Newswire : Martin Luther King, Jr. was a champion for equity in education

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, at march in Selma, with children of Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s influence on the Civil Rights Movement is indisputable, but his fight for equity in education remains a mystery to some. That fight began with his own education.
“He clearly had an advanced, refined educational foundation from Booker T. Washington High School, Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University,” said Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “His education in his speeches and sermons and writings were apparent and he wanted us all to have that type of education.”
King completed high school at 15, college at 19, seminary school at 22 and earned a doctorate at 26.
“Dr. King laid down the case for affordable education for all Americans, including Polish children—from the ghetto and the barrios, to the Appalachian mountains and the reservations—he was a proponent for education for all and he believed that strong minds break strong chains and once you learn your lesson well, the oppressor could not unlearn you.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), said that NAN works with Education for a Better America to partner with school districts, universities, community colleges, churches, and community organizations around the country to conduct educational programming for students and parents.
“The mission of the organization has been to build bridges between policymakers and the classrooms by supporting innovations in education and creating a dialogue between policymakers, community leaders, educators, parents, and students,” Sharpton said. “We’re promoting student health, financial literacy, and college readiness in our communities, just like Dr. King did.”
King was a figure to look up to in both civil rights and academia, Sharpton told the NNPA Newswire.
“Then, when you look at his values, he always saw education, especially in the Black community, as a tool to uplift and inspire to action,” Sharpton said. “It’s definitely no coincidence that a number of prominent civil rights groups that emerged during Dr. King’s time, were based on college campuses.”
Sharpton added that King routinely pushed for equality to access to education.
“Just as importantly, he always made a point to refer education back to character—that we shouldn’t sacrifice efficiency and speed for morals,” Sharpton said. “A great student not only has the reason and education, but a moral compass to do what’s right with his or her gifts. It’s not just important to be smart, you have to know what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Dr. Wornie Reed, the director of Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech who marched with King, said when he thinks of King and education, he immediately considers the late civil rights leader’s advocating that “we should be the best that we could be.”
“King certainly prepared himself educationally…early on he saw that education played a crucial role in society, but perceived it as often being misused,” Reed said. “In a famous essay that he wrote for the student newspaper at Morehouse in 1947, he argued against a strictly utilitarian approach to education, one that advanced the individual and not society.”
Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, who remembers running home from church on Sundays to listen to King’s speeches on radio, said King had a tremendous impact on education in the Black community.
“Dr. King worked tirelessly to ensure that African Americans would gain the rights they had long been denied, including the right to a quality education,” said Cummings. “His fight for equality in educational opportunities helped to tear down walls of segregation in our nation’s schools.”
Cummings continued: “He instilled hope in us that we can achieve our dreams no matter the color of our skin. He instilled in us the notion that everyone can be great, because everyone can serve and there are so many great advocates, who embody this lesson.”
In support of education equality, civil rights leaders across the country are still working to ensure all students, regardless of color, receive access to experienced teachers, equitable classroom resources and quality education, Cummings noted further.
For example, the NAACP has done a tremendous amount, across the country, to increase retention rates, ensure students have the resources they need, and prepare students for success after graduation—whether it be for college or a specific career path, Cummings said.
During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, King said: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
The need for high quality education in the Black community is universal and the route to get there may be different, but education does matter, Jackson said.
“Dr. King told me he read a fiction and a non-fiction book once a week. He was an avid reader and, in the spirit of Dr. King, today we fight for equal, high-quality education,” said Jackson. “We fight for skilled trade training, affordable college education and beyond.”

Newswire : Out of the shadows: overt racism flourishes in the American South in the Trump era

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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 UNITE THE RIGHT RALLY  l to r : members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags in Charlottesville, Va. (Anthony Crider/Wikimedia Commons)
Race relations in the United States, especially in the South, are plagued by troubling examples of the challenges that face the nation, as Americans work toward achieving the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of, more than 50 years ago.
Forty-two percent of Americans said that they personally worry a “great deal” about race relations in the United States, up seven percentage points from 2016 and a record high in the Gallup’s 17-year trend, according to Gallup News.
The Gallup poll marked the third straight year that worries about race relations have increased by a significant margin, a surge that experts have said likely stems from the racial tensions and public discourse sparked by high-profile incidents of police shooting unarmed Black people. These high-profile incidents, often sensationalized by mainstream media, overshadow the more pervasive forms of racism that exist in local politics, businesses and schools.
A longtime prominent Florence, S.C. school board member abruptly resigned when it was made public that he sent an email in which he described Black members as “darkies.” In part of the missive, Glenn Odom noted that he “didn’t want the Darkies” to know about the information—a reference to the African-American board members. He has now apologized.
“I guess I’m the head ‘darkie,’” school board member Alexis Pipkins, Sr., told the NNPA Newswire. “I didn’t find out about [the email] until September and there was a board meeting on September 14 and they didn’t notify us.”Pipkins continued: “So, if any of them say they’re shaken up by this, they weren’t shaken up enough to inform all of the board members. If this isn’t racism, my question would be, ‘then, what is?’”
Board Superintendent Barry Townsend struggled with explaining Odom’s actions. “I thought the biggest issues we’d have to deal with on the school board is education and taxes,” Townsend said.
Florence City Manager Drew Griffin said he learned about Odom’s email just hours before he was contacted for comment. “Certainly, the contents and language contained within the email are inconsistent with my personal beliefs as well as the mission and core value statements adopted by the city,” Griffin said.
Surprisingly, the local NAACP President Madie Robinson said the issue is strictly a school board matter and she declined further comment.
Odom, a school board member Florence (District 1) for 25 years and whose term wasn’t set to end until 2020, was among those who fought against a U.S. Justice Department order earlier this year to make sure its schools are more racially balanced.
In Conway, S.C., the FBI arrested a White restaurant manager for enslaving and torturing a Black worker for five years, calling him the “n-word” and paying him less than $3,000 a year while working him daily with very few, if any, days off, according to the local FOX-affiliated.
Restaurant owner Bobby Paul Edwards has been indicted on a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison for enslaving a Black employee. Christopher Smith had worked for 23 years at Edwards’ J&J Cafeteria as a buffet cook. Prosecutors said Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to compel Smith to work.
Smith, who reportedly has a mental disability, would work 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said. Smith was hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles and fists “while being called the n-word repeatedly,” the lawyers alleged, according to The Post and Courier.
In Hope Mills N.C., a massive Ku Klux Klan recruitment effort found its way into a high school, demanding that Whites join to “take back the country.” The Loyal White Knights of the KKK left flyers on the windshields of cars parked outside of Gray’s Creek High School. The flyer urged participation by Whites and railed against the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces; the group called the removal of the statues an attack on “White History, the White Race and America itself.”
In Louisiana, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator vehemently objected to the planned release of Black state prisoners, who he said could continue to work on washing cars for the warden and other officials. “In addition to the bad ones—and I call these bad—in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money,” Prator protested at a news conference. “Well, they’re going to let them out.”
And, then there was the exchange between a Black female student at Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas, and a White student, according to a local ABC-affiliate. “U liberals dumb as hell,” the boy posted on Snapchat, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Not as dumb as you racist,” the girl responded. “I’m standing up for my country,” the boy said on Snapchat. “We should have hung all u [n-words] while we had the chance and trust me, it would make the world better.”
Myrlie Evers, a civil rights activist and the widow of Medgar Evers, who was murdered by a White supremacist in 1963, said that she was in a state of despair, hurt and anger, according to the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss. “I’m 84 years of age, and I’m thankful for my life,” she told the Clarion-Ledger. “In my prayers, I ask, ‘God, is it ever over? Must we continue to go through this horrible nightmare of prejudice, racism and hatred all over again?’ ”
Evers continued: “If we don’t step forward,” she said, “we have no one to blame but ourselves for what the end may be.”

 

Take action to break the silence, 50 years since Dr. MLK’s ‘Beyond Vietnam’ Speech

 

By: Mary Hladky, Military Families Speak Out, United for Peace & Justice

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Dr. King

50 years ago, on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church, in NYC, Martin Luther King delivered his powerful and most controversial speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”.   No longer willing to keep silent about the immorality of the Vietnam War, knowing the intense criticism he would receive for speaking out, he nevertheless was compelled to speak, “I am here tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice”.
He gave this speech, one year to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, assisting garbage workers to get justice and fair wages.
King spoke against war and its crippling effects on social progress.  He denounced the death and destruction in Vietnam and the waste of billions on an immoral war.  All this at the expense of the poor and those serving in the military.  The destruction done to the Vietnamese is the same destruction we are doing to the Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Somalis, Libyans, Pakistanis, and others today.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else.  For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy.  We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved.  Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
King connected the inherit racism of killing the Vietnamese people with the killing of black people in America through dehumanization and contempt for “other” people.
King was greatly concerned that the war in Vietnam was destroying the soul of America.  He called for an end to the war, detailing how a foreign policy based on violence and domination abroad, relates to the violence and problems we are afflicted with at home.  He asked us to reassess our values to avoid future mistakes that could destroy our nation.
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
King’s message was not heeded, and our problems have multiplied. Since 1991 the U.S. has been at war in the Middle East, destabilizing the whole region.  In 2016 the U.S. dropped bombs in seven countries:  Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan & Somalia.
The U.S. is the world’s #1 exporter of arms.  We have more than 800 bases in over 70 countries.  U.S. Special Forces have been deployed in over 105 countries.   We have launched thousands of drone strikes.
Our Congressional representatives are cowards.   They are willing to send ground troops into the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria, while refusing to debate and vote on the use of military force.  Instead they shamefully forego their constitutional duty, to avoid being held accountable to their constituents.
Congress has voted to spend our taxpayers’ dollars on endless wars at the expense of everything else.  Total defense spending costs our country approximately $900 billion (that’s almost $1 trillion) each year. This $900 billion pays for cost of war, 800 bases, nuclear weapons, intelligence agencies, homeland security, and veterans benefits.   Economist Jeffrey Sachs stated “The U.S. is incurring massive public debt and cutting back on urgent public investments at home in order to sustain a dysfunctional, militarized, and costly foreign policy.”
The Cost of War project at Brown University reports that war costs since 2001 will run to nearly $5 trillion.  “Yet the cost seems invisible to politicians and the public alike.  The reason is that almost all of the spending has been financed through borrowing – selling US Treasury Bonds around the world – leaving our children to pick up the tab.  Consequently, the wars have had little impact on our pocketbooks.”  “As long as the cost of the war remains hidden from public view, there is no pressure to reexamine our military strategy.” (Linda Bilmes)
And now we have Trump’s budget proposal.  He is asking for an additional $54 billion to the budget busting $596 million the Pentagon is already allocated.  The Pentagon’s budget is larger than the budgets of the next 7 countries combined.   That proposed increase alone is almost as large as Russia’s entire military budget.  Trump proposes to finance his expanded war budget by making drastic cuts to the EPA, Dept. of Education, State Dept., the UN and its humanitarian aid, and social services.
These cuts will have devastating effects on the environment, our children’s education, the ability to prevent war through diplomacy with cruel cuts to social services for the poor, sick and elderly.
We have a choice about how this country spends our taxpayer dollars.  We can remain silent allowing billions to be spent funding endless, futile wars or we can speak out, demanding our tax dollars fund healthcare for all Americans, support climate change initiatives, invest in solar and renewable energy, improve our educational system providing free college, rebuild our infrastructure and end extreme poverty in this country.
WE CAN NO LONGER REMAIN SILENT.  WE MUST CHALLENGE AMERICAN MILITARISM.  
MLK’S CHALLENGE TO US

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”
“We still have a choice today, nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.  We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world a world that borders on our doors.  If we do not act we shall be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”
“Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world.  Shall we say the odds are too great?  Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard?  The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
Beginning this week, on April 4, peace-loving people around the country are participating in actions honoring Dr. King and readings of this speech, in a campaign to rebuild our movement. There’s still time to join or host an event in your community.
United For Peace & Justice has created a web page with resources for you and your organization to host a reading and begin working on these issues.

Debate on Sessions nomination explodes over Coretta Scott King letter

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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The United States Senate debate over Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (D-Ala.) boiled over into confusion and accusations on Tuesday, February 7 as Senate Democrats carried their opposition into an all-night long protest.

But at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recited the words of a letter authored by Coretta Scott King, the late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s been in the Senate record for over 20 years, the drama hit an all-new level.

The Senate floor fiasco would lead to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) releasing a blistering statement late in the evening calling the episode “disgusting” and evoking the name of Civil Rights Era villain and unrepentant racist Bull Connor.

Republican Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) objected to Warren’s reading of a 1986 letter by King’s widow, because it was critical of Sessions back when he was a prosecutor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) became the face of Risch’s objection, and rose to object to Warren’s reading of the Coretta Scott King letter.  McConnell asserted that the letter violated a Senate rule prohibiting senators from ‘Impugning’ other senators — known as “rule 19.”

Warren was then ordered to stop reading and take her seat on the Senate floor.  The Senate then voted to effectively censure Warren for the remainder of the debate on the Sessions nomination by a vote of 49-43.

The Senate voted on Wednesday, February 8 to confirm Senator Sessions to secede Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the nation’s top cop under the Trump Administration.

King wrote the letter in 1986 urging a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to reject then U.S. Attorney Sessions’ nomination for a district court judgeship. Coretta Scott King’s letter in part read that, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly Black voters. For this reprehensible conduct he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus released a blistering statement on the incident on the Senate floor hours later.

“Republican senators’ decision tonight to silence Coretta Scott King from the grave is disgusting and disgraceful,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the CBC, in a statement on the incident. “Mrs. King’s characterization of then U.S. Attorney Senator Sessions was accurate in 1986 and it is accurate now. He is as much of a friend to the Black community and civil rights as Bull Connor and the other Good Old Boys were during the Civil Rights Movement.”

Senators stood confused after that vote. Asking for points of order and clarifications on whether or not they could refer to anything negative about Senator Sessions.  Later in the debate, four male Senators, read from the same King letter that Senator Elizabeth Warren was censured for reading.

Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King’s youngest daughter Bernice King tweeted in support of Warren shortly after Warren was silence by Republican objections. “How do you honor #MLK but dishonor #CorettaScottKing, architect of the King legacy? #LetCorettaSpeak#LetLizSpeak” she wrote.

Senator Sessions had already been criticized during his confirmation hearing for several issues related to race, voting and his actions as a prosecutor.

Sessions once called the gutting of the 2006 Voting Rights Act reauthorization named after Coretta Scott King, “good news for the South.”  He also once prosecuted three individuals for voting fraud, including Albert Turner after they registered many in Alabama to vote.

The incident was the latest evidence that the coming years that mark the start of the Trump Administration are likely to be contentious ones on Capitol Hill.

 

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.