Commentary

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black History the Music Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

Are you ready for some spirited commentary and a frank warning with historical background written by Deeann D. Mathews about what happens when a music artist goes to work with a record label? Don’t be shocked by Black History the Music Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know!

Posted by Hugh Smith on 11/14 at 06:13 PM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Does Black History Month Mean to You?

If you went out on the streets of Philadelphia, PA and asked complete strangers what Black History Month means, what responses would you get?

Teacher Peter Tobias from the University of the Arts found out when his students, camera in hand, crossed cultures in the streets to get the real answers.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/14 at 10:07 PM
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Barack Obama's Challenge to You for Change

Now that the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, has joined Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and other black history people as a trailblazing pioneer with an astonishing first, what happens next?

In his inauguration speech, President Obama noted that we have to ask not whether government is too big, but whether government works.  If it doesn’t work, or it’s not working, then Mr. Obama will have a lot of pressure as an agent of change to create a bureaucratic recipe for success.

His biggest obstacle moving forward is the degree to which all Americans mentally prepare for the inevitable sacrifices ahead.

No, Barack won’t be able to wave a magic wand and save humanity from itself, but he’ll get that much closer to becoming a successful agent of change with eager participation rather than indifferent apathy from the millions of kindred spririts who now beam with pride from his achievement.

What will you do to help the new president succeed?

For some, it may be volunteering in their community.  For others, it may be playing a grass roots role in the local political process.  For even more, maybe it’s just graduating from high school or college.

When the euphoria of the Barack Obama election fades, the true measure of his success as president will be to the degree in which he inspired us all to be more productive global citizens.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/21 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. Online Archive

The MLK Jr. Archival Collaborative, an online home for the electronic display of the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is now live on the Internet.

Three institutions partnered to make this ‘research rich’ website happen:

  • The Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center
  • The Howard Gotlieb Archival Center at Boston University
  • The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

You can electronically search and view Dr. King’s papers, writings, and documents housed in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boston, Massachusetts.

The Boston University Dr. King archive alone includes more than 80,000 items.

A few bugs exist in the online search system.  I searched using the keywords “nobel prize.” Several of the links that were returned were test links.  In addition, there were quite a few server errors.

I’m sure the technical problems will be resolved soon, as the site is only a day old as of this writing.

Congratulations to the 3 institutions whose partnership made this historic black history website possible.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/14 at 01:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Wins, Newspapers lose

Barack Obama has made history, millions have rejoiced at the news, but hundreds of print newspapers have woefully underestimated the nostalgic demand for the memorabilia value of their November 5, 2008 editions.

Why did newspapers fail to boost circulations in light of the election of the first African American to become President of the United States?

All over the USA, folks have been lamenting about the lack of local papers.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, etc.  All gone in the early hours of November 5th from newsstands.

Some papers, like the New York Times, are now prepared to publish collector’s editions.  A few will be charging higher prices to get their paper into your hands.

At the expense of the print editions, 2008 will be remembered as the year the online press favorably embraced the rush for information about a USA favorite son from Hawaii who would win the White House and shock the world.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 11/05 at 09:30 AM
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Out of Touch with History Highlights

USA teens are out of touch with not just African American history, but with history and traditional culture in general.

Common Core, an advocacy group pushing for the teaching of more liberal arts in schools, released the shocking report today as reported in USA Today.

Out of 1,200 17 year-olds surveyed, only 43% knew that the Civil War was fought between 1850 - 1900.

30% did not know that President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

It’s troubling that real history is taking a back seat to the more seedy elements of today’s popular culture.  Most teens and adults are experts in the gossipy news of today.

As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s time to renew our commitment to real knowledge that matters, across cultural and ethnic divides.

A trivia question as a final thought.  In 1976, U.S. representative Barbara Jordan became the first African American to give the keynote address to a national party convention.  Who gave the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004?

Leave your answer in a comment!

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/27 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, February 04, 2008

5 African Americans who Changed the World

Here are 5 outstanding African Americans who made contributions during the 20th century to change our world.  These 5 black history people usually rise to the top in the spotlight during black history month.


1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil rights movement.  He was born Michael Luther King, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia.

Dr. King earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955 (a Doctorate in Theology).

He married Coretta Scott King in 1953.  The young 26 year-old Martin organized the Montgomery bus boycott with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and the NAACP in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to whites.

King became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.  By 1961, he was supporting freedom rides to integrate Southern lunch counters and rest rooms.

His famous “I Have a Dream Speech” was delivered on the Washington D.C. mall in 1963.  King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  He was assassinated in 1968 as he was preparing to lead a labor protest march on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.


2) Rosa Parks


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation on common carrier buses was illegal.  The decision was reached primarily because of the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted one year.

Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger (December 1, 1955).  Arrested for her act, Parks eventually found justice in the courts.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a U.S. civilian.


3) Thurgood Marshall


Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993), was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  “Mr. Civil Rights,” changed history in 1954 when he successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Brown case outlawed segregation in schools.

Marshall was educated at Lincoln University and Howard Law School.  He began practicing law in 1933, became assistant special counsel for the NAACP in 1936, then chief counsel in 1938.

He was the first director/chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1940-1961).

In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals judge.  By 1965 he was appointed solicitor general in the Department of Justice.

Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 becoming the first African American on the court.

Thurgood Marshall is considered the most prominent civil rights lawyer of the 20th Century.


4) Jackie Robinson


U.S. Army Lieutenant and former UCLA football great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), entered major league baseball in 1945 by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.

Robinson, the first ever black player at the start of the 1947 season, was one of three African Americans on the roster of a major league baseball franchise by the end of 1947 (joined by Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, and Henry Thompson of the St. Louis Browns).


5) Muhammad Ali


Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.

He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.  Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.

"The Greatest” became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/04 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Best Way to Discover Black History

Today, everyone seems to receive their 15 minutes of fame, whether they deserve it or not.  Our memories are short, so it’s good to be reminded from time to time about true originals who created their own models for success.

For this reason alone, the information that circulates during Black History Month is well worth keeping in front of global audiences.

Do you know someone who lacks a depth of knowledge about African American contributions?

I certainly do, that’s why we all can benefit from the focused stories about black history people during the month long February celebration.

I remember taking Asian/African history as an elective while a senior in high school, a course quite rare at the time.  Lerone Bennett Jr.’s book, Before the Mayflower, one of the main textbooks in the course, opened up a new world inside of my sixteen year old mind.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is now the first major city in the USA requiring a course in black history as a graduation requirement for all high school students.

Here’s a not so surprising revelation: some of the teachers in Philly observe that they are learning more than they think they’ve taught (about significant African American contributions) to their students.

The Philadelphia initiative is not without controversy, as debate continues about the value of segmenting black history into a box, at the expense of a multicultural approach.

All cultures can benefit from the experiences of others, we just have to respect what others bring to the table too.

Expanding our approach to consuming black history breaks apart what I call the one dimensional mold - that of viewing the center of past African American history as just social crusades by select individuals against discrimination.

So how do you soak in more stimulating ideas from diverse history makers while relaxing stress free at the same time?  How do most people do it?  How do you do it?  For some, it’s reading.  For others, it’s listening, For most, it’s watching - because all of our senses are activated when the visual eye is in the lead.

Take a look at the following information about a black history video DVD presentation we’ve created that comes highly recommended.

Watch the very short video clip, then reflect on another interesting Black History Month 2007 that comes quickly to a close today.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/28 at 02:05 AM
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Black History Month Quiz and Trivia Challenges

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Sojourner Truth: instantly recognizable personalities when you think about contributions from important black Americans. Robert S. Abbott, Jill Brown, and Ernie Davis were on the front lines too - but they may not immediately come to mind.

How do you mix the famous, the familiar, and the forgotten when talking about brilliant pioneers during Black History Month, so the event stays fresh?

Black history month activities always seem to revolve around the same circle of noteworthy people. Nothing is the matter with this, except the danger of potential boredom or apathy from non-history fans. The February tribute comes around each year, so creative ways have to be used to keep it relevant in contemporary times of social advancement across the races.

When Dr. Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926, he chose the second week of February between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, Black History Month was born.

A laundry list of first achievers gets stale as a pure informational exercise, yet there’s always new discovery going on for the uninformed. Lectures, articles, and books can bridge the gap. But what are the other options? One of the best ways to introduce Black History Month material is in the form of a quiz or trivia.

Mixing topics with a broad range of interest from beginner to advanced will keep the trivia fun and interesting benefiting a wide range of readers. Subject material from the centuries of Richard Allen, Marion Anderson, Oprah Winfrey, and other African Americans will grab the attention of different age groups.

The Internet lends itself to interactive participation when it comes to quizzes. Players can provide feedback to rate the various questions. Quiz participants can get the answers to questions right away. Contenders can listen to audio hints with background information about the questions.

Reading a static article is one thing, but interacting with the same material in several dimensions is dynamic. Black History Month Quiz and trivia challenges offer this magic element.

We love traditions, so I’d expect that Black History Month will be around for another 100 years, whether the need for it remains relevant or not. As an institution, this February event will have to keep reinventing itself in new and creative ways to conquer our society’s short attention span for inspiring historical information.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/27 at 09:05 AM
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Black History High Fashion Threads

Here are the thoughts of student Tevyn C., of Maybee, Michigan, USA, called “School Me."

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"I am an honor roll student who spends my spare time studying and teaching black history. It’s more than just a hobby, it’s my passion and calling.

In social studies, we are taught that black people were slaves. I know African Americans were more than that, but I didn’t write the lesson plan.

I wondered how I could get my peers to realize that much of what they use every day was invented by African Americans.

It bothers me that my peers know every athlete and rapper’s name, but know little about our amazing achievements in science, math, and engineering.

When I noticed that teens dress like rap artists, an idea came to me: I imagined a creative, hip way to teach others about African American ingenuity.

I created an educational urban-style line of apparel named School Me: Clothing With A Little Knowledge.

I embellish jeans and tees with embroidered pictures of familiar items like traffic lights, potato chips, blue mailboxes, super soakers, peanut-butter sandwiches, spark plugs, pencil sharpeners, etc.

Kids read my shirt and say, “School Me?” Then I have the chance to give a quick educational lesson about these African American inventions.

People of all ages are amazed by how much information can be learned from just a glance. Everybody pays attention to fashion and I’m the teacher!

For three years I have been speaking at local events while sharing my ideas in mini fashion shows. My goal is to dress a celebrity.

With the support of the hip hop community, I could reach millions of teens. When others recognize the contributions of African Americans, they will have a better appreciation for my culture.

One day I would like to be able to say that I created a trend that diversifies peoples’ options."

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A great idea Tevyn.  Congratulations for being a leader and taking action.  You are moving the legacy of black history people forward.  Good luck.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/17 at 10:09 PM
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