Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dred Scott: Statue of Freedom

Photo By Raymond House
In the mid 1800’s a legal issue in the state of Missouri involving slavery further flamed the debate of whether to abolish it and eventually led to the Civil War.  At the center of the controversy was Dred Scott.  He had been born a slave around 1799 to the Blow family in Virginia.  After the family relocated to Saint Louis they sold Scott to John Emerson.  When Emerson died Scott tried to buy his freedom from the estate of Emerson’s wife who inherited him as property. The attempt was unsuccessful and in 1846 with the help of legal representation, Scott filed suit in the Saint Louis Circuit Court. The basis of his argument hinged on the fact that he had been taken by his owner from the slave state of Missouri into areas where slavery was against the law. This was a violation of “Once free, always free”, a common law doctrine that had been previously recognized by the courts. The law made it illegal for slaves who had ever been freed to be enslaved again.  Under the ownership of John Emerson, Scott had lived with him in the free-state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin.  The governing entities in anti-slavery areas also supported the view that time spent by slaves in free-states and territories made them free. Since there were no laws within their boundaries to govern the possession of slaves, they believed that slave owners with slaves in their jurisdictions forfeited their rights to own them.  Without a legal precedence of someone trying to obtain their freedom after leaving a free area and returning to a slave state, the court had to determine a course of action.  In 1847 the case went to trial and despite the favorable legal presence of the Once Free, Always Free Law and the strong anti-slavery sentiments of abolitionists, the judgment went against Scott and he remained a slave. However, due to the evidence of hearsay discovered after the verdict, the judge ordered a re-trial.  In the second trial, citing the fact that Scott had been wrongfully enslaved while living in free-areas a jury decided to grant him his freedom.  Displeased with the decision, his owner appealed it and in 1852 the Missouri Supreme Court overturned it.  The court stated that “Once free, always free”, which had been adhered to for the previous 28 years was no longer applicable.  Scott was returned to a life of slavery. Since Scott’s owner lived in New York, his lawyer was able to have the case retried under appeal in the federal district court. Another trial was held. Nevertheless, the original decision was upheld, Scott lost his case and again was denied his freedom.  In 1857 the case went to the United States Supreme Court. It decided against awarding Scott his freedom too. The judge ruled that no person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the United States. Furthermore, since he was not considered a citizen, it was illegal for him to file suit in a federal court. The court also concluded that granting Scott his freedom after he temporarily lived in anti-slavery areas, would have denied his rightful owner of possessing his property, which would have been a violation of the Missouri Compromise.  Still considered as the property of the newly married heiress Irene Emerson, Scott's status was reaffirmed to be that of a slave.  Emerson's marriage prior to the Supreme Court verdict was the start of an unexpected turn toward freedom for Scott.  Emerson's husband was an abolitionist and had been unaware that his wife owned the most controversial slave in the country. After finding out, he and his wife decided to return Scott to his original owners, the Blow family.  The Blow family had also become abolitionists and just four months after the Supreme Court ruling they released Scott and his wife Harriet.  Finally after years of fighting court battles as a slave Scott was free. In September 1858 he went to work as a porter and less than two years later he died from tuberculosis. In 1863, a few years after Scott's death the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order by President Lincoln started the process of freeing all slaves.

Interestingly, it was in the court of law that Scott pursued his liberty, but it was through the court of changing public opinion that he gained it. As the progressive attitude to abolish slavery grew it persuaded the people who owned Scott to set him free.  Perhaps it’s fitting where the statue of Scott and his wife erected in 2012 is located. 155 years after its ruling to keep him enslaved the statue of Dred Scott stands in the yard of the Saint Louis Old Courthouse. Ironically, as a lifeless sculpture he has gained more freedom outside the courthouse than he was able to as a living person inside of it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Smoking Gun: The George Zimmerman Case/Trayvon Martin Video

              Hear the Smoking Gun Evidence in the George Zimmerman Case!

                                                         Kel-Tec PF-9 

Only minutes after George Zimmerman made a phone call to the Sanford Police Department to report Trayvon Martin as a suspicious person, their paths briefly crossed and Martin’s life suddenly ended. Since it became a major story in the media people all over the world have wondered what really happened that night.  According to Zimmerman, he killed Martin in self-defense shortly after Martin tried to take his firearm. Zimmerman claims that Martin went for his concealed weapon when it became exposed during a struggle.

Now, with the trial fully underway, new clues have emerged from previously released evidence. They cast doubt on Zimmerman's assertion that Martin tried to take his gun, which he says was in his holster. The clues arise from the very call that the neighborhood watchman made moments before the shooting.  While it’s not a secret, it is a mystery that the evidence isn't more widely known. Especially, since the call revealing it was released and broadcast repeatedly in the news. One possible explanation is that listeners have been distracted by conversation. The startling clues are faintly heard in the background of the on-going dialogue between Zimmerman and the dispatcher. I’m not a detective nor am I an attorney. Neither am I familiar with all of the prosecution’s discovery,  but I would venture to say that one of the most damning pieces of evidence in the murder case against George Zimmerman is that recorded phone call.  After carefully listening to it again, I am convinced that the distinct and compelling noise heard in it is the smoking gun. It’s those sounds that likely led to the second-degree murder charge against him and could very well lead to a conviction.

   Listen for yourself and decide. (Stereo headphones enhances the quality of sound).

At the 2:00 minute mark of the recording Zimmerman is still in his vehicle while giving directions for arriving officers to get to his location. Within a few seconds he abruptly uses an expletive as he states for the first time that Martin is running. A second later what sounds like the following noises are heard, a vehicle door opening, an open door alert sounding, and the door of a vehicle closing.  Next Zimmerman’s voice is heard slightly straining as he continues to talk to the dispatcher while moving to get out of a vehicle.  Apparently tracking Martin movements, he reports to the dispatcher where the teen is running.  The dispatcher then asks Zimmerman if he’s following him. Zimmerman responds, “Yeah.” The dispatcher says, “Okay, we don’t need you to do that” and Zimmerman’s says, “Okay.” As there is no obvious change in the background noise, there is no way to confirm that Zimmerman discontinued following Martin. The dispatcher says, “Alright sir what is your name?” “George,” Zimmerman responds.  For a second time Zimmerman states that Martin is running. The dispatcher asks Zimmerman his last name.  When he responds, the evidence that has been largely unheard by listeners boldly speaks, perhaps as a chilling prelude to the heart-wrenching screams heard on the 911 call shortly before Martin is shot.  At the 2:56 mark on the recording as Zimmerman states his last name with particular emphasis, what sounds like the mechanisms of a gun are clearly heard. Almost simultaneously, Zimmerman seemingly preoccupied with doing something sounds frustrated, as he utters two words in a very low voice.  One sounds like the expletive, “s**t” and the other is “no.” A few seconds later tapping noises are heard. The noises are heard intermittently for approximately 22 seconds until the 3:23 mark on the recording.  The call ends shortly thereafter.

It's circumstantial audio evidence, but it can be just as compelling as visual evidence. Obviously the prosecution would have to convince a jury that the noise heard is Zimmerman preparing his firearm.  If gun experts can testify that the sounds are consistent with preparing that type of gun for shooting, it would be a start toward persuading a jury.  Furthermore, if they could re-create the same kind of noise heard, using Zimmerman's own gun, it would be very powerful testimony. Since there is no visual evidence, the prosecution would also likely argue that the context in which these sounds occur make the accusations that Zimmerman was getting his gun ready for use more probable. How Zimmerman's weapon was introduced into the confrontation is an important point. If Zimmerman prepared his gun with the intent to pursue Martin without provocation, at that point he engaged in premeditated criminal activity. If that's the way it happened, Zimmerman's unlawful behavior subsequently led to the death of Martin, who was unarmed, not committing a crime, and running away from him.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin Plaques Presented

On Friday May 25, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, the parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was shot and killed during an encounter with neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman on February 26, were presented with twin plaques at a Stop the Violence rally in East Saint Louis, Illinois. Martin, who is from East St. Louis and Fulton were in town to support the campaign against youth violence. The two were presented with the plaques at the North End Missionary Baptist Church by friends from the neighborhood where Martin grew-up.

The plaques read-Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, as your friends we also mourn the loss of your son, Trayvon. In your time of need, we are an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. We stand with you, we support your fight for justice and we pray that God will continue to be your strength. 

Photo By: Linda Gardner
Story By:Raymond House

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Black, the most mysterious, the most abundant, and the most powerful color in the universe.  It's no wonder that Black people, who are born in more shades than any other race, are the most colorful people in the world.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Triangular Affair

Being a third wheel in a love triangle is no way to roll. It’s geometrically unbalanced and physically unsafe.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ernie Davis: The Fast Track to History

Ernie Davis was one of the fastest and best running backs to ever play college football. Experiencing racial hatred on the field along the way, he led Syracuse to its first national championship in 1961. Davis was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. He was also the first to be drafted first in an NFL draft. His career and life were cut short by Leukemia. Davis is remembered as a player who lived his life with dignity, grace and compassion. He took the fast track to into NFL history. Even though he never ran a yard in a professional game, the Cleveland Browns honored him by retiring his number. His story is told in the movie The Express: The Ernie Davis Story.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Communication: On The Road To Love

On the path to relationships the importance of good communication cannot be over-stated.Whether we choose to go a new route with someone we have chemistry with or an old one with someone we have history with, learning to be a better communicator will guide us to happiness on the road to love......

Sunday, April 22, 2012

House Family Memorial Tribute

Every person reading this blog has a relative who has died, who is dying or who will die unnecessarily from a dietary related illness. In many cases where our family members have died, many of the deaths were preventable. In many of the cases where our family members are dying now, many of the deaths are still preventable. In many of the future cases where our family members will die, many of the deaths will be preventable. It's unfortunate, but too many African Americans with and without dietary related illness, are feeding their mouth with one hand, while digging their grave with the other.

As you view this memorial tribute, I ask that you keep in mind just how much these illnesses have affected all of our lives. How much they have torn away at the fabric of our families, destroying the health of our parents and grandparents, of husbands and wives, of sisters and brothers and sons and daughters. This short tribute follows the long journey from the places where some of my relative's lives ended to the places they were laid to rest.


Friday, April 20, 2012

George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist

George Washington Carver was born a slave in Missouri. A year after his birth, the emancipation proclamation ended slavery. At liberty to pursue a formal education, he enrolled at Iowa College. He was the first African American to do so. After receiving a Master of Science degree in bacterial botany, Carver went on to discover over 300 uses for the peanut and over 100 for sweet potatoes. One of his more timely discoveries was his development of the crop rotation method. In the early 1900's soil was being depleted by the continual planting of cotton and tobacco crops. Carver’s valuable technique prevented further depletion and helped the economic recovery of the South. During a time when the efforts toward farming by Black men was all physical, Carver’s used his intelligence as a scientist to prove that African Americans had something more to offer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hail to the First Black Cardiologist: Dr. Daniel H. Williams

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was a doctor of firsts at a time when Blacks were second class citizens. Amid the lack of opportunity for Negroes in the mid to late 1800’s Dr. Williams was the first African American Cardiologist. In 1893 he completed the first successful open heart surgery in the United States. He founded Provident Hospital in Chicago, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States.  He also co-founded the National Medical Association for African American doctors. Dr. Williams’ legacy was noted by Stevie Wonder in the song “Black Man” on the Songs in the Key of Life Album. Hail to the First Black Cardiologist!

Vivien Thomas: A Janitor's Journey

Vivien Thomas was an Amazing African American. Wait till you hear what he accomplished. He had no medical training or college education. Skilled as a carpenter, initially he was hired to perform janitorial work. While working in a medical lab at Vanderbilt University, he was allowed to assist a doctor with research. There, Thomas worked towards finding a way to treat Blue Baby Syndrome, a life threatening disease affecting infants. In 1944 after developing and perfecting a life-saving surgical procedure, Thomas guided Dr. Alfred Blalock, the very doctor that hired him, through the successful completion of the groundbreaking surgery. Because of his contribution to the field of medicine he was given an honorary doctorate degree. As the Instructor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical School, he trained surgeons at one of the best medical programs in the country.Starting out as a janitor with only a high school diploma his journey was quite an accomplishment. His inspiring story is told in the HBO movie, Something the Lord Made.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Health: The True Treasure Of Life

It's a gem, a gift from God. It exceeds the worth of any amount of wealth. It's more beautiful than any person and is far more popular. There is nothing that we can do that doesn't require some aspect of it. It allows us to navigate the course of our lives, visually through our sight, mentally through our thoughts and physically through our movement. It allows us to form relationships with the people we love, vocally through our speech, audibly through our hearing and emotionally through our hearts. It's because of our health that we are able to experience the essence of our being.  Health, the true treasure of life, value it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Twists and Turns of This Life : Tracy Martin

Growing up in East St. Louis Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin lived in our neighborhood.  Along with the other kids on our block , we played basketball right across the street from my house. On 21st Street and Caseyville Avenue, as children, we were carefree. Back then, none of us ever would have imagined in our wildest nightmare what would happen  more than thirty years later.  We could not have forseen that Tracy would have a son who would be murdered, that it would spark nationwide protests and that it would even be commented on by the President of the United States (who would be Black).  If anyone would have told us then that this would happen, we would not have believed it. 

When I called Tracy to express my condolences over his son's death, it was surreal. In this world we never know what’s going to happen to us, or to the people we know. The twists and turns of this life can never be predicted.  We must believe and trust that God will navigate us through them, even in our darkest hour.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cam Newton: Passing Judgement


In college Cam Newton had been dogged by allegations of academic cheating and stealing. Despite the controversy he won the Heisman Trophy and was the first player selected in the 2010 NFL draft (Carolina Panthers).  In the spring of 2011 he visited the NFL Combine, the place where NFL draft picks perform athletic and mental skill tests for NFL coaches, general managers and scouts. Newton’s performance was horrible, convincing some experts that he was not worthy of winning the Heisman and others that he didn’t have the skill set to even play in the NFL. Newton was criticized after his first appearance in an NFL pre-season game by a  sportswriter who wrote that he was too hesitant.
In the regular season as it turned out , Newton was anything but hesitant. He came out firing. In his first two NFL starts he passed for over 400 hundreds yards in each game, something that had never been done by a rookie. Three games into the 2011 season Newton had already passed for 1,000 yards, another NFL record. Cam Newton went on set the NFL passing yardage mark for rookies, passing for almost 4000 yards in a season. In the process Newton rushed for 14 touchdowns, the most in a season by any quarterback in NFL history. Whether or not he made mistakes in his collegiate career Cam Newton had been judged prematurely and condemned to fail. One mistake he didn't make, was allow what other people thought to become his reality. Instead he responded by having the best rookie season of any NFL quarterback in the history of the sport.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ben Carson: A Mind Is A Powerful Thing To Use

Ben Carson was at the bottom of his class in middle school. In fact, of all the students at his school he was considered to be one of the dumbest. It wasn’t until his mother required him to read two library books a week and write a report on each one that his grades dramatically improved and landed him at the top of his class. Graduating from high school with honors he wanted to become a doctor, but another problem threatened his future career. He had a very bad temper. By harnessing the power of his mind through prayer and determination, he worked hard ro control his violent rage. With discipline Ben Carson became well-educated and went on to become a doctor. He made medical history in 1987 by becoming the first surgeon to successfully separate Siamese twins connected at the back of their heads. At the age of 32 he became Johns Hopkins’ youngest Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ben Carson leaped from the bottom of his class to the top of  the medical field as the foremost brain surgeon in the world. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the medical field. His remarkable story is depicted in the movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Child Walks Through Polio Then Runs Into Olympic History: Wilma's Journey

Many years ago, during the time of segregation a fragile premature infant was born. It was June 23rd 1940 when the four and a half-pound baby made her early entrance into the world. From the moment of birth her life was an uphill climb. Within her first few years she was stricken with several illnesses. Some of which were life threatening, including an incurable crippling disease. As an infant she was not expected to live very long and after becoming paralyzed as a young child it was said that she would never walk again, but somehow she would emerge, transcend the bleak reality that confronted her and excel far beyond all expectation!

She was the 20th of 22 children born into the despair of poverty and poor health and there was little hope that either condition would change. Her parents worked low paying jobs and with plenty of mouths to feed there was barely enough to make ends meet. Also, the local hospital under the laws of segregation, would not care for the sick child because she was Black. At the time there were only a small number of black physicians to treat Black people. In her hometown of Clarksville,Tennessee, it equaled one black doctor to treat the entire black community. As a result, the heavy burden to provide medical care for the sickly child fell primarily on the back of the mother. She would carry the weight of that responsibility through every illness, the measles, the mumps, the chicken pox, the whooping cough, scarlet fever and double pneumonia.
 As the mother and her child weathered the severe storm of sickness, another illness was developing on the horizon. It would cast more gloom into the child's life. The child was less than 5 years old when her left leg and foot became weakened and deformed. A diagnosis of polio was made and with it a prognosis that the child would never walk again. The paralyzing disease would require that the child have regular professional treatment. Unavailable in their hometown, the mother had to find somewhere else for her child to receive treatment.

It was then that the mother discovered that her daughter could be treated, at a black medical college located 50 miles away in Nashville. Over the next 2 years, the mother faithfully took her child there twice a week until she learned how to walk with the help of a metal brace. With instruction on how to proceed with therapy the mother continued to care for the child at home. It gave the rest of the family a chance to help. For the following 7 years the mother and her children worked diligently to help rehabilitate the child's leg and foot.

Finally, after years of perseverance, at the age of 12 there was a remarkable breakthrough. Led by her unconquerable spirit, the child miraculously walked out of the confining world of polio and into the defining moment of her life. Using just her natural ability, she had out walked the lame expectation of her by a mile, with one step. If the child had never overcome another obstacle, or taken on another challenge after that, her life was already a complete story of inspiring determination, but she did.

This time, it was under much different circumstances. After relearning to walk at such a late age, there was no time for her to allow grass to grow under her feet. She quickly followed the footsteps of her older sister onto the playground of scholastic sports. In junior high school, she joined the basketball team and earned All-State recognition. In high school, she stepped up and led her basketball team to the state championship game. She continued to race forward, and in the process another athletic gift was discovered. Then it was presented to the world. At the tender age of 16, in the 1956 Olympic Games her amazing ability to run helped the United States track team capture the bronze medal in the 4x100 meter relay.

From how she started to where she finished, what she had accomplished was no ordinary feat. Winning an Olympic medal in her shoes was an extraordinary feat. Not only had the child's experience in track been greatly limited by her youth, but just 4 years prior to the competition, she couldn't walk without the help of a brace. Her ability to compete on the Olympic level wasn't even considered to be within the realm of possibility, and yet the crowning moment of her athletic career was still to come.

It happened at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In an unprecedented performance she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics' competition. Her quest for gold in the 100 and 200 meter races were both highlighted in record-breaking time. In team competition, despite running with a sprained ankle she help the United States claim the gold in the 4x100 meter relay also in record- breaking time.
As a result of her accomplishments in the world of track and field at the time, she was awarded the title of Fastest Woman in History. She was also named athlete of the year by the United Press. Her name, Wilma Rudolph, and in the process of winning three Olympic gold medals, her endearing performance won the hearts of many spectators from around the world. To the French she was known as the Black Pearl and the Italians affectionately referred to her as the Black Gazelle.

After returning home from the Olympics she was welcomed by a large crowd of people, Black and White. It was the first integrated event in the town's history, a significant step beyond segregation. It was a historic parade for a heroic athlete to celebrate an improbable journey to a mountainous peak, started by a girl who couldn't walk and finished by a woman's triumphant run to greatness!


Ruby's Priceless Lesson

The first African American to integrate the New Orleans school system was surprised on the first day of school when she entered her classroom and found it empty. On that day in 1961 at Franz Elementary in protest of segregation, all the parents of the white students had kept their children home.  Though segregation had been court ordered, the parents detested the idea of their children being educated at the same school as  a black person. The teachers were also upset and refused to teach. Even the principal was unhappy as she begrudgingly enforced the court order. 
Every morning for several days, people in the city, parents and their children mercilessly taunted the student as she approached the school. They intimidatingly stood on both sides of the sidewalk leading to the building and shouted obscenities as the student walked toward the entrance. At first, the student appeared to be undaunted by the hecklers, but soon the unruly people grew more hostile and began to use racially derogatory terms towards her.  Their behavior continued to escalate out of control.  They started to throw things. It became even more serious when violent 
threats were shouted.  A lady threatened to poison the student and someone even displayed  a small replica of a casket with a doll in it. If it were not for the federal agents that President Eisenhower assigned as escorts, the dangerous protestors might have harmed the student.   As the cruelty of the crowd worsened, it became very hard for the child to endure. She and her family almost  gave up trying to integrate the school.

Everyday throughout the entire time that she had been harshly treated while walking toward the entrance of the school she had ignored the protestors, never looking at them or speaking a word. Until one day while moving through the midst of the angry screaming people the child suddenly stopped and turned around and began to speak. The words spoken from the mouth the courageous 6 year-old Ruby Bridges were not words of retaliation. Demonstrating understanding and compassion beyond her years, the child said a prayer asking Jesus to forgive the people for how they were treating her, as he had forgiven those who had mistreated him long ago.  

Perhaps the prayer worked and helped to change the way the protestors treated Ruby. With the passage of time the disapproval of Ruby's presence became less apparent and she became more accepted. By standing her ground she went on to make history by being the first black student to attend school in New Orleans' public school system. 

Ruby had done nothing personally to the people protesting to deserve the kind of treatment she received. She had only entered their school to get an education. Though very painful she responded with love toward those who expressed hatred against her, teaching them forgiveness, one of the most priceless lessons of life.  Her story is told in the movie Ruby Bridges.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sad Truth: Famous African American Deaths

In the entertainment and sports industries  dietary related illness has taken center stage to close the curtain on the final act of many famous African Americans. There’s a who’s who list  of celebrities and athletes who have passed on from complications of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and dietary related cancers.

Some of the victims were as familiar to us as family as they frequently came into our homes to entertain us. We grew up laughing at their antics on television, dancing to their music on the radio and cheering their accomplishments in the world of sports.
While their talents have been silenced, their voices can still be heard. If you listen closely to this tribute to famous African Americans, you can hear a voice of awareness from the grave that speaks loud enough in death to be heard in life. 
 Excerpt and video from R. House’s, “What to Health Are We Doing!"

Satchel: A Page in The History Book

Denied the opportunity to play baseball because of segregation, Satchel Paige had to wait a long time before he got his chance to play in the big leagues. Paige started his baseball career with the Negro League at the age of 20.  Unbelievably 22 years later, at age 42 he became the oldest rookie to play in a Major League Baseball game. It was as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Before he played against  what was considered the highest level of competition in baseball, he was a star in the Negro League. Among the teams he played for were, the Chattanooga Black Lookouts, the Birmingham Black Barons and the Kansas City Monarchs.

His antics on the field made him very popular. As a showman, he often played to the crowd, amusing them while he pitched. As a pitcher, he baffled opposing batters. One player said that when Paige’s ball crossed the plate it looked like a marble.

Paige was considered by some of baseball greatest players as the greatest pitcher to ever play the game.  Joe DiMaggio said that he was the best pitcher he ever faced and Bob Feller said that Paige was the best pitcher he ever saw. Even the legendary St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean said that Paige’s fastball made his own fastball look like a slow change-up.

Unable to compete in his prime against white players (outside of exhibitions games) he was hurt that he was kept out of Major League Baseball for so long. By the time he could compete, because of his age, the playing field was no longer level. He played nearly 20 years after his debut in the Major Leagues, pitching his last game in organized baseball at the age of 60. For what he accomplished, becoming the second player from the Negro League to play in the World Series and the first one elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he became a Paige in the history book. The story of Satchel Paige, and other Negro League players such as Jackie Robinson and Josh Gibson are recounted in the HBO movie Soul of the Game.  


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Doug Williams: The Most Undervalued Most Valuable Player

Doug Williams was considered by some to be a better than average football player. He still recognized the need to develop his skills. As a rookie quarterback, Williams continued to work to improve. As a result, early in his professional career he achieved a measure of individual success. Each year he increased his pass completion percentage. By honing his skills Williams attained an ever greater level of group success. Through his development the team he played for became more competitive. He was able to the lead the franchise to its first playoff appearance. More impressive, he took them to the post season 3 times in 4 years. Williams and his team once even competed in the NFC Championship game.

Yet, for all of his accomplishments, his worth to the team's whose uniform he donned was questionable. Williams' salary compared to other quarterbacks in the leagues was substantially lower. According to the salary chart of NFL quarterbacks, Hugh Culverhouse, the owner of the team who valued Williams enough to draft him in the first round, undervalued him on the payroll. In 1978 as a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Culverhouse paid Williams $120,000. That amount ranked last among NFL quarterbacks and 13th behind 12 back-ups in the league. Among all quarterbacks Williams' salary ranked 42nd. He was even paid less than some third string players at the position.

In 1982, when contract negotiations failed to competitively compensate him, Williams left Tampa Bay and the NFL. Four years later, after a stint in the USFL, he returned to the National Football league with the Washington Redskins. In 1987, during his second season with the team, starting quarterback Jay Schroeder was injured. As a back-up, Williams stepped in to play. He started 2 games and lost both of them. Nevertheless, at the end of the season his team qualified for the playoffs. Surprisingly, Williams who had only played in 5 games during the season, but had a higher passer rating than Schroeder, was named the starter for post season.

As the leader of the team, Williams guided the Redskins through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl where John Elway and the favorite Denver Broncos waited. On the day before the most important game of his career, Williams had root canal surgery. The procedure lasted for hours and left him in great pain. The discomfort was so severe it prevented him from getting a good night's rest. The day of the game, things started bad and quickly got worse. Already deprived of sleep, less than two minutes into the game, Williams and his team fell behind 7-0. By the end of the first quarter they were losing 10-0 and had lost Williams to a leg injury. No team in Super Bowl history had overcome a 10 point deficit. Amazingly, Williams and the Redskins withstood the challenging start and persevered against historical odds.

In the second quarter, despite his injury, Williams returned to the game. As quickly as things had gone bad in the first quarter, they swiftly turned around in the second. 45 seconds into the quarter Williams threw his first touchdown pass. in an offensive explosion he threw three more before the quarter ended. Williams passed for a record four touchdowns in the quarter. Behind an impressive defensive effort, Washington scored 42 unanswered points and defeated the Denver Broncos. When the final statistics were calculated, Williams had set 5 Super Bowl records, total passing yards in quarter (228), total passing yards in a game (340), touchdown passes in a quarter (4), touchdown passes in a half (4) and the longest completion (80 yards). He had the best day of his career on the biggest stage in the world, as the first African American quarterback to start in the Super Bowl.

5 years after Doug Williams left Tampa, a team and a city where he was undervalued, he returned to the state of Florida for the recognition of his worth to the Washington Redskins. His journey took him to a magical place a few miles northeast of Tampa, in Orlando. There he celebrated his performance as the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXII, at a theme park called Disney Land.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Destination Greatness

Named after the First Lady at the time of her birth, Jackie Joyner seemed destined for greatness. As a track and field star at Lincoln Senior High School she played volley ball and basketball. She led her teams to championships in each sport.  In her collegiate career at UCLA she set records and earned All-American honors.  Joyner became the first heptathlon competitor to score over 7,000 points. Remarkably, she broke that record six times, establishing a new world record four times.  Joyner-Kersee would go on to excel in Olympic competition.  Over the course of 16 years she competed four times winning six medals (three gold, one silver and two bronze).

In 2000, to give back to the community from which she came, Joyner-Kersee raised money to build a youth center. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a product of East St. Louis, was voted by Sports Illustrated for Women magazine as the Greatest Female Athlete of the 21st century, leaving no doubt about the greatness she was destined to achieve.



Get The Picture: Vote

As I traveled in the night on the dark narrow road of state highway 15 to Philadelphia, Mississippi there was a haunting presence. In 2012, moving from the present into the past through a peripheral path of darkness, I couldn’t help but to wonder what three brave young men might have been thinking as they made a trip to the same city almost fifty years earlier. I was going there to take a picture of a memorial in honor of them. In 1964, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were civil rights workers in what came to be known as Freedom Summer.

In the spring of 1964 activists Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney looked forward to a season of change in a climate of racial hatred. As members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), the three men were planning to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi that summer.  They had gone to Philadelphia to investigate the burning of a church that had been used for civil rights meetings. With their unwelcomed arrival anticipated, when the men entered the town they were immediately under surveillance. After their investigation, as they were leaving, they were stopped by the police for allegedly speeding. The activists were detained for several hours and denied the right to make phone calls. After becoming concerned when they couldn't make contact with the men, civil rights leaders reported them as missing.

Unknown to investigators at the time, the arresting county deputy, Cecil Price had notified a member of the KKK and arranged for the men to be ambushed. The attack happened shortly after they were released from police custody. As the Freedom Riders were leaving, the deputy followed their car to the edge of town. Before they crossed the county line he stopped the men again and ordered them to get into his car. Then he took them to a road where a gang of Ku Klux Klansmen awaited.  There the men were confronted, abducted at gun-point and taken to an undisclosed location. It was shortly before midnight on June 21.  
Chaney was violently assaulted by the mob of men. His left arm was broken in one place and his right arm in two. Six weeks later on August 4, the dead bodies of all three were found in a dam. It was determined that Chaney had been beaten with a blunt object then shot along with Schwerner and Goodman. The autopsy report also stated that he may have suffered trauma to his groin area. Ironically, the first day of Freedom Summer was the last day of their lives.
Two years after the murders eighteen men were charged with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the victims.  An all-white jury convicted seven of the conspirators and acquitted eight. None of the convicted men spent more than six years in prison.
In 2005, almost forty-years after the initial verdict the case was re-opened. An  accomplice who was originally acquitted, 80 year-old Edgar Killen, a local minister at the time of the murders, was convicted of three counts of man-slaughter for organizing and directing the slayings. He was sentenced to the maximum of sixty years in prison. Finally, the justice that had long been ignored was served.

We will never know what Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney thoughts were as they made their trip to Philadelphia forty-eight years ago.  Nor will we ever know what they thought as they attempted to leave. The men knew that Neshoba County was one of the most dangerous in Mississippi, but for causes they were committed to they went anyway. Perhaps they thought it would be safer that day since they were not going to register African Americans to vote. As the Freedom Riders were leaving and had nearly made it out of town, they may have thought that their safe return was eminent. Whatever their thoughts were up until then, at some point before the end, the men were likely horrified as the inevitability of their deaths became apparent. 

It was a sunny February evening when I left from Starkville, Mississippi that day. By the time I arrived in Philadelphia to take the picture it was night. Between the surrounding darkness and the lack of familarity I couldn't find the monument. With time limited and running out I couldn't stay to wait for daylight. I left Philadelphia that night with disappointment and without the picture.  

If you are in the dark and  unfamiliar with the struggle for civil rights in this country, hopefully this information will enlighten you. During the 1950's and 1960's these men and others fought for African Americans to have equal rights, including the right to vote. Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney gave their lives to attain privileges that we take for granite today. In this presidential election year and others get the picture, remember their sacrifices and vote.

Emmett Till: The Ugly Face Of Racism

If you haven’t seen this picture before, it’s one that you won’t soon forget. That’s just the way Mamie Carthan wanted it to be in 1955. That was the year that her son Emmett Till was murdered down in the Mississippi Delta. Till was visiting from Chicago that summer and had reportedly flirted with a white woman. The 14 year-old was taken from a relative’s house in the middle of the night, pistol whipped and thrown into the back of a pick-up truck. Then he was taken to a barn where he was beaten. One of his eyes was gouged out and he was shot. A 70 pound cotton gin was tied around his neck and he was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His body was found three days later. His mother requested an open-casket funeral so that the world could see and never forget the brutality of his murder.

The two men accused of the kidnapping and murder, Roy Bryant and J.W.Milam  were tried and acquitted. It was a gross case of racial injustice in the state of Mississippi. The two accused later admitted to the crimes in a magazine article, but they were unable to be re-tried because of Double Jeopardy.