Tag Archives: Bumpy

Mitt and Faith

Mitt Romney, who the Republicans call “Him”, has a past that speaks to a matter of his soul, which I believe is the foundation of his core beliefs. Mitt spent 32 years in a religious organization that indoctrinated the idea that blacks were fundamentally cursed — by God — and that by virtue of their birth were unworthy of the highest spiritual affirmation. Being an African America and someone who believes in God this ideology is a huge problem for me.

Let me give just a brief historical background of his faith. The word Mormon most often refers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of their belief in the Book of Mormon, though members often refer to themselves as “Latter-day Saints” or sometimes just “Saints.”

The term has been embraced by most adherents of Mormonism, most notably the fundamentalists, while other Saints denominations, such as the Community of Christ, have rejected it. The term Latter-day Saints (LDS) was given to its founder Joseph Smith during an 1838 revelation mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants. The term “saint” was used by Paul the Apostle to refer to early members of the Christian church with “later-day” being added to differentiate the modern church from the early church.

Most people associate the Mormon religion with polygamy or sex with young girl through marriage which was a distinguishing practice of many early Mormons. However, it was renounced by the LDS Church in 1890, and now they say is discontinued. Today, polygamy is practiced only by fundamentalist groups that have broken with the LDS Church.

From the start, Mormons have tried to establish what they call Zion, a utopian society of the righteous. Mormon history can be divided into three broad time periods: (1) the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, (2) a “pioneer era” under the leadership of Brigham Young and his successors, and (3) a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century.

Now back to the cult’s racial views. Romney was confronted during a NBC’s Meet the Press (12/07) appearance when the late Tim Russert brought up the ban on blacks and the fact that Romney was an adult before the ban was lifted. Russert pointedly asked if Romney had a problem with associating himself with an organization that was seen as racist. Romney answered, “I’m not going to distance myself in any way from my faith.”

Russert asked if Romney was willing to disavow the Church’s earlier teachings, and Romney refused — choosing instead to cite examples of how his father supported civil rights. Mitt even claimed that his father, George Romney, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.; a statement that was later proven false and that Romney recanted.

There is “no religious test” for holding political office, but there is a moral one. As a leader in his church, a young Romney would have been compelled to teach the racist Mormon ideology to others. His curious answer to Russert affirms the belief that the church was infallible in its teachings. Romney cannot be excused of his own affiliation with an explicitly discriminatory organization without, at the very least, providing an acceptable answer.

Barack Obama was forced to disavow controversial statements by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, during the 2008 campaign culminating in his now famous race speech. Romney cannot be given a pass especially when, unlike Obama’s situation, Romney remains in a church whose codified beliefs are sketched in proverbial stone. The priesthood ban may be gone, but the cursed text remains and is still taught as divinely inspired doctrine.

The former governor rarely discusses religion. But the recent controversy over the contraception clause of the new healthcare law and the Catholic Church’s public disagreement with the Obama administration precipitated comments from Romney that Obama was attacking freedom of religion. Romney spoke while campaigning ahead of the Michigan and Arizona primaries that he “knows a lot about being persecuted” for one’s faith.

There is a cognitive dissonance inherent in the idea that one can be a victim of religious persecution, while simultaneously adhering to a faith which does the same based on race.

It’s a complicated subject, with an equally complicated history, and though Romney may not now, or ever have held racist feelings or beliefs on a personal level, it is a public office that he seeks. And, as such, he must be compelled to offer an open and honest explanation. Frankly, with his well documented history of flip-flopping (lying) – is this the guy any American would want to be the next president of the United States.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pcw0woPX5VY

And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

“Just a Season”

Legacy – A New Season is Coming!


Harlem Pt. 2 – The Underworld

The rich history of Harlem could never be told in a few words. Actually, it will require several posts (four Parts) to come close to capturing the essence of Harlem’s grandeur. This is a continuation of this great legacy – the Underworld. It has been said that the character of the community is determined by its members. Since the hamlet came into existence Harlem’s storied history has been highly romanticized. Aside from Harlem’s artistic achievements, what was most romanced was the role of the underworld, which was a huge part of the nightlife and social scene.

In the 1920’s, the Jewish and Italian mafia played major roles in running the whites-only nightclubs and the speakeasies that catered to white audiences. While the famous mobster, Dutch Schultz, controlled all liquor production and distribution in Harlem during prohibition in the 1920’s. Rather than compete with the established mobs, black gangsters concentrated on the “policy racket,” also called the “Numbers game”. This was a gambling scheme similar to today’s lottery that could be played, illegally, from countless locations around Harlem. By the early 1950s, the total money at play amounted to billions of dollars, and the police force had been thoroughly corrupted by bribes from numbers bosses.

When you talk about Harlem gangsters, particularly of that era, two names come to mind immediately. One of the most powerful early numbers bosses was a woman, Madame Stephanie St. Clair, a black French woman from Martinique known as Queenie or Madame Queen. A tall, abrasive and tough woman, with a seldom-seen gentle side ran the famous New York extortion gang known as The Forty Thieves. The Forty Thieves had a reputation for being so tough that even the white gangsters would not interfere with their illegal operations or attempt to take over their turf. She utilized her experience and talents to set up operations as a policy banker and recruited some of Harlem’s most noteworthy gangsters to support her and her growing numbers business. Within a year she was worth more than $500,000 with more than 40 runners and 10 comptrollers in her charge.

Then there was the legendary Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson known as the Godfather of Harlem. You may recall Lawrence Fishburn played Bumpy Johnson in the movie Hoodlum. Bumpy was one of Madame Queen’s main recruits. He was a colorful character from Charleston, S.C. He had moved to Harlem with his parents when he was a small boy and was given the nickname, Bumpy, because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was a dapper gangster who always made it a point to wear the latest and best clothes while flashing wads of cash wherever he went. Bumpy was a pimp, burglar and stickup man who possessed a recalcitrant attitude. He always carried a knife and gun, which he would not hesitant to use.

Bumpy feared nobody and did not shy from confrontations. He was known for barroom clashes over the slightest issue, having a short fuse and for his arrogance. He never learned to curb his temper or to bow his head to any man. It was because of his negative demeanor that he spent almost half of his life in prisons before he even reached age 30. During his interments he became an avid reader and began writing poetry. Bumpy also proved to be an incorrigible prisoner and spent one-third of a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement. Because of his attitude, he was shuttled from prison to prison until his release in 1932.

Despite his tough-guy reputation, Bumpy Johnson had a soft side. It was common knowledge among Harlemites that he often helped many of Harlem’s poor with secret cash donations and gifts. Madame Queen liked what she saw in Bumpy and offered him a position as henchman in her numbers racket. He accepted and quickly gained her trust. One of his first tasks was to confront the Bub Hewlett gang. It erupted into one of Harlem’s most violent and bloody gang wars. Eventually, Bumpy gained the edge and defeated Hewlett, temporarily saving the numbers game from the Mobs first takeover attempt.

The relationship between Madame Queen and Bumpy was strange and tenuous at best. Some said they had an ongoing affair – others claimed the odd couple were only business partners. Bumpy never abandoned his pimping and robbery professions both of which irritated Madame Queen but both knew what would make the numbers game a success, so they successfully coexisted. These bosses became financial powerhouses, providing capital for loans for those who could not qualify for them from traditional financial institutions – loan sharking. They invested in legitimate businesses and real estate as a way to legitimize their profits.

The Godfather of Harlem lived until 1968, dying from a heart attack as oppose to dying by the gun in the manner most did in his business. As a testament to his success he maintained control of the underworld for nearly forty years with some saying that nothing illegal took place in Harlem without his permission. After Bumpy’s death the underworld became loosely organized and overcome by the drug trade with its many factions. Bumpy’s protégé, Frank Lucas and his rival Nicky Barnes became the most dominate players in the game.

Frank Lucas operated the largest drug business in Harlem after Bumpy’s death during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was particularly known for cutting out the middle man in the drug trade and buying heroin directly from sources in the Golden Triangle of Thailand. Lucas boasted that he smuggled heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen. He controlled such large quantities that he was a supplier to the Mafia. When Frank was busted and facing life in prison, he flipped turning states evidence for the Fed’s causing the conviction of more than a hundred associates. However, it is important to note that most of those criminals were on the police force. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster.

Leroy “Nicky” Barnes, known as Mr. Untouchable, led the notorious African-American crime organization known as “The Council” made up of seven powerful Harlem gangsters similar to the Mafia that controlled the heroin trade. Barnes was convicted in 1978 of multiple counts of RICO violations, including drug trafficking and murder, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole. While in prison, Barnes became a “Rat” turning state’s evidence against his former associates in “The Council”. In exchange for his testimony, Barnes was released into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Comparing the gangsters of the two eras, one thing is clear despite the viciousness of their chosen profession, the contemporary gangster’s careers were short lived and all of their ill-gotten gains were lost.

As a result of the carnage distributed by these characters the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average and twelve times higher than in the United States as a whole. Of the 30,000 drug addicts then estimated to live in New York City, 15,000 to 20,000 lived in Harlem. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York’s average.

In the 1980’s, use of crack cocaine became widespread, which produced collateral crime as addicts stole to finance their purchasing of additional drugs. Dealers fought for the right to sell in particular regions or over deals gone bad causing the murder rate to skyrocket. By the end of the crack wars in the mid 90’s and with the initiation of aggressive policing crime in Harlem plummeted and a since of normalcy returned to the once proud historical hamlet of Harlem.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Just a Season


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