Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One-On-One With Dr. Maulana Karenga

Kwanzaa’s founder talks about Pan-African holiday


Dr. Maulana Karenga is the creator of Kwanzaa, a professor in the Department of Black Studies at California State University-Long Beach and chair of the African American Cultural Center  and organization Us, located in Los Angeles. He is the author of “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle” (a collection of commentaries on critical issues), and the “Million Man March/Day of Absence Mission Statement,” among other works.  Dr. Karenga recently sat down for an interview with Final Call Western Region Correspondent Charlene Muhammad about the creation and impact of Kwanzaa, (www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org) and (www.MaulanaKarenga.org).


FINAL CALL (FC): Why did you decide to create Kwanzaa? Was there a specific individual incident that compelled you or a variety of reasons?


DR. MAULANA KARENGA (MK):  I created Kwanzaa as part of my work as an activist-scholar in the Black Freedom Movement and thus it reflects movement concerns, principles and practices such as cultural grounding, unity, self-determination, social justice, historical consciousness, cooperative practices and responsibility, and community building and struggle. I created Kwanzaa in this context, then, for three reasons: (1) to reaffirm our rootedness in African culture and facilitate our return to our own history and culture;  (2) to give us as African people, a special time to come together, reinforce the bonds between us and mediate on the awesome meaning of being African in the world; and (3) to introduce and reinforce the importance of African communitarian values, values that stress and strengthen family, community and culture, especially the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles). And these are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).


FC: When you created Kwanzaa in 1966, what did you see as the ultimate need that it would help fulfill in people?


MK: Kwanzaa was created to build on the best of African thought and practice using models and teachings of excellence and achievement of our culture, ancient and modern, continental and Diaspora, to aid us in our struggle for liberation and to build good, meaningful and expansive lives. It was thus not created to solve problems, but to enhance our lives, building on our strengths and our best ideas and practices.


FC: How did you develop the total concept and then each principle?


MK: I conceived and constructed Kwanzaa through deep and wide-ranging research, study and reflection on African cultures, extracting ancient and modern models and meanings that spoke to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. This meant learning African languages, concepts and customs and searching for and incorporating visions and ways of being ethical and excellent in the world.


FC: Why seven principles specifically?


MK: I chose Seven Principles that I reasoned reflected the communitarian spirit of African culture and central goals and goods of the movement. And I chose “seven” for the special spiritual and cultural significance of the number seven in African culture and the value it has for facility in learning and practice.

FC: What was the initial reaction to the idea and then when Kwanzaa materialized?


MK: The initial reaction to Kwanzaa was excitement and commitment in our organization, Us, interest and acceptance in the larger nationalist community, and curiosity, questioning and gradual appreciation in the African American community as a whole when they heard about it or experienced it. But eventually, it received, as you know, a warm and wide reception because of the special and specific cultural meaning it has for us as African peoples in a multicultural society and world.


FC: Looking back to 1966 when you created Kwanzaa, in your view what has been its greatest impact since then?


MK: I think the greatest impact of Kwanza has been its ever increasing importance as a major cultural reference point and shared value system that: (1) provides us with a shared set of ethical and social principles and practices; (2) reaffirms cultural grounding for us as persons, family, organizations and institutions; (3) unites us around the world in ways no other cultural practices does; and (4) encourages us and enhances our capacity to remember, reaffirm and speak our special cultural truth in a multicultural world.

FC: Now 40 million-plus, if I understand correctly, over the world celebrate Kwanzaa. Your thoughts on how it's spreading?


MK: Clearly, I feel blessed and honored to see my work flourish in my lifetime; to witness Kwanzaa’s embrace by over 40 million Africans throughout the world, the African community on every continent in the world and to see and regularly receive evidence of the various ways our people discuss, teach, use and practice the Seven Principles, the Nguzo Saba, all year round in countless ways. And I am profoundly grateful to our organization, Us, for accepting it first and sharing it with Africans around the world; to the nationalist community who embraced it and expanded the sharing and, of course, to our people as a whole who made it the Pan-African and world-encompassing holiday it is today.


FC: Lastly, what do you envision for Kwanzaa and its celebrants in the future? What is your ultimate goal/vision for it and are we, the world, on our way?


MK: My vision for Kwanzaa and its celebrants, and indeed for our people, is that we will continue to embrace, discuss, reflect on and practice the Nguzo Saba to achieve and sustain the goals and good inherent in the principles—unity, self-determination, collective work an responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. For I see these core principles and practices key to the ongoing struggle we wage to repair, renew and transform ourselves and the world, to begin a new history of humankind, and create an ever-expanding realm of human freedom, flourishing and good in the world.


FC: Thank you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blagojevich taps Roland Burris


Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat Tuesday. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has vowed not to certify Atty. Gen. Burris and Democratic leaders have vowed not to seat him.

A few of the mixed reactions:

President-Elect Barack Obama (as reported by the International Herald Tribune):  "Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat.  I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:  “It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’ ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.  

Congressman Bobby Rush:

“He (Burris) is the only one I believe that can stand in the gap during these tumultuous times and gather the confidence, reestablish the confidence of the people of the State of Illinois . . . as far as my colleagues in the Congress, we intend to persuade them or to challenge them to do whatever – beg them – whatever it may take to get them to reverse their decision.  Roland Burris stands heads and shoulders against most elected officials in this nation, so there's no rhyme or reason that he should not be seated in the U.S. Senate. 

This is a matter of national importance.”




Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good News for Wal-Mart Workers



http://energiasolarok.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html

The super retail store has agreed to pay $352 million to $640 million to make 63 wage-and-hour class-action lawsuits filed across the nation disappear.  Workers accused Wal-Mart, Inc. of forcing them to work through breaks and while off the clock.
 

As part of the settlements announced Tuesday, Wal-Mart agreed to continue to use various electronic systems and other methods to maintain compliance with its wage and hour policies and applicable law.

Tom Mars, executive vice president and general counsel, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said, “Many of these lawsuits were filed years ago and the allegations are not representative of the company we are today … Our policy is to pay associates for every hour worked and to provide rest and meal breaks.”

But the settlements won’t end Wal-Mart’s problems. According to Wal-Mart Watch, a campaign that works to make the company a better employer, neighbor and corporate citizen, it is currently facing the largest workplace-bias lawsuit in U.S. history for widespread discrimination against women employees; a class action lawsuit filed by Black truck drivers; and numerous other cases involving discrimination against workers with disabilities.

In addition, Wal-Mart Watch charges, despite numerous tweaks to its health care plan, Wal-Mart employees have to pay unnecessary charges and fees, wait longer for coverage eligibility and are forced to use public health programs for health care needs.

Wal-Mart Watch’s Executive Director David Nassar responded to the settlement:

“Wal-Mart is scared and is throwing dead weight overboard to lighten its load. The company’s decision to settle these cases so suddenly is clearly driven by the knowledge that having such cases pending is strong evidence for the need for the Employee Free Choice Act.

“If these millions of workers had been allowed union representation, they never would have had to hire lawyers and wait years to get their paychecks.

“Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, there is no lack of evidence that the company mistreats its employees. As if 63 wage and hour lawsuits aren’t proof enough, every day new stories of worker mistreatment are posted on walmartspeakout.com. Since October, hundreds of Wal-Mart Workers have submitted such stories and videos to Wal-Mart Watch, and others will be ready to testify before congress when the time is right.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Obama Administration - Change and Transition



President-Elect Barack Obama hasn't even taken office yet and already he's faced probably more scrutiny and criticism from right wing Republicans over his transition work than George Bush has over many of his criminal acts while in office.  But Obama keeps pushing to break barriers and set unimaginable records.  

Obama's approval rating is 82% according to a CNN opinion poll released today.  Bush's approval rating is 28% according an American Research Group survey cited on December 22.

The Barack Doctrine
Diversity
Dialogue
Green Economy/New Jobs
Transparency

(photo by www.barackobama.com)



(photo by www.whitehouse.gov)




The Bush Doctrine

Preemptive Strikes 
Spying/Wiretapping
Torture
Cronyism 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Am My Brother's Keeper





General Jeff, widely known as the West Coast Hip Hop artist, D.J. General Jeff, has been working hard on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles to help improve life and bring justice to homeless men, women and children.  General Jeff and ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS helped to bring this brand new basketball court to Gladys Park in Skid Row, courtesy of NIKE, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the LA84 Foundation (a non-profit effort dedicated to the development of youth sport).

General Jeff says the b-ball court is just the beginning.  Soon, the community will have 8 new chess tables, 4 shade umbrellas, exercise equipment and an automated public toilet.

While there's much to appreciate, General Jeff wants people of good will to remember that there's much to be considered where the homeless population is concerned.  He is referring to random food and clothes drop-offs in Skid Row that ultimately just end up on the streets. 

A word (and pictures below) from General Jeff:

This type of vigilance and disrespect is exactly why community leaders have been shouting for some form of "official" structure to feeding and helping the homeless.

The blame for all this mess is then passed on to the Skid Row residents. For one, we did not bring these clothes and drop them on the sidewalk and there aren't enough trash cans for the homeless to properly dispose of trash.  

All these pictures were taken on the same day(Sunday December 21, 2008) while we we
re giving a tour of Skid Row. During the holidays, there are so many "drop-offs", that Skid Row always looks its filthiest. This happens every year about this time.

Question: After the donors leave, who is responsible for all this trash?

Hope your holiday season is better than ours.

General Jeff/ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS

(ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS is a solutions-based organization that focuses on viable solutions for issues that mainly pertain to all concerns of the underprivileged. Its current primary focus is on the Skid Row community in Downtown Los Angeles and its goal is to convert the current negative conditions into a positive garden of energy and resources that will allow people of all walks-of-life to truly rebuild themselves after they have fallen on hard times, which is what Skid Row should be in the first place.)

 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A View From the Top

urban  Bro. Urban Muhammad

*  Member of NOI since 1968

*  Owner of Urban School of Self Defense (www.urbanschoolofselfdefense.com)



CONGRATULATIONS! to Brothers Urban Muhammad and Bilal Muhammad of the Long Beach Study Group in Long Beach, California!  Both of them are NOI pioneers and they’re at top with consistent bundles of 100 Final Call Newspapers each week.  Here’s a bit about Bro. Urban.  Look for more on Bro. Bilal as soon as I can obtain his photo.

“For me it’s very easy to push the Final Call because I have the school and I offer it to my students.  I’m also in a high business area with a lot of traffic.  The view from the top is a wonderful thing because when I offer the paper to our beautiful brothers and sisters it always leads to an intelligent conversation about Islam.  My tip for brothers who would like to sell the papers on a consistent basis is just to get out there.  Most people already know about it and they want it,” Bro. Urban said.

Are you at the top?  Post your comment or email me your story:  fcnwest@yahoo.com




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Inside this week's Final Call ...


One on One Interview with Randi Muhammad

“Inside A MGT Home”

Randi Muhammad grew up like most little girls, studying her mother’s cleaning and cooking techniques.  When she joined the Nation of Islam and entered the Muslim Girls’ Training class, she strengthened what she learned at her mother’s knee and poured her knowledge into a book designed to help other women - whether wives, mothers or single women - maintain clean, organized and beautiful homes.  In a recent interview Sis. Randi told Final Call staff writer Charlene Muhammad why she believes “Inside A MGT Home” is a beacon of light for today’s women, who are plagued by increasing demands of home and work.

FINAL CALL (FC):  How and why did you choose the title of your book and why did you begin with a chapter on getting organized?

RANDI MUHAMMAD (RM):  The foundation is the MGT & GCC (Muslim Girls Training & General Civilization Class); but I have to say there was no process that led me to choose that title.  I think I somehow knew what it would be called after the first paragraph.  What I didn't know is that I would be writing a book.  My original thought was to write a few pages that I could share in MGT class.

FC:  How and why did you choose the title of your book and why did you begin with a chapter on getting organized?

RM:  The foundation is the MGT & GCC (Muslim Girls Training & General Civilization Class); but I have to say there was no process that led me to choose that title.  I think I somehow knew what it would be called after the first paragraph.  What I didn't know is that I would be writing a book.  My original thought was to write a few pages that I could share in MGT class. 

I began with getting organized because organizing and decluttering has to come first.  It's all a part of cleaning. The definition of those two words fueled the entire chapter.  I also know that once you organize your space, it will be that much easier to decide the overall mood and look you want to create in that space.

FC:            Your book has more text and fewer pictures than most interior design projects.  Why did you lay out this way?

RM:            There was a lot that I wanted and still want to say.  I think a lot of times smoke and mirrors or in this case, pretty pictures are used as a distraction.  When you read books by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, there's no window dressing or fluff, just the plain truth.  I wanted to try to follow the example set by these amazing leaders.

FC:            What is similar and different about “Inside A MGT Home” and other housekeeping or interior design coffee books currently on the market?

RM:            I'd say the similarities are that they all show you what's possible.  However, I believe that the difference between "Inside A MGT Home" and the others is that it covers much more than just home decor and entertaining.  That and the fact that (to my knowledge) it's the only one of its kind that was founded on the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

 

FC:              The displays in your book show really spacious homes with room to work with but what if one rents a small studio or one bedroom apartment and feels cramped?  How can they achieve what you've shown or make even a rented room beautiful?

 

RM:            The principles are the same.  If one room is what you have to work with, decide on the mood you want to create.  Maybe it's warm and comfortable, bright and cheerful, or sleek and contemporary, what ever you want it to be.  You can then select colors that evoke that particular emotion.  If it's within your budget, add artwork, an area rug, or update your bedding.  Add or change window treatments, and maybe add a few accessories and plants.  If you would like to divide your space to create different areas, that can be done with a well placed bookshelf, screen, or fabric drape.  Even with the tightest of budgets, you can make a difference.  Another alternative would be to bring in additional color by using an accent fabric.  Fabric can still be purchased for .99 per yard.  Swag a couple of yards on the window and make a few coordinating pillows, or lampshades.  Trust your imagination.

 

FC:            Thank you.

 


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Truth About Kwanzaa

Greetings all.

If there's more to come of last night's showing of "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" on CNN, then the controversy that Sierra Henderson of the Clark Atlanta University Panther recently wrote about stands to increase.

Yesterday I took my children to the African American Cultural Center to enjoy the Children's Kwanzaa Workshop, which features a lot of educational yet fun activities.  There was arts and crafts, reading, music and dance.  But most of all, they learned about the principles of Kwanzaa, why Dr. Maulana Karenga created it and how the principles can help them in their everyday lives. 

Ms. Limbiko Tembo coordinated the workshop.

According to the founder, Kwanzaa 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 (of life, existence itself, family, community, culture, the awesome and ordinary, good of the divine, natural and social).

After watching Bro. D.L. Hughley's segment about Kwanzaa on CNN last night I thought it was too bad that I didn't take him and his producers with us.  I understand the nature of comedy skits but I thought it was tragic that we have Dr. Karenga and many of the Brothers and Sisters of the Organization Us walking among us, as well as many of our other great warriors in the struggle, but we'd rather fumble around in the dark for a few dollars instead of contacting them for the basics about Kwanzaa and using the time given to really help inform our people. 

After the misinformation, it would have been nice to have the founder of Kwanzaa either in studio or on the phone for his view and analysis of what he created in 1966.
 
But really, CNN's real motive for the show is materializing and I believe that's to ultimately use our brother as a comedic attack dog in this changing political climate to say what network officials really want to but will not be able to.  It's an old trick but we keep falling for it.

Besides, can't we have two recurring black shows on CNN, or any other mainstream news network for that matter, at once?   I don't believe that people want to see Bro. D.L. lose his show with CNN because more opportunities for Blacks in major broadcast television is crucial, especially now.  When it's your time, it's your time and no one can take that away from you. But we have to ask why this type of content and why now?   

Where is Roland Martin?  What about Donna or Jamal or even Amy?

One Clark Atlanta student said she thought that the show concept was a good idea and at least D.L.'s getting exposure.  Yes, but exposure for what?  

The segment involved creating a song for Kwanzaa and culminated with a songwriter singing his rendition of why Blacks celebrate Kwanzaa.  

The truth is there are already several songs for Kwanzaa, created by Charles Mims, Patsy Moore and Greg Martin, in the spirit of its seven principles:  Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).  

The CD consists of original music and songs and is titled, "Kwanzaa for Young People (and Everyone else!)."  


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Kwanzaa Umoja Reception Photos

Chimbuko Tembo (Vice-Chair Us Organization), Tiamoyo Karenga (Executive Assistant, Us Organization) Dr. Maulana Karenga (Professor, Africana Studies, Cal-State Long Beach and Chair, Us Organization), Dr. Jorge Ramirez Reyna, Hasani Soto(Us Organization Advocate), Tulifu Jadi (Vice-Chair, Us Organization).








Maurice Muhammad, Millions More Movement Ministry of Defense, Dr. Reyna and Dr. Karenga






















Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Africans in Peru


Dr. Jorge Ramirez Reyna, Executive Director of the Black Association for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (ASONEDH), and a Civil Rights and Social Change activist in Peru, walked into the African American Cultural Center and the embrace of people eager to better understand the plight of Africans of Peru.  

He was the featured guest at the African American Cultural Center's Kwanzaa Umoja Reception on Sunday, December 7.

With the assistance of three translators, Dr. Reyna discussed how people are suffering due to racism, which plays out in negative media images, education, and a lack of political representation, much less political power.  But the people are organizing and fighting back.  The cultural artists are becoming more militant and using their art in the struggle, but they need more work, he said.

Part of their strategy has been to teach their true culture and heritage to the women so that they can teach the children.  (Sisters, sound familiar?  Seventy-five percent of the work........)

"Our people don't have a knowledge of their ancestors.  We need our young people to know everything beautiful about Africa and not think of Africa as a place of savagery, but as a country of kings and queens," Dr. Reyna said.

He certainly walked into the right place, courtesy of his host, Hasani, a member of the Organization Us (meaning us and not them).  Every Sunday it hosts a Soul Session at the Center, which highlights local, national and international issues, scholars and events.  Often, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor, Department of Africana Studies at Cal-State Long Beach, Chair of the Organization Us, and the founder of Kwanzaa (the seven-day African American and Pan African holiday) is the featured lecturer.

The next day I had the pleasure of conducting a one-on-one interview with Dr. Reyna for more insight.  We sat down, along with Sis. Hasani, at another L.A. cultural icon, Simply Wholesome restaurant on top of the hill.  Afterwards, we took photographs and when Sis. Hasani asked one of three gentlemen sitting nearby to shoot for us, a simple favor turned into a family reunion.  

Also above is a photograph of Dr. Reyna and Justo Mena (far right), his son Jaime Mena (2nd right) and his brother, Victor Loredo (far left) all of Garifuna in Central America.  They have family members back home who've received assistance from Dr. Reyna and ASONEDH on various issues.

Look for more on Dr. Jorge Ramirez Reyna and Africans in Peru in the Final Call!



Saturday, December 6, 2008

Media Collabs


Greetings everyone!  First, I have to ask that you please forgive me for such a delay in my blogging.  I'd never want to display that I'd take for granted this space and opportunity that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Final Call Editor have allowed me to express myself.  

Things are moving so fast with news and technology that there's no time to blink, but even knowing that, I did and missed what seems like a century of contact and activity here, but I'm back and pledge to keep it coming.  

I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of the Black Press, especially today, as we usher in this new era of change under the political leadership of President-Elect Barack Obama.  As Min. Farrakhan continues to outline our roles in "The New Beginning," and admonishing us to "Accept Our Responsibility," I've been re-organizing my personal and professional lives to be able to meet the challenge and be obedient.

In that reorganization, I gained time to finally accept an invitation by Los Angeles Sentinel (published by Danny Bakewell, Sr.)  Religion Editor Niele Anderson to contribute articles to her section.  Since I'd been thinking of a column that would uplift people as well as call attention to various issues, I thought it'd be a good idea to submit it for the spiritual pages.

My first column ran on October 23, 2008.  (Bro. Jesse thanks for the logo!).  I chose the title, "With These Hands," because it reminds me that we are a creative people who've built civilizations.  As everything around us seems to be crumbling, remember, we can always build and rebuild.  

I hope you enjoy...

With These Hands

"This is a really different time, almost like people are on a roller coaster and they don't know what to think or expect and I'm afraid that because of people struggling psychologically, they will then begin to experience physical problems, like hypertension and other stress-related issues."

My beautiful friend Dr. Gloria Morrow, an Inland Empire-based clinical psychologist, said these words to me during a recent conversation about the financial turbulence within America.  Although I'd already been researching and writing about the country's economic crisis, I realized at that moment she spoke those words that the "bottom" that everyone is waiting to fall out reaches deeper than the real estate and investment markets.  It permeates the loss of people's homes and money, as if that weren't enough.

As I began preparing for this humble privilege and opportunity to contribute to this very important section of the Los Angeles Sentinel, I began reflecting on "In the Meantime," a book of meditations by the great author and motivational speaker, Iyanla Vanzant.  She recalled that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam leader, once said that God has the ability to create something out of nothing.

Ms. Vanzant continued:

"The earth was without form and void..." (Genesis 1:2); today it is a multinational conglomerate.  Remember when there was a void in your life, seemed to be no way up or out, and then suddenly a way was cleared.  What about when you were down to your last dime and didn't know where the next one was coming from; it came from somewhere.  When you were at your wits end, the wolves were on your heels and you had reached the end of your rope, somehow you rose above it and lived to talk, even to laugh about it.  You may think you did it on your own, by yourself, without help from anyone, but you didn't realize where the help was coming from.  So the next time you find yourself in need, ask, who can make something out of nothing?"

It's been widely reported that we are continuing to experience the domino effect caused by scandalous sub-prime lenders.  Wall Street investment firms, and the housing market.  There is widespread job loss and people are unable to pay for food, medicines, school and college tuition.  News reports indicate that some are losing their minds, their physical health, spirituality, faith, and ultimately, their lives, but we must hold on and we can.

At the time of this writing, at least two people had killed themselves as a result of their debt and hardships.  One man killed himself and his family and an elderly woman was so distraught that she pumped two bullets into her upper body, however she survived.

I'm getting calls from women who are depressed and others who are ready to buckle under the pressure of holding up themselves, their families, their communities.

As I take in their very personal stories, I've come to understand that although this domino is already in motion, it doesn't mean we have to disintegrate under its rapid blows.  It had a beginning and it will have an end.  Until then, we can beat the unsolicited side effects of this countrywide debt crisis.

We can beat depression, unwarranted embarrassment, shame, worry and thoughts of suicide.

Black women have always been a deeply, spiritual and praying woman and we've survived through worse conditions.  This statement isn't to dismiss or diminish our very serious experiences today, but it's to recall us to a time of tragedy, as well as strength and faith in a mighty God that brought us through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  We prayed through mass murders and rape; through the separation from our men and our children; through humiliating displays on slave traders' auction blocks; through the pain of unspeakable lynchings and through the unjust assassinations of our great leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Through all of that God was in control and He is today.  He is still the giver of life, the sender of all prophets, a merciful forgiving God.  We've never been afraid to call on the Lord, whether we use the name Jesus, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Allah, Yaweh, Jehovah, and we can't stop now.

Each day, as we fall on our knees and pray to Him to help us endure, let's rise with our hands and create the things that will help to feed our families, pay our rent or mortgages, and clothe our children.  The scriptures tell us that faith without works is dead.  We've survived without Fortune 500 companies before.  In fact, we've built them.

We can rebuild our homes, our economy, and our lives.

With These Hands, let's:

1) Open self-help centers that teach people how to enter new careers or start their own community-based service industry businesses;

2) Open youth mentoring and tutoring centers;

3) Cook extra food for the family or single mother next door to help carry them to their next meal;

4) Open overnight community childcare centers to assist mothers and fathers who work nights or non-conventional shifts;

5) Host a rent party or create a community calendar of resources such as job leads, affordable housing or quality discount moving companies;

6) Sew, bake, make beautiful jewelry or handbags to sell as we trim our household budgets;

7) Plant community co-op gardens, start a local food bank or can and preserve food as our mothers and grandmothers once did to ease the sting of rising grocery store prices;

8) Serve each other;

9) With These Hands, let's pray.

###