Memorial Day is Our Day! Did you know that Memorial Day was started by Black people? At the close of Civil War hostilities, formerly enslaved Blacks in South Carolina dug up a mass grave of union soldiers in a confederate prison camp in 1865 and reburied their bodies in individual graves. They declared it a Union graveyard, built a fence around it and held a celebration on the grounds on May 1st, complete with sermons, singing, and celebrating. It was reported by the Charleston newspaper that approximately 10,000 people were in attendance. That next year, New York was the first state to recognize what had originally been called “Decoration Day,” a commemoration that the southern states first boycotted. A few even chose alternate dates to honor Confederate dead, which are still observed to this day. It wasn’t until 1971 that “Memorial Day” was recognized at the federal level, observed by all 50 states, and expanded to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. Happy Memorial Day!
Left, Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee, Stacey Abrams, Right, Tunis Campbell, Georgia State Senator, 1868.
Stacey Abrams’ Primary Win: Destiny, Vindication, or Both? A Black woman is the Democratic Party’s nominee for Governor of Georgia, USA. Many media outlets have rightly emphasized the historic import of this first, in that Stacey Abrams is both Black and female. We’re reveling in the campaign machine powered by Black women that fueled Stacy Abrams to this primary victory. They enlisted the help of notable, beloved celebrities like actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Essence Magazine’s Susan L. Taylor. They wisely arranged for monitors to be placed at polling sites to prevent voters from being intimidated. Ultimately, Stacy Abrams trounced her opponent, Stacey Evans with 76% of the vote. It isn’t possible, however, to pay tribute to this moment without considering the tortuous slog through a south that has vehemently, violently resisted the acquisition of Black political power since the close of the Civil War. By the summer of 1868, 32 Black men had been elected to the state legislature in Georgia, and hundreds more had earned positions as Sherriff, Justice of the Peace, school board officials and more. White southerners were mortified at this development. In Georgia, the Atlanta Constitution wrote unabashedly that “The Negro is unfit to rule the state. The Democratic Party… is unwilling to make him congressman, governor, or judge. It will not consent to degrade its own race by elevating an inferior above it.” Initially, Whites in the Georgia legislature tried to intimidate the Black officials during sessions. They escalated their protest to random, trumped up charges and unjust arrests, and at one point, voted all of the Black legislators out of office and put them out of the chamber. When 500,000 Black Georgians voted in that year’s election for General Ulysses Grant, he ordered the governor to restore the seats to the Black men. But over the next decade, the organized, relentless whippings, lynchings and daily brutality inflicted on the Black population by the White League, the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups put a stop to Black voting and office holding for a hundred years. This is the smoke out of which Stacey Abrams emerges. Though Black folk do not have a consensus on the wisdom and effectiveness of voting, we must acknowledge the persistence, determination, and hard work of those who possess a vision for progress in the political arena. Congratulations to Stacey Abrams, Gubernatorial candidate for Governor of the state of Georgia!
Kendrick Lamar, Photo Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Kendrick Lamar and the Umpteenth Chapter of the N-Word Episodes Yep… it’s happened again… at the “Hang Out Fest” in Alabama, where Kendrick Lamar invited a White fan on stage to rap with him. She happily recited the word nigger, until Kendrick paused to remind her to skip over it. The audience was unforgiving, and eventually Kendrick ushered her off the stage. – And here we go again. Charges of hypocrisy rang out anew, with many people claiming that if rappers don’t want fans and others using the word nigger, they shouldn’t use it themselves. It’s a position that makes perfect sense, until you consider the fact that meandering through the muck of conditioning imposed on Black people during chattel slavery, and our obvious need to wrestle with our own redefinition is a burden that is ours alone. However inconsistent or hypocritical it seems, Black folk have decided: the use of the word nigger by White people is not okay.
Luke Warm Prison Reform Bill Aims to Make Life Better – In Prison The First Step Act was passed by the House of Representatives this week, but faces a battle in the Senate where, thankfully, some folks know that mandatory minimum sentences and mass incarceration ought to be a part of reform. The current bill does some good things, like increasing vocational and rehabilitative programs behind bars, as well as funding for those programs. It prohibits the barbaric practice of shackling pregnant women during birth, and provides for the placing of inmates closer to the communities they come from. Objections to the bill stem from the knowing that opportunities to get prison reform legislation passed are rare. If the First Step Act is passed as is, sentencing reforms, which Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions oppose, will be lost in jubilant posturing by Republicans over having done “something.” Watch this space.
NFL Tells Black Players: Yo Name is Toby… We’re holding our breath to see how football players will respond to the new directive by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league owners on the subject of their police brutality protests. Without including the players’ league, White men decided to tell Black men to either remain in the locker room while the National Anthem plays – or stand and be respectful. They had no comment, notably, on the true subject of the protests, state sponsored police murder of innocent, unarmed Black folks in the streets of America with impunity. On this, the NFL was silent. While many in the fam are renewing their vows to protest, one savvy social media user made the point that because the league makes its money from those who attend the games, only a boycott by the players will truly be effective. Given that the protests had pretty much died down before this ruling was made, maybe we shouldn’t hold our breath.