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JANET JACKSON

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janetjacksonposterx

On The Making of Rhythm Nation

“Before I ever started work on Rhythm Nation, I knew that I didn’t want to make another album like Control. Control was about my life; Rhythm Nation is about what’s going on in the world around us. The theme of the album is people united through dance and music, and we’ve tried to address some important social problems–bigotry, illiteracy, drugs, violence, the homeless–as well as the issue of leaving those problems behind for the next generation, which has no control over any of them.
While I knew I wanted to make a different kind of album this time, there was one thing I definitely wanted to keep the same: working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. We had such great success with Control, and my attitude was, if there’s magic there, why go and ruin it? The thing about Jimmy and Terry is that not only are they two of the most incredible producers around, they’re also great guys, and once again we had a lot of fun working together. 

We’ve tried to address some important social problems–bigotry, illiteracy, drugs, violence, the homeless–as well as the issue of leaving those problems behind for the next generation.

It took a while to get started-we were actually supposed to begin recording at the end of ’87, but we were all so tied up with different projects that we didn’t begin work in Minneapolis until January of ’89. But it was worth the wait, because it’s a real partnership with Jimmy and Terry; we trust each other, and they have enough confidence in me as an artist to really include me in the creative process.
I remember the night I arrived in Minneapolis, where we recorded the album in their new studio, I went by the studio just to say ‘Hi’ to the guys before heading for the hotel. Jimmy was getting ready to lay down a keyboard part, and I asked him if he wanted me to play the part while he engineered. He showed me the part, and I went ahead and played it; I ended up playing keyboards on ‘Rhythm Nation,’ ‘Miss You Much,’ and ‘State of the World.’
I’m also very proud of ‘Black Cat,’ which is the first song I’ve ever written completely on my own, as well as co-produced. We wanted to do a rock-funk song for the album, and one night I was in the hotel, getting ready to head down to the studio, when I just started humming this melody. I got Jellybean Johnson to play guitar and co-produce; Jimmy played some keyboards and Terry laid down a bass lick. ‘Black Cat’ was the last song we recorded for the album, and I think it turned out really well.
Overall, I’m very happy and proud that Rhythm Nation came together the way I had planned. I had a vision, a theme I wanted to get across, and to be able to convey that theme through music is very satisfying. This album means a lot to me, it really does.”

MARIAN ANDERSON and THE DAR CONTROVERSY

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marian andersonby Anne Tedards

I would be fooling myself,” Marian Anderson once wrote, “to think that I was meant to be a fearless fighter; I was not meant to be a soprano instead of a contralto.” Nevertheless, in the spring of 1939, Anderson found herself in the middle of a raging battle.

Although racial bigotry has by no means disappeared from the United States, in the years before World War Il, it was even more overt and widespread than it is today. Anderson had often seen bigotry’s ugly face as she criss-crossed the country on concert tours.

She saw it when hotel clerks took one look at her and suddenly announced a lack of space-even when reservations had been made and confirmed. She felt it, as she once remarked, “in the cold breeze that blew from the persons who were waiting on me” in restaurants that did not ordinarily serve “colored.” She heard it when hotel managers, having grudgingly registered her, suggested that she take her meals in her room instead of in the hotel restaurant. She heard it when strangers addressed her white companions as “Miss” or “Mr.” and called her “Marian.”

In one southern city, the local concert manager tried to cancel Anderson’s recital when she discovered that the singer often took the hand of her White accompanist during her end-of-performance bow. “We won’t stand for that here,” said the manager. Backed by more enlightened local residents, Anderson sang anyway, taking Vehanen’s hand at the conclusion of the concert as usual–but she never returned to that city.

Then there were the countless train rides during which conductors, horrified to discover that a Black woman had paid for and was occupying a drawing-room compartment, had protected other passengers from the awful sight by insisting that her compartment door be kept firmly shut.
Early in Anderson’s career as a concert performer, she often sang in segregated halls and theaters, although she was never happy about it. She finally refused to sing in any theater that had, as she put it, ”an invisible line marking the Negro section from the white.” She lost a number of otherwise good engagements because of her position, but she stuck to it.

The most dramatic response came from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who protested Anderson’s exclusion from Constitution Hall by publicly announcing her resignation from the DAR…Conductor Leopold Stokowski joined opera stars Lawrence Tibbett, Kirsten Flagstad, and Geraldine Farrar in signing a telegram to the DAR; its ban on Anderson, they said, was “undemocratic and unAmerican.”

Most of the fans in southern cities who came backstage to see her were Blacks. In her autobiography, Anderson wryly recalled an exception, a White woman who came backstage but who stood apart from the rest of the crowd. When everyone else had left, she handed her program to Anderson. “Since I’m back here,” she said, “I’ll take an autograph.” As Anderson was signing the program, the woman said, “I still don’t understand why you didn’t sing (the humorous popular song) ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Anderson kept right on writing.

Some people might have thought that the singer’s patience in the face of slights, insults, and outright hostility indicated a lack of courage. But anyone who suspected her of cowardice simply did not know her. A gentle woman who detested confrontations, she saw herself as an emissary, someone who might show racists that they were mistaken. “My mission,” she wrote, “is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow.”

In her autobiography, she said she tried to show racists that ”their attitudes were not based on knowledge.” Perhaps, she said, ” if they discover that they are wrong about an individual they will begin to realize that their judgment of a group is equally fallacious (mistaken).

One very hot summer night in Jackson, Mississippi, Anderson sang for an audience of 4,000 enthusiastic people. At the end of the program, she performed several encores, including her customary sign-off, “Ave Maria,” but the audience remained in place, begging for more. She obliged with the old American song, “Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginny,” which she asked the audience to join her in singing. The crowd raised its voice with, as Anderson described it, “wonderful eagerness and unanimity.”

But not everyone was pleased. Several people complained loudly about the “audacity” of a Black woman asking whites to join her in song. This time, however, the racists were in a minority. The following day, the Jackson newspaper published an editorial praising both the singer and her audience. “Sometimes,” said the paper, “the human soul rises above itself, above racial prejudices.” One of the biggest tests for that “human soul,” however, was yet to come.

Sol Hurok, said Anderson in her autobiography, “sought appearances for me in all the places where the best performers were expected and taken for granted.” In 1938 Hurok decided the time had come for a recital in the nation’s capital. Early in her career, Anderson had sung in schools and churches in Washington, but she had never given a major concert there.
There was only one place suitable for such an event: Constitution Hall, the city’s largest and most prestigious auditorium.

Westbrook Pegler, a widely syndicated, ultraconservative newspaper columnist, sneeringly suggested that the affair was a “publicity stunt” staged by a “hitherto obscure Negro singer.”

Constitution Hall was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a patriotic society formed in 1890. DAR members, of whom there were many thousands, were required to have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. They were also required to be White.
In June 1938, Hurok wrote to the manager of Constitution Hall, asking that a date well in the future–April 9, 1939–be reserved for a concert by Marian Anderson. The reply came quickly: April 9 was already booked. Hurok then asked for any of several other dates, but the answer was the same; unfortunately, said the manager, the hall had no open dates.

There was obviously more here than met the eye. Hurok asked the celebrated Polish pianist, Ignacy Paderewski, to apply for the same dates. Mr. Paderewski, said the Constitution Hall management, was welcome on any of these days. Hurok’s suspicions were confirmed by the chairman of the Howard University concert program. The hall, said this official, had a clause in its rental policy that prohibited “the presentation of Negro artists.”

Outraged, Hurok informed the press about the situation. The story, which made front-page news nationwide, shocked Americans. The most dramatic response came from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who protested Anderson’s exclusion from Constitution Hall by publicly announcing her resignation from the DAR. Other notable members of the organization followed suit, and Americans of all races and from all walks of life raised their voices in support of Anderson.

The renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz, who had already committed himself to a February concert in the DAR auditorium, said, “I am ashamed to play at Constitution Hall.” Conductor Leopold Stokowski joined opera stars Lawrence Tibbett, Kirsten Flagstad, and Geraldine Farrar in signing a telegram to the DAR; its ban on Anderson, they said, was “undemocratic and unAmerican.” Time magazine ran an article headlined “Jim Crow Concert Hall,” and New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia sent the DAR a wire saying, “No hall is too good for Marian Anderson.”

Some people, of course, took the side of the DAR. Westbrook Pegler, a widely syndicated, ultraconservative newspaper columnist, sneeringly suggested that the affair was a “publicity stunt” staged by a “hitherto obscure Negro singer.” And the Washington, D.C., Board of Education turned down Hurok’s request to stage an Anderson concert at the city’s Central High School. The school board’s rejection set off a new wave of protest. Angry Anderson supporters formed the Marian Anderson Citizens Committee, which picketed the board’s offices and gathered 6,000 signatures on a statement denouncing its action. Students at all White Central High wrote an editorial for their school newspaper, calling for a reversal of the board’s decision. They wanted, they said, “the honor of playing host to one of the musical world’s greatest artists,” and to “prove to the rest of the world that this country holds no grudges because of race or color.” The protests failed to move the school board.

What were Marian Anderson’s personal feelings? “I was saddened and ashamed,” she said in her autobiography. “I was sorry for the people who had precipitated the affair…. They were not persecuting me personally or as a representative of my people so much as they were doing something that was neither sensible nor good.”

Reporters from all over the world besieged Anderson with questions:”What is your attitude about the DAR?” “Do you feel insulted by this refusal?” “What do you intend to do about it?” I did not want to talk, she said later, “and I particularly did not want to say anything about the DAR.” She knew that many DAR members disagreed with the organization’s official policy, and she held fast to her conviction”that a whole group should not be condemned because an individual or section of the group does a thing that is not right.”

The situation was resolved by action from an unlikely quarter: The United States government. On February 24, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes– probably at the instigation of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt–made Marian Anderson an unusual offer. He invited her to give a free public recital, open to all, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert would be held on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939.

At first, Anderson was hesitant about the plan. She felt unsuited for hand-to-hand combat,” she hated ” a lot of show,” and she was unsure about the outcome of such a gesture. “I studied my conscience,” she wrote. “As I thought further, I could see that significance as an individual was small in this affair. I had become, whether I liked it or not, a symbol representing my people.”

Anderson talked it over with her mother. “You know what your aspirations are, ” said Anna Anderson. “I think you should make your own decision.” Her mother, wrote the singer later, ” knew what the decision would be. I could not run away from this situation. If I had anything to offer, I would have to do so now.”

The concert was scheduled for 5:00 P.M. Early in the afternoon a crowd began to gather, and by concert time, a sea of humanity stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. A squad of motorcycle policemen escorted Anderson and Vehanen to the platform that had been built in front of the memorial.

Despite her years of experience, despite the innumerable concerts she had given, despite the fact that she had been called one of the century’s greatest singers by Arturo Toscanini, Anderson was terrified. ” My heart leaped wildly, and I could not talk,” she said in her autobiography. ” I even wondered whether I would be able to sing.”

Mustering all her professionalism, she displayed an outward calm. ” The arm which I took to steady her,” recalled Sol Hurok, “was steadier than my own.” She was introduced to the dignitaries who had assembled for the concert, although, as she said later, “If I did not consult contemporary reports I could not recall who was there.” Present were Supreme Court justices, senators, congressmen, diplomats, cabinet members, and other high government officials.

Students at all White Central High wrote an editorial for their school newspaper, calling for a reversal of the board’s decision. They wanted, they said, “the honor of playing host to one of the musical world’s greatest artists,”

 

Introducing Anderson, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes noted that the monument to Abraham Lincoln was a fitting place for this concert. “Today,” he said, ” we stand reverently and humbly at the base of this memorial to the Great Emancipator while glorious tribute is rendered his memory by a daughter of the race from which he struck the chains of slavery.”

Concluding his speech, Ickes said, “Genius, like justice, is blind…. Genius draws no color line. She has endowed Marian Anderson with such a voice as lifts any individual above his fellows, as is a matter of exultant pride to any race.”

Anderson stepped out from the memorial’s towering marble columns and looked at the expectant faces of 75,000 men, women, and children of all races. “I had a feeling that a great wave of good will poured out from these people, almost engulfing me,” she wrote later. She began to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” her voice soaring over and blending in with the voices of the multitude before her.

Anderson’s program included “America,” the aria “O Mio Fernando,” Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and several spirituals. When she finished, a roar from the crowd exploded the stillness of the Washington evening. “I am overwhelmed,” she said. “I can’t tell you what you have done for me today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart again and again.”

At this point thousands of people rushed toward the stage, reaching out their hands to Anderson. Walter White, secretary of the NAACP, later recalled a little Black girl in the surging crowd. She was dressed in her best clothes for Easter and her face was streaming with tears. White said, “If Marian Anderson could do it, the girl’s eyes seemed to say, then I can, too.” The nation had joined, as historian William Manchester put it, “to give prewar America’s civil rights record one shining moment of glory.”

Not long after the Easter Sunday concert, the Department of the Interior commissioned a mural commemorating the event. Anderson was invited to Washington for its 1943 unveiling. At the ceremony, Secretary Ickes called Anderson “a symbol of the willing acceptance of the immortal truth that (in the words of Abraham Lincoln) ‘all men are created equal.”

Responding to the tribute, Anderson said, ” I am deeply touched that I can be in any way a symbol of democracy. Everyone [at the concert] was a living witness to the ideals of freedom for which President Lincoln died. When I sang that day, I was singing to the entire nation.”

Anderson had accepted an invitation to sing at a benefit concert after the unveiling. The invitation had come from the DAR, and the concert was held at Constitution hall.

Characteristically, the singer took no personal credit for the end of segregation at the Washington auditorium. “When I finally walked into Constitution Hall and sang form its stage, I had no feeling different to what I have in other halls,” she said. “There was no sense of triumph.” Noting that “the hall is now open to other performers of my group, she did admit, however, that there is no longer an issue, and that is good.”

Futher reading

Anderson, Marian. My Lord, What a Morning. New York, Viking, 1956.
Hurok,S., and Ruth Goode. Impresario: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 1946.
Truman Margaret. Women of Courage. New York: Morrow, 1976.

RICHARD WRIGHT

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00n/29/ARVE/G2004/055Native Son 50 Years Later

by Sarah E. King

Southside Chicago, 10 PM. A 15-year-old Black girl returns to her home in a dilapidated housing project after working all day at a fast food restaurant. Her ten month old baby is waiting for her, because his father, a high-school dropout, never arrived to pick him up. Once inside, she closes the door hoping to block out the sounds and misfortunes of the ghetto, but it is worthless because her life and her surroundings are inseparable–the ghetto has already done its damage. She has tried to make it, but everyone and everything around her are living proof that tell her she cannot. At age 15, the period during which most American girls begin building their dreams, this young Black girl has already given up.

Although merely a scenario, the above sketch is a realistic picture of a member of America’s desperate Black underclass. A world apart from and a world often unrecognized by mainstream America, Blacks in inner-cities and poor neighborhoods all across the country live each day just hoping to survive. Amidst their apparent hopelessness and despair, families and entire communities try to gain the strength to at least deal with the the daily obstacles they will face if they cannot overcome them.

Today, although discrimination and racism are in no way nonexistent, by neglecting our duties to the community, African-Americans and their White counterparts are keeping back an entire class of other African Americans
(9.3 million to be exact) and others as well.

Several factors are often cited as causes for this perpetuation of a class of citizens living in constant poverty. Reasons often cited by civil rights leaders include lingering effects of over 100 years of racism, discrimination and second-class citizenship enforced by legislation and the institutionalized discrimination that did not disappear when the legal barriers to equal opportunity were removed. Other causes include unequal benefits and resources, inadequate educational opportunities and the lack of jobs. More contemporary explanations for poverty point out the disintegration of the Black family which supposedly leads to a loss of traditional moral and family values. The heavy influence of gangs and drugs in these communities where there is an absence of other alternatives and support is also a growing situation blamed for poverty.

During the years since the Civil Rights Movement, there has been a steady increase in middle class Blacks. In general, the number of Blacks in powerful positions has also been on the rise including the appearance of more successful doctors, businessmen, educators, attorneys and politicians. Unfortunately, the rise of the Black bourgeoisie has also been accompanied by an increase in the number of Blacks living in poverty.

In an era where the majority of the legal barriers hampering the progress of Black Americans have been broken down and several federal programs directed at rehabilitating and uplifting the lower class have been established, society is confused. Social scientists, leaders, politicians, Blacks and Whites alike stand baffled at the plight of the Black underclass. Some blame ill-formed and poorly administered government remedies. Others even cite affirmative action programs as encouraging an inferior status for Blacks and causing Blacks not to work hard due to this favored status for color. However, despite finger-pointing, those offering criticism have come short of offering any answers.

As the first step in solving or at least reducing poverty in the U.S., upper and middle class Black Americans must take responsibility. At the foundation of all Black communities past and present is reinvestment. This process of giving back to something that gave you the opportunity, skills and support one needed to succeed is what keeps Black communities strong.

According to an analysis of data from the recent U.S. Census by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the poverty rate of Blacks was triple that of Whites in 1989. Two of every five Black families have incomes that put them in the poorest fifth of American families. Over nine million people or 30.7% of Blacks fell below the poverty line. Even more devastating, one of every two Black children are poor. Last year’s census data also showed that those who are poor are growing poorer. Thirty-eight percent of all poor Blacks have incomes below half the poverty line. Half the poverty line is equivalent to an income of $4,943 for a family of three. Even more depressing, Center Director Robert Greenstein states that “after seven years of (economic) recovery, the nation failed to reduce the poverty rate even to the levels of the most severe recession years of the 1970s. With the economic sluggishness of the early 1990’s, the poverty rate is likely to climb still higher.”


These are the facts; it is obvious that there is a problem, but the even larger problem is the lack of a solution. When there are more Black men imprisoned than there are in institutions of higher learning, and 59% of all poor Blacks live in families headed by a single woman — where do we begin? It is difficult to find a starting point when the problem so severely effects young and old that each age group is in need of immediate attention. As the first step in solving or at least reducing poverty in the U.S., upper and middle class Black Americans must take responsibility. At the foundation of all Black communities past and present is reinvestment. This process of giving back to something that gave you the opportunity, skills and support one needed to succeed is what keeps Black communities strong. Black Americans were unified and proud of their common culture and heritage during the past and this formed a bond because their common color meant common inferiority approved by law. After the Civil Rights Movement and legal barriers were removed, Blacks were still faced with institutionalized discrimination, racial prejudices and stereotypes. Federal fostering tried to remedy the problem and provided affirmative action, benefit programs and constitutionally approved protection. However, Black Americans forgot the one thing that kept them together throughout their struggle. Many of us lost touch with that hidden factor which gave us the will to keep praying, hoping and fighting in the face of persecution. This power that enabled us to succeed when everything and everyone in power was against us was lost in the transition from oppression to freedom. This lost fountain of race empowerment is reinvestment.

Blacks must realize that while America as a democratic society must protect its citizens, we must take direct responsibility. Whether or not the government helps, the situation is too grave to waste time pointing fingers while our brothers and sisters tumble farther down both the economic and social ladders. In order to stop the endless poverty cycle wherein those given inadequate benefits and education grow into inadequate citizens, Blacks must take the initiative in their own communities on behalf of their own. The problem can largely be attributed to the severance of vertical linkages between the upper, middle and lower classes within the African-American community. People tend to form associations and organizations with those from their own economic and social strata. Once Black middle class and elites become established, they are often forced to concentrate on holding their own ground and position. But in order to reduce poverty and hopefully end it, these members of the Black community must take that extra step and lend a helping hand to someone still trying overcome the odds. All of this can come from the reinvestment of time, money, encouragement, support and the simple act of serving as a role model.

Poor Black adults need reassurance, youths require hope and encouragement so they will see that they are not destined to a life of poverty. In inner-city and ghetto schools, Black students often suffer from academic frustration, boredom and eventually failure. With the removal of those who have made it from the community, Black children no longer see any of the benefits of education because dope dealers are the only ones with wealth and authority. There’s a desperate need for Black teachers in Black schools, Black businesses in Black communities and other tangible and visible evidence of legitimate Black success. There is no doubt that the poor need money and continued government support while the community is being rehabilitated by reinvestment and they can stand on their own. More importantly however in ending the poverty cycle, the poor need to see Black faces, as well as Black money.

America’s economic system is not well endowed with the capacity to handle a permanent underclass. In his current book, The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare, Michael Katz blames American values for the cultural explanations of poverty. According to Katz, these explanations “failed to challenge the structure of the welfare state.” Middle and upper-class Black Americans must challenge this welfare state and allow those suffering from urban poverty to realize it is not their fault. By reinvesting, Blacks can show the poor the most productive routes available for their uplift in the American economic system.

There was once a time when White people kept Blacks from reaching their full potential. Today, although discrimination and racism are in no way nonexistent, by neglecting our duties to the community, African-Americans are keeping back an entire class of other African Americans
(9.3 million to be exact). Blacks must share their skills and knowledge of the working world with those who do not know or remember how to prepare for an interview, apply for a job or even fill out an application. Poor Blacks need to see people like themselves in common positions of authority. Television’s Black bourgeoisie families show success, but are unreal to those who live their lives below the poverty line. These representations are more fantasy than reality. Our poor who are facing the daily temptations of gang association, drugs and crime will recognize their own potential through daily interaction with people who have traveled or can at least identify with the road they must travel. The establishment of these simple fundamentals will begin a process that breaks the endless poverty cycle and brings us one step closer to conquering the existence of a permanent Black underclass.

No doubt, this solution places a heavy weight upon the shoulders of the Black middle and upper classes as well as the American Society at large. However we all owe a debt to our ancestors and our elders for the precious gifts they have given us as a result of a long and arduous struggle. Many people paid an expensive price for our emancipation and equality without ever getting a share of the goods their courage purchased. No one can make it without the solid foundation that comes from the support of those that share their common culture, heritage and circumstance. Why should the poor be forced to? At the beginning of the Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that making sacrifices for one’s race is not an easy task. However he realized then what we must remember today, that this sacrifice “is the cross that we must bear for the freedom of our people.” If all African-Americans faithfully take up this challenge, we will finally reach that day wherein we unite with all our for celebration instead of struggle.

1. “A permanent black undersclass?” U.S. News and World Report Macrch 3, 1986

2. “A Nation Apart” U. S. News and World Report March 17 1986.

3. Tri-County Bulletin Nov. 14, 1990 “Black Poverty Still Three Times White Rate as Overall Poverty stalls in 1989” (The U. S. Census Bureau Data is included in the above citation)

 


HUMAN RIGHTS

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congressman John LewisThe Legacy of the Voting Rights Campaign of 1965

by Congressman John Lewis

In March of 1965, before a Joint session of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson pledged support for federal voting rights legislation with prophetic words: “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.”

Having been stunned by violent scenes of Alabama state troopers beating and tear gassing peaceful demonstrators in what became known as “Bloody Sunday”, President Johnson declared in March 1965 that there was “no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans”. Televised reports of Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” had prompted worldwide outrage and had provoked numerous protests across the United States. Within five months after delivering the now famous voting rights speech, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

In 1965, nearly 1 million Blacks were registered to vote in the eleven southern states of the Old Confederacy. Today, more than 7 million Blacks are registered. There has also been a precipitous increase in the number of Black elected officials. In the early 1960s, there were less than 100 Black elected officials in America. In 1990, Black elected officials number more than 6,000.

In “Bloody Sunday” and the voting rights campaign of 1965, the world witnessed a portentous episode of democratic change. As we observe the 25th anniversary of the “Selma to Montgomery March”, we can take pride in the fruits of the nonviolent democratic revolution in the United States. The anniversary also gives us good reason to express optimism about the democratic changes taking place around the world.
In late 1964, Selma emerged as the last major battleground in the nonviolent Civil Rights struggle. It proved an enormous challenge for the strategy of nonviolent protest. In Selma and in many of the counties that surround it, Black voter registration was virtually non-existent because of discriminatory laws and customs. In some counties where Blacks constituted between 50 and 80 percent of the population, none could vote.

Civil rights organizations chose Selma for the voting rights campaign to demonstrate to the nation the need for federal voting rights legislation. While peacefully organizing local citizens to register to vote, we confronted hostile law enforcement officials who were determined to keep Blacks from registering. In Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, the nonviolent voting rights campaign found a willing and violent adversary to test the practice of nonviolent struggle. Our goal had been simply to expose Clark’s and Alabama state officials’ brutality in hopes of gaining support for federal voting rights legislation. The strategy worked.

The legacy of the voting rights campaign of 1965 has since echoed in numerous places around the globe. Twenty-five years later, we are celebrating its legacy amidst an unprecedented global outbreak of democracy. Marking anew the “turning point in man’s unending search for freedom,” events in Eastern Europe, Nicaragua, South Africa and the Soviet Union have given rise to new democracies and have initiated the liberation of millions from political repression.

As we become a more multicultural and diverse society, the legacy of the voting rights campaign will become increasingly important. Our future depends on the virtues we learn from history.

Americans can take pride in knowing Selma’s legacy has wrought peaceful democratic change by opening up the political system to millions of previously disenfranchised citizens. The passage of the Voting Rights Act ushered in a new era in American politics. By eliminating discriminatory practices such as the poll tax, literacy tests and other obstacles, millions of Black voters have registered to vote. In 1965, nearly 1 million Blacks were registered to vote in the eleven southern states of the Old Confederacy. Today, more than 7 million Blacks are registered. There has also been a precipitous increase in the number of Black elected officials. In the early 1960s, there were less than 100 Black elected officials in America. In 1990, Black elected officials number more than 6,000.

I feel a particular pride in the achievement of the “Selma to Montgomery March,” knowing that it has brought us closer to attaining the “Beloved Community.” Though I was beaten while leading the “Bloody Sunday” march, I look back on our struggle with satisfaction. As a life-long civil rights activist, I have worked to communicate the vision of the “Beloved Community.” Such a community is free from racism and divisiveness. It is an all-encompassing and all-inclusive community whose members respect the humanity of all individuals. I am pleased that the success of the 1965 voting rights campaign has put us on the path to a true interracial democracy.

Unfortunately, the legacy of racism and discrimination still divides us as a society. Though legal discrimination has been abolished, discrimination stubbornly persists. At the core of discrimination, racism continues to victimize all citizens. The resurgence of racist acts have caused alarm across the country in recent years.

Despite the progress of the past 25 years, racial tension still wields time-warping influence over the city of Selma. The crisis of the Selma public school system is a bitter reminder of how racial tension can frustrate the democratic process and leave its citizens bitterly divided.

The legacy of the “Selma to Montgomery March” tells us that in striving for the goal of democracy, we must move beyond obstacles such as racism and class division. A community at peace with itself has the power to offer its citizens rewarding social and economic opportunity. As we become a more multicultural and diverse society, the legacy of the voting rights campaign will become increasingly important. Our future depends on the virtues we learn from history.

BLACK AMERICA’S UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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Poverty: How Can We End It?

by Jennifer Fisher

Southside Chicago, 10 PM. A 15-year-old Black girl returns to her home in a dilapidated housing project after working all day at a fast food restaurant. Her ten month old baby is waiting for her, because his father, a high-school dropout, never arrived to pick him up. Once inside, she closes the door hoping to block out the sounds and misfortunes of the ghetto, but it is worthless because her life and her surroundings are inseparable–the ghetto has already done its damage. She has tried to make it, but everyone and everything around her are living proof that tell her she cannot. At age 15, the period during which most American girls begin building their dreams, this young Black girl has already given up.

Although merely a scenario, the above sketch is a realistic picture of a member of America’s desperate Black underclass. A world apart from and a world often unrecognized by mainstream America, Blacks in inner-cities and poor neighborhoods all across the country live each day just hoping to survive. Amidst their apparent hopelessness and despair, families and entire communities try to gain the strength to at least deal with the the daily obstacles they will face if they cannot overcome them.

Today, although discrimination and racism are in no way nonexistent, by neglecting our duties to the community, African-Americans and their White counterparts are keeping back an entire class of other African Americans
(9.3 million to be exact) and others as well.

 

Several factors are often cited as causes for this perpetuation of a class of citizens living in constant poverty. Reasons often cited by civil rights leaders include lingering effects of over 100 years of racism, discrimination and second-class citizenship enforced by legislation and the institutionalized discrimination that did not disappear when the legal barriers to equal opportunity were removed. Other causes include unequal benefits and resources, inadequate educational opportunities and the lack of jobs. More contemporary explanations for poverty point out the disintegration of the Black family which supposedly leads to a loss of traditional moral and family values. The heavy influence of gangs and drugs in these communities where there is an absence of other alternatives and support is also a growing situation blamed for poverty.

During the years since the Civil Rights Movement, there has been a steady increase in middle class Blacks. In general, the number of Blacks in powerful positions has also been on the rise including the appearance of more successful doctors, businessmen, educators, attorneys and politicians. Unfortunately, the rise of the Black bourgeoisie has also been accompanied by an increase in the number of Blacks living in poverty.

In an era where the majority of the legal barriers hampering the progress of Black Americans have been broken down and several federal programs directed at rehabilitating and uplifting the lower class have been established, society is confused. Social scientists, leaders, politicians, Blacks and Whites alike stand baffled at the plight of the Black underclass. Some blame ill-formed and poorly administered government remedies. Others even cite affirmative action programs as encouraging an inferior status for Blacks and causing Blacks not to work hard due to this favored status for color. However, despite finger-pointing, those offering criticism have come short of offering any answers.

 

As the first step in solving or at least reducing poverty in the U.S., upper and middle class Black Americans must take responsibility. At the foundation of all Black communities past and present is reinvestment. This process of giving back to something that gave you the opportunity, skills and support one needed to succeed is what keeps Black communities strong.

According to an analysis of data from the recent U.S. Census by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the poverty rate of Blacks was triple that of Whites in 1989. Two of every five Black families have incomes that put them in the poorest fifth of American families. Over nine million people or 30.7% of Blacks fell below the poverty line. Even more devastating, one of every two Black children are poor. Last year’s census data also showed that those who are poor are growing poorer. Thirty-eight percent of all poor Blacks have incomes below half the poverty line. Half the poverty line is equivalent to an income of $4,943 for a family of three. Even more depressing, Center Director Robert Greenstein states that “after seven years of (economic) recovery, the nation failed to reduce the poverty rate even to the levels of the most severe recession years of the 1970s. With the economic sluggishness of the early 1990’s, the poverty rate is likely to climb still higher.”


These are the facts; it is obvious that there is a problem, but the even larger problem is the lack of a solution. When there are more Black men imprisoned than there are in institutions of higher learning, and 59% of all poor Blacks live in families headed by a single woman — where do we begin? It is difficult to find a starting point when the problem so severely effects young and old that each age group is in need of immediate attention. As the first step in solving or at least reducing poverty in the U.S., upper and middle class Black Americans must take responsibility. At the foundation of all Black communities past and present is reinvestment. This process of giving back to something that gave you the opportunity, skills and support one needed to succeed is what keeps Black communities strong. Black Americans were unified and proud of their common culture and heritage during the past and this formed a bond because their common color meant common inferiority approved by law. After the Civil Rights Movement and legal barriers were removed, Blacks were still faced with institutionalized discrimination, racial prejudices and stereotypes. Federal fostering tried to remedy the problem and provided affirmative action, benefit programs and constitutionally approved protection. However, Black Americans forgot the one thing that kept them together throughout their struggle. Many of us lost touch with that hidden factor which gave us the will to keep praying, hoping and fighting in the face of persecution. This power that enabled us to succeed when everything and everyone in power was against us was lost in the transition from oppression to freedom. This lost fountain of race empowerment is reinvestment.

Blacks must realize that while America as a democratic society must protect its citizens, we must take direct responsibility. Whether or not the government helps, the situation is too grave to waste time pointing fingers while our brothers and sisters tumble farther down both the economic and social ladders. In order to stop the endless poverty cycle wherein those given inadequate benefits and education grow into inadequate citizens, Blacks must take the initiative in their own communities on behalf of their own. The problem can largely be attributed to the severance of vertical linkages between the upper, middle and lower classes within the African-American community. People tend to form associations and organizations with those from their own economic and social strata. Once Black middle class and elites become established, they are often forced to concentrate on holding their own ground and position. But in order to reduce poverty and hopefully end it, these members of the Black community must take that extra step and lend a helping hand to someone still trying overcome the odds. All of this can come from the reinvestment of time, money, encouragement, support and the simple act of serving as a role model.

Poor Black adults need reassurance, youths require hope and encouragement so they will see that they are not destined to a life of poverty. In inner-city and ghetto schools, Black students often suffer from academic frustration, boredom and eventually failure. With the removal of those who have made it from the community, Black children no longer see any of the benefits of education because dope dealers are the only ones with wealth and authority. There’s a desperate need for Black teachers in Black schools, Black businesses in Black communities and other tangible and visible evidence of legitimate Black success. There is no doubt that the poor need money and continued government support while the community is being rehabilitated by reinvestment and they can stand on their own. More importantly however in ending the poverty cycle, the poor need to see Black faces, as well as Black money.

America’s economic system is not well endowed with the capacity to handle a permanent underclass. In his current book, The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare, Michael Katz blames American values for the cultural explanations of poverty. According to Katz, these explanations “failed to challenge the structure of the welfare state.” Middle and upper-class Black Americans must challenge this welfare state and allow those suffering from urban poverty to realize it is not their fault. By reinvesting, Blacks can show the poor the most productive routes available for their uplift in the American economic system.

There was once a time when White people kept Blacks from reaching their full potential. Today, although discrimination and racism are in no way nonexistent, by neglecting our duties to the community, African-Americans are keeping back an entire class of other African Americans
(9.3 million to be exact). Blacks must share their skills and knowledge of the working world with those who do not know or remember how to prepare for an interview, apply for a job or even fill out an application. Poor Blacks need to see people like themselves in common positions of authority. Television’s Black bourgeoisie families show success, but are unreal to those who live their lives below the poverty line. These representations are more fantasy than reality. Our poor who are facing the daily temptations of gang association, drugs and crime will recognize their own potential through daily interaction with people who have traveled or can at least identify with the road they must travel. The establishment of these simple fundamentals will begin a process that breaks the endless poverty cycle and brings us one step closer to conquering the existence of a permanent Black underclass.

No doubt, this solution places a heavy weight upon the shoulders of the Black middle and upper classes as well as the American Society at large. However we all owe a debt to our ancestors and our elders for the precious gifts they have given us as a result of a long and arduous struggle. Many people paid an expensive price for our emancipation and equality without ever getting a share of the goods their courage purchased. No one can make it without the solid foundation that comes from the support of those that share their common culture, heritage and circumstance. Why should the poor be forced to? At the beginning of the Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that making sacrifices for one’s race is not an easy task. However he realized then what we must remember today, that this sacrifice “is the cross that we must bear for the freedom of our people.” If all African-Americans faithfully take up this challenge, we will finally reach that day wherein we unite with all our for celebration instead of struggle.

1. “A permanent black undersclass?” U.S. News and World Report Macrch 3, 1986

2. “A Nation Apart” U. S. News and World Report March 17 1986.

3. Tri-County Bulletin Nov. 14, 1990 “Black Poverty Still Three Times White Rate as Overall Poverty stalls in 1989” (The U. S. Census Bureau Data is included in the above citation)

 

ARSENIO HALL INTERVIEW

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The Interview

by Bill Singleton

Q: When did you decide to be a comedian?

AH: When I was a senior in high school, a comedian named Franklin Ajaye came to my school to promote the film “Car Wash.” After seeing him, I said to myself, that’s the first thing I’m going to try when I get out of school.

Q: Was your family supportive of your decision to pursue a career as a performer?

AH: Yes, until it got serious. I guess they felt, “Just leave him alone and it’ll go away. He’ll grow up to be a preacher or a lawyer and everything will be all right.” And that’s pretty much what I thought, too. But then I began watching “The Tonight Show.” I was always in trouble because my mother would wake up, come in my room and find me with the TV on at midnight. I could never figure out how she knew. I later realized she saw the blue light coming out from under the door. But it didn’t matter, I just had to watch, particularly if the Mighty Carson Art Players were doing something. That was the “Saturday Night Live” of that era. Then one day (I was about 12) I told my mother, “You know, Mama, what would be really cool? If one day I could fill in instead of David Brenner.” Then as I got older, I remember seeing Della Reese fill in for Johnny. Now, that really did something for me, because it made me realize that by the time I was grown, a Black person might have the opportunity to do something like that.

Q: Is there a comedian you most admire?

AH: There are a lot of people I like out there, but there is nothing like the consummate Richard Pryor. He is, I think, the best.

Q: What kind of comedy to you like?

AH: I like to watch a good impressionist. I also like people who are a lot different from me. So I like to watch people on the edge, like Bob Goldthwait.

Q: How do you describe your style of comedy?

AH: You see, I’m a pretty average, normal, clean cut-looking guy-no wild hair or anything-and often in a suit. But sometimes I get this boyish-like badness and say things people wouldn’t expect me to say, looking the way I do. The audience will accept it, though, because I look like them. Now, obviously, I can’t use the term “white bread” to describe myself, so I’d have to say I’m ” ‘brown bread’ on the edge.”

Q: You have a successful career in both film and television. Do you prefer one medium over the other?

When I told Eddie (Murphy) that I wasn’t going to do TV anymore, he told me I was crazy. at one point, he said,” I’ll even produce the show if you do it.”

 

AH: Television, despite the fact that most of my friends and colleagues tell me to do film-all except Eddie [Murphy]. When I told Eddie that I wasn’t going to do TV anymore, he told me I was crazy. At one point, he said, “I’ll even produce the show if you do it.” Of course, I wound up producing it myself.

Q: Why do you prefer television?

AH: Film and television both have their advantages. Film gives you a certain kind of creativity, but you have to wait a year to see whether people enjoy it. Television is more timely. For instance, when Dan Quayle was accepted as the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, I almost cried, not being able to do a monologue about it. Every time you see a news item you’re thinking of jokes. When I did “The Late Show” I wrote my own monologues for more than 60 shows. A talk show is a blessing for a stand-up. It’s the perfect vehicle.

Q: When did you decide to do this show?

AH: It’s strange-I made the decision while on the Carson show promoting “Coming to America.” During the commercial breaks we began talking about my work on “The Late Show” and hosting talk shows in general. It was like discussing a mutual girlfriend we had both dated. I started missing “her” and I had to have “her” back. And when the show was over Johnny went home and I went to call my manager.

Q: How would you describe your new show?

AH: The show will have a different feel and approach than what most viewers are accustomed to. It will reflect a lot of my sensibilities and interests. In looking at earlier talk shows, the only thing I didn’t like was they didn’t reflect society as I saw it. When I look at society, I see all different kinds of people-the kind of people I didn’t see on Carson, Griffin, Mike Douglas and the like. So I’m hoping my show will offer a more diverse group of guests.

Q: What is the format of the show?

AH: The show will be very unstructured. There’s going to be a feeling of spontaneity and unpredictability. One thing is certain: I won’t be sitting behind a desk. I think body language is very important in communicating and a desk just gets in the way.

Q: Will you have an Ed McMahon type on the show?

AH: We’ll have an announcer, but not in terms of a “second banana.” Of course, personalities often emerge as shows develop and that’s fine, too. We’ll have to wait and see.

Q: For whom is the show targeted?

AH: Probably 18 to 49. But I’m surprised at how many times older folks have come up to me to say they watched me on “The Late Show.” I had a lady on the plane tell me she loved my show. I was surprised and told her so, but she told me she liked the fact that I often had guests on from her generation as well as younger talents. She also said the show helped her better understand her grandchildren.

Q: You are serving as executive producer as well as host. Are you enjoying that role?

AH: Yes, definitely. It gives me the kind of control I need to build this show. It’s my own custom design. I do have to worry about things I didn’t worry about before-like the budget. Now I find myself putting the brakes on spending when necessary. I’ve worked very hard all my life to educate myself, and now I get a chance not only to show the funny side of my personality, but the businessman locked inside me as well. A very wise man told me when I was young that “show business” is two words, and the second is a much larger word. If this show succeeds, there will be nothing greater than hearing someone say, “Arsenio Hall is a great businessman.”

 

Q: How do you answer those who say, “There’s no room for another late-night talk show?” And, is Carson the target?

AH: I think there is room for my show. I know a lot of people who don’t watch Carson, so maybe I can offer them an alternative. So, no, Carson is not a target for me. He’s a legend and I admire him.

Q: Do you set goals for yourself?

AH: Yes. I want to be an artist respected by other artists, which I don’t think I’ve achieved yet. That bothers me sometimes. I want a person to look at me and be affected by my work, like I’m affected when, for example, I see James Earl Jones in “Fences.” I’d like people to look at me and say the things that I say when I watch Letterman. And I’m going to keep working until I do it right.

Q: What was your childhood like, growing up in Cleveland?

AH: My father was a Baptist preacher, so when I was young I spent a lot of time in church at weddings and funerals. It’s weird, when a kid talks about going to work with dad, it’s usually a business office or a factory; but my dad’s office was at the church. I remember sitting in the pulpit behind him during his sermons. He was a brilliant orator, very articulate. That’s the one thing I probably inherited from him-the ability to work a crowd. It’s interesting, if you close your ears and look at the physicality, my dad is the character in “Coming To America.” The rocking, swaying, the hand waving and the handkerchief, I absorbed all that from him.

Q: You’re a magician as well as a comedian. How did you become interested in magic?

AH: I guess most kids had a paper route and mowed lawns to make a little money, but I was allergic to grass, so I did magic. It worked well because my dad would do weddings and I would do magic at the reception-a great package deal. I also did a lot of birthday parties and talent shows around the city. I even made a little money doing magic while I was at Kent State. Until I was 15, I guess I thought I would be what David Copperfield is today.

Q: You have an extensive stuffed animal collection. Tell us about it.

AH: The Christmas that I was nine, my parents had divorced and we were short of money. My mother bought me a little stuffed dog for Christmas, and I was upset because I wanted a Hot Wheels set, an Etch-a-Sketch and an Uncle Martin Magic Kit from the series “My Favorite Martian.” So she sat me down and explained to me what Christmas was all about. She told me about how it’s about love and thought behind the gift that matters, not the money. I still have that dog, and now I can have any stuffed animal I want. It makes me remember where I came from.

 

TERRIE WILLIAMS

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The Interview

William Singleton: could you tell us a little about yourself and what influenced your life?

Terrie Williams: I was born and raised in Mt. Vernon New York. My parents have a very strong work ethic and that philosophy was passed on to me. I was thought of as being a Miss goody-two-shoes. My father was a truck driver and the company went bankrupt, and I thought that was the end of the world. My father pulled it together and got himself a partner and started his own trucking business and it’s been 20 years now. for me to I have that kind of example of enterepreneurship…As an adult, I have such greater appreciation for what it was he did and went through because it wasn’t no day on the beach. That message I got from my parents early on.

WS.: could you describe the difference between a publicist (P.R. person) and an agent?

TW: An agent is responsible for securing paid work for a client and a publicist or public relations counsel is one who heightens public awareness about the client and that can be any number of ways from being selective of the kinds of events a person would do, seeking out looking for ways to get introduced or to basically get stories. That’s the key difference.

WS: How did you become a P.R. master, or mistress, if you will? What steps did you take and what did you have to learn?

TW: I think it’s important to be able to strongly communicate one’s feelings, whether on paper or talking, and I think it important to read everything you get your hands on. Have a good feeling for what makes a good story. We skim 8 to 10 newspapers a day here (at the office), 40 to 50 magazines on a monthly basis. have a real good , strong sense about the kinds of things reporters, writer, editors are looking for. When I talk to people I immediately think “that’s a great hook, a great story.” I think it’s important to really hone the skill, and you can only develop in that area by absorbing everything you get your hands on.

WS: What sorts of magazines do you read?

TW: Everything. I am a news junky. Time, Newsweek, People, Rolling Stone, Ebony, Essence, Jet, Ebony Man, Advertising Age, Ad Week, Forbes, Fortune-Just every thing.

WS: Can you give us an analysis of a strong and effective P.R. campaign strategy?

TW: If we got a call to handle a new group, like Take 6, we have to look at the fact that this group has a strong gospel orientation. What we want to do is prepare the way where there is a wider radio air-play and audience appeal. We did not think that their music was limited to the gospel audience, so we had the challenge of trying to market them to the country. So what we did was put together a press kit, targeted it for the general media, not just gospel , and that included writing a biography about the group. The biography could tell how the group came together, how they are committed to education and what their interests are, and so on. We also included comments on the group’s first album from people who were really big in the business, like Quindy Jones and Anita Baker, and then we went about contacting various people in the media, sending them information press kits and trying to encourage them to do stories.

WS: Making the change from social work to public relations and communications is a big change. How did you make the change especially in the face of those who demanded to see your credentials?

TW: When I realized I wanted to get into public relations I had primarily a social work background. I took courses and I did a lot of volunteer work. That’s how I did it. I knew a couple of jazz musicians who were looking for someone to handle their public relations and couldn’t afford to hire anyone. I would write a news release to the media with photographs of the general public would know.

WS: What were the road blocks?

TW: Having people try to discount you. You’d go to them for help and they’d say ‘I don’t know.” Not having people open the door for you so you have to keep knocking on the doors. There were some people who didn’t want to give you the time of day at first but after a while they checked out the quality of our work and the list of our clients and then changed their minds. There were a lot of people who were kind to me then as well. That’s the reason I am very committed to passing on what I’ve been blessed with. It’s the only way to repay that kindness.

WS: Self-esteem. How did you enhance your self esteem?

TW: If someone said ‘you can’t , don’t listen. Try to find a way you can. You’ve got to believe in your. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. You can do anything you set your mind to do.

WS: A lot of people don’t know that you’ve done some very good work in helping young people. What sort of things have you done?

TW: I have a lot of young people working for me. You have to learn to market yourself. You have to figure out what makes you special and then become excellent at that. Remember to treat everyone that same way . Treat others the way you want to be treated. You never know who will be in a position to help you. Always take time to say ‘Thank you.’ n

The Story

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with one of your favorite stars? Perhaps Eddie Murphy, Take 6, new Edition, or Jackie Joyner-Kersee? In the field of public relations you can meet and represent a host of famous people like those just mentioned.

What does a public relations person do? They are responsible for making sure that their client is seen and heard about in an effective way.
Terrie Williams owns her own public relations firm, which has become one of the most prestigious companies in the country, rising faster than any other agency in the field of entertainment. She took only two years.

“Always do more than is expected of you and you will be a success.” This is the motto that Terrie Williams has lived by. A native of Mt. Vernon, New York, Terrie said that her parents were a major part of her success.. ” My parents have a very strong work ethic and that philosophy was passed on to me.” Terrie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology from Brandies University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She received her Masters degree in social work from Columbia University in New York.

After graduating, Terrie worked as a social worker at the New York Hospital for 3 years. Realizing that this was not what she wanted, Terrie began to explore the world of public relations and communications. “I started by taking a P.R. course at the YMCA, and I did a lot of volunteer work, so that I would have something other than social work on my resume. I wrote news releases to the media for a year. One experience led to another. I volunteered at WWRL, a New York radio station, as an associate producer for the public affairs department.”

Bigger and better things soon started to come her way. In February 1980, she became the first employee and administrator of the Black Filmmakers Foundation. In 1981 she was named the first executive director of the Black-Owned Communication Alliance (BOCA), a trade association of Black media owners.

In 1982, Black Communications From this position, she moved on the Essence Communications, where she became vice president and director of corporate communications. She was the youngest person and the second female to hold this position in the company’s history.

While at Essence, Terrie wrote two articles, “How Women (and other Minorities) can Break into Public Relations, ” and “20 Ways to Promote Yourself in Business.” After writing these two pieces, she knew exactly what she wanted to do, and it was no secret: start her own business. In 1987, she did just that. her first client was none other than Eddie Murphy.

” I met Eddie Murphy at a party for Miles Davis and I heard on two separate occasions that Eddie was looking for an independent public relations person. The third time I heard it, I sent him a package and a letter. About two months later, I called and spoke to Eddie and he told me he’d gotten the package and would love to have me represent him. I was just overwhelmed because the opportunity to launch a business with Eddie Murphy was a dream turned into reality.”

Terrie’s dream became more of a reality when her client list increased to include Anita Baker, Take 6, Dawn Lewis , New Edition, Keith Sweat, Tri-Star Pictures, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Miles Davis, …and the list goes on. Terrie takes several steps to best serve clients. She puts together a press kit, which includes biographies and information about the client. After sending out the press kits she then contacts various people in the media and encourages them to do stories about her client. This helps her to get maximum exposure a cross the country.

Still, Terrie’s success did not come without discouragements. People she approached for help wouldn’t respond or open doors for her. Her hard work and perseverance have helped her overcome these obstacles and succeed.

Terrie has a lot of young people working for her. They learn how the public relations industry works. She encourages them to succeed. She tells them, “Never believe someone who tells them, “Never believe someone who tells you, ‘ you can’t do something.’ You’ve got to believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to., You have to figure out what makes you special and then become excellent at that. Remember to treat everyone the same way, because you never know who is in a position to help you. And always take time to say ‘Thank you.’

BLACK WOMEN IN SCIENCE

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The Hidden Story

by Beverly Lucas

Imagine how difficult it would be to attend medical school while a war is being fought in your country; in a year when the horse and cart was the common mode of transportation, in a time when slaves were newly freed and when neither women nor blacks had the right to vote. These were precisely the conditions facing Rebecca Lee who, on March 1, 1864, became the first black person in the United States to graduate from medical school. On that date Dr. Lee was one of three students granted the degree of Doctress of Medicine from the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Although little is recorded specifically about Dr. Lee’s performance and accomplishments, records from the college indicate that graduates in 1864 were required to complete a 17 week course of study that included surgical and medical clinics and classes in anatomy, obstetrics, chemistry, toxicology, physiology, hygiene, and medical law. In spite of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of the time, Dr. Lee achieved her goal of becoming a physician, and immediately after the Civil War she opened her practice in Richmond, Virginia.

Rebecca Lee, who in 1864 became the first black woman to be awarded the degree of Doctress of Medicine upon her graduation from the New England Female Medical College in Boston.

Now, fast forward to the 20th century; the year, 1959. Imagine being an 11-year-old black girl in the Bronx reading science fiction stories and dreaming about space in a time before man had walked on the moon, in a country where equal educational and employment opportunities for blacks were yet to be realized. Such was the climate for Patricia S. Cowings, Ph.D., whose childhood fantasies about space and interest in human behavior led to a career as a research psychologist at NASA.

One of four children, Dr. Cowings refused to let the attitudes of the times serve as a barrier to her goal of becoming a scientist. The need to prove something to herself and her family gave Patricia the determination she needed to pursue her education. And, in 1973 she received her doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Davis. Today, Dr. Cowings is recognized as a pioneer in the use of biofeedback techniques to help astronauts prevent motion sickness in space.

Although Dr. Lee and Dr. Cowings chose seemingly “nontraditional” careers they actually followed a long tradition of black women in science and medicine. Although that tradition is often undocumented, black women can, in fact, trace their scientific ancestry to prehistoric Africa, where women were healers, agronomists, and astronomers. Our early ancestors “delivered” babies and nursed the sick. They realized that there was a relationship between the phases of the moon and the availability of vegetation just as prehistoric women no doubt gathered plants and discovered which had medicinal properties and which were poisonous.

The written history of science has been traced to Africa, where Egyptian priestesses developed and applied mathematical solutions to such problems as cutting blocks of stone to be used for the giant temples. In addition, hieroglyphics show that in Egypt, medicine was an established profession before 3,000 B.C. and that educated women worked as physicians and surgeons. Yet, why have the contributions of these women and others like them failed to become an integral part of our scientific history?

In the United States, the scientific contributions of both women and blacks have frequently been diminished and often overlooked entirely. For instance, slaves who invented mechanical devices were not allowed to obtain patents from the federal government to protect their inventions. In other cases, inventions were stolen from slaves and patented by their owners. Also, free black inventors often preferred to have their race kept secret in order to avoid jeopardizing the commercial success of their inventions. Thus, we can only speculate as to what extent black women probably played a role in the development of some of the inventions patented in this country.

Childhood fantasies about space led to Patricia S. Cowings career as a research psychologist for NASA.

 

In the United States, opportunities have been limited for women and blacks to pursue an educational course that would lead to a career in science. This limitation has resulted in a paucity of information about black women with careers in science. In light of these constraints, the achievements of black women in science become even more remarkable. The following sketches are representative of the few black women whose extraordinary achievements have made it into our nation’s history books.
Medicine

Contributions of black women to the field of medicine appear to be the best documented of all the sciences, beginning with Rebecca Lee, who in 1864 became the first black woman to be awarded the degree of Doctress of Medicine upon her graduation from the New England Female Medical College in Boston. Other early medical school graduates include Rebecca Cole, who graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867 and Susan M. Smith McKenney Steward, who received her degree from the New York Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital in 1870. Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1923) is credited with being the first black graduate nurse in the United States, and she helped found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. Myra Adele Logan, M.D. (1909-1977) was the first female surgeon to operate on the heart in the world’s ninth such operation.

Other black women who have made or continue to make their mark in the field of medicine include Jane C. Wright, M.D. who was born in 1920. Dr. Wright is known internationally for her research on the use of chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. She also helped develop the antibiotic aureomycin.

Helene Gayle, M.D., is one of the foremost epidemiologists in the United States today. In her work for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Dr. Gayle is working to contain the AIDS epidemic in this country and abroad.

Marilyn Gaston, M.D., heads the sickle cell disease branch of the Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Under her direction, researchers are trying to find a cure for sickle cell anemia, an inherited disease that affects 1 out of every 500 black Americans.

Hieroglyphics show that in Egypt, medicine was an established profession before 3,000 B.C. and thateducated women worked as physicians and surgeons.

Careers in Space

Today, black women are choosing space-related occupations ranging from astronaut to engineer, with NASA providing many of the employment opportunities.
Mae Jemison, M.D. is our nation’s first black female astronaut candidate and is a physician in general practice. In addition to her degree in medicine, she holds a B.A. in AfroAmerican studies and a B.S. in chemical engineering. Prior to becoming an astronaut candidate, Dr. Jemison was a staff physician with the Peace Corps.

As an aerospace engineer at NASA, Christine M. Darden, Ph.D., designs the wings of aircraft. Dr. Darden is currently designing a supersonic plane that will not create a sonic boom.

Other careers in Science

Black women, although their numbers are small, can also be found in other scientific fields. Serving as role models are: Shirley Ann Jackson, who in 1973 became the first black woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in physics. Dr. Jackson was awarded her degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a student of theoretical solid state physics, Dr. Jackson studies and seeks to explain the behavior of physical systems at and below the molecular level.

Fern Y. Hunt, Ph.D., is currently a professor of mathematics at Howard University. Dr. Hunt, who is an applied mathematician, studies the mathematical basis for patterns found in nature and forecasts the unpredictability of these patterns over time.

Before becoming the first woman president of Spelman College in Atlanta Georgia, Johnetta Cole, Ph.D. was a professor of Anthropology and director of the Latin and Caribbean Studies program at Hunter College. Dr. Cole has published several essays on gender and race.

These women, along with many others whose accomplishments have gone unrecorded, have followed in the pioneering footsteps of black women in science and medicine. Their accomplishments have blazed a trail for other black women who choose to follow their path.

Partial Bibliography for Black Women In Science
1. Haber, Louis. Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1970.
2. Haber, Louis. Women Pioneers of Science. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
3. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Black Achievers in Science. Teachers Guide.
4. Pearson, Willie Jr., Bechtel H. Kenneth (eds.). Blacks, Science, and American Education. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1989.
5. Waite, Frederick C. History of the New England Female Medical College, 1848-1874. Boston, MA: Boston University School of Medicine. 1950.

 

CALLOUTS
Rebecca Lee, on March 1, 1864, became the first black person in the United States to graduate from medical school.

Childhood fantasies about space led to Patricia S. Cowings career as a research psychologist for NASA.

Hieroglyphics show that in Egypt, medicine was an established profession before 3,000 B.C. and that educated women worked as physicians and surgeons.