Monthly Archives: November 2016

Something Positive for Black America With Trump’s Election

For Black America, the election of Donald Trump might become a positive over the next four years. I know, many of you might think that this writer has become delusional. Let me try to explain why I would make such an assertion. I believe a certain degree of apathy has taken hold, and set in on most Black Americans after the election of Barack Obama. We became rather content, after all, we had a Black President. It couldn’t get any better than that. If you couple that with the fact that many of us are living a very comfortable middle class life, then our condition wasn’t so bad after all. We didn’t need another Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead us to the promise land. We were already there.

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But while we were playing golf on Saturday and attending one of our prosperity churches, listening to our ministers who drove up in Mercedes or Jaguars on Sunday, crime in our communities was escalating, police were using our young as target practice, and the job market was not friendly to our men and women seeking employment. And for eight years, the first Black President was constantly under attack by those detractors determined to make his presidency a failure, and by the way Trump led them. We saw this coming but did nothing to prepare. We just kept playing our golf, watching our games on television, and totally ignoring what was happening all around us.

mv5bmtqzmja5njq0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjgwmzyxmq-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_But we now know that the lackadaisical attitudes of the past can no longer continue. We all must make a commitment to use our talents in ways that can improve the conditions of our brothers and sisters whose struggles are going to get real tense over the next four years. We all have a lot of work to do as we move forward into the Trump years in the White House. And even though Charles Dutton’s final speech in Spike Lee’s movie, Get on the Bus was geared toward Black men, it is applicable to the entire race. For that reason, I am compelled to share it with those of you who never saw the movie and the others that gave very little importance to what he said.

In the very last scene in the movie, Dutton addresses all the brothers who have made the trip to Washington, D.C. but did not participate in the Million Man March because one of the characters, Ozzie Davis, suffered a heart attack just before the march and many of the men chose to remain with him at the hospital. But once they do arrive at the Lincoln Monument, it is very late and the men are depressed. That is when Dutton walks toward the back of the bus, and delivers the most important and poignant message of the entire movie. And one that all of us, men and women, can use as a measurement of where we go from here. Dutton tells the men:

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“We’re here because God Almighty wanted us here. And he doesn’t care so much about what you already done. God asks what you going to do now…The real march ain’t even started yet. This was only the prelim, the warm up….The real Million Man March won’t start until we Black men take charge of our own lives, and start dealing with crime, drugs, and guns and gangs and children having children and children killing children all across this country. If you all are ready to quit your apathetic and unsympathetic ways as I am and take back control of the Black community. If you’re ready to stop being the boys and be the men that our wives, and our mothers and our children are waiting for and stand up against all the evils lined up against the Black man…and just say we’re tired of this shit and we ain’t going to take it anymore. If you’re ready to do that, then we got work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

For the next four years, the intensity of that work is going to double. Despite his promise to be President for all the people, Trump’s early appointments signal that once again he is not being truthful, at least not with us. But Black America has risen to this challenge in the past. We have precedent on our side. We know how to survive under the roughest of conditions. Men and women such as Frederick Douglass, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not even consider the possibility of giving up. These great leaders struggled and survived and we must pick up their mantle of commitment and continue the work so that four years from now, when Trump is defeated, we will be stronger and wiser as a people.

 

 Be Strong and Stay Strong Black America!

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The Underbelly of America’s Promises Has Reared Its Ugly Face

No one can argue with the absolute beauty of the meaning in the United States Constitution. The promise of the document for those who live under its umbrella of opportunity are endless. However, since its very inception, this country has struggled to live up to the values in that document. Even the founders failed to adhere to its guiding principles for many reasons apparent to all who know and understand this country’s history. However, there have been isolated periods when the meaning of the Constitution prevailed. The Civil War and the short period of Reconstruction are examples. One can also point to the Civil Rights Movement as another period when the country rallied behind the meaning of that document and overcame the racism of the South and parts of the North. We might even point to the election of a Black President as a time when equality prevailed.

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There have been periods when the ugly side of the country also prevailed. It is what I have labeled as the underbelly of America’s promises of equality and opportunity to all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious background or gender. This period is usually dominated by European American men who feel that their privileged position, both economic and political is being threatened. During these historical periods, the majority was willing to jettison the Constitution and resort to tactics they feel protect their need to be on top.

max-d-stanley-trail-of-tearschineserailroadsThis occurred in the late 1820’s to the middle of the 1830’s under the leadership of President Andrew Jackson, when Native Americans were forced off their land and marched to another part of the country in what is referred to as, “The Trail of Tears.” It happened again in 1846 when the country declared war on Mexico, and after a defeat forced that country to relinquish all lands west of Texas and south of Oregon. We observed this same pattern of behavior once again in the 1880’s when the Chinese, who had begun to migrate to the United States, became the target of this oppression. European Americans were angered by what they considered the invasion of the “Yellow Peril,’ or the inferior and degraded Chinese race. This crowd forced Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited the entrance of Chinese from China for ten years, and they extended the period of exclusion under the Geary Act of 1892.

The ugly underbelly of America’s democracy struck again in 1942 when Japanese Americans were herded off into concentration camps in direct violation of the Constitution. This ungodly behavior was fueled from emotions because of Pearl Harbor. The point is that this country reacted in direct contradiction to its values. Any little threat can trigger this kind of irrational behavior by those who represent the underbelly of our values. Often these emotions are triggered out of greed, sometimes fear, but always done by the same group of people.

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With Donald Trump’s election, I believe we have now entered another one of those periods when that ugly underbelly of our better nature prevails. White Skin Privilege was threatened with the election of a Black man as President in 2008.  That triggered all kinds of fears and led to what can only be considered irrational behavior, often led by Trump. It began when the President-elect questioned President Obama’s citizenship, insisting that he was born in Kenya. Trump became the Tea Party’s hero as he led the battle to debunk the President in any way possible. The underbelly expanded to include an attack on undocumented immigrant workers, labeling them as drug dealers, murderers and rapists. Trump’s promise to deport ten million illegals and build a wall (that Mexico would pay to have built) was like music to the ears of underbelly folks. They loved it and cheered him on. And just as this crowd did to the Chinese back in 1882, Trump promised to do to refugees from Syria seeking asylum in the United States. He also proposed a ban on all Muslims’ entrance into this country (which he later modified to allow only a limited number).

statue_of_libertyWhat is great about this country is the ability to survive these periods of undemocratic authoritarianism. Just like in the past, I do believe the Constitution will prevail and the better nature of our people will revolt against this crowd of bullies and put them back in their place. We are too great and too magnanimous to allow the likes of Trump and his ilk to ultimately take us down as a nation. Our Statue of Liberty which welcomed people into the United States will ultimately prevail over any wall built to keep people out. That wall is a direct insult to what that Lady represents, just as this newly elected President and his followers are an insult to all that our country represents.

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Considering the Tulsa Riot of 1921 from a Black Writer’s Perspective

It was recently revealed in an Ebony story that John Legend and his company Lifted Film, along with actress Tika Sumpter, plan to do a mini-series on the Tulsa Riot of 1921. In the article, the writer mentions, as a reference, a piece I did for Ebony On-Line on February 24, 2014, titled “Black Wall Street: A Legacy of Success.” The article was written right after the release of my historical novel, Fires of Greenwood: The Tulsa Riot of 1921. Because they have generated renewed interest in the story, I thought it appropriate to re-print an article I wrote months ago on how I came to write this novel. So here it is.

Seven years ago I began my research into the Tulsa Riot of 1921. The result of that study was the release of Fires of Greenwood, a novel that chronicles the barbarous attack on a prosperous Black community, leading to the brutal killings of over three hundred men, women and children, and the destruction of thirty four blocks of successful businesses and beautiful homes. As we have witnessed throughout our turbulent history in this country, the official reason given for the massacre was the alleged attack of a young white girl, Sarah Page, by Dick Rowland, a nineteen-year-old Black bootblack. However, the actual facts of what happened in the Drexel building elevator on May 30, 1921 between those two, do not support the alleged reason for the massacre. I was, therefore, determined to write a novel depicting the real truth behind the slaughter of three hundred Black Americans, at the hands of a white mob.

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Besides the mysterious relationship between the Dick and Sarah, what I found most compelling was discovering just how prosperous Black Americans were in their segregated community known as Greenwood. In fact, when Booker T. Washington past through the city on his way to speak in Boley, Oklahoma in 1905, he was so impressed with the number of successful businesses in the Greenwood corridor, he coined the term “Negro Wall Street” (once the term Negro was no longer acceptable, it was changed to “Black Wall Street”) as the best way to describe the area. Years later, in March 1921, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois was just as impressed with the number of successful businesses, when he visited the community and delivered a speech at the Dreamland Movie Theater, owned and operated by Black entrepreneurs John and Loula Williams.

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My research also brought to life the Gurley and Stradford Hotels, places of lodging for Black visitors to the city. Dr. Du Bois actually stayed at the Gurley Hotel during his visit there. However, it was not considered the better of the two; the Stradford was the finest Black owned hotel in the country, and easily matched the white hotels in Tulsa for convenience, luxury and comfort. John Stradford and O. W. Gurley were two of the richest Blacks in Tulsa. Both men had become millionaires before all was lost on that dreadful day in 1921.

In addition to the Gurley and Stradford, there were William Anderson’s Jewelry Store, Henry Lilly’s Upholstery Shop, A. S. Newkirk’s Photography Studio, Elliott and Hooker’s Clothing Emporium, H. L. Byar’s Tailor Shop, Hope Watson’s Cleaners and Lilly Johnson’s Liberty Café that served home cooked meals at all hours, while nearby Little Café is where people lined up waiting for their specialty chicken or smothered steak with rice and brown gravy. And there was the famous Little Rose Beauty Shop, run by the matriarch of the community Mabel Little.

The area possessed fifteen Black physicians and Dr. Andrew Jackson was recognized by the prestigious Mayo Clinic as one of the finest doctors in the country. The community also built its own hospital and the magnificently structure Mt. Zion Baptist Church, known to rival any other church in Tulsa or the entire state of Oklahoma. All this came crashing down, as the invaders dropped turpentine soaked firebombs that lit up the entire community and torched many unsuspected men, women, and children.

The tragedy that befell the prosperous Greenwood district, as well as other similar communities in this country, was that Black Americans were too successful, and a jealous and envious white community was determined to eradicate those businesses. That egregious attack on innocent citizens was not about a Black man accosting a white girl. It was about Black men and women who had bought into the Booker T. Washington position that hard work and a commitment to the American dream of capitalism would pay off handsomely. O.W. Gurley, a strong advocate of the accommodationist approach, found out just how much whites respected successful businessmen and women of the darker hue when they shot his wife and burned down his hotel.

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Tulsa clearly points out that the only acceptable behavior whites would condone was for Blacks to be passive and subservient to them. “Uppity” became synonymous with Black men and women stepping out of the role as servants and field hands. However, the positive message that shines through the pages of Fires is that Blacks in Tulsa refused to condescend to the arrogance of the majority, and were willing to fight and die rather than allow an innocent Black boy to be lynched by the mob. Finally, this writer portrays the relationship between Dick and Sarah in a manner not pursued by the many other researchers, who have studied the causes of the riot. The portrayal of their involvement makes for an interesting and entertaining read, which should always be the goal of the novelist.

timeline_pic01This novel re-creates the events that led to this slaughter and brings to life true heroes who stood up to the evil and fought back. It is imperative that Black writers begin to “tell our story our way,” and that is what I have done in the pages of Fires.  Eminent scholar and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree noted that, “Frederick Williams has taken the 1921 Tulsa Riot to new heights and reminds us all that we cannot forget the African American community that battled to protect their dignity and respect. We will never forget what happened to the members of “Black Wall Street’ and will make sure that generations of people will forever remember the hard working men and women who fought to preserve their dignity.”

Prosperity Publications, the publisher has contracted to convert this work into a screenplay and will pursue producing a movie that will be as compelling as recent movies such as Selma, The Butler and Twelve Years A Slave. In the meantime I invite you to purchase the novel through Amazon or communicate with the company at www.prosperitypublications.com., or leave a message here on my writer’s blog.  A novel is always more comprehensive and thorough than the movie and that will be true with Fires. 

You can also visit the website of the Greenwood Cultural Center at www.greenwoodculturalcenter.com or the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park at www.jhfcenter.org both located on the grounds of the tragic events that happened on June 1, 1921, 95 years ago.

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