Tag Archives: civil rights

Revolutionary Icon Angela Davis

1-There have been countless freedom fighters during the four hundred year fight for black liberation and the struggle for freedom. Unfortunately, not many would survive to tell their story nor do black people recognized how significant the black woman was in the struggle. In modern times, there was a woman who fought the power and won. Her name is synonymous with the struggle. Her name is Angela Davis. She is an activist, educator, author, and a world-renowned icon who has authored many books and lectured throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America.

Davis gained her international reputation in the early 1970s when she was tried for conspiracy and imprisoned. She was later fully acquitted after being implicated in a shootout in front of a California courthouse. As a member of the Advisory Board of the Prison Activist Resource Center, Davis focused on exposing the racism that is endemic to the America’s prison system and exploring new ways to deconstruct oppression and race hatred.

Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, January 26, 1944, in an area known as Dynamite Hill because of the large number of African American homes bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. She attended the segregated Carrie A. Tuggle Elementary School, and Parker Annex, a middle-school branch of Parker High School in Birmingham.

By her junior year, she had applied to and was accepted at an American Friends Service Committee program that placed black students from the South in integrated schools in the North. She chose Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village in New York City. There she was introduced to socialism and communism where she was recruited by a Communist youth group, meeting children of some of the leaders of the Communist Party, including her lifelong friend, Bettina Aptheker.

Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of three black students in her freshman class. Feeling alienated by the isolation of the campus; Angela Davis worked part-time to earn enough money to travel to France and Switzerland before she went on to attend the eighth World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland.

She returned home in 1963 to an FBI interview about her attendance at the Communist-sponsored festival. Angela Davis would go on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and later the University of Frankfurt. Finally, she earned a master’s degree from the University of California San Diego campus and her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University in East Berlin.

In 1969, Davis was known as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party, and an associate of the Black Panther Party. She was working as an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at UCLA. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation informed the California Board of Regents that Davis was a member of the American Communist Party, they terminated her contract in 1970.

Ms. Davis became active in the campaign to improve prison conditions. She became particularly interested in the case of George Jackson and W. L. Nolen, two African Americans who had established a chapter of the Black Panthers in California’s Soledad Prison. On the 13th of January 1970, Nolan and two other black prisoners were killed by a prison guard. A few days later the Monterey County Grand Jury ruled that the guard had committed “justifiable homicide.” When a guard was later found murdered, Jackson and two other prisoners were indicted for his murder. It was claimed that Jackson had sought revenge for the killing of his friend, W. L. Nolan.

On August 7, 1970, Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, along with several other hostages, was abducted from his Marin County, California, courtroom at gunpoint and murdered by 17-year-old Jonathon Jackson during his effort to free his brother George Jackson. The firearms used in the attack were purchased by Angela Davis, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been purchased only two days prior and sawed-off.

Numerous letters written by Angela Davis were found in the prison cell of George Jackson, as well. The California warrant issued for Davis charged her as an accomplice to conspiracy, kidnapping, and homicide. On August 18, 1970, Davis became the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List.

Davis became a fugitive and fled California. She evaded the police for more than two months before being captured in New York City. John Abt, general counsel of the Communist Party, was one of the first attorneys to represent Davis for her alleged involvement in the shootings. While being held in the Women’s Detention Center there she was initially segregated from the general population, but with the help of her legal team soon obtained a federal court order to get out of the segregated area.

In 1972, she was tried, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The mere fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was not sufficient to establish her responsibility for the plot. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song “Angela” on their 1972 studio album “Some Time In New York City” to show their support. Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, wrote the song “Sweet Black Angel” in her support. The song was released in 1972 on the album Exile on Main Street.

She achieved tenure at the University of California at Santa Cruz despite the fact that former Governor Ronald Reagan swore she would never teach again in the University of California system. She taught me that revolution was of the mind and knowledge is the power needed to fight the power! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

From the Angela Davis Bio


Elegance and Grace Personified aka Lena Horne

1There is nothing that gives me more pride than paying homage to the remarkable trailblazers who paved the way for others to follow. None was more significant that the lady known as “the Horne”! The electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer Lena Horne shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six decades through a singing career, stage, television, and in films.

She is best described in her own words saying, “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”
In 1933, Ms. Horne was pushed into a job at the Cotton Club by her mother, who knew the Harlem nightclub’s choreographer. The segregated club attracted white clientele, who liked to watch the top black entertainers of the day, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, surrounded by what was promoted as a “tall, tan and terrific” chorus of girls.

The Horne, as she was endearing called because of her striking beauty and voice, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, attracted the attention of Hollywood in 1942. She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood.

As a film historian, Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.

In Hollywood, Ms. Horne received previously unheard-of star treatment for a black actor. Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South. “Mississippi wanted its movies without me,” she once told the New York.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.” Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London, and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.

As a songstress, her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues, and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”

She told the New York Times in 1981, “I thought, ‘How can I sing about a penthouse in the sky, when with the housing restrictions the way they are, I wouldn’t be allowed to rent the place?” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained. One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne’s sheets.

In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation. Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.

Working closely with NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White, Ms. Horne said she wanted to “try to establish a different kind of image for Negro women.” They successfully challenged the casting system that had long marginalized black performers onscreen by having them portray servants, minstrels or jungle natives.

To Ms. Horne’s surprise, her efforts to overcome servile screen parts was resented by many black actors who viewed her as a threat more than a pioneer. She said she was perceived as a danger to the system of informal “captains” in the black acting community who worked as liaisons with film producers when they needed “natives” for the latest Tarzan picture.

After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment. Over my lifetime, I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. None shined brighter than “The Horne”. A life rich in wonder who now belong to the ages. Rest In Peace Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the great. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Fannie Lou Hamer

1Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the most courageous civil rights activist who was famous for saying she was sick and tired of the condition of black people, stood up and took a stand. She used a passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African Americans throughout the South. While working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964; Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi.

Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi the daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry. In the summer of 1962, she made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote.

Hamer became active in helping with the voter registration efforts, which few in Mississippi were brave enough to do. Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after going involved with the struggle. This organization was comprised mostly of African American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites.

At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation. For her devotion and commitment she paid a heavy price. She was beaten within an inch of her life. So brutally that it took months for her to recover but she never gave up the fight.

During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at but none of these things deterred her from her work. In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to the state’s all-white delegation to that year’s Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention.

The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi but was unsuccessful in her bid. Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community. She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services.

Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977 from cancer. The encryption on her tombstone denotes her famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’ll ask, when will this statement impact your life, whereas you will affect change. Mrs. Hamer put her life on the line for freedom. The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself – WOULD YOU? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Media Kit


Unsung Matriarch Of Civil Rights: Dorothy Height

1The modern Civil Right movement has had many dedicated soldiers. We know the names, Parks, Tubman, and others but one name seems to have been forgotten by most. She was just as dedicated as any of the greats. Her name was Dorothy Irene Height, who in my view should be called the Matriarch of the movement. Dr. Height established a national reputation as a graceful insistent voice for civil rights and women’s rights. She was a tireless crusader for racial justice and gender equality spanning more than six decades and regarded as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Dr. Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. She moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh early in her life where she attended racially integrated schools. She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon her arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students. She pursued studies instead at New York University earning a degree in 1932 and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year.

Dr. Height served on the advisory council of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the National Advisory Council on Aging. Her awards included 36 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities, including Harvard and Princeton. Also, Dr. Height was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and on her 92nd birthday, she received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest decoration Congress can bestow.

Dr. Height was among a coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the forefront of the American political stage after World War II. She was instrumental, and a key figure, in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dr. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing that title at the age of 95.

National Council of Negro Women is a four million member advocacy group consisting of 34 national and 250 community-based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Height’s mentors. Dr. Height was a civil rights activist who participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930’s. In the 1940’s, she lobbied First Llady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes and in the 1950’s she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues.

President Obama issued an official statement White House that reads as follows: Dr. Height was “a hero to so many Americans… Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality . . . witnessing every march and milestone along the way… And even in the final weeks of her life — a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background, and faith.”

As a young woman, Dr. Height made money through jobs such as ironing entertainer Eddie Cantor’s shirts and proofreading Marcus Garvey’s newspaper, the Negro World. She went nightclubbing in Harlem with composer W.C. Handy. Dr. Height began her professional career as a caseworker for the New York City welfare department. She got her start as a civil rights activist through the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and from the pastor’s son, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who later represented Harlem in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the 1940’s, Dr. Height came to Washington as chief of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA branch. She joined the staff of the national YWCA board in 1944 through 1975. She remained on that staff with a variety of responsibilities, including leadership training and interracial and ecumenical education. In 1965, she organized and became the director of the YWCA’s Center for Racial Justice, and she held that position until retiring from the YWCA board in 1975.

Dr. Height became national president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1947 holding that position until 1957 when she became the fourth president of the National Council of Negro Women. She was a visiting professor at the Delhi School of Social Work in India, and she directed studies around the world on issues involving human rights.

During the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, Dr. Height helped orchestrate strategies with major civil rights leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis. She later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia. Congressman John Lewis said when Dr. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women – “At every major effort for progressive social change, Dorothy Height has been there.” She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women’s rights movement.

Dr. Height was the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time. In August 1963, Dr. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Less than a month later, at King’s request, she went to Birmingham, Ala. to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

In 1995, Dr. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. “I am here because you are here,” she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day in the whipping wind and chill rain at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.

She would often remark, “Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care and low wages. . . . We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly.” She also famously said, “If the times aren’t ripe, you have to ripen the times.” It was important to dress well she said, “I came up at a time when young women wore hats, and they wore gloves. Too many people in my generation fought for the right for us to be dressed up and not put down.”

“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races, and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them,” said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. Dr. Height is a national treasure who lived life abundantly and for the abundance of others. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.

In my novel “Just a Season,” I talked about the “Dash” that will be placed on our final marker between the years of one’s birth and death that will represent the whole of a person’s life. I said that to say, this tiny little dash on Dr. Height’s marker will not adequately give enough credit for her outstanding life’s work. It should have an inscription that says – “Servant of God, Well Done.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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…


Remembering: Muhammad Ali

The Greatest of All Times

thMuhammad Ali, known as the greatest boxer of all times and viewed by most as the “Champ,” retired as the first three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the elder of two boys in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who was named after the 19th-century abolitionist and politician, the owner of Clay’s ancestors. Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Clay was directed toward boxing by a white Louisville police officer whom he encountered as a 12-year-old fuming over the theft of his bicycle. After an extremely successful amateur boxing career, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Ali said in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant.

Not only was the Champ a fighter in the ring, but he also had the courage to fight the U.S. Government in 1967 when he refused to be inducted into the U.S. military based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was successful.

Standing tall at 6 feet, 3 inches, Clay had a highly unorthodox style for a heavyweight boxer. Rather than the normal style of carrying the hands high to defend the face, he instead relied on foot speed and quickness to avoid punches and carried his hands low. He coined a new technique called the rope-a-dope where he rested on the ring ropes and let the dope, his opponent, punch himself out. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would “trash talk” opponents on television and in person before the match and often with rhymes.

These personality quips and idioms, along with an unorthodox fighting technique, made him a cultural icon. Ali built a reputation by correctly predicting, with stunning accuracy, the round in which he would “finish” an opponent. While still Cassius Clay, he adopted the latter practice from “Gorgeous” George Wagner, a popular professional wrestling champion who drew thousands of fans. Often referred to as “the man you loved to hate,” George could incite the crowd with a few heated remarks, which Ali used to his advantage.

As Clay, he met his famous longtime trainer Angelo Dundee during a light heavyweight fight in Louisville shortly after becoming the top contender to fight Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. Despite his impressive record, he was not widely expected to defeat Liston, who was considered a more sinister champion than Iron Mike Tyson. In fact, nobody gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the fight against such a dominant champion.

The fight was scheduled for February 25, 1964, in Miami, Florida, but it almost never happened because the promoter heard that Clay had been seen around Miami and in other cities with the controversial Muslim Leader, Malcolm X. The promoters perceived this association as a potential gate killer to the fight where Liston was overwhelmingly favored to win. However, it was Clay’s colorful persona and nonstop braggadocio that gave the fight its sole appeal.

The ever-boastful Clay frequently taunted Liston during the buildup to the bout by dubbing him “the big ugly bear” among other things. During the weigh-in on the day before the bout, acting like a wild crazy man, Clay declared for the first time that he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” He summarized his strategy for avoiding Liston’s assaults this way: “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”

By the third round, Clay was ahead on points and had opened a cut under Liston’s eye. Liston regained some ground in the fourth, as Clay was blinded by a substance in his eyes. It is unconfirmed whether this was something used to close Liston’s cuts or deliberately applied to Liston’s gloves. What is clear, boxing historians and insiders have recalled, is that in at least two other Liston fights a similar situation occurred, suggesting the possibility that the Liston corner deliberately attempted to cheat.

By the sixth, Clay dominated Liston and was looking for a finish. Then Liston shocked the boxing world when he failed to answer the bell for the seventh round, claiming his shoulder was injured. At the end of the fight, Clay boasted to the press that doubted him before the match, proclaiming, “I shook up the world!” When Clay beat Liston at age 22, he became the youngest boxer ever to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion, a mark that stood until the Mike Tyson’s reign began.

What is significant about Clay winning the bout is this: he said, “I am pretty, I can’t be beat” as he yelled into the cameras for the world to see. In the early sixties, this was not the language Negro’s were using to describe themselves. Those words and that brash act was the catalyst for the black is beautiful movement, Afro-American, and black power. So from that perspective, yes, he shook up the world.

After winning the championship, Clay revealed that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. It was the movement’s leader Elijah Muhammad who gave Clay the name Cassius X, discarding his surname as a symbol of his ancestors’ enslavement, as had been done by other Nation members. On Friday, March 6, 1964, Malcolm X took Clay on a tour of the United Nations building where he announced that Clay would be granted his “X.” That same night, Elijah Muhammad recorded a statement over the phone to be played over the radio that Clay would be renamed Muhammad – one who is worthy of praise, and Ali – rightly guided.

The rematch with Liston was held in May 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. Ali, who had changed his name by this time, won by knockout in the first round as a result of what came to be called the “phantom punch.” Many believe that Liston, possibly as a result of threats from Nation of Islam extremists or in an attempt to “throw” the fight to pay off debts, waited to be counted out. However, most historians discount both scenarios and insist that it was a quick, chopping punch to the side of the head that legitimately fell Liston. Ali would later call the punch an “anchor punch” used by the Great Jack Johnson.

Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era’s most recognizable and controversial figures. Appearing at rallies with Elijah Muhammad and declaring his allegiance to him at a time when mainstream America viewed Black Muslims with suspicion and outright hostility made Ali a target of outrage, as well as suspicion. Ali seemed at times to provoke such reactions with viewpoints that wavered from support for civil rights to outright support of separatism.

For example, Ali once made this comment in relation to integration: “We who follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad don’t want to be forced to integrate. Integration is wrong. We don’t want to live with the white man; that’s all.” Or this remark about inter-racial marriage: “No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters.” It was clear that his religious beliefs at the time included the notion that the white man was “the devil” and that white people were not “righteous.” Ali would also make claims that white people hated black people.

In early 1966, Ali was reclassified to be eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army during a time when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. When notified of this status, he declared that he would refuse to serve in the Army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. Ali believed “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”

Ali also famously said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them, Viet Cong … They never called me Nigger.” It was rare for a heavyweight boxing champion in those days, or now, to speak at Howard University where he gave his popular “Black Is Best” speech in 1996. Ali was invited to speak by Howard’s sociology professor Nathan Hare on behalf of the Black Power Committee, a student protest group. The event of 4,000 cheering students and community intellectuals was surely another step toward his iconic stature.

Appearing shortly thereafter for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967, in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested and on the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title as did other boxing commissions, for being unpatriotic.

At Ali’s trial, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ali guilty; the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction; the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, the public began turning against the war and support for Ali began to grow. Ali supported himself by speaking at colleges and universities across the country, where opposition to the war was especially strong. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed by unanimous decision his conviction for refusing induction. The decision was not based on, nor did it address the merits of Clay’s/Ali’s claims per se; rather, the government’s failure to specify which claims were rejected and which were sustained constituted the grounds upon which the Court reversed the conviction.

The legacy of the “Greatest” is the stuff movies are made of – Muhammad Ali defeated every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Ali was named “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter and was involved in more Ring Magazine “Fight of the Year” bouts than any other fighter. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees.

He is also one of only three boxers to be named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as one of the most recognized athletes, out of over 800 dead or alive athletes, in America.

I have met Muhammad and was so impressed I named my only son after him, hoping his example of courage and fortitude would be shared. He is my hero, and I say: thank you for your example and sacrifice. You are the Greatest of All Times. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Black History is American History


Commentary: We Have “Not Overcome”

200_1000theIn a few days black history month will be over, and the pacification of white folk will end. If they care so much about black people – they would have told the truth about history instead of creating hi-story, which are lies to cover-up their dastardly deeds. I want anyone reading this to ask yourself – does it really take 400 years to end the systematic system of racism?

I’ve lived through segregation and knew the evils of the Jim Crow system first-hand and what I see today not much has changed. In fact, I don’t think the wretched system of racism is worse. Justice is still unjust and black people are still viewed as “less than” as the Constitution says and you know white folk love them some constitution! You do know it say we are 3/5ths human and the Supreme Court decision made it law that “a Negro has no right that white man is bound to respect” in the Dred Scott Decision.

Just as they always done, they hold up a few to make it appear as if we have “overcome” or achieved some measure of advancement. Malcolm would have called some of these folks who keep telling us everything is alright – “House Niggers” – I will call them covert operatives. It was Solomon that said “there is nothing new under the sun.” This is a powerful statement because very little has changed since the 1960s, even though they remind us of this mythical dream!

If you look at history, you will see that it repeats itself; the system is designed to protect the system, and that system excludes black people. They would deport black people if they could but there is nowhere to send us – remember they kidnapped us! Malcolm told us that “Anywhere south of Canada was south”, meaning wherever you are in America you were subjected to discrimination regarding the “separate but equal” laws and racism is the unwritten law of the land.

I am not just saying this to be as I have been called, a “race baiter”. It is the honest truth but white fold are in denial that racism even exists. Republicans Party in particular want to turn back the hands of time and take back their country, which they did by electing Trump who is the embodiment of all that white supremacy means. Their attempts to suppress voting rights is in no way different than the poll taxes from the days of segregation, so this is not new either – it’s just the American political structure. There have been many ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, black people have endured the brunt of these efforts.

So there continue to be “Black Codes” which are laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American people. However, the difference today is that they just use different codewords to make it politically correct. This is the reason conservatives speak of taking back their country and have a strong desire to uphold “States Rights”; because at the state level laws can be unimpeded by the federal government. You can see this clearly today by the upsurge in the police killings and corruption under the cover of law all over the country while the country rushes to save those on distant lands wasting trillions.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago titled “The Making of a Slave” to which I received a comment from a guy; I’ll call Mr. White Man. I should assume he was a white man because he vociferously defended the American way! In the article, I talked about the Willie Lynch Syndrome. This guy goes on to tell me or in his mind educate me on the subject by telling me there was never a Willie Lynch and that the supposed letter was debunked years ago. He went on to say that there was no truth to the myth. However, what he did not understand that true or not, there is a system in place to ensure black people “love and respect only” them.

He went on to say, “how sad that I write about the bad things in history; how lucky I am for all that America has done for my people, and I should leave that stuff in the past”. Normally I don’t take the time to respond to fools because my grandfather taught me a long time ago “never argue with a fool”. However, his comment proves my point that he knows the game is rigged against people of color. He also knows he benefits from a privilege decreed by the “American Way”.

Malcolm X once said that it is time to stop singing and start swing! Overcoming is not insight unless we fight!!! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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