Tag Archives: John T. Wills

Brownsville: Georgetown In Washington DC

2As you travel with me on this journey exploring the rich history of those African American communities that have become little more than footnotes in the annals of time. These segregated communities were the result of an unholy system imposed upon people of color commonly referred to as “Jim Crow” and every city or town in America had such a place.

This leads me to the next examination of a “Brownsville” – Georgetown in Washington DC. The entire world knows that DC is the capital of the free world with its avenues of grand marble structures that are more or less a crystallization of magnificence for tourist to admire. These magnificent architectural marvels are symbols of the power associated with America’s wealth. This area downtown is known as the Federal Triangle because it is an area established for federal government entities.

However, there is a hidden Washington that some have called a tale of two cities. Just blocks for these symbols of opulence live the disenfranchised, downtrodden, and neighborhoods of the forgotten. Prior to 1967, the city was run by and under federal control, which is why it is called a District – i.e., the District of Columbia. It was President Johnson who appointed Walter Washington, an African American, as the city’s first ever Mayor-Commissioner in an effort that came to be known as home rule.

The city has always been predominately African American with no real authority over its direction. The “District” as many locals call it was at that time a sleepy southern town not much different from any town in South Carolina or Mississippi as far as African Americans were concern. It was run by Dixiecrats to this point, and the Dixiecrats were worst than what we know today a Conservatives or Republicans. What you may not know, even today Washington has no voting representing in Congress making the capital of the free world, which is basically a plantation.

Washington has many African American enclaves that have long storied histories, but did you know Georgetown, one of Washington’s most renowned upscale communities, was once one of them. It is probably best known today as the home of Georgetown University and its championship basketball teams coached by the legendary John Thompson, and now by his son, or the many luminous sports figures produced by the institution. You may also know Georgetown because of its world-renowned nightlife, shopping or maybe a place home to famous people. One of its most famous residents was a young John Kennedy and his new bride Jackie, who called Georgetown home prior to moving into the White House.

It is also worth mentioning that many notable African American figures resided in communities around town such as the great orator Fredrick Douglass, who owned a home in Anacostia. Carter G. Woodson the creator of the concept “Black History Month” also owned a home in the city. These great men and all prominent African American politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, scholars, athletes and socialites were relegated to live in a town divided by the harsh separate but equal laws of the day.

Georgetown began as a Maryland tobacco port on the banks of the Potomac River in 1751. When Congress created the District of Columbia to be the nation’s capital in 1791, its 10-mile square boundaries were drawn to include this port town, as well as a very similar Virginia tobacco port of Alexandria just across the river. Alexandria was given back to Virginia in 1846, but Georgetown remains as one of Washington’s most lively urban neighborhoods.

Georgetown historically had a large African American population, including both slaves and free blacks. Slave labor was widely used in the construction of new buildings in Washington just as they were used to provide labor on tobacco plantations in Maryland and Virginia. Let me be very clear, slaves and their labor was the workforce that built the White House, Capital, and most of the grand marble structures of opulence.

Georgetown was also a major slave trading depot that dates back as early as 1760, when John Beattie established his business on O Street and conducted business at other locations called “pens” around Wisconsin Avenue and M Street; with both locations being just a short distance from the White House. Slave trading continued until the mid-19th century, when it was ended on April 16, 1862. Many former slaves moved to Georgetown following their freedom establishing this thriving community.

When African American’s settled in Georgetown the free men established the Mount Zion United Methodist Church that remains today, which is the oldest African American congregation in Washington. This feat due to their strong religious convictions was a testament to their fortitude after experiencing the horrors of slavery. Mount Zion also provided a cemetery for free burials to Washington’s earlier African American population. Prior to establishing the church, free blacks and slaves went to the Dumbarton Methodist Church where they were restricted to hot, overcrowded balcony.

I’m sure a sense of extreme prided was evident in Washington at the time because it became the home of Howard University. Although not in Georgetown, this preeminent university was established for Blacks in 1867 with the aid of the Freedmen’s Bureau. It was named for the commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, General Oliver Otis Howard. The Freedmen’s Bureau was intended to help solve everyday problems of the newly freed slaves, but its most widely recognized achievement was its accomplishments in the area of education. Prior to the Civil War, no southern state had a system of universal, state-supported public education for “Coloreds” but Washington now had an advanced school of learning.

In the early twentieth century, new construction of large apartment buildings began on the edge of Georgetown. The eyes of the elite became trained on the area. John Ihlder led efforts to take advantage of new zoning laws to get restrictions enacted on construction in Georgetown. However, legislators largely ignored concerns about the historic preservation of Georgetown until 1950, when Public Law 808 was passed establishing the historic district of “Old Georgetown.” The law required the United States Commission of Fine Arts to be consulted on any alteration, demolition, or building construction within the historic district. As you can imagine, this proper and official sounding solution was not designed to benefit the African American citizens living in Georgetown.

Georgetown began to emerge as a fashion and cultural center of the newly identified community. While many “old families” stayed in Georgetown, the neighborhood’s population became poorer and more racially diverse; its demographics started to shift as a wave of new post-war residents arrived, many politically savvy, well-educated, and people from elite backgrounds took a keen interest in the neighborhood’s historic nature for their own benefit. It was during this time that the Citizens Association of Georgetown was formed. It is my understanding that the Old Georgetown Act was really a polite, or maybe not so polite, way of saying gentrification.

I am not implying nor suggesting that the Act was designed to remove African American’s and poor residences from the community (wink), but it did create an environment where people of low to moderate income could no longer afford to live there. High-end developments and gentrification have revitalized the formally African American neighborhood and what was viewed as a blighted industrial waterfront.

Some say what happened in simple terms, according to the thinking of the day; someone decided to trade a penny for a pound, and very effectively. In other words gentrification!!! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


JUST US!

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My message for today comes from a powerful video that you should be sure to WATCH. Every single thing the speaker is saying can be proven without a shadow of a doubt. Just look at the power of the prison lobby and the massive increase in prison population since the 1980’s.

America has MORE prisoners in jail than China or any other country on the planet. How is it possible that we have a higher prison population than China who is extremely oppressive and has four times our total population? The overwhelming proportion of the population are people of color. How can this be when we represent such a small portion of the overall population?

I’m sharing this message with hopes that it is food for thought. Stop dancing to the tomb!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Remembering Juneteeth

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We must never forget Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Many attempts to explain the two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.

The story often told is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Then there is yet another story that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version, could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. Regardless, the conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.

North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants.

The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in the tradition today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in, and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, who wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed brightens our future – and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth. So lest not forget!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The Godfather Of Rock and Roll

It is a great joy to share with you the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders we stand that are dear to my heart. I am proud to share this article because I love the story of the crossroads. It is a story about the great Delta Blues-man Robert Johnson. The history of music is littered with tragic figures, and none was more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story.

This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined. 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. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life, and violent death at age 27 have given rise to much speculation adding to his legend.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll,” his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style 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, he became 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 rifts. 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, and the man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine. Although he became violently ill, Johnson played 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.” I will say that Robert Johnson is truly a legend whose legacy will last forever. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Snakes In The House

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I am humbled by those magnificent souls who’ve accomplished and sacrificed so much to remove obstacles placed before them, which have benefited our lives. Brother Malcolm said, back int the day; if we supported each other instead everyone else. There would be no shackles upon us. Maybe this post will get the village smoking.

I speak for me and not, as Malcolm put it, “as one of those chicken peckin so-called leaders”. Who oftentimes are SELF APPOINTED or appointed by those who oppress us to be spokesmen for us. Frankly, I don’t recall voting for anyone other than President Obama. With that said, these corporate sponsored representatives need to just sit down.

LET ME BE CLEAR; I am not chastising those who represent, speak truth, or are working for the greater good – and we know who they are. But there are some that remind me of my uncle whose name is Tom – and we know who they are too.

So let me start my commentary, as they often do with something Biblical: Their “harvest is plenty, but the labor is lost”. Some of these voices have been little more than co-conspirators, or at best, actively participating in the process of crucifying us. Let me explain; when you are crucified, you are stripped of your garments (in this case reason), put in a position to suffer, hung on a cross to die a horrible death degraded and humiliated. While you remain stationed in this place where they (the system) has put you and know where you will be.

History has demonstrated that any time a black leader comes along with a message or the power to resurrect the masses, they have to be been eliminated. So why would it be in their best interest to put them-selves in a position to be destroyed? Today’s messengers say what they are told to say, by their sponsors, and stay in the comfort zone of the establishment.

Many times these “self-appointed” leaders and their crusades are a lot like cancer, I think, in that there is no real agenda to find a cure or solve the problem, because there is no MONEY in the cure. Am I stopping short of calling some sellouts – I’ll leave that for you to interrupt, but the system is designed to protect the system.

There is, and has been a lot, too much, talk and very little action. We have talked, gathered, and marched enough, in my opinion; it’s time for action leading to solutions. Over the years, we have marched with a million men, a million women, and million youth, watched or attended the State of Black America events to include any number of similar events that were suppose to solve our problems – I’m still waiting. Oh, let’s not forget “The Covenant” that all of us bought that only benefited the author.

In many cases, these folks claimed to have received a “calling” to which I suppose is similar to that of someone standing in a pulpit might allege, when they say they’ve heard the voice of God calling him or her to preach the gospel. Maybe it’s just me, but I have yet to hear that voice – I am waiting though.

I said that to say this, if this is a true calling then passion is the motivator that drives one to obtain results for reasons other than self-serving agenda’s – money. I recently reread the “Mis Education of the Negro” and I have to say it was eerily similar to the condition our people face today. Actually, it could have been published last year and not in 1933.

Dr. Woodson said, and I believe, “if you control what a man (or woman) thinks you never have to worry about what they are thinking.” So I suggest that you be careful of false prophets and to judge them by the work they do. We have been hoodwinked, bamboozled; we’ve been took, had, and obviously still mis-educated to the point of sustaining this misery. Again, I say this is MY Thought Provoking Perspective; what will you do? Do you have any suggestions that could improve the State of Black America? Are you going to do anything that might require you to give of yourself for the benefit of others? I know many Church Folk say such things on Sunday but what about the other six days and 22 hours?

It seems to me that we are on “Calvary” with the nails ready to be placed. I for one, CRY OUT to these so called leaders and you; “why have thou forsaken thee?” The noble Harriett Tubman was asked by a reporter shortly before her death, if she knew how many slaves she saved while conducting the Underground Railroad? She pointedly said, “I could have saved a lot more, if they had only known they were slaves.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


BREAKING NEWS: Maya Angelou Dead At 86

Two independent sources close to Angelou confirmed her death to WXII’s Wanda Starke Wednesday morning. She was 86.

A police car, an ambulance and a hearse were seen outside Angelou’s home on Bartram Road around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Winston-Salem police said they are at the home to investigate a death but released no other information.

The area near Angelou’s home has been blocked off to try to keep people out of the area, as well as to give respect to the family, WXII’s Talitha Vickers reported.

Angelou had been the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. Wake Forest officials released the following statement:

“Today members of the Wake Forest University community mourn the loss of beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest….Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis. At 14, she became San Francisco’s first black female cable car conductor, and in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou to serve as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Angelou received many accolades, including dozens of honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.

Read more: http://www.wxii12.com/news/dr-maya-angelou-dead-at-86/26204272#ixzz331Ba3qVr

R.I.P.


Praise For All Queens

th (4)To all the women and mothers on the day we are celebrating women I want to show reverence to all of the beautiful women – all Queens. History tells us, and His-story agrees, that the oldest known human remains discovered is that of a black woman, whose name was “Lucy”, found in African over 4 million years ago. It is also a fact that Africa is the cradle of civilization, which means a black woman gave birth to mankind in a place called Pangaea.

These gorgeous creatures walk with the distinction of creating and continuing the species that first walked the earth and still they carry the world on her shoulders as being God’s greatest creation. Therefore, during this month that is dedicated to the “Celebration of Women” – I LOVE YOU. This post is not meant to exclude women, who are also of distinction, from other ethnicity’s or hues because I love you too. Rather to express my profound appreciation for the wonders and wonderful Black Woman.

Some may say that today’s black woman, particularly young women, have lost their way. This is a subjective statement, which may be true to a degree but each of you ladies have the power to change that perception by guiding these young girls into womanhood. You are the nurturer because you are the woman who understands her strength and uses her power positively as a gift to mankind.  Forget the mantra, so often used, “Strong Black Woman”. We know you are but consider that it is misguided because your strength is in unity, and I will leave that there as my prospective.

We can all remember; I hope, Big Mama, who was the backbone of the family,. She is the woman that I dedicate this article, and pay homage to those like her, for being the family’s greatest gift; a proud woman with wisdom, pride, and dedication with one purpose “family”. For all of those who use the mantra “Strong Black Woman” in a misguided way. Let me suggest that you use the First Lady, Michelle Obama our crowned queen, as an example for which to follow. As she portrays for the world to see what a black woman is – proud, graceful, supporting, dignified and charming. This is your strength.

Personally, my greatest heroine was Harriet Tubman because of her bravery and courage. It has been about 100 years since her death, and I continue to be haunted by a powerful statement she made shortly before that fateful day. She was asked by a reporter if she knew how many slave she saved while conducting the Underground Railroad? She said, “I could have freed a lot more if they had only known they were slaves?” POWERFUL!!! I respect and honor her because she risked her life for the benefit of others traveling back to rescue many captive souls, 13 or more times, after she had escaped herself during a time that we cannot imagine today.

There was a commercial a long time ago that said, “You’ve come a long way baby” or look at this way “from the outhouse to the White House”. These are just a few exceptional women that I am particularly proud of because of their integrity, pride, dignity, and fortitude, but there are so many more. So for those who came before you or those who walk amongst us; like Phyllis Wheatley, May Jemison, Mya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Madam CJ Walker, Sojourner Truth, the Queen of Sheba, Nefertiti, Big Mama, my Mom, you, and not to be left out the millions of heroines that the world have been blessed to share – you are loved. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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