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Untold Stories: Defiance of the Vietnam War

The first American war in which segregation ended was in Vietnam. Black and white troops were separated during World War II and Korea.



The first American war in which segregation ended was in Vietnam. Black and white troops were separated during World War II and Korea. Nearly four times as many African American soldiers reenlisted as white soldiers at the start of the Vietnam War. African American leaders and organizations such as SNCC, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War by 1967.

An anti-war movement – the GI Movement – changed the course of history. It emerged in the late 1960s. This unique movement took place in aircraft carriers and barracks rather than on college campuses. It thrived in navy brigs, army stockades, and the towns surrounding military bases. It also spread to prestigious military schools like West Point. Additionally, it spread across Vietnam’s battlefields. Nobody anticipated it.

One colonel said it had spread throughout the entire American Armed Forces by 1971. However, the GI Movement against the Vietnam War is still largely unknown today until a documentary film came out in 2005. Rank and file soldiers threw grenades into the officers’ tents and would, at times, shoot an officer on the battlefield that was abusing his men.

SIR! NO SIR!” is the best film about the Vietnam War and the opposition to this war. It tells the brave story of active-duty GIs’ and massive wartime resistance. The entertainment industry, some in the military, establishment historians, and the media have worked to bury this movement and documentary. The true story behind the opposition to the Vietnam War allows us to hear from military doctor Howard Levy, who refused to train Special Forces troops at the beginning of the war. He was eventually court-martialed and imprisoned. We hear from Presidio 27 prisoners who staged a sit-in on the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco in 1968 following the brutal murder of a prisoner by guards who tore down their stockade. After that, they were accused of mutiny, a capital crime.

Additionally, it permits us to hear from “Fort Hood 43” — Black soldiers stationed in Killeen, Texas, who were charged with refusing riot duty at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Black Panther leader Bobby Seale and others would be framed for the riot but were later acquitted. The remaining members of the Fort Hood 43 unit were sent to Chicago, but they were kept in their barracks because the leadership was unsure which side they would take if they were forced to walk the streets.

No other war in U.S. history has seen as much scrutiny from the courts regarding its constitutionality. As a matter of constitutional law, this nation’s wars can only begin with a formal declaration from Congress, not the president. Before deploying hundreds of thousands of troops into South Vietnam and successive waves of planes on bombing missions over North Vietnam, Congress had not voted to go to war. President Nixon even lied about U.S. troops invading Cambodia as soldiers crossing into Cambodia realized they were being used. This would eventually lead to the War Powers Act and other measures designed to prevent any president from engaging in wars that are not authorized. This is why President Jimmy Carter pardoned thousands of citizens that refused to be drafted to fight in an illegal war in Vietnam.

Army Private Billy Dean Smith.

The film “SIR! NO SIR!” recounts the narratives of the defiance of thousands of GIs. We learn about the GI prisoners’ weeks-long revolt in Vietnam’s Long Binh Jail (LBJ). Additionally, we know about Army Private Billy Dean Smith. He was accused of fragging his superior, which was the common practice of throwing a fragmentation grenade at aggressive officers, frequently resulting in fatalities. Smith was held in solitary confinement for 20 months and eventually acquitted after a jury of his peers felt there wasn’t evidence to convict him.

The film cites official military analysis as evidence that the U.S. Army in Vietnam could no longer fight. The Vietnamese people were also voicing their disdain for the war. Although the anti-war GIs were literally on the front lines, the millions of Americans who marched and fought in the streets to end the war played their part.

The brave soldiers who stood up to the war were part of a natural movement of working-class and poor people from all over the country, especially people of color. The momentum and inspiration of the movement was the GIs desire to survive, live with dignity, and feel like they weren’t cannon fodder (people just used to kill for unjustified reasons).

In Killeen, soldiers from Fort Hood would go to a Café called the Oleo Strut to hear from returning soldiers who testified that they would be ordered to kill women and children. An “Oleo Strut” is the name of a shock absorber on a helicopter or aircraft. Here in San Antonio, an event against the Vietnam War occurred in which Actress Jane Fonda spoke to hundreds of GIs a block from the Bexar County Courthouse. Some of the soldiers in attendance defied orders not to wear their uniforms, but they did and carried signs and wore buttons that said FTA – which meant “F….k The Army.” Interestingly, Fort Hood is named after pro-slavery Confederate General John Bell Hood.

People who were drafted burned their draft cards by the thousands as many felt that no war except WWII was justified. WWII was against racism and the Nazis. The Civil War was fought to end slavery. There’s also evidence that soldiers threw their medals onto the lawn of the White House out of resentment. The missteps of the Vietnam War led to Vietnam Syndrome,” a term in U.S. politics that refers to public aversion to American overseas military involvement after the controversy over the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Syndrome has caused military authorities to be weary of reintroducing the draft and raising the stakes in a manner that would put them at risk of experiencing the same military collapse as they did in Vietnam.

Black Life Texas

Power Book II: Ghost Debuts in Starz




The “Power” franchise is back again and adding some Mary J. Blige flair to its latest sequel.

This time, “Power Book II: Ghost” is told through the eyes of young Tariq St. Patrick, the central character, trying to navigate his life to shed his father’s legacy and coming up against the mounting pressure to save his family. Along the way, Tariq gets entangled in the affairs of the cutthroat Tejada family, adding further complications as he tries to balance his drug operations with his education, love life, family affairs, and mounting pressure from Cooper Saxe. He divides his time between school and hustling to pay for his mother’s defense attorney, but Tariq turns to a familiar drug game when he runs out of options.

The “Power” franchise is a television series created and produced by Courtney A. Kemp in collaboration with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. Upon release in 2014, the series, which airs on Starz, earned positive reviews and is one of the network’s most highly-rated shows.

This spinoff stars Michael Rainey Jr. as Tariq, Shane Johnson as Cooper Saxe, Method Man as Davis Maclean, Mary J. Blige as Moet, Larenz Tate as Councilman Tate, Lovell Adams-Gray as Dru Tejada, and many more familiar characters.

Since 2014, the franchise has spun off into “PowerBook II: Ghost,” “PowerBook III: Raising Kanan,” and “Powerbook IV: Force and BMF.”

Last September, Jackson announced he was leaving Starz. And recently, in February, he announced a multiyear broadcast direct deal with Fox, which is offering him the platform to develop scripted dramas, comedies, and animated series that would air on the network.

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Black Life Texas

American Red Cross: On the Right Side of History




On June 1, 1921, over 7,500 angry white Tulsan, armed with weapons and a determination to destroy, crossed the Frisco Railroad Tracks into the segregated Greenwood section of North Tulsa, also known as Black Wall Street. They slaughtered over 300 men, women, and children within seven hours while literally burning down all the businesses and homes within a 33-block area. 

After the State National Guard finally arrived in the city and ended that savagery, over 7,000 Black American citizens were left without homes, no food, and their hospital had been destroyed. At that time in the country’s history, it was the worst single-day massacre of fellow citizens and their property.

In 1921 no organizations were willing to assist the 7,000 distraught, homeless men, women and children, except the American Red Cross. Founded in 1881, the organization had never assisted victims of a manmade disaster, especially when those victims happened to be Black. However, Maurice Willows, director of the Southwest Division of the Red Cross, insisted that the organization come to the rescue of what he considered his fellow citizens of the country. He called on his workers to respond as a matter of human life and led a team of volunteers from across the area into the ravaged community to assist what he termed the Black “riot victims.”

Willows’s first act was to order “the incumbent city officials to abdicate power to him for a 60-day period.” He then set up his operating headquarters at the Booker T. Washington High School. For some reason, the high school was not torched. He also set up a makeshift hospital inside one of the classrooms. With the extreme possibility of disease spreading due to the number of dead bodies lying in the streets, Willows obtained vaccines and inoculated 1,800 people against tetanus, typhoid, and smallpox. According to the Red Cross records, 163 operations were conducted in the make-shift hospital, saving a considerable number of lives. The Red Cross also attended to 763 lesser wounded men, women, and children.

The Red Cross workers set up tents throughout the community for the residents whose homes had been burned to the ground from turpentine-soaked explosives thrown from low-flying airplanes. Many of those residents lived in tents throughout the winter of 1921-22. One special tent was erected and filled with sewing machines. The women were put to work making clothes, quilts, cot pads, sheets, and pillows, while the men helped to erect the tents. 

The Red Cross stayed in Tulsa for seven months and spent over $100,000 in its sustained relief effort. Along with the material necessities, they also provided the angry and often depressed residents of Greenwood with a much-needed psychological uplift. When it appeared that all was lost, Willows and the other white volunteers showed up and immediately gave the distraught residents hope. They were extremely grateful for Willows and the others that accompanied him to Tulsa. In a letter sent to him years later by a collective assembly of Black Tulsa residents, they wrote, “Thank God for the Red Cross helping us to shut out of our lives that what is evil.” 

No doubt that early in its existence, the American Red Cross was on the right side of history.

Red Cross Black History Facts (from the website of the American Red Cross)

Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist, orator, and author, first met Red Cross founder Clara Barton shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the war, Barton risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers, including the all-Black Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which Douglass recruited. The story of the 54th Regiment formed the basis for the 1991 film “Glory.”

Douglass offered advice and support to Barton in her efforts to gain American acceptance as a member nation of the global Red Cross network. Douglass signed the original Articles of Incorporation for the Red Cross, which later documented the creation of the American Red Cross.

Frances Reed Elliott Davis was the first officially registered African American nurse to be accepted into the Red Cross Nursing Service, where she provided medical care for the families of service members during World War I. 

Mary McLeod Bethune was an advisor to the U.S. president. She was invited to two American Red Cross wartime conferences to discuss African American representation within the organization. As a result of these conferences, the “Committee on Red Cross Activities with Respect to the Negro” formed. Bethune was one of five committee members who made recommendations on the blood plasma project, the use of African-American staff in overseas service clubs, the enrollment of African-American nurses and the representation of African Americans on local and national Red Cross committees and staff departments.

Dr. Jerome Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1964. President Jimmy Carter later appointed him as chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979. He was the first African American to hold this position (one of the highest-ranking positions at the Red Cross). Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982. While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. After his death in 1985, the organization named its biomedical research facility in Rockville, Md., the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences.

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Black Life Texas

Game, Match, Set – Part Five 




A Mother’s Justice – A Short Story by Caleb Alexander

“There’s been a lot of strange things happening around this case, your honor!” Defense Attorney Gabe Kline said, standing next to his client. He had been hired by the Fraternal Order of Police to represent the man who killed my son.  

“We have mysterious USBs showing up at the police station, at the local and national news stations, at the district attorney’s office, and God knows where else. I find it mighty disturbing that police body camera footage, footage that was completely lost, was somehow found and then distributed in this manner. 9-1-1 calls that were lost have magically turned up and somehow found their way to the media. Don’t you find this a little strange, your honor?”

“Make your point, counselor,” Judge Phillipa Bass ordered.

“My point is, judge, my client has rights,” Gabe Kline argued. “This body cam footage is highly prejudicial and misleading under the best of circumstances. It doesn’t convey the full picture of what happened that day. And having it spread all over the news is going to deny my client his Constitutional Right to an unbiased jury and thus a fair trial.”

“To my understanding, in every single similar case, where there has been an officer-involved shooting, the police departments themselves have released incident footage to the public,” Judge Bass replied. “Why would it not be in this case? The media has been highly opinionated in this case from the very beginning. When they were insinuating drug involvement before the autopsy report was made public that showed that narrative was false, I didn’t hear a peep about public scrutiny or potential bias.”

“Judge, I move for a mistrial,” Kline stated. 

“On what grounds?”

“The release of the body cam footage.”

“Denied,” Judge Bass said. “Take it up with SAPD.”

“They aren’t the ones who released that footage!” Kline said forcefully.

“They’re the only ones who had access to it,” Judge Bass told him. “If it came from anywhere, it came from there.”

“Judge, I move for a motion to suppress the body camera footage and the 9-1-1 tapes,” Kline said.

“Let me get this straight,” Judge Bass said, leaning forward and peering over the spectacles resting on her nose. “You want to suppress evidence that the world has already seen, and that came from the police department?”

“It shouldn’t be considered, it’s misleading and prejudicial.”

“Oh, I think it’s very relevant, and I think that the jury should see it as part of the truth-seeking function of the trial process,” Judge Bass said sternly. “Your motion is denied.”

“This is bull crap!” Officer Vincent Mayorga shouted. “This whole thing is a setup! It’s rigged!  The whole thing has been rigged!”

I stared at the monster who killed my son. I wanted to run to the defense table and choke the life out of him. I knew that I was squeezing the blood out of my husband’s hand. 

“Order! Order in the court!” Phillipa shouted, banging her gavel. “Counselor, control your client, or I’ll find you both in contempt!”

“This is a setup!” Officer Mayorga shouted. He rose from his seat, causing the bailiffs to rush to his table and constrain him. “How could I have an all-Black grand jury? How? In this city? How?  And then a Black prosecutor? And a Black judge?”

“You have a problem with my ethnicity?” Phillipa asked, peering over her glasses.

“No, your honor!” Kline said, grabbing his client. “He’s just a little distraught right now!”

“This system is rigged!” Officer Mayorga shouted.

“Bailiff, remove him from my courtroom!” Phillipa said, banging her gavel. “Officer Mayorga, you are hereby in contempt of court. Your bail is hereby revoked. All motions are hereby dismissed.  This trial is set for Monday! I will have you restrained and gagged if you try this on Monday, Officer Mayorga. And if that is the way you want to sit in front of the jury, that is fine with me! Court is dismissed!”

Assistant District Attorney Genevieve Kingston gathered her materials and then walked to where I was seated. “I have this, you can stop now.”

“Vivi, what are you talking about?” I asked.

“Really?” she asked, tilting her head. “Girl, stop. I don’t want anything coming back on appeal. I got him.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The 9-1-1 call? The body cam footage showing up at my office?”

“Not me.”

“Then you tell Tenayson that I’m going to kill her!” Genevieve winked at me and walked off. “I got this, girlfriend! Trust me, I got this!”

To Be Continued ….

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