Saturday, May 05, 2018

|| A LEARNING MOMENT || The Chicago Defender

|| A LEARNING MOMENT ||

On this day, May 5, in 1905, Georgia born Robert Sengstacke Abbott printed the first edition of what would become the most widely read African-American newspaper in the country — The Chicago Defender.

It wasn’t the first African-American newspaper, but it was definitely the most influential.
In fact, it is credited with starting The Great Migration; the migration of about 5 million African-Americans from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1960.

Abbott attended Hampton Institute where he studied printing, and then law at Kent College of Law, but couldn’t make a decent living as an attorney.

In 1905 he printed the first editions of The Chicago Defender in his room in a boarding house and, encouraged by his landlady, he sold copies door-to-door.

Slowly he started gaining both readers and advertisers for the weekly paper, but it wasn’t until 1910 that he was able to hire his first full time employee, J. Hockley Smiley.

Abbott‘s big break came soon after when he convinced Pullman Porters to take papers with them on their trips to the South.
Soon African-Americans around the country were reading The Chicago Defender.

Only in The Defender they weren’t called African-Americans. Nor were they called Negroes or Colored.

In The Chicago Defender we were called The Race — our men were called ‘Race men’ and our women ‘Race women.’

And The Race was certainly gobbling up his papers nationwide. Even people who couldn’t read were buying the paper, because to have an issue in the home was considered a symbol of good breeding.
By 1916, only eleven years after its inception, The Chicago Defender had a circulation of 50,000.

And it also had a defined mission or goals that Abbott said he considered the paper’s Bible:

1.  American race prejudice must be destroyed; States;
6.  Government schools giving preference to American citizens before foreigners;
2.  Opening up all trade unions to blacks as well as whites;
3.  Representation in the President's Cabinet'
4.  Hiring black engineers, firemen, and conductors on all American railroads, and to all jobs in government;
5.  Gaining representation in all departments of the police forces over the entire United
7.  Hiring black motormen and conductors on surface, elevated, and motor bus lines throughout America;
8.  Federal legislation to abolish lynching; and
9.  Full enfranchisement of all American citizens

Abbott began encouraging Blacks to move from the Jim Crow South to the more liberal North. Jobs, he wrote, were abundant, housing was plentiful, and you didn’t have to move off the sidewalk if a white woman was walking along it. He railed against lynching and unlawful imprisonments which were nothing but a return to slavery.
He even began publishing a poem that included the stanzas:

No Cracker to seduce your sister
Nor hang you to a limb
And you’re not obliged to call to ‘mister’
Or show your teeth to them

(For those interested, I will type out entire poem, but I’m on a time-crunch now to get this finished by 10 PM. I didn’t get started until 8:30 PM.)

Then he even started publishing train schedules so The Race could find it easier to make the move from The South to the North.

And they did. So much so that some southern cities banned the sale of The Chicago Defender.

Inevitably, Abbott soon became a millionaire, and to thank the landlady who back in 1905 allowed him to use a room in her boardinghouse to print his papers he bought her an 8-room home.

Abbott died in 1940, and his heir and nephew, John Sengstacke, took the helm of the paper. (Abbott had noted his interest in printing early on, and paid for his nephew’s education.) Sengstacke was just as fervent about racial issues as his uncle and when Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 it was The Defender that first published the story, and the horrific picture that brought the hideous crime to national attention.

In 1956 Sengstacke changed the paper from a weekly to a daily, and the name to The Chicago Daily Defender, but it resumed weekly publication in 2003. Sengstacke remained publisher of the paper until his death in 1997.

Though no longer family-owned, The Chicago Defender is still published every Wednesday.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

||A LEARNING MOMENT|| — Runaways Slaves Suffered From Mental Disease



 Did you know that the desire to escape from slavery was once considered in mental illness?
Yep!
In 1851 American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright submitted his paper, “Drapetomania, or the disease causing Negroes to flee” to the Medical Association of Louisiana, and thus the disease, drapetomania was born.
Let’s make sure we have the pronunciation right…dray-ptoh-may-nee-uh.

Cartwright — who was born in North Carolina and studied medicine in Philadelphia — declared that sane slaves did not want, nor would ever consider,fleeing slavery. 
Accordingly, those who did were mentally insane — suffering from drapetomania. The cause was masters who foolishly treated their slaves humanely. 
However, all was not lost! Because, Cartwright declared the disease curable if caught in time! 
If a master noticed his slave becoming sulky and dissatisfied without cause, the master should quickly whip the devil out of him in order to make the thought of fleeing dissipate before it was acted on. Another remedy that Cartwright suggested was the severing of both of the slave’s big toes. 
Cartwright also said white slave masters should also be aware of another mental illness, which he termed “drapetomania aethiopica,” and which resulted in a slave’s willingness to work hard. 
He opined that drapetomania aethiopica  was quite often found among “free negroes” than among slaves working large plantations, but all masters should be aware of this newly invented disease. 
His recommended cure?
“ . . . have the patient well washed with warm water and soap; then, to anoint [the slave’s skin] all over in oil, and to slap the oil in with a broad leather strap; then to put the patient to some hard kind of work in the sunshine.”
The Medical Association of Louisiana commended Cartwright on his findings, and his paper was published in DeBow’s Review — a widely circulated magazine in the American South. 
It was also published in “The New Orleans Medical and Surgery Journal.”
Dr. Cartwright gave numerous lectures on “niggerology” during the 1840s and 1850s.

As late as 1914, the third edition of Thomas Lathrop Stedman’s Practical Medical Dictionary included an entry for drapetomania, defined as “Vagabondage, dromomania; an uncontrollable or insane impulsion to wander.” 

Friday, July 28, 2017

|| A LEARNING MOMENT || The 1917 Silent March



THE 1917 Silent Parade 

 “ . . . the streets of New York have witnessed many strange sights, but I judge, never one stranger than this; among the watchers were those with tears in their eyes.” James Weldon Johnson

July 28, 1917 -- 100 years ago today -- The Silent March made history as the very first organized civil rights march.
It was held in response to more than 200 African-Americans being killed in what would later be called the East St. Louis riots.

White mobs burn down homes of African-Americans, turned off fire hoses, and snipers picked off the residents  -- men, women and children -- who fled those burning homes.

The cause of the white mobs ire? Fear that blacks migrating from Louisiana to East St. Louis MIGHT begin to take labor jobs away from white union laborers.

Little was written in the media about the riots, and many in the North had no idea what had occurred.

James Weldon Johnson, who was president of the NAACP, suggested the soon-to-be legendary march to bring attention to the violence against African-Americans, including the victims of the St. Louis riots, and the many lynchings that was taking place in post-Reconstruction America.

One of the fliers that were distributed announcing the March read in part:
“We march because we are thoroughly opposed to Jim Crow cars, segregation, disenfranchisement and the host of evils that are forced upon us. We march in memory of our butchered dead, theu massacre of honest toilers who were removing the reproach of laziness and thriftlessness hurled at the entire race. They died to prove our worthiness to live. We live in spite of death shadowing us and ours.” 

It was estimated that more than 8000 participants silently marched down fifth Avenue, from 57th St. to 24th St., silent the entire time, except for muffled drumbeats from a procession of drummers who march just ahead of the March organizers who were followed by a large grouping of children dressed in white, followed by an even larger grouping of women dressed in white… And ending with a group of men in black business suits. Including James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. Du Bois.



African-American Boy Scouts flanked the paraders, handing out flyers to onlookers explaining the purpose of the March:

"We march because the growing consciousness and solidarity of race coupled with sorrow and discrimination have made us one: a union that may never be dissolved in spite of shallow-brained agitators, scheming pundits and political tricksters who secure a fleeting popularity and uncertain financial support by promoting the disunion of a people who ought to consider themselves as one."

Though no songs were played, and no words were mouthed, the signs and banners carried by the marchers expressed their sentiments.

"Mother, do lynchers go to heaven?" 

"Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?" 

"Thou shalt not kill." 

"Pray for the Lady Macbeths of East St. Louis." 


"Give us a chance to live."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Intergration Isn’t Supposed to be a One-Way Street

Will you consider me a racist if I say I support segregation?
Well, consider away.
I understand that many of my ancestors fought against segregation and I appreciate it. But I wonder what they would think if they saw the end result of integration.
No longer do we have our own banks. No longer do we have our own theaters. No longer do we have our own insurance companies. And we can’t blame it on the white man!
So many black people were so happy to be able to patronize white businesses — from which that they had been barred for so long — that they abandoned their black establishments. We rushed to patronize white establishments, but whites did not rush to patronize ours.
Integration, as far as I can see it, only goes one way.
With few exceptions, when I ask my white friends to name the last book they’ve read that was written by black authors and deals with the black experience, they can only name books they read in school. When I ask them to name the last movie they’ve seen that deals with the black experience and stars black actors, they usually struggle to name one, unless it was a movie that won Oscars — and seldom can even then.
Since whites outnumber blacks in this country, if we support their endeavors but they don’t support ours, the end result is that their endeavors are more successful than ours.
Why? Because they outnumber us. And while we cross over to help the group that outnumbers us, that group doesn’t cross back over to support our endeavors.
And guess what?
White banks are less likely to give our businesses loans than black banks. And if black people are not supporting black banks, black banks go out of business. And if black businesses go out of business, black employment goes down — because black businesses are more likely to hire black people then white businesses.
Of course, if white people patronized our black banks and our black businesses, none of this would happen. But they don’t. We patronize theirs, but they don’t patronize ours.
God bless our ancestors for the fight they fought, but integration has only gone one way.
Remember Lawnside, New Jersey?
About 10 miles outside of Philadelphia and some 25 miles from Atlantic City, it used to be the jumping place for black folks to go on summer weekends during the ’40s and ’50s. All of the top black stars stopped there: Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Billie Holiday. If they were going to be in Atlantic City to play in the white night clubs, they drove the 25 miles down the highway to also make it to Lawnside to entertain their black fans.
Because there was no integration, that was the only way the black fans were able to see them. And black fans flocked to do so. Back in those days, because of segregation, the black dollar stayed in the black community because there was really no other place blacks were allowed to spend it. The end result was that Lawnside was a thriving black community with black banks, black nightclubs, black insurance companies … and the coldest beer that God made!
But then the ’60s came, and all of a sudden blacks were allowed to go into the white hotels and clubs to see the black stars — and also great white entertainers like Frank Sinatra. So they went. And they were so excited about being able to go, they kept going. And soon they stopped going to Lawnside.
While the white folks who had always been going to Atlantic City could care less about traveling to Lawnside.
I won’t bother to tell you what happened to that once-thriving black community.
You can guess.
So, yes, I do support segregation of our economic power. But I really don’t think you can call me a racist.
After all, I do have white friends.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

July 4th? Sorry . . . My Independence Day isn’t until December!


Today, a friend of more than 40 years texted me "Wishing you a safe and happy 4th of July!" followed by six American flag emojis and six celebratory horn-blowing emojis.
I texted back, "Same to you (although I don't know when you got so damn patriotic.)"
His response? "I just learned about emojis. Yay, me!"
His answer satisfied my curiosity. He used the 4th of July like many African-Americans (and quite a few non-African-Americans)  use it  . . . as an excuse to do something else they want to do -- get off work, barbecue in the backyard, have a family reunion (because it's a three-day holiday and it allows out-of-town relatives travel time), or simply to practice sending out emojis.
I do know a few African-Americans who actually celebrate Independence Day with flag waving and parade watching, but very few. When asked (because, you know, I have to ask) why they're celebrating they usually answer that America's a great country, and they're proud to be an American.
I'm never quite sure how to respond without launching into a lecture that I'm quite sure they don't want to hear.
But here it is.
If you're Black, and grateful and proud to be an American that's all cool and dandy, but why are you celebrating the independence of a country that kept you enslaved while declaring their own right to be free?
I mean, let's be clear . . . if there is any date that Black folks should be celebrating as Independence Day, it should be December 18th. That's the day, in 1865, that the Thirteenth Amendment was issued, outlawing slavery.
Oh . . . you thought Lincoln freed the slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation . .!
No. He only freed the slaves in the rebelling Southern states, just to further piss them off.
It was simply a war measure, not a measure of the Nation's compassion or conscience.
Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, parts of Virginia and even parts of Louisiana were allowed to keep right on doing what they were doing - practicing slavery.
So, yeah, while I understand some African-Americans are proud to be an American, and/or want to serve it in some manner (I fall into the latter category, having served in the U. S. Navy for five years. Yay, me!), I just don't understand celebrating an Independence Day that not only is NOT mine, but also celebrating the document that is at the heart of the holiday -- The Declaration of Independence. A document that opens with the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

My men, my race, weren't considered equal. Our right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness wasn't recognized. The fact is there were 500,000 Blacks being held as slaves as the document was being signed


So no offense, but while I don't mind using the 4th of July as an excuse for a paid day off from work (much as many whites use the MLK holiday), I will reserve my celebration of Independence Day for another five  months 

Friday, June 30, 2017

|| A LEARNING MOMENT || Old Nick Biddle



"If poor old Nick Biddle calls on you with a document, as he calls it, don't say you are in a hurry and turn him off, but ornament the paper with your signature and plant a good round sum opposite your name. Nick has been a good soldier and now that he is getting old and feeble, he deserves the support of our citizens."
                Excerpt of Weekly Miners' Journal  (Pottsville, PA) article 

Do you know know who was the first to have shed blood in The War for the Union, later called the Civil War? 
It was a Black man, a former slave, a 65-year old Pottsville, PA resident named Nick Biddle.

His original name is unknown, but we do know that he was born a slave in Delaware, escaped to Philadelphia, and later moved to Pottsville. Some say that he worked, for a short time, as a servant for Philadelphia financier Nicholas Biddle and decided to name himself after his employer in admiration. 

When Abraham Lincoln called for 90-day volunteers to serve in order to give soldiers to train, a militia company from Pottsville changed their name from the Pottsville Blues to the Washington Artillerists and answered the call, Biddle included. This militia became one of five Pennsylvania companies that were to be forever hailed as The First Defenders.

However, when traveling through Baltimore to get to Washington D.C., their train was attacked by pro-confederate sympathizers. When the mob  saw Biddle, they started shouting "Nigger in uniform." He was subsequently knocked down and hit in the head with a piece of brick -- a wound so deep bone was exposed. He was not the only man to be attacked that day, and perhaps not even the first, but he was the first to be wounded sufficiently to shed blood.

When they finally reached Washington, and were with being personally greeted and given a handshake from the President, Lincoln stopped at Biddle and suggested he seek medical help. The former slave refused -- saying he didn't want to leave his company. 

After serving their 90-day service the Washington Artillerists returned to Pottsville, but while many of the company then reenlisted for three-year terms, Biddle did not. Understandable. He was 65, and still suffering from the severe head wound.

At first he survived by doing odd jobs around Pottsville, but he lived the latter part of his life destitute, indirectly begging for money by reminding people of his service to the country. 

When he died in 1876, the members of the Washington Artillerists and a couple of other companies that made up The First Defenders not only paid for his funeral, but also led a huge procession from his home to the "colored" burial ground. They also paid for his tombstone, which read:
 "In Memory of Nicholas Biddle, Died August 2, 1876. His was the Proud Distinction of Shedding the First Blood in the Late War for the Union, Being Wounded while Marching through Baltimore with the First Volunteers from Schuylkill County. 18 April 1861. Erected by his Friends in Pottsville."


Friday, June 16, 2017

The Soweto Uprising — “And the children shall lead the way to freedom “

|| A LEARNING MOMENT ||

"I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture. It had been a peaceful march, the children were told to disperse, they started singing Nkosi Sikelele. The police were ordered to shoot." – Sam Nzima, South African photographer of one of the most iconic photographs in the world.

Hector Pieterson. How many of you know his name?

Today, June 16, is the anniversary of his 1976 murder by South African government in what is now called the Soweto Uprising -- a series of protests led by Black students. Most just children.

But it was young Hector's death, and the famous picture of this 12-year old dying child, that brought worldwide attention to the evil and inhumane system of apartheid.

In 1925, Afrikaans -- a language bastardized from Portuguese, Dutch (with Bantu influences) --  was declared the official language of South Africa. Fifty years later the South African government declared that 50 percent of all lessons (math, science , etc.) in Black schools had to be taught in Afrikaans and the other 50 percent in English. 
This forced Black students to lose opportunity for critical analysis, as they had to focus on understanding the language as opposed to the lesson being taught.
Forced to focus on learning Afrikaans, the language of their oppressors.
White schools were not so restricted, students were largely taught in their own native languages.
Just as infuriating to Black South Africans? It was an insult to be forced to learn Afrikaans -- the language of their oppressor. 
In February 1976, two Soweto teachers quit rather than be forced to teach the lessons in Afrikaans. 
In April of that year, Orlando West Junior School refused to attend classes. 
The protest quickly spread, and soon the majority of students in Soweto schools were refusing to attend. 
By mid-June the students had self-organized (they would later be known as the Soweto Students' Representative Council), and Tsiesti Machinini,  a student and head of the debate team of Morris Isaacson High School, suggested a three-day rally. 
So on June 16, thousands of students headed to the Orlando High School stadium shouting slogans and carrying signs, some of which read: "If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu." (John Vorster was prime minister of South Africa at the time.) as they marched to the demonstration site.
When they were stopped by police-erected road barricades, instead of trying to forcibly removing the barricades they simply took a detour. 
It's estimated they were 20,000 in number, these young students, by the time they reached the school. Waiting for them were met by armed police officers.
The students began singing 'Nkosi Sikelele',  a Black liberation song and the official anthem of the African National Congress. 
When a police dog was released on the crowd it was promptly killed by the students.
It was then that police started shooting.
Some say that it was 15-year old Hastings Ndlovu who was shot first, but it's widely believed that Pieterson was actually the first fatality. 
As he lay dying on the ground his body was scooped by another student, Mbuyisa Makhubo. Photographer Sam Nzima's iconic photograph shows Makhubo carrying young Hector Pieterson as he runs for help, and Pieterson's terrified sister, Antoinette Sithole, crying as she runs alongside of them. 
Twelve-year old Hector was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital. 
Nzima's photograph was published in The World, an Black newspaper out of Johannesburg, and later picked up by media outlets around the world. 
At first the South African government said  the police had not fired directly on the students, but on the ground, and the bullet fatal must have ricocheted off of a stone to hit Pieterson. 
An autopsy later proved that to be false -- the boy was killed by a direct shot.
What started out as a demonstration, soon became an uprising, a rebellion, or a riot -- depending upon your sociopolitical outlook -- that lasted three days. Hundreds of students died as they used stones and bottles as weapons against heavily armed police.
Even tanks were brought in by law enforcement to squelch the rebellion, but still the students fought.
And, to the government's astonishment, there were some right in their own country who sided with the young Sowetans .
At one  point, 400 white students from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg attempted to join the Soweto students, but were stopped and disbanded by police.
The government demanded that hospitals report all people with gunshot wounds so that they could be prosecuted. 
Instead, sympathetic doctors listed bullet wounds as abscesses.
What later became known as the Soweto Students Uprising, motivated students around the country; soon student demonstrations, rallies, and protests we're being held nationwide, and now international media was there to document it all.
And the small number of people who decried apartheid worldwide soon numbered in millions. 
Faced with severe criticism and --  more importantly -- financial sanctions, the South African government had no choice but to abolish the evil system.
Today June 16 is a national holiday in South Africa, called National Youth Day to honor the students of Soweto who fought,  against injustice. 
Personally, I don't think you need to be a South  African or in South Africa to honor them.












Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Standing Firm at Standing Rock

It’s nothing really new the federal government has decided that the economic interests of a few are worth more than the treaties made with Native Americans.
To heck with the promises, pledges, and treaties when it comes to building an oil pipeline fracking, I might add that runs through Native American land, threatening their water supply, ancient Native monuments and ancestral burial grounds.
But this time the Native Americans just ain’t having it. And they’re facing down private security guards using pepper spray and vicious attack dogs to prove it.

To heck with the promises, pledges, and treaties when it comes to building an oil pipeline fracking, I might add that runs through Native American land, threatening their water supply, ancient Native monuments and ancestral burial grounds.
But this time the Native Americans just ain’t having it. And they’re facing down private security guards using pepper spray and vicious attack dogs to prove it.
Because many of them believe the construction of the pipeline was foretold in an old Native American prophecy, and allowing “the black snake” to travel their land could very well mean the beginning of the end of mankind.
Which is why thousands of Native Americans have come from all over the country — some in cars, some on horseback,some even on foot — to stand with, and in support, of the Standing Rock Sioux. Perhaps the largest such gathering in history.
Yep, it’s that important.
Not that you’d know it by the amount of national media coverage being given to one of the largest Native American protests in modern history.
Go ahead and google CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and see how much ink space they’ve devoted to what should be a major story.
Although MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell did make mention of the situation on his show back in August.
The situation became a situation when Dakota Access LLC proposed to build a 1,172-mile pipeline to connect oil fields in North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to other pipelines in Illinois, according to article written by the National Lawyers Guild.
A pipeline that would go right through the Native American ancestral lands including burial grounds and sacred monuments and have a devastating impact on the environment and their main source of fresh water.
The move was sanctioned by the federal government; in violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty ratified in 1869 promising no government infringement on the land without consultation with the Native American residents on that territory.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed an injunction in court, last month, to try and stop the development and a court date has been set, but the tribe decided to go ahead and start a peaceful occupation of the of the land in the meantime.
They wanted to have time, and opportunity, to come together in prayer and to document some of the evidence that the land held artifacts and monuments of traditional and spiritual significance.
When I heard about that last week I thought: Who can blame them? I wouldn’t put it pass the government or the company to start sneaking around and getting started in the meantime.
And guess what? On Saturday – September 3 – some of the supporters went to one of the burial sites included in the development plan to plant tribal flags only to be flabbergasted at the sight of bulldozers working over the holiday weekend!
A friend of mine, Quese IMC, the young spiritual warrior featured in the public service announcements for the Native American Right Fund, was there.
He said one of the protesters walked through the fence, and while the bulldozers were still digging destroying some of the evidence they were trying to document the woman, Yonasda Lonewolf, calmly asked the construction workers whose land they were on, and what they were doing.
When the bulldozers came too close to Lonewolf, Quese IMC who is from the Pawnee Nation jumped in front of them to protect her. A guy in a hard hat came up from behind him and knocked him to the ground. And then . . . those damn private security guards.  
“They were in trucks, peeling through the crowd, and then they rolled down the windows and started pepper spraying people,” Quese IMC told me over the telephone this morning.
He said he also saw them turning dogs loose into the crowds and watched as a pit bull chased protesters, snapping at and biting them indiscriminately.
Then an older Native American moved in front of the dog and started talking to him in Native tongue. The dog then turned around, Quese said, and bit his handler. 
“I was right there, and I watched it,” Quese said, adding that he was not surprised. “We have connection to spirituality and so do dogs. And we know what was happening wasn’t their fault.”
Quese IMC is just one of thousands of Native Americans, young and old, who’ve traveled to North Dakota to stand with the Standing Rock Tribe of the Sioux Nation to protect ancestral lands.
Some say this is the largest gathering of Native Americans ever!
And that, according to another friend of mine, Abby Rojas is because of Lakota prophecy about a black snake, that many Native Americans see as the pipeline.
“It’s said that one day this black snake would pass through the land during the 7th generation, and it would either uprise our people, or destroy them,” Rojas explained to me adding that by uprise she means that the sometimes fragmented Native American population would unite in order to save the land. And, she went on to tell me, it wouldn’t only the Native America nations that would be destroyed — the black snake would ultimately threaten the world.
When you look at it that way, the Native Americans who are peacefully amassing at Standing Rock could be considered more protectors than protesters.
Rojas went on to tell me that according to the Lakota calendar, the 7th generation is now — and it is obligation of those living in the time of the 7th generation to fulfill their destiny.
“So, for our people, this is very important,” Rojas said, adding that while it is a Lakota prophecy, it’s one that is accepted by many other Native American nations.
But even if you were to disregard the prophecy, both Quese and Rojas stress the spiritual connection that Native Americans have to both land and water is one that should not be ignored. A connection that they can’t understand couldn’t be respected, if not accepted, by the federal government.
Oh! But wait, here’s the kicker. This wasn’t the original route proposed for the pipeline, according to Dave Archambault II, in an interview with Indian Country Today Media.com.
No, no, no! It was originally supposed to go through land not owned by the Sioux, according to Archambault, who is the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. That proposal was vetoed, he said, out of concern for that community’s safe drinking water.
“You will hear people say that this project bolsters national security because it decreases our reliance on foreign oil. All of that is good, as long as they don’t reap these benefits at our cost.”
“We complain, too, because we’re concerned for our future generations and their drinking water,” Archambault said in the ICMT interview. But, he added, “... they don’t listen.”
They don’t listen because they don’t care.
And, it seems, neither do major media outlets who’ve devoted no time to let the American people know what’s going on at Standing Rock.
Thank God, though for the indie press. The militant press. The press which too many people pay no attention.
Democracy Now posted a video, which shows Saturday’s events including the bulldozers digging up land where so many traditional native antiquities are buried.
And, yeah... if you thought Quese IMC was lying, the video also shows the protesters being peppered sprayed and being chased by dogs.

Dogs!
The same kind of weapon they hustled out during the Civil Rights protests back in in the fifties and sixties.
Can water hoses be far behind?
Oh, well, this is the new millennium. I guess that’s why they used pepper spray instead.
The thing is, I jest, but this is not a situation to be taken lightly and the Native Americans aren’t. Quese IMC says the protesters are building lodging to give them better shelter during the upcoming colder weather.
And Rojas told me that they’ve already set up a school so that children can continue their education while remaining on the grounds.
Remember, there’s more than a thousand Native Americans involved; unifying for a cause that they believe in.
Protecting land, water, and human lives.
Not just theirs... but also ours. Because believe me, if that 1,711-mile-long pipeline bursts, it’s not just their main water source and ecosystem which will be affected.

Nice to know somebody cares. Even if, over the last 500 years, it seems that not many care about them.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Emmett Till, 61 Years Later: Let's Stop Pretending We'll Never Forget





It was 61 years ago this past weekend  on August 28, 1955 that two white men, carrying guns, pulled 14-year-old Emmett Till out of his grandparents’ home in Money, Mississippi.
The teenager’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River three days later.
It was revealed that he had been severely beaten, his eye had been gouged out, and he had been shot in the head; then a 70-pound cotton gin fan was attached to his neck by barb wire and his body was thrown in the river.

The two men Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam who had pulled him out of the house were charged with kidnapping and murder. 
The defendants were allowed to sit with their families, even bouncing toddlers on their lap while testimony was being given.
It took the all-white jury just one hour and seven minutes to find the men not guilty. One juror later said they would have come back with the verdict sooner if they had not stopped to get a pop; they wanted to stretch it out in order to make it look good.

One year later, both men admitted their guilt in a Look Magazine interview. Milam told the writer, William Bradford Huie, that their intentions were just to scare Till. Push him around a little, pistol whip him, and then let him go. But, Milam, said, Till took the whipping but remained unrepentant even told his persecutors that he was unafraid of them, and that he was just as good as them.
“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers in their place I know how to work ‘em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place.”
So Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam happily committed kidnapping, torture, and murder and got away with it.
Emmett Till, on the other hand, was murdered for the crime of... oh, that’s right, I didn’t say . . .

One year later, both men admitted their guilt in a Look Magazine interview. Milam told the writer, William Bradford Huie, that their intentions were just to scare Till. Push him around a little, pistol whip him, and then let him go. But, Milam, said, Till took the whipping but remained unrepentant even told his persecutors that he was unafraid of them, and that he was just as good as them.
“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers in their place I know how to work ‘em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place.”
So Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam happily committed kidnapping, torture, and murder and got away with it.
Emmett Till, on the other hand, was murdered for the crime of... oh, that’s right, I didn’t say . . .
His alleged crime, was whistling at a white woman Carolyn Bryant, the wife of Till’s murderer Roy Bryant.
Emmett Till was killed before he could marry or have children, but writer Bernice McFadden author of 14 books including “Gathering of Waters,” a novel based on Till’s tragic demise  maintains that he still has a long line of descendants. 
Not necessarily related to him by a shared bloodline, she explains, but descendants nonetheless.
 “His descendants are the hundreds of Black men and women who’ve had their lives taken by racist civilians and police officers in the sixty-one years since Emmett Till was murdered,” says McFadden, seen in the above video discussing “Gathering of Waters” which made The New York Times 100 Notable Books list at the Center for Fiction in New York.
Oh, let me assure you there was an outcry from the African-American community about Emmett Till’s lynching, of course. We’re soooo good at public outcries.
Don’t you think? 
But, hmm, I wonder why rapper Lil Wayne felt so comfortable using Emmett Till’s name in a most vulgar way in a guest verse on fellow rapper Future’s 2013 song, Karate Chop. In the verse, which was pulled from the song by Epic Records before it went on sale in retail stores, Lil Wayne raps about his sexual prowess, and him “beating that pussy up like Emmett Till.” 
Oh, of course he apologized a couple of weeks after there was a public outcry (there we go again!), but would he even have done it if we were really serious about we’ll never forget?
OK, let me bring up some sore points.
Remember 17-year-old Trayvon Martin? You should. He was killed in 2012, not some sixty years ago. He didn’t do anything as awful as whistling at a white woman. All he did was wear a hoodie in the rain while walking home after buying a package of  Skittles.
His killer was identified, and was acquitted.
Yeah, public outcry. HUGE public outcry. 
And yet, just a year later there was Tamir Rice. Wow, he was even younger than Till only 12-years-old! Shot by a Cleveland police officer while holding a toy gun. Thankfully his murderer was put on trial, found guilty and locked up. 
Oh, wait a minute, he wasn’t. 
“The point of remembering is to remind ourselves we don’t live in a colorblind society,” Sharlia Lebreton Gulley, a friend of my daughter, told me in a recent conversation.
To forget, continued Gulley a 27-year old postgraduate candidate at Florida International University  is to run the risk “of drinking the kool-aid,” and pretending the murder of Tamir Rice had nothing to do with race.
 “We’d starting thinking we really do have equal opportunities, and that black lives actually matter.”  
I don’t know... but it seems that we really have that a great track record when it comes to remembering. The murders stay in the media, and in our minds for a few weeks, a few months and now, perhaps because of the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe even a few years. 
But only a few years if that much.
When the Lil Wayne verse controversy occurred in 2013, I talked to about 20 people under the age of 30, but only seven of them knew who Emmett Till was, and, of those, only three thought it was a big deal that Lil Wayne associated his horrific death with sexual encounters. 
Ironic, because Mamie Till Bradley, the murdered teenager’s mother, insisted on having an open-casket funeral, so that people around the country could see what the murderers had done to their son.  Photos of his body were printed in African-American newspapers around the country, as well as in Ebony and Jet Magazine.
But you know how it is. After a while, we just forget.
Like we forgot about Jesse Washington, a 17-year-old lynched in Waco, Texas in 1916 after being found guilty of murdering a white woman though some have questioned the authenticity of his confession. 
After the verdict was announced, a white mob of more than 500 men dragged him through the streets, and cut off his testicles before tying him to a tree. They then lowered him over a bonfire, and then raised him back up, only to lower him again.
They did this for two hours, while a crowd of about 15,000 cheered... though not quite loud enough to drown out Washington’s screams.
Lowering and raising him over the dancing flames. Lowering and raising him until his Black body was charcoal, and the screaming finally stopped. It took two hours for the screaming to stop.
And there were photographs! Some even made into postcards and sold as souvenirs. 
An outraged W.E.B. Du Bois led the outcry (yes, even 100 years ago we were out crying. Oh! Uh, I mean, outcrying.), and ran the photographs in the Crisis Magazine, and like the Emmett Till lynching, the story and picture was picked up by newspapers around the country. 
But, yeah, the 100-year anniversary of Mr. Washington’s lynching was just a few months ago, but it barely received a mention in either mainstream or social media. Even though the photograph is one of the most well-known lynching photos in American history. 
Here it is. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you? I thought so. 
So, yeah, we remember the photograph, but not the person killed who we keep vowing we’ll never forget. 
I don’t know... is that our memories are really that bad? 


Oh, maybe, it takes more than a long memory to bring about change?