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Remembering 4/4/68

It was a time in America when white racial resentment was a critical factor in everyday life. Crowds of Blacks marched and boycotted, their voices demanding a future beyond blatantly illegal state and local racial practices in places like Birmingham and Selma and Greenwood and Montgomery.

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King, the man dubbed a savior by some and a communist by others, had been gunned down on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel.
King, the man dubbed a savior by some and a communist by others, had been gunned down on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel.

By Tamara Shiloh

It was a time in America when white racial resentment was a critical factor in everyday life. Crowds of Blacks marched and boycotted, their voices demanding a future beyond blatantly illegal state and local racial practices in places like Birmingham and Selma and Greenwood and Montgomery.

But on the night of April 4, 1968, those voices turned to cries. Some gathered in homes, hovering around radios and TV sets. Some converged on churches, where they prayed through the night. And others, fueled by despair and disappointment, took to the streets.

Later dubbed the Holy Week Uprising, bricks and Molotov cocktails were thrown, and fires burned in more than 100 US cities including Chicago, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Washington D.C. Armed National Guardsman patrolled the streets of Wilmington, Del., with orders to end violence in the most impoverished neighborhoods. As the days passed, renewed violent unrest would take place in nearly 200 cities.

That was the evening Walter Cronkite made an announcement that shocked America and the world: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and Nobel Prize winner, was shot and killed tonight in Memphis, Tenn.”

King, the man dubbed a savior by some and a communist by others, had been gunned down on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel. He was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within an hour. He was 39. No other news story during that time received as much coverage. King’s death became a topic of discussions for days to come.

“I remember Walter Cronkite coming on television, interrupting the program to announce that Dr. King had been shot and killed,” Robert Birt told TheAtlantic.com. “I remember my mother breaking down and crying on the sofa. I can remember, you know, waves of sorrow, anger welling up in my chest at that time.”

Vann R. Newkirk II, journalist and staff writer for The Atlantic, wrote: “It’s been over 50 years since then, but for many people, it feels like yesterday … Almost universally, when I talk to Black people who remember the assignation of Martin Luther King, they’re still wrestling with grief.”

On the morning of April 3, 1968, King took a flight from Atlanta to Memphis. He was “not in a particularly good state of mind,” NPR reported.

While the plane was about to take off, “there was a bomb threat that was specifically targeted at King and that delayed the departure of the flight,” according to author Joseph Rosenbloom. “They brought dogs onto the plane; they evacuated the passengers.” Although King was accustomed to receiving threats, this one, he thought, “might be a sign of something terrible to come.”

Some of King’s aides, Rosenbloom wrote, “said that they’ve never seen him more depressed than he was at that time.” King was certain that he was going to die, and soon. He was shot and killed 31 hours later.

Take a closer look at MLK’s final hours in Joseph Rosenbloom’s “Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours.”

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Statement on 80th Anniversary of D-Day

Representative Barbara Lee (CA-12) released the following statement on the 80th anniversary of D-Day. “80 years ago, one of the largest invasions in historical warfare—and the start to the end of World War II—took place. Today, we look back to the over 2,400 American lives lost on the beaches of Normandy, remember their stories, and honor their immense bravery.

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“D-Day will forever live on in history. May we honor their lives and all who have served by investing in veterans’ health care, economic security, and opportunity when they return home.”
“D-Day will forever live on in history. May we honor their lives and all who have served by investing in veterans’ health care, economic security, and opportunity when they return home.”

Washington, D.C.  – Representative Barbara Lee (CA-12) released the following statement on the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

“80 years ago, one of the largest invasions in historical warfare—and the start to the end of World War II—took place. Today, we look back to the over 2,400 American lives lost on the beaches of Normandy, remember their stories, and honor their immense bravery.

“My father, Lt. Col. Garvin A. Tutt, was a Buffalo soldier in the 92nd infantry, a racially segregated and Black-only division that was instrumental in the success of Normandy and the Allied advance. Today and every day, I think of him and all of the brave servicemembers who sacrificed for our country, even when our country didn’t love them back.

“D-Day will forever live on in history. May we honor their lives and all who have served by investing in veterans’ health care, economic security, and opportunity when they return home.”

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Activism

U.S. Rep. Kamlager-Dove Leads Discussion on Improving Black Student Learning, Test Scores

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

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Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).
Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).

By Lila Brown, California Black Media

On April 8, U.S. Congressmember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) moderated a roundtable focused on Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) strategies to improve Black student performance in classrooms.

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

Discussions at the event centered on LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and other educational initiatives aimed at enhancing learning and boosting test scores.

“The Black Student Achievement Plan is unique in that it takes a community-centered approach to uplifting Black students,” said Kamlager-Dove during the event held at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles.

“We must implement culturally responsive education in the classroom to challenge our students academically while giving them a sense of purpose,” she continued.

In 2023, nearly 70% of Black children in California fell below a passing mark on the state standardized English Language Arts exam, and only about 20% of those students were performing at grade level based on their scores on the math assessment test.

A variety of public education experts joined Kamlager on the panel, including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer at LAUSD; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor and Dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education; and Keith Linton, founder of the non-profit Boys to Gentlemen. 

Jonathan McGee, a student who sits on the BSAP Student Advisory Council, also spoke during the panel.

The BSAP was approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in February of the 2020-21 school year. Funds have been earmarked to address the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between Black students and their non-Black peers. Dating back to the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional, positive outcomes for Black students continue to lag behind district and national averages for their non-Black counterparts.

Edogun-Ticey spoke about broader investments the federal government is making in education that directly impact Black students through The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

‘This administration did not shy away from the idea that we need resources for support which means billions of dollars in investment for HBCUs,” she explained.

BSAP strategies include partnering with Black families and local community; supporting the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive and anti-racist practices; offering wrap-around support structures; and highlighting experiences that uplift the contributions of the Black community as motivation and models to develop positive Black student identity. Additionally, the BSAP provides increased staffing to support Black students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

“School districts across the country must push back against attacks on marginalized students by implementing programs like the BSAP, which should serve as a model for future initiatives,” Kamlager said.

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Activism

Legislature Advances, Renumbers, Sen. Bradford’s Reparation Freedmen’s Agency Bill

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor. 

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Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.

By California Black Media

On April 9, the California Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to advance Sen. Steven Bradford’s reparation legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1403, or the “California American Freedman Affairs Agency” bill.

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor.

Creation of the agency is one of more than 115  recommendations the nine-member California reparations task force included in its final report. The bill would require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant of an enslaved person in the United States would be confirmed.

SB 1403 would require proof of an “individual’s descendant status” to be a qualifying criterion for benefits authorized by the state for descendants, as stated in the bill’s language. To reach these goals, SB 1403 would mandate the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

In 2020, California established the first-in-the-nation task force to study reparations for African Americans.

Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study, was at the State Capitol to address the members of the Judiciary Committee as an expert witness. The attorney and scholar said the bill aims to serve individuals based on lineage rather than race.

“Today, I advocate with a sense of urgency and purpose for the passage of SB 1403, a groundbreaking bill poised to establish the California American Freedmen’s Agency,” Moore told the panel. “This agency symbolizes a crucial stride towards reparative justice, particularly for those whose lineages trace back to enslaved ancestors.”

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