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Dorothy Lee Bolden: Uniting Domestic Workers

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Dorothy Lee Bolden’s first experience with domestic work was at the age of nine where she earned $1.25 per week.

Alabama-born Bolden (1923–2005), alongside her mother, washed soiled diapers for a white employer. Little did anyone know that this profession would spur Bolden to spearhead the movement for basic dignity and respect for generations of domestic workers.

Domestic work followed Bolden beyond high school. According to sources from the New York Times, Bolden said she would wake “at 4 a.m. to leave home by 6:00 a.m., and be on the job by 8:00 a.m., perform all those duties necessary to the proper management of a household for eight hours, leave there by 4:00 p.m. to be home by 6:00 p.m. where I would do the same things I’ve done all over again for my own family.”

It was Bolden’s experiences working as a domestic in 1940s Atlanta that inspired her civil rights activism. A white female employer demanded that Bolden remain beyond her shift and wash dishes. Bolden refused. She was arrested and held in the county jail because “she was crazy.” There was no other reason for disobeying an order from a white person.

Bolden was never sentenced or institutionalized, but this event was the seed that grew into an organization that would protect domestic workers across the United States: the National Domestic Workers Union of America.

Rosa Parks had made public transportation a major breeding ground for civil rights activism, so Bolden began organizing during the long bus rides her peers made to wealthy neighborhoods. Many were fed up, working long hours for little pay, with little to no worker protections.

This organization of women would go on to fight for worker’s rights, create training programs, and teach workers to advocate for themselves. It was also important to Bolden to teach communication skills.

In the book “Household Workers Unite,” Bolden is quoted as saying: “You have to teach each maid how to negotiate…And this is the most important thing — communication. I would tell them it was up to them to communicate.”

But respect for Bolden’s activism was not shared by everyone. Although she consulted presidents Ford, Reagan, and Carter, she received several death threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

The New York Times reported that during the makings of an oral history project, Bolden said that “men claiming to be members of the KKK called her house and spoke about “whipping my behind,” but in coarser terms. “I told them any time they wanted to, come on over and grab it,” Bolden said during the interview. “It didn’t scare me, didn’t bother me. It made me angry, it made me determined to do what I had to do.”

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said that Bolden “spoke up, and she spoke out, and when she saw something that wasn’t fair, or just, or right, she would say something.”

The NDWU of America lasted until the mid-1990s, but Bolden’s legacy lives on.

Black History

Queen Calafia Returns to California

There will also be a reception on October 5 for Calafia at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro in San Francisco.

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Queen Calafia

A celebration of the return of Queen Calafia to California will be held on Sunday, October 3, at 3:30 p.m. in Dunphy Park on Bridgeway between Napa and Litho Street in Sausalito. The celebration will be free. Everyone is invited. Bring a picnic.

The Citizens of California know their state’s name. But few know where the name California came from, and fewer still know that it is named after a mythic Black Amazon warrior queen, according to the announcement.

Queen Calafia is returning to California to change all that.

Queen Calafia and her entourage will arrive by boat at Dunphy Park and will be greeted by the Cal Alumni Band with a fanfare and a rendition of Calling Calafia. The queen will place her foot on California soil for the first time in hundreds of years and then parade to the band shell to be greeted by the mayor of Sausalito, Emperor Norton, and other dignitaries. Proclamations from the City of Sausalito and the City of Oakland will be read. Various performers and presenters from all walks of life will welcome Calafia. The queen will speak to the assembled Californians.

This is history in the making. Come and welcome Calafia back to California. Don’t miss it.

There will also be a reception on October 5 for Calafia at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro in San Francisco.

To read more about Queen Calafia, go to www.postnewsgroup.com/queen-califia-california-namesake-or-legend/

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Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

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9/22/2021: Carl Bean 1944-2021 singer and founder Unity Fellowship Church Movement, Black LGBT denomination.

9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

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Black History

Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie: First Black Grammy’ Winners

Two Black performers left the event that night with Grammys in hand: Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917–1996) for Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Jazz Performance, Individual; and William James “Count” Basie (1904–1984), for Best Performance by a Dance Band and Best Jazz Performance, Group. Recognition for the pair was well overdue as their roads to the Grammy were storied.

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Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie, the first two African Americans to win Grammy awards, 1958. Photo courtesy of 9gag.com/gag/aQREN3K

It was the late spring of 1959. The music industry’s elite converged inside the Grand Ballroom of Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton. Others were gathering at a function held simultaneously in New York City.

That night, the Grammy Award’s first show took place, and no one knew then that it would become a historic event for African-American performers.

Two Black performers left the event that night with Grammys in hand: Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917–1996) for Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Jazz Performance, Individual; and William James “Count” Basie (1904–1984), for Best Performance by a Dance Band and Best Jazz Performance, Group. Recognition for the pair was well overdue as their roads to the Grammy were storied.

Fitzgerald was a teen when her mother died. Her aunt then took young Ella from her home in Yonkers, N.Y., back to Newport News, Va. Shortly after, Ella’s stepfather died. These events brought on depression. Ella began failing school and frequently skipped classes. After getting into trouble with the police, she was sent to a reform school. There she endured beatings by the caretakers. The brutality forced her to escape.

At age 15, she was alone and struggling to make a life for herself. But things would change when she was in New York City about five years later.

In 1934, young Ella performed at the Apollo’s Amateur Night. The crowd booed her; shouted “What’s she going to do?” A frightened Ella decided to sing. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy,” one of her mother’s favorites. Her voice silenced the audience, and by the song’s end they begged for an encore.

Two years later, Ella made her first recording, “Love and Kisses,” under the Decca label. The rest was music history.
Later dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. On June 15, 1996, she died in her Beverly Hills home. She’d taken home 14 Grammys throughout her career.

Basie, born in Red Bank, N.J., was one of the all-time great jazz band leaders. Dubbed the “King of Swing,” his career started in clubs and speakeasies in Asbury Park and Long Branch, N.J., then New York City (1924) and later Kansas City (1927).

His music served as inspiration for artists including John Lewis, Thelonious Monk, and Oscar Peterson. Along the way, he faced discrimination but overcame barriers to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

“Every day, we used to say, ‘Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me,’” musician and producer Quincy Jones said of the racism that he and Basie experienced back then. “It was horrible. It ain’t much better now.”

Basie wrote in a letter: “I can’t remember when I did not experience discrimination … And I didn’t let it bug me.”
The Count won nine Grammy awards over the course of his career. He died on April 26, 1984, in Hollywood, Fla.

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