Emmett Till Bullet-Proof Memorial with Surveillance Cameras Opens in Mississippi

Remembering Emmett Till.jpg

The sordid, scarred American story of Emmett Till’s lynching in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi opened a new chapter on Saturday, with the installation of a bullet-proof memorial for the civil rights martyr. Members of Till’s family gathered at Graball Landing, the spot where the pummeled and brutalized, horrifically-disfigured body of the 14-year-old Chicago boy was pulled from the Tallahatchie River after his murder in 1955.

The staggeringly-brutal attack was the result of Till allegedly offending a white woman Carolyn Bryant in her family’s grocery store. Decades later, Bryant disclosed that she had fabricated part of the testimony regarding her interaction with Till, specifically the portion where she accused Till of grabbing her waist and uttering obscenities; "that part's not true.”

Till’s murderers led by Roy Bryant, husband to Carolyn Bryant, and J.W. Milam were absolved of all crimes by what can only be described as a kangaroo court, adding fuel to the historic event largely seen as the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.

From left to right, Ole Miss students Ben LeClere, John Howe, and Howell Logan posing with guns by the bullet-ridden plaque marking the place where the body of murdered civil rights icon Emmett Till was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. The photo was posted to LeClere’s Instagram account in March.

From left to right, Ole Miss students Ben LeClere, John Howe, and Howell Logan posing with guns by the bullet-ridden plaque marking the place where the body of murdered civil rights icon Emmett Till was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. The photo was posted to LeClere’s Instagram account in March.

White southern males have continued their effort to destroy Emmett Till and dishonor his memory by regularly shooting up the local commemoration memorial erected as a marker of one of America’s saddest and most dishonorable events in our racial hatred-fraught historical narrative.

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Speaking at the unveiling of the new, bullet-proof memorial on Saturday, Reverend Willie Williams, co-director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, which advocated for the new marker said “This marker answers the question as to what we do with our history. Do we learn from it? Do we use it to help our society have greater respect for humanity? This answers that.”

Unlike previous markers placed near the location, the new metallic, heavy-weight commemorative memorial will be located behind a gate and placed under the watch of surveillance cameras, according to the memorial commission.

Remembering Emmett Till Book

On May 15, 2019, Remembering Emmett Till by Dave Tell of the University of Kansas was published by the University of Chicago Press. The book is the product of both publicly engaged scholarship—the Emmett Till Memory Project (ETMP)—and years of research and writing supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Tell’s experience shows how public engagement and publishing can go hand in hand.

The publicly engaged project, which Tell embarked upon in collaboration with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission of Tallahatchie County, Inc (ETMC) has worked to create a “vandal-proof” way of marking Till’s story, according to Tell. “After Emmett Till was killed in 1955, 49 years and 11 months passed without a single marker erected in his memory in the state of Mississippi,” Tell explains. “In late 2005, the ETMC was formed to create the state’s first commemorative infrastructure. They began putting up signs in 2008 and were quickly confronted with a problem: vandalism. Two roadside markers had been stolen; two others were filled with bullet holes, another was spray-painted with the letters “KKK,” and, as recently as July 2017, Emmett Till’s marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail was defaced with acid. Eventually, the vandalism would become national news; in 2014 it seemed like the commission and a few stray scholars were the only ones who cared.”

2017 Whitney Biennial

In 2017 at the Whitney Biennial in Manhattan, a painting of Emmett Till by white woman artist Dana Schutz drew the furor of black activists in what became a large public protest and discussion that spilled beyond the art community. AOC followed the details of that intensely emotional dispute that signaled a new opportunity for intense dialogue around race in America in a community of so-called like-minded people.

Related: Emmett Till’s Murder, and How America Remembers Its Darkest Moments Feb. 20, 2019 New York Times

These Abandoned Buildings Are the Last Remnants of Liberia’s Founding History

THE HOUSE OF WINSTON TUBMAN LIES IN RUIN IN LIBERIA. IMAGE GLENNA GORDON.

THE HOUSE OF WINSTON TUBMAN LIES IN RUIN IN LIBERIA. IMAGE GLENNA GORDON.

These Abandoned Buildings Are the Last Remnants of Liberia’s Founding History

In the front parlor of a dilapidated mansion with a god’s-eye view of the Atlantic a group of young men huddle around a light fixture that washed in from the sea and is covered in barnacles. They chip away at it with a hammer and a machete to open it and see if it can be made to work. They are not having much luck, a commodity that is in short supply around here. The building has no electricity or running water. Wind pushes through broken windows. There are holes in the roof. Rainwater has collected in puddles on the grand marble staircase and throughout the house, a faded yellow modernist structure on the edge of a cliff in the sleepy city of Harper in southeastern Liberia about 15 miles from the border of Ivory Coast.

The short iron fence that surrounds the regal mansion, known locally as “the palace,” bears a monogram—“WVST,” for William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, Liberia’s longest-serving president, known for his 27 years of autocratic rule beginning in 1944. But the home of the man called “the father of modern Liberia” because he opened the nation to foreign investment and industry is now in ruins and occupied by squatters, a symbol of how decades of political turmoil have shaken up the old order established by freed American slaves.

Emmett Till Memorial to Be Replaced With Bulletproof Sign Due to Repeated Vandalism

Emmett Till Memorial to Be Replaced With Bulletproof Sign Due to Repeated Vandalism

In 2007, a sign was erected along the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi, marking the spot where the body of Emmett Till was pulled from the water in 1955. The murder of Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy who was brutally killed by two white men, became a galvanizing incident of the Civil Rights Movement. But over the years, the memorial commemorating his death has been repeatedly vandalized—first stolen, then shot at, then shot at again, according to Nicole Chavez, Martin Savidge and Devon M. Sayers of CNN. Now, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission is planning to replace the damaged memorial with a bulletproof sign.

This will be the fourth sign that the commission has placed at the site. The first was swiped in 2008, and no arrests were ever made in connection with the incident. The replacement marker was vandalized with bullets, more than 100 rounds over the course of several years. Just 35 days after it was erected in 2018, the third sign was shot at as well.

The third memorial made headlines recently when Jerry Mitchell of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, in conjunction with ProPublica, revealed that three University of Mississippi students had been suspended from their fraternity house after posing in front of the sign with guns, in a photo that was posted to the private Instagram account of one of the students. The Justice Department is reportedly investigating the incident.

The sign has now been taken down, and a new one is “on its way,” Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, said last week, according to CBS News. Chavez, Savidge and Sayers of CNN report that the replacement memorial will weigh 600 pounds and be made of reinforced steel. It is expected to go up by the Tallahatchie River in October.

“Unlike the first three signs, this sign calls attention to the vandalism itself,” the commission noted. “We believe it is important to keep a sign at this historic site, but we don’t want to hide the legacy of racism by constantly replacing broken signs. The commission hopes this sign will endure, and that it will continue to spark conversations about Till, history, and racial justice.”

Liberal School Board Votes To Destroy Revolutionary Mural Showing Washington's Slaves For Being 'Racist'

JUST ONE OF 13 PANELS IN VICTOR ARNAUTOFF’S ‘THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON’ SET TO BE DESTROYED BY SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL BOARD FOR BEING RACIST.

JUST ONE OF 13 PANELS IN VICTOR ARNAUTOFF’S ‘THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON’ SET TO BE DESTROYED BY SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL BOARD FOR BEING RACIST.

In a decision that has inflamed passions around art censorship — even among liberals — the San Francisco School Board has voted to paint over the 83-year-old mural ‘The Life of Washington’, painted by Victor Arnautoff, a New Deal muralist celebrated for his accurate telling of American history.

In addition to depicting Washington as a storied soldier, surveyor, statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the 13-panel, 1,600-square foot mural at George Washington High School features disruptive images of white men standing over the body of a Native American as well as slaves working at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.

Arnautoff’s refusal to omit the more controversial aspects of Washington’s history were designed to call attention to “uncomfortable facts” about America’s first president.

“We on the left ought to welcome the honest portrayal,” Richard Walker, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of California, Berkeley and director of the history project, Living New Deal said, adding that destroying a piece of art “is the worst way we can deal with historic malfeasance, historic evils.”

Mark Sanchez, vice president of the school board and a third-grade teacher, said students who must walk past the mural during the school day don’t have a choice about seeing the harmful images. “Painting it over represents not only a symbolic fresh start, but a real fresh start,” writes TIME

Lope Yap, Jr., vice president of the Washington High School Alumni Association and a 1970 graduates, disagreed, saying when he was a student and saw the mural he was “awed by the subtle ways Arnautoff was able to critique American history.” He said the depictions are “treasures, priceless art” and painting it over is tantamount to pretending the history depicted never happened.

AOC covered the controversy in-depth in May. One assumes that a lawsuit will be filed, especially over concerns about a growing trend to destroy art deemed racist or offensive by groups of America’s diverse population. Calling such a factually correct, and revolutionary at the time artwork “racist” sends chills up and down the spines of Americans clamoring for historical honesty in public spaces.

The New York Times has a program inviting students to critique and engage in dialogue around controversial issues like this one. The edited commentary equally represents both sides, but as the NYTimes writes, what’s most encouraging is the dialogue among students with diverse viewpoints. Inspiring — even if the controversy is not. ~ Anne

Related:

‘Willful Recklessness’: Trump Pushes for Indefinite Family Detention As Sanitary Crisis Mounts

Trump-El-Paso immigration crisis.jpg

‘Willful Recklessness’: Trump Pushes for Indefinite Family Detention As Sanitary Crisis Mounts

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has been tracking about 40,000 expedited family cases “regardless of whether they reflect a priority designation” in order to ensure they are completed “without undue delay” at ten immigration courts in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco. Nearly 8,000 of those cases have already ended with removal orders. These are some of the migrants ICE agents could now target.

The administration has buttressed its push to detain more families by arguing that few of them show up for their immigration court hearings if they are released. At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 11, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said “family units” accounted for two-thirds of migrants processed at the Southwest border in May, and that 90 percent of families the EOIR was monitoring didn’t appear for court hearings. Several reports contradict this claim.

One case-by-case study of immigration court records showed “as of the end of May 2019 one or more removal hearings had already been held for nearly 47,000 newly arriving families seeking refuge in this country. Of these, almost six out of every seven families released from custody had shown up for their initial court hearing.”

The study further noted that “multiple hearings are [usually] required before a case is decided. For those who are represented, more than 99 percent had appeared at every hearing held.”

Duke Ellington’s Melodies Carried His Message of Social Justice

DUKE ELLINGTON MURAL ON U STREET NW IN WASHINGTON DC.

DUKE ELLINGTON MURAL ON U STREET NW IN WASHINGTON DC.

Duke Ellington’s Melodies Carried His Message of Social Justice

At a moment when there is a longstanding heated debate over how artists and pop culture figures should engage in social activism, the life and career of musical legend Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington offers a model of how to do it right.

Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C. His tight-knit black middle-class family nurtured his racial pride and shielded him from many of the difficulties of segregation in the nation’s capital. Washington was home to a sizable black middle class, despite prevalent racism. That included the racial riots of 1919’s Red Summer, three months of bloody violence directed at black communities in cities from San Francisco to Chicago and Washington D.C.

Ellington’s development from a D.C. piano prodigy to the world’s elegant and sophisticated “Duke” is well documented. Yet a fusion of art and social activism also marked his more than 56-year career.

Ellington’s battle for social justice was personal. Films like the award-winning “Green Book” only hint at the costs of segregation for black performing artists during the 1950s and 60s.

Duke’s experiences reveal the reality.