Tag Archives: Civil Rights movement

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality Book Review

No social movement that aims to create a better world is without its internal struggle. While the men are at the forefront, it is often the women who do the work. But few are given the spotlight and the respect they deserve.

The late Constance Baker Motley was one of these women. Her story is told in the new biography Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. Written by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, it was published in January. Born to immigrants from the Caribbean in 1921, she came of age in an era in which both her gender and her skin color created barriers. Instead of just submitting to these barriers, she broke them. After graduating from law school, she was the only female on staff working for the legal team of the NAACP under the leadership of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, Baker Motley smashed both Jim Crow to bits and created a large crack in the glass ceiling. Her career contained a lot of the firsts: the first African-American woman who was a state Senator in NY and the federal judiciary, and the first woman elected as Manhattan Borough President.

As a product of the American education system, I am utterly dismayed that she is not a household name. She was not just a groundbreaker, but a rule breaker. These days, it is perfectly normal for a woman to have the figurative balls of her job, her marriage, and her children in the air at the same time. But not back then. In fighting for the rights of both women and Black Americans, she paved the way for equality that has become the norm and unfortunately, still has to be fought for.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality is available wherever books are sold.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

Women of the Movement Review

There is no stronger love than a mother for their child. There is also no stronger force when said mother believes that her child has been wronged.

Women of the Movement is a six-episode miniseries that aired on ABC before moving to Hulu. It tells the story of the murder of Emmett Till (Cedric Joe) in 1955 and his mother’s, Mamie Till (Adrienne Warren) fight for justice. In August of that year, Emmet is spending part of his vacation with family in Mississippi. Raised in Chicago, he is unaware of the unofficial rules of the Jim Crow South. He supposedly makes a lewd comment at a White woman. Two days later, Emmet is taken in the middle of the night, tortured, and killed.

Upon hearing that her son (and only child) will be returning home in a box, Mamie funnels her grief and anger into ensuring that the men who slaughtered Emmett will spend the rest of their days in prison.

OMG. I was hooked the entire time. At its heart, it is a love story between a parent and their child. If Mamie had laid in bed the entire time, relying on food, alcohol, or another outside source to dull her sorrow, it would be completely understood. Instead, she stood up for Emmet. In doing so, she opened another door to the Civil Rights movement and broke the glass ceiling for both women and Americans of color.

The thing that struck me was that Till was not the first and is certainly not the last young man killed for their skin color. It is almost seventy years since this boy’s life was taken. There is no doubt that the hard work of multiple generations has paid off. But there is still a long road ahead of us.

It would be a shame if Warren does not receive any sort of nomination for this role. It is her performance that held me by the proverbial throat and kept me hoping that justice would prevail, even when history tells us otherwise.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Women of the Movement is available for streaming on Hulu.

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Television, TV Review

The Only Way to Honor MLK is to Continue on the Path He Started

These days, it’s easy to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His “I Have a Dream” speech is iconic and universal.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are too many today who give lip service to his legacy. Specifically to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On paper, some (ahem, Republicans) will state emphatically that they are for voting rights and protecting the right to vote. In reality, they are constricting the access to the polls for certain populations, knowing that these groups have by a wide margin, have supported their opponents.

When the Supreme Court agreed via Shelby County v. Holder that two sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional, it opened the door to the dangerous situation that our nation is presently in. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 would not only strengthen its predecessor but would also hopefully prevent another Shelby County vs. Holder. The issue is that this nation and this Congress is too fractured to protect the ideals that we claim to hold near and dear.

The only way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and memory is to continue where he left off. Though the ground that has been gained is tremendous, the reality is that there are many battles ahead of us.

P.S. Dr. King was also outspoken about antisemitism, a fact that I wish that was not lost to history.

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

2 Comments

Filed under History, National News, Politics

The Wonder Years Review

The Wonder Years is one of the most beloved television series of the modern era. The story of growing up from the perspective of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) speaks to the 12 year old in all of us.

The reboot of the series premiered on Tuesday on ABC. As in the original program, the story is set in 1968, but in Montgomery, Alabama. Our protagonist is 12 year old Dean Williams (Elisha Williams). Narrating the story from decades in the future as the adult Dean is Don Cheadle. As Dean starts on his journey from childhood to adulthood, the Civil Right movement plays on in the background affecting everything and everyone around him.

The Wonder Years is one of the best new series of the fall. It has the charm and nostalgia of its predecessor, while feeling relevant with the issues that African-Americans and other people of color are still dealing with. It hits both the heart and the head, making the viewer think while reminding us of the joys and perils of being on the precipice of our teenage years.

Do I recommend it? Yes

The Wonder Years airs on ABC on Tuesday at 8:30 PM.

4 Comments

Filed under History, Politics, Television, TV Review

Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation Book Review

When we look to our elders for wisdom, we hope that they will provide the guidance we need.

When the late Congressman John Lewis passed away last year, America lost one of the most respected politicians of our era. One of the icons of the Civil Rights moment, he had a perspective on this country that only someone who lived what he experienced could see.

Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation was published last month. Written by Congressman Lewis before his death, it is a series of observations and insight that comes from someone who walked this Earth for nearly 80 years.

With a foreword by Andrew Young and co-written by Kabir Seghal, this has to be one of the best books of the year. It is written in such a way that is appealing and universal without feeling like the reader is being talked down to. It was as if I was sitting down to talk with a beloved grandparent and learning without realizing it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Politics

Justice Served: Derek Chauvin Found Guilty

Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most recognizable faces of the Civil Rights movement, said the following:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Justice was served in the United States. Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

If am to be completely honest, I was holding my breath as I watched the news coverage. G-d only knows what would have happened had Chauvin been acquitted.

I can only hope that this case represents a change not just for the various law enforcement departments across this country, but for the country as a whole. If we are to reach the imagery and idealism that is the backbone of this nation, this verdict is an important step. The police can no longer target men and women of color without impunity.

Though this case cannot remove the stain of the past, it is a what we need to move forward. Perhaps the future is bright in this country after all.

4 Comments

Filed under National News

Genius: Aretha Review

There are two equally important keys to success: talent and hard work.

The 4th season of National Geographic Channel’s Genius series follows the life and career of the late Aretha Franklin. The first three episodes cuts back and forth from the early fifties, when the future superstar is a preteen to the sixties when the adult Aretha (Cynthia Erivo) is on the brink of superstardom. As a young girl, Franklin was a singing wunderkind. Raised by her enigmatic preacher father C.L. Franklin (Courtney B. Vance), she witnesses both his devotion to the church and his less than moral extracurricular activities. In the present, she is not only dealing with work and motherhood, but her sometimes shaky marriage to her husband/manager, Ted White (Malcolm Barrett).

Watching the first three episodes, I feel like I know who Aretha Franklin was, as a whole person. Not just the image presented in the press. Looking back, she represents badly needed change in this country for both women and people of color.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Genius: Aretha is available for streaming Hulu.

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Music, Television

Thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2021

Change is never easy. Especially when the change is overcoming and dealing with cultural, racial, and religious stereotypes.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dr. King was one of many who fought for equality. Though his ultimate goal was equality for African-Americans, it spread to the rest of the country. Women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and other Americans of color who have been disenfranchised heard his message and understood exactly what he was saying.

Though we can proudly say that we have made progress in the multiple decades since he was taken from us, it is more than clear that true equality is still too far off for many. I remember a cartoon in a book when I was in school. The image was of a tree had been cut at its base, but the roots were untouched. The analogy about racism and prejudice was obvious.

The fact is that we have a long way to do. Between the riot in DC almost two weeks ago and the murders of multiple African Americans last year, the dark side of the United States revealed itself in a way that was opening.

What Dr. King started almost a century ago, we have to finish. It is the only way to make his dream a reality.

4 Comments

Filed under Feminism, History, Politics, Thoughts On....

John Lewis Will Always be Twice the Man You Know Who Is

When the late Congressman John Lewis died almost two weeks ago, America was reminded of what a hero truly looks like.

In the past, when an American such as Congressman Lewis dies, the President is front and center at the memorial service.

You know who chose not to pay respects to the late Congressman.

The difference between you know and Congressman Lewis is that Congress Lewis was an American hero who exemplified selflessness. He was front and center in the Civil Rights marches of the 1960’s, putting his life on the line for the rights and freedoms of others.

I would be thoroughly shocked if you know who did anything for anyone else besides himself.

RIP John Lewis. Your contribution to American history will live forever.

1 Comment

Filed under National News, Politics

RIP John Lewis

In tough times, it is easy to hang back and pretend as if everything is normal. It is much harder to stand up and fight for what you believe in.

Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis passed away yesterday. He was 80 years old.

Born in 1940 to sharecropper parents in Alabama, segregation was part and parcel of the world he grew up in. In the early 1960’s, he joined the Civil Rights movement and was one of the original Freedom Riders. Twenty five years later, he was elected to Congress. On both sides of the political aisle, he was one of the most respected men to have walked through the halls of power.

If there was ever a textbook definition of an American hero, John Lewis’s picture would be front and center. He knew what he believed in and fought for those beliefs, even when victory seemed nearly impossible. As both a Civil Rights leader and a member of Congress, he taught all of what strength and courage look like.

May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration to us all.

2 Comments

Filed under History, National News, Politics