Lost to History – Unfamiliar Faces: Latasha Harlins and Deadwyler

The PBS Blog

Rodney King. It is a name that rings all too familiar in the history of Black America. Latasha Harlins however, is a not so familiar face.

Latasha Harlins


Latasha Harlins died 13 days after the beating of Rodney King on March 16, 1991 at The Empire Liquor Market in South-Central Los Angeles with two dollars in her hand. After attempting to purchase a bottle of Orange Juice, Latasha and Korean Store Owner Ja Du got into a verbal and physical altercation. Du thought Latasha was trying to steal the $1.79 drink, which lead to a fight. Latasha struck Du and the two mouthed words before Harlins turned to walk out the door but it was too late. Ja Du pulled the handgun from behind the counter and shot the teen in the head. The entire ordeal was caught on tape and Latasha died instantly. She was 15 years old. November…

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Review: The Free State of Jones


I saw the movie, “The Free State of Jones” today and came away with mixed feelings. I did not see the film untainted because I’d read  reviews and knew their takes before I saw it for myself. One take lambasted the film as yet another where the white savior saved the otherwise helpless black folk from their despair. I didn’t feel that way because the black folk never really got saved anyway and mostly reverted back to a similar life than when in slavery, with a different name. Those that survived anyway.

jones blacks

Another take was that it was the true story of a Union stronghold in rural Mississippi that never gets told. While the Free people of Jones County had a common enemy with the Union soldiers. They were hardly allies and got little support because the geographic area had no strategic significance.

I can see that those that don’t know their history might rally behind the hope offered by the Republican Party vs. The oppression offered by the Democrats. They apparently don’t know that today’s Republican Party more closely resembles yesterday’s Democrats, as they have since the passage of Civil Rights legislation and Voting Rights legislation of the 1960’s. As entertainment, the movie works. As art it works, assuming one of the purposes of art is to create discussion. Where the film absolutely doesn’t work is as an accurate portrayal of history.

jones black man


“Free State of Jones” makes Newton Knight out to be a hero. To do so required they omit the history that would taint his legacy. They don’t mention that after his second (and black) wife Rachel died, he fathered children with his daughter George Anne. He led a community of not only interracial mingling but more familial mingling where the children of Newton and his first wife Serena married the children of he and his black wife Rachel. These are not the stories that tend to be seen as heroic, so they were omitted.

jones and rachel

The movie is a story, heavily disputed by many as conflicting books have been written and few facts are known. Even the subtitles giving the history of Jones County and the American Civil War are at best misleading, because of what they do not say. They tell us about reconstruction and blacks getting the right to vote. They fail to mention the Compromise of 1877 which led to the Federal troops that enforced reconstruction leaving, basically ending it as Jim Crow became the new law of the land.

For the purpose of the story, Newton deserted the Confederate Army to bring his dead nephew home to be buried. Whatever his reasons for desertion, they were not that. The story suggests Newton joined the Reb’s because of conscription which forced white men to join the Confederate Army when in fact he joined of his own free will. His causes of equality and freedom for all men are suspect when compared to some of the reports of his life.

jones nephew

If your motive is a couple hours of entertainment, and you don’t mind a bit of gratuitous violence, by all means go. If you’re looking for an honest portrayal of history, you’d be in the wrong place.

All Around the World Same Song!

With regrets to Digital Underground and its song with the same title, the song is the same all over the world. We’re watching Britain adjust in both horror and glee as they realize what they’ve done, and make no mistake. They did it because of racism.

english defense league

Oh they called it other things. They called it “Nativism”, “British Exceptionalism”, “Britain First”, “Nationalism” and the overreach of government. They were  particularly upset by the EU’s unwillingness to let Britain arbitrarily write different immigration rules to exclude primarily African and West Indian emigre’s. The only thing remaining to be said (which some did say) was Make Britain White Again to make one feel right at home.

Russian racism

It would be easy as Americans who generally show little concern for or knowledge of the rest of the world, to think of racism as local. Some have declared racism actually over, and are steadily rewriting history to suggest it had never really been. The reality is much harsher. Racism is now, as prevalent as ever before, just sneakier. Slavery begat the Slave Codes which begat Jim Crow which begat Voter Suppression which begat Citizens United. Every attempt along the way to improve things with a Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act or Affirmative Action Program was later weakened or undone by the Congress, lower courts and often the Supreme Court which lets primarily older white men interpret the law of the land.

voting bline

In Britain, the Brexit vote to leave the EU was almost all about immigration without regard to what else they say. Britain went from 7% minority to 14% in what seemed to it’s citizens to be less than a heartbeat. White nationalist’s voices grew louder and louder. Especially as minorities were no longer content to stay in their designated locations in major cities. These voices are not limited to Britain and the United States but are growing everywhere that once considered themselves white countries like France, Germany, Canada, Russia,Australia and more. Racism was the basis for Colonization which countries like France effectively continue, deriving great revenue by collecting alleged debt from their former colonies. Make no mistake that the “Nationalism” growing in the white world really means something else.

Soccer racism

America you’re not alone, just perhaps a bit more sophisticated about it.” When your conservative leaders cry out, “American Exceptionalism”it’s racist. When they chant, “Build a Wall”… racist. “Make America Great Again”, you know what they’re saying. So now America, you can watch what happens when a country bites off a nose to spite its face. In November will you do the same?










For How Much Did You Sell Your Soul?


While I will highlight Republicans in Congress, make no mistake, Democrats in Congress are complicit in this state of affairs. When 90 percent of Americans want background checks and most want bans on assault weapons. When almost 100 percent of the country wants something to be done to reduce mass murders by people that have no problem getting a gun. Why can’t our representatives in Congress make this happen? Truthfully we know the answer, Congressmen and Senators have either sold their vote to the NRA or are so afraid of the NRA that they bow to their every whim.

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan… what was the price for your soul? Was it the $36,800 in campaign contributions from the NRA? Was it them allowing you to stay Speaker of the House and maintain your Presidential ambitions? You, of course know the NRA wields enough power among your fellow members that they could have you removed at any time.

Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell… was it the $26,300 you received directly from the NRA? Does being Senate Majority Leader mean so much that you’re willing to do nothing while more Americans die? Precisely because you did nothing.

The latest rationale for House members not to vote is allegedly the protection of American’s constitutional rights. That they shouldn’t undergo the inconvenience of a hearing should they incorrectly be on the no-fly list. Because people are placed on the no-fly list without due process, it would be unfair to keep them from getting a gun for that reason. Why I know that’s not the real reason, is that Republicans don’t advocate the repeal of the no-fly list altogether with its lack of due process. They recognize the importance of keeping Americans safe. Except from guns.

Republicans say this is a terrorism issue while Democrats want to make it a gun’s rights issue. How hard is it to see that it’s both? Isis and Al-Qaeda tell people to go to gun shows and buy guns to kill Americans. You Congress, ensure that they have that ability.

I want to know for what you sold your soul, so that I can see how much you value the lives of our citizens. Is the cash or power you receive from remaining in elected office worth ten lives, fifty, a thousand?

If what stands in your way is due process, work it out, I’m sure I could given the chance. If it’s partisan politics, get over it and put country first. If it’s because of payments from the NRA or fear of their power, you deserve to rot in hell for not giving a damn about the rest of us.

The Little Sister



I survey my kingdom from the throne

Many have gathered today in my honor

It is my date of birth and they come to pay homage

Kendall two


They come from near and far

Regal costumes were worn

I myself wore a red cape

And a hat for a crown


Until this point, I’ve always been the younger sister

Still younger technically but now I’ve come of age

Make no mistake I love my big sister with all my heart

Nobody messes with her without dealing with me

She’s Four

I’m now Three

kendall and gabby


I think I’ve always been aware

When I was born I knew my mother and clung to her

jessica and kids

My father took more getting used to as he kept going off to this thing called “work”

But he always came back

After he changed enough diapers and fed me, I let him into my world too

alan and kendall


When I was young I acted as a child

Now that I’m three I take my place in the world

Still the Little Sister

But also an independent force

That must be reckoned with




When Your Son Becomes a Father


You were there at his birth. You raised him as a child. And now he has become a man and father. As Father’s Day approaches. The true gift is being able to live vicariously through one’s children. I have two daughters’ and a daughter-in-law as well. They all three are outstanding mothers, putting all that they are into their seven total children, all girls. Perhaps on Mother’s Day I will discuss them, but today I speak on my son… the father.

I watch him now in the same way I observed his soccer games in his youth. While his mother was screaming, “That’s my baby!” I was normally quiet, yet watching his every move. He was an outstanding soccer player, generally the leading scorer on his teams. He had size, strength, and speed. Most importantly he had character.

He generally played over his age group which called for him to demonstrate a little more maturity than he otherwise would have. That didn’t stop him from being just a kid sometimes. In one rainy game there was a huge puddle in one area of the field and during a pause in the action, for no particular reason he jumped and stomped with both feet in the middle of a large puddle spraying water everywhere. I will encourage his children to do the same.

alan soccer

He was always responsible. Headstrong at times, he could not be punished into compliance, it took negotiation. At various times during his childhood, he had to be given privileges back so that something could be taken away. Even in those times he was respectful and soft spoken. I remember thinking, one day you’ll have children and you’ll see! He now has children.

Somehow, seemingly instantly. He gained a maturity I know I didn’t exhibit at that age. He was tall, athletic and handsome (he’s still all three) yet he proved capable of self-control in an environment with options. He handled himself well in relationships and learned from mistakes much more quickly than his father.

I first met his future wife as I was taking my youngest daughter to college in New Orleans, passing through Tallahassee where my son was in college as well. We met at a restaurant and he brought his girlfriend along so that we could meet. He and his sister were as close as any two people in life and they spent that lunch almost exclusively in conversation with each other to the exclusion of the other two present. The siblings love each other dearly still, but now his wife is properly in the lead place.

alan and jessica

I remember the day he came to dinner and asked if he could see me privately. We went into another room and he explained that he was ready to take a wife and wanted my blessing. He talked of how they loved each other even when they had nothing, and he was certain their love would only grow stronger. He was logical, concise and confident. I gladly blessed the union with no regrets then or now.

Then came the time, they announced a child was on the way. It was slipped into the middle of a conversation and they watched as the news sunk in. I was not worried that he was ready for the responsibility because that was perhaps his greatest strength. He was to become a father.

alan and jessica cute

One day in late November, a call came that they were headed to the hospital. It was way too early, the baby was premature. My own experience with premature children was mixed. I was a premature baby though one would never suspect it to see me now. Another child of mine that would have been a girl didn’t live. Attempts were made to delay the birth as long as possible to give the baby a chance but to no avail. Both of these were on my mind as I went to the hospital, determined to be there either way.

Family gathered in the waiting room. My son was in and out but mostly back with his wife as doctors were making decisions as to how to proceed. Their child was further along than the one I lost and there weren’t the deep concerns about life and death but they were concerned about the development of the lungs and wanted to delay the birth also. Ultimately, not long before Thanksgiving, a small healthy baby girl was born. She spent her first days mostly in an incubator. The baby stayed in the hospital for a couple days after her mother was released. The parents resisted the urge to kidnap their child and were finally able to bring her home. My son was now a father.

alan and baby gabby

I watched him as a father, in the same manner, I had watched him play soccer. I didn’t tell him what to do but if asked would offer my opinion. Fatherhood was a more severe test of character than soccer ever was. It, like other things, doesn’t create one’s character, it reveals it. Having a child is a test of patience and priorities. It’s a combination of love, fears, frustrations and incredible rewards. He and his wife have handled them all well. I’m sure not without growing pains but love and faith in God see’s them through. Several months later, in the midst of another unrelated conversation. An announcement about a new impending birth was made. This one went with less drama and now he stands alone in a household full of women.

alans women

My son and his wife have found their own way regarding how they raise their children. They have a partnership with roles. They each sacrifice in different ways. If he were to come to me and ask as he used to after his soccer games, “What do you think?” I would respond as follows:

  1. Embrace every moment: For all the things you’re striving for. The business you’re starting and plans for your family. Don’t let the small moments with your children pass you by. They go so quickly. Fatherhood is more than the responsibility you carry so well. It is also joy. Each hug, each time those girls run to greet you. Remember it all because those times are as important as the milestones.
  2. Maintain your own identity: In addition to the roles you have taken on as father and husband. There must be room to be you. Maintain some separate interests, friendships, and family relationships. A heightened sense of self will allow you to be better at the roles that if allowed would define you.
  3. Make time for your marriage: Work, children, and other responsibilities will consume 100% of your time if allowed. At least one of your babysitters sees those calls to give you some time, not as a burden but as an opportunity, so feel free to call.

I have no further advice. You’re doing just fine on your own. Parent’s want better for children than they had for themselves. They want their children to not only do well but be well. You have become a wonderful man and Father. I’m very proud. Happy Father’s Day!




Fee Thomas at feethomas.com

Many of you may have seen the poems I posted on behalf of someone special with no forum of her own. I posted a few of my favorites which can be found here:


Fee now has her own blog and a place to share the words that captivated me. I wish her much success and I look forward to seeing more of her week!

Go check her out at feethomas.com

Enigma in Black


“When I write there is no thought. It is complete invocation of Spirit and heart. I write, simply, because I cannot stop.”  Fee Thomas