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On This Day: The Murder Of Emmett Till

Throughout America’s sordid history, there have been many children murdered but the Murder in Money, Mississippi is the most infamous. It was this incident, the murder of a black child, fourteen year old Emmett Till that sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement. On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago supposedly whistled at a white woman in a grocery store.

The crime sounded clarion calls for a nation to wake up – just look at the photo. Till’s mutilated corpse circulated around the country mainly because of John Johnson, who published the gruesome photographs in Jet magazine, a predominately African American publication. The photo drew intense public reaction.

Till didn’t understand or knew that he had broken an unwritten law of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. That night the door to his grandfather’s house was thrown open, and Emmett was forced into a truck and driven away never again to be seen alive again. Till’s body was found swollen and disfigured in the Tallahatchie river three days after his abduction and only identified by his ring.

Till’s body was sent back to Chicago, where his mother insisted on leaving the casket open for the funeral and having people take photographs because she wanted people to see how badly Till’s body had been disfigured. This courageous mother was famously quoted as saying, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby” and over 50,000 people came to view the body.

On the day he was buried, two men — the husband of the woman who had been whistled at and his half brother — were indicted of his murder, but the all white male jury from Money (some of whom actually participated in Till’s torture and execution) took only an hour to return ‘not guilty’ verdict. The verdict would have been quicker, remarked the grinning foreman, if the jury hadn’t taken a break for a soft drink on the way to the deliberation room. To add insult to injury, knowing that they would not be retrial, the two accused men sold their stories to LOOK Magazine and gleefully admitted to everything.

Elsewhere in Mississippi at the time things weren’t going terribly well for blacks either. Just before Till was murdered, two activists Rev. George Lee and Lamar Smith were shot dead for trying to exercise their rights to vote, and in shocking testimony to the lack of law and order, no one came forward to testify although both murders were committed in broad daylight.

1aThe next year, a former army sergeant, Clyde Kennard, tried to enroll at Mississippi South College in Hattiesburg and was sent away, but came back to ask again. For this ‘audacity’, university officials — not students, or mere citizens, but university officials — planted stolen liquor and a bag of stolen chicken feed in his car and had him arrested. Kennard died halfway into his seven year sentence.

But times were slowly a-changing: Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Three months after the Till murder Rosa Parks would refuse to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Sit-ins and marches would follow, and soon the civil rights movement itself would be in full-swing. It’s been over sixty-years since the events of that fateful night, and I simply cannot find the words to describe this heinous crime that has yet to receive justice.

I’ll end by sharing these words by Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The Effects Of Discrimination

Hate is one of the most powerful emotions a person can express. We see it every day and those who have prejudices and hate in their hearts simply live life in fear. They are afraid of what they don’t know, and this fear usually comes in the form of hate in on form or another. For people who have experienced this loathing nature, it can be devastating or surreal. Human beings cannot choose their ethnic backgrounds, sex, or physical features.

A person has no control over his or her DNA. Nevertheless, when stigmatisms arise about a person’s race, this fact is blatantly overlooked. Multiculturalism, gender differences, and sexual preferences are factual parts of the world, and we can see because of a guy named Trump hatred has reared its ugly head.

When people choose to hate or are bigoted, the effects of this choice can be detrimental on numerous levels. Racists and those with extreme bias in regards to ethnicities, socially segregate themselves, resulting in severe developmental issues. This segregation occurs due to acceptance, anger, experience, fear, ignorance and/or social pressure. Choosing to be a racist is taught and a decision to be limited to the unique experiences, usually, by not gaining knowledge of other cultural or ethnic groups.

Frederick Jermaine Carter died by hanging from a tree in a predominantly white neighborhood, with the reputation of not being welcome to African Americans, in Greenwood, Mississippi. In 1955, the murder of Emmett Till occurred in a town 10 miles from Greenwood, and this crime was similar to the Carter situation. The death of Frederick Carter has rehashed the details of Emmett Till’s tragic death and the similarities in both cases. Although, lynching was the preferred means of killing a black man in the past. Today, it is done under cover of law by those hired to protect and serve.

Till allegedly whistled at a married Caucasian woman and for this assumed action, her husband and an accomplice executed him at the tender age of 15. The trial of the Till lynching was recorded by over seventy reporters, and this sparked an international awareness of Southern racism. This awareness has fueled the desire for justice in the present Carter case and demands for change in the state of Mississippi and beyond.

Having hatred for those who differ from a self-preferred group, spans far past race. In the state of New York a few years ago, one man and two teenage boys were beaten and sodomized for hours by nine attackers for being homosexual. Occurrences like this crime are, unfortunately, frequently such as the case in the Orlando club shooting and influence movements such as other anti-gay hate crimes. Unfortunately, those who are multicultural and gay experience the double whammy of being a potential target for an active hater. A positive effect of these situations is the gained awareness of impending dangers.

Recently, and nearly once a week, an unarmed black man or person of color is killed by the police, always with impunity. The result is always “more training”! Some would argue, more training nor cameras are not the answer. Rather, it is an ingrained bias toward a race of people that perpetuate the acts of those who are taught to shoot first, ask questions later, and the brotherhood will see that they go free. Racism is rooted in the notion of white supremacy, which is based on economics and control of it.

When it comes to sexism, it applies to discriminations or prejudices in regards to either sex as a whole male or female chauvinism. The term sexism arose in the mid-20th century, and this induction resulted in movements such as Feminism, Masculism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT). Chauvinism can affect people in a major way. If a person feels discriminated against because of his or her gender, the effects are long-term emotional and possibly mental issues.

No matter status or location, everyone has experienced hate personally or indirectly. It is revolting and a continuous fact. Detestation is a vicious cycle that is hard to bring to an end, particularly when it involves matters of race and racism.

However, for those who choose to make positive impacts in anti-hate movements and lifestyles hope that past atrocities should prove to be effective incentives to make a change. Unfortunately, instead of the black man being on the short end of a rope, like in the past; in modern times he might find yourself facing the exist end of a gun barrel. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


An American Shame

“Disclaimer: This piece is long but it is knowledge everyone should know.”

2There have been many ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, African Americans have endured the brunt of these efforts. As we know, the history of America reports that it was not only African American’s who were subjected or affected by these efforts. What I can report is that it was always a minority affected by these laws meant to ensure a permanent underclass.

This ideology began as indentured servants, then slavery, segregation, and now could it be conservatism. In each of these classifications there was a design called laws Black Codes, which I suppose make these immoral sanctions sound gentler. The truth is the sole purpose was to suppression rights. Kinda like the agenda behind the States Rights dog-whistles we hear today.

Black Codes were laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American on the state and local levels. This is the reason Conservatives desire a return to “States Rights” and speak of taking back their country because at the state level they can be unimpeded in turning back the hands of time.

Although, most of the discriminatory legislation, in terms of Black Codes, were used more often by Southern states to control the labor, movements and activities of newly freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. But as Malcolm X once said, “Anywhere south of Canada was south” meaning wherever you were in America you were subjected to discrimination in terms of the “separate but equal” laws, which was the law of the land.

The Black Codes of the 1860’s are not the same as the Jim Crow laws. The Black Codes were in reaction to the abolition of slavery and the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Southern legislatures enacted them during Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era began later, nearer to the end of the 19th century after Reconstruction, with its unwritten laws.

Then there were sundown laws, which meant Blacks, could not live or be caught in certain towns after dark. In some cases, signs were placed at the town’s borders with statements similar to the one posted in Hawthorne California that read “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne” in the 1930’s. In some cases, exclusions were official town policy, restrictive covenants, or the policy was enforced through intimidation.

After the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prior to that African Americans were considered 3/5’s human. Therefore, all former slave states adopted Black Codes. During 1865 every Southern state passed Black Codes that restricted the Freemen, who were emancipated but not yet full citizens. While they pursued re-admission to the Union, the Southern states provided freedmen with limited second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Southern plantation owners feared that they would lose their land. Having convinced themselves that slavery was justified, planters feared African Americans wouldn’t work without coercion. The Black Codes were an attempt to control them and to ensure they did not claim social equality.

The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to evade the results of the war. After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republicans put the South under military rule. They held new elections in which the Freedmen could vote. Suffrage was also expanded to poor whites. The new governments repealed all the Black Codes; they were never reenacted – OFFICALLY.

Many of these things are unknown to the generations of today because these injustices have been erased from our history and very little of it is taught in today’s classroom. For example, a sundown town was a town that was all white on purpose. The term was widely used in the United States and Canada in areas from Ohio to Oregon and well into the South. Even in Canada many towns in Southern Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec, were sundown towns prior to 1982, when it was outlawed. The term came from signs that were allegedly posted stating that people of color had to leave the town by sundown. They were also sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns”. Let me ask if you have ever been to a million dollar community – sound familiar.

The black codes that were enacted immediately after the Civil War, though varying from state to state, were all intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labor and all continued to assume the inferiority of the freed slaves. The black codes had their roots in the slave codes that had formerly been in effect. The premise behind chattel slavery in America was that slaves were property, and, as such, they had few or no legal rights. The slave codes, in their many loosely defined forms, were seen as effective tools against slave unrest, particularly as a hedge against uprisings and runaways. Enforcement of slave codes also varied, but corporal punishment was widely and harshly employed.

Let me highlight this example: In Texas, the Eleventh Legislature produced these codes in 1866. The intent of the legislation was to reaffirm the inferior position that slaves and free blacks had held in antebellum Texas and to regulate black labor. The codes reflected the unwillingness of white Texans to accept blacks as equals. You do remember “Juneteenth”? In addition, the Texans also feared that freedmen would not work unless coerced. Thus the codes continued legal discrimination between whites and blacks. The legislature, when it amended the 1856 penal code, emphasized the continuing line between whites and blacks by defining all individuals with one-eighth or more African blood as persons of color, subject to special provisions in the law.

Minorities were systematically excluded from living in or sometimes even passing through these communities after the sun went down. This allowed maids and workmen to provide unskilled labor during the day. Sociologists have described this as the nadir of American race relations. Sundown towns existed throughout the nation, but most often were located in the northern states that were not pre-Civil War slave states. There have not been any de jure sundown towns in the country since legislation in the 1960’s was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, although de facto sundown towns and counties, where no black family lives – still exist.

Therefore, we see hints of it in the racism that has raised its ugly head and risen to the surface of society’s consciousness, particularly in this political climate. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and especially since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing, the number of sundown towns has decreased.

However, as sociologist suggest it is impossible to precisely count the number of sundown towns at any given time, because most towns have not kept records of the ordinances or signs that marked the town’s sundown status. It is important to note that sundown status meant more than just African Americans not being able to live in these towns. Essentially any African Americans or other groups who came into sundown towns after sundown were subject to harassment, threats, and violent acts; up to and including lynching.

As one historian has noted, “Racial segregation was hardly a new phenomenon because slavery had fixed the status of most blacks, no need was felt for statutory measures segregating the races. These restrictive Black Codes have morphed in one form or another to achieve its desired effect to maintain a superior status by the powers that be. I am only suggesting that we know and understand history for it will open the mind to what the future may present.

Frankly, if you don’t know where you came from you will never get to where you are going. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective!!!


Tricky Dick

3There has been a lot of talk about Richard M. Nixon, AKA Tricky Dick, as we remember the upcoming anniversary of his resignation for crimes committed during his presidency. I remember that time well and thought his six years in the White House was pivotal in American military, diplomatic, and political history. Let me be clear, based upon my recollection of that time and the tremendous amount of information released since he resigned to avoid impeachment and possibly prison was that he was a crook. Plain and simple!

Nixon’s presidency was for Nixon – not America, which is why it was cut short by Watergate and his many crimes. Nixon was no doubt “complex” and often “contradictory”. Some scholars view him as liberal, others as moderate, and many more say conservative; all can find ample evidence for each label and conclusive evidence for none of them. As President, Nixon was only as conservative as he could be and only as liberal as he had to be. This was a President, who meant to move the country to the right, and he did. Maybe this is why his personality caused him to be a transitional political figure.

Nixon’s most-celebrated achievements as President was the nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the diplomatic opening to China that set the stage for the arms reduction pacts and careful diplomacy that brought about the end of the Cold War. Likewise, the Nixon Doctrine of furnishing aid to allies while expecting them to provide the soldiers to fight in their own defense paved the way for the Reagan Doctrine of supporting proxy armies and the Weinberger Doctrine of sending U.S. armed forces into combat only as a last resort when vital national interests are at stake and objectives clearly defined.

While his slow withdrawal from Vietnam appeared to be a practical application of the Nixon Doctrine, his secretly recorded White House tapes reveal that he expected South Vietnam to collapse after he brought American troops home and prolonged the war to postpone that collapse until after his reelection in 1972.

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South. Nixon sought a middle way between the segregationist Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern whites. His hope in doing this was doing well in the South in 1972; he sought to dispose of desegregation as a political issue before then. Soon after his inauguration, he appointed Vice President Agnew to lead a task force, which worked with local leaders, both white and black, to determine how to integrate local schools. This became known of his “Southern Strategy.”

By September 1970, less than ten percent of black children were attending segregated schools. By 1971, however, tensions over desegregation surfaced in Northern cities, with angry protests over the busing of children to schools outside their neighborhood to achieve racial balance. Nixon opposed busing personally but enforced court orders requiring its use. In addition to desegregating public schools, Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan in 1970; the first significant federal affirmative action program. He also endorsed the Equal Rights after it passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification.

In light of his loss of political support and the near-certainty of impeachment, Nixon resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, after addressing the nation on television the previous evening. The resignation speech was delivered from the Oval Office and was carried live on radio and television. Nixon stated that he was resigning for the good of the country and asked the nation to support the new president, Gerald Ford. Ford was conveniently chosen as his replacement to pardon him for his crimes, meaning “he got away” with all crimes.

His downfall was the result of the Watergate break-in and the tapes recorded by Trick Dick himself. He said, I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, while famously saying “I am not a crook.” Nixon’s speech received, generally, favorable initial responses. However, it was an unprecedented humiliation as he was the first American president to resign the office.

Ultimately, the White House tapes did shape the assessment of Nixon’s impact and legacy. They ended his presidency by furnishing proof of his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, fueled a generation’s skepticism about political leaders, and today provide ample evidence of the political calculation behind the most important decisions of his presidency. They make his presidency an object lesson in the difference between image and reality, a lesson that each generation must learn anew.

In my opinion, his worst crime and shameful legacy was his initiation of the “War on Drugs” that was the beginning of the mass incarceration of black people. Frankly, his presidency is responsible for the prison industrial complex that has destroyed millions of lives and families. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


You Must VOTE!!!

2Elections are being held all over the nation this year. Most of these elections are on state and local level with issues that have national implications. The issues before voters encompass a wide range of concerns including union rights, voting rights, and women’s rights. Let us not be fooled by the right-wing because nothing about their views encompass the reality we face.

There are and will be issues placed before voters this fall and coming in 2016 that are serious and must not be taken lightly. Consider this, weren’t the rights of workers to organize collectively and negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions determined long ago? If you like a 40 hour work week, overtime pay, weekends off, sick leave and paid vacations, you have no one to thank, but union organizers who brought workers together to demand these benefits.

The issue of raising the minimum wage for millions of workers and their families must be addressed in this age when “oligarchy” rules. Of course, there are other important issues. But just think about all of the people who sacrificed so much, like those who sacrificed their very lives to ensure that all citizens could exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Then there are the women’s issues; isn’t it settled law that women – as full citizens of this great nation – have the right to be secure in their own person – without Republican intrusion into the difficult and personal choices they make in respect to their own bodies?

One of the greatest difficulties we face by living in this democracy, if you believe that’s what this is, we must contend with the assaults from institutional racism. The highest court in the land is against the people; the House of Representatives is not a functional body, the police are combat soldiers, and you know what – it begs the question; who do they serve. Once we were slave, but today we are all slaves on the plantation. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Black History: Brown V Board of Education

It’s been nearly sixty years since the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States. This case changed the face of America in away unlike any other decision heard by this body.

The Brown Case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court. However, it was the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts.

It is important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949. With that said, I would like to take the opportunity to pay homage to the valor of a skillful attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court – winning all of them.

The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations. The Case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs.

The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of “with all deliberate speed” in 1955, known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court’s findings.

As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.

Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said, “As sure as things change they remain the same”. First, it took 60 year to overturn Plessy with Brown and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period from 1954 to 1967, Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.

Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are equally as segregated, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, often times, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.

Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds, rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same.

That is why it is imperative for us to celebrate this Black History Month and continue the struggle for equality, as the ghosts of so many died for a simply principle; “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair”.

Black History is American History! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Phoenix Rises

 
2Deep breath.
You cannot cry,
Cannot scream,
Cannot break,
 
Deep breath
Think of a calming rhythm that rivals the
dangerous hum of impending disappointment.
Think of a “happy place.”
            Such a joke
            Such a lie
 
How is any place happy?
When frustration
When sheer anger festers within one’s own self?
Breeding a new being unrecognizable to the kind soul that once cradled an equally as kind person
Doesn’t that make the idea of a happy place void?
Impossible to attain?
A wish on a star that you know you will never reach.
 
But if you could,
if you could have the experience of the bliss of flying,
would you ever make it to that star?
If you could feel the wind race past your ears,
and experience the weightlessness of Space,
would you not perish from the lack of oxygen,
perish from the reality of a lack of necessity.
 
Deep breath
It is simple.
You cannot survive on hopes alone.
They do not feed you.
They are not the necessity, right?
And yet you fantasize about making the impossible possible.
 
For no good reason.
Nothing outside of.
I know it can be done….
So on the off chance that you can make it,
That you manage to reach and to touch that ever bright star…
will you sear your outstretched fingers upon contact?
Admit defeat as you blister and bubble under the white hot failure?
 
Deep breath.
Such is the nature of hope,
            Of wishes,
            Of dreams.
 
You can work to succeed,
Succeed to achieve,
Come within your bated breath of accomplishment-
And it could all be for naught.
That’s what happens when you get too close.
When you dare to cross the lines Fate has set as boundary for you.
 
It can all burn,
Returning back to the ashes of the previous failure upon which it was born.
All the hard work thrown directly into what seems to be
the merciless, incendiary clutches of Hell itself.
You’re left without options and decide to try to regain self.
These are dark, bottomless thoughts and you cannot fall.
Calm yourself.
 
Deep breath
You are the foundation for others with seemingly silly dreams
            With endless hopes
            With starry-eyed wishes
And you are not yet heartless enough to tell them that
It is never what it seems.
That it may all have started as and may become again-
nothing.
 
Deep breath
You cannot be seen crying
You cannot crack before Them.
Try once more.
Wake to your new dawn
Just as the Darkness again loses its eternal battle with the Sun,
Dust off  your own dreams
            Hopes
            Wishes.
Renew them upon this bright nothing.
A new start at something old.
A fresh take on something worn,
And continue to inspire.
 
Breathe deeply
You need not cry.
You need not scream.
And his is no time to break.
Think of your calming rhythm.
The day is yours.
 
This daily phoenix rise to your sense of purpose,
Is your “happy place”. Make a home here.
Where your People can take their own calming breaths,
And thrive.
2

By Kathryn Sabir-Beach


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