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Black History Month shines a light on the other side of the fence

05 20210204 163135The narrative of history depends upon who is telling the story. The narrative of Black History Month is rarely told by Blacks.

Every year, we are told the same stories about the same people. Much of America has grown comfortable with telling the “safe” stories. During the month of February, we are constantly reminded of how slavery is an integral part of our heritage. Nobody wants to tell the honest story of what happened to Black America.

Many of the stories told during Black History Month are traumatic experiences that have residual effects. The notion of Black History Month is divisive in nature. BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY.

The fact is that society has normalized division and continues to plague us as a human race. If we are a part of history, why is it that we only celebrate the impact and accomplishments of Black Americans during the shortest month of the year? Black people are making history every day. No disrespect to those who have came before us, but we must give people their flowers while they are able to smell them.

There are people in the community that have made history right here in the city of Fayetteville. For instance, Marshall Pitts is the first Black mayor of Fayetteville.

2020, which Christian Mosley calls “The Black Year,” revealed the true history of American society. The chants of protesters unearthed the time capsule of America’s attitude towards the Black community.

Black History Month stories romanticize the lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., even though he was hated, jailed and even killed for his beliefs and thoughts. However, American society celebrates his legacy as if he was beloved when he was alive.

The social justice movement of today mirrors the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Advances in technology have allowed activists to tell their stories in real-time. However, the world has become so sensitive that the truth is frowned upon or silenced.

Sometimes, history can be divisive. The conversation surrounding the history of the Market House continues to be as polarizing as the paint that circles the structure. Throughout the last year, we have seen the removal of statues deemed to be “hateful” or “symbols of oppression.” On the opposing side, some argue that the monuments represent “pride” and “celebrates heritage.”

The Market House continues to divide our city. The mural was done as the city’s way to further the message of the City Council of 1989 that is engraved on a plaque attached to a pillar under the structure. The 1989 City Council acknowledged the trauma associated with the building. The message reads: “In memory and honor of those indomitable people who were stripped of their dignity when sold as slaves at this place.”

The removal and re-installment of the mural has been a hot topic. Rather than keep focusing on the structure or the mural, the city should appreciate Collyn Strother and Malcolm Chester. These two young men worked tirelessly to create a piece that symbolizes unity and inclusion.

But, there is a difference between diversity and inclusion. Fayetteville prides itself on diversity, but the city is not very inclusive. Diversity invites people to the table, but inclusion empowers your voice to be heard while you’re at the table. The person who came up this this quote must have been referencing the way the “system” panders to young Black America.

Recently, I sat with the group of artists under the Market House and discussed the role of art in the social justice movement. The common consensus among the group is the role of the artist is to bring the truth to the forefront. The group went on to express how nothing can replace the original feeling of initially completing the project. The group of artists are the truest definition of unity. They all represented different walks of life but came together for a common goal. By painting the mural, they were able to create progressive conversation around the Market House.

However, it is time for some new Black History. Much of my generation are natural born American citizens. Therefore, we should be celebrated like all other Americans that have changed the narrative.

In addition, we must stop covering up the truth like Collyn had to cover up the “peace sign” and “fist of solidarity” he had painted on the North and South exits of the traffic circle. Moments later, he received a call saying that he had to cover the symbols. The fact that those symbols had to be covered is another sign that society is not ready to accept its faults.

Once we open and honestly address the issues of racial inequality, we will be able to move forward as a unit like this group of artists have done. They are the epitome of unity and inclusion. They are what America should be modeled after.

Our exchange under the Market House was extremely refreshing. As a society, we must choose CONVERSATION OVER CONFRONTATION and LEAD WITH LOVE. Salute to Collyn and Malcolm.

Salute to every activist getting active. Happy Black History Month. Peace.

Pictured: Artist Collyn Strother paints over a peace symbol that was part of the mural circling the Market House in downtown Fayetteville.

Black America's destructive change in strategy and tactics

04 Benjamin Oliver Davis JrI am starting this opinion piece on 28 January 2021; Black History Month begins in a few days. As I think about the intended purpose of that designated time, an overwhelming sense of sorrow, of grief, overtakes me. A Black History Month article (updated 27 January 2021) at www.history.com gives this purpose for the month: “Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.”

In my lifetime, our nation has had substantial reason to celebrate and appreciate many Black Americans who, in powerfully positive fashion, contributed not only to our country, but to the world. This weight of sadness that I feel now is because, even though there are still Black citizens worthy of note for what they contribute to humanity, the numbers of such people seem far less than was the case just a few years ago. Even more painful than the much lower numbers is what I see as the reason for this decline. Not only are we failing to produce numbers of towering contributors to the wellbeing of society; instead, Black Americans are, to a substantial extent, providing fuel for the destruction of this great nation. I would argue that this is due to Black America’s change in strategy and tactics.

Strategy is defined as overall aims, while tactics are those actions employed in pursuing those overall aims. I contend that what was the prevailing strategy and tactics of Black Americans for many years is obvious if one takes time to study the lives of those who lived in that period. The candidates for study are numerous, but the life and career of General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. superbly illustrates the strategy and tactics to which I am referring.

General Davis was the first Black to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the 20th Century and the fourth in the Academy’s history, ranking 35 in a class of 276. His dream was to become an aviator, but was not allowed to do so because the Army Air Corps was not accepting Blacks for flight training. Despite initially not being allowed to enter flight training in the Army, he did so later and went on to reach the rank of Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force that, in 1947, became a separate military branch. Among Davis’ assignments was that of Commander 99th Fighter Squadron. This was the Army’s first Black fighter squadron. It performed in outstanding fashion during World War II and Davis proved highly effective and successful as squadron commander. In December 1998, well after his retirement in 1970, President Bill Clinton promoted Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. to full general. He had retired as a lieutenant general.

That is an extremely broad overview of General Davis’ military career. The focus for this discussion, however, is on how he set personal goals and had clear tactics for achieving those goals. Every indication is that this approach was consistent across the span of his lifetime. It shows repeatedly, but especially during his four years at West Point. That was an exceedingly difficult and challenging time. The following is from an article titled “General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.: A Life of Fortitude and Faithfulness” by Susan Robertson:

When he matriculated into the Long Gray Line, Davis encountered a juggernaut of institutional prejudice. During his four years as a cadet, he was never assigned a roommate and frequently shunned at required social events. Even worse, he endured the entire experience with no one speaking to him outside of the line of duty. Davis patiently endured countless daily depravations and degradations and kept his eye on the prize. Remarkably, he was to note later of his ill treatment: “It was designed to make me buckle, but I refused to buckle. They didn’t understand that I was going to stay there. That I was going to graduate.” When he did graduate and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1936, the Army had only two black line officers, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Such was Davis’ grace and character, he would say of his time at West Point: ”Living as a prisoner in solitary confinement for four years had not destroyed my personality, nor poisoned my attitude toward other people.” Yet, in spite of, or rather, because of the hardships he endured, Davis had already made an impact on his future fellow officers. In the 1936 issue of The Howitzer, West Point’s yearbook, it was said of him:

The courage, tenacity, and intelligence with which he conquered a problem incomparably more difficult than plebe year won for him the sincere admiration of his classmates, and his single-minded determination to continue in his chosen career cannot fail to inspire respect wherever fortune may lead him.

What I see here is a man who understood the power of persuasion that comes with doing a job well and demonstrating resolve in the face of challenging situations. When life is unfair and it feels as though the world is against us, we, as individuals, must choose how to respond. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. chose a goal, worked hard, refused to give up; in the process, he achieved much and gained the respect of many who had treated him unfairly … as well as many who might have otherwise done so in the future. This was the prevailing approach to life among Black Americans during his time and for generations before and maybe for some after him. Even though confronted with unfair treatment, embracing the Davis strategy and tactics rewarded Black Americans with improved respect and advancement in society and in living conditions.

I was born shortly after the end of World War II, when the life strategies and tactics employed by General Davis were still very present among Black Americans. I saw it work in the lives of my parents, grandmothers (both of my grandfathers died before I was born), uncles and aunts.

I lived with my maternal grandmother, Ma’ Bessie, until I was eight years old. One day, when I was about seven, she told me to sweep the back porch. I was simply sweeping the easy-to-reach areas. She came over and took the broom and demonstrated how I should sweep the corners and along the base of the walls. Then she looked into my young eyes and said, “Karl, whatever you do in life, do it well; you don’t know what you will have to do to earn a living, but whatever it is, do it well.” This was a lady whose husband had died and left her with three small children to rear. She did it all alone. I remember her washing the clothes of people as a source of income. I especially remember how she would starch and iron white shirts to perfection and hang them on the front porch for pick up.

Ma’ Bessie never gained the fame of a Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., but she had that same set of life strategies and tactics. I will be forever thankful that she, and others, exposed me to that life approach. Whatever good I have done in life, whatever genuine success has come to me, I owe to God and to people like Ma’ Bessie who were put in my life by Him.

Simply put, I contend that, for the most part, Black America has shifted to goals and strategies that would not be recognized, or considered reasonable, by Ma’ Bessie, General Davis, and millions of Black Americans who built successful lives by employing the approach described to this point. This shift has brought far too many Black Americans to focus on quotas for employment, education and business opportunities; deemphasizing the two parent family unit; looking to government to solve problems of poverty, alleged racism, low academic achievement; placing self-serving individuals in positons of power and influence; literally making every problem that plagues Black Americans about racism; calling for self-destructive actions, such as defunding police when they are extremely needed in the Black community; protesting in a fashion that routinely ends in riots, looting and destruction of property along with lives and livelihoods; creating a victim mentality among Black Americans. Without doubt, this approach is not only proving destructive for Black Americans, but also for all of America.

In the final analysis, the pressing question is: which group of goals and strategies should be the choice of Black America today? Given that the approach employed by Ma’ Bessie, General Davis, and millions of other Black Americans proved extremely successful while today’s prevailing approach is contributing to the destruction of a people and a country, the choice is crystal clear for me. Because the successful goals and strategies of the past have been discarded in favor of a shiny new destructive set, I grieve deeply.

Pictured: General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

I will not be silenced

02 sit inFebruary is an extraordinary month. I planned to write for you today to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the day where three friends and I boldly went and sat at the Woolworth counter in Greensboro, NC. As Black men, we didn't know how we would be leaving that restaurant. Some of us feared we would be beaten or even killed. That sit-in sparked similar sit-ins across the nation leading to significant social change in the United States.

Sadly, while the anniversary day should have been a day to celebrate how far we've come, we see firsthand how the liberal news media is viciously attacking independent thinking Black men.

Last week WRAL published a political cartoon that depicted my good friend, Mark Robinson, as a Klansman simply because he refuses to rubber-stamp the leftist agenda promoted by their liberal organization. Amazingly, this is only a few days after the Democrat-controlled school board scheduled a meeting that they knew Lt. Governor Robinson could not attend. It's heartbreaking how, even after 61 years, we're still having to fight to have a Black man protect his seat at the table.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we should be promoting, not silencing, voices like Mark Robinson's, our state's first Black Lieutenant Governor!

Like Mark, I will not be silenced! I plan to continue the fight. Through our efforts with the NC Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Frederick Douglass Foundation to educate and engage conservative-minded minorities, we will work even harder to combat these disgraceful attacks from the left. Will you stand with us? Let's send a message that we will not let them intimidate us! That's the best way to celebrate Black History and making history.

Pictured above: On the second day of the 1960 Greensboro sit-in, Clarence Henderson (far right) joins (front left to right) Joseph A. McNeil, Franklin E. McCain and William Smith at the Woolworth lunch counter.
(Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Editor's Note: In a press conference, Lt. Gov. Robinson reacted to the cartoon: "On the second day of Black History Month, the first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina has been portrayed as [racist]," he said. "That you would portray a Black man, just because he's in the GOP, as a Klansman ... the hypocrisy is mind-numbing, folks."
In a statement from Capitol Broadcasting Company, Opinion Editor Seth Effron said: “Editorial cartoons are creative and provocative, using hyperbole and satire. No one believes Republicans on the State Board of Education are members of the Ku Klux Klan. The editorial cartoon by Dennis Draughon is meant to point out that these members of the State Board are trying to wipe out from the social studies curriculum the record of racism which includes the Klan and the segregationist practices that were imposed in our state and nation’s history.”

Clarence Henderson was a student at N.C. A&T State University when he sat down at the lunch counter at the Greensboro, Woolworth in the winter of 1960. The purpose was to protest racial segregation. He was 18 years of age. He wanted to change the system then, and now 61 years later, he is still working hard to change the system. This Black History Month and every month, we want to honor men like Mr. Henderson for their dedication and perseverance to obtaining fair and equal rights for all. Thank you for all your contributions. — Bill Bowman, Publisher

And the truth shall set you free

03 kids backpacks in front of schoolYour mama and mine were clear about this. We do not tell lies, nor do we perpetuate them. I must have told a whopper, because I can still remember my Kinston grandmother grabbing both my arms and putting her nose next to mine and hissing at me, “Margaret Dawson, don’t you EVER tell me a teewaddie again!” Teewaddie is eastern North Carolina speak for a big fat lie. I must have been about 5 or 6, and her technique was so effective, I doubt I ever told her another one.

There are facts, of course, and there are interpretations of facts, and sometimes it is difficult to separate them. The North Carolina Board of Education has been in the midst of just such a quandary, and it is not likely over yet. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements and the sketchy, relaxed relationship with the truth enjoyed by our former President and many of his supporters, the Board has been wrestling with how to teach North Carolina’s school children about inequity and injustice in American society.

Those are concepts not unlike art and pornography — hard to define, but we all know them when we see them. The 1898 coup d’etat in Wilmington, the only such overthrow of an elected government in American history, is a fact. It was not taught in schools during my public education because it had been spun in a different light. It has been well documented in recent years though by, among others, Philip Gerard in "Cape Fear Rising" (1994) and more recently in "Wilmington’s Lie" (2020) by David Zucchino, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and graduate of Terry Sanford High School. The coup d’etat, long buried in state and national history, should be part of social studies and history curricula at all levels in North Carolina schools and throughout our nation. Ditto for other documented events including civil rights activities, the women’s movement, and other historical events with both positive and negative connotations.

The Board struggled, and understandably so, over less concrete questions, including adjectives. Early proposals for social studies curriculum standards in included “systemic racism,” “system discrimination,” and “engender identity.” After fierce Board of Education debate over several months, a 7 to 5 vote has adopted standards that dropped those adjectives for less precise language. Still, it is a step in the right direction.

Proponents of social studies standards say the information will be more meaningful to students of color who now make up the majority of public school students in North Carolina. Opponents contend the standards project anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-democratic viewpoints. The fight is not over yet. Later this year, professional staff at the Department of Public Instruction will present additional documentation of how the new standards will be implemented in classrooms, which is sure to ignite yet another round of disagreement about what our children should learn and how they should learn it.

Most of us are not educators and know little about curriculum development of any sort. Most of us do have common sense, however, as have leaders of all stripes when they ponder truth, however painful. Here are three that ring true
to me.

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is (sic) pains to bring it to light.” — George Washington

“Repetition does not translate a lie into a truth.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

And, chillingly, this from Sir Winston Churchill in a 1948 speech to Parliament. He was surely speaking about war, but it works just as well for discrimination and injustice.
“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

The internet, social media and diminishing freedom of speech

03 pexels andrea piacquadio 3768723The reality is that big tech has now jumped right into the arena of the war on censorship. After last week's rally in D.C., Facebook cut user's live feeds. Later, Twitter and Facebook deleted President Trump's account and many others.

Let's be honest: for years, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have all been picking and choosing what's seen and not seen on social media platforms. This summer, we watched day and night riots, cities burning, stores looted, police assaulted and thugs were indiscriminately beating the crap out of people. We watched uncensored social media accounts of these coordinated riots and attacks from all across the county.

I understand that these "big tech" companies have the right to do as they wish. I get it. But, now, it's their way or the highway. In a world of competition, a new company immerged called Parler. If you are not familiar with Parler, it has pitched itself as "Twitter without restrictions." Twitter and Facebook are both free apps, and the president nor anyone else owns them. In exchange for this free service, they use our information and our keystrokes then sell that data to other companies. So last week, the president jumped on Parler. But no-no, without warning, Google pulled Parler from the Google Play Store, and Apple's App Store followed suit. Amazon hosts Parler on their Amazon Web Services and has also threatened to pull Parler. If AWS pulls Parler, they will more than likely be finished. All of this under the pretense that Trump supporters used Parler to call for violence at the Capitol. Really?

I protest a lot, not in force and not at a demonstration. I quietly resist. I usually protest by not purchasing or using a company's products or services. If you have an Apple phone, Apple requires you to go through their App Store to load apps.

Google does the same. Amazon owns one of the most extensive web hosting services in the world. When we hear the word cloud, that is part of it. Your information and the company's platforms are stored on their servers.

Who made these "high-tech" companies responsible for national security? Isn't that law enforcement's job? If there were plots to overthrow the country beforehand, why didn't they report them to the FBI or Homeland Security? When these companies unilaterally or collectively decide to target private citizens, businesses and organizations, that is a conspiracy known as racketeering. Now is the time for Attorney Generals and the FBI to do their jobs and start opening and investigating some cases.

Why is this happening? Imagine, what if the 78 million people who voted for Donald Trump decided to close their Facebook account and move to Parler? Their revenue would drop, and their stock would nosedive. And, what if 78 million people decided to no longer use Amazon for their shopping and decide to go back to shopping at their local stores?

Although these actions are not state-run communist propaganda machines, the effects are the same. These high-tech companies are essentially suppressing American's freedom of speech and restricting our First Amendment rights.

Today, everything revolves around the internet. For years, we were told to stop killing trees, protect the environment and save the planet. This made it easy to move toward the internet and social media. Even if you are frustrated and fed up with all of this, we find ourselves with very few alternatives because we cannot disconnect. Almost everything in our daily lives is connected to the internet. Payroll is electronic with no option to pay in cash. We do taxes via the internet. Our televisions, watches and Amazon Alexas all are collecting data 24/7. Our modern vehicles track every place we go and continually sends out data with no option to turn off the transmitters.

Can we go back to old school dial-up telephones, manual typewriters and Post Office mail? Can we demand we get paid via a paper check or real cash? How about we quit debating about election fraud and decide to dump electronic voting machines and return to in-person voting on paper ballots. While we are at it, let's get back on the gold standard. Here, in less than 800 words, I laid out how we can fix some issues in America pretty quickly. By the way, does anyone know how to train carrier pigeons?

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