What Have You Done?

Photo by Christina Morillo

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


On October 16, 2022, I posted a video of things you didn’t know about MLK to TikTok and Instagram. I followed this with a video of women who refused to give up their seats on public transportation before Rosa Parks on October 26th.

And my social media has not been the same since.

My TikTok account increased from 200+ followers when I posted the videos to 1K.

The Rosa Parks video has over 200K views, 30K likes, and over 3K shares on TikTok.

The MLK video is up 57K views, 7K likes, 948 saves, and over 1K shares on Instagram.

But this has not been without controversy.

Since posting the videos, I have experienced attacks on me personally and Dr. King’s legacy. I am okay with this. It comes with the territory.

When telling the truth, the truth teller must expect push back. Prepare your heart for testing. Otherwise, should you wish not to receive negative feedback, do nothing and say nothing.

If you wish to be liked by everyone and not change the world, don’t. Sit on your hands and be quiet.

My calling does not require me to do the latter.

I only have a few questions for those who find fault in me, Dr. King, the videos, and anything I put out.

What have you done to move the needle forward for the advancement of anything?

When you call out Dr. King’s discrepancies and highlight his sins over his triumphs, do you ask yourself what you have done?

Do you consider in your own heart the skeletons in your own closet that no one knows about but you and YAH?

Do you consider your own flaws in your tearing down of someone else?

What programs did you start? What rally did you attend? How many people have you fed? How many people have you clothed?

Is trolling people online and preaching from Facebook and Black Twitter the extent of your ministry? Is debating doctrine on YouTube the catalyst of your movement?

What real work have you done? Whose life was made better by your presence?

We should ask ourselves these questions before critiquing someone else’s mission.

Don’t let your food get cold worrying about what’s on someone else’s plate.

And, for the record, my post was not about Dr. King, the Christian God, and the symbol of white sympathy that this society has made him out to be. My post was about a better understanding of Dr. King, the man, his positive actions, and how his activism has been largely watered down.

For More Black History Facts Be Sure to Visit the Archive Here and Lookout for the Book Coming 2023.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – 4 Little Known Fun Facts About Dr. King

Born Michael King

In Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born Michael King, the second of three children born to Micheal King Sr., and Alberta Christine on January 15, 1929. Micheal Jr. was born and raised on 501 Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, then home to some of the country’s most prominent and prosperous African Americans and now part of the MLK Birth Home Tour of the National Historical Park. The house was purchased by King’s grandfather Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, Alberta’s father, in 1909.

Michael King Sr. changed his and his son’s name to Martin after Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which led to a split with the Catholic Church. He did this after touring Germany and witnessing the beginnings of Nazi Germany while in Berlin (Adolf Hitler had become chancellor the year before King’s arrival), according to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford.

The Poor People’s Campaign

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., displays the poster to be used during his Poor People’s Campaign  spring and summer, March 4, 1968. King said the campaign would begin April 22 but he was murdered April 4th (AP Photo/Horace Cort)

Dr. King founded a program called The Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that “sought to bring a multiracial coalition of religious leaders, workers, and the poor together to fight poverty in a way that intentionally centered the voices of the marginalized.” Officially commencing in December 1967, Dr. King wanted to bring together poor people from across the country to demand better jobs, homes, education, and better lives. The purpose behind the campaign was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”

“If you are, let’s say, from rural Mississippi and have never had medical attention, and your children are undernourished and unhealthy, you can take those little children into the Washington hospitals and stay with them there until the medical workers cope with their needs. And in showing it your children, you will have shown this country a sight that will make it stop in its busy tracks and think hard about what it has done.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ultimately, King put together a plan that he thought would help solve poverty so that every American had a guaranteed income. Dr. King set his program to begin on April 22 but was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Fought for Better Schools for Children in the Cabrini Green Projects

Civil Rights Museum, Lorraine Motel, 2018.

In 1966, Dr. King moved into an apartment on Chicago’s West Side as part of the Freedom Movement. He was less interested in Civil Rights by then and more interested in Human Rights, including fair housing in Northern cities. Chicago in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s was a segregated city plagued with a system of redlining that prevented blacks from purchasing property in their own communities. Not only was the rent high, but run-down apartments were divided into Kitchenettes that split six-family apartments in half, so they became one-room apartments.

“The Kitchenette is our prison, our death sentence without a trial, the new form of mob violence that assaults not only the lone individual but all of us in its ceaseless attacks.” – Richard Wright.

The Projects were the answer to the slums but did not fare much better. People eventually abandoned public housing for the suburbs, offended that blacks were “being treated as whites.” Newspapers and Ads boasted Blacks and Italians living side by side, happy and positive. The public did not have it. Riots broke out as whites pulled blacks out of their cars, beating them. Middle-class blacks were forced out as the screening process got more and more relaxed. Eventually, they put up gates, which made residents feel imprisoned. The once “promised land,” that was the newly established public housing program, became just another ghetto. Black schools also suffered.

One elementary school was overcrowded, and King fought with residents to get a racist teacher fired. “The people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate,” he said after being stoned by angry white residents in the then all-white Marquette Park on the city’s Southwest Side. When parents were in their third day of a planned strike, Dr. King met with them, saying, “Should you in any way be persecuted or prosecuted for attempting to seek the best education possible for your children, I can assure you that thousands of parents from all over the city will come to your aid and together we will join you in jail if necessary.”

Campaigned for Black Sanitation Workers in Memphis

Dr. King helped black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, in March and April of 1968. He compared their struggle with the poor people’s campaign, saying, “A fight by capable, hard workers against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world.” The deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker brought the issue of sanitation workers into the public eye. These men were crushed to death by a trash compensation mechanism on a garbage truck that malfunctioned on February 1, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis for that strike when he was murdered at the Lorraine Motel.

The deaths of these men highlighted the dangerous conditions under which these men worked. The strike brought it to the attention of Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King, who “saw the Memphis strike and the workers’ demand for union rights as embodying the goals and values of his fledgling Poor People’s Campaign.”


More fun facts about King will be featured in the Black History Facts You Didn’t Learn in School book.

For now, be sure to check out other Black History Fun Facts on the page here.

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.

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.

Fab New Photo Of Harriet Tubman & 10 Amazing But Little Known Facts About Her Life

Speaking of Underground, here are some Fun Facts about Harriet Tubman from the Blackmail4u blog. (I believe Harriet adopted a baby girl too named Gertie)

Black Mail Blog

Black History: Special Delivery!!

harriet-tubman-younger Harriet Tubman (1819?-1913) She is believed to be between 43-46 years old in this photo

A newly discovered photo of a “younger” Harriet Tubman (1819? – 1913) is getting lots of publicity in the media! The photo was discovered among other pictures belonging to a deceased friend of Tubman’s.  It is estimated that Tubman is in her early to mid 40’s in the picture.  Her photo along with 44 other photos will be auctioned on March 30 by Swann Galleries.  The photo was likely taken just after the Civil War.  Tubman was then residing in Auburn, NY on land that would later become the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

Tubman also made the news in 2016 after it was announced that her image would be added to the $20 bill beginning in 2030 replacing, President Andrew Jackson. While many of us are familiar with Tubman’s bravery and heroism in…

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Soto Brothers

black-history1

Two kids had already been killed down the street from the apartment complex that would one day be the center of media attention when Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton would be murdered in his bed this same year. Teens from the Henry Horner projects had been protesting for months, a little over a year to be exact, for a traffic signal at the corner of local schools and health clinics where two teens had already been killed. The city refused. In addition, earlier this year, police kicked down the doors of a Panther office, brutally beating and injuring six people and one bystander on Madison Street.

As you can see, the climate of 1969 Chicago was already heated surrounding citizens and the city. Police brutality in Chicago is far from anything new and this year they were on a roll.

screenshot-365_li
Source: JET Magazine, Oct. 30, 1969

John Soto was an active member of the protest campaigns to get a traffic light installed at the corner, a few blocks from Fred’s Apartment. Sadly, John only lived to seventeen, were killed just one day (Oct 5th) after a police raid on a Panther office. According to the reports, John fought with the police before being “accidentally” shot by them. The already agitated community grew furious and John’s brother, Michael Soto, returned home from the army to attend his brother’s funeral. Five days later, on October 10, 1969, Michael Soto too was shot and killed. The black community did not believe in coincidences.

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Source: The Chicago Tribune, Oct. 11th,1969

It was said that Michael was killed because, after being stopped by police, he pulled out a gun, contrary to the account given by witnesses.

The community became even more outraged and according to the NAACP’s Commission of Inquiry, “The commission discovered that a substantial segment of the community believed that, contrary to all police reports, John and Michael Soto had been murdered by the police because of their participation in the traffic light protests.”

Source: JET Magazine, Oct. 30, 1969

According to Jeffrey Haas, Panther Lawyer of The People’s Law Office and author of “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther”, (one of the books I’m reading), the coroner’s inquests in the Soto case were delayed; meanwhile, the internal police investigation found John’s death to be “accidental homicide” and Michael’s death “justifiable homicide”.

I decided to dedicate this week’s Black History Fun Fact to these brothers because of two things:

  1. Google’s limited amount of information on them
  2. Their minimum mention in black history

Though their lives were sadly ended, I wanted to highlight what happened to them for those who may not have been familiar. They existed and are among the many so-called Black and Hispanic men and women who died at the hands of law enforcement.

Update: Interestingly enough, I found this article and thought I’d update this post to include the link:

Chicago police use excessive force, DOJ finds

“Chicago police officers’ use of excessive force, she said, stemmed in large part from what the Justice Department found were severely insufficient training and accountability procedures — including failing to train officers to de-escalate situations.”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/13/us/chicago-police-federal-investigation/index.html