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A free, month-long film lineup will focus on the role of women in the civil rights movement, offering five Thursday screenings followed by discussions.
Part of the African American History Film and Discussion Series, all events will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the AHA, located at 200 South Pearl St., Albany. They’re sponsored by the Center for Law and Justice, the Albany Housing Authority and the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region.
Details below. For more information, call 427-8361.
Black History Month, February 2015
Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week. This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglasson February 14, both of which dates Black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
At the time of Negro History Week’s launch Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society: “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. By 1929 The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions officials with the State Departments of Educations of “every state with considerable Negro population” had made the event known to that state’s teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event.”Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the pages of the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.
Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday. In 1976 Black History Week was expanded to Black History Month.Today it is celebrated throughout the United States, England and Canada
Carter G, Woodson (1875-1950) African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History as well as the Journal of Negro History. Woodson was one of the first scholars to study African American history. In February 1926 he announced the celebration of “Negro History Week”, which over time became celebrated as Black History Month.
Woodson was a scholar and activist. Born to parents who had been enslaved, he spent his entire life promoting the study of African American life. He attended the University of Chicago earning both a BA and MA. He attended Harvard, becoming the second African American, after WEB DuBois to earn a PhD. He taught in public schools before joining the faculty at Howard University.
Convinced that the role of African American history and the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson saw a need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Along with Alexander L. Jackson, Woodson published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 in 1915. In that same year he organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), and published The Journal of Negro History. In addition to his first book, he wrote A Century of Negro Migration, which continues to be published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). He studied many aspects of African-American history. For instance, in 1924, he published the first survey of free black slave-owners in the United States in 1930.
After leaving Howard University because of differences with its president,Woodson devoted the rest of his life to historical research. He worked to preserve the history of African Americans and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He wrote that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”Race prejudice, he concluded, “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”
In 1926, Woodson pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week”,designated for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.The week of recognition became accepted and has been extended as the full month of February, now known as Black History Month.
Woodson believed in self-reliance and racial respect, values he shared with Marcus Garvey, and was regular columnist for Garvey’s weekly Negro World. His political activism placed him at the center of a circle of many black intellectuals and activists from the 1920s to the 1940s. He corresponded with W. E. B. Du Bois, John E. Bruce, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Hubert H. Harrison, and T. Thomas Fortune among others. Even with the extended duties of the Association, Woodson made time to write academic works such as The History of the Negro Church (1922), The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), and others, which continue to have wide readership.
Lynch, who is set to face a tough hearing for the post, started a chapter of the sorority at Harvard with current Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife, Sharon Malone. Though the connection was seen as controversial to members of the right-wing media, her sorority sisters proudly donned the organization’s signature colors—crimson and cream—in the hearing room.
The sorority was founded in 1913 at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University on tenets of empowerment, justice, and community service. Several current and former members of Congress are members, including Reps. Joyce Beatty and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Rep. Yvette Clark of New York, and former Congresswomen Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm.
by Courtney Elder
It’s been a week since a New York grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Garner died in July after Pantaleo and other officers of Staten Island’s 120th police precinct suspected that he was illegally selling cigarettes.
Footage of the incident captured from a cell phone went viral after Pantaleo was seen placing his arms around Garner’s neck in a disturbing manner. Not long after, a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death as a homicide as a result of a chokehold—a move banned by the New York Police Department.
As the sister to two brothers, I have come to understand my brothers’ lives entirely differently since the more-than-shocking decision that the grand jury made to not indict Pantaleo. Like I’m sure is true for many sisters, brothers are our heroes. My brothers have been my heroes for a long time, as they’ve saved me from many life-altering situations—ones I dare not tell my parents about.
My brother Chauncey, who is the oldest, teases me. He teased me when were little and he teases me now. However, if anyone else ever thought of teasing me when we were young, they would have been in for a serious tongue-lashing—as serious a tongue-lashing adolescents could think to give. Teasing each other is just how our love for one another is set up.
I remember vividly my second-oldest brother looking out for me in our neighborhood park in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, when we were growing up. He was the first one there when my time spent on the playground was not always easy and when it came to making friends. The kids on the playground knew that whenever Courtney’s brother Joshua came around, he was there to stick up for his little sister at all costs.
Fast-forward to the day of grand jury’s decision and therein lies my daunting, macabre reality.
At the edge of my full-size bed we sat, my brother on the left side toward the television. Cellphones were silenced in anticipation of the jury’s ruling. The volume was turned up so high that I was sure the upstairs neighbors could have listened if they wanted to.
I was looking at my brother and he was looking at me. The expression on my face appeared optimistic—at least that’s the look I was going for—but in my mind and heart, I did not have a clue as to what the grand jury was preparing to say.
On my Facebook page, everyone had their own idea as to what the decision would be. It seemed like everyone had their degrees in law or criminal justice that day. And then it happened. Pantaleo would not be indicted in the death of Garner.
As I positioned myself back on the bed and looked over at my brother, I saw him sadder than I had ever seen him in my entire life.
Sure, I had seen my brother upset before, crying, maybe a time or two, but I hadn’t seen him quite like this. Joshua’s face was flushed and all expression waned from his face. In his own way, he was defeated. It was in that moment that he wasn’t that same brother who came to the park ready to make sure that no one was there to tease me.
I thought more of how I could save him, how I could protect him from a systemic issue created by the police—those appointed to protect us, the community.
Just as I observed my brother and we began to engage in discussion on our various social networking accounts, his phone rang:
“[sic] Will you go walk for me? That’s going on right now, you know that, right?” said my intelligent and curious eight-year-old niece to her dad Joshua.
“Yeah. I know. I know. I know. It’s so hard to explain it,” said father to daughter.
“That’s not happening to my daddy!”
“I’m always going to be here. You know that.”
As macabre as it may seem, for some reason I’m not sure if Joshua knows if he’s “always going to be here.” And that’s why I’m faced with what could be such a daunting reality if one day the police decide to fall short of their mantra to protect and serve.
So my hopes for my brother Joshua are different. My hopes for both of my brothers are different. I no longer hope for them to be there to save me like they so very often have. I hope for them to be able to save themselves from anyone that attempts to harm them, including the police.
It is customary, when disturbances follow a verdict of the kind delivered by theFerguson grand jury, for those in authority to buttress their appeals for calm with a higher calling: the rule of law. Without it there would be chaos; only through it can there be order. As President Barack Obama said on Monday: “We are a nation based on the rule of law so we need to accept that this was the special jury’s decision to make.”
The trouble is that the United States, for far longer than it has been a “nation of laws”, has been a nation of injustice. And in the absence of basic justice such laws can amount to little more than codified tyranny. When a white cop, Darren Wilson, shoots an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, dead and then is not indicted, the contradiction is glaring. For a world where it is not only legal for people to shoot you dead while you walk down the street, but where they can do so in the name of the law, is one in which some feel they have nothing to lose. And, in the words of James Baldwin: “There is nothing so dangerous as a man who has nothing to lose. You do not need 10 men. Only one will do.”
It is through this chasm, between the official claim to an impartial legal system and the reality of endemic racial injustice, that Wilson made his escape, with the flames of Ferguson in hot pursuit. For Wilson was not exonerated. The grand jury decided there was not even “probable cause” to put him on trial. As the website FiveThirtyEight points out, this is very rare. The Bureau of Justice reveals that in 2010 US attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases, and grand juries declined to return an indictment in just 11.
The fact that most people nonetheless expected such a verdict – Ferguson was effectively under military occupation for the last week in anticipation of the disturbances that would inevitably occur when Wilson walked – simply illustrates how much of a sham the whole process has been.There is a glaring exception to these odds: police officers involved in shootings. An investigation by the Houston Chronicle discovered that a Houston police officer hasn’t been indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, since 2004; between 2008 and 2012 grand juries in Dallas have indicted just one officer involved in a shooting.
So when it comes to the lethal use of force the police do not just constitute a special category, but a protected and elevated one. In this “nation of laws” those charged with enforcing the law evidently operate above it, while the judiciary exists not to mediate between the police and the public but to defend them from the public.
And they employ these privileges with great prejudice. According to analysis by ProPublica, black kids are 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed in police shootings. If white youths were killed by police at the same rate they would die at a rate of more than one a week.
Together these statistics, along with discrepancies for stop-and-search, sentencing, incarceration and execution, set police power and black life at opposite ends of a value system which is not only morally indefensible but, ultimately, socially unsustainable. The sight of a split screen – with the first black president appealing for calm on one side, and alienated black youth looting and burning on the other – lays bare the limits of what constitutes success in the post civil-rights era. Racial disparities are simultaneously so brazenly displayed and denied that the country risks imploding under the burden of its history, even as it trumpets its achievements in overcoming that same burden.
So those who misunderstand the verdict as an isolated incident are doomed to misunderstand everything that flows from it: from the riots, justifications, denials and rationalisations to the calls for calm and expressions of rage. For this was never just about one teenager, one policeman, or one verdict.
On Sunday a black 12-year-old, Tamir Rice, was shot dead by police in a playground in Cleveland after he went for his fake toy gun. Three days earlier Akai Gurley, 28, was shot dead in his stairwell in Brooklyn. A neighbour called the cops, not realising that it was a cop who shot him. The New York police department apologised, admitting the shooting was “accidental”. In St Louis alone two young black men have been shot by police since Brown’s shooting.
Nor is it a morality play in which a decent, black child is slain by a malicious, white cop. The inherent nature of the injustice was not systematic (Wilson had never discharged his gun before), but systemic. He operates in an organisation where few police are sanctioned for killing black youths; and in a culture where armed white men can cite their fear of unarmed black men as a defence. A fear so intense that they have to shoot them. Have to. Since, apparently, no other possible outcome was possible. He “had the most intense aggressive face”, Wilson told the grand jury. “[He] was like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”
“A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect,” wrote the black intellectual WEB Dubois. The verdict has met the low expectation of many African Americans. The law has spoken; justice has yet to make itself heard.
Professor Haroon Kharem of the School of Education in Brooklyn College addresses the audience on Shirley Chisholm Day 2014.
Zinga Fraser is the Endowed Post-doctoral Fellow Women’s and Gender Studies in Brooklyn College. Zinga Fraser addresses the audience on Shirley Chisholm Day 2014.
Antonio Javar mentors and works alongside youth for organizations like the YMCA and the National Action Network. Antonio Javar addresses the audience on Shirley Chisholm Day 2014 in Brooklyn College.