Category Archives: Race

When Is Enough—Enough?

Soon after the Martin Luther King Day parade came to an end and folks were celebrating the birthday of the great Black leader of the 20th Century with cookouts at the park, shots rang out in the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Eight people ranging in the ages 8 to 30 were wounded and many rushed to the hospital. In Chicago, Illinois, 39 people were shot, with 10 killed during the King Holiday weekend. That is just the tip of the iceberg as we begin the year 2017 the same way the previous year ended, with our young shooting and killing each other. In 2016 over 700 were murdered in Chicago and that is only one city. Guns have become the poison pill in our community; and poverty along with racial self-hatred the reasons to swallow that pill.

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As our young continue to kill and wound each other, one must begin to question should the Black Lives Matter crowd continue to make their target the police or is it time to turn inward and make that plea to our own children? Do our young killers know Black Lives Matter or do they even care? An additional question to be pondered is what has happened over generations so that some in our race have gotten to the point that they can routinely point a gun at another human being and pull the trigger with no remorse for their dastardly deed. Our neighborhoods are becoming the killing fields of the Twenty-first Century.

hueynewton No doubt we as adults have failed our children to the point that they do not respect their culture, their race and not even the holiday in honor of the man who gave his life so that we all could live better lives. With each new generation, our children become more alienated from society and from their identity as proud Black men and women. In his new novel, The Killing Breeze, to be released early in the Spring 2017, outstanding novelist Tony Lindsay opens up with a quote from Huey Newton. It is appropriate as a summation of the condition of our youth. “The lower socio-economic Black male is a man of confusion. He faces a hostile environment and is not sure that it is not his own sins that have attracted the hostilities of society. All his life he has been taught (explicitly and implicitly) that he is an inferior approximation of humanity. As a man, he finds himself void of those things that bring respect and a feeling of worthiness. He looks around for something to blame for his situation, but because he is not sophisticated regarding the socio-economic milieu and because of negativistic parental and institutional teachings, he ultimately blames himself.” As a result, these young men no longer respect their culture or their race.

The essential institutions for any culture include the family, the church, the schools, the peer group and the governmental body. Over four hundred years of slavery had a devastating effect on the idea of a family structure among Blacks forced over here from Africa. Our ancestors were stolen away from their families when they were captured and sold to a sick bunch of European Americans in this country. There was no such thing as a family structure on the plantations where over 90% of Blacks resided until after the Civil War. Not because Blacks did not want families but because the sick, immoral racists plantation owners wouldn’t allow it to exist. The shift of the Black population from the South to the North, which began in the late Nineteenth Century and continued through World War II did not eradicate the problem, in fact it intensified the break up. Blacks in this country never had the opportunity to rebuild their ancestral relationships with family in Africa, and never had the opportunity to build a new family structure in this country due to a myriad of problems, the key one being the need to survive. Poverty does not lend itself to a stable family structure. Black Americans have struggled with poverty throughout generations and still have to fight for economic survival today. With over 72% of Black babies born into a single family household and the failure of many of the fathers to take on the responsibility as fathers, then the traditional family structure is in danger of disappearing in the Black culture.

One might also surmise that the second key institution, the church, has also failed in its responsibility to the youth and, therefore, to the sustainability of our culture. Immediately following the end of slavery, our ancestors believed the one institution they could count on to deliver security to them was the church. They put all their faith in the ministers who served often as teachers, preachers, psychiatrists, counselors and mentors to our youth. But too often they failed because they were not equipped to provide all these services. So instead, they instructed our ancestors to “Lean on Jesus and He will deliver for you.” They simply quoted from the Bible to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But what they failed to teach was, you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else. No doubt, racial self-hatred is a key component in the shootings that happen every day in our communities. Those young folks who committed murders on the King Holiday don’t love King and don’t love their fellow Blacks, don’t love their race and don’t love their culture, because they don’t love themselves.

carter-g-woodsonEducation is the key to the growth and sustainability of a race and culture. School is the institution with the primary responsibility to teach our young how to read and write. But we know our schools are in disarray and are failing the youth, not because of the failure our teachers but the failure to provide them with all the necessary resources needed to teach. There are no more powerful tools than the power to read and write. Those skills are escaping our young to the point that a huge percentage of them cannot read nor write a sentence. A Chinese delegation visiting the United States in the 1930’s, was appalled to learn that Black America put the education of their kids in the hands of a race of people who all along had very little interest in them. Carter G. Woodson correctly identified it as the “miseducation of the Negro.”

Due to the failure of the traditional cultural institutions, the peer group has picked up the slack and fill the needs of our young. Gangs now provide our youth with a sense of belonging. They become the family, they provide the members with an ethical code drawn up among themselves for their survival in a society they feel is out to destroy them. Reading and writing become insignificant and replaced with the ability to shoot straight and have the temerity to aim a gun at another human being and shoot him or her.

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Actually, I haven’t written anything here that most of you already don’t know. The question then becomes when is enough going to be enough. When will we tire of this killing and destruction of our kids and ultimately our culture. The more important consideration is how do we turn this madness around? What can we do as a race to reach our young and share with them the strength and beauty of their people throughout history. And that our ancestors came up the rough side of the mountain and took the brunt of the abuse so that we could live better lives. It is up to each one of us to make a commitment to invest our resources and talents, without consideration for compensation other than we did our best to turn this situation around. I have made that commitment and will elaborate on what I plan to continue doing for the rest of 2017 and for years to come in my next post. Until then, I encourage each of you to think about what you also can do to save our children because Black Lives REALLY Do Matter.

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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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A POX on Both Their Houses

In a recent Reuters Poll conducted between March and June 2016, 16,000 European Americans were interviewed regarding their perceptions of African Americans. The poll was a result of both political candidates for President throwing negative comments at each other, regarding their positions on racial issues. Donald Trump has called Hillary Clinton a bigot because of her failure to support any meaningful change for Blacks. And Hillary Clinton accused Trump of normalizing white nationalism, and his failure to reject outright support from racist David Duke.

The European Americans involved in the poll were divided between those who support Trump and the ones supporting Clinton. Both groups were asked the identical questions, and the results are staggering.

32% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

40% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

44% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

49% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

46% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

Now we might argue that these statistics are not that surprising coming from Trump supporters, but what makes this poll so frightening is when the same questions were asked of Clinton supporters.

22% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

25% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

30% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

31% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

32% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

When we remove the Trump/Clinton factor and combine the two groups as one, it becomes very clear that a large percentage of European Americans’ perception of Black Americans is anything but acceptable. This absolutely staggering arrogance from a race of people that have no right to make such assumptions, is overwhelming. When we view each of these characteristics over time, it becomes very clear that European Americans suffer from a serious case of hubris.

These findings are so ludicrous I shouldn’t bother to even respond. But at some point, you begin to seriously wonder for how long can these distortions of reality continue to exist within the minds of European Americans? Are they so narcissistic that they actually believe their perceived superiority over Blacks in each of the listed categories? Probably not one of the 16,000 could come close to matching the intelligence of a Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Dr. Cornell West, Johnnie Cochran, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and the list of brilliant African Americans could go on for page after page.

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The perception that Blacks are lazier than European Americans would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. African Americans have always been hard working men and women. How do you think it was possible for slave owners to spend the afternoon drinking mint juleps, and at night raping Black women if the African American wasn’t doing all the work? After slavery, the same pattern continued under share cropping. Because of a skewed economic system in which most of the wealth and land has accrued to European Americans, Black Americans have always had to work harder for less economic gain in this county. Our ancestors had to, “make a way out of no way.” They worked longer hours for less reward but never gave up on life. And work, we have for generations.
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colin-kaepernickCan someone please explain to me how you measure rudeness? Who determines when an individual is being rude? I guess Sandra Bland was being rude when she refused to put out her cigarette in her own car. I guess San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being rude because he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos were also being rude when they held up gloved clinch fists, while the National Anthem was being played at the 1968 Olympics. Or maybe Muhammed Ali was rude, tossing his Gold Medal in the river when he returned from the 1960 Olympics and was so disgusted with how his people were being treated. It might be something much simpler than that. We no longer tip our hat to white folks when we pass them on the street, or don’t bow our heads when coming in contact with a white woman. And we no longer say “yes suh, yes ma’am, when responding to some European Americans question. And we have the nerve to get on the bus and sit wherever we want, instead of waiting for European Americans to board first and take their seat. The same holds true for trains and airplanes.

The category dealing with violence was the most shocking of all. The pogrom of Native Americans, the slaughter of millions of Africans in the middle passage from Africa, the brutal treatment of Blacks during slavery and the incredible large number of lynching of Blacks, Hispanics and yes some European Americans (they lynched their own people) makes a mockery of the findings in this category. European Americans undoubtedly rank at the very top of the list of violent people in modern civilization.

Finally, there is no worst crime in the history of civilizations than stealing someone’s freedom. It is estimated that up 25 to 50 million Africans were taken from their homes and forced on slave ships, where approximately half died before they reached the shores of America. That was murder and murder is a crime. And if that is not sufficient to establish that no race has committed more crimes than European Americans, then the beating, raping, and often killing of African Americans during and after slavery as well as the shooting and killing of over 130 Blacks in the first six months of 2016 by the police, should be. How about the slaughter of innocent Native Americans over the centuries, based on the concept of “white man’s burden,” or “manifest destiny” as additional proof?

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Under the concept of hubris, an individual (or a larger body of people) will deflect their own insecurities and weaknesses to another person or body of people. That is exactly what European Americans have done for decades, and usually the recipients of those insecurities have been Blacks. The findings in the study done by Reuters proves that same practice still exists. My larger problem is that these people make up a substantial percentage of those who support the two primary presidential candidates. And because they do and I am not sure the candidates care about these perceptions among their followers, borrowing from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette, I say, “A pox on both their houses.”

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