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May 2008

May 29, 2008

Reparations Suit

The Anderson at Large blog addresses a case currently working its way through the Federal Courts. More background at link.

Back in the day, the Gap Band had a big hit with “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” The group is from Tulsa, Okla., where in 1921 white vigilantes looted and burned America’s most prosperous black community. More than 300 people were killed, 1,200 homes and businesses destroyed, and 10,000 citizens displaced.

As my friend Harvard Law Prof. Charles A. Ogletree Jr. likes to tell audiences, the band’s name memorializes the site of the race riot. Gap is short for Greenwood Avenue, and Archer and Pine streets that were the heart of the Greenwood business district known as the “Black Wall Street.”

Ogletree is the lead counsel in a lawsuit to get reparations for the survivors, who include 105-year-old Otis Clark and Dr. John Hope Franklin. Dr. Franklin’s father’s law office was burned down by the white mob.

The time for justice is long overdue. To commemorate the 87th anniversary of one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, there will be a series of events in Tulsa this weekend.

The events will include the premiere of “Before They Die,” the story of the survivors’ four-year search for justice through the federal court system. Reggie Turner, the film’s director and producer, said:

May 23, 2008

NPR Op-Ed On Statue Design

National Public Radio has an audio op-ed from Ibram Rogers on the recent design controversy. Rogers is strongly in favor of a "confrontational" image.

"King was never happy with America, so why are the feds forcing him to smile now?" Rogers writes. "An activist by his or her very nature is confrontational, and King was the quintessential activist. King was not only confrontational, he thought it was morally imperative for his countrymen to be the same."

Rogers' op-ed, "A Stone-Faced Lie on the Mall," appeared Thursday in The Root.

May 22, 2008

Last Remaining Plaintiff in Brown V. Board of Education Dies

Zelma Henderson who died last night at the age of 89 was the last living plaintiff to file suit against the Board of Education of Topeka.  This historic trial led to the Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools and served as a major triumph leading to the civil rights era.

In 1950 she signed onto the litigation on behalf of her children challenging Topeka's segregated schools. In all, 13 black parents, including the Rev. Oliver Brown, took part in the federal court case.

The plaintiffs lost in U.S. District Court, but the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, along with similar cases from Virginia, South Carolina and Delaware, all challenging the constitutionality of racial segregation of public schools. They were consolidated by the court as Brown v. Board. A similar case from the District of Columbia was decided the same day, but wasn't part of Brown.

The high court's unanimous ruling overturning school segregation came on May 17, 1954. It outlawed the "separate but equal" doctrine and was a prelude to the civil rights movement.

Black Bloggers Upset With DNC

Many black bloggers believe the list of state bloggers who will be blogging from the Democratic convention is seriously lacking in diversity.

Black bloggers do not share Daughtry’s excitement. They are outraged over the lack of diversity. BTW, Daughtry is the daughter of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn. A longtime community leader, Rev. Daughtry was arrested during the recent pray-in for justice for Sean Bell.

Francis L. Holland of the Afrospear is leading the charge. Disclosure: I’m a member of the Afrospear but I don’t have a dog in the fight for two reasons.

King As He Was

President and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Harry Johnson addresses the recent design controversy via an item in the AJC.

While it is not unusual for the CFA and foundations similar to ours to have creative differences, we were surprised at the timing of such criticism, since we had submitted similar images of the Stone of Hope to the CFA since November.

As a result of the criticism, we scheduled a face-to-face meeting with the chairman of the CFA this week and agreed that we are not as far apart as reported. We agreed that some tweaking —- not a major overhaul —- is needed. Additionally, we were pleased to read that the CFA member who communicated this criticism told The New York Times this past weekend that he now regrets the language of the letter. We will submit an updated image at the beginning of June, and it is our hope to receive final CFA approval.

Also, with the header "King As He Was," Chris Suellentrop at The New York Times appears to agree with Eugene Robinson's piece we linked two days ago.

May 21, 2008

Is Driving While Black A Crime?

Some reflections from a blogger on the experience of "Driving while black." It's important to not forget that the discussion around Civil Rights continues for a reason.

I found out yesterday a good friend of mine spent the night in jail because he didn't have his license on him. I will back up and say since I have lived in Atlanta, I have come across at least two "roadblocks" by police in neighborhoods that I would classify as "predominately" Black. The routine is for the police to block the road and ask everyone to see their license. If you don't have your license you get a ticket that ranges from $300 to $500 or more then if you are "unlucky" or DWB (Driving While Black) you may get a visit to the county jail...

May 20, 2008

Audio: NPR: Talk of the Nation - Confrontational Image is Appropriate

Ibram Rogers, writer for the Root, gives an Op-Ed on NPR's Talk of the Nation supporting the current design of the Stone of Hope.  Callers express both approval as well as displeasure.

To hear an online recording of the discussion, go here and click "Listen Now."

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has expressed concern that a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. planned for the Washington Mall makes him appear "confrontational." In a recent op-ed, Ibram Rogers says a confrontational rendering of the civil rights leader is entirely appropriate.

"King was never happy with America, so why are the feds forcing him to smile now?" Rogers writes. "An activist by his or her very nature is confrontational, and King was the quintessential activist. King was not only confrontational, he thought it was morally imperative for his countrymen to be the same."

Rogers' op-ed, "A Stone-Faced Lie on the Mall," appeared Thursday in The Root.

Robinson On King

Columnist Eugene Robinson weighs in on the current monument design discussion via The Washington Post today.

Here's what is really going on: It's clear that some people would prefer to remember King as some sort of paragon of forbearance who, through suffering and martyrdom, shamed the nation into doing the right thing. In truth, King was supremely impatient. He was a man of action who used pressure, not shame, to change the nation. The Montgomery bus boycott, to cite just one example, was less an act of passive resistance than a campaign of economic warfare. Yes, he knew that televised images of black people walking miles to work would help mold opinion around the world. But he also knew that depriving the bus companies of needed revenue would hit the Jim Crow system where it really hurt.

Lei, the sculptor, is understandably miffed at the commission's second-guessing, especially since the panel had already approved the basic concept -- King is supposed to be emerging from a massive "Stone of Hope" like a superhero with the power to walk through walls. The artist points out that the chosen pose comes from a famous photograph of King, standing -- with his arms crossed -- in front of a picture of Gandhi, who was his hero (and who, by the way, also was supremely confrontational).

May 19, 2008

Design Review Just Part Of The Process

The Washington Post has an item out today addressing the progress being made in discussions over the statue of Dr. King that's to be completed for the memorial. The piece also points out that these types of discussions are not unusual in the erection of DC monuments.

Most memorials and monuments proposed for Washington undergo rigorous review and public debate, which can go on for years and involve significant design changes. The Korean War Veterans Memorial, for example, had more than a dozen statues subtracted from its design.

May 14, 2008

Testimony: Public Favors the Current Design

Washington Post Metro columnist, Courtland Milloy, published an article this morning stating that "From Many Points of View, [the] Statue Is True to King's Image."  Milloy approached a variety of people on the street visiting Washington, D.C. as well as employees of the National Park Service who will be responsible for the upkeep of the Memorial once it has been completed. He found that a majority supported the current depiction of Dr. King.

I took a photograph of the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue to the Tidal Basin yesterday and asked tourists and other passersby what they thought about it..

"Very impressive," said Robin Bartley, 54, a math and language arts teacher at Van Cleve Elementary School in Troy, Ohio. "The statue shows King projecting courage the way he did during a terrible time in our country's history."

Conner Super, a sixth-grader at Van Cleve, looked over the photograph and nodded his approval. "He looks determined," the 12-year-old said. "That's the kind of man he was."

Although some of those I interviewed shared the commission's views, the vast majority did not. And none of the African Americans I spoke with agreed with its findings.

"It's like Barack Obama. The more it looks like he could really become president, the more you hear about people suddenly not being ready for a black president," said Alex Williamson, a retired dentist visiting from Austin. "Now that it looks like we might get a statue of a black man on the mall, people are starting to say, 'Now just hold on one darn minute here.' "

Among the changes that the commission wants to see is a softening of King's image from "confrontational in character" to "a more sympathetic idea of the figure."

Anthony McCoy, a National Park Service employee, took a break from tending a flower bed on the Jefferson Memorial grounds and looked at the photograph.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," said McCoy, 50, of Southeast Washington. "Let's be clear: If you think there is something wrong with a statue that makes Martin Luther King come off as confrontational, then there is something wrong with you. King was confrontational. If he wasn't, he'd probably still be alive."

Your support brings us one step closer to building this Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Help us honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his vision for America. Help us “Build the Dream.”

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