In my youth, I was consciously aware of the Black and white divide by living in a predominately white middle to low-income neighborhood. Have I been called a “nigger” in this environment? Yes. I have two distinct memories as a child under the age of 8 years old being called “nigger” by little chubby white girl with red hair, Susie. And by the way, she was the same age as me. Just saying!
Moving forward to the civil rights movement, I was a young teenager who didn’t really believe in turning the other cheek but I wasn’t for violence meeting with more violence. My eyes were opened to the country I lived in by Dick Gregory. His cowboy analogy, I cleaned house by. “When mother America forgets ….”, “ … the cowboy always needs an Indian” and “… history repeats itself and 4 lay dead…” Awesome man, comedian, and activist.
1932 – Richard Claxton Gregory is born in St. Louis, Missouri.
He will be better known as “Dick” Gregory and in the
1960’s will become a comedic pioneer, bringing a new
perspective to comedy and opening many doors for Black
entertainers. Once he achieves success in the
entertainment world, he will shift gears and use his
talents to help causes in which he believes. He will
serve the community for over forty years as a comedian,
civil and human rights activist and health/nutrition
advocate. On October 9, 2000, his friends and
supporters will honor him at a Kennedy Center gala,
showing him their “appreciation for his uncommon
character, unconditional love, and generous service.
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October 4, 1943 – Hubert Gerold Brown is born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He will be better known as H. Rap Brown, become a Black nationalist and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and later the Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party. He will be most famous for his proclamation during that period that
“violence is as American as cherry pie”, as well as once
stating that “If America don’t come around, we’re gonna
burn it down”. He is also known for his autobiography “Die
Nigger Die!”. He will spend five years (1971-1976) in
New York’s Attica Prison after a robbery conviction. While
in prison, he will convert to Islam and change his name to
Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. After his release, he will open a
grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia and become a Muslim
spiritual leader and community activist, preaching against
drugs and gambling in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. He
will be sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of
parole, for the 2000 shooting of two Fulton County Sheriff’s
deputies, one of whom dies. Both deputies were Black.
President John F. Kennedy gave a civil rights speech June 11, 1963 from the oval office that was broadcasted on radio and television where he ask there be legislation “giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments”, as well as “greater protection for the right to vote”. This came after several pleas from Black organization and the Birmingham, Alabama campaign lead by Dr, Martin Luther King. Dr. King said that Birmingham, Al was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold and the most racist city in America.
The civil rights bill composed by Kennedy included the ban of public discrimination in accommodation and the US Attorney General could join lawsuits against state and governments that operated segregated school systems. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t include some essentials wanted by Black civil rights leaders. Like the protection against police brutality, giving the justice department the power to initiate desegregation or job discrimination lawsuits.
What did this mean to Black folks? Well, I remember my grandfather being very interested in what Kennedy had to say. As a Black child growing up in my grandfather’s house, I got a sense of what was important and what wasn’t. My grandfather watching television was very unusual. You see the TV was something new in the house and I was allowed to watch as much as I wanted and my favorite cartoons that day was replaced by a white man giving a speech. That man, I learned later, was President John F Kennedy who was assassinated, November 22, 1963.
Born in 1915, the oldest son of an Alabama sharecropper family, the young John Henrik Clarke left the South in 1933 by way of a freight train, for a life of scholarship and activism in New York. He developed his skills as a writer and lecturer through the radical movements of the Depression years and his assiduous participation in study circles like the Harlem History Club and the Harlem Writers’ Workshop. He studied history and world literature at NYU, at Columbia University and at the League for Professional Writers. The greater part of his education came from studying at libraries and from his early association with prominent historians and bibliophiles like Arturo Schomburg, Willis Huggins, Charles Seiffert, John Jackson and William Leo Hansberry. “I was well-grounded in history before ever taking a history course,” he confide
~~from John Carlo website
My favorite quote:
If you expect the present day school system to give history to you, you are dreaming. This, we have to do ourselves. The Chinese didn’t go out in the world and beg people to teach Chinese studies or let them teach Chinese studies. The Japanese didn’t do that either. People don’t beg other people to restore their history; they do it themselves.”
I’m not a big fan of hip hop and some of the artist buy I was always a little partial to Kanye West. He was introduced from a completely different background than most rappers. I liked that about him and I liked his parents too. Kanye won my heart as I watched him during a celebrity telethon for New Orleans who was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. For a few second he was quiet and said what we were all thinking, “President Bush doesn’t like Black people.” His co-host was shocked and my heart leaped. YES, YES!! It needed to be said. They left Black folks behind to die in the streets and my heart ached. And, I felt soooo bad for Kanye when he lost his mom. I can’t imagine losing my mother as a young adult especially with the success that Kanye was having. But, when he grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift was a sign that he was still in a bad place. As a mother and grandmother I just wanted to hug and hold him because you know he was hurting!
The years after the Taylor Swift incident, I lost my zest for listening to Kanye West music even-though I considered him something special. Here we are at the MTV 2013 Video Music Awards and Kanye West performs a song that reminded you of Billie Holiday’s, Strange Fruit, Blood on the Leaves. That’s the genius of this young man. He is singing and jumping around and I see in the background a forest or woodsy area and a tree that stands out as strong and very old. I have seen this picture before it’s the site outside of New Orleans where lynchings took place. And, the ground beneath the tree is where some of Blacks that were lynched are buried. WTF!!! I’m impressed that he knows the photographic work of the British Black artist and filmmaker, Steve McQueen.
I ran into McQueen’s work surfing the internet and was impressed with his education and latest project. McQueen is considered an artist, producer, writer and director and has produced a film called “12 Years a Slave” as his latest project. The film is the true story of Solomon Northup who was a free Black man but was sold into slavery and remained a slave for 12 years.
I’m excited to see that Kanye’s genius is kicking ass and I am impressed with educating those who don’t know. I am going to have to rethink Kanye and take him more seriously.
On August 7, 1970, a horrific event took place inside a court room. San Quentin prisoners escape plot with outside help. Four persons, including the presiding judge, killed in courthouse shoot-out in San Rafael, Marin County, California. Police charged that activist Angela Davis helped provide the weapons used by the convicts and issued a nationwide warrant for her arrest.
She was arrested in New York City. Davis was eventually acquitted of all charges on June 4, 1972.