Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February in Black History

Each month we'll list daily black history notes for the month.  Here's what happened in February in Black History:

On February 22 in Black History…
In 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win the first rap Grammy for the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand"
In 1938, Poet, Ishmael Reed is born.
In 1888, Painter Horace Pippin born
In 1841,  lithographer and painter Grafton Tyler Brown was born.
On February 21 in Black History...
In 1940, John Lewis was born.
In 1936, Barbara Jordan was born.
In 1933, Nina Simone was born.
In 1927, Thelonious Monk was born.
On February 20 in Black History…
In 1963, Charles Barkley was born.
In 1936, Nancy Wilson was born.
In 1927, Sidney Poitier was born.
On February 19 in Black History…
In1940, Smokey Robinson was born.
In 1871, Lugina B. Hope was born.
Emily Perez
In 1869, Activist Sylvester Williams was born.
In 1983, Emily Perez was born. Emily Perez was a soldier, and West Point graduate. Born in Heidelberg, West Germany Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez was the daughter of African American and Hispanic parents. She graduated from Oxon Hill High School, in Maryland, where she was wing commander of Junior ROTC. While in high school, working with the Peace Baptist Church, Perez helped begin an HIV-AIDS ministry.
After high school graduation, Perez attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. There she excelled in the classroom and in track and field. Following graduation, she was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Perez was deployed to Iraq as a Medical Service Corps officer.  She was killed during combat operations in Kifl, near Najaf on September 12, 2006. Aged 23, her decorations include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Combat Action Badge. She was the 64th female member of the U.S. military to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and the 40th West Point graduate killed since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Perez was buried at the West Point Cemetery.

On February 18 in Black History…
In1867, Morehouse College was founded.
In 1965, Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom
1931, Writer Toni Morrison was born.
In 1869, Pianist Harriett Gibbs Marshall was born.
In 1894, Architect Paul Revere Williams was born.
On February 17 in Black History…
In 1891, A. C. Richardson, a black inventor, invented the churn, patent #466,470
In 1967, Ronald De Voe was born.
In 1963, Baseball player, Michael Jeffrey Jordon's was born.
In 1942,Huey P. Newton was was born.
In 1938, Mary Frances Berry was born
In 1918, Rep. Charles A. Hayes was born
In 1936, James Nathaniel Brown was born.
In 1902, Opera singer Marian Anderson was born. February 10 in Black History…
In 1940, Roberta Flack was born.
In 1927, Leontyne Price was born.
In 1854, Educator Joseph Charles Price was born.
On February 8 in Black History…
In 1986, Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.
In 1968, Gary Coleman was born.
In 1908, *Cornelius Adolphus ”C.A.” Scott was born.
On February 7 in Black History…
In 1842, Civil Rights Activist, William Monroe Carter was born.
In 1882, Physician Emma Rochelle Wheeler was born.
In 1872, Alcorn A&M College opened.
In 1883, Pianist Eubie Blake born.
In 1967, Chris Rock was born.
In 1915, Composer and Activist William White III was born.
On February 6 in Black History…
In 1945, Bob Marley was born.
In 1933, Walter E. Fauntroy was born.
In 1898, Poet Melvin B. Tolson was born.
In 1882, Poet Anne Spencer was born.
On February 5 in Black History…
In 1934, Hank Aaron was born.
On February 4 in Black History…
In 1913, Rosa Parks was born.
1n 1974, France abolishes slavery.
On February 3 in Black History Month…
In 1965, Geraldine McCullough Wins Widener Gold Medal.
In 1956, Autherine J. Lucy becomes the first black student to attend the University of Alabama. She was expelled three days later "for her own safety" in response to threats from a mob.
In 1920, Negro Baseball League founded.
In 1903, Jack Johnson, became the first Black Heavyweight.
On February 2 in Black History Month…
In 1915, Biologist Ernest E. Just received the Spingarn medal for his pioneering in cell division and fertilization.
In 1914, William Ellisworth Artist was born.
In 1912, Quartet Singer Herbert Mills born.
In 1897, Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scooper, patent #576,395.
In 1861, Poet Joseph Seamon Cotter was born.
On February 1 in Black History…
In 1974, “Good Times" premieres on CBS.
In 1965, Ruby Dee was the first African American actress to play a major role at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford Conn.
In 1960, our students form North Carolina A&T College started Sit-in movement at Greensboro, N.C., five-and-dime store. By February 10, the movement had spread to fifteen Southern cities in five states.
In 1902, Langston Hughes was born.
In 1887, J. Robinson patents food carrier, Patent No. 356,852.
In 1926, Negro History Week, which is now known as Black History Month, was first celebrated on this date as Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson. It became a month long celebration in 1976.
In 1952, Singer Rick James was born.
In 1937, actor/comedian Garrett Morris was born.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted by the 38th Congress. Ratification was completed December 6, 1865.
In 1834, Henry McNeal Turner was born.

Check out these sites are where I get many of the daily black history info:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Sidney Poitier!

"But I always had the ability to say no. That's how I called my own shots."
Sidney Poitier

On February 20 in Black 1927, actor, film director, author, and diplomat, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida.
In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three well-received films To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, making him the top box office star of that year. In 1999, theAmerican Film Institute named Poitier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 22nd on the list of 25.

Poitier has directed a number of popular movies such as A Piece of the Action; Uptown Saturday Night, and Let's Do It Again (with friend Bill Cosby), and Stir Crazy (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder). In 2002, 38 years after receiving the Best Actor Award, Poitier was chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Honorary Award, designated "To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being." Since 1997 he has been the Bahamian ambassador to Japan. On August 12, 2009, Sidney Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America's highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.

Poitier was born in Miami, Florida, in Coconut Grove, where his Bahamian parents, Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, traveled to sell tomatoes and other produce from their farm on Cat Island.  His birth was premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained three months in Miami to nurse him to health. Due to his stateside delivery, he automatically gained U.S. citizenship. Poitier was raised in a Catholic family. He grew up with his family on Cat Island, The Bahamas, then a British colony. At age 10, he moved to Nassau with his family. At the age of 15 he was sent to Miami to live with his brother. At the age of 17, he moved to New York City and held a string of menial jobs. He then decided to join the United States Army after which he worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot with the American Negro Theater.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black Girls Run!

Wellness Fall Spotlight - Black Girls Run
Our Wellness tab focuses on health and wellness in the African-American community.  Be sure to check out our Wellness tab for our current spring wellness spotlight, "Let's Move."  

Our Fall 2011 Spotlight featured Black Girls Run.

With the increasing focus on African-American wellness, many organizations are bringing awareness and empowerment to the Black community to take their health into their own hands. Black Girls Run is doing a fabulous job of just that.

Do Black Girls Run? Of course we do. In 2009, Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created Black Girls RUN! in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community and provide encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners. The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80% of African-American women are overweight. BGR! wants to create a movement to lower that percentage and subsequently, lower the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Personal Note:  I have recently made a commitment to learn to run and am loving it!  I also joined the local Black Girls Run group and am loving it! On the BGR Facebook group we share tips on running for beginers and experienced runners. There are various running meet-ups throughout the Bay area during the week. I'm training to run the Oakland 5k in March and then the  DIVA Half Marathon in San Francisco in May. Follow us on twitter to see our progress @ExperienceHstrY.

For more about BGR, visit their website,

The following article appeared in the Greensboro News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, NC in August 2011:
Several African-American women in Greensboro are choosing their health. These women, organized as a Black Girls Run! group, are walking, jogging and racing their way into an endurance sport that has largely been populated by lean, white runners.
Indeed, black girls run. Their Facebook group is approaching 100 members. Workouts on Monday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings have turned out up to 25 runners. They're lacing up to battle the well-chronicled statistics on obesity, which show that nearly four in five African-American women are considered overweight and are at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Robin Perry, the ambassador for Greensboro's Black Girls Run! group, is leading the charge, along with her co-ambassador, Bebe Ramzah. The energy from these two running and health evangelists will challenge the best gel or sports drink.
"I guess they see this as a passion of mine," Perry says. "That maybe 'we can do it, too.' You see people and how they look. I’m 48 years old; I don’t look 48. I want to stay healthy."
BGR Founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks
Perry's and Ramzah's roles as ambassadors are multiple: They convert more followers. They advise group members about where they can find gear. They hand out information about training plans, whether it's Couch to 5K or Hal Higdon's half-marathon. They talk about nutrition. They put out water for group runs. They coach and they mentor, and they make sure no one gets left behind.
"When I first started, I couldn't even do five minutes on the treadmill," says Ramzah, 40. "But now I've been running for two years.”
In late June, Ramzah turned in 10-minute miles in completing the Freedom Run 10K downtown. Perry, meanwhile, finished a half-marathon in the Bahamas in January, will enter another one in September in Virginia Beach, Va., and wants to return to the Bahamas next January to complete a full.
Perry and Ramzah are coaching several runners who are building up to the Women's Only 5K Walk & Run in Greensboro on Oct. 1.
Perry, a native New Yorker who has served as a licensed practical nurse in the Army Reserve, has recruited to the group by using Facebook, posting flyers and grabbing people in the streets and in the gym.
“Running is my passion," Perry says. "It has helped me get through my divorce. I grew up in Harlem; it’s helped me get through a lot of things.”
Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks started Black Girls Run! nationally in 2009. What began as a blog has turned into a web site, complete with Black Girls Run! gear. Hicks says that the current 40 groups across the nation, including ones in Raleigh and Charlotte, will likely become 80 within a couple of weeks.
"A lot of times people are intimidated, don’t want to get started and don’t even know how," Hicks says. "Now they have the tools to get started and they have a support system. A lot of our groups have a lot of walkers, they’re getting out there and starting to jog a bit."
And, being clearly in a minority in endurance running, they're drawing attention.
"When we're out running, we get that all the time," Ramzah says. "Like, 'What’s going on?'"
What's going on is that these Greensboro women are running to get in shape, to combat the health risks. To do that, they're also having to let their hair down -- or rather, let it go. Naturally. That's one key reason you don't see more African American women competing in road and trail races.
"For us it's a process of getting our hair straight," Ramzah says. "For a lot of African-American women, that’s the first thing they tell you, 'I don’t want to sweat out my hair.' It's more important for me to get out and be healthy and be in shape.
"I love to run and I love to compete. I put that as a priority to how I may look."

The ‘Blackface’ Workplace

I read this article in the Chicago Sun Times and almost could not believe that these behaviors are STILL tolerated today...

Montrelle Reese said he “never felt more alone in my life” than he did during the two years he worked as a sales representative for the Westchester office of ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

It wasn’t just the frequent use of the n-word by his white supervisors and co-workers, the disparaging references to black neighborhoods that comprised Reese’s sales turf or even the blackface routine at a company meeting, he said.  It was the fact that a racially hostile work environment more prevalent in the 1960s was “part of the culture” at a German conglomerate that now wants to bring its North American regional headquarters to Chicago, Reese said.

Reese, who is African-American, worked at ThyssenKrupp Elevator from November 2007 until January 2010, before resigning because he said he could no longer tolerate the hostility.

On Monday, he talked to the Chicago Sun-Times about the allegations of abuse that prompted the Illinois Department of Human Rights to find “substantial evidence of discrimination” against the company that Mayor Rahm Emanuel proudly welcomed to Chicago last week.

“I never felt more alone in my life. I was in a depressed state. I would sit in my car for 20 to 30 minutes prior to entering the building, because I couldn’t handle being there,” said Reese, 33.

“These were the people directly responsible for my success in the company. I had to tolerate it. But after that blackface incident, I couldn’t take it anymore. I resigned in one of the toughest job markets in my lifetime, but I didn’t care. It was a regional conference. Management on every level was there. And that was funny to them.”

He added, “It wasn’t behind closed doors. It was out in the open. It was a collective atmosphere created by everyone. Without question, it was tolerated. There was no secret what was going on, because everybody participated.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don Cornelius, Wishing You Love, Peace and Soul

Don Cornelius
1936 - 2012
"You can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey"

Don Cornelius was an American television show host and producer who was best known as the creator of the nationally syndicated dance/music franchise Soul Train, which he hosted from 1971 to 1993.
Donald Cortez Cornelius was born in Chicago's South Side on September 27, 1936, and raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Following his graduation from DuSable High School in 1954, he joined the United States Marine Corps and served 18 months in Korea. He worked at various jobs following his stint in the military, including selling tires, automobiles, and insurance, and as an officer with the Chicago Police Department. 
He quit his day job to take a three-month broadcasting course in 1966 despite being married with two sons and only $400 in his bank account. In 1966, he landed a job as an announcer, news reporter and disc jockey on Chicago radio station WVON.

Cornelius joined Chicago television station WCIU-TV in 1967 and hosted a news program calledA Black's View of the News.
"We got another sound comin' out of Philly that's a sure 'nough dilly"
In 1970 he launched Soul Train on WCIU-TV as a daily local show. The program entered national syndication and moved to Los Angeles the following year.  Originally a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius recognized that in the late 1960s there was no television venue in the United States for soul music, and introduced many African-American musicians to a larger audience as a result of their appearances on Soul Train, a program that was both influential among African-Americans and popular with a wider audience. 
As writer, producer, and host of Soul Train, Cornelius was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black musicians such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson, as well as creating opportunities for talented dancers that would presage subsequent television dance programs. Spike Lee described the program as an "urban music time capsule."
"We had a show that kids gravitated to"

There was also the popular "Soul Train Line", in which all the dancers form two lines with a space in the middle for dancers to strut down and dance in consecutive order. Originally, this consisted of a couple - with men on one side and women on the other. In later years, men and women had their own individual line-ups. Sometimes, new dance styles or moves were featured or introduced by particular dancers. In addition, there was an in-studio group of dancers who danced along to the music as it was being performed. Rosie Perez, Damita Jo Freeman, Darnell Williams, Carmen Electra, Nick Cannon, MC Hammer, Jermaine Stewart, Fred "Rerun" Berry, Laurieann Gibson, Pebbles, and NFL legend Walter Payton were among those who got noticed dancing on the program over the years. Two former dancers, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel, enjoyed years of success as members of the R&B group Shalamar after they were chosen by Soul Train talent booker/record promoter Dick Griffey and Cornelius to replace the group's original session singers in 1978.Watley and Hewett would later enjoy success as a solo artists after leaving Shalamar

Who was this woman with the long hair again??? :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Etta James, Singing the Songs People Need to Hear

"I sing the songs that people need to hear..."    
Etta James

Etta James was a singer whose style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, gospel and jazz. Starting her career in the mid-1950s, she gained fame with hits such as "Dance With Me, Henry", "At Last", "Tell Mama", and "I'd Rather Go Blind" for which she wrote the lyrics. James made a musical resurgence in the late 1980s with the album The Seven Year Itch.  James released her latest studio album, The Dreamer, in November 2011.  

“You can't fake this music. You might be a great singer or a great musician but, in the need, that's got nothing to do with it. It's how you connect to the songs and to the history behind them.”

James is regarded as having bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll, and is the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008.  Rolling Stone ranked James number 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles. As a child, Etta was a gospel prodigy, singing in her church choir and on the radio at the age of 5. When she turned 12, she moved north to San Francisco where she formed a trio and was soon working for bandleader Johnny Otis.

"My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I'd like to think I did that."  

In 1954, she moved to Los Angeles to record "The Wallflower" (a tamer title for the then-risqué "Roll with Me Henry") with the Otis band. It was that year that the young singer became Etta James (an shortened version of her first name) and her vocal group was dubbed The Peaches (also Etta's nickname). Soon after, James launched her solo career with such hits as "Good Rockin' Daddy" in 1955.

After signing with Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, James' career began to soar. Chart toppers included duets with then-boyfriend Harvey Fuqua, the heart-breaking ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry," "At Last" and "Trust in Me." But James' talents weren't reserved for powerful ballads. She knew how to rock a house, and did so with such gospel-charged tunes as "Something's Got a Hold On Me" in 1962 and "In The Basement" in 1966. James continued to work with Chess throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.  In 1967, James recorded with the Muscle Shoals house band in the Fame studios, and the collaboration resulted in the triumphant Tell Mama album.

James' work gained positive attention from critics as well as fans, and her 1973 album Etta James earned a Grammy nomination, in part for its creative combination of rock and funk sounds. After completing her contract with Chess in 1977, James signed on with Warner Brothers Records. A renewed public profile followed her appearance at the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Subsequent albums, including Deep In The Night and Seven Year Itch, received high critical acclaim. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, prior to her signing a new recording contract with Private Records.
Later Career

With suggestive stage antics and a sassy attitude, James continued to perform and record well into the 1990s. Always soulful, her extraordinary voice was showcased to great effect on her recent private releases, including Blue Gardenia, which rose to the top of the Billboard jazz chart. In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds. The dramatic weight loss had an impact on her voice, as she told Ebony magazine that year. "I can sing lower, higher and louder," James explained.

That same year, Etta James released Let's Roll, which won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Her sons, Donto and Sametto James, served as producers on the recording, along with Josh Sklair. This team regrouped for her next effort,Blues to the Bone (2004), which brought James her third Grammy Award—this time in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. In 2006, James released the album All the Way, which featured cover versions of songs by Prince, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. She participated in a tribute album the following year for jazz great Ella Fitzgerald, called We Love Ella.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black Women in American Culture and History

When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926, he realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public.  The intention has never been to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience, but to bring to the public's attention important developments that merit emphasis. 

For those interested in the study of identity and ideology, an exploration of ASALH's Black History themes is itself instructive.  Over the years, the themes reflect changes in how people of African
descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the black community.

This year's theme "Black Women in American Culture and History" honors African American women and the myriad of roles they played in the shaping of our nation. The theme, chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History urges all Americans to study and reflect on the value of their contribution to the nation.

History of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson 
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.

By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. President Obama issued the 2012 annual proclamation just yesterday...

And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

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