When the past is present…
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When the past is present…
Michael Sam made history yesterday as the first Division I college football player ever to come out as gay. The defensive lineman from the University of Missouri spoke publicly about his sexual orientation, and could potentially become the first openly gay player in the National Football League. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-SEC selection during his senior year wanting to “own his own truth” is an important moment for black, gay men.
The truth about “coming out” stories is that black, gay men need to hear them. We need to see queer people of color celebrating their truths and journeys. These vignettes serve as friendly reminders that this “gay thing” isn’t a phase or something exclusive to white Americans. (. . .)
Any time an athlete, entertainer or prominent person in the spotlight comes out, there seems to be a sigh of “finally.” This consolation goes to not only show that we need more examples, but also how hard it is for gays to navigate this thing called life. Gays are still being beaten and ostracized for what goes on in their bedrooms. There are still laws condoning violence against those who live in their truths; some are even incarcerated or stoned to death. Children are still going to school confronting bullies and being taunted daily. When people are taking their own lives to avoid the pressure of abandonment from so-called loved ones and family members, these stories matter. (. . .)
What critics tend to forget is that exposure is key, and fortunately this movement is picking up much needed steam in the black community as we can see more brown faces who are gay. Sam joins the list of other prominent athletes who have recently come out, like Jason Collins, Orlando Cruz and Brittney Griner.
Although studies will lead you to think otherwise, prejudice against gay men, no matter their ethnicity, is still widespread. Coming out is never easy, and probably never will be with the continued unconstructive stigmas and attitudes towards gays.
( . . .) Using this awareness, we have a responsibility to our own community to foster an environment where people feel comfortable sharing — or not. Moments like Sam’s announcement helps keep the conversation going on.
I genuinely applaud Sam’s brave decision in a traditionally homophobic culture to live openly and authentically at the heels of his professional football career. Living your truth might be easy for you, but not for the next man. Many times we can unknowingly force ourselves and our views on people without them being in a place to receive them because we aren’t in that space. When people want to share, we should stop, listen and not chastise. (. . .)
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Spies of Mississippi is a journey into the world of informants, infiltrators, and agent provocateurs in the heart of Dixie.
The film tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain “the Mississippi way of life,” white supremacy, during the 1950s and ‘60s. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (MSSC) evolved from a predominantly public relations agency to a full-fledged spy operation, spying on over 87,000 Americans over the course of a decade.
The Commission employed a network of investigators and informants, including African Americans, to help infiltrate some of the largest Black organizations like National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The MSSC was granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests, and compel testimony for a state that, as civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot says in the film, “was committed to an apartheid system that would make South Africa blush.”
The film reveals the full scope and impact of the Commission, including its links to private white supremacist organizations, its ties to investigative agencies in other states, and even its program to bankroll the opposition to civil rights legislation in Washington D.C.
Weaving in chilling footage of Ku Klux Klan rallies and government propaganda films alongside rare images and interviews from the period, Spies of Mississippi tracks the Commission’s hidden role in many of the most important chapters of the civil rights movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.
For trailer and film clips, click here.
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Every year, there’s always one Super Bowl ad that generates a bit of next-day controversy. And this year’s ad appears to be Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” ad. The one-minute ad features children and adults from all walks of life, from across the country, singing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages. Seems fairly straight-forward, right? Not like the infamous Bar Refaeli Go Daddy ad from last year that featured the Israeli supermodel making out with a nerd.
However, two aspects of the ad appear to have turned it into one of those cultural hot spots (or at least a lukewarm spot) that ignites a little social media outrage for awhile. Some objected to the idea of hearing “America the Beautiful” sung in languages that were not English. Others objected to the inclusion of two gay dads in the ad. (. . .)
The multilingual aspect of the ad drew fire from former Republican Congressman Allen West, who wrote a blog post saying, “If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing “American the Beautiful” in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition.”
Conservative columnist and Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes tweeted his dislike of the ad, writing, “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?” (. . .)
Slightly more complicated is the controversy surrounding the inclusion of a gay couple in the ad. Coca-Cola has been under pressure for being a sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where the government has taken a decidedly anti-LGBT stance in the weeks leading up to the games. While, some felt the inclusion of a gay couple in the ad was a positive show of support, others felt it didn’t go far enough. (. . .)
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America’s Black Holocaust Museum, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Public Library, will offer a film each month, beginning February 11, 2014.
The films are free and open to the public. Popcorn and other refreshments will be served.
Each film will be briefly introduced by a scholar, who will also facilitate a discussion immediately following the film.
• February 11, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
The Loving Story
M.L.King Library, 310 W. Locust St., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Fran Kaplan, Director ABHM
Synopsis: In June 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were married in Washington, D.C.He was a white man; she was part African American and part Native American.They returned to their native Virginia to start their lives together but, as “The Loving Story” tells us, they were jailed and then banished for breaking the state’s Racial Integrity Act.By marrying beyond the state’s borders and then living together as husband and wife in Virginia, they had broken the law.The Lovings were not political people, but their wish to return home as a family placed them in the middle of a historic movement. How far might you go for love?
• March 11, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Reggie Jackson, Head Griot ABHM
Synopsis: Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called by many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to make a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate antislavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. What began as a pacifist movement fueled by persuasion and prayer became a fiery and furious struggle that forever changed the nation. Had you lived in slavery days, what could you have done?
• April 15, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Slavery By Another Name
Villard Square, 5190 N. 35th St., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Robert Smith, History, UWM
Synopsis: This film challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. What are the effects on our society today of slavery by another name?
• May 12, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Bay View Library, 2566 S.Kinnickinnic, Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Russell Brooker, Political Science, Alverno College
Synopsis: The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South. How are Americans challenging racial inequalities today?
This free public program is brought to you by the Milwaukee Public Library and America’s Black Holocaust Museum with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.
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On Friday night, the Iowa GOP surfaced a less-than-helpful flowchart to identify racism. The “Is someone a racist?” graphic was posted to the official Iowa Republican Party Facebook page and then quickly pulled down – but not beforeThe Daily Beast captured it.
The chart started by asking if the person is white. Non-white people were automatically “not racist,” and the only factor in determining whether a white person is racist or not was the question, “do you like them?”
After the post was removed, Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker apologized in a Facebook post on the state party’s page. “Earlier tonight, a contractor of the Iowa GOP made a post referencing a discussion on race that the GOP believes was in bad taste and inappropriate. We apologize to those whom were offended, have removed the post and are ensuring it does not happen again,” he wrote.
The chart was not the first questionable social media post the Republican Party has made recently. On Dec. 1, the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience on a Montgomery, Ala. bus, the Republican National Committee posted a tweet thanking Parks for her “bold stand and her role in ending racism.” (. . .)
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What most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.(…)
I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.
I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”
Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”
Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.(…)
I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.(…)
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(. . .) He reminded us that “the choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence; it is between nonviolence or nonexistence.” Therefore, we are celebrating the 2014 King Holiday Observance with the theme, Remember! Celebrate! Act! King’s Legacy of Peace for Our World. This theme also pays homage to the fact that, this year, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of both my father receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With the theme of peace in mind, we launched our five-year “Choose Nonviolence” campaign.
As part of the campaign, our goal is to expose, encourage, educate, engage and empower one million current, emerging and next-generation leaders to embrace Dr. King’s leadership philosophy. This will be done through social media, dialogues, summits, marketing campaigns and a global leadership initiative. On the national holiday today, The King Center is calling for a moratorium on violence. Specifically, we are asking that there be no shots fired — no shooting off at the mouth with our tongue, no shooting off physically with our fists and no shooting off of any type of gun! Just for one day — on the King Holiday — in recognition of my father, and as TIME magazine has said, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, let us honor the memory of one of the world’s most highly regarded nonviolent proponents of peace on his holiday, with no shots fired. Instead, we ask that people engage in something positive and uplifting in service to humanity. (. . .)
Choosing nonviolence does not mean that one will never get angry or become upset with others, including the ones we love. One day my dad and brothers were riding their bicycles, and I decided to follow them into the street on my tricycle. My father was very upset, but he remained disciplined and didn’t let his emotions take him too far, which is an important part of embracing nonviolence.
I shared this story about my father to remind us that as human beings we will fall short from time to time. We will get angry, feel hurt, or say something we wish we hadn’t. It’s okay.The important thing to remember is that we must remain disciplined in how far we take that anger or hurt, and that it is presented in an appropriate and nonviolent manner.
NEWARK — Amiri Baraka, the longtime activist and former poet laureate of New Jersey died today, officials confirmed. He was 79 years old.
Baraka was placed in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center last month for an unknown reason, but a spokesman for his son’s mayoral campaign said his condition was improving late in December.
Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed.(…) Quintana recalled Baraka’s role in the 1970 Black and Puerto Rican convention, a landmark political meeting that resulted in the election of Ken Gibson, Newark’s first black mayor.(…)
A Newark native and resident formerly known as Leroi Jones, Amiri Baraka has published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction. In 1963 Amiri Baraka wrote “Blues People,” an in-depth history of music from the time of slavery throughout the various incarnations of blues and jazz, with integrated social commentary. The book’s 50th anniversary was recently celebrated during an event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
In 1964, Baraka published the book of poetry, “Dead Lecturer” that marked a significant transition in his career. Also written under the name Leroi Jones, the book featured more traditional poems but also laid the groundwork for the more radical, experimental work that would come to define his later career.
“He was able to put music into the work, even reading the work,” said Maria Maziotti Gillan, a poet and the director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. “Mostly he was able to capture an audience when he spoke. He was a able to capture an audience through his poetry but also through what he had to say.”Baraka was the state’s first poet laureate for a short time in 2002 and 2003.
In 2002, Gov. James E. McGreevey called for Baraka’s resignation as New Jersey’s Poet Laureate after a Jewish group condemned “Somebody Blew Up America.” The poem, written shortly after 9/11, included a passage claiming thousands of Israelis knew there was going to be an attack and stayed home from work — an Internet rumor not based in fact.
In typical fashion, Baraka defended his free speech and wrote an essay entitled, “I will not apologize, I will not resign.”
Almost two years ago, Kadejah Davis-Talton, then 12, was shot to death at her home in Detroit over a disagreement about a cellphone. On Tuesday, the man convicted in her killing was told he could face 50 years in prison.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans sentenced Joshua Brown, age 21, to 24 to 50 years for second-degree murder, 14 to 30 years for assault with intent to murder, which he is to serve concurrently, and an additional mandatory two years for a felony firearm charge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
According to prosecutors, the man’s mother, Heather Brown, drove her son to and from Davis-Talton’s home on Jan. 31, 2012 after she had gotten in a dispute over her missing cellphone with Almanda Talton, the girl’s mother.
Talton said she found a phone in public restroom at a tax business and gave it to an employee, according CBS Detroit. She thought Joshua Brown came to her home to discuss something else, and then shut the door on him after talking to him briefly. Brown, then 19, fired several shots through the door, according to prosecutors, striking and killing Kadejah Davis-Talton. (. . .)
“Why would two mothers risk their children’s lives over such a minor thing as a cellphone?” Evans asked before sentencing, the Detroit News reports. “A mother’s worst nightmare was experienced the night Kadejah was killed.” (. . .)
Davis-Talton was a sixth-grade student who had straight A’s and had just celebrated her birthday before her death. (. . .)
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Perhaps you, like me, were raised essentially to think of the slave experience primarily in terms of our black ancestors here in the United States. In other words, slavery was primarily about us, right, from Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker and Richard Allen, all the way to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Think of this as an instance of what we might think of as African-American exceptionalism. (In other words, if it’s in “the black Experience,” it’s got to be about black Americans.) Well, think again.
The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (. . .)Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.
And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage. In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.
Incredibly, most of the 42 million members of the African-American community descend from this tiny group of less than half a million Africans. (. . .)
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