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Category Archives: Giant Negros

From Prison to Poet

This is the uplifting story of one Reginald Dwayne Betts Jr., a stupid mistake, and a decision to move forward.

Yes, One Book Can Change Your Life, Even In Prison

A book of black poetry slides under a cell door in solitary confinement. And it changes everything.

Reginald Dwayne Betts Jr. goes by the name Dwayne. But for the majority of the nine years he spent in prison, he gave himself the name Shahid. It means “the witness” in Arabic.

At 16, Betts pled guilty to carjacking in Virginia and was in prison until he was 24. For many years, cultivating his identity — hard stuff for any teenager — was a mostly solitary endeavor. Books, and later poetry, became his teacher, his classroom and his peer.

“I read anything I could find. Poetry makes you reflect. Joseph Brodsky once wrote: ‘I have braved, for want of wild beasts, steel cages.’ That shit says everything that I would ever want to say about mass incarceration,” he told The Huffington Post in an interview last week.

In the decade since his release from prison, Betts, now 34, has published an award-winningmemoir about coming of age in prison, written two books of poetry, received undergraduate and MFA degrees and is currently in his final year at Yale Law School.

His upcoming book of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, will be released in October.

Learning has always been deeply important to Betts. He dreamed of playing point guard at Georgia Tech and becoming an engineer. He says numbers came easily to him and that as he grew, the two most important things to him were math and philosophy.

He started hanging out with a bad crew in his hometown of Suitland, Maryland and sneaking out of class at 16. At the time, he was taking a full load of challenging classes, including Physics, French 4 and AP U.S. History.

Everything changed on December 7, 1996. On a visit to the Springfield Mall in suburban Virginia about 20 miles from their hometown, Betts and a friend came across a man asleep in his car in the parking lot. They impulsively carjacked him and took off on what would prove to be one of the quickest roads to stalling one’s life as a teen.

At the time, carjacking in Virginia carried a maximum penalty of life in prison and the state had done away with parole. On December 8, one day after the carjacking, Betts stood before a judge and was charged with six felonies and nine years in prison.

The presiding judge had wise words for Betts, who recalled what he was told in a 2010 New Yorker article. The words are seared in his mind: “I don’t have any illusions that the penitentiary is going to help you, but you can get something out of it if you want to,” the judge said to the 16-year-old.

Due to lack of space for incoming juveniles, Betts was thrown into solitary confinement without a mattress, blanket or pillow. When he was pulled out 10 days later and moved to his cell block, Betts carried the only thing he had shown up with: a book by James Baldwin.

Betts poured himself into reading. He turned page after page of The Confessions of Nat Turner, Go Tell It on the Mountain and A Lesson Before Dying. He read George Orwell and every book by Charles Dickens. He inhaled classics like Of Mice and Men, The Grapes Of Wrath and The Jungle. He read the philosophy of Max Weber, Franz Fanon and C.L.R. James.…The Rest Here…

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Judge Joe Brown Goes to Jail

Joe…Being a Judge and Lawyer, should know better…

Oh well…The way some courts are behaving in this country…

It’s hard not to hold them in contempt.

Judge, you get promoted to Giant Negro status for your shout out to BLM!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Usain Bolt Kneecapped by Photographer on Segway

This one was definitely scary! A Segway weighs in at about 100lbs, and could do some serious damage running into your lower legs…

Now all we need is to find out that the Photographer was hired by Justin Gatlin! :)

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Passing the Torch…Amelia Boynton

The folks who led the Civil Rights Marches of the 50’s and 60’s are slowly dying out. Just a week after the death of Julian Bond, another has passed the torch to the next generation…

Amelia Boynton Robinson, third from right.

Civil Rights Legend Amelia Boynton Robinson Dead at 104

Amelia Boynton Robinson, a civil rights activist who helped lead the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march and was the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama, died early Wednesday at age 104, her son Bruce Boynton said.

Boynton Robinson was among those beaten during the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965 that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” State troopers teargased and clubbed marchers as they tried crossing the bridge. A newspaper photo featuring an unconscious Boynton Robinson drew wide attention to the movement.

“The truth of it is that was her entire life. That’s what she was completely taken with,” Bruce Boynton said of his mother’s role in shaping the civil rights movement. “She was a loving person, very supportive — but civil rights was her life.”

Amelia Boynton Robinson on Bloody Sunday in Selma after being knocked unconscious

Fifty years after “Bloody Sunday,” Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, held her hand as she was pushed across the bridge in a wheelchair during a commemoration.

“She was as strong, as hopeful, and as indomitable of spirit — as quintessentially American — as I’m sure she was that day 50 years ago,” Obama said Wednesday in a written statement. “To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example — that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote.”

Boynton Robinson, hospitalized in July after a stroke, turned 104 on Aug. 18. Her family said in a written statement that she was surrounded by loved ones when she died around 2:20 a.m. at a Montgomery, Alabama hospital.

In January, Boynton Robinson attended the State of the Union address as a special guest of Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, who said Boynton Robinson’s 1964 run for Congress paved the way for her as Alabama’s first elected black congresswoman. Boynton was the first black woman to run for Congress in the state and the first Alabama woman to run as a Democrat, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Sewell said in January that Boynton refused to be intimidated and ultimately saw the impact of her work when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. Boynton Robinson was invited as a guest of honor to attend the signing by President Lyndon B. Johnson…

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Julian Bond 1940-2015

Another of the giants of the Civil Rights Movement has died…

Julian Bond, Former N.A.A.C.P. Chairman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 75

JUlian Bond in his SNCC Days

Julian Bond, a former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a charismatic figure of the 1960s civil rights movement, a lightning rod of the anti-Vietnam War campaign and a lifelong champion of equal rights for minorities, died on Saturday night, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75.

Mr. Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a brief illness, the center said in a statementSunday morning.

He was one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

He moved from the militancy of the student group to the top leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, he was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer, college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.

He also served for 20 years in the Georgia Legislature, mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser.

Mr. Bond’s wit, cool personality and youthful face became familiar to millions of television viewers during the 1960s and 1970s. He attracted adjectives — dashing, handsome, urbane — the way some people attract money.

On the strength of his personality and quick intellect, he moved to the center of the civil rights action in Atlanta, the unofficial capital of the movement, at the height of the struggle for racial equality in the early 1960s.

Moving beyond demonstrations, he became a founder, with Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization in Montgomery, Ala. Mr. Bond was its president from 1971 to 1979 and remained on its board for the rest of his life.

When he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965 — along with seven other black members — furious white members of the House refused to let him take his seat, accusing him of disloyalty. He was already well known because of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s stand against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

That touched off a national drama that ended in 1966, when the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision ordered the legislature to seat him, saying it had denied him freedom of speech.

He went on to serve 20 years in the two houses of the legislature. As a lawmaker, he sponsored bills to establish a sickle cell anemia testing program and to provide low-interest home loans to low-income Georgians. He also helped create a majority-black congressional district in Atlanta.

He left the State Senate in 1986 after six terms to run for that seat in the United States House. He lost a bitter contest to his old friend John Lewis, a fellow founder of S.N.C.C. and its longtime chairman. The two men, for all their earlier closeness in the rights movement, represented opposite poles of African-American life in the South: Mr. Lewis was the son of an sharecropper; Mr. Bond was the son of a college president.

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tenn. His father, Horace Mann Bond, moved the family to Pennsylvania five years later, when he became the first African-American president of his alma mater, Lincoln University.

Julian Bond’s great-grandmother Jane Bond was the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer. Julian’s grandfather James Bond, one of Jane Bond’s sons, was educated at Berea and Oberlin Colleges and became a clergyman. His son Horace Mann Bond expected his own son Julian to follow in his footsteps as an educator, but the young man was attracted instead to journalism and political activism.

At Morehouse College, he plunged into extracurricular activities, but paid less attention to his studies. The civil rights movement provided a good excuse to drop out of college in 1961. He returned in the early 1970s to complete his English degree.

Dozens of his friends went to jail during his time with S.N.C.C. But he was arrested only once. In 1960, after word of student sit-ins at lunch counters in Greensboro, N.C., spread across the South, Mr. Bond and a few of his friends at Morehouse organized protests against segregated public facilities in Atlanta. He was arrested when he led a sit-in at the City Hall cafeteria.

Mr. Bond devoted most of the 1960s to the protest movement and activist politics, including campaigns to register black voters.

He prospered on the lecture circuit the rest of his life. He became a regular commentator in print and on television, including as host of “America’s Black Forum,” then the oldest black-owned show in television syndication.

In later years, he taught at Harvard, Williams, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania.

He is survived by his second wife, Pamela Sue Horowitz, a retired lawyer, and five children, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Neil deGrasse Tyson on racism in Australia

Australia has some problems with race. It isn’t new, and partially stems from a previously monolithic population. The treatment of the Aboriginal population is a historical disgrace.

Neil deGrasse Tyson uses science to destroy the age-old racist “monkey” slur once and for all

Adam Goodes, the Australian rules footballer jeered by crowds for his celebratory Indigenous dancing, became the topic of global conversation this month. Many of these conversations forced Australians to reexamine the country’s race problem, and shortly thereafter, a social media movement under the hashtag #IstandwithAdam was born.

On Monday, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on a panel for the Australian Broadcasting Association’s Q&A where he was asked to comment on Goodes and race relations today.

Tyson, who said he wasn’t at license to speak for Australia, offered, instead, a “cosmic” perspective on the news story.

“What we do in math is you separate the variables and what’s happening is all the variables are jumbled together and people are reacting but if you separate the variables, it can be revealing,” he said.

Tyson continued:

“For example, he is celebrating his score at the end of a game. Correct? I mean, during the game and he does it in a way that’s different from everyone else gesturally and, to me, that’s a form of freedom of expression, a freedom of speech. If you don’t like that, at some point you have to confess to yourself you’re not a fan of freedom of speech and so if you are going to do that, that’s a different country from what I understand Australia claims to be. That’s A.”

The astrophysicist then addressed an incident that occurred during the AFL’s Indigenous Round in 2013 in which a 13-year-old was escorted from the grounds after calling Goodes an “ape.” Tyson theorized that this was learned behavior — that the girl had likely picked up this slur from “an environment where it’d been said before.”

A recent news story supports Tyson’s theory: The Independent reported Sunday that the mother of the 13-year-old was defending the usage of the racial slur and asking Goodes to apologize for singling out her daughter. She called his behavior “ridiculous.”

“You know what she’s done, she’s selectively chosen things about apes that she thinks apply to him and not other things that would apply to people who are white,” Tyson said. “For example, apes have hair all over their bodies. You have never seen a black person with hair all over their bodies. Black people are some of the least hairiest people in this world! Who are the hairiest? It’s white people! With hair on the back, out of the neck. And so if you focussed on hair then you could call white people monkeys, right. It’s all racist conduct.”

Adam Goodes, Australian Rules footballer. Goodes’ father is of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry; his mother is an Indigenous Australian (Adnyamathanha and Narungga).

For those who have never seen it, this is the Traditional Maori War Dance performed by New Zealanders. This one, involving several hundred soldiers to honor their war dead in Afghanistan. Yeah, I know New Zealand is a different country, but it tells you something about cultural adoption and assimilation…

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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“Father is Home” Kenyans Welcome Obama

A VEndor selling T-Shirts and American Flags. The T-Shirts say “Father is Home”

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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