Delta State Equal Rights Panel Presentation, August 20, 2009

Material Information

Delta State Equal Rights Panel Presentation, August 20, 2009
Mississippi Freedom Project (MFP)
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans ( fast )
Mississippi Delta Freedom Project ( local )
Black Panther Party
Civil rights movements ( fast )
Oral histories ( lcgft )
Temporal Coverage:
1940 - 2009
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Mississippi


The Delta State panel presentation includes presentations from Dr. Hasan Jeffries, professor of history at Ohio State University, Emilye Crosby from the STate University of New York, Genesco, SNCC veteran and University of Florida professor Zoharah Simmons (read by Khambria Clarke of the University of Florida), and activist and SNCC veteran Margaret Block. People mentioned include: Curtis Austin, Arlene Sanders, Stokely Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Henry Louis Gates, Peniel E. Joseph, Claire McCaskill, Robert Earl Brown, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, George W.Bush, Michael Brown, Winthrop Jordan, Sam Block, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Medgar Evers, Charles Evers, Don Mulford, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Archie Carter, Clyde Kennard, William David McCain, CLR James, Eldridge Cleaver, Amzie Moore, Charlie Capps and Willie Lynch. Organizations include: the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization, Lowndes County Freedom Organization, Black Panther Party, National Council of Negro Women, American Friends Service Committee, Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, FBI, SNCC, COFO, Ku Klux Klan, FEMA, and COINTELPRO. Locations mentioned: Laurel, Hattiesburg, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Yazoo City, Claiborne County, Lowndes County, and Kemper County, Mississippi; and Oakland, California.

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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


MFP 040 Inter viewee: 2009 Delta State Panel, Khambria Clarke for Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Margaret Block, Hasan Jeffries, Curtis Austin, Emilye Crosby Interviewer: Dr. Paul Ortiz, Marna Weston Date of Interview: August 20, 2009 W: August 20, 2009 at Delta State University. Arlene Sanders: Good evening. Audience: Good evening. AS: I'd like to welcome you on behalf of Delta State University and the Agora Club here at Delta State. The Agora Club is a club that's dedicated to raisin g the consciousness level of students and the community as well. Margaret Block here, who sits on the panel, one of my good friends, and she always introduces me to the nicest people who have a lot of information that they can share. So, she just afforded us the opportunity to have these historians and political activists here on campus with us to talk about and to have an inter generational dialogue on politics, policy and problems in American government from an historical perspective. So, on behalf of the university, you are welcomed. [Applause] X : Good evening. On behalf of the Agora Club and the Kappa Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, we would like to welcome each and every one of you to the public forum for historians and politics here at Delta State Un iversity. We hope each and every one of you will enjoy. [Applause] O: All right, thank you so much for your kind welcome to your wonderful campus. I just want to thank Arlene for organizing and kind of putting us up and putting up with us, as well. This i s a great opportunity for us, obviously. I feel very honored, personally, to be here with some wonderful


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 2 colleagues who I'm going to introduce in a moment. I thought I should tell you how we ended up kind of getting here. My name is Paul Ortiz. I'm the dir ector of the oral history program at the University of Florida. As my colleague, Marna, says, whenever you say Florida, you have to say, Go Gators. I won't say that tonight. I guess I already did. [Laughter] But, each year actually, over the last two years we have taken a team of graduates and undergraduates from the University of Florida to the Mississippi Delta to do oral histories with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization. So, this is how we really originally got here, was through the kind spon sorship of folks in the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization. Then, Margaret Block brought us over to Cleveland. She said, the folks in Indianola say Cleveland is this country place, but it really is this great place. So, we decided, we'll come over to Cleveland, right? Anyway, that's why we're in Cleveland this year. My colleagues on the panel, we're all kind of mutual conspirators, if you will. Any time we have a chance to get people in trouble, we'll do it. [Laughter] So, we're here tonight, really to talk about cutting edge scholarship along the lines of what Arlene was saying: trying to get a dialogue going, talk about policy issues, and using the civil rights movement and the black freedom struggle as a way to think about contemporary and histor ical political issues and problems in the United States. Each of my colleagues has had a long and distinguished history in activism and in scholarship, and what I'm going to do this evening is just briefly introduce them in the order that


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 3 they're going to speak and just kind of let them go. At the end, the goal will be to get to a conversation, a dialogue, a chance to ask other questions and to just kind of talk. So, I'm going to start at the beginning with my colleague, Dr. Hasan Jeffries. He is a professo r in history at the Ohio State University. He has just published a book; he may be the only person who actually brought his book, so I'll go ahead and take the liberty of passing it around. It's titled Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabam a's Black Belt just published, hot off the presses, NYU Press. The next colleague that you're going to hear from is Professor Emilye Crosby. She teaches at the State University of New York Genesco. She is the author of an amazing book on the civil rights movement; it's titled A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County She's going to go second. Number three is a UF undergraduate, Khambria Clarke. She's a history major. This is her second trip to the Delta with the oral histor y program. We had a major black history program at the University of Florida last March 17. Khambria recited almost in its entirety James Olden Johnson's famous poem, Fifty Years Those of you history majors know that this was a poem that James Olden Johns on wrote about the emancipation, the abolition, of slavery. Khambria is going to actually be reading a paper from a colleague of ours who really dearly wanted to be here, but couldn't make it. That is Zoharah Simmons, or Gwendolyn Simmons. Gwendolyn Simmon s was the head of the SNCC project in I'm going to block this now Laurel, Mississippi, for eighteen months. Then,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 4 after Laurel, she worked with SNCC in Atlanta and other places as well. Khambria is going to read her presentation. Number four, batting clean up, if you will, Margaret Block, legendary activist from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She's a person who is a historian in her own right. Today she took our team around to different civil rights sites in the county, in the area, and she's a tremendous educator. We feel really honored to have her with us today. Our fifth presenter just drove up from Hattiesburg, right? From the University of Southern Mississippi. I should say, everyone here travelled a lot. Oh, you did bring your book? A: I brought one. O: Okay. Fair use, you can pass it around? Professor Austin, of course, teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi. He's the author of Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party So, without fur ther delay, Dr. Jeffries. J: Thank you very much, Paul. Thank you all for coming this evening. It's wonderful to be here and to be in this space with you all, and also to share this panel with so many distinguished folk, including our up and coming scholar Miss Khambria Clarke. What I want to talk about today, just for a few minutes and I'm assuming we have five or ten minutes, five or so minutes each is this question of politics, policy, and problems; contemporary politics, policy, and problems, but viewe d from an historical perspective. As Paul mentioned, I just published a book entitled Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt I want to


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 5 talk a little bit about that as it relates to these three issues of politics, policy, and problems, because the way in which African Americans in this rural county in Alabama in 1965 addressed this problem, or addressed the many problems that they faced, was through politics in an effort to change policy. Let me explain what I mean this way. At the beginning of 1965, in this county in Alabama which is sandwiched between Montgomery and Selma it's the county where forty five miles of the march from the famous Selma to Montgomery March, go through this county. It's a county much like many counties in the Mississippi Delta; it was eighty percent African American. But, at the start of 1965, in this eighty percent African American county, there were precisely zero registered voters. They call this county Bloody Lowndes because of the long legacy of whi te racial violence and racial terrorism in this county; a terrorism and kind of violence that was so vicious, it created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation dating back to the era of slavery and that carried forward a hundred years. So, in 1965, zero re gistered voters. Well, eighteen months later, that same county that had zero registered voters not only had registered eighteen months later not only had registered a majority of the African Americans in that county, but they had created their own independ ent political party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, that chose, as its symbol, a snarling black panther, from which the Black Panther logo and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense that so many of us are familiar with, took its logo, and to a certain


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 6 extent, a measure of inspiration from what was happening down in this rural county in Alabama. So, as I approach this topic of politics, policy, and problems, I thought about the book and what happened in Lowndes County, Alabama, and I want to shar e just a word about the way in which these ordinary, everyday people, working together with SNCC activists Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activists the organization that Miss Block worked with, and worked tirelessly with for so long, helped tran sform this county. The way in which they sought to address this question of absolute disenfranchisement; extreme poverty; complete segregated education ten years after Brown, not a single black child attended school with a single white child in 1965 this question of extreme violence, and absolute, again, political exclusion. In 1965, following on the heels of the incredible effort of black Mississippians, African Americans in Mississippi in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge at Atlantic Cit y, the failure to win recognition of that party led many within SNCC to say this is the end of 1964 we are no longer going to work under the umbrella of the Democratic Party. They said, this is not just a moral problem that America is facing, this problem of segregation and white supremacy, it's partly a political problem. A nd as a political problem, it needs political solutions. For so long, at least in the early party of the [19]60s for some, they saw the political solutions coming from working inside the Democratic Party, even in the South. Well, for some, after the MFDP Atlantic City challenge, after the failure to win that recognition, they


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 7 say the Democratic Party is as corrupt, nationally, as the state democratic parties and these local democratic par ties that had embraced segregation for so long. So, Stokely Carmichael and many within SNCC said, we are going to operate, we are going to create, political parties, political power, by working outside of the Democratic Party. So, they zero in on Lowndes C ounty, Alabama, and say, if we can help organize Lowndes County, Alabama, in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt with this long tradition of violence, then that will be the domino that starts the chain reaction to break down segregation and white supremacy and white violence, not only in the Alabama Black Belt, but throughout the South. So, in the beginning of 1965, a handful of SNCC organizers, led by Stokely Car michael Kwame Ture, he hadn't c hanged his name yet and they begin to organize. They begin to ta lk to people. They begin to knock on doors. They don't do it by themselves. There were local people, people who had been born and raised in Lowndes County, as there are local people everywhere, who were ready to move and had already begun to move. But, wha t SNCC organizers bring in is a certain political expertise; an organizing expertise. They weren't simply fearless, because they had fear, but they brought in an expertise that could be used at that moment in time that many local people simply didn't have. So, local people were able to learn from these SNCC organizers who are bringing this expertise, but Stokely Carmichael and the other organizers who move in talk constantly about how much they're learning from local people. So, it is a mutual


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 8 relationship, not only of respect but also of education. SNCC organizers are bringing in this expertise, and expertise is, what are laws that would allow for the creation of a political party? What are the laws that keep people from registering to vote? What can an ele cted official actually do, and what can he or she not do? So, they bring that to the table. Through this process of conversation, through this process of dialogue, local people filtering their experiences, trying to fight power in 1965, filtering those exp eriences through their life experiences, reach the conclusion independently that the problems that we face do, in fact or do require, to a certain extent, political solutions. These political solutions mean creating new policy, new policy changes, the way government operates. They concluded that, working within the Democratic Party, working with white democrats at the moment in time who embraced segregation and fully and completely, as one local person said, why it didn't make any sense for me to join the D emocratic Party when these were the people who had been beating our heads and killing us all these years. They say, you know what? You are on to something, SNCC. You are on to something, Stokely Carmichael. If we want power, if we want to gain the power th at is necessary to create the new policies to effect change, we have to do it on our own. So, we create, by knocking on doors the same way they create the movement, by knocking on doors not just to register voters, which they do first, but to organize and create an independent political party. So, within that eighteen month period, not only do they register voters, but


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 9 they rally support behind seven African American candidates on this Black Panther ballot symbol, running under the Black Panther ballot symb ol in 1966 for the seven positions in the county courthouse. So, they run an African American for sheriff, for coroner, for school board, for tax collector and tax assessor. They say, we want to create the policy to tax the rich to feed the poor, to have a sheriff that will actually enforce the law and not brutalize people, to have a coroner that is willing to call a murder a murder, and not just a death for causes that are unknown. If we're going to make that kind of change, that will affect our daily live s, then we have to take over the courthouse and we have to do it with these individuals. It wasn't anything special about the people who run. They had to overcome their fear, yes, but they were ordinary people who simply said, it's time to make a change. S o, these seven folk run for office. Now, if I give away, if I tell you what happens, you may not get the book. [Laughter] E C: You've got to get the book. J: You've got to get the book. I'll leave it at that. But we can talk about sort of what happens, but t he point is this: they understood the political problem, and it wasn't simply that they were disenfranchised. They said, the political problem is that we don't have the power to create the kind of proper policies that will dramatically change society. So, they said, it's not enough simply to have the vote; we have to use the vote, to put people into office that will then create the kind of change that we need. That's something that is not only applicable to 1965 and 1966, but something that is


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 10 applicable to 2009. It's not enough to put faces in office, whether that is a familiar or friendly face in office; whether that's in the White House or in the courthouse. It's incumbent upon the people who support those candidates to hold them accountable, to say, you are now beholden to the people and the people's interests, because it's the people who put you into office. That was at the core of what they did in 1965 and [19]66, and that was the essence of what they meant by, Black Power. That is still something that resonates and is an important lesson for us to keep in mind and bear in mind, ten years into the new century, and even with an African American in the White House. So, I'll just stop there and pass the baton on to Emilye. Thank you. [Applause] E C: I'd also like to thank everybody for making this possible and being here today. It's always good to be here with my friends. One of my friends who's not here said that you should never follow Hassan Jeffries on a panel, and I think that she was right. I'm not sure Paul, what I did to offend you, but you put me in this position. [Laughter] As Paul mentioned, I wrote a book about Claiborne County, Mississippi. That's where I grew up. I teach now in upstate New York, and Claiborne County, Mississippi, is a community that's about eighty percent African American, and the institution I teach at is about . ninety five percent white. So, these are very different contexts, in some ways. For me, it's sort of interesting to be in these two different places and think a lit tle bit about them. One of the things that I learned, in studying Claiborne County so, this is a


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 11 community I grew up in, and then I came back and looked at is as a historian I found it gave me a little bit of a different perspective on things, and I starte d to see some of the pieces and see some of the connections, and it became a little easier to make visible some of what I saw around me in a contemporary period, to see the stages that things that gone through previously. Hasan talked about Lowndes County and how violent Lowndes County was, and the complete disenfranchisement of African Americans and the ways that that also impacted public policy. Claiborne County, Mississippi, had a reputation for being more of a paternalistic kind of place, where that was the preferred way of controlling, quote, controlling African Americans rather than outright violence. But there was still a pretty, you know, across the board, disfranchisement. In 1965, when the Voting Rights Act passed, I think about twenty African Amer icans were registered to vote in the county; about five months later, that was about two thousand, and a majority of the population. So, you have a very rapid transition in terms of the number of registered voters after this registration. One of the things that African Americans in Claiborne County confronted is this sort of same issue that folks in Lowndes did; how do you take this vote and make it meaningful in terms of people's daily lives? The way people did that in Claiborne County was somewhat differe nt than in Lowndes, but one of the things that you see is a real difficulty of translating that vote at least in the short term, maybe in the long term into the kinds of quality of life improvements that people were looking for.


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 12 Part of that story is the tenacious white resistance, and how persistent it was. And, i n some ways, how it cost whites, in many ways, as well as African Americans. So, the schools were segregated before the movement, what did you say, ten years after Brown? J: Mm hm. EC: Ten years a fter Brown, in Claiborne County, it was just as segregated, pretty much across the board, right? But, the schools today in Port Gibson are still segregated, and none of them, none of the schools that students go to, white or black, are as good as people woul d like for them to be. But, anyway, when I teach in New York, my students think that race is just a Mississippi problem or just a Southern problem. Then, they also show that they don't really know much of the history; I think a lot of us don't know enough of the history, that's sort of one of my things. They'll say, well, why didn't blacks vote for sympathetic whites? Not understanding, even, the extent to which disfranchisement worked. So, you know, we worked with that in class. But one of the things is th at they don't realize that they go to segregated schools, too. They think they go to integrated schools until you start asking them what their schools look like, and then they go, oh. Those schools are segregated, too. So, I don't want to take up a whole l ot of time, because I'm hoping we can have some conversation, but I think that really, in order to address some of the contemporary problems that we're confronting, whether it's the quality of education, whether it's healthcare, that we need to understand our history, and for particularly for me, the role


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 13 that has played in creating some of these problems. But, also, that we have very good models for positive potential that we don't look at, either, and I think Mound Bayou, for example John Dittmer has a ne w book called The Good Doctors that describe the early public health clinic in Mound Bayou, which seems like an absolutely wonderful model for dealing with healthcare, Child Development G roup of Mississippi from this area. The citizenship schools provide w onderful models for quality education, and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Lowndes County provides a wonderful model for engaged citizenship. So, I think that we need to look at the history, both to understand how it's helped shape and create th e problems we confront today, but also for some models, it can be really useful in grappling with some of these problems. [Applause] B: Khambria. KC: All right, good evening, everyone. Audience: Good evening. KC: And, of course, these are the words of Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons. I want to apologize to the panelists and all of you gathered here this evening for not being present for what I know will be an incredible exchange between the panelists and the friends and colleagues who have gathered for this e vent. Thanks to my colleague, Paul Ortiz, director of the University of Florida's Samuel Proctor Oral History Project, and to his collaborator in organizing these activities, Margaret Block, and to Arlene


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 14 Sanders from Delta State for organizing this event N ot being here with you tonight is my great loss. I so wanted to attend this event, as I have not been to the Mississippi Delta since the 1960s. During the [19]60s, I was Mississippi Field Staff during the 1964 summer project, and for fourteen months beyo nd, when I was Project Director in Laurel, Mississippi. Later, as a staff person for the National Council of Negro Women, I visited the area with Ms. Hamer, who was also staff with the NCNW. I later returned to Mississippi in the 1970s as staff with the Am erican Friends Service Committee, when I served as the Associate Director for its program on government surveillance and citizens rights. This project was investigating the role of the FBI, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, sheriff's offices, and pol ice departments that worked to undermine the civil rights and peace movement in Mississippi and across the country. I have returned to the state to attend SNCC, COFO B: COFO. KC: reunions, but did not get to the Delta on these occasions. Therefore, I am terribly disappointed that I am not here with you this evening. Initially, Paul had said our panel would focus on the civil rights and Black Power legacies that many of you in Mississippi were such an integral part of. Therefore, I will begin with some ref lections on the legacies of these movements and their impact on the nation today. It is always important to recount the long and arduous history we African Americans have had since we were brought here against our will to these shores. All too often,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 15 Ameri cans want to sweep this history under the rug, telling blacks to forget it and to move on. I reject such thinking, as African American history and our struggles to force this nation to live up to its principles are too critical to ever be forgotten or to b e pushed under the rug. From the earliest times, we demanded that this nation live up to the vaunted language of its founding documents, but to no avail, until the twentieth century's civil rights and Black Power movements. The history and legacy of Africa n Americans, who have played such a key albeit unacknowledged role in the creation of this nation must be remembered and learned from. As you know, during the Atlantic Sl ave Trade, Africans as property as well as their labor were counted as a large part o f the actual wealth of this nation for two hundred and fifty two years, from 1607 until 1865, and provided the basis for it. They also provided a substantial portion of the capital for this country's industrial revolution, and enabled the United States to project its power into the rest of the world. Of course, their bodies and labor produced the vast fortunes for many of the individual white Americans who had become the titans of industry and commerce in this country. The preservation and passing on of the signature role of African Americans in the creation of this nation is one of my prime objectives as a teacher and social activist. This is why I'm pleased to have been involved for the last eight years in teaching some of the incredible history in bo th my African American R eligion and my Race, Religion, and R ebellion courses, where we study history through the lens of religion, one of the


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 16 most important if not the most important institution in the life of African American populations during our long and di fficult sojourn in the Americas. Consistently, my students as me why they had never learned of such things they are learning in these classes before. These are students of all races. I've had students say that they had no idea how brutal slavery was, as th ey thought it was basically a benign system. Recently, several students told me that they had no idea that black men fought in Union Army during the Civil War, and they were more than shocked to learn that it is quite likely that the North would have lost the war had it not been for black Union troops. As a black American, born in the Jim Crow South, who suffered the indignities of that system in the [19]40s, [19]50s, and [19]60s, it was my great privilege to serve on the front lines of the historic civil r ights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, [19]70s, and [19]80s, and to live to see our nation, particularly here in the South, go from being an apartheid state for African Americans to one in which an African American man can become president of this n ation. It is indeed a wonderful event. We must never let the nation forget what the civil rights movement did for the nation as well as for blacks and other folks of color. The Southern U.S. was an apartheid state, and the phenomenal rise in population and wealth in the South in the last twenty five years would never have occurred if the civil rights movement had not ended apartheid here. People of color from all over the world have moved here to the South and have flourished. It is the civil rights movemen t that made such


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 17 immigration and flourishing possible. I, like many black Americans, never thought that I would live to see the day when a black man would be elected to the presidency of the United States. I, like a majority of Americans of all races and e thnic backgrounds, am overjoyed to see that a substantial number of white Americans have overcome that deep and pervasive racism that made many unable to see beyond the color of a person's skin in judging that person's character, their qualifications for a job, an elected office, a position on a board, or a committee, and the like. A significant percentage of white Americans, approximately thirty percent, have made a huge leap forward in their consciousness by deciding that they could pull the voting lever for a black man to become president of the United States on the basis of his talents and qualifications and not his race. As we know, many on the right are terribly unhappy about this reality, but large numbers of our diverse citizenry are supportive of th e president and, equally startling, are able to embrace not only him but his wife, Michelle, and their two children as the First Lady and first children of our nation. This is earth shattering, not only for us here in America, but for people around the wor ld who are viewing this process in great amazement. It is important to remember that many people around the world thought that America was a white country. I know this from firsthand experience during my travels around the world. I recall once, while livin g in Jordan in the Middle East, being told that I could not be an American, as all Americans are white. [Laughter] Crazy, right? I pulled out my passport


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 18 and showed it to this particular lady, who gasped in shock. I wonder what this lady, and those like he r, think now. As I stated, this is not something that I thought that I would live to see, and I am most happy to see it. At the same time, I am not amongst those who think that the election of Barack Obama as the forty fourth president of the United States is an indication that we have suddenly become a post racial America. This, in my view, is far from the reality. While many Americans, particularly persons of color, know that Am erica has not overcome its four centuries old legacy of racism overnight, the recent arrest of the esteemed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates at his home for disorderly conduct momentarily put race back on the national agenda. Peniel E. Joseph, who has written an excellent book on Black Power, recently penned a perceptive article regarding the Gates arrest titled, Our National Post Racial Hangover. In it, he reminds us that, since Americans' racial disparities remain as deep rooted after Barack Obama's election as they were before, it was only a matter of time until the myth of pos t racism exploded in our collective national face. He sees the Gates arrest as a metaphor for the national legacy of racial discrimination. Also, some of the social commentators see a racial undertone behind all of the hysteria over healthcare reform. As y ou know, a number of these town hall meetings have turned into shouting and shoving matches, with people screaming all kinds of ridiculous charges against the president. He is being accused of planning to have all elderly people euthanized and other madnes s. As an example of the


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 19 racism that can so easily be stirred up at these events and example of this occurred in Missouri, at one of Senator Claire McCaskill's healthcare town hall meetings last week. Possibly you saw that event on the news, where two black women were being hustled out of a town hall meeting rather forcefully by white policemen or security guards. Initially, the news reported that these women had displayed signs in the meeting that this was not allowed and that this was why they were being f orced out. Thank goodness for an investigative reporter who dug deeper and discovered video footage that showed what really happened. He posted the complete footage of the altercation on YouTube, where I saw it. As it turns out, these women were not holdin g up their signs, but had them rolled up, lying on a chair. The posters had a picture of Rosa Parks on them. A white man can be seen walking ove r to the women who were seating snatching the posters, and tearing them up. When the women protested, they were immediately surrounded by police and hustled very forcefully out of the room. The majority white audience whistled and cheered as the women were pushed out. This same reporter found footage showing several white men at that same meeting, who held up signs inside the hall, and when the police went over to talk with them, they seemingly agreed that these men had the rights to brandish their signs, and were not thrown out, nor were they forced to put their signs away. This is a double standard, and nothing wa s done about it. This was another incident that makes it clear to


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 20 me that racism continues to be alive and well in our country, unfortunately. It manifests itself in many and varied ways. Am I loud enough? B: Mm hm. K C: While I do think that the presidency of Barack Obama will serve as a partial anecdote to the negative stereotyping of African Americans as innately inferior, which still persists in some quarters, it will not change the conditions noted above without social movements arising that will put pr essure on our national, state, and local governments to institute the changes need to reverse these deadly trends. As president, Obama says himself, he cannot bring about the change so desperately needed to this country alone. It will take progressive soci al movements and people across the racial and economic spectrum to bring about the changes so urgently needed if America is to become what America never was: a racially, sexually, and economically just nation, where all persons have the same opportunities and life chances. We still need robust and vigorous movements for social change. We cannot be lulled into thinking that, with a black man in office even a good one that we can rest on our laurels and do nothing. The struggle continues. For every step forwa rd that we make, there are those forces of repression trying to push us backwards. We cannot let this happen. If there is one thing that we must learn about American history, it is that every right we enjoy today is the result of struggle. Every right that is egalitarian and progressive is the result of struggle. Yes, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 21 provided the theoretical tools upon which we base our struggle, but everything from the thirty five hour week to African Americans hav ing their civil rights enforced by the law of the land, to women having their civil rights and human rights, came about through struggle: men, women, and children fought and died for these rights. Some of you in this room tonight fought and were brutalized for blacks, workers and women, to have these rights. The blood of our martyrs will soak this ground on which we stand. They died for these rights. Let us march on till victory, a victory of freedom, justice, a living for all, universal healthcare, and for all, dignity for all, as one. Thank you. [Applause] B: I have to stand up, because I'm a poet. I told Paul, you never invite a poet to be on a panel. [Laughter] I'm going to dedicate this poem to one of my friends, Robert Earl Brown. It's called Justice a nd Jive Then I'll get to a little bit of what I'm going to talk about. It's called Justice and Jive It's a history poem of American justice. Justice wasn't in America's plan when they took away the Indian nation's land. Like the Arapaho, the Apache, the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Navajo, and many more, was it a just plan when you banished them to a desolate land? And infected them with smallpox and hives? You just knew that they wouldn't survive. These injustices can never be justified. You call it justic e, but it's just another word for jive. Where was justice when slavery abound? Perhaps she was helping old master keep Swobo's nose to the ground. They took away his children, his culture, his language, and his identity, but that could not take


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 22 his dignity Madam Justice, you can't hide. We charge you with genocide. You call it justice, but it's just another word for jive. Justice was nowhere around when all of the lynchings were going down. The Klan strung us up and didn't try to hide, because they knew th at justice wasn't on our side. When Billie Holiday sang Strange Fruit she was singing about dead bodies swinging from a poplar tree. She could have been singing about you or me. Billie knew that justice would never preside. You call it justice, but Billie called it jive. Justice comes with a dollar sign. Although justice is supposed to blind, I can't buy justice and pay my rent. I make minimum wage with no benefits. It seems to me that justice is only for the rich. If you don't have money, justice will be denied. You call it justice, but it's just another word for jive. If justice is really colorblind, then why are so many black and brown brothers doing time? You lock them up on some homemade facts, but that was always your plan of attack. Langston Hughes o nce said that justice is a blind goddess to whom we blacks are wise. Her bandage covers two festering sores that once perhaps were eyes. You call it justice, but Langston called it jive. Madam Justice must be really tired; she's permitting the cops to do b lack profiles. They watch us and stop us for no good reason. We feel like sitting ducks during hunting season. It's about time for justice to be on our side. You call it justice, but it's just another word for jive. Mr. President this is Bush at the time [ Laughter] Mr. President, if justice is really intact, then why did you create the Patriot's Act? Your homeland security is an injustice in disguise,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 23 but Mr. Bush, unlike justice, we're not blind. We all have eyes. You call it justice, but it's just another word for jive. Now, Mrs. Bush, justice had to have been deaf, mute, and blind when you helped create N o C hild L eft B ehind. You're setting children up for a great big fall, but Mrs. Bush, don't you know that an injustice to one is an injustice to all? Just ice should be on the children's side. You call it justice, but even the children call it jive. Where was justice when Katrina went down? Perhaps she was hiding out with the FEMA director, that incompetent Michael Brown. [Laughter] The people at the Superdo me sent up a prayer and hoped that FEMA would soon be there, but Bush and Brown really didn't care. They wished they all had just floated away while they lied and schemed and created an excusable delay. But someone once said that justice delayed is justice denied. You call it justice, but now the whole world can recognize jive. Thank you, I had to do that. [Applause] Well, I wrote that poem, but I had to do this tonight. Like I said, don't invite a poet to a program. [Laughter] But, anyway, I'm going to tal k about the justice system, and I was listening to what Zoharah said, and I'm going, oh, this is exactly what I'm talking about, because I'm talking about I'm going to go back to 1624, during the Twin Act, this guy named Winthrop Jordan wrote, I don't even know where I read it at now, but J: Black Over White B: Black Over White yeah, but, anyway, Winthrop Jordan had Black Over White Winthrop Jordan, that was in 1624, when he wrote about the Twin


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 24 Act. He wrote and he showed where two indentured servants ran off together; one was black and one was white. When they finally caught up with them and captured them, they had to go to court. The white servant got three more years tacked onto his indentured servitude, but the black servant was enslaved for the res t of his life, and it's been going on forever and ever and ever in America. We can talk about the justice system when it comes to crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. They have a stiffer sentence for black men that's selling crack cocaine all of it is pois on, but they're sentencing a black man to jail way, I mean, a long time, and white men, whoever the drug dealers are that's selling powder cocaine, get off sometimes on probation and community service. It's still going on. We can talk about the juvenile ju stice system, because I work with the J uvenile C enter for J ustice out of Jackson. It's bad when a country is going to build jail cells around black boys. If they can't read by the time they in the third grade, then that's how they're building their new jai l cells; that's how they're estimating how many jail cells they're going to need in the future. Something is wrong with a country that say they're all democratic and you got freedom. If one injustice might not affect you or you, but it's going to affect th e whole community after a while, because don't think that you're immune to it. It can happen to you anytime and anybody. Like I'm working on a new poem called, It's Dangerous Being Black in America after one of my friends got kicked by a deputy he wasn't a deputy, he was an auxiliary sheriff, out at the Bolivar County Correctional Facility. Now, last


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 25 time I talked to anybody, it was against the law to put your hands on a law enforcement officer. Well, my friend was a law enforcement officer on duty, at the rifle range, and this auxiliary he wasn't even a sheriff he walked up to him and kicked him. Went to court, they found him innocent, and he told the court, oh, he didn't kick him, he tapped him. I'm going, he too dumb to know the difference between a tap and a kick? You tap people with your hands and you kick them with your feet, but he got away with it. Then they hired him, I found out the other day that they hired him as a sheriff because they fired my friend, the one, the victim. They fired the victim a nd hired the perpetrator. That's why I'm so I'm talking about the justice system in America everywhere I go now. I can talk about how they mistreat prisoners. Prisoners have rights. They're human beings. I don't care where you are, if you're in Parchman, R ankin County, up there in Kin Ke Kee or wherever, you have a right to be treated with dignity. They don't do that. They look at them like they're animals. They say they're commodities. They call them commodities, and just human resources; that's what they call them, human resources. This is how they're resourcing and recycling us. They take you from the time you're in elementary school and tag you as a bad kid or whatever. You might just not get the method that the teacher is teaching. You might have to cha nge your method. You might have to find a way to work one on one with that child until he understands what you're saying, but they don't do that. They just say, oh, well, we're going to send him to the detention center. Then,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 26 maybe next year, he'll go on o ut to Mac Grimmett 's place that's the county jail and then, the next step is going over to Parchman. They keep the police employed, they're using us like we're enslaved; well, we still are. They're keeping the police employed by having to arrest them and h arass them. Then they're keeping the guards employed because they've got to keep watch over them when they go to jail. Then, when they get out of jail, they're keeping the probation officers employed. So, that's why I say we're human fodder, and it's up to us adults to take a stand and say, we are going to save our children, because I'm very passionate about young people, and especially about young black men, because they're getting a bad deal like they always have. I know somebody told me one time, I was s peaking wherever, but they told me I sound angry. Well, I am. I be gone a lot, but you know I was somewhere, maybe in Cincinnati, wherever, but anyway, they told me I sound angry. A black lady walked up to me and told me I sound angry. I'm going, well, dam n, when are you going to get angry? [Laughter] [Applause] You know? When are you going to get angry? Because if we stand up and don't do anything, we can do stuff. We can take charge of our own communities. We can start community centers; we can do whateve r it takes. If you see a kid that's going astray, try some of these kids you can't talk to, and I'm conceding that. But try to help him. Try to tell him, I know something else you can do that's interesting and that's fun and you won't go to jail. Then we c an talk about the justice system to them and let them know that they're planning,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 27 they want you to act like this. They're planning on it. That's why they have teaching children now, because they're planning on filling those jail cells. Why are they buildin g jail cells, more jails? They're building jails in Washington County, we just got a brand new jail out there at the correctional facility. They got to build a women's prison out there. Why aren't they building any new schools? The school that I went to, a nd my cousin Yvonne and friends back there, Fay and Zenovia we went to this school well, when Yvonne and I went there, it was called Cleveland Colored Consolidated School. Well, my cousins went there before I did, and they were way older than me. The scho ol is so raggedy, they got asbestos and mold and mildew in it. The Justice Department has already told them that they got to build they got to get a new facilities, but they're running around, talking about they don't have any money. Well, take some of tha t money from the jail what you build it, and build a new school. They built a new school for, what is that, Yvonne? That's H.R. Walter Robinson Achievement Center. That's just another word of saying it's a detention center for kids when they misbehave in s chool. That's all it is. But they could build a new center for kids that's misbehaving instead of training teachers how to handle kids. I taught in San Francisco in the ghetto in the inner city. If you can control children there these kids are good kids do wn here, trust me, because I know bad kids when I see them. [Laughter] You can take kids in the ghetto and in the inner city and change them and make them star students, why can't these teachers do it down


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 28 here? That's all I have to say, because I want to hear my godson speak. [Laughter] [Applause] A: Okay, how y'all doing this evening? I apologize for being a little late, it's bad weather in South Mississippi. Coming up there was just really slow traffic. I honestly like driving in the rain, but it turns o ut most people don't. [Laughter] It was or the speed limit was slower all the way up, so I apologize for the lateness of it. But I was happy when I got to the Delta and saw the sun shining. I mean, it was almost seven o'clock and the sun was still shining. I'm actually from Yazoo City, and so this is home to me. I always like coming to visit my godmother, mentor, teacher, friend, and supporter you know, somebody I can call when I'm having problems. I can kind of complain and cry to. So, I'm happy to be here for lots of reasons, but I want to talk to you about two different subjects, one of which is that my book is going around; it's on the history of the Black Panther Party, and I want to talk to you just briefly, because I know we want to have a dialogue ab out a new project I'm working on. So, again, I appreciate you all being here and I appreciate the Delta State for sponsoring this. From a brother that's an Omega, thank you so much. [Applause] The Black Panther Party is really connected with everything you 've sort of heard on the panel, from Dr. Jeffries' Bloody Lowndes to what was going on in Claiborne County, definitely to what was going on in Laurel and certainly what SNCC was doing here with Sam Block and Margaret Block and Kwame Ture and a whole bunch of other people,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 29 because in October of 1966, in Oakland, California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seal e started what they called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. But, in fact, they had gotten the name and the political ideology from the Lowndes County Fr eedom Organization. In Oakland, California, there was widespread unemployment, widespread mistreatment and police brutality, murder of black people. The schools were just as bad in Oakland as they were in Cleveland or even Yazoo City, where I grew up. So, blacks had moved in the 1920s and [19]30s and [19]50s for these great opportunities up north and out west, but what they found was more of the same. So, these people came alone again, borrowing from what people had done in places like Mississippi and Alaba ma and tried to super impose that kind of political activism on what was going on in Oakland. Let me just say that, in the six weeks prior to October [19]66 when the Panthers got started, seven black people had been murdered in the Oakland Bay Area. That in cludes Richmond, Valeo, San Francisco and Oakland. All seven of these individuals' deaths had been deemed by the coroner justifiable homicides, including on e sixteen year old who was shot in the back six times. They found that to be justifiable. So, one of the things that we'll probably get to, Dr. Jeffries, in the discussion, is that the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, in addition to registering people to vote, often carried arms. That's one of the reasons why they were able to get so many people to vo te. I know Medgar Evers and his brother Charles, when they came back from having fought in World War II, went


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 30 down to the courthouse in Kemp er County to register to vote and the registrar told them, they don't let black people vote. Of course, they didn't use the word, black. They came back the next day with their Army Issue 45's to vote, and they became the first two black people in Kemp er County to register to vote. [Laughter] Nobody got shot, nothing happened other than they got their name signed on this list. So, the Black Panther Party sort of takes a note from that book and they decide that we're going to end this police brutality and all these other problems that are happening in our community. One of the things that they did from the kind of attentio n that they got was to follow the police. For those of you who are history majors, perhaps you've just read about it or heard about it, but in 1965, after the Voting Rights Act was passed, after things got hot and heavy down in Mississippi and Alabama, the re was a riot or, should I say, a rebellion in Los Angeles. It becomes known as the Watts Riot, but actually, if you're able to check my book out or any other sources, what you're able to find is that there were actually about eighty other cities that caug ht on fire at the same time, including Pasadena and Hollywood. So, it wasn't just something that went on in Watts, which is the black section of Los Angeles, South Central LA. This rebellion happened because of an incident of police brut ality. So, the P ant hers come along and decide, in order to stop police brutality, what we're going to do is fight fire with fire. So, they decided that they were going to follow the police around their communities with cameras, with recording equipment, and more


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 31 importantly, with arms; with guns. They had been trained very well, because there were people in organizations again, that come out of places like Mississippi and Alabama like the Black United Front, the Deacons for Defense and Justice; there's a group in the county w here I grew up, down in Claiborne County called The Spirit, which wasn't really a group, but all of these were armed organizations that were keeping people safe from harm. What they found is, when they did this, people when they started in [19]68, there wa s no Miranda Law. That didn't come along when they started in [19]66, Miranda didn't come along until [19]68, but when the Panthers started watching the police in Oakland and San Francisco arrest people from a distance with their guns, they noticed that pe ople didn't get brutalized. They noticed that they were given proper bail. So, this was sort of a victory in their minds. What we begin to see is that, in the six months that the Panthers are in existence in Oakland late [19]66, early 1967 all the police b rutality disappears. Talk to you about those seven people that died, prior to that, no more dead black men in this short period of time. So, people were catching on; this is a pretty good group of individuals. The problem is, most people were afraid to joi n. You think about what you've heard here and you think about the psyche of a black person in the mid to late 1960s, of that individual, whether they're parents or coming of age as teenagers and young adults, you sort of feel a certain way and you think a certain way. One of the things that you really don't want to do is to challenge authority, whether that authority is black or


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 32 white. So, there was some reluctance to join. However, in May of 1967, there was incident in Richmond where another person was ki lled and the family called the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party showed up, and the sheriff said, that's a justifiable homicide; if you're interested in doing anything about it, you need to go to talk to your congressman. This is exactly what th ey decided to do, is go up to Sacramento talk with their ele cted official, who was actually, in additio n to being the elected official, pushing through the California legislature a law that would ban the Panthers or anybody else from carrying weapons in the open, anybody else except police officers. It would eventually come to be known as the Mulford Act; Do n Mulford was their assemblyman. So, they drive to Sacramento. Ronald Reagan, who you know as president, well, he was governor at the time of California. So, you got about ten to twelve vehicles full of black men and women coming up to the state house. When they pull up to the state house, Ronald Reagan is on the front lawn talking to a group of young children I think it's the 4 H club. There's a group of reporters and there's camera people out there, but the law in California said that you couldn't have loaded weapons in your vehicle. So, they pull in front of the statehouse, and all these thirty people with their black leather jackets and their berets tip ped to the side, black pants, get out of the car and they start jacking rounds into the chambers. Ronald Reagan is watching this and he just sort of takes off. [Laughter] He's not going to stay around, he's not going to help the kids, he's not going to pro tect


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 33 them. He's gone. He's not walking fast. He's jogging, he takes off. But what's important about that is that the cameras there follow the children, who come up to the Panthers and say, you know, nice 30 6 mister, can I hold it? [Laughter] So here's Bo bby Seal e letting this young kid hold his shotgun, asking him, where is the assembly room? Of course the kid has no idea where the assembly room is, but the camera then follows them inside of the state house. They eventually get almost to where they want to be. Somebody actually, because they are afraid of all these black people with guns, direct them into the wrong door. So, rather than going into the viewing gallery which every state house in the nation has, where you can go and watch the political process unfold they actually wind up on the assembly floor. Now, the California assembly is all white, with the exception of one black male. You can imagine how they felt when all these black people walked into their, you know, place of work with all these guns. If you have the book, the first line is one of my favorite lines, and I hope you're not that insensitive, but listen, all these legislators say, who in the hell are these niggers with all these guns? [Laughter] They don't wait around for an answer; they le ave, too. So, I tell you that story because I told you that most people were afraid to join the party. Well, all of this is being filmed. It gets on the six o'clock news in Oakland and San Francisco, and then it spreads down to LA, and then other news bure aus pick it up across the country. Almost overnight, the Black Panther Party goes from this organization with twenty or thirty people to one with


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 34 thousands of people in it. It turns out that law was being pushed through the legislature got passed that day, you know? They were just not interested in seeing that happen again. But, this is how the Black Panther Party is built, because people in Mississippi and I'm sure you know this, a Black Panther Party that's established in Clarksdale. There's one in New Yo rk City, one in New Orleans, one in Omaha, Nebraska, one in Seattle, Washington, till they eventually spread throughout the globe to places like Berlin and Paris, Israel, Jordan, down in New Zealand and Australia; they become very popular, because they sta nd on their principle of self defense. But, also, you were talking about doing your own thing; also building their own communities. They started things like the free breakfast program. If you were like me, saying I grew up in Yazoo City, a lot of times, I felt like my mom was sending me to school to eat because we were so poor. I wound up learning something, but we didn't have any food at home, but they had these free lunches and free breakfasts. Well, they got that because the Black Panther Party started t he free breakfast program and, in order to keep people from joining the party, the government started its own free breakfast programs in school. I mean, what they realize is that kids were a lot more likely to learn English and math and history if they wer en't starving; if they weren't hungry. So, they saw their grades go up dramatically after they started feeding the kids. They saw some of these issues with health in their communities, and so they recruited medical students and they recruited doctors, and they


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 35 opened their own freedom health clinics. Again, if you're like me, you grew up rather poor Y ou went to the health department, where you could get fre e healthcare. Well, the government starts this because the Panthers' free health clinic becomes so pop ular. They're not just treating the common cold, they're treating real diseases. In fact, they start the sickle cell anemia research foundation, which Richard Nixon mentions in his State of the Union address. Sickle cell anemia is a disease that mostly aff ects black people, and doctors knew this for a very long time, but they weren't doing anything about it. It's a bl ood disease that is really meant to fight malaria. You know, if you're growing up and giving in Africa, over thousands of years, your genetic structure kind of changes so you can fight malaria, because there are no mosquito trucks to go around and spray stuff. Some of y'all know what mosquito trucks are. Well, if there's no malaria to fight and you got that trait, then it becomes very painful. I t becomes a disease. That' s kind of what happened to black people in this country, and the Black Panthers began to research this disease. Now, today, people don't die well, a lot of people that have the disease aren't dying from it. It can be treated. So, t hey did things like that. They started their own schools. So, the Black Panther Party didn't wait around to see what the government would do for them, even though they complained and yelled and screamed and talked about all that was wrong. They did build t heir own schools, their own health clinics. I talked about the free breakfast programs. But the thing that sort of brought them their demise


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 36 was that they got them started, this whole notion of, we're going to fight fire with fire. You can kind of guess ho w the police started to feel after a while, after the police started being trailed by black men and women with guns. I'm sure you can guess that, and if you can't, just imagine yourself being trailed by anybody with guns. So, you've heard of the SWAT team, for example. The SWAT team is developed in an effort to get rid of the Black Panther Party through this government program called the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTEL PRO, where first, they really create these cells of people who, for the most part are coming back from Vietnam, have combat experience, have explosives experience to deal with the Black Panther Party, because many of them have come back from Vietnam, couldn't find a job, and so they joined the Black Panther Party. You have these two g roups that are offsetting each other. Then, there are all these shootouts in New York, Chicago, and LA, and people like Archie Carter get killed on the campus of UCLA in 1968, Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969, gets killed. At four o'clock in the morning, a team of FBI gang intelligence units and Chicago police officers come into his house after, by the way, he's been drugged by an informant and shoots up the entire apartment and kills him and the person who's guarding the door. So, you know, while they did all these good things, their strategy and tactics have to be questioned. That's what I write about in my book. I talked about their legacy, their very positive legacy, but I also talk about how to organize and I kind of reflect back on what happened in


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 37 Low ndes County and what happened in Claiborne County, and what happened here in Cleveland, because it seems that, when people get together, when they realize what their problems are, when they work with their neighbors whether their neighbors are rich or poor black or white usually, the gains are much more long term. That's the issue I'm trying to get across in the history of the Black Panther party in my book, Up Against the Wall I know we're running out of time here, so I'll just take maybe three minutes, Paul, if that's okay, to talk about this new project. As was mentioned, I'm teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi, and I doubt if most of you know that the University of Southern Mississippi has a population that's thirty percent black. It's t he only school in the entire United States, only traditionally white school in the entire United States who has a black population or that has a black population that high. However, there is still sort of this feeling that that might be a problem. There's no support, for example, for anything having to do with black studies. This is systemic and this is historical. So, this new project I'm working on is this biography about this guy named Clyde Kennard, and I am going to wrap up here. Clyde Kennard tried to integrate the University of Southern Mississippi B: Yeah. A: Which was then Mississippi Southern College, in 1957, again in 1958, again in 1959. Kennard had gone to Korea. He had fought in World War II. He was a paratrooper. He used his GI Bill benefits he's from Hattiesburg,


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 38 by the way used his GI Bill benefits to start working on a degree in political science at the University of Chicago. He does that for about three years until his stepfather falls ill in Hattiesburg and he has to leave Chicago and com e back to Mississippi to help work this I think it's, like, a two hundred acre farm. They've got pigs and chickens and cows and corn and cotton and whatnot. His mother couldn't work alone, so I came back to help. Well, he figures, I was at the University o f Chicago, I was doing really well, I'll just finish my schooling up. You know? I got one more year, I'll just finish. Well, the University of Southern Mississippi says, wait, you know. He actually waited. He waited until 1958 and comes back and they say, well, you know, we're still not quite ready yet. Keep in mind, Brown has just been passed, as has Brown II, which comes out and says you've got to do that with all deliberate speed. So, he understands, but the third time he attempts to register, he goes to campus to meet with the president of the university, who he's been corresponding with over the phone and through the mail. B ut while he's inside the office of the president, William David McCain, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, local authori ties from Forrest County and some school officials plant liquor in his car. Of course, at this time, Mississippi is a dry state, and certainly, Forrest is a dry county. So, he comes out of the meeting, leaves, and is immediately stopped by the police. They search his car and, of course, they find liquor. So he gets taken to jail and fined six hundred dollars. Now, six hundred dollars is a lot of money today. You can imagine what it


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 39 was worth in 1959. Well, he didn't stop trying to integrate this university. He tried one more time, and what they decided to do they being the State Sovereignty Commission, local officials, and people on the campus there is to frame him and send him to jail. This is exactly what they did. They had a young man out by the name of J ohnny Lee Roberts, an illiterate nineteen year old black man to steal chicken feed from a local co op and then plant it on Kennard's family's farm. So, they go out to his farm, they find these two bags of stolen chicken feed, and they charge him with burgl ary and theft of the co op. They bring him to the Forrest County court, and an all white jury, in twenty two minutes, try him and find him guilty and sentence him to seven years hard labor in Parchman Penitentiary. So, 1960 he comes to Parchman, starts ser ving this sentence as, you know, work to the point of exhaustion has all kinds of trouble. Three years into his sentence, he either contracts a disease there are some people who say he's poisoned, I mean, I'm just now doing the research, I don't know what happened to him. In any case, he becomes deathly ill. He gets operated on at the University of Mississippi down in Jackson, nothing comes of that. Still being dragged from his bed out into the fields and forced to pick cotton. Well, eventually, this young white kid from Brandeis who's dropped out of school and come to Mississippi to help work in the movement, hears about this, writes a story about it, and the AP picks it up. Just like with what went on with the Emmett Till incident, people are outraged at w hat's going on. So, the


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 40 governor, after all off this outrage, does allow Kennard to leave the prison, but not long after that, he dies up back up in Chicago. So, I'm writing this story because there is still that legacy of intransigence and hate, not just at the university where I work, but in the environment in which I live. I believe that Kennard, who always wanted to work with people he was an officer in the NAACP and refused to have the NAACP make this a political issue; he simply wanted to go to school He didn't want to become, you know, an activist. Of course, he was registering people to vote, but he didn't want to make a big deal out of it, in other words. So, I'm working on this new project so that I can get people to see that, unless we work toget her and talk with each other and deal with each other on a basis where honesty and integrity is paramount, then we're going to keep getting more of the same. We're going to keep getting great poetry like the sister just gave us. We're going to keep getting not just history books, like Dr. Jeffries has written and Dr. Crosby has written, but we're going to continue to live that history. I don't have to tell you about that, for those of you who live in the Delta. I don't presume that everybody who goes to Del ta State is from the Delta, but I don't have to tell you about some of the problems. I know that the only way to solve those problems is through dialogue and so, having said that, I welcome any questions or comments you have about anything I say and, of co urse, about what the other panelists have said here tonight. Thank you very much. [Applause]


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 41 O: I want to transition to question and answer period. I do want to just say a few things. It seems to me that the panelists, in many ways, spoke about distinctive unique topics, but there was a lot of connection between you all were saying. I think both the importance of history and the importance of organizing, community organizing, the role that ordinary people can play in politics I think this is something we o ften forget today, the civil rights movement was a movement of so called ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Too often, I think we often think of the civil rights movement as a kind of middle class movement, but in many ways, what we're getting h ere in these new interpretations is the civil rights movement as a working class movement, and certainly with what scholars like Charles Payne and others have shown us. The other thing I will just add briefly is that my wife and I were just in Trinidad doi ng research on CLR James, and those of you who are familiar with Pan Africanism, international anti colonialism, know that name. One of th e things we found in Trinidad w e were there during Emancipation Day Trinidad is the only nation on the face of the e arth that celebrates the abolition of slavery as a national holiday. It's an entire weekend of events. The national emancipation committee has made it their top priority to rename one of the major thoroughfares in the Port of Spain, which is the largest ci ty of Trinidad, after Stokely Carmichael, or Kwame Ture. So, here I was a US citizen down in Trinidad and hearing all these people talk about Stokely, Stokely, Stokely. It was very interesting, and a reminder that the civil rights


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 42 movement had a tremendous international impact, both in terms of what people learned about it in places like Trinidad or Asia or Africa, but also, it drew from international currents and trends in anti colonialism and Pan Africanism. So, I just wanted to add those few thoughts. Bu t, again, wonderful presentations. Now, let's kind of open it up to questions and dialogue, those of you who may have a question. Yes, ma'am, in the back. Unidentified female: I wanted to ask the panelist that just finished didn't the white people begin t urning their Panthers against each other, that's what brought them both separated? A: There was some of that through the counter intelligence program, where people were, in fact, turned against each other. They would write, for example, a letter saying, I 'm going to kill you, or, hey, so and so is cheating with your wife. If you are a part of this movement, you're already paranoid, right? You don't know what's going to happen to you the next day. So, part of the counter intelligence program did, in fact, w ork to create factionalism inside the party and they were quite successful at doing that. In fact, Huey Newton and the people who supported him versus the people who supported Eldridge Cleaver, at one point, when you look at what's going on in San Francisc o or New York, are actually shooting at each other because of this factionalism. So, you're absolutely right about that. Unidentified female: And also, were they giving them drugs?


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 43 A: There's that allegation. I don't have proof of that, but you know Huey N ewton did become addicted to drugs, whether people were giving them to him or whether he was buying them for himself is unclear to me, but that did become a problem. Unidentified female: And the group was doing very good until they contaminated them, I gu ess ? A: The group was doing very good. In fact, much of what I wrote is based on oral histories. I mean, I did go into the archives; I did read a bunch of newspapers, government documents, police records, but a lot of people say the party would have been f ine if Huey Newton had just stayed in the jail, you know? That's kind of the sentiment, that things were going along fine until this certain point. Yes, ma'am. O: Yes, ma'am. Unidentified female II: Would either one of you, if you know, explain to me the c omposition of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission in the early [19]60s? Who did that committee I knew the governor was up here, but what was the composition of that committee? B: It was the governor because I'm a victim of them. It was the governor, the Highway Patrol, the state senate, and don't get it wrong, it was not just Mississippians, it was like the Parnell Fund out of New York and some big firms I forget Shadowfield, some big firms out of New York and insurance companies were supporting the Miss issippi State Sovereignty


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 44 Commission. It was all of the entities that represented Mississippi's government, you know, the government entities of Mississippi. Unidentified female II: Let me clarify it a little better. In reference to Bolivar County, do you know how Bolivar County was tied into the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission during the [19]60s, the [19]50s and the [19]60s? B: Yeah. Well, you can go online and read all of that, but then they had the sheriff of Bolivar County and, I mean, the White Citi zen's Councils are from Bolivar County. Then, they had informants. I used to call them snitches, but I got proper and I started calling them informants. [Laughter] So, they had informants; people would inform on, I mean . just come to a meeting so they can run back and tell Sheriff Capps or whatever, I don't remember who it was at that time. But they would inform on us, and I don't want to be specific and call no names, but you know who they are. One of them is my uncle. [Laughter] One of them was a pre acher. Two of them are preachers, and God only knows who else it was. J: She's absolutely right about where you can get this information. I do teach Mississippi history and that stuff I f I was doing it this semester, I would have remembered. I don't remem ber the proper names, but the Mississippi Department of Archives and History has done an excellent job of assembling the records of the State Sovereignty Commission. For those of you who are unaware of what that is, it was sort of like the FBI in Mississip pi, except it was constituted to prevent the integration of public life and to prevent the success of the civil rights movement. So, as has


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 45 been pointed out, not only would there be informants who would go and relay information, but there would be real, co ncerted action to prevent people from registering people to vote, from integrating a school. Things like firing people from their jobs. Most people, as you know or as you can probably guess, rented. They lived on plantations; they worked by shares. So, you could easily get kicked off your land if you're talking that freedom talk, that civil rights stuff. These are the kinds of things that the Sovereignty Commission, along with the White Citizen's Councils, were involved in. If you just Google MDAH, and do a subject search of any name, you will find it. I mean, I spent when I can't sleep, that's what I do. [Laughter] I go to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website, and I just read stuff until I can't anymore. Much of what I've learned about Clyde Kennard, in fact, came from that particular website. So, I'd encourage you to check that out. EC: I think you can even do it by county, I think you can even you know, so, search by Bolivar County and get that. Unidentified female II: You won't find it in Bolivar County; you'd find it in the [inaudible 1:21:32]. EC: I meant . Unidentified female II: What was it called? A: MDAH, it's short for the Mississippi Department of Archives, excuse me, Archives and History.


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 46 EC: When you're at their website in the Sovereignty Commission papers, you can select Bolivar County as a search. O: Yes, ma'am. Margaret Kibee: Also, for the Sovereignty Commission, as I've spent a few hours there myself anybody from here in Bolivar County, Amzie Moore has, I mean, tha t'll keep you busy for the rest of the year. His start, earlier than any I've seen, his Sovereignty Commission file starts around [19]57, [19]58, or [19]59. B: Mm hm, [19]55. Unidentified female III: Whereas a lot of the rest of us didn't start until the [ 19]60s, and you'll even find things where a lot of this asinine stuff. I mean, I saw them going through this meeting and all this kind of stuff, or when they get lazy or they'll just print somebody else's newsletter But, yeah, they are busy worrying about where people are going on Christmas Eve. Like, have nothing else better to do. But, if you wanted to start with Bolivar County, Amzie Moore is an excellent name to pull. B: As is my brother, Sam. Because, when they first opened up the files, Sam was in th at sixth percentile that they didn't want to release the files on because ACLU was suing them. I mean, you look a lot of people up; people that didn't even have an idea. Just talking to us . O: Yes, sir. Unidentified male: Also, the H istory C hannel ha s produced a very good documentary on the Sovereignty Commission.


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 47 A: Really? Unidentified male: And all the things that it is, called Mississippi State Secrets A: I didn't know that. B: I didn't, either. Unidentified male: I'm like, you Dr. Austin. I fi nd the Sovereignty Commission website to be pretty addicting. A: [Laughter] Mississippi State Secrets ? Unidentified male: Yes, it's very good. It's very well done. A: I'll check that out. O: Questions, comments, perhaps from students as well? We're all st udents of history, right? But . Candice Ellis: In what direction do you think the movement is heading in? For students my age, getting close to graduating or whatever, what is there to do for maybe people in my position at a university? Where is it he ading, how far do you think it has to go from here? Kind of just broad, general questions like that. B: Everybody looking at me. [Laughter] O: It's a good question. A: That's a great question. B: It sure is. A: I'll just say in brief, it will go wherever you take it. I'm not just being flip pant There are so many issues; there's so many problems that have to be addressed that need to be addressed. If you zero in on one that you


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 48 are passionate about, that's the place to start, and that's the place to begin the wheels in motion. So, you know, on campuses, sometimes our college campuses are unique environments into and of themselves. There are also campus issues and there are community issues, and then there are national issues and then there are international issues. So, whatever it is that you are passionate about, is the place to begin. It is a certain passion that is required to sustain the energy and momentum to maintain the commitment, because victories are far and few between. They come in odd shapes and sizes and, sometimes, you don't even recognize it. So, it's that passion to make a difference, to make change, that is really required. But, the issue is what you want to organize around, and if you organize in a community, I mean, one of the lessons that comes out of SNCC I mean, it's so valuable to study them, is that they didn't tell people what to organize around if they went into a community, they asked the community, what issues is it? What issues are there on the ground that the community wants to a ddress? Then you build around there. So, one is, what do you want to do? You can start building momentum around that. The other is, if you want to go in the community and help a community, then you go in and say, what is it that the community wants? And th en begin to build momentum from there. A: Absolutely. Of course, we have one of these one of our big problems is literacy, for example. I read a couple of years ago, I can't remember


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 49 where, but the average high school graduate in Mississippi, according to this article, graduates with the same skill level as a sharecropper in 1955. B: Mm hm. A: I mean, the literacy rate in our state is abysmal. Today was the first day of class Paul, which is why I couldn't miss and what I always do on the first day of cla ss is find out how well my students write. First of all, so I can know what I'm dealing with, but also so, halfway down the road, I get this great paper, I know that they didn't write it. [Laughter] Every time, I find out what here I am. Some people who ha ve clearly graduated from high school that can't put a paragraph together. So, there's an issue that you can deal with. One of the things that I work on in Hattiesburg we just opened a technology center. We realized that there's a technology gap in this c ountry and, particularly, in our state. I know very little about computers, but I have friends in the College of Science and Technology, I have students who are very proficient, not just with Facebook and e mail but with everything. So, I get them to volun teer to go out the community and try to narrow this technology gap, because I'm interested in working with kids. So, I think Dr. Jeffries is absolutely right. It really is based on you and how you feel, and not maybe this thing on TV or maybe this thing th at people are doing looks sexy or it looks cool to be a part of. Without the kind of commitment and passion that it takes, you get in and became bored really quickly. So, you have to decide what it is you're willing to stick with, and then carry it on unti l you can't carry it on. That's how we got to


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 50 where we are today. I don't teach at the University of Southern Mississippi because I'm cool or because I'm smart. I teach there because a lot of people died and went to jail, first so we could go there, but th en so that we could have the opportunity to go to work wherever it is we were qualified to work. I realize that people mad e major sacrifices. These aren't just people that I write about. These aren't just people that I think about in abstract terms. I'm ac tually living what it was people fought for. So, as he pointed out, you might not even feel what you're doing is a victory, you know? I'm sure that person who went to jail fifty times thought, man Stokely said, he wasn't going to jail no more. [Laughter] N ow, look at how far we've come. It goes to the latter part of your question: how much further we have to go. We still have a ways to go, but it's clear that if people get together, we can go a lot further than if we did it just as individuals. J: If I co uld just also add that all of these issues are connected. If you begin, education is connected or poor quality of schools is connected to high unemployment, which is connected to poor healthcare and adequate access to healthcare, which is connected to poor housing, connected to crime and violence. So, now matter where you begin, it's a spiderweb. It's all inter connected, so there's no wrong place to begin. But that's why maintaining that, or finding something that you're passionate about that can sustain y our interest over time is so important. A: Yes, sir. In the back?


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 51 Unidentified female IV: Yeah, I just wanted to speak to one of my passions. B: That sounds like Charlene. I wonder if it is. Unidentified female IV: One that deals with truth and reconcili ation, and in any relationship or any hope of relationship when hope has been done, is to apologize, if you're sincere and if you would like healing to begin. So, with that as my preface, I would just like to deal with remarks from the panel about whether you feel about an official apology within the state of Mississippi for the egregious actions that have happened in the past. Unidentified male: You're a fidgety one. EC: I'll start by I don't remember it well enough, but I remember that Professor John Hop e Franklin wrote an article, "Apologies Are Not Enough," and I think he was talking specifically about the Tulsa race riots that directly affected his family. But, so, he talked in that article about the fact that there is something important and significa nt about acknowledging wrong, but that it's only a starting place. Without being part of a broader attempt to grapple with the implications and deal with the implications, it's not enough. So, I guess what he was suggesting was that it wasn't something he would dismiss, but he didn't think it, by itself, was sufficient. I find that a really compelling way to think about it. B: Well, me being the victim, truth and reconciliation but who's going to do the reconciling? I don't have any problem except, I mean, let me rephrase that. I don't have a reason to reconcile with anybody because I never harmed anybody. I was a victim. I'm interested in truth and reconciliation if


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 52 we can get the truth, and if they will reconcile. I mean, I don't understand how you going t o reconcile with the victims no how, but I'm for reparations. That's my you know. They really need to talk about reparations. We can talk about reconciliation when we talk about, I'm forever the when we talk about reparations and truth. I mean, what truth are they going to tell? Are we expected to be apologetic to them for being black and causing trouble? For them? That's why I was working on the Truth Project at Ole Miss, but I kind of got, like . wait a minute, I don't have a reason to apologize to no body. You know? And I don't. [Laughter] So, we need to talk about it, but we need to re examine that word reconciliation, because I don't feel like I got to apologize or reconcile or nothing with nobody. Unidentified female IV: Just for clarification, I de finitely was not talking about African Americans apologizing B: I know. Oh, I know. But that's how it's ending up; that's the side that I'm getting from some organizations that I had tried to work with. J: I would just add to that B: And hey, Charlene. Unidentified female IV: Hey back. [Laughter] J: We all do need some truth telling. We do need some truth telling. That's what we all do as historians. While we're engaged in these oral history projects, to get these truths out, to uncover and unearth tru ths that have been buried and that people want to keep silent So, we do need truth telling at a lot of different levels. It's not just the state govenrment of


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 53 Mississippi I have a long list of people who need to apologize to black folk in America and thro ughout the world. [Laughter] Mississippi is high on the list, but it's not just a state. I mean, it's counties; county governments need to apologize, municipalities need to apologize, for the treatment and mistreatment of people of color. Dispossession and disenfranchisement. The national government. It's not just Southern states, it's Northern states. I got a long list that we can have lunch over and discuss, but then they also need to back it up, because an apology is simply saying sorry, empty handed, wi thout anything behind it. This, with the question of reparations, really means nothing. Congress, most recently, the House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for slavery B: Slavery. J: Segregation, yeah. They apologizing for some shit, b ut they ain't back it up with any money. [Laughter] What they said, what they did in it this is the serious aspect of it. What they said is, we apologize, but this does not mean that we are liable for any, or this has no legal standing in a courtroom or co urt of law. We don't owe you anything. This was the way it got passed unanimously. You had a couple people who stood on the sidelines, because otherwise, the Mississippi Congressional Delegation, Alabama Congressional Delegation, South Carolina Congressional Delegation, said, we don't want to have any parts of it, unless you put in that this apology ain't really an apology, because we don't owe you anything, because we apologizing for what we did to you. But don't take it


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 54 that way. [Laughter] So that's empty, you know? Until we can get to a point where we can talk about the truth and then say, it's not about cutting a check to a person, but saying, let's invest in improving and making life chances better for everybody who still suffers from the problems that th e nation, as a whole, created. That's where we need to get, and that's where we're not at, at the moment. O: I think, just to add, briefly, one of the things that we have to understand is, if we want the truth, we have to search for it and seek for it and find it in ourselves. Florida had the highest per capita lynching rate in the United States, higher than Mississippi, and it's a state that I would periodically do research on. For the first time in the history of a particular city, which was an all white town after a massacre of African Americans this town I'm talking about is Ocoee, Florida, in Orange County they recently invited me to come down and give a talk abo ut the Ocoee r ace r iot. This is t he first time in the history of the city where they actual ly acknowledged that they massacred black people who were simply trying to vote on Election Day 1920. But it's an example of how the truth always comes with struggle. I mentioned earlier Trinidad it was striking for me to be in a country where the entire w eekend was reserved for the examination of the abolition of slavery, how it came about, what had happened after that period. The history of colonialism in Trinidad was especially brutal, involving a lot of exploitation, and there was a space to talk about these things. It reminded me that, today, we have those spaces that we could


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 55 make larger. We have celebrations; we have commemorates of Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm very dissatisfied with many of the celebrations and commemorations that I have participated in, because I think that they are too milquetoasty. I don't know if that metaphor means anything. What it means is, they're too watered down. Too often, these celebrations take Dr. King's legacy and just water it down; waste time and don't talk SNCC, don' t talk about CORE, don't talk about community organizing. Don't talk about how to change things today. I think it's incumbent upon us to search for truth and to look for the spaces we do have to enlarge those. Yes, sir. Unidentified male II: All this movem ent phrase, truth telling, truth, truth and reconciliation, prompted me to speak up. We've got a lady at the back who brought up about Bolivar County Unidentified female III: I'm the lady right here [Laughter] Unidentified male II: You're right. I'm nerv ous, I'm nervous. I'm not saying it right. In Bolivar County, well, here at Delta State, there's a building right over there named after Charlie Capps. Now, how many people know that Charlie Capps was the President of East Bolivar County White Citizen's Co uncil? B: Oh, we all know that. Unidentified male II: How many people know that he was President of the Mississippi Sheriff's Association in 1964? How many people that know that, in December of 1964, after Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Brady was arreste d, that Charlie Capps, the President of the Mississippi Sheriff's


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 56 Association, asked for the Association to support Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Brady. How many know that, when Charlie Capps was sheriff in Bolivar County, there was a black man killed in Mound Bayou in 1965? Most people, many people, view that killing as was, in fact, by lynch mobs, the one up here that killed that young black man. B: Crap. Unidentified male II: If you go into the Sovereignty Commission Files, be sure to look up Charlie Capps. Now, this ties into the president and the fact of the unfinished work of the civil rights movement. Charlie Capps retired from the Mississippi State Legislature in 2003. He was considered one of the top three most powerful legislators in the state o f Mississippi; some people say he was number one. That's 2003. At 2003, there was not a single state dollar that went for early childhood, for direct support of early childhood education in the state of Mississippi. They couldn't find one dollar. But they could find tens of millions of new dollars for more prisons and more beds in those prisons. So, there's all kind of ways you could tie this together, the past running right through [inaudible 1:40:06]. Things that's truth telling, really need to be told. W ithout truth, there can be no reconciliation. Actually, without truth and justice, there can be no reconciliation. That's my opinion. O: Do we have any other questions? Yes, ma'am. Unidentified female V: With problem s that's so prevalent in our society, e specially here at Delta, why is it that you think we're so complacent and we won't


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 57 get together as a people? White people know more about black history than black people. Why is this today? B: I'm the only Deltian up here, because I can't answer that. Tha t's a life long mystery. [Laughter] I can't I'm the only Bolivar County and Delta . well, you from the Delta, but I can't answer, but my friend Unidentified male III: In psychology, they call it learned helplessness. You've tried so hard to win and yo u keep getting pushed back. This happens in corporate structures. So, you basically give up hope, and I think that's probably what happens to a lot of people. Unidentified male II: Row, does it happen in universities? Unidentified male III: It happens in a university; very, very likely to happen at a university. [Laughter] A: Do they talk about what the remedy for that learned helplessness? Unidentified male III: Input, positive input; being part of the show. A: Okay. Okay, and I think I support that. Wha t I was going to say, I think maybe that goes alongside that, is fear. Back to the whole truth part. We don't like to say, and when I'm saying we, I mean black people, black men in the particular. A lot of black people are just scared of white people. Ther e's no real reason for it; I don't think there's any really good reason for it, but I think it's the truth. When I go and I deal with my friends and my relatives and my neighbors, that is the vibe I get, you know? I'm on campus and I come out of meetings a nd my black colleagues will say, you know, I'm glad you said that, but I never would have said anything like


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 58 that. By the way, you know, could you not come by my office anymore? [Laughter] So, I think fear has a lot to do with it. I'm not going to sit here and say to you that the things I do, in terms of my community involvement and the things I write about don't cause me a great deal of fear, because it does. But I don't allow it to paralyze me. I guess that's the input that you're talking about. I can be afrai d and still function. I'm well aware that you got one time to die, you know? That's it. I'm not waiting around until that time. I'm not going to disrespect or hurt anybody. I'm going to do what I feel is right and what I feel is just, and when the end come s, that's just the end. But I believe it has a lot to do with fear, and I guess the technical term is learned helplessness. B: We're also suffering from Willie Lynch syndrome. Y'all know Willie Lynch? Audience: Yes. B: Well, you should if you go to colle ge But, anyway, Willie Lynch, I'll explain. Willie Lynch wrote this paper. He spoke at a gathering of slave owners. He came from the Dominican Republic, wasn't it? Or somewhere, Haiti, or wherever he came from, and his topic was, how to keep the black man down, how to keep the slave down. He was talking about you put the young against the old, the light skinned against the dark skinned, and you just work it like that. This is what's going on today. Today, it's all about the think they bourgeoisie middle cla ss. I don't know where they get the idea that they're middle class; they're working, so, you know, got bills like everybody else. Then, you know, we're fighting against each other; player


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 59 hating is what the new term is, but it's the same thing for Willie L ynch, is player hating. All of that, and then people don't have time. We're so exhausted trying to keep up with the Jones, we don't have time to try to sit down and come together as a community and work with each other and see what we can do to better our own community. I'm having trouble with them people over at Eastside about my niece, about the major threats. That's Arlene [Laughter] The M ajor Threats, the m ajorettes. Audience: Oh. B: They T hreats, they . [Laughter] Well, why would you send your ch ild to school just to become my she go to school because she likes being a majorette. I mean, we're talking about people with that mentality and I'm getting frustrated with it. Why you going I was telling you about them buying these kids these long ponytai ls, talking about they want those long ponytails. All the M ajor T hreats, they have those long ponytails when they marching. [Laughter] Insane. Why you going to pay thirty dollars for a ponytail? I'm saying, this is what's wrong with society today. Why woul d you pay thirty dollars for your child to wear a ponytail in a parade? And you need to be buying food and toilet paper and staples for your home. There's something wrong, and I don't know, you know. There's something mighty wrong here, that's what Tyrone I love that song about Tyrone Davis, because something's mighty wrong here, and what we got ot do, I don't know what to do. I'm telling you, I do what I can. I work with my cousin Yvonne back there and Zenovia, but . we got to change the


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 60 parents' mind and stop them from poisoning these children minds, because they're going to be the new leaders, and they gumming up already with this poison mind that you got to have your nails why would you send a twelve year old kid to a nail salon and pay thirty five o r whatever they charge to get her nails done? Insanity. That's what wrong, and we had better check. What they say, check it before you wreck it. [Laughter] That's what's going on. O: Yes ma'am. Unidentified female VI: You know, the two instances that I've noticed that causing great fear in Cleveland is law enforcement and the press. B: Yeah. Unidentified female VI: The newspaper, The Bolivar Commercial and law enforcement. It's . I'm going to be frank with you with The Bolivar Commercial. It writes a ll the bad news about black folks. White news is always happy. I don't get it anymore, but B: Me, too. Unidentified female VI: Law enforcement, like she was saying n ot long ago, how they just prey when they leave the police station early in the morning, they make a dead drive to the e ast side of Cleveland. The whole police department, maybe one car, would go over this way. But the whole, all the patrol cars, due east and harassing people trying to go to work. They harassing people going to work, they haras sing students going to school. They get in schools and about twenty minutes later they're coming out of


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 61 the school with about ten or fifteen of them in the back of cars, taking them to Rosedale, locking them up for a little noting. Those are the two things the two most dangerous things, that I have encountered since I've been back in Cleveland. I've been back in 2004, is that: press and law enforcement. It is not getting any better. Arlene Sanders: May I propose, white citizens in Cleveland have a ride not understanding the history and not understanding who we are as a people and having no knowledge of our history. Understanding that we can change things. If you look at the makeup of the city of Cleveland, you look at the makeup of Bolivar County, and the p ower is in the hands of we have power and you refuse to use it, then it becomes useless. That's what's going on here. With educated black folk, I can say, we have arrived as educated black folk in Cleveland. We will not stand up against the status quo. Tha t's our biggest problem. B: Mm hm. Unidentified female VI: And Bolivar County is sixty five percent black. But you wouldn't know that on election day, when they go to the polls. B: Sure wouldn't. Look at Greenwood. S: People don't understand that you ha ve that political power, and where the power lies by it. [Laughter] The County Board of Supervisors controlling the monies in the county, and since the inception of the voting rights and what the Mississippi Legislature did after the passage of the voting rights, and with the massive litigation that came out of the courts system, putting


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 62 political power in your hands. But, if you fail to use that political power, then whose responsibility is it? It's incumbent upon those of us who have the knowledge to disp ense of this. You know, I am my brother's keeper. To whom much is given, much is required. It is required of us, but I can say, I've had a lot of people say that the this is not the time to speak out. This is not the time, so I sit down, because I don't wa nt to lose my job. I don't want to lose my status in the community, my standing in the community. Well, you don't have to stand Unidentified female VIII: [inaudible 1:50:34] S: So, that's where we are in Bolivar County, majority black county. It has been recently that we gained control of the County Board of Supervisors in this county. But it took several years of wrestling, trying to get voters out, so that we could control. Still don't understand you look at little cities around the Mississippi Delta th at are probably ninenty five percent black, and you have one black on the city board or the board of aldermen. Maybe two blacks on the school board. You ever see a city in the state of Mississippi, little town in the state of Mississippi that resembles a d eveloping third world country, you come to Bolivar County and I'll take you to that little town. These are the kinds of things that we're dealing with. O: I think Professor Jeffries wants to and then we should wrap it up, I guess. J: Yeah. As we draw to a close, I would just add that the good news is, Jesus only needed twelve disciples. The point is, one of the lessons that


MFP 0 40 ; 2009 Delta State Panel ; Page 63 we learned coming out of the civil rights movement is that it was never a lot of people. I mean, the people who you can mobilize a lo t of people, but the people who are doing the organizing, just as Jesus was a community organizer, it did not take a lot of people; only a handful of people. The lesson is, it doesn't take many to make a big difference. If nothing else, whatever the issue is, however you begin to think about mobilizing a community, whatever the issue is, whatever the problem is, it does not take many to make a big difference. O: All right. With that, I think, thank you again, to the panelists for their presentation. [Appla use] Thank you, I really appreciate it, thank you so much. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, November 7, 2013 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc, December 2013 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, April 2014

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