Some Black Gun Control Activists Felt Left Out by March for Our Lives
Millions flocked to March for Our Lives events this weekend, including tens of thousands to events in South Florida. In Miami Beach, huge crowds waved signs and chanted for stricter gun control, while organizers promised that the fight had “just begun.”
But as the push for gun reform gains steam in South Florida after the Parkland shooting, some longtime African-American activists have a message for those just getting involved: “We’ve been talking about this.”
Activist Megan Hobson, who is 22, survived a drive-by shooting in Miami Gardens in 2012 and has been outspoken about cracking down on gun violence ever since. She says she had hoped to see Miami’s black communities, which are disproportionately affected by gun violence, included in the local Never Again movement. But she didn’t find those voices well represented in Miami Beach on Saturday.
“The whole conversation behind Parkland is really great, but from young black kids’ eyes it looks different,” says Hobson. “To people who are saying this movement began in Parkland, I’m like no, this movement began in the hood. It sometimes feels like a slap in the face.”
Black children are ten times more likely to get killed by guns than white children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hobson was 16 when a drive-by shooter in Miami Gardens fired an AK-47 bullet through the trunk of her sister’s car and into her pelvis. She had multiple surgeries to reconstruct her intestines, uterus, and hip, and still has trouble walking on her right leg.
After the shooting, she was unsure how to move forward with her life. Her search for resources and support in Miami came up mostly empty. So, she began to create those opportunities herself.
She shared her story any chance she got. And she began working with youth impacted by gun violence to help them heal.
In 2013, Hobson was invited by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to attend Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. She’s since completed an internship in Wasserman Schultz’s office and continues to work with the congresswoman on legislation. She’s a spokesperson and state outreach coordinator for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was created in 2012 in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She’s one of the 101 survivors photographed for Kathy Shorr’s SHOT project — in fact, she’s on the cover. She hosts events across Miami and the state, and is working to create a nonprofit space for kids to heal from gun violence.
But she’s still healing too.
“It’s tough,” she said. “The way trauma works is you grow older but the pain grows with you. I was not just surviving that night, but every day after. I’m still a black girl in Miami. We hear about shootings all the time –
at the gas station, in the car, in your community – it’s so common.”
On Saturday, a group of students from Liberty City who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the national March for Our Lives had the same message. “All I see is Caucasians. I don’t see black people,” one young man told CGTN. “They need to come to our area… We are from the hood, the ghetto, this is every day for us.”
Hobson says events designed to highlight the voices of gun violence survivors need to be accessible to people from the communities where gun violence has the largest impact. She attended Saturday’s event in Miami Beach but was disappointed by the lack of affected youth who were included. No one approached her about being a speaker.
“Is there transportation? Is it inclusive to everyone? Are we working to bring communities where this is most needed?” she says. “Those are the questions organizers need to ask.”
On Saturday, March 31, Hobson will take part in an event in Wynwood called “Stop the Gun Violence, Fool.” On April 14, she will host a walk for gun violence in Liberty City, and two days later she will be part of a “The Youth Speaks” event at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s gonna take a lot more than just a march,” she said. “It’s gonna take a 365-day conversation to create change. This fight for me is every day.”
You Might also like
By Zack Linly
As reports of police overreach and brutality in the black community become more and more commonplace in mainstream news, many black people are feeling a strange combination of frustration and relief — relief because the shootings of unarmed citizens have become part of a national discussion, but frustration because, time and time again, we hear the same dismissive and deflective responses from white America:
“There must be more to the story.”
“If you people would just do what you’re told.”
“Cops have a hard job.”
“White people get shot too.”
“He was just another thug. Good riddance!”
“Why do you people make everything about race?”
“What about black on black crime?”
“All lives matter.”
I’ve grown too disillusioned to be relieved and too numb to be frustrated. I’m just tired.
I’m tired from sacrificing millions of once healthy brain cells reading through the comment sections of race-based web articles — thread after thread, chock-full of black folks trying to navigate oblivious whiteness. At some point, we really need to ask ourselves: Why even bother?
Why are we losing solid hours out of our day, wearing our fingertips numb on keyboards and touch screens in an attempt to explain to some dense dude-bro why “All lives matter” is a messed up and functionally redundant response to “Black lives matter”?
We’ve spelled it out for white America a hundred different ways that their beloved police forces are full of officers who are simply more volatile, fearful and prone to harassment and abuse of power when dealing with us — and it’s costing us our lives. We’ve laid out all the statistics and all of our millions of personal testimonies. We’ve made it clear that even though the subject of police brutality, as a sensationalized national discussion covered by mainstream media, is a relatively new phenomenon, it is an issue as old as our involuntary occupation of this country. With all of this information readily available and reiterated constantly, it’s beyond ridiculous that the simple words “black lives matter” require any added explanation at all. And yet, here we are coming up with a dozen analogies trying to, even further, simplify it.
“Hey man, you wouldn’t go to a cancer rally shouting ‘All diseases matter,’ would ya?”
“Hey Scottie, ‘Save the rain forest’ doesn’t mean ‘Kill all the other forests.’ ”
“Hey Kip, when a house is burning, you don’t turn the fire hose on some non-burning house because #AllHousesMatter.”
Can we please stop?
We need to stop acting like white people don’t take the same reading comprehension portions of standardized tests all through middle and high school that we do. They know how analogies work. They got it the first time — they just didn’t care.
If they really considered the affirmation of one life mattering to be a denial of the same for all others, then they would consider “Blue Lives Matter” to be just as offensive as “Black Lives Matter.” But they don’t.
Not only are they unoffended by #BlueLivesMatter, but they consider any concession or policy change aimed at countering black vulnerability to be unearned special treatment — while they actively advocate giving police officers protected class status, oblivious to the fact that they already have it.
Only, I’m not sure they’re legitimately oblivious. They know damn well there isn’t a state, city or county in this country where the penalties for crimes committed against cops aren’t a hell of a lot steeper than they are for civilians. They know they don’t need a protest, riot or hash tag to ensure that thorough investigations will be done to bring cop killers to justice. They’re not worried about dead cops being put on trial for their own murders. They’re not worried about a not guilty verdict for the murderers of police officers or even a reluctance to bring charges. No one’s looking into a dead cop’s record, fishing for reasons to justify his or her demise. They know that cops have the delusional admiration of the vast majority of (white) America in their corner.
So how could anyone possibly believe that we, as a society and as a system, don’t already do everything in our collective powers to ensure that value be placed on police lives?
Could it be that white people actually aren’t as concerned with supporting the police as they are in maintaining a counter-narrative to black complaints about racist police misconduct? Could it be that their counter-narratives to race issues in general are largely disingenuous and, often, just plain spiteful?
Could it be, and I’m just spit-balling here, but could it be that white folks are … completely full of it?
This is why I submit that black people should simply disengage with white America in discussions about race altogether. Let them have their little Klan-esque chats in the Yahoo and USA Today comment sections. We need to stop arguing with them because, in the end, they aren’t invested like we are. They aren’t paying attention to these stories out of fear for their lives and the lives of their children and spouses; they are only tuned in out of black and brown contempt. This is trivial to them, a contest to see who can be the most smug, condescending and dismissive. When black people debate these issues, we do so passionately — not always articulately, and often without a whole lot of depth to our arguments — but we always come from a place of genuine frustration, outrage and fear. When most white people debate the very same issues from an opposing stance, they do so from a place of perpetual obtuseness and indifference. Their arguments always seem to boil down to “If it isn’t my experience, it couldn’t possibly be yours.” Even “well meaning” white folks tend to center themselves in the discussion
(#NotAllWhitePeople #IDontSeeColor). Yes, there are plenty of white people who aren’t racist, who think shouting “Blue Lives Matter” is wrong, who truly do wish things would change. But the fact is, they figuratively and literally have no skin in the game.
I understand that white people are mad. They’ve gone their whole lives being the default for social and cultural normalcy and never really had to think critically about race at all. Now a black first lady addresses the nation, and she talks about slavery. Now social media identifies and challenges their micro-aggressions. They’re getting the tint snatched off of their rose-colored glasses; that “Shining City on the Hill” they know as America is starting to lose some of its gloss. And they ain’t here for that — but we are.
When Beyoncé released the video for “Formation,” featuring a black kid in a hoodie, a “hands up, don’t shoot” banner and a sinking police car — then performed the song while paying homage to the Black Panther Party smack in the face of white America during the Super Bowl halftime show — she provided us with a bottomless open bar of white tears. But instead of getting good and drunk like we should’ve, too many of us were arguing with white folks about why nothing she did was racist, “reverse racist” or anti-cop. We should’ve just taken the win and left the field.
During the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump plagiarized a chunk of a Michelle Obama speech. And a lot of you were out here arguing with Trump supporters and other assorted delusional white folks who had the audacity to claim there was never any plagiarism at all. What you should’ve been doing was joining me, Jesse Williams and our beloved Black Twitter in intentionally misattributing black quotes to Mrs. Trump because it was fun.
I had a field day:
“Until you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna crumble” – Melania Trump
“When he f— me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cuz I slay” – Melania Trump
If Colin Kaepernik’s decision to stand against social injustice by sitting during the National Anthem has shown us anything else, it’s that much of white America is more bothered by our methods of protest than they ever will be about the injustices we’re protesting. Let’s dispel the notion that if we only protested better, white people will miraculously become more receptive of our message and less scornful of our audacity in speaking out.
The fact is, we can fight systemic racism without white validation. We can continue shutting down bridges and highways every time there’s a new Alton Sterling, Philando Castile or Korryn Gaines in the news and let white folks complain about the intrusion on their lives. We can continue moving our black dollars into black banks and keeping our money in our businesses and communities. We don’t need them to “get it” for us to keep fighting.
And likewise, white people who truly want to be allies can find their path to ally-ship without black validation and without us having to take time out of our days to educate them. They can find their own curriculum and figure out for themselves how they can do their part in fighting the good fight. And they can do it without the promise of black praise. And, I’m not about to keep checking to see if they’re doing that much. Because it’s not my job – and it’s not yours, either.
Black people, it is long past time for us to start practicing self-care. And if that means completely disengaging with white America altogether, then so be it.Post Views: 152
South African universities have been affected by the biggest student protests to hit the country since apartheid ended in 1994.
South Africa’s president has warned that the protests, which have caused about $44m (£34m) in damage to property in the last few weeks, could threaten to sabotage the country’s entire higher education system.
What sparked the protests?
In 2015, proposed tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% sparked protests.
The demonstrations began last October at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand when students blocked the entrance to the university campus, following indications that the institution would raise fees by 10.5% for 2016.
The demonstrations, under the banner #FeesMustFall, led to the closure of some of the country’s top universities – and President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.
But protests erupted again last month after a government proposal to raise tuition fees by up to 8% in 2017.
They are now demanding free education for all students.
Which students are affected?
Many black students say they come from poor families, and fee increases will rob them of the opportunity to continue studying.
Students say the fee hikes amount to discrimination in a country where the average income of black families is far less than that of white families.
They want free education for everyone, starting with the poor and “missing middle”- those whose parents have jobs but don’t make enough to afford tertiary education.
Extreme income inequality remains a persistently stubborn problem more than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994.
Correspondents say the protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994, over high levels of poverty, unemployment and corruption in government.
The students want the opportunities promised when apartheid ended.
How are university fees determined?
Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary across degree programs.
Universities have three main sources of income: Government subsidies, student fees and private sources. The number and financial background of students influence individual university subsidies.
While government funding for higher education has increased by nearly 70% since 2001, according to news organisation Ground Up, student enrolment numbers have also increased leading to a decrease in the subsidy per student.
In addition South African institutions want to provide a “world class” education and argue that they battle to maintain standards amid financial constraints.
Why did the protests spread?
The proposed fee increases are not exceptional in comparison to usual annual increases, which are often between around 7% and 14%. While there have been protests about fees at individual universities in previous years, the national scale of these protests over the last 12 months has been unprecedented.
It seems impossible to separate the protests from demonstrations earlier in 2015 around a lack of transformation at South African universities more than two decades after the end of white-minority rule.
Apartheid and education:
- One of the main laws of apartheid was the Bantu Education Act of 1953
- It prevented black children from reaching their full potential
- A black education department compiled a curriculum that suited the “nature and requirements of the black people”. The aim was to prevent Africans receiving an education that would lead them to aspire to positions they would not be allowed to hold in society
A move to “decolonise” higher education was sparked when politics student Chumani Maxwele emptied a bucket of excrement over the statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) campus in March 2015.
The statue was eventually removed, but similar movements formed at other universities calling for diverse academics and changes to curriculum. This gave the movement a springboard: To correct the historical legacies of apartheid in higher education.Post Views: 147
By CLAY RISEN
LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Every year, about 275,000 people tour the Jack Daniel’s distillery here, and as they stroll through its brick buildings nestled in a tree-shaded hollow, they hear a story like this: Sometime in the 1850s, when Daniel was a boy, he went to work for a preacher, grocer and distiller named Dan Call. The preacher was a busy man, and when he saw promise in young Jack, he taught him how to run his whiskey still — and the rest is history.
This year is the 150th anniversary of Jack Daniel’s, and the distillery, home to one of the world’s best-selling whiskeys, is using the occasion to tell a different, more complicated tale. Daniel, the company now says, didn’t learn distilling from Dan Call, but from a man named Nearis Green — one of Call’s slaves.
This version of the story was never a secret, but it is one that the distillery has only recently begun to embrace, tentatively, in some of its tours, and in a social media and marketing campaign this summer.
“It’s taken something like the anniversary for us to start to talk about ourselves,” said Nelson Eddy, Jack Daniel’s in-house historian.
Frontier history is a gauzy and unreliable pursuit, and Nearis Green’s story — built on oral history and the thinnest of archival trails — may never be definitively proved. Still, the decision to tell it resonates far beyond this small city.
For years, the prevailing history of American whiskey has been framed as a lily-white affair, centered on German and Scots-Irish settlers who distilled their surplus grains into whiskey and sent it to far-off markets, eventually creating a $2.9 billion industry and a product equally beloved by Kentucky colonels and Brooklyn hipsters.
Left out of that account were men like Nearis Green. Slavery and whiskey, far from being two separate strands of Southern history, were inextricably entwined. Enslaved men not only made up the bulk of the distilling labor force, but they often played crucial skilled roles in the whiskey-making process. In the same way that white cookbook authors often appropriated recipes from their black cooks, white distillery owners took credit for the whiskey.
In deciding to talk about Green, Jack Daniel’s may be hoping to get ahead of a collision between the growing popularity of American whiskey among younger drinkers and a heightened awareness of the hidden racial politics behind America’s culinary heritage.
Some also see the move as a savvy marketing tactic. “When you look at the history of Jack Daniel’s, it’s gotten glossier over the years,” said Peter Krass, the author of “Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel.” “In the 1980s, they aimed at yuppies. I could see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who dig social justice issues.”
Jack Daniel’s says it simply wants to set the record straight. The Green story has been known to historians and locals for decades, even as the distillery officially ignored it.
According to a 1967 biography, “Jack Daniel’s Legacy,” by Ben A. Green (no relation to Nearis), Call told his slave to teach Daniel everything he knew. “Uncle Nearest is the best whiskey maker that I know of,” the book quotes Call as saying.
Slavery ended with ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and Daniel opened his distillery a year later, employing two of Green’s sons. In a photo of Daniel and his workers taken in the late 19th century, a black man, possibly one of Green’s sons, sits at his immediate right — a sharp contrast to contemporaneous photos from other distilleries, where black employees were made to stand in the back rows.
But corporate history-keeping was a rare practice in those days, and over time memories of Green and his sons faded.
“I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision” to leave the Greens out of the company’s story, said Phil Epps, the global brand director for Jack Daniel’s at Brown-Forman, which has owned the distillery for 60 years. Still, it is unlikely that anyone in the Jim Crow South thought a whiskey marketed to whites should emphasize its black roots.
As the brand’s anniversary approached, the company started researching its various origin stories. It decided that the case for Nearis Green’s contribution was persuasive, and should be told. “As we dug into it, we realized it was something that we could be proud of,” Mr. Epps said.
A business built on slave help may not seem like a selling point, which may explain why Jack Daniel’s is taking things slowly. The Green story is an optional part of the distillery tour, left to the tour guide’s discretion, and the company is still considering whether it will flesh out the story in new displays at its visitors center.
However far the distillery decides to go, it is placing itself at the center of a larger issue that distillers and whiskey historians have begun to grapple with only in the last few years: the deep ties between slavery and whiskey.
“It’s about paying down the debts of pleasure that have accrued over time,” said John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi.
An exhibit on George Washington and slavery opening this fall at the first president’s Northern Virginia home, Mount Vernon, documents how he relied on six slaves (and two Scottish foremen) to run his rye whiskey distillery, one of the largest on the East Coast.
“They were key to the operation in making whiskey,” said Steve Bashore, who helps run a working replica of Washington’s distillery. “In the ledgers, the slaves are actually listed as distillers.”
Slavery accompanied distilling as it moved inland in the late 18th century, to the newly settled regions that would become Tennessee and Kentucky. Though slave owning was nowhere near as common there as it was farther south, by the 1800s many successful farmers had at least a few slaves, who tended to be closely involved with whiskey production.
Some of the earliest prominent Kentucky distillers, like Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna and Jacob Spears, relied on slaves to run their operations. (Craig and McKenna’s names are now on whiskeys made by Heaven Hill Brands, but those were created long after slavery was abolished.)
Washington wasn’t the only president to use slaves in his distillery. In an 1805 advertisement, Andrew Jackson offered a bounty for a runaway slave named George, whom he identified as “a good distiller.”
Databases of ads for slave sales, as well as runaway slaves, are full of references to slaves as skilled whiskey distillers. In 1794, a Richmond, Va., man placed a $20 bounty on a slave named Will, who “has a large scar on his right side just below his ribs” and “understands making of whiskey.”
Slaves did more than just provide physical labor. If Green taught Daniel to distill, said Michael Twitty, a food historian, he probably would have drawn on generations of liquor-making skills: American slaves had their own traditions of alcohol production, going back to the corn beer and fruit spirits of West Africa, and many Africans made alcohol illicitly while in slavery.
“There’s something to be said for the fact that Africans and Europeans were both people in the Southeast who carried with them ancient traditions for making alcohol,” Mr. Twitty said.
Another aspect of the Jack Daniel’s tradition that is being reassessed is the so-called Lincoln County process, in which unaged whiskey is passed through several feet of maple charcoal, which removes impurities and imparts a slight sweetness.
According to legend, the process was invented in 1825 by a white Tennessean named Alfred Eaton. But Mr. Eddy, the Jack Daniel’s historian, and others now say it’s just as likely that the practice evolved from slave distilling traditions, in which charcoal helped remove some of the sting from illicitly made alcohol.
Other contributions are even harder to pin down. Though slave owners tended to value their slaves’ distilling prowess, they rarely documented how the slaves made such fine spirits.
Evidence often has to be found outside the archives. Recent archaeological work in Kentucky has uncovered material pointing to slave distilling at a number of sites, including the famed Pepper distillery near Frankfort and another operation owned by Jack Jouett, a Revolutionary War hero.
“It’s like looking at slave distillers out of the corner of your eye,” said Nicolas Laracuente, an archaeologist who has worked extensively at the site of Jouett’s house. “The reason we’re not finding them in the archives is that they didn’t have the right to be recognized.”
Mike Veach, a whiskey historian, said the influence of enslaved African distillers may explain a mystery in the development of American whiskey. Traces of German, Scots-Irish and English distilling traditions are evident in the American style, but there’s much that can’t be traced to an earlier source — a gap that slave traditions might fill.
“I don’t know what role slaves would have played,” Mr. Veach said, “but I’m sure it was there.”
Fred Minnick, the author of “Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker,” said it’s doubtful that a full accounting of enslaved people’s contribution to American whiskey will ever be written. “It’s extremely sad that these slave distillers will never get the credit they deserve,” he said. “We likely won’t ever even know their names.”
Despite the recent attention from Jack Daniel’s, Nearis Green’s name is just a faint echo, even among several of his descendants who live in the area. Claude Eady, 91, who worked for the distillery from 1946 to 1989, said he was related to Green “on my mother’s side,” but didn’t know much about him.
“I heard his name around,” he said. “The only thing I knew was that he helped Jack Daniel make whiskey.”Post Views: 188