Journalist Charles Blow’s 6/7/20 New York Times article, Allies Don’t Fail Us Againshares a thought provoking quote. With recent protests, nationally and internationally calling for reform following the death of George Floyd, “This is not the social justice Coachella. This is not systemic racism Woodstock. This has to be a forever commitment, even after protest eventually subsides.” Power to his pen!
On March 5, 2020, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) highlighted the difference in treatment that he experienced in 2012 when he wore a hoodie and sunglasses on the house floor to protest the death of Trayvon Martin. Rush was forcibly removed from the house floor by the seargent-at-arms for violating its decorum code. Fast forward to 2020. Republican Rep. Matthew Gaetz came onto the floor with a full gas mask to call attention to the COVID-19 virus. While he was asked to remove the gas mask, he was not removed. Gaetz is white and Rush is African American.
In response to the difference in treatment, Rush tweeted, “In 2012, I wore a hoodie on the House Floor to make a statement about the deadly consequences of racial profiling. On Wednesday, @RepMattGaetz wore a gas mask in the chamber, making light of an epidemic that has killed 14 Americans.Guess which one of us was forcibly removed.” Gaetz defended his actions by saying that the gas mask was “medically necessary”. However, gas masks are not normally considered to be medically necessary.
The Central State Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane opened its doors in 1868 to provide mental health treatment for African Americans. The quality of care and conditions was often substandard. Like many institutions at that time, blacks receiving care were often segregated and subjected to substandard conditions. The 1866 Civil Rights act actually required that state-owned mental hospitals accept black patients. Despite the law, mental hospitals refused to do so. Located in Petersburg, Virginia, it was the first facility to care for black people who were thought to be experiencing mental health challenges. However, the criteria for determining if a black patient had a mental disorder was often racist and inequitable. Prior to the facility being opened, politicians and medical professionals in the state of Virginia viewed the enslaved as being at no risk for mental health challenges because they were not property owners. Thus, continuing to advance the stereotype of the inhumanity of black people. At the time, the prevailing sentiment was that only white landowners who were engaged in commerce would be at risk for mental health issues.
At the close of the civil war, landowners and legislators, seeking to maintain control of the formerly enslaved began to assert that African Americans suffered a mental illness; especially if they were seeking to flee the South. Doctors created fictitious diagnoses to label those who chose to migrate away from the south as deviant and mentally deficient. The characterization of freedom as the cause of a patient’s mental health diagnosis was intended to vilify emancipation and subjugate the formerly enslaved. Blacks could be committed to the asylum for infractions such as not following oppressive Jim Crow laws. Infractions such as not stepping off the sidewalk to allow a white person to pass, arguing with a white supervisor, or talking back to a white law enforcement officer were incidents that could result in a black person being committed to the asylum. Poverty was also a significant factor in admissions to the asylum.
In recent years, over 800,000 patient records were discovered from the Central State Assylum, as well as pictures, letters, and various other documents. Central State patient records were stored in onsite and were set to be destroyed until an astute professor, Dr.King Davis from the University of Texas recognized the value of the medical records and sought to preserve them and undertake the tedious process of digitizing the records. Davis was previously a commissioner for the Virginia Department of Mental Health. The institution remained segregated until the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is still in operation today. Sources:
On June 15, 1953, the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott occurred. It was the first Black bus boycott in in the U.S. Years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the black residents of Baton Rouge took a stand against racism and segregation. In 1950, the city began to require all residents to use segregated public bussing. Prior to this, black residents utilized black-owned public transportation and required all residents to use the city’s public transportation which enforced segregated seating. Black residents had to sit at the back half of the bus or stand, even if seats in the “white” section were empty. Black passengers comprised 80% of bus passengers and were fed up with standing up on buses while “white” seats remained empty, particularly after the company had raised fares from ten to fifteen cents in January 1953. Continue reading “Before The Montgomery Bus Boycott There Was The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott”→
Alice Augusta Ball (1892 – 1916) was the first to develop an effective treatment to cure leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). It was not until years after her death that she received the credit she deserved. Ball was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother Laura was a photographer and her father, James P. Ball, Jr. was a lawyer. She had 3 siblings, two older brothers, and one younger sister. The family lived comfortably and by today’s standards would have been considered middle class. The family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1903 hoping that the warmer climate would be better for her father’s arthritis. James Ball, Sr. died shortly after the move and the family relocated back to Seattle. Ball graduated from high school in 1910 and then attended college at the University of Washington and the College of Hawaii (University of Hawaii); earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and a bachelors degree in pharmacy in 1914, both from the University of Washington. She then transferred to the College of Hawaii and was the first African American as well as the first woman to graduate with an M.S. degree in chemistry in 1915. Upon graduation, she was offered a teaching and research position, making her the first woman chemistry instructor at the College of Hawaii at the age of 23. Continue reading “Alice Ball: African American Chemist Who Developed First Successful Treatment of Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)”→
The size of Africa as a landmass is greatly underestimated. This is due in part to the proportions used on the Mercator map. The Mercator map is the map that is most commonly used and tends to skew the view of the world’s landmasses, which has led to misrepresentations of the size of countries and continents. The issue with the Mercator Map is not Africa’s size on the map. Its size on the Mercator map is proportionally accurate. Because the map lays out the landmasses of the world across a circular/cylinder-like area. This causes the areas closest to the “poles” to be elongated/stretched. Africa overlays the Equator so it’s size proportions change only minimally while the size of other continents/countries is inflated.
On, Monday, February 24, 2020, NASA announced that African American American physicist and mathematician, Katherine Johnson has died. She was 101 years old. In 1969 she calculated the flight path for NASA’s historic Apollo space mission to the moon. The movie, “Hidden Figures” chronicled Johnson’s experiences along with that of several other African-American women at NASA.
Employed by NASA for over 30 years, she retired in 1986. Johnson’s love for math dates back to her childhood. She loved to “count everything”. A gifted student, Johnson graduated from high school at age 14. On November 24, 2015, she was one of 17 individuals to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is truly a pioneer! Johnson was also a distinguished member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc!
We salute you, Soror Johnson!! Well done! Rest Well!
Beverly Bond (1970 – present) is an African American model, DJ, producer and founder of the not-for-profit “Black Girls Rock”, which 2006. What started out as a t-shirt imprint has now grown into a not-for-profit mentoring initiative designed to promote empowerment and self-worth among black girls. In 2010, Black Girls Rock launched what is now its annual signature tv event broadcast by BET highlighting the accomplishments of black women. Black Girls Rock has also launched in Africa as well. Continue reading “Beverly Bond: The Trailblazer Behind “Black Girls Rock””→