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APJMM Tri-Monthly eNewsletter (Fall 2020)
"Seeing AR History in 20/20"
Because our hindsight informs our foresight.
What Is YOUR Concession Speech?
During the first two weeks of November 2020, the United States of America experienced its most controversial presidential election in the last two decades.  And, though the results are not yet official--and in some states their ballots are still being counted--here in the State of Arkansas, the unofficial final ballot count is over 1.5 million votes cast, according to the United States Elections Project.

The Arkansas ballot count demonstrates that nearly 100,000 more this state's registered voters actually voted in 2020 compared to 2016.  However, this is only 54% of the registered Arkansas electorate.  Pulaski County Election Commission data shows that its 175,896 registered voters who bothered to go to polls was a nearly 15,000 ballot increase, but it was just 65% the county's registered voters.

In any academic setting, 54-65% is a failing grade.  One thing that we can draw from this is that our work is far from done in our quest to instill the duty of civic responsibility within ourselves, as a whole.  But, it is not just these numbers that speak to our sordid condition as a society of brothers and sisters.  We have also lost our way in our ability to demonstrate love, compassion and empathy for our fellows citizens, particularly those that do not live, think, and feel like we do.

We have lost our focus on what is important now.  As a nation, we are riveted by the failure of a sitting president who has apparently been voted out of office and has responded with a refusal to offer up a concession speech.  Why have we given this so much importance?  Yes, this is a true sign of failure in leadership on all accounts.  But, the reality is that we are actually looking at our own reflections as a people who have not yet fully given our own individual concession speeches to publicly announce that the manifestations of white supremacist ideologies based on zip codes are failing us, failing our communities, as a whole.
The word concession comes from the word concede which is broken down into con + cede.  In its true etymological sense, conceding is NOT a signal of defeat.  Concession does not identify winners and losers.  This word instead means to yield together.  It means to intentionally share truth, wealth and power for the good of the household, the family, the neighborhood, the community, the city, the county, the state, the nation, the world, the universe.

In the ancient Adinkra symbology of the Asante people of Ghana that supports the transmission of spiritual concepts, the Funtunfunefu-Denkyemfunefu, or The Siamese Crocodiles, addresses the necessity of the concession--the intentional yielding together--of head that is eating WITH the head that is not eating because both heads understand that they share the same stomach.

So, when those that benefit either directly or indirectly,  either in the past or in the present, from the structural violence that pervades our existence, creating systems that perpetuate injustice and inequity, realize that their commissions and omissions have failed to render true health, safety and welfare throughout our relative jurisdictions, they must offer up a concession speech to publicly announce their intentional action steps to share truth, wealth and power with those who have been victimized and traumatized by them.

When we remember that we share the same stomach, and therefore the same concern to fulfill our basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, our willingness to allow for concession produces succession.  Or, to put it another way, when we concede, we succeed.  Suc + ceed means literally to follow the yield.  So, our success as the State of Arkansas, and all of its instrumentalities, truly depends on YOUR concession speech. 

I am all ears.     
Kwami Abdul-Bey
APJMM Co-Convenor

Pax Christi Little Rock presents "Racism and White Privilege" featuring Kwami Abdul-Bey

101 Years Since the (E)laine Massacre of 1919 and the Descendants are Taking the Narrative
It only took 6 minutes for an all white jury to sentence 12 black men--husbands, fathers, sons, farmers-- relegated to sharecropping and tenant farming, to die in the electric chair. According to Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s accounts, writing in the 1920’s about some of the events following the massacre.

Among many spaces in the areas of advocacy, she was an activist, journalist, and investigative reporter for justice ranging from disenfranchisement based on race, employment, segregation, and discrimination.  Letters from a few of the 12 were sent to her, thanking her for her speeches made throughout the country. The Elaine 12 needed her and hoped that they would hear from her soon after sending the first letter on December 30, 1919. Diligent and faithful to justice as always, Ida B. Wells-Barnett made her way to Helena, AR. where the 12 were being jailed.

This is also when she found out how incredibly awful their conditions were. They were being beaten, drugged, and tormented in the jails that held their innocent bodies. Ed Ware wrote a song that they would all sing. My guess, and as Ida B. Wells wrote in her book "The Arkansas Race Riot" (paraphrased) “it was composed through this time of terror.”
  
I Stand and Wring My Hands and Cry
by Ed Ware
I used to have some loving friends to walk and talk with me.
But now I am in trouble, they have turned their backs on me;
They just laugh me to scorn and will not come nigh,
And I just stand and wring my hands and cry
           
Chorus

And I just stand and ring my hands and cry,
And I just stand and ring my hands and cry, Oh Lord!
Sometimes I feel I ain’t got no friends at all,
And I just stand and ring my hands and cry

Sometimes I like to be in company and again I want to be alone,
With my enemies all crushing me and confusion in my home:
I then fold my arms and look to the skies,
And I just stand and ring my hands and cry--Chorus.
My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow,
My eyes are melted down in tears;
But I have called to the God of Heaven,
And I just stand and ring my hands and cry--Chorus

Trauma Took Our Voices

Mr. Ed Ware was one of two brothers related to Lisa Hicks-Gilbert, the founder of Descendant of the Elaine Massacre of 1919.  APJMM was able to talk with Lisa Hicks-Gilbert and finally partner with her after a year of interference from voices that were trying desperately to control the narrative.  After meetings and discussions that led to a greater understanding between us, we collectively created "Remembering The Elaine Massacre--Virtual Voices of Healing," our theme and program for this year's observance of the 101st anniversary of the Elaine Massacre.

On the schedule each day was a theme that denoted the tragedies of the day.  On Wednesday, Oct. 1st, the actual day the shooting at Hoop Spur Church started, we screened the documentary "The Elaine Massacre: Red Summer" by Malcolm Reese, and hosted the first of two Descendants Talk.

I have to say that it was liberating to meet everyone and talk about our families who lived in various townships in Phillips County, Arkansas.  It was freeing and painful all at the same time because we all learned about the massacre and or families involvement at different points in our lives. For me, it was two years ago.  For others, who were born and raised in Elaine and still 
live there--they didn’t know until later in life. Why didn’t we know?  Why didn’t our parents nor grandparents/family members tell us?

Two quotes pulled out of the book "Blood In Their Eyes (Revised Edition)" by Griff Stockely with Brian Mitchell, Ph.D., and Guy Lancaster, Ph.D., inform us:

(1) “October 7, 1919: A circular is passed out to African Americans advising them to get back to work and act as if nothing has happened.” 

(2) “Editorials in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi warned black people against further agitation, pointing out that it will only result in more deaths.”

The state-sanctioned domestic terrorism is reinforced and escalates by Oct. 27 through Oct. 31st of 1919. “The Phillips County grand jury meets and charges 122 African Americans with crimes ranging from murder to nightriding.”  I think about my ancestors and the families and community members and can only imagine how very broken, hurt, and traumatized they all were.  How could anybody talk about it? Especially the black community whose lives hung in the balance. The sad reality is that after 101 years ... we are still trying to unpack the evil and crimes against humanity rained down upon the black communities in Phillips County.

Whose “Truth” Are We Reconciling With

The Descendants of The Elaine Massacre of 1919 (DOTEM-1919)  had a second virtual healing space on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2020, called Trials and Trauma: Restorative Justice Initiatives, Healing and the Future. All descendants were invited to join and it was live-streamed on DOTEM-1919 social media page.  Rev. Denise Donell, Ph.D., human rights activist, radio host, and founder of jusTalk Consulting joined us and led our healing space.  She reviewed our previous conversations about “truth”, being a part of reconciliation, and that we should consider perspective and reevaluate what “truth” means for different people. She suggested “willingness”, having a  “willing heart, mind, soul, and spirit to open ourselves up to other people's stories.”  When we think about what’s true for another group of individuals--religious practices, economic environment, racial perspectives etc., that’s essentially your truth. However, “willingness” is far more advanced in bringing about understanding and reconciliation for the recorded history and lived experience of those victimized by terror.

So I ask you, what are we willing to do to support the narrative of victimized communities?  I can say with confidence that the Descendants of The Elaine Massacre of 1919 and the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement, along with the support of other partners will carry on in our work to educate, enlighten, unveil, and dismantle structural violence and systems of oppression. Build community, trust, and empathy that bring about action. 

There are projects that are in the works for the community of Elaine and the surrounding townships and counties. We need your help. Please reachout to one of our organizations for more information and how you can assist in rebuilding and making better the communities in the Delta regions of Arkansas. 

Tri-monthly terminology to know: Gaslighting (definition from Oxford Languages) 

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes, including low self-esteem.
 
 Clarice Abdul-Bey
APJMM Co-Convenor
Clarice Abdul-Bey in Helena for the 100th memorial ceremony of the Elaine Massacre Memorial in 2019 with cotton picked from the fields.

 
Year of 2020: Repairing a Cultural-Astigmatism
Journey with me for a moment, back to the last half 2019. There was a collective excitement expressed across the various social media outlets and interpersonal conversations as we anxiously awaited the new year. Many of us made visions boards. We swore to a pantheon of beliefs, with tongue in cheek, inviting 2020 to enter as a year for vision. Little did we know we jeered in absurdity with our communal plea for transcendental enlightenment at the stroke of midnight.

Astigmatism is a vision condition that causes blurred vision.  Prior to 2020 humanity-at-large suffered from a “cultural-astigmatism” that afforded the dark, unsavory, and unpleasurable facets of society to remain knowingly blurred. It is with unmitigated temerity I declare, “2020 has provided us with the sight, clarity, and visual acuity for which we asked and were not ready to see”. The “2020 Vision” gifted by this year illuminated, rather spotlighted cultural-astigmatisms, such as the multiple health disparities, frequent and heinous acts of racism, inequities in social justice, and various systems of oppression. This new sight clarified; who is essential? what is financial security? does literacy save lives? is America invincible? should teachers be millionaires? who can jog safely? and much more.

Our current climate is a yearning for inclusivity, equity, and belonging. As a professional courtesy, allow me to assist those whose eyes are still adjusting to our new ability, “equitable-sight”. The following is a cultural vision chart prescribed by #yourfavoritediversityspecialist.

•    Make Matter the Minimum

In 2020 there is a phrase, a 3-word sentence being expressed globally causing unrest for some, discomfort of others, and warm affirmation for many. “Black lives matter.” The only comprehension necessary is to personally decide if Black lives matter. Ascribing to or agreeing with this sentence/sentiment is not the endorsement of an organization, identification of/with a political party, or condoning riots or violent protests. It is a recognition of disparities and inequities found in education, criminal justice, healthcare, and generational wealth as it relates to the Black diaspora. Merriam-Webster defines matter as “a subject under consideration”. A population of people, the Black diaspora”, are collectively demanding for their lives to be “a subject under consideration” and it’s being met with opposition. All lives should be endorsed, supported, included, valued, and appreciated. Until we decide Black lives are unequivocally included in the ‘all lives’, we are all doomed. Until society functions at its maximum capacity for the most vulnerable of us, then in reality it truly functions for none us.

As we traverse our new Earth with the 2020 Vision, remember, the only way we exit these uncertain times stronger than ever before requires lens fortified with cultural humility. We can draft, paint, sculpt, even weld a million tomorrows better than our todays if we are intentional about inclusivity and unrelenting about social justice for all.

 
Amber Booth-McCoy
JCA Consultant
CTTT RACIAL DIALOGUES & MEETINGS CALENDAR
UCA student Trey White discusses the results of his research on APJMM
DEAR WHITE READER:
The other day I was reminiscing with a family member about my grandfather, in particular about his service to our country in World War II as a lieutenant in the 729th Ordinance Co. in the 299th Infantry Division. He fought in Normandy on D-Day and remained with the 7299th throughout the war, receiving the Bronze Star with oak leaf clusters for bravery. After the war, my grandfather was fortunate to receive support from the US government thanks to the GI Bill. This legislation was enacted after WWII to provide support to returning veterans. As supremely gifted and talented as my grandfather was, I'd argue it was receiving the financial support he did as a result of the GI Bill that was instrumental in propelling my mother's side of the family into the middle class.  
 
So back to that conversation with my family member. Sharing stories about my grandfather led to an important opportunity for me--one that otherwise wouldn't have presented itself if I hadn't been spending quality time recently learning about structural racism in America. I told this family member that it was documented historically how the GI Bill's benefits were not realized across racial lines and how a larger percentage of the returning Black GIs were not able to benefit from the free education or housing benefits due to systemic racism.

The air literally left the room because my family member gasped so strongly in response to me simply relaying the
factual truth about the reality of our country...the one my grandfather and his Black compatriots fought so hard for in defense of "liberty and justice for all". The impact of my unintentional shock-and-awe-inducing commentary was not surprising to me as many fellow white people I talk to react similarly when learning about the explicitly discriminatory policies and procedures baked into many of our country's federal legislation. 
 
I encourage us all--but mainly white people like myself--to not only seek the truth about racism in America, but also to prepare yourself for it. You can do that by exposing yourself to fact-based literature and research on a multitude of subjects (thank you Google and public libraries!). I recommend starting with the SmithsonianMag.Com's "I58 Resources for Understanding Racism in America" or the Equal Justice Initiative's "The Legacy of Slavery Report". Or at least start with Dr. Joseph Thompson's Military Times article "The GI Bill Should’ve Been Race Neutral, Politicos Made Sure It Wasn’t". No matter where you start, just start and keep going. You may or may not be glad you did but this kind of sincere exposure to the truth and reckoning with it is a critical step in dismantling racism in America.
 
Donald Wood
JCA Executive Director &
APJMM Partner
The APJMM Pulaski County Community Remembrance Project  operates solely off of the generosity of the citizens and businesses in Pulaski County. 

Our 15-month campaign "Seeing AR History in 20/20" uses
arts-infused, educational activities to use our hindsight to
inform our foresight.  Link below and select
Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement.
DONATE NOW
ARKANSAS PEACE & JUSTICE MEMORIAL MOVEMENT (APJMM) is a joint project between Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA) and Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective (WFYMALC).
FINAL WORD:

The APJMM Pulaski County Community Remembrance Project has launched its Coming To The Table (CTTT) community discussions.  To join these very timely and vital discussions, you will need to complete a CTTT Membership Application.  We are very happy and excited to report that within the last two weeks, we have enjoyed a membership increase of one and half dozen new members.

The Central Arkansas CTTT chapter meets every other Thursday via Zoom until further notice.  Please click on the CTTT button above to access the meeting schedule.  Also, this month, we initiated the CTTT National Racial Dialogues Film Series on the Shelter-in-Place Virtual Film Series.  Our first film was "Ashes to Ashes."  Click on the film title to access the film, the panel discussions, and the live chats from the event.
Segregated by Design
Examine the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.
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