Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on this day in 1929. His legacy lives on in folks like the activists who will take to the streets on Monday and #ReclaimMLK Day.
On Monday, January 19th, the nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. In Philadelphia, a broad-based coalition will remember the drum major for justice by reclaiming his legacy and marching for justice, jobs and education.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition is moving beyond the sanitized version of Dr. King (Full Disclosure: I’m a member of the planning committee). We are taking back the King Holiday and organizing MLK D.A.R.E. (MLK Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment). At least 10,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets on the day of action and agitation.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition’s demands include an end to stop-and-frisk, an independent police review board, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a fair funding formula for public schools and a democratically-elected school board.
The planning meetings are held at the historic Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. Mother Bethel’s Pastor Rev. Mark Tyler said:
It’s only fitting that we open our doors in light of the role of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, our founder Bishop Richard Allen opened these doors in 1817 for the first large scale, national demonstration of free African Americans.
To get involved with #ReclaimMLK, please complete a short volunteer form.
On Saturday, more than 40,000 gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Justice for All march against police violence.
Earlier in the week, a group of black mothers who lost children to police violence met to “tell their stories and advocate for changing existing laws that leave families vulnerable to police brutality and accountability loopholes.” They, too, called for Congressional hearings on police brutality and federal legislation authorizing special prosecutors to investigate police shootings.
Nearly 60 years ago, another black mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, grieved for the racially-motivated murder of her son.
Emmitt Till was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The acquittal of the two white men charged with his murder shocked the conscience of the nation. The verdict paved the way for the Department of Justice to intervene in local law enforcement cases when civil rights are violated, as well as the Civil Rights Movement.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I visited the tree that was planted in memory of Emmett Till on the U.S. Capitol Grounds. It wasn’t easy to find. No one knew the tree had been planted, let alone where it was located. So my friend and I walked the 274 acres in search of the tree. I finally stumbled upon it. You can imagine my dismay to discover it’s located in the middle of a parking lot.
Actually, when I first read the marker, I didn’t realize it was the Emmett Till tree. I thought it was for a new tree species or in honor of Sen. Susan Collins.
I had to get on my knees to read the small print:
To honor Emmett Till, a young African-American man whose brutal killing in 1955 raised public awareness that led to civil rights reforms.
Frankly, this so-called honor is more about Collins than Emmett Till. If you share my concern the marker does not do justice to his legacy, then say something via Twitter (@SenatorCollins), email or by phone at (202) 224-2523.
Perhaps by the 60th anniversary of his murder, there will be a marker befitting Emmitt Till’s place in American history.
After all, #BlackLivesMatter.
Rule No. 1: STFU.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece “A Love Supreme.”
From Boston to San Francisco, Americans are celebrating what many consider the greatest spiritual jazz composition of all time. Sadly, we in Philadelphia are marking the occasion with a commitment to fight to preserve Coltrane’s presence in the city that nurtured and shaped him.
As I previously wrote, the Pennrose Company demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural.
The company did it with no input from the community and no plan to preserve the presence of an American cultural icon. The loss sparked an outrage on social media. Tweet after tweet asked the same question: WTF?!
Through public subsidies and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Pennrose has gotten rich building properties for the poor. The politically-connected company has been sucking on the public teat for more than 20 years. Indeed, it is one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers.
While Pennrose can afford hundreds of thousands in political contributions, primarily to Republicans, it has contributed nothing to replace the tribute to the man that put Philly jazz on the map.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The City of Philadelphia’s campaign finance database is a hot mess.
In any case, social media provides a platform to raise awareness of an issue. But to make something happen, one has to agitate offline. So the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition has organized an Arts and Culture Committee, which I chair. Our mission is to preserve African Americans’ cultural heritage – and presence – in Philadelphia by any means necessary (BAMN).
To get involved, come to the next monthly meeting of ATAC, which will be held on Monday, December 15, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church, Broad and Venango Streets. For more information, call (215) 552-8751.
On Sunday, five St. Louis Rams offensive players – Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt – entered the field in the game against the Oakland Raiders with their hands up.
In a post-game interview, Cook said they wanted to do something to help stop the violence:
We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something. We haven’t been able to go down to Ferguson to do anything because we have been busy. Secondly, it’s kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything.
Cook said it was a show of respect:
So we wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world.
We wanted to show that we are organized for a great cause and something positive comes out of it. That’s what we hope we can make happen. That’s our community. We wanted to let the community know that we support the community.
Parenthetically, the Ferguson protestors are leading in Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” reader poll.
Still, the St. Louis Police Officers Association went ballistic. The SLPOA said the gesture was “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory”:
The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.
The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology.
After further review, the NFL told the SLPOA to ram it. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy NFL spokesman Brian McCarty  said in a statement:
We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.
Who’s singing “St. Louis Blues” now?