Black History Month — Clara Luper

There are so many stories of people who were heroes in their own way throughout the civil rights movement and beyond that I could write a story a day for the entire year and not run out.  Today’s efforts by some to whitewash history, to remove some of the most significant names from the history books is appalling.  I cannot do much, but throughout February, as often as I can I plan to highlight the contribution throughout our nation’s history of our Black brothers and sisters.  Some will be well known to you, others, like the one I am highlighting today, you probably never heard of.  It is important to not let these people fade into oblivion, to remember them, to say their names!

She said, “I want you to believe in the sun when the sun didn’t shine and to believe in the rain when the rain didn’t fall.”

Not too many people know her name, not even in her home state.

She has been referred to as a “hidden legend.”

She was one of the most beloved teachers in her community, but when she took a group of her students to a local lunch counter, she and her students were spit at, cursed, and threatened.

She said she did it because she wanted the children to know that there was a life in which they were accepted.

When she was a child, she remembered when her brother got sick, and the local hospital wouldn’t accept him or treat him because of the color of his skin.

She also remembered her father telling her and her siblings that “someday” he would take us to dinner and to parks and zoos. And when I asked him when was someday, he would always say, “Someday will be real soon,” as tears ran down his cheeks.

She remembered her brother and her father’s words when she heard some of her students and her own daughter asking each other why they weren’t allowed to go to a lunch counter, sit down, and eat a hamburger and drink a soda.

“That’s when she decided to bring her students to a local lunch counter in Oklahoma City, where they took seats at the counter and asked for Coca-Colas,” according to the New York Times. “Denied service, they refused to leave until closing time. They returned on Saturday mornings for several weeks.”

Her name was Clara Luper.

“Her name does not resonate like that of Rosa Parks, and she did not garner the kind of national attention that other sit-ins did . . . But Clara Luper was a seminal figure in the sit-ins of the civil rights movement,” according to writer Dennis Hevesi of the New York Times.

Other sit-ins received more press coverage, such as the Greensboro sit-ins Feb. 1, 1960, at Woolworth in North Carolina, but the sit-in Luper organized and led happened 17 months earlier.

“On Aug. 19, 1958, Luper and 13 kids [ages 6 to 17] walked into Katz Drug Store, sat down on stools lining the counter and asked to be served,” according to the OU Daily. “They waited quietly until closing time, even after a white woman sat on the lap of a black girl and four white youths came in waving Confederate flags.”

Luper’s daughter, [11-years-old at that time] Marilyn Luper Hildreth, remembers, “When people would spit on us our responsibility was to turn our heads and keep our cool.”

“Eventually the Katz chain agreed to integrate lunch counters at its 38 stores in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa,” according to the New York Times. “Over the next six years, the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter held sit-ins that led to the desegregation of almost every eating establishment in Oklahoma City.”

Her “success ignited a series of sit-ins and marches across Oklahoma, and she quickly became a notable civil rights activist.”

Ms. Luper’s activism extended beyond the sit-ins. A week after that first protest, 17 white churches in Oklahoma City let members of her youth group attend services. “At another church, a pastor asked two youngsters to leave,” The Associated Press reported at the time. “‘God did not intend Negroes and whites to worship together,’ he told them.”

Ms. Luper was a history teacher at Dunjee High School in 1957 when she agreed to become adviser to the Oklahoma City N.A.A.C.P.’s youth council, according to the Times. The youngsters asked what they could do to help the movement.

“The Oklahoma sit-ins received scant national attention. But civil rights activists across the country noticed Mrs. Luper’s success, and sit-ins became a common tool for forcing peaceful change.”

Seventeen months later, the Greensboro Four took their seats at the Woolworth lunch counter and made history.

“The actions that Ms. Luper and those youngsters took at the Katz Drug Store inspired the rank and file of the N.A.A.C.P. and activists on college campuses across the country,” said Roslyn M. Brock, the group’s national chairwoman.

Luper, who died in 2011 at 88, continued to be active in the NAACP. She took part in Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington where he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 on what became known as “Bloody Sunday” after police attacked the 600 activists and ran unsuccessfully for a spot in the U.S. Senate in 1972, according to the OU Daily..

She was arrested 27 times for standing up for the children.

Her efforts helped lead to the city council’s 1964 passage of an ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination at stores, swimming pools and other public accommodations.

Those in her state who know of her refer to her as the mother of Oklahoma’s civil rights movement.

“She advocated for human rights and racial equality until her death . . . but her contributions to the civil rights movement have rarely been credited or acknowledged,” according to Destinee Adams of NPR.

“As Rosa Parks was to the integration of buses, Clara Luper was to the sit-in movement,” UCLA psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West, who co-authored a 1966 study of the psychology of children who had participated in sit-ins, wrote in the New York Times in 1990. “Regrettably, her leadership never received the recognition it deserved.”

“Her late-night demanding phone calls, emphasis on excellence and love of young people, made her a beloved educator and community figure who was responsible not only for her civil rights movement contributions, but also for the achievements of a generation she challenged and inspired to greatness,” according to OU Daily.

According to NPR, “She would say all the time, ‘I want you to believe in the sun when the sun didn’t shine and to believe in the rain when the rain didn’t fall and to believe in the God that we’ve never seen,'” she said. “That’s the way that she would want to be remembered.”

“I knew I was right,” she told the Daily Oklahoman years later. “Somewhere I read, in the 14th Amendment, that I was a citizen and I had rights, and I had the right to eat.”

This weekend, Oklahoma City remembers Luper for her work to end segregation. The celebration marks 64 years since Clara Luper and her 13 students sat in at Katz Diner.

“Her name is a staple,” artist and activist Jabee Williams said. “But there are still some people here who have never heard of her. A lot of these people are still here today and they can still tell those stories and we need to hear those stories and hear firsthand. We also have 13 students who will represent that first 13, and it’s really impactful and it gets kind of emotional. It’s powerful.”

Photo and story courtesy of the Jon S. Randall Peace Page

Can’t Win Honestly? Then Cheat!

It’s a sad statement when one of the two political parties is so certain they cannot win in a fair and honest election that rather than change their ways, they do everything in their power (and some things that really are not in their legitimate power) to ensure half the people in the nation will not be able to cast a ballot in upcoming elections.  It is the equivalent of a child sneaking a cookie before supper, for he knows if he asks, he will be told “No, not until after supper.”  Only with much more serious and far-reaching consequences.

Today, Florida Governor and 2024 presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis signed into law an extremely restrictive voter suppression law that he claims will place guardrails against fraud, even as he acknowledged there were no serious signs of voting irregularities last November.  But, DeSantis and the entirety of the Republican Party feel threatened by the fact that times are changing, people are becoming less tolerant of the bigotry that is the cornerstone of the Republican Party and … well, if you can’t win honestly, then you cheat, right?

The media, for the most part, was not allowed in to view the signing ceremony.  One exception:  Fox ‘News’.  Go figure.  DeSantis staged the signing on a live broadcast of Fox & Friends this morning, flanked by a small group of GOP legislators in Palm Beach County.  Other media organizations were shut out.  Freedom of press???  Or is that, like voting rights, being killed?

Look closely at the picture … see any Black faces there?  But it isn’t only Blacks and Hispanics the Republican governor and legislators are trying to disenfranchise.  According to Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida …

“The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color. It’s a despicable attempt by a one party ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American.”

Do you remember when you were in school and each morning you had to stand and recite that ‘pledge of allegiance’ to the flag?  Being the rebel I am and have always been, I stopped doing that by about 2nd grade, and no matter what they threatened me with, I refused to stand or say the words that even back then rang false. I followed the example of Colin Kaepernick, before he was even born!  One line in that pledge calls the United States “one nation, indivisible …”.  Apparently, they were wrong.  I think they better be re-thinking that one and calling it “one nation, deeply divided”.

Within minutes of DeSantis signing the bill into law, lawsuits were filed.  The League of Women Voters of Florida joined the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and others in assailing the new law in a federal lawsuit filed minutes after the signing.  A separate lawsuit by the NAACP and Common Cause alleges that the new law makes it more difficult for people who are Black, Latino or disabled to vote.

My hope is that the courts will strike down all these restrictive measures too many states are taking to try to disenfranchise us, to shove their will down our throats, but sadly I’m not as confident of that as I once was.

Racism in Politics

Erase RacismThe organization is one I was not familiar with, and I don’t even remember quite how it crossed my radar, but it did.  The group is ERASE Racism, and they are based in and primarily serve New York, but they report on racial injustices around the nation. For example a recent entry in their blog was titled Media Attempts to Sabotage Botham Jean’s Reputation, about the attempts to discredit the black man who was shot and killed in his own apartment by a white police officer in Dallas, Texas. The organization seems to be doing some excellent work in combating racism. I first glanced the article below, bookmarked it and moved along.  I came back to it a few hours later and was impressed.  It gave me food for thought, and I decided to share it with you today.  The link to the New York Times column by Charles Blow takes us to a 2012 column Blow wrote during the republican presidential campaign that year.  It is as relevant today as it was then … perhaps more so.  I hope you’ll take an extra few minutes to read the column … it is an eye-opener, if we needed one.

I do not know the author of this article, but have included a link so that you can check out ERASE Racism’s website.

Racist Rhetoric: Good for Politics but Bad for America

Throughout the history of the United States, public officials have used the rule of law to deny equal opportunities to African Americans.  Only recently, in the 20th and 21st centuries, have laws been passed that grant equal rights to all persons regardless of race. Unfortunately, advances in racial equality, such as those brought about by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, have not been enough to erase decades of exploitation and discrimination.  More public policies that help to create racial equity are needed to assure true equal access to opportunities, such as quality public schools and economically viable neighborhoods.  But what happens if those with power and influence view the degradation of African Americans as a positive political move?  It’s scary to think about, but the Republican primaries have provided a frightening example of seemingly acceptable racist rhetoric.

A recent New York Times column by Charles M. Blow skillfully called attention to the anti-black rhetoric that has been embraced by most of the Republican presidential candidates.  Their comments about “the African American community” or “black people” in general have been so negative (and absurd) that one has to wonder whether they believe that racist rhetoric makes for good politics.  “I’m prepared, if the N.A.A.C.P. invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” Newt Gingrich proclaimed.  Employing the same negative stereotype, Rick Santorum assured his supporters that he doesn’t want, “to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”  Mr. Blow does a great job of refuting the fallacy that African Americans prefer to rely on government aid than to work.  He points out that a majority of all food stamp recipients are actually white (even though the rate of participation is higher among blacks), a majority are under the age of 18 or are older than 60, and 41% live in low-income households with earnings.

After the recent wave of hate crimes against the Latino community on Long Island, it should be easy to see how racist remarks have real and often dangerous repercussions.   How can we assure our black and Latino children that they can set and achieve goals and should strive for academic success when those in the spotlight, and worse, those in power, are characterizing them as lazy and dependent?  Not only are such negative stereotypes harmful, but they are wrong.  Our research, along with nearly all student performance studies, has shown that strong academic motivation and success is not determined by one’s race, but rather the resources that are made available. In other words, if black or Latino students from a failing school are placed in a high achieving school, the chances of their graduating will dramatically increase and the chances of their going to a prestigious university or college will also increase.  If you have your doubts, then take a look at the personal experiences of two Long Island students, Owen and David, in our documentary A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: Race and Education on Long Island .

We should all be conscious of the dangerous effects of negative stereotypes, especially when they have the potential to misinform millions.   It is horrific to hear public officials spew racist rhetoric and degrade African Americans or others for their own political gain.  Regardless of party affiliation, racist rhetoric is unacceptable.

Slavery in the 21st Century???

You might have missed this one, for it wasn’t as widely reported as Trump’s rambling rants on Friday morning to a Fox News crew.   And honestly, the first time I saw the headline this evening, I almost kept going, for it sounded like tabloid news.  But then I checked the source and it was CNN.  And I double checked to see if other sources were carrying the story, and sure enough, NPR, one of the most reliable, as well as a number of locals ran it.  It reads exactly like something from the 1940s – 1950s.

Restaurant Manager Beat Black Employee for Years and Forced Him to Work Without Pay

John C Smith

John Christopher Smith

John Christopher Smith began working at a family-owned restaurant, J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, when he was only 12-years-old.  He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up … to … slave.  Smith has an IQ of about 70 and is considered to be ‘intellectually disabled’.  Things seemed to go okay for Mr. Smith and he even liked his job … until 2009, when a man named Bobby Paul Edwards, the owner’s brother, took over as the restaurant’s manager.

Things changed for Mr. Smith once Edwards took over.  First, he stopped paying Smith a salary, then he forced him to move into an apartment behind the restaurant, and insisted he work 17-hour days Monday through Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday.  For all intents and purposes, John Christopher Smith was a slave and Bobby Paul Edwards the cruel overseer.

Bobby Paul Edwards

Bobby Paul Edwards

Edwards used both violence and threats to keep Mr. Smith ‘in line’.  He was said to have beaten Smith with a belt, or with his fists, or with pots from the kitchen, when he believed Smith was working too slowly or doing something wrong. On at least one occasion Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease, then placed them on Mr. Smith’s neck.  The court document states that the burn was treated immediately by other employees.  Think about that one a minute.  Edwards refused to let Smith speak to his family and threatened to have him thrown in jail if he tried.  Remember that Smith’s IQ is only 70, so where you or I might realize the futility of such a threat, he likely did not.  By Edwards’ own admission, other members of his family were aware of the abuse but said nothing.

Finally, in 2014, a local woman, Geneane Caines, heard from her daughter-in-law, an employee of the restaurant, about the treatment of Mr. Smith, and decided to go check things out herself.  She immediately saw the scar on Smith’s neck, and coupled with what her daughter-in-law had told her, it was enough to convince her to make a report to the authorities.

According to Ms. Caines …

“Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn’t know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby. they wouldn’t tell them then what it was.”

Ms. Caines first took her concerns to the NAACP, who brought it to the attention of the authorities.  Initially, Edwards was charged only with one charge of misdemeanor assault.  One charge???  Misdemeanor???  You have got to be kidding me!!!  But then Abdullah Mustafa, the president of the local NAACP, pushed for greater punishment, including federal involvement. “It should be more than just assault … we are talking about enslavement here.” After investigation by the FBI in conjunction with assistance from the Department of Labour’s Wage and Hour Division, the misdemeanor charge was dropped and Edwards was charged with one count of forced labour.  He faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine, and restitution to Mr. Smith to be determined at the time of sentencing.

On October 10, 2014, police and NAACP officials removed Smith from the restaurant to an ‘undisclosed location’ for his safety, and the first charges were filed against Edwards just over a month later.  The restaurant owner, Edward’s brother Ernest Edwards, claims to have been unaware of the abuse, as he spends most of his time vacationing in Myrtle Beach.  Nonetheless, charges have also been filed against both the restaurant and its owner.

I have some questions about this:

  • It was 2014 that Ms. Caines reported the situation, first to the NAACP. Why the Sam Heck did it take four years … four years … for this case come up for sentencing?

  • If Bobby Paul Edwards is willing to plead ‘guilty’ to these heinous crimes, what else is there? The charges are said to be a result of a plea deal, so … is there something even more despicable he has done that he is willing to plead guilty to forced labour and hope for a light sentence?

  • Those customers who asked questions about what was happening?  Why didn’t they at least report their suspicions?

  • Why didn’t other employees, who surely must have realized something was not right, report the situation. Perhaps they were afraid of losing their job, but come on, people … it is J&J Cafeteria, not Maxim’s!!!

  • Smith had family in the area … they even came into the restaurant from time to time, but were not allowed to see John C. Smith. Did they not think something was off?  FIVE YEARS this went on!  Surely somebody must have thought something was not right!

What would you do if you worked in a restaurant and saw a fellow employee, black or white, being physically abused by a member of management?  It’s not hard to answer that, is it?  So why did the other employees of J&J Cafeteria allow this abuse to continue non-stop for 5 bloomin’ years???  I really cannot imagine being so afraid of losing my job that I would see a person treated as Mr. Smith was treated.

Ask yourself the question … would it have been different if Mr. Smith had white skin?  Think about it.

The Ignorant vs The Hero

Yesterday, the Trump administration once again proved their ignorance.  Trump & Co are planning to attend an opening ceremony on Saturday of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum  in Jackson, Mississippi.  For Trump and his minions, it is a photo op, one of those ‘see and be seen’ moments, nothing more, for Trump has already shown his disdain for the achievements and goals of the Civil Rights movement.

Congressman John Lewis is one of those civil rights leaders, one of the icons of the era who is greatly admired and respected.  Mr. Lewis has declined to join Trump on the visit, calling the trip an insult to the African-Americans commemorated there.  Representative Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi has joined Lewis and will not attend the ceremony.

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.” – Joint statement issued by Lewis & Thompson

Various civil rights groups, including the NAACP, have also protested Trump’s appearance at the ceremony …

“President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.” – NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary who speaks for Trump, said ..

“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.  The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”


John Lewis receiving Medal of Freedom – February 2011

John Lewis IS one of those brave civil rights leaders who risked life and limb time and time again to, as Ms. Sanders put it, remove barriers and unify Americans of all backgrounds.  The entire statement shows that she, like her boss, has no idea what the civil rights movement was about, who its heroes are, and what they sacrificed.  Her words are as a slap in the face to a man who is far greater, far braver, than Donald Trump will ever be.

Let me tell you a little bit about John Lewis, who has long been a hero of mine. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, served as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organized voter registration efforts that led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches, was one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington, coordinated SNCC’s efforts for “Mississippi Freedom Summer,” a campaign to register black voters across the South. He is best known for the role he played on March 7th, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday”, when he helped lead over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers who ordered them to disperse. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’ skull was fractured.


A True Leader … John Lewis, President Barack Obama and Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson

Now, let me also tell you why John Lewis will not travel to the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with Trump.  First, Trump’s frequent support of white supremacists is a slap in the face to Lewis and all he has fought for.  But it goes even further than that, for in January, just a few days before his inauguration, Trump said of John Lewis …

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Not only was that a highly inappropriate remark for Trump to make, but it was blatantly false, for Lewis’ 5th district, which includes Atlanta, is far from a hellhole, incorporating the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Even back on the campaign trail in 2015/2016, Trump denigrated African-Americans, telling them that their communities, indeed their very lives, were so bad that they had ‘nothing to lose’ by supporting him.  And ever since he took office, he has pandered to known white supremacists, such as Steve Bannon, policy advisor Stephen Miller, former deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, and others.  Then came the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, where Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, finally did utter a weak condemnation, only to reverse it a day later.

In addition to his support of white supremacists, Trump has embraced law enforcement practices and voting rights restrictions that disproportionately and negatively impact black communities, repeatedly picked fights with black athletes who he has accused of not showing him sufficient respect, and demanded apologies from prominent African-Americans who have criticized him. Why would John Lewis, who fought so hard for the rights of African-Americans, wish to associate himself with the likes of Trump?

John Lewis deserves to be honoured at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, for it is he as much as anybody who made that museum possible.  Donald Trump is the intruder and has no legitimacy there, other than having been invited, as a courtesy or protocol, by the Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant. I would love to see John Lewis attend, as he should, but not with Trump.  He should stand proud as one of the last surviving heroes of the civil rights movement and take his place there, shaking hands and accepting the thanks of so many, rather than stand anywhere near the odious Trump.

NAACP: Travel To Missouri At Your Own Risk

You may have missed this story, for it was but a very short story … more of a blurb, really … in both The Washington Post and the New York Times, each of whom simply copied the Associated Press release, word for word.  I found the full story in the Kansas City Star along with links to verify and fill in the gaps.

The AP release:

NAACP Delegates Back Advisory Urging Caution in Missouri

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AUG. 1, 2017, 12:21 P.M. E.D.T.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The head of the Missouri NAACP says the national organization is backing a travel advisory urging caution in Missouri over concerns about whether civil rights will be respected.

Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel says national delegates voted last week to adopt a travel advisory that the state chapter issued in June. Chapel says the national board will consider ratification in October.

The advisory cites a new state law making it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination. The state NAACP says the measure could make it tougher to hold people accountable for harassment and discrimination.

Supporters argue the law will help reduce “frivolous lawsuits” in the state.

The advisory also cites a report showing black Missouri drivers last year were 75 percent more likely to be stopped than whites.

Chapel says he hopes recognition from the national organization will boost awareness.

I do not know on what page this story ran in either publication, but I had to dig to find it online.  Why?  Given that neither the Post nor the Times tend to be in the least bit racist, I can only guess that the reason this story did not make the cut was because it did not contain the name “Trump”.  If it had, it would have warranted 1,000+ words instead of a mere 143.

This is the first time in history that the NAACP has issued such a warning for an entire state.  The reason?  An increase in race-based incidents throughout the state, as well as recently passed legislation making it harder, if not impossible, for fired employees to prove racial discrimination.

From the national NAACP website:

BALTIMOREThe NAACP Travel Advisory for the state of Missouri, effective through August 28th, 2017, calls for African American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently, and noted therein.

Nearly three years ago, racial bias in Missouri seized national headlines after Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., prompting widespread protests. More recently, however, there have been other disturbing incidents, such as death threats to black students at the University of Missouri in Columbia, black drivers being 75% more likely to be stopped and searched than white drivers.

Then there was Senate bill #43 signed in June that says a terminated employee must prove that racial bias was the sole reason for his or her termination, rather than simply a contributing factor.  Additionally, it removes protections for state employees — and limits punitive damages for victims of workplace discrimination. In April, the head of the Missouri NAACP tried to express his concerns about the measure at a hearing. As soon as he compared it to Jim Crow, the Republican committee chair ordered his microphone turned off. The bill was passed 98-30 and Governor Eric Greitens quickly signed it into law.

Then there are the murders.  The chart below showing a summary of homicides by age, race and gender this year as of August 1, tells the tale …

Missouri-stats.pngThe PDF showing the full chart can be found here.

The most high-profile case was that of Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee, traveling through Missouri who had the misfortune to run out of gas on May 5th. He walked to the nearest convenience store, was not clear where he was and tried to talk to the police officer who happened to be in the convenience store at the time. But instead of helping Mr. Sanders, the officer arrested him.  Accused of no crime, he was nonetheless jailed and subjected to pepper spray and the use of a stun gun at least three times by jail staff.  The details are sketchy and conflicting from one news source to another, but the bottom line is that by the end of the day, Mr. Sanders was dead.

The struggle for equality has been long and hard for African-Americans.  Brown v. Board of Education, the death of Emmett Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Little Rock Nine, Freedom Rides, voter registration fights, to name just a few.  Are we to return to the day when African-Americans must sit at the back of the bus, must use separate facilities?  Is that where we are heading?  Under Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it seems chillingly possible.

Just this week in the news the Attorney General’s office announced that the administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.  This is an abomination, and one which I will write more about at a later date.  Meanwhile, we have crimes against blacks on the rise, and a so-called Justice Department that is, at the very least, unconcerned, and at the worst, willing to roll back many of the rights African-Americans fought and died for over the last six decades.

Missouri’s state nickname is the “Show-Me State”.  I think it is high time someone “show” Missouri that African-Americans are people just like any others, deserving of fair treatment and respect.

Armed White Supremacists Protest the NAACP in Houston: Video

The following is a post from fellow-blogger Rob Goldstein. It sends a timely and relevant message about the culture of fear and hate that exists in ever-increasing amounts in our culture today, as a result, primarily, of the rhetoric of one man and his minions. This is an important post, very short, but very relevant. I hope that you will take a few minutes to read the post and leave a comment for Rob to share your thoughts with him.

Another Unsavory Politician … LePage

MaineIn recent months, I have written about a number of politicians either currently or formerly in office, who defy the norms of dignity, fairness, impartiality and legality (Louis Gohmert, Sarah Palin, Dennis Hastert, to name just a few).  I once wondered what I would write about after the 2016 election ended, but I now see that the insanity extends far beyond just Trump, and it appears that I shall never run out of ‘blog fodder’. Today’s subject is none other than the Governor of Maine, one Paul LePage.

Donors to the National Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), a highly regarded environmental group, received the following letter from their governor this week:

I’m writing to make donors to Natural Resources Council of Maine aware of this organizations
true intent. While everyone supports a healthy environment, NRCM is doing it at the expense of
good-paying jobs for rural Mainers who are desperate for employment.

It is easy for out-of-state visitors, residents of wealthy coastal towns and those living in Southern
Maine to support the perceived policies of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Since this
group of donors enjoy low rates of unemployment, nice homes and neighborhoods and thriving
and successful businesses, they may be unfamiliar with the harsh crisis facing rural Maine,
especially in Northern and Downeast [sic] Maine.

The job-crushing, anti-business policies of NRCM are preventing rural Mainers from getting the
kind of jobs they need to raise themselves out of poverty.

NRCM is the chief supporter of the preservationist movement that is holding Maine back. The
organization has blocked reasonable mining regulations that would provide high-paying jobs to
rural families in Northern Maine; promoted unilateral executive action to establish a national
monument — even though several local communities have voted strongly against it — that would eliminate hunting and timber harvesting from thousands of acres; and has proudly blocked any significant hydroelectricity development over the last 40 years. These policy decisions have
contributed to the decline of the manufacturing base that has been an anchor for rural Maine and has employed generations of. sportsmen and women.

Maine has traditionally balanced the stewardship of our environment, while also ensuring that
our population has economic opportunity. This balance is vital to providing opportunities for
prosperity to rural Mainers. If we support economic development at the expense of the
environment, we will have a natural disaster. If we support the environment over economic
development, we will continue to have severe poverty.

NRCM is not interested in a balance. It is an activist group that says “no” to every opportunity to
allow Mainers to prosper, and it is working to make rural Maine a national park virtually devoid
of human activity or meaningful employment. I would request that you carefully review
policy positions before donating to them in the future.

You may not realize that your financial support of NRCM pays for a lavish office building that is
just a block from the State House — a short walk for its highly paid lobbyists to push their anti-
business agenda on legislators — while residents in places like Calais or Millinocket or Mars Hill
cannot afford even modest, middle-income homes. NRCM recently spent your money to rent
buses and transport activists from Southern Maine to a meeting in Orono to push for a national
monument in the Katahdin region, something the Legislature and town after town in rural Maine
have voted to oppose.

Folks in rural Maine have neither the time nor the resources to attend these meetings or travel to
the State House and lobby for the good jobs they need. NRCM should not be leading the charge
to deny life-changing economic opportunity to poverty-stricken people in rural Maine.

I understand and appreciate your desire to support Maine’s environment and precious natural
resources. However, please understand that your financial support of NRCM is costing rural
Mainers good jobs and keeping them mired in poverty. I urge you to ask NRCM to take a
balanced approach that both protects our environment and provides prosperity for the people
who live in it. I firmly believe human life is the greatest asset on this planet.


Paul R. LePage

There are at least three things very wrong with this letter.  The first is that the names and addresses of donors should never have been used in this way, in fact, should never have been obtained by the governor’s office, let alone used in this way.  The governor’s office claims they obtained the names and addresses from the organization’s public documents, but the public reports actually contain only names, not addresses.  The second thing wrong is that throughout the letter, LePage bemoans the unemployment rate in Maine, but on researching this, I find that the rate of unemployment in Maine is 4.7%, precisely the same as the national average.  Third, Maine has a significant tourism economy that is largely driven by its natural beauty, clean air, fresh water, and uninhabited spaces. As such, it is imperative that Maine preserve its environment, which is precisely what NRCM is doing.

My research shows that NRCM, established in 1959, has been recognized and awarded dozens of times for its work on behalf of a wide variety of environmental issues.  They have a staff of only 24, with 16,000 plus supporters and volunteers.  Among their awards are the EPA’s Climate Award and the United States Department of the Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Award.  Does this sound like the evil organization portrayed by Governor LePage?

This is not the first time LePage has been at the heart of controversy:

  • In 2011, he was criticized for refusing to attend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events or to even meet with leaders of the NAACP. In response to the criticism, he replied, on camera, that they could “kiss my butt”.  Perhaps not criminal, but surely not smart, either.
  • One of his first moves as governor in 2011 was to ‘roll back’ certain existing environmental laws, claiming that there “hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem”. He defended the restoration of BPA in bottles by saying, with a smirk, that the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards.”
  • For months he refused to allow his commissioners to testify before legislative committees and ordered state employees not to speak to the state’s largest newspaper chain.
  • His advice to students in the State of Maine? “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”
  • He has likened the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the Gestapo and, when criticized for the remark, claimed the agency’s enforcement of Obamacare would cause a slaughter comparable to the Holocaust.
  • He told schoolchildren that Maine’s newspapers are full of lies and joked about bombing the largest of them, the Portland Press Herald.
  • LePage said he would like to lower the legal working age from 16 to 12


And the list goes on, but you get the idea.  I wonder if he was, perhaps, a graduate of “Trump University”?  Recently he made the comment that “guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty bring heroin to Maine and half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”  Does this remind you of a certain someone and his comments about immigrants from Mexico?

The good news is that this letter and his rant against NRCM has renewed support for the environmental group and many have said they plan to send additional donations. LePage’s current term will end in 2019, and he has expressed an interest in running for a senate seat in 2018.  Given his latest antics, it seems unlikely that he could win a race for senate or even for re-election as governor.  But then, who knows?  The voters sometimes seem to forget quickly.  Not surprisingly, by the way, he endorsed Donnie Trump in February.  Two peas in a pod?