Friday, February 28, 2014
History is a historical clock that tells a people the historical time. More importantly, history tells a people where they have been and where they still must go. Often times, it is a pack of lies played on the dead.
It's been said that there are no words that have not been spoken and no stories that have never been told but there are some that you cannot forget! I once heard it said that “I may not be the one to change the world but I can change the mind of the one who can”.
As we approach the end of the month in which we resurrected and remembered African American history. I would like to share a profound message from Dr. Martin Luther King that if taken to heart – will change the world. And that’s my thought Provoking Perspective…
Please listen to the video and make that change.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Gabriel Prosser was a literate enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were taken captive and hanged in punishment. In reaction, Virginia and other state legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as prohibiting the education, assembly and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.
History reports that Gabriel was born into slavery at Brookfield, a tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia, Gabriel had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. They were all held by Thomas Prosser, the owner. As Gabriel and Solomon were trained as blacksmiths, their father may have had that skill. Gabriel was also taught to read and write.
By the mid-1790s, as Gabriel neared the age of twenty, he stood “six feet two or three inches tall, was marred by the loss of his two front teeth and “two or three scars on his head”. White people, as well as blacks, regarded the literate young man as “a fellow of great courage and intellect above his rank in life.”
During the spring and summer of 1800, Gabriel planned the revolt. On August 30, 1800, he intended to lead slaves into Richmond, but the rebellion was postponed because of rain. The slaves’ owners had suspicion of the uprising, and two slaves told their owner, Mosby Sheppard, about the plans. He warned Virginia’s Governor, James Monroe, who called out the state militia.
Gabriel escaped downriver to Norfolk, but he was spotted and betrayed there by another slave for the reward offered by the state, which the slave did not receive the full reward. Gabriel was returned to Richmond for questioning, but he did not submit. Gabriel, his two brothers, and 23 other slaves were hanged.
The historian Douglas Egerton offered a new perspective on Gabriel in his book Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 & 1802 (1993). He based this on extensive primary research from surviving contemporary documents. Egerton believed that Gabriel had two white co-conspirators, at least one of whom was identified as a French national. He found reports that documentary evidence of their identity or involvement was sent to Governor Monroe, but never produced in court, and suggests that it was to protect the Republican Party; a significant part of the Republican base were major planters, colleagues of Jefferson and Madison.
Egerton noted that Gabriel did not order his followers to kill all whites except Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen; rather, he instructed them not to kill any people in those three categories. During this period, Methodists and Quakers were active missionaries for manumission, and many slaves had been freed since the end of the Revolution in part due to their work. The French were considered allies as they had abolished slavery in their Caribbean colonies in 1794.
Gabriel’s uprising was notable not because it was quelled before it could begin but because of its potential for mass chaos and widespread violence. In Virginia in 1800, 39.2 percent of the total population were slaves; they were concentrated on plantations in the Tidewater area and west of Richmond. No reliable numbers existed regarding slave and free black conspirators; most likely, the number of men actively involved numbered only several hundred.
Gabriel’s rebellion served as an important example of slaves’ taking action to gain freedom. In 2002, the City of Richmond adopted a resolution to commemorate the 202nd anniversary “of the execution of the patriot and freedom fighter, Gabriel, whose death stands as a symbol for the determination and struggle of slaves to obtain freedom, justice and equality as promised by the fundamental principles of democratic governments of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of America.”
On August 30, 2007, Governor Kaine informally pardoned Gabriel and his co-conspirators. Kaine said that Gabriel’s motivation had been “his devotion to the ideals of the American revolution; it was worth risking death to secure liberty.” Kaine noted, “Gabriel’s cause to end slavery and the furtherance of equality of all people has prevailed in the light of history”, and added“it is important to acknowledge that history favorably regards Gabriel’s cause while consigning legions who sought to keep him and others in chains to be forgotten.” The pardon was informal because it was posthumous.
Although betrayed, Gabriel stands as a courageous giant in the annals of time, and he should be honored for his significance for giving his life for a crime against humanity. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Sunday, February 23, 2014
We are taught or told that the world began, in part, a few thousand years ago. This is simply false teaching concerning what is known as the Modern Era. My words and writing are intended to inspire and empower the minds of mankind. Education, that which has long been denied to most, is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair!
Today’s topic challenges the history of the world and proves what we've learned, much of it, untrue. Listen to the elder, the profound intellectual Dr. John Henrik Clark expose the lies. In my view the greatest mind of our time. We stand on the shoulders of giants – know it and RESPECT IT. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
Friday, February 21, 2014
Every month, it seems, there is news of another black man gunned down simply because he was black. These actions are eerily similar to the lynching’s that took place in the early half of the 20th century for pretty much the same reason as the murder by white vigilantes in our society today.
The reason could be as simple as the concept of "Manifest Destiny", which speaks to white privilege. White America has never accepted African American’s as anything more than illegal aliens, in spite of the fact they captured the race against their will and brought to American in chains. I have repeatedly said, “We are a nation of people living in a nation without a nationality” basically because the Constitutions tells us so. You do remember the 3/5th human phrase.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, and Jordan Davis, who was also unarmed, are the most recent high-profile examples of young black men who have been killed because white men claimed they feared for their lives.
Let’s also include the murders and shootings by the police, sanctioned by law, against African American’s such as Oscar Grant and countless others. Then there are people like Garrick Hopkins, 60, and his brother, Carl Hopkins Jr., 61, two brothers from West Virginia, who were shot and killed by a white man for what he claimed as trespassing on his land – when, in fact, they were inspecting a shed on their own property.
The attached video is straightforward yet nuanced. The song “Strange Fruit” tells a story that must be told to our youth. We must never forget because when you forget history it is destined to repeat itself. We know the importance of Billie Holiday's recording. But this indispensable video vivid imagery the history of the struggle against lynching, something that was very real, and for Black rights with a wealth of common history of African Americans, Jewish Americans, and the American Left. It is part of our history, part of our heritage. Teach your children and learn this chapter in our past.
The song “Strange Fruit” creates immediate controversy. Call it a grim reminder of an unnecessarily painful and ugly chapter in American history. The song retains its force, because the issues it raises about the legacy of racial terrorism in American society still resonate. The story tells a song that compelled its listeners to confront the past, which was genuinely disturbing then, and it is no less disturbing today.
While many people assume Strange Fruit was written by Billie Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx, who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote the stark verse and brooding melody about the horror of lynching under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in 1938. It was first performed at a New York teacher’s union rally and was brought to the attention of the manager of Cafe Society, a popular Greenwich Village nightclub, who introduced Billy Holiday to the writer.
LISTEN TO THE WORDS AND NEVER FORGET THE TERROR!!!
"Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for a tree to drop, here is a strange and bitter crop."
Let's look at the murder of young black men and boys murdered as a modern day version of lynchings or have the murders an evolution whereas black people are nothing more than pray! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The genius of William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr., the most prolific singer-songwriter of our lifetime, is priceless. A thousand years from now you will hear Smokey’s music. To prove my point, “My Girl” first recorded by the Temptations is timeless, and the recording sounds as fresh today as it did in 1965. Smokey is also a record producer, former record executive, and one of the founders of the music label that changed the world - Motown.
Robinson is most notable for being a songwriter, sure, but he was also the founder and front man of The Miracles, for which he also served as the group's chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as The Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced retirement from the stage to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.
Smokey was born in Detroit and raised on the city's North End section. At one point, he and Diana Ross were next-door neighbors, who he had known since she was eight. He later told reporters when he was a child; his uncle christened him "Smokey Joe", which he assumed was a "cowboy name for me" until he was later told that Smokey was a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. He once said that he remembers his uncle saying to him, "I'm doing this so you won't ever forget that you're black."
In August 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who had recently stopped writing songs for Jackie Wilson after getting into a royalty dispute with Wilson's label. Gordy took an interest in Smokey and his group to which Gordy was more impressed at the fact that Robinson was a writer than as a singer. Gordy agreed to work with them and with his help the Matadors released their first single. Following this, the group changed its name to The Miracles after Claudette Rogers replaced Emerson Rogers.
After a number of failures and difficulties with money, Smokey suggested to Gordy that he start his own label, which Gordy agreed. Following the forming of Tamla Records, later reincorporated as Motown, the Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the label. In late 1960, the group recorded their first hit single, “Shop Around”, which became Motown's first million-selling single. Between 1960 and 1970, Smokey would produce 26 top forty hits with the Miracles.
By 1969, Robinson had voiced his opinion on wanting to retire from the road to focus on raising a family with wife Claudette and their two children, and to focus on his duties as Motown's Vice President. However, the late success of the group's track, "Tears of a Clown", caused Robinson to stay with the group until 1972. Robinson's last performance with the group was in July 1972 in Washington DC.
After a year of retirement, Smokey announced his comeback with the release of the album titled “Smokey” in 1973. The album included the Miracles tribute song, "Sweet Harmony" and the hit ballad "Baby Come Close". That same year, former Beatle George featured the track "Pure Smokey" as a tribute to his idol. In 1974, Robinson's second album, Pure Smokey was released but failed to produce hits.
Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975. The album launched three singles - the number-one R&B hit "Baby That’s Backatcha”, "The Agony & The Ecstasy" and "Quiet Storm". With his nearly sixty years in the music industry, he is still one of the most respected and gifted musicians to grace the stage or play the game.
Try to imagine for a moment what the world would be like if we had never been blessed with the legend known by the name – “Smokey” – we love you and thank you for paving the way. God Bless you and that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
John Henrik Clarke was the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. Dr. Clarke was a voracious reader, inspired by Richard Wright's Black Boy. He has credited, Ms. Harris, his third grade teacher who convinced him that one-day he would be a writer. I found a little know fact about Dr. Clarke; as a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley "long before they became Generals or President," Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.
He moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters. His literary accomplishments including over two hundred short stories written with "The Boy Who Painted Christ Black" is his best known.
Dr. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.
Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron's "portrait" of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke's work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.
What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence. Thereby offer an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. What I found to be interesting was that Clarke's work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past, he also was proactively involved with history in the making.
As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited Africa, Lost and Found (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and African People at the Crossroads, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist-historian he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was Who Betrayed the African Revolution?
In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.
During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophile. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert, all of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.
John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of a self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted "little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. ...they called me 'bubba' and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the 'e' to the family name 'Clark' and change the spelling of 'Henry' to 'Henrik,' after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.”
Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration borne out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his people. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
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Resource: Black College Online
Resource: Black College Online
Twitter @ John T. Wills
Monday, February 17, 2014
Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist of the movement whose passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African Americans throughout the South. While working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964; Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi. Civil rights activist.
Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi the daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry. In the summer of 1962, she made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote.
Hamer became active in helping with the voter registration efforts, which few in Mississippi were brave enough to do. Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after going involved with the struggle. This organization was comprised mostly of African American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites.
At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi's all-white, segregated delegation. For her devotion and commitment she paid a heavy price. She was beaten within an inch of her life. So brutally that it took months for her to recover but she never gave up the fight.
During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at but none of these things deterred her from her work. In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to the state’s all-white delegation to that year's Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention.
The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi but was unsuccessful in her bid. Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community. She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services.
Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977 from cancer. The encryption on her tombstone denotes her famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’ll ask, when will this statement impact your life, whereas you will affect change. Mrs. Hamer put her life on the line for freedom. The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself – WOULD YOU? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
Sunday, February 16, 2014
It’s been nearly sixty years since the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States. This case changed the face of America in away unlike any other decision heard by this body.
The Brown Case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court. However, it was the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts.
It is important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949. With that said, I would like to take the opportunity to pay homage to the valor of a skillful attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court - winning all of them.
The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations. The Case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs.
The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of "with all deliberate speed" in 1955, known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court's findings.
As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.
Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said, “As sure as things change they remain the same”. First, it took 60 year to overturn Plessy with Brown and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period from 1954 to 1967, Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.
Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are equally as segregated, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, often times, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.
Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds, rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same.
That is why it is imperative for us to celebrate this Black History Month and continue the struggle for equality, as the ghosts of so many died for a simply principle; “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair”.
Black History is American History! And that's my Thought Provoking Perspective...
"Just a Season"
Legacy – A New Season the sequel is coming!
Saturday, February 15, 2014
In the 1920’s, the Jewish and Italian mafia played major roles in running the whites-only nightclubs and the speakeasies that catered to white audiences. While the famous mobster, Dutch Schultz, controlled all liquor production and distribution in Harlem during prohibition in the 1920’s.
Rather than compete with the established mobs, black gangsters concentrated on the “policy racket,” also called the “Numbers game”. This was a gambling scheme similar to today’s lottery that could be played, illegally, from countless locations around Harlem. By the early 1950s, the total money at play amounted to billions of dollars, and the police force had been thoroughly corrupted by bribes from numbers bosses.
When you talk about Harlem gangsters, particularly of that era, two names come to mind immediately. One of the most powerful early numbers bosses was a woman, Madame Stephanie St. Clair, a black French woman from Martinique known as Queenie or Madame Queen. A tall, abrasive and tough woman, with a seldom-seen gentle side ran the famous New York extortion gang known as The Forty Thieves. The Forty Thieves had a reputation for being so tough that even the white gangsters would not interfere with their illegal operations or attempt to take over their turf. She utilized her experience and talents to set up operations as a policy banker and recruited some of Harlem’s most noteworthy gangsters to support her and her growing numbers business. Within a year she was worth more than $500,000 with more than 40 runners and 10 comptrollers in her charge.
Then there was the legendary Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson known as the Godfather of Harlem. You may recall Lawrence Fishburn played Bumpy Johnson in the movie Hoodlum. Bumpy was one of Madame Queen’s main recruits. He was a colorful character from Charleston, S.C. He had moved to Harlem with his parents when he was a small boy and was given the nickname, Bumpy, because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was a dapper gangster who always made it a point to wear the latest and best clothes while flashing wads of cash wherever he went. Bumpy was a pimp, burglar and stickup man who possessed a recalcitrant attitude. He always carried a knife and gun, which he would not hesitant to use.
Bumpy feared nobody and did not shy from confrontations. He was known for barroom clashes over the slightest issue, having a short fuse and for his arrogance. He never learned to curb his temper or to bow his head to any man. It was because of his negative demeanor that he spent almost half of his life in prisons before he even reached age 30. During his interments he became an avid reader and began writing poetry. Bumpy also proved to be an incorrigible prisoner and spent one-third of a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement. Because of his attitude, he was shuttled from prison to prison until his release in 1932.
Despite his tough-guy reputation, Bumpy Johnson had a soft side. It was common knowledge among Harlemites that he often helped many of Harlem’s poor with secret cash donations and gifts. Madame Queen liked what she saw in Bumpy and offered him a position as henchman in her numbers racket. He accepted and quickly gained her trust. One of his first tasks was to confront the Bub Hewlett gang. It erupted into one of Harlem’s most violent and bloody gang wars. Eventually, Bumpy gained the edge and defeated Hewlett, temporarily saving the numbers game from the Mobs first takeover attempt.
The relationship between Madame Queen and Bumpy was strange and tenuous at best. Some said they had an ongoing affair - others claimed the odd couple were only business partners. Bumpy never abandoned his pimping and robbery professions both of which irritated Madame Queen but both knew what would make the numbers game a success, so they successfully coexisted. These bosses became financial powerhouses, providing capital for loans for those who could not qualify for them from traditional financial institutions – loan sharking. They invested in legitimate businesses and real estate as a way to legitimize their profits.
The Godfather of Harlem lived until 1968, dying from a heart attack as oppose to dying by the gun in the manner most did in his business. As a testament to his success he maintained control of the underworld for nearly forty years with some saying that nothing illegal took place in Harlem without his permission. After Bumpy’s death the underworld became loosely organized and overcome by the drug trade with its many factions. Bumpy’s protégé, Frank Lucas and his rival Nicky Barnes became the most dominate players in the game.
Frank Lucas operated the largest drug business in Harlem after Bumpy’s death during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was particularly known for cutting out the middle man in the drug trade and buying heroin directly from sources in the Golden Triangle of Thailand. Lucas boasted that he smuggled heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen. He controlled such large quantities that he was a supplier to the Mafia. When Frank was busted and facing life in prison, he flipped turning states evidence for the Fed’s causing the conviction of more than a hundred associates. However, it is important to note that most of those criminals were on the police force. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster.
Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, known as Mr. Untouchable, led the notorious African-American crime organization known as “The Council” made up of seven powerful Harlem gangsters similar to the Mafia that controlled the heroin trade. Barnes was convicted in 1978 of multiple counts of RICO violations, including drug trafficking and murder, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole. While in prison, Barnes became a “Rat” turning state’s evidence against his former associates in "The Council". In exchange for his testimony, Barnes was released into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Comparing the gangsters of the two eras, one thing is clear despite the viciousness of their chosen profession, the contemporary gangster’s careers were short lived and all of their ill-gotten gains were lost.
As a result of the carnage distributed by these characters the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average and twelve times higher than in the United States as a whole. Of the 30,000 drug addicts then estimated to live in New York City, 15,000 to 20,000 lived in Harlem. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York's average.
In the 1980’s, use of crack cocaine became widespread, which produced collateral crime as addicts stole to finance their purchasing of additional drugs. Dealers fought for the right to sell in particular regions or over deals gone bad causing the murder rate to skyrocket. By the end of the crack wars in the mid 90’s and with the initiation of aggressive policing crime in Harlem plummeted and a since of normalcy returned to the once proud historical hamlet of Harlem.
Black History is our history and our history is American History! And That's my Thought Provoking Perspective!
"Just a Season"
Legacy – A New Season
Friday, February 14, 2014
Dorothy Irene Height, (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010), the Matriarch of the civil rights movement passed away early Tuesday of natural causes in a Washington hospital. Dr. Height established a national reputation as a graceful insistent voice for civil rights and women's rights. She was regarded as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement” and a tireless crusader for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades.
Dr. Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. She moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh early in her life where she attended racially integrated schools. She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon her arrival she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students. She pursued studies instead at New York University earning a degree in 1932 and a master's degree in educational psychology the following year.
Dr. Height served on the advisory council of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the National Advisory Council on Aging. Her awards included 36 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities, including Harvard and Princeton. In addition, Dr. Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and on her 92nd birthday, she received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest decoration Congress can bestow.
Dr. Height was among a coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the forefront of the American political stage after World War II. She was instrumental, and a key figure, in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dr Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing the title at the age of 95.
National Council of Negro Women is a four million member advocacy group consisting of 34 national and 250 community based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Height's mentors. Dr. Height was a civil rights activist who participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930’s. In the 1940’s, she lobbied first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes and in the 1950’s she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues.
President Obama issued an official statement White House that reads as follows: Dr. Height was "a hero to so many Americans… Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality . . . witnessing every march and milestone along the way… And even in the final weeks of her life -- a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith."
As a young woman, Dr. Height made money through jobs such as ironing entertainer Eddie Cantor's shirts and proofreading Marcus Garvey's newspaper, the Negro World. She went nightclubbing in Harlem with composer W.C. Handy. Dr Height began her professional career as a caseworker for the New York City welfare department. She got her start as a civil rights activist through the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and from the pastor's son, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who later represented Harlem in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the 1940’s, Dr. Height came to Washington as chief of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA branch. She joined the staff of the national YWCA board in 1944 through 1975. She remained on that staff with a variety of responsibilities, including leadership training and interracial and ecumenical education. In 1965, she organized and became the director of the YWCA's Center for Racial Justice, and she held that position until retiring from the YWCA board in 1975.
Dr. Height became national president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1947holding that position until 1957 when she became the fourth president of the National Council of Negro Women. She was a visiting professor at the Delhi School of Social Work in India, and she directed studies around the world on issues involving human rights.
During the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, Dr. Height helped orchestrate strategies with major civil rights leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis, who later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia. Congressman John Lewis said when Dr. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women - "At every major effort for social progressive change, Dorothy Height has been there." She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women's rights movement.
Dr. Height was the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time. In August 1963, Dr. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his "I have a dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Less than a month later, at King's request, she went to Birmingham, Ala. to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.
In 1995, Dr. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall, which was led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. "I am here because you are here," she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day in the whipping wind and chill rain at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.
She would often remark, "Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care and low wages. . . . We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly." She also famously said, "If the times aren't ripe, you have to ripen the times". It was important to dress well she said, "I came up at a time when young women wore hats, and they wore gloves. Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down."
"She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn't about the many years of her life, but what she did with them," said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. Dr. Height is a national treasure who lived life abundantly and for the abundance of others. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well, but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.
In my novel “Just a Season”, I talked about a “Dash” that will be place on our final marker between the years of one's birth and death that will represent the whole of a person’s life. I said that to say, this tiny little dash on Dr. Height's marker will not adequately give enough credit for her outstanding life’s work. It should have an inscription that says - “Servant of God, Well Done." And that's my Thought Provoking Perspective...
Thursday, February 13, 2014
LaTosha Brown’s moving and powerful voice is featured on the YouTube video of traditional spiritual “I Know I’ve Been Changed”. The video received over 1.1 million views in two weeks and debuted on YouTube’s Top 100 music chart at #78 without any promotion. LaTosha is completing her first solo album project called “Shades of Pink” that will be released in the spring of this year.
Ms. Brown has been a performer and cultural artist her entire life. At the age of 18, LaTosha’s high school jazz band called Impact, of which she was the vocalist, entered a statewide talent contest sponsored by a local radio station in Mobile, AL. The Grand Prize winners were to open up for The Beach Boys, who at the time were experiencing a career resurgence from their radio hit “Wipe Out” with The Fat Boys, at a major festival in front of 40,000 fans. The high school jazz band sent in a tape, and much to the chagrin of the professional Alabama music community, won the competition.
After taking a hiatus from music for 7 years, Latosha sang backup with Mark Growden a singer in New Orleans. What is more impressive it that aside from the gift of being a great singer she is a social justice activist working on a variety of issues to the benefit of the human spirit. LaTosha Brown has been an award-winning community organizer and cultural artist for more than 15 years, but her life’s path was set long before it became her official job title.
Recently, she received the “Champion of Change” award from the White House for her work in New Orleans as the director of the Gulf Coast Fund. The Gulf Coast Fund is a community-led philanthropy working towards a just and sustainable Gulf Coast region that funds and supports over 200 grassroots organizations. “Champions of Change” is a special series at the White House that profiles Americans from across the country who are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.
She states that “My first loves are people and music. I am extremely passionate about people and the music that inspires, moves, and encourages the human spirit to persevere. It is for that reason why I study, collect, write and perform music from different genres. I am passionate about witnessing the power of music in other cultures around the world.”
Latosha is planning a European soul music tour in the summer to collaborate with a few artists such as Freedonia (Spain) and Tasha's World (Denmark). It is called the “UniverSOUL Love Tour”. I will travel to different countries to spread the message of love through music, community service and talks. Let’s support and congratulate this Latosha for all of her success and the blessing of sharing her voice with all of us and the world.
1. Four Women ~ http://youtu.be/PJeCkuaRHZw (Artist showcase at SESAC office. Video sound quality kinda shaky but you can get the feel.)
2. I Know I've Been Changed ~ http://youtu.be/0ST66D3qpPU (I receieved 1.1 million views within 2 weeks with no promotion or marketing. Just God.)
3. Soul Journey Medley ~ http://youtu.be/ dVkFFW1CyI0 (Showcase for a local radio station. Medley of black music.)
4. Butterfly Sample ~ http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=U0gicqR7SrU (Fan check-in with a sample of an orignal song I wrote. Would love your help!)
1. Old Lady From Brewster ~ http://soundcloud.com/latosh a-brown/mark-growden-and- latosha-brown
2. Something Within Me ~ http://soundcloud.com/mark-g rowden/04-something-within-me
2. Something Within Me ~ http://soundcloud.com/mark-g rowden/04-something-within-me
3. Love Of It All ~ http://youtu.be/xdVuTmcUTpA
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration in the African American community that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.
The story that is often told is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Then there is yet another story that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question. Regardless, the conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.
North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants.
The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.
Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition's roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers to adorn clothing taken from the plantations belonging to their former 'masters'.
Economic and cultural forces provided for a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900’s. Classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices stifled the interest of the youth due to less emphasis and detail on the activities of former slaves. Classroom text books proclaimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the date signaling the ending of slavery - and little or nothing on the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th.
The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, whom wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.
The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed, brightens our future - and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
John Harold Johnson was the grandson of slaves who rose to become one of the African American community’s greatest entrepreneurs. He was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company and became the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400. This businessman and publisher created the most important media source for the black community ever. I pay homage to Mr. Johnson for his devotion to the African American community and the pride his publication instilled.
In my view his greatest and most important accomplishment occurred in 1955 when he made the profound decision to publish Emmett Till's open casket photograph his greatest moment. If it had not been for Mr. Johnson’s JET Magazine the world would never have known of this horrific murder. I will give thanks to him because it was this decision that sparked the modern civil rights movement.
Born in the south but after a visit with his mother to the Chicago World’s Fair, they decided that opportunities in the North were more plentiful than in the South. Facing poverty on every side in Arkansas during the Great Depression, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933 to try to find work and for Johnson to continue his education.
Johnson endured much teasing and taunting at his high school for his ragged clothes and country ways, as he encountered something he never knew existed: middle class blacks. At DuSable High School his classmates included Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx and future entrepreneur William Abernathy. This only fueled his already formidable determination to "make something of himself". Johnson's high-school career was distinguished by the leadership qualities he demonstrated as student council president and as editor of the school newspaper and class yearbook. This would prove to be valuable later in his life.
Johnson began as an office boy at Supreme Life and within two years had become Pace's assistant. His duties included preparing a monthly digest of newspaper articles. Johnson began to wonder if other people in the community might not enjoy the same type of service. He conceived of a publication patterned after Reader’s Digest. His work at Supreme Life also gave him the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations of a business owned by an African American and fostered his dream of starting a business of his own.
Once the idea of The Negro Digest occurred to him, it began to seem like a "black gold mine", Johnson stated in his autobiography Succeeding against the Odds. He remained enthusiastic even though he was discouraged on all sides from doing so. Only his mother, a woman with biblical faith and deep religious convictions, as well as a powerful belief in her son, supported his vision and allowed him to use her furniture as collateral for a $500 loan. He used this loan to publish the first edition of Negro Digest in 1942.
Johnson expanded his business interests to areas other than his magazines. He became chairperson and chief executive officer of the Supreme Life Insurance Company. He developed a line of cosmetics, purchased three radio stations, started a book publishing company, and a television production company, and served on the board of directors of several major businesses, including the Greyhound Corporation.
Johnson Publishing Company also has a book division and employs more than 2,600 people, with sales of over $388 million. In addition, Johnson Publishing owns Fashion Fair the world's number one makeup and skin care company for women of color, and Supreme Beauty products such as hair care for men and women, and is involved in television production and produces the Ebony Fashion Fair the world's largest traveling fashion show, which has donated over $47 million to charity. The show visits more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
On January 31, 2012, the United States Postal Service honored John H. Johnson with a commemorative stamp as the newest addition to its Black Heritage Series. The John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University is named in his honor. Therefore, I send the highest praise to this great champion of the world.
Your publishing the open-coffin pictures of little Emmitt Till opened the eyes of the world to the brutality inflected upon our people was the spark that started the modern Civil Rights Movement. If I may speak for all African American’s – thank you Sir for having the vehicles that uplifted and inspired us all with so much pride. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Monday, February 10, 2014
Carter G. Woodson was the most thought provoking African America of the last century. He is credited with the father of Black History and the founder of the Journal of Negro History. I honor him because he had the foresight of thought or maybe a vision to create what we now know as Black History Month. I think I speak for all African America’s when I say we are grateful that he had the vision to bringing our community information about our people through what was then called Negro History Week. It evolved during the 1970s to what we now know as Black History Month.
His-Story will prove true that until 1918 there was virtually no information about black people recorded because white America claimed Negro’s had no history. Thanks to Dr. Woodson, he proved that was a lie and changed that impression and showed us that we had a mighty past. Of course there are those who will disagree but His-Story is clear that “Colored’s” given a birth certificate until about 1900. Before then it was recorded via a “Bill of Sale”.
Aside from the concept of introducing Black History to us Dr. Woodson’s most enduring legacy was the novel “The Mis-Education of the Negro” originally published in 1933. When I read it many years ago, it was an amazing experience because I realized that the message remains relevant today. I feel this book should be mandatory reading for all African America’s – young and old.
I am still struck by the fact that we have not understood the powerful message contained within its pages. The thesis of Dr. Woodson's book is that Negro’s of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools or not taking advantage of education period. This conditioning, he claims, causes African Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. This assertion is clearly evident nearly eighty-years later.
He challenged his readers to become empowered by doing for themselves, regardless of what they were taught: “History shows that it does not matter who is in power... those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.”
Today with all the advantages concerning educational opportunities, business exposure, and social networking we are in the best position to succeed than at any time in our history. So the question is “why are we not networking and doing business with each other?” Every other ethnic community takes advantage these options to strengthen and empower themselves - while robbing our communities in the process. We will let anybody setup shop in our communities and take our money.
My point is: We must learn to do business with each other in order to gain wealth by keeping the money in our community. Some say we spend TRILLION’S annually and nearly all of it leaves our community within 15 minutes. Let me remind you that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. We can change the world but first we must change ourselves.
Here is a quote from the “The Mis-Education of the Negro”:
"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary."
That schools have set aside a time each year to focus on African-American history is Woodson's most visible legacy. His determination to further the recognition of the Negro in America and world history has inspired countless scholars. Woodson remained focused on his work throughout his life. Many see him as a man of vision and understanding. Although Woodson was among the ranks of the educated few, he did not feel particularly sentimental about elite educational institutions.
Woodson's other far-reaching activities included the founding in 1920 of the Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States. This enabled publication of books concerning blacks that might not have been supported in the rest of the market. He created the Negro History Bulletin, developed for teachers in elementary and high school grades, and published continuously since 1937. Woodson also influenced the Association's direction and subsidizing of research in African American history. He wrote numerous articles, monographs and books on Blacks. The Negro in Our History reached its eleventh edition in 1966, when it had sold more than 90,000 copies.
His friend, Dorothy Posrter Wesley, stated that "Woodson would wrap up his publications, take them to the post office and have dinner at the YMCA." He would teasingly decline her dinner invitations saying, "No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work". Woodson's most cherished ambition, a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana, lay incomplete at his death on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74.
To the many who read my blog know "I believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair". So I say it’s time to know where you came from to know where you’re going, if we are ever going to ever get there. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…