Monday, February 06, 2017

History, Culture, and Truth

The civil rights movement has a long history in Phoenix, Arizona. Decades ago, people moved into Phoenix in trying to get economic opportunities and to escape the bigotry and racism that existed in other places of America. Also, racism is a global phenomenon, so racism existed back then in Phoenix too. The Klan was prominent there in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. Also, many residents and others in the city fought back in order to fight for human justice for all people. Local organizations and leaders in Phoenix fought for local and national change. Black Americans came into Phoenix too. Phoenix had segregation back then. Back then, much of the black population in Phoenix was middle class, rich, and entrepreneurs. One of the greatest civil rights leaders in Phoenix was Lincoln Ragsdale Sr. He lived from 1926 to 1995. He was outspoken on many issues and he was a famous Tuskegee Airmen back during World War II. He fought for reforms in the Valley like voting rights, civil rights, the desegregation of schools including neighborhoods, and public accommodations. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was raised in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He and his family escaped the Tulsa riot where white racist terrorists burned black businesses and murdered innocent black people. Onlia Violet Ragsdale (his mother) had a college degree and was the President of the National Association of Colored Women’s Oklahoma chapter. Lincoln Ragsdale fought for racial equality and he loved flying, so he was in the Tuskegee Airmen. He narrowly escaped a lynching when he was 19. He moved into Phoenix in 1946. He and his brother formed a mortuary business. His family has done this before too. This made Lincoln Ragsdale Phoenix's first black funeral home owner in Arizona in 1948. He graduated from Arizona State University and received a doctorate in business administration from Union Graduate School. He married Eleanor Ragsdale, who was a local schoolteacher at Dunbar Elementary School. She was an activist in her own right. They married in 1949. He formed many businesses from construction to a restaurant. Lincoln called Phoenix the Mississippi of the West. Phoenix had signs that discriminated against black people and Mexicans. He worked to integrate cemeteries via the Greater Phoenix Council for Civic Unity or the GPCCU. He fought for the desegregation of Arizona schools. Barry Goldwater supported this effort. The law which passed only went so far as to allow school boards to voluntarily desegregate. While many districts, including Tucson's, did desegregate voluntarily, Phoenix schools did not. The GPCCU then campaigned for a local ballot initiative to desegregate Phoenix's schools, but it failed by a 2-to-1 margin. Before 1954, Phoenix desegregated their schools before the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. He fought against housing discrimination too. The Ragsdales raised 4 children despite threats, harassment from the police, and graffiti with racial epithets on their home. Ragsdale and Rev. George B. Brooks were in the Maricopa County NAACP chapter. They protested and wanted to end workplace discrimination that barred black people from skilled jobs. Lincoln and Eleanor organized protests in local Phoenix Woolworth stories in 1962.

He fought and caused the passage of an Arizona state wide civil rights law. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Arizona State University in 1964 at Ragsdale’s invitation after which the Ragsdale hosted him in their home. Dr. King spoke in 1962 too in Phoenix. Ragsdale worked with the Hispanic community too. As a pilot, Ragsdale served on the Phoenix Municipal Aeronautics Advisory Board in the 1970's. Lincoln and Eleanor Ragsdale knew African dignitaries, Jesse Jackson, and other human beings. Lincoln Ragsdale later became involved in the intense fight to create a statewide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Arizona, which finally passed after a voter-approved ballot measure in 1992. Eleanor Ragsdale also fought for racial justice too. She was an entrepreneur. Many people played a role in the Phoenix Civil Rights movement. Their names were: George B. Brooks, Clovis Campbell Sr., Val Cordova, Carl E. Craig, Hayzel B. Daniels, Pete Garcia, J. Eugene Grigsby Jr., Charles Lama Jr., Edward F. Orduna. The city council created the Phoenix Human Rights Commission in July of 1963 to fight poverty and racism. It was chaired by William P. Reilly who wanted more job opportunities for black Americans. It or the Commission received pledges from 300 businesses to hire without regard to race, color, or creed. A self-help job training program was created in 1967 by Reilly, Carl Craig, Robert Nesby, George Brooks, Augustus Shaw, and other black activists. Operation LEAP (Leadership and Education for the Advancement of Phoenix) was created to fight poverty too. It was a public, private sector partnership agency. Yet, Operation LEAP struggled to get results. Many Mexicans supported black people in marches and sit ins in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. Many Hispanic groups existed too. A lot of black women were in leadership positions of the civil rights movement. Great teacher Arlena E. Seneca worked in education. She won Phoenix Women of the Year honors. Vernell Coleman organized Juneteenth celebrations and Black History Month in Phoenix. Helen Mason supported the Phoenix Black Theater Troup. African American churches and other institutions assisted the black community in Phoenix in many ways. The Arizona State University has many progressive activists. Clovis Campbell was the first African American to serve in the Arizona Senate. He was elected in 1970. Many unsung heroes of Phoenix include Vicky Daviss-Mitchell. She is a longtime community activist for over 50 years. She is a blogger, and a resident of Phoenix. She knew of crosses being burnt in years, of segregation, and other evils. Yet, she continues to fight for justice. She is right to say that some things ought to be taught at home too. Another community activist in Phoenix is Samuel Lee France. Dr. Neal Lester is a professor of English at Arizona State University. He wants education, housing, and ending evils. He’s the director of Project Humanities. He specializes in African American literacy and cultural studies. In our generation, the civil rights struggle continues. The unjust ban on ethnic studies in schools of Arizona must be banned. Immigration rights should be maintained. The rights of black people and all people must be respected.

Religion and spirituality have been expressed by people of black African descent for thousands of years. Africa back then and today is filled with many languages, cultures, ethnicities, and creeds. African religious traditions had people who believed in a Supreme Being and other traditions were polytheistic. Some believed in ancestor worship. Many Africans thousands of years ago used rituals not only to celebrate, but to communicate with each other and to show honor to human beings, the ancestors, Nature, the stars, and other bodies of space. To many Africans, everything and every place embody God. Ancient African spirituality was heavily communal in dealing with community development; therefore a community of deities was worshiped. Some believed that the ancestors were a gateway in communicating with these deities while the common origin ultimately was created by one Supreme Being. African societies had rituals to represents the life stages from having birth, puberty, adulthood, marriage, having children, old age, death, and life after death. The church like worship of God didn’t exist uniformly in Africa.  In East Africa, a common name for the Supreme Being is Mulungu, a word indicating the almighty and ever-present creator. The thunder is said to be his voice, lightning is his power, and he rewards the good and punishes the wicked. From the northern Kalahari through the Congo to Tanzania, the Supreme being is called Leza , perhaps from the root meaning, "to cherish," as he is the one who watches over people. Leza is said to live in heaven and is transcendent and incomprehensible. There is a diversity of ancient names for God throughout Africa. As time went on, Africans merged and mixed spiritual belief systems. Christianity came into Africa early in the 1st century A.D. Ancient Coptic churches were in Egypt. Christianity before 600 A.D. flourished in Ethiopia, Sudan, and in Northern Africa. Islam came into Africa during the 7th century too. It especially spread into Western Africa. Of course, we condemn those who claimed to be Christians and Muslims who enslaved innocent black Africans. The curse of Ham myth and other anti-black slanderous lies were used by capitalist slave owners in order for oppression to continue. The vast majority of the victims of the Maafa were those who followed traditional African religions. Many were originally Muslims and Christians too. In the Americas, more of the children and grandchildren embraced Christianity. Likewise, many traditions from Africa continued to be expressed by the Africans. It was a transformation of cultures that impacted religious history and spiritual expression in general. Gullah Jack or an Angolan priest cooked meals and handed out charms to protect the men involved in Denmark Vesey’s heroic rebellion. Muslim slaves in many cases could read, prayed five times a day, fasted during Ramadan, abstained from drinking, and created Arabic writings. Many Africans adopted both Christian and African practices and beliefs since we are a creative people. The Great Awakening of the 1700’s influenced many people. The movement was very emotional and many black people converted to Christianity. Many people were inspired by the Great Awakening to promote religious, class, and racial tolerance. The Great Awakening in part caused an increased amount of black Americans to convert to Christianity. By the time of the Revolutionary War, only 1-2 percent of black people in America professed Christianity. That would change. Andrew Bryan raised money to build the first black Baptist church in Georgia. Black people saw the contradiction of some whites claiming to be holy while enslaving them in bondage. That contradiction represents the hypocrisy of the white racist hypocrites and their spiritual deceptions. Black people would always fight for freedom.

Today, the extremist Donald Trump has much of his cabinet confirmed. His cabinet confirmed to us that he is an extremist. The Vice President is Mike Pence. Rex Tillerson is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of Defense is James Mattis. Mattis threatened North Korea with overwhelming force if North Korea attacked America and its allies. Elaine Chao is the Secretary of Transportation. The Secretary of Homeland Security is John F. Kelly. Nikki Haley is the Ambassador to the United Nations. The RNC Chairman is Reince Preibus. Other people have yet to be confirmed yet. Trump use an executive order to get rid of many of the regulations on banks and financial institutions which came from the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. This shows how the Trump regime is in league with Wall Street interests. He signed these measures after having a meeting with his business council. The council is chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, the multi-billionaire chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone Group. JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Visa have benefited from this bad policy. Senate Republicans were voting to repeal a rule linked to Dodd-Frank that requires oil companies to publicly disclose payments they make to governments in connection with their business operations around the world. Among those who lobbied against the Securities and Exchange rule was the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in his capacity as CEO of Exxon Mobil. This is similar to amnesty for corporate exploitation.

In Le Bourget or the suburbs of Paris, from November 30 to December 12, 2015, there was the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference. It has been called COP 21 or CMP 11. This comes after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference was about negotiating the Paris Agreement which dealt with reducing carbon emissions as it relates to climate change. The plan was to degree many degrees Celsius worldwide in a certain span of time. This led to the establishment of the historic Paris Agreement. Prior to the conference, 146 national climate panels publicly presented draft national climate contributions (called "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions", INDCs). These suggested commitments were estimated to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. The 2 biggest emitters are America and China. After negotiations, by December 12, 2015, the participating 195 countries agreed by consensus to be final. The members agreed to reduce carbon emissions. Many demonstrators during that time either want a stronger regulation or are involved in fighting for environmental justice in general. Demonstrators existed worldwide and especially in Paris. The Paris Agreement was signed after the conference in April 22, 2016. It is effective by November 4, 2016 onward. April 22 is Earth Day. The agreement is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It deals with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris. It was signed in New York City. The head of the Paris Conference, France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius, said this "ambitious and balanced" plan is a "historic turning point" in the goal of reducing global warming. The agreement wants to hold global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius. As of December 2016, 192 states and the European Union have signed the agreement.  128 of those parties have ratified or acceded to the Agreement, most notably China, the United States and India, the countries with three of the largest greenhouse gas emissions of the signatories' total (about 42% together). The Paris Agreement comes after the Kyoto Protocol and after the failure of the Copenhagen Accords. The Paris Agreement is a historic agreement. The key in making real change is to preserve the forests. There is a great possibility that between now and 2020 alone, we could lose 1,460,000,000 acres of tropical forest and 273,750 species. We must also restore degraded and deforested land to purpose. There are 2 billion hectares of degraded and deforested land across the world with potential for restoration. Restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees. Lands must be fertile and restored land ought to exist when protecting animal plus plant species. We must also restore degraded and deforested land to purpose. There are 2 billion hectares of degraded and deforested land across the world with potential for restoration. Restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees. Achieving the 350 million hectare by 2030 goal would result in estimates of 0.6-1.7 gigatons CO2 sequestered per on year average, reaching 1.6-3.4 gigatons per year in 2030 and totalling 11.8-33.5 gigatons over the period 2011-2030. Even restoring 150 million hectares would capture 47 gigatons of CO2, and reduce the emissions gap by 17 percent. That is why forest restoration is important in fighting climate change. With its strengths and flaws, the Paris Agreement outlines the urgency to advance true environmental justice.

By Timothy

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