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Bringing Black August to a Close


Thanks to historian Ray Winbush, a poignant reminder of the assaults on Black People/Panthers/Community/Culture/Souls/Etc.

“Late on the night of August 30, Frank Rizzo, Police Commissioner of Philadelphia and his aides were preparing to strike directly against the Black Panthers. By 2 a.m., the department was assembling 100 men, all of them experienced marksmen, to be deployed into three raiding parties against three Panther headquarters. The necessary warrants had been obtained, and Rizzo went home to bed…”




The ghosts of Katrina-past and present


Eights years later, many of us are still haunted–even traumatized–by Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. I’m not talking about the Gulf residents; I’m talking about those of us who watched the tragic disaster unfold on the television. The world watched in horror as dead bodies floated in contaminated waters running through streets and desperate victims crying out for help atop roofs.

Photo taken by Jamala in New Orleans.
Photo taken by Jamala in New Orleans.

Katrina remains one of the most deadliest and costliest of man-made disasters. When I visited New Orleans after the storm in 2005, survivors made it clear that the hurricane was the culprit; it was the neglected levees that broke. I’ve been repeating their reframe ever since.

There was about about $81 billion  in property damage but the ultimate economic impact on the region is expected to exceed $150 billion.   Over 1800 people are known to have lost their lives but that count is in dispute. The exact death toll remains unknown because there are both unidentified bodies plus many missing persons.  The project to get all this straightened ran out of money in 2006.

John Mutter, a Columbia University professor, believes the death toll could peak 3500 if the death toll caused by the storm and its many after effects were accurately tallied. Nobody but the affected families seem to be interest in finding out and they hit a brick wall because there’s no where  for them to go and get/give information about their loved ones.

I have gone back to New Orleans several times since Katrina hit, particularly to see what, if any, progress have been made in the Lower Ninth, the poorest section of New Orleans and the hardest hit. I can tell you repairs to the Super Dome were done Super Quick as were renovations to the French Quarters. It appears that only those with the means or who won the battle with their insurance company came back to rebuild in the residential areas.

Katrina was a painful lesson for black and poor people in 2005 and it is still  painful–whether the media is talking about it or not.

Why we remember Emmett Till


Fifty years ago today, 14 year old Emmett Till was savagely lynched by racist whites in Mississippi. He was Mamie Till’s only son. When Mamie heard about her son’s vicious murder, she made an incredulous decision. Instead of grieving privately or “giving it to God” she allowed the battered and beaten body of Emmett to be photographed for the “world to see.”  She also demanded an open casket at her son’s funeral. She would spend the rest of her life fighting for justice not only for Emmett but for all African Americans.

At a very young age, I saw the photo in Jet Magazine; my young mind couldn’t fathom that the grotesque, disfigured body was once a handsome and vibrant young man.

As I grew older and delved into the history of the atrocity, I couldn’t help but admire the strength and reserved indignation of Ms. Mamie. Years later I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Mamie at a gathering of the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty. I witnessed that same resolve and determination.

When Ms Mamie hugged me, I let her what an inspiration she was to me.  She died shortly after that encounter but because of her defiance, Emmett Till is an extricable part of America’s ugly written history. Mamie Till’s act of bold resistance is why we remember the Emmett Till story.