ABHM Celebrates Dr. Cameron’s 100th Birthday with Racial Reconciliation Gathering


Dr. James Cameron in the former ABHM facility.

On Sunday, February 23, 2014, more than one hundred Milwaukeeans and a dozen others from around the country gathered at Centennial Hall to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. James Cameron, ABHM’s founder, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Dr. Cameron passed away in 2006, so now the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation carries on his work. The theme of the celebration, A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation, honored Dr. Cameron’s charge to “forgive, but never forget.” He believed that to move forward toward a racially reconciled society, we must look back and honestly examine our country’s past. Just as Dr. Cameron fought for and won a state pardon for a crime he did not commit, he believed that justice for African Americans must be pursued.

Program of 100th Birthday Celebration

Program of 100th Birthday Celebration

The Gathering’s program opened with Reggie Jackson, ABHM’s Head Griot, who gave attendees a brief tour of ABHM’s virtual museum and spoke of the museum’s twenty-five year history and future plans. Three elected officials – Congresswoman Gwen Moore, County Supervisor Khalif Rainey, and Alderwoman Milele Coggs – each spoke about the significance of ABHM and Dr. Cameron’s legacy to Milwaukee and the world.

Dr. Robert Smith, the museum’s Resident Historian, then spoke about the founder’s role as a scholar-activist, the sociopolitical influences that shaped his life, and his essays on historical and contemporary topics.

Featured speakers Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, authors of Gather At The Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, presented a multimedia overview of their journey and the STAR model of healing from trauma resulting from generations of slavery followed by institutionalized racism.

Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.

Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.

Participants then engaged in facilitated small group dialogue about their visions concerning a racial repair and reconciliation process for Milwaukee, using the “Caring Circle” method for respectful attention and trust-building. The program ended with cake, candles, and singing “Happy Birthday” together for Dr. Cameron, followed by a book signing.

DocUWM‘s film students and graduates recorded the entire event, which, once edited into a documentary film, will be made available online on this website.

The Gathering was made possible through the collaboration of ABHM with the Milwaukee Public Library and UWM’s Cultures and Communities Program and with the generous funding from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Gathering was also cosponsored by: Alverno College, Milwaukee Urban League, Newaukee, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, and the Young Adult Committee of the NAACP–Milwaukee.

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(Your receipt will show the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation as recipient of your donation. The Legacy Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates this museum.)

An African American Justice System

By Ashley Woods, HuffingtonPost.com

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told a crowd of 18,000 in Detroit on Sunday that African-Americans should set up their own courts after being failed by the U.S.’ own justice system. “Our people can’t take much more. We have to have our own courts. You failed us,” Farrakhan said during the keynote speech of 2014’s annual Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day convention, according to the Detroit Free Press. (. . .)imgres

Standing on stage in front of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, Farrakhan told the crowd to look to the Quran and the Bible for guidance in setting up separate courts that would be more fair to African-Americans.

The Nation of Islam (NOI) religious movement, founded in Detroit in 1930, calls for uplifting the condition of African-Americans. The separatist group has been accused of being “deeply racist,” anti-gay and anti-Semitic; the group’s beliefs and practices are not embraced by traditional Muslims.

The Nation of Islam’s “Muslim Program” calls for equal justice for African-Americans under the law. But it also calls for bildeNOI followers to establish their own state under the law to be subsidized for 20 years by “our former slave masters;” an end to taxation on African-Americans if a separate state is not created; “separate but equal” schools divided by race and the release of all NOI followers from prisons and jails. ( . . .)

During his Saviours’ Day speech Sunday, Farrakhan also compared himself to inventor Henry Ford, another famous Detroiter, and one with notedly anti-Semitic views.

The Nation of Islam leader championed Ford’s success in improving the living conditions of his employees, saying Ford was “a great man who was called an ant-Semite,” the Associated Press reported. Addressing accusations that the Nation of Islam is also anti-Semitic, he quipped, “I feel like I’m in good company,” but added, “I don’t hate Jews. What I hate is evil.”

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12 Years a Slave to Be Part of Public High School Curriculum

By Lynette Holloway, theRoot.com

The initiative, coordinated by Montel Williams, will begin distributing the acclaimed film, book and study guide nationwide in September 2014.

Call it another win for 12 Years a Slave. The award-winning film will soon serve as another avenue for public high school students to learn about the harsh lessons of race in America, according to a news release.

12 yrs a Slave

Cover of Solomon Northup’s memoir, “Twelve Years a Slave,” upon which the new movie of the same name is based.

The National School Boards Association is partnering with New Regency, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to distribute copies of the film, book and the study guide to the agonizing portrait of 19th-century American slavery to schools beginning September 2014, in concert with the new year.

Montel Williams, host of the Montel Williams Show, is coordinating the effort, which is modeled after the show’s distribution of the Civil War film Glory to public high schools.

12 Years a Slave is one of the most impactful films in recent memory, and I am honored to have been able to bring together Fox Searchlight and National School Boards Association to maximize its educational potential,” the release said. “When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool. This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream big of a better and brighter future, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

The film has earned nine Oscar nominations, and just last week, it was named best film at the 2014 BAFTA awards. Before that, it scooped up the best drama at the Globe Awards.

Editor’s Note: 12 Years a Slave won top motion picture honors at the 45th NAACP Image Awards tonight.

Read more about the movie here.

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Being a Black Student on a White Campus

By Rhonesha Byng, HuffingtonPost.com

In an emotional video released earlier this week, students at the UCLA School of Law gathered to share their stories of being among the few black students on campus as part of an awareness campaign simply titled “33.”

According to the video, out of roughly 1,100 students, 33 of them are black, that’s three percent of the school’s student population. Official statistics reveal there are a total of 994 students enrolled getting their Juris Doctor, however, an official from the school says the video’s 1,100 figure likely includes students receiving their LL.M. (Master of Laws). (. . .)

The students expanded upon their feelings of isolation, and feeling like they have to represent their entire community.

“It’s a constant burden of pressure. I’m constantly policing myself, just being aware of what I say and how it can be interpreted because I essentially am the representation of the black community.”

One woman felt she had been automatically characterized as an “angry black woman” after she disagreed with the views of a particular professor and openly vocalized her thoughts.

“The fact that I was a black woman played a lot into why people stopped listening to me. I felt like if there were maybe more black women in the class, maybe just five of us, people could have seen more of a variation in our responses to what was going on in class and what I felt like was sexism in the classroom.” (. . .)

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Why Michael Sam’s Coming Out is Crucial for Black Gay Men

By Drew-Shane Daniels, Huffingtonpost.com

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. (. . .)1392054049_michael-sam-lg

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.

imgres( . . .) 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” on PBS on February 10, 2014

Tonight, on Independent Lens, at 10:00pm EST:

Spies of Mississippi is a journey into the world of informants, infiltrators, and agent provocateurs in the heart of Dixie.

Some of the spies were African Americans.

Some of the spies were African Americans.

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.”

Civil rights workers in Mississippi singing "We Shall Overcome."

Civil rights workers in Mississippi singing “We Shall Overcome.”

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.

Dr. King talks about the 3 civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia MS during Freedom Summer.

Dr. King talks about the 3 civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia MS during Freedom Summer.


For trailer and film clips, click here.

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Dawn Porter, Director/Producer of the documentary "Spies of Mississippi."

Dawn Porter, Director/Producer of the documentary “Spies of Mississippi.”


Coca-Cola Advertises Diversity

By Patrick Kevin Day, LaTimes.com

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.CC_Campaign01

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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