Zion Stands Firm

By: Wes Annan

There haven’t been perfect days since we left the garden,

The day we trusted in man over God,

And chose to bear a larger burden.

But I believe in the perfect moments,

Those devine seconds when the gates swing open,

When what’s alive never dies,

And the crooked becomes less broken.

Those are the moments He reminds us He’s still there,

That though we forsake Him He will always care.

Through flood & fire

Storm & situation dire

From valley to peak

From beginning to end of every week

He never leaves us

It is in those fractions of time where the surreal combats real

Where we seem to be battling titan & trojan alike aiming for our heel

It is in between the drops of sand that fall in the glass

That we are brought to our knees to espy mass

It is the Light show in the North.

The redeemer in the South.

Zion standing firm in the East.

Chomolungma towering tall in the West.

Everywhere the needle has made a revolution about its rose,

That is where deity shows.

We can’t build our own garden,

We’ve planted too many seeds bearing bad fruit.

There’s no replacing Allah,

the only One making rich what we’ve made destitute.

But He is still there.

In the midst of the fray

The dog fights above sea.

When the clouds open to the kingdom,

When we open our eyes to actually see.

So don’t worry.

We may build up walls and tear down bridges because we fear each other, pain, and horror

But there are always days when those feint trumpets sound…

On those days look at your feet for brick and mortar.

 

Behind the Vibes: Bijah B

Abijah is a Freshman at Stanford University, working on making music that centers on neo-soul and reggae, while also tackling problem sets for computer science. He’s performed as a DJ, killed a few Open Mics, and is a strong activist for the Stanford Community.

On finding music

Well I was born in Jamaica, so obviously reggae and dancehall was always a part of my life growing up, when I was in the car, that music was always playing. I’ve always had a deep interest in it. I’ve always interested in how music was used as a political tool, or as a tool of relieve. It became a cathartic experience for me, to relieve yourself of the stresses daily. So I started making music as early as the 9th grade, producing records and writing raps. From there it was something I know I should keep pushing for.

I made music with a group of people called Unknown Creatures. The mission of the group was to be confident in being unique, original, and different. Especially with the music scene now with people on the same vibe and producing one sound of music, we wanted to do something original and be confident in that.

abijah1

On his style

Unknown Creatures style was experimental & original, it’s soothing to the soul at times and other it’s rallying. There’s a wide variety of subject matter and it shows sonically as well. We take pride in that.

I’m tryna stay involved in music as much as possible now. I’m trying to find a band, with a focus on a  neo-soul vibe is what I’m working. When I make music solo it’s on a hip-hop tip, but I want to get together to transcribe music, and work with vocals. That’s a huge part of my musical interests

On his inspirations (Top Five…)

I’ll say Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, you can’t really forget Bob Marley or Jacob Miller (and many other reggae artists), Aretha Franklin. I’m always trying to find a way to incorporate these different genres through a hip-hop scene. Many people don’t know that a lot of hip-hop today had a lot of jazz influence and at this point, you can take any form of genre and infuse it in a hip-hop vibe.

abijah2tumblr

On his direction of music

I come from a ton of different backgrounds and it’s reflected in my music. I’m biracial with a white mother and a Jamaican Father, and I’ve always lived amongst people who are very wealthy and also people who are not so wealthy, people who are white, black, all different backgrounds and it’s had an influence on my music.

The EP is out now, check it out and thank us later.

Follow Abijah on Twitter.

Introducing Greo, the New Social Justice Platform

Written By: Team Greo

Black people and people of color are creative geniuses. We invent the world’s most compelling trends, score the most popular music, generate the most powerful cultures, and build the most innovative social movements. However, when it comes to technology, we tend to be the biggest consumers but the rarest producers. Why is that?

Our team of conscious-preneurs is especially motivated by the concept of social media and how it has been such a great educational and coalition building tool for people of color from Cairo to Chicago. But the social media outlets out there currently don’t cater to our needs. Twitter is not a safe space, as it lets racism and misogyny flow unchecked. And Facebook creates unhealthy echo chambers and contributed to the election of Donald Trump. So we are on a mission to architect the next generation of social media–social-impact media, if you will.

Greo is a social media app for conversations that matter, ranging from #BLM to environmental sustainability to Beyonce’s Lemonade. These conversations are facilitated by 60 second or less videos made by users. It’s like Medium meets Vine, but is a brave space for people to speak their truth.

Each of us has had experience as a founder before Greo. From education non-profits to learning software, we each love building things that matter. Between us, we have worked at places like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Mozilla, Pinterest, and the White House. But this is our first foray down the traditional startup road.

The reality of Silicon Valley is that it’s a jungle. The white male dominated space presents many challenges for a team for four people of color, two of whom are women of color. We’ve been told that we are not diverse enough in our thought and that we need to hire a Trump supporter to balance us out. We’ve encountered people who have doubted our ability to produce a world-class product based on race and gender. However, we learned that while it’s important to be aware of the often cut-throat and exclusive nature of the tech space, we don’t have to play by those rules. We can operate from a place of inclusivity, generosity, and empathy. If we want to build ecosystems of empowerment and innovation for marginalized people, then we have to begin imagining different parameters to the status quo we want to live in.

We were fortunate to raise $200,000 from Sheel Tyle at New Enterprise Associates before we even had a product. We are currently in our Beta phase, with about 70 people using a trial version of our application before we go live in Winter 2017. We are also blessed to have incredible advisors such as Jason Mayden, former global lead of Jordan Brand at Nike and Troy Carter, former John Legend manager and an Uber and Spotify investor.

Ultimately, we know it takes a village to raise an entrepreneur. So many people have poured into us, from our parents to our professors, to our friends. We want to pave the way for more Black innovators and makers of marginalized backgrounds to be able to bring their dreams to fruition.

Furthermore, there has never been a Black tech company valued at over $1 billion, and we aspire to be the first. But we want to deliver value beyond a market cap. We want to more than a for-profit company, and be a for-progress company. The world needs far more solutions than a social media startup can supply, so it’s important not to overstate the potential impact of our work. However, we do know that technology in the right hands can spur cultural change. And cultural change eventually produces political change. That is our theory, and we are working night and day to turn it into practice.

Team Greo consists of Stanford Alumni and Students. Founders: Tre Kirkman, Elizabeth Davis, Estefania Ortiz, Brandon Hill

To learn more about Greo, check out their website. Feel free to email them at hello@greo.com

A Letter to Hate In America

Image: Reuters

On November 8th, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America. This election, for numerous marginalized groups of people, represented an unforeseen regression in American history, potentially erasing decades of social progress. In the wake of such turmoil, it is important to acknowledge that our feelings of anger and frustration are valid. It is important to acknowledge and discuss the fear we feel for the future, and the uncertainty that characterizes tomorrow. If America will not say it with their vote, let us be the first: we acknowledge you and we care for you.

Over these past few days there’s been an eerie, quiet spell over campus. Yet, in our most uncertain moments, the greatest gift we can give to one another is our love. Love one another today, tomorrow, and more so than ever before as we enter the next four years.

A massive perspective gap foreshadowed the shock that characterized Election 2016. Over the past eight years, a majority of white rural Americans have felt as though their voices were unheard, and their needs unmet. The purported stagnancy of the middle class made recovery from the economic recession a difficult task. Government focus on the suffering lower class, although warranted, brought with it a feeling of neglect for other economic and social classes. These feelings of neglect transformed into action this week, as this unhappy base voted into office a man who claimed to be their only hope. His seemingly innumerable sexist, racist, xenophobic and generally discriminatory comments became secondary or tertiary issues. Granted, there is a population that wholeheartedly believes the rhetoric that Mr. Trump espouses. Simultaneously, there exists a population that simply believes in voting for the issues that concern them and them alone. The ramifications of electing Trump in office have been felt worldwide and he hasn’t technically took office yet.

Now, we move forward.

And herein lies one of the greatest obstacles to face during these next four years: understanding. To the democratic voter: one may be quick to label Republican voters as sexist, racist, xenophobic, etc… but perhaps time would be better spent educating them on why the beliefs of Trump’s Administration would present problems for our respective communities. There may be teachers, neighbors, and old high school friends who you know supported the other side for a variety of reasons– it may be that these circles are an ideal place to begin.  To the republican voter: Despite your personal motives in voting, please do not ignore or deny the existence of malicious supporters of Trump, rallied during his campaign, who are now directing explicit hatred to our communities. Personally, you may not believe yourself to be racist, sexist, or xenophobic, but you must understand that you voted for a man whose campaign relied on fear, hatred, and prejudice. You may have voted for a free market, but that vote came with the perpetuation of sexually predatory behavior and outright disrespect of women’s rights. You may have voted for limited government, but that vote came with the the endorsement of those who discriminately target black and brown bodies. You may have voted for your family values, but that vote came with the denial of the basic rights of our LGBTQ communities, which we are still fighting to protect. Your vote has consequences, whether they be unintentional or otherwise. Now, we must all deal with them, together.

We must all refuse to be complacent in times such as these when our communities are threatened. We must be willing to reach out and have the honest conversations needed to educate one another about issues of importance. We do not always have to agree, but we must all be united against hate. We will do as we always do and fight to ensure our voices are heard, both on campus and in our surrounding communities.

It will not be easy. We will be aggravated, tired, dismal. But it is going to be upon us to bridge the gap. Rest up and mourn, but we have work to do to protect our legacy, the legacy of our ancestors, and ensure that following generations have a legacy of their own to form.

Continue reading

Musila Munuve, “Natural”

From Musila:

In this moment, the natural hair movement is visually and culturally one of the most compelling to me. This body of work is intended to celebrate the beauty of natural hair, highlight the love and care it takes to maintain it and explore some of the reasons Black Women have gone natural.

Check out more of Musila’s Projects.

Behind Ethiopia’s Protests

Written By Stanford Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Association (SEESA)

The protests in Ethiopia began in November 2015 following the announcement of the tenth Addis Ababa master plan. The plan intended to expand the borders of the capital city, Addis Ababa, to incorporate surrounding Oromia regional towns. It promised integrated urban development, as well as infrastructural and social provisions for the people of Addis Ababa and Oromia regions.

The expansion of Addis Ababa, however, was unacceptable to the Oromo people, who make up over a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, making them the largest ethnic group in the horn of Africa. According to D/r Gidada, former President of Ethiopia who defected to an opposition group, the Oromos were not opposed to the extension of infrastructure to the surrounding towns, but rather to the eviction of Oromo farmers without proper compensation, and the compromise of Oromo identity. Oromo activists condemned the plan for its covert motive of further dispossessing, displacing, and exploiting the Oromo people, who have been oppressed under successive regimes.

The Oromo poured out in hundreds and thousands into the streets of over 400 towns and villages opposing the Addis Ababa Master Plan. The opposition was met with a brutal crackdown. On May 2nd alone, the government confirmed nine students were gunned down in a protest at Ambo University, although witnesses say the death toll is as high as 47. Mass arrests and killings continued in the dormitories and campuses of Ambo, Adama, Jimma, and Haramaya Universities and several Oromia districts.

By January 2016, the Human Rights Watch reported, over 400 people have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested and hundreds disappeared. In over 500 protests that occurred following the master plan, the report lamented that:


“Security forces shot into crowds, summarily killing people during mass roundups, and torturing detained protesters. Because primary and secondary school students in Oromia were among the early protesters, many of those arrested or killed were children under the age of 18.”

The government initially rejected these accusations, labeling the protests as anti-peace ploys orchestrated by “power-hungry” terrorists groups. But, in mid-January, it finally yielded to the pressure and officially repealed the Master Plan. However, Oromia’s fury showed no sign of halting, and was soon followed by the Amhara protests.

On an early July night in the city of Gondar, northern Ethiopia, where the protests have not yet reached, gunshots were heard from the direction of one of the community’s prominent leader’s residence. Colonel Demeke Zewdu, president of a committee that demands the restoration of the town of Welkait to the Amhara region, opened fire against state police officers who came to arrest him. The colonel’s arrest resulted in an outrage across the Amhara region, bringing the second most populous ethnic group under the wave of protests.

Amhara activists accuse government leaders, who are from a minority Tigrean ethnic group, of attempting to expand and enrich their homeland at the expense of the Amhara and others. Welkait was established as a Tigray province, despite the people’s demand to be identified as ethnic Amharas and thus re-join the Amhara region. The government responded by arresting  Colonel Zewdu and several other community leaders on terrorism charges.

In a press conference in late August, addressing the wave of protests across multiple regions, the prime minister named corruption, inequality, and lack of good governance as sources of dissatisfaction behind the unrest. He admitted that his government needs deep and immediate reform, hoping to calm the protests with an admission of wrongdoing. However, the major culprits fomenting the conflicts, according to the premier, were terrorist groups in the diaspora, and state enemies like Eritrea, and more recently, Egypt. A mere promise of better governance and accusation of outside forces could at best delegitimize the grievances of the people and sideline demands for recognition, inclusion, freedom, and justice for the slain.

Conditions further deteriorated at the Irreechaa festivities. ‘Irrechaa’, dubbed as the Oromos’ thanksgiving day, attracts millions of Oromos and other Ethiopians to the town of Bishoftu to celebrate Oromo culture and identity. At this year’s ceremony, as soon as the newly appointed chairman of the State of Oromia grabbed the mic, the crowd began to roar in protest. “Down, down Woyane!” echoed through the millions who gathered with their arms crossed in a X sign above their heads. When slogans demanding the change of government  intensified, security forces fired warning shots and tear gas leading to a deadly stampede. People died falling into Bishoftu river and ditches. The casualties were estimated to be around 50 by the government, and over 500 by oppositions.  

In the aftermath of Irrecha, enraged protesters burned down dozens of foreign-owned factories and flower farms, and destroyed scores of vehicles. Foreign-owned businesses have often been the targets of protesters as protesters seek to discourage foreign companies from working with the Ethiopian government. Besides the effect of depriving the government of revenue, these acts express locals’ frustration over unjust land grabs. A week after Irrecha, the government declared a six-months state-of-emergency for the first time in its twenty five years in power.

In Ethiopia today, you cannot use social media to contact outside forces, or communicate footages and messages that are likely to ‘incite  disturbances’. You cannot watch ‘terrorist’ labelled TV channels like ESAT and OMN, which are operated by the Ethiopian diaspora and critical of the Ethiopian government You can not peacefully protest or organize; you can’t make political gestures such as crossing your arms above your head; you cannot visit a factory, farm or government institution between 6pm and 6am the next day. If you’re a diplomat, you can’t travel more than 25 miles from the capital. Following the decree, this past Monday, a thousand people were arrested near Addis Ababa and more than 1600 were arrested  on Wednesday in the Amhara and Oromia regions following mass demonstrations.

 

Follow SEESA’s Facebook page for updates and upcoming events.