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A Moment in History - Olaudah Equiano
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Olaudah Equiano (1745 – 1797) was an 18th century African writer and anti-slavery campaigner. From an early age, Olaudah Equiano experienced the horrors of slavery first hand. But, after gaining his freedom, he gained British citizenship and wrote about his experiences. His autobiography ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘ played a pivotal role in turning public opinion in Britain against slavery. His accounts of slavery and its human suffering were a factor in the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Early life and experience as slave

Equiano writes that he was born in Nigeria in the year 1745 – a member of the Igbo tribe. Aged 11, he was kidnapped, along with sisters, by native slave-holders; after being sold to European slave traders, he was then packed into a slave ship and transferred across the Atlantic to Barbados. Equiano eventually ended up the British colony of Virginia. As a slave he was given different names, including Gustavus Vassa.

Equiano later wrote about the mistreatment of slaves on the Virginia plantations. His vivid descriptions of the various punishments and humiliations that slaves had to endure were the first published account of an autobiography of a slave. Speaking of the Virginia overseers.

These overseers are indeed for the most part persons of the worst character of any denomination of men in the West Indies. Unfortunately, many humane gentlemen, by not residing on their estates, are obliged to leave the management of them in the hands of these human butchers, who cut and mangle the slaves in a shocking manner on the most trifling occasions, and altogether treat them in every respect like brutes. – p.105 ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘

Equiano wrote that he was so shocked by his experience that he tried to wash the colour out of his face in an attempt to escape his position as a slave.

Equiano was bought by Michael Pascal a sailor in the Royal Navy; therefore Equiano was taught the art of seamanship and had to follow his master into battle during Britain’s Seven Years War with France. Equiano served during battles bringing gunpowder into position.

Equiano gained a certain respect from his master and after travelling extensively, he was sent to England where he gained a basic education. Pascal later wrote that Equiano was ‘a very deserving boy’. During this time, in 1759, he also converted to Christianity. His Christian beliefs were increasingly important in his life. He used the Christian message of the Golden Rule ‘do unto others, as you would have done to you’ as a way to shape attitudes on slavery. However, he was still denied the freedom that Pascal had once promised. Instead, he was sold on to Captain James Doran in the Caribbean and then onto Robert King, a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia.

A Free man

Doran furthered the education of Equiano and taught Equiano to assist him in trading. In his early 20s, Doran helped Equiano to purchase his freedom. Writing of the moment he gained his freedom, Equaiano wrote:

Accordingly he signed the manumission that day; so that, before night, I who had been a slave in the morning, trembling at the will of another, was became [sic] my own master, and completely free. I thought this was the happiest day I had ever experienced… p.177

Initially he stayed in America to assist Doran as a business partner. But, shortly after buying his freedom, slaveholders attempted to kidnapp Equaino and return him to slavery. He only escaped by being able to prove his education. Equiano later pointed out the position of free slaves was little better than slaves because of the dreadful treatment, black men received.

Hitherto I had thought only slavery dreadful; but the state of a free negro appeared to me now equally so at least, and in some respects even worse, for they live in constant alarm for their liberty; and even this is but nominal, for they are universally insulted and plundered without the possibility of redress; for such is the equity of the West Indian laws, that no free negro’s evidence will be admitted in their courts of justice. p.122

Feeling unsafe in the Caribbean, he returned to Britain.

Anti – Slavery movement

Back in England, he was befriended by many who supported the abolition of the slave trade. Many abolitionists were Quakers, but in the late Eighteenth Century, the movement was spreading to other denominations. Equiano was able to give first hand testament about life as a slave. This information was useful for those who were hoping to change the law and outlaw slavery. His friends encouraged him to write down a book about his experiences. First published in 1789, the account was eagerly received by many people in Britain. It sold well, and went through many editions. Many people who read about the suffering of slaves were more inclined to support the abolitionist cause. The book received good reviews, and many were surprised and moved at the quality of writing and his ability to depict life as a slave.

The book made Equiano a prominent figure in literary circles. In 1788, Equiano was able to personally petition the king for the end of slavery. The book also helped to demystify many of the current misconceptions about African people – this personal account and personality of Equiano was very influential in displaying the obvious humanity of black Africans.

The revenue from book sales enabled Equiano to live independently of philanthropic backers and he could devote more time to campaigning against slavery. He also served as a leader for the poor black community of London. These were often freed slaves and descendants, but struggled to survive economically. Equiano also campaigned for the extension of the vote to working men. He was an active member of the Corresponding Society. He also supported the London Missionary society – a Christian organization committed to spreading education and Christianity overseas.

In 1792, Equiano married Susan Cullen, a local girl from Soham in Cambridgeshire. They had two daughters. He died in 1797 in London.

Legacy of Equiano

Although there is some controversy about the exact birth place of Equiano – some historians believe he may have been born in North America rather than Africa, there is no doubt that Equiano played a pivotal figure in the anti-slavery movement. His writing and speeches helped show people that there was a strong sense of shared humanity. He made a passionate appeal to the higher ideals of British lawmakers – hoping this would affect change.

I hope to have the satisfaction of seeing the renovation of liberty and justice resting on the British government, to vindicate the honour of our common nature.

After reading about the suffering of fellow humans, there was a growing support for the abolitionist cause. Equiano’s biography became an important instrument of abolitionist propaganda.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. (G+) “Olaudah Equiano Biography”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 11/08/2013 Biography Online

Review: ‘Roots’ for a Black Lives Matter Era Tags: roots black lives matter era word life production new quality entertainment

The original mini-series “Roots” was about history, and it was history itself. Airing on ABC in January 1977, this generational saga of slavery was a kind of answer song to the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the (white, often slave-owning) founding fathers. It reopened the books and wrote slaves and their descendants into the national narrative.

But as an event, it was also a chapter in that story. It shaped and was shaped by the racial consciousness of its era. It was a prime-time national reckoning for more than 100 million viewers. As a television drama, it was excellent. But as a television broadcast, it was epochal.

The four-night, eight-hour remake of “Roots,” beginning Memorial Day on History, A&E and Lifetime, is largely the same story, compressed in some places and expanded in others, with a lavish production and strong performances. It is every bit as worthy of attention and conversation. But it is also landing, inevitably, in a very different time.

Viewers who watched “Roots” four decades ago have since lived with racial narratives of moving forward and stepping back. They’ve seen America’s first black president elected and a presidential candidate hesitate to disavow the Ku Klux Klan.

So in timing and spirit, this is a Black Lives Matter “Roots,” optimistic in focusing on its characters’ strength, sober in recognizing that we may never stop needing reminders of whose lives matter.

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The first new episode, much of it shot in South Africa, looks stunning, another sign of the cultural times. Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby, in the role made famous by LeVar Burton) is now not a humble villager but the scion of an important clan, and his home — Juffure, in Gambia — a prosperous settlement. Kunta is captured by a rival family and sold into slavery to a Virginian (James Purefoy), by way of a harrowing Middle Passage.

Mr. Kirby’s Kunta is a more regal and immediately defiant character than Mr. Burton’s. But his tragedy is the same: He rebels but fails and is beaten into accepting his slave name, Toby. The name — the loss of identity — is as much a weapon as the whip. As the overseer who beats him puts it: “You can’t buy a slave. You have to make a slave.”

Kunta stops running, but he preserves his traditions, including the practice of presenting a newborn baby to the night sky with the words, “Behold, the only thing that is greater than you.”

That theme of belonging to something larger, of the ancestral family as a character in itself, is essential to “Roots.” Although Alex Haley fictionalized the events of his novel on which the mini-series is based, his story offered black Americans what slavery was machine-tooled to erase: places, dates, names, memories. And that focus keeps the ugliness — the racial slurs, the gruesome violence — from rendering this series without hope. A person may live and die in this system, but a people can survive it.

Still, the individual stories remain heartbreaking, even in small moments, as when the slave musician Fiddler (a soulful Forest Whitaker) recognizes a Mandinka tune he overhears Kunta singing. He’s moved — and, it seems, a little frightened by what the recognition stirs in him. As much as he’s worked to efface his heritage as a survival strategy, it lingers, a few notes haunting the outskirts of his memory.

Kunta’s daughter, Kizzy (E’myri Lee Crutchfield as a child, Anika Noni Rose as an adult), is teased with the possibility of a better life; she grows up friends with the master’s daughter and learns to read. But she’s sold to Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a struggling farmer who rapes and impregnates her. Rape — there are several assaults in this series — is another weapon against identity, another way you make a slave. Ms. Rose burns with Kizzy’s determination to hang on to her sense of self.

Kizzy and Tom Lea’s son, Chicken George (Regé-Jean Page, walking nimbly in Ben Vereen’s footsteps) makes his name raising fighting cocks for his master-father. The series has lighter moments, especially with the charismatic George, but those can quickly turn dark at an owner’s whim. Childhood friends grow up; promises get broken; there are no good masters.

At eight hours over four nights, each with a separate director, this “Roots” is about a third shorter than the original. It focuses less on white characters — gone is Ed Asner’s conscience-stricken slave-ship captain, a sop to white viewers — though there are insights about how class resentment feeds bigotry.

You feel the story’s compression most in the second half, especially the melodramatic, rushed final episode, which works in both the story of George’s son Tom (Sedale Threatt Jr.) — named, under duress, for his slave-master grandfather — and George’s service in the Civil War. This mini-series ends emotionally, but it emphasizes that there is no permanent happily-ever-after: “Every day,” the younger Tom says, “always going to be someone wants to take away your freedom.”

Overall, the remake, whose producers include Mr. Burton and Mark M. Wolper (whose father, David L. Wolper, produced the original “Roots”), ably polishes the story for a new audience that might find the old production dated and slow. What it can’t do, because nothing can now, is command that audience.

As homogeneous as the old-school, three-network TV system could be, as many faces as it left out, “Roots” was an example of what it could do at its best. I watched it when I was 8 years old because it was all anyone was talking about, including the kids in my mostly white small-town school. A generation of viewers — whatever we looked like, wherever we came from, wherever we ended up — carried the memory of Kunta having his name beaten out of him.

Viewers will have to seek out this “Roots,” like every program now. Today’s universe of channels and streaming outlets presents a much wider range of identity and experience. But we see it in smaller groups and take away different memories.

That’s not the fault of “Roots,” of course; it’s simply our media world. The legacy of representation now lives in a constellation of programs, among them dramas like “Underground,” which imagines its slave-escape story as an action thriller; comedies like “black-ish” and “The Carmichael Show,” with their complex ideas of black identity; and this “Roots,” still a necessary story, but now one story among many.

A version of this review appears in print on May 30, 2016, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Epochal Saga of Slavery, Remade for a Different Time. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

Source: New York Times

Michael Jordan on Black Men Rock!
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: michael jordan black men rock word life production new quality entertainment

Michael Jordan (MJ) is considered the greatest basketball player of all time. He was voted NBA most valuable player a record five times. Playing most of his career for the Chicago Bulls, he won six NBA Championships. Michael Jordan also became one of the most marketed sportsmen, with lucrative endorsements with Nike, helping to make the Nike Air shoe one of best known trainers in the world. His career and high profile, coincided with a rapid growth in the popularity of NBA basketball, and his personal achievements are considered a major factor in boosting the popularity of basketball. The NBA Website says of Michael Jordan:

    “A phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of fundamental soundness, grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar.” (NBA)

Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York. But, his family moved to North Carolina where he grew up. As a sophomore, at times, he struggled to get in the High School Team due to his low height. Instead he concentrated on other sports, such as baseball. But, as a late developer, he grew to 6 foot 3 inch and this helped him to dominate the junior court. Michael Jordan attended the University of North Carolina where he was named College Player of the Year but the Sporting News. In 1984, he was picked in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls.

In 1984, he was also selected to be in the US Olympic basketball team, where, with the team, he won the gold medal.

The 1984 season saw the emergence of Michael Jordan as a supreme player. Crowds at the Chicago Bulls increased as people came to see this exciting new talent. Jordan had excellent shooting statistics, but, he also had a distinct and rare ability to excite the crowds with his great dexterity, acrobatic dunks and dives. He seemed to float around the court with effortless ease. Jordan became more than just the best player on the pitch, he exuded something unique and stylish. He also gained a reputation for being one of the best defensive players in basketball. He managed to combine this athletic excellence with a humility that endeared him to the public even more. He later said that what he achieved was only possible because of former great players who taught and helped him to evolve.

In the late 1980s, Jordan led an increasingly successful Chicago Bulls team. They won their first championship in 1991 and went on to win six titles in the space of nine years. Along the way, Jordan broke many of the long standing NBA records. In 1988-89, he led the league with 32.5 points per game.

In 1992, Jordan again returned to the Olympics. This time as a full professional – Jordan was part of the ‘Dream Team’. The US easily won the Olympic gold – with their opponents often admitting they felt honored to be on the same court as Michael Jordan and the ‘dream team’.

However, in 1993, a series of personal difficulties caused him to temporarily retire from the game. His father was murdered during an armed robbery, devastating Jordan who saw his father as his closest confident. He was also struggling with his own gambling issues.

For a short time, he made a foray into baseball, playing the 1994 season for the Birmingham Barons. But, in the 1994-95 season he came back to his primary love – basketball. Despite losing some of his youthful speed, Jordan still had the magic touch and led the Chicago Bulls to the semi finals with some stellar performances. The next year, 1995-96, he led the Chicago Bulls to another title.

Jordan continued to play until past his 40th birthday in the 2002-03 season.

After he finally retired, he had played a total of 1,072 games, with a points per game average of 30.

After making his final retirement, Jordan has concentrated on management and ownership.1 and a total of 32,292 points.

In June 2006, he bought a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats and later gained outright ownership, becoming the first former NBA star to become the majority owner of a league franchise.

In June 2010, Jordan was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 20th-most powerful celebrity in the world with $55 million earned between June 2009 and June 2010. According to the Forbes article, Jordan Brand generates $1 billion in sales for Nike.

    “Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion”

– Michael Jordan 2009

In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press’s list of athletes of the century. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Source: Biography Online

 

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on Black Men Rock!
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: adam clayton powell black men rock word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. loomed as a giant in the Black community of Harlem, not only as the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, but also as a community activist and as the first African-American to represent New York in the United States House of Representatives.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was born in New Haven, Connecticut on November 29, 1908. He was the son of Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., then a Baptist minister in New Haven and his wife Mattie Buster Shaffer. He had an older sister Blanche and the family was of mixed racial origins, African, European and Native American. Powell Sr. had graduated from Wayland Seminary, Yale University and Virginia Seminary and was chosen to pastor the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, eventually growing the church to more than 10,000 members.

Adam Jr., because of his father’s success, grew up in a rather wealthy household and attended Townsend Harris High School before studying at City College of New York and then Colgate University (his father sent him to Colgate, a baptist school, to put Adam on the right path and to get him away from the nightlife and nightclubs that he avidly frequented). He was a handsome young man and because of his fair skin and hazel eyes, he was often able to pass as being white (at birth his hair was blonde), often allowing him to avoid much of the racial strife that was directed towards his Black classmates. This caused a great deal of anger on their part towards him because he withheld his racial background from his classmates, even joining a white fraternity (very uncommon in those days).

His father encouraged him to follow in his footsteps as a minister. Adam Jr. (Adam) received his bachelors degree from Colgate in 1930 and then received a M.A. in Religious Education from Columbia University a year later. Although he had originally planned for a career in medicine, he realized that the church would provide him with a ready-made career. Following his ordination, Adam assisted his father at the church, both preaching to the congregation and in growing the outreach to the community, (primarily in charitable endeavors) and took over for his father as Head Pastor of the church in 1938. He had married Isabel Washington, a star dancer at the Cotton Club, in 1933 and adopted her son Preston and was deeply committed to the church, its parishioners and those community around him. He was now the pastor of the largest protestant congregation in the United States.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. - Great Black HeroesHe became prominent in political activism, fighting for employment opportunities and fair housing. He became the Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Employment, mounting pressure on local businesses to hire Blacks on all levels of employment. He led very noteworthy protests. He led a “Shop Only Where You Can Work” boycott of all of store along 125th, shutting most of them down, thereby forcing them to hire Black workers. During the World’s Fair of 1939, his protesters picketed in front of the Fair’s headquarters at the Empire State Building which resulted in Black hiring to increase by 250%. Two years later he led the bus boycott of the New York Transit authority leading to 200 additional jobs for Black constituents. His activism on the part of the community led him to run for the New York City Council and he was elected in 1941, the first Black to serve on the Council.

Three years later he ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He ran on a campaign of fighting for the civil rights of Blacks including seeking a ban on obstacles for voting rights (such as poll taxes), fair employment opportunities and a ban on lynching. Running as a Democrat, he was elected in 1944 representing the 22nd Congressional district (which included Harlem) and was the first Black Congressman from the state of New York. He did not try to ease his way in quietly and instead directly addressed issues that affected his constituents. With Jim Crow being the law of the land in the south and almost all of the southern Congressmen being segregationists, there had been no one willing to stand on the House floor and raise issues that affected Blacks throughout the nation. Powell would be the man to do so.

Powell did not make many friends, especially among the southern Congressmen but he stood up and addressed issues facing Blacks. One particularly noteworthy incident occurred when he stood on the House floor and chastised Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi. A tradition within the House was that freshmen Congressmen did not speak on the House floor during their first year. On this occasion, however, when Rankin used the word “nigger” on the House floor, Powell stood and announced “the time has arrived to impeach Rankin, or at least expel him from the party.” To take on a Congressman as powerful as Rankin demonstrated that Powell would be a force to be reckoned with. Powell would take particular delight in irritating Rankin. Rankin had called Powell’s election to the house “a disgrace” and when Rankin made it known that he did not want to sit anywhere near Powell, Adam would find any opportunity possible to sit as close to the Mississippi Congressman. On one occasion he followed him from seat to seat until Rankin had moved five times.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. - Great Black Heroes

In 1945, having divorced Isabel, Powell married Hazel Scott, a jazz singer and pianist. The two had a son whom they named Adam Clayton, Powell III.

Powell served with only one other Black Congressman (William Levi Dawson of Illinois) until 1955 and they were subject to numerous informal barriers within Congressional offices. Powell protested and refused to defer to the bans on the “Whites Only” House restaurant, the Congressional Barber Shop, the House gymnasium and other facilities. He constantly battle segregationist on both policy and decorum and found allies within the Black community and organizations like the NAACP to push for equality for Blacks throughout the United States.

One method he used to attain his goals was referred to as the “Powell Amendments.” On any proposed legislation that would call for federal expenditures, he would offer an amendment that required that federal funds be denied to any jurisdiction that maintained segregation. This grated on both liberal allies and conservative foes but it gradually seeped into the mindsets of the politicians as they realized that Powell was not going to stop and was not going away. Some were not ready to give up their fight, however. During a 1955 meeting of the Education and Labor Committee, Powell was punched in the face by West Virginia Congressman Cleveland Bailey, a segregationist who was so incensed by Powell’s persistent use of the “Powell Amendment” rider.

His willingness to anger even his allies led him to buck the party ticket in 1956 and throw his support behind Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Powell was dissatisfied with the Democratic Party platform on civil rights and made sure that he was not seen as a rubber stamp for the Democratic party. He also sailed against mainstream opinions when he travelled to Indonesia for the 1955 Asian-African Conference which celebrated the recent move to independence from colonialism for countries which included Ghana, Sierra Leone and Indonesia. The State Department had asked him to not attend but he did so as an observer and ended up speaking of the need to end colonialism abroad and segregation at home while also defending the United States against the communist talking points being used against his country. Powell returned home to a warm reception, honored as “Man of the Year” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars,” and invited to speak with President Eisenhower. He offered the opinion that the United States was wasting an opportunity to truly compete with the Soviet Union by trotting out ballet companies and symphonies to tour around the world. Instead, he thought, the country should focus on presenting more current and popular American offerings such as jazz music, which was an American created style of music appealing to and engaged in by members of various races. Powell suggested sending well known jazz musicians to tour abroad, spreading the American art form to catch the ear of younger citizens of the world. The State Department agreed and set up such a goodwill tour including well known musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie headlined the tour which many referred to as “Jazz Diplomacy.” The musicians were able to meet with high-ranking officials as well as the common man and was considered a great success. One man who attended a concert in Zagreb, Yugoslavia stated “What this country needs is fewer ambassadors and more jam sessions!”

In 1960, having divorced Hazel, Adam married again, this time to Yvette Flores Diago, the daughter of the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. They had a son whom he also named Adam Clayton Powell (this son would later change his name to Adam Clayton Powell, IV).

 

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. - Great Black Heroes

After serving the House of Representatives for 15 years, Powell was finally granted a committee chairmanship in 1961 when he became the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. The committees stated purpose is “to ensure that Americans’ needs are addressed so that students and workers may move forward in a changing school system and a competitive global economy.” Under his leadership, the committee created federal programs addressing Medicaid, minimum wage and equal pay for women, as well as education for the disabled, support for libraries and vocational training. Much of this legislation was incorporated into President John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” program as well as President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” programs.

Some of his greatest triumphs involved passing legislation to protect the rights of Blacks, particularly those affected by Jim Crow laws in the south.  He authored bills to criminalize lynching, dismantle public school desegregation and to abolish the Southern practice of charging a Poll Tax to Black voters. This tax was applied to voters in many southern states, but a grandfather clause allowed those adult males whose father or grandfather had voted prior to emancipation to be exempt from the tax. As such, white male voters were allowed to vote while many Black voters who could not afford to pay the tax were prevented from engaging in the electoral process. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 included many of these provisions and called for enforcement of them.

His growing power made him a target for his political enemies. Unfortunately, in many ways, Powell made himself an easier target through his spending of committee funds, his legal problems, his erratic behavior and habit of constantly traveling and often being absent from the House. Without a doubt, many of the southern House members opposed him simply because of his race and looked for any opportunity to punish him. Unfortunately for Powell, although he had fight so hard against unfair treatment by House members, he had also given them plenty of ammunition to use against him.

In 1958, Powell was indicted by a Federal grand jury for income tax evasion. The trial ended in a hung jury but the Federal government continued to investigate his finances. In 1960, Powell gave a television interview in which he accused a Harlem widow named Esther James of being a “bag woman” for corrupt police payoffs. James sued him and was awarded $211,500.00 in a jury award. Powell refused to pay the damages and instead would only return to his district in Harlem on Sundays when he when he could not be served by court officials (the award was eventually paid out years later after he was cited for criminal contempt, but the matter damaged him significantly). In 1967, a House committee suspended Powell’s third wife, Yvette Diago, and accused her of being on the House payroll without doing any work. Diago, in fact, admitted that she had moved to Puerto Rico in 1961, but was paid from Powell’s Congressional payroll from that time until January of 1967 when the allegation came to light and she was fired.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. - Great Black HeroesHe also travelled a great deal with stays in Florida as well as a vacation home he owned in Bimini in the Bahamas. House opponents accused him of using House funds to pay for this travel including once when he was accompanied by two young women at the expense of the Federal government (the women were Tamara Wall, a staff attorney and secretary Corinne Huff, the first Black Miss Ohio, with whom Powell was romantically involved). As such, the House Democratic Caucus stripped him of his committee leadership in January of 1967 and the full House refused to seat him until the Judiciary Committee completed an investigation of him. On March 1, 1967, by a vote of 307 to 116, the House voted to exclude him from its proceedings. Powell decided to sue to retain his seat. Although he won a Special Election to fill his vacant seat (by a margin of 7-1), he refused to take it, preferring to challenge his removal in court. In the meantime, in November of 1968, his constituents in Harlem defiantly re-elected him with overwhelming support. The House had no choice but to seat him now, but did so while at the same time denying him seniority and fining him $25.0000.00. In June 16, 1969, the United Staes Supreme Court decided 7-1 in Powell vs. McCormack that the House had violated his constitutional rights in refusing to seat him as he was a duly elected member of Congress. Unfortunately, after his Supreme Court victory, he seemed to rub it in the nose of his foes, showing up for only nine roll calls out of 177, a record for absenteeism. He was the most powerful Black politician of his time, but like many great men, it seemed hubris was to become his most destructive opponent.

Regarding his travel expenditures, Powell defended himself saying that “that I will always do just what every other Congressman and committee chairman has done and is doing and will do.” His constituents had grown weary of their Representative always seeming to have to put out fires, whether in the form of lawsuits, political fights or embarrassing scandals. He was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1970 by Charles Rangel by a mere 150 votes. He attempted to get on the November ballot as an independent through a signature campaign, but failed to do so and resigned from his position at the Abyssinian Baptist Church and retired to his home in Bimini.

In April 1972, Powell’s health began faltering and he was rushed from Bimini to Miami, Florida where he was hospitalized. He died on April 4, 1972 due to acute prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland. His funeral was held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and his ashes were spread by his son, Adam III, over the waters of Bimini.

Adam Clayton Powell - Great Black HeroesOver the years numerous public schools have been named after him as has an office building in Harlem and Seventh Avenue, north of Central Park in New York City was renamed Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. His real legacy, though, is as a confident political figure when many Blacks were afraid to speak out against the racism and poverty that they saw.  He was a bright and engaging leader who would not back down from his opponents and led the fight to change things in a turbulent society. Most of all, he is seen as a man who opened the doors for a lot of minorities who would follow in his footsteps as politicians in the Untied States Congress.

 Rev. Adam Clayton Powell

Source: Great Black Heros

Motown - The Sound that Changed America Tags: motwon black music hitsville usa word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

As an irresistible force of social and cultural change, Berry Gordy’s legendary Motown made its mark not just on the music industry, but society at large, with a sound that has become one of the most significant musical accomplishments and stunning success stories of the 20th century. Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5, the Marvelettes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Lionel Richie & the Commodores, Teena Marie, their music communicated and brought together a racially divided country and segregated society, around the world, touching all people of all ages and races.

No other record company in history has exerted such an enormous influence on both the style and substance of popular music and culture. With more than 180 No. 1 hit songs worldwide and counting, that influence is still being felt today, from pop to hip-hop. Motown recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding.

Motown, of course, stands for more than just the historic music. The label and its remarkable legacy is a reflection of the hard work of dedicated individuals overcoming incredible obstacles to achieve great success. Over a half-century ago, on January 12, 1959, to be exact, a young African-American songwriter named Berry Gordy founded his company with a loan of $800 from his family, marking the birth of the “Motown Records Corporation.” Because Detroit had long been known as the “Motor City,” Gordy, in tribute to what he felt was the down-home quality of the warm, soulful people he grew up around, used “town” in place of “city,” which gave him the contraction “Motor Town” and the perfect name for his company and new label—Motown.

A man of vision, drive, talent and determination, Berry Gordy was also a producer, innovative entrepreneur, and teacher. The phenomenal success of Motown Records is a tribute to all that he embodies and all the talent that he brought out in others. Under his leadership, and through determination and support of the Motown family of artists, Gordy forged new grounds for minorities and made the “Motown Sound” a worldwide phenomenon beloved by millions to this day.

Berry Gordy believed in turning negatives into positives. He always learned from all his experiences and applied them to his business. The tedious time he spent working on the assembly line at Detroit’s Lincoln-Mercury automobile plant he put to good use: “Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car. What a great idea! Maybe, I could do the same thing with my music. Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown, go through a process, and come out another door, a star.” That little thought that came to him while running up and down that assembly line became a reality we now know as “Motown.”

From his experience at Lincoln-Mercury, he also set up a system at Motown called Quality Control, in order to ensure only top product would be released. Meetings were held on Friday mornings where producers would submit their product to be voted on. All were free to express their honest opinions. Gordy said these meetings were one of the key elements of the company’s overall growth and success. The competition was fierce––and so was the love. It was survival of the fittest. The artists flourished in that process, as well as the songwriter/producers like Holland-Dozier-Holland, Norman Whitfield, Ashford and Simpson and Smokey Robinson. They were all as distinctive as the artists they produced.

When Motown was housed in its famed Hitsville U.S.A. offices at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, it was not just a location; history would be made there. In fact, Berry Gordy created a 24-hour hit-making and artist development factory, nurturing the artistic talent of the singers, writers, producers, as well as corporate executives.

Today, Motown is not only the greatest pop music hit factory ever heard, but an institution, a state of mind, a way of life, a style, the “Sound of Young America.” The distinctive, upbeat and uplifting music brought together pop and soul, white and black, old and young, like never before and continues to this day. Regardless of race or social background, teenage girls admired Diana Ross and teenage boys pretended to be Smokey Robinson. Motown became the heartbeat of American pop music. With multi-platinum artists ranging from the Miracles, Temptations, Four Tops and Supremes to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Jackson 5, the House That Gordy Built had and has no rival.

Motown defined the term “crossover” not only on record and stage, but also behind the scenes. After breaking down barriers and having pop radio embrace Motown artists, Berry Gordy set his sights on television, movies. He booked his artists on popular shows such as American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. After captivating national audiences with repeat performances on these shows, The Supremes were the first R&B act to play the country’s most prestigious night club, New York’s Copacabana, which paved the way for other R&B acts into the top cabaret circuits around the world.

Motown was the first African-American-owned record label to reach widespread national acclaim. Motown broke down racial prejudice by becoming the most successful independent record company in history and the most successful African-American-owned business in America.

After Gordy purchased that first Detroit property, he converted the garage into a small recording studio and the kitchen into the control room. The company’s first signing was the Miracles, led by Smokey Robinson, and its first release was Marv Johnson’s “Come to Me,” January 21, 1959. But its first major hit was Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” a song co-written by Gordy himself, which reached #2 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1960. A year later, the Miracles would score the company’s first million seller with “Shop Around.” That same year, teen girl group the Marvelettes landed the company’s first pop No. 1, “Please Mr. Postman,” while the label signed two young groups, the Supremes and the Temptations. Within three years, those two groups would lead Motown into the mainstream, when the Supremes launched an unprecedented string of five consecutive No. 1 hits, starting with “Where Did Our Love Go,” while the Temptations released the eternal Motown classic, “My Girl.”

In 1968 the company had five records out of the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and accomplished another unprecedented feat by seizing the top three spots for a full month.

In the late 80’s and 90’s all of Motown’s major artists were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Upon his own induction in 1988, Motown’s founder was given the following tribute: “Gordy endeavored to reach across the racial divide with music that could touch all people, regardless of the color of their skin.

“Under his tutelage, Motown became a model of black capitalism, pride and self-expression and a repository for some of the greatest talent ever assembled at one company… Motown’s stable of singers, songwriters, producers and musicians took the concept of simple, catchy pop songs to a whole new level of sophistication and, thanks to the music’s roots in gospel and blues, visceral intensity… After Motown, Black popular music would never again be dismissed as a minority taste… Aesthetically no less than commercially, Motown’s achievements will likely remain unrivaled and unstoppable.”

Today, the label is part of the Universal Music Group, with its classic recorded music catalog managed by Universal Music Enterprises (UMe). The timeless songs from Motown between 1959 and 1985 are represented by EMI Music Publishing.

Source: Motown Museum

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