I Was Not There

I do not entirely agree

with the actions of my ancestors

cannot say with a straight face that I would have stood there

In the crossfire of oppression, falling

while being bit by dogs

smiling

while being spit on

not with a straight face will I say

that I would have been there

to ask my oppressors their permission

to walk down the street

but I was not there

and me not being there leads me to do nothing

but honor their legacy in humility

I do not know the taste of their humiliation

as closely as they experienced it

my young palate is a prejudiced mixture

of what I’ve seen in footage and read in books

I did not feel the lash

or salt in-between their wounds

know nothing of the seasoning

of stripped identity

of throats closing in on tongues

I know only of gentle waters

the kind that bathes, and cooks and quenches the thirst

I know nothing of the kind that pierces

the skin on contact

I do not know because I was not there

but I can write

like Baldwin did

as a witness

I can write the stories

and un-fairy tale the tragedy

of being colored

to make alive again

a history left virtually unknown

because I was not there

not when Moses died or Malcolm slain

but I can write

articulating the suffering

of the now silent

 

Copyright©2017 by Yecheilyah Ysrayl. All rights reserved.


Yecheilyah (e-see-lee-yah) is an Author, Blogger, and Poet of nine published works including her soon-to-be released short inspirational guide “Keep Yourself Full.” Learn more by exploring Yecheilyah’s writing on this blog and her website at yecheilyahysrayl.com. Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) is her latest novel and is available now on Amazon.com.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – A Brief History of Race Riots in America

New Orleans Riot, 1886 – On July 30, 1886, white men attacked blacks parading outside the Mechanics Institute in New Orleans, where a reconvened Louisiana Constitutional Convention was being held. Republicans in Louisiana had called for the convention as they were angered by the legislature’s enactment of the Black Codes.

Wilmington North Carolina, 1898 – The most popular accusation in history was that Black men raped white women. So much so that most of the lynchings that took place was because of it. And when D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation”, portrayed black men as savages seeking to rape white women contrasted against the positive portrayal of the Klan, it produced a second wave of the organization that began in Atlanta, Georgia, and quickly spread to a peak membership of millions by the 1920s. So, when a prominent black newspaper editor named Alex Manly wrote an editorial suggesting that relations between White women and Black men were consensual, 500 white men burned Manly’s office and fourteen African Americans were killed in the riot.

East St. Louis, 1917 – On July 1, 1917, a Black man was rumored to have killed a white man. A riot thus followed with whites shooting, beating and lynching African Americans. The violence continued for a week and the deaths range from 40 – 200. As a result, some 6,000 Blacks fled St. Louis.

Red Summer, 1919 – As you can ascertain, this year was referred to as Red Summer because of the mass blood spill of race riots this year. Twenty-six cities experienced riots including, but not limited to: Longview TX, Washington, DC, Knoxville, TN, Omaha NE, and Chicago. As I speak of often, the racial tension did not just occur in the South and in 1919 particularly, racial tensions were especially high in the North. Chicago experienced the most violence when on July 27, 1919, seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams was swimming with his friends in Lake Michigan and entered a “Whites Only” area. White men threw rocks at Williams and hitting him in the head, he drowned. After police refused to arrest the murderer, fights between White and Black gangs became the spark that started a race riot that lasted through August 3rd. It escalated so that the state militia had to be called in.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 – Of course, the renowned Tulsa Race Massacre Riot. A young white woman accused Dick Rowland of grabbing her arm in an elevator. After arresting Rowland, accounts of the assault were exaggerated and a mob gathered outside the courthouse. A mob of Black men went to the courthouse, armed, to protect Rowland and after gunfire exchanged, as they say, it “all hell broke loose.” The Greenwood neighborhood of North Tulsa, the wealthiest Black community in the country, was systematically burned to the ground. Thousands of homes were destroyed, bombs fell from the sky, and The Oklahoma National Guard was called in. Lost forever was over 600 successful businesses.

Rosewood, 1923 – A neighborhood of predominantly Black entrepreneurs, trouble started in Rosewood when a white woman from a nearby town called Sumner said (once again) that she had been raped and also beaten by a Black man. White men from several nearby towns lynched a random black man in Rosewood in response, causing an outcry among blacks who rallied together. A full on riot was the end result with mobs of whites hunting for black people, lynching them and burning Rosewood homes and structures.

The incident was the subject of the 1997 film, “Rosewood”, directed by John Singleton staring Ving Rhames and in 2004, the state designated the site of Rosewood as a Florida Heritage Landmark.

Harlem Race Riot, 1943 – On August 1st and 2nd, a race riot broke out in Harlem, New York when officer James Collins, shot and wounded Robert Bandy, a Black soldier. It was one of six riots that year related to black and white tensions during World War II.

Detroit, 1943 – Considered one of the worst race riots of the WWII era, The Detroit Riot of 1943 started with a fist fight. (Racial tensions were already high due to confrontations between white and blacks when the Sojourner Truth Housing Projects opened (1942) in a white neighborhood and whites tried to stop blacks from moving in.) A White man and a Black man got into a fight at the Belle Isle Amusement Park in the Detroit River. This turned into a fight between a group of whites and blacks and spilled over into the streets. The violence ended when 6,000 federal troops were ordered in the city. Twenty-Five Blacks and nine whites are reported killed with seventeen Blacks killed by the police.

By now I hope that you are starting to see a trend. A race riot ensues and following is usually some kind of military intervention. (…pay attention.)

The Groveland Four, 1949 – On July 16, 1949, a white couple was traveling and their car stopped on a rural road in Groveland, Florida. The next day, 17-year-old Norma Padgett accused four Black men of raping her. Sheriffs arrested Charles Greenlee, Sam Shepherd, and Walter Irvin. The fourth man, Ernest Thomas, fled the county and was hunted down and killed by a mob of over 1,000 armed Sheriffs. When word spread about the arrest of “The Groveland Four”, an angry crowd of white Klansmen surrounded the jail and the men were hidden and transported to Raiford State Prison. The mob was not pleased. They went on to attack the black section of Groveland, a small town in South Lake County where two of the accused men’s families lived. Black residents were urged to leave town and The National Guard was called in. Meanwhile, the accused men were severely beaten, two sentenced to death (Shepherd, Irvin) and one (Greenlee) to life in prison because of his age.

Watts, 1965 – August has had its share of historical events for sure. From Emmet Till (8/28/55) to the Watts Riots. The Watts Riots began August 11th through August 17th after a white patrolman arrested 21-year-old Marquette Frye, a black motorist. A fight broke out involving Frye, his brother, mother, and the police. Both his mother and brother were arrested and the number of people gathered increased. Almost 4,000 National Guardsmen were deployed, in addition to about 1,600 police officers. Martial law was declared and a curfew implemented. More than 30,000 people participated in the riots, fighting with police, looting white-owned homes and businesses, and attacking white residents. The riots left 34 dead, more than 1,000 injured, and about 4,000 arrested.

Newark, 1967 – On July 12th, a Black cab driver, John Smith, was arrested for illegally passing a police car. He was taken to a police station that happened to also be across the street from the projects. These residents reported that the police beat this man and dragged him from the cab into the station. Word got to Civil Rights Leaders who organized a protest but the protest turned violent. Rioting followed for the next several nights, and the National Guard was deployed. Still, even with the Nations Guard present, the rioting continued.

MLK Riots, 1968 – For those of you under thirty, you may not fully understand the extent to the outcry in the Black community over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It was huge. Riots broke out in 125 cities following the April 4, 1968, assassination. The worst riots occurred in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Chicago. I remember my Aunt telling us stories about it. I am originally from Chicago and my Aunt (born and raised in Chicago as well) was saying that they had to wear paper bags over their heads going home from school the day the world found out King was dead. Black people were beyond outraged. It was simply dangerous to be on the street. On April 5, looting, arson, and attacks on police increased, and as many as 20,000 people participated in the riots. The National Guard and Marines were dispatched. The riots reached within two blocks of the White House. Twelve people were killed, and more than 1,200 buildings were destroyed.

Crown Heights Race Riots, 1991 – August, this month makes history again. On Aug. 21, 1991, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn New York, a car driven by Yosef Lifsh hit another car and then crashed into two black children, both age 7. Residents of Crown Heights gathered and began attacking Lifsh and other Hasidic Jews. A city ambulance crew and the Hasidic-run Hatzolah ambulance service arrived on the scene. The Hatzolah service brought injured Jews to the hospital, and the black children were transported by the city crew. Gavin Cato, one of the black children, died. Black residents felt the Jews were given preferential medical treatment and began throwing rocks and bottles at police and at the homes and businesses of Hasidic Jews. The riots raged for three days. More than 150 officers about 40 civilians were injured in the rioting.

Rodney King Riots, 1992 – On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was pulled over for driving recklessly and someone videotaped the encounter with the police from his apartment balcony. The video shows the officers severely beating Rodney King. On April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three of the officers and predominantly Black areas of Los Angeles erupted in violence, and six days of riots led to 50 deaths, thousands of arrests and an estimated one billion dollars in property damage.

Ferguson, Missouri, 2014 – On Aug. 9th, officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old teenager in Ferguson, Mo. Details of the shooting have been under dispute since the incident. Police said that Brown was shot during an altercation with Wilson. However, a friend who was with Brown at the time said that Wilson shot Brown when he refused to move from the middle of the street and that Brown’s hands were over his head at the moment of the shooting. The following night, protesters filled the streets near the shooting. Police officers arrived on the scene with riot gear, including rifles and shields. The protest turned violent and images from cell phones went viral on social media, including several accounts of looting.

Baltimore, MD, 2015 – After the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African American who died of a severe spinal cord injury suffered while in police custody, angry residents took to the streets of northwest Baltimore to protest another death of a black man at the hands of police. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, called in the National Guard, and set a curfew as rocks were thrown, cinder blocks and buildings and cars set on fire.

***

I’ll stop here as there is no time for the countless historical accounts of race wars and riots in this (U.S.) country. What is happening is very much American and there is nothing new about it. In fact, it has been going on nearly 400 years. What is happening is what has been happening for a long time and the fact that people are outraged is just proof that we have not been paying attention, and have thus bought into the hype that “those days” were over. (There’s been Lynchings as late as 2010, such as 26 year old Frederick Jermaine Carter, a Black man found hanging in a Mississippi tree in a white suburb on Friday, December 3, 2010.) What has been done, is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Don’t marvel, just pay attention.

NOW AVAILABLE: Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)

Renaissance is now available in eBook and paperback.

About.

When seventeen-year-old Nora White successfully graduates High School in 1922 Mississippi and is College bound, everyone is overjoyed and excited. Everyone except Nora. She dreams of Harlem, Cotton Clubs, Fancy Dresses, and Langston Hughes. For years, she’s sat under Mr. Oak, the big oak tree on the plush green grass of her families five acres, and daydreamed of The Black Mecca.

The ambitious, young Nora is fascinated by the prospect of being a famous writer in The Harlem Renaissance and decides she doesn’t want to go to College. Despite her parent’s staunch protest, Nora finds herself in Jacobsville, New York, a small town forty-five minutes outside of Harlem.

Shocked by their daughter’s disappearance, Gideon and Molly White are plagued with visions of the deadly south, like the brutal lynching of Gideon’s sister years ago. As the couple embark on a frightening and gut wrenching search for Nora, they are each stalked by their own traumatic past. Meanwhile, Nora learns that the North is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Can Gideon and Molly overcome their disturbing past in time to find their daughter before it’s too late?

>> Click Here to Get it Now

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Appleibookstore | Inktera | Tolino

MARK IT TO READ ON GOODREADS

Trailer

“The author really did her research, touching on the feud between Zora and Langston over a play written by both, but only Zora was given credit. The way she wove Nora into the middle of the feud was genius. It was reminiscent of Forrest Gump a bit.(That, in my world is a HUGE compliment – I love Forrest Gump)”

–          Lisa W. Tetting

“When I finished reading Renaissance: The Nora White Story I actually shouted. I loved, loved this book. From beginning to end. The characters are still alive inside my mind. The setting as well. I could smell the hot soup the girls had or the rain on the hot earth. The dialogue is superb; I can still hear the soft southern accent in my mind.”

 – Adele Marie Park

>> Click Here to Get it Now

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Appleibookstore | Inktera | Tolino

MARK IT TO READ ON GOODREADS

 

Yecheilyah Ysrayl

https://www.yecheilyahysrayl.com/

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Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History

“The history of lynching and racial terror in America is the focus of an ambitious new project launched Tuesday by Google, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative.

 

Google has helped create a new interactive site titled “Lynching in America,” which is based on an 80-page publication by the EJI. Its research has been adapted into a powerful visual narrative about the horror and brutality that generations of black Americans have faced.

 

The site consists of audio stories from the descendants of lynching victims, and a documentary short called “Uprooted,” which chronicles the impact of lynching on black families. The project also includes an interactive map that details locations of racial terror lynchings, complete with profiles of the victims and the stories behind their deaths.”

SOURCE: CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING: Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History

Lost to History – Unfamiliar Faces: Latasha Harlins and Deadwyler

Rodney King. It is a name that rings all too familiar in the history of Black America. Latasha Harlins however, is a not so familiar face.

Latasha Harlins

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Latasha Harlins died 13 days after the beating of Rodney King on March 16, 1991 at The Empire Liquor Market in South-Central Los Angeles with two dollars in her hand. After attempting to purchase a bottle of Orange Juice, Latasha and Korean Store Owner Ja Du got into a verbal and physical altercation. Du thought Latasha was trying to steal the $1.79 drink, which lead to a fight. Latasha struck Du and the two mouthed words before Harlins turned to walk out the door but it was too late. Ja Du pulled the handgun from behind the counter and shot the teen in the head. The entire ordeal was caught on tape and Latasha died instantly. She was 15 years old. November of that year, a judge sentenced Du to five years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine. Tupac’s “Keep Your Head Up” was dedicated to Latasha Harlins.

The Deadwyler Case

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Johnny Cochrane is another prominent name in the black community. Modeling his career from the inspiration of Thurgood Marshall, Cochrane was born in Shreveport LA and gained his fame after defending such big names as Micheal Jackson and O.J. Simpson. An unfamiliar face however lies in the name of a man whose death is responsible for launching Johnny’s reputation: Leonard Deadwyler. Deadwyler’s death galvanized protests and activism that lead to the Martin Luther King Jr. and the adjoining Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. While speeding through several red lights, Leonard Deadwyler raced in an attempt to get his pregnant wife, now in labor, to the hospital. Due to the lack of a black hospital near by, the Deadwhyler’s had to attend a facility 20 miles away. On the way, Leonard was stopped by police and a confrontation erupted which resulted in the shooting death of Leonard who was shot and killed in front of his pregnant wife. Police said the ordeal was the result of a drunken Leonard to the debate of his wife who remembered no such account. Blacks in South Central protested that Deadwyler would not have been speeding, and thus not shot and killed if there was a hospital near by. Leonard’s wife sued with a young Johnny Cochrane as her lawyer who filed a Civil Suit on behalf of the Deadwyler family. They lost the case, but Cochrane had already set himself apart as a talented lawyer as it pertained to Civil Rights, police abuse cases.

Gabrielle Gorman’s “Dear America”: When You Don’t Love the Skin You’re In

Touching. Thank you Shannon for sharing.

(not) Mixed (up)

On December 8th, I attended the 2015 My Hero Awards, in order to watch my dear friend Kayla Briet win the Emerging Artist Award for her work in film, music and technology.

While Kayla’s work always mesmerizes me, another award recipient named Gabrielle Gorman brought me and many others to tears with her experimental film “Dear America,” for which she won the title of 2015 Student Honoree.

CTkPzWWVEAEKub8 Photo courtesy of the My Hero Project

I just watched the live stream of Kayla’s film screening at the National Young Arts Foundation in Miami, and Gabrielle’s film screened shortly before hers. Watching it again made me question why this film touched me so personally. After all, Gabrielle’s film is about not loving herself as a dark-skinned black youth. She candidly discusses how she wanted to bleach her skin and lessen her large lips–how she wanted plastic surgery to look more…

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