Category Archives: Commentary

Here we go again

By Reggie Jones (Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of the BTWS).

Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback mega-Church, asked Barak Obama which US Supreme Court Justice was his least favorite. The senator unhesitatingly replied, “Clarence Thomas.” It appeared to me as if, rather than ponder the question, he pandered for votes.

He said Justice Thomas was not “a strong enough jurist or legal thinker” to warrant a seat on the Court. This, despite the fact that Judge Thomas endured very intense, public scrutiny by the US Senate three times before ascending to the Supreme Court.

Weigh that opinion with his comments on other Supreme Court conservatives, Scalia and Roberts. He said Justice Scalia was “brilliant” and that Chief Justice Roberts was “a compelling person,” while acknowledging that he probably wouldn’t have nominated either.

Why did Sen. Obama single out Justice Thomas for such damning criticism, yet without rationale? OK, so Justice Thomas is a conservative, but so too are Scalia and Roberts. The conclusion I draw is that Justice Thomas is not only conservative, but – gasp – black too.

A conservative black man is, ipso facto, one who thinks for himself. To the left, this is heresy, for it alone considers itself solely and morally qualified to speak for – hence, assumes – minorities will adhere to its collectivist agenda. Independent thinkers like Clarence Thomas are not to be tolerated when straying from this perspective. Worse, Justice Thomas refuses to provide legal cover for a racial spoils tithing system.

Perhaps lawyer and ‘community organizer’ Obama would have fared better had he learned to appreciate the wisdom of another, earlier and far more accomplished ‘community organizer,’ Booker T. Washington: “The Negro has the right to study law, but success will come to the race sooner if it produces intelligent, thrifty farmers, mechanics, to support the lawyers.”

On Getting Along

By Ronald Court

And so, ‘Black History Month’ begins. To me, it’s a bit patronizing to say, “give” blacks due recognition for a month but then… back to normal.

However this year, we may be on the cusp of a defining moment in our Nation’s history. A moment akin to shortly after the War Between the States: these United States began to be referred to as the United States. Sectional differences certainly weren’t erased, but a stronger sense of shared identity began to be forged.

This year, a person of color may become a major nominee for the very office that Lincoln held while waging the “Civil” War. This time, race wasn’t… rightfully… a big deal until s/he who professed to “feel your pain” made it so.

But it really isn’t about race. It is politics in its pure, simple and ugly form. Politics is about power. Now, race is being used as a tool by people without good character to pit one group against another. This time, the nation saw it for what it was: mean-spirited, immoral and disgusting.

Whether or not Sen. Obama becomes a Presidential nominee will not alter the fact that the public response to his candidacy,at least up to this point, demonstrates that our nation is, more resoundingly and strongly than ever before, firmly and finally affirming that race does not … and should not… define or limit the ability of any American to pursue success in any endeavor. Drs. Washington and King must surely be smiling right now.

Maclin Horton’s blog, Light On Dark Water respectfully shows us that ‘We Got to Live together’ … which does not mean giving up our identity, but does show how we — together — can be all the richer for it.

Sad News

By Ronald Court

Sadly, I must report that Mother Theora Richards, the 1st recipient of the BTW Society’s Wright award for long and dedicated service in keeping the flame of Booker T. Washington alive, passed away Saturday morning.

I went to her home with Bill Craft in August ’06 to present her with the award personally. Though she was in her 90’s, I was struck with her clarity of mind, sparkling eyes and strong, forceful disposition.

I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss I felt when her son called me Saturday afternoon, for I had only met her just that one time and spoke with her by phone only a few times after. But it hit me that if it were not for Mother Theora, the Booker T. Washington Society might never have come about.

It never ceases to amaze me to see the Lord work in surprisingly and incredibly unforeseen ways. Several years ago, Bill Craft, a Bronx resident and a long ago graduate of Norfolk Virginia’s Booker T. Washington High School, happened to tune in to a New York City evening talk show. The guest, “Sister” Theora Richards, talk about the “Booker T. Washington Appreciation Circle” and the many good things BTW had dedicated his life to bring about. Founding Tuskegee University was just the beginning.

Years later, when I met him, Bill Craft told me he was amazed and then angry when he realized that no one at his own high school (“named for Booker T., for goodness sakes”) had even mentioned him or a single thing he did to help so many people. It was as if he did not exist.

As a result of Sister Theora’s appearance on that show, Bill went to the NY Public Library to research Booker T.’s life and discovered out-of-print book by BTW, Character Building. He took it upon himself to publish it. That book and Bill’s friendship continues to inspire and motivate me for the good of the BTW Society and the students we endeavor to help and encourage.

I hesitate to think how much less my life would mean if Sister Theora hadn’t gone on that radio years ago. Now she has gone on to be with the Lord… to be embraced as warmly by Him as she embraced so many of us here.

A Blessing in Disguise

By Ronald Court

I’ve been off-line for over a week – ever since my computer’s hard drive crashed. With computer and back-up software off to a Geek Squad for repair and reconstruction, I was “stuck” with time on my hands, and voilà, my disaster turned into a blessing in disguise.

I opted to catch up on my reading. First up was “1776” David McCullough’s account of General George Washington’s 1st year in the Revolutionary War. Defeat followed defeat until Washington launched a “brilliant stroke” and changed history, though the war raged for another six and a half years, taking 1% of our population. In percentage terms, it was “the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.”

McCullough closes with, “Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning–how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference–the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”

Amen. This inspiring read gave me pause to ponder how the history of our country as it is being written today will turn out–will circumstances or “strengths of character” make the difference? Only time will tell.

It is little short of a miracle to me that our country, born in a bloody revolution, dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal,” and still struggling to make it so, would produce not one, but two leaders who shared such ‘strengths of character’ and much more.

Consider two men separated by time, yet: both born on tobacco farms, both Virginians, both self-educated, both spending their earlier years working the same West Virginia land (one a surveyor, the other at salt & coal mines) both receiving honorary degrees from Harvard, both with a brother named John and both with the surname, Washington. (and here’s a stretch: both had a wife whose 1st name was “Mar…”)

To be sure, one was born into slavery, the other into slave-holding. However, my sense is we, all of us, stand to benefit more by choosing to embrace and emulate the qualities common to these two great Americans? Not because or in spite of the color of either, but because both were great leaders, period.

(Thank you, son Barnaby for the “1776” Christmas present I have finally come to more fully appreciate.)

Remembering Max Roach

By Ronald Court

One of the greatest drummer-musicians of all time died last week in Manhattan. He was remembered for his contribution, not only to the world of music, but also for a militant expression during the Civil Rights Movement.

At a Miles Davis/Gil Evans concert at Carnegie Hall in 1961, Max, who felt Miles was “too centered” on civil-rights, staged a one-man protest by marching to the edge of the stage holding a “Freedom Now” placard.

Max & Miles. Their instruments and music reflected very different natures. Miles’ trumpet is a one-note-at-a-time, front of the crowd instrument. Yet Miles’ classic, “Kind of Blue” exposed a sure, slow patient side to Miles’ nature. Drums, on the other hand, are to an untrained ear, background, loud and fast. Yet Max’s break-through playing exhibits a mastery of complex riffs and timing, sometimes impatient yet always in control of the pulse.

Consider two people striving to reach the same destination. One is by nature, more patient, forgiving and aware that hard work…and time… is required to secure the help of others in order to assure a safer, more secure route to the destination. The other is rather impatient and unwilling to let go of lingering anger or resentment “issues.” For him, to criticise, complain and control is quicker and more satisfying than attempting to change hearts and minds.

Which approach is quicker, longer lasting, with fewer ill side-effects?
BTW at Carnegie Hall
Ask any shrink.
Just as we admire Max Roach for his God-given talent and skill, let us also honor Booker T. for his patient, forgiving nature. After all, 55 years earler, Booker T. paved the way for Miles and Max’s appearance at Carnegie Hall by himself being featured on that very stage in 1906.
(Note: that’s Sam Clemens [Mark Twain] seated behind BTW.)

A Woman with CharacterPower

By Ronald Court

I recently read of the death of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, age 90 in Gloucester, VA. In 1944, eleven years before Rosa Parks, she refused to move to the back of the bus. Read her NYTimes obit here.

She paid a fine for kicking a sheriff but refused to pay a much smaller fine for refusing to move. This woman of integrity and character planted the seed for a winning NAACP strategy that had to wait until the time was right. Irene Morgan’s case, argued in part by a young NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, went all the way to the US Supreme Court. She won.

But another decade elapsed before the strategy could be executed. Conditions needed to be right. In 1955, the same act, this time by Rosa Parks, a part-time NAACP volunteer worker, sparked sufficient wide-spread concern to make a lasting difference.

The marches, riots and oratory of ML King Jr. following Rosa Parks’ action might well have gone unnoticed as well, had not the new technology of television exposed the ugly face of segregation to the Nation, and indeed, to the world.

Booker T. could not have been aware of the advent or impact of TV, but he clearly foresaw that social progress would take time — and a lot of it. He knew the first priority for Blacks had to be to focus on and achieve economic progress while affording Whites time to absorb a ‘new social order.’ Arguably, time has proven Booker T’s assessment to be correct.