Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Atheism & The Black Community - Mandisa Thomas on How Religion Crippled the Black Community

Earlier this Fall I had "the pleasure of meeting Mandisa Thomas a fellow Atheist and Founder and current President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. The Houston Black Nonbelievers put on an event called "'Growing Secularism in the Black Community' - HBN Presents Mandisa Thomas" and at the event Mandisa spoke about taking the lead as a Black woman and her experiences over the last five years with founding and running Black Nonbelievers."


It is with great pleasure that I share a video that I ran across featuring Mandisa giving a speech on "How Religion Crippled the Black Community." It was filmed by Dane Sorensen during a meeting of the Secular Humanists of the Low Country in Charleston, South Carolina back in March of 2012. Watch and enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter - Marcus H. Harcus "Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us."



Some people really don't get it. It's mostly ignorant white folks with white fragility, but also ignorant Black folks with internalized oppression. Stop making the false equivalences between so-called "Black on (CIVILIAN) Black" killing with STATE VIOLENCE and stop the foolish and stupid police apologist rhetoric!!! How do white folks interpret us condemning SYSTEMIC WHITE SUPREMACY in general and POLICE KILLING in particular with personal charges of racial oppression??? LmaO!!!

The United States has always been a society that generally treats African Americans as less than second class citizens and often less than human. History is right now, MF! Any elementary level knowledge of and understanding about the historically white supremacist and violent culture of the United States of America would help the willfully ignorant get it, get it? Or are you suffering cognitive dissonance? That's it, but it makes you complicit if that ugly hat fits! Duck fat! Get your mind right and you don't have to wear it...


Just like most police officers are not killing unarmed civilians, the vast majority of Black people are not killing each other (it's a very tiny percentage of mostly poor and disenfranchised people in oppressed neighborhoods) and it's racist as fuck to even frame violent crime as "Black on Black" because no other so-called 'RACE' references are made to intraracial homicide, ie "White on White" killing... which is the universal norm. Furthermore, nobody wants to examine the causes and consequences of the epidemic of poor Black people killing each other being a result of centuries of RACIAL OPPRESSION, INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION and contemporary STRUCTURAL RACISM in AmeriKKKa. STFU, WAKE UP to acknowledge your ignorance of history and the country you live in, honestly claim your anti-Black bias, white or Black and get some humanity, so that you can save your soul by starting to give a fuck about freedom, liberty, justice and equity for ALL... IF you sincerely believe ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬ (I don't believe you...)!!!


Stop ignoring, denying, remaining indifferent to or acting hostile in response to the freedom cries and demanding chants of the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement shutting shit down! Join us!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#HIV: Texas Cuts Funding to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast HIV Prevention Program


UPDATE 6/8/16:

https://www.texasobserver.org/hiv-planned-parenthood-harris-county/

ORIGINAL POST:

On monday, 12/21/15 I got a message with a screenshot of a letter that had yet to be released to the general public. At first, because it was a leaked image, I thought it was a hoax given what happened over the past summer. That night, I angrily searched for any news outlets that may have released a late report concerning the matter. After that fruitless search, I did what many other bloggers would do, I waited. In my mind the thought of women, especially Black and Brown women who need the services provided by Planned Parenthood in this region being left out in the cold hit me like a brick wall.

Given the ongoing battle for Planned Parenthood to continue participation in the state Medicaid program, which is vital to Black and Brown women, Texas health officials have cut off funding to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast's HIV prevention program.The Department of State Health Services informed the Houston-based provider that it would not renew its contract for HIV prevention services which means the screenshot to the left was in fact a true image and not a hoax.

The funds come from a federal grant provided by the CDC and are managed by the state. The grant funding for the current year will expire on 12/31/15. In the notice from Texas DSHS it was stated that “There will be no further renewals of this contract.” This is some very sad and angering news to hear that the Texas is cutting nearly $600,000 in annual funding used for HIV testing and counseling, condom distribution and consultations.

According to the Texas Tribune"Through the grant, which Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has received since 1988, the organization served individuals with HIV in five counties in the Houston area. Since 2014, the grant has funded more than 138,000 HIV tests and helped in identifying 1,182 people with HIV, according to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. No other Planned Parenthood affiliate is currently a recipient of the grant.

“I don’t know who else is going to fill that gap, and I don’t know if anyone can, frankly,” said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “Every time the state cuts these programs in an attempt to score political points ... the true victims here are tens of thousands of women and men who no longer have access to health care that they need.”

It’s unclear whether the state will reallocate the funds to a different provider in the area. A health department spokesman on Tuesday said the state was “working with local health departments in the area to continue to provide these services.”

The state’s move to end the HIV prevention funding is the latest in its ongoing efforts to cut off taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood.
"

Here are the stats from the state of Texas, note the number for women, black and Latino:


Figure 2-1. HIV in Texas; People Living with HIV, New HIV Diagnoses,
and Deaths Due to HIV, 2005 - 2014
Figure 2-1. HIV in Texas; People living with HIV, new HIV diagnoses, and deaths due to HIV, 2005 - 2014. Data in Table 1.
Data on deaths is only available through 2012 due to a 2-year lag
in complete death reporting from the National Social Security Index

  • In 2014, 4,405 cases of HIV were newly diagnosed in Texas, an increase of 1.1% from the previous year. The annual number of newly diagnosed HIV cases has remained stable through the last 10 years.
  • Effective treatment has extended the lifespans of Persons Living With HIV (PLWH). As fewer PLWH die from HIV-related causes, and a relatively consistent number of new infections are diagnosed each year, the total number of PLWH grows.
  • As of the end of 2014, over 80,000 persons in Texas were known to be living with HIV. The CDC estimates that an additional 18,000 persons in Texas are living with HIV and are unaware of their infection.



Figure 2-2. Rate of New HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Race/Ethnicity, 2005 - 2014
Figure 2-2. Rate of New HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Race/Ethnicity, 2005 - 2014. Data in following link.

  • Racial disparities in the rate of new HIV diagnoses persist despite declines in the rate of new HIV diagnoses among Black Texans.
  • The rates of new HIV diagnoses appear to have remained consistent in Whites, Hispanics, and persons of Other Races over the past 10 years while the rate in Blacks has decreased. These trends are affected by population growth in Texas during this time period. The Black population in Texas increased by 24% since 2005, while the number of new diagnoses in Blacks only increased by 3% - in other words, population growth outpaced new diagnoses. The number of new diagnoses in Hispanics increased by 20%, while the population of Hispanics grew by 30%, resulting in stable rates of new diagnoses.



Table 2-1. New HIV Diagnoses and Rates among Texans by Race/Ethnicity and Sex, 2014
Males
Females
Total
Race/Ethnicity
Number
%
Rate
Number
%
Rate
Number
%
Rate
White
824
23%
13.9
95
12%
1.6
919
21%
7.7
Black
1,179
33%
75.0
470
57%
28.0
1,649
37%
50.8
Hispanic
1,435
40%
27.4
215
26%
4.2
1,650
37%
15.9
Other
67
2%
10.1
16
2%
2.3
83
2%
6.1
Unknown
77
2%
-
27
3%
-
104
2%
-

  • Despite the fact that Blacks comprise only 12% of the Texas population, over a third of all new HIV diagnoses among in Texas were among Blacks.
  • The vast difference in rate of new diagnoses per 100,000 population between Hispanics and Blacks, despite nearly equal numbers of new diagnoses, are a result of the much larger population of Hispanics in Texas. Hispanic persons newly diagnosed with HIV make up a smaller proportion of the Hispanic population compared to Blacks.
  • The racial disparity in new HIV diagnoses is most stark among females, where Black females have 6.7 times the rate of new diagnoses compared to racial group with the next highest rate.




Table 2-2. New HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Age Group and Sex, 2014
Males
Females
Total
Age (years)
Number
%
Rate
Number
%
Rate
Number
%
Rate
0-14
6
0.2%
0.2
13
1.6%
0.5
19
0.4%
0.3
15-24
990
27.6%
49.3
142
17.3%
7.5
1,132
25.7%
29.0
25-34
1,214
33.9%
61.0
227
27.6%
11.7
1,441
32.7%
36.7
34-44
669
18.7%
37.0
223
27.1%
12.2
892
20.2%
24.5
45+
703
19.6%
15.5
218
26.5%
4.4
921
20.9%
9.7

  • The majority of persons newly diagnosed with HIV are between the ages of 15-34.
  • However, the age profile for persons newly diagnosed varies by sex. A higher proportion of newly diagnosed females are over the age of 25 compared to males. This is likely explained by a recent increase in new infections among young gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) (see Section 10: Men who have Sex with Men).



Figure 2-3. New HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Age Group, 2005 - 2014
Figure 2-3. Annual Number of New HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Age Group, 2005 - 2014. Data in following link.

  • The number of new diagnoses in young persons age 15-24 has nearly doubled over the last 10 years, while the number of new diagnoses in persons 25-34 has also increased.
  • The wider availability of HIV testing, both through targeted and routine screenings, may be contributing to the decline in new diagnoses among persons over age 35 as the increased availability of testing allows people to be diagnosed earlier in their infections.

  
Table 2-3. HIV Diagnoses in Texas by Mode of Exposure and Sex, 2014
Males
Females
Total
Exposure Category
N
%
N
%
N
%
MSM
3,078
85.9%
0
0.0%
3,078
69.9%
IDU
135
3.8%
105
12.8%
240
5.4%
MSM/IDU
117
3.3%
0
0.0%
117
2.7%
Heterosexual
246
6.9%
705
85.7%
951
21.6%
Pediatric
6
0.2%
13
1.6%
19
0.4%
Adult Other
0
0%
0
0%
0
0%
Total
3,582
81.3%
823
18.7%
4,405
100.0%

  • The majority of new HIV diagnoses in Texas males are attributable to male-male sexual contact.
  • In females, the majority of new diagnoses are attributable to heterosexual sexual contact. Females have a higher biological risk of acquiring HIV from heterosexual contact compared to males. This may partially explain the disproportionate number of diagnoses in heterosexual males compared to females.
Source: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/hivstd/reports/epiprofile/sec02.shtm#table2-2

The state of Texas is on a warpath against Planned Parenthood and they are working to defund the organization through exclusions from certain program
s:
  • The state Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides screenings and diagnostic treatment to low-income women.
  • The Texas Women’s Health Program

We cannot continue to allow the state to inflict war on women, especially women who just so happen to be Black and Latino. Regardless of how you may feel about abortion, Planned Parenthood does so much more for women living without insurance and in low income conditions. We need to take a stand and do it now!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kwanzaa - A Reaffirmation & Restoration of Our Rootedness in African Culture


Kwanzaa


An African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

Roots and Branches


The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African "first fruit" celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration. Kwanzaa, then, is:

  • a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
  • a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
  • a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
  • a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
  • a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.

The African American Branch

Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics only an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one, For it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to serve several functions.

Reaffirming and Restoring Culture

First, Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture. It is, therefore, an expression of recovery and reconstruction of African culture which was being conducted in the general context of the Black Liberation Movement of the '60's and in the specific context of The Organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition.

Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction as a people and a world community.

Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) These seven communitarian African values are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics),Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). This stress on the Nguzo Saba was at the same time an emphasis on the importance of African communitarian values in general, which stress family, community and culture and speak to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. And Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them. 

The Seven Principles



The Symbols


Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:

Mazao (The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Mkeka (The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.

Kinara (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Muhindi (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.

Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.

Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.

Zawadi (The Gifts)
These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.

The two supplemental symbols are:

Bendera (The Flag)
The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.

Greetings - Gifts - Colors


The greetings during Kwanzaa are in Swahili. Swahili is a Pan-African language and is chosen to reflect African Americans' commitment to the whole of Africa and African culture rather than to a specific ethnic or national group or culture. The greetings are to reinforce awareness of and commitment to the Seven Principles. It is: "Habari gani?" and the answer is each of the principles for each of the days of Kwanzaa, i.e., "Umoja", on the first day, "Kujichagulia", on the second day and so on.

Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green as noted above and can be utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Also decorations should include traditional African items, i.e., African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects, harvest symbols, etc.

How to Celebrate


There is a traditionally established way of celebrating Kwanzaa. We should therefore observe these guidelines to make our Kwanzaa the most beautiful and engaging one and to keep the tradition. Without definite guidelines and core values and practices there is no holiday.

First, you should come to the celebration with a profound respect for its values, symbols and practices and do nothing to violate its integrity, beauty and expansive meaning. 

Secondly, you should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture. This would violate the principles of Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) and thus violate the integrity of the holiday.

Thirdly, choose the best and most beautiful items to celebrate Kwanzaa. This means taking time to plan and select the most beautiful objects of art, colorful African cloth, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. so that every object used represents African culture and your commitment to the holiday in the best of ways.

The Day of Meditation

(Siku ya Taamuli)


The last day of Kwanzaa is the first day of the new year, January 1.Historically this has been for African people a time of sober assessment of things done and things to do, of self-reflection and reflection on the life and future of the people and of recommitment to their highest cultural values in a special way. Following in this tradition, it is for us then a time to ask and answer soberly and humbly the three Kawaida questions: Who am I; am I really who I say I am; and am I all I ought to be? And it is, of necessity, a time to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals, in a word, to the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense. 


The Odu Ifa Meditation


K'a má fi kánjú j'aiyé.
K'a má fi wàrà-wàrà n'okùn orò.
Ohun à bâ if s'àgbà,
K'a má if se'binu.
Bi a bá de'bi t'o tútù,
K'a simi-simi,
K'a wò'wajú ojo lo titi;
K'a tun bò wá r'èhìn oràn wo;
Nitori àti sùn ara eni ni.

Let us not engage the world hurriedly.
Let us not grasp at the rope of wealth impatiently.
That which should be treated with mature judgment,
Let us not deal with in a state of anger.
When we arrive at a cool place,
Let us rest fully;
Let us give continuous attention to the future;
and let us give deep consideration to the consequences of things.
And this because of our (eventual) passing.


Eji Ogbe
The Odu Ifa


This Day of Assessment or Day of Meditation is noted in the first-fruits celebration of the Akan by J. B. Danquah. He states that the Akan have one day during the first-fruits harvest in which they simply engage in quiet reflection. "The idea on this (day) is to maintain a quiet, humble and calm attitude with regard to oneself and towards one's neighbors." It is thus a good time for reassessment and recommitment on a personal and family level.

About The Founder


Dr. Maulana Karenga is professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He holds two Ph.D.'s; his first in political science with focus on the theory and practice of nationalism (United States International University) and his second in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt (University of Southern California). Professor Karenga is the foremost exponent of Maatian ethical thought, having developed over the last three decades, a creative and scholarly Kawaida interpretation of ancient Egyptian ethical thought as a living tradition and a useful philosophical option for critical reflection on the urgent issues of our time. His second dissertation, a major work of 803-pages titled Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics, and submitted in 1996, was the most requested work from UMI out of 45,000 dissertations and theses worldwide of that year. Published as a book in 2002, it has received praise from the Africana Studies and Egyptological communities as a seminal and defining work which has opened up a valuable new dialog with ancient Egyptian thought and culture.

An activist-scholar of national and international recognition, Dr. Karenga has had a far-reaching effect on Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960s. Through his organizational and intellectual work, and his philosophy, Kawaida, he has played a vanguard role in shaping the Black Arts Movement, Black Studies, the Black Power Movement, the Black Student Union Movement, Afrocentricity, ancient Egyptian studies and the study of...CONTINUE READING.