Ben Jealous’ parents renew vows on Supreme Court anniversary

— For Fred and Ann Jealous, there is a strong belief that love has the ability to move mountains. And, in their case, love also has helped them overcome terrible odds and obstacles, none the least was the unpopular for its time, interracial marriage.

Ann, a black woman, and Fred, a white man, met in Baltimore in America’s mid-20th century Jim Crow and Civil Rights era.

This week, the pair, parents of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, renewed their wedding vows at the St. James Episcopal Church Lafayette Square, where it was illegal for them to get married in 1966— such a union would have resulted in a prison sentence.

The vow renewal ceremony was timed to be commensurate with the 50th anniversary of the June 12, 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which legalized interracial marriages.

Like Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple whose case for marriage was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, Fred and Ann were married in Washington, D.C., as it would have been illegal in their home state of Maryland.

In 1966, the couple said they were afraid to hold hands in public. At the movies, they entered separately and met in the middle of a darkened row. Because of the existing anti-miscegenation laws, Ann didn’t consider Fred as a potential husband. They wed, however, one year before the Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws illegal in 1967.

“We would identify two empty seats when we’d go in a movie theater on a date,” Ann Jealous said. “He would walk down one aisle, I would walk down the other, and we’d meet together but we would not look like we were sitting together,” she said.

Fred Jealous, a native of Maine who had served a teaching assignment in Turkey, said he was smitten with Ann, who at the time served in the Peace Corps.

“I proposed three times,” Fred Jealous said, noting that they were married in August 1966— 51 years ago.

Ann Jealous said she initially thought Fred’s proposals were “crazy.”

“I thought, ‘this is against the law,’” she said.

Each said they didn’t suspect the problems that would confront them as an interracial couple.

“I grew up in segregation,” said Ann Jealous, who is counted among the first African-American students to attend Western High School in Baltimore. “So, it didn’t occur to me to think of Fred as a potential mate.”

After their wedding, they drove back to West Baltimore, from Washington D.C., in a Cadillac followed by a row of cars with their lights on.

Rather than receive the usual celebration enjoyed by so many newly married couples, people on the road pulled aside and removed their hats because they thought it was a funeral procession. Fred’s family disowned him, and he relinquished a hefty inheritance, knowing that “no amount of money would ever be equal to the love [he] had for Ann,” he said.

The passion of his parents led Ben Jealous’s drive to become the youngest president in the history of the NACCP, at just 35 years of age, he said.

It was there that he helped abolish the death penalty in Maryland, played an instrumental role in passing the DREAM Act, and in homage to his parents he helped see marriage equality for all people become a reality in Maryland.

Still, while Fred and Ann have overcome segregation and other obstacles, and have raised a son who is now running for governor, they credit the couple whose Supreme Court case opened the door to interracial marriages in the United States.

“If that law had not been changed, we would not be anywhere near where we are now,” Ann said.

Rho Xi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. MLK Day of Service

— Lovely Lane United Methodist Church was a bustling scene of service this week as members of Rho Xi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and young members of the Baltimore County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., filled 400 backpacks with nutritious food and snacks to be distributed to homeless children in Baltimore City schools.

Keeping with the national theme of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority “Launching New Dimensions of Service,” the local chapter focused its service efforts on family strengthening, educational enrichment and fiscal responsibility.

“Currently there are 3700 homeless children in Baltimore,” said Christian Wilson. “There is a tremendous need for services. If organizations, churches, and others get together to provide this service, we could possibly eliminate the problem.”

Corene Myers, Chairman Childhood Hunger Initiative; members Jeanette Churchill, Brenda Johnson and Monica King; Judith Britton, Chairman, Million Backpack Committee, Au'Sha Washington, Vice President Program; and member Martina Washington

Courtesy Photo

Corene Myers, Chairman Childhood Hunger Initiative; members Jeanette Churchill, Brenda Johnson and Monica King; Judith Britton, Chairman, Million Backpack Committee, Au’Sha Washington, Vice President Program; and member Martina Washington

The Rho Xi Omega Chapter joined Christian and his wife Pamela who have operated Hearts Place Services, a ministry at Lovely Lane, for six years. Each weekend during the school year, they oversee the distribution of food bags to homeless children for the weekend. The children pick up food each Friday before leaving school. The bags were stuffed with cartons of milk, cereal, bread, peanut butter, jelly, granola bars and snacks.

Also during the day, members of Rho Xi Omega continued to serve the community by focusing on “Fiscal Responsibility” at the Guardenzia long-term treatment facility, Women with Children Unit. This service event included three separate components: Building a library for the children who reside in the center. The organization set up the library with donated books and magazines for children of all ages; members provided the mothers with financial literacy information; and providing the mothers with materials and helping them to build their own dream boards.

Although this day of service was a way of honoring Dr. King, the services of Rho Xi Omega will continue with the collection of seasonal wraps, hats, gloves and scarves for children and adults.

The activity chairmen for this event were Au’Sha Washington, vice-president program; Corene Myers, Childhood Hunger Initiative; Judith Britton, Million Backpacks Committee; Karen Heywood-West, president, Baltimore County Chapter, Jack and Jill. The President of Rho Xi Omega is Dr. Scheherazade Forman.

Famed activist Angela Davis to deliver Margaret Brent lecture at St. Mary’s College

Political activist, scholar and author Angela Davis will deliver the 2015 Margaret Brent Lecture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland on Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 4 p.m. in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics & Recreation Center Arena located at 8952 E. Fisher Road in St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

The lecture entitled, “Racial Justice, Feminism and the Prison Industrial Complex,” is sponsored by the St. Mary’s College Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Office of the President, Lecture & Fine Arts Committee; and Center for the Study of Democracy.

Davis is an iconic civil rights activist and social justice advocate whose work as an educator in the university and the broader public sphere has always emphasized the importance of community-building in struggles for economic, racial, and gender justice. Her recent work has focused on social problems associated with mass incarceration and the general criminalization of impoverished and minority communities. She is the author of nine books, including her most recent “The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogs.” Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness and of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The Margaret Brent Lecture Series was established at St. Mary’s College in 1981 to honor distinguished public service among women. Margaret Brent was a single, economically self-supporting businesswoman and landowner in St. Mary’s City in the mid-1600s. She was an unofficial legal advocate and representative, organizer of the defenses of St. Mary’s City, and is best known for her request to the governor for the right to vote.

Protesters to chant ‘Take it down’ as legislators meet over flag

— The battle may at last be over for the Confederate battle flag.

Just over 150 years after the Civil War ended, and less than a week after the massacre of innocents in a Charleston church by a man who venerates the flag, voices from all parts of the political spectrum are rising in unison to say the flag must no longer fly over public buildings.

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Where the Confederate flag is still seen

Despite outrage over the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the Confederate battle flag can still be found displayed across the country.

To too many, it symbolizes not heritage but hate. To too large a segment of the population, it is, quite simply, offensive. And, while it has fluttered for years in the warm Southern breezes atop many state Capitol buildings in the the former Confederacy, its time, it appears, has come and gone.

At lightning speed this week, state legislators and chief executives took giant steps to remove it from public view.

The state Legislature in South Carolina plans to debate removing the flag Tuesday, a day after the governor urged lawmakers to remove it from the statehouse grounds.

In Mississippi — the only state that still includes the Confederate battle flag as part of its state flag — an influential conservative leader said it was time to change that.

And Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, says it will no longer sell products with that emblem.

The echoing words: ‘Take it down’

The growing national sentiment could be summed up in three words that will echo in the ears of South Carolina lawmakers when they convene on Tuesday: “Take it down.”

Prominent conservatives from Mitt Romney to Jeb Bush to South Carolina’s two U.S. senators and its governor, Nikki Haley, are calling for the traditionally red state to furl the flag that flies on Capitol property and display it instead in a museum.

After the racist massacre last week of nine black worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, significant political support for keeping the Civil War relic appears to have ebbed away.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, two hours before legislators meet, protesters will gather in front of the State House, as they did over the weekend, to chant the phrase again: “Take it down; take it down.”

Haley will ask lawmakers to heed that call.

United they stand

The cry has united traditionally liberal NAACP leaders with conservative white Republicans, all disgusted by the killings and some newly sensitized to the insult that the flag from the final days of slavery carries for black people and many other Americans.

“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to remove the flag from our Capitol grounds,” Haley said Monday.

The thought was shared by NAACP leader Rev. Nelson B. Rivers.

“The time has come for the General Assembly to do what it ought to have done a long time ago, which is to remove this symbol of division and even of terrorism to some,” he said.

Rivers said the flag symbolizes the worst of South Carolina’s history. Removing it would honor those killed at Emanuel AME.

South Carolina’s movement to remove the flag made waves in other parts of the country on Monday. Mississippi’s Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said the Confederate flag, which is part of Mississippi’s state flag, “has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.”

Stubborn divisive symbol

The dilemma of what to do with the Confederate battle flag — a symbol of racism to many and of Southern heritage to others — has flustered lawmakers for years.

It was carried into battle for only four years, during the American Civil War. But it has hung on for 150 years in Southern states and has been incorporated into some state flags.

Racist hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations, have appropriated the Confederate battle flag in defiance of the civil rights of African-Americans.

As part of a compromise in 2000, South Carolina lawmakers agreed to remove the Confederate flag from the top of the Capitol dome, where it previously flew, and place it across the street while also adding a monument to African-Americans. But the legislation mandated that only a supermajority of the legislature could change that setup going forward.

Republican state Rep. Doug Brannon has already committed to introducing a bill to remove the flag when the Legislature convenes in January. “I apologize to the people of South Carolina,” he said. “I’ve been in the House for five years. I should have introduced this bill five years ago.”

If legislators fail to act on its removal Tuesday, Haley will call for them to reconvene.

Racist manifesto

In the meantime, investigators have come across a website with photos of Dylann Roof, who has admitted he was the gunman, holding the Confederate flag and burning and spitting on the American flag.

The site, which is registered to Roof but otherwise does not mention his name, features a 2,000-word racist manifesto that details the writer’s philosophy of white superiority.

“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” the author wrote.

Roof said he was trying to start a race war with his killings. That seems to have backfired. During his court hearing on Friday, loved ones of his victims forgave him through their sobs and told him they were praying for his soul.

Their grief has triggered a national outpouring of sympathy.

Presidential eulogy

On Sunday at the church, at a service to memorialize the nine who were killed, a chair sat empty with a black cloak draped over it. It’s where the Rev. Clementa Pinckney would have been sitting, had the pastor and eight other worshippers not been shot down as they studied the Bible.

President Barack Obama will travel to Charleston on Friday for Pinckney’s funeral, as will Vice President Joe Biden.

Obama will deliver the eulogy at the funeral for Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Charleston; Ben Brumfield wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Holly Yan, Ashley Fantz, Jeff Zeleny, Michelle Kosinski, Martin Savidge, Ralph Ellis, Nia-Malika Henderson and Don Melvin contributed to this report.

King Nobel Secrets Revealed

The mystery surrounding who nominated civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize 50 years ago is cleared up in a new exhibit, “1964: Martin Luther King Jr.,” under way at the King National Historic Site on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.

Since 1964, documents relating to King’s nomination, notes and reports have been under lock and key in the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s extensive archive.

The exhibit of more than 50 artifacts, letters and other documents reveals that the American Friends Service – the Quakers – nominated the Atlanta native who led America’s transformative human rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. The medal is not part of the display.

“1964: Martin Luther King Jr.,” which opened Dec. 10 and runs through Sept. 27, 2015, was part of a two-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of King’s Nobel Peace Prize at the King Center and the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

A letter on display, written by Colin W. Bell, executive director of the Friends Service Committee, to the Nobel Selection Committee, said King’s significance went far beyond the issue of race, which he had become known for in America since he led the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955.

“The [American Friends] board … was conscious of the baleful effect of racial tension upon the organization of peace,” Bell wrote. “It felt that the work and witness of King, and the spirit in which he promoted ‘the dignity and worth of the human person,’ were influencing the attitudes of great numbers of men and women throughout the world.”

Former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young told the AJC that the Quakers were deeply involved in the movement and some were educational or spiritual mentors to civil rights leaders.

Eight members of the Swedish Parliament voiced their support for King in letters to the selection committee.

Also revealed in documents shown for the first time in the United States is that King was one of 44 people considered for the Nobel Peace Prize that year. The others included Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who signed into law many civil rights initiatives.

The short list of 13 finalists included President William Tubman of Liberia; UNICEF; Belgium Prime Minister Paul Henri Spaak; and SOS Children’s Villages founder Hermann Gmeiner.

In another document, a senior lecturer for the Nobel Committee wrote that despite opposition and arrest, King retained a generosity of spirit toward those who disagreed with him.

“It has, without a doubt, been of incalculable significance of the nonviolent movement that a certain magnanimity in his personality allows him, while sharply attacking his opponents’ views, to understand them on a personal level,” the lecturer wrote.

Before the Dec. 10 ribbon cutting that opened the exhibit, Bente Erichsen, the Nobel Peace Center executive director, said the American civil rights movement was followed closely in Norway.

“King’s struggle appealed to the common Norwegian and his cause had great support in the Norwegian Society and our media praised him,” she said.

Two of King’s three living children, Dr. Bernice King, the King Center’s CEO, and brother Martin Luther King III and his 6-year-old daughter, Yolanda Rene King, attended the opening. Their younger brother, Dexter King, lives in Los Angeles and older sister, Yolanda, died in May 2007.

As she walked hand in hand with her father through the exhibit, Yolanda Rene, who is named for her late aunt, kept pointing at the photographs of the famous grandfather she will never know.

“He was so young,” she said to her father.

Yvonne Blythers of Stone Mountain was among the first visitors to view “1964: Martin Luther King Jr.” She said she wasn’t sure what to expect and was so impressed she plans to return with her Girl Scout troop.

“I’m just blown away,” she said halfway through the exhibit. “I didn’t know they kept all that secret.” Now Blythers said she wants to know all the details.

Dominique Smith of Atlanta says the exhibit really brings home the impact that King had on people’s lives.

“He was such an important figure not just to Americans but around the world,” he said.

King was 35 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became the youngest winner of his time. On Dec. 10, the same day that the exhibition opened in Atlanta, 17-year-old Malala Yousufzai was in Oslo to become the youngest ever to accept the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous stand for the education of women in her native Pakistan.

In 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban militant who opposed her human rights activism.

“1964: Martin Luther King Jr.” is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The King Historic Site Visitors Center is at 450 Auburn Ave. N.E. in Atlanta. For more information, visit

Voting Rights: Under Threat Then, Still Under Threat Now

Georgia resident Dorothy Cooper had been voting for more than 50 years with no problem, but in 2012 she almost couldn’t.

It was all due to the new voter ID law Georgia had passed under the guise of fighting voter fraud, but critics of the law said its real purpose was to make it harder for individuals like Cooper – the black, the poor and the elderly – to vote.

Although Cooper had her birth certificate, proof of her address, a voter registration card and other materials, she didn’t have a copy of her marriage license, so she was initially denied her state identification card. Cooper, now 98, eventually got her ID card and was able to vote in time for the 2012 presidential election, but her plight did not deter voter ID law proponents. In fact, restrictive voters laws have only spread further and wider since the 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama. This is thanks in part to the Supreme Court striking down key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the summer of 2013.

The dismantling of these key portions caused a flood of restrictive laws to flow into states like Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin and others. In nearly every case, Republican legislators said it was about making sure voting fraud was minimal, when the reality was more about the GOP’s ability to count.

Demographics in Southern and Midwestern states were shifting.

Whether it’s from immigration and a greying of the white population like in Texas and Alabama or revitalized urban centers attracting more “liberal-minded” young professionals like in North Carolina and Virginia, the more conservative members of the Republican Party saw that the white vote was becoming less and less an indicator of whether or not an election would go one way or another.

Wrote Chris Cillizza and John Coen in the Washington Post after Obama’s re-election: “The white vote accounted for significantly less of the overall electorate in 2012 than it did in either 1984 or 1980. In fact, the white vote as a percentage of the overall electorate has declined in every election since 1992.”

Unfortunately, rather than use this as an opportunity to widen the GOP brand and make a play for the votes of black people, Latinos, young people and women, they doubled down on the aging white suburban voter.

It’s a pretty familiar response.

During Reconstruction, around 2,000 back men served in elective office, including two who served as senators and 15 others who were members of the House. In many former slave states, such as Mississippi, there were large black majorities and now these former slaves were voting. For the former slave owners, rather than find a way to work together to rebuild the war torn South, they chose the familiar path of oppression and regression. Restrictive voting laws were created, Jim Crow laws popped up all over the South enforcing racial segregation and violent domestic terrorist groups, like the Ku Klux Klan and others began a reign of lynchings and terror to keep freed men and women “in their place.”

While we’re not facing the Klan, we are facing a resurgence of laws that have the potential to undo decades of voting progress. It is important to make it clear to the GOP that if they aren’t willing to try to appeal to voters of color, they can’t expect voters of color to stand by idly while their vote is under attack. We’re here in this country and we have always been here. This pushback will not stop the ongoing march of progress.

Why We Need Another Civil Rights Movement

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong generation. As a child I would often watch old clips of the Civil Rights Movement and desperately wish I could have participated. The focus and eloquence of Dr. King inspired me. The courage of the children challenged me, and the unity of Black people was something I’d yet to witness in my generation. My soul longed for the days when Black people didn’t sit around and hope for change, but actually fought for it to happen. I was sad I missed the opportunity to be apart of something worthy. I yearned to be apart of another movement. As I got older it dawned on me, that if we ever needed another Civil Rights Movement, we need it now.


Emmett Till

The Civil Rights Movement began in 1955 and was birthed out of the death and murder of Emmett Till. Although Till’s death sparked the movement, it was years of racism, injustice, and hate against Blacks in America that came to a head. Enough was enough. Blacks were citizens of America, and wanted equal treatment like everyone else. It was time for schools to be desegregated. The “Whites Only” signs that plagued the South had run its course. It was time for diverse shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. I’m sure my Black brothers and sisters were especially motivated by the direct racism they endured during that time. Although we’re not experiencing that type of racism today, the state of Black America needs immediate attention.

Today we are experiencing what I like to call “institutionalized racism”. For example: Back in the day John didn’t have a chance of getting the job he applied for, because he was Black, and the White employers would gladly tell John that truth. However, in today’s times John can send in his resume, go to the interview, have employers smile at him during the entire interview process, but will never get the job due to him being a Black man. What’s worse is the fact that John will never know why he wasn’t hired, or he quite naturally will eventually understand it’s due to racism. Both are detrimental.

Michelle Alexander, author of New Jim Crow Laws writes “People are swept into the criminal justice system-particularly in poor communities of color-at very early ages… typically for fairly minor, non-violent crimes.” The institutionalized racism that’s plaguing Black America can definitely be found in the prison system, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s EVERYWHERE. Public schools fail to properly educate our children, which in return has negatively affected our communities. The lack of resources in our community has resulted in violence and drug use. As I watch the slow demise of our community, I wonder if anyone else recognizes our dire need for another Civil Rights Movement. I wonder if we’ll stop waiting on another Dr. King to surface. King couldn’t do it alone. It took everyday people joining together to form a powerful source that couldn’t be broken. It’s going to take the exact same unity today.

What are we waiting for?