Category Archives: Race

#STLVerdict: Let’s Talk About Vandalism and “Peaceful Protests”

Three years after the murder of Mike Brown and the St. Louis region finds itself in a similar situation. Another police officer has walked free, a family is reliving the pain of their loved one’s murder while being denied justice, and the community has taken to the streets to show that we will not tolerate the continuous killings of black people by police, nor officers doing so without conviction.

What’s also the same is how elected government officials and the St. Louis Police Department (STLPD) are responding. Before to the verdict was released and prior to any protests occurring, the governor of Missouri activated the National Guard and the STLPD announced that they would be moving to 12-hour shifts. Then, as soon as the protests began, multiple transit buses of STLPD met protestors outside the courthouse dressed in riot gear with shields and batons, in broad daylight. The police showed up with the intention to antagonize, literally from the moment people arrived to protest…before ANYTHING had happened.

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Photo of STLPD officer, surrounded by rows of other officers in riot gear, on 9/15/17, about 3 hours after the verdict was released.

So knowing that, it’s by no surprise that the police and the media are pushing the same narrative from three years ago: the protestors are violent and vandalizing property. I really don’t want to spend a ton of time on this point because I really feel like the conversation has been exhausted. But I’ll say it one more time, briefly: we are not doing this. The people who come out and protest are not interested in nor do we condone vandalism. However, there are agitators who come to our spaces of protest and do these things. You all should notice that this typically happens after nightfall. If you all pay attention to our protests, we don’t begin at nightfall. We have literally been protesting all day for the past 48 hours. The large majority of the time, you hear and see no reports of anything being vandalized, because nothing is being vandalized. But when a window gets broken at 11 pm the police and the media use this as an opportunity to change the narrative and make it about violent “protestors” instead of focusing on how hundreds of people of all different backgrounds have continued to show community and take a stand against the continuous non-convicted murders of black people by police.

But again, I’m not surprised by this. The police are a part of the system and the system is guilty. So of course they’re going to try to turn this around and divert the attention from their corruption. But what I am so frustrated by and tired of is the people buying into this narrative. All the statuses and comments about how you don’t understand what breaking things is going to do only elevates this false narrative that the police and media are trying to create. You are helping them achieve exactly what they want because now we’re all talking about vandalism instead of the fact that this officer murdered a black person and walked free. The protestors are not the ones vandalizing property. It’s a small group of agitators. Understand that and stop mentioning it in association to the protests. Every time you do, you are assisting the police and media in smearing this movement.

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However, while we do not condone vandalism, we understand that people are hurting and hurt people hurt people. So try to be less judgmental and think more about what has happened that has caused people to resort to vandalism. A broken window matters less than a life taken by police brutality. So for every post or comment you’ve made about vandalism, I hope you have 50 times more posts and comments about black people being killed by officers, and the officers walking free.

And also, don’t believe that all of the vandalism is coming from the agitators. There’s video of police breaking the window of a local business in the Central West End on 9/15/2017.

Lastly, I want to request that everyone stop saying “peaceful protest.” Our goal is not to be peaceful. There is nothing peaceful about a protest– that would not be a protest. You can say non-violent protest, but not peaceful. As the familiar protest chant goes, “no justice, no peace.”

Simply put, Anthony Lamar Smith did not receive justice so St. Louis will not have peace. Traffic flow will be disrupted and people will not commute in peace. Neighborhoods will be disrupted and people will not lounge in peace. Malls will be disrupted and people will not shop in peace. Restaurant strips will be disrupted and people will not eat in peace. Business will be disrupted and profit will be lost. But that’s the exact point. The judicial system did not render justice so we will continue to disrupt and keep the attention on this unjust situation, impacting people and profits directly until we get justice. Because we know that, unfortunately, people often tolerate injustice until it impacts them directly. Once it impacts folks directly, they are then motivated to act and make decisions that render the justice we’ve been demanding all along.

Any disruption that people experience from our protests pales in comparison to the disruption of the lives of the families of victims of police brutality. We just want justice. The sooner we get it, the sooner there will be peace. Know justice, know peace.

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2 Years Later: Anniversary of the Murder of Mike Brown, Jr.

8.9.14. The day that changed everything. 2 years.

I’ve been anxious about this day coming ever since August arrived. I could feel the heaviness of my heart as soon as I opened my eyes today.

I’m thankful for Mike, and for everyone who refused to be silent about his murder. I’m thankful that the movement (that’s always existed) was ignited on a new level. I’m thankful that we are no longer tolerating the racial injustice that very much exists in what so many want to believe is a “post-racial society.”

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not impacted or concerned by the trauma that black people have relived over and over in just these 2 years alone.

2 years of police murders, hashtags, protests, non-indictments in a never ending cycle.

2 years of listening to the media criminalize the victims and prove they deserved to die, in a way that we never see done to non-black victims.

2 years of our friends, people we grew up with and love, showing us their bias and racism through social media posts.

2 years of the overall society constantly reminding us that our lives don’t matter, through the condoning and justification of our murders.

2 years of selective grief, where America can mourn and show empathy for the deaths of animals, police officers, and victims of foreign terrorism but show not an ounce of those feelings for black lives.

2 years of people bringing up “black on black crime” as if black people have this phenomenon of killing each other when statics tell us that the majority of ALL crime is intraracial (not to be confused with interracial…I literally have had to explain this to people).

2 years of debating #BlackLivesMatter and all lives matter but then those same people say blue lives matter, proving that it’s solely the ‘black’ that’s the issue.

2 years later, all these feelings are pouring out of my eyes. I’m tired. I’m traumatized. I’m hurting. I’m grieving. Im educating. I’m fighting. And I’m thankful for all the people who are on the ground, organizing, educating, running for office, and any other effort towards freedom.

2 years later, the movement lives and we will win.

Can White People Talk About the #StateOfBlackAmerica? 

There was some controversy over SamWhiteout‘s appearance on #StateOfBlackAmerica. I tweeted Sam about it, and you can check out my tweet in this article.

The topic of the panel was “Confronting Race and Privilege.” Allyship is important and necessary to deconstruct white privilege and white supremacy. White people cannot and should not speak to the black experience; they have not lived it. However, white people can acknowledge how they benefit from white privilege and white supremacy, AND intentionally work against those systems.

What do y’all think about this?

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 9- Who were the Black Panthers?

bp.jpgSince Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 half time performance, there has been lots of conversation around the Black Panthers. Many (white) Americans seem appalled that Bey would pay tribute to such an organization,  falsely comparing the Black Panthers to the Ku Klux Klan (the Black Panthers were NOT terrorists who bombed, murdered, and lynched innocent people like the KKK). But do we really know who the Black Panthers were? Unfortunately, the American education system has a way of painting historic black leaders and organizations in a negative light, and/or watering down the truth to fit its preferred narrative. So let’s educate ourselves and learn who the Black Panthers truly were.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party. The two had worked together for years prior through activism in black politics. Bobby  Seale was involved in RAM (Revolutionary Action Movement) and both of the men were in the Soul Students Advisory Committee, a collegiate organization. The philosophy for the Panthers was developed through these experiences.

But the Panthers were not just about philosophy. They had demands and outlined action to achieve them. Recently, people have talked about the Panthers possession of guns. The Panthers did indeed exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. This was done to implement Malcolm X’s self-defense philosophy and patrol the police. At the time, police brutality was rampant, with officers beating and killing black people randomly. Police departments were even recruiting officers from the racist south to police the northern ghettos.

The Socialist Alternative recalls this instance:

On one occasion, whilst on patrol, they witnessed an officer stop and search a young guy. The Panthers got out of their car and went over to the scene and stood watching their guns on full display. Angrily, the policeman began to question them and tried to intimidate them with threats of arrest. But Huey P. Newton had studied the law intimately and could quote every law and court ruling relevant to their situation.

During these situations, the Panthers made it clear that they did not want to have a shoot-out with the police and that they would only use their guns in self-defense. They would also hand out information, to the crowd that formed, about the Black Panthers philosophy and meeting details.

Outside of their self-defense, we rarely talk about the notable community programs that the Panthers organized. They organized many “revolutionary program,” as they called them, such as free breakfast for children, health clinics, and shoes for children. Bobby Seale explained, “A revolutionary program is onset forth by revolutionaries, by those who want to change the existing system for a better system.”

The Black Panther Party grew to have 5,000 full time employees and 45 chapters throughout America. They sold 250,000 papers a week. At the time, polls showed that the organization had 90 percent support from black people in major cities. The group was largely impactful, with the FBI describing them as “the number one threat to the internal security of the United States.”

Today, we remember the Black Panther Party, for being one of the most widely know black political organizations that protected and met people’s needs through programs that provided food, clothes, medical care and more. We thank them for showing us what we can accomplish through organization. Today, unfortunately,  we still see many of the same issues that they combated. We can learn much from them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 8- Visual Artist John Jennings

jjThere’s a space and place for all of us in this movement. How we express our perspectives and seek justice and freedom will look differently for each of us, and that’s okay. Some of us will educate, some will protest, some will open non-profit organizations or businesses, some will meet with government leaders…and the list goes on. But one man, John Jennings, is using his art to start a revolution.

John Jennings is a visual artists who challenges the typical portrayal of black expression by creating work that goes outside of that confine. He bases his work on these questionsHow can we show the work of underrepresented artists, especially those who do comics (see list of books below)? How can we go beyond the racial stereotypes of traditional comic art to show the rich expression of black artists, past and present? John Jennings explains, “we have to understand that stereotypical images are designed to function in a particular way. They all have purposes in how the Black body is perceived. The work that I do and that my colleagues create offer alternatives to those constructions and gives the Black audience choices on multiple levels.

Black TwitterYou may have come across some of John Jennings work withoutmother even realizing it. John Jennings is the creator of #BLKPWRTWITTR, a remake of the Twitter logo that was created after the murders of nine innocent black lives at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. John Jennings was looking for a way to express his range of emotions and show unity. He also created the piece, Tears of Mother Emanuel.

Today, we celebrate John Jennings for using his gift to tear down stereotypes, create a space for underrepresented artists, and giving us a visual component to the movement. We are thankful to experience this black history in the making.

#EverydayBlackHistory

Here are some books by John Jennings:

Black Comix

What “black,” “art” and “culture” mean to a group of African-American artists.

 

 

 

Graphic novel is science fiction/horror story about buying and selling of race.

 

 

 Out of Sequence

 Underrepresented voices showcase their imaginative comic art.

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 7- Whitney Houston Performs National Anthem

whitIn the spirit of the Super Bowl , Lady Gaga’s beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and Beyonce and Bruno Mars slaying the halftime show, I cannot help but remember one of the greatest Super Bowl performances EVER by the one and only Whitney Houston.

In 1991, 25 years ago, Whitney Houston sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV. To this day, Whitney Houston’s rendition is still revered as the standard for performing this song. Whitney Houston performed the national anthem at the hight of the Persian Gulf War and captivated the patriotic spirit of the country so well that Artista Records released the recording as a single. The single made it to the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 20. The performance remained iconic, so much so that it moved to the top 10, reaching No. 6, after September 11, 2001.

So let’s all take a few minutes and bask in the glory of Whitney Houston’s (arguably) unmatched rendition of the national anthem:

Today, we remember Whitney Houston for singing the national anthem like never before, and for just being the greatest of all time. Period. She’s no longer here with us but her legacy is and will continue to live forever.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 6- Black Sanitation Workers’ Strikes

i am manMany of us are aware that Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN. But do you know why Dr. King was in Memphis at that time?

On February 1, 1968, there was a severe rainstorm in Memphis, TN. Echols Cole and Robert Walker, two black sanitation workers, took cover from the storm in the trash compactor of their truck. Somehow, the compactor mechanism was triggered and the men were crushed to death. A bereavement fee was paid from the Memphis government to the families of Echols Cole and Robert Walker but it wasn’t even enough to cover the costs of their funerals.

Also on February 1, 1968 (timeline), due to the weather, 22 black sanitation workers were sent home without pay. However, their white supervisors continued to work and were paid. So on February 12, more than 1,100 out of 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. The mayor at the time, Henry Loeb, was completely against their demands.

As the strike continued, the black community of Memphis came together to support the strikers. Organizations like COME (Community on the Move for Equality) developed food and clothing banks in churches, collected donations to pay the strikers rent and mortgages, and recruited marchers to participate in demonstrations. Then Reverend James Lawson, pastor of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, invited Dr. King to join in support of the strikers. Reverend James Lawson was an experienced activist in the Civil Rights Movement and trained activists in nonviolent resistance.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to strikers and supporters. He was scheduled to also lead a march while in Memphis but on April 4, 1968, when he stepped onto the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Hotel, Dr. King was assassinated.

On April 16, 1968, two months after the start of the strike, an agreement was reached between city and union officials and the strikers, and the strike ended. While Dr. King played a role in the success of the black sanitation workers strike, we must acknowledge and commend the 1,100 plus workers and their families that sacrificed their means and livelihood to gain fair treatment and equality. Marchers often carried the iconic “I AM A MAN” signs, demonstrating that they not only wanted better wages and safer working conditions, but they were fighting for the recognition of their humanity.

Today, we remember the black sanitation workers’ strike and all the unsung heroes and heroins for their resistance and commitment to equality. We admire the black community of Memphis for the indescribable coming together and support that they demonstrated that led to their success.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 5- George Crum

crumThe potato chip is a very popular American snack. But do you know that the potato chip was invented by a black man named George “Crum” Speck? And do you know the snack became a favorite unintentionally?

George Speck was born in 1822 to a black father and Native American mother in Saratoga Lake, NY. His father was a jockey and used the name “Crum,” leading George Speck to go by George Crum.

In 1853, George Crum was a chef at Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs. French-fried potatoes were very popular there. One day, George Crum was irritated because a customer sent an order of French-fried potatoes back to the kitchen. The customer complained that they were too thick. So George Crum sliced some potatoes super thin, fried them in grease, and sent the crunchy brown chips out to the customer.

To George Crum’s surprise, the customer actually loved the chips, and other customers soon began to ask for his “Saratoga Chips.” They quickly became a favorite.

George Crum later opened his own restaurant in 1860, “Crum’s House.” A basket of potato chips was placed on every table. Even though he is credited with inventing them, George Crum never patented his potato chips.

Today, we remember George Crum for creating the potato chip that we continue to enjoy over a century later. We are thankful for his sarcastic personality that lead to the invention of one of America’s most popular snacks.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 4- Claudette Colvin

claudette.jpgToday, we celebrate and remember Rosa Parks on what would have been her 103rd birthday. Rosa Parks is known as the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement” and we are forever grateful for all her work towards freedom and justice. However, before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.

Claudette Colvin was one of several women to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL prior to Rosa Parks. On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to move stating, “I paid my fare and it’s my constitutional right.” In an interview she recalls, “I remember they dragged me off the bus because I refused to walk. They handcuffed me and took me to an adult jail.”  At the time, Claudette Colvin was 15 years old. She explains, “I just couldn’t move. History had me glued to the seat.”

Claudette Colvin was charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and defying the segregation law.

It’s important to understand how mush of a sacrifice Claudette Colvin’s actions actually were. Her parents felt that she put their family in danger, so much so that her father stayed up that entire night with a shotgun fully loaded, fearful that the KKK would come to their home. She also lost friends, with their parents saying she was “crazy” and an “extremist.”

Claudette Colvin wanted to continue her fight in the courts, unlike others that had refused to give up their seat. However, even after she sought out a lawyer, the black community leaders preferred to wait on taking legal action. Claudette Colvin had not had any civil rights training and, soon after the arrest, she became pregnant and had a child out of wedlock. She believes they felt she did not fit the image.

However, a year later, federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle was filed, which included Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith, and ultimately ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama.

Today, we remember Claudette Colvin for her courage and sacrifice. While there are some names that quickly come to mind when we think of the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to remember that there were thousands of foot soldiers who played major roles in the movement. We may not know all their names, but we are forever  indebted to them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 3- Mary Jane Patterson

MJPToday, many Black women make the decision
to continue their education at institutions
of higher learning. Whether attending a historically black college or university (HBCU) or a predominately white institution (PWI), countless black women are succeeding, and sprinkling #BlackGirlMagic all around campus. But who did this first?

Mary Jane Patterson was the first Black women to receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1862.

While it is not certain, it is believed that Mary Jane Patterson was born into slavery in Raleigh, NC in 1840, moving to Oberlin as a teenager. She completed college preparatory courses at Oberlin College in 1857. But when it was time for her to attend college, Mary Jane Patterson chose not to enroll in the college’s two-year program for women and enrolled in the “gentlemen’s course,” which was a four-year program. She graduated with her B.A. degree with high honors in 1862.

At the age of 22, Mary Jane Patterson moved to Philadelphia, PA. There, she was a teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth for five years. In 1869, she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at the new Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Mary Jane Patterson became the principal of the school until she resigned in 1884. Under her leadership, the school developed a prestigious reputation.

Mary Jane Patterson was also active in women’s rights and assisted in founding the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

Today, we remember Mary Jane Patterson for paving the way for black women (and people) in higher education, even in a time when slavery still existed and women were extremely marginalized. We thank her for being an early demonstration of black girl magic.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

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