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When the past is present…


Black Student Activists Stand Against Racist Cultures on Campus

From Yale to Missouri, college campuses are becoming ground zero in challenging white supremacy and institutional racism.

By , The Root

The radical spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement touched college campuses this past week in high-profile demonstrations against a culture of racism infecting higher education.

The University of Missouri in Columbia…has become ground zero for black students challenging white supremacy and institutional racism. Remarkably, for 2015, they’ve been joined by members of the university’s football team, who have vowed to go on strike until the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, resigns.

African Americans and their coaches and team members will remain on strike until University of Missouri's president, Tim Wolfe, resigns. (Photo credit: Gary Pinkel)

African Americans and their coaches and team members will remain on strike until University of Missouri’s president, Tim Wolfe, resigns. (Photo credit: Gary Pinkel)

Wolfe has been the target of black students who have organized nonviolent actions for racial justice on campus, led by one student who is on a hunger strike to protest Wolfe’s lack of leadership after a spate of racially motivated incidents.

The participation of black student-athletes has drawn national attention and is a hopeful sign of how movement-building over the past year has penetrated the consciousness of the entire African-American community as well as the wider American public…

While students and athletes have united around pursuing the ouster of the university president in Missouri, at Yale University this past week, 300 African-American undergraduates demanded answers from administrators…for failing to combat a pervasive climate of racism.

Black-student outrage partially stemmed from an email written by the associate master of one of Yale’s residential colleges that urged students to be open-minded about racially offensive Halloween costumes. Black students found the message tone-deaf to the almost ritualized pain they experience on campus when white students engage in stereotyping of black culture and bodies.

Black women at Yale have shared stories of racial harassment that seem to illustrate a pattern of anti-black racism on the New Haven, Conn., campus. The visceral pain and outcries of black students led Salovey to admit…that the school had “failed” them…

Some of these same issues confronting black students at Missouri and Yale came into sharp relief for me as I spoke at predominantly white Macalester College…  Over 300 mostly black students from surrounding colleges attended the Mahmoud El-Kati Lecture, named after a distinguished retired professor of black studies, who was also in attendance. My talk, “From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter,” touched on the way in which contemporary Black Lives Matter activists are channeling, in new, important and innovative ways, the organizing traditions of the civil rights and black power era.

Photo Credit: Twitter user HeMadeAKing

Photo Credit: Twitter User HeMadeAKing

The enthusiasm of the young people during and after the speech was extraordinary. Black students…are hungry to understand the history of black struggle in America and globally, and how they can transform the racist culture they encounter on college campuses every day.

The social-justice consciousness of the Missouri football team should be applauded, but the team’s stand against racism is part of a larger national movement that touches every institution in American society.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement’s biggest impact has been in awakening the political consciousness of all Americans, especially students of color. The racial-justice movement exploding on college campuses…is the reflection of a flourishing national movement for the radical political transformation of racist institutions, and echoes the heady years of the black power era, when students of all backgrounds tapped into their power to change the world by reimagining the institutions that surrounded and controlled them.

Black students then, as now, led this charge. This movement continues in our own time in ways that are inspiring civil rights veterans and younger people who have become awakened to racism’s punishing depths and frightening breadth.

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Ferguson Police Seek To Restore Trust With New Initiative

By the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Huffington Post

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police in Ferguson are vowing to walk the streets and talk to residents more often as part of an effort to repair frayed relations with the community more than a year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson

                                                                           Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson

About 130 people turned out Saturday at Greater Grace Church for the inaugural presentation of the neighborhood policing plan, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The presentation, the first in a series, comes as the St. Louis suburb works to rebuild trust after Brown, who was black, was shot to death by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 during a confrontation in the street.

The Ferguson neighborhood policing program calls for teams of officers to be assigned to a specific area, where they would build relationships with residents and businesses.

“We want to get the community more involved in our efforts to develop a better relationship,” Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson said at the meeting. “We know we can’t do it without the community.”

Anderson, who became interim police chief in July, said his program was based on old-style policing in which officers would walk the streets and engage residents in conversations.

“I think we are on the right track,” he said. “The reality is that the police department can’t do it alone.”…

In a question-and-answer session, Rod Winterberg, 70, wanted to know if police had enough staff to deal with crime in the city. His wife, Sharon Winterberg, 73, held out a piece of paper that listed six different times guns had gone off in their neighborhood since Sept. 12.

Other residents voiced concerns about how they said some officers continued to treat residents roughly despite assurances of change.

“Culture takes times to change,” Anderson told the audience, which was about equally split between whites and African-Americans. “It’s slow. Training is going to help develop better relationships with officers.”…

The goal of Saturday’s meeting was to jumpstart community involvement in the new policing initiative. Volunteers drawn from the event will form a steering committee that will hold five monthly meetings — starting in January — to draft a plan on how to implement the community policing plan.

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Mississippi flag backer accused of tossing bomb in Walmart

By the Associated Press,

A man who’s known for flying a 4-foot-long Mississippi state flag on his car has been accused of bombing a Walmart in Tupelo

Marshall E. Leonard poses for mug shots at the Lee County jail.

Marshall E. Leonard poses for mug shots at the Lee County jail.

because the chain stopped selling the flag, the police chief said Monday.

The explosive made a loud bang but did no damage when it was thrown early Sunday into the 24-hour Walmart, Police Chief Bart Aguirre said Monday. He said bomb technicians reported that the package held enough explosive material to damage the store if it had been assembled differently.

Marshall E. Leonard of Tupelo, a northeast Mississippi city of 34,500, was jailed on a charge of detonating an explosive, and police were searching his car and home, Aguirre said.

Walmart is among retailers that stopped selling merchandise bearing reproductions of the Confederate battle flag — which makes up the upper left section of the Mississippi state flag — after the June 17 killing of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some Mississippi cities and institutions also have stopped flying the state flag.

“He’s a strong supporter of keeping that flag flying. … This is his way of bringing attention to that,” Aguirre said…

Aguirre says Leonard allegedly lit a newspaper-wrapped package and threw it into the store around 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

“An employee was sitting in the vestibule taking a break,” Aguirre said. “He told the employee to run — that he was going to blow the place up. He throws this package into the front entrance of Walmart. He flees and the employee flees.”

He said Leonard’s silver Mazda is bedecked with stickers of the Mississippi state flag and the Confederate battle flag, and it sports a big state flag on a flexible pole. Leonard was arrested about 2 a.m. for running a red light near the Walmart, Aguirre said.

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Hillary Clinton Meets With Mothers Of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown And Tamir Rice

“It doesn’t matter what color we are, I felt that she really understand where we are coming from,” Rice’s mother said.

The Huffington Post

Hillary Clinton held a private meeting in Chicago on Monday with the families of prominent victims of recent gun violence.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Atlanta. (Photo Credit: David Goldman)

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Atlanta. (Photo Credit: David Goldman)

The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice were all present at the meeting with the former secretary of state.

The women discussed racial inequality, criminal justice reform, and gun control…

“She is a mother and she is a woman and I felt she understood where we were coming from,” said Samaria Rice… “It doesn’t matter what color we are, I felt that she really understand where we are coming from.”

Rice’s son, Tamir, was the 12-year-old Ohio boy fatally shot by police last year for wielding what later turned out to be a BB gun. Brown, 18, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson last year in Ferguson, Missouri.. In 2012, Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman…for appearing “suspicious.” Davis, also 17, was shot and killed after an argument…with Florida resident Michael David Dunn…

Clinton has been vocally supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice, which gained prominence following Martin’s death.

“We all have a responsibility to face these hard truths about race and justice honestly and directly,” she said in a July speech.

When Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists during a campaign stop in August, she offered tips on how to best get their message across.

Her outreach efforts have paid off. The former first lady and New York senator is leading with black voters in recent 2016 Democratic polls.


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Lawyer for Teen in SC School Assault Video Speaks on Injuries She Suffered, Whether She Is an Orphan and Fake GoFundMe Pages

On Thursday a lawyer for the 16-year-old South Carolina teen who was assaulted by a Spring Valley High School resource officer spoke with radio host Joe Madison.

By , The Root


Attorney and state Rep. Todd Rutherford (center) with fellow lawmakers at the South Carolina Statehouse July 9, 2015, in Columbia SEAN RAYFORD/GETTY IMAGES

Attorney and state Rep. Todd Rutherford (center) with fellow lawmakers at the South Carolina Statehouse July 9, 2015, in Columbia

On Thursday a lawyer for the South Carolina teen who was violently assaulted by a school resource officer appeared on activist Joe Madison’s radio show on Sirius to clarify remarks posted about the teen and the incident.

On Monday, video of the incident between Spring Valley High School resource officer Ben Fields and the teen went viral. The footage showed the officer slamming the teen out of her seat and then tossing her across the room. Since the release of the footage, Fields has been fired from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI and U.S. Justice Department are investigating the incident to determine whether the former senior deputy will face charges.

In a New York Daily News article posted Wednesday, attorney Todd Rutherford was quoted as saying that the 16-year-old girl was an orphan who recently lost her mother and grandmother. In the interview with Madison, Rutherford stated that the girl’s biological mother and grandmother were alive.

The Daily News corrected the story but noted that the child is in foster care. The lawyer for the girl, however, refused to state whether this is true. When asked directly whether the girl is in foster care, the lawyer replied, “I can tell you that her mother and her grandmother are not dead and that I met with her at 5:30 in the morning with the mother and the child.”

Rutherford noted that several people have attempted to create fake crowdfunding pages, making it difficult for the family to set up an actual page to help cover legal costs. “We are trying to set up a GoFundMe page; it’s difficult because I think so many people are fraudulently trying to set them up, so GoFundMe has stopped it,” he said. “We are working with them trying to do that, and we should have that up and running today”…


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Alex La Guma: The Greatest Novelist Whose Name You’ve Never Heard Before

Thirty years after his death, the name of South Africa’s Alex La Guma as a novelist, an activist in the liberation struggle and a remarkable human being should be on all of our lips.

By , The Root


Editor’s note: The spelling of the ethnic term “Coloured,” used within the context of South African history and culture, reflects the writer’s preference.

October 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s great novelists, arguably the greatest Africa—let alone South Africa—has ever produced, a man who was not only a prodigiously talented writer but also a valiant hero of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Alex La Guma (1925-1985) is today, sadly, a forgotten colossus, but in the 1960s and ’70s, he was indubitably the black Dickens, with his fiction containing the sweep and moral power of his acclaimed Victorian predecessor. An astonishing creative artist as well as an ardent freedom fighter, he was the author of five masterful novels—A Walk in the Night (1962), And a Threefold Cord (1964), The Stone Country (1967), In the Fog of the Seasons’ End (1972) and Time of the Butcherbird (1979).

With his genius for creating vivid characters amid the brutality of apartheid, his compassion for the poor and the oppressed, his masterful storytelling technique and his unforgettably sensuous, beautifully ornate prose style, La Guma has seldom been bettered in any age or on any continent. Thirty years after his death, the name Alex La Guma as a novelist, an activist in the liberation struggle and a remarkable human being should be on all of our lips…

When his debut novella, A Walk in the Night, was published in 1962, a new star of black South African writing came into view with astonishing alacrity. A remarkably assured first work, written while he was under house arrest for anti-apartheid activism, it articulated many of the themes that would come to dominate La Guma’s writing: fierce opposition to apartheid, a lyrical celebration of the working-class Coloured community, a potent use of nature as a mirror for the psychology of his protagonists, and the use of literature as a tool for liberty, equality and human dignity, all distinctively couched in seductively ornate prose and heavily infused with a Dickensian realism.

Hewn from the miasma of poverty and oppression that was the enclave of District 6, A Walk in the Night unrepentantly celebrates the lives, hopes and fragile dreams of the down-and-outs, prostitutes and gangsters who inhabited this tawdry, bohemian slum. It is the story of Michael Adonis, a young Coloured man who, after being sacked from his factory job following a confrontation with his racist Afrikaner boss, embarks upon a nocturnal odyssey of crime and murder amid the neighborhood’s squalid, insalubrious tenement blocks. The horrors of racism, patricide and the pain of rootlessness all play their part in the novel’s terse, bleak greatness…


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Obama Breaks Down ‘Black Lives Matter’ During Panel on Criminal-Justice Reform

While calling for strong, effective and fair law enforcement, the president spoke extensively on the intersection between race and the criminal-justice system.

By , The Root

To President Barack Obama, the Black Lives Matter creed-turned-movement makes sense. Speaking on a panel on criminal justice, the president attempted to explain the difference between and relevancy of the BLM mantra versus the counter chants of “All lives matter.”

“I think everybody understands all lives matter,” the president said. “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black lives matter’ was not because they said they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter; rather, what they were suggesting was, there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address…”

President Barack Obama speaking at an event about criminal-justice reform on the White House campus. (Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski)

President Barack Obama speaking at an event about criminal-justice reform on the White House campus. (Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski)

“One of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up, and it’s not just something being politicized; it’s real and there’s a history behind it.  And we have to take it seriously,” he insisted.

Still, the president made sure to give a nod to the tough job police officers face and the difficult decisions they often have to make, saying that it was imperative not to “paint with a broad brush, [and to] understand that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing…”

During the panel, Obama acknowledged that the goals for criminal-justice reform in the United States would have to include fairness—regardless of race, wealth and other identities; proportionality of punishment to crime; and the recognition that incarceration is not the only solution to reducing crime and violence in communities.

“If [incarceration is] the only tool…then we’re missing opportunities for us to create safer communities through drug diversion and treatment, for example, or through more effective re-entry programs, or getting to high school kids or middle school or elementary school kids earlier so that they don’t get in trouble in the first place, and how are we resourcing that,” the president said…

“I think it’s smart for us to start the debate around nonviolent drug offenders. You are right that that’s not going to suddenly halve our incarceration rate, but … if we do that right, and we are reinvesting in treatment, and we are reinvesting resources in police departments having more guys and gals on the street who are engaging in community policing, and that’s improving community relations, then that becomes the foundation upon which the public has confidence in potentially taking a future step and looking at sentencing changes down the road,” he added.

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ABHM Exhibit Featured in German High School Textbook

by Dr. Fran Kaplan, Coordinator, ABHM Virtual Museum

A sample Abi-Box for English language learners in German high schools.

A sample Abi-Box for English language learners in German high schools.

A school book publisher located in Hannover, Germany, will reprint ABHM exhibit The Education of Black Children in the Jim Crow South. It will appear in their new book for high school students learning English, called “Abi-Box Englisch Niedersachsen2017 II.”

The book, to be published in November 2015, will reach 4000 students 16-18 years old and their teachers. The purpose of the Abi-Box book is to prepare students to take exams to qualify for college admission.

ABHM and scholar-griot Dr. Russell Brooker, who curated the exhibit, were pleased to grant reprint permission to the book’s publisher, Brinkmann Meyhöfer GmbH & Co. KG. This is not the only time ABHM exhibits have been used to help European students study both the English language and American history. An English teacher in France has her students study and write about essays lynching, which they research at this virtual museum.

In fact, this online museum is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of people from over 200 countries around the globe. Many–but not all–are middle-, high school, and university students researching the history of the black experience in the United States. Even beyond our borders, there is clearly a great deal of interest in issues of race and racism and how it has played out in this country.


A Rare, Firsthand Account of an African Muslim Enslaved in Brazil

Captured and stolen from Benin, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua eventually found freedom in the United States, but he always dreamed of his African home.

By Steven J. Niven, The Root

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, Utica, N.Y., 1850 TUBMANINSTITUTE.CA

Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, Utica, N.Y., 1850

There are relatively few detailed, firsthand accounts of the 12 million Africans captured and forcibly transported to the Americas in the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Of the 10 million survivors of that journey, only a very small number, like Olaudah Equiano and Venture Smith lived long enough—or had the time or opportunity—to write about their experiences. Others like Job Ben Solomon were the subjects of biographies during their lifetimes.

To date, though, we know of only one African who wrote an account of his capture and enslavementin Brazil, the destination for 40 percent of all slaves who made that perilous Atlantic crossing between 1519 and 1867, when the slave trade finally ended in fact as well as in law.

For that reason alone, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua’s Biography and description of the notorious Middle Passage would be worth exploring. But Baquaqua’s 1854 narrative also reveals a remarkable journey that took him to Haiti, upstate New York, Canada and England. In these places he was legally free but not at peace, because he was not at home. According to the Irish abolitionist Samuel Moore, who assisted him in writing and publishing his work, Baquaqua talked “much of Africa” and prayed ardently that he would one day return.

Biography, written by Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua PUBLIC DOMAIN

Biography, written by Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua

Home, according to Baquaqua’s Biography, was the city of Zoogoo, now known as Djougou, a large city in the interior of the present-day West African nation of Benin. The Bight of Benin was one of the major ports of slave departures, responsible for the transportation of over 2 million Africans to the Western Hemisphere—a quarter of them, like Baquaqua, after the official ending of the slave trade in 1807.

As his first name, “Mahommah,” indicates, he was born a Muslim. His father, a Nigerian-born merchant, was “not very dark complexioned,” according to his description, and was said to be of “Arabian” descent. His mother, “entirely black,” came from Katsina in northern Nigeria, which was on a major caravan trade route in West Africa. Exactly how or why she traversed the 700 miles from Katsina to Djougou, where her husband made his home, is a reminder that 19th-century Africa was a very mobile society, shaped not only by the slave trade but by internal changes as well…


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Louisiana middle school principal, high school coach wear offensive Halloween costumes

By The Grio

A middle school principal and high school coach are in hot water over offensive Halloween costumes that they wore earlier this month.

Iota Middle School Principal Lee Ann Wall and her husband Jeptha Wall, a coach at Crowley High School, wore costumes called “People of Walmart.” Jeptha was dressed with a red bandana around his waist, a gun in his belt and money poking out of his pockets. Lee Ann had a basket full of baby dolls, black and white, with a sign that read, “You wait on pay day, I be waiting for da first of da month!”

KLFY received the photo from a viewer who called the image a “display of classism and racism.”

“Wow, okay. So what is she trying to depict? Somebody who’s on welfare? If that is what she was trying to depict that’s even worse.” Alan Honersucker told KLFY.

Nathan Kresge, of Itoa, said, “To make fun of people that just can’t afford a better way of life, to make fun of them? That’s just ridiculous!”

While others are claiming that the costumes were simply meant to be costumes, Ellan Baggett, the Executive Director of Operations with the Acadia Parish School Board, has said that the school board had taken appropriate actions, though she did not divulge specifics.


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