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Friday, August 28, 2015

Blacks in mainstream media: disasters from a personal perspective

I was a 24 year old TV journalist (like Alison Parker) working with KET's Leonard Press.
"My heart is broken, and my soul has been crushed." 
 ---Andy Parker, father of slain journalist Alison Parker 
Here's my perspective in response to the tragic murders of two TV personalities by another TV personality.

I once was a black female TV journalist. After graduating from Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications  (Radio and Television) at age 21, I became an associate producer at Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington, Ky. Although I completed my education at a Big Ten university, I was placed in a two-year training program at KET, and half my $7,700 yearly salary was paid for by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for those two years.
I started out floor directing and knew nobody in my new hometown except for my KET crew mates and station personnel. We had a lot of fun in the studio and control room, and I felt we were one big, happy family!
At age 24, I wrote a proposal and began producing a speech series, interviewing Maya Angelou, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson, Louis Gossett, Jr., Haki Madhubuti, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, and other high profile African Americans as well as reporting on a statewide magazine-formatted television show. I also was instrumental in getting more blacks hired at our station where I was only one of three black television professionals.

Things started turning sour when my reporting on Corbin, Ky. , formerly a "sundown town," got some negative calls from the town's Chamber of Commerce. My story was updating the events of a 1919 incident which resulted in 99% of the black residents being shipped out of Corbin. Little did I realize that my investigative reporting collided with town leaders who didn't want negative pr affecting a newly approved industrial park. My story was heavily edited.

I traveled often and met with other black and female TV producers from around the country.
Then I found out my office mate, who didn't have a background in television but was hired part-time to type scripts, was making more money than me.  When I took a part-time job teaching Communications courses at a nearby black university (another state agency) to make extra money, my white female manager told me it was considered a conflict of interest, even though others at the station were doing the same thing.  I found an "Application for Niggers" in my company mailbox, and nothing was done about it.
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I was told my part-time teaching job was a conflict of interest. My students were Upward Bound and college-level Communications students.
When I was offered a job in corporate America, I took it, and listening to the advice of my friend who was in human resources, I filed a complaint against my former employer for past discrimination. I felt that I had been wronged and had to do something about it through the system to send a message. I tried to hire an attorney first before filing the complaint. A Louisville attorney told me, "I have no doubt that you were discriminated against, but I charge $5,000 to open your file." At the time, my salary was only $14,000 a year, and I had very little savings to fight state government in court. I was also informed that it is almost impossible to sue a state agency and win. 
"As a result of the overwhelming media focus on crime, drug use, gang violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior among African-Americans, the media have fostered a distorted and pernicious public perception of African-Americans."
---Ronald L. Taylor

I gave a $100 retainer to a black attorney, Shirley Cunningham, who was later convicted in a major fraud case spotlighted on the TV show "American Greed." Cunningham, who now resides in a federal prison, didn't even show up for the hearing and didn't return my $100. Of course, I was told by the EEOC my complaint had no merit.

I never worked in television again after that, and have always had low paying jobs. Perhaps what hurt even more, however, was my old college professor telling me,"You had such promise... What happened to you?" Perhaps complaining about how I was treated in television led to me being blackballed in a profession that I loved. 

"The societal and economic factors of racism have become more than just a bias. They are also a profitable industry, in which the elite will continue to suppress the lower class in order to maximize profits."
---Stephen Balkaran

My mother is probably turning over in her grave because as a single mother (my father died when I was 16 and she was 39), she paid out- of-state fees for me to matriculate to a prestigious university. Graduating #3 in my high school class, I had also been accepted at Smith and Spelman but chose IU. My Mother never took a dime in financial assistance to pay for my college education. For spending money, I worked at the college television station, WTIU.

Although I'm saddened by what happened to those two journalists that were killed in Virginia, I also am saddened by thousands of good journalists, especially black journalists, who are not successful in media which is an elite profession closed to many. Recently, the profession is turning from journalism into entertainment and increasingly competing with social media and YouTube posts.

Could things have turned out differently for me? Yes.
Am I angry about my short-lived TV career? Maybe, but it was not meant to be.
Did it ever cross my mind to kill somebody over my circumstances or perceived slights? Never.

"In the event you willfully and deliberately put to death any Racist (s), and/or and suspected Racist (s), you should then eliminate yourself before being forced to commit any act of violence and/or bodily harm against any people who are not Racist(s) or suspected Racist(s), but who are directly or indirectly sent by Racists to maim, kill, or put you in greater confinement." 
---Neely Fuller, Jr.

Sharing my story isn't easy, but all truth comes to light. Going forward, we must discuss why anger is leading to increasing violence all over the globe and murder is being played out "live" before our eyes. With cameras everywhere, we are playing deadly games of reality, and our children are watching.

"We're communicators, and we can't be silent...share." 
---Chris Hurst, partner of Alison Parker

If I was on local or national television today, I would be asking these questions:
  • What is the racial makeup of the staff at WDBJ7 and the other station where the murderer previously worked?
  • Were mentors available for Williams to talk to about his problems?
  • How many EEOC complaints have been filed against TV news stations, and what were the outcomes? If placed on an employment improvement plan, how many people improve or are retained, especially in "Right to Work" states?
  • Once you're on a downward spiral at a station, how do you improve or change the situation? How many employees are blackballed and their careers ruined after filing discrimination complaints?
  • What did Alison Parker say to Bryce Williams that made him want to kill her, or was he just a mentally ill person that needed an excuse to blow up?
  • What do black journalists think about this story, and how are black journalists advised to navigate in a predominately white workplace where racism may be rampant?
  • Should blacks not choose mass communications as a career option?
  • Lester Holt and Tavis Smiley (who attended IU but didn't graduate) can be considered successful media do their work experiences compare with those of Williams? How do they navigate being journalists in a racist environment?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Leo Frank, only Jew lynched in U.S. - 100 years later

"Leo-frank-at-trial" by Via Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
Even after the governor intervened, Leo Frank, a pencil manufacturing manager, was hung in Marietta, Ga. Frank was the only Jew lynched in the United States that we know about. Frank's throat was slashed by another Milledgeville Prison inmate. Then he was taken from his cell by an angry mob to where an audience of men, women, and children stood ready to watch the spectacle. He then was hung with a superior court judge standing by, and his body and face were smashed after he was cut down. None of the lynching accounts said whether Frank was castrated or burned.

A stain was left in Cobb County, Ga. after the Knights of Mary Phagen (the KKK) killed Frank by hanging.  Frank was lynched at midnight on August 17, 1915 for allegedly raping and killing a 13 year old girl employed at the factory. After the Frank lynching, it was reported that around half of Georgia's 3,000 Jews left the state. With the Klan vowing to rise again, one wonders whether there are enough Jews or law enforcement to prevent this type of thing happening again.

People have also been spotted wearing confederate clothing in Europe this week.
Side note: Saturday, on a Cobb County Street, I passed a road construction worker wearing a confederate flag scarf around his neck which I felt was highly inappropriate to wear to work. I saw a restaurant employee last week wearing a stars and bars t-shirt which I also felt was inappropriate. Walking into a local package store, I passed by the entrance display featuring "Dixie" liquor which soured my stomach.

I definitely feel that there is a resurgence of the KKK movement, and nothing is being done about it because politicians feel that they are prohibited from doing anything against one's free speech, although others feel that the confederate flag is a terrorist symbol.

To learn more about Leo Frank, go to:

St. Joseph's School: a lesson in reverse integration

Asian nun with pupil, Joan Moses, at St. Joseph's School
The Salvatorian Sisters, Society of the Divine Savior, opened the first Saint Joseph School on September 4, 1956 in two rooms of the mission house in Huntsville, Al. St. Joseph’s Mission was founded to serve the African American community of Madison County..

Merry-go-round on school playground before integration
St. Joseph's School holds the distinction of being the first elementary school to integrate in the state of Alabama quietly and peacefully on September 3, 1963 when twelve white students submitted applications and were accepted for admission. The event is noted not only for the initial integration of elementary schools in Alabama but also for its “reverse” integration nature. In 1965, St. Joseph's Mission was fully integrated in all classrooms. 

Here are some photos I took with my Girl Scout camera while a student at St. Joseph's before and after integration and a bio of the priest behind the historical integration.

Some of my closest friends, classmates, and neighbors
Father Mark Sterbenz, S.D.S., pastor and priest of St. Joseph’s Mission from 1961 – 1967, said the "reverse integration" set a precedent for others to follow. "All we're doing is teaching religion to whites, to Negroes, to anyone who comes," said Father Mark who was sued for integrating St. Joseph's School. "Religion along with education... that’s the reason it works.”

Father Mark outside school with two pupils in uniforms
According to the Society of the Divine Savior Obituatries website, Father Mark Sterbenz (John LeRoy) was born on October 1, 1913, in Baraga, Mich. After the first year of high school in his hometown, he transferred to Salvatorian Seminary in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, where he completed his high school studies and the first two years of college. He entered the Novitiate there in 1933, and he made his profession of vows on September 8, 1934. After completing college in St. Nazianz, he went to Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he finished his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained on May 30, 1939, in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

Fr. Mark ministered in the Publishing Department in St. Nazianz, learning the procedures and skills of fund-raising. He was one of the founding members of Mother Mary Mission in Phenix City, Alabama. He later worked in the Salvatorian Mission House in Elkton, Maryland, where he also served as Superior of the community and procurator. 

In 1961, he returned to Alabama, this time to St. Joseph’s Parish in Huntsville, as pastor of the parish and Superior of the community. The school was integrated in 1963. 

Photo of boys in my class...Jose, Kirk, David, Condredge, and Earnest I remember distinctly.
He became pastor of St. Catherine’s Parish in McMinnville, Tennessee; and later of St. Benedict’s Parish in Columbus, Georgia, where he also served as chaplain in the local regional hospital, the state correctional institution, and Fort Benning Army Base. 

Fr. Mark semi-retired in 1985, and remained in the Columbus area, serving as chaplain in two local hospitals, until a few months before his death. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was admitted to the hospice of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he died on August 26, 1993. He was buried in the community cemetery in St. Nazianz. 

Fr. Mark is remembered as a caring priest with genial good humor, great energy and vitality, and selfless dedication to his ministries, which many times began with almost nothing, and grew steady and strong through his skills in fund-raising and development.

Julian Bond: goodbye to a smart, beautiful soul who dabbled in politics

2012 photo of Bond by Eduardo Montes-Bradley
I first saw and heard Julian Bond speak at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Al. in the late 1960's, soon after his name was placed in nomination for Vice President at the 1968 Democratic Convention. I interviewed him for a public television speaker's series in the late 1970's. I became his Facebook friend in 2011.

What I loved most about him were his jokes. He referred to politics as being second only to the world's oldest profession - prostitution. He could tell jokes dryly without breaking a smile.

Here's one of my favorites from my book "Word to the Mother" which gives a hint at his political humor taken from his speech at the University of Kentucky in the late 1970's. 

"I live in Atlanta, Georgia which, as you may know, is a large, sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. But many years ago when I was just a boy, I lived in a small town in rural Georgia. This was really a teeny, tiny place. I guess many of you would call it a 'plain' place. It's a little town called Fort Valley.

"Now, when I lived in Fort Valley, it was distinguished as the home of two institutions. One was the Blue Bird Bus Manufacturing Plant. They manufactured Blue Bird bus bodies. The other was a little four-year college, which when I lived there was called the Fort Valley State College for Negroes. Georgia, like Kentucky, has undergone tremendous progress in the last few years, so much so that this college is not called Fort Valley State College. It's still pretty much for Negroes, however.

"In this town, among the couple hundred people living there, there lived a minister and a politician. The two men were close friends, but despite their friendship, they argued almost constantly about which of them performed the greatest service for humankind. The minister used to say, 'It is I because I take care of problems in the hereafter.' The politician would say, 'No, it's I because I take care of problems right here on Earth.'

"Well, this argument between them just went on and on, and it probably would be still going on today except one morning, the minister got up early and looked out his front window, and to his great shock and chagrin saw a dead jackass in his driveway. He called the politician on the phone and said, 'See here, there's a dead jackass in my driveway. I want you to have it hauled away.' The politician said, 'I don't know why you're calling me. You're suppose to bury the dead.' The minister said, 'Yeah, but I'm also suppose to notify the next of kin!' "

That was Bond, Julian Bond, at his best. He will be missed.

(I will post pictures of our 1970's interview after I find them in my personal archives.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Agriculture base for any economy---why are food prices so high?

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Agriculture, food shortages, and climate change affecting the economy should be major political topics. A good diet is key to having a healthy and thriving populace.
One of the most important topics that none of the 2016 presidential political candidates are focused on is the condition of global agriculture in a world which must feed 7.4 billion humans. Why is that?

According to Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokara in their book, Agriculture and Food in Crisis, "significant amount of the world’s population continues to suffer from hunger or food insecurity on a daily basis...approximately a billion people-close to one-sixty of humanity-suffer from continual and sever hunger."

In his 1994 Senate campaign, Mitt Romney wanted to eliminate the federal Department of Agriculture and reduce farm subsidies. In 2007, a Romney campaign spokesman said, "Governor Romney believes that investing in agriculture is key to our economy and families." 

On www.barackobama.come, the closest policy explanation on agriculture deals with climate change. "If we don't act to curb current global emissions, they could a global catastrophe, contributing to extreme weather, food and water shortage, and global instability." 

Agriculture has been the foundation of economies since ancient times. Let's make it a priority now!

Political hyperbole or terroristic threats... you decide!

Streets of Ferguson look like war games being played out in front of our eyes.
It's getting hotter, with Farrakhan battling the Oath telling what will happen next, but it doesn't appear to be pretty!

What do you think will be the outcome of these maneuvers?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Religious and political gatherings focus on morals/manners opposite angry promises

I covered two meetings today which were totally antithetical to one another. 

One was entitled "Our Season for Grace and Mercy: A 20th Annual Prayer Breakfast" of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver, Our Lady of Lourdes Court 300, held at the Loudermilk Conference Center in downtown Atlanta, Ga.

The other was the RedState Gathering hosted by members of the Republican Party held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead, Ga.  

Each one spouted a different message. 

The first was prayerful, respectful, and inspirational. The other was unpatriotic, misleading, bombastic, and audacious.
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The Prayer Breakfast was attended mostly by black women.
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The RedState Gathering was attended mostly by white men and women.

One had a predominately black audience. The other was predominately white.

One featured a prize winning writer and playwright, Pearl Cleage, daughter of a civil rights and religious leader, the late Albert Cleage (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman), who founded the Shrine of the Black Madonna in both Atlanta and Detroit.  

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I got up close to Cleage who was lovingly referred to as "Ms. Pearl" at the Prayer Breakfast.

The other event featured Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who is running for president. Jeb Bush is the son of Former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush and brother of Former President George W. Bush.

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 Bush, who was protected by heavy security, appeared live and on jumbo video screens in an Intercontinental Hotel ballroom.
I was invited to the first event, but not to the second one. Each gathering had its own message.

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The program was dedicated to the late Lady Barbara Neely.
At the Prayer Breakfast, Cleage called on spirits in a grace poem centered in a wonderland of possibilities.

"Fall and stay in love," Cleage said. "We are searching for the person who can activate the best in us... and can instigate forward momentum. ..Don't be limited by machines and media."

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There was no visible media coverage at the Prayer Breakfast.
Cleage said we are still living in a time requiring blood sacrifices, creative language to tell the truth, and possibilities of our own magic.

With a soft, melodious but commanding voice, this great Ms. Pearl took me into a possible reality that looks more promising than the negative reports pointed to in breaking news reports.

"Good things can happen if we call on the spirits and act on our higher, moral selves," Cleage said.

Cleage long poem cantered, "And now, this is the moment when there will be wars and rumors of wars. There will be plagues and persecutions, saints and sinners. There will be spirit dancers whirling in the moonlight and slave owners searching for salvation and finding only history...

"These are the times that try our souls and our patience, and our resources and our sanity, and our resolve and our commitment to whatever or whoever we believe in."
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At the RedState event, I was one of two members of the media who happened to be black...race can determine what the general populace learns about politics.  I wondered whether Donald Trump was "dis-invited" to the meeting because of allegedly saying unkind remarks about a female journalist or did he bow out because the group could not give him the appearance fee he desired. I didn't get the chance to see Chris Cristie, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker or Mike Huckabee, (there are 38 declared Republican candidates, but all were not there), but I sat in on Jeb Bush's address to the group.
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There was heavy media coverage of the RedState event.
Bush was introduced as Florida's governor, not the former governor of Florida.

Bush's wish list included the following:
1. Change the Washington culture by shrinking the government workforce.
2. Implement lobbying reform.
3. Have a new normal conversation about economic growth.
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Man in money suit outside RedState Gathering
Bush also believes we need to increase business startups, hone in regulatory costs, and decrease burdens on new businesses. 

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Donald Trump was allegedly "dis-invited" from the Gathering, but his supporters held signs on the sidewalk outside the Intercontinental Hotel.
If Jeb becomes president, he promises to undue all executive orders made by President Obama, give more power back to states, pass the Reins Act, release the animal spirits of our country, simplify the tax code and lower rates, and be "all in" on the energy revolution. "You have got to lead, just not make great speeches," Bush said. He said leaders need to have "spine and backbone," be principled and servant oriented.

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I don't favor Republicans even though I was born on Ronald Reagan's birthday!
I don't believe Bush can deliver on his promises and was very embarrassed by his brother's presidency. 

After the RedState Gathering, I was told by friends, "Why did you go down there to report on crazy people?" and "You can't reason with crazy people."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Should "The South" rise again?

If "The South rising again" means economic prosperity and respect for every Southerner, I'm all for it.

If it relates to white dominance and denial of my human and civil rights, I'm against it.

If it means turning to violence, intimidation, and fraud at the voting booth, I'm against it.

If "rising" deals with me feeling persecuted, paranoid, impoverished, and powerless, I'm against it.

If it means putting me in a certain place, hamstringing my opportunities, or living in fear from day to day, on into the future, I'm against it.

Homeland Security, FBI investigating hateful emails sent to Ebenezer

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Photo taken on I75 South headed towards Atlanta

According to Channel 11 News in Atlanta, federal authorities, Homeland Security and the FBI, have been called in to investigate emails sent to Ebenezer Baptist Church, some which "included language that were too offensive to include" on television newscasts. The emails were sent one week after two white males placed Confederate flags on the grounds of the church and the King Center.

Ebenezer Baptist Church was the home church of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.

According to several news sources, here are some comments contained in these emails:
“…how many black people have whites killed? I’ll tell you, 0, none, Nada. In fact, whites commit so few crimes that the powers that be have to put the Hispanic community in with the white community to prove that whites commit crime. Whites don’t, and have never committed serious crimes, or any crimes against blacks."

"However, blacks are 9 times more likely to commit a violent crime against whites then whites against blacks, and blacks, at an average rape 100 white women a day in the U.S. so why should you worry about a little thing like the Confederate flag.”

“Martin (Michael) Luther King is right now in the Lake of Fire. What you need to do is to stop your communism (which is a Jewish government system, and Martin (Michael) Luther King was a communist), and just face facts. God’s people Israel which are the white Caucasian, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Scandinavian, are going to be victorious. Their kinsman redeemer Jesus Christ is coming to restore all things, and lead his people to victory."

"The Confederate flag will rise again, and you can’t prevent it.”

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Sign at historic Ebenezer on Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta
For more information on this story, go to:

Monday, August 3, 2015

AME laity meeting in North Charleston, S.C.

The AME leadership recently officiated the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, S.C.
The oldest black religious organization in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is gathering its lay leaders for a "Great Commission" in an area brought into focus recently for the killing of unarmed Walter Scott by a policeman and the Charleston 9 Massacre allegedly perpetrated by a KKK sympathizer, Dylann Roof.

The organization is meeting after issuing a resolution into the death of another one of its members, Sandra Bland, near her Alma mater, Prairie View A&M University in Texas. In a statement, the church said, "Let us be clear: we are not satisfied with the explanation that she committed suicide."

On the meeting's agenda are economic, business, and social action workshops; faith based neighborhood partnerships, worship, singing, and prayer.

NAACP National President and CEO Rev. Cornell Williams Brooks, Esq. will give the closing speech at an Awards Banquet to be held Wednesday night. Brooks is a fourth-generation minister in the AME Church.