Inequities and disparities are toxins planted with intention and inattention into the souls, soil, and systems within our communities. Our ‘strategies of choice’ in addressing inequities and disparities too often prioritize the comfort of the oppressor over and above the liberation of the oppressed.
The barber profession originated in ancient Egypt, where razor blades from as early as 3500 BC have been discovered. Barbers played important health care and spiritual roles. Many people preferred to remain clean-shaven to avoid skin diseases. It was also believed that evil spirits would enter the body through the hair and that the only way to remove the spirits was by cutting the hair. Barbers would also frequently perform religious ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms as well.
In the US during the 19th century, barbershops that were black-owned would often cater to white clientele exclusively because white patrons would not want to have their hair cut if the instruments had been used on black people. This was also true in the north. Following emancipation, black barbers began to serve both black and white clients. Over time, the barbershop would firmly establish itself as a place of community and connection for Black men. The number of barbershops slowly began to decline as education requirements licensure requirements increased.
Henry M. Morgan established Tyler Barber College in 1934, in Tyler, TX. It was the first national chain of barber colleges for African Americans. The school grew rapidly until close to 80% of all black barbers in America received training at Morgan’s schools. In 1934, Henry M. Morgan established Tyler Barber College, the first national chain of barber colleges for African Americans, in Tyler, Texas.
Located in northern Africa, ancient Egypt is considered to be a pioneer in the fields of medicine. The Egyptians were also very intentional about dental care. Hesy-Ra was the first recorded dentist and is regarded as a pioneer of some of today’s dental techniques. He was not only a dentist but also a physician and a scribe.
Hesy-Ra lived during Egypt’s third dynasty, around 2600 BC. He served under pharaoh Djoser. Hesy-Ra may be earliest physician and dentitst identified by name. He was given the title “Chief of Physicians and Dentists” by Pharoah Djoser. This title seems to indicate that dentistry was recognized as a specialty even back then. Ancient records reflect that a portion of Hesy-Ra’s dental practice focused on laborers who were building the pyramids. Records indicate that some of his treatment methods included drilling holes in the teeth of his patients. This is quite remarkable when we know that the first dental instruments to perform modern-day root canals were not invented until the 1830’s. The drilling procedures performed by Hesy-Ra would have been excruciatingly painful for patients because anesthesia had not yet been invented.
Hesy-Ra’s tomb was discovered by French archaeologists Auguste Mariette and Jacques de Morgan in Saqqara. Wooden panels in the tomb were inscribed with titles that denoted his official duties, including being a physician, dentist, and scribe. Hesy-Ra is also believed to be the first physician to speculate about the condition of diabetes. He observed that it caused “frequent urination,” which we now know is a primary symptom of the illness.
Detroit, MI is known for being an important stop on the Underground Railroad. You may not know that people were also enslaved in Detroit and surrounding areas. Many roads, schools, and places are named after wealthy slave-owning families. If you live in or near Detroit, you will recognize these names, Macomb, Campau, Beaubien, McDougall, Brush, Cass, Hamtramck, Dequindre, and Groesbeck Livernois, Rivard, and many others. From its founding in 1750, slavery existed during Detroit’s existence as a French, British, and then American settlement. The Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library has an original ledger book of William Macomb. The ledger lists his property and includes over 20 enslaved individuals. The first mayor of Detroit, John R. Williams (two streets bear his name), also owned slaves along with priests of the Catholic Church in Detroit. The men who financed the Detroit Free Press were also former slave owners. The Free Press used its platform to support slavery prior to the Civil War.
People of African and Native/Indigenous descent were both enslaved in Detroit. Enslavement of native peoples occurred first. Slavery played an integral role in the relationship between European settlers and Native tribes. The Native system of enslavement involved taking captives to settle conflicts or build alliances. This would occur by women and children of rival factions being exchanged or given to confirm an alliance or settle a dispute. When the French arrived, they also adopted this practice to establish trade alliances with Native peoples as well. Native women were victims of labor trafficking and sexual violence. The enslaved were used as pawns to help bolster trading alliances between European settlers and Native tribes. Slavery continued to exist in the Northwest Territory (which included Michigan) even though it was abolished in 1787. Slave owners used loopholes or flat out ignored the law to maintain their ownership of the enslaved.
The Berlin Conference ignited the “Scramble For Africa.” Colonial domination and control of Africa’s economic resources, natural resources, and trade routes was the goal. The conference was convened on November 15 1884, and was comprised of 14 western powers. At the time of the convening, approximately 80% of the African continent remained under local control. The western powers seeking to gain control would establish fragmented boundaries developed to serve their interests. No African leaders were part of the Berlin Conference. By 1914, European colonizers had accomplished their goal. Africa was now divided into 50 countries mapped out across hundreds of indigenous groups and regions.
The new configuration forced indigenous Africans into poverty while colonizers became wealthy as their lands were confiscated, and they were forced to labor at meager wages to support colonial exploitation of natural resources. European leaders viewed Africans as inferior and barbaric. It reminiscent of the concept of manifest destiny, which was the belief that expansion of the US throughout American continents was justifiable, inevitable, and justified by God. 14 western powers were in attendance at the Berlin Conference. Countries in attendance included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814 to 1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal emerged as the major power brokers at the conference.
In August 2020, Jason Wright (1982 – ) was hired as the Washington Football Team president, making him the first Black president of an NFL team. Wright is also currently the youngest president of an NFL team. He spent seven years as a running back with the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and Cleveland Browns. Wright earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. He then spent seven years at McKinsey and Company, where he focused on helping to turn around struggling companies.
Wright’s key focus in his new role will be improving team culture, addressing allegations of sexual harassment, and advancing its legacy after its name change. Wright is confident about his ability to make a positive impact. He states that the “psychological and emotional well-being” of his employees is his top priority. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Wright’s mother was a flight attendant, and his father was a civil rights activist and entrepreneur in the insurance industry. Wright is married and has two children
Early forms of birth control were documented in Africa, dating as far back as 1850 BC. Papyrus scrolls have been discovered with instructions on making birth control with ingredients such as honey, acacia leaves, and lint which was used as a type of cervical cap to prevent sperm from entering the womb. The Kahun Gynecological Papyrus of 1850 also documents descriptions of pessaries of acacia gum used as a contraceptive. A pessary is a device placed in the vagina to prevent conception. Another method of birth control was to extend breastfeeding for up to three years. Perhaps the most famous form of birth control native to North Africa was the silphium plant. The use of the plant as a means of contraception was widespread among ancient Greeks and Romans. Found only in Cyrene (modern-day Lybia), it was exported to other regions and bought great wealth to the city.
African American immunization expert Tiffany Tate has accused the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with multinational services firm, Deloitte of stealing her idea for a mass vaccination tracker. Tate’s vaccination tracker is known as PrepMod. She is seeking $15 million in damages. A cease and desist letter was issued to the CDC and Deloitte in August 2020. Tate asserts that the CDC and Deloitte took concepts from her vaccination tracker and used them to develop a system with similar features. The Deloitte and CDC vaccination tracking system is called the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). Deloitte also reportedly tried to hire Tate in June 2021 to help develop their system. Tate claims the Deloitte system is the same system she already has with PrepMod.
Eight officers of color filed a racial discrimination suit on February 9, 2021, stating that they were barred from guarding the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with the death of George Floyd. Officers state they were reassigned to work on other floors within the jail so that they would not come into contact with Chauvin. Court documents indicate the officers identifying as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race were “segregated and prevented from doing their jobs by defendant solely because of the color of their skin”. Officers also stated that Chauvin received special treatment from a white lieutenant.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after video footage recorded May 25, 2021, showed him placing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for approximately nine minutes, during which time Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. Attorney for the eight officers, Lucas Kaster said, “When Officer Chauvin arrived, they were prepared to do the jobs they had done every single day up to that point, until, that is, Superintendent Lydon’s order prevented them from doing so.”
Attorney Kaster also stated, “The impact on our clients has been immense. They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken,” The lawsuit asserts that Superintendent Lydon gave orders that all officers of color were not allowed to guard Chauvin or have any interaction with him, or even to be on the same floor where he was being held. Attorney Kaster describes the officers as being “extremely upset and offended.” Devin Sullivan, one of the plaintiffs states in court documents that he was in the midst of patting down Chauvin when he was told to stop by Superintendent Lydon and then was replaced by a white officer.