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That John Brown Moment – 2017

Bleeding Kansas” , the open war between anti- and pro- slavery groups started when Pro-slavery forces moved into Kansas and attempted to steal the vote to make Kansas a slave state.

It marked a turning point because Abolitionists who were the victims of slaver violence and terrorism began to fight back resulting in virtual Civil Wars along the Kansas Missouri border.

Substitute pro-slavery for today’s Republicans – and see if this doesn’t sound familiar –

Through the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Congress kept a tenuous balance of political power between North and South. In May 1854, the Kansas–Nebraska Act, created from unorganized Indian lands and territories of Kansas and Nebraska, permitted residency by U.S. citizens, who were to determine their state’s slavery status and seek admission to the Union. Immigrants supporting both sides of the question arrived in Kansas to establish residency and gain the right to vote. However, Kansas Territory officials were appointed (1854) by the pro-slavery administration of PresidentFranklin Pierce (in office 1853–1857), and thousands of non-resident pro-slavery Missourians entered Kansas with the goal of winning elections. They captured territorial elections, sometimes by fraud and intimidation. In response, Northern abolitionist elements flooded Kansas with “free-soilers.” Anti-slavery Kansas residents wrote the first Kansas Constitution (1855) and elected the Free State legislature in Topeka; this stood in opposition to the pro-slavery government in Lecompton. The two Territorial governments increased as well as symbolized the strife of Bleeding Kansas…

It was rumored in the South that thousands of Northerners were arriving in Kansas. Believing these rumors, in November 1854, thousands of armed pro-slavery men known as “Border Ruffians” or “southern yankees”, mostly from Missouri, poured into the Kansas Territory and swayed the vote in the election for a non-voting delegate to Congress in favor of pro-slavery candidate John Whitfield.[4] The following year a Congressional committee investigating the election reported that 1729 fraudulent votes were cast compared to 1114 legal votes. In one location only 20 of the 604 voters were residents of the Kansas Territory. In another 35 were residents and 226 non-residents.

Not much different from the situation America is in today.

John Brown, who had led anti-slavery forces in Kansas led a raid against the Harper’s Ferry West Virginia Armory in 1859. While the raid failed, and John Brown was executed…It established that Abolitionists would no longer tolerate slaver abuses and crimes, and would strike back.

In America today there are several hate attacks by Trump’s supporters against minorities, LBGT people, immigrants, and progressives. Peaceful protests are increasingly met with violence.

From the headlines as of the last two weeks –

  1. ‘Not racist’ member of ‘White Privilege Club’ tries to run over Trumpcare protesters with motorcycle
  2. White St. Louis cop shot black off-duty officer — then claimed it was a ‘friendly fire’ incident  
  3. An unarmed black police officer shot in his front yard after identifying himself as a policeman by a white officer.
  4. Trump administration cuts funding to group fighting neo-Nazis
  5. The Philando Castile jury was stacked with pro-gun, pro-cop, middle-aged white people
  6. Texas man charged with hate crime for burning mosque
  7. TEXAS MADE ATTACKING COPS A HATE CRIME; THESE STATES COULD BE NEXT
  8. Man charged with hate crime in phone threat to Muslim-American …
  9. Vandalism At Naperville Deli Leads To Hate Crime Investigation
  10. Amnesty calls for NI laws to be bolstered as hate crimes soar
  11. Central NY hate crime assault came after men were asked to get off …
  12. Kansas man charged with hate crime in killing of Indian
  13. Man charged with 2 Bellevue hate crimes
  14. Fulton Mayor: Hate crime suspects previously made a threat on my …

A good summary of the attacks by Trump supporters and right wing haters is here.

This just in…

Ray Tensing trial: Jury deadlocks, mistrial declared in Ohio cop’s murder retrial

This list doesn’t include those not charged, or those attacks on whites by alt-right and neo-nazi Trump white wingers. Right wing sites continually use language encouraging violence against the left.

The rise of the Second KKK in the US only abated when the victims began to shoot back,

Was the shooting of Republican Scalese our “John Brown” moment?

I hope so.

 

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Puerto Rico Statehood – 97% Yes…But only 23% Vote

The Vote yesterday in Puerto Rico in a non-binding referendum to become a State is a bit misleading. 77% of the voters chose to sit out.

After years of fiscal mismanagement the “Colony” finds itself in dire straits. The vote, such as it was, is a pleas for help.

The likelihood that a Republican dominated US Congress would move forward to make Puerto Rico a state is nil. Much less the “Bigot in Charge” actually signing any bill to that effect being less than zero. It is not only driven by the fact that most Puerto Ricans vote Democrat, but the core racism of the Republicans in not wanting a Spanish language, ethnically Hispanic state to join the Union. Ergo, as we saw during the Chumph “election” – racism always wins with the white-right.

23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood

With schools shuttered, pensions at risk and the island under the authority of an oversight board in New York City, half a million Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to become America’s 51st state, in a flawed election most voters sat out.

With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, a landslide critics said indicated that only statehood supporters had turned out to the polls. Opposition parties who prefer independence or remaining a territory boycotted the special election, which they considered rigged in favor of statehood.

On an island where voter participation often hovers around 80 percent, just 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Voting stations accustomed to long lines were virtually empty on Sunday.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, said he planned to take the victory to Washington and press Congress to admit Puerto Rico to the union.

“From today going forward, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico,” he said in a brief televised speech after the voting results were announced.

But his political opponents who do not want statehood argued that heading to Congress with such lopsided results would actually hurt the governor’s cause.

“A 97 percent win is the kind of result you get in a one-party regime,” former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá said in an interview. “Washington will laugh in their faces.”

Puerto Rico has been a United States territory since 1898, when the island was acquired from Spain after the Spanish-American War. Sunday’s nonbinding referendum was the fifth time during Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States that Puerto Ricans voted on their future. They have generally chosen from statehood, independence and remaining a territory.

But the process is usually marred, with ballot language phrased to favor the party in office. In 1998, “none of the above” was the top winner. In 2012, 61 percent of counted votes went to statehood — and half a million ballots were left blank.

But this time, the vote came a few weeks after Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy in the face of $74 billion in debt and $49 billion in pension obligations it cannot pay. More than 150 public schools are being closed as a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans head for the mainland and those who remain brace for huge cuts to public services. Decisions are now in the hands of a bankruptcy judge.

Voters said that Puerto Rico needed the United States now more than ever.

“If there’s an earthquake in Puerto Rico, who is going to send the help? The Americans! This is their land!” said Gladys Martínez Cruz, 73, a retired tax clerk in San Juan’s Barrio Obrero neighborhood. “We need someone who is going to support us, send us money. There’s a lot of hunger in Puerto Rico, even with the help we get.”

Many Puerto Ricans, like Ms. Martínez, live off food stamps, public housing vouchers or other federal programs and worry that a change in political status could affect that aid. A huge publicity campaign warned voters that their citizenship could be at risk.

“I want my children and grandchildren to keep their American citizenship,” said Maira Rentas, a cardiac nurse in San Juan. “Little by little, with whatever votes we get, we have to try to become a state.”

Ana Velázquez, 50, a hospital secretary, said Puerto Rico’s economic problems were so great that they overshadowed other considerations, such as the language, culture and identity that could be lost if the island became a state.

“I don’t want to lose my hymn, my coat of arms, my flag. My beauty queen would no longer be ‘Miss Puerto Rico,’” Ms. Velázquez said. “I don’t see myself ever singing the United States national anthem. I really don’t. But Puerto Rico is in really bad shape, and it needs help.”

So she arrived at the same conclusion as many other Puerto Ricans: She did not vote.

Héctor Ferrer, the head of the Popular Democratic Party, which had urged a boycott, emphasized that eight out of 10 Puerto Rican voters chose to spend the day at church, on the beach or with their families. He argued that the governing party had manipulated the ballot language and even election law to fix the results.

“It was rigged, and not even with trickery could they win,” Mr. Ferrer said.

The ballot option asked voters who wanted to remain a United States territory to say they wished for Puerto Rico to stay “as it is today, subject to the powers of Congress.”

“The title of the law that made this plebiscite is ‘process to decolonize Puerto Rico,’ and one of the alternatives is ‘colony’ as defined by them,” Mr. Ferrer said.

Mr. Ferrer’s party complained about the ballot choices to the Justice Department, which withheld $2.5 million in funding for Sunday’s voting and had urged the Puerto Rican government to hold off until the ballot could be reviewed. Puerto Rico made changes but moved forward without money or approval from the Justice Department.

 

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The Black History of Memorial Day

Another bit of black history and contribution to America…”forgotten”.

Image result for black civil war soldiers

The black history of Memorial Day has been nearly wiped from public memory — here’s the real story

Union General John Logan is often credited with founding Memorial Day. The commander-in-chief of a Union veterans’ organization called the Grand Army of the Republic, Logan issued a decree establishing what was then named “Decoration Day” on May 5, 1868, declaring it “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Today, cities across the North and South claim credit for establishing the first Decoration Day—from Macon, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia to Carbondale, Illinois. Yet, a key story of the holiday has been nearly erased from public memory and most official accounts, including that offered by the the Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the spring of 1865, African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina—most of them former slaves—held a series of memorials and rituals to honor unnamed fallen Union soldiers and boldly celebrate the struggle against slavery. One of the largest such events took place on May first of that year but had been largely forgotten until David Blight, a history professor at Yale University, found records at a Harvard archive. In a New York Times article published in 2011, Blight described the scene. While it is difficult to pinpoint the precise birthplace of the holiday, it is fair to say that ceremonies like the following are largely erased from the American narrative of Memorial Day.

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

This story of Memorial Day, also reported by Victoria M. Massie of Vox, was not merely excluded from the history books but appears to have been actively suppressed. The park where the race course prison camp once stood was eventually named Hampton Park after the Confederate General Wade Hampton who became South Carolina’s governor following the civil war.

In 1966, former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York to be the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Then, in 1971, Congress established “Memorial Day” as an official federal holiday to honor all Americans who have fallen in U.S. Wars. In an article published in 2013 on Snopes.com, writer David Mikkelson used these official declarations, as well as the decree issued by Logan, to bolster his argument that African-Americans in Charleston probably should not be credited for establishing the holiday. He further noted that numerous other towns and cities claim to have created the first ceremonies. Yet, Mikkelson’s reasoning fails to account for the systematic and proven appropriation, erasure and distortion of African-American history by presidents, lawmakers, generals and scholars alike. The fact that the role of African-Americans is missing from the official record is precisely the problem. At the very least, the contribution of Black people in Charleston has been erased from the public narrative of Memorial Day and deserves to be recognized.

World War II veteran Howard Zinn argued in 1976 that the holiday has since become an uncritical celebration of war-making. “Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees,” he wrote. “Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.”

Yet Memorial Day has other troubling modern-day manifestations. Today, while confederate symbols across the United States are increasingly rejected as racist, civil war reenactors still gather in Charleston for a public ceremony, held shortly after Memorial Day, to honor the confederacy on the anniversary of General Stonewall Jackson’s death in 1863. The ceremony is slated to take place next weekend, even after last summer’s white supremacist massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in nine African-Americans were slaughtered.

Charleston officials have taken some small steps towards recognizing the city’s African-American history. Following a community campaign, the city of Charleston finally held its first formal commemoration of the African-American roots of Memorial Day in 2010, and the following year it established a plaque. Yet, the history of former slaves’ efforts to give the union dead a proper burial is missing from the park’s official history, made available online by the Parks Conservancy.

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, told AlterNet, “Many of the issues we have around race are based on the fact that these stories have not been told. It sends the message that the contributions of African-Americans are not valued and respected.”

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Black History

 

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Internet Myths And Slavery

White supremacists and confederacy apologists continually try and introduce false narratives about slavery. Not much different than Holocaust deniers. Here is an interesting video debunking some of those myths.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Black History

 

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More Make Believe History From the Chumph

Much of the Civil War was fought in Virginia. Major Battles in Northern Virginia include two at Bull Run and the first and second Manassas,

The Chumph’s Golf Course is located along the Potomac River about 20 miles outside of DC, and 20 miles from Leesburg. The closest point of any major fighting would have been a “Ball’s Bluff” near Leesburg. The closest documented skirmish (Less than 100 soldiers involved)  was on a place then called “Confederate Ridge”, overlooking the Loudon Valley about 10 miles away, although the locals, split in their alliance to the USA and the Confederacy were know to take a potshot or two at each other. For those interested in Civil War History, a good summary of fighting in Loudon County is here. None of it was closer than 15 – 20 miles of the Chumph Golf Course.

It is a nice Golf Course though…Or it was, before the Chumph bought it.

Trump has a Civil War memorial on his DC golf course — for a battle that never happened

resident Donald Trump was roundly mocked yesterday for the historical illiteracy evident in his Andrew Jackson quotes. Now Golf Digest is revisiting an earlier scandal involving Trump’s ignorance of the Civil War.

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” reads the inscription a faux historical marker on the course of the Trump National Golf Club, according to the New York Times. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The battle never happened. “No. Uh-uh. No way,” Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association told the New York Times. “Nothing like that ever happened there.”

When Trump was informed by the New York Times that three different local historians had said as much, Trump replied, “How would they know that? Were they there?”

Trump’s historical alt-facts are reminiscent of the major scandal when White House counselor Kellyanne Conway complained the press hadn’t covered the so-called Bowling Green Massacre.

The massacre never happened.

Not to be outdone, White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly referred to an attack by Islamist terrorists in Atlanta.

The attack never happened.

The fake historical marker on Trump’s golf course, commemorating the fallen in a battle that never happened, was signed by Donald Trump. “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

 

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Color Lines – Appearances Can Be Decieving

Race in America is a amorphous thing. Most likely what “classification” you fall into will be based on your looks.

I have a family relationship with the Shinnecock Tribe, and from the pic below, knew this author’s mother, and possibly her father. The Reservation is pretty small, and all of the teens often gathered together at the beach. There was a NYC connection as well. I am not Native American (Not one drop according to my DNA test), however one of my Uncles married a Native American and lived on the reservation. I spent a number of summers both working and visiting the Reservation and am an Honorary Member of the Tribe. Which doesn’t mean anything in terms of identity, but does mean because of my Uncle’s marriage I have a few cousins there.

My family has everything from blonde haired, blue eyed to deepest ebon. The first of which caused a lot of problems back in the day. As a teen, I struggled with the existence of both black and “white” relatives. To understand that, you have to understand the historical context of the 60′ black “awakening”.

I don’t share Ms Joseph’s thoughts about Donezal. The only thing I see there is a tragedy.

Stealth sisterhood: I look white, but I'm also black. And I don't hate Rachel Dolezal

Stealth sisterhood: I look white, but I’m also black. And I don’t hate Rachel Dolezal

I am white, I am black, I am Native American. And I know what it’s like for people not to see all of who I am

On a hot, humid New York City morning in 1980, I stood with my mother in the checkout line of an A&P supermarket near our home. As she pushed our groceries along the cashier’s belt with me trailing behind, mom realized she had forgotten her wallet at home, but she had her checkbook. Leaving me standing alone in the line for a moment while she saw the manager to have her check approved, the clerk refused to bag our groceries and hand them to me. She was black, and I was white. “These groceries belong to that woman over there,” the woman nodded towards my mother. “They ain’t yours.” Confused, I said, “But that’s my mother. I’ll take them for her.” She looked me up and down. “No,” she said, her voice cold.

The clerk refused to believe that indeed I belonged to, and came from, my black mother, until mom returned to find me choking back tears. She gave the clerk a tongue lashing, which was not her style, and we left the market.  Later, mixed Native American and black children threw stones at me near my home on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation as I rode my bike. They yelled, “Get off our land, white girl!” These painful and strange experiences gave me my first taste of racial prejudice, and they have stayed with me all these years.

I am a child of many nations. I am white, I am black, I am Native American. I am West Indian, German, Irish. Brown and light together — integrated, not inter-racial, because race means nothing when you come from everywhere.

This Sunday’s New York Times Race-Related section ran a fascinating piece on DNA and racial identity by West Chester University professor Anita Foeman. For the past decade, she has asked hundreds of people to take part in ancestry DNA tests, and to date, over 2,000 have participated. “But first,” she wrote, “I ask people how they identify themselves racially. It has been very interesting to explore their feelings about the differences between how they define themselves and what their DNA makeup shows when the test results come in.”

Those results are often startling to the subjects and rife with racial stereotypes, Foeman found. According to her studies, some who came up with surprise Asian heritage in spite of looking white or brown noted, “That’s why my son is good at math!” Others who explored African heritage responded, “I thought my biological father might be black; I heard he liked basketball.”  Many of us harbor deeply-rooted prejudices that we aren’t even aware of, until it matters to us.

I don’t remember what mom said that day in the supermarket, but I can tell you that while she had been the object of many, many racist remarks and challenging situations in her life, she was not entirely prepared for what happened that day. That’s not to say she didn’t talk about the reality of how our family was different from others. To try to address the dearth of literary references to kids who looked like me, my mother physically altered my childhood books, using markers to make one parent brown and other other white, while the child originally drawn remained white-appearing, like me. But the scene in the supermarket still took her by surprise.

Confrontations over race can still catch Americans unprepared, such as when Rachel Dolezal, the now-former head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, appeared on the media radar. Dolezal, who stopped by Salon recently to talk with me on her book tour, was born white but identifies as black and calls herself “transracial.”

Dolezal was “outed” two years ago by her biological parents for not being black as she had claimed, and subsequently resigned from the NAACP. She became a polarizing figure under heavy media scrutiny as she appeared to dodge questions about her unconventional chosen identity. She has been unable to continue to work as a university instructor of African and African American art history, and to this day is despised by many observers, black and white, for posing as a black person.

My Salon colleague D. Watkins, an African American writer from Baltimore, wondered why Dolezal couldn’t just “use her whiteness to advocate for black people,” rather than making up and living in her own fantasy world where race and ethnicity no longer cause any social or political delineations. He is one of many to hold this opinion, and it’s one I agree with.

Rebecca Carroll wrote for Dame in 2015 about what she calls Dolezal’s “apocalyptic, White privilege on steroids” with a palpable anger shared by many people of color. When I talked to my childhood writing mentor Barbara Campbell, a former New York Times reporter who is African American and has two multiracial sons, she wondered about Dolezal with a mix of anger and genuine confusion. “What is wrong with that woman? I feel empathy for her, because she is clearly delusional, but she can step out into the world as a white woman any time she wants to stop being ‘black.’ Black women don’t have that luxury.”

Campbell explained that growing up in St. Louis, she had many light-skinned relatives who resembled Dolezal and could “pass” for white, but otherwise lived their lives as people of color. “They would go to ‘work white,’ because they could earn more money and get better-paying jobs, but then they would go home and be black.”

But this Dolezal thing — this is a horse of another color entirely. Why, wondered many, would someone white want to live within the very real challenges of being black in America, when she had a choice? Dolezal’s explanation? She doesn’t define herself by race, just a feeling of affinity with the black culture she’s always had.

As one might expect, the last few years have been tough since her exposure, she told me, noting her newly adopted legal name, Nkechi Amare Diallo, which she claimed was a “gift” to her by a Nigerian man. When she arrived at our offices, it was hard to know what to think, or believe. Frankly, it was hard to feel any animosity at all, despite the vitriolic sentiments many of my dark and light-skinned family, friends and colleagues had for Dolezal. She arrived carrying her beautiful, light brown baby son, Langston Hughes (Yes. Stop. That’s his name. What can you do?), who was cared for by her adopted black sister, Esther. Dolezal appeared like any other tired, working mom. I offered her coffee, and empathy, rather than taking an adversarial approach.

I did suggest, however, that some of the passages in her new book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World,” were outrageous and possibly specious. Dolezal shrugged. “I don’t expect everyone to agree with or believe me,” she said. Among her claims: she grew up living in a tee pee in Montana (my Native American percentage shudders). She was beaten by her parents and forced to weave and wear a coat loomed from dog hair. She identified with people of color from an early age, after reading her grandmother’s National Geographic magazines, and spread mud on her face to try to feel what it was like to have brown skin. Dolezal has said some very polemical things, some — dare I say — dumb things, that do not make her a sympathetic figure. Comparing her white Montana childhood to what chattel slaves experienced, even if indeed she was miserable, is a stretch by any measure, and engendered rightful animus from real black folks…Read the Rest Here

 

 
 

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Black…And Jewish – Hebrew Israelites

Black folks can be Jewish. Some claim black folks from Ethiopia were one of the original tribes. This fascinating history is about the formation of what was probably the first black Jewish Congregation in America.

Hebrew Israelite congregants sing during Sabbath worship services, with elders and community leaders nearest the pulpit.

When Passover Is About American Slavery

A plantation houseboy grew up to be a prophet—and inspired a religious movement.

More than 1,000 men and women gathered this past week in coastal Virginia to celebrate Passover and retell the ancient story of how Moses led the Israelites from bondage to freedom. They were observing holiday traditions that Jews all across the world observe—only these celebrants were not Jews.

Their memories of slavery and liberation concerned not a distant past in Egypt, but a story set in the United States. Their prophet was an African American man born into slavery. He preached to a Christian audience, telling them to incorporate Hebraic practices into their faith out of a desire to return to the true Church as he envisioned it, and based his new Church on both Old and New Testaments. Their Promised Land was a plot in Virginia where descendants of black men and women could gather and be safe from the scourge of white supremacy.

Temple Beth El in Belleville is the headquarters of the Church of God and Saints of Christ, the largest and oldest organization of Hebrew Israelites in the country. Hebrew Israelites are people of color, mostly African American, who identify as descendants of the biblical Israelites. Passover is among the holiest weeks on this group’s calendar. Members travel from across the country and abroad to spend days in near-constant worship in a place they call Canaan Land, after the land promised by God to Abraham in the book of Genesis.

“Just as Israelites of the Bible had their Land of Canaan filled with milk and honey, this is our land of milk and honey,” said Melvin Smith, 46, a fourth-generation congregant from nearby Portsmouth, Virginia. “This is our refuge.”

The group remains little known outside its own ranks, despite over a century of history, tens of thousands of members, and outposts that fan across America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Religion scholars are given scarce, if any, access to the organization’s archives. Leadership guards the legacy of the group closely. Photography is rarely permitted inside sanctuaries. Internal materials, like the group’s unique hymnal, are not to be reproduced or shared with outsiders.

“The Church of God and Saints of Christ is one of the most important religious bodies in America that few people have ever heard of,” said Jacob Dorman, professor of history at the University of Kansas and author of Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions.

At an evening service last week, hundreds of congregants filed into pews. The sanctuary, opened only on special holidays, was filled nearly to capacity. Saints, as members call themselves, were dressed in the formal garb that has been part of their tradition for generations. The men wore sashes across their shoulders, long-tailed suit jackets, black kippahs, and white gloves. Some wore thin white prayer shawls, or tallits, on their necks. The women were dressed in sashes, brown pleated skirts, and brightly colored headdresses fixed with glittering brooches.

At the center of the room was a large Torah ark decorated with a fabric banner that read “Shalom” in Hebrew, flanked by two seven-pronged menorahs. The chief rabbi, a retired math professor named Phillip E. McNeil, stood behind the pulpit. At 75, he exudes a quiet authority. He spoke lightly into a microphone and the crowd hushed. They had been worshipping together for a week straight. “Are you tired yet?” McNeil joked. “There’s nothing like worshiping the God of Israel, is there?”

A younger evangelist followed McNeil onto the stage and picked up the Passover theme, which ran through almost every sermon. “I’m here to remember that day we came out of Egypt,” Frank Johnson said. “In every age, He’s still passing over, still executing judgment, still demanding that the oppressed go free.”

A choir of hundreds broke into song, complex four-part a capella sung by heart. The lyrics of the songs are composed by congregants and delivered to them, it’s said, through divine dreams. This evening’s choir master pumped his fists in the air, readjusting the kippah on his head as music filled the sanctuary.

Collin McGhie, from North Carolina, sang along, shifting his weight from right to left and clapping. McGhie was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and joined this organization six years ago. “I come here for a spiritual recharge,” McGhie said.

This past week, it seemed that not only McGhie but the entire congregation had come to spiritually recharge and regain its balance. Last year, the group’s leader, Chief Rabbi Jehu August Crowdy, died suddenly just before Passover. He was only 46. The organization reeled. McNeil was quickly selected to take his place. This Passover marked a year since McNeil assumed the position.

The late Crowdy was the great-grandson of a man named William Saunders Crowdy, who founded the Church of God and Saints of Christ in 1896. He was born in Maryland in 1847 and spent his childhood as an enslaved houseboy on a plantation where his mother was a cook. As a free adult, Crowdy was one of a generation of spiritual leaders who taught that African Americans were descended from the Israelites of the bible—and that they should return to this ancient way of life….Read More About This Fascinating Group Here

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Black History, Giant Negros

 

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