Teens Plaster Vandalized Emmett Till Marker With Words Of Hope

By Elyse Wanshel, HuffPost Black Voices

The vandalized sign.

A civil rights landmark in Mississippi that commemorates the death of Emmett Till has been vandalized, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The sign, which has been defaced before, was scraped so badly that information and photos about Till’s brutal death have been obliterated.

Students from Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that teaches young adults how to become civil rights leaders, were present at the site after the sign was vandalized and were disheartened by the destruction.

Dani Gottlieb, a 16-year-old from Cultural Leadership, told HuffPost that she was expecting to see “flowers growing in Emmett Till’s honor” at the landmark, “not a torn-down marker.”

Contributions from the teens at Cultural Leadership.

She and her peers decided as a group to take action. They covered the scraped-off information with hand-drawn pictures of Till, messages of hope and information about his killing.

Read the article in its entirety here.

Read in depth about the struggle for justice and equal rights here.

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School Tries To Censor BLM Article. These Students Had The Final Say.

From: HuffPost Black Voices

Written by: Zahara Hill

In a recent post, “School Tries To Censor BLM Article. These Students Had The Final Say” Zahara Hill sheds light on young black voices taking a stand for racial injustice when two high school students’–Vanessa Mewborn and Ariana Coleman– yearbook article titled “Celebrating being American: Clarity on Black Lives Matter” was stripped of anything remotely related to Black Lives Matter.

She writes:

“The article was titled “Celebrating being American: Clarity on Black

Photo Credit: Sarah Auch

Lives Matter” and led with the question: “How do you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement?” The article included a picture of Mewborn, Coleman and two other young women with their fists raised as a message of black power.”

After submitting the a claim to  American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the girls received news that the principles’ actions would be overridden. Hill quotes Mewborn and Coleman:

“It’s a reflection of who I am and who our ancestors have fought for us to be, to never give up, and to fight for what is right. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who I am and where I come from so yes, black lives matter. All lives matter. My voice matters.”

Read the full article here

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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.

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Campus Racism Protests Didn’t Come Out Of Nowhere, And They Aren’t Going Away Quickly

Mizzou seems to have catalyzed years of tension over inequality and race.

Read more Breaking News here.

Malcom X Suggests Cure To Racism In Newly-Discovered Handwritten Letter

The letter is on sale for $1.25 million.

, The Huffington Post

A recently-discovered letter reportedly handwritten by Malcolm X in 1964 describes racism at that time as an “incurable cancer” that was “plaguing” America.

Los Angeles historic manuscript and letter dealer, Moments in Time, retrieved the six-page letter, reportedly written by the civil rights activist. It went on sale Sunday for $1.25 million.

A letter was recently discovered that is said to have been written by Malcolm X. (Photo credit: Gary Zimet)

The letter that was allegedly written by Malcolm X.  (Photo credit: Gary Zimet)

Gary Zimet, president and owner of Moments in Time, received the letter from a contact who discovered it in a storage locker in the Bronx, New York. Zimet has decided to keep the person’s name anonymous.

The letter details a monumental period in the late activist’s life — his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, the year prior to his assassination in 1965 in New York City…

Malcolm X describes his pilgrimage as “the most important event in the life of all Muslims,” and goes on to explain why his experience was so enlightening.

In regards to the legitimacy of this letter, Zaheer Ali, an oral historian who served as the project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, says it’s likely this letter was actually written by Malcolm X.

“Based on everything I’ve seen, handwriting and context, I can confidently say that yes, this letter is his letter…The content is consistent, this isn’t uncommon. He was very prolific….”

Ali believes the letter’s message, addressing race and religion, is particularly timely today.

“However this letter surfaced, it surfaced at the right time.”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

New California Law Aims To Curb Racial Profiling

Activists hailed the law, but police union leaders complained it would create more paperwork.

By The Huffington Post

California police will have to publicly report race and other demographic characteristics of any person stopped by officers under a new law intended to respond to high-profile deaths of unarmed black men and charges of racial profiling.

Activists march silently to protest racial profiling. (Photo by Annette Bernhardt)

Activists march silently to protest racial profiling. (Photo by Annette Bernhardt)

The law… expands the state’s formerly vague definition of racial profiling to include “identity profiling” based on gender, national origin or other characteristics protected against discrimination. The law requires law enforcement agencies to record the racial and identity characteristics of any person stopped or detained…

A recent string of deaths at the hands of police officers — from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, to Eric Garner in New York — sparked unrest and national outcry about the need for police reform, especially in communities of color. Police unions blasted the new law as unnecessary, while reform activists hailed it as a critical tool to analyze police practices.

Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Officers Association and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police…said the new legislation is “terrible.” He said it would create more paperwork for officers, taking away time on the streets, and seeks to solve a problem he doesn’t believe exists…

Data that the state attorney general already has access to reveals racial disparity in arrests and jailing across the state.  Seventeen percent of arrests and about 25 percent of deaths in custody involve blacks. Young black males are about 25 percent more likely than whites to be jailed in the state…

Protestors march to send the 'stop and frisk' procedure in New York City. (Photo by Seth Wenig)

Protestors march to send the ‘stop and frisk’ procedure in New York City. (Photo by Seth Wenig)

“They’re of course exaggerating about the amount of paperwork that this will produce,” Abdullah said. “But if that were a real consideration for them, then maybe they should only make stops that are really around keeping the community safe rather than then the harassment and intimidation of people of color…”

“For police to say that profiling doesn’t happen so we don’t even need to collect information about it is offensive,” Bibring said. “We give police tremendous authority to stop people, to search them, to use force and potentially to shoot people. And in order to make sure that authority is being used correctly, we need transparency into what they are doing…”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Reflects On The Origins Of The Movement

From Oscar Grant to Trayvon Martin to Ferguson, the movement has steadily grown in prominence over the past two years.

By , The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — In July 2013, Opal Tometi walked out of a New York movie theater. She had just finished watching Fruitvale Station, a film documenting the lead-up to Oscar Grant’s death at the hands of a police officer in 2009. …

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women's Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women’s Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation)

That is when she discovered that George Zimmerman, who had been charged in the murder of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin, had been acquitted. “I remember sitting on the street corner and getting a slew of text messages, tweets [from] folks who were frantic,” Tometi, who went on to co-found Black Lives Matter, said Wednesday…. 

“I remember in that moment, just sitting with the fact that everybody knew what took place,” Tometi continued. “And despite all the knowledge, despite the testimonies, despite all of that, Trayvon Martin was put on trial for his own death … I was struck with the fact that my younger brother — who was 14 at the time — could have been Trayvon.”

After hearing the news, Tometi was inspired to build a movement to prevent this from happening again. She read a Facebook post by Alicia Garza arguing that the anger people felt was justified and that “black lives matter.” Inspired by Garza’s post, Patrisse Cullors put a hashtag on that crucial phrase and began posting it on social media….

“Beyond just our walls, we need this to actually be very public,” Tometi recalled telling the other two, who would become her co-founders. “We need to have other people interact with this message and also share the work that they’re doing to ensure black lives matter. And how can we, as a collective … make sure that we are coordinated and uplifting a message that will ensure that all of our black lives would matter?”

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

“We created #BlackLivesMatter. We created a platform,” she continued. “We used our social media presence online in order to forward a conversation about what is taking place in black communities … This was actually a racial justice project for black people.”

The movement gained significant traction after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. …Asked about the group’s goals, philosophies and tactics — mainly activists disrupting speeches by presidential hopefuls — Tometi said Black Lives Matter is open to a variety of strategies for addressing systemic racism, and doesn’t claim that one tactic is more effective than another.

“You have a duty in this moment in history to take action and stand on the side of people who have been oppressed for generations … Whatever means you need to take, we believe that folks should do that,” she said…Tometi also addressed the allegation that Black Lives Matter is provoking violence. …“When we say black lives matter, we’re not saying that any other life doesn’t matter.


Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Why Racial Injustice Persists Today: A Very Brief Video History

The myth of racial difference that was created to sustain American slavery persists today. Slavery did not end in 1865, it evolved.

Slavery to Mass Incarceration is part of the Race and Poverty project of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The EJI Race and Poverty Project explores racial history and uses innovative teaching tools to deepen our understanding of the legacy of racial injustice. By telling the truth about our past, EJI believes we can create a different, healthier discourse about race in America.


Turning the Tables on Civil Rights: The 1970s and 1980s

Griot: Dawson Barrett

Photo and Copy Editor: Fran Kaplan


The Civil Rights Movement and Other Movements of the 50s and 60s

In the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights activists in cities all over the United States fought against racial discrimination.  They participated in sit-ins, marches, and protests.  They risked their lives.  Sometimes, they were even killed.  In response to this pressure, the US government passed many civil rights laws.

The Civil Rights Movement also influenced other activists.  Many of them protested for freedom and equality, as well.  They included the Women’s Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, and the Environmental Movement.

During this period, many new laws were passed in favor of women’s rights and the environment. However, not all Americans agreed with these movements.

The Counter-Movement Turns the Tables in the 70s and 80s

During the 1970s, opponents of these movements started a movement of their own.  To overturn the gains of the 1960s, they spent millions of dollars on advertising and political campaigns.  This movement, sometimes called “the New Right,” pushed for a different kind of freedom.  Instead of equality for blacks and women, they sought freedom for American businesses.

They had four main goals:

  1. To have complete freedom to make money through businesses.  This included the freedom to exploit their workers and pollute the environment.
  2. To get rid of public property, such as public parks and schools.
  3. To cut taxes for the richest Americans.
  4. To cut funding for public services, like education, housing, and food stamps.

The philosophy that combines these goals is called “neo-liberalism.” These policies moved the government away from helping the poor and protecting the environment.  Instead, the government worked to help the richest Americans get even richer.

A Turning Point: The Election of President Ronald Reagan 

In 1980, these groups united to support Ronald Reagan for President.  Reagan promised to undo the gains of the 1960s.  He even began his campaign with a speech against civil rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  This small town was famous because three civil rights activists in their twenties – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – were murdered there in 1964. (A fictionalized account of these murders and the subsequent FBI investigation is portrayed in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.)

Reagan was true to his word.  While he was President, the government became less concerned about racial discrimination. Reagan made William Rehnquist the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.  Rehnquist was a firm opponent of civil rights legislation.

President Reagan also worked against women’s rights.  He closed many government agencies, like the Office on Domestic Violence.  He also spoke out against changing the US Constitution to outlaw sexual discrimination.

Reagan also put some of the country’s worst polluters in charge of environmental programs. Anne Gorsuch, formerly a lawyer who represented mining and agricultural companies, became head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  James Watt, who had started a group devoted to fighting environmental protections, was made Secretary of the Interior.  As expected, they did very little to protect the Earth.

During the 1980s, over 1 million Americans became homeless.  At the same time, Reagan made massive cuts to federal housing assistance.  Reagan also cut taxes for the richest Americans by more than half.  The poor became poorer.  The rich became richer.

President Reagan also approved $1 trillion in military spending.  It was the largest peace-time military spending in history.


New Activists Speak Out Through the Arts

By the end of the Ronald Reagan’s presidency, many of the victories of 1960s activists had been overturned.

However, many new movements also started during this period.  They included hip hop and punk rock music.  Artists in these movements often spoke out against racial inequality, poverty, and police brutality.  Unlike the activists of the 1960s, though, these movements did not focus their efforts on changing US laws.


Faludi, Susan. Backlash:  The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York:  Crown Publishers, Inc., 1991.

Marable, Manning. Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1991.

Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Green Revolution. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993.

Saloma III, John S. Ominous Politics:  The New Conservative Labyrinth. New York:  Hill and Wang, 1984.


Dawson Barrett is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  He recently taught a history course on American activism and countercultures in the post-1960s period.


The Day That Changed Black America


Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on a motel balcony

This date marks the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

He was shot to death at the Loraine motel in Memphis, TN. He was there to support striking Black garbage workers. News of the assassination resulted in an outpouring of sorrow and anger all over the world and riots broke out in more than 100 American cities.

Read more about Dr. King here.