From Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas

I saw the movie “Marshall” on the first day of its widespread release and was assaulted with impressions. I went to a matinee in a dying mall in West Orlando where audiences tend to be mostly black. There were maybe thirty people at this showing, mostly in their 50’s and older, people likely familiar with Marshall at least as a Supreme Court Justice if nothing else.

The movie itself was very entertaining, humorous in parts and revolved around a real trial in Bridgeport, CT where a black man was accused of the rape of a white socialite. My hope is that those who watch the film will not only cheer the heroic Marshall in the film but go on to learn more about the amazing work he and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund did to fight for rights we now take for granted. I want them to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Devil In The Grove about the Groveland Boys case in Florida. I wish the film to be a jumping off point to learn more about a history more likely to be whitewashed than brought forward.

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Exiting the movie, I crossed paths with a woman who I recognized from the audience and asked, “How did you enjoy the film?” She said, “I got so mad to think that we went from Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court.” We talked briefly about  Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas, and Ben Carson and then went our separate ways. I am still pondering how we got from a legal giant to the black Harvey Weinstein whose best quality is to speak little lest he reveals himself a fool.

Thurgood Marshall fought in small courtrooms, mostly in the South and often alone. Sometimes the only hope standing between an innocent man and execution. The NAACP and Marshall only took on cases where they believed defendants to be innocent and their arrests based on race. Marshall risked his life that we all might benefit. His work is his legacy of which we can all be proud.

Clarence Thomas can be noted for his singular lack of legal accomplishments. His greatest skill before his appointment to the Supreme Court seems to be his ability to rise within government bureaucracy, rising to the Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He all but discontinued the practice of filing/joining class action suits, instead focusing on individual cases. He complained all black leaders did was, “bitch, bitch, bitch” about President Reagan instead of working with him. His nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate despite riveting testimony from Anita Hill and written statements from other women. Thomas himself claimed he was a victim of a “high tech lynching” and his biographer said Thomas was being attacked, “because he was black.” As a Justice, he’s a reliable vote to uphold police brutality, voter suppression and the end of Affirmative Action. He’s still best known for charges of sexual harassment, his affinity for porn including his fondness for, “Long Dong Silver.”

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As shown I the film Marshall, Thurgood Marshall sacrificed much in the pursuit of equal justice under the law. He served as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and will forever be a legal giant. Thomas is an embarrassment, ultimately becoming a barrier to progress instead of an example.

Jerry Jones Thinks He Literally Owns Cowboys Players. (Taking a Knee Will Set You Free)

Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys is taking his role of “owner” way too literally. It might give him some great pleasure to think he owns a group of mostly black, strapping young bucks. They might even refer to him as, “my owner” from time to time. But Jerry, you don’t actually own these people!

Listening to his buddy Donald Trump (we saw you when you dropped $1 million on his inauguration) he now says he’ll bench any player that doesn’t stand for the National Anthem. It wasn’t long ago when Jones himself, took a knee, faking solidarity with his players. When Jemele Hill tweeted in response, suggesting what owners like Jones listen to are advertiser boycotts. Spineless ESPN suspended her for two weeks for violating “social media policy.”

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Here is what I hope happens. I wish that every single Dallas player, white, black, and other, refuse to stand for the Anthem and let Jerry Jones forfeit the game if he wants to. There is a great desire in parts of this country including the Oval Office, to be seen crushing black people, movements, and accomplishments. Jones is certainly stepping up to do his part.

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What it comes down to now is, “What are the players willing to do?” The choices are crystal clear, bow down before Jones, Trump, and others of their ilk and demonstrate your submissiveness. Take a knee and reject police brutality, injustice and white supremacy to boot!

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!

 

Harry T Moore: Shadow Warrior

“Florida means land of flowers 

It was on a Christmas night.

In the state named for the flowers 

Men came bearing dynamite…

It could not be in Jesus’ name 

Beneath the bedroom floor

On Christmas night the killers 

Hid the bomb for Harry Moore”

Langston Hughes

 

Who was the first martyr of the Civil Rights movement? Martin Luther King? Malcolm X? Medgar Evers? I asked several people outside Florida if they knew who Harry T Moore was and almost all had no clue. I once passed on an opportunity to attend an annual observation at his gravesite, his name and that of his wife Harriette meant nothing to me. I won’t miss next time. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP holds an annual memorial for Harry and Harriette Moore, I’ll update to include the dates when available for any interested in joining me.

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Both Moore’s were teachers in Brevard County, about 45 miles West of Orlando. Harry was active in the NAACP, becoming the Florida Executive Secretary. His weekends and whatever time he could spare was spent fundraising, speaking and soliciting memberships. In 1946, both Moore;s were fired from their teaching jobs of twenty years, due to Harry being labeled a “troublemaker and Negro organizer.” The nearest employment Harry could find as a teacher was in Palm Beach County, two hours to the South. They rented a room in a private home while maintaining the 3-bedroom home Harry had built in Mims, Florida. That home sat in the middle of 11-acres of land, set deep in an Orange Grove.

Years earlier, Harry had sent a letter to the National office of the NAACP, informing them of plans to sue Brevard County Schools for equal pay for black teachers. This got the attention of lawyer Thurgood Marshall who came to Florida several times regarding the case, often staying with the Moore’s as there were few hotels a black man could stay in. Harry Moore was as soft-spoken as Marshall was gregarious yet they made a good pair. To offset his own dry speaking manner, Harry trained his teenaged daughter Evangeline to exhort the crowds after his more stoic message.

Moore became involved in another case with Marshall. One involving four Groveland, FL black men, falsely accused of the rape of a white woman. Moore used this case to raise funds throughout the state and wrote letters, incessantly. He wrote local papers, local politicians, and he wrote the Governor. Florida had more lynchings per capita than any other state and Harry T Moore would not keep quiet, he wouldn’t let it be. He organized protests, conducted mass meetings, and gave speeches. He was a pain in the ass to those who wanted the notoriety to die.

In the “Groveland Four” case, two of the defendants were convicted and sent to the Florida State Prison in Raiford, FL. After Marshall won them a new trial. Sheriff Willis McCall was transporting them back to Groveland when he pulled over, ordered both prisoners out and shot both men, killing one. His deputy pulled up, found one man still living and shot him a second time. The man survived to tell his story. It is of note that the FBI withheld ballistic evidence that would have proven those events but the Sheriff was exonerated and continued his reign of terror another 21 years before losing an election, under investigation for the murder of yet another black prisoner.

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On Christmas night in 1951, Harry and his immediate family had dinner at his brother-in-laws before returning home about 9pm. At 10:20pm, after everyone had settled in their beds, when a bomb placed below Harry and Harriette’s bedroom went off. The children and their grandmother were alright. They found Harry and Harriette in their bedroom covered with debris. The family rushed them to a medical facility in Sanford, FL. Harry’s head bleeding into his mother’s lap.

Harry was declared dead on arrival. Harriette recovered enough to visit her husband’s body at the funeral home, then succumbed herself. She had told an Orlando Sentinel reporter, “There isn’t much left to fight back for” and “My home is wrecked. My children are grown up. They don’t need me. Others can carry on.”

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In his last letter to Governor Fuller Warren, Moore wrote:

“We seek no special favors, but certainly have a right to expect justice and equal protection of the laws even for the humblest Negro. Shall we be disappointed again?”

There was no justice for Harry Moore. The FBI initially closed the case in 1953 and it was reopened multiple times over the years. In 2006, Governor Charlie Crist declared the case solved, blaming four dead Klansmen. He acknowledged having “no new evidence” yet indicated they were the most likely perpetrators. Some believed Sheriff Willis McCall to be behind the bombing but the truth will likely never be known. Between 1951-1952, 40 black homes were bombed throughout the South. Many refused to bow to racist traditions, some were innocent bystanders. Harry T Moore was denied the recognition he deserved in his lifetime and even after his death. He was a true Shadow Warrior.

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

 

Coming October 7th: New Shadow Warrior

Never before has Enigma In Black honored anyone posthumously as a Shadow Warrior. This month’s selection is someone we should all know or know better. A story that needs sharing.

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

 

Trump Word(s) For The Day: F*cking Moron

As part of my patriotic duty, I will begin sharing the word(s) of the day to help our President prepare for what’s coming. Because he doesn’t seem to attach the same meaning to words like honesty, news, Constitution, and transparency. I feel that if given a little time to consider the actual meanings of words he can do better. I will provide both the common definition and when applicable the urban translation. Today’s words: F*ucking Moron

We have a guest contributor to thank for today’s words, Rex Tillerson the Secretary of State. NBC reported at a July 20th meeting at the Pentagon with top National Security officials and Cabinet Members. Tillerson called Trump a “Fucking moron.” It’s unclear what in particular Tillerson was referring to as there are so many possibilities but his sentiment was clear.

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Tillerson had a hastily called press conference in which he indicated he had no intention of resigning and hadn’t considered doing so. He didn’t deny having made the statement saying, “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.” Trump tweeted the whole thing was “fake news” saying Tillerson “totally refuted” the story which of course he didn’t.

Urban Translation: Fucking moron is the same in all languages. There is no urban translation in this instance.

Trump Doesn’t Care About Puerto Ricans (Let Them Eat Cake)

Four days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Kanye West uttered the words, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on national television. Bush later referred to that moment as, “the low point of my Presidency.” That says a lot given that 9/11 also happened on his watch. It should be noted that years later Kanye later apologized to Bush. In the heat of the moment in times of great frustration, things get said. To some West’s words will always be the truth, to others, he did a great disservice to “W.”

If one believes actions speak louder than words. Ten days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Donald Trump has had plenty of words. He’s often claimed the Federal response to the double impact of Hurricane’s Maria and Irma as “unprecedented.” It may be the truest statement of all he has made.

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By all accounts, the Federal Government did a good job (along with State and local governments from around the nation) of getting supplies and responders to Puerto Rico. Huge Containers remain stacked on ships at the dock, not unloaded because there are few drivers for trucks to disperse them. Responders huddle in the air-conditioned Convention Center, having meetings or waiting for assignments. Most of the Hospitals are still without power. Nursing homes are unable to feed their patients. The death toll rises each day. While  Trump brags of his excellent response. That the government response would be insufficient was predictable. FEMA and every other Department are woefully understaffed because Trump hasn’t bothered to fill positions or when he has, often with unqualified campaign cronies.

That the government response would be insufficient was predictable. FEMA and every other Department from the State Department to Housing ad Urban Development are woefully understaffed because Trump hasn’t bothered to fill positions. When he has, often with unqualified campaign cronies.

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Initially, the Governor of Puerto Rico and the Mayor of San Juan praised the government response. The Governor, in particular, was effusive but included reservations that more was needed. The Mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, also lauded the initial effort. But as time passed and water and food were not being delivered, she began to speak out. After days of not being heard, she issued a statement literally begging for help while Trump officials talked of their efforts as a “feel good story.” The President himself, unable to acknowledge anything other than perfection. Only spoke of how great he was doing, refusing initially to waive shipping restrictions to Puerto Rico as had been done for mainland locations in earlier hurricanes. This would only increase the cost of goods to Puerto Rico, under pressure he ultimately relented. This he admitted was at the behest of his friends in the shipping industry.

The island is almost completely without power which the bureaucracy of the Federal Government fails to recognize. They want requests by E-mail, printed documents and letters, they want Mayors in remote locations where the roads are gone to come in person to request help.

Unable to show empathy for the Mayor who was pleading on behalf of her people. Trump does what only Trump in that situation would do, he attacked the Mayor. In his tweets, he first claimed: “she’s been told by Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” Next, he attacked her “poor leadership” and said, “they want everything done for them” adding the Federal workers were doing a “fantastic job.” Mayor Cruz has said literally, “We are dying!” Trump says he’s doing a great job! Trump managed to get his tweets out before his tee time where he’s no doubt “monitoring the situation.”

 

Does Donald Trump care about the American citizens of Puerto Rico?  Trump has demonstrated his disdain for brown and black people in America and around the world. Why would Puerto Rico be any different? Plus they voted for Hillary Clinton.

He’s more concerned about the debt owed to Wall Street Banks than the lives of the people. In many of his tweets, he mentions the debt first and the American citizens as an aside. He’s already talking about how Puerto Rico can “pay back” the cost of relief efforts.

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The Mayor of San Juan responded to Trump’s tweets by refusing to become distracted and focusing on saving lives. Since Hurricane Maria hit the island, Trump has been much more engaged in attacking black NFL players and their mothers protesting injustice,  advocating fines, firings, and boycotts. He’s been focused on the swampish behavior of his Cabinet, spending millions to private and military planes. He’s been working on his golf game. To the dying Puerto Ricans… he sent some water, too bad if they can’t actually drink it.

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Note: After several days, the US Army has been given control of logistics and we pray things will turn around shortly. A lot of good is being done by FEMA, the Red Cross, and fellow Puerto Ricans serving their neighbors. Good is being done, not nearly enough! Trump sums up the situation in his own words:

“This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water”