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When the past is present…

 

Ferguson Has Awakened a Larger Struggle for Racial and Economic Justice in America

BY: , theroot.com

Author and activist Cornel West (center), members of the clergy and other demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson, Mo., police station on Oct. 13, 2014.

Author and activist Cornel West (center), members of the clergy and other demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson, Mo., police station on Oct. 13, 2014.

There’s a social-justice movement taking hold across the nation. Michael Brown’s death, which turned Ferguson, Mo., into a battleground this past summer, has helped catalyze a larger struggle for racial and economic justice in America.

And St. Louis, where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer, has witnessed roiling street demonstrations that recall the heyday of the civil rights and black power eras. Taking a page straight from the civil rights era, activists launched a “weekend of resistance” that featured civil disobedience, direct action protests, tense standoffs with police and arrests.

The issues raised—ending police brutality, raising the minimum wage, transforming race relations—attracted a cross-generational group of activists. Dozens of protesters stood outside Busch Stadium and reminded baseball fans of the political stakes that dwarfed the outcome of a Major League Baseball playoff game. “This is not a happy time,” one demonstrator told the New York Times. “They come here and watch a baseball game while we die; we go out and get pepper sprayed and hit with tear gas for peaceful protesting.”

Ferguson’s legacy has triggered outrage and inspiration. Young people, from St. Louis to California, Chicago to Boston, have become re-engaged in the political process.

They’re forging a new vision of democracy in America—one found on city streets where too many young black people fall victim to police shootings, and even larger numbers face burdens of poverty and failing public schools. They recognize that America’s criminal-justice system is incapable of recognizing black humanity, let alone our citizenship.

A generational divide still exists, however, between old- and new-school civil rights activists, with younger people at times chafing at the outsize presence of veteran organizers and older folks—sometimes forgetting the audaciousness and impatience of their younger selves. But a cross-section of activists, from NAACP presidents to rappers, have developed a working relationship that promises to help turn outrage into substantive policy transformation.

We stand at a pivotal moment in American history. Brown’s death picked at the scab of larger questions of racial and economic inequality that haunt the nation. And African Americans, as usual, have been called to the front lines in the ongoing struggle to press their country to live up to its democratic ideals.

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Today: Crowd-Funding Campaign Launched to Publish “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story”

Today the nonprofit Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, parent organization of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, is pleased to announce a six-week effort to raise the money needed to republish Dr. Cameron’s memoir and properly preserve his original manuscript. This is the only known written account by the survivor of a lynching, and as such is an important historical document.

With his book, A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story, circa 1994. Courtesy of the Cameron Family.

With his book, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story, circa 1994. Courtesy of the Cameron Family.

Like Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave, it is a very personal story, full of intimate details and fascinating descriptions of the life of a black boy and his family in the South and North during the Great Migration and beginning of the Great Depression.

We are very excited about this 3rd edition of A Time of Terror, because it includes five never-before-published chapters, photographs, and materials useful to students and teachers. It will be published in both paperback and ebook formats, making it accessible for the first time to people around the world. The book will be sold through Amazon.com and other online booksellers. Proceeds from its sales and from speaking engagements will help support ABHM.

The slogan of the campaign is “Know the Past / Heal the Present.” As Congresswoman Gwen Moore reminds us in the campaign’s video, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. As a result of deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Reneisha McBride and others, our nation is engaging in conversation about the dehumanization and false criminalization of black men and women – of a new Jim Crow. This has a long history in our country, and we won’t get past it without examining its sources. A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story can help with that process.

ABHM Resident Historian Dr. Robert Smith says about the book, “You can’t ask for a better primary document about the Jim Crow era, written by an intellectual who was also an activist.”

The fundraising effort will continue through November 28th.

Donors to the campaign will be acknowledged by name in the book and receive other “perks.” You can join the community of donors and supporters by visiting the campaign’s web page or donating online directly from the box below. And please spread the word! Thank you very much.

 

 

White Woman Comes to Black Man’s Aid, Tells Police to Leave

BY: ., theRoot.com

Jody Westby tells police, "please leave our neighborhood" after she sees them questioning her friend, who had done nothing wrong.

Jody Westby tells police, “please leave our neighborhood” after she sees them questioning her friend, who had done nothing wrong.

Last week, Washington D.C. police were called to investigate a suspected burglary. The police stopped a black man in a wealthy neighborhood who was minding his business and began questioning him. He told police that he had no idea why he was being stopped but believed that he was being singled out. Police told the man to sit on the ground. Jody Westby, who happened to be working from home this day saw the police harassing a man that she knew so she told her housekeeper to record the incident and walked outside to confront the police.

Westby, an attorney and CEO of CEO of Global Cyber Risk LLC, told told police that the man was a friend of many people in the area. She asked police for the address that gave the call for the burglary. When the police responded she informed them that they weren’t on the right street or in the right neighborhood. She then helped the man to his feet and told police, “please leave our neighborhood.” 

As police began to leave Westby shouted towards them, “just because he’s black doesn’t mean he’s here to rob a house. He works for us. He’s been in this neighborhood for 30 years.”

Westby told The Washington Post after the incident: “You got a white woman and a Hispanic woman standing up for a black man against two black cops…It was shameful how they behaved…It was very interesting, in the sense of getting a picture of how black cops treat black people…And how humiliating that was for him. And how they were treating him just like a dog.”

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Parents Claim No Choice, No Voice, in Children’s Education

Students at the Dryades YMCA James M. Singleton Charter School Aug. 23, 2006, in New Orleans

Students at the Dryades YMCA James M. Singleton Charter School Aug. 23, 2006, in New Orleans

BY: , theroot.com

The key to success in any industry is innovation. That is at the heart of the reform movement that has overtaken public education over the last few years and shuttered public schools that were labeled failing or under-resourced. Many of the reformers likely had the children’s best interests in mind, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who donated $100 million in 2010 to help turn around schools in Newark, N.J. Unfortunately, the reforms have not gone as planned.

In Newark, students and their parents in the city’s South Ward boycotted the first day of school to protest One Newark, the school-choice enrollment plan that moved some children far from their neighborhood schools. Weeks later, hundreds of high school students walked out of class in protest.

More than a month after school started, some parents say that hundreds of children still have not been assigned a school, and frustrations over transportation issues, uncertainty about where to send their children and dissatisfaction over closed neighborhood schools have led to many more not showing up for class.

“For me, as a parent, I know that my children deserve better,” says Sharon Smith, a mother with three children in Newark schools. “And not because they’re just mine, but because every child deserves the best opportunity that they can receive with education. But that’s not happening here. The parents here are stuck with whatever decision the district makes.”

Smith and other critics have chided One Newark on behalf of families without cars, who, she says, sometimes have to put children on two buses to get them to school. The plan doesn’t provide wholesale transportation, and many charter schools don’t offer it.

Zuckerberg’s $100 million matched donation has vanished, mostly into pockets of contractors and consultants and given to teachers unions as back pay. As Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, famously remarked in a New Yorker story about the debacle, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

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118 Black Men Tortured On His Watch–Less Than 4 Years of Jailtime

By Nick Chiles, Atlanta BlackStar

A Picture of Jon Burge

Jon Burge walked free after only three-and-a-half years in prison, despite having commanded the Chicago P.D. nightshift that tortured at least 118 black men.

Jon Burge is one of the most notorious crooked cops in American history—a man who oversaw the torture of more than 100 Black men over the course of decades while they were in the custody of Chicago police.

Burge strolled out of federal prison on Thursday, three-and-a-half years after beginning his sentence for his 2010 conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about police torture.

That’s right—Burge wasn’t even convicted for committing the torture, but instead for lying about it….

One of his earliest victims was Anthony Holmes, who in 1973 was electrically shocked by Burge, who put a plastic bag over his head while torturing him to elicit a signed confession for a murder Holmes said he didn’t commit. Holmes had to serve a full 30-year sentence for the murder—and has been unsuccessful in seeking reparations….

There are about 115 known victims who were tortured by Burge and his midnight crew from the early ’70s to the early ’90s, according to attorney Joey Mogul, who has been a vocal advocate for torture victims through the People’s Law Office and the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project.

Of that number, Mogul said only about 16 have received any sort of legal compensation from the city.

In total, the city of Chicago has had to pay $64 million in court settlements on Burge-related torture cases filed before the statute of limitations ran out.

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Cell Phone Video Captures Police Smashing Window, Using Stun Gun During Traffic Stop

By , huffingtonpost.com

A northwest Indiana police department is facing a federal lawsuit after a family claimed an officer used excessive force on them during a dramatic traffic stop captured via cell phone video.

Jamal Jones and his family are filing charges against an Indiana police department after officers smashed their car windows during a routine traffic stop. (ABC News)

Jamal Jones and his family are filing charges against an Indiana police department after officers smashed their car windows during a routine traffic stop. (ABC News)

Lisa Mahone was driving, along with her boyfriend Jamal Jones and two children, to visit Mahone’s ill mother at Stroger Hospital on Sept. 24 when they were pulled over by Hammond, Indiana, officers for a seat belt violation, the Post-Tribune reports.

According to the lawsuit, officers pulled them over in a “highly aggressive” manner, placing spike strips in front of the car and asking for both Mahone’s driver’s license, as well as Jones’ identification.

Jones told the police he did not have a driver’s license because he had recently been ticketed for not paying his insurance, per Mahone’s complaint, and when he went into his bag to show them the ticket, officers reportedly refused to look at the ticket, ordered Jones out of the vehicle and pulled out their guns. Jones refused to exit the vehicle “because he feared that the officers would harm him.”

Around this time, Mahone’s 14-year-old son began recording the exchange, using the camera on his cell phone. His footage, uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 5, captures Mahone talking to police on her phone in an attempt to explain the situation, as well as the ongoing exchange between Jones and the officers.

The video shows the officers breaking the car’s passenger window, spraying glass into the vehicle, and pulling Jones out of the car to arrest him. Officers also appear to use a stun gun on Jones while he is in view of the car. Mahone’s 7-year-old daughter can be heard crying in the background.

 

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Oscar-winning filmmaker premieres film at Milwaukee Film Festival

By Michele Fiore, Today’s TMJ4

MILWAUKEE – An Oscar-winning screen writer returned to his Milwaukee roots Saturday night.

John Ridley, Director of "JIMI: All Is By My Side," received an Oscar for the  screenplay of "12 Years a Slave."

John Ridley, Director of “JIMI: All Is By My Side,” received an Oscar for the screenplay of “12 Years a Slave.”

John Ridley made a red carpet appearance at the Oriental Theatre for the Milwaukee Film Festival. [Editor’s Note: This first-ever screening of his movie drew a sold-out crowd of well over 1000 movie-goers, plus several hundreds who waited in a “rush line” in the cold for tickets!]

Ridley won an Oscar for “12 Years A Slave” and he is now premiering his latest film, “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” [starring Andre Benjamin].

“I’m thankful. I mean this is amazing, just flying in,” he said. “I remember when I left and went to school and you hope and pray for a moment like this and it’s really, more than anything. It’s close to my mom’s birthday. It’s kind of like a gift. So thank you to everybody of Milwaukee,” Ridley said.

Ridley said the film fest fought hard to have his movie premiere in Milwaukee.

He’s currently working on a TV series in Texas called “American Crime.”

JIMI: All Is By My Side opens in theaters around the country today. For a trailer, venues and showtimes, click here.

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, the Milwaukee Film Festival was proud to host Milwaukee native and Academy-Award winning filmmaker John Ridley for the local premiere of his new film, JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE. Mr. Ridley participated in an extended Q&A with Milwaukee Film Artistic and Executive Director Jonathan Jackson at the sold-out screening at the historic Landmark Oriental Theatre. Video by: Matthew Mixon

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New York Is Cataloging, and Returning, Bloody Relics of 1971 Attica Assault

By SAM ROBERTS, newyorktimes.com

Inmates of Attica State Prison voicing their demands in 1971.

Inmates of Attica State Prison voicing their demands in 1971.

Forty-three years later, it remains a grisly benchmark: Aside from the Indian massacres of the late 19th century and an infamous 1921 race riot in Tulsa, the State Police assault that quelled the four-day uprising at Attica prison in upstate New York in 1971 was, investigators concluded, “the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War.”

When it ended, 10 correction officers and civilian employees and 33 prisoners were dead — all but one guard and three inmates killed in what a prosecutor branded a wanton “turkey shoot” by state troopers.

Prosecutions stemming from the uprising were resolved long ago; scores of inmates and one state trooper were charged. Civil suits by relatives of the dead and injured were settled (the state paid $12 million, including legal fees, to families of the inmates, and another $12 million to families of prison employees).

But even after more than four decades, the scars have never healed.

This year, state officials finally began cataloging the bloodstained uniforms of both guards and inmates, barrels of baseball bats, a homemade cannon, makeshift knives and other ephemera that had been stored in a Quonset hut to determine which were personal belongings that could be returned to the victims’ families, and which other artifacts to ultimately discard or to retain for research or eventual display in the New York State Museum.

In August, property belonging to 12 state employees was identified. Their families were invited privately to Attica on Sept. 13, before the solemn annual public memorial service held to mark the end of the siege.

Eleven of the families accepted the state’s invitation. All but one left with some memento — a bloody or bullet-ridden uniform, a wallet, keys, a thermos, a cap — that the state Department of Correctional Services could establish as having belonged either to an individual or to an unknown colleague. The twelfth family was still considering the state’s offer.

“It was a shock,” recalled Vickie Menz, who discovered a package of personal items belonging to her father, Arthur J. Smith, when she returned to the prison for the memorial. “There was a box of my father’s things, the clothing that he was wearing for the five days he was a hostage. The pants were caked with mud. They hadn’t been laundered.”

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Harvesting Cotton-Field Capitalism

Edward Baptist’s New Book Follows the Money on Slavery

By 

former slave 1941

A woman who was born in slavery, photographed in Greensboro, Ala., in 1941. (Jack Delano/Library of Congress)

“Have you been happier in slavery or free?” a young Works Project Administration interviewer in 1937 asked Lorenzo Ivy, a former slave, in Danville, Va. Ivy responded with a memory of seeing chained African-Americans marching farther South to be sold.

“Truly, son, the half has never been told,” he said.

This anecdote is how Edward E. Baptist opens “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” an examination of both the economic innovations that grew out of the ever-shifting institution of slavery and the suffering of generations of people who were bought and sold.

Mr. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell, said in an interview that his book represented his decade-long effort to blend these two aspects. Published in September, “The Half” joins a new wave of scholarship about the centrality of slavery — and the cotton picked by slaves — to the country’s economic development.

Edward E. Baptist, author of a new book on how slavery built the US economy, found it emotionally difficult to accept his research findings. He is a native Southerner. (Brandon Dill for The New York Times)

Edward E. Baptist, author of a new book on how slavery built the US economy, found it emotionally difficult to accept his research findings. He is a native Southerner. (Brandon Dill for The New York Times)

Mr. Baptist shows the ways that new financial products, bonds that used enslaved people as collateral and were sold to bondholders in this country and abroad, enriched investors worldwide. He also emphasizes viciously enforced slave labor and migration. The cotton boom led planters to sell slaves — one million moved from old to new slave states from the 1790s to the 1860s. Productivity, he argues, came through punishment….

As he writes in the book: “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

Suresh Naidu, a Columbia University economist who also studies slavery, said economists would call for even more quantitative evidence for Mr. Baptist’s arguments but said his book was a “great interpretation of slavery.” Economic historians have tended to focus on how market forces blunted the worst aspects of slavery, Mr. Naidu said, but Mr. Baptist demonstrates how the drive for profit exacerbated physical punishment and forced migration….

Slave Punishment: Wilson Chinn, a freed slave from Louisiana, poses with equipment used to punish slaves. Such images fueled Northern resolve against slaveholders during the American Civil War (photographed in 1863). (Photo Credit: CORBIS)

Slave Punishment: Wilson Chinn, a freed slave from Louisiana, poses with equipment used to punish slaves. Such images fueled Northern resolve against slaveholders during the American Civil War (photographed in 1863). (Photo Credit: CORBIS)

His own journey into that past was intellectually satisfying but sometimes emotionally challenging, Mr. Baptist said. He recalled reading an interview with a woman whose enslaved mother toiled in the fields of a small Kentucky farm in the 1850s, sometimes returning home to discover that another child of hers had been sold away.

“In 1850, people could have given up,” Mr. Baptist said. “There was no reason to expect this would end anytime soon. That was a moment, reading that interview, that brought home all the implications of the history.”

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Talking White

By , slate.com

“All right, hear me out,” begins the young black woman in a video uploaded to the website LiveLeak last Friday. “There is no such thing as ‘talking white,’ … it’s actually called ‘speaking fluently,’ speaking your language correctly. I don’t know why we’ve gotten to a place where as a culture—as a race—if you sound as though you have more than a fifth-grade education, it’s a bad thing.”

She continues like this for nearly two more minutes, emphasizing the point that her speech reflects proper English and attacking the idea that it’s a deviation from black identity.

If she was hoping for a positive response, she got it. In addition to thousands of shares and tweets, it reached more than 560,000 views and made the front page of Reddit.

Not that this was a surprise. The main ideas—that black Americans disparage “proper English” and education and use a “broken” version of the language—have wide currency among many Americans, including blacks.

“Ebonics” is mocked as a fake language, and efforts to use it in schools have

A 2005 study found that “black adolescents are generally achievement oriented and that racialized peer pressure against high academic achievement is not prevalent in all schools.”

A 2005 study found that “black adolescents are generally achievement oriented and that racialized peer pressure against high academic achievement is not prevalent in all schools.”

sparked vocal opposition. When the Oakland, California, school board approved Ebonics for use in its schools in 1996, a flurry of public figures condemned the decision. “I understand the attempt to reach out to these children, but this is an unacceptable surrender, bordering on disgrace,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who later reversed his stance, but not before he was endorsed by a wide range of people.

At the time, linguists protested the criticism, noting the extent to which Ebonics—officially known as African American Vernacular English—is recognized as a language system with its own grammar and pronunciations, with roots in the regional dialects of 17th-century Great Britain. Far from being slang or broken, AAVE is a distinct form of English used by many blacks in informal settings.

Still, it is true that so-called “proper English”—otherwise known as Standard English—is associated with white people. And there are many anecdotes and stories of black teenagers disparaging one another for using Standard English or “talking white,” which also tends to come with accusations of “acting white.” And, as we can see from the video, it’s these accusations that stand as Exhibit A in arguments for the existence of black pathology. 

 

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