March 26, 2014, marked the twentieth anniversary of the Afromation Movement to Integrate American History. One of the many things I had on my celebration to-do list was to write a blog to help commemorate this milestone. Procrastination kicked in as I was looking for a specific topic to blog. Then on April 21st it hit me like a ton of bricks. All evening long I kept hearing reports that an American won the Men’s Boston Marathon. What ?! I thought to myself, “Did they ban all the East African runners?” So what do we do in the 21st Century? We google.
Boston Globe: “American Meb Keflezighi wins Boston Marathon”; USAToday: “American Meb Keflezighi won Boston Marathon”; Huffington Post: “’The Star-Spangled Banner’ played over Boylston Street in honor of an American winner of the Boston Marathon”; CNN: “The First American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday.” Yahoo: “Meb Keflezighi on Monday became the first U.S. male athlete to win the Boston Marathon in three decades…” CBS News: “Keflezighi becomes the first American to win world’s oldest marathon in 20 years.” And Fox News, New York Daily News, and NPR all followed suit. I, too, felt a sense of pride for so many reasons. I congratulate you Mr. Keflezighi. What an amzing human feat (feet).
Let me tell you what’s really on my mind. I felt a sense of shock and suspicion because of the universal use of the term “first American” to describe a man who was born in East Africa. I didn’t and I still don’t know what to say. I had a similar moment on Election Day back in Nov. ’08 when the race was called for Sen. Barrack Obama. I was like could this be real? Well, as we all know, it was very real and Barrack Obama is still our President.
Let me get to my point. Not long after launching Afromation twenty years ago, I made it my mission to provide energy and knowledge to help this nation get to the point where we are all called Americans; no matter what the skin tone.
Here is my problem. If you go to Wikipedia Susan Rice you will find, “…the first African American woman to represent the U.S. at the UN.” If you Wikipedia Condoleezza Rice, right off the bat in the third line you will find, “…first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American secretary of state.” Do you see where I’m going with this?
Now this US obsession of making sure your ethnicity is attached to your name is not just a main stream media policy. In a blog written by the Color Lines: News for Action’s political correspondent Brentin Mock and posted on June 5, 2013, the headline reads “Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security.” In another article written by Perry Green, and posted by Afro.com on April 6, 2014, the headline reads, “NCAA Final Four-Men—Kevin Ollie (UConn) Could become Fourth Black Coach to Win Title.”
So here we have two very very accomplished, intelligent, prominent women; one a DC native and the other a Birmingham native, who in 2014 are still being described by their ethnicity. Eritrea-native Mr. Keflezighi, an amazing and accomplished person as well, has in some way moved the American mainstream media to describe him by his nationality, “AMERICAN.”
I started off back in 1994 as an idealist and optimist. Along the way I picked up a dose or two of cynicism. Today, I will pray that my suspicions are unfounded and that a major change in America has occurred. Maybe this isn’t real. Nevertheless, it feels good. And at the very least, the coverage of your victory in Boston Mr. Keflezighi has set a precedent. I am moved as well by you Mr. Keflezighi. So touched that what was supposed to have been a simple commemorative blog posting has now evolved into an additional web page that will highlight my twenty year Afromation Timeline.
To quote the 18th Century Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Well, this timeline is dedicated to all the good men and women from across America who over the past twenty years helped me to help us to help change the world. I appreciate you all. I thank you as well my fellow American Mr. Keflezighi for inspiring me keep moving FORWARD. There is always the next amazing race.
Blessings & Peace,