G98.7 FM Presents Black History Month
Throughout the month of February, FLOW 98.7 FM is recognizing the significant role of Black people who have made a difference in society.
In 2018, John Lewis shared this message on social media:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
From his days fighting segregation in the American South to his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Lewis was not afraid to make some good noise and get into “Good Trouble.” That two-word phrase became his motto, and he lived it every day.
Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940 on a sharecropping farm owned by a white man near Troy, Ala. His parents Eddie and Willie Mae Carter Lewis saved $300 to buy their own farm of 110 acres. It had no electricity or plumbing.
Lewis and his nine siblings helped with the farm work. They left school at harvest time to pick cotton, peanuts, and corn.
Lewis looked after the chickens. He read to them from the Bible, baptized the chicks, and held funerals when they died.
In his memoir, Walking With the Wind, Lewis wrote, “I was truly intent on saving the little birds’ souls. I could imagine that they were my congregation. And me, I was a preacher.”
Lewis preached his first public sermon five days before he turned 16. A local newspaper wrote about his sermon and took his picture. Lewis said, “That was the first time I ever saw my name in print,”
In 1957 he became the first member of his family to complete high school, and he enrolled at the American Baptist Theological Seminary (now American Baptist College) in Nashville. He worked as a dishwasher and janitor to pay for his education. He graduated from the seminary in 1961.
Lewis was inspired by a young minister named Martin Luther King Jr. He listed to him on the radio and followed the 1955-56 Montgomery Ala. bus boycott in the newspaper. In 1958, Lewis wrote a letter to Dr. King, who sent him a round-trip bus ticket to visit him in Montgomery.
While at seminary in Nashville, Lewis met Rev. James Lawson, who led nonviolence workshops for students.
In October 1959, those students formed the Nashville Student Movement, and on Feb. 13, 1960 they organized Nashville’s first sit-in.
In 1961, Lewis joined a Freedom Ride organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The Riders challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the American south and in Washington, D.C. The Freedom Rides were violent and bloody.
In Rock Hill, S.C., the Riders were beaten when they tried to enter a whites-only waiting room at the bus station.
In Montgomery, Ala., Lewis was left unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal after he and others were attacked by hundreds of white people. Several others were badly injured and one Rider was paralyzed for life.
“If there was anything I learned on that long, bloody bus trip of 1961,” he wrote in his memoir, “it was this — that we were in for a long, bloody fight here in the American South. And I intended to stay in the middle of it.”
Lewis was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which organized lunch-counter sit-ins and other nonviolent events. He became their chairman in 1963.
At the age of 23, Lewis was a keynote speaker at the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was scheduled to speak before Martin Luther King, Jr.
In his speech, Lewis intended to criticize President John F. Kennedy’s proposed civil rights bill as “too little to late.”
But Dr. King and other members told Lewis to tone down his speech, as they were worried the speech would offend the Kennedy administration.
Instead, Lewis told the crowd outside the Lincoln Memorial, “By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up, America. Wake up!’ For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.”
On March 7, 1965, Lewis led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. A peaceful group of 600 people marched in favour of the voting rights denied to Blacks. The group met heavily armed state and local police who attacked them with batons, tear gas, bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. One trooper cracked Lewis’s skull and knocked him to the ground with a baton.
The event became known as Bloody Sunday.
The television images shocked the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge,” Lewis said years later. “I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death.”
In 1967, Lewis graduated from Fisk University with a Bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Lewis in charge of ACTION, the umbrella federal volunteer agency that included the Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
In 1977, Lewis ran for the U.S. House of Representatives but lost.
He won a seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and in 1986 he ran again for the House against Julian Bond, a friend and former close associate from the Civil Rights Movement.
Lewis won in an upset, with 52 percent of the vote. He served the people of Georgia’s fifth congressional district until his death in 2020.
Lewis continued to make “Good Trouble” while in Congress.
He was arrested in Washington several times, including outside the South African Embassy for demonstrating against apartheid and at Sudan’s Embassy while protesting genocide in Darfur.
In 2010, angry protestors shouted obscenities and racial slurs at Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus due to their support of President Obama’s health care bill.
“They were shouting, sort of harassing,” Mr. Lewis told reporters at the time. “But it’s OK. I’ve faced this before.”
In 2016, after the massacre at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub left 49 people dead, Lewis led a sit-in on the House floor to protest federal inaction on gun control.
Lewis’s fight for civil rights earned him over 50 honourary degrees.
In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
During the White House ceremony, the President said, “Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”
In 2018, Lewis appeared as himself on an episode of the children’s show, Arthur. He visited Arthur’s school and encouraged him to plan a sit-in to support the lunchroom attendant, Mrs. MacGrady.
Lewis announced on Dec. 29, 2019 that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He vowed to continue his work.
“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said.
He died on July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 and became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. capitol.
Even in death, Lewis was getting into “Good Trouble.”
SOURCES: BRITANNICA.COM, CHRISTIANITYTODAY.COM, CNN.COM, NYTIMES.COM, SNCCDIGITAL.ORG
At only 21 years of age, Koffee has already made a name for herself in the music industry.
She is the first woman and youngest artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. She won the trophy for her 2019 EP, Rapture.
Born Mikayla Simpson in Spanish Town, Jam. on Feb.16, 2000, Koffee grew up surrounded by music in her church choir.
“Literally being born and raised in the church was kind of the first experience of real music, I’m talking like manuscript music. It’s when I got exposed to harmonies, unison and stuff like that,” she said in an interview.
Koffee sang in the choir at her high school Ardenne High School and taught herself how to play the guitar when she was 12.
She graduated from high school in 2017 and decided to pursue her musical talents.
“While I was in school, I basically had to make the decision between what was important at the moment [to me] or go into a line of work that I knew wasn’t for me. So I had to embrace the musical opportunities that I received,” she said.
How did her mom, actress Jo-Anne Williams, react to the decision?
“My mom was a bit skeptic in the beginning, because she’s been the one sending me to school all my life. But when she got wind of my talent, she grew to trust moment and trust the journey. She became supportive over time.”
The music industry caught her vibe in August 2017 when she posted “Legend” a tribute to Olympic champion Usain Bolt and he reposted it to his several million followers.
Representatives of Upsetta Records, based in Jamaica, saw Bolt’s repost. They invited Koffee to sing on the collaborative record, Ouji Riddim, where each singer recorded their vocals over the same production, or “riddim.” Other contributors to the October 2017 album include reggae veterans Busy Signal and Jah Vinci.
Koffee’s contribution, “Burning,” was discovered by Columbia records and they contacted her about a record deal. She signed with the major label in 2018.
“Burning” also caught the attention of Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire, who produced Koffee’s her official debut single “Toast.”
Jamaican legends Chronixx and Protoje took Koffee under their wings and appeared in her video for “Toast.” She also toured Britain with Chronixx in 2018.
“Toast” was also featured on the soundtrack of the Jordan Peele blockbuster, Us.
In the middle of that exciting whirlwind, veteran artist Cocoa Tea introduced Koffee to a massive audience at the 2018 Rebel Salute reggae festival.
In March 2019, Koffee released her début EP Rapture. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard Reggae Charts, and she became the youngest local act to top the Billboard Reggae Charts.
It also earned Koffee her first Grammy.
When asked about her upcoming full-length album Koffee said, “I want to speak of a solution and of a way that we can come together and get along, even when things are going wrong.”
“Positivity is definitely a theme. It will be a very interesting twist for people who knew my music before, and also for people who will discover me. I think it will be really awesome,” she added.
When asked about what kind legacy she wants to leave behind, the singer said, “I want my name to turn into a household name. 10 years from now, I want my collection of music to be listened to by old people, young people, babies — just everybody. It’s important that my music makes a positive impact on my country, the reggae genre and the world.”
SOURCES: BILLBOARD.COM, DANCEHALLMAG.COM, JAMAICA-STAR.COM, LOOPJAMAICA.COM, REGGAEVILLE.COM, THEATLANTIC.COM, TMRWMAGAZINE.COM
Breonna Taylor was a certified emergency medical technician in Louisville, Ky.
In the early hours of March 13, 2020, she was in the apartment she shared with her partner, Kenneth Walker III, when there was a banging at the door.
Walker was worried. He grabbed his legally-owned gun and he asked who was at the door. There was no answer.
Suddenly, police officers broke down the door with a battering ram. They were not wearing uniforms. Walker, believing the police were intruders, fired one shot. The bullet hit Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg.
Mattingly, and two other officers, Det. Brett Hankison and Det. Myles Cosgrove, returned fire. They shot 32 rounds into the apartment.
Walker was unharmed, but Taylor was shot multiple times.
Walker called 911. “Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” he said.
Taylor died in the hallway.
Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer and assault. Those charges were eventually dropped.
The police claim Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover used her apartment to hide drugs.
They asked a judge to sign two warrants for Taylor’s apartment – a search warrant and a “no knock” warrant. A “no knock” warrant allows the police to execute a search warrant without knocking on the door.
Taylor’s death gained national attention. Demonstrators called for the officers to be disciplined and charged with her death.
In September 2020, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Det. Hankison was charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighbour’s apartment.
Under Kentucky law, someone is guilty of wanton endangerment if they commit an act that shows “an extreme indifference to the value of human life”. The detective pleaded not guilty.
Sgt. Mattingly and Det. Cosgrove were not charged with anything. Cameron said the two officers were, “justified to protect themselves and the justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges”.
None of the three officers were charged with Taylor’s death.
The Louisville police fired Hankison and placed Cosgrove and Mattingly on administrative duties.
Ben Crump, lawyer for the Taylor family, said the fact that no charges were laid in direct relation to the killing was, “outrageous and offensive”.
In May 2020, Taylor’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the three officers. In September, the city settled and agreed to pay the family $12 million. They also agreed to enact several police reforms.
Police search warrants must now be approved by a senior officer.
Louisville Metro Police officers are now required to wear body cameras. The officers who entered Taylor’s apartment were not wearing cameras.
Taylor’s sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, says the death affected their mother so deeply that she spent Mother’s Day 2020 in her room, refusing to get out of bed.
Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin described her as a “spunky, goofy little kid” who blossomed into a hard-working, goal-oriented young woman who placed an emphasis on family.
“She just was a fun person to be around,” Austin said. “She’s going to be truly, definitely be missed.”
Palmer, Taylor’s sister and best friend, said Taylor had nothing to hide in her apartment and would have been happy to prove that to the police if she’d known it was them at the door.
“If they were to come in and say, ‘Hey, you sell drugs’, she’d be like … that’s not who I am,” Palmer said.
Both women faulted the police for Taylor’s killing and said the officers involved should be charged with murder.
“We’re going to fight this to the end,” her aunt said. “This is our baby and she’s going to get the justice she deserves.”
SOURCES: ABCNEWS.GO.COM, BBC.COM, CNN.COM
On Feb. 25, 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. fought his first bout against Sonny Liston.
Liston was the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Clay was the 22-year-old underdog. Clay beat Liston with a technical knockout in the sixth round and proclaimed “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world.”
Within days of the fight, “The King” renounced his slave name and adopted the last name “X”. Soon after he introduced himself to the world as Muhammad Ali. He is considered one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth centuries.
Ali was born on Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. As a child of the U.S. south, he grew up surrounded by racism and discrimination.
Fate turned him into a boxer. When Ali was 12, his bike was stolen and he told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. Martin happened to train young boxers at a local gym.
Ali started working with Martin and fought his first amateur fight in1954. He won by a split decision.
Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament as a light heavyweight novice. Three years later he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, and the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title in the light heavyweight division.
Ali earned a spot on the 1960 U.S. Olympic boxing team and competed against the world in Rome. He won his first three bouts and beat Zbigniew Pietrzkowski of Poland to win the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal.
Ali was heralded as an American hero. But he realized that a gold medal and the label of “hero” could not remove the sting of racism.
In his 1975 autobiography The Greatest, Ali wrote, “I came back to Louisville after the Olympics with my shiny gold medal. Went into a luncheonette where black folks couldn’t eat. Thought I’d put them on the spot. I sat down and asked for a meal. The Olympic champion wearing his gold medal. They said, “We don’t serve n*****s here.” I said, “That’s okay, I don’t eat ’em.” But they put me out in the street. So I went down to the river, the Ohio River, and threw my gold medal in it.”
Ali turned professional about a month following the Rome Olympics. Then came a string of wins until the fight against Liston in 1964.
Ali used his mouth as well as his abilities to showcase his prowess and told reporters he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in the boxing ring. He often taunted his opponents before, during and after a fight. Some of his memorable fights were against Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson, and George Foreman.
On Nov. 22, 1965, Patterson wanted to put the younger Ali in his place. Unfortunately, Patterson’s bad back had other ideas. The referee stopped the fight in the 12th round and Ali was pronounced winner.
Ali next met Patterson on Sept. 20, 1972 at Madison Square Garden in N.Y. The two boxers were fighting for the National American Boxing Federation title. Ali, defending his title, cut Patterson above his left eye in the sixth round. By the end of the seventh the eye was swollen shut and the referee ended the fight. Patterson retired from boxing a short time after the fight.
Ali and Frazier met three times in the ring. Their first encounter, billed as the “Fight of the Century,” was in 1971. Ali and Frazier danced toe to toe for 14 rounds before Frazier dropped Ali with a vicious left hook in the 15th. Ali recovered, but the judges ruled for Frazier. This was Ali’s first professional loss after 31 wins.
Ali beat Frazier in their 1974 rematch before they locked gloves in 1975 in the “Thrilla in Manilla”. Ali won after the 14th round when Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel. Ali and Frazier became good friends later in life.
George Foreman was another victim of Ali’s unbelievable boxing skill. In the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974, Ali used his unorthodox “rope-a-dope” technique to beat the heat and Foreman. Ali beat the undefeated heavyweight champion with a knockout in the eighth round.
Ali’s boxing was interrupted by a stint in prison for civil disobedience.
In 1967 Ali was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He refused to serve, arguing that he had “no quarrel” with America’s enemy, the Vietcong.
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big powerful America, and shoot them for what?” Ali said in an interview. “They never called me n****r. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me.”
When Ali appeared at the Army recruiting station, he refused to step forward when his name was called. He was stripped of his boxing title, convicted of draft evasion, and sentenced to five years in prison.
Ali was released from prison and appealed his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction in a unanimous decision in 1971.
Ali was also suspended from boxing for refusing military service. He did not box again in a match that counted until 1970.
Ali retired on June 27, 1979 but re-entered the ring in 1980. He lost his final two professional fights before retiring in 1981. His final record was 56 wins and 5 losses with 37 knockouts.
Only three years later, in 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“I’m in no pain,” he said in an interview. “A slight slurring of my speech, a little tremor. Nothing critical. If I was in perfect health — if I had won my last two fights — if I had no problem, people would be afraid of me. Now they feel sorry for me. They thought I was Superman. Now they can go, ‘He’s human, like us. He has problems.’ ”
In his retirement, Ali supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. He also advocated for increased funding for Parkinson’s Disease research and in 1997 helped establish the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.
In 1996, Ali, visibly suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) replaced his 1960 gold medal during a U.S. vs. Yugoslavia basketball game. The IOC President at the time, Juan Antonio Samaranch, presented Ali with a gold medal.
In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Ali died on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 74 years old.
Ali had planned his own memorial services, saying he wanted to be, “Inclusive of everyone, where we give as many people an opportunity that want to pay their respects to me,” according to a family spokesman.
Ali is remembered today not just for his mastery in the ring, but also for his activism and his big heart.
SOURCES: BIOGRAPHY.COM, THEGUARDIAN.COM, NBCNEWS.COM, PARKINSONSNEWSTODAY.COM, TBSNEWS.NET
W.E.B. Du Bois
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was a man of many talents. He was a civil rights activist, pan-Africanist, professor, sociologist, writer, editor, and scholar to name a few.
As a civil rights activist, Du Bois was instrumental in the fight for civil and political rights for Blacks in the U.S. In 1905, he led a group of Black intellectuals who disagreed with the idea that Black people should be farmers or carpenters and accept life in a white-dominated society.
Instead, Du Bois and his group argued that Blacks must advance through legal and political means. They formed the Niagara Movement, so named because the group met at the Beach Hotel in Erie, Ont., near Niagara Falls, from July 11-14, 1905.
The Niagara Movement released a “Declaration of Principles.” It read in part, “Persistent manly agitation is the way to liberty, and toward this goal the Niagara Movement has started and asks the cooperation of all men of all races.”
The Niagara Movement was the forerunner to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP was founded in February 1909 in New York City. It is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S. It was created in part to respond to the ongoing violence against Blacks. Its legal department led the fight to desegregate schools, facilities, and transportation.
Du Bois served as the NAACP’s director of publicity and research, sat on the board of directors, and founded and edited The Crisis magazine.
Du Bois adopted pan-Africanist beliefs and was concerned about the lives of all peoples of African descent. In 1900, he attended the First Pan-African Conference in London, and the First Universal Races Congress in 1911. He also helped organize a series of Pan-African congresses in 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927 and 1945.
Du Bois had a distinguished academic career. He was the valedictorian of his high school when he graduated in 1884.
He attended Fisk University, a historic Black college in Nashville, Tenn. and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1888.
He then attended Harvard University, and earned a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in 1890.
From 1892 to 1894, he studied history and economics in graduate school at the University of Berlin. This was due to a Slater fund fellowship.
Du Bois was a professor of Greek and Latin at Wilberforce University for two years before he received his Master of Arts from Harvard in 1891.
In 1895, Du Bois became the first Black person to receive a doctorate from Harvard.
Du Bois became assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1896-97 before moving on to the Atlanta University.
From 1897 to 1910 Du Bois was a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University and served as the chairman of the department of sociology from 1934 to 1944. He founded Phylon, a social science quarterly journal, in 1940. The peer-reviewed journal is still published today.
Du Bois the writer wrote numerous pieces of literature. The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of essays about racism and Black identity in America, is perhaps his best known work.
Other works include Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880, a historical study of the role of Black people in American society, the novels The Quest of the Silver Fleece and Dark Princess: A Romance, and an autobiographical book of essays and poetry, Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil.
Du Bois was born on Feb. 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Mass. He moved to Ghana in 1961 and became a citizen of that country in 1963. He died on Aug. 27, 1963 in Ghana and was honoured with a state funeral. He was 95.
SOURCES: AMERICANHISTORY.SI.EDU, HISTORY.COM, NAACP.ORG, RADAR.AUCTR.EDU/PHYLON, VIRGINIAHISTORY.ORG
On Feb. 23, 2020 Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was killed as he jogged down a neighbourhood street in Satilla Shores, Georgia.
Arbery, 25, was jogging when he was chased by a truck driven by Gregory McMichael, 64, a retired police detective, and his son Travis, 34. A confrontation resulted in Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times.
Arbery is remembered by his parents, Marcus Arbery and Wanda Cooper, as a, “good, generous young man with a big heart.” He was a former high school football player and his father said he often exercised in the area.
Cooper, upon seeing the video of the final moments of Arbery’s life, said, “I often imagine the last minutes of my son’s life. I didn’t imagine it would be that harsh.”
“… It’s hard to know that he had to go through that after he had ran. He actually ran for his life. Then when he couldn’t run anymore, he had to fight, and then after he fought, he was killed,” Cooper said.
“Mr. Arbery had not committed any crime and there was no reason for these men to believe they had the right to stop him with weapons or to use deadly force in furtherance of their unlawful attempted stop,” Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing Arbery’s mother, said in a statement.
The McMichaels and another man, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., were eventually charged in relation to Arbery’s death, more than two months after the incident.
The McMichaels are charged with malice and felony murder charges, as well as counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. They both pleaded not guilty and claimed to be conducting a citizen’s arrest and acting in self-defence when Arbery died.
Bryan Jr., who recorded a video of Arbery’s final moments, allegedly hit Arbery when he joined the McMichaels in the chase. He pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and felony murder.
Public outcry erupted across the U.S. when District Attorneys initially refused to arrest the McMichaels or Bryan.
Attorneys for Arbery’s family claim he was racially profiled.
“We want an immediate arrest because we don’t think there should be two justice systems in America – one for Black America and one for white America,” said Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Arbery family.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s life matters, and the fact that you have proof of the crime, you have a video … Black people get arrested everyday with far less evidence,” Crump said.
The governor of Georgia announced on Feb. 16, 2021 he was overhauling the citizen’s arrest laws in that state. The new law clarifies the need for the citizen to call law enforcement when making a citizen’s arrest, and also clarifies when a citizen can detain someone.
On Feb. 23, 2021 the one-year anniversary of Arbery’s death, his family will hold a candlelight vigil at his gravesite. On Feb. 27, a parade will be held in his honour.
SOURCES: BBC.COM, CNN.COM, NEWS4JAX.COM, THEGUARDIAN.COM, USATODAY.COM
The Mighty Sparrow
Slinger Francisco, also known as The Mighty Sparrow, is a Caribbean icon.
Many words can describe him: performer, songwriter, prophet, satirist, and historian. He took the purely Caribbean sound of calypso and introduced it to the world. He definitely deserves the title, “Calypso King of the World.”
Sparrow was born on July 9, 1935 in Grand Roy, Grenada. His father, a carpenter, moved to Trinidad to earn a better living. The rest of the family joined him before Sparrow was two years old. They lived in Port of Spain.
Sparrow loved to sing from a young age. He sang in the weekly Friday concerts while attending Newtown Boys Catholic School but stayed away from calypso because it was considered unhealthy.
At the age of 14, Sparrow joined a steel band with the boys in his neighbourhood and they performed at Trinidad’s Carnival. His energetic stage presence earned him the stage name of “Little Sparrow”. He changed it to “Mighty Sparrow” a few years later.
Sparrow did not finish school and took a job with the government. He continued to sing his calypso and eventually left his job because the music paid better.
In 1954, Sparrow performed for the first time as a carnival singer with “The Parrot and the Monkey”. In 1956, he won Trinidad’s Carnival Road March and Calypso King competitions, with, “Jean and Dinah” aka “Yankees Gone”. It became his most famous song.
A live version of “Jean and Dinah” was included on the Jump Up Carnival album in 1956. It was Sparrow’s first recording.
Sparrow boycotted the Calypso King contest in 1957 due to money. The prize money awarded to the Calypso King was a meager $40, compared to the $7,500 presented to the Carnival Queen beauty contest winner.
Sparrow wrote the song, “Carnival Boycott” in protest. Other calypsonians including Lord Melody joined the boycott.
Sparrow claims his boycott improved the conditions for calypso and steel band musicians in Trinidad. It also established the Carnival Development Committee, a musicians’ assistance organization.
In an interview in 2019, referring to the boycott, Sparrow said, “The people who were organizing everything, I don’t think they had much respect for calypso.”
Sparrow refused to officially participate in the Carnival competition for the next three years. He did, however, win the Road March title in 1958 with “P.A.Y.E.” In the 1957 carnival, he performed in the Young Brigade Calypso Tent. His four-song set was recorded live and released on the Calypso Kings and Pink Gin album.
Later that year, Sparrow recorded his first album, Calypso Carnival 58.
Between 1960 and 1964, Sparrow recorded 11 albums with RCA.
Sparrow returned to the Calypso Monarch competition in 1960. He won his second Kingship and third Road March title with “Ten to One Is Murder” (an autobiographical song about an incident in which Sparrow allegedly shot a man) and “Mae Mae”.
He won the Road March title again in 1961 with “Royal Jail” and won his third Calypso King title in 1962 with “Model Nation” and “Sparrow Come Back Home”.
His popularity grew in Trinidad as he won further titles in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sparrow also began recording for his own label, National Recording. He released approximately forty albums in the 1960s and 1970s.
The 1968 Sparrow recorded the album, Sparrow Meets the Dragon, with Byron Lee. Their version of “Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart” was an international hit.
That international success continued in the 1970s. with the albums The Best Of and Hot and Sweet. In 1975, he reunited with Byron Lee on the Sparrow Dragon Again album.
In the 80s, Sparrow returned to the Carnival competitions. In 1984 he won his eighth Road March title with the soca-influenced “Doh Back Back”. In 1985 he won the ‘King of Kings’ title and the $10,000 first prize.
He won the Calypso Monarch title in 1992, with “Both of Them” and “Survival”. It was his last major title.
Although less active, Sparrow continued to write, perform, and tour throughout the 90s and into the 21st century.
As he grew older, Sparrow’s health suffered. He was hospitalized several times due to complications of diabetes and he suffered a hernia in 2010. He was in a coma for two weeks in September 2013 before he regained consciousness.
But his health can’t stop him. In 2020, Sparrow released his Live at 85! album in celebration of his 85th birthday.
Sparrow’s vast knowledge is evident in his music. “Slave”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, and “Barack The Magnificent” touch on issues of international significance.
For his contribution to the musical world and beyond, Sparrow has received several honours including an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies in 1987, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Order of the British Empire.
The Mighty Sparrow is surviving the COVID-19 pandemic in his Queens, N.Y. apartment.
SOURCES: CARICOM.ORG, CARIBBEANELECTIONS.COM, GUARDIAN.CO.TT, MOJO4MUSIC.COM
On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcom X was assassinated.
He was at a speaking engagement in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom when three gunmen rushed the stage and opened fire. He was pronounced dead at the age of 39.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Ne. His mother, Louise Helen Norton Little was from Grenada. His father, Reverend Earl Little, was a Baptist minister and an organizer for Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
Malcolm X was the seventh of his father’s nine children — three by a previous marriage — and his mother’s fourth child.
Rev. Little organized activities for the UNIA and this angered the local Ku Klux Klan. The Little family moved to Milwaukee, Wi. in 1926 and to a farm near Lansing, Mi. in 1928 to escape the violence.
In Michigan, the Black Legion, a white supremacist organization, harassed Rev. Little. A racist mob set the family’s house on fire in 1929. The white emergency responders refused to do anything.
“The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned to the ground,” Malcolm X remembered.
In 1931, Rev. Little’s body was found lying across a trolley track. Official reports claim he was hit by a trolley car, but the family believed he was killed by the Black Legion.
The Little family drifted apart after Rev. Little’s death. Malcolm X was sent to live with another family due to disciplinary problems, Mrs. Little was hospitalized, and the other children were sent to various foster homes and orphanages.
At the age of 13, Malcolm X was sent to the Michigan State Detention Home in Mason, Mi. He was to move to a reform school, but the white couple who operated the home liked him. As Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography, they treated him more like a “pink poodle” or a “pet canary” than a human being.
Malcolm X attended Mason High School and was an outstanding student. He was elected class president. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer.
But that dream was shattered in 1939 when his English teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Upon hearing Malcolm X’s reply, the teacher responded, “One of life’s first needs is for us to be realistic … you need to think of something you can be … why don’t you plan on carpentry?”
As a result of the teacher’s rebuke, Malcolm X’s school grades suffered and he dropped out of school at the age of 15.
He asked if he could move to Boston, to live with his half-sister, Ella. She was socially and financially successful and she had visited Malcolm X in the detention home. His wish was granted and he moved to Boston in early 1941. He was placed in Ella’s custody.
In Boston, Ella got Malcolm X a job shining shoes at the Roseland Ballroom. He also took a job working as a kitchen helper on the Yankee Clipper train between New York and Boston.
Unfortunately, Malcolm X also got caught up in a life of crime. In 1946, he was arrested and charged with theft. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in jail. He was 21-years-old.
While in prison, Malcolm X took to reading the books in the prison library to further his education. His brother Reginald visited him and introduced him to Islam, specifically the Islam prophesized by Elijah Muhammad and the National of Islam.
Elijah Muhammad argued that white society worked to keep Blacks from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic, and social success. The Nation of Islam also argued for a Black state, separate from white people.
In 1952, Malcolm X was paroled after serving seven years. By now he had changed his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X. He considered “Little” to be his slave name. The “X” signified his lost African name.
Malcolm X moved to Chicago and became a minister under Elijah Muhammad. By the late 1950s, Malcolm X was the leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
He was sent to Boston to establish a temple and was soon the minister. He also travelled to the temples in Philadelphia and Harlem to recruit new members.
At the Harlem temple, Malcolm X met nursing student Betty X. They were married in January 1958 with Elijah Muhammad’s approval. They had six daughters.
Between 1959 and 1964, Malcolm X became immensely popular within the National of Islam, and this caused a rift with Elijah Muhammad. In his autobiography Malcolm X wrote about his “physical divorce” from the Nation of Islam, and his “psychological divorce” due to the order for his assassination.
In the spring of 1964, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and created the Organization of African American Unity. He also made a pilgrimage to Mecca to perform the Hajj.
A significant result of Malcolm X’s trip to Mecca was the effect upon his racial attitudes. He met many white Muslims on the Hajj who treated him as an equal.
He wrote in his autobiography that contrary to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, racial problems were more a matter of attitude than of colour. Being white did not make a person evil. It was the American society that ingrained racial prejudices into a white person.
While on the Hajj, Malcolm X also acquired his new Islamic name: Elijah Malik El-Shabazz — the pilgrim Malcolm of the tribe of Shabazz.
The break from the Nation of Islam led to repeated attempts on Malcolm X’s life. On Feb. 14, 1965, his family’s home in East Elmhurst, N. Y. was firebombed. Luckily, the family escaped physical injury.
One week later, Malcolm X’s enemies were successful.
Fifteen hundred people attended his funeral in Harlem on Feb. 27, 1965.
SOURCES: BIOGRAPHY.COM, BRITANNICA.COM, KINGINSTITUTE.STANFORD.EDU, MALCOLMX.COM, NEWYORKER.COM, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X
When Lincoln Alexander died on Oct. 19, 2012, he was honoured with a state funeral.
He deserved nothing less.
As Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament, a former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Alexander dedicated his life to his country.
Alexander was born on Jan. 21, 1922 in Toronto to Lincoln MacCauley Alexander Sr. and Mae Rose Royale. His mother was born in Jamaica, and his father was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They met in Canada.
Alexander ‘s father was a sleeping car porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway and his mother was a maid.
In his memoir, Alexander recounted the importance his parents placed on education as a good means to building a better life. The title of his memoir, “Go To School, You’re A Little Black Boy” is a quote from his mother.
Alexander learned early in life that, “education was the path to limitless possibility.”
His mother, he wrote, “knew that accepting defeat was easy, but success was possible, and education was the vehicle to take you there. She was right, and it has.”
Not only did Alexander heed his parents’ words, but he did so with an unwavering commitment to excellence.
Alexander grew up in Toronto in the 1920s and 30s and was the victim of name calling and insults throughout his school years. He said he had to fight for respect.
Alexander fought for his dignity while stationed in Vancouver with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a wireless operator. One evening, he went to a local bar for some drinks with his fellow servicemen. All were in uniform. The bartender said he would serve everyone except Alexander.
At his earliest opportunity, Alexander spoke to his commanding officer and said, “‘You go down and tell them the next time I walk into that place, as a corporal, wearing the uniform of an Air Force person, that they serve me.’”
Alexander’s commanding officer refused. Alexander asked to be relieved from duty.
Alexander was honourably discharged in 1945, with the rank of corporal.
Alexander moved to Hamilton and attended McMaster University. He became the first member of his family to attend university. Alexander studied history and political economy and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He also played on the university football team.
Alexander once again fought for his dignity at Osgoode Hall Law School. One day during class, he questioned the Dean’s use of inappropriate language in a lecture. His comment divided the class between those students who agreed with Alexander, and those who believed the Dean could use whatever language he chose.
Alexander wrote about the incident, “I don’t know what ever made me stand up and ask him that in a class of 200 people. . . But I will tell you one thing, that day made me a man.”
Alexander graduated from law school and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1953.
Alexander entered federal politics in 1965 when he ran as a Conservative in the riding of Hamilton West. He lost that election but won his seat in 1968 and became Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament. He was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980.
Alexander held the labour portfolio in the government of Prime Minister Joe Clark from 1979 to 1980. He was Canada’s first Black cabinet minister.
After leaving federal politics, he became the first Black Chair of the Ontario Worker’s Compensation Board in 1980. Alexander called the role, “a hell of a job.”
In 1985, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney asked Alexander to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He became the first Black person to serve in a vice regal position in Canada and held that post until 1991.
A key part of Alexander’s mandate was youth and education, and an award was created in his honour. The Lincoln M. Alexander Award is presented to Ontario high school students who show strong leadership in eliminating racial discrimination.
Alexander also served an unprecedented five terms as Chancellor of the University of Guelph from 1991 to 2007.
In his memoir, he wrote, “I have seen constant reinforcement of my belief in the grandness of education, from bright and enthusiastic students – the future – to committed educators and administrators who deliver that greatest gift.”
Alexander was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992. Four years later in 1996, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Alexander Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
In recognition of his many important accomplishments, 21 January has been celebrated as Lincoln Alexander Day across Canada since 2015.
As Alexander once wrote, “It is not your duty to be average. It is your duty to set a higher example for others to follow.”
SOURCES: ARCHIVES.GOV.ON.CA, CBC.CA, GO TO SCHOOL, YOU’RE A LITTLE BLACK BOY: THE HONOURABLE LINCOLN M. ALEXANDER: A MEMOIR, LGONTARIO.CA, MCMASTER.CA, ONTARIO.CA, THECANADIANENCYCLOPEDIA.CA
Jully Black is truly a woman of many talents.
Born Jullyann Inderia Gordon to Jamaican immigrants in Toronto, Miss Black is a singer, songwriter, actress, philanthropist, and fitness trainer.
Known as “Canada’s Queen of R&B Soul” Miss Black released four albums, including This is Me in 2005, and Revival in 2007.
This is Me included the hit singles, “Sweat Of Your Brow” and “5x Love” while Revival won the 2008 Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
The single “Seven Day Fool” off that album earned Miss Black a Juno award for Single of the Year.
As a songwriter and collaborator Miss Black has worked with Nas, Destiny’s Child, and Sean Paul.
Her song, “I Know,” appeared on The Fighting Temptations soundtrack in 2003. It was written for Destiny’s Child.
Miss Black the performer has shared the stage with The Black-Eyes Peas, Kanye West, Elton John, Céline Dion, and Etta James.
Miss Black has headlined Canada Day in Trafalgar Square, kicked off the FIFA World Cup concert series and was hand-picked to perform at a private event for The Queen.
As a television host and correspondent, Miss Black interviewed Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Rihanna, and Oprah Winfrey.
In 2005, she joined Patti Labelle and the Neville Brothers at the Voices of Soul concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Also in 2005, Miss Black played the Preacher in the production of Da Kink in My Hair at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. The play’s success turned into a weekly television series. Miss Black sang the opening theme and appeared in two episodes.
In 2020, Miss Black made her musical theatre debut as the star of Caroline, or Change. She played Caroline, a housemaid and single mother of four living in Louisiana at the height of the civil rights movement.
Miss Black won two awards for that role – The Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Leader Performance in a Musical and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts’ esteemed Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding performance in a leading role.
In 2019, Miss Black lent her voice to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada’s Unplug to Connect campaign. It encouraged young people to put down their electronic devices for at least an hour a day and reconnect with the people around them.
Miss Black says the death of her mother forced her to re-examine her priorities, including the amount of time she spends online.
“I say my mom’s last breath became my first breath, and so [now] I take time to breathe and really feel the ground under my feet,” she said.
Part of that time Miss Black has put into her health, wellness, and lifestyle organization, 100 Strong & Sexy. She is the founder and president and her step videos are taking over social media.
Fans of the woman of many talents are waiting for Miss Black’s new album. It was set for release in late 2020.
SOURCES: 100STRONGANDSEXY.COM, CBC.CA, CTV.CA, GLOBALNEWS.CA, JULLYBLACK.CA, MONTREALJAZZFEST.COM