Breaking News

When the past is present…

 

Series of Brooklyn Billboards Put Racial Inequity on Display

By Jamilah King, Colorlines.com

Billboards are everywhere in New York City. They’re on subway trains and in stations, and on top of and inside taxis.

brooklyn-billboard-1-thumb-640xauto-7441But few, if any, have been anything like a series of anonymous billboards that have popped up on bus shelters in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. They’re not selling anything but a delcaration: that racism still exists.

That’s also the name of the appropriately titled campaign. At least half a dozen billboard sites have sprung up around the neighborhood since August, with each month dedicated to highlighting racial disparities that impact black people in America. So far, the billboards have touched on topics ranging from the entertainment industry, education, fast food, smoking, policing, and black wealth. Each month’s billboard is also accompanied by an detailed post on Tumblr that provides background information, news articles, studies, charts, and statistics to back up each claim.

A “Racism Still Exists” billboard in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Halsey Street. Photo: Jamilah King

A “Racism Still Exists” billboard in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Halsey Street. Photo: Jamilah King

A brief statement on the Tumblr page says, in part, that “RISE is a proejct designed to illuminate some of the ways in which racism operates in this country.” But who’s behind the project remains a mystery.

Read more about this poster campaign here.

See more posters here and read their background information by clicking on each poster.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

ABHM Artist-Griot Jennifer Scott’s Upcoming Exhibition in Chicago

Concordia University Celebrates Black History Month

by Exhibiting the Work of Jennifer ScottMy Son, My Grandson by Jennifer Scott

Jan. 27, Artist’s Reception 2-4 PM

Jan. 29, Tuesday, 7- 8 PM: Special Artist’s Talk

McCormick Hall, located in Kretzmann Hall next to the Gallery

Concordia University Chicago

7400 Augusta Street

River Forest, Il 60305-1499

708 209 3013

See Scott’s exhibit, Stories Behind the Postcards, here in the One Hundred Years of Jim Crow Gallery.

Visit Scott’s website here.

Boys On A Tree by Jennifer Scott KeyImage3

 

Intentional Bias in North Carolina

Editorial, the New York Times

A North Carolina trial judge recently resentenced three death-row inmates to life without parole under the state’s Racial Justice Act, which allows inmates to have their sentences reduced if it can be shown they were tainted by racial bias.

The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow? Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

In the trials of two blacks and one Lumbee Indian, the judge found “powerful evidence”of such bias.

The law does not require proof that the bias was deliberate. But, in this case, the judge found “intentional” prosecutorial bias aimed at securing a death sentence for the defendants, bringing grave “harm to African-Americans and to the integrity of the justice system.”

The bias was manifested in the prosecutors’ use of peremptory strikes of prospective jurors during the jury selection process. In one case, the prosecutor struck prospective blacks at two times the rate for whites. In each of the other two cases, the rate was almost four times greater. Even when adjustments were made for other factors, like the criminal record of a prospective juror, race was “a significant factor” in the rigorous ways that the North Carolina statute required the defendants to prove.

The judge found that words and deed of the prosecutors themselves confirmed his conclusions about racial influence in the jury selection process.

LA prisoners NewOrleansTimesPicayune

In one case, the prosecutor compiled pages of notes called “Jury Strikes” to help guide him as he challenged prospective jurors. The judge concluded from the notes that any blacks summoned for jury duty “had a strike against them before they even entered the courthouse.”

A prospective black juror with no criminal record was struck because she was said to live in a “bad area,” whereas a white juror who had been a marijuana dealer was picked in part because he was a “fine guy.”

The judge observed that the injustice abundantly proven in each case was common throughout North Carolina during the past two decades. Prosecutors excluded blacks from juries for going to church too often or for other reasons that “simply make no sense” and that could be explained only by intentional and ugly bias.

Read about this case and the response by families of the victims here.

 

10 Things You Should Know About Slavery and Won’t Learn at ‘Django’

By Imara Jones, Colorlines.com

Much hullabaloo has been made recently about slavery as entertainment in movies like “Django Unchained.”

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in “Django Unchained.” Photo: The Weinstein Company

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in “Django Unchained.” Photo: The Weinstein Company

But lost in the discussion is slavery as history, and the simple fact that it was an economic system which seized the economic know-how of Africans in order to construct unimaginable wealth in North America, Europe and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Wealth from the slave trade took Western Europe from being one of the world’s poorest regions to its wealthiest and most powerful in under a century.

Though sadistic and macabre, the plain truth is that slavery was an unprecedented economic juggernaut whose impact is still lived by each of us daily. Consequently, here’s my top-10 list of things everyone should know about the economic roots of slavery.

brick-by-brick1) Slavery laid the foundation for the modern international economic system.
The massive infrastructure required to move 8 to 10 million Africans halfway around the world built entire cities in England and France, such as Liverpool, Manchester and Bordeaux. It was key to London’s emergence as a global capital of commerce, and spurred New York’s rise as a center of finance. The industry to construct, fund, staff, and administer the thousands of ships which made close to 50,000 individual voyages was alone a herculean task. The international financial and distribution networks required to coordinate, maintain and profit from slavery set the framework for the modern global economy.

2) Africans’ economic skills were a leading reason for their enslavement.
Africans possessed unique expertise which Europeans required to make their colonial ventures successful. Africans knew how to…

Want to finish that sentence and read the other eight points? Click here.

 

Dying for Freedom

By Jim Downs, the New York Times

The Emancipation Proclamation, which Abraham Lincoln signed on Jan. 1, 1863, was primarily a military tool. When he issued it in preliminary form in September 1862, it was meant to be a warning to the South: give up, or your slaves will be set free.

A group of freed slaves who worked as laborers and servants with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in the Civil War. (Corbis)

A group of freed slaves who worked as laborers and servants with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in the Civil War. (Corbis)

And, once in place, emancipation did just what Lincoln wanted — it drew untold thousands of freed slaves to the advancing Union armies, depleting the Southern work force and providing the North with much-needed cheap labor. But it also created an immense humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of former slaves died from disease, malnutrition and poverty.

Emancipation did, of course, free the slaves in the Confederacy. But Lincoln can no longer be portrayed as the hero in this story. Despite his efforts to end slavery, his emancipation policies failed to consider the human cost of liberation.

Little if any thought was given to what would happen to black people after emancipation. Questions about where they would go, what they would eat, how they would work and, most important, how they would survive the war were not considered, either by policy makers in Washington or the majority of generals in the field.

Learn the awful truth of what happened to thousands of newly freed men, women and children, here.

 

Ohio Enacts “Black Laws”

From the African American Registry

On this date in 1804, “Black Laws” were enacted in the state of Ohio.

Just one year after winning statehood, Ohio became the first to issue Black Laws. Soon many other states, including Northern states like Illinois, followed suit.

Just one year after winning statehood, Ohio became the first to issue Black Laws. Soon many other states, including Northern states like Illinois, followed suit.

The Congress of the Buckeye state became the first legislative body in the country to enact Black Laws, intended to restrict the rights of free blacks.

Two groups supported the measure: white settlers from Kentucky and Virginia, and a growing group of businessmen who had ties to southern slavery. All of them despised blacks. The legislation forced blacks and mulattoes to furnish certificates of freedom from a court in the United States before they could settle in Ohio. All black residents had to register with the names of their children by June 1, 1805. The registration fee was 12 and a half cents per name.

It became a punishable offense to employ a black person who could not present a certificate of freedom. Anyone harboring or helping fugitive slaves was fined $1,000, with the informer receiving half of the fine. On January 25, 1807, these laws were toughened and other states followed Ohio’s lead. The Black Laws remained in effect until 1849.

To read the text of the original Black Laws, click here

.

 

Museum program challenges students to rethink race, beauty and stereotypes

By Doug Moore, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS • Lawrence Washington stood in front of the painting “The Mississippi” inside the St. Louis Art Museum. The 14-year-old didn’t say much, but the image of an African-American family atop the roof of their house as it is consumed by the churning waters of a flooded river stuck with Lawrence a month after the visit.

Brittany Woods Middle School student Chanda Perry tours the St. Louis Art Museum as part of an educational program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the St. Louis Art Museum. The program examines appearance, discrimination, prejudice and the ever-changing concept of beauty as seen through art at the museum. Photo by Sid Hastings

Brittany Woods Middle School student Chanda Perry tours the St. Louis Art Museum as part of an educational program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the St. Louis Art Museum. The program examines appearance, discrimination, prejudice and the ever-changing concept of beauty as seen through art at the museum. Photo by Sid Hastings

Seeing a black family losing everything, their lives threatened, with no sign of help, was frustrating. And surprising.“It was only black people up there,” Lawrence said last week. “It made black people look kind of bad.”

It was the first visit to the museum for Lawrence, who was among 12 eighth-graders from Brittany Woods Middle School in University City participating in a program that has helped nearly 9,000 students see art in terms of class, gender and race….This is the 14th year the World of Difference Institute, a part of the Anti-Defamation League, has worked with the art museum for the Concepts of Beauty and Bias program.

The painting Lawrence commented on was done by John Steuart Curry, a white Midwesterner, and completed in the mid-1930s, well before the Civil Rights movement took hold.

“At the time, there was a lot of prejudice toward black people,” docent Gin Wachter told Lawrence and his classmates, all African-Americans. “This artist did not like this.”

"The Mississippi" by John Steuart Curry, American painter, 1935.

“The Mississippi” by John Steuart Curry, American painter, 1935.

At that time, she said, rescuers would assist white people first “and let black people fend for themselves,” Wachter said. And while the painting is nearly 80 years old, Monica Black, a facilitator for the program, said the image was eerily similar to photos of black families stranded in their homes during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The painting was used as a way to tie the past to the present and to make the students wonder if the imagery would have been different had a black artist painted the scene….

Coleman, the program director, said the program’s ultimate goal is that “students would recognize the value of their differences and walk away with actual skills to recognize the role they play in creating inclusive environments.”

Lawrence said he looks forward to his next trip to the museum. “I know now that it’s about more than a pretty picture.”

 

Read more about the program “A World of Difference” and students’ responses here.

 

Why We Need a New Emancipation Proclamation

How Many Slaves Work for You?

By Louis Masur, the New York Times

The original Emancipation Proclamation. (Click to enlarge.)

The original Emancipation Proclamation. (Click to enlarge.)

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed 150 years ago today, was a revolutionary achievement, and widely recognized as such at the time…

Click here to read the text of the proclamation.

On New Year’s Eve, 1862, “watch-night” services in auditoriums, churches, camps and cabins united thousands, free as well as enslaved, who sang, prayed and counted down to midnight. At a gathering of runaway slaves in Washington, a man named Thornton wept: “Tomorrow my child is to be sold never more.”

The Day of Jubilee, as Jan. 1, 1863 was called, arrived at last and celebrations of deliverance and freedom commenced. “We are all liberated by this proclamation,” Frederick Douglass observed. “The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated.” The Fourth of July “was great,” he proclaimed, “but the First of January, when we consider it in all its relations and bearings, even greater.”

Yet the day never took hold as Emancipation Day, an occasion to commemorate freedom for all Americans. Nearly three years would pass before the ratification of the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery. All too quickly, the joy of emancipation succumbed to the reality of a circumscribed freedom in which blacks found themselves the victims of economic injustice and racial discrimination….

Sexual slavery is the most common form of human trafficking today. What if this were your child?

Sexual slavery is the most common form of human trafficking today. What if this were your child?

In 1963, standing before the Lincoln Memorial, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. labeled the Proclamation a “beacon light of hope” to African-Americans and used the centennial to call for a renewed commitment to civil rights in America. Fifty years later, we might consider what a new Emancipation Proclamation would look like, one written for our times.

It would, above all, focus American and international attention on the millions of people still held in servitude….

In the United States, thousands are held against their will; minors, especially, are the victims of ruthless exploitation. While other countries are worse offenders, the United States, according to State Department reports, serves as both a source and a destination for the trafficking of children….

Today we should celebrate the extraordinary moment in the nation’s history when slavery yielded to freedom. But the work must continue.

Human traffic today is a $32 billion industry. (Click to enlarge.)

Human traffic today is a $32 billion industry. (Click to enlarge.)

For those who insist they would have been abolitionists during the Civil War, now is the chance to become one.

Click here to find out how many slaves work for you.  Click here to help companies eliminate slavery from their supply chain.

The new Middle Passage (Click to enlarge)

The new Middle Passage (Click to enlarge)

Thousands lined up at the National Archive on December 30, 2012 and January 1, 2013 for the free viewing of the original document.

Click here to read the text of the proclamation.

Click here for a description of the programs about the Emancipation Proclamation being presented for the 150th anniversary of the document.

Click here to check out Louis Masur’s new book on the controversy surrounding the proclamation and how President Lincoln managed them: Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union.

 

12 Films That Dared to Tackle Slavery From Roots to Django Unchained

 

By Brett Johnson, theRoot.com

Click here to learn about the best and worst attempts at depicting the shackled past of African Americans.

These include two movies by famous (non African American) directors that have recently been released.

 

 

Happy Kwanzaa!

From Wikipedia

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States (and, more recently, Canada) but also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora.

The first U.S. postage stamp commemorating Kwanzaa, issued in 1997. Artwork by Synthia Saint James.

The first U.S. postage stamp commemorating Kwanzaa, issued in 1997. Artwork by Synthia Saint James.

The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966-1967. 

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Dr. Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what he called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

Karenga is the Chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies and the author of several books, including his "Introduction to Black Studies", a comprehensive Black/African Studies textbook now in its fourth edition.

Karenga is the Chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies and the author of several books, including his “Introduction to Black Studies”, a comprehensive Black/African Studies textbook now in its fourth edition.

• Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
• Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
• Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
• Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
• Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
• Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
• Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed,

A family celebrates Kwanza by lighting the seven candles of the kinara and talking about the seven principles.

A family celebrates Kwanza by lighting the seven candles of the kinara and talking about the seven principles.

corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.

Read more about Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated, here.