I have a silent rage that could burn churches, but I chose to put a paper to the pacifist pen. If I speak of the cultural genocide that occurred in the Canadian residential schools, at first people don’t understand. They can’t even begin to fathom the hell on earth inflicted on First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children between the 1860s to 1996. An estimated 150,000 children were forced into the schools, many died, their small bodies dumped unceremoniously into secret mass graves.
Let me bring you back in time to 1920. My Kokum (grandmother in Cree) was put into a Manitoba residential school at two years old. For sixteen years she was abused physically, mentally, and sexually. If she peed the bed, the nuns would wrap her in the wet sheets and whip her. She was made to kneel on pencils, and strapped as punishment. She was raped, humiliated and beaten down, but they couldn’t make my brave Kokum cry. The priests and nuns were told to “take the Indian out of the child” at all costs, and they took their task to a sinister level.
After all she’d been through, my grandmother had pride in being Indigenous until the day she died. The institution couldn’t break her. Later on, when my mom was growing up and attending public school, she was called a, “dirty Indian”, but she knew better than to feel shame in her heritage, or my grandmother would beat my mother senselessly. My mother suffered mental and physical abuse, but no sexual abuse, and she never had to go to a residential school. That was the start of stopping the cycle of abuse. My Kokum, and the other survivors’ incredible strength through these horrors is the reason I’m even alive, sitting here writing this tragic, yet unfortunately true tale.
You may be wondering why the children’s parents didn’t come and try to rescue their sons and daughters. The Indian Act stole any power from parents, who would be jailed if they tried to rescue their children. Many little beings lost their lives trying to escape, to get home.
The residential school system stole an entire culture. Wouldn’t you be enraged if you never knew your heritage? I’m personally haunted by it. It’s an empty feeling. What if…? What if I would have gotten a chance to experience the wisdom of my grandmother before she died young on the downtown streets of Vancouver? What if she’d gotten a chance at the bright future she deserved instead of trying to drown her trauma in heroin and alcohol? What if the church would take accountability so that we can close this dark chapter of colonialism? The ancestors need peace, and I want to be able to look my children in the eye, and inform them justice has been served for our people.
So, how can this justice be served?
Firstly, any records pertaining to abuse of Indigenous children at the hands of the residential schools needs to be turned over. This may sound like a simple request, but the church is refusing to provide the documents citing privacy policies. Prime minister Trudeau stated the government has tools available to compel the church to procure residential school records, but he indicated he does not want to resort to taking the institution to court. Forgiveness and redemption can’t be attained without the Catholic church releasing the records, and taking accountability. Meanwhile, the pope will meet with a congregation including Canadian residential school survivors this coming December. I’m hoping he has the courage to at least apologize for the despicable acts of his predecessors.
Secondly, pay the survivors what they were promised. Again, that should be a given, but the Catholic church continues to try to cheat the First Nations out of their settlement money. In the landmark 2005 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, one of the Catholic church’s promises was to give their “best efforts” at raising $25 million for survivors. After a decade more than $21 million remained unpaid. The church went to court and pointed to the “best efforts” clause, saying they’d tried their best. On July 16, 2015, the judge agreed and absolved the church of its legal obligation. Yet, in 2016, $128 million was shelled out for a Toronto church’s renovation, only one year after church groups told a judge $3.9 million was all they could raise nationally for residential school survivors.
Thirdly, Jordan’s principle needs to be upheld. Jordan’s principle makes sure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. Funding can help with a wide range of health, social and educational needs, including the unique needs that First Nations, Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA children and youth and those with disabilities may have.
Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson. He was a five year old boy from Manitoba who died in hospital, never knowing a family home, while the federal and provincial governments argued in court about who would pay for his care.
The federal government is currently seeking a judicial review of the Human Rights Tribunal’s rulings that ensure justice for Indigenous children.
And lastly, the Liberal government needs to provide a swift timeline and funding to deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action 71 through 76 – which focus on identifying missing children and identifying burial sites.
As Tori Cress, co-founder of Idle No More-Ontario said, “stop extracting resources, go extract our children from unmarked graves.”
For more information, or how to help or donate to these causes, go to:
Rose Beach is a Metis pop singer/songwriter hailing from the Canadian prairies. She performed at private events and clubs in Tokyo, Japan, for ten years before moving to Kelowna, BC, Canada. She has been steadily creating new songs since her first album, Family Love, was released. Her new single, "Every Child Matters" is dropping in September, 2021.www.rosebeach.net
Despite self-delusions, we are all products of the set of experiences that begin from the moment of our conception. As humans, we are less instinctual and more affected by genetics, environment, and in a few cases, the unique ability to rise above it all. The outcome is the story of a life.
Malcom Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to parents Earl Little and Grenada-born Louise Little (nee Norton) on May 19, 1925, 60 years after the end of slavery in America. The Great Northward Migration, or the Black Migration, in the United States had begun in 1916 and extended to 1970, involving the resettlement of six million Blacks from the segregated Jim Crow South to America’s cities in the North and West. In 1910, Omaha had the third largest Black population among western cities.
Omaha, with jobs in the meat-packing industry and other related jobs, was a better place, though Blacks were concentrated/segregated in North Omaha and resentment and violence against Blacks there and in other industrial cities was ever-present. The summer of 1919 was called “Red Summer,” a time in which white supremacist terrorism and racial riots (translation: white mobs converging on Black neighborhoods before looting, burning and murdering men, women and children) took place in dozens of cities across America, shortly preceding the Tulsa race massacre in early 1921.
Malcom was the fourth of seven children born to Earl, who was an “outspoken troublemaker” to the Omaha white establishment and an advocate of Marcus Garvey, Black self-reliance and Black pride. Under threat from the local Ku Klux Klan, he moved the family to Milwaukee a year after Malcom was born and soon thereafter to Lansing, Michigan.
When Malcom was six, his father was murdered by whites. The city officially ruled his death “a streetcar accident,” while the insurance examiner called it a “suicide,” and yet considering the death of Sandra Bland in 2015 (she was found hanged three days after being arrested in a routine traffic stop, officially ruled a suicide), in 1931 the cause of death for a Black man was whatever was deemed expedient by authorities. When he was 13, Malcom’s mother had a nervous breakdown and was committed to Kalamazoo State Hospital. Malcom and siblings were separated and sent to foster homes.
Obviously intelligent, he became disillusioned with the goals of education when, after revealing his desire to go to law school, a white teacher insisted that lawyering was “no realistic goal for a nigger.” After dropping out of high school, he moved to Roxbury in Boston, where he worked odd jobs while living with his sister. He moved for a short time to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood before returning to Boston as a 20-year-old with no high school diploma and no real job skills.
Facing a dead-end future, he learned the ephemeral nature of a criminal life when he was arrested for burglary a year later and sent to Charlestown State Prison ten years. While locked up, Malcom met fellow convict John Bembry, a respectable, self-educated man who re-inspired Malcom to pursue reading, knowledge and learning. Shortly thereafter, his siblings introduced him to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, a Black nationalist organization that taught Black superiority, Black separatism and beliefs that white people were inherently violent and wicked. Malcom’s life experiences had conditioned him to resent whites, so it was not difficult for him to embrace the frustration and hate felt by many in the persecuted and oppressed Black community, beginning with the prison population. He became a believer in God, adhering to a clean lifestyle while refraining from consuming alcohol and eating pork.
And so Malcom , who had entered prison as a inquisitive though disillusioned and desperate youth emerged from incarceration as a strong, self-educated and inspired man. He had found strength in his belief that the Nation of Islam and its teachings held the promise for a cure to Black poverty of position, education, dignity and spirit. At 23, he had begun a correspondence with NOI leader Elijah Muhammad and joined the organization, transforming from Malcom Little to Malcom X, substituting “X” for the original name that “some blue-eyed devil had imposed upon his paternal forbearers.”
Paroled at 27, Malcom visited Elijah Muhammad in Chicago and began his ministry with the Nation of Islam, primarily in recruitment for membership. He was assigned to Temple Number One in Detroit, and he established many more over time. He came to America’s consciousness five years later when he intervened on behalf of Hinton Johnson, an NOI member who had been savagely beaten by two New York City police officers. In a show of support, four thousand NOI protesters gathered outside the police station, and after negotiations with police, Malcom dispersed that huge crowd with a mere hand signal. That subtle display of that power caused the wary NYPD to place him under constant surveillance from that point on.
A successful recruiter for the Nation of Islam, Malcom was credited for the group’s dramatic expansion in membership, which by modest accounts increased from 500 members to 25,000 members, and by a more generous estimate from 1,200 to 50,000 or 75,000 members. Iconic young boxer Cassius Clay, inspired by Malcom, became Muhammad Ali, and Malcom mentored and guided protégé “Louis X,” who later became the leader of NOI as Louis Farrakhan. To his father’s honor, Malcom had found his calling as a powerful recruiter for a Black empowerment movement.
The “nurture” without told him to embrace his Blackness and the pride and objectives of his race and the Nation of Islam, while the “nature” within urged him to fight with everything he believed for his painfully-wrought values and beliefs, and to follow his own deeply-ingrained moral compass, inherited from his parents through both nature and nurture.
Malcom vs. the Civil Rights Movement
During the 1950s-1960s, the philosophy of the Nation of Islam came to confront the tenets of the civil rights movement and its leaders. As Malcom’s influence grew in the Black community, Black leaders and the NAACP grew alarmed with his teachings of Black separatism as they struggled to integrate America through civil disobedience and protests, where they were being violently beaten and arrested, and marshalling the support of many whites. They were at odds with the Nation of Islam for forbidding its members to vote as civil rights leaders and a movement marched and sacrificed their safety and very lives for a congressional voting rights act.
When asked to take a position, the NAACP and civil rights leaders stridently condemned the Nation of Islam’s teachings and Malcom X, who had become the face of the competing movement. Popular Black leaders called him and his group “irresponsible extremists whose views did not represent the common interests of Blacks in America.”
Malcom took up the challenge and engaged in the national debate, asserting that civil rights movement leaders were “stooges” of the white establishment, and he eagerly engaged in interviews during which he advanced his counter argument to the goals of civil rights leaders. He called Martin Luther King, Jr. a “chump” and said the 1963 “March on Washington” should have been called the “Farce on Washington” for a demonstration “run by whites in front of a statue of a president who has been dead for a hundred years and who didn’t like us when he was alive.”
Malcom believed the principles of “nonviolent resistance” were weak and unrealistic and argued that “violence” is the only language that violent people understand. He thought that Blacks should, first and foremost, defend and advance themselves. Some have mistaken his criticism of nonviolence to mean that he was an advocate of “violent resistance,” and overthrowing the government, which was not true. However, he encouraged his followers to assert their rights and freedom and to arm and defend themselves when necessary.
Over time, Malcom’s increasing popularity resulted in increasing friction, since while many saw him as the face of the Nation of Islam, its actual spiritual leader, Elijah Muhammed, subtly sought to assert the power of his position. Careful not to upstage his mentor, Malcom never took credit for even his own ideas, arguments and insights, instead beginning answers and statements with “The Honorable Elijah Muhammed, our leader, teaches us that…” Notwithstanding, a schism between the two was inevitable.
As the movement grew, local police departments felt threatened by NOI members’ sense of defiance and their willingness to defend themselves, though no where was the perceived threat greater than it was in south central Los Angeles, where violent LAPD officers beat and murdered Blacks regularly. In April 1962, two officers, without cause, caught and beat a group of NOI members outside Temple 27, resulting in a large crowd of incensed members rushing out from the temple to confront the violence.
Rather than physically attacking the officers, the angry though restrained crowd disarmed them, yet the escalation had already begun. Within minutes, more than 70 agitated backup officers arrived. Without hesitation, they raided the mosque and randomly beat members inside. Drawing firearms in a place of worship, they shot seven members, including two in the back (the Korean War veteran was paralyzed for life; and the man raising his hands over his head to surrender died from the gunshot wounds).
Malcom was outraged and considered the violation of the mosque a sacrilege, vowing vengeance and retribution against the Los Angeles police. Thus assembling a group of street-hardened members who were willing to take up arms (many formerly incarcerated), he sought Elijah Muhammed’s permission to retaliate, showing respect for his leader. However, he was stunned by his leader’s answer to do nothing. He had already publicly committed to action, so the leader’s non-approval was a blow to his national stature and credibility.
Perplexed though compliant, Malcom sought to engage the efforts and resources of civil rights organizations, other religious groups and local Black politicians to address the violation of the mosque, but again in a symbolic display of power, Elijah Mohammed forbade it.
Malcom’s disillusionment set in again because he did not understand or agree with his leader’s decision. The ongoing accusations that Elijah Mohammed had conducted several extramarital affairs with young Nation secretaries was perhaps a bigger conflict, since such behavior was considered a serious violation of NOI teachings.
Elijah Mohammed confirmed the extramarital affair allegations in 1963, excusing his dishonesty by attempting to alter NOI teachings, referring to precedents set by Biblical prophets. Yet street-wise, compleat Malcom knew a player and the game when he saw them. He made a spiritual and intellectual separation from the Nation of Islam then, because he could no longer believe Mohammed or reconcile the leader’s hypocracy (on a side-note, Louis X, or Louis Farrakhan, saw in the conflict an opportunity to exploit the division between Malcom and the Nation’s leader to realize his own political ambition).
As his relationship with Elijah Mohammed frayed, Malcom became more outspoken in his own opinions and attitudes. For example, after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination of December 3, 1963, Malcom remarked,
President Kennedy never forsaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon… Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they made me glad. He later explained: It was, as I saw it, a case of ‘the chickens coming home to roost.’ I said that the hate in white men had not been stopped with the killing of defenseless Black people, but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked, had finally struck down the country’s Chief Magistrate.
Elijah Mohammed and Louis Farrakhan, however, seizing on that unauthorized comment, found encouragement in the national media backlash to attack and disparage Malcom directly, and Mohammed prohibited him from speaking publicly for 90 days. By that time Malcom’s popularity/notoriety had grown to the point that other NOI leaders and members considered him a threat to Mohammed’s dominance and leadership in the movement. His presence and ideas could no longer be tolerated.
Four months later, Malcom publicly announced his split from the Nation of Islam and Mohammed’s “rigid” teachings while retaining his Muslim identity. As such, Malcom confirmed that he would continue to fight on behalf of Black people and was planning to create a black nationalist organization “to heighten Black political consciousness.” He also said he would begin working with other civil rights leaders—something he had been forbidden to do under Mohammed’s dominance.
Thus began a growing antagonism between Malcom and the Nation of Islam, now competitors for adherents and influence. Many NOI members revered Malcom and were eager to follow where he would lead. It was a direct threat to Nation of Islam leadership, power and money. As a result, the negative propaganda campaign against Malcom grew, led largely by his replacement, Minister Louis Farrakhan. In early 1964, NOI leadership sued Malcom in court to evict him from his temple-owned home. Eventually frustrated, he explained his true reason for leaving the movement.
To dedicated, loyal Nation of Islam followers, Malcom’s revelation about Elijah Mohammed fathering eight children by teenaged Nation secretaries was heresy. Now speaking for Mohammed, Louis Farrakhan publicly condemned Malcom, deeming him “worthy of death,” while Mohammed Ali solemnly accessed that Malcom would die for opposing “the vessel of Almighty God.” As threats to his person and his family grew, Malcom armed himself for an inevitable final confrontation.
Tireless in his desire and effort to bring change, pride and empowerment to Black people, Malcom would not rest. He immediately announced the beginning of his own movement, called Muslim Mosque Inc., which was a religious organization, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a secular group that would work with other Black leaders across the globe to advance common goals.
On March 26, 1964, amid NOI rancor and threats to his life, Malcom managed to attend the U.S. Senate’s debate on the pending Civil Rights bill in the Capitol building. By providence perhaps, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was also in attendance. The two had frequently traded stinging barbs across public and media platforms, but they had never met in person. In that random and sublime moment, the two came together, putting aside their differences to pose, smiling together, for a handshake photo.
Signaling his erstwhile willingness to engage civil rights leaders and engage in the national political debate about voting rights, Malcom gave a speech called The Ballot or the Bullet, in which he encouraged Blacks to vote in their own interests rather than being taken for granted by the false white liberals who sought their votes with false promises and lies, but who always put their issues and agendas last. The speech has aged well and maintains relevance today.
They could be called The Black Activist Triumvirate, because they reflect the divergence of philosophy, activism, methodology and legacy in the former two, as well as a sense of pragmatism going forward in the latter. In my own experience, Malcom was to be feared, Martin was to be admired, while once angry John eventually became the calming voice of reason and progress through transition in his full life.
Of course, I’m referring to the lives of Malcom X (neé Malcom Little, born in 1925, Omaha, Nebraska), Martin Luther King, Jr. (neé Michael King, Jr., in 1929, Atlanta, Georgia) and John Lewis (born in 1940, Troy, Alabama). In 2021, a fast-forward media/content consumed global society, it is not a safe assumption that many under 30 either know all three names or understand the history of this activist trifecta and the legacy they sacrificed their very lives to establish.
Being Black and born in the 1920s meant that Malcom and Martin’s grandparents were the sons and daughters of Black American slaves. The shadow of slavery was powerfully extant in the history, family stories, warnings and philosophy they shared with grandchildren. Imagine any of us speaking with our grandparents, who in describing their own parents, were talking about human chattel, government-sanctioned inferiority and heinous acts of forced servitude, brutality, rape and murder, based solely on the color of their skin.
Malcom and Martin became teenagers in the 1940s at the height of the Jim Crow era. According to a post by one Black Nebraskan, “Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states between 1877 and the mid-1960s.” It relegated Blacks to the status of second-class citizens and represented the legitimization of anti-Black racism.
Jim Crow laws were enforced by the threat of violence and often by horrific violence itself. They were a legally prescribed, rigidly enforced, multi state-wide system to disenfranchise the citizenship that had recently been conferred on Black patriots in the form of property destruction, beatings and lynchings, which were often sadistic murders, carried out by white mobs. With slavery over, former Confederates and conservatives (neé traditionalists) wanted to force Blacks into an alternative indentured servitude, take away their right to vote and protest, and control where they lived and where they could go (in safety). They also wanted to condition Black children with a sense of “Black inferiority” as they conditioned their own children with a sense of “white supremacy.”
As a part of daily life, Blacks were relegated to the backs of busses, could not drink at “white-only” fountains, and were excluded from swimming pools, movies, department stores, hotels and restaurants—all this as the lynching throughout the South and border states endured on a weekly basis. For Malcom and Martin, Jim Crow was a way of life, and both reacted to and were influenced by their youthful experiences with degradation and injustice.
Malcom Little spent his adolescence moving from foster home to foster home after his father, Earl, was murdered in Detroit and his mother, Louise, was committed to a mental hospital in Kalamazoo. Untethered and neglected, he turned to a life of crime and in 1946, and it 1952 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for larceny and breaking and entering. His epiphany in incarceration came when he joined the Nation of Islam and became Malcom X.
As Malcom X, he advocated for Black empowerment and the separation of Black and white Americans, stressing Black power and Black independence, while criticizing the racial integration mainstream civil rights movement, led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the son and namesake of a Baptist minister in Atlanta. The son of civil rights activist Martin Luther (Michael) King, Sr., he was inspired by his Christian beliefs as well as the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Ghandi.
Martin attended and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1948 at 19 years of age before enrolling a Crozer Theological Seminary for a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. He began doctoral studies at Boston University and later audited philosophy classes at Harvard. He received is Ph.D. in 1955. During that year, King, E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr took up a case for Rosa Parks, a Black woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a white man, which began the Montgomery bus boycott and launched the activist career of Dr. King.
As and activist and civil rights leader, King led marches for Blacks’ right to vote, for desegregation, labor rights and for civil rights. Aligned with the SCLC, he advocated nonviolent resistance for those and other civil rights. In 1960, after being arrested for participating in a sit-in for desegregation, a judge invoked a previous plea deal (related to driving without a valid Georgia license) and sentenced Martin to four months of hard labor at a maximum-security state prison, which made him a felon.
Martin gained greater national recognition from the nonviolent though confrontational campaign in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. While incarcerated there, he composed Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and later that year, on August 28, he delivered the iconic I Have a Dream speech while standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 250,000 on the National Mall and assembled around the reflecting pool. The speech called for an end to racism, which has persisted some 58 years later.
Both Malcom and Martin were assassinated, both shot dead at age 39 by elements determined to silence them: Malcom by an initial shotgun blast to his chest and 21 subsequent gunshot wounds to his body; and Martin by a single rifle shot to his face.
John Robert Lewis was the third of ten children born on a sharecropping farm in Pike County, Alabama, into a thoroughly segregated community. At age six, he had seen only two white people in his lifetime. As a teenager, he followed the Montgomery bus boycott and began to admire Dr. King. After being denied admission at Troy University, he wrote to King about suing the college for discrimination and met King for the first time. Ultimately, he attended and graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville and was ordained as a Baptist minister.
Inspired by King, he became an activist in the civil rights movement. He was first arrested and jailed during a Nashville sit-in movement protesting the segregation of department store lunch counters, which was the first of many arrests. He explained that “good trouble” was necessary to achieve change. In 1961, he became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders.
When in 1961 as a Freedom Rider, John attempted to enter a whites-only waiting room, two white men attacked the peaceful protesters, beating him in the face and kicking at his ribs. Later in Birmingham, he and other Freedom Riders were beaten by a mob (which included KKK members) with baseball bats, chains, lead pipes and stones, only to be arrested by the police.
In 1963, he became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and became one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington in August 1963. He was fourth to speak, mere minutes before Dr. King’s famous speech.
In 1977, John ran for the seat Andrew Young abandoned to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under former President Jimmy Carter, but his bid was unsuccessful. However, in 1986 he ran again for Georgia’s 5th district again, an underdog against state representative and primary opponent Julian Bond, but this time he won, and he won the general election, where he was favored. He was reelected 16 times and died while in office.
Some answers cannot be known, some questions are not meant to be answered, and then there’s sheer assholery, where the questioner seeks not an answer, but an opportunity to mock and deny. With some questions, it’s not that there is no correct answer, but there is no answer, period. Thus in the 1950s and 1960s, in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, in Texas and Arizona, in Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Virginia, the goal of the question at voting polls across the South was to intimidate, humiliate or otherwise discourage or deny voting rights for citizens of the United States who were racial minorities.
How many bubbles in a bar of soap indeed! It was a perversion of the literacy tests administered in the Southern states from the 1890s to the 1960s. Southern state legislatures used such “literacy tests,” poll taxes, residency and property restrictions specifically not merely to silence, but to wholly disenfranchise minorities. The restrictive policies were unsustainable, especially with the pangs of conscience that the Civil Rights movement was inflicting on the conflicted American psyche and America’s reputation among nations.
The result was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and specifically Sections 4 and 5. When Congress enacted Voting Right, their analysis had determined that racial discrimination in voting had been more prevalent in certain areas of the country.* Section 5 became known for its “preclearance” element.
These “covered areas” or jurisdictions would be monitored. Section 4 suspended such “tests or devices” (consider question above) as a prerequisite to vote and added other special provisions for 5 years, while Section 5 was “the requirement for review” of any change affecting voting made by a “covered area” by either the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or by the Attorney General. Basically, the Attorney General had oversight in those specified jurisdictions to remedy or cure future attempts at voter discrimination and other abuses.
In 1970, Congress recognized the need to extend the special provisions of the Act, renewing them for another 5 years, while adding partial coverage in 10 additional states. Then in 1975, Congress extended special provisions for another 7 years, when in 1982, the coverage formula was extended 25 years to 2006. In 2006, the special provisions were extended another 25 years. However, Section 4 did contain a provision that allowed a jurisdiction to “bailout” from under provisions in Section 5.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder held that “the coverage formula set forth in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional, and as a consequence, no jurisdictions are now subject to the coverage formula in Section 4.” Thus guidance information regarding termination of coverage under Section 4 from certain of the Act’s special provisions (preclearance) was no longer necessary. In short, there was no longer any oversight for states with a proven history of practicing voter discrimination in the form of new restrictive laws, redistricting or forms of intimidation.
In the aftermath of the 2020 general election and the thoroughly disproven claims of voter fraud and voting irregularities, many state legislatures (notably those from the “covered jurisdictions”) have enacted measures that include curtailing eligibility to vote by mail, prohibiting the use of ballot drop boxes and blocking early voting on Sundays ad other legislation that would restrict voting.
In response to the attempts at making voting more restrictive, in 2021, voting rights advocates in the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.1, which is a comprehensive voting rights, elections and ethics bill. The measure would mark a huge expansion of voting rights and a major overhaul of campaign finance and redistricting laws. Those who oppose a new Voting Rights Bill hope to stop the effort in the Senate, where the minority party can kill in by employing the filibuster.
Uncle Remus is the fictional narrator, or griot, in a collection of African American folktales from the South that feature animals in teaching, poking fun and storytelling. Of course Br’er Rabbit’s no fool—he knows what he’s up against. He knows the not-so-smart Br’er Bear just wants to eat him, and he knows Br’er Fox is sly, scheming and crafty. In fact, he knows it’s more personal for Br’er Fox, who is violent and sadistic and makes special efforts to cause Br’er Rabbit misery.
From Wikipedia: Some scholars have suggested that in his American incarnation, Br’er Rabbit represented the enslaved Africans who used their wits to overcome adversity and exact revenge on their adversaries, the white slave owners.
The lesson many descendants of Africans enslaved in the South understand is a reliance on wit and “thinking on one’s feet.” Too often the playing field is uneven and the deck is stacked, and that hasn’t changed in over 400 years. It’s why many Black parents and grandparents admonish, “You gotta work twice as hard and be twice as smart…” Br’er Rabbit is a survivor, and he’s no longer enslaved.
In 2012, I wrote about one Black family’s tradition of voting over four generations and the need for coming together. No further set-up. It’s called Obama’s Shirt. Follow the link—it’s a quick read.
*The “covered jurisdictions were Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia ( as well as areas in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho and North Carolina)
On December 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cut off the lower portion of his left ear.
By Marcus McGee
July 2, 2021
Furor Poeticus — Is it “Madness,” or is it “Art”?
Inspiration—it’s a process that no content creator can control. What is the source of inspiration, and its prodigy: genius? Inspiration comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breath into.” While the Romans believed it was “an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or visual art and other artistic endeavors,” the Greek empnefsi suggested the poet or artist would go into ecstasy, or furor poeticus—the divine frenzy, or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his or her own mind and given the gods’ or goddesses’ (or Muses’) own thoughts to embody. In Hebrew thought, expressed in Greek, theopneustos meant “God-breathed.” The short answer: no one knows the source of inspiration, divine, sub-conscious or otherwise.
Inspiration can be elusive, as divine assistance and furor poeticus cannot be summoned at will. The great halls of “who-might-have-beens” are populated by unknown artists who have spent their precious little time and resources on Earth waiting on inspiration, which is beyond human understanding, and much less human control.
The artists and creators who we know and cherish throughout time, however, are a motley crew of mentally unstable, substance addicted, depressed, unrealistic, troubled, abused, incompetent and sometimes outright deranged individuals. Yet is that the key? Does a person have to fit into one of the above descriptions to create truly memorable content? Must artists sacrifice sanity, normalcy and conformity to create truly great art? Is that the price of fame and success?
Most humans, however, are too practical to be artists, too cautious to take that road less travelled, which certainly offers no guarantees. It’s a fools’ gambit at best.
Most would-be content creators, after all, never achieve “success” during their lifetimes — while posthumous success is way overrated. By popular account, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died impoverished and unknown to the world at the venerable age of 35, and he was buried in a pauper’s grave. Franz Kafka perished poor and unpublished. Henry David who? Edgar Allan Poe was an alcoholic who died unsuccessful in a gutter and made all of nine dollars for publication of The Raven.
How much easier it would be to learn a reliable and practical trade, get a common job and save a little each year to eke out a humble retirement. It’s the formula for success to the world’s masses. Is the risk ever worth the reward?
But then, what is success really? A good job? A nice house? Enough money to take a holiday once or twice a year? Not if you are cursed with “a gift.” And how do you know if you have a gift? Well, when you are really good — let me be more clear: when you are exceptional at a thing as a result of something innate, something within that comes from without and chooses you, something beyond that which you logically should be able to do, then that is the curse that is your gift, because you ultimately will have to choose what you will do with it.
To ignore it is a sin against divinity, but to embrace it is insanity. Like all things, gifts come in many sizes. If it is a small gift, perhaps a person can find ways to forge a normal, non-illustrious life while transforming that curse to a blessing in small meaningful ways. But if it is a profound gift, then freedom from the curse is not so easy. Ignored, it will gnaw at you. Exploited, it will betray you. Buried, it will bury you. Best to deal with it. Temet nosce.
Meden agan. Two things you must understand: 1) What does “success” mean to you?; and 2) What are you willing to sacrifice for it? If you understand those things, only then can you transform the curse to a blessing. Simply put: What do you want to change or achieve, and why? And what is the price you are willing to pay to accomplish the transformation?
Years ago, when I was in a low place, I wrote a short story as an exposition about “the curse of gifts.” In it a young man who has sacrificed everything for “success” is asked to make one more “substantial” sacrifice in order to achieve his ambition. While there was no logic to it, the purveyor of success demands the ring finger and little finger of his left hand. Those removed and sacrificed, the protagonist will realize uncommon achievement.
Only after the protagonist has sealed the deal does he understand that success comes at a price, and most often the desired expectation cannot exceed the demanded price. As a result, those individuals who pay the ante will always envy and resent the untalented freeloaders and exploiters who leech on the sacrifice paid. These diminished individuals form a unique “Club” of “successful” people who all are mutilated in some idiosyncratic way.
And here is where we come back to Van Gogh. In The Club, which is the story I wrote, all successful people are deformed in some way — mutilated, or more often self-mutilated. It’s the price of fame, if anyone considers fame to be success. And the price of wealth — estrangement, sycophancy and predation. Thus most who are given profound gifts can never escape the curse/blessing.
Engıa pára d’ate. The better success is to seek to use your gifts create and leave something behind greater than what you were given. In the logic of order, you were given these gifts and talents for a reason. In your life, you must grow them to enhance that order. You must not selfishly bury them so that their light will never shine.
In my experience, perhaps the most striking example of this illustration is in the life of Michael Jackson, who was self-mutilated, both within and without, and he knew it. And yet, the most profound manifestation of self-mutilation is martyrdom, or suicide, which is often the final act of Furor Poeticus. Prince was likewise cursed with his gift.
Please take the time to read The Club on this site by clicking the link. To end this blog, I’m embedding a little-known Michael Jackson song, called The Price of Fame. No further explanation required.
What do content creators do? What makes content creation official? Are you a content creator? The answer is simple. If you write, compose, sing, recite, draw, interpret, translate, pitch, blog, design, produce, direct, photograph, edit, consult, teach, collaborate, develop, publish, perform, represent or promote original content, that qualifies you as a content creator. “Content” has a broad meaning, which ranges from humdrum statistics to passionless reporting to college papers—more about that later—but the content creators I seek to reach and empower are those who produce “creative” or “artistic” content.
“Original Content” means you are bringing something completely new to consumers of content. If you cover a song or you produce a Shakespearean play, then the work itself is “content”—subject to copyright laws and royalties, though it is not “original content.” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Othello were derived from the Babylonian love story Pyramus and Thisbe and Un Capitano Moro by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio respectively, but Shakespeare refashioned the work, recreating his own characters, conflicts, resolutions and messages as original content.
Copying or cloning is not content creating, though there is nothing wrong with deriving original work from other great stories that have been told earlier. However, copying any work without attribution is considered plagiarism, which is antithetical to original content creation. Specifically, original content is something unique that a person (or sometimes a program) creates—something novel that finds a way to share an idea or tell a story in a completely fresh or new way.
Let’s begin with the stories we read and watch. King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and for all purposes, who can argue against that? Traditionally, in art and literature, there are seven major main plots: Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Comedy; Tragedy and Rebirth. Every story ever told or written fits into one or more of those categories.
Telling the story is the next challenge. When I was in college studying the structure of classical drama, I focused on prelude, protasis, epitasis, catastasis and catastrophe, which became a part of my DNA and which writers of mainstream drama today translate in the arc as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, catastrophe and resolution (which in fiction is called the denouement). It’s an indispensable formula for telling good and memorable stories. All storytellers would do well to remember and incorporate it.
Furthermore, there are seven character roles: The Protagonist (hero), The Antagonist (villain); The Love Interest (object of desire); The Confidant (sidekick); Deuteragonists (supporting characters); Tertiary Characters (minor players) and The Foil (contrasting character(s)).
For practical purposes, however, characters can be classified as flat, round, static, and dynamic, which become the most important tools of content creators who share stories.
In the same way that all organic molecules are composed of carbon atoms in rings or long chains, which are attached to hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, all the stories that we consume and enjoy are created from combinations of the plots and characters listed above. The content creator merely finds a way to combine them in a unique way that is both original and provocative.
If you have an original idea and you have invested the time, discipline and energy to put that idea into a form that translates to and inspires an audience, then you are a content creator. The next challenge: What do you do after your content is created? What do you do after it is published or “dropped?” How do you give that content the best opportunity for success? How do you take control of the process rather than relying on others?
ContentConnect is the answer. Stay tuned—more to come about that!
If you have never painted a room, that gives you all the more reason to read this post, because a room is a project—a model. Whether your next project is a poem, a performance, a song, a short story, a novel, a play, video or a film, it is no different than painting a room.
When painting a room, imagination is required from the start. You first have to imagine what the completed project will look like (create a concept), i.e. the color of the walls and the color of the trim, accents and possible artistic or innovative touches. And with that picture in your mind, you move forward.
Painting a room begins long before the actual process of painting. Once you have conceived what the end project should look like, it’s helpful to acquire color samples, or swatches. You may decide on two colors and place them side-by-side—only to realize they are too similar, or their contrast is ghastly or unsettling. You might seek opinions from friends you trust and who you deem qualified to advise you.
Once you have refined your initial vision, then it is time to acquire all the tools and supplies you will need to complete your project. It’s more than just paint. You’ll need brushes, rollers and innovations developed to paint corners and other difficult areas of the room, and you’ll need a stepstool or a ladder. There will be other adjunct materials not involved in painting that you’ll need.
Masking tape, or even better—Frog Tape, to make sure the lines between walls and trim, between trim and floor, and around fixtures, windows, outlets and switches are neat and clean. You’ll need drop cloths, tarps and/or canvasses to protect your flooring, furniture and windows from spills and accidents. And finally, you’ll need agents and materials to clean your brushes, rollers, surfaces and to address possible errors or any painting beyond(over/crossing) the lines.
In the end, your success a room painter (content creator) is determined by how close the completed room resembles the room (project) you imagined. Yet sometimes, during the process of painting, you might be inspired by the realization of your work to add creative improvements, a message, or flourishes to your initial vision or plan.
Plan for the unexpected…
No one paints a room without encountering set-backs. As careful as you might be about setting up a painting schedule and scheme, sometimes unforeseen issues arise that might put you behind in your plan. If this happens, you should never stop or take an indefinite pause on your project. Rather, you must address the problem directly so can you reset your schedule and promptly resume work toward your goal. If you determine that you are going to run out of paint or capital, plan to address the shortfall before your brush is dry.
If your assistant(s), consultant(s) or collaborator(s) is(are) unreliable, cease working with that(those) person(s) immediately. There is profound wisdom in the sayings: 1) A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; and 2) T’is better to be alone than in bad company. In the end, whether you complete painting or not and the success of your endeavor is up to you. It’s your project. You can’t blame anyone else for your failure, and no one else deserves credit for your success.
One last bit of advice: Once you begin, you cannot stop painting. You must work every day until the project is done, even if it is for five perfunctory minutes on some days to maintain continuity. And finishing is not the same thing as completion. After the last section is painted, you’ll have to back up, just outside the door, to gain a perspective from outside the room. You’ll want to ask yourself, Is this the room I conceived or imagined? From that place and time, you’ll understand how others will view your work.
Is the color solid and consistent? Is there some underlying distraction, or are there some other shades and hues of other colors showing through? If additional finishing is required, don’t be stubborn. If its a second coat, a third coat, or even a fourth coat, do whatever is necessary to arrive at your vision.
If any further explanation is required for “Painting a Room,” I sincerely recommend immediately joining ContentConnect and seeking translation from other content creators, like yourself. Hellen Keller, born blind and deaf, who went on to become one of America’s first disability rights activists, said it best: Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much. Alone, you can successfully paint your room, but with ContentConnect, you will connect with others to paint a palace beyond your imagination!
I don’t usually add any commentary to the videos I post with my blogs, but while I like this clip for it’s relevance—i.e. the less-than-artful typical approach to creating, or painting a room, the laugh tract is cheesy. Excusing that, it really is the path that many would-be content creators pursue. Remember, though: Style and Method Matter!
We all awoke yesterday to the news that a “upscale” condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed with 163 residents inside. Later in the day we saw the video. It did not look good. We watched a huge section of the 40-year-old Champlain Tower South fall flat at around 1:15 a.m. To our eyes, it seemed a first section on the left fell, destabilizing the rest of the tower, followed by the first floor of a second section on the right, causing a cascade of crumbling reaching up the building’s 12 floors, which fell flat, like a pancake, trapping or killing nearly everyone inside beyond a growing billow of dust.
It made no sense. This was not some low-rent inner-city project with a negligent super and dispassionate owners who had stingily deferred building maintenance. Rather, it was an upscale condominium with and oceanside view—a 136-unit condominium where the owners were likely residents, where a three-bedroom, ninth-floor unit recently sold for $710,000. And wait—scratch 12 floors. while the plans submitted by the developer to the city initially called for 12 floors of residential units, this developer decided to add a penthouse, increasing the building’s height by 15 feet, which was above the town’s height ordinance upon completion, a footnote that may have factored into the collapse. Thirteen floors—is anyone superstitious? And why the penthouse? Well, a 4,500 square-foot penthouse closed for $2.8 million a month before the collapse.
Over the weeks, months and possibly years to come, there will no doubt be efforts at accountability and blame, there will be lawsuits, penalties, explanations and assurances that no such thing will ever happen again, but we should never forget the real tragedy—five people dead and 151 missing (quietly presumed dead). How and why it happened and who should be blamed will not change that. It happened.
Life can be hard that way. No doubt there will emerge stories from victims’ families with regrets about something more they could have done, and there will be stories from residents who, for whatever reason, were elsewhere at 1:15 in the early morning of June 24. In the best of times, we sometimes convince ourselves that we have a modicum of control over our lives and over the lives of those we love, when we don’t. It’s the nature of tragedy. None of us can ever be immune to it. It sucks.
Tragedy can strike in any place and at any time. There is no place we can hide, no amount of control that we can exert over it. We can’t protect ourselves, let alone those we love. All we can do is attempt to live our best lives and believe there is a reward and protection in that, whether from God or from karma or from wherever we might put our faith.
And we can begin by finding appreciation in every day we live, and in the people we care about. Yet sometimes it’s not enough to feel an internal, unstated sense of appreciation. We have to share it, externalize it, express it—and sometimes shout it… before it’s too late. If you love someone, find a new way to express it every day. And hugs! Covid-19 has made physical contact awkward for some, but hugs are incredible. We need them. So find a safe way to hug the people you love, and hold them tight.
The collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside was a tragedy that will touch us all for some time, whether we realize it or not, and that is because we are all connected—we’re all in it together. We only have to look to human-induced climate change and the extreme hot weather we are all experiencing. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in it or not. If it’s getting worse, we will all be affected.
In the words of Dr. King: It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. What affects on directly, affects all indirectly.
We should all take a moment to mourn this disaster, for the families who have lost loved ones, for all of humanity, and for ourselves… but hold on to the people you love—and if there is anyone who you think might not be absolutely certain about how you feel, go to them or call them and tell them that today.
Carpe Diem! a Latin expression meaning “seize the day.” It was an unexpected moment. As the manager of Frank Fat’s Restaurant on L Street in Downtown Sacramento (just a block and a half from the State Capitol Building), I was always invited to the Southern Wine and Spirits Holiday Wine and Spirits Tasting at the Hyatt Hotel (directly across from the Capitol), which happened in the fall season of 1997 (though it could have been 1998).
As I was leaving the wine tasting event, one of the Hyatt concierge staff told me that the singer Chaka Khan was in the bar at Dawson’s Steakhouse, which was an upscale restaurant at the hotel. I had a close relationship with the entire Hyatt concierge staff, because at Fat’s, I invited the entire crew for a private dinner twice a year and rewarded staff members monthly for sending business down the street.
When I peeked into the bar, I saw her sitting there, next to another woman, while listening to the tinkling sounds of a blind piano player. I knew the piano player because I used to go in specifically to listen to him for his great left hand and voice, but I cannot remember his name now (maybe someone can help me with his name). He was an old white man who played standards and jazz with incredible soul.
My brother, Jeff, had attended the wine tasting with me, so we decided to have a drink at Dawson’s to check out Chaka Khan. Since the bar wasn’t crowded, the concierge seated me at the table directly next to Chaka (Jeff was on my right and her friend was at her left). Never shy about starting a conversation, I told her that I really liked her jazz album, Chaka Khan, especially “Be Bop Medley,” but I admitted that one of my favorite songs of all time was “Through the Fire,” from the I Feel for You album. She laughed and asked me if I would like for her to sing it to me, and completely stunned, I stuttered through a “Yeah!” reply.
After consulting for a half minute with the piano player, she turned back and sang that song as I sat, mesmerized, hardly believing what I was experiencing.
After the song, I told her she had made that day one of my best, and as we continued talking about music, she said she was working on a gospel album and asked if I would like to listen to some of the tracks. I welcomed the opportunity.
So after leaving the bar, Jeff and I followed her outside and past guards as we board a huge, idling, distinctly purple bus, parked in front of the Hyatt. On the bus, she asked us if we smoked. My brother did, and he made arrangements with my younger brother, Steve, to bring her something to smoke.
So Chaka and I went to some sort of console, and I first listened to what I remember was “Walk With Me Lord,” and perhaps seven other songs. I was thankful, and I invited her and Prince to come dinner at Frank Fat’s on the next night, but she explained to me that she didn’t eat big meals before concerts and why.
By the time Steve arrived, it was getting late, and I had a very young daughter, Natsumi, at home, so I thanked Chaka again and left her with my brothers.
Prince did make a cameo appearance at the door of the bus, but seeing the smoke, he went back up to his room in the hotel. During our conversation, Chaka said Prince was studying the Bible to become a Jehovah’s Witness with Larry Graham, and she said that she had studied the Bible with Larry as well.
During the time since, when reflecting on that night, I remembered Chaka as a kind and generous soul, completely addicted to music, while I understand that addiction.
How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Things
Most of us are aware of our limits. Some things truly are impossible, and yet many of the things we believe are beyond our capabilities and abilities are extraordinary things that we can actually accomplish, if we can figure out a way to go about it. Often, while we laud a content creator as we realize some prodigious work or accomplishment and call it “genius,” a closer look often reveals a stubborn, disciplined and systematic individual who has plodded along, often for years, to bring this content to the world.
A blockbuster movie, for example, begins with an idea, and sometimes the beginning of an idea. In order to go beyond a mere notion, this idea must be developed, a storyline must be created, characters must be conceived, a message must be encoded, and the denouement must have impact on a proposed audience. But that is just the beginning.
Next, the idea for this project must be pitched to someone who can get the wheels rolling toward production. Natural questions must be considered. Will the proposed audience be interested in the project, and why? Will proposed success with this audience make the project viable for investors? What is the scope of the project (how big is it)? How much will it cost? Will the project be profitable?
Once the first milestone is reached, then it is time to bring on other collaborators. A good producer is a business person with the knowledge and experience to create and administer a framework in which all project collaborators will work. This often includes finding the most suitable collaborators and contracting them to contribute to the project’s content. The collaborators will include investors, analysts, accountants, technical production staff, a camera crew, graphics creators (and/or special effects experts), directors, writers, actors and many other necessary collaborators.
Yet even before production begins, the producer must oversee the development of promotion and distribution, since a completed film project must have a proposed destination and marketing plan in place before the outlay of the greater part of investor money. A trailer must be developed, and versions of the project must be screened by sample audiences as production advances.
Production involves the work of these many collaborators in the creation of unique content: actors who are working with other actors and directors, who are working with other directors (casting, photography) and producers, who are working with other producers (sets, costume, technical, sound, locations, permits, finance, editors), promotional and distribution companies.
It’s no different for the double-platinum music album, the Emmy-award winning television series, the most popular plays on Broadway or an incredible spoken word presentation. Success requires understanding how to go about doing things.
It begins as an idea, as all extraordinary accomplishments begin as mere ideas. Unfortunately however, most great ideas die because the thinkers of these ideas see what is extraordinary as “impossible,” or beyond their abilities. Not so.
The problem, in many cases, involves thinking too big, though not in terms of ambition. In reality, every big thing can be broken down to two things, half as large, which can both be broken down to two things, one-quarter as large, and so on and so forth. Or a complex thing can be divided into to separate essential elements, and these themselves can be divided into separate components, which can be broken down into manageable pieces, which can be accomplished on an individual basis. It’s like eating an elephant.
The good news: once you learn to eat an elephant, you can do it over and over, and if you have several elephants to eat, you can learn to juggle elephants as you eat them. Yet if you are truly fearless, you can eat even larger things than elephants.
Please Share Your Experiences
What is the most extraordinary thing you have ever done?