BHM: Do You Know Who This Is Super Bowl Edition

Since everyone’s mind is on the Superbowl and the Winter Olympics is coming up, I thought I would do a special athletic “do you know” post for black herstory month. If you can name this person and her import to sports and black history by Monday @ 12pm EST, I will give you a $20 gift certificate from powells books (preferably to be spent on a black author of your choosing):

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Part Two (02/08/10):

Yesterdays “Do You Know” post was about Vonetta Flowers. She was a track and field athlete who switched to bobsledding in 2000. She won a gold medal on her first Olympic bid in bobsledding ever to become the first black person to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. That means she is:

  1. the first African American woman to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
  2. the first African American (regardless of gender) to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
  3. the first BLACK PERSON FROM ANY COUNTRY to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
  4. one of a handful of athletes to switch sports at the Olympic level and go on to gold

Flowers story is an inspiration because of its rural to gold, N. American dream, trajectory. She was discovered in a competition held by Coach DeWitt Thomas in the parking lot of her modest grade school. She had the fatest running time of all the other students and was recruited to learn track and field. That recruitment, along with her own drive and determination, helped give her the funding and commitment to become the first person in her family to go on to college. Her track and field scholarship ensured Flowers would not have to worry about how to pay for school.

Her college years were also marked by athletic firsts in track and field. Not only did she win over 35 conference trials in track and field but she also became:

  1. the first person (of any race) to win All American seven times

Flowers first attempt at going to the Olympics was in 1996. Though she tried out, she did not make the team. When she tried out again in 2000 she was derailed by sports related surgery, the 8th in just a few short years. Instead of giving up, Flowers, spurred on by her husband, decided to switch sports. Initially going to the bobsled tryouts was Flowers way of supporting her husband, but after he pulled a hamstring muscle and could not continue, she took on the dream for both of them and brought home gold.

Flowers, and her bobsled partner Bonny Warner, were ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 3rd in the world. I’m sure this too is a first, but have not been able to confirm it.

Flowers strength and perseverance is an inspiration to women in sport. Her career proves that you can succeed in the most unlikely places and her commitment and drive, prove that you can succeed as an athlete even if you have to switch sports. Her success at the Winter Olympics also helped break the color barrier in winter sports and encourage other black athletes to consider sports traditionally dominated by white athletes and/or by men. She helped change the way that coaches and commentators talked about black athletes at the winter games and about black people’s participation in winter sports like bobsledding.

Our Contest Winner: No one made it by the deadline. Bianca, who was the first person to get the answer, has graciously suggested we have another contest. So be looking out on Sunday for another Do You Know Post.

Do You Know: What is the Organization that supports . . .

I am resurrecting the “Do You Know” posts as promised. Here’s how it works for new readers:

  • I post a basic outline of contributions to women’s equality made by a single individual woman or organization that is not generally taught in WS
  • everybody pools their knowledge about who she or they are
  • everybody gets to know a little bit more about the people we should all know
  • 7 days later I post a more in depth piece on the person or organization revealing who she/they were.

Today’s did you know is an organization:

What is the organization that supports sustainable community, arts, leadership development, and renewal for Indigenous women based in Texas?

It includes an herb and vegetable garden, kiln and pottery studio, and retreat. It is also the location of an annual summer youth retreat to strengthen young girls as well as a mixed gender arts camp to strengthen cultural knowledge and ties.

Did You Know – Fannie Lou

It would seem that Fannie Lou Hamer was too easy a “Did You Know,” which makes me very happy.

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Ms. Hamer was a voting rights activist who started her own democratic party. Hamer, like many black people in antebellum South, did not know she had the right to vote. When she found out, she was the first to raise her hand to go register. As a result of her decision, she was beaten by police and evicted from the farm she was sharecropping in Mississippi. Ms. Hamer responded by speaking that night at the SNCC conference and lifting her skirt so that everyone could see the bruises that marked every inch of her legs for the beating.

In 1963 she gained the right to vote – passing the racialized tests designed to prevent black people from voting. She worked diligently with the SNCC on voter registration drives and aiding poor and working poor black people. During which time she faced constant police threat and death threats from white supremacists.

In 1964 Hamer started the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to further civil rights and political participation. She demanded that black people be included in the delegation to the Democratic Convention from Mississippi and called the organizers out when they responded by only giving the MFDP 2 representatives at the convention allowed to speak.

Hamer was one of those two voices and she used the opportunity to raise awareness about the murders of civil rights activists like Medgar Evers. She spoke about economic and political disparity built into racism that left most black people working hard for less than subsistence and without representation at the local, state, or national level. She also asked the poignant question: Is this America? The land of the free and the home of the brave? Where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hook, because our lives be threatened daily?

Hamer’s speech was televised and is thought to have galvanized the nation. She was such a powerful voice that President Johnson actively tried to silence her and re-direct her audience.

In 1965 Hamer ran for Congress. All though she was defeated, the Mississippi elections were later thrown out for corruption, so we will never know how close she came to winning or if, in fact, she did win.

Hamer was also an economic activist. She was involved in several programs to bring economic justice to the poor, including founding Delta Ministry a community development program. She also worked with the Freedom Farms Corporation – a service agency that helped families raise food and livestock, encourage and train people of color entrepreneurs, and provided needed social services.

She was committed to providing adequate day care to children of color. In 1970, she was on the board of the Fannie Lou Hamer Day Care Center named in honor by the National Council of Negro Women. She was also on the Board of the Sunflower County Day Care Center which provided both care and services to garment workers.

From 1974 until she died in 1977, Hamer was also on the board of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Like many strong activist women of color today and in the past, Hamer contracted cancer. She died after a radical mastectomy in Mississippi – surgeries that were often performed unnecessarily on women of color and had a high rate of failure through complication.

She is credited with a quote we black women all know to well, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It is written on her gravestone.

As we move into election season, let us not forget the powerful voice of Fannie Lou and what she and others like her fought for. As Anxious Black Woman put it, Fannie Lou Hamer is not part of the Women’s Studies Curriculum or the WS canon. Somehow, I think she should be. How about you?

Anthony Soltero

As part of my infrequent “Do you Know?” posts I started a while back, I am posting the answer to who is Anthony Soltero.

anthonysoltero

Anthony Soltero was a 14 year old student turned activist who, along with 1 million other people, walked out of school in solidarity with immigrant rights.  After which, Anthony was called into the principle’s office and told that his mother would be fined $250 for his absence, he would be expelled, and imprisoned for up to 3 years. Anthony had already has one encounter with judicial system for carrying a pocket knife on school grounds for which he had been given probation and community service and told that any additional “criminal activity” would result in a permanent record.  Anthony, who had no other problems in school and was a good student academically, was just about to finish his service and have his record expunged.  Realizing that his mother could not afford the fine and expecting that, like so many other youth of color, being labeled a criminal so early in his life would severely narrow his ability to succeed, Anthony went home and killed himself. The Police examining the case planned to charge Anthony’s step-father with a felony for not keeping the gun locked up.

The charge of criminality is a hard one to shake for youth of color, particularly boys.  It has been used effectively to silence youth and prevent their involvement in civil action.  Reports came from Texas, New Mexico, and some areas of California about students of color being threatened with expulsion and fines if the participated in May Day and similar events.  Several youth who could not afford fines or further marks on their records said they wanted to participate but did not as a result of these threats.

In New York City, presidential candidate Juliana, authorized a policing program that added yearbook photos of boys of color to the existing photo books at the police station effectively criminalizing all of New York’s youth of color.  Under his leadership police brutality and “mistaken” shootings of people of color reached an all time high.

Anthony Soltero, is not an anomaly.  He is a reminder of how policing works in North America.  He is an image of what happens when politics, policing, and the schools combine their institutional racist power to prevent civil action and civil disobedience.  He was also a living, breathing, 14 year old kid, some mother’s son. Now he is gone.

Do you know?

As part of my new effort to shed light on people who do not get enough attention in our world of skewed media coverage. I am going to try and do a call and response here on the blog. I will ask if you know somebody, you all post responses, and the following week I will do a short bio post.

So . . .

Do you know who Anthony Soltero is?