9/11

Just wanted to post a picture to pay respects to the victims and their families dealing with the 9/11 tragedy. I really don’t like how it’s being titled as the 10th anniversary of that situation. An anniversary is something you celebrate. This is more like the 10th year of Reflection or Memorial.

Rest In Peace to the fallen and my prayers are with your families

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Me wearing my 9/11 lapel pin in remembrance of the tragedy

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Black History Month: Shani Davis

Shani Davis was born on Friday, August 13, 1982, in Chicago, Illinois. Raised by his mother on the city’s south side, he started roller-skating at local rinks at age two. By age three Shani was darting around the roller rink so fast that skate guards would chase him just to ask him to slow down. Seeming to become bored with roller-skating, at age six a coach suggested that Shani switch to ice skating. Shortly thereafter, his mother started working for an attorney, Fred Benjamin, whose son happened to be involved in speed skating at an elite level. It was at that time that Benjamin suggested that Shani give speed skating a try.

Shani joined the Evanston Speedskating Club at age six and within two months started competing locally. Though immediately taking to ice, at competitions Shani was generally more interested in running around with his competitors and playing video games than he was with competing. Nevertheless, by age 8 he was winning regional age-group competitions and began to hear about the Olympic ideal from his Northbrook competitors and friends. Shani’s mother encouraged him to participate and, in an effort to build his endurance, woke him most mornings to run a mile on a track close to their home. As there were — and still are — no speed skating clubs in inner city Chicago, at age 10 Shani and his mother moved to the far north side of the city to be closer to the Evanston rink.

“My mom never thought of herself first, and I credit most of my success to her. She continues to manage my career and is always there for me.”

Shani won five National Age Group Championships (1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2003) and also won a North American Championship in 1999. Though Shani was the first black speed skater to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2002, Shani does not concentrate on making black history. Shani began making skating history at age 17 when he became the first U.S. skater to earn spots on both the short track and long track Junior World Teams and accomplished that feat three years in a row in 2000, 2001 and 2002. At 22, not only did Shani win his third consecutive U.S. All-Around Championship and Regional Qualifier (long track events), Shani became the first U.S. skater to make all three World Teams in the same season in the 2004-2005 (World Sprint, World All-Around and World Short Track), medaling at all three events, and ultimately winning the 2005 World Allround Championships held in Moscow, Russia in February 2005. At 23, Shani won Gold and Silver at the 2006 Olympics held in Torino, Italy and also repeated his World All-Around Title in March 2006 in Calgary. In 2006-2007 season, Shani won world titles in the 1000 meter and 1500 meter events. In the following season (2007-2008) Shani repeated his 1000 meter World Title. For this 2008-2009 season, Shani won his first World Sprint Title in Moscow and his third 1500 meter World Title and currently holds two world records (1000m and 1500m).

At 27, Shani has traveled all over the world competing in Canada, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Poland, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Korea, China and Japan. He is beloved and respected by speedskating fans everywhere he goes, and he even possesses a World Passport.  He is also beloved by people at home, especially in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, and in Washington, DC, where he helped start Inner City Excellence (I.C.E.), a skating-based youth development program serving hundreds of children each year.

Going into the 21st year of his speed skating career and after many stellar performances, Shani looks forward to competing in the 2009-2010 season, including the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Source: http://www.shanidavis.org

Black History Month: Eldridge Cleaver

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was born August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, the son of Leroy Cleaver, a waiter and piano player, and Thelma Cleaver, an elementary school teacher. When his father became a dining car waiter on the Super Chief, a train running from Chicago to Los Angeles, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, one of the train’s stops. Young Cleaver earned money by shining shoes after school. Two years later, the family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles. Cleaver dropped out of Abraham Lincoln Junior High School after his parents separated. His petty crime record began at the age of 12 with the theft of a bicycle. He was sent to the Fred C. Nelles School for Boys in Whittier, California, where he was inspired to commit more sophisticated crimes. In 1953, he was released from Nelles and was soon sent to the Preston School of Industry for selling marijuana. Soon after his release from Preston, he was again arrested for possession of marijuana and, now an adult, was sentenced to a two-and one-half-year sentence at the California State Prison at Soledad in June of 1954.

At Soledad, Cleaver completed his high school education and read the works of Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Thomas Paine. After his release from Soledad, he went back to selling marijuana and became a rapist on the weekend. This led him to be arrested for “assault with intent to murder” at the end of 1957 and was sentenced to two to fourteen years at San Quentin Prison. He later was transferred to Folsom Prison in Represa, California.

In the early 1960s, while in jail, Cleaver decided to give up crime. He was influenced by the teachings of the Black Muslims and became a follower of Malcolm X. When Malcolm broke with the Black Muslims, so did Cleaver. Then he became an advocate of “black power,” as this position was enunciated by Stokley Carmichael.

Also while in jail, Cleaver wrote essays, some published in 1962 in the Negro History Bulletin; these dealing mainly with racial pride and black nationalism. Out of these autobiographical essays came his first book, Soul on Ice (1968).

Ramparts magazine, which had brought Cleaver to public attention by publishing some of his prison articles, and Cleaver’s lawyer were instrumental in securing his parole in 1966. He immediately began a new life as a writer and political activist. He helped found Black House, a social center for San Francisco youth. In 1967, he met the men who had founded the Black Panther party the year before. He became the party’s minister of information, responsible for editing its newspaper. Later that year, he married Kathleen Neal. She became the communications secretary of the Black Panther party. The couple had two children.

With Soul on Ice Cleaver gained national prominence. On April 15, 1968, along with the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., and others, he addressed a mass rally against the Vietnam War in San Francisco.

As he became increasingly outspoken against racial, economic, and political injustices in America, Cleaver’s parole officer advised him to discontinue his political activities. But Cleaver was becoming convinced that conditions for African-American people could not be alleviated without a violent revolution. To effect this, he felt, massive education was required to politicize the people. One method was to utilize a political campaign. In 1968, he urged the Black Panther party to unite with the predominantly white Peace and Freedom party in California to nominate candidates for local and state offices. Cleaver’s wife became a candidate on the Peace and Freedom party ticket for the California State Assembly, along with the Black Panther’s Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

In April 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and after harassment by the police of the Black Panther party, Cleaver was involved in a shoot-out with the Oakland police. One man was killed, and Cleaver was wounded in the foot and arrested. He was accused of violating his parole by possessing a gun, associating with people of bad reputation, and failing to cooperate with his parole agent. He was released on $50,000 bail.

In the next few months, Cleaver became a prominent spokesman of the radical, revolutionary left. He had moved from cultural, African-American nationalism to a more Marxist interpretation of revolutionary change. Cleaver believed that African-Americans should ally themselves with radical whites, and he criticized those African-American nationalists who refused such coalitions. During this period, he toured America as the presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom party. He lectured on racism at the University of California in the fall of 1968.

Cleaver was scheduled to surrender to prison authorities in November 1968 for hearings on the charge of parole violation. Instead, he disappeared. He went to Cuba, North Korea, and Algeria and in September 1970 announced the establishment of an international office for the Black Panther party in Algiers.

While in exile, Cleaver championed “the angels of destruction” and the “great educational value” of murder. Cleaver accused Newton of putting the Black Panthers in the past by advocating community service programs over armed revolution. Cleaver was accused by others of abusing his wife while in Algeria and of having other Black Panthers killed. In March of 1971, Cleaver and Newton expelled each others’ faction from the party, thus ending its heyday as the major voice for African-American activism in America.

In 1976, Cleaver returned to America to vote for Jimmy Carter and to face his accusers in California. Cleaver had changed his beliefs again while in Africa and now “stopped being a communist or socialist and developed an understanding and respect for free enterprise and the democratic political system.” He joined the Mormon church and began to lecture on conservative issues and sell ceramic pots. He eventually set up a recycling business and tried, unsuccessfully, to get the backing of the Republican party for the a 1984 run for the US Senate.

Cleaver later divorced his wife and went to Harvard Law School. Cleaver then moved back to Berkeley, California and became a preacher. A recovering drug addict, Cleaver now speaks in school, prisons, and churches about the importance of resolving conflicts without violence and is working on a new autobiography.

source: http://www.answers.com/topic/eldridge-cleaver

Black History Month: Redd Foxx

Notorious for his frank, tell-it-like-it-is style, Redd Foxx broke new ground for minorities and comedians alike. By joking about everything from sex to color barriers, he brought simmering and taboo issues into the open. His candor onstage not only jump-started what is now considered a war with censors, but also inspired and enabled other comedians to achieve more than had ever been possible. Foxx was not only “The King of Comedy,” but also a talented artist. He took a sketch book with him whenever possible, and enjoyed creating his own fantastic images or capturing the essense of those whom he loved or admired.

John Elroy Sanford was born into poverty in St. Louis on December 9, 1922. With a ruddy complexion, Redd became a fast nickname. He derived Foxx from admirable Major League Baseball player, Jimmie Foxx. He left St. Louis for Chicago when he was 13, and supported himself by playing the washboard in a band. When the band broke up three years later, he hopped a train to New York City. It was there that he met Malcolm Little, a man who would later be known as Malcolm X. In “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” he is referred to as “Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth.”

Foxx began performing as a comedian/actor in black theaters and nightclubs, often referred to as the “Chitlin Circuit.” From 1951-1955 he teamed with comic Slappy White, a lifelong friend who would also act alongside him on “Sanford and Son” and “The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour.” While he was performing in Los Angeles, he was offered a deal with the Dooto record label. Foxx received $25 for his first recording. In the years to follow he would produce over 50 comedic albums. During the 1960s, as cultural barriers began to wear down, Foxx’s audience grew steadily. In 1972, after his film debut in Ossie Davis’ Cotton Comes to Harlem, Norman Lear signed Foxx as junk dealer Fred Sanford in a new NBC sitcom.

“Sanford and Son,” which co-starred Demond Wilson and La Wanda Page, was a big hit. So big, in fact, that it ranked in the top ten virtually every week it aired. At one point NBC even ran the show twice a week. When Foxx left in 1977, it was reportedly because NBC wouldn’t give him a dressing room with a window. Closer to the truth, however, might have been the generous salary offered to him by ABC. In an effort to weaken NBC’s powerhouse Friday line-up, ABC was determined to lure away the “Sanford and Son” star. It worked.

NBC’s ratings dropped continuously. Meanwhile, Foxx launched his own show, “The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour.” He was executive producer of the program, which first aired on September 15, 1977, and cast him alongside Sarah Hardy, Slappy White, “Iron Jaw” Wilson, Billy Barty, Hal Smith, Bill Saluga and The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Foxx was excited about the variety show’s open forum, and planned to take full advantage of the opportunity. “I’ll be doing anything that can possibly be different from what’s been done before.” He said. “I’ll be doing skits, bits, obnoxious things.. I might do Romeo and Juliet with a gorilla.” In keeping with the show’s tone, during the introduction a list of guest stars that would not appear on the program was read. Real guest stars included comedian Andy Kaufman and Bob Einstein’s “Super Dave Osborne” character.

During the first episode, well aware that he was infamous for a special brand of comedic routines, he joked, “The only thing I can do from my nightclub act is smoke.” Foxx took live questions from the audience during his monologue, demonstrating his clever and on-the-ball wit. The program’s undisciplined nature made it extremely adventurous for the 1970s, and challenged both the audience and the censors to speculate what would transpire next. Nevertheless, having only been interested in hindering NBC’s progress, ABC wasn’t concerned with how Foxx faired at their network. The show was cancelled on January 26, 1978.

Foxx then took to Las Vegas, where he instantly became a headliner. He enjoyed performing there, and continued even while he launched another sitcom for ABC. On “The Redd Foxx Show,” he played Al Hughes, a likeable, friendly newsstand owner. The cast was a mix of former co-stars, including “Iron Jaw” Wilson, and new faces, such as Nathaniel “Rollo” Taylor, Barry Van Dyke and Beverly Todd. The show did not fair well with audiences, however, and when production was terminated, Foxx left ABC for good.

In 1989, he and long-time friend Della Reese co-starred in Eddie Murphy’s “Harlem Nights.” Though the movie itself received little attention, critics took notice of the pair’s performance. CBS jumped and signed the two for a new sitcom, “The Royal Family.”

Sadly, while on the set of “The Royal Family,” Foxx suffered a massive heart attack. Reese bent over him and prayed, “Don’t die Redd, don’t die,” but it was too late. The world lost comedic genius Redd Foxx on October 11, 1991. Foxx’s albums stand as proof of his legacy as they continue to sell, topping out at over 15 million copies sold.

Black History Month: Madame CJ Walker “1st Back Millionaire”

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, this daughter of former slaves transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into one of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made women entrepreneurs.

Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She and her older sister, Louvenia, survived by working in the cotton fields of Delta and nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. At 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape abuse from her cruel brother-in-law, Jesse Powell.

Her only daughter, Lelia (later known as A’Lelia Walker) was born on June 6, 1885. When her husband died two years later, she moved to St. Louis to join her four brothers who had established themselves as barbers. Working for as little as $1.50 a day, she managed to save enough money to educate her daughter. Friendships with other black women who were members of St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the National Association of Colored Women exposed her to a new way of viewing the world.

During the 1890s, Sarah began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose most of her hair. She experimented with many homemade remedies and store-bought products, including those made by Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur. In 1905 Sarah moved to Denver as a sales agent for Malone, then married her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker, a St. Louis newspaperman. After changing her name to “Madam” C. J. Walker, she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula, which she claimed had been revealed to her in a dream. Madam Walker, by the way, did NOT invent the straightening comb or chemical perms, though many people incorrectly believe that to be true.

To promote her products, the new “Madam C.J. Walker” traveled for a year and a half on a dizzying crusade throughout the heavily black South and Southeast, selling her products door to door, demonstrating her scalp treatments in churches and lodges, and devising sales and marketing strategies. In 1908, she temporarily moved her base to Pittsburgh where she opened Lelia College to train Walker “hair culturists.”

By early 1910, she had settled in Indianapolis, then the nation’s largest inland manufacturing center, where she built a factory, hair and manicure salon and another training school. Less than a year after her arrival, Walker grabbed national headlines in the black press when she contributed $1,000 to the building fund of the “colored” YMCA in Indianapolis.

In 1913, while Walker traveled to Central America and the Caribbean to expand her business, her daughter A’Lelia, moved into a fabulous new Harlem townhouse and Walker Salon, designed by black architect, Vertner Tandy. “There is nothing to equal it,” she wrote to her attorney, F.B. Ransom. “Not even on Fifth Avenue.”

Walker herself moved to New York in 1916, leaving the day-to-day operations of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis to Ransom and Alice Kelly, her factory forelady and a former school teacher. She continued to oversee the business and to work in the New York office. Once in Harlem, she quickly became involved in Harlem’s social and political life, taking special interest in the NAACP’s anti-lynching movement to which she contributed $5,000.

In July 1917, when a white mob murdered more than three dozen blacks in East St. Louis, Illinois, Walker joined a group of Harlem leaders who visited the White House to present a petition advocating federal anti-lynching legislation.

As her business continued to grow, Walker organized her agents into local and state clubs. Her Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 must have been one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country. Walker used the gathering not only to reward her agents for their business success, but to encourage their political activism as well. “This is the greatest country under the sun,” she told them. “But we must not let our love of country, our patriotic loyalty cause us to abate one whit in our protest against wrong and injustice. We should protest until the American sense of justice is so aroused that such affairs as the East St. Louis riot be forever impossible.”

By the time she died at her estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, she had helped create the role of the 20th Century, self-made American businesswoman; established herself as a pioneer of the modern black hair-care and cosmetics industry; and set standards in the African-American community for corporate and community giving.

Tenacity and perseverance, faith in herself and in God, quality products and “honest business dealings” were the elements and strategies she prescribed for aspiring entrepreneurs who requested the secret to her rags-to-riches ascent. “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success,” she once commented. “And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”

Black History Month: Ernie Davis “1st Black Heisman Trophy Winner”

(Source: http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Davis_Ernie.html)

 

“The way he carried himself, the way he did not drown in his own tears, the way that he did not hang on his sickness, the way that he functioned as a human being under all of those conditions was tremendous courage,” says Jim Brown about Ernie Davis.

 

 

The honors came early and often, from the time he started with organized sports. Ernie Davis succeeded at every venue, a three-sport standout in high school, a two-time All-American halfback at Syracuse.


He led Elmira (N.Y.) Free Academy to a 52-game winning streak in basketball and as a Syracuse sophomore helped the Orangemen gain their only national football championship. As a senior in 1961, he became the first African-American to receive the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

 

And then, stunningly, he was gone. Struck down by leukemia, Davis never realized his dream of playing in the NFL.

 

In March 1963, while in remission, Davis wrote an article for The Saturday Evening Post in which he said, “Some people say I am unlucky. I don’t believe it. And I don’t want to sound as if I am particularly brave or unusual. Sometimes I still get down, and sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Nobody is just one thing all the time.

 

“But when I look back I can’t call myself unlucky. My 23rd birthday was December 14. In these years I have had more than most people get in a lifetime.”

 

Two months later, Davis died.

 

Davis was a coach’s dream: modest, hard working, team-oriented, a sportsman who never put down opponents or teammates. “An excellent practice player. He lapped everyone,” said John Mackey, a Syracuse teammate who later starred in the NFL.

 

Davis never took himself that seriously. He was quiet, a stutterer as a child who improved his speech as demands on his public speaking increased. He remained appreciative of those who helped him on the road to fame.

 

Friends noticed. Ben Schwartzwalder, his football coach at Syracuse, said, “I never met another human being as good as Ernie.”

 

Davis was born on Dec. 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pa. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and his father was soon killed in an accident. He grew up in poverty in Uniontown, a coal-mining town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, where he was raised by caring grandparents.

 

At 12, Davis moved to live with his mother and stepfather in Elmira. A high school All-American in football and basketball, he won 11 letters at Elmira Free Academy. Of the three sports he played, he thought he was weakest in baseball, though a scout once predicted that with some refinements in his swing, Davis could become a major leaguer.

 

The growing media attention never changed him. “Ernie was the same kid at the end he was at the start,” said Jim Flynn, his high school basketball coach.

 

More than 30 colleges, including UCLA and Notre Dame, recruited Davis for football, but Syracuse, just 90 miles away, held an advantage. Syracuse also had a famous player in its corner, Jim Brown, the first in a line of star running backs with the Orangemen.


“I wanted to play in the big time,” Davis said after leaving Syracuse, “and a lot of people, including Jim Brown, persuaded me that I’d have better opportunities there.”

 

Davis didn’t disappoint in Syracuse. The only black player on the freshman team, he led the squad to its first unbeaten season, then became the varsity’s top rusher as a sophomore in 1959. With colleges still playing one-platoon football (Davis played defensive back as well as halfback), Syracuse assembled a dominant team. The Orange outscored opponents 390-59 in its 10-0 regular season before gaining its first bowl victory.

 

Dubbed the “next Jim Brown,” the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Davis wore Brown’s No. 44. He ran for 686 yards in the regular season, averaging seven yards a carry, and scored 10 touchdowns (eight rushing). Against West Virginia, he ran for 141 yards on nine carries, setting a school record for per-carry average, 15.7, and scoring twice.

 

In Syracuse’s 23-14 victory over Texas in the Cotton Bowl that clinched the national title, Davis, despite playing with a hamstring pull, scored two touchdowns, one on a bowl-record 87-yard reception, and was selected the game’s Most Valuable Player. Just before halftime there was a bench-clearing brawl with racial overtones. Syracuse linemen contended that a Texas lineman delivered a racial slur to John Brown, a black Syracuse player, igniting the fight.

 

Davis was to have received his MVP award at the awards banquet that night. But when bowl officials said that only white players were invited to the dinner and that Davis would have to leave after picking up his trophy, the Syracuse team refused to attend the affair.

 

Before his junior year, Davis was chosen a preseason All-American by Playboy magazine, whose sports editor Anson Mount later called him the “greatest running back who ever lived up to that time.”

 

The 1960 season began with an 80-yard Davis touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage against Boston University. “Those blockers wiped everyone out,” Davis said. “A little kid could have run that one.”

 

Syracuse won its first five games, then was upset by Pittsburgh 10-0, ending its 22-game regular-season winning streak. The Orange fell to Army the next week and finished the season 7-2 and without a bowl bid.

 

Davis was the nation’s third-leading rusher, running for 877 yards and a school-record 7.8 yards per carry as he was voted an All-American.

 

The Orangemen went a disappointing 7-3 in the 1961 regular season, but Davis ran for 823 yards as he averaged “only” 5.5 yards a carry and scored 94 points. He completed his career by rushing for 140 yards and scoring a touchdown in Syracuse’s 15-14 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Liberty Bowl.

 

His career 2,386 rushing yards and 220 points broke Brown’s school records.

 

“He’s the kind of runner you hate to coach against,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “You can’t instruct a boy to tackle a man if he can’t catch him.”

 

An All-American again, Davis beat out Ohio State’s Bob Ferguson and Texas’ Jimmy Saxton for college football’s most prestigious award. “Winning the Heisman Trophy is something you just dream about,” Davis said. “You never think it could happen to you.”

 

When he was in New York to receive the Heisman, Davis met President John Kennedy, a short visit that thrilled him. “Imagine,” Davis said, “a president wanting to shake hands with me.”

The Washington Redskins made Davis the first pick in the NFL draft on Dec. 4, 1961, but soon traded him to the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to the largest contract up to that time for a rookie — three years for $65,000 plus a $15,000 bonus.

 

The next July, while training with the College All-Stars for their game against the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, Davis awoke one morning with swelling in his neck. A trainer sent him to the hospital, and doctors soon discovered the leukemia.

 

They told Davis he had a blood disorder, but didn’t tell him it was leukemia until October, after he had been in and out of the hospital. “Either you fight or you give up,” Davis said in recalling how he felt when told the news. “For a time I was so despondent I would just lie there, not even wanting to move. One day I got hold of myself. I decided I would face up to whatever I had and try to beat it.”

 

At that point, the disease was in remission, his blood count was normal and Davis kept planning for pro football. He practiced with the Browns, though often by himself on the sidelines, and said he felt strong. However, coach Paul Brown, heeding the advice of medical people who warned him of the risks, did not play Davis.

 

Sitting out frustrated Davis, who said he wasn’t in pain. The next spring, Davis noticed more swelling and entered the hospital again. Two days later, on May 18, he died in his sleep.

 

His tombstone reads: Ernie Davis / 1961 Heisman Trophy / 1939-1963.

Black History Month: Patricia Roberts Harris

Cabinet member, former U.S. ambassador to Luxebourg, politician, lawyer, educator. Born Patricia Roberts on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois. The daughter of a Pullman car waiter, Harris grew up to become the first African American woman to hold a cabinet position, serve as an ambassador, and head a law school. Raised by her mother after her father left, she excelled at school and won a scholarship to Howard University in 1941.

While at Howard, Harris served as vice-chairman of the university’s student branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a part of the organization’s civil rights efforts, she participated in a protest against a restaurant that only served whites. Harris graduated from Howard in 1945 with honors. She continued her education at the University of Chicago where she studied industrial relations.

In the 1950s, Harris worked at Delta Sigma Theta, a national African American sorority, as a director. Encouraged by William Beasley Harris, her husband and a lawyer himself, she decided to go to law school. Harris attended George Washington University’s National Law Center and graduated in 1960 as the top student in her class.

After graduating, Harris spent a year with the Department of Justice. Then she returned to Howard University as a lecturer and later a professor. Outside of class, Harris was an activist for many social causes. She was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to co-chair the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. The committee oversaw approximately 100 women’s organizations across the nation.

In 1965, Harris broke new ground for African American women when she was appointed U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She held the position for two years and then returned to her teaching at Howard where she again proved to be a trailblazer. In 1969, she became the dean of the law school there, making her the first African American woman to do so. She didn’t stay in the position long, however.

In 1970, Harris became a corporate attorney at a large law firm. Along with her legal work, she served on the boards of such companies as IBM, Scott Paper Company, and Chase Manhattan Bank—hoping to encourage corporations to help foster social change. Harris left her law practice in 1977 after being selected by President Jimmy Carter for his cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development (HUD)—another first.

The road to becoming the first African American woman to hold a Cabinet post wasn’t completely smooth. During her confirmation hearings some thought her years in corporate law made her unable to understand the needs of the people that HUD serves. Harris proved her critics wrong by calling for increases in assistance to the poor and putting a stop to discriminatory housing and employment practices—causes she had championed for many years previously.

Sometimes described as blunt and tough, Harris demanded the best from her staff and herself while serving as secretary. She was an able administrator who reshaped the agency, which was in disarray when she took over the post. Harris worked hard to rebuild urban neighborhoods and to encourage businesses to invest in troubled areas. Encouraged by her success at HUD, Carter later made Harris the secretary of what is now known as health and human services. Harris left the position after Carter lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

Harris ran for mayor of Washington, but bowed out after losing the Democratic primary to incumbent Marion Barry. She then left politics and returned to teaching. Harris served as a professor at George Washington University Law School until the time of her death. She died on March 23, 1985.

Black History Month: David Norman Dinkins “1st Black Mayor of New York”

David Norman Dinkins was born on July 10, 1927, in Trenton, New Jersey. He was raised in Trenton until the Depression, when his family moved to Harlem. He served as the first African American mayor of New York City.

Dinkins served as a Marine during World War II. After receiving a B.S. in mathematics from Howard University in 1950, Dinkins married Joyce Burrows in 1953. They have two children, David, Jr. and Donna. He went on to graduate from Brooklyn Law School in 1956 and then started a private law practice that he maintained until 1975.

Over the years, Dinkins established a legacy of working to empower poor people and minorities. Elected to the New York State Assembly in 1966, he helped create the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program, which provides grants and educational assistance to low-income students. He established guidelines that encouraged wider voter registration as president of the New York City Board of Elections, a post he held from 1975 until he became the president of the borough of Manhattan in 1985.

Dinkins was elected mayor in 1989, inheriting a city budget deficit of $500 million during a massive recession. At that time, one in four New Yorkers was classified as poor – a figure unequaled since the Depression. Dinkins focused on crime and problems of racial inequality and initiated a program called “Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids,” reducing crime and expanding opportunities for New York’s children. He championed issues such as drug abuse prevention, AIDS, housing and education. However, he was unable to overcome the persistent problems facing New York at the time, causing him to lose the 1993 election to Rudolph Guiliani.

Dinkins has continued to be critical of problems within the criminal justice system, including abusive police and institutionalized racism in the courts. In 1999, his beliefs led to his arrest along with approximately 1,200 others while protesting the shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from West Africa who was shot forty-one times by police.

Dinkins currently serves as professor of public affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He hosts Dialogue with Dinkins, a public affairs radio program, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of the American Stock Exchange, among many other organizations, especially ones which benefit children and young people. When he is not working, Dinkins can often be found on a tennis court.

Black History Month: Dr. Patricia Bath

When Patricia Era Bath was born on November 4, 1942, she could have succumbed to the pressures and stresses associated with growing up in Harlem, New York. With the uncertainty present because of World War II and the challenges for members of Black communities in the 1940’s, one might little expect that a top flight scientist would emerge from their midst. Patricia Bath, however, saw only excitement and opportunity in her future, sentiments instilled by her parents. Her father, Rupert, was well-educated and an eclectic spirit. He was the first Black motorman for the New York City subway system, served as a merchant seaman, traveling abroad and wrote a newspaper column. Her mother Gladys, was the descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Native Americans. She worked as a housewife and domestic, saving money for her children’s education. Rupert was able to tell his daughter stories about his travels around the world, deepening her curiosity about people in other countries and their struggles. Her mother encouraged her to read constantly and broadened Patricia’s interest in science by buying her a chemistry set. With the direction and encouragement offered by her parents, Patricia quickly proved worthy of their efforts.

Bath was enrolled in Charles Evans Hughes High School in New York where she served as the editor of the school’s science paper. In 1959, she was selected from a vast number of students across the country for a summer program at Yeshiva University (New York City) sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Only 16 years old she worked in the field of cancer research under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Bernard and Rabbi Moses D. Tendler. During the program she developed a number of theories about cancer growth and at the end of the summer she offered a mathematical equation that could be used to predict the rate of the growth of a cancer. So impressed with her was Dr. Bernard that he incorporated parts of her research into a joint scientific paper that he presented at a conference in Washington, DC. Due to the resulting publicity about her work, Mademoiselle magazine presented Patricia with its 1960 Merit Award. The award was presented annually to ten young women demonstrating the promise of great achievement. In only 2 1/2 years of study she was able to graduate from high school and set out for college.

In 1964, Bath graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College in New York. Soon thereafter, she enrolled in medical school at Howard University in Washington, DC. Her exposure to Black professors and administrators had a great impact on her belief in Black leadership in society. While in medical school, she took part in a summer program in Yugoslavia, focused on pediatrics research. The program, sponsored by a government fellowship, allowed her to travel abroad for the first time and to gain experience internationally. She graduated with honors from Howard in 1968.

Patricia returned to New York in the fall of 1968 to work as an intern at Harlem Hospital and accepted a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University a year later. In working in the two distinct atmospheres, she was able to make a clear and alarming observation. In the Eye Clinic in Harlem she noticed that many of the patients suffered blindness while few at the Columbia Eye Clinic did. After further research she concluded in a well-received report that Blacks were twice as likely to suffer from blindness as the general population. Further research would reveal that Blacks were eight times more likely to suffer blindness as a result of glaucoma than whites. Bath believed that the main explanation for this disparity was the lack of access to ophthalmic care for Blacks and other poor people. This would eventually lead to her promoting the concept of Community Ophthalmology, which would work as an outreach programs, sending volunteers out into the community to provide vision, cataracts and glaucoma screening. This would help to provide treatment that could save the vision of elderly people and provide glasses that would help children in school and prevent vision problems in the future. She implored many of the professors at Columbia to donate their time and perform pro bono services for Harlem Hospital’s Eye Clinic.

From 1970 to 1973 Patricia moved on to New York University where she became the first Black person to complete a residency in ophthalmology. In addition to her professional success, she enjoyed personal happiness as well, as she got married and had a daughter. In 1974, Bath moved to California and became a faculty member at UCLA and the Charles R. Drew University. Over the next nine years, she would serve in various capacities, and in 1983, co-founded and chaired the Opthalmology Residency Training Program at Drew/UCLA. The fact that she was the first woman in the country to hold such a position would be noteworthy, if not for the fact that Bath was the first to achieve so many distinctions in her life. In 1976, she co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness based on the principle that “eyesight is a basic human right.”

After traveling around the world offering her services and bringing awareness to vision issues, Bath settled back into her research at UCLA. She pondered the problems associated with addressing cataracts disease in the United States. Cataracts is characterized by a cloudiness that occurs within the lens of an eye, causing blurred vision and often blindness. Standard treatment called for using traditional surgical methods to remove the damaged lens (one method employed the use of a mechanical drill-like mechanical device that would grind away the cataracts and could only be used for secondary cataract surgery). Bath devised safer, faster and more accurate approach to cataracts surgery.

In 1981 she began work on her most well-known invention which she would call a “Laserphaco Probe.” The device employed a laser as well as two tubes, one for irrigation and one for aspiration (suction). The laser would be used to make a small incision in the eye and the laser energy would vaporize the cataracts within a couple of minutes. The damaged lens would then be flushed with liquids and then gently extracted by the suction tube. With the liquids still being washed into the eye, a new lens could be easily inserted. Additionally, this procedure could be used for initial cataract surgery and could eliminate much of the discomfort expected, while increasing the accuracy of the surgery. Unfortunately, though her concept was sound, she was unable to find any lasers within the United States that could be adapted for the procedure (the majority of laser technology in the United States was dedicated to military purposes). She was able to find the laser probe she needed in Berlin, Germany and successfully tested the device which she described as an “apparatus for ablating and removing cataract lenses” and later dubbed it the “Laserphaco Probe.” Bath sought patent protection for her device and received patents in several countries around the world. She intends to use the proceeds of her patent licenses to benefit the AIPB.

Patricia Bath retired from UCLA in 1993 and continues to advocate vision care outreach and calls for attention to vision issues. Her remarkable achievements as a Black woman make her proud, but racial and gender-based obstacles do not consume her. “Yes, I’m interested in equal opportunities, but my battles are in science.”

Black History Month: Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, achieved what no Olympian before him had accomplished. His stunning achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin has made him the best remembered athlete in Olympic history.

The seventh child of Henry and Emma Alexander Owens was named James Cleveland when he was born in Alabama on September 12, 1913. “J.C.”, as he was called, was nine when the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his new schoolteacher gave him the name that was to become known around the world. The teacher was told “J.C.” when she asked his name to enter in her roll book, but she thought he said “Jesse”. The name stuck and he would be known as Jesse Owens for the rest of his life.

His promising athletic career began in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio where he set Junior High School records by clearing 6 feet in the high jump, and leaping 22 feet 11 3/4 inches in the broad jump. During his high school days, he won all of the major track events, including the Ohio state championship three consecutive years. At the National Interscholastic meet in Chicago, during his senior year, he set a new high school world record by running the 100 yard dash in 9.4 seconds to tie the accepted world record, and he created a new high school world record in the 220 yard dash by running the distance in 20.7 seconds. A week earlier he had set a new world record in the broad jump by jumping 24 feet 11 3/4 inches. Owens’ sensational high school track career resulted in him being recruited by dozens of colleges. Owens chose the Ohio State University, even though OSU could not offer a track scholarship at the time. He worked a number of jobs to support himself and his young wife, Ruth. He worked as a night elevator operator, a waiter, he pumped gas, worked in the library stacks, and served a stint as a page in the Ohio Statehouse, all of this in between practice and record setting on the field in intercollegiate competition.

Jesse gave the world a preview of things to come in Berlin, while at the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor on May 25, 1935, he set three world records and tied a fourth, all in a span of about 45 minutes. Jesse was uncertain as to whether he would be able to participate at all, as he was suffering from a sore back as a result from a fall down a flight of stairs. He convinced his coach to allow him to run the 100-yard dash as a test for his back, and amazingly Jesse recorded an official time of 9.4 seconds, once again tying the world record. Despite the pain, he then went on to participate in three other events, setting a world record in each event. In a span of 45 minutes, Jesse accomplished what many experts still feel is the greatest athletic feat in history…setting 3 world records and tying a fourth in four grueling track and field events.

His success at the 1935 Big Ten Championships gave him the confidence that he was ready to excel at the highest level. Jesse entered the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Nazi Germany amidst the belief by Hitler that the Games would support his belief that the German “Aryan” people were the dominant race. Jesse had different plans, as he became the first American track & field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. This remarkable achievement stood unequaled until the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, when American Carl Lewis matched Jesse’s feat. Although others have gone on to win more gold medals than Jesse, he remains the best remembered Olympic athlete because he achieved what no Olympian before or since has accomplished. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler’s master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another.

Jesse Owens proved in Berlin and thereafter that he was a dreamer who could make the dreams of others come true, a speaker who could make the world listen and a man who held out hope to millions of young people. Throughout his life, he worked with youths, sharing of himself and the little material wealth that he had. In this way, Jesse Owens was equally the champion on the playground of the poorest neighborhoods as he was on the oval of the Olympic games.

Athletes didn’t return from the Olympics to lucrative advertising and product endorsement campaigns in those days, and Owens supported his young family with a variety of jobs. One was of special significance – playground director in Cleveland. It was his first step into a lifetime of working with underprivileged youth, which gave him his greatest satisfaction. After relocating to Chicago, he devoted much of his time to underprivileged youth as a board member and former director of the Chicago Boys’ Club.

Owens traveled widely in his post-Olympic days. He was an inspirational speaker, highly sought after to address youth groups, professional organizations, civic meetings, sports banquets, PTAs, church organizations, brotherhood and black history programs, as well as high school and college commencements and ceremonies. He was also a public relations representative and consultant to many corporations, including Atlantic Richfield, Ford and the United States Olympic Committee.

A complete list of the many awards and honors presented to Jesse Owens by groups around the world would fill dozens of pages. In 1976, Jesse was awarded the highest civilian honor in the United States when President Gerald Ford presented him with the Medal of Freedom in front of the members of the U.S. Montreal Olympic team in attendance. In February, 1979, he returned to the White House, where President Carter presented him with the Living Legend Award. On that occasion, President Carter said this about Jesse, “A young man who possibly didn’t even realize the superb nature of his own capabilities went to the Olympics and performed in a way that I don’t believe has ever been equaled since…and since this superb achievement, he has continued in his own dedicated but modest way to inspire others to reach for greatness”.

Jesse Owens died from complications due to lung cancer on March 31, 1980 in Tucson, Arizona. Although words of sorrow, sympathy and admiration poured in from all over the world, perhaps President Carter said it best when he stated: “Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry. His personal triumphs as a world-class athlete and record holder were the prelude to a career devoted to helping others. His work with young athletes, as an unofficial ambassador overseas, and a spokesman for freedom are a rich legacy to his fellow Americans.”

Jesse’s spirit still lives in his three daughters, Gloria, Marlene, and Beverly, and their work with the Jesse Owens Foundation. The Foundation continues to carry on Jesse’s legacy by providing financial assistance, support, and services to young individuals with untapped potential in order to develop their talents, broaden their horizons, and become better citizens. There is no doubt that Jesse would be proud.

Accomplishments & Awards

  • Jesse set or tied national high school records in the 100 yard dash, 200-yard dash, and the long jump.
  • After a stellar high school career, he attended Ohio State University.
  • On May 25, 1935, at the Big Ten Conference Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens broke three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220-yard low hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash), all in a 45 minute span.
  • In his junior year at Ohio State, Owens competed in 42 events and won them all, including four in the Big Ten Championships, four in the NCAA Championships, two in the AAU Championships and three at the Olympic Trials.
  • In 1936, Jesse became the first American in Olympic Track and Field history to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad by winning four gold medals: 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds (tying the world record), long jump with a jump of 26′ 5 1/4″ (Olympic record), 200 meter dash in 20.7 seconds (Olympic record), and 400 meter relay (first leg) in 39.8 seconds (Olympic and world record).
  • In 1976, Jesse was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award bestowed upon a civilian, by Gerald R. Ford.
  • Owens was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

 

source: www.jesseowens.com