Monday, August 27, 2012

Frozen River


The nights grow longer
Winter’s cold breath blows across

A barren landscape
Just like our dreams
A little all things good


Homer Plessy 
Victim of a grave injustice

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. MLK’s famous quote just may have a poster child in Homer Plessy.

Homer Plessy was the first plaintiff to legally challenge the de-facto segregation of the post reconstruction period of US history.  Ultimately, the supreme court would rule against him in their famous ‘Plessy vs. Ferguson’ ruling that legalized state-mandated segregation as long as the separate facilities for whites and blacks were ‘equal’. In practice, they were anything but. This atrocious ruling set the stage for the Jim Crow laws that would roll back almost all the post-Civil war gains that had been made by people of color.

Plessy and his compatriots who had fought for years to improve the lot of people of color did everything within their power to bring an end to state sanctioned segregation, but were undone by the Supreme Court’s decision.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice – in 1954, the segregationist laws were overturned. Homer Plessy never lived to see that day, but his work had been invaluable in leading to that day.

Monday, August 20, 2012



Winter’s harsh embrace-
Icy fingers tinged with doom
Reaches out for us
A place so cold...
 Companion piece to El Manana


Ida B. Wells 
A passion for justice
What did she do?
What didn’t she do?

She was a journalist, writer, editor, feminist, anti-racist and crusader against the horrors of lynching.  She was one of the earliest leaders of the nascent Civil Rights movement and was tireless in her efforts to improve the lives of her fellow blacks, despite her humble beginnings.

From an unofficial biography that can be accessed here:

Ida B. Wells-Barnett ranks among the most important founders of modern civil rights and feminist movements among African Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century United States. Her importance is both intellectual and social; the ideas she expressed and organizations she helped organize have endured to this day. Her analysis of lynching in the 1890s, especially of mob murder of black men wrongly accused of raping white women, has held up to the scrutiny of generations of scholars and activists, as have the organizations she helped shape: the National Association of Colored Women (1896) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1909)
She was also one of the founding members of the NAACP together with WEB Dubois. She squeezed an impressive list of accomplishments into her short time on this earth. Her list of writings has an amazing breadth and depth that is almost unparalleled.

Her full body of work can be seen at the link below:

Greatest quote:
The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Outtakes - Out Comes The Sun

El Manana

Lazy days pass by
As summer paints its yellow
Canvas on our souls
And Love always shines...

Monday, August 13, 2012


 Fever Fever

Tear drops down my face
Fever Fever leave my heart
Forever alone
Vaguely macabre...

Silent Gesture

John Carlos & Tommie Smith
Power to the people
No true radicals are ever fully appreciated in the moment of their acts. They are generally vilified and their actions are labelled ‘weak’, ‘ill-advised’ and ‘ineffectual’. It is only time that leads to a heightened sense of the importance of their actions.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith are not important because of who they are. The truth is that before the demonstration at the 1968 Olympics, they were not great men. After that event, they would become household names. 

Their raised fist ‘Black Power’ salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic games became known as one of the most public and overtly political statements at any sporting events. Tommie Smith had won the 200 metre dash, Australian Peter Norman (who quietly supported their protest) came second and John Carlos finished in third. Tommie and John wore black socks with no shoes to represent black poverty, Tommie wore a black scarf to represent black pride and all the three of them wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges.

All three of these men were ostracized and vilified after their protest. The idea of mixing sports with politics was said to be ‘distasteful’ and against the ideals of sports. It is a silly argument of course. Sports is inherently political because every action taken within a political world is political by nature. Neither Smith nor Carlos got any accolades in the immediate aftermath. That would take time, but they had the courage of their conviction and the certainty that they were correct in their protest. Over time, they would become known as some of the more unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement and they would become household names. Their protest would gain the respect and recognition it should have had all those years ago.  The image of them with their fists in the air was voted one of the 20 most influential images in history.

Some of the history behind their protest is explained below:
The media—and school curricula—fail to address the context that produced Smith and Carlos’ famous gesture of resistance: It was the product of what was called “The Revolt of the Black Athlete.” Amateur black athletes formed OPHR, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, to organize an African American boycott of the 1968 Olympic Games. OPHR, its lead organizer, Dr. Harry Edwards, and its primary athletic spokespeople, Smith and the 400-meter sprinter Lee Evans, were deeply influenced by the black freedom struggle. Their goal was nothing less than to expose how the United States used black athletes to project a lie about race relations both at home and internationally.”

The rest can be seen here

In addition, John Carlos recently expounded on the reasons behind their protests. 

My premise for going to the games was to make a statement. I wanted to represent the people from where I came from. It was the first time the Olympic Games was televised worldwide. The first time the Olympic Games was televised in Technicolor. The first time that anyone even cared to step up and make a public statement about humanity.”

Greatest Quote:
I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Optically Illusive


Topsy turvy world
Where what was left now is right
And up is now down
Who can make sense of it all?

The Activist

Stokely Carmichael 
Power to the people
Stokely Carmichael was a pioneering Black activist of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He is primarily known for his affiliation with the Black Panthers. He was initially quite integrationist, but would eventually become a staunch pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist. 

He is responsible for coining two entirely different terms which combined explain why he holds a great deal of personal appeal.

The first term is ‘institutional racism’, which I personally believe is the most powerful concept in gaining a true understanding of the racial systems that govern western society. You either understand it intuitively or it is completely invisible to you. It negates the false libertarian view of ‘pulling oneself up by the bootstraps’. It’s difficult to do so, when the very institutions of social, political and economic advancements are rigged against you. How can one play the game when the game is inherently unfair. The lack of understanding of this concept even to this day shows the lackadaisical attitude most majority groups have towards true societal equality.  Carmichael understood quite clearly the forces both visible and invisible that were conspiring to prevent POC from reaching their true potential.

On the other hand was the second term he coined: ‘Black Power’. This to me signifies the duality of Stokely Carmichael. While remaining cognizant of the power of the forces working against POC, he was forever mindful of the strength and ‘power’ that lay within. POC could achieve great things despite institutional racism. Black Power was to him “a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations”. He eschewed the middle class influences and instead focused on self-reliance. 

Carmichael was quite active in the freedom ride movement and spent numerous days in jail for his efforts. He would eventually join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and would later become its president, although he was never committed to strict non-violence as a matter of principle, viewing it rather more as a tactic. This was evident in his endorsement of the militant Activist group the Black Panthers.
He would eventually settle in West Africa in a self-imposed exile and became more of a pan-Africanist. He would eventually die there at a far too young age.

Carmichael was a strong and powerful voice who remains one of the greatest Civil Rights Activists of our time.

Greatest Quote (On Black Power):
It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations