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Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Driving While Black … “Three Times”

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

This column is being re-posted in memory of Calvin Milton Jones, who died six years ago this week.

“Has that ever happened to you?”

His face looked at me with the most serious expression I’d seen from this gentle man.

“Three times,” he said.

My friend, the late Calvin Milton Jones, had just sent me a copy of Dick Gregory’s talk to a Tavis Smiley “State of Black Union” convention center audience. Gregory, the comedian and activist, wondered aloud, that if Bill Clinton was truly “our first black president,” would he know (at 1 min,50 sec.) how it felt to be a black man, driving down the road, and hear a police siren:

“Mr. President, do you know what it feels like to be a black person, to be a congresslady, to be a lieutenant governor with 12 doctor’s degrees, and driving down the street, and hear the police siren, and you start squeezing that steering wheel tight, and they pass by you, and you Thank God! Damn! You didn’t do nothin’ in the first place. Do you know what it is to be black?”

The primarily black audience was in howls, cheering with a standing ovation at Gregory’s presentation. And I realized then that the expression, “driving while black,” was so real and so common that an entire audience of hundreds had reacted, knowingly and in unison, with raucous laughter at Gregory’s searing remarks.

After I watched it, I walked over to Calvin’s office and asked him, “Has that ever happened to you?”

He looked me straight in the eye, “Three times” … on the way to and from Washington and his hometown in North Carolina.

So this gentle and generous man … who arrived at the office at close to five o’clock every morning — even the day before he died, sick with pneumonia — to turn on the lights, make the coffee, check the phone and computer systems, arrange the conference rooms to be sure everything was in place for the days’ meetings … told me, with those words, that he had been stopped by police officers on three separate occasions, just because they knew they could taunt another black man.

This man, Calvin Milton Jones … who wouldn’t harm a soul, who cut all the lawns in his neighborhood, because he didn’t want it to look unkempt; who, unasked, often waxed neighbors’ cars; and who would give you the shirt off his back, if you were in need … this man had been pulled over three times for no other reason than the color of his skin.

Imagine how it must feel to look up into the eyes of a uniformed man, who, you and he know, could change your life in an instant.

And now we have young Trayvon Martin, killed by a single shot from the gun of a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watchman,’ who said Trayvon was, “suspicious … looks black” and, chasing Trayvon against orders, told 911, “They always get away.” But “they” (Trayvon) did not get away; and the man who hunted him down wasn’t even arrested.

Walking while black?

Author Donna Britt, commenting on the shooting death of Trayvon, said, “I don’t know what this child could have done to be safe, except not be black.”

Being, while black.

These two men, going about their business, are stopped for being “suspicious,” for being black men living in the world’s lone superpower; which the rest of us tell ourselves is “the land of the free” … the “sweet land of liberty” … that exists, “under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

Perhaps it is … for some.

Why Don’t I Have Black Neighbors? - The 1A

Friday, May 12th, 2017

You think people “live with their own kind” and that’s the reason you never see a black face in your neighborhood?

No. Our suburbs, the homes built after World War II for returning service people, were ordered by federal housing authorities to not include any African American as a potential buyer. No black person was shown any of those houses by builders or real estate agents.

No black person could get a bank loan to buy a house in any neighborhood specifically created for white people only.

So black workers couldn’t find a house to live near their factories or offices, because those houses were never shown to people of “their kind.”

Listen to this radio program and ask yourself, “What can I do to stop the deliberate segregation in my neighborhood?” Because you know that practice continues today.

And consider this: What do we owe African Americans for the accumulated housing wealth they never were given a chance to build?

Listen: The 1A and the creation of Black-free suburbs

I Am a Muslim

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I am a Muslim. I am standing beside our Muslim brothers and sisters at this time when they are under attack by the president of the United States of America.

As each of his fellow slaves rose - when Roman soldiers sought to identify him - and said, “I am Spartacus,” so I say to our newly repressive government, “I am a Muslim.”

Scene source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartacus_(film)

At The Women’s March - January 21, 2017

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Oceans of Women,
Strong Individuals
Together,
Determined
To Lead,
To Defend,
To Embrace One Another,
And Be Proud
of the Nation
They Are.
Honored and Humbled to Be at Your Side.

What Can I Do?

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

This election has tried to rip apart the glue that holds our society, our E Pluribus Unum, our trust in one another, our belief that, together, we are one people, we are the United States of America. And we cannot allow the ranting, roaring, screaming words of one man separate us.

Our children, our neighbors, the world is wondering, who are we? Do we hate our neighbors? Do we attack those who may believe something I don’t? Do we approve of open sexual assault as preached by a bigoted lion? Is this what we want our daughters, our mothers, our aunts, our nieces, our sisters to experience in their workplace? On the street?

No. And we will fight with all our might, using the resources of organizations that rally the cause of justice, equality and love for our fellowman and woman.

Where can you go to wage this battle? Here are a few organizations:

The American Civil Liberties Union
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Color of Change
Human Rights Watch
Story Corps
Lambda Legal
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Our Democracy Needs You - Vote!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Widely-respected public figures have spoken out against the fear and doubt being generated by Donald Trump; fear that could cause us to make a calamitous choice in our presidential election on November 8.

Republican-appointed (by Pres. GHW Bush) former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, four years ago, warned us,

“What I worry about is [in a crisis]… some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem. That is how the Roman Republic fell.”

“That is the way democracy dies.”

Former President Jimmy Carter, on October 19 told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “allegations of potential rigging of U.S. elections, as well as of widespread voter fraud, are baseless, serving only to undermine confidence in our democratic processes and inflame tensions.”

And former Secretary of State Colin Powell on October 26 told the Long Island Association that he will vote for Hillary Clinton. According to a member of that association, Powell “spoke about his [Trump’s] inexperience, he spoke about the messages that he’s [Trump] sending out every day to his supporters, which really paints our country in a negative light across the globe with all our allies.”

By alleging our system is “rigged,” Trump is tearing down the Constitutional fortress constructed with great care more than two centuries ago.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your vote won’t count. Our voting system is fair and is run by local officials you have chosen, not by a central network that can be shifted in one direction or another. Know that your cast vote for president is one of the most consequential decisions you face every four years.

And this process is monitored and reported to you by journalists, whose job it is to seek the truth and expose it for you; not to favor one candidate or issue over another.

Donald Trump would not exist as a national figure, if his statements had not been printed and broadcast by news organizations — known collectively as “the media” — which he continues to decry. Reporting is what journalists do: report facts and investigate people and organizations, so that we, the public, will know the truth.

Please consider what is at stake, and vote; because our democracy, right now, needs each one of us to stand up for our country.

“10 Naked Little Boys, Tied Together … Moaned Themselves to Sleep.”"

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Our country became rich and powerful, in large part, because of enslaved labor, driven by brutal treatment lashed upon men, women and children held in permanent bondage. The words below show just how evil it was:

“Ten naked little boys, between six and twelve years old, tied together, two by two, by their wrists, were all fastened to a long rope, and followed by a tall, gaunt white man, who, with his long lash, whipped up the sad and weary procession, drove it to a horse-trough to drink, and thence to a shed, where they lay down on the ground and sobbed and moaned themselves to sleep.”

The boys, black slaves, had just been “purchased from different plantations that day and were on their way to auctioned off at Richmond.”

That horrific scene was described by Frances Seward — spouse of William Seward, one member of Lincoln’s Team of Rivals — as their carriage made its way into Virginia, while on a family tour from New York.

According to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Frances Seward was so upset by what she’d seen that she cut off the rest of the family trip, writing — again from Team of Rivals — “Sick of slavery and the South.”

Virginia had long before legitimized how these 10 little children could be treated, when it enacted this law in 1705:

All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion. . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resists his master. . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened.

- Virginia General Assembly declaration, 1705

Sources:

  • Frances Seward - http://www.doriskearnsgoodwin.com/books.html#team-of-rivals, page 78
  • Virginia General Assembly - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1narr3.html
  • This was slavery, in all its inhumanity, blatantly cruel. And accepted by our Nation and the people who lived here. Until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed; nearly 30 years after those little boys moaned themselves to sleep.

    We Are All Immigrants

    Saturday, January 30th, 2016

    My great grandfather was an immigrant from Luxembourg, and I can no longer allow the hateful speech against immigrants to stand.

    We are a nation founded on “the firm belief” that all persons are created equal, and that all have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, no matter who we are or how we got here.

    And those rights and that happiness is deserved, equally, by the indigenous people already here, and by the men and women brought to this nation, shamefully, in chains.

    Millions have left their homes in other countries in search of sanctuary from religious persecution, in search of freedom, to escape tyranny.

    We, the people, must reject the divisive rhetoric aimed toward those whose religion or nationality is different from ours.

    The statue of Liberty beckons what we know to be true, in the words of Emma Lazarus:

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Please, reject the hate spewed from the lips of fearmongers.

    Please, look at these men and women who risked everything, many walked for hundreds of miles, to escape brutality.

    No one should have their religion, their homeland, denigrated here.

    Everyone deserves a smile, a hand, a chance.

    “Welcome to the United States of America.”

    “A Well Regulated Militia”

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2015


    Amendment II to The Constitution of the United States of America reads:

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.



    The only “well regulated militia” we have in 2015 is each state’s National Guard, whose history is recorded on the site of The National Guard.

    The National Guard, the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation’s longest-enduring institutions, celebrated its 370th birthday on December 13, 2006. The National Guard traces its history back to the earliest English colonies in North America. Responsible for their own defense, the colonists drew on English military tradition and organized their able-bodied male citizens into militias.

    The colonial militias protected their fellow citizens from Indian attack, foreign invaders, and later helped to win the Revolutionary War.

    Following independence, the authors of the Constitution empowered Congress to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia.”

    However, recognizing the militia’s state role, the Founding Fathers reserved the appointment of officers and training of the militia to the states. Today’s National Guard still remains a dual state-Federal force.

    [Source: The National Guard]


    How is it that a gun manufacturers’ lobbying group has convinced voters that each person in our nation has a constitutional right to own and use a gun?

    Because the people specifically authorized that right — by our Constitution — are the men and women who serve in our country’s sole regulated militia: The National Guard.

    Sandra Bland - Dead in a Texas Jail

    Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

    Just weeks after our President so movingly eulogized the nine African-Americans murdered, while praying with their killer in their Charleston church; college official Sandra Bland — who happens to be African-American — was on her way to a new administrative position in Texas.

    But she never made it.

    Instead, she was stopped by a white Texas police officer — who made a u-turn to follow her car — for failing to use her blinker to signal a lane change, on his turf.

    She tells the officer she changed lanes to allow his car to pass.

    She’s an easy catch. Who will question him for pulling over a black person, a female black person in Texas?

    She complies with the officer, is issued a ticket and cleared to go back on the road. But State Trooper Brian Encinia was not quite ready to end his victory over a black woman.

    Rather than walk back to his car, he stays, to ask Ms. Bland to extinguish her cigarette. She refuses, stating he has no authority to make that request.

    For questioning his authority to follow his illegal and laughable command, Bland — as seen in this video — is grabbed and forcefully pulled from her car, then thrown to the ground, on which a screaming Encinia appears to force her head.

    Three days later, Sandra Bland’s lifeless body was found hung, in a hauntingly empty area of the Waller County, Texas, jail.

    Why?

    Because she refused to extinguish her cigarette; because she had the audacity to speak back to the white officer.

    In police parlance, she “resisted arrest,” for refusing to follow his command.

    Officer Encinia acted as one whose authority was being challenged by an “uppity” African American woman.

    Tragically, horrifically, instead of starting her new job at Prairie View College, Sandra Bland is handcuffed and taken to the Waller County jail; where, mysteriously, she is found, hanging from a plastic bag, into which she — allegedly — placed her neck.

    Jail officials allege Ms. Bland told them she was suicidal; yet they did not put her on a suicide watch, and claimed they found Ms. Bland dead in her cell.

    Are we to believe that these white men had nothing to do with this black woman’s death? This woman who was so “uppity” to them?

    Someone check the fingerprints on the sheets and plastic bags, please? And the DNA around her neck and police uniforms.

    When will this stop?

    White supremacists will never get over their hatred. But when will public officials stop them from getting uniforms and guns?

    Because it must be done.

    Forget another “national conversation.”

    We need justice. Now.