Friday, August 11, 2017

1990's and Black History

Black excellence flourished during the 1990’s. The first black mayor of New York City, whose name is David Dinkins, was inaugurated on January 1, 1990. He was 62 years old. Later on January 13, 1990, Douglas Wilder was inaugurated as the first black Governor of the United States. In the same year, August Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize for the play The Piano Lesson. In November 1990, Sharon Pratt Kelly was elected mayor of Washington, D.C., and she became the first African American woman to lead a large American city. Marcelite Jordan Harris was the first black woman brigadier general in the U.S. Army (back in 1990) and the first woman to command a mostly male battalion. ALso, in 1990, Walter E. Massey is the first African American to head the National Science Foundation, Donna Marie Cheek becomes the first black member of the U.S. Equestrian Team, and Carole Ann-Marie Gist of Detroit, Michigan becomes the first African American to win the Miss USA pageant. Barack Obama was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review on February 5, 1990. Devil in a Blue Dress on June 1990 was written by Walter Mosley. He is a great black author. On June 20, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa. He toured NYC and other cities in America.  In November 1990, Charles Johnson won the National Book Award for his book on the illegal 19th century slave trade called, “The Middle Passage.” Henry Louis Gates worked in the African Studies Department and the WEB DuBois Institute in Harvard. This was in 1991. He worked with many scholars like Ghana-born philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, William Julius Wilson, Cornel West, and historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. Future baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson of the Oakland Athletics breaks Lou Brock’s all time stolen base record by stealing his 939th career base on May 1, 1991. Movies like Ghost, New Jack City, and Boyz n The Hood showed great performances from African Americans like Whoopi Goldberg, John Singleton as a director, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, and Morris Chestnut. Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust came out in 1991 and it was directed by an African American woman. The National Civil Rights Museum opened in Memphis, TN. On August 8, 1992, The Dream Team won the Olympic gold medal in basketball in Barcelona. They included some of the greatest basketball players in history and they further internationalized the game of basketball too.  People like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and others performed in a high level. By the 1990’s, the WNBA would exist and basketball would go into new heights of excellence.

By 1992, 35 year old astronaut Mae Carol Jemison (a Stanford graduate with a medical degree from Cornel) became the first African American woman to travel into space. She is a doctor education wise and she continues to promote STEM fields for people of color and everyone else to this very day. The first African American woman Senator was Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois. She celebrated her victory in Chicago in 1992 and she is a Democrat. Derek Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Rita Love would be Poet Laureate in 1993. In 1993, Avery Brooks, would be Commander Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine of the Star Trek TV show series. The show lasts until 1999. Maya Angelou gave her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C. Arthur Ashe from Richmond, VA passed away on February 6, 1993 from AIDS related complications. A monument which celebrates Arthur Ashe’s life was shown by 1996. Arthur Ashe constantly promoted black freedom and wrote a book that detailed the contributions of black athletes. The Tom Joyner Morning Show, which was ahead of its time, reached syndication by January 1994. It talked about African American issues, relationships, health, and other important issues. In 1994, Isabel Wilkerson wrote about the Great Migration in her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns.” She was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West write books about their lives and race in 1994. They represented the new generation of progressive scholars during the 1990’s.  Art has been promoted by Thelma Golden and Kara Walker in NY in 1994. Dorothy West’s “The Wedding” book is popular and she was 87 years old. Shirley Ann Jackson (she was the first black woman to earn a PhD from MIT) was sworn as the chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee. She later became the first black President of New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and inheritance” was released by Barack Obama in 1995. This talks about his life in honest terms. On May 6, 1995, Ron Kirk won the mayoral race in Dallas, becoming the first African American mayor of the city. Dr. Helene Doris Gayle becomes the first woman and the first African American Director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 1995. By 1996, Muhammad Ali lit the flame in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The 1996 Summer Olympics showed the talent of many athletes like Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Gail Devers, Gwen Torrance, and other human beings.

Heroic Financial analyst Bari-Ellen Roberts was a black woman in 1996 who fought against racial discrimination. It was found in Texaco and Texaco agreed to pay more than $140 million to the victims of discrimination. In June 1997, Harvey Johnson, Jr. was sworn in as the first black mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. On October 25, 1997, African American women participate in the Million Woman March in Philadelphia, focusing on health care, education, and self-help. In 1997, Geoffrey Canada uses his education program to help students in NYC. Wynton Marsalis's "Blood on the Fields" becomes the first jazz composition to win a Pulitzer Prize in Music. in 1997 too. In the same year, Lois Jean White is the first African American to be elected president of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Amistad was released in 1997. This movie was about the freedom sent to Joseph Cinque and other black people who were kidnapped on a ship. Steven Spielberg directed the movie. Djimon Hounsou (who was born in Benin, he lived in France, and now he lives in America) was the lead actor in the movie. The film was magnificent. By April 13, 1997, a 21 year old Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf tournament. His father Earl Woods inspired him. He started a new era of more black people and people of color increasingly joining golf as a sport. Nelson Mandela received an honorary degree from Harvard in 1998. On January 13, 1999, after thirteen seasons and six NBA championships, professional basketball star Michael Jordan retires from the game as a player (he never comes back to the NBA except in 2001 to play for the Washington Wizards). Encarta Africana was released as CD-ROM in 1999 that has images, videos, and graphics about black history. It was edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kwame Anthony Appiah of Harvard. The first black woman coach to win an NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship was Carolyn Peck on March 28, 1999. She coached Purdue to victory. Peck was the first black woman to win the New York Athletic Clubs’ Winged Foot Award. Later, she was the head coach of the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle. Laurence Fishburne was part of the Matrix movie in 1999 too. Juneteenth was released by Ralph Ellison posthumously in June 1999. Maurice Ashley becomes the world's first black chess grandmasters, the game's highest rank back in 1999 too. In September 11, 1999, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC, Serena Williams (at the age of 17) beat Martina Hingis to win the U.S. Open Championship. She was the 2nd African American woman to do so after Althea Gibson to win such a match. Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 1999 too. This started a long journey of 2 of the greatest women tennis players in history. They have transcended the sport and Serena Williams has been called by some as the greatest athlete of the 21st century.

Police misconduct was definitely an epidemic during the 1990’s. During that decade, there was constant discussion about the racial discrimination in the judicial system and elimination of voting rights for some criminals (even after criminals paid their debts to society). Crime rates declined during the 1990’s while the prison population in America increased. The 1999 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that black people represent 14 percent of total illegal drug use, but represent a higher number of those convicted of such drug usage. More police forces were militarized and promoted excessive actions in getting suspects or even harassing innocent people in stop and frisk in NYC and other urban communities nationwide. On August 9, 1997, a thirty year old Haitian immigrant Abner Louima experienced police brutality. He was in NYC. Louima was arrested and taken to a Brooklyn police precinct station. He was beaten by the police. Also, he was forced into a toilet and placed a wooden stick up under him in a violation of his human rights. He suffered internal injuries. Many Haitian Americans and black people in general protested this abuse. 5,000 people demonstrated at Manhattan’s City Hall. The NYC Police Commissioner Howard Safir said that race was not a factor in the Louima situation, which is a boldfaced lie. Many officers were convicted of abusing Louima and some were not convicted. To this very day, Abner Louima is an activist against police brutality.

On February 4, 1999, a young Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo was confronted by the entrance to his Bronx apartment building by 4 plainclothes police officers. They were from the NY Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit. Diallo reached for his pocket to show the officers his ID, but the officers murdered him by shooting him 41 times. He was struck 19 times and he died. Immediately, rallies and protests existed all over NYC and throughout the nation. These protests included African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and progressive whites. Over 1,000 people in New York City were arrested for civil disobedience at police headquarters. Many people arrested were Charles Rangel of Harlem, former Mayor David Dinkins, NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume, Al Sharpton, and Carolyn Goodman (the mother of the murdered son Andrew Goodman from 1964 in Mississippi. Andrew Goodman was part of Freedom Summer). The Diallo case existed for a year. Also, Police Commissioner Howard Safir and then NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani (who promoted “law and order) testified before the Civil Rights Commission on May 26, 1999. The Congressional Black Caucus had hearing on police brutality too. 4 officers were acquitted in 2000 on February 25. This caused outraged. This injustice caused many to lose faith in a system that doesn’t respect black human lives. To this very day, police misconduct is talked about nationwide and worldwide. Amadou Diallo’s mother continues to speak out against police brutality and fight for racial healing to this very day.

By Timothy

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