Despite efforts to limit our history to just textbooks in classrooms and stories they told us about ourselves, we have a vast history that cannot be ignored. The importance of uncovering our history and learning more about our heroes is what led author and playwright Calvin Ramsey to launch his new project. With his newest project, The Green Chronicles, Ramsey seeks to tell the story of Victor Green. The New York City veteran mailman created a travel guide for black people.
For 30 years, Green distributed this guide which included gas stations, barbershops, restaurants and safe places to stay. The goal of the guide was to help black motorists travel safely while dealing with the segregation and dangers that came along with being black. "Discrimination was so real that not only did they [black travelers] pack their own food; but also their own gas. You never knew when traveling while black what was going to happen to you and if you had kids with you it just added to the anxiety," said Ramsey.
Ramsey learned about the Green Book after his grandfather was slated to travel south for a funeral. Ramsey's grandfather, who had never traveled outside of New York, asked him to find the Green Book. That request sparked the need to do further research, and Ramsey uncovered the story of a hero that deserved to be told. "I spoke to college educated people, librarians, and not one time did these people mention the Green Book or talk about how hard it was for us on the road. I think a part of this lost history was due to the pain and embarrassment that black parents didn't want to pass down to their children," said Ramsey.
Victor Green's story shows the world what we already know, there is more to our story than any textbook can confine us to.
You can watch the trailer for 'The Green Book' below:
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After the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department. In a 163-page report, the DOJ discovered that the police department routinely violated the rights of Baltimore's residents. This info is startling but not surprising to the black residents of Baltimore, who were overwhelmingly affected by the practices detailed in the report. The data collected by the DOJ is from 2010 and 2015 and includes interviews with community leaders, officers, prosecutors and residents.
The report also determined the following:
Officers retaliated against residents for exercising their right to free speech and free assembly
Officers used excessive force in matters that didn't call for such aggressive behavior
Officers disproportionately stopped, frisked and arrested black residents without legal justification
The police department didn't properly train or hold officers accountable for their actions
The department failed to have a system that deters and detects improper conduct
The department failed to collect and analyze data that might eliminate abuse or abusers
The department failed to provide officers with the tools they need to effectively do their jobs
Thanks to this report confirming what many already knew, the city has started to take action. For starters, there's now a revised use of force policy and new training. They have also redesigned and placed cameras in transport vans and created a tracking system for getting info to officers regarding training materials and policies. Both the cameras and ways of getting information were crucial parts of the Freddie Gray case.
City officials and the police department were cooperative during the investigation, and according to Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, they'll use the report as a road map of how the city shall proceed. As for the DOJ, in a statement released by their spokesperson David Jacobs: “We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws."
In the end, we can only hope that this serves as a wake-up call for not only the City of Baltimore, but also other police departments around the country. Instead of having to ask if we're next, hopefully we can focus on next steps to reform and actual change.
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"Peace, Love and Joy." These words have become a refrain that I now despise. Although it might seem ridiculous to turn my nose up at words that were forged for good, it’s how I feel.
My disdain began when the phrase became a weapon used against me to silence my anger, shush my pain, mask my hopelessness. On social media, if I point out how black people are targets of state violence someone replies with “One LOVE.” When I see someone discuss their anger at another black life snuffed out, they are met with refrains of “Be PEACEFUL!” 'Peace, love and joy' and its many renditions have become ammunition used to paint black people into corners of respectability and compliance.
When I heard about the nationwide protest to reclaim all the spaces named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was 'bout it. The #MLKSitIn is the brainchild of experienced activists and leaders Leslie Mac and Feminista Jones, who boldly placed a call across the nation for those willing to organize a #MLKSitIn in their city, specifically in places named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
You should know, the good Doctor and I have been on a journey together.
He has always been a figure I looked up to. As a fearful child in a mostly white elementary school, he gave me courage.
Then I grew older and absorbed injustice – his legacy inspired me to get involved.
And when I grew bitter, his Letter from a Birmingham Jail validated my anger and helped me express myself.
So when people started using Dr. King’s own words of peace and love to try to silence me and caution me to wait for my liberation, I was FED UP.
The #MLKSitIn protest gave me an opportunity to reclaim Dr. King’s good name, as a prince of peace, an organizer, an occupier, a radical. To remind people he was #notyourrespectablenegro.
Once I accepted the call and started co-planning the #MLKSitInLA for Los Angeles, I kept hearing PEACE, LOVE and JOY as the themes of the sit-in. I cringed. I felt the need to separate myself from that phrase and immediately hauled out my baggage.
Thankfully, my co-organizer @msmorgan_hood listened patiently to my ranting. She became a mirror to my hangups. While talking to her, I remembered why I wanted to participate in the #MLKSitIn in the first place.
Every day we get up and fight for our liberation. Each life lost cuts to the bone. Every injustice we continue to persevere. We will never get over it. But we manage to heal ourselves and each other. We manage to continue to fight for peace. We manage to love each other despite our hurt. We somehow find joy amidst the world that tells us we are not worthy. And that is resistance.
So yeah, maybe “peace love and joy” isn’t my thing. But I'm doing it anyway.
For all of us who are still here and for those that are gone.
(Please join us on Sunday 7/31 nationwide, Los Angeles, 11AM PST. #MLKSitIn #MLKSitInLA For more info go to www.MLKSitIn.com)
(*#notyourrespectablenegro credited to @akwardduck &...
After the events of Saturday night, it seems as conversations on some people's timelines the next day revolved around those who are at the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The gay men and queer folks and fat darkskinned women that y'all hate so deeply are the main ones out here fighting for OUR freedom.— sandra bland (@crissles) July 10, 2016
DeRay McKesson, a young black gay male, is one of the most prominent, visible fighters. While I haven't seen too many tweets in this manner on my end, it doesn't surprise me that many others are seeing sentiments that are unfavorable of DeRay. Because he's a gay man, he shouldn't be a visible activist? Crazy, right?
Can't believe I woke up to #Deray is gay so he shouldn't be involved in leading a movement 2 better our people. STHU pic.twitter.com/qIIWHQjsw6
— ✌️ (@Ms_JackieE) July 10, 2016
Deray is too gay
Jesse Williams is too light skinned/handsome
Hypermasculine Black Men are a problem
— ANOHИI (@Lyso) July 10, 2016
In case we've forgotten, here is a little tidbit of information on a man by the name of Bayard Rusin. I know I can't do Mr. Rustin justice in only a certain amount of words, so here's what you need to know:
Rustin was crucial in the civil rights movement of the 60s, and yes, Rustin was a gay man. An advocate for non-violence as a form of resistance, he was a key organizer in in protests, organizing events worldwide from England to the United States. Rustin was even key in organizing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference!
He began working with Dr. Martin Luther King as an organizer and strategist in the mid 50s. He worked with him to desegregate buses in Alabama and he was a "key figure" in the organization of 1963's iconic March on Washington, where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Bayard Rustin was dope and never got the respect he deserved. He fought long after the initial CRM ended. 🌈✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/YV6rfH1Y16
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) July 10, 2016
It's ridiculous to think that Rustin did so much for us, yet he was criminalized for being himself. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 1963 for "publicly engaging in homosexual activity." Yes you read this right. In fact, homosexuality was a criminal act in some parts of the United States until 2003.
There was also lots of controversy. An initial march outside of the Democratic National Convention was planned in 1960 prior to the one in 1963. But another black political leader, Rep. Adam Powell of New York, told Dr. King if he didn't remove Rustin, he would spread to the press that King and Rustin were lovers. King obliged, and according to James Baldwin, the "I Have a Dream" speaker "lost much moral credit … in the eyes of the young."
Despite linking together again for the famous march in 1963, NAACP leaders wouldn't allow Rustin to be at the forefront, and he had to be the deputy to his fellow organizer. A. Phillip Randolph. They both worked with John Lewis on his speech for the event as well. Not only did he receive critique from his own people, infamous Republican senator Strom Thurmond attacked Rustin personally.
Through all of the negativity, Rustin continued to prevail, making the march a success and going on to work in many endeavors such as Democratic party politics, activism on the international level, gay rights and much more.
Rustin trended today on Twitter, as many wanted people to know how wrong they were if they do in fact have bigoted views.
If it wasn't for Bayard Rustin: a gay Black man, there'd pretty much be no Civil Rights Movement! #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/up3hlG5LNV
— Jerome Trammel (@MrJeromeTrammel) July 10, 2016
Little known fact: Bayard Rustin was arrested for trying to integrate buses several years before Rosa Parks.
— (((Magic & Real))) (@DarlingEbony) July 10, 2016
Without Bayard Rustin we would not have had half the strategy used in the CRM. You want to erase black LGBT people, you better rethink.
— Bayard Taught Me (@_M_Pulse) July 10, 2016
Same Ashies quick to retweet a Bayard Rustin or James Baldwin quote are complaining that a gay Black man is the face of the movement. ☕️🐸
— ☔️ April ☔️ (@ReignOfApril) July 10, 2016
Yall buggin about @deray but did yall forget Bayard Rustin & James Baldwin were both gay men heavily involved in the civil rights movement?
— Veedo (@VOC_Jr) July 10, 2016
Without Bayard Rustin you wouldn't have your beloved Martin Luther King Jr.
— Lazer Gun Carrier (@branfire) July 10, 2016
Rustin, who died in 1987 posthumously received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013, which was accepted by his longtime partner, Walter Naegle.
In fact, let's not discuss only Rustin, as he is only one of our black LGBT pioneers. There's James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, Alvin Ailey, to be honest we could go on and on. Especially with so much going on now, it's important to know your history.
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Waking up to the murder of another black person by another police officer (or group of police officers) has become commonplace. There are as many people expressing how numb they are to this reality as there are expressing their rage. One commonality among both groups is questioning where all of our allies are — other people of color and white allies alike. What I think eludes most of us is knowing the difference between an ally and a sympathizer.
Sympathizers are silent
Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Letter from Birmingham,' talks very succinctly about the white moderate and how this group can be problematic: "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Sympathizers might feel bad about what's happening to us, but their suggestions will ask us to work with a system built against us and that, with all of its surface amendments, has never truly been inclusive. Sympathizers will suggest that we wait a bit longer or ask a bit quieter. They are more compelled to quash our resistance and rage than to listen to, accept, understand and mirror it. Sympathizers will tell us that "they're hurting, too." They will say that they understand where we're coming from, never having experienced what we've experienced. Most importantly, when we ask them to stand with us, to bleed with us if necessary, sympathizers will quickly vanish, like a lukewarm boyfriend ghosting a girl he never really liked "like that." A sympathizer will call themselves an ally, just as a wolf will cloak itself in wool in order to be accepted by the herd, only to devour the herd while they slumber.
Allies take action
Dorothy Pittman-Hughes and Gloria Steinem (pictured above) are one example of two people of different races coming together to advocate around issues of race, class, and gender. Ultimately, it is a question of risk and belief. Do you believe in my equal right to justice and freedom enough to risk your justice and freedom so that I may obtain mine? An ally will get out in the street with you, speak up on your behalf and bleed with you, if need be.
One of the most important things an ally can and will do is to go into spaces of their own, call out and speak against prejudice, bias and racism and to help transform the thinking among their own groups. It is not black people's jobs to educate the oppressor (or their descendants) about how they have been oppressive or have benefited from the oppressive systems built by their ancestors. An ally will acknowledge this and vigilantly take up the cause to educate their own about acknowledging, relinquishing and/or leveraging privilege in service of a more just society for everyone.
The harsh reality
If your great, great, great grandparents made millions killing people and building businesses by killing people, but left you millions or billions of dollars in their will, would you acknowledge the ugly and criminal way in which wealth was passed down to you? The benefit of being a sympathizer is continuing to unfairly gain from unjust systems to the detriment of everyone else, while also feeling that you've cleared your conscience by saying "how terrible" things must be for "those people" over there.
When we're asking, "where are the allies," it's not that they don't exist, it's that they are few and far between. Sympathizers don't understand that their silence or lack of action makes them collusive in the oppression of others. The reality for many who have been privileged their entire lives is that equality will feel uncomfortable and, in some cases, unfair.
Sympathizing is comfortable. Becoming an ally feels dangerous. Either way, change feels afoot. Which side are you on?
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UPDATE: The sit-in ended on June 23rd, just after the 24-hour mark.
We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up. #NoBillNoBreak
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 23, 2016
We must never ever give up or give in. We must keep the faith. We must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before.
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 23, 2016
Wednesday, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia led a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives, that is ongoing as of Thursday morning. The House Democrats are hoping the peaceful demonstration will force House Republicans to vote on legislation that could prevent deadly shooting tragedies such as Pulse Orlando nightclub two weeks ago and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
Tensions flared when House Speaker Ryan attempted to control the sit-in.
Chaos erupts as GOP tries to restore order amid raucous House Democrats' gun control sit-in. https://t.co/qXtUAb8bsS https://t.co/28WSvLqWzV
— ABC News (@ABC) June 23, 2016
In another attempt, Ryan and other GOP leaders took to Twitter with #StopTheStunt in retaliation.
Retweet if you agree → The sit-in by House Democrats is nothing more than a publicity stunt. #StopTheStunthttps://t.co/YGgl2yLHyB
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) June 22, 2016
Outrageous! @HouseGOP is trying to adjourn #NoBillNoBreak sit in. We will stand strong!
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 23, 2016
After C-Span shut off its cameras, Rep. Eric Swalwell began to Periscope the sit-in.
LIVE on #Periscope: It's 5AM & we aren't sleeping. House Dems continue to demand action to end gun violence. #NoBil… https://t.co/ujY3zIUuJi
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) June 23, 2016
Overnight outside of the U.S. Capitol building, supporters stood in solidarity chanting, "We're with John".
It's 4:30 AM and we are still here at the US Capital #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/HDYKIXUzVh
— Aaron Black (@BlackCatUnloads) June 23, 2016
Citizens outside the @uscapitol singing. So beautiful. #WeShallLiveInPeace #NoBillNoBreak @HouseDemocrats pic.twitter.com/aOBnSB3p7V
— Caitlin S, PhD (@Paleophile) June 23, 2016
Despite the House Republicans' protest, House Democrats continued their fight and shared updates via Twitter.
15 hours in and @HouseDemocrats haven't lost our voices. #NoBillNoBreak
— Rep. John Larson (@RepJohnLarson) June 23, 2016
We've crossed the 15 hour mark. #NoFlyNoBuy #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/QDjV09HLry
— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) June 23, 2016
Still at it. It's 2:45 AM and we're not giving up. Been here for 16 hours and counting! #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/eOb9025qm1
— Sean Patrick Maloney (@spmaloney) June 23, 2016
4am in DC and my @HouseDemocrats colleagues and I are still standing up for sensible gun reforms! #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/loRNxR1NtF
— Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel) June 23, 2016
With my colleagues at 3:17 AM #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/grslvwxtOO
— Rep. John Delaney (@RepJohnDelaney) June 23, 2016
Twitter continues to praise them.
Salute @repjohnlewis for your leadership and your work throughout the years. #NoBillNoBreak
— Cynthia Reauxse ⚜ (@SheSeauxSaditty) June 23, 2016
Rep Duckworth left her wheelchair to join the sit in. This is what @SpeakerRyan won't let you see. #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/XslTocPePA
— Rachael Siemen (@rsiem) June 23, 2016
By asking the obvious questions...
If you are a responsible gun owner, why would you oppose universal background checks? #NoMoreExcuses, #NoBillNoBreak
— Steve Blum (@blumspew) June 23, 2016
Calling out House Republicans on their legislation...
They'll ban abortions. They'll ban gay marriage. They'll ban Islam.
But somehow, banning guns is the threat to freedom.#NoBillNoBreak
— (((Charles Clymer))) (@cmclymer) June 23, 2016
And sharing the frightening numbers from mass shootings in our country.
9 people in church
12 people in movie theater
14 people at office party
20 elementary school kids
49 people in gay nightclub#NoBillNoBreak
— Gina Belafonte (@GinaBelafonte) June 23, 2016
The sit-in comes less than a week after the 15-hour filibuster led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) calling on lawmakers to pass key legislation for tighter gun laws. However, people were hardly surprised that Rep. John Lewis is leading this second wave of protest for gun control. As a civil rights legend, Lewis is no stranger to taking a stance for what he believes in.
On Twitter, photos of Lewis protesting in the 1960s began to surface.
John Lewis staging a sit-in Nashville in the 1960s v John Lewis staging a sit-in in Washington in 2016 pic.twitter.com/w2EoTG7fWj
— georgia (@normanisreyes) June 22, 2016
The contrast is startling.
Yall wanna know why @repjohnlewis is the truth? The man literally marched with us in the rain. #NoBillNoBreak pic.twitter.com/8ojimcCvrX
— Grown Man Gambino (@Freeyourmindkid) June 23, 2016
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Three young civil rights workers were killed more than a half century ago and concrete justice for their deaths will never come to pass. Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were working to register black voters at a church in Neshoba County, Mississippi on June 21, 1964. After working the voter registration the three men vanished.
It took 44 days for their bodies to be discovered.
They were shot to death and their bodies placed in a dam off the side of the road. Three years later, eight men were convicted of violating the victims' federal civil rights. None of them served more than six years of their sentences.
The case was closed and then reopened decades later in 1999. Upon reopening the case, Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen was convicted in 2005 and is now serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter. No one was prosecuted for murder.
Since the conviction of Killen and the deterioration of evidence, no other charges have been filed which prompted Mississippi Attorney General, Jim Hood to close the case.
“It has been a thorough and complete investigation. I am convinced that during the last 52 years, investigators have done everything possible under the law to find those responsible and hold them accountable; however, we have determined that there is no likelihood of any additional convictions. Absent any new information presented to the FBI or my office, this case will be closed,” Hood said at a press conference.
Hood released the 48 page FBI report related to the three murders. The majority of individuals close to the case are deceased. The widow of Michael Schwerner, Rita Schwerner Bender, believes that it is essential for Mississippi to address its history of racism.
"As a nation, we have to come to terms without our racist past and our continuing inability to move past it," Bender said.
The murders of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman inspired the 1998 film, Mississippi Burning.
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A clearly divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that evidence obtained by police officers, even if done so by illegal means, may be used in court.
Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor sent a word of caution to her peers, warning of possible civil rights violations.
“By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion. “It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged."
The 5-3 decision ruling stems from a case in South Salt Lake City, Utah where police detective Douglas Fackrell stopped a man based on an anonymous tip about a "suspected drug house". After conducting surveillance on the residence, Fackrell saw Joseph Edward Strieff leaving. The detective detained Strieff in a nearby parking lot. Strieff handed over his identification. Fackrell ran a name check through a police dispatch, discovering an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation. The detective arrested Strieff, did a routine search and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
The stop raised the question of whether the warrant trumps the stop, in which the detective had no valid suspicion to believe Strieff was even in volation in the law. The court was to decide whether the detective used illegal means to find the evidence.
The Court found that the stop was illegal, but the outstanding warrant for Strieff was "a critical intervening circumstance that is wholly independent of the illegal stop."
Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote for the majority stating the searches are not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. "While Officer Fackrell’s decision to initiate the stop was mistaken, his conduct thereafter was lawful."
The Utah v. Strieff ruling is what Sotomayor foresees as future consequences for minorities.
"The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote.
Sotomayor really hammers in her point, driving in an age-old message children of color are taught from the very beginning.
"For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”—instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)."
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A federal court has ordered the Department of Justice to desegregate a Mississippi school district where students in some secondary schools are still separated by race. Exactly 62 years ago today, Brown v. Board of Education ruled segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. For the past five decades, the Cleveland School District has been in a legal battle to desegregate their schools. The school district located in a town of 12,000 people currently has 3,700 students. The student demographic consists of 66% black students, 30% white students, and 4% Asian or Hispanic students.
This federal decision will consolidate the all-black junior high with the all-white junior high school and the same for it's segregated high schools. A member of the community told the press, “(w)e can break down this wall of racism that divides us and keeps us separated, and we could create a new culture in our school system that’s going to unite us and unite our whole city.”
Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and head of Civil Rights at the Justice Department, released a statement saying, “Six decades after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declared that ‘separate but equal has no place’ in public schools, this decision serves as a reminder to districts that delaying desegregation obligations is both unacceptable and unconstitutional.This victory creates new opportunities for the children of Cleveland to learn, play and thrive together. The court’s ruling will result in the immediate and effective desegregation of the district’s middle school and high school program for the first time in the district’s more than century-long history.”
As the school district works to consolidate immediately and put the federal plan into action, they have yet to decide upon appealing the decision as outlined in the 96-page order. All eyes are on this city in the delta as they break down the walls of systematic racism.
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