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The Spectacular Find of the Clotilda and What’s Next

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The discovery of the Clotilda slave ship last month in the Mobile River Delta is one of the rarest of archaeological artifacts: tangible evidence validating the story that Africans had been forcefully ripped from their homelands. Because it was the last documented vessel known to have brought enslaved people to America, specifically to Alabama and to Mobile, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) had a duty to find the last known slave ship that transported kidnapped men, women, and children from Africa to Alabama.

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A mural of the Clotilda is painted on a retaining wall beneath the Peter Lee homeplace in Africatown on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell)

By Vickii Howell

MOBILE, Ala.—The discovery of the Clotilda slave ship last month in the Mobile River Delta is one of the rarest of archaeological artifacts: tangible evidence validating the story that Africans had been forcefully ripped from their homelands. Because it was the last documented vessel known to have brought enslaved people to America, specifically to Alabama and to Mobile, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) had a duty to find the last known slave ship that transported kidnapped men, women, and children from Africa to Alabama.

Under the federal mandate set forth in the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1999, the AHC, the State Historic Preservation Office of Alabama, is charged with the management and guardianship of maritime archaeological sites abandoned and embedded in Alabama waters, according to its press release.

Now, it is the AHC’s job to protect and preserve the remains of the Clotilda. The AHC and its adjunct, the Black Heritage Council, are also tasked with interpreting history as it really was from the viewpoint of the slaves and their descendants in Africatown, located three miles north of downtown Mobile, which had been formed by a group of 32 West Africans, who in 1860 were part of the last known illegal cargo of slaves to the United States.

The AHC will work closely with Africatown to make sure the community’s history is interpreted and that it directly benefits from the Clotilda find, said Clara Nobles, AHC Assistant Executive Director.

Nobles spoke to the Birmingham Times about the spectacular find and what happens next.

The Birmingham Times: You guys have been sitting on this news for a long time. What does it feel like to finally let this story out? And what does this mean for you not only as a key person with the AHC but also as an African American?

Nobles: Well, it means we just celebrated our big “Wow!” We have been working on this story for almost two years in partnership, of course, with Ben Raines, [formerly of AL.com], who brought attention to the Clotilda. We did a lot of work on it …  [and] realized it was not the Clotilda [that he discovered]. Being energized, we were able to continue the search and eventually come upon the ship that we now know as the Clotilda. So, this has been a long road, and not just for the AHC. [It’s] certainly been a much longer road for the people of Africatown, for the city of Mobile, for the city of Prichard, for Alabama, and also for the nation. Yes, so we do a big sigh of relief, and say, “Thank you, Jesus, that we have gotten the ship!”

Now, the whole thing is, what comes next now that we’ve got this? … I understand that this artifact, this ship in the water, is very important. But … I look to the people for the story. I think we have to go back and be able to get all of this story and to tell this story. As it’s been said already, … we [are] a strong people with resilience and tenacity—people taken from their homeland against their will and brought to this country, people who [still were] able to strive and survive. For me, I just feel proud. I’m not a direct descendant, but I am an African American, so I feel proud to be here today and humble more than anything else.

BT: As far as the AHC, what are the plans for your next steps?

The Alabama Historical Commission announces that the Clotilda has been officially discovered in Mobile Bay.Thursday. May 30, 2019 – Event Photography by Keith Necaise

The Alabama Historical Commission announces that the Clotilda has been officially discovered in Mobile Bay.Thursday. May 30, 2019 – Event Photography by Keith Necaise

Nobles: Well, one of the next things we did was release the science [on May 30], so that information is out in the public domain. In that science were recommendations for going forward. One of the things, as a historic commission, we are concerned with is the protection of the ship. That’s our first priority: to make sure the ship is secure. What we will be doing, hopefully, is pairing in the future with the National Geographic Society again to probably do some further excavation on the ship; to see how much of it is in the mud, its condition; … to see if there are some artifacts, things we could potentially bring up. That would be an immediate next step after things have cooled down a little bit.

BT: Now that you’ve gotten the scientific data, what will it take to bring it up? Or will you leave it where it is?

Nobles: The science will dictate what we can do. The ship isn’t in great condition, [at least not] the part they can see. We knew it was burned. We knew it was dynamited. [Everything is now] going on with the part that is visible, the part we can see and feel. But we don’t know the condition of what’s under the mud. All of that will dictate what we do with the ship. But I will tell you, conservation is very, very, very expensive. We will need millions and millions of dollars if we bring up, much less conserve, anything. So, instead of putting that money into conserving something that’s going to be shards and pieces, we might look to do something else in Africatown that would be more of a memorial or a replica. State Senator [Vivian] Figures (D-Mobile) spoke about a potential replica.

As you’ve heard, AHC Executive Director Lisa Jones and I have been in Washington, D.C., several times talking to Congressman [Bradley] Byrne (R-Mobile) about what we can do on a national level, not just on the local and state level. This is also an international story, so the whole nation needs to get behind the story and give it a gigantic push. We were talking to [Byrne] about potentially, when we are finished with the excavation of the ship, doing some kind of memorial on the water, and the memorial will lead visitors to Africatown.

BT: We also heard about protection. Did I hear [someone] mention that there would be severe consequences if anyone tried to meddle with the ship?

Nobles: Absolutely. We have been working in conjunction with the governor’s office, the Alabama Department of Conservation, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), and the attorneys general of Alabama, Mobile County, and Baldwin County. They are putting out a press release warning people that anybody who tries to do anything to that ship will be prosecuted to the very [maximum extent] of the law. It’s a Class C felony to tamper with that ship.

BT: What role will descendants play in what happens with the ship?

Nobles: We will be in constant communication and meetings with the descendants because they need to be on top of that. We will talk with them so we can understand their vision for the community. We’ve got to get a vision before we can do anything because without a vision the people perish. We understand that we have to get them engaged because this is not just our story to tell. We’re not going to be the state government coming in here telling Africatown what to do. We want to be in partnership with them, to offer them help, to have them to tell us what a good idea is. Before we build anything, we’ve got to have a master plan. We’ve got to have a plan, so we know where we’re going and what we’re doing.

BT: You are working with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Slave Wrecks Project in Washington, D.C., about preserving the ship. Is there any discussion about taking it to the National Mall?

Nobles: We will definitely make sure it stays in Africatown. We will lay our bodies down on that ship before letting it leave Alabama, so it will not be taken away. I will say this, if we bring up artifacts that need to be conserved before we have a museum, then we will ask the Smithsonian to curate those things, but then they would come back to Africatown.

BT: There was some talk about taking the ship to the GulfQuest Maritime Museum …

Nobles: No.

BT: … about the ship ending up downtown Mobile …

Nobles: No, we would not do that. We would not be in favor of that. If there’s something that can be brought up, we will likely get that curated, but it will come back to Africatown. When we build whatever, it’s coming back.

BT: If a museum were to open one day, what do you think the economic impact would be on Africatown?

Nobles: I think it would be tremendous because this is going to be not just a national story or a state story but an international story. We have experienced an international, large overflow of tourism in Montgomery because of the Equal Justice Initiative’s [National Memorial for Peace and Justice, known as the National Lynching Memorial]. The tourism dollars will come as people will come.

They will not only come to visit the museum: they will stay overnight, they have to eat, they have to sleep in hotels. So, the area will need hotels, restaurants, nice stores, boutiques, shops, visitor’s centers, tour guides, gas stations, grocery stores—all those things will boost the economy.

BT: What do you think the economic impact of the Clotilda find will have on the lives of people in Africatown in terms of dollars and cents?

Nobles: Oh, my gosh! People will want to come here not only to visit but also to live. This plan for Africatown, the museum, or whatever we do here, I just hope everyone understands that it’s not going to happen overnight. This is a long-range planning process, and it will take a couple of steps. We will get there, if we all stick together.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times

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Schumer: “Any Unnecessary Delays to Honor Harriet Tubman, Especially for Political Reasons, Are Improper and Unacceptable”

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

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Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a new letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General formally requesting an investigation into the Trump Administration’s decision to delay release of the redesign of the twenty-dollar bill.

More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

Leader Schumer is demanding answers to the official explanation by the Trump Administration about why the bill’s release has been delayed. In the letter, Leader Schumer specifically requests that the Treasury Inspector General examine whether political considerations played a role in the decision to delay the release and why the Treasury Secretary suggested that it would take a decade or more to produce a new $20 bill.

The request seeks a review of the involvement of the interagency process related to the redesign—including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations did not taint the process to recognize Harriet Tubman’s heroic legacy.

Leader Schumer’s letter also comes after he successfully secured the establishment the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Tubman’s hometown, Auburn, NY– which was formally established in January 2017. Schumer fought for years to make Tubman Park a reality. He authored, introduced, and passed legislation authorizing the park and lobbied federal officials to secure the establishment of the park.

Full text of Leader Schumer’s letter is below and a PDF is here

The Honorable Eric M. Thorson
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Inspector General Thorson:

I write to request that your office investigate the circumstances surrounding the Department of Treasury’s decision to delay redesign of the $20 note featuring the portrait of Harriet Tubman, including any involvement by the White House in this decision. More than three years ago, Secretary Jacob Lew announced that he had ordered the acceleration of redesigns of the $20, $10 and $5 notes, and that the “final concept design” of the $20 note, including Harriet Tubman’s portrait, would be released in 2020.

Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, however, all mentions of the Tubman $20 bill were deleted without explanation from the Treasury Department’s website. Then we learned, according to recent testimony by Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a decision had been made to delay the release of the new $20 note until the year 2028. The Treasury Department subsequently refused to confirm that Harriet Tubman’s image would ever appear on the new note – notwithstanding recent reports that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has already completed extensive planning work on the redesign effort.

We do not know the real reason for these decisions, but we do know that during his campaign, President Trump referred to efforts to replace President Jackson’s likeness on the front of the $20 note as “pure political correctness.” Secretary Mnuchin attempted to explain the delay as necessary to accommodate anti-counterfeiting measures, but it is simply not credible that with all the resources and expertise of the U.S. Treasury and Secret Service, a decade or more could be required to produce a new $20 bill. If the Empire State Building could be completed in 13 months almost 100 years ago, the 21st century Treasury Department ought to be able to get this job done in a reasonable period of time.

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary American and New Yorker whose story deserves to be shared with current and future generations. She deserves to be honored for her bravery, compassion, and service to the United States. There is no reason to reverse the original decision to recognize her heroic legacy on the $20 note. Any unnecessary delays, especially for political reasons, in redesigning the $20 note in her honor are improper and unacceptable.

For these reasons, I ask that you conduct an investigation into decisions made at the Treasury since January of 2018 regarding the delay of the redesign of the $20 note. I also ask that you review the involvement of other participants in the interagency process related to the redesign – including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations have not been allowed to infect the process for designing American currency.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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IN MEMORIAM: Sterling Tucker, Civil Rights Leader and Activist Politician, Dies at 95

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

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Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: @councilofdc / Twitter)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

Tucker was an active part of the Poor People’s Campaign and organized Solidarity Day, a 50,000 member protest in Washington D.C. on June 19, 1969. The Poor People’s Campaign was started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in 1968. It would be continued under the direction of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s chief lieutenant, after King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Poor People’s Campaign was focused on economic justice for poor people in America. Today that work is continued by Rev. William Barber II. Sterling Tucker worked alongside Reverend Abernathy and Coretta Scott King in what was the first formal activist effort to bring economic justice for African Americans.

Tucker served on the first District of Columbia City Council from 1969 to 1974, as home rule was established and served one term. He was also chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. During the early 80s he began a consulting firm called Sterling Tucker and Associates and in 1990 was chairman of the American Diabetes Association.

“He was fundamental to the leadership of the city,” former city council chairman Arrington Dixon told the Washington City Paper about Tucker. Dixon remembered Tucker as mild mannered but impactful. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Tucker to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sterling Tucker is survived by his two daughters, Michele Jeffery and Lauren Tucker; four grandchildren and many friends and colleagues.

His body laid in repose in the John A. Wilson Building, where the D.C. City Council meets in Washington and funeral services took place at the McQuire Funeral Home on Georgia Avenue NW. The Tucker family asked that donations be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 15829, Arlington VA 22215 and Trinity Episcopal Church Outreach Ministry to the Homeless, 7005 Piney Branch Road N.W., Washington DC 20012.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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PRESS ROOM: 100-year old legendary African-American debate coach awarded 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from NSDA

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

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The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

100-year old legendary African-American debate coach Dr. Thomas Freeman has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Speech & Debate Association.

Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

Freeman was the Texas Southern University debate coach for six decades before his retirement in 2013. Freeman recently celebrated his 100th birthday on June 27, 2019.

“The National Speech & Debate Association is deeply honored to award Dr. Freeman with our 2019 lifetime achievement award,” said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association. “Our members, board members, coaches, and students hold Dr. Freemen with such high esteem – he’s like a celebrity within our organization. Freeman is the epitome of who our members hope to become – someone who defies the odds and uses the power of words to propel change. His words of encouragement at our National Tournament in Dallas will always echo through our hearts.”

About the National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered nearly two million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.  

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Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)
Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Award-winning actress and ‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community.

The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues in April of this year. They have held hearings on mental health and the increasing number of suicides among black youth. The CBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health is chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The members of the task force are Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis,” Henson said. Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth.

“I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising,” she said. “I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” the actress added.

“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study discovered that black adults utilize mental health services at half the rate of white adults.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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Verniecia Green-Jordan Builds Family/Perris Legacy

PRECINCT REPORTER GROUP NEWS — From the far reaches of the antebellum south where Afro-Appalachian descendants fought through slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crowism to keep hundreds of acres of land in the family is the lore that legacies are made of.

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Clarence Muse
By Dianne Anderson

From the far reaches of the antebellum south where Afro-Appalachian descendants fought through slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crowism to keep hundreds of acres of land in the family is the lore that legacies are made of.

Over the weekend, Virniecia Green-Jordan celebrated her rich beginnings of “Zeketown,” and well beyond its borders where everybody knows their name.

“Part of it is genes, and attitude,” said Green-Jordan. “I come from a family, especially the Coe’s. The Coe Colonies, Coe Ridge –  that’s half of my genes right there.”

Her “Fulfillment of a legacy” event celebrated some of the most influential people in her life. Her strength starts with great great great grandfather, Ezekiel, who bought over 300 acres of land after abolition, as well as her inspiration and friend, the late great Clarence Muse.

She feels that he never really got his due.

“Clarence did a lot. I knew him personally, and he was a lawyer. That’s what they didn’t like about him in Perris,” she said. “The good ole’ boys don’t have that kind of background. They don’t understand how [he could] withstand some things.”

Much of the event highlighted her own well-documented family journey that began in the Hills of southeast Kentucky through generations of fight, sometimes won by gun.  Keeping family together through the ravages of slavery was the motivation, and her great great great grandparents were determined to hang on to family land.

“The fight was daily. What happened on the ridge [is that] my direct line were the leaders,” she said. “They [whites] were definitely trying to get us to leave.”

To this day, she and the family still catch up at annual reunions. She knows their story holds special relevant lessons for this generation.

“We just got two landmarks, our cemeteries are over 150 years old in Kentucky,” she said. “We have people used to defending their property. I come from that background. I’m going to defend and develop my land. That’s mamma’s side.”

Over time, some land on her father’s Mississippi side was bought by slaves, but lost mostly due to the color line. Her grandfather was an educator, a mathematician, and a preacher. Her mother and cousins could pass for white, but her grandfather was dark skinned, which also made him a target.

“They did all they could against him because she died, and we lost the property in Mississippi over my cousins,” she said.

Through the years, she has returned time and again back to the old landmarks, both physically and emotionally, to strengthen her own local fight.

Green-Jordan was the first African American elected in Perris in 1985, and is still seated on the Perris school board. To her knowledge, she is the longest-serving elected African American school board member in the Inland Empire.

Coming in over three decades ago held its share of challenges. Riverside County has always been more conservative than San Bernardino County.

As a child and teen, she lived through major civil rights era riots, including Detroit and Watts. Her family bought 2.5 acres in 1959 in Perris, where she came to live in 1968.

But she and her brother faced local education discrimination on a few different fronts.

Both were at the top of their class, and her brother was an exceptionally high achiever, yet Black students back then didn’t have access to scholarships. He attended UCR as a physics major, and holds a master’s degree in astrophysics.

He also worked in the space sector, but at Perris High School, he received no accolades.

“They were not very nice to us in high school when we moved out here. They gave us no scholarships,” she said. “Scholarships and name recognition at Perris were only for white students.”

Despite the fight that continued all the way to Perris, there is a sense of pride in the bloodline that comes from being the great great great granddaughter of Ezekiel and Patsy Coe.

On her mother’s side, three books are written about the “infamous” Coe Family, whom she calls the “true feuders.” Since her parents bought land in Perris, they also continued to make their local mark, having held an instrumental role in bringing lights, roads and electricity to the dark parts of town.

“It’s the fact that we don’t get our history documented as a people. We have done a lot –  the streets, the lights and the roads, and Mead Valley. Those areas were done by African Americans,” she said.

For nearly three decades, she has also committed to honor the memory of Dr. Clarence Muse through arts programming offered with Perris Valley Arts & Activities Committee. The project was founded by Muse and wife Ena in 1963 under the auspices of the Perris Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Muse was multi-talented, encompassing several areas of arts and entertainment, including songwriting, playwright, and as a Broadway show director. He was featured or performed in over 200 films starting in 1929, including Porgy and Bess, Buck and the Preacher, and Carwash.

He died in Perris fifty years later, leaving behind an indelible impression for the local creative community to carry forward.

“Our story has not been told. Clarence Muse when he lived, he would say that the stories Black people have are real drama. We had to live through that,” she said.

Over the years, Green-Jordan, who holds two masters degrees, is also the recipient of numerous awards and recognition for her work to strengthen the community.

Green-Jordan founded, or has been involved in numerous community-based programs and projects, including UCR Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Corona-Norco Teachers Association Special Education Committee, Willie May Taylor National Council of Negro Women, Perris NAACP Chapter, and Perris Valley African American History Month Committee. Among many other commitments, she also served as Coalition of Black School Board Members Vice President and the Activities Committee, Executive Director.

Much of what drives her passion for the future comes from the past.

“That’s why I called it ‘Fulfillment of Legacy’ because it goes back to slavery. It has been ingrained,” she said. “I was raised to give back and to develop the community.”

For more information, see https://www.pvaac.com/

This article originally appeared in the Precinct Reporter Group News.

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Fight Continues to Install Plaque Memorializing Madison County Lynchings

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE — The Jackson Madison County Community Remembrance Project will continue trying to install a plaque that would memorialize three lynchings which took place in the late 1800s in Madison County. The JMCCRP is a partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative that consists of Madison County and Jackson citizens. The coalition is focused currently on installing the plaque, despite the plaque having been voted down at a Madison County Commission meeting in June. 

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Renderings of a historical marker to be installed in Madison County that would memorialize lynchings that took place in Madison County during the late 1800s. (Courtesy photo of Dr. Cindy Boyles)

By Malorie Paine

JACKSON, TN — The Jackson Madison County Community Remembrance Project will continue trying to install a plaque that would memorialize three lynchings which took place in the late 1800s in Madison County. 

The JMCCRP is a partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative that consists of Madison County and Jackson citizens. The coalition is focused currently on installing the plaque, despite the plaque having been voted down at a Madison County Commission meeting in June. 

The plaque would provide information about the three known people and the events that took place on one side of the plaque, and on the other side, there would be information about lynchings that took place throughout America.

Dr. Cindy Boyles, JMCCRP project manager, said the plaque is meant to draw attention to the events so that others may research the events. The lynchings took place without due process, and it’s important to talk about that, Boyles said.

Though lynchings no longer take place, today’s society is still very much shaped by the historical inequalities that took place, she said.

“It impacts us today,” Boyles said. “In the United States, we’ve remained very silent about the impacts of slavery, the end of the Civil War, lynching and the Civil Rights Movement. Our silence really hasn’t worked for us. We may not have lynchings today, but we can clearly see the impacts of the lack of due process through mass incarcerations that we have today.”

Talking and learning about the events are the first step in the healing process, Boyles said.

“We tried to say if we don’t talk about it and we don’t look at it, and we put it under the rug, everything will get better, but everything has not gotten better,” Boyles said. “We still see racial divides between people, we still see economic and racial disparities between whites and African Americans and other minorities. If keeping quiet had worked, we really shouldn’t see any racial and economic disparity.”

The plaque would be funded through the EJI, Boyles said. This is part of a movement taking place across the South and other areas of the county, she said.

Dr. Liz Mayo, another JMCCRP member, said she was disappointed but not surprised that the Madison County Commission had voted against the installation at the County Courthouse. However, she feels the plaque is an important step in moving forward. Mayo said she was born and raised in West Tennessee, but did not learn about the lynchings that had taken place in Madison County until she was in graduate school at The University of Memphis.

“I’m a native West Tennessean, born and bred in this area, and this was not part of my K12 education,” Mayo said. “I wondered why did I not learn this when I was growing up. Why did it take me until graduate school to find this out?”

Mayo is an educator and says she makes it a point to talk about the history in her own classroom. 

“Students still in the South are not learning about the true history of what happened with lynch mobs in this region,” she said.

The plaque is important not just for remembrance but as a sort of recompense of the past to make amends, Mayo said.

“It’s also really powerful to say to someone ‘This happened to you, and I recognize it. We’re not going to bury it anymore and pretend it didn’t happen to your ancestors,” Mayo said.

Mayo believes it is her responsibility to acknowledge the past and work to change to future. She feels the historical plaque would be one way to begin that process.

“There’s a form of cultural gas lighting that occurs when we try to tell someone that racism is in the past and that it doesn’t matter anymore,” Mayo said. “Instead of doing that, if we own and say ‘You know what, my ancestors were awful to your ancestors, and I’m sorry for that. Even if I didn’t personally do it, I’m still benefitting from those things that occurred during those times and places that have kept underrepresented minorities down and have given me a leg up.’”

Mayo wants to see all people work together to change the trajectory of the future and move towards a less racist society through acknowledging and dealing with the past. 

The JMCCRP will work to determine other locations in Madison County that would also be appropriate for the historical plaque.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune

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