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When the past is present…

 

Commemorating 52nd Anniversary of the March on Washington

By Clarence B. Jones, the Huffington Post

During the past two weeks two great persons in the struggle against injustice, both of whom I knew, passed away. First was Julian Bond at the age of 75, the other was Louis Stokes, a 15-term former congressman from OH. He died at the age of 90.

The death of these two social justice and political warriors were on my mind as I realized that this week marks the 52nd anniversary of the August 28th, 1963 March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom. (Most persons associate their memory of The March with the soaring oratory of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.)…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech to huge crowd gathered for the Mall in Washington DC during the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom (aka the Freedom March) on August 28, 1963.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech to huge crowd gathered for the Mall in Washington DC during the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom (aka the Freedom March) on August 28, 1963.

In thinking about Julian Bond and Louis Stokes I reflected on how much has happened in our nation during their lives, including, but not limited to The March On Washington. This, in turn, caused me to remember many other things…

For example, I remember, the morning of the March, speaking with Harry Belafonte. He had asked me to meet the “Celebrity Delegation” to the March who were arriving that morning by private chartered plane from CA. Harry “charged” me with the responsibility of meeting Charlton Heston, “head” of the “Delegation” and leading him and other to their designated seats on the March platform. Space consideration limits my written recital, of all of the names of those prominent motion picture, TV, and performing artist stars that comprised the “Celebrity” delegation…

In honor of Julian Bond, Congressman Louis Stokes, and so many, many, known and unknown heroes and heroines of the Civil Rights Movement, and in tribute to the younger successor generation of The Black Lives Matter Movement, we must find a way to stop, once and for all, this systemic assault by local police on Black and other people of color.

It is not an overstatement to remind the current generation in our country that Dr. King, and so many, many others, “marched” so that that it would not be necessary 52 years later for our children and grandchildren to march to tell our nation TODAY, that “Black Lives Matter.”…

If not now, when? If not us, who?

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10 Years After Katrina

By Campbell Robertson and Richard Fausset, the New York TImes

NEW ORLEANS — It is a wonder that any of it is here at all: The scattered faithful gathering into Beulah Land Baptist Church on a Sunday morning in the Lower Ninth Ward. The men on stoops in Mid-City swapping gossip in the August dusk. The brass band in Tremé, the lawyers in Lakeview, the new homeowners in Pontchartrain Park.

Aerial view of the Ninth Ward in East New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Aerial view of the Ninth Ward in East New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Aug. 29, 2005, it all seemed lost. Four-fifths of the city lay submerged as residents frantically signaled for help from their rooftops and thousands were stranded at the Superdome, a congregation of the desperate and poor. From the moment the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina dismantled a fatally defective levee system, New Orleans became a global symbol of American dysfunction and government negligence. At every level and in every duty, from engineering to social policy to basic logistics, there were revelations of malfunction and failure before, during, and after Katrina.

Ten years later, it is not exactly right to say that New Orleans is back. The city did not return, not as it was.

It is, first of all, without the more than 1,400 people who died here, and the thousands who are now making their lives someplace else. As of 2013, there were nearly 100,000 fewer black residents than in 2000, their absences falling equally across income levels. The white population decreased by about 11,000, but it is wealthier.

The city that exists in 2015 has been altered, by both a decade of institutional re-engineering and the artless rearrangement that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves.

Empowered by billions of federal dollars and the big ideas of eager policy planners, the school system underwent an extensive overhaul; the old Art Deco Charity Hospital was supplanted by a state-of-the-art medical complex; and big public housing projects, at once beloved and notorious, were razed and replaced by mixed-income communities with housing vouchers…

As before, there are two cities here. One is booming, more vibrant than ever, still beautiful in its best-known neighborhoods and expanding into places once written off; the other is returning to pre-Katrina realities of poverty and routine violence, but with a new sense of dislocation for many as well.

Old inequities have proved to be resilient. The child poverty rate (about 40 percent) and the overall poverty rate (close to 30 percent) are almost unchanged from 2000…

The ability of many residents to afford housing — in a city of escalating rents and low wages — is more compromised than before. In a recent ranking of 300 American cities by income inequality based on census data, New Orleans came in second, a gap that falls starkly along racial lines. According to the Data Center, a New Orleans-based think tank focusing on Southern Louisiana, the median income of black households here is 54 percent lower than that of white households.

Many here are more impatient than ever to fix these old problems, yet are ambivalent about all the outside expertise and weary of so much change after a decade of upheaval. Others, particularly black residents, see something more nefarious at work.

“They want to push us to the side like we don’t matter,” said Janie Blackmon, a champion of still-struggling New Orleans East, home of much of the black middle class.

New Orleans, of course, has long wrestled with disparities of race and class. For most of its history it has experienced the demographic churn of a port town and a simultaneous anxiety that it was always on the cusp of losing its character…

Success or failure will nonetheless be gauged ward by ward, neighborhood by neighborhood and block by block.

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Rhode Island Church Taking Unusual Step to Illuminate Its Slavery Role

By Katharine Q. Seelye, the New York Times

One of the darkest chapters of Rhode Island history involved the state’s pre-eminence in the slave trade, beginning in the 1700s. More than half of the slaving voyages from the United States left from ports in Providence, Newport and Bristol — so many, and so contrary to the popular image of slavery as primarily a scourge of the South, that Rhode Island has been called “the Deep North.”

The 200-year-old Cathedral of St. Johnin Providence, soon to become a a racial reconciliation center and museum dedicated to study of slavery in the North.

The 200-year-old Cathedral of St. Johnin Providence, soon to become a a racial reconciliation center and museum dedicated to study of slavery in the North.

That history will soon become more prominent as the Episcopal diocese here, which was steeped in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, establishes a museum dedicated to telling that story, the first in the country to do so, according to scholars…

Over the last decade, the Episcopal Church of the United States has formally acknowledged and apologized for its complicity in perpetuating slavery. Some Episcopal dioceses have been re-examining their role, holding services of repentance and starting programs of truth and reconciliation.

The Diocese of Rhode Island, like many others, has been slow to respond. But under Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely, who became the Episcopal bishop of Rhode Island in 2012, it is taking steps to publicly acknowledge its past. They include the establishment of a museum focused on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery and the North’s complicity, as part of a new center for racial reconciliation and healing.

“I want to tell the story,” Bishop Knisely said, “of how the Episcopal Church and religious voices participated in supporting the institution of slavery and how they worked to abolish it. It’s a mixed bag.”…

Diocesan officials have already begun conversations with the public, including African-American church leaders, about the goals of the reconciliation center. While the cathedral is being renovated, planners have worked with local universities and organizations to sponsor speakers and programs that delve into racial issues. They have scheduled more forums for the fall at Episcopal churches throughout the state where slave traders once worshiped.

The museum, scheduled to open in 2017, will aim to illuminate the church’s role in the trade and the extensive but often-ignored history of slavery in New England…

Tiny Rhode Island played an outsize role in the trade, thanks to the state’s financiers, a seafaring work force and officials who turned a blind eye to antislavery laws…

In establishing the museum and reconciliation center, the church is working with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown and with descendants of the DeWolfs, a prominent Episcopalian family based in Bristol and the most prolific slave-trading family in the United States…

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St. Louis Neighborhood Erupts Following Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting

By Mariah Stewart, the Huffington Post and Rebecca Rivas, The St. Louis American

Heavily armed police deployed tear gas into a North St. Louis City residential neighborhood Wednesday night in an attempt to quell protests that incited after city police shot and killed an 18-year-old black man, Mansur Bell-Bey.skirmish_line

Police made nine arrests at the protest, seven men and two women. All were charged with impeding the flow of traffic, and one woman was charged with resisting arrest.

At around 11:30 a.m., St. Louis city police were executing a search warrant at a home on Walton Road near Page Avenue in the Fountain Park neighborhood. Two black men ran out the back, both armed, police said. Two officers were waiting in the alley and one of the suspects pointed his gun at police, according to police. The officers then shot and killed Ball-Bey…

Soon after the incident, people gathered peacefully in the street, though tensions were high and the community was frustrated. A few bellowed protest chants and some blocked the intersection…

Around 3 p.m., a militarized police vehicle arrived with police in riot gear, according to activist Tony Rice, who posted photos on Twitter and remained at the site throughout the evening.

At that point, police were able to coral the crowd onto the sidewalks, said St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson in a press briefing Wednesday night. Police made two arrests, and “peace was restored,” he said.

However, the two arrests angered the crowd, especially because the second man arrested appeared to be a senior citizen. The crowd also did not understand why the armed vehicles and men were present, some told the St. Louis American…

Some individuals threw rocks, bricks and water bottles at police officers, Dotson said. According to a video the police released, police formed a uniform line to protect themselves.

After the crowd refused to disperse, Dotson said, “smoke was used, like you see at the Fourth of July.” Then they teargassed the area. Rice tweeted that they did not give warnings before the teargas, and some individuals were sitting on their porches…protest_fire

At around noon that day, people had gathered downtown for a march and vigil for Kajieme Powell, a 25-year-old who was fatally shot by St. Louis Police exactly one year before.

Protest organizer Kayla Reed and other attendees of the vigil, left their demonstration in front of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office to arrive on the scene at the intersection of Page and Walton.

At the vigil, she said, “I sincerely believe St. Louis was chosen for everything to happen here because of the racial divide in this region and because it’s in the heart of the country.”

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Black Lives Matter videos, Clinton campaign reveal details of meeting

By Dan Merica, CNN

Hillary Clinton and Black Lives Matter activists had a frank and at times tense discussion last week behind closed doors, and thanks to video released Monday, the American public is now hearing exactly what the two sides said to each other.

Throughout the 15-minute conversation, Clinton disagreed with the three activists from Black Lives Matter who had planned to publicly press the 2016 candidate on issues on mass incarceration at an event earlier this month in Keene, New Hampshire.

The 2016 candidate even gave suggestions to the activists, telling them that without a concrete plan their movement will get nothing but “lip service.”…

Clinton met with the Black Lives Matter members on Aug. 11 after the group of activists were not allowed into the presidential candidate’s forum on substance abuse. The protesters showed up shortly before the event started and, according to the Clinton campaign, were not allowed into the main event because the room has been shut down by the local fire marshal. A Secret Service agent told CNN at the time that they had also closed the door on any more people coming into the event.

But the Clinton campaign reached out to the would-be protesters and set up time for them to meet Clinton after the event in an overflow room. Media was initially going to be let in, but the activists asked for the event not to be recorded, so Clinton’s team never pressed the issue with them, according to a campaign spokesman.

The activists filmed the encounter and released the video in two parts on Monday night. The Clinton campaign also provided CNN with a transcript of the exchange.

The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”

Clinton acknowledged during the conversation that laws put into place by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did not work out as planned. But Clinton also told the protesters that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.

“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”

The activists did not appear to be won over by their conversation with Clinton.

Yancey told reporters earlier this month that she never heard “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence” and that Clinton “gave the answer she wanted to give.”…

Julius Jones, founder of Black Lives Matter Worcester, said that activists look forward to discussing their concerns with other presidential candidates in the future.

“Each one is being made to offer their racial analysis in the United States,” he said. “We require that they have an understanding of to that list we need to strongly add analysis because we live in a pluralistic society.”…

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Remembering Julian Bond: “The Best of the Black Freedom Struggle”

Bond’s colleagues look back on the activist’s place in civil rights history.

By , HuffPost Live

Iconic civil rights activist Julian Bond died on Saturday, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the fight for racial equality and human rights. He was 75.

From his role as co-founder of the influential Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to his tenure as president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bond left an undeniable impression on the country and particularly his colleagues, who held the same vision of equality.

Watch a brief biographic sketch of Julian Bond:

Fellow civil rights leaders joined HuffPost Live on Monday and paid tribute to the late activist (see video below). As Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. recalled, Bond exemplified the “best of the black freedom struggle,” a quality for which he will be remembered for decades to come.

 

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Racism in the Air You Breathe: When Where You Live Determines How Fast You Die

By Charles D. Ellison, theRoot.com

Countless African-American neighborhoods are plagued by some of the worst ongoing environmental disasters that exist on the planet. There’s often a landfill, highway, airport or oil refinery next door. Nearby you can find contaminated bus depots, nasty subway stops, plus the lead in old houses, which can lead to neurological disorders and learning difficulties (pdf).slum

Many of us are so accustomed to living in polluted, chronically disease-ridden neighborhoods that this environmental racism is virtually ignored in civil rights movements… The reasons are as complex and knitted into Americana as they are numerous. “People may not understand what environmental racism is,” argues environmental sociologist Robert Bullard

“Racism keeps lower- to middle-income people of color stuck in danger zones,” says Bullard. “African Americans making $50,000 to $60,000 per year are way more likely to live in a polluted environment than poor white families making just $10,000 per year.”

And where you live—down to your exact zip code—can determine how fast you get sick and how soon you die…

“People of color tend to live closer to sources of pollution, from coal plants to busy roads and highways,” Green for All National Director Vien Truong explains. “Our kids suffer higher rates of pollution-related illnesses: One in six black kids and one in nine Latino kids struggle with asthma. In California, twice as many people are now dying from traffic-related pollution than traffic-related accidents. These are environmental problems.”

Two years ago the NAACP released its own report (pdf) and found that close to 80 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and nearly 40 percent of residents overall who live near coal-fired power plants are people of color…environment

When a clear linkage is made between environmental conditions and racism in housing, voting, employment and medical care, the so-called environmental-justice movement itself isn’t much help, either. Even Bullard, who helped spin off the movement in the 1980s after decades of getting short shrift from the civil rights vanguard, explains that the mainstream movement keeps bringing up class when it’s really about race.

“White environmentalist[s] talk about saving the rainforests, but no mention is ever made of saving the lives of those who dwell in America’s concrete jungles,” civil rights attorney Bryan K. Bullock wrote in Black Agenda Report. “Politicians, academics and activists have allowed the raw power of the word racism to be euphemized into words like justice, diversity, inclusion and equity.”…

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In Ferguson, protesters challenge state of emergency

By Abby Phillip, Mark Berman and William Wan, the Washington Post

Police bolstered by emergency orders maintained close watch Tuesday over protest-wracked streets in Ferguson after another night of demonstrations saw multiple arrests and brought new potential flash points.

Protesters face police officers on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2015.

Protesters face police officers on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2015.

Authorities said Tuesday that there was no repeat of the violence seen a night earlier, when gunshots erupted on the streets of this small suburb of St. Louis…

The latest wave of unrest — set in motion after violence erupted during marches marking the anniversary of the shooting of an unarmed black man — has reopened the deep racial tensions in Ferguson and brought scenes reminiscent of the riots that gripped the St. Louis suburb last year after the death of Michael Brown.

Protesters chanted to the beat of drums in marches along West Florissant Avenue — the epicenter of last year’s clashes — in a show of solidarity that spilled into early Tuesday. Some demonstrators pelted riot police with frozen water bottles and stones.

In a sign that the confrontations could be easing, police on Monday night and early Tuesday morning did not respond with tear gas, and no looting or injuries were reported, said St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire…

A day earlier, the largely peaceful protests that began Sunday morning with a silent march had been overtaken by nightfall with what appeared to be random violence and opportunistic looting.

An 18-year-old black man shot by police, Tyrone Harris Jr.,… remained in critical condition. Police charged him with 10 counts of assaulting law enforcement, shooting at a motor vehicle and armed criminal action.

The shooting — along with a state of emergency declaration on Monday — served to push tensions higher.

“The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger,” St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement declaring a state of emergency…

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20-Year-Old Man Shot by Police in Ferguson, Mo., on Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr., theRoot.com

FergusonA year ago, an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. For days following the shooting, Ferguson became embroiled in protest, complete with militarized police patrolling the streets. On Sunday night, the Ferguson of now looked a lot like the Ferguson of old as what had been considered a peaceful protest to mark the one-year-anniversary of Michael Brown’s death erupted in gunfire after police shot a man authorities said had begun shooting at officers.

According to CNN, the 20-year-old man, who had not been identified, was taken to the hospital. His condition was unknown, but the news station reported that he was undergoing surgery early Monday morning.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told the news station that the 20-year-old man unleashed a “remarkable amount of gunfire” aimed at officers. Belmar also said the man was in possession of a stolen handgun…

Authorities said that during the evening portion of the protest, a man began shooting. Four plainclothes officers in an SUV gave chase and, according to Belmar, the man began shooting at those officers who were in pursuit.

The officers fired back, hitting the man several times, according to reports.

As word of the shooting spread, the once-peaceful event turned tense as protesters and police in riot gear faced off on West Florissant Avenue, the street where Michael Brown was shot and killed.

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A year after Ferguson, 6 in 10 Americans say changes are needed to give blacks and whites equal rights

By Scott Clement, the Washington Post

A growing number of Americans say the country needs more changes to give blacks equal rights, according to a new Washington Post poll — the black_lives_matterlatest evidence that events in the year since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., almost one year ago have fueled fundamental concerns about racial equality.

The Post poll found 60 percent saying the nation needs to continue making changes to give blacks and whites equal rights, while 37 percent say those changes have already been made. The findings mark a shift from a 2014 Pew Research Center poll asking the same question. Back then, prior to Ferguson, 46 percent said more changes were needed to guarantee equal treatment…

Altogether, the latest surveys show the public has reacted to the past year by growing more sensitive to racial discrimination and equality, even as deep divisions persist on the extent of the problem and potential solutions. And it remains to be seen whether concern about racial problems will motivate Americans to push for specific changes in their own communities, where people see considerably less racial tension and inequality.

In the Post poll, the 14-point growth in support for changes comes from across the demographic and political spectrum. Majority opinion flipped among whites, with 53 percent now saying more changes are needed, compared with 39 percent in 2014. Blacks are even more resolute than last year, with 90 percent saying changes are needed, rising 11 points from 2014. Among Hispanics, the share saying changes are needed to ensure equality for blacks rose 15 points, from 54 to 69 percent…

In addition to worries about overall equality, surveys over the past year have found more Americans are worried about the state of race relations — and fairness in the criminal justice system, in particular…

Fully 57 percent said race relations are “generally bad,” while 37 percent said they are good; that marked an about-face from May 2014, when 55 percent rated race relations in the U.S. positively.

The drop was driven by sharply falling assessments of black and white Americans; fewer than four in 10 in either group now say race relations are good…

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