cover photo. courtesy of CAAM and Harry Adams collection
The United States civil rights movement escalated with the 1955 murder of young Emmett Till. It was during that time the Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the leader. Fast forward to 1963 as the iconic March on Washington earned its place in the annals of world history. Through that event Dr. King’s reputation became cemented as he displayed his oratorical gift.
May 26, 1963
As great as the March on Washington was you must go back to May 26, 1963 to understand a cornerstone of how a rally in Los Angeles generated the success it did. Through the California African-American Museum (CAAM), historians and curators Tyree Boyd-Pates and Taylor Bythewood-Porter have created a “must-see” exhibit that underscores the little-known fact of how it was a critical complement to the March on Washington and why that date has historical significance.
Wrigley Field, Los Angeles
Titled, “Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963 “the exhibit highlights how Dr. King came to Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and stirred the crowd of 35,000 who came to hear him share why the movement needed their support. 1963 was a critical year. In Birmingham, AL Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor had unleashed a direct assault against the movement. Peaceful protestor’s were being locked up and given unreasonable bail amounts. Contrary to history, some have accepted the notion about Dr. King not being willing to go the jail? However, the facts are much different as it was agreed Dr. King could do more out of jail, than in jail. Thus, his time was spent traveling to various cities to raise funds needed to combat the malicious bail amounts rendered by the likes of Connor. It was that reason Los Angeles was a target for him to visit and make an appeal. The residents of Los Angeles responded and the rest is history as their support helped fuel the issue of providing money to get folk out of jail, and also helped undergird the funding needed for the eventual March on Washington.
Boyd-Pates and Bythewood-Porter have assembled a must-see exhibit. It runs through runs until March 3, 2019. Click BELOW to obtain the handout
[Exposition Park] On October 25th, the California African-American Museum (CAAM) kicked off its symposium series about Central Avenue. In what appeared to surprise CAAM, nearly 500 came out to hear the presentation from historian Robert Johnson and staff from the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center. The room was filled with enthusiasm and anticipation, and eventually swelled to a standing-room only crowd.
Central Avenue evokes positive feelings for African-Americans. The community became the pride and joy for many, particularly those known as “Easterners.” The event kicked off with a short video provided by the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center titled, “Los Angeles: Displacement of Utopia” It served as an excellent precursor to set the stage of how African-Americans were relegated to the Central Avenue district of Los Angeles. It showcased how despite tremendous racial hostility, they were able to carve out a community which became a model for those migrating from the south, who were also seeking a fresh start. (the video is expected to be made available to the public in the first quarter of 2019)
Johnson, through his brilliance spoke about the development of Central Avenue and how it became a cornerstone to showcase positive attributes of African-American culture. Staff from the Bradley center served as an excellent complement by sharing their research. They also encouraged those in attendance to contact them and help build more oral histories and other memorabilia to insure the story is historically correct. There were many in attendance who had a first-hand experience about Central Avenue. Among them was the son of John Dolphin who created and built the iconic Dolphins of Hollywood Record Shop.
As good as the event was, a downside was CAAM not being prepared for the large crowd. So many in attendance brought specific anecdotal experiences about Central Avenue. Unfortunately, the question and answer period lost its stealth due to a shortage of microphones needed for those to communicate their question as well as some who wanted to speak but could not refrain from turning a question into a diatribe. One other point which hopefully the organizers will address at the next series is keeping the questions on point.
The passion about Central Avenue was obvious from the vibe in the room. The African-American experience in Los Angeles is vast and no doubt Central Avenue has tremendous pride. The event was set for two hours and due to the overwhelming interest the discussion could have gone on for two weeks! However, some inadvertently commented about their general experience and other communities versus sticking to the topic everyone came to hear about: Central Avenue
One other criticism was noted regarding attendance demographics. A lady commented about bringing her mother as well as her kids and pointed out that many more might be in attendance (particularly millennials) to gain this important knowledge if the time was better suited for those who work during the day.
Admission is free. The series continues November 15th and December 13th. To RSVP CLICK HERE.
Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation housed at California State University Northridge. Click here bradley csun
This Friday, September 28th will mark a special day in the international community as Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel will make his first appearance at the United Nations Cuban Mission, in New York.
Prior to his historic appearance at the U.N., on Wednesday, September 26th he is the invited speaker at the iconic Riverside Church. The event is organized by Pastors for Peace.
During his trip it is expected Diaz-Canel will make an appeal for the half-century old embargo against his country imposed by the United States to be lifted. Also, on his schedule are meetings with U.S. business leaders.
Following a successful transition this past April, Diaz-Canel became president. This followed years of leadership by Raul Castro and his older brother Fidel Castro.
Approximately ten years ago we were able to adjust our schedule to allow for a trek to D.C. We picked the last week in August to commemorate and pay homage to the March on Washington. Each trek allows us to visit usual sites and reconnect with friends and over the years we seek out new venues to add to our journey. During our five-day stay here are several of the sites we visited.
March on Washington Commemoration
Even though the original event was held at the Lincoln Memorial, ever since the MLK memorial was erected activities have shifted there.
Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture
The NMAAHC continues to be a jewel at the national mall. This year our focus was visiting the new Oprah Winfrey exhibit as well as witness the musical rendition commemorating the murder of Emmett Till.
We added to new venue to this year’s trek; seeing the portraits of President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the National Portrait Gallery
The Obama’s left the White House in January 2017, so this year we added a visit to see their new residence. Due to high security you will not be able to walk down the street but it is located in the Northwest section of the District. The street on Belmont Road is one way and barricaded. If you are familiar with the Dupont Circle neighborhood, it is northwest (lots of embassies and larger properties). Of course, there is secret service on watch to ensure privacy
Anacostia is located in what is known as Southeast. The Anacostia river separates the main part of the District and this area. Many who visit the District miss visiting this community for various reasons. It is stigmatized due to it’s poverty and resulting criminal activity but for those who truly seek hidden jewels, even that will not stop them for trekking through the community.
The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum has an outstanding exhibit to help you better understand how communities all over the District were transformed following de-segregation.
Barry Farms is a historic part of Anacostia where African-Americans took up residence. Although much of the community has fallen on hard times and can see some tough images or extreme poverty, there are still many historic sites you can see. The biggest issue is feeling safe as you venture throughout the community, so while people are people it is not the type of place you just wander about without precautions or maintaining common-sense.
Inside the Barry Farms community is the legendary Goodman leagues outdoor basketball complex. It is world-renowned for its fierce competition featuring some of the best hoop action in the region. Many professional basketball players (those currently playing or those retired or no longer playing) make this a regular stop to mix-it up with regular neighborhood stars.
noun -informal -a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet.
Any trip takes lots of preparation and planning. An added bonus of going to different places is experiencing foods each region has to offer. Here is a summary of some of the places visited during our 2018 trek.
Busboy’s & Poet’s are well-known throughout the DMV (DC, Maryland & Virginia) area. One of their newest locations is on 5th Street, NW & K in the District of Columbia. They are known as a cultural enclave which combines bookstore with great food and inspiring art showing social consciousness.
Oohh’s & Aahh’s is located in the District of Columbia and part of the “U” street corridor directly across the street from the African-American Civil War monument. Their specialty is soul food. The venue is tight but there is limited seating upstairs, however be prepared to wait for seating. The other option is take-out but be patient as the line can be long. Pricing is affordable.
Sweet Home Cafe is part of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture located in the national mall at the District of Columbia. They give you a glimpse of African-American cuisine based on regions. It is a remarkable presentation. The food is fresh and there is a nice variety. Pricing may appear on the high side but it is worth it based on the venue and convenience.
[Washington, D.C.] On Wednesday, August 22nd Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 60th anniversary. Starting by selling half-smokes, Ben’s has morphed into an institution. Locals understand the lore and many who visit the District of Columbia always make room in their schedule to stop by the iconic restaurant, if nothing more than to pay respect.
On Friday we were treated to be in the company of Ben’s grand dame and family matriarch Mrs. Virginia Ali. She was her usual radiant self and took time to chat with my dear friend Renie Hale (Laurel, MD) and myself. As an added treat she invited me outside to showcase the new murals. In between she expressed views of how Ben’s must continue to meet the needs of a changing community to insure it remains a mainstay on U and the broader DC business community.
Another unexpected surprise was meeting Ben’s historian, Dr. Bernie Demczuk. We were presented with one of his great compilations.
(please accept our apologies for the soiled document)
We started going to Aruba in 2006 and each subsequent year our little trek has grown with new adventures.
Aruba is part of the Caribbean and its southern-most islands. As that part of the world was being colonized, it was the Dutch who claimed the region which as known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao). The big difference with Aruba specifically is the terrain as the environment is desertscape. In other words as colonization and slavery intersected, Aruba wasn’t an agricultural haven or produced timber and other natural resources like many other Caribbean countries, thus slavery or large numbers of physical labor wasn’t a requirement for development.
Tourism is a key sector and they do a very good job of catering to those who travel from around the world to see why the country is known “as the most friendly island in the world.”
Our recent Southern States trek featuring some new sites, as well as those we were familiar with, and even included some from days of the past. We ventured into Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas and covered about 1,500 miles.
Our dear friend James from San Francisco connected with us in Memphis, TN. This was our primary destination as the world commemorated the 50th anniversary on April 4th which was the day of Dr. King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel. At the time of Dr. King’s death we were teenagers. Now as adults we had a sense of urgency and consciousness which highlighted the historical importance of joining the hundreds of thousands who were also making the pilgrimage to Memphis.
Iconic Mountaintop Speech
Dr. King had an oratorical gift and many of his speeches are historic. Most had no idea that his “Mountaintop Speech” at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968 would be his last. Mason Temple through their connection with AFSME and the “I AM A MAN 2018” organization hosted an event where the full speech would be heard. We were blessed to be in attendance to hear the speech and pay homage to Dr. King and the sanitation worker’s.
On April 4th events were going on all over the nation. We participated in the events sponsored by the National Civil Rights Museum of which the Lorraine Motel is part of.
Roland Martin of TV took time to capture the day’s event
Later that evening, we were present to hear icons from the Civil Rights era participate in “An Evening of Storytelling.”
Capping off the commemoration was “An Evening of Storytelling” hosted by the MLK50 organization
clip courtesy of Roland Martin
Jim Crow is not a new foodie item! It is the euphemism White leadership created once legalized slavery ended. The emphasis was to develop a system and to establish customs which Blacks and other non-whites were mandated to follow. Failure to abide resulted in harsh punishment and for many; DEATH!!!
As African-Americans were emancipated from slavery, many whites or those in control could not fathom they had the same rights as them. Those who were in power took on a very stubborn attitude. The result was for them to create regulations, codes, customs to minimize or thwart African-Americans from obtaining equal rights. As mentioned they cleverly called the system Jim Crow.
The legacy of Jim Crow is evident even in 2018 as some whites have never accepted African-Americans as equal. It is engrained in the culture (in the United States and around the world). Interestingly the psyche affects whites and even Blacks who invariably marginalize other blacks.
“if we are to implement the American dream we must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
While Jim Crow was beaten down with legal victories during the civil rights movement, just like the Civil War; some uninformed Whites want to keep fighting it, as if it never ended. They do not accept the fact their ancestors or those who they revere participated in treason! The result in today’s reality is Jim Crow has spawned into a more sophisticated dynamic called James Crow, Esq. From voter suppression to economic discrimination; the bottom line is to do what is necessary to keep certain segments of the population in check.
There where many stops we made during our trek. Some were event specific or where we had reservations to attend. Others were the type of stops you make on a “day trip.” In addition to the Lorraine, we swung by Ruleville to finally get to see the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden.
A bigger find was traveling about forty minutes southeast through the Mississippi Delta and winding up in Money. For those who don’t know, Money is the site of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Store and where 14-year-old Emmett Till while in the store allegedly whistled at the store’s owner, Mrs. Carolyn Bryant. The act cost Till his life as he was accosted at 3am the next morning from the home where he was staying, which was with his uncle Moses Wright. Like most homes in the rural south, it was in the woods (or in the country) about three miles from the store. At gunpoint, Bryant’s husband, brother and others who formed a posse demanded Wright turn him over. After being savagely beaten and lynched the incident became national news as his mother, Mrs. Mamie Mobley shocked the world during the funeral and took the brave act insisting the casket remain open for all to see what Bryant’s posse had done.
Sadly fifty-three years later or in 2008, Carolyn Bryant recanted her claim that Till EVER whistled at her!!!!!!. Her interview is chronicled in a book which came out in 2017. Regardless, that was the custom of the south or behavior certain Whites took toward harassing Blacks. Through the years many who made claims or assertions against Blacks, which caused great harm have been found to be untrue.
For those like us who had never been to Money, we quickly realized the town is more of an outpost of Greenwood. Our next stop took us two hours to the south and we finally arrived at the state capitol in Jackson. The site we were eager to see was the new Mississippi Civil Rights museum. The organizers have done an amazing job of interpreting Mississippi’s involvement as it relates to African-American’s. The violence showcased is incredible.
Following Jackson we ventured another two hours to antebellum Natchez. Crossing the mississippi river we finally landed into Louisiana and made some stops in Vidalia, Ridgecrest and Ferriday, which is where my father hails from. In summary, the four-state trek was a blessing and something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Here are some scenes we are happy to share.
inside the museum
LeMoyne-Owens College – Memphis
even Bonanza took a stance
Kolongi created this masterpiece
the great Unita Blackwell
the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
great portrait inside the National Civil Rights Museum – Memphim
[Memphis, TN] If you appreciate culture you more than likely have art hanging on your wall. If you are like me you treasure great work but have run out of wall space or money? However, just when you thought you had enough art you come across a piece that you must have.
On the 50th commemoration of the day Dr. King was assassinated, Judith and I were trekking down south Main street near Talbot avenue, which is down the street from the National Civil Rights Museum and came across this artist who was just setting up. We now know his name is KOLONGI. Once he pulled out his prints, all manner of being broke as a belglade Indian or being financially embarrassed disappeared, as we knew this was a special piece which we had to have.
It is a remarkable piece. It has an African-American theme and Kolongi calls it, “Summoned by the Ancestors.” However, regardless of your ethnicity if you too appreciate art, history or culture I would encourage you to add this to your collection.
It depicts President Barack Obama during a meeting. He was summoned by the ancestors to discuss issues of importance to the African American community and the best path forward for our people. The ancestors that summoned him were Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali.
I asked Kolongi what was his inspiration for creating this masterpiece? He indicated, “I always look for things which are unique and because so many people appreciated Obama and what he represented I wanted to create a piece featuring him while calling on the ancestors for guidance.”
I was happy to hear the large supply of prints Kolongi made sold out within hours and I am glad we had sense to scrape up enough money to grab it and have it framed.