May 23, 2013
Posted on Nov 11, 2009
“Nonetheless,” Lindsay interjected, seeking to stave off an escalation of the rhetoric. “The order is only that in name only. It is supposed to be about no discrimination in defense industries or government employment. Sure we got workers swelling the lines in Detroit, California and the like, but we still have mess boys and stewards overseas who only see action when a plate falls in the kitchen. Even though the Tuskegee 99th Pursuit Squadron was finally sent overseas this month.”
“And that’s why we need to press the point home,” Mylo said. “Mr. White does not fly off the handle as Mr. Randolph has a tendency to do, then scramble to back up his bluff.”
“The March on Washington was no bluff.” Crimpshaw speared his blunt finger through the air.
The reverend held up his hand as if signaling for a cab. The nails, Yates noted, were neatly clipped and buffed. “But we are agreed that we must do something, correct? As it stands now, too many in the federal government think we are content with this half measure.”
“Then the letter has to be matched with a demonstration,” Lindsay opined. “Not on the scale of what Phil proposed, but a homegrown effort, a mass effort.” He winked theatrically at Crimpshaw.
“We hold it here,” Lindsay beamed, tapping the table with the flat of his hand.
Mylo looked at the reverend who fluttered his eyebrows. “Are we talking about the fall?”
“I think the summer, August,” Lindsay said. “That way we build for when the Cabinet and Congress are back after vacations. Coupled with the letter, a demand really, we will put public pressure on the President to respond.” He smiled, the plan forming in his head. “And we must make sure to publish the letter in the New York Times and Washington Post. We can’t do it like always and just be happy with coverage in our papers. This is the time to put this square in the laps of the white establishment.”
“That doesn’t give us much time to pull it off.” Reverend Hardune massaged his chin between thumb and forefinger. “Though one supposes waiting longer will only cool our people’s ardor and attention.”
Marcus Aurelius Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay in Jamaica, had been the proponent of a Back to Africa movement in the ’20s and ’30s. Garvey was at odds with others in the negro betterment vanguard and constantly under attack by the white authorities. He’d had been jailed several times and finally ignominiously deported. He died disillusioned two years ago in London. But steadfast followers of Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association still carried the torch and had been vocal and persistent in denouncing any black life sacrificing itself for the paper democracy of America.
C.L.R. James and Bowlden were radical intellectuals. Neither had called for returning to Africa to solve the blacks in America problems. Bowlden’s disagreements with Garvey were quite sharp and he’d denounced Garvey as a tool of the imperialists in a famous debate they’d had at the Harlem YMCA. And both men argued that black leaders should stop clamoring for overseas duty and call for an invasion of Georgia if they were serious about fighting for freedom.
Yates was forced out of her reverie by something that Ferguson Mylo was saying.
“That might work,” he nodded spiritedly. “If we can get the congregations and social clubs behind the idea. We can get a turn out worth the expenditure of manpower and money.”
“And let’s not skip over the fact that Miss Yates’ predecessor at the newspaper, Ted Poston, is part of Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet.” Lindsay waved a hand in the young woman’s direction. “He will be a useful conduit to keep them appraised that we mean business.”
“What do you think, Miss Yates?” Reverend Hardune clasped his hands across his rounding belly.
And Poston had been kind to her when she’d come aboard the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. The Courier had run Poston’s column and reportage on black life for many years, and he was considered a trailblazer for the younger generation. He was now head of the Negro News desk of the Office of War Information in Washington, and a member of the cadre of blacks who unofficially advised and beseeched FDR—his “Black Cabinet.”
Poston, and earlier Ida B. Wells, a newspaper publisher who was a champion of civil rights, were the kind of people Yates wanted to become. Their examples of using words as tools to advocate for fairness and equity had spoken to a women like her who wanted more than just being a housewife in a walkup underneath the elevated.
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