Friday, August 04, 2017

African American historical events

Black Americans have been the victims of the excessive, harsh policies of the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs include state –led initiatives to try to stop illegal drug use, distribution, and trade by using penalties for offenders. It is a cruel action not only against human civil liberties, but it has split up families and ruined so many lives for decades. The War on Drugs was modernized under Richard Nixon during the early 1970’s, but its origins existed way back into the early 20th century. There has always been medicinal and recreational drugs usage for thousands of years among human beings. Back in the 1890’s, Sears and Roebuck was selling cocaine for $1.50. Cocaine was legal back then. Some states banned or regulated drugs like morphine and opium during the 1880’s. Opium was banned in America by 1909 via the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act except for medicinal purposes. Cocaine and opiates were regulated by the Harrison Act of 1914. Alcohol was once banned by the 1919 18th Amendment. It was a failure and the ban was repealed. This ban occurred during the Prohibition Era or the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition ended in December 1933 with the 21st Amendment (which overturned the 18th Amendment). Harry Anslinger was an early leader of the War on Drugs. He constantly used his power to promote the 1937 Marijuana Act that taxed cannabis, hemp, and marijuana federally. It didn’t criminalize the use or possession of marijuana yet. This was the time of the racist “Reefer Madness” stereotype that black people and people of color (like Latinos) so loved marijuana that it made them to do criminal actions massively in America. One person who was harassed and victimized by the early War on Drugs was Sister Billie Holiday. She was harassed by the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger. He was anti-jazz and a racist who viewed jazz as “like the jungles in the dead of night.” He wanted his agents to shoot first in drug raids. Billie Holiday exposed racism and refused to back down. So, she was harassed. Holiday was refused massive drug treatment care when she requested it. She said, ““Imagine if the government chased sick people with diabetes, put a tax on insulin and drove it into the black market, told doctors they couldn’t treat them,” she wrote in her memoir, “then sent them to jail. If we did that, everyone would know we were crazy. Yet we do practically the same thing every day in the week to sick people hooked on drugs.” The War on Drugs continued. By the 1960’s, the counterculture saw more of Americans experimenting with drugs from LSD to marijuana. This shocked right wing people. The Vietnam War came about and the drug trade increased in the Central Triangle. Many authors and scholars for decades have accused the CIA of drug smuggling. We know that the CIA has been involved in coups, spying, and surveillance worldwide. We also know that drug addiction grew in the past few decades. Instead of a more humane response to deal with drug addiction like a massive rehabilitation program, the Republican Richard Nixon wanted to be more reactionary. He signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that regulated drugs into categories. In May of 1971, Congressmen Robert Steele (R-CT) and Morgan Murphy (D-IL) released an explosive report on the growing heroin epidemic among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. Richard Nixon also declared his War on Drugs in 1971. He increased funding federally for drug control agencies and proposed strict measures like mandatory prison sentences. He formed the DEA to attack drug use and smuggling in America. The budget of the DEA grew and more people became imprisoned for drug offenses. Later, domestic policy chief advisor John Ehrlichman admitted that Nixon used the War on drugs not for altruistic motives. Nixon wanted to keep his job and he wanted to target anti-war liberals and black people. Ehrlichman said these words to the journalist Dan Baum and it was published in Harper magazine. Ehrlichman said these words in 1994. Ehrlichman was quoted as saying: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Some states decriminalized marijuana during the 1970’s and even Jimmy Carter ran on a campaign to decriminalize marijuana too. Troubled by the presence of marijuana at her 13-year old daughter's birthday party, Keith Schuchard and her neighbor Sue Rusche form Families in Action, the first parents' organization designed to fight teenage drug abuse in 1976. Schuchard wrote a letter to Dr. Robert DuPont, then head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which leads DuPont to abandon his support for decriminalization. The cocaine drug trafficking increases into new heights in America by the late 1970's.

By the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan expanded the War on Drugs. He promoted the Just Say No campaign in 1984 with Nancy Reagan saying it. They wanted children to be educated on drug use. Yet, his policies increased incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes. In the War on Drugs, complexities would exist. Barry Seal was a drug smuggler, but by 1984, he was also a DEA informant. Seal was both a smuggler and a DEA informant/operative in this sting operation against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. In 1984, Seal flew from Nicaragua to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida with a shipment of cocaine that had been allegedly brokered through the Sandinista government. Barry Seal was assassinated by Colombian assassins sent by the Medellín Cartel  in 1986. The crack cocaine epidemic in communities harmed the lives of many black Americans. In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. This law was later heavily criticized as having racist ramifications because it allocated longer prison sentences for offenses involving the same amount of crack cocaine (used more often by black Americans) as powder cocaine (used more often by white Americans). More people of color were targeted for arrested than whites, which caused a disproportionate incarceration rates among communities of color (even when whites and non-whites use drugs among the same rate percentage wise). With cocaine spreading in LA and other places via the Contras and other forces, the underground economy of drug smuggling socially damaged human lives. Bill Clinton increased the War on Drugs policies as well. He expanded prisons via his Crime Bill. To assist Colombian President Andres Pastrana's $7.5 billion Plan Colombia, President Clinton (in the year of 2000) delivers $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to fund 60 combat helicopters and training for the Colombian military, among other initiatives. By the 21st century, there is a more strong opposition to the War on Drugs. People from across the political spectrum abhor the War on Drugs on civil liberty grounds, on economic grounds, and on moral grounds. The War on Drugs has been ineffective in solving problems. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the discrepancy between crack and powder cocaine offenses from 100:1 to 18:1. Many states including the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use. Many people have opposed mandatory minimums too since many people with nonviolent drug offenses are unjustly serving more time than many violent offenders. Far right Sessions wants an acceleration of War on Drugs policies, but most Americans want more progressive solutions to help human beings who have drug addiction issues.

The 1980’s a saw an abundance of racial incidents. The 1980’s saw a massive wave of a new generation of Klan people and neo-Nazis attacking many black people and others. During the 1980 rebellion in Miami, a small group of cop thugs destroyed automobiles owned by black suspects. They used billy clubs, rifles, and steel pipes. These cops spray-painted words on the vehicles too. The rebellion happened in May 17-20, 1980 after 4 cops were acquitted of manslaughter after they were involved in the death of Arthur McDuffie. He died in December 21, 1979 after a high speed chase. He was a former Marine. He was beaten by the police too. His skull was broken after he was caught and he was taken to the hospital. The officers were accused of fabricating evidence.  The trial was heard by an all-male, all-white jury. The lead prosecutor of the case was Janet Reno, later the U.S. attorney general. On April 25, Officer Mark Meier was given immunity. He testified that the high-speed chase had slowed to 25 miles per hour when McDuffie shouted, "I give up." Meier said that between three and eight officers surrounded McDuffie, pulled off his helmet and proceeded to beat him with nightsticks. He said that the officer struck him at least twice. Because the murder weapon was not identified (because of inconsistent witness testimonies), the jury determined that there was sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit the defendant. Miami had many African American communities like in Overtown and Liberty City.  Decades ago, a strong black middle class existed in Overtown with lawyers, doctors, and other black workers. Dorothy W. Graham was a member of the Overtown community. Georgia Jones Ayres (a community activist) said that the powers that be used eminent domain as a slick excuse to kick black people out of their homes in Miami as a means to expand expressways (it displaced 50,000 people) and Downtown Miami. In order words, black people were stripped of their houses and resources. This policy grew suburbia and harmed Overtown. Many black middle class people left and the poor and working class remained. Poverty expanded in Overtown, because job opportunities were lacking. The 1980 Miami rebellion happened after the acquittal of the officials. Florida governor Bob Graham ordered 500 National Guard troops in the area. Many fires existed. Days after the verdict, the U.S. Justice Department said it would seek indictments of the policemen for federal civil rights violations. On July 28, 1980, a federal grand jury indicted Charles Veverka, despite his having received immunity from the original charges filed by the state during the first trial. Miami was given federal funds to rebuild its city. On November 17, 1981, Dade County commissioners agreed to a $1.1 million settlement with McDuffie's family in exchange for their dropping a $25 million civil lawsuit against the county. Of that amount, the family's legal team received $483,833, while McDuffie's two children each received $202,500, and his mother, $67,500. Miami is a diverse city with black people, Latinos, white people, Asians etc. Many people from Miami have relatives from Cuba, Haiti, and the rest of the Caribbean. The 1980 rebellion of Miami was the start of new racial tensions in the 1980’s.

In August 1980 alone (in Philadelphia), police killed a 17 year old black suspect after he was pistol whipped. Detroit police in the 1980’s arrested black women and sexually assaulted them. 3 black female relatives of Detroit mayor Coleman Young were strip searched and harassed by sick police officers. In New Orleans, when one cop was killed, white officers assassinated four black people in five days. Many saw this epidemic of police brutality as a link to the rise of conservativism in America. In 1981, racists bombed a black evangelical church (in Arizona) killing one and injuring 8 people. Lynn Jackson (a black woman) was found lynched on December 8, 1981. A 38 year old black man was found hanging from a tree in downtown Atlanta in the 1980’s. Further repression of black revolutionary organizations continued by the FBI and other agencies throughout the 1980’s. The 1980’s wasn’t some racial utopia. Moderate civil rights leader Vernon Jordan was shot in the back by a racist on May 29, 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The rise of Reaganism in 1981 saw massive cuts to social programs and the increase of far right extremists. In universities in the 1980’s, thousands of black students were harassed and harmed by acts of threats and violence by white racist terrorists. One microcosm of the problem is found in the incidents of police murders and hate crimes in New York City during the 1980’s.  New York City is the most ethnically diverse city in human history and one of the greatest cities in human history. Likewise, it is not immune from racial injustice. In June of 1982, Willie Turks (a black man and a 34 year old MTA worker) was jumped and killed by a white mob in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. 18 year old Gino Bova was only convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter in 1983 for his role in the murder of Willie Turks. In 1983, Michael Stewart was beaten to death by New York Transit Police officers. He was a graffiti artist. October 29, 1984 was when 66-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs is shot and killed by police as they tried to evict her from her Bronx apartment. Bumpurs, who was mentally ill, was wielding a knife and had slashed one of the officers. The shooting provoked heated debate about police racism and brutality. A white mob (on December 20, 1986) in Howard Beach, Queens, attacked three African-American men whose car had broken down in the largely white neighborhood. One of the men, Michael Griffith is chased onto Shore Parkway where he is hit and killed by a passing car. The killing prompted several civil rights marches through the neighborhood led by Al Sharpton. On April 19, 1989,  Central Park jogger Trisha Meili was violently raped and beaten while jogging in Central Park. The crime was attributed to a group of young men who were practicing an activity the police called "wilding", with five of these teens convicted and jailed. In 2002, after the five had completed their sentences, Matias Reyes – a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes – confessed to the crime, after which DNA evidence proved the five teens innocent. To this very day, Donald Trump lied and said that the Central Park Five are guilty when they are innocent. On August 23, 1989 ,Yusuf Hawkins, a 16-year-old African-American student, is set upon and murdered by a white mob in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. Protests existed. There was the Virginia Beach Greekfest rebellion in 1989 as well. So, the 1980’s saw massive racial tensions.

Throughout the 1980’s and beyond, a new generation of black directors (both black men and black women) came on the scene. They wanted to show the world about the diverse experiences of black people. They also wanted to present to people about the creativity and resiliency of the black American experience. The issues of race, gender, class, generational aspects of human beings, sexuality, politics, music, art, and a wide range of the black humanity were on full display in movies, plays, music videos, and other ranges of the media. Spike Lee in more than three decades represented black excellence in directing. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in March 20, 1957 and he was raised in Brooklyn, NYC. His father was a jazz musician and his mother was an art teacher. His family experienced the power of education firsthand. Later, Spike Lee graduated from Morehouse College in 1979. He started a film production program in NY University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He won the 1983 Student Academy Award for best director for the film “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop." He finished his M.F.A. degree. Spike Lee started his own film production company called, “40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks.” His first film feature was 1986’s "She Gotta Have It." It was done on a tight budget. It was the story of Nola Darling. The movie was about a black woman deciding to date men based on her terms and her own human autonomy. It was ahead of its time. It had a rape scene that Spike Lee regretted. The film showed the struggle that African American woman have and continue to experience in a racist, sexist society. He released School Daze in 1988 which talked about black intraracial relationships in college and it exposed the evil of colorism (Spike Lee used the dark skinned and light skinned black people on the college campus to see how evil color struck attitudes are). It outlined the debates on masculinity, generational differences among black people, peer pressure, black consciousness, and the value of HBCUs in the lives of our people. The film grossed $15 million. In 1989, he released Do the Right Thing that explored gentrification and racial issues among African Americans and Italian Americans in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant area of NYC. Do The Right Things displayed black life in the United States in accurate terms and it outlined the tensions between the black community and the police. It won many awards. Spike rose to national prominence. He also made more films like Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X in 1992, and other films. He discussed about many political issues and inspired more black directors like John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, and the Hughes Brothers. Black women directors have existed for decades. Many of their accomplishments have been ignored by many, but we will show their contributions now. They exist worldwide.  In her book Black Women Film and Video Artists, Jacqueline Bobo notes that "there is a substantial body of work created by Black women film/video makers, extending back to the early part of this century. Unfortunately, the work is overlooked not only by many distributors, but also by critical reviews and scholarly analyses, with the notable exception of those by Black women scholars, have been few and far between." Black women have gone to prestigious educational institutions (i.e. Columbia University, UCLA, USC, Chicago Institute of the Arts, Northwestern, NYU, etc.) and have earned Masters of Fine Arts degrees from their prospective prestigious graduate film and television programs. Therefore, the idea that these women's works are simply small and catered to a diminutive group of people is by no means true. For, these respected Black women have mastered the understanding of cinema and media history, theory, and criticism all of which is demonstrated in their works resulting in exemplary films and video. Madam C. J. Walker owned the Walker Theater in Indianapolis to promote her cosmetics industry. Zora Neale Hurston was a filmmaker too. Madeline Anderson directed the 1961 film Integration Report I in 1961 and Malcolm X-Nationalist or Humanist in 1967. Maya Angelou directed "Down in the Delta" in 1998. Neema Barnette directed Civil Brand in 2002. We know about the young director Ava DuVernay directing Middle of Nowhere in 2012 (starring a black actress named Emayatzy Corinealdi) and Selma in 2016 including 13th (which exposes the prison industrial complex) in 2016. Lisa Gay Hamilton, Shola Lynch, Darnell Martin, and other black women directors have shown excellent work spanning many years. Love and Basketball was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood in 2000. The first film directed by a black woman which was produced by a major Hollywood studio was A Dry White Season in 1989. Dee Rees and Jacqueline Shearer are great filmmakers too. Therefore, the contributions of black filmmakers are very powerful and important.

By Timothy

No comments: