Martin Luther King Memorial Quote Correction A Great Holiday Gift

Since the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. was unveiled, one quote in  the presentation caused an uproar from the beginning.  On the Stone of Hope are inscribed the words “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” I’m glad to hear that the Interior Department is moving to change the quote.

I thought the quote was an abomination to the legacy of Dr. King. I know that’s a pretty strong statement, but there are two reasons the quote affected me so deeply.

First, I feel very close to the memorial since Alpha Phi Alpha played a key role in its construction.  Secondly, in the days of my youth I was given the task of reciting Dr. King’s 1968 speech The Drum Major Instinct.  I’ve listened to the speech over and over through the years.

The original passage from from King’s speech used for the inscription went like this:

If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

On the stone it ended up as:

I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.

Maya Angelou was an early critic of the misquote, and she was told as, as many were that it wasn’t a big deal.  But as Ms. Angelou pointed out, King in his speech was talking about how others might remember him.  If the stone had read “He was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace and Righteousness” it would have been truly fitting and intentionally ironic.

But to take a portion of such a great speech out of context could not be allowed to stand.  All involved will be better because of this revision. Most notably the legacy of Dr. King.

A Fresh New Look Arrives at The Root

I had a chance to preview changes made TheRoot.com website on a blogger conference call yesterday.  I’ll have to say kudos to Managing Editor Joel Dreyfuss and Managing Editor of the site.  I think the content is much easier to find and they are able to highlight key articles much better than before.

“The Root already offers the most thoughtful news analysis and commentary on the Web relating to black people’s lives and the issues that matter to us,” said Joel Dreyfuss, Managing Editor of the revamped site.  “Over time we’ve also seen our curated and multimedia content grow in popularity, so we’re redesigning the homepage to make it easier to access the full breath of what we offer.

Key updates include:

  • Faster performance: The streamlined site loads quickly, giving readers faster access to breaking news and timely headlines.
  • Easier Navigation: More points of entry into the site’s rich content and a layout gives video, slideshows, blogs and special features greater prominence.
  • A Bolder Vibrant Design:  An updated color palette that better reflects the energetic environment of a constantly updating news source with a vocal and engaged following.
  • Larger Homepage Lightbox: Expanded in size for easy viewing –containing more content tied to breaking news topics and a wider variety of the site’s offerings.
  • Video Functionality on Homepage: Instant gratification for visitors who enjoy video content via a Must-See-Media module.
  • New Content Offerings: Readers will be able to share the news in their own lives with the Celebrations Gallery Section which enables readers to post announcements for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations and births.  The Opinion Round Up Section highlights insightful viewpoints from notable columnists and bloggers focusing on politics, culture, and more.  The Roots Section offers genealogical information, including advice by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is The Root’s editor-in-chief.

The Root is published by The Slate Group, a Division of the Washington Post Company.

screenshot-beta-the-root

Bishop T.D. Jakes Says Rev. Franklin Graham Should Apologize to President Obama for Questioning his Faith

The Wire (TV ONE)


RENOWNED BLACK RELIGIOUS LEADER APPEARS ON “WASHINGTON WATCH WITH ROLAND MARTIN” SUNDAY, MAY 15 AT 11 AM ET ON TV ONE

tdjakesphotoRoland Martin: Rev. Franklin Graham has made some comments on several occasions as recently as three weeks ago really questioning, if you will, the faith of the President. He said the President has told him he’s a Christian, but he basically said that going to church does not make you a Christian. But the President is on record as saying that he walked down that aisle, he gave his life to Christ, so what do you say to folks like Rev. Graham who, frankly, are muddying the water but other people who are questioning the Christianity of this President?

Bishop T.D. Jakes: I find it insulting. We didn’t question the Christianity of President Bush when he said he accepted Christ, and I’m disappointed in Rev. Franklin Graham in that regard. I wish he had the diplomacy of his father, who brought the gospel to people without being nuanced by politics because when you do those things you offend people that you are actually called to save and to serve. And I would hope that he would see the rationale in apologizing for such statements – because if the President’s faith is suspect then all of our faiths are suspect, because the Bible is quite clear about what it takes to be saved and the President has been quite open about his accepting Christ and him openly confessing it before men. And if it’s good enough for the Bible it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

Martin: I certainly agree with you on that.

Jury Issues Mixed Verdict in Michael Baisden’s Copyright Infringement Case

The Wire

michael-baisden1Michael Baisden’s attorneys, Daryl K. Washington and Aubrey “Nick” Pittman, announced on Monday, a jury in Houston Federal Court reached a verdict in the copyright lawsuit filed by nationally syndicated radio and TV personality Michael Baisden.  The mixed verdict allows for the return of Baisden’s copyrighted rights and allows the best-selling author to proceed with upcoming movie and television projects.

In the lawsuit, Baisden claimed damages from past conduct of I’m Ready Productions and Image Entertainment for the unauthorized distribution of DVD’s based on two of his best-selling novels. According to Baisden’s attorneys, I’m Ready Productions filed a counterclaim against Baisden seeking compensation related to a movie based on one of Baisden’s best-sellers that Baisden had originally planned to write and produce.

According to the original lawsuit, I’m Ready argued that it had all rights to the stage-play versions of Baisden’s best sellers, The Maintenance Man and Men Cry in the Dark.  Documents filed in the case also showed that I’m Ready Productions was marketing movie rights to these best sellers and entered into an agreement with Image Entertainment to do a film from one of the stageplays.  In earlier arguments to the Court, the Court rejected I’m Ready’s arguments that it had the right to sell Baisden’s movie rights.   Pittman noted that after the Court denied I’m Ready’s contention, the jury had to decide whether Baisden was entitled to monetary damages from the past conduct of the Defendants.  The jury also had to determine whether I’m Ready Productions was entitled to any compensation from Baisden’s upcoming movie deals on his copyrighted works.  In the end, the jury answered no to both questions.

“I have mixed feelings about the case.  On the one hand I am ecstatic that my copyrighted rights have been returned to me to allow me to proceed with upcoming movie and TV projects without continued interference from Image and I’m Ready Productions,” said Michael Baisden.  “On the other hand, I am disappointed that this jury did not punish the Defendants for their open infringement by awarding monetary damages for their actions.  I have asked my general counsel to proceed with an appeal of the jury’s finding as to the decisions on the past conduct. The fight goes on, but I am excited to now be able to go forward with our movie and TV plans that had been put on hold for the last five years”

Michael Baisden is a recognized best selling author, nationally syndicated radio personality and TV talk show host.  His high-octane energy and love for interacting with his listeners is just one reason for the popularity and success of the number one rated Michael Baisden Show, which is broadcast to over ten million listeners in over 76 affiliate stations across the country.   Baisden is known for spearheading the historic Jena Six March and The Michael Baisden Foundation’s 2010 One Million Mentors National Campaign to Save Our Kids where he spoke in over 72 cities signing up mentors.

For more information on Michael Baisden, go to  http://www.BaisdenLive.com/ or join him at “Michael Baisden Live” on Facebook and “Baisden Live” on Twitter.

Jury Trial Set in Michael Baisden’s Fight to Stop Copyright Infringement

The Wire

michael-baisdenA trial date has been set in a lawsuit filed by best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio and TV personality Michael Baisden.

Documents filed in the lawsuit allege that Defendants I’m Ready Productions, Inc., Image Entertainment, Inc., ALW Entertainment, Inc., Je’Caryous Johnson and Gary Guidry conspired to tour a stage-play without Baisden’s permission and sold DVD’s based on Baisden’s best-selling novels, The Maintenance Man and Men Cry in the Dark, in violation of the Federal copyright laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that I’m Ready Productions and Image Entertainment made millions of dollars using Baisden’s name, likeness and popularity to sell the DVD’s by implying that he was involved in, or endorsed, the distribution.  Baisden did not authorize the sale of the DVD’s.

“This is my day in court in my fight to recover my intellectual property rights and prevent these Defendants from continuing to infringe upon my copyrighted novels,” said Michael Baisden.  “These novels are like my children.  They reflect years of hard work in writing them and promoting them to the level where they became best sellers.  In the end, I hope I can also send a message to other copyright holders that they have a right to take a stand and fight those who are trying to steal their copyrighted works.”

In the lawsuit, Baisden seeks an injunction to prevent the Defendants from any further use of the copyrighted works The Maintenance Man and Men Cry in the Dark. Baisden is also seeking an award of actual damages, enhanced damages and attorneys’ fees for having to institute a lawsuit to stop Defendants’ infringement.  He is represented by noted entertainment lawyers Daryl K. Washington and Aubrey “Nick” Pittman.

Trial is set to begin on February 14, 2011, in Houston, Texas, in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas – Bob Casey Federal Courthouse Court Room 9-B.

Omega Psi Phi presents $40K Endowment Check to Prairie View A&M

Press Release

thomas_scholarship_pv_11_2010On behalf of Rho Theta Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., we present this check in the amount of $40,000 in support of the Prairie View A & M University Capital Campaign, for the Rho Theta Endowment / CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr. Memorial Scholarship.  Making the presentation is Mrs. Eva Thomas, mother of CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr. and members of Rho Theta Chapter.

On August 8, 2008, in conjunction with the Prairie View A & M University Capital Campaign, “EXTEND THE VIEW,” Rho Theta Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, established the Rho Theta Endowment / CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr. Memorial Scholarship at Prairie View A&M University, and pledged to donate $40,000 to Capital Campaign in 2010.  The CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr. Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students at Prairie View A&M University.

Rho Theta Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was chartered on the campus of Prairie View A & M University, on April 25, 1970. Brother CPT Lee Roy Thomas Jr. was initiated into Rho Theta Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, on November 11, 1978 and served as Basileus from 1980 – 1982. CPT Lee Roy Thomas Jr., USA, graduated from Prairie View A&M University and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Ordinance Corps, in December 1982.  He passed on to Omega Chapter in 1990, while serving the Army as a Company Commander, at Fort Hood, Texas, from a battle with Lyme Disease.

According to Sherman Charles, Coordinator, “In preparation for the Rho Theta Chapter 40th Anniversary Celebration, and in conjunction with the Prairie View A & M University Capital Campaign, “EXTEND THE VIEW,” Rho Theta Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, established the Rho Theta Endowment / CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr. Memorial Scholarship at Prairie View A&M University, on August 8, 2008, and pledged to donate $40,000 to Capital Campaign within 5 years. The scholarship will be presented to PVU students annually for many years to come.”

Mrs. Eva Thomas, mother of CPT Lee Roy Thomas, Jr., said “I am excited to participate in this presentation, in the name of my son here at Prairie View.”  Joining Mrs. Thomas for this auspicious occasion was her daughter, Eva Thomas Crawford, cousins Earl and Ella Goode Johnson, Karen Fields Jones and Keira Jones, from Dallas.  Captain Thomas was a graduate of Hearne High School, Hearne, TX.

Landrieu Announces More Than $6.8M for Six La. Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Office of Senator Mary Landrieu

United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced that six schools in Louisiana received more than $6.8 million as a part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Institutional Aid Program.

“I have long supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities and fought to provide them with the resources they need to build up their facilities and academic programs,” said Sen. Landrieu. “Louisiana has a rich tradition of strong HBCUs. The funding awarded today will allow these schools to continue to grow, both physically and academically to provide a better education for their students.”


The purpose of the HBCU Program is to provide financial assistance to establish or strengthen academic resources, financial management, endowments and physical plants to enhance these academic institutions.
The following HBCUs that received grants from the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Dillard University will receive $863,050
  • Grambling State University will receive $1.2 million
  • Southern University and A&M College will receive nearly $1.6 million
  • Southern University at Shreveport will receive $946,102
  • Southern University at New Orleans will receive $1 million
  • Xavier University will receive more than $1.1 million

Shirley Sherrod to Address National Association of Black Journalists at Convention San Diego

From the Dallas South Newswire

Newsmaker Shirley Sherrod is set to appear before thousands of journalists on Thursday, July 29 at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Annual Convention in San Diego, Calif.

Sherrod has made headlines over the past two weeks for her forced resignation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture after conservativeblogger Andrew Breitbart posted video excerpts of Sherrod’s address at a March 2010
NAACP event on his website. The NAACP initially condemned her remarks and U.S. government officials called on her to resign. Upon review of the unedited video incontext, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, apologized soon after and Sherrod was offered a new position. Sherrod has not yet decided if she will accept the job offer.

Sherrod will have a candid conversation with a panel of journalists during a newsmaker plenary, “Context and Consequences: A Conversation with Shirley Sherrod.” The discussion will focus on the reporting and coverage of this incident and the role that race still plays in a runaway media culture.

NABJ also extended Breitbart <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Breitbart>an invitation to this session. He initially accepted, but later declined.

*EVENT: *Context and Consequences: A Conversation with Shirley Sherrod and the National Association of Black Journalists**

*TIME: 8:00 a.m. PST July 29- Newsmaker Plenary***

*LOCATION: Manchester Grand Hyatt, Room TBA*

President Obama’s Remarks at Dorothy Height’s Funeral Service

From The White House Office of the Press Secretary

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR DR. DOROTHY HEIGHT

Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT:  Please be seated.  Let me begin by saying a word to Dr. Dorothy Height’s sister, Ms. Aldridge.  To some, she was a mentor.  To all, she was a friend.  But to you, she was family, and my family offers yours our sympathy for your loss.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing, of Dr. Dorothy Height.  It is fitting that we do so here, in our National Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  Here, in a place of great honor.  Here, in the House of God.  Surrounded by the love of family and of friends.  The love in this sanctuary is a testament to a life lived righteously; a life that lifted other lives; a life that changed this country for the better over the course of nearly one century here on Earth.

Michelle and I didn’t know Dr. Height as well, or as long, as many of you.  We were reminded during a previous moment in the service, when you have a nephew who’s 88 — (laughter) — you’ve lived a full life.  (Applause.)

But we did come to know her in the early days of my campaign.  And we came to love her, as so many loved her.  We came to love her stories.  And we loved her smile.  And we loved those hats — (laughter) — that she wore like a crown — regal.  In the White House, she was a regular.  She came by not once, not twice — 21 times she stopped by the White House.  (Laughter and applause.)  Took part in our discussions around health care reform in her final months.

Last February, I was scheduled to see her and other civil rights leaders to discuss the pressing problems of unemployment — Reverend Sharpton, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Marc Morial of the National Urban League.  Then we discovered that Washington was about to be blanketed by the worst blizzard in record — two feet of snow.

So I suggested to one of my aides, we should call   Dr. Height and say we’re happy to reschedule the meeting.  Certainly if the others come, she should not feel obliged. True to form, Dr. Height insisted on coming, despite the blizzard, never mind that she was in a wheelchair.  She was not about to let just a bunch of men — (laughter) — in this meeting.  (Applause.)  It was only when the car literally could not get to her driveway that she reluctantly decided to stay home.  But she still sent a message — (laughter) — about what needed to be done.

And I tell that story partly because it brings a smile to my face, but also because it captures the quiet, dogged, dignified persistence that all of us who loved Dr. Height came to know so well — an attribute that we understand she learned early on.

Born in the capital of the old Confederacy, brought north by her parents as part of that great migration, Dr. Height was raised in another age, in a different America, beyond the experience of many.  It’s hard to imagine, I think, life in the first decades of that last century when the elderly woman that we knew was only a girl.  Jim Crow ruled the South.  The Klan was on the rise — a powerful political force.  Lynching was all too often the penalty for the offense of black skin.  Slaves had been freed within living memory, but too often, their children, their grandchildren remained captive, because they were denied justice and denied equality, denied opportunity, denied a chance to pursue their dreams.

The progress that followed — progress that so many of you helped to achieve, progress that ultimately made it possible for Michelle and me to be here as President and First Lady — that progress came slowly.  (Applause.)

Progress came from the collective effort of multiple generations of Americans.  From preachers and lawyers, and thinkers and doers, men and women like Dr. Height, who took it upon themselves — often at great risk — to change this country for the better.  From men like W.E.B Du Bois and A. Philip Randolph; women like Mary McLeod Bethune and Betty Friedan — they’re Americans whose names we know.  They are leaders whose legacies we teach.  They are giants who fill our history books.  Well, Dr. Dorothy Height deserves a place in this pantheon.  She, too, deserves a place in our history books.  (Applause.)  She, too, deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.

Look at her body of work.  Desegregating the YWCA.  Laying the groundwork for integration on Wednesdays in Mississippi.  Lending pigs to poor farmers as a sustainable source of income.  Strategizing with civil rights leaders, holding her own, the only woman in the room, Queen Esther to this Moses Generation — even as she led the National Council of Negro Women with vision and energy — (applause) — with vision and energy, vision and class.

But we remember her not solely for all she did during the civil rights movement.  We remember her for all she did over a lifetime, behind the scenes, to broaden the movement’s reach.  To shine a light on stable families and tight-knit communities.  To make us see the drive for civil rights and women’s rights not as a separate struggle, but as part of a larger movement to secure the rights of all humanity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity.

It’s an unambiguous record of righteous work, worthy of remembrance, worthy of recognition.  And yet, one of the ironies is, is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion.  She never cared about who got the credit.  She didn’t need to see her picture in the papers.  She understood that the movement gathered strength from the bottom up, those unheralded men and women who don’t always make it into the history books but who steadily insisted on their dignity, on their manhood and womanhood.  (Applause.)  She wasn’t interested in credit.  What she cared about was the cause.  The cause of justice.  The cause of equality.  The cause of opportunity.  Freedom’s cause.

And that willingness to subsume herself, that humility and that grace, is why we honor Dr. Dorothy Height.  As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew:  “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  I don’t think the author of the Gospel would mind me rephrasing:  “whoever humbles herself will be exalted.”  (Applause.)

One of my favorite moments with Dr. Height — this was just a few months ago — we had decided to put up the Emancipation Proclamation in the Oval Office, and we invited some elders to share reflections of the movement.  And she came and it was a inter-generational event, so we had young children there, as well as elders, and the elders were asked to share stories.  And she talked about attending a dinner in the 1940s at the home of Dr. Benjamin Mays, then president of Morehouse College.  And seated at the table that evening was a 15-year-old student, “a gifted child,” as she described him, filled with a sense of purpose, who was trying to decide whether to enter medicine, or law, or the ministry.

And many years later, after that gifted child had become a gifted preacher — I’m sure he had been told to be on his best behavior — after he led a bus boycott in Montgomery, and inspired a nation with his dreams, he delivered a sermon on what he called “the drum major instinct” — a sermon that said we all have the desire to be first, we all want to be at the front of the line.

The great test of a life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, is to harness that instinct; to redirect it towards advancing the greater good; toward changing a community and a country for the better; toward doing the Lord’s work.

I sometimes think Dr. King must have had Dorothy Height in mind when he gave that speech.  For Dorothy Height met the test.  Dorothy Height embodied that instinct.  Dorothy Height was a drum major for justice.  A drum major for equality.  A drum major for freedom.  A drum major for service.  And the lesson she would want us to leave with today — a lesson she lived out each and every day — is that we can all be first in service.  We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause.  So let us live out that lesson.  Let us honor her life by changing this country for the better as long as we are blessed to live.  May God bless Dr. Dorothy Height and the union that she made more perfect.