#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

 

 

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#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

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 2- Wendell Scott

Scott 3In 2015, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted its first African-Amercian driver. That driver is Wendell Scott, the first Black driver to compete full time in the premiere division, and the first to win at NASCAR’s highest level.

A native of Danville, Virginia, Wendell Scott began racing in 1947 at local area tracks. From 1961-1973, he competed in NASCAR’s premiere series, becoming the first Black person to win a NASCAR premiere series event on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. In his 13 year career, Wendell Scott made 495 starts, ranking 37th on the all-time list.

While NASCAR credits him with winning one premiere series event, Wendell Scott’s son, Frank Scott, shared the impact of racism on his father’s winning record. “I can remember him racing in Jacksonville, and he beat them all, but they wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. And then when they did, they had my father in third place. One of the main reasons that they gave was there was a white beauty queen, and they always kissed the driver.” Wendall Scott was also banned from racing at certain speedways, and even received death threats when he planned to race in Atlanta, GA.

Frank Scott shared, “Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race.'”

Wendell Scott’s career ended when he could no longer afford to race and no one would support him financially. Frank Scott explained, “Where other drivers that we were competing against had major sponsorships, providing them engineers, as many cars as they needed, he did everything that he did out of his own pocket.”

Today, we remember Wendell Scott for bravely pioneering in NASCAR racing, and being excellent, despite the discrimination and racism that tried to keep him from succeeding. We celebrate his achievements and are thankful that his legacy is now (finally) recognized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 1- Jimmie Lee Jackson

jimmie-lee-jacksonSome know about “Bloody Sunday,” a voting rights march that began in Selma, AL and ended in violence.  However, few know about Jimmie Lee Jackson, an activist whose death was the catalyst for the march in Selma, which lead to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Jimmie Lee Jackson was a young man from Alabama who tried to register to vote numerous times but was denied due to the color of his skin. On February 18, 1965, when Jimmie was 26, he, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82 year old grandfather Cager Lee, participated in a protest in Marion, AL. Protesters were attacked by state troopers and Jimmie and his grandfather sought refuge in a restaurant, Mack’s Cafe. In the cafe, Jimmie’s mother was being attacked by two state troopers. Jimmie went to her rescue, was thrown by a state trooper into a cigarette machine, and shot twice in the stomach by state trooper James Bonard Fowler.

Jimmie was taken to the Good Samaritan hospital in Selma, AL and appeared to be recovering. However, days later, Jimmie died.

The Black community was outraged. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organizer James Bevel stated “We will march Jimmie’s body to the state capitol in Montgomery and lie it on the steps so Governor George Wallace can see what he’s done.” While they did not do that, activists did plan a 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, AL on Sunday March 7, 1965, four days after Jimmie’s funeral. However, activists were met with violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, in what is know known as “Bloody Sunday.”

In 2007, James Bonard Fowler (at the age of 74) was indicted for the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and served five months in prison.

Today, we remember Jimmie Lee Jackson, whose life was taken seeking justice. Many do not know his name or his story but his life and death played a major role in Black people gaining the right to vote in America.

#EverydayBlackHistory

Click here to read more about Jimmie Lee Jackson.

 

 

 

#ReclaimMLK: 5 Radical Dr. King Quotes You’ve Probably Never Heard

kingMartin Luther King, Jr. was indeed a great leader of the Civil Rights Movement and activist for social change. He is more than deserving of a holiday and should definitely be commemorated. However, America has often remembered Dr. King in a diluted way. In school, many of us learned about a passive Dr. King, that chose love and non-violence and just like that, the country followed. Now, we’re all equal.

That’s not true or realistic. Dr. King was not passive at all. He directly called out and challenged racism and unjust systems. He was civilly disobedient, being arrested 30 times. Even with his non-violent philosophy, Dr. King’s call for justice and change was still rejected and ridiculed. Many people hated Dr. King, so much so that his house was bombed, with his wife and newborn child in it, after a threat “to blow up (his) house and blow (his) brains out.” The FBI tracked Dr. King’s every move, tapping his phone lines and naming him the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.” And let us not forget that U.S. government agencies were found guilty in conspiracy for Dr. King’s assassination (but people rarely want to talk about that). Even through all of this, Dr. King continued to fight for what he believed in, in a radical and revolutionary way.

So if you find yourself saying that activists of today “need to be more like Dr. King,” please realize that we are striving to do just that. We continue to challenge, protest, and call out injustice, despite how many tell us we’re wrong, hate us, or use violence against us, just like they did Dr. King.

Today, let’s remember Dr. King for the revolutionary he truly was. Here’s 5 quotes to help us do that:

  1. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam (1967)
  2. “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”-Martin Luther King, Jr., The Other America (1968)
  3. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)
  4. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)’
  5. “Non-violent protest must now mature to a new level to correspond to heightened black impatience and stiffened white resistance. The higher level is mass civil disobedience. It is a concept well known in our struggle for justice. There must be more than a statement to the larger society—there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Worldview Introduction (1972)

 

 

NOT My Birthday Suit: An Open Letter to Sally Hansen® on Racist Nail Color Name

Dear Sally Hansen®:

FullSizeRender (5)I was in a wedding and in need of a neutral nail polish. I came across your Miracle Gel color, Birthday Suit. I was initially drawn to it because it was just what I was looking for, but when I read the name of the color, I was taken aback. I thought it was interesting that someone would choose this name, even though everyone’s “birthday suit” is not that color. Birthday Suit is not the color of my “birthday suit.”

I am a program coordinator for multicultural education at a university. As we teach our students about diversity and inclusion, and strive to develop their multicultural competence, we often talk about microaggressions. Naming this polish Birthday Suit is a microaggression.

Psychologist and Columbia professor, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., defines microaggressions as “everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, or those who are marginalized experience in their day to day interactions with people.” Microaggressions are often perpetrated by members of dominant groups and done so unconsciously, without negative intention or ill will. Microaggressions can (amongst multiple effects) make the dominate group seem “normal” while making anyone outside of that seem abnormal or as the “other.” Well, that is how I felt when I read the name Birthday Suit. I thought to myself, surely, they know this is NOT the color of all of their consumer’s birthday suits. It was frustrating and disappointing, but not shocking, because unfortunately, I have been dealing with this type of subtle racism my entire life.

The cosmetic and fashion industries are infamous for using “nude” to describe colors similar to Birthday Suit; so much so that some people think of “nude” as a color, without actually realizing that it is the nude color of a dominant group, white people. For decades, despite its discriminatory nature, brands and companies continue to use “nude” to describe their products (shout out to Nubian Skin for countering this and providing women of color with “a different kind of nude”). It is even more disturbing to know that until just two months ago (thanks to the Nude Awakening Campaign), Merriam-Webster defined the word nude as, “having the color of a white person’s skin.” So you see, there is already an issue here.  That is why it is so disappointing and frustrating to see a color named Birthday Suit in 2015. Instead of fixing this issue that has long existed, Birthday Suit reinforces the problem AND diminishes another commonly used term (as done with nude), that everyone could once relate to, to now only describe the color of white people’s skin.

I understand that your company may not have intended to make me feel excluded or offended. That is often the case with microaggressions. However, I do not want this to be an instance where you explain how this was not your intention and we move on. Why? Because this is not just about nail polish; it is about addressing a type of bias that happens every single day that many are unaware of or ignore. It is important that we as a society start acknowledging the reality of microaggressions and their effects, and do something about it. This is a chance to do something; our chance to do something.

While we do not experience as much broad, overt racism as we once did, there is still subtle racism (often in the form of microaggressions) that can do just as much (if not more) harm. In today’s day and age, most people consider themselves to be “good people” who are well intended, fair, and do not discriminate. However, this situation is a prime example of how good people can be unaware of their bias, act in a discriminatory manner, and hurt people of color. People think we ended racism when we stopped overt racism (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) but that was only a part of the battle. We will not see race relations improve again until we become aware of and acknowledge the subtle biases possessed within our hearts and minds; the subtle biases that still cause discrimination.

I ask that you use this as a teachable moment and educate your organization on microaggressions through diversity trainings. I also ask that you change the name of the Birthday Suit color. And finally, I ask that your organization launch a campaign going against the idea of “nude” or “birthday suit” being one skin tone and leading the way for change in the cosmetic and fashion industries. I am more than willing to continue this conversation and be a part of these solutions. Please let me know how I can help. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time.FullSizeRender (5)

Sincerely,

Aleidra R. Allen, M.A.

 

Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 11.24.15

 

Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:29, 10:29, and 12:23)

On November 24, 2015, Aleidra Allen was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on Donald Trump’s most recent comments about “roughing up” Black Lives Matter protestors. Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:29, 10:29, and 12:23.

**Unfortunately, Aleidra experienced technical difficulties throughout the segment. We apologize for those instances.

WATCH: Trump Rhetoric Getting Uglier

From HuffPost Live website: After his supporters attacked a #BlackLivesMatter protester at a rally, Donald Trump responded by yelling, “get him the hell out of here.” How is the increasingly vicious rhetoric out of the Trump camp affecting the national political debate?

Hosted by:

Alex Miranda

Guests:

Rebecca Sinderbrand (Washington, DC) Politics Editor, Washington Post @sinderbrand

Michael Calderone (New York, NY) Huffington Post Senior Media Reporter @mlcalderone

Aleidra Allen (St. Louis , MO) Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University @klassy_lei

Aleidra Allen on HuffPost Live- 11.12.15

FullSizeRender (1)

Watch Aleidra on HuffPost Live (Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:10, 10:51, 17:34, and 20:13)

On November 12, 2015, Aleidra Allen was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. She shared perspectives on police body cameras. Aleidra speaks at minutes 4:10, 10:51, 17:34, and 20:13.

WATCH: Philadelphia Latest To Expand Police Body Cameras

From HuffPost Live website: Police body camera footage helped indict two officers who killed a 6-year-old boy in Louisiana, and now Philadelphia is planning to expand their use. Is it time for body cams to become a standard feature in American policing?

Host:
Nancy Redd
@nancyredd

Guests:
Aleidra Allen @klassy_lei (St. Louis , MO)
Student Involvement Center, Saint Louis University

Chris Rosbough @Chris_Rosbough (Tallahassee, FL)
Criminal Justice Program Director, Pegasus

Jamira Burley @JamiraBurley (Washington, DC)
Senior Campaigner, Amnesty International

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