FIVE WAYS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM MISTELLING OUR STORIES:
PRESERVING BLACK HISTORY IN NEW ORLEANS
Like many others in the New Orleans and Black community, I was very disappointed by the news reports featuring the two New Orleans rappers and the WWLTV reporter. It wasn’t because it was an embarrassment for the Black New Orleans community. I see it for what it is, the symptoms of white supremacy at work on the oppressed descendants of the original people. My disappointment, however, came more from the fact that we allowed someone else to come into our community and tell our story in a manner that surely wasn’t genuine to our communities best interests.
I’ll admit, when I watched the first video and the fight broke out, I caught myself thinking that the guy who walked up interrupting the interview sort of asked for what he got. But as the camera kept rolling, and the guy who passed the first lick removed the other guys gun from his waist, there were two things I noticed. One, the disruptor never attempted to pull his gun out, even though that gun very well may have given him the courage to even interrupt the interview in the first place. Two, I noticed the anger seemed to be directed towards one of the rappers in particular but without knowing the whole story, I can’t fairly say the guy was wrong for interrupting the interview.
The first news report immediately went viral and landed a spot on World Star Hip Hop. All it takes to get on World Star is a video of Black people fighting or being violent with one another and then you are famous. Some parties may have even been pleased with the negative press, however, the Peace Keepers, a community group of conflict mediators and community servants, took initiative and requested that the video be removed from World Star to assist in resolving the conflict before anything further transpired.
The Peace Keepers, organized in 2009 by Mosque No. 46 of the Nation of Islam, work together with the Black New Orleans communities to reduce violence and incarceration that too often plague our communities. Brother Walter currently leads community walks that help the Black community to obtain jobs, GEDs, drivers licenses, and even get criminal records expunged. In addition, the community walks also help to build a good relationship between the community, the Peace Keepers, and the Squash The Beef Hotline (504.500.1706) that provides confidential and no police involved, conflict mediations.
Conflict mediations, which are lead by Brother Willie Muhammad, were added to the Peace Keepers work in 2011. So far, the Peace Keepers have helped to successfully squash 34 beefs. 34 might not seem like a big number to some but just image the numbers that could have multiplied times 34 if these weren’t resolved. This is perhaps one reason the WWLTV reporter reached out to Brother Willie of the Peace Keepers for an interview with one of the rappers to discuss the first video. Graciously, the Peace Keepers took the initiative to work with the community to get in contact with the brothers from the video in the effort of resolving the conflict.
The second WWLTV report followed less than a week after the initial interview. And though I’m a firm believer of taking care of family business minus the extra guests, I was happy that the Peace Keepers got to talk about their work and share the Squash The Beef Hotline number with the larger New Orleans community.
Through the support of the Peace Keepers and their trusted relationships in the community, they were able to successful reach the brother who interrupted the initial interview and found that he was very cooperative, apologetic, and willing to squash the beef. In addition, so were the other parties involved in the conflict! Great news, right! SHOUT OUT TO THE PEACE KEEPERS AND THE YOUNG MEN INVOLVED!
Many times incidences like this can be avoided when done in genuine care and their media is not the most careful tool for solving our problems. Much of our problems come from being misinformed of the power we possess ourselves due to the on going cycles of our history being taken away from us. Sadly, we sometimes believe that we need outsiders to help us to solve our problems and when it comes to those who benefit from our struggles the most, this is never true.
There is so much that we can do to aid in working together to solve our own problems and preserve our history. I put together a list of five ways that may be helpful to consider next time we think its a good idea for someone else to be our storytellers.
5 WAYS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM MISTELLING OUR STORIES
#1. Do proper meditation and cleansing before doing any work that involves addressing the violence and mental illness that has taunted Black lives since our enslavement.
I’m not a religious person but I am spiritual and I do believe in opening up spaces intentionally and respectfully. However that may look for you is totally up to you but here are a few suggestions.
- Go to a quiet peaceful place, (by some water, on the lake, bayou, in the tub or shower, etc) and just listen (to yourself, to God, to Nature, etc). Breathe in peace and positivity and breathe out anything that is meant to leave your body in order to do the work successfully.
- Be true to yourself, our people, and make sure your intentions are more than just good. Make sure they are considerate, compassion, and in the best interests of Black people.
- If you are meeting at a particular location to do your work, allow time to visit the space first and feel the energy of the space.
- While there, cleanse yourself and the space. Even set up an altar if you feel necessary. Some supplies I love to use when spiritually cleansing are frankincense and myrrh resin, charcoal and holder, sage, lighter and water. Some places that carry these items are King & Queen Emporium at 2500 Bayou Rd. and Jah Ghetto Beginnings II at 913 N. Claiborne Ave.
- When returning to the site or when others involved arrive, keep the charcoal with the frankincense and myrrh burning, as well as the sage. Everyone needs a cleansing whether directly or indirectly. The objective is to keep any negative energy repelled and all positive vibes abundant.
#2. Create and support our own media by hiring us to tell our own stories. *Don’t invite them to tell it for us!
As an active advocate for the Black New Orleans community, I stand firm in my belief that we have the power we need to create the change we want to see in New Orleans and beyond. Sure it is great to get local and national media exposure when you are doing great things and want to inform the larger community. But we must never forget that their media is the same media that will, without hesitation, sell us out for a story of Black on Black crime while intentionally omitting and contributing to its root causes.
There is always enough air time to show the guns, drugs, violence, incarceration, and poverty in the Black communities but when it comes to the unity, peace, love, and solutions, this gets a very small percentage of air time. Through their toxic airwaves, these negative images and stories of our community perpetuate the negative outcomes and add to the misconstrued lens upon which we even view ourselves.
This is why we must create and support our own media to tell our own stories. Hold off on the outside invitations. Every time we allow outsiders to tell our story for us, we risk such catastrophes as that of the Billboard awards having Prince’s “best friend” Madonna to do the (un)official tribute. Or even worst just look at our failing school systems and the miseducation of our people and youth. Many of our youth don’t even know that Egypt is in Africa or that the Black woman is the mother of civilization.
Their lies of the 1400s still haunt our children in 2016 with Columbus Day holidays off from school. The trickery of the 1865 Emancipation Proclamation and Abraham Lincoln claims of abolished slavery allow us to believe that the 13th amendment doesn’t read prison equals slavery. Yet we live in the principle slave port of America and the prison capital of the world that has just signed into law, a Blue Lives Matter bill as another means of keeping slavery alive.
Yes all of this is even more serious cause for the urgency of us taking control of our own power and stories through uniting and supporting one another. We are far past the time that has already run out where we operated in a capitalist American business model. We are not each other’s competition. We are each other’s strength. Our competition is with the majority of our 1.1 trillion dollar annual spending power, leaving our community, empowering another and depriving ours.
Furthermore, here is a short list of some New Orleans Black publications, blogs, radio, and media sources that we can use. We know there are plenty more out there so feel free to comment with any additions. However, don’t hesitate to create, support, hire, or even contribute to these businesses in order to help them to grew and expand their exposure.
BLACK RADIO, PUBLISHERS, NEWSPAPERS, PRESS/MEDIA IN NEW ORLEANS
- WBOK 1230AM www.wbok1230am.com
- Brassy Brown www.brassybrown.com
- Vitamin Q www.thevitaminq.com
- Data News Weekly www.ladatanews.com
- Tribune www.theneworleanstribune.com
- Louisiana Weekly www.louisianaweekly.com
- Nola Tv & The Boulevard Magazine www.nola.tv
- Break Thru Media Magazine www.breakthrumediamagazine.com
- Cognition Magazine www.cognitionmagazine.com
- And any local public figure with a good following including yourself (this is 2016 and anything can go viral if we put our collective power behind it)
In addition, WCWM: Who’s Coming With Me partnered with Cfreedom Photography are at your service as well, which brings me to a short list of camera teams and companies that you can hire. Again, we know there are many more out there, but here are some in case you didn’t know and feel free to add some additions to the comments.
BLACK CAMERA COMPANIES IN NEW ORLEANS
- Cinemadona www.vimeo.com/cinemadona
- 2K Photo Nola and 2-cent TV www.2kphotonola.com
- Temple of Zen www.templeofzen.com
- Patrick Melon www.melon.photos
- Street Cam www.thestreetcam.net
- Baham Multimedia www.bahammultimedia.com
- Edward Buckles www.youtube.com/ebucklesvision
- Gason Ayisyin www.gasonayisyin.com
- Wonderland Production Studios www.wonderlandpsno.com
- Or anyone with a smart phone, including yourself (Again, this is 2016 and anything can go viral if we put our collective power behind it.)
Also when the outsiders come to tell our stories, (cuz they will), direct them to whom they can contact to get our already told story. Sure they will send their own media so they can attempt to re-tell (retail) it from their narrow viewpoint but we must not give them the right to our story without us having the right to it first. I suggest adding a media liason, publicist, writer, or PR person to your crew. We have a few recommendations for you here as well. Feel free to add any additions to the comments.
BLACK PR, PUBLICISTS, AND WRITERS IN NEW ORLEANS
- PR Diva
- St. Julien PR
- Tanzie Jones PR
- Kalaro Media
- UTR Communications
- Quincy Williams
- Stylist B
- Kristina Robinson
- Kelly DeBerry
- Any local public figure with a good follower, good writing skills, including yourself (This is 2016 and social media posts can go viral if we put our collective power behind it.)
Remember all publicity is not good publicity and the objective is to have good publicity that is good for the Black community or none at all.
#3. If they tell our story, make sure the truth is being told. Don’t allow anyone to sugar coat our stories with the sugar cane they forced our ancestors to grow and chop.
If we choose to let others tell our story, ask ourselves these questions first:
- “What is the purpose of the story that I desire to tell?”
- “Who is my target audience?”
- “Who else, other then an outsider, can I have to tell this story?”
- If no one is available, “Will allowing an outsider’s lens to tell the story fulfill the true purpose of the story?”
- “Is having an outsider tell the story worth the risk of our possible exploitation?”
After asking yourself these questions, of course answer yourself truthfully. It only makes your crazy if you answer with a lie.
Now make sure each step following is intentionally rooted in truth and Black love. So many times we go into situations with self-fish intentions and can be inconsiderate of the impact these actions have on others in our communities.
True community work speaks for itself and most times mainstream media is the least interested in covering the good in the Black communities. That is even more reason why we must not fall victim to their wicked ways of glorifying negativity and perpetuated our downfall. It is our duty to fight against that by spotlighting our greatness through our own lenses and supporting each other and each other’s work.
So when the outsiders come and try to sugar coat what it means to be Black in America or what it means to be white in America for that matter, we must not allow them to do that. We must speak up for the truth even when it’s bitter or spicy. When they try to add sugar to our grits, please stop them and modestly add (notice I didn’t say throw) the salt that belongs there. Add pepper as needed. But not too much cause we are fighting against high blood pressure and diabetes too often in our families. And trust me when I say they don’t belong in our family business.
#4. Though the 1st Amendment does give them the freedom of press, we should always know our rights and where this line is drawn. Whenever we do an interview with them however, read all contracts, releases, etc and request approval of the final product before release. If this option isn’t available, then weight out the other options. Do you need them to tell your story or do they need your story to be told to them? Then negotiate. But always keep a lawyer handy.
I am no lawyer but as I previously stated, I am an advocate for our people and when it comes to the perpetual wrong doings inflicted upon our people, it doesn’t require being a Mardi Gras Indian to not bow down. Defamation of character and defecation of the lies of white supremacy is what we face everyday from their blood sucking media sources as well as every institution that this “never was great” country re(lies) upon for its corrupt existence. Though violations as such are hard to prove in a court of law, especially because the court is yet another institution built to uphold white supremacy, we must not believe the lies told about us.
For these reasons and more, it is essential that we document, share, and preserve our stories for the generations to come. In continuing to share and preserve our stories, our truths will put the lies to an everlasting rest. In addition, we must exercise our rights of reading, learning, and knowing our rights, as well as teaching others. And that isn’t always enough, so that’s why it’s great to have an even greater attorney at your side for guidance and protection from injustice.
Here is a short list of Black attorneys in New Orleans. We have so many more. I’m just hoping that we are working together to be an answer to some of the overall problems we face as Black people living in the prison capital of the world. Also we need to be intentional about passing on our knowledge and resources the youth. WCWM: Who’s Coming With Me is very much interested in starting or supporting such initiatives. If you are a Black lawyer in New Orleans or know of some who may be interested in doing this work, then please send us a link to make this happen.
BLACK ATTORNEYS IN NEW ORLEANS
- S. Mandisa Moore-O’neal
- John Fuller
- Nandi Campbell
- Maurice Ruffins
- Moe Reed Jr.
- Nia Weeks
- Brian Woods
- Brady Skinner III
- Mari Bartholomew
- Heather Ford
#5. Be sure to demand that proper credit is given to all parties included. Put some #Respek on it!
As a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and activist, it is even more common respect to credit our work, as it is to tip the waiter. In some cases it’s about great business practice but in others it’s about helping to spotlight and expose the great works being done by us within our own community. And even more importantly, we must properly document history.
Outsiders love to take the credit for the work we do. They have been doing this since the beginning of their time. They even created the U.S. Patent office just so they can “legally” own our ideas and inventions. While they have been stealing our credit from us for so long, it is important that we don’t fall victim to their wicked ways. We have got to put some #Respek on each other’s name and not allow outsiders to take credit for our work. Even more so we shouldn’t give it to them.
Politicians are infamous for stealing credit and improperly documenting history. The current mayor of New Orleans has a long history of credit jacking, which, if you think about it, is quite similar to identity thief. Lets take the confederate monuments for example. Not one time will you hear the Mayor crediting BYP100 Nola, a group of young Black activists, in organizing the petitions and rallies for their removal in late 2014 leading up to his statements for their removal. However, he jumped on the bandwagon and hi-jacked it, adding make up and contour to his legacy. He is working hard to sharpen his image as New Orleans approaches its 300th birthday in 2018. If only he truly cared about the quality of life for the Black people who have been the majority in New Orleans ever since our enslavement.
In addition, the Mayor’s Nola For Life program is another photo shop edit of his image and less about the longevity of Black men and boys lives in New Orleans. If it was designed for Black life then why not call it Nola For Black Life? Put some #respek on Black life Mr. Mayor! I’m not sure what the program has done other than late night basketball games. I guess that’s because I’m too busy fighting against the causes of Black men in New Orleans having a 53% unemployment rate and the school to prison pipeline pumping youth through them faster than a burger is wrapped at a fast food joint.
Mr. Mayor, if Nola is for (Black) life, how about you demand that Mr. Governor veto this Blue Lives Matter bill? We already live in the prison capital of the world. If Nola is for (Black) life, then where is our Black Lives Matter bill? Or how about you put some #respek on some of the local grassroots organizations in our own communities who really do the work of Nola being for Black life? Luckily for us, I don’t wait for the Mayor to do anything in order for me to do something or to support those that are doing things for our people.
Don’t mistake this as a letter to the Mayor but these are just some points for those of you who may be in cahoots with the Mayor. Maybe you can challenge him, his motives, and his habitual credit jacking. Maybe you can challenge yourself to use your cahoots for the good of the Black community.
Which brings me back to the WWLTV interviews that prompted this piece. So the reporter and the rappers, as well as the guy who interrupted the original interview all came together with their families at the Mayor’s office to do a sort of #SquashTheBeef follow-up piece. But they did not have Bro. Willie Muhammad or any of the Peace Keepers at this interview. Where they do dat at? Oh right, the Mayor’s office. But how Sway? Well it seems to me that we somehow allowed this to happen. We fell for the okie doke of lights, cameras, and fancy offices and were blind to the fact that we must intentionally shine our own lights on our own works and intentionally prevent others from continuing to benefit from Black struggle.
The credit of the squashed beef appears to be going to the WWLTV reporter and the Mayor. And though I am happy the brothers have resolved their differences, this has nothing to do with the reporter or the Mayor and I am still having a hard time understanding why they are even a part of this. Since when have we really needed a news reporter and the mayor to help us to heal and grew as the Black community? Since never! When it comes to us, we need us to heal and grow. And when it comes to them, we have always had to demand, fight, and take what was rightfully ours.
This piece is to particularly inform us, in case we didn’t know, that the Mayor and the reporter did not squash this beef, nor have they worked towards squashing the beef that the Black community consciously or unconscious has with white supremacy. They are too busy benefiting from it. The Peace Keepers, however, initiated the mediation and along with cooperation of the involved young men, they resolved the conflict. It was us the whole time, as yes we are even more powerful without the assistance of outsiders. And though the Peace Keepers weren’t invited to the Mayor’s office, I’m not sure if they would have wanted to go anyway. However without an invitation, I guess we will never know.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few questions and maybe one of you can help to answer them.
- What’s the Mayor and his office got to do with this anyway?
- Why wasn’t Brother Willie Muhammad and the Peace Keepers invited to the Mayor’s office?
- Was it because the Peace Keepers didn’t allow the reporter and camera crew to sit at their mediation table or bring their cameras to exploit it?
- Don’t they know that the Peace Keepers operate confidentially and with no police involvement for the overall benefit of the Black community?
- How powerful would it have been to see all three brothers in the last interview shouting out Brother Willie and the Peace Keepers, and even themselves, more than they gave all that credit to the Mayor?
I’ll leave it at that for now. Still and all shout out to the Peace Keepers, the young men for working together to resolve this beef and thank you for your support in making New Orleans be a place FOR and not against Black life.
Please continue to share the work of the #PEACEKEEPERS, use and share the Squash The Beef Hotline whenever wherever necessary. 504.500.1706. Support Black artists, businesses, and youth in New Orleans!
Leave some comments below. This is not for publicity, but for unity. This is not to put anyone down, but to connect us. This is to put #Respek on all those beautiful Black people who do great work in New Orleans. We salute you!