By Taki S. Raton
On my Thursday evening “MenThink” radio show networked under the Harambee Radio and TV Internet stream, we beganon this past December 19 what I themed “The Watchman Series.” Discussions are inspired by Chancellor Williams inhis work, “Destruction of Black Civilization” where in Part II, his Chapter XII heading is entitled “View from
the Bridge.”Williams speaks in his opening page narrative of a bridge suspended between two eternities, “Arched so high up there that the Watchman could from his tower see all that had gone before and all that was to come.” The
populace looks up to the Watchman “in this endless night,” and ask, in this MCJ treatment, just what does the future hold for us? What does it look like? Chapter XIII is titled “The Black World at the Crossroad” with an
opening inscriptive probing the tenet: “Out of the stormy past till we now stand at last …WHERE?”
My guest on December 19 were the pair Anna’ McMillion from Moss Point, Mississippi, and Carlos Carr from Omaha, Nebraska. Just this past Thursday week on January 2, the series featured radio talk show host Kathleen Wells of the Kathleen Wells Show out of Los Angeles. All very highly placed cultural stakeholders with admirable
contributive track records within their respective communities, the objective of the hour broadcast was to
answer the “WHERE” from our symbolic “Watchman’s” perspective. What does this view from the bridge look like?
Are we now here in 2014 at a crossroad and if so, how did we get to this point? Seguing from “MenThink” to Dr. Claude Anderson in his 2010 DVD, “A Vision Beyond a Dream,” he would submit in his words: “With integration, we have been going backwards.” And as an instructor of African American History, data would evidence a similar conclusion that in fact, the farther back we go into our own history, the better were our social and economic
circumstance. Current trends coupled with a view of the historical record prior to integration would certainly
support such observations - From the Bridge.
Moving into 2014, such brief select sampled trends – as cited in the past under this byline and in highly
publicized posted accounts - are as follows. A September 19, 2013 account headlined that “Black People are Worse Off Financially Than Any Other Group in America.” The U.S. Census report reveals that at 27.2 percent,
African Americans, collectively speaking, “are the poorest of all ethnic and racial groups in America. As noted
March 3, 2013 in Your Black World, “The Black Family Is Worse Off Today than in the 1960’s.” The report releasedby the Urban Institute that African American families have suffered the worst decline of all ethnicities since
the 1965 Moynihan report on “The Black Family: A Case for National Action.”
In 1950, 17 percent of African-American children lived in a home with their mothers but not their father.
By 2010, that had increased to 50 percent. In 1965, only eight percent of childbirths in the Black community
occurred out-of-wedlock. In 2010, that figure was 41 percent. Today, the out-of-wedlock childbirth in the Black community stands at 72 percent. The number of African American women married and living with their spouse in
1950 was recorded at 53 percent. By 2010, it had dropped to 25 percent.
The Urban Institute’s report additionally underscored another disturbing social trend – the mass incarceration
of Black men. The study shared that by 2010, “one out of every six Black men had spent some time in prison as compared with about 1 out of 33 white men.” I believe right now as of 2013 going into 2014, that 1 in 3 Black males are predicted to have their name listed in some aspect of criminal judicial recordings. Author Michelle Alexander posted in the March 20, 2011 edition of Colorlines that as of that year, there were
more Black men in prison then were enslaved in 1850.
In an October 14, 2010 published MCJ article under this byline, within the nine-and-a-half years from 2001
through 2010, 67,000 Black Americans were murdered by Black hands. Given the 67,000 figure, that would be 64,068 more Black folks killed by Black folk than were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan during the 29 years between 1889 and 1918. The “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education” cites that
the overall 2007/2008 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 48 percent. According to the
November 8, 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel account, in Milwaukee specifically, Black students scored near the
bottom in the nation on benchmark math and reading test.
Eighth-grade reading scores for Black students were the worst in any state as compared to other ethnic groupingsand fourth-grade reading scores for Black students were the second worst.“I don’t like what I see,” writes JamesClingman in his March 21, 2013 AfricanGlobe writing “Is it Too Late for Black People in America – A Must Read.” He adds that, “In 2013, Black people are mired in the worse conditions since we got our ‘civil rights.’ Despite the election and reelection of a Black President, Black people in general are still at the bottom, steeped in poverty, poor health, short life spans, crime, unemployment and poor education.”Continuing, he posits that, “In
all of our grandeur, all of our pomposity, all of our red-carpet flash, all of our champagne-sipping-braggadocios-arrogance, we have sunk to new levels of selfishness, self-hate, and insecurity. Our collective prosperity is virtually nonexistent because we have fallen for the ploy that directs us towards ‘I’ rather than ‘we.’”
Looking back from 2013 on the Watchman’s bridge into the 50’s and 60’s, Anderson says that his family in North
Carolina had part ownership in a Black bus line. “We had the biggest bus line in the state and the only bus linein the country for Black people. We had over 500 buses that serviced not only Black neighborhoods, but White
neighborhoods as well.” But unfortunately and regretfully, he says when Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks
integrated the buses and Black folk got to ride on the front of the bus; when the ruling got to North Carolina, Black folk left the Black bus line and went to ride on the White buses so that they could sit up in the front. “And so we were forced to go out of business.” The same thing eventually happened he adds with the two Black
owned cab companies – the Harris and the Camel City Cab companies. With integration, Black folk wanted to ride
in the White cabs. The Black cab lines soon also went out of business. We had Black owned theaters, specifically the Black owned Lafayette and the Lincoln theaters with chains nationwide Anderson recalls. We had Black own film companies in Jacksonville, Florida called Norman Productions. There were Black owned studios in Chicago and in Hollywood under the banner of “Hollywood Productions” where Black owned western and romantic films were made. “We owned our own film distribution system and employed our own Black workers,” he says in “Visions.”
We had all of this until integration. Blacks then left Black and went White. We now have no Black owned studios,no Black owned distribution systems, no theaters; nothing left except the above shameful trend stats that in 2013 will most assuredly be passed down well into 2014. We have indeed gone backward.
Anderson in his DVD speaks of Black ownership of mattress factories, tool factories, drilling companies. We had a Black railroad line in Jacksonville Florida and another Black railroad company in Oklahoma. I have often noted in writings of Robert R. Johnson in his work “Wake Up Black America, You’re Sleepwalking Black Into Slavery,” where he speaks to his upbringing in Natchez, Tennessee. As compared to the “WHERE” today in sunrise 2014, we had, says Johnson, an all-Black business district in the main section of the downtown area. There were Black doctors, lawyers, restaurants, nightclubs, soda fountains, barbershops, beauty/nail
shops,gambling joints, five funeral homes and a Black lottery.“These businesses provided strong models for our children, income for many families and kept money moving around this small Black community.”Again noting the premise of this writing that data would evidence the conclusion that the farther back we go into our own history,
the better were our social and economic circumstance; the safer and more nurturing our communities. Anderson further reveals that during the 1940’s, more than 150 businesses were owned by African Americans and flourished in Durham, North Carolina.
Among these businesses were restaurants, movie theaters, barbershops, nightclubs, boarding houses, pressing ships, grocery stores, banks, savings and loan establishments and funeral parlors. Up until 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street had created 600 Black owned businesses to include 21 churches, 22 Black owned restaurants, 30 Black owned grocery stores, two Black owned movie theaters, six Black owned private airplanes, one Black owned
and operated hospital, one bank and its own school system.
To repeat, even with the variable of automation in the 60’s, the farther back we go when we were away from others and amongst our own, the better we looked, definitely as compared to today in 2014. Dr. Michael D. Woodard in “Black Entrepreneurs in America” documents that during the Jim Crow era 124 years ago in 1890, close to 74,000 Blacks were self-employed in various cities nationally. Trades included 43,963 handymen, 17,480 bankers, 7,181 merchants, 2,516 peddlers, 1,166 salesmen, 567 packers and shippers, 420 hotel owners, 390 livery stable keepers
and 231 undertakers – 73,914 self-employed Blacks in total, all during the segregated Jim Crow era.
Even during the enslavement era, Woodward tells us that numbering upwards of 60,000 free Africans (Negroes/Blacks) developed enterprises in almost every area of the business community to include merchandising, real estate, manufacturing, construction, transportation, extractive industries, service occupations, and carpentry. In 1838,
the “Register of Trades of Colored People in the city of Philadelphia,’ cites the author, list 8 bakers, 75 blacksmiths, 3 brass founders, 15 cabinet makers and carpenters, 5 confectioners, 2 caulkers, 2 chair buttoners, 15 tailoring enterprises, 31 tanners, 5 weavers, and 6 wheelwrights.
Further in Philly’s 1838, the trade’s business list 187 businesses ran just by Black women. Such a list include 81 dressmakers and tailors, 4 dryers and scourers, 2 glass and paper makers, 2 fullers, and 98 hairdressers. Woodward posits that the 98 registered hairdressers covered the largest trade group operating some of the most lucrative enterprises. In 1829 – still in the enslavement era – James Forster owned a major sail making firm employing 40 workers, Black and White. In 1838, 19 Black sail makers were also recorded in the business register for that year.
Mary Ann Shadd at the age of 30 in 1853 became the first Black woman journalist, editor, and publisher with her paper, the “Provincial Freeman.” David John Peck in 1847 was the first Black to graduate from an American
Medical School with an M.D. at the Rush Medical Center in Chicago. He was 30 year old. Born in Africa and
enslaved in 1716, Onesimus, without any formal training, was a pioneer healer of smallpox. Phyllis Wheatly,
though enslaved, was, at the age of 17, the first Negro female to publish a book of poems. Entitled “On the
Death of the Reverend George Whitefield,” her work was published 244 years ago in 1770.The above even to includethe Johnson, Anderson, and Woodard samples are but a mere blink of our mastery during the enslavement,
Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. During these periods, lasting 345 years from 1619 to 1964, our African
(Colored/Negro/Black) forbearers – even given the kidnapping, Middle Passage, forced bondage, brutality,
oppression, terror, colonization, et al. – we indeed still remained resilient, resistant, masterfully adaptive, masterfully creative, masterfully skilled and masterfully equalizing. It’s all in our African DNA. It’s all in our genes.
But we would not know this as Tony Browder said in Hidden Colors 2, most of all of our early history in this country was written by other people – White historians, writers, slave owners, missionaries, teachers, scholars - all from a Euro frame-of-reference. Black students/scholars who studied, wrote, and taught our history were also learners under this same Euro frame-of-reference paradigm. They dared not to counter or argue such
teachings, thereby risk earning those titled letters behind their name or possible publication prospects.
The falsified myths over centuries of the African in Africa and in the Americas about who we were, what we accomplished and when, and of our masterfully competitive potential in all areas continue to persist today in the
halls of public schooling, in academia, from the Black pulpit, in the homes of our families and throughout mainstreamed African American culture.
I mean really, a people who over millennium populated the earth and through migratory patterns out of Africa
laid the foundation for all of the world’s cultures in Europe and in Asia beginning around 32,999 B.C.E; created the world’s first calendar in 4236 B.C.E., formed the world first civilizations in Kemet over the2,625 years from 3150 B.C.E to 535 B.C.E. and brought the European out of the Dark Ages during the 781 years of the (Black) Moorish occupation from 711 to 1492 A.D. - these people can certainly and most
assuredly survive and master the peculiar circumstances that befell us on these shores over the 345 years from 1619 to 1964. This is how we, as a Black people, should be teaching our history.
But as the old African proverb goes: “When the tale of the hunt is always told by the hunter, his version is allthat you will know.”History – our history from an African Centered perspective - records that at no time were
Black people ever inferior to the White or to any other group. When left to our own, even in America, we were always not only the survivor, but the adaptor, the builder, civilizer, creator, entrepreneur, and imaged exemplar mastery in all areas of respectable humankind endeavors. These Black masters were in front of and models for our children. Such a proud legacy was passed onward by us through our enslavement, into Reconstruction and definitely through and during the Jim Crow periods – by Black, of Black, for the advancement of Black. The only time that Black people collectively regressed and experienced cultural, social, economic, and communitydecline in this country was at the point of integration onward – over the last now 44 years from 1970 into today’s sunrise of 2014 - when we collectively abandoned by Black, of Black, for the advancement of Black
and became voluntarily dependent upon, followers of and dictated by the images, ideals, vision and mandates of other people.
No men of any other culture in the world would or has ever done this. Creatures in the forest, birds in the air,fish in the sea – no living species would give up its unique “Way” totally to adopt the way of another. It is against Natural Law. The only outcome is the inevitable surmise of that population, evidence of which is reflectedin the above noted social and economic trends.
As noted in African thought and agreed upon in all sociological literature that has ever been written, the in 2014 in this View From the Bridge is not why is this happening? But why are we sitting back so comfortably
and allowing it to happen?To counter what is bound to be our downfall if not redirected, we might want to consider the words of our renowned historian Runoko Rashidi. Quoting Marcus Garvey: “The time has come
for the Negro to forget and cast behind him his hero-worship and adoration of other races, and start out immediately to create and emulate heroes of his own.
We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs,and elevate to positions of fame, and honor Black men
and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history…Africa has produced countless numbersof men and women, in war and in peace, whose luster and bravery outshined that of any other people. Why should we not, then, see good and perfection in ourselves?” The “Watchman” series will continue on “MenThink” each and every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. (CST) through
January. Tune in for a listen at www.harambeeradio.com.