Fraternity in the Civil Rights Movement

So I have once more been reading about issues with Greek Life across the country. I have been viewing and reviewing Greek Life positions and taking time to try and discover what the future is for these once grand organizations in our country.

Whats that you say? When have these organizations ever done anything worth while?

Well, we could discuss statistics about North-American Interfraternity Conference, but I personally would prefer to recognize a different part of Greek Life. This part is often not given the appreciation it truly deserves. This blog will go no where near eradicating that, but still has some important points to maintain.

I am of course referring to organizations known as National Pan Hellenic Council Fraternities and Sororities. Just as with any other organization, we can admit these groups have their own issues. As opposed to recruitment, members go through a process called intake. Today, and due to popular media, we generally associate these processes with late nights, early morning, and step shows. That may be involved, but is far from the entire picture.

And so we come to the organizations themselves. The oldest is called Alpha Phi Alpha, founded in 1906 at Cornell University. Oddly enough, Cornell is one of two private universities which fall into the often misunderstood category known as Land Grant Institutions. And in 1890, the same year the second Morrill Act passed which required institutions receiving lang grant funds to either allow Black students or else split the funding with another institution (this was shortly before Plessy V Ferguson declared Separate but Equal), well in that year of 1890, the first Black students appear on the roll of Cornell.

So we come to the first of these organizations and their impact on the Civil rights movement. Alpha Phi Alpha boasts three well recognized names to their rolls: Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and WEB Du Bois. All three are names often noted for their impact on the country, but they are far from the only ones.

 

We also have Kappa Alpha Psi. The Kappas were founded in 1911 at Indiana University. The organization boasts its own list of prominent names, but you may have to take time searching them. This says nothing about the organization, but perhaps more about your own understanding of history? Those names are Donald Hollowell (best known for his work to desegregate the University of Georgia), William Robert Ming (a member of the Brown v. Board Litigation team), and Percy Sutton (a freedom rider who defended Malcom X in Court as well as the highest-ranking African American elected official in NYC in 1966 as the President of the Manhattan Boroughs).

 

Omega Psi Phi came next as far as founding dates, founded in 1911 at Howard University. The names that come with this organization may be well known too: Jesse Jackson, Bayard Rustin, and Langston Hughes.

 

Then we come to Phi Beta Sigma, founded in 1914 also at Howard University. Once more these are names you should but may not recognize: Dr. Huey P Newton (co-founder of the Black Panthers) and A Philip Randolph (organizaed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Poters, first African American Labor Union).

The final Fraternity in the National Pan Hellenic Council is Iota Phi Theta, founded in 1963. The organization, formed by twelve men who would be considered ‘non-traditional’ students came together just three weeks after MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech to found this organization in the midst of the Civil Rights movement chaos.

In short, it cannot be denied that Fraternities have profound effects on the country and world. The question I ask is if the current membership realize this and are living up to it? I ask that of my own organization while holding up these shining examples of the legacy that Fraternity must live up to if they wish to survive.

 

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WEB Du Bois

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line

Many recognize the name W.E.B. Du Bois. A visionary for Civil Rights and a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). But who can ever tell what he actually stood for?

Du Bois was a relative contemporary of Booker T Washington, but was more of an opponent than an ally. Washington often fought for treaties while Du Bois went more for complete victory. An example of this would be the Atlanta Compromise, something Du Bois initially supported alongside the President of the Tuskeegee Institute and later opposed.

See, the Atlanta Compromise would not allow Blacks the right to vote, retaliate against racist actions, nor seek education beyond vocational areas. Du Bois being the first African American to receive a Doctorate degree from Harvard, one can imagine where the concerns would arise. Especially when you consider that when Du Bois earned that degree, Harvard was 249 years old.

An Educated Du Bois began his socially conscious efforts along the way, working in Atlanta and beyond. He was a professor at Wilberforce University. He also wrote The Souls of Black Folks, a collection of essays which opens with the same line as this blog. Oddly enough it seems the issue continues. This work by Du Bois along with his incredibly vocal presence in the conversation on race led to him serving as a co-founder of the NAACP. It also placed him at the forefront of the attempt to ban The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Du Bois further was a part of the Pan-African Congress, involved in the War Efforts of World War I where he believed that Blacks should be trained to lead Blacks, and shifted his stance in the 1930s to one in support of segregation. Du Bois served for nearly 20 years as the editor of The Crisis and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.

His impact on any and all Civil Rights movements within the US can be felt and seen. He was the one to suggest the use of Colored, as opposed to Black for the NAACP in order to support a wider range of discriminated populations.

All in all, Du Bois’ life expands across pages and pages. There is too much to tell in one simple blog post. Before you lie a few reasons the name is so widely recognized.

Will you take the time to learn more?

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Why Education?

So I have spent the past year working at a University for their Teachers College. For a quick note to clarify what that means, Universities are generally broken down in the US into colleges. Each college is a grouping of similar degrees which report through an administration to the upper echelons of the university. For example, there may be a college of education, of engineering, of business, of nursing, of humanities, of social sciences, and several more. This may be an oversimplification, but it will allow one to understand where my arguments here are coming from.

I work with numerous students. These students come from across the nation, from various socioeconommic, educational, racial, religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds. They are members of different sexual orientations, genders, and regions. We have veterans right alongside ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ students.

Not all of these students seek to become teachers either. While a large portion of our population focus on becoming traditional classroom teachers, some move beyond that as well. I work with students seeking to affect changes in policy, work with non-profits, museums, centers, universities, or in other roles within education.

And yet, the argument I hear these students face time and again:

But you’re so smart. Why would you want to become a teacher?

I find this to be a reprehensible thing to say, let alone believe. Taylor Mali offers some words of wisdom for those who find the field of education to be worth anything less than our best.

But beyond that, consider what we are saying. Our “best and brightest” in other fields means the future generations should suffer. By denying the field of education to smart people, our future educators are hindered and kept docile.

When teaching is demonstrated to be at times a down trodden profession, we all rise up in self righteous anger. We say we should be doing more for teachers. Everyone offers their stories of a teacher or educator who touched their lives in some special way. I can recall many of the teachers in my life and how their support impacted me. They drove me. And I would never refer to anyone of them as less than brilliant. To do so would be a disservice to the profession.

Perhaps there were some who were not quite as ready as others to stand before a classroom, but stood there they did none the less.

And in our anger, we demand support for teachers. We glorify programs such as Teach for America. We praise those teachers who give of their own paychecks to support students. And yet as public education continues to take a beating in the US, we let it. We praise teachers, yet I have numerous students who have to transfer into my college after a semester or more because they received pressure from their parents to go and get a “real degree.”

When the idea of teacher pay is raised, we are quick to say teachers should make more. My college offers a program regularly called “What teachers make” where one of our staff breaks down what a teachers pay looks like and what actually subsisting on these finances looks like. This idea that teachers can get by on the warm fuzzy feelings gained from their work is silly. If that is a fact, should we not ask the same of a professional in another field who sees their work succeed?

Yearly, teachers all around are asked to do more with less because of reduced funding and then when funding appears, it is noted how ‘successful’ the teacher was on the reduced funds so why should we really increase it?

And so it angers me when anyone in my college is put down. Education is a field where one must not only master material, they must master passing on said material. More than that, they must perform a tightrope act so tightly woven between their personal and professional lives that simply existing is impressive.

Teachers balance a knowledge of education alongside the knowledge of material which must be shared. This is two sets of understanding a teacher must know, as opposed to the material required of these other students, staff, and at times faculty putting my students down. The same stands for those moving into fields such as non-profits, educational policy, museums and centers, and higher education. Administration in education faces similar challenges.

Now, I should clarify. I am not saying we should not have best and brightest in fields such as engineering, medicine, and more. But just because these fields have those should not deny teachers being recognized as smart. And I am not saying all teachers are perfect. I have had my share of educators who honestly would have been better served beyond the classroom. But the same could be said of multiple professions, could it not? Do not reduce the teaching profession to those who do it an injustice.

It is time we take a look at ourselves. How do you treat teachers? And more importantly, where do we go from here?

 

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The HBCUs (Or what DeVos doesn’t seem to understand)

So Betsy DeVos, our highly lauded (read, incredibly rich yet never having demonstrated any real abilities or experience to fir the role) Secretary of Education, came out last night to speak on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCUs. Her specific statement was that HBCUs were, “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

I do take issue with this. Secretary DeVos statement demonstrates at best, a severe lack of understanding of not only the history of HBCUs, but the history of higher education in the US. This is not to mention the obvious refusal to acknowledge the history surrounding one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the US and the general state of affairs surrounding the formation of these institutions as well. At worst, this is overt disregard for the significant role these institutions not only played, but continue to play and a ploy to remove education from the hands of US citizens.

I’ll let you decide which is worse.

So getting back to those apparently pioneer HBCUs. This is not to disregard that they were, indeed, pioneers, but it was out of necessity due to racism from White individuals in seats of power, something which is still painfully obvious to most today unless you elect to hide behind terms like “Black on Black Crime” or other generally touted defenses against admitting we are a racist nation still today.

I mean, come on! We elected a man to the highest seat of power who put a ban on travel for Muslims. Do you really need more proof?

But back to HBCUs. See, to understand the formation of many (but not all) of these institution, you must know the history behind the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 and 1890.

In 1859, Justin Smith Morrill, from Vermont, put forth the Land Grant Act. This Act would provide 30,000 acres of land per congressman to fund education within their state. Prior to this inclusion, attendance at college was expensive and not available to massive swaths of the population. It took three years and several state’s seceding from the Union before, in 1962, the Act passed. This act, which funded agricultural, military, and mechanical (today, that is engineering) education, changed the face of higher education. Suddenly class was not as large a factor and more students could get education. All but two of the institutions which rose from this funding were public.

Still, there were issues. Going back a bit further in the world of higher education, individuals who were recognized as Black were unable to attend institutions of higher education until Oberlin opened it’s doors in the 1830’s. Considering the number of institutions at that point, there being only one where Black students could learn was a bit of an issue. This was in the same world where it was those who did not look down on Black individuals as inferior were the ones who had to hide.

The first HBCU title is claimed by three different institutions in various ways. Cheney State, Wilberforce, and Lincoln all tend to make claims for various reasons, but the fact of the matter is that these institutions only began opening their doors in the 1830’s and were not institutions of higher education until the 1850s. Add in that id was even later before they were staffed or run by folks from the same societal background as their students and you can understand the issues these institutions face.

So with such limited a role for Black students, but a growing collegiate population, we found ourselves in the midst of the 13th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution which ended slavery and made ex-slaves citizens of the United States (this was something denied to them in the shadow of the Dred Scott v Sanford (1857) case). In came the next Morrill Land Grant Act. This one finally passed in 1890. What this required was either that Land-Grant Institutions allow Black students to attend (none did up until this point) or else an equal amount of funding from that granted land be used to fund institutions of education for Black students.

Cornell University, one of only two private Land-Grant Universities (the other being MIT) first admitted Black students in 1890. a mere 16 years later, the first Historically Black Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, was founded.

Other state, such as nearly every state which fought on the side of the Confederacy, elected to go a different route by opening their new schools to Black students. As such, these schools became primarily attended by Black students.

And we use the term “Historically. As opposed to things such as Predominantly White Institutions, which almost every other Land Grant Institutions fell in back then and still falls in today, not all of these HBCUs serve just or even predominantly Black students today. The range of students attending HBCUs today is more diverse than their often larger public peers.

And then we come to the role which HBCUs play today. They are still pioneers. More so than other state institutions, HBCUs are asked to do more with less. They are ridiculed by society, leading to its own set of challenges.

And here is the part about us being a racist society, we seem to assume that these are one of the issues as opposed to a symptom of our own ignorance.

I have to say, Betsy DeVos, I am disappointed. More so by a society that allows people such as yourselves to decide to ruin everything which truly “Made our nation great”, but the disappointment reigns nonetheless.

So please, to you and everyone else attempting to jump in and make broad, overbearing statements about HBCU, read a little of both past and recent history not only of HBCUs, but of the situation surrounding them before you decide to condemn them or mock them.

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Goodbye Education…

I would like to start by saying I am a huge proponent of education. Having an informed populace is far more important than several other things we as a nation seem to prioritize. Education allows for innovation, change, growth, and impact. Education is what allowed the US to become one of the biggest players on the world stage, both in good ways, as well as bad. Education is the way to move mountains. It is where the American Dream of a brighter future, the chance to change your circumstances, begins.

Apparently, whatever the HELL this new government is planning, it does not include individuals who are able to think for themselves. Because, you know, critical thinking would apparently ruin them.

Ok, before I go into my rant further, I would like to open by admitting my own educational background, something I see several folks doing on Facebook.

Creswell Elementary School (K-6)

Creswell High School (7th)

Chowan Middle School (7-8)

John A. Holmes High School (9-10)

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (11-12)

NC State University (BA English)

Texas Tech University (M.Ed. Higher Education)

Arizona State University (M.A. Sociology in Progress)

I also currently work for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. I am, highly, #productofpublic

(To clarify, this is not meant to denigrate private education. There are many very good private schools and institutions out there as well. The point is merely to note that public vs. private does not mean good vs poor)

Ok, degrees aside, I have spent the past 4 years of my life directly connected to college of education. These are the institutions raising future teachers. They are building educators. And trust me, there is a insurmountable difference between an educator in a subject and an expert. Many experts I have met, those with a Ph.D. behind their name for example, are truly brilliant people. But they have no idea how to adequately impart that knowledge to others. Instead we blame the students lack of understanding.

No, this is why we have teachers. Because teachers do something those experts fail at. They connect the knowledge with students, sometimes dragging the students kicking and screaming, into an area of understanding. They do all of this with multiple students at a time.

I state all of this because of the demoralizing situation we find ourselves in. Betsy DeVos was recently placed as the Secretary of Education. I would like to clarify that Mrs. Devos is less qualified to fill this position than LITERALLY EVERY K-12 Teacher in the US, not to mention every college academic faculty across the US and around 50% of the staff at those same institutions.

So how did she get into the position? This woman who, during her questioning by the Senate, literally could not state that she would uphold the law. She was asked,numerous questions that anyone with even a year spent in public education would at least be able to discuss and her response was along the lines of, “We will have to review that policy.” She couldn’t answer questions about bullying even. I’m not kidding, go watch the videos and footage.

So how did someone who couldn’t even answer a damn question get approved by our senate? Well let’s just say it cost her family quite a bit of money and senators who are more interested in their personal fortunes than the future of the nation.

To top it off, there has been a bill submitted to remove the department of education. Supposedly, the focus of this bill is to return the responsibility for dictating what students learn to the state and local level. This would make sense if states on their own could be trusted to teach facts and proven theories as opposed to hogwash such as creationism (people actually try to put this forth as a scientific theory, I mean really?!?). Top this off with the fact that there is federal funding being placed in these areas, we know that the truth of the matter has nothing to do with the proper regulation of education, but with whose pockets are being lined. I pity many, not to mention my own institution as I watch this farce that continues to call itself a proper government try to burn us back to the middle ages.

Here is the thing, many are arguing we should respect the president. I heard the same arguments stated when Obama was being attacked. I have no issue respecting the office of the president. It is the person in it who is challenging me. Trump has done nothing yet to build the nation, but has attempted to remove ideas and items which were hard fought for and have been shown to serve us productively when allowed to operate.

When we as a nation somehow elected a man who can’t even keep a company afloat, I thought we had shot ourselves in the foot.

Turns out it was more like we show ourselves in the gut and are slowly dying.

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To My Friends in Texas…

Alright, for those who may be wondering what all the hubbub is about Texas today, it relates to a law which was passed there. This law, referred to as Campus Carry. Campus Carry allows for students who have concealed carry permits to have their weapons on their person while on college campuses.

Ok, we are discussing 2nd amendment rights here. While that is a debate for another time, I want to focus on the fact that we are discussing college campuses. Is this really a place where you need your weapon to be safe?

Well, the answer is apparently yes, though personally I’m a bit more nervous than that.These are students who come together to learn. They come to campuses patrolled in the case of these public institutions by full police departments. These departments work closely with the local police and sheriff departments. These are the folks trained to assist and protect.

Of course we are discussing concealed carry here, so whats the big deal? Well the law requires these weapons be allowed in most spaces on campus. Universities were allowed to petition for certain areas to be banned, but could not make sweeping calls such as ‘all guns banned from residence halls and classrooms.’ No, such ideas as keeping weapons out and off campuses seems to be a bad idea to the state legislature. Of course with the brash of campus shootings, which have been on a huge upswing since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting (as have mass shootings on the whole, but that is beside the point at the moment), we have seen the call for weapons to be allowed on campuses as a safety measure. “If there were more armed people, the shooter would not have done xyz.” Yes, because obviously an untrained civilian (ever looked into the requirements to get a concealed carry permit? I wouldn’t trust someone with that little bit of training to handle a bullet) is obviously prepared to react in high stress situations in a calm cool and collected manner.

More so, what happens when the cops arrive and there are three people holding guns? ‘well they handle the one everyone else is aiming at’ which is great if everyone is on the same page. But stress does strange things to people and like I said, I don’t trust these untrained folks. Which, to be fair, is not to say I don’t trust anyone. It is just there are a lot more people I do not trust than people I do.

To the point, let’s address another controversy that has arisen with the date chosen to implement this law. August 1st, 2016. If you are wondering why that date is significant, look back for news on August 1st, 1966. See, before that, campus shootings did not happen. Not only that, but unless you go back to the days of duels (yes, 10 paces, turn and shoot) there was no precedent for campus shootings. But on August 1st, 1966, that all changed. On that day, 50 years ago today, in fact, the first capus shooting occurred. Exactly 50 years before the enforcement of campus carry, Charles Whitman, an ex-marine and architecture engineering student, strolled into the University of Texas Tower and proceeded to shoot 43 people, 13 of which died.

So why do I bring up this instant? Well, besides the fact of the incredibly poor planning by the Texas state government on their enforcement of this law (planned or not, really? NO ONE CAUGHT THAT?!?!?) there was something else unique about the case. See, Ramiro Martinez claimed after the even that it was the armed civilians who made taking down Whitman possible. So read the stories. There is actual notes of one armed civilian. His name was Allen Crum. He was armed and appeared professional. As such, with no questions asked, he joined the three officers who were entering the tower to take down Whitman. But Crum, he was a retired Air Force Tail Gunner. He was trained and had more likely than not survived more high stress situations than the officers. But guess what, even Crum messed up. The officers took advantage of it and were able to take down Whitman, but Crum accidentally discharged his weapon. Thankfully they were on the 28th floor of the tower and his shot did not harm anyone else, but it did distract Whitman, allowing the two officers from another position to fire on Whitman. One of those was Martinez. Martinez unloaded his pistol, missing with every shot. The man beside him, Houston McCoy, proceeded to shoot Whitman twice with 00-buckshot with his 12-gauge shotgun. These were the two fatal shots. After this, Martinez proceeded to take the shotgun from McCoy, walk over and shoot Whitman at point blank, then drop the gun and run out of the tower screaming “I got him!”

I tell you this to say that even the man probably most prepared for the insanity messed up. He was lucky the officers were able to react and take advantage of his misstep. Then we come to Martinez, the one claiming it was armed civilians who made things happen. While he was right about Crum, his reactions to the situation do leave one wondering about his ability to recall the situation perfectly.

Look, I’m not here to argue one way or another about 2nd amendment rights. That is another debate. What I am here to ask is for you to consider the role, if any, which weapons have on a college campus. Is there a place?

I posted this on facebook, but I want everyone to know:

 

To all my colleagues in Texas, my thoughts are with you today. It is a new and strange chapter in higher education.

Just remember you have the strength and support you need from all of us.

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“Divisive Rhetoric”?

Ok, I keep hearing this complaint time and again. The argument from many people is that “we don’t need this divisive rhetoric” and “we should come together to talk peaceably.”

These are fine sentiments…if they managed to get to the point of understanding why we are where we are. They both demonstrate immense privilege, being worn out, or simple ignorance of the situation. I am noting the use of these statements particularly as it surrounds the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

See, people call the language used by the #BLM movement “divisive rhetoric” or some term related to that. the reason being because they feel that by calling out these differences, you are creating a wider divide. But guess what, by saying this is creating a wider divide, you are acknowledging there is a divide already. Of course, many will argue that the #BLM movement is the cause of the divide. That is, in essence, privilege.

Wait, please don’t run away, please don’t shut your ears, please don’t start getting mad at me. Bear with me as we unpack your belief here. See, the #BLM movement (not the people who have gone out to do harm to police, their part here is a very separate discussion which I will not be having) it focuses on exposing the way officers interact differently with people of color, particularly those who appear to be a part of what we have socially defined as Black. The movement does not focus on creating things. They simply discuss what is there and call for change.

So this divide thing. Many people like to throw out “But there aren’t different races, there is only the human race!” Ok, scientifically, you are right. But remember, we live in a world where both science and society affect our lives. That is why, politically, it is just as, if not more important, for someone to have a religion than it is for them to believe in science (yes, there are politicians who have demonstrated time and again they do not believe in science). Therefore, you really shouldn’t be using that argument. Instead, let’s consider the past of our society. We have spent decades and centuries with people who have darker colored skin being subjected to harsher treatment. There is a great scene from the Malcolm X film discussing language. See, when a race is identified as Black and you see how we, particularly in the West, view the White v. Black dichotomy….well, you get the picture.

(As a side note, there is very little proof this scene actually played out in Malcolm’s life, but you get the point).

So we are discussing centuries of abuse, torture, unfair treatment, and a lack of fair access to “the American Dream.” Of course people expect that to be flipped in a matter of minutes rather than years, let alone decades or centuries. And whether you want to talk about Race, Ability, or even social mobility, the fact remains that there is very little effort put in to changing the landscape we survive in.

So now we come to this idea of coming together peacefully to talk. You heard right, people on both sides of the argument are now calling for this.

But guess what, one side has been asking for that far longer than the other. And I really hope you do not need me to spell it out for you. I have faith, dear reader, that you are smart enough to not only know, but acknowledge which side has been trying to have these conversations for years. Unfortunately, it is only now when the protests have begun when the side in power, the side that has very little to gain from talking, decides it might be a good idea to have these conversations.

See, there has been not only divisive rhetoric, but even divisive actions going on for years. It is only now, when there is a movement which is fed up with not being heard, that the other side of the table has decided to turn the blame for these actions on those who are most affected by these actions…

They are literally dying over the divisiveness of our nation.

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#BlackLivesMatter

I really want to talk about this topic. See, I’ve seen a lot of folks calling out this movement based on recent violence against Police Officers which has made the news. There has been a petition sent to the White House calling for the movement to be labeled as a domestic terrorist group. Then these same people choose to turn around and blame #BLM for this violence.

Not that any of this is surprising. It is just another example of White Privilege. See, what happens the minute a White person strolls into…well, these days it seems like anywhere, and starts killing people? They are labeled as mentally unstable. They are called loners. That person becomes the odd man out.

Other races, other religions, other people in general in the US? They do not get that benefit. See, these sort of posts seem to decide that the movement, which has been adamant about not being violent but merely disruptive for the sake of invoking change, is responsible for this violence. But guess what, these violent individuals are not part of the movement. They are affected by the same systemic issues which the movement is fighting, true, but they are not the movement. If you want to lump them in with the BLM, you, White America, need to get off your high horse then and take responsibility for all the White fools out there killing people. Apparently that is your expectation of BLM, to be in complete and total control of all Black people and make sure their protests are peaceful and do not disrupt your life in any way.

Because, you know, that is the whole point of a protest after all. To be entirely forgettable, unemotional, and lack any presences by which to provoke change.

But hey, let’s lay the blame for all of our inability to protect our nation upon the feet of the people actually fighting for beneficial change. Let’s blame the group when I doubt you have even visited the site from the creators of the movement.

See, the BLM movement is the one who shows up when discussing social justice as it relates to Police brutality. This is often regardless of the race of the victims, even though they are referred to as #BlackLivesMatter. It isn’t the All Lives Matter people who show up in these instances. I wonder why that is?

Perhaps because this movement seeks to change the world for the better. Perhaps because they are fighting something in a real way. Perhaps because it is your own blind hatred and fear which allow you to read #BlackLivesMatter and somehow decide the person is referring to only black lives.

There is a meme which floats around social media from time to time saying that “When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

White America, welcome to the movement. It can’t be said louder or more often. Others have done that. Others have made their stances known. #BLM has been called out. Heck, I was accused of supporting the death of officers for being a liberal and supporting #BLM. Anyone who has ever discussed anything related to violence with me knows how I feel about violence. Don’t dare to suggest I support violence.

But keep in mind, if I do not call out the system that is in place which incited the violence, I am no better than the people doing the violence or the people actually causing the violence. That is very similar to how MLK approached violent protests. Read his letters from Birmingham Jail.

So come on.

Do better.

You lack of willingness to be honest is literally killing people.

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Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Movement.

Have you heard his name? Well you really should because chances are, if not for Bayard Rustin, you would not know the name Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin was the man behind the magic for much of the Civil Rights Movement from the early 40’s well into the 60’s.

Rustin had the opportunity to get involved in activism from an early age. His family were activists themselves and often entertained notable names in the movement such as W.E.B. Du Bois. From there, Rustin went to Wilberforce University, a historically Black College or University (HBCU). Wilberfoce is one of the oldest HBCUs in existence and was the first to be run by African Americans. Rustin, in his time there, became involved as he refined his organizing abilities. He became a member of Omega Psi Phi.

Now, Rustin was a big name in organizing. He was rarely the face of the movement, but Rustin recognized the power of a young minister named Martin Luther King Jr. and helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was Rustin’s brainchild and a core force behind the impact of King’s actions. More than that, Rustin was a mentor, helping to educate and prepare MLK in the ways of nonviolence.

Not only was Rustin a man with ideas, but he had the passion to organize. He worked beside A. Philip Randolph to organize the March on Washington in 1941 to help end discrimination in business before WWII. Rustin helped to start the 1947 Freedom Ride over interstate bussing. He was the key organizer behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom…you know, that place where you may have heard of a little speech called “I Have a Dream”.

So then why have you possibly and more so, probably not heard of Bayard Rustin? Well, see, Rustin was a gay man. He had been arrested in 1953 for charges related to this and was criticized for his public image damaging his effectiveness. MLK would even distance himself from Rustin because of this overtime because of the controversy it raised. Another strike against Rustin was his involvement in the Communist party early in his life. Considering the early 50’s were the peak of McCarthyism, you can imagine how that affected how Rustin was seen.

Of course Rustin’s activism did not stop with Civil Rights for Black people in the US. He was a life-long humanitarian, putting in effort to help others. He fought over labor rights, gay rights, and more. He was a Socialist Democrat and spent his later years in life taking humanitarian trips around the world.

He was one heck of a man.

Still, with all of this in mind, imagine where we might (or might not be) today if not for the actions and impact of Bayard Rustin. He was a driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement for decades yet he rarely gets any credit. Keep him in mind, appreciate him. He probably would not have minded others being remembered for this work, but that does not mean he does not deserve recognition.

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Black Panthers

So for Today’s history lesson, I would like to discuss a group that is often much maligned and misrepresented in history. Of course if you have learned anything from reading my work, it is that most of these men and groups were maligned, whitewashed, and reduced in a way to make them either the safest or most evil thing they could be. Neither is fair to their memory. Remember that when reading about MLK, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and James Baldwin.

No, today I would like to address the Black Panthers. Let’s start with the piece that many folks are able to agree on about this group. The group began in Oakland in October of 1966 under the name “The Black Panther Party for Self-defense. They were in many ways a Black nationalist group and many members were anti-White. What is often forgotten about with them is everything else. Consider, first, where the group was formed. We were still in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement here in the US, so most of these men and women had grown up knowing stories of Emmett Till. Many were followers of Malcolm X or were proponents of Garveyism.

But you know what the core functions of the group were? The Black Panther Party (BPP) established social programs. They fed inner city children. The organized citizen patrols, which served to keep cops accountable, something we still seem to be seeking today.

So if the BPP did such positive things, why are they viewed so negatively in the history of American culture, at least by White America?

Because of Edgar J Hoover. Perhaps you have heard of him? Hoover was the founder of the FBI. He served as the director for nearly 5 decades and managed to use his role to collect so much dirt on those around him, granting him coercive power, that following his death, the law was set so that no one could be the director of the FBI for longer than 10 years.

See, Hoover personally declared the BPP the “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” because, you know, feeding people who don’t have enough to live on and making sure police officers treat everyone fairly is obviously a dangerous notion to this idea of the American Dream and Freedom. Hoover created COINTELPRO, or the COunter INTELigence PROgram specifically to watch and harass the BPP Leadership, seeking to undermine the growing organization and the work it sought to do. Heck, the government moved in to kill Fred Hampton when he was leading such radical growth and change in the organization.

See, there is a much greater history than we give the BPP Credit for in our history books. There is a much deeper tale to tell than we ever seem to allow. Often times people have a certain reaction to seeing a fist raised in a BPP Salute. But many people simply followed what the media soled about the group. As it truly fell in 1982 after a great deal of infighting and villianization in the media, there have been groups since who have sought to use violence and the name to force change. All of this demonizes and changes the story. It removes the characters. It downplays the wonderful change that the BPP really did instill. It ignores the organizations attempts to “pull the community up by its own bootstraps” as much of conservative America is calling for today. See, even when POC in this country have sought to improve themselves and defend themselves, this was the story.

And sadly is still plays out that way today.

And we have the gall to call ourselves the United States?

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