Category Archives: American Culture

Martin Luther King more than starry-eyed dreamer

Monday, Jan. 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

I listen to Martin Luther King’s speeches and sermons over and over again like some people listen to popular songs.

I have my favorites, such as “The Other America,” “Where Do We Go from Here,” “The Drum Major Instinct,” and “How Long, Not Long.” I like these better than “I Have a Dream” because they have more substance.

In “The Drum Major” sermon, King said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve” — regardless of your station in life. In “The Other America” speech, King preached about wasting billions on an “ill-considered war” while neglecting the poor here in America.

When you examine the levels of poverty and unemployment in the nation today, I believe that King would determine that the nation had failed to heed his vision of jobs, justice and peace.

These days it’s hard to compete with the mainstream’s success in making King just a starry-eyed “dreamer” and a commercial commodity.

I was watching a football game during the holiday season when a commercial from one of the major retail chains announcing its MLK Day Sale popped up on the screen. It didn’t even use an image of King, just the initials “MLK,” accompanied by an array of appliances marked down for “the one-day event.”

Looking back to the dedication of the King Memorial on the Mall in Washington this past October, you couldn’t ignore the many corporate sponsors of the monument. The list of supporters was a who’s who of American business — General Motors, Tommy Hilfiger, Verizon, General Electric and Wal-Mart, just to name a few.

Even so, I’m always thankful when Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes around. Whatever the advertisers try to sell you and the politicians try to tell you, King’s message of unconditional love and nonviolent redemptive good and his steadfast attack on the evils of racism, poverty and militarism just cannot be ignored.

They can try to co-opt him, but his image is always going to look odd next to a washing machine or a hamburger or a self-serving politician.

Gray is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. E-mail: pmproj@progressive.org; website: www.progressive.org.

South Carolina, MLK, Black America’s Invisibility

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“Paddy”

“Paddy” (often used with “Paddy wagon”) is a racial slur for an Irish person just as “Nigger” is for a black person or “Kike” is for a Jew or “Chink” for a Chinese person, etc.., It comes from the drunk wagons that used to take those who were publicly drunk to jail to “sleep it off”, and it is incorrectly and widely believed that most of these alcohol abusers were Irish immigrants or their descendants.”

It just so happen someone used the word “Paddy wagon” on”Live from the Land of Hope & Dreams with Dave Marsh” on Sirius radio on November 20th as we talked about OWS arrest.  The term “Paddy” was quickly exposed as racist.  Then on Monday (21 November) one of the young protesters unknowingly used the word saying he was ready to be arrested and taken away in the “Paddy wagon.”  Many of the people around me at the protest commented on the nature of the word and our feeling that the young protester didn’t fully know the origin or meaning of the term.

Immediately after the event I posted a definition of the term on facebook (21 Nov. 11).  Below is the discussion thread on the word.  I felt the discussion was one that warranted saving and sharing.

Kwame Zulu Shabazz & Stephanie McCarthy did most of the heavy lifting.

Read thru the thread and you might just learn something new. FYI about some of the people on the thread – Shabazz is a Harvard Ph.D now teaching at Winston-Salem State University. Ms. McCarthy lives in Paris, where she has resided since 2001; and lived in France since 1999. She teach English as applied to the Humanities in a university in Paris.

Pamela Willis Watters hmmm….I had no idea! Thanks, Kevin

Miriam Harris really interesting–thank you.

Maria Holt Wow! Learn something from your page everyday…

Kevin Gray Yeah, it just so happen someone brought it up on the Sirius show yesterday as we talked about OWS arrest and tonite one of the young protesters unknowingly used the word.

Frank Moliterno Interesting.

Maria Holt Oh that’s def not a good look…(referring to young man’s gaff)

Kevin Gray Just young.

Kwame Zulu Shabazz Bro. Kev. I did a quick check on the etymology of “paddy wagon,” and there is actually not a consensus on its meaning. And, according to the source I read, PW likely originates from the fact that many police officers who drove police wagons were Irish.

If accurate, then PW is not derogatory. The derogatory use comes later when African Americans begin to use “paddy” to describe all whites, regardless of ethnicity. But, again, we should be clear that “paddy wagon” and “paddy,’ seem to have two different connotations–one neutral and the other bad.

My other quibble, is that whatever its meaning you seem to imply that paddy and nigger are equivalents–that calling an Irish person paddy is just like calling a black person nigger. But the history of the relative treatment of Africans and Irish people don’t bear that out. kzs

Quoting source:

//”Irishman,” 1780, slang, from the pet form of the common Irish proper name Patrick (Ir. Padraig). It was in use in black slang by 1946 for any “white person.” Paddy wagon is 1930, perhaps so called because many police officers were Irish.//

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=paddy

Bob Shanbrom Good call, Kevin.

James Armand Chionsini Jr. WOP for Italians used to mean ‘without papers’

Kwame Zulu Shabazz And its not exactly clear to me that the African American use of the term “paddy” was, in every instance, derogatory. It seems to me that it was/is often simply a variant of “white.” kzs

Kevin Gray ‎@Bro Kwame- Absolutely! Efia (Nwangaza) mentioned another thing to me tonite when the young man used the term (and he was speaking about being ready to be taken away in the “Paddy wagon”). She offered that many slave catchers were Irish. Hadn’t checked into that one yet. But certainly the term “negro-round-up” which today is the neighborhood sweeps via profiling has its roots in the history of the term.

Kwame Zulu Shabazz Yessir, in fact, last year, I posted something on “paddy wagon” songs and the link to slave catchers. I will see if I can dig it up. kzs

Kevin Gray Well, now, white is white, and race trumps class under white supremacy, so in that respect a black using the word during the time when such slang was part of the everyday vernacular may have been “flipping it” – [“you may be white but you’re just a paddy” just as -“you may be white but you’re just a po’cracker” which plays the class card.

Kwame Zulu Shabazz Yeah the songs im thinking of were called “patty rollers” another name, as you note, for slave patrols. Not exactly sure if it has any connection with the Irish but will check it out to tomorrow cuz it getting late. im in my office and i gotta…umm…roll :O) Continue reading

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The Sunday Show with Philip Maldari | KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley

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Kevin Alexander Gray joins Philip Maldari on Sunday July 3 @12 noon to 1:00pm (Eastern) 9:00 to 10:00am (Pacific) to talk about Independence Day

On July 2, 1776, the “anti-slavery clause” was removed from the Declaration of Independence at the insistence of Edward Rutledge, delegate from South Carolina. Rutledge threatened that South Carolina would fight for King George against her sister colonies. He asserted that he had “the ardent support of proslavery elements in North Carolina and Georgia as well as of certain northern merchants reluctant to condemn a shipping trade largely in their own bloodstained hands.” Fearful of postponing the American Revolution, opponents of slavery, who were in the clear majority, made a “compromise.” Thus, July 4, 1776, marks for African Americans not Independence Day but the moment when their ancestors’ enslavement became fixed by law as well as custom in the new nation.

If only anti-slavery foes had said “no compromise!” to South Carolina and rejected slavery and white privilege, the United States would have begun as a principled nation instead of a hypocritical one..,” Kevin Alexander Gray.

(From “Dispatches From South Carolina: Same as it ever was” | Published May 2, 2000.)

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“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” | Martin Luther King, Jr.

Delivered 3 April 1968, Mason Temple [Church of God in Christ Headquarters], Memphis, Tennessee

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy in his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It’s always good to have your closest friend and associate say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world.

I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow. Something is happening in Memphis, something is happening in our world.

As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of picking a general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I’m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself.” But I wouldn’t stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.” Continue reading

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The Soul Will Find a Way | By Kevin Alexander Gray


The Life and Times of James Brown

 At the start of the 1960s, my father Paul moved my mom Geneva, three older brothers, younger sister and me from Boston to rural Spartanburg County in upstate South Carolina. He’d fled the South in the 1940s, enlisting in the Navy. Twenty years later, he returned to an inheritance of eleven shotgun houses and a juke joint at the foot of a hill in a tiny, segregated, one way in – one way out community called Freyline.

Gray’s Grocery was on the sign over the front door between the two round, red  Coca Cola logos, but everyone called the gathering spot “the store”. Gray’s Grocery was where all the maids, janitors, textile mill workers, field laborers, wannabe slicksters, young and old, sinners and saints met on weekends to dance, drink, gamble, talk, cuss, have an occasional scuffle, fist, gun or knife fight, and generally let it all hang out.  

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Kevin Gray on James Brown – Part 1

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Famous South Carolinians | Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater | By Kevin Alexander Gray

Aiken – Political consultant and strategist to the Republican Party 

 (February 27, 1951March 29, 1991)

Atwater was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, and graduated from Newberry College, a small private Lutheran institution in Newberry. He married and was father of three daughters.

Atwater was an advisor of  Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was also a political mentor and close friend of Republican strategist Karl Rove. Atwater invented or improved upon many of the techniques of modern electoral politics; including promulgating unflattering rumors and attempting to drive up opponents’ “negative” poll numbers as techniques. His foes have characterized him as the “happy hatchet man” and “the Darth Vader of the Republican party.”

112th Governor of South Carolina from 1987 to 1995 | Republican

Atwater rose during the 1970’s and the 1980 election in the South Carolina Republican party, working on the campaigns of Governor Carroll Campbell and Senator Strom Thurmond. During his years in South Carolina, Atwater became well known for running hard edged campaigns based on emotional “wedge issues.”

US Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC)

Atwater’s aggressive tactics were first demonstrated during the 1980 congressional campaigns. He was a campaign consultant to Republican incumbent Floyd Spence in his campaign for Congress against Democratic nominee Tom Turnipseed. Atwater’s tactics in that campaign included push polling in the form of fake surveys by “independent pollsters” to “inform” white suburbanites that Turnipseed was allegedly a member of the NAACP. Atwater also highlighted that Turnipseed had been “hooked up to jumper cables” as a teen undergoing electroshock therapy for depression.

Tom Turnipseed

After the 1980 election Atwater went to Washington and became an aide in the Ronald Reagan administration, working under political director Ed Rollins. During his years in Washington Atwater became aligned with Vice President Bush, who chose Atwater to run his 1988 presidential campaign.

 

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The 1979 Greensboro Massacre

Nelson Johnson

Nelson Johnson at the body of Jim Waller

Late morning, November 3, 1979, at the corner of Carver and Everitt Streets in Greensboro, North Carolina, forty Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis handed each other shotguns and automatic weapons from the trunks of their cars and opened fire on black and white anti-Klan demonstrators and union organizers who had gathered at Morningside Homes, a black housing project.

ssmith
Sandi Smith

Sandi Smith, a nurse who’d been active in the black student movement and was at the time trying to unionize textile workers, was shot between the eyes. 

The KKK and Nazi members shot at anyone who wasn’t hiding while four television news teams and one police officer recorded the action.  They then got back into their cars and sped away after which the Greensboro police arrived and began arresting protestors.

In the aftermath five people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.   All five were members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO), and four were rank-and-file union leaders and organizers.

*Murdered were:

Sandi Smith,  president of the student body and a founding member of the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) at Greensboro’s Bennett College. She was a community organizer for the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP) and became a worker at the textile mill where she and others formed the Revolution Organizing Committee (ROC) to unionize the plant. Sandi was a leader of a march of over 3,000 people in Raleigh to free the Wilmington 10, ten young activists jailed on false charges to stop them from organizing. In her work at a Cone Mills textile plant, she battled sexual harassment, low wages, and unhealthy working conditions.  

Jim Waller

Jim Waller

Dr. Jim Waller who received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and trained at the Lincoln Hospital Collective in New York City. In 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Waller organized medical aid and set up a clinic to aid American Indian Movement activists under siege by the FBI. When he moved to North Carolina to teach at Duke University he coordinated Brown Lung screenings in textile mills, co-founding the Carolina Brown Lung Association. He later gave up his medical practice to organize workers becoming vice president of the AFL-CIO local textile workers union  Waller and went to work in a Cone Mills textile plant in Haw River. From inside he helped organize and eventually became president of the AFL-CIO union local after leading a strike in 1978 that helped the union grow from about 25 members to almost 200.

wsampson
Bill Sampson

William “Bill” Sampson was a student anti-war activist and president of his college student body. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris during college, received his Masters degree in Divinity from Harvard in 1971, then studied medicine at the University of Virginia. As a medical student he organized health care workers to support the liberation struggles in southern Africa. Bill left medical school to work and organize in one of Cone Mills’ Greensboro textile plant, where he built the union and focused on training new leaders. The workers had chosen Bill to run for president of the local.

Cesar Cauce
Cesar Cauce

Cesar Cauce was a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, where he was a campus leader in the anti-war movement. He rejected a full scholarship to study history at the University of California at Berkeley and instead to help to unionize Duke Hospital workers. Cesar organized strike support for union struggles throughout NC and was a regular participant in the Goldkist strike, a campaign to organize poultry workers in Durham. He also traveled extensively throughout the South, writing about class struggles for the Workers Viewpoint.

Michael Nathan
Michael Nathan

Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, a clinic that helped children from low-income families. Nathan had been an anti-war and civil rights student activist at Duke University. He organized and led a chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), an organization that fought for improved health care for poor people. Mike studied child health and treated sick children in a mountain clinic in Guatemala in 1972 and 1973, and was a leader in a movement to send aid to liberation fighters who eventually toppled the apartheid system is what’s now Zimbabwe.

The permitted march and rally, declaring “Death to the Klan” was organized by the WVO, which was active in the poor neighborhoods and textile mills in the area. It advocated antiracism, unionism, and communist revolution. The group had previously clashed with Ku Klux Klan members prior to the deadly November encounter.  In July 1979 anti-racism protesters disrupted a screening of a pro-white supremacist film, “Birth Of A Nation” in China Grove, North Carolina. Continue reading

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