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COMMENTARY: Concerns About Current Rise and Return of Neo-Confederacy in Tennessee State Government

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE — The Rebel-like-bearded chief staff member for the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives appears to be charged and documented by news media with conspiracy to electronically falsify documents with the intent to falsely arrest and imprison a young civil rights worker (in 21st century USA!).

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By Dr. Bobby Lovett

To State Leaders and Whom It May Concern: 

As a citizen, taxpayer, and professional historian I am deeply concerned by the return and the rise of neo-Confederacy in the Tennessee state government (i.e., Executive and Legislative branches). 

The Rebel-like-bearded chief staff member for the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives appears to be charged and documented by news media with conspiracy to electronically falsify documents with the intent to falsely arrest and imprison a young civil rights worker (in 21st century USA!). The young man and his colleagues were exercising their rights under the US and Tennessee constitutions. Yet, the Speaker and his chief of staff were televised as arrogantly refusing to entertain those citizens’ grievances and both men strutted away with displays of ignorance, distain and disregard for the constitutional rights and judicial recourse of all citizens. In the name of Conservatism, in disguise of Abraham Lincoln’s old Republican Party, and in arrogant and illiterate displays of racial hatred and deceit for the United States and the Republic of Tennessee, the bearded one is quoted even as calling an entire group of Tennessee citizens “idiots”—without fear of civil and criminal punishments. Lest they forget Tennessee (1796- ) yet remains the 16th state in the Union of these United States of America: 

Federal Constitution, Amendments, “Bill of Rights (Dec. 15, 1791):

Article I gives US citizens “the freedom of speech” and “the rights of the people peaceably to assembly, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

Article XIV, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of his life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Article XV, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Tennessee State Constitution: 

Article I, Section 23: “People may assemble and instruct—That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance.”

Article I, Sec. 10. “Not to be twice put in jeopardy.—That no persons shall, for the same offense, be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

Article I, Sec. 8. “No man to be disturbed but by law.—That no man shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty or property, but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.”

Article X, Sec. 2, members of the General Assembly “will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear . . . injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the constitution of this state.” 

Notwithstanding, 21st century neo-Confederate state leaders including Tennessee’s governor seem determined to conspire to resurrect “the Old South.” They have passed and signed acts “injurious to the People”: vouchers, scholarships, restrictive citizens police committee bills aimed a specific racial groups and counties; and impediments to the right-to- register citizens to vote, threats of imprisonment for Tennessee activists, and specific monetary punishment to a specific city and its duly democratically elected officials for removing the KKK leader Nathan B. Forrest’s statue from public property. State officials shamelessly targeted Shelby County and Davidson County with specific legislation wherein such counties have large African American and minority race populations. 

The Governor, Speaker of the House and staff members should consider resigning their public jobs and face the federal and state justice systems.

And the Tennessee Supreme Court and its associate courts (despite the purposeful judicial restraints the neo-Confederates placed in the 1870 Tennessee constitution) ought to invoke courageous interposition or intercession to protect Tennessee government; its society; its democratic traditions. 

Whereas German psychology professor Karl Jasper wrote about post-WWII German society in his book The Question of German Guilt (1947, 2009)— all of us should be reminded that those of us who remain silent are “metaphysically guilty” of past and present evil acts and the historical consequences.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.

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Activism

IN MEMORIAM: Robert Farris Thompson, Renowned Professor of African American Studies

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993).

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Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.
Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.

TRIBUTE

By John Santos

We’ve lost a Rosetta Stone.

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson passed in his sleep Monday morning due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and having been weakened by a bout with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year. He would’ve completed his 89th year on December 30.

Born on Dec. 30, 1932, Thompson was a White Texan who spectacularly disproved the fallacy of White supremacy through his pioneering and tireless elevation and clarification of African art, philosophy and culture. He removed the blinders and changed the way that generations of international students see African art.

A U.S. Army veteran, he went to Yale on a football scholarship and earned a B.A. in 1955. He joined the faculty in 1964 and earned his Ph.D. in 1965. He remained on the faculty until 2015.

‘Master T,’ as his students and friends often referred to him, was the Col. John Trumbull professor of the History of Art and professor of African American Studies at Yale University.

Thompson was also an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He curated game-changing national exhibitions such as “African Art in Motion,” “The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds,” and “Faces of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas.” The latter had a run at U.C. Berkeley in 1995 when local practitioners of African spirituality and musicians — including myself – demonstrated the powerful knowledge of tradition.

Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993). If he did not coin, he certainly standardized the term ‘Black Atlantic.’ He was a brilliant presenter, writer and teacher. But unlike many if not most academicians, he was also loved, revered and respected by the musicians, artists and communities about whom he wrote.

Initiated in Africa to Erinle, the deity of deep, still water, Thompson was hip, quirky and totally immersed in African and African-based music, dance, language, art and history. His lifetime of research, immersion and visionary work formed a bridge between Black America and her African roots.

Countless trips to Africa, the Southern U.S., the Caribbean and Central and South America informed his passionate work. He wrote about sculpture, painting, architecture, dance, music, language, poetry, food, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, African history, stolen antiquities, African spirituality, African retention, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Black Argentina, New York, México, mambo, tango, jazz, spirit possession and so much more. He recorded African drumming. He befriended giants of African diaspora music such as Julito Collazo, Babatunde Olatunji and Mongo Santamaría.

I first saw his writing around 1970 on the back of the classic red vinyl 1961 Mongo Santamaria LP, Arriba! La Pachanga (Fantasy 3324). They are inarguably among the deepest liner notes ever written.

He told me that he used our 1984 recording, Bárbara Milagrosa, by the Orquesta Batachanga, to demonstrate danzón-mambo to his students. I nearly burst into tears when he invited me and Omar Sosa to address and perform for his students at Yale, his alma mater, where he was a rock star. It was an unforgettable occasion for me.

He wrote wonderful liner notes on our 2002 Grammy-nominated production SF Bay, by the Machete Ensemble. He went out of his way to support and encourage countless students and followers like me. I was highly honored to count him as a friend as well as mentor.

He will be missed.

John Santos is a seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and former director of Orquesta Batachanga and Machete Ensemble and current director of the John Santos Sextet.

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Activism

Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to Hold Toy Giveaway December 18 

“This toy giveaway is a much-needed service for those of us who have been previously in prison for a crime against our community,” said Richard Johnson, a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist. “…Now that we’re back in society we wish to give back in many forms that helps to restore promise while giving peace and redemption that our actions in the past aided in the destruction of our society that we now live in. Unfortunately, due to the red tape (efforts to reach) the target class of children of the formerly incarcerated (is stymied.)”

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Richard Johnson is a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist who has formed a non-profit organization called Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back.

By Post Staff

Richard Johnson is a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist who has formed a non-profit organization called Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to provide toys, food, clothes and gifts to families who have a loved one who is incarcerated or is now re-entering society.

Johnson says he wants to make sure that these families don’t get overlooked by verifying and validating that these families qualify.

“This toy giveaway is a much-needed service for those of us who have been previously in prison for a crime against our community,” Johnson said. “…Now that we’re back in society we wish to give back in many forms that helps to restore promise while giving peace and redemption that our actions in the past aided in the destruction of our society that we now live in. Unfortunately, due to the red tape (efforts to reach) the target class of children of the formerly incarcerated (is stymied.)”

Understandably, Johnson says, the ways to determine which children should receive gifts is limited.

Therefore, he will rely on trusted messengers such as pastors and community-based nonprofit organizations to provide verified names of families of the formerly incarcerated.

“We want to ensure that we reach those who truly need these items. We are asking the various churches to submit names of their parishioners so that the pastors can verify the necessary information.

“We hope the county social services agencies will alert their clients. The various public safety departments, attorneys, parole offices and others who can’t provide or publish their client lists can be helpful by communicating directly to the families they’ve served to inform them of the opportunity to receive gifts during this season of giving.

“We will need volunteers who may have a few hours to spare on this historic occasion to come out and assist us to make this occasion a memorable one for the children most in need. Toys and gifts for 300 or more children is the current targeted number.

Please visit www.postnewsgroup.com after December 5 to respond, volunteer or to donate gift items.

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Activism

African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) helps support 25th annual turkey drive in East Oakland

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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The African American Sports & Entertainment Group came out to support the 25th annual Community Giving Foundation Turkey drive at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland.

Hosted by founder and organizer Marlon McWilson, the turkey drive that started in 1997 has now donated over 35,000 Turkey’s through McWilson’s foundation. In attendance were Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, Oakland PAL, California Assembly Member Mia Bonta (AD-18) along with husband and Attorney General for the State of California Rob Bonta. Assembly Member Bonta also congratulated the AASEG on their recent unanimous 8-0 approval to enter negotiations with the City of Oakland on an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) to purchase the city’s half interest of the coliseum land, and looks forward to working with the team.

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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