Prof. Mahmoud El Kati talks about the legacy of Civil Rights Legend, Matthew Little, Nelson Mandela and Martin Martin Luther King Jr.
When you listen closely to Mahmoud El-Kati, a life-long educator and professor emeritus of history at Macalester College, you will hear one of the more nuanced and passionate voices working in anti-racism today. ”Race is not based in genetics,” El-Kati explains. “Race is a myth. Racism is a reality.
In this important conversation, Professor El Kati helps us to understand that our history is our humanity.
The first half of Health Notes was devoted to the contributions of great African Queens and Kings, from Cleopatra to Hannibal.
The second half gives tribute to the great Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom. Within the rhythm of her poetry and elegance of her prose lies Angelou’s unique power to help readers of every orientation
span the lines of race. Angelou captivates audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics
Born in 1931, Josie Robinson Johnson has played an active role in the civil rights movement since her teenage years, when she and her father canvassed her hometown of Houston to gather signatures on an anti-poll tax petition.
In the early 1960s, Johnson lobbied professionally for passage of bills concerning such issues as fair housing and employment opportunities. In 1964, she traveled from Minneapolis to Mississippi with an integrated group of women to witness and take part in the struggle there. After visiting an open-air freedom school where blacks were organizing, the group learned the school was bombed later that day. Johnson became a community organizer for Project ENABLE, a pioneering effort in developing parenting skills and strengthening family life in 1965. A member of the Minneapolis Urban League, she served as acting director between 1967 and 1968.
Johnson worked with elected officials many times over the years. In 1968, she became a legislative liaison and community liaison as a mayoral aide in Minneapolis during a time of trouble for African Americans in the town. The executive assistant to the lieutenant governor of Colorado from 1975 to 1978, Johnson went back to Texas in 1978 and supervised Judson Robinson’s campaign staff. In 1980, she served as deputy campaign manager for the Jimmy Carter presidential campaign in Tennessee.
Johnson has also had an ongoing relationship with the University of Minnesota. Between 1971 and 1973, she served on the University’s Board of Regents. She earned a B.A. in Sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and an M.A. and Ed.D. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The University of Minnesota offered her a senior fellowship in 1987. Johnson directed its All-University Forum as diversity director from 1990 to 1992. That year, she became responsible for minority affairs and diversity at the college as the associate vice president for academic affairs. The University of Minnesota established the annual Josie Robinson Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award in her honor.
The Importance of History and Ritual – Titilayo Bediako
Health Notes ended its African History Month tribute by talking with teacher, mentor and founder of WE WIN Institute.
Titilayo Bediako was born and raised in Minnesota, and is the daughter of civil rights leader Matthew Little. She is instrumental in using African and African American history to African American youth through WE WIN Institute ( a non-profit organization dedicated to the academic and social success of all children)
Bediako says participating in African rituals helps give African-American youth a sense that they belong to something larger than themselves or their surroundings.
She says that’s something she never received when she was in school. After graduating from high school, she moved to Tennessee where she joined an African history study group. “The more I studied and the more I learned about myself, the more my given name, which was Michelle Little, didn’t fit the person I had become,” says Bediako.
The name Titilayo is from the Yoruba of Nigeria. She says it means “everlasting happiness.” Bediako is from the Ashanti people of Ghana and it means, “born to struggle for her people.”
Symbols of Kwanzaa, celebrated by African-Americans in December. Participating in African-rooted rituals and ceremonies, like Kwanzaa, is one way African-Americans nurture their African side. “So I get everlasting happiness in struggling for my people,” says Bediako. “The one thing that I’ve learned is that struggling for African people makes it possible to struggle for all people.”
Like Bediako, many African-Americans have adopted African names. However, despite attempts to identify with Africans, African-Americans carry the physical and emotional baggage of slavery and racism. Bediako says many African-Americans have poor self-esteem because they were born in a country that historically has devalued their lives.
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