When Ida B. Wells was 22, she was asked by a conductor of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company to give up her seat on the train to a white man. She refused, and the conductor attempted to forcibly drag her out of her seat. Wells wouldn’t budge.
“The moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn’t try it again by himself. He went forward and got the baggageman and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out.”
The year was 1884 — about 70 years before Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. Wells’ life was full of such moments of courage and principle. Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, Wells was a vocal civil rights activist, suffragist and journalist who dedicated her life to fighting inequality.
On July 16, Wells’ 153rd birthday, Google honored the “fearless and uncompromising” woman with a Doodle of her typing away on typewriter, a piece of luggage by her side.
“She was a fierce opponent of segregation and wrote prolifically on the civil injustices that beleaguered her world. By twenty-five she was editor of the Memphis-based Free Speech and Headlight, and continued to publicly decry inequality even after her printing press was destroyed by a mob of locals who opposed her message,” Google wrote in tribute of Wells.
The journalist would go on to work for Chicago’s Daily Inter Ocean and the Chicago Conservator, one of the oldest African-American newspapers in the country. As Google notes, she “also travelled and lectured widely, bringing her fiery and impassioned rhetoric all over the world.”
Wells married Chicago attorney Ferdinand Barrett in 1895. She insisted on keeping her own name, becoming Ida Wells-Barnett — a radical move for the time. The couple had four children. Wells died in Chicago of kidney failure in 1931. She was 68.
Every year around her birthday, Holly Springs celebrates Wells’ life with a weekend festival. Mayor Kelvin Buck said at this year’s event that people often overlook “the historic significance of Ida B. Wells in the history of the civil rights struggle in the United States,” per the South Reporter.
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an effort to combat police brutality in the Black community, the National Bar Association (NBA) recently announced plans to file open records requests in 25 cities to study allegations of police misconduct.
Pamela Meanes, president of the Black lawyers and judges group, said the NBA had already been making plans for a nationwide campaign to fight police brutality when Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer following a controversial midday confrontation in a Ferguson, Mo.
Meanes called police brutality the new civil rights issue of this era, an issue that disproportionately impacts the Black community.
“If we don’t see this issue and if we don’t at the National Bar Association do the legal things that are necessary to bring this issue to the forefront, then we are not carrying out our mission, which is to protect the civil and political entities of all,” said Meanes.
The NBA, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges,” selected the 25 cities based on their African-American populations and reported incidents of police brutality.
The lawyers group will file open records requests in Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix; Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif., Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore, Md.; Detroit; Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; Memphis, Tenn., Philadelphia; Dallas; Houston; San Antonio, Texas, and Milwaukee, Wis.
In a press release about the open records requests, the group said it will not only seek information about “the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody, but also comprehensive data from crime scenes, including “video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees,” as well as background information on officers involved in the incidents.
Not only will the NBA present their findings to the public, but the group also plans to compile its research and forward the data over to the attorney general’s office.
Meanes said the group’s ultimate goal is to have a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder and to ask, and in some cases, demand he seize police departments or take over or run concurrent investigations.
Meanes said federal law prohibits the Justice Department from going into a police department unless a pattern or history of abuse has been identified.
“The problem is that the information needed for that action is not readily available in a comprehensive way on a consistent basis with the goal of eradicating that abuse,” said Meanes, adding that the open records request is the best way to get that information.
Meanes said that the NBA was concerned that the trust had already brrn broken between the police force and the residents of Ferguson and that the rebellion and the protests would continue.
“We don’t think St. Louis County should investigate this. We don’t think the prosecutor should investigate this. There should be an independent third-party investigating this and that is the federal government,” said Meanes.
Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, a civil rights group established by young people of color in the aftermath of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager in Sanford, Fla., said law enforcement officials taunted, antagonized and disrespected peaceful protesters who took to the streets of Ferguson and at times incited the violence they attempted to stamp out in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“An occupying force came into the community, they killed someone from the community, and instead of being transparent and doing everything they could do to make sure the community felt whole again, they brought in more police to suppress folks who were exercising their constitutional rights,” said Agnew.“If your protocol results in greater violence, greater anger, and greater disenchantment of the people, you have to chart a different course.”
On the heels of the NBA announcement, Attorney General Holder launched two initiatives designed to calm anxiety and frustration expressed by Ferguson’s Black residents towards the local police department over allegations of misconduct, harassment and discrimination.
The Justice Department also introduced a “Collaborative Reform Initiative” to tackle similar concerns with the St. Louis County Police Department and to improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Lorraine Motel in Memphis holds a historic place in world history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated there on the hotel balcony near his room on April 4, 1968. The site is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum and today, Saturday April 5, the museum will re-open to the public after $27.5 million of renovations.
“This museum after 22 years needed to be updated,” said Faith Morris, the museum’s director of marketing, governmental and community affairs. “[It] needed more technology, needed to be more engaging to a younger generation so that folks could really be a part of what the movement was about.”
The museum officially opened in 1991 and incorporates not only the historic motel, but the building across the street where James Earl Ray is alleged to have fired the fatal shot.
One new exhibit chronicles the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the economics of slavery in America from 1619-1861. There is an entire exhibit space dedicated to the ‘Black Power’ movement and its influence on policy and culture. Old exhibits have been enhanced with more audio/visual aids, touch screens and films touching on the different eras of the Civil Rights Movement.
Museum leadership said the renovations and fundraising efforts were critical to keep pace with the “2014 museum consumer.” The campaign to raise funds started in 2008 but because of the economic collapse, organizers regrouped in 2010 when conditions improved.
“People no longer want to walk through museums and experience a book on a wall,” said Beverly Robertson, the museum’s president. “When we opened in 1991, that was OK – because that was the museum experience. But times change. Technology changes.”
Robertson said it took “countless miracles” to raise the money and convince the museum’s board that the technological overhaul was necessary for the NCRM to thrive for many years to come. She said she is pleased with how well design teams, scholars, researchers and her staff adapted to the changing times.
“It’s a transformative experience,” Robertson said. “It’s an experience [visitors] won’t get anywhere else because it talks about the seminal events of the movement and it does it in ways that allows this history to resonate with those who are 8 years old or 80.”
MEMPHIS, TN – (WMC-TV) – You’re never too old to graduate high school and 92-year-old Memphis native Dorothy Owens is proving that.
Owens’ father died and because of a leg injury, she was forced to drop out of high school. She started working to help support her family. However, Owens has always encouraged her children and grandchildren to pursue education. Her granddaughter made it her goal to grant the one wish her grandma has ever requested. Owens’ granddaughters wrote a letter to her high school, Booker T. Washington, asking for an honorary diploma.
This February, on her 92nd birthday, she received an honorary diploma from Booker T. Washington High School. Owens was overjoyed with the Certificate of Attendance. To watch video of this story, click here.
Always impeccably styled in a button down, creased slacks and dress shoes, Moziah Bridges pins patterns and sews stitches after school. As noted in a promotional descriptor, we can find his youthful fingers on a sewing machine for hours or at least until his mother tells him it’s time for bed. He is young, gifted and Black.
While a fourth grader at Rozelle Elementary School in Downtown Memphis, Bridges started his career as a fashion designer at the age of 9 in June of 2011 with his exclusive line called Mo’s Bows. His creations are aimed “at playground pals and adults alike.” Moziah – “Mo” for short – delivered one of his ties to Fox 13’s bow-tie wearing weatherman Joey Sulipeck, who wore the gift on the air. Since then, Bridges has been a guest on The Steve Harvey Show and has been featured in British GQ, O Magazine, and Forbes.
“Oprah is big,” said Mo. “Nobody is bigger than ‘O’. I thought, ‘this is really cool.’ What kind of kid gets to be in an Oprah magazine?” Mo describes himself as a 12 year-old entrepreneur. Recalling his beginnings just three years ago, he says: “I couldn’t find fun and cool bow ties one day. So I decided to use my granny’s scrap fabric to make and sell my own.”
He adds that he likes to wear bow ties, “because they make me look good and feel good. Designing a colorful bow tie is part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place.” Tramica Morris, Mo’s mom, said that “Old School” trends as mirrored by his well-dressed dad and grandpa inspired his love for fashion and instilled in her son the importance of dressing for success.
A huge selection of Mo’s bow ties are from his grandmother’s vintage fabric, respective selections of which date back more than 50 years. And it was, in fact, his grandmother who taught him to sew. Mo’s Bows is indeed strongly guided by his mother and grandmother. After stopping by his grandmother’s house to pick out fabric and patterns, he settles down with his mother and grandmother and starts stitching.
“He can sew a bow tie from start to finish,” says Morris in Sayle. “But there are some things he really doesn’t like to do, like the ironing. We’ll do some of that for him.” Says Mo, “I just pick whatever I see. It has to speak to me. It has to be fun. It has to be preppy.” Each bow design has its own name: “Night Magic,” “Beale Street,” “Paper Boy,” “Buster Brown,” and “Think Pink.”
Bridges has earned over $30,000 as of 2013 from his creations. He sells on his own website-accessible Etsy page. Mo’s Bows are also available in upscale boutiques in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and in Arkansas.
Ava DuVernay is stepping into the director’s chair of Selma, an upcoming biopic of Martin Luther King Jr., according to Deadline.Lee Daniels, the director of Precious and this year’s The Butler, had long been attached the project, which is one of several upcoming projects about the late civil rights icon.
Paul Greengrass (United 93) is helming Memphis, which recreates the final days of MLK’s life and Steven Spielberg is reportedly working on a movie about King’s admiration of Mahatma Gandhi. When Daniels was due to direct Selma, it was reported that rock star Lenny Kravitz (who co-starred in Precious) has been cast in the pivotal role of Andrew Young. Now that DuVernay is taken over it is unclear in Kravitz will remain on board.
But her leading man very well may be a familiar face. Before dropping out, Daniels did cast British actor David Oyelowo (who appeared in Daniels’ The Paperboy) as MLK. Oyelowo won considerable critical acclaim for his performance in DuVernay’s indie film Middle of Nowhere, which won her the Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year. In addition Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, Ray Winstone, Robert De Niro, and Cedric the Entertainer are all said to have been considering parts in the production.
One hundred years ago, in the autumn of 1912, an African-American musician by the name of WC Handy published a song that would take the US by storm – Memphis Blues. It launched the blues as a mass entertainment genre that would transform popular music worldwide.
In 1903 William Christopher Handy was leading a band called the Colored Knights of Pythias based in Clarksdale, in Mississippi’s Delta country, when one day he paid a visit to the little town of Tutwiler.
“A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me… His face had on it the sadness of the ages,” Handy writes in his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues.
“As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars… The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.”
Some may not know how much of a part African-Americans played in the Civil War, but the National Library of Medicine has produced a free, traveling exhibit to shed light on their work in the health field during that time. “Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries” explores black Americans’ contributions as nurses, surgeons and hospital staff during the war.
According to the National Library of Medicine, for African-Americans, the Civil War was “a fight for freedom and a chance for full participation in American society.” “Their participation challenged the prescribed notions of both race and gender and pushed the boundaries of the role of blacks in America,” the site reads.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis plans to open the balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to the public.
The museum was built around and includes the old Lorraine Motel, where King was checked in when he was assassinated in 1968. Visitors had been able to see the balcony where King was shot but couldn’t stand on it.
The museum’s main building will close at the end of the day Monday for renovations. Officials hope to open the balcony to the public on Nov. 19, and they’re installing a lift for disabled visitors.
Basketball player Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway attends the New York Knicks and New York Rangers party for the March issue of Gotham Magazine on February 18, 2004 at the Kreiss showroom, in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, and former NBA player Penny Hardaway have agreed to join the group of minority owners for the Memphis Grizzlies, said a person familiar with the deal.