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Showing posts with label #BrooksBlackboard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #BrooksBlackboard. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Conversation about Black Detroit in Black New York


Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination
Herb Boyd
Amistad/HarperCollins: 432 pages

A Conversation about Black Detroit in Black New York                            

By Charles Brooks

Herb Boyd recently appeared at the revered City College of New York (CCNY) in Harlem, NY to talk about his latest book, Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination.  Published in 2017, Mr. Boyd has entered yet another book into the annals of black history with Black Detroit that covers slightly over 300 years - spread over 340 pages and 29 chapters.  A prolific author and journalist, Mr. Boyd has an incredible body of work that includes 25 books in addition to countless news articles published over the years with many news outlets. 

Mr. Boyd was joined by CCNY Professor L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy in a format that deviated from the typical stand and deliver to one that was more conversational and informal. For a little over an hour, their conversation covered a wide range of topics that included the book’s sub-title along with Detroit’s history, black press, music, economy, and radical black politics.


Listening to Mr. Boyd and Professor Lewis-McCoy engage in conversation with each other, you got the sense that Black Detroit was more than just capturing critical moments in time. Clearly, Black Detroit was about the people behind those moments but more importantly, their stories of self-determination.  Mr. Boyd makes note of this during the book’s introduction where he wrote: “Black Detroiters survived enslavement, white mobs, housing and job discrimination, and municipal indifference, and with each endeavor they chipped away at that age-old misery index.”  

Mr. Boyd first spoke about the conversations he had with his mother, Katherine – “a veritable walking historian with an encyclopedia of knowledge about Detroit.”  Utilizing his mother as a tremendous source of information, Mr. Boyd talked about the time they spent reminiscing about important dates, events, places and of course – the people who made Black Detroit what it was and is.  “I found myself going back to the old neighborhood – that’s pretty much what I knew I had to do to write about Black Detroit. To go back to these black neighborhoods and talk to some those individuals,” explained Mr. Boyd. But he also mentioned a connection – a special connection he made with the people that enabled him to write Black Detroit.

In response to questions from Professor Lewis-McCoy, Mr. Boyd went on to drop nuggets and kernels of information throughout the evening.  For instance, the existence of slavery in Detroit as well as the Underground Railroad where Detroit served as the last stop. Mr. Boyd explains: “This was a path that was carved out by individuals who were escaping the atrocities of servitude in this country,” Or when he talked the racial tensions and hostilities that framed the racial riots of 1943 and 1967.

Or how automobile manufacturing was not only the “lifeblood” for Detroit’s economy but for the nation as well. Or when he unveiled that before Detroit was known for making automobiles, Detroit was at one time, the stove-making capital of the world! Or when he talked about not only how the music and Detroit was “inexplicably connected” – but how the music was more than Motown.  Here, Mr. Boyd pointed to the world class musicians who studied and played a wide range of music - rhythm & blues, blues, be-bop and of course, jazz. He explained that folks came to Detroit because of the Renaissance taking place there – similar to the Harlem Renaissance. “It was more than just New York – there was a renaissance happening all over the country in varying degrees.” He pointed out that the Harlem Renaissance was also replicated in cities such as Pittsburgh and Toledo.

The evening of conversation ended with the topic of politics – specifically, black radical politics.  Professor Lewis-McCoy asked Mr. Boyd to talk about what he described as the “uniqueness” of Detroit in this regard.  Consider for a moment the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, the Republic of New Afrika, the revolutionary formations taking place amongst the black workers in the automobile plants, and Wayne State University (WSU) as a cauldron of black radical politics. “It was such a promising moment where we thought revolution was just around the corner, such a moment of heightened political intensity,” said Mr. Boyd. Describing Wayne State University as a “hotbed of activism”, Mr. Boyd recounted his first class at WSU where he had 125 students.  There in the first row sat members of the Socialist Workers Party, Black Panther Party, Shrine of the Black Madonna, League of Black Revolutionary Workers, and the Revolutionary Communist Party. He amused his audience when he said: “Every political stripe was represented in that classroom – so you can imagine the tricky line I had to walk from an ideological standpoint.”  


   
Suggested Reading:





Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What really happened to Sandra Bland?

By Charles Brooks



We paid attention and took notice of the disturbing trend.  We read the stories and saw the videos of not only blatant police harassment but of vicious police violence visited not on black men – but on black and brown women.  All across the country we saw it over and over - black women pushed, punched, kicked, and at times suffering this violence while being handcuffed by the police. In those cases that did managed to reach national attention, we saw that these black women were college professors, house wives, bathing suit clad teenagers and yes – even pregnant black women felt the brunt of this police violence. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What really happened to Freddy Gray?



With each incident of police violence unleashed on yet another unarmed African-American – another wave of consciousness sweeps the country as new rebellious uprisings emerge.  There are black and brown communities all over the country – the constant targets of police violence – who have said no more and are actively galvanizing, mobilizing, organizing and yes, resisting.  There is something emerging in this country that can longer be contained – and we recently bore witness to that in Baltimore, Maryland. 

For the last two months there’s been relatively two burning questions asked by those in and out of Baltimore - what exactly happened to Freddy Gray and how did he die? Since Mr. Gray died from horrific spinal injuries occurring while in police custody - these questions were left unanswered only for the public to draw their own conclusions – until now.  The recent “leaking” of the autopsy report to the Baltimore Sun is supposed to finally address these questions.  The “leaked” autopsy report revealed that Mr. Gray suffered from what the report described as a “high energy” injury while making a comparison to injuries suffered from shallow-water diving accidents. The report states: The type of fracture/dislocation documented in imaging studies on admission is a high energy injury most often caused by abrupt deceleration of a rotated head on a hyperflexed neck, such as seen in shallow water diving incidents.”  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Attorney General Confirmation Hearings: "...I will be Loretta Lynch."

By Charles Brooks


 
Confirmation hearings were recently held for President’s Obama’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Ms. Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder, who resigned four months ago.  Ms. Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  If confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the first African American woman to lead the Department of Justice – certainly a plus for the President’s legacy. Since the start of the Obama administration, both the President and Attorney General – both African Americans – have been the source of some very intense opposition and hostility from Republicans. When Holder announced his resignation, he was immediately described as “the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history” by Republican Congressman Dan Issa, who serves as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  This is what Mr. Issa had to say: “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Chairman Issa. “Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official.  By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any Attorney General before him. Republicans have attacked Mr. Holder on critical national issues such as voting rights, terrorism, and immigration while pointing to controversial issues such as the Fast and Furious and IRS scandals.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ferguson/Garner protests: The uprisings will continue until...

By Charles Brooks
  
Photo credit: digitaldefection via www.flickr.com
For over a month now, the world has witnessed a special moment unfolding in America where literally thousands upon thousands took to the streets in a stunning display of mass resistance in response to, not one but two recent controversial grand jury rulings. The world took notice of the rebellious uprisings emerging in city after city – from Ferguson, Missouri to Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California – making their presence felt uptown as well as downtown, in the ‘hood’, and on college campuses. Protestors infiltrated and disrupted holiday shopping, Thanksgiving parades, Christmas events – brought the nation’s major highways and the railroads to a stop – gnarling traffic for miles.  
Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue via www.flickr.com
Two separate high profile grand jury proceedings in St. Louis and New York City ruled against indicting police officers, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo – in essence validating their use of deadly force against Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. The vastly unpopular rulings triggered an incredible wave of mass resistance protesting against not just the police brutality issue but also against the abysmal lack of accountability for killing unarmed African American men. The grand jury’s decision not only exonerated the use of deadly force with no criminal charges but the decision also reinforced the notion that such deadly force is indeed the standard operating procedure, particularly when unarmed African Americans are involved. But there’s more - the grand jury’s decision essentially enables the uninterrupted freedom of both officers and allows them to return to their jobs, to walk the beat above ground while the bodies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner lay buried below ground. 


The ruling triggered painful reminders from a wretched racist past.  Take for example, the ruling serving as a reminder of the second-class citizenship that typically characterized Black America in the days before integration – you know, like when lynching was routine.  Another reminder of how unjust and unequal the criminal justice system is towards the black communities that make up Black America.  Another reminder of the Black America’s relationship with the police and how different that relationship is with other communities that make up the nation. Another reminder of the role the police had during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements – as the first line of defense -  the brutal enforcers of Jim Crow and legal segregation. Another reminder of their role with COINTELPRO. And yet another reminder of the tragic failure of the state to recognize black humanity.  
  
Photo credit: Rose colored Photo via www.flickr.com
Consider for a moment what activist Rosa Clemente recently noted when she underlined significance of the ruling: “…The grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson means that the physical evidence, testimony of witnesses, police report on the incident, and Wilson’s own inconsistent and implausible account will never be subject to cross-examination, scrutiny, and comparison before a jury.”  Simply put, Ms. Clemente nailed it in pointing out the implications when police are left unindicted – no trial, no public scrutiny, no transparency and certainly no accountability. That’s why so many are just infuriated with the grand jury refusals to indict, and in fact, held very little hope for indictments of police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo.  Deep down…we already knew…
Photo credit: sierraromero via www.flickr.com
Take the Michael Brown case for instance where there were issues from the start. There were several events that instilled doubt within the local Ferguson community and larger extended community who demanded justice. Aside from not having a video of the shooting, Mr. Brown’s character came under heavy scrutiny, while the Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. McCullough refused to recuse himself from the case despite the strong conflict of interests.  Doubts around the Brown grand jury grew stronger as leaks spilled out, at one point, almost daily.  For days, all eyes were squarely riveted on Ferguson as we constantly heard that a decision “was coming any day now.” We braced ourselves for the worst… During this time the Governor announced his plan to deploy the National Guard, and declared a state of emergency…before an emergency.  Businesses fortified themselves as if preparing for a hurricane to blow through town. Schools closed down. Gun sales hit the roof. And then the announcement was made hours after the day turned into night - at the nighttime hour of nine o clock - Darren Wilson will not be indicted.  The Ferguson community erupted at the news and the rebellious uprising was in full swing quickly spreading across the country like California wildfire.  To make matters worse, we gradually learned about disturbing issues with the grand jury – first, the inconsistent presentation of evidence, and most recently, the apparent issues with lying witnesses. 


Then less than two weeks after the Brown grand jury decision, the Garner grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Despite the cellphone video showing an illegal chokehold used on Mr. Garner by Mr. Pantaleo as well as Chief Examiners Report that
ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide!   Just like the Brown case, there were issues with the Garner case from the start – community demands for a special prosecutor, concerns regarding a jury pool being picked from a biased pro-police Staten Island community and the Staten Island District Attorney seemingly delaying the grand jury process considering they didn’t start hearing evidence until nearly October – almost three months after Mr. Garner was killed. To make matters worse, nearly ten days after the Brown grand jury ruling, the Garner grand jury was announced and the public response was both swift and fierce with a flurry of daily protests around the country. 

And then two New York City police officers were gunned down on a Saturday afternoon – and you can sense the gradual shift in the narrative as the pro-police forces began to assert themselves. The police killing was immediately linked to the protests, and echoed loudly with inflammatory commentary by police union chief Pat Lynch, former governor George Pataki and former mayor Rudy Guiliani.  Ironically though, calls were made to halt the protests against the police violence while making no mention of stopping the pro-police protest rallies or their divisive rhetoric.  Nonetheless a debate quickly emerged – should the protests continue in light of the two dead NYPD officers?  But the real question is not whether the protests should continue or not but rather - When will police officers be held accountable for their criminal use of deadly force?

Meanwhile, the protest demonstrations continued unabated – and for a few good reasons. Let’s see, the issue of police brutality and violence has become a national crisis.  An issue that has been ongoing for many years with no apparent repercussions or consequences for police use of excessive deadly force. The police officers routinely get the benefit of the doubt regardless of the questionable circumstances that ultimately feeds doubt.  And then, aside from the Brown and Garner grand jury rulings, police officers were also not indicted in grand jury cases for Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Jonathan Baker, and Keyarika Diggles.  Yes – the protests have continued…and for good reason.

  
See The Blackboard's posts about the death of Eric Garner, Part I and Part II, and the death Michael Brown.

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