Showing posts from 2020

Plagues Expose the Foundations of Injustice: double pandemic of poverty and COVID-19

Beloved community,

The night before he was brutally shot down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point...either we go up together or we go down together.” Fifty two years later, in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic and the poverty that preceded it, and is now deepening and spreading because of it, the truth of this statement still reverberates.
Epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only the biology of the infectious agent, but patterns of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination. We are seeing that our society is only as healthy as our sickest person, our country is only as secure as the least secure homeless family, low-wage worker, indebted student, or uninsured person. Times such as these require that we come together in bold, new ways and build a moral fusion movement that has everybody in, nobody out.
Exactly one …

In the News #bigisms #racism

'Remarkable' woman discovered as last known survivor of transatlantic slave trade
Jack Guy, March 26, 2020, CNN

(CNN) — A woman who was taken from Africa when she was just two years old has been identified as the last known survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.

Matilda McCrear was taken from West Africa to Mobile, Alabama, on board the last slave transport ship, the Clotilda, in July 1860, a UK researcher has discovered, uncovering the life of a remarkable woman.

McCrear was transported alongside her mother Gracie, three older sisters, and a man who became her stepfather, according to a press release from Newcastle University. Her two brothers were left in West Africa.

McCrear, her mother and one sister were bought by the same slaveowner, while the other two siblings were never seen again.

She died in 1940 when she was 81 or 82. McCrear's grandson, Johnny Crear, now 83 years old, said he had "no idea" she had been on the Clotilda and said the new infor…

Yellow fever epidemic of 1793

A History of Giving and Receiving (audio)
Joanne Freeman talks with Richard Newman about Philadelphia’s African American communities response to the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.
December 13, 2019, BackStory

In 1793, Philadelphia was struck by a debilitating yellow fever epidemic. With the leadership of Bishop Richard Allen, the African-American community decided to help with the relief effort and give aid to infected folks throughout the city. But in the wake of the epidemic, white residents falsely accused African-American helpers of theft and exploitation.
Joanne talks with scholar Rich Newman about the generosity of Bishop Richard Allen and his fight to disseminate the true story about the African-American aid.


Bishop Richard Allen’s account,  A NARRATIVE of the proceedings of the Coloured People during the awful calamity in Philadelphia, in the year 1793; and a refutation of some censures thrown upon them in some publications, is available on the Documenting the…

In The News #Pandemics #bigisms

The Epidemics America Got Wrong
Jim Downs, March 22, 2020, The Atlantic

By late March 1863, hundreds had died in Alexandria, Virginia. The mortality rate had almost doubled in just one night, and even quadrupled in other parts of the country. Three thousand people were dead in less than a month in North and South Carolina. The numbers in Louisiana, Georgia, and parts of Mississippi were equally as high. As a smallpox epidemic tore through the country, more than 49,000 people died from June 1865 to December 1867, the years an official count was kept.

Smallpox exploded at this time not because of a lack of protocols or knowledge—a vaccine even existed—but because political leaders simply didn’t care about the group that was getting sick. Government inaction or delay—due to racial discrimination, homophobia, stigma, and apathy—have shaped the course of many epidemics in our country. In the 1980s, for example, HIV spread as the government barely acknowledged its existence.


Russell Brand with Gabor Mate


In The News #bigisms #racism

In the News

The history of slavery remains with us today
Ariela Gross and Alejandro de la Fuente, March 9, 2020, The Washington Post

Now that the Democratic primary race has narrowed to two older white male candidates, political analysts have begun to focus on the allegiances of African American voters, who are the core of the Democratic Party base. Some have suggested that African American support of Joe Biden rests less on their trust in him, than on their distrust of white voters’ willingness to vote for a woman, a person of color or a progressive.

This reasoning suggests that African American voters make pragmatic political choices based on an understanding of the persistence of anti-black racism in our society, sometimes settling for a white candidate who they think will be least objectionable to white voters while causing African Americans the least harm.

To understand where we are today, we need to understand the deep roots of anti-black racism in the history of the Am…

In the News #bigisms #racism #1619project

The latest battle over the Confederate flag isn’t happening where you’d expect
Megan Kate Nelson, March 6, 2020, The Washington Post

Last month, the debate over the public display of Confederate flags and monuments boiled over in Tucson, when city council member Lane Santa Cruz pushed the town to ban the Confederate flag, which had been carried by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, from the city’s annual Rodeo Parade. Mayor Regina Romero agreed, issuing a statement asserting that “the flag has no place in the rodeo parade or elsewhere in our community.”

To most Americans, Arizona seems as far from the battlefields of the American Civil War as one can get.

But it was in the first year of the Civil War that what we think of as Arizona came into being — as a Confederate territory. In fact, Confederate actions in the Far Western theater of the war reveal the extent to which the Confederate flag became a symbol of white supremacy and conquest.


New Stories for an Old Confli…

Suppressed: The Fight To Vote - FULL FILM • BRAVE NEW FILMS


In The News #bigisms

In the News

TAKE YOUR FREEDOM: A Play About Slavery Pushes Boundaries in a New York Prison
Alice Speri, February 22 2020, The Intercept

A group of families and New York state officials gathered on a workday morning last month for a theatrical performance of a historical drama about slavery and human freedom. But it was an unusual setting for a play, especially for one pondering the question of liberation, because the stage was deep inside a maximum-security prison, and the actors were a group of incarcerated men, many of whom still face decades behind bars.

At the end of the play, the two-dozen cast members lined up at the front of the stage as one actor after the other removed their costumes: a simple, white T-shirt with the word “slave” or the character’s slave name written across the chest. Below the stage, in the first row, a group of suited senior corrections officials looked on uncomfortably.

Then the audience, officials included, broke into a standing ovation. The cas…

Bernie Sander's THE FILMMAKER - Eugene Debs Documentary - 1979

Eugene V. Debs: Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary is very much an educational film, stuffed with information about its subject and overflowing with an impassioned perspective, though a little on the dry side. Even then, it clearly expresses what drew Sanders to the words and vision of Debs. It doesn’t just focus on Debs’s struggle, but also emphasizes the positivity and hopefulness of his worldview. For both Debs and Sanders, their vision of a better world is as much defined by good feeling — “beauty, joy, and cooperation” in a quote from Debs — as material necessity.


In the News #bigisms

African Americans Forged Free Lives in Civil War Refugee Camps
Lawrence Goodman-Brandeis, February 19, 2020, Futurity

Goodman-Brandeis on Brandeis University assistant professor Abigail Cooper’s scholarship on Civil War refugee camps


In 1863, newly freed from bondage and living in St. Louis, 17-year-old Mary Armstrong did the unthinkable—she journeyed to the slave-holding South.

Armstrong, one of more than 2,000 former slaves who told their stories to the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project in the late 1930s, had been separated from her parents as a child when they were sold to other owners.

Mary Armstrong in 1937. (Credit: Library of Congress)

Armstrong learned through the grapevine that her kin might be in Texas so, as she says in her interview, “away I goin’ to find my mamma.”

With the Civil War raging, she set out with two baskets full of food and clothing and a small amount of money, traveling more than 1,000 miles by boat and then stagecoach to Texas.

In the News #bigisms | Slavery Illiteracy is disturbing | Freedom Found

For hundreds of years, enslaved people were bought and sold in America. Today most of the sites of this trade are forgotten.
Anne C. Bailey. Photographs by Dannielle Bowman, February, 12, 2020, The New York Times

SARAH ELIZABETH ADAMS was around 5 when her mother was sold to a slave dealer in Lynchburg, Va. The auction took place in the mid-1840s, in the town of Marion, Va. Sallie, as she was called, was herself sold that day, but not with her mother: A man named Thomas Thurman purchased Sallie to take care of his sick wife. She would never see her mother again. For the remainder of her childhood, whenever she could, Sallie would slip away and find solace under a tall white-oak tree. All alone, she would wrap her arms around the tree’s wide trunk and cry. The tree became the place where she would recall the names and faces of her family members sold away; a place where she could grieve, but also a place where she could find shade and respite from her sorrow.

This story was …

Indian Slavery

White Fragility


absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption

Little Man Little Man