Monthly Archives: Novembro 2011

Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman

In Mississippi, in the 1960s, when segregation was king, racism the status quo, and bigotry the law, it was young people who rose up and challenged the system. In racially segregated and economically depressed Neshoba County, Mississippi, it was the local black youth and northern volunteers who challenged racism and led the fight for freedom and justice. Because of the sacrifices made by many people, most of the obvious signs of racism and bigotry have been eliminated. Because of the brutal beatings suffered by demonstrators at the hands of segregationists, public facilities have been desegregated.

To achieve the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many marched, demonstrated, and suffered brutal beatings. And some died. For three who died, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, we still continue the struggle for justice.

The Commission was composed of some of the most powerful figures in the state, including the governor, the state attorney general, the president of the state senate, and the speaker of the state house of representatives. Other members included state supreme court judges, senators, and members of the state house of representatives. The relationship between the Commission and these high ranking state officials provided additional legitimacy to the organization.

There was an unofficial relationship between the Commission and the Klan. Members of the Citizens’ Council were also Klansmen, and the more influential the Citizens’ Council member, the more influence he had with the Klan.

James Chaney was my brother. He and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were committed to the belief that this country and its constitutional privileges are guarantees that all of us-regardless of color, sex, or religion-have a right to participate in our great demo-cratic process and we all have a right to be treated fairly under the law. It is time that we dedicate ourselves and make a firm commitment to the success of the struggle and the preservation of our liberties by securing justice now so that future generations will not have to live in fear.

By Ben Chaney

Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman: The Struggle for Justice – Human Rights Magazine, Spring 2000


I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

“Se alguem tivesse dúvidas quanto à profundidade a que as actividades do verão tinham penetrado na consciência da América branca, a resposta era evidente no tratamento dado à Marcha Sobre Washington por todos os meios de comunicação. Por norma, as actividades dos Negros só são objecto de atenção dos meios de comunicação quando é de prever que tenham um desfecho dramático, ou quando se revestem de algumas características bizarras. A marcha era a primeira operação organizada pelos Negros a merecer respeito e cobertura à medida da sua importância. Os milhões de pessoas que a viram pela televisão presenciaram um acontecimento histórico não só por causa do assunto em si mas também porque lhes era levado a casa.

Milhões de Americanos brancos tiveram pela primeira  vez uma visão clara e prolongada de Negros entregues a uma missão séria. Pela primeira vez milhões deles escutaram as palavras informadas e ponderadas de oradores negros, de todas as condições sociais. O esteriótipo no Negro sofreu um rude golpe. Isto ressaltava com clareza de alguns comentários, que reflectiam surpresa à face da dignidade, à organização e mesmo à maneira de vestir e à atitude amável dos participantes. Se a imprensa estava à espera de uma espécie de espectáculo de brancos disfarçados de pretos, ou de uma zaragata, ou de um desfile cómico de roupas esquisitas e grosseiras, ficaram desiludidos. Muito se tinha dito sobre o diálogo entre Negros e Brancos. Para que ele aconteça de facto é necessário que todos os meios de comunicação abram de par em par os seus canais, como abriram naquele radioso dia de Agosto.

Quando a televisão transmitiu para além das fronteiras dos oceanos as imagens daquela extraordinária assembleia, todos quantos acreditavam na capacidade do homem de ser melhor tiveram um momento de inspiração e confiança no futuro da raça humana. E todos os Americanos honestos se puderam orgulhar do facto de estar a ser mostrada aos olhos do mundo inteiro uma dinâmica experiência de democracia realizada na capital do seu país.”

Martin Luther King em “Eu tenho um sonho – A Autobiografia de Martin Luther King, Bizâncio, Lisboa, 2006

Harry Belafonte

Interview With Harry Belafonte

GWEN IFILL: At 84, Harry Belafonte has already lived several lives, as an actor, a television personality, a movie star and as a high-profile civil rights activist. His singing shaped a musical consciousness for generations of Americans, from traditional folk music and spirituals to Caribbean calypso and protest songs. And his activism took him to the front lines of the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lobbying for the release of an imprisoned Nelson Mandela, and joining other stars to raise money to ease famine in Africa.

HARRY BELAFONTE: I’m so tickled to be here.

GWEN IFILL: You define yourself as an actor and a singer and an activist. Put those in order for us.

HARRY BELAFONTE: I was an activist who became an artist. And my activism really started the day of my birth, born from immigrant parents in New York City. My mother was overwhelmed by America. She came here with hopes and ambitions that were never fulfilled. And she was bringing children into the world at an age that was much too young.

I brought with me this mission of activism. And what attracted me to the arts was the fact that I saw theater as a social force, as a political force. I kind of felt that art was a powerful tool and that’s what I should be doing with mine.

GWEN IFILL: Your options could have been jazz and pop. You know, you were bigger than Elvis at one point, people forget. But instead, you chose world music and calypso and folk songs, protest music. Did you consciously choose that?

HARRY BELAFONTE: I eventually consciously chose it, because, since I didn’t sound like Ella Fitzgerald and didn’t have anywhere near her musical impeccability, and listening her do pop music and do jazz was the quintessential goal for any artist. And I looked at her and said, I’m on the wrong end of this business.

GWEN IFILL: How did you get to know Martin Luther King Jr., and how did that relationship progress?

HARRY BELAFONTE: Dr. King called me. And he said that he had heard about me and that he heard that I was an artist with a deep sense of social commitment, and that he wanted to talk to me because he was trying to recruit forces to help him on this mission that was overwhelming him.

He said:

“I have this charge. I have this responsibility. I’m not quite sure I know where I’m going or how I’m going to handle it. But I do know one thing. I need to do it in the context of friends and people around me who could help us move this monster along the highway of life.”

Josephine Baker’s speech

“Friends and family, you know I have lived a long time and I have come a long way. . . .

“I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world. . . .

I am not a young woman now, friends. My life is behind me. There is not too much fire burning inside me. And before it goes out, I want you to use what is left to light the fire in you.”

Baker wrote to King after the march: “I was so happy to have been united with all of you on our great historical day. I repeat that you are really a great, great leader and if you need me I will always be at your disposition because we have come a long way but still have a way to go.” She signed the Aug. 31 letter, “Your great admirer and sister in battle.”

Marian Wright Edelman

Edelman was the first African American woman admitted in the Mississippi Bar when she began practicing law out of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.’s Mississippi office. During her time in Mississippi, she worked on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and represented activists throughout the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964.

In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a voice for poor, minority and disabled children. A philosophy of service absorbed during her childhood under-girds all her efforts. As she expresses it, “If you don’t like the way the world is, you have an obligation to change it. Just do it one step at a time.”

“Why would i want to go to the march? I would never not have gone to the march on Washington. It was the coming together of people from across the country to say we want freedom.

We were young and we were going to that next phase, and when we sang we shall overcome we really believed it.”


 In the early ’70s, blaxploitation upended Hollywood stereotypes

Melvin Van Peebles, director of the controversial ghetto epic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song in 1971, gets credit, willing or not, for inaugurating the blaxploitation genre-low-budget action movies aimed at black audiences. This period marked the first time in American film history that Hollywood had welcomed black talent with anything resembling enthusiasm.(…) The blaxploitation era, was brief, running roughly from 1971 to 1975, its impact would range far and wide.Sweet Sweetback introduced the biggest and baddest buck of the bunch. Warts and all, the film is perhaps the closest analogy to the progressive aims of the then-flourishing Black Arts movement. Indeed, it can be argued that because it was written, produced and directed by an American-born African outside of Hollywood, the film is not truly part of the blaxploitation genre, yet it cannot be denied that it shares certain thematic similarities.

Though lambasted by critics when it was released, Sweet Sweetback is now considered a marred masterpiece by some. The fact that a black man met violence with violence, was openly sexual, and triumphed over a corrupt white system was a signal event in film. Yet perhaps its most “revolutionary” aspect is that Sweet Sweetback was an uncompromising effort made outside Hollywood’s stultifying good-old-white-boys’ system, setting an example for future auteurs like Spike Lee and Robert Townsend. The blaxploitation films that followed, such as Superfly (1972), Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974) and Friday Foster (1975), were colorful if less successful takeoffs on the superbad ghetto rebel theme.

Coffy, Foxy Brown and Friday Foster (1975) represent the feminization of nihilistic studliness. As noted in Donald Bogle’s compelling interpretation of black film history, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammys and Bucks, Hollywood had for decades marginalized and distorted the portrayal of African women. In film after film, black women were depicted as either stout, obsequiously devoted appendages to flighty white women (e.g. Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind) with no discernible lives of their own, or tragic figures, doomed by their mixed racial heritage (Lena Horne in Stormy Weather). With the arrival of blaxploitation, black women traded in the old stereotypes for a set of new ones. Gone were the girthy, saucer-eyed asexual creatures of yore; the new stars were curvaceous and statuesque women who flaunted their sexuality and took shit from no one.

In her starring roles in Coffy, Foxy Brown and Friday Foster, Pam Grier proved to be the most durable queen of colored B-movies. Unlike her buckish counterparts, Grier’s characters were motivated by high-minded moralism. Running the neighborhood like it was her private domain, Grier’s women feared no man, and were thus interpreted by some as a beacon of proto-feminism.

In the end, it became apparent that U.S. Africans as a group found the limitations of the genre too obvious to ignore; the price for cheering on putative black heroes was simply too high. Almost as suddenly as they arrived, blaxploitation’s supervixens and bucks would soon limp off the set, gone but not forgotten.

By Nicky Baxter

Get On The Bus

Spike Lee’s “Get on the Bus” is a movie made in haste and passion, and that may account for its uncanny effect: We feel close to the real, often unspoken, issues involving race in America, without the distance that more time and money might have provided. The film follows a group of about 20 black men on a cross-country bus trip to the Million Man March on Oct. 16, 1995, and it opens exactly one year later.
Lee made the movie quickly, after 15 black men invested in the enterprise. He shot in 16 mm and video, always in and around the bus, using the cross-section of its passengers to show hard truths, and falsehoods, too. If the movie’s central sadness is that we identify with our own group and suspect outsiders, the movie’s message is that we have been given brains to learn to empathize.

There are all kinds of men on the bus. The tour leader (Charles S. Dutton) will be an inspiration and a referee. Another steadying hand is supplied by the oldest man on board, Jeremiah (Ossie Davis), a student of black history who delights in informing white cowboys that a black cowboy invented steer wrestling.

During the course of the trip, conversations will be philosophical, humorous, sad, nostalgic, angry and sometimes very personal. The homosexual couple provokes the hostility of the gay-hater; prejudice knows no color line. That’s true, too, in the attitudes toward the cop, whose skin is so light that he could pass for white, and who, it is revealed, became a cop in part because his black father, also a cop, was killed (“yes,” he says, “by a brother”).

“The man says he’s black, he’s black,” pronounces Ossie Davis. But then the cop himself is revealed to have blinkers on. Another man reveals he’s a former gang member, “cripping since I smoked a guy on my 13th birthday,” but that now he does social work with “kids at risk.” No matter; the cop warns him: “When we get back to L.A., I’m going to have to arrest you.”

For many white people, a distressing element of the Million Man March was the racial slant of its convener, Louis Farrakhan, who has made many anti-Semitic and anti-white slurs. Lee could have ducked this area, but doesn’t. When the bus breaks down, the replacement driver (Richard Belzer) is a Jewish man who keeps quiet as long as he can, then speaks out about Farrakhan’s libels against Jews. “At least my parents did their part,” he says; they were civil-rights activists. He cites Farrakhan’s statements that Judaism is a “gutter religion” and “Hitler was a great man.” After some of the tour members recycle old cliches about Jewish landlords, the Belzer character says, “I wouldn’t expect you to drive a bus to a Klan meeting,” and walks away from the bus at a rest stop. Dutton takes over driving.

This is, I think, a forthright way to deal with Farrakhan’s attitudes; the bus driver expresses widely felt beliefs in the white community, and acts on his moral convictions. For the men on the bus, quite simply, “this march is not about Farrakhan.” We expect that the Nation of Islam member will speak up to defend his leader, but he never does, and his silence, behind his dark glasses, acts as a powerful symbol of a religion that none of the other men on the bus seem to relate to, or even care much about.

As the journey continues, Lee brings in other characters who illustrate the complexity of race in America. There is a satiric cameo by Wendell Pierce as a prosperous Lexus dealer, who boards the bus in mid-journey and puffs on a cigar while airily expressing self-hating cliches about blacks. Then, in Tennessee, the reason for the march comes into sharp focus when the bus is pulled over by white cops. They bring a drug-sniffing dog on board, and treat the men in a subtle but unmistakably racist way. When the cops leave, Lee gives us a series of closeups of silent, thoughtful faces: Every black man in America has at one time or another felt charged by the police with the fact of being black.

What makes “Get on the Bus” extraordinary is the truth and feeling that go into its episodes. Spike Lee and his actors face one hard truth after another, in scenes of great power. I have always felt Lee exhibits a particular quality of fairness in his films. “Do the Right Thing” was so even-handed that it was possible for a black viewer to empathize with Sal, the pizzeria owner, and a white viewer to empathize with Mookie, the black kid who starts the riot that burns down Sal’s Pizzeria.


Lee doesn’t have heroes and villains. He shows something bad — racism — that in countless ways clouds all of our thinking. “Get on the Bus” is fair in the same sense. It is more concerned with showing how things are than with scoring cheap rhetorical points. This is a film with a full message for the heart, and the mind.

by Roger Ebert

Gil Scott-Heron

“You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word. Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and its cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades. With sharp, sardonic wit and a barrage of pop-culture references, he derided society’s dominating forces as well as the gullibly dominated:

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.”

Ben Sisario, The New York Times

Spike Lee

Black stereotypes in today’s films

Since the release of his critically acclaimed first film “She’s Gotta Have It” in 1986, Lee has confronted the issue of race in all of the 15 films he has done since then. His 1989 movie “Do the Right Thing,” about urban racial tensions, earned him an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, and Lee was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for his 1992 film “Malcolm X.” In 1998, his film “4 Little Girls,” about the racially motivated bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama church in 1963, was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar.

This year(2001), Lee noted, not one African-American person has been nominated for an Academy Award for a major role in a film or its making. Asked how blacks can improve the chances of such recognition, Lee said, “It’s a waste of time trying to strategize how to get on a list. Why validate them [the Academy Awards]?” He noted that in spite of the acclaim he received for “Do the Right Thing,” the film was not nominated for an Academy Award in 1989; that year, “Driving Miss Daisy,” about the relationship between an elderly white woman and her black chauffeur, won the award for best movie.One of his own goals as a filmmaker, Lee told his audience, is to portray different images of black people.

During his talk, he also staunchly denied that he was anti-Semitic, a charge made against him after the release of “Mo’ Better Blues,” in which Jewish businessmen exploit black musicians, and for the content of some of his other films.

“If you have any character that’s Jewish who’s not 100 percent angelic, you’re anti-Semitic,” Lee said sarcastically. “I refuse to be put in that straitjacket.” He went on to describe how Michael Jackson had to re-make a song with the word “kike” in it, but noted the white rap singer Eminem has never been stopped from using derogatory lyrics in his songs to describe women and homosexuals. Furthermore, he said, in the last episode of “Seinfeld,” the characters were seen burning a Puerto Rican flag, and no one was critical of their actions.

“We [African Americans and other minorities] still don’t have power,” Lee averred, adding, “You’re not going to see the Star of David in any television show or movie; it’s just not gonna happen. But we can burn the Puerto Rican flag on the last episode of ‘Seinfeld.'”

by Susan Gonzalez

Black Power

“À medida que nos aproximávamos da cidade, vinham ao nosso encontro grandes multidões de velhos e novos amigos, para nos receber. Num gigantesco comício realizado nessa noite num parque da cidade, Stokely subiu ao estrado e, depois de entusiasmar a multidão com um vigoroso ataque à justiça do Mississippi, proclamou: “Do que nós precisamos é do poder negro.” Acto contínuo, Willie Ricks, o inflamado orador da SNCC, saltou também para o estrado e gritou: “O que é que vocês querem?” A multidão rugiu: “Poder Negro.” Segunda e terceira vez, Rick gritou: “O que é que vocês querem?” e a resposta “Poder Negro” subiu de tom e de volume, até atingir o paroxismo.

E foi assim que Greenwood se tornou o berço da expressão “Poder Negro” como slogan do movimento dos direitos civis. A expressão já muito antes tinha sido usada por Richard Wright e outros, mas nunca, até àquela noite tinha sido usada como slogan no movimento dos direitos civis. Para quem há tanto tempo era esmagado pelo poder branco e tinha aprendido que ser negro era degradante, não admira que o slogan tenha tido adesão imediata.

Não acredito no separatismo negro, não acredito num poder negro com matizes racistas, mas se poder negro significa acumulação de poder político e económico para podermos atingir as nossas metas justas e legítimas, nisso já todos acreditamos. E estou convencido de que todos os Brancos de boa vontade acreditam no mesmo.

Estaria a enganar-vos se vos dissesse que uma campanha violenta nos pode dar a vitória. É impraticável, e mesmo impensável. Se a desencadeássemos, a única coisa que conseguíamos era um maior número de mortes desnecessárias. E eu, por mim, estou disposto a morrer. Muitos outros militantes da nossa causa estão dispostos a morrer. Se acreditamos firmemente numa coisa, se acreditamos verdadeiramente nela, se acreditamos nela do fundo do coração, estamos dispostos a morrer por ela, mas preconizar um método que dá origem a mortes desnecessárias é uma coisa diferente.

Argumentei que um líder tem de se preocupar com o problema da semântica. E disse que cada palavra tem um significado denotativo – o seu sentido explicito e reconhecido – e um significado conotativo – o sentido que sugere. E se o conceito de poder negro legítimo podia ser correcto em termos decorativos, já o slogan “Poder Negro” continha as conotações erradas. Referi as conotações de violência que a comunicação social já tinha atribuído à frase. E acrescentei que algumas afirmações irreflectidas da parte de um certo número de manifestantes só contribuíam para reforçar essa impressão.

O poder na sua correcta asserção, é a capacidade de atingir um objectivo. É a força necessária para operar mudanças sociais, políticas ou económicas. Nesse sentido, o poder é não só desejável mas também necessário para dar satisfação às aspirações de amor e justiça. Um dos maiores problemas da História é que os conceitos de amor e poder são encarados como pólos opostos. O amor é identificado como renúncia ao poder e o poder como negação do amor. O que é necessário é entender que o poder sem amor é displicente e abusivo e que o amor sem poder é sentimental e anémico. O poder é melhor quando é amor na satisfação das exigências da justiça. A justiça é melhor quando é poder na correcção de tudo quanto constitui obstrução ao amor.

O Poder Negro era um incentivo psicológico à afirmação de uma identidade. Durante anos a fio, o Negro tinha aprendido que não era ninguém, que a sua cor era sinal da sua degradação biológica , que o seu ser estava marcado com uma impressão indelével de inferioridade, que todo o seu passado estava conspurcado pela sua nojenta nulidade. Pouquíssimas pessoas imaginam até que ponto a escravatura e a segregação racial deixaram marcas na alma e cicatrizes no espírito do homem negro. Todo o sórdido negócio da escravatura acentua na premissa de que o Negro era uma coisa que se podia usar, e não uma pessoa que se devia respeitar. O Poder Negro partiu do pressuposto de que os Negros continuariam a ser escravos até que um novo poder viesse opor-se à força dos homens que continuavam determinados a ser senhores deles, e não irmãos.”

Martin Luther King em “Eu tenho um sonho – A Autobiografia de Martin Luther King, Bizâncio, Lisboa, 2006