November 28, 2013
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Several of the Washington, D.C.-area’s most celebrated civil rights leaders converged on Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW recently to pay homage to a man who gave his life in the quest for freedom.
Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran who lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., who started a public campaign after he was denied admittance to the then-all White Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of changing minds about letting him into the university, however, he was framed for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for seven years to quiet his voice.
As his condition grew grave, throngs of supporters were successful in getting him released. He died in July 1963.
On Nov. 14, several of the late Kennard’s friends from the Civil Rights Movement came together to celebrate him, including Dorie Ladner and her sister, Dr. Joyce Ladner, former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees.
Both helped in the effort to free Kennard. Also at the program were Julian Bond, the former congressman and NAACP president emeritus who also fought for freedom as a SNCC member; and Dick Gregory, who paid for Kennard to travel to Chicago to be treated for his illness shortly after he was released from prison, six months before he died.
Speakers described Kennard as a soft-spoken peaceful man who fought a gentle fight for his rights and the rights of others. His sword was his pen, which he wielded mightily, writing eloquent arguments on behalf of his cause and the wrongs of segregation. To quiet him, a jury convicted him of theft in a conspiracy that included some of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Hattiesburg.
“Now this principle is an easy one for us to follow, for it holds as true in human history, especially American History, as it does in logic,” Kennard wrote to the Hattiesburg American in 1959. “Reason tells us that two things, different in location, different in constitution, different in origin, and different in purpose cannot possibly be equal. History has verified this conclusion.”
The Ladner sisters spoke affectionately about Kennard. Members of the Split This Rock D.C. Youth Slam read excerpts of Kennard letters. Eddie Holloway, the current president of the USM, talked about the school Kennard so wanted to attend.
A portrait of Kennard by Robert Shetterly, a member of Americans Who Tell the Truth, was unveiled. Previously, Shetterly has portrayed Gregory, Rep. John Lewis and civil rights martyr Ella Baker.
Years after his death, Kennard’s name was cleared.
November 28, 2013
By Princess Manasseh
LAWT Contributing Writer
Reverend Jesse Jackson celebrated his 72nd birthday Friday, November 22 with the help of his longtime friends and political allies Andrew Young, Maxine Waters, and Karen Bass.
More than a month after Jackson’s actual birthday – which falls on October 8 – the celebration for the past fifteen years has doubled as a Rainbow Push and Citizen Education fundraising event and awards dinner for Jackson’s non-profit organization.
Jackson arrived to the celebration directly from shooting the Arsenio Hall show.
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the celebration brought out hundreds of people; many personal friends, notables and supporters of his non-profit’s work.
Jackson’s eldest daughter, Santita served as mistress of ceremonies.
A variety of news clippings were played over the course of the program displaying highlights of Jackson’s work as a political activist, primarily highlighting his expertise in negotiating hostage situations. Jackson has freed political prisoners abroad on six different occasions, in each instance, acting without the support of the American government.
Taking no breaks from the fight against injustice, Jackson told the Sentinel on November 22 that currently his biggest concern is developing a comprehensive plan for reconstruction.
“The voting rights act is under threat again with streams of suppression,” he said, referring to the recent government shutdown.
“Those who close the doors of congress also want to close the door on access to voting.
“Secondly,” the Reverend continued, “poverty is a threat to us. We not only need affordable healthcare we also need affordable food, and drinkable water, and a job, a place to stay, and secure education.”
Jackson shared his birthday spotlight with eight community servants honored with awards during the gala.
Grammy Award-winning singer, Chaka Kahn was another celebrity attendee. Kahn took to the stage and sang happy birthday to her good friend Jackson followed by a crowd prompted performance of “My Funny Valentine.”
Tony Cornelius, son of the late Don Cornelius, was also a guest.
“Reverend Jackson has always been a family friend of ours. He’s also supported the Cornelius Family Foundation and I’ve always supported him as well. He and my father were very, very close.”
November 28, 2013
By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times
Attorneys for Marissa Alexander, 33, the Florida mother of three who has spent over 1,000 days in jail and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot over the head of her allegedly abusive husband, have won a new trial for their client. Now they and Alexander are hopeful that a Jacksonville judge will grant her bond. Last September, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Alexander, stating that the jury had received incorrect directions. A new trial has been set for March 31, 2014.
Alexander’s case garnered national attention after she was denied immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years under the 10-20-Life statutes for discharging a firearm during certain felonies. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution says that despite her claim that she was only firing a warning shot and that the bullet hit a wall and not the ceiling, that it could have killed her husband, Rico Gray or his children. Gray has two children, both of whom are now in his custody. The couple also has an infant child together. Her attorney was unable to provide information about the whereabouts of the youngest child and who is currently caring for the child.
In court last week, Bruce Zimmet, one of the lead attorneys for Alexander, argued that she poses no threat to society or to her husband with whom she is now finalizing a divorce.
“We were pleased that the appellate court reversed her conviction and allowed for a retrial,” Zimmet said. “We have already had part of the bond hearing and the judge has reserved ruling on bond until we file additional papers that reply to the state’s reply. The judge will then decide if bond should be granted. Of course Marissa wants to get home to her children and we believe that as she has no criminal record except this matter involving her husband, that she should be granted her freedom until the trial.”
Zimmet, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1976 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He is joined by Mike Dowd, a New York-based pioneering attorney in the battered women’s movement. Both have taken on the case pro bono.
“After she was convicted and sentenced in 2012, I was asked to review the case and after looking at the transcript I believed our team could help this woman — a first offender who got a 20-year sentence.”
Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, recently spoke to members of the media at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville and explained how the events transpired in the August 2010 shooting. He claims it was his wife who first began punching him after he confronted her about texts she had sent to her ex-husband. He says that he was trying to take his two sons away from their home and was getting their things together when he made the remark that their newborn baby must have been fathered by her ex. That’s when he said she uttered several expletives, went to the garage to her truck and returned with her gun. After firing the weapon, he says he grabbed the children and ran.
November 28, 2013
By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA
Three of the last Scottsboro Boys, African American youths falsely accused of raping two White women in 1931, were granted posthumous pardons by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“The long overdue pardon of the African American young men unjustly charged with rape in Alabama decades ago comes too late to provide any comfort to them, but at least will officially clear their names,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “We must recognize this as an opportunity to demonstrate the corrosive, unjust associations between criminality and race prevalent in the early 20th century and sadly, too much with us today.”
For years, the incident involving nine Black youths traveling on a train from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Scottsboro, Ala. and looking for work, encountered a gang of White youths on the train.
“The trouble began when three or four white boys crossed over the oil tanker that four of us colored fellows from Chattanooga were in,” wrote Haywood Patterson in his book “Scottsboro Boy,” co-authored with Earl Conrad. “One of the white boys, he stepped on my hand and liked to have knocked me off the train,” Patterson continued. “I didn’t say anything then, but the same guy, he brushed by me again and liked to have pushed me off the car. I caught hold of the side of the tanker to keep from falling off.”
After a series of epithets from the White boys, a melee ensued, and the Black boys got the best of the White boys, tossing them from the train. Angered by the defeat, they hurried to the next station, reported the altercation and alerted the sheriff at Scottsboro.
Unbeknownst to the Black boys, there were two White girls, dressed like boys, hoboing on the train. When the train pulled into the station, the White girls, afraid of being arrested from hopping the train, claimed they had been raped.
All of them – Patterson, Roy Wright and his brother, Andy, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Ozie Powell – were arrested and taken to jail.
Thus began their long ordeal, making them a cause celebre for years and commanding the attention of the NAACP and the International Labor Defense.
“Starting with the arrest of nine black men and boys on fabricated and completely contradictory allegations of the rape of two white women, the case proceeded through a serious of rushed and unfair trials,” Parker wrote. “The defendants were represented by counsel wholly unfamiliar with criminal defense work and unable to conduct even the most basic investigations. The jury deciding the case completely excluded African Americans and their deliberations were conducted under the very real threat of the lynching of the defendants.
“Although the alleged victims [Ruby Bates and Victoria Price] ultimately recanted their stories and admitted that their allegations of rape were complete fabrications, all of the men were convicted and all but one [13-year-old Roy Wright] sentenced to death. During the case, seemingly every ugly stereotype appeared, from the depiction of the criminally rapacious black male intent on ravishing white women to the attacks on the counsel who ultimately took on the case on remand as meddling, communistic Jewish lawyers from New York.”
In the succeeding years, the case was tried three times and eventually charges were dropped for four of the defendants. All but two of them served prison sentences. One was shot in prison by a guard. Two escaped, were charged with crimes, and were returned to prison.
Patterson escaped from prison in 1948 and two years later wrote his book before being snared again by the law. The governor of Michigan, however, refused to have him extradited to Alabama. Later, during a bar fight, he stabbed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. He died of cancer while serving a second sentence in 1952.
In 1946, Clarence Norris, the oldest of the defendants and the only one sentenced to death, and upon being paroled, he went into hiding. Gov. George C. Wallace pardoned him in 1976 and he authored an autobiography in 1979. He died in 1989, the last survivor of the Scottsboro Boys.