The other most important black people in America

Ursula M. Burns (via The New York Times)

I know the honeymoon period over President Barack Obama seems to have passed in the eyes of most Americans (his approval rating is now 44 percent). But in the black community you’re still likely to hear talk about how much Obama’s election has meant to African Americans–particularly, young African Americans.

The notion is that now that Obama has become the most important person in the land, black children all across the United States finally have been shown that they can do anything. To me, that thinking is still too small. Continue reading

Journalism Experiment #4: The grid is your friend…use it

If you’re a journalist thinking about building your own site from the ground up, good for you. Here’s a word of advice, though. If you’re one of those coding amateurs out there like me, save yourself some trouble and use a grid. For starters, a grid will give you that “fit and finish” you see in all those good-looking sites not built by journalists. A grid also makes it easy to transfer your design from Photoshop to the Web, which is the basic process for all good Web design (thanks Richard Koci Hernandez for that secret). Continue reading

Black journalist in Sierra Leone: Chapter 4

Feb. 3

Before I share my recollections on my last night in the country, I wanted to share something I forgot to mention in the last entry.

On the night we got back from Pujehun, after everyone had dropped off their bags at Sahid’s place, I was sitting in the foyer of the house just outside of the living room waiting for the Internet to load when Augustine, the teenager who stays with Sahid and his family in Freetown, approached me very quietly. I could tell he was connecting with me since we first began talking about hip hop in America.

So when he approached me, he was very honest. Standing against the wall, he told me that his views about agriculture had changed since I had arrived. A few days ago, he was explaining how he, like many youths in Freetown, felt agriculture was not appealing to him. But he said he had witnessed my commitment to my assignment and how I had traveled to each youth farming group in the provinces to hear what they had to say about agriculture. That effort, he said, had inspired him to perhaps go into farming after he finishes secondary school.

That statement right there should be an indication that youths’ attitudes about agriculture in Sierra Leone are indeed changing. Continue reading

Black journalist in Sierra Leone: Chapter 3

Feb. 2

I’ve been without the electricity or time now to jot down my daily thoughts for a while. But here are my recollections of the last few days.

On Friday, we traveled to Kono in the eastern part of the country. It is known as the breadbasket of the country because of its rich diamond resources. How do you know you’re in Kono? You can feel the bumpy roads along the way to the district (and, in the case of the video below, you can hear them as well). Continue reading

Black journalist in Sierra Leone: Chapter 2

Jan. 29

I’m starting to feel right at home. We spent most of the day Wednesday in Waterloo, in the Western Area Rural District, where we met with three youth farming groups. They all had interesting stories and seemed very determined to get their projects off the ground. Continue reading

Black journalist in Sierra Leone: Chapter 1

Jan. 27

The journey to Sierra Leone was long. I left California Monday afternoon and, after two layovers, I finally arrived at my destination the next evening. It really didn’t start to sink in that I was heading to Africa until our plane began flying over the Sahara. All I remember seeing was vast areas of sand, with layers of blue and orange coating the horizon. The nice lady sitting next to me described it as an “ocean of brown.” I would concur.

When I arrived at the airport, I was both excited and anxious. Excited because I couldn’t believe that I had actually made it to the Motherland. Anxious because the task ahead of me, I knew, was going to be a challenge. Continue reading

More black men in jail or college? An old “fact” revisited

We always hear about the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, but I’ve always wondered: how many are incarcerated and what does that really mean? What I didn’t realize is how difficult it is to pin down a precise number. I mean, true, it doesn’t take too much to find out that black men are incarcerated at a rate six and a half times higher than white men. That’s easily available through the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. But ever since the Justice Policy Institute released a report in 2002 stating that there were more black men in jail than college, people have just ran with the numbers. Continue reading

The Flip is more than just a camera…but you already knew that, though

It’s amazing to see how fast the Flip camera has grown in popularity over the last year. I’ll admit, I got caught up in the buzz as well. And who can hate those fun 10-second sort-of-amateur-submitted commercials that the company was pushing during the holiday season to get even more people to jump on the Flip bandwagon. But there’s a lot more that you can do with the Flip than just produce those short viral videos of life’s precious moments. Continue reading

Slavery a good thing for black people? Another perspective

Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

via PBS

As some people know, I’m planning to go on a reporting trip to Sierra Leone soon. In preparation for the trip, I’ve been talking to a number of folks who are familiar with the country. I had an interesting conversation not too long ago with a Sierra Leonean American living in the Pacific Northwest. He was telling me about how the people in Sierra Leone are some of the most welcoming people you will ever meet.

But as he went on about Sierra Leone’s unique history (as you know, Sierra Leone was settled by freed slaves brought there by the British navy in 1787) and how that history plays an important role in why Sierra Leoneans are so friendly and generous to foreigners, he said something that made me pause for a moment and reflect on my own experience as an African American. Continue reading