BLACK HISTORY 🌍 SPOTLIGHT : ELLA BAKER

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was raised with her parents Georgiana and Blake Baker. At the age of 7, her family moved to her grandmother’s hometown of Littleton, North Carolina, a Small rural town. There she would hear great historic tales of courageous slave revolts, including the story of her maternal grandmother, Josephine Elizabeth “Bet” Ross, who was whipped by her master for refusing to marry a man, her master had chosen for her.

Baker would attend Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she would graduate as class valedictorian in 1927, during her college days, she also built a reputation for standing up against school policies that she believed to be unjust. After college she moved to New York City.

In 1931, Baker would join the young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL) which was a group dedicated to black economic empowerment, she would soon raise to the rank of national director of the organization.

During the 1930’s Baker worked with the Worker’s Education Project of the Works Progress Administration , there taught classes in labor history, African history and consumer education. She would also immerse herself into the political atmosphere of the time, by protesting Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and supporting the campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants in Alabama, a group of black youths, she believed were falsely accused of raping two white women. At around this time, Baker began to advocate for nationwide, local activism as a means of achieving political change.

Baker believed grassroots activism did not need charismatic leaders with a messiah complex, instead she believed and taught that the struggle should be fought by we the people in the streets, on a grassroots level.

In late 1940, Baker began working for the National Association for the Advancement of colored people (NAACP), where she first worked as a secretary, then soon began recruiting new members locally, raising money and organizing local events. She rose fast in the organization, and in 1945 was named Director of Branches.

In 1946 Baker returned to New York, to take care of her niece, which forced her to leave her leadership role in the NAACP. She would still continue to volunteer for the organization on a local level. She would soon join the New York chapter of the NAACP, where she worked hard to end segregation in public schools and police brutality against black people. In 1952 she would become president of the New York chapter.

Baker would resign from the organization in 1953 to run for New York City, city council as a member of the Liberal Party, she was unsuccessful in her bid for city office.

In 1957 Baker traved to Atlanta, Georgia to take part in a conference that was supposed to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in February of that same year, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed.

The organization’s aim was to unite black churches and their leaders, who fought against systematic white supremacy in the south, as they used nonviolent protests to fight against systematic white supremacy oppression. Baker was the organization’s first staff member, she soon began to organize voter registration, assist local activists with their local grievances, helping local civil rights activists in states like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

In 1960, Baker insisted the SCLC invite southern student protestors, who were having desegregation
sit-ins to Shaw University, for a youth civil rights conference, to discuss their struggles and go over possible solutions with the young activsts in attendance. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created. SNCC would become the most active civil rights organization in the Delta region of the United States. After the conference, Baker would resign from the SCLC and would become an advisor to the SNCC activsts.

In 1964 Baker would help organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party ( MFDP) which was to be an alternative to the racist and all-white Mississippi party.

From 1962-1967 Baker worked as staff for the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) , which was an interracial organization, that fought for social justice issues, human rights and fought against segregation.

In 1972 Baker Traveled the nation to give her support in the “Free Angela” campaign, the objective was to get justice for civil rights activist Angela Davis, whose supporters believed was targeted unlawfully by law enforcement for her political and activism activities.

Towards the end of her life, she still continued to support many causes including the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, she supported many women’s groups and spoke out against the brutally racist South African apartheid regime.

In 1986, on her 83rd birthday she died.

Here our some of her most famous  quotes:

Cornel West thoughts on the great civil rights activist Ella Baker.

For additional information use link below :

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Baker

BLACK HISTORY ✊ SPOTLIGHT : ROBERT SMALLS

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Robert Smalls was born into the harsh and inhuman system of slavery on april 5, 1839, owned by Henry Mckee. He grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina and was heavily influenced by his mother, Lydia Polite’s Gullah culture and heritage.

As an adolescent, Smalls’ master had him hired out as a laborer, hotel worker and lamplighter for the streets of Charleston.

Smalls would go on to perform work as a dockworker, sailmaker, and wheelman, (pretty much a pilot ) but slaves were not allowed to be given the honored title of pilot.

On December 24, 1856, while still a teenager, Robert smalls married Hannah Jones, when he was 17, she was 23 and was a slave working as a maid at a hotel. She already had two kids and would go on to have two more kids with Smalls, unfortunately for the couple, Robert Jr., the second of their children together would die at age 2.

In the fall of 1861, Smalls was assigned to steer the css planter. A confederate military transport, that was under the command of Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley. Their duties were to deliver troops and supplies, and to survey waterways and lay mines.

On May 12, 1862, the Planter was docked at a wharf below General Ripley’s headquarters. When the white officers left to have a night on the town, smalls and the rest of the slave crew escape to find their families, in the case of Smalls and to make their planned escape to union blockade ships.

Smalls would steer the planter safely through five Confederate harbor forts, as he gave the correct signals at the correct check points. Smalls would then head for the Union Navy Fleet, flying a white bed sheet as a surrender flag. He would surrender her cargo to the United States Navy, after escaping from slavery with his black crew.

Smalls at only 23, soon became known in the North as a hero. Newspapers reported on his exploits and the Congress passed a bill awarding Smalls and his crew prize money for the planter ship. Two weeks later Smalls would meet President Lincoln, where he would tell the president his amazing life story.

The courage of Smalls was an example that blacks were capable of fighting in the military. In August 1862, Smalls visited Washington D.C to convince President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to allow black men to fight for the Union Army. He was successful and Stanton signed an order permitting up to 5,000 African-Americans to enlist in the Union Forces at Port Royal, Smalls would go on to serve as a pilot for the Union Navy.

In 1863, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel of the United States. On December 1, the Planter (now part of the Union Navy) was caught in heavy confederate fire, the ship’s Commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender to enemy forces, but Smalls refused to give up, fearing that escape slaves would be killed. Smalls would take control of the ship from Nickerson and pilot the planter out of Confederate gun range. For displaying such valor, smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s Captain.

Soon after the war, Smalls returned to his hometown of Beaufort, where he would buy the home of his former master, his mother would live with him the remainder of his life.

In 1866, Smalls went into business with Richard Howell Gleaves, a businessman from Philadelphia, they opened a store to serve the needs of former slaves.

In 1868, Smalls served as a delegate in the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, where he took part in an effort to make compulsory school free for all children.

During the reconstruction era, Smalls served as the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, later he would serve in the South Carolina State Senate between 1871 and 1874, Smalls would also bravely in the South Carolina militia until 1877, where he served a brief stint as its commander with the rank of Major General.

Smalls would be elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms from 1875 to 1879 and from 1882 to 1883 he represented South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district in the house.

After the compromise of 1877, the U.S. government withdrew its remaining forces from South Carolina and other southern states. White conservatives who called themselves the “Redeemers” resorted to violent tactics and election fraud to regain control of the state legislature, as an effort to reduce the power of the African-American community, Smalls was arrested and convicted on bribery, he was pardoned as part of an agreement by which charges would be dropped for Democrats accused of election fraud.

After his pardon, Smalls would get back into politics, he became a delegate to the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention, with five other African-American politicians, he strongly opposed white Democrat efforts that year to disenfranchise black citizens.

Smalls would go on to serve as the U.S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort, serving from 1889 to 1911, after being appointed by the Republican National administration.

Smalls would die of malaria and diabetes in 1915, he was 75.

The legacy of Robert Smalls :

Fort Robert Smalls was named in his honor; it was built by free blacks in 1863 on McGuire’s Hill on the South Side of Pittsburgh during the American Civil War. It survived until the 1940s.
The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort, SC, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
A monument and statue are dedicated to his memory where he is interred at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.
During World War II, Camp Robert Smalls was established as a sub-facility of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center to train black sailors (the Navy was segregated in those years).
The desk that Smalls used as Collector of Customs is on display at the Verdier House museum in Beaufort.
In 2004, the U.S. named a ship for Robert Smalls. It is USAV Major General Robert Smalls (LSV-8), a Kuroda class logistics support vessel operated by the U.S. Army. It is the first Army ship named after an African American.
An exhibit at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum is dedicated to Robert Smalls’ contribution to the US Army.
Charleston held commemorative ceremonies in 2012 on the 150th anniversary of Robert Smalls’ escape on the Planter, with special programs on May 12 and 13.
The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial presented a special 150th Anniversary program on May 16, 2012 at the Kenton Public Library branch in Portland, honoring Robert Smalls’ epic voyage to freedom and his contributions to society.
Robert Smalls Parkway is a five-mile section of South Carolina Highway 170 that crosses Port Royal Island and leads into Beaufort.

Notes from Wikipedia.

For additional information use link below :

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Smalls

OPEN LETTER FROM THE STRUGGLE : THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNHEARD

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The last two days when I see the senseless and easily avoidable shooting of two black men ( Alton Sterling and Philando Castile) or see several police killed and wounded , while policing a rally against police brutality and racism, that was relatively peaceful up into the point of the shooting.

It reminds of the Martin Luther King Jr. Statement, that conservative media purposely omits from MLK’s legacy and that’s “Riots is the voice of the unheard.”

Obviously, one wrong does not correct another wrong, but hurt people hurt people. You can’t kill more unarmed black people than white mass shooters and expect that everyone will turn the other cheek like the great Martin Luther King Jr. Especially when you have seen this ridiculous movie so many times from Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, etc. And you know how it all ends, no conviction, even if caught on camera.

-Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

BLACK ✊ HISTORY SPOTLIGHT : MUHAMMAD ALI

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in the segregated south of Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942. Clay grew up in a house with a sister and four brothers. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. and his father Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. were both named after the 19th century republican politican and slave abolitionist , who was also from Kentucky.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. earned money for his family by painting billboard signs and his wife Odessa O’Grady Clay was a household domestic.

Clay would be first introduced to boxing by local police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who witnessed the 12 year old, looking very irate one day, when officer Martin spoke with the young Clay, he realized Clay was upset that a thief stole his bike, Clay told officer Martin he planned to “Whup” the thief if he caught him. Martin Told Clay, he better learn boxing first, before attempting to “Whup” the thief.

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Clay would begin his amateur boxing career in 1954, he would go on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an AAU national title and he would win the Light Heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.

In his 1975 autobiography, Ali claimed he threw his Olympic Gold medal in the Ohio River after he and a friend were denied service at a “Whites Only” restaurant. Which would eventually lead to them having to physically defend themselves against a mob of angry white racists.

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Clay would make his professional boxing debut in October 1960. In 1963 Clay would become impressive enough to become the number one contender to the crown of then heavyweight king Sonny Liston. On February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Clay would do the unthinkable and defeat the seemingly unbeatable thug with alleged mob connections, when Sonny Listen refused to answer the bell for the 7th round, making Clay the youngest heavyweight boxing champion at the time, at the young age of 22.

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Soon after winning the heavyweight boxing crown, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. would change his name to Huhammad Ali, after converting to Islam and joining the nation of Islam.

In February of 1966, Ali was reclassified by the Louisville, Kentucky Draft board as 1-A from 1-Y. Despite that fact Ali still had no plan or desire to serve in the United States’ military service. Ali openly stated in the press : “I ain’t got nothing against no viet Cong; no Viet Cong never called me nigger”.

After a successful titled bout in March of 1967, Ali had his boxing world titled stripped for refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army Service. His boxing title was suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission. On June 20, 1967, Ali would be convicted of draft evasion, he was sentenced to five years in prison and given a 10,000 fine. Ali would pay a bond and remain free, while the court’s verdict was being appealed by his legal team.

As a result of Ali’s conviction, he was denied a boxing license in every American state and stripped of his passport, so that he was unable to earn a living for himself and his family by boxing overseas. Ali would not fight professionally from march 1967 to October 1970. As opposition against the Vietnam War increased across the nation, Ali’s stance gained sympathy, his conviction would be over-turned in 1971, a few months after having his boxing license reinstated and having a couple return matches.

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Ali would soon become the number one contender to heavyweight champion Joe Frazier’s world title, in a fight nicknamed the “Fight of the Century ” due to the fact that two undefeated boxers, both held legitimate claims to the heavyweight crown were set to fight, to see who the true world heavyweight boxing champion of the world was. Ali would go on to lose to Joe Frazier, by unanimous decision, the first loss of his career.

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After several comeback fights, Ali would once again become the number one contender for the heavyweight boxing world title, which at the time was held by the very dangerous and heavy-handed George Foreman.
On October 30, 1974 in a bout nicknamed ” The Rumble in The Jungle ” held in Kinshasa, Zaire, Ali using his “rope-a-dope” style to do once again the unthinkable and defeat a man, many considered to be the hardest hitting man in boxing history, to become a two-time boxing heavyweight world champion.

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On October 1, 1975 , Ali would go on to fight his rival Joe Frazier for the third time, each having a past victory over their rival, they would fight for 14 tough rounds, Ali would say about the fight : “was the closest thing to dying I know”. Joe Frazier’s corner would refuse to let him fight the 15th round, after both of Frazier’s eyes closed, giving Ali the win by tko.

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In September 1976, Ali won a highly contested match against Ken Norton. After the bout Ali claimed he was leaving the sport to focus on his religion of Sunni Islam, having left the Nation of Islam a year earlier.

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In February 1978, Ali would fight an up and coming contender named Leon Spinks, at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The young spinks would defeat an aging and out of shape Ali, via split decision. The two would have a rematch, shortly after the first fight, in the bout, Ali would win via unanimous decision, becoming the first three time heavyweight boxing world champion.

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Following his win on July 27, 1979, Ali announced his retirement from boxing. His retirement would not last long, we would soon challenge Larry Holmes for the WBC world title, in a quest to be the only four-time heavyweight boxing world champion in history. The Ali-holmes fight would take place on October 2, 1980. Ali would be battered so badly in the fight his trainer Angelo Dundee, would be forced to stop the fight.

Despite peas to stop fighting from family and friends, Ali would fight one last time on December 11, 1981, in Nassau, Bahamas against Trevor Berbick, Ali would lose the fight, via ten-round decision.

ALI AFTER BOXING:

In 1984, Ali would be diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, it is believed by many he received the disease from years of head Trauma through boxing.

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In 1991 Ali published Muhammad Ali : His life and times. That same year, Ali traveled to Iraq during the Gulf War, in an attempt to negotiate the release of Americans being held hostage.

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In 1996, Ali would be given the honor of lighting the Olympic flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. At those same games, Ali would also receive a replacement Olympic Gold Medal .

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Years later, Muhammad Ali would go to Afghanistan as the “U.N. Messenger of peace on November 17, 2002.

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In July 2012, was a titular bearer of the Olympic flag, during the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London, England.

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After years of battling a worsening health condition, like he battled boxers in the ring, Ali sadly would lose the fight for his life, when he died of Septic shock on June 2, 2016.

Short biography on the legendary Ali

Laila Ali discusses her father’s death and legacy

Ali the Muslim

Top ten Ali moments

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION USE LINK BELOW :

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali