Tag Archives: civil rights

Mental Conditioning: We Are All Brainwashed

Some have proclaimed that a slave was born. I disagree with this notion because a slave was made by means of a defined calculated, and well thought-out plan devised for the purpose of being a beast of burden. We know the reason for this atrocity was to build a nation stolen by others to obtain wealth. But what is not understood, en mass, is how it was designed to be sustainable and that varying forms reappear overtime and this footnote to history have been erased.

This reminds me of the powerful words Harriet Tubman expressed succinctly concerning the effectiveness of this system of mental conditioning. She was asked shortly before her death, if she knew how many slaves she freed while conducting the Underground Railroad. She did not think about it, replying quickly, “I could have freed a lot more, if they had only known they were slaves.”

From that day in 1619, when it is believed the first Africans were dragged onto the shores of Jamestown to today where we’ve witnessed the first man of color elected President of these United States (or as Jesse would put it – from the outhouse to the White House), there is no doubt that our story is the greatest story ever told.  As it was said in scripture, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” But let’s understand that there was a plan, a sinister plan, conceived at some point to ensure that people of our hue remain the least of thee.

As the story goes, a British slave owner from the West Indies was invited to Virginia sometime during the year 1712 to teach his methods to slave owners. Willie Lynch was the name of the man credited with a speech delivered on the banks of the James River. It is noteworthy to mention that the James River was named for the diabolical King of England, who was ironically the same guy responsible for the twenty-eighth version of the cherished Holy Bible.

Lynch brought with him, as he put it, a foolproof method for controlling black slaves that will last for a thousand years. Consequently, it is believed the term “lynching” was derived from his last name as a way to pay homage to him for delivering this ingenious approach. The name Willie Lynch is interesting because it may be a simple play on words. For example, Will Lynch or Will he Lynch. Whatever the reason, it no doubt had significant psychological implications that played heavily on a naive race of people.

Lynch began his historic presentation with a warm greeting: “Gentlemen, you know what your problems are; I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems. I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them. In my bag here, I have a foolproof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least three hundred years. My method is simple…The black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands…..” The seeds of devastation were fertilized, and the process of destruction was underway for the making of a race into slaves.

In the speech, Lynch outlined a number of differences among the slaves. He stressed to his audience that they should take these differences and make them bigger. These differences included such things as age, color, intelligence, fine hair vs. coarse hair, tall vs. short, male vs. female. These tactics were not new; however they were more than likely put together collectively for this specific purpose for the first time as keys to control.

This short eight paragraph speech was profound in that it was the embodiment of the cruelest demoralizing agenda ever imposed upon a people since the days when the Romans crucified our Lord. As Lynch closed his speech that day, he said, “They must love, respect, and trust only us.” This is the key to producing a successful strategy. Whether this story is true or not is cause for speculation, however, as history demonstrates; a manufactured plan was developed by someone to achieve these results that continue to this day.

The Willie Lynch letter first appeared in the early 1970’s but gained widespread notice during the nineties, when it began appearing on the Internet. Since then, it has often been promoted as an authentic account of slavery during the 18th century, but its inaccuracies and anachronisms have led historians to conclude that it is a hoax. Let’s be honest; I don’t think any reasonable person would think that those persons present, if there was a meeting, took written notes. However, the same reasonable thinking person can see that there was a designed plan created by someone in order to sustain such division. It may have been something as simple as “divide and conquer.”

So let’s suppose the Willie Lynch story is a modern creation, either the concept was ingenious or the biggest urban myth ever. Then it begs the question, why are we still fighting amongst ourselves. Further, how can the ruling people, or anyone for that matter, justify a philosophy for building and maintaining a government which sanctioned murder, among other atrocities, to enslave human beings?  This I know, and mind you, I was not taught this in school nor did anyone explain that the government, through legislative sessions, passed laws to ensure that our bondage was sustained.

This wicked system was sanctioned by the church in the name of God. Therefore, it is important to understand, when the church endorsed slavery and the vehicle that drove it; this meant in the eyes of the system that God himself authorized this immoral agenda. If this was the mentality of the church, and it is a historical fact that religion sanctioned and justified enslaving people for centuries. It begs the question, does that mentality still exist? And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Picture In Black

2I don’t want to confuse anyone because I tell our story, which is very different from His-Story and, by the way, is the greatest story ever told! I am often accused of not letting the horrors of our past go. The problem with that position is people of African descent cannot because it is ever present. They want us to believe that this white man died to save our sins and every white me we see are acting in sin against us.

It is not that people of African descent were and are the only people who were cruelly treated or enslaved, but we are the people held in bondage the longest. Therefore, my position is just as sure as, they say, things change they remain the same! Take note that black people are the only people whose history was erased and stolen. No other race of people does this happen too and told to not respect their history or denies their heritage. White folk regardless of where they come from are taught to be proud of theirs. So should black folk!

Picture a black man of nearly thirty. Who seems twice as old with clothes torn and dirty because he has no job. How can he survive? They say, get a job but how when you won’t give him one. So you allow him to have a job that only pays $7.25 cleaning toilets with bus station crews or in a fast food joint, and they say be thankful. He’s got children with nothing to eat, who then have to scavenge for food to live on a ghetto street. What about his family? Tie an old rag around his wife’s head pregnant and lying in a bed stuffed in an urban dwelling. Then they say pray for a better day!

This is the situation of millions hidden from the consciousness of our minds. Tomorrow is Easter the day Jesus died for the sins of man and they say, “he rose from the grave. Well, I say he died in vain because the sins of man are more prevalent today than ever before. We know most of you good Christians will out Pope the Pope. Let me suggest since you are such a great believer and God fearing. Take a moment each and help your fellow man on the day, instead of on this one day, we call Easter.

Look at it this way, don’t just be Holy for this one day, as you do only on Sunday. You can feel good briefly and forget it the next day. Love your fellow man every day like each day is a special day. That is hope you can believe – Happy Easter! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


Remembering The “King”

200x200Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most revered leader of our time, was born January 15, 1929, and murdered on April 4, 1968. Dr. King’s most notable accomplishments were the Montgomery Bus Boycott, being the founder and first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the famed March on Washington, and being the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The life of Dr. King was to secure progress for the American Negro and to obtain civil rights for the American Negro and poor people in the America. He made great strides in accomplishing that goal, and for this reason, he has become a human rights icon recognized and a martyr. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, a National Holiday, and honored with a monument on the Washington Mall in DC.

He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. but his name given at birth was “Michael King.” Few people know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was named “Michael King, Jr.” at birth. But when his family traveled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany his father changed both of their names to Martin Luther in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther. King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind.

King married Coretta Scott, on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents’ house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama; they had four children. At the age of twenty-five, he became Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where his trajectory to greatness was launched in 1954. He skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grade and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school.

In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”

King was originally skeptical of many of Christianity’s claims. Most striking perhaps was his denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school at the age of thirteen. From this point, he stated, “doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly.” However, throughout his career of service, he wrote and frequently spoke, drawing on his experience as a preacher, which he understood to be his purpose.

For example, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written in 1963, is a passionate statement of his crusade for justice. It was confirmed when he became the youngest recipient to receive the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent resistance to racial prejudice in the United States.

We have been taught to believe that Mrs. Parks’ refusal to give up her seat that day was an anomaly. Many Blacks refused, at one time or another, to give up their seats in the white only section usually resulting in being run out of town. There was a committee silently waiting for an instance where they could take it through the legal system to put an end to this unholy system.

On December 1, 1955, the case that they were waiting for appeared. Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat. The Montgomery Bus Boycott planned by E. D. Nixon and led by King emerged. The boycott lasted for 385 days crippling the city economically. The situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed, and he was arrested during this campaign. The case ultimately ended with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses and throughout the south.

In 1957, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King led the SCLC until his death.

Over his career, Dr. King narrowly escaped death as his life was in constant danger, but he remained faithful to a non-violent philosophy modeled by Gandhi’s non-violent techniques. Dr. King believed that organized non-violent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights.

It is my opinion that this was the single most powerful tool in the arsenal of the civil rights movement. This explosive media coverage, both journalistic and television footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights marchers produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion. This was in large part what convinced the majority of Americans that the civil rights movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960’s.

King organized and led marches for the right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Largely as a result of his leadership, which unfortunately has been unmatched since his murder. Therefore, I urge everyone to take a moment to pay homage to this great man on his day, the first of its kind for a black man, and proudly honor his memory and life. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remebering: Donny Hathaway

1xI am one who believes anyone can be taught how to do anything, but few are naturally given the rare gift of a unique and special talent like the great Donny Hathaway. This great musician man was one of a kind, in fact, Donny Edward Hathaway was the best natural jazz, blues, soul, R&B, and gospel vocalist and musician the world has known. Also, his collaborations with Roberta Flack are legendary as the scored high on the charts. The huge hit “where is the Love” won him a Grammy Award.

At the height of his career, Hathaway was diagnosed with a mental disorder and was known not to take his prescribed medication regularly enough to properly control his symptoms. On January 13, 1979, Hathaway’s body was found outside the luxury hotel Essex House in New York City that was ruled a suicide.

Donny Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer. Working first at Chicago’s Twinight Records, he later did the arrangements for hits by The Unifics on the song “Court of Love” and “The Beginning Of My End”. He also took part in projects by The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. He became a “house producer” for Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records recording there as a member of The Mayfield Singers. Donny recorded his first single under his own name in 1969 on a duet with singer June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby”.

It was not until he signed with Atco Records after being spotted for the label by producer/musician King Curtis at a trade convention that his prominence became evident. He released his first groundbreaking single The Ghetto, Pt. 1″, which he co-wrote with former Howard roommate Leroy Hutson, who became a performer, writer, and producer with Curtom. The track appeared the following year on his critically acclaimed debut LP, “Everything is Everything”, which he co-produced with Ric Powell while also arranging all the cuts.

Donny’s star really shined when he released his second LP titled “Donny Hathaway” that consisted mostly of covers of contemporary pop, soul, and gospel songs. His third album “Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway was an album of duets with former Howard University classmate and label mate Roberta Flack that established him, especially on the pop charts. The album was both a critical and commercial success that included the Ralph MacDonald track “Where is the Love”, which proved to be not only an R&B success but also scored Top Five on the pop Hot 100.

In my view, his most influential recording is his 1972 album – “Live”, which has been termed “one of the best live albums ever recorded” by Daryl Easlea of the BBC. However, the song that cemented Donny’s legacy was “This Christmas”. To this very day, it does not seem like Christmas until you hear this song. The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television, and advertising. “This Christmas” has been covered by numerous artists across diverse musical genres, including The Whispers, Dianna Ross, , Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera, Chicago, Harry Connick, Jr., Dru Hill, NSYNC, Gloria Estefan, Boney James, The Cheetah Girls, Chris Brown, and Patti LaBelle.

On January 13, 1979, Brother Donny transitioned this life to be with the ancestors! I want to bring his name into remembrance as he continues to rest in our hearts. Therefore, I would be remissed if I did not pay homage to the musical mastery of Mr. Donny Hathaway for his spirit lives in the souls of all of us because his music uplifted, empowered, and made us proud! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Fight The Power!

PhotoFunia-2c3d3a4In the 1960s, the main mission was to obtain the freedom for black people. The symbol of solidarity was a raised clenched fist and the chant was “power to the people”. This sign of unity was also a sign of respect for one another.

It was a glorious time for Black America in the late 1960s because for a brief moment, it was awakened, they stand a stand and showed bravery as courageous black men and women demonstrate their pride for being black and began to acknowledge the greatness in their blackness.

During those days, there was an ill-fated war where the government drafted millions of black men during the Vietnam War. I can recall those fought and served were soon forgotten, but those who did were proud enough to take a stand by chanting “fight the power”! The response from the power, however, was told “America Love it or Leave it.” First, where were black people suppose to go? They took us from our place of origin, enslaved all brought here, and created a new race of people calling them Negro. So, the chant and the raised fist was a symbolic statement – “say it loud I am black, and I am proud”.

Looking back, I think what we learned was that the philosophy prescribed to us by the system and a continuous stream of unanswered questions and lies; like we see today with several wars, police brutality and blatant racism. The foundation of the civil rights movement was supported by a religious ideology full of unquestioned answers fooling people into the idea that all you need to do is just pray. While the system used the tried and true strategy of divide and conquer to kill the movement.

The movement’s protest strategy of marching in the 1950s resulted in a few crumbs after unrest and rage produce fear in the majority community – in other words among the powers that be. In those days, “they” could control information via what were virtually state-owned newspapers and the two or three television networks. The unrest of those days were rooted in racism, as is today, but today the genie is out of the bottle because of this thing called social media and video cameras in the hands of almost everyone. Think about it – it was social media that caused the Arab Spring uprising that toppled several regimes and dictators.

The American super-power was involved preaching morality and trying to impose democracy all over the world while doing unspeakable horrors at home and abroad. The government released a Senate Terror Report, which clearly appeared as if it was America that was the terrorist sponsored by the state. I will say as a person of color and a descendant of slaves, America never had any moral authority to advise or dictate anything close to a moral or human high-ground toward or for black people. Regarding what they released, black people have seen much of the same terror inflicted upon them right here at home under its apartheid-like system.

They system has not changed; NO – it’s still all about money. What I see that is different, however, is that the entire world sees and knows what is being done to black people in America and that what black America has been saying all along is true and a fact. However, the movement of this generation, Black Live Matters is speaking truth to power and is courageous enough to take a stand against racism and injustice. This movement comes with people of all stripes, colors, and creeds protesting around the world.

What we saw in the 1960s was more of a rehearsal for what some called a revolution. Brother Gil Scott-Heron called it “Winter in America” and he told us that the revolution will not be televised. There was a revolution, however, they called it the Arab Spring and it was televised! Gill appeared, at the time to be on to something. Hence, the government used tools like CONINTELPRO to cripple and killed any such notion. Now, as we can see today resulting from the atrocities of government agencies and police human-rights violations “the revolution is being televised”.

Let me add this about empires and religion, the Republicans, as did the Romans before them, cheered on the Lions, as the Christians were being fed to them in giant arenas for pure spectator enjoyment. Sort of like those lynching of black men and police killing of late. What these people are doing to black people in the streets of America in the name of “justice” is no different from what was done by the Roman state against its people. Remember how that turned out.

To those who have and are charged with killing and brutalizing people of color and the least of thee; I say to you – there’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good about racism or the war upon black and brown communities – it is simply Hypocrisy!

History tells us that those who make peaceful revolution impossible or fail to change a system when it is broken will make violent revolution inevitable. In the 1960s, they stopped using lynching and used fire hoses and dogs. Today, they use the police to shoot and kill. So I say, Fight the Power! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 RESPECT TO THE FALLEN

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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…


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