UVa alum honored for collaboration on Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers

On Tuesday, October 19, a UVA alum and one of the architectural team members who created the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers at the university will be honored at an award ceremony in D.C. 

Mabel O. Wilson is the 2021 recipient of the Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum. Established in 1999, the Scully Prize recognizes excellence in practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design. Wilson has checked many of those boxes in her career.

MABEL O. WILSON: I’m an educator, I worked in architecture, I’m a scholar, I’m a historian, I’ve done curatorial work, installations, performance … I’m just proud of the collaborations I’ve done over the years.

Besides the Memorial to Enslaved African American Laborers, Wilson’s many contributions to the field include being on the research team for the National African American Museum of History and Culture and founding a firm at the intersection of art, architecture, and cultural history. She’s a professor at Columbia University, where she also directs the Institute for Research in African American Studies. She’s currently working on her third book.

WILSON: I do appreciate that there is an award that recognizes being a practitioner isn’t the only way to impact the built environment. And I do think that, in architecture, the idea of the singular genius, often white male architect, really is the thing that has been circulated, both in architectural education and media. But architecture is completely collaborative.

The event will be held both in person and live streamed. Tickets for non-museum members are $15 and are available online. For WMRA News, I’m Randi B. Hagi.

Turnover at SC African American Heritage Commission raises concerns

A surprise shakeup at the S.C. African American Heritage Commission has raised concerns among some members over how two of their veteran colleagues were treated.

The ouster of founding commissioners Jannie Harriot and Michael Allen came without warning and without explanation, the two former members said.

Now, questions are being raised about the hierarchical nature of the S.C. Department of Archives and History and why its Archives and History Commission, whose members are mostly White, has oversight over the African American Heritage Commission, whose members are mostly Black.

The purpose of South Carolina’s commission is “to identify and promote the preservation of historic sites, structures, buildings, and culture of the African American experience in South Carolina, and to assist and enhance the efforts of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History,” according to a mission statement.

The African American Heritage Commission has 15 members from across the state who each serve three-year renewable terms. Each year, five members are appointed or reappointed. Since the commission was founded in 1993, its chairperson has recommended new appointees to the Department of Archives and History, which always has shown deference to those choices, according to the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement.

That changed this year.

Michael Allen 2.jpg (copy)

Jannie Harriot, of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, joins her colleague Michael Allen, who received Order of the Palmetto recognition in 2019. Provided

Harriot and Allen, who are both Black, received letters dated Sept. 7 from A.V. Huff Jr., chairman of the Commission of Archives and History, notifying them that they would not be reappointed.

“The SC Commission of Archives and History met on Friday, September 3 to discuss appointments to the SC African American Heritage Commission (SCAAHC). Your appointment to the SCAAHC has expired. The members of the Commission of Archives and History would like to thank you for your service on the SCAAHC and for your efforts to preserve and promote South Carolina’s rich African American history,” it read.

Harriot said she had planned to serve one final three-year term before making way for younger people to join the commission. The letter came as a shock.

“This was done without any respect for the contributions we have made,” she said.

W. Eric Emerson, director of the Department of Archives and History, said the letters were pro forma, similar to other letters sent to civil servants when their terms are up.

What prompted the letters, he said, was an abundance of candidates for the African American Heritage Commission.

“In the past, there have not been multiple applicants for a limited number of positions,” he said. “There were more people wanting to serve than available positions.”

For the first time in memory, that triggered voting among the members of the oversight commission, Emerson said.

The African American Heritage Commission can advise department leaders or recommend certain candidates, but only the Archives and History Commission has the authority to make appointments, he said.

The vote took place a week before the African American Heritage Commission held its regular monthly meeting. When commission members learned of the changes, some expressed concerns, including around the language used in the letters.

“To call it terse would be a little too generous,” said Louis Venters, professor of history at Francis Marion University and a member of the commission. “If you are going to write a letter to Jannie Harriot and Michael Allen, for God’s sake you need to say a little more than that. These are old soldiers.”

Harriot has served as commission chairperson for nine years, vice-chairperson for six years and secretary for three years. She spearheaded numerous historical and educational projects and garnered a variety of accolades for her work.

Allen, a historian with the National Park Service for 37 years, has been involved in several South Carolina projects and organizations, including the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

History of the commission

In 1993, the S.C. Legislature passed a resolution creating the African American Heritage Council. But the resolution had an expiration date. In 2001, Gov. Jim Hodges issued an executive order creating a permanent commission. In 2006, the General Assembly codified it into law.

The commission is one of just a few similar government organizations around the country. North Carolina, Kentucky, and Maryland each have established African American heritage groups, and some municipalities have set up African American advisory councils.

Briggs marker

The installation of historical markers, such as this one about the Briggs v. Elliott case, is part of the work done by the S.C. African American Heritage Commission. Provided

Harriot said she has been critical of a lack of diversity on the staff of the Department of Archives and History and its commission and has questioned some of the department’s policies.

Bernard Powers, professor emeritus of African American history at the College of Charleston and director of the school’s Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston, also questioned the lack of diversity within the department and the dismissal of two prominent activists.

“In a state with this history and this demography, that’s just a shame,” he said. “If anything, someone like Jannie or someone like Michael ought to be on the Archives board. … That would be an excellent way to recognize their service as well as to use the institutional knowledge they possess. It would be a good-faith gesture.”

Emerson said all the Archives and History Commission can do is call for more diversity; it does not have the authority to appoint its own members. Those appointments come from the governor, the South Carolina Historical Association, the South Carolina Historical Society, the University South Caroliniana Society, and various state universities.

“When you’re attempting to diversify the (Archives and History) Commission, to a great extent it’s out of the commission’s hands,” he said.

State Rep. JA Moore, D-North Charleston, said he was troubled by the treatment of Harriot and Allen and by the way the commissions are structured.

“We’re working on legislation as we speak to fix this,” he said. “It should not be two separate, segregated commissions. South Carolina history is African American history and African American history is South Carolina history.”

Moore said he is reaching out to the Department of Archives and History to discuss commission appointments and “to right this wrong.”

Examining the structure

Venters, who is White, said the current structure of the Department of Archives and History encouraged a bifurcated view of history.

“Who conceived of the fact that you should have an official Archives and History Commission that then has power to appoint a subsidiary African American Heritage Commission?” he said.

The current organizational structure is a manifestation of White dominance, and it suggests that Black history is secondary, he said.

The reason the Black commission exists is to excavate and vindicate South Carolina’s Black history, work that otherwise would not get done, Venters said. That work should be part of a comprehensive approach sponsored by the state and spearheaded by African American Heritage Commission members “because they know how to do it, and they do it right,” he said.

Victoria Smalls, director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and a member of the African American Heritage Commission, said she and her colleagues are owed an explanation for the decision to let Harriot and Allen go.

She said commissioners hope to retain Harriot as a volunteer consultant “because of her vast institutional memory, connections and networking.”

The state will recognize Harriot and Allen on Oct. 21, when each will receive a 2021 Governor’s Award in the Humanities for their commitment to community activism and cultural preservation.

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First Indoor OSLAM Performance Since 2020 Revives Community

In its first in-person performance at the Cat in the Cream in over two years, OSLAM, the College’s slam poetry team, returned to the venue on Saturday, Oct. 9 for its back-to-school performance. Primarily featuring first- and second-year members — most of whom had not yet had the opportunity to perform on stage due to the College’s COVID-19 guidelines on indoor gatherings — the show featured 14 poems, with guest musical performances by DJ Kopano, Conservatory second-year Nash McBride, and College third-year Anthony Singfield.

“It was so amazing to be back in the space,” said College fourth-year and OSLAM member Olivia Lee. “It’s such a beautiful environment, and there is just a really special energy. They have accessibility seating and the staff are so kind and welcoming; it just feels so open. This show felt really special, because a lot of our second-years, who performed with OSLAM virtually [during remote semesters], got to have their first experience at the Cat. OSLAM and the Cat in the Cream just have a really intertwined history, so it just made me super happy to be able to see them perform.”

In the first musical interlude, McBride offered a beautifully languid piano performance, filling the room with enigmatic crescendos. Perfectly complimenting OSLAM’s spoken word pieces, Kopano’s high-energy DJ set got the crowd on their feet while Singfield’s stunning rendition of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” serenely radiated over the crowd.

“We were able to break up the performances with incredible special guests, so we got to stand up and dance,” Lee said. “All the poets got their nerves out, and the music and poems blended together so perfectly.”

While the group staged outdoor performances in the Arboretum over the summer, finding seating and an adequate sound system proved difficult.

“[In the Arb] we were performing with a handheld mic, so it’s nice to have some sound support,” said College fourth-year and OSLAM poet Banu Newell. “Also, we usually have a bigger audience for our first couple shows, because first-years are curious about what OSLAM is, and the Cat allows us to all fit in the space together.”

Even with the added seating, though, the venue quickly became overcrowded.

“We were definitely not expecting that many people to come,” Lee said. “But it was so wonderful to see that [the Cat] was over capacity. There was a line out the door, and from the stage you could see that people were actually outside sitting on the grass and sidewalk trying to hear the performances.”

College third-year Tesia Singh-Ragen noticed the large crowd forming outside the venue’s doors as she made her way up Lorain Street, toward the Cat.

“We were really excited — I’ve heard a lot about OSLAM performances, and I know they had a really beautiful one in the Arb this summer,” she said. “We saw people congregating around the outside of the Cat in the parking lot, and as we were approaching we spoke to them and they said that they were at capacity. … When we came around the corner we saw there were so many people in the grass waiting to see if they could get in.”

While some students were disappointed that they couldn’t listen to the performances in the Cat itself, OSLAM members were thrilled at the turnout.

“There were so many new faces, and it was so refreshing to see our new members use their natural instincts,” Newell, who emceed the performance, said. “[OSLAM] means so much to me. It’s definitely elevated over the past couple of years. [Participating in] a writing community [interested in] creating stories and telling truth is such a relieving process. … You have a network of people who are familiar with your work and your voice, who want to see you become a better poet is so important. We just want to collaborate and create.”

For Lee, OSLAM’s performance marked a new chapter of the group’s legacy. In preparation for the year ahead, both she and Newell are especially focused on preserving the group’s tight-knit, accepting culture.

“During the pandemic, it was really hard to make OSLAM feel like a family,” Lee said. “[Since we’ve been back,] we’ve been having lots of conversations about how to uphold this tradition — not for Oberlin or the image that people have of OSLAM — but with the intentionality of centering this Black art form and these student works; even just expanding what poetry looks like. Reggie Goudeau performs rap songs; that’s his mode of poetry. And Imani Badillo has shown pieces of their fiber art or drawings they’ve done. That is poetry too.”

As graduation nears, Newell is thinking about how to preserve OSLAM’s legacy, emphasizing the importance of cultivating and maintaining a slam poetry community at Oberlin.

“This art form requires a lot of reflection and vulnerability,” Newell adds. “As a [fourth-year], it’s really important to me that we leave behind a space where people feel like they’re held and [made to feel] comfortable in their writing, where they feel like they’re heard as artists and poets. Slam poetry is a Black art form, and we need to make sure [those students feel that] they’re equally and fairly represented on this campus and in the group itself.”

Looking back on her time in OSLAM, Lee recalls one of her first meetings with the team.

“I remember after I was first accepted, [the group] was reading a poem,” Lee begins. “I read it out loud and I started crying. I don’t know — for some reason I just kept apologizing, and I felt embarrassed. And I remember everyone telling me that it was totally okay, telling me to take my time and talk it out. That moment of vulnerability and being accepted — not only when you’re sad or doubting something but also when you’re feeling anger or anxiety or paranoia about things going on in the world — is so special. Having that support through whatever you’re going through, it’s such a supportive community, and it’s a hugely fundamental part of Oberlin.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Who were the Florida Highwaymen?

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — It’s a story out of Florida’s Treasure Coast that went unknown for decades, but 20 years ago it came to light along with the people behind the artwork. The Florida Highwaymen were a group of 26 artists who used ingenuity to seeks buyers, and today buyers from as far away as China are seeking their work.

If it were 1959 approximately 70 works done by 26 Black artists wouldn’t be in Stuart’s The Elliott Museum.

”They were black artists in an era of time that didn’t allow it to happen,” said Roger Lightle, Highwaymen Art Specialist, Inc. owner. “So they had to figure that path out. They had to go around that obstacle.”

They were Black self-taught artists from the segregated parts of Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, and surrounding rural communities, disenchanted by the idea of picking fruit. Their unique painting style gave them economic independence, but they earned it. Knocking on doors, and parking on A1A and I-95 selling from their vehicle trunks.


Arthur Mondale

”Determination to succeed,” Lightle said.

Black ingenuity and determination are not mentioned in history books by artists like Willie C. Reagan.

“Art has been a part of my life. I guess all of my life,” Reagan said.

And it’s Reagan’s art and others that caught the attention of a retired Vero Beach firefighter who in 2001 started Highwaymen Art Specialists, Inc., an art gallery in Vero Beach.


Arthur Mondale

”We are the only ones that sold a painting to someone in Shanghai at midnight, but the internet allows them to occur,” he said.

And his determination runs deep, his work with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. ensures these artists are part of America’s story. But there’s more.

All of the Highwaymen weren’t men.

“There was one woman within the group and her name was Mary Ann Carol,” Lightle said. “Her work is here (at the Elliott Museum) on display.”

And if you’d like to know more, first hand, inside the Elliot Museum you’ll have your chance.

”Wednesday and Thursday night we expose the story to the public,” Lightle said.

Two Florida Highwaymen, among the only remaining highwaymen, will do live painting demonstrations. They’ll also speak candidly about their lives, careers, legacy and contributions to American art and American history.

You can meet the Florida Highwaymen at the Elliott Museum on Oct. 20 and 21 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. If you just want to learn more about the artwork you can visit the museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. Learn more here,

And to learn more about the Florida Highwaymen click here.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

You may be surprised who the unvaccinated really are It may appear that holdouts are conspiracy theorists and anti-science diehards who think COVID is a hoax, but real-life evidence demonstrates that there’s much more to it. Seniors, mandates are prime…

Back when a viral pandemic killing millions around the world was just the plot of a scary movie, the film “Contagion” was lauded for how accurately it depicted the way such an outbreak would occur.

On the science of viral contagion, it was quite sharp, clearly explaining things like R0 (the measure of how widely one infection could spread to others, on average).

Of the human dimension of contagion, it did not prove as prescient. In the movie, fearful nurses walked off the job at the start of the pandemic, which begins to end as soon as vaccines become available, with people lining up eagerly for their turn.

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The opposite happened in real life. Despite enormous personal risk, almost all health care workers stayed on the job in the first months of the COVID pandemic. Despite vaccines being widely available since spring in the United States, tens of thousands are dying every month because they chose not to be inoculated.

The failure of the United States to vaccinate more people stands out, especially since we had every seeming advantage to get it done. As early as the end of April of this year, when vaccines were in dire short supply globally, almost every adult who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States could do so, for free. By June, about 43% of the U.S. population had received two doses while that number was only about 6% in Canada and 3% in Japan.

Now, just a few months later, these countries, along with 44 others, have surpassed U.S. vaccination rates. And our failure shows: America continues to have among the highest deaths per capita from COVID.

Science’s ability to understand our cells and airways cannot save us if we don’t also understand our society and how we can be led astray.

There is a clear partisan divide over vaccination — Republicans are more likely to tell pollsters that they will not get vaccinated. Some Republican politicians and Fox News hosts have been pumping out anti-vaccine propaganda. The loud, ideological anti-vaxxers exist, and it’s not hard to understand the anger directed at them. All this may make it seem as if almost all the holdouts are conspiracy theorists and anti-science die-hards who think COVID is a hoax, or that there is nothing we can do to reach more people.

Real-life evidence, what there is, demonstrates that there’s much more to it.

Almost 95% of those over 65 in the United States have received at least one dose. This is a remarkable number, given that polling has shown that this age group is prone to online misinformation, heavily represented among Fox News viewers, and more likely to vote Republican. Clearly, misinformation is not destiny.

Second, reality has refuted dire predictions about how Americans would respond to vaccine mandates. In a poll in September, 72% of the unvaccinated said they would quit if forced to be vaccinated for work. There were news articles warning of mass resignations. When large employers, school districts, and hospital systems did finally mandate vaccines, people subject to mandates got vaccinated, overwhelmingly. After United Airlines mandated vaccines, there were only 232 holdouts among 67,000 employees. Among about 10,000 employees in state-operated health care facilities in North Carolina, only 16 were fired for noncompliance.

The remarkable success of vaccine mandates shows that for many, it is not firm ideological commitments that have kept everyone from getting vaccinated, and that the stubborn, unpersuadable holdouts may be much smaller than we imagine.

Let’s start with what we do know about the unvaccinated.

There has been strikingly little research on the sociology of the pandemic, even though billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on vaccines. The assumption that some scientific breakthrough will swoop in to save the day is built too deeply into our national mythology — but as we’ve seen, again and again, it’s not true.

The research and data we do have show that significant portions of the unvaccinated public were confused and concerned, rather than absolutely opposed to vaccines.

Some key research on the unvaccinated comes from the COVID States Project, an academic consortium that managed to scrape together resources for regular polling. It categorizes them as “vaccine-willing” and “vaccine-resistant,” and finds the groups almost equal in numbers among the remaining unvaccinated. (David Lazer, one of the principal investigators of the COVID States Project, told me that the research was done before the mandates, and that the consortium has limited funding, so they can only poll so often).

Furthermore, their research finds that the unvaccinated, overall, don’t have much trust in institutions and authorities, and even those they trust, they trust less: 71% of the vaccinated trust hospitals and doctors “a lot,” for example, while only 39% of the unvaccinated do.

Relentless propaganda against public health measures no doubt contributes to erosion of trust. However, that mistrust may also be fueled by the sorry state of health insurance in this country and the deep inequities in health care — at a minimum, this could make people more vulnerable to misinformation. Research on the unvaccinated by KFF from September showed the most powerful predictor of who remained unvaccinated was not age, politics, race, income or location, but the lack of health insurance.

The COVID States team shared with me more than 1,000 comments from unvaccinated people who were surveyed. Scrolling through them, I noticed a lot more fear than certainty. There was the very, very rare “it’s a hoax” and “it’s a gene therapy” but most of it was a version of: I’m not sure it’s safe. Was it developed too fast? Do we know enough? There was also a lot of fear of side effects, worries about lack of Food and Drug Administration approval and about yet-undiscovered dangers.

Their surveys also show that only about 12% of the unvaccinated said they did not think they’d benefit from a vaccine: so, only about 4% of the national population.

In law, “dying declarations” are given special considerations because the prospect of death can help remove the motivation to deceive or to bluster. The testimony we’ve seen from unvaccinated people in their last days with COVID, sometimes voiced directly by them from their hospital beds, gets at some of the core truths of vaccine hesitancy. They are pictures of confusion, not conviction.

One woman who documented her final days on TikTok described being uncertain about side effects, being worried about lack of FDA approval, and waiting to go with her family — until it was too late.

Or consider Josie and Tom Burko, married parents who died from COVID within days of each other, leaving behind an 8-year-old daughter. They hadn’t taken the pandemic lightly. They were “100% pro-vaccination,” their close friend told The Oregonian afterward, but Josie reportedly had a heart murmur and chronic diabetes and worried about an adverse reaction. Tom reportedly had muscular atrophy, and similar worries. Afraid, they did not yet get vaccinated.

It’s easy to say that all these people should have been more informed or sought advice from a medical provider, except that many have no health care provider. As of 2015, one quarter of the population in the United States had no primary health care provider to turn to for trusted advice.

Along with the recognition of greater risk, access to regular health care may be an important explanation of why those over 65 are the most-vaccinated demographic in the country. They have Medicare. That might have increased their immunity against the Fox News scare stories.

One reason for low vaccination rates in rural areas may be that they are “health care and media” deserts, as a recent NBC report on the crises put it, with few reliable local news outlets and the “implosion of the rural health care system” — too few hospitals, doctors and nurses.

Plus, let’s face it, interacting with the medical system can be stress-inducing even for many of us with health insurance. Any worry about long-term side effects is worsened by a system in which even a minor illness can produce unpredictable and potentially huge expenses.

Then there is the health system’s long-documented mistreatment of Black people (and other minorities) in this country. Black people are less likely to be given pain medication or even treatment for life-threatening emergencies, for instance. I thought of those statistics while reading the poignant story of a Black physician who could not persuade her mother to get vaccinated because her mother’s previous interactions with the medical system included passing out after screaming in agony when a broken arm got manipulated and X-rayed without sufficient care for her pain.

While the racial gap in vaccination has improved over the last year — nonwhite people were more likely to express caution and a desire to wait and see rather than be committed anti-vaxxers — it’s still there.

In New York, for example, only 42% of African Americans of all ages (and 49% among adults) are fully vaccinated — the lowest rate among all demographic groups tracked by the city.

This is another area in which the dominant image of the white, QAnon-spouting, Tucker Carlson-watching conspiracist anti-vaxxer dying to own the libs is so damaging. It can lead us to ignore the problem of racialized health inequities, with deep historic roots but also ongoing repercussions, and prevent us from understanding that there are different kinds of vaccine hesitancy which require different approaches.

Just ask Nicki Minaj.

About a month ago, the rap artist made headlines after tweeting that she was worried about vaccines because she had heard from her cousin that a friend of his had swollen testicles after being vaccinated. (Experts pointed out that, even if this had happened, it was most likely caused by a sexually transmitted disease.) She was justifiably denounced for spreading misinformation.

But something else that Minaj said caught my eye. She wrote that she hadn’t done “enough research” yet, but that people should keep safe “in the meantime” by wearing “the mask with 2 strings that grips your head & face. Not that loose one.”

“Wear a good mask while researching vaccines” is not the sentiment of a denier. She seemed genuinely concerned about COVID, even to the point that she seemed to understand that N95s, the high-quality masks that medical professionals wear, which have the “2 strings that grips your head & face,” were much safer.

Lazer said that the COVID States Project’s research showed that unvaccinated people who nonetheless wore masks were, indeed, more likely to be Black women. In contrast, those who were neither vaccinated nor masked were more likely to be Republicans, and more likely to be rural, less educated and white. (Among the vaccinated, Asian Americans were most likely to be still wearing masks).

Lazer also highlighted an overlooked group with higher levels of vaccine hesitancy: young mothers. They were hesitant, both for themselves and their children, an alarming development especially if it starts affecting other childhood vaccinations. Similarly, from real-life data, we know that only a little more than one-third of pregnant women are vaccinated, which has led to many tragic stories of babies losing their mothers just as they are being whisked into the neonatal intensive care unit after an emergency cesarean section.

It may well be that some of the unvaccinated are a bit like cats stuck in a tree. They’ve made bad decisions earlier and now may be frozen, partly in fear, and unable to admit their initial hesitancy wasn’t a good idea, so they may come back with a version of how they are just doing “more research.”

We know from research into human behavior but also just common sense that in such situations, face-saving can be crucial.

In fact, that’s exactly why the mandates may be working so well. If all the unvaccinated truly believed that vaccines were that dangerous, more of them would have quit. These mandates may be making it possible for those people previously frozen in fear to cross the line, but in a face-saving manner.

Research also shows that many of the unvaccinated have expressed concerns about long-term effects. Consider an information campaign geared toward explaining that unlike many drugs, for which adverse reactions can indeed take a long time to surface, adverse effects of vaccines generally occur within weeks or months, since they work differently, as the immunologist Andrew Croxford explained in the Boston Review. Medical professionals could be dispatched to vaccination clinics, workplaces and stores to get that point across. (Yes, medical professionals are overwhelmed, but the best way to reduce their burden is to vaccinate more people.) This would let some hesitant people feel like they had “done their research,” while interacting with a medical professional — the basis for more trust.

Finally, consider something hidden amid all the other dysfunction that plagues us: fear of needles.

Don’t roll your eyes. Pre-pandemic research suggests that fear of needles might affect up to 25% of adults and may lead up to 16% of adults to skip or delay vaccinations. For many, it’s not as simple as “suck it up”: It’s a condition that can lead to panic attacks and even fainting. During the pandemic, a study in Britain found that adults who had injection phobia, as many as 1 in 4, were twice as likely to be vaccine-hesitant. Research by COVID States shows that about 14% of the remaining unvaccinated mention fear of needles as a factor.

Countries with far higher rates of vaccination, Canada and Britain, have responded by mobilizing their greatest strength: a national health care system. Cities in Canada held clinics specially aimed at people with such anxiety, including privacy rooms and other accommodations. Britain’s national health care system offers similar accommodations.

I’ve yet to find a systematic program in the United States addressing this fear. Worse, much of our public communications around the vaccines feature images of people getting jabbed with a needle, even though that can worsen anxiety.

In researching, I was inundated with stories from people who struggled with this fear and were often unable to find help. Some women said they were treated like drug seekers because they asked for a single anti-anxiety pill to get through it. (They also said their male family members and friends had an easier time). It may seem hard to believe that people might risk their lives over seemingly small fears, but that’s exactly how people behave in many situations.

Of course, there are some people who it seems will never be persuaded. One strategy that has been shown to work is to highlight deceptive practices. In campaigns to keep teens from smoking, advertisements pointed out how the tobacco industry manipulated people. For COVID, the unvaccinated could be shown that they have been taken in by people who have misled them, even while getting vaccinated themselves.

Just recently, there was a brief glimpse at how Fox News actually looks behind the camera: everyone in the office was wearing masks, even as the hosts have often talked about the alleged tyranny of it all. Stars like Tucker Carlson rant against vaccines, even as their workplace says that more than 90% of full-time employees have been vaccinated. Realizing that one may have been conned and manipulated by opportunists who do not practice what they preach may — just may — be the breakthrough for some.

Responding to our societal dysfunctions has been among the greatest challenges of this pandemic, especially since this includes a political and media establishment stirring up resentment and suspicion to hold on to power and attention in an increasingly unresponsive political system.

Anger — and even rage — at all this may be justified, but deploying only anger will not just obscure the steps we can and should try to take, it will play into the hands of those who’d like to reduce all this to a shouting match.

Instead, we need to develop a realistic, informed and deeply pragmatic approach to our shortcomings without ceding ground to the conspiracists, grifters, and demagogues, and without overlooking the historic inequities in health care and weaknesses in our public health infrastructure. It’s not all fair, and it is not a Hollywood ending, but it’s how we can move forward.

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Mount Pleasant’s last-standing African American school relocated

MOUNT PLEASANT — African American history has often been overlooked, but steps are being taken to preserve an old schoolhouse that served Black students.

The Long Point School, Mount Pleasant’s last standing African American school, was moved Oct. 15 to its new site at 1578 Snowden Road. The relocation to Snowden, a historic African American settlement community founded shortly after Reconstruction, is part of an effort to rehabilitate the century-old structure.

The African American Historic Settlement Commission has plans to refurbish the deteriorated building, which dates to 1904, into an educational and cultural center that could also serve as a community gathering space.

“This is big,” said John Wright, president of the settlement commission. “We’re nurturing this structure. It’s a part of history.”

Plans to relocate the two-room schoolhouse, previously situated off Seacoast Parkway, have been in the works for about four years. Things began taking shape in 2018 when the Snowden Community Civic Association voted to have the building moved to the Snowden neighborhood.

The association worked with the settlement commission to raise awareness of the site and, through individual and group donations, obtained the money needed to physically move the building.

The Holmes family, whose descendants first purchased the building in the early 1900s, donated the school to the settlement commission in 2019.

Doris Holmes Brunson said the structure brings to mind her parents, both of whom attended Long Point.

Efforts to relocate the building in 2020 fell through after organizers didn’t obtain needed permits. There also had been disagreement between the commission and community residents over the proposed move.


Deborah Holmes (left), Cheryll German and Joseph Palmer take photos of the historic Long Point School, built in 1904 for Black students, as it makes its journey from Seacoast Parkway to its new location in the community on Oct. 15, 2021, in Mount Pleasant. The African American Historic Settlement Commission relocated the school to a site it owns at 1578 Snowden Road. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

This time, the relocation process appeared fairly smooth.

The move began 9 a.m. Oct. 15 as a Carolina House Movers truck transported the wooden structure a mile to the Snowden Road site. The day’s events concluded with a news conference attended by elected officials, members of the African American Historic Settlement Commission and the school’s former students.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Hayne said the building embodies the themes of education, preservation and reconciliation.

“We have to remember why some of the students had to go to that school, and why they weren’t allowed to go to another school,” Haynie said.

Former Mount Pleasant Town Council member Thomasena Stokes-Marshall attended Long Point School in first grade prior to moving to New York, where she continued her education and launched her career before returning to the Lowcountry.

“The foundation that was laid here empowered me,” she said.

Other former students celebrated the school’s history.

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Members of the community gather in front of the historic Long Point School, built in 1904 for Black students, at its new location on Oct. 15, 2021, in Mount Pleasant. The African American Historic Settlement Commission relocated the school to a site it owns at 1578 Snowden Road. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Mary Pinckney Lawrence recalled her first to fifth grade years. Students began their days with prayer and scriptures.

“We’d recite the ‘our Father’ prayer and a Bible verse,” Lawrence said.

The commission owns the land where the school rests. The group put down $10,000 in earnest money for the $100,000 property, Wright said.

The educational building was constructed to serve African American children in the historically Black Snowden community. The end goal of the preservation project is for the building to be a cultural education center that informs people, especially young students, about the school’s history.

The settlement commission also wants the building to be looped into the historic tours of Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, both nearby in Mount Pleasant.

What’s unique are the ties that possibly exist between Boone Hall and Snowden, Wright said. He said he believes the Blacks who established Snowden had been formerly enslaved at Boone Hall.

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The historic Long Point School, built in 1904 for Black students, turns onto Belle Hall Parkway from Seacoast Parkway en route to a new location in the community on Oct. 15, 2021, in Mount Pleasant. The African American Historic Settlement Commission relocated the school to a site it owns at 1578 Snowden Road. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The commission has also reached out to Historic Charleston Foundation and other local preservation groups, which have often overlooked the African American experience, said Michael Allen, longtime employee of the National Park Service and advocate of Gullah-Geechee culture and history.

The school preservation project falls within the larger, national trend of the work being done to preserve African American sites, Allen said.

These efforts have included other African American schoolhouses, such as Georgia’s Harrington School, which the settlement commission used as a model for the Long Point school project.

“That may encourage other buildings, schools, and communities to step up and do the same thing,” Allen said.

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Gruden’s emails reflect a bigoted corporate culture

… taking a knee to protest racism in America, women referees, and … worse.  In a league where African American assistant coaches like Kansas City … owners were reluctant to hire African Americans as head coaches was because … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Eric Clapton’s transformation from ‘god’ to disgrace is complete

Truth be told, our reckoning with who Eric Clapton really is has been a long time coming.

Clapton may have been branded Rolling Stone magazine’s second-greatest guitarist of all time, and is a three-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee who has inspired legions to try to follow in his footsteps, but the shiny veneer papering over his belief systems has always been paper thin.

The shiny veneer papering over his belief systems has always been paper thin.

Clapton himself has admitted to being an arrogant, immature “blues purist” during his early career — a time when fans were scrawling “Clapton Is God” graffiti around London. And he left both John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and the Yardbirds in the lurch, before global superstardom with Cream and the career-defining magnificence of “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” sealed his legend status.

What came after that can now be seen as a long, slow decline, culminating in a series of self-inflicted wounds regarding Covid-19. Since last year, Clapton has repeatedly used his vast platform to do his utmost to undermine expert medical advice. He has opposed lockdowns and made suspicious claims about the dangers of vaccines. This spring, he said in videos posted on a friend’s YouTube channel that scientific studies, expert opinions and public health recommendations extolling the importance of vaccines were “propaganda,” and most recently doubled down by vowing he wouldn’t perform to what he termed “discriminated audiences” in venues requiring proof of vaccination.

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As some on Twitter noted, Clapton has never really hidden his true nature.

But many fans still seem to have been caught by surprise. In a lengthy piece this month by writer David Browne in Rolling Stone — which has treated the artist with reverence for more than half a century — Clapton is painted as a conspiracy peddler of the highest order, and a racist of the lowest.

“He’s been so relentless with this vax stuff,” Browne told me. “It’s been a year now of making statements and videos. And he hasn’t let up. And after a while it became a question of ‘what is going on here?’”

Browne, like so many of us, grew up with Clapton’s music. But what he found was much worse than he’d imagined. Clapton hasn’t just been spouting Covid vaccine misinformation over the past year — in interviews, in his inarguably terrible Covid protest single, and in his arguably even more awful collaboration with Van Morrison — he’s also been helping to bankroll the fringe, U.K.-based group of anti-vaxx musicians Jam for Freedom.

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The article also revisits Clapton’s 1976 racist rant from a stage in Birmingham, England, where he repeatedly shouted slurs and voiced support for the British demagogue Enoch Powell, known for his divisive, race-baiting “rivers of blood” speech in 1968. Browne notes the many times Clapton has joked about or laughed off accusations of racism, as well as a 1968 Rolling Stone interview where he low-key insults Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing and suggests the allure of Hendrix and other Black artists has to do with their genitalia.

Browne’s piece is a devastating but measured and thoughtful takedown. It digs Clapton’s metaphoric grave via thorough reporting and mounting evidence.

“When Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone, he wanted it to be the New Yorker of rock journalism,” Browne said. “I think, with that in mind, our new editor-in-chief articulated what many of us were wondering: ‘What’s going on here and how do we explain it?’ So, I went into this not thinking ‘takedown.’ It was more wondering what had happened to Eric Clapton; what had made him dig in his heels so much about this issue; and were there any kind of precedents to him taking a controversial stance.”

Clapton certainly has his defenders, especially among conservative anti-vaxxers. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, himself no stranger to crackpot conspiracy theories or race baiting, tweeted a picture of himself with Clapton backstage during the guitarist’s recent tour of red state arenas.

But Clapton’s fans may be turning their backs on this legend amid what is likely to be his final act.

“It’s hard to believe this keeps happening — that he keeps doubling down — with everyone saying, ‘Oh my God,’ without consequence,” says Noah Berlatsky, who recently wrote an article in The Independent titled “Surprised Eric Clapton is a conspiracy theorist? Don’t be” (and who is a frequent NBC News THINK contributor). “Even though there are much worse rock stars out there, younger people will see this guy spouting these crackpot conspiracy theories and, if they even bother to dig deeper, will find numerous examples of his blatant racism, as well as his musical colonialism. And they’ll wonder, given his musical output over the past fifty years, what all the fuss was ever about.”

To be fair, Clapton, unlike Michael Jackson or even Jimmy Saville, isn’t some long-dead star. And yet, he refuses to acknowledge or engage with his critics.

Eric Clapton performs onstage during his ‘Money and Cigarettes’ tour at Brendan Byrne Arena, in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 22, 1983.Gary Gershoff / Getty Images file

“I think that gets at the heart of what a lot of us are dealing with in various types of pop music now,” Browne adds. “You look at, in hip hop, some of the stuff DaBaby has said, or Morgan Wallen, and their fans are dealing with whether or not to listen to their music. I wrestled with it, for sure. Because what’s going on with Eric Clapton — not just the anti-vaccine stance, but everything else, too — really gets at the heart of the art versus the artist question.”

It may be a sad end for one of the legends of the Golden Age of rock and roll, but it also feels fitting. Bigotry and ignorance, in the age of the internet, has a way of catching up with you. In a time when many of us are re-examining how our life experiences and information sources have shaped our world views, Clapton’s racism and conspiracy theories can no longer be ignored.

“Rock and roll was built on rebellion, so it shouldn’t be surprising when we see Morrissey or Johnny Rotten or Eric Clapton saying or doing things that outrage us,” argues Berlatsky. “There’s a lot of space to take up these anti-establishment positions and say ‘I’m a rebel.’”

But more and more aging white guys are finding out that being a reactionary racist isn’t the same as being a contrarian.

In the wake of Clapton’s onstage rant in Birmingham in 1976, as the English Beat’s Dave Wakeling and the writer Red Saunders recounted to Browne, Rock Against Racism was founded. That lead to five years of rallies and concerts, including performances by the Clash, Steel Pulse and even Clapton’s longtime friend Pete Townshend.

“He actually changed the world in the opposite direction, which was very decent of him, really,” Wakeling told Browne, tongue apparently firmly in cheek. An unintended bright spot, perhaps, for Clapton’s now-former fans.


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Celebrating Colorization: 100 Years of Black Films in a White World

Will Haygood, former resident of the King-Lincoln District, will release his ninth book, Colorization: 100 Years of Black Films in a White World, on Oct. 19. The book, which covers more than 100 years of film from Gone with the Wind to Black Panther, will be celebrated with a series of related events across Columbus from Oct. 16-28.

Haygood, a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities, uses Colarization to examine the struggles Black artists face both in the film industry and throughout society. He uses the films as vehicles to delve into Black culture, civil rights and racism.

Columbus arts organizations have collaborated to produce a series of events that will speak to the issues addressed in Colarization, show several of the films referenced and offer opportunities for community members to engage with Haywood.

Haygood will speak at events hosted by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Lincoln Theatre, King Arts Complex and others. He’ll also appear at a day-long immersive film program for teens at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) that includes workshops and mentorship on Saturday, Oct. 16.

Hanif Abdurraqib, Columbus writer and recent recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship ‘genius grant,’ will speak with Haygood at the Gateway before a screening of The Man on Wednesday, Oct. 20. Director and actor Robert Townsend will discuss Black filmmaking with the author at the Lincoln Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 17 following a screening of Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats the previous day.

Other screenings include Foxy Brown at the Drexel Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 21 and The Shaft at CMA on Thursday, Oct. 28.

Haygood’s 2013 book, The Butler, serves as a companion to a film of the same name starring Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Both took inspiration from an essay Haygood wrote about White House butler Eugene Allen.

Haygood’s other works include Tigerland and Showdown. He has worked as a correspondent for The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, where he was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Haygood is currently Boadway Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence in the department of media, journalism and film at Miami University.

A full listing of events related to Colorization and additional details can be found here.

Megan Roth is an editorial assistant. Feedback welcome at feedback@cityscenemediagroup.com.

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