Category Archives: civil rights

“The Help”: Is it just me or…

…are black people not feeling this movie trailer?  I’ve witnessed a very conflicted reaction to the trailer of the new movie “The Help” recently, in a movie theater that was filled with black folk.  Conflicted is the best way I can describe the mix of disgust and curiosity.  Am I surprised? No. It’s 2011, but the subject matter and images still sting.  Nothing like a dark-skinned black woman serving white folks in a maids uniform…in a period movie…set in the deep south.  Sigh.  Especially when it centers around a classic white savior character.  Since it takes place during the Civil Rights era, I think the author could have done a better job of developing the black lead character.  However, would Hollywood even make such a movie if it didn’t have a white lead?  I don’t know.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I read the book last year.  I can see how the movie trailer is off-putting without the book as reference.  I had some problems with the book, but overall I thought it was a decent read given the full context of who wrote it and the back story presented.  At times, reading it was heart wrenching for me as a black woman whose family is from Mississippi (mom’s side) and who’s great-grandmother was a maid for several white families.  Parts of the story were plain old scary, as racism sometimes is.

I don’t know for sure how this movie is going to be received by the black community.  I think Michele Wallace’s recent review in Essence is dead on (if they post it to the site, I’ll link to it).  In my opinion, this is not going to be a celebrated movie (like “The Color Purple”), but I’m glad that great actresses like Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson are taking on the roles in this film so that they are played with dignity.

One more point that doesn’t help: A Maid Sees Herself in a Novel, and Objects – Yep, a black maid, named Ablene, that worked for Kathryn Stockett’s older brother is suing her.  Dag! At least name the main black character in your book something other than your brother’s REAL, black maid’s name.  Come on!  To add insult, the woman says that part of the storyline was taken from her life.

NY Times | “Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has long worked as a maid here, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, the author of the best-selling novel “The Help,” about black maids working for white families in Jackson in the 1960s.

In the complaint, Ms. Cooper argues that one of the book’s principal characters, Aibileen Clark, is an unpermitted appropriation of her name and image, which she finds emotionally distressing.

It is more complicated than that. For the past dozen years, Ms. Cooper has worked for Ms. Stockett’s older brother, Robert, and sister-in-law, Carroll, and still does.

“Ain’t too many Ablenes,” Ms. Cooper said at a law office after a day’s work at the Stocketts, for whom she has helped raise two children. Ms. Cooper also said that she had their support in her legal quest.

“What she did, they said it was wrong,” Ms. Cooper said of the Stocketts, members of a prominent Jackson family. “They came to me and said, ‘Ms. Aibee, we love you, we support you,’ and they told me to do what I got to do.””

Quote from Viola Davis in the August issue of Essence magazine:

”Of course I had trepidations. Why do I have to play the mammy? But what do you do as an actor if one of the most multifaceted and rich roles you’ve ever been given is a maid in 1962 Mississippi? Do you not take the role because you feel like in some ways it’s not a good message to send to Black people? No. The message is the quality of the work. That is the greater message… As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences – experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”

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If you call a friend after killing a black man, saying “I just ran that n-word over.”…

…It’s a damn hate crime!  Sometimes, I can’t stand BET’s news reporting online.  I really can’t.

BET, This should not be the title of a post about what happened to James Anderson in Jackson, MS.  All of the details noted in the article point to an obvious hate crime. Sure, sure allegedly. Sprinkle the word “allegedly” around.  Fine.

Mess. Hot Trailer Park Mess.

Call it what it is.

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Sue the Bastard, Shirley: Libel and Shirley Sherrod

Sometimes bloggers forget that we have to consider the same laws and rules of the land that everyone else does.  It’s one thing to switch some video footage around to create a funny mashup or to edit audio to make it sound like someone said something that they didn’t.  It’s another thing to pass your edited footage off as the real thing with no disclaimer.

Most reasonable people who run websites know that you have to let the public in on the deception at some point.  Humor goes a long way when it comes to this.  People get the hint when things are funny or outrageous.  They say, “Hey!!  That’s not real right?!?!” not “Oh my God!  How terrible!”.   However, the editing that conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart did to footage of former Dept. of Ag staffer Shirley Sherrod speaking at an NAACP function was not your common funny video mashup one could find on YouTube and forward on to co-workers and friends.  No need for me to rehash that whole drama of her firing, people backpedaling after realizing the deception, etc.  You know the story.

I’m happy to see that Ms. Sherrod is SUING Breitbart.  At the time that this happened, she was a private citizen doing her job, not a public figure or celebrity who doesn’t enjoy the same legal protection because of their status.  Defamation is defamation.  Breitbart should have attacked the NAACP as an organization if he had an axe to grind (which is what seems to be the case), instead of going after a government employee.

Mrs. Sherrod has accused Mr. Breitbart, employee Larry O’Connor and the unnamed source of the video with defamation, representing her in a false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 11 in Superior Court in the District of Columbia, seeks the removal of the video and related blog posts from Mr. Breitbart‘s site and monetary compensation, including punitive damages, to “punish the defendants’ reprehensible conduct and to deter its future occurrence.

“Defendants deliberately edited the full video of Mrs. Sherrod‘s 43-minute speech down to a short, highly misleading two-and-a-half minute clip that defendants knew, or should have known, would portray Mrs. Sherrod in a false and defamatory manner,” the lawsuit stated. – source

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Is it just me or does this “Do away with the 14th Amendment” jazz make you antsy?

On the news last night I noticed a lot of commentators and pundits were discussing the 14th amendment all willy nilly.  Um…was anyone else uncomfortable with the dialogue.  I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and hear that I’m not a citizen.  Don’t follow me…

Background: Anderson Cooper’s show offers the rundown of what’s being tossed about in the halls of Capitol Hill.

Republicans such as Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Kyl and John Cornyn are tripping over themselves to jump on the latest “Dumb Way to Solve the Illegal Immigration Problem” bus by suggesting Congress examine repealing the 14th Amendment, which deals with one way of becoming a U.S. citizen.

The far right has latched onto the idea that the provision in question – which grants citizenship to children born in the U.S. – is being abused by illegal immigrants who choose to come to America to have their children, thus worsening the illegal immigration problem.

Some are even trying to suggest that how it is being used today is counter to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Of course, the 14th Amendment was not in the first U.S. Constitution as drawn up by our framers. It was adopted on July 9, 1868, to prevent Southern states from denying citizenship to former slaves and their children, since they didn’t choose to come to America. They were brought here for the purpose of the vicious and dehumanizing free-labor plan that helped build the nation – slavery.

There were no immigration laws as we know them in 1868 so this is just crazy talk.

The problem is enforcement of the existing laws.  The 14th amendment can’t change anything that the government is not going to enforce.  The problem in my opinion is that we have neglected our own immigration laws and the enforcement of them for so long that now the elephant in the room is that there are millions of people who would have to be rounded up for the law to really be followed to the letter.  Many of these people have children who are by law American citizens.  Combine this with the fact that we’ve allowed whole industries to benefit from the labor of persons who are in this country illegally.  If all of the “illegal” aliens were forced to leave, the impact would be felt on various levels of our society.

In addition, NO ONE is going to take away the 14th.  One good reason?  All the Italian, German, Russian, and other european immigrants who came to these shores.  You see, no one is going to want to have to prove that their great, great grandma from England or Cicely became a citizen naturally.  Remember people, we are a nation of foreigners.  The only people who’ve “been” here are the Native Americans.

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NAACP: Don’t Just Criticize, Become a Member and Effect Change from Within

I just have to give my 2 cents on the Wells Fargo, NAACP, and Boyce Watkins drama.  I’ve listened to all the points given.  I think there are a lot of valid points on both sides.  However, the thing that stands out to me is that the NAACP as an organization is not the same organization that I read about in the history books.  It’s not the NAACP of the time of W.E.B Dubois or in the 60s with King.  This is a different time.  A time that calls for different tactics and is full of different concerns.  The very fact that such an institution is now being challenged from within the black community is interesting.  The NAACP is a holy grail organization historically.  What this whole conflict has make me consider is the future of the organization and how African Americans can best influence it.

The best way for people to influence and ensure its future…JOIN.  For just $30 you can join and actually help this historic organization.  Money talks. If you really care, pay your dues and get involved with the actual governance of the organization.  Sure, you can affect it from outside, but if you really cherish what the NAACP has meant to the African American community, wouldn’t you want to see it refashioned for future survival?  If you have answers and know what direction the organization should do in, why not share them?

Sponsorship means money.  Perhaps if there was an infusion of new member revenue, the amount of sponsorship revenue needed for the conference would have been reduced.  Perhaps they could afford to be more choosy when selecting sponsors in that case.

Just my 2 cents.

Background: Recently the NAACP came under fire by bloggers for having Wells Fargo as a leading sponsor for its annual convention this July. Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote an op-ed for theGrio questioning why the NAACP would partner with Wells Fargo – a company accused of predatory lending practices — so recently after the civil rights organization dropped its lawsuit with the bank. Click here for the response to Dr. Watkins’ inquiry from NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

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Gerry Hudson’s remarks: Is he correct?

A C-SPAN clip of SEIU Executive Vice President Gerry Hudson is circulating online.  In it he says something controversial about how one can move African-Americans to care more about immigration reform.

“On white workers, I think we got some real problems. I’ve spent a lot of time in Wisconsin and places like that, where I have heard some of the most anti-immigrant sentiments around. It’s also, and this is where you get the black workers first, it’s so f***ing rabidly racist, ’til black people get scared. They don’t just mean you, right? So, you can organize them quicker, like, look at what’s there.”

A number of right-wing themed sites are pushing this clip viral.  They seem to think that he’s calling black people gullible and that he’s demonizing good, working class white folk.  Hudson is a big, black, bald-headed man.  The fact that he cussed alone likely made some people uncomfortable.  LOL

It’s no secret the rhetoric that follows immigration reform can be laced with images and concepts that make blacks and jews very uncomfortable.  Racial profiling is what it is, but any thought of  laws that require people to have proper documentation…makes me think of South Africa.   If you suggest racist motives and connect with the black experience of American racism…sure, you’ll motivate some people.

However, there is also an economic and social side (access to social services and the strain on local governments) to immigration reform that blacks may have concerns over.  Let’s face it, some black people are as concerned as some whites with the idea of Hispanics “taking over” America.  Just ask someone who grew up in Dade County or Miami Florida about needed to be bi-lingual to get a job.  I’m not saying that it’s right…I’m just saying.

Readers, take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.

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Happy Easter: Martin Luther King’s Last Sermon

Today, many will celebrate Easter Sunday.  They may not realize that today, April 4, 2010, marks the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of Civil Rights Leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He spoke these words on April 3rd, 1968.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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Health Care Bill Protesters Call Rep Lewis the N-word and Spit on Rep. Cleaver

I went down to the National Mall on Saturday and witnessed the Health Care Bill Protesters first hand (posting photos soon).  They were in rare form, but thank God no one spit on me or called me “nigger”.  I was spared, apparently.   Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Barney Frank, and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver were not as lucky.

Salon.com: On Saturday, as a small group of protesters jammed the Capitol and the streets around it, the movement’s origins in white resistance to the Civil Rights Movement was impossible to ignore. Here’s only what the mainstream media is reporting, ignoring what I’m seeing on Twitter and left wing blogs:

  • Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis was taunted by tea partiers who chanted “nigger” at least 15 times, according to the Associated Press (we are not cleaning up language and using “the N-word” here because it’s really important to understand what was said.) First reported on The Hill blog (no hotbed of left-wing fervor), the stories of Lewis being called “nigger” were confirmed by Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones and Democratic Rep. Andre Carson, who was walking with Lewis. “It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis,” said Carson, a former police officer. “He said it reminded him of another time.”
  • Another Congressional Black Caucus leader, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, was spat upon by protesters. The culprit was arrested, but Cleaver declined to press charges.
  • House Majority Whip James Clybourn told reporters: “I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus.”
  • There were many reports that Rep. Barney Frank was called a “faggot” by protesters, but the one I saw personally was by CNN’s Dana Bash, who seemed rattled by the tea party fury. Frank told AP: “It’s a mob mentality that doesn’t work politically.”
  • Meanwhile, a brick came through the window at Rep. Louise Slaughter’s Niagara Falls office on Saturday (the day she argued for her “Slaughter solution” to pass health care reform, though it was rejected by other Democrats on the House Rules Committee).

On Thursday MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews grilled tea party Astroturf leader Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity about supporters who taunted a man with Parkinson’s disease at a tea party gathering in Ohio last week.

That video of the guy with Parkinson’s is HORRIBLE.  These Health Care Bill Protesters and Tea Party members should be ashamed of themselves.  Everyone has a right to protest and let their voice be heard, but racial slurs, spitting on people and mocking the sick is mob mentality.  How is Fox News going to spin this?  I’m sure they will find a way.

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Are Ultra Conservatives in Texas Deciding What History is in Your Child’s Textbooks?

In a 10-5 party line vote last week, the BoE rammed through a vast number of changes to the Texas state history standards, all of which conform to the über-far-right’s twisted view of reality. In these new standards, Hispanics are ignored, Black Panthers are added to provide balance to the kids learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., and get this, Thomas Jefferson was removed*. discovermagazine.com

If you’re a parent, you should be aware that a movement is going on that is dedicated to changing your child’s textbooks.  Most parents trust that their local school districts are buying books that accurately represent american history and social studies in a way that is not significantly biased by any view, let alone ultra-conservative or ultra-liberial.  Well, that may not be the case.  You might be very concerned if you look through your child’s history books.  I would encourage you to take a look at this news and then find out if your child’s textbooks have been affected.  Watch this Video from CNN for details.

Articles:

From AC360 - In Texas today, the state’s board of education approved a new social studies curriculum that conservatives say is meant to correct for a liberal bias among the teachers who initially drafted the standards. The vote came after days of charged debate.

Out: Calling the U.S. government “Democratic”.  In: Calling it a “Constitutional Republic.” Also out: too much talk about Thomas Jefferson and the enlightenment, which stressed reasoning and science over blind faith. Also In: More recognition of the contributions of religious leaders, like Moses.

All of this matters, because with almost five million students in Texas, the state buys a lot of textbooks that could determine what publishers put out for America’s other school children. Though, in this digital age,  that is not as big of a concern as in past years.

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Harriet Tubman Could Write and So Can I

One of Philadelphia’s and the nation’s leading collectors of African-American artifacts has given the Smithsonian over historic artifacts owned by former slave, abolitionist, and Underground Railroad Conductor Extrodinaire Harriet Tubman to a to be a part of the National Museum of African-American History scheduled to open in 2015 here in Washinton, DC.

Charles Blockson, curator emeritus of the Charles Blockson Afro-American collection at Temple University, received 39 personal items from the estate of Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman from Tubman’s great-niece, who willed them to Blockson two years ago because she believed that he, Blockson says, would know what to do with them.  source

When I took a look at some of the photos posted of the items in the Tubman collection, one of the struck me in a way that I can’t explain.  You see, in her hymnal Harriet Tubman Davis wrote her name.  She would write her own name!  She didn’t leave and X as her mark and this was more than a meer scribble or attempt at writing.  I saw the handwriting of a woman who shouldn’t have been able to clearly create letters with pen, let alone bring hundreds of slaves to freedom.  I felt for someone who knew the true power of being able to read and write.  It made me think a little more about the words I’m able to write.  And about the fact that it is a privilage that my ancestors fought for.

I write here, on this blog.  I’m not a freedom fighter in the way that Harriet was, but I do want to make others think.  Perhaps I can even inspire or motivate others to action.  Perhaps something here will make someone’s mind a little more free.  Make them question and reflect on race, racism, blackness, and our community.  I know that words, typed, written, or read…they have power.  Thank you Harriet, for that little reminder written in a church hymal.  They are a blessing to me.

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