Smithsonian Channel Airs Special Presentation Of ‘The Green Book’

On Monday, February 25, 2019, the Smithsonian Channel is scheduled to air a special presentation of “The Green Book: Guide to Freedom,” a first-hand account of historians, business owners and others who experienced the phenomenon of “traveling while black” in pre-Civil Rights America.

The film, which will air at 8 p.m., tells the story of Victor H. Green’s eponymous travel guide that allowed African Americans to safely travel the country during a time of severe institutionalized racism.

Directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen, also behind “The New Black, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom,” looks at the daily realities that African Americans faced on the road— the struggles, indignities and dangers, but also the opportunities and triumphs that were won along the way.

While the story isn’t new to the Smithsonian— it won three 2019 Golden Globe Awards— the network also chronicled “The Green Book” in an online

article in 2016 where it noted that for black Americans traveling by car in the era of segregation, the open road presented serious dangers.

While driving on the interstates to unfamiliar locales, black motorists often ran into institutionalized racism in a number of pernicious forms from hotels and restaurants that refused to accommodate them, to hostile “sundown towns,” where posted signs warned people of color that they were banned after nightfall.

Paula Wynter, a Manhattan-based artist, recalled in the 2016 article a frightening road trip when she was a young girl during the 1950s. In North Carolina, her family hid in their Buick after a local sheriff passed them, made a U-turn and gave chase. Wynter’s father, Richard Irby switched off his headlights and parked under a tree.

“We sat until the sun came up,” she said. “We saw his lights pass back and forth. My sister was crying; my mother was hysterical.”

Also, “It didn’t matter if you were Lena Horne or Duke Ellington or Ralph Bunche traveling state-to-state, if the road was not friendly or obliging,” said New York City-based filmmaker and playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey.

The Green-Book was indispensable to black-owned businesses.

For historians, the listings offer a record of the “rise of the black middle class, and in particular, of the entrepreneurship of black women,” said Smithsonian curator Joanne Hyppolite.

Earlier this month, Comcast, the Smithsonian Channel and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore hosted a private premiere screening for Black History Month, inviting community stakeholders and others, including Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Panelists at the event included Linda Goldman, executive producer of Mission Critical for the Smithsonian Channel and Dr. Dexter Blackman, an assistant professor of History at Morgan State University. Vic Carter of WJZ moderated the event.

“We treasure our engagement in the Baltimore community throughout the year, and co-hosting the Smithsonian Channel’s The Green Book: Guide to Freedom during Black History Month at the [Museum] afforded us a great opportunity to bring authentic programming to our community members and to connect with one another,” said Jessica Gappa, director of Community Impact for Comcast’s Beltway Region.

“It was important for our standing room-only audience to see the Smithsonian Channel documentary which revealed our shared history about travel restrictions imposed on African Americans during the Jim Crow era,” said Jackie Copeland, the executive director of the Lewis Museum. “It is a painful history, and many watching the film learned about The Green Book for the very first time. The Lewis Museum is dedicated to providing space for dialogue about our history and current events. ‘The Green Book’ film allowed us to do that.”

Since its inception, the Smithsonian Channel has been committed to African American history because officials there believe that it’s essential to a greater understanding of America’s national story, according to Linda Goldman, executive producer of Mission Critical for the Smithsonian Channel.

“We found the Green Book story compelling on several levels. It leads us to many fascinating stories, from fabulous vacation resorts like Idlewild, to women entrepreneurs and progressive corporations, to civil rights battlefields,” Goldman said. “If history were a map, the Green Book guides us off familiar highways onto important, but easily overlooked, scenic routes.”

Negro Leagues Centennial Team Gets Own Bobbleheads

Before Jackie Robinson broke the color lines in Major League Baseball, African Americans honed their immense talents in the Negro Leagues.

Satchel Paige was the star for the Kansas City Monarchs while Willie Wells and Cool Papa Bell were the pride of St. Louis, and Cannonball Dick Redding turned heads in New York with the Lincoln Giants.

Keeping the legacy of the Negro Leagues and its players alive is vital, according to Phil Sklar, the co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.

“Every future generation must know that there was a time when people with equal, or in many cases superior, skills couldn’t be on the same field solely because of the color of their skin,” Sklar said.

To that end, a Kickstarter campaign to create a series of officially licensed, limited edition bobbleheads to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League has raised over $67,000, easily topping its original $10,000 goal.

The project was launched in December in connection with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and Dreams of Field, which organized to promote the Negro National League Centennial in 2020.

The goal is to honor and celebrate the league and its players while also educating the public about the Negro Leagues and its players.

“I want these bobbleheads to spark discussions and educate people about the Negro Leagues and struggles and triumphs of the players,” Sklar said. “The Negro Leaguers had so many stories to tell and most of the players are gone, but the bobbleheads will play a part in keeping their legacy alive for a very long time. There are still so many injustices and cases of discrimination related to race and other factors, but teaching the story of the Negro Leagues and its players could really make a difference.

Now that the campaign has reached the $60,000 mark, backers are in line to receive an exclusive commemorative ticket that provides a $2 admission discount to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum during the Centennial Exhibit, and the first Milwaukee Bears bobblehead will be produced.

Since the campaign topped the $60,000 mark, the production process began for several more of the bobbleheads. Each bobblehead in the series is individually numbered to 2,020 and come in a collector’s box with a “back story” of the player.

The bobblehead series is officially licensed by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and is being produced by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in conjunction with Dreams Fulfilled and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Approvals have been received from all the identified estates of players featured in the series.

The players comprising the Negro Leagues Centennial Team were announced at a special event at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum last month.

Bob Kendrick, president of the NLBM, announced the team in conjunction with Jay Caldwell, founder of Dreams Fulfilled, as the Kickstarter launched.

Each player is being depicted on a baseball-shaped base with a replica of Kansas City’s Paseo YMCA, the site where the Negro National League was organized on February 13, 1920.

Satchel Paige was the first player selected, and his bobblehead has been completed.

Paige will be joined by 10 additional pitchers, three catchers, five outside infielders (1B, 3B), three inside infielders (2B, SS), seven outfielders, one utility player, a manager and an owner as voted on by an on-line poll and supplemented by five additional players.

“We are thrilled to commemorate a historic number of former Negro League players with bobbleheads, which are the ultimate honor,” Sklar said.

“Many of these players have never had bobbleheads, and these bobbleheads will help ensure that their legacy and vital contribution to baseball and society is always remembered. We have been overwhelmed by the excitement for the series and can’t wait to produce and distribute them.”

Jay Caldwell, founder of Dreams Fulfilled, said The Negro Leagues Centennial series will “bring long overdue recognition to players who were not only among the best to ever play the game, but also early civil rights pioneers who helped pave the way for integration in baseball and the country.”

To learn more about the campaign, visit

They Bent Steel!

The East Baltimore Historical Library hosted Baltimore’s first annual Steel Workers’ Legacy Luncheon, recently at the new Marriott Residence Inn-Hopkins Campus. A cross section of people from the community were invited to the luncheon to initiate a concerted effort to chronicle the history of these citizens who, unfortunately, have never received proper recognition for their role in building and sustaining America.

Former Delegate Clarence “Tiger” Davis served as the emcee; City Solicitor Andre Davis shared that his father worked at Bethlehem Steel during his keynote address; and Baltimore attorney Fredrick Durst from the Law offices of Peter Angelos shared good reasons for capturing stories about Steel Workers.

Delegate Cheryl Glenn, Baltimore City Legislative Delegation Chair presented “Family Jewels” awards to retired steel workers: George Terry; Eddie Bartee, Sr.; and Lee Douglas, 95 years young.

A former marine and Old Town Mall Community Association president, Douglas was one of the union leaders who testified before the U.S. Congress when the voices of black steel workers were heard nationally in the mid-sixties.

Legacy Luncheons’ co-chairs, Councilman Robert Stokes and Barbara Hopkins, JHU, Community Relations, also received awards.

Whether these men and women worked at Bethlehem Steel (Sparrows Point); ARMOCO Steel; Baltimore Smelting & Refinery (Koppers); or Eastern Stainless Steel; or whether they lived in East or West Baltimore, Highland Town, Dundalk, Sparrows Point or Turner Station— the attendees celebrated the health sacrifices these laborers made. They contributed to the USA Steel Industry becoming an industrial giant around the world, all while navigating Jim Crow policies and practices in order to provide for their families.

Many of these men left southern farms, during “The Great Migration,” crossed the Mason Dixon line and began to learn new skills; while building self-sustaining enclaves within the neighborhoods there were able to settle in. They learned new skills, which would fuel not only a robust economy for our city, but also the region paving the way for hundreds of black students to enter colleges and they purchased thousands of homes throughout East Baltimore— and beyond.

Let us all remember, that during an extremely challenging period in our country’s moral and political history – “They bent steel!”

Local History Book Signing Party At Aris T. Allen’s House In Annnapolis

— The book “The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” is just off the presses and is available for the holidays at a discounted price ($35) at an author’s book signing party at the home of Aris T. Allen Jr. at 1323 Magnolia Avenue in Annapolis on Sunday, December 23, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Allen’s home is located on the site of a dispute between two white homeowners, which resulted in the community flipping to almost all African-American in the late 1950s. Allen will discuss the “white flight” in the community.

“The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” is a brand new, fully illustrated and very detailed chronicle of generations of families who have both loved and endured a special and precarious piece of Chesapeake real estate. It chronicles a community evolving from the Gay Nineties, through the segregated Jim Crow era, World War II, woman’s liberation, and other 20th and 21st century realities. What emerges in the telling is a portrait of America’s social and cultural history that shaped a community.

The book’s authors— all residents of Arundel-on-the-Bay— banded together seven years ago to research and write the book. They include: Aris T. Allen, Jr.; Phillip Allen; Marc L. Apter; Wilma Coble; Edie Dolberg; Pamela Duncan; Robert Meissner; John Moses; Karen Neale; Bill Semenuk; and Arend J. Thomas, III.

It started in 1890, with the purchase of 350 acres south of Annapolis, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, America’s largest estuary. Lots on this waterfront land acquired by the Chesapeake & Colombia Investment Company were advertised for sale based on the beauty of the site and its solitude as a woodland paradise.

The community distinguished itself in unique ways:

•It began as almost all white to became almost all black in the 1950’s, and then evolved into the proudly integrated neighborhood of today.

•Hourly passenger train service from Annapolis connected travelers from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to the Bay Ridge Resort, where the Company’s “Blackberry Train,” open summer cars, ran along the beach to Arundel-on-the-Bay from 1893 to the early 20th century.

•This smallest incorporated town in the U.S. for many years was all but wiped out by a major fire in 1916.

•The only community in Maryland where woman had the right to vote before 1920.

•Thomas Point Island, just offshore, had a home on it until it was destroyed by two hurricanes in the 1930s.

•Famous folks had ties there, including: Frederick Douglass; Alex Haley; Martha Washington; Patrick Henry; Rep. Adam Clayton Powell; Todd Duncan, opera star of Porgy and Bess fame and Rep. Clarence Mitchell, Jr.

•During the War of 1812 a British Sloop of War ran aground off Thomas Point, an incident which almost caused Annapolis to be burned to the ground.

“The Amazing Story of Arundel-on-the-Bay:1600s to Today” demonstrates that all of our family histories are worth the telling. It’s available at local bookstores and on-line at Amazon for $39.95

Criminal Justice Reform Long Overdue For Black America

As a member of the infamous Wilmington Ten case in North Carolina from 1972 to 2012, I witnessed firsthand why the criminal justice system in the United States needed to be thoroughly reformed. We had been unjustly sentenced in 1972 to a combined total of 282 years in prison for standing up for equal quality education for black students in the public school system in Wilmington, NC in 1971.

For 40 long years, until North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue signed “Pardons of Innocence” documents for each member of the Wilmington Ten, the issues of unjust and disproportionate mass incarceration, bail reform, racism in the judiciary, prosecutorial misconduct, and reentry challenges were not matters of partisanship, but were matters of fundamental civil and human rights.

Thanks to the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the United Church of Christ (UCC), the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARP), Amnesty International and millions of people across the U.S. and throughout the world, we finally received a modicum of justice with the Pardons of Innocence being issued on December 31, 2012.

In the wake of the recent 2018 Midterm Elections, there now appears to be a more bipartisan interest and commitment in the achievement of significant criminal justice reform in America. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives finally passed the First Step Act with bipartisan support. The legislation establishes the initial steps for criminal justice reform at the federal level. Just last week, even President Trump announced his support of the First Step Act. However, what the U.S. Senate will do is still an open question.

The U.S. Congress should expedite passing the First Step Act as well as other criminal justice reform legislation. For black America in particular, this remains an urgent and crucial public policy objective.

Of the current 2.2 million people incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails, a disproportionate number are African Americans and other people of color. According to a 2018 Pew Research Study, in 2016 African Americans represented 12 percent of the U.S. adult population but 33 percent of the sentenced prison population. The ACLU reports that African American men are six times more likely to be incarcerated as white men in the U.S.

According to the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, African American women are imprisoned at twice the rate of White women. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reported in 2018 that 38 percent of prison inmates are African American.

But we need to do more than merely stating the statistics of criminal justice that bear witness to the racial, social, and economic inequities and injustices. We need solutions. We need more research about the successful programs and projects that can prevent mass incarceration while we emphasize the urgency for criminal justice reform legislation at both the federal and state levels. We also need more effective programs for the hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people preparing to reenter society without the counterproductivity of recidivism.

I have served on panel discussions amicably with Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries, who also supports the First Step Act, a bill grounded in evidence-based and data-driven practices that we know keep communities safe and provide people with the second chances they need to lead productive lives. The bill specifically provides programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison. Mark and I are on the same page on the issues of reentry and the need to reduce systemic reincarceration.

In fact, Koch Industries has been funding criminal justice reform efforts for more than a decade and was one of the first major corporations in the U.S. to “ban the box” by removing questions about criminal history on its employment applications. Other corporate leaders should also “ban the box.”

Earlier this year at the NNPA’s Mid-Winter Conference, we were pleased to welcome Brother Lamont Carey, a former prison inmate, noted author and founder of Contact Visits, a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization that he established to assist people preparing to reenter society from prison. It was reassuring to see how Lamont was able to break free of the stigma of incarceration and make a positive and productive contribution to help others transform their lives, families and communities.

Lastly, on the related issue of bail reform: There are nearly a half million people, most of whom are people of color, who are sitting in jail today only because they cannot afford to post a monetary bail. Google and Koch have also teamed up to raise awareness about the necessity for bail reform in America. They believe that individuals accused of a crime should not be required to provide bail unless deemed a threat to public safety or a flight risk, because freedom should not hinge on a person’s financial worth.

The time is now for action, not more partisan debate. No more postponements. No more excuses. The U.S. Congress should pass the First Step Act. We want equal justice. Criminal justice reform for black America is long overdue.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). He can be reached at

MLK Jr.’s Hearse and a Mission to Save History

Many people like the idea of owning a piece of history. On occasion they get the opportunity.

It could be a letter written by Theodore Roosevelt. It could be a check signed by Shoeless Joe Jackson. It could be packaged space food that an Apollo astronaut took to the moon and back.

In short, museums aren’t the only ones that gather the artifacts and documents that help tell our nation’s story. Items of cultural or historical interest often end up in private hands, tucked away in storage or in someone’s personal library.

But that raises a question: Do some artifacts hold such significance that they should be available for everyone to see rather than closeted away from public view?

“Sometimes an item does emerge that seems like it’s much too important a piece of history for it to end up in a private collection,” says Gary Zimet, whose memorabilia business Moments in Time specializes in rare letters, manuscripts and other historic artifacts.

Zimet encountered one such item, recently, the 1966 Cadillac Superior Coach hearse that 50 years ago was used for Martin Luther King Jr.’s first funeral service in Memphis. After the service, the hearse carried King’s body to the Memphis airport to be flown back to Atlanta and laid to rest.

The hearse’s owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, wants to sell it, but not just to anyone, according to Zimet.

“He discussed with me the idea of selling the vehicle to a corporation or philanthropist who would be willing to donate it rather than keep it hidden away privately,” he says.

The asking price: $2.5 million.

The goal is for the hearse to end up in a museum, preferably the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, or the National African-American Museum at the Smithsonian.

A website,, has been established where people can learn more about the hearse and the role it played in the nation’s history.

King died at the hands of an assassin in Memphis in 1968, and this year marked the 50th anniversary of his death. On the day he died, the hearse transported King’s body from St. Joseph Hospital to the R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home.

The hearse had been in storage for about 40 years before it was obtained from the original owner, Memphis Cadillac Superior Coach dealer Zane Smith. Five years ago it was restored to its original condition.

Zimet says the hearse needs to be preserved for posterity for several reasons, including:

•Few King artifacts are available for public viewing. King was the most influential Civil Rights leader in history, and yet there are limited museum displays with authentic artifacts related to him. When the National African-American Museum at the Smithsonian opened in 2016 it had no King artifacts at all.

•The education and inspiration value could be great. In a museum, the hearse can be seen by millions of people and will educate and inspire countless others for generations to come.

•It symbolizes King’s sacrifice. The hearse is a stark reminder of what happened in 1968 and of the sacrifice King made for the Civil Rights movement. “This priceless artifact is tied directly to his martyrdom,” Zimet says.

“The owner wants to sell it, but he also wants it to be seen by the rest of the world,” Zimet says. “His concern is that the hearse ends up in a respectful home.”

Gary Zimet is president of Moments in Time, which deals in rare original autographs, historical documents and other artifacts. Among the items he has sold over the years were a letter from President Jimmy Carter to his brother Billy, a letter from Martin Luther King Jr. to Rosa Parks, and Abraham Lincoln’s signature on a copy of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I Say No To a Starbucks Boycott

Starbucks has proven to be one of America’s most responsible corporate citizens. In 2014 following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, by Officer Darren Wilson, then Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz took action when other corporations remained silent.

Starbucks launched its national “Race Together” campaign that encouraged Starbucks’ baristas (workers) to write “race together” on customer coffee cups to spur conversations about race within Starbucks locations. Months later in 2015 following the shooting of Walter Scott, Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz was again venturing into the arena of race relations while appearing on stage at Spelman College-a historically-black women’s institution-as part of a panel discussion on the book titled, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

Again and again, Starbucks has been at the forefront of corporate America when it comes to cultivating a society where all people matter.

As president and CEO of ONUS, Inc.-a national organization committed to Resolving Longstanding Problems that Seem Too Big to Fix, I firmly believe in the power of boycotts. Following the killing of Michael Brown, ONUS conducted one of the most effective and long-standing boycotts in Ferguson, MO, against Sam’s Club and Walmart.

Both stores routinely called upon Ferguson Police to arrest black men who verbally challenged managers’ decisions. Unlike Starbucks, Walmart, Inc. doubled-down in support of its employees’ hateful actions and made no apology for saddling good citizens, who happened to be black men, with unwarranted police records. Walmart then relied upon its deep purse to vigorously defend its deplorable actions.

Starbucks is no Walmart. While I firmly embrace boycotting as an effective tool of free speech, boycotting cannot and should not be black America’s one retort to offensive acts carried out by individual employees representing what has proven to be a good corporate citizen. I do not mean to imply that Starbucks is perfect; I surmise that Starbucks still has internal issues related to race and diversity.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the steps Starbucks’ CEO and Board of Directors have and are taking in response to the incident in Philadelphia, such as the swift issuance of a public apology, public rebuke of the offending employees’ actions and the planned shutdown of Starbucks outlets nationwide for diversity and customer service training. Starbucks is demonstrating that its promise to do better is far more than a mere gesture designed to quiet a public uprising.

Starbucks has earned what millennials refer to as “street cred.” Consequently, the Corporation deserves grace when employees make missteps or engage in discriminatory actions rooted in personal perspectives. While I am confident Starbucks will make right with the young men who were wrongfully arrested in Philadelphia, I urge its leaders to again take the corporate lead by helping to revamp policing in America nationwide.

The Uniform Reporting Law Enforcement Improvement Act (URLEIA) is the solution to America’s policing problem and will effectively revamp policing from the ground up. Corporations, like citizens, have a responsibility to ensure policing nationwide is guided not by the whims of individuals and powerful conglomerates but by the constitutional and humane application of law.

To learn more about URLEIA, visit: Learn more about Jerroll Sanders who is a business executive, author of The Physics of Money: If You’ve Got My Dollar, I Don’t, diversity expert, and strategist by visiting

Black People Must Vote Or Reap The Consequences!

All you have to do is crack open a history book, or sit with one of our experienced elders, and you will learn about the many sacrifices made by people of all races in order to ensure black people obtained the uninhibited right to vote.

No other group of people in America have benefited more from the sacrifices made by so many people who fought, bled and died fighting for our freedom and the right to vote, as black people have.

The freedom black Americans experience today came with a significant price tag attached to it, and that freedom has definitely not been free. So much blood has been shed, and so many lives have been lost— all for our freedom and for the precious right to vote.

In fact, if you add up the number of Americans who died in World War I, World War II, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, all of the wars with the Indians, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War, that number would not be as large as the total number of people who died alone in the Civil War fighting to end slavery.

After the Civil War, many whites migrated from the North to the South in order to help black people thrive in the new Reconstruction governments. Many of those white abolitionists ran for political office and won. Several black men were also elected to the U.S. Congress and the South even elected some black senators. These political gains and the progress made by black people, as a result of the Reconstruction governments in the South, angered many Southern whites.

Confederate Army supporters like Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and others, made up in their minds that if they wanted to re-establish control and dominance over black people in this country, then they would have to stop black men from voting by any means necessary.

Nathan Bedford Forrest and several of his colleagues helped to form the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) where he served as the first Grand Wizard. The Klan wore white robes and pretended to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers in order to strike fear into the hearts of anyone, they encountered. Members of the Klan did not want to be recognized, so they wore hoods to cover their faces, primarily, because many of the members of the Klan were prominent citizens and local authority figures.

At night, the Klan would hang signs warning black people not to vote and threatened to kill any black man who voted. To further frighten black voters, the Klan would gather together in their costumes and place a large wooden cross in front of a black man’s home and set it on fire. This served as a warning to any black man who decided to vote in the next election. If a black man defied the Klan and refused to adhere to their warning, he was lynched from a tree so everyone in the city would see him and have second thoughts about attempting to vote in future elections.

The Klan quickly grew across all Southern states and black people were vulnerable to this heinous activity and their vicious attacks. Due to the constant harassment and brutal killings by the Klan, blacks began to slowly dismiss voting. As a result, black people began losing political representation, as well as the political advancements they gained during Reconstruction. As time progressed, future generations of white Americans began to slowly forget the struggles of black people and were not as vocal or as dedicated to the plight of black people in the South as they had been in the past.

If you fast-forward in the history books, you can see that black voter intimidation and black voter disenfranchisement continued well beyond the blatant actions of the Klan. State governments in the South joined the party and began passing sweeping new sets of laws called “Jim Crow” and those laws were designed to separate white people from black people.

Blacks could not eat in the same restaurants as whites; there were separate schools for black and white children; blacks could not drink water from the same fountains as whites; blacks had to sit in the back of the buses, whereas whites could sit up front; and blacks could not ride in the same carriages as whites on the trains.

All in all, this blatant form of voting disenfranchisement has significantly impacted the well being and livelihood of black people for centuries.

So, why has it been so important for other people to make it difficult for black people to vote?

The reason, to me, is quite simple. Those who seek to disenfranchise black people from the voting process know exactly how important voting is. Those who seek to disenfranchise black people relative to the voting process know the profound impact that it has at every level of government—local, state, and national.

More importantly, those who seek to disenfranchise black people from the voting process know that voting is so powerful that those in political positions of power are able to direct necessary and critical resources to select areas. They are also able to ensure that select people are appointed to key positions.

Nearly everything that impacts the daily lives of black people in some way is influenced by an elected official or someone appointed by them. These elected officials draft policy, introduce legislation, and vote on bills that eventually become laws.

Whether voting for the judge, who has the power to sentence your loved one to a lengthy prison sentence or voting for the judge who has the power to determine child support payments and visitation rights through the family court— one or more of these elected officials will impact your life in some shape, form or fashion throughout your lifetime. Every elected official yields power and some level of influence that we as black people should never ignore or take for granted.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe your vote matters or not—and it most certainly does— you will have to adhere to any law voted on by those who’ve been elected to represent you. There is absolutely no level of complaining or reactionary response that will change that.

There are no acceptable excuses when it comes to voting. Either you do it or you reap the consequences. Engaged citizens must seek to understand politics if they wish to better understand the impact of the laws and decisions that politics produce.

I can only wonder, however, if many of our political martyrs, who sacrificed their very lives for the right to vote that we should all appreciate today, are flipping over in their graves as they look upon much of our squandered voting potential and overwhelming collective political apathy.

Fair Housing’s Unfinished 50-Year Journey

Although golden anniversaries are often considered milestone moments accompanied by festive celebrations, two such observances in April 2018 are bittersweet memories for much of Black America. One took the life of an unparalleled preacher, orator, author, activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The other marks the enactment of what many would argue is the strongest of the civil rights laws enacted during the 1960s: The Fair Housing Act.

As observances begin across the country, now is an appropriate time to recall how fair housing was a key issue for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, Chicago became his chosen battleground for fair housing, bringing a national spotlight to the multiple ills of segregated and sub-standard housing. In early 1966, Dr. King moved his family into one of the city’s ghetto apartments to dramatize how people were forced to live.

On August 5, 1966 during a march through an all-White neighborhood, a riot exploded with racial taunts and hurled bricks. Remarking on the hostility encountered, Dr. King said, “I have seen many demonstrations in the South; but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”

By the time Dr. King’s life was snuffed out by a sniper’s bullet in Memphis on April 4, 1968, the cause of fair housing was also on the minds of Congress. The same day Dr. King was martyred, the U.S. Senate passed a fair housing bill and sent it to the House of Representatives for further consideration. On April 10, the House passed the measure.

With a signing ceremony the following day, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signature enacted a federal law that banned discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing. Legally, no longer could people be rejected due to their race, religion, or ethnicity.

In his remarks, President Johnson said in part, “With this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. It proclaims that fair housing for all–all human beings who live in this country–is now a part of the American way of life…We all know that the roots of injustice run deep.”

Unfortunately, 50 years of legal roots supporting fair housing has failed to deliver full justice. For many Blacks and other people of color, fair housing today remains just as elusive as it was in 1968.

A year-long analysis of 31 million records by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that:

• The homeownership gap between Blacks and Whites is now wider than it was during the Jim Crow era. Another independent research report by the Economic Policy Institute found that the difference in Black homeownership between 1968 and 2018 is virtually the same – 41.1 percent (1968) compared to 41.2 percent (2018);

• In 61 metro areas across the country, Blacks were 2.7 times more likely than Whites to be denied a conventional mortgage loan;

• As the number of non-bank mortgage lenders rise, these businesses are not required to adhere to the Community Reinvestment Act that requires lending to low-income borrowers and in blighted areas.

Each year, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) releases an analysis of the annual Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the most comprehensive mortgage lending report, and the only one that includes data on lending by race and ethnicity. CRL’s most recent analysis found that in 2016, conventional mortgage lenders continue to serve white and wealthier borrowers. Despite broad support for large banks following the most recent housing crisis, Blacks, Latinos, and other borrowers of color are mostly accessing government-insured mortgage programs such as FHA or VA. Even upper income Blacks are overrepresented in FHA.

In plain English, that means fewer banks are offer mortgage loans to average Americans and talks about the future of mortgage lending fail to provide for greater access. Once again, the same communities that suffered the worst losses during the Great Recession remain at a financial disadvantage. Homeownership is still a solid wealth building block. As home values appreciate, financial gains are achieved. But for those shut out of these opportunities, the chance to safely build family wealth is denied.

Further, a recent report by CRL and the National Urban League analyzing a proposed draft of legislation from Senators Bob Corker (TN) and Mark Warner (VA) to reform the nation’s housing finance system found it will harm access to affordable mortgage loans and the overall housing market. The proposal removes key affordability mechanism such as the broad duty to serve, including affordable housing goals. It also weakens fair lending enforcement under the Fair Housing Act by inserting business judgment protection for guarantors’ decisions on access – despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such claims are permissible under the Fair Housing Act.

Just as President Johnson stated 50 years ago, “We have come some of the way, not near all of it. There is much yet to do.” Despite the passage of a half-century, our journey towards fair housing remains unfinished.

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached at

NAACP Annual Convention Convenes in Baltimore

As the new administration in the White House continues to cause many to be uneasy, there remains an obvious need for America’s oldest and largest national civil rights organization to move forward.

Beginning Saturday, July 22, 2017 the NAACP will host its 108th annual convention in Baltimore, and organizers said the five-day conference will allow for the setting of policies, programs and plans of action for the coming year. There will also be a move to address challenges like the current economic climate and the uncertainty of when the next episode of political unrest is coming up on the horizon.

NAACP Chair Leon Russell

Courtesy Photo

NAACP Chair Leon Russell

“This year’s convention takes place at a pivotal time for our country, and for our association,” Leon W. Russell, the chairman of the NAACP national board of directors, said in a statement. “These are changing times, and today, we find ourselves in a new period of turmoil as a nation. We are facing a budget that threatens to gut critical funding for education, a rollback in health care reform that will take affordable care away from 23 million Americans, all while we witness unprecedented efforts to suppress the votes of black and brown people, young people and progressives who would work to see this nation become more inclusive and just.”

The convention will attract members from NAACP branches around the country to meet and share ideas and strategies, said Aba Blankson, the organization’s vice president of communications and digital media.

“The NAACP and the convention are critical at this time,” Blankson said.

While many events during the conference typically aren’t for public consumption, Blankson says this year’s convention will feature several events for everyone to attend.

For instance, beginning Saturday, the NAACP Experience will feature an author pavilion where authors will discuss their works and make them available.

The ‘Experience’ will also include exhibitions, a retail expo and health pavilion, where health screenings and massages will be available for those in attendance.

“We will also have a diversity career fair on Tuesday and companies like Amazon and Johns Hopkins will be there,” Blankson said.

T-Mobile, Waste Management, the Human Rights Campaign and the U.S. Postal Service have also signed on as exhibitors for the career fair and attendees will be able to engage with corporate leaders and make quality connections that could help build a solid network of professionals who value diversity.

Professional opportunities will be available in the fields of technology, finance, education, insurance, sales, government, nonprofit, retail, food service, health and more, according to organizers.

Various youth events are also scheduled, including a number of workshops. Further, a public mass meeting will take place on Sunday, July 23 with Russell serving as keynote speaker.

The location of the convention rotates each year and organizers look at cities based on national issues and what the NAACP seeks to accomplish, Blankson said.

“We have 6,000 to 8,000 people coming and we want to go to different places; East Coast, Midwest; we go all over,” she said.

The convention’s theme, “Steadfast and Immovable,” reflects that the NAACP remains poised and committed to seizing the future, according to organizers.

Branch delegates and staff, local youth activists and organizers, legislators, business leaders and celebrities are all again expected to come together to engage, network, share strategies, successes and key learnings with the purpose of driving the NAACP’s agenda forward.

“Our theme for 2017 reminds us that, as an organization, our intent is to fulfill the vision and mission of our founders, and we will leave Baltimore united and committed to making our nation a better place for all,” Derrick Johnson, the vice president of the board of directors, said in a release.

The convention will feature a robust series of seminars, committee meetings, workshops, exhibits and panel discussions, augmented with inspiring keynote addresses from key NAACP leadership, civil rights and faith leaders, media, youth and political influencers.

“Fellowshipping is good,” Blankson said. “It provides the opportunity to hear the issues that everyone is facing,” she said.

For more information about the 2017 NAACP National Convention, including a detailed schedule of events, visit: