Lessons from Undergrad # 2 Heroes can be forgotten

“Their credit was being denied, and in some cases, people were being pried and otherwise pressured. I don’t know which family it was in that group…. they had a young child that required a special ration, and that drug store denied them.

Fred Moore receives his degree from Allen University after being expelled from SC State for participating in civil rights activity

 It [also] reverts to the time that Dr. McMillian wrote the book Negro Higher Education in South Carolina. Many of us felt crushed for him because he wrote the truth, and in essence, he was denied his right to freedom of speech; highly qulaified man, PHd from Germany. Turner [president of SC State College] said don’t write the book, and he [McMillian] said he was going to write the book, and so he wrote the book, and when the book was published, Turner of course fired him. Then there was the situation with Mr. Pyatt, who wrote articles about the handling of the track team and sports in general at the college. He was censored. His adviser told him that he couldn’t be the editor. Then the lady at the laundry was slapped by her boss because she refused to “Yes Sir” and “No Sir” and the NAACP sought to get a warrant for the man’s arrest, but you know what the situation was in those days. They said there was no probable cause to arrest him, so there was a build up and at that time.”

- Fred Moore

The year was 1955. One year after the landmark Brown vs the Board of education ruling that put an end to segregation in public schools. It was business as usual in Orangeburg, SC, but black parents were demanding that their county obey the law. The Orangeburg Civil Rights Movement petitioned for integration, but this was met with strong resistance from white citizens who in turn formed a White Citizens Council composed of several white businessmen. The council’s members refused to sell their goods or services to any black person who signed the petition. This included denying essential goods such as food, medicines, oil for heating and gas for their vehicles. African-Americans were even fired from their jobs, evicted from the places they rented and some even had their homes foreclosed.  

Enter Fred Moore.

Moore was student body president of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, at the time. Before he accepted this role, he recalled being approached by other school leaders to boycott the laundry, but those leaders were eventually intimidated out of taking such action. This would not be the case with Fred Moore.

Moore and members of the student council went to SC State College President Benner C. Turner and asked him to stop buying from those businesses that denied the black community, but he refused. The students boycotted the campus food services and refused to go to class. Fifteen hundred students participated in the boycott and strikes. FIFTEEN HUNDRED!

This action put a major dent in the pockets of the food service owners and the all white Board of Trustees instructed the college’s president to expel Moore along with several other student leaders. Moore was just two weeks shy of his May graduation.

You would think that in 2011, the mostly black Board of Trustees would have given these students their degrees and thanked these students for their bravery. While apologies were issued to Moore and the other student leaders, they have never received a degree from SC State University.

In February of 2010, I wrote and article in the student newspaper  entitled ‘More needs to be done for Fred Moore.” I demanded that his legacy be repeated in every University 101 class and that he be given his degree. Similarly, a petition to issue degrees to these former students was spearheaded by the 2009-2010 Student Government Association President Zachary Middleton.

Middleton and his team collected 500 student signatures and created a video in which students appealed personally to the Board. Despite this, the petition was denied by the mostly black Board of Trustees. We are not even sure they watched the video.

Oh for shame.

The legacy of Fred Moore has been forgotten; restricted to the annals of time and this blog. Maybe one day he will get what he deserves.

Time will tell.

Lessons from Undergrad #1 People do wierd stuff, but it’s ok

When does art and self-expression become just plain gross? And who defines it? One of the lessons I learned as an undergrad is that people fear what they don’t understand. I learned this from an extremely unlikely source. I interviewed a guy in one of my classes who I thought had the most fascinating form of self-expression I had ever seen. This dude allowed someone to heat an iron and attach it to his skin, so that it will burn to the point where he would have a permanent scar.

Our professor was grossed out to the max when she saw it, and said it reminded her of how they would punish African slaves. The rest of the class thought it was plain stupid. As I interviewed him this person who I previously thought was a bit scary, I realized this was not solely the actions of an over-zealous fraternity member, but a person striving for acceptance and validity in a culture where the bond between friends is institutionalized and extends from generation to generation.

Here is the article. I hope you enjoy!

Genesis Peterson. On his upper arm two of his brands are visible . The larger of the two , has a lighting bolt running throuh it.

History major Genesis Peterson is part of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. This organization was founded by three undergraduates at Howard University in 1911, based on the principles of
manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift. Genesis has pledged his allegiance to this organization with 19 images of the organization’s symbols burned on to his body. His brands are on his back, both sides of his shoulders, his hips and both his wrists; one of which is dedicated to a deceased member of his chapter.

Many persons see this act as barbaric or simply gross. Most of the National Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO’s) including the Omegas have even publicly distanced themselves from this practice and underscore that it does not form part of their official rituals.

Fraternity members however, say it is a personal choice that shows their devotion to the organization and that legitimizes their membership. Peterson explained to me why he chose to pledge his allegiance in this way.

“When I first came out I was just so excited to be an Omega,” he said. “It was a goal that I always wanted to attain, and once I got here, I crossed; had my coming out show; I was wearing the shirts and doing everything I was supposed to, but it just didn’t feel real to me until I made it legit. The brand to me signified; OK Genesis; you’re really an Omega now.”

Branding is a second degree burn inflicted by a heated iron. In this case, it is a clothes hanger twisted in the form of an Omega that is pressed on the skin for about five seconds. The person inflicting the burn is often called the Hit Master and many fraternity members even have parties where branding is done.

“My first brand was on my chest,” he explained.” This one actually hurt and right before he branded me, I could see the hair on my chest burn and then I saw all the smoke from my skin come up to my face and I smelled my skin burning. It puts you in the mind-set of all the atrocities that happen in the world, like people being burned by the stake or just being burned period because of dumb stuff people did then.”

When asked if he had any second thoughts before the brand was placed on his skin he said…..

 “I was like, why the heck am I doing the dumb shit, but I was thinking, this is actually something I want. It’s just like with anything in life, you’re going to do some stupid stuff to get what you want, but at the end of the day you’ve got to think, is it worth it, and to me it is.”

After getting the brand, many persons try to intensify the scar by scratching it lightly or gently rubbing it with a loofah sponge as it begins to heal. Peterson, who became a member in the spring of 2008 said he used to hit them despite the excruciating pain that it caused to intensify the scar. Healing isn’t easy either. The brands on his hip forced him to sleep sitting down for a month and even interfered with his ability to have intercourse.

Critics of procedure are not limited to non Greeks. According to the book “African-American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision” by Clarenda M. Phillips, members are often confronted by other members with the idea that branding is associated with cattle and slavery. The author cites the Black code of 1685 which states that slaves were punished by branding for unlawful assembly or escape. A few fraternity members including Ulysees Horn who emphatically stated that he disagrees with the practice, were interviewed in this book. “These guys take it on themselves,” he said. “They think that that’s the only way you can be a real Que [Omegas are called Ques] which is asinine…I just don’t believe that you need to disfigure your body. But if it’s something that people get a kick out of, fine.”

Men are not the only Greeks who engage in branding. While it is more taboo, Phillips’ book explains that there has been a marked increase in women being branded after the 1990’s, with the upper thigh and bikini line being the more popular locations.

Despite the criticism, branding has a history of its own in the Omega culture. According to the ’08 member [Peterson], during World War I, members could not be identified when their bodies came back from war. As such he said, many were not given the Omega funeral as is customary. As a result, “brothers” were branded on their torso in case their limbs were blown off. Peterson also pointed out that branding was a ritual done in Africa to symbolize manhood.

To avoid discrimination in professional settings, his 19 brands which coincide with his line number, are not visible in a long-sleeved shirt. He acknowledges that his brands could cause discrimination from potential employers and also deter other people from approaching him.

“If you look back in history, what we don’t understand we fear, but if you have an understanding of Greek life you will know; we love what we love.”

I’m posting every week in 2011!

Yeah right, let’s see how that goes!

No seriously, now that the 27-year-old freshman is now an unemployed college grad, I have loads of time to blog about anything.

If the two people in the whole world who read my blog like the new posts, I encourage you to post comments and likes and even refer this blog to others.

On that note, Happy New Blog Year and keep reading!

Savannah-Where are all the black people?

I was recently in Savannah an was so impressed by how beautiful it was.

The city was like a pretty, but smaller Manhattan and everyone had a dog. I mean dogs were everwhere for some reason. The animal shelters in this place must be empty and that’s great. I even went into a store and there was a very rude “store cat,” named Amelia who refused to answer when I called her.

I was just thinking how nice it would be to live there when my Jewish professor mentioned that Savannah is 60 percent black.

60 percent? Where, I don’t see any black people?

As she explained, Savannah was a pretty hard town to live in during the 90’s the racial opression was pretty bad on both sides. She was the director of culture and when she asked (white people) why no African Americans would visit the cultural events, they just said, “Oh the’re not interested.”……Really?

We went to the Civil Rights museum and the guy asked, “Do you know when savannah became de-segregated,” and her quiet answer was NEVER!…..When schools were de-segregated, white people just took their kids to the new private shcool they built, and the public school was moved to make way for SCAD (School of art and design) while the African American kids were taught in trailers. It was still this way even in the 90’s, not sure what it’s like in 2010.

Hot Professor

Wow

So should you take a class just because the professor is hot?

There is this really good looking professor on my campus….what an ass…I mean literally, he has a nice ass.

I just have one semester to graduate and he’s teaching a class I certainly don’t need, so I know I won’t take.

Thats the problem with being older on campus, the students are too young and the prfessors are off limits…or are they?

Fred the Medicine Head

He looks just like one of our objects

It’s fun meeting new people and having new experiences and I’m surley having one.

In my spare time when I’m not thinking of ways to respond to e-mails on match.com, I work at a museum on campus.

These days I’m working with the African collection in storage. This might sound new and exciting but color coding index cards is not as creatively stimulating as it sounds.

Why am I working at a museum you might ask, well they pay, but overall it has been a nice experience, but back to the topic at hand.

Half of these African items look like their straight out of a voodoo man’s closet. There’s this one with feather’s sticking out of it which the museum people affectionatley call “Fred the medicine head” and then their’s one with some kind of wood going through it’s mouth. Seems to me like they were trying to stop a snitch.

My favorite of all, is the wodden doll with it’s legs broken. The conservator says she thinks it’s a replica of the woman that owned it. She also said that broken legs symbolize that the owner has died. What is also significant is that the doll has a little pouch on top of her head, which we think is the remains of the owner’s circumcized genitals. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Yes apparently, it was not enought to just be circumcized, you also had to wear it on your head so people would know.

All the big macho men in the class were afraid to touch the doll. As if the’ve never touched female genitals before.

The conservator as well as the museum director are atheists I suspect. They say, “it’s just a peice of wood. Right, there is no such thing, I mean I touch it, but anyone with african or caribbean ancestory knows that voodoo, magic and other forms of african religions are real and these things are not just toys.

Despite everything, it’s been a fun experience. As long as Fred and his friends don’t move or talk back, I’ll continue working.

Haiti I’m Sorry

Toussaint was a mighty man and to make matters worse he was black.
That was back in the days when blacks knew their place was in the back.
But this rebel he walked through Napoleon who thought it was’nt very nice.
So now today my brothers in Haiti still pay the price.
Haiti I’m sorry, we misunderstood you.
– By David Rudder
Listen to the rest.