Friday, January 31, 2014

Civil rights film series to be shown at Missouri Southern State University

(From Southern News Service)

Missouri Southern State University’s Spiva Library is one of a select few institutions across the country to be awarded the “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” grant.
 The series, which began Jan. 29, features four documentary films that chronicle the history of the Civil Rights movement in America and discussions led by local scholars.
 “We hope that it helps community members and students grasp the long effort to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans,” said Amber Carr, public services librarian at Missouri Southern.
 The film series will include:
 Wednesday, Feb. 5: “Slavery by Another Name”
 The film focuses on new forms of forced labor that kept thousands of African Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II.
 The discussion will be led by Dr. Norton Wheeler, an associate professor at MSSU where he teaches courses in Asian history and in U.S. history, including African American history. He is currently engaged in research projects involving Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver.
 Wednesday, Feb. 12: “The Loving Story”
 The film is the account of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.
 Dr. Ree Wells-Lewis will lead the discussion following the film. Wells-Lewis Lewis earned her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in sociology, with a minor in cultural anthropology in 1993. Beginning in graduate school, Professor Wells incorporated medical sociology into most of her academic, applied, and community service pursuits. She received a Medical Sociology Research Internship award from the Medical Sociology section of the American Sociological Association, 1989-90.
 Wednesday, Feb. 26: “Freedom Riders”
 Based on Raymond Arsenault’s book, the documentary offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South.
 The discussion will be led by Dr. Steven Wagner, a professor of history at Missouri Southern since 2000. He teaches a variety of courses in 20th century United States history, including the Civil Rights era. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1999, and is the author of “Eisenhower Republicanism: Pursuing the Middle Way,” published in 2006.
 Each event will include film clips and a discussion at noon in Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall. A screening of the full film and a discussion will be offered at 7 p.m. in Phelps Theatre, located in Billingsly Student Center. A special screening of “Slavery by Another Name” will be offered at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at George Washington Carver National Monument.
 All of the programs are free and open to the public.
 The series was made possible through the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Video- Joplin's first African-American mayor- How MLK inspired me

A report from KSN's Brad Douglas

Dozens march in Springfield for MLK

AP video- Obama honors MLK, visits soup kitchen

Biden: Improve civil rights by protecting voting rights

Video- Rockhurst students celebrate King legacy through service

Video- Obama family obseves MLK birthday volunteering at D. C. Central Kitchen

Westminster College students honor MLK by working for food bank

Event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mandela held in KCK

Video- MLK birthday devoted to community service

Video- Kansas City events celebrate Martin Luther King's life

Video: Baseball greats Hank Aaron, Don Baylor, Maury Wills talk about Martin Luther King

Video- Tulsans walk in peace to honor Martin Luther King Jr. - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Morris Dees: We need to rededicate ourselves to Dr. King's dream

(From Morris Dees, Southern Poverty Law Center)

As I sit in my office looking out at the church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached during the civil rights movement, I’m reminded of something he said that addressed longstanding attitudes about the plight of America’s poor:
“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps,” Dr. King said, “but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” 
His words are particularly relevant today – 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. Johnson’s initiatives have helped millions of Americans, including our senior citizens, stay afloat by providing a floor of support for nutrition, health care, and other basic necessities.
But today, during a period of income and wealth disparity not seen in nearly a century, what we’re seeing is not a war on poverty, but rather a war on the poor.
We’re being told by many politicians and pundits on the right – as they seek to shred our country’s safety net – that the poor, in effect, deserve their fate, that the jobless are lazy and don’t want to work, that immigrants come to our shores for handouts, and that the sick and the elderly should fend for themselves.
Meanwhile – as economic gains increasingly flow to the rich – poor and middle-class Americans are falling further behind. In 2012, for instance, the wealthiest 10 percent earned more than half of all income.
Something is terribly wrong – and getting worse. As the Associated Press recently put it, “The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ‘20s.”
At the SPLC, we’ve always been concerned about poverty. Indeed, it’s in our name – the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the earlier days, we fought in the courts to help poor, minority communities get their fair share of public resources and services. More recently, we’ve represented some the country’s most marginalized people – the exploited migrant workers and immigrants who labor in our fields to put food on our tables.
Right now, we fighting for disadvantaged children in Alabama’s impoverished Black Belt region who are trapped in failing schools while the state provides tax breaks to families who are able to send their children to private or successful public schools.
Our mission is to be there for those who have no other champion.
At the time of his assassination, Dr. King was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers and was organizing a “Poor People’s Campaign” to call attention to poverty and economic injustice.
Today, we need to rededicate ourselves to Dr. King’s dream of economic justice and to helping those who are “bootless” in our country. America, he said, has “the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver: Remembering Martin Luther King

(From Missouri Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

Until I was eight years old, my family lived in a house that had no running water, and my mom, from time to time, would feed us a special treat for dinner of a giant biscuit and a mixture of cooked water and sugar. We didn’t know why the kids living in the houses with plumbing didn’t get to have that special treat. We felt sorry for them. 

Right now, all around the country, people are just trying to put in an honest day’s work to help themselves and their families.

These are people doing all of the things we tell them they are supposed to do in America to get ahead. They are working hard, playing by the rules, and trying to provide for their families. But they’re finding that it’s not enough. You know it is not enough. 

Many years ago, Dr. King fought for economic justice with his ‘Poor People’s Campaign’, which advocated an Economic Bill of Rights that guaranteed annual income for all Americans. He believed in Whitney Young, Jr.’s statement that ‘the hardest work in the world is being out of work’, and understood intrinsically the plight of the poor and unemployed. Dr. King truly defended the defenseless, spoke up for the voiceless, and stood steadfast for the causes of justice and peace. There are many ways to honor him, but one way is to honestly reckon with the work we have left to do. 

This January 8th marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address calling on the nation to launch an “unconditional war on poverty.” This address signaled a renewed national commitment to fighting poverty through targeted policy resulting in programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants, expansions to Social Security and nutrition assistance.

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Poverty doesn’t just go away. It’s something we must constantly work to reduce. Now, the progress we made is constantly threatened by those who want to take us backwards. We mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty at a time when the very programs that have been so successful over the past 50 years are under threat. 

Congress is considering cuts to nutrition assistance and has failed to continue unemployment insurance for long-term jobless workers who were laid off through no fault of their own – an unprecedented move at a time with such high rates of unemployment. And some people want to go further. We can’t give in to these demands. Strong majorities of Americans support continuing or expanding these programs, not cutting them.

The War on Poverty hasn’t failed; our economy has failed. The War on Poverty put in place an essential social safety net that has helped keep millions of people out of poverty. This safety net goes back to early 20th century and includes vital programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and federal support for education.

But there’s much more to do to successfully keep people out of poverty and help them move into the middle class. 

The real challenge today is that there aren’t enough good paying jobs for families to live on and the cost of housing, child care, and other basic needs is far too high. Those at the very top of the income ladder seem to be only ones benefitting from economic growth. With unemployment high and wages down, too many lower- and middle-income Americans are still living in the recession.

As inequality and outsize income gains at the top continue to rise, most of new jobs created in this country pay very low wages. Consequently, 46.5 million Americans live in poverty and 1 in 3 Americans teeter on its brink because our economy isn’t working for them. 

Our safety net is working overtime to make up for the failed economy. When families fall on tough times due to job loss, unexpected medical costs and other challenges, programs like unemployment insurance, Medicaid, nutrition, housing, and child care assistance keep families on their feet.

I hear my colleagues telling folks to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but what if you’ve got no boots? I mean that both metaphorically and literally. If you lack certain basic resources, it becomes harder and harder to get by, let alone make progress. And when you’re worried about the basic necessities which we, so fortunately, take for granted—clothing, shoes, a warm coat, something to eat, somewhere to sleep—you can’t better yourself or your children. 

My father worked three jobs to get us out of public housing and into our first home where my father still resides. There were four children in our family. All four children graduated from high school and college and two earned advanced educational degrees. We didn’t need a handout, we needed a hand up, so we could gain our own foothold. 

This is an issue we can make progress on. Our nation knows how to dramatically cut poverty because we’ve done it before. Between 1959 and 1973, we cut our poverty rate nearly in half through an economy that worked for everyone and a strong set of programs that supported families when they struggled. 

Our country has changed since that time and our policies haven’t caught up: Since the 1960s we’ve seen rising income inequality, an economy that requires higher levels of education to enter the middle-class, changing family structures and an increasingly important role for women and communities of color in the labor force. We need to adapt to these changes. As I have said many times in the past during the budget debate debacles on Capitol Hill, I believe that congressional budgets are a window into the moral compass of our conscience as a nation—and the compass has gone horribly off course. Recklessly cutting vital programs like job training, education, SNAP, and unemployment insurance for millions of hardworking American families is not a roadmap to balancing the budget—it is a road to nowhere.

The American people do not deserve this. Instead they deserve good jobs to care for their families. They deserve educational opportunities for their children. They deserve retirement security and access to affordable healthcare for their families. Instead of reckless cuts to programs that support Americans who are struggling, we need to focus our attention back on rebuilding an economy that works for everyone, including investments in job creation, education, and policies that provide a hand up to struggling families.

We should start by ensuring that every worker earns a living wage. Workers should be able to earn enough to support their families. Corporations need to pay their employees decent wages and adequate benefits. And, all levels of government should pay a living wage to their employees and should require living wages of government contractors. 

We need to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation so that a family breadwinner’s pay keeps up with the rising costs of housing and other basic needs. The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be $10.56 today when adjusted for inflation. 80 percent of Americans—and majorities of Democrats and Republicans-- support an increase in the minimum wage and Congress and state legislatures need to act now to ensure that those who work full time do not end up in poverty. 

We’re at a critical point in our nation’s history, but as African Americans we survived the bitterness of slavery and oppression, held on to the hope of progress, and for generations many reached for, and in countless cases, achieved the American Dream. 

We are in no way tired. From the chains of slavery, to the picket lines in Selma, and to the highest office in the land — we’ve climbed the great ladder but still, yet still, not everyone has a seat at the table. There is more work to be done. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Supreme Court rejects Edgar Ray Killen's rehearing request

Edgar Ray Killen, convicted in 2005 for the murders of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, will not receive another hearing.

The Supreme Court denied the request Monday without comment.

Killen, 88, was convicted of manslaughter, and is serving a 60-year sentence.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Franklin McCain of the Greensboro Four dead at 74

Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, who protested at the Woolworth's Store in Greensboro, N. C. in 1960, died Thursday at age 73:

Mr. McCain was one of the so-called Greensboro Four, who sat down at lunch counter stools at an F. W. Woolworth store on Feb. 1, 1960, fully expecting that they would not be served. When they were not, they came back the next day, and the next, and the next.

As word of the protest spread, others, in ever-growing numbers, joined them. By the end of the fifth day, more than a thousand had arrived. And on July 25, the store relented and made the lunch counter available to all.

In McCain's obituary in today's New York Times,  the first day of the protest was recalled:

The next afternoon, they walked a mile to the Woolworth at Elm and Market Streets, arriving about 3:20. They bought some school supplies and waited for their receipts as proof of purchase. They later recalled chafing at how eagerly the store had taken their money for merchandise while refusing it at the lunch counter, directing them instead to a basement hot dog stand.

“We wonder why you invite us in to serve us at one counter and deny service at another,” Mr. McCain recalled saying. “If this is a private club or private concern, then we believe you ought to sell membership cards and sell only to persons who have a membership card. If we don’t have a card, then we’d know pretty well that we shouldn’t come in or even attempt to come in.”

That, he recounted, “didn’t go over too well.” But as he sat waiting for a doughnut that he knew would never come, Mr. McCain felt oddly empowered.

“The best feeling of my life,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2010, was “sitting on that dumb stool.”
“I felt so relieved,” he continued. “Nothing has ever happened to me before or since that topped that good feeling of being clean and fully accepted and feeling proud of me.”