Sunday, January 22, 2017

Part 2 - What if 40 Acres Were Given Permanently

                                             Image: Voices of the Civil War - Episode 36

Fredrick Douglass knew that even beyond a strong coalition he had to fundamentally change the house slave vs field slave, light skin vs dark skin perception that has been dividing the Slaves and now Freed Blacks for centuries. The Slave masters systematically fathered offspring with their Slave females.  Those offspring were called “mulatto” and were given a higher stature in the Plantation.  The constant reminder of the superiority of their light skin, “better” hair quality and “more” chiseled features enabled a false sense of superiority.  1670 allowed free black men the right to own slaves, but not White or Christian Servants, in an interesting effort to continue the expansion of the freed blacks which were mostly mulatto. Black women were most freed slaves. Most were given freedom by their White Slave Masters that they had sexual relations with. An astonishing 75% of the freed slaves were Black Women and 33% were mulatto children. In 1860, there were 500,000 Blacks living in the South.   A surprising amount of 261,988 were not slaves. In New Orleans 10,689 freed slaves made up the Black population. Of those freed slaves 3,000 owned slaves. In Charleston, SC the peak of Black Slave ownership was 1830 in which 407 Black Slave owners had 2,195 slaves.  Just 30 years later in 1860 that ownership dropped to 137 with 544 slaves.

Douglass felt a strategic step would be to meet with the two largest Black Slave owners in Louisiana that owned sugar plantations in 1860 and with William Ellison, Jr., grandson John W. Buckner of South Carolina.  C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards were mulattos owned 152 slaves in Louisiana.  Antoine Dubuclet, also a mulatto owned 70 slaves in Louisiana. Cotton Gin improvement maker William Ellison, Jr. also a mulatto amassed wealth during the peak demand for cotton in South Carolina.  Douglass sought a dialogue with Buckner also of mixed decent.  Douglass also wanted to connect with Solomon Thomas Pendarvis, great grandson of James Pendarvis, the wealthiest Freed Black man (also mulatto) in South Carolina who owned 3,250 acres of land.

Douglass had concern for rash repercussions towards any Blacks that had any type of wealth outside of the occupied 400,000 acres also known as Sherman’s land..  In addition to connecting with Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, Douglass would seek an audience with Oliver Otis Howard.  Howard was a Commissioner on the Freedman’s Bureau whose charter was to protect the newly freed Blacks. Howard was a successful commander in the Union Army and made his feelings quite public that most White Southerners would be happy to see slavery restored.  Howard’s determination to see Blacks receive some type of suffrage led him to establish Howard University, the country’s first Black College.  In 1867, Howard’s own White daughters attended the College when it opened and the school would later educate 150,000 freed Blacks by 1872.  

Douglass knew that most of these Black Slaveholders lost a good portion of their wealth like many of the wealthy Slaveholders throughout the South.  He also felt that if he could sell the vision of the newly acquired land and the potential economic wealth, he might convince them to move to the South Carolina to Florida region.  This group of individuals have business acumen that could be transferred to new land owners which were non-mulatto.  It might be a stretch, but the psychological effect might be the initial catalyst to break down the mulatto privilege barrier.  If he could not convince them to move entirely, he could use them as Advisors to start building the coalition.  With the added benefit of firsthand knowledge of sugar cane farming. Douglass knew of Indian land further South in Florida and was intrigued with the possibility of partnering with the Indians for sugar cane production.  However, cotton was Douglass priority now.  Understanding the distribution to New England and understanding the Wall Street model of using financial instruments to sell future Slave revenues were the other priorities.  He felt that same model could be used against cotton production in the 400,000 acres.  An exploratory meeting with some of the people involved in setting up those financial instruments would be the next logical step. Douglass would have to leverage his Northern Congressional contacts to make progress on this vision.  He knew that the Northerners main objective was to generated revenue.  They clearly demonstrated that thirst as they profited off the Slave labor driven American cotton.

Congressmen of New York would be the first targeted to be introduced to the Wall Street firms that orchestrated the financing of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and subsequent Global American cotton industry.  High on the list is Lehman Brothers.  Their origins began as Alabama cotton brokers that moved to New York City in 1850 and created Lehman Brothers Investments. Henry, Mayer and Emmanuel Lehman came from Germany in 1844.  The brothers supported the southern cause during the Civil War before they eventually moved to New York City. The brothers payed hard currency to  Alabama Cotton Farmers, then brokered the  cotton to other brokers in Liverpool, England and New York City.  Twenty years later they would introduce the New York Cotton Exchange. Capital investment in the American Slave trade was more valuable than land and any other capital investment in the mid-1800s.   Understanding how Lehman Brothers could continue to play a strategic role in brokering the new Freed Black owned cotton on the global market produced by the 400,000 acres would enable Lehman Brothers to continue to profit, but it will begin the wealth accumulation process for the new generation of Black land owners.

Douglass also has his target on Junius S. Morgan and his son J.P. Morgan.  Junius Morgan renames an established London Merchant Bank- J.S. Morgan & Sons in 1864. Three years early, J.P. Morgan established a New York distribution and sales office in 1861.  The predecessor to J.P. Morgan Chase was the Bank of Manhattan Company which was established in September 1799 by Aaron Burr and a group of influential New Yorkers including Alexander Hamilton.  It was the second commercial bank in New York City.  The origination of the bank started by a charter from New York State Legislature to clean up the city’s water which at the time was believed to be the cause of illness outbreaks of yellow fever. There was a clause in the charter that allowed the bank to use excess capital and participate in any banking activities that were in line with the laws and U.S. Constitution. Which pants and interesting light on one of the founding fathers Alexander Hamilton.  It continues to question the mindset of the founding fathers when the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 for the 13 colonies. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed”. 

The consistency of the thinking prior to 1776 among the early settlers in regards to the gap between Slaves and Men has been evident since the first Slaves were brought to New World in 1619.  Prior to 1711 Slaves were required to go out and look for work in New York City.  The private buying and selling of Slaves were also commonplace. The White Middle Class New Yorkers increasing became anxious because so many Black Slaves in the public looking for work.  Nearly 1,000 of the 6,400 residents were Black Slaves. This anxiety established a central Market House for work at the Wall Street slip on December 17, 1711.  This solution was established for fear of Black insurrection.  All prospective work for hire with Indian and Black Slaves would only be conducted there.  That was the basis for more sophisticated Slave commodity trading.  Fast forward to 1792 and the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 Traders that became the New York Stock Exchange.  The Buttonwood Agreement would be the governance document for companies conducting transactions for the Slave Trade which included insurance, shipping and cotton.

Large New York Banks were the only domestic banks that could provide the credit and financing for the purchase of Slaves, from cotton seed to cloth supply chain, from planting to selling crops, to shippers and Northern Merchants were all part of the ecosystem.  Two influential White Merchants that Douglass wanted financing insight were Moses Taylor and Philip Livingston.  Moses Taylor’s banking activities were influential in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.  His early offices evolved into the 111 Wall Street Complex and part of Citibank’s operations. Phillip Livingston was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and probably the most active New York Merchant involved in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  His earnings eventually made its way as an endowment to Yale University and the founder of Kings College which later became Columbia University.  Comfort Tiffany, a wealthy textile manufacturer in Connecticut which sourced his key raw material from Slave plantation owners from the South, loaned his son Charles L. Tiffany $1,000 to start Tiffany & Young on September 14, 1837, the predecessor to Tiffany & Co.  Tiffany’s value proposition was buying merchandise directly off the merchant ships as they arrived on ports in New York and Boston.  Would those relationships be of value to Douglass in the future?
Douglass continued to struggle privately with executing on his plan to engage with individuals that profited so handsomely off the pain of Slave labor and associated in humane activities that took a back seat to profits.  Douglass had to remain focused on the big picture, that economic gains for Freed Blacks and the potential sea change of opportunity generated by the South Carolina to Florida land.  He reflected on the original language in Sherman’s Field Order No. 15.

“The islands from Charleston, south, the abandon rice fields along the rivers for 30 miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. John’s river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the Proclamation of the President of the United States.  Each family will have 40 acres of plotted land and Lincoln would provide troops until title has been completed.”  Subsequently, the military would provide mules to help with “Sherman’s Land” to the Freed Blacks.  White Southerners were painfully aware that Black land ownership would radically change Southern Society and Economies of the South.

Douglass had a governing framework that might be able to scale, but there would be legal challenges that he would need help from the Federal Government.  Tunis Campbell was one of the Superintendents of the Freedom’s Bureau for St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. There were approximately 400 Freed Blacks that occupied the island. Since the occupation, they created their own Constitution, Congress, Court System, Schools and Militia. Slaves were denied education and most importantly literacy before the Civil War.  Blacks understood that for them to have a chance at equality with their White counterparts they would have to learn how to read and maximize the output of each acre of land.  There continued to be a growing position by the White planters off the island of the audacity of Campbell’s ability to think in such a grandiose manner.  How could he possible entertain such thoughts of independence?

Campbell’s new structure would be challenged. Jacob Waldburg, the original owner of St. Catherine’s Island, GA wanted his land back and challenged the new ownership in 1865.  Waldburg indicated that the ex-Planters on the Island had land deeds that are 150 to 200 years old.   The Blacks had promissory notes of title that were provided during the country’s time of war when the land was abandoned.  So legally Waldburg was entitled to receive his land back under the property laws in the Constitution. Campbell anticipating this move, and had his new Congress pass a law indicating that Whites were prohibited from entering the Island.  This law was backed by the Island’s Black Militia.

To be continued………………………………


Myers, Barton. (2005, September 25).  Sherman’s field order No. 15.
Hurst, Ryan. (n.d.). Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and abandon lands (1865 – 1872)

Stiller, Jesse. (n.d.). The Freedman’s Savings Bank: Good Intentions Were Not Enough; A Noble Experiment Goes Awry

NCC Staff. (2015, July 15).  Andrew Johnson: The most criticized President Ever?
Holloway, Joseph E. (2010). The Slave Rebellion.

Levy, John Ira. (n.d.).  The Ways of Providence: Capitalism, Risk and Freedom in America 1841 -1935.'s%20bank&f=false

The American Yawp. (n.d.). The Cotton Revolution.
Cho, Nancy. (n.d.). Elliott, Robert Brown (1842 – 1884).
Taylor, Erica L. (2014). Little Known Black History Fact: Howard University.
Schweninger, Loren (1990, February). Prosperous Blacks in the South 1790 – 1880.
Cox, Dolores. (2009, October 2008). Lehman Brothers Link to Slavery. (2012). J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
            J.P. Morgan. (2017). Aaron Burr Opens Earliest Predecessor Firm.
            USA Today. (2008, February 21).  Lehman Brothers: 1 Brother Owned 7 Slaves in 1860.
            Phillip, Abby. (2015, April 15). A Permanent Reminder of Wall Street’s Hidden Slave-Trading Past is Coming Soon.
Harper, Peter Allen. (2013, February 5). How Slave Labor Made New York.
Tiffany & Co. (2017). About Tiffany and Co. (2015, January 15). Voices of the Civil War Episode 36: Sherman Special Field Orders No. 15.
            PBS American Experience. (n.d.). Reconstruction and Independent Black Community.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Part I - What if 40 Acres Were Given Permanently

What if 40 Acres Were Given Permanently?
A Historical Fiction Scenario

On January 16, 1865, General William Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15.  The order provided the Union confiscated 400,000 acres of coastal land from Charleston, South Carolina to St. John’s River, Florida to the freed slaves.  Pressure from Northern Abolitionists to provide slaves that successfully fled and join the Union Army some form of living in the devastated South.  Land Management of the confiscated land was a high priority after the basic medical care and food were provided.  Congress agreed that the land would not be given away, but sold at a marginal sell price.  Tens of thousands of Blacks purchased the available land through the Federal Freedman’s Bureau.  On March 3, 1865 Congress chartered the Freedman’s Savings Bank headed up by Henry Cooke, the brother of Jay Cooke.  The bank’s charter was to capture the new earnings from freed Blacks and to teach basic financial education and banking skills through employment.  Up to 7% was given on deposits.
On May 29, 1865 President Andrew Johnson passed an Amnesty Proclamation giving the ex-Confederates their land back and forfeiting the previous purchases by Blacks.  Instead Blacks were encouraged to seek employment from the very Confederate Former Masters that they were held under slavery.  Many rented the newly taken land and the Confederate owners created controversy by withholding farm earnings from Blacks.  President Johnson who was born in Raleigh, North Carolina had a sympathetic ear for the Southerners and reversed all of Lincoln’s efforts.  
Let us begin by changing the key course of events.  President Johnson’s brother William Johnson, was captured by the Union Army for the slaughter of Slaves that were fleeing to join the Union Army.  Secretary of War, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania heard of this slaughter and would team up with Vice President Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, and Jay Cooke Principal Financier of the Union military effort in the Civil War, to become President Johnson’s fiercest adversaries. Andrew Johnson originally a Southern Democrat, switched parties to become Lincoln’s new Vice President replacing Hannibal Hamlin.  Johnson was a supporter of slavery.  Johnson eventually made this statement early in his Presidency. “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men,” he wrote in 1866The reason for the capturing of William Johnson was not known except for Lincoln cabinet members and Jay Cooke.  Cooke wanted to insure the success of the Non-Profit Freedmen’s Savings & Trust Company led by his brother Henry.  Cooke would use this information to pressure Johnson until his eventual impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Fredrick Douglass was inserted as a Board of Directors and work closely with the Bank Operations Executives because of the possible appearance of conflict of interest between Henry Cooke and Jay Cooke & Company.  Douglass was urged by the original creators of the Freedmen’s Bank, A.M. Sperry, an Abolitionist and Treasurer and Congregational Minister J.W. Alvord to work closely with the Bank given the large number of Black depositors and deposits. Those depositors would eventually swell to 100,000 with deposits totaling more than $50 million in June 1873.  That would be the equivalent of almost $1 Billion in 2007 dollars.
The most pressing concern from the Black Leadership with the newly acquired land was federal protection.  The delegation from South Carolina was Richard Cain, the first Black to serve in the House of Representatives in 1873 -1875 and 1877 -1879.  Robert Elliot served in the House of Representatives in 1871 and South Carolina Attorney General in 1877.  Elliot opposed granting amnesty to ex-Confederate civilians and ranking military leaders.  Robert Smalls, 1862 Navy War hero, Brigadier General in South Carolina militia, also served in the House of Representatives in 1874.  Fredrick Douglass was painfully aware that the ex-Slave owners would not accept the financial and social losses that they would incur because of the Sherman Order No. 15.  Douglass introduced a unique proposition that he presented to Secretary of War, Simon Cameron.  Douglass needed continued troop presence and continuous military training for Blacks that occupied the land.  Douglass vision was that Blacks will continue to patrol the land with Union forces.  In exchange for troop access, Douglass would provide 1% of the Freedman’s Bank deposit interest and 1% of the gross profits on the output of crops from the land to cover the costs. Until the total costs were reached each year with an extra 3% also at the end of each year.  Douglass knew that Cameron would only be interested if there was an “upside” for the military access.  The stakes were high.  In 1835, the core cotton producing states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia produced 500 million pounds of cotton which were ready for export to London, Paris, Liverpool, New Orleans, and New York.  That amount made up 55% of the entire U.S. export market.  In 1860, 2 billion pounds of “Petit Gulf” cotton were produced which amounted to more than 60% of the U.S. exports for that year.  
The benchmarks for the industry during the early 1860’s in New Orleans was about .12 cents per pound and the yield was about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds per acre.  Each person had the capacity to work 10 acres.  Cotton was the engine to the textile industry, as was American slave labor was to the global cotton industry.  New England had 75% of the 5.14 million spindles in operation and 52% of manufacturing operations in 1860.  New England had 67% of the mill consummation, or 283.7 million pounds of the 422.6 million pounds of all cotton used by all U.S. mills.  The interwoven aspect of New England’s successful economy and Slave labor of cotton was undeniable.
From a global perspective, Britain’s textile mills accounted for 40% of the country’s exports. Twenty percent of Britain’s 22 million people where directly or indirectly involved in the cotton textile industry.  Britain relied on American cotton for over 80% of the raw industrial material.  American cotton was also the engine for Britain’s economy.  These points drove home the fact that Douglass needed to build a strong coalition of leaders to successful transform the state of freed Blacks.
More to come………..
Myers, Barton. (2005, September 25).  Sherman’s field order No. 15.
Hurst, Ryan. (n.d.). Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and abandon lands (1865 – 1872)

Stiller, Jesse. (n.d.). The Freedman’s Savings Bank: Good Intentions Were Not Enough; A Noble Experiment Goes Awry.

NCC Staff. (2015, July 15).  Andrew Johnson: The most criticized President Ever?

Levy, John Ira. (n.d.).  The Ways of Providence: Capitalism, Risk and Freedom in America 1841 -1935.'s%20bank&f=false

The American Yawp. (n.d.). The Cotton Revolution.
Cho, Nancy. (n.d.). Elliott, Robert Brown (1842 – 1884).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Erase the Fear: My Experience with Law Enforcement Citizens Academies

While our great country has thick societal scars, we have created landmark legislation in a generation that has had profound impact on the lives of a segment of the population.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of those landmark legislative accomplishments.  The Law Enforcement Agency responsible for protecting those rights is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Civil Rights Division of the FBI highest priority is Hate Crimes, with Racial being the highest subprogram priority.  The segment of the population that is most vulnerable expects this agency to fulfill that priority with all the Law Enforcement tools at the local, state and federal levels.  However, there are cases where the same resources that are tasked to carry out those mandates abuse their powers to detain and violate the civil rights of the same citizens which require that protection.  The FBI also has a focus on Color of Law violations which prosecutes Judges, Prosecutors, Security Guards, and Law Enforcement Officers that disregard the public trust.  Because of those abuses, we have generations of individuals that have an innate fear of those chartered to protect and serve.   There are those that express their frustration in several ways.  They may protest in pubic, vent on social media, or attempt to get a deep understanding of the Law Enforcement Administrations and how they should function.

I was one of those individuals that had a very deep frustration and concern for the way the wheels of our country’s criminal justice system were moving.  I became tired of having tremendous fear and anxiety every time a squad car or flashing lights passed by my vehicle.  I also became tired of the fact that segments of generations of parents have and continue give a “workshop” on how to interact with Law Enforcement commonly called “The Talk”.   However, I would not complain anymore unless I completely understood how the system works to accurately criticize any aspects of it. One day I decided that it was time for a personal change. After many hours of research, I found several Florida Law Enforcement Citizens Academies.  Local Police Departments offering unadvertised 13 week intense trainings for the community to understand all aspects of law enforcement.  Then advanced, selective Federal Programs sponsored by the DEA and FBI.  I had the privilege to attend both local and federal programs.

The local Citizens Academy covered topics ranging from understanding the local Officer mindset during a traffic stop, to SWAT and K-9 Unit raids, to robotic use in bomb situations, to visiting and talking with Prison Guards and low risk Prisoners, to simulating an active shooter situation in a school with the Police simulator, to visiting the Regional Communications Dispatch and 911 Call Centers, to in-depth review of Florida State Statutes. Getting to sit in a classroom setting and with the opportunity to ask candid questions on all topics with local Law Enforcement Commanders was probably the most valuable of the Citizens Academy program.  A quote by one of Colonels in the Sheriff’s Office that remained with me was “Respect is not given, it is earned”.  This was a guideline that he continues to use with all the Officers that he is responsible for.   This experience was the catalyst to explore the Federal Citizens Academies beginning with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Miami Field Office.

The highlight of the DEA Citizens Academy was the class participating in a simulated large drug bust.  The DEA Team had each student partner with an Officer and mirror their pre-planning coordination and suspect reviews. Immediately leading to an actual execution of a complete raid and bust in full equipment and vehicles. The topics during the 7-week training ranged from examining DEA Legal Authority Title 21, to drug investigations, narco-terrorism and financial investigations, examination of synthetic drugs, clandestine labs, surveillance/ undercover techniques, and firearms training.  The information about drug trafficking in our country and the global network were truly enlightening.  The last experience was the FBI Citizens Academy.
All 8 Weeks of the training were thought provoking and extremely informative. The topics ranged from the Civil Rights Division, counter terrorism, counter intelligence, SWAT Operations and Emergency Response Team (ERT) functions.   The highlights were collaborating with a student to investigate a simulated Bank Robbery and meeting with FBI Legal to discuss my decision in use of lethal force and mapping my actions to compliance with use of force guidelines.  Lastly, an actual SWAT Operation simulation of retrieving a hostage in a house.

I can say that the time investment was personally beneficially.  Taking these actions helped me overcome the long-standing issues that were like a dark cloud.  This investment will provide you with better tools to overcome your fears and increase your knowledge on all aspects of these Agencies. I encourage you to look for the various Citizens Academies Programs in your area.  Erase the fear.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

It is What it is - Dad

           I had a conversation with my young teenage son reflecting on the 1960’s and the Black Panther movement.  He asked me what I knew about it since growing up very young in the South side of Chicago and remembering the Panther movement.  He also was very perplexed that the core mission that drove the creation of Black Panther Party for Self Defense was the ongoing conflict between Law Enforcement and community, which is the same conflict that the Black Lives Matter movement is focusing on today.  For 50 years, this conflict has been going on without significant resolution? He said that protests and riots happened after these conflicts back then and still continues to happen today.  He asked me why hasn’t this changed and why do you have to talk to me about how to act if I am approached by Police? Why should I have to act any different than some of my friends? Before I could respond, he said “I guess it is what it is and it is not going to change – Dad”. 
            At that very moment, I felt disgusted to the very pit of my stomach and my mind raced on how I could respond to my son when the outcome of this conversation will have a long term impact on his perspective.  What has really changed and why should he have to behave different than his friends, were the two questions that each Black father has to contemplate when dealing with their young sons.  There was another time that brought outrage to Orson Welles in 1946 in his very popular radio broadcast.  He responded and addressed the vicious beating by Batesburg, South Carolina Police Chief of a Black solider named Isaac Woodard that resulted in blindness. His stance created controversy with some of his listeners, but created unprecedented awareness.

Since then, our country has 477,000 sworn officers and roughly 12,000 Police departments.  The country’s police departments are 12% Black, even though the U.S. Black population is 13.2%.  From 2002 to 2011 Police Officers had 32.9 Million face-to-face contacts with White individuals, force or threat of force was used to 445,500 (1.4%). Excessive force was used to 329,500 (1.0%).  In contrast, 4.6 Million face-to face contacts with Black individuals, force or threat of force was used to 159,100 (3.5%). Excessive force was used to 128,400 (2.8%).  What is more troubling is that prior to President Obama’s second term Police Departments were not required to submit fatal police shooting reports (FBI Supplemental Homicide Reports).  Florida departments hadn’t filed since 1997 and New York City last reported in 2007.  At least 1000 Police Departments filed a report or reports in 33 years, compared to the 17,000 national police departments.  The other side of this equation is what metrics do Police Departments used to measure success? And do those matrices drive certain behaviors? Michael J. Wood, retired ex-Baltimore cop seems to thinks so. In an interview with he indicated that, “The citizens just become a statistic, a number that you are going after.  I never feared the streets, I constantly feared other officers.”  Based on his comments, the infrastructure places more value on statistics than community policing. To achieve those statistics where is the easiest place to pursue.  The affluent neighbors or the poorer neighborhoods?

                Therefore, I continued to wonder how many layers of issues have exacerbated this multiple generational problem.  There was not one single issue, but multiple ones that have contributed to this generational distrust.  The one, overarching missing piece is each side looking at the problem through the opposing side.  How many people of color are actually taking the time to attend the various Citizens Academies sponsored by local Law Enforcement, DEA, ATF and FBI?  To combat an issue, you have to understand how Agencies think, trained and what their core guiding principles of behavior. How often do Police use their professional training to de-escalate a situation?  Do the individual Officers view the citizens as people, or become jaded and view the citizens as suspects?  How many minorities are assigned to all white districts to protect and serve? Are there similar problems in those circumstances?

                The only thing that I could share with my son is how we could take responsibility to force change and never say, “It is what it is”.   I told my son that what has changed is the different avenues we can collectively take to reflect the desired change.  What if every Black person understood the training that Police officers received, how they are measured and could predict what would trigger their behavior in an encounter? A Commander at Broward Sheriff’s Office in Florida told me that respect is not given it has to be earned.  Was this a philosophy held decades ago? I mentioned to my son that some Law Enforcement positions are elected positions and some positions are appointed by Elected Officials like Mayors.  We have the collective ability to grade them through our votes and hold each one accountable based on their record.  We can collectively go to our Congress person, Senator and Governor express our concerns with solutions and demand that they either support or provide alternative solutions.  Lack of response means lack of votes for their re-election.  For example, the Florida Governor won his re-election by less than 70,000 votes with a turnout of 22%.  What if every eligible Black voter participated in the Governor’s race?  Would the outcome be different? Would the Zimmerman prosecution have been the same? The Governor’s Office and Attorney General were responsible for prosecuting or not prosecuting the Zimmerman case.  In this case the people have spoken and the State Attorney Angela Corey was out of office with her record on the George Zimmerman, Marisa Alexander and other cases. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand how to connect the state dots and pressure points for elected officials and Law Enforcement.  Protests mean nothing without sustained political pressure and mid-term election voting. Never feel that you as a Black person are helpless. Therefore, it never “is what it is -Son”.  It is what we allow it to be. 

Maurice Henry is a seasoned professional in the High Technology industry and International Business. He has a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University and a MBA from Southern New Hampshire University in International Business. He publishes a Blog on
Amnesty International (2015). Deadly force police use of deadly force in the United States.
Bekiempis, Victoria (2015, May 14). The new racial makeup of U.S. police departments.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (2015, November 15). Police use of non-fatal force, 2002 -2011.
Gabrielson, Ryan, Jones Grochowski, Ryann and Sagara, Eric (2014, October 10). Deadly force in black and white.
Neyfakh, Leon and Wolfe Aaron, (n.d.). Why police are so violent towards black men.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Working Hard Not Smart: Economics and the Electorate

I started an interesting book by Edward D. Baptist titled, “The Half Has Never Been Told- Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”.  The author makes some very interesting points, but a couple points really caught my attention.  In the early 1780’s to the early 1860’s the South went from a series of worn down plantations barely producing cotton to producing almost 2 billion pounds.  In the Republic of Texas slaves increased from 4,000 to 27,000 in nine years.  The South became a subcontinental empire and the commodity of cotton was responsible for over 50% of our country’s exports.  The foundation of the cotton explosion was predicated by the major U.S. acquisitions of cotton land from the Native Americans from 1814 to 1840.

Cotton production and the economics of slavery prior to this period were small and profitability was in the decline until the invention of the cotton gin, ironically by a black man.  The leaders of cotton suppliers were able to get more daily productivity from slave labor than comparable free labor in other industries.  The thirst to reap the incredible financial benefits of the slave industry enabled 5% of all U.S. lending to go through Isaac Franklin’s slave trading firm. British and American financial institutions made funds available to keep the profits coming in. The slave bonanza also created a financial commoditized slave trade, which enabled ordinary investors to purchase bonds that represented a slice of income of thousands of slaves.  Very similar to the purchase of a piece of today's bundled mortgages.  Investors from all over the country and Britain could reap a return on their investment without actually owning slaves from products on the British and American financial markets.  Profits from these investments help fuel capital investment in textile industries in the North.  Insurance companies’ profited and financial institutions provided additional lending for economic expansion in the Midwest, Southwest and Western United States.  The Slave industry created national and international wealth, by understanding how to exploit slave labor by increasing daily output and efficiency for maximum profits.  Some would argue that the Slave industry was the catalyst to shape American capitalism and enable the United States to ascend to a world power.   Our labor shaped this country.  As horrible as this period was, there are valuable lessons that can be learned. There are 45 million Black people with $1.4 trillion in economic power.  Are we working smart economically today?  

We have to continue to ask ourselves are we working hard and not working smart in championing our causes.  We have been outraged by the visible police cases that have covered our national media.  We have seen an unprecedented rise in social activism as a result of national awareness.  We have been incredibly responsive in protesting and picketing events that have a profound impact on our lives. However, we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions in our understanding of the electorate and our consistent response.   The response starts with the awareness of the process of either the elected or appointed top law enforcement manager.  The appointed law enforcement officers are appointed by either the Mayor or City Manager.  Elected law enforcement officers are usually the county Sheriff.   We have the ability to hold the Mayor and City Managers accountable for their selection to lead their respective law enforcement efforts.  We also have a direct impact on the selection of the elected Sheriffs.  Protesting brings awareness, but pulling the lever in the ballot box directly determines how law enforcement will perform in our respective areas.  Considering the Black vote was under represented in both the 2006 and 2010 midterms, the 2014 midterms were marginally better.  What are we doing to better understand the mindset of law enforcement?  They are not going away and will remain part of our lives.  Most people aren’t aware that most cities offer a Citizen’s Academy program that actually exposes you to your state laws and how officers think and react in situations.  I went through the Broward Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy in Florida for 13 weeks, because I was so bothered by the Trayvon Martin verdict.  I really needed to understand how Florida law enforcement was trained and I decided that I would not have the constant paranoia for local police officers.  These programs provide us the tools to navigate through the uncertainty of the interpretation of our state laws. It is time that we work smarter but continue to work hard to understand the influences of economics, legislation and the electorate at all levels.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hispanic Heritage Month - Sometimes Forgotten from the American Mind

The U.S. has 52 million Hispanics and has the second largest Hispanic population behind Mexico.  The U.S. Census predicts that the Hispanic population will be 132 million by 2050.  Hispanic estimated purchasing power is $1.4 trillion since 2012.  Twenty five years ago, the U.S. chose to make a month long celebration of Hispanic contributions to the U.S.   The celebration would be in conjunction with the anniversary of the independence of seven Latin American countries. Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, and El Salvador all celebrate their independence during this this period.  Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15- October 15. So as American football season starts up, this month of celebration tends to slip away from the American mind. Hispanic contributions to America are sometimes forgotten and many times are not acknowledged. We should take a look at the one of the earliest contributions to America.

The Pinta and Nina ships that sailed with Columbus were owned by the brothers Martin Alonso Pinzo and Vicente Anes Pinzo of Spain.  They both were captains of their respective ships during the voyage to what was thought to be the New World in 1492. Juan de la Cosa, also of Spain was the owner and captain of the final ship the Santa Maria that made the voyage. That was the beginning of many future Hispanic contributions to America. Mexican-born Victor Ochoa patented the electric brake in 1907. Mexican engineer Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena received a patent for the color-wheel type of color television in 1942. Brazilian Roberto Landell de Moura received three patents between 1903 to 1904 for the hertzian wave transmitter, the wireless telephone and the wireless telegraph. Dr. Victor Blanco, Ph.D. an astronomer from Puerto Rico discovered the Galactic Cluster "Blanco 1" which was named after him.  Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay discovered that mosquitoes carried yellow fever in 1900.  Panamanian born Shoshana Johnson was the first Black/Hispanic female prisoner of war in the military history of the U.S. She was held captured in Iraq for 22 days.  She later received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for her service in Iraq. There are nine Hispanics in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  There are eight Fortune 500 Hispanic CEOs.

  • Joseph Molina, Molina Healthcare
  • Paul J. Diaz, Kindred Healthcare
  • Robert E. Sanchez, Ryder System
  • Joseph Alvarado, Commercial Metals
  • J. Paul Raines, GameStop
  • Carlos Rodriguez, ADP
  • Josue Robles, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)
  • George Paez, Express Scripts
Too often the thinking of Hispanic contribution is deeply rooted in food.  While the culture takes great pride in foods that represent their countries, the American psyche has to evolve from tacos, burritos, enchiladas, black beans and rice, plantains and Cuban sandwiches as the first layer of Hispanic contribution to this country. We mentioned some of the many contributions to America, there are many more.  Today, organizations like Circle de Luz are creating a network of mentoring Latinas all across the country. Circle de Luz is empowering young women's transformation through scholarship funds and extensive mentoring so they can become the next contributors in their communities.

Hopefully, 25 years later a Hispanic Heritage Month will not be needed because Hispanic contributions will just be another great layer of the melting pot of America.

Monday, September 9, 2013

African Americans and American Gun Culture

Stefan B. Tahmassebi of the George Mason Civil Rights Law Journal indicated that the first recorded law restricting African Americans from owning guns was in Virginia in 1640. A century later, the 27 words of the 2nd Amendment made it clear that the people have the right to keep and bear arms.  However, those 27 words are subject to interpretation.  After the Civil War, legislators of the South adopted Black Codes.  Black Codes represented a series of comprehensive regulations that made the bearing or owning firearms by African Americans illegal. The Black codes essentially made African Americans vulnerable to any attacks.  Justice Buford of the Florida Supreme Court justified two original Acts restricting African American laborers from owning guns in 1893 and also in an amended version in 1901.  Despite the pervasive gun restriction laws, African American inventor Clarence Greg received a patent for an early version of a machine gun in 1918.   

The United States Congress overrode the Black Codes with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) set up charters throughout the South to help train African American communities to defend themselves.  There should have been momentum for African Americans to become more integrated in the American gun culture.  What slowed down the momentum?  Those of us that lived in the cities in the late 1960’s can remember our parents telling us not to be in the front or back of the house when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.  There was always fear of people firing a gun to bring in the New Year.  Many people were killed by the New Year’s Eve stray bullets.  We also tended to associate guns with crime and were told that guns were a bad thing.

Today, it is speculated that there are approximately 300 million guns in the United States.  The NRA indicates that their membership is approximately 5 million. When you think of the American gun culture, you have imagery of pickup trucks, hunting and primarily White Americans.  The imagery is further confirmed by survivalists and the membership profile of the prominent NRA organization.   The most popular magazine catering to the gun culture, “Guns and Ammo”, usually has not featured any African Americans contributors nor has any been displayed in advertising.   Does the NRA see an opportunity to expand their membership and target the 30 million African Americans in this country?  The NRA has taken their first step to tap into this market by using 29 year old African American, Colion Noir as one of their newest pitch men.  Colion has endured criticism from vocal members of the African American community.  Colion responded in an interview in the LA Times, “Calling me an Uncle Tom simply because I am into firearms, it doesn’t make sense. My entire identity as a black guy is based on my ownership of guns? Really?” he said. “Some of the most influential black individuals have advocated the use of firearms, so how come when I do it, I’m vilified? Take a look at the Black Panthers, MLK and Malcolm X.”  Does Colion deserve the criticism?  

Gwainevere Catchings Hess, President of the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. points out that, “In 2009, black males ages 15-19 where eight times more likely as white males the same age, and 2.5 times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide.”   The initial reaction could be perceived that Colion could be adding more gasoline to an existing wide spread problem.  Do these statistics and generational stereotypes create a fear of African Americans with guns in the majority? Could that be the reason for not targeting the African American market?  Or is the gun industry using the statistics and generational stereotypes to exploit fears to generate revenue?  The NRA could be attempting to introduce a new dimension of African American thinking in regards to firearms.  

 Some have noted that the popular gun publications don’t market to African Americans because the demographic is heavily populated in States that have strict gun laws. Therefore, those advertising dollars would be merely symbolic because the target customer would not be able to answer the call to action of purchasing a firearm.  That theory can be scrutinized because 2013 Gallup Inc., Gun Owners of America statistics indicates that 27% of African Americans and 44% of White Americans own guns.  If you agree with the sample statistics then almost 3 in 10 African Americans own guns.  Others have indicated that the African American gun culture is reflected in today’s urban rap music and is associated with gang violence. With the demographics of the country changing, maybe the NRA and gun manufacturers realize that a shift in marketing may make sense.  Ten years from now, the American gun culture may look a lot more colorful.