History Lesson

There is no celebration of Nazi Germany in Germany. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, most references to the Nazis were purged, at least in public. It took a couple of generations to look honestly at the hate that led to the horror but in the 70s and 80s, Germans took a hard look at their collective contributions to the holocaust and decided who they had been wasn’t who they wanted to be.

It has been approximately 180 years since the American government started forcing native-born Americans from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern to designated Indian Territory.

It has been 153 years since the War of Rebellion when the Americans occupying that stolen land, committed treason rather than free an enslaved people.

I wonder if the land of the free and the home of the brave will ever have the courage to look honestly at its own history of oppression?

Inhale History, Exhale Fantasy…
Inhale Reality, Exhale Revisionary…
Inhale Courage, Exhale Cowardice…
Just Breathe…

Reflection With Renita

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I saw the #ThisIsNotUS hashtag trending this past weekend and was gratified to see so many pointing out the obvious…that white men carrying torches, white men beating people of color, white men murdering those with whom they disagree is about as American as it gets.

Now what?

Each moment describes who you are, and gives you the opportunity to decide if that’s who you want to be.” ~ Bruce D. Schneider, Energy Leadership

Inhale What IS, Exhale Illusion…
Inhale Knowledge, Exhale Willful Ignorance…
Inhale Transformation, Exhale Status Quo…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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American Nightmare

This week, while some Americans were celebrating the American Experiment, the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were marking the 1-year anniversary of their state-sanctioned deaths.

While many Americans over indulged, over 2 million Americans, almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, provided almost free labor to corporations focused on profits.

Many American’s seem to accept these realities as indictments against other Americans. They cannot see their connection to or comprehend their complicity in the systemic and relentless racism that is the reality for many in this country.

No one is free until we are all free.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Apathy…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Disconnection…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Ignorance…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Freedom Fighters

I was reminded, once again, while visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture that Americans of color have fought just as hard and sacrificed just as much as those who would exclude us from claiming America as ours…

Off to War by William Johnson, depicts a young GI leaving his family to defend his country.

Inhale Service, Exhale Exclusion…
Inhale Sacrifice, Exhale Segregation…
Inhale Satisfaction, Exhale Disregard…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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My America

It is endlessly fascinating to me that the descendants of those who would have destroyed the United States, are often the ones most eager to claim patriotism…to the exclusion of others.

Mainstream patriotism holds notions of equality, colorblindness, and meritocracy that are at odds with the lives of black Americans.” ~ Dr. Micah Johnson

Inhale Equality, Exhale Exclusion…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Oppression…
Inhale Unity, Exhale Destruction…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Interdependence Day*

Just because you think you’re not being impacted by oppression in this country, doesn’t mean you’re not being impacted by oppression in this country. The privileged in this country are complicit in and culpable for the continuation of racist institutions that systemically oppress the less privileged.

Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave.” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:34-38‬ ‭MSG

Inhale Interdependence, Exhale Independence…
Inhale Connection, Exhale Separation…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Enslavement…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

*Interdependence Day coined by Reesheda Graham Washington

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Commitment to Freedom

This week I honor those pursuing the call of freedom in and out of uniform…those committed to making the ultimate sacrifice if asked…those at the forefront of our internal struggle to realize our country’s commitment to freedom… those resisting the daily assault on the freedoms declared by our founders so many years ago…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Freedom is not free; freedom requires commitment.

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Constraint…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Inequality…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Assault…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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Oath of Office

I first experienced the Air Force Academy graduation “March On” in 2013. I was there for the graduation and commissioning of my cousin, Wes Cobb, and I still remember that moment of giddiness during the ceremony when I realized the graduates were going to MARCH TO THEIR SEATS!

Cadet Wes Cobb and me!

Yesterday, as I watched the 2017 Academy graduation, saw the precision execution of the “March On”, listened to the call for excellence, I thought about Army 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins. Killed before he could serve his country, lynched, according to some, for being black, Collins is another victim of the violence perpetuated on people of color in American.

And I wondered how the almost 300 officers of color commissioned feel about their oath to “support and defend” a country which doesn’t always provide a safe space for them…

Inhale Equality, Exhale Supremacy…
Inhale Humanism, Exhale Nationalism…
Inhale Progress, Exhale Regression…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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American Experiment: What are YOU Doing?

People use double entendre to describe a phrase open to multiple interpretations, one of which is usually indecent. After seeing the Oscar nominated “Hidden Figures”, I realized the title has a number of meanings: the mathematics that made manned space flight possible;
the unacknowledged black women who actually crunched the numbers; and the fact that in segregated Virginia, these women were literally hidden from view, NASA’s dirty little secret.

The movie was a great reminder that even in the face of what must have felt like crippling oppression, I’m descended from people who overcame.

It also reminded me that there are many ways to overcome an unjust, oppressive system. One scene in particular really drove that point home.

After realizing the impending installation of an IBM computer could make her job obsolete, Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, decides to learn how to program the computer. In the scene, Dorothy is on her way to the segregated (white) local library to get what she can find about the computer, when she encounters a group protesting the lack of civil rights for people of color. As she hurries her two children past the protesters, she says something to the effect of “That’s not what we do”. Dorothy’s protest was taking the book on Fortran that the librarian refused to let her check out.

She used it to teach herself, as well as her black female team how to program the brand new IBM mainframe, and when NASA needed a larger team to run the computers, her team was ready.

She didn’t join the protesters marching and holding signs yet her actions made a huge difference in the lives of black families in her community.

This Saturday while Chicagoans joined Americans all over the world protesting the illegal and immoral immigration ban of Muslims who are in this country legally, AeroStar Avion Institute Founder and CEO Tammera Holmes was hosting STEMtastic Saturday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center. Tammera’s activism is prepping young people of color to fill projected skill shortages in the aviation industry.

It may not look like what others are doing, but she is making and will make a huge difference in the lives of Chicagoans. Because in addition to an American justice system that is truly blind to race, in addition to an American education system that sees the potential in all children, Americans of all races need real opportunities to support themselves and their families. That is what Tammera is providing.

This weekend, we saw all hands on deck as activists, politicians, lawyers, judges, etc. used their talents and skills to fight an action many perceive as un-American. I’m celebrating them, their contributions and focusing on what I can do to protect our fragile democracy.

What are you doing to make a difference?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Experiment: Can You Hear Me Now…?

I get it.

You tried to warn us.

You heard the outright lies…suspected Russian ties…watched the “Alt-right” rise…

You were unsettled. And you tried to warn us.

I saw it too. The “blacklash” that always comes after perceived progress by people of color in this country…

The videoed violence inflicted on bodies of the marginalized…black, brown, female, disabled…

The attack on clean water sources by energy companies intent on “digging up death” instead of investing in clean energy.

The virulent, relentless American brand of racism so reminiscent of the deep anti-Semitism that existed in pre-Nazi Germany.

I found a 40-year old copy of the George Orwell book “1984” on a visit home, started re-reading it and wondered, “Are we already there?”

The novel “1984”, portrays a dictatorship that imposes its own facts.

Now, of course, many Americans are feeling a sense of alarm.

Sales of “1984” have increased “almost 10,000 percent since the inauguration,” most notably when Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet the Press and introduced the phrase “alternative facts”.

Actually, “alternative facts” is a very “1984” phrase, where “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”

I suspect if the Women’s Marches that took place all over the world right after our inauguration were to happen this weekend, there would be double the participation, upwards of 5 to 6 million.

And now you’re wondering “Why couldn’t you hear and heed the warning?” and “Where were all these marchers when…” and you want to know, “Are you going to be here for the long haul?”

I get your frustration. I understand your anger. I feel your sense of betrayal.

But the majority of Americans did not vote for the person occupying the office of POTUS. Whoever can hear now, is here NOW…can space be made for the newly conscious?

And if you’ve just been awakened, educate yourself, don’t make this about yourself and try to stay engaged.

It’s not a time for cynicism, or finger pointing or embarrassment. It’s a time for Americans to come together and protect our fragile democracy. I pray it’s not too late…

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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