Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mrs. Camille Cosby: A Naturalista Speaks, in Love and Strength, as Everything in the Dark Surely Will Come to Light, Eventually

    I don't know too much about Mrs. Camille Cosby, the wife of  Dr.Bill Cosby, except that it appears that she is a regal, dignified, gracious Black woman, wife and mother.  Whenever she is out and about with her husband she looks sophisticated, calm and stylishly elegant, essentially, a Black "Queen" walking amongst us.  They have beautiful children and her and Dr. Cosby lost their only son, a pain that no woman (parents) should have to bare, but as we know from recent and ongoing tragedies, loss of Black young men happens all too often.  Mrs. Cosby is also a naturalista, with her beautiful short cut, wearing her hair grey, naturally and lovely.  Yesterday, she made a statement in regard to her husband, whom she has been married to for a very long time. She stated the following (see full article here:  http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/12/camille-cosby-comes-bill-cosbys-defense/): 

“The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work. He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father and friend. He is the man you thought you knew.”  
Dr. and Mrs. Cosby with Dr. Johnetta Cole (The Cosby's donated 20 million to Spelman when she was President)

     They are pictured here with Dr. Johnetta Cole, once President of Spelman College (Spelman has announced that it has  suspended its endowed professorship with Cosby) and  now the Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Art.  Cole hosted a conversation exhibition of art pieces, many of which were donated by the Cosby's recently.  The statement posted on the museum's website regarding the event is here: (http://africa.si.edu/):  
"We are aware of the controversy surrounding Bill Cosby, who, along with his wife Camille, owns many of the works in the Conversations exhibition. Exhibiting this important collection does not imply any position on the serious allegations that have been made against Mr. Cosby. The exhibition is centrally about the artworks and the artists who created them."

 Mrs. Cosby is by his side, honoring the notion of "for better or for worse" which is a key aspect of the vows taken between a man and a woman upon marriage. Dr. Cosby described her support yesterday of him as follows:  (see full article here: http://www.vanityfair.com/vf-hollywood/2014/12/bill-cosby-breaks-silence-on-rape-allegations): 

"Love and the strength of womanhood. Let me say it again, love and the strength of womanhood. And, you could reverse it, the strength of womanhood and love."
     Now, something has happened that we are struggling to understand.  Statements, accusations, the media and beyond are causing opinions to be formed, without all of the facts emerging in an objective venue.  I genuinely believe that a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty. That is the basis of our justice system (although this matter is not in the court system at this time). As Dr. and Mrs. Cosby begin to slowly raise their voices, perhaps, given that they have given so much to the uplifting of of Black people in America (although many have disagreed with some of Dr. Cosby's candid comments about Black people) through his television and comedic movie ventures, their giving millions to a historically Black college, their cultivation and collection of Black art and so much more, we can be patient and let all of the facts emerge before joining in on the character assassination of this Black man, which is happening so publicly, as his wife stands firmly by his side.  This does not mean that the women accusers should not be heard, or that they should be lambasted too, for telling their stories. Their voices have raised the conversation of women and their experiences with men in power to a new level. However, rushing to judgement, on either side, is irrational, without hearing/knowing the facts, of both sides and without having been there to witness the events firsthand. Many chide Dr. Bill Cosby for not speaking up sooner.  But is the media really the correct venue for him to do so?  It would seem that doing so needs to take place within the context of rules, professional expertise and all that is necessary to lay the groundwork for objectivity on both sides without opinions, biases and everything else that has emerged enabling a "reality TV" atmosphere about something that is so serious. No one wants any woman, or any person in general, to be violated. Compassion and sympathy abounds when we hear of it, but impartiality must be present within the context of hearing, feeling and listening to all sides.

      Although some may have animosity towards Dr. Cosby because they believe the many women who have shared their stories about him, particularly Beverly Johnson, America's first Black Supermodel who stepped forward recently, and others, perhaps equal weight can be given to the voice of Mrs. Cosby, who surely knows her husband better than any other woman, as they have been married for a very long time (since 1964), raised children together and made it to stand amongst us as Black, elders.  Some Black women have stepped forward to ask questions, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Jill Scott. I too have questions and I am writing here to express compassion for Mrs. Cosby, a Black woman, naturalista, sister, and her family during what has to be difficult times for all of them.  For that reason, Mrs. Cosby, a naturalista to the core, N.I.C.E. sees you, hears you and knows that there is a connection in consciousness, with a clear indication, per your naturally coiffed hair, that you know that Natural Is Cool Enough. The perspective of N.I.C.E. is that this speaks volumes about your level of consciousness. Stay strong, faithful and prayerful.  Everything in the dark, eventually comes to light. At the very least, as we watch you during these trying times, the lesson of  the true meaning of "for better or for worse" in a marriage sustained in longevity, strength, love and womanhood, is emerging. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Study-In Student Demonstration and Demands at the U After Racist, Culturally Incompetent Comments: #BlackStudentsMatter

 The struggle continues through protest throughout the United States.  Yesterday, Congressional Staffers walked out of their offices to make a statement about the recent cases of injustice and  the Black men who have been killed and subsequent lack of indictment of  the police officers who killed two of them. Protests have taken place across the nation, in the streets and on college campuses.  One such campus was mentioned and the students were praised by N.I.C.E. in a previous blog post http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/12/praise-for-hands-up-rally-for-justice.html) namely, the University of Miami.  What was outlandish about the student's positive, well-organized, well-attended event was that subsequently, racist, culturally incompetent, inappropriate remarks were made about the students and other participants who attended (I was there so I felt personally impacted) through the medium Yik Yak.  See this link for more detail:  http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/12/after-peaceful-blacklivesmatter-rally.html

     As a result of the Administration not taking concrete steps to address this matter, other than a letter written by the President, Dr. Donna Shalala, which did not condemn such culturally incompetent behavior, in no uncertain terms, but rather referred to such actions within the context of free speech, the students participated in a sit-in, in their campus library, on the night before their first day of finals.  Although President Shalala attended this event, the students await a response to their demands of which excerpts are below.  To get a glimpse of this event and President Shalala's comments during it, watch this video: http://vimeo.com/114281731 entitled "Study-In Demonstration at Richter Library."

Dr. Donna Shalala, President of UM with students at Richter Library Study-In


    Within the context of their demands, their are some clear points which many Universities, at large, must begin to comes to terms with.  It is the matter of the need for more Black students, faculty and administrators on predominantly white campuses and why this is important for all students and particularly, Black students.  The students mention in their demands that 8% of the student population at the University of Miami are Black.  They put this in context as follows per their demand document:
  • "This statistic is misleading as a large portion of that 8% are student athletes who, due to their rigorous schedules and staff coercion regarding academic and social tracks, are unable to be fully streamlined into the various aspects of campus life. What efforts are being made to recruit Black students outside of athletics? How can those be increased and/or made more effective"
      Furthermore, they also point out the minimal numbers of Black faculty at the university by stating the following:
  • "Across all School and Colleges, the vast majority of our Faculty are not representative of the diverse student body they service. In an added detriment, many lack the cultural sensitivity we have come to expect from our institution. We recognize the difficulty in addressing this issue of cultural competency on the part of the faculty, but what is being done to address it from an administrative standpoint? Are courses offered to interested faculty who would like to learn how to better service students with backgrounds that differ from their own? Is there, at minimum, a mandated Cultural Competency course or lecture to set a standard expectation amongst University employees?"
     Here it is necessary to discuss Black Faculty in particular. The question one has to ask is how is diversity defined?  If it is defined technically as a range of difference, then perhaps that is the case at UM.  But if you hone in on the term and ask, within the range of difference, how many Black Faculty and Administrators are there?   More specifically, how many Black Faculty and Administrators are there are at the Coral Gables Campus?  Go further and ask how many Black tenured/tenure earning faculty are there?  How many Black Lecturers and how many Black Adjunct Professors?  Essentially, there is a need to explore the degree of Blackness on campus.  Then you get into some tenuous numbers at best.  If you explore the University of Miami Fact Book, which is available on line, per the UM website  http://www.miami.edu/index.php/Fact_Book_2013-2014, you will find that racial data regarding faculty is not indicated.  It would be helpful to prospective students and current students to know this as they make a decision about whether to attend the school or to assess the quality of their racial experience while there.  Perhaps having more Black faculty and Administrators, V.P.'s and Deans, would alleviate other concerns indicated in the students demands including:

  • "Across all School and Colleges, the vast majority of our Faculty are not representative of the diverse student body they service. In an added detriment, many lack the cultural sensitivity we have come to expect from our institution. We recognize the difficulty in addressing this issue of cultural competency on the part of the faculty, but what is being done to address it from an administrative standpoint? Are courses offered to interested faculty who would like to learn how to better service students with backgrounds that differ from their own? Is there, at minimum, a mandated Cultural Competency course or lecture to set a standard expectation amongst University employees?
     As cultural competency is one of my areas of expertise, having written two books on the subject and I am now writing a book on disparities and diversity, I agree with the students 100%.  Cultural competency (skill sets) is imperative, along with increasing numbers of Black faculty and Administrators.  This will go a long way in making sure the students feel welcome and comfortable in the environment where they are paying substantial amounts of money for their education.  Having more Black Faculty and Administrators will also provide the non-Black students with the opportunity to see and dialogue with more Black professionals on campus, which will perhaps curb their notion that Black people are coons, etc. which was one of the negative, racist, culturally incompetent words used to insult those who were protesting against injustice on campus.  Black students would also have more Black role models and experts, in their fields of study and beyond, that they can go to in times of difficulty (as is the case presently as they protest and march for justice).

     Although the data is not present in the UM fact book as to the number of Black faculty, at all levels  and Administrators (Deans and VP's), a simple, albeit time consuming way to ascertain this information is to simply go to the University website, go to each department's site, click on the Faculty link and get the names of all Faculty and Deans.  Most have pictures.  Also, the names of all Administrators (V.P.'s) can also be attained per the University website. A quick perusal will provide a very close "Black headcount," at which time the sparse numbers will be evident.  Diversity is key, but the question at hand is within the  context of diversity at the University of Miami, how many people are Black because #blackeducatorsmatter #blackadministratorsmatter, #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter.

     As society, once again, comes to terms with the atrocities being committed against Black people, it is inevitable that other societal ills will surface.  Hence it is no surprise that the students had other concerns per their demands including:

--> "While we recognize that to a certain extent this must be accomplished on an individual basis, our question is what is the university doing to facilitate the spread of cultures and ideas amongst students"

--> 'What is the university's policy on hate speech and the use of racial, sexist or homophobic slurs? If one exists, it appears to be neither widely known nor enforced amongst the student body.  

    --> "Some of our students have experienced harassment by University of Miami police...How are we training our [police] Officers and Emergency Personnel to interact with the diverse body of students that occupy this campus? Is there any student input or post-interaction feedback within that training process, or in the local police department at large?"

         These strong, courageous young, Black students, whom I am proud to say, I have taught many of them, have asked for the following: 

    'We would like the university to create a task force specifically related to the ongoing issues of diversity and inclusion of Black students on campus. We would like to see senior administrators on this task force who can respond directly to our concerns and provide a timetable for these concerns to be addressed. We would like student leaders to be well represented on this task force to speak to the student experience regarding the regression, progression, or stagnancy of various aspects of the college experience at the Predominantly White Institution. We would like to include both New and Tenured faculty who can address our academic concerns of the past and work towards a better future, specifically regarding academic experiences."  
         They close their letter with hope by stating:  in solidarity and excitement  #blacklivesmatter
    A letter was written by President Shalala today and screen saved and posted on Facebook by students.  It's a start but hopefully, the struggle continues with the bigger pictures in mind.

         Although, this letter is a possible beginning, one of my former Black students, who is now a medical student, sent this to me, which I think is a fitting way to close this post.  It is entitled: An Open Letter to Black Students #BlackLivesMatter.    N.I.C.E. joins in on this love letter, in natural, consciousness, agreeing with it in totality. #NaturalIsCoolEnoughKnowsBlackStudentsMatter   Definitely a worthy read: http://blackspaceblog.com/2014/12/08/an-open-letter-of-love-to-black-students-blacklivesmatter/

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    Natural Is Cool Enough Joined Miami Protesters from the Heart, Mind, Body, Consciousness and from the Roots: Stand Up Against Injustice!

         Rather than a lazy day, which is often what I prefer on Sundays, I attended a protest rally, with my husband, which began in the Wynwood area of Miami, in the middle of the Art Basel festivities, on the last day of the art venture.  Interestingly, we had been at Art Basel, gazing at art for the entire evening, the night before.  But the next day, at 3:00, a Protest Rally was scheduled, to deal with the atrocities committed against Black people, namely the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases, in which the Grand Jury for each of these men, did not indict the officers who killed them. These are just a couple of cases of many, which is tragic.  Therefore, Miami folks joined the cadre of protesters from around the nation, indicating, with strong voices, in no uncertain terms, that Black Lives Matter.

         As a point of clarification, in regard to Black Lives Matter (#Blacklivesmatter), which has become a hashtag, organization and oft repeated protest phrase of late (along with "I can't breathe," the last words repeated by Eric Garner, and "Hands up don't shoot," as Mike Brown was said to have his hands up, per some witnesses, when he was gunned down on the street in his neighborhood) there has been some concern about the use of this term.  Some will say, not only Black lives matter, but all lives matter.  It is clear that all lives matter, but what is not clear is, if all lives matter, why so many Black people (men and women) are being killed by the hands of the police.  The term #Blacklivesmatter is referring to the fact that in addition to everyone else, Black lives matter too, as equally as any other lives.  It's shameful that time has to be spent explaining this in the midst of all of these Black lives that are being brutally ended (boys, girls, women and men) but nevertheless, there is a tendency to nitpick rather than stay focused on the core issue, which is in these cases, the death of Black people per the hands of the police. A very poignant moment at this rally was when Trayvon's Martin's parents joined us and spoke to the crowd.  Our hearts were with them as we listened to their words.

        I do believe that pictures are worth a thousand words, so below are many images of the Miami rally. It was a strong, courageous, intense event, that I am honored to have attended. It felt comforting to stand in the midst of so many people (with my husband by my side) who were of all ages and races and who made a decision, on a beautiful, sunny day in Miami, to march for over 4 hours while demanding justice for Black lives lost and at the very least, making it clear that we will be heard because yes, Black lives matter!  Also, I must mention, in the spirit of N.I.C.E., that there were many sisters and brothers there, adorned with their natural locks, braids, freestyle kink, afros and beyond reinforcing consciousness from the roots making it clear that in any and every situation Natural Is Cool Enough.  I was proud to be there exhibiting that level of consciousness, with my locks.  The struggle continues!


    Trayvon Martin's Dad
    Trayvon Martin's Mom