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OP-ED: I have always loved legendary songstress Gladys Knight and always will, but…

CHICAGO CRUSADER — On principle I submit that Gladys Knight is wrong in her decision to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

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By Vernon A. Williams

First, full transparency. Much like “Fly Jock” Tom Joyner (and probably most male Baby Boomers), I had a mad crush on soul singer Gladys Knight as she rose to stardom in the 70s. Her glowing star aura combined with “girl next door” cuteness, making boys imagine her being their ‘girlfriend’ to the point of arguing to claim their fantasy.

And, by the way, she had a voice that kept her in the conversation with the greatest R & B divas of all time. You couldn’t talk about Queen Aretha, Patti, Chaka, Whitney, Mavis, or Mariah without injecting the inimitable Ms. Knight into the mix.

Seeing her just a couple of years ago at the Heritage Festival of the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration in Indianapolis was confirmation that not only is she aging with regal grace, but her incomparable singing style remains in a class by itself.

All those factors made writing this column challenging for me. Part of me said, “Leave it alone. Let others fight this battle.” Then that other side insisted, “Stay true to the cause – no matter what the casualties.”

I know full well that half of those who read this will back me up while the other half are ready to argue all night long. The popularity of the outcome doesn’t matter to me – it never has and never will.

On principle I submit that Gladys Knight is wrong in her decision to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

Some defending her argue, “Black players for both teams will be on the field” and “Gladys has clearly paid her dues and has earned the right” and “What will it prove, if she refused to sing” or “She is doing what she gets paid to do and has a right to a livelihood.”

I won’t waste time in rebuttal. Instead, here is why I think she should pass; and that is, NOT singing at that game will constitute strength in numbers.

Now don’t get it twisted, there was never a point of the civil rights movement, before or after, that all Americans of African heritage were on the same page. We are not today and have never been a monolithic community.

STAR POWER. Celebrities like Nancy Wilson, Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando and Berry Gordy Jr. risked careers for principles during the sixties Civil Rights Movement.

STAR POWER. Celebrities like Nancy Wilson, Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando and Berry Gordy Jr. risked careers for principles during the sixties Civil Rights Movement.

As Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. recalled, “While some came from coast to coast for the March in Washington in 1963, there were Negroes on U Street – within walking distance of the Lincoln Memorial – who wouldn’t cross the street to get involved in the demonstration and said they would be glad when “the man’ ran them out of town.”

Sojourner Truth’s famous quote put it another way, that the fabled Underground Railroad saved a thousand slaves but she could have rescued a thousand more had they only known that they were slaves.

Gladys needed to say no because she is bigger than the average Black person. She is an icon. A living legend. Her rejection would have resounded. Conversely, the inclusion of such a giant of the industry cancels rejections of a handful of lesser-known artists.

It’s not just about Colin Kaepernick and the way in which the National Football League has blackballed him and others for exercising their constitutional right of nonviolent protest. It is about how the NFL as an institution is oppressive to people of color – particularly its own players, coaches and management.

There are enough negative NFL facts and anecdotes to write a book. Many have. And in the wake of the kneeling during the national anthem controversy, team owners followed the lead of their friend 45 – threatening to fire those who dared challenge the system.

It’s ugly. Unpleasant. Repressive and disrespectful. There is no simple solution. Who knows what, if anything, would cause them to have a change of heart? The Washington franchise rejects the pleas of indigenous Americans to change their Redskins team name. And take a look at all the Black coaches fired over the past season. As of press time, not one of those positions was filled with another African American.

Gladys said it is “unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive sense of the anthem and fight for justice should stand alone. I will give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard all of my life.”

We will be no freer after she sings the anthem than before she performs. No changes.

The Hall-of-Famer said, “I pray that the anthem brings us together in a way never before witnessed and that we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us.” Beautifully spoken. As unrealistic as the hope a fairy will change American attitudes and end all prejudice with a wave of the magic wand.

Gladys Knight’s decision is wrong and her hoped outcome of singing the anthem is naïve – in spite of her 74 years of wisdom. But I still love her as much as ever – and always will.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Crusader

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Activism

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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#NNPA BlackPress

The Chicago Defender Debuts “Stay Strong Chicago” Video

CHICAGO DEFENDER — The people that live here are resilient. We are fighters. If you’re from here, then you know, even when everyone counts us out, we find a way to rise.

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Chicago has always been a city with tenacity.

The people that live here are resilient. We are fighters. If you’re from here, then you know, even when everyone counts us out, we find a way to rise.We see the headlines. But we know who we are. It’s easy to get caught up in the storm. But this storm will pass.Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Strong Chicago! #ChicagoDefender #InThisTogether

The post The Chicago Defender Debuts “Stay Strong Chicago” Video appeared first on Chicago Defender.

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#NNPA BlackPress

LIVESTREAM: #SaveLocalJournalism — Publishers Discuss the Need for Strategy, Innovation and Community Support in the Era of COVID-19

NNPA NEWSWIRE — On Wednesday, May 6 at 1PM ET, four publishers from across the country, including Bobby Henry of Florida’s Westside Gazette, Sonny Messiah Jiles of the Houston Defender, Hiram Jackson of Real Times Media (whose publications include the Chicago Defender and five other regional weeklies in the U.S.) and Larry Lee of the Sacramento Observer, will participate in a special livestream broadcast to discuss the status of their operations as the global COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

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Tune in to view the livestream at 1PM ET, Wednesday, May 6, over Facebook and YouTube. An archive of the stream will also be made available.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As conditions around the globe worsen because of the coronavirus pandemic, publishers of Black-owned community newspapers and media companies and their staffs are struggling to sustain business operations that enable them to deliver important news and information to their readers, listeners and viewers.

On Wednesday, May 6 at 1PM ET, four publishers from across the country, including Bobby Henry of Florida’s Westside Gazette, Sonny Messiah Jiles of the Houston Defender, Hiram Jackson of Real Times Media (whose publications include the Chicago Defender and five other regional weeklies in the U.S.) and Larry Lee of the Sacramento Observer, will participate in a special livestream broadcast to discuss the status of their operations as the global COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

All four publishers and their media companies are members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association representing America’s Black press.

The broadcast will stream live over Facebook and YouTube and will include a lively and insightful discussion on the status of local community-based journalism. In particular, the panel will discuss the state and fate of Black-owned media companies.

As small business owners, these publishers faced significant challenges even before the economy took its current downward turn. However, there’s no secret that Black-owned small businesses have been essentially ignored when it comes to providing access to stimulus funding and small business loans.

Each of the publishers will discuss the vital role that Black-owned publications have served for the nearly two centuries (193 years) of the Black Press and why their role remains essential to the communities they serve.

Since the first issue rolled off the press in 1971, Henry’s Westside Gazette has maintained a high level of professional, insightful and reader-sensitive reporting that has gained the trust and respect of South Florida’s African American community.

The Houston Defender serves a city that’s home to nearly 1 million African Americans. Houston is consistently ranked as one of the top ten cities based on median household income, households earning more than $100,000 annually, business ownership, college graduates, and homeowners. Additionally, the city has enjoyed the lowest unemployment and home loan rejection.

At the leadership helm since 1981, Jiles has ensured that the Defender’s legacy as a publication that promotes the positive, analyzing problems and sharing solutions.

Jackson’s Real Times Media is a multimedia company and conglomerate of five publications: Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta Tribune, Chicago Defender, Michigan Chronicle, and New Pittsburgh Courier.

Further west, Lee’s Sacramento Observer is a past winner of the NNPA’s John B. Russwurm Award, which recognizes the Nation’s Top Black Newspaper. During its five decades of operation, the Sacramento Observer has been honored with over 600 local and national awards for journalism excellence and outstanding community service.

Tune in to view the livestream at 1PM ET, Wednesday, May 6, over Facebook and YouTube. An archive of the stream will also be made available.

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