“I don’t think I should have to stand up”

Race

Today, on my 21st birthday I would like to celebrate the life and legacy of someone I can only aspire to become. This woman showed bravery and strength in a time when she could’ve been killed for defying a white man.

I am honored to share my birthday with this wonderful woman. Rosa Parks was a remarkable woman. Not only did she light the flame for the Montgomery bus boycott during the Civil Rights Movement, she was deeply involved in her local NAACP chapter and worked tirelessly to end segregation and the racial tension deeply rooted in the sourosa-parks-mug-shotth.

As a little girl I can remember learning about Parks in school, but my teachers never went much further past “Rosa parks refused to give her seat to a white man and that started a big bus boycott in Alabama.” As I got older I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more about not only Rosa Parks but the Civil Rights Movement in general.

Throughout all of my schooling, the Civil Rights Movement is something that was almost always looked over. Teachers would touch on it vaguely during February because of Black History Month, but it was always the same thing, every year.

It wasn’t until I got to college and took an African American Studies class that I really learned about my history and what the Civile Rights Movement really entailed. Since then I have made it my goal to educate myself about that time period.

After Parks’ arrest, she was fired from her job and her husband was also let go. While she was a hero within the Black community, she was seen as a problem by whites. This is the same narrative that most black people face when they stand up (or sit down) for equal rights.

Rosa Parks was not violent or hostile to the men who told her to move on the bus. She simply said “I don’t think I should have to stand up,” which she had every right to say. What made that man so special? Did he have a disability? Was he holding a small child? Had he just finished running a marathon? No, I don’t think he was any of those things. He was a white man though, and that was the only thing that mattered. The color of his skin automatically made him superior to anyone of darker complexion on that bus.

The actions of Parks reminds me of what a few individuals are doing right now. You may recall me talking about Colin Kaepernick in an earlier post and how him simply kneeling during the National Anthem has caused nationwide outrage.

You may be tRosaparks_bus.jpghinking to yourself, “Jasmine that’s not the same thing, what he’s doing is disrespectful.” Is it really that different, though? Parks decided to stay seated because she was tired, not only from work but she was tired of giving into the racism. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Kaepernick is not kneeling because he hates America, he kneels because he, like many black people, is tired of discrimination, systematic racism, and senseless police brutality that is still all too present in the country.

I realize this post has strayed away from my original intent, but the message is still the same. Rosa Parks was an incredible woman. She embodied strength and dignity and did not give up on what she believed in. I can only hope that I become half of the women she was.

I am honored that I share a birthday with someone who was so influential in the Civil Rights Movement. It is my goal to uphold her legacy and live my life as fearlessly as she did.

To Whom it May Concern…

Race

To whom it may concern,

Eight years ago on this day, I sat in my 7th grade homeroom class. We were all in our seats watching history take place. At the young age of 12, I didn’t know what was going on, to be honest, I was pretty bored but glad that we weren’t doing work. I never would have guessed that for the next 8 years I would grow to love and become inspired by that man on TV.obama-family-inauguration-big1.jpg

Yes, I am talking about President Obama, the people’s president, my president. I grew up watching this man and his family serve and run our great country with nothing but grace and dignity. I can remember wanting to be friends with Sasha and Malia, mostly because I wanted to see what the White House looked like, but now I genuinely would like to meet them.

Over these past eight years, I have grown into a young woman, I’ve graduated high school and completed half of my college career. Through all of that President Obama was there, not literally of course (I wish), but he was there. He was working on making this country an even better place for all of us to live and work in.

For the past eight years, I have not had to worry about the future of this country. I have been empowered and inspired to reach for my dreams because a nobody from the southside of Chicago, where half of my family is from, showed me that anything is possible.

January 19, 2017, will not be the last day for my president. Each and every day following I will continue to respect and honor the man that showed me that “yes we can.” Why do we need to bother making America great again? We are blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to voice our opinion and worship whoever or whatever we feel like.

Could things be improved? Of course. Nothing is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we need to condemn our country and say it’s not great. If anything the Obama’s have shown us time and again that this country is awesome.  1280_obamas_october_cover-essence

I refuse to live these next four years in fear. I have learned a lot from the POTUS and FLOTUS and one thing we all need to remember is that when “they” go low, we go high. We can’t get sucked into this vortex of hate. We must rise above. We must fight to be heard.

“One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.” -Michelle Obama

I refuse to lose focus on my goals. I refuse to be silent. I will make an impact, whether it’s just within my circle of friends and family or within the community or God willing something larger than that. If we want change we must demand it.

We have to be smart. We must not be angry. We must present ourselves with the same amount of grace, dignity, and composure that the Obama’s showed us for the past eight years.

We can not get caught up in the theatrics of this new political system. We must continue educating ourselves. Educate yourself on things that interest you. Become involved within your community, speak up at school board meetings, town hall meetings. Write letters to your senators and representatives. Be active.

The worst thing we could do in these next four years is to become silent. President Obama and his family are not going to stop fighting, so why should we?

Sincerely,

Jasmine Conley
A millennial who will be heard

The Power of “X”

Race

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” -Malcolm X

If you asked me a few weeks ago who I thought Malcolm X was, I would’ve told you he was the crazy, brash, hate filled antagonist to Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement. I would’ve told you Malcolm X advocated for violence “by any means necessary,” and that he hated white people.

My mindset has totally shifted. In part, I am angry at my educational system (I’ll elaborate more later) for not educating my fellow classmates and I more on Malcolm X. Everything I was taught up until college was that he was the bad guy. Well, I don’t think it’s possible for me to disagree with that any more than I do now.

I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X written by Alex Haley. I went into the book with a hunger to learn more about this man I felt I knew very little about. I expected to dive into a book that was full of negativity and hate. Don’t get me wrong, that was definitely in there, but there was also mystery and brilliance.

young-malcolm

A young Malcolm Little

Malcolm X never went further than the 8th grade in his education because his teacher told him that his dreams of being a lawyer were “no realistic goal for a nigger.” Now I know that if someone told me that when I was in 8th grade I would’ve broken down in tears. Not Malcolm.

He went on to become one of the most influential civil rights activists during his time, and even still today. Now the road there was bumpy and not one of a Disney hero. I mean honestly up until he discovered the Nation of Islam, and even for some time after, he wasn’t the most upstanding person, but he was driven.

It is true that everyone is the way they are because of the experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. Malcolm X is no different. I believe his true hatred for white people was solely based on his life experiences and how he was taught to think.

We all know the saying “too much of a good thing can make it a bad thing.” To me, that’s what happened with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. I am in no way an expert on Islam and their practices so I won’t go too in-depth on this, but I have a perspective.

421311I feel that Malcolm X discovering the Nation of Islam and joining with the Black Muslims is the fundamental reason he became as well known as he is. However, the Islam he learned and practiced for many years is also why he is known as the bad guy.

It wasn’t until he broke from Elija Muhammad that he started making real progress towards helping the Civil Rights Movement. His trip to Mecca was a huge eye opener to what Islam truly is, and from that point forward the narrative he preached changed.

Sadly, his life was ended entirely too short. I feel that he was on the brink of really igniting a change and starting a movement within the black community.

mlk_and_malcolm_x_usnwr_croppedMalcolm X was never going to be like Dr. King, and Dr. King was never going to be like Malcolm X. Their differences are what made them both so important. To me, they were the “good cop” “bad cop” roles. Malcolm X brought a fiery and explosive approach, whereas Dr. King was more logical and thoughtful. They both had a deep passion and dedication to the issue and neither lacked in drive or willpower.

It is not fair to put them against each other. Neither one of them was a bad person. Malcolm X was not a bad person. Malcolm X was street smart. He was intuitive. He had charisma and charm. He knew what to say and where and when to say it. He was, in my honest opinion, brilliant.

I wish I could go on longer about my thoughts on who he was, but that would be a book in itself, so I encourage all of you reading this to do your own research and become informed. I highly recommend reading the book, but you could also read old news articles or credible information from the internet. Expand your knowledge beyond “Malcolm X was bad, and Dr. King was good.”

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