Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Lizzie Miles

On March 31 in Black History…

In 1895, Lizzie Miles was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Miles was an African-American cabaret and blues singer. Born Elizabeth Mary Landreaux, Miles sang pop ballads, vaudeville standards, and jazz-colored blues, both in French and English. During her prime, she attracted the same kind of audience that made Edith Wilson, Alberta Hunter, and Lucille Hegamin stars. Never dubbed a classic blues woman, when she sang the blues, she sang them with conviction. 

Miles used her beauty and her huge voice to create a sophisticated, urbane style that was more suited for settings like the Cotton Club in Harlem than the tent shows of the South. Miles began her career singing in front of New Orleans bands that included such noted jazz musicians as King Oliver and Kid Ory, though, in her youth, she had worked Southern vaudeville shows and even joined up with a circus.

Eventually she left New Orleans and moved to Chicago, then to New York, Paris, and back again to New York, all the while working clubs and cabarets. She recorded for Okeh in 1921 and later did sessions for Emerson, Columbia, and Victor. Although her recording catalog isn’t large, songs such as State Street Blues demonstrate the vocal dexterity she possessed. In the late 1930s, Miles returned to New Orleans and retired. However, in the 1950s, she resumed her career, performing and recording with the Bob Scobey Band and appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. She retired a second time in 1959.  Read more here:

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon and his Dad
I hesitated to post anything about Trayvon's Martin's murder until all the facts were out.  However, at this point it seems like that may take a while so....

Here's basically what happened:  A 17 year black boy was shot in the chest by a man claiming self defense against the boy who was only carrying a bag of skittles and an Arizona iced tea on his way home from the store.

This latest article in the Miami Herald best sums up what we currently know...

Either way, it brings up so many issues.  Did the neighborhood watch captain need to be on patrol with a gun?  Would it have been different if Trayvon had not been a black kid, especially since they're saying recent burglaries in the are were suspected to be done by young black men?  Does the fact that Zimmerman was Hispanic mean that he could not have been racist?  Does Florida's gun law justify the killing if he claims he felt threatened?  Does the fact that Trayvon was having some trouble in school mean he deserved to be shot and killed?  Do Black parents need to reassess what conversations they need to have with their young black sons related to race in America?  Would this case have been closed and forgotten if it weren't for social media?

These are just a few of the questions, issues that arise from this tragedy.  I think the most important question of all is....WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE????

March in Black History

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

On March 31 in Black History…
In 1999, Toni Morrison wins the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved
In 1901, U.S. Navy Seaman Alphonse Gerandy, serving on the US Petrel, risked his own life to safe crewmen during a fire. His Medal of Horor was presented in 1902.
In 1895, Lizzie Miles was born.

On March 30 in Black History…
In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, securing voting rights for all male U.S. citizens.

On March 15 in Black History…
In 1933, Leon H. Washington founded the Los Angeles Sentinel.

On March 12 in Black History…
In 1982, Charles Fuller wins the Pulitzer Prize for A Soldier's Play
In 1773, Jeanne Baptiste Pointe de Sable founded settlement now known as Chicago, Ill, 1773.
In 1912, Dorothy Height was born.
In 1936, Virginia Hamilton, juvenile fiction writer, born
In 1962, Darryl Strawberry, New York Mets controversial star outfielder was born in Los Angeles.

On March 7 in Black History…
In 1965 - Civil Rights March in Alabama
In 1985, " We Are the World" single is released to benefit African famine.
In 1945 - Anthony Bonair, photographer, born
In 1917 - Janet Collins, ballerina was born in New Orleans, Louisiana
In 1859 - Blacks Declared Non-Citizens of US - The Acting Commissioner of General Lands for the United States, J.S. Wilson, stated that blacks were not citizens of the United States, and therefore were not legally entitled to preempt public lands.In 1539 - Estavanico Dorantes, a black Moorish slave, led a Spanish expedition to the southwestern North Ameican continent in search for El Dorado, the lost City of Gold. Their search is unsuccessful and Estavanico is later killed by native peoples.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Most Powerful Women in DC

Elle Magazine named Susan Rice and Sheila Johnson among the 10 most powerful women in Washington.

Susan Rice
­Susan Rice, America’s ambassador to the United ­Nations, is a ­famously tough, ­forthright, and passionate advocate who, at 47, is ­already ­a ­veteran of nearly 20 years of foreign-policy and ­diplomatic ­service dating back to the first Clinton administration.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jada Williams 21st Century Abolitionist at 13 Years Old

Jada Williams
"to MY peers people of color in MY generation, blood sweat and tears have been shed for us to obtain any goals which we have set for our set for ourselves...never be afraid to excel and achieve...we are free to learn..."

I came across this story of 13 year old Miss Jada Williams who read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass over the Christmas break and submitted an essay for a contest.  The Frederick Douglass Foundation contacted Jada and honored her with the Spirit of Freedom award, saying that her essay "actually demonstrates that she understood the autobiography.  On her award are the words, "21st Century Abolitionist".  But it seems not everyone was so impressed:

"In a bold comparative analysis of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Jada Williams, a 13-year old eighth grader at School #3 in Rochester, New York, asserted that in her experience, today's education system is a modern-day version of slavery. According to the Fredrick Douglass Foundation of New York, the schools' teachers and administrators were so offended by Williams' essay that they began a campaign of harassment—kicking her out of class and trying to suspend her—that ultimately forced her parents to withdraw her from the school." Read the entire story.

Watch Jada recite her essay:

Williams' parents say other teachers began to single out their daughter, a problem that a series of meetings failed to address. They requested a transfer from School #3 and the District switched her to School #19. On February 6, her first day at the new school, Williams said she witnessed several fights and didn't feel comfortable going back. Tuesday was her first day attending School #19 in nearly a month. She did not go back Wednesday. Williams feels expressing her opinion about the Frederick Douglass book has ruined her life. Fighting back tears, she said,

 "I love to go to school and I feel like they're taking that away from me."

Williams' mother said this controversy is not about race, but about her daughter's ability to express her thoughts freely. Her essay was recently acknowledged by the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York, which awarded the 13-year-old its first-ever Spirit of Freedom Award on February 18.  Read more....

The Superintendent finally called to apologize Friday night, March 2.  Is this enough?
Please contact Rochester Superintendent of Public Schools Vargas Bolgen at or call (585) 262-8100 to voice your concerns about Ms. Jada Williams being force out of school because she wants her classmates to learn.

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