Hat tip to Ray Winbush for sharing this!
Self-Defense Organizations in the Afrikan Community
From the Wikipedia
The Deacons for Defense and Justice was an armed self-defense African-American civil rights organization in the U.S. Southern states during the 1960s. Historically, the organization practiced self-defense methods in the face of racist oppression that was carried out under the Jim Crow Laws by local/state government officials and racist vigilantes. Many times the Deacons are not written about or cited when speaking of the Civil Rights Movement because their agenda of self-defense – in this case, using violence, if necessary – did not fit the image of strict non-violence that leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. espoused. Yet, there has been a recent debate over the crucial role the Deacons and other lesser known militant organizations played on local levels throughout much of the rural South. Many times in these areas the Federal government did not always have complete control over to enforce such laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Deacons were a driving force of Black Power that Stokely Carmichael echoed. Carmichael speaks about the Deacons when he writes, “Here is a group which realized that the ‘law’ and law enforcement agencies would not protect people, so they had to do it themselves…The Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” The Deacons, according to Carmichael and many others, were the protection that the Civil Rights needed on local levels, as well as, the ones who intervened in places that the state and federal government fell short.
The Deacons were not the first champions of armed-defense during the Civil Rights Movement. Many activists and other proponents of non-violence protected themselves with guns. Fannie Lou Hamer, the eloquently blunt Mississippi militant who outraged Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 Democratic Convention, confessed that she kept several loaded guns under her bed. Others such as Robert F. Williams also practiced self-defense. Williams transformed his local NAACP branch into an armed self-defense unit, for which transgression he was denounced by the NAACP and hounded by the federal government (he found asylum in Cuba).
In many areas of the “Deep South” the federal and state governments had no control of local authorities and groups that did not want to follow the laws enacted. One such group, the Ku Klux Klan, is the most widely known organization that openly practiced acts of violence and segregation based on race. As part of their strategy to intimidate this community [African Americans], the Ku Klux Klan initiated a “campaign of terror” that included harassment, the burning of crosses on the lawns of African-American voters, the destruction by fire of five churches, a Masonic hall, a Baptist center, and murder. These incidents were not isolated since a significant amount of victimization of African Americans occurred in Jonesboro, Louisiana in 1964.
The African-American community felt that a response of action was crucial in curbing this terrorism given the lack of support and protection by State and Federal authorities. A group of African-American men in Jonesboro in Jackson Parish in north Louisiana, led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick, founded the group in November 1964 to protect civil rights workers, their communities and their families against the Klan. Most of the Deacons were war veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II. The Jonesboro chapter later organized a Deacons chapter in Bogalusa, Louisiana, led by Charles Sims, A. Z. Young and Robert Hicks. The Jonesboro chapter initiated a regional organizing campaign and eventually formed 21 chapters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The militant Deacons’ confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was instrumental in forcing the federal government to invervene on behalf of the black community and enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and neutralize the Klan.
Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas was born in Jonesboro, Louisiana, on November 20, 1935, in a time of extreme segregation. He believed that political reforms could be secured by force rather than moral appeal. The CORE had a freedom house in Jonesboro that became the target of the Klan. The practice referred to as “nigger knocking” was a time-honored tradition among whites in the rural South.
Because of repeated attacks on the Freedom House, the Black community responded. Earnest Thomas was one of the first volunteers to guard the house. According to Lance Hill, “Thomas was eager to work with CORE, but he had reservations about the nonviolent terms imposed by the young activists.” Thomas, who had military training, quickly emerged as the leader of this budding defense organization that would guard the Jonesboro community in the day with their guns concealed and carried their guns openly during the cover of night to discourage any Klan activity.
There are many accounts of how the group’s name came about, but according to Lance Hill the most plausible explanation is: “the name was a portmanteau that evolved over a period of time, combining the CORE staff’s first appellation of ‘deacons’ with the tentative name chosen in November 1964: ‘Justice and Defense Club’. By January 1965 the group had arrived at is permanent name, ‘Deacons for Defense and Justice.” The organization wanted to maintain a level of respectability and identify with traditionally accepted symbols of peace and moral values. As one ex-Deacon wrote in a lyric of a song, “the term ‘deacons’ was selected to beguile local whites by portraying the organization as an innocent church group….”
The Deacons are the subject of a 2003 television movie, Deacons for Defense.
Produced by Showtime starring academy-award winner Forest Whitaker, Ossie Davis, and Jonathan Silverman, the film is based on the struggle of the actual Deacons for Defense against the Jim Crow South in a powerful area of Louisiana controlled by the Ku Klux Klan. Using the story on a white-owned factory that controls the economy of the local society and the effects of racism and intimidation on the lives of the African-American community, the film follows the psychological transition of a family and
community members from belief in a strict non-violent stance to belief in self-defense.
The Deacons were instrumental in many campaigns led by the Civil Rights Movement. A good example is the June 1966 March Against Fear, which went from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. The March Against Fear signified a shift in character and power in the southern civil rights movement and was an event in which the Deacons participated.
The Deacons had a relationship with other civil rights groups that advocated and practiced non-violence: the willingness of the Deacons to provide low-key armed guards facilitated the ability of groups such as the NAACP and CORE to stay, at least formally, within their own parameters of non-violence. Although many local chapters felt it was necessary to maintain a level of security by either practicing self-defense as some CORE, SNCC, and NAACP local chapters did, the national level of all these organizations still maintained the idea of non-violence to achieve civil rights. Nonetheless, in some cases, their willingness to respond to violence with violence led to tension between the Deacons and the nonviolent civil rights workers whom they sought to protect.
According to Hill, this is the true resistance that enforced civil rights in areas of the Deep South. Often it was local (armed) communities that laid the foundation for equal opportunities to be attained by African Americans. National organizations played their role, exposing the problems, but it was local organizations and individuals who implemented these rights and were not fearful of reactionary Whites who wanted to keep segregation alive. Without these local organizations pushing for their rights and, many times, using self-defense tactics, not much would have changed, according to Hill.
An example of the need for self-defense to enable substantial change in the Deep South took place in early 1965. Black students picketing the local high school were confronted by hostile police and fire trucks with hoses. A car of four Deacons emerged and, in view of the police, calmly loaded their shotguns. The police ordered the fire truck to withdraw. This was the first time in the 20th century, as Lance Hill observes, “an armed black organization had successfully used weapons to defend a lawful protest against an attack by law enforcement.” Hill gives as another example: “In Jonesboro, the Deacons made history when they compelled Louisiana governor John McKeithen to intervene in the city’s civil rights crisis and require a compromise with city leaders — the first capitulation to the civil rights movement by a Deep South governor.”
The history of the Civil Rights Movement focuses little on organizations such as the Deacons for a number of reasons. First, the dominant ideology of the Movement was one of practicing non-violence and this overarching view has been the accepted way to characterize the Civil Rights Movement. Second, threats to the lives of Deacons’ members required that secrecy be maintained to avoid terrorist attacks on their supporters, and they recruited mature and male members, in contrast to other more informal self-defense efforts in which women and teenagers also played a role. Finally, with the shift to Northern Black plight and the idea of Black Power emerging in major cities across America, the Deacons became yesterday’s news and organizations such as The Black Panther Party gained notoriety and became the publicized militant Black organization.
The tactics of the Deacons attracted the attention and concern of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigating the group over the years, the Bureau produced more than 1,500 pages of comprehensive and relatively accurate records on the Deacons, activities, largely through numerous informants close to or even inside the organization. Members of the Deacons were repeatedly questioned and intimidated by F.B.I. agents. One member, Harvie Johnson (the last surviving original member of the Deacons for Defense and Justice), was “interviewed” by two agents who asked only how the Deacons obtained their weapons, with no questions about Klan activity or police brutality ever asked. In February 1965, after a New York Times article about the Deacons, J. Edgar Hoover became interested in the group. Lance Hill offers Hoover’s reaction, which was sent to the field offices of the Bureau in Louisiana: “Because of the potential for violence indicated, you are instructed to immediately initiate an investigation of the DDJ [Deacons for Defense and Justice].” As was eventually exposed in the late 1970s, under its COINTELPRO program, the FBI was involved in many illegal activities to spy on and undermine organizations it deemed “a threat to the American way”. However, with the advent of other militant Black Power organizations, and the Black Power Movement becoming the more visible movement towards the latter 1960s, the involvement of the Deacons in the civil rights movement declined (as did FBI interference with them), with the presence of the Deacons all but vanishing by 1968.
Roy Innis has said that the Deacons “forced the Klan to re-evaluate their actions and often change their undergarments”, according to Ken Blackwell.
Recently a friend was ranting to me about a segment of The O’Reilly Factor he had watched, where a conservative African-American radio talk show host, David Webb, was commenting in agreement with O’Reilly on the George Zimmerman
fiasco verdict. My friend made the statement that Webb was a nothing but a “white man in black skin”.
He then went on to inform me of a survey he had seen which stated that 70% of white people in America agreed with the verdict. I asked him, how many black people did he guesstimate also agreed with the verdict. The question caught him off guard and he struggled to answer… “maybe 1%”. I told him it was probably closer to 70% than 1%.
I also told him I totally disagreed with his categorizing of Webb and that he was indeed a “black man in black skin”. There is one group of people who hate poor black people more than white people do… and that’s the black middle and upper class. They are quite adept in their use coded intellectualized language in their condemnation of their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Which is why despite their political affiliations, cultural heritage, gender or sexual orientation, many in the black middle and upper class are more sympathetic to the white supremacy based thinking on black criminality of a Bill O’Reilly, a Sean Hannity and even a Barack Obama.
Regardless of their eloquence, when you break it down, it’s black on black hate speech… steeped in self-hate. Whether it’s the comments of David Webb, Don Lemon, Barack Obama, The Conservative Black Chick, the article below by Project 21 member Derryck Green… all are reflective of the internalized “divide and conquer” strategy within the African-American community.
Race Fatigue by Derryck Green
Help me, I’m suffering from acute race fatigue!
After gavel-to-gavel coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, I need a break. After all the post-verdict anger, lamentations and inane discussions about what it is to be a black man in America, I’m exhausted.
After watching President Obama liken himself to Trayvon Martin, I’ve had enough. All this talk about race seems intentionally shortsighted and disingenuous. It simply implicates whites and infantilizes the black man. And those needing to hear straight talk the most are shortchanged by the soulless profiteers of the racial grievance industry.
I’m tired of Trayvon Martin being compared to Emmett Till – which, by extension, projects a racial ethos similar to that of 1955 upon contemporary America. Martin was no Till, period. Martin was not some kind of martyr. Please, already.
I’m tired of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being photoshopped into a hoodie. This is nothing short of repulsive, and it denigrates the memory of Dr. King’s contribution to racial justice. Our nation shall forever be in debt to Dr. King. The same cannot and should not be said nor insinuated about Trayvon Martin. There is no comparison.
I’m especially exhausted of hearing condescending white progressives encouraging blacks to maintain a false narrative of victimization. The embarrassing demonstrations increased racial fatigue because those engaging in them did so at the expense of their dignity and credibility. These people – willfully or through neglect – ignored the facts and evidence of the case in a grandstanding attempt to make whites feel responsible and guilty for perpetuating racial discrimination. At the same time, whites feel obligated to perform penance of indeterminate length – defined by the racial grievance industry – without assurance of absolution.
Meanwhile, black-on-black crime is much more destructive and prevalent than a “white Hispanic” killing a black male. The charade is disgusting, and I’m tired of it. The Zimmerman trial wasn’t about race. The FBI’s investigation found absolutely no evidence of racial bias.
Martin was criminally profiled. In the 14 months prior to the fatal Martin-Zimmerman confrontation, the Retreat at Twin Lakes apartment complex was burglarized eight times – with all suspects being roughly the same height, build and color as Martin.
Thus, Martin wasn’t stalked or “hunted down like a “rabid dog” because he was black. As noted during the trial, suspicion was raised because of Martin’s behavior and because he fit a very specific criminal profile.
Blacks aren’t helpless victims abused by “the system.” The facts prove it. The reason that blacks – specifically black males – are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system is because we commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime. Period.
According to FBI statistics, of the 2,938 murder offenders counted in 2011, 1,803 offenders were black. The total number of black murders in 2011, regardless of age, was 2,695. Of that number, 2,447 had black offenders. Blacks are complicit in their own demise. The system that blacks fear, which they claim is out to get them, is – in reality – blacks themselves.
In other words, there are too many black and progressive fingers pointed outward and not enough pointed inward. This is because there’s no political capital to be gained by doing this – no emotions to be exploited and no one to morally indict as racist.
Does racism exist? Yes, of course. But no one race is responsible for all – or even most – of it. Does racial discrimination exist? Yes, again. And there always will be on this side of heaven.
For blacks and their enablers to continue to foment this notion that racism is America’s number one problem, however, is self-defeating, immoral and perpetuates a lie. Too many blacks have no idea how irresponsible and embarrassing they look in all of this. And I fear, very soon, they will be called on their Dream-killing commodification and idolization of race.
By then, I hope I’ve recovered from my race fatigue.
“You have no program because you have no power. Your program is rhetoric and rhetoric never won a revolution yet. Until we begin to use our brainpower to rattle this structure, they’re only going to laugh.”
“If you truly understood what power is, you would learn the weaknesses and strengths of what you’re fighting. You wouldn’t go out there and say: ‘I’m going after Whitey.’ You’re going after Whitey’s what? You can’t change the system or anything else unless you know what you’re about. You’re just wasting energy.”
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’m in this zone right now where I’d rather be reading than writing… recharging my batteries. Just before I read this autobiography of Shirley Chisholm, I had just completed reading The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. It painted the “actual” political and social backdrop in the U.S. at the time of Shirley Chisholm… particularly the Nixon years. It provided me with a deeper understanding, respect and admiration for the accomplishments of this remarkable woman.
I had heard of Shirley Chisholm but never knew much about her, other than she was the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968 and she ran a campaign for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination in 1972. I have always had an interest in knowing about the lives of women of African descent who were just as important in the struggle for our freedom and empowerment as a people, as the efforts of men such as Marcus Garvey, MLK and Malcolm X. I have read biographies on the lives of Queen Nzingha, Sojouner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis and Elaine Brown. My daughter’s middle name is Nzingha, after the African warrior queen. I have all these biographies to pass on to my daughter and son to read, so they can also have a knowledge, appreciation and be inspired by the struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments of these exceptional women, as well as instill in them a desire to learn about other women of African descent.
Shirley Chisholm’s life was remarkable. She was definitely a fighter, as a Black person and just as importantly… as a woman. She learnt to navigate and manipulate the political machine of her district to fight for her constituents: the poor… particularly women and children, all who were primarily Black. She made it to the New York State Legislature and to Washington as a Congresswoman, but never lost or sold out her convictions, nor her determination to work for what she believed in, i.e, to better the lives of the oppressed, disadvantaged and the displaced. Unbought and Unbossed, she transformed rhetoric into action.
A documentary of her presidential bid, Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed was made in 2004. It’s on my “must-see” list. This autobiography should be on your “must-read” list.
Op-ed submission by Project 21
If something is good and it is enjoyable, it’s not surprising that people want it to last forever. We want the goodness to be unceasing. We want it to be sustained. But the sad fact is that nothing lasts forever. Even the cosmos is subject to the vagaries of time and will one day cease to exist.
Within black America, despite the hardships we have faced, there have been many favorable developments that have benefited our people. They should continue. Unfortunately, many appear to be unsustainable.
Consider the example of the black family. Formerly the bedrock of our community, the black family is now failing. Around 70 percent of black children are currently being born out of wedlock, and the availability of marrying-age black males is restricted by a very high, albeit declining, incarceration rate.
Several of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which many charge with maintaining a tradition of scholarly excellence in our community, are slowly but steadily falling by the wayside. Schools that were once virtually the only choice for black higher education are now failing to receive broad economic support because, in part, they become enmeshed in non-educational issues, reflect poor management and often produce graduates who exhibit sub-par academic achievement.
The rapid pace and major accomplishments of the Martin Luther King-era civil rights movement left the establishment black special interest groups with a hard act to follow and few critical hurdles to overcome. Today’s civil rights lobby is largely a “go along to get along” movement that often focuses on the wrong issues.
When presented with the declining black family, subpar educational achievement and a lack of progress on key economic issues, today’s self-professed black leaders seem quite ineffective in comparison with the greatness of their predecessors.
Even effective past efforts by the Nation of Islam to make black America more productive and independent are not being replicated today. Given Minister Louis Farrakhan’s current advanced age and declining health, we must wonder whether that movement will be sustained beyond his passing.
Conversely, there is an important institution that remains sustained, in form if not in substance. That institution is the black church. Why has the black church been sustained, and generally what are the keys to sustainability?
For institutions, organizations and movements that want to last, they must, at their core, contain the materials and the chemistry that it takes to be sustainable. Like kernels that always produce stalks of corn and create the kernels that grow yet more corn in the future, these institutions, organizations and movements must include what is essentially a genetic code that ensures their sustainability.
Sustainable entities must embody long-range plans with provisions for course corrections (consider the U.S. Constitution), systematic processes for leadership succession (consider the Catholic Church) and flexibility to evolve (consider creation itself).
Probably the most important key to sustainability for black American institutions, organizations and movements is a willingness on our part to work diligently and selflessly to make them successful. The reason that kernel of corn is successful in producing more corn is because earth, water, air and sun are always there to do their parts. Likewise, we must be committed to serving as the equivalent of the earth, water, air and sun to ensure that our institutions, organizations and movements are sustained.
While all good things inevitability come to an end, they do not have to suffer a premature demise. With work and care, good things can be sustainable for quite some time. As a result, we can avoid the hazardous stops and starts to our efforts to preserve ourselves as a people and as a community within the larger American nation.
B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. You can visit his website at http://www.blackeconomics.org
One of the controversies being bandied about by the African-American community with regards to Brad Paisley song: “Accidental Racist”, is that for him the Confederate Flag is a symbol of his “Southern Pride”.
“To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view”
African-Americans are passionate in their opinion that this Rebel Flag is a symbol of white power and racism. Rightly so, for it is. Under it’s banner, oppression, exploitation, violence and death were visited upon the African-American community. I wonder though if these same African-Americans are cognizant that as they reject the Rebel Flag and wrap themselves with Old Glory, that for the majority of Black, Brown, Yellow and Red peoples of the world, the American Flag is the symbol of white supremacy and military imperialism. Under it’s banner, oppression, exploitation, violence and death are visited daily upon us.
This is not a condemnation of all African-Americans or Americans in general. There are those who understand… and more importantly are vocal about the evils of American imperialism. They take no pride in the exploitation and oppression that Old Glory symbolizes for the rest of the world… the non-white world especially. There are those who are also aware of the fact that they have suffered longer and more insidious oppression, exploitation, violence and death within their shores, under the white supremacist banner of Old Glory, than they ever did under the Confederate Flag.
I am however condemning those who preach about “American Pride” based on the concept of “American Exceptionalism”, which is in reality just an excuse, as well as a justification for the crimes of “American Imperialism”… today and yesterday. They are as much an “Accidental Imperialist” as Brad Paisley is an “Accidental Racist”. AND just as they condemn LLCoolJ (someone referred to him as “LLCoonJuice”), I condemn those within the African-American community who align themselves with these “Accidental Imperialist”. These are the ones quick to self-righteously point out the “speck” in his eye but fail to acknowledge the “log” in their own. They proudly don the American flag of the Democratic and Republican Party to symbolize their ”Black Pride”. They proudly wave their American Flag while they march overseas with the propagators of white supremacy… intellectually, politically and militarily… to spread the disease which is American Imperialism, upon the rest of the non-white world.
I am currently reading “The Untold History of the United States”. I am learning about America’s exceptional history in it’s attitudes and relations towards non-Americans and specifically non-whites. American imperialism is no accident. The symbolism of the American Flag is no different than that of the Confederate Flag. Anyone in the African-American community who sing along with the “Accidental Imperialist” with their hand over their heart, the imperial anthems of the Republic to express their “American Pride”, are just as guilty of being a traitorous house negro, as they have sentenced LLCoolJ to be.
I want to thank you for your comment’s. Let’s continue to grow and learn.
I want to introduce another film today. This can offer just one perspective on African Diaspora in South Africa. I personally couldn’t have made the journey without the support of the producers of the movie called, Blacks Without Borders. Thank you to Stafford & Judith Bailey.
I had several questions about South Africa and they put me in contact with other African Diaspora who are in the country or were in the country. My comments, questions, concerned, and pitfalls that I should avoid were answered.
I am still in contact with many of the people in the movie. They often call or write me just to see if I doing well or if I need anything. Many of them live in Johannesburg, South Africa, but I have been blessed to meet a few of them face to face in Cape Town, South Africa.
Please enjoy the movie (click on the image).
As stated in the earlier post, this is another viewpoint, but what I hope we can all do, no matter where you are from or who are, is to network with one another. We are all going to have different views, opinions, and aspirations, but I hope that we can elevate each other.
I invite everyone to connect.