This opinion piece was written for WatchTheYard.com by Demar F. Lewis IV on 9/12/16
When I first saw the news breaking about Colin Kaepernick over the weekend, I was shocked to see the array of posts that people were “liking” and “sharing” across social media. Some were overwhelmingly positive, highlighting his bravery to speak out on a pressing social issue that many people are denying even exists. Others were not. Black people and people of color have also taken to social media to slander Kaepernick for being “unpatriotic”, “irreverent”, “ungrateful, “a shitty quarterback”, etc., and suggesting that he should leave the United States if he is unhappy here. Given the severity of this situation, it is important for us to convene as an NPHC community to discuss the implications for the work that we do.
To be perfectly clear: I support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit down during the national anthem. I haven’t sung the anthem or placed my hand over my heart in reverence to the flag for over a year now.
Like Colin, I am appalled at the way that the United States consistently chooses to allow for Black people and communities of color to suffer at the hands of police officers and other institutional forces that have yet to be held accountable. As a NUPE, the tenets and values of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. are an integral part of my life’s work. I am driven to ACHIEVE in my endeavors by fighting to rectify issues of socioeconomic injustice, and I leverage the education and privileges that I have been afforded in society to bring voice to issues that otherwise might go unnoticed. For these reasons, it is easy for me to stand by my fraternity brother and to appreciate the steps he is taking to bring public consciousness to the issue of police brutality and—implicitly—racial inequality.
Right now it is important that we stand together as a collective NPHC to provide our unequivocal support of Colin Kaepernick. We all know that our communities are struggling and that the racial and political climate in America needs to change. While this small action—publicly voicing our support for Kaepernick—may not fully align with our personal politics, we have a duty to protect the legacy, identity, and future of our illustrious organizations. Our founders’ and elders have made sacrifices like these throughout history, so the least we can do is to fight to protect the integrity of one of our own in his time of need.
Additionally, it is important for us as a Greek community to also celebrate Colin Kaepernick for the positive things that he has demonstrated to us over the last week and over the course of his six year career:
1. He is able to speak about social issues in an intelligent, sophisticated manner
One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about Kaepernick’s public demonstration is the level of consciousness that he brought to the questions he was asked in his post-game interview with the press. Not only was Colin clearly able to articulate his position and the motivations that inspired him to act, but he was also able to avoid the traps members of the press tried to set for him. Though he calls out the systemic oppression of Black people and people of color in the United States, he never points the finger at any individual group directly (i.e., white people)—his critique is systemic, which puts the burden on society as a collective to respond. Absolutely brilliant.
2. He is living out the objectives of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Brother Kaepernick is a man of culture, patriotism, and honor that is an outstanding representative of our fraternity and Black Greekdom. He is a renowned quarterback in the National Football League that is among the best in the sport at his position. After Sunday games, Brother Kaepernick is one of the players who regularly participates in prayer with his teammates and opponents. Given the stance he took in protesting the national anthem, it is clear that he is astute to the social problems affecting communities that he represents and is concerned with the social and moral welfare of all citizens and residents of America. Brother Kaepernick graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno in the fall of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business management, so he is not just another athlete without a degree on the football field—he values education and the aims and purposes of colleges and universities. Finally, Brother Kaepernick realizes that he has a responsibility to help inspire people to take action and fight for accountability to better serve the needs of marginalized people in America. This is not a task that he can accomplish alone, nor is he trying to, but Colin does recognize that the way people experience “freedom, liberty, and justice for all” in this country is not equitable.
3. He is among a select group of (Black) athletes taking an active stance on police brutality, following in the footsteps of notable athlete-activists
Black athletes are not the only people stepping up to defend the constitutional rights of Black people and communities of color. The Minnesota Lynx made national headlines when the entire team was almost fined for wearing black shirts that honored the murders of Philando Castile, Walter Sterling, and the Dallas Police Department while sporting the slogans “Change Starts With US: Justice & Accountability” on the front and “Black Lives Matter” on the back. Likewise, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Stephen Curry used some of their airtime at the ESPY’s to bring attention to the issues of police brutality and gun violence that are plaguing American communities.
These athletes all follow in a tradition of social activism that is anything but foreign to the field of sports. Celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown were heavily involved with advocating for civil rights and the constitutional rights of African-Americans, as was tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Ashe was a man of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. that dedicated his life to fighting for racial justice in the U.S. and South Africa, in addition to starting several initiatives (e.g., the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health in Brooklyn, NY) to address health disparities in the Black community. Pulling from an ESPN Classic article honoring the legacy of Brother Ashe, he had the following to say about his calling to social activism outside of sports: “I know I could never forgive myself if I elected to live without human purpose…without trying to help the poor and unfortunate, without recognizing that perhaps the purest joy in life comes with trying to help others.”
In his post-game interview, Kaepernick made a comment about his calling to social activism that is quite reminiscent of Ashe’s calling above. While it is not constructive to compare the two men athletically, it is telling that both men demonstrate a clear understanding that they are called to leverage their gifts and talents to serve others and advocate for equity in society. “This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and affect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t…I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had. And say ‘You know what? I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch…”
4. He is honest about the dichotomous relationship between his racial and national identities
The way Kaepernick describes his struggle to associate with America while Black people and communities of color are being marginalized is reminiscent of W.E.B Du Bois’ concept of “double consciousness”. Double consciousness is the notion that acknowledging an individual’s Black identity might lead them to reject their identity as American—given the nation’s history with slavery or current treatment of marginalized groups, for example—while acknowledging an individual’s American identity might lead them to disassociate with Blackness (given the nation’s historical enforcement of racial stratification & Black inferiority). Likewise, he echoes many of the sentiments articulated previously by Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me regarding how the unjust subjugation of communities of color to police brutality and socioeconomic discrimination have led him to question the promises of the American Dream.
One consistent critique that has been levied at Colin Kaepernick is that he is “unpatriotic” for not having acknowledged the flag or the anthem. Someone else who faced a similar critique for voicing critical views of American society is James Baldwin. Baldwin, however, rationalized his criticisms with the famous saying that, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Clearly, then, it is possible that some people are critical of American society out of a patriotic love for the ideals that it strives to live up to. In his post-game interview, Kaepernick never says that he doesn’t like America or that he wants to fully reject his identity as an American citizen. Rather, he contextualizes that his frustrations with America’s inability to deliver on its promises of “freedom, liberty, and justice for all” for all people have led him to protest the national anthem until further notice. Thus, we cannot accept that Kaepernick’s actions are “unpatriotic” when they actually stem from a deep patriotic love for American ideals. Even veterans and current soldiers are recognizing this with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick that has started going viral.
5. He is committed to the struggle for the long haul
“When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand…This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation is and then really affect change.”
Keep on achieving, NUPE. We’ve got your back.
About the Author: Demar F. Lewis IV is a proud initiate of the Psi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. at the University of Minnesota and a former member of Cincinnati Alumni Chapter in Cincinnati, OH. He is a recent MPP graduate of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan with interests in criminal justice policy and racial politics.
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The Davidson College Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Just Released This Video About Trump’s DACA Repeal
The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha at Davidson College are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s DACA repeal.
The brothers of the Tau Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. recently released a video publicly standing against the actions to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which provides a level of amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children – with a six-month delay for current recipients.
On Tuesday, President Trump urged lawmakers to “do your job” with DACA.
Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
In the statement that the chapter released, they stated that their chapter, “stands with the Dreamers and against the proposed DACA repeal.
This is about more than statistics or policy decisions. About 800,000 human beings currently hold DACA status in the U.S. These are our friends, our peers, our neighbors, our family and we have to stand against bigotry & xenophobia and fight with them now.”
Watch their full statement below.
Today, we want to make a public statement. The Tau Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. stands with the Dreamers and against the proposed DACA repeal. This is about more than statistics or policy decisions. About 800,000 human beings currently hold DACA status in the U.S. These are our friends, our peers, our neighbors, our family and we have to stand against bigotry & xenophobia and fight with them now. We ask that you fight with us in our aim to #DefendDACA by donating to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United We Dream, The Immigrant Defence Project, etc., attending a protest, using social media as a platform to spread awareness regarding this human rights issue, working with the campus community and administration at your institutions to protect your peers, and calling your Congressional representatives. The numbers for the NC Senators and websites for donations are listed below. Sen. Tom Thillis: (919) 856-4630 Sen. Richard Burr: (800) 685-8916 https://action.aclu.org/donate-aclu?ms=web_horiz_nav_hp https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/unitedwedreamaction?refcode=homepagebutton https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/donate/ #AΦΑ #ΤΟ #DefendDACA
The brothers urged the people watching to defend DACA and pointed them in the direction of organizations that are fighting for the rights of immigrants in the United States.
“We ask that you fight with us in our aim to #DefendDACA by donating to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United We Dream, The Immigrant Defence Project, etc., attending a protest, using social media as a platform to spread awareness regarding this human rights issue, working with the campus community and administration at your institutions to protect your peers, and calling your Congressional representatives.
The numbers for the NC Senators and websites for donations are listed below.
Sen. Tom Thillis: (919) 856-4630
Sen. Richard Burr: (800) 685-8916″
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend these young brothers for speaking out and using their platform to help others. This is what it is all about.
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Kaepernick Just Donated $25,000 to Help Immigrant Youth Affected By Trump’s Repeal of DACA
San Fransisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick has decided to use his own money and the money he has made from his jersey sales to help the people of the Chicago area by supportingthe largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation to deal with Trump’s removal of DACA.
The 28-year -old member of Kappa Alpha Psi, who refused to stand during the national anthem during NFL games last year said he would donate the first $1 million he made from last season to organizations assisting communities affected by racial injustice and police brutality.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and be able to make the kind of money I do,” Kaepernick said. “I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given those opportunities to succeed,” he said last year.
“I will donate one million dollars plus all the proceeds of my jersey sales from the 2016 season to organizations working in oppressed communities, 100k a month for 10 months,” he said on his website.
One of these communities just so happens to be immigrant children who are currently being threatened by the repeal of DACA.
For his recent pledge, which was announced yesterday, Colin donated $25,000 to United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation.
“We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status,” the about section on United We Dream‘s website states.
According to Kaepernick’s website, the $25,000 will go toward the following:
- Addressing the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth. Over 100,000 members. Current focus: Organize and work for immigrant children to keep DACA in force.
- 10k for upcoming travel. Air, hotel, lodging, and ground transportation. United We Dream recently held event in Washington DC and sent 300 dreamers to lobby to keep DACA. This budget will pay for 75-100 attendees for a similar rally upcoming.
- 10k for series of upcoming local gatherings in NY, CT, TX, FL, NM. Facilities rent and security, transportation, food, technology
- 5k for text service for the network of over 100,000 members.
Along with this $25,000 donation, Kaepernick has donated to DREAM (Formerly RBI Harlem) a baseball program in Harlem, Coalition For The Homeless, and War on Children.
These Young Afro Latinas Reciting Victoria Santa Cruz’s “Me Gritaron Negra” Will Give You LIFE!
Victoria Eugenia Santa Cruz Gamarra was an Afro-Peruvian choreographer, composer, and activist who is widely regarded as “the mother of Afro Peruvian dance and theatre.”
She lived from 1922 to 2004 and was one of the major players in the revival of Afro-Peruvian culture and Afrocentrism in Peru that took place during the 1960s and 1970s. In tribute of her impactful work, her poems, specifically “Me Gritaron NEGRA” (They Called Me Black) recited by young Afro-Peruvian and Afro-Ecuadorian girls have started to spread across the internet.
“Me Gritaron NEGRA” is a poem which follows Santa Cruz’s journey to accept and embrace her blackness, starts out with her telling the story of how at the a very young age started to shout “Negra” (the spanish word for Black) at her on the street everywhere she went. This shamed her into straightening her hair and wanting to lighten her skin but eventually she realized the beauty of her blackness and that the truth of this beauty was being hidden from her.
The original version of the poem recited by Santa Cruz is EXTREMELY powerful and might even give you chills.
What is even more powerful than the poem itself is that young Afro Latinas who are the age of Santa Cruz at the beginning of the story that she tells in the poem are now reciting the poem and the message is going viral. By reciting this poem at this young age, these girls, who are Black just like Santa Cruz, are able to take this woman’s story and find pride in it. They are able to put words to their struggles of living in a society with eurocentric beauty ideals and recite this peom as a reminder to themselves about how beautiful and strong they truly are.
Check out this video from Ecuador of a little girl reciting the poem.
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