Black Communist and the Injustice of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin


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Much has been discussed about the relationship of circumstances between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till in recent months; but, little has been discussed about the role of the Communist Party and Trayvon Martin. From the few black communist that I know, they hold the same place as many other black Americans: This is a classic case of injustice promulgated by a flawed system of guaranteed rights. An interesting point about this topic has more to do with Emmett Till and less to do with Trayvon Martin.


Above: View from an open casket

Above: It was Jet Magazine that launched on the scene when it placed an image of the open casket on its cover.

The Communist Party of America is in a vastly different place circa 2013 than say 1950. Black intellectuals and social activist have a number of other forums and groups to use as a sound board for change. In 1950, under the auspices of American conservatism ala McCarthyism, the avenues for American expression were not as open as they are in the 21st century. Hence, thinking about the Till murder, I should not be surprised that the Communist Party, led by an African-American female named Pat Ellis, were the leaders in encouraging Emmett Till’s mother to open the casket at her son’s funeral. Mother Till and the Communist Party wanted the world to witness the extent of racism and hate propagated by American injustice. Thus, the world saw the dismembered body of a 14-year-old black kid who was too young to die just because he whistled at a white woman.

In drafting this post, I have taken notes and gathered primary sources on the Negro plight in America, and their relationship with communism. I have long contemplated writing an essay entitled, I AM A Communist. I thought it would be a fun and very engaging essay on the motives that drove black thinkers to join the Party. As some of you know, W.E.B. Du Bois once noted that it is a strange notion being black in the 20th century.




I mentioned the filming of this movie in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama earlier this year to a number of my colleagues. Watch the trailer and be prepared to get goosebumps. Wow!!!

I cannot count how many times I have driven over the Edmund Pettis’ Bridge when visiting family in Selma. See at 1:40 on clip. Side note: On the other side of the bridge is NBF homes — a Selma housing project I grew up in before we moved to Montgomery. The bridge links downtown Selma to the more rural areas which is pointed out in this clip. In terms or race and the South, that is a significant point. It amazes me how little black teens ponder the significance of that bridge when I am in town. Today Selma is predominately black due to white flight. I recall my shock when I met or saw a white person in Selma. I am pretty sure Janette was the only white person around when we visited.

Carson’s American Jesus Course 2.0



Above: Stephen Hebert, St. Mark’s School Religion Instructor and assistant chaplain, served as a guest teacher last year.

I am getting ready to teach my Winter Term American Jesus. The course went well last year, thus I suspect it will be even better this year. With new scholarship to add, as well as a greater sense of familiarity with Winter Term, I am aimed at making it an absolute elite course. Here is the course description:

The notion of Jesus Christ has been a transformative one throughout history. This course will help students grasp the ubiquitous nature of religion as a force in every day life. Students will explore Americans sense of Jesus Christ through the lens of American traditionalism, popular culture, music, and academic thought. They will delve into issues of race, gender and sexuality, as portrayed on TV shows such as Family Guy, South Park, and Comedy Central’s most recent show, Black Jesus, as a point of conversation regarding societal stereotypes. They will study hip-hop artists, such as the late rapper Tupac Shukar, who identified his rhythmic sounds and lyrics to that of Jesus. Students will also visit spiritual leaders of a variety of churches to learn about the diversity of faiths that are part of the American experience.


Above: Noted American Religion Scholar Edward Blum (center) traveled from his San Diego State University campus to be a guest teacher in my course. Paul Harvey and Blum’s book The Color of Christ was required reading last year; it will remain on the syllabus this year as well as John Fea’s book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Professor Fea was gracious enough to Skype into my class as a guest speaker. He shared his research and discussed his book with us.

John had some great things to say about this experience here at his blog; I also noted his post below:

Yesterday we got hit with several inches of snow. School was cancelled for my kids and Messiah College closed its doors at 1pm. Instead of trying to make it into the office I decided to camp out in my basement study and get some work done. Here is what the day looked like:

10:00: Skyped with Eddie Carson’s “Jesus in America” class at the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts. First of all, I am amazed that Eddie gets to teach an entire course on this subject to high school students. Granted, it is a private boarding school, but it is still impressive. I talked about my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction and the students asked some great questions. We had a good discussion about the racial dimensions of the rise of the Christian Right. Later this week, the ubiquitous Ed Blum will be joining Eddie’s class in person (I hope you are not held up by the snow, Ed) to talk about he and Paul Harvey’s book The Color of Christ.



Playing with words and emotions here. Can you see this scene in your head? I get that it is rough. It is just one short scene.

The ghostly rays were subtle as Isaiah’s uncle’s skin glistened from the slight beams crawling through the spaces of his living room window. His mind watched as a ray of light captured lines of smoke that settled on his uncle’s sinewy body. The smoke emanated a scent of burnt rope, which later possessed a body like odor. His uncle took another toke that freed his mind from the constant pain of rejection. Isaiah watched his uncle take a few pulls before noticing the letter. His senses long associated the room’s smell with despair. Was this it for us? watching his uncle stay motionless on the couch; if he were on the corner of Kennedy court and not hidden by these walls, he would be another nigger in the eyes of Isaiah’s white classmates.

Students and Affinity Groups



We took 17 students to Governor’s Academy to hear renowned speaker Rosetta Lee discuss the importance of racial diversity, and why affinity groups further both cultural and racial understanding on our campuses. Faculty and students from other prep schools joined Brooks students in a complex discussion regarding the promotion of diversity and affinity groups. Our diverse students were excellent.


My Fictional Theme



This is still very rough, but I am still mapping this out.

Isaiah Jackson, my protagonist, lives in a world in which the duality of race and class is ubiquitous. His anger towards blacks furthers his metamorphoses and sense of self as he ponders the epics of religion, and the realization that God exists in a binary fashion. His tension and disdain regarding the intersection of race, class, and religion are reflected in his emotional ambiguity. Religious imagery, social realism, and Marxist tone carry my protagonist from his urban despair and black anger to a world of whiteness and distrust. Isaiah’s epic mission is a quest. The intersection of race, class, and religion challenges his worldview and brings about new hostilities as he confronts a white God masked under the guise of privilege.

Religious Duality in my Fiction



It is 3 AM and I cannot sleep. So, I am working on my writing. This week I am practicing parallel structure, dialogue, and time shifts as I further my use of Marxism in fiction. Here is a scene called Religious Duality. This is a far more complex scene, but for now, this will do. Isaiah is perplexed. Due to his black enclave, he honestly believes there are two Gods, though he struggles in his belief. This is pronounced in that this religious duality represents the racial and class dichotomy which he lives.

Black God

Isaiah Jackson entered a white church for the first time with the white man; an image of white Christ appeared as he observed nothing but white faces in the room. “Your Jesus looks like the black Jesus my mother keeps at home…” he said, as his memory traced back to never seeing Jesus’ help as his mother worked two jobs to afford their small subsidized housing unit. “Does it matter if Jesus is black or white?” said the white man. Isaiah searched carefully before saying, “no…I guess not,” though thinking white folks’ God took better care of them than black folks’ God. He heard talks about white mothers spending hours each day at this church. Not a big deal. Their big fancy homes awaited them. Funny ,with a slight grin, his mother worked all day every day just to spend her one-day off each week at that Negro church with a bunch of hypocrites, he thought.



I am convinced with practice I can use my anger towards complacent black folks, distrust of privileged whites, and social critique of religion to write something great. I am practicing as I merge the styles of Ellison, Wright, and Faulkner on paper; I aim to converge social realism and Marxism into modern fiction. I can do this. I can.

Arjay Smith as the Protagonist



As I continue to get feedback on my fictional writing, I am asking my protagonist to deal with a world where the constructs of race, class, and religion intersect to allow complex imagery.Thanks to Janette Carson who helped me find my black protagonist. It is Arjay Smith who is centered below. I am looking at lots of images of Arjay in shaping my protagonist’s world. Here is a scene I have drafted in my notes; Arjay is the character I am seeing being behind the closed doors..Perception_102_05_Rachael-Leigh-Cook_Arjay-Smith_Eric-McCormack_PHDoug-Hyun-1024x682

Behind Closed Doors


I like my non-fictional writing. Better yet, I find it easy and enjoyable. But I have not fully challenged myself to date. Hence, me flirting with fictional writing. While sitting around last night, I wanted to shape a scene in which my fictional character had to deal with tension. As you will read, I have yet to really assign names, though Helen will be the female. This scene is one that takes place later in the story. Here is what is taking place in his mind:

Helen is forcing his state of thought while he grapples with his anger towards her. He sees her God and whiteness shine as though he is in the dark needing her light. His bitterness is unclear, as he watches her move uncomfortably throughout the room;  she thinks he is a simpleton, being black that is. The light of her skin forces him to ponder his race and place as a dark stranger behind her closed door. His mind frequents the room in thought while his eyes move from her window frame to the red carpet stain. His body feels a sense of submergence in his state of melancholy. Dark thoughts unfold to resist her light…. What is this light? His mind moves about the room while her blue eyes betray his body. Is it her indictment of his race? His eyes left her eyes as they moved back toward the red stain. He looked up at her wall to find a cross stained of mahogany with beveled edges; it channeled him into a hall of crosses once observed in a church. While looking at the cross, he could still hear her voice as he elapsed into a deeper sense of melancholy. Curious about the nail that held the cross to the wall, he thought about God as her voice echoed from afar. She is ten feet aside but felt ten miles away. He listened to her while eyeing the paralyzed cross on her wall. His anger morphed as she spoke of nothing…. Helen’s voice represents a pain that he pondered, wondering if he is being crucified by anger as emotions enslave him the way her white God once enslaved his kind.

Fiction Anyone?


I am doing some experimental fictional writing. I am developing a character who is southern and black. I am furthering his complexity as he struggles with the poor black community he grew up in; his lack of clarity regarding his sexuality; his distrust of religion, as well as his anger towards black people and distrust of whites. I will share more in the future as this character grows in my notes.

He is learning to deal with his anger towards folks of his own kind – southern, urban, and black. He is bitter about the hypocrisy of  black and white Christians. His contact with white people is very limited due to the enclave I have placed him in. It gets interesting once he is forced to deal with the white world. But for now, I am keeping him in my journal.

Teaching Year 15


I just taught my last class for today as I start my 15th year of teaching. This will be my finest year. I would like to dedicate this year to my former CAC students whom I first taught in Little Rock, as well as Ronnie Sewell who is now the Head at ACA, my high school. He offered me my first job after graduate school. Today we here at Brooks School started the year with an outside chapel convocation on one of the campus lawns up from the lake.

15 year

Diversity Matters


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Diversity Seminar

As a teacher who is passionate about the plight of different people — those who are like me as well as different from myself, I have made it my truth, journey, and mission to surround myself with differences. Holding to this belief means that I cannot be in institutions that struggle in their mission of accepting others. I was challenged this summer to think about the folks in my life. What do they look like? Who are they? How do I want my students to see my relationship with others? It takes work to create meaningful and diverse relationships; I am ready for the challenge. I think about the meaningful relationships I created with the above group this summer; I do not want that to dissipate; hence, I am focusing my efforts on creating a bond with people who love and care about other people: Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Bisexual, Transgender, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, and Atheist; it does not matter. This is the kind of diversity that allows people to grow in their intellect, religious briefs, compassion, and mission. Diversity is at the heart of education. 


The image above is one of my favorites; I was asked if I am pro-gay recently. I stated NO; I am pro-people. If that means supporting love — so be it. Marriage equality and having LGBTQ friends is about being pro-people. My intellect is driven on the notion that diversity of others allows us to be better people. 

Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas as Jesus Christ


I am spending a great deal of time today studying Richard Wright. I cannot help but note how Wright so eloquently defined black alienation in Bigger Thomas — the victim of racism, classism, and urbanism in Native Son. As I tell my students, Bigger represents every emotional anger held by Wright. Both Christ and Bigger were ignored by the communist. There was no Proletarian revolution. Bigger represents Christ in so many ways. Poor, isolated, and seeking meaning in a world that rejected him. Many will argue that Christ understood his role and purpose, but like Bigger, Christ was executed and sought an explanation from God as to why. Bigger was a victim of society. Black folks failed Bigger. Christians and communists ignored him. And, white people killed him. Wright does not care for religion. His relationships with Christians did not permit an opportunity to explore faith. His upbringing in the Deep South only furthered his anger. 

“Oh Captain My Captain




I love this note from a mucho awesome former student to me: “In the wake of Robin Williams’ passing, I wanted to thank you for playing a John Keating-esque role to me during junior and senior year. Indeed, teaching me (and many others) to truly suck the marrow out of life, often by exposing us to a viewpoint or work of varying degrees of unfamiliarity, is one of the greatest legacies any educator, especially yourself, can leave on any student who walks through classroom doors (hopefully to a Harkness-style table, not a desk)”. Thank you.

Rethinking Demark Vesey


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In the past, I have taught that Denmark Vesey, who was a free black man in the South, organized a failed slave insurrection in South Carolina. Until a decade ago, most historians believed that Vesey was the mastermind of this failed coup. In a shocking piece, published by the William and Mary Quarterly, a prestigious history journal, Michael Johnson revisited the court records and noted that Vesey was never present. Further, all testimonies came from slaves — some who were coerced out of fear. Hence, his paper concluded that “…the conspiracy in Charleston in 1822 was not a plan by blacks to kill whites but rather a conspiracy by whites to kill blacks, which resulted in the largest number of executions ever carried out by a civilian court in the United States”.

According to Johnson, the Vesey insurrection was not a slave organized event, but one of hysteria created by political actors seeking office who needed a bit of gravitas to launch their agenda against others. The United States Supreme Court criticized the South Carolina Court for committing legalized murder.(Source: March 11, 2002 issue of The Nation pg. 22)


Why is this important for our students? Black activist in South Carolina have fought to build a statue of Vesey in the city of Charleston. They were met by opposition due to a false notion that Vesey was plotting murder. Vesey was a man of honor and character; he informed others of the inherent wrongs found in America. He discussed God and how America was not a Godly nation due to its actions. There are scholars who disagree with the new interpretation of Vesey and the construction of a public statue. Concord Academy graduate and now Harvard University president, Drew Gilpin Faust, noted that “I have problems with finding heroism as the purpose of history.” It appears that her perspective is one of not turning heroism into history. Though she seems to favor this new interpretation, it is hard to tell if she favors this statue, which you can read about here.

I am most excited about this because I have elected to spend time this fall having my students look at various interpretations of slave historiography. A book that I placed on our summer reading is Confessions of Nat Turner. I will blog about that work and how I intend to use it. This work should create a great deal of debate among my students. If they elected not to read William Styron’s fictional work, I have already edited key points from it as a comparison to the historiography. Also, having students compare the treatment of Vesey in older texts to that in recent ones is a great exercise in how history is not static, but often a changing discipline. As I shared with a few members in my department, our Nation of Nations text (6th edition) paints one image of Vesey on pages 307 and 363, while our new text America’s History (8th edition) paints the most updated historiography on page 401.


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