Tag Archives: torture

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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Black History: The Good Ship Jesus

1As white folk celebrated their holidays and honor the remembrance of the lies they told. Black people have many sad reminders of their dastardly deeds and we should never forget the evils they inflicted upon us either. Therefore, I thought I’d offer this reminder about our stolen past to which there was nothing more horrifying than the “Middle Passage”. Coincidentally, most of you don’t know that the first registered slave ship was named the “Good Ship Jesus”! The African has overcome some adversity since being stolen from Africa but none worse than the removal of the culture and spirituality the practiced.

Try to imagine, if you can, being kidnapped, forced march hundreds of miles shackled, beaten, put into pins, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months. I believe this was the first step in the process of stealing the souls and culture of the stolen people of African and the beginning of the creation of a new people they would call Negro.

The ride on the Good Ship Jesus codified the end for millions of souls who made that horrible journey into the unknown interned in the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks of this wretched practice as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic, which took many months to be slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was commonly organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members. The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, women and children, on the other hand, may have had somewhat more room. The captives were fed one meal a day, with water, like animals with foods such as beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Of course if the food was scarce, the slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting the indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished. However, many historians say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths.

Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments. The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in every imaginable manner. Although, they were fed enough to stay alive and supplied with water. This was only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long or any unforeseen circumstances on the voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would say the effects of the loss of land, knowledge of a geographical origin, our history resulting from this wretched crime as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and wonder if the descendent of the stolen Africans will ever “overcome”. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Black History: Roots A Haunting Look At Black History

s-ROOTS-FILM-large300Most of America had never visually seen the horrors of American Slavery until Alex Haley’s groundbreaking television miniseries, “Roots”. It was a shocking realistic visual impact of the horrors of slavery. This powerful story was the first-time African Americans or dare I say the world got to see, feel, and understand what the slave experience was like. Sure we have seen pictures and read books, but the visual presentation of the miniseries was an eye-opening experience, as it remains one of the highest-rated television shows of all time.

If you can recall, the story chronicles the life of an African boy that began in Gambia, West Africa in 1750 where Kunta Kinte while trying to carry out a simple task to catch a bird sees white men carrying firearms, along with their black collaborators. He is captured by black collaborators under the direction of white men, sold to a slave trader and placed aboard a ship to endure what we know as the Middle Passage for the long journey to America.

The ship eventually arrives in Annapolis, Maryland, where the captured Africans are sold at auction as slaves. He was sold to a Virginia plantation where Kunta was given the name Toby. The owner of the plantation assigns an older slave, Fiddler, to teach him to speak English and to train him in the ways of living and working as a chattel slave. Kunta in a persistent struggle to become free again makes several unsuccessful attempts to escape to preserve his Mandinka heritage and maintain his Mandinka roots.

The most chilling aspect of the story, for me, was when an overseer gathers the slaves and directed one of them to whip Kunta after his latest attempt to escape and continues whipping him until he finally acknowledges his new name. Then to settle a debt to his brother, the owner transfers several of his slaves, including Toby and Fiddler, to another plantation where Kunta tries again to escape, but a pair of slave catchers seize him, bind him, and chop off about half his right foot to limit his ability to run away again.

As we watched the miniseries, it took us on a journey through generations of suffering until the climax when Chicken George, Haley’s grandfather, accumulated enough money to move his family to Tennessee to what was as close to freedom as they could hope for at the time. Chicken George purchased land based on the concept “God Bless the child that has his own.”

I don’t want to tell the whole story because I am sure you know it. If not, the movie is well worth viewing again and again. There were then and some now, who say the epic journey of Kunta Kinte was a myth and that it was mere fiction. Those are the people who refuse to understand or see the wretchedness of the state sectioned institution of slavery. To you, unfortunately, this is the foundation of America and for African Americans, this is our sorted legacy that I will argue are the scars that remain.

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.” We needed to see this story, and it was shown at the right time for us to understand! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Flabbergasted!!!

7During the last several days, the release of a Senate report on torture at the hands of the American government was not too much of a surprise. However, I will say, I was dumbfounded by the response from the talking heads on television and much of white America for the most part.

One of my followers, who is a white woman, commented on a piece I wrote with the comment “I can’t believe my country did such things. I am ashamed to be an American.” To her comment and other likeminded folk – I will use a word white folk’s use, I am “flabbergasted”.

When you consider this country’s shameful history with regard to human rights abuses, its brutal past, and racism – really! How could anyone be shocked? I know, they tell us this is the great country on earth, God-fearing and Christian – yada – yada. But, if you ask a person of of any other cultural group that is non-white I guarantee you will get a different answer! They might use another word white folk’s use – ludicrous! It is only His-Story and the Bible that makes them believe such a notion to warrant such reactions.

First of all, America is a land stolen from its native people, who were massacred, infected with disease, and put on reservations to accomplish this theft from the country from which they came. The Chinese were used and abused in many ways like today’s Latin people but the most wretchedly brutalized people were those taken from Africa and enslaved. To be clear, each group was used as a beast of burden to build a nation and wealth for non-whites; all the while claiming “all men are created equal”.

This nation is the only nation to drop an atomic bomb on another nation – not one but two! America has dropped bombs on its own people – black communities – on more than one occasion; Tulsa, OK and Philadelphia, PA. They have lynched black people for sport and entertainment; and birthed a betrayal terrorist organization called the KKK. They burned their own women at the steak in the public square and raped black women under the guise that they owned them as property. Castrating and sterilized women; infected human being with diseases, and created apartheid on its own soil.

The criminal justice system is rigged against people of color, it incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world with most being black and poor; they ensure that many people, particularly African American’s are unemployed to keep them in poverty; hunger and starvation are at unconscionable rates. The occupying force paid to protect us can be compared to the Gestapo killing black men at will with no accountability. So why would anyone think the unconscionable acts of terror stated in the report was so farfetched.

Nonetheless many say, what was reported is not their America nor does it reflect its values. The woman who commented went on to say, “she is ashamed of her country”. My thought because of this – it was just the American way! Maybe she should have been ashamed of the Jim Crow era were black people were denied the right to drink out of the same water fountain or use the same toilet, allow police to train rifles, turn dogs loose on protesters, shoot down unarmed children, use fire hoses or use tear gas on its own people under cover of law.

I too am ashamed of the conscience of a nation that does these things and the same on the street, and in black communities in America. Home is where the hatred is – so the title flabbergasted says it all!!! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Torture – why not use the RECO Statue

We have all been hearing about the national debate on torture that has saturated the airways and print media. Let me first say that I am not a lawyer but I am knowledgeable enough to have heard about the RECO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations) statute. This law essentially says the government convicted a person for just about anything including merely knowing of a crime. Now, this is where I am perplexed. I have not heard it mentioned during this entire debate – WHY?

After noticing this I decided to do a web search. So I visited the Legal Information Institute webpage of Cornell Law School and read the US Code (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sup_01_18_10_I_20_96.html). It seems to me that much of what I read could apply in this situation. Now I know that this law was enacted to address organized crime figures and kingpins to which I would argue that is really what we are dealing with concerning the development and administration of these policies.

What do you think????


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