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When the past is present…

“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin

 

Sometimes, Staying Woke Means Staying Away

Bassey Ikpi, theroot.com

Waking up to tragedies of some measure has become the norm over the years. Lately it feels as if every day there’s another hashtag created to expose our worst fears or break what’s left of our hearts.

I wasn’t clear on what had happened; all I saw were the hashtags floating down the page. My head started to spin, and I suddenly couldn’t remember what Manchester was. A college? A town? Both. But where?

Photo illustration by Elena Scotti/The Root/GMG

Then I remembered the soccer club my son hates and the cousin who went to university there. My heart slowed and then quickened with the “RIPs to,” “prayers for” and “My [sister/cousin/best friend] was there … I can’t reach them … ” And the faces smiling into a future they won’t see; the tweets full of panic, turning Twitter into a virtual search party….

Back then, there were no hashtags to search, no accidental viewing of dead bodies between the latest celebrity happenings or presidential blunder. There were no pundits to politicize or finger-wag (yet); there was just a collective grieving. A community of people saddened and confused….

The pressure to take to the streets, to do something (RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!), is great. The thought is that it raises awareness; that we are part of the solution; that we must never forget these horrors or place one above the other in attention and amplification. But for some of us—the ones who hold life and death in the same shallow expanse of breath; the ones who find sleep an uneasy, uncomfortable space; the ones who are unable to keep our moods and our spirits at the same elevated level—exposure to these things does a damage….

The balance is not easy even for the most stable among us.

Times have changed.

Social media has become our community.

I could not afford to let the thing enter. I could already feel it tugging at my corners like an attention-starved child. I had to give myself permission to turn it off and turn away.

I hope you give yourself permission to turn it off and turn away. Find Netflix or Bruno Mars or a book that only asks that you believe two people can fall in love.

Sometimes, staying woke simply means staying alive.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

The history of American protest music, from “Yankee Doodle” to Kendrick Lamar

By Bridgett Henwood, Vox.com

“We don’t believe you, ’cause we the people / Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you,” Q-Tip raps on A Tribe Called Quests’s 2016 track “We The People,” an opening verse aimed straight at a flawed America. As the song goes on, it calls out specific social problems in the US — discrimination, unequal pay, deportation. It’s a protest song through and through.

vox.com

The tradition goes back to the country’s founding. “Free America” was one of the nascent US’s first protest songs, a Revolutionary War call to action song by minuteman Joseph Warren. “Yankee Doodle,” now popular as a children’s song, was actually written by British soldiers mocking their American counterparts during the Revolutionary War, but Americans took up the tune ironically to toss it back in the Brits’ faces….

Nowhere was this more apparent than in Billie Holiday’s 1939 song “Strange Fruit.” As music journalist Dorian Lynskey writes in his book 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, From Billie Holiday to Green Day, Holiday’s tune was the first of its kind, bringing protest songs into the popular music realm. “Up until this point, protest songs functioned as propaganda, but ‘Strange Fruit’ proved they could be art,” Lynskey writes. [Editor’s note: “Strange Fruit” is actually about a northern lynching.]

Unlike the protest songs of the Civil War era, “Strange Fruit” wasn’t a chant or a call to arms. It was a harrowing commentary on the state of the country, designed to make people sit up and pay attention….

Sam Cooke set a different tone with 1964’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a track that expressed less anger and more melancholy hopefulness. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, an early 1970s protest song, could be applied to a number of different grievances. “It alluded to all of these changes in society and all of these struggles,” says Roberts, “but he keeps coming back to this statement, sometimes a question. It can be directed toward multiple people and institutions.”

Beyonce, one of the many celebrities who used her platform to protest American history and called her fans to get in ‘Formation’ to do the same. Credit genius.com

These songs quickly faded into the political past with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. With a Democrat in the White House for the first time in eight years, and the first black president at that, liberal musicians took up a different songwriting mantle: the empowerment song….

Take Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which she surprise-debuted by uploading the video to her YouTube page the day before she was set to perform at the 2016 Super Bowl. The video features shots of post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, cops in riot gear, and references to Black Lives Matter, and set the stage for her Black Panther–inspired halftime show. Within hours, the hashtag #Formation was trending, giving people a space to talk about the video, the artist who made it, and the issues it presented.

 Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

 Read more about Billie Holiday here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

What It Costs to Give Black Mothers a Second Chance

By Katherine Krueger, theroot.com

Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion/GMG, photos via Shutterstock

When Sheritha Scott found out about National Mama’s Bailout Day, she had reason not to trust it.

She heard that local organizers were paying bail for mothers and caretakers in time for Mother’s Day as part of a nationwide initiative, but she was worried that it was all a trap by the police. She feared she would turn herself in to make good on the warrants hanging over her head—all of them from traffic violations—only to be torn from her children.

“I’ve just been running for so long,” Scott, a 28-year-old single mother of five, told Fusion.

The last time she was hauled into the Houston County city jail in Dothan, AL, a local cop had pulled her over before she even left a store parking lot. (The officer had pulled Scott’s sister over just the day before in the same car.) Scott, who was charged with driving with a suspended license, had to call her mother to come pick up her young children, who were in the back seat.

southernersonnewground.org

Scott recounted being held in the city jail in Dothan, a town of around 70,000 not far from the Florida state line, for more than 10 days because she couldn’t afford bail. Finally, her then-husband, who Scott says regularly abused her during their relationship, scraped together $800 in bail money so she could take care of the kids.

The idea of going to jail also brought back bad memories of being incarcerated for 280 days in 2013 and 2014 over misdemeanor traffic violations in Florida. That’s when she lost custody of her kids, the oldest of whom is now seven. While she has since won back custody of two children, her mother maintains custody of the other three….

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow and Sheritha Scott (via Facebook)

“Even just one night in that place would have broken me down,” Scott said. “By getting this over with, this is me keeping my promise to my children that mommy will never go anywhere.”…

The Bailout Day initiative came out of a January meeting of 25 black-led organizations who wanted to take action around the issue of bail reform, where racial disparities are stark. Three out of five people who are held in jails—for an average stay of 23 days—remain behind bars simply because they’re too poor to post bail, a 2015 study from the Vera Institute of Justice found. Black people are jailed four times as often as white people, and black women alone make up 44% of the country’s jail population.

Scott was one of dozens of women freed across the country as part of the Bailout Day…. The groups raised a stunning $250,000 to buy the freedom of black women in Atlanta, Oakland, Montgomery, and beyond as they await trial.

Read the entire article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

MS Rep. Karl Oliver issues statement on “lynching” post he made on Facebook

By Waverly McCarthy and Courtney Ann Jackson, MS News Now

Rep. Karl Oliver of Mississippi

With one click to post to Facebook, Representative Karl Oliver ignited a firestorm of controversy. The post noted that those in Louisiana taking down the monuments should be LYNCHED, in all capital letters.

The post said: “The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

A couple of his colleagues went ahead and hit “Like” on the post. It came to a head Monday morning, though, with leadership stepping in.

“I called him immediately and said this is not acceptable,” said Speaker Philip Gunn. “This is inappropriate. And you need to apologize for this.”

“I think his comment was inappropriate and I think it’s foolish,” added Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

“The first two words out of my mouth and my statement or, I condemn his statements,” noted Gunn. “That’s the strongest word I could come up with is condemnation. If there’s a stronger word, I’ll keep searching for it.”

Oliver’s original Facebook posted, now taken down.

Don’t bother going to Facebook to look for that original post. It’s since been deleted. But by mid-afternoon Monday, Oliver seems to have deleted all his Facebook content or at least changed his privacy settings. Now, all you can see is his profile picture, cover photo and the apology.

His apology reads: 

I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians. In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word “lynched” was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness. Karl Oliver

His post, which had been shared over 240 times and received over 450 comments, spread quickly, finding it’s way to hundreds of people who have called him out as being a racist.

To see the original story and video report and read comments posted to MS News Now, click here.

For more Breaking News, click here.

 

New Orleans takes down Confederate monuments under cover of darkness

From theguardian.com

Workers dismantle the Liberty Monument in the early hours of Monday, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-civil war government in New Orleans. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

In New Orleans in the small hours of the morning on Monday, workers wearing bulletproof vests and scarves that obscured their faces removed the first of four prominent Confederate monuments.

The precautions were taken in response to what police said were death threats, as the Big Easy became the latest southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy.

The Liberty Monument, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-civil war government in New Orleans, was taken away in pieces around 5.35am, after a few hours of work. The removal happened so early in an attempt to avoid disruption from groups who want the monuments to stay. Police were on hand, including officers who watched the area from atop the parking garage of a nearby hotel.

Three other statues, to Confederate generals Robert E Lee and PGT Beauregard and Confederate president Jefferson Davis, will also be removed now legal challenges have been overcome.

“There’s a better way to use the property these monuments are on and a way that better reflects who we are,” New Orleans’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, said. [Editor’s Note: Mayor Landrieu’s speech about the monuments’ removal, below, is honest, pointed, articulate, touching – and well worth listening to in its entirety.]

Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols has become heated since nine parishioners were killed at a black church in South Carolina in June 2015, by a gunman who posed online with the Confederate battle flag.

South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after the shooting, and several southern cities have since considered removing monuments. The University of Mississippi took down its state flag because it includes the Confederate emblem.

New Orleans is a majority African American city. In 2015 the city council voted 6-1 to approve plans to take the statues down, but legal battles have prevented the removal until now, said Landrieu, who proposed the monuments’ removal and rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city’s black residents.

Charles Lincoln speaks during a candlelight vigil at the statue of Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, in protest at the removal of Confederate monuments. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

People who want the Confederate memorials removed say they are offensive artifacts honoring the region’s slave-owning past. Others call the monuments part of the city’s history and say they should be protected historic structures….Landrieu said the memorials did not represent his city as it approaches its 300th anniversary next year. The mayor said the city would remove the monuments, store them and preserve them until an “appropriate” place to display them was determined.

“The monuments are an aberration,” he said. “They’re actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1,000-year march to where we are today.”

Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

 

White Supremacist Sean Urbanski Charged With Murder of Black Bowie State Student Richard Collins III

By Kirsten West Savali

theroot.com

L-R: Sean Urbanski; Richard Collins III (Twitter)

Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins III, 23, and the FBI is investigating whether the killing was a hate crime.

Urbanski is a member of the white supremacist Facebook group, “Alt-Reich: Nation,” NBCWashington.com reports.

The completely random and unprovoked attack took place on the University of Maryland’s campus at approx. 3 a.m. Saturday morning near a bus stop. Collins was rushed to a local hospital with a stab wound to the chest and was later pronounced dead.

Urbanski, who was allegedly intoxicated—with alcohol or hate—was still sitting about 50 feet away from where he stabbed Collins when authorities arrived. He was taken into custody at the University of Maryland’s police department.

“It never gets any worse than this,” University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. “When I sat with the victim’s father, who is a military veteran, and his pastor and we shed tears together … I can tell you, it rips your heart out.”

Read the entire article here

Read more Breaking News here

 

Ceremony Of Remembrance Commemorates Brutal Lynching One Hundred Years Ago

 

Bresha Meadows Case Demonstrates How Domestic Survivors Are Punished for Defending Themselves

By Danielle Dorsey

Atlanta Black Star

After nearly a year of being dragged through the criminal justice system, it appears there might finally be some good news in the Bresha Meadows case. The 15-year-old was arrested and charged last year with the murder of her father, but her defense claims she was acting in self-defense after witnessing abuse toward her mother and being subjected to similar abuse for much of her life.

Art for Bresha Meadows by Molly Crabapple

Bresha has been incarcerated in a juvenile detention center for the past nine months, but a preliminary plea deal, offered at her pre-trial hearing on May 8 may allow her to fulfill the the remainder of her 18-month sentence at a mental treatment facility and seal her criminal record as of her 18th birthday.

Bresha’s case has garnered worldwide support and highlighted how our justice system’s treatment of domestic violence victims causes Black women and girls to disproportionately suffer. Through this case and others like it, activists hope to enact systemic change that will allow for more compassionate rulings instead of further criminalizing victims.

Many times, reporting domestic violence can lead to mothers being investigated by child protective services. Until 2014, mothers in Chicago who reported domestic violence could be charged with neglect, and in many places across the country, women who report intimate partner violence face a domino effect of consequences, including eviction from housing under nuisance ordinances. A 2012 study from the American Sociological Association analyzed every nuisance citation in Milwaukee and found that Black households received a disproportionate amount of nuisance complaints and that nearly a third of all citations were generated by domestic violence. A Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment study found that arresting abusers isn’t always the solution either, and for African-American victims, arrest increased mortality by 98 percent, compared to a 9 percent mortality increase among white victims.

Read the entire article here

Read more about Bresha Meadows here

Catch up on more Breaking News here

 

Yes, You Can Measure White Privilege

By Michael Harriot, theRoot.com

iStock, theRoot.com

Whenever anyone slips the words “white privilege” into a conversation, it immediately builds an impenetrable wall. For some white people, the words elicit an uneasy feeling because, for them, the term is accusatory without being specific. It is a nebulous concept that seemingly reduces the complex mishmash of history, racism and social phenomena to a nonspecific groupthink phrase.

But white privilege is real….

Imagine the entire history of the United States as a 500-year-old relay race, where whites began running as soon as the gun sounded, but blacks had to stay in the starting blocks until they were allowed to run. If the finish line is the same for everyone, then the time and distance advantage between the two runners is white privilege. Not only can we see it, but we can actually measure it. If we begin viewing it as an economic term—the same way we use “trickle-down economics”—then it might be debatable, but it becomes a real, definable thing that we can acknowledge, explain and work toward eliminating. Race might be a social construct, but white privilege is an economic theory that we should define as such:

White privilege: n. The quantitative advantage of whiteness

 

Read the full article here for four examples that explain white privilege in economic terms.

Read more Breaking News here.

Delve more deeply into white privilege in Peering Through White-Rimmed Glasses: A Letter to My Fellow White Americans here and in this annotated bibliography on whiteness.

 

Mississippi Cops Engage In ‘Systematic Targeting Of Black Residents,’ Lawsuit Alleges

By Nick Wing

Huffington Post Black Voices

Courtesy of the ACLU

The sheriff’s department of Madison County, Mississippi, methodically and often brutally targets black residents with a coordinated system of checkpoints and unconstitutional searches, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

These alleged tactics have left the black community of Madison “under a permanent state of siege,” the suit says.

In an 86-page complaint, the ACLU of Mississippi and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP accuse the Madison County Sheriff’s Department of abusing its power to uphold racial segregation and oppression in Mississippi’s wealthiest county.

“For Black residents, Madison County is a Constitution-free zone where their right to equal protection under the law and against unreasonable searches and seizures is nonexistent,” Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said in a statement.

Madison County is approximately 57 percent white and 38 percent black, according to the 2010 Census. The population remains starkly divided along both racial and economic lines, however, with “predominantly Black towns, neighborhoods, and business districts and predominantly white towns, neighborhoods, and business districts,” according to the suit.

Read the entire article here

Read the full ACLU suit here

Read more Breaking News here