Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Freedom's Eve & Happy Birthday Odetta

On Dec 31 in Black History...
In 1862, on December 31, Freedom's Eve, black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863 and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.  
Even though the first religious watch night service is believed to have begun with the Moravians in 1770, Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since Freedom's Eve in 1862, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.

In 1930, on December 31, Odetta, African-American singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. 

“ you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.” 

She earned a music degree from Los Angeles City College. Her training in classical music and musical theater was a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life,” she said.  
Odetta sings at the March on Washington in 1963.

Her fame hit a peak in 1963, when she marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and performed for President John F. Kennedy.

Her acting credits included Tony Richardson's ''Sanctuary'' (1960) with Yves Montand and Lee Remick. On television she appeared with Cicely Tyson in ''The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.'' She also appeared with the Stratford Shakespeare Company in Ontario and at the Neptune Theater in Halifax. In 1999  she was awarded Odetta the National Endowment for the Arts Medal of the Arts and Humanities.

The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta."
Bob Dylan

Here's Odetta on "The Johnny Cash Show," August 30, 1969. The first song she performs is based on a Negro "field blues" song known simply as "Black Woman," then duets with Cash on "Shame And Scandal In The Family"

Odetta Plays Guitar as she sings with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Woody Guthrie and Pastures of Plenty and Merle travis Nine Pound Hammer

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Picketing and Publishing

On December 30 in Black History...

In 1892 - Physician, Dr Miles V Lynk, published the Medical and Surgical Observer, the first Black medical journal on December 30.

In 1929 - The "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaign began on December 30 in Chicago with picketing of Chain stores on South Side, fall. The campaign spread to New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles and other cities and continued throughout the Depression.   Here's a video interview with Oliver Hill, a civil rights attorney:

In 1933, Belford Vance Lawson, Jr. . Lawson along with John A. Davis, Sr. and N. Franklin Thorne founded the New Negro Alliance (NNA)in Washington, D.C. to combat white-owned businesses in black neighborhoods that would not hire black employees.  In response, some businesses arranged for an injunction to stop the picketing. Lawson, the lead attorney, with assistance by Thurgood Marshall, fought back – all the way to the United States Supreme Court in New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co. (1938) that safeguarded a right to boycott.   This became a landmark case in the struggle by African Americans against discriminatory hiring practices, and Don't Buy Where You Can't Work groups multiplied throughout the nation. The NNA estimated that by 1940, the group had secured 5,106 jobs for blacks because businesses could not afford to lose sales during the Great Depression. (retrieved Dec 30, 2010),_Jr. (retrieved Dec 30, 2010) (retrieved Dec 30, 2010) (retrieved Dec 31, 2010) (retrieved Dec 31, 2010)
Michele F. Pacifico, “ ‘Don't Buy Where You Can't Work': the New Negro Alliance of Washington,” Washington History 6-1 (spring-summer 1994): 66-88.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh my Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord....mmm, hmmmm...

On December 28 in Black History...

In 1954 Actor Denzel Washington was born on December 28 in Mount Vernon, NY. Washington has starred in such films as "Malcolm X", "Glory", "Much Ado about Nothing", and " A Soldier's Story". He started in television in his role on popular show "St. Elsewhere". He won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Private Trip in "Glory" and for best actor for his role in "Training Day."

I remember first "meeting" Denzel in Glory and that one scene where they were singing, "Oh my Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord....mmm, hmmmm..."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Kwanzaa!!!

Kwanzaa, founded in 1966, was originally meant to be alternative to the commercialism of Christmas.  Even though it was originally intended to be an alternative to Christmas, many African-Americans recognize both holidays focusing on the principles of Kwanzaa as a cultural holiday while still recognizing their faith in Christmas celebrations.  Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles:

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

African-American Enters The Scene

On December 21 Black History....

In 1988, The term, "African American" was coined as Jesse Jackson urges its use.

Let's look at the history of the term:

Afro-American was first used as an adjective in 1853 in a publication in Windsor, Ontario, Voice of the Fugitive. The OED2 lists examples of Afro-American and Aframerican from 1890, 1898, 1910, 1934, 1939, and 1944, the last being a use of Aframerican from an article by H.L. Mencken.

African-American was first used as a noun in 1855 and as an adjective in 1858. The OED2 gives cites for one or the other use from 1858, 1885, 1890, 1925, 1962, 1969, 1973, 1979, and later.

In 1987, Dr. Johnny Duncan published a Black History Calender in which he also used the term African-American in which he included the poem he wrote, "I Can."  Dr. Duncan was written in an effort to rename Black people in America.  According to Dr. Duncan, Rev. Jackson became familiar with the term through his calendar and poem that was given to him by Coretta Scott King. (listen to interview with Johnny Duncan here)

MLK gets the Nobel Peace Prize

On December 3 in Black History...

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Germany for his work toward peace through his leadership in the civil rights movement in America. (scroll to bottom to watch King's acceptance speech) He was the youngest man to have recieved the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. Dr. King split the $54,123 associated with the prize among leading civil rights groups, giving $25,000 to the Gandhi Society for Human Rights, $12,000 to SCLC, and splitting the remainder among the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Urban League, and the Student Nonviolent. 

Telgram from Senator Kennedy
 Although many in the United States and abroad praised the selection, segregationist Eugene ‘‘Bull’’ Connor called it ‘‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’’ (‘‘Cheers and Scorn’’). Presenting the award to King in Oslo, Norway, that December, the chairman of the Nobel Committee praised him for being ‘‘the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races’’ (Jahn, ‘‘Presentation,’’ 332).

I found an example of his non-violence approach in Time Magazine's issue where they named him "Man of the Year" and "America's Ghandi":
"And King, by some quality of that limpid voice or by some secret of cadence, exercises control as can few others over his audiences, black or white. He has proved this ability on countless occasions, ranging from the Negroes' huge summer March on Washington to a little meeting one recent Friday night in Gadsden, Ala. There, the exchange went like this:
King: I hear they are beating you!
Response: Yes, yes.
King: I hear they are cursing you!
Response: Yes, yes.
King: I hear they are going into your homes and doing nasty things and beating you!
Response: Yes, yes.
King: Some of you have knives, and I ask you to put them up. Some of you may have arms, and I ask you to put them up. Get the weapon of nonviolence, the breastplate of righteousness, the armor of truth, and just keep marching.",9171,940759-2,00.html

As I read his acceptance speech, I was immediately struck by the directness of his message. Right after he addresses the dignitaries, he puts it all out there:

"I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment went 22 inmllion Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice...only yeseterday ...our children..were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death...young people...were brutilized and murdered...houses of worship were bombed or burned...I am mindful that debiliitation and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder." 

Read the full text of Dr. King's nobel peace prize acceptance speech here:

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