St. Louis Arch’s Golden Anniversary

Today, October 28, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary, that the capstone, which was the last triangular section of the St. Louis Arch, was set in place. The building of the Arch was a monumental feat of engineering. Speeches will be given about the great spirit, engineering and effort that went into the building of the Arch.

The history of the building of the Arch will be retold. The first stainless steel sections of the Arch arrived at the site where the foundation had already been prepared on February 12, 1963, construction began, and the final steel section of the Gateway Arch was placed on October 28, 1965.

Percy Green and Richard Daley on the St. Louis Arch, July 14, 1964

There is a part of that history that is often overlooked or excluded. Civil rights activists at the time regarded the construction of the Arch as a token of racial discrimination.  The Construction Company building the Arch, MacDonald Construction Co. of St. Louis, employed about 1,000 workers. MacDonald Construction did not use any black contractors and none of their employees were black. The writers of history often removed portions they prefer forgotten.

The February 2013 video below , an episode of City Corner, discusses St Louis Civil Rights Activities with Percy Green. His involvement in with the Arch protest is shown at the 17:34 mark.

On July 14, 1964, during the Arch workers' lunchtime, civil rights protesters Percy Green and Richard Daly, both members of Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.), climbed up 125-feet on the north leg of the arch to "expose the fact that federal funds were being used to build a national monument that was racially discriminating against black contractors and skilled black workers." As the pair disregarded demands to get off, protesters on the ground demanded that at least 10% of the skilled jobs belong to African Americans.


Percy Green and the McDonnell Douglass Test

Some of the same exclusionary tactics used during the construction of the St. Louis Arch, unfortunately, still seem very familiar today. During Percy Green's reflection upon those days prior to the Arch protest, he mentioned how bright students were reduced to criminal activity because of the lack of opportunity. That same lack of opportunity results in higher crime rates today.

His actions at the Arch set in motion events that would result in a Landmark Supreme Court decision affecting the entire nation.

 

Percy Green was a black mechanic and laboratory technician, and was laid off by McDonnell Douglas in 1964 shortly after the Arch protest, during a reduction in force at the company. Percy Green protested that his discharge was racially motivated. He and others, used cars to block roads to McDonnell Douglas factories. On one occasion, someone used a chain to lock the front door of a McDonnell Douglas downtown business office, preventing employees from leaving, though it was not certain whether Green was responsible.

McDonnell Douglas advertised for vacant mechanic positions, for which Green was qualified. Green applied, but was not hired, with McDonnell Douglas citing his participation in blocking traffic and chaining the building.

Green filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which resulted in a unanimous (9-0) Supreme Court's decision in Mr. Green's favor.

The case: McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 US 792 – Supreme Court 1973, created of a framework or ("test") for Title VII cases where there is only relatively indirect evidence as to whether an employment action was discriminatory in nature.

Mcdonnell Douglas test requires an employer to prove with evidence showing that the employment action complained was taken for nondiscriminatory reasons. However, the employee must show the following conditions are satisfied:

1.The plaintiff (employee) must establish a prima facie case of discrimination;

2.The defendant (employer) must produce evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its actions. If this occurs, then the presumption of discrimination becomes invalid;

3.The plaintiff (employee) must present facts to show an inference of discrimination.

Justice Delayed, Is Justice Denied

I realized everyone needs to know how to navigate the court system while witnessing people being financially ruined by predatory lawsuits and elderly people at risk of being homeless because of minor building code violations. Courts have the power to ruin your life. If you're not wealthy, you should take a moment and learn more about the law.

A 60 Minutes segment about Glenn Ford demonstrates the bias, indifference and callousness that occurs everyday in courtrooms.

30 Years On Death Row

Glenn Ford was the longest-serving death row inmate in the United States to be fully exonerated before his death. He was denied compensation by the state of Louisiana for his wrongful conviction. 60 Minutes told his story on October 11, 2015; the video below is copyrighted © 2015 CBS Interactive Inc.

The original prosecutor, Marty Stroud, apologized and admitted that he and the justice system perpetrated a horrible injustice upon Mr. Ford. However, Stroud admitted at the time of Mr. Ford's conviction, that he and his team celebrated the victory.

The current prosecutor, Dale Cox does not believe an injustice was committed against Glenn Ford. He reasoned since Mr. Ford was not executed and freed after 30 years, the system worked. Cox stated, "I'm not in the compassion business, none of us as prosecutors or defense lawyers are in the compassion business. I think the ministry is in the compassion business. We're in the legal business. So to suggest that somehow what has happened to Glenn Ford is abhorrent, yes, it's unfair. But it's not illegal. And it's not even immoral. It just doesn't fit your perception of fairness."

We Need to Talk About an Injustice

Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Stevenson has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system.

Columbus Day: Celebrating Slavery & Genocide

Once again, it's time to celebrate Columbus Day. Yet, the stunning truth is: If Christopher Columbus were alive today, he would be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Columbus' reign of terror, as documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam Hussein look like a pale codfish.

Question: Why do we honor a man who, if he were alive today, would almost certainly be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution?

Columbus' Jewish Secret

Columbus Day was conceived by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal organization, in the 1930s because they wanted a Catholic hero. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the day into law as a federal holiday in 1937, the rest has been history. The irony is that Christopher Columbus was not Catholic, but was secretly Jewish and was in search of a land far from persecution. But Columbus became a persecutor.

During Columbus' lifetime, Jews became the target of fanatical religious persecution. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain. The edict especially targeted the 800,000 Jews who had never converted, and gave them four months to pack up and get out.

The Jews who were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism were known as "Conversos," or converts. There were also those who feigned conversion, practicing Catholicism outwardly while covertly practicing Judaism, the so-called "Marranos," or swine.

Tens of thousands of Marranos were tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. They were pressured to offer names of friends and family members, who were ultimately paraded in front of crowds, tied to stakes and burned alive. Their land and personal possessions were then divvied up by the church and crown.

On the second Monday of October each year, Native Americans cringe at the thought of honoring a man who committed atrocities against Indigenous Peoples.

Columbus Never Landed on American Soil

Not in 1492, Not Ever. Columbus didn’t land on the higher 48—ever. Columbus quite literally landed in what is now known as the Bahamas and later Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Hispaniola (Haiti)

The natives living on the island that would come to be called Hispaniola were peaceful and not trained in military tactics. In the Pre-Columbian era, other Caribbean tribes would sometimes attack the island to kidnap people into slavery. However when Columbus arrived in 1492, slavery on the island turned into a major business: colonists quickly began establishing sugar plantations dependent on slave labor. The practice of slavery was so devastating to the native population that the Spanish began importing African slaves. In the Spanish New World colonies would become so large scale in Spain's colonization of the Americas that imports of African slaves outnumbered Spanish immigration to the New World by the end of the 1500s.

When Columbus arrived in what is today Haiti in December 1492 and met the native Taino Arawak people, they were friendly, exchanging gifts with the Spaniards and volunteering their help. When Columbus first saw the Native Arawaks that came to greet him and his crew he spoke with a peaceful and admiring tone.

“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Columbus was already planning to enslave them. He wrote in a letter to Queen Isabella of Spain that the natives were "tractable, and easily led; they could be made to grow crops and build cities".

When Columbus returned to Europe in 1493, 30 of his soldiers stayed to build a fort there called La Navidad. They began stealing from, raping, and enslaving the natives—in some cases they held native women and girls as sex slaves. Finding gold was a chief goal for the Spanish; they quickly forced enslaved natives to work in gold mines, which took a heavy toll in life and health. In addition to gold the slaves mined copper, and they grew crops for the Spaniards. In response to the brutality, the natives fought back. Some Taino escaped into remote parts of the island's mountains and formed communities in hiding as "maroons", who organized attacks against Spaniards' settlements. the Spanish responded to the native resistance with severe reprisals, for example destroying crops to starve the natives. The Spaniards brought to the island dogs trained to kill the natives and unleashed them upon those who rebelled against enslavement. In 1495 Columbus sent 500 captured natives back to Spain as slaves, but 200 did not survive the voyage, and the others died shortly afterwards. In the late 1490s he planned to send 4000 slaves back to Spain each year, but this expectation failed to take into account the rapid decline the native population would soon suffer and was never achieved.

It is not known how many Taino people were on the island prior to Columbus's arrival—estimates range from several thousand to eight million—but overwork in slavery and diseases introduced by the Europeans quickly killed a large part of the population. Between 1492 and 1494, one third of the native population on the island died. Two million had been killed within ten years of the Spaniards' arrival, and by 1514, 92% of the native population of the island were killed by enslavement and European diseases. By the 1540s the culture of the natives had disappeared from the island, and by 1548 the native population was under 500.

The rapid rate at which the native slaves died necessitated the import of Africans, for whom contact with Europeans was not new and who therefore had already developed some immunity to European diseases. Columbus's son Diego Columbus started the African slave trade to the island in 1505. Some newly arrived slaves from Africa and neighboring islands were able to escape and join maroon communities in the mountains. In 1519 Africans and Native Americans joined forces to start a slave rebellion that turned into a years-long uprising which was eventually crushed by the Spanish in the 1530s.

Spanish missionary Bartolomé de las Casas spoke out against the enslavement of the natives and the brutality of the Spaniards. He wrote that to the natives, the Christianity brought by the Spaniards had come to symbolize the brutality with which they had been treated; he quoted one Taino cacique (tribal chief), "They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters."

Las Casas commented that the Spaniards' punishment of a Taino man by cutting off his ear "marked the beginning of the spilling of blood, later to become a river of blood, first on this island and then in every corner of these Indies." Las Casas' campaign led to an official end of the enslavement of Tainos in 1542—however it was replaced by the African slave trade. As Las Casas had presaged, the Spaniards' treatment of the Tainos was the start of a centuries-long legacy of slavery in which abuse such as amputating body parts was commonplace.

Excerpts taken from the Huffington Post, Indian Country, CNN and Wikipedia.

Crime Won’t Decrease, Until Oppression Decreases

St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country. Unfortunately, it seemed as long as murders were only being committed within certain neighborhoods, no one outside the community really cared. Once murders and shootings began occurring in the Central West End, Downtown and other areas a crisis was declared. The speed in which suspects were found when the victim was white, was amazing and reflects an urgency disparity.

Greater concern, effort, and resources are expended when the victim is white. The media uses a different vocabulary to describe white victims and seldom are drugs or illegal activity mentioned. When a black shooting victim states they don't know why they were targeted, their integrity is questioned along with the possibility of the incident being drug or gang related. White victims appear to be instantly believed, even when their stories seem bazaar.

I am fifty years old, and during my lifetime, there have been 9,415 murders in St. Louis; an average of 188 per year. Among those victims were my brother-in-law and nephew. I don't know any black family that hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by murder. There was no crisis declared, no end violence initiatives by news channels until multiple white people became victims.

Ironically, some people seem to think that before channel 4's #EndViolenceSTL, that no one was concerned or addressing violence in our community. There have been multiple attempts to raise awareness and end violence, the most notable recent attempt was a Call to Oneness.

Unfortunately, a 16-year-old was killed just hours after the Call to Oneness event.  There was a "Clergy call for citywide prayer to end violence in St. Louis", months before Michael Brown. Until the  root causes of crime are addressed, various forms of oppression, it will continue and we are all at risk to falling victim to it.

War on drugs

The war on drugs was waged almost exclusively against black and brown people. After a new drug crisis was declared when methamphetamine and heroin began affecting white communities, no new drug war was declared. In fact, once large numbers of white kids became addicted to drugs, the country suddenly started to realize that the war on drugs was too harsh and unfair. Instead of calling for incarceration of these new white addicts, medical treatment was prescribed for their "illness".

American Drug War:The Last White Hope (a kevin booth film)

Visit Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other major city in the United States and you'll discover a statistical anomaly; each of these cities contains impoverished areas that are overwhelmingly black or brown. Unless you're prepared to say that black and brown people are less ambitious, less intelligent or inferior; you must come to the realization that those groups are artificially held back by institutionalized oppression and discrimination.

The sad reality is that many people  have been conditioned to believe that something is wrong with black and brown people. Unfortunately, some black people even believe this myth. Some have even convinced themselves that because they achieved some measure of success, they are somehow the exception to the rule. They don't seem to understand that when they move into an all-white community or attend white schools, that standard is applied to them and they are considered by those around them as less than. If you indict a group of people and you are a member of that group, you cannot escape the indictment.

Until systemic oppression and inequality ends, including; abusive policing, government policy, inferior education, business practices, media bias, resource distribution, unfair court practices, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination, crime will continue to rise and will spill over into communities that had previously been considered immune or safe.  Increasingly, criminals are beginning to realize it is more profitable to target people with more resources.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced,  where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” – Frederick Douglass

Crime and Poverty

Both the United Nations and the World Bank indicate  poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse.

According to the U.S. Census  Bureau, in the United States, there were 46.7 million people in poverty in 2014. The official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. Contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, which included 25,659,922 Whites, 11,197,648 Hispanics, 9,472,583 Blacks, and 1,899,448 Asians; poverty affects all groups.

At least 4.2 million, one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white, 27% of Latino children (4 million), 33% of black children (3.6 million), 12% of Asian children (400,000) and 40% of American Indian (200,000). Source National Center for Children in Poverty.

Even Elvis' recognized this when he recorded, "The Ghetto" in 1969. This song is about poverty, describing a child who can't overcome his surroundings and turns to crime, which leads to his death. It was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially-conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason.


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student will learn about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs.

Safety needs include those needs that provide a person with a sense of security and well-being. Personal security, financial security, good health and protection from accidents, harm, and their adverse effects are all included in safety needs.

Social needs also called love and belonging, refer to the need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social needs are important to humans so that they do not feel alone, isolated and depressed. Friendships, family, and intimacy all work to fulfill social needs.

Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem and respect, with self-respect being slightly more important than gaining respect and admiration from others.

Self-actualization needs describe a person's need to reach his or her full potential. The need to become what one is capable of is something that is highly personal. While I might have the need to be a good parent, you might have the need to hold an executive-level position within your organization.

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina news coverage and wondering if the government was purposefully trying to create a Maslow situation to cause people to act on their survival instincts to show images of blacks behaving like animals. How else could the government's lack of aid to such an enormous disaster be described?

The opposite occurred and the people of New Orleans displayed exceptional amounts of humanity towards one another.


Food Stamps

In many countries that do not provide an adequate safety net, kidnapping and other crimes that target well-off citizens are common. What many people do not seem to understand is that social programs such as food stamps, section 8 and others that help people meet basic needs, prevents people from being forced to turn to crime to meet those needs.

Use a simple common sense approach. What would you do if after following all the rules, you could not afford to provide for the basic needs of your family and your children are hungry? If you do not have family or friends who can help; and if there is no outside assistance available, many people would do things they would not have considered doing previously.

The media has demonized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as "food stamps" over the years, often portraying the recipients as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work.

Most SNAP recipients don’t rely exclusively on the benefits for food – only 22 percent of the program’s 47 million beneficiaries in 2013 had zero gross income. Many recipients have recently lost their jobs, are low wage earners or employed part time. Among those 22 percent with zero gross income are children, elderly, people affected by disasters, injured or too ill to work.

As pointed out in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when a person can't feed themselves or their family, they will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that need.  Oxford University and the Pew Research Center have estimated that half of all job that exists today will be gone within ten years. The irony is that as computerization and robotics displace large numbers of workers; the very people complaining about these benefits today, will be the same ones that the benefits will not available for tomorrow.

Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how SNAP helps disadvantaged people achieve success.

Famous People who were on Food Stamps

When Jan Koum sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion on February 19, 2014, he signed the paperwork against the front door of the welfare office where his family used to collect food stamps. After the sale of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, including:

President Barack Obama and his mother Ann Dunham received food stamps when the future president was a baby.

Musician Bruce Springsteen received food stamps during the earlier parts of his career. I have always respected the fact that Springsteen recorded "American Skin (41 Shots)" is a song inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

For those not familiar with Amadou Diallo

Dr. Ben Carson, in his book "Gifted Hands", wrote, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps," …"She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”

Craig T. Nelson who was once helped with food stamps seemed to be making an argument against government assistance for others.

Other notable food stamp recipients

Olympic speed skater Emily Scott was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600.

Viola Davis, Actress – grew up in extreme poverty and stated, "I Have Stolen, Jumped in Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food"

Scarlett Johansson – She stated, “My family grew up relying on public assistance to help provide meals for our family”.

Taraji P. Henson,  – Was on welfare after the tragic death of her husband

Kelly Clarkson – grew up poor living on food stamps.

Oprah Winfrey, – her mother had to rely on welfare to feed her family.

J.K Rowland – “Harry Potter” author argues government assistance helped her survive in her early years.

Whoopi Goldberg – became a mother at 17 and relied on welfare until she was able to do better.

Iyanla Vanzantraised in a family that relied on welfare to get by.

Tobey Maguire "As a kid, I was very poor. I mean, it's all relative, but we would get groceries from neighbors. I always had a roof over my head, but I slept on couches of relatives, and some night we wandered into a shelter. My family had food stamps and government medical insurance.

I've often wondered if we as a society have failed to properly educate and support a child who would have cured cancer.


Five Hour Energy Billionaire Trying to Make a Difference in the lives of the poor