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Birmingham Civil Rights Museum Reverses Decision to Withdraw Award to Angela Davis

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An Alabama civil rights museum reversed course after a public outcry and reinstated a human rights award to activist Angela Davis that it had previously rescinded, the organization announced Jan. 25.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute said in a statement that its board has voted to reaffirm Davis, a Birmingham native, as the recipient of the award and has invited her to personally receive it. The statement said the board has not heard if Davis will accept.

“Dr. Angela Davis, a daughter of Birmingham, is highly regarded throughout the world as a human rights activist,” Institute President Andrea L. Taylor said in a statement.

The Birmingham museum sparked protests and criticism earlier this month when it announced that it was abruptly canceling the award to Davis that was supposed to be given at a February gala.

The institute rescinded the award days after the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center sent a letter urging the board to reconsider honoring Davis due to her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Others in the Birmingham area criticized Davis for her support for the Black Panthers and Communist Party.

The institute’s decision to rescind the award had sparked outrage in Birmingham and around the country. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he was dismayed by the institute’s decision, which he said came after, “protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously to express support for Dr. Davis, and the Birmingham School Board members on January 14 issued a public apology for the discord that resulted from its decision to rescind the award. They said there should have been more conversation with diverse points of view before making the decision.

In a statement on January 25, the board said its decision to give Davis the award is “in keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes.”

The award is called the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. It is named for the late minister and prominent civil rights activist who led demonstrations in the city.

Davis, who was interviewed on ‘Democracy Now’ by Amy Goodman, said she wasn’t given explicit reasons as to why the award was rescinded and then reversed. “I don’t think they were aware that the response would be so immediate and so overwhelmingly in favor of my receiving the award.” Davis said.

Now an Oakland resident, Davis, who knew Shuttleworth’s daughter and was raised in an area of Birmingham known as ‘Dynamite Hill’ because it was bombed so often by the Ku Klux Klan, has spent decades fighting for civil rights. In 2011, she made a trip to Palestine that would, in part, give rise to her 2015 book “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement.”  It was written the year after Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Mo.

“The issue of Palestinian human rights, and its relation to the struggle for civil rights for people of African descent in this country, is finally being discussed in an open way,” she told Goodman. “And I’m quite excited that grassroots activists, local organizations, established figures in the Birmingham community people who were involved in the civil rights movement over a half-century ago have all come together to try to make the point that the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute does not represent the sentiment of people in Birmingham, Alabama.

Democracy Now contributed to this report.

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Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto JoanLester.com.

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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Bay Area

At Least 4 Bay Area Counties Pause Use Of J&J Vaccines Amid Blood Clot Concerns

Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

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     At least four Bay Area counties paused administrations Tuesday of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a handful of people across the country developed blood clots less than two weeks after the shot.

     Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt the use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.
The state’s Department of Public Health also issued a statement Tuesday urging a temporary pause on the vaccine’s administration while state and federal officials determine whether the clotting incidents are significant.

    More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
Health officials have confirmed cases of rare and severe blood clots in just six women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine, with symptoms appearing between six and 13 days post-vaccination.

   Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also advised states to pause administration of the Janssen vaccine to allow for an investigation of the clots and whether a causal link with the vaccine can even be established.

     In a joint statement, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks and CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said the two agencies will review the cases of clotting this week to determine whether they are statistically significant. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Marks and Schuchat said. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

     State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said the state will also follow the recommendation by the FDA and CDC and order a statewide pause of administrations of the Janssen vaccine.
“Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” Pan said.

     California joined the states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to establish the workgroup last year to conduct independent review and analysis of each vaccine as they are approved for emergency use by the FDA.
Officials in the four Bay Area counties noted that Janssen vaccines represent 4 percent or less of the doses administered in each county to date, with the majority being the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Health officials have lauded the Janssen vaccine’s utility in reaching demographics like unhoused residents and people who are homebound, who may have difficulty returning for a second vaccine dose.

     Officials in the four counties said they did not expect the Janssen vaccine pause to force the widespread cancellation of vaccination appointments or significantly affect their ability to continue vaccinating their respective populations.

    Janssen vaccine recipients who got vaccinated more than a month ago are not deemed at risk for developing blood clots, according to local, state, and federal health officials.

   People who received the vaccine more recently are encouraged to contact a health care provider if they begin noticing symptoms like severe headaches, leg pain, and shortness of breath, which may be associated with clotting.

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