Saturday, January 26, 2013

Documentary Suggestion of The Week - The Black Power Mixtape

A new feature of the blog will be a weekly suggestion of cool documentaries that I feel you should check out. They will usually be easily accessible through Netflix or Youtube. To start this segment off right I am suggesting The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. The documentary consists of footage shot by Swedish reporters from the year of 1967-1975. The film is broken down into nine chapters taking a look at the events of each year. What is interesting about the picture is that it done from the point of view of foreign journalist. Most of the literature or film about this time in our history was done by white or black Americans.

The film features figures such as Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. The landmark events of the time such as the King assassination, the Attica uprising and Vietnam War are all looked at through the eyes of these journalist. There is commentary from people like Angela Davis and Harry Belafonte who were around and participating in the Black Power Movement. There is also some real good commentary from Talib Kweli, Questlove and Eryka Badu who represent the generation that followed the movement. With an incredible music playing in the backdrop this is a must watch.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Meet Bayard Rustin

The Civil Rights Movement consists of many individuals whom fought and sacrificed in the struggle for freedom. Some of our heroes are well known like Malcolm X, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther King. Today we focus on a lesser known freedom fighter by the name of Bayard Rustin. Although not as famous, Rustin is one of the most interesting and influential in the history of the movement.

Born in West Chester, PA in 1912, he was raised by his grandparents Janifer and Julia Rustin. Julia’s Quaker beliefs and her political involvement were early influences on a young Bayard. She was a member of the NAACP which allowed her grandson to come in contact with men like WEB Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson. He carried on her pacifist beliefs with him throughout his life. As a young man he was active in campaigning in Jim Crow laws in West Chester.

In 1932 he enrolled in Wilberforce University. Rustin left Wilberforce in 1936 without taking his final exams. It has been said that Rustin was kicked out because he staged several protest over the quality of food served at the school. From there he headed to New York City. While there in 1936 he joined the Young Communist Party. Receiving orders from the Soviet Union the party was active in the civil rights movement. Rustin was also known as a pretty good vocalist. He was even apart a short lived Broadway show that featured him, Josh White and the legendary Paul Robeson.

During the World War II era in 1941 Bayard switched affiliations and joined the Socialist Party. There he got to meet other legendary labor leader Asa Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Along with fellow pacifist lead A.J. Muste the leader of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) they planned a march on Washington due to the racial segregation in the military. The march was later canceled after Randolph met with President Roosevelt at the White House. Then Executive Order 8802 of the Fair Employment act which banned discrimination in the military and federal organizations. Rustin also helped Japanese citizens who were locked in internment camps during the war protect their property.

Throughout the 1940s Rustin was an active force in the civil rights struggle. In 1942 he along with James Farmer and George Houser founded the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). The group was influenced by Ghandi and his nonviolent disobedience movement in India. Being a pacifist Rustin was charged with violating the Selective Service Act for refusing to be drafted into the military during World War II. He and other members of CORE were convicted and served time in Lewisburg Federal Prison for their not entering the military. While in prison Bayard protested segregation in the dining halls.
After being released Rustin hit the ground running. He along with the other members of CORE began challenging segregated transportation in the south. Almost 20 years before Freedom Summer, Rustin organized 8 blacks and 8 whites to ride through segregated states. They were arrested multiple times throughout the region to highlight the issue and challenge these states violations of federal law. In 1948 the Council Against Intolerance in America awarded Rustin and George Houser their Thomas Jefferson Award for the Advancement of Democracy for their efforts.

In 1955 Rustin was called to Montgomery, AL to help with the bus boycott after the arrest of Rosa Parks. This is where he first encountered a young Martin Luther King. Bayard became advisor and colleague of Dr. King. He helped him start the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). He is even believed to have schooled Dr. King on the true meaning of Non-violent resistance. Prior to meeting Rustin a the young preacher had armed security and kept a gun in his home.

In 1963 Rustin got the biggest job of his career but also brought him the most heat. He was tapped to plan the March on Washington. Many black leaders opposed the idea of Rustin planning such a task because they thought his past could be exploited. Due to his communist ties, multiple arrest and the fact that he was a homosexual was a liability. Roy Wilkins the head of the NAACP thought that southern politicians would use this against him compromise the entire event. J. Edgar Hoover who was head of the FBI at the time, whom just so happened to have been following Rustin for years decided to share his file with those very politicians.

On August 28th, 1963 the March was held and become the most famous event of the civil rights movement. The crowd was estimated to be between 250,000 – 400,000 people. The march was for Jobs and Freedom and had a lot of support from labor unions. There were many speakers that included, Roy Wilkins (NAACP), John Lewis (SNCC) and of course Dr. Martin Luther King, who delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. After the event Rustin had a lower profile but was still a trusted advisor of King.

Bayard was seen as an asset to the trade union movement and headed the AFL-CIO’s new civil rights initiative. In 1965 he was the head of the Phillip Randolph Institute which was named after his close friend. He held that post until 1979. Rustin was also very active in Vietnam War protest and the beginning of the gay rights movement. He is quoted in saying that “The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it’s the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated.” That quote was from 1986, Rustin passed away on August 24th of 1987.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wheres my MLK Movie?

With Monday being the day that America observes the Martin Luther King holiday I have been seeing a lot of his quotes and speeches in various places. This made me question something about his legacy. Where is the definitive MLK movie? I know there have been small pictures depicting his life. There is even a movie titled ‘Memphis’ by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum). No offense to Paul but the title already tells me that this will not be the deep piece I was hoping for. According to an article in the Huffington Post the film is “to focus on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- specifically in the time leading up to his death.”

Say what you want about Martin Luther King but he is our most famed civil rights icon. In the days where Abraham Lincoln has a fictional and a fact based movie come out, I think it shows there is some box office in history. King would be good because he is a more relatable and recent figure. I need a filmmaker to step up the way Spike Lee did to make Malcolm X. Unlike Lee the filmmaker whom presents this project may actually get some funding from a major studio.

Don’t get me wrong I do understand that there will be some challenges to making a movie on this scale. It maybe that some in Hollywood are fearful of taking on such a huge task. The length of the film would be the first issue because it’s hard to tell a life story in two hours. Then there is the content and do we talk about some of the negative parts of King’s past. Would a depiction of anything bad despite how factual it could be hurt the image of a hero. All those things being said I would like somebody to get it done.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Congressional Congrestion

The United States House of Representatives seems to have some serious issues. No bills seem to be passed or voted on in a timely manner. It seems like every issue today is a battle between the two major parties. Don’t get me wrong all levels of politics have issues but today I am singling out the House of Representatives. It seems like this is where the major legislative congestion is coming from.

The major breakdown appears to come from not wanting to work together. These elected officials have forgotten what the American people have sent up to the hill for. Their Senate counterparts do a lot bickering and infighting but seem to pass the bills that make sense for everybody. The House will let bills sit and die but off.

Lately it appears to be bills that most Americans would assume to be no brainers. Most notably the bills for Hurricane Sandy and The Violence Against Women Act. There should be no partisan grandstanding here. Why is there any hold up here? Sandy aid finally got a vote after enough pressure but it shouldn’t have taken that much pushing. Neither party wants the other to get credit for getting anything done even at the expense of them not getting anything done.

As the people we should be frustrated and disgusted by these actions. The only suggestion really is for the people to make their voices heard. In the modern era we don’t even have to write letters. There are emails, phones and even tweets to get our elected officials attention. Also remember the beautiful thing about the House is that they are up for election every two years and 2014 is not that far away. If your representative is not holding things up then make them accountable for not calling out their fellow counterparts. The power for change is in all of our hands.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What Is Reality Anymore

There is a new reality show on the horizon. The Oxygen Network could possibly air “All My Baby Mamas” starring one Shawty Lo aka Carlos Walker. For those of you not familiar with Mr Walker’s work he is a one hit rapper from Atlanta, GA. The show will highlight a lesser known fact the Lo have father 11 children by 10 different women. (Insert all negative stereotypes here). I like’s Nolan Strong reference as a “modern family” unit. I guess he was being kind.

The internet has started buzzing like crazy over this show. There are all calls for boycotts of the show already. Unfortunately that is not what stops a show from getting on air and may even motivate the network to move forward with the program. It appears to follow the current reality show format that creates the no talent internet celebs we have come to enjoy such as a Snooki, Honey Boo Boo or any of the Real Housewives from anywhere. The reward for being outrageous and hard to deal with is stardom.

For those of you who don’t want the show to air and think it will have too many negative images get ready for disappointment. Here is the hard pill we as a society cheer on these type of train wrecks. Twitter and Facebook will have this show as a hit. If you are an outraged member of the black community trust when I tell you the establishment really doesn’t care about your feelings. Also every negative tweet or post you make about the show the network counts that as a viewer. Advertisers love viewers especially that don’t boycott their products.

For my fellow members of the black community don’t overreact. This is not a representation of the entire black community. I mean really do you know a guy with 10 baby’s mothers. This is a representation of what draws TV ratings and as whole what America wants to see. I think maybe the answer is just to ignore it. Don’t talk about it at all. We all know controversy sells so the shame of the entire race will only sell this more.

So I say get ready for spring 2013 when the show is slated to air. If you want to watch with enjoyment or breakdown the physiological issues that all of the characters must be facing in this situation. Of course when I say breakdown that I really mean to mock and make fun of. Ten women with some issues, as they try to make this weird situation work with this irresponsible man who happens to have enough money to make this all work.