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