White Actor Cast as Michael Jackson

A white actor, Joseph Fiennes, has been cast to play Michael Jackson in a British TV production about a fabled road trip made by Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando took while trying to get home to Los Angeles from New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, commented: “Are you for real?” “All the drama going on over black actors being ignored, and you’re getting a white actor to play the greatest black pop star of all time.”  “And the worst thing is it’s not even like the best white actor,”

Just days ago, we published a post about the Oscars. Maybe white actors playing black characters is one of the reasons blacks are having difficulty being nominated for an Oscar. The Washington Post recently published an article, “100 times a white actor played someone who wasn’t white: Hollywood has moved on from blackface, but it remains terrible at casting people of color.”

On our page about racial bias in mass media, we talked about how actual black heroes have been portrayed as white, including the black marine at ground zero in the movie “World Trade Center.”

During an interview with Oprah, below, Michael Jackson stated,  “Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a black American. I’m proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am.” Jackson makes the comments at around the 23:46 mark in the video. Maybe Jennifer Beals or Halle Berry should have been cast as Elizabeth Taylor, who makes an appearance during the interview; especially since Taylor portrayed Cleopatra, who is speculated to have been of black African ancestry.

Why I Won’t Be Boycotting the Oscars

Most people reading this don't know me and have most likely never heard of me. Weather I watch or boycott the Oscars won't matter to most people, especially those within the industry. I am not rich, at least not yet, and that fact alone, for many will disqualify my statement.

I do not normally watch the Oscars, because it is usually boring and does not usually include many movies that I'm interested in. I am more interested in movies that include major black characters. The movies I would pick to win are often not nominated. For example, I would have nominated Denzel for John Q instead of Training Day, however, I did enjoy Training Day.

I am curious how Chris Rock will handle this issue and will most likely tune in briefly, but as usual, I probably won't watch the majority of the show. The Oscar controversy will probably result in record-breaking ratings numbers, because people who would not have normally watched, like me, will now watch to see what Chris Rock will say.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the trade organization that produces the Oscars. Since 1939 the Academy has presented Oscars to those members nominated and voted the best. The Oscars for 87 years have been awarded mostly to white actors and only 15 black actors have received Oscar awards. The entertainment world in general is overwhelmingly white in the United States. Watch any award show and the vast majority of those in attendance will be white and the majority of winners will be white, it's always been that way.

The View guest host Sunny Hostin, a lawyer and tv personality, pointed out that the Academy is 94% Caucasian, and misstated 46% of movie tickets last year were purchased by African-Americans. I'm sure Ms. Hostin was referring to the MPAA Report (pg. 13), that Caucasians purchased 54% of all movies tickets while non-Caucasians (Hispanics 23%, African-Americans 12% and Asians 11%), purchased the other 46%. However, she did make a very strong point about the power of the African-American Dollar.

The Academy has only had five black Oscar hosts in its 87 year history: Sammy Davis Jr. 1972, 1975; Diana Ross 1974; Richard Pryor 1977, 1983; Whoopi Goldberg 1994, 1996, 1999, 2002; Chris Rock 2005, 2016. Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock are the only black solo host, Davis, Ross and Pryor were all part of a team of hosts.

The Academy also has its first black female president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was instrumental in removing the restriction of the number of members and initiated a drive to invite over 400 new members, many of whom were young and came from diverse backgrounds. First black producer ever to win Best Picture, Steve McQueen, occurred during Isaacs' first year as president in 2013.

If there was going to be a boycott of the Oscars, it should have happened a long time ago instead of now. The two main voices used to justify a boycott, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee most likely would not have complained if their movies (Concussion or Chi-Raq would have been the only black movie nominated. However, Will Smith has said even if he was nominated, he would feel the same way. Although I have enjoyed many of Will Smith's movies and consider myself a fan, I'm not sure I believe his statement.

Will Smith has been nominated twice (Ali & The Pursuit of Happiness), and in both instances he lost out to another Black actor, Denzel Washington for Training Day and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.

The majority of jobs in the entertainment industry are behind the scenes and many of those positions are good paying jobs, however, blacks are underrepresented. Blacks in front of the camera should be just as upset that people who look like them are not behind the camera, in the graphics department, lighting, editing and a number of other positions.

There are an estimated 45.6 million black people in the United States. If we were a separate country, we would be the 31st most populist country in the world, just behind Spain, Columbia and Kenya. There should be a concerted effort to develop our own information and entertainment companies and institutions.

Twelve Richest Black Celebrities

The top twelve richest African-Americans created their wealth  mostly from the entertainment industry. Source:  http://www.richestlifestyle.com/richest-african-americans/

Bill Cosby ($380 million)
Tyler Perry ($400 million)
Beyonce ($450 million)
Majic Johnson ($500 million)
Mariah Carey ($520 million)
Jay Z ($520 million)
Robert Johnson ($550 million)
Tiger Woods ($600 million)
Diddy ($700 million)
Dr. Dre ($780 million)
Michael Jordan ($1 billion)
Oprah ($3 Billion)

The twelve people above have a combined wealth of $9.4 billion, however, there is not one major black movie studio, record company, broadcast television or distribution network. Years ago Bill Cosby tried to purchase NBC and some believe that ambition led to being crucified in the media. Blacks own just 10 U.S. television stations; less than one percent of all television properties, and less than 2 percent of radio.

Tyler Perry Studios may be on track to becoming a major studio and he has partnered with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to produce programming. It’s hard to overstate the influence of filmmaker Tyler Perry on the recent mainstream success of African American movies. From 2005 to 2013, Perry had at least one film in the top 100; in six of those years he had at least two. Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, his first feature film, cost less than $6 million to make and grossed more than $50 million domestically.

However, since Discovery and Harpo each own 50% of Oprah Winfrey Network, and Oprah gave at least 10% ownership of Harpo to Jeff Jacobs when he became president of OWN, Oprah can not be considered majority owner of the OWN Network.

Black Celebrities Should Pool Their Resources

The richest black celebrities have enough combined wealth to finance just about any project imaginable. However, the richest celebrities are not the only ones who can collaborate on projects. Many successful black movies have been made on relatively low budgets by Hollywood standard. For example:

I'm not a Hollywood insider, but I suspect that booking the talent, especially "A" list stars add significantly to movie budgets. Celebrity partners could draw a percentage of the profits instead of a salary off the projects they create.

Celebrities who did not make it into the top twelve include:

Shaquille O'Neal ($350 million)
Russell Simmons ($325 million)
Quincy Jones ($310 million)
Floyd Mayweather ($280 million)
LeBron James ($270 million)
50 Cents ($270 million)
Kobe Bryant ($260 million)
Will Smith ($250 million)
Samuel Jackson ($150 million)
R. Kelly ($150 million)
Denzel Washington ($150 million)
Lil Wayne ($135 million)
Rihanna ($120 million)
Snoop Dogg  ($120 million)
Ice Cube ($120 million)
Usher ($110 million)
Martin Lawrence ($110 million)
Serena Williams ($100 million)
LL Cool J ($100 million)
Morgan Freeman ($90 million)
Kanye West ($90 million)
Tyra Banks ($90 million)
Jamie Foxx ($85 million)
Pharrell Williams ($80 million)
Venus Williams ($75 million)
Eddie Murphy ($75 million)
Chris Rock ($70 million)
Halle Berry ($70 million)
Sidney Poitier ($65 million)
Queen Latifah ($60 million)
Raven Symone ($53 million)
Alicia Keys ($50 million)
T.I. ($50 million)
John Singleton ($50 million)
Kimora Lee Simmons ($50 million)
Naomi Campbell ($48 million)
Nicki Minaj ($45 million)
Andre 3000 ($45 million)
Dennis Haysbert  ($42 million)
Spike Lee ($40 million)
Shonda Rhimes ($40 million)
Eriq La Salle ($40 million)
Don Cheadle ($35 million)
Kandi Burrus ($35 million)
Terrence Howard ($30 million)
Ice T ($30 million)
Vanessa Williams ($28 million)
Kevin Hart ($25 million)

Source for net worth figures:

The total combine wealth of the celebrities above is close to $15 billion dollars. Consider the projects that could be created, if some of the black celebrities pooled their talent and a fraction of their resources. Instead of relying on white studios executives to approve projects, they could collaborate and create whatever they want.

United Artists, which became a major movie studio was formed when four white film stars began to talk of forming their own company to better control their own work as well as their futures. There's nothing preventing black celebrities from doing the same thing.

The are a number of "A" list celebrities not included in either list above. Black celebrities with a net worth of less than $25 million we're excluded from the list, but there are many other black celebrities who are worth 5, 10, 15 or 20 million who could just as easily partner with others to get projects off the ground.

MLK Day and St. Louis’ first murder of the year

I didn't attend any ceremonies, speeches or marches this Martin Luther King holiday. Instead, I attended the funeral of the first murder victim in the City of St. Louis, Markel Simms.

On January 8th, I wrote a two sentence editorial beneath the headline, on the news page,  announcing St. Louis' first murder of the year. Two days later, I discovered that the murder victim was my nephew's cousin. My nephew, who lives in California, was devastated when he got the news. His brother was killed almost twenty years ago on the same street.

Markel was 35 years old, married and the father of four children. The pastor who eulogized Markel was a police officer with the Homicide, Ministers & Community Alliance (HMCA), a group founded to assist families as they cope with the homicide of a loved one; originally authorized by former police chief Dan Isom. It was refreshing to know that the St. Louis Police Department had such a program. Protect and serve was in full effect today.

The pastor describe how the worst sound in the world is that of a mother upon seeing her child's body at a murder scene, a sight he acknowledged, he has experience much too often. He reminded everyone that all life is precious and warned against the dangers of  vengeance and retribution. He also mentioned how most of St. Louis' murder victims are mostly young black men and women and how most of those murdered were killed by someone they knew. He cautioned those in attendance to mind the company they kept.

I couldn't help but think about the tragedy of attending a funeral of a murdered young black man on Martin Luther King Day. As I listened to the pastor's eulogy, I couldn't help but think about what King might say.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the funeral today, I saw people who I have known for years, some for most of my life who I never knew had a connection to Markel or one of his family members and I was reminded how interconnected we all are.

What happens in a person's mind when they decide that a particular person's life no longer matters and decides to end it? Do they ever consider the fact that they may be killing the brother of their future wife? Do they consider that life may be a relative of a close friend? Do they think about all the other lives that will be impacted?

As I made my parting view of Markel, I thought to myself how a part of King's dream had died with Markel and with all the other murder victims, past and future. Help keep King's dream alive.

Help someone lift up someone else. If you can help a neighbor, co-worker or even a stranger, do it! It could be as simple as giving advice about how or what to do. Young black men killing each other is a symptom of the diseases of poverty, hopelessness, marginalization and negative self imagery. If you can help cure just one person, you will have made a tremendous difference and helped keep the dream alive!

My Dungeon Shook

Hours after I attended Markel's funeral, Chris Rock read James Baldwin's letter to his nephew, "My Dungeon Shook", during a tribute at the "MLK Now" event in Harlem honoring the late Martin Luther King.

Although this letter was written in 1963, it describes the challenges faced by young black men all across America and is still unfortunately true and timely.

by James Baldwin

Dear James:

I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother. Like him, you are tough, dark, vulnerable, mood—with a very definite tendency to sound truculent because you want no one to think you are soft. You may be like your grandfather in this, I don’t know, but certainly both you and your father resemble him very much physically. Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him. This is one of the reasons that he became so holy. I am sure that your father has told you something about all that. Neither you nor your father exhibit any tendency towards holiness: you really are of another era, part of what happened when the late E. Franklin Frazier called “the cities of destruction.” You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger. I tell you this because I love you, and please don’t forget it.

I have known both of you all your lives, have carried your Daddy in my arms and on my shoulders, kissed and spanked him and watched him learn to walk. I don’t know if you’ve known anybody from that far back; if you’ve loved anybody that long, first as an infant, then as a child, then as a man, you gain a strange perspective on time and human pain and effort. Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his. Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember and I hear in his present laughter his laughter as a child. Let him curse and I remember him falling down the cellar steps, and howling, and I remember, with pain, his tears, which my hand or your grandmother’s so easily wiped away. But no one’s hand can wipe away those tears he sheds invisibly today, which one hears in his laughter and in his speech and in his songs. I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be, indeed one must strive to become, tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of man. (But remember: most of mankind is not all of mankind.) But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.

Now, my dear namesake, these innocent and well-meaning people, your countrymen, have caused you to be born under conditions not very far removed from those described for us by Charles Dickens in the London of more than a hundred years ago. (I hear the chorus of the innocents screaming, “No! This is not true! How bitter you are!”—but I am writing this letter to you, to try to tell you something about how to handle them, for most of them do not yet really know that you exist. I know the conditions, under which you were born, for I was there. Your countrymen were not there, and haven’t made it yet. Your grandmother was also there, and no one has ever accused her of being bitter. I suggest that the innocents check with her. She isn’t hard to find. Your countrymen don’t know that she exists, either, though she has been working for them all their lives.)
Well, you were born, here you came, something like fourteen years ago: and though your father and mother and grandmother, looking about the streets through which they were carrying you, staring at the walls into which they brought you, had every reason to be heavyhearted, yet they were not. For here you were, Big James, named for me—you were a big baby, I was not—here you were: to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard, at once, and forever, to strengthen you against the loveless world. Remember that: I know how black it looks today, for you. It looked bad that day, too, yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.

This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that, for the heart of the matter is here, and the root of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born, and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.

Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth , you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could do it and whom you could marry. I know that your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying “You exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem, and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine—but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence your came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what that believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, though the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you.

The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shinning and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is our of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.

You, don’t be afraid. I said that it was intended that you should perish in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go behind the white man’s definitions, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention; and, by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, those innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality. But these men are your brothers—your lost, younger brothers. And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.

For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become. It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved and unassailable and monumental dignity. You come from a long line of poets, some of the greatest poets since Homer. One of them said, The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.

You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon. We cannot be free until they are free. God bless you, James, and Godspeed.

Your uncle,

A city full of poor black people poisoned!

This is what can go wrong when government officials are not watched and controlled by those they govern. Michael Moore is requesting that people visit his website to sign a petition. Below is a letter written by Michael Moore, the Oscar and Emmy winning director.

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this to you from the place where I was born — Flint, Michigan. Please consider this personal appeal from me and the 102,000 citizens of the city of Flint who have been poisoned — not by a mistake, not by a natural disaster, but by a governor and his administration who, to "cut costs," took over the city of Flint from its duly elected leaders, unhooked the city from its fresh water supply of Lake Huron, and then made the people drink the toxic water from the Flint River. This was nearly two years ago.

This week it was revealed that at least 10 people in Flint have now been killed by these premeditated actions of the Governor of Michigan. This governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the democratic election of this mostly African-American city — where 41% of the people live below the "official" poverty line — and replaced the elected Mayor and city council with a crony who was instructed to take all his orders from the governor's office.

One of those orders from the State of Michigan was this: "It costs too much money to supply Flint with clean drinking water from Lake Huron (the 3rd largest body of fresh water in the world). We can save a lot of money doing this differently. So unhook the city from that source and let them drink the water known as 'General Motors' Sewer' — the Flint River."

And, lo and behold, the Governor was right. It was a lot cheaper! Fifteen million dollars cheaper! And for saving all that money, it is now estimated that to repair the damaged water system in Flint, it will cost at least $1.5 billion. Someone had suggested to the governor, before he did this, that the river contained many toxins. He ignored that. One of his own people said maybe they should add a safe-to-drink "corrosive protector" to the water so that the toxins in said water wouldn't leach the lead off the aging water pipe infrastructure and into the drinking water. "How much will that cost?" asked the governor's office.

"Just $100 a day for only 3 months," the governor was told. Oh, $100 a day?! THAT'S TOO MUCH!, came the reply from the governor. Don't worry about the lead. "Lead is a seasonal thing," he would later explain to the public. "Heck, there's lead in everything!" Just let them drink the river water.

This is , a city where half the population (including myself) found a way to escape the misery and the madness (the crime rate is so bad, we've lead the country in murders for most years — and just to get an idea of what that means, if NYC had the same murder rate as Flint last year, over 4,000 New Yorkers would have been killed, instead of the 340 who actually were).

My city has been pummeled by General Motors, Wall Street and the State and Federal governments. It's no surprise that the Republicans who control our State Capitol in Michigan didn't have to worry about any push-back from the residents of Flint because, to them, that's just a bunch of eviscerated black people who have absolutely no power, "don't vote for us any way," and have NO means to fight back.

And now, after every single child in Flint has been poisoned with lead-filled water that the State knew a year ago was in that water, we learn that the governor's office sought to cover it up, hiding it not just from the defenseless African Americans they secretly fear and despise, but also hiding it from YOU and the federal government! (Link)

And, as if things couldn't get any worse, the news of 87 people with Legionnaires Disease happened this week. Ten Flint residents have been KILLED by this disease which is caused by tainted water. Not by gun violence, not in Afghanistan, but by an act of racism and violence perpetrated by the — I'm sorry to say — white, Republican governor of Michigan who knew months ago the water was toxic.

All fingers from the doctors and scientists point to the filthy, toxic Flint River as the cause of this Legionnaires Disease outbreak. 10 human souls deceased. In an average year, Flint already had an astounding 8 cases (and rarely a death) of people contracting Legionnaires Disease. Since the citizens of Flint were forced to use the water from the Flint River, EIGHTY-SEVEN CASES OF LEGIONNAIRES DISEASE have happened! AND TEN DEATHS! And the number is expected to rise.

President Obama — the people of Flint are crying out to you for help. Our Congressman, Dan Kildee, has called the federal government for assistance. But he's been told that it's a "State issue" and that "the State of Michigan has to be the one asking the feds for the help."

NO! The STATE is the one who CAUSED THIS! That's like asking the fox if he could repair the chicken coop. No, Mr. President, we need YOUR help — TODAY. 100,000 people have no water to drink, to cook with or to bathe in.

This week, you are coming to Michigan to attend the Detroit Auto Show. We implore you to come to Flint, less than an hour's drive north of Detroit. Do not ignore this tragedy taking place every day. This may be Gov. Snyder's Katrina, but it will become your Bush-Flying-Over-New Orleans Moment if you come to Michigan and then just fly away. I know you don't want that image of flying over us as you "fake-sad" look down on Flint just as Bush did in that never-to-be-forgotten photo-op over New Orleans. I know you are going to come to the rescue here in Flint. I can't imagine any other scenario.

We need:

  1. The CDC here at once to truly assess all of the disease and damage that has been forced upon the people of Flint.
  2. FEMA has to supply large water containers in every home in Flint — and they must be filled by water trucks until the new infrastructure is resolved.
  3. The EPA must take over matters from the State (can the governor be removed and replaced like he did to the mayor of Flint?). Immediately.
  4. You must send in the Army Corps of Engineers to build that new water infrastructure. Otherwise, you might as well just evacuate all the people from Flint and move them to a white city that has clean drinking water — and where this would never happen.

President Obama, I'm counting on you to give us a response. Can we expect to see you, in Flint, in the next few days?

Michael Moore
Flint native

Bathing in Poison

It's not just lead in Flint's water… it's much worse. Do you know what's in your water? 

Lessons St. Louis needs to learn from losing the Rams

The City of St. Louis has been in decline and denial for quite some time. If we don't make some changes, we soon may no longer be considered a world class city.

Even if you don't consider St. Louis to be a world class city, with the exception of a subway, you must admit that St. Louis has many of the things that make cities world class.

  • Major league sports franchises
  • Tourism destination
  • World Class Zoo
  • Forest Park (75th on the list of City Parks)
  • World Class Museums and Libraries
  • Great Universities
  • Great architecture
  • World Class Hospitals
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Nationally known monument (Arch)

World class cities are also known for their modern skylines, locations that cater to wealthy locals and affluent visitors and an absence of visible signs of poverty. St. Louis fails the visibility of poverty test.

City leaders pursue this “world-class” vision to attract investment, for integration into the global economy, and to improve the quality of living standards. Too often, however, those benefits accrue only to the wealthiest and most powerful residents.

St. Louis is a city that seems aggressive and inhospitable to some of it's minority and low income residents and many would flee if offered half a chance to relocate elsewhere. St. Louis is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country and even before the Ferguson Protest had a racist reputation.

Many people don't realize or have forgotten that Missouri typically is categorized as both a Midwestern and a southern state. The region was split on Union and Confederate issues during the Civil War. A small region of the state is called Little Dixie for the influx of southerners that settled there.

In 1847, a book titled, "The Narrative of William W. Brown, an American Slave", was published. Below is a quote from that book.

"Though slavery is thought, by some, to be mild in Missouri, when compared with the cotton, sugar and rice growing states, yet no part of our slave-holding country is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants than St. Louis."

During the decades after the Civil War, St. Louis grew to become the nation's fourth largest city, after New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It also experienced rapid infrastructure and transportation development and the growth of heavy industry.

The period culminated with the 1904 World's Fair and Summer Olympics, which were held concurrently in St. Louis. As of 2014, St. Louis has dropped to 60 on the U.S. Census largest cities list. New York is still number one, Chicago is the still number three and Philadelphia dropped only slightly to number five.

The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members. This is not a new concept, it has existed at least since biblical times; "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me" – Matthew 25:40.

The Ram's departure leaves a huge pile of unpaid debt on the old dome stadium. According to the the St. Louis Post, the city said it expected to lose about $4.2 million a year, at least in the “short run,” as tax revenue falls because of the team’s departure. The Riverfront Stadium Task Force has spent $16 million so far on planning for a new stadium.

While the City was actively offering welfare to a billionaire and spending millions in taxpayer money putting together a stadium plan for Stan Kroenke, the Ram's owner, who neither asked for it nor wanted it; they were vigorously fighting to close down a homeless shelter that actually provides services and cares for "the least of these."

I'm only fifty years old, but while I was growing up, it was common knowledge that you didn't go into certain neighborhoods. I was in high school between 1979 and 1983. During that time, there were not a lot of places that welcomed black kids. On the weekends, many of us hung out in Forest Park, but then the rules were changed and we were forced out. Another popular hangout was the St. Louis Riverfront, which then had the nation's only floating McDonald's; but again the rules were changed and eventually the McDonald's Boat located to another city.

I see that same pattern repeated again, mall and other areas now have special curfews and other restrictions that often seem to be enforced more rigorously against black kids.

Surprisingly with institutions such as St. Louis University, Washington University, UMSL, Harris-Stowe University, St. Louis Community Colleges, Rankin Technical College, Webster University, Fontbonne University, Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis area is home to many poorly performing public schools.

How is it possible, with the number of institutions of higher learning in and around St. Louis, that our schools are not among the best in the country? In a word, exclusion.

Whether there was a concerted efforts such as those proposed by the Team Four Plan or unconscious bias, educational, economic and employment opportunities have routinely been suppressed and restricted in certain areas. Around the neighborhood where I live, street lights and traffic lights including the intersections of MLK at Sarah and MLK at Euclid have been non-functioning for years. It is now common knowledge that even our court system has been guilty of predatory practices targeting people of color.

Decreased educational, economic and other opportunities lead to oppression and exacerbate inequality. Oppression and inequality leads to crime, which eventually visits the oppressor. The communities of both the oppressed and oppressor are negatively affected. Outsiders see this, often more clearly than we do.

Our airport is no longer a hub for any major airline, companies have specifically told us they won't locate to St. Louis because our schools are below par, we don't stack up against other cities, decades ago we lost our basketball team (The Hawks) to Atlanta and we have now lost two football teams. To add insult to injury,  the Rams are returning to the city they previously left to come to St. Louis.

For decades, the St. Louis region neglected or excluded certain groups of people and for a while, other groups benefited. However, as was noted in an earlier post, what you quietly allow to happen to others, will eventually find its way back to you.

When you allow the oppression of a group of people, it opens the door for oppression of additional groups. The education of blacks was neglected, now the education of all Americans lag behind compared to the rest of the world. Drug users were vilified and criminalized when they were mostly black or brown, but whites are now the largest growing group of drug addicts.

The economy of blacks was artificially suppressed for decades, now manufacturing and other high paying mostly white jobs are being sent overseas. The Congress has already pass legislation that will reduce some union pension by more than half and the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to deal unions a major setback again effecting mostly white workers.

As mentioned in the post, first they came, if you want to improve your own conditions, don't let the rights and privileges of others get abused. Even President Obama mentioned this during his last State of the Union speech last night. Hopefully St. Louis will finally heed this message and begin to help those truly in need rather than those truly in greed.

Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay

An article written in response to recent flooding, "Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay",  made me think about my brother-in-law, Brian Collins, who was killed the day before his 23rd birthday in 1990 because he went to work during emergency conditions.

On December 27, 1990 there was a major winter storm that pretty much shut down the St. Louis area. The police and other officials explained that conditions were extremely dangerous and urged people to not drive and stay at home. There was a call over the radio and television, however, for hospital and other emergency workers to find a way to make it to work, because they were needed.

I had just married my wife in June 1990 and I was visiting my mother-in-law's home when my brother-in-law asked for a ride to work. I explained that the road conditions were terrible and that I had barely made it there and how I wasn't planning on leaving to go home until the storm let up.

He mentioned that he heard the call for hospital workers to try to make it to work. I tried to convince him not to go and explained that they were talking about doctors, nurses and other critical hospital personnel. He replied that he might be needed and decided to go to work.  He reasoned that support staff was just as critical to hospital operations as doctors and nurses.

He caught the bus to work, but I told him if the storm let up, I would pick him up when he got off. Later that night, my sister-in-law phone my mother-in-law. The hospital called because Brian had been shot and they wanted family members at the hospital.

I drove my wife and mother-in-law to the hospital and road conditions were still pretty bad. When we arrived, my sister-in-law and her husband were already there. My sister-in-law was in tears and stated that I think he's dead, because they won't let us see him.

A few minutes later, someone came and explained that Brian had been shot in the back of his head, had died and asked my mother-in-law if she would be willing to donate his organs.  Needless to say, we were all devastated. Brian was kept on life support to keep his organs viable and my mother-in-law after a brief family discussion agreed to organ donation.

My brother-in-law, Brian Collins had been a minister from a very young age and worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He had previously been a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital, however, Brian viewed himself as working for a different department for the same employer since Mallinckrodt was a part of Barnes. However, when it came to Brian's insurance coverage, Mallincrodt and Barnes didn't see it that way.

Mallincrodt said since he was a new employee, even though he had completed all of his required insurance paperwork to properly transfer his insurance coverage. He had not been with Mallincrodt long enough for his life insurance to pay out. Even though he had been at Barnes long enough, Barnes said since he now worked for Mallincrodt, he no longer was covered by Barnes.

I couldn't believe that Barnes and Mallincrodt were standing on a technicality for an employee who answered an emergency call to action.

I felt guilty about Brian's death for a long time. I should have made a stronger argument for him to stay home. I should have taken him to work that day. Did he not call me and catch the bus because he didn't want to bother me? Did he think I wouldn't pick him up? Those and many other thoughts haunted me for years.

I loved Brian as my own brother and the world was robbed of a magnificent human being and humanitarian and future pastor. My oldest son's middle name is Brian and ironically, he is a young minister.

So when I came across the article arguing for disaster pay for low-income employees, I couldn't agree more. The article specifically mentioned health care workers,  "who are often considered essential employees and who may be required to stay and work extra shifts during a disaster."

Because Barnes and Mallincrodt wouldn't honor Brian's insurance, my mother-in-law had to rely on donations to bury her youngest son and the family's suffering was increased because of their actions.

When a person risks their life to help or protect others, they should not be abandoned or forced to bear additional burdens on their own.

Post Dispatch Article, December 29, 1990

Man Fatally Shot On Way Home From Work; Motive Unknown

By Kim Bell ; and Margaret Gillerman

Police had no suspects or motive Friday in the fatal shooting of a man walking home from work Thursday night.

Brian Collins , who would have been 23 years old Friday, was shot in the back of the head and in the neck about 9 p.m. His body was found in a vacant lot on Lillian Avenue about six blocks from his home.

''He had his Walkman tape in his ear, so when they shot him, I don't think he heard a thing,'' said his mother, Ruby Collins. Lt. Steve Jacobsmeyer said Collins ''could have been a victim in a street robbery.''

Collins had worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He previously was a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital.
''He was a good kid,'' Jacobsmeyer said.

Relatives believe Collins had taken a bus from work to Lillian and Kingshighway, then decided to walk the rest of the way instead of waiting in the snow for another bus. ''Lillian is a drug-infested area, and I told him to be careful: 'You should not walk home,' ''
Ruby Collins said. ''I always told him to call if he needed a ride.''

Relatives said that Collins almost had stayed home from work Thursday because of the bad weather. He changed his mind when he heard an announcement on television urging hospital workers to try to make it in.

''Everybody at Barnes his former employer loved my son,'' his mother said. ''They said he was so joyful and kept a smile on his face.''

The funeral for Collins will be at 7 p.m. Sunday at New Jerusalem Temple Church of God, 8204 Page Avenue in Vinita Park. Collins was a volunteer minister at the church.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a Christian, spoke out for Muslims

In an earlier post, “First They Came“,  discusses people who allow injustice to occur without speaking up. Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College stood up for others and in turn, others stood up for her.

“No one is safe and that’s the message Wheaton College should hear. None of my students are safe. None of my colleagues are safe,” Wheaton College Professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins said.

Dr. Hawkins actions embodies what this country needs right now! Professor Hawkins, who is Christian, bravely took a stand to speak out and join hands with people who are currently being demonized by Donald Trump and other bigoted people in this country.

Her solidarity statement came in the aftermath of the Dec. 2, 2015, shooting in San Bernardino, California. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had just called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and American Muslims, particularly hijab-wearing women, were reporting hate crimes against them.

  • On December 10, 2015, Dr. Hawkins posted a message on Facebook expressing solidarity with her brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith.
  • On December 15, 2015, Dr. Hawkins was placed on administrative leave by Wheaton College, and relieved of all teaching and programmatic duties for the Spring 2016 semester.
    Dr. Hawkins continued her Christian act of embodied solidarity, wearing the hijab, through Advent, leading up to Christmas.
  • On January 4, 2016, Dr. Hawkins received an email notification of the Provost’s Recommendation to Initiate Termination.

She was showing love and kindness, as she said, Jesus commands. She did not appear to violate any of the school’s statement of faith. She stated, “I love Wheaton College and have always respected it, but in this case they over reacted, likely because of the current environment of hatred and generalization. Muslims are my neighbors and as worthy of God’s love as myself.”

She never denied, what she referred to as the exclusivity of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. She simply wore a Hijab to show respect for Muslims as human beings.

There was a rally held in Chicago in support of Dr. Hawkins and she explained her position . The entire video is about 53 minutes, but only a 13 minute section starting at 26:46 and ending at 39:55 will play. You may, however, watch any part by clicking anywhere on the timeline. The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke on her behalf, comparing her to Rosa Parks in the first few minutes of the rally.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins’ Facebook Post

Below is a copy of Dr. Hawkins’ December 10, 2015 Facebook post, that caused Wheaton College to recommended her termination.

I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind–a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.
I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year.

Perhaps you are a Muslim who does not wear the veil normally. Perhaps you are an atheist or agnostic who finds religion silly or inexplicable. Perhaps you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian like me. Perhaps you already cover your head as part of your religious worship, but not a hijab.

***I would like to add that I have sought the advice and blessing of one of the preeminent Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, ‪#‎CAIR‬, where I have a friend and Board colleague on staff. I asked whether a non-Muslim wearing the hijab was haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims. I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality.

Document your own experiences of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs #wish.

Shalom friends.


More Unarmed people killed by Police, than officers killed while on duty

When I expressed my disbelief to my 16-year-old son that the police officer responsible for killing Tamir Rice,  was not indicted, he replied; why are you surprised, the police never are!

Racial bias most certainly plays a part in the officer's perception of the threat posed by Tamir Rice. It's doubtful that the same officer would have reacted the same way if it had been a 12-year-old white kid. That perception has to change!

During 2015, according to the Guardian, 1,139 people were killed by law enforcement officers, 223 of whom were unarmed. The Washington Post lists 980 people killed by police officers, 91 of whom were unarmed. I can only imagine how many more people might have died if police actions were not under scrutiny.

Below is a video compilation of police shootings of mostly unarmed people to demonstrate how easy an innocent person can be killed by mistake by police officers.

Admittedly, police have a dangerous job and I understand their need to protect themselves and their right to go home at the end of their shift. However, many of the unarmed people killed by police also had the right to continue living. If trained police officers are justified killing a 12-year-old kid with a toy gun while playing in a park, then when is it ever unreasonable for an officer to use deadly force? When is the officer's fear for his safety unreasonable?

During 2015, a total of 129 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died while on duty. Not all of those deaths were caused by violent acts against the officers; 18 died from heart attacks, 8 from illnesses,  32 from automobile or motorcycle accidents, and 4 from other accidents.

When the deaths from illness and accidents are excluded, a total of 67 law enforcement officers from the FBI, U.S. Border Patrol, Marshal Service, State Police, Highway Patrol, local police and other agencies were killed.

I want police officers to go home after their shifts, but I also want my sons to come home after their encounters with those officers. I don't want them to fear those encounters.

Unfortunately, biases both conscious and unconscious exist and influence how  many police officers react and interact with others. We have seen too many horrible videos of police treating people poorly and it needs to stop.

People with the least power are victimized the most. The more you educate yourself about the law and your rights you decrease the likelihood that you will be victimized.