Monthly Archives: December 2015



Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American love story/drama film directed by Ang Lee. It was adapted from the 1997 short story of the same name by author Annie Proulx,  where it originally ran in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997.

Release dates were September 2, 2005 (Venice International Film Festival), December 9, 2005 (United States) and  December 23, 2005 (Canada). The film had a budget of $14 million and went on to gross $178.1 million.


Released by Focus Films, in association with River Road Entertainment, the screenplay was written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams,  Roberta Maxwell, Peter McRobbie, Kate Mara, David Harbour, Linda Cardellini, Anna Fariss and Randy Quaid, and it depicts the complex emotional and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1983.



December 9, 2015 marks the 10TH Anniversary of the debut of Brokeback Mountain.

Jack Twist, from Lightning Flat, near the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from Sage, near the Utah line, were looking for work and looking to try to save money to buy spreads of their own.

They meet up at the office of Joe Aguirre where he hired them on to care for sheep in Wyoming.

Austere and stoic in their demeanor, they both epitomized the Marlboro Man of the rural West.

While they are waiting for Aguirre to come, Ennis nervously looks down, but, Jack on the other hand looks right at Ennis, all the while striking a pose. I wonder if the movie’s creators knew about the dance known as vogue, because Jack sure did strike a pose in that scene.


Many people call this the “gay cowboy movie”.

Since Jack and Ennis were herding sheep, I prefer to call them shepherds who tended to the sheep, and watched their flock by night.

Jack was the sheep herder, and Ennis was the camp tender.

While working weeks with the herd, and enduring a humdrum food situation, Jack and Ennis switched off on job tasks, with Ennis shepherding the sheep, while Jack stayed in camp as tender. One cold night, Jack tells Ennis to come inside their tent and sleep, which he does, and here is where the movie’s tagline, “Love is a force of nature” begins.

Jack and Ennis make love. Not tentatively, but furtively. The next morning, Ennis, who had gone to bed with a hangover, awakes to find himself inside the tent. Nervous and fearful of what transpired the night before, he rides out of camp to tend to the sheep. But the sheep have been attacked in the night by coyotes, and the shepherds will have to answer for this.

The next night they become more comfortable in their lovemaking.

Soon, they must bring the sheep down from pasture, and Aguirre lets them know he was not satisfied in how they did their shepherding of the sheep. Angry at losing a month’s pay, Ennis sulks. Jack tries to cajole him. They get into a fight, causing blood to fly and get on their clothes, most notably Ennis’ shirt. They pack up their gear to leave Brokeback Mountain. Before they leave, Ennis wonders what happened to his shirt; Jack mumbles an answer on the whereabouts of the shirt.

Jack and Ennis part ways, Jack reluctantly, and Ennis with trepidation. As Jack drives away, looking at Ennis in the rear view mirror, his face is of sadness and longing.

But, it is Ennis’ responses that is the most gut-wrenching.

The agony and misery of suppressing his love for Jack nearly tears Ennis apart that he reacts violently to their separation.

Ennis marries Alma, his sweetheart. Jack weds Lureen, a barrel racer he met at a rodeo.

The two men go on with their lives, Ennis in Wyoming, Jack in Texas, their fathering children, and settling into married life, until one day Ennis receives a postcard from Jack, and the flame of love is rekindled, and they are reunited.

Unbeknownst to them, Alma has seen their passionate embrace and kissing.

Soon Ennis and Jack are off on their “fishing buddy” trips through the years, with Jack driving up to visit Ennis and vacation at their beloved Brokeback Mountain.

But, Jack wants more from the relationship. He wants a life with Ennis. Ennis is terrified of moving in with Jack, and at the last time they meet together they argue.

Sometime later, Ennis receives a postcard returned to him.

It is stamped “DECEASED”.

Calling up Lureen to inquire about Jack’s death, Ennis finds out, according to Lureen, that Jack died from an accident while changing a tire. But, Ennis, who was traumatized by seeing the dead body of a man killed for being a homosexual when his father took him to view the remains, believes that Jack instead was murdered by a group of gay-bashers.

Lureen tells Ennis that half of Jack’s cremated remains were buried in the family plot in Childress, Texas, and the other half were sent to his parent’s home. In the following scene, while conversing with Ennis, she begins to realize she is talking to her husband’s lover.

Not only that, her behaviour indicates that she realized Jack really told her about an actual place—Brokeback Mountain—and in Lureen’s not having Jack’s ashes scattered over Brokeback Mountain, she in essence denied Jack his last wish. Her having half of Jack’s ashes interred into the cemetery in Childress, and her sending the other half to Jack’s parents was just as much a travesty as if committing a King Solomon and the baby dishonor.

Visiting Jack’s parents, he entreats them to let him take the rest of Jack’s remains to scatter them over Brokeback Mountain, since this was Jack’s favourite place and his last wish. But, Jack’s father refuses, since he was filled with contempt that his son was a homosexual. Mama Twist, on the other hand, shows compassion to Ennis and lets him take a memento of Jack’s to keep.

As for Dada Twist; the less said about him, the better.

Ennis then goes up to Jack’s room and finds something he had long since forgotten about.

It is the missing shirt that Ennis questioned Jack about.

I sometimes wonder if Mama Twist knew of the two shirts in Jack’s closet, and if she hid them in the back of the closet, after coming upon them accidentally. Her telling Ennis to go upstairs to Jack’s room, and her saying, “I left his room like it was when he was a boy, and he (Jack) appreciated that”, was most telling to me. Especially  when Ennis comes downstairs with Jack’s shirt; Mama  Twist gave Ennis a knowing look as if to say, “I’m glad you found what I wanted you to find. I’m glad you found the shirts.”

She saw that Ennis loved Jack, and she was willing to let him have something that belonged to Jack.

Holding the shirt close, Ennis breathes in and mourns the life, the missed chance he could have had with Jack.

I first saw Brokeback Mountain in the theater when it was released. At the time, the movie did not resonate with me. Yes, it was about two men who loved each other on Brokeback Mountain, but, it was not until ten years later I wanted to see this movie I had not seen in a decade. It was then after looking online into the making of Brokeback Mountain, that I realized that December 9, 2015 was the ten-year anniversary of its release.

Seeing the movie again, I saw the pathos in how these two men could never love each other in 1963, at least not in peace.

Not until the  historic cessation of the medicalization of homosexuality as a form of insanity/mental illness by the psychiatric profession, did the century-long history of institutional oppression end, only concluding in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (under constant pressure from LGBT activists) elected to remove homosexuality from its DSM-II nomenclature of pathology.

 Not with the laws against sodomy, as it was called, that would land them both in jail, or worse, as it was considered a felony and punishable with a prison sentence. It was not until the U.S. Supreme Court decision with Lawrence vs. the State  of Texas, in 2003, that consensual homosexual sex was decriminalized.

Not until the United States Supreme Court 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples.

Not until Obergefell v. Hodges,  576 U.S.  (2015), the landmark United States Supreme Court case ruling in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

That Ennis was so terrified of their being found out, it froze him into a dread of opening himself up to Jack and fully loving him. Jack had no qualms about loving and wanting to be with Ennis, but Ennis’ fear that somebody’s eyes are watching paralyzed him into fits of rage and anger to where he violently manhandled Alma when she let him know that she knew about his trysts with Jack when they were supposed to be on fishing trips.

Even Ennis’ love with Jack was so rough and at the time they left Brokeback Mountain, he beat Jack because he could not love Jack publicly and openly.

This displaced anger eventually caught up to Ennis when he was soundly whipped by a driver he got into an argument with when the driver narrowly missed hitting Ennis with his truck.

When I first saw BBM, I thought that Ennis was such a domestic-abusing-beater-of-Alma-and-Jack bitch. The way he treated Alma and Jack and Cassie. But after seeing the movie again, I saw it with different eyes. I saw where Ennis was hurting and suffering in his love for Jack, just as much as Jack was suffering from being unable to live with Ennis on the ranch Jack wanted so much to get for them.

Years ago, when I was between 18-20-years-of-age, I remember watching a news program about gays/lesbians wanting to have legal rights to their deceased partners estate, and I remember my Mother, while watching it with me, said that it was not natural that men should be together just like a man and woman. She had no problem with gays having legal rights, but, on the issue of men being with another man, she was not for that.

I remember saying “Maybe it is a different kind of love. A love, no less or more, but, a different kind of love.”

My Mother was quiet, and we finished looking at the program.

Mind you now, I still consider homosexual behavior an aberration in that it is not normal in nature. No reproduction means no continuance of a species—-animal or human. That does not mean attack or murder homosexuals, but, homosexuality does constitute and present a deadend for any and all species on this planet. On the other other hand, homosexuality can also be a form of population control. God knows there are too many human beings proliferating on Earth, a planet whose resources are becoming severely depleted. Maybe homosexuality in the end does serve a purpose.

Jump start to years later, we are again watching TV and this time it is the movie Philadelphia, starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, released December 23, 1993.

The scene where Joann Woodward says “I did not raise my children to sit at the back of the bus”, obviously pissed my Mother off (can’t say that I blame her), but, it is when Hanks’s character, Andrew Beckett is fired for being gay and having AIDs, and he is desperately trying to find an attorney to represent him, that he goes to the office of Joe Miller, played by Denzel Washington. During the course of their consultation,  through hems and haws, not wanting to represent  Beckett, Miller says that he cannot take the case. Finally, my Mother has had enough, to wit she says:

“Oh, go on take the case and represent the man.”

She was able to see the sadness, desperation and rejection in Beckett’s eyes that no lawyer, even an ambulance chaser like Joe Miller, wanted to give him the time of day.

Both films showed the humanity of LGBT people. Both films showed that LGBT people had needs, wants and desires.

The hetero-normative world that existed for Jack and Ennis had no mercy or compassion for the love between Jack and Ennis. It did not tolerate nor could fathom two men living together, much less their loving each other. It would sneer at, attack, and destroy any life that Jack and Ennis would try to build for themselves.

It would be the rope. The beatings. The curses and invectives hurled:  “Get that fag!” “Beat that queer!” “Kill him!”

The world that Jack and Ennis lived in would allow only one sexual orientation and being, and that was the cruelest blow to the life that lay ahead for Ennis.

The world where Jack and Ennis had to live a lie about their relationship and love for each other. The world where they had to marry to give outer appearances of acceptable masculinity.  A world where they both committed adultery against both their marriage vows. A world where their living a lie ultimately hurt Jack, Ennis, Alma, Lureen, Cassie, Alma, Jr., Bobby and Jenny. A world where Ennis’ extreme fear of discovery caused him to lose the one and only person he truly loved, and who truly loved him—a world where they could not freely be themselves, a world where Ennis ended up alone, sad and miserable due to the society in which they lived.

True, he had his daughters Alma, Jr. and Jenny’s love, and they were the world to him, but, because of the time Ennis and Jack lived in, he could not love Jack unconditionally before the world. And all that he had left of his time with Jack were their two shirts, embraced in each other.

But, the world intruded on theirs where it filled Ennis with fear and dread to where he shut down and swallowed the longings that he had for Jack, and at the end of the day, when you have come home and the world has whipped you so, it is the person who is there waiting for you who will listen to your troubles. The person who will comfort you when the shit has come down so hard, you have to wear a hat. The person who will be there for you when you are so sick you can barely stand.

The person who will close your eyes when you have left this world.


“On a late winter afternoon, Ida Mae is going through some old funeral programs like people go through family photo albums. She starts to thinking about all the funerals she has been to, and one stands out in her mind. It was of a nephew of her husband. The nephew had been gay, and his companion, who was white, was distraught beyond words.

“As she is recounting the story, Betty, the tenant from upstairs, happens to be there for a visit. Ida Mae describes how the companion was so torn up about her nephew’s death that he nearly climbed into the casket.

“It was a white fella he was living with,” she says. “And when they closed the casket, that white boy fell out. He said, “Don’t close the casket!’ He took care of him to the end. Wouldn’t let him go.

“I guess he musta really loved him,” she says.

“That’s not love,” Betty breaks in. “God didn’t mean for no man to be with no other man. They can’t love. They don’t know what love is.

“You don’t think they can love each other?” Ida Mae asks her.

“Can’t no man love another man. Only men and women can love each other.

“Ida Mae just looks straight ahead toward the couch. She knows what she saw. There are husbands who don’t show out like that for their wives and wives looking relieved  and near-gleeful at their husbands’  funerals.

“Ida Mae shakes her head. “Well, I don’t know what it is.” she says.

“But it sure is something there.”

Excerpt from The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, Random House, New York, 2010,  pgs. 484-485.

In the year 2015, much has changed, but, much still has remained in America’s perception and response to homosexuals and lesbians.

During the time frame that  Brokeback Mountain covers, there was no such thing as gay pride, gay culture or hate crime laws passed to protect their rights as citizens. In the year the movie is set, 1963, the Stonewall Uprising led by Black and Puerto Rican American citizens had not occurred yet as it was six years into the future.

Brokeback Mountain received many good reviews upon release.

Critics praised the film:

“Brokeback Mountain has been described as “a gay cowboy movie,” which is a cruel simplification. It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel. Their tragedy is universal.”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Ang Lee’s unmissable and unforgettable Brokeback Mountain hits you like a shot in the heart. It’s a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Moviegoers expressed their views, some even having a change of heart towards homosexuals and lesbians, realizing that they too were just as human as heterosexuals. Some viewers even became distraught upon learning of Jack’s death in the film:

Krysti Reilly



    At the time director  Ang Lee was casting his movie, he interviewed various actors for the roles of Ennis and Jack. From meeting with many of them, he saw their fear in taking on the role:

    “Before Brokeback Mountain, the idea of a straight A-list actor playing a gay role in a hit movie seemed far-fetched. Afterwards it became almost commonplace, but it took Ang Lee to make that happen. Actors auditioned for Brokeback because Lee was a big name, but many were hesitant. “During the interviews I had a feeling they were a little, if I may say, afraid, uncomfortable,” recalls Lee. “Usually when they come to meet with [the director] their agents will follow up: ‘How’s it going?’ They didn’t say that to me this time.”


    But, the roles fell to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who went on to achieve stardom in the roles of a lifetime. They boarded that ship and set sail into celluloid immortality.

    Brokeback Mountain was nominated for eight Academy Awards. The acting and cinematography were superb, with Brokeback Mountain winning three Oscars at the 78TH Academy Awards:

    Ang Lee, Best Director; Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, Best Adapted Screenplay; Gustavo Santaolalla, Best Original Score.

    The soundtrack is wonderful with masterful and simple guitar pieces and songs sung by Willie Nelson, Rufus Wainwright, Emmylou Harris, among many others:

    “A Love That Will Never Grow Old”; “He Was a Friend of Mine”, The Maker Makes”, “I Will Never Let You Go” and “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye”, to name just a few.

    Memorable quotes occur as well:

    “I wish I knew how to quit you”.

    “If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it”.

    “You know I ain’t queer.

    Me neither.”

    “Friend, that’s more words than you’ve spoke in the past two weeks.

    “Hell, that’s the most I’ve spoke in a year.”

    “You know, your friend could come inside, have a cup of coffee…

    “He’s from Texas.

    “Texans don’t drink coffee?”

    “You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. Twist, you guys wasn’t gettin’ paid to leave the dogs babysittin’ the sheep while you stem the rose.”

    “You know friend, this is a god damn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation.”

    “Old Brokeback got us good.”

    “Bottom line is… we’re around each other an’… this thing, it grabs hold of us again… at the wrong place… at the wrong time… and we’re dead.”

    “You’re 19, you can do whatever you want.”

    “Jack, I swear….”

    Product Details

    Brokeback Mountain

    2005 | Soundtrack

    by Various Artists and Gustavo Santaolalla

    At the end of Brokeback Mountain we see Ennis alone in his trailer home.

    “Get along little dogies, get along. It’s your misfortune, and not of my own.

    “You know that Wyoming will be your new home.”

    SOURCE:  Whoopee Ti Yi Yo (Get Along Little Dogies), traditional cowboy ballad.

    He buttons Jack’s shirt and caresses the two shirts that belonged to him and Jack. Two shirts that are now one.

    At Jack’s parents’ home, Ennis’ shirt was enclosed inside Jack’s shirt.

    At the end of the movie, Jack’s shirt is enclosed in Ennis’ shirt.

    Gently straightening a postcard of Brokeback Mountain, he says: “Jack, I swear….”

    We are left to see this man close a door on a part of life he could never live, but, maybe in the next life he will find the peace and love with Jack that he could never have on Earth.










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    IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-27-2015

    • William Guest, a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips from 1953 to 1989, died on Thursday in Detroit. He was 74.
    Mr. Guest’s sister-in-law, Dhyana Ziegler, said the cause was congestive heart failure.
    Mr. Guest, who was Ms. Knight’s cousin, began singing with her when they were both children. His background vocals were heard on records like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a Top 10 hit for the group in 1967, and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” which reached No. 1 shortly after the group left Motown Records and began recording for Buddah in 1973.
    Gladys Knight and the Pips won three Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Apollo Hall of Fame in 2006.
    After the group broke up in 1989, Mr. Guest and another former member, Edward Patten, formed a production company. Mr. Patten died in 2005.
    Mr. Guest was later the chief executive of Crew Records. He published his autobiography, “Midnight Train From Georgia: A Pip’s Journey,” written with Ms. Ziegler, in 2013.

    Joe Jamail in his Houston office in 2002. Credit F. Carter Smith

    • Joe Jamail, a celebrated Texas lawyer who had flunked civil negligence in law school and barely passed the bar exam but went on to dazzle his profession by winning gargantuan judgments — including Pennzoil’s $10.5 billion award against Texaco in 1985, then the largest in history — died on Wednesday in Houston. He was 90.
    The University of Texas, where he was a major benefactor, confirmed his death on its website.
    Mr. Jamail’s specialty was personal injury cases — people hurt in accidents or by commercial products — and over five decades he won more than 500 lawsuits and $13 billion in judgments and settlements for his clients. The defendants were mostly insurance companies and, in cases of product liability, corporations like Firestone Tire & Rubber, General Motors, Eli Lilly, RCA and Remington Arms.
    Audacious, unpredictable, a theatrical courtroom rogue, Mr. Jamail won the hearts and minds of juries with down-home straight talk in a barroom drawl that turned boring contracts and soporific legal jargon into simple, dramatic morality plays, with casts of victims (his clients) and villains (the other guys).

    From left, Harry Reasoner, Joe Jamail and Darrell Royal at the University of Texas in 2003. Credit Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman

    “People who want to be derogatory call it ‘whoopin’ and ‘hollerin,’ but Joe just has great rapport with juries,” said G. Irvin Terrell, a lawyer who was Pennzoil’s regular outside counsel and worked with Mr. Jamail on the Texaco case. The judgment they won was five times as great as any previous award.
    The case, in which Pennzoil accused Texaco of improperly interfering with its 1984 deal to buy part of Getty Oil, was Mr. Jamail’s first on behalf of a major corporate client, and it elevated him overnight from the lone star of Texas courtrooms to near-mythical status in American jurisprudence. But if the size of the judgment, from Pennzoil’s point of view, seemed too good to be true, it indeed was.
    The judgment withstood appeals, unlike many large awards, but Pennzoil received only a fraction. Texaco, whose net worth was roughly equal to the judgment, was virtually wiped out. Unable even to post a bond to cover the award during appeals, Texaco filed for bankruptcy and settled the case for $3 billion in 1987. Mr. Jamail’s fee was said to be $345 million.
    Long known as the King of Torts, Mr. Jamail worked on a contingency fee basis, usually one-third of the award, and earned $10 million to $25 million a year in the decade before the Pennzoil case. In 1994 alone, he earned $90 million (about $145 million in today’s money), according to Forbes magazine, and he had amassed $1.5 billion by 2009, when Forbes ranked him 236th on its list of richest Americans.
    Joseph Dahr Jamail Jr. was born on Oct. 19, 1925, to Joseph and Marie Anton Jamail. His father was a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in Houston as a boy, sold food from a cart in a farmers’ market and eventually built a chain of 28 grocery stores. The younger Joseph graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston and attended the University of Texas at Austin for a semester before joining the Marines in 1943.
    After serving in the Pacific in World War II, he returned to the university, earned a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and married the former Lillie Mae Hage, known as Lee. She died in 2007. The couple had three sons, Joseph Dahr III, Randall Hage and Robert Lee, who survive him. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available. Mr. Jamail lived in Houston.
    In law school at the university, Mr. Jamail flunked his first course on torts, the field in which he would excel. Classmates recalled him as a gregarious, storytelling saloon companion and a brilliant but indifferent student. Months before receiving his law degree in 1953, he took the Texas bar exam on a $100 bet, cramming over a weekend and scoring 76, one point over the passing grade.
    “I overtrained,” he said.
    His first job was at Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski, a politically connected white-shoe law firm in Houston, whose best-known partner, Leon Jaworski, was later the special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.
    “I lasted about 20 minutes in that kind of corporate law-by-committee environment,” Mr. Jamail recalled.
    He worked for a year as an assistant prosecutor in Harris County, Tex., then went into private practice. His first big splash in the papers came in what was called the Case of the Killer Tree.
    In an act of hubris, he represented the widow of a drunken driver fatally injured when his car jumped a curb and hit a tree. He persuaded a jury that the tree, on a traffic island in the middle of a street, had been planted in the wrong place by the city. His client won funeral expenses and $6,000 for suffering, and the city cut down the tree.
    An outstanding court performer, he would arrive without a briefcase or stacks of documents, the days of preparation memorized to preserve an illusion of simplicity.
    He was a husky man with blue eyes and a potato nose, fleshy lips and a dimpled chin. The gray hair was parted vaguely on the left, and the face was florid and a bit shiny, as if he had been out all night; friends, who included Kirk Douglas, Willie Nelson and Darrell Royal, the Hall of Fame Longhorn football coach, said he often had been.
    But he examined witnesses and nurtured juries with an actor’s repertoire that could be confiding, angry, cajoling, blustering — pitying the victims and indignant at the villains. It worked again and again: for the girl paralyzed in the crash of an all-terrain vehicle, for the man whose hands were burned off by an electrical box, for the baseball player blinded in one eye by a battery jumper cable.
    Mr. Jamail and his wife gave millions to the University of Texas, the Texas Heart Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine and other philanthropies.
    His name is a fixture on the University of Texas campus in Austin, where a swim center, the football field, a law school pavilion and a legal library and research center have been named for him. His likeness can be found there as well: a statue at the law school and another at the football field, making him the only person with two on the university’s 350-acre campus — an honor that rankled some students and faculty members as excessive when the second one was unveiled in 2004.
    Mr. Jamail lectured at colleges and universities, and was the recipient of numerous awards. His autobiography, “Lawyer: My Trials and Jubilations,” written with Mickey Herskowitz, was published in 2003.
    His office in Houston had many mementos, including a glass paperweight encasing the bank-deposit slip for the $3 billion that Pennzoil had collected from Texaco.
    Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

    Charles F. Harris Credit The History Makers

    • Charles F. Harris, an editor and publisher who pushed commercial and academic presses to embrace black writers, explore black issues and court black readers, died on Dec. 16 in Manhattan. He was 81.
    The cause was colon cancer, his son Francis said.
    Mr. Harris began his career in publishing at Doubleday & Company in the mid-1950s, when black editors were rare and the prevailing notion in the book business was that, with few exceptions, writing by black authors or aimed at black readers belonged to a niche market that was at worst inconsequential and at best narrow and unprofitable. He spent much of his career defying that premise.
    From the early 1970s until the mid-1980s, Mr. Harris was the chief executive of Howard University Press, the first black university press in the country, where he published about 100 books, most in the social sciences and the humanities.
    He established the press’s academic bona fides with such titles as “A Poetic Equation” (1974), a book of conversations between Margaret Walker and Nikki Giovanni, black poets of different generations; “The Wayward and the Seeking: A Collection of Writing by Jean Toomer” (1980); and the American edition of “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” (1974), an analysis of the effects of Western capitalism by the Guyana-born scholar Walter Rodney. (Howard University Press, which closed in 2011, also published a revised edition of Mr. Rodney’s book in 1981.)

    Charles F. Harris helped edit Amistad, a ground-breaking literary magazine. Credit Random House

    In 1986, Mr. Harris ventured back into commercial publishing. He founded Amistad Press, which published a series of critical volumes on Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and Alice Walker, among other black writers, and works by contemporary black figures including the tennis champion Arthur Ashe, the longtime Democratic congressman from Missouri William L. Clay and the editor of Essence magazine, Susan L. Taylor. Mr. Harris sold Amistad to HarperCollins in 1999 and was editorial director of the imprint until 2003.
    Charles Frederick Harris was born in Portsmouth, Va., on Jan. 3, 1934, to Ambrose Harris and the former Annie Eula Lawson. The youngest of seven children, Charles continued a family tradition of delivering local newspapers. His father, a railroad man, insisted that his children read the newspapers they delivered.
    Charles Harris graduated from I. C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth and Virginia State College (now Virginia State University). He joined Doubleday after serving in the Army.
    In 1965, with the publication of two titles on black history — “A Glorious Age in Africa: The Story of Three Great African Empires” and “Worth Fighting For: A History of the Negro During the Civil War and Reconstruction” — Mr. Harris started Zenith Books, a Doubleday imprint for young readers. It was intended to address the lack of information about a variety of minority groups in history textbooks, and by 1969, “following the example of Doubleday’s Zenith Books,” The New York Times Book Review reported, “every major publisher has a black history or culture series of one kind or another.”
    In the late 1960s, Mr. Harris moved to Random House, where, among other things, he acquired “The Greatest,” a memoir by Muhammad Ali (written with Richard Durham). He and John A. Williams edited Amistad, a book-length periodical published under Random House’s aegis (the first issue was brought out by Vintage, a paperback imprint) that was reportedly the first magazine devoted to black writing.
    Two issues were published, in 1970 and 1971, including work by Addison Gayle Jr. and Langston Hughes. Some of the content was in sync with the defiant tenor of radical times, some was more circumspect.
    “Its nine black contributors have launched their literary ship with vigor,” Newsweek magazine wrote of the first issue.
    Mr. Harris married Sammie Jackson in 1956. In addition to her and to his son Francis, he is survived by another son, Charles Jr., and a brother, James.
    In 1980, while he was at Howard University Press, Mr. Harris gave an interview to The Times Book Review in which he recalled a meeting from his early days in commercial publishing. The discussion at the meeting focused on the possibility of the house’s reprinting the work of Frederick Douglass, the onetime slave who became a fervent abolitionist and one of the 19th century’s most eloquent and persuasive orators. One editor, he recalled, argued against it because his grandmother, who counted herself an expert on 19th-century literature, had never heard of Douglass.
    “You had to deal with this kind of mentality constantly,” Mr. Harris said. “It wasn’t even just the question of whether we should be reprinting a black writer, but whether a major publishing company should base its editorial policy on the contents of someone’s grandmother’s library shelves.”

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    Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
    Sing it over
    Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen

    See the little baby, (Amen)
    Lyin’ in a manger, (Amen)
    On Christmas morning,
    Amen, amen, amen

    See him in the temple, (Amen)
    Talking with the elders, (Amen)
    Who marveled at his wisdom
    Amen, amen, amen

    See him by the seaside, (Amen)
    Talking with the fishermen, (Amen)
    Makin’ ’em disciples
    Amen, amen, amen

    Marchin’ to Jerusalem, (Amen)
    Wavin’ palm branches, (Amen)
    In pomp and splendor
    Amen, amen, amen

    See him in the garden, (Amen)
    Talkin’ with the Father, (Amen)
    In deepest sorrow
    Amen, amen, amen

    Led before Pilate, (Amen)
    Then they crucified him, (Amen)
    But he rose on Easter
    Amen, amen, amen

    Hallelujah!, (Amen)
    He died to save us, (Amen)
    But he lives forever!
    Amen, amen, amen

    Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
    Sing it over
    Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen

    Amen” is a traditional folk gospel song that was popularized by The Impressions in 1964.

    It was recorded in June 1948 and released in January 1949 by the Wings Over Jordan Choir.

    The song was arranged by Jester Hairston, for the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field, (1963),


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    NASA Lays Groundwork for Sending Humans to Mars

    Scientists and engineers gathered together to figure out what would make a good Martian landing site and what hurdles they’ll have to overcome for a 2035 launch.

    Astronomers Predict a Supernova

    For the first time, astronomers have predicted the appearance of a supernova. Named Refsdal, the exploding star appeared in Hubble Space Telescope images taken on December 11th.

    Martian Gullies: Triggered by Exploding Dry Ice?

    Planetary scientists are taking a close look at whether enigmatic gullies seen on many steep Martian slopes might not be caused by liquid water but instead by episodic coatings of frozen carbon dioxide.


    What to See With Your New Telescope

    If you’re now the proud owner of your first astronomical telescope, you’re eager to use it outside. Sky & Telescope’s experts offer great tips on getting your new scope ready and some can’t-miss targets now visible in the sky.

    This Week’s Sky at a Glance: December 25 – January 2

    Check out this week’s other can’t-miss stargazing tips. For example, the Moon is full on Christmas Day (December 25th), and you can look for Mercury just after sunset low in the west.

    A Month of Moonwatching

    Whatever its phase, the magnificent Moon has a lot to offer when viewed with a telescope.

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    Not surprising, but, still wrong.

    That this young woman died while in the jail of people who were supposed to keep a suicide watch on her does not absolve her jailers of their callous disregard for her life.

    Ms. Bland is just one of so many Black women whose lives have been destroyed at the hands of law enforcement.

    That Black women are treated as invisible is part of this nation’s long history to annihilate Black women on a continual basis that dates back more than 350 years.



    This is why we must say their names.

    Lilly Workneh  Black Voices Senior Editor, The Huffington Post
    Kate Abbey-Lambertz  National Reporter, The Huffington Post
    12/23/2015 05:45 pm ET | Updated 1 day ago

    In all likelihood, Sandra Bland would still be alive today if she’d been a white woman.

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said this himself Tuesday, shortly after it was announced there would be no indictments regarding Bland’s death in a Texas jail cell this summer.

    KENA BETANCUR/Getty Images

    A grand jury concluded the case Monday and found no felony crime committed on behalf of the sheriff’s office or the jailers involved. Bland was found dead in her jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13 after she was arrested, ostensibly for a traffic violation. Authorities said her death was a suicide, but her family — and black activists everywhere — vehemently disputed the finding at the time, and many remain dubious.

    “The family of Sandra Bland is confident that she was killed and did not commit suicide,” a lawyer for the family said in a statement in July. Since then, Bland’s family has come to acknowledge it is at least possible Bland took her own life — though they remain adamant that even if the official version of events is true, it was still police negligence, and the officer who pulled Bland over in the first place, that really caused her death. It’s difficult to believe, after all, that Bland would have been arrested and jailed if she were white, just as it’s hard to believe that a despondent detainee could take her own life unless her jailers were paying far less attention than they should have been.

    Sanders, who met with Bland’s family earlier this year, issued a statement Tuesday that spoke of the “need to reform a very broken criminal justice system” — echoing the thoughts of a growing number of Americans who abhor the racial disparities in policing and the often violent treatment of black men and women by cops. After all, these are the same sentiments fueling the current movement to make it clear to those in power that black lives matter.

    However, the non-indictment didn’t come as a shock to many of the people passionate about Bland’s case.

    Bland’s story transfixed and outraged many who learned about her death, saw the video of her arrest and read about who she was — an activist herself, on a promising journey ultimately cut short.

    But Bland’s case is far from singular — it’s not even the only case like it that happened that month. Two weeks after Bland’s death, Ralkina Jones, 37, was found unresponsive in her jail cell in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Jones had been arrested after her ex-husband accused her of assaulting him and trying to hit him with a car. Once in custody, she described her medical conditions and necessary medications in detail to officers, expressing concern for her well-being.

    “I don’t want to die in your cell,” she told them, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group.

    Jones was found 15 hours later. Her death was ruled accidental and related to her medical conditions.

    Her story, in turn, sounds a little like Raynette Turner’s, who died in a cell in New York the next day after complaining about health problems.

    As the national conversation around race and policing gained momentum in the past year, Bland’s death brought renewed awareness to the number of black women killed in police encounters. Activists launched campaigns like Say Her Name in order to amplify the stories of black women, which rarely receive national attention.

    That comparative lack of attention is still very much an issue. The non-indictment in Bland’s case is reflective of more than one woman’s tragic and untimely death — it reflects the ongoing dearth of police accountability in a pattern of cases involving black women and girls.

    Below, you can read the stories of 13 other black women and girls killed during police encounters in the past 12 years. Their families are all still waiting for justice.

    • Tanisha Anderson: Died Nov. 13, 2014, age 37, Cleveland

      Family Photo

      Over a year after Tanisha Anderson lost her life in an incident with Cleveland police officers, her family is still waiting for answers.

      The 37-year-old died after her mother called 911 while Anderson was having a “mental health episode,” as described in the family’s subsequent lawsuit against city police. Officials say that when officers tried to take Anderson to a treatment facility, she struggled and then went limp. Her family says police slammed her to the ground and put a knee in her back. A medical examiner ruled Anderson’s death a homicide, the result of being “physically restrained in a prone position by Cleveland police.” Her heart condition and bipolar disorder were also considered factors.

      The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the incident in July at the request of the prosecutor’s office.

      In a wrongful death lawsuit, Anderson’s family alleges that CPD Officers Scott Aldridge and Bryan Myers did not provide medical attention to Anderson as she lay on the ground unconscious.

      Aldridge had previously been suspended for violating the department’s use-of-force policies, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group, and was disciplined in 2012 for his role in the deaths of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell (see slide #6 in this collection). Aldridge and Myers deny that they caused Anderson’s death and have asked for the case to be dismissed.

      The month after Anderson was killed, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Cleveland police have a pattern of using excessive force, including against people who are mentally ill, and that they don’t use appropriate techniques to account for mental illness.

      Mauvion Green, Anderson’s daughter, told Northeast Ohio Media Group last year that she wants to work for conscientious treatment of people with mental illnesses. “I’m fighting for my mother, but I’m fighting for everyone else, too,” Green said.

    • Yvette Smith: Died Feb. 16, 2014, age 47, Bastrop, Texas

      Family Photo

      Yvette Smith was fatally shot when Bastrop County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Willis responded to a 911 call about a fight between several men at a residence, according to KXAN. At the scene, authorities say, Willis ordered Smith to come out of the house, then shot her twice when she did so. An initial statement claiming that Smith was armed was later retracted by police officials.

      Willis was fired, and his record came under scrutiny. An evaluation from a past employer said that he needed “more development in handling explosive situations” and “utilization of common sense.”

      Following a grand jury indictment for murder, Willis was tried in September. A mistrial was declared when the jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of finding Willis guilty. The prosecutor on the case told KXAN the prosecution would retry the case and wouldn’t consider a lesser charge.

      Smith’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2014.

      “A part of me is gone, you know, and I wish I could have that back, but I can’t,” Yvonne Williams, Smith’s twin sister, told KVUE last year. “I just want justice for her.”

    • Miriam Carey: Died Oct. 3, 2013, age 34, Washington, D.C.

      Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

      U.S. Secret Service and Capitol Police officers fatally shot Miriam Carey in a car chase after she drove her car into a security checkpoint near the White House despite orders to stop. Officers fired multiple shots at Carey, a dental hygienist from Connecticut, hitting her five times. Her 1-year-old daughter, who was also in the car, survived.

      An autopsy found that Carey was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, her family’s attorney said, and no weapons were found in her car. She had previously been diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis.

      Federal prosecutors said in 2014 that they would not file charges against the officers. Carey’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

      The emphasis shouldn’t be on why [Miriam was in Washington, D.C.],” sister Valarie Carey told The Washington Post last year. “The emphasis should be [on] what those officers did. Were their actions proper?”

    • Shelly Frey: Died Dec. 6, 2012, age 27, Houston


      Shelly Frey was killed after she and two other women were allegedly caught stealing from a Walmart in 2012, the Houston Chronicle reports. Louis Campbell, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working as a security guard, tried to detain them and then shot into a car in which Frey was a passenger. She was struck twice in the neck.

      Campbell reportedly told investigators that he opened fire after the driver of the car tried to run him over. Two other women and two children were in the car with Frey. When paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive her.

      Frey had previously pleaded guilty to stealing shirts and meat from Walmart, according to Houston’s KHOU, and was prohibited from entering the store.

      Her family sued Walmart for wrongful death. Campbell has not faced any charges.

    • Darnisha Harris: Died Dec. 2, 2012, age 16, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

      Darnisha Harris was 16 when Breaux Bridge police Officer Travis Guillot fired two shots into the car she was driving. Guillot and two other officers were responding to a 911 call about an outdoor fight. According to The Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper, the officers saw Harris driving erratically, hitting parked cars and a bystander, before Guillot opened fire.

      Harris was on probation for battery on a police officer and violating a court-ordered curfew when she died, according to The Advocate.

      Guillot was previously accused of misconduct while working at three different law enforcement agencies, according to KATC of Lafayette, Louisiana. The incidents included shooting a dog while on patrol and allegedly fondling female inmates, as well as Guillot’s alleged involvement in the case of an inmate who died of cocaine intoxication while in custody. A lawsuit regarding this last allegation was settled out of court.

      In the summer of 2013, some eight months after Harris’ death, a grand jury declined to indict Guillot.

    • Malissa Williams: Died Nov. 29, 2012, age 30, Cleveland

      Tony Dejak/Associated Press

      Malissa Williams was a passenger in a car driven by a man named Timothy Russell when a police officer thought he heard shots fired from the vehicle and began following them, according to the Associated Press. A 25-minute chase through Cleveland ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds at the car, which police eventually cornered in a school parking lot. Twenty-three bullets struck Russell, and 24 hit Williams. They were both killed.

      Williams and Russell, who both had criminal records, were unarmed.

      Six officers were indicted in the car chase. Officer Michael Brelo was charged with manslaughter, and five supervisors were charged with dereliction of duty. Brelo — who allegedly fired 49 shots at the vehicle, 15 of them from atop the hood of the car itself — was tried earlier this year and found not guilty on all charges, including two counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault.

      “They did not deserve to die for fleeing and eluding,” Michelle Russell, Timothy’s sister, told Northeast Ohio Media Group.

      Five police supervisors are awaiting trial on charges of dereliction of duty. The city settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the victims’ families for $3 million in 2014.

      “This shooting is one of the worst examples of police misconduct in American history,” attorneys for Williams’ and Russell’s families said at the time. “This settlement sends the clearest signal yet that real reform must be achieved inside the Cleveland Police Department.”


    • Shantel Davis: Died June 14, 2012, age 23, New York City


      Shantel Davis was fatally shot while driving a stolen car. Plainclothes NYPD officers approached her after she ran multiple red lights. When she tried to escape, Phil Atkins, a narcotics officer, allegedly tried to shift her car into park as it was moving, The New York Times reports. His gun fired once, striking Davis in the chest.

      Davis had been arrested eight times previously and was due in court the day after her death for kidnapping and attempted murder charges, according to the Times. She was unarmed when she was shot.

      Atkins had been sued seven times over the previous decade for various allegations, including undue use of force, according to DNAinfo.

    • Rekia Boyd: Died March 22, 2012, age 22, Chicago

      Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

      Rekia Boyd was unarmed when she was shot in the back of the head by Dante Servin, a Chicago police detective who was off-duty at the time.

      Servin was driving near his home late at night when he saw a group of four people walking. He had a brief conversation with them from his car, then turned the wrong way down a one-way street. According to the Chicago Tribune, he said he then looked over his shoulder and thought he saw a man from the group pull a gun from his pants and point it at him.

      Servin fired five rounds over his left shoulder through his car window, striking the man in the hand and Boyd in the back of the head. The man whom Servin believed to have a gun was actually holding a cell phone.

      Boyd was taken to a hospital and died the next day.

      In 2013, Servin was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. His trial began in April 2015, but was quickly dismissed by the judge.

      In November, the police department began the process of firing Servin, which requires a hearing before the Chicago Police Board. As of December, the board has not yet reached a decision.

      The city awarded Boyd’s family $4.5 million as part of a wrongful death settlement.

      My mother holds a lot inside but she’s hurting, especially when she hears about police violence,” Martinez Sutton, Boyd’s brother, told The Chicago Citizen newspaper.

    • Shereese Francis: Died March 15, 2012, age 29, New York City


      Shereese Francis was killed after family members called authorities seeking help because Francis, who had schizophrenia, had not been taking her medication and appeared to need medical attention. She’d refused to go to a hospital voluntarily.

      When NYPD officers arrived, the family’s wrongful death lawsuit alleges, Francis did not realize they were police, due to her mental illness. When Francis, who was unarmed, tried to leave the room against police orders, they allegedly pursued her, grabbed her and “tackled” her on a bed. The suit claims four officers put their weight onto Francis’ back while trying to cuff her, and her sister believes she saw them hitting and using a Taser on Francis until she stopped moving.

      Francis was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after the incident. Her cause of death was “compression of trunk during agitated violent behavior (schizophrenia) while prone on bed and attempted restraint by police officers,” according to The Village Voice.

      The lawsuit said the officers overwhelmingly violated NYPD policies on mental illness, in part because the department had failed to provide training on the subject.

      The city settled with Francis’ family for $1.1 million.

    • Aiyana Stanley-Jones: Died May 16, 2010, age 7, Detroit

      Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

      Aiyana Stanley-Jones was sleeping on her couch with her grandmother when police conducted a “no knock” raid of their home. Officer Joseph Weekley was first through the door, and after a flash-bang grenade went off, he fired his gun, killing Aiyana. Weekley later testified that the grandmother struck his weapon and caused him to fire, but she denies having been near the gun.

      Police said the raid was in search of a murder suspect who lived in the second-floor unit of the home.

      Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm causing death, but his case was dismissed after two mistrials. He returned to duty as a Detroit police officer in April.

    • Tarika Wilson: Died Jan. 4, 2008, age 26, Lima, Ohio

      Family Photo

      Tarika Wilson was killed when a Lima police SWAT team raided her rental home to arrest her boyfriend on drug charges, according to The New York Times. She had her youngest son, Sincere, in her arms when she was shot by Sgt. Joseph Chavalia. Sincere, who was 14 months old, was shot in the shoulder and hand but survived.

      Chavalia was acquitted of the misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault. He testified that he felt his life was in danger when he shot Wilson, thinking he’d seen a shadow and heard gunshots nearby. The shots had actually come from officers downstairs, according to the Associated Press.

      The city settled a wrongful death suit with Wilson’s family for $2.5 million in 2011.

    • Alberta Spruill: Died May 16, 2003, age 57, New York City

      Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News via Getty Images

      Alberta Spruill also died after police conducted a “no knock” raid at her home in error. Officers broke through her door and threw a concussion grenade while Spruill, a city employee, was getting ready for work. She was briefly handcuffed but released when officers realized they were in the wrong place and that the information they’d been given — that guns and drugs were being stored in the apartment — was incorrect. Spruill died of a heart attack at a nearby hospital less than two hours later.

      The city of New York agreed to pay a $1.6 million settlement to Spruill’s family.

      This case for them is not about money. It’s about changing procedure,” Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer for Spruill’s sisters, said in 2003. “It’s about the fact that their sister should not have died in vain.”

    • Kendra James: Died May 5, 2003, age 21, Portland, Oregon

      Alex Milan Tracy/Corbis

      Portland police Officer Scott McCollister fatally shot Kendra James during a traffic stop. When McCollister pulled over the car in which James was a passenger, he took the driver, Terry Jackson, into custody after seeing he had an outstanding warrant. James moved behind the wheel of the car and tried to drive away, and McCollister tried to stop her by climbing partway into the car and pulling her hair and using pepper spray and a Taser. James put the car into drive and McCollister shot her. He later claimed he’d gotten stuck in the car’s doorway and that he’d feared for his life.

      A grand jury declined to prosecute. McCollister was initially suspended, but the disciplinary action was overturned by an arbitrator.

      “It’s been 10 years later, justice has still not [been] served,” James’ mother, Shirley Isadore, said at a 2013 rally marking the anniversary of her daughter’s death.



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    This past December 1, 2015 marked the 60TH Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

    The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the year-long protest in Montgomery, Alabama, that electrified into action the modern American Civil Rights Movement and led to a 1956 United States Supreme Court decision that declared segregated seating on buses unconstitutional.

    It was organized by the many forgotten Black women of the Womens’ Political Council and the many unsung women who worked to keep the boycott in effect for 381 days.

    The fight against hateful sexist and racist mistreatment of Black women and girl passengers by White bus drivers was set into motion by the women a year before the arrest of Claudette Colvin and one-and-a-half years before Rosa Parks kept her seat on a  segregated bus to a White man, the protest was first organized by the Women’s Political Council as a one-day boycott to coincide with the trial of Ms. Parks, who had been arrested on December 1, 1955.

    The council, led by JoAnn Robinson, had printed 52,000 fliers asking Montgomery Black citizens to stay off the public transportation buses on December 5, the day of the trial. In the meantime, labor activist E.D. Nixon, who bailed Ms. Parks out of jail, contacted Rev. Ralph Abernathy, minister of the First Baptist Church, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the new minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, of Ms. Parks’s arrest. A group of about 50 Black leaders and one White minister, Rev. Robert Graetz, joined in support of the movement. The N.A.A.C.P., which had been looking for a test case for segregation, began preparing for the legal challenge.

    Jo Ann Robinson

    But forgotten are the women who started the boycott, the real power and force behind it. They were the foot soldiers who walked, offered rides, car-pooled and got the word out to stay off the buses. The WPC, founded in 1946, and originally concerned with voter registration, petitioned the mayor of Montgomery and the City Council to meet with them about segregation on the buses and to address the vicious maltreatment Black citizens, especially with the arrest of Claudette Colvin. Because she was pregnant, unwed, and part of the working class, leaders of the N.A.A.C.P. refused to use her for the test case. But, Ms. Colvin’s case led to the foundations of future protests. It was with the arrest with Ms. Rosa Parks, the N.A.A.C.P. found the candidate they wanted.

    Ms. Rosa Parks was “the model plaintiff.”  (1)

    She was “married, God-fearing, nurse to her sick mother, and an industrious seamstress.”  (2)

    Black, and White, segregationists, and moderates would have a hard time finding character flaws against Ms. Parks.

    Ms. Parks, as service secretary of the local N.A.A.C.P. was equipped to step into the role.

    Pushed by WPC founders such as Alabama State College Professors JoAnn Robinson and Mary Fair Burks, and co-founders Irene West, Thelma Glass, Uretta Adair and Johnnie Carr, who produced thousands of flyers overnight, the male leadership agreed to promote the boycott.

    Montgomery, Alabama was home to many Black women’s clubs whose members dedicated their lives and time to uplifting and improving their people’s welfare. The women mobilized, working in the background and on the sidelines of public meetings and discussions, they became invisible to eyes and minds to those who took over the bus boycott, and thus through their hard work, and through the decades, have never received the accolades and acknowledgements they should have received.

    The gathering on that first afternoon of December 5, 1955, established the Montgomery Improvement Association to address the boycott’s needs. Much noteworthy in addressing conditions on the buses was the inhumane and brutal mistreatment Black riders faced on the segregated buses:

    • Black citizens were forced to pay their fares at the front of the bus, then reboard the bus at the rear;
    • they faced insulting and violently brutish harassment from White drivers, who would pull away before Black passengers could board the bus after paying fares;
    • Black passengers were bullied, snubbed, and brutalized on a daily basis: drivers shortchanged Blacks,; kicked them off the bus if they asked for change;
    • White drivers did not hesitate to use violence and sexualized gendered racism to degrade, humiliate, and insult Black women passengers to enforce segregation: exposing themselves to Black women passengers, hurling nasty insults their way, calling them “black niggers”, “black bitches”, “heifers”, and “whores”.
    • in addition to insulting Black women and girl passengers, White drivers often slapped Black women who stood up for their dignity as human beings (2)

    The White city leaders, including the mayor, William A. Gayle,  announced their memberships in the pro-segregationist White Citizens’ Council. They refused to address the demands of their Black citizens.

    But the boycott went on, and woe to the Black person who broke ranks with their fellow boycotters:

    “One December day a very aged Black woman, who was struggling along on foot, walking with a cane, was overtaken by a bus with a lone black rider on it. The bus stopped at the stop sign just ahead of the old woman, to let the black passenger out. Seeing the situation, the crippled woman hobbled along faster toward the bus. The driver, thinking that the woman was hurrying to get on, seized the opportunity to show how courteous he could be to black people if they would only ride again. so he called out, in a very friendly tone, “Don’t hurry yourself, auntie. I’ll wait for you!”

    With anger and scorn, the old woman pantingly, gaspingly called up to him as she hurried past the open bus door, “I’m not your auntie, and I don’t want to get on your bus. I’m trying to catch that nigger who just got off” Then she drew back her cane to strike the rider as he fled beyond her reach.”  (3)

    With negotiations ground to a halt, litigation was sought to end the boycott.

    The MIA filed Browder vs. Gayle in federal court on February 1, 1956, challenging bus segregation. By the end of February, leaders of the boycott were indicted under Alabama’s anti-boycott law. In June, the federal district court found bus segregation unconstitutional and the city appeal went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 21, 1956, one year and three weeks after Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Supreme Court decision officially concurred with the federal court.

    Throughout that year, amid the public drama played out in the courts, boardrooms, and mass meetings, it was the ordinary Black citizens, so many of them Black women, who struggled to support the boycott and get to work. Many of them beaten and arrested.  Women, after full days working in the homes and businesses of the very men who sought to keep them defiled and segregated; women who walked long distances in all kinds of weather; women who car-pooled, returning home exhausted and late to their own children and domestic duties. Women from all walks of life who managed the upkeep of the boycott.

    Black woman w. National Bohemian beer box loaded w. turnip greens balanced on her head, walking on sidewalk during bus boycott protesting policy of forcing African Americans to ride at the back of public buses. 

    Women who were there at its beginning, keeping track of details, finances, and the needs of the protestors.

    The Montgomery Bus Boycott had implications that reached far beyond desegregation of public transportation buses.

    The protest propelled the Civil Rights Movement into the national consciousness and Dr. King into the public eye.

    In the words of Dr. King:  “We have gained a new sense of dignity and destiny. We have discovered a new and powerful weapon–non-violent resistance.”

    Women were the boycott’s backbone.

    The women of the Women’s Political Council and the many women who held up the boycott through their resolve to never give an inch, through the violence perpetuated against their bodies and homes.

    It was their courage and perseverance that stirred a nation  and Black Americans elsewhere who were yearning to tear off the shackles of segregation.

    May their devotion and involvement never be forgotten.


    1.   Black Women in America: Second Edition, Volume 2,  by Darlene Clark Hine. Published by Oxford University Press, 2005 The Montgomery Bus Boycott, pgs. 382-383.
    2.  Black Women in America, page 383.
    3. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started it: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. Edited with a foreword by David J. Garrow. The University of Tennessee Press, 1987. pgs. 98-99.
    4. See also:   Keys vs. Carolina Coach Company.
    5. A Letter Sent to Mayor Gayle.
    6. The Bus.
    7. Claudette Colvin.
    8. Sarah Keys.


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    International Human Solidarity Day

    The United Nations’ (UN) International Human Solidarity Day is annually held on December 20 to celebrate unity in diversity. It also aims to remind people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty.

    Paper doll people in shades of blue link hands while standing on top of the world
    International Human Solidarity Day reminds people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty.
    © Weibell

    What Do People Do?

    On International Human Solidarity Day, governments are reminded of their commitments to international agreements on the need for human solidarity as an initiative to fight against poverty. People are encouraged to debate on ways to promote solidarity and find innovative methods to help eradicate poverty.

    Activities may include promoting campaigns on issues such as:

    • Banning land mines.
    • Making health and medication accessible to those in need.
    • Relief efforts to help those who suffered the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
    • Achieving universal education.
    • Fighting against poverty, corruption and terrorism.

    The day is promoted through all forms of media including magazine articles, speeches at official events, and web blogs from groups, individuals or organizations committed to universal solidarity.

    Public life

    International Human Solidarity Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


    Solidarity refers to a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group. In the Millennium Declaration world leaders agreed that solidarity was a value that was important to international relations in the 21st century. In light of globalization and growing inequality, the UN realized that strong international solidarity and cooperation was needed to achieve its Millennium Development Goals. The UN was founded on the idea unity and harmony via the concept of collective security that relies on its members’ solidarity to unite for international peace and security.

    On December 22, 2005, the UN General Assembly proclaimed that International Solidarity Day would take place on December 20 each year. The event aimed to raise people’s awareness of the importance of advancing the international development agenda and promoting global understanding of the value of human solidarity. The assembly felt that the promotion of a culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important in combating poverty.


    The UN emblem may be found in material promoting International Human Solidarity Day. The emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.

    2015 Theme: “Shared Progress & Prosperity based on global solidarity”

    International Human Solidarity Day Observances


    Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type Where it is Observed
    Mon Dec 20 2010 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Tue Dec 20 2011 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Thu Dec 20 2012 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Fri Dec 20 2013 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Sat Dec 20 2014 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Sun Dec 20 2015 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Tue Dec 20 2016 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Wed Dec 20 2017 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Thu Dec 20 2018 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Fri Dec 20 2019 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance
    Sun Dec 20 2020 International Human Solidarity Day United Nations observance

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    IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-20-2015


    Walter J. Leonard, left, in 2011 with Derek C. Bok, a former president of Harvard University. Credit Martha Stewart

    • Walter J. Leonard, the chief architect of an admissions process at Harvard that has been emulated across the United States, opening colleges and universities to more women and minorities, died on Dec. 8 in Kensington, Md. He was 86.
    The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Betty, said.
    The affirmative action formula that Dr. Leonard designed for Harvard allowed recruiters to take into account race and ethnicity, on a case-by-case basis, as one of many factors to consider as they sought to assemble a diverse student body.
    Martha L. Minow, the Harvard Law School dean, said the plan “had a ripple effect across the nation” as other institutions, facing demands for greater diversity, adopted similar ones of their own.
    The Harvard formula has passed four decades of constitutional muster, though the United States Supreme Court, in its current term, is revisiting rulings on similar policies in a case involving the University of Texas.
    Even before he designed the admissions policy, Dr. Leonard was aggressively recruiting more diverse applicants to Harvard Law School. Last week, the school’s bulletin, Harvard Law Today, credited him with building “the foundation for the education of more minority and women lawyers than almost any other administrator in the United States.”
    Later, as president of Fisk University in Nashville for seven years, Dr. Leonard raised $12 million to restore a measure of fiscal stability to that historically black institution and even offered his $1.5 million personal life insurance policy as collateral for a loan to keep Fisk from closing.
    Dr. Leonard became assistant dean and assistant director of admissions of Harvard Law School in 1969, when Derek C. Bok was dean. By 1971, when Dr. Bok became president of Harvard and enlisted Dr. Leonard as his special assistant, the number of black, female and -Latino students in the law school had substantially risen.
    “The dramatic increase must be credited to Leonard’s persistent recruiting efforts,” The Harvard Crimson later wrote.
    The admissions policy Dr. Leonard devised for the wider university, in collaboration with other Harvard educators, came in response to complaints from Washington that the existing program at Harvard no longer met minimum federal standards. At the time, the university employed neither a black athletic trainer for its teams nor a black doctor in its clinic.
    The new formula included race or ethnicity as a plus, among other factors, on an individual application for admission.
    In 1978 the Supreme Court, upholding race as one factor that could be considered in college admissions in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, referred approvingly to what it called the Harvard plan, saying it weighed “all pertinent elements of diversity” in considering each applicant.
    “The Harvard model provides a standard,” Prof. Ronald Dworkin of the New York University School of Law wrote in an essay for the book “The Affirmative Action Debate” (2002). “If the admissions officers of other universities are satisfied that their plan is like the Harvard plan in all pertinent respects, they can proceed in confidence.”
    That view, however, has been challenged. The Supreme Court is hearing a suit filed by a white woman against the University of Texas. A separate federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a Chinese-American student who was denied admission and who maintains that the Harvard plan originally discriminated against Jewish applicants who had scored high on admissions tests, and that it now handicaps Asian-Americans.
    Walter Jewell Leonard was born in Alma, Ga., the state’s blueberry capital, on Oct. 3, 1929. His father, Francis, was a railroad worker. His mother, the former Rachel Kirkland, was a midwife.
    He enlisted in the Coast Guard during World War II at age 15 and went on to study at historically black institutions: Morehouse College, in Atlanta; what are now Savannah State University and Clark Atlanta University, where he attended the graduate school of business; and Howard University, in Washington, where he earned a degree from the law school in his mid-30s. He also received a certificate in executive management from the Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
    While working his way through night school in Washington as a waiter, Dr. Leonard recalled, he happened upon a white police officer beating a black man and reported the encounter to the authorities.
    “Any black person who witnessed such a scene in those days and failed to walk quietly away endangered himself,” the civil rights lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree wrote in her memoir, “Justice Older Than the Law” (with Katie McCabe, 2009). “Yet Walter Leonard had chosen to come forward.”
    She added: “He could not do otherwise, stunning us with his dignity and his command of the facts. A wrong had been done, he said, and without the testimony of an eyewitness, an innocent black man would be jailed, and undoubtedly convicted of a crime he’d never committed.”
    The case against the man collapsed.
    Dr. Leonard is survived by his wife, the former Betty Singleton, and a daughter, Angela M. Leonard.
    Dr. Leonard was assistant dean of Howard University School of Law when he left for Harvard. At Harvard he was chairman of the committee that created the university’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research.
    Harvard Law Today quoted Dr. Bok as saying that Dr. Leonard had helped the university achieve diversity not only in its student body but also on its faculty, and even in the construction crews that built Pound Hall at the law school — all “without violating important academic principles or agreeing to steps that would ultimately work to the disadvantage of everyone, including the minority students themselves.”
    Moving to Fisk University in 1976, Dr. Leonard inherited a nearly bankrupt institution; the gas company had even shut off the heat because of overdue bills. He found himself wrestling with the trustees over fund-raising. In one instance he objected to selling off the university’s art collection; in another he refused to rescind a speaking invitation to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who some trustees feared would alienate white donors.
    After Dr. Leonard resigned, in 1983, he wrote prolifically, taught and served on numerous boards.
    Dr. Leonard’s colleagues credited the endurance of Harvard’s affirmative action plan to his ability to navigate the demands of student civil rights protesters for immediate action with the practicalities of running a university.
    “I’m not a preacher of patience,” he once said. “I’m highly impatient myself. On the other hand, I’m also a realist.”
    Ms. Siggins in 2014. Credit Kevin Winter/Getty Images
    • Rose Siggins, the legless actress seen on the television series “American Horror Story,” died on Saturday in Denver. She was 43. The show announced her death on its Facebook page. James Mullen, one of Ms. Siggins’s agents, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. No cause was specified.
    Ms. Siggins played a character known as Legless Suzi on the fourth season of the show, “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” The series, which is seen on the FX network and had its premiere in 2011, features a self-contained story each season, with a number of actors returning in different roles from one season to the next. “American Horror Story: Freak Show” followed the lives of a troupe of sideshow performers in 1950s Florida.
    On her website, Ms. Siggins wrote that she was born with a rare genetic disorder known as sacral agenesis, as a result of which “my legs were severely deformed, with the feet pointing in opposite directions.”
    The condition causes abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. Her parents decided to have her legs amputated, and, she wrote, she went on to have a normal childhood, get married and have two children: a son, Luke, and a daughter, Shelby Cecilia. According to Ms. Siggins, she is the only person with sacral agenesis to have carried and given birth to a baby who was not disabled.
    In addition to her children, survivors include her husband, Dave Siggins.
    Evelyn Lieberman in 1996. Credit Greg Gibson/Associated Press
    • Evelyn Lieberman, who as the first woman to serve as deputy chief of staff to a president grew concerned about the behavior of the junior aide Monica S. Lewinsky around Bill Clinton and banished her to a job outside the White House, died on Saturday in Washington. She was 71.
    Her husband, Edward, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
    A Brooklyn-born former teacher, Ms. Lieberman also directed the Voice of America and was the first person to serve as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
    “Evelyn,” President Clinton said at her swearing-in at the Voice of America in late 1996, “has a special talent for cutting to the chase and getting to truth.”
    Ms. Lieberman had a long, sometimes trailblazing résumé in and out of government. Besides serving as deputy chief of staff under Mr. Clinton, she was public affairs director for the National Urban Coalition and the Children’s Defense Fund, where she met Hillary Clinton, a board member; press secretary to Joseph R. Biden Jr., now the vice president, when he was a senator from Delaware; assistant to Mrs. Clinton’s White House chief of staff; chief operating officer of Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; and, most recently, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution.

    Ms. Lieberman was most recently the chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution. Credit Tamara Hoffer

    Colleagues remembered her as a mentor, particularly to women making their way in a male-dominated Washington — one who could provide succor in the form of chicken soup or the discipline of a drill sergeant.
    Working mostly behind the scenes, Ms. Lieberman had perhaps her most visible moment in the capital during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which culminated in the president’s impeachment in the House of Representatives in 1998. He was accused of lying under oath about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, who was in her early 20s when she worked at the White House. The Senate voted not to convict.
    In April 1996, some months after the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship had begun but nearly two years before the scandal broke, Ms. Lieberman, then deputy for operations to the chief of staff, Leon E. Panetta, transferred Ms. Lewinsky, a onetime intern, to the Pentagon from her job in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
    According to the report issued by Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel in the case, Ms. Lieberman testified before a special grand jury on Jan. 30, 1998, that Ms. Lewinsky had displayed “immature and inappropriate behavior,” was “spending too much time around the West Wing,” and was “always someplace she shouldn’t be.”
    “I decided to get rid of her” because of “the appearance that it was creating,” the Starr report quoted Ms. Lieberman as saying.
    She said she had heard no rumors linking the president and Ms. Lewinsky, but acknowledged that Mr. Clinton “was vulnerable to these kind of rumors” and that this vulnerability was a reason for the transfer.
    After testifying, Ms. Lieberman said publicly: “I want to make one point clear. I know of no improper relationship between the president, Monica Lewinsky or anyone else, for that matter.”
    Ms. Lieberman testified to the Starr grand jury that after she transferred Ms. Lewinsky, she had a conversation with Mr. Clinton in which he said he had received a phone call about “an intern you fired.”
    “She was evidently very upset about it,” Ms. Lieberman recalled. “He said, ‘Do you know anything about this?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Who fired her?’ I said, ‘I did.’ And he said, ‘Oh, O.K.’ ”
    Marcia Lewis, Ms. Lewinsky’s mother, said she had also confronted Ms. Lieberman about the transfer. She testified that Ms. Lieberman had responded by “saying something about Monica being cursed because she’s so beautiful.” She said she had surmised that Ms. Lieberman “would want to have pretty women moved out” to protect the president.
    Evelyn Lieberman was born Evelyn May Simonowitz on July 9, 1944, the daughter of Jack Simonowitz and the former Rose Cohen. Her parents separated when she was a child.
    She graduated from Buffalo State College, part of the State University of New York, with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1966, taught on Long Island, and moved with her first husband to Washington.
    They divorced.
    In addition to her second husband, she is survived by a brother, Haskel Simonowitz.
    In an interview with the Buffalo State alumni magazine last winter, Ms. Lieberman described her work with the Children’s Defense Fund and its founder, Marian Wright Edelman, as transformative.
    “Here’s this poor girl from Brooklyn who has had extraordinary opportunities and great encouragement from others,” Ms. Lieberman recalled. “And I believe it’s my responsibility to provide that same encouragement to others, especially young women. Marian Edelman said that ‘service is the rent we pay for living.’ I think that says it all.”

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    China Launches Dark-Matter Probe

    The recently launched Dark Matter Particle Explorer takes the hunt to space.

    Newborn Star Puts on Star Wars Show

    Infrared observations by the Hubble Space Telescope reveal jets from a forming star.

    Hubble Peers Inside Exoplanets’ Atmospheres

    Astronomers studying hot Jupiter exoplanets revealed when and how clouds form on these alien worlds.


    This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 18 – 27

    Keep up with Comet Catalina as it sails northward toward the Big Dipper, watch a webcast of the Moon covering the bright star Aldebaran, and look for elusive Mercury low in the west after sunset.

    Run Away With These Runaway Stars

    Three stars that once belonged to Orion flew the coop millions of years ago, but you can catch up with them with binoculars on the next clear night.

    Tour December’s Sky: Planets and Meteors

    This month offers great variety in the night sky: planets (and a comet!) before dawn, a strong meteor shower, and a parade of bright stars after sunset.


    New Star and Exoplanet Names OK’d by IAU

    Following a wildly popular contest, the International Astronomical Union has named 14 stars and 31 planets that orbit them.

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    International Migrants Day

    The United Nations’ (UN) International Migrants Day is annually held on December 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.

    International Migrants Day recognizes the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.

    What Do People Do?

    Each year the UN invites governments, organizations, and individuals to observe International Migrants Day by distributing information on the human rights and migrants’ fundamental freedoms. People are also invited to share their experiences and contribute to designing action plans to ensure their protection. Organizations actively involved in promoting the day include:

    • “December 18”, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the UN.
    • Radio 1812, an initiative that brings together radio stations to celebrate the day.
    • Amnesty International.
    • The International Organization for Migration.
    • The National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.

    Many organizations and communities celebrate the day through various activities to alert the general public on facts about migrants, problems with human trafficking, the lives of migrant workers’ children, the plight of refugees and ways in combating racism. Websites, such as, gives people the opportunity to have a virtual experience of what it is like to come from a migrant background. Lobby groups may also use this day as an opportunity to pressure local public officials to look at issues concerning legalization, immigrant enforcement and migrants’ human rights. Special films and documentaries about migrants are also screened or broadcast on this day.

    Public life

    International Migrants Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


    According to a Global Commission on International Migration report in 2005, the number of international migrants increased from 75 million to about 200 million in the past 30 years and migrants could be found in every part of the world. The report also found that the migration could accelerate due to the growing developmental, demographic and democratic disparities that existed between different world regions. Moreover, migration is driven by powerful economic, social and political forces that governments need to acknowledge as a reality.

    On December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants. On that day, a decade earlier, the assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Earlier celebrations of the day can be traced as far back as 1997 when some Asian migrant organizations marked December 18 as the day to recognize the rights, protection, and respect for migrants.


    The UN emblem may be found in material promoting International Migrants Day. The emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.

    International Migrants Day Observances


    Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type Where it is Observed
    Sat Dec 18 2010 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Sun Dec 18 2011 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Tue Dec 18 2012 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Wed Dec 18 2013 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Thu Dec 18 2014 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Fri Dec 18 2015 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Sun Dec 18 2016 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Mon Dec 18 2017 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Tue Dec 18 2018 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Wed Dec 18 2019 International Migrants Day United Nations observance
    Fri Dec 18 2020 International Migrants Day United Nations observance

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