Saturday, February 29, 2020

Overheard at Booth 4: The Virginia Calculator

His name was Thomas Fuller.
He had a fantastically agile mind.
Imagine what he could have accomplished had he not been enslaved.
Imagine what he could have accomplished had he been free to explore every opportunity for agriculture, science, economy, business.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: Elizabeth Jennings Graham

100 years before Rosa Parks.
Just sayin ... Black folks, and especially Black WOMEN, have been sitting down and standing up and making all sorts of fuss for their basic human rights.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Overread at Table 3: God's Trombones

God's Trombones should be required reading in schools.
It should be poems that are memorized and recited aloud.
They should be made into songs, into anthems, into operas.
They should be made into short films.
They should be preached from the pulpits as sermons.

This is a short work, but phenomenal, powerful, pointed, timeless.

But enough of this ... go get yourself a copy of this book and READ IT!!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: The Godfather of Go Go

While I am not truly knowledgeable about Jazz, Funk, or its various variants (such as Go Go), I heard an interesting article this month on the subgenre, a musical style that is forever synonymous with Washington DC. 

Chuck Brown created Go Go (or at least popularized it, and made it become known), and as one person on the article said, "Go Go is just pure DC ... everybody's on the 'go' - always movin' always hustlin' - gogo!"

Which I find interesting in that most of the country sees DC as where all the rich white folk go to steal the people's money, but what most do not know is that the majority of people who LIVE in Washington DC are African American, and the rest of us forget that, apart from the Federal government, that DC is a city, with people who live and shop and rent and work and make love and have babies and pay bills and drive cars and do all things that are completely independent of the Federal government, and they are there even as the politicians are recycled, in and out of the various halls.

It must be a fascinating vibe to live in a city that has just a transient energy, so close to power, yet just out of reach.... must be that energy that gave rise to such infectious music.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Overheard at Booth 3: Without Sanctuary

I don't know who made or maintains this site, but this is an important one for the continuation of Black History.  This is American history.  This is who we are, not just who we were.

Sites like this are important to remember that lynching not only happened, it was also newsworthy when it happened, and for many Americans, a cause of celebration of their ability to suppress their fellow Americans.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Overheard at Booth 5: Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix has reached the level that ALL Persons of Colour should reach: the level at which his greatness transcends his Blackness.

He is not "The Greatest Black Guitarist"
He is simply "The Greatest Guitarist"

Jimi's being Black is as immaterial as the Beatles being White.  His accomplishments stand in their own for his own genius.

This is the world in which we all should strive for ... the point at which a person's accomplishments in the advancement of art, science, economics, humanities, politics, justice, whatever, no longer have a caveat of race that, in effect, diminishes their individual accomplishment.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: George Stinney Jr

14 years old.
Still a child. 
Still only a child.

But in the minds of 12 white adults, he committed a double murder based only on what another white adult claimed was his confession.

In 10 minutes they convicted him.
Only 10 minutes.

It took him longer than that to die in the electric chair.

14 minutes of agony, because the helmet was too big for his head and slipped off after the first jolt of electricity.

Decades later, another century later, and America is still murdering black teenagers.

When is this slaughter going to end?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Overheard at Booth 2: Lewis Latimer

Lewis Latimer

Inventions are never made by one person.  Edison, Bell, we remember their names for reasons I've never been able to fathom.  Maybe we just like imagining a singular person coming up with one thing that changed the world.  Maybe that stems from some sort of desire to worship a hero.  But the fact remains that every advance comes from many people working together.

Lewis Latimer is the person who made the light bulb practical.  Lewis Latimer is the person who drew up the first schematics for Bell's telephone.  Without this person, we would never know about those others, and none of them would be in the history books.

If Lewis Latimer's parents had not escaped slavery, he may not have ever been born, or if he had, he would not have been born free, and perhaps would not have had the opportunity to contribute to these wonderful technological advances.

When we discuss slavery now, what we will never know is the amount of talent, both scientific and artistic, that was never realized, because those geniuses were born, raised, and died in slavery. 

Now, this is not to say that slaves did not contribute to intellectual advancements.  They did, and there are many examples of that.  However, we cannot escape the fact that slavery, like the subjugation of women, hampered progress, because it suppressed the ability of great minds to reach their full potential.

And that loss is something that we can never calculate, never fathom.

And this is why we must celebrate people like Lewis Latimer, who helped push us forward, who helped (metaphor intended) bring light to a dark world.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Overheard at Table 1: Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

Ada says, "Well, shoot, I never knew that there was someone before Claudette Colvin!    Seems like there is always more to learn about our history!

"This woman is amazing, and I'm amazed I never knew her story... read it here!

[from second link]
Irene Amos was born on April 9, 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Robert and Ethel Amos. She attended the local elementary school, and was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist along with her eight other siblings. Amos dropped out of high school to work and help her family during the Great Depression. She worked on the production line for B-26 Marauders at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company in Baltimore. There she met dock worker Sherwood Morgan and the couple soon married and had a son, Sherwood Jr., and a daughter, Brenda.

Morgan was spending time with her mother in Gloucester, Virginia after a recent miscarriage. On July 16, 1944, she bought a $5 ticket from the “colored” window at nearby Haye’s Grocery Store and boarded a Greyhound bus to return home to Baltimore, Maryland. She sat in the back of the bus, the spot designated for “colored” people. An hour into the trip, the driver came to Morgan and the woman seated next to her with a baby in her arms, and told them both to move for a white couple just boarding. Morgan refused to move, and the driver proceeded to the next town to have her arrested.

The officer gave Morgan an arrest warrant and she tore it up in his face. When the officer tried to forcibly remove her, she kicked him in the groin. Other officers responded and removed Morgan from the bus. She was arrested in Saluda, Virginia, and charged with resisting arrest and violating Virginia’s Jim Crow transit laws. Morgan pleaded guilty to the charge of resisting arrest and paid a $10 fine, but refused to plead guilty for violating “Jim Crow laws.” She appealed her conviction and was represented by William H. Hastie, with Thurgood Marshall as co-counsel. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled her in violation of the law, so she took her case, Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled 6-1 in her favor that enforcing Virginia’s state law on interstate buses was unconstitutional.

"AND!  She was represented by William Hastie!  Yes, THAT William Hastie!"

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

The bio from the second link printed here:


Rebecca Lee Crumpler challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine to became the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, a distinction formerly credited to Rebecca Cole. Although little has survived to tell the story of Crumpler's life, she has secured her place in the historical record with her book of medical advice for women and children, published in 1883.

Crumpler was born in 1831 in Delaware, to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and may have influenced her career choice, raised her. By 1852 she had moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years (because the first formal school for nursing only opened in 1873, she was able to perform such work without any formal training). In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. When she graduated in 1864, Crumpler was the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College, which closed in 1873.

In her Book of Medical Discourses, published in 1883, she gives a brief summary of her career path: "It may be well to state here that, having been reared by a kind aunt in Pennsylvania, whose usefulness with the sick was continually sought, I early conceived a liking for, and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others. Later in life I devoted my time, when best I could, to nursing as a business, serving under different doctors for a period of eight years (from 1852 to 1860); most of the time at my adopted home in Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. From these doctors I received letters commending me to the faculty of the New England Female Medical College, whence, four years afterward, I received the degree of doctress of medicine."

Dr. Crumpler practiced in Boston for a short while before moving to Richmond, Virginia, after the Civil War ended in 1865. Richmond, she felt, would be "a proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children. During my stay there nearly every hour was improved in that sphere of labor. The last quarter of the year 1866, I was enabled . . . to have access each day to a very large number of the indigent, and others of different classes, in a population of over 30,000 colored." She joined other black physicians caring for freed slaves who would otherwise have had no access to medical care, working with the Freedmen's Bureau, and missionary and community groups, even though black physicians experienced intense racism working in the postwar South.

"At the close of my services in that city," she explained, "I returned to my former home, Boston, where I entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment; regardless, in a measure, of remuneration." She lived on Joy Street on Beacon Hill, then a mostly black neighborhood. By 1880 she had moved to Hyde Park, Massachusetts, and was no longer in active practice. Her 1883 book is based on journal notes she kept during her years of medical practice.

No photos or other images survive of Dr. Crumpler. The little we know about her comes from the introduction to her book, a remarkable mark of her achievements as a physician and medical writer in a time when very few African Americans were able to gain admittance to medical college, let alone publish. Her book is one of the very first medical publications by an African American.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: For Presidents' Day

Well on Presidents Day during Black History Month, it's only proper to represent the nation's first truly African-American President of the United States.  Born to a Kenyan father and a white woman from Kansas, Barack Obama can truly be called "African-American" rather than simply "Black"

Thus, he is also the first POTUS of acknowledged mixed-race and the first POTUS from Hawaii, also the first POTUS born in the 1960s.

His accomplishments as POTUS are still fresh in memory and will be dissected in future reviews in history books.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: William Hastie

Before Thurgood Marshall there was William Hastie... served in FDR's administration, was head of the Law Department at Harvard, wrote a constitution for the US Virgin Islands, was chief judge, then governor of the Virgin Islands ... worked with the Secretary of War during WWII, then resigned in protest because they wouldn't integrate the troops, and I think he was even considered for the Supreme Court in the early 60's.   Here is another great African American who had a career not only of "first AA" but also replete with accomplishments and distinction for his work on its own merit.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Overheard at Booth 3: Mamie Till

Sweet Carlotta says, "It took the bravery and sacrifice of one woman, a mother, a mother who suffered the worst that any mother can suffer, the loss of her child, the loss of her child when he was still a child, and the loss of her child to torture and murder.

"Mamie Till did the unthinkable: she had Emmitt Till's casket opened, so that everybody could see what happened when monsters are allowed to roam the earth.   Most mothers would have had the casket closed so that the smashed unrecognizable face of their son wouldn't be emblazoned in the memory of those who came to pay their respects, but she said no, she knew that this had to be done, so that the white demons who slaughtered her child with less care than they would slaughter an animal would know that their crime would not be covered up, it would be exposed.

"And exposed it was.  This woman had the strength, courage, and conviction that most people would not have, and for that single sacrificial act, she should be forever remembered as a beacon of light in this dark world of racism and hate and rage."

Friday, February 14, 2020

Overheard at Table : Matthew Henson

MR - Easy!  Matthew Henson (great first name by the way, means "Gift of God" - but that's beside the point.

"He was most likely actually the first person to reach the North Pole.   Robert Peary never would have gotten off the ground if it weren't for this guy.   Peary got all the glory, Henson did all the work. 

"Like Tonto, like Sancho Panza, like Robin, the sidekick who should be a hero in his own right.  And he is!"

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: Mary Ellen Pleasant

Nikki says, "Today let's learn about Mary Ellen Pleasant, a 19th Century activist.  May have been born free, may have been born a slave, worked as a bondservant to an abolitionist family in Massachussetts.   Married a wealthy landowner and together they worked on the Underground Railroad. 

"After the Civil War, Mary Ellen sued a streetcar company for not allowing blacks on it and another for promoting segregation - that's 100 years BEFORE Rosa Parks!

"What's interesting though, is that no matter all her strides in promoting abolitionism and equality, the later years of her life were tough financially, because her husband had died and then her male financier died.  Then her critics labelled her 'Mammy' and started accusing her of voodoo, and she died in poverty in 1904.

"Just another case of how being female is the toughest thing to be in this world.   The more I read the more this theme keeps coming up over and over and over again ... all these strong black woman who have done so much, and I can't help thinking that if they had only been MEN, then they would have been able to do even more."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: Onesimus

Augustus says, "While the point of Black History Month is really supposed to be about notable Americans of Color, there is one who contributed a great deal to medicine here in America before it became a country.   His name is Onesimus, and no one knows much about him, but he is credited for bringing the concept of inoculation to the New World from ancient medical practices in Africa.

"Onesimus was given as a gift to Cotton Mather, and through his showing of Mather the practice of inoculation, he was able to decrease the death count in Boston during an outbreak of smallpox.

"This is just one of the countless contributions of Africans and African-Americans to the medical history of this country, and it shows how, even when human beings are being subjugated, oppressed, and sold like animals to other humans, they STILL find a way to contribute to the continuance of the entire human race."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Hidden Figures (2016)

Samantha wants everyone to read the original book behind the movie "Hidden Figures"

Katherine Goble
Mary Jackson
Dorothy Vaughan

Monday, February 10, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Raymond Garfield Dandridge

James Moses says, "I think Raymond Garfield Dandridge is a great candidate for poets who don't get enough attention.  And not just for Black poets... but also for handicapped persons as well.... he had a stroke (or polio - stories differ), but regardless, he lost use of one whole side of his body and had to teach himself to write with the other hand.   Then he was able to work from home, by phone... so you could say that he was the first telecommuter!

"Here're two of my favorites of his:

Hahd Cidah

Wondah whut on earf tiz ails me,
Seems I see mo' outlan'ish t'ings,
Sech ez wagons pullin' hosses,
An' red mens, wid horns an' wings.
Mussy! how dese steps do tremble,
Dey's jes ez loose ez dey kin be,
An' dat do'-knob thinks it's clevah
Playin' 'hide an' seek' wid me.

Dar's a dashah in mah stumick,
Churnin', flip! flop! up an' down:
Mah po' achin' head am spinnin',
Whoop-pee-la-la! roun' an' roun'.
Tongue dun swole up thick ez two tongues:
Goo' Lawd! whut is I to do?
'Speck Ise got de eppazutic,
Or dat ah new fangled 'Flu.'

I is sartin tizent 'Goofoo,'
Caze I ain' ett no strangah's grub,
An' Ise bin nowhar, 'cept callin'
On mah hi brown Lady Lub.
We set coatin', me an' Idah,
'Near de arbah, in her yahd,
Holdin' han's an' sippin' cidah
Frum a brown jug, labeled 'Hahd.'

Time To Die

Black brother, think you life so sweet
That you would live at any price?
Does mere existence balance with
The weight of your great sacrifice?
Or can it be you fear the grave
Enough to live and die a slave?
O Brother! be it better said,
When you are gone and tears are shed,
That your death was the stepping stone
Your children's children cross'd upon.
Men have died that men might live:
Look every foeman in the eye!
If necessary, your life give
For something, ere in vain you die.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Overheard at Booth 2: Scott Joplin

Niall Carter says, "I hope no one thinks I'm a giant wanker, but to be honest, I had no idea that he was black.  Does that make me a wanker?  Hell, all I know is that I love ragtime.  'The Entertainer'

"And no one knows, he also wrote two operas.    He also played mandolin as well as piano.  And he died from dementia in a madhouse at the age of 48 from syphilis.  Which frankly, was pretty damn punk, if you ask me!"

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Ledbelly

John Steppenwolf:  I'll make it quick.  My guy is Ledbelly.  Huddie Ledbetter.  Guy who could take bullets in the stomach and keep on beatin' up the guys who shot 'im.  The guy who broke out of more prisons than the Apostles Paul and Peter, combined.  The guy who could play a 12-string guitar like he had one finger for each string, and wrote songs that inspired every young kid who picked up a guitar in the second half of the 20th Century.

And if you want more, all I gotta say is check him out online, or just go old school and buy a CD.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: Florence Price

Keiko Rajo.  Being a composer myself, I'd say more people need to know about Florence Price for Black History Month.  As a girl in Little Rock, no white people would teach her music, so her mother taught her music.  Educated in music in Boston, she graduated and moved back to Little Rock, where she got married, had a family and then moved to Chicago after a lynching inflamed racial tensions.

1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her symphony - imagine!  The hard- scrabble Windy City, middle of the Depression, the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition a thing of the past, Capone in prison, must've seen like the world was changing but still caught in time ...

She struggled to make ends meet, writing pop tunes for the movies.  Then sometime in the 40's she wrote to the conductor the of the BSO, "I have two handicaps: I'm a woman and I have some Negro blood in my veins."

Interesting how she put being a woman as her FIRST handicap.

She died in 1953, and just last year, some people going through an apartment in Chicago found a box full of old papers and music sheets - turns out it was more work by Florence Price.  Her Fourth Symphony. 

Imagine!  A woman, composer.  How many nights did she spend taking care of the kids and preparing food and working until the early hours of the morning on music that, to her mind, only she may ever hear! 

It always floors me to imagine how so much creative power women have had, even after pouring all their blood and soul into their husbands and children, and to still have something left over for themselves.

Truly an inspiration.
revisiting the pioneering composer florence price - NPR

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Crispus Attucks

Dever Dodd says, "More should be known about Crispus Attucks.  Half Black-Half Native American.  Supposed to be the first death of the Boston Massacre.   If his life hasn't already been made into a movie, it should be.  A big blockbuster Historical hit. 

"Look, the dude was reported to be six inches taller than a normal man.  Huge guy.  Fought in the streets.  Hated the British for stealing jobs.   Father a slave and mother a Native American.  He escaped slavery.   This is all fantastic stuff for a big budget blockbuster movie.

"Now ... if one of the studios'd like to give me a $100 million budget, I'd be happy to make it for 'em!"

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Shirley Chisolm

Clare O'Casey says, "I'll just let Shirley Chisolm's words speak for themselves:

"'When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.'

"and ...

"'Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.'"

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Overheard at Table 4: Lucky Speaks of Hughes

Lucky Moran says, "Langston Hughes for the win!  Fantastic author.  Like Walt Whitman, but who could see America as it really is and still try to love it anyway.  Like Thurber, but with a sharper twist, because he knows where the human follies actually came from.

"Hughes would have been canonized as America's poet if only for his two big hits 'I, Too' and 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers,' but man he didn't stop there ... he created the best 'everyman' character in Simple.  Simple is, simply put, don't mind the pun, pure genius, like Charlie Brown, but in a world that wants to keep him down.

Langston Hughes should be in the Trinity of American Authors: him, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker."

Monday, February 3, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: Claudette Colvin

The Barista, while making a latte, says, "Hm, a person of color for Black History Month?  I'd go with Claudette Colvin...

"She was 15 and the bus was crowded so she sat at the front.  This was a year before Rosa Parks.  They didn't want to use her as an example because she got pregnant by a pastor who she was having an affair with, so they said that would be bad for publicity.

"Basically, that's why they used Rosa Parks.   Who was 42, a 'clean' image for them to protest the segregated buses.   You could say that Claudette Colvin was the true rebel, because her defiance of segregation wasn't staged.

"Just how I feel about it, anyway."

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: Ida B Wells

Otis Redwing says about Ida B Wells,  "Ida B Wells should be THE hero of the Civil Rights Movement.  I'm not talking about ONE of the Civil Rights Heroes, I'm talking THE Civil Rights Heroes.   Born a slave, she grew up in Mississippi, the hardest state for black folk, then as now.  She saw repeatedly how lynching was used to keep Black people oppressed.  She stood up and took on the notion that lynching was just a way to 'mete out justice' as some people tried to whitewash it.  She told it for what it was: white people hating the fact that black people were more successful at business than they were.  They even wanted to lynch HER!

"Also, she should be THE hero of journalism, because it was HER essays and reporting that brought out this horror, it was HER reporting that held the authorities and the law to account, when other journalists were either part of the oppression, or otherwise didn't want to tackle the issue.

"She was brave, bold, brash, unrepentant, unstoppable.  She was a force to be reckoned with.   She was five feet tall but she towered over all men.  She was pure righteous fury.   I doubt there has been another like her since, even though yes, many have been inspired by her, but the fact that she is not as celebrated as she should be, for all her accomplishments, is just a damn shame."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: She Was only 17 (He was 84)

I've always loved this song, but I sing it ... a little differently than intended.

Below are the tiny adjustments to the song that bring a little more nuance to it...
Sing along with me!

She Was Only Seventeen (He was Eighty-Four)
Marty Robbins (with a slight alteration by Verble Gherulous)

G    C             Am           F               G
Seventeen..wah-ooo-wah-ooo..and he was eighty-four
G    C             Am           F              G
Seventeen..wah-ooo-wah-ooo..and he, the girl, adored.

C            Am            F               G
She was only seventeen and he was eighty four.
C                  Am                F
She loved him with all her heart and he, the girl
    C                   C7                   F
But all their friends believed they were too dumb
to know the score..
      C            Am            F      G        C
cause she was only seventeen and he was eighty four.

C            Am                F         G        C
Is she old enough to know their love will last his life?
C            Am            F        G     C
Isn't he too dumb to be a husband, her a wife?
    C             C7                F                Fm
Within the past I bet it's happened more than once before.
     C                Am          F       G        C
When someone else was seventeen, another, eighty four.

G              D                 G
Do we have the right to question love that seems so strong?
G                  D             G               G7
As long as God has no objections there can be no wrong.

C             Am                 F            G
Let us be the first to wish them all the very best.
C                 Am             F                  G
Let us hope their love is strong enough to meet the test.
      C             C7                F                Fm
Cause like I say, I bet it's happened more than once before.
     C                Am           F      G        C
When someone else was seventeen, another, eighty four.

G              D                 G
Do we have the right to question love that seems so strong?
G                  D             G               G7
As long as God has no objections there can be no wrong.

C             Am                 F            G
Let us be the first to wish them all the very best.
C                 Am             F                  G
Let us hope their love is strong enough to meet the test.
      C             C7                F                Fm
Cause like I say, I bet it's happened more than once before.
     C                Am           F      G        C
When someone else was seventeen, another, eighty four.

C                        F   G7  C