Tag: Black lives matter

Get Your Knees Off Our Necks

Over my lifetime there have been several idioms, expressions, and adages that once spoken and repeated often conjure up certain circumstances and historical contexts.

For example, if I were to say “Keep the Faith, Baby” one would think of Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and his fight against discrimination in the supposedly free North. Or, how about an adage that addresses our lack of the pursuit of knowledge that suggests that “If you want to keep something secret from black folks, put it between the covers of a book.”  And finally, how about Fannie Lou Hammer, who my father, Horace Sheffield, Jr., was asked by President Lyndon B. Johnson not to seat at the Democratic National Convention. Hammer is known for saying, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Of all of these memorial quips, “none” I believe will go down in history as the most powerful, and applicable as Rev. Alfred Sharpton’s statement “Get Your Knee Off Our Neck” made during George Floyd’s funeral.

I was around when most of the aforementioned things were spoken, and was there when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. exclaimed “I Have A Dream”, and I was moved incomparably by each in a different way. However, I was never so moved as I was when I heard my friend of nearly 50 years retort, “Get Your Knee Off Our Neck!” That powerful alliteration, iteration, and capsulation of words is what we said to our slave masters. It’s what we said to the progenitors of Jim Crow, and it’s what our protest is for. It was being said as to those who made us count bubbles in a bar of soap to be able to register to vote. And it is now what Rev. Sharpton is suggesting we must now say to every economic, social, and political source and force that has its knees on our individual and collective necks.

Donald Trump, “get you knee off our necks.” Police brutality, please “get your knee off our necks.” Economic exploitation and exclusion, “get your knee off our necks.” And apathy, lack of voting, and self-hatred, “get your knees off our necks.”

Written by Rev. Horace L. Sheffield, III, MA, MP
Horace Sheffield, III is a longtime civil rights activist, pastor, and media personality. He is an on-air radio personality for 910 AM/WFDF, as the host of On The Line and an on-air television personality for WADL, as the host of Real Talk Weekly. Sheffield is also the pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship and executive director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, both in Detroit.

Are we having an identity crisis?

Year 2019 marks 400 years since Africans were enslaved in the United States. It’s been 400 years and yet there are still so many underlying issues in the African American community. So many thoughts run through my head. Why do many blacks conform to be accepted? Do we know who we are? How do I identify myself? Have the negative images in the media of blacks affected the way I view myself and the way others view me? Why are we so feared? My conclusion is that there is an identity crisis in the black community. Hear me out. 

I’m sure we can agree that words have power. What does the word black even mean? I won’t even get started of what the n-word means. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary black means heavy, serious, soiled, and total or nearly total absence of light. Dictionary.com says black means being a color that lacks hue and brightness and absorbs light without reflecting any of the rays composing it. Wait. Aren’t these all negative definitions? Dear black people, I ask: Where is your outrage?

Just for fun, let’s look at synonyms and antonyms for black. Synonyms for black are dark, dirty, dingy, sad, depressing, disastrous, sinful, inhuman, and devilish. A few antonyms for black are white, clean, hopeful and cheerful. So why are we called black? Ok. Maybe you don’t identify yourself as being black but rather African American. 

The media portrays our origin, Africa, as a continent of severe poverty, corruption, and disease. The majority of images in the US media of Africa are children with swollen bellies and people living in huts. That’s the image that’s portrayed. How does that relate to how blacks/African Americans view themselves? A continent stricken with poverty, corruption, and disease is where we came from? Wrong! This is totally the Western perspective and disheartening. Here’s some food for thought about Africa. 

  • All of Africa is not corrupt. Remember Nelson Mandela?
  • All of Africa is not unsafe. Every continent, country, and city has sketchy areas that you shouldn’t visit.
  • Everyone in Africa is not poor. Yes, it is an issue in parts of Africa. However, isn’t poverty an issue in every major US city?
  • Africa produces roughly half of the world’s diamonds. 
  • The Kalenjin tribe in Kenya produces the fastest marathon runners in the world today. #Excellence
  • Ethiopia’s economy is growing faster than China’s.
  • The Seychellois are the most educated Africans. Seychelles’ literacy rates (Adult: 92%, Youth: 99%) Zimbabwe is 2nd (Adult: 91.2%, Youth: 99%). The Seychellois have a higher literacy rate than many American cities.

Dear black people, I ask: Where is your outrage? We came from greatness. Africa is rich in culture, and has a wealth of natural resources like oil, platinum, gold, and diamonds. It even has sandy beaches and breathtaking views. Because we live in the United States, we see things from a biased Western view. The misconceptions of Africa are due to misinformation, lack of knowledge, and stereotypes.

Why is so much negativity surrounded by just the color of your skin. The word black itself is negative. Africa is shown in a negative light. Blacks, especially black males, are often portrayed as welfare recipients, criminals, etc in the media. We’re over-represented in depictions of violence. We saw this firsthand during Hurricane Katrina coverage.

Black Americans tend to be underrepresented in U.S. newsrooms. While 7% of newsroom employees are black, 11% of U.S. workers overall are black, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2013-2017 American Community Survey data. Again, dear black people, I ask: Where is your outrage? We need more people of color in the newsrooms sharing accurate coverage of African Americans. Inaccurate depictions can affect self-perceptions and lead to diminished self-esteem.

I’m sure we all can agree that change is needed even 400 years after slavery began. That’s where Blacme comes in. I wanted to create a brand that would exude excellence in the black community and shed negative images. The word blacme is derived from black and amce. Acme meaning the point at which someone is best. I wanted to create my own narrative. I, personally, found my identity in Christ. Race aside, I am who God says I am. I was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). I am righteous and reign as a king in life (Romans 5:17). I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I have an amazing future (Romans 8:18). I am always triumphant (2 Corinthians 2:14). I am remarkably black. I am blacme and so are you!


TeShayla Coates
Founder and CEO, Blacme

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