R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

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Hi Readers,

It is that time again. Last June, I expounded a lot on the style and forms of Black music.

This year, I want to explore the message of R&B and its importance to the African American community.

Recently I was watching a series called Unsung on TV One-a station oriented towards the Black community.

One of my favorite R&B groups was featured-The Manhattans. They scored big in the late

70’s with classic hits such as “There’s no me without you”, “Kiss and say goodbye”, and “Shining Star”.

In all of these ballads, the woman is exalted, treasured and loved.

Somehow (with the exception of Baby Face and a few others) the contemporary romantic Soul ballad has become raunchy akin to its rap counterpart.

Instead of being exalted and put on a pedestal, women are referred to as jeeps, and other inanimate objects.

For instance, the R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G. collaboration-“You must be Use to Me Spending” is a prime example of the declining positive influence of R&B music.

Please understand readers that I applaud the artistry of rap and hip hop. I just don’t always agree with its message.

Unfortunately rap and hip hop has gotten away from the positive images and messages of the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s.

It seems that the classic message of love and unity that was a cornerstone of Black popular music has been corrupted by the marriage of rap and R&B and the materialistic values that it has come to embrace.

If we are to ever sustain a vibrant community where love is the central theme, how can contemporary R&B songs such as “You Make Me Want to Leave the One I’m With” contribute to healthy Black relationships?

If we gauge the health of our community by the quality and current state of our music-then we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

There may be some who would criticize our balladeers for displaying a great sensitivity towards our women.

Baby Face’s “Whip Appeal”, The O’Jay’s “We Cried Together”, The Isley Brother’s “Living for the Love of You” and “Hello It’s Me” are prime examples of the stability of Black love.

By stability, I mean these men prove disprove the myths and ideas about what qualities constitute a “Real” man.

Take note: If all of our male singers and lovers have negative and hateful messages-then our women will in turn become hateful and negative.

They are only responding in turn to the treatment they are receiving.

And readers, haven’t we had enough of the battle of the sexes between Black men and women?

Think Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.

Critics of Black popular culture always convey that hip-hop is another form of Black cultural expression.

If that is true I guess hip hop chronicles the breakdown of the elements that has sustained our communities through the many obstacles we have faced in this country as second class citizens.

Just imagine if the singers who have often acted as our great love poets would make a conscious return to the great standards set by the mighty balladeers of our past.

Just imagine how far our community would move forward in a direction that will sustain us for generations to come.

Well, that is all for now readers. I am glad to be back after a long hiatus.

Until next time….

 

From a Lofty Perch: Bill Cosby’s Bird’s Eye View of Black America

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Cosby Cos,

How could you?

“Let’s not go into a racial discussion unless we really have something there.”

Hello readers,

These were Bill Cosby’s words concerning the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial.

I must confess, I wasn’t totally surprised-given Bill Cosby’s bird’s eye view of Black America from his lofty perch.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great admiration and respect for Bill Cosby.

I am not calling the man a sellout by any means.

As far as I know, Cos-in addition to Oprah-is one of the largest benefactors of our Historically Black colleges and universities.

Lest we forget, Cos contributed money to Spike Lee to finish his epic Malcolm-X after the studios pulled the plug.

In addition, Cos was also one of the earliest contributors to the Blaxploitation genre.

He gave much needed funding to Melvin Van Peebles to finish his film Sweet Back’s Bad Ass Revenge…..The film that started the rage of Black men taking their revenge on the White Man!!!!!

I also respect Cos because the ’70’s movies he made were family oriented and never depicted African Americans in a derogatory manner.

What gets to me about Cos is his reproachful manner when it comes to African Americans.

I will never forget Cosby’s burning anger after he made his famous pound cake speech at Howard University.

In a sense I could understand his outrage.

I especially understand it in the context of the current climate of Black America.

  • The nightly newscast in Chicago details several murders or injuries of Young African Americans by gun violence at the hands of young gang members.
  • Black mothers are the head of household in the majority of African American homes.
  • African Americans of varying ages make up most of the cases in recent AIDS/HIV diagnosis.

It would appear that the African American community is hell bent on self-destruction.

However, Cosby’s anger is misplaced.

I get his sense of outrage and disappointment because of Black America’s failure to take up the mantle of leadership and gain prosperity after the Civil Rights Movement.

Hey Cos, consider this:

The dismantling of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement-especially during the Reagan era.

Not to mention Bill Clinton’s cleverly cloaked ambivalence towards African American progress.

While I considered Bill Clinton a centrist at best who tried in vain to toe the line straight down the middle, it was his support and passage of the welfare reform act that I found most reprehensible that possibly trapped more African Americans in a hopeless cycle of poverty and despair.

Also consider this Cos…….

The Civil Rights Act helped some African Americans to gain passage into the middle class-however precariously.

I say yeah for those who managed to stay there.

Were they able to pass the wealth on to their offspring?

You know-how they do it in the White community!!!!!

It’s called generational wealth.

If so yeah!!!!

Now consider the vast majority of those who were not able to gain access to the middle class as a result of the Civil Rights Movement.

Especially consider the early 1970’s.

While the laws may have been in place to offer African Americans protection, laws don’t have the power to wipe out discrimination, hatred and fear from people’s hearts.

So my dear Cos, while you have the right to be angry-make sure your anger is directed at the right target.

I am not saying that some African Americans are not at fault.

Consider the generational gap……

African Americans are part of the human family.

Just like white yuppie youths were alienated from their parents, young African Americans are alienated from their parents and ancestors.

I guess if I want to play the blame game on the failure of African Americans it would start with our warriors and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement!!!!

Yes, you heard me right.

Maybe they didn’t know that we would overcome.

But, if they had a vision, then why didn’t they create a roadmap to help those who would come after?

Why don’t you create a roadmap cos?

One last disturbing thought……

What really makes me sad and a little angry is the belief that Zimmerman did not act out of xenophobic racist beliefs.

Consider the death of your own son at the hands of a white racist dog!!!!!

It seems right now Cos you are waging a one man war with Black America.

Can’t wait to see the last man standing.

Until next time…….

Whose Post-Racial Society is This? Barack, Trayvon, & a Delayed Rap on Race

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Hello Readers,

I come to you today somewhat gratified about President Obama’s recent comments concerning the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

As a quasi man of the people, Obama’s decision to address the nation was short of a momentous occasion.

I know that there are some of us out here who feel that Barack’s views on race are often delayed, tentative, and skewed toward the conservative side.

What if the president would have opted to remain silent around the growing anger surrounding Zimmerman’s acquittal?

Like Booker T. Washington in Post Reconstruction America, Black leaders are often in a roundabout manner forced to subvert issues of race.

What do Barack’s statements mean for America?

Black America?

The world?

The president asserts that “when Trayvon was first shot, this could have been his son. Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago.”

It seems from this statement that issues of race have subsided for some…..

In the president’s autobiography Dreams of My Father, he relates as a (biracial) Black teenager growing up in Hawaii how he was often profiled.

He recounts the numerous times the pointed stares he would get bounding in and out of his grandparents’ apartment.

Another poignant moment in his story is his grandmother’s incident with race.

Apparently a Black man tried to rob Obama’s white grandmother and she used that epithet (N$#@&%).

His white grandfather tried to calm her because young Obama was in earshot.

Wow!!!!!!

Can you imagine, hearing that word from the mouth of your beloved grandmother?

Well, imagine it if you were (biracial) Black…….

Believe me, growing up in a household with too many people and very limited funds, that was a word that I heard often.

But, the impact wasn’t as shattering.

He also recounts another time concerning the naive actions of his white mother.

Mother and son attended a movie where the Blacks on the African continent were suffering under the weight of Colonialism.

While his mother praised the film, a distraught young Barack contemplated getting up and walking out of the theatre.

Although he loved his mother a great deal, he agonized that she could not understand the pain of being Black.

I often feel that America is kidding herself when she states that we have come a long way.

But have we?

Yes, we are not being forced to work for free on Southern plantations under the lash of the whip.

It seems to me sometimes that the whip has been replaced in the Northern ghettoes by the police baton.

And yes, we are no longer being ripped and torn from our families at the whim of the slaveholders.

Or are we?

I remember from my childhood single women on public aid having to have clandestine meetings with the fathers of their children because the government decided that married or domiciled couples on aid were not an option.

I also remember the few single black fathers not being qualified.

And now the media wants to blame the MIA Black fathers on some idea that all Black men are not fathers but baby daddies!!!!!

The president goes on to challenge white America to see this issue through the eyes of Black Americans due to centuries of injustice.

Again I ask, what does his speech mean for White America?

Certainly not sentiment!!!!!

Why?

I have read numerous comments and posts on various news sites citing that African Americans are too hung up on race.

Where do we go from here?

Continued profiling and more incidents like Trayvon!!!!

What does his speech mean for Black America?

Certainly not the belief that we can finally exhale……

Why?

Because we are veterans of the Black American experience where the doors of equal opportunity-while not closed completely-offers just enough wedge for a sliver of Blackness to seep through!!!!

And finally, what does his speech mean for the world with all eyes on us?

The world-especially the Mother Continent-may note that there has been much progress for its Black citizens.

In all fairness and spite, they can also note the hypocrisy of America as the great champion of democracy and freedom around the globe!!!!!

W.E.B. Dubois once stated that the problem of the twentieth century was the color line.

In the first decades of the 21st century it seems that race may be the problem for many decades to come.

This may be especially so if we have renegades like George Zimmerman who are sponsors of racial profiling.

Until next time…..

A Rumble InThe HouseThat Oprah Built: Rae Dawn Chong VersusThe Queen Of All Media

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Hi Readers,

I have to admit that I am still reeling from Rae Dawn Chong’s verbal attacks on Oprah Winfrey this week.

It was very disconcerting to hear Chong call Oprah a House Nigger.

Wow!!!!!!!

I smirked when I first read the headlines.

Chong-a woman of mixed ancestry……

In light of recent (biracial) Black Americans opting to subordinate their Black ancestry, I thought Chong would have adopted a softer stance on the race issue.

However, after reading a synopsis of the interview, I realized that Rae’s verbal disrespect wasn’t really about race but more about jealousy and envy!!!!!!

Chong on Oprah’s Looks…..

As you know by now Oprah is no stranger to criticism concerning her looks.

Her battle of the bulge has become legendary in the annals of tabloid history.

Rae states that due to her looks, Oprah “would have been a house keeper 60 years ago.”

There is a common wisdom in some quarters that Oprah’s fame is attributed to her looks.

I remember a former professor of mine once observing that Oprah’s warm reception by white America was due to the mammy image that she conveyed.

For those of you who are unaware, the mammy is a figure of the Black women concocted by whites pining for the “good old days” right at the era of the emancipation of Black slaves in the South.

She was often very dark, and very obese.

She often looked down her nose at her fellow Blacks.

She often considered her white employees her family and spent many years sacrificing the needs of her own family (if she had one) for the needs of the white household she worked in.

I winced at his observation because I was one of a few African Americans in the class.

His words struck a chord/nerve…..why?

If I am being honest, there is some truth to his words.

I remember in the early years of her show, she used to cry with her guests and they would cry on her shoulders.

Ouch!!!!!!

Readers forgive me…….

But sometimes I couldn’t help but notice that some of her teary eyed guests would be very dainty and white.

Next to them, overweight Oprah would seem bearish.

Her bigness and her Blackness were magnified.

Rae charges that Oprah brown-nosed her way to the top.

That may be…..

However, in my heart of hearts I concede that Oprah’s meteoric rise to superstardom was and is a combination of unique talent and hard work.

Rae also charges that in her work with Oprah, she came across as the fat chick that became the teacher’s pet and wanted everyone to love her.

Uhm Uhm Uhm…….

I guess I can visualize that.

Be that as it may, I want to make one thing clear….

Oprah is NOT A SELLOUT!!!!!!!

She is definitely a race woman.

I have read articles and seen shows where she has given honor and much deserved respect to our Black icons and legends

Diana Ross….

Aretha Franklin….

Tina Turner….

Chong also went on to acknowledge that Oprah has almost singlehandedly changed the game for women of color and big women in the media.

Definitely a thin line between love and hate!!!!!

What about Oprah’s critical reception among Black women?

For me the jury is half in on that one.

I have heard on numerous occasions my sisters bashing O.

Not just my everyday sisters, but our celebrity sisters as well.

Toni Braxton on a VH1 special took Oprah to task for berating her on live television because of her tax woes.

Legendary Gladys Knight states in her autobiography that Oprah was cool and reserved towards her.

It seems that Oprah just can’t win.

I hope in her golden years that Oprah has learned or is mastering the wisdom that she can’t be all things to all people.

That the only one that she can please all of the time is herself.

On a personal note, Oprah’s success has inspired me to believe that the impossible can become possible.

Much Love O!!!!!

Until next time…….

How Black America Can Heal and Thrive in Wake of the Trayvon Verdict

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Trayvon-Martin

Hello Readers,

FYI,

I decided to wait a couple of days after the shocking Trayvon Martin verdict before I rendered an opinion.

I learned the hard way the difference a couple of days can make!!!!!

Suspense….

Shock….

Disbelief….

Anger….

Pain….

Betrayal….

These are the gamut of emotions that I experienced the night of the Trayvon verdict as I sat watching continuing CNN updates.

Suspense you ask?

It was more like a deep anxiety coupled with great anticipation.

After all, the numerous CNN Pundits and analysts kept referencing past high profile cases in which the jury held lengthy deliberations.

I remember discussing the case a couple of days earlier with relatives and I informed them of the high probability that Zimmerman might get off.

Then, I thought because of the expectations of African Americans to see justice served for Trayvon, that the all-female jury would at least bring back a conviction of manslaughter.

The screams…..

Admittingly I did not follow this case as closely as I should have.

It was when I heard the screams on the 911 tapes and the testimonies of the mothers of Zimmerman and Trayvon that I suspected and on some level knew that “guilty without a doubt” was not really proven in this case.

Please note that doesn’t mean I believe that Zimmerman is without a doubt 100% at fault for Trayvon’s untimely demise.

I was deeply angered after hearing the 911 dispatcher tell Zimmerman that he did not need to follow Trayvon.

Why did he get out of the car?

To some Zimmerman may be herald as a hero.

If I am being honest, I would want someone as diligent as Zimmerman guarding my community.

For the majority of us, our homes are the biggest investments that we will make in our lifetime.

As evidenced across this country, it doesn’t take long or much for a comfortable middleclass neighborhood to fall into disarray and poverty.

However, with that being said, Trayvon was clearly profiled. It is unfortunate that some blame a garment for his death.

Though I am not a hoodie wearer (being a dowdy 42 year old woman), I have an innate common sense to know that a dangerous predator come in all types of clothing!!!!!!

As one of a few Black faces in a predominately White suburb, I am most anxious around those “safe” White people-thanks to the statistics on the majority of America’s most notorious serial killers.

With that being said, I am hurt and angry…..

Black America is hurt and angry….

My beloved brothers and sisters, where do we go from here?

Do we give up and accept this verdict?

Why has there been such an intense and emotional reaction to Trayvon’s murder?

Young Black men die everyday in America’s roughest urban areas either by the hand of another Black male or the police.

I honestly can’t remember another outpouring of outrage on the behalf of African Americans about injustice in my 42 years.

Emmett Till…..

This is what this verdict feels like to me.

Having been born in 1971 and really come of age in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I can’t begin to contemplate the deep hurt, anger and anxiety behind this verdict due to a “jury of Emmett’s peers”.

Speaking of a jury of peers…..

Six Women- Five White and a Black Hispanic….

Did we really expect justice?

As a wannabe feminist, I feel a sense of betrayal.

(This is a discussion for another time and another place-believe me)

Anyway readers I digress!

The Healing in the aftermath of Trayvon……

Black America is a terrific mess at this moment in our history.

If I have to describe our situation right now, I would say broken!!!!

In one segment of our population there is obscene wealth.

In another there is crushing poverty.

And, not to mention the not so healed scars of slavery that manifests itself daily through colorism, backbiting, etc.

Again I ask the question, where do we go from here?

The tragedy would be to protest and retreat!!!!

Consider If we would have beat a mass retreat after the Till verdict…..

No, we got angry….

We woke up….

Some of our beloved entertainers decided not to let Emmett’s death be in vein.

Although we have a Black president, we can’t really say that we have harnessed his election to truly eradicate racism and stress from our daily existence.

I’m sorry but some days I still feel as if we are bearing the heavy burden of slavery time Blackness!!!!!

Thus, we can’t rest on the achievements of our forebears.

Clichéd maybe….

The right to vote and rocking that vote is more vital than ever.

Please fathom that the high incarceration rates are in direct proportion to the voting power we lose-especially in the Deep South.

From the unschooled to the most highly educated amongst us, we need to make some intelligent noise in this area-especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Take a moment to conceive what would happen if every African American in this country of voting age rocked the vote?

In rural suburban and major metropolitan areas, we could serve on juries and really deliver fair justice.

Justice would ring from every hamlet across America that we have managed to integrate!!!!!

How can a focus on voting rights help us to heal you ask?

When we go to the polls to vote, we are voting for issues as well as candidates.

What are the contemporary issues for us?

Violence, education, poverty, jobs, housing-these are pressing concerns for a majority of African Americans at this time.

Imagine if we were able to combat all of these issues through the political process?

We would definitely heal because a person who has all of his or her basic needs met, are free to pursue avenues of prosperity and happiness.

Take the insanely wealthy among us….

Especially the not so politically conscious athlete or entertainer!!!!

Money, Hoes, all a Nigga knows… was (and still is) a mantra for those intent on living that over the top lifestyle!!!!

This element among us is thriving in a sense because they are granted respect by Black and White America.

They possess that self-confidence to exist on many levels in American society.

Imagine if we as a whole got to that place?

Thriving……..

What does that mean for someone who has healed?

This may not be a good example but I often think of former drug addicts.

Once that addict has sought help for and kicked his addiction, he is ready to thrive.

He can only imagine the possibilities that await him with a sober life and mind.

What does post healing and thriving look like for us?

Restorative family units.

Hello beautiful sisters, queens, instead of the other derogatory terms for our women.

Hey Brother instead of that noxious term we often use with the mistaken belief of love and tenderness!!!

Whole people who can successfully challenge the new forms of racism that the dying arch conservative among us can dream up!!!!

(Make no mistake about it, racism is never going away-we will just handle it better)

The disconnect between the generations will be eradicated.

Segregation this time will not hurt us spiritually.

I don’t mean segregation in a negative sense.

I am talking about those safe spaces that are acutely needed -not just the stoops, beauty and barbershops.

The classrooms, boardrooms, state capitols and Capitol Hill.

To truly honor Trayvon, let’s not succumb to the helpless rage that will lead to mass scale violence and riots.

Make some noise!!!!!

Economic protests and boycotts.

Graduating at the top of our high school and college classrooms.

A 100% high school and college graduation rate for every African American boy and girl.

Know our history in America, on the continent and the world.

Finally (and perhaps the most important)-wealth and financial independence.

Ponder for a moment if we owned the businesses and banks in our communities.

Reflect if every African American adult owned their own homes free and clear and had substantial savings, as well as conscious politicians fighting on our behalf?

This would be similar to the invaders in foreign lands who are a small percentage but own everything and wield real power!!!!

For now this is just a dream but could one day be a reality.

Stay strong Black America and keep Trayvon alive!!!!

(Sorry for the long and ranting post)

Until next time…….

Sistah Act

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michelle-obama

Hello readers,

Yes,

She has done it again!!!!

For those of you who are just tuning in, our first lady Michelle Obama had to contend with a heckler.

Michelle boldly confronted the heckler who was apparently a gay rights activist unhappy with President Obama’s administration on stances concerning the LGBT community.

I admit when I first read of the incident I cringed.

However, only for a moment.

There has been speculation that the heckler used coded racist language.

While I am not sure that I totally believe that, I do concur with speculation that she spoke from a position of “white privilege”.

I guess what the heckler failed to realize is that President Obama’s administration sets the policies concerning social issues.

Although the first lady at times has acted as the president’s emissary, I doubt very seriously that she yields the kind of authority as first lady to influence both houses of congress.

Though at various times in our history there have been first ladies with this influence such as Eleanor Roosevelt when her husband Franklin Roosevelt was president.

Unfortunately for the heckler, she was used to the president’s reaction to hecklers who purposely interrupt him at various official meetings and gathering places.

Maybe due to his many years in the political spotlight, Obama has become adept at public dissonance.

When faced with malice interruptions, he adopts a congenial manner and disposition.

While I believe it is the right of private American citizens to offer criticism of our government, doing so to the detriment of public officials to convey important information, is in essence similar to those who disrupt our government.

Mrs. Obama, in exercising her right to address a paying crowd, was maligned in some quarters as an “angry black woman”.

This label has been attached to her before.

Shame, shame, shame.

Shame on the segment of the American public who still adhere to stereotypical images of African Americans!!!!

Shame and pity on those who want to typify African American as not human!!!!

Imagine readers…..

What defines a human being?

Are we without emotions or feelings?

Consider if the president and the first lady did not exhibit feelings or emotions.

Take the Sandy Hook incident for example.

What if the president had addressed our nation devoid of emotion or in jubilant manner?

Can you imagine the backlash?

What if the first lady had tried to continue her speech in spite of the heckler?

I would have thought she would have been a sociopath.

Speaking of sociopaths….

They are devoid of emotions.

Thus, I applaud the first lady in standing up and refusing to be bullied.

In that defining moment, I saw a representative of the most powerful office in the world; a bona fide government official commanding respect; a woman representing all women on the political stage; and finally, a Black woman exhibiting extreme grace under fire.

One last thought readers…

Whether you are attempting to vilify her as number one enemy of the state, or uphold her as a saint, she is a human being just like the rest of us who unfortunately has to worry that her every maneuver is constantly under surveillance

Until next time…..

A Rage in Mississippi

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Hello Readers,

Two nights ago I was channel surfing trying to find an engaging program to watch before I turned in when I came across the movie Mississippi Burning which is loosely based on the disappearance and the murders of the three civil rights workers.

I first saw this movie when I was in high school.

A little background noise….

The late 1980’s and early 1990’s were a time when the X generation or those who never gave up the fight for true justice, were finally successful in having Mississippi give up her ghosts.

For example, it was around this time that Medgar Evers’s assassin was finally brought to justice for the 1963 slaying of Medgar in his own driveway.

Well anyway, the movie highlights the almost unbearable struggles African Americans faced in the south during the height of Jim Crow.

What stood out the most for me about the movie is that the Black victims never fought back.

I guess that is easy for me to say-a post-civil rights baby even though I grew up in Mississippi.

When I first viewed the movie in the late 1980’s I heralded the poor rural Black people as noble and brave.

Keep in mind however, that my thinking was shaped in the context of Dr. King’s belief that there is redemption in suffering.

Also, my grandmother and many older African Americans who were reared and steeped in the Southern traditions held this view to an extent.

Fast Forward….

It seems that ever since Spike Lee’s epic Malcolm X movie, every African American perhaps under thirty at that time has embraced a radical train of thought that includes violence to deal with America’s inherent and unrelenting racism.

I must confess that as I watched the movie a couple of days ago, I was certainly down for a very slow and painful death for all of the “esteemed” members who constantly harassed their downtrodden darker neighbors!!!!!!

I remember a sentiment Dr. King once shared…..

Faced with the ever increasing militancy of African Americans who wanted to take up arms against American oppression-especially in the urban areas-King stated that would be an act of suicide because of American’s armament sophistication.

While I agree with his thinking at that time, our history in this country and on the African continent has shown that armed resistance can be an effective tool in gaining freedom and respect-officially and on a more personal level.

I mean I was so angry that the Black people in no way tried to fight back!!!!

A little boy was perhaps the most brave when he put aside his fear to identify the violent law enforcement officials responsible for the acts of violence.

The reason that I advocated armed resistance in protecting life, limb and property?

The African Americans outnumbered the Whites in that town-as in most Southern towns back then.

Thus, if every Black man and woman took up arms in self-defense, perhaps the violent faction of the white community would have decided on a more egregious form of separate but equal.

Well I thought I would give a new twist on an old classic.

Until next time……

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