kid.

My HBCU Book Entry: Hail Howard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by Free Smith


I attended Howard University from 2002 to 2006. I transferred and got my degree from Penn State. I always say that I graduated from Penn State, but I did all of my learning at Howard. My time there, I feel, is a major contribution to my mindset today. I had the opportunity to see, learn and participate in things there that I would never have known existed had I not gone there. Out of all of HU’s elements that I absorbed, I’d have to say the overall Black experience that I was immersed in was the most valuable to me personally.


At the foundation of the Howard experience is the Afro-American requirement. I feel it was so beneficial to us that it was required that we allot some of our time to learning about ourselves. The recurring theme of the Diaspora had a profound effect on me. I saw that there’s no difference between myself and the myriad of African descendants strewn throughout the world. As a radio production major, learning about Amos n’ Andy, Edison’s “Ten Little Niggers”, Birth Of A Nation vaudevillian minstrels and “race music” was enlightening. A life changing class for was Dr. Gregory Carr’s Black aesthetics course. I walked away thinking that maybe I didn’t see us as much based on society’s inbred concepts of beauty/value. These courses really made me question my perception of my entire existence.


The lessons on Blackness were extracurricular. I learned that Black is not only beautiful, but elaborate as well. As a black kid who was a “White boy” in school, I was aware that there were different groups of black people. I was always separated from Black comrades because of my vernacular and “smart kid” status. I’m not bitter about this, but I realized then that there are different categories of Black people. It wasn’t until I got to HU that I truly understood how deep we go. I liken HU to a sociological experiment. There were a plethora of kinds of Black people. It’s always said that we come in all different shades in a sense of complexion, but this concept also applies to lifestyles, attitudes and points of view. There were groups comprised of Black people from around the world with differing interests be it politics, the arts, science, religion, business, Greek life or, unfortunately, crime. There were DC residents in the mix. DC is a unique place culturally itself. Nevertheless we always found each other together blending in the Café, the Punchout, a house party or The Yard. It was a vision to behold at chapel services and other events in Crampton Auditorium when we all stood with fists clenched in the air singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Furthermore, on nights like Black Tuesday, when we marched for affirmative action, the 2nd Million Man March, or the demonstration on The Yard when Laura Bush came, we were one.


Going to an HBCU made me value my Blackness as something that is rare and priceless. It also showed me that Blackness is not verbally definable. We can truly be whatever it is that we want to be. No matter who you are or what you’re into, there’s a place for Black people in various facets of society. A lot of us are working hard to assimilate to what society expects of us, but it’s obsolete to do so. Socrates said it best in his quote, “Be as you wish to seem.” We truly have the capacity to do so. However, the HBCU experience couples that notion with the African concept of “I am we.” While we are all different, we’re simultaneously the same. I am so appreciative to Howard for showing me that. 


Bent: Velicoff Vodka

Posted in Good Times, Shit n' Giggles, Whatever with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by Free Smith

Hilariously enough, these are the only pictures in the Googleverse of Velicoff. I’m sure that the majority of you have never heard of Velicoff. You most certainly have heard of it if you attended Howard University anywheres between 2002 to about ’06, especially if you were a house party aficionado like myself and my chums. At less than $10 per handle, the price is right to make an abundance Jungle Juice for any soiree that you may be planning. Shout out to those 618 boys. Much love from Dj Free.There’s a Velicoff everywhere though i.e. Burnett’s, McCormick’s. Drinks like these are if you don’t feel like droppin’ dough on the big boys i.e. Ciroc, Belvie, Goose and what have you. They’re all the same with a proof around 80 and 40% alcohol by volume, but the distinct difference that I’m seeing is that the big guys are actually distilled from something. Belvie: rye; Ciroc: grapes; Goose: grain; Velicoff: n/a. LOL. But there is a trick. Finish off a bottle of the good shit, save the bottle and fill ‘er up with some Veli. You can get away with this. A friend of mine did this and a couple of my other numbskull friends fell for it hook, line and sinker. I’ll admit, the okey-doke was pulled on me too by the same dude, but I was skeptical because of the severe burning sensation I experienced in my throat (PAUSE). That’s the way to tell. The good shit is smooth. The terrible shit burns. Cheers.