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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


Supreme Court Justice Scalia Is Wrong About Affirmative Action

By Emily DeRuy, the National Journal

Supreme Court Justice Ant­on­in Scalia’s seem­ing sug­ges­tion last week that stu­dents of col­or would be bet­ter off at “a slower-track school where they do well” is not only of­fens­ive, it’s wrong.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Black and Latino stu­dents who at­tend se­lect­ive schools are more likely to gradu­ate than those who at­tend open-en­roll­ment schools, re­gard­less of how aca­dem­ic­ally pre­pared they are when they enter.

Ac­cord­ing to the Geor­getown Uni­versity Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion and the Work­force, gradu­ation rates for black and Latino stu­dents double when they move to se­lect­ive schools from open-ac­cess col­leges.

“Justice Scalia is mak­ing the tired ar­gu­ment that ad­mit­ting Afric­an-Amer­ic­an stu­dents in­to white schools is akin to put­ting ponies in a horse race,” said Nicole Smith, the Geor­getown Cen­ter’s chief eco­nom­ist, in a state­ment. “Like so many, Justice Scalia mis­takes Afric­an Amer­ic­an as a proxy for low read­i­ness, when in fact minor­ity stu­dents in more se­lect­ive col­leges and uni­versit­ies not only gradu­ate at re­l­at­ively high­er rates, but also se­cure high-pay­ing jobs there­after.”

Scalia’s com­ments came as the Su­preme Court heard ar­gu­ments in an af­firm­at­ive-ac­tion case that could have wide-ran­ging im­plic­a­tions. The Uni­versity of Texas, the de­fend­ant in the case, says its use of race has helped en­sure di­versity. The school also uses a “10 per­cent plan,” in which any stu­dent who gradu­ates in the top 10 per­cent of a pub­lic high school in Texas is gran­ted ad­mis­sion to the Uni­versity of Texas. Since many of the state’s high schools are largely se­greg­ated, the policy in­creased the num­ber of stu­dents of col­or at the uni­versity…

“If Scalia’s the­ory were true, equally pre­pared stu­dents of all races would do worse at more se­lect­ive col­leges,” said An­thony Carne­vale, the Geor­getown Cen­ter’s dir­ect­or, in a state­ment. “In fact, we find the op­pos­ite is true.”

Af­firm­at­ive ac­tion, the data sug­gests, not only be­ne­fits schools by help­ing them in­crease the num­ber of stu­dents of col­or, it of­fers those stu­dents a bet­ter chance at a col­lege de­gree.

Read the full article here.

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Being Black And Loud Is Necessary, One Poet Demands

“This can’t be the land of the free and home of the brave only for some.”

By Taryn Finley, The Huffington Post

Black voices should never be silenced. This was April Wells’ message in her poem “Loud Voices,” which she performed at the Get Lit Classic Slam in Southern California. The teen shunned the notion that black people are better off biting their tongues than addressing injustices.

“I didn’t understand why silence was in my blood but just because my ancestors couldn’t say anything didn’t mean I wouldn’t speak up for myself,” the teen said, referencing black slaves.  “They say black people are meant to be loud and that’s OK because I have something to say; this voice has the ability to move mountains.”

Wells urges her audience that it’s time to speak up, mentioning Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other black people who’ve been killed by racial injustice in America. She offers using your voice as a solution.

“There is no excuse to take away one more voice,” she said. “This can’t be the land of the free and home of the brave only for some.”

Read the full article here. 

Read more Breaking News here. 


Man guilty of hanging a noose is jailed over new yard sign

By Neil Harvey, the Roanoke Times

The Rocky Mount man who was convicted of hanging a noose in his front yard — and who is due to be sentenced for that crime next week — is back in jail, accused of making another provocative public display.noose

At his trial in September, Jack Eugene Turner, 52, was found guilty of a Class 6 felony. He was allowed to remain free on bond, but one of the conditions of his release was that he not post any further symbols or messages in his yard on Lindsey Lane.

On Tuesday, police said Turner was arrested for a second time after he put up a sign in front of his home that read “N—– lives don’t matter. Got rope?”…

Turner was arrested in June after he used a piece of rope to hang a dark-colored, life-sized dummy from a tree. Witnesses at his trial said the display was a response to an ongoing dispute he had with his next-door neighbors, who are black. They testified Turner had sent them strange notes and frequently flipped his middle finger at them and at their relatives, who also live on the street.

Caldwell said that when sheriff’s deputies responded to the figure hanging in his yard, Turner initially said it was a scarecrow, but then acknowledged it was put there to scare people.

“He stated that he was a racist and he did like black people but did not like n—–s,” Caldwell said in court. After his first arrest, witnesses said, Turner also started draping Confederate flags in his windows.

Judge Joseph Canada ruled that Turner had violated a 2009 Virginia statute that prohibits hanging a noose to intimidate someone, a felony that carries penalties ranging from no jail time to up to five years in prison and fines of $2,500.

“The statute, in my opinion, was written for a case like this,” Canada said.

It remains unclear how this new incident will affect Turner’s punishment when he’s sentenced Tuesday…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


“Black Nativity” by Langston Hughes – December 10-13, 2015

The Black Arts Think Tank in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presents Black Nativity, a musical by renown poet Langston Hughes, at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, December 10-12, 2015. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 8.15.29 AMTickets are available in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 North Water St, Milwaukee or by phone at 414-273-7206.

Groups 10+ SAVE! Call 414-273-7121 ext. 210.

Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. Traditional Christmas carols are sung in gospel style, with a few songs created specifically for the show. Originally written by Langston Hughes, the show was first performed Off-Broadway on December 11, 1961, and was one of the first plays written by an African American to be staged there. The show had a successful tour of Europe in 1962, one of its appearances being at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in ItalyBlack Nativity is a holiday favorite around the country. It has been performed annually in BostonMassachusetts, since 1969 and since 1998 in Seattle, Washington.

Milwaukee’s production is co-presented by the Marcus Center and the Black Arts Think Tank (a coalition of the Ko-Thi Dance Company, African American Children’s Theater, and Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company).

For a taste of the upcoming production, watch rehearsals and meet the actors below:


How Rosa Parks’ Legacy Lives On In The Black Lives Matter Movement

Rosa Parks would believe that #BlackLivesMatter, too.

By , the Huffington Post

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Sixty years ago on this day, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and settled in to American history. We’ve seen the iconic pictures of Parks getting booked at the police station, or later staged seated on a bus looking pensively out the window. Parks has become one of the great, mythic figures of the Civil Rights era — a kind of sanctified figure who feels worlds away from the current, volatile era of social justice. But she isn’t.

Today’s fight for civil rights and social justice may…seem like the very antithesis of the movement in which Parks played an integral part. In many ways, this is true. The intersection of technology, social media, and grassroots activism has produced a very different kind of struggle. The #BlackLivesMatter movement…has been criticized for being divisive (“All lives matter!“), disruptive, aimless, and even violent, in the wake of heated protests in Ferguson and…Chicago.

#BlackLivesMatter protestors are considered a stark contrast to the apparent respectability of the civil rights activists of the 1960s. When we think of those protesters, we think of peaceful black people marching quietly…turning the other cheek and nobly rising above the abuse of water-hose wielding police officers and tear gas.

People believe #BlackLivesMatter…will fail to replicate the successes of the Civil Rights era because its overriding message is one of frustration, not “peace and love.” But this perception of the 1960s Civil Rights era as “respectable” and #BlackLivesMatter as disruptive is far too simplistic, disregarding the nuances of both movements…

In elementary school classrooms Parks has been introduced as the meek Christian woman who refused to give her bus seat up for a white rider simply because she was tired. In actuality, Parks made a calculated act of defiance, orchestrated by the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP of which she was an active and passionate member, designed to be the catalyst for what would become the Civil Rights Movement.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

It’s important to remember that part of why Parks was chosen to spark the bus boycott was a question of respectability — she was a seamstress and a secretary, “Somebody [we] could win with,” as chapter president E.D. Nixon explained later..

And yet, “respectability” was not the beginning and end of who Parks was. Parks was not passive, she was not meek…  The incident marked the second time she had been kicked off the bus, by the same driver, in a time when these kinds of public protests were…incredibly dangerous.  Parks was defiant, she was inconvenient, she was disruptive. So often, disruptiveness and defiance are mistaken for a kind of violence. Do we expect that Parks quiet, polite, “respectable,” when she refused to give up her seat, knowing that she would be arrested and harassed?

Criticisms of the #BlackLivesMatter movement consistently pit it against the Civil Rights Movement. “What would Martin Luther King think,” detractors ask. “What would Rosa Parks think?” Rosa Parks would believe that black lives matter, because Rosa Parks, alongside King and the NAACP, formed the catalyst for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The iconic photos of Parks in our history books are only a fraction of who she really was, and what she truly represented. Into the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Parks remained a passionate activist, speaking out against housing discrimination, police brutality, and our broken prison system.

In her private writings…she wrote about the frustration, dismay, and anger she felt about racism and segregation. “There is just so much hurt, disappointment and oppression one can take,” she once wrote. “The line between reason and madness grows thinner.” Her justifiable anger and defiance is what links today’s civil rights activist to Parks and her contemporaries. In that sense, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not a disruption but a continuation of the work that Parks and others began.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


To Be Black Is To Never, Ever Feel Safe

By Lily Workneh, the Huffington Post

Gunshots tore through a predominantly black crowd that was gathered in Minneapolis Monday night to demand justice for the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. Five black people were shot.

A protest sign in Minneapolis, photographed hours before gunmen opened fire on a predominantly Black crowd.

A protest sign in Minneapolis, photographed hours before gunmen opened fire on a predominantly Black crowd.

“Tonight, white supremacists attacked the ‪#‎4thPrecinctShutDown‬ in an act of domestic terrorism,” Black Lives Matter Minneapolis wrote on Facebook. “We wont be intimidated.”

While their bravery is certainly admirable, the shooting exposed a fundamental burden of being black: we can’t feel safe anywhere

Some protesters said groups of white men had attended the gatherings since Friday and were“acting shady.” Others said the men fit the descriptions of those captured in a video posted to Facebook Friday, which shows two white masked men speaking openly about their plans to crash a nearby protest. One of the men brandishes a gun he says is “locked and loaded.” …

The injuries sustained by those shot on Monday are reportedly non-life-threatening, and while one suspect has been arrested and identified as a white male, the details are still to be determined. However, it’s fair to assume that based on witness accounts, this cowardly attack was carried out by men whose ideologies are rooted in hatred. The intent was to threaten the safety of black lives.

As details continue to emerge, we must acknowledge immediately the fact that black Americans are forced to live in fear before, after and as we grieve over this horrific shooting. ..

Black Americans are forced to deal with an unimaginable burden; we are to live in constant fear and still fight the oppression that plagues us.

We try to keep our heads high and fight on as our cries are muffled by the sounds of gunshots fired by those who will do anything to silence us. ..

I turn to legendary activist and songstress Nina Simone who once said: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me — no fear.”…

It rings true in every moment of every day for black Americans. But we continue to persevere for the freedom to feel safe — and that’s not because we want to, it’s because we must.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Protecting history: Meet MKE’s rare books librarian (and ABHM Board member)

By Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As a 16-year-old, Maria Cunningham visited the Milwaukee Public Library’sCentral Library to borrow an old book for a school report — to be told the one librarian who could assist her was out that day.

That book on the old Layton Art Gallery was in the library’s Rare Books Room, and only the rare books librarian could show it to Cunningham.

This revelation — Milwaukee has a rare books room! — got the bookish Cunningham excited. “That is so cool,” Cunningham said, remembering that day. “I really want to get in there.”

Rare Books Librarian Maria Cunningham with the 50 lb. Autograph Book. Photo by Jim Higgins.

Rare Books Librarian Maria Cunningham with the 50 lb. Autograph Book. Photo by Jim Higgins.

What was teenage excitement then is now the glow of professional achievement: Cunningham recently became Milwaukee Public Library’s rare books librarian. In her new domain, the Richard E. & Lucille Krug Rare Books Room, a collection of thousands of books, artworks and unique items, Cunningham has charge of such treasures as John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” series of 435 hand-colored prints (1827-1838), and the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” a gilt-edged Renaissance book published in 1499.

Cunningham rolled out one of the library’s prize items: the 50-pound “Autograph Book” (1898), filled with signatures of late 19th-century celebrities such as Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Rudyard Kipling. Composers and musicians, such as John Philip Sousa, added bars of music to their signatures; artists including Maxfield Parrish enhanced their John Hancocks with sketches and illustrations. Artist Lydia Ely dreamed up the book to raise funds to build “The Victorious Charge,” a bronze Civil War memorial at N. 10th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave.

Cunningham sits on the board of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, which runs America's Black Holocaust Museum. Here she displays the Negro Motorist's Guide (also known as the Green Book) of 1936. Photo: Jim Higgins

Cunningham sits on the board of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, which runs America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Here she displays the Negro Motorist’s Guide (also known as the Green Book) of 1936. Photo: Jim Higgins

A devotee of alternative history, Cunningham showed off a 1936 copy of “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a cross-country guide for African-American travelers during the Jim Crow era. (Sadly, it lists only two safe locations in Wisconsin.)

Cunningham earned a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with a certificate in museum studies. She joined the MPL staff first as historic photo librarian and then as digital projects librarian, working on making the library’s enormous collection of World War I portraits available online.

Her new post involves more than simply maintaining and explaining the collection. She evaluates books and documents from all library departments for their rare books potential. It’s not unheard of for another librarian to find something in a box, hand it to Cunningham, and ask her to figure out what it is and how rare it might be. Among many other criteria, Cunningham looks for special items from Wisconsin authors, such as a hand-colored Increase Lapham map from 1836.

“It’s really about the chase for me,” Cunningham said. “I really like the challenging questions.”


INOVA Gallery Shows Work by Artist and ABHM Volunteer, Jenna Knapp

Jenna Knapp at the opening of her exhibition at INOVA Gallery, October 9. 2015

Jenna Knapp at the opening of her exhibition at INOVA Gallery, October 9. 2015

Jenna Knapp’s art is both her life and her work. A graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Jenna is also an activist as a white ally working for racial justice in Wisconsin and the nation. INOVA Gallery in Milwaukee is exhibiting her current work as part of their Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists Exhibition.

Knapp uses text, movement and video to “probe the relationship between race and media representation,” as Jessica Lynne observes in her catalogue essay. Her exhibition at INOVA includes several videos, some of them performances for the camera; a large wall drawing; and a neon sign that reads White Media Is Killing Us.

A neon sign and looping video message, part of Knapp's exhibit, at the entrance to the gallery.

A neon sign and looping video message, part of Knapp’s exhibit, at the gallery’s entrance.

Jenna is concerned with the way mainstream and social media perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans. “When another Black body hits the pavement, the media dig up mug shots instead of yearbook photos. These messages leave the majority of Americans believing that dark skin signals thug, criminal, and danger. When Dylann Roof (a white man) kills nine members of the Black congregation, the news uses descriptors like “gunman” or “shooter,” minimizing the hate crime….The media tends to create an “echo chamber,” where we are exposed principally to people who agree with us.”

Knapp’s art challenges us to think more deeply about what we absorb from the media,  raising questions rather than providing answers.

A scene from one of her videos, a performance in which Knapp revisits Milwaukee sites of mass protests of the killing of unarmed black man Dontre Hamilton. This time she is there alone, holding a sign that is a green screen, i.e. a sign on which passersby project their own thoughts and feelings.

A scene from one of her videos, a performance in which Knapp revisits Milwaukee sites of mass protests of the killing of unarmed black man Dontre Hamilton. This time she is there alone, holding a sign that is a green screen, i.e. a sign on which passersby project their own thoughts and feelings.

As part of her activism, Jenna has served ABHM in several capacities as a volunteer. Most recently she chaired the Crowd Funding Committee that successfully raised funds to publish a new illustrated and annotated edition of A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story by ABHM Founder, Dr. James Cameron. She also shot and produced videos for the campaign.

Knapp’s exhibit can be experienced here:

INOVA Gallery 

2155 N. Prospect Ave, Milwaukee WI

October 9, 2015 through January 9, 2016 

INOVA showcases emerging forms of multidisciplinary contemporary art— dynamic work that often resides in between and outside of conventional genres. Each project and exhibition includes collaboration with UWM partners and community organizations, providing opportunities for exchange between exhibiting artists, university scholars and scientists, local artists, and the larger community of Milwaukee.

A wall drawing in Knapp's exhibition.

A wall drawing in Knapp’s exhibition.


More than 30 purported ‘White Student Unions’ pop up across the country

By Yanan Wang, the Washington Post

Friday night, the Union of White NYU Students, a “community” on Facebook, posted its first status update.


Linking to a student-run blog addressing diversity issues at New York University, the union’s Facebook admin mused, “What does ‘diversity’ mean other than ‘not white’? I’m not sure there is an answer to this. Is the word ‘diversity’ itself a discriminatory term against whites?”…

At around the same time, similar pages emerged in connection with other colleges in the U.S. and Canada — at the University of California Berkeley, Swarthmore College, the University of Missouri and theUniversity of British Columbia. As of Tuesday morning, there are roughly 30 Facebook pages purporting to represent some form of a “White Students Union,” all of which were created within the past few days, according to a user on Medium who referred to an online spreadsheet of the pages.

Several of the pages feature the same statement of purpose, beginning with a welcome to “students of European descent (and allies)” and concluding with a “vision” of a future in which “every ethnic group has the right to organize and represent themselves and their interests.”

Despite the NYU group’s mention of “weekly meetings,” observers have speculated that these newly formed unions are largely fake, existing only in the realm of social media and without a real presence on the campuses to which they claim to belong…

NYU spokesman Matt Nagel said in a statement to NYULocal that the organization was never registered at the university and that the Facebook page was using the school’s logo illegally and without permission.

“We reject — and we call on others reject — efforts such as this to derail or distort candid, thoughtful discourse on race,” Nagel said.

Andrew Anglin, who runs the blog the Daily Stormer, which has been described as a “neo-Nazi website,” wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post that he has been encouraging the formation of such groups for years, though he denies being directly involved with their sudden rise over the weekend…

“Whites need to organize and protect their interests in the face of rising Black terrorism,” he wrote. “The goal of a White Student Union would be to push back against this, and also to show Whites across the country that it is okay to be White, it is okay to defend your history and your civilization.”…

The White Students Union wave appears to have started with the “Illini White Students Union,” which accused the Black Lives Matter movement of “disrupting student daily life” and “marginalizing” white students…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Fighting Poverty, Plagued by Violence: Why 10,000 Black Women in Brazil Marched for Their Rights

Black women from all over Brazil, of different backgrounds, education and socioeconomic status, came together to protest widespread inequality.

BY , The Root

They were lawyers, feminists, Christians, transgender women, domestic workers, militants, favela dwellers, politicians, students and many more. Despite their differences in beliefs, education and income, on Wednesday they came together behind the one thing they had in common: being a black woman in Brazil. On that day, more than 10,000 black women from all over the country gathered in…Brasilia, for the first national black women’s march—Marcha das Mulheres Negras. The march’s tagline was, “Against racism and violence and for the well-being.”

More than 10,000 women from Brazil march for their rights on November 18, 2015.  (Photo credit: Kiratiana Freelon)

More than 10,000 women from Brazil march for their rights on November 18, 2015. (Photo credit: Kiratiana Freelon)

“This is the first time black women coming from all parts of the country came to Brasilia with the same message,” said Ivana Braga…“It doesn’t matter if a black woman is in Congress, is a civil servant, in academia or is a domestic worker; their skin color will continue to play a part in how their rights are denied.”

Braga, 38, marched alongside her 63-year-old mother, Maria dos Rosana Moraes. “It was important for me to bring my mother because she has been a domestic servant since she was 13 years old,” said Braga, who promotes women’s rights in Maranhão and is a Fulbright scholar. “She was denied rights her entire life.

“This isn’t just my fight or her fight. It comes from generations of women who were denied their rights,” Braga added.

Statistics show that black Brazilian women suffer some of the highest rates of violence and poverty in Brazil. A study…found that violence against black women in Brazil increased 54 percent between 2003 and 2013. In 2013…more than 2,800 black women died from violence. Violence against white women in the same 10-year period decreased 18 percent.

Black women are also losing their…family members to violence. Of the 60,000 homicides in Brazil each year, more 40,000 of the victims are blacks. From 2002 until 2012, the number of black victims of homicide increased from 29,656 to 41,127. Black women even suffer in the workplace…On average, they earn $364 per month, which is about 44 percent of the average pay for white men, 75 percent of the pay for black men and 60 percent of the pay for white women.

National organizers planned the march for almost two years. It had been originally scheduled for…May 13, the day millions of slaves were freed in Brazil in 1888. But organizers changed the date to Nov. 18 to coincide with the National Week of Black Consciousness in Brazil. During this week, Afro-Brazilians celebrate the life of Zumbi dos Palmares, the leader of a community of escaped slaves in Brazil that existed more than 300 years ago. Nov. 20 is the Day of Black Consciousness in Brazil…

Members of the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Good Death cheered on black women marching for their rights.  (Photo credit: Kiratiana Freelon)

Members of the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Good Death cheered on black women marching for their rights. (Photo credit: Kiratiana Freelon)

Volunteer organizers in…Brazil worked closely with local communities for more than a year to promote the event and to raise money to bring thousands of women to Brasilia. Organizers in Niteroi sold feijoada dinners and T-shirts. Rio de Janeiro organizers even held a local premarch…July 26 to celebrate the Day of the Black Woman in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a regional organizer, Braga spent months visiting local communities of black women to talk to them about racism, violence and socioeconomic issues…Five busloads of women departed from São Luis on the Monday before the march and arrived in Brasilia Wednesday in the early-morning hours. The marchers slept in a local stadium, and by 11 a.m. the same day, they started to march.

Priestesses of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion, led the marchers…toward Brazil’s congressional building. Along the way, the women…sang, chanted and danced to inspirational music.

“I cried when I was marching,” said Jamille Sepol, vice president of the Justiça Negra collective. “But I was crying because I was happy to experience this moment for black people, black women, the black movement, for black youth and children. We needed this pride, and this day was a day to be proud of…”

Shortly after the march, a group of black women met with the president and Nilma Lino Gomes, Brazil’s minister of women, racial equality and human rights. The goal of the march was to amplify the voice of black women in Brazil, and activists say they have no doubt that they succeeded.

“As we leave this march, I know that the black woman’s fight in Brazil is stronger,” Braga said. “We won’t be as invisible any more, and our concerns and needs will start to be addressed on the political agenda.”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.