Patience is Clarity

I’ve learned to make more moves and less announcements. To not announce my plans or to declare anything before it is done. To listen and to watch. To grow silently.  I’ve learned that there is movement in stillness and that  patience is clarity.

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Willie James Howard

Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday.


Willie James Howard was born on July 13, 1928, in Live Oak Florida. At fifteen years old he was in the 10th grade and worked at the Van Priest Five and Dime Store downtown.

According to the story, Willie sent Christmas cards to employees of the store for the Christmas Holiday. One of the employees, a popular white girl named Cynthia, was offended by the gesture. According to the account (which has just as many variations as Emmett’s story), at the bottom of the card for Cynthia, Willie indicated the letter “L” for love.  Later, Willie wrote Cynthia a letter, this time apologizing. He signed this one with a little poem:

“I love your name. I love your voice, for a S.H (sweetheart) you are my choice.”

(Source of poem: Documentary Trailer https://vimeo.com/105289596)

On January 2, 1944, Cynthia’s father Phil Goff, who saw the letter (most likely by Cynthia showing it to him as some accounts suggest) and two of his friends arrived at Willie’s home and the three men dragged the boy from his mother’s arms. They also kidnapped his father. They drove to the Suwannee River and bound Willie James by his feet and hands and made him stand at the edge of the river where, according to his father’s testimony, he was told he could either jump into the river or be shot. The boy jumped in and drowned.

The Suwannee County sheriff ordered Ansel Brown, the local black undertaker, to retrieve the boy’s body from the river and bury it immediately. To cover up the incident, Phil and his friends forced Willie’s father to sign a document alleging that Willie jumped into the river on his own accord. According to their written statement which was included in the Lanier Report, the three men admitted taking the boy from his home and tying him up on the way to the river but they said he fell in accidentally. This conflicts with the first story that the boy jumped into the river. Either the boy jumped into the river on his own or he slipped accidentally. It was obvious the men were not telling the truth but there was never an arrest.

After signing the document, Willie’s father (also named James) packed up his family and moved to Orlando. No death certificate was ordered for his only son and the grave was unmarked for 60 years.

Thurgood Marshall demanded a full investigation and after hearing about Willie’s case, it was picked up by Harry T Moore of the NAACP who had gone to school with Lula Howard, Willie’s mother. Moore received documented proof from Willie’s parents explaining what really happened. They stated that Willie’s father had been threatened and forced to sign the document. However, a grand jury did not indict Goff and his friends and prosecution were never achieved.

Moore continued fighting for the case and in 1947 wanted to reopen it but Thurgood Marshall was unwilling to dedicate any more NAACP funding.

I found that Howard’s story mirrors that of Emmett Till’s in chilling ways. Though Emmett’s death was far more brutal, Willie is one of those unfamiliar faces we do not hear much about. Like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Willie Howard are on the same side of History.

  • Willie James Howard was born in July (7/13)
  • Emmett Louis Till was born in July (7/25)
  • Willie was 15 years old when he died
  • Emmett was 14 years old when he died
  • Willie wrote a letter to a white girl
  • Emmett whistled at a white girl (allegedly)
  • Willie was taken from his home
  • Emmett was taken from his home
  • Willie died in the Suwannee River
  • Emmett ’s brutally beaten body was found weighed down by a cotton gin in the Tallahatchie River
  • Willie died in 1944
  • Emmett was only 3 years old when Willie was murdered. He would be killed exactly 10 years later in 1955.
  • Both boys murderers were acquitted

The similarities here are chilling so when you remember Emmett  Louis Till this August, remember Willie James Howard too.

Misrepresentation

I know we are all still on a high from The Black Panther movie. It’s a great film. While we are in this space–this feeling of pride and empowerment– I’d like those who choose to do so to not let something else go over our heads. If you think about it, it is easy to miss. There’s so much happening around Black Panther, no one has said anything about the misrepresentation of ourselves (Blacks) happening right before our eyes. The misrepresentation I am referring to is The Samson Movie.

If you don’t believe in the bible you may exit now. I don’t expect this to have any significance to you. If you believe in the bible however then there is one thing we must realize about two things that have taken place before our eyes, overshadowed by the excitement surrounding Wakanda and T’Challa.

Both Samson and Nefertiti have been misrepresented. They have both been portrayed as Europeans when this is not the case.

(See my thoughts on Nefertiti Here.)

On February 16, 2018, The Samson movie came out. I don’t believe in coincidences so it’s no coincidence to me that this movie came out on the same day that Panther came out. Naturally, Black people will be excited about seeing themselves represented, for once, on screen. Naturally, we would support Black Panther over The Samson Movie. Naturally, we are tired of seeing white heroes. Naturally, we would miss this. I am asking you not to miss it. I am asking you to pay attention. Now, I am not asking you to go see Samson. Do not misunderstand me. I am asking you to realize that Samson was one of our heroes and he is being misrepresented in this movie. I am saying that Wakanda has got Blacks searching and talking about identity for once, which is great. Interestingly enough, Samson is our identity. The Israelites were black. The Philistines were black. The Egyptians were black.

As we are being represented in Black Panther, we are being misrepresented in Samson. Showing Israelites and Egyptians as Europeans is disrespectful. Do not lose sight of this. It is not a small matter. Samson was a very powerful man, a superhero with great strength. Black Panther is a great film with powerful symbolism and messages (that I hope to address soon. In the meantime, see my recent post on 6 Reasons Black Panther is Popular (and it’s not even out yet) I wrote before the movie released.) In short, Samson’s portrayal as a white man is just as offensive to me as Nefertiti being portrayed as a white woman and no one’s talking about it.

All or Nothing

Photo by Oliver Thomas Klein on Unsplash.

I don’t know how to feel half-heartedly
how to passion
sparsely
how to love raindrops at a time.
I don’t know how to half
shine.
So I apologize.
I am sorry if my sun
burned your skin.
If I came in too hot
or if I am sometimes too cold
a forest of ice
and long blades of frozen grass
bowing under the weight
of bitter winds.
A breath of vapor
purple lips
and chattering teeth.
I promise you that this heart of stone
is really just flesh
learning to beat one pulse at a time
just don’t ask me to half
shine.
I don’t know how to feel half-heartedly
I cannot promise not to love you
dangerously
for I am all
or nothing.

 

The PBS Blog Podcast Ep 10 – You Will Lose People

I’ve learned that caring about what other people think of me is an unnecessary burden that I do not have to carry. People will see you how they want to see you. If they think you are a bad person they will only see bad. If they think you are a good person, they will only see good (no matter how deep they have to search for the light.) You can let people walk all over you and there are still some who will say that you are not flat enough. So, you may as well be authentically and unapologetically you because, in the words of Najawa Zebian, “those mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”

Listen to ‘You Will Lose People’ now on Soundcloud and be sure to subscribe for notification of new episodes.

 

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