Monday, December 21, 2015

Lessons from History

More than 60 Years have passed since the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We learn lessons from that event and we will continue to fight for the freedom of black people and of the rest of the human race. Black people in Montgomery, Alabama democratically decided that they would boycott the city buses until they were allowed to seat any location in a city buses that they desire. Alabama back then was filled with segregation or Jim Crow apartheid. Black people who rode segregated buses experienced violence, theft of their payment to the buses, unfair seating arrangements, verbal disrespect, and other forms of mistreatment. Black people have had enough and that is why black people organize the Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks was a hero was a leader in the movement. Yet, we have to acknowledge other black people who opposed injustice long before the boycott existed. In 1945, a black woman named Geneva Johnson just opposed injustice and she was arrested from the public transit bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1949, the black professor Jo Ann Robinson sat in the front of the bus and the bus driver screamed at her for doing so in 1949. Black women like Viola White, Claudette Colvin (who was a 15 year old high school student at the time refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman nine months before Rosa Parks did it), Katie Wingfield, and other Sisters were arrested for challenged the white racist power structure involving segregated public bus lines and refusal to vacate seating reserved of white passengers. It was the federal court suit involving Colvin that eventually led to a Supreme Court order outlawing segregated buses. Epsie Worthy in 1953 was robbed of her transfer fee on the bus. Later, the bus driver assaulted her unjustly. Epsie used self-defense to defend herself and she was arrested. She had to pay a 52 dollar fine and spent time in jail. During the 1950’s, Pastor Vernon Johns (one of the greatest civil rights leaders in history) was forced to give up his seat to a white man. He later tried to get other black people to leave the bus in protest. In September 1, 1954, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. In March 2, 1955, 15 year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to get up from her seat. In October 21, 1955, 18 year old Mary Louise Smith was arrested. Rosa Parks (who was a social activist long before the 1950’s) was arrested too since she refused to get up from a seat.

Rosa Parks was arrested in December 1, 1955. The boycott lasted for 13 months. The Womens’ Political Council of the WPC was created in 1946 to fight Jim Crow oppression on Montgomery city buses. They met with Mayor W. A. Gayle in March of 1954 to fight for justice. WPC President was Jo Ann Robinson. Rosa Parks (who was bailed out of jail by E.D. Nixon, Clifford Durr, and Virginia Durr) and others were involved in the boycott. Black women led the movement too. Many black women were laborers, teachers, nurses, etc. They relied on the buses heavily to travel to and from work. The white population in Montgomery heavily on black people too economically. So, the bus boycott revolved heavily involved a collaboration between the black poor, the black working class, and the black middle class in order for them to work together. In that sense, the boycott would be successful. Black people formed taxi services to get black workers to and from work during the bus boycott. E.D. Nixon was the past NAACP leader of the Montgomery chapter. The new minister Dr. King Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy (both preachers) worked in the boycott movement too. Many of the plans and actions of the boycott were organized in churches like Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and especially at the Holt Street Baptist Church. The Montgomery Improvement Association was one leading group in the movement. Dr. King was elected President of the MIA in December 5. He was elected President since Dr. King was new and he wasn’t in Montgomery long enough to have strong friends or enemies according to Rosa Parks. Tuskegee and Montgomery attorney Fred Gray represented Colvin days following her arrest and Parks in the boycott case. Also, Claudette Colvin was a social activist too. She was part of Rosa  Parks Youth Council in the NAACP. E.D. Nixon was a strong organizer of the Bus Boycott. During the 1920’s and the 1930’s, Nixon worked with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. This was lead by A. Philip Randolph and this group wanted to organize workers into that union. Also, Rosa Parks didn’t rule out the righteous use of force. Rosa Parks admired Malcolm X and spoke in the funeral of Robert Williams, who supported armed self defense by the black community.

The boycott caused 90 percent of Montgomery’s black citizens to not ride public buses. The demands of the MIA were rejected by the white establishment, so the boycott continued well into 1956. A carpool services existed on the advice of T.J. Jemison (who organize a carpool during the 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge). The MIA carpool had about 300 cars. Early meetings between city officials and the MIA caused no real agreement (which was organized by Robert Hughes tans others of the Alabama Council for Human Relations). In early 1956, the homes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and E.D. Nixon were bombed. Dr. King’s house was bombed in January 30, 1956. Dr. King claimed the crowd, some of whom wanted violent retaliation by saying: “…Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place.’’ On February 1, 1956 Fred D. Gray and Charles D. Langford file the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit on behalf of four female plaintiffs to challenge the constitutionality of city and state bus segregation laws. On that date, the home of E.D. Nixon was bombed. No one is injured.  By February of 1953, the city used an injunction against the boycott. Over 80 boycott leaders were indicted. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tired and convicted on the charge (of promoting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business which can from a 1921 law). A National Deliverance Day of Prayer (on March 28, 1956) to support the bus boycott takes place, with several cities outside the South taking part.
Women such as Robinson, Johnnie Carr, and Irene West sustained the MIA committees and volunteer networks. Mary Fair Burks of the WPC also attributed the success of the boycott to ‘‘the nameless cooks and maids who walked endless miles for a year to bring about the breach in the walls of segregation’’ (Burks, ‘‘Trailblazers,’’ 82). Bayard Rustin and Blenn E. Smiley gave Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advice on nonviolence, especially on Gandhian techniques. Rustin, Ella Baker, and Stanley Levison founded In Friendship to raise funds in the North for southern civil rights efforts, including the bus boycott. The MIA was supported nationwide and worldwide. More media coverage came about to describe the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In June 18, 1956, Rev. U. J. Fields apologized to the MIA in a mass meeting for making the causation that MIA leaders were misusing funds. On June 5, 1956, the federal district court ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional, and in November 1956 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Browder v. Gayle and struck down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses. The court’s decision came the same day that King and the MIA were in circuit court challenging an injunction against the MIA carpools. Later, the MIA waited until the order to desegregate the buses came to Montgomery. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. So, on December 20, 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called an end to the boycott. The community agreed. The next day, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Ed. D Nixon, and Glenn Smiley boarded an integrated bus. King said of the bus boycott: ‘‘We came to see that, in the long run, it is more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. So … we decided to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery’’ (Papers 3:486). Violence continued against black people. In December 23, 1956, someone fires a gun shoot into Dr. King’s home. The next day, 5 cowardly white men attacked a 15 year old black girl at a Montgomery bus stop. Rosa Jordan was shot in both legs in December 26, 1956.  On January 10, 1957, four churches and two homes are bombed: Bell Street Baptist, Hutchinson Street Baptist, First Baptist and Mount Olive Baptist, plus the homes of the Revs. Robert Graetz and Ralph Abernathy. An unexploded bomb is found on the porch of King’s parsonage. So, white racist terrorism was common then and now. The Montgomery Bus Boycott represented a new era of the civil rights movement and it was the beginning of the end of the evil of legalized Jim Crow apartheid. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the blueprint of not just opposing segregation in the South, but opposition to any injustice in general.

The movie Chi-Raq has been filled with excitement and controversy. People love or hate the movie. The movie was directed by Spike Lee. It was written by Spike Lee and Kevin Wilmott. The movie to Spike Lee was a satire in the social life of Chicago. Spike Lee has been praised and criticized of the film and he has defended his movie in sometimes an angry fashion. The film deals with gang warfare, violence, social breakdown, poverty, police brutality, political corruption, inequality, etc. These are all serious issues that have the right to be told. First, an outline of the film should be shown including its strengths and weaknesses. Like always, the audience has the right to decide how they feel about the film.  The film is based on the classical Greek comedy by Aristophanes called “Lysistrata.” In Aristophanes’ comedy (which was written about 411 B.C.), it showed a story about a group of Athenian and Spartan women who withhold all sexual privileges to their husbands and lovers in an effort to stop the Peloponnesian War between the two rival Greek city states. Chi-Raq is the portmanteau of “Chicago" and “Iraq.” I don’t agree with that name since it disrespects people of Chicago, Chicago is not Iraq, and it was a term used by many people to glamorize violence and murder in Chicago (as more than 7,000 people have died in Chicago via gun violence since the early 2000s. We know this is higher than the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. This is not higher than the amount of civilians who died in both countries. So, I want to make that clear). He or Spike Lee could have used another title for the movie. The film talked about the situation in Chicago as an Emergency, which is accurate. Samuel L. Jackson played the fedora wearing Diomedes, who is the narrator and leader of the chorus. He introduces the audience about the pain, misery, and strife in Chicago. Later, a hip hop concert comes about. Nick Cannon plays the rap artist Demetrius Dupree. He is the head of the Spartan gang. He brags that he will kill the members of the revival Trojan gang. A Trojan in the crowd then shoots at the stage. Many gang members are severely injured in the shooting. Demetrius’ girlfriend is Lysistrata (played by Teyonah Parris, who is a talented actress). They make love and then the head of the Trojans named Cyclops (played by Wesley Snipes) tries to burn the house down. Both escape and exchange of gunfire with Cyclops occurs. A young girl was shot and killed by gang violence.

Irene is the anguished mother of the girl. Irene is played by Jennifer Hudson. She is consoled by the grieving crowing including a white priest Father Mike Corridan (played by John Cusack). The Chorridan character is similar to the priest Michael Pfleger, who is a real life social activist involving the African American neighborhood of Auburn Gresham on Chicago’s Far South Side. The death of Irene’s daughter caused many younger women (including Lysistra) to try to go on a sex strike to end the gang violence in Chicago. Miss Helen (played by Angela Bassett) counsels the young women. The strike is led by Lysistrata. Then, the young women take over an armory and seduce a racist general named King Kong (David Kelley) and his troops. They then lock themselves up in an effort to deny all men “access or entry.” Chicago police arrive on the scene and act largely as neutral bystanders to this battle of the sexes. The women’s sex strike spreads worldwide, sexually frustrating male partners everywhere. The film shows rallies and protests from activists. Signs that want to end the violence exist too. Overall, the film is not a documentary. It is a satire. The film’s location is in Englewood or the Southwest Side of Chicago. This neighborhood has a poor working class people. It has an official unemployment rate of 21.3 percent and a per capital income of $11,993, with 42.2 percent living below the poverty level and nearly 30 percent without a high school diploma. Chicago is also home to more than 106,800 millionaires, 804 multi-millionaires and 15 billionaires. So, we see that economic inequality is one serious issue in Chicago along with violence, police brutality, racism, sexism, etc. The strengths of the film are that it shows the seriousness of violence and police brutality in Chicago. It shows rallies and concerned people who want change. Also, it deals with families of the victims of gun violence too. There are many weaknesses of the film. One is that it heavily immunizes the impact of gentrification, economic exploitation, school closures, the War on Drugs, and other forces (not the people of Chicago) that contributes to the problems in Chicago. Many scenes of the film are overtly misogynist in claiming that women seducing men will somehow change society. Women are entitled to their own bodies. Women in the film are placed as sex props as a way to try to address issues. There are many external factors that contribute to the problems in Chicago, and other cities in America. There is another issue in the film too. The film seem to see that he problem in Chicago is fueled by black on black violence not on social inequality and the system of oppression (which is the origin of the oppression in the first place). Spike Lee has admitted that this (or the talk about intraracial violence)  is what he wanted his film to be like.  He told the Los Angeles Times, for example: “I would be less of a person if I’m out there on the streets talking about the cops and private citizens who killed our people and then remain mum about us killing ourselves.” To Deadline Hollywood, Lee commented that the problem in neighborhoods in major cities like Chicago was basically “self-inflicted genocide.” He went on, “There’s a situation in America where young black men are killing young black men at alarming rates and Chicago, or Chiraq, is really like the poster boy for this.” The truth is that black people have exposed intraracial violence in rallies, protests, programs, etc. for years and decades in Chicago including throughout the Earth. He is an ally of the Democratic administration and he views gun control as a solution to violence. Yet, the film allows American capitalism (the source of the social misery, violence, alienation, etc.) off the hook entirely. If Spike was to expose capitalism, then he would be massively criticized by the establishment and that’s a fact. Chicago has a political crisis with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (and the police institution) covering up police killings. There is violence and systematic police brutality in Chicago. There should be a revolutionary solutions to solve problems. There is an attack on the living conditions of the poor and the working class by the ruling class (not by all black people) and their political representatives. Therefore, the film Chi-Raq in my opinion is filled with strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to watch it or not. You have the choice. I’m a fan of many Spike Lee films like Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, and Clockers.

By Timothy

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