“In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.”
— Erik Erikson.
What is in a name? Shakespeare asked this question during Romeo’s soliloquy to Juliet. He asked this question because Romeo being part of the family Montague forbade him from associating with his love Juliet. She was of the family Capulet which the Montague’s feuded with for generations. Shakespeare did not reveal what started the families’ feud, but we do know their clash lead to several altercations that were at times deadly. The surname Romeo and Juliet bore carried the weight of a great contention their love could not overcome. Eventually, the discord that existed between Montague and Capulet led to the star-crossed lovers’ demise and the end of the Montague and Capulet dispute.
There is obviously a lot of weight that is held in a name. When we are born, the first thing the doctor declares is the baby’s sex of male or female. The parents name the child and that name follows them generally from cradle to grave. Also, the surname could determine who that child is to become. We’ve experienced this when we hear certain surnames spoken. When I hear Jackson, I think of a family of entertainers. When I hear Rockefeller, I think of a family who made their money in oil. When I hear the name Roosevelt or Kennedy, I think of families tied to American politics. With those examples, we can see how names can help shape the identity of an individual or even a group. We can also see how that identity can shape a person or a group for a lifetime.
Black America has wrestled with their identity for centuries. Since the first African Slaves arrived in the Americas, Black Americans have gone through a plethora of nomenclatures to attempt to define them as a people. Titles have gone from Colored, to Negro, to Black, and now African American. Are any of these designations accurate epithets for Black Americans? If they aren’t, then what is?
I conjecture that all of these inceptions to attempt identify Black people who descend from chattel slavery has caused an identity crisis. What is even more flagitious is the ones who are suffering from such a crisis I’d argue are not even aware of it. Black America does not want to deal with the trauma of what their identity in America really is. If they do, it would cause them to face the reality of their true position in this country which is a bottom cast.
This leads to a mental concern that Black America suffers on the macrosm called Identity Illness. In an article entitled The Impact of Illness Identity on Recovery from Severe Mental Illness by Philip T. Yanos, David Roe, and Paul H. Lysaker, they define Identity Illness as follows:
The set of roles and attitudes that a person has developed in relation to his or her understanding of having a mental illness.
Symptoms of Identity Illness or Identity crisis can include but not limited to:
Questioning who you are
Experiencing great personal conflict due to the questioning of who you are or your role in society.
Questioning things such as your values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path that have a major impact on how you see yourself.
Searching for more meaning, reason, or passion in life
Physical symptoms of this ailment can include:
Depressed mood or feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
Changes in appetite or weight
Issues with concentration, energy levels, motivation, and sleep
Slavery and Jim Crow have an impact of centuries old trauma that has left Black America disjointed. Our group has been seeking wholeness ever since.
The crux of Black America has attempted to redefine itself in a myriad of ways in order to heal from the injury that’s been thrust-ed upon them through Racism White Supremacy. The term African-American may seem to be a product of recent decades, exploding into common usage in the 1990s after a push from advocates like Jesse Jackson, and only enshrined in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001. The phrase was first used in an anti-British sermon from 1782 credited to an anonymous “African American,” pushing the origins of the term back to the earliest days of independence. According to an article published Jan. 31, 1989 in the New York Times entitled ‘African-American’ Favored By Many of America’s Blacks, reads:
“This is deeper than just name recognition,” said Mr. Jackson who, along with others, called for the change at a news conference in late December (1989). ”Black tells you about skin color and what side of town you live on. African-American evokes discussion of the world.”
Discussion of the world I feel is a very fascinating choice of words. Black Americans that descend from chattel slavery are people who’s culture has been appropriated all over the world, but the people has not been accepted all over the world. Quite the opposite has occurred which caused this group to be often demonized. The tropes of savage, mammy, coon, Jezebel – to the modern welfare queen, lazy, thot, and thug plague Black Americans into a hole of mind torture passed on from generation to generation. When one even looks at media and sees how Black women are hyper-sexualized and Black men posthumously criminalized, it is easy to fall into an expanse that this group begins to believe, accuse, and carry out their negative stereotypes. Would it be fair to label these behaviors as indicators of Identity Illness?
People like Jackson sought the solution of calling Black Americans as “African American” to be the cure of this ailment. This notion was birth out of Jackson’s own journey to the continent and a movement called Pan-Africanism. According to an article on Encyclopedia Britannica online, Pan-Africanism is the idea that peoples of African descent have common interests and should be unified. Historically, Pan-Africanism has often taken the shape of a political or cultural movement. There are many varieties of Pan-Africanism. In its narrowest political manifestation, Pan-Africanists envision a unified African nation where all people of the African diaspora can live. (African diaspora refers to the long-term historical process by which people of African descent have been scattered from their ancestral homelands to other parts of the world.) In more-general terms, Pan-Africanism is the sentiment that people of African descent have a great deal in common, a fact that deserves notice and even celebration. “Pan” meaning “all” was an attempt to bring Black people under one umbrella of identity stating that no matter where we are in the world, we are of Africa.
Although the philosophy of Pan-Africanism is appreciable, it is not operational. The reason why is because the continent of Africa is not united under one banner of “Blackness”. Africa is comprised of 54 countries. Within those 54 countries contains a myriad of tribes. According to https://www.africasafari.co.uk/, there are roughly 3,000 different tribes in Africa that speak approximately 2,000 different languages. There are even situations of African countries having immigration problems from one country to another in the same continent. In a recent article from the New York Times South Africa Vows to Crack Down on Violence Against Nigerians published Oct. 3, 2019, the article states:
“Outbreaks of violence against Nigerians and citizens of other African nations have regularly erupted in South Africa in recent years, with some in the country accusing foreigners of taking their jobs or of committing crimes like peddling illegal drugs. – South Africa has been making efforts to repair ties after the government faced criticism for framing the violence against foreigners as everyday crime, and initially not speaking out against the xenophobia.”
African nations also deal with a separatist issue that plagues the continent to present day. In the Atlantic called The Dividing of a Continent: Africa’s Separatist Problem published in 2012 in , it states:
“African borders, in this thinking, are whatever Europeans happened to have marked down during the 19th and 20th centuries, which is a surprising way to do things given how little these outsider-drawn borders have to do with actual Africans. In much of the world, national borders have shifted over time to reflect ethnic, linguistic, and sometimes religious divisions. Spain’s borders generally enclose the Spanish-speakers of Europe; Slovenia and Croatia roughly encompass ethnic Slovenes and Croats. Thailand is exactly what its name suggests. Africa is different, its nations largely defined not by its peoples heritage but by the follies of European colonialism. But as the continent becomes more democratic and Africans assert desires for national self-determination, the African insistence on maintaining colonial-era borders is facing more popular challenges, further exposing the contradiction engineered into African society half a century ago.”
So what does this tell us? Is it proper for Black Americans to look at a fractured continent for identity? Although Black Americans are closer to the continent genetically, they are not culturally. If one looks to Africa with the first thought mentioned, as Biologist Richard Dawkins stated, we all are African. But since people who do not identify as “Black” also don’t identify as “African”, should we?
The truth of the matter is Black Americans are not “African” per se. Black Americans that have been in the United States for multiple generations are something quite different. They are an amalgamation of the enslaved that originally came from West and Central African countries and the en-slaver that is of European descent. In the article entitled The case against ‘African American’ to describe U.S. Black people | Opinion written by Milton W. Hinton posted on NJ.com – he writes:
“Most Black men and women born in the United States are now far removed from Africa, other than sharing some physical characteristics. Most Black Americans speak only English, while Africans often learn multiple languages and dialects in their youth. Most Black Americans — even if their lives depended on it — could not name 10 African languages, tribes or ethnic groups, or any of the continent’s musicians, playwrights, presidents or capital cities. Most of us will never visit Africa. I will go so far as to say that most Black Americans have never read a book by an African writer, which is one of the best ways to learn African history. Being African or African American means more than having similar physical characteristics”.
Black Americans are intermingled with the experiences of Slavery and Jim Crow, which deduces properly the denomination Freedmen or Freedmen Descendants. The term Freedmen was the bestowed on the newly emancipated slaves after the Civil War in 1865. It was also referenced to Black people who were not enslaved before the ending of Chattel Slavery. It was written in government documents and were federal institutions.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also wrote in his book Where do We Go from Here? From Chaos to Community about the Freedmen Descendants and how we are from slaves but also very American. We made America what it is but still bear the burden of past position.
“Who are we? We are the descendants of slaves. We are the offspring of noble men and women who were kidnaped from their native land and chained in ships like beasts. We are the heirs of a great and exploited continent known as Africa. We are the heirs of a past of rope, fire and murder. I for one am not ashamed of this past. My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us.
But we are also Americans. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. In spite of the psychological appeals of identification with Africa, the Negro must face the fact that America is now his home, a home that he helped to build through “blood, sweat and tears.” Since we are Americans the solution to our problem will not come through seeking to build a separate black nation within a nation, but by finding that creative minority of the concerned from the ofttimes apathetic majority, and together moving toward that colorless power that we all need for security and justice.”
I would correct Dr. King one particular point in this quoted passage. Those who were enslaved from the lands of West and Central Africa were largely sold into slavery, not kidnapped per se. Regardless of that resolve of a more appropriate version of history, King gave an up to mark summation of the Black experience that roots from Slavery in America. We are from those brought to this land from a continent long ago of people brought to America in chains and made to serve generations of other humans for centuries. We are also American and have influenced through blood, sweat, and tears largely to what America is. America would not be America without the ones who built it. Also I would say to him that this nation will never be “colorless”. Often the statement “I don’t see color” is a way to ignore the colossal issues that this nation faces because of the hierarchy of Racism White Supremacy.
Knowing what one’s identity is extremely important. John Cahill stated in the Quora article, Why is identity important? He says:
“Identity is important only because it is an opportunity to become, i.e., to go beyond whatever we and others think our identity is. Identity (the experience of self beyond a mere name) is an uncertain, impermanent shifting concept of a self. It is not one identity but many identities according to the opinions and values of those who may wish to identify an ‘individual’ or a supposed ‘self’.”
The experiences that Black Americans garnered is under the umbrella that we collectively share which are Slavery and Jim Crow. Slavery in America is a blot on history never redressed, but it was also the vehicle that created this nation and made it an economic world power. To think of the brutality of Slavery is painful. To reflect upon the ferocity of Jim Crow is appalling. To continue to suffer under the accrued disadvantages from these institutions is loathsome, however it is at the very foundation who we are. Once Black America embraces who we are as a people, we can start the rebuilding process to overcome our collective Identity Illness. This infirmity has plagued us in the environs of 14 generations. Going beyond “Black is Beautiful” and “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” will leap an entire people into the understanding of we are – the Descendants of enslaved or the Sons and Daughters of the Freedmen. As I quoted King earlier, I am not ashamed of this past. My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us.
Cynthia McDonald – Medical Case Manager, Health and Political Advocate
Embracing Freedmen as a political status makes me explore my fellow Freemen who were also agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and freethinkers. I like to think myself as one of them.
To learn more about each Freedmen Freethinker I highlighted, click the photo with their quote to learn a little more about them. My hope is that more people will have more knowledge about these extraordinary Freedmen Freethinkers and their curiosity will implore them to learn more about each one.
Cynthia McDonald – Medical Case Manager, Freethinker, Health and Political Advocate
Frederick Douglass was one of history’s great abolitionists and Freedmen. He was born into slavery in Maryland – the exact date isn’t known. After successfully escaping on his third try, Douglass rose to prominence and influence as an eloquent author, intellectual and human rights leader. He was the first African-American to hold high U.S. government ranks, as a diplomat in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the first to be nominated for vice president. He was also the last serving President of the Freedmen’s Bank before it officially closed in 1874.
His 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, became a best-seller. His powerful speeches at abolitionist churches were widely quoted in newspapers and are credited with helping bring an end to legalized slavery in the U.S.
He said, “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe,”.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Douglass remains an inspirational figure to this day. His tenacity set the stage for the path of the Ex-Slave to be reclassified as “Freedmen”. It also stipulates a promise unfulfilled that needs to be advocated for to restore the inheritance owed to the Freedmen Descendants.
Accompanied by President Ulysses S. Grant and other officials of the federal government, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech at the dedication of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1876. Designed and sculpted by Thomas Ball, the monument depicts Abraham Lincoln holding the emancipation proclamation and holding out his right hand over a kneeling ex-slave. The statue was funded mostly by formerly enslaved persons and is also known as the “Freedmen’s Monument”. One of the newspapers covering the event called it “an eloquent oration”.
Friends and Fellow-Citizens:
I warmly congratulate you upon the highly interesting object which has caused you to assemble in such numbers and spirit as you have to-day. This occasion is in some respects remarkable. Wise and thoughtful men of our race, who shall come after us, and study the lesson of ourhistory in the United States; who shall survey the long and dreary spaces over which we have travelled; who shall count the links in the great chain of events by which we have reached our present position, will make a note of this occasion; they will think of it and speak of it witha sense of manly pride and complacency.
I congratulate you, also, upon the very favorable circumstances in which we meet to-day. They are high, inspiring, and uncommon. They lend grace, glory, and significance to the object for which we have met. Nowhere else in this great country, with its uncounted towns and cities,unlimited wealth, and immeasurable territory extending from sea to sea, could conditions be found more favorable to the success of this occasion than here.
We stand to-day at the national centre to perform something like a national act-an act which is to go into history; and we are here where every pulsation of the national heart can be heard, felt, and reciprocated. A thousand wires, fed with thought and winged with lightning, put us in instantaneous communication with the loyal and true men all over this country.
Few facts could better illustrate the vast and wonderful change which has taken place in our condition as a people than the fact of our assembling here for the purpose we have to-day. Harmless, beautiful, proper, and praiseworthy as this demonstration is, I cannot forget that no such demonstration would have been tolerated here twenty years ago. The spirit of slavery and barbarism, which still lingers to blight and destroy in some dark and distant parts of our country,would have made our assembling here the signal and excuse for opening upon us all the flood-gates of wrath and violence. That we are here in peace to-day is a compliment and a credit to American civilization, and a prophecy of still greater national enlightenment andprogress in the future. I refer to the past not in malice, for this is no day for malice; but simply to place more distinctly in front the gratifying and glorious change which has come both to our white fellow-citizens and ourselves, and to congratulate all upon the contrast between now andthen; the new dispensation of freedom with its thousand blessings to both races, and the old dispensation of slavery with its ten thousand evils to both races—white and black. In view, then, of the past, the present, and the future, with the long and dark history of our bondagebehind us, and with liberty, progress, and enlightenment before us, Iagain congratulate you upon this auspicious day and hour.
Friends and fellow-citizens, the story of our presence here is soon and easily told. We are here in the District of Columbia, here in the city of Washington, the most luminous point of American territory; a city recently transformed and made beautiful in its body and in its spirit; weare here in the place where the ablest and best men of the country are sent to devise the policy, enact the laws, and shape the destiny of the Republic; we are here, with the stately pillars and majestic dome of the Capitol of the nation looking down upon us; we are here, with the broadearth freshly adorned with the foliage and flowers of spring for our church, and all races, colors, and conditions of men for our congregation—in a word, we are here to express, as best we may, by appropriate forms and ceremonies, our grateful sense of the vast, high, and pre-eminent services rendered to ourselves, to our race, to our country, and to the whole world byAbraham Lincoln.
The sentiment that brings us here to-day is one of the noblest that can stir and thrill the human heart. It has crowned and made glorious the high places of all civilized nations with the grandest and most enduring works of art, designed to illustrate the characters and perpetuate thememories of great public men. It is the sentiment which from year to year adorns with fragrant and beautiful flowers the graves of our loyal, brave, and patriotic soldiers who fell in defense of the Union and liberty.
It is the sentiment of gratitude and appreciation, which often, in presence of many who hear me, has filled yonder heights of Arlington with the eloquence of eulogy and the sublime enthusiasm of poetry and song; a sentiment which can never die while the Republic lives.
For the first time in the history of our people, and in the history of the whole American people, we join in this high worship, and march conspicuously in the line of this time-honored custom. First things are always interesting, and this is one of our first things. It is the first timethat, in this form and manner, we have sought to do honor to an American great man, however deserving and illustrious. I commend the fact to notice; let it be told in every part of the Republic; let men of all parties and opinions hear it; let those who despise us, not less thanthose who respect us, know that now and here, in the spirit of liberty, loyalty, and gratitude, let it be known everywhere, and by everybody who takes an interest in human progress and in the amelioration of the condition of mankind, that, in the presence and with the approval of themembers of the American House of Representatives, reflecting the general sentiment of the country; that in the presence of that august body, the American Senate, representing the highest intelligence and the calmest judgment of the country; in presence of the Supreme Courtand Chief-Justice of the United States, to whose decisions we all patriotically bow; in the presence and under the steady eye of the honored and trusted President of the United States, with the members of his wise and patriotic Cabinet, we, the colored people, newlyemancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a monument of enduring granite and bronze, in every line, feature, and figure of which the men of thisgeneration may read, and those of after-coming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.
Fellow citizens, in what we have said and done to-day, and in what we may say and do hereafter, we disclaim everything like arrogance and assumption. We claim for ourselves no superior devotion to the character, history, and memory of the illustrious name whose monumentwe have here dedicated to-day. We fully comprehend the relation of Abraham Lincoln both to ourselves and to the white people of the United States. Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of agreat public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to hismemory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man. He was preeminent as the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity to the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans.
He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the States where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed constitutional guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave States. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master was already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration. Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme.
First, midst, and last, you and yours were the objects of his deepest affection and his most earnest solicitude. You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by force of circumstances and necessity. To you itespecially belongs to sound his praises, to preserve and perpetuate his memory, to multiply his statues, to hang his pictures high upon your walls, and commend his example, for to you he was a great and glorious friend and benefactor. Instead of supplanting you at this altar, we wouldexhort you to build high his monuments; let them be of the most costly material, of the most cunning workmanship; let their forms be symmetrical, beautiful, and perfect; let their bases be upon solid rocks, and their summits lean against the unchanging blue, overhanging sky, and let them endure forever! But while in the abundance of your wealth, and in the fullness of your just and patriotic devotion, you do all this, we entreat you to despise not the humble offering we this day unveil to view; for while Abraham Lincoln saved for you a country, he delivered us from a bondage, according to Jefferson, one hour of which was worse than ages of the oppression your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose.
Fellow-citizens, ours is no new-born zeal and devotion merely a thing of this moment. The name of Abraham Lincoln was near and dear to our hearts in the darkest and most perilous hours of the Republic. We were no more ashamed of him when shrouded in clouds of darkness, ofdoubt, and defeat than when we saw him crowned with victory, honor, and glory. Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the utmost, but it never failed. When he tarried long in the mountain; when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still morestrangely told us to leave the land in which we were born; when he refused to employ our arms in defence of the Union; when, after accepting our services as colored soldiers, he refused to retaliate our murder and torture as colored prisoners; when he told us he would save the Union if he could with slavery; when he revoked the Proclamation of Emancipation of General Frémont; when he refused to remove the popular commander of the Army of the Potomac, in the days of its inaction and defeat, who was more zealous in his efforts to protectslavery than to suppress rebellion; when we saw all this, and more, we were at times grieved, stunned, and greatly bewildered; but our hearts believed while they ached and bled. Nor was this, even at that time, a blind and unreasoning superstition. Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him; despite the tumult, the hurry, and confusion of the hour, we were able to take a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln, and to make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position.
We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection; not by any partial and imperfect glimpses, caught at inopportune moments; but by a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of great events, and in view of that divinity which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, we came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln. It mattered little to us what language he might employ on special occasions; it mattered little to us, when we fully knew him, whether he was swift or slow in his movements; it was enough for us that Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great movement, and was in living and earnest sympathy with thatmovement, which, in the nature of things, must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in the United States.
When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or ourfuture, under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood; under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in theform of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country; under his rule, and in due time, about as soon after all as the country could tolerate the strange spectacle, we saw our brave sons and brothers laying off the rags of bondage, and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms of the soldiers of the United States; under his rule we saw two hundred thousand of our dark and dusky people responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln, and with muskets on their shoulders, and eagles on their buttons, timing their high footsteps to liberty and union under the national flag; under his rule we saw the independence of the blackrepublic of Haiti, the special object of slaveholding aversion and horror, fully recognized, and her minister, a colored gentleman, duly received here in the city of Washington; under his rule we saw the internal slave trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slaveryabolished in the District of Columbia; under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave-trade, and the first slave trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer; under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds; under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slaveholders three months’ grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. Though we waited long, we saw all this and more.
Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January, 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word ? I shall never forget that memorable night, when in a distant city I waited and watched at the public meeting, with three thousand others not less anxious than myself, for the word of deliverance which we have heard read to-day.
Nor shall I ever forget the outburst of joy and thanksgiving that rent the air when the lightning brought to us the emancipation proclamation. In that happy hour we forgot all delay, and forgot all tardiness, forgot that the President had bribed the rebels to lay down their arms by a promise to withhold the bolt which smite the slave-system with destruction; and we were thenceforward willing to allow the President all the latitude of time, phraseology, and every honorable device that statesmanship might require for the achievement of a great and beneficent measure of liberty and progress. Fellow-citizens, there is little necessity on this occasion to speak at length and critically of this great and good man, and of his high mission in the world. That ground has been fully occupied and completely covered both here and elsewhere. The whole field of fact and fancy has been gleaned and garnered. Any man can say things that are true of Abraham Lincoln, but no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln. His personal traits and public acts are better known to the American people than are those of any other man of his age. He was a mystery to no man who saw him and heard him. Though high in position, the humblest could approach him and feel at home in his presence. Though deep, he was transparent; though strong, he was gentle; though decided and pronounced in his convictions, he was tolerant towards those who differed from him, and patient under reproaches. Even those who only knew him through his public utterances obtained a tolerably clear idea of his character and his personality. The image of the man went out with his words, and those who read them, knew him.
I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin ; and second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful co-operation of his loyal fellow countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent ; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.
Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery.* The man who could say, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue till all the wealth piled by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword. “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not think and feel ” —Letter of Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Hughes, of Kentucky, April 4, 1864.
‘11 judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ gives all needed proof of his feeling on the subject of slavery. He was willing, while the South was loyal, that it should have its pound of flesh, because he thought that it was so nominated in the bond; but farther than this no earthly power could make him go. Fellow-citizens, whatever else in this world may be partial, unjust, and uncertain, time, time! is impartial, just, and certain in its action. In the realm of mind, as well as in the realm of matter, it is a great worker, and often works wonders. The honest and comprehensive statesman, clearly discerning the needs of his country, and earnestly endeavoring to do his whole duty, though covered and blistered with reproaches, may safely leave his course to the silent judgment of time. Few great public men have ever been the victims of fiercer denunciation than Abraham Lincoln was during his administration. He was often wounded in the house of his friends.
Reproaches came thick and fast upon him from within and form without, and from opposite quarters. He was assailed by Abolitionists; he was assailed by slaveholders; he was assailed by the men who were for peace at any price; he was assailed by those who were for a more vigorous prosecution of the war; he was assailed for not making the war an abolition war; and he was most bitterly assailed for making the war an abolition war. But now behold the change: the judgment of the present hour is, that taking him for all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, and surveying the end from the beginning, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln. His birth, his training, and his natural endowments, both mental and physical, were strongly in his favor. Born and reared among the lowly, a stranger to wealth and luxury, compelled to grapple single-handed with the flintiest hardships of life, from tender youth to sturdy manhood, he grew strong in the manly and heroic qualities demanded by the great mission to which he was called by the votes of his countrymen.
The hard conditions of his early life, which would have depressed and broken down weaker men, only gave greater life, vigor, and buoyancy to the heroic spirit of Abraham Lincoln. He was ready for any kind and any quality of work. What other young men dreaded in the shape of toil, he took hold of with the utmost cheerfulness. A spade, a rake, a hoe, A pick-axe, or a bill; A hook to reap, a scythe to mow, A flail, or what you will. All day long he could split heavy rails in the woods, and half the night long he could study his English Grammar by the uncertain flare and glare of the light made by a pine-knot. He was at home on the land with his axe, with his maul, with glutes, and his wedges; and he was equally at home on water, with his oars, with his poles, with his planks, and with his boat-hooks. And whether in his flat-boat on the Mississippi river, or at the fireside of his frontier cabin, he was a man of work. A son of toil himself, he was linked in brotherly sympathy with the sons of toil in every loyal part of the Republic. This very fact gave him tremendous power with the American people, and materially contributed not only to selecting him to the Presidency, but in sustaining his administration of the Government. Upon his Inauguration as President of the United States, an office, even where assumed under the most favorable conditions, fitted to tax and strain the largest abilities, Abraham Lincoln was met by a tremendous crisis. He was called upon not merely to administer the Government, but to decide, in the face of terrible odds, the fate of the Republic.
A formidable rebellion rose in his path before him; the Union was already practically dissolved; his country was torn and rented asunder at the centre. Hostile armies were already organized against the Republic, armed with the munitions of war which the Republic had provided for its own defence. The tremendous question for him to decide was whether his country should survive the crisis and flourish, or be dismembered and perish. His predecessor in office had already decided the question in favor of national dismemberment, by denying to it the right of self defense and self-preservation–a right which belongs to the meanest insect.
Happily for the country, happily for you and for me, the judgment of James Buchanan, the patrician, was not the judgment of Abraham Lincoln, the plebeian. He brought his strong common sense, sharpened in the school of adversity, to bear upon the question. He did not hesitate, he did not doubt, he did not falter; but at once resolved that at whatever peril, at whatever cost, the union of the States should be preserved. A patriot himself, his faith was strong and unwavering in the patriotism of his countrymen. Timid men said before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration, that we had seen the last President of the United States. A voice in influential quarters said “Let the Union slide.” Some said that a Union maintained by the sword was worthless. Others said a rebellion of 8,000,000 cannot be suppressed; but in the midst of all this tumult and timidity, and against all this, Abraham Lincoln was clear in his duty, and had an oath in heaven. He calmly and bravely heard the voice of doubt and fear all around him; but he had an oath in heaven, and there was not enough power on the earth to make this honest boatman, backwoodsman, and broad-handed splitter of rails evade or violate that sacred oath. He had not been schooled in the ethics of slavery; his plain life had favored his love of truth. He had not been taught that treason and perjury were the proof of honor and honesty. His moral training was against his saying one thing when he meant another. The trust which Abraham Lincoln had in himself and in the people was surprising and grand, but it was also enlightened and well founded. He knew the American people better than they knew themselves, and his truth was based upon this knowledge.
Fellow-citizens, the fourteenth day of April, 1865, of which this is the eleventh anniversary, is now and will ever remain a memorable day in the annals of this Republic. It was on the evening of this day, while a fierce and sanguinary rebellion was in the last stages of its desolating power; while its armies were broken and scattered before the invincible armies of Grant and Sherman; while a great nation, torn and rent by war, was already beginning to raise to the skies loud anthems of joy at the dawn of peace, it was startled, amazed, and overwhelmed by the crowning crime of slavery– the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was a new crime, a pure act of malice. No purpose of the rebellion was to be served by it. It was the simple gratification of a hell-black spirit of revenge. But it has done good after all. It has filled the country with a deeper abhorrence of slavery and a deeper love for the great liberator.
Had Abraham Lincoln died from any of the numerous ills to which flesh is heir; had he reached that good old age of which his vigorous constitution and his temperate habits gave promise; had he been permitted to see the end of his great work; had the solemn curtain of death come down but gradually — we should still have been smitten with a heavy grief, and treasured his name lovingly. But dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate — for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him — but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is double dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.
Fellow-citizens, I end, as I began, with congratulations. We have done a good work for our race to-day. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us; we have been fastening ourselves to a name and fame imperishable and immortal; we have also been defending ourselves from a blighting scandal. When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.
AFTER the procession arrived upon the grounds the stand was soon filled with guests. Immediately behind the speaker’s stand were seated President Grant, Senator Ferry, the members of the Cabinet, and the Justices of the Supreme Court; Senators Morton, Boutwell, Spencer, Sherman, Bruce, and others of the Senate; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Conant, Hons. S. S. Cox, N. P. Banks, and other members of the House; the Japanese Minister, Sergeant-at-Arms French, Dr. C. C. Cox, Hon. W. B. Snell, Dr. J. B. Blake, the distinguished gentlemen who were to take part in the exercises, and many other distinguished personages.
The marine band, stationed at the right of the stand, opened the exercises by playing “Hail Columbia.”
Prof. John M. Langston, Chairman of the National Committee of Arrangements, presided.
Bishop John M. Brown, of the African M. E. church, offered a devout prayer, during the utterance of which a solemn and reverent silence was maintained throughout the vast throng.
Hon. J. Henri Burch, of Louisiana, read the proclamation of emancipation, which was received with as much enthusiasm as if it had just been issued, and at the conclusion the Marseillaise hymn was played.
Prof. Langston explained that Rev. Wm. G. Elliott, who was to present the monument, had been unable to attend, and introduced in his stead Mr. James E. Yeatman, President of the Western Sanitary Commission.
Mr. Yeatman said:
The Rev. Wm. G. Elliott, of St. Louis, to whom had been assigned the presentation of the monument for the acceptance and approval of those who had contributed the funds for its erection, and to give a short historical account of the same, has been prevented from doing so, and it has only been within the last few hours that I received notice that he could not be present, and that I was requested to take his place, which I am but poorly qualified to do. Asking your kind and considerate indulgence, I shall proceed, as the representative and president of the Western Sanitary Commission, to whom was entrusted the contributions of the freedmen, and the expenditure of the same for the erection of a freedmen’s memorial at the National Capital.
It is perhaps proper that I should tell you how it was that a sanitary commission came to be entrusted with this work. This Commission, composed of Rev. Wm. G. Elliott, George Partridge, Carlos S. Greeley, Dr. J. B. Johnson, and James E Yeatman, well-known Union citizens of St. Louis, were appointed by General John C. Fremont, and afterwards ratified by Secretary Stanton. Their duties, principally, where to look after the sick, to fit up and furnish hospitals, provide competent nurses, &c. But as the war progressed, their duties were greatly enlarged. The care of the families and orphans of soldiers, Union refugees, the freedmen—in short, all the humanities growing out of the war—came under their charge. For these various purposes large sums of money, clothing, &c., were contributed and sent to them, and I can say, honestly and judiciously expended. And finally, after the war was closed ; after the lamented, honored, and loved Lincoln had been so foully assassinated in this city, five dollars were sent to us—the contribution of Charlotte Scott, a poor slave-woman, who, on hearing of the assassination of President Lincoln, went, in great distress, to her mistress—that had been, for she was then free—and said to her: “The colored people have lost their best friend on earth ! Mr. Lincoln was our best friend, and I will give five dollars of my wages towards erecting a monument to his memory.” This money, this five dollars, this grain of mustard seed, contributed by Charlotte Scott in gratitude to her deliverer, was sent to us by her former master, Mr. P. Rucker, through the hands of General T. C. H. Smith, then in command of the military post of St. Louis, having received it from Mr. Rucker, who was a Union refugee from Virginia, having sought safety for himself and family in Marietta, Ohio, taking along with him Charlotte Scott, and perhaps others belonging to him. It was these five dollars that was the foundation of this beautiful and appropriate memorial which we now see before us. General Smith addressed a letter to me, conveying it, which was as follows:
ST. LOUIS, April 26, 1864.
JAMES E. YEATMAN, Esq.:
MY DEAR SIR: A poor negro woman, of Marietta, Ohio, one of thosemade free by President Lincoln’s proclamation, proposes that amonument to their dead friend be erected by the colored people of theUnited States. She has handed to a person in Marietta five dollars asher contribution for the purpose. Such a monument would have a historymore grand and touching than any of which we have an account. Would itnot be well to take up this suggestion and make it known to thefreedmen?
Yours truly, T. C. H. SMITH.
In compliance with General Smith’s suggestion, I published his letter, with a card, stating that any desire to contribute to a fund for such a purpose that the Western Sanitary Commission would receive the same and see that it was judiciously appropriated as intended. In response to this communication, liberal contributions were received from colored soldiers, under the command of General J. W. Davidson, headquarters at Natchez, Miss., amounting in all to $12,150. This was subsequently increased from other sources to $16,242.
From the liberal contributions made in the first instance, we are led to believe that a very much larger sum would have been subscribed. But, as our determination was to have a free-will offering without solicitation, we determined to rest with what was voluntarily contributed. Harriet Hosner, one of America’s greatest sculptors, asked for permission to submit a design, which she did It was one of great beauty and merit, and could it have been executed, it would have been one of the grandest and most beautiful monumental works of art ever erected in this or any other country. I mention this here as the design has doubtless been seen by some that are now present. It was published in the London Art Journal and other journals published in thisand other countries. I trust yet that the gratitude of the freed people will prompt them to execute this grand design. I now proceed to give you the history of the Lincoln Monument as adopted and executed.
One of the members of the Western Sanitary Commission, Rev. Wm. G. Elliott, being in Florence in the autumn of 1869, when visiting the studio of Mr. Thomas Ball, saw the group subsequently adopted, and was so much pleased with it that he spoke strongly in its praise after returning to St. Louis. He had learned from Mr. Ball that the work was conceived and executed under the first influence of the news of Mr. Lincoln’s assassination. No order for such a group had been received, but Mr. Ball felt sure that the time would come when there would be a demand for it, and, at any rate, he felt an inward demand to produce it. His aim was to present one single idea, representing the great work for the accomplishment of which Abraham Lincoln lived and died, and all accessory ideas are carefully excluded. Mr. Ball also determined not to part with it, except under such circumstances as to insure its just appreciation, not merely as a work of art but as a labor of love—a tribute to American patriotism.
For several years it has stood there in its place greatly admired, but not finding the direction of its rightful destination. But, when the artist heard of the possible use to which it might be put, as the memorial of freedom by the emancipated slaves themselves, he at once said that he should hold it with that view until the Commission were prepared to take action, and that the price to be paid would be altogether a secondary consideration. When the description was given to the other members of the Western Sanitary Commission they sent for photographs, four of which, presenting the group at different points of view, were taken in Florence, and forwarded to them. They at once decided to accept the design, and an order was given for its immediate execution in bronze, in accordance with the suggestions made by Mr. Ball. The original group was in Italian marble, and differs in some respects from the bronze now to be inaugurated. In the original, the kneeling slave is represented as perfectly passive, receiving the boon of freedom from the hand of the great liberator. But the artist justly changed this, to bring the presentation nearer to the historical fact, by making the emancipated slave an agent in his own deliverance. He is accordingly represented as exerting his own strength with strained muscles in breaking the chain which had bound him. A far greater degree of dignity and vigor, as well as of historical accuracy, is thus imparted. The original was also changed by introducing, instead of an ideal slave, the figure of a living man—the last slave in Missouri taken up under the fugitive-slave law, and who was, at one time, rescued from his captors, (who had transcended their legal authority,) under the orders of the provost marshal of St. Louis. His name was Archer Alexander, and his condition of legal servitude continued until the emancipation act became the law of the land A photographic picture was sent to Mr. Ball, who has given both the face and manly bearing of the negro. The ideal group is thus converted into the literal truth of history without losing anything of its artistic conception or effect. The monument, in bronze, now inaugurated, was cast at the Royal foundry in Munich. An exact copy of the original group as just designed by Mr. Ball has been executed by him in pure white Italian marble for the Western Sanitary Commission, and will be permanently placed, as “Freedom’s Memorial,” in some public building of St. Louis. Of the eminent sculptor, Thomas Ball, to whose genius and love of country the whole praise of the work is due, it is unnecessary to speak. His design was accepted, after three years’ diligent seeking, solely on its merits. But it is a source of congratulation to all lovers of the American Union that this monument, in memory of the people’s President and the freedmen’s best friend, is from the hand of one who not only stands in the foremost rank of living artists, but who is himself proud to be called an American citizen.
The amount paid to Mr. Ball for the bronze group was $17,000, every cent of which has been remitted to him. So you have a finished monument, all paid for by the Government which appropriated $3,000 for the foundation and pedestal upon which the bronze group stands, making the cost in all $20,000. I have thus given you a brief history of the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument, and how and why the Western Sanitary Commission came to have anything to do with it. To them it has been a labor of love. In the execution of the work they have exercised their best judgment—done the best that could be done with the limited means they had to do it with. It remains with you and those who will follow to say how wisely or how well it has been done. Whatever of honor, whatever of glory belongs to this work, should be given to Charlotte Scott, the poor slave woman. Her offering of gratitude and love, like that of the widow’s mite, will be treasured in Heaven when the gifts of those rich in this world’s good shall have passed away and been forgotten.
Professor Langston when receiving the statue, said :
In behalf of our entire nation, in behalf especially of the donors of the fund with whose investment you and your associates of the “Western Sanitary Commission” have been charged, I tender to you, sir, and through you to the Commission, our sincere thanks for the prompt and wise performance of the trust and duty committed to your care. The finished and appropriate memory and honor of him who is to be forever known in the records of the world’s history as the emancipator of the enslaved of our country. We unveil it to the gaze, the admiration of mankind.
Fellow-citizens, according to the arrangement of the order of exercises of this occasion, it has fallen to my lot to unveil this statue which we dedicate to-day ; but we have with us the President of the United States, and it strikes me that it is altogether fit and proper to now ask him to take part in the exercises so far as to unveil this monument.
President Grant advanced to the front of the stand. A moment passed in the deepest silence, but when the President pulled the cord and the flags fell away, and the bronze figures were exposed to view, the people burst into spontaneous applause and exclamations of admiration. To the noisy manifestations of admiration were added the booming of cannon and the strains of the band, which struck up “Hail to the Chief.”
Professor Langton then announced that, by request, an original poem had been contributed by a colored lady of New York, Miss Cordelia Ray, and it would be read by Mr. William E. Mathews, of Baltimore. Mr. Mathews stepped forward, amid applause, and read as follows:
To-day, O martyred chief, beneath the sun We would unveil they form ; to thee who won The applause of nations, for thy soul sincere, A living tribute we would offer here. ‘Twas thine not worlds to conquer, but men’s hearts; To change to balm the sting of slavery’s darts; In lowly charity thy joy to find, And open “gates of mercy on mankind.” And so they come, the freed, with grateful gift, From whose sad path the shadows thou didst lift.
Eleven years have rolled their seasons round Since its most tragic close thy life-work found. Yet through the vistas of the vanished days We see thee still, responsive to our gaze As ever to thy country’s solemn needs. Not regal coronets, but princely deeds, Were thy chaste diadem ; of truer worth Thy modest virtues than the gems of earth. Staunch, honest, fervent in the purest cause, Truth was thy guide; her mandates were thy laws.
Rare heroism; spirit purity; The storied Spartan’s stern simplicity; Such moral strength as gleams like burnished gold amid the doubts of men of weaker mold Were thine. Called in thy country’s sorest hour, When brother knew not brother—mad for power— To guide the helm through bloody deeps of war, While distant nations gazed in anxious awe, Unflinching in the task, thou didst fulfil Thy mighty mission with a deathless will.
Born to a destiny the most sublime, Thou wert, O, Lincoln! in the march of time. God bad thee pause—and bid the oppressed go free— Most glorious boon giv’n to humanity. While slavery ruled the land, what deeds were done! What tragedies enacted ‘neath the sun! Her page is blurred with records of defeat— Of lives heroic lived in silence—meet For the world’s praise—of woe, despair, and tears— The speechless agony of weary years!
Thou utterest the word, and Freedom fair Rang her sweet bells on the clear winter air: She waved her magic wand, and lo! From far A long procession came! with many scars. Their brows were wrinkled—in the bitter strife Full many had said their sad farewell to life. But on they hastened—free—their shackles gone— The aged, young—e’en infancy was borne To offer unto thee loud pœans of praise— Their happy tribute after saddest days.
A race set free! The deed brought joy and light! It bade calm justice from her sacred height, when faith, and hope, and courage slowly waned, Unfurl the stars and stripes, at last unstained! The nations rolled acclaim from sea to sea, And Heaven’s vaults rang with Freedom’s harmony. The angels ‘mid the amaranths must have hush’d Their chanted cadence, as upward rush’d The hymn sublime; and as the echoes peeled God’s ceaseless benison the action sealed.
As now we dedicate this shaft to thee, True champion ! in all humility And solemn earnestness, we would erect A monument invisible, undecked, Save by our allied purpose to be true To Freedom’s loftiest precepts, so that through The fiercest contests we may walk secure, Fixed on foundations that may still endure When granite shall have crumbled to decay And generations passed from earth away.
Exalted patriot! illustrious chief! Thy life’s immortal work compels belief. To-day in radiance thy virtues shine, And how can we a fitting garland twine? Thy crown most glorious is a ransomed race! High on our country’s scroll we fondly trace In lines of fadeless light that softly blend: Emancipator, hero, martyr, friend! While Freedom may her holy sceptre claim, The world shall echo with “Our Lincoln’s” name.
Cynthia McDonald – Medical Case Manager, Health and Political Advocate
October 10th is marked as World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization or the WHO, the overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. Being aware of a day to focus on mental health raises an issue for me personally. Is it possible to have a serious conversation about the state of mental health in the Black Community?
I was engaged in a conversation with another friend about the internet sensation Kevin Samuels. He has a YouTube show where he mostly takes calls from other black women and deals with their issues of wanting a man and not getting one or their lofty ideas of a man that is not tenable in my opinion. He has also been accused of being misogynistic, a chauvinist, an opportunist and objectifying Black Women in a sensational manner to increase his viewership. I have watched some of his content but I am not prepared to completely acquiesce to these claims per se. He has a tendency to be blunt, abrupt, sharp, insolent and quite harsh. Although this is the case, he will also display aforementioned behaviors to his Black Men callers as well. My biggest issue with this is not so much the behavior towards his callers, rather the content that is clipped and propagated. The calls that are mostly shared are the ones with Black Women saying something problematic and Kevin tearing them a new hole. This raises a lot of issues for me. I, being a Black Woman, instantly want to defend my sisters as much as possible. Although this is my first reaction, I can’t help but to think upon what are the driving forces behind my sisters saying or behaving the way they do on this show. I believe this is a symptom of a more systemic problem that is very prevalent in the Black Community but no one wants to address let alone discuss.
Behavior can be a nebulous contrivance. Behavior or behaviour is the actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. In psychology, behavior consists of an organism’s external reactions to its environment. Other aspects of psychology, such as emotions, thoughts, and other internal mental processes, don’t usually fall under the category of behavior. In dealing with the subject of behavior in the sense of the actions one has in conjunction with their environment, I don’t necessarily think it would be such a mental leap that some of these behaviors that are witnessed on Kevin’s show is the manifestation of Black Women’s behavioral health state. Black men are also not exempt from these manifestations. The behaviors just show up differently.
This leads me to incite a discussion on the mental state of the Black Community. Overall, mental health conditions occur in Black and African American people in America at about the same or less frequency than in White Americans. However, the historical Black (Freedmen) and African American experience in America has and continues to be characterized by trauma and violence more often than for their White counterparts and impacts emotional and mental health of both youth and adults.
13.4 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly 46 million people, identify themselves as Black or African American and another 2.7 percent identified as multiracial
More than 1 in 5 Black and African American people in the U.S. lived in poverty as of 2018.
Black and African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level
Adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.
Blacks and African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages. However, Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8 percent v. 6.1 percent).
Sixteen percent (4.8 million) of Black and African American people reported having a mental illness, and 22.4 percent of those (1.1 million people) reported a serious mental illness over the past year.
Serious mental illness (SMI) rose among all ages of Black and African American people between 2008 and 2018.
Despite rates being less than the overall U.S. population, major depressive episodes increased from 9 percent-10.3 percent in Black and African American youth ages 12-17, 6.1 percent to 9.4 percent in young adults 18-25, and 5.7 percent to 6.3 percent in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.
Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts are also rising among Black and African American young adults. While still lower than the overall U.S. population aged 18-25, 9.5 percent (439,000) of Black and African American 18-25-year-olds had serious thoughts of suicide in 2018, compared to 6 percent (277,000) in 2008. 3.6 percent (166,000) made a plan in 2018, compared to 2.1 percent (96,000) in 2008, and 2.4 percent (111,000) made an attempt in 2018, compared to 1.5 percent (70,000) in 2008.
Binge drinking, smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), illicit drug use and prescription pain reliever misuse are more frequent among Black and African American adults with mental illnesses.
At face value, learning these statistics that ties in Black American position in the US when it comes to poverty and the state of mental health in our community is quite sobering. Still there is a very present issue of not really addressing the topic because stigma is very real. In a New York Times article entitled The Extra Stigma of Mental Illness for African-Americans, they highlighted Shaun J. Fletcher, a professor at San Jose State University whose research covers health disparities among African-American men. He gave a 2018 TEDx Talk on how African-Americans communicate about their mental health issues. He said, “…much of the way African-Americans deal with mental health, or choose not to, is based on how we are socialized. We are raised to believe that we have to walk outside with a tough skin at all times to survive in the world.” The author’s article goes on to say that “…our culture has taught us that we do not have the privilege of being vulnerable like other communities; it has taught us to find strength in our faith. Our history has shown us that the medical field cannot be trusted with Black bodies.”
I have to say that I have to somewhat agree with the author from the New York Times. In my own experience, mental health was not part of the conversation in my home as it should have. Being a product of divorced parents, I remember going to counseling when I was young with my family, but the sessions did not last long. It was not until I was 14 that I found myself in therapy because it was very apparent how depressed I was and it started to affect my physical health. Since then, I have found myself taking advantage of some form of mental health assistance when symptoms of clinical depression start to reassert itself.
According to a study conducted by Ward, Wiltshire, Detry, and Brown in 2013:
Black and African American hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. The participants in this study were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, but they were somewhat open to seeking mental health services.
Black and African American men are particularly concerned about stigma.
Cohort effects, exposure to mental illness, and increased knowledge of mental illness are factors that could potentially change beliefs about symptoms of mental illness.
Participants appeared apprehensive about seeking professional help for mental health issues, which is consistent with previous research. However, participants were willing to seek out some form of help.
In 2016, 12.3 percent of Black and African American adults who had a doctor’s office or clinic visit over the past year had difficulty getting needed care, tests or treatment compared to 6.8 percent of white adults. While the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has helped to close the gap in uninsured individuals, 11.5 percent of Black and African Americans, versus 7.5 percent of white Americans were still uninsured in 2018. In 2018, 58.2 percent of Black and African American young adults 18-25 and 50.1 percent of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment. I have to say I am one of the fortunate ones. I was lucky to have medical insurance for the majority of my life so I was able to access mental health care. As you can see, that is not the overall story for many Black Americans.
So what is the solution to address this quite serious issue in the Black American Community? I would have to say it is a two fold solution. The first thing that has to be addressed is the long and pervasive stigma that exists in our community when it comes to mental health. There is a saying that we often use – Black don’t Crack. Is that true? Although this saying is used mostly to illustrate Black people have a way to preserve a more youthful look because we generally possess more melanin, that has nothing to do with what is happening in our minds. Dr. Peter Sealy who is a columnist from Pride News wrote, “Oh what a mask we wear, of bright smiling faces and gloomy aching hearts. The mask that we wear is as true as its lie”. He goes on to say, “Many Black men and women go on for years, wearing a mask that lies and belies how they are really feeling. But all the while something bad is happening to them. It is the depression that begins to grow and take root.” We cannot honestly think that we can allow the collective mental health of a community to deteriorate without acknowledging that the problem is there.
We also need resources that address our mental health in a holistic manner. While human beings can suffer similar medical and behavioral concerns, Black Americans, especially Freedmen Descendants, have a compound historical trauma of racism and disenfranchisement. If you are not from the community, you will not properly understand the community. There are more organizations that are starting to emerge to be that resource, but we need more.
I wish that I had a list of resources that was just as long as this blog post, but that is an example of how this issue needs way more attention than it gets. Freedmen must be more aware of this topic and not shy away from it. We also have to be more proactive in working to make the mental state of our community change. Mental Health is important and it deserves consideration, but we cannot wish it would until we consider it at home.
Cynthia McDonald – Medical Case Manager, Health and Political Advocate
Recently, there was a conference held on race and reparations at the United Nations. It was painfully obvious to observe the nations that were NOT present. The United Kingdom, Canada, United States and several other European countries did not attend out of protest. According to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, said it (The meeting birth out of the Durban Conference from 2001) “remains opposed to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic underpinnings of the Durban process, and has longstanding freedom of expression concerns with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action/ DDPA.” According to CNN.com’s article The United Nations held a major meeting on race. Why the US and UK skipped it, The original Durban Conference in 2001 started with lofty aims but ended in an ugly uproar in the wake of negotiations on how and whether to include Israel-Palestinian issues under the rubric of discrimination. The US and Israel ultimately walked out in protest of one draft of the conference’s final declaration that denounced “racial discrimination against the Palestinians” and others by Israel and equated Zionism with racism.
Even though it was later stated that said countries were still making “fighting racism” a “top priority”, it remains quite spellbinding how an international stage set to speak on this very topic was protested by several powers who profited greatly off of Slavery citing the “Underpinnings” of Antisemitism. Please note, this author does not support Antisemitism or hate of any other group of people whatsoever. I do however see this more as a red herring (a way to mislead or distract from a relevant or important question) used by powerful nations to not have an important discussion on race, let alone redress and repair for those who descend from the enslaved.
This led me to re-release a slightly updated article I originally wrote for www.actifypress.com. This raises the question even further if we can really achieve reparations with an international movement.
Recently Dr. Ray Winbush, a professor at Morgan State University and author of several books on reparations, was on Black Power Media being interviewed by Dr. Jared Ball, professor, and author of the “Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power”, stating that reparations need to have an international push or movement instead of a single-minded focus only on the United States. This particular statement made me reflect on his words and ask myself if his viewpoint is either proper or even practical. As Reparationists continue to fight to achieve the justice claim for the Descendants of Freedmen, it would be proper to start exploring different strategies to make a 155-year-old topic a reality. Is one of those ways to unite with the Diaspora to make Native Black American reparations an international movement?
Lately, there has been much talk about reparations for chattel slavery in many mediums. We have seen reparations talks being organized on several Zoom platforms by organizations who support such a measure. We’ve seen the subject explored on TED Talks, the DNC debate stage, and even had two hearings in June 2019 and February 2021 in the House Judiciary Subcommittee of Congress. HR40, the bill to study reparations first introduced in the late 1980s, has 173 co-sponsors in the House and has a companion bill in the Senate. With the onset of the Black Lives Matter, ADOS/FBA/B1, and Freedmen Movements, and the highlighting of extreme actions of vigilantes and police that led to the deaths of, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – there is an outpouring from various voices that reparations can wait no longer.
Reparations for Slavery is not a new topic. There has been a discussion of reparations since before the Emancipation Proclamation. The first concrete action for reparations was Special Field Order No. 15. This was a military order issued during the American Civil War, on January 16, 1865, by General William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi United States Army.
They provided for the confiscation of 5.3 million acres of land to the formerly enslaved. However, only 400,000 acres were settled by 40,000 freedmen before Andrew Johnson reversed the policy. General Sherman issued his orders four days after meeting with twenty local Black ministers and lay leaders and with the U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in Savannah, Georgia. Brigadier General Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist from Massachusetts who had previously organized the recruitment of Black soldiers for the Union Army, was put in charge of implementing the orders.
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the order had little-to-no concrete effect. As stated previously, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation that returned the lands to Southern owners who took a loyalty oath. Johnson granted amnesty to most former Confederates and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. These governments, which often included ex-Confederate officials, soon enacted Black Codes, measures designed to control and repress the recently freed slave population. General Saxton and his staff at the Charleston South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau’s Office refused to carry out President Johnson’s wishes and denied all applications to have lands returned. In the end, Johnson and his allies removed General Saxton and his staff, but not before Congress was able to provide legislation to assist some families in keeping their lands.
Since the rescinding of Special Field Order No. 15, other reparations activists emerged. Examples are Callie House and Isaiah Dickerson, who chartered the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association in 1898, to Queen Mother Moore who was a civil rights leader, Black Nationalist, and founder of the “Republic of New Afrika”. Moore was also the founder and president of the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women as well as the founder of the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves. Moore actively promoted reparations from 1950 until her death in 1997.
Other organizations also emerged to help continue the work of achieving reparations such as The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA), National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC), and The Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The aforementioned organizations share a “Pan African” (a global cultural and political movement aiming at strengthening bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diasporic ethnic groups of African origin) ideology and objective. They also coalition in some respects with one another, however, CARICOM is specific concerning the community they are advocating for when it comes to reparations. Fifteen countries are included in the advocacy pool within CARICOM’s community, but the United States is not one of them. CARICOM states on their website they promote and support a unified Caribbean community that is inclusive, resilient, and competitive; sharing in economic, social, and cultural prosperity.
As of late the issue of SPECIFICITY when it comes to reparations in the United States has been a source of some contention between those who garner a Pan African philosophy versus those who are considered “Freedmen First”. The criteria from Duke University Professor Dr. William “Sandy” Darity and co-author of “From Here to Equality” lays out who should be the group that qualifies for reparations in the United States. His criteria is a person who has identified as “Black” or “African-American” on government documents for at least twelve years before a reparations legislation has been enacted and can trace their lineage through at least one ancestor to US Chattel Slavery. Simple right?
There are those of the Pan African sensibility that have tried to conflate the criteria to a blood quantum rule or the possibility of DNA tests. None of these claims are factual. The claims, however, seem to raise a larger argument that because those who are Black Descendants of US Chattel Slavery, lockout others from the African Diaspora who happen to be in the United States. Arguments such as “White Supremacy is global” or “racism affects all Black people” are often raised and even misconstrued with the aforementioned statements that Dr. Darity’s criteria is xenophobic because it excludes Black people who are not Descendants of American Chattel Slavery.
The facts are that every reparations program, be it by legislation or lawsuit has always been specific. Some examples include:
● The Pueblo Lands Act of 1924, Congress authorized the establishment of the Pueblo Lands Board to adjudicate land title disputes, along with a payment of $1,300,000 to the Pueblo for the land they lost.
● The Shoshones were paid over six million dollars for land illegally seized from them.
● The Indian Reorganization Act authorized $2 million a year in appropriations for the acquisition of land for Indians (except for the state of Oklahoma and the territory of Alaska until 1936). Congress made appropriations until 1941. In total $5.5 million was appropriated for 400,000 acres of land, and further legislation added 875,000 acres to reservations. One million acres of grazing land and nearly one million acres intended for homesteading were returned to the tribes.
● The Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act was passed, authorizing an appropriation of $88,570,000 over 10 years for a program benefiting the Navajo and Hopi, including soil conservation, education, business, and industry development on reservations, and assistance in finding employment off-reservation.
● Civil Liberties Act of 1988: President Ronald Reagan signed a bill providing $1.2 billion ($20,000 a person) and an apology to each of the approximately 60,000 living Japanese-Americans who had been interned during World War II. Additionally, $12,000 and an apology were given to 450 Unangans (Aleuts) for internment during WWII, and a $6.4 million trust fund was created for their communities.
● In the United States Court of Claims case Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska v. United States, the plaintiff tribes won a judgment of $7.5 million as just compensation for land taken by the United States government between 1891 and 1925.
● A $10 million out-of-court settlement was reached between the U.S. government and Tuskegee victims, Black men who had been unwitting subjects of a study of untreated syphilis, and who did not receive available treatments.
All of these claims have in common the naming of a specific group for a specific injury. There has been no precedent made in the United States where reparations were paid to a blanketed group of people. I, as an African American, cannot stake claim to the Civil Liberties Act that paid Japanese Internment Camp victims from WWII nor would I qualify to receive redress from the Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act since I am not of that lineage, nor a member of those tribes. Makes sense does it not? The injured party from a specific injury is the one who should receive the redress and repair.
So let us revisit Dr. Winbush’s statement of reparations needing to be an international movement. The other claim that is often made by Pan Africans is that being “specific” concerning United States reparations immediately means that advocacy from and to the Diaspora is immediately cut off. I push back on this claim because African Americans have always advocated for justice for the Diaspora. African American leaders like W.E.B Dubois advocated against exclusionary tactics by the United States to keep Africans out of the country. Also, it has to be mentioned how African Americans advocated ending Apartheid in South Africa calling for American companies to divest from doing business in the country. That and other demonstrations in the United States and in South Africa led to the collapse of that racist separatist system.
Specificity does not have to be an enemy of international advocacy. In South Africa, The South African government was to pay reparations to thousands of people identified as victims of apartheid by the country’s truth commission. At the time, South African President Thabo Mbeki had said his government would make a payment of 30,000 rand ($3,890) each to more than 19,000 people identified by the commission as victims of gross human rights violations. Those of us in the United States support and applaud that effort. But I would not expect to receive any of that payment because I was not a victim of apartheid. That does not mean as a member of the Diaspora I can’t support South Africa to do right by its citizens that were harmed by the Apartheid policy. The same can be said for Black Descendants of Chattel Slavery or Freedmen. Although all Black people living in the United States would not qualify for reparations if not a Descendant of United States Chattel Slavery, the international community (within and without the United States) can and should support this cause for the Freedmen’s Descendants to get their justice claim.
I agree with Dr. Winbush’s statement that reparations can and should be an international movement. It is quite apparent that members of the African Diaspora have been harmed by White Supremacy on many levels and deserve justice from oppressive government policies all over the world. Even though this is the case, redress and repair are going to look different based on who and where the injury is exacted. I cannot expect reparations to look the same in Brazil as they would in Jamaica. Although slavery was practiced in both countries, the governments that enacted those institutions are different. Brazil’s claim would be from Portugal and Jamaica’s would come from Great Britain. We can and should implore all from the Diaspora to support one another in our justice claims. But keep in mind that our claims are specific to the countries we are in. Reparations can be supported globally but should be an issue handled domestically.
Cynthia McDonald – Social Worker, Health and Political Advocate
I was recently invited with the intelligent and beautiful Jena Miyu on her show International Free Thinkers – We are Sober (IFWAS) to rebut the recent testimony to Dr. Christina Parks. Dr. Parks has a PHD in cellular and molecular biology. She testified recently for the Michigan State Congress against vaccine mandates.
I watched her testimony and was deeply disappointed because she was using her credentials to make arguments from authority that was often positioned in fallacious ways. Her testimony has gone viral and many people on YouTube and other platforms are using her testimony to bolster the reason for more people to remain unvaccinated.
This is a dangerous thing. It is only adding to the unfortunate atmosphere of an already politicized pandemic. Jena, a nurse in the state of California, and myself tackle the herculean task of responding to Dr. Parks testimony in a fair and informed position. Please watch and thank you in advance.
Cynthia McDonald – Medical Case Manager, Health and Political Advocate
Most of my posts are normally researched with source material because I want to make sure the points that I make are backed by empirical data. This post, however, is more personal. It is because COVID was in my home and struck someone that I love dearly, my mom.
August 14, 2021 was a very frightful night. I was helping to produce a stream that was doing a fundraiser for a non-profit of which I am a member. Towards the end of the broadcast, my niece comes to my room and tells me that my mother is feeling faint and having difficulty breathing. I told the other producer what was going on, and that I had to go. He told me not to worry and to go do what I had to do.
I went to her bedroom to investigate the matter. She was disjointed in her speech and had a hard time focusing. I told her that we needed to call 911 but she did not want to. I said, “Okay, let’s call the nurse and report your symptoms. If they say go to the hospital, will you go?” She agreed and I went to contact the on call nurse assigned to my mom’s doctor. As I went over her symptoms and also informed them she tested positive for COVID about a week earlier, they advised me to contact the paramedics and have her taken to the ER.
When the paramedics got to my home, they did their normal triaging and then transferred my mother to the ambulance to take her to the ER. I asked if I could ride along because my mother told me she did not want to be by herself. They agreed and allowed me to stay by her side. When we got to the ER, she was immediately transferred to an isolation room that was pressurized to keep her infection from spreading.
We stayed in that room for hours. During that time, she was examined by medical staff, x-rayed, and had blood drawn for further tests. The lab results showed that COVID was still present and she’d developed pneumonia from the infection.
Close to 5:00 AM, my mom was moved from the pressurized room in the ER to a floor dedicated to treating COVID infected patients. I walked up to the floor with the orderly. Once I got to the floor, I decided to peer through the doors of the patients’ rooms. I noticed most of the patients were elderly. As I moved through the hallway, I was stopped by one of the nurses. She told me family was not allowed on the floor. I was immediately flooded with emotions. Anger, sadness, and grief overwhelmed me all at once.
My mom does not want to be alone!
What if something happens to her and I am not here?
You can’t make me leave her!
Don’t make me go, please…
All of these feelings and sentiments were running through my head. I gathered myself enough to ask pertinent questions like who was going to be the attending doctor and how I could get in touch with my mother. The charge nurse gave me the information I requested and, with much chagrin, I said goodbye to my mother.
I did not go home right away. I sat in the lobby for a while, called my partner and cried on the phone. I asked him why they made me leave her. How could they do such a thing? I wasn’t just angry at the nurse that made me leave, I was angry at the whole situation. My mom did everything that she was supposed to do. She stayed at home mostly. She wore a mask when she was in public. She got vaccinated even though she was not too keen on doing so, but she still was a breakthrough infection case. How could this happen?
My mother is part of a very vulnerable population to COVID infection. She is a senior and has various comorbidities including Multiple Myeloma which makes her more immunocompromised. According to the CDC, effectiveness estimates for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was about 53% against the delta variant. These findings indicate that mRNA vaccines provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection among nursing home residents; however, VE (vaccine efficacy) was lower after the Delta Variant became the predominant circulating strain in the United States. It is also noteworthy that out of the 673K in the United States from Covid-19, the death toll amongst those who are 65 and older is higher than any other age group. Also according to Fortune.com, the Covid-19 will will soon surpass the Spanish flu as America’s deadliest pandemic.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have already surpassed those from the 1968 flu ( an estimated 100,000). At their current pace, COVID-related deaths will also surpass the 675,000 estimated U.S. deaths caused by the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic—the deadliest in U.S. history—before the end of September 2021.
My mom stayed in the hospital for a week. While there, she was given a standard treatment of Remdesivir (a broad-spectrum antiviral medication) and antibiotics to combat the pneumonia set in her lungs. She was also kept on oxygen because her levels were dropping due to the fluid building in her lungs. Fortunately she did not have to go on a ventilator. I could only imagine this post would have looked differently if that had happened.
She was brought home in an ambulance. The paramedic came into our home and set up her oxygen machine and left her with 2 portable units. She couldn’t do much for herself. I ended up taking time off from work to take care of both her and myself. I had to learn the nuances of working her oxygen machine, taking her vitals, giving her medication, and also making sure she did her physical therapy exercises. I became her main caregiver doing everything in my ability to make sure she could recover.
I don’t necessarily want to make this all about me, but I cannot help to describe my personal mental state seeing my mom infected with this illness. I could not concentrate on work. I did not want to exercise. I ended up on antidepressants because my anxiety got out of control. I felt helpless. I was thinking I could have prevented this somehow, but the facts are that I could not. I am a human being. I am limited and no matter how much information I absorb about this pandemic. To be honest, I felt as if COVID and I were in a boxing ring and COVID won with a TKO.
I get absolutely livid when I see people using their platforms to either be flippant about the pandemic or spreading misinformation. I even had the displeasure of watching a testimony from Christina Parks who has a Phd in Cellular and Molecular Biology. She was testifying regarding COVID-19 vaccines and mandating them. In this video, she makes a number of blatantly false claims concerning the MRNA vaccines and their efficacy. My fear concerning her, and people like her, is they make arguments from authority and people take what they say as gospel. We’ve even witnessed Nikki Minaj make a claim that a cousin’s friend in Trinidad took the vaccine, which made his testicles swell and caused him to become impotent. Despite impotence not being a side effect of the current vaccines, plus no one could corroborate her claim, there were people who organized a march on the CDC because they believed her.
The facts are that currently the people who are filling up the hospitals now are mostly unvaccinated people. The facts are that the current vaccines that are available have a higher rate of efficacy against the Delta Variant rather than having no vaccine at all. There is plenty of open source data to corroborate this but somehow people are prone to listen to conspiracy theorists or entertainers who have no skin in the game.
My mom is doing better. She is even starting to wean off the oxygen. She even prepared her own breakfast this morning. The other day, she was in her room sitting on the side of the bed singing with no oxygen tube on. Needless to say I was overjoyed. My mom isn’t completely out of the woods but her state is improving. Although there are other comorbidities to address, at least the Covid-19 infection is gone and she is on the mend.
Seeing Covid upfront was an eye opener for me. Did this change me? Perhaps, but this situation really made me double down my outspokenness and advocacy for people getting vaccinated. My mom got infected from an unvaccinated person. I cannot help to think if everyone who crossed our threshold was vaccinated, or at least had on a mask, that my mom would have never gotten infected and gone through this hell called Covid. I will never know. All I know is Covid was here and I will do what I can with this platform to help make sure others don’t have to see Covid face to face. They just may not make it if they do.
Cynthia McDonald HIV Medical Case Manager and Healthcare Advocate
I recently attended a Reparations Rally in Atlanta, GA hosted by the United Sons and Daughters of Freedmenhttps://www.usadof.org/ President and host of the Be the Power podcast Nyhiem Way El. The President (Marlon Watson) and Vice President (Arthur Ward) http://www.freedmenabsolute.com of our political advocacy group Freedmen Descendants of Chicago, representatives of other Freedmen political advocacy organizations, local elected officials, activists, and US Senate candidate Tamara Johnson Shealy were invited to speak. It was a beautiful event filled with passionate reparationists speaking with clarity and specificity on why redress and repair is owed to the Descendants of US Chattel Slavery. We answered a call to gather and demand reparations policy from the Federal Government on the eve of Juneteenth, now a federal holiday. Good vibes were felt by all who attended but it did raise a question for me. Where do we go from here?
Reparations is a hot political topic thanks to adement reparationists that pushed for redress and repair for the atrocities of Slavery, Jim Crow, land theft, lynchings, red lining, convict leasing, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the like. HR 40, the bill to create a commission to study reparations, has left the House Judiciary subcommittee. This is the most movement this bill has experienced since it was first introduced by the late Rep. John Conyers in 1989. He introduced this bill at the opening session of Congress every year until he retired in 2017.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of TX took over as sponsor of HR40 and oversaw two (June 19, 2019 and February 17, 2021) Congressional hearings where supporters and dissenters of reparations testified. It was extremely telling that the non congressional members against reparations that offered testimony were often themselves Descendants of US slaves. I suppose one should not be shocked by such a phenomenon since most Slavery insurrections were thwarted by other enslaved people to gain the favor and protection of their masters.
Since before America became the United States, there have been activists who organized to dismantle oppressive institutions against Black people. During Slavery, these specific people were called Abolitionists. Once Slavery 1.0 was abolished by the 13th amendment in 1865, there were activists like Callie House that organized around the effort to achieve reparations for the formally enslaved. Others since have continued to work for reparations to become reality in some shape, way, or form for 156 years.
Revisiting my previously posed question, Dr. King attempted to answer in his last book before his death “Where do we go from Here? From Chaos to Community”. The last chapter laid out his idea of massive capital infused in Black American communities and people. Towards the final years of his life, Dr. King was much more vocal concerning Black positionality and the government being the culpable party to foot the bill in making the Negro whole. It is often said by some historians and lecturers that his more radical language led to his eventual demise.
During the rally, a point was raised by Marlon Watson during his address. He stated that the effort of reparations has not been achieved in part because previous advocates have not come to the government with the right language. HR40 uses the language “Enslaved Africans in America”. I could argue using this language is problematic because there are others in America that could rest under that description yet they are not of those from US Chattel Slavery. My parent from the Caribbean can claim descendant of enslaved Africans in America but my parent is not a descendant of US Chattel Slavery. This claim is not specific to every Descendant of the Enslaved in America. It is specific to those who’ve descended from the Freedmen.
When nearly 4 million people who were enslaved in the United States in 1865 were emancipated, they were given the specific designation of “Freedmen”. There were then federal institutions created specifically for them called the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedmen’s Bank. Unfortunately, both institutions folded. In the case of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the government abandoned its efforts to provide long-term protection for blacks or ensure any real measure of racial equality. The Freedmen’s Bureau was disbanded by Jan 28, 1872 by the Secretary of War only 7 years after its inception due to pressure from White Southern Congress members who no longer wanted to use federal funding to provide things like food, housing, and education for the emancipated.
The Freedmen’s bank folded in 1874 due gross mismanagement and fraud. 57 million dollars (approximately 1.3 billion dollars in today’s currency) was deposited by the Freedmen while the bank was in operation. The bank’s headquarters moved from New York to Washington DC in 1867 and a group of local bankers, politicians and businessmen took control. At the urging of the new trustees, Congress amended the bank’s charter and the trustees began to invest in real estate projects and railroads. They made risky loans to friends, some with no collateral. Some of the trustees were in charge of other banks, as well, and when they made bad loans at those banks, they transferred the bad loans to the Freedmen’s Bank. Frederick Douglas took over the bank and attempted to save it by depositing approximately 15k of his money but was unable. He would later describe the bank had become “the black man’s cow but the white man’s milk.”
We that are the Descendants of the formerly enslaved, the Freedmen, have now inherited the burden of all the centuries of systematic depression and oppression wrought on our communities. Our ancestors were purchased and made to build a country for nearly 250 years but were abandoned by the very nation that used them to build its wealth. The small effort during reconstruction was destroyed by the same oppressors and met with Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the Klu Klux Klan. Even after Black people managed to aquire land and set up townships, they were met various acts of domestic terrorism and destroyed. Tulsa was not the only massacre that took place. According to Dr. William Darity, Duke University professor and co-author of “From Here to Equality ”, it is estimated there were upwards of 100 massacres that took place between the end of the Civil War and the 1940’s .
So where do we go from here? Being privy to all the history of what enslaved people and their Descendants endured, what is our next course of action? Are we just to twiddle our thumbs and pontificate on how bad things were and are? Are we satisfied with an additional day off June 19th and organize cookouts? Are we to only regulate our political advocacy to voting once every 4 years when herded to the polls to choose a president, or we to do something more?
We have been passed the torch to continue to fight for justice. Even though freedom has been paid for, it still has not been achieved. If we who are 13% of the population yet only hold less than 2% of the wealth our ancestors are responsible for creating, we are not free. If we are of the population that is disproportionately stopped and killed by the police and vigilantes juxtaposed to our white neighbors, we are not free. If we are 40% of the homeless individuals and 52% of the homeless families in the country our ancestors built and fought for in every American war, we are not free.
The American Descendants of Freedmen have a charge. The charge is to not accept anything less than what is owed to us through the toil of our ancestors. Juneteenth being made into a federal holiday is good but it is NOT reparations. If anything, as one of speakers at the Reparations Rally Leader and Reparations Activist Ty Harper put it, it’s an admission of guilt. America is guilty of the harm it has inflicted on its first citizens, guilty of failing to protect its first citizens, and is responsible for repairing all the damage rendered.
Freedmen Descendants should use Juneteeth as a day of commemorating our ancestors and to politically activate. Freedmen should be engaged in their localities all the way to holding their Federal representatives in Congress accountable. We should be speaking in one voice that we tire of symbolism and demand policies that advantage us. We DEMAND reparations. Nothing less is acceptable. America must acknowledge they’re guilty, repair its people, and bring about closure to a centuries old debt.
“Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the ‘storm came and the wind blew’.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
– Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens from The Cornerstone Speech 1861
I felt this was a sobering yet apt quote to commence writing this particular post. I wanted to address this subject concerning the Black Descendants of American Slavery through a lens of knowing our position in the country our ancestors built. I felt this was necessary because in speaking on this subject, one should not approach it from ignorance concerning the history of a certain section of the American population that has endured and continues to endure adversity.
Several days ago, I was running through posts on social media and came across this comment:
COVID-19 was created in a Lab for the money grab and population control of ADOS. Check out Bill Gates. The media has our people in hysteria as the media pushes covid cases and deaths juxtaposed against declining numbers of flu, influenza, heart disease and cancer deaths. Not buying it, especially a vaccine that hasn’t been tested for at least 20 years. Me nor mine are lab rats!
I wanted to address this comment in a larger conversation concerning this pandemic and the Freedmen Descendant population specifically. There are a lot of Black American people who are in a similar mind space or a more extreme position to cross into the realm of conspiracy theory. I believe that the points of this comment should be dealt with in a nuanced way because I understand where the thought patterns come from with Black America and the medical industry. Now before I begin to address the points in this comment, let’s start from the place where this discourse comes.
Black Americans have a major distrust of the Medical Industry. Their distrust is not unwarranted. Unfortunately, Black people in America have experienced a number of malpractice mishaps. James Marion Sims is considered the ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ who pioneered tools and surgical techniques related to women’s reproductive health. Although he was very groundbreaking in this field, he developed his techniques by conducting research on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. He operated under a false and racist notion that Black people did not feel pain. Today, we know three of the names of the female fistula patients from Sims’s own records—Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey. The first one he operated on was 18-year-old Lucy, who had given birth a few months prior and hadn’t been able to control her bladder since. During the procedure, patients were completely naked and asked to perch on their knees and bend forward onto their elbows so their heads rested on their hands. Lucy endured an hour-long surgery, screaming and crying out in pain, as nearly a dozen other doctors watched. As Sims later wrote, “Lucy’s agony was extreme.” She became extremely ill due to his controversial use of a sponge to drain the urine away from the bladder, which led her to contract blood poisoning. “I thought she was going to die…it took Lucy two or three months to recover entirely from the effects of the operation,”
Sims’s racist beliefs affected more than his gynecological experiments. Before and after his gynecological experiments, he also tested surgical treatments on enslaved Black children in an effort to treat “trismus nascentium” (neonatal tetanus)—with little to no success. Sims also believed that Black Americans were less intelligent than white people, and thought it was because their skulls grew too quickly around their brain. He would operate on Black children using a shoemaker’s tool to pry their bones apart and loosen their skulls.
Moving to another event in Medical Apartheid history, one cannot also forget the Tuskegee Experiment which was an infamous study on Syphilis. The Tuskegee experiment began in 1932, at a time when there was no known treatment for syphilis. After being recruited by the promise of free medical care, 600 men originally were enrolled in the project. The participants were primarily sharecroppers, and many had never before visited a doctor. Doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), which was running the study, informed the participants—399 men with latent syphilis and a control group of 201 others who were free of the disease—they were being treated for bad blood, a term commonly used in the area at the time to refer to a variety of ailments.In order to track the disease’s full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the men died, went blind or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated syphilis.
Cases like these and others like the unfortunate story of Henrietta Lacks whose cells from her cervix were bought, sold, packaged, and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world, would absolutely warrant any Black American who descends from Chattel Slavery to run screaming from any medical professional coming within ten feet of them. Even in the 21st century, Black Americans are still experiencing adverse disparities in healthcare driven by lack of health resources in our communities and also implicit biases that health care professionals possess. In an NCBI article entitled Health Disparities: Gaps in Access, Quality and Affordability of Medical Care, Wayne J. Riley MD, MPH, MBA, MACP writes,
“…analysis revealed even more objective evidence of major differences and raised the specter of the role of bias and discrimination with regard to populations with equal access to healthcare. Underscoring the resultant discrepant quality of care experienced by populations as manifested in the appropriateness of clinical care and patient preferences, and the often confusing and challenging nature of the healthcare system and its legal and regulatory environment, are the roles of bias, discrimination, and uncertainty.”
Now in 2020, we are experiencing a global pandemic. Data has revealed that this pandemic, specifically in America, has resulted in 16 million cases and close to 300,000 deaths. According to Satistica, as of December 2, 2020, around 20 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among non-Hispanic Black or African Americans (Slavery Descendants mostly). Keep in mind that Black Americans make up roughly 13% of the United States population. This statistic shows that there is a disproportionate number of Covid-19 mortalities in our communities.
Referring back to the opening social media comment, we see the claim that COVID-19 was created in a Lab for the money grab and population control of ADOS. Looking at the statistics and the histories of healthcare towards Black Americans that I mentioned in earlier paragraphs, that could be assessed as a tantamount correlation. Although this is seemingly so, it is important to note that correlation is not always causation.
Viruses have been part of existence even before human evolution. Although viruses have existed before humans, they were not discovered by humans until about 1892, namely by two scientists named Dmitri Ivanoski and Martinus Beijerinck. They first discovered them from a diseased tobacco plant. It was not until 1898 that the word virus was coined. Beijerinck used this term to show the incitant (an inciting agent or factor, as an infectious agent, that is the essential causative agent of a particular disease)of the tobacco mosaic. He showed that the incitant was able to migrate in an agar gel, therefore being an infectious soluble agent, or a ‘contagium vivum fluidum’ and definitively not a ‘contagium fixum’ as would be a bacteria. They were able to bring an unequal but decisive and complementary contribution to the discovery of viruses. Scientists use their body of work to this very day.
Just as natural selection has shaped the evolution of humans, plants, and all living things on the planet, natural selection shapes viruses, too. Though viruses aren’t technically living – they need a host organism in order to reproduce – they are subject to evolutionary pressures.
The human immune system uses a number of tactics to fight pathogens. The pathogen’s job is to evade the immune system, create more copies of itself, and spread to other hosts. Characteristics that help a virus do its job tend to be kept from one generation to another. Characteristics that make it difficult for the virus to spread to another host tend to be lost.
Take, for example, a virus that has a mutation that makes it particularly deadly to its human host and kills the host within a few hours of infection. The virus needs a new, healthy host for its descendents to survive. If it kills its host before the host infects others, that mutation will disappear. Because of this, we have experienced in history how previous pandemics, like the Spanish Flu, operated in this manner. It specifically killed its host before the virus itself was able to mutate and eventually disappeared. The last recorded case of Spanish Flu was in April 1920.
Another thing to note concerning viruses is the notion that they are or can be created. Now, is it possible to engineer viruses? In my research on this specific subject, the short answer is yes. According to Leslie Snider, a biotechnology instructor at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA, “Not only is it possible to engineer viruses to be beneficial, it is already being done.” Now with that being said, it is important to keep in mind what point Prof. Snider was speaking on. The professor goes on to say, “Viruses have primarily been engineered for use by humans as so-called recombinant (or subunit) vaccines. In this technology, the genetic material of a harmful virus is analyzed to identify the gene or genes that encode the antigens (identifying proteins) that trigger the body’s immune response. These genes can then be isolated and inserted into host cells, usually bacteria or yeast. The host cells in turn manufacture the antigens in large quantities. The antigens are injected into humans and result in the formation of ‘memory’ B cells, which are tailored to the alien antigen, thereby protecting against the disease caused by the whole virus.” The utilization of this technique mostly is used to treat the infectious nature of viruses to a host.
Currently, there is no proper empirical evidence that engineered viruses specifically have been used en masse to cull or thin specific populations of people. Offensive biological warfare, including mass production, stockpiling, and use of biological weapons, was outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The rationale behind this treaty, which has been ratified or acceded to by 170 countries as of April 2013, is to prevent a biological attack which could conceivably result in large numbers of civilian casualties and cause severe disruption to economic and societal infrastructure. Many countries, including signatories of the BWC, currently pursue research into the defense or protection against biological warfare, which is not prohibited by the BWC.
Another thing that is undesirable using this tactic is that it would take days to be effective, and therefore might not immediately stop an opposing force. Some biological agents (smallpox, pneumonic plague) have the capability of person-to-person transmission via aerosolized respiratory droplets. This feature can be undesirable, as the agent(s) may be transmitted by this mechanism to unintended populations, including neutral or even friendly forces. Worse still, such a weapon could “escape” the laboratory where it was developed, even if there was no intent to use it – for example by infecting a researcher who then transmits it to the outside world before realizing that they were infected. Several cases are known of researchers becoming infected and dying of Ebola, which they had been working with in the lab (though nobody else was infected in those cases) – while there is no evidence that their work was directed towards Biological Warfare, it demonstrates the potential for accidental infection even of careful researchers fully aware of the dangers.
In the overall case of Covid 19 and Freedmen Descendants, I prefer to use Occam’s razor, which is the principle that, of two explanations that account for all the facts, the simpler one is more likely to be correct. The bottom line is that there are far more efficient ways to control a population than using less predictable properties like viruses. Going back to the statistic of 20% of the Covid deaths in America being Black (primarily Freedmen) mostly correlates to the causation of rampant poverty in our communities and the existence of health care disparities that have existed for the most part since the United States has existed.
As far as Bill Gates and his existence in the this space, I came across a video by The Medical Futurist that addresses this particular Conspiracy:
We as a society have been living under the restrictions of the pandemic since March of 2020. Since this time, different organizations have been working on vaccines. There are over 100 currently in development and one so far has been approved by the FDA. On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 16 years of age and older. The emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. According to their reported data, Pfizer’s phase 3 trial findings concluded that it was ‘95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose’.
The trial evaluated 170 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with ‘162 observed in the placebo group versus eight in the vaccine group’.The trial also found that ‘efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics’; with ‘observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age’ at ‘over 94%’. The data also demonstrated that the vaccine was ‘well tolerated across all populations’, amid 43,000 trial participants, with ‘no serious safety concerns observed’. The only ‘adverse event’ which was ‘greater than 2% in frequency’ was fatigue – experienced by 3.8% of vaccine recipients – and a headache, which 2% experienced.
Pfizer and vaccine development partner BioNTech utilized a technology called messenger RNA. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into the bodies. Messenger RNA vaccines work differently. Instead, they teach the cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside the human body. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects humans from getting infected if the real virus enters the body. Although mRNA vaccines are new, the technology to develop them is not. Researchers have been studying and working with them for decades. Messenger RNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.
Going back to the foundation comment used to formulate this post, specifically to the point of a vaccine that hasn’t been tested for at least 20 years, exploring the information of mRNA technology being researched for decades and used as of late in the case of Covid-19 is not a giant leap in my eyes. Haven’t we witnessed technology in other realms move from looking one way to another? In my own lifetime, I have personally witnessed computers going from bulky components being scaled down into laptops, tablets, and smartphones. I have seen records being the primary source of uninterrupted music migrate to MP3’s and streaming services. I’ve also seen personally the use of televisions that were once housed in ornate wooden cabinets to be lightweight flatscreens that can be hung on a wall like a piece of art.
So far in my probing concerning this subject, I do not believe that Covid-19 was engineered for Freedmen Descendant population control. Even looking at the claim of the virus being created for the “money grab”, the top 30 billionaires that have seen an increase in wealth during the pandemic were not amongst those in pharmaceuticals. That noted, the Pfizer vaccine is reported to be of an out of pocket cost of less than $20 to no cost for a patient.
Trump appointed Coronavirus vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui, recently urged Black Americans to put aside concerns about the vaccine, saying ‘nobody’s being used as a guinea pig’. As much as I personally have no issue blaming practically everything wrong in the world on Racism White Supremacy, the existence of the Covid-19 virus is not one of them. In the aforementioned cited source of Statistica concerning Covid 19 deaths in America, 55% of the deaths in the United States were Caucasions. With that number, I am not of the mind that a virus manufactured to control my community’s population would have such a high mortality amongst Whites.
I was told by another that touted similar conspiracy theories concerning this virus, vaccines, etc to do my research on said claims and “see for myself” what is happening to my group. I have done my research and I am of the same mind that I was before concerning Covid-19 and Freedmen. Our issues concerning the pandemic are socioeconomically engineered like practically EVERYTHING we deal with in America concerning our lack of access to what it means to be in proper position as citizens. Next step, as I often implore, is to be politically engaged, not conspiratorial.
Distribution of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) deaths in the United States as of December 2, 2020, by race*
Summer in Chicago has arrived, and with it comes elevated incidents of gun violence. On July 22, 2020, reports came in that 15 people were shot outside of a funeral home on the South Side of Chicago. According to www.abcnews.go.com , “An unknown number of people inside a vehicle shot at a crowd attending a funeral on West 79th Street in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, police said. The individuals on the street then exchanged gunfire with the people in the vehicle, according to authorities.”
This particular story is not the only incident of gun violence reported. On July 31st, a 9 year old boy named Janari Ricks was also killed. According the Chicago Tribune, “On Friday evening, Janari was playing with friends behind the Cabrini Green townhomes in the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue when a gunman opened fire into a parking lot around 6:45 p.m., striking and killing the boy, an unintended target, Chicago police said. Police officials said they did not know who the target was. He was rushed to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he died.”
The same news story reported that this killing happened as the city experiences the highest number of criminal homicides in any given month since 1992. “In July, Chicago recorded 105 such homicides, more than double the 44 the same month last year, according to the Police Department. The city last saw a higher monthly total in September of 1992, when 109 homicides were recorded, the data shows.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot posted a series of tweets about this latest homicide. “Gun violence is every bit a public health crisis as COVID-19,” she wrote. “It’s well past time that we as a nation begin aggressively treating it through wraparound services, mental health supports and street outreach interventions, support for our community police officers, and — yes — federal gun control to keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands.”
Gun violence is not a new phenomenon in Chicago. President Donald Trump likes to frequently remark about Chicago and its issues with violence. During a briefing with reporters at the Oval Office, Trump said, “How about Chicago? I read the numbers where many people killed over the weekend. We’re looking at Chicago, too. We’re looking at New York. Look at what’s going on. All run by Democrats. All run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left. But, we can’t let this happen to the cities.”
So does Chicago’s violence stem from the city being primarily run by Democrats like President Trump says? While it is true that the majority of cities that are considered the most violent have Democratic mayors, it is important to note where the most violence occurs in these cities have a tendency to be the poorest. Looking at Chicago, the most reported violent neighborhood is West Garfield Park, which is located on the city’s West Side. According to https://www.cmap.illinois.gov/, the largest population by race that occupies this area is Black, non-Hispanic which is around 15,888. White non-Hispanic is 358, Hispanic or Latino is 447, and Asian non-Hispanic is 55. According to CMAP, Black non-Hispanic holds about 93% of the population. The Median Income is $24,591 and about 2,706 households have an income less than 25,000 a year. About 18% of the total population is unemployed and 43% of the population live under the federal poverty line.
I would argue that the demographics like these are reflected in the most violent neighborhoods in America. This leads me to believe that high unemployment and rampant poverty is a recipe for unbridled violence.
So how has America handled unbridled violence in the past? Let’s look at the era of Prohibition. Prohibition in the United States (authorized by the Volstead Act) was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. Following the ban, criminal gangs gained control of the beer and liquor supply in many cities. By the late 1920s, a new opposition to prohibition emerged nationwide. Critics attacked the policy as causing crime, lowering local revenues, and imposing “rural” Protestant religious values on “urban” America. It has been argued that organized crime received a major boost from Prohibition. Mafia groups and other criminal organizations and gangs had mostly limited their activities to prostitution, gambling, and theft until 1920, when organized “rum-running” or “bootlegging” emerged in response to Prohibition. A profitable – often violent – black market for alcohol flourished. Prohibition provided a financial basis for organized crime to thrive. In one study of more than 30 major U.S. cities during the Prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%. Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicides by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6%, and police department costs rose by 11.4%. This was largely the result of “black-market violence” and the diversion of law enforcement resources elsewhere. Despite the Prohibition movement’s hope that outlawing alcohol would reduce crime, the reality was that the Volstead Act led to higher crime rates than were experienced prior to Prohibition and the establishment of a black market dominated by criminal organizations.
According to Harvard University historian Lisa McGirr, prohibition had a disproportionately adverse impact on African-Americans, immigrants and poor Whites, as law enforcement used alcohol prohibition against these communities. Criminal gangs had run amok in American cities since the late 19th-century, but they were mostly bands of street thugs running small-time extortion and loansharking rackets in predominantly ethnic Italian, Jewish, Irish, and Polish neighborhoods. The underworld power dynamics shifted dramatically with the onset of Prohibition and the overnight outlawing of every bottle of beer, glass of wine and shot of booze in America. With legitimate bars and breweries out of business, someone had to step in to fuel the substantial thirst of the Roaring Twenties. And no one was better equipped than the mobsters. The most famous bootlegger during this time was Al Capone. Kingpins like Al Capone were able to rake in up to $100 million each year thanks to the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal booze.
In the 1920s, Charles “Lucky” Luciano was famous for bringing together some of New York’s biggest Italian and Jewish mobsters to dominate the city’s bootlegging business. In Chicago, Johnny Torrio kept a fragile peace between his Italian-run bootlegging operation in the city’s South Side and the Irish and Polish gangs working the North Side. But it didn’t last. By the time Torrio’s protégé Al Capone took over, it was an all-out turf war. In the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, Capone’s men dressed as police officers and gunned down seven of the rival gang’s henchmen.
In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. Prohibition ended and the Roosevelt championed initiatives like the New Deal that was able to put millions of Americans back to work. During his first two terms in office, Roosevelt pushed legislation through Congress that set a new standard for government intervention in the economy. Despite vigorous action, the economy did not respond as Roosevelt had hoped. On the eve of World War II, unemployment rates still hovered around twenty percent and industrial production remained stagnant. Although the New Deal did not end the Depression, it was a success in restoring public confidence and creating new programs that brought relief to millions of Americans.
Fast forwarding to the 1990’s, some of the same conditions that bred organized crime in the predominantly ethnic Italian, Jewish, Irish and Polish neighborhoods were reflected in the predominately urban Black American neighborhoods. Instead of alcohol fueling the underground market, the new cash crop is drugs. American legislation did not respond the same way it did during Prohibition. Instead we had the announcement of the War on Drugs in the 1980’s and the 1994 Crime Bill that helped ramp up mass incarceration. The Brennan Center succinctly summarized that legacy on the 20th anniversary of the bill’s passage:
“It expanded the death penalty, creating 60 new death penalty offenses under 41 federal capital statutes. It eliminated education funding for incarcerated students, effectively gutting prison education programs. Despite a wealth of research showing education increases post-release employment, reduces recidivism, and improves outcomes for the formerly incarcerated and their families, this change has not been reversed.
And the bill created a wave of change toward harsher state sentencing policy. That change was driven by funding incentives: the bill’s $9.7 billion in federal funding for prison construction went only to states that adopted truth-in-sentencing (TIS) laws, which lead to defendants serving far longer prison terms. Within 5 years, 29 states had TIS laws on the books, 24 more than when the bill was signed. New York State received over $216 million by passing such laws. By 2000 the state had added over 12,000 prison beds and incarcerated 28 percent more people than a decade before.
All types of questions could be asked about why America has responded to violence in primarily Black communities punitively rather than dealing with it socio-economically. The fact is that America is still a highly racist society and has based its policies in that way. Lee Atwater, American political consultant and strategist for the Republican Party, said this when speaking about the Republican Southern strategy:
Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger”. By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the back-burner.
The coding of the Southern Strategy is so pervasive that it has entered into the political structure in liberal cities such as Chicago yet the real change needed has not been attempted.
I argue it is now time to approach violence in a holistic sense and declare it as a public health crisis. In an article entitled The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention published by the CDC, it says:
“The focus of public health is on the health, safety and well-being of entire populations. A unique aspect of the approach is that it strives to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people.
Public health draws on a science base that is multi-disciplinary. It relies on knowledge from a broad range of disciplines including medicine, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, criminology, education, and economics. This broad knowledge base has allowed the field of public health to respond successfully to a range of health conditions across the globe.
The public health approach also emphasizes input from diverse sectors including health, education, social services, justice, policy and the private sector. Collective action on the part of these stakeholders can help in addressing problems like violence.”
The article also outlines a 4 step approach to Violence Prevention:
Define and Monitor the Problem
Identify Risk and Protective Factors
Develop and Test Prevention Strategies
Assure Widespread Adoption
Step three and four are exceptionally crucial because it would use findings from the research literature and an evidence-based approach to program planning and then implement and adopt them more broadly.
Freedmen Descendants of Chicago along with Illinois Representative LaShawn Ford and Avalon Park Community Church is advocating for House Resolution HR0433 to become law in Illinois. This current resolution is outlining measure to declare violence as a public health crisis.
We cannot continue to use punitive measures and expect non-retaliatory results. Violence needs to be declared a public health crisis because it is a disease. It is mainly a disease that directly correlates to rampant poverty and systemic depression of Black Communities that are primarily Freemen Descendants in population.
Please visit www.itshardbeingblack.info and sign the petition to show your support in making HR0433 into law and support an Executive Order to be signed by the Illinois Governor to release rapid relief in Black Communities ravaged by Covid-19 and violence. We need to put the kibosh on gun violence in Black communities. The only way to do that is to insist on legislation that gets to the root of the problem. Also share the website on your family, friends, and social media platforms. Together we can make a real difference to end the challenges of racism and poverty that have plagued our nation for centuries.
Still we should advocate for reparations for the Freedmen Descendants.
Still we should advocate for local equity in our states and municipalities.
Still we should advocate for the resources to make Black people that descend from Chattel Slavery a whole people.
Recent events that have transpired have caused me to do much reflection. We as a nation have found out three separate individuals in three separate cities have lost their lives at the hands of the police or vigilantes. Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was chased by armed white residents of a South Georgia neighborhood. He was shot and killed on Feb 23, 2020. It wasn’t until the video of his death was uploaded on the internet that went viral ignited a public cry for the killers to be arrested and charged for murder. His killers (Gregory McMichael, and his son Travis McMichael) were arrested and charged on Thursday May 7, 2020 . On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove who entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, while serving a “no-knock warrant”. Taylor was shot eight times. Although there is a wrongful death suit, there have been no arrests of the officers. The latest was George Floyd who died May 25, 2020, in Powderhorn, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was arrested by police for allegedly passing on a counterfeit $20 bill at a local grocery store called Cup Foods. Four officers arrived to the scene where an officer named Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd for approximately 8 mins. He died later at a hospital he was taken to by ambulance. Derek Chauvin was arrested 5 days later and charged with third degree murder.
These deaths have sparked national outcrys and we are seeing people taking to the streets screaming “Black Lives Matter” and the like. We are also seeing fires, looting, and all the adverse behaviors because of the lack of social justice Black Americans especially Freedmen have yet to experience. Breonna Taylor, Amaud Abrey, and George Floyd are not the only Black Americans that have lost their lives. There are other names. So many other names and the list keeps getting longer.
It is obvious to see the physical implications of Black Americans disproportionately losing their lives to these events, not alone of the pandemic at large. In a 2018 articleA Critical Analysis of the Shootings of Unarmed African Americans by Police: A Social Work Perspective by Senneca Davis, she writes, “Whites in the US is 63.7%, African Americans 12.6%, 16.3% Hispanic (U.S.Census Bureau, 2011). As can be seen from these numbers, African Americans are overrepresented in these fatality statistics by at least a margin of 2:1. Whereas hispanic representation is near to population levels at around 16-17%. Moreover, it has been found that unarmed African Americans are 3.5 times more likely to be shot than their unarmed White counterparts (Mapping Police Violence, 2015). Also, African Americans who are armed but do not pose an imminent threat towards the police are more likely to be killed than Whites, Hispanics, and Asians (Mapping Police Violence, 2015). The numbers bare out what the following theoretical analysis unpacks: historical and socio-cultural factors result in social injustice for African Americans apropos their experiences with the use of deadly force and police.” She later writes, “Issues of racial inequality, oppression and discrimination have persisted as social problems in the United States since the use of slavery as a means of production, nation building and social control. Severe inequality is accepted in U.S. culture and the legacy of slavery, without a doubt, affects cultural conceptions of African Americans today.”
What about the mental implications at large? I know when I saw George Floyd’s life slipping away despite his pleas, I felt a flood of emotions. Anger, sadness, and helplessness were what befell me to the point I wanted to tear off my skin. I know I am not the only one.
In a 2018 article in the New York Times, Police Killings Have Harmed Mental Health in Black Communities, Study Finds states, “Having seen something so horrific and traumatic that happened to someone else, I’m reminded in a very painful and salient way that the deck might be stacked against me,” Atheendar S. Venkataramani, one of the study’s authors, said of how black people might perceive police killings. “It’s really about all the kinds of insidious ways that structural racism can make people sick.”
Structural racism has made Black America (Freedmen) sick to its core. In a 2016 article The Link Between Experiences of Racism and Stress and Anxiety for Black Americans: A Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Coping Approach, The authors listed their findings on oppressive experiences:
Experiences of racism have significant negative effects on both physical and mental health outcomes for Black Americans
The anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. that arises is an understandable reaction during and in the wake of these painful experiences of racism
There are three specific ways we think experiences of racism negatively impact stress and anxiety for Black Americans:
perceptions of lack of control,
avoidance of valued action
This is where we are. We are in a place where our frustrations have boiled over to where people are taking to the streets but being torn up from the inside out. Black is cracking and it is difficult to get others to care.
All of this is systematic and representative of a long-festering problem that has never been addressed and so we must make a fundamental alteration to the paradigm rather than feel bad about it for the moment and then get back to life as it was. The best fundamental alteration I can think of would be reparations to the descendants of slavery. This would address the problem in the following ways such as closing the racial wealth gap, restoring business and educational infrastructures in the Black communities, creating equal protections for Black citizens under the law, and finally tear down the institutions of Slavery and Jim Crow that have plagued our group for generations.
You need to contact your Congressman, from the State and Federal level. You need to contact your mayors and governors and express your support for these policies to fix what America has broken. Please note that America was built on the backs of Slaves. America would not be an economic superpower without Slavery. That wound has never been healed and is a festering infection.
Our ancestor Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer has summed up these times we are in eriely clear.