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“THE HELP”: Controversy or Misunderstanding?

The Help came out the gate in second place at this weekend’s box office. On the heels of Planet Of The Apes, the women driven film grossed 26 million dollars on 2534 screens. Planet of The Apes in week two grossed 27 million dollars on 3691 screens.

Today’s interview was inspired by Mary Mitchell’s column in the Chicago Sun Times entitled ‘The Help’ Surprises With Dignified Portrayal of Black Maids

Take a look at the article and listen to the interview with Emma Young, CEO of Emma Young Creative Inc. who has a different take than Mary Mitchell on “The Help”.

What is it about image of black maids that make Black folks uncomfortable?

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    Posted 2 years, 11 months ago.

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    Octavia Spencer Busting Out In “THE HELP”

    Viola Davis (left) Octavia Spenser

    You may not know the name, but you’ve seen her face. Octavia Spenser is a very busy actress. Ms. Spenser has appeared in three films for this year. That is busy in Hollywood, especially for a woman of color in these hard economic times.

    One of those films is “The Help”. Octavia Spenser is busting out in “The Help”. After you see her outstanding performance, you will never forget her name. The name Octavia Spencer will roll off your tongue as easy as Halle Berry.

    The film will make you cry, but Octavia’s character Minny won’t let your tears stream for long.

    It appears that the producers of this film got it right when it came to casting. Like Viola Davis, Spencer is a product of the south. Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, the comedic actress attended Auburn University. Spencer is remarkable with her facial expressions, and can deliver a line without saying a word.

    In a previous post I boosted about Viola Davis carrying and delivering in The Help. Octavia’s performance greatly assist in the delivery. I can also see an Oscar nomination for Ms. Octavia Spenser. I would not be surprised if she carried home a gold statute.

    The Golden Globe may also be in the cards for both of these fine actresses.

    It has been brought to my attention that some people are insisting that people should not go out to see this amazing film. I don’t agree. I think this film is the product of a well written script, and the acting from the entire cast is superb.

    Further, it pays homage to a group of women who are so deserving. My maternal grandmother was a member of this reverent group of hard working women. I remember her having a rough life like the women in the film. I also remember her giving me unconditional love. I felt her presence through Viola’s performance. She was a strong no nonsense woman when it came to white people, so I also felt her presence through Octavia’s performance. Oh she would have enjoyed this film! I can see her now laughing uncontrollably at Minny’s revenge.

    The film didn’t nor could it touch on every despicable act they were faced with. This film is not about the relationship with the white men, but with the white women who had charge of the household. The film appears to have adequately described that relationship.

    As I said earlier, regardless of race, people should run out in droves to see this educational yet entertaining film.

    Look forward to seeing you at the Oscars Viola and Octavia.

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      Posted 2 years, 11 months ago.

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      Viola Davis Carries and Delivers The Help

      Last evening, I had the pleasure of seeing The Help in a movie theater in Greensboro, N.C. The Help pays tribute to the black domestic workers particularly those who worked during the civil rights era. This particular story takes place in Jackson Mississippi, a town that is known for arresting and jailing freedom riders and the murder of civil rights leader Medger Evers. In a nutshell the town of Jackson is and will always be known as a racist violent supporter of the unconstitutional Jim Crow laws.

      There of course were those whites who despised the Jim Crow way of life and would stand up to their racist associates. Such is the case in The Help. Sketter, an Ole Miss graduate who is not considered to be attractive comes back home after graduation and finds a job at the Jackson Journal giving cleaning advise to white female aristocracy. Because she was raised by the family’s black maid, she knows nothing about cleaning. While away at college, she is told that their black maid quit to go live with her daughter in Chicago, so she reaches out to a friend’s maid to solicit answers for her cleaning advice column. The maid played by Viola Davis has no choice in the matter and takes on this chore along with caring for a little girl whose mother never touches the child, cooking, washing the clothes, as well as cleaning the entire house.

      While getting the advice from the maid, Sketter decides to write a book about the help, especially after finding out that the maid (played by Cicely Tyson) she loved and adorned was fired. Sketter finds that the maids are reluctant to talking to her, however, after Medger Evers is murdered for registering blacks to vote and a maid is arrested and imprisoned, the maids change their mind.

      The story briefly touches on how these under paid women are cheated out of their social security contribution by employers who build separate bathrooms outside the home for the women to use. Showing that the scars of slavery run deep, it also touches on the domestic violence experienced by these women from their under paid over worked husbands who are treated less than human as well.

      What it doesn’t show is the domestic violence the children experience from the mothers who of course come from a long line of domestic workers dating back to slavery.

      Unlike The Secret Of Bees, the acting is superb. Nothing against Queen Latifah and Alicia Keyes, but these women were not able capture the era, thus rendering their performance dead on arrival. Perhaps they did such a poor job because they had nothing to tap into.

      Oscar nominated Viola Davis who turns 46 today (August 11, 2011) was born on her grandmother’s farm in St. Matthews, South Carolina. Although the two time Tony and Drama Desk award winner grew up in Rhode Island, it appears she was able to tap into her southern roots for this role.

      Considered as one of the best actors whether it be stage or screen, Ms. Davis carried this film on her shoulders and delivered. I can see not only another Oscar nomination, but I can envision Ms. Davis carrying the coveted statute home this time.

      The film is educational as well as entertaining. You will have tears in your eyes, but there are plenty of laughs as well, as the film shows how these hard working women survived the inhuman treatment by their employers whose ignoramus mentality resembles that on Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin.

      In this moronic political environment surrounding the first African American U.S. President, people regardless of color should run out in droves to see this picture. You won’t regret it. Also take look at the trailer above.

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        Posted 2 years, 11 months ago.

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        GET ON THE BUS: A Story Of Civil Disobedience

        The Freedom Riders were mostly middle aged civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia (of 1960). The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in the Big Easy (New Orleans) on May 17.

        Boynton v. Virginia had outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission (“ICC”) had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel. The ICC, however, had failed to enforce its own ruling, and therefore Jim Crow travel laws remained in effect throughout the South.

        The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this segregation status quo set of local laws and customs by riding various forms of public transportation in the South. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses.

        Most of the subsequent rides were sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), while others belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”). The Freedom Rides followed on the heels of dramatic sit-ins against segregated lunch counters conducted by students and youth throughout the South and boycotts beginning in 1960.

        The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Boynton v. Virginia granted interstate travelers the legal right to disregard local segregation ordinances regarding interstate transportation facilities. But the Freedom Riders’ rights were not enforced, and their actions were considered criminal acts throughout most of the South. For example, upon the Riders’ arrival in Mississippi, their journey ended with imprisonment for exercising their legal rights in interstate travel. Similar arrests took place in other Southern cities.

        The Freedom Riders were inspired by the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, led by civil rights activists Bayard Rustin ( March on Washington) and George Houser. Like the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Journey of Reconciliation was intended to test an earlier Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. Rustin and a few of the other riders, chiefly members of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), were arrested and sentenced to serve on a chain gang in North Carolina for violating local Jim Crow laws regarding segregated seating on public transportation.

        The first Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961. Led by CORE Director James Farmer, 13 riders (seven black, six white) left Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Their plan was to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, ending with a rally in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of the Riders were from CORE, and two were from SNCC. Many were in their 40s and 50s.

        The Freedom Riders tactics for their journey were to have at least one interracial pair sitting in adjoining seats and at least one black Rider sitting up front (seats usually reserved for white customers only), while the rest would sit scattered throughout the rest of the bus. One rider would abide by the South’s segregation ideals in order to avoid arrest and to contact CORE and arrange bail for those who were arrested.

        Only minor trouble was encountered in Virginia and North Carolina, but John Lewis was attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and some of the Riders were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Winnsboro, South Carolina.

        Violence in Alabama was organized by Birmingham Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter) and the infamous police commissioner Bull Connor. The pair made plans to bring the Ride to an end in Alabama. They assured Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informer and member of Eastview Klavern #13 (the most violent Klan group in Alabama), that the mob would have fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders without any arrests being made. The final plan laid out an initial assault in Anniston with a final assault taking place in Birmingham.

        In Anniston, Alabama, a mob attacked the Greyhound bus and slashed its tires. When the crippled bus had to stop several miles outside of town, it was firebombed by the mob chasing it in cars. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intent on burning the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, allowing the riders to escape the bus. The riders were viciously beaten as they fled the burning bus, and only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched.

        That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2 AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital. Local civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of blacks who defied the mob to rescue the injured Freedom Riders.

        When the Trailways bus reached Anniston and pulled in at the terminal an hour after the Greyhound bus was burned, it was boarded by eight Klansmen, who proceeded to beat the Freedom Riders and afterwards left them semi-conscious in the back of the bus. When the bus arrived in Birmingham, it too was attacked by a mob of Ku Klux Klan members, aided and abetted by the police under the orders of Commissioner Bull Connor. As the riders exited the bus, they were mercilessly beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains. Among the Klansmen attacking the riders was FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe. White Freedom Riders were particularly singled out for frenzied beatings; James Peck required more than 50 stitches to the wounds in his head. Peck was taken to Carraway Methodist Medical Center, which refused to treat him; he was later treated at Jefferson Hillman Hospital.

        When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Alabama to try to calm the situation.

        Despite the violence suffered already and the threat of more to come, the Freedom Riders desired to continue their journey. Kennedy had arranged an escort for the Riders in order to get them to Montgomery safely. However, radio reports told of the mob awaiting the riders at the bus terminal, as well as on the route to Montgomery. The Greyhound clerks also informed them that their drivers were refusing to drive any Freedom Riders anywhere. The Riders agreed that their efforts had already called great attention to the civil rights cause and that if they encountered any more delays, then they would miss the rally in New Orleans. Taking all this into consideration, the Riders decided that their best option was to abandon the rest of the Ride and fly directly to New Orleans from Birmingham.

        Nashville student and SNCC leader Diane Nash felt that if violence were allowed to halt the Freedom Rides, the movement would be set back years. She pushed to find replacements to resume the ride, and, on May 17, a new set of riders, 10 students from Nashville, took a bus to Birmingham, where they were arrested by Bull Connor and jailed. These students kept their spirits up in jail by singing freedom songs. Out of frustration, Connor drove them back up to the Tennessee line and dropped them off, stating, “I just couldn’t stand their singing.” They immediately returned to Birmingham.

        The Freedom Riders who had answered SNCC’s call from across the Eastern US joined John Lewis and Hank Thomas, the two young SNCC members of the original Ride who had remained in Birmingham. On May 19, they attempted to resume the ride, but, terrified by the howling mob surrounding the bus depot, the drivers refused. Harassed and besieged by the KKK mob, the riders waited all night for a bus.

        Under intense public pressure from the Kennedy administration, Greyhound was forced to provide a driver, and Alabama Governor John Patterson reluctantly promised to protect the bus from KKK mobs and snipers on the road between Birmingham and Montgomery after direct intervention from Attorney General’s office employee Byron White. On the morning of May 20, the Freedom Ride resumed, with the bus carrying the riders traveling toward Montgomery at 90 miles an hour protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol.

        However, when they reached the Montgomery city limits, the Highway Patrol abandoned them. At the bus station on South Court Street, a white mob awaited and beat the Freedom Riders with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed the beatings to go on uninterrupted.

        Again, white Freedom Riders were singled out for particularly brutal beatings. Reporters and news photographers were attacked first and their cameras destroyed, but there is a famous picture taken later of Jim Zwerg in the hospital, beaten and bruised. Justice Department official Seigenthaler was beaten and left unconscious lying in the street. Ambulances refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Local blacks rescued them, and a number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized.

        On the following night, Sunday, May 21, more than 1500 people packed Reverend Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church to honor the Freedom Riders. Among the speakers were Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Farmer. Outside, a mob of more than 3,000 whites attacked blacks, with a handful of the United States Marshals Service protecting the church from assault and fire bombs. With city and state police making no effort to restore order, President Kennedy threatened to commit federal troops, but Governor Patterson forestalled that by ordering the Alabama National Guard to disperse the mob.[

        On the next day, Monday, May 22, more Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC arrived in Montgomery to continue the rides and replace the wounded riders still in the hospital. Behind the scenes, the Kennedy administration arranged a deal with the governors of Alabama and Mississippi. The governors agreed that state police and the National Guard would protect the Riders from mob violence (thereby ending embarrassing media coverage of bloody lawlessness), and, in return, the federal government would not intervene to stop local police from arresting Freedom Riders for violating segregation ordinances when the buses arrived at the depots (even though such arrests violated the Supreme Court’s Boynton decision).

        On Wednesday morning, May 24, Freedom Riders boarded buses for the journey to Jackson, Mississippi. Surrounded by Highway Patrol and the National Guard, the buses arrived in Jackson without incident, and the riders were immediately arrested when they tried to use the white-only facilities at the depot. In Montgomery, Freedom Riders including Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Gaylord Brewster Noyce, Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker, and others were similarly arrested for violating local segregation ordinances.

        This established a pattern followed by subsequent Freedom Rides, most of which traveled to Jackson, where they were arrested and jailed. The strategy became one of trying to fill the jails. Once the Jackson and Hinds County jails were filled to overflowing, Freedom Riders were transferred to the infamous Mississippi State Penitentiary (“Parchman Farm”). Their abusive treatment included placement in the Maximum Security Unit (Death Row), issuance of only underwear, no exercise, no mail, and, when Freedom Riders refused to stop singing freedom songs, they took away mattresses, sheets, and toothbrushes and removed the screens from the windows. When the cell block became filled with mosquitoes, they hosed everyone down with DDT at 2 AM.

        Some of the notable freedom riders were as follows: Stokely Carmichael, James L. Farmer, Jr.,
        US Representative Bob Filner (D-CA), US Representative John Lewis (D-GA), William Mahoney, Wally Nelson, James Peck, and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson and Diane Nash.

        The Kennedys called for a “cooling off period” and condemned the Rides as unpatriotic because they embarrassed the nation on the world stage. Attorney General Robert Kennedy—the chief law-enforcement officer of the land—was quoted as saying that he “does not feel that the Department of Justice can side with one group or the other in disputes over Constitutional rights.”

        Defying the Kennedys, CORE, SNCC, and SCLC rejected any “cooling off period”. They formed a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep the Rides rolling through June, July, August, and September. During those months, more than 60 different Freedom Rides criss-crossed the South, most of them converging on Jackson, where every Rider was arrested, more than 300 in total, plus an unknown number of riders arrested in other Southern towns. It is estimated that almost 450 riders participated in one or more Freedom Rides. About 75% were male, and the same percentage were under the age of 30, mostly evenly divided between black and white.

        During the summer of 1961, Freedom Riders also campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together in segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when it targeted large companies, which, fearing boycotts in the North, began to desegregate their businesses.

        In mid-June, a group of Freedom Riders had scheduled to end their ride in Tallahassee, Florida, with plans to fly home from the Tallahassee airport. They were provided a police escort to the airport from the city’s bus facilities. At the airport, they decided to eat at a restaurant that was signed “For Whites Only”. The owners decided to close rather than serve the Freedom Riders. Although the restaurant was privately owned, it was leased from the county government. Canceling their plane reservations, the Riders decided to wait until the restaurant re-opened so they could be served. They waited until 11:00 pm that night and returned the following day. During this time, hostile crowds gathered, threatening violence. On June 16, 1961, the Freedom Riders were arrested in Tallahassee for unlawful assembly. That arrest became known as Dresner v. City of Tallahassee, which made its way to the US Supreme Court in 1963, in which a hearing was refused based on technical reasons.

        On May 29, 1961, bowing to the demands of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders, as well as international outrage, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in an unorthodox legal maneuver, sent a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to comply with a bus-desegregation ruling it had issued in November, 1955, Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. That ruling had explicitly repudiated separate but equal in the realm of interstate bus travel, but, under the chairmanship of South Carolina Democrat J. Monroe Johnson, the ICC had failed to enforce its own ruling.

        In September 1961, bowing to pressure from the Attorney General and the civil rights movement, the ICC issued the necessary orders, and the new policies went into effect on November 1, 1961, a full six years after the ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. After the new ICC rule took effect, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains, “white” and “colored” signs came down in the terminals, separate drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms were consolidated, and the lunch counters began serving people regardless of race.

        The Freedom Rides sent shock waves through American society. People worried that the Rides were evoking widespread social disorder and racial divergence. This attitude was supported and strengthened in many communities by the press. The press in white communities condemned the direct action approach CORE was taking, while the national press negatively portrayed the Riders.

        Yet, the Freedom Rides established great credibility with blacks and whites throughout the United States, who became motivated to engage in direct action for civil rights. Perhaps most significantly, Freedom Riders, facing such danger on their behalf, impressed blacks living in rural areas throughout the South who later formed the backbone of the civil rights movement. This credibility inspired many subsequent civil rights campaigns, including voter registration, freedom schools, and the black power movement.

        PBS will be airing a film about this historical event which will be celebrating its’ 50th year anniversary. The film is directed by Peabody award winning film maker Stanley Nelson. A telephone interview with Nelson by Febone1960.net can be heard above.
        Below is a video discussing a PBS event encouraging the young people to learn about civil disobedience. Take a look at both.

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          Posted 3 years, 3 months ago.

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          Legendary Greensboro, N.C. Physician Dies at 103

          GREENSBORO – Dr. George Harrison Evans died at home on February 4, 2011 at the age of 103. His devoted wife, Margueritte Evans, was at his side.

          A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Thursday, February 10, 2011 at Saint James Presbyterian Church, 820 Ross Ave., Greensboro.

          He was born on May 18, 1907 to parents, James Royal Evans and Lillie Carmichael Evans in Milan, Tennessee; the third born of three children. His brother, James Carmichael Evans, and sister, Ruby Evans Washington, are deceased.

          Dr. Evans who began his medical practice in a segregated Greensboro, N.C. in December 1934 was the first to hold my tiny 6 pounds body when I arrived on this earth. You see Dr. Evans delivered over 3000 babies! Two of those babies would have been David Richmond and Ezell Blair Jr.((now Jibreel Khazan). Richmond and Blair were two of the four freshmen who initiated the >Woolworht Sit-In Movement in downtown Greensboro. A long time member of St. James Presbyterian Church, Dr. Evans along with other members including the beloved Reverend Douglas supported the Sit-IN Movement.

          He retired in 1981 after 47 years of dedicated service.

          I recall running into Dr. Evans in the late 1990s at a funeral. I’ve not lived in Greensboro for some decades and was certain that he would not even remember me or my parents. I was so wrong. After introducing myself, he spoke of my father and recalled which child I was amongst my siblings and the year I was born. A few years ago, I called him on the phone and once again he remembered me. I was impressed that a man of 100 years could remember his patients and their kids, whom he had delivered. Living at the age of 103, he also attended the funerals of some of the babies he delivered. The funeral which I’ve reference was one of his 3000 deliveries.

          He and his wife, Margueritte Webster, were married on September 23, 1934, and they rejoiced in the celebration of 76 years together. They had one son, James Webster Evans, now deceased; and two grandsons, James Alan Evans and Alexander Noel Evans.

          Dr. Evans attended Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1933, he graduated from Meharry Medical College and received his initial hospital training at City Hospital Number 2 (later renamed Homer G. Phillips Hospital) in St. Louis, Missouri. He furthered his graduate training at the Polyclinic Hospital in New York City.

          Aside from his dedication to his patients, Dr. Evans served with many civic and religious organizations. He was a former Board of Trustees member and former secretary of the board at L. Richardson Memorial Hospital. He served as chief of the medical staff at L. Richardson from 1950-1951 and worked at the hospital for the entire 47 years he was in practice. He was also a member of the Old North State Medical Society.

          Dr. Evans was appointed chairman of the Mayor’s Special Committee on Human Relations and credited with helping in the struggles for integration. Among many other memberships, Dr. Evans was an active member of the Greensboro Men’s Club.

          He was a dedicated member of St. James Presbyterian Church; a charter member and the first president of the Men’s Choir, also serving on the Trustee Board, the Community Relations Committee, and the Finance Committee of the church.

          The community has also awarded Dr. Evans with many other honors, among these an Evans Subdivision and the Evans-Blount Community Health Center. Last year, the Gateway Gardens Icon Sculpture (E. Lee and Florida St.) was given to the city by the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation to honor Dr. George H. Evans & Mrs. Margueritte W. Evans.

          In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to your preferred institution or The Dr. and Mrs. George H. Evans Endowed Scholastic Fund at Meharry Medical College, 1005 Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN 37208,.

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            Posted 3 years, 5 months ago.

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