Black History Month (BHM) Week 4: Guilty on All Counts

It’s time to Break It Down!

As we queue up the last full week of February, it turns out timing is propitious. Coinciding with the fourth and final installment in my BHM ’22 Series, a jury in Brunswick, Georgia delivered the verdict in the cases of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan; guilty on all counts in the federal hate crimes trial. The trio was previously found guilty in November, for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

The presiding Judge, Lisa Godbey Wood, spoke to each defendant along with the attorneys advising them they have 14 days to file any post-trial motions, and that the U.S. probation office would conduct a pre-sentencing interview before scheduling a sentencing hearing. The defendants showed little to no emotion.

The jury foreperson was one of three Black jurors. She was emotional during the court’s reading the verdict, and wiped away tears, while the jury was being polled.

Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, Sr. looked on attentively as the clerk read the verdicts. Leigh McMichael, Travis’ mother, and Gregory’s wife, watched stoically. After all the verdicts were read, Mrs. McMichael was the only person who remained seated. The Arbery family and their supporters, along with the prosecuting attorneys were on their feet, embracing and congratulating each other.

Judge Woods thanked the jury and recognized both sets of attorneys. She told the prosecutors they had a “difficult task” due to the nature of the charges and told the defense counsel that although they were court-appointed, they represented their clients zealously. She added, no one need wonder whether the defendants got a fair trial or whether the attorneys were skillful – they did and they were.

The verdict was rendered yesterday, “Twosday,” one day before the two-year anniversary of Mr. Arbery’s murder, and two days short of three months after the three defendants’ murder conviction.

During the course of the hate crimes trial, prosecutors established that all three defendants spoke privately and publicly about Black people using inflammatory and derogatory language, including racial slurs.

During Monday’s closing arguments, prosecutor Tara Lyons underscored that Arbery was killed because he was Black, saying:

“The defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a fellow human being.”

Arbery was out for a jog when the defendants killed him. Now, after the second trial, the verdict is in…“Black History Month (BHM) Week 4: Guilty on All Counts!”

I’m done; “holla back!”

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Black History Month (BHM) Week 3: Chronicles of the Evolution of African American Life Redux ’22

It’s time to Break It Down!

Twelve years ago, in February 2010, I wrote a series of 4 profiles on African Americans3 of whom were little known.  While their exploits were dramatic in all four instances, they were simply fundamentally, even stunningly life altering in some cases. In 2012, I synthesized the material from those four posts into one digest, which I reposted in 2019. I am reprising again today.

We live in an age in which, despite the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and the pervasiveness of the 24-7 news cycle, the names, exploits, and accomplishments of luminaries such as Henrietta LacksCharlotte Hawkins Brown, and Alexander Manly are enmeshed in an historical nebula; present, but barely known or visible.

By contrast, speak or write the name Barack Obama, and due to a variety of factors, almost anyone you meet in the civilized world is capable of spouting off a vast array of factoids, real, imagined, true or false.  As POTUS, President Obama certainly earned all the notoriety he amassed, while the relative lack of knowledge about LacksBrown, and Manly is in no way an accurate reflection of their relative importance.  All made important contribution to life, as we know it in America; at least one altered the dynamics of medical history around the world.

Alex Manly, who was African American, was also a descendent of Charles ManlyNorth Carolina’s 31st Governor.  In 1898Wilmington held the dual distinction of being North Carolina’s largest city, and predominantly black.  Mr. Manly was the editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, the only black-owned newspaper in the United States at the time.  He wrote a controversial editorial with both racial and sexual implications.  The piece was so super-charged that it is cited as the catalyst for the infamous November 10, 1898 Wilmington race riot. The gist of Manly’s editorial comments is aptly distilled in this quote:

  • “Our experience among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.”

The rest is history; it took three months, but in November, after the August editorial that included that quote, Wilmington burned…and Manly and the robust black leadership class fled the city.  Manly was an example of a bold and defiant voice that emerging black leaders would demonstrate in the American South and across this country in the coming years.  The reaction of much of Wilmington’s white citizenry was equally clear, and at that juncture, more powerfully defiant.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a native North Carolinian who was educated in Massachusetts, and who returned to her home state to lead an all-girls’ school, which she later transformed into a Junior College.

Ms. Brown made her mark fostering and improving African American achievement, especially among women.  Her considerable legacy includes:

Henrietta Lacks is not from North Carolina (she hailed from neighboring Virginia), but her story’s impact permeates not only the Tar Heel (and Old Dominion) state, and the rest of the country, but spans the entire globe.  Ms. Lacks, who lived a short life, by almost any measure, died of cervical cancer at age 31 in 1951.  Posthumously, she would go on to have an inordinate impact on cancer treatment as well as several other serious diseases, all over the world, through cells removed prior to her death.  The essence of her story is that:

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a scientific breakthrough related to Ms. Lacks’ cells. In a departure from anything the scientists had seen before, the cells culled from Ms. Lacks continued to grow, outside of her body, and after her death. In fact, they did not just survive, they multiplied. In a circular irony, cells from Ms. Lacks’ culture were used to help Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vaccine for polio in 1955. Of course, Ms. Lacks had marched to help find a cure for that disease just four years earlier.

Unarguably, the Barack Obama story is one that most Americans are familiar with, at least tangentially.  President Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, was born in Hawaii, graduated from Columbia University, and Harvard University Law School, and went on to become a Chicago community organizer.  Oh yeah, on November 4, 2008, he was elected President of the United States.  As such:

One of President Obama’s historic appointments was the selection of Eric Holder as Attorney General (He also subsequently appointed Loretta Lynch, also an African American, who filled the position when General Holder stepped down to pursue other interests).  That would hold special significance this month anyway, as Mr. Holder is African American.  It has taken on an added dimension however, as Dr. Sharon MaloneMr. Holder’s wife, distinguished in her own right, shared a part of her family history in a 2019 PBS Special, in which she detailed how her Uncle Henry, born nearly 30 after slavery ended officially, was one of thousands of black men arrested on fabricated charges and forced into labor camps and compelled to work without pay.  As Dr. Malone told the story, she asked that we:

  • Imagine that this “convict leasing” system saw the groups of prisoners sold to private parties – like plantation owners or corporations – and that it was not only tolerated by both the North and Southbut was largely ignored by the U.S. Justice Department.
  • Now, imagine that nearly a century after your uncle served 366 days in this penal labor system, you find yourself married to the head of the U.S. Justice Department, who, ironically, just so happens to be the first African American in the position.

There are many reasons why this information is not just historically significant, but contemporarily relevant.  None is more compelling than debunking the idea that the vagaries and vicissitudes of slavery and its variant offshoots no longer plague our society in general and African Americans in particular.  As Dr. Malone put it:

  • “I want people to understand that this is not something that’s divorced and separate, and this doesn’t have anything to do with them.  If you were a black person who grew up in the South, some way or the other – whether or not you were directly involved in the system as my uncle was – you knew somebody who was, or your daily lives were circumscribed by those circumstances.”

Unless you are part of Dr. Malone’s immediate family, her Uncle Henry is likely even more of an unknown to you than Alex Manly, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Henrietta Lacks.  Yet, his story is as irrevocably interwoven into the fabric of African American and American History as that of President Obama.  In fact, African American History is American History.  Over this month, by all means, take at least one more moment to reflect on the fact it’s not just a month, it’s every single day, 24/7/365…“Black History Month (BHM) Week 3: Chronicles of the Evolution of American Life Redux ’22!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

Black History Month (BHM) Week 2: This Is America

It’s time to Break It Down!

This past Sunday morning, the start of the second week of BHM, residents of a Houston, Texas neighborhood awoke to find White Supremacist flyers on the windshields of their cars, and in some instances, on their front doors. In last week’s post, I discussed a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) receiving bomb threats in week one of BHM. The beat goes on.

William White, director of operations for tha Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in discussing the matter with CNN, said of the event, “This is horrifying.”

The flyer is entitled, “2026: A Race Odyssey.” It warns, “Think about it! At the current rate of decline, what will America’s major cities look like in ten years?” The center of the flyer depicts a racist caricature of African Americans in negative racial stereotypes. The pamphlet provides a web address for recipients to follow. CNN opted not to show the flyer, due to its racist and offensive nature.

Mr. White added, “I do believe that this is about voter intimidation. There is no place for that in the city.”

While February is BHM, the next election, the primary, in Harris County is March 1. Early voting starts next Monday, February 14.

White is not revealing the name of the neighborhood, due to safety reasons, but he does indicate it’s a diverse community. At least four residents received the flyers, although others may be afraid to come forward to report the act. Moreover, none of the residents are willing to speak with reporters; however, one of them did call his office to report the incident. CAIR is investigating. White hopes they may be able to get some information from area security cameras, as the perpetrator was disseminating the flyers. 

Mr. White is still gathering evidence to present to Harris County law enforcement and the FBI. He also hopes elected officials denounce the racist act. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said deputies took an incident report from a resident, which they will forward to their internal Homeland Security Bureau.

The FBI issued the following statement:

“The FBI Houston Field Office is aware of the incident involving the distribution of white supremacist flyers in a Northwest Harris County neighborhood and we are in regular contact with local authorities. FBI policy prohibits confirming or denying an investigation. However, if during the local investigation, information becomes known of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate. The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. In October 2021, FBI Houston launched our participation in a nationwide initiative that encourages the public to report allegations of hate crime to law enforcement.

This appears to be at least the second time the group targeted a neighborhood with White supremacist flyers in the Houston area. Last November, Telemundo Houston, a Spanish language network, reported that racist flyers, with the group’s logo, targeted a neighborhood of immigrants. Those flyers were titled: “Wake up, White America!”

About the incident, the Southwest Regional Anti-Defamation League Director, Mark B. Toubin stated, “We are concerned about a recent flurry of extremist propaganda distributions in ADL’s Southwest Region. The racist flyers found recently in northwest Harris County are particularly vile and disgusting and it is understandable people who found them in their yards would be outraged and upset. We applaud the good people who recognize the message in the flyers is hateful and wrong. The flyers are designed to attract attention to the individuals and organizations who disseminate them, and we appreciate those who reject the flyers and the disturbing message they contain.”

Just as with the bomb threats, the jury is still out on the individual(s) who carried out this despicable act. There are a host of voices figuratively screaming at their highest decibel levels, trying to convince anyone who will listen that: 1) Racism is no longer a substantive issue in America, 2) Those who focus energy on trying to eliminate it are the problem, and in fact, are the real racists, and 3) That anyone teaching American students historical (and obviously contemporary) facts about racists acts that occurred/are occurring in this country, is a purveyor of Critical Race Theory (CRT). The facts beg to differ. Are you listening? You really should. In 1961, James Baldwin uttered a now famous line. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time. ”Welcome to…”Black History Month (BHM) Week 2: This Is America!”

I’m done; “holla back!”

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Black History Is American History: Welcome To Black History Month – 2022

It’s time to Break It Down!

There really are other things I considered writing about today. In politics, there’s Trump and his pledge to pardon bad actors from the January 6, 2021 coup attempt, one Republican candidate encouraged supporters to go to the polls locked and loaded, while another, urged partisans to unplug voting machines if they saw anything they didn’t like. On the flip side, a GOP Senator praised a prospective Biden nominee for the Supreme Court. Also, a Democratic senator had a stroke, jeopardizing the Party’s hope for attaining a 50+1 majority for measures or initiatives President Biden of Leader Schumer might hope to get through the Senate. In sports, we are in the fortnight pause leading up to the Super Bowl, the widely acclaimed GOAT, Tom Brady officially announced his retirement, via Twitter, and my personal favorite, Andrew Wiggins was named a starter in his first NBA All-Star Game. Congratulations Cuz! However, I get lots of pushback from people who aren’t interested in politics, and who couldn’t care less about sports. After surveying the contemporary topical landscape, it occurred to me, one of the subjects, people find less appealing than politics or sports is…oh yeah, race.

Timing is everything. Yesterday just happened to be the first day of February, A.K.A. the introduction to Black History Month (BHM) – 2022. While I appreciate the tributes and observances associated with BHM, I am quick to note that I, as are all Black Americans, am Black every month, and the reality is, BHM is for White people. We know what we brought to the party.

So, as it happened, yesterday, the start of BHM, over a dozen HBCU’s, that’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the acronym challenged, were assaulted by bomb threats. The list is even longer if those recently receiving threats are counted, but yesterday’s victims include, Alcorn, Coppin State, Edward Waters College, Fort Valley State, Howard, Jackson State, Kentucky State, Mississippi Valley State, Morgan State, Rust College, Spelman, Tougaloo College, the University of DC, and Xavier. Howard was peppered with a double dose, also having received a similar threat Monday.

Other HBCU’s receiving threats in recent days are Albany State, Bethune-Cookman, Bowie State, Delaware State, and Southern.  All the threats are being investigated at this time. While no bombs have been found, the threats had to be taken seriously, and have proved to be the source of major disruptions across all the affected campuses. Typical response measures due to threats of this type are shelter in place/lockdowns, on-line classes only, and postponed classes. In the face of no bombs found, which is without question a good thing, it would appear the tactics were intended to instill fear and intimidation, at the very least.

I understand there are those who feel weary from what may seem to them, a never-ending discourse on race. If so, consider the experiences of the students at those 19 colleges and universities. This is just the latest in a seemingly never-ending torrent of aggressions, micro-aggressions, and other slights. “Black History Is American History: Welcome to Black History Month – 2022!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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