Tag Archives: segregation

Remembering Sojourner Truth

22Throughout our existence in this place, the slaves called “merica”. If you follow this blog you know I love to celebrate the ghosts of the greats, which include many dynamic heroines to which I remember one of the greatest -Sojourner Truth. A woman whose exact date of birth was not recorded. What we do know is in the year 1797, among Dutch immigrants in the region now known as Ulster County, New York, an African child was born on the estate of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh.

One of 13 children born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, she was given the name Isabella Baumfree. As the story goes, this name gave her no hint of her mission and, therefore, years later she renamed herself Sojourner Truth. Her life was a testament to this mission as a truth-teller. In 1851, Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before the Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio. Several ministers were in attendance. Truth rose from her seat and spoke the following words before the audience:

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the White men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

In 1864, she worked among freed slaves at a government refugee camp on an island in Virginia and was employed by the National Freedman’s Relief Association in Washington, D.C., according to Women in History: Living vignettes of notable women from U.S. history. In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s article “The Libyan Sibyl” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly; a romanticized description of Sojourner.

At the end of the Civil War, Truth worked on behalf of the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington through the Freedman’s Relief Association. In 1867, she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. While unsuccessful in her efforts, for several years she lobbied the U.S. federal government for land in the Western states for former enslaved Africans. Illness began to reduce her speaking tours. In 1879, she spent a year in Kansas City to help to settle African migrants she called “Exodusters”. In addition to racial and gender equality issues, Truth campaigned against capital punishment and called for temperance.

On November 26, 1883, Sojourner Truth was surrounded by her family at her death bed. She was 86 years old when she died surrounded by her family in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, next to her grandson’s gravesite. More than 200 years later, her legacy as a truth-keeper continues to ignite the imagination of the new nation for which she found herself in service. Sojourner Truth lived during times of great change.

First Lady Michelle Obama said of her at the April 28, 2009 commemorative ceremony unveiling the Sojourner Truth bronze bust in the US Capitol – “I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America. Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them.”

In the spirit of one of the greatest women to live, your concrete place in history is greatly appreciated. And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Shameful History Of Blacks People And The Vote

5America has always had a shameful history when it comes to blacks and the vote. Since the Civil War when blacks were given the right to vote, wink-wink; although, it really did not! There were many ways created to circumvent the process; remember it did not give the right to vote to black women! They said they did this because by claiming to give the right to vote to them was supposed to make them think they were free. I remind you of this because it is election time now and blacks are about to be hoodwinked again! Let’s be clear, black people have always been marginalized and not seen as central to our society.

Society’s context has changed, somewhat, there are many links between the freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s and today. The Voting Rights Act (VRA), signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965, was a victory for the Civil Rights Movement but was it democracy. It outlawed strategies that had been used by white supremacists to disenfranchise Black citizens. Together with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act ended some legal forms of white supremacy. Although this was important, it did not end all forms of racial discrimination, many of which were, and are, deeply embedded in the structures of the American society.

Let’s look back at the history of blacks and voting rights. Following the Civil War, black people used the Reconstruction Amendments to democratize the South. To be clear, only men were allowed to vote in formal elections and often had to bring weapons for their protection. Whites established oppressive Jim Crow laws that remained in place until the modern Civil Rights Movement. They used, effectively, murder and the destruction of black newspapers to help accomplish this goal.

Whites and their textbooks generally do not list the Jim Crow practices or the grandfather clauses, literacy tests, or the poll tax, but less well known are the economic terrorism and violence that backed up these strategies they used to Black voting. For example, a Mississippi sharecropper Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer describes what happened when she took the registration test in 1962: she was viciously beaten in jail, and in 1964 denied the right to vote.

Another example was in 1944, the NAACP won a landmark case, Smith v. Allwright, ruling that white primary where only white voters could participate in political primaries, later ruled unconstitutional. This victory inspired an upsurge in Black voter registration that was reinforced by Black veterans returning home from overseas. One of these veterans was Medgar Evers, who became Mississippi’s first NAACP field secretary and was assassinated in June 1963 for his civil rights work. The Supreme Court gradually outlawed discriminatory practices, like the grandfather clause, the white primary, and the poll tax, but the federal government played a passive role.

Some white supremacist judges blocked the department’s work at every turn and the FBI only reluctantly carried out the necessary investigations. And after initially promising to protect anyone working on voter registration, the Kennedy administration backtracked, and the FBI refused to protect civil rights workers, even when they were attacked on federal property in front of agents.

White supremacists responded to the voting rights campaign by manipulating the registration process, firing and evicting people, burning and bombing homes and churches, beating and even murdering people. White officials then used the low numbers of African Americans registered to vote to insist that Blacks had no interest in politics. In response, SNCC organized Freedom Days, first in Selma, Alabama, in 1963and in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1964.

Whether in the punishing sun or pouring rain, people lined up to demonstrate their desire to vote. With little chance of actually registering, much less voting, they stayed in line and refused to be intimidated by white threats and harassment. Then in 1963, SNCC and other began to challenge the whole idea of requiring literacy to vote. They had encountered many people who had been denied education but still had more than enough wisdom to vote on their representatives.

For example, in Lowndes County, Alabama, with an approximately 80 percent African American population, but no Black registered voters. So their efforts equip the people with the information and skills essential to running the county themselves not just as new voters but also as political leaders. The SNCC “developed a unique political education program that used workshops, mass meetings, and primers to increase general knowledge of local government and democratize political behavior.”

SNCC’s work followed Ella Baker’s belief that “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. . . It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

Moving forward to today, in July 2013, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Arguing in part that it is arbitrary and no longer necessary to focus exclusively on the former Confederacy, the Court’s majority eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for nine Southern states. This means that the Justice Department can no longer check for racial bias in new laws in these states.

This along with other forms of voter suppression enacted throughout the state in this country; it is clear that we still need robust, proactive tools to protect voting rights for all citizens, but particularly African Americans, students, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.

Rather than being curtailed, the Voting Rights Act should be extended. No doubt future historians will look back at today’s voter ID laws, ex-felon disenfranchisement, and other forms of voter suppression (including Jim Crow voting booths) as a 21st-century version of the literacy tests, poll tax, and grandfather clause of the last century.

Ella Baker’s words still echo today. In 1964 she said, “Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I agree! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


Charm City: Upton The Jewel of the Chesapeake

There have been many segregated cities created by white folk thanks to the system of white supremacy. I’ve told the story of “Black Wall Street”, Black Bottom, Harlem and, in fact, the many other such places all over America. But did you know there was a place called Upton in Baltimore, Maryland that hosted one of the most affluent African American neighborhoods in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. For the “Colored folk”, it was known as the “Jewel of the Chesapeake”.

Today, B-more is called “Charm City” which should have been the name given to this splendid community back in the day. Rather, today Baltimore is known for its despair and of course the murder of Freddie Gray who the system say killed himself while in police custody and the unrest that ensued.

In Upton, Pennsylvania Avenue was the main drag connecting all African American life in the city and beyond. To the south and west of Upton lay the poor and working class African American neighborhoods of “The Bottom”; to its east were the German American and Jewish American neighborhoods. Upton is about a fifteen minute walk from Downtown Baltimore, but blacks of that era had no need to go downtown, for obvious reasons. Because of segregation they were not allowed to patronize or enter through the front door of the white establishments unless they were working.

Baltimore is best known for crabs, crab cakes, delicious seafood, and, of course, a good time, but let’s never forget its rich history. Upton was home to the most educated African Americans, property owners, and professionals to include doctors, lawyers, retailers who served the middle class and upscale clientele. On the Avenue, as it was called, was home to a premiere shopping strip for black Baltimoreans, inspiring comparisons to Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Upton had it all jazz clubs, dance halls, theaters, as well as other public and private institutions for the black community.

Upton was also the staging ground for much of the local and national civil rights initiatives. It was a crossroad for many great African Americans who fought for equality and improving conditions for communities suffering from the ridged “separate but equal laws” and cruel amoral agendas. People like the great Frederick Douglass, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey all visited Upton and organized in its local churches. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP was based in Upton as well as the New Negro Alliance, who rallied for justice from this proud community.

In the mid-20th century, Upton’s population swelled due to the popularity of the neighborhood and the pressures of segregation that kept African Americans confined to certain areas. Single family homes were subdivided into small apartments, and Pennsylvania Avenue’s sidewalks were crowded on Saturday nights, as loud music and heavy drinking became popular vices on the strip. There were several notable venues hosting great entertainment like the New Albert Hall, the Savoy and the Strands that drew many performers and partygoers.

But it was the Douglass Theater, renamed The Royal Theater, at Pennsylvania and Lafayette, that became famous and a mainstay on the Chitlin Circuit on par with the legendary Apollo Theater. Cab Calloway grew up in Upton and Eubie Blake performed his debut in a club on Pennsylvania Avenue. Stars such as Ethel Water, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations all performed at the Royal. It was like the Apollo in the sense that you had to play the Royal to get your chops.

Churches were also a huge part of this community providing safe havens for its people. Since the 18th Century, African American churches have nurtured their souls, feed the hungry, clothed and housed the poor but their role was far more important. The church community was a launch pad for activism and served as a communication networks, which was the backbone of the community. The church community fought for civil rights, supported business initiatives, and job placement. From the beginning, going back beyond the Underground Railroad, Baltimore’s churches were a place of empowerment through worship and served as incubators for organizing and planning regardless of denomination or faith.

Baltimore produced prominent businessmen such as Raymond Haysbert, who was the owner and founder of the famed Parks Sausage Company that became the first black-owned company to go public in 1969. The Parks Sausage Company was a legend in Baltimore, and you could hear its slogan “more Parks Sausages mom” everywhere. After the company, experienced financial difficulties two former National Football League Hall of Famers Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris partnered to come to its rescue maintaining the company’s black-owned legacy. James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, was also a prominent businessman in the city owning WEBB, a local radio station, and several other businesses.

Upton also produced its share of colorful characters known as “hustlers” who were legendary. One of the most famous was “Little Willie” Adams. Mr. Adams or “Little Willie”, as he was known, opened a shoeshine stand on the Avenue when he was 18. Sources say he was an ambitious young hustler with dreams of being his own man. One day a flamboyant numbers man got in his chair; he popped his rag like a firecracker while talking jive making him laugh.

He convinced the numbers man that he too was a businessman, solid and dependable, and he wanted in on the numbers game. The hustlers slapped palms, and Little Willie started at the bottom the next day as a runner. By age 34, the young dapper Adams was already a living legend and the King of B-more. Little Willie was known to say, after he became the numbers czar, “This was our thing started by slaves”. I’m told he would say “prayer is good but when you get up off your knees. You’ve got to hustle”.

Then there was the late Melvin Williams, who was the inspiration for the enormously popular HBO series “The Wire.” Known as “Little Melvin”, also featured the documentary “American Gangster” where he told his story, his way. Before he was old enough to shave, Little Melvin possessed a genius I.Q. of 160 but he says it’s closer to 200. Despite being a high school dropout, he can talk tax codes, interstate commerce, calculus, and physics with the best of them. Little Melvin, a legend at age 15 years old had made a few hundred grand in the gambling haunts and alleyways along glittering Pennsylvania Avenue. For three decades, Melvin ruled as the uncrowned king.

Pennsylvania Avenue is now lined with sneaker shops, dollar stores, other low-rent commercial uses, and many abandoned storefronts. The Avenue Market sells produce and holds occasional events such as jazz shows. According to the city, 60% of Upton families with children under 5 are living in poverty. The median home sale price in Upton in 2004 (not including Marble Hill) was $28,054. Many of the row houses in the neighborhood are vacant either abandoned by their property owners or owned by the city.

Yes, the ghost of what was our creation has been stained, and the Jewel of the Chesapeake has lost its luster. Unfortunately, the city of Baltimore, known as Charm City, forgot that Upton was responsible for a large part of its charm but African Americans know it lure looms large, and its legacy will never die. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Media Kit


Why America Refuses To Face Up To Slavery’s Past

260_160Did you ever wonder why white folk can’t face up to slavery and the sins of their fathers. First, let’s understand that they benefited greatly on the backs of slavery. Therefore, we should understand that slavery and racism is all about economics. Not to mention it is as American as apple pie! They, white people, know full well the wretchedness of what they have done; then and now but they can’t teach the truth. It is simply the devil and evil within them that won’t allow it because it is the foundation of White Supremacy!!!

This is an article re-blogged – written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

This news item shocked some. Two unnamed Academy members said they picked “12 Years a Slave” as their choice for best picture of the year. It subsequently got the award.

The shock, though, was that the unnamed members candidly admitted that they did not see the film. They minced no words why. It was just too painful and disturbing to watch this kind of film. But this really shouldn’t be much of a shock.

Facing the horror of slavery is a tough nut to crack not simply because it entails facing an inconvenient truth about past racial dehumanization, but because it entails facing the real truth that slavery still corrodes in big and little ways American life. This starts with the truth of why and how slavery became a respected and legitimate part of American life in the first place.

The U.S. government encoded slavery in the Constitution and protected and nourished it for a century. Traders, insurance companies, bankers, shippers, and landowners made billions off of it. Their ill-gotten profits fueled America’s industrial and agricultural might. For decades after slavery’s end, white trade unions excluded blacks and confined them to the dirtiest, poorest paying jobs.

While it’s true that many whites and non-white immigrants came to America after the Civil War they were not subjected to the decades of relentless racial terror and legal segregation, as were blacks. Through the decades of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, African-Americans were transformed into the poster group for racial deviancy. The image of blacks as lazy, crime- and violence-prone, irresponsible, and sexual predators has stoked white fears and hostility and served as the standard rationale for more than 4,000 documented lynchings between 1890 and 1945, as well as the countless racial assaults and acts of hate crime violence.

Though some blacks earn more and live better than ever today, and have gotten boosts from, social and education programs, civil rights legislation, and affirmative action programs, the hideous legacy of slavery is still ever present. The National Urban League in its annual State of Black America reports yearly continually finds that young blacks are far likelier than whites to be imprisoned, serve longer terms, and are more likely to receive the death penalty even when their crimes are similar.

Blacks continue to have the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, violence victimization rates, and health care disparities than any other group in America. They are still more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods and be refused business and home loans. Their children are more likely to attend failed public schools than any other group, and more likely to be racially profiled on America’s urban streets.

The U.S. government admitted it was legally liable in 1997 to pay the black survivors and family members of the two-decade long syphilis experiment begun in the 1930′s by the U.S. Public Health Service that turned black patients into human guinea pigs. The survivors got $10 million from the government and an apology from President Clinton. They were the victims of a blatant medical atrocity conducted with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. government.

The state legislature in Florida in 1994 agreed to make payments to the survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives and property when a white mob destroyed the all-black town of Rosewood in 1923. This was a specific act of mob carnage that was tacitly condoned by some public officials and law enforcement officers. Florida was liable for the violence and was duty bound to apologize and pay. The Oklahoma state legislature has agreed at least in principle that reparations and apology should be made to the survivors of the dozens of blacks killed, and the hundreds more that had their homes and businesses destroyed by white mobs with the complicity of law enforcement in the Tulsa massacre of 1921.

A bill by Michigan Congressman John Conyers that has been kicked around Congress since 1989 to establish a commission to study the impact of slavery and the feasibility of paying reparations to blacks has gone nowhere in Congress. Reparations is simply too risky, divisive, and distracting for Congress to seriously consider. President Obama, however, has spoken at times about the need to spend more on education, job and housing programs as the best way to deal with the ills of the black poor.

The brutal truth is that a mainstay of America’s continuing racial divide is its harsh and continuing mistreatment of poor blacks. This can be directly traced to the persistent and pernicious legacy of slavery. But from the comments and actions of at least some Academy members even watching a movie about slavery that’s set a century and a half ago is too much too take. And that tells why America still refuses to face up to its slave past.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson


Stop The War On Drugs

2I think everyone in America knows someone with a drug problem or who uses drugs; either for recreational use or the result of addiction. It has been the government’s position that the solution is to lock people up for either discretion. Mind you, this is not done for national security or the safety of the individual; it is all about “The Benjamin.” I can remember when Reagan and his cronies inserted crack into black communities and in the seventies there was no effort to stop those who made money off of the misery of black people being addicted to heroin. Places like New York’s Harlem. Now that white folk are dying of overdoses – it is a problem!

The drug war’s conception was nothing but a clever scheme to have a system where they get paid from all ends. Let’s be frank, if they wanted the drug problem to cease – they could do it, but it would cost trillions of dollars by eliminating the apparatus in place for those fighting it, who would instantly become unemployed; like judges, police lawyers, prisons, and those who work for agencies created to make money from the so-called fight on the drug war.

Let me say this off the top – not one Negro in any urban area brings a single joint, ounce, or drop of anything into America. Yet, these are the people who fill the jails and prisons, by and large, serving long sentences. It has been reported and known that the government has been involved in bringing drugs into our neighborhood or at least responsible for the protection that allowed them to plant the drugs our communities. To that point, they were caught through their involvement with Iran-Contra!

Let’s call it what is – “Retroactive Abortion”! For example, if a million black men are incarcerated, two things happen. First, the offender will usually lose their right to vote. Secondly, if you take a million incarcerated black men and each of them could have on average three children, this would eliminate, based on this count, three million black people from existence, and this means removing millions voters.

They have appointed drug czars to be the general in this war. One publicly admitted that locking people up won’t keep anyone from using drugs, but stopped short of renouncing punitive policies that have made America’s long war on drugs widely unpopular. This official said, in a post on the White House website that the government’s new drug control strategy “rejects the notion that we can arrest and incarcerate our way out of the nation’s drug problem. Instead, it builds on decades of research demonstrating that while law enforcement should always remain a vital piece to protecting public safety, addiction is a brain disorder — one that can be prevented and treated, and from which people recover.”

It’s a striking piece of rhetoric, though not a risky one, given that about three quarters of Americans say the war on drugs has been a failure. My question is; did it really take nearly a half a century to figure this out? According to the new strategy, it calls for reforms that would move the government’s drug-control efforts from the police precinct and courtroom to the treatment center. In other words, they now support “alternatives to incarceration,” like drug courts, where judges can send defendants to rehabilitation clinics instead of prison. Could this be because white people are using drugs at an alarming rate?

Of course, there are some advocates for drug policy reforms who say the efforts don’t go far enough pointing to the government’s continuing commitment to the strong-armed tactics of the drug war, like cracking down on drug smugglers in the Caribbean, working with the Colombian government to wipe out coca crops, and shutting down domestic meth labs.

In 2012, about 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses — more than one arrest per minute, according to FBI data. Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union. Government officials “completely fail to acknowledge” that replacing marijuana prohibition with a regulated system would essentially eliminate illegal pot cultivation and the report barely mentions the legalization of marijuana by voters in Colorado and Washington state. A day after Washington opened its first legal pot shops, the administration suggested legalization is a “serious challenge” and may encourage young people to smoke pot.

States have eased spending on punishing people for drug crimes in favor of treating them for addictions. Some, including Texas, have shuttered whole prisons. At the federal level, top officials have repeatedly criticized the government’s sentencing policies, and the Senate is weighing the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan bill that would lighten tough mandatory punishments for certain drug crimes. The administration commends these efforts in the new report, contending that many have “already have many met with great success.” But they continue to fill the prisons for what is viewed as minor and nonviolent offenses.

This war has been a failure! Considering the cost of one prisoner verses treatment, it is reasonable to conclude that it is time for law enforcement, courts, and doctors to collaborate with each other to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a crime. But the goal is to monetize it and make slaves of men and women. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


The Real Sugar Man: King Of The Ring

5 (1)We’ve all heard about the boxer called the “Greatest,” the baddest man on the planet, and the Brown Bomber but Sugar Ray Robinson (born Walker Smith Jr.) was the greatest boxer of all time! Robinson’s performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions prompted sportswriters to create “Pound for Pound” rankings, where they compared fighters regardless of weight. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Robinson was one of the first African Americans to establish himself as a star outside sports. According to ESPN.com’s Ron Flatter: “He was the pioneer of boxing’s bigger-than-life entourages, including a secretary, barber, masseur, voice coach, a coterie of trainers, beautiful women, a dwarf mascot and lifelong manager George Gainford.”The Sugar Man was an integral part of the New York social scene in his day. His glamorous restaurant, Sugar Ray’s, hosted stars such as Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Nat “King” Cole, Joe Lewis, and Lena Horne among others.

Robinson was known as a flamboyant personality outside the ring. He combined striking good looks, with charisma, and a flair for the dramatic. He drove a flamingo-pink Cadillac and was an accomplished singer and dancer, who once pursued a career in the entertainment industry. His larger than life persona made him the idol of millions of African American youths in the 1950s. Robinson inspired several other fighters who took the nickname “Sugar” in homage to him such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Shane Mosley, and MMA fighter “Sugar” Rashad Evans.

Robinson was 85–0 as an amateur with 69 of those victories coming by way of knockout, 40 in the first round. He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19 and by 1951 had a professional record of 128–1–2 with 84 knockouts. From 1943 to 1951 Robinson went on a 91 fight unbeaten streak, the third longest in professional boxing history. Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951 and won the world middleweight title.

He retired in 1952, only to come back two and a half years later and regain the middleweight title in 1955. He then became the first boxer in history to win a divisional world championship five times, a feat he accomplished by defeating Carmen Basilio in 1958 to regain the middleweight championship. Robinson was named “fighter of the year” twice: first for his performances in 1942, then nine years and over 90 fights later, for his efforts in 1951.

Renowned for his flamboyant lifestyle outside the ring, Robinson is credited with being the originator of the modern sports “the entourage”. After his boxing career ended, Robinson attempted a career as an entertainer but struggled, and was challenged financially until his death in 1989. In 2006, he was featured on a commemorative stamp by the United States Postal Service.

The Sugar Man was a fluid boxer who possessed a quick jab and knockout power. He possessed tremendous versatility according to boxing analyst Boxing Historian Bert Sugar: Robinson could deliver a knockout blow going backward.” A TIME magazine article in 1951 said, “He was efficient with both hands, and displayed a variety of effective punches… “Robinson’s repertoire, thrown with equal speed and power by either hand, includes every standard punch from a bolo punch to a hook and a few he makes up on the spur of the moment.”

Robinson commented that once a fighter has trained to a certain level; their techniques and responses become almost reflexive. “You don’t think. It’s all instinct. If you stop to think, you’re gone.” Robinson has been ranked as the greatest boxer of all time by sportswriters, fellow boxers, and trainers. To include Hall of Fame fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard have ranked Robinson as the greatest pound for pound boxer in history.

In 1997, The Ring ranked him as the best pound for pound fighter in history, and in 1999, he was named “welterweight of the century,” “middleweight of the century,” and overall “fighter of the century” by the Associated Press. In 2007, ESPN.com featured the piece “50 Greatest Boxers of All Time”, in which it named Robinson the top boxer in history. In 2003, The Ring magazine ranked him number 11 in the list of all-time greatest punchers. Robinson was also ranked as the #1 welterweight and the #1 pound for pound boxer of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization.

Before all of the rest, the Sugar Man was the best “Pound for Pound”! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remembering The Mayor Of P-Town: Petey Green

10514657_10202131902970802_7641807366571926388_nIf you are a native Washingtonian and can remember the seventies; you know the hippest DJ in all the land. It was Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. a two-time Emmy Award-winning television and radio talk-show host but the people of “Chocolate City” knew him as Petey Greene or the ruler of “Ptown” as he called DC – his town. This man of the people was significant to the community because he overcame drug addiction and a prison sentence for armed robbery to become one of the most prominent media personalities in Washington DC.

At a time of racial turbulence and unrest, he was known to tell the truth about issues concerning racism, poverty, drug usage, and current events among others. He was credited with calming the unrest as the city burned after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and endeared to city residence for his community support. Greene attended Stevens Elementary School and Cardozo Senior High School in Washington. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and enlisted in the United States Army at age 16 in 1947. He served in the Korean War as a medic and was honorably discharged from service in 1953.

In January 1960, Greene was convicted of armed robbery at a grocery store in Washington and sentenced to ten years imprisonment at Lorton Reformatory in Virginia. There he became the prison disc-jockey that made him popular and well liked by fellow prisoners. His gift for talking soon proved beneficial in other ways.

In May 1966, Greene persuaded a fellow inmate to climb to the top of the prison water tower and threaten suicide so that Greene would be able to “save his life” by talking him down. He would later say, “It took me six months to get him to go up there.” This act, combined with his generally good behavior, earned him a reduction in his prison sentence and paroled the following week.

In the summer of 1966, Greene was hired by Dewey Hughes, another notable DC figure, to work as a disc jockey at WOL/1450 AM station to host his own show. Rapping With Petey Greene aired in the Washington Metropolitan Area throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. His prominence grew, and soon he was hosting his own television show, Petey Greene’s Washington, with a six-year run from 1976 to 1982 on WDCA/20 winning two Emmy Awards. This show won two Emmy Awards.

He was invited as a guest to the White House by President Jimmy Carter where according to Petey “stole a spoon” during the evening gala for a visiting dignitary. In 1981, Greene had radio personality Howard Stern on his show for what was one of Stern’s first television appearances. Stern appeared on the show in blackface, which Greene found funny because it was radio. The audio of this interview eventually was played as part of the 2007 Sirius satellite radio documentary The History of Howard Stern, in which Stern called Greene “way ahead of his time.” Stern later called Greene a “broadcasting genius” in his 1993 book Private Parts.

Aside from being a radio personality and talk show host, Greene was also a community activist, joining the United Planning Organization and founding the Ralph Waldo Greene Community Centre and Efforts for Ex-Convicts. This organization remains devoted to helping former prisoners succeed in legitimate ways and to advocate prison reform. He rallied against poverty and racism on his shows and on the streets, participating in demonstrations during the height of his popularity. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, and during the subsequent riots that erupted throughout the USA, Greene made statements on air that were credited with quelling the riots in Washington, D.C.

Greene was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1982. As a result of his ailing health, his career as a radio and television personality ended. Greene died on January 10, 1984, thirteen days before his 53rd birthday. He was survived by his wife, Judy C. Greene, and their four children. Approximately 10,000 mourners lined up outside Union Wesley AME Zion Church to pay their last respects.

If you want a good read, pick-up Greene’s autobiography, Laugh If You Like, Ain’t a Damn Thing Funny, was published in 2003. The book is a result of conversations recorded by him and author Lurma Rackley. Petey was a voice for the voiceless, and he will not be forgotten! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


%d bloggers like this: