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When the past is present…

 

103-Year-Old Civil Rights Icon: ‘Thank God I Learned That Color Makes No Difference’

By Sasha Bronner, the Huffington Post

Amelia Boynton Robinson was nearly beaten to death in 1965 during the first march in Selma, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr. She was 53 years old at the time. A graphic photo of Boynton Robinson, severely beaten and collapsed, spread around the world and became an iconic image of the civil rights era.

Amelia Boynton Robinson in Selma, 1965.

Amelia Boynton Robinson in Selma, 1965.

Boynton Robinson survived the brutality and chaos of the time and is alive today to talk about it, at 103 years old. One of the nation’s oldest civil rights activists, she remains an essential figure of the movement. She was the first woman and first African-American to ever run for Congress in Alabama.  Boynton Robinson is portrayed in the movie “Selma,”  which she calls “fantastic,” by actress Lorraine Toussaint.

“Thank god I learned that color makes no difference,” Boynton Robinson said Friday at an awards luncheon at the Soho House in West Hollywood, California. “My parents [were] an example for what they wanted their children to be.”

“I look back at the time that we fought and when those heads were beaten,” she said. “I look at what God brought to us. Dr. King cracked the door open. People rose up and felt that they were just as good as everybody else.”

Boynton Robinson wishes that after everything she fought for, the state of race relations were more positive. “People have hate within their souls and that’s what we have to get rid of,” she continued.

But Boynton Robinson is neither bitter nor disappointed. As she looks back on everything she has seen and experienced, her perspective is positive. “It makes me realize that this is where I belong,” she said.

“This is where God sees me — at this age, at 103 years old — in order that I might be able to reach out and pull [people] up.”

Amelia today, speaking at an awards luncheon.

Amelia today, speaking at an awards luncheon.

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John Legend Uses ‘Glory’ Best Original Song Win To Discuss America’s Prison Problem

By Jessica Goodman, the Huffington Post

“Glory” from “Selma” won Best Original Song at the 2015 Oscars on Sunday night. John Legend and Common accepted the award after performing a moving rendition of the song to a tearful audience. “‘Selma’ is now because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said.

John Legend (L) and Common accept their Academy Award

John Legend (L) and Common accept their Academy Award

He continued with a politicized message and mentioned America’s staggering incarceration rate: “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. We are with you, we see you, we love you and march on,” he concluded.

It was a huge win for “Selma,” which made waves when its director Ava DuVernay was snubbed for a Best Director nod. The film was also nominated for Best Picture.

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Can Reforming Culture Save Black Youths?

By Greg Thomas, theRoot.com

In a new book, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson explores the way in which culture can be used to understand and improve the lives of young African Americans.

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Jamaican-born Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociology professor since 1969, likes to tackle big issues. In the newly released The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, Patterson and more than 20 other scholars focus on the contemporary state of young black people in the United States.

Considering recent tragedies and protests involving black youths, the police and the legal system—along with the centuries of devastation wrought by racial bias—a work exploring the impact of culture is both timely and welcome. Though we are far from achieving a post-racial society, whatRalph Ellison called conscious culture can point a way.

Patterson and his fellow contributors wrestle with hip-hop culture; the values of disconnected youths; continuity and change in neighborhood cultures; street violence and relations with city police; gender relations and class distinctions; barriers to entry in the workforce; religious and social organizations; and family programs. Patterson and his peers present a balanced, rigorous interpretation of culture, with ample empirical evidence, and include the actual voices and viewpoints of black youths.

Patterson dismisses the culture-of-poverty thesis as inaccurate and incomplete and makes a case that the retreat from cultural analysis by his fellow sociologists has been too extreme.Patterson offers sociology a way to re-enter a policy discourse with the lives of disconnected youths at the center.

Read the full article here.

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A Kaffeeklatsch on Race

By Charles Blow, New York Times

Charles Blow writes a regular Op-Ed column for the New York Times. He authored a recent memoir, "Fire Locked Up in My Bones."

Charles Blow writes a regular Op-Ed column for the New York Times. He authored a recent memoir, “Fire Locked Up in My Bones.”

In our collective imaginations, we tend to conceive of the constantly called-for “national conversation on race” as having the formality of some grand conclave of consciousness — an American Truth and Reconciliation equivalent, a spiritual spectacle in which sins are confessed and blame taken and burdens lifted.

This may be ideal, but it is also exceedingly unlikely in this country, particularly in this political environment. There will be no great atoning. Reparations will not be paid. There will no sprawling absolution.

blk attitudes re policeYet we can still have a productive conversation. Indeed, I would argue that we are in the midst of a national conversation about race at this very moment. Its significance isn’t drawn from structure but from the freedom of its form.

Every discussion over a backyard fence or a cup of coffee is part of that conversation. It is the very continuity of its casualness that bolsters its profundity.

We need to stop calling for the conversation and realize that we are already having it.

Last week the F.B.I. director, James Comey, added his voice to that conversation, particularly as it relates to the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. There were portions I found particularly potent coming from a man in his position.

He gave a list of “hard truths”…

For a video of James Comey’s speech, click here.

To read Charles Blow’s full analysis of Comey’s speech, click here.

For more Breaking News, click here.

 

1 Year Later: Student’s Vigil Over Ole Miss Noose Goes On

By Tyler Carter, theRoot.com

In 2014, three white students put a noose around the neck of a statue commemorating the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi. For almost a year, student Correl Hoyle has maintained a protest in front of the statue.

Correl Hoyle holds his vigil before the James Meredith statue at the University of Mississippi.

Correl Hoyle holds his vigil before the James Meredith statue at the University of Mississippi.

If you walk across the middle of the University of Mississippi’s campus on any given day, you’ll probably see sophomore Correl Hoyle sitting in front of the statue of James Meredith, the first African American to integrate the University of Mississippi, in 1962.

During Valentine’s Day weekend in 2014, three young white men hung a noose around the neck of the statue of Meredith and wrapped a Confederate flag around it. Shortly after, Hoyle, an English major at the university, began holding a vigil in front of the statue.

“A lot of people assumed I was angry after the incident, but I was more so shocked,” Hoyle said. “Never have I experienced something like this at my doorstep, and I was more shocked, but also disappointed because things like this are still happening here. People are still living with the ideology that one race is … superior to the other, or one class of people is better than the other.”

The South, especially Mississippi, has a complex racial narrative, and the University of Mississippi has seen its fair share. In 2012 a white student wrote “N–ger” across a black student’s dorm door. Later that same year a mini-riot erupted on campus after President Obama was re-elected. Just last year, the renaming of Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane spurred a lawsuit against the university by the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, who want to preserve their “history.”

“Simple things like this go unnoticed,” Hoyle said. “If it is not talked about, it will happen again.”

Read the full article here.

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Graphic Design Company Receives Backlash After Naming New Product ‘The Hanging Tree’ and Using Noose Imagery

By Yesha Callahan, theRoot.com

A new company has decided that naming its new graphic design set “The Hanging Tree” and using a noose in advertisements for its set of thematic photographic images isn’t offensive to anyone at all.

Advertisement for "The Hanging Tree" graphic design set.

Advertisement for “The Hanging Tree” graphic design set.

Jewelry designer and graphic artist Rachel Stewart confronted Seasalt & Co. on Facebook and Twitter. At first the company offered an explanation via Facebook, stating that it, too, had ancestors who were hanged and tortured and that the images represented any person who has been wronged.

As Stewart posted more information on Twitter about the company, it threatened her with a lawsuit.

As others have joined in on putting the company on notice that its imagery is offensive, Seasalt & Co. still doesn’t understand why people have an issue with it and has said that those questioning the company are being slanderous:

It’s amazing how oblivious people can be when they think it benefits them. Sure, Seasalt & Co. can use whatever type of imagery it wants, but as Stewart stated on Twitter, it probably wouldn’t use a swastika image for anything.

Read the full article here.

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Tonight: Premiering on BET, “The Book of Negroes” mini-series

What Critics Are Saying About ‘The Book of Negroes’ Miniseries, Which Premieres Tonight on BET

By Tambey A. Obenson, Shadow and Act at indiewire.com

Earlier this month, I wrote and published a piece on BET’s first-ever chances at Emmy nominations this year with 2 scripted series in “Being Mary Jane” and “The Book of Negroes.”

book-of-negroes posterThe jury is still out on the former, but, based on reviews I’ve read thus far about the latter, Emmy recognition might be within grasp. Even if not a win, at least a nomination, whether for the miniseries as a whole, or for its star, Aunjanue Ellis, who is receiving much praise for her performance, essentially carrying the show.

It’s finally here, almost 2 years after the project’s initial announcement – BET launches its first-ever event miniseries “The Book of Negroes,” a six-part historical drama in the tradition of “Roots,” based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning, Oprah Winfrey-listed novel (known in the United States as “Someone Knows My Name”). The highly anticipated television event will run over the course of three consecutive nights in two-hour installments, starting tonight, Monday, February 16, 2015 at 8 PM ET/PT.

Director Clement Virgo’s adaptation stars Aunjanue Ellis as Aminata Diallo, abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in Sierra Leone (West Africa), is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina, and years later, forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes” – an actual document that provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.

That this is a story told solely from the perspective of a woman, separates it from most slave narratives.

“It’s a universal story of a legendary woman. There’s loss, a long journey and triumph,” said Debra L. Lee, CEO of BET Networks. “It’s very exciting for us for ‘Book of Negroes’ to be our first miniseries… My vision for BET is to be a well-rounded network. There are so many stories in our culture to tell, and I’m so proud of this. I’m hoping that it’s ‘Roots’ for a younger generation.”

Read the full article here.

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For South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Generation, Discontent Grows

By Linn Washington Jr., theRoot.com

Thakeng Moreki lives in Orange Farm, a sprawling, impoverished shantytown 40 miles south of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa—his community a place bypassed by the economic gains that the end of apartheid was supposed to bring to the nation’s poor.

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Thakeng Moreki is one of the “born free” generation (children born after the end of apartheid) who are disappointed in the failure of the African National Party government to improve the lot of the poor after 20 years of rule. South African photographer Sipho Gongxeka

Unemployment exceeds 40 percent in Orange Farm, South Africa’s most populous shantytown, with 350,000 residents. And the lack of opportunity evident across the country falls heavily on the “born frees”—those who grew up after apartheid ended in the early 1990s.

“We have democracy in South Africa but [government] leaders are like: They eat first and then they leave what is left for the people,” Moreki said during an interview last year when South Africa celebrated the 20th anniversary of its democracy, which dawned with the election of Nelson Mandela, the first non-white president of a nation long ruled by white racists.

Moreki, who was 3 years old when Mandela became president, said, “The people fought for democracy, but these leaders forget what they fought for.”

shanty town near Jo'burg

A shanty town near Johannesburg

And the dissatisfaction that Moreki feels about the direction of South African democracy is shared by many other born frees: They appreciate the freedoms ushered in by apartheid’s elimination but feel that they haven’t benefited enough from political change.

Read the full article here.

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Workers Awarded $15,000,000 After Bosses Called Them ‘N–gers’ and Separated Them by Race

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr., theRoot.com

Seven Denver warehouse workers were awarded some $15 million after a federal judge found that bosses separated the blacks from other workers because of their race and called them n–gers and “lazy, stupid Africans.”

Several plaintiffs gather after the court decision.

Several plaintiffs gather after the court decision.

The judge also found that managers at Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders Inc. discriminated against the workers “in all phases of employment, including hiring, termination, conditions of employment, promotion, vacation pay, furlough, discipline, work shifts, benefits and wages.”

The Denver Post reports that managers at Matheson, a Sacramento, Calif., company that moves large quantities of mail for the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx, forced blacks to work on one side of the warehouse, while whites worked on the other. The lawsuit filed by the workers also claimed that supervisors not only called the black employees racist names but allowed white employees to do the same, and that prime days on which workers could make double pay were given to white workers regardless of seniority.

The verdict, which was handed down Wednesday, “includes $13 million in punitive damages, $318,000 in back pay for workers who were fired for being black and another $650,000 for emotional distress,” according to the Denver Post.

To read the full article, click here.

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History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names

By Campbell Robertson, the New York Times

The sites of nearly every lynching in the United States are not marked. Bryan Stevenson believes this should change.

A white crowd gathered around a 1925 lynching in Excelsior Springs, MO

A white crowd gathered around a 1925 lynching in Excelsior Springs, MO

On Tuesday, the organization he founded and runs, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research and 160 visits to sites around the South. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.

Next comes the process of selecting lynching sites where the organization plans to erect markers and memorials, which will involve significant fund-raising, negotiations with distrustful landowners and, almost undoubtedly, intense controversy.

The process is intended, Stevenson said, to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way.

“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.

“Many of these lynchings were not executing people for crimes but executing people for violating the racial hierarchy,” noted Professor E.M. Beck of the University of Georgia, meaning offenses such as bumping up against a white woman or wearing an Army uniform.

Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson at the site of a 1910 lynching in Dallas.

Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson at the site of a 1910 lynching in Dallas.

The report released Tuesday has 700 names that are not on any previous lists, many of which Mr. Stevenson said were discovered during the compilation of the report.

To read the full article, click here.

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