Malcolm X Suggests Cure To Racism in Newly-Discovered Handwritten Letter

Recently discovered letter from Malcolm X (Photo via GARY ZIMET. MOMENTS IN TIME)

A recently-discovered letter reportedly handwritten by El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X) in 1964 describes racism at that time as an “incurable cancer” that was “plaguing” America.

Los Angeles historic manuscript and letter dealer, Moments in Time, retrieved the six-page letter, reportedly written by the civil rights activist. It went on sale Sunday for $1.25 million.

Gary Zimet, president and owner of Moments in Time, received the letter from a contact who discovered it in a storage locker in the Bronx, New York. Zimet has decided to keep the person’s name anonymous.

“It’s extraordinary,” he told The Huffington Post. “I haven’t sold it yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I do.”

The letter details a monumental period in the late activist’s life — his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, the year prior to his assassination in 1965 in New York City.  In the beginning of the letter, Malcolm X describes his pilgrimage as “the most important event in the life of all Muslims,” and goes on to explain why his experience was so enlightening.

Also in the letter, Malcolm X suggests a solution to solving race relations. The passage is particularly striking to read now, at a time when America is still grappling with racism. He writes:

 If white Americans could accept the religion of Islam, if they could accept the Oneness of God (Allah) they too could then sincerely accept the Oneness of Men, and cease to measure others always in terms of their ‘difference in color’. And with racism now plaguing in America like an incurable cancer all thinking Americans should be more respective to Islam as an already proven solution to the race problem.

The American Negro could never be blamed for his racial “animosities” because his are only reaction or defense mechanism which is subconscious intelligence has forced him to react against the conscious racism practiced (initiated against Negroes in America) by American Whites. But as America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path, nearer to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pits below, I do believe that Whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, through their own young, less hampered intellects will see the “Handwriting on the Wall” and turn for spiritual salvation to the religion of Islam, and force the older generation to turn with them.

In regards to the legitimacy of this letter, Zaheer Ali, an oral historian who served as the project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, says it’s likely this letter was actually written by Malcolm X.

“Based on everything I’ve seen, handwriting and context, I can confidently say that yes, this letter is his letter,” he told the Huffington Post. ‘The content is consistent, this isn’t uncommon. He was very prolific.”

Ali explained that the pilgrimage to Mecca had a profound effect on Malcolm X and that he often sent letters about it as a way to “broadcast” his message.  However, Ali doesn’t believe this letter should be for sale. “I don’t think you can put a price tag on this,” he explained. “Even though this is his personal correspondence, his intention was that this was to be made available to the public.”

Regardless, Ali believes the letter’s message, addressing race and religion, is particularly timely today.   “However this letter surfaced, it surfaced at the right time.”

Read the full letter here.

article by Kimberley Richards via huffingtonpost.com

THEATER: “Fall of The Kings” by Mai Sennaar Opens Tonight at Historic Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx

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Bronx, NY – Designated as a New York City Historic Landmark, the Andrew Freedman Home, a vibrant location for arts and culture, is revitalizing the artistic landscape of the Bronx, New York.  On September 5, New York University alumni and producer Walter E. Puryear will mount “The Fall of the Kings,” a new American drama set in the 1940s.

The play tells the story of an African-American heiress and her Caribbean (Cuban) husband fighting to sustain their family in the midst of an economic disaster.

Described by the New York Times as “exactly the sort of place…that contemporary arts dreams are made of” the venue carries an undeniable palatial air and encompasses over 100,000 square feet. Freedman, a millionaire, former owner of the New York Giants and financier of the city’s first subway lines, bequeathed funding to construct the Home in the 1920s as a luxurious residence for once-wealthy senior citizens.

Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)

Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)

The playwright, Mai Sennaar, is an alumna of the Tisch School of the Arts. She is a mentee of noted playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley (The Mighty Gents, Broadway) and Broadway and film actress Novella Nelson. At the age of 19, Sennaar’s first play, “The Broken Window Theory,” was produced at the famed Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe starring Tony Award-winner Tonya Pinkins and directed by Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay.

“The Fall of the Kings” production crew includes choreographer, Dyane Harvey-Salaam, whose Broadway, film and television credits include: The Wiz (original stage and film versions) and the Spike Lee film “School Daze.”  Set designer, Christopher Cumberbatch’s work has appeared both in theatre and in the Spike Lee films, “Crooklyn” and “Malcolm X.” Composer Dianaruthe Wharton Sennaar is a founding member of Sweet Honey in the Rock and composer for Ntozake Shange’s Broadway hit “For Colored Girls…”  The award-winning, Grammy-nominated composer and trumpeter Christian Scott is a featured guest soloist on the play’s main theme.

“The Fall of the Kings” is an immersive theatre experience where the fourth wall crumbles and the story moves the audience through intimate rooms and enthralling portrayals, welcoming the audience right into the home and lives of the Kings.

“Kings” opens today, September 5 at 8pm, with performances running through November 1st.  Tickets range from $30-$45. Discounts are available for groups, Bronx residents, seniors, and students. Exclusive Bed & Breakfast and Bus trip packages are also available.

For tickets and information: www.thefallofthekings.com

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Jadakiss & Styles P Invest in “Juices For Life” Juice Bars to Boost Health in Hometown of NY (VIDEO)

Jadakiss and Styles P (photo via myfabolouslife.com

Jadakiss and Styles P (photo via myfabolouslife.com

Two legends in the hip-hop community are making it their goal to raise awareness about health and wellness with the launch of several juice bars in New York’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

In an interview with Elite DailyStyles P and Jadakiss, known for their group The Lox, explain the inspiration behind opening Juices For Life, a juice bar that promotes healthy living. The rappers opened up about their childhoods, reminiscing about the unhealthy snacks, like honey buns and chips, they would eat daily.

Consuming junk food in their hometown of Yonkers, NY not only put a strain on their wallets, but their health. In recent years, both artists were inspired to change the lifestyle in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Huffington Post reports:

“You’re going to get out what you put into your body,” Jadakiss said. “We didn’t know. All we knew was run to the fast food spots or run to get big bags of candy. It’s a bunch of garbage.”

Juices For Life can be found in the Bronx borough of New York City, with two other locations in the borough of Queens and in Yonkers. The juice bars also offer drinks intended to help alleviate allergies, arthritis, acne, and bronchitis. The musicians declare there’s simply nothing “soft” about promoting fruits and vegetables in the Black community.

“Our juice bars are open in the hoods on purpose to educate our people on health awareness.” Styles P said. “Build it and they will come.”

“Most of the hood don’t have access to good food, most of the hood don’t have health insurance…”Jadakiss added.

If you’re in the New York area, check out Juices For Life and great recipes you can make at home here.

article by Desire Thompson via newsone.com

CUNY’s Preparatory High School Renamed to Honor Derrick Smith, its Founding Principal

(photo via mec.cuny.edu)

(photo via mec.cuny.edu)

The City University of New York has renamed its preparatory high school in The Bronx in honor of Derrick Griffith, its founding principal. Dr. Griffith was killed in the Amtrak train wreck in Philadelphia this past May.

In a resolution renaming the school, the board of trustees of the City University of New York said that “Dr. Griffith transformed thousands of lives of young New Yorkers who were uplifted by his encouragement as they found the resolve to pursue education and build personal beliefs in their own ability to persevere. He was a true visionary whose compassion and intelligence were paralleled only by his sense of humor and love for his students, colleagues, friends and family.”

At the time of his death, Dr. Griffith was dean of student affairs at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. He joined the staff at Medgar Evers College in 2011 as an assistant provost. He served as the founding principal at the Preparatory Transitional High School of the City University of New York from 2003 to 2010.

One month before his death at the age of 42, Griffith completed work on a doctorate in urban education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

article via jbhe.com

Grandmaster Flash Joins Upcoming Netflix 1970s Rap Series “The Get Down” as Associate Producer/Adviser

Grandmaster Flash and Mamoudou Athie

Grandmaster Flash and actor Mamoudou Athie (Photo: Netflix)

 Hip-hop icon Grandmaster Flash is set as an associate producer and adviser on The Get DownBaz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series about the 1970 NYC music scene and the birth of rap. “I can’t tell you just how much joy and great spirit we are getting from working with some of the founding fathers of the form,” Luhrmann said in a statement. “Not only in music, dance and graffiti but the culture of the time in general. The whole team is absolutely thrilled to have Grandmaster Flash on board.” Netflix also said today that newcomer Mamoudou Athie will play the DJ legend on the show (see photo above). Best known to mainstream audiences for the 1982’s “The Message,” Grandmaster Flash emerged from the ’70s Bronx scene along with fellow DJs Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa as a pioneer of the fledgling genre. “Flash developed a host of specific techniques that allowed DJs to move seamlessly from one break beat to another,” said author-journalist Nelson George, part of The Get Down writing team. “Flash’s innovations, developed in his Bronx apartment bedroom, are the bedrock of club spinning, even in the age of (vinyl emulation program) Serato.”

Flash’s involvement with Get Down follows VH1’s announcement last month of The Breaks, an original movie and potential backdoor pilot about the 1990s NYC hip-hop scene. Gang Starr’s DJ Premier will serve as music producer for that project, becoming the latest music great to oversee soundtracks for TV series including Timbaland on Fox’s Empire and T Bone Burnett on ABC’s Nashville.

article via Erik Pedersen via Deadline.com

Bronx Native Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal Becomes 1st Black Female U-2 Pilot in History

Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal stands in front of a U-2 Feb. 9, 2015, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Tengesdal is the only black female U-2 pilot in history. Tengesdal is the 9th Reconnaissance Wing inspector general and a U-2 pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Bobby Cummings)

Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal, a Bronx native, has become the first African-American female to ever pilot the U-2 — an ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft used for intelligence gathering and can fly up to altitudes of 70,000 feet.

According to an article by the United States Air Force, “As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.”

The article also goes on to say that she has been recommended for promotion to colonel as well.

“I have seen the curvature of the earth,” Tengesdal said. “I have seen sights most people will never see. Flying at more than 70,000 feet is really beautiful and peaceful. I enjoy the quiet, hearing myself breathing, and the hum of the engine. I never take it for granted.”

Aug. 1, 2015, will mark the 60th anniversary of the U-2; making it one of the few aircraft to operate in the U.S. Air Force for more than 50 years.  The U-2 first flew in 1955, in the same year the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and the Civil Rights Movement began, setting the stage for desegregation.

“The Air Force has always been on the forefront of breaking aviation and racial barriers,” Tengesdal said. “I am extremely proud of being the first black female U-2 pilot in history.”

The U-2 provides high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in direct support of national objectives. The aircraft enables the capture of imagery and delivers intelligence to decision makers worldwide.

These missions are often at altitudes equivalent to approximately 13 miles.  Pilots are required to wear full pressure suits during flight, similar to those astronauts wear. According to many aviation experts, limited visibility caused by the required helmets, along with the U-2’s bicycle landing gear, makes it arguably the most difficult aircraft to land.

“Every aircraft I’ve flown has something unique,” Tengesdal said. “The U-2 is no exception. I enjoy the challenge of landing on two wheels.”

Tengesdal is no stranger to challenges. The colonel acknowledged that during her childhood, there were many opportunities for her to stray down the wrong path.

“Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in my hometown, but I was influenced to pursue other aspirations,” she said.

With guidance from her mother and teachers, she excelled in high school, particularly in math and science. After high school, she attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. Afterward, she attended Officer Candidate School in the Navy, commissioned as an ensign in September 1994, and attended flight training shortly after.

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NYC Awards $3.9M In 2012 Police Killing Of Unarmed Bronx Teen Ramarley Graham

Frank Graham (C), father of Ramarley Gragam, who was shot and killed by police officers in New York in 2012, speaks outside the New York Police Department Headquarters after marching in the National March Against Police Violence, which was organized by National Action Network, on December 13, 2014 in New York City. The march coincided with a march in Washington D.C. and comes on the heels of two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Frank Graham (C), father of Ramarley Gragam, who was shot and killed by police officers in New York in 2012, speaks outside the New York Police Department Headquarters after marching in the National March Against Police Violence, on December 13, 2014 in New York City. The march coincided with a march in Washington D.C. and comes on the heels of two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

New York City agreed Friday to pay $3.9 million to the family of a Bronx teenager shot to death by a white police officer in 2012.  The deal settled a federal lawsuit brought by the family of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham (pictured below).

“This was a tragic case,” said New York Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci. “After evaluating all the facts, and consulting with key stakeholders such as the NYPD, it was determined that settling the matter was in the best interest of the city.”

Attorney Royce Russell said the family will comment Monday.

Graham died after he was shot once in the chest in February 2012 in a tiny bathroom in the three-family home where he lived with his grandmother and other relatives.  Richard Haste, the officer who shot him, said he fired his weapon because he thought he was going to be shot. No weapons were found in the apartment.

Haste was indicted on manslaughter charges in the summer of 2012, but charges were dismissed by a judge who said prosecutors improperly instructed grand jurors to imply they should disregard testimony from police officers that they radioed Haste in advance to warn him that they thought Graham had a pistol. A second grand jury declined to re-indict the officer.

Manhattan federal prosecutors are conducting a civil rights investigation.

Ramarley Graham story

The Graham shooting has been cited during demonstrations after grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict police officers in the deaths last year of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and 43-year-old Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk after he was put in a chokehold when he was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The deaths fueled a national conversation about policing and race.

The Graham deal adds to a series of settlements in high-profile civil rights claims against police, jail officers and the city under first-term Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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