Monthly Archives: May 2011

BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA: PVT. SARAH LOUISE KEYS, A PIONEER IN LEGAL RESISTANCE

Much has been stated about the contributions that Black American men have made to this nation. Often forgotten, ignored, and disregarded, are the numerous contributions and achievements that so many Black American women have done in various fields:  the labor movement; health care; business; entertainment; legal resistance; the military.

Starting this week, but recurring on Mondays, I will post on the laudable contributions that Black women have made to this country. This is something I have been meaning to do ever since I started my blog, but, I have often put up a post here, a post there, on the achievements of Black American women. I have decided that it is now or never. The posts will be highlights of a particular field that Black women made inroads into, or a stand-alone post on a Black woman who challenged racism, sexism, and many other isms, in her endeavors.

Today’s post features Pvt. Sarah Louise Keys.

Before Mrs. Rosa Parks made her stand by sitting down and defying racial segregation on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus, Pvt. Keys took a stand against segregation when she was ordered to render her seat to a White passenger, while she traveled, in full uniform, on a bus bound for her home.

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NOT AT THE BACK OF THE BUS

Private Sarah Louise Keys was in the first generation of members of the Women’s Army Corps to serve in an officially integrated military. In August 1962 she was an information clerk and receptionist at the Army hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey, when she received a furlough to go home to North Carolina. She was wearing her uniform when she stepped on the bus and took her seat near the front of the bus. At Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, a new driver came onto the bus to replace the one who had been driving since New Jersey. He asked Pvt. Keys to change seats with a White Marine who was sitting near the back of the bus.

Pvt. Keys refused.

That was the beginning of one of the most important cases in civil rights history. The bus driver had all of his passengers move to a second bus, provided by the bus company, refusing to allow Pvt. Keys to board. She was forcibly removed to the police station, where she was charged with disorderly conduct and jailed overnight, with no phone call allowed. She was released the following afternoon after paying a twenty-five dollar fine.

Pvt. Sarah Keys’ family was outraged and persuaded her to go to court, but she lost. Then a friend suggested that the Keys family hire Dovey Johnson, another Black military woman. After fighting to be admitted to the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), Ms. Johnson had become one of thirty-seven Black women in the first class of commissioned officers in the WAAC in 1942. After WWII she attended Howard University Law School and practiced in Washington, DC. Pvt. Keys hired Ms. Johnson to represent her, and the two military women, working together,began to fight for equality and dignity on a legal battlefield.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia refused to hear the suit, stating that it was out of its jurisdiction. Pvt. Keys and Ms. Johnson, along with her law partner Julius Robertson, then went to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and filed a suit alleging unjust discrimination, undue and unreasonable prejudice, false arrest, and imprisonment on the basis of race and color. At first, the ICC refused to review the case, in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board ruling. The reviewing commissioner claimed that precedent did not apply in the matter of a private business. But Pvt. Keys’ lawyers kept fighting until they were able to get a review by the full commission.

The decision of that commission, handed down in November of 1955, reversed the “separate but equal” policy established in 1989. Black passengers who paid the same amount for their fares must be given the same service.

Excerpted from “Black Women in America, Vol. 2”, Second Edition, by Darlene Clark Hine, et. al., Oxford University Press, 2005, pg. 266.

For more information, see Judith Bellafaire, “Challenging the System: Two Army Women Fight for Equality.” Women in Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.  http://womensmemorial.org/Education/BHMSys.html

See also, Sarah Keys vs. Carolina Coach Company.

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MEMORIAL DAY: BLACK AMERICA’S CONTRIBUTION

Today was Memorial Day. After all of the picnics, parades, barbeques, and family get-togethers, how many people know the meaning behind why Memorial Day is celebrated?

Most of all, how many know of the first Memorial Day that was celebrated May 1, 1865, in the port city of Charleston, South Carolina, by recently freed Black Americans who honored the Union Civil War dead of the conflict? During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were imprisoned under inhumane conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

Ex-enslave black workmen went to the site, after the Confederate evacuation of Charleston and reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course”, thus creating the first day of memorializing the fallen dead.

How many know of the erasing of memory, and history, of these compassionate and patriotic ex-enslaves who showed reverence for the dead and interred them with dignity and kindness?

How many know of the 700 Black women who carried wreaths,  flowers and crosses to decorate the graves of the Union soldiers? How many know of the 3,000 Black children who sung “John Brown’s Body” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”  in praise for the Union dead who not only fought to keep the union intact, but also fought to free the enslaves? How many know of the Black ministers who recited from the Bible and said prayers over the remains of the soldiers?

Not many, I would say.

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Op-Ed Contributor

Forgetting Why We Remember

By DAVID W. BLIGHT

Published: May 29, 2011
 

MOST Americans know that Memorial Day is about honoring the nation’s war dead. It is also a holiday devoted to department store sales, half-marathons, picnics, baseball and auto racing. But where did it begin, who created it, and why?

At the end of the Civil War, Americans faced a formidable challenge: how to memorialize 625,000 dead soldiers, Northern and Southern. As Walt Whitman mused, it was “the dead, the dead, the dead — our dead — or South or North, ours all” that preoccupied the country. After all, if the same number of Americans per capita had died in Vietnam as died in the Civil War, four million names would be on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, instead of 58,000.

Officially, in the North, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, called on communities to conduct grave-decorating ceremonies. On May 30, funereal events attracted thousands of people at hundreds of cemeteries in countless towns, cities and mere crossroads. By the 1870s, one could not live in an American town, North or South, and be unaware of the spring ritual.

But the practice of decorating graves — which gave rise to an alternative name, Decoration Day — didn’t start with the 1868 events, nor was it an exclusively Northern practice. In 1866 the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga., chose April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s final surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman, to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. Later, both May 10, the anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s death, and June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, were designated Confederate Memorial Day in different states.

Memorial Days were initially occasions of sacred bereavement, and from the war’s end to the early 20th century they helped forge national reconciliation around soldierly sacrifice, regardless of cause. In North and South, orators and participants frequently called Memorial Day an “American All Saints Day,” likening it to the European Catholic tradition of whole towns marching to churchyards to honor dead loved ones.

But the ritual quickly became the tool of partisan memory as well, at least through the violent Reconstruction years. In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy’s defeat but without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past.

The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true “patriots,” defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a “cause” that had been overwhelmed by “numbers and resources” but never defeated on battlefields.

Yankee Memorial Day orations often righteously claimed the high ground of blood sacrifice to save the Union and destroy slavery. It was not uncommon for a speaker to honor the fallen of both sides, but still lay the war guilt on the “rebel dead.” Many a lonely widow or mother at these observances painfully endured expressions of joyous death on the altars of national survival.

Some events even stressed the Union dead as the source of a new egalitarian America, and a civic rather than a racial or ethnic definition of citizenship. In Wilmington, Del., in 1869, Memorial Day included a procession of Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians and Catholics; white Grand Army of the Republic posts in parade with a black post; and the “Mount Vernon Cornet Band (colored)” keeping step with the “Irish Nationalists with the harp and the sunburst flag of Erin.”

But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

Related

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day’s racecourse origin vanished.

Indeed, 51 years later, the president of the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Charleston received an inquiry from a United Daughters of the Confederacy official in New Orleans asking if it was true that blacks had engaged in such a burial rite in 1865; the story had apparently migrated westward in community memory. Mrs. S. C. Beckwith, leader of the association, responded tersely, “I regret that I was unable to gather any official information in answer to this.”

Beckwith may or may not have known about the 1865 event; her own “official” story had become quite different and had no place for the former slaves’ march on their masters’ racecourse. In the struggle over memory and meaning in any society, some stories just get lost while others attain mainstream recognition.

AS we mark the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, we might reflect on Frederick Douglass’s words in an 1878 Memorial Day speech in New York City, in which he unwittingly gave voice to the forgotten Charleston marchers.

He said the war was not a struggle of mere “sectional character,” but a “war of ideas, a battle of principles.” It was “a war between the old and the new, slavery and freedom, barbarism and civilization … and in dead earnest for something beyond the battlefield.” With or against Douglass, we still debate the “something” that the Civil War dead represent.

The old racetrack is gone, but an oval roadway survives on the site in Hampton Park, named for Wade Hampton, former Confederate general and the governor of South Carolina after the end of Reconstruction. The old gravesite of the Martyrs of the Race Course is gone too; they were reinterred in the 1880s at a national cemetery in Beaufort, S.C.

But the event is no longer forgotten. Last year I had the great honor of helping a coalition of Charlestonians, including the mayor, Joseph P. Riley, dedicate a marker to this first Memorial Day by a reflecting pool in Hampton Park.

By their labor, their words, their songs and their solemn parade on their former owners’ racecourse, black Charlestonians created for themselves, and for us, the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.

David W. Blight, a professor of history and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale, is the author of the forthcoming “American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.”

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WORLD NO-TOBACCO DAY: MAY 31, 2011

 

WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY

Quick Facts

World No Tobacco Day draws attention to the health problems caused by tobacco use.

Local names

Name Language
World No Tobacco Day English
Día Mundial Sin Tabaco Spanish

World No Tobacco Day 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

World No Tobacco Day 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012
See list of observations below

People, non-governmental organizations and governments unite on World No Tobacco Day to draw attention to the health problems that tobacco use can cause. It is held on May 31 each year.
Hand saying no thanks to a packages of cigarettes offered
World No Tobacco Day focuses on informing people about health problems associated with tobacco use. ©iStockphoto.com/Anneke Schram

What do people do?

World No Tobacco Day is a day for people, non-governmental organizations and governments organize various activities to make people aware of the health problems that tobacco use can cause. These activities include:

  • Public marches and demonstrations, often with vivid banners.
  • Advertising campaigns and educational programs.
  • People going into public places to encourage people to stop smoking.
  • The introduction of bans on smoking in particular places or types of advertising.
  • Meetings for anti-tobacco campaigners.

Moreover, laws restricting smoking in particular areas may come into effect and wide reaching health campaigns may be launched.

Public life

World No Tobacco Day is not a public holiday.

Background

Tobacco is a product of the fresh leaves of nicotiana plants. It is used as an aid in spiritual ceremonies and a recreational drug. It originated in the Americas, but was introduced to Europe by Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal in 1559. It quickly became popular and an important trade crop.

Medical research made it clear during the 1900s that tobacco use increased the likelihood of many illnesses including heart attacks, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema and many forms of cancer. This is true for all ways in which tobacco is used, including:

  • Cigarettes and cigars.
  • Hand rolling tobacco.
  • Bidis and kreteks(cigarettes containing tobacco with herbs or spices).
  • Pipes and water pipes.
  • Chewing tobacco.
  • Snuff.
  • Snus(a moist version of snuff popular in some countries such as Sweden).
  • Creamy snuff (a paste consisting of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol, and camphor sold in a toothpaste tube popular in India).
  • Gutkha (a version of chewing tobacco mixed with areca nut, catechu, slaked lime and other condiments popular in India and South-East Asia).

On May 15, 1987, the World Health Organization passed a resolution, calling for April 7, 1988, to be the first World No Smoking Day. This date was chosen because it was the 40th anniversary of the World Health Organization. On May 17, 1989, the World Health Organization passed a resolution calling for May 31 to be annually known as World No Tobacco Day. This event has been observed each year since 1989.

Themes

The themes of World No Tobacco Day have been:

  • 2009 – Tobacco health warnings.
  • 2008 – Tobacco-free youth.
  • 2007 – Smoke free inside.
  • 2006 – Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise.
  • 2005 – Health professionals against tobacco.
  • 2004 – Tobacco and poverty, a vicious circle.
  • 2003 – Tobacco free film, tobacco free fashion.
  • 2002 – Tobacco free sports.
  • 2001 – Second-hand smoke kills.
  • 2000 – Tobacco kills, don’t be duped.
  • 1999 – Leave the pack behind.
  • 1998 – Growing up without tobacco.
  • 1997 – United for a tobacco free world.
  • 1996 – Sport and art without tobacco: play it tobacco free.
  • 1995 – Tobacco costs more than you think.
  • 1994 – Media and tobacco: get the message across.
  • 1993 – Health services: our windows to a tobacco free world.
  • 1992 – Tobacco free workplaces: safer and healthier.
  • 1991 – Public places and transport: better be tobacco free.
  • 1990 – Childhood and youth without tobacco: growing up without tobacco.
  • 1989 – Initial observance.

Symbols

Images that symbolize World No Tobacco Day are:

  • Clean ashtrays with flowers in them.
  • Ashtrays with images of body parts, such as the heart and lungs, which are damaged by tobacco use.
  • No smoking signs.
  • Symbols of death, such as gravestones and skulls, with cigarettes.
  • Images of the diseases caused by tobacco use.

These images are often displayed as posters, on Internet sites and blogs, on clothing and public transport vehicles.

World No Tobacco Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Wed May 31 1989 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Thu May 31 1990 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Fri May 31 1991 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sun May 31 1992 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Mon May 31 1993 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Tue May 31 1994 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Wed May 31 1995 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Fri May 31 1996 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sat May 31 1997 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sun May 31 1998 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Mon May 31 1999 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Wed May 31 2000 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Thu May 31 2001 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Fri May 31 2002 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sat May 31 2003 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Mon May 31 2004 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Tue May 31 2005 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Wed May 31 2006 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Thu May 31 2007 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sat May 31 2008 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sun May 31 2009 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Mon May 31 2010 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Tue May 31 2011 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Thu May 31 2012 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Fri May 31 2013 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sat May 31 2014 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  
Sun May 31 2015 World No Tobacco Day United Nation day  

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPERS: MAY 29, 2011

 

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPERS

Quick Facts

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is an occasion to pay tribute to people who served in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations.

Local names

Name Language
International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers English
Día Internacional del Personal de Paz de las Naciones Unidas Spanish

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
List of dates for other years

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is a day to remember those who served in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. They also honor the memory of people who died in the name of peace.
United Nations soldiers stand at the ready.
Many UN workers are remembered for their work in peacekeeping operations. ©iStockphoto.com/ Sean_Warren

What do people do?

Many activities are organized on this day. Activities include:

  • Notes in official UN documents and schedules.
  • Presentations during UN meetings and events.
  • Memorial services and wreath laying events for those who died in peace keeping missions.
  • Presentation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal as a way to honor military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while working for UN peacekeeping operations.
  • Awarding peacekeeping medals to military and police officers who are peacekeepers.
  • The launch of photographic and multimedia exhibitions on the work of UN peacekeepers.

The events take place in places such as the UN headquarters in New York in the United States, as well as Vienna, Australia, and other locations worldwide.

Public life

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is not a public holiday.

Background

The UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was founded on May 29, 1948. UNTSO’s task was to assist peacekeepers to observe and maintain a cease-fire. This cease-fire marked the end of the hostilities between Israel and the Arab League forces. The hostilities started after the end of the British Mandate of Palestine on May 14, 1948. On December 11, 2002, the UN General assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The day was first observed on May 29, 2003.

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is a tribute to people who serve or have served in UN peacekeeping operations. The peacekeepers are honored for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage. People who died for peace are also remembered.

Symbols

UN Peacekeepers are usually clearly recognizable. They often display the UN flag and the letters “UN” on their clothing, equipment and vehicles. They also wear hats, helmets or other clothing with UN colors.

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Thu May 29 2003 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Sat May 29 2004 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Sun May 29 2005 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Mon May 29 2006 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Tue May 29 2007 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Thu May 29 2008 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Fri May 29 2009 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Sat May 29 2010 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Sun May 29 2011 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Tue May 29 2012 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Wed May 29 2013 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Thu May 29 2014 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  
Fri May 29 2015 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers United Nation day  

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MEMORIAL DAY: MAY 30, 2011

CLICK ON PHOTO TO READ ABOUT THE FIRST MEMORIAL DAY, ONCE KNOWN AS DECORATION DAY.

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SISTERHOOD AGENDA: GLOBAL PARTNER ACTIVITIES FOR JULY AND SEPTEMBER, 2011

 

ACTIVITIES

 

CONTACT INFO: info@yoginimafdet.com  and  www.yoginimaldet.com

 

Our World Cultural Center Presents

Fun Summer Camp For Girls & Boys

Wii Girls * Brother 2 Brother Programs

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Wii Girls Summer Camp

July 5 thru 29, 2011 * Monday thru Thursday

10 am to 3 pm

 

Other Activities Includes: Swimming, Bra Clinic, Roller Skating, 6 Flags Great America, Bowling,

Acting (Drama), Movie Making, Music & Arts, Farmers Market, other field trips & activities will be added.

 

Cost: FREE! We provide transportation, lunch, snacks and materials.

Criteria for Candidates: ages 12 to 14

6th 7th, 8th & 9th grades

Call Sister Rene to Register!

 

 

Brother2Brother Summer Camp

July 5 thru 29, 2011 * Monday thru Thursday

10 am to 3 pm

Other Activities Includes: Swimming, Manhood

Development, Roller Skating, 6 Flags Great America, Bowling, Movie & Music Making, Arts, Farmers Market, other field trips & activities will be add.

 

Cost: FREE! We provide transportation, lunch, snacks and materials.

Criteria for Candidates: ages 10 to 13

5th, 6th & 7th, grades

Call Brother Keon to Register! For More Information Please Call 916-706-2838

or email:ourworldculturalcenter@yahoo.com

CONTACT INFO: ourworldculturalcenter@yahoo.com

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 5-29-2011

GIL SCOTT-HERON, VOICE OF BLACK CULTURE

By

Published: May 28, 2011

 

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, died on Friday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 62 and had been a longtime resident of Harlem.

May 28, 2011

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Gil Scott-Heron in his Harlem home in 2001.

His death was announced in a Twitter message on Friday night by his British publisher, Jamie Byng, and confirmed early Saturday by an American representative of his record label, XL. The cause was not immediately known, although The Associated Press reported that he had become ill after returning from a trip to Europe.

Mr. Scott-Heron often bristled at the suggestion that his work had prefigured rap. “I don’t know if I can take the blame for it,” he said in an interview last year with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics.

Yet, along with the work of the Last Poets, a group of black nationalist performance poets who emerged alongside him in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Scott-Heron established much of the attitude and the stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. And he has remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West.

“You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word,” Chuck D, the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010. “He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else.”

Mr. Scott-Heron’s career began with a literary rather than a musical bent. He was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949, and reared in Tennessee and New York. His mother was a librarian and an English teacher; his estranged father was a Jamaican soccer player.

In his early teens, Mr. Scott-Heron wrote detective stories, and his work as a writer won him a scholarship to the Fieldston School in the Bronx, where he was one of 5 black students in a class of 100. Following in the footsteps of Langston Hughes, he went to the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and he wrote his first novel at 19, a murder mystery called “The Vulture.” A book of verse, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” and a second novel, “The Nigger Factory,” soon followed.

Working with a college friend, Brian Jackson, Mr. Scott-Heron turned to music in search of a wider audience. His first album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” was released in 1970 on Flying Dutchman, a small label, and included a live recitation of “Revolution” accompanied by conga and bongo drums. Another version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces of a Man,” in 1971.

“Revolution” established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and its cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades. With sharp, sardonic wit and a barrage of pop-culture references, he derided society’s dominating forces as well as the gullibly dominated:

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.

During the 1970s, Mr. Scott-Heron was seen as a prodigy with significant potential, although he never achieved more than cult popularity. He recorded 13 albums from 1970 to 1982, and was one of the first acts that the music executive Clive Davis signed after starting Arista Records in 1974. In 1979, Mr. Scott-Heron performed at Musicians United for Safe Energy’s “No Nukes” benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden, and in 1985, he appeared on the all-star anti-apartheid album “Sun City.”

But by the mid-1980s, Mr. Scott-Heron had begun to fade, and his recording output slowed to a trickle. In later years, he struggled publicly with addiction. Since 2001, Mr. Scott-Heron had been convicted twice for cocaine possession, and he served a sentence at Rikers Island in New York for parole violation.

Commentators sometimes used Mr. Scott-Heron’s plight as an example of the harshness of New York’s drug laws. Yet his friends were also horrified by his descent. In interviews Mr. Scott-Heron often dodged questions about drugs, but the writer of the New Yorker profile reported witnessing Mr. Scott-Heron’s crack smoking and being so troubled by his own ravaged physical appearance that he avoided mirrors. “Ten to 15 minutes of this, I don’t have pain,” Mr. Scott-Heron said in the article, as he lighted a glass crack pipe.

That image seemed to contrast tragically with Mr. Scott-Heron’s legacy as someone who had once so trenchantly mocked the psychology of addiction. “You keep sayin’ kick it, quit it, kick it quit it!” he said in his 1971 song “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.” “God, did you ever try to turn your sick soul inside out so that the world could watch you die?”

Complete information about Mr. Scott-Heron’s survivors was not immediately available, but Mr. Byng, his publisher, said that they included a half-brother, Denis Scott-Heron; a son, Rumal; and two daughters, Gia Scott-Heron and Che Newton. Mr. Byng added that Mr. Scott-Heron had recently been working on voluminous memoirs, parts of which he hoped to publish soon.

Despite Mr. Scott-Heron’s public problems, he remained an admired figure in music, and he made occasional concert appearances and was sought after as a collaborator. Last year, XL released “I’m New Here,” his first album of new material in 16 years, which was produced by Richard Russell, a British record producer who met Mr. Scott-Heron at Rikers Island in 2006 after writing him a letter.

Reviews for the album inevitably called Mr. Scott-Heron the “godfather of rap,” but he made it clear he had different tastes.

“It’s something that’s aimed at the kids,” he once said. “I have kids, so I listen to it. But I would not say it’s aimed at me. I listen to the jazz station.”

SOURCE

Gil Scott-Heron.

What a way with words, and what a way with getting to the point past all the bull, mendacity, and beating-around-the-bush morass.

Mr. Scott-Heron’s famous “Revolution” poem still stands today as a testament to challenging the medocrity that has become the norm in America, as well as stating that real revolution waits for no one.

The revolution will not be televised simply because it will not be televised.

The revolution will be live, and when it comes, it will catch everyone by surprise.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Mr. Sott-Heron was more than just one song. he was a man of beautiful lyrics and songs that were sublime—songs that stand the tests of time:

He will be sorely missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Scott-Heron.

Rest in peace.

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JEFF CONWAY, ACTOR IN ‘TAXI’ AND ‘GREASE’

By

Published: May 27, 2011

 

Jeff Conaway, the personable actor who won television fame on the sitcom “Taxi” and movie success in the musical “Grease” three decades ago and who later publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 60.

May 28, 2011

ABC, via Photofest

Jeff Conaway, left, with Tony Danza in the television sitcom, “Taxi.”

 

May 28, 2011

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

Jeff Conaway in Los Angeles in 2009.

He died of complications of pneumonia at Encino Tarzana Medical Center after being taken off life support on Thursday, a talent representative, Phil Brock, said.

Mr. Conaway was found unconscious at his home in the Encino section of the city on May 11 and was kept in a coma medically without ever regaining consciousness, Mr. Brock said. He said Mr. Conaway had been struggling with back problems and treating himself with painkillers while in weakened health.

Mr. Conaway’s addictions to alcohol and drugs were well known because of his appearances in 2008 on the reality series “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” starring Drew Pinsky. Mr. Conaway often appeared high and belligerent on the show. He had agreed to participate against the wishes of his agents, Mr. Brock said.

Mr. Conaway said numerous back surgeries were responsible for his addiction to painkillers. In early 2010 he had a serious fall that left him with a brain hemorrhage, a broken hip and a fractured neck.

Mr. Conaway spoke openly of his problems in 2008 when he appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show and told the host, “I’ve tried to commit suicide 21 times.” Asked about his methods, he replied, “Mostly it’s been with pills.”

In late February and early March, Mr. Conaway and his girlfriend of seven years, Victoria Spinoza, a singer who records as Vikki Lizzi, filed temporary restraining orders against each other, trading accusations of theft and physical violence.

Mr. Conaway had continued to work in films and television in recent years, but his career had plummeted since his greatest popularity, in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

The film version of “Grease,” starring a rebellious John Travolta (as Danny Zuko) and a wholesome Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) as improbable 1950s high school sweethearts, opened in June 1978, with Mr. Conaway in the supporting role of Kenickie, Mr. Travolta’s bad-boy sidekick. The tough-talking but vulnerable Kenickie goes through his own trauma, believing that his girlfriend, Rydell High’s bad girl Rizzo (Stockard Channing), may be pregnant.

Three months later, “Taxi,” a sitcom about a group of New York cabdrivers, had its premiere on ABC. The show’s ensemble cast included Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd and Marilu Henner. Mr. Conaway’s character, Bobby Wheeler, was a vain and handsome aspiring actor who never seemed to get a break in his show business career.

In an admiring review of the show in 1979, John J. O’Connor, writing in The New York Times, described a scene in which Bobby had accidentally let his friend Tony’s two pet fish die. “I guess it was just their time,” Bobby tells Tony desperately, adding that maybe the deaths were “one of those murder-suicide things.”

The series lasted five seasons, but Mr. Conaway left after the fourth. In 1989, he explained his reason for the departure to The Toronto Star: “In ‘Taxi,’ I kept doing the same scene for three years. I was underused.”

Jeffrey Charles William Michael Conaway was born on Oct. 5, 1950, in New York City. His parents, a struggling actress and an advertising man, divorced when he was a boy, and he divided his time between his mother’s apartment in Flushing, Queens, and his maternal grandparents’ home in South Carolina.

He began acting as a child and made his Broadway debut when he was 10 in a small part in “All the Way Home,” a well-received adaptation of James Agee’s novel “A Death in the Family,” starring Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Hill and Lillian Gish.

Growing up, he modeled, appeared in commercials and played in a rock band. He spent a year at the North Carolina School of the Arts, then transferred to New York University. But because of a job offer, he never graduated.

That job was in the original Broadway production of “Grease,” which opened in 1972. He understudied several roles but was never cast as Kenickie, the role that made him famous in the film version. Instead, he eventually took over the role of Danny, the romantic lead.

A few years after “Taxi,” Mr. Conaway returned to Broadway in a new musical, “The News,” in which he played the editor of a big-city tabloid. But the reviews were negative, and the show closed after three nights. He continued to appear in films and did television again, most successfully in the 1990s science fiction series “Babylon 5.”

His last film work was as the voice-over narrator in two fantasy dramas, “Dante’s Inferno Documented” and “Dante’s Purgatorio Documented,” both in postproduction. His final screen appearance was in the film “Dark Games,” a thriller scheduled to be released this summer.

Mr. Conaway married and divorced three times. After an early marriage that lasted less than a year, he married Rona Newton-John, the sister of his “Grease” co-star, in 1980. They divorced in 1985. His third wife was Keri Young, from 1990 until their divorce in the early 2000s.

His survivors include two sisters, Michelle and Carla, and a stepson, Emerson Newton-John, a racecar driver.

When Mickey Rourke, after fighting his own battles with addiction, earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in “The Wrestler” two years ago, an interviewer asked Mr. Conaway what he thought about Mr. Rourke’s comeback.

“Hollywood can be a very stinging town,” Mr. Conaway said on a video posted by Hollywood.TV on YouTube. “They say it’s a forgiving business. It’s not that forgiving.”

SOURCE

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JOSEPH BROOKS, MAKER OF JINGLES, SONGS, AND FILMS

By

Published: May 23, 2011

 

Before his life had tumbled into scandal and ended over the weekend in suicide at the age of 73, Joseph Brooks had carved out a glittering, idiosyncratic career as author of some of advertising’s most famous jingles, as a maker of movies and musicals and as the composer of a huge hit, “You Light Up My Life.”

May 24, 2011

Associated Press

Joseph Brooks in 1978 with his songwriting Oscar.

Mr. Brooks’s death came after he was charged in 2009 with luring 13 women to Manhattan to audition for movie roles, then drugging and sexually assaulting them. He had not yet been tried, but he faced 25 years in prison if convicted. A son, Nicholas, is awaiting trial on charges that he strangled his girlfriend last December.

Mr. Brooks, who had been hobbled by a stroke in 2008, was found dead in his Upper East Side apartment on Sunday. The police said his head was wrapped in a plastic bag connected to a tube from a helium tank and that he had left a three-page note. The city medical examiners have ruled the death a suicide.

Joseph Brooks had lived life in superlatives. He cranked out jingle after jingle, many of which still rattle in the nation’s collective head. Thank Mr. Brooks for “You’ve got a lot to live, and Pepsi’s got a lot to give.” At one point in the 1970s, he said, he had 150 commercials on the air. He told The Washington Post in 1977 that he figured more people in the United States listened to his music than that of any other composer.

He wrote the song “You Light Up My Life” for the 1977 movie of the same name, which he produced, wrote, directed and scored. The song won him an Oscar, a Grammy and a 10-week run as composer of the No. 1 song in America, sung by Debby Boone. (Kasey Cisyk sang it in the movie.) The movie made $40 million on an investment of less than $1 million, despite being almost universally panned. (Many commentators have since pointed out that a central plot twist was the heroine’s one-night stand with a director.)

In his next movie, “If Ever I See You Again,” Mr. Brooks did everything he did for the first, and also starred. The hero, as written by Mr. Brooks, was a brilliant Madison Avenue music man.

His chutzpah became the stuff of legend. After every major studio and distributor turned down “You Light Up My Life,” Mr. Brooks paid for previews in several cities and spent $150,000 of his own money on ads. Columbia finally took the bait.

In 2005, after critics attacked his only Broadway show, “In My Life,” Mr. Brooks spent $1.5 million for ads saying the critics were wrong. A characteristic touch was taking a criticism by Ben Brantley of The New York Times, “jaw-dropping whimsy run amok,” and treating it as a compliment.

Mr. Brooks’s penchant for the large gesture was vividly evinced in “Invitation to the Wedding” (1983), which he directed and scored, and in which his wife at the time, the former Susan Paul, acted. Mr. Brooks hired John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson to star, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to play his music. The movie flopped.

Writers groped for ways to describe the majesty of the young Mr. Brooks’s self-regard. Grace Lichtenstein, writing in The Times in 1977, said, “Joe Brooks may be a relatively unknown director in motion pictures, but in the field of egotism he’s the most promising heavyweight contender since Sylvester Stallone.”

The Globe and Mail of Toronto noted Mr. Brooks’s eagerness to depict his own life, “perfections and all.”

Joseph Brooks was born on March 11, 1938, in Manhattan and grew up in Lawrence, N.J. He claimed to have marched up to a piano at 3 and played. “It wasn’t something that someone would say, ‘Hey, that’s the best thing I ever heard,’ but I was picking out tunes,” he said in an interview with The Times in 1982. “My grandmother called it an act of God.”

When he was 5 or so, around the time of his parents’ divorce, he developed a severe stutter and began to write plays. “I could put the words that were in my head into my characters’ mouths so they could be these intelligent, often very funny people,” he said.

Mr. Brooks led services at his synagogue at 12 and grew bored with five different colleges, including Juilliard, never graduating from any. He failed as a professional singer and drifted into the ad business, where he chose to think of his music as “50-second hits.” He moonlighted writing the scores for movies like “The Lords of Flatbush” (1974).

Mr. Brooks was making piles of money in the ad business from clients including Geritol, Dr Pepper, American Airlines and Dial soap. His drive to make jingles more evocative — using Ray Charles to sing about Maxwell House coffee, for example — earned him the Clio, a top industry award, 21 times.

He began “You Light Up My Life” by putting up $250,000 himself and raising $550,000 from others. He composed the song even as the movie was being shot.

Mr. Brooks had been married four times and was single at his death. In addition to his son Nicholas, he is survived by two other children.

As he wandered between unpredictable movie and stage projects — including a 1989 musical in London based on the 1926 Fritz Lang film, “Metropolis” — Mr. Brooks repeatedly returned to a favorite subject: himself. And he kept finding novel approaches. In his 2005 Broadway production, God sings the words to two of Mr. Brooks’s most successful jingles, those for Dr Pepper and Volkswagen.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 25, 2011

An obituary on Tuesday about the songwriter and filmmaker Joseph Brooks misstated Mr. Brooks’s role in the production of the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers.” He was a producer and musical adviser; he did not write the score, which was written by John Cafferty. (This error also appeared in an article about Mr. Brooks on June 24, 2009.) The obituary also misstated Mr. Brooks’s birthday in 1938. It was March 11, not May 11. And it misspelled the surname of the woman who is heard singing Mr. Brooks’s composition “You Light Up My Life” in the movie of the same name. She was Kacey Cisyk, not Cicyk.

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