The Millennium Negro: The “New Black”

Written by the ICU’s own Joshua Lazard for his personal blog The Uppity Negro.

Joshua Lawrence Lazard

8 19 2014-WATN- Charice Pempengco & Raven Simone

“To put it bluntly, the likes of Pharrell and Raven-Symoné can afford to declare their independence from blackness.”

In April of this year, Pharrell Williams declared the “new Black” in an interview with Oprah Winfrey by saying:

The “new black” doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “new black” dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.

Just yesterday, child star of “The Cosby Show” fame, Raven-Symoné said the following:

I’m tired of being labeled.  I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.  I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to.  I don’t know how far back they go.  I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots…

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When Keeping It Real Goes Black-ish

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally posted at “The Uppity Negro”, the personal blog of our ICU Co-Founder/Editor Joshua L. Lazard.

Joshua Lawrence Lazard


“Black-ish picks up the conversation the Huxtables were having when the cameras weren’t on.”
–myself, 9/24/2014

To round off ABC’s Wednesday night line-up with millennial sit-coms using the pre-year 2000 format of focusing on the American family, after three back-to-back shows focusing predominantly on Anglo-Saxon families, there is a black family.  Well, I guess they’re black-ish.

Thirty years after “The Cosby Show” debuted, ABC’s “Black-ish” has hit the airwaves, and much to #BlackTwitter’s shock and awe, the pilot episode actually gets off to a good start.  With a soundtrack that hits the pulse with every step of the 22 minutes a sit-com has to air, most were probably thinking, this show can’t be too bad if the first sound you hear is Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” recalling the profundity of not just the song and a saner Kanye, but also just how intentionally black the song truly…

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It’s Complicated

This piece was originally posted on “The Uppity Negro” the personal blog of ICU’s Joshua Lazard.

Joshua Lawrence Lazard


Domestic violence, inherently, creates complexities on both sides of the gender aisle.  We, as a society, have to admit that in order to have an open and honest conversation.  This would be a conversation that appropriately lets emotions be felt and listen to opinions that may seem like something directly from a male chauvinist playbook be dealt with directly.  The first open and honest paradigm that should govern these types of conversations is that the victim should not be further victimized.  There is nothing ever that the victim caused to be a victim of domestic abuse.  There is no word or action that has the power of causation for them to be hit or struck in any shape, form or fashion.

I’ve sat back, silently (and perhaps that is a fault of my own I hope to explore later in this piece), and watched some of my black brothers bring out…

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Victim Blaming: How Society Displays Collective Ignorance

By: Kawana N. Williams, LPC

Editor’s Note: the author named this piece Victim Blaming: How the Asses of Society Display Their Ignorance

I had to take a deep breath before I decided to write this entry for several reasons. When dealing with the issue of domestic violence, I understand why and how one could become extremely emotional in the midst of the conversation. Because emotions tend to take over where objectivity & common sense should reside with regard to this particular subject, I can understand both the outrage & subjectivity that comes with it. What I do not understand, nor have I gained the patience for, is the ignorance and lack of sensitivity that people display toward this subject.

“The subject” that I am referring to is the recent incident concerning Ray Rice, a [now] former teammate of the Baltimore Ravens & his wife, Janay Rice. This particular case is difficult to cover because, personally and professionally, I take issue with the multiple layers of problems within this “problem.” It is difficult to ignore the fact that Ray Rice was indicted on March 27, 2014 for third degree battery and, subsequently, suspended from the Ravens for two games, but further (and a more appropriate) punishment was not doled out by both law enforcement and the Ravens’ management until the masses of society were able to view the footage of the incident (which was leaked by TMZ, an international gossip column).I take even more issue with the fact that Janay chose to marry Rice anyhow, less than 24 hours after the original indictment. I obviously take huge issue with the footage itself. It is difficult to watch as Ray initiates the physical altercation, “get swung on” in self-defense by Janay, his knockout punch and “rag doll” handling of Janay’s body once she was rendered unconscious. My biggest issue with this entire issue is this one very varied, but very ignorantly stated comment that I keep seeing float around social media & my most immediate circles:

“Well, she married him anyway? She must like it.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Is my initial response.

Stepping out of my emotions for a minute, I had to realize that the asses that are making these comments are not aware that Janay may very well be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Oh, you, the ass, aren’t privy to that word’s definition. Let me enlighten you.

-Stockholm syndrome: feelings of empathy, sympathy, and/or affection(s) towards one’s captor/abuser, sometimes to the point of identifying with/defending the captor/abuser……..

Think about how Tina Turner justified that ass-whopping she got from Ike to her background singer, Jackie, in the movie, What’s Love Got to Do With It!

Think about how long Slim stayed in her abusive marriage in the movie, Enough!

As a matter of fact, let us go ahead and go there:

Think about what your mom told you after witnessing your father knock her clean across the room for half of, if not your ENTIRE life!

My people, there are several reasons that both men and women remain in abusive relationships. But to ASSume that any of those reasons is because the abused enjoys the treatment is ludicrous. To ASSume that one would endure that type of abuse out of some sort of enjoyment is AS(S)inine. To presume that the abused is just being stupid because they stay in that circumstance is, for lack of a better word, RIDICULOUS! Most abused parties are there because of a learned pathology (life pattern), the lack of self-love, a lack of resources, and in many of cases, sheer fear for their lives (and potentially for the lives of their offspring). The notion that an abuse victim should be shamed and blamed for their circumstance has become so common that, nowadays, when reports of abuse are made, the immediate response is that the victim must “like it.”

I had a classmate while I was in grad school that was in an abusive relationship for over 10 years. A week before we received our degrees in Community Counseling (ironically so, for her), her boyfriend ripped her face open with his bare hands while in a drunken rage (one of several incidents with them in the few months before graduation alone). I, too, even with my training, ASSumed that she had to have liked what she was dealing with. She even went so far as to attempt to recant her statement and have his charges dropped just so he could “be back home, where he belongs.” I could not, for the life of me, understand why she thought his being home would change anything. I had to learn that it wasn’t about her wanting to change; she was not near a point of wanting better to actually get up and get better. Her staying with that man, and enduring such extreme abuse, is all she had known since she was a child. Her father dying while she was an infant leaving her to be raised by a verbally abusive alcoholic mother didn’t help matters. It wasn’t that she liked the abuse; I doubt seriously that she enjoyed it: having to hide her black eyes, bruised body parts, and broken spirits from me and other classmates could not possibly have been on her life list of “Things I Enjoy Doing.” The abuse is all she knew, and she grew accustomed to that standard of living.

That doesn’t make her, Janay Rice, or any other abuse victim stupid; nor is it safe to ASSume that they ask for the abuse by staying and allowing it. Shaming the victim doesn’t help the victim: caring enough about them to extend assistance (whatever that may be) helps, patience helps, LOVING the victim helps, offering escape options/safe plans of action for the victim helps. Hell, just BEING THERE for the victim whenever possible helps the victim.

All blaming the victim does is make YOU look like an ASS!!!

When Faith Fails

Written By: Kellee L. Halford

This originally appeared on “They Call Me Sophisticat” the personal blog of Kellee Halford

Recently, as a result of coursework, sermons and personal interactions, a great deal of my focus is on survival. My attention has been turn to the matters of testing and trial. After an unsettling conversation with a friend in which the only comfort I could provide her was to just be on the call, I followed up with my Co-Editor over at the ICU, Joshua “the Uppity Negro” Lazard and said this:

“Anyone that says that faith can waver but it mustn’t fail has not truly been tried by fire. There are times when faith must falter/fail in order to be rebuilt/restructured.” (K. Halford, Personal Text Message July 2014).

I realize that my words seem a little shaky but there is a destination to which I’m traveling if you stay with me. Throughout my life, especially within the last 15 years I have been not merely at the brink of losing faith but I have virtually lost it all on more that one occasion. I’ll confess, I have considered suicide on more than one occasion. Why? Because the circumstances of my discord, sorrow, disappointment, and unhappiness conflicted in drastic significance to my theological understanding and caused me to question the very foundations of my faith. Have you ever been in a place where your life has become so unrecognizable and your circumstances so seemingly unbearable that you no longer recognize yourself, your God, or anyone or anything else for that matter? Have you ever been in a place where all of that caused you to be wholly unrecognizable to others? I consider this because, quite frankly, biblically there is pretty much only one character with a story that could speak to the totality of this predicament in any holistic way his name is Job. While some say Job’s faith didn’t fail. Allow me this indulgence. Imagine faith as a building. A disaster (perhaps an earthquake) comes and does all but level the building. In fact, the quake decimated the foundations, the structural walls and even the façade of the building in such a way that the building is unrecognizable. Now imagine that the building is too valuable to completely destroy, rather it must be rebuilt and restructured and perhaps even reoriented in such a way that it can withstand a similar disaster in the future.

I am a student of language, paying attention to what is said as much as what is left unsaid but perhaps described. I simply must say that watching Job lament and curse the day he was born drives me into the place of remembrance. When you’re in that place of failing faith while you may not “charge God foolishly” you will make declarations like ” I wish I had never been born” or “I seem to only bring misery on the people I love I should just end it all”. If you’re not careful and if you’re not allowed the space to be able to honestly feel these feelings without judgment or condemnation your recovery time is going to take a while. The people who know me best know that one of my critiques of the family of faith aka the church is that we don’t make space for people to be honest. Perhaps peril, tribulation and sword are second only to the matters of initial belief to begin with. It is unsafe to admit that life has put you in a position that is so emotionally and spiritually complex that you question faith. That’s a difficult thing to admit. It is even more difficult when those who would attempt to be your confidantes and provide comfort insist that your feelings are hogwash.

So in my moment of having revelation about myself I have come to the place of wanting to share with you a tidbit that I’ve learned; sometimes faith crumbles in order to be rebuilt. Prior to Job’s experience the primary belief and therefore spiritual absolute was that bad things only happen when you have done wrong (retribution theology). It was not until Job’s experience taught him otherwise and therefore changed the parameters (rebuilt/restructured/reoriented) his faith that it became an established and immutable fact that sometimes bad things happen even when you’ve done everything right. In essence Job’s faith before his trial had to fail for it to be rebuilt strong enough to face whatever the future held. You see faith is beyond a mere belief in a transcendent God, it is also the practical application of what that belief means (to any faith system not just Christianity). Sometimes those practical applications change when knowledge and understanding of that God or of the meaning of the belief changes but before that change can happen what was gets disheveled and destroyed.

Be encouraged that you can grow and mature and regain a stronger faith from this!

AD[H]D: Maybe…….Maybe NOT!!!


“I have a new theory about all these kids diagnosed with ADHD:

More and more, I’ve had to work with youth who literally you have to ask “Did you take your medication today” to determine what type of day you’re going to have. But, I’ve talked to a few of them and when you hear their life story, I begin to wonder is it really that their lives are so unstable that they’re almost forced to have a divided attention all time for their own survival–they come to school and are expected to focus solely one thing and in order and move to the next thing seamlessly.

Let’s be honest, 25 years ago weren’t all these kids on meds like this. This isn’t a disciplinary issue, but one about stable home lives I think.” – FB Status

As a licensed professional counselor, I am all too aware of what AD[H]D is and what the effects of it are. As a Restorative Justice Facilitator and dance instructor with CPS, I have counseled and taught a variety of children who have either been diagnosed with this disorder, or display behaviors that would match the criteria for a diagnosis. But after reading the aforementioned Facebook status of Joshua Lazard, one of this blog’s editors, I had to stop and think for a minute. To be fair, I am one of those people who work with children who display, what I like to refer to as, AD[H]D-esque behavior. And like most people who work with children who display these types of behaviors, I have grown exasperated with these types of children. Never one did I stop to think that their living conditions and most immediate surroundings off school grounds are the very reason why the children’s attentions spans and energy levels are as erratic they are.

In the social services world, we have this handy dandy little mental health guideline reference called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V for short). In it contains all of the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral disorders that one could ever suffer from (or choose to make up, which is a whole other monster in itself, and the cause of a lot of debate within the medical and social services communities since the release of said reference book). According to the DSM-V Attention [Hyperactivity] Deficient Disorder has certain behavioral criteria that a child must display for, at least, six months or more in order to be diagnosed as such. The child must also have been displaying these behaviors before age 12 (whereas in the DSM-IV, the onset age of AD[H]D was 7; yet ANOTHER monster that needs to be addressed). The criteria presently listed are:

• Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
• Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
• Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (maybe limited to feeling restless).
• Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
• Often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
• Often talks excessively.
• Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
• Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
• Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Now, to be fair, there are a plethora of reasons why a child’s focus seems a little less fine-tuned on a daily basis. There are several reasons why a child’s energy may be off the meter. Some children are just genuinely bored with certain activities and genuinely have extreme amounts of high energy; I am a living example of that. And even as academically advanced as I was as a child, if it didn’t interest me or hold my attention it didn’t get paid attention to. The ONLY things that held my attention for more than 5 minutes were music and dance. Quite frankly, had my father not signed me up for Pop Warner cheerleading at age 8 and placed me in a weekend performance program at Chicago’s ETA Creative Arts Theater (which included acting and vocal classes and Dunham Technique training) at age 10, I could have been one of those very children that currently rub my nerves every which way but loose. But being a child who was raised in both the Roseland and Englewood areas of Chicago, there were just some situations that called for my attention span to be spread across 3 or more different areas, which became second nature as I grew older and my surroundings grew more volatile. I was not in the position to solely focus on being a child; I had a younger brother to look after. I had my OWN life to look after. I had cousins to try and protect. I had meals to cook and a house to maintain before/after my father went to work to lighten his load as a single father. I had scripts and choreography to remember from ETA. I had predators that I had to duck and dodge just walking down the street to get some candy. I had bullies that I so desperately had to try and avoid. I had bullets to try and duck and dodge, depending on what part of the neighborhood I was in or near. There was never a point in my young life where I was really able to focus on one thing in one moment because one moment in my neighborhood held 15 different details that one was required to be aware of.

………..all of this by the age of 9……….and I was raised in a relatively normal household……….

I did not have the disadvantage of being raised in a household where my parents were pathologically neglectful. I did not have the disadvantage of being raised in a house that has more children than it has anything else. I was not raised in the projects where life and crime and violence are so dense within that compacted community that it’s abnormal for violence not to occur. I was not privy to having parents who suffered from severe substance addiction/abuse. I was not aware of the perils of parents who systematically abuse their children. I did not know what it was to have a parent refuse, or not have the money, to feed and clothe my siblings and I. There are so many things that our children deal with outside of the academic system (that pale in comparison to what they actually DO suffer through within the academic system) that one has to consider that some children’s attentions spans, or lack thereof, is their primary survival tool. And because these things are not taken into consideration, or go without being addressed, an administrator who has not taught in, or seen, a classroom since their high school days will impose their belief that a child needs to be medicated and/or placed into “Special Education” onto that child’s parent. Let’s not even deal with the fact that diagnosing these children as having AD[H]D and placing them into a special education classroom will garner that school, and that parent, a check; that’s a whole OTHER monster that I will deal with in a whole other blog.

Some children’s attention spans are short because not all inner-city school children are afforded the luxury of the after-school and extracurricular activities that would aid in alleviating some of the symptoms that come with having this particular disorder.
Some children’s attention spans are short because between the 3-6 brother and sisters that they have at home and the 35-40 classmates that they have to compete with at school, they are too busy trying to figure out where they even fit in the equation of life. Some children’s erratic, hyperactive behavior is caused by the very food (or lack of it) that they ingest both at school and in the home. Hell, some children’s attentions spans are short because they are CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Children are human sponges; they are trying to absorb and take in and learn everything that sparks their interests, and that tends to exude a lot of energy. Yes, there are children who are inappropriately hyperactive and whose attention spans are the source of problems for them both academically and socially. I will never say that there are not children who don’t suffer from this disorder. What I would like for people to consider is this: what if the child that you are so quickly to write of as having AD[H]D actually has some other, more pressing issues than what you feel is the issue? It amazes me how we, as adults, write off the things that children have to deal with simply because they’re children. It amazes me how we, as adults, assume that we always know what’s best for a child. It amazes me how we, as adults, are always so quick to throw a label on our children not being totally aware of what our children are dealing with emotionally on a daily basis.

What I would like for us, as adults, to do is take into consideration what a CHILD goes through, and not what we, as adults, feel they SHOULD go through according to what will keep our nerves intact. I would like for us, as adults, to stop being so quick to write these children off or hand them a prescription or a label that will follow them in a stigmatizing light for the rest of their lives. Let us start asking QUESTIONS over making ASSumptions. Let us start TALKING TO these children and not AT them in a demonizing manner. Let’s start finding things that these children are interested in that WILL hold their attention. Hell, how about we stop IGNORING these children and start giving them some POSITIVE attention instead of rolling our eyes, smacking our lips, and sending them back home (the ROOT of some of their issues).

Damn……….I think I just checked MYSELF with this message…………

It’s More Than Just Breasts, A Response to “So My Breasts Offend You?”

Karlesha, breastfeeding mom
Karlesha, breastfeeding mom

I sat back over the last few days and I’ve seen a diversity of responses and reactions to the picture of Karlesha Thurman, the recent graduate of Long Beach State University who opted to take a post-commencement picture.  That description doesn’t do the picture justice.  Thurman made a personal, yet public statement because she decided to take a picture while breastfeeding her baby.  While in her gown.  And while there were clearly other people around.

I could embarrass my little cousin (who turned 20 this year), but my first memory of seeing someone breast fed was my cousin and his mother did it while sitting at the restaurant table and no one said anything as she threw the blanket over him and kept going.  I’m sure I had seen breastfeeding before, but at 9 or 10, it was the first conscious time I actually remembered it.  No one at the table, my parents and my cousins said anything (at least not to my memory) and the conversation didn’t miss a beat.  I say that to say, in disclaimer form, for me the issue wasn’t about public breastfeed per se: it’s more than just breasts for me.

Primarily, the optics of the statement were wrong.  She was in her regalia, and she was in plain view, and it was obviously right after the ceremony had let out hence the crowd.  I don’t have much solid to land this on except to engage in the detestable politics of respectability and just flat out say I think the time and place was highly inappropriate.  On my personal Facebook page, I  put an incendiary comment saying to the effect that the next time I’m going to a graduation that I’m going to walk around with my penis out and see if someone has a problem with it.  I said this because the comments ran the gamut from those in favor of breastfeeding, as Kellee Halford is, all the way to people actually saying that to decry Thurman was an actual affront to black women; that black breasts and black beauty were under assault behind this.

As one Twitter follower asked, why are black women’s bodies so often regarded as vulgar? And furthermore, why was it ok for Rihanna to walk out in a sheer, see though dress, nipples completely exposed for no other reason than to make a statement but it was wrong for Thurman to FEED HER BABY (Yes, I’m screaming) and take a picture while doing so? (For the record, I wasn’t offended by Rihanna’s dress either. It’s just been done so many times.) The point is breasts are cool for sex and male titillation but feeding a child? Naw, son. As someone who’s usually unfazed by nudity in general, I find it sad that we’ve sexualized breasts so much that we can no longer see them being used for their natural function without turning it into a cause for outrage. Even if you believe women should use a blanket when they feed, let that be the decision you make with your own children and let Kharlesha and women like her live her life and do what she feel is best for her daughter.

Um, no ma’am.  You’ve missed the whole point!

Where to start…

black lipsMy problem with that above quote from MadameNoire is that it now racialised an issue that is probably more rooted in the politics of respectability and gender norms than it is in discussions of gender and race.  If the assertion is that it should be okay and normal for black breasts to be on display as a matter of natural course irrespective of their “natural function,” I’d submit that this writer should have no problem if a man decided to walk around shirtless–and see it as just that: a man walking around shirtless.  But, of course, politics of respectability will certainly be engaged because no one wants to see a man who has the physique of Cedric the Entertainer walking around shirtless, only that of Tyson Beckford.

As far as the “let Kharlesha [sic] and women like her live her life and do what she feel [sic] is best for her daughter” quote, that’s problematic on so many levels because yet again, this extends only to Karlesha and this situation.  If this was a general mentality, I’m sure there would be no need for departments of children and family services across this country.

I think she should have used a blanket.  I think it was inappropriate to be breastfeeding in such a central and public location.  To devolve all the way in my rationale, she couldn’t have pumped before the ceremony?  Okay, maybe she didn’t own a pump or simply doesn’t want to, but does that a) prevent her from making the baby wait 2 minutes until she’s in a more secluded area or b) why does she feel the need to post it online and on Facebook?

more black loveBefore I get some pushback, this isn’t about me suggesting that she should relegate herself to some second-class status and be off in the corners and shadows doing something natural, but I am saying that some of these arguments don’t hold up if the opposite, or opposite equivalent were true as far as what’s considered appropriate for revealing when it comes to men.  Frankly, if the argument had been advocating that it should be equally as social acceptable for women to be topless as it is for men to be topless, I would have bought the argument better, but this is more than just about breasts.  This turned into some breastfeeding advocacy issue that I think overshot the mark a bit.  For most, it was really about was it appropriate for her to have her breast out in such a public spot–whether she was breastfeeding or not.

The slut shaming on Twitter was flat out wrong and I condemn it swiftly; it did nothing to further the argument, but rather brought some of the distracting arguments to fore.

However, I still stand, if this is about breasts, and black women’s breasts at that, and the advocacy is for black women’s breasts to not be viewed as vulgar, please believe I’m starting a campaign for black men’s penises called “I Am Not My Dick, Or Maybe I Am.”  Without going deep off into the phallic worship black men have with their penises (and subsequently black masculinity and black male sexuality), think about how in this society anything having to do with penises is automatically considered vulgar.  While yes as a society we may sexualize or see breasts and titillating, we definitely see the penis as vulgar in general.  Think about how many times in movies we’ll see a “side boob” or nipple shot or waist up of a woman, that counts as a nude scene before we’ll see a full frontal of a man.   Even in sports, cameras usually make sure to film waist up of male athletes when anatomical protrusions are evident because of tight fitting clothes in sports such as swimming and track and field.

So no, your breasts don’t offend me, never have.  But can women say the same about my penis?

black love