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Portraits of Success

Black Women Making Political History

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters


ImageCongresswoman Maxine Waters is considered by many to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today.  She has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and poor people.

Elected in November 1998 to her fifth term in the House of Representatives with an overwhelming 89 percent of the votes in the 35th District of California, Congresswoman Maxine Waters represents a large part of South Central Los Angeles and the diverse cities of Gardena, Hawthorne and Inglewood.

In 1997-98, Rep. Waters served a two-year term as the Chair of the 39-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). She formulated the comprehensive Agenda for Black America-an agenda for justice, equality and fairness-which outlined CBC's legislative and programmatic priorities.  Those initiatives included a commitment to drug-free, safe and healthy communities; educational and technological opportunities; and job creation and economic development. The priorities also encompassed voting and civil rights; environmental justice; the protection of the most vulnerable Americans; and the promotion of opportunities for all Americans.

For the 106th Congress, Rep. Waters has been  appointed to the influential leadership position of Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Party. She continues to be a member of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services and the Ranking Member of the Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee. She is also on banking subcommittees on General Oversight and Investigations and on Housing and Community Oportunity.

Rep. Waters also continues to serve on the Committee on the Judiciary and its Subcommittee on the Constitution. During the House impeachment proceedings, Congresswoman Waters was an outspoken advocate for fairness. She criticized Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's ruthless investigative methods and condemned the House Republicans' unfair and partisan tactics in both the Judiciary Committee and on the House floor.

Prior to her election to the House of Representatives in 1990, Congresswoman Waters had already attracted national attention for her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style of politics. During 14 years in the California State Assembly, she rose to the powerful position of Democratic Caucus Chair.  Early in her Assembly career, she worked with others on the strategy that made Willie Brown, Jr., the Speaker of the Assembly.

She was responsible for some of the boldest legislation California has ever seen. Among her legislative accomplishments were: the largest divestment of state pension funds from businesses involved in South Africa; landmark affirmative action legislation opening up state procurement and contracting opportunities to women and minority-owned businesses; and the introduction of the nation's first plant closure law.

She also created the nation's first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program, gained passage of a law to prohibit police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors, and promoted legislation to prevent toxic chemical catastrophes.

Congresswoman Waters was a leader in the movement to end Apartheid and assure one-person, one-vote democracy in South Africa, working closely with African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. She founded the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement and was arrested in a protest against the Apartheid regime. In 1994, she was on the official U.S. delegation to Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President of a free South Africa, and in March 1998, she accompanied President Clinton on a visit to five African countries.

Maxine Waters was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fifth of 13 children reared by a single mother.  She began working at age 13 in factories and segregated restaurants.   After moving to Los Angeles, she worked in garment factories and at the telephone company.  She attended California State University at Los Angeles, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.  She began her career in public service as a teacher and a volunteer coordinator in the Head Start program.  Ms. Waters took part in many political campaigns, leafleting, and knocking on doors.  She later became the chief deputy to a Los Angeles city councilman before being elected to the California State Assembly in 1976.

She is married to Sidney Williams, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.  She is the mother of two adult children, Edward and Karen, and has two grandchildren.


Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Shirley St. Hill Chisholm was born on November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York to Charles and Ruby St. Hill. Her father was from British Guiana and her mother was from Barbados. In 1927, Shirley was sent to Barbados to live with her maternal grandmother. She received a good education from the British school system, which she later credited with providing her with a strong academic background.Image

In 1934, she rejoined her parents in New York. Shirley excelled in academics at Girls High School in Brooklyn from which she graduated in 1942. After graduation she enrolled in Brooklyn College where she majored in sociology. Shirley encountered racism at Brooklyn College and fought against it. When the black students at Brooklyn College were denied admittance to a social club, Shirley formed an alternative one. She graduated in 1946 with honors. During this time, it was difficult for black college graduates to obtain employment commensurate to their education. After being rejected by many companies, she obtained a job at the Mt. Calvary Childcare Center in Harlem.

In 1949, she married Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican who worked as a private investigator. Shirley and her husband participated in local politics, helping form the Bedford-Stuyvesant political League. In addition to participating in politics, Chisholm worked in the field of day care until 1959. In 1960, she started the Unity Democratic Club. The Unity Club was instrumental in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters.

In 1964 Chisholm ran for a state assembly seat. She won and served in the New York General Assembly from 1964 to 1968. During her tenure in the legislature, she proposed a bill to provide state aid to day-care centers and voted to increase funding for schools on a per-pupil basis. In 1968, After finishing her term in the legislature, Chisholm campaigned to represent New York's Twelfth Congressional District. Her campaign slogan was "Fighting Shirley Chisholm--Unbought and Unbossed." She won the election and became the first African American woman elected to Congress.

During her first term in Congress, Chisholm hired an all-female staff and spoke out for civil rights, women's rights, the poor and against the Vietnam War. In 1970, she was elected to a second term. She was a sought-after public speaker and cofounder of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She remarked that, "Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes."

On January 25, 1972, Chisholm announced her candidacy for president. She stood before the cameras and in the beginning of her speech she said,

"I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people."

The 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami was the first major convention in which any woman was considered for the presidential nomination. Although she did not win the nomination, she received 151 of the delegates' votes. She continued to serve in the House of Representatives until 1982. She retired from politics after her last term in office. She has received many honorary degrees, and her awards include Alumna of the Year, Brooklyn College; Key Woman of the Year; Outstanding Work in the Field of Child Welfare; and Woman of Achievement. Shirley Chisholm passed away on January 1, 2005.


 

FANNIE LOU HAMER


"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

ImageBorn October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest of 20 children. Her parents were sharecroppers.

At age six, Fannie Lou began helping her parents in the cotton fields. By the time she was twelve, she was forced to drop out of school and work full time to help support her family. Once grown, she married another sharecropper named Perry "Pap" Hamer.

On August 31, 1962, Mrs. Hamer decided she had had enough of sharecropping. Leaving her house in Ruleville, MS she and 17 others took a bus to the courthouse in Indianola, the county seat, to register to vote. On their return home, police stopped their bus. They were told that their bus was the wrong color. Fannie Lou and the others were arrested and jailed.

After being released from jail, the plantation owner paid the Hamers a visit and told Fannie Lou that if she insisted on voting, she would have to get off his land - even though she had been there for eighteen years. She left the plantation that same day. Ten days later, night riders fired 16 bullets into the home of the family with whom she had gone to stay.

Mrs. Hamer began working on welfare and voter registration programs for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Mrs Hamer was left in the cell, bleeding and battered, listening to the screams of Ann Powder, a fellow civil rights worker, who was also undergoing a severe beating in another cell. She overheard white policemen talking about throwing their bodies into the Big Black River where they would never be found.

In 1964, presidential elections were being held. In an effort to focus greater national attention on voting discrimination, civil rights groups created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). This new party sent a delegation, which included Fannie Lou Hamer, to Atlantic City, where the Democratic Party was holding its presidential convention. Its purpose was to challenge the all-white Mississippi delegation on the grounds that it didn't fairly represent all the people of Mississippi, since most black people hadn't been allowed to vote.

Fannie Lou Hamer spoke to the Credentials Committee of the convention about the injustices that allowed an all-white delegation to be seated from the state of Mississippi. Although her live testimony was pre-empted by a presidential press conference, the national networks aired her testimony, in its entirety, later in the evening. Now all of America heard of the struggle in Mississippi's delta.

A compromise was reached that gave voting and speaking rights to two delegates from the MFDP and seated the others as honored guests. The Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the vote. A year later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

Prior to her death in 1977, Fannie Lou Hamer was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, as an honorary member.


 

Charlotta Bass


ImageNewspaper publisher-editor, civil rights activist, stands among the most influential African Americans of the twentieth century. A crusading journalist and extraordinary political activist, she was at the forefront of the civil rights struggles of her time, especially in Los Angeles, but also in California and the nation.

Bass was managing editor and publisher of the California Eagle, from 1912 to 1951. The Eagle, founded in 1879, was one of the longest running African American newspapers in the West. Bass was also a political candidate at the local, state, and national level, including running for vice president of the United States on the Progressive Party ticket in 1952. She used the newspaper, along with direct-action campaigns and the political process, to challenge inequality for Blacks, workers, women, and other minorities in Los Angeles. Her mission was nothing short of achieving the equality and justice promised by the United States Constitution. She believed her own role in society, and the role of the Black community, was defined by Americanism, democracy, and citizenship.

Acting on this belief, Bass was one of the pioneers who helped to lay the groundwork for the later Civil Rights Movement and the women's liberation movement. She fought important battles against job and housing discrimination, police brutality, and media stereotyping, and for immigrant and women's rights and civil liberties.

Over time, her role as an activist evolved from championing local business concerns, to strengthening the labor movement, fighting fascism at home and abroad during World War II, and showing a global concern for world peace. Her leadership, courage, truth-telling, and tenacity were an effective force in Los Angeles, and the world, that yielded greater equality for Blacks, workers, and other people facing oppression.

Bass paid a price for her outspokenness. Her life was threatened on numerous occasions. The FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that her newspaper was seditious and continued to monitor her until her death. Accused of being a Communist, in 1950, she was called before the California Legislature's Joint Fact-Finding Committee on un-American Activities. The accusations began to take a toll on her effectiveness in the community and her ability to sell her newspaper. In 1951, she sold the paper and continued her work in the political realm.

Whatever the consequences, Bass didn't waver in her pursuit of justice. Both Bass and her newspaper served the people--fighting for them, speaking for them, and leading them in battles against inequality and injustice.

Born Charlotta Amanda Spears in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1879 or 1880, Bass was the sixth of eleven children. At the turn of the century, Bass moved to Rhode Island. In 1910, she migrated to Los Angeles to improve her health.

Soon after arriving, Bass sold subscriptions for the Eagle, a Black newspaper founded by John Neimore in 1879. Fulfilling the deathbed request of Neimore, Bass became the Eagle's editor and publisher in March 1912, a career lasting over forty years until she sold the newspaper in 1951. In 1914, Bass hired and subsequently married Joseph Blackburn Bass, a Kansas newspaperman, who edited the paper until his death in 1934. They eventually changed the name of the paper to the California Eagle. The couple had no children, but Charlotta Bass was very close to her nephew John Kinloch, who worked at the California Eagle.

While she was always active at the national level, Bass devoted her greatest energy and activism to the pursuit of civil rights in Los Angeles. Though many viewed Los Angeles as a racially harmonious paradise, Bass used her positions as journalist, candidate, and activist to expose and eliminate racism and injustice in the city.

Likely around 1960, Bass retired and moved to Lake Elsinore, California, where she continued her civil rights activism. She turned her garage into a community reading room and a voter registration site for African Americans, and joined protests against South African apartheid and on behalf of prisoners' rights. In 1966, Bass suffered a stroke and died three years later from complications brought on by the stroke.

Charlotta Bass's steadfast fifty-plus year commitment to social justice distinguishes her as a pioneering civil rights leader.


 

Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter


ImageAssembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter works tirelessly for the 62nd District. A lifelong resident of the district, she proudly represents the cities of Rialto and Colton, portions of the cities of Fontana and San Bernardino, and the communities of Bloomington and Muscoy.

Carter's legislative focus includes, but is not limited to, transportation, job creation and education.

Governor Schwarzenegger has signed two of her bills into law: AB 428 (Carter) and AB 1229 (Carter).  AB 428 requires high schools to notify parents and pupils of the A-G curriculum required for admission to the UC and CSU systems.  AB 1229 gives rank-and-file officers a seat at the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.

Assembly Member Carter is the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Inland Empire Transportation.  Additionally, she currently sits on six Assembly committees: Transportation, Insurance, Business & Professions, Aging and Long-Term Care, Rules and Veterans Affairs.

Prior to being elected to the California State Assembly, she served on the Rialto Unified School District Board for sixteen years.  She was a staff member to the late Congressman George Brown for 23 years; during that time, she served as District Director.  She also served as a government affairs liaison for California State University, San Bernardino.

Assembly Member Carter has dedicated her career to public service.  After she retired from the Rialto School Board, the board members recognized her contributions to the community by voting to name Rialto's newest comprehensive high school the Wilmer Amina Carter High School.  Carter High School is the first high school in the Inland Empire to be named in honor of a living African American woman.

Assembly Member Carter graduated from San Bernardino High School, attended San Bernardino Valley College, and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from California State University at San Bernardino.  She lives in Rialto with her husband, Ratibu Jacocks.  They have three adult children.


 

Assembly Speaker-Elect Karen Bass


ImageKaren Bass has been a State Assembly Member representing Los Angeles' 47th District since 2005. Speaker Fabian Núñez selected Bass as the Majority Leader for the California State Assembly during the 2007-2008 legislative session, making her the first African American and the first woman to hold this leadership position. During the 2005-2006 legislative session, Bass served as the Majority Whip. She also serves as the chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care.

Majority Leader Bass, who is the vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

Governor Schwarzenegger has signed 17 of Assemblymember Bass' bills into law focusing on Foster Care reform; Healthy Families Insurance Coverage to help prevent children from going without health insurance; a small business policy that removes red tape by preventing businesses from filling out duplicate certification forms for the city and state; and a measure that expands the Baldwin Hills Conservancy. She has also secured more than $2.3 million to help revitalize the historic Vision Theater in Los Angeles; and more than $600 million for Los Angeles Unified School District.

She was raised in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood and graduated from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine - Physician Assistant Program, where she has been a faculty member for more than a decade. Bass worked as a Physician Assistant in the nation's largest trauma center, Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. During her tenure in the emergency room, she saw the despair and violence unleashed by the crack cocaine epidemic. Bass used her organizing experience by founding the Community Coalition, a direct response to the devastation of the drug epidemic and "war on drugs" on South Los Angeles.

As the Assemblymember for the 47th District, Karen Bass serves the cities and communities of Culver City, West Los Angeles, Westwood, Cheviot Hills, Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, the Crenshaw District, Little Ethiopia and portions of Korea Town and South Los Angeles.

Assemblywoman Bass lives in the Baldwin Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles County, and is the proud mother of a daughter.

The California Assembly elected Los Angeles Democrat Karen Bass its 67th Speaker, catapulting an African-American woman to the post for the first time in the United States.

"The wisdom of the Caucus is going to break the glass ceiling, to say, finally we're going to elect a Democratic woman to be the Speaker of the California Assembly," Speaker Fabian Núñez said. "We are going to not only write a new chapter in California history, but I've been told we're going to write a new chapter in American history by electing the first African-American woman in the history of this nation to be the Speaker of a state legislative body."

"I look forward to our caucus uniting in the effort to address the current fiscal crisis and the other challenges and opportunities that we will face together and we will solve together in California," Speaker-elect Bass said.

Under Speaker Núñez, Speaker-elect Bass has been a part of the leadership since her first term when she was appointed to Majority Whip. In her second term, she was elevated to the post of Majority Leader, making her the first African American and first woman to hold the post. As vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Bass was the driving force behind the State of Black CA, which highlighted the disparities between Blacks and other ethnic and minority groups throughout the state. She is also the chair of the CA Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care. Under her leadership, the Speaker-elect was able to secure more than $82 million and the signing of eight new laws to help improve the state's Foster Care System.

She will work in tandem with Speaker Núñez as she makes the transition into her new position.

The Los Angeles Democrat will be the first African-American woman Speaker and the first Democratic woman to hold the position. Republican Doris Allen served from June 5, 1995 to September 14, 1995.


 

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan


ImageBarbara Jordan was the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress from the South.

Barbara Jordan was born in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas to a Black Baptist minister, Benjamin Jordan, and a domestic worker, Arlyne Jordan. She attended Roberson Elementary and Phyllis Wheatley High School.

While at Wheatley, she was a member of the Honor Society and excelled in debating. She graduated in 1952 in the upper five percent of her class. She wanted to study political science at the University of Texas-Austin, but was discouraged because the school was still segregated.

She attended Texas Southern University and pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Barbara was a national champion debater, defeating her opponents from such schools as Yale and Brown and tying Harvard University.

In 1956, she graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern with a double major in political science and history. She expressed an interest in attending Harvard University School of Law, but opted to go to Boston University and graduated in 1959.

Ms. Jordan taught political science at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for one year before returning to Houston in 1960 to take the bar examination and set up a private law practice.

She ran for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and 1964, but lost both times... however, she made history when she was elected to the newly drawn Texas Senate seat in 1966, thereby becoming the first Black to serve in that body since 1883. She was an oddity at that time, as the first Black woman in that state's legislature.

Her brief record in the Texas State Senate is viewed as somewhat of a phenomenon. On March 21, 1967 she became the first Black elected official to preside over that body; she was the first Black state senator to chair a major committee, Labor and Management Relations, and the first freshman senator ever named to the Texas Legislative Council.

When the Texas legislature convened in special session in March, 1972, Senator Jordan was unanimously elected president pro tempore. In June of that year, she was honored by being named Governor for a Day. Shortly, thereafter she decided to run for Congress and was elected, in Nov. 1972, from the newly drawn Eighteenth Congressional District in Houston.

Both as a state senator and as a U.S. Congressman, Jordan sponsored bills that championed the cause of poor, Black, and disadvantaged people. She gained national prominence for the position she took and the statement she made at the 1974 impeachment hearing of President Richard Nixon. In casting a "yes" vote, Jordan stated,"My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total." Having become a national celebrity, Ms. Jordan was chosen as a keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention in 1976, and again in 1992. She was the first Black selected to keynote a major political convention.

President Jimmy Carter considered her for attorney general and U.N. Ambassador but she chose to remain in Congress. She was seriously thinking about challenging Sen. John Tower for re-election in 1978, but became ill and retired from politics.

She became a Professor of Public Affairs at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. She was very close to President Johnson, often visiting him at the White House as a state Senator. In 1987, she became an eloquent voice against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. She served as an unpaid adviser on ethics for former Gov. Ann Richards of Texas and was praised for her work on the Clinton panel on Immigration Reform.

Barbara Jordan died of complications from pneumonia on January 17, 1996.






SCE Celebrates Women’s History Month By Recognizing Employee Lisa Cagnolatti

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ROSEMEAD

 

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Lisa Cagnolatti
As part of its celebration of National Women's History Month, Southern California Edison (SCE) is recognizing employee Lisa Cagnolatti for the leadership qualities she displays at work and in the community.

Cagnolatti exemplifies the company's tradition of community service and reaching out to the diverse communities served by SCE, said Frank Quevedo, SCE's vice president for equal opportunity.

"We're proud of employees like Lisa Cagnolatti, women who hold themselves to high standards and are positive influences both at work and in their communities," Quevedo said.  "We're recognizing all of our female employees this month, including African Americans, for their courage, spirit, and contributions to our company's success."

Cagnolatti was recently elected vice president of SCE's business customer division, part of its customer service business unit.  Though representing only 300,000 of SCE's 4.8 million customers, that segment can represent as much as two-thirds of the electricity being supplied at a given time by the company.

Cagnolatti joined SCE in 1996 and has held a variety of duties with the company in a broad range of management positions.  She previously was the director of the company's call center operations, an organization of approximately 700 employees providing service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  SCE's call centers handle approximately 12 million calls per year.

Before that, she was the director of SCE's billing, payment, and credit activities; a region manager in the company's power delivery and construction organization; and the manager of SCE's rural district organization, which encompasses approximately 39,000 miles and serves 150,000 customers, some of who also get water and gas from SCE.

Before joining SCE, Cagnolatti worked 11 years with Southern California Gas Co. in a variety of positions, including sales manager and account executive.  She also worked in environmental and regulatory affairs.  Cagnolatti worked two years for Procter & Gamble before joining the Gas Co.

Cagnolatti, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MBA in chemical engineering from Pepperdine University, lives in Diamond Bar with her husband and two sons in Diamond Bar.  She is a member of the Council of African American Parents, as well as Leadership California, a network of accomplished women dedicated to advancing the leadership roles women play in business, society, and public policy.

SCE has consistently been ranked in Fortune magazine's annual survey of the top companies for ethnic minorities in America.  Information on employment opportunities at Southern California Edison is at www.edisonjobs.com.


Granddaughter Reflects on Historic Tulsa Riot Case

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By Lea Michelle Cash


DA Moves to Dismiss Charges


On May 31, 1921 and the first day of June, 1921 the worse race riot in the history of America occurred. Eighty-six years ago, charges were filed against fifty-five defendants for unlawfully, knowingly, willfully, riotously and feloniously assembling together, armed with rifles, shotguns, pistols, razors and other deadly weapons, to disturb the public peace and quiet serenity of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

While acting in concert, each with the other, did congregate and assemble themselves together in and upon the public streets, avenues, alleys and other places of the City of Tulsa as arms aforesaid, shot and kill one Walter Diggs and shot, wounded and injured numerous other peaceable citizens of the City of Tulsa, County of Tulsa, State of Oklahoma.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss all charges was held at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa located at 322 North Greenwood on December 11, 2007. District Judge, the Honorable Jesse Harris presided at the historic hearing.

My grandfather, Julius Warren Wiggings was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1888, the year that incumbent President G rover Cleveland lost to Indiana senator, Benjamin Harrison who became the 23rd President of the United States.  As a young child he was raised by his grandparents in Everett, Massachusetts and given the name of Warren Ramsey, which name he kept until the year 1909.

In 1909, Warren became a professional boxer and changed his name professionally to "Jack Scott".  His career as a professional boxer took him all over the country and despite segregation, discrimination, cheating and crooked managers who often times did not pay what was promised, he managed to save and wisely invest his earnings.  On May 2, 1917 in Little Rock, Arkansas he married Daisy Levester (Dixon) Hurst and the newlyweds moved and settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma to raise their family.

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Jack and Daisy Scott
On May 31, 1921, Scott was one of the many brave Black men who stood on Tulsa's Courthouse stairs to protect a young Black male from being lynched. What happened on that explosive historical day is recorded to be the worst race riot in the history of America.

       

In 1921 throughout the State of Oklahoma, Blacks were being lynched. In one report it is noted that Tulsa's Police Chief John Gustafson and Sheriff Woolley claimed regarding an earlier August 1920 lynching that it shows criminals "that the men of Tulsa mean business."

According to historian Scott Ellsworth's, Tulsa Race Riot report, Blacks began to question if another mob ever gathered in Tulsa to lynch someone else, who was going to stop them?   These brave men were Black men, mostly World War I veterans.  They assembled to stop the White mob from lynching Dick Rowland, 19 who was arrested for being in an elevator, and when the elevator jerked, he accidentally fell upon a 17 year-old Sarah Page, the female elevator operator.  She screamed.  The riots were started by news reports of wealthy White oilmen and citizens (many Klansmen) who threatened to lynch yet another Black man accused of raping a White woman, charges Miss Page never filed.

Thirty-five city blocks burned to the ground, completely devastating more than a thousand Black families, leaving them homeless and displaced. The prosperous area in which they had lived known as "The Greenwood District" and "Black Wall Street" was gone over night. Gone were the many brick homes, the buildings, the markets and businesses, the sandwich shops, the hamburger and juke joints, the 750 seat Dreamland Theater, the library, the churches, the Gurley and Stafford hotels, the Black newspaper establishments.  Gone was the booming commercial district along Greenwood Ave noted to be an American success story.

Days after the destructive and deadly race riot, when the facts were sorted out, the falsely accused Black youth, Rowland, was released.  He was completely innocent of the charges of attempted rape.  It is reported that the Tulsa County officials put him secretly on an outbound train because they could not protect him from Tulsa citizens now infuriated that his innocence came to place Tulsa in a terrible light, for having burned to the ground the entire prosperous Black Greenwood district.  According to reports, not confirmed, Dick Rowland lays somewhere out of state in an unmarked grave.

Making the injustice even worse, claims filed by Blacks for damages and losses were never honored. Lives further destroyed and history forgotten.  The Tulsa Race Riot Commissioners are still seeking reparations for the race riot victims, survivors and their descendants.

Harris stated, "I decided to file the motion in the best interest of justice. It is my hope that dismissal of charges against all defendants will reaffirm our commitment to the Rule of Law and help to promote racial healing in our community."  He continued, "I believe it is important to recognize the atrocities and devastation that occurred during this shameful event."  

Previous to the DA's decision, he was contacted by co-founder of Uncrown Queens Insitute, Dr. Barbara Nevergold. She had been doing research on the life of Andrew Jackson Smitherman, a prominent Black publisher in Buffalo, New York.  Smitherman in 1921 was the publisher of the Tulsa Star, a Black newspaper, and staunch advocate for the rights of Black citizens. He was one of the individuals indicted for the riot. He posted bail and fled Tulsa with his wife and five children.

Dr. Nevergold inquired about having Smitherman's name cleared.  A similar request was made by the descendants of prominent Black businessman, J.B. Stradford and in 1996 his charges were dropped.

Harris stated, "As I study the records and report released by the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, it becomes clear to me that the Rule of Law which governs our search for the truth in our criminal justice system broke down during this tragic event and justice would be best served if changes were dismissed against not only Smitherman, but all defendants."

My grandparents lost everything they owned in the fateful burning down of segregated Tulsa.  My grandfather although indicted, did not flee Tulsa like many others.  Instead the family lived in a tent and tried to rebuild their lives, much later purchased land located on N. Greenwood Place, minutes away from the historic Greenwood district.  On this land, Scott built three small wood framed houses (shacks) and a small general store.  He and his family lived in one and the other two houses were rented to others.   He retired from boxing and placed a boxing ring in the yard where he openly trained young boxers.

Jack and Daisy Scott had twelve children (one died in infancy) of which were raised in the City of Tulsa.  Inspired by Alex Haley's "Roots" it is my mother, Altamese Marion Scott who has kept the family legacy alive and has passed it on to me.  The Scott family history continues to unfold, a process in motion.   

Jack Scott died on April 26, 1964, a laborer, in that same house that he built after the devastating race riot decades earlier.  He never received compensation for insurance claims filed in 1921 for his race riot losses in the amount of $48, 980.50.

Local Woman Leads Memorial Effort

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By Susan Min

African Americans have served with pride and distinction in every great American war, beginning with the180,000 soldiers, both freed men and runaway slaves, who fought with the Union Army in the Civil War to win their emancipation. More than 30,000 Black soldiers sacrificed their lives for Abraham Lincoln's Union Army in the war that abolished slavery.
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Buffalo Soldiers in St. Mary’s, Montana, courtesy of National Archive


Shortly after the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed a piece of legislation that gave Blacks the right to legitimately carry arms and authorized the formation of six all-Black peacetime units, the first of their kind--the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry regiments, which were later reorganized as the 24th and 25th Infantries.

Notable recruits included Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American officer of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry and one of the first African-American graduates of West Point Naval Academy in 1879, along with fellow African-American West Point classmates John H. Alexander and Charles Young, who were both granted commissions to the ninth U.S. Cavalry.
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Members of the 25th Infantry, circa 1883, courtesy of National Archive


In 1866, Cathy Williams, an ex-slave and washwoman, became William Cathy, the first Black female soldier to ever serve the United States army as a Buffalo Soldier.  Banned from service as a woman, Williams furtively served two years from 1866 to 1868 with the 10th unit, before being found out by a medical doctor while undergoing treatment for an illness. Williams was dishonorably discharged.  

Eighteen Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, during the early Western Campaigns. The Buffalo Soldiers served in other campaigns, including the Spanish American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Mexican Expedition, World War I and II, and the Korean War.

The 9th and 10th units were disbanded in 1942, but the 24th and 25th infantry regiments remain active. Colin Powell and Kareem Abdul-Jabar are among notable contemporary Buffalo Soldiers.  

MEMORIALIZING THE SOLDIERS: A LOCAL EFFORT

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Cadet photo of Henry O. Flipper, one of the first African American graduates of West Point
With nary a mention in school textbooks and zero representation in the prolific Western movie canon of the early twentieth century, the Buffalo Soldiers have only recently begun to gain public attention in the last few decades. A few contemporary references appear in pop-culture-the famous song by Bob Marley, "Buffalo Soldier" speaks to their legacy, and a movie called Buffalo Soldiers starring Danny Glover was released in the 1990s. Organizations devoted to the Buffalo Soldiers have cropped up throughout the country, including historical re-enactment groups.

Since early 2006, Yolanda Williams, volunteer chairperson of the Inland Empire Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Organization, has been spearheading efforts to erect a bronze statue in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers in the Inland Empire. 

In line with the organization's mission to "educate and perpetuate the legacy of the Buffalo Soldier," the memorial statue will be a tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers' exploits and heroism, and a reminder to the modern public of the depth of our debt to all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

The road to the statue's completion has been long and fraught with bureaucratic obstacles-"each step has to be approved, from the look of the statue, to the artist, to the words on the plaque," said Williams, who received federal permission in late 2006 to place the statue at a prominent location at the entrance of the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA. "But I am so elated with every little win we get."  IEBSHA projects to break ground for the memorial in late 2008. 
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Members of the 10th Cavalry who served in the Spanish-American war. Augustus Walley (top row, 2nd from right, with the bandana around his neck), a former slave from Bond Avenue in Reisterstown, MD, won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Courtesy of National Archive and Medalofhonor.com

A private citizen who volunteers her time with IEBSHA, Williams has always been active in her community, and espouses the belief that social change begins with each individual. Without any prior experience in managing a nonprofit org, Williams singlehandedly started IEBSHA back in 2005, pulled by a personal conviction to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and to educate the general public. Williams doesn't consider herself a social activist or a political person, however. "I'm just doing my duty to my community," she said.

Education has always been foremost among Williams' goals for the organization. "So many of our young Black men are in gangs and in jails, destroying our communities, destroying each other, instead of raising up their communities, beautifying them, making them more livable," said Williams, "Our goal is to teach these young people about the costs of their citizenship, and the pride and value in it."

The memorial project began as a personal dream for Williams, a descendent of a Buffalo Soldier-her grandfather, father, and husband all served in the U.S. military. "I have been an army brat all my life, and I have, in a way, inherited this dream from them," said Williams.

The bronze statue, designed by Baxter Miller, a prominent military sculptor based in the IE, will be a life-size figure of a buffalo soldier on a horse. The memorial will include informative panels on the history of the soldiers, including a model diorama of the evolution of the Buffalo Soldiers' uniforms. IEBSHA invites veterans and the general public to contribute original words for the plaque that will accompany the statue.

The 1.5 to 2 million dollar cost of the memorial-funded exclusively by private donation, with no federal funding-remains the biggest challenge for IEBSHA. Several fundraising events--a musical, a Black tie event, a ladies tea, and a buffet breakfast-are slated for Fall. A memorial endowment program has been set up at the Riverside National Cemetery and is now accepting public donations.

Yolonda Williams invites the Inland Empire community to join IEBSHA in memorializing the Buffalo Soldiers by becoming a member or contributing a tax-deductible donation. "We're looking for supporters--the general public and businesses are all welcome, for contributions, sponsorship, or donation of services," said Williams.

The organization conducts meetings, open to the public, every 4th Tuesday at Caesar Chavez library in the city of Perris from 3 to 4 pm.

For more information on IEBSHA and its upcoming events, or to contribute a donation or lyrics to the memorial statue, please contact Yolonda Williams: brocourage@Verizon.net, (951) 657-7088

Local Woman Leads Memorial Effort

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By Susan Min

African Americans have served with pride and distinction in every great American war, beginning with the180,000 soldiers, both freed men and runaway slaves, who fought with the Union Army in the Civil War to win their emancipation. More than 30,000 Black soldiers sacrificed their lives for Abraham Lincoln's Union Army in the war that abolished slavery.

Shortly after the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed a piece of legislation that gave Blacks the right to legitimately carry arms and authorized the formation of six all-Black peacetime units, the first of their kind--the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry regiments, which were later reorganized as the 24th and 25th Infantries.

Notable recruits included Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American officer of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry and one of the first African-American graduates of West Point Naval Academy in 1879, along with fellow African-American West Point classmates John H. Alexander and Charles Young, who were both granted commissions to the ninth U.S. Cavalry.

In 1866, Cathy Williams, an ex-slave and washwoman, became William Cathy, the first Black female soldier to ever serve the United States army as a Buffalo Soldier.  Banned from service as a woman, Williams furtively served two years from 1866 to 1868 with the 10th unit, before being found out by a medical doctor while undergoing treatment for an illness. Williams was dishonorably discharged.  

Eighteen Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, during the early Western Campaigns. The Buffalo Soldiers served in other campaigns, including the Spanish American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Mexican Expedition, World War I and II, and the Korean War.

The 9th and 10th units were disbanded in 1942, but the 24th and 25th infantry regiments remain active. Colin Powell and Kareem Abdul-Jabar are among notable contemporary Buffalo Soldiers.  

MEMORIALIZING THE SOLDIERS: A LOCAL EFFORT

With nary a mention in school textbooks and zero representation in the prolific Western movie canon of the early twentieth century, the Buffalo Soldiers have only recently begun to gain public attention in the last few decades. A few contemporary references appear in pop-culture-the famous song by Bob Marley, "Buffalo Soldier" speaks to their legacy, and a movie called Buffalo Soldiers starring Danny Glover was released in the 1990s. Organizations devoted to the Buffalo Soldiers have cropped up throughout the country, including historical re-enactment groups.

Since early 2006, Yolanda Williams, volunteer chairperson of the Inland Empire Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Organization, has been spearheading efforts to erect a bronze statue in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers in the Inland Empire.

In line with the organization's mission to "educate and perpetuate the legacy of the Buffalo Soldier," the memorial statue will be a tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers' exploits and heroism, and a reminder to the modern public of the depth of our debt to all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

The road to the statue's completion has been long and fraught with bureaucratic obstacles-"each step has to be approved, from the look of the statue, to the artist, to the words on the plaque," said Williams, who received federal permission in late 2006 to place the statue at a prominent location at the entrance of the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA. "But I am so elated with every little win we get."  IEBSHA projects to break ground for the memorial in late 2008. 

A private citizen who volunteers her time with IEBSHA, Williams has always been active in her community, and espouses the belief that social change begins with each individual. Without any prior experience in managing a nonprofit org, Williams singlehandedly started IEBSHA back in 2005, pulled by a personal conviction to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and to educate the general public. Williams doesn't consider herself a social activist or a political person, however. "I'm just doing my duty to my community," she said.

Education has always been foremost among Williams' goals for the organization. "So many of our young Black men are in gangs and in jails, destroying our communities, destroying each other, instead of raising up their communities, beautifying them, making them more livable," said Williams, "Our goal is to teach these young people about the costs of their citizenship, and the pride and value in it."

The memorial project began as a personal dream for Williams, a descendent of a Buffalo Soldier-her grandfather, father, and husband all served in the U.S. military. "I have been an army brat all my life, and I have, in a way, inherited this dream from them," said Williams.

The bronze statue, designed by Baxter Miller, a prominent military sculptor based in the IE, will be a life-size figure of a buffalo soldier on a horse. The memorial will include informative panels on the history of the soldiers, including a model diorama of the evolution of the Buffalo Soldiers' uniforms. IEBSHA invites veterans and the general public to contribute original words for the plaque that will accompany the statue.

The 1.5 to 2 million dollar cost of the memorial-funded exclusively by private donation, with no federal funding-remains the biggest challenge for IEBSHA. Several fundraising events--a musical, a Black tie event, a ladies tea, and a buffet breakfast-are slated for Fall. A memorial endowment program has been set up at the Riverside National Cemetery and is now accepting public donations.

Yolonda Williams invites the Inland Empire community to join IEBSHA in memorializing the Buffalo Soldiers by becoming a member or contributing a tax-deductible donation. "We're looking for supporters--the general public and businesses are all welcome, for contributions, sponsorship, or donation of services," said Williams.

The organization conducts meetings, open to the public, every 4th Tuesday at Caesar Chavez library in the city of Perris from 3 to 4 pm.

For more information on IEBSHA and its upcoming events, or to contribute a donation or lyrics to the memorial statue, please contact Yolonda Williams: brocourage@Verizon.net, (951) 657-7088

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