Back in the sixties, the catch phrase was Black Power and it was accompanied by a raised arm with a clenched fist.

“Power to the People” was  the militant chant initiated by those wearing black leather jackets and  black leather tams tilted to the side of the head.

Black women stopped straightening their hair and we stopped getting perms. Visits to the beauty shops changed to regular trips to the barber.

Magnificent Brothers, in the Los Angeles Crenshaw District, was the place to go if you lived in the County.

“Power to the People” meant respecting who you were; kinky hair was in. Angela Davis wore the model of the perfect “natural”.

My youngest, born in 1967, came home from the hospital not wearing a little bonnet but instead with hair, combed by me, standing as tall as I could arrange it.

“Power to the People” died.

It gave way to the birth of black women with their purchased Chinese hair hanging in their faces and needing to be pushed away like the white girls do when their straight blond locks interfere with a clear view of what’s around them.

Now we’ve got the catchy slogan “Black Lives Matter” which rode into cities all across America on the hoods of squad cars operated by killing machines called cops.

“Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” was born because of a killing of a Black teenager in Ferguson MO. and “I Can’t Breathe” came to life with the death of another Black man in New York .

My kid, the one born with a “natural,” now wears Chinese hair. She was steeped in the Black Power movement as a baby and as a toddler she attended UCLA classes with me pushing her stroller.

For me, “Black Lives Matter” is as much a pipe dream as what became of the Black Power movement back in the 60’s and 70’s.
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Black Lives do not matter to America’s white  power structure because there is no place for us in America’s 21st century. But we are not alone; the lives of the homeless don’t have any relevance, either, nor do the lives of poor whites and  Chicanos.

America has created, and not by accident, what has been labeled by sociologists as a separate and unequal  throw-away society.

Did you join a protest? Did you join a march? Have you recently signed a petition that made progress look like it could happen?

My daughter with the Chinese hair says her store-bought locks have nothing to do with a movement or a way of thinking

She’s probably right about that.

But who will disagree that Black folk are as powerless today as we were fifty years ago when we chanted “Black Power”?

Who will  challenge Black Lives Don’t Matter Nor do . . . ?

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jean Troy

    It’s depressing to see that we’ve made little progress, but by whose assesment? Their are two views of American Life. It was so aparent when I saw a documentry regarding black photographers, We as blacks saw our selfs as beautiful people while the corporate world used the propaganda that we were ugly gross people and here only to serve them. We have been insulted, made fun of, hung and according to Mya Angelo and “Still we rise”. Our lives as black people do matter to our families, and to our friends, I can’t get caught up in the narrow maindedness of the corporate world since I know they will fall and its going to be hard. What goes up must come down. and we just need to wait they will come down by their own greed.

  2. gloria barrios

    Boy are you right. Its nowhere wbere we thougbt it would be. Thought i o
    Thougbt Chicanos & blacks had won something. Till every one started getting killed, scary.

  3. Bill Allen, Jr.

    Dear Shirlee,

    Our lives SHOULD matter to overall society, but we see all of the evidence that it doesn’t. We MUST REMAIN STRONG AND REFRAIN FROM INDIVIDUAL/COLLECTIVE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS, to show that our lives matter TO US. I feel that Paul Lawrence Dunbar was talking about society vs. “us” when he wrote—–“We wear the mast that grins and lies. It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes.”
    Dunbar’s most poignant line for our culture would be—–“With torn and bleeding hearts we smile…”
    How much has REALLY changed…perhaps just the “tactics.” Makes one wanna say “Hmmm.”
    Thanks, Shirlee.
    —–Bill Allen, Jr.

  4. -Nate

    Never give up ~ that’s what corporate America wants you to do .

    We’re still raising up good solid Citizens out of thrown aside young Black Males (Foster Care) .

    They just need good Parenting and advice not found on fox ‘ news ‘ channel .

    Few ever think to remark upon the many success stories made by you alls keeping on keeping on , insisting on not falling by the way side but it’s working ~ when I was young in the 1960’s things were far worse , nothing is right yet but we must never stop doing the right thing as the best revenge is living well .

    -Nate

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