10 Reasons Cheyney Alumni Are Suing Pennsylvania and the Federal Government

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A coalition known as “Heeding Cheyney’s Call” (HCC), which consists of Cheyney University alumni, students, professors, staffers, and retirees, as well as community activists, religious leaders, and elected officials, today is suing the Commonwealth (full suit below) for continuing what we believe are decades-long civil rights violations against this great school.

HCC is also suing the federal government, claiming that it’s stood idly by and enabling those violations by doing nothing to stop them. You want proof? Here’s the good, i.e., Cheyney’s greatness, the bad, i.e., racial discrimination, and the ugly, i.e., well, that’s the previously mentioned racial discrimination stuff.

Let me count the ways: All 10 of’ ’em:

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This Is the Monster We Celebrate on Columbus Day

Sebastiano del Piombo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sebastiano del Piombo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A version of this story ran in 2012.

Imagine, if you will, that the man who murdered your entire family, raped your daughter, sister, and mother before killing them, tortured your son, brother, and father before killing them, and then robbed you of your home before moving in is celebrated with a party each year by his friends whom he had later brought in to take over your neighborhood. Well, that’s exactly the outlandishly evil shit that Columbus did and the outlandishly racist shit that his friends in Philly and America are doing. Read more »

Remembering the Great Charles Bowser on His 84th Birthday

A version of this story ran in 2010.

Many prominent, as well as not-so-prominent, Philadelphians have important stories to tell about the preeminent Charles W. Bowser, Esquire, a giant who passed away in 2010. Here are some that I decided to share in honor of the man born October 9, 1930.

In 2000, which was five years before he retired, Charles W. Bowser, Esquire called my small solo practitioner law office and left a voice mail message. At the time, I didn’t know him personally but I certainly knew his great reputation. And that was because, in the mid-1970s when I was a young elementary school kid at Masterman, my mom and grandmom used to always brag about him as some kind of local Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and even Malcolm X all rolled up into one. Ever since then, I read everything I could about this thoroughly impressive man and his thoroughly impressive work.

In his phone message, Mr. Bowser simply said, “Hey, Michael. This is Charlie Bowser. I haven’t met you before, but I’ve heard some good stuff about your legal and social activism on behalf of Black folks. And I’d like to meet with you to discuss the possibility of you working with me at the Bowser Law Center.” I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening. That couldn’t have been “the” Charles Bowser calling me. I wasn’t worthy. He was a legend. He was a giant. He was larger than life. He was calling me? No way!

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Nat Turner: Maniacal Murderer or Virtuous Visionary?

Source | Wikimedia Commons

This 1831 woodcut purports to illustrate stages of the rebellion. Source | Wikimedia Commons

A version of this column ran in 2011.

October 2, 2014 — or thereabout — will be the 214th birthday of Nat Turner. I say “thereabout” because blacks, like him, who were born enslaved in this country, including Philadelphia, were considered inanimate objects and therefore were not bestowed the dignity of an official birth certificate. Despite that, most historians agree that he was born on that date in 1800.

It was in Southampton County, Virginia, that his rebellion took place on August 21, 1831, when he and others killed 55 persons to bring about an end to slavery. Did those killings mean that he was a maniacal murderer like Ted Bundy or a virtuous visionary like the colonial patriots such as the Sons of Liberty and the Boston, New York City, and Providence activists who beat, shot, and killed Brits?

Well, let’s talk first about who he was and what he did before we determine what he was.

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American Slavery: Maliciously Born 395 Years Ago on August 20th and Markedly Raised in Philly

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President’s House. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

A version of this article ran last year.

As you take your lunch break tomorrow in Center City, stroll over to Front and Market where the historic London Coffee House once stood, and celebrate the institution that made America one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the institution born exactly 395 years ago on Aug. 20, 1619: the institution of slavery. In fact, it was at that site in downtown Philly where black men, women, and children were bought and sold like cattle and like tools.

On that fateful date nearly four centuries ago, as noted by English settler John Rolfe, a wealthy tobacco planter and the so-called husband of Pocahontas, “ … there came a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty and odd Negars” in the Virginia Colony at Old Point Comfort (now Fort Comfort in Hampton). They were the first enslaved blacks in a land that would become the United States of America.
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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. On the physician's orders Dr. King canceled his appointments and speaking engagements for the day because of a throat ailment. Dr. King has been in Philadelphia for past two days recruiting followers for proposed march on the nation's capital in April. (AP Photo)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. (AP Photo)

A version of this story ran last October.

On October 10, 2013, at 8:30 a.m., 81-year-old Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr. passed away. “So what?” you ask. “What’s the big deal? Don’t old men die every day?”

The big deal, I answer, is that he wasn’t just an old man. The big deal is that he was and is a great man.

Dr. Lomax was a prominent physician, prosperous entrepreneur, and selfless philanthropist. The youngest of four children and a graduate of La Salle University and Hahnemann University Hospital, he opened his first medical office in a row house near his South Philly family home in 1958.

That small-scale clinic expanded over the years to six top-notch medical centers with 22 physicians who provided quality care regardless of income.

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MOVE Would Have Never Happened in a White Neighborhood

Let The Fire Burn

A scene from Let The Fire Burn.

A version of this story originally ran in 2012.

On May 13, 1985 at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, flew a few times over 6221 Osage Avenue, and then hovered 60 feet above the two-story house in the black, middle-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. Lt. Frank Powell, chief of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit, was holding a canvas bag containing a bomb consisting of two sticks of Tovex TR2 with C-4. After radioing firefighters on the ground and lighting the bomb’s 45-second fuse—and with the official approval of Mayor W. Wilson Goode and at the insistence of Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor—Powell tossed the bomb, at precisely 5:28 p.m., onto a bunker on the roof. Read more »

10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Jefferson* Before You Tour ‘Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello’

Photo | Shutterstock

Photo | Shutterstock

This week, the National Constitution Center opened the doors to Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, its six month-long exhibition about Thomas Jefferson. And to my surprise, the organizers didn’t engage in the customary American practice of sweeping slavery under the rug. In fact, they went right at it by including the word “Slavery” in their title and by addressing “the stories of six slave families who ‘lived’ and ‘worked’ at Jefferson’s plantation — the Fossett, Granger, Gillete, Hemings, Hern, and Hubbard families — and their descendants who fought for justice and helped bring to light their ancestors’ lives and values.”

Nice, huh? Well, yes. But only kinda. By that, I mean they didn’t really “live.” Instead, they actually “suffered and survived.” And they didn’t really “work.” Instead, they actually “slaved and toiled.” But let’s not quibble over semantics. Instead, let’s go the to heart of the matter by enlightening you about who — and what — Thomas Jefferson truly was.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about him:

10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Jefferson* Before You Tour ‘Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello’ »

Gil Scott-Heron, Godfather of Hip-Hop, Would Have Been 65

GIL-scott-heron-pieces-of-a-man-album-cover

A version of this article ran on phillymag.com in March 2012.

When he first told America in 1970 that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” after writing it in 1968 at age 19, Gil Scott-Heron set the stage for what would become part of the musical and poetic soundtrack for black, white and brown progressives and revolutionaries. And he didn’t stop until 40 years later. Gil was the “musical grandson” of insurrectionist Nat Turner and liberator Harriet Tubman, and the “poetic son” of fiery author David Walker and anti-lynching editor Ida B. Wells.

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End Black History Month Now

african-american-history-monthA version of this article ran in February, 2012.

Despite being the self-described “Angriest Black Man in America,” I agree with many whites who argue that Black History Month (BHM) should be abolished.

But we agree for totally different reasons.

They want it abolished because they’re either, at best, racially insensitive or, at worst, just plain racist. That’s why they take the emotionally based position that BHM is nothing more than some reverse racism entitlement nonsense that gives credit to a whiny race of shiftless people who have always received much more than they have ever given to America and the colonies.

Furthermore, they claim, BHM is unfair to white ethnics whose ancestors came here through Ellis Island and were subjected to harsh discrimination. But, they contend, instead of complaining, their ancestors simply fought through it, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and in just a few generations became educated, successful, and even prosperous members of society, living the American Dream.

Moreover, they say, they never needed no damn English, Italian, German, Polish, or other history month because their superior actions spoke louder than inferior words. Therefore, they opine, BHM should be abolished.

Good conclusion. Bad reasoning.

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