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My last name is “Washington”.  I wasn’t happy about it at times over my life. For most of the “journey”, however, it was “incidental”. Looking back, I realize that with each friend gained, accomplishment, challenge, disappointment, struggle, signature, job, official document,(touchdown), I became “me”—the name WAS me.  Not George or Martha or… Abe—

And so it is with every Black American whose roots are lost somewhere before the Civil War; Jefferson-Lincoln-Johnson-Jackson-Adams-Davis-Taylor—. Most of us know someone Black with one of those last names.  I thought about the “X” for a brief minute—but had no overwhelming desire to protest who “I” was.  So I never moved on it. 

Fast forward through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and into 2019—a blur of America changing and Black Americans aiding/causing that change and changing right along with her. Consistent from the early nightmares to now are the “taken/given” surnames. They bind and brand. Markers of a people. The 400 years-plus roots, the struggles, the successes and failures, the good and bad is historically documented, debated, and affecting to this day. “Native” Black Americans are a unique and specific people in ways that reflect the unique and specific Nature of the great experiment that is America. 

According to the “experts” slavery has been practiced in one form or another all over the planet.  It predates recorded history. Black American slavery has been the most sensational, most debated, long-lasting- discussed, affecting(per perception, discussion and REALITY) partly because America is the most sensational, most discussed/debated, newest and  most powerful nation on the planet. 

But there’s a whole ‘nother way to look at this thing.  To deal with it. To claim strength and a stake from it.  

It starts with valuing that we have been here since the very beginning. Contributing. Crispus Attacks, as a full grown man, gave his life as the FIRST “American” to die in ignition of the 1776 Revolutionary War. The “Betsy Ross” Flag was an expression of that declaration—after Attucks lay in state(with 5 other white "Americans"), honored for his sacrifice: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crispus_Attucks  

The only Family and roots “Native” Black Americans  know—are here. As long-time residents, SURVIVORS, contributors, it should be not only about protest, but about embracing and rectifying, claiming and owning.  About making moves to empower.  And for a large part, it is/has been.  Ongoing, deep-entrenched problems can’t be denied. But there are many we’ve progressed on—and even overcome…to the benefit of all.  

And the many who have come here since our arrival have benefitted from our struggles, our successes, our ongoing determination. We are, as the great Black American Congressman, Adam Clayton Powell said, “The Keepers of the Faith, Baby”. But unless we also talk about our deep roots and heritage and history and legacy—in ownership terms as well as opposition, we’re doomed to be, in some measure, outsiders looking in.  Meantime scores of others who have arrived over the centuries—claim/embrace America as soon as they can. And prosper. 

Our 13 Star Flag flies, spotlighted, outside as I type this.  While we’ve supported Colin Kaepernick COMPLETELY, we could not disagree more with his position and “decree” on the First Flag.  If you go to our website, I think it makes our point in pictures.  We are looking at men, family, staking a claim. With every drop of sweat, blood over a span of 400 years and dozen plus generations, the stake is rooted deep.  

        We first felt that all the work on our drawing board was undercut by Nike and Kaepernick.  They scooped us, swooped us, stole our thunder. And made a mess. But this IS America.  And so we decided we would keep our path and roll out our ideas(we weren’t gonna do shoes, anyway). 'Run our flag up the flagpole, as they say—and see who salutes.