Tag Archives: Civil Rights Movement

Holder Holds Court at DNC: Praises Black Lives Matter, Urges African-Americans to Support Clinton

28 Jul
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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses a public meeting held by the Congressional Black Caucus at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Chris Murray.

At the Wednesday meeting of the Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder talked police reform, Hillary Clinton, and how the only thing that matters as much as Black Lives are Black Votes.

 

 

By Chris Murray

PHILADELPHIA-When Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to speak to the members of the Democratic Party’s Black Caucus as part of Wednesday’s Democratic National Convention activities, he pulled no punches.

There’s a lot at stake for the Black Community in this election, and making sure your electoral voice is heard is going to be important.

In a rousing 19-minute speech in front of 300 people at the Philadelphia Convention Center, Holder urged African-Americans to cast their votes for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and to support the Black Lives Matter movement in its efforts to stop police brutality.

“There are huge things at stake here and a protest vote for somebody other than Hillary Clinton is a vote for [Republican Presidential nominee] Donald Trump,” Holder said in a speech that brought the crowd to its feet several times. “[Black Lives Matter] is in the best tradition of the Civil Rights movement. They’re trying to move this country to a place where it ought to be and so you all defend Black Lives Matter and you defend the use of that term.”

Holder reflected on his time working with the Justice Department and also talked about what he feels is unfinished business in areas such as gun safety, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and repairing the relationship between African-Americans and the police.

A feisty Holder didn’t hold back his criticism of Trump, Congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.  He said in the midst of the Newtown massacre, there was an opportunity to pass gun safety regulation, but the legislators, afraid of the anger of the National Rifle Association, voted against it.

“In spite of the fact that people 90 percent of the people wanted gun safety regulations put in place, but the gun lobby convinced people in Congress not to vote that way. It’s time for us to say, we’ve had enough,” Holder said.  “We’ve simply had enough and we demand that reasonable gun legislation is put in place.”

Holder said too many Americans, especially the African-American community have felt the harsh impact of gun violence and it is time to with legislation to regulate the access to guns.

“The fact that too many people have access to guns they should not have had access to,” He said. “You think about the carnage that has happened in the nation in general and the African-American community in particular, that for me is a defining issue.”

Holder was also critical of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby vs. Alabama, calling it the worst decision in the history of the court. The decision in Shelby gutted an important provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and said that Congress exceeded its power in enforcing the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.

“Five members of the Supreme Court, including Clarence Thomas, took it upon themselves to say the Voting Rights act as constituted was unconstitutional and that has to change,” Holder said.

Holder said it’s important for African-Americans to vote for Clinton because a Supreme Court with Trump as president would be disastrous.

“The guy who ran ‘The Apprentice’ is going to pick people for the Supreme Court,” he said as the crowd roared in laughter.

In addition to his criticism of Trump, Holder took some shots at the Republican-controlled Congress for not confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia. He said it was all more the reason that African-Americans should cast their vote for Clinton.

“We have a very qualified guy in Merrick Garland … who, if the Senate would do their damned jobs would be on the Supreme Court right now,” Holder said. “The delay that he’s had to endure is unprecedented and the notion that a President with one year to go in his term can’t pick a Supreme Court justice, tells you all you need to know about the Republican Party.”

Holder said there has to be mutual respect between the police and the African-American community. He said the African-American community needs the police, but law enforcement needs to deal with the community with fairness and dignity.

Finally, Holder ended his speech by praising the Black Lives Matter movement and the role they have played in educating the public on the issue of police brutality.

“For too long in our history, Black lives didn’t matter and now we’re saying in 2016 that Black lives do matter,” he said to a standing ovation.

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The Contract That Broke The Color Line

3 Jun

Jackie Robinson’s history making contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers is on display at the National Constitution Center until June 5.

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Jackie Robinson’s Contract on display at the National Constitution Center. Photo by Chris Murray

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they did so without taking the rights and freedoms of African-Americans into consideration.

The tumultuous journey of African-Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to the current cries of Black Lives Matter has been about making America live up to the lofty ideals of freedom and equality those documents imply.

When Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that contract became an influential document not only for sports fans, but also for the nation as a whole.

Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took notice. In a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Don Newcomb, King expressed his appreciation for Robinson’s willingness to lead the charge.

“You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,” King said.

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Robinson’s signature on this contract changed the face of sports and American back in 1947. Photo by Chris Murray.

From now until June 5, you can see the original contract that Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the National Constitution Center.

While there are a lot of important documents on display at the Constitution Center, the Robinson contract is equally as compelling as all the others. Robinson’s contract symbolized the first major confrontation with a segregated America and was part of the ongoing battle to make the country live up to it’s ideas of equality and justice.

Robinson’s entry into major league baseball was met with violent hostility both on and off the field. He was spiked by his opponents and jeered by hostile white fans who were offended by the mere presence of African-Americans in what was supposed to be the American game.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson had to take affronts to his personal dignity for a cause that went beyond the box score. Eight years later, ordinary African-Americans from students to janitors were peacefully sitting in at lunch counters, boycotting segregated public transportation and education facilities.

When you think about it, Robinson striking down baseball’s color barrier preceded President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to integrate the military, Brown versus Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, Birmingham movement, the March from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Dr. King described what Robinson went through:

“A pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that Robinson’s contract is hanging out here in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia didn’t live up to that name when it came to him. Robinson had to deal with racism and hatred, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates, and that’s on top of having to deal with a hostile Phillies squad led by manager Ben Chapman.

Black folks didn’t forget that hostility. An entire generation of African-American baseball fans refused to root for the Phillies even when they started signing Black players to the team and Black players, including free agency pioneer Curt Flood, didn’t want to play here either.

Recently, the Philadelphia City Council issued a resolution apologizing to Robinson and his family for the harsh treatment he received here as a baseball player.

So like the Constitution, Robinson’s contract is a piece of paper that symbolizes how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go in race relations in America.

The National Constitution Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students and youngsters 13-18, and $8 for children aged 4-12.

I Can’t Breathe: Black Athletes Show Solidarity With Protesters against Police Brutality

12 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, "I Can't Breathe" Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, “I Can’t Breathe” Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Local Sacramento .

The lack of indictments against the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the growing number of unarmed African-Americans being shot down by law enforcement officials has sparked protests throughout the country.

Some of the demonstrations have included protestors lying down in malls, blocking highways, wearing t-shirts saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” while conducting “die-ins” outside of professional sports venues as well.

Led by the energy of young activists and the wisdom of established Civil Rights leadership, the groundswell to end police brutality is growing into to a mass movement reminiscent of the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s.

Among the more surprising groups of participants in these protests has been the Black athlete.

Their participation is surprising because this particular group of athletes grew up hearing Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy sneakers, too” mantra and have been conditioned not to take a stand on issues of social issues for fear of losing millions in endorsements.

While at one time such gestures as Tommie Smith-John Carlos’s Black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics and Muhammad Ali refusing to accept his induction into the U.S. Army would have been commonplace, the Black athlete of the Post-Civil Rights movement has for the most part, silent or indifferent when it comes to issues of race.

Over the years, Jordan and O.J. Simpson, who is now serving time in prison, made millions in endorsements because they chose to remain race neutral or simply refused to answer questions regarding race. Their silence ultimately became part of the blueprint for Black athletes aspiring to success beyond the athletic field.

Until now…

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dons his "I can't Breathe" T-shirt during his team's around on Monday.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dons his “I can’t Breathe” T-shirt during his team’s around on Monday.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who organized a group photo of his then-Miami Heat teammates in hooded sweatshirts to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joined members of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush, Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, and the entire Georgetown University Men’s Basketball squad in wearing t-shirts that said “I Can’t Breathe”, which were Garner’s last words as New York Police Officer Daniel Panteleo choked him to death.

Earlier in the season, members of the Washington NFL team came out before a game doing the “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” gesture in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri and two weeks ago five members of the St. Louis Rams, Ferguson’s home team, did the same.

Of course, the reaction from more than few fans and sports talk show hosts was the old “just shut up and play.” The St. Louis Police Officers Association was so put off by the Rams protest that they called on the NFL to discipline the players.

Even Bryant got some of the vitriol. A radio talking head, CBS college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb said of Bryant on Twitter: “Kobe Bryant lives in Newport Coast, takes a chopper to the games, made $60m last 2 years…the struggle is real #ICANTBREATH.”

Although Gottlieb’s attempt at snark has been deleted, it was another way of saying that as a Black man who makes millions of dollars playing a game, he should just be grateful to earn his money and leave the political statements to others.

Speaking out against police officers killing young unarmed African-American men is not on the approved list of things for Black athletes to do. If Bryant had praised police officers and wore an LAPD hat and a shirt that said God Bless America, he would be a hero and the toast of the FOX News propaganda circuit.

In a piece he wrote for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column in Sports Illustrated,  Bademosi addressed this contention, saying that certain things are far too important to remain silent about.

“This issue as I see it—police killings as a symptom of the systematic and historical devaluing of Black lives—seemed too big to ignore,” he said in his piece. “The NFL wants to make players public lives conform to its standards. But when exceptional issues call for us to speak our minds, the league and the fans need to see us as men, with our own opinions and the freedom to express them.”

It was that form of consciousness during the Civil Rights Movement that motivated Black football players to threaten a boycott the American Football League 1965 All-Star game because of racism in New Orleans. It was Smith and Carlos raising their fists in the air on the gold medal stand in solidarity with African-Americans experiencing injustice.

In the words of the Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was.”

Respect Difference: Sam’s Kiss is a Defiant Message Against Bigotry

14 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social media firestorm.

PHILADELPHIA—In a television special on NBC in 1968, Harry Belafonte and white British pop singer Petula Clark performed an anti-war duet—“Path to Glory”.
During the course of the performance, Clark touched Belafonte’s arm.

A white account executive from Chrysler, the sponsor of the show, demanded that the segment be deleted from the special before it aired not only because it would offend viewers from the South, but because it offended the account executive’s racial sensibilities as well. He wanted it replaced with video that showed Belafonte and Clark performing the song, but standing apart.

But Clark and her husband, the executive producer of the show, refused to allow the sentiments of the Chrysler executive or Southern viewers to make them change the segment.

It was the first time a Black man and a white woman touched one another on national television.

Fast forward to the 2014 NFL Draft.

University of Missouri star defensive end Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round and celebrated the moment, the moment of becoming the first openly gay player to be picked in the NFL Draft, by kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, on camera.

Social media, as it is wont to do, blew up shortly afterward. While many found it historic, there was a contingent of folks, most of them male, who couldn’t get past the fact Sam, the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, was kissing a man on camera.

For some of us card-carrying heterosexuals, it was a bit over the top. The reactions I saw on Facebook, Twitter, and among the people at my favorite watering hole kept bringing a line from the Gil Scott-Heron classic hit “B” Movie to mind:

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….”

Witnessing people whine about their discomfort and display their prejudices with the pride they’d rather not see gays and lesbians express in regard to this situation made me truly understand why my gay brothers and sisters have been so fervently fighting for their right to express themselves.

American society has always had this “discomfort” with people who aren’t White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexuals. There’s this perception that you are only a true American if you’re willing to sacrifice your culture, your beliefs, and even your sexual orientation to appease the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the White men who run this society. Difference is seen as inferior in America and because it’s inferior, it must be stamped out.

Over the years, I have watched and covered the NFL Draft. When a young athlete hears his name being called, he kisses his mom and his wife or his girlfriend. It’s a happy day for that young man.

But while we tend not to look twice when a young man engages in a public display of affection with his Mom or female Significant Other, the Double Standard reared its ugly head when Sam and Cammisano kissed.

The most common reaction I saw was “Why do we have to see that?!”, which was closely followed by “Why are gay people are trying to impose their lifestyle on us?!” and my personal favorite, “What do I say to my kids?!”

Let’s keep it real, here. You were watching the NFL Draft and this happened. That’s why you saw it. Secondly, unless something has changed over the last few days and I don’t know about it, there is no law on the books that makes you have to become a homosexual. Thus, no one is forcing you to do anything.

And lastly, you tell your kids the exact same thing that you tell them when they see a man and a woman kissing: That’s what two people do when they love each other. Unless you’re like most parents, then you cover both of your ears and go “la-la-la-la-la” to avoid the question.

What disappointed me the most is that African Americans, a group of people who are among the experts in how America handles those with whom it is uncomfortable, were the ones asking the questions above.

I was even more disappointed in the straight-up lack of empathy with our gay and lesbian neighbors.

If you need any evidence of just how uncomfortable this country still is with the presence of Black people even after the Civil Rights Movement, go to Google, punch in “Barack Obama”, and catch the wave.

From being stopped by the cops stopping you for no reason, to not being able to get a cab even when dressed in a suit and tie, America shows African Americans just how uncomfortable it is with us on a daily basis.

Even when we do things to make the majority culture comfortable with us like making our kids cut their locs or straighten their hair, it doesn’t help.

That’s unacceptable to me. The idea that gay people, African-Americans or anyone has to go out of their way to appease someone’s comfort and prejudice is just wrong.

For gays and lesbians, fear of violent retribution, losing your job, and being shunned by your family kept such simple things as holding your lover’s hand in public out of reach for decades. Heck, the whole reason for the Stonewall riots, the event that began the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Liberation Movement, was that gay and lesbian patrons were getting tired of being dragged out of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village by New York City police for the simple act of dancing together.

But while the pre-Stonewall days are behind us in a way, the reaction to Sam’s Draft Day kiss shows that while we can tolerate two men dancing together in a dark nightclub, we still can’t handle them holding hands, kissing or any of the myriad public displays of affection that are going on between heterosexual couples right now as we speak.

From the moment he came out and forced NFL general managers to put “openly gay man” and “football player” in the same sentence, Michael Sam has been consistent in putting his happiness before society’s comfort.

And even though you may not like it, you have to respect it.