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Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Jamaican Gov’t renews efforts to clear Garvey’s name in U.S.

In Black History on March 10, 2011 at 2:58 am

– From the Jamaica Information Service

Marcus Garvey

There is a renewed thrust by the Government to have the criminal record of National Hero,The Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, expunged.

Mr. Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero, was convicted of mail fraud in the United States of America (USA) in 1923.

In a statement to the House of Representatives at Gordon House on Tuesday (March 1), Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, said the conviction tarnished his reputation and slowed his global movement, although it did not diminish the impact of his message on black people, worldwide.

“For his contributions to the upliftment of his race, Garvey was named a National Hero but, in the (U.S.) Court records, he is still a criminal,” she noted.

Miss Grange said she wholeheartedly agreed with those before her who sought to have his name cleared, and lamented their lack of success.

She pointed out that in 1983 then Prime Minister, Most Hon Edward Seaga, asked President Ronald Reagan to grant a full pardon to Mr. Garvey, to no avail.

“In 1987, U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel introduced House Resolution No. 84 to the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice in the United States. The resolution called for the exoneration of Garvey on mail fraud charges. To date, Marcus Garvey has not been exonerated,” she said.

Since then other efforts have been made, of note was 2004 when the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), under the impetus of then board member Professor Verene Shepherd, initiated a project to obtain the transcripts of the trial that led to his conviction.

Illustration by Alan Sayers

“The exercise had, as its primary objective, the facilitation of dialogue geared towards expunging the criminal record of the National Hero,” the Minister pointed out.

In 2005, the JNHT, with the assistance of then trustee, Nadine Molloy, was able to photocopy the 2000-page transcript and make them available to Jamaicans for the first time.

The transcripts were copied and the first set sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers, as part of the review process. Professor Shepherd, who also chaired the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee (JNBC) commemorating the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic trade in Africansin 2007, recommended the establishment of a legal sub-committee to spearhead discussions relating to the expunging of the records.

“Unfortunately this was not realised,” Miss Grange told the House of Representatives.

The Minister also presented three sets of the transcripts to the Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding; the Leader of the Opposition, the Most Hon. Simpson-Miller; and the Speaker of the House, Hon. Delroy Chuck.

“In making these presentations, I hope that we will be able to breathe new life into the discussions and movement to have The Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey’s name cleared in the annals of history,” Miss Grange said.

Several Opposition MPs, including Mrs. Simpson Miller, as well as Government members supported Government’s continued efforts to clear Mr. Garvey’s name.

 

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Sweet Sadie…Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander That Is

In BGLO, Black History, Delta Sigma Theta, Divine Nine, PhD, Women's History on March 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm

“Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the best that you can make out of what you are. The very best.”

Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander in Doctoral Regalia, 1921

– Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, 1918 B.S. in Ed.; 1919 A.M.; 1921 Ph.D. in Economics; 1927, LL.B.; 1974, Hon. LL.D.

Do you see the credentials that follow that name? Mind boggling isn’t it. Well add to them Alexander’s place as the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the United States, the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, first black woman admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (ΔΣΘ) as well as wife to civil rights attorney and man of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated (ΑΦΑ),  Raymond Pace Alexander and mother to Mary Elizabeth Alexander Brown (born 1934) and Rae Pace Alexander Minter (born 1937).

I think I've died and gone to (s)hero heaven.

The Tanner Family, 1890

Born Sarah Tanner Mossell in Philadelphia in 1898, her maternal grandfather was African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner who, was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce College in 1878 and served as editor of The Christian Recorder (1868-84) and the AME Church Review (1884-88). Her mother Mary Louise Tanner Mossell’s siblings included painter Henry O. Tanner and physician Hallie Tanner Dillon Johnson, founder of the Tuskegee Institute Nurses’ School. Alexander’s father Aaron Albert Mossell II was the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and his brother Nathan Tanner Mossell was the first black medical graduate from University of Pennsylvania.

Can you say pedigree?

Infant Sadie Alexander with older sister Elizabeth (r), c. 1900

When she was just one year old, her father deserted the family, leaving her mother to care for her as well as her older sister Elizabeth and brother Aaron.  Alexander would later recall, “Now my father deserted my mother, and I tell you this because it is often thought that without a man in the house you can’t do anything, but my mother did it all. And I often thought that perhaps it was God’s will that he got out. So there wasn’t any arguing.” Alexander did not however, learn of her father’s desertion until she was an eighth-grader. Despite describing her mother as “a brilliant woman,” Alexander keenly noted that even so, “she never got over my father’s leaving her.” Her mother would suffer with bouts of depression throughout her childhood but was aided by her sister Sadie Moore, who was married to Howard University Dean Lewis Baxter Moore.

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, 1921

Educated at the M Street School (also known as Washington’s famous Dunbar High School), Alexander received a scholarship from Howard University; but her mother demanded that she attend the University of Pennsylvania. Alexander was furious but obedient. She began her academic career at Penn in the fall of 1915. There, she endured racism and sexism from all quarters during her collegiate career; but found strength in the support of her family and faith in God. She later recalled, “I concluded [while still an undergraduate student] that I could not single-handedly make any changes in the position of women at Penn or of the people of my race and that it was best for me to secure an outstanding record and a solid education so that when I entered public life I would have the background to assume responsibility and leadership.” And so she began each day with the prayer:

“God, give me the strength to do my assignments the very best I have the ability. And Dear Lord, teach me to walk alone and not be lonely, knowing Thou art at my side.”

Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, 1921

Christian faith was also the centerpiece of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a fledgling women’s organization which had been founded by twenty-two women on the campus of Howard in 1913. “At this high point of the Progressive Era,” wrote Paula Giddings in the 1988 publication In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Black Sorority Movement, “Howard, Afro-American and women were on the move–and so were the twenty-two coeds who saw themselves an integral part of the developments swirling around them” (47). The same year of its founding, Alexander was approached by the Sorority’s founders to help establish a chapter on Penn’s campus. When the Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta was founded five years later in 1918, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was among its five founding members. Early on in the history of black Greek-lettered organizations (BGLO) “there was a greater need for a heaven against discrimination” on white college campuses (18). With a sense of racial obligation, BGLOs combated racism and sexism by offering support and camaraderie among blacks who faced not only social segregation but also academic ostracism.

 

Raymond Pace and Sade Tanner Mossell Alexander

She graduated in 1918 with senior honors but was denied election to Phi Beta Kappa. The following year she earned a master of arts degree in economics at Penn and was awarded the Francis Sergeant Pepper Fellowship in economics, which enabled her to study for her doctorate. In 1921, Alexander earned her Ph.D. in economics for her dissertation was “The Standard of Living Among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia.” The same year, Alexander was elected the first national president of the Grand Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta during which time she led the establishment of the sorority’s structure and procedures.

In 1923, she married Harvard Law School graduate Raymond Alexander Pace, the brother of her friend and sorority sister Virgina Alexander.  The following year, she enrolled in Penn’s Law School where she became the first black woman to serve as editor of the Law Review. When Alexander graduated in 1927, she began a distinguished legal career as the first black woman to graduate from Penn’s Law School as well as the first black woman to pass the Pennsylvania Bar and practice law in the state. Working alongside her husband, the Alexanders were a formidable duo and one of the earliest husband and wife legal teams in the United States.

Did I hear someone say forerunners to Barak and Michelle Obama?

There is in fact, so much more to share. And I will–another day! But in the meantime, here’s to you “sweet” Sadie…

Sources:

Lia B. Epperson. “Knocking Down Doors: The Trailblazing Life of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Pennsylvania’s First Black Woman Lawyer.” Unpublished paper. 1998. http://wlh-static.law.stanford.edu/papers/Alexander-epperson98.pdf

Paula Giddings. In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Black Sorority Movement. New York: Morrow, 1988.

“Quotations from Women at Penn.” University Archives and Records Center University of Pennsylvania.  http://www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/features/women/quote2.html

“Chapter History.” Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.  http://www.dolphin.upenn.edu/dstgamma/Chapter_History.html

*All Photos Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania’s University Archives Digital Image Collection.

Almost a PhD…Almost: The Last Mile of the Way

In Higher Education, Mentorship, PhD, Self-help, Vanderbilt on March 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I will rest at the close of the day,

And I know there are joys that await me,

When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

Doctoral Cap

These words are of a popular refrain I’ve heard over and over as a child sitting in my grandmother’s Baptist church. More often than not, it was sung at a funeral. The remaining times I heard them were either as a member of a marching funeral cortege or as an on looker to one. It was a somber song, whose words, despite their hopeful undertones, were sung to mourn the loss of someone.

Although, I draw on the song’s hopefulness as I near the end of the dissertation process, I, in a way, also mourn the past. There is a sense of dread that creeps into the even the happiest moments of our lives as we move from the known to the unknown. It is the feeling you have on the first day at a new school, which despite however old you get, you experience when on the precipice of great transitions in life. This is the feeling, I think…I’m feeling.

There have been so many people on this journey who have helped in word, thought and deed. Many of you are reading this note—and I want to thank you. Few people can imagine the emotional and psychological tests associated with earning a Ph.D.—it is a consistent battle over self-doubt, social isolation and academic hazing. It requires above and beyond intelligence, discipline, thick skin, perseverance and discipline.

Did I mention discipline?

Even so, it is a feat that is rarely if ever accomplished without the love and support of others who push, pull, and prod us until we’ve “walked the last mile of the way.”

Brothers

This is partially why I’m taking this moment to talk about three black men. One, because brothers often get a bad rap for being emotionally unavailable to sisters, especially upwardly mobile sisters. Two, because these three brothers did not expect any praise of any kind. And three, because these three brothers have kept me on course in the last few weeks when despair threatened to derail me from this goal—graduating on May 13, 2011.

In the first instance, I received a call from the Bahamas. It was an old friend on the line. He called to inquire about when I’d be coming home for Christmas. Disappointed to learn that I wasn’t, he asked about my progress. I admitted to being overwhelmed but committed to pushing ahead anyway. His talks always bring me to quiet tears. This time was no different. I struggled to catalogue every single thing he said in my heart as he spoke to my spirit. I also tried unsuccessfully to do the same thing in my mind. I did however, manage to remember this “You have been wired for the challenges and obstacles you face, God knew you were an over-comer before you were even conceived. Ain’t nothing to hard for you and ain’t nothing too good for you. You are are child of God.” It was a word I needed then and still need now. I thank him for those words and draw on them often.

- Winston Churchill

Second, one day, a week or more ago I was a pitiful sight. Seriously people, I was mad at the world. When you seem to have it altogether people come to expect it. They call on you for counsel on days when you don’t have much left to give. You love you’al, but God! Some days you think to yourself, where is my “me”? Where is someone who is willing to listen to my problems, offer me counsel and drive away my fears? Self indulgent, I know, but honest nevertheless. It is honest in a way that I rarely if ever am. I reached out to a friend, laying it all on the line. I was mad at anyone and at everyone, including myself. I don’t know what I expected of a 1:00 am Facebook message. But I was floored, completely and utterly by his response. To paraphrase, he said that all the folks I was moaning and groaning about loved and appreciated me.

What a novel idea!

He continued “there are others that believe in you – your ability to overcome and will support any effort to move forward.” I think he may be on to something…

Random Dude Modeling Vandy PhD Regalia

Third and finally, while chatting in the parking lot the other day, I ran across a colleague who like me taught history, but unlike me, had already successfully navigated the waters leading to the Ph.D. Similarly we talked about my progress; a process he knew well and sympathized with immediately. He began to tell me about the experience that led him to commit to earning the Ph.D. It was a fleeting encounter with a passerby—a young black woman, dressed her doctoral academic regalia which he described as a most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Please don’t tell his wife!

She commanded the respect of all who saw her, but none anymore than him—because he knew what it took for her to earn it. He decided that day to pursue the Ph.D. He went on to say that I had no clue how many coeds already looked at me each and every day the same way. He said I was the embodiment of what I was repeatedly telling these kids they could be.

I was, of course, awed by it all. My dissertation topic, is in essence, a moving tribute to people who walked these hallowed grounds, battling prejudices and obstacles whose fullness, thanks to them, I will never know. They battled against greater odds to achieve the very single thing I’m battling to claim as my own.

It’s a journey I’m committed to… “I will rest at the close of the day. And I know there are joys that await me; when I’ve gone the last mile of the way.” When I walk across that stage on May 13, 2011, I’ll take a part of each of you with me!

Enough procrastination. Let me get back to work now!