- Created on 13 June 2013
Fifty years ago this month, two of the chief characteristics of the modern Civil Rights Movement were dramatically, tragically illuminated in Jackson, Miss. by an assassin’s bullet.
The first was that Black Americans’ nonviolent quest for full citizenship was going to be marked by a violent resistance and the sacrifice of martyrs. The second was that that reality would stop neither the Movement’s frontline activists nor the Black masses from pressing forward.
For it was in Jackson, on the night of June 11, 1963, that a bullet, fired from a 30.06-caliber rifle with a telescopic sight, struck down Medgar Evers, the young, charismatic field secretary of the Mississippi state N.A.A.C.P. as he exited his automobile in the driveway of his home.
Evers’ murder, when it occurred and in hindsight, bore witness to the fact that the Black freedom struggle had risen in explosive fashion to the top of the nation’s agenda. It occurred just weeks after the violent response of city officials in Birmingham, Ala. to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-led demonstrations there – the police beatings of nonviolent marchers; firemen turning their high-pressure hoses on defenseless men, women and children; police dogs shredding the clothing of stoic demonstrators – had stirred outrage and a groundswell of support for the Movement around the globe and, even more importantly, among a critical minority of White northerners.
The Birmingham protest itself provoked an eruption of more than 750 demonstrations of one kind or another against segregation across the country, historian Taylor Branch noted in Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954 – 1963. In Jackson itself, city officials had seemingly out-maneuvered the civil rights forces. But at a mass meeting on the night of June 11, Evers, a World War II veteran who had fearlessly confronted racism in the state all his life, electrified the audience by calling for a renewed “massive offensive” against segregation in the city. The gathering applauded for 20 minutes.
Evers’ murder also occurred on the night of the very day that the federal government had forced Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to stage his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” and then retreat as Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first Black students to successfully enroll in the University of Alabama since Autherine Lucy’s mob-inspired withdrawal in 1956 .
That success had spurred President Kennedy to instantly decide to alert the national television and radio networks that he was commanding air time that evening to deliver a major address to the nation on civil rights. In it, JFK dropped his hitherto politically expedient distance from the Movement and fully embraced its cause, announcing what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Evers’ wife, Myrlie, and their three young children, had watched the president’s speech that evening and were eagerly awaiting Medgar’s return to discuss it with him.
A few days earlier, King, worried about the slow pace of change the Movement was seemingly mired in and JFK’s standoffishness, had broached to his aides the idea of a national “event” in Washington to pressure the president and the Congress to act.
Of course, that event – the March on Washington – became for many in the U.S. and around the world the signal moment of what Taylor Branch called “the King Years.” For many that halcyon gathering marks 1963 as the Movement’s watershed year and indicates there was then a smooth path to the landmark legislative victories: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But, just two weeks after the March came the Sunday morning bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls; and two months after that would come the assassination of President Kennedy – two events which for many within the Movement reaffirmed that tragedy would continue to shadow the civil rights trail.
In mid-June, 1963, Byron De La Beckwith, a virulent White supremacist with deep roots in Mississippi, was arrested and charged with Evers’ murder. The evidence against him was overwhelming. But, it being the Mississippi of the early 1960s, he escaped justice when his two trials in 1963 and 1964 ended in hung juries. Those legal conclusions, however, meant that he could be charged again should further evidence be discovered.
It was: an informant who testified that Beckwith had bragged over the years about the murder. In 1994 Beckwith was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died in 2001 at the age of 80.
In its September, 1963 special issue, marking the centennial of President Lincoln’s announcing the Emancipation Proclamation, Ebony magazine reprinted a profile of Evers it had first published in 1958. In it, he said, “[T]his is home … Mississippi is part of the United States. And … I don’t plan to live here as a parasite. The things I don’t like, I will try to change. And in the long run, I hope to make a positive contribution to the productivity of the South.”
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 13 June 2013
Elder Black folk of the world, forgive me, but I can’t help but say publicly that unless Bill Cosby is talking about pudding pops or cracking jokes on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” I don’t want to hear it anymore. I try to avoid disrespecting my elders, but at this point Cosby continues to belittle sects of our community without pu...
- Created on 12 June 2013
You would think that since the end of slavery and through the ensuing years Black people in this country would be further along in our economic evolution than we are today. You would think there would be no need for the economic empowerment messages that other columnists and I write about on a regular basis. You would think Black children of the 21st century would be sitting pretty right about now, considering all we have been taught and all we have been through in our economic struggle since we were fired – I mean freed.
As I read the powerful words of our ancestors, both men and women, I hear the very same messages coming from them over 100 years ago. I hear them saying to our people who lived during that time, “Let’s build our own businesses,” “Seek for ourselves,” “Save our money and work together.” “Be producers.” It goes on and on.
The question that arises is: Why haven’t we heeded the messages of our ancestors? We are still trying to implement some of the economic principles they lived by many years ago. They had far fewer resources than we have today; they were quite limited when it came to transportation, communication, and education. Yet they developed and followed principles that if practiced today, would propel us toward the reality of true freedom.
A collective effort that should have been a natural evolution from generation to generation, among Black people, has now become a much-needed revolution. Don’t get me wrong. Revolution is all right, but our economic destiny should not be in such bad shape that it now takes a revolution to correct it. Our economic demise is the direct result of a lack of evolution. If we had followed the natural path of economic growth for Black people in this country, from the early 1900s until today, we would have evolved into one of the most powerful groups in the entire world. All we have instead is the dubious recognition of having an annual income that, if we were a country, would make us the tenth largest in the world.
Revolution or evolution? We always seem to gravitate toward revolution – and, admittedly, in most cases it has been very necessary. But as far as economic empowerment is concerned, we now need a revolution simply because we failed to have an evolution.
There was a time, John Sibley Butler’s “Economic Detour” premise notwithstanding, when Black businesses flourished, even without access to the general market. The National Negro Business League, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and other Black business organizations helped create not only new entrepreneurs, they also stimulated a Black business psyche that encouraged our people to support one another, to do for ourselves, and to work for economic self-sufficiency. We were producers and landowners; we developed our expertise in all fields of endeavor; we created jobs for ourselves; and we circulated our dollars among our own people.
I hear so much talk about an “economic revolution” for Black people. Unfortunately, “revolution” in this case deals more with “revolving” than it does with “revolt.” It simply means that we are getting back to a point where we were before, as in a circle. Are we running in circles when it comes to economic empowerment? I truly hope not. Economic revolution must be conceived and grounded in “overturning” our situation, not “returning” to it.
Black business is not a revolutionary idea; it is an evolutionary construct that moves from an infancy stage through various growth periods and cycles, and eventually becomes a Johnson Publishing Co. and a Motown. Evolution would have moved us from the models we saw in Durham, N.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, and other cities, to a $1 trillion business segment rather than the current $150 billion segment we have today.
Revolution or evolution? When we walked away from our brothers’ and sisters’ businesses after we “won” integration, the proper evolution of our businesses was thwarted. Now we are faced with starting an economic revolution. We must now move to a place where some of us do not want to be, despite the fact that we were all there once before. We already had what we are now trying to win back. Evolution would have maintained what we had, but now it will take revolutionary thinking and revolutionary action to cause us to work together for true economic and psychological freedom.
Revolution or evolution? We can have both. We should have both. Strong Black-owned businesses still exist in this country, despite the buyouts we have witnessed in recent years. Evolution is paramount to their existence. Revolution is necessary for those of us who are consumers, small business owners, and advocates. We must change the way we do business. Specifically, we must change the way we spend our money. If we have revolution and evolution, Black people will make the progress we need to gain a much higher level of economic empowerment.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.
- Created on 12 June 2013
When it comes to looking good, staying on top of your game, and making sure your pursuit of beauty is on point, you know the African-American community has that covered. Nielsen’s latest insights highlight hair and skin beauty purchases and behavior, by the numbers among African-Americans and other ethnic groups in the U.S. and Canada in a recent NielsenWire Post titled. “ Looking Good: Appealing to Ethnic Consumers in the Beauty Aisle.”
Ladies, I’m talking to all of us here. Whether we wear our lovely tresses straight, in locks, curled or rock a natural, cute afro-puff – God-given or store-bought – we all want to make sure we look presentable and feel good about ourselves, and will spend our last dime to do so. And, no, even though we usually think of women when we talk about hair care and beauty, women don’t corner the market on giving attention to good looks. You’ve likely heard the word, metrosexual, coined about 10 years ago to describe men who pay attention to the way they look. It’s ok to ‘fess up, guys. And, I think most women appreciate a man who takes care of himself in this department, right ladies?
As African-American consumers, we are 43 million strong, representing just under 14 percent of the population, and we spend more than 900 percent more on ethnic hair and beauty products than any other ethnic group in the U.S. More and more companies are beginning to pay attention. Have you noticed the increase of non-ethnic brands that now offer a “natural” hair care line?
We also pay close attention to our skin, according the post. African-American consumers purchase skin bleaching products at a rate of a whopping 434 percent more than the general population. And before you jump to conclusions, this isn’t necessarily about reinventing ourselves. This is primarily about erasing blemishes, lightening age spots or even out skin tones. We purchase more hand lotion, body lotion and all-purpose skin creams than the general population: 54 percent and 40 percent respectively. We are 58 percent less likely to purchase suntan preparations or sunscreens and sunblock products. Here’s an instance where there are opportunities for marketers in some of these categories because there is opportunity for market growth, particularly in the suntan preparations category.
I have girlfriends who slather themselves with baby oil before baking in the sun – unprotected. Most of us now know (but still may ignore) that Blacks are not immune to sun damage – and that all skin can burn – this could be an opportunity for a wide-reaching education campaign for the companies that manufacture sunscreens and sunblocks. (Even if you’re not afraid of sunburn or skin cancer, what about premature wrinkling or skin that could turn to a consistency that feels like leather from years of over-exposure? I’m just saying). As a matter of fact, now I can get a tan right in my bathroom –without even being exposed to sunlight. I use gradual tanning lotions which have SPF already included. This way, I can protect my skin and have the luxurious bronzing color highlights that I want.
So, you see, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It is imperative that you choose companies who have your best interests, needs front and center. You’ve got to make sure you have nothing but the best with you on your pursuit of beauty. Please take this into consideration the next time you stroll down those beauty aisles. This time, you’ll just be better equipped with additional knowledge in tow.
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com
- Created on 11 June 2013
The court martial of Pvt. Bradley Manning for allegedly providing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks is the latest in efforts undertaken by this administration to crush whistleblowers. In fact, the Manning case is reminiscent of that faced by Daniel Ellsberg in the famous “Pentagon Papers” incident surrounding the Vietnam War. In the case of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg released classified documents concerning the Vietnam War to the New York Times. These documents revealed the criminality and hypocrisy of the U.S. aggression.
Yet, the Bradley Manning case is not simply the latest in a list of prosecutions. It stands as a particularly illustrative example of steps taken by an administration that had promised so-called transparency when Obama was elected in 2008. Instead, we have found something to the contrary. Not only have whistleblowers faced retaliation, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act six times in order to squash whistleblowers.
The administration’s stand towards whistleblowers exists in stark contrast to its attitude towards both the criminality on Wall Street as well as the criminality of those who lied us into the Iraq war. In neither case have criminal prosecutions taken place. Think about it for a moment. The Bush administration manufactured evidence in order to carry out a blatant act of aggression against a sovereign nation. This aggression resulted not only in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and U.S. personnel, but it has totally destabilized the nation of Iraq itself. Despite this, no one from the Bush administration has been prosecuted.
We can also look at Wall Street. Obama came into office in the midst of the worst financial collapse and recession since the Great Depression. Much of what accounted for the financial collapse was the result of criminal activity on the part of elements of the financial community. Instead of prosecution and jail time the perpetrators of this disaster had the audacity to insist that they were still entitled to their annual extravagant bonuses. Oh, and by the way, many of these same Wall Streeters, saved by the Obama administration from masses of people who wanted to string them up, ironically decided to side with Romney in the 2012 election. No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.
So, let’s now go through the scorecard. Individuals who have attempted to identify criminal behavior by government officials, agencies, etc., face retaliation, and in the case of Manning, jail time. They are in some cases accused of providing aid and assistance to the enemy. What they did was to call things as they were and to point out precisely the sorts of activities that this administration claimed that it opposed.
Bradley Manning should not face any jail time. In fact, he needs to get an award for his courage.
The other night I was watching Spike Lee’s She Hate Me. If you have not seen it, take a few moments to do so. One of the issues that Lee raises is that the “little people” who do the right thing and call out injustices frequently suffer, whereas those in the elite who carry out the injustices, not only frequently get away with it, but they may gain some benefit. The classic example was Frank Wills, the African-American security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in. For an action that should have netted him a medal, he found himself ultimately cast aside and treated as, in effect, a criminal.
You may have expected more from the Obama administration. It won’t happen unless we insist otherwise. It is not just about Obama the man; it is about an administration.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com.