Remembering Edward Robinson, Philadelphia’s Great Champion of African Consciousness

A version of this article was published shortly after Robinson’s death in 2012.

Edward Wesley Robinson. Photo | drrobinson.org

Edward Wesley Robinson. Photo | drrobinson.org

The birth of Edward Wesley Robinson Jr. on April 24, 1918, in Philadelphia laid the foundation for the birth of African consciousness — and the academic excellence of black students — in Philadelphia’s school district. Robinson, who died at age 94 on June 13, 2012, was a historian, educator, professor, author, documentarian, filmmaker, and curriculum specialist who attended Central High School, Virginia State College for Negroes (now Virginia State University), Temple University School of Law, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Robinson said that “Never during all my years in America’s best elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, high schools, colleges, and post-graduate schools was I ever taught anything about the huge body of information concerning the beauty, grandeur, and sophistication of Kemet (i.e., ancient Egypt) or the Songhai Empire. I was mis-educated. Fortunately, though, I was later rescued from cultural and intellectual oblivion by the intervention of my ancestors.” That rescue is quite obvious, and he wrote such books as Journey of the Songhai People and Twas the Night Before KwanzaaRead more »

Was the Term “African American” Coined in Philadelphia?

Screen Shot 2015-0ll4-22 at 1.09.00 PMTo be honest, we thought the term “African American” was a relatively recent coinage, one of a million hyphenates to spring up in the post-Civil Rights era as a means of displacing older terms that had come to sound like slurs on minority groups. We were wrong: “African American” is actually a pretty old term.

In fact, it’s older than anybody knew. The New York Times says new research has discovered that the first known use of the term “African American” happened in Philadelphia — a half-century earlier than anyone thought.

The Times says the discovery was made by Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro: Read more »

Apple’s New Emoji Have Created Brand New Ways to Be Culturally Insensitive Online

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More than half of Americans are in possession of a smartphone, with many using emoticons. It is fair to say that while all races are not represented by emoticons, all races use emojis. As Black-Emoji.com explains, “Emoji & Emoticons are the alphabet of the social media generation.”

Last week, Apple unveiled new diverse emoticons, including a set of emojis with an adjustable range of emoji skin tones to pick from, including yellow, brown and black. It’s been a long time coming — the Black Twitterverse and scores of others online denizens have complained for years that Apple’s emoji set was woefully lacking. As Vice reported in 2014, “emojis include the middle finger, the Vulcan hand salute, an optical disc icon, a chipmunk, and a black droplet. But no black people.” Up until last Thursday, Apple emoticon users could only use yellow Lego-people-colored graphics as representation of themselves. Read more »

New Joe’s Steaks Wouldn’t Be Possible With Racist Old Name

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To this day, I’m not entirely certain whether Joe Groh was trying to be a good man or simply a good businessman when he chose to change the name of his Tacony cheesesteak shop to “Joe’s Steaks.”

What I do know that it made his life a lot more difficult for a long time. Fans of the shop’s old name, “Chink’s,” were enraged at the switch — convinced Joe had knuckled under to the forces of political correctness. They offered responses that ranged from taking their cheesesteak business elsewhere to outright displays of ugly hostility.

The reaction left Groh wondering if his business would survive.

“It’s the scariest thing in the world to look at an empty store,” he said in the summer of 2013.  Read more »

Why Starbucks’ #RaceTogether Campaign Flopped

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Photos | Starbucks.com

 

Last week, in a fantastic advertising campaign disguised as a social initiative, Starbucks launched #RaceTogether, encouraging employees at 12,000 U.S. locations to write “Race Together” on coffee cups. This week, the message intended to start a conversation about race has ended. According to CEO Howard Schultz, the phasing out of the phrase is not a failure, but just the opening salvo in a year-long “Race Together” program that will continue, including forum discussions and special sections in USA Today.

I wanted to pinch Starbucks on its metaphorical cheek. Bless it’s little heart … it tried. In tackling race in America, Starbucks was defeated, in part, by its own business model as a “third place,” an “affordable luxury” where one can escape the cares of the world. From the pushback, it appears customers, social media observers, company shareholders and even Starbuck baristas were not up for race conversations over coffee. Read more »

Tate-Brown’s Mother Calls for Peaceful Protest

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson's son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

A day after a protest in her son’s name erupted into a violent skirmish at a community meeting on policing, the mother of Brandon Tate-Brown issued a statement rejecting violence and calling for peaceful protests.

“Ms. Brown-Dickerson rejects all forms of non-peaceful protest,” said the statement issued by Brian Mildenberg, the attorney for Tanya Brown-Dickerson. “Ms. Brown-Dickerson rejects all form of violence. Ms. Brown-Dickerson calls for peaceful protests in the manner of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The statement also called for a toning down of rhetoric directed at Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams. “Any protesters who speak to these public servants disrespectfully are urged to behave with dignity, and to peacefully protest,” it said.

Williams on Thursday announced he would not bring charges against the officers involved in the shooting of Tate-Brown, 26, who died in a December incident. Police said it appeared he was reaching for a gun in his car when the shot him; Tate-Brown’s family disputes that account. Read more »

These Are the 38 “Hate Groups” in Pa., Says Southern Poverty Law Center

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Pennsylvania has 38 hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center says in a new report, spanning the spectrum of white supremacy groups to black separatists and a few “radical” religious groups. That ranks the state fifth nationally, right behind New Jersey and its 40 designated hate groups.

The list includes obvious suspects such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Harrisburg, to more innocuous-sounding organizations like the the Council of Conservative Citizens — which describes itself, euphemistically, as a group of “race realists” in its picnic announcements.  Read more »

Penn Professor Sparks Controversy With Michael Brown Poem

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Kenneth Goldsmith, left, appeared on The Colbert Report in 2013.

 

A Penn professor has stepped into controversy for a new poem describing the autopsy of Michael Brown, the young man whose shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked months of protests around the country.

The Daily Pennsylvanian describes how writing professor Kenneth Goldsmith generated the anger with a March 13 reading of “The Death of Michael Brown” at Brown University:

At the conference that focused on digital culture, Goldsmith read a poem titled “The Body of Michael Brown” as Brown’s graduation photo was projected behind him. The poem was simply a copy of the medical examiner’s report on Brown’s autopsy with some changes to make the medical terms more understandable to the average person and to enhance the “poetic effect.”

Read more »

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