African-American Perspective Newsletter publisher Richard James has initiated a community based, all volunteer effort to clean up the City of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Traveling the city on foot, Mr. James documented the evidence for the need for a clean up. He found numerous discarded items on Williamsport streets. He photographed hundreds of items of trash and debris and posted the images on social media to raise awareness of the problem.
“Litter is hard to see, we have become desensitized to its presence.” By posting the numerous photos, James hoped to dislodge the social blindness from the public’s daily life experience. “I had to raise the awareness.” James said.
But, sharing photos of fast food containers, cigarette butts, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, old tires, beer cans and plastic bags was not enough. Action was needed.
Richard James created a film of him picking up litter on the River Walk in Williamsport and he showed it to the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, an organization dedicated to restoring community connections to the Susquehanna River. That got the ball rolling.
He also notified Williamsport City Council of his plans to promote a city-wide cleanup during the week just prior to Earth Day – April 15 through to April 22, 2018. Here is the transcript of his presentation at a City Council meeting on March 29, 2018:
Hello, Good evening. My name is Richard James, I live at 610 West Fourth Street.
I am starting a… organizing event to clean up Williamsport. A couple of days ago, I was on the River Walk and I was walking and I saw a lot of trash. And so, I decided to pick it up. Then a week later I came back and… the section near the Maynard Street Bridge… it was filled with litter again. So that’s when I recognized that just one person… is futile. We are going to need the whole city to engage in this effort. Earth Day is coming up in April. It is going to be on a Sunday. And the Newberry people will be holding their annual cleanup on Saturday the 21st. So, then that’s when I got the bright idea that we make this city-wide and have the whole city engaged! Twenty-nine thousand people picking up litter! I know that is a bit ambitious but it can be done. I mean except for those folks that are physically unable. And we can get a jump on all this litter.
I have been documenting it for the last couple of days and posting it on Facebook. And you won’t believe the amount of trash that is out there. Especially if you are in a car it is hard to see. If you are walking it is a little bit easier, like you’re on the ground and you start to see the bottles, the trash, the cigarette butts, all kinds of stuff. You would not believe it.
I am asking for a community wide, community based effort and I am inviting everybody in this room to come out and pick up some litter. I decided it would be great to have it as a week long event. And it would be designed for individuals and groups and businesses to pick their best times, a convenient time for them to do the work. So from April 15th to the 22nd we are asking people to come out and clean up their yards, clean up their blocks, clean up their neighborhoods from one end of the city to the other.
I am working with the Newberry people, I also talked with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and we are negotiating on how we are going to clean up the River Walk and I have talked to the Adult Probation Office. Maybe we can get some people that serve their community service to help in that regard.
And so, at this point, this is just a FYI and I hope to be talking to some members of City Council in the next couple of weeks, public safety, and some other issues to round it out. Thank you.
If you wish to join Mr. James and his friends in the city wide cleanup, he offers a few guidelines:
It looks like litter comes from 3 primary sources. People droppings, unsecure truck loads, and improper trash handling. People tossing trash from their cars is a big problem. Governments quite frankly can’t keep up. Lycoming County and the state wants to keep track of the amount of litter collected.
- Carry two bags with you; one for biodegradable material and one for recyclables. (Biodegradable is any thing organic. Tree leaves, etc. Recyclables are cardboard, paper, plastics.)
- Be safe. Pay attention to the traffic at all times. Don’t risk your life trying to reach a piece of litter. Be sure to wear work gloves or garden gloves.
- You might need a rake and a shovel, but in most cases, the litter just needs to be picked up.
- Avoid trespassing. Pick up litter that is clearly in public spaces. (this is a good opportunity to get to know your neighbors! Say hello.)
- Take a photo of your work and your team! Post the photos to social media using the hashtag #WilliamsportCleanUp
- Have some fun. Enjoy the day. Meet new people. Be sure to tell your friends. We want this effort to grow into a movement of civic responsibility. We’re already making plans for next year’s Earth Day week!
- Form a team and register with the Great American Cleanup of PA. Get free work gloves, safety vests and trash bags while supplies last.
Here’s a message from Corey Ellison of Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Richard James regarding his promotion of the event, “… ask for them to track their # of volunteers, # of hours they participated in the cleanup, how far/# of blocks or miles they cleaned up, and if possible to weigh their collected litter. To weigh the litter, a simple bathroom scale with plastic wrap over it would work. This would help us to show a collective impact of the whole week, and would help to set benchmarks to support a larger effort next year. They are welcome to send that information to SGP for processing.”
Black owned business.
Jewel Johnson, owner of Jewel’s Signature Cookin’ Restaurant at 247 Campbell street in Williamsport is a black woman that has known her share of struggle, but she continues to persevere.
She hails from a business-minded family, so it made perfect sense for her to open her own business. She said, “I am like a robot! I am passionate about my business.”
She also said that she likes to help people. She wants to give back to the community. She has plans to offer free meals to the top 20 honor roll high school students to appreciate their academic excellence.
A well travelled friend told her, “Jewel, I have been too many restaurants, but nobody can touch your food.” She is very proud to receive that compliment. She said she offers “no less than the best”.
Only the best ingredients goes into her recipes which was handed to her from her mother. Her family comes from Alabama via Chester Pennsylvania. The cuisine is a soulful, southern style cooking.
The atmosphere of Jewel’s Signature Cooking is cozy and comfortable. Sometimes cool Jazz or R&B can heard emanating from the kitchen. “I like to groove to my sounds when I am cooking!” she said.
The restaurant is only open 3 days a week. Jewel said that she has tried other times and days of operation but for right now, Thursday, Friday and Saturday works best. Hours are from 9am to 8pm. On street parking.
There are still a few challenges that Jewel must face. Recently, her landlord passed away which throws an extra bit uncertainty into the success of the 2-year old business. But Jewel is confident and defiant, “I am holding on! You make it the best you can!”
Jewel also offers a catering service for any event. (She bragged, “I can do any event. I served 750 people once!”) She also wants to expand her business to serve Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) customers. “I am always thinking about my business.” Jewel said.
Jewel’s Signature Cookin’ Restaurant
247 Campbell Street
Check out her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Jewelssignaturecookin/
This woman makes a lot of sense.
It was Rev. Jesse Jackson who gave Coretta Scott King the bad news… But he lied. He did not tell her the truth regarding the severity of the gun shot wound that felled her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jackson was trying to protect her, to ease her pain. The damage was much worst. The bullet smashed his jaw, and traveled downward into his spinal column. Dr. King was dead.
Fifty years later, African-American Perspective Newsletter publisher Richard James recalls that night… April 4, 1968. “I was in the United States Air Force, stationed at newly computerized radar site in Maine. The commanding officer switched on the TV and asked all the radar operators to abandon their scopes to watch tragic history unfold. My co-workers and I saw the filmed announcement by Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General of the US, brother of slain President Kennedy, tell a crowd that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. I was paralyzed with sadness but I dared not to cry openly. King, the man with the eloquent voice was gone. Taken away. I was sad. The anger would come later.”
Racial turmoil erupted in the country’s urban centers. The death of a man that promoted non-violent resistance, ironically stirred people to massive random acts of violence. At that time, we did not know that RFK would also be killed by a gunman later that year. Nineteen sixty-eight was a hell of a year.
In honor of Dr. King, let’s do quick review of his life:
(King was only 19 years old)
Blacks across the deep South outraged.
January 30 – King’s house is bombed (but no one hurt)
December 23 – King’s home attacked in the aftermath of bus desegregationSnipers attack buses, more bombings.
(Between 1958 and 1963 King crisscrossed the country giving lectures, raising funds, doing TV interviews, leading protest marches, negotiating with business and government leaders.)
August 28 – March on Washington King’s I have a Dream Speech delivered to tens of thousands.
John E. James is a Black Republican, a combat Iraq veteran, and a President of a large multi-million dollar auto supply firm but a newcomer to high office politics. News reports say he has collected over 1 million dollars for his campaign for the US Senate. He has an impressive record but will the Republican Party machine support him? The effort to unseat Senator Debbie Stebenow has several challengers with experience in public office in the Michigan Primary. In a crowded Republican primary, Mr. James is a long shot. (No relation to AAPN publisher Richard James)
Mr. James’ biography reads as one of a privileged class. His father John A. James, built companies that the younger James leads. (There is also another brother that is a CEO of two companies in the James Group International conglomerate.) The senior James is a Democrat but their political differences has not deterred his son to run for one of the highest elected offices in the country. The conversation at last Thanksgivings Day’s dinner must have been interesting.
Unlike President Barack Obama who started out in politics as an Illinois state Representative and who took advantage of uncanny opportunities that thrusted him to national prominence, John E. James has a serious lack of political experience. But there is something compelling about his candidacy.
James is counting on his military experience and business leadership to sway voters. His website says, “He is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-business conservative who has demonstrated energetic leadership, clarity of vision and a passion for service from the battlefield to the boardroom.”
Candidate James promised to post videos of his reaching out to the voters of Michigan. “100 days, 100 videos” he said. But that series of selfie videos seems to have stalled at number 12. But he is getting plenty of press and he is getting his name out there.
Mr. James is a long shot, but then again no one believed that Donald Trump would go all the way. He has picked up some important party endorsements. And he has gathered some serious cash for his run. The Michigan Primary Election is August 6, 2018.
We simply had to share to the following blog from the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University. The Institute’s email communication with African-American Perspective Newsletter said, “Historian Donald Yacovone has contributed a piece reflecting on his study of how abolitionism, race, slavery, and the Civil War and Reconstruction have been taught in U.S. history textbooks from the 1830s to the present. It is called Teaching White Supremacy: U.S. History Textbooks and the Influence of Historians.”
We checked it out.
In the CHHIRP’s blog, Yacovone writes, “After reviewing my first fifty or so textbooks, one morning I realized precisely what I was seeing, what instruction, and what priorities were leaping from the pages into the brains of the children compelled to read them: White Supremacy.”
After reading Mr. Yacovone’s blog, ask yourself this question, “Were America’s children brainwashed to believe in whiteness as a superior quality and that Negroes were inherently and hopelessly inferior?”
Central Pennsylvania is currently struggling with a Heroin/Opioid epidemic. According to the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office 38 people died from drug overdoses in 2017. Mass drug addiction is no longer limited to the big cities. People, in large numbers, are dying in the rural America. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf has declared the epidemic a “disaster emergency” in January 2018.
In the urban Black Community the struggle of drug addiction is a very familiar story. African-Americans have been dying in the ghettos of America from drug overdoses for a very long time. Decades.
For AAPN publisher Richard James, the fight is personal. His brother, Clifford “Chico” Thomas Williams suffered many years as a cocaine addict before getting clean. Chico passed away on July 24, 2007 from HIV complications. He would have celebrated his 67 birthday in March 2018.
Mr. James wrote a poetic letter to his brother in 1987. He published the letter in the August 2007 issue of the African-American Perspective newsletter. As a personal remembrance and as a reminder of the dangers of drug addiction, alcoholism and risky sexual behaviors, we re-print “Letter to a Brother”.
What follows is a letter that I wrote to my brother Chico during the summer of 1987. At the time he was man in his mid-thirties, but he looked like a man in his sixties. For a while I had lost track of him. His Philadelphia row home had become an abandoned shell. The following letter was never mailed:
I have a lot to say, but little time to say it. I hope that you are well, but I fear that you are not. Please don’t be offended at my sharp tone, but I feel the time has come to be clear and to the point.
Are you still a drug addict?
Julianne died. Who was she? I suppose in matters concerning the world she was a “nobody”. She had no particular claim to fame, no accomplishments worth mentioning in the eyes of the world. Just a piece of black flesh that lived, loved and wanted to be loved in an anti-black society.
Julianne died. Who was she? She was the mother of two little girls. She was a young woman that could not cope. She herself was barely a child surviving in New York City. She was a person that never, never got a decent chance in life.
Julianne is dead. Cold. Unmoving. Who was she? A crack addict? Yes. A prostitute? Perhaps, no one really wants to know. Who was she? She was my wife’s cousin. She was a slender attractive woman that had simple wants. She was a woman with milk chocolate skin and tight curly hair. She was a misplaced African beauty that no one would dance with. She was a person with whom I shared belly laughs and quiet smiles.
Forgive my flair for the dramatic. I am crying.
I loved Julianne the way I love all my people. My love of Black people is a deep love and within that love is anger and rage. (Anger against injustice. Rage against racism.) Within my love for Black people is fear and suspicion. (Fear of our future. Suspicion of our motives.) Within my love for Black people is hope and pride. (Hope for our children. And pride in our accomplishments.)
I LOVE YOU.
Are you still a drug addict?
The last time I saw Julianne, she was already dead. Yes, she walked and talked but the sparkle of life was dim in her eyes, like a flashlight with used up batteries. Perhaps she knew it and needed to visit her cousins in Philly before passing on. When we greeted her we stood silent, in shock, gazing at a young woman who had been transformed into an old lifeless wretch. We hugged her and pretended that nothing was wrong. But everyone knew that the specter of Death had its hand on Julianne’s shoulder.
I can see that odious white skull of death standing behind you. It waits. It grins that eternal death mask grin and waits! It waits for your next destructive decision.
And it is your decision, your responsibility. Only you, and no one else, know what is best for you. No one else resides in your skin.
Life or Death, the ultimate choice is yours and yours alone.
Wait! That’s not true. There is another entity that dwells within. It is that part of you that you choose to ignore. It speaks a strong and steady message you don’t want to hear. It speaks, yet you choose not to hear the messenger’s silent voice.
Julianne chose not to hear the message. And she is dead.
Are you still a drug addict?
What is the message? I don’t know. (I believe the message is different for each of us. I believe that every person has a message inside them whispering gently.) But, what I do know is this. I know that the message celebrates life with all of its wondrous possibilities.
Who speaks the message? The Speaker is known by many names. But don’t get hung up on who or what it is, just be satisfied in knowing that the Message Giver lives within your soul. You are a part of it and it is a part of you. We all have this entity within us. It is in the gleam of a baby’s eye. It is in the passion of young lovers. It is in the wisdom of our elders.
You must decide. If you choose to continue your walk with death, I will be sad. If you take the path of life, I will give thanks and rejoice.
Again, the choice is yours.
In any case, I will love you—no matter what. I can say this without reservation because I hear my own message within. It tells me that love is the greatest power in the universe. The death triad of drug addiction, poverty and racism is no match against this power.
The real tragedy is that Julianne sought love and acceptance from outside sources. The greatest love she already possessed. It was there, inside her, all the time.
But she could not hear the message. Will you?
Get still. Be quiet and listen with your heart and not your ears.
Your loving brother,
Although the letter was never mailed, Chico got the message. He reduced his drinking considerably, he cut out the crack cocaine and began to fight his HIV/AIDS.
On Wednesday, July 24, 2007 at Chico’s life came to a close. He lived for 20 years after I wrote this letter and he died clean. Rest In Peace brother.
It has been 31 years since Richard James wrote the letter. Since that time, Mr. James’ attitude about addiction has evolved and matured. He knows that drug addictions are diseases of the brain.
Here are a few local resource in the Williamsport area:
Drug Addiction Treatment Center
Sankofa (A look back)
“Nappy headed hos.” That was the downfall of nationally recognized Radio and TV personality, Don Imus. As part of our observance of Women’s History Month – March 2018, we look back at our second issue published in April, 2007 Volume 1.2. Enjoy.
Let’s bring civility back.
The Rutgers women’s basketball team won 22 of 25 games, which took them to the top of the NCAA playoffs. They lost to the University of Tennessee on April 3rd. Since that devastating lost (59-46) the young women had begun to settle in for a “life as usual” on the campuses of Rutgers University. Then, Shock Jock Don Imus and his producer, Bernard McGuirk uttered outrageous racist and sexist comments about the mostly black female team on Imus’ daily morning radio/TV show.
Imus insinuated that the women were tough, unfeminine and called them “Nappy headed hos”. Two days later, Imus profusely apologized for his remarks. But political and activist organizations are asking for Imus to be fired. The groups led by Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others have opened a debate about the use of hateful, hurtful language in the media. (Imus has accepted a two week suspension.)
In my opinion, Imus was trying to be hip. His “joke” was a parody of the gangsta rap music genre of the Hip-Hop culture. In his own defense on the Today show, he noted that black men (rappers) also use such derogatory and demeaning language characterizing black women, but no one calls for their dismissal. He said that there is a double standard by which he is being judged.
I agree. There should not be a double standard. Hate speech is bad regardless of the color of the person who speaks it. Just because black people call themselves hateful names doesn’t make it right.
In my opinion, some words should be retired from the English language. At the top of the list is nigger, followed by chink, spick, wop, faggot, dyke, ho, and bitch.
A small number of Hip-Hop artists are making millions of dollars spewing hateful speech that degrades women. The entire Hip-Hop industry, controlled by white multi-national corporations, is making tens of millions of dollars producing and distributing musical content that generally denigrates the African-American culture.
I understand the need for self-expression and the freedom of speech. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t believe in the right to proffer opinions even when they are controversial and disturbing. As an artist I also can relate to the need to feel unfettered when creating art. But enough is enough. Black women have been characterized as bitches and hos. Black men have been demonized and labeled as niggers. What hurts the most is that black artists are leading the hateful propaganda charge.
At the core of the issue are the hate, anger and disrespect that exist between black males and black females. In many relationships, in the black community there is an unhealthy adversarial competition among young men and women. This cultural self-hatred should be acknowledged; our very survival depends on a thorough examination of the root causes of the animosity and enmity between black men and black women.
The Hip-Hop culture has brought the ugly truth into the light, “there is no love in the ghetto.” Low-income African-American families are caught in a cycle of crime, illegal drug addiction, unwanted teen pregnancies, poverty, hopelessness and despair. For these people, life is without joy; exploitation, manipulation and discrimination dominate their lives. They believe that they are powerless.
We don’t need a rich, famous, middle-aged, white radio personality, backed by the powerful corporate media, to dump extra pain and suffering on the deserving young women of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Basketball team.
As the current Imus flap unfolds, I hope that we take the opportunity to examine the deeper ramifications of his remarks. The American people need to declare to the world that such comments are “deplorable, despicable and unconscionable”. And within the black community, we need to stop calling each other bitches, niggers and hos.
And as far Mr. Imus is concerned, I am amazed that the public considers what he does as entertainment. He has been rated as one of the most influential radio commentators in the country. His deep melodic voice of insults and rude remarks is heard by millions of people daily. But, I never thought he was funny.
Where’s the civility? Where is the mutual respect? Where’s the love? Women, particularly black women deserve greater respect.
Do you use the “N-word” to describe an African-American? Do you call a black woman a ho? Do you know anyone that does use such degrading language? Why do black people demean themselves? How can we turn this strange phenomena around?
Should we burn gangsta rap CD’s that use such disgusting lyrics? Should we boycott recording companies that distribute hateful speech? Should we ban such destructive language?
Or should we provide the counter balance of a positive re-affirming language of self-love and respect. Can we publish a newsletter that showcases the talents of the African-American community? Can we display the other side that is usually overlooked in the traditional news media?
I think the time is right for good people to come together and express their disdain for a society that tacitly condones racism and sexism.
Let’s start a dialogue to end hate speech. Let’s offer an African-American Perspective.
“We found robust associations between area racism and heart disease, cancer, and stroke, leading causes of death among Blacks. Racial disparities in mortality from these diseases may be influenced by racism through biobehavioral channels engaged in the threat response.”
The above quote is part of a conclusion found in a study about racism as a stressor in the lives of Black folk. The peered review research paper titled, “Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality” found that certain areas of the United States are more racially intolerant and those racist attitudes negatively impact the health of African-Americans living in those areas.
But which areas of the country are more racist? The deep South, right? WRONG. According to the study that used data from Google searches, Appalachia was found to be the most racist section of the United States. This made headline news back 2015 when the study was published. See Washington Post article here.
Researchers analyzed the number of times the N-Word was searched on Google in all the 210 media markets in the nation. And cross checked that data from US Census Bureau data and National Center for Health Statistics on black mortality rates.
Stress makes people sick. Racism creates stress.
From the study conducted by the Public Library of Science:
“A growing body of evidence indicates that the unique constellation of environmental stressors and psychosocial challenges experienced by Blacks in the US contributes to accelerated declines in health and generates racial disparities.
Of these stressors, there has been increasing attention to the impact of racism-related factors, including interpersonal experiences of racial discrimination.
Racially motivated experiences of discrimination impact health via diminished socioeconomic attainment and by enforcing patterns in racial residential segregation, geographically isolating large segments of the Black population into worse neighborhood conditions.
These areas are typically characterized by social anathemas such as poverty and crime, and fewer health-promoting resources, including recreational facilities, parks, supermarkets, and quality healthcare. Such characteristics shape health behaviors such as exercise, diet, and substance use.
Racial discrimination in employment can also lead to lower income and greater financial strain, which in turn have been linked to worse mental and physical health outcomes.”
The Study concluded, “These findings are congruent with studies documenting the deleterious impact of racism on health among Blacks. Our study contributes to evidence that racism shapes patterns in mortality and generates racial disparities in health.”
Central Pennsylvania was included in the areas found to be highly racist.