Tag Archives: stokely carmichael

Brave Courageous Men

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nIn the 1960s, there was a group of courageous black men from the communities of the southern states called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. It was an armed organization practicing self-defense methods in the face of racist oppression carried out under the Jim Crow Laws by local/state government officials and racist vigilantes. I remember this group of brave black men but because of their stance the Deacons are not written about or cited in the history book or by the Civil Rights leadership.

Their agenda of self-defense of the community did not fit the image of strict non-violence that leaders such as Dr. King espoused. The Deacons are a segment of the larger tradition of the Black Power movement a tradition dating back to slavery when Africans were chattel slaves to continue the fight for freedom. This refers to the idea that the traditional ideas and values of the Civil Rights Movement placated to the emotions and feelings of White liberal supporters rather than Black Americans, who had to live consistently with the racism and other acts of violence that were shown towards them.

Stokley Carmichael defines Black Power as: “The goal of black self-determination and black self-identity, Black Power, is full participation in the decision-making processes affecting the lives of black people and recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people… Those of us who advocate Black Power are quite clear in our own minds that a ‘non-violent’ approach to civil rights is an approach black people cannot afford, and a luxury white people do not deserve.”

The Deacons were a driving force of Black Power that Stokely Carmichael echoed. Carmichael speaks about the Deacons when he writes, “Here is a group which realized that the ‘law’ and law enforcement agencies would not protect people, so they had to do it themselves…The Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” The Deacons, according to Carmichael and others were the protection that the Civil Rights needed on local levels, as well as, the ones who intervened in places that the state and federal government fell short.

The Deacons were not the first champions of armed defense during the Civil Rights Movement. Many activists and other proponents of non-violence protected themselves with guns. Fannie Lou Hamer, the eloquently blunt Mississippi militant who outraged LBJ at the 1964 Democratic Convention, confessed that she kept several loaded guns under her bed. Even Martin Luther King Jr., an icon of nonviolence, employed armed bodyguards and had guns in his house during the early stages of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In many areas of the “Deep South,” the federal and state governments had no control of local authorities and groups that did not want to follow the laws enacted. One such group, the KKK, is the most widely known organization that openly practiced acts of violence and segregation based on race. As part of their strategy to intimidate this community Negroes, the Ku Klux Klan initiated a “campaign of terror” that included harassment, the burning of crosses on the lawns of African-American voters, the destruction by fire of five churches, a Masonic Hall, a Baptist center, and murder.

Therefore, the Negro community felt it was crucial to have its own protection to curb this terrorism given the lack of support and protection by State and Federal authorities. Enter Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Kirkpatrick, founders of the Deacons of Defense in November 1964 to protect civil rights workers, their communities and their families against the Klan. Most of the Deacons were war veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II.

There are many accounts of how the group’s name came about, but according to Lance Hill the most plausible explanation is: “the name was a portmanteau that evolved over a period of time, combining the CORE staff’s first appellation of ‘deacons’ with the tentative name chosen in November 1964: ‘Justice and Defense Club.’ By January 1965, the group had arrived at its permanent name, ‘Deacons for Defense and Justice.’” The organization wanted to maintain a level of respectability and identify with traditionally accepted symbols of peace and moral values portraying the organization as an innocent church group….”

Scholar Akinyele O. Umoja speaks about the group’s effort more specifically. According to Umoja, it was the urging of Stokely Carmichael that the Deacons were to be used as security for many marches and protection of many civil rights leaders. The Deacons had a relationship with nearly all civil rights groups working in the south that advocated and practiced non-violence. The willingness of the Deacons to provide low-key armed guards facilitated the ability of groups such as the CORE, SNCC, and NAACP to stay, at least formally, within their own parameters of non-violence.

An example of the need for self-defense to enable substantial change in the Deep South took place in early 1965. Black students picketing the local high school were confronted by hostile police and fire trucks with hoses. A car of four Deacons emerged and in view of the police, calmly loaded their shotguns. The police ordered the fire truck to withdraw.

This was the first time in the 20th century, as Lance Hill observes, “an armed black organization had successfully used weapons to defend a lawful protest against an attack by law enforcement.” Hill gives as another example: “In Jonesboro, the Deacons made history when they compelled Louisiana Governor John McKeithen to intervene in the city’s civil rights crisis and require a compromise with city leaders — the first capitulation to the civil rights movement by a Deep South governor.”

Roy Innis has said the Deacons “forced the Klan to re-evaluate their actions and often change their undergarments.” With the shift to Northern Black plight and the idea of Black Power emerging in major cities across America. The Deacons became yesterday’s news and organizations such as The Black Panther Party gained notoriety and became the publicized militant Black organization. However, let us not forget the impact of being the precursors and the empowerment of our people. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Deacons Of Defense


Stokely Carmichael AKA Kwame Ture

11The man, Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, is credited with the term “Black Power” being a rallying cry for the movement. He was a Trinidadian born black activist, civil rights leader, and the fourth Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a notable activist during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He was preceded as Chairman of SNCC by John Lewis and followed H. Rap Brown as leader of the group. Ture later became an Honorary Minister of the Black Panther Party. The noted scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Carmichael as one of his 100 Greatest African Americans.

Carmichael was a well-educated man attending the elite, selective Bronx High School of Science in New York and graduated from Howard University with a degree in philosophy. His professors included Sterling Brown, Nathan Hare, and Toni Morrison, a writer who later won the Nobel Prize. While at Howard, Carmichael joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), the Howard campus affiliate of the SNCC, where he was introduced to Bayard Rustin who became an influential adviser to SNCC. Inspired by the sit-ins in the South, Carmichael became more active in the Civil Rights Movement. He once remarked that he was arrested many times for his activism that he lost count; sometimes estimating at least 29 or 32.

In 1964 Carmichael, then one of the leaders of the SNCC and became Chairman of SNCC in 1966, taking over from John Lewis, who later became a US Congressman. A few weeks after Carmichael took office James Meredith was shot and wounded by a shotgun during his solitary “March Against Fear”. Carmichael became involved joined Dr. Marin Luther King, Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers and others to continue Meredith’s march.

He was arrested during the march where upon his release; he gave his first “Black Power” speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence. He is largely credited as the person who coined the phrase “Black Power”. He said during that speech “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”

While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael’s speech brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for young African Americans across the country. According to Carmichael: “Black Power meant black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs rather than relying on established parties”.

He was strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon’s landmark book Wretched of the Earth, along with others such as Malcolm X. Under Carmichael’s leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology. Reportedly he wanted to encourage whites to organize poor white southern communities, while SNCC focused on promoting African-American self-reliance through Black Power.

Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Carmichael became critical of civil rights leaders who called for the integration of African Americans into existing institutions of the middle-call mainstream.

During this period, Carmichael was personally targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro counter-intelligence program, which specialized in isolating and slandering black militants. Carmichael accepted the position of Honorary Prime Minister in the Black Panther Party, but also remained on the staff of SNCC, and attempted to forge a merger between the two organizations.

In July 1968, Hoover stepped up his efforts to divide the black power movement. Declassified documents show a plan was launched to smear Carmichael as a CIA agent, as well as to undermine the SNCC-Panther merger. Both efforts were largely successful. Carmichael was formally expelled from SNCC that year, and rival Panthers began to denounce him.

Carmichael was present in D.C. the night after King’s assassination and led a group through the streets, demanding that businesses close out of respect. Although he tried to prevent violence, the situation escalated beyond his control. Due to Carmichael’s reputation as a provocateur, the news media blamed him for the ensuing violence as mobs rioted along U Street and other areas of black development.

Carmichael held a press conference the next day, at which he predicted mass racial violence in the streets. Now, living in Washington, Carmichael had been under nearly constant surveillance by the FBI. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI director instructed a team of agents to find evidence connecting Carmichael to the rioting.

A 1968 memo from Hoover suggests his fears that Carmichael would become a Black Nationalist “messiah”. He was also subjected to COINTELPRO bad-jacketing techniques which led to Huey P. Newton suggesting that Carmichael was a CIA agent. Carmichael soon began to distance himself from the Panthers. He disagreed with them about whether white activists should be allowed to help them. The Panthers believed that white activists could help the movement, while Carmichael had come to agree with Malcolm X, and said that the white activists should organize their own communities first.

Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Ture, to honor the African leaders Nkrumah and Touré, who had become his patrons. Amongst the turmoil of the time, Ture moved to Guinea to live in a self-imposed exile. At the end of his life, friends still referred to him interchangeably by both names, “and he doesn’t seem to mind.” I don’t think this man, as well as many others, have not received enough credit for the contributions made to the struggle and to the civil rights movement. May you rest in peace. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


A Message For The Ages

12


A Day For A King

king_postcardToday is the day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and a dream that all inhabitants of the United States would be judged by their personal qualities and not by the color of their skin. This great man was the young person to receive the Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism.

Adhering to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence Dr, King fought racism until his death in 1968 at the hands of what many believe was a conspiracy of US shadow government operatives.

In 1955 he began his struggle to persuade the US Government to declare the policy of racial discrimination in the southern states unlawful. The racists responded with violence to the black people’s nonviolent initiatives. In 1963, 250,000 demonstrators marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, where King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. The following year, President Johnson got a law passed prohibiting all racial discrimination.

I would be remised if I did not list King’s powerful opponents, which was basic the US government. The head of the FBI, John Edgar Hoover, had him placed under surveillance as a communist, and when King opposed the administration’s policy in Vietnam he fell into disfavor with the President. It has been proven that King’s murder was part of a conspiracy. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

7


Selma Revisited

th (1)I had the opportunity to see the movie Selma a few days ago, which was OUTSTANDING! I can remember the time from my youth. As a point of reference, I grew up and lived in the north but witnessed the same bigotry and racism. What struck me was it was jarringly similar to what I see today. We are often told how far black people have come. Maybe the question should be – why is it necessary to say because as so-called American’s; we should be equal.

Even if the film does take some dramatic license with historical facts, it is a film, after all, not a documentary. I will speak as a witness and history proves me right that it was not far off with regard to the wretchedness of the racial climate of the time. Let me remind you of what Brother Malcolm said, and I agree, “Anywhere south of Canada is the South”. What the movie shows is the secret soul of America that continues to live in the hearts of many today. I say secret because white America fails to acknowledge the shameful behavior of their people, then or now.

We relive the same hatred and witness the same racism in the twenty-first century. One thing that can’t be disputed is the powerful way Selma depicts the civil rights activists both well-known and unsung who fought for justice. In my heart of hearts I ask where are the same kind of  men and women with such conviction for civil rights today. The despicable acts of Selma or the atrocities that occurred all over America during that era are ever present today; we have seen the Zimmerman types and Ferguson. So the gene that produces hate has been passed down through the years.

7Just as in the epic film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggle for voting rights in the Deep South. We are still fighting that fight today. White America cannot fathom the indignities of their Apartheid like system of justice imposed upon black people they created and called Jim Crow . Seeing the movie will make you better understand the whitewashing of history, because they can’t allow their kids, little Billy and Jane, know how wretched their forefathers and grandparents where to other human beings. I suppose it’s like the Santa Clause story – they honorable people!

I can’t change the hearts of a race of people in a few words because no one has been able to do so in centuries. However, when you see the movie understand that the events of Bloody Sunday was not the worst that was done to black people during that era. I want to add an important insight to the story, which was the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was named after or dedicated to an Alabama native who served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After his side lost, he led the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and was later elected to the U.S. Senate. Given the Klan’s terroristic history against black people, it’s only fitting that a bridge named after one of its leaders is now forever known as a national historic landmark in tribute to the civil rights movement.

A few more important facts you should know. The day the Voting Rights Act was signed wasn’t an arbitrary date. When King and other Selma activists joined Johnson at the White House for the signing of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965, the day’s historical significance may have been lost to some. But on that day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Confiscation Act, the first of two, which freed all slaves who were being used by the Confederacy. The acts were a precursor to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all the slaves in rebel states.

In addition, it was the Selma movement that helped give birth to the Black Panther Party. At the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., 23-year-old SNCC activist Stokely Carmichael decided to head to Lowndes County, Ala. where 80 percent of the population was black but where there were zero black registered voters to build a new political party.

He formed the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which used the Black Panther as its symbol. In October 1966 Carmichael, who was now head of SNCC and a leading voice of the black power movement, was a keynote speaker at a conference in Berkeley, Calif. In attendance were Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, who would adopt the black-panther logo of the LCFO for a new organization they were forming in Oakland, California, called the Black Panthers.

2

This movie proves that black people can do movies about black people more realistic than others can, i.e., their version of “Moses”! I strongly suggest that you see the movie and take you children! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


The Man Behind The Dream

It’s been more that fifty years since the March on Washington became the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now remembered with a memorial on the National Mall. This is a major accomplishment for his legacy and a testament to his living spirit. I am very proud and honored to have live long enough to see the first man of color to receive such distinction and to have a president of color unveil the monument to this great man.

Dr. King now has reached his place of immortality and as marvelous as this is I wondered if anyone knows the man whose shoulders he stood. One person in particular would be the chief organizer of the March on Washington, who some have called the man behind the dream. I thought it would be fitting to give props to the man responsible for making the historic March on Washington a reality – Bayard Rustin. He was one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement from the advent of its modern period in the 1950s until well into the 1980s.

Although his name is seldom mentioned or receives comparatively little press or media attention, while others’ were usually much more readily associated with the movement. Mr. Rustin’s role was a behind-the-scenes role that, for all its importance, never garnered him the public acclaim he deserved. Rustin’s homosexuality and early communist affiliation probably meant that the importance of his contribution to the civil rights and peace movements would never be acknowledged.

Rustin was a gifted and successful student in the schools of West Chester, both academically and on his high school track and football teams. It was during this period of his life that Bayard began to demonstrate his gift for singing with a beautiful tenor voice. He attended Wilberforce University and Cheyney State Teachers College. In 1937 he moved to New York City, where he was to live the rest of his life.

It was at this time that Rustin began to organize for the Young Communist League of City College. The communists’ progressive stance on the issue of racial injustice appealed to him. He broke with the Young Communist League and soon found himself seeking out A. Philip Randolph head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters who at that time was a leading articulator of the rights of Afro-Americans.

He soon headed the youth wing of a march on Washington that Randolph envisioned. Randolph called off the demonstration when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802, forbidding racial discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries. Randolph’s calling off of the projected march caused a temporary breach between him and Bayard Rustin, and Rustin transferred his organizing efforts to the peace movement, first in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and later in the American Friends Service Committee, the Socialist Party, and the War Resisters League.

In 1944, Rustin was found guilty of violating the Selective Service Act and was sentenced to three years in a federal prison. In March 1944, Rustin was sent to the federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky. He then set about to resist the pervasive segregation then the norm in prisons in the United States, although faced with vicious racism from some of the prison guards and white prisoners, Rustin faced frequent cruelty with courage and completely nonviolent resistance.

On release from prison, Rustin got involved again with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which staged a journey of reconciliation through four Southern and border states in 1947 to test the application of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that discrimination in seating in interstate transportation was illegal. Rustin’s resistance to North Carolina’s Jim Crow law against integration in transportation earned him twenty-eight days hard labor on a chain gang, where he met with the usual racist taunts and tortures on the part of his imprisonment.

Between 1947 and 1952, Rustin traveled first to India and then to Africa under the sponsorship of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, exploring the nonviolent dimensions of the Indian and Ghanaian independence movements. In 1953, Rustin was arrested for public indecency in Pasadena, California, while lecturing under the auspices of the American Association of University Women. It was the first time that Rustin’s homosexuality had come into public attention, and at that time homosexual behavior in all states was a criminal offense.

In 1956, Rustin was approached by Lillian Smith, the celebrated Southern novelist who authored Strange Fruit, to provide Dr. Martin Luther King with some practical advice on how to apply Gandhian principles of nonviolence to the boycott of public transportation then taking shape in Montgomery, Alabama. Rustin spent time in Montgomery and Birmingham advising King, who had not yet completely embraced principles of nonviolence in his struggle. By 1957, Rustin was busy playing a large role in the birth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and in the Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington that took place on May 17, 1957 to urge President Eisenhower to enforce the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling that the nation’s schools be desegregated.

Arguably the high point of Bayard Rustin’s political career was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which took place on August 28, 1963, the place of Dr. Martin Luther King’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin was by all accounts the March’s chief architect. To devise a march of at least a quarter of a million participants and to coordinate the various sometimes fractious civil rights organizations that played a part in it was a herculean feat of mobilization.

By 1965, Rustin had come to believe that the period for militant street action had come to an end; the legal foundation for segregation had been irrevocably shattered. Rustin’s steadfast opposition to identity politics also came under criticism by exponents of the developing Black Power movement. His critical stance toward affirmative action programs and black studies departments in American universities was not a popular viewpoint among many of his fellow Afro-Americans, and as at various other times of his life Rustin found himself to a certain extent isolated.

Although Bayard Rustin lived in the shadow of more charismatic civil rights leaders, he can lay real claim to have been an indispensable unsung force behind the movement toward equality for America’s black citizens, and more largely for the rights of humans around the globe, in the twentieth century. Throughout his life his personal philosophy, incorporating beliefs that were of central importance to him: that there is that of God in every person, that all are entitled to a decent life, and that a life of service to others is the way to happiness and true fulfillment.

Let’s not let the dream die! All of us stand upon the shoulders of someone be it great or not. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


A Long and Mighty Walk

thA season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life. One of the first things I learned in this life was that it is a journey. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that everyone will encounter. It saddens me that African American’s have had to endure more than any other culture!

Dr. John Henrik Clarke famously said, “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. Most important, history tells a people where they still must go, what they still must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child.”

There are many ghosts of the greats who sacrificed so much for us to exist today. We would not have had our history known if it were not for the great historian Carter G. Woodson, we may not have succeeded in the civil rights movement without a strong Rosa Parks to push Dr. Martin Luther King into bring the civil rights movement to the forefront of America’s consciousness. Then came the Black power movement that was so strong and so serious that it gave even more urgency to the White House and American government to change rather than prepare for violence.

Dr. Clarke was the powerful mind that many leaders of the Black power movement would come to for his knowledge. People like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and the most notable of the all – Malcolm X. Clarke became Malcolm X’s chief consultant and best friend. His work with Malcolm resulted in one of Malcolm’s greatest speeches, indeed, one of the greatest 100 speeches made in America, “The ballot or the bullet.”

Dr. Clarke never wrote an autobiography but he had a huge impact his teacher and what he left the minds of his people. Clarke was born in Union Springs, Alabama on New Year’s Day, in 1915. His was a family of poor sharecroppers. But they soon moved to Columbus, Georgia when he was about four years old. There, he met a school teacher named Eveline Taylor. Clarke said Ms. Taylor told John that she saw something special in him. She saw a thinker. And she said to him:

“It’s no disgrace to be alone. It’s no disgrace to be right when everyone else thinks you are wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being a thinker. Your playing days are over.”

Here’s a eulogy of him written by The Los Angeles Times:

John Henrik Clarke: Activist, Professor July 18,198

John Henrik Clarke never got around to writing his life story, which encompassed some of the more turbulent periods in American history.

Dr. Clarke is remembered as someone who put the forgotten history of Africa back into the textbooks, and gave an analysis of history that wasn’t mainstream and for this we honor him so dearly. This man who descended from a family of sharecroppers was born in 1915 in Union Springs, Ga. He left Georgia in 1933 going to Harlem where he became one of the greatest unsung heroes of our time.

His political and community activism began quickly, when Clarke opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s. Later, he became a close friend of black activist Malcolm X. Clarke helped to forge a link between Africans and African Americans.

Clarke studied history and literature from 1948 to 1952 at New York University and later at Columbia University. During his career, Clarke edited or wrote 27 books. His editing work included the classic “American Negro Short Stories” in 1966. I just wanted to remind us of this man who brought into remembrance of our Great, Mighty Walk!

And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com

 


%d bloggers like this: