Connie Hawkins: July 17,1942 – October 6, 2017

“The Hawk” was possibly the best basketball player you barely saw. The potentially best years of his career he spent blackballed by NCAA colleges and universities and the NBA, all for something he could not have done.

His high school teams went undefeated as a junior and senior, winning the New York Public School Athletic League title both years. He averaged 25.5 pts as a senior, scoring 60 one night. He received an athletic scholarship to the University of Iowa but was expelled after being caught up in the 1961 College Basketball Gambling Scandal, accused of shaving points. He could not have done so because freshman weren’t allowed to participate in varsity sports, which he never got a chance to play. His name came up in a conversation and New York detectives proclaimed him guilty by association. He was denied legal representation when talking to them, ultimately he was neither arrested nor indicted.

After his class graduated (more arcane NBA rules) he went undrafted by the NBA and went on to play with the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League (ABL) where he was named MVP. The League folded after his first year and he spent four years with the Harlem Globetrotters. He also filed a $6 million lawsuit against the NBA for unfairly banning him when there was no evidence against him. While the lawsuit was pending, he played for the Pittsburgh Pipers of the new American Basketball Association (ABA) where he led the league in scoring and was named the regular season and playoff MVP. He eventually settled with the NBA for $1.3 million and his rights were assigned to the expansion Phoenix Suns. Despite having undergone knee surgery, he averaged 24.6 points and 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists his first year. Because of his knee, he only played 7 years in the NBA though was an All-Star 4 times.

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The summary of Connie’s career doesn’t begin to describe his ability and impact. Despite his success with the Globetrotters, ABL, ABA, and NBA. What all the words before fail to articulate is that Connie Hawkins was a legend. He made his name on the playgrounds of New York and the famous Rucker League. When Oscar Robertson saw him play, he asked, “What college does he play for?” Connie was a junior in high school at the time. A star Rucker League player said, “Wilt Chamberlain was the best player I ever went up against, Connie was next.” He had huge hands and could palm a ball and wave it around. Helicopter dunks, plucking a quarter off the top of the backboard, Connie did all that but it was the way he embarrassed players on the court that made him special. He was magic.

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When he finally made it to his first NBA All-Star game, I was a sophomore in high school. He didn’t start the game, but when he finally got in, he made a move I’d never seen on a basketball court before. The next day at school in gym class, we spent an hour trying to duplicate what we ultimately could not.

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We never got to see The Hawk in his prime on national television. That is our loss. In 1992, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. There’s already a book about his life, “Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story.” I’ve read it and heartily recommend it to any who wish to know more about the man behind the legend. Rest in Peace Connie!

 

Invisible Once Again

In 1952, Ralph Ellison published the acclaimed novel, “Invisible Man.” It delved into the issues facing African-Americans of the time, especially Black identity and his disillusionment with Political Parties in general and Socialism in particular. It focused on the “social invisibility” of the Black man. Looked at without being seen.

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Photo: buzzfeed.com

The 1950’s was not a unique time in American history in that the Black man was always invisible in terms of rights, self-determination and even viability without some form of interdependence in the greater white society. The Black man in America was regulated first by the slave codes, then Jim Crow, and even now in a general sense by all the ways he is still rendered invisible by those who classify him in a manner so that doesn’t count.

There was a moment in time in America when a Black man wasn’t invisible. The eight years that Barack Obama was President of the United States of America brought a visibility to that Black man that in some ways tore apart this country. It wasn’t his words or deeds, he behaved much in the manner of many American Presidents, doing so with exceeding grace. It was his existence that divided the nation as his omnipresence on the American landscape was more than some could endure.

Every attempt was made to send him back to invisibility, whether it be questioning his birth and eligibility to be President, or obstructing everything he did and denying him a legacy. The election of the current President can be traced to the desire of many to obliterate the memory of Obama and make him invisible again.

Once Trump became President, he set out to destroy every accomplishment of the previous Administration. While failing to accomplish anything legislatively. He’s used Executive Power and agency rule changes to bring back mass incarceration, suppress votes and turn the Federal Government’s back on oppressive police tactics. His perfect world brings back “Stop & Frisk” and would have a policeman on every inner-city block using unrestrained force in a world where only Blue Lives Matter. The Black man would be rendered not quite invisible, but labeled in a manner easily discounted. Thug, animal, criminal…one whose mere presence elicits fear which allows he be shot dead with no recourse while strangely reaching into an empty waistband or sometimes with hands up.

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Photo: twitter.com

White America offers limited visibility to those who excel at sports, entertain, or publicly toe the line. Until such time as they forget their role and their status is revoked. Athletes are revered until they develop a social conscience and then must be taken down. They can represent the best of Blackness unless of course, they get too Black. Entertainers can sing about making it rain in the strip club without fear of backlash but there’s a short leash if they try to exercise political power. Clarence Thomas is a silent overseer, Ben Carson is #Sad. Both perform their respective tasks on cue and go back to the lives compliance affords them.

There is a need to label Black organizations and make them dismissible, and therefore invisible. They fear Black Lives Matter and its potential for upsetting the apple cart. They call them racist and violent and want them seen as a hate group. They fail to recognize that Black Lives Matter, IS the non-violent response. These are the voices they wish silenced while First Amendment Rights for Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are validated. The President is a White Supremacist, surrounded by the same, like Jemele Hill, I won’t take back saying so.

The Black woman uniquely suffers from invisibility. Attempts at solidarity with her allies in the fight for Women’s Rights often find them tossed aside as the goal nears. She watches her one-time sisters reap the benefits while she gets table scraps. The Women’s Suffrage movement needed Ida B Wells on their side, when it came time for her allies to support her causes, the call went unanswered. Another uneasy alliance is with Black men. Lacking control in most aspects of their own lives, Black men sometimes seek to control that which they could, their women.

In the Age of Trump, racism isn’t really racism as long as it’s justified. Black on Black crime, a high illegitimate birth rate, saggy pants… these and more are the excuses they give to not be concerned with wrongful police shootings, voter suppression and the racist occupants in the White House. I’m engaging in a long-running, wide-ranging conversation online with several that have tried to render me invisible. Their anonymity gives them strength as they attempt to dismiss what I say by discounting the messenger. Amazingly, a turn came when they discovered how much we have in common. We’ve read the same books, and have some similar interests. They tell me of the struggles of their people and for a moment see similarities. Yet when the topic switches back to race I’ll once again be a “self-pitying victim” dwelling on something relegated to the past. I’ll be invisible once again.

We must recognize that making Black people invisible is a strategy, a means to an end. One that ultimately requires our participation to be successful. Invisibility can be defeated by shining a light on it. Ellison said in his novel, “the truth is the light, and light is the truth,” Don’t allow your message to be discounted but insist the actual merits be discussed. Support the organizations that work on your behalf with your time, energy and money. Continue to fight injustice even when the Government temporarily turns its back for that too will change. There is an arc that bends toward justice and making yourself visible despite all the attempts to ignore you will bring that day sooner!

Featured Photo: playbuzz.com

 

“I See Dead People!”

I’ve been blogging for almost 15 months, beginning on my birthday, March 30, 2016. Because my website host keeps all kinds of statistics, I know I’ve made 317 posts (excluding this one). I’ve written 215 about politics. Three of my granddaughters have worked their way into print.

I’ve written about education, done a few film reviews, given my thoughts on events of social relevance and often wrote about systemic injustice. I’ve begun a monthly series on “Shadow Warriors” to place a spotlight on the good works of others who have yet to receive national recognition. Generally something inspires a thought and it churns around in my head for a brief period until I sit at my computer and write the story.

I generally include multiple photos with my stories to give my words more impact. I often search the Internet and save the photo’s I use to my computer before uploading them to my blog posts. For whatever reason that someone more tech savvy than I could easily correct. The images I save often become a rotating screensaver, popping up after my screen has been idle for a period.

During the day, I rarely pay attention to the pictures. I check my laptop often enough that the screensaver isn’t activated that much and when it is I barely notice. It’s at night that I might be confronted with an image of someone I’ve written about. All too often someone unjustly killed. All too often shot by police under various circumstances. One was a child asleep on a couch, another playing with a toy in a park, several for being BWD (Black while driving). The reasons varied greatly, the one thing in common was the apparent fear for their lives police officers had when confronting these people with no weapons. One did have a weapon which he had a legal right to own. He politely informed the officer he had one and within seconds was shot dead. When I pass my computer in the night… I see dead people.

The first person I wrote about that was taken from us far too soon was Tanya Skeen. “Miss Tanya” was not a victim of police violence but was shot while standing in her own kitchen, an innocent bystander during a shootout. Another bystander, Gino Nicolas, was killed nearby as well. There was great outrage in the community and cooperation with law enforcement.  Like everyone else in the community, I was grateful when the police caught the killers who are nearing trial. Tanya Skeen used to babysit one of those granddaughters I’ve written about. Tanya was always cheerful with an infectious smile. My granddaughter learned what going to heaven is.

Tanya Skeen

Photo: twitter.com

July 2016 brought us the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The police officer who shot Castile had just been told, “Sir, I do have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.” Seconds later the officer shot him four times, in “fear for his life.” He was found not guilty. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I didn’t write about Tamir Rice at the time of his death but did mention him, including a picture in a piece about Colin Kaepernick in August. The Devil was busy last August which gave us the deaths of Tyree King who allegedly had a BB gun. The three bullets that struck him were in the back. Terence Crutcher was killed outside his car, with his hands up. Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina was waiting for his son to get out of school. Alfred Olango’s sister called 911 to get help for her brother with mental health issues. He was unarmed but still ended up dead. All were killed by police… in fear of their lives.

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Photo: newschannel5.com

On November 21, 2016. 15-year-old James Means was killed, not by a policeman but by 62-year-old William Pullman who allegedly had been bumped into. Pullman had no remorse. He said, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the streets.” After shooting the teenager twice in the stomach, Pullman went home and had dinner. He later hung out at a friend’s home. When he was later arrested he lamented, “I’m going to lose my job and everything!”

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Photo:twitter.com

I wasn’t writing only about depressing murders at that time. Of course, there was the equally depressing election of Donald Trump and his bringing with him Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and more. I wrote about my daughter-in-law’s attempts to  kill me, with repeated overdoses of cookies. My grandmother, old friends and my high school basketball coach were highlighted in stories. Somehow their pictures didn’t make it into my screensaver rotation.

Being an ex-NFL football player didn’t keep Joe McKnight from being killed in New Orleans. His killer, 54-year old Ronald Glasser who was white, was initially released without charges. The Sheriff, also white was disturbed that, “Everybody wants to make this about race. It’s not about race!”

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Photo: nydailynews.com

Around the same time in South Carolina. The trial of police officer Michael Slager ended in a mistrial for the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. Slager was on video tape shooting the unarmed Scott in the back while running away from him. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I knew Bernard Bailey. He was a year behind me in college. He was at Tennessee State University while I was a mile down the road at Fisk University. We played basketball in pick-up games. Despite the fact I was paired against him and he played for a rival school, I liked him. We could have become friends. He had been dead 6 years before I even heard about it, killed by the police chief in his hometown in South Carolina. His killer Richard Combs, was tried twice. Each ended in a hung jury. He did lose his job so there’s that. Bernard Bailey lost his life. No justice… you know the rest.

Bernard Bailey

Photo: twitter.com

Somewhere along the line I also wrote about Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and others. I confess that I now mix up the details of  individual deaths as there are so many. An officer in Cincinnati was acquitted today in the death of an unarmed black motorist. The two things these deaths have in common are people “in fear for their lives” that had to kill them and of course no justice!

It is not lost on me while I catch an unplanned glimpse of someone who needed not die. I was just as likely to see a picture of Trump or Sessions whose policies are likely to greatly increase my gallery rather than slow the pace. They are attempting to undermine the consent decrees entered into by police forces and their communities and promised almost no Federal oversight of police activities. While tempted to delete all the photos so as to no longer be caught unaware. I elect to keep the reminder. I know the work is not done as long as we can be shot and killed with impunity and the guaranteed result is no justice. This post is not anti-police although many of those I see were killed needlessly by them. It is anti  people who have no business carrying a gun shooting my people and walking away free. Until there is an environment where the mere statement of being in fear despite all evidence to the contrary is no longer sufficient to escape justice. I’ll still see dead people.

Featured Photo: vox.com

April 4, 1968

One day when I was twelve, I was playing basketball in the alley that divided my block at my white friend Mark’s house. Mark had a backboard nailed to his garage which served as one of the two “basketball courts” on our block. There were four of us playing that day; Mark, Lyle, Angelo and myself.

I’d already had eaten and generally wouldn’t be required to come back home before the street lights came on which was the universal sign to get inside. During the middle of the game, I noticed my mother walking rapidly towards us and she called my name. She had never interrupted one of our games before. While I’d often seen her walk around the block after a meal, I’d never seen the fast pace before with which she neared.

She yelled for me to, “Come home right now” which immediately made me wonder what I might have done wrong. I was a good student and generally thought of at that time as a “teacher’s pet” although that reputation would change in later years. When I met her half-way, she simply said, “We have to get home right now!”  I followed her silently, easily keeping up but still having to stride quickly to maintain the pace. We passed thru the back gate and entered the back door which she locked behind us.

Instead of letting me know what I did wrong she simply walked thru the kitchen and dining room and sat on the living room sofa facing the TV. She put her hands in her head and quietly sobbed.

“They killed him. They killed Martin Luther King, Jr.”

What Would Martin Luther King, Jr Think About The Age Of Trump?

Many that never knew Martin Luther King, Jr have tried to use his words in a way he never would have intended. Yes, he advocated non-violence but not passivity, acceptance or denial. Martin Luther King, Jr  was a warrior; he did battle on behalf of righteous causes. He was fierce, getting on the nerves and in the face of Sheriff’s, Governor’s and President’s for not making their lives easier by accepting the status quo.

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Photo: Getty Images

The Age of Trump is my name for the current era, seemingly defined by the reaction of many white people to declining demographic sway, loss of privilege and blaming the wrong people for their economic decline. Instead of looking at the top two percent who are amassing all the wealth. They pull down the other crabs in the bucket that don’t look like them.

Most of the tactics being utilized in the Age of Trump are not new. They can’t even be ascribed to Trump who has yet to have an original idea. He is only the blowhard figurehead of a thinly veiled effort to make white people great again at the expense of all others. He openly has no real values or moral compass, shifting with every wind. He stands for white uber alles, and for that reason alone many voted for him with his promise to, “Make America Great Again!”  We now find him on the verge of becoming President. What would Martin think of all this?

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Photo: twitter.com

I think Martin would not find this all new. He would look at Jeff Sessions and see Bull Connor. An Alabama official that advocates voter suppression and warns black people about how to speak to whites would be all too familiar. That an FBI Director would take steps which may have turned the tide of an election would not shock. The Director in his time, J. Edgar Hoover, blackmailed Presidents and legislators and tried to convince MLK to kill himself. The voter suppression of today is far less deadly though perhaps equally effective as when people literally died trying to get the right to vote.

I think he would side with “Black Lives Matter.” He would recognize the categorization of them as “radical” and “divisive” which they did to the SCLC as well. He would knowingly nod at attempts to de-legitimize the messenger because they have no response to the message.

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Photo: youtube.com

What I call The Age of Trump did not begin when Donald Trump received the Republican nomination for President. Not when he announced his candidacy. It began on November 4, 2008 when a black man, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected President of the United States. The following January, while Barack and Michelle Obama were attending inaugural balls. Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders were clandestinely meeting about how to undermine the new President.

While Donald Trump didn’t initiate the movement that became The Age of Trump. He soon became its unquestioned leader, heading up the Birther Movement and making his appeal to the far right and the ultra-white.

Would Martin Luther King, Jr hate Trump?

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him!”

Would he be afraid?

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

Would he be bitter?

“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

Would he lose hope?

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope!”

In the Age of Trump, Martin Luther King, Jr would do now as he did then. He would lead. He would organize. He would advance the struggle and prioritize. He would form coalitions and grow the movement. You would not find him at pity parties. Lamenting everything Trump. He would lead. He would organize.

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Photo: nytimes.com

During the Age of Trump, we have seen major protests, some of which resulted in violence. In Ferguson, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Baltimore and Brooklyn. Some would ask, “What would Dr. King think?” Remembering his desire for non-violence. Here’s what he did say after outbreaks in his day:

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

During the Age of Trump there are many that are unheard. Martin Luther King, Jr would not advocate violence. But he would act. No doubt his life would be threatened now as before. What would he say?

“A man not willing to die for something is not fit to live!”

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Photo: youtube.com

Martin would call out for us to get involved. Each according to their gift. He would not seek consensus, he would mold it. Dr. King is no longer with us. Others must take his place. Maybe him, maybe her… maybe you? The Age of Trump is not the time to do nothing.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter!”

Featured Photo: haikudeck.com

 

 

 

 

Somebody Explain Hotep To Me?

I confess. I’m Hotep illiterate. I think Hotep has something to do with faulty logic, conspiracy theories, staunch support of Black males and maybe some homophobia on the side.

I recognize an Hotep meme when I see one. Now I understand there’s a Hotep Civil War going on? I have so many questions.

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Photo: twittter.com

  1. Does one aspire to be Hotep. Do you pledge like in a fraternity?
  2. Is there a secret Hotep handshake or pin? How do Hoteps recognize each other on the street?
  3. How long has this been going on?
  4. Why?

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Photo: vimeo

I’m dead serious. Can someone sum up Hotep for me ’cause I just don’t understand!

 

Featured Image: twitter.com

The New Racism Shaping America’s Foreign And Domestic Policy

I don’t mean to suggest that racism dictating America’s foreign and domestic policy is a new thing. Almost since the country’s origin, race has shaped many of our policies. Don’t take my word for it. Here are the words of South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun:

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Photo: clemson.edu

“We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind, of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race…. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged … that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake”

Sen. John C. Calhoun – SC

Our country’s borders have been partially determined by white nations agreeing amongst themselves as to how to divide up North America. After the War of 1812, the Canadian border was set as England and America agreed on who shared what. The Louisiana Purchase was our deal with France. The Monroe Doctrine was a deal with Britain to keep primarily Spain and Portugal out of North and South America. Our growth west was guided by Manifest Destiny in which God apparently decided we needn’t be concerned about the existing inhabitants as it was literally “white man’s right” to occupy the land. The concept of American Exceptionalism was introduced in the mid-1800’s which I posit is simply another name for white exceptionalism. As Senator Calhoun noted in quote included above. America elected not to expand into Mexico because there were frankly too many Mexicans there. I mention for no particular reason there’s a statue of John C. Calhoun in Charleston, SC.

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Photo: thinglink.com

Throughout history, the wars we’ve fought, the foreign aid we provided, the atrocities abroad where we either intervened or looked away. All were influenced by race. In the television series West Wing, President Jed Bartlet said to Will Bailey, “Why is a Khundunese life worth less to me than an American life?” Will answered, “I don’t know sir but it is.” The fictional show was speaking of a fictional nation but the idea that foreign lives are worth less than American lives is a real thing. I go one step further in saying that there is a ranking system of foreign nations and the two primary factors are natural resources and race. This is why we can ignore famine in West Africa yet rush to the aid of countries less pigmented.

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Photo: twitter.com

This is the racism of our policies we’re accustomed to. Then we got our first Black President, Barack Hussein Obama. There were certainly those who opposed him for ideological reasons. To be against Obama’s policies because you disagree with them is not racist. To completely overturn your own beliefs to oppose Obama very likely is. It is why a larger percentage of American’s than one would have thought possible are willing to ignore Russian ties in the Trump administration and Russian hacking during the election process. The racial animus of some towards our President is why an Israeli Prime Minister knew he could basically call the sitting President of the United States a liar with no offer of proof and get away with it. It’s why a Congressman could shout, “You lie!”

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Photo: newsweek.me.com

It’s not unusual for America to shape it’s foreign and domestic policy as it always has where race was a consideration. What’s new is the desire to upend every piece of the Obama legacy with a desperate need to wipe out any and every contribution of the first Black President. The sad thing is that many of the people rabidly against the President are the primary beneficiaries of his policies. When they find out they’ve been bamboozled. They’ll probably blame him for that too!

Featured Photo: twitter.com