Lynching

‘Free State of Jones’ | Review | Habari Gani, America!

Free State of Jones is one of the most overlooked films featured this summer. Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, an AWOL Confederate soldier and Mahershala Ali as Moses, an escaped enslaved African lead the tensions in this Civil War period piece. I viewed this film once for the overall story line and a second time for the details. Sorry, no spoilers here.

Historians and film producers often lean towards either the burdens of old slave narratives or the glorious Civil Rights Era when depicting the African quest for true freedom in America. Besides John Singleton and Gregory Poirier‘s Rosewoodfew mainstream films have touched in detail on the post-Civil War/Reconstruction Black Lives timeline as Director/Writer Gary Ross and Writer Leonard Hartman in the Free State of Jones.

The film juxtapositions the strong presence of self-determined ‘free’ Black lives amidst slavery and segregation against the sub-civil war between wealthy Confederates and poor families, black and white.

The films weakest transitions are forward flashes to a future trial determining the racial identity of Davis Knight, Newton Knight’s second son. The outcome would determine the legality of Davis’s marriage to a White woman according to post-war segregation laws.

Other considerations are the relationship shifts as Blacks are legally free in 1865. Jones County, Mississippi grapples with Military Reconstruction in response to the South’s attempt to re-enslave Blacks through indentured servitude, Blacks gaining voting rights through the 15th Amendment and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Free State of Jones is a worthy film for any historian or film buff to have in their quiver. Below is an excerpt from author Richard Grant’s Smithsonian Institute article regarding the film’s historical value and present day Jones County’s varying sentiments toward Newton Knight and the film.

“ [Professor Wyatt Moulds] described Jones County as the most conservative place in Mississippi, but he noted that race relations were improving and that you could see it clearly in the changing attitudes toward Newt Knight. ‘It’s generational,’ he said. ‘A lot of older people see Newt as a traitor and a reprobate, and they don’t understand why anyone would want to make a movie about him. If you point out that Newt distributed food to starving people, and was known as the Robin Hood of the Piney Woods, they’ll tell you he married a black, like that trumps everything. And they won’t use the word ‘black.’”
[Moulds’s] current crop of students, on the other hand, are “fired up” about Newt and the movie. ‘Blacks and whites date each other in high school now, and they don’t think it’s a big deal,’ said Moulds. ‘That’s a huge change. Some of the young guys are really identifying with Newt now, as a symbol of Jones County pride. It doesn’t hurt that he was such a badass.’ “

“In the Lost Cause mythology, the South was united, and secession had nothing to do with slavery,” said Moulds. “What happened in Jones County puts the lie to that, so the Lost Causers have to paint Newt as a common outlaw, and above all else, deny all traces of Unionism. With the movie coming out, they’re at it harder than ever.”

Source: The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’ | History | Smithsonian

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Arkansas’s Blood Stained Soil: 237 People Killed In Elaine Race Riot Lynching Massacre | Kulture Kritic

The EJI study is blunt and forthright in its conclusions, stating, “These lynchings were terrorismAfrican-American men, women, and children were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaidedLynchings were violent and public events that traumatized Black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials…many African-Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens).”

In tying the trauma and systemic violence of lynchings to mass incarceration the study illustrates how the acceptance of casual death and suffering through lynching is present in the current criminal justice system by stating, “Mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive sentencing, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities and police abuse of people of color reveal problems in American society that were shaped by the terror era.”

via Arkansas’s Blood Stained Soil: 237 People Killed In Elaine Race Riot Lynching Massacre | Kulture Kritic.

Tim Wise: On White Privilege (Clip) – YouTube | #OYRchallenge

The Pathology of Privilege

Racism, White Denial & the Costs of Inequality

For years, acclaimed author and speaker Tim Wise has been electrifying audiences on the college lecture circuit with his deeply personal take on whiteness and white privilege. In this spellbinding lecture, the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son offers a unique, inside-out view of race and racism in America. Expertly overcoming the defensiveness that often surrounds these issues, Wise provides a non-confrontational explanation of white privilege and the damage it does not only to people of color, but to white people as well. This is an invaluable classroom resource: an ideal introduction to the social construction of racial identities, and a critical new tool for exploring the often invoked – but seldom explained – concept of white privilege.

via Tim Wise: On White Privilege (Clip) – YouTube.

The Rocky Mount Telegram

Claudia Lacy, mother of victim, Lennon Lacy

On Friday, federal authorities confirmed they were reviewing the investigation. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Tom Walker said Walker’s office acted at the request of attorneys from the North Carolina NAACP representing the family.

“We don’t know what happened that terrible night,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP chapter. “It is possible that a 17-year-old excited about life could commit suicide. The family is prepared to accept the truth. They’re not prepared to accept this theory that’s been posited with a rush to a conclusion of suicide so quickly. We have said there are far too many unanswered questions.”

via The Rocky Mount Telegram.

15 Black Uprisings Against European and Arab Oppression They Won’t Teach in Schools – Atlanta Blackstar | #OYRchallenge

The 15 least taught Uprisings of African enslaved peoples are  presented in the  article. The First Maroon War was my favorite pick but I am sure you will find other goodies of your own.

The First Maroon War

The First Maroon War

In 1739, the Jamaican Maroons were the first enslaved Africans to win their freedom from European slave masters. During the First Maroon War, they fought and escaped slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of the island. For 76 years, there were periodic skirmishes between the British and the Maroons, alongside occasional slave revolts.Eventually, the British government and slave holders realized they couldn’t defeat the Maroons, so they came up with a peace treaty that allowed them to live in their own free states in Jamaica. As a result, the Maroons established their five main towns: Accompong, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scots Hall, and Nanny Town.

Source: wikipedia.org

via 15 Black Uprisings Against European and Arab Oppression They Won’t Teach in Schools – Page 3 of 8 – Atlanta Blackstar.

Mike Brown’s shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common. It’s time for America to own up | Isabel Wilkerson | Comment is free | theguardian.com | #OYRchallenge

Ferguson Lynching

At left: Ferguson, Missouri, 2014, where a body was left in the street for four hours in the August sun. At right: Paris, Texas, 1893. Photographs: JB Forbes / St Louis Post-Dispatch via AP; Wikimedia Commons

the guardian photo

Not terribly long ago in a country that many people misremember, if they knew it at all, a black person was killed in public every four days for often the most mundane of infractions, or rather accusation of infractions – for taking a hog, making boastful remarks, for stealing 75 cents. For the most banal of missteps, the penalty could be an hours-long spectacle of torture and lynching. No trial, no jury, no judge, no appeal. Now, well into a new century, as a family in Ferguson, Missouri, buries yet another American teenager killed at the hands of authorities, the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.

 

via Mike Brown’s shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common. It’s time for America to own up | Isabel Wilkerson | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

Tragedy and Art: The Power of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ | Robert F. Darden | #OYRchallenge

This article gives background information on Sam Cooke’s motivation in creating, A Change Is Gonna Come. In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle and desegregation, our artist continued the tradition of slave hymns and field songs, ushering in hope through the darkest of times. #OYRchallenge.

On the surface, “A Change is Gonna Come” doesn’t sound particularly challenging, especially in light of the defiant freedom songs that rocked the movement in 1964, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” or “I Got My Mind Stayed on Freedom.” The song was finally released as a single in late December of that year, shortly after Cooke’s untimely death. It quickly became one of the anthems of the movement and music historian Dave Marsh said that “A Change is Gonna Come” “ranks with Martin Luther King’s best speeches as a verbal encapsulation of the changes black perspective underwent in the Sixties.”

Despite surface appearances, African-American teenagers and movement activists knew exactly what it meant. The lyrics speak of a universally understood sense of alienation in their own land, of being treated as second-class citizens, of asking for help — and not receiving it, even from their own people. And like the great protest spirituals, even when recounting the grossest injustices, the singer continually returns to the hope, the expectation of justice: “Oh, there been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/But now I think I’m able to carry on/It’s been a long, a long time coming/But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

via Tragedy and Art: The Power of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ | Robert F. Darden.

– These Kids Are About To Charge The Chicago Police Dept. With Genocide At The United Nations VIDEO | #OYRchallenge

The charge of Genocide has been levied upon various countries across the globe. We watch the horrors broadcast on American television, and we return to our lives without recognizing the historical genocide attempted against African Americans in the US. The United States refused to sign the UN Convention on Social and Economic Equality. Mike Brown was sacrificed, but his life will now have meaning as the question of national genocide by authorities is no longer a question. The children are fighting for their lives. The UN is their only hope. Support them in their efforts. The ultimate #OYRchallenge
via – These Kids Are About To Charge The Chicago Police Dept. With Genocide At The United Nations VIDEO.

A group of youth social justice leaders plan to go to Geneva, Switzerland this November to deliver testimony about the experiences of young people, people of color and other marginalized communities who face targeted violence by police in the Chicago area.The grass-roots group who call themselves, We Charge Genocide, will speak before the United Nations Against Torture. Their name comes from a petition that was delivered to the United Nations in 1951. Using stories and data from their Youth Hearing On Police Violence the delegates where they will speak out against the crimes against humanity that  are the norm for minority groups in Chicago and across the nation.

Look for Power in All Things | #OYRchallenge

The OYR Challenge has been picked up from Alaska to Brazil, California to Luxembourg, by all peoples in all states of oppression. So what do they derive from these  daily and minute to minute recreations of language, icons, and medium? POWER! #OYRchallenge

Changing Minds (changingminds.org) posts the six stages of personal power taken from Janet Hagberg‘s book, Real Power: Stages of Personal Power in Organizations. Interestingly enough, I researched this subject back in 1990, when I suffered a physical and debilitating race-based attack during my employment with a major corporation. I had relocated from a large city to a smaller enclave where African Americans had few prospects other than state employment and menial positions. It was a time of layoffs and transfers throughout the national private business environment. African American employees, as well as everyone else, of large businesses relocated in order to keep their positions or afford those unable to relocate the opportunity to remain employed.

There was a catch. Small cities with a tighter grip on designated white-only positions were not far from the lynching crowds depicted in photos of the old South. My first day on the job, four white co-workers surrounded me as I entered the office and told me to, “Go back where you come from. You are taking the job of a white man with a family.” Few African American professionals picture this happening in offices where their piers have middle-class incomes, boats in the water, private planes at the airport, etc. So yes, I took it as foolishness, until the threats against myself and my family became daily and my vehicle was struck on the way to work only to have my co-workers bluster when I able to arrive at the office that day; then cheered as I was taken to the hospital as my throat began to close. I found out a year later, at a company meeting, that the culprit was one of their associates from another company.

This fight went on for seven years, with me spending most of those seven years recuperating from the vehicle accident, subsequent surgeries for the resulting injuries (ruptured neck vertebra, torn rotator cuff, crushed carpal tunnel), and another physical attack in 1997. One rainy day in 1992, I met a man, almost a decade younger than myself, pacing the doorway of a local coffee shop. He looked wild-eyed, disheveled, but through this mess it was apparent he kept his body manicured, almost metro-sexual. I grabbed a coffee from inside and we both stood in the doorway, each glaring out into the deluge the weather had now become. It is not clear who spoke first, but as he proclaimed his wish to end his life, we began to share our stories. It turns out, we both were transplants. Him from a sub-company of my parent company. He was an architect. His chin jutted at the power of that statement. My chest also heaved in response. We empowered each other simply in recognizing our value beneath our brown-skins. We compared notes … no church, NAACP, community, or other non-profit response to the deadly employment race discrimination in the area. Check! No response from long-time residents unless you were a recovering drug addict, prostitute, alcoholic, or destitute. Check! We were on our own. Check! We had the power to live or die, depending on how much we empowered ourselves. Check!

I do not know what happened to that young man after our communion, but my life changed drastically. Acknowledging you are alone in a fight you are bent on winning is the first step to empowerment. So I researched power, and therefore empowered myself to, no matter what, always remember and increase my value.  It is not an easy journey, but well worth it. So now I co-opt Hagberg’s six stages of power gathered from ‘Changing Minds’ for you to remember and utilize in your OYR Challenge. My favorite is ‘Power by Wisdom.’ I am sure you will find your own among the list.

1. Powerlessness
We start from a position of powerlessness. When we join an organization we know nobody and are totally dependent on others for initial assistance in understanding how things work, how to influence others and how to get things done.

2. Power by association
Power by association is the power we gain by being able to utilize the power that others already have.

As we get to know people and gain their respect and trust, we may leverage their power, for example in asking them to ask others to do things or asking them for introductions. The secret of gaining associative power is hence in being able to create bonds and draw on relationships.

We can also join teams, clubs and form other associations and coalitions, thereby gaining the power of the group.

3. Power by achievement
Power by acquisition is that power which we gain through what we do and the persuasive evidence that others perceive in this.

Achievement leads to achievement. If we do well at work then we are given more important work and may also get promoted. The power we get from this multiplies, as people cede power to those who prove their ability, which then allows them to achieve further still.

4. Power by reflection
In a curious reversal of depending on others for power, we can gain power through internal reflection and realizing we have all personal power on which we can draw.

A person at this stage is competent and has sound integrity. They are widely respected and this strength draws others to them, on whose ability and power they may consequently depend. Paradoxically, as they let go of their ego, they gain more power.

5. Power by purpose
People at this stage are driven by their purpose. Their power comes from within. Their inner power is so much greater than the power of those around them, they can influence decisions of many others.

Great leaders show this purpose in stirring speeches and powerful and symbolic action. They succeed because they believe in a greater purpose beyond themselves. They are visionary and self-accepting, humble and spiritual.

6. Power by wisdom
Stage six people feel a deep connection to the greater universe. They may often spend time in solitude, connecting and reflecting. They may have been through great pain and crisis on more than one occasion, yet have used these events to learn and grow.

They have found contentment and live on an ‘even keel’. The purpose they work to is very high. The know and accept powerlessness and in doing so find ultimate power. They embrace paradox and do not need to take sides.

Changingminds.org #OYRchallenge Click the link to get started: OYR Challenge

The “Own Your Racist” Challenge #OYRchallenge

What is the OYR challenge?

African Americans have been at war – mentally, physically, economically, and socially ever since the first African was dragged from a slave ship onto the American shores. The volumes of histories (European and African American), movies, television series, news reports, studies, and other publications serve as qualitative evidence to support this claim. It has always been the strategy of Racist and their racist collaborators (African American pseudo-intellectuals) to present the resulting body count as isolated or individual incidents to be argued within the confines of the criminal justice system, race discussion forums, and/or the same models used to maintain White Supremacy. Truth-be-told, these systems have eroded and the people lax into comfort that the myth of Black powerlessness is firmly in place. They have secured the veil with a 21stcentury Bi-racial President of their choosing, replacing the Civil Rights icons. Every playbook must be revised. Our young are inundated with slave songs, yet no one drills them with the principals that created Black Wall Street and other past ultra-wealthy and sound communities. There are only so many times African American children can attend the funeral of a murdered/lynched family member, friend or neighbor, buried with Amazing Grace and “I Have A Dream,” before they stop listening.

21st century African American youths acknowledge that they are human and know that humans are fallible. In a 1992 televised panel discussion, The Issue is Race, Sister Souljah points to the need for Black empowerment and business. She also points out that every municipality has their game in place to crush African American businesses much more easily now than with the attack on Black Wall St. Crime in the African American community, the most readily used silencing cue in the racist toolbox, reflects that humanity and the substantive pressures placed on that humanity. Our young in 2014 Ferguson, MI reformed the messages of African American history that racist and African American collaborators use to teach them powerlessness. Yet, take a look at how school systems are now trying to formulate a methodology to discuss the current events in Ferguson and other cities. Why control the conversation? For the same reason our children in African American venues are taught slave songs instead of empowering verse? Our dialogue needs to be controlled to include silencing, powerless training. Some HBCU institutions provide tools to exude our power, along with that the history lesson. The intelligent heed the message, the fearful and mediocre cite statistics, the European face of government, and class conscious models of respectability politics to quell their cognitive dissonance. But that dissonance also creates race-collaborators. This is also human. Fear is human.

To get you through this challenge, we need to revisit and establish in our lives how we accommodate, participate, and sometimes instigate our own demise. Here is the catch, if your town has no industry that will support your degree as well as your Africanism, there are always government positions available. And those who become a part of the machine (thinking they can make change from within), soon become THE MACHINE, despite their good intentions. Get over them … but do not give them a pass. Racist tactics are methodical complete with literature and verbal cues that African Americans are trained to absorb and respond to appropriately. Within this context, we must not forget that on an individual level, racist are confident that whatever their mistakes, there is a cue (crazy toolbox) to combat African American claims to racist attack and the victim will disregard their rights within that transaction. Add an insecure, incompetent collaborator and you have a cocktail for a now seemingly powerless victim.

I want to give you an example of using your power effectively within this context. The necessary back story is that in our region, African Americans rarely challenge the most minute situations, so racist have an exceptional comfort zone (no visible support for Trayvon Martin in public view). As the city fell into economic decline, the mayor initiated a campaign to bring a specific immigrant ethnicity to the area from New York City (I will not name the specific population; it is not about them) to purchase property and strengthen the communities. The specific ethnicity bought into the American slovenly African American stereotype for their benefit, and similar to Rwandan (Hutu/Tutsi) conflict, they assumed a position in our communities as a buffer and caste between the racist White population and the African American community. This actually occurred right after the 1994 Rwandan genocide and subsequent literature highlighting the European strategy that set the immigrant against the indigenous population (Mamdani, 2001)

While in college, I cashed my student loan checks at a local branch of the University’s banking institution, as I had done many semester previously. I approached the teller window, and handed her the check, along with my driver’s photo ID. The teller, immigrant woman, scowled at ID, turned it over, scowled again, then asked for a second form of ID. I then gave her my University photo ID bearing the same name and insignia as on the check. Her reaction was the same as with my driver’s license. She sighed and continued to scowl, leaning on her elbow on the counter, with no movement to either decline or process my transaction. I then grew impatient and asked for the bank manager. The teller was aghast. Apparently, she felt a stool in the bank afforded her power that I had no right to challenge. I reiterated, “I have no more to say to you.  It is obvious that you are not familiar with US identifications and should not hold this position. Please call the manager.” When the bank manager arrived, I informed her of the teller’s inability to read legal documents and that such deficiencies should have been addressed at her job interview. Furthermore, her behaviors may open the bank up to future lawsuits and other damages. The red-faced bank manager “shoved” the teller aside and promptly completed my transaction. By the way, said teller is now working at McDonalds. A brightly smiling young black male has taken her place on the stool.

So here is your challenge. There are two parts.

Part I: At least once per day, approach your racial encounters with power. Inner power. Victories, no matter how small, are the key to this challenge – no hubris, retaliations, pettiness, or abuses exude power or is the aim of this challenge (put away your crazy toolbox; not needed here). This can only be done if you follow principles that we ourselves will create during this adventure. There are a few listed to get you started.

  • We are human.
  • In our humanity, we fail, but as humans we are resilient and rise stronger.
  • Remember, racist gain their power in OUR acceptance of dehumanizing media, literature, slurs, and behaviors on their part.
  • We must know the laws and devices used to counter those laws that work in our benefit, during ANY transaction.
  • We must examine, in any situation, where and how we must exude our power effectively, and when racist malaise will cause them to empower YOU.
  • Recognize oppressive methodology, no matter who attempts it – these 4 indicators may help: Insult, Deny, Threaten, and Attack (these are all a part of the verbal cues). Find them in yourself first, and then you will recognize these tactics in others.
  • Act with a sound, still mind. If you become flustered, BREATHE, SING, or whatever you have to do to get back on track. It may seem crazy to the offender or allow them to feel momentarily “uber” empowered, but the whopper you will deliver will soon change that.
  • Most importantly, never, ever take your failure to control any situation as defeat. Remember, you were trained how to be powerless (regardless of how much Black literature you read or education). Regroup and fortify yourself for the next encounter, and you will recognize more of them as you learn to live as a citizen, instead of props in someone else’s theater.

Part II: You MUST develop your own strategies through these contacts and expand on these few lines with posts using the hashtag, #OYRchallenge. Your stories are important as they energize those too weak to accept this challenge. Start with the meager crumbs I have put before you and together we will create a banquet.

The alternative to this challenge is this – continue doing what you are doing expecting different results. Hence, buy a scooter to carry your crazy toolbox. It will only get heavier.

Mahmood Mamdani. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.