“Education is an important element in the struggle for human rights. It is the means to help our children and our people rediscover their identity and thereby increase their self respect. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
Hello, my name is Michael James Brown, writer/producer of Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free! If interested you can certainly read more about OAP by visiting the links at the end of this post.
Recently my daughter and I traveled to Norfolk, VA to visit Norfolk State University. We knew most of the buildings would be closed because of the precautions surrounding Covid-19 but I wanted to personally walk the campus and get to know everything about the school and town where my only daughter would be spending her time studying and playing volleyball over the next 4 years.
For many the sudden implementation of stay at home orders and quarantines greatly affected the national economy and ability for a lot of people to work and support their families. Upwards of 30 million + people filed for unemployment insurance and it has pushed the country into a recession.
On top of that, while at home the nation watched the killing of a handcuffed George Floyd at the hands of officers from the Minneapolis police department. A few days after the video was posted to facebook, the whole world watched as protesting and looting followed.
In a regular year any one of the topics mentioned above: coronavirus, recession and police brutality/racism would be a lot for a new high school graduate to process and make decisions that could affect the rest of your life.
Congratulations to my daughter and the other class of 2020 graduates, you get all three topics to think about before the year is even half over!
My daughter says her major is political science. 🙂 We talk all the time anyway, but I thought this was an especially good/important time for us to take a trip, hang out and discuss world events. I was interested in hearing her seventeen year old input, gauge her reaction(s) and offer my two cents and help her sort through all of the ever changing information and viewpoints. But I’m an out of touch dad, what do I really know?
Because I think the racism thread historically runs through the other topics, let’s start there.
The decision for my daughter to attend Norfolk State University, a HBCU (Historically Black College University) was made long before the George Floyd protests/looting. I put protests and looting together in the prior sentence but I think they are separate topics.
Since my daughter was born I have constantly changed my schedules so I could invest my time in her and her activities. When she was younger I volunteered at the day nursery. I read books to her 1st grade classes, helped coach her softball, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams, attended many of her club and high school matches.
As mentioned, we talk all the time so I felt it was especially important for us to talk while all the videos, memes and news stories surrounding the George Floyd killing are flying around everywhere. It’s important to be “angry” and “upset” but it’s even more important to not let yourself get dragged into things you don’t understand or someone else’s agenda and figure out what it is that you are going to do with your life.
When I first watched the George Floyd detainment video. I knew right away I was watching a man being killed. I think most who saw the video had a empathetic reaction to it. I think it takes a pretty cold person to look at that 9 minutes of video and not feel anger towards the officers and compassion for George.
I posted the story with video on my Facebook page and my comment of how I thought it went too far in detaining a man who was obviously not fighting with the police. I saw my “friends” list decrease by a few numbers, not a lot, but enough to wonder. “Which one of my former “friends” had a problem with what I posted?
In the early days after the Floyd video surfaced I thought it was refreshing to see young people around my daughter’s age get off their phones and show interest in actual events going on around them. I think protest and questioning everything is always great! (If you read any of my other posts they tend to be on the argumentative, challenging side.)
After a couple more days you could see the mix of people change. The looting was another thing entirely! At least where I live in Southern California it was clear to me that the looting and damaging of businesses was a very well coordinated texting and or app based mission.
I was also obvious to me that a large proportion of the people involved were younger and I felt they were letting someone else use their anger to steer them into committing crimes and damaging property. Look at the stores that were looted: Hot Topic, Jean Machine, mobile phone stores, etc.
I also felt after the first week or so a lot of the posting and discussion was no longer about George Floyd. If you remember, the initial outcry was that the officers weren’t charged in George’s death. After the first week the officers were charged and in jail. I think after the first few days the focus became about who could post the best quote, picture or meme to show the world they were against racism. That’s why more and more people came out to protest. They were rightfully angry and wanted take pics to post to their social media accounts, etc.
The list of things that are produced in the US gets shorter all the time but in my opinion the one thing we still lead the world in is marketing & propaganda. Brand building and market segmentation. It’s the reason that eventually every issue is still broken down into a “White” vs “Black” issue. Quite simply, if race & racism didn’t sell merchandise or make people watch movies and TV shows, media companies and consumer brands wouldn’t use it. Period.
Let’s recap the Floyd situation. There were four officers on the scene who didn’t attempt to render aid to Floyd, who have now been charged with various crimes. Look at the pictures of the officers and using just what we see, and how we have been taught to categorize people, two of the officers would probably be categorized as being “White”.
So to get the most people to react to the story many of the various media outlets chose to write headlines focusing on the “White” officer who killed the “Black” man. (It’s a quick read and it sells, I get it)
So they can appear relevant and “in tune” with the largest amount of people (and charge higher ad rates!) Every TV and radio station, social media platform, brand has to flood their channels with images of Floyd and the officer with his knee on his neck. It didn’t matter to most that they are sending pictures of a man actually being killed. The story was more important. (After a few days they finally stopped showing the actual footage. I’m sure the family was relieved.)
Cars burning, store being broken into, protesters are all very good images too!
Here we are two weeks later and by now every brand that seeks to gain a major portion of its revenue from the younger demographic(s) has posted a public service announcement (commercial) or issued a statement detailing how they support Black Lives Matter, etc. and want to work together to be part of the solution.
As an example, Michael Jordan and Nike issued a statement that they will contribute $100 million (over 10 years) to Black Lives Matter type causes. Not to be out done the NFL said they will set aside $250 million over the same period of time. Don’t you think if both brands thought it was truly a crisis that needed to be fixed now, they would surely have $350 million to give to now? ($350 million might represent about 10-20% of the combined worldwide advertising budgets for both organizations. Money they would have allocated anyway in order to further connect you to their brand.)
ps Yes, I am aware that I’m in the demographic that really doesn’t buy $200 athletic shoes and therefore no one really cares what my opinion is. 🙂
Footnote: After a quick search I found information that the Jordan Brand had revenue of $3.1 billion in the fiscal year ending May 2019—only 8% of Nike’s total revenue.
So, in my opinion what they are really saying is that we recognize the consumer response around the idea of things being more equal is gaining traction with our core demographic(s) and over the next 10 years we will give back a small portion of the enormous profit we stand to make selling our products to you.
So more than solve the problem, the brands are in a rush to manipulate the George Floyd killing and the protests to lock you in as a customer for the next ten years at the smallest price point possible.
To switch gears for a second and quickly show the level of commitment “we”, as a nation, show towards “our” various problems, let’s take a look back at Covid-19.
In late March 2020 as the economy was grinding to a halt because of stay at home orders to help suppress the spread of Covid-19, it only took the US Congress a week to allocate $2 trillion dollars in the largest emergency relief bill in American history.
Money that wasn’t part of the previous budget, it was literally created out of thin air. In my opinion because they really felt a faltering economy was a major problem.
$350 million over 10 years sounds great – to kids – and is nothing to sneeze at but it’s a lot less than $2 trillion in a matter of weeks but I think it goes to show how these “problems” are prioritized.
No one is really interested in solving race & racism issues because the next best weapon to segment people – class – doesn’t bring in nearly the same amount of money.
So over the next rating periods expect plenty of “racial” awareness themed programs and “conversations” that fill up time on broadcasts but don’t really solve the problem.
One popular meme that’s floating around states that “Michael Vick served more time in jail for killing a dog than all the cops combined who have killed the last 493 unarmed Black men.” If true, think about that.
To kind of bring this post full circle and try and tie it up in a neat bow. As one would expect talking about race, recession and coronavirus to a seventeen year old kid is not a one-time conversation. There are many layers and a lot of history and perspectives that should be reviewed for one to properly begin to make sense of all the information that’s presented…and the information that’s not usually presented.
Having conversations with my daughter about the information that’s not normally presented in schools is precisely why I thought it was best for her to attend an HBCU before the George Floyd incident. After George Floyd, I think it’s absolutely critical that she round out her education with viewpoints other than what she has learned in Southern California.
If you visit my website where I show a partial list of places where I have had OAP presentations you’ll see that most of them have been at schools or academic conferences that are tasked with helping to make things better for “disadvantaged” kids.
Some presentations I received money, others I have done for free. The reason is simply that I feel the rest of the information needs to be presented. Young adults need to learn how to discern information for themselves. They need to learn how to critically analyze information and not blindly accept as fact partial and old information that is often presented at school or that pops up on an app programmed by someone else.
As an example, not many people realized or connected the dots and talked about the looting during the George Floyd protests occurred within days of the 99th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre.
In the prosperous Greenwood district, at that time the wealthiest “black” community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”, as many as 300 people were killed, and 8,000+ were herded up and detained by the “white” officials from the city of Tulsa. More than 35 square blocks containing homes and businesses were burned down. The majority of the population in the Greenwood district was left homeless and weren’t compensated for their losses. All because they were “black” and prosperous.
In conclusion, there are a whole group of kids who make it through high school singularly because they have to remain eligible to participate in athletics. I would describe myself at seventeen that way. I didn’t have a 10 year or even a 5 year plan, I had a month by month, day by day turn your assignments in with as little effort as possible so you can stay eligible to play basketball plan. 🙂
I think athletics are still important. It is a great learning experience to struggle and win or lose as a team. I am proud that my daughter will get the chance to play volleyball in college with her team. Hopefully it will translate and become one of the factors to help her learn how to move forward in real life.
I can vividly remember every coach, every motivational speech. I can’t remember one instance where a coach told us to work hard and fight for equality as the end result! We never asked the other team(s) to sit down and have ongoing dialogue sessions to discuss how they could make things easier for us.
I said that to say, I’m sure when it comes to race & racism on a macro level there can be endless time wasting circular discussions where everybody can be involved that leads to more dialogue and slogans and memes that fill up broadcast calendars and social media timelines.
But on a micro level when you are talking about my kid(s) the better long term solution is to fill them up with the rest of the information they don’t get in school about their real history in the US and around the world. Water those seeds with parental and family involvement and watch them grow!
Other Awareness Project:
More involved than your personal association with whatever arbitrary and undefined “racial” name you call yourself, the Other Awareness Project (OAP) is a 95% guilt & anger free, thought provoking, humorous mixture of film documentary, stand-up comedy and audience discussion that looks into what I think is the continued incorrect categorization of people into “racial” groups by skin color and other arbitrary things.
Despite everything we know scientifically, legally, religiously practically any way you want to look at it governments and businesses STILL ask questions concerning your “racial” choice.
In this era of “keeping it real, internet access and DNA research, why does an intelligent person, using CURRENT information, STILL classify into a “Racial” group? Groups their grandparents NEVER called themselves!
Moreover, is it helping to solve any problems going forward, real or perceived?
Although we touch upon a wide variety of topics, the project isn’t focused on racism or past wrongdoings, real or perceived. It’s more focused on today and tomorrow, and helping to discover what is the best plan going forward that everyone can support.
The project is about SELF-IDENTIFICATION and is directed towards community involved, solutions oriented people. That’s it!
In 2007, with cameras rolling I traveled to various cities around the country. (Long Beach, CA; Austin, TX; Portland, OR; Cypress, CA; Carson, CA; Youngstown, OH) I was intentionally looking to have conversations with people who are more intelligent than I am on the subjects of law, religion and any area of science. I knew that wouldn’t be that hard. I was fortunate to tape 15 1 hour discussions with people from all stations in life, from politicians to rappers to teachers, etc. The people are real, the conversations are real! We spoke about family background, definitions of the terms “race” & ethnicity, friends, etc. Everyone answered the same roughly 20 questions, from “Who is Al Sharpton?” to “Where is Caucasia?” to “What is the legal description of a _ person in the United States?” To their credit, not one person knew the questions until we were filming. I didn’t prep any of the responses. The conversations are exactly as they happened with as little editing as possible. I gave each participant an unedited DVD of our entire conversation. I spent four months filming, but nearly four years researching and writing this project. I feel it is my most complete project to date. I am extremely happy with the footage and the new friends I have made across the country and around the world!
It was interesting to meet other people who felt that they didn’t fit any of the suggested categories as well. I met Europeans who didn’t know they were “White” until they came to this country. Africans, who didn’t call themselves ‘Black’ when they were in their country. “Asian people who have never been to Asia. “Hispanic” people who didn’t know the origin of the word.
Highlights include talking with Ohio Attorney General – Marc Dann; Jim Dear, Mayor of Carson, CA; Rabbi Brian Zachary Meyer; and Dr. Joseph Graves, Jr. Author of ‘The Race Myth’ and Professor of Biology at North Carolina A&T University.
The OAP has been selected for presentations at the following conferences/events:
26th National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education
New Orleans, LA (Selected for presentation, couldn’t attend)
Poly Academy of Achievers & Leaders
Long Beach, CA
Cultivating Energy For Success – Radio Interview
Futures – Equity in Education Conference
Toronto District School Board
Toronto Canada Ontario
Male Academies of Long Beach Unified School District
Jordan Freshman Academy
24th National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education
San Francisco, CA
Presented by the Martin Luther King Committee
22nd National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education
San Diego, CA
3 hour workshop. (Ratings of: 17% Excellent, 33% Very Good, 33% Good, 17% Fair)
Visit the following links for more information: