Saturday, August 05, 2017

The African American Story Part 7 (The First Era)

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The African American Story Part 7 (The First Era)

The struggle continues. After the unjust, evil assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., things have changed rapidly. Confusion about what was next persisted. Some still had hope for the future. Hundreds of cities existed in rebellion. Afterwards, the Black Power movement increased its power to its zenith or peak. The Black Panther Party not only developed by the late 1960’s into more membership. The FBI and local police agencies utilized more nefarious acts of suppression against the BPP and other progressive organizations. Political power among black people flourished. The issues of poverty, housing, education, health care, sex, and economic inequality were discussed by our people back then as well. From the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s, the black middle class expanded and the poverty rate declined in the black community. Black activism, the New Deal, Civil Rights laws, and the Great Society made that a reality. While many black people left poorer neighborhoods, the problem was that many poorer black Americans were left behind in ghettos. The black poor continued to suffer financial exploitation.

So, while many black people were legitimately coming into universities, businesses, and other industries by the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, poor working class black people still suffered a lot of complications. That is the paradox of that era of time. During this era, black political power manifested greatly. A beginning of a record number of black mayors, lawyers, and Congress people (both black men and black women) were elected into offices. The Convention of Gary, Indiana showed the unity of the goal of black freedom, along with the diverse ideologies found in our people. Many people differed on the best ways to get freedom. So, the Convention had a strong, progressive platform and later (because of pressure from the political establishment), its platform became more watered down. Affirmative action was a reality and existed in the modern age since the days of Kennedy. Yet, the far right tries to end it back then and today. Busing became a serious issue in Boston (which was a Northern city filled with racism) and in other locations across America during the 1970’s. The debates about school integration and local control manifested themselves. The Bakke Supreme Court decision further complicated matters on affirmative action. The Blaxploitation film explosion (with films like Shaft, Coffy, Foxy Brown, etc.) and Soul Train developed in the 70’s, which inspired our lives. Disco caused an earthquake of incredible music, tolerance, and diverse creativity.

Roots inspired our people to research our ancestry to this very day and made us to realize to never forget about the Maafa (and slavery). The 1970's also saw the birth of hip hop music too. By the 1980’s, the conservative and controversial Age of Reagan existed with austerity, cuts to services, and the hate crimes throughout that decade. Miami had a rebellion over police brutality and racial injustice in 1980. Black people continued to still fight back for justice. Jesse Jackson ran for President in 1984 and 1988. He did better during his second run. The election runs of Jesse Jackson caused black people to see how mainstream establishment parties have shifted. After 1988, the DNC shifted rightward while the RNC was already far right. Black entrepreneurship during the 80’s grew among the upper middle class and rich African American community. Oprah and Michael Jordan displayed black excellence in the 80’s and 90’s. This was going on while poor black people saw their communities ravished by drug addiction, the War on Drugs, poverty, and other terrible social conditions.

The 1990’s saw serious, creative developments about the discussions about race, sex, sexuality, the environment, and international politics. The 1990’s had cultural flavor. Hip hop and R&B grew into more heights of popularity. Bill Clinton was the President for most of the decade with his strengths (large job growth and more blessings to Americans) and weaknesses (like the Crime Bill and anti-welfare policies). The Million Man March was in existence with Louis Farrakhan as the lead speaker. Many black people love him and others disagree with him on some of his conservative politics. We saw more lack accomplishments in space, education, and literature. We saw the life of OJ changed forever as OJ’s self-hatred once again proves that loving Blackness is glorious.

The first decade of the 2000’s saw terrorism, Katrina, the passing of legends, Jena Six, and the Bush era marred by controversies (and authorities in the Gulf region showing a total disregard of the lives of many black people). By the end of the first decade of the 2000’s, a black man was elected President. His name was Barack Obama with his very intelligent, black wife Michelle Obama (who is a strong woman) by his side. Barack Obama captivated the nation. His legacy is a combination of the great things that he did (from the Lily Leadbetter Act and the economic compensation to black farmers) along with his mistakes (especially with allowing politics that has expanded the military industrial complex). The 2010’s saw the invention of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement wants an end to police brutality and liberation of all black people, regardless of background. The 2010’s saw the end of the Presidency of Barack Obama and the beginning of Trump’s Presidency. Trump is crass. Trump is a sexist, a xenophobe, and a racist. His anti- progressive cabinet has support voter ID laws (with Jeff Sessions), militarism, and other anti-progressive positions. Black people once again are leaders in the resistance to the Trump reactionary regime.

In the age of 2018, we want to know where do we go from here? Issues are very complicated and they deal with race, class, gender, etc. We go from here to use the same inspiration from our ancestors and use old including new strategies in getting into the same goal (which is freedom and justice). We are fortunate to live among the youth today who include some of the most progressive human beings in human history. We are blessed to have the elders with their wisdom and courage too. This series is the final chapter of the African American history series. This last part of this series will be divided into four eras. This is the first part (which deals with events from 1968-1992) is the first era. The second era will be from 1992 to 2008. The third era will be from 2008 to 2017 and the fourth era will be from 2017 to the present. I have learned so much as a product of this series. Forever, I will be pro-Black, pro-Black Love, pro-economic justice, pro-social justice, and pro-Black Liberation 100%.

Yes, we still rise.

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April 4, 1968 was one of the saddest days in black history. It was the time when an innocent black man (who was a clergyman and a pacifist who respected democratic socialism and human equality) was murdered by a coward. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was very powerful and real. He didn’t live long enough to see the Dream fulfilled, but we live today in fighting for this Dream today. When news of his death spread across America, the rebellions happened. The majority of these rebellions happened from April 4 to May of 1968. It was the biggest civil disturbance in America since the Civil War. It was a turning point as 1968 was one of the most revolutionary, changing years in human history. In more than 120 cities nationwide, buildings burned. Property was damaged. About 46 people (mostly black people) were killed and about 3,000 people were arrested. More than 15,000 people were arrested. It was a sad and angry time in America. The biggest rebellions took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Trenton, Wilmington (in Delaware), and Louisville. Afterwards, white flight increased and the right wing movement of “law and order” grew.  Many questioned the effectiveness of nonviolence. The rebellions were done by people who were angry at racial injustice, political brutality, and economic inequality. They wanted a change and were desperate. Poor, working class, and middle class people participated in the rebellions. Systematic oppression oppressed black people. Massive rebellions were averted in Boston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles. James Brown gave a speech to stop the rebellion in Boston. RFK gave a speech in Indianapolis to prevent a rebellion there. Memphis experienced a rebellion too. Lyndon Baines Jonson sent condolences to Coretta Scott King and called for the nation to not use violence.

The rebellion in Washington, D.C. was huge. When word of the murder of Dr. King spread into D.C., many were crowded at 14th and U in Washington, D.C. Kwame Ture led SNCC members to stores in the neighborhood to close out of respect. Later, the crowd was from peaceful to breaking windows. It spread greatly by 11 pm. on April 4. It lasted until April 8, 1968. Anger existed even after Mayor-Commissioner Walter Washington ordered the damage cleaned up the next morning. Kwame Ture had a rally in Howard to talk about the death of Dr. King. After the rally, people walked to 7th Street NW and in the H Street NE corridor. They and the police had violent confrontations. Many buildings were on fire. Firefighters were attacked with bottles and rocks. Crowds of as many as 20,000 overwhelmed the District's 3,100-member police force, and President Lyndon B. Johnson dispatched some 13,600 federal troops, including 1,750 federalized D.C. National Guard troops, to assist them. Marines mounted machine guns on the steps of the Capitol and Army troops from the 3rd Infantry guarded the White House.

At one point, on April 5, rioting reached within two blocks of the White House before rioters retreated. The occupation of Washington was the largest of any American city since the Civil War. Mayor Washington imposed a curfew and banned the sale of alcohol and guns in the city. By the time the city was considered pacified on Sunday, April 8, some 1,200 buildings had been burned, including over 900 stores. Damages reached $27 million. Washington, D.C.’s economy was damaged for decades. Thousands of jobs were lost. Insurance rates increased. Residents of all races left for the suburbs. Crime in burned out neighborhoods increased. Some areas only recovered by the 1990’s like the Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor. Mayor Commissioner Washington would be the last presidentially appoint mayor of D.C. and would be the city’s first elected mayor.

The rebellion in Chicago was large. Mayor Richard J. Daley made a curfew and made the statement that the police can shoot to kill arsonists or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand. National Guard troops came into Chicago. LBJ sent in about 5,000 troops from the 1st Armored Division and the 5th Infantry Division into the city. They were allowed to use tear gas. The South Side had most of the destruction. The rebellion in Baltimore started on Saturday of April 6. The Governor, Spiro T. Agnew, called out the thousands of National Guard troops and 500 Maryland State police to stop it. By Sunday evening, 5,000 paratroopers, combat engineers, and artillerymen from the XVIII Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, specially trained in tactics, including sniper school, were on the streets of Baltimore with fixed bayonets, and equipped with chemical (CS) disperser backpacks. Two days later, they were joined by a Light Infantry Brigade from Fort Benning, Georgia. With all the police and troops on the streets, the situation began to calm down. The military ended the disturbances using bayonets and chemical dispersers by the XVIII Airborne units. By the time the riot was over, 6 people were dead, 700 injured, 4,500 arrested and over 1,000 fires set. More than a thousand businesses had been looted or burned, many of which never reopened. Total property damage was estimated at $13.5 million.

Spiro Agnew was the vice Presidential running mate of Richard Nixon later. Agnew would falsely scapegoat local black leaders for not doing enough to stop the rebellion, but he hasn’t done enough to address racism and economic injustice in Baltimore. That hypocrite Agnew would be found of doing financial corruption by the time of Watergate. Kansas City, Missouri had a rebellion near its City Hall. Rioting erupted in New York the night King was murdered with Harlem, the largest African-American neighborhood in Manhattan, erupting into sporadic violence and looting. Tensions simmered down after Mayor John Lindsay traveled into the heart of the area and stated that he regretted King’s wrongful death which led to the calming of residents although numerous businesses were still looted and set afire in Harlem and Brooklyn. Wilmington was occupied by the National Guard during the rebellions from April 1968 to January 1969. Many businesses left Wilmington.

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President Lyndon Johnson, Joe Califano, and his staff organized the response to the rebellions. They met with many civil rights leaders like Thurgood Marshall, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Dorothy Height, and others in trying to solve the problem. SNCC and CORE were absent since they were more radical than more mainline organizations. According to press secretary George Christian, Johnson was not surprised by the riots that followed:

"What did you expect? I don't know why we're so surprised. When you put your foot on a man's neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what's he going to do? He's going to knock your block off."

Legislation for the Civil rights Act dealing with housing rights stalled in 1966. This time would be different. After debate in Congress, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 would be passed in April 11, 1968. This was passed in the aftermath in the rebellions and passed in part out of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It provided equal housing opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, religion, or national origin. It is now a federal crime to use force or by threat to injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone based on race, color, religion, or national origin. It was the right law at the right time. The rebellions caused many people (especially white people) to move into the suburbs which was caused white flight. It caused the growth of the black middle class and many black people leaving poor areas into middle class areas like the suburbs too. It caused more people to wake up about the complexities of racism and classism. The rebellions reminded us about how far we have to go in making democratic rights real in our land and our world. The rebellions spurred the reactionary backlash against progressives and it also caused the Black Power movement to reach its zenith.

Richard Nixon would exploit the rebellions as an excuse for him to create his “law and order” policies by the time he was elected President in 1968. The 1968 rebellions caused many to continue to focus on the problems of police brutality, racial injustice, economic oppression, and redlining. It caused self-reflection as a nation and it made known the truth that nonviolence and self-defense are legitimate actions to pursue for human liberation.

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Black is Beautiful

There is always the beauty of Blackness since the beginning of human history. The modern Black is Beautiful cultural movement started in America by the 1960’s by African Americans. It also spread into South Africa by Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness Movement. Black is Beautiful is self-explanatory. It means that Black is glorious, beautiful, strong, and inspirational. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in many of his speeches, especially from 1966 to 1968, said that Black is Beautiful. The movement wanted black people to love their natural features and fight for justice. It was a movement that wanted us as black people to always love our skin, our melanin, our hair, our facial features, and our African being. It was an antidote to the evil of internalized racism and colorism (back in the day, self-haters had paper bag parties where African Americans with lighter skins complexions were only allowed in social circles. My father talked about these evil social gatherings back in the day). Black people are beautiful regardless of hue. The beauty of Blackness has been articulated by a diversity of black people from Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, black women leaders, the NOI, and other black Nationalists.

One of the earliest promoters of Black is Beautiful is John Rock. John Rock didn’t verbatim use the term black is Beautiful, but in one speech, he did promote the beauty of the blackness of our people by saying, “"the beautiful, rich color ... of the negro.” Throughout his life, he promoted equality and justice for black Americans. He lived to see the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The law promoted equal protection under the law or all American citizens. He lived to see the existence of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Black is Beautiful movement is part of the Black Power movement and the overall black freedom movement. By the late 1960’s, more African Americans wore Afros, dashikis, spoke Swahili and other African languages, etc. Many black people started to investigate African history, study black African art, and rejected the racial stereotypes that were so prominently shown in the mainstream media back during the early 20th century. Self-love is a very powerful force that has inspired our people for a very long time.

Black is Beautiful has been shown in Soul Train, weddings, the streets, in the rural areas, and in other places globally. Muhammad Ali’s confidence, Cicely Tyson’s talent, Angela Davis’ intellectual power, and Nina Simone’s wisdom outline the power of Blackness in action.

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Political Power

The period of the 1960’s to the 1970’s saw an explosion of the growth of black political power. Many black people started to be mayors, lawyers, Congress people, etc. The majority of our people were in the Democratic Party. In November 1967, Carl Stokes was the first black elected mayor  of one of America’s 10 largest cities in November of 1967. The campaign was long and tough. He was supported by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. too. Stokes later spoke his views. By 1967, many people viewed Dr. King as too radical because of him opposing the Vietnam War. In the same year, Richard Hatcher was elected Mayor of Gary, Indiana. African American political leaders won victories against white candidates. Gary Hatcher was mayor for five terms before his defeat in a 1987 primary. Carl Stokes served for two terms before he voluntarily stepped down in 1971. Back during the 1960’s, Cleveland was in a Civil Rights Movement of its own (in for housing rights and being agaisnt de facto segregation). Its black population was about 37 percent by 1967. Black people had disproportionately the lowest paying jobs and white people in Cleveland had disproportionately higher wage jobs. Many whites left Cleveland. Unemployment rates were high for black residents by 1966. The election of Stokes had mostly black support while most white people voted for his Republican opponent. Black mayors started to experience many of the same issues and controversies as previous white mayors. Many black mayors would be progressive and many black mayors would go and compromise to appease reactionary forces. Carl Stokes faced massive opposition as mayor. He opened city hall jobs to black people and women. He formed Cleveland: Now!, which is a program that used public and private resources in trying to revitalize Cleveland neighborhoods. Carl Stokes continued to work. He was reelected in 1969.

Many black mayors believed that finding a niche in the system would cause progress for black people. Yet, the system of capitalism in urban communities will not go far enough to cause social liberation for all since capitalism by its nature promotes inequality and disparities economically. Only 2 of Stokes’ 10 first appointments went to black people. He hired the right wing Michael Blackwell as police chief. This was a shock to black people who experienced police terror during the Hough rebellion. Blackwell’s rhetoric and black nationalists groups like the Black Nationalists of New Libya were real in Cleveland. Stokes tried to keep the peace by joining a July 21, 1968 march to remember the 2 year anniversary of the Hough rebellion. 2 days later, the  the Black Nationalists of New Libya were in a shootout with Cleveland police and the Ohio National Guard, sparking a rebellion that lasted five days. Seven people, three of them cops, were killed; fifteen people, 11 of them officers, were injured. A FBI report said that people wanted him or Stokes assassinated including other black liberals. So, Stokes ordered the police to watch or surveil New Libyan Leader Fred Ahmed Evans. Evans was captured and Evans said that the group’s weapons were purchased with funds from Stokes’ neighborhood redevelopment program. In 1969, Stokes embraced the reactionary “law and order” rhetoric. He gained backing of local business, the media, and national Democrats.

Stokes appointed Benjamin O. Davis Jr. as director of public safety. Davis supported the police suppression of local black nationalists in Cleveland. Davis agreed with the police using soft core bullets that expand on impact. Davis resigned by 1970. Stokes faced scandals and the same challenges that other black politicians faced. One issue was that many mayors experienced fiscal problems which came before they took office, but some of them used neoliberal policies and cut services from workers and resources sent to the poor. As early as the 1970’s, the right wing backlash was in full swing.

In 1968, political leader Beualah Sanders was part of the National Welfare Rights Organization who wanted to help the poor. She spoke in Chicago on August 22, 1968. She was the leader of the NWRO too. Shirley Chisholm was in a state of NY seat in 1964. She was a Congresswoman by 1968. She was a progressive Democrat who believed in health care rights, civil rights, and human justice. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the Congress. The Black Expo featured black leaders in promoting economic causes too. Kenneth Gibson was the first black mayor of Newark in 1970. Coleman Young was the first black mayor of Detroit. Tom Bradley was the first black mayor Los Angeles. Maynard Jackson would be elected as the first black mayor of Atlanta by the 1970's too.

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One of the greatest events of black political history was the National Black Political Convention which was held in March of 1972 in Gary, Indiana. Back then, many black people wanted an independent black political movement to be independent of both the Republican and Democratic parties. They wanted to be use liberation politics. This is why this convention was created. The convention was diverse. It included black liberals, progressives, socialists, nationalists, Republicans, Democrats, etc. This comes during the time of FBI using COINTELPRO harassing black activists. Political establishment leaders wanted to co-opt the struggle. In 1972, black people wanted mass action. The preamble of the National Black Political Agenda was very radical and progressive. It exposed both major parties and wanted radical change in society. Mayor Richard Hatcher convened the meeting. Black Nationalist Amiri Baraka was involved in the meeting too. Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan was there along with Queen Mother Moore (who wanted reparations. She is a great Black Nationalist legend). Jesse Jackson of PUSH was there and called for a Black Liberation Party. It lasted from March 10-12, 1972. THE PREAMBLE to the National Black Political Agenda written for the convention was very powerful. It read in part:

"...A Black political convention, indeed all truly Black politics, must begin from this truth: The American system does not work for the masses of people, and it cannot be made to work without radical fundamental change...The profound crises of Black people and the disaster of American are not simply caused by men, nor will they be solved by men alone.

These crises are the crises of basically flawed economics and politics, and of cultural degradation. None of the Democratic candidates and none of the Republican candidates--regardless of their vague promises to us or to their white constituencies--can solve our problems or the problems of this country without radically changing the system by which it operates."

There was a debate in the meeting on whether to ally with Democrats or be independent politically. The promises of continued support for the Democrats were not enough to stop a walkout by the convention's Michigan delegation.

These delegates, many of whom were NAACP leaders and trade union officials, were worried that any association with the National Black Political Agenda would damage their relationship to the Michigan Democratic Party. Jackson and Baraka wanted to stop the walk out, but it was too late. Many members of the convention wanted Palestinian liberation. Back then, that was extremely taboo. The Black Agenda was eventually dumped in favor of the Congressional Black Caucus' watered-down Black "Bill of Rights." Although the convention formed a National Black Political Assembly, the perspectives of this group were left largely undefined. The 2nd National Black Political Convention took place in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was in 1974. Many statements wanted to promote an independent black party. Afterwards, the convention’s leaders left the organization. Many black leading politicians followed the Democratic machine. The National Black Political Conventions wanted independent black movement for change legitimately. Members wanted a black independent party. It was a glorious dream. They were sidetracked by establishment forces who desired imperialism and slick policies of neoliberalism instead of black liberation.

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The 1968 Olympics (including more on Sports)

One of the greatest parts of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was the Black Power salute shown by Gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos on October 16, 1968. They were sprinters. They wore black socks without shoes and use the black gloved fist as the Star Spangled Banner was played. They expressed solidarity with the Black Freedom Movement in America. Both sprinters were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. This was a group in favor of human equality. It was created in 1967 by sociologist Harry Edwards and others including Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The group wanted to oppose racism in sports, racial segregation in America, and apartheid in South Africa. Smith said that the project was about human rights, of "all humanity, even those who denied us ours." Most members of the OPHR were African American athletes or community leaders. They once called for a boycott of the 1968 Olympics unless 4 conditions are met like South Africa and Rhodesia not being in the Olympics, Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight title restored, Avery Brundage to not be the President of the International Olympic Committee, and hiring more African American assistant coaches. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. supported the boycott.

While the boycott largely failed to materialize, African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Australian sprinter Peter Norman wore OPHR patches during the medal ceremony for the 200-metre race. Despite being a primarily African-American organization, the OPHR was supported by white athletes such as Norman and members of the Harvard University rowing team. After Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the black fist, they were ordered by the U.S. Organizing Committee to leave the Olympic Village. The International Olympic Committee used an excuse that politics played no part in the games. Yet, many racists sent death threats to both Smith and Carlos for a long time.

The 1968 Summer Olympics was the first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America and the first to be stage in a Spanish speaking country. George Foreman won a gold medal for boxing in the heavyweight division. He defeated Soviet Ionas Chepluis in a second round TKO. He waved a small American flag and bowed to the crowd after the victory. This was the time first time when East and West Germany participated in separate nations. It was the first games at which there was a significant African presence in men's distance running. Africans won at least one medal in all running events from 800 meters to the marathon, and in so doing they set a trend for future games. Most of these runners came from high-altitude areas of countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, and they were well-prepared for the 2240m elevation of Mexico City.

It was the first Olympic Games in which the closing ceremony was transmitted in color to the world, as well as the events themselves. Wyomia Tyus returned to the 1968 Olympics to defend her title in the 100m. In the finals, she set a new world record of 11.08s to become the first person, male or female, to retain the Olympic 100 meters title. Tyus also qualified for the 200m final, in which she finished sixth. Running the final leg for the relay team, Tyus helped setting a new world record, winning her third gold medal. Long jumper Bob Beamon broke the 29-foot record at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  Black Excellence was in full display during the 1968 Olympics.

By the 1970’s, black people in athletics continued to fight and make excellent accomplishments. Muhammad Ali finally came into the ring to box by 1970. He was a leader of the anti-war movement and advanced black consciousness. He defeated early opponents and had his first defeat to Joe Frazier at the sold out Madison Square Garden building in NYC. Frazer helped Ali while Ali was in exile, but Ali sometimes took things too far in disrespecting Joe Frazier in cruel, colorist ways (which I deplore). Later, Muhammad Ali would continue to fight and win the heavyweight championship against George Foreman in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire. By the early 1970’s, African Americans were very numerous in professional basketball and football. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar dominated the NBA with their skills. Both men would win championships. Gale Sayers would be a running back who would excel in the 1970’s too. The story of Gale Sayers and his friend would be shown in the ABC television movie called “Brian’s Song” in 1971. The movie was played by Billy Dee Williams and James Caan. On April 1974, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s 715 home run previous record. Before, Aaron experienced death threats and other hard ache, yet he broke the record and had a total of 755 home runs by the time he retired on 1976. Ken Norton, Joe Frazier, and Sugar Ray Leonard were great boxers of the 1970’s.

Lusia "Lucy" Harris-Stewart (born Lusia Harris; February 10, 1955) is a former American basketball player. Harris is considered to be one of the pioneers of women's basketball. Lusia Harris-Stewart was the first black woman to be drafted by the NBA. Harris never played in the NBA or any other men's basketball league but played professional basketball briefly in the 1979–80 season with the Houston Angels of the Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL). She was a great basketball player. Gail Marquis was another great woman basketball player of the 1970’s. She played in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal where her team received a silver medal. Rosalyn Bryant is another black woman involved in track and field. She was in the Montreal Olympics in 1976 too. She was born in 1956. During the decade, Oscar Robertson and Dr. J (or Julius Irving) excelled in basketball too. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in 1979 played against each other in the NCAA’s men basketball championship. By the next decade, both men would compete for NBA Final Championships with their respective LA Lakers and Boston Celtics.

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The 1968 Election

The 1968 Presidential election was one of the most important elections in history. It represented the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. It outlined the divisions of the Democratic Party and the total near unity of Republicans, who promoted “law and order" and the silent majority to control society. Some candidates readily didn’t appeal to black people or to progressives in general. 1968 dealt with labor rights, international workers’ revolts, the Vietnam War, racism, rebellions, and other events. It was an election that brought down the New Deal Coalition for decades to come after 36 years. The election came during the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was one leader of the Civil Rights Movement. There was widespread unrest in university campuses. The election campaign started as early as 1967. By that time, the Vietnam War dominated much of the resources that could have been used for the Great Society domestic programs. Landmark civil rights legislation existed. The exploration of space continued. Young people and minorities wanted a more radical society. The rise of the Black Power movement, the hippie counterculture, and New Left activism was a rejection of far right politics and mainline political establishment people too. Women rights leaders grew in influence as well.

One of the early candidates for President was Eugene McCarthy. He opposed the Vietnam War. He was supported by many college educated liberals. He had a progressive platform in economic issues. His problem was that he made comments calling Robert Kennedy supporters as not intelligent, which lost him much support. Robert Kennedy ran for President later. Many people glamorize RFK as a total progressive. It is true that Robert Kennedy was a progressive on civil rights, on pollution, on the death penalty, and on other issues. Yet, he wasn’t on other issues. He refused to support a boycott of companies supporting apartheid South Africa though he opposed apartheid on moral grounds. He wanted tax breaks to corporations to help communities.   He questioned the current policies of the Vietnam War, but he didn’t want an immediate withdrawal of military forces.

As time went on, Robert Kennedy did the wise thing by building a strong coalition among black Americans, Latino Americans, working class whites, labor, Asian Americans, and the youth in order to gain primary victories, especially in California. By California’s primary, Eugene and Robert were close in votes. When Robert Kennedy won, he could win the nomination. LBJ dropped out after the Tet Offensive. Yet, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968. It was blow to the movement for change. Hubert Humphrey won the Democratic nomination for President while Richard Nixon won the Republican nomination for President. Nixon beat Ronald Reagan and Rockefeller in the Republican primaries. Nixon called himself a new Nixon, but he had right wing views on legal matters. He wanted to use the government to suppress the liberal movements in America. He was overt about it. He wanted “law and order.” George Wallace ran for President as an Independent candidate, but he appealed to racism, extreme nationalism, and militarism back then. His campaign was very similar to the Trump campaign (of 2016).

The Democrats bickered on platform and policies. They were weakened, because of generational and ideological divisions. Four factions of the Democrats existed. One was of labor union and big cities bosses like Richard Daley of Chicago. The second faction was behind McCarthy made up of middle class and upper middle class college students and intellectuals who wanted to be the future of the Democratic Party. The third group was mostly made up of black people, people of color, Roman Catholics, and anti-war people who allied with Robert F. Kennedy. The fourth group consisted of white Southern Democrats.  Many of them or Southern Democrats supported Humphrey for his pro-New Deal policies and others allied with Wallace. The Democratic National Convention in late August 1968 had police using terror against protesters, chaos was on the floor, and divisions grew further. It was a moment of challenges. Richard Nixon promoted black capitalism or using tax incentives to help small businesses and struggling communities.

Nixon developed a "Southern strategy" that was designed to appeal to conservative white southerners, who traditionally voted Democratic, but were opposed to Johnson and Humphrey's support for the civil rights movement, as well as the rebellions that had broken out in the ghettos of most large cities. Wallace, however, won over many of the voters Nixon targeted, effectively splitting the conservative vote. Indeed, Wallace deliberately targeted many states he had little chance of carrying himself in the hope that by splitting the conservative vote with Nixon he would give those states to Humphrey and, by extension, boost his own chances of denying both opponents an Electoral College majority. Humphrey, meanwhile, promised to continue and expand the Great Society welfare programs started by President Johnson, and to continue the Johnson Administration's "War on Poverty." He also promised to continue the efforts of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and the Supreme Court, in promoting the expansion of civil rights and civil liberties for minority groups. However, Humphrey also felt constrained for most of his campaign in voicing any opposition to the Vietnam War policies of President Johnson, due to his fear that Johnson would reject any peace proposals he made and undermine his campaign. As a result, early in his campaign Humphrey often found himself the target of anti-war protestors, some of whom heckled and disrupted his campaign rallies.

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Nixon asked Anna Chennault to be his "channel to Mr. Thieu" in order to advise him to refuse participation in the talks. Thieu was promised a better deal under a Nixon administration. Chennault agreed and periodically reported to John Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference. On November 2, Chennault informed the South Vietnamese ambassador: "I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque who says his boss [Nixon] is going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer." In 1997, Chennault admitted that "I was constantly in touch with Nixon and Mitchell." The effort also involved Texas Senator John Tower and Kissinger, who traveled to Paris on behalf of the Nixon campaign. William Bundy stated that Kissinger obtained "no useful inside information" from his trip to Paris, and "almost any experienced Hanoi watcher might have come to the same conclusion". While Kissinger may have "hinted that his advice was based on contacts with the Paris delegation," this sort of " at worst a minor and not uncommon practice, quite different from getting and reporting real secrets."

In 2007, Conrad Black asserted that there is "no evidence" connecting Kissinger in particular, who was "playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion," with attempts to undermine the peace talks. Black further commented that "the Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable," and there is "no evidence" that Thieu "needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election."

Johnson learned of the Nixon-Chennault effort because the NSA was interfering in communications in Vietnam. In 2009, new tapes were declassified revealing that Johnson was enraged and said that Nixon had "blood on his hands" and that Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen agreed with Johnson that such action was "treason." Defense Secretary Clark Clifford considered the moves an illegal violation of the Logan Act. In response, Johnson ordered NSA surveillance of Chennault and wire-tapped the South Vietnamese embassy and members of the Nixon campaign. He did not leak the information to the public because he did not want to "shock America" with the revelation, nor reveal that the NSA was interfering in communications in Vietnam.

*Johnson did make information available to Humphrey, but at this point Humphrey thought he was going to win the election, so he did not reveal the information to the public. Humphrey later regretted this as a mistake. In retrospect, if Humphrey revealed that information to the public (of Nixon trying to cut a better deal in dealing with the Vietnam War), he might have won the 1968 election. The South Vietnamese government withdrew from peace negotiations (which was organized by the Johnson administration), and Nixon publicly offered to go to Saigon to help the negotiations. Dallek wrote that Nixon's efforts "probably made no difference," because Thieu was unwilling to attend the talks and there was little chance of an agreement being reached before the election. However, his use of information provided by Harlow and Kissinger was morally questionable, and Humphrey's decision not to make Nixon's actions public was called by some as "an uncommon act of political decency."

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Hubert Humphrey almost beat Richard Nixon, because Humphrey at the end of the campaign called for a bombing halt in Vietnam. In October 1968, Humphrey—who was rising sharply in the polls due to the collapse of the Wallace vote—began to distance himself publicly from the Johnson administration on the Vietnam War, calling for a bombing halt. The key turning point for Humphrey's campaign came when President Johnson officially announced a bombing halt, and even a possible peace deal, the weekend before the election. The "Halloween Peace" gave Humphrey's campaign a badly needed boost. In addition, Senator Eugene McCarthy finally endorsed Humphrey in late October after previously refusing to do so, and by Election Day the polls were reporting a dead heat.  Also on the ballot in two or more states were black activist Eldridge Cleaver (who was ineligible to take office, as he would have only been 33 years of age on January 20, 1969) for the Peace and Freedom Party, Henning Blomen for the Socialist Labor Party, Fred Halstead for the Socialist Workers Party, E. Harold Munn for the Prohibition Party, and Charlene Mitchell – the first African-American woman to run for president – for the Communist Party. Comedians Dick Gregory and Pat Paulsen were notable write-in candidates. Richard Nixon won the 1968 election.

From that time forward, many Democrats would be more moderate and compromise. Republicans would also be more conservative in their thinking. Nixon would be a controversial President and Black America would be changed forever.

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The Black Panthers and Fred Hampton (Chicago 8)

After the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many people rejected nonviolence as a way of life. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense grew into a higher level and membership radically increased by 1968. On the night of April 6, 1968, the Black Panthers had a shootout with the Oakland police. In this shoot out, Black Panther member Bobby Hutton was murdered by the police. Eldridge Cleaver was with him and Cleaver was injured. According to Cleaver and the deposition of Officer Eugene Jennings (or one of the 2 black police officers who witnessed Hutton’s murder), Cleaver and Hutton was brutalized by the police. The officer said that one officer stepped forward and shot Hutton in the head. More than 2,500 people attended his funeral at Ephesians Church of God in Christ on Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley, California. In the midst of police brutality and economic oppression, the BPP continued to have a huge following back then. The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover used COINTELPRO and other policies to try to suppress the BPP. Black Panthers spread across America. Many were arrested on trumpeted up charges. The Seattle BPP headquarters were raided in July of 1968. Captain Aaron Dixon of the Seattle BPP and Panther Curtis Harris were arrested for grand larceny. Both men were found not guilty later on. Protests continued to try to make Huey P. Newton free.

The Black Panther Party also formed alliances with non-black organizations like the Brown Berets and white progressives. Black Panthers were shot at, harassed, and abused of their rights in Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. As the 1968 election existed, Chairman Bobby Seale and Captain David Hilliard spoke to a crowd of 5,000 across the street from the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Panthers also supported international proletarian solidarity. In other words, they wanted poor and oppressed peoples to be free globally. They also explicitly opposed the Vietnam War, which was one of the greatest things that they did.  The BPP had imperfections. Many Panthers were sexists, some were violent against women (including women Panther members), and some lacked a class analysis (as you have to have both racial justice and an end to capitalist exploitation at the same time in order for liberation to come). Communications Secretary Kathleen Cleaver spoke nationwide during this time as well. She promoted black liberation and the beauty of our black African features. 1969 would be the start of the Free Breakfast Children Program or the FBCP. It first started in January of 1969 in St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, California. They helped to feed children free food, they helped to educate children, and to the Panthers it was a socialist display of a community service to humanity.

Also, they existed in response to the lax funding from the War on Poverty’s programs involving feeding poor children. The Breakfast program was very successful. Los Angeles Black Panther captain Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were murdered in Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus on January 17, 1969. There was a dispute between the Panthers and the cultural nationalist Us organization (which was exacerbated by the FBI). Black Panthers Seale and Masai Hewitt came into the Scandinavian countries (of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. These nations have social democratic policies) as a way to promote anti-war, pro-liberation views. Bobby Seale was part of the Chicago 8 or those who protested the DNC in Chicago back in 1968. Seale was gagged in trial. Early in the course of the trial, Black Panther Party activist Bobby Seale was denied his constitutional right to counsel of his choice and was thereafter illegally denied his right to defend himself. Later, he was released from prison in 1972. His charges (of inciting violence and a riot in Chicago) were serious. Many Panther headquarters in America continued to be bombed.

One of the most tragic events of Black Panther Party history was the murder of Fred Hampton in December of 1969. Hamptons’ murder was so unjust that people from across the political spectrum condemned his murder. Fred Hampton was a great leader. He was born in Summit, Illinois on August 30, 1948. He was a natural leader. He worked in the NAACP. He graduated from high school. He worked in his community and knew of the great importance of leadership. He was the greatest Black Panther member of Chicago.  Fred Hampton fought to organize gang truces in Chicago. He was publicly in favor of socialism and revolutionary change. He condemned racism and imperialism. Brother Fred Hampton fought for justice. He wanted black people, who were improvised in Chicago, to have their rights. He formed a class conscious, multiracial alliance among the Black Panther Party, the Young Patriots Organizations, and the Young Lords. They met in Lincoln Party. The SDS, the Blackstone Rangers, the Brown Berets, and the Red Guard allied with the BPP too. The truce came about in May of 1969. The FBI monitored Fred Hampton constantly since 1967. We know that William O’Neal was an informant (he committed suicide in 1990). O’Neal told the Chicago police and the FBI about Hampton’s whereabouts and where he lived. O’Neal was Hampton’s bodyguard. O’Neal tried to instigate tensions among the BPP and the Rangers. On December 4, 1969, the Chicago police executed Fred Hampton. He was asleep. The raid was organized by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan (who was criticized by Fred Hampton). Hanrahan had recently been the subject of a large amount of public criticism by Hampton, who had made speeches about how Hanrahan's talk about a "war on gangs" was really rhetoric used to enable him to carry out a "war on black youth.” Other Black Panther members were arrested including Hampton’s pregnant girlfriend. Her name is Deborah Johnson.

Mark Clark was murdered too by the Chicago police in that 1969 shooting. Black Panthers, progressive groups, and civil rights organizations all condemned the murder. Many called for an independent investigation. More people condemned this police repression like Reverend C. T. Vivian and others. Nearly every shot into the building was shot by the police. His funeral was met by about 5,000 people including Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson. The families of Hampton and Clark had to settle a lawsuit with the government for $1.85 million. December 4th is Fred Hampton Day in Chicago. RIP Brother Fred Hampton. The Black Panthers grew in New York City too. The Panther 21 were falsely accused of planning to blow up buildings in NYC. Assata Shakur was part of this group. The Black Panthers continued to grow by 1971 to reach its peak. After 1971, the Black Panther Party was split among a dispute among Huey P. Newton and Cleaver over philosophies and tactics. Many famous Black Panther leaders who were women include Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Erika Huggins, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and other people. The Black Panther Party’s anti-capitalist, pro-black liberation views inspired many back then and today.

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Richard Nixon was President from 1969 to 1974. His two term Presidency was controversial and antithetical to progressive Black Americans. Early on, he tried to gain some black support under the guise of ‘black capitalism.’ This was the philosophy that investments in capitalist enterprises in the black community would end the rebellions and incorporate black Americans into the mainstream of American society. Many black conservatives supported Nixon even former CORE and conservative civil rights leaders supported him. James Farmer was elected as assistant secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Nixon promoted affirmative action programs like the Philadelphia Plan. Nixon allied with Roy Wilkins (who was the Executive Secretary of the NAACP) and other people to work with him. Later, Wilkins opposed Nixon because of his policies on civil rights and on the poor. The hypocrite Agnew lectured many people on morality, but he resigned because he was involved in financial corruption. The law and order radical Spiro Agnew was his Vice President. He was the one who was former Maryland governor during the 1968 rebellions. Nixon wasn’t so apt to promote busing or the desegregation of schools. That was why Leon E. Panetta resigned to protest Nixon’s policies. Panetta was the director of civil rights for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Nixon promoted the view of New Federalism, which wanted more power sent to the states from the federal government (which is anti-New Deal).

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By September 1970, less than ten percent of black children were attending segregated schools. By 1971, however, tensions over desegregation surfaced in Northern cities, with angry protests over the busing of children to schools outside their neighborhood to achieve racial balance. Nixon opposed busing personally but enforced court orders requiring its use. Nixon supported the ERA. The ERA was the Equal Rights Amendment which promoted gender equality federally. Also, Richard Nixon supported the FBI’s effort to destroy the Black Panthers and progressive activist groups. Nixon declared a War on Drugs in July of 1969. Recently, the Nixon aide admitted the following: "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper's writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday. "You understand what I'm 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," Ehrlichman said. "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." Ehrlichman's comment (on tape Ehrlichman made racist remarks about black people and Jewish people. One sign of an evil, demonic person is a person who hates black people or Jewish people) is the first time the war on drugs has been plainly characterized as a political assault designed to help Nixon win, and keep, the White House.

The Nixon tapes proved that Richard Nixon was a bigot and an extremist. (On those tapes, he made anti-Semitic and racist commentaries). Nixon committed the bombing in Cambodia and other war crimes in Vietnam. He ended the draft, but that doesn’t justify his criminal actions in Watergate. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights criticized Nixon for his approval of delays of school desegregation. So, Richard Nixon was slicker than a person like Trump in advancing reactionary politics.

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Angela Davis

Angela Davis is a black woman who made many lasting contributions of the black freedom struggle. We know of her working hard during the 1970’s, but she fought for justice long before the 1970’s. She was part of the counterculture, the Communist Party USA, and she had close ties to the Black Panther Party too. She was born in the South in Birmingham, Alabama (in 1944). She is also a great educator, author, and social activist. During her childhood, she heard the bombing of homes in her middle class neighborhood. She traveled into New York City too. Her relatives were active in the Civil Rights Movement. Her mother was a national officer and leading organizer of the Southern Negro Youth Congress. Her name was Sallye Bell Davis. She grew up learning about communism and liberal thinking. She attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She also studied the Frankfurt School philosophy of the philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse criticized capitalism, modern technology, historical materialism, and entertainment culture. He was a theorist of the New Left. Angela Davis at her core was a social activist. She attended the conference on "The Dialectics of Liberation" in 1967. The black contingent at the conference included the Trinidadian-American Kwame Ture and the British Michael X.

Although moved by Kwame Ture's rhetoric, she was reportedly disappointed by her colleagues' Black Nationalist sentiments and their rejection of communism as a "white man's thing." The truth is that socialist thinking has existed throughout human history, especially in Africa, Europe, Asia, etc. Angela Davis was part of the Communist group called Che-Lumumba Club (an all-black branch of the Communist Party USA). Davis earned her master's degree from University of California-San Diego. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from the Humboldt University in East Berlin. She was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department of the University of California from 1969 to 1970. Back then, Reagan was Governor and he opposed her being a professor, because she was a Communist. Back then, there was massive red baiting in America. I believe that a Communist or a non-Communist has the right to teach wherever they want to. Angela Davis was in favor of feminism and equality. The Board of Regents of the University of California, urged by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, fired her from her $10,000 a year post in 1969 because of her membership in the Communist Party. The Board of Regents was censured by the American Association of University Professors for their failure to reappoint Davis after her teaching contract expired.

She didn’t back down. On October 20, 1969, when Judge Jerry Pacht ruled the Regents could not fire Davis solely because of her affiliation with the Communist Party, Davis resumed her post. Angela Davis supported the Soledad Brothers. She was and is a supporter of the prisoner rights movement. She condemned the prison system as inhumane, corrupt, and repugnant. On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson was armed and held up and took hostage Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages. As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge and the three black men were killed in the melee; one of the jurors and the prosecutor were injured. Although the judge was shot in the head with a blast from the shotgun, he also suffered a chest wound from a bullet that may have been fired from outside the van. Evidence during the trial showed, however, that either could have been fatal. California authorities accused Angela Davis of giving support to Jonathan Jackson in sending him the gun to do the prison break.

Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970, a massive attempt to locate and arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List; she was the third woman and the 309th person to be listed. Angela Davis was a fugitive. She left California. She lived with friends’ homes and traveled into NYC. She was captured by FBI agents in a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in New York City on October 13, 1970. Nixon congratulated the FBI on capturing Davis. She was on trial. She was found innocent by an all-white jury. She spent 16 months in jail. She once dated George Jackson. Both exchanged love letters with each other. There is no evidence that she was involved in the plot. Angela Davis was a free woman by 1972. By 1997, she publicly came out as a lesbian. To this very day, she has a love of academics and politics. She continues to speak up against the prison industrial complex, against imperialism, against xenophobia, and against many injustices.

The documentary "Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners" shows the ordeals of her life. I have the DVD at my home and it's a great, superb documentary. Angela Davis spoke out for a long time in favor of black liberation. The struggle for black freedom continues.

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When I was a child during the 1990’s, I watched many Blaxploitation films. These films blossomed during the 1970’s. They were filled with action, power, creativity, sexuality, and controversy since its inception. The movies of this unique genre readily used soul music, action, debates about black life, and on many occasions romance. Many people loved the movie genres. Many criticized it from some in the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Urban League, etc. They formed a group called the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. They believed that such films exploit not liberate black people. The truth is apparent. Many films did in fact promote negative stereotypes and focused on nihilism. I’m opposed to that since black people shouldn’t be unfairly degraded in movies. Any film that shows nihilism is a film that I don’t support. Other Blaxploitation films promoted black empowerment, strength, the strength of the black community, and love among black people. Blaxploitation movies influence hip hop, youth culture, other filmmakers, and other aspects from society. When we talk with certain slang, a lot of that has been shown in Blaxploitation films. There were similar films by the late 1960’s (there was Cotton Comes to Harlem in 1970), but the one film that took it into the next level was modern Blaxploitation film called, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad_______ Song” which came out in 1971. It was written, produced, scored, edited, and directed plus starred by Melvin Van Peebles. His son, Mario Van Peebles was in the film too in a small role.

The film was controversial. The movie was about a poor black man who fights white authority. The famous part of the film was when the black character beats down on a crooked police officer. The film has many scenes in it. It isn’t for the faint of heart. The film was funded by many creative methods. Many black celebrities funded the film. The film was released on April 23, 1971. Melvin Van Peebles stated that "at first, only two theaters in the United States would show the picture: one in Detroit, and one in Atlanta. The first night in Detroit, it broke all the theater's records, and that was only on the strength of the title alone, since nobody had seen it yet. By the second day, people would take their lunch and sit through it three times. I knew that I was finally talking to my audience. Sweet Sweetback's Baad__ Song made thousands of dollars in its first day."

The film grossed $15,000,000+ at the box office (about $90 million in 2016 dollars). The film was praised as revolutionary by Huey P. Newton and criticized by Leone Bennett as too individualistic, not revolutionary, and romanticized the harsh conditions of the ghetto. One scene of the film that I don’t agree with was the scene of the molestation of a child by a 40 year old person. Black Nationalist Haki R. Madhuduti regarded the film the same as Bennett. The film is part of our history whether we like it or not. It inspired more black oriented films to exist like Shaft and Super Fly. Spike Lee states the following, "Sweet Sweetback's Baad___  Song gave us all the answers we needed. This was an example of how to make a film (a real movie), distribute it yourself, and most important, get paid. Without Sweetback who knows if there could have been a [...] She's Gotta Have It, Hollywood Shuffle, or House Party?" In 2004, Mario Van Peebles directed and starred as his father in Baad____!, a biopic about the making of Sweet Sweetback.

The movie Shaft by Richard Roundtree in 1971 also changed the world. It showed a private detective being very confident strong and having sex with women. He fights Italian mobsters to rescue a Harlem mobster’s daughter. The movie was released in July 2, 1971. Isaac Hayes recorded the historic soundtrack of the film. It won a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture; and a second Grammy that he shared with Johnny Allen for Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement; Grammy Award for Best Original Score; the "Theme from Shaft" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The film saved MGM from bankruptcy. It showed the many black males as unapologetic in his actions. Gordon Parks directed Shaft. Parks was the legendary African American photographer. There would be future Shaft movies too.

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One of the greatest actresses of the Blaxploitation film genre was Pam Grier. She promoted black women empowerment in her films. Her films of Black Mama, White Mama (in 1972), Coffy (in 1973), Foxy Brown (in 1974), and Sheba Baby (1975) are influential to this very day. She is her own woman and she has a long career in activism and acting. Her films deal with many issues like race, sex or gender, prisons, fighting crime, opposition to the drug trade, etc. There is no question that Pam Grier was the greatest female action heroine of the 1970’s and the first woman action star of the modern era. Other black women were great actresses too. One was Tamara Dobson who acts as an agent in Cleopatra Jones (in 1973) and the sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. I watched both movies before. Many actresses wanted to break down stereotypes and portray black women as intelligent, leaders, powerful, and creative. Films like Super Fly exposed the vicious cycle of the drug trade and drug addiction in graphic terms. Prostitution is mentioned in the film, "The Mack," which starred Max Julien and Richard Pryor. Jim Brown, Yaphet Kotto, and other black actors were in many such Blaxploitation films.

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One of the most famous films of this era was The Spook Who Sat By the Door. The movie is adapted from Sam Greenlee's novel and directed by Ivan Dixon with music by Herbie Hancock. The movie is about a token black CIA employee, who is secretly a black nationalist, leaves his position to train a street gang in CIA tactics in order to become an army of "freedom fighters." The film was reportedly pulled from distribution because of its politically controversial message and depictions of an American race war. Until its 2004 DVD release, it was very difficult to obtain, save for infrequent bootleg VHS copies. In 2012, the film was included in the USA Library of Congress National Film Registry. That Man Bolt: starring Fred Williamson, is the first spy film in this genre, combining elements of James Bond with martial arts action in an international setting. Jim Kelly was in Black Belt Jones and other movies that showed black people involved in martial arts too. Jim Kelly was a real life martial artist and tennis player. Many films used satire too like the 1975 controversial film “C__nskin. Films like Dolomite, Mandingo, and Disco Godfather were other movies of this era. The Blaxploitation film industry ended by the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Homage to the genre continued to this very day from The Last Dragon, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Original Gangastas, Jackie Brown, Black Dynamite, Undercover Brother, etc. The Blaxploitation film era allowed tons of black people to express themselves in diverse ways which were unimaginable during the 1960’s. It changed culture and they became a fabric of American culture.

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Soul Train (and Music of the 1970's)

Soul Train was the brain child of Don Cornelius. Before Soul train, there was the TV show Soul!. It had celebrity interviews about black issues, music, and the news. It lasted from 1968 to 1973. Don Cornelius had a dream of showing a radio show to show the music of our people to the world. His journey was long and hard, but he fulfilled his dream and much more. He was born in the South Side of Chicago in the Bronzeville neighborhood (which is home to the Chicago Renaissance and so much of black culture). He was in the military and stationed in Korea for a while. He worked many jobs. He became a Chicago radio disc jockey too by 1966. Later, he was on Chicago TV as a host of the news program called, “A Black’s View of the News” on WCIC-TV. He first created Soul Train as a daily local show.  He merged his skills on radio and television to make Soul Train very popular. His Soul Train local show was launched on August 17, 1970. He was a celebrity instantly in Chicago. The African American beauty company Johnson Products Company (which sold Afro-Sheen hair products) funded his show to other markets. It grew into dozens of markets. Soon, Soul Train was in national syndication and he moved the show into Los Angeles in 1971.

That changed his life forever. His showed gained more popularity. Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knights &The Pips, Bobby Hutton, and Hone Cone were on its national debut episode. Don Cornelius wore suits and Afros, but he appealed to our community because he was excellent in how he performed. He showed us that black soul should have no filter and we have every right to dance and to express ourselves without apology. It or Soul Train showed black men and black women having a good time escaping drama and tensions.

Legends were musical guests from Curtis Mayfield, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, etc. His show lasted from 1971 to 2006. He wanted soul music to spread. The Staple Sisters performed as well on Soul Train.  Cornelius was best known for the catchphrase that he used to close the show: "... and you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"  By the 1980’s, he continued to host hip hop artists and other musicians. The showed allow dancers who were African Americans, Hispanic people, Asian people, white people, etc. to show their talents and gifts. The Soul Train Awards since 1985 made it known about the accomplishments of black artists even many other award shows ignored them. Don Cornelius passed away in the year of 2012 and the legacy of Soul Train is here and is eternal.

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Black music of the 1970’s was diverse, funky, creative, and exciting. By the early 1970’s, the music in many cases were the continuation of the music of the late 1960’s. The Supremes and the Temptations during the early 1970’s made great hits like Just My Imagination, etc. Diana Ross by 1970 launched her own solo career. The Supremes with Diana Ross had their final performance with each other on January 14, 1970 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Miles Davis made music too. Jamaican musician U-Roy becomes the first to record rhythmic speech over dubs, which is the direct ancestor of rapping, one of the elements of hip hop culture. The 1970’s saw the growth of disco. Hundreds of discos existed in New York City alone during the 1970’s. It was a genre that promoted fun, creative energy, and tolerance. Afro-Haitian music spread in America back then too with groups like the Ibo dancers and Troupe Shango. One of the greatest songs in human history was Marvin Gaye’s 1971 song “What’s Going On.” It was a great commercial success with critical acclaim. Gaye by that time was mourning the death of his close friend Tammi Terrell. The song was about promoting opposition to the Vietnam War, harmony among black families, love, and a more progressive world. It appealed to everyone and was a very conscious record.

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Marvin Gaye’s album’ What’s Going On” was the bestselling album in Motown’s history in 1971. The album talked about love, urban life, and ecology. Portia K. Maultsby organizes the first African American popular music ensemble at a university (Indiana University) that constitutes a credit course. During the decade of the 1970's, the Philly sound of sound was very prevalent. Groups like the O’Jays, the Blue Notes, Sigma Sound Studios, The Three Degrees, etc. performed in a high level. Records existed and recording systems grew in homes. There was home recording beyond the studios. Cassette manufacturers created music that was easily accessible to people. The 1970’s was dominated from the music of Stevie Wonder. He made classic album after classic album from the Keys to Life and other albums which were about love, harmony, and freedom. During the early 1970’s, hip hop was created by Kool Herc in the Bronx, NYC. Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" is the first "disco hit to reach the charts" in 1974. Soul singers like Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, and others inspired people.  Donny Hathaway was a genius who took soul singing to another level with his introspective lyrics. Her duet with Roberta Flack in the 1972 song, "Where is the Love?" is one of the greatest songs of the 1970's. Donny Hathaway loved music and he was an excellent composer. Roberta Flack is a great singer and writer in her own right too. Bill Withers excelled greatly during the 1970's as well. Minnie Riperton had a crystal clear, sensitive, and great voice in her songs. She lived her life in courage and with the great passion to express music to the world. She was born in Chicago (in Bronzeville) and she passed away at 1979 when she was only 31 years old. She was another genius. Her 1975 records of "Loving You" and "Inside My Love" are timeless. Her last televised performance was on an episode of The Merv Griffin Show (aired July 6, 1979), during which she performed Memory Lane and Lover and Friend.

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James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Roberta Flack, Smokey Robinson, Thelma Houston, George Benson, and others continued to make music during the 1970’s. The Jackson Five made hit records and the youth loved them. By the end of the 1970’s, the genius Michael Jackson would pursue his solo career. Off the Wall in 1979 was filled with soul and creative lyrics and caused Michael Jackson to achieve heights of super stardom and excellence involving music.

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By the mid 1970’s, dance music, disco, and dance halls continue to grow. Hip hop music filled breakdancing, emceeing and graffiti fully are developed. Earth, Wind, and Fire showed soul and R&B music. Funk bands developed. Parliament’s Mothership Connection is an innovative funk record that showed diversity in black cultural expression. By the late 1970’s, disco is popular and a backlash comes against it. The emcee begins to replace the DJ as the most prominent performer in hip hop by 1978. The Sony Walkman was invented in 1978 which allowed a portable cassette player among people. By 1979, after an effort led by Kenneth Gamble, President Jimmy Carter designates June National Black Music Month. Chuck Berry appears at the White House at the first official celebration of the month

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Black Excellence during the 1970's.

1970 saw the growth of black literature. Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Paule Marshall, and Audre Lorde wrote information that made us question life, inspired us to seek truth, and motivated us to seek justice for human beings. Broadway allowed black actors and black actresses to perform greatly. On April 19, 1970, Tony Awards were given to Cleavon Little and Melba Moore in the musical comedy play of Purlie. Purlie was based on Ossie Day’s play Purlie Victorious (which had Sherman Hemsley and the orchestral conductor Joyce Brown. Joyce was the first black conductor to open a Broadway show). On May 1970, Essence was published which featured the stories and cultural strength of African American women. The first African American woman to win an Emmy was Gail Fisher who played in the drama Mannix. By the 1970’s, a new era of black excellence transpired. The Flip Wilson show was shown on NBC in 1970 and it would continue for years to come. Flip Wilson was a famous black comedian who played many characters. New scholars and writers like Toni Morrison, Loean Forest, Ishmael Reed, Rita Dove, Elizabeth Alexander, Alice Walker, and others not only wrote literature. They defined their own Blackness on their own terms. Black artist Romare Bearden created his exhibition called, “The Prevalence of Ritual” at the New York’s esteem Museum of Modern Art.

His work called, “The Block” showed life in Harlem. During the 1970’s, Diana Ross was in many important films. They included Lady Sings the Blues in 1972, Mahogany in 1975, and the Wiz in 1978. Billy Dee Williams would be in Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, and in the Star Wars series later on. On television, black people entered a new world filled with more diverse story lines. The 1970’s saw the birth of shows on TV like Sanford and Son in 1972, the Jeffersons, Good Times, Fat Albert, the Jackson 5ive, and other shows. These shows presented black life as diverse and filled with creativity and prominent insights about life in general. Cicely Tyson is another great actress who acted in Sounder during the early 1970’s too.  Roger Wilkins is an African American civil rights leader and journalist. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in Journalism on May 7, 1973. In the same year, Marian Wright Edelman would found the Children’s Defense Fund to help the lives of the youth. On 1974, the television adaption of Ernest Gaines novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” by 1974 earned nine Emmy Awards including Best Actress from Cicely Tyson. She is the first Emmy won by an African American actress for Best Actress. Beverly Johnson was the first black model to appear on a Vogue cover in America form August 1974. The first one in British Vogue was an African American model from Detroit named Donyale Luna in 1966. The Wiz on Broadway came about in 1975 with an all-black cast of Stephanie Mills (she is a great singer), Hinton Battle, and Ted Ross. It won many Tony Awards. The film version came about 3 years later with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nispey Russell, and Ricard Pryor including Ted Ross.  Black actors and black actresses expanded their roles during the 1970's.  In 1974, Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the movie, "Claudine."  Rosalind Cash was in the movie Klute in 1971. Also, she was in Uptown Saturday Night. Her other major film roles that decade came in 1974's Amazing Grace alongside Moms Mabley and Slappy White and 1975's Cornbread, Earl, and Me alongside Moses Gunn and Laurence Fishbourne. Paula Kelley, Debbie Morgan, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, Leslie Uggams, Mary Alice, Nell Carter, Tamara Dobson, and other actresses worked hard in the craft during this decade and beyond. We honor their contributions to acting.

In terms of comedy, Richard Pryor dominated the 1970’s and beyond. He was known for his conservative humor in the 1960’s, but by the 1970’s, he didn’t hold back. He was brutally honest about his life and he was very smart. His work was honest, controversial, and he was very gifted to express humor to appeal to black people and everyone else. Very few comedians could do that, but Richard could. He has been cited by many as the greatest comedian of all time because he perfected humor mixed with social commentaries including life experience in a way that has never been duplicated since. One of the greatest plays was the play from Ntosake Shange. She performed in NYC in the East Side bar and the Public Theater. Also, she made her Broadway debut in 1976 with the play entitled, “For Colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf.” This play was about the honest portrayal of the abuse of tons of black women that still goes on today and the courage and resiliency of the spirits of black women. The play promoted love, black feminism, and power for black women. Pauli Murray was the first black woman ordained in America as an Episcopal priest. She was a lawyer and veteran of the sit-in movement.

The miniseries Roots came in 1977. Roots is about the story of Kunta Kente (which is an ancestor of Alex Haley). The movie miniseries was popular and inspired the modern day ancestry discovery movement that we see today. Also, Roots described how slavery, the Maafa, and other evils could never end black people. Black people survived despite the mistreatment. While, we know that Alex Haley made mistakes about some of the research that he has done, we honor the Roots project as a key way to recognize the importance of understanding the black experience in total. Michele Wallace criticized sexism in the civil rights and Black Power movements in her book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, published in 1979, criticized sexism in the black community and Black Nationalism in the 1960s. The book grapples with twin stereotypes of the black man and woman—black macho, the hyper masculine and hypersexualized black man, and superwoman, the inordinately strong black woman unfazed by white racism. The book criticizes black men and the Civil Rights Movement for its injurious acceptance of white society's notion of manhood. The book was criticized by Angela Davis and even Wallace's mother Faith Ringgold. To this very day, she has been criticized by Hoteps and others because of this book. Her book recognizes the necessity to promote gender equality without exception. She was on the cover of Ms. Magazine in December of 1978. Michele Williams also married a black man, so obviously she doesn’t hate black men.

I want to make that clear too. While I don’t agree with Gloria Steinem’s ties to the CIA (as the CIA is documented to do covert actions and advancing harm to progressive movements internationally), black women deserve human liberation. Michele Wallace continues to teach. In June 4, 1979, MIT student Jennie Patrick was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Christine Darden was the first black woman in America to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at George Washington University. Hazel W. Johnson was appointed brigadier general in charge of the U.S. Army Nursing Corps in September 1, 1979. She was the first black woman general in the history of the U.S. military and the first one to have a doctorate. Sir Arthur Lewis was the first black winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics during 1979. The Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum and National Archives for Black Women’s History (BMA) was opened in Washington, D.C. on November 11, 1979. It was the first national institution to dedicate itself to collect and preserve African American women’s history. This was part of the ideals of Mary McLeod Bethune who wanted education and cultural growth. In the same year of 1979, there was the founding of the Association of Black Women Historians. 1970’s saw black cultural growth into the next level.

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Social Movements of the 1970's

Tons of social movements existed during the 1970’s. One of the greatest social movements of Black America was the Attica movement. It happened in September 9, 1971. It was about opposition to bad prison conditions among black and non-black prisoners. Many prisoners were abused, raped, denied basic services, and experienced other atrocities by the prison system. This movement grew after the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. New York State imposed reactionary laws that expanded the prison industrial complex. Reactionaries promoted the “get tough on crime” rhetoric when many of those “anti-crime” policies violated civil liberties &other human rights. Richard Nixon was President of the United States during 1971 and he used policies to illegally suppress social activist groups like the Black Panthers, anti-war groups, Native American rights organizations, and labor rights organizations. By this time, inflation increased. The Governor of New York State back then was Nelson Rockefeller. The Attica rebellion caused more than 1,000 prisoners to occupy the prison.
 The Attica movement grew as a result of the death of George Jackson, who was murdered. Jackson wrote literature in favor of revolutionary change in the prison system and he was pro-socialist. The prisoners of Attica were inspired by his political philosophy. First, the prisoners in the hundreds organized a protest for Jackson. They wore armbands and maintained silence throughout the day.

Many people fasted. “We were convinced that he [George Jackson] was murdered,” John Andrini, a member of the Attica Prisoners Negotiating Committee, told the Bulletin following the events in 1971. “The day they buried him, the whole prison population fasted, and I mean all the prisoners--blacks, whites, Indians, Puerto Ricans. They were fasting and the administration was very worried about this. In fact, we were wearing black armbands that morning when we got up and they made us take the armbands off… they were frightened to see how well we could get together, unite together.” So, inmates (who are black, Hispanic, white, etc.) united to establish the Attica uprising. They wanted many demands. They wanted medical treatment that was adequate, educational opportunities, an end to racism, and fair treatment.

The rebellion was created to make the demands real. The state authorities obviously had no intention to make the demands real or to help the prison system. They wanted to crush the uprising. Rockefeller and the Nixon administration wanted suppression. Herb Blyden was one of the leaders of the rebellion. He said the following words:

“…Brothers! The world is hearing us! The world is seeing our struggle! Look at these men [the team of observers] from all over this country, coming here at our call, brothers--coming here to witness firsthand the struggle against racist oppression and brutalization. We got to show them so they can tell the world what goes on behind these walls! We are standing here for all the oppressed people of the world, and we are not going to give up or knuckle under--we are going to show the way! For we have the way!” Rockefeller sent the word of the police to attack the prisoners in Attica.

The police attacked the prisoners. This happened on September 13, 1971. It was during the morning. Helicopters, state police sharpshooters, and prison guards used weapons to retake the prison. Many prisoners were beaten and tortured with clubs, chains, screwdrivers, and other weapons. Officers indiscriminately fired at inmates. Many prisoners were threatened with castration. Frank Smith was severely beaten. Many prisoners were pardoned, but it would take until the year of 2000 until the families of the prisoners and the prisoners to be sent $8 million in compensation. The Attica rebellion showed the world of the brutality of the prison industrial complex in America. America imprisons more people than any nation on Earth today. That’s a shame.

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People in Boston fought for human rights too. The Parents Federation was a pro-African American parent group that wanted equitable education for all children in Boston. Ruth Batson was a leader in this movement and she was a parent opposed to segregation. This group existed in 1950. They were falsely red baited and shut down. The NAACP fought to end the school apartheid. Batson also continued to fight. Boston schools were boycotted in 1964. Citizens for Boston Public Schools or the CBPS fought for cross racial, class based demands to end school segregation. In January of 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march of 22,000 people to end de facto segregation executed by the Boston School Committee. The spring brought more momentum for the desegregation side. A state report found that 78 public schools in Massachusetts were segregated--an affront, the study declared, to "the American creed of equality of opportunity," which harmed Black students' self-confidence, educational experience and job opportunities, and "reinforce[ed] the prejudices of children."
The report, the successful boycott, and the rising tide of the national Civil Rights Movement spurred what looked to be a turning point in the city's desegregation effort. Boston’s 1965 Racial Imbalance Act banned segregation in Boston public school. The enemy of his movement was Hicks.

The busing of Boston showed that racism wasn’t limited to the South. It existed in the North too. During the 1960’s, integration efforts of Boston public schools came about. People fought for equality. Many Boston authorities refused such efforts. Black Bostonians led the fight to fight for equitable education and unite a fractured working class. It is a historical fact that many banks, real estate companies, and many government officials (not the advocates for busing in Boston) who colluded to keep black people and poor whites in low income neighborhoods and deny them basic services. After World War II, the Black population of Boston grew to 16 percent. Like other cities, restrictive government policies prevented many black people in Boston from getting high paying jobs and legitimate services. Schools in many low income areas lacked true funding. Residential segregation existed. There was gerrymandering that denied black people a powerful political voice in Boston. Low paying, non-unionized service jobs existed for many of our people.

These integration efforts via schooling busing continued into the 1970’s. This campaign for busing was a grassroots effort for social change and quality education for all. It wasn’t some elitist experiment. The NAACP supported Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s ruling to desegregate Boston schools in 1974. He wrote his 152 page decision in Tallulah Morgan v. James W Hennigan. Many schools were overcrowded. The busing efforts met with violence where mobs of white racists assaulted black students and black adults in Boston. Hicks formed the Save Boston Committee to fight the ruling. Hicks believed that the ruling violated parents’ rights, but if you pay taxes in a public school, then public schools must eliminate segregation. Many whites left public schools by the 1970’s. Black parents in Boston protected their children to promote freedom with networks like the Freedom House Institute on Schools and Education. Multiracial coalitions were formed to fight the racist violence against black people in Boston. Angela Davis spoke out for freedom. By November 30, 1974, Coretta Scott King led a march of thousands of people in downtown Boston and weeks later, Ralph Abernathy, Dick Gregory, and Amiri Baraka drew more than 12,000 people at the Boston Commons. 40,000 people fought for busing at the May 17, 1975 rally.

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"We wanted to show Boston that there are a number of people who have fought for busing, some for over 20 years," explained Ellen Jackson, one of the rally's organizers. "We hoped to express the concerns of many people who have not seen themselves, only seeing the anti-busing demonstrations in the media."  Judge Garrity didn’t give up and continued to fight for educational equality by policies. The most well-known incident, captured by Stanley Forman in his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph The Soiling of Old Glory, occurred in April 1976, when anti-busing activists attacked Ted Landsmark, an innocent African American lawyer, with an American flag after an anti-busing rally at city hall. The picture became international news overnight, powerfully illuminating the endemic racism in America's so-called "cradle of liberty." The busing movement didn’t cause a complete success. New evils like gentrification of South Boston and even Roxbury continues to this day where poor residents are displaced. Many of the working class is divided. Racial and class stratification continues. Yet, the lesson of busing showed that antiracial organizing and fights for economic justice are key in creating fair education for all people.

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“One ought to be against racism and sexism because they are wrong, not because one is black or one is female.”
-Eleanor Holmes Norton

Black women activism

We all owe black women are lives literally. Therefore, we honor black women forever. Black women activism existed since the dawn of human history. By the 1970’s, black women have continued to be involved in activism, literature, the arts, athletics, etc. Maya Angelou captured the lives of black American women in his classic book, “I know why the Caged Bird sings.” It came out in 1969 and it influenced feminist thought for years and decades to come. She was a civil rights activist, a journalist, a poet, a dancer, a traveler, and worked with both Dr. King and Malcolm X in her life. A made-for-TV movie version of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was filmed in Mississippi and aired on April 28, 1979 on CBS. Angelou and Leonora Thuna wrote the screenplay; the movie was directed by Fielder Cook. Constance Good played young Maya. Also appearing were actors Esther Rolle, Roger E. Mosley, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, and Madge Sinclair. Part of black women activism is the increase of black women in politics. Shirley Chisholm throughout the 1970’s was a heroic political activist who promoted progressive causes throughout her life.

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke worked in the civil rights movement during the 1960’s in the West Coast. She was the first black woman to be elected to Congress from California by 1972. She also was vice chair of the Democratic National Convention. She was the first Congresswoman to give birth while in office. She is a great role model for African American women. By the 1970’s, black feminism and black womanism were modernized in American society. I don’t respect Hoteps and one word that they or Hoteps hate is feminism. Feminism just means equality. Black feminism is a beautiful philosophy that desires total autonomy and equality for black women. Black feminism existed in the 19th century too. New black feminists grew like Bell Hooks,  Florynce Kennedy, Patricia Robinson, and other Sisters. Many black feminists also criticized the racism found in some white feminists too. Just because racism exists and must be combated doesn’t mean that gender equality must be placed on the back burner. The truth is that gender equality must exist period. Alice Walker was another great black feminist of the 1970’s too. She promoted womanism (which is that black women oppression is so powerful that black women need an end to both racism and sexism). Barbara Jordan was a black woman who was the first black woman elected to Congress from the South back in 1972. She was a Texas born lawyer. She gave the keynote speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and she served until 1978. She lived until 1996.

30 African American women in May of 1973 came into the NYC offices of NOW to discuss black feminism and fought for rights beyond a white female middle class lens. One of the women was a black woman named Margaret Sloan-Hunter. One member of this group was the well-known civil rights leader and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. These black women formed the National Black Feminist Organization or NBFO. The NBRO wanted to take on issues that many civil rights groups traditionally didn’t take up like sterilization, reproductive health issues, domestic violence, job opportunities, and other issues important to the issues of black women. Norton served as the first woman chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She represents Washington, D.C. She teaches law at Georgetown University. The NBFO at its peak had more than 2,000 members. It inspired the creation of other feminist groups. It inspired the creation of the historic Combahee River Collective (which called for the end of gender discrimination and equality of black women regardless of background). Marian Wright Edelman and Patricia R. Harris were great political black women leaders who fought for social change in the 1970’s and beyond. Toni Morrison also wrote literature in the 1970’s about issues of the black community too.

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Bakke and Affirmative Action

Affirmative action programs existed during the 1960’s, but it was heavily debated during the 1970’s. Nixon supported the affirmative action program of the Philadelphia Plan. This allowed black people to have job opportunities in Philadelphia. Many conservatives opposed affirmative action in claiming that it violated the equal protection clause. The Bakke case involved Allan Bakke. Allan Bakke was a white young man who wanted to go into college. He was rejected twice from the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. He sued the university in claiming that his rejection was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He claimed that he was rejected in favor of candidates with fewer qualifications than him. The Supreme Court ruled in Bakke’s favor. A protest of the Bakke lower court California state decision existed in Oakland on October 8, 1977. The Supreme Court ruling of the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke ruled that rigid quota systems which were based on a set group of minorities were banned. Yet, the universities could allow race, gender, and other factors involved in getting applicants to their university. The Supreme Court accepted some affirmative action policies in some cases and not in others. To this very day, conservatives want affirmative action to be banned nationwide. California has banned affirmative action, but affirmative action continues to exist in other states nationally. The issue of affirmative action continues to be discussed in our community to this very day.

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The rise of Hip Hop

This musical genre of hip hop is a genre that was created by black youth. Also, it was a musical art form which is global today. Hispanic Americans also was involved in the early stages in hip hop as well. Still, hip hop was created by black people and it is part of African American culture too. Hip hop itself is a culture and it was created in the South Bronx area of New York City during the early 1970’s. Hip hop is made up of rapping or emceeing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti art. Graffiti art grew into great heights as a product of the spreading of hip hop culture. Before the 1970’s, there has always been people rapping (Muhammad Ali said rhymes back in 1964, the Last Poets had spoken word poetry during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, etc.), but modern hip hop came about in the 1970’s. The founder of hip hop came from DJ Kool Herc.

At 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Kool Herc came out to mix samples of existing records. He deejayed percussion breaks. He mixed his music with his own Jamaican style toasting (or a chanting and boastful talking over a microphone). He wanted to energize the crowd. He created beats by loops or breaks. Many early hip hop musicians took influences from jazz and funk. Hip hop was coined by Keith Wiggins. He was from the Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. He said it in 1978. Early hip hop started among block parties and neighborhood block party events throughout New York City. Back then, the South Bronx had deindustrialization, burning buildings, gangs, poverty, drug addiction, police brutality, and other evil conditions. By 1959, the expressway came about in the Bronx. Many middle class people started to leave and poorer people of color lived in the region more. The youth among the Black and Latino peoples used hip hop as a way to be empowered in the midst of oppression by the system.

On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc was the DJ at his sister's back-to-school party. He extended the beat of a record by using two record players, isolating the percussion "breaks" by using a mixer to switch between the two records. Herc's experiments with making music with record players became what we now know as breaking or "scratching.” People used emceeing too. Emceeing is a rhythmic spoken delivery of rhymes and wordplay. It can be done over a beat. Many people competed with each other on who can rhyme the best.  Also, during the 1970’s, the MC would introduce the DJ. The DJ back then readily took more importance than the MC. In 1974, DJ Kool Herc inspired Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa (I know that he has pedophile allegation. I only mention him for historic purposes. Pedophilia is evil period) started to play at parties in the Bronx. In 1975, Coke La Rock and Clark Kent form the first emcee team called Kool Herc and the Herculoids. DJ Grand Wizard Theodore created the scratch in the same year. By 1976, DJ Afrika Bambaataa battled against Disco King Mario. DJ battling for now on was in the hip hop culture. The Rock Steady Crew (the most respected b-boy crew in history) is formed by the original four members: JoJo, Jimmy Dee, Easy Mike, and P-Body in 1977. DJ Kool Herc was almost stabbed to death in 1977, but he survived to promote hip hop music. Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Disco Wiz (the first Latino DJ), and Disco King Mario kept performing around town.

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In 1978, Kurtis Blow was managed by Russell Simmons. Later, Kurtis Blow hired Simmons’s brother Run as his DJ. By 1978, hip hop focuses more on emcees. Grandmaster Caz and Bambaataa have a rap battle at the Police Athletic league. 1979 would be a turning point in hip hop history. That would be a year when the mainstream audience started to listen to hip hop on a high level. In 1979, Grandmaster Flash forms one of the most influential rap groups ever, The Furious 5: Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover), Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Raheim (Guy Williams), and Mr. Ness (Eddie Morris). In 1979, aged twenty, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to be signed by a major label, Mercury, which released "Christmas Rappin.”  It sold over 500,000 copies. The first rap record by a non-rap group “King Tim III” is recorded by the Fatback Band. Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight” would go on to become the first known rap hit, reaching #36 on Billboard. The Cold Crush Four – was formed, comprising of Charlie Chase, Tony Tone, Grand Master Caz, Easy Ad, JDL, and Almighty KG. Mr. Magic’s ‘Rap Attack’ becomes the first hip-hop radio show on WHBI in 1979. The end of the 1979 was the witnessing of hip hop evolving into a national phenomenon. Hip hop,as an artform, is here to stay.

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An Overview of the 1980's

The 1980’s is the decade of my birth. I was born in 1983. It was a decade filled with creative cultural and musical energy. It was a decade of some of the greatest literature ever written. It was a time when international political changes were abundant which lead to the end the Soviet Union and the finality of the Cold War. Also, it was a time where the conservative backlash started to reach into new heights with the election of the conservative Ronald Reagan. Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in part because of economic problems in America. Jimmy Carter, as President back then, wasn’t all the way progressive. Ironically, Carter would be much more progressive when he left office. Reagan appealed to Reagan Democrats or once New Deal Democratic voters (many of whom used white flight into the Sun Belt too which is found in Arizona, New Mexico, etc. where technical fields were abundant) who voted for Reagan for social and other reasons. There is no question that Reagan appealed to racist sentiments during his campaign. Reagan gave a speech in Mississippi talking about “states’ rights” in a location where civil rights people were murdered by white racists. Many of them (or the Reagan Democrats) hated the civil rights reforms, the progressive economic reforms, and the women rights reforms of the 1960’s and the 1970’s. Many of them wanted a larger military budget and a more confrontational tone against the Soviet Union. Reagan is known by us who are Black Americans. Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California who opposed the Black Panthers, he criticized Dr. King during the 1960’s (and Dr. King criticized his extremism right back to him), and he ran for President unsuccessfully in 1976. I lived during the Reagan Presidency.

The vast majority of black people voted for Carter in 1980. Many black people who voted for Reagan included Thomas Sowell, J.A.Y. Parker, Dr. Nathan Wright (who was the convener of the 1968 Black Power conference as many Black Nationalists are far right conservatives not progressive revolutionaries), Ralph David Abernathy, and Hosea Williams. Abernathy later opposed Reagan in 1984 because of his views on civil rights and on the poor. Hosea would oppose Ronald Reagan by 1984 too. Most of the old guard of the civil rights leaders and black political organizations fought for Carter’s re-election. One of the first things that Reagan did was the firing of PATCO workers from an airport. He begrudging communicated with the black community, but used his powers to cut federal aid to urban communities. Reagan’s first term especially was terrible and horrendous. He would not concede any compromise with the interests of the poor, racial minorities, labor, etc. Environmental regulations were cut. Reagan assaulted many social programs by cutting the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act program, the elimination of the $2 billion Guaranteed Student Loan Program, etc. The Civil Rights Division filed fewer lawsuits. During his first term, his policies expanded poverty in America. Many of the reforms of the civil rights movement benefited the middle class and the rich of the black community. The mass incarceration state increased when more punitive sentences for nonviolent drug offenders developed throughout the 1980’s. War on Drugs policies devastated poor communities nationwide (in black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and white communities). Both major parties of the Democrats and the Republicans moved rightward. Homelessness and hunger increased during the Reagan administration.

Ronald Reagan refused to talk about AIDS until late in his Presidency. He did nothing to oppose and end the system of racism/white supremacy. Black people suffered a great deal during the 1980's. Many black middle class people and the black rich increasingly moved into the suburbs. This caused more class stratification while many black poor citizens experienced the same injustices of the past (like police brutality, racism, the mass incarceration state, economic deprivation, etc.). Schools started to be more segregated. Coretta Scott King and others made Reagan to sign a national law making the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a federal holiday. Congress passed a Civil Rights Restoration Act over President Reagan’s veto in 1988.  Jesse Jackson’s two Presidential runs in 1984 and 1988 represented the Democratic machine being resistance to Jackson’s conciliatory left social democratic policies and how the Democratic establishment rightward trend was too much for Jesse Jackson’s even moderation on some issues.

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In retrospect, Jackson was exploited and this was shown how Dukakis in 1988 made his vice Presidential running rate the conservative Democrat and Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Jackson had more success in 1988 than in 1984. President George H. W. Bush continued many of Reagan policies with a more moderate face. The conservative backlash against civil rights policies was clear in the 1989 Supreme Court decision of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. That decision ended the set aside program that gave a set number of city contracts to women and minority owned companies. This was a blow to the civil rights movement. The 1980’s saw massive hate crimes against black people from the beginning to the end of it. By the end of the 1980’s, new black politicians developed like Harold Washington, Dinkins, Douglas L. Wilder, Ronald Brown, William Gray, etc. Also, the 1980’s saw an explosion of black excellence in literature, music, movies, TV, athletics, entertainment in other areas, science, etc. It was a time of an abundance of creativity. The struggle continues. Still, we rise.

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Black Musical Excellence of the 1980's

The 1980’s saw an explosion of music. There was the growth of funk, R&B, hip hop, rock, alternative music, and other forms of musical expression. In the beginning of the 1980’s, Diana Ross made a huge comeback with her album entitled, “Diana.” It sold 9 million copies with songs like “Upside Down,” “I’m Coming out,’ and “My Piano.” Upside Down was her U.S. number 1 hit. Chic members Nile Rodgers (who is a great guitar player) and Bernard Edward composed, played, and produced the songs on the album. By 1980, there was the song of Planet Rock from Afrika Bambaatta. It emerged with a mixture of electro-funk and hip hop. Music of the 1980’s was filled with synthesizers. On September 12, 1980, Stevie Wonder made “Master Blaster (Jammin’). This song was a reggae influenced homage to Bob Marley and a celebration of the independence of Zimbabwe. It has a Number One hit in America and in Europe. Hip hop grew. Songs like the "The Rapture" from Blondie exposed many white people for the first time of hip hop. James Cleveland was the first gospel singer with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. I don’t agree with his mistakes.  In 1981, Rick James’ album Street Songs became platinum. Rick James was a singer, writer, producer, and entertainer. He set trends. He made his signature song, “Super Freak.” He performed creativity and he was unapologetic. Endless Love was a duet by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (from the Commodores) which sold greatly. On July of 1982, one of the most influential hip hop records ever made formed. It was called, “The Message.” Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released it. It described poor urban street life in stark terms. It described drugs, poverty, and other issues.

Sylvia Robinson from Sugar Hill Records promoted the song. Melle Mel performed the lyrics of the song. Melle Mel is a pioneer in hip hop. By the end of 1982, Marvin Gaye promoted his hit “Sexual Healing.” Michael Jackson dominated the charts all over the 1980’s. Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana in 1958. He was famous for ABC and he worked in the Jackson Five. By the early 1980’s, he won many Grammys for the Off the Wall album. He wanted a new album with a greater impact, so he worked with the genius Quincy Jones in order to form his Thriller album. The Thriller album was released in 1983 and it sold over 100 million copies making it the greatest selling album in history. That album solidified his status as the King of Pop and one of the greatest entertainers in human history. The album had many hits from “The Girl is Mine” to “Billie Jean.” PYT and Human Nature were other songs that made the album stand out. The album was in the top of the Billboard 200 charts for 37 weeks straight. Michael Jackson did the moonwalk in 1983 in NBC’s special called “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.”  The song Thriller was made into a video. The director of it was John Landis. Later, it showed a scene of suspense, horror, and a love interest (who was a beautiful young black woman). The video was released in 1983. Back then, MTV never showed black videos dealing with music until Michael Jackson’s Thriller album came out. Michael Jackson by 1987 had the album Bad and sold tons of records too. Michael Jackson broke down racial barriers during the 1980’s. Prince was more rebellious artistically than Michael Jackson.

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Prince was born in Minneapolis. He played in bands and played basketball in high school. By the 1970’s, he had many songs. He would gain superstar status by the 1980’s. He was a man who promoted androgynous clothing, hard lyrics, and a gift of performing many instruments. He was born in 1958. His firm album from Warner Brothers was “For You.” He made Prince in 1979. In the year of 1984, Purple Rain was his classic album. He was in the movie Purple Rain too. The movie discussed his life in Minneapolis and the joy and pitfalls of the music industry. His songs were a mix of R&B, funk, pop, and heavy metal. He made “Let’s Go Crazy” and “1999.” His album “When Doves Cry” sold over 20 million copies worldwide. He was once called a sign and created more music until his passing in 2016. In 1984, Def Jam came out to the public. Rap music expanded into including Rum DMC, Jimmy Spicer, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Curtis Blow, and other artists. The legendary Whitney Houston released her first album entitled, Whitney in 1985. She was 21 years old back then. Her song, the Greatest Love of All” reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. She had the greatest singing voice of her generation. That is why she was nicknamed “The Voice.” She was raised in Newark, New Jersey. She sang songs in New Hope Baptist Church. Her mother and other relatives were singers. Her first album sold 13X platinum (in America and (25,000,000 worldwide). Her second album called Whitney sold 9X Platinum (in America and 20,000,000 worldwide).

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Melba Moore is a great singer, dancer, and performer. Her parents were musicians and Melba Moore. She won a Tony and her records displayed the classic songs of the 1970's and the 1980's. 

Her soundtrack of the movie called The Bodyguard  sold over 44 million worldwide. She had a precious child and her child loved her mother. In March of 1985, the We are the World song sold millions to help African people. It included Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and dozens of artists. In 1986, Run DMC went into high levels. They collaborated with the rock act Aerosmith in “Walk this Way.” Their album “Raising Hell” caused rap music to see more success. Also, Janet Jackson released the Control album in 1986 too. She promoted her independence and her own innovation of music. It had collaborations with the songwriters and record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis resulted in an unconventional sound: a fusion of rhythm and blues, rap vocals, funk, disco and synthesized percussion that established Jackson, Jam and Lewis as the leading innovators of contemporary R&B. The album became Jackson's commercial breakthrough and enabled her to transition into the popular music market, with Control becoming one of the foremost albums of the 1980's and contemporary music. Janet Jackson has incredible dance moves and personal strength.

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Janet Jackson's 1989 album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 continued the development of contemporary R&B. Contemporary R&B flourished during the 1980’s. Jermaine Jackson made great records. The Whispers, the S.O.S. Band, Stevie Wonder, Kool and the Gang, Yarbrough and Peoples, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind and Fire, Evelyn King, Mtume, DeBarge, Midnight Star, Freddie Jackson, and other black artists made classic records. By the mid-1980’s, a new generation of artists and legends of the time continue to make songs. Luther Vandross had a powerful voice. Sade’s records were legendary and I can listen to her records for a long time. Anita Baker had a sensitive, great voice. Her songs flowed with imagination and she was from Detroit. Teddy Pendergrass and Peabo Bryson made records. People from Sade to Anita Baker made up of the quiet storm genre. Quiet storm has been described as "R&B's answer to soft rock and adult contemporary—while it was primarily intended for black audiences, quiet storm had the same understated dynamics, relaxed tempos and rhythms, and romantic sentiment." Tina Turner made music about love too. By the end of the 1980’s, Teddy Riley began producing R&B recordings that included hip hop influences. This combination of R&B style and hip hop rhythms was termed new jack swing, and was applied to artists such as Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Guy, Jodeci, and Bell Biv DeVoe. Solar Records in the West Coast also had incredible talent. Many artists on the label were Absolute, Babyface, the Deele, Klymaxx, Midnight Star, Shalamar, the Syvlers, Dynasty, Jon Gibson, etc.  Howard Hewett is an underrated vocalist too. Stacy Lattisaw is a nice woman and a great singer of the 1980's too.

The 1980's had a lot of fun records too from artists like Billy Ocean, Klymaxx, Sade, Chaka Khan, Angela Wambush, Cheryl Lynn, New Edition, Deniece Williams, Starpoint, Full Force, Lisa Lisa, Mary Jane Girls, The Time, Sheila E, Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, Cameo , Stephanie Mills, Teena Marie, Patti Labelle, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, O'Bryan, DeBarge, Stevie Wonder, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Diana Ross, Alexander O'Neal, etc.

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Jody Watley was another great singer whose music crosses genres. She was born in Chicago.  In 1987, she won the Grammy Award for "Best New Artist." and has been nominated for 3 Grammy awards.  Along with Janet Jackson and Madonna, she ranks as one of MTV Video Music Awards most nominated female artists ever, with six nominations for her ‘Real Love’ video. In 2008, she was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard magazine, and was also prominently featured in the historic black issue of Vogue Italia in 2008. Her early music influences are Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, The Carpenters, Roberta Flack, Prince, Grace Jones and various jazz artists including Nancy Wilson. One of the greatest singers of all time was Vesta Williams and Phyllis Linda Hyman. Phyllis Linda Hyman had a magnificent voice. Her next album, Prime of My Life, released in 1991, again on Philadelphia International, was the biggest of her career. It included her first number-one R&B hit as well as her first Billboard Top 100 hit, "Don't Wanna Change the World". The album provided two more top 10 R&B singles in "Living in Confusion" and "When You Get Right Down to It", and the less successful "I Found Love.” Miki Howard is another excellent singer.

In 1987, Eric B and Rakim promoted an advanced form of rhyming with the song “I A’int no Joke.” Rakim represented the new generation of hip hop artists who modernized lyricism in hip hop music. There was Big Daddy Kane, KRS One, Public Enemy, and other artists during that time that flourished. In the same year, Salt N Pepa came out in a higher level. They promoted black women empowerment, women empowerment in general, and their lyrics were very creative. People respected them. In 1988, the black rock group called Living Colour had their album Vivid. They wanted to refute racial stereotypes and show that black people can outline complex rock music. They fused heavy metal, funk, rock, and jazz. Their Cult of Personality song won a Grammy. During this time (of the late 1980's), a change happened in hip hop. There was the growth of more lyrics that included more profanity and sexually explicit lyrics. Groups like NWA and Two Live Crew were some of the earliest groups that used hardcore explicit lyrics. Two Live Crew dealt with sexuality. NWA dealt with sexuality, police brutality, and the situation in Compton, California. NWA was influenced by Ice T and Schooly D, which had records about street life years before the NWA debut album. Back then and today, police brutality and poverty were abundant. Gangs existed and people were desperate for human survival. NWA members believed that their music was a call for justice. Yet, there is a problem with misogyny and other evils in our world that are unfortunately found in many forms of music. No musician should use misogyny period. We never tolerate it. We have the free speech right to disagree with misogyny and any form of oppression too. Only a coward and a scoundrel would express lyrics in music to disrespect black women. Black women should be honored and respected as equal human beings 100 percent.

Of course, I don’t agree with NWA on some issues. It is important to mention this information as a reminder that we as black people made diverse music and we have to talk about all music regardless of how we feel about it. Yo! MTV raps came in August 1988 hosed by Dr. Dre, Ed Lover, and Fab 5 Freddy. They showed hip hop videos. In 1988, Public Enemy released their conscious album It Takes Millions to Hold Us Back. It merged rap and funk with African American culture. It wanted a change. Chuck D and Flavor Flav combined the lyrics of consciousness mixed with the creative expression of black people. In 1989, Queen Latifah promoted Afrocentric and feminist ideals in her All Hail the Queen Album. Her album shows lyricism and powerful talent. She was from East Orange, New Jersey. She continues to amaze people with her talent in singing, acting, and other arenas of her life. Black people were heavily involved in go-go music, techno, and other forms of music during the 1980’s. By the end of the 80’s, Tracy Chapman performed conscious music about poverty, love, and the ills of society. She had a legendary career and inspired audiences with her song and her progressive message. By the end of the 1980’s, music evolved to be more diverse, more complex, and more creative (from country music to hip hop). The 1980’s had some of the greatest music in history.

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Oprah Winfrey is a great representation of black resiliency. She was born in rural Tennessee on January 9, 1954. She was a victim of abuse when she was very young. She experienced many obstacles during her life, but she graduated from Tennessee State University in 1971. She worked in television in Baltimore and Nashville. Later, she had her own morning talk show in Chicago by 1983. She had a gift of using communication to empathize with her audience regardless of race. She formed her own production company named Harpo. Later, she developed her national show called Oprah during the 1980’s. It was very popular. I remember watching some episodes immediately when I came from school. The Oprah Winfrey shows lasted from September 8, 1986 to May 25, 2011. It was the highest rated talk show in American television history. It hosted average people, celebrities, and it discussed tons of political, social, romantic, and literary issues. It won 47 Daytime Emmy Awards. She loves Spellman (who is her boyfriend) and her life time friend Gayle. She has been overt in advocating self-help, an eclectic spiritual belief system, and literature dealing with the African American experience. She has developed her own network called the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN. She has been one of the most popular, influential women in the face of the Earth. She is the richest African American being worth $3.1 billion. She has been an author, philanthropist, and actress. She appeared on the Color Purple, Beloved, Selma, The Butler, and other movies and TV shows. To this very day, she produces TV shows, speaks globally, and has promoted education in the world.

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Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan sored into new heights during the 1980’s. He was the greatest NBA player of his generation and some say of all time. Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, NYC and was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. He had a strong passion for sports as he played baseball and basketball. He played in high school and came into North Carolina University. He played with college legends. During his freshman year of UNC, he made the game basket in the 1981-82 national championship game. He played for UNC for three seasons. He won the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984. Later, Jordan decided to go into the 1984 NBA draft before his scheduled graduation. He won the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. As an NBA Player, he made even more records. He completed his degree in 1986. While in his rookie season, he was a fan favorite even among his opposing teams. He average 28.2 ppg on 51.5% shooting in his rookie year. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the heading “A Star is Born.” This was just over a month into his professional career. He loved the Chicago Bulls. His early career saw the growth of professional basketball and popularity of black athletes into a higher level.

Michael Jordan won Rookie of the Year in 1985. He played many All Star Games and excelled in the 1980’s. The Lakers, Celtics, the Pistons, and other teams prevented him from winning a title during the 1980’s, but he won 3 straight titles in 1991, 1992, and 1993. His shoes and his corporate brand came into the billions of dollars. He received another gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Later, he retired. He played basketball (which was a dream of his) in the double A Birmingham Barons in the Chicago White Sox system. He later won another three peat in 1996, 1997, and 1998. He retired again and came back to play two seasons with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003. Air Jordan sneakers have been very popular. The paradox is that Michael Jordan is one of the greatest athletes in human history while others desire Jordan to speak more social issues (which we all must do. In the final analysis, we have to believe in social justice). While Jordan shoes are very creative aesthetically, many people have died as a product of the greed revolving around those shoes. Spike Lee directed commercials of Michael Jordan showing dunk skills. To this very day, Michael Jordan is an American icon of sports and culture. He loves his family and has worked with the youth for long decades.

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More Achievements of Black Americans (during the 1980's)

Black excellence is diverse. On January 25, 1980, former Urban League director of communication launched BET or Black Entertainment Network. Its goals was to show vibrant shows that appealed to black people, to show music, to educate black people, and to inspire growth of the beauty of black culture. Robert L. Johnson was born in Mississippi back in 1946. BET grew heavily in popularity during the 1980’s and in the 1990’s. He was the first black billionaire in America. His company was the first corporation exchanged in the New York Stock exchange that was black owned. He sold the company in 2003 to Viacom for $3 billion. The shows in BET during the early years were diverse from Teen Summit to Rap City. It had a news show too. Legendary journalists today had their starts in BET.

Jacqueline Elaine Reid was the lead news anchor of The BET Nightly News from 2001-2005. She was born and raised in Atlanta. BET was even showing college games from HBCU. Today, BET is showing new original movies and shows from Madiba to the New Edition Story. In 1981, Hall of Fame player Frank Robinson was the first black manager of an American League baseball team in Cleveland became appointed manager of the San Francisco Giants. He was the first African American to hold that position with a National League team. He retired as a manager in 2006 when he was on the Washington Nationals.

In 1980, Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters won the American Book Award. Eddie Murphy debuts on Saturday Night Live in 1980. He was 19 years old. Later, he would be movies, comedy specials, and on music videos.

By 1981, Henry Louis Gates received the MacArthur “Genius Giant” award. The award was created by John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation to reward talented human beings. By this time, Henry Louis Gates was a 30 year old literary assistant professor of English and Afro-American Studies at Yale. By the 1980’s, many black scholars rose up to express themselves like educator Elma Lewis, the writer James Alan McPherson, and the Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott. On November 20, 1981, the Dreamgirls play was debuted on Broadway. This was created by Michael Bennett. It was a start of more opportunities for black acting. Jennifer Holliday’s classic song, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” was a show stopping song, which was used in the play. Holliday would win the 1982 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. Dreamgirls would win a total of six awards. Dreamgirls was based on the music from the Supremes and music from the Motown era. Staged with a mostly African-American cast and originally starring Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Ben Harney, Cleavant Derricks, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Obba Babatundé, the musical opened on December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theater on Broadway. Many of these people would go on to be famous actors and actresses.

Charles Fuller’s play “A Soldier’s Play” won the Drama Critics’ Circle for Best American Play and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1982. A Solider's Story would be used in a movie by 1984 as well. The television show of Fame would exist in 1982. It showed the world of dance involving the youth. Debbie Allen was the choreographer and she is a dance expert too. It premiered on NBC. It lasted from 1982 to 1987. Fame is based on a NYC performing arts school. The show had a diverse cast. Fame received critical acclaim and it received 5 Emmy Awards in its first season. Debbie Allen (who was born in Houston, TX) received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. The show was on TV from 1982 to 1987. In 1982, Richard Pryor released his comedy special, “Live on the Sunset Strip” where he talks about his life, his previous cocaine addiction, and his awakening on many issues. He later won a Grammy for Best Comedy. Alice Walker's novel “The Color Purple” from Alice Walker is released too. It shows black Southern life in the early 20th century. Her book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Award for fiction, which were both firsts for an African American woman. The story of “The Women of Brewster Place” was written by Gloria Naylor in the same year. In 1982, Bryant Gumbel was named anchor of The Today Show, becoming the first African American to hold the post on a major network.

Jamaica Kincaid is an Afro-Caribbean writer who wrote literature about tourism, black life, and other types of short stories. She is praised for her progressive critiques of society. On August 30, 1983, Guion (Guy) S. Bluford, Jr., a crew member on the Challenger, becomes the first African American astronaut to make a space flight. In 1983, she won the National Book Award for First Novel. Louis Gossett Jr. in 1983 won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He is the third African American actor to win an Oscar. The first African American was Hatti McDaniel in 1940, then Sidney Poitier in 1964. Jamaica Kincaid wrote about Caribbean issues and problems in the tourism industry in her land in the 1980’s as well. Vanessa Williams from New Jersey won the Miss America in 1983 and she was the first African American to do so. Reading Rainbow came about on PBS in June of 1983. Reading Rainbow promoted literacy among children especially and it shown the beauty of literature. The 1980’s saw an expansion of black actors and black actresses on TV from Denzel Washington, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Alfre Woodward, Lynne Whitfield, Lonette McKee, Margaret Avery, Debbie Allen, Irene Cara, Jackee, Robin Givens, Paula Kelly, and Phylicia Rashad. The 1980’s saw the start of the Cosby show which showed black upper middle class life. It outlined non-stereotypical images of black people and it inspired many people. Of course, I don’t agree with Bill Cosby’s adulteries, etc. Mary Frances Berry and Blandina Cardenas Ramirez sued the President Reagan in order to place them in the Civil Rights Commission after they were fired for their support of affirmative action. In 1985,  legendary poet Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black woman selected as Poetry Consultant to the library of Congress.

Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" book was first published in 1982. She was involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and she met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before (as a student of Spellman College during the early 1960’s). Her book would exist in the film of the same title.. It was important as the movie described early 20th century black American life. Also, it showed sexual taboos, the strength of the human spirit, and friendship.  In 1986, the film The Color Purple was released to the public. Back then, it was very controversial. Today, it is more praised for its art, storyline, and acting regardless. It starred Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. It had 11 Academy Award nominations. In 2005, it became part of a play.

In 1987, Neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson makes medical history when he leads a seventy-member surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in a 22 hour operation separating Siamese twins (the Binder twins) joined at the cranium.

Throughout the 1980’s and beyond, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner (her sister in law), and Carl Lewis dominated track and field. They are African Americans who inspired countless people globally with their skills. All three of these gifted human beings won gold medals.

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There are other stories of athletic achievements of African Americans too. The first black coach to win a NCAA basketball championship was John Thompson in 1984. 1984 saw the many contributions of many black athletes in the Olympics like Carl Lewis, Evelyn Ashford, Jackie Joyner- Kersee, and Valerie Brisco-Hooks. Basketball legends who excelled in the 1980’s include Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Dr. J. Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, Isaiah Thomas, George Gervin, Robert Parish, Alex English, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and other people.  Woman basketball player Cheryl Miller (who is a champion of USC) testified before Congress in 1984 to strengthen Title IX because gender discrimination is still a serious problem. By 1986, Mike Tyson won the heavyweight title. He defeated Trevor Berbick to be the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing. Tyson was trained by the expert Cus D'amato. Mike Tyson led a controversial life from allegations of abuse, prison time, biting a man’s ear, and now he has lived a more peaceful life. He has participated in movies and shows. Mike Tyson's boxing record of 50-6 is impressive. The 1980's saw NFL legends perform like Walter Peyton, Jerry Rice, Tony Dorsett, Art Monk, Reggie White, Ronnie Lott, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Florence Griffith Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Carl Lewis won gold medals. Jackie Joyner-Kersee won 2 gold medals (in the long jump and the heptathlon), Flo Jo wins 3 gold medals and Lewis won 2 gold medals in the 1988 Summer Olympics. Art Shell becomes the first African American head coach in National Football League (NFL) in the post-World War II era when he is hired to lead the Oakland Raiders by 1989.

During the 1980’s, tons of black Americans made magnificent accomplishments. August Wilson promotes the play of Fences during the 1980’s too. Throughout the 1980’s, Toni Morrison wrote amazing literature including Beloved in 1987. Her book expressed the experiences of black people during the antebellum period.

In January 21, 1987, the fourteen hour documentary series Eyes on the Prize premiered on PBS. It was an instant classic. Henry Hampton directed the documentary and Julian Bond was the narrator of it. First, it showed the history of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1965. A second series came out in 1990 and carried the story from 1965 to the mid 1980’s. I remember watching the Eyes on the Prize series when I was in elementary school during the early 1990’s. By 1987, August Wilson won awards for his play of Fences.

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A Different World was shown by 1987. It outlined college life for black Americans. It talked about issues of AIDS, war, apartheid, rape, black consciousness, peer pressure, LA rebellion, domestic violence, politics, and racism. It combined humor and political commentaries that hasn’t been duplicated since by other shows so succinctly. A Different World described the diversity of black lives and the beauty of HBCUs. It was a show that inspired many African Americans to go into college and follow their own aspirations. It lasted from 1987 to 1993. James Baldwin passed away in 1987 in France. Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and others were at his funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. In 1987, the movie Hollywood Shuffle came about. Its leading actor in the film was Robert Townsend (who was the producer, director, and co-writer of the film). The film wanted to expose the evil stereotypes that Hollywood regularly shows against black people. The film wanted to the truth to be shown that Blackness is diverse and we should reclaim our own image in film and not let others defame our beings. On December 8, 1987, Kurt Lidell Schmoke became the first African American elected mayor of Baltimore by popular vote. Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole becomes the first African American woman president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia back 1987 too. In September 1988, Temple University offers the first Ph.D. in African American Studies. The film Colors came out in 1988 that depicted gang life in Los Angeles and people trying to create peace in the streets of Los Angeles. In March 1989, Frederick Drew Gregory becomes the first African American to command a space shuttle when he leads the crew of the Discovery. In the same year, on August 10, General Colin L. Powell is named chair of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first African American to hold the post. The Arsenio Hall show becomes syndicated in 1989. It shows music, guests, and shows creativity from a black American man. FUBU was founded in 1989 too by Daymond John. Def Jam founder Russell Simmons sells Phat Farm which is a line of hip hop oriented clothing. Family Matters existed in 1989.

By the end of 1989, Glory came out. It was a movie that remembers the all black regiments (from especially Massachusetts) who fought against the Confederacy during the Civil War. Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington including Andre Braugher acted in the film Denzel Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the escaped slave turned soldier Trip. As black people, we still rise to show excellence in the Universe.

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Jesse Jackson

The two Presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson of 1984 and 1988 represent many truths about American politics and the fallibility of the two party system. They taught us about how black people can achieve massive political successes despite obstacles. Also, it presented the truth about how the political elites use their power in trying to promote corporate interests at the expense of the working class and the rest of the American people. Jesse Jackson’s actions during his two runs at the Presidency was very important in Black American history. His Presidency came about after the massive political growth of the black community. The many great gains of the civil rights movement (as documented by many scholars) heavily came unto the middle class and the rich of the black community. Along with this growth, more black people came into the Democratic Party as mayors, councilmen, councilwomen, Senators, House representatives, journalists, and other political activists. This came about the state suppression of the black revolutionary movements of the 1960's like the BPP (who legitimately advanced the proclamation of not only black militancy against capitalist exploitation & racism, but being anti-imperialist, and pro-social justice), etc.

The 1973 oil crisis and the 1974-1975 recessions changed the country. After the recession of the 1970’s, inflation grew, corporations influenced governmental policies to promote more tax breaks for large corporations, social program cuts, attacks on affirmative action, attacks on civil rights, and unemployment grew by the early 1980’s. From 1980 to 1984, 11.5 million workers lost their jobs due to relocations and plant shutdowns. The real standard of living for average industrial workers plus their families in America dropped by one-fifth from 1968 to 1981. Even the so-called “recovery” year of 1985 still showed high unemployment for black Americans, black youth. In essence, the 1980’s saw the destruction of our communities with the crack cocaine epidemic and the continuation of the War on Drugs (which increased the prison industrial complex). Even Carter’s Presidency saw the massive deregulation of businesses nationwide, the growth of PACs, and many cuts to services.

After Reagan was President, America experienced another early recession that harmed the poor especially. By 1983, Harold Washington was mayor of Chicago and he was the first black mayor. By that time, many people called for Jesse Jackson to run for President. The problem was that the Democratic Party shifted to the right during the 1980’s. Historically, massive changes occurred via strong, grassroots social movements like the 1930’s labor movement which helped to enact New Deal reforms (and the 1950’s and 1960’s civil rights movement that caused Great Society policies to exist. These policies decreased the poverty rate in half from 1960 to 1970). Jesse Jackson was in a new world from his early civil rights days of the 1960’s (he worked with Dr. King in many movements). I will give Jackson credit for being involved in protests and movements from the Selma movement, the Chicago housing movement, and many protests in our generation. Yet, it is also true that compared to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson was more conservative along with Andrew Young being more conservative than the late Dr. King. Jesse had some reservations about the Poor Peoples Campaign initially, but he later supported it. Jesse Jackson focused more on private sector policies, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. respected democratic socialism and a radical redistribution of wealth. Dr. King was one strong critic of capitalism. Jesse Jackson supported the Chicago-based Operation Breadbasket and had no criticisms of black capitalism. The black population in the working class and the poor abhorred Reaganism and they were desperate for change. After months of chants from his supporters of "Run, Jesse, run!" Jackson threw his hat in the ring. Under these conditions (of the brutal policies of Reaganonomics), Jesse Jackson decided to run for President in 1984. He was the second African American to do so in the Democratic Party. The first African American to do so in the Democratic Party was Sister Shirley Chisholm.

His first campaign was the most progressive out of the two. He faced more opposition. Even many black politicians opposed his first campaign, because they felt that he had no chance to defeat Ronald Reagan. Many establishment Democratic members decided to ally with moderate Democrat Walter Mondale (who has been cordial to civil rights leaders). During his 1984 Presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson explicitly opposed apartheid and desired jobs for people. His campaign was very historic and he campaigned in support of the Rainbow coalition. This coalition was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition desiring equal rights for African Americans, women, LGBT Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Arabic Americans, the elderly, disabled people, and the poor. He traveled the nation. He advocated for a Palestinian state. He wanted to reform the Democratic Party from within since he felt that that was the best political way to make change. The problem was that the Democratic Party establishment shifted so much to the right that some of them wanted to out Reagan Reagan instead of advancing truly progressive change. Jesse Jackson was stuck in a catch 22. He knew what the deal was. He continued onward despite the disrespect that he experienced from the Democratic Party elites (filled with superdelegates). Gifted with a great oratory ability, Jesse Jackson inspired many Americans. His 1984 campaign had diverse supporters from nationalists, socialists, moderates, liberals, progressives, etc.

African American clergy heavily supported Jesse Jackson. The National Baptist Convention (with 6.5 million black people) allied with his campaign back in 1984 too. His platform was similar to the old school New Deal proposals along with other progressive plans from reduction from military expenditures, billions of dollars to social programs, opposition to U.S. military intervention in Central America, reparations to the descendants of black slaves, opposition to apartheid in South Africa, pro-ERA, and other proposals. Jesse Jackson made a remark about Jewish people and NYC that he apologized for. Also, Louis Farrakhan (he is a black nationalist with many conservative views on social and economic issues. We know that Malcolm X explicitly condemned capitalism by his own words, promoted gender equality, and desired an end to imperialism) was an early supporter of Jesse Jackson and Jesse Jackson had to deal with that issue. He said it in a private conversation and he admitted his error like a man and moved forward.

His 1984 Democratic National Convention was very powerful and electrified the crowd. Jesse Jackson said the following words in his speech:

"...We leave this place looking for the sunny side because there's a brighter side somewhere. I'm more convinced than ever that we can win. We will vault up the rough side of the mountain. We can win. I just want young America to do me one favor, just one favor. Exercise the right to dream. You must face reality -- that which is. But then dream of a reality that ought to be -- that must be. Live beyond the pain of reality with the dream of a bright tomorrow. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress. Use love to motivate you and obligate you to serve the human family.

Young America, dream. Choose the human race over the nuclear race. Bury the weapons and don't burn the people. Dream -- dream of a new value system. Teachers who teach for life and not just for a living; teach because they can't help it. Dream of lawyers more concerned about justice than a judgeship. Dream of doctors more concerned about public health than personal wealth. Dream of preachers and priests who will prophesy and not just profiteer. Preach and dream!

Our time has come. Our time has come. Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end, faith will not disappoint.

Our time has come. Our faith, hope, and dreams will prevail. Our time has come. Weeping has endured for nights, but now joy cometh in the morning..."

He surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi.

As he had gained 21% of the popular vote but only 8% of delegates, he complained afterwards that he had been restricted politically by party rules. Mondale would choose the first woman Vice Presidential Democratic candidate who was named Geraldine Ferraro of New York. Mondale supported the ERA and a nuclear freeze. He lost the election to Reagan with Reagan having a landslide. Back in those days, it was taboo for a certain segment of Americans to accept a black man being President of the United States. Jesse Jackson has the gift of massive registration and organization that brought tons of people into the Democratic Party. The Rainbow Coalition tried to shift the Democratic Party to the left, but they were unsuccessful during the 1980’s. The neoliberals and the rightward trend continued. The DLC or the Democratic Leadership Council or the DLC was created in 1985 in order to cause the Democratic Party to distance themselves from extremely progressive black people, people of color, women, the poor, etc. in order to curry favor with Wall Street interests and corporate CEOs. The DLC had no shame in their disgraceful actions. Bill Clinton, then an Arkansas governor, was a key figure in the DLC movement.

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Afterwards, Jesse Jackson promoted voter registration campaigns that caused the Democrats to gain most of the Congress by 1986. Jackson was always a competitor, so he worked to strengthen the Rainbow Coalition and he decided to run for President again in 1988. The second campaign was different. Jesse Jackson was more involved in trying to appeal to wide spectrum of people. The 1988 Democratic Primary was more up for grabs, so Jesse Jackson had more success in his 1988 campaign than in his 1984 campaign. A massive black American turnout caused Jesse Jackson to be second place in March 8, 1988. He finished 16 out of 21 primaries. He was the frontrunner in the delegate count. Later, he won the Michigan party caucuses with 55 percent of the vote. He appealed to many white working class people in the Midwest, especially farmers with his economic populist message. Jesse Jackson ended the race with 7 million votes or 30 percent of the total.

He called for economic justice in the midst of declining union power. By the second term of Reagan, the economy grew out of the recession, but most of the recovery was to the upper class and the rich. This grew economic inequality. Jesse Jackson’s historic primary victories caused many people to be shocked from the media to Democratic Party elites. One Time magazine cover mentioned, the headline of “JESSE!?” Charles Rangel was one leader in his campaign. A more moderation of policies existed in the 1988 campaign than his 1984 run. Many black nationalists and leftists were not in his 1988 campaign. By the late 1980’s, the military budget of the Reagan administration reached about $1 trillion. On some views, he moderated his message.

Jesse Jackson gained more support. His percent of support in Arizona (a state with only 3 percent African American back then), he grew his support from 14 percent in 1984 to 35 percent in 1988. He won Alaska and Vermont. Ronald Brown soon was named leader of the Democratic Party’s National Committee. Jesse Jackson lost, because the political elites of the Democratic Party decided to choose Michael Dukakis. Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen as his vice Presidential running mate. Bentsen was a conservative Democrat. Jesse Jackson spoke of common ground in pro-worker themes in his 1988 Democratic National Convention. He downplayed his anti-racism views during the 1988 campaign even saying that the question of racism has been “solved.” We know that is definitely not true. Dukakis didn’t campaign much in the African American community. The Bush campaign used the racist Willie Horton ad in claiming that Dukakis was “soft on crime.”

He lost the election to Bush in 1988. Jesse Jackson would continue to both advise Democratic Presidents and participate in social justice rallies and protests. The great achievements and mistakes of Jesse Jackson must be shown. Donna Brazile was a national Rainbow coordinator of the first Jackson campaign and she continued to live her life. His legacy is a legacy of a combination of things. Also, his runs for President would be a prelude to the historic 2008 Presidential run by Barack Obama. The end of the Rainbow movement represented the truth that the Democratic elites are heavily resistant to progressive, revolutionary movements unless they are co-opted to fulfill their agendas. That is why with the exception of a resolution to implement sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies, none of the major positions of the Jesse Jackson campaign made it into the Democratic Party’s platform in either 1984 or 1988.  The journey of Jesse Jackson shows the limitations of the capitalist Republican and Democratic parties. Political independence along with progressive insights is a sacrosanct value to embrace. Jesse Jackson’s historical political campaigns should always be analyzed and remembered in our continued struggle for black liberation and social justice.

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The War on Drugs

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.

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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 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.

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Racial incidents of the 1980's

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. This policy 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.

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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, was beaten by a white mob (who had baseball bats) and murdered by a white mob (with 2 shots to his chest by a handgun) 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.

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"Black people were stripped of our identities when we were brought here, and it's been a quest since then to define who we are."

-Spike Lee. 

Black Directors from Spike Lee to others

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 (who is played by actress Tracy Camilla Johns). 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 Thing 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.

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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. Next, the second era of this final series will include the era of the 1990's all the way to 2008.

By Timothy

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