cover design His name is Michael
by Kendall F. Person
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, MA (D),
1st Woman & 1st African American
to Lie in Honor at Georgia State Capitol Coretta Scott King,
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, AL (R)
“In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.” – Julian Castro, 16th US Secretary of Housing & Urban Development
in honor of Black History Month
within American History
Eyes on the Prize
soundtracked by the legendary Mavis Staples
Attorney General Confirmation Hearing,
Incidentally Delivers An All Around American Moment
written & edited by Kendall F. Person
I was born in 1966, in the metropolitan city of Denver Colorado, located at the base of the spectacular Rocky Mountains. At 2 years old, I have no memory of 1968, and everything I know is what I have learned and what I have been told, by people that remember it well, because they were there.
In 1968, only two days following the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and in the midst of civil unrest and uncertainty across the United States, all eyes would turn to his wife, Coretta Scott King. She would make her first appearance at the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church and in a dignified show of strength, she shared words that her husband instilled within his own children, “If a man had nothing worth dying for, then he was not fit to live.” Less than three weeks later, Mrs. King – as a woman – would embolden those words when she stepped into the international spotlight by taking her husband’s place as a speaker at a peace rally in New York City.
In 1981, in Mobile Alabama, an African American man named Michael Donald would be found hanging from a tree, in what would become the last recorded lynching in the United States by the Ku Klux Klan. A few years prior, my family had migrated to Sacramento California and in 1981 I was a freshman at Grant High. While I am certain I had heard of the violent murder and lynching of Michael Donald, and while the Klan held a presence in nearby Rio Linda and Orangevale, I image that a lynching must have seemed abstract. But two and half years later, several members of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan were brought to justice with the cooperation and/or within the jurisdiction of a man named Jeff Sessions, who then was the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
In 1986, groups like NWA, Public Enemy and X-Clan would become the soundtrack of my life. Introduced to a wealth of knowledge about the many contributions made by Africans and Africans Americans, to my country and world. I became bitter about the lack of Black History taught during my k-12 education experience, so I encapsulated myself within an African American bubble within the university bubble, making my experiences much different than the majority of the students at that time, but no less unforgettable.
It was an academia, where a woman named Elizabeth Warren would build a name for herself, becoming a full professor at the University of Texas Law School before joining the University of Pennsylvania Law School, then moving on to Harvard Law where she became an influential law professor in bankruptcy. She soon evolved, releasing the warrior inside, discovering a passion in consumer advocacy.
By 1986, Coretta Scott King’s influence was well established. After the signing of Martin Luther King Day into a National Holiday 3 years prior by President Ronald Reagan, she had become a voice in world peace, Women’s Rights and an early supporter of the LGBT community.
But fortune had not shined on Jeff Sessions, whose failed appointment as a US Federal Court Judge would become a crossroads. Claims and occurrences of unfair treatment of, and racial bigotry toward the specific demographic of Black Americans during his tenure as US Attorney General for the Southern District of Alabama, had either come back to haunt him or forced an inventory of self.
His nomination however, had captured the attention of Mrs. King who had reasons to believe his appointment as a federal judge would be a catastrophic setback to civil rights, so she decided to put her influence to perhaps its biggest test. Clear, measured and precise, her written opposition – the now famous letter – was sent to the Senate judiciary Committee, becoming a part of the arsenal that sunk Sessions’ nomination to the federal judiciary. Reason noted: reasonable doubt had been established in his ability to be fair and impartial.
By 2006, I had spent several years in corporate America, published three novels culminating in a relatively successful nationwide book tour, became a spokesperson and fundraiser for a national nonprofit, before losing valued years to the stranglehold of addiction.
In August of 2006, Coretta Scott King would lose a battle to ovarian cancer and America lost a national treasure. But so precious was her hfe and valued her contribution, that she would be the first woman and first African American to Lie in Honor at the Georgia State Capitol
On a national level, then majority leader Bill Frist, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, would sponsor Resolution 362 A resolution honoring the life of Coretta Scott King and expressing the condolences of the Senate on her passing. It was agreed to by Unanimous Consent which included the consent of Senator Mitch McConnell, who served as Senate Deputy at the time.
As one star faded, another was on the rise. Elizabeth Warren’s work in academia and in consumer advocacy would draw the attention of President Barack Obama, who named Warren Assistant to the President with designs on appointing her as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But Republicans and big business, recognized a fighter and crushed her nomination before it even got out.
But neither Elizabeth Warren nor Jeff Sessions could be defeated. By 2012, both had won a seat from their respective states in the United States Senate. During the 2016 US Presidential Campaign, both would become national figures. Jeff Sessions for his early support of now President Donald Trump – which led to his appointment as the US Attorney General. Elizabeth Warren came into her own, as one of very few political opponents, who was not afraid to exchange blows with GOP Presidential Candidate Trump, who had silenced the leaders of his party in a recklessly political, but nonetheless, dazzling performance.
By 2012, I had returned to my center and the 15 years of creative dormancy burst forward and writing was no longer the end game, but the foundation. In January 2013, an original online artists collaborative, known simply as The Neighborhood was born But in 2016,the country’s divisive rhetoric and the scorched earth/bring down the nation approach of the national campaign forced a move from the artistic to the political. But The Neighborhood stood firm in its all inclusive positioning, embracing and contrasting our differences in the social media/blog based reality show The Search for COMMON GROUND.
In 1902, a fist fight broke out in the senate, between two old friends, who found themselves on opposing sides of the aisle. Unable to control his rage, white supremacist Senator Benjamin Tillman, who according to The Atlantic, advocated the lynching of Black People who tried to vote, threw the first punch, and the United States Senate dissolved into a barroom brawl. In its aftermath, Senate Rule XIX gave rise.
“No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
On February 7, 2017 American History inside of Black History Month would unexpectedly collide, during the US Attorney General Confirmation Hearing, that is best described as an artistic imitation of life or Masterpiece Theatre with a twist, as the explosive Act I finale delivered a moment – by chance, happenstance, karma or God – to nearly every American demographic.
In Academia: American history, political science, law, black history, civics, public speaking and even English: Creative Writing were all big winners. But with the shaky confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and the simultaneous introduction of H.R. 899 a bill introduced by Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie to dissolve the Department of Education, and with the President tweeting threats to defund one of the most prestigious public universities in the world, the hearings allowed the embattled American Institution of Learning to storm back in a big way.
Criminal Henry Francis Hays was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution for the savage and senseless murder of Michael Donald (today it would be considered an act of domestic terrorism). In 1997, he was executed by the State of Alabama, thus becoming the only known member of the KKK to be executed for a crime against an African American in the 20th Century.
Civil: In 1984, a wrongful death lawsuit was brought against the United Klans of America for the murder of Michael Donald. In 1987, an all white jury found the Klan legally liable and awarded the Donald Family $7 million dollars in damages, officially bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan.
Civil Rights: While the unfunny joke may have been on President Trump (first Melania and now the Donald, one must wonder if their speech writers are friend or foe?), as the White House kicked off Black History Month with a confusing speech about abolitionist Fredrick Douglass. The high profile dustup over civil rights icon Coretta Scott King’s letter, gave civil rights, freedom and voting rights their due and offered a proper kickoff to Black History Month to boot.
Women: Rather Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell committed a political choke job for the ages, or it was his attempt to put women in their place, I have no idea, but by invoking the archaic and rarely used Senate Rule XIX, he gifted a grand slam for the movement – one that had already produced millions in January 21st marches, that dotted every corner of the globe.
American Dreamers: An overwhelming majority of American citizens and illegal aliens/undocumented immigrants prefer to live in communities with law and order (yes, I recognize the irony; but I do not view immigrants as a separate entity of people, while I understand the need, however, to maintain our borders). And yes, even young Black men would prefer law enforcement as a part of the community, as opposed to an “us against them.”. Only the self righteous take comfort in political wins by voter suppression or illegal voting. And only the top brass of an industry that makes its fortune penitentiaries are happy when prison populations are exploding. Very few residents of big cities or rural lands, are opposed to imagining viable solutions to reducing crime, rather than just rehashing the failed lock ’em up and throw away the keys approach, which proved disastrous for California.
Fair and Impartial, Mr. Sessions. Millions of Americans and hundreds of agencies now look to you for leadership and guidance.
In the light most unflatteringly to Jeff Sessions, that he in fact imposed the laws unfairly over three decades ago and denied a segment of the population their rights guaranteed under the Constitution, the American dream includes forgiveness and the opportunity – through hard work and dedication for a chance at redemption – to roll the dice again in a pursuit of happiness, while making a contribution to mankind.
The confirmation of Jeff Sessions, the lasting influence of Coretta Scott King now legacy, the celebration of the strength and intellect of a woman like Elizabeth Warren proved a priceless affirmation, that the American dream lives on. But…. to be continued over the next four years or months.
Government/Technology/Media: No alt facts, no demoralizing tweets, just a seamless confluence of information, opinion, debate and respect for government procedure (but a sincere hope that our branches of government, can become leaders elected by the people).
KP/Above the Clouds (UNHINGED coming to Youtube March 2017)
cover image of Coretta Scott King The Woman Behind the Man by Poison-Ivy-Alice
The Atlantic: A Brief History of the Senate Rule That Silenced Elizabeth Warren
Wikipedia: Coretta Scott King Elizabeth Warren Jeff Sessions Murder of Michael Donald
Congressman Thomas Massie: Bill to Abolish Federal Dept of Education
Congress. gov: Senate Resolution 362
Washington Post: Coretta Scott King Letter
CNN: Silencing of Elizabeth Warren
rules.senate. gov: Rule No. XIX
FOX Business: No Federal Funds? Trump’s Berkeley Tweet
The Leonard Lopate Show: listen The Courtroom Battle that Fought the KKK in Alabama