Tag Archives: Medgar Evers

Black History Month 2016: Nina Simone

21 Feb

nina-simone2Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Simone would have been 83 years old today.  I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  Emeli Sandé credits Simone as one of her major influences

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song. The song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written specifically for Simone. Her version works simultaneously as a love song and a protest song, showing her emotional depth and complexity.

Sadly, it is painfully clear how much we still need Nina Simone’s voice and activism. I suspect she still inspires many of us. Happy Birthday to the national treasure that is Nina Simone.

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Women’s History: May 14

14 May

Myrlie Evers-Williams

May 14, 1995, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights icon, Medgar Evers, becomes the Chair of the NAACP.  She is the first woman to be elected to the Board of Directors of the NAACP.  When Byron De La Beckwith took the life of Medgar Evers in June of 1963, Evers widow Myrlie continued  the fight for racial equality, even in the face of threats on her own life.

Medgar Evers worked hard to abolish the Jim Crow laws in the early 1950s.  He even dared to try and register to vote.  Myrlie reflected and talked about how dangerous racist Mississippi was in the 50s and 60s:

 …the simple act of registering to vote often brought disastrous consequences to those brave enough to do it: “Their names would be published in the newspaper with their addresses and phone numbers, and they would be harassed by phone calls, people driving by, throwing rocks, eggs, firebombs…. Or the banks would call in mortgages with no notice. People got fired from their jobs immediately. Or lassoed as they were walking home, dragged into a car [and then beaten]. All this because they wanted to vote.

In the 1970s, Myrlie became a strong voice in the women’s movement and helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.  Evers-Williams wrote several books as well: For Us, the Living and Watch Me Fly: What I Learned On the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be.

In 1975, she remarried Walter Williams.  Unfortunately, Williams died of prostate cancer in 1995. Myrlie served as a consultant for the movie about her life with Medgar, The Ghost of Mississippi. Click here to learn more about Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Women’s History: April 7

7 Apr

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Today I would like to celebrate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Norton is best known for her activism for civil/human rights. She is a Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia and served as chair of the Commission on Human Rights.  While in college, Norton was part of the Civil Rights Movement working with Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer.  Norton was the first female Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), appointed by President Jimmy Carter.  Norton identifies as a feminist, of course it amazes me that any thinking human being would not identify as a feminist.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Holmes Norton:

I have not been animated in my life to fight against race and sex discrimination simply because of my own identity. That would mean that one must be South African to fight apartheid, or a poor white in Appalachia to fight poverty, or Jewish to fight anti-Semitism. And I just reject that conception of how struggles should be waged.

Would that all elected officials would subscribe to this philosophy, we could say good bye to bigots like LePage and the rest of his Tea Party.  Let us all take some inspiration from Norton today and all of us become do-gooders, working for the greater good and equality for ALL.  Let the voices of love drown out the voices of hate.

 

Celebrating Black History Month: February 21

21 Feb

Medgar Evers: Civil Rights Hero

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Medgar Evers. Evers will always be known as one of the key civil rights heroes. He was assassinated in 1963 by  white supremacist and KKK member, Byron De La Beckwith. De La Beckwith also belonged to an organization called, Citizens’ Councils of America, which has branched off into different conservative groups in America today. Evers trained as an activist and joined the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). The RCNL organized a boycott of service stations in Mississippi that refused blacks use of their restrooms. In 1954, Evers applied to the law school at the University of Mississippi, but was refused admission because of his race. Clearly, the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education was not being applied as it should have been in the south. Evers was instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi when that institution was finally forced to enroll James Meredith in 1962. Evers was assassinated the day after President Kennedy’s national speech in support of the civil rights movement.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 11

11 Feb

The Legendary Nina Simone

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Nina Simone. I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  I can’t drink gin without thinking of our Nina. Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was, Mississippi Goddam. In Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans–who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of the same song. Nina Simone you are missed and cherished.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 5

5 Feb

I would like to honor and pay tribute to James Baldwin. Baldwin was an amazing and courageous writer, civil rights activists, and novelist. He was a pioneer writer that grappled, not only with issues of race, but the issue of homosexuality.  Is it any wonder he became an expatriate and moved to Paris, France. America was not a safe place for blacks or gays. While most people have read, one of my favorites, Go Tell It on the Mountain (his autobiographical coming of age novel) and Notes of a Native Son, it was Giovanni’s Room, that spoke to me. Imagine the courage it must have taken to have written a novel about homoerotic love, I only wish the characters in the novel could have been black, for there is still such a need for positive gay black role models.  I would strongly encourage everyone to read his essay: No Name in the Street, which addresses the assassination of three of his closes friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Here is part of an interview with Baldwin and his reflections on Malcolm X; very complex interview and one really should listen to all three parts of it. I’m not sure enough people know how much of his time was spent as a civil rights activist and how grateful we all should be to Baldwin!

James Baldwin: American Hero

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