Black History

Black History
I had no idea history was being made. I was just tired of giving up. -Rosa Parks

Monday, February 21, 2011

Malcolm X

You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.  - Malcolm X
At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range [and in front of his pregnant wife and children]. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm's funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child's Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). After the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves.

Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.

Malcolm's assassins, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Their Granny, My Mommy, Your Diva

"When and elder dies, it is as if an entire library has burned to the ground" - African saying

While this is an unfortunate reality in so many families, it wasn't the case with mine. My mother lived out loud...she kept no secrets and presented her life story as an active testimony so that others could learn and perhaps benefit from her experience(s). My mother was an avid writer. She woke each day at 5:00am and with a strong cup of black coffee in hand she wrote something...anything. She would often say that if nothing else, just one sentence would do. Those sentences turned into paragraphs, the paragraphs turned into pages, the pages turned into one of the most remarkable tales ever told. Her legacy will live forever because with great intent she told her own story, her own way, refusing to leave it up to someone on the sidelines.

In a letter written not long after I announced that I was pregnant with my first child, my mother felt the need to explain explain the reasoning behind some of the decisions she made over her lifetime. The letter was a reflection of who she was as a woman...a daughter, a friend, a wife...but more importantly who she was as a mother. The thought of her last born, preparing for her first born, prompted her thoughts: are the highlights, the exchanges on my journey, the purpose of this letter is to fill you in on the blue roads and the red ones.  The highways, and the back roads. I don't expect to protect you from life, or to alter your journey in any way.  I want to show you what worked for me, what didn't, what mistakes I made, what factors went into the decisions I made.  I want to share with you what discoveries I made, what I missed, my impressions, my beliefs...
My mother identified herself as, "a Black woman who lived through racism, inequality, struggle, segregation, and integration." She says that she, "came of age at a time to be the 'first,' unthreatened, unafraid, and unstoppable." This was her gift to me, to her granddaughters and to anyone else willing to pull up a chair and listen. My mother was a warrior on every front...she taught me how to navigate and negotiate this world we live in. She was spirit-filled and spirit-led. She was patient, loving, and insightful. My mother wouldn't let me give up; she refused my excuses. She pushed me, pulled me, nudged me...all the while being gentle, comforting and supportive. She was my scaffold. She taught me how to be a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, and a friend.

I am so blessed to have a mother like Sylvia Althea Brent Elliott. Present tense intentional, as my mother is still a very active part of my life despite her physical absence. She was taken far too soon by a rare sarcoma cancer. She was diagnosed May 23, 2005 and died 7 weeks later on July 20, 2005. My mother believed in the afterlife and as a result, she remains my rock, my anchor, my greatest advocate and cheerleader.

To learn more about my mother, take a look at the glogster created by her BIGGEST fans, Micah and Elijah

You can also view her obituary:

Read one of my favorite poems written by my mother:

Hand-Me-Down Mothering by Sylvia Elliott

           When I was a young and active mother
I was engaged every minute of the day
planning meals activities and life for my children
they did not miss very much at all
their childhoods were thoughtfully constructed
very much like my mother had constructed
my own guaranteed to enrich my life
If I had forgotten any thing of it
I get to see the rerun with my
daughter being active with
her young children
engaged in planning meals activities and life
My granddaughter standing on a stool
helping her mother make dinner
at the age of four just as her mother
helped me when she was four and I
helped my mother when I was four
I suspect my mother stood on a stool
when she was four and helped her mother too
When they were little I took them to
the circus so they would be amazed
the zoo to see the animals move and play
the movies for the thrill the theatre to see it live
to restaurants and formal dinners
so they could be served by men in
white gloves to visit relatives so they
could get to know them to visit santa 
so they would know expectation
I gave them elixir for their pain
I spanked them when they needed correction
They got to see sickness and death
I comforted them in their losses
I took them shopping for groceries to
learn the names of food and see it raw for clothes to see
the choices       I took them to school so they
would love to learn to church so they
could hear the stories
            I showed them the sun the moon
the stars and the rain so they could know God
I showed them flowers blooming and the
colors in the rainbow so they could know God more
I read them books sang them lullabies baked them cookies
made popsicles and pop corn and
snow angels
I hugged them and kissed them
And bathed them and loved them
cut out valentine hearts swam in
lakes rivers oceans and the sea
I gave them the things my mother gave to me
            But the greatest gift is to see my daughter
Give her children the things I gave to her

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Micah Loves Chips...and Their Creator!

George Crum invented the potato chip. George was just a normal guy when one summer, the summer of 1853, he was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. One dinner guest found Crum's French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum decided to make his guest mad by producing a slice that was too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan didn’t really work; instead, the guest loved the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and it was so good that other diners began requesting Crum's potato “chips.”
Personally, I love potato chips, so I am so thankful for him. There are a lot of people I know who couldn’t live without potato chips. People should be more grateful and appreciative towards Mr. George Crum, but most people don’t even know who he is.
To learn more about George Crum, check out the Glogster I made all about him!
-Posted by Micah B.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Micah Reflects on Calvin Peete

Calvin Peete was born on July 18, 1943 in Detroit Michigan. He was in a family of nine brothers and sisters. He is one of the most successful African-American golfers on the PGA tour before Tiger Woods. Calvin played on the 1983 and 1985 US Ryder cup teams. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average in 1984. He was in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings for several weeks when they debuted in 1986. Calvin didn’t start playing golf until he was into his 20’s, but he learned very fast.

I believe the contribution he made to the game of golf opened the door for other African Americans to want to play golf. He also showed others that they weren’t the only ones that were capable of playing golf. Most people believe that black people are to play sports such as Football, Basketball, and Track and Field. Having more African American golfers on the course will make it seem more “normal”.

Calvin Peete means a lot to me because I also happen to be an African American who enjoys the game of golf. The only difference is that I’m a female which is also something major. A lot of people believe females don’t play golf. But I proved those people wrong just as Calvin Peete proved all those other people wrong. I am THE first African American to join my school golf team at Simmons Middle School. I also helped form Simmons first girls’ golf team.

Without trend setters, trail blazers, and people who think outside of the box like me and Calvin Peete, the would continue to see us as different, treat us as outsiders, and continue to think we are not capable of things.

Check out the Glogster I made about Calvin Peete…ENJOY!

Today in Black History

Here are some links to help you dive a little deeper into events that happened on February 15...

1968:    On this day Henry Lewis becomes the first African American to lead a symphony orchestra in the United States.

1965:    Nat King Cole, singer and pianist, died in Santa Monica, California.

1964:    Louis Armstrong's "Hello Dolly" recording becomes his first and only number one record.

1961:    U.S. and African nationalist protesting the slaying of Congo Premier Patrice Lumumba disrupts U.N. sessions

1851:    Black abolitionists invaded Boston courtroom and rescued a fugitive slave.

1848:    Sarah Roberts barred from white school in Boston  in Boston. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, filed the first school integration suit on her behalf.

1804:    The New Jersey Legislature approved a law calling for "gradual" emancipation of African Americans. In so doing, New Jersey became the last Northern state to outlaw slavery.

Black History Resources

My husband wanted to share this collection of Powerpoints and websites with you all. Great BHM resources!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Today in Black History

On this day in Black History:

Frederick Douglass was born in a slave cabin, February 14, 1818, near the town of Easton, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Separated from his mother when only a few weeks old he was raised by his grandparents. At about the age of six, his grandmother took him to the plantation of his master and left him there. Not being told by her that she was going to leave him, Douglass never recovered from the betrayal of the abandonment. When he was about eight he was sent to Baltimore to live as a houseboy with Hugh and Sophia Auld, relatives of his master. It was shortly after his arrival that his new mistress taught him the alphabet. When her husband forbade her to continue her instruction, because it was unlawful to teach slaves how to read, Frederick took it upon himself to learn. He made the neighborhood boys his teachers, by giving away his food in exchange for lessons in reading and writing. At about the age of twelve or thirteen Douglass purchased a copy of The Columbian Orator, a popular schoolbook of the time, which helped him to gain an understanding and appreciation of the power of the spoken and the written word, as two of the most effective means by which to bring about permanent, positive change.
Returning to the Eastern Shore, at approximately the age of fifteen, Douglass became a field hand, and experienced most of the horrifying conditions that plagued slaves during the 270 years of legalized slavery in America. But it was during this time that he had an encounter with the slavebreaker Edward Covey. Their fight ended in a draw, but the victory was Douglass', as his challenge to the slavebreaker restored his sense of self-worth. After an aborted escape attempt when he was about eighteen, he was sent back to Baltimore to live with the Auld family, and in early September, 1838, at the age of twenty, Douglass succeeded in escaping from slavery by impersonating a sailor.

He went first to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he and his new wife Anna Murray began to raise a family. Whenever he could he attended abolitionist meetings, and, in October, 1841, after attending an anti-slavery convention on Nantucket Island, Douglass became a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and a colleague of William Lloyd Garrison. This work led him into public speaking and writing. He published his own newspaper, The North Star, participated in the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, in 1848, and wrote three autobiographies. He was internationally recognized as an uncompromising abolitionist, indefatigable worker for justice and equal opportunity, and an unyielding defender of women's rights. He became a trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln, United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C., and Minister-General to the Republic of Haiti.

Frederick Douglass sought to embody three keys for success in life:
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity.
  • Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.
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Today In Black History

On this day in Black history:

Morehouse College was founded on February 14, 1867. Two years after the Civil War ended, Augusta Institute was established in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. Founded in 1787, Springfield Baptist is the oldest independent African American church in the United States. The school’s primary purpose was to prepare black men for the ministry and teaching. Today, Augusta Institute is Morehouse College, which is located on a 66-acre campus in Atlanta and enjoys an international reputation for producing leaders who have influenced national and world history.

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Today In Black History

On this day in black history:

Gregory Hines was born on Feb. 14, 1946, in Manhattan but moved to Brooklyn to live with his Grandma Lawless at 263 Nostrand Ave., a short distance from Brooklyn College, after his parents separated.
Hines was born into a show business family. His father, Maurice, was a drummer with the Dick Vance Orchestra, playing gigs at the famous Savoy Ballroom. When he didn’t play with the band, he worked as a nightclub bouncer.
Hines started performing at the age of 5. He teamed up with his brother Maurice and they traveled extensively. Later, he toured with his brother and father in the nightclub act “Hines, Hines and Dad.”
He appeared on Broadway in Sophisticated Lady, which earned him a Tony nomination. He also starred in such films as The Cotton Club, The History of the World, White Nights, Running Scared, Waiting to Exhale and Tap.
A pair of Hines’ tap dancing shoes hang alongside those of Fred Astaire on the Dancing Wall of Fame at the famed Roseland Ballroom.
Gregory Hines died of liver cancer on Aug. 9, 2003 at the age of 57.
This article was written by Vernon Parker (1923-2004)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

For Micah & Elijah...Perhaps for You Too?

Micah and Elijah

I went into a meeting with my son's elementary school principal this past September to discuss his teacher's negligent behavior and ended up discussing the school's lack of diversity. They were recently given a "failing grade" by an out of state education consultant they hired to evaluate them on their cultural responsiveness to the school's growing diverse student body. The consultant told them their faculty and their literature did not adequately reflect their student body. They have 1 female African American and 1 Latina faculty member out of 50; however their entire custodial staff and the majority of their kitchen staff are African American women. Their literature mostly reflects, was written and illustrated by Whites.

"Most of the biographies we have in the school library about people of color are about Black athletes," the assistant principal revealed in trying to explain why they "failed" in the area of reflective literature. She went on to say that they were aware of the "obvious five", but didn't know of too many other influential African Americans.

You're probably asking yourself right now...I had to ask, "Who are the 'obvious five'?" Of course I guessed on my own...I just wanted to stretch her discomfort by hearing her say, "You know, like Dr. King, Rosa Parks..." Yeah, I know...I know exactly.

The principal and assistant principal went on to ask if I could help them identify additional people of color who have made significant contributions to our society. I did just that. I went home and sent them several links to websites that any Internet novice could have easily found on their own (if they tried or even wanted to) and links to lists of literature by and/or about African Americans like that provided by the National Council of Teachers of English for their annual African American Read-In

Since they brought the subject up, I decided to dig a little deeper and ask why they didn't celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday or Black History Month last year. The principal explained that she leaves those things up to the individual classroom teachers to do on their own if they so choose, but that for Black History Month she had students read biographies over the intercom system. I asked if they prefaced it with a title, like, "Here's a Moment in Black History" or if they provided teachers with the bios and perhaps even photographs of the individuals...she simply said, "No." I asked how then were the children supposed to know the significance of the biographies being read during this particular month when its not done any other time (when asked, my son said they didn't do anything for BHM)...I bet you'll never guess what topic came up next...

COLORBLIND! LOL! That's right! She went there! Something like..."These individuals made remarkable contributions...and they HAPPENED to be Black." She continued with more along those lines saying something else, like, "I don't see color and didn't find it necessary to point that out to the children." Really? I'll save the colorblind discussion for another post...but to sum it up...I asked if she knew I was Black and I asked her to please recognize and respect my Blackness. On behalf of all the children of color in her school, I asked that she also recognize and respect their difference(s). I told her that until EVERYONE can equate goodness (professional, academic, aesthetic, etc.) with people of color...until we "normalize" people of color, we will continue to be "othered"...we will continue to be seen as "abnormal".

One way we can normalize people of color and bring us into the mainstream is by learning about our history. Know the positives...the contributions that we all benefit from daily in our society. Teach your students that not only did a Black man (George Crum) invent the potato chip, but another Black man (Daniel Hale Williams) was the first to perform an open heart surgery (the surgery that is most often needed to repair the damage from eating too many potato chips...LOL).

So, in an effort to reduce excuses of "but we're too busy" from teachers and administrators, I decided to create an easy to use Black History Month project. I sent it to my children's teachers and administrators. Even if they didn't see fit to assign the entire unit as developed to the students...I figured they could at least read the biographies over the intercom system like last year, or ask students to research and present on just one of the 28 people listed, as I provided them with some unsung African American heroes that made significant contributions to our our world.

Today is the thirteenth day of Black History Month. My children's teachers and administrators have yet to engage the students in any related activities or discussions. So...if they won't...I will. I commit to myself, to my children and to you the next 364 days of Black history...this is the beginning of 365 Black at Home.

Here we go...