Black History Fun Fact Friday – Slave Patrols: A Brief History of American Policing

This post was originally published under another blog series Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History. Due the current climate I have revised this post and re-categorized it under Black History Fun Facts.


Originally Published: July 14, 2015

Revised May 29, 2020

slave-patrols-police-origins

The tragic murder of George Floyd, who sadly joins the ranks of several unarmed black men killed by the police, has sparked outrage, protests, and unrest. Images and footage of the officer, Derek Chauvin (who had 18 prior complaints against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs), kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the too familiar phrase, “I can’t breathe!” is both horrifying and heartbreaking.

In response to the looting taking place by protesters of Floyd’s death, American President Donald Trump went on to call the looters “Thugs,” commenting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase comes from a 1967 quote used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a United Press International article from the time.

From the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing those four little girls in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11). From the 1965 Watts Riots that broke out over Marquette Frye, to the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1992 and the riots that broke out over their acquittal. From the killing of Trayvon Martin, Micheal Brown, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others, Black people are frustrated and crying out for redemption.

Today, we look at the racists’ roots in American policing.

Slave Patrols had three functions: to chase, apprehend, and return the enslaved who had run away to their “owners,” to organize terror to deter slave-revolts and to maintain discipline for slave-workers who were subject to violence if they broke plantation rules. These organizations evolved into southern police departments whose job was to control the freed slaves who were now working as laborers and to enforce the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied freed people certain human rights.

“Early American police departments shared two primary characteristics: they were notoriously corrupt and flagrantly brutal. This should come as no surprise in that police were under the control of local politicians. The local political party ward leader in most cities appointed the police executive in charge of the ward leader’s neighborhood. The ward leader, also, most often was the neighborhood tavern owner, sometimes the neighborhood purveyor of gambling and prostitution, and usually the controlling influence over neighborhood youth gangs who were used to get out the vote and intimidate opposition party voters. In this system of vice, organized violence and political corruption it is inconceivable that the police could be anything but corrupt (Walker 1996).” –  Dr. Gary Potter

Slave Patrollers were white men who rode around on horseback carrying guns, rope, and whips, ready to capture the enslaved. Their job was also to enforce the pass system, a pass, or ticket, signed by the slave master that authorized the enslaved to travel. Without this pass, an enslaved person could be beaten, and beatings sometimes happened even when the person had a pass, eerily similar to black men and women who are beaten, choked, gunned down, and stepped on even when they have done nothing wrong.

In her book, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sally Hadden writes, “mounted man presents an awesome figure, and the power and majesty of a group of men on horseback, at night, could terrify slaves into submission.” Many members of the black community still refer to large police vehicles as “patty-wagons,” a play on the former “paddyrollers,” which was also a nickname for Slave Patrols.

Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.
Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.

Source: Wolf Folklore Song – RUN NIGGER RUN, THE PATEROLLER CATCH YOU (RUN, NIGGER, RUN)  sung by Joe Pat| Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #264; Brown, Vol. III, #457| Source: http://web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/patrun1287.html

As K. B. Turner  David Giacopassi  &  Margaret Vandiver remark in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”


For more Black History Fun Facts, click here!

7 Reasons No One Follows Your Blog

I haven’t written a blog post about blogging in a while. I slowed down on that because I could be, you know, writing.

Today, I am not writing. I am enjoying this good weather and stealing this downtime for a quick blog post. I hope these tips /reminders will be useful for any new bloggers out there.

You Don’t Have a Follow Button.

I have spoken heavily on this in the past, and it’s still true today. I still find people whose blogs I want to follow, but I can’t because there is no follow button. At this point in life, with COVID and all, few people will stop to go on a scavenger hunt to find where your button is. If you are blogging on WordPress, go to your Dashboard > Appearance> Widget > Follow blog. Place it somewhere near the top (not at the bottom), so it is noticed.

You Don’t Post Enough.

I am sure I probably post too much (sorry fam), which can have repercussions, but not posting enough is also not good. Not only will people not be interested in following you, but those who follow you may forget you are there, meaning that when you post, they aren’t even reading. People are forgetful, and it’s a lot going on in the world right now. I am not the person who thinks people should blog every day, but I think the posts should be consistent enough to keep the blogger memorable and the people engaged.

You Don’t Respond to Comments.

Social media isn’t about followers anymore, so much as it is about engagement. Responding to comments is one of the easiest ways to engage with your audience and other bloggers. Commenting on someone else’s blog is also a simple way to gain a follower. This is the power of networking. When someone comments on your blog, don’t just like their comment, reply! And respond not to get the follow, but have an opinion on the topic. Give your feedback some substance and add it to the conversation.

You Post Your Blog Link in the Comments Asking for a Follow

This is tacky and unattractive to other bloggers. Leaving a comment that is only a link back to your blog, followed by “please follow my blog,” makes you look desperate and turns that blogger off. I am much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog who just left a real comment on my blog or liked my post than I will someone posting a link back to their blog in my comments. If you think this is mean, then you have not been blogging long enough to come across spammers and trolls. How do I tell the difference between you, the real blogger, and a spammer if you are both spamming me?

Please, don’t do this.

Your Content is Not Interesting To Your Readers

Sometimes it’s just the basics, such as not posting anything valuable for your audience. One lesson I learned in life is being relatable and making connections with people based on a common goal or interest. I think blogging and social media is the same way. No man is an island, and no man knows it all. Therefore, while I have my way of seeing things, I think it’s necessary to allow room for diverse thoughts and differences of perspective. To me, that shakes things up and makes it fun. It also provides room for learning and growth.

I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me, and I’m not walking on eggshells around anyone else. Yes, I’ve had some heated debates on this blog, and I am pretty sure some people hate my guts, but those same people also know me the better because of it. I think some of the best friendships develop from a difference in opinion because people are not all the same, and when each person can bring something different, I think it creates a good balance.

To make a long story short, people don’t want to follow a boring blog.

Your Blog is Hard to Navigate

Making things more accessible to people is the best way to encourage them to stick around. If your blog is hard to navigate, people might not want to follow you. Everything should be easily attainable from your follow button to your widgets to your pages. Beyond this, be sure your blog is easy to read so dark colors with dark text that is heavy on the eyes is a no-no (keep in mind the visually impaired too), and consider a modern, updated look. If your blog looks like it belonged somewhere in 1998, I will be less inclined to follow. I suggest using WordPress because WordPress offers some neat free themes and widgets, is already optimized for mobile, and powers thirty percent of the internet. WordPress is a powerhouse for building websites and blogs, and I am not being paid to say this.

You Are Not Sharing Your Post on Social Media

I would leave this at six, but we might as well squeeze in one more. Another reason people may not follow your blog is that you are not telling them about it. Social media is the new word of mouth. The easiest way to draw attention to your posts is to share them to your social networking sites, whichever you use. I almost always share with Twitter, but I have shared it with my Facebook page too, and now and then, Instagram. Be sure to let people know about your excellent recent blog post. You will be glad you did. Closed mouths don’t get fed. Open your mouth.

I hope this is helpful to someone out there and if it has, let me know in the comments. Do you have any useful blogging tips for us? I would love to know. I want to improve my blog too!


Enjoy your weekend people!

Authentic Support

As an author, I am always thinking about ways I can add value to my audience. It’s easy to point the finger when you don’t see people being as supportive as you think they should be, but I am the person who will always look at me first. In doing this, I have thought about what support means, not from an author/entrepreneur perspective, but from the perspective of the reader/audience member. Why? Because I was a reader before I was a writer.

This has led me to think about the importance of authentic support.

I think authenticity is important even when supporting others. No one can be bullied, into supporting. It has to be in them to do it. It has to be part of who they are. People have to be passionate about whatever it is they are supporting.

Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character 

It was easy to get upset with people for not being supportive until I realized the truth: People support what is true to their personality, spirit, or character. It doesn’t matter if we are of the same family, organization, or group. People will support what is in alignment with who they are. It has to speak to them.

There must be some connection or commonality between the supporter and the movement, some kind of bridge connecting the two that makes the support worth it. When I think of it this way, I am more at ease with those who don’t support me because I realize it’s not personal. If the support is to be genuine, the person must first feel some kind of connection to whatever it is they are supporting.

I can’t speak for others, but I know that in my experience in the Indie Author community there is a lot of talk about being supportive but the thing is, people, don’t support just for the sake of supporting. I know we would like to think of it this way but that’s not the truth. If I am being real with myself and looking at this from the reader/audience/observer’s perspective then I have to admit that we support what we believe in. If what is being offered isn’t in agreement with that belief, we will probably be less supportive.

I learned that if I am being my authentic self, then I will attract authentic support.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Madison Washington by Joseph Ward

Today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday is from Joseph Ward.

Ward has prepared for us the inspiring story of Madison Washington, a formerly enslaved man who had escaped successfully and fled to Canada. Washington returned to Virginia to free his wife but was recaptured and put on a slave ship in Richmond, Virginia. Guys, Washington is the real-life Django Unchained! Not only does he free his wife, but many others.


Madison Washington was a man born into slavery in Virginia who escaped but risked his freedom to help free his beloved Susan. Washington is described as having extraordinary African features, superb leadership qualities, and a fierce spirit. They considered him a fugitive for escaping slavery and heading north to Canada, eventually finding work with a farmer named Mr. Dickenson. Even as a small child Madison would rebel against the inhumane treatment of him his slave masters, but rebellion eventually earned Washington his place in history.

Around the age of twenty Washington would meet the love of his life, the beautiful Susan, who he would make his wife. He planned to escape from slavery to free himself and his wife, but his plans didn’t work out. To prevent himself from being sold away from his wife, Madison escaped from the farm and hid in the surrounding woods for months. While in hiding he could keep an eye on his wife, he also began planning to lead a rebellion. His plans once again failed, and he eventually traveled north to Canada to live in free lands.

While in Canada Washington’s plan was to get a job and save enough money to buy the freedom of his wife Susan. He was becoming discouraged in carrying out his plans because he realized it would take five years to raise the money needed to free his wife. Washington made his mind up that he would return into the grasp of slavery to free his Susan. Mr. Dickenson the farmer tried his best to persuade Washington to take another course of action. He eventually left Canada with his wages and his freedom papers, heading south to Virginia. He could reach an area close to the farm where his wife was held but had to conceal his identity to prevent him from being captured.

Washington was still considered a fugitive, and anyone who recognized him would have blown his cover. Being a man of tact and organization, Washington carried miniature files and saws within the lining of his coat; these would help him break out of any chains used to restrain him. “Liberty is worth nothing to me while my wife is a slave,” said Washington as he held conversations with fellow travelers who tried to convince him to abandon his plans.

As Washington traveled closer to the farm that held his wife, he was forced to travel at night for fear of being recognized by someone. He found temporary shelter in the woods near the farm and tried to get information about her but was unsuccessful. One night while in hiding, he heard singing off in the distant woods; the singing was coming closer and closer to where he was hiding. As he investigated the singing, he became a part of the singing, there he learned that he stumbled upon a “corn shucking.”

A “corn shucking” was a mass gathering of slaves who pealed loads of corn, and after pealing the corn they were able to have a huge dinner with whiskey and dancing, which was provided by the owner of the plantation where the corn shucking took place. Washington refused to eat the food for fear of being discovered. He also was very careful to ask only a few questions and remain in the shadows. At the corn shucking, he learned that his wife had not been sold and was still on the old farm.

Being too eager to see his wife, Washington entered the parameter of the farm but was spotted by an overseer. The overseer then alerted the other white overseers on the farm. The first three men to approach Washington was struck in the face and knocked to the ground unconscious.  Eventually, Washington was subdued, shipped to Richmond, Virginia, and sold to the slave owners Johnson and Eperson. New Orleans was the destination for The Creole, a slave ship controlled by Captain Enson and owned by Johnson and Eperson.

Washington and one-hundred and forty-four other slaves were loaded upon The Creole along with other cargo the men were shipping to New Orleans. As they loaded the slaves upon The Creole, the men were placed in one cabin and the women were placed in another. For fear of rebellion, the men were heavily chained, and Washington particularly was chained to the floor of the cabin. The women were not chained and were able to roam their cabin freely.

As Washington lay chained to the floor, his attitude was rather jovial than the expected gloom the other slaves displayed. The overseers didn’t know that while Washington was displaying a docile and cooperative attitude; he was secretly picking the men he would use to overthrow The Creole. They also didn’t know that Washington still carried his mini saws and files within the lining of his coat to use when the time was right.

In 1841, on the ninth day of the voyage, The Creole encountered rough seas which made several slaves very sick. Because some slaves were sick, the overseers did not watch them properly, this created the perfect opportunity for Washington and his men to attack. Washington used his mini saw and file to free himself and at least eighteen other men. Once free, the slaves found weapons and made their way to the deck where the ship’s crew was stationed. When the slaves attacked the ship’s crew it was unexpected, and it startled the crew, the men barley moved to make them easy targets for the slaves.

Hewell, the Black slave driver, and others from the crew drew their guns and shot some slaves. Washington spotted Hewell shooting his gun, approached him from behind, and struck him in the head, wounding him severely. Washington led his men into battle with iconic flair, fueling his men to earn their victory; the slaves then dominated the crew and gained control of The Creole. Washington’s men wanted to kill the remaining crew members who were still alive, but Washington allowed no more killing. He was not interested in killing the men, only gaining the freedom of his people and his wife.

The next morning, Madison Washington was named “Captain Washington,” commander of The Creole, by his men. That same morning, Washington requested that the cook prepare a wonderful meal for the men and women who were once captives on the ship. This meal would be the first time the men and women would see each other. Little did Washington know his beautiful wife Susan was one of the women held in the cabin on The Creole. As they served the meal, enslaved men and women mingled for the first time as free human beings. Washington and Susan spotted each other and shared a passionate, tearful reunion. After years of being separated because of slavery, Madison and Susan Washington were once again husband and wife.

Madison Washington and his men defeated the crew of the Creole, and Washington ordered that the men not be killed and their wounds treated. Once the wounds of the white men healed they tried to regain control of the ship but were defeated once more. Because of the bravery and brilliance of Washington, one-hundred, and forty-four, people could gain their freedom upon The Creole. The Creole didn’t make it to New Orleans, instead, Washington and his men landed in Nassau, Bahamas because they learned it was a free island. Washington was determined to free his wife, and his determination and love for his wife led to him freeing others he did not know.

The Story of Madison Washington and The Creole is a story many of us have never heard before; a man of African lineage who embraced freedom could not only change history but change the lives of others. This story is important because it shows that once organized black people can gain their freedom. It also exemplifies the commitment of a black man to his black wife, which is counter to the normal narrative which usually degrades the black family. If we unite and trust each other we can make the impossible, possible.

Copyright © 2020 | Joseph Ward

Mr. Madison Washington, we proudly stand on your shoulders.

– JA Ward

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_Washington

https://newsone.com/2762407/the-creole-slave-revolt-1841/

https://loa-shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Brown_Madison_Washington.pdf


Copyright©JA Ward

Website: www.ontheshoulders1.com

IG & Twitter: @Joseph Ward

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxJI7ykLdNA

Facebook: On the Shoulders of Giants

Joseph A. Ward is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU) and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Ward is a graduate of the “New Hope Program” with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Leon County and has served as a co-facilitator of the program for over seven years, teaching life and professional skills to underprivileged persons. In addition to co-facilitating this program, he also helped establish the FAMU chapter of Men of Strength (MOST) and currently serves as its co-facilitator.

Over the past 14 years, Mr. Ward has dedicated himself to studying the history and the culture of the African diaspora. He is the founder of On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc., author of On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 1 North America, and On the Shoulders of Giants Vol: 2 Central America. He is also the host of The Freedom Train Podcast Series and The Fix Sports Podcast.

Mr. Ward’s commitment to his community has proven him to be a reputable teacher, coach, trainer, and motivator. He is dedicated to uplifting and educating individuals around the world while helping to create mindsets and environments which foster greatness.

Click here to learn more about the On the Shoulders of Giants book series!!


Check out more Black History Fun Fact articles here. Want to be featured on this blog? Write and submit your own Black History Article! Click here for submission guidelines.

Thank You

When I first started this blog I always celebrated the small growth. I have learned to appreciate my journey without comparing it to anyone else’s, to clap for myself without feeling the need to explain it, and to double check that everything I do is in humility and not to feed the ego.

I have learned the importance of owning my stuff.

Owning your stuff means to own your decisions and accomplishments even if others do not deem it important.

Owning your stuff means to be proud of yourself without prefacing it with that insecure, “I know this not as better as some,” stuff.

If you can’t be proud of you, who will?

Stop lessening your value. You don’t have to be like everyone else or do what everyone else is doing. A perfect example is how everyone is going LIVE now. That is great and I love how people are being creative amid this pandemic, but you don’t have to go LIVE if it’s not you. There is no one way to be successful online.

Do what feels right with your soul first because as COVID has reminded us, life is not all about numbers, followers, likes, and it is not all about money. That is not why I acknowledge these mini milestones as I have done since I started this blog.

…but I am getting sidetracked…

Thank you for following this blog, for supporting my writing, and for being a part of this journey.

Thank you.

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Enjoy your weekend and please, be safe!

Stella: Beyond the Colored Line is Live (The Stella Trilogy Book 2)

Beyond the Colored Line is LIVE

“This story retells the history of many African-American families alive today. It is a heritage rich with strife and suffering but also filled with a hope and a desire to finally grasp the freedom that has been so elusive and out of reach for so many. At times, I was forced to accept some uncomfortable truths about our American past. There is nothing wrong with that. This story makes you think about freedom and what it really means to you as a person, and as an American. I loved this story because it is through the learning of other’s journeys that we begin to learn much about ourselves. Their pain becomes our pain and we begin to see through their eyes. Stella will touch your soul with such a sweet simplicity you won’t even know it.”

– Colleen Chesebro, on Stella: Beyond the Colored Line, First Edition

About.

In book two, we dig deeper into the McNair family’s legacy. Named after her great-grandmother, Stella has a very light complexion which causes her to be the tease of her classmates. Unable to find solace among her African American contemporaries, Stella finds it challenging to adjust to a world where she is too light to be “black.” After The Great Depression of the 1930s forces Stella’s family to move to Chicago, a conversation with Aunt Sara provokes Stella to do something that will dramatically affect not just her life but the life of her children and grandchildren.


Excerpt.

1928

Daddy runs off to no one knows where on account of his life. Some racist whites had seen him and Mama together and threatened to lynch him if found, so he runs off. The community gossip is that his brothers know, but they won’t say. We weren’t alone, though, Mama and me. It seems like Mama filled the hole where Papa should have been with our whole family. The house always stayed filled with guests, my people, and peoples of my people. My granddaddy was a colored man and owned this land. My namesake, his Mama Stella, was a slave and was given this house by her owner. As the story goes, after Grandma died, I was born. Since Mama was the closest, she named me after her.

My aunts would gather around the table with my mama, and they laugh and cry most of the night about their girlhood. They would talk about what it was like being four mixed girls in Illinois. I don’t have uncles on my mother’s side, but Daddy got six brothers.

Due to the controversy around my parent’s relationship, Daddy being a Negro, and Mama being half-white, they only visit on special occasions. Uncle Roy, Daddy’s younger brother, says Mama acts differently around her sisters and that we too uppity, especially Aunt Sara. She’s the youngest of my aunties and the most spoiled. She’s the one who convinced Mama to send me to a white school in the first place, and boy was my uncles hot! They said we were breaking the law–that a Negro had no business in a white school. But Aunt Sara said I had all the right in the world since I was half white. For her, not only could I do this, I had a right to do it.

“But does the school know she a Negro?” Uncle Roy would ask.

“That’s none of the school’s business, now is it?” Aunt Sara would say, and they’d go back and forth until Mama break it up.

Not all talks were good talks. I used to sit until my eyes were red with fatigue to hear Mama and my uncles talk about all the killings that were taking place around the country, and especially in the South. I felt like I lived in two worlds, one black and one white, but none mixed. And what did that mean, mixed?

My aunties wanted to talk about education, family, career, and navigating the world as a mixed-race person, whereas Daddy’s side liked to talk about the black condition, what was going on in the black community, and what it meant to be black in America. They talked less about blacks navigating a world that they felt didn’t include them, and more about blacks redefining themselves and creating their own worlds. The conversations were intriguing and fascinating on both sides, but it left me feeling like my very body was a contradiction. Was I white? Was I black? Race wars always involved these two groups of people, and there ain’t seemed to be room for a mulatto.

“That’s what I say,” said the voice of Uncle Keith, Daddy’s second oldest brother.

“Up there in Minnesota.”

“That close?” Mama gasped.

“Yeah, that close. What woman, you living under a rock? They just had one over in DeKalb last month,” said Uncle Roy.

“It’s a crying-out-loud shame,” continued Keith. “Say they dragged the boys from the cell and a whole mob of ‘em lynched ‘em. Say it was ‘bout a thousand of ‘em.”

“My my,” said Aunt Rebecca.

There were times even I witnessed evidence of the events rocking the country. One day, Mama and I went to visit Cousin Mary in Texas and drove the truck up to a general store. We walked in, and I picked up a postcard from a rack. It was of a man hanging on a tree that supported an iron chain that lifted him above a fire. The man didn’t seem to have much of a body left. They cut his fingers off, his ears and his body was burned to a crisp. On the back of the postcard read: “This is the barbecue we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Dan.”

I learned later the picture was of a seventeen-year-old mentally ill boy named, Johnny, who had agreed to have raped a white woman. And everybody at home still talked of the Cairo Circus of 1909, the public lynching that took place here in Illinois. I couldn’t understand why Mama was so upset about a circus until I found out what kind of spectacle it was. My aunts didn’t want anything to do with the land or the house because of events like these. They say it’s too close to slavery. No one wanted to inherit the home or the property, but Mama, and this is how I spent several years of my life living in the same house where my great-grandmother had been a slave. Mama kept the house full of guests by renting out rooms to help with her washerwoman salary.

We weren’t much of a churchgoing family, party going is more like it, unless Mama wanted to show off a new dress or hat when somebody died or needed saving and on holidays and such. Folk would come from all over southern Illinois to hang out with “Cousin Judy.” Sundays sure were fun, my second favorite day of the week. Saturdays were my favorite day of the week. It was the day for shopping, and that only meant one thing, Chicago.

First, Mama would wake me to the smell of biscuits or pancakes. This massive breakfast was to keep me full enough throughout the day, so she didn’t have to worry any about food buying. Then, she commanded me to bathe real good, paint my arms and legs with coconut oil, untie my curls, and we’d both put on our Sunday’s best and be two of the most beautiful women you’d ever seen. I was a young lady now, and shopping was the best thing for a young lady, next to boys, but you couldn’t like them in public.

You could like shopping, though, and I loved going from store to store in search of the finest. I skipped along while Mama scanned the insides of magazines for stuff she heard about from the white women whose laundry she cleaned. We would squeeze our way through crowds of people, just bumping into each other. Everyone dressed in their weekend wear and bought ice cream for their children. Some went to see the picture show, and so did Mama and me. We could buy candy or jewelry, or perhaps a new hat or two. We could drink from water fountains without a label and spend money without prejudice.

We had a good time on Saturdays because on Saturday, no one knew we were colored.

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Movie Night Friday – REVIVAL with Harry Lennix


Movie Night Friday is back!

I come from a movie family. My aunt used to collect VHS tapes and then later, DVDs. I am sure if she was still alive, she would have every movie streaming app there is and collect Fire Sticks. We are a family who walks around quoting movie lines and seeing if people can guess what movie it’s from. It’s only right that I feature a series on this blog about movies. Movie Night Friday is nothing new. It is a segment I started on this blog years ago (2015) to feature my favorite movies and why I love them. My favorites are broken down into different categories though so Malcolm X could be number one in one category Lean on Me in the next, Boyz N Tha Hood in the next and The Great Debaters in the next.


Revival! features a star-studded, mostly black cast in the retelling of the book of John, featuring the resurrection, life, and ministry of the Messiah. Viewers will watch the bible play out through some of their favorite actors and musicians in a mixture of onstage performances, gospel songs, and spirituals so that Revival! becomes more than just a movie, but an experience. With Michelle Williams playing Mary Magdalen, Chaka Khan as Herodias, Wendy Raquel Robinson as the woman with the blood issue, Kenny Lattimore as Lazarus, Harry Lennix as Pontius Pilate and Mali Music as Jesus (who I will refer to by his name Yahoshua throughout this review), Revival! is a part short film, part musical, and part broadway play.

What attracted me to Revival?

When TriCoast Entertainment reached out to me for a review, my first impulse was to watch the trailer. As a spiritual person who believes in the bible, but who is not a Christian, I wanted to make sure this was the kind of film I can stand behind, support, and promote. When I watched the trailer, the first thing that piqued my interest immediately was the almost all-black cast and even more, the black Messiah.

Many African Americans do not see themselves in scripture and are thus convinced they are not there and have nothing to do with this powerful historical text. Further, few films reveal the true physical appearance of the people of the bible. Where are we? It is a question I hear often from black people when discussing scripture. Some of us don’t think we were there at all. But the truth is many of the nationalities of the people in the bible including the Israelites, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians were black-skinned people.

Best Scenes

I think the Pharisees did a wonderful job of being hypocrites (haha) and they were in some of my favorite scenes, but my most favorite part was the scenes where Yahoshua is fighting off the temptation of the devil. Taken from Matthew 4:1-11, the creativity of the temptations had a modern touch but did not take away the reality of the devil’s persistence in his attacks and how we must be just as persistent in our resistance to those attacks. In the movie, these attacks take various forms such as Satan as a man sitting at the beautiful dining spread to tempt Yahoshua to eat during his fast and command the stones to become bread (Matt. 4:1-4), a little boy, and a seducing woman trying to entice him with her body. The best of these scenes for me was when the devil transformed himself into that of a little boy on top of the Hollywood sign and there tempted Yahoshua to jump.

We live in a world where Hollywood is a place everyone strives to be apart of. It represents the epitome of success for some, and the place everyone wants to be. Here, celebrities are worshiped as gods and most people aren’t taken seriously or acknowledged for their art whether music, writing, or theater until they have become promoted on a mainstream level.  Therefore, inspired by the scripture where the devil takes the Messiah on a high mountain and tells him to throw himself down (Matt. 4:6), Mali and the little boy sitting on top of the Hollywood mountain was a brilliant idea. It was also a good idea to portray the devil as an innocent young boy since we know that he can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Co 11:14).

Least Favorite Scenes

I enjoyed some of the songs but the combination of several mediums was my least favorite part. I would have liked to see the film part as a consistent thread throughout (like a movie) without being jolted from the narrative for someone to sing for three minutes or to return to the stage. At times it did work but there were also times I was immersed in the story and then snatched out of it. I think the musical/stage play part could be a separate production of itself so that it doesn’t disturb the transition between scenes and distracts from the core story.

The lady with the flow of blood was also my least favorite scene because the scripture doesn’t mention anything about the woman’s flow of blood coming from bruises. Based on Lev. 15:25-33, it was my understanding this flow of blood was a literal flow of blood as in a menstrual cycle. Wendy Raquel Robinson’s acting was excellent though, as usual.

Mostly All Black Cast

I have to bring it back to the mostly all-black cast! This is hands down my favorite part of the film and I’d like to end this review with a bit more context to explain why I think this is so important for African Americans to see.

According to the book of Revelations chapter one, verses 14-15, the messiah is described by John as having hair like white wool and feet like burnished brass, as if refined in a furnace. So, when he shows up in this film dark-skinned with full lips and a full beard, it is refreshing. If Yahoshua was to walk the earth today, he would do so as a black man, so we are not only looking at ourselves, but we are looking at the truth. Originally, the descendants of both Shem and Ham were black people. Gerald Massey, English writer and author of the book, Egypt the Light of the World, wrote:

“The dignity is so ancient that the insignia of the Pharaoh evidently belonged to the time when Egyptians wore nothing but the girdle of the Negro.”

Sir Richard Francis Burton, a 19th-century English explorer, writer, and linguist in 1883 wrote to Gerald Massey:

“You are quite right about the ‘AFRICAN’ origin of the Egyptians. I have 100 human skulls to prove it.” 

Scientist, R. T. Pritchett, states in his book, The Natural History of Man:

“In their complex and many of the complexions and in physical peculiarities the Egyptians were an ‘AFRICAN’ race.”

And finally, the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century B.C.E., saw the Egyptians face to face and described them as black-skinned with woolly hair. Consider also that the word Ham in Hebrew is Khwam, and it means “hot, burnt, and black.”

If it is true that the Egyptians were black, and we know that they were, then it is also true that the Israelites were black. Not only did the Israelites become a nation in Egypt, the land of Ham, the sons of Jacob arriving 70 in number (Gen. 46:27, Ex. 1:5) because of the famine, but as Joseph ruled Egypt (Gen. 41) his brothers did not at first recognize their Israelite brother among the black Egyptians. (Gen. 42:8) Additionally, Moses passed as the grandson of the Egyptian Pharaoh for forty-years. (Acts 7:23) How could this have happened if he didn’t look like him?

“Moses had to be of the black race because he spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s place. He passed as the Pharaoh’s grandson, so he had to look just like him.”  – KRS One, “Why is That”

For this, Harry Lennix’s mostly black cast is important because while the world has come to accept, in part, that Ham’s descendants were black, the world has not come to fully embrace the black origin of the descendants of Shem, the original Hebrews.

Moses, Abraham, The Prophets, and even the Messiah, would have looked like African Americans had they walked the earth today. I believe that Lennix’s decision to make Yahoshua and most of his disciplines black is not just a form of creative expression but a powerful re-education of black biblical history.

I give Revival! four out of five stars.

I want to extend a thank you to TriCoast Entertainment for the opportunity to review the film REVIVAL starring Harry Lennix (The Blacklist, The Five Heartbeats, Love & Basketball, Ray), Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chaka Khan, Michelle Williams, Mali Music, and other musical legends.

*TriCoast Entertainment has released REVIVAL onto various digital & DVD platforms (Amazon, iTunes, FLIXFLING, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Google Play), Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

**Direct Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3aRERRv

***For more information, please visit: https://revivalthemovie.com/

***Image Stills (including blog cover image featuring Harry Lennix) used with permission.


Can’t get enough of Black History? Don’t forget that book one of my novella series Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom is now available.

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