June 26, 2014
By George E. Curry
The 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is being commemorated this week in Mississippi and it provides the perfect backdrop to reflect on the transformation of not only Mississippi, then the deadliest state in the nation, but the entire region.
As I have written in the space before, there was a popular joke about Mississippi making the rounds during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Supposedly, a Chicago seminary student was awakened at 3 a.m. by a voice imploring him: “Go to Mississippi! Go to Mississippi!! Go to Mississippi!!!” The seminary student said, “Lord, you said that you will be with me always, even until the end of the earth. If I go to Mississippi, will you go with me?” The heavenly voice replied, “I’ll go as far as Memphis.”
Of course, if the Lord was reluctant to go to Mississippi, the chances of a Black surviving there were slim and none. I had just completed my junior year at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. in the summer of 1964. Alabama had its own violent history when it came to race relations, but Mississippi was the one state we knew was worse. In fact, whenever a national ranking of any kind came out, we would always say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”
Of course, we all awaited the beginning of Freedom Summer, a national mobilization of mostly college students who would descend upon Mississippi in 1964 to help civil rights activists, led by Bob Moses of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), assist Blacks in voter education and voting.
More than 1,000 students, about 90 percent of them White, participated. With so many northern Whites descending on the state, the nation would be watching. And Blacks like me, who grew up under America’s version of apartheid, knew that virulent White racists in Mississippi would not go quietly into the dark. They would go into the dark – where they did their most tawdry work – but they wouldn’t be quiet about it.
And sure enough, at the outset of Freedom Summer, three civil rights workers – James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman – were arrested in Nashoba County by Sheriff Cecil Price, a member of the Ku Klux Klan. That night, they were released. Tipped off about their impending departure, Klansmen abducted the three and murdered them. Their bodies were discovered seven weeks later 15 feet below an earthen dam.
While looking for the three civil rights workers in rivers and swamps, other Black bodies were discovered. One was Herbert Oarsby, a 14-year-old boy who was wearing a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) T-shirt. The bodies of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Eddie Moore, who had been expelled from Alcorn A&M College for civil rights activities, were also discovered. The remains of five more Black men were found, but never identified.
It wasn’t until 1970 that anyone was imprisoned for the slayings of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, with six years being the longest time served.
In 1964, only 6.7 percent of Blacks were registered to vote, the lowest in the nation. Today, more than a third of Mississippi’s voters are Black and the state has the largest number of Black elected officials in the nation.
But that progress came with a price, with people losing their jobs –and even their lives – simply because they wanted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The casualities extended beyond the three civil rights workers.
According to the book, Freedom Summer by Doug McAdam, in the summer of 1964 alone:
• At least four Blacks from Mississippi were murdered because of their civil rights activities
• Four people were seriously wounded
• 80 summer workers were beaten
• 1,062 people were arrested
• 37 churches were burned or bombed
• The homes or businesses of 30 African Americans were bombed or burned.
Visiting college students weren’t the only ones responsible for the success of that summer. When Berea College withdrew as a training site for students headed South, Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, now part of Miami University, stepped forward.
Attorneys volunteered from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU. Medical professionals, participating as individuals as well as members of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, also joined the caravans headed to Mississippi.
The level of national support emboldened Black Mississippians, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, to challenge the seating of the all-White Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
As Attorney Thomas N. Todd likes to remind us, this was done before the existence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
It’s good that civil rights vets are celebrating Freedom Summer this week. But the challenge today is to reignite that passion and sense of commitment. Many of the problems of 1964 are still prevalent today. We need another Freedom Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/ currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.
June 19, 2014
LAWT News Service
Carson City Councilmember Mike Gipson on Monday June 16, announced that he has received the endorsement of Congresswoman Janice Hahn in his campaign for State Assembly in District 64. Congresswoman Hahn represents the 44th Congressional District and is a key endorsement in the 64th District - she currently represents or has represented almost all voters living in the assembly district.
“Mike Gipson is a trusted leader who has made an enormous positive impact in our region,” said Hahn. “I’ve known Mike for over two decades and I’ve been consistently impressed by his integrity, his tireless work ethic and his deep dedication to our community. I’m extraordinarily pleased to offer Mike my endorsement and full support in his positive and issue focused campaign for State Assembly.”
“I am honored to have the endorsement of Congresswoman Janice Hahn,” Gipson said.
“She is a strong and deeply committed advocate for working families, seniors, and young people in our region. I’m thrilled to have her support and look forward to continuing to work with her to expand access to opportunity in our community.”
The endorsement follows quickly after Gipson exceeded all expectations in the four-candidate June 3rd primary – securing 51.2% of the vote, substantially more than double his next closest opponent. Gipson’s campaign has won widespread support from across the district and has been endorsed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Board of Equalization Chair Jerome Horton, the California Teachers Association, the California Democratic Party, the California Legislative Black Caucus, State Senator Alex Padilla and Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra, and a growing and diverse base of support including local municipal leaders, labor unions, regional law enforcement, and state legislators – including Assemblymember Isadore Hall, who currently represents the 64th Assembly District. Visit www.mikegipson.net for a complete list of endorsements.
June 19, 2014
LAWT Wire Services
Grandmasters held their 10th Annual St John’s Day ceremony at the Mt.Tabor Missionary Baptist Church. The Fraternal Order began with a huge parade waving and greeting the Community. Grand Masters and members of the Order were escorted by a motorcade to Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church. The Conference, founded by Grand Master Willie Gaulf 33° was designed to create unity among the Grand Lodges in Southern California. Grand Master Richard Ramirez 33° serves as President while Grand Master Van A. Hibler 33° serves as First Vice President. Hundreds were in attendance including several Chapters of the Order of The Easter Stars to hear remarks from conference officers. The Pastor of Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Ticey M. Brown, delivered a very powerful sermon that was well received by all.
The Sovereign Grandmaster David Henry 33º X° started his speech by saying “ First giving honor to God for without him I am no one. I want to give praise and gratitude to “My” Grandmaster, the Honorable Van A. Hibler 33º and my Worshipful Master /District Deputy Grandmaster Steven Jiles 33° for their continuous methodical and deliberate teachings over the years that shaped me to become the man I am today. Honorable Grand Master Van A. Hibbler 33º taught me many years ago the true essence of this Masonic structure, illuminating my mind to know that you must continue to pray, study and thrust for truth and wisdom in order to lead others down a righteous path. Feed the truth and those men who want to become Master Masons will illuminate their own minds through your truthfulness, and deliberate teachings. Grandmaster Henry 33º X° closed by saying Thank you Worshipful Master Steven Giles Jiles 33º for teaching me for years how to become a Master Mason preparing me to become a Grand Master, and to Honorable Van A. Hibbler for making a Grand Master years ago. I will always love you both and appreciate you forever. I know the importance of passing on the torch of knowledge and leadership to the next generation in the fraternal orders as well the importance of 3&4 letter lodges standing together in solidarity will only better serve the communities of which we travel and this country we vow to protect.
Supreme Sovereign Grand Master David Henry X° introduced R.W. Deputy Grandmaster Kevin Briley 33° and R.W. Grand High Priest Brandon Kiel 33° to address the audience and bring greetings on behalf of Minister & Grand Matron Tonette Henry of the Lady Jewel of the Nile Grand Chapter and The Order of the Eastern Stars. Minister Henry could not be in attendance as she was the keynote speaker at an event for the very important upcoming run-off for LA County Sheriff. G.H.P. Kiel recognized her in her absence, giving thanks to the Political Clergy Council’s Founder and CEO, Minister M.W.G.M Tonette Henry for her continuous hard work, dedication, and strong spiritual leadership, in Southern California. R.W. Grand High Priest, Brandon Kiel serves as the Deputy Director of Community Affairs for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. Kiel informed the audience of the Attorney General's unyielding commitment to education and the importance of each and every members obligation to ensure that every child is reading by the 3rd grade an at 3rd grade reading level, as well as having perfect attendance. Kiel provided shocking information about the staggering numbers of elementary school students who were truant in California and how the Attorney General needs their support to address this critical issue. Kiel received a large round of applause. Freemasonry is the largest and oldest fraternal organization in the world. The rich Masonic history in Southern California can only be preserved if the knowledge from pioneers like Hon. Grand Master Gaulf 33º, Hon. Grand Master Ramirez 33º, and Hon. Grand Master Hibbler is passed down to those who are worthy to teach and build.
June 19, 2014
By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday June 10 that the Justice Department supports a proposal to allow some people serving time in federal prison for nonviolent drug offenses to be eligible for reduced sentences.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a proposal in April to significantly lower the base offense associated with various drug quantities involved in drug trafficking crimes. The Justice Department wants the revised sentencing guidelines to be retroactive for convicts without significant criminal histories and whose offenses did not include aggravating factors, such as the possession of a dangerous weapon or the use of violence.
“Under the department’s proposal, if your offense was nonviolent, did not involve a weapon, and you do not have a significant criminal history, you would be eligible to apply for a reduced sentence in accordance with the new rules approved by the commission in April,” Holder said. “Not everyone in prison for a drug-related offense would be eligible. Nor would everyone who is eligible be guaranteed a reduced sentence.”
The commission will vote next month on whether the change, which is estimated to reduce the average sentence by 23 months, should be applied retroactively to those currently incarcerated.
Holder said a retroactive change “strikes the best balance between protecting public safety and addressing the overcrowding of our prison system that has been exacerbated by unnecessarily long sentences.”