Native Americans

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The year 1540 was a crucial turning point in American history. The Great Indian Wars were incited by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado when his expedition to the Great Plains launched the inevitable 350-year struggle between the white man and the American Indians. From that point forward, the series of battles between the military and civilian forces of the United States and the Native American Indians began when blood was shed and ultimately tens of thousands of lives were lost on both sides.

500 Nations The Story of Native Americans 2

America Before Columbus – National Geographic Documentary

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Africatown festival preserves heritage

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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Black History Month is over, but one local community continues to focus on its heritage; this year, the Africa Town Festival had a double meaning.

Community leaders joined many others with ties to one of Mobile’s most historic communities Sunday for the annual Africa Town Festival.

Organizer Robert Battles Sr. said it’s important to preserve the legacy of the community established by those Africans who founded it.

“It’s the last place where the last recorded Africans were brought to Mobile and to Alabama for the purpose of slavery, but they were freed, and they built a free community. They kept their language, and they retained their customs,” Battles said.

Battles said the focus was also on another important event for all African Americans.

“It was 1965 that African Americans were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge when they tried to cross for voting rights,” Battles said.

George Simpson grew up in the area. He said he’s glad the history is being passed on to younger generations.

“I was in school during that time, and we’re trying to recognize Bloody Sunday to let people be aware of this, because the younger generation they’re really not aware of all of this. They take a whole lot of things for granted, but we try to do whatever is necessary to keep them in touch with what is going on,” Simpson said.

A march began in Selma to commemorate that event and will span six days and 50 miles until the marchers reach Montgomery. There they will hold a rally at Dexter Avenue King Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was the reverend.

A Spirit Award was also presented Sunday in honor of Reverend Wesley James who died in 2010.

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Activist arrested in Schell assault has used violence before

By Bill Kossen
Seattle Times staff reporter

At Garfield High School in the early 1960s, he was known as Cordell Garrett, quarterback of the football team and vice president of the Bulldog Club, a service organization.
“I had a positive impression of him,” said Frank Hanawalt of Federal Way, who was principal at Garfield at the time.

But James Cordell Garrett, 55, who was arrested yesterday in connection with an assault on Mayor Paul Schell, later became known more as an angry activist and began calling himself Omari Tahir, saying in 1987 that he would not acknowledge “a slave name.”

Two years earlier, Garrett and a handful of other activists had broken into the closed Colman Elementary School, on a hill overlooking Rainier Valley near Interstate 90, demanding that the city turn it into an African-American heritage museum. They occupied the building on and off for eight years, but their dream unraveled last year amid infighting and reports of fistfights.

The city is now backing a plan by the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle to turn the decaying, 92-year-old brick building into an African-American museum, cultural center and space for affordable housing and offices.

City Councilwoman Jan Drago said Garrett recently showed up at a council hearing and asked that $400,000 which had been set aside for a Colman project not be used for the Urban League plan, but for his.

“He was in control, fairly soft-spoken and pretty respectful,” Drago said.

That wasn’t the case Jan. 14, 1988, when he was being sentenced for assault and reckless endangerment in connection with a demonstration at the University of Washington the year before.

That day he got two days in jail for contempt of court for calling King County Superior Court Judge James McCutcheon “a stupid, white European settler.”

That comment came during a sentencing hearing in which Garrett had complained to the judge about being tried by a white judge and an all-white jury.

The judge then told Garrett that the court was not there to hear a political speech, prompting Garrett’s remark. Garrett later was sentenced to 90 days in jail for grabbing a gun from a UW police sergeant during a demonstration and pointing the gun at the officer’s head.

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New council, mayor have first meeting; council quibbles over trailer

By: Katie Nichols | November 5, 2013

The first Mobile City Council meeting with Sandy Stimpson as mayor on Nov. 5 was packed with unanimous decisions, but there were two issues that did hit a snag — a lease agreement to place a used city modular home in Plateau and the approval of Paul Wesch as executive director of finance for the city.

Former Mayor Sam Jones attempted to push through the modular home issue before he left office, but was unable to accomplish his goal.

The Jones administration cleared one hurdle by identifying the funding source for the trailer, which was drug forfeiture money. But since it was purchased with law enforcement funds, the trailer needed to be used for law enforcement purposes.

The trailer, which the Jones administration hoped to send to Plateau to be used as a welcome center for Africatown, was previously used by Mobile Police Department for the Fifth Precinct. Since the trailer was purchased with drug forfeiture money, there are stipulations attached to it.

In a series of emails provided to Lagniappe among the previous administration’s executive staff, including Chief of Staff Al Stokes, Director of Real Estate and Asset Management Bill DeMouy and then City Attorney Larry Wettermark, Wettermark notes the issues surrounding the trailer.

“The trailer to be used from MPD may have been purchased with drug forfeiture funds which would then implicate federal regulations,” reads an email from Wettermark on Oct. 16. It has since been discovered forfeiture money was used to purchase the trailer. “These regs require use of proceeds from forfeitures for law enforcement purposes only.

“The AfricaTown organization would not qualify as presently constituted, but it may be possible to amend their charter (or by-laws, etc.) to adopt some community/law enforcement interaction program in order to qualify.”

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In Defense of Africatown The City Just Botched a Chance to Address Race Problems in Schools

From: The Seattle Stanger

On November 12, Seattle police had a WMD moment. According to police “intel,” four men had taken over the Horace Mann school building in the Central District, placed a sniper on the roof, and wired the building with explosives, Detective Renee Witt told reporters. Across the street, dozens of armed officers milled about. A SWAT team was on-site, and the entire block was cordoned off.

Like those nonexistent Iraqi nukes, however, “There were no explosives or weapons found on the premises,” Witt admitted later that week in an e-mail. The most resistance they faced was 67-year-old activist Omari Garrett hollering from a window about the need for a proper warrant before he agreed to come down. The men were arrested, charged with criminal trespassing, and released hours later.

Those men were the final holdouts of a five-month schoolhouse occupation by a coalition calling itself Africatown. Through teach-ins and educational programs, the group sought to bring attention to the disadvantages that African American students face in Seattle schools, but some neighbors, education activists, and even reporters took sides against them, riled by what they deemed an unruly group of “squatters.”

The disparities in Seattle schools are well documented. According to the school district’s data, African American third graders pass state math tests, for example, at half the rate of white students. And over the last decade, suspensions and expulsions have been meted out to black high-school students at least three times as often as to white students, school records show. That prompted the federal Department of Education to begin an investigation last year into whether Seattle Public Schools “discriminate against African American students by disciplining them more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students,” according to DOE spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

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How Horace Mann Became a Battleground

From: The Seattle Weekly

By Kelton Sears Tue., Nov 19 2013 at 03:59PM

A chain-link fence decorated in blood-red banners bearing messages like DECOLONIZE OUR SCHOOLS FREE US ALL barricaded the 100-year-old Horace Mann school in the Central District.

The main entrance was blockaded by chairs, desks, and garbage bags. A stuffed giraffe and a large carved Zulu statue stood guard. Flags of African nations speckle the building’s perimeter.
Welcome to AfricaTown.

The “AfricaTown Center for Education & Innovation” started as a community-driven after-school program. Its mission was to close the achievement gap for black youth as well as educate them on their heritage and history in a country that typically glosses over it.

The program ran in conjunction with the independent Seattle Amistad School, which occupied the Horace Mann building until June 15, when the lease with Peoples Family Life, the group subletting the building, ran out. Seattle Public Schools decided not to renew the lease because the school board had voted to renovate the building as the site of a new Nova alternative school instead.

SPS allowed Amistad to remain in the building until August 15 so they and the community groups inside, like AfricaTown, could find a new home. August 15 came, and Amistad left.
AfricaTown did not.

Members chained up the interior, and an undisclosed number of them—no more than a dozen—began effectively living in the old school. For the African-American community inside, this was the latest in a long history of systematic disenfranchisement. The school was one of the only spaces they felt they had left, and they weren’t letting go.
The occupation put School Superintendent José Banda in an awkward spot. He is keenly aware of the racial achievement gap in Seattle schools; at the State of the District speech he gave on November 12, it’s almost all he talked about. Spreadsheets were handed out detailing the drastic difference in math-exam scores: 83 percent of white students passed, 41 percent of African-American students. In Banda’s own words, “Our achievement gap is unacceptable. We simply must do better.”

But he was also keenly aware that, with construction on the Nova school stalled, the Horace Mann occupation would cost the district $1,000 a day in delay fees.

Banda tried to strike a compromise, proposing that the district give AfricaTown rooms at Columbia Annex, miles away in Rainier Valley. Many of the occupiers accepted the district’s Columbia Annex compromise and left Mann, but not all. Emerging as a leader of the holdouts was Omari Garrett, whom many people know as the man who broke former Mayor Paul Schell’s nose and facial bones with a bullhorn in 2001, which cost Garrett 21 months in prison. After the district shut the power off to Horace Mann on November 9, Garrett grabbed a generator.
Then things got tense.

The night before I paid a visit to AfricaTown to speak with Garrett, KIRO-TV reported that they’d received a threat on their voice mail from someone inside claiming to have an “itchy trigger finger.” The threat came after KIRO-TV cameramen tried to set up some exterior shots at nighttime, shining their lights on the building. Garrett claims the call was a prank from someone trying to make them look bad, and vowed to press on.

Seattle Public Schools began talking with SPD about their next move. On Tuesday afternoon, they made it. Police surrounded the school, broke through the barricade, and emerged with four men in handcuffs—including Garrett—under arrest for criminal trespass.

Garrett, 67, shuffles when he walks and tends to ramble a bit, but he’s friendly and personable. As we spoke last week on the steps of the occupied school, drivers honked and waved, and people walking down the street asked if they could lend a hand.

Garrett’s been in the CD since childhood. He played football at Garfield across the street when he was a kid—“the first Russell Wilson” —back in 1964. He ran the social-studies department at Horace Mann from 1972 to 1974.

“It was basically a school for all the black students who had been kicked out of middle school and high school,” Garrett said. He had to be on the ball with the students, many of whom were caught up in street hustling and had no sense of where their people came from.

“Money isn’t everything, but when you think that, you stop thinking about yourself as a person,” Garrett said. “I had to teach these kids black history, but first I had to teach them human history. They had to feel human before they could start to find their black identity.”

Garrett’s schooling had taught him about only two black people: George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. As a teacher, he was committed to giving his students something better. But eventually, black schools in the CD got broken up thanks to busing, and a black Seattle diaspora formed. Unification became hard without a central community, and drugs and gangs were tearing people apart.

For Garrett, AfricaTown is more than an educational program; it’s a vision of a unified African community in the CD. Think Chinatown in the International District.

“It’s a whole community,” Garrett said. He pointed at Horace Mann. “We need to develop our community and show children what you can be when you grow up—a part of a viable economic community with doctors and lawyers and scientists.”

Instead, Garrett said, hip-hop is where most black children find community and identity, which often promotes a money-driven, “bling-bling” lifestyle, as Garrett puts it. A notable exception is Shabazz Palaces, a local group that Garrett says helps black youth connect with their past, in part by using traditional African instruments like the mbira.
A member of Shabazz Palaces, Tendai Maraire, phoned me from L.A. to voice support for the occupation. He remembers hanging out at Rainier Place when he was a kid, part of a “Late Night Program” that kept black kids off the street. After gentrification started in the CD, most of these community-center programs disbanded.

“That’s what I think AfricaTown would change—it would give people a sense of hope,” Maraire said. “I would ask the question, ‘Why wouldn’t [the school district] want to give that school to that community?’  Why do you want to have an alternative school? Alternative schools lead to what? Homelessness. Abortions. It leads to all these negative things. Why not have another option that demographically speaks to the people, and helps keep people off the streets and fulfill their dreams?”

At the end of my conversation with Garrett, a local broadcast reporter swooped in and put a camera in Garrett’s face. “So, Mr. Garrett, how long have you and the people inside been occupying Horace Mann?” the reporter asked.

Garrett paused a moment.
“Well, we’ve been here for 50 years.”

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