When the past is present…
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When the past is present…
They are a group of African American women who have been able to trace their lineage to the nation’s founding patriots. They gathered for lunch five days before the nation was to celebrate its independence to discuss their role as Black members of the nation’s premiere heritage organization for women—the Daughters of the American Revolution.
There was Karen Batchelor, who is descended from a White man who fought in the Revolutionary War. There was Maria Williams-Cole, who has three Black relatives who participated in the war. There was Laura W. Murphy, who was scheduled to read from the Declaration of Independence at a special program slated for July 4th at the National Archives. They were in town to attend the annual convention of the 168,000-member DAR.
Murphy, great-granddaughter of AFRO founder John H. Murphy Sr. and descendant of Philip Livingston, one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, believes there are thousands of descendants who simply can’t verify their relationships.
“I know there are [others],” she said. “The difficulty is supporting documentation. A lot of us can trace our ancestry, but because Blacks were treated as property…a lot of people don’t have documentation of the birth, death, marriages, of each generation, because that documentation either wasn’t required by the state or it wasn’t required for Black people.”
Lack of access to healthy meals during summer months is, ironically, causing two separate health issues among minority children: hunger and obesity.
Statistics from the Food Research and Action Center show that 32 percent of
black households with children were food insecure in 2010, almost 12 percent higher than the national average.
This research indicates that food insecurity — when families do not know if they will have enough food to eat — is also to blame for the rises in obesity and hunger.
Another FRAC report explains that hunger, caused by a lack of sufficient healthy foods, and obesity, due to unhealthy eating and bad exercise habits, are the result of low incomes and a lack of access to nutritious foods.
The two problems can co-exist due to poverty, experts say. And, during the summer when many low-income parents can hardly afford camps, many minority children are left inactive and eating poorly.
Low-income parents may also experience what FRAC calls cycles of food deprivation and overeating — essentially skipping meals to stretch budgets, and overeating whenever they do eat.
Education experts have dealt with this phenomenon for many years, of how to overcome the lack of access to food and physical activity once school is out. Adequate nutrition is fundamental for brain development and improves a child’s cognitive functioning, which helps improve grades during the school year, they say.
Hidden in the Open is photo essay and collection of African-American gay male couples throughout history going as far back as the 19th century. Trent Kelley, the collector and historian, notes that “some of these images are sure to be gay and others may not. The end result is speculative at best for want in applying a label. Not every gesture articulated between men was an indication of male to male intimacies. Assuredly, what all photographs in this book have in common are signs of Afro American male affection and love that were recorded for posterity without fear and shame.”
“I want the world to see the photographs. I want the black gay community to see the photographs and men in particular so they know they have a history to be proud of,” says Kelley.
Many of the photos are in black and white. As you contextualize each photo with the time and era that they were taken, you see that these men faced possible racial violence. The affection in many of the photos are subtle and even in some cases, hard to see. But Kelley notes that on the back of one photo was written “my special friend.” The collection of photos presents a history of affectionate African-American men within the United States.
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston recently received a collection of extremely rare sculptures from Benin, adding new depth to their African art collection. Until now, the museum only owned a single piece from Benin — though it opened its African Art section over twenty years ago. The pieces are prized for their sharp detail and scarcity, as a majority of the works were destroyed during colonialism. Now the Boston MFA is the proud owner of 28 bronze statues and six ivory pieces.
New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, great-grandson of a founder of Lehman Brothers, is behind the gift. He purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s, and ultimately chose to part with his prized collection, according to the Wall Street Journal, because they “would make a real difference in Boston.”
With great skill and clarity the works give a realistic view of West African history through its people’s own traditional artwork. Metalworking was a key component of the King’s court during Benin reign, and Benin people were especially fond of working with brass, which symbolized the continuity of kinship because its resistance to corrosion. The musical instruments, weapons and ornaments on display shed new light on a rich history that is rarely discussed in America today.
Medgar Evers was born on this date in 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He was an African-American civil rights leader whose assassination for his work as field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.
As a representative of the NAACP, Evers worked for the most established and in some ways most conservative African-American membership organization. He was, by all accounts, a hardworking, thoughtful, and somewhat quiet man. Yet the work Evers did was groundbreaking, even radical, in that he risked (and eventually lost) his life bringing news of his state’s violent white supremacy to nationwide attention. When Byron De la Beckwith, a white racist, assassinated Evers in his front yard, he became a symbol of the brutality with which the old South resisted the Civil Rights Movement. Raised in a small central Mississippi town, Evers absorbed his parents’ work ethic and strong religious values early in his life. Friends, including his brother, Charles, remember him as a serious child with an air of maturity about him.
Read more about Evers here.
On this date in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in America. The first of three such legislations was an attempt to deal with the increasing demands of African-
Americans for equal rights.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson asked for and received the most comprehensive civil-rights act up to that time. The act specifically prohibited discrimination in voting, education, and the use of public facilities. For the first time since the Supreme Court ruled on segregation in public schools in 1954, the federal government had a means of enforcing desegregation: Title VI of the act barred the use of federal funds for segregated programs and schools. In 1964, only two southern states (Tennessee and Texas) had more than 2% of their Black students enrolled in integrated schools. Because of Title VI, about 6% of the black students in the South were in integrated schools by the next year.
Read more here.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt has returned to Washington, D.C., for the first time in 16 years, marking the 25th anniversary of The NAMES Project and thirty years in the struggle to stop the spread of HIV and AIDSaround the world.
Every morning volunteers take on the laborious process of unfolding the panels of the quilt on the National Mall and then packing them up in the evening, a process that can only be described as a labor of love.
The quilt has over 94,000 names of AIDS sufferers on it and has been seen by over 18 million people worldwide. Through tours and special events, the quilt has raised over $4 million for direct services for people living with AIDS.
For the quilt’s creators, this patch of green lawn in the heart of the nation’s capital holds special significance — the quilt was first displayed there in October of 1987 during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a time when many felt the federal government was turning its back on the AIDS epidemic.
The quilt is the brainchild of San Francisco gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, who in 1987, helped found The NAMES Project. Today, the quilt consists of 48,000 panels and takes up 1.3 million square feet, making it impossible to view in its entirety at any one time. If a visitor were to spend one minute to view each panel, it would take over 33 days to see the entire quilt.
The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won’t be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
The House voted Thursday afternoon to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over the documents. President Barack Obama invoked his executive privilege authority and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department said that it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general. Dated Thursday, the letter was released Friday.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the decision is in line with long-standing Justice Department practice across administrations of both political parties.
Read more of the story here.
Today, with what the Associated Press calls “cover girl looks, a personality that leaps through the TV set and a nickname [the Flying Squirrel] you won’t soon forget,” 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas — who’s expected to be chosen for this year’s Olympic team — might just follow in her footsteps as one of gymnastics’ next big stars, not to mention the black community’s next collective athletic crush.
Not only has Douglas emerged as world champion Jordyn Wieber’s main rival, finishing a mere 0.2 points behind at the U.S. gymnastics championships two weeks ago, she could be the brightest star on a powerful U.S. team that could turn the London Olympics into its own heavy medal show …
The U.S. team will be picked Sunday, following the Olympic trials in San Jose, Calif. Barring an injury, Douglas is considered a lock for London along with Wieber and Aly Raisman. In addition to the team competition and all-around, Douglas has medal potential on uneven bars, where her release moves are so big and effortless that national team coordinator Martha Karolyi has dubbed her the “Flying Squirrel.”
Read more of the story here.
On June 28, 1866, an Act of Congress authorized the creation of two cavalry and four infantry regiments, “which shall be composed of colored men.” They were organized as the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th through 41st Infantry.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry would go on to play a major role in the history of the West, as the “Buffalo Soldiers”
These were the Buffalo Soldiers, members of African-American cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western United States until 1896, mainly fighting Indians on the frontier. On September 21, 1866, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was activated at Greenville, LA, under command of Colonel Edward Hatch, and the 10th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth, KS, under command of Colonel Benjamin
Grierson. the 38th through 41st infantries (these four were later reduced to the 24th and 25 infantries), which often fought alongside the cavalry regiments. The congressional order required their officers to be white.
Read more of the story here.