Friday, March 30, 2012
Mayors gather to discuss concrete strategies that communities can use to stop the epidemic levels of violence
by Tim Mudd
“Mother on crack. Dad was my role model, a bad one. Followed him. Just got tired. Too many friends getting killed,” said one panelist when asked why he first got involved in a gang and then turned his life around to become a “violence interrupter” in Chicago. He serves as one of the trained anti-violence workers who prevents conflicts from escalating and interrupts the cycle of violent retaliation as part of the innovative, public health-based CeaseFire Chicago initiative — an effort that has garnered increased prominence from the documentary film, “The Interrupters.”
The facilitator turned to another of the opening session’s panelists: “Why did you become involved in anti-violence work?”
“I didn’t want to see anyone else murdered, as my brother was,” said the representative of the Student Peace Alliance who also helped create the youth-based Campaign for Nonviolent Schools. “I started doing peer mediation at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia when I was 15,” she said.
These and other panelists shared their personal experiences growing up in violence-plagued neighborhoods and working to foster positive change in their communities. They also offered thoughts on how cities can reduce homicides of black men and boys during last week’s Cities United Youth Summit led by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at NLC’s Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. Several prominent mayors joined a group of nearly 200 other municipal leaders and youth from cities across the country at the Summit to discuss concrete strategies that communities can use to stop the epidemic levels of violence that disproportionately affect young black males.
Mayor Nutter joined New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to launch Cities United in October 2011 as a collaborative effort among mayors, foundations, national nonprofits, federal agencies and youth, seeking to place African-American males who are victims and perpetrators of violence at the center of municipal agendas and develop recommendations for a national violence reduction strategy.
In recent months, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families has been working with Casey Family Programs, Open Society Foundations, Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families, the Association of Black Foundation Executives, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other partners to help mayors advance this national dialogue.
As noted throughout the convening, a large body of research shows that young black males are significantly more likely than other segments of the population to be on both sides of violent crime and homicide. This epidemic of violence not only results in tragic losses of life, but tears at the fabric of communities throughout the country.
“We must be willing to have an honest conversation about the things that are holding us back as a nation and ask ourselves, ‘what are we prepared to do about them?’ together,” said Mayor Nutter, who serves as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “We must be willing to do something about a local and national epidemic not sufficiently talked about, much less tackled. There will be those who feel unqualified to speak, and those who will seek to distort the discussion in service of much different motives. But we will speak out, we will address, we will tackle black-on-black violence in our communities and we will do it together. As Dr. King wrote, we are bound together ‘in an inescapable network of mutuality.’ We will say what needs to be said but hasn’t been. We will do what needs to be done but hasn’t happened.”
Having a Frank Conversation
The two-day summit served as a jumping-off point for national and local efforts to explore new, integrated strategies that will address the conditions that contribute to the large number of violent deaths among black males.
At panel discussions, roundtables and networking events, city leaders and youth shared insights and ideas.
Jackson, Miss., Mayor Harvey Johnson, Tuskegee, Ala., Mayor Omar Neal and Selma, Ala., Mayor George Evans were among the city leaders in attendance who shared their communities’ challenges with violence, while youth delegates offered their perspective on gangs, bullying and school dropout rates.
As they identified major priorities for moving Cities United forward, attendees agreed that future efforts must focus on reforming education policies that create barriers to high school graduation and postsecondary attainment, increasing awareness about the conditions perpetuating violence in African-American communities, ensuring black youth have access to strong mentoring relationships and integrating authentic youth voice and leadership in initiatives focused on reducing violent deaths among black males.
Uniting Against Violence
Acknowledging that the summit is just the start of a broader conversation, Cities United partners are planning the central elements of a nationwide campaign to galvanize mayors and other city leaders as key champions for action to curb violence-related deaths. This campaign will include additional meetings bring mayors and youth together with foundation and federal partners.
Next steps for Cities United will focus on identifying and engaging additional mayors, building strategic partnerships to support municipal efforts that align with the Cities United agenda and creating more forums where youth can be engaged in meaningful ways to support mayors’ efforts to reduce violence.
“What gives you hope?” the facilitator asked as he wrapped up the opening panel discussion.
“This conference,” said the Student Peace Alliance leader. “The fact that you’re all here — the mayor of Philadelphia, others… amazing.”
“Kids look up to me,” said a Philadelphia CeaseFire representative. “They hang around me. I’m their role model, the father they never had. I see them wanting to change. I won’t let them down.”
Details: To learn more about Cities United, contact Leon Andrews at (202) 626-3039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Browne-Marshall says: 'Ending affirmative action after only thirty years ignores the vestiges of the last 300 years.'
Opinion: Racial inequality is a shared burden for whites as well as blacks
Editor's note: Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College (CUNY), is the author of "Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present" and the "U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context." The Founder/Director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc., she is a former civil rights attorney, and a freelance correspondent covering the U.S. Supreme Court.
By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Special to CNN
(CNN) –I was born into a country with immense opportunity and a deep history of racism.
Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in Michigan’s “reverse discrimination” case, and other opponents of affirmative action inherited this conflicted state of affairs as well. Yet, they want the great weight of America’s racial legacy to fall only on the shoulders of people of color. This inheritance belongs to all of us.
In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas. Then, the Court may deem affirmative action in higher education as unconstitutional, thus locking generations of people of color into an inherited inequality. In its present eviscerated state, affirmative action may be a mere bandage on the festering wound of American racism. It is neither a panacea nor a cure-all. However, for now, it is quite necessary.
Challengers of affirmative action focus on the last thirty years of alleged inequality. Unfortunately, for all of us, the seeds of racial injustice were planted centuries ago. Africans were part of the Jamestown Colony before the landing of the Mayflower. Anthony and Mary Johnson, a married African couple, with servants and land, resided in that Virginia colony in the 1600s. Before the century ended, laws were enacted to take their land and create chattel slavery. This is American history. For nearly 300 years, legal inequality subjugated people of color who lived, loved, hoped, and died praying for justice.
When slavery ended due to the efforts of Black and White abolitionists, the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment gave citizenship and equal protection to African-Americans whom the U.S. Supreme Court had previously designated under the Dred Scott decision as non-persons, outside the protection of American laws. The backlash was immediate. African-Americans became the object of terrorism unprecedented in American history. This malevolence by law and tradition would continue for 100 years, assuring every inch of progress would be hard fought and uncertain. Despite Black Codes designed to re-enslave African-Americans and Jim Crow segregation, the quest for equality under law remained the battle cry of people of color.
For one shining moment, equality under law appeared to be more than an American dream. Decades of protest, during which lives and livelihoods were lost, resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat from Texas. Johnson, who knew well the depths of racism in America, signed Executive Order 11246, creating a policy referred to as “affirmative action,” in September of 1965. However, it was a Republican, Richard Nixon, from California, who in 1969, began the Philadelphia Plan, an affirmative action initiative in employment.
Less than fifteen years after the Civil Rights Act, while I was being bused to desegregate a recalcitrant public school district, attacks on affirmative action began. In 1978, Allan Bakke, a White medical school applicant, brought the first "reverse discrimination" case successfully challenging the affirmative action program at the University of California-Davis. Ironically, the 14th Amendment was used to defend his rights and narrow affirmative action for people of color. Affirmative action was considered an unconstitutional impediment to White competition for college admissions and jobs. Yet discrimination against people of color had never ended. Their ability to compete remained impeded.
Even today, millions of dollars in a legal settlement by Bank of America for discrimination in lending, disparate treatment in criminal justice, a federal judge’s racist email, evidence the deep-seeded nature of racial prejudice. Certain opponents of affirmative action predict a violent backlash by whites if President Obama does not end all affirmative action policies. Preventing violence by whites was the rationale behind “separate but equal” doctrine. Once again, America’s racial past haunts our present. Racism was never torn up root and branch as directed by the Court in Brown v. Board of Education.
I’ve been an advocate for justice as well as a target of racial injustice. I understand the quandary of affirmative action. But, to blindly dismantle affirmative action would further perpetuate inequality.
America, like other nations, has a flaw in its societal fabric. In other countries, it may be religion, class, caste, color – here it is race. It is an American plight.
Ending affirmative action after only thirty years ignores the vestiges of the last 300 years. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor explained in Adarand v. Pena, the "unhappy persistence of both the practice and the lingering effects of racial discrimination against minority groups in this country is an unfortunate reality, and government is not disqualified from acting in response to it."
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria J. Browne-Marshall.
The University of Mississippi is making great strides in cultural diversity with the recent election of its first female African American Associated Student Body President.
On February 21, 2012 the student body elected junior Journalism major Kimbrely Dandridge to the coveted position. The Como, Mississippi native is a member of Phi Mu sorority and won the election on a platform to unite the student body and provide students with more resources; such as: free printing and more academic resource.
This will be the backdrop for the University's 50th anniversary of integration, when James Meredith became the first African-American to be admitted to the University. His admission was met with heavy resistance from pro-segregationists and riots soon embattled the campus. Troops were brought in to calm rioters and when the dust finally settled 2 people lay dead.
"This is a special time because it allows us to reflect on the progress this university has made. Being the first is not important to me, what’s important to me are those that will follow,” said Dandridge.
It makes no sense to force racial identity on children
President Obama was the product of interracial marriage.
In a New York Times Op-Ed that ran on Sunday, titled “Black As We Want to Be,” Thomas Chatterton Williams has an argument that designates my newborn daughter as ethically challenged if she doesn’t identify as black.
My money is on her calling herself biracial. That my wife is white and I am black makes about as much difference in our modern lives as that we were born in different states. That’s the America our daughter will grow up in.
In the old one, the “mixed” kid was indeed a bit of a “situation.” The idea was that when he was around 12, he was going to have to realize that he was “really” black.
How that would make his white mother feel didn’t matter. Calling himself “both things” wouldn’t do him much good in a society that saw him as, you know.
This was just the way it had to be back then. But Williams wants to subject our daughter and the surging numbers of children like her — 1.8 million Americans identified as both black and white in the 2010 U.S. Census — to the same edgy suspicion from blacks as well as whites that “mixed” kids underwent back in the day.
He writes, “Mixed-race blacks have an ethical obligation to identify as black — and interracial couples share a similar moral imperative to inculcate certain ideas of black heritage and racial identity in their mixed-race children, regardless of how they look.”
A standard line is that mixed or not, the cops will always treat you as black. Black comedians had a blast when Tiger Woods declared himself “Cablinasian.” “Wait till Tiger gets stopped by the cops!”
But wait. “No matter what they take from me / They can’t take away my dignity.” Or “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”
Good. But then we’re going to base our racial identity on what ignorant white cops do?
Besides, the reason the “biracial” identification makes some black people angry is shame.
Yes, shame. Why couldn’t they just allow that some people have had different family and life experiences than they? Or open up to the simple fact that some people are genetically (and culturally) more black than others?
Instead, angry people think that biracial ones are implying that they are superior. Why? Because they have internalized the idea that being black is lowly. Our daughter, under this analysis, would be pretending she isn’t down in the mud with the rest of us if she identifies as biracial.
But you can know that Black is Beautiful and still feel that Mariah Carey is not meaningfully “black” in the same way as Spike Lee. And if you’re black, you don’t really know Black is Beautiful unless you can accept that without hating on Mariah Carey or self-identified biracials like her.
Now, Williams has his own justifications for the challenge he poses. I hope our daughter will pass them by.
Example: I hope she will not identify as black to support black America in some hazy sense of safety in numbers. If anything, smaller groups have an easier time forging a unified identity.
Williams thinks more people calling themselves black means more support for black-aimed policies. But that’s debatable. And anyway, an identity based on a studied commitment to hypothetical legislation is less a feeling than a concoction. It will never really catch on, and shouldn’t.
Williams tries to bring Ralph Ellison into this, but misreads what the man meant by “Being a Negro American involves a willed affirmation of self as against all outside pressures.” Williams thinks of the self-identified biracial swimming against a warmer, more sensible impulse to “acknowledge” “who they really are.”
But there is a short distance from this to the racialist theories of Hegel or Strom Thurmond. Ellison was referring to the "willed affirmation" necessary for black people to see themselves with dignity amidst the open bigotry of his era.
Today, a biracial person must have a “willed affirmation of self” — their modern self — against people like Williams, teaching them that embracing a dynamic new reality is a betrayal. Williams exerts the “outside pressures” today.
Williams closes with the idea that people can be black “if they wish.” But it’s a loaded “wish,” rendered as a hope that his children will “remember and wish to be” black. But what you “remember” to acknowledge is, by definition, an obligation — the word Williams uses earlier in the piece, and the one I think he means.
Of course our daughter may well identify as black, which would be fine with me. But if she sees herself as no single race, she will be making perfect sense in this imperfect but vastly new America. Call it Black to Reality.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
If conservatives keep letting Newt get away with these sorts of comments, why should they be taken seriously on issues relating to race? (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Late last week, President Barack Obama waded into the controversy over the Trayvon Martin shooting with two minutes of totally innocuous comments. His remarks ended with this:
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
For this, certain figures on the Right have pounced on Obama. Newt Gingrich called the president’s remarks “disgraceful” and asked “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?” No, Newt. That’s not what the President was saying.
Would Geraldo Rivera Shoot Mark Zuckerberg For Wearing A Hoodie?
Allen St. John
After Trayvon Martin, Will Fox Have to Pull Summer Comedy 'Neighborhood Watch?'
Gingrich, who is fond of calling Obama the “food-stamp president” and has alleged that Obama exhibits “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” is down in the polls now but did two spells as the leader in national GOP primary polls. And the weaknesses that brought Gingrich down had nothing to do with his race-baiting being unpopular with the GOP base.
Today, Rush Limbaugh went after Obama over the same comments. Of course, Rush being ridiculous on race verges on a cliché, but it’s still embarrassing because of the way Republican officials kowtow to him. (In 2009, Rep. Phil Gingrey ran afoul of Limbaugh and then promptly issued a statement calling him one of “the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience.”)
Rush’s comments were keyed to a Jay Nordlinger piece in National Review, in which Nordlinger claimed it doesn’t “occur to him” that Michelle Obama is black—and whacked the president for bringing up Martin’s race.
The claim running through these objections is that black Americans cannot have any special concerns in need of airing. Many of the issues raised in the Trayvon Martin case—was Trayvon Martin singled out for suspicion because he was black? Did race influence the Sanford police’s handling of the case? What is the burden of profiling on young black men?—are therefore off limits.
Conservatives, almost universally, feel like they get a bad rap on race. They catch heat when they point out improvements over the last several decades in race relations and in the material well being of minorities in America, even though those phenomena are real. They catch heat when they contend that government programs intended to help the poor have led to problems with dependency in minority communities, even though those critiques are sometimes correct. They catch heat when they criticize Affirmative Action, even when in some cases (as at the University of California) Affirmative Action was clearly disserving minority communities.
Why do conservatives catch such heat? It’s probably because there is still so much racism on the Right to go alongside valid arguments on issues relating to race and ethnicity. Conservatives so often get unfairly pounded on race because, so often, conservatives get fairly pounded on race.
And this is the Right’s own fault, because conservatives are not serious about draining the swamp.
In recent months, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have gotten questions at public events that referred to President Obama being a Muslim. Neither candidate corrected the questioner. Santorum later told a reporter that’s “not his job.” PPP polls in Mississippi and Alabama have found that about half of Republican voters believe Obama is a Muslim, and others aren’t sure.
For years, Republicans have done a dance with the Birthers in the Republican base, trying to avoid associating themselves with the Birther position without alienating activists who believe the President was born abroad. Donald Trump has worked to keep Birtherism alive and in the news, and in January, Mitt Romney went to appeared in Las Vegas to accept his endorsement on live television. Republican rejections of Birtherism tend to focus on the issue being “a distraction,” as RNC Chairman Reince Preibus puts it, rather than pointedly noting that it is a nutty, racist conspiracy theory.
There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up. I remember a moment in the 2008 campaign where John McCain argued with a voter who said that Obama was “an Arab.” This time around, either the candidates don’t care about standing up to racial misconceptions or have decided they can’t afford to.
And on a more substantive policy issue, you have Gingrich’s rejection of the idea that there is even a racial matter to discuss in the Martin case. You don’t have to assume that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder (Julian Sanchez has a good piece on this) to recognize that Trayvon Martin would likely to be alive today if he were white.
Would Geraldo Rivera Shoot Mark Zuckerberg For Wearing A Hoodie?
Allen St. John
After Trayvon Martin, Will Fox Have to Pull Summer Comedy 'Neighborhood Watch?'
The question of what to do about that is complicated, but it’s clearly a public policy concern. Instead, Gingrich commits an error that is common on the Right—jumping from the fact that race relations have improved to a claim that black Americans no longer have special policy concerns worth discussing.
It’s disgraceful that Gingrich would call bringing up Trayvon Martin’s race disgraceful. It also undermines everything else that conservatives say about race, no matter how valid. How are Republicans supposed to be taken seriously when they say they understand black Americans’ policy needs when Newt Gingrich is spouting nonsense like this?
My challenge to conservatives who feel they get a bum rap on race is this. Stand up for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that a criticism is unfair. At the same time, criticize other conservatives who say racist things, cynically tolerate racism in the Republican base, or deny the mere existence of racial issues in America today. The conservative movement desperately needs self-policing on racial issues, if it ever hopes to have credibility on them.
Note: An earlier version of this post said that Mitt Romney had traveled to Las Vegas to accept Donald Trump’s endorsement. Romney had already been scheduled to be in Las Vegas. I regret the error.
(Jeff Richards/Press & Sun-Bulletin)
The ball was placed on the headstone at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, N.Y., last summer in a plastic case and since that time it has been stolen several times, but this was the first time the ball had actually been stolen from inside its case.
Davis was an All-American at Syracuse and became the first African-American player to win the Heisman in 1961.
Tom Henegar, superintendent of the cemetery, told the Press & Sun Bulletin the ball went missing Thursday.
Sometimes it gets blown off by the wind, he said, and is put back in its rightful place. Other times it's been found along the roads inside the 80-acre burying ground. But the fact the ball was taken out of the display case this time indicates to Henegar the culprits were likely juveniles.
If the thief was a collector, Henegar reasons, it's likely the ball and display case would both have been taken.
Officials believe the ball was stolen by kids playing a prank.
The football was not autographed by Davis and the significance of it was unknown. In fact, no one even knows who put it there, but it is treated as though it's an official part of the gravesite even though it can't be attached to the headstone.
"It's a shame that this happened," Henegar told the paper. "Some people just have no respect. If things aren't nailed down, they will probably be taken, but I hope the football will be returned."
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by Mark Zhuravsky
Whatever your opinion on the politics expressed in Goran Hugo Olsson's The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, it is absolutely vital to take a brief moment and appreciate the fact that the footage featured in the film was preserved, uncovered and capably curated into a undeniably compelling narrative. Utilizing Swedish coverage of a volatile time in America and an especially challenging set of years for the African American community amidst an ongoing battle for civil rights, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is impressive in its clarity, offered via the original footage and commentary, courtesy of surviving vital figures (Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver) and more current cultural explorers, including musicians Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.
The opening year, 1967, is specific with intent – following in the footsteps of legislation passed to ensure equal rights for black Americans, the decade would close out mournfully, as Martin Luther King Jr. joined a list of monumental figures cut down in their prime. Olsson's work seems to capture the events stemming from a decade alternating joy and grief, and a rise of a militant mentality stemming from an inability to obtain equality by peaceful means. The perception of African Americans as continuously segregated in disenfranchised ghettos and facing discrimination on a professional level certainly fed into an idea of a self-empowered organization devoted to protection and upraise of a community.
The Swedish journalists who covered what would grow to be the Black Power moment were certainly not unbiased, offering clear support for activists like the steely Stokely Carmichael and the soft-spoken but firm Angela Davis. Both figures feature heavily in the doc, in particular Davis, whose notorious trial presents us with one of the film's most crucial scenes – an interview with Davis behind bars, with the young woman expanding on her understanding of identity, hate, and the regretful inevitability of violence in the middle of a revolution.
By allowing Kweli, Badu, ?uestlove (who also provides the non-invasive but certainly helpful soundtrack) and other younger men and women comment on the footage and link their own experiences to the struggles of key members of the Black Power movement, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 helps shape a rich portrait of African American cultural pride and the difficult endeavor to find a right way to move forward. Olsson did not set out to orient the viewer via a standard breakdown of events, but rather to capture a mood viewed through an intellectual lens that was distinctively not American – while American education has frequently skewed in favor of teaching little regarding the Black Panthers aside from mentioning their tumultuous buildup and the clashes that followed, but the journalism offered here paints a complex portrait that deserves to been.
Frankly, even without the proper background spelled out to the average viewer, the “mixtape” moniker serves the documentary very well. This is but a taste, a mix of moments, punctuated by heavy emotions and casting a long shadow that extends into the current future and movements happening right here and now. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 never promises a fuller story than it delivers, but piques interest with a combination of carefully selected footage that does build a narrative, however slight, and takes note of the chorus of voices that fill it out. It is a patchwork of opinions, sometimes unified, frequently differing but always illuminating.
DVD Bonus Features
The extras don't disappoint, although they do offer telling evidence that there's plenty more footage out there to be utilized. Among the bonus features are a full Carmichael segment and a full Louis Farrakhan interview, both of which are chopped up into bits in the actual film. Also available are two “World in Focus” episodes – a Swedish news show that covers Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm, familiar to many as the first female African American presidential candidate. A brief segment on Joan Little, a black woman whose hugely influential trial for the murder of a jailer who attempted to rape her help left an indelible mark on the feminist and civil rights movements, is included. A trailer for the film rounds out the show.
"The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975" is on sale December 13, 2012 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Goran Olsson. Written by Göran Olsson (creator). Starring Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Talib Kweli.
PHOTO BY VINCE JACKSON, SPECIAL TO THE INDEPENDENT MAIL
The ladies of the Clemson Area African American Museum model a range of hats typical of special occasions during the annual hat parade Sunday at the museum.
CLEMSON — In what has become an annual event for the Clemson Area African American Museum, a group of women on Sunday modeled examples of hats typically worn for dress-up occasions.
Pat Kemp, member of the museum’s board, said the ladies of the museum enjoy showing off their best “crowns” during the hat parade.
“We have dozens of hats here today,” Kemp said at the event. “Some of them we didn’t even get out of the boxes, we have so many.”
Kemp said that although some of the best hats are reserved for church and funerals, any important occasion would call for one. Black women, she said, have continued wearing hats, even as the accessory has gone out of style more generally in America with a move toward more casual clothing.
PHOTO BY VINCE JACKSON
Dorothy Jones of Clemson shows her style Sunday with a hat designed for all occasions during the annual hat parade at the Clemson Area African American Museum.
The museum also took on a wider approach to traditional African American attire at the event by inviting Clemson University professor Kendra Johnson to speak about the disparities in slave clothing during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Johnson is a costume designer for the performing arts department at the university, and she has worked on reenactments on the lives of Thomas Green Clemson and John C. Calhoun, both of whom owned large numbers of slaves.
“When it comes to the slave costumes, I find they are usually portrayed in new clothing,” Johnson said. “I feel this does not give a true picture of slave apparel.”
Johnson said her research indicates slaves typically received two sets of clothing a year. A field slave’s garments were typically made out of a coarse material, usually low-grade cotton. Slaves who worked in the homes of plantation owners, on the other hand, dressed in silk and velvet — finished goods made in England.
The differences in the clothing of those who worked in the field and those who worked in the house caused dissension among slaves, Johnson said. This fed into the sense of a class system that often led to house slaves marrying house slaves and field slaves marrying field slaves, she said.
“The dress of house slaves reflected the wealth and prestige of the slave owner,” she said. ”Therefore, butlers and house servants usually were dressed in finery.”
© 2012 Anderson Independent Mail. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
BY RONEISHA MULLEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Artisha Lawson, of Toledo, is president of the local Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, which sponsored a recent youth health day at the Frederick Douglass Community Center. She also volunteers with the "Emerging Young Ladies" program of the Padua Center and works for "The Sojourner's Truth." THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Photo Reprints
It's a cultural phenomenon for radio hosts to dissect and movies to document, but for Artisha Lawson the statistics are dreary and the message is staggering: black women are the least likely group of people to get married.
"It's scary, because I want to share my life with someone," said Ms. Lawson, of Toledo. "I'm looking for a life partner. A friend, someone to grow old with."
For many women like Ms. Lawson -- black, educated, and successful-- the dream of marriage might remain just that: a dream.
In a culture where the black male middle-class population is steadily shrinking, for African-American middle-class women, finding a mate -- a black mate in particular, who can match their education level and professional status -- is difficult.
"According to my 10-year plan, I should be married with two kids," said Ms. Lawson, 29. "I want someone that I can relate to, but I haven't even met the kind of man I can hold a decent conversation with."
Census data indicate that African-American women born after 1950 are the least likely group to get married, and black couples have the highest divorce rate in the country. Recent studies identify black women as the most uncoupled group of people in the country, with more than two out of three women in that demographic who are unwed.
In Toledo, the topic of black marriage quickly turns into a battle of the sexes, with black women arguing they want husbands, but can "function without a man." Black men agree with the women, but say it's women's "independent thinking" that's keeping the two groups from merging.
Keith Jordan taks with Marketta Woodward, 8, a second grader at Pickett Academy, at the Padua Center on Nebraska Avenue in Toledo. Keith Jordan is currently single and spends much of his time working and volunteering. THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Photo Reprints
Both groups say that despite the statistics, they value marriage as much as other demographics, but the barriers to marriage for black people are alarming and complex.
"We have a lot of stuff we're competing with; for example, the prison industrial complex. It dismantles black families," said Sherita Evans, 29, of Toledo. More than one in 10 black men in their 20s or early 30s are incarcerated, according to recent data, and some experts estimate that as many as one in four black men will spend some time behind bars.
"As black women it's the No. 1 thing we're competing against," she said.
The higher number of black women in college compared to black men also contributes to the decline of black marriage, experts say. Black women graduate from college at a rate nearly twice that of their male counterparts. As a result, the black middle class is disproportionately female. For eligible black men, that statistic can look like a dating smorgasbord with limitless choices, but that isn't always the case.
Keith Jordan admits that he played the field in his younger days, but now, at 38, he's ready to settle down.
"I matured late. I had vices that hindered me from being a good mate," said Mr. Jordan, development director at JLJ Vision Outreach in Toledo. "I didn't love me. Now that I've found me and I love me, I can't find a mate."
Within the last two generations, marriage rates for blacks have dropped significantly. In 1963, 70 percent of black families were headed by married couples, compared to 44 percent in 2010. Many believe that the increase in households headed by single women affects the number of black marriages.
"When you think of strength in the black community, your mind goes back to some matriarch," Ms. Evans said. "We've had to hold the black family together, and because of that, we unknowingly martyr ourselves. Those 'I'm so strong,' and 'I don't need a man,' comments -- we're martyring ourselves."
And it's that sort of thinking that is part of what's keeping black women single, Mr. Jordan said.
The family togetherness and happiness that come with marriage were broken by independent thinking, he said. "Women have grown accustomed to taking care of themselves. They don't have to have a man. 'Independently, I can succeed,' that's their thinking," he said.
With more black children growing up in single-parent households than two-parent homes and few positive examples of black marriage in Hollywood, for young blacks President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have set the standard for what black love should be like, some say.
Brandon Tucker grew up with several examples of successful black marriages. His grandparents married more than 50 years ago as teenagers. Mr. Tucker, 28, of Toledo, said relationships have shifted from loving to transactional.
"In the old times, people married for love. Now, it's 'Does your bank account match my bank account and if it doesn't, then I'll file for divorce,'" said Mr. Tucker, executive pastor of Greater New Psalmist Church in Toledo and workforce development manager at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor. "We go into things thinking if it doesn't work we can get out of it. Degrees and money don't make a person. Passion does."
Michael Hayes, 34, a creative consultant at a Toledo-area marketing firm, said black women focus too much on accomplishments and not enough on feelings.
"A union that spells out how easily they can acquire things as a couple, or advance in their respective careers as a couple, that seems to be black women's focus," Mr. Hayes said. "For men, we want to be appreciated for who we are, and not just judged on what we have to offer. I think black women are so busy evaluating love that they aren't valuing falling in love."
A self-described independent woman, Ms. Lawson has earned two bachelors degrees and is working on a masters. She works for an international nonprofit agency, owns her own home, and has a financial portfolio to go with her status. She said she's had to play down her accomplishments for the sake of attracting men.
"I don't tell men that I own my home because it's intimidating for them," Ms. Lawson said. "I'm extremely proud, but I'm not allowed to celebrate because it looks like I don't need a man. I can function without a [husband], but that doesn't mean I don't want one."
In addition to the numbers not adding up, black men marry outside of their race more than twice as often as black women. While one in 10 black women marry interracially, one in five black men marry nonblack spouses.
For years Ms. Evans, who has two bachelors degrees and has held positions at prominent nonprofit agencies, dodged the idea of marriage, instead spending time learning what makes her happy. Now that she's open to marriage, ideally, she'd like to marry within her race.
"We birth black men, so, we have a certain loyalty to them," Ms. Evans said.
But for many women, single doesn't mean unhappy. More and more women are finding that the fairy tale ending -- a husband, children, and the white picket fence -- isn't the only recipe for happiness.
"A lot of people assume black women want to get married," Ms. Evans said. "Yes we should be paired and partnered, but that could mean going through life with a best friend. Black women are so accustomed to the situation that we've formed alternative relationships."
Krystal Mumford grew up surrounded by marriage, but is perfectly fine with her single status. At 27, Ms. Mumford says she'd like to get hitched, but isn't stressing over it.
"It does cross my mind, but I can't let it consume me. Why get so emotionally strained over something that's out of your control?," said Ms. Mumford, an auditing and accounting executive in Toledo. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen, but I'll be fine if it doesn't."
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6133 .
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Penny Hardaway, left, stepped in to help his friend Desmond Merriweather, whose son, Nick, rose up in the state title game.
Penny Hardaway returned home this year to coach middle schoolers
Hardaway took over because a friend was fighting cancer
Ex-NBA star became surrogate father to his players, kept gangs away
Grades went up, attitudes changed with Hardaway on the sidelines
Memphis, Tennessee (CNN) -- With just over three minutes left in the state championship, Coach Penny Hardaway called a timeout.
He didn't like what he was seeing. Down by 15 points, his middle schoolers were quitting. It stood against everything he had instilled in them:
Don't use the inner city as an excuse to fail.
You can overcome your circumstances.
Always dream big.
The former NBA All-Star and greatest basketball player in Memphis history huddled his team of 12 together. He looked them in the eyes. He could see his reflection from 25 years ago: young teens from the city's roughest projects longing for positive mentors.
"Just give me all you got," he told them.
He was thinking a fight to the finish would let the players walk out with their heads high, their pride intact, even if they lost.
But what happened next defies explanation, is beyond description. A boy playing for his ailing father did something extraordinary. A man who grew up without one, who'd come to serve as a surrogate dad to a dozen boys, watched in awe.
Hardaway, now 40, made more than $120 million in a pro basketball career that spanned 16 seasons. Yet one of his crowning achievements came not as a player but as coach to the seventh- and eighth-graders of Lester Middle School, the same school that gave him a shot in life.
A coach's miracle
Five months earlier, Desmond Merriweather lay in a hospital bed in Memphis. He'd battled colon cancer for more than a year. Chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries had done little to stop the cancer's spread.
Doctors gave the Lester Middle School head coach 24 to 48 hours to live. His pastor, the Rev. Larry Peoples -- "a prayer warrior" -- stood at his bedside and bowed his head. Family and friends gathered in the room.
Merriweather, 37, had returned to his old neighborhood -- gang-infested Binghampton -- to coach basketball. He'd moved the year before from Jackson, Tennessee, where he'd lived since earning his college degree. He wanted to mentor middle school kids in the blighted neighborhood, to keep them from going down the wrong path.
"I wanted to show them that your heart is bigger than what you think it is."
But it seemed he wouldn't live to see this season.
Merriweather on courts where he and Hardaway played: "I can't even put into words how much Penny means."
Merriweather doesn't know quite how to explain what happened. He had gone through surgery and then was given his death sentence. The doctors had said something about complications.
"The only thing I can remember is waking up," Merriweather says.
Gradually, he emerged from danger. He attributes his recovery to the power of prayer, although he's still fighting the disease.
"When the doctors gave up on me, I never gave up on myself. I'm a fighter. I knew I had to come back to my son and my daughter and my wife -- and most of all, my team."
He asked God to give him one more chance, to return him to the hardwood floors of Lester Middle. The boys needed him. More than anything, he longed to coach his 13-year-old son, Nick, for another season.
Among the hospital visitors was his boyhood friend, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. Merriweather had tagged along with the rising star at school, at outdoor courts, at the neighborhood gym.
"When we were growing up, we would see people get shot in the park -- just a whole lot of crazy, chaotic things," Merriweather says. In Hardaway, Merriweather saw a young leader who was going to make it.
"I want to do something for your kids," Hardaway told the ailing coach.
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Until recently, home schooling in the US was mostly practised by white families, but a growing number in the black community are now also turning their back on the public school system and educating their children at home. Why?
"There were lots of fights and people getting shot," says Sonya Barbee.
"It was just too much. To me, it's not a good environment for a kid and even though I work full time, so it's really hard for me, I still feel like it's the right decision."
Sonya has not made life easy for herself. A single mother, who works for the US government, she now has the added burden of being a teacher to her 11-year-old son, Copeland.
It was not the violence, or even the fact that he was being bullied, that finally led to the decision to remove Copeland from his public school in what she describes as a "really bad area" of Washington DC, but the fact that he was "losing his love of learning".
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Joyce BurgesCo-founder, National Black Home EducatorsThe failings of public schools have caused all of us, whether we are white or black, to come up with creative ideas about how we can educate children”
Now, with the help of her mother, who looks after Copeland two days a week while he works online, and a home schooling co-operative, she is hoping to "rekindle the fire". She herself teaches him after work and in the holidays.
Her only regret so far is that Copeland is not more enthusiastic, saying he misses the "madness" of the classroom - although, she stresses, it is early days.
Until recently, Sonya's story would have been highly unusual in the United States.
About two million, or 4%, of American children are home-schooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) - a rough estimate, as families do not have to register with the authorities in some states.
But home-schooling has traditionally been dominated by white Christian families in the rural south, who object to what they see as the public schools' liberal agenda on sex education and Darwinism.
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- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorumeducated all seven of his children at home and has mocked America's schools as "factories"
- Denver Broncos star quarterback Tim Tebowtook advantage of Florida law allowing home-schooled children to take part in school sport
- Inventor Thomas Edison was taken out of his public school by his mother and taught at home
- US presidents including Abraham Lincoln,George Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were home-schooled
- Home-schooled showbiz figures include Charlie Chaplin, Whoopi Goldberg and Louis Armstrong
The number of inner-city parents choosing to educate their children at home, for educational rather than religious reasons, has been growing for a while, but until recently few black families were thought to be among them, according to NHERI director Dr Brian Ray.
"For the African-American community there was a huge amount of pressure against it, because in America, the grandparents of today's home-schooled children fought for desegregation of schools. They thought, 'The public schools are going to save us,'" he says.
But Dr Ray, who regularly interviews black home-schoolers as part of his research, says attitudes are changing fast - and it's also a lot easier today for black families to try it than it was 20 years ago, he points out.
Joyce Burges, co-founder of National Black Home Educators, who home-schooled all five of her children, aged 16 to 35, says the practice is growing "exponentially" in the African American community.
"The failings of public schools have caused all of us, whether we are white or black, to come up with creative ideas about how we can educate children.
"That explains the rise of the co-ops and African Americans seeing that this is not just a white thing any more."
Despite the desegregation of schools, the attainment gap between African-American and white students in American schools has barely changed since the 1960s. The problem is particularly acute among black boys.
According to a 2008 study by the Schott Foundation: "Over the last 25 years, the social, educational and economic outcomes for black males have been more systematically devastating than the outcomes for any other racial or ethnic group or gender."
Monica Utsey, who runs a home schooling co-operative for African American children in Washington DC, says: "African-American mothers, especially those who have boys, have a lot of trouble in the school system. The way the classroom is designed is more conducive for girls."
For her, though, the main motivation was cultural - she wanted her sons to learn about their African roots and not "to believe that their history begins with slavery".
Home-schoolers are scathing about the way public schools teach to the test, at the expense of providing what they see as a rounded education.
Another common complaint is that teachers are too ready to blame behavioural problems on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and encourage them to medicate their children with drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.
"The teachers are always telling the parents they have to drug their kids, like they have some kind of problem. It's just crazy." says Sonya Barbee. "You don't want your kid to be a zombie."
Home-schooling co-operatives, where lessons are held in mixed age groups by parents, have sprung up in cities across America in recent years, helping to break the social isolation critics of home schooling often warn about.
But even its most ardent advocates concede that home schooling is not for everyone.
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Is home best?
Home-schooled children regularly win national spelling bees and get into top universities.
But, argues Prof Rob Reich of Stanford University, nobody really knows how well the average home-schooled child measures up academically because it is hard to take a large enough random sample.
"We have little evidence to conclude home schools are better than public schools," he says.
He says home-schooled children should be tested annually "to discover whether or not they are making even rudimentary progress" - and that public schools often produce better citizens because children are exposed to a greater diversity of beliefs and people.
"What you are looking to avoid is either the tyranny of the state in standardising every child in its own image - or the tyranny of the parent controlling every last aspect of a child's socialisation.
"You want a balanced authority that acts as a check on the potential tyranny of each agent."
Only the most committed parents, who want to be involved in every aspect of their child's development and enjoy spending time with them, can make it work.
Not all parents can keep up with the demands of the curriculum, particularly if they want their offspring to go to college. Many children who are home-schooled in their early years return to the class room when they reach secondary school age.
It is also does nothing to address standards in public schools which, some experts say, will fall still further if highly-motivated and engaged parents start taking their children out of them, harming the African-American community as a whole.
Joyce Burges believes the day could soon be approaching when the local home-schooling co-operative, run by a group of committed parents, could be a real alternative to the public school, for children of all ages and ethnicities.
The demand certainly appears to be there.
"I get emails and phone calls from people all the time who want to know if there is someone that can home-school their child," says Monica Utsey. "I tell them that it doesn't work like that. It's really the parents' responsibility."