Archive for Race

Free in DC For MOW 50: The Taylors and 1963 “The Baker Incident” in Folcroft, PA

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Free Smith
The Taylors, Richard "Dick" and Phyllis in 1963 when they met.

The Taylors, Richard “Dick” and Phyllis in 1963 when they met.

Richard and Phyllis Taylor today after 50 years of marriage.

Richard and Phyllis Taylor today after 50 years of marriage.

Folcroft has long been a location of racial tension (especially for residents in neighboring/my hometown, Darby Township). Memories of Ku Klux Klan activity from the past and questionable incidents involving profiling and predominately Black stops in speed traps have long been whispered between Blacks in the area.

However, in 1963, racial volatility in Folcroft was the focus of the international community. Days after the March on Washington, Horace and Sarah Baker, young parents of one with one on the way, tried to move from Philadelphia into their first home in Folcroft’s Delmar Village area. As the couple’s moving van arrived, a mob of thousands erupted in outrage, shouting statements such as “We don’t want them,” and concerns about their property devaluing. Rioters broke all of the windows out of the house as well as smashing all of the cabinets.

Local heroes, Richard “Dick” Taylor and wife, Phyllis, alongside the March on Washington (which they attended) also celebrate their 50th anniversary of marriage this year. They were integral in the support effort for the Baker family. The couple met through The Movement as opponents of housing and job discrimination. Mr. Taylor served as director of the Fair Housing Council of Delaware Valley and previously worked with the American Friends Service Committee in the South fighting housing discrimination. Mrs. Taylor  was a senior at Beaver College, doing field work in the fields of job and housing discrimination. She also went south as a trained “Freedom Rider,” railing with other youngsters against Jim Crow.

As written in their joint recanting of their account of the incident, they wrote for the Chestnut Hill Local, “For both of us, our faiths taught why these commitments were so important. Dick, a Quaker (who now combines Quakerism with Catholicism) and Phyllis who is Jewish (who now combines Judaism with Quakerism) both felt called to the prophetic tradition.” In the movement, folks like the Taylors were  known as “White allies,” according to Mrs. Taylor. Furthermore, Mr. Taylor’s ancestors travailed as abolitionists and Mrs. Taylor, whose grandparents were escapees of the turbulence of the Holocaust, remembers younger days growing up in New York with “no dogs or Jews allowed” signs hung from establishments. “There were White folks there, then and now, who are concerned about combating racism. We’ve got to help each other,” said Mrs. Taylor.

Through his work at the Fair Housing Council, the Taylors met the Bakers after Margaret Collins, real estate agent for Friends’ Suburban Housing found the Baker’s the home that they’d been looking for. Since both Mrs. Taylor and Sarah Baker were pregnant at the time, she remembered sharing maternity clothes with her.

However, that fateful August day, Mrs. Taylor remembered, “The moving van couldn’t get through. They couldn’t get through.” She remembered “all the glass and all the destruction” after what she labeled as “methodical destruction” by the townspeople and the police who just watched it happen, claiming not to get involved for fear of potentially, injuring pregnant women.  Mrs. Taylor sees that rationale as a “contrast” to the following year’s demonstrations in Chester against de facto segregation in schools (which drew the likes of Malcolm X and Dick Gregory to Chester to support) where police beat women, some who were pregnant.

She recalled the chaotic scene and rowdy crowd. “I remember I cut myself on glass. The people cheered. It was bizarre.” She said that the Bakers were far from making a Rosa Pars like statement by turning down housing in predominately Black next-town-over, Darby Township in favor of Folcroft. “They did not do it for political reasons. They did it because the quality of the house was better,” she explained. “It’s really a politically-oriented person that are geared for that. They were simply a young couple with one child who wanted a good, quality house. They were not pioneers at all. They were just plain people; a lovely family who wanted a good house.”

Mr. Taylor, seeing no help from local authorities, instantly drove to the Governor’s Mansion, a move that resulted in state forces to come in to quell the rioters and gaining the support of the NAACP, CORE and clergymen, who pledged to form a human barrier, donning their collars and pastoral garb between the rioters and the house.

The Bakers lived there shortly, where the opposition never slacked. Their neighbors even went so far as to pour sugar in Horace Baker’s gas tank, sabotaging his vehicle. They eventually gave in and moved in with the Taylors in Mount Airy, where they eventually found a home and moved on. Mrs. Taylor reflected on the “sad irony” of Sarah Baker, who was a nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital, was rebuffed so by people that she may well have delivered.

It was disheartening for the couple who had just participated in the historic event on the Washington Mall days before, “Here, we left Washington and all the excitement of “the Dream,” she said thinking back on seeing dynamic like Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, “to come back to basically the ‘Dream’ shattered.” She’d been on the Freedom Rides, but hadn’t seen anything quite like the scene in Folcroft. “This had a different feel to it. It was really pretty ugly.”

She always regretted that the “good people” in Folcroft, remained silent and out of focus. “It was really quite terrible. I’m sure there were good people in Folcroft, but I think the good people were afraid, she said. “One of the things I’m mainly aware of that when good people are quiet, terrible things can happen,” she stated, comparing such a situation to lead to Hitler’s oppression of her people.

Today, the Taylors live in Germantown. Mrs. Taylor now ministers as a chaplain in Philadelphia Prison System. She sermonized, “We all have to be vigilant and we (as a community) have to all not know not to be afraid and speak out whenever we see wrong.”

The couple closed their piece in the Chestnut Hill Local with this reflection: “When we look at news clips of the march and listen to the stirring words of the speeches, we are reminded of the words from the Talmud: ‘Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obliged to complete the work. But neither are you free to abandon it.’”

BELOW: PHOTOS FROM THE 1963 “BAKER INCIDENT” IN FOLCROFT

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft "Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Folcroft “Baker Incident in 1963 CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

 

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White Education

Posted in The Man with tags , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2012 by Free Smith

I’ll admit it. I went to white schools for the majority of my educational career. That’s just for all of you who think it’s lame to go to a white school (I know you’re out there). But, I have enjoyed some advantages by going to these institutions. I received a great education. I learned how to write and speak well. I learned the classics. Most important of all, I learned how to interact with people of all different backgrounds which I believe gives me a good perspective on things. However, I went to school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I don’t know if you know it, but the ‘burbs are pretty wild racially. I can imagine that Philly ‘burbs mirror other ones in the country, but while at Howard University, I was shocked one day by a professor. I was sitting at the shuttle bus stop with one of my professors. We had never had a conversation, but we were having a nice exchange. All of a sudden, I told her where I was from and went to school. To my surprise, she said that she taught in one of the neighboring districts and she said to me, “These kids from the South think they have a hard time. They have no idea.” This made me think back to my grade-school days. She really confirmed my thought and feelings that I had inside, but never really thought about since it was just my normal, daily life.

Elementary school was definitely my favorite time during my school years. Everything was fair and everybody got along for the most part. There are a few pitfalls though. In white schools, black history education is all but reduced to Black History Month, which should be called Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson and possibly George Washington Carver Month (though you are taught that Carver was the inventor of peanut butter, sigh).  It got to the point almost that Dr. King was devalued. He’s just depicted as this lovey-dovey “dreamer” who made a great speech when he was in actuality a revolutionary that put his life on the line everyday to make life better for his people and the world as a whole. Luckily, I had a mother (who was also a teacher at the school) who taught us at home the real deal on who we were and are. It’s because of her that I developed a deep love for and interest in the struggle. She shared her perspectives and experiences and had us reading books, watching programs and visiting museums to increase our knowledge on our history. Here’s a funny side story though: One day a kid asked my brother, “You guys have Black History Month. How come there’s no White History Month.” Frustrated, my brother responded, “BECAUSE EVERY MONTH IS WHITE HISTORY MONTH!”

As young’ins, we all are curious about many things and to my fellow classmates, blacks were a mystery.  I can remember times when they would actually feel our hair because it amazed them so.  Another example of this came from a friend of mine who came to my district from Philly when she was in about 6th grade. She had her hair beaded and came to school and had so many kids touching her hair and asking questions that she just decided to stop wearing them all together. This may seem like a small thing, but my mother deaded that inkling when she told us to never let anybody just feel our hair. She compared it to slaves on the trading block when white slave traders would examine their potential buy. I never let anybody lay a pinky on my head after that.

Another unfortunate aspect of attending a predominantly white school is that you WILL hear some racial slurs and jokes. Taking a number 2 can be referred to as “dropping your kids of at the pool”. White girls who like black guys may be referred to as “mud chasers”. You may hear jokes like, “What’s the difference between a black man and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family.” Somebody may come out and say that their family used to own yours. One time in school, a white guy called a black kid a “black son of a bitch” and was body slammed on a lunch table as a result. The black guy was suspended. His mother was then ridiculed for protesting outside every morning with a sign reading “STOP THE RACIAL SLURS AT THIS SCHOOL”. Oh yeah, don’t think they’ll be afraid to throw around the N-word, an action is sure to cause a rumble.

These are just a few things that you may experience going to a white school. Now don’t get me wrong. There are advantages. As I said before, you will learn a lot of useful things that will help you in the future and you will develop a more diverse mindset that will help you when dealing with people in the outside world. But be prepared for some difficult times racially. To parents, I urge you to teach your kids as much as you can in the home about our history, where we come from and what we’ve been through and prepare them to be strong and resist the urge to whoop a white kid for saying something out of pocket no matter how justified they may be. It will just make things worse for your kid.

My HBCU Book Entry: Hail Howard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by Free Smith

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I attended Howard University from 2002 to 2006. I transferred and got my degree from Penn State. I always say that I graduated from Penn State, but I did all of my learning at Howard. My time there, I feel, is a major contribution to my mindset today. I had the opportunity to see, learn and participate in things there that I would never have known existed had I not gone there. Out of all of HU’s elements that I absorbed, I’d have to say the overall Black experience that I was immersed in was the most valuable to me personally.

 

At the foundation of the Howard experience is the Afro-American requirement. I feel it was so beneficial to us that it was required that we allot some of our time to learning about ourselves. The recurring theme of the Diaspora had a profound effect on me. I saw that there’s no difference between myself and the myriad of African descendants strewn throughout the world. As a radio production major, learning about Amos n’ Andy, Edison’s “Ten Little Niggers”, Birth Of A Nation vaudevillian minstrels and “race music” was enlightening. A life changing class for was Dr. Gregory Carr’s Black aesthetics course. I walked away thinking that maybe I didn’t see us as much based on society’s inbred concepts of beauty/value. These courses really made me question my perception of my entire existence.

 

The lessons on Blackness were extracurricular. I learned that Black is not only beautiful, but elaborate as well. As a black kid who was a “White boy” in school, I was aware that there were different groups of black people. I was always separated from Black comrades because of my vernacular and “smart kid” status. I’m not bitter about this, but I realized then that there are different categories of Black people. It wasn’t until I got to HU that I truly understood how deep we go. I liken HU to a sociological experiment. There were a plethora of kinds of Black people. It’s always said that we come in all different shades in a sense of complexion, but this concept also applies to lifestyles, attitudes and points of view. There were groups comprised of Black people from around the world with differing interests be it politics, the arts, science, religion, business, Greek life or, unfortunately, crime. There were DC residents in the mix. DC is a unique place culturally itself. Nevertheless we always found each other together blending in the Café, the Punchout, a house party or The Yard. It was a vision to behold at chapel services and other events in Crampton Auditorium when we all stood with fists clenched in the air singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Furthermore, on nights like Black Tuesday, when we marched for affirmative action, the 2nd Million Man March, or the demonstration on The Yard when Laura Bush came, we were one.

 

Going to an HBCU made me value my Blackness as something that is rare and priceless. It also showed me that Blackness is not verbally definable. We can truly be whatever it is that we want to be. No matter who you are or what you’re into, there’s a place for Black people in various facets of society. A lot of us are working hard to assimilate to what society expects of us, but it’s obsolete to do so. Socrates said it best in his quote, “Be as you wish to seem.” We truly have the capacity to do so. However, the HBCU experience couples that notion with the African concept of “I am we.” While we are all different, we’re simultaneously the same. I am so appreciative to Howard for showing me that. 

 

WTF WWF?

Posted in Shit n' Giggles, The Man with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2011 by Free Smith

I, like so many others was an avid fan of the WWF. I’ve never been a WWE fan, but I loved the hell out of the WWF. All of the action, the drama, the laughs. It was perfect entertainment. Any post-pubescent person should realize by now that professional wrestling isn’t real. It’s a cast of athletes/actors flying and tossing each other around for our enjoyment. However, there is something very real when it comes to ‘wrasslin’: negative Black stereotypes. Excellence isn’t even synonymous with Blacks in the WWE. Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the only Black man to ever hold the WWE Championship and that was ten years ago (and he’s half Samoan). Here’s a list of stereotypical Blacks who have graced the ‘squared circle’ in the WWE:

Virgil
For all intensive purposes, Virgil was The Million Dollar Man’s slave. He carried his belt and did his bidding.

Junkyard Dog
JYD never really did anything stereotypical or acted in a negative way. He was, however, a junkyard dog.

Nation of Domination
A lot of Blacks were fans of the Nation Of Domination. Headed by Farooq (in real life, Florida State football legend Ron Johnson) and the starting point of The Rock (known as Rocky Maivia then), they were strong, serious and took no nonsense from anybody. On the flipside, they were the ‘angry black guys’ getting booed by the fans. In true ‘crabs in a barrel’ fashion, The Rock ousted Farooq as the leader and took over.

Koko B. Ware
He was dressed in brightly colored clothes and was known for bringing his parrot with him to the ring. He was never really taken seriously.


Papa Shango/The Godfather/Kama Mustafa
The Godfather was a flagrant pimp and his catch phrase was “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”. One time, he was actually able to steal the Undertaker’s signature urn. What’d he do with that power? He melted it down and made some ‘bling’ out of it. He was also a member of the Nation of Domination. His name was Kama Mustafa.

Mr. Shango was a witch doctor/voodoo man from ‘parts unknown’. That’s all that needs to be said.

He’s now known by his legal name, Charles Wright and he owns a Vegas strip club called, Cheetah’s.


Thuggin’ And Buggin’ Enterprises

This was a group of Black wrestlers, headed by Theodore “Teddy” Long, who constantly pulled the race card and stressed that they were being held down by the White man.

Kenneth “Slick” Johnson
Slick was the manager of Akeem and The Big Boss Man. He’s known for rapping in his theme song, “Jive Soul Bro” and eating big buckets of fried chicken or ‘yard bird’ as he called it.

Kamala
Kamala was a large, spear and shield wielding, mask wearing man with his face painted and his torso was adorned with stars and a moon. He was a ‘Ugandan cannibal’.

D-Lo Brown
He was the Nation of Domination soldier known for his signature ‘head wobble’. He would also go on to be a member of Thuggin’ and Buggin’ Enterprises.

Mark Henry/Sexual Chocolate
He started out as Mark Henry, international weight lifting champion and Strongman competition winner. He then joined the Nation of Domination and after that went on to become ‘Sexual Chocolate’, a Blaxploitation-esque playboy of sorts. He was also a member of Thuggin’ and Buggin’ Enterprises.

In closing I’m sure there are some I missed. Nevertheless, don’t be mad at these guys. They were playing the game in order to make money which they did. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.