Tag Archives: black history month

Remembering The Greatest Blues Man Robert Johnson

th00At The Crossroads

It is a great joy to share the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders. The history of black music is littered with tragic figures, and none are more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story that will live for eternity. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for his story to live for all times.

Robert Leroy Johnson is among the most famous of all the Delta Blues musicians whose landmark recordings from 1936-37 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and tremendous songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined.

Not much is known about Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and violent death at age 27, which is one of the reasons that have given rise to his legend. With that being true, the music and legacy he left behind is irrefutable and unparalleled.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll” for his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style. His music has influenced a range of musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon. Eric Clapton called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Johnson was conceived in an extramarital affair and born in Hazelhurst, Miss. in 1911. Most of his biographical details have been lost to history, but what’s known is that he learned guitar in his teens, got married, and had a girl who died in childbirth. The death led Johnson to throw himself even deeper into his music. He fled to Robinsonville, Miss. where he was influenced by early blues legends Son House and Willie Brown.

By 1933, Johnson remarried and began playing the guitar professionally. He once related the tale of selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Johnson tells the story in his song “Crossroads Blues.” Playing for tips up and down the Delta, Johnson gained in popularity. But as he grew in fame and was known as a noted philanderer. He would also walk off in the middle of performances and not be seen or heard from for weeks at a time.

In 1936, he was put in contact with Columbia Records talent scout Ernie Oertle, who took him to San Antonio, Tex. where Johnson recorded classics including “Sweet Home Chicago,” “There’s A Hell Hound On My Trail,” and his signature “Terraplane Blues.”

Johnson began to tour nationally and became known for his unique voice and halting guitar riffs. But in 1938, as the legend goes, the devil caught up with him. While playing at a juke joint, he flirted with a woman whose husband became jealous. The man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine that caused him to become violently ill playing until he collapsed. He died four days later at age 27, although conflicting stories say he survived the poisoning and died later of pneumonia.

There are at least two Mississippi gravesites that bear his name leaving questions about his passing and burial. “The reason, that it’s so powerful a story, is because it is the outline of the tragic side of the music that followed,” said music journalist Alan Light. “Some knew him as a musician, others by legend, but his shadow touches everyone who came out of that time and place.”

Black History is American History and I believe our story is the greatest story ever told. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The Unspoken Truth

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I celebrate Black History every day – 365 days a year. It has been nearly 400 years since that fateful or should I say infamous day in the year of our Lord 1619. When the first African was dragged onto the shores of this place the slaves called “merica” – nothing has changed for black people! These people were physical slaves, but today most are locked in mental bondage. Sure there are a few black faces in high places but some will say these people are bought and sold by the dominant culture doing nothing the masses of the race. This group still, for the most part, remains in a destitute situation compared to the “Real Americans”. Therefore, through this blog, I write articles specifically designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge for the enhancement of the minds of mankind.

In today’s world, they tell us that the gay movement is the new civil rights movement and that black people have “overcome.” Like Malcolm told us; we have been, hoodwinked! Black people have yet, in spite of government law, to obtain their rights as a human beings and nothing close to what is called civil rights. It is my sincere wish that black people not continue to fall into the trap of divide and conquer, which has worked so well for so long. Let us understand the phenomenal history and difficult struggles of the African American experience and learn from the mistakes of the past. Our story is the “Greatest Story Ever Told!!!

The legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from its beginning provides clear evidence of those with a diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of African Americans based on an ideology of supremacy. The remnants of stolen souls exist today within the people of color, who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man. Hence, from the beginning, people of African descent were intended to be a nation of people living within a nation without a nationality.

This is without question “The Unspoken Truth”. The words herein are intended to empower by educating people through knowledge concerning issues that many blacks continue to face today from the untreated wounds of America’s forefathers. Let us understand through this knowledge-based examination of the African American Diaspora that I simply offer explanations whereby we can look at and understand the root-cause of the asymptomatic behaviors.

Some people call it a conditioning in “certain” communities while others may call it the Willie Lynch Syndrome. Nonetheless, my view is not an excuse, rather an explanation as to why these behaviors were never unlearned and had been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, and an African American, which were the polite terms assigned to make known that people of African Descent were not American citizens.

The concept of African Americans being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself, designed to deprive a people of its culture and knowledge through sustained policies of control. To overcome these indignities, we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair. Regardless of how much we are held down, it is our responsibility to find a way to get up, even if the system is designed to protect the system.

We must teach and know that “learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is intellectual death, and courage is knowing what’s needed and doing it.” As tenacious beings, we must understand that there is no such thing as an inferior mind. So I say, it’s time for an awakening, if for no other reason than to honor those who sacrificed so much so that we could live life in abundance.

Be brave and remember this: “You only have a minute. Sixty seconds in it. Didn’t choose it, can’t refuse it, it’s up to you to use it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity in it. You can change the world, but first, you must change your mind”. It is time for change and time for a movement! And that is my thought provoking perspective…

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

1I have written a series of articles during Black History Month specifically designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge for the enhancement of the minds of mankind to bring into remembrance the ghost of the greats and the struggles black people have endured. Our history is a phenomenal history and one of difficult struggles. Therefore, I say there is no doubt that our story is the “Greatest Story Ever Told”!!!

The legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order white supremacy from the beginning provides clear evidence that there are those with a diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of African Americans and eliminate them based on an ideology of supremacy. These stolen souls that exist today are people who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man. Hence, from the beginning, people of African descent were intended to be a nation of people living within a nation without a nationality.

I like to call this “The Unspoken Truth” because white people see no wrong in the crimes and harm in what they have done. Fortunately, know we are empowered through knowledge and can see the continued issues that many blacks continue to face today from the untreated wounds of America’s forefathers. Black History Month is a knowledge-based examination of the African American Diaspora. Over the last twenty-eight days, I think we all have experienced a great sense of pride as we celebrated this journey remembering those who paved the way for our lives today. More importantly, you are more awake and as a result, understand the root cause of the asymptomatic behaviors manifested within your hearts. I will quote Dr. King and say “we have some difficult days ahead”.

I have spotlighted several of the ghosts of the greats you should never forget. Therefore, it is my sincere desire to help people understand that there is a conditioning in “certain” communities – this is not an excuse, rather an explanation as to why these behaviors were never unlearned and have been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, and African American, which were all polite terms assigned to make known that African Americans are not Americans.

Therefore, the concept of black people being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself; it is the American way. It is designed to deprive people of color of their culture, knowledge through sustained policies of control, and remove them from history. To overcome these indignities, we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair. Regardless of how much we are held down, it is our responsibility to find a way to get up, even if the system is designed to protect the system.

As you follow this journey that must continue 365 days a year; know that learning without thought is a labor lost; thought without learning is intellectual death, and courage is knowing what’s needed and doing it. As tenacious beings, we must understand that there is no such thing as an inferior mind. So I say it’s time for an awakening, if for no other reason than to honor those who sacrificed so much in order that we could live life in abundance.

I ask that you remember this: “You only have a minute. Sixty seconds in it. Didn’t choose it, can’t refuse it, it’s up to you to use it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity in it. You can change the world but first, you must change your mind.” And that is my thought provoking perspective…


The Aftermath Of Integration

1I recently had a conversation with a group of young people, none of which lived during the age of government segregation. Each had strongly convoluted opinions about the era that were not based in fact. This made me think about how much the current world view has changed the reality of black life, as it relates to a historical perspective.

First, white folk never wanted it and chatted go back to Africa at the time. It was never intended to be fair or equal! I am not suggesting that integration should not have happened, but it did have a negative impact on black life and the future of African Americans in many ways. Two prominent ways were in the areas of family and black business.

One thing that happened, for sure was that the black community stopped supporting the businesses in their own communities. After segregation, African Americans flocked to support businesses owned by whites and other groups, causing black restaurants, theaters, insurance companies, banks, etc. to almost disappear. Today, black people spend 95 percent of their income at white-owned businesses. Even though the number of black firms has grown 60.5 percent between 2002 and 2007, they only make up 7 percent of all U.S firms and less than .005 percent of all U.S business receipts.

I took the opportunity to educate these young people that in 1865, just after Emancipation, 476,748 free blacks – 1.5 percent of U.S. population– owned .005 percent of the total wealth of the United States. Today, a full 135 years after the abolition of slavery, 44.5 million African Americans – 14.2 percent of the population — possess a meager 1 percent of the national wealth.

If we look at relationships from 1890 to 1950, black women married at higher rates than white women, despite a consistent shortage of black males due to their higher mortality rate. According to a report released by the Washington DC-based think tank the Urban Institute, the state of the African American family is worse today than it was in the 1960s, four years before President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act.

In 1965, only 8 percent of childbirths in the black community occurred out of wedlock. In 2010, out-of-wedlock childbirths in the black community are at an astonishing 72 percent. Researchers Heather Ross and Isabel Sawhill argue that the marital stability is directly related to the husband’s relative socio-economic standing and the size of the earnings difference between men and women.

Instead of focusing on maintaining black male employment to allow them to provide for their families, Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act with full affirmative action for women. The act benefited mostly white women and created a welfare system that encouraged the removal of the black male from the home. Many black men were also dislodged from their families and pushed into the rapidly expanding prison industrial complex that developed in the wake of rising unemployment.

Since integration, the unemployment rate of black men has been spiraling out of control. In 1954, white men had a zero percent unemployment rate, while African-American men experienced a 4 percent rate. By 2010, it was at 16.7 percent for Black men compared to 7.7 percent for white men. The workforce in 1954 was 79 percent African American. By 2011, that number had decreased to 57 percent. The number of employed black women, however, has increased. In 1954, 43 percent of African American women had jobs. By 2011, 54 percent of black women are job holders.

The Civil Rights Movement pushed for laws that would create a colorblind society, where people would not be restricted from access to education, jobs, voting, travel, public accommodations, or housing because of race. However, the legislation did nothing to eradicate white privilege. Michael K. Brown, professor of politics at University of California Santa Cruz, and co-author of“Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society” says in the U.S., “The color of one’s skin still determines success or failure, poverty or affluence, illness or health, prison or college.”

Two percent of all working African Americans work for another African American’s within their own neighborhood. Because of this, professionally trained Black people provide very little economic benefit to the black community. Whereas, prior to integration that number was significantly higher because of segregation people in the black community supported each other to sustain their lives and families.

The Black median household income is about 64 percent that of whites, while the Black median wealth is about 16 percent that of whites. Millions of Black children are being miseducated by people who don’t care about them, and they are unable to compete academically with their peers. At the same time, the criminal justice system has declared war on young Black men with policies such as “stop and frisk” and “three strikes.”

Marcus Garvey warned about this saying:

“Lagging behind in the van of civilization will not prove our higher abilities. Being subservient to the will and caprice of progressive races will not prove anything superior in us. Being satisfied to drink of the dregs from the cup of human progress will not demonstrate our fitness as a people to exist alongside of others, but when of our own initiative we strike out to build industries, governments, and ultimately empires, then and only then will we as a race prove to our Creator and to man in general that we are fit to survive and capable of shaping our own destiny.”

Maybe this proves that once past truths are forgotten, and the myths that are lies are born with an unfounded reality detrimental to all, but those who seek to benefit. As I have often said, “I firmly believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. We can change the world but first, we must change ourselves.” And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Source: Black Atlanta Star


The Middle Passage

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nWe cannot talk about Black History without remembering that horrible journey across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. Imagine if you can, being captured, put on a forced march, beaten, put into pins while shackled, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months, as you suffer a horrible journey into the abyss of the unknown. Now, look at what they call this today “The Trans-Atlantic Voyage,” as if it was a pleasure cruise Shocking!!!

These were the conditions leading to that horrible journey into the unknown for millions of Africans forcibly interned into the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks to this wretched practice as part of the Atlantic slave trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members.

The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, with women and children having somewhat more room. The captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were fed one meal a day with water, but if food were scarce slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished, but some say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century, however, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American anyway, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths. Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments.

The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in almost every imaginable manner. While they were generally fed enough food and water to stay alive only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long, unpredictable voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would call the loss of land, soul, and our history as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Happy Birthday Smokey Robinson: A Musical Genius

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nThe prolific singer-songwriter William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is the most  prolific entertainer of our lifetime. A thousand years from now you will hear Smokey’s music. To prove my point, “My Girl” first recorded by the Temptations is timeless, and the recording sounds as fresh today as it did in 1965. Smokey is also a record producer, former record executive, and one of the founders of the music label that changed the world – Motown.

Robinson is most notable for being a songwriter, sure, but he was also the founder and front man of The Miracles, for which he also served as the group’s chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as The Five Chimes until 1972 when he announced retirement from the stage to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.

Smokey was born in Detroit and raised in the city’s North End section. At one point, he and Diana Ross were next-door neighbors, which he had known since she was eight. He later told reporters when he was a child; his uncle christened him “Smokey Joe”, which he assumed was a “cowboy name for me” until he was later told that Smokey was a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. He once said that he remembers his uncle saying to him, “I’m doing this so you won’t ever forget that you’re black.”

In August 1958, Robinson met songwriter Berry Gordy, who had recently stopped writing songs for Jackie Wilson after getting into a royalty dispute with Wilson’s label. Gordy took an interest in Smokey and his group to which Gordy was more impressed at the fact that Robinson was a writer than as a singer. Gordy agreed to work with them and with his help the Matadors released their first single. Following this, the group changed its name to The Miracles after Claudette Rogers replaced Emerson Rogers.

After a number of failures and difficulties with money, Smokey suggested to Gordy that he start his own label, which Gordy agreed. Following the forming of Tamla Records, later reincorporated as Motown, the Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the label. In late 1960, the group recorded their first hit single, “Shop Around”, which became Motown’s first million-selling single. Between 1960 and 1970, Smokey would produce 26 top forty hits with the Miracles.

By 1969, Robinson had voiced his opinion on wanting to retire from the road to focus on raising a family with wife Claudette and their two children, and to focus on his duties as Motown’s Vice President. However, the late success of the group’s track, “Tears of a Clown”, caused Robinson to stay with the group until 1972. Robinson’s last performance with the group was on July 1972 in Washington DC.

After a year of retirement, Smokey announced his comeback with the release of the album titled “Smokey” in 1973. The album included the Miracles tribute song, “Sweet Harmony” and the hit ballad “Baby Come Close”. That same year, former Beatle George featured the track “Pure Smokey” as a tribute to his idol. In 1974, Robinson’s second album, Pure Smokey was released but failed to produce hits.

Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975. The album launched three singles – the number-one R&B hit “Baby That’s Backatcha”, “The Agony & The Ecstasy” and “Quiet Storm”. With his nearly sixty years in the music industry, he is still one of the most respected and gifted musicians to grace the stage or play the game.

Try to imagine, what the world would be like if we had never been blessed with the legend known by the name – “Smokey” – we love you and thank you for paving the way. God Bless you and that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

 


A Revolutionary Thought From The Past

They call black people lazy but this only occurred after we stopped working for free! We need to unite and seek and take action!


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