Monday, July 03, 2017

Early July 2017 News

The antebellum period in Richmond, Virginia was filled with the institution of slavery and many people in Richmond were also fighting the evil of slavery. The issue of slavery shaped many local issues. Shockoe Bottom was a location where slave trading existed. It is believed that from 1800 to 1865, about 300,000 slaves were sent from Shockoe Bottom to work in the Deep South. Shockoe Bottom may have served as a burial ground for Africans. Although, a map created in circa 1825 showed an African burial ground next to the Richmond “Poor House.” After the Haitian Revolution of the late 18th century, slave-owners were faced with the prospect of similar slavery uprisings in the American British Colonies and later in the early American nation. There was the failed major uprising called Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion. It happened near Richmond in 1800. The uprising was rumored to have involved 1,000 to 4,000 Africans living in the Richmond area. Gabriel Prosser was a heroic black man who wanted slavery to end and justice to be established for black people. The rebellion failed, but the cause of freedom continued. By the start of the 19th century, the city’s population reached 5,730 people. Congress also passed a law prohibiting the African Slave Trade in 1808. Several other important events took place in Richmond during the early 19th century. There was the designation of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe as Richmond’s first political districts in 1803. The charter of the Bank of Virginia or the city’s first bank was signed in 1804. In 1806, there was the first public library in Richmond, which was established by the Library Society of Richmond. The first stagecoach lines to Richmond were formed during the War of 1812. The first regular steamboat service started on the James River in 1815. In 1816, the first City Hall of Richmond was built. By the 1830’s, the Industrial Revolution arrived in Richmond. In 1831, the Chesterfield Railroad Company opened its horse-drawn rail line between Manchester and Chesterfield coal mines, which was just south of the city. By 1833, Rhys Davies (who was an engineer from Tredegar, South Wales) was hired by Richmond businessmen and industrialists to construct furnaces and rolling mills used in the iron and foundry business. By 1837, the rolling mills were merged with the Virginia Foundry. This formed the Tredegar Iron Works. That was the largest foundry in the South and the third-largest one in the United States. The first steam locomotive service to the city began with the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad in 1836. Other railroads followed. They included: the Richmond and Danville Railroad was chartered in 1847, and completed the circuit to Danville, Virginia by 1854. In 1838, the Medical College of Virginia was founded in the city. Besides transportation and industry, antebellum Richmond was also the center of regional communications, with several newspapers and book publishers, including John Warrock, helping shape public opinion and further the education of the populace. The aversion to the slave trade was growing by the mid-19th century, and in 1848, Henry "Box" Brown made history by having himself nailed into a small box and shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, escaping slavery to experience freedom. Richmond was a vital part of the Underground Railroad where people traveled from Richmond into the North (and in some cases, further north into Canada).

By the 21st century, Richmond, Virginia experienced massive changes. The population of the greater Richmond metropolitan area reached about 1,100,000 people. The city itself for a time declined into less than 200,000. By 2017, the city has grown in its population into about 223,170 people. The floodwall downtown was expanded. There has been more development of the riverfront stretching along the James River from the historic Tredegar Iron Works site, just west of 7th Street, to 17th Street downtown. Recent renovations included the rebuilt James River and Kanawha Canal and Haxall Canal, now designed as a Canal Walk. The riverfront project has brought this 1.25-mile (2.01 km) corridor back to life, with trendy loft apartments, restaurants, shops and hotels winding along the Canal Walk, along with canal boat cruises and walking tours. The National Park Service’s Richmond Civil War Visitor Center, in the Tredegar Iron Works, brought three floors of exhibits and artifacts, films, a bookstore, picnic areas and more. Virginia Commonwealth University has also been aggressively developing its campuses downtown, with the new Stuart C. Siegel Center athletic complex, and RAMZ apartments. In 2002, the new, expanded Greater Richmond Convention Center opened for business. It contained more than 600,000 square feet (60,000 m2). The convention center, located in the heart of downtown Richmond, is the largest of its kind in the state. Renovation continues in the historic neighborhood of Jackson Ward, to bring the neighborhood off the National Trust Historic Preservation’s list of one of America’s most endangered historic places. Jackson Ward is about 40 blocks. It has been called “Black Wall Street” and the “Harlem of the South” during the 19th century. Restaurants like Croaker’s Sport and attractions like the Black History Museum and Cultural Center makes Richmond one of the most culturally significant stops for visitors in the area. On September 19, 2003, Hurricane Isabel had sustained winds of 40-60 mph. It caused major power outages in the Richmond area. On September 2004, Tropical Storm Gaston swept through the area too. It gave intense rain in the area. Flooding existed in the Shockoe bottom business district. Electoral outages were all over the metropolitan area. On August 31, 2004, the Shockoe Bottom district was devastated by flooding brought on by torrential rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston. The storm lingered over the Richmond area, dumping nearly 12 inches (300 mm) of rain in the Shockoe Bottom watershed which then backed up behind the James River flood wall. A 20-block area, including most of Shockoe Bottom, was declared uninhabitable in the wake of the flood. The "Bottom" has recovered as a major restaurant and night club district after changes to the area's sewage system were made to prevent a re-occurrence. On November 2, 2004, history was made. Former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder was elected as Richmond’s first directly elected mayor in over 60 years. In 2008, AAA baseball Richmond Braves left Richmond for Gwinnett County, Georgia, due to the lack of agreement from Richmond area governments to finance the construction of a new ballpark. They were replaced in 2010 with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In the 2010 census the population in Richmond finally grew for the first time in 40 years due to revitalization of places like Shockoe bottom, and rapid gentrification of neighborhoods like The Fan and The Museum District, Church Hill, Jackson Ward, and in more recent years, Manchester. Obviously, I don't agree with excessive gentrification. Richmond is a city on the move. In 2017, Richmond continues to be a great city of Virginia.

Our health care is important to maintain and preserve forever. Health care is a human right. The ACA was created in 2010 and the proposed Senate bill is a whole lot worse than the ACA. I have my disagreements with certain aspects of the ACA, but the GOP Senate health care is straight up cruel and horrendous. This issue is literally about life and death, because many people struggle to make payments on premiums. There are many big corporations who refuse to make affordable care available to people. You have many people with disabilities using civil disobedience because of the crisis that we face. In the final analysis, massive cuts to Medicaid and massive tax cuts to the wealthy (including taking health care from many seniors) as proposed in the Senate bill is literally abhorrent. The good news so far is that the Senate so far hasn’t passed such a cruel bill (which is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act or BCRA). It has been the dream of many GOP members to end the Affordable Care Act. Protesters continue to be brave. On June 22, 2017, dozens of activists (which was organized by the disability rights group of ADAPT) staged a protest outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. The U.S. Capitol Police forcibly removed the protesters. Some of the protesters were in wheelchairs and laid on the ground as part of the demonstration. 43 people were arrested. This is a real struggle for universal health care. There is the horrible image of armed police dragging a disabled woman from her wheelchair. As it did with the AHCA (or Trump's House bill), the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed the Senate bill for its projected effects over the next 10 years. The CBO's assessment of the AHCA indicated that the bill would leave an additional 23 million people without insurance by 2026 (compared to projections if Obamacare were to remain in effect). If, instead, the Senate's new proposal was to become law, the CBO's analysis suggests that the increase in the uninsured over projections under the current law would be 22 million people. The core of both bills is a drastic assault on the government's Medicaid health care program for the poor, reversing the expansion under Obama's ACA. The Senate bill proposes somewhat smaller, though still enormous, cuts to Medicaid--$772 billion over 10 years compared to $834 billion in the House plan. But the Senate's BCRA calls for substantially larger reductions in funds for subsidies for people who purchase non-group insurance--a $408 billion cut compared to $276 billion slashed by the House version. As a result, the Senate proposal actually goes further in slashing aid for the needy than the House did. The NY Times reported that the poor, the sick, and the elderly fare worst by the BCRA. The Senate bill allows states to decide which health benefits are considered “essential.” That is a problem since states can potential charge higher premiums in some coverages. Under the new Senate plan, people who attempt to buy insurance after going 63 days without coverage will not be forced to pay a surcharge--but instead will have to wait six months before coverage will take effect. That is cruel. Many Republicans are overt in their goals of ending social programs from the New Deal and the Great Society (which has saved the lives of millions of Americans for decades). Extremists like Rand Paul of Kentucky wanted even more extreme proposals to eliminate health care services. The Koch Brothers want the ACA to be repealed. People want health care to be universal. That is why grassroots protests in confronting reactionary politicians exit in town halls nationwide. A universal health care system is a compassionate solution.  In California, the state Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to create a single-payer system for all residents--but the leader of the Democratic-controlled State Assembly announced he would refuse to allow the measure to come to a vote. That’s a shame. Health care is a human right that must come for all.

The cowboys of the frontier West have been subject to a lot of myths. Now, in our generation, people know more of the truth. Many cowboys were law abiding people. Many were criminals. Many were bandits and many were caring for their families. Cowboys were diverse. The life of the American cowboy was very hard. Many rounded up cattle during the spring and fall. They drove animals into the market. Some of them used money to spend on food, clothing, gambling, and prostitution. They worked on equipment and buildings during the winter near the cattle towns. On many occasions, one cowboy would handle 250 head of cattle. Some cowboys were hired to do herding, ranching, and protecting cattle. Many cowboys carried weapons like the Bowie knife, lasso, bullwhip, pistols, rifles, and shotguns. They faced many Native Americans and rustlers. Some of them were veterans of the Civil War (from both the Union and the Confederacy). They were very diverse. They included African Americans, Latino-Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and those from other parts of America. The earliest cowboys as we see them today came from Texas. They traded and used unique clothing. Some of them adopted jargon from the Mexican vaqueros. These were heirs of the Spanish cattlemen from middle-south Spain. African Americans from the Buffalo Soldiers were involved in cowboy like activities from capturing livestock thieves, protecting settlers heading west, building infrastructure, etc. Bass Reeves was a black deputy U.S. Marshall. He arrested more than 3,000 felons and shot and killed 14 outlaws in self-defense. Bass Reeves was born in Crawford County, Arkansas and loved the frontier life in Oklahoma. Ned Huddleston (also known as Isom Dart) was one of the famous black cowboys. He traveled to work on ranches and did other actions too. He lived in Wyoming. Cowboys wore clothing to protect themselves. All the distinct clothing of the cowboy—boots, saddles, hats, pants, chaps, slickers, bandannas, gloves, and collar-less shirts—were practical and adaptable, designed for protection and comfort. The cowboy hat quickly developed the capability, even in the early years, to identify its wearer as someone associated with the West; it came to symbolize the frontier. The most enduring fashion adapted from the cowboy, popular nearly worldwide today, are "blue jeans", originally made by Levi Strauss for miners in 1850. Handling cattle was a long process. Most male cattle were castrated. They were dehorned and examined plus treated for infections. On average, cowboys earned $30 to $40 per month, because of the heavy physical and emotional toll; it was unusual for a cowboy to spend more than seven years on the range.  As open range ranching and the long drives gave way to fenced in ranches in the 1880's, by the 1890's the glory days of the cowboy came to an end, and the myths about the "free living" cowboy began to emerge. Cattle trading grew the cowtowns (which promoted the cattle industry). Cattle towns include places like Abilene, Dodge City, and Ellsworth. They lasted for a few years in many cases. Some cowboys worked in rodeos to celebrate their talents. Cowgirls existed too and they have made many achievements involving the frontier West. Cowboys existed globally in South America and Australia as cattle herders. Cowboys in Hawaii were called the panjolo. They learned skills from the Mexican vaqueros. Cowboy celebrations and rodeos continue to exist in the 21st century nationwide. In our time black women have participated in athletic completion in the Bill Picket Rodeo, which is the nation’s only touring black rodeo competition. Some modern day black women in the completion include four Washington, D.C. based women. Their names are Kisha Bowles, Selina Brown, Sandra Dorsey, and Brittaney Logan.

Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. Her original name was Rosa Louise McCauley. Her mother, Leona (nee Edwards) was a teacher. His father was James McCauley and he was a carpenter. She was a small child. She dealt with chronic tonsillitis. Her parents separated. So, she moved with her mother to Pine Level. That is located just outside of the state capital of Montgomery. She grew up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, mother, and younger brother Sylvester. They were all members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). The AME is an over century old independent black denomination. It was founded by free black people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the early nineteenth century. Rosa Parks attended rural schools until she was 11. She was a student at the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery. She took academic and vocational courses. For secondary education, she went to a laboratory schools set up by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes. She dropped out in order for her to care for her grandmother and later her mother. They were both ill. Her early life was filled with Jim Crow oppression. By the turn of the 20th century, the former Confederate states (which included Alabama) established new constitutions. These new constitutions and electoral laws disfranchised black voters including poor white voters in Alabama too. Jim Crow laws were passed by Democrats who regained control of southern legislatures. Racial segregation was abundant. It was imposed in public facilities and retail stores in the South. Public transportation was segregated too. It was so bad that bus and train companies endorsed seating policies with separate sections for black people and white people. School bus transportation was non-existent for black schoolchildren of the South. Black education was underfunded. Rosa Parks spoke about going into the elementary school in Pine Level. School buses took white kids to their new school and black students had to walk to theirs. She said that: “…I'd see the bus pass every day... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world…” Although Parks' autobiography recounts early memories of the kindness of white strangers, she could not ignore the racism of her society. When the Ku Klux Klan marched down the street in front of their house, Parks recalls her grandfather guarding the front door with a shotgun. The Montgomery Industrial School, founded and staffed by white northerners for black children, was burned twice by arsonists. Its faculty was ostracized by the white community. Repeatedly bullied by white children in her neighborhood, Parks often fought back physically. She later said that "As far back as I remember, I could never think in terms of accepting physical abuse without some form of retaliation if possible." During the early 20th century, she was involved in social activism for justice. By 1932, she married Raymond Parks. Raymond was a barber from Montgomery. He was also a member of the NAACP. The NAACP back during that time period was collecting money to defend the Scottsboro Boys. They were a group of black men who were falsely accused of raping 2 white women. Rosa Parks worked in many jobs. She was a domestic worker and she was a hospital aide. She was urged by her husband to finish her high school studies in 1933.  By December 1943, Rosa Parks was active in the Civil Rights Movement.  In that year, she joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was elected secretary. She later said, "I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I was too timid to say no." She continued as secretary until 1957. She worked for the local NAACP leader Edgar Nixon, even though he maintained that "Women don't need to be nowhere but in the kitchen." Of course, I disagree with Edgar Nixon as women have the right to work outside of the kitchen if she wants to. When Parks asked "Well, what about me?", he replied "I need a secretary and you are a good one." In 1944, in her capacity as secretary, she investigated the gang-rape of Recy Taylor, a black woman from Abbeville, Alabama. Parks and other civil rights activists organized the "Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor", launching what the Chicago Defender called "the strongest campaign for equal justice to be seen in a decade." Rosa Parks wasn’t a Communist Party member, but she attended meetings with her husband. The Communist brought up the Scottsboro case in fighting racism. During the 1940’s, Rosa Parks and her husband joined the Voters’ League. She worked briefly in 1944 at the Maxwell Air Force Base. It was found in Montgomery, Alabama, but it didn’t have racial segregation since it was on federal property.  She rode on its integrated trolley. Speaking to her biographer, Parks noted, "You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up." Parks worked as a housekeeper and seamstress for Clifford and Virginia Durr, a white couple. Politically liberal, the Durrs became her friends. They encouraged—and eventually helped sponsor—Parks in the summer of 1955 to attend the Highlander Folk School, an education center for activism in workers' rights and racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee.  The veteran civil rights organizer Septima Clark mentored Parks at the Highlander Folk School. In 1945, despite the Jim Crow laws and discrimination by registrars, she succeeded in registering to vote on her third try. In August of 1955, a black teenager named Emmett Till was brutally murdered by white racist criminals. This came after he was near a young white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. Recently, the young white woman admitted that she lied about Emmett Till. By November 27, 1955 (which was four days before she would make her stand on the bus). Rosa Parks attended a mass meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. The meeting addressed the case and the recent murders of the activists George W. Lee and Lamar Smith.  The featured speaker was T. R. M. Howard, a black civil rights leader from Mississippi who headed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. Howard brought news of the recent acquittal of the two men who had murdered Till. Parks was deeply saddened and angry at the news, particularly because Till's case had garnered much more attention than any of the cases she and the Montgomery NAACP had worked on—and yet, the two men still walked free. This was the early life of the hero Rosa Parks.

By Timothy

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