Last week, I planned on introducing a new Black History Fun Fact Friday. I also planned on revealing the cover to the poetry contest magazine to my social media (which I will do tomorrow, time permitting). This was a busy week for me (more than usual). This isn’t to say that “busy” is a measure of importance, but last week was a hectic one for both my personal and professional life. But also, it was a good busy (more like a focused busy). I got a lot done and gained some clarity. And although I still have emails, I haven’t responded to and travel to prepare for I am sitting down in the few hours I have here before running errands to talk to you guys and send an important message to my email list.
I find that how we direct our focus determines what will show up based on how we have prioritized. Those things we put first or last will naturally manifest in our life and align based on what we give more or less attention. If I know I have coursework due on Wednesday, for example, but I scroll social media until the final hour of when the work is due, chances are I won’t do well, and it won’t be because I am ignorant or incompetent. It will be because I did not set my coursework as a priority this week and give myself time to think through the assignment. Instead, I scrolled social media, which means I have set it as a priority over my coursework and are thus reaping the consequences of that choice. It doesn’t make it social media’s fault, and it doesn’t make social media an evil entity, but it was not the proper decision on this day.
I use social media because it’s an easy example, but I believe this can apply to anything from business practices to relationships and friendships.
What are you sacrificing?
I realized that whatever we pay attention to means sacrificing something else in its place. If we focus too much time on gossip and negativity, we are sacrificing something else in its place. If we spend too much time on social media, we are sacrificing something else in its place. Sometimes the sacrifice is not all bad; it makes sense depending on what is a priority at the moment. Sacrificing an hour of work to sleep and refresh is not a bad thing because, with rest, we can have better clarity to do the job. Surrendering a TV show to post something of value and substance to social media that will help someone else is not a bad thing. You see, I also learned this week that our priorities might change from day to day. What was most crucial yesterday may not be most important today.
From this point forward, I will be more conscious of what I am sacrificing when I am spending my time doing something because I know that whatever I focus my attention will manifest based on those things of which I have set as a priority.
Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” I will say, “what am I willing to sacrifice to get this done? What am I willing to give up to do this?”
I did not intend on writing about this today but then…
I saw the Harriet movie.
Yep. I went to see it.
I know many are protesting the film, but I don’t jump on bandwagons. I wanted to see it for myself to develop my own opinion. I also knew I wanted to write about it.
There are some truths (such as her being referred to as Moses). Unfortunately, there are more inaccuracies than truth. The movie is Hollywoodish and leaves a lot out. This is a problem because there’s so much information out in 2019 that if Hollywood wanted to, it could tell this story with 100% fact. (I heard in an interview; the script was written 20 years ago). If you are planning to see it, here are some things you may want to know:
Harriet Tubman never had a friend named Marie Buchanon.
There was never a Black Bounty Hunter named Bigger Long after Harriet Tubman. The same is true of the Brodesses son. They did have a son (Jonathan) but little is known about him. His role in the movie is made up.
While “Bigger Long,” is a fictional character, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Black trackers existed and were active during slavery. I think it is important that as we are striving for Historical Accuracy we don’t miss that. We cannot be so “Pro-Black” that we forget that a lot of our own people sold us out (and continue to sell us out).
While Bigger Long may not have been a real person in Harriet’s life, there were black slave catchers. Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own brother. It is just that in Harriet’s case, this wasn’t the case.
There is no historical record for a Black Bounty Hunter after Harriet Tubman. The movie, it seemed to me, had a lot of ‘women vs. men’ undertones to it. Not only was Bigger Long the sole antagonist against Harriet (even more so than the Brodesses son), he was also the one responsible for the death of one of the Black women in the film in the most diabolical, sinister, and brutal way.
The William Still character (based on a real historical figure he was a Black abolitionist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman, writer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad) was over-the-top with his reactions to Harriet’s return from the missions. Holding his hand to his chest, spinning Harriet around, and at one point he even falls out of a chair. Some people laughed but I didn’t find it funny. It looks like bufoonery.
The imaginative Marie, however, shows Harriet how to shoot a gun and helps her in her cause. Harriet was a warrior but I am certain the surrounding men weren’t that simple-minded and faithless.
The Black men in this movie seemed weak to me. I worry this was intentional.
Tubman didn’t change her name when she reached freedom. She changed it before then, around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.
Three of Tubman’s sisters were sold, not just one.
Two of Tubman’s brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her (1) they went with her initially, at the onset of her escape not later as depicted in the film (2) after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a reward for her return Harry and Ben had second thoughts and returned to the plantation so she made the voyage alone.
Tubman had spells, dream-states, and visions (I believe she was deeply spiritual, her spells were my inspiration for Nora’s spells in Renaissance), but she also endured seizures, severe headaches, and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life from the hit to the head.
This next point wasn’t in the movie but since we are talking about Harriet Tubman I think it’s important to mention.
The Fake Quote:
Yea, you know the one. I have said it. You have said it. We have all repeated it. It’s a good quote. Powerful one too and I wish I could say it belonged to Harriet but with every source I checked there’s no documented, historical proof that Harriet Tubman ever said:
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
According to Africacheck.org, there are a few possible origins of the quote’s attribution to Harriet:
The confusion began when feminist writer Robin Morgan updated her 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” during the 2008 US Democratic Party’s primary presidential candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Morgan supported Clinton, and in the essay challenged other women who did not. She wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands – if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’” The implication was that women who didn’t support Clinton were similarly enslaved, and didn’t know it.
One expert was Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history and African American studies at Maxwell School. “My impression is that this is a late 20th century quote from a fictionalised account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told history blogger Ralph Luker, who first queried the quote.
More than this, at meetings in 1858 and 1859 Tubman repeatedly said she had personally rescued 50 to 60 people from slavery. So she would never have said she “freed a thousand slaves”.
A quote that has historical proof, and that has been proven to come from her that you can use:
“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
– Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.
A few more things not addressed in the movie:
Tubman’s time as a Union spy (touched on a little at the end of the film), nurse, and cook, her 1869 marriage to Nelson Davis—a soldier, some 20 years her junior—and the couple’s 1874 adoption of a baby girl named Gertie, her work as a suffragist, neurosurgery undertaken to address her decades-old brain injury, financial hardship later in life, and the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1908.
The movie wasn’t a total fail for me because there are some things I liked that are worth mentioning.
I loved the show of Harriet’s spirituality, which I do not equate to anything Christian. Her reliance on her faith, praying and praising during difficult times and raising her palms to the sky to pray (this is how we did it…our hands weren’t clapped together they were open and raised into the air) was a beautiful show of faith and her belief that the Almighty was central in guiding her in her journey’s.
As I’ve said, I don’t jump on bandwagons. I have my own opinion.
So, should you see the film? That is up to you. I will caution that if you plan to bring your children, print this post out (or another fact sheet you’ve vetted) and use it as a reference so they can properly discern the facts in the movie from the fiction.
If you have not already, please be sure to head on over to this post and check out Fiza Pathan’s touching review of I am Soul. I’ll be quoting her review throughout this post but reading it in full will help you add context to what I say here (there is also an audio version of the review on her blog).
“I have read many books and articles about the way a woman of color is treated in society, especially in Indian society. I have studied History and Sociology throughout my college career which gave me a lot of material to study about the situation of colored people in Indian society. But to be frank, I’m not that well equipped to talk or speak about Black American History or the Black American contemporary views on life, culture, society, history, politics, education, et al.” (Pathan, 2019)
Pathan is not the only reader to have confided she is not well versed in Black American History. People have told me on more than one occasion of their lack of extensive knowledge in this area. This does not surprise me. It is why writing on the experiences of Blacks in America is important to me. Like Paul of the bible, I am sent to the nations (Acts 22:21) to bring light to what America has tried to keep hidden for too long.
Americans underestimate how information is disseminated across the world. The news and the information we are exposed to in America is not necessarily the same information that is exposed to people in other parts of the world. Historically, news traveled through radios, television, books, and newspapers. What mainstream media wanted you to know is what you knew. If America didn’t want other countries to see how it treated Black Americans, those countries didn’t see it.
“I have started reading Black American literature in general after I turned 28 years of age in 2017, because of the poems and writings of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, James Baldwin and Dorothy West. Yes, you’d wonder where I was and what I was doing with my life, but the fact is that, all said and done, I have just begun to realize the richness and depth of the Black-American experience. ‘I Am Soul’ by Yecheilyah Ysrayl is one book among many that are educating women of color like me from far off countries like India, especially recluses like me, and I’m glad I am being educated.”
– Pathan, 2019
Today, Social Media is a significant catalyst for uncovering the truth about what Blacks have endured and the many businesses and products blacks have invented and how those inventions have been credited to other people. While we must be cautious not to spread disinformation (See this post here), there is still a lot of good that has resulted from the social media revolution. Information is coming out at a rapid speed of both the good and bad historical facts so that there is a desperate need of keen discernment. One such example is the testimony from notable black writers that Blacks could not eat vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south, and that they only allowed us to eat it on Independence Day.
“People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.”
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
While visiting Washington D.C. with her parents around Independence Day, poet Audre Lorde’s mom wanted to treat her to some vanilla ice cream, but they refused the family:
“The waitress was white, the counter was white, and the ice cream I never ate in Washington DC that summer I left childhood was white, and the white heat and white pavement and white stone monuments of my first Washington summer made me sick to my stomach for the rest of the trip.” – Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
The “White Ice Cream,” rule is said to be more folklore than truth. But why? This is an example of a history hidden and then revealed because of the widespread use of Social Media. Prohibiting blacks from eating vanilla ice cream is not far-fetched, considering the pettiness of Jim Crow law. If blacks couldn’t swim in the same water as whites, it’s not so hard to believe they couldn’t eat white ice cream.
Fun Fact: The vanilla bean is brown and was cultivated and improved by an enslaved black man named Edmund Albuius. In ice cream, a small amount of vanilla is used compared to the other ingredients so that it still looks white (from the milk, cream, white sugar). If a larger quantity of vanilla is used, it would probably be more colored. Take these bars of soap.
“The soap above is scented with Vanilla Sandalwood Fragrance Oil, which discolors dark brown. The tan color will continue to darken over time.” – Bramble Berry, Soap Queen (3 days later, the vanilla in the soap turned it even darker…)
But let’s not digress. The point is, vanilla bean is brown, not white. Joke was on Jim Crow…
“While Jim Crow laws, extensively documented in print and historical record, are fairly well known, less well known are the unspoken etiquette rules for Black people, largely forgotten by anyone who didn’t have to live under them. During Jim Crow, Black people could pick up food at establishments that served white people, but they often could not eat in them. When custom demanded that Black people be served separately from whites, they were often required to have their own utensils, serving dishes, and condiments. So it was customary for Black families who were traveling to carry everything they might possibly need so that (with the help of the Green Book, the guide that helped Black travelers eat, sleep, and move as safely as possible) they could navigate America in relative comfort.”
– Mikki Kendall, Hot Sauce in her Bag, 2016
Black history has been just as raped and stolen and manipulated as her people. Black American History is more than slavery and Civil Rights, but slavery and Civil Rights is still part of that history and must never be forgotten. Black history is the birth of a nation, its upbringing, its captivity, and its overcoming. It is all of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We were not only slaves but also soldiers. Not only captives but also captains. We were/are a wealthy people, royal, smart, salt. We are seasoning and soil. But where were we born? How did we begin? What happened once we got here? These are the questions I seek to answer in my literature and articles so that the voices unheard in mainstream media can speak through me and prophesy the truth.
“‘I Am Soul’ to me is a book about being a part of a history that none can forget, but that slowly is changing the way we look at this race of people past, present and to a bright future, God willing.”
– Pathan, 2019
There is something special about the plight of the so-called Black American. What is to be revealed about these people stolen and transported to foreign lands in the bowels of slave ships? These people once stripped of their nationality and culture and are now returning to their natural heritage? Because of Social Media, this truth is easier to disseminate and verify. We have eBooks we can download in an instant, online journals and periodicals, and scholarly material at our fingertips. And we have Independent Publishing whereby artists can write and publish these truths without prejudice.
“Lastly, I would like to recommend this lovely and enriching book to everyone, irrespective of race, community, religion, caste and gender. I hope to review more books by Yecheilyah Ysrayl soon and hopefully, when I do so, I will be more capable of giving a more enlightened review as I will be reading more books about Black American history and literature in the future.” – Fiza Pathan
I am in the 32nd year of my life journey even though the gray in the front of my locs won’t let me be great. I just had a birthday (5/26) and I am usually quiet around this time. (And yes, I do admit this is my pitiful way of explaining why *aside from author Interviews* I have not been very active on this blog). But while I have not spoken much about it or posted many pictures, I enjoyed myself and I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of love from social media.
Like I would expect anyone to be, I am always excited about my birthday and pretty much think about it up until the day passes, though I am also usually quiet around this time because I also approach birthdays from a reflective point of view. I don’t celebrate holidays, but I do honor, acknowledge, and value birthdays. It’s not something I take for granted or shrug off as a non-important since this is the day when the power of all powers decided I was worthy of entering the world. Stitching me together in my mother’s womb and commanding it to hold me there until it was time to give birth.
Another birthday means another year has passed. I am quiet because I look back on the past year to see how I’ve grown and to be grateful for who I am, where I am and whose I am. I review my goals and the action steps needed to accomplish them. Am I moving or standing still? And if I am moving and if I am standing still is this reality or perception? I know that there is no greater deception than self-deception so it’s important to me to honestly and realistically reflect on my life, my progress, and my purpose since I do not intend to bring last year’s baggage into this new age. It’s important to me to see the good in the finished and the unfinished work. To be grateful for where I am and celebrate on the way to where I am going. Have I wasted a year, or have I taken full advantage of every day? There is much to think about and much to do.
I do not know what this year has in store for me, but I hope I can take full advantage of the day so that next year I can look back on today and know that I have done my very best to contribute to the forward movement of the world.
I surpassed my total number of reviews for Renaissance. I am still trying to break into the 20+ range but I am close! (To review for this book email me for a copy)
I am Soul made it to #7 on the Amazon Best Sellers List for African Literature > New Releases. Currently, we are holding strong at number 12 and patiently awaiting our first review 🙂 lol.
2017 saw a great increase in book reviews published to this blog, which I am proud of because I am always most excited at what I can do for others.(P.S. I have not forgotten about the Book Review Awards! Updates coming once everything has been organized.)
Here are the top 5 book reviews of this year (most shares, views, likes)
I must give credit where credit is due. This year, I collaborated with two amazing bloggers. Their support has greatly influenced the growth of this blog. Chris from The Story Reading Ape Blog and Danny from DreamBigDreamOften.