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4,000 Days to New Orleans

July 11th, 2016 Comments off

On Thanksgiving Day ’08, while visiting my little sister in Southwest Charlotte, I sat down to a fine meal with love ones. It was November 27, 2008, 1,177 days after I first joined the Katrina Relief Efforts. At the request of a Katrina Survivor named Rick Mathieu from the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans in November ’05, I purchased a camera for what I thought was to be use to document storm and flood damages at his Treme and Seventh Ward homes. Instead, it was used to document the repopulation of the Big Easy. For three straight years, I carried around that camera (from Uptown to Downtown, from Lakefront to Riverfront, from Eastbank to Westbank) like people today carry around their smart phones. It was always in my hand. As you will see, my brother-in-law Pastor Sean Weaver turned my camera back on me. I was like “Soul Food” movie meets 60 Minutes

I sounded so engaging, and I remember feeling relieved that my Hurricane Katrina research was over. Not! Today, I know that I wasn’t even 1/3rd of the way to fruition when this rare interview of myself was captured. Yesterday, I asked a lifelong friend named Kathy to describe me with one word. Her response was, “Engaging.” This upcoming August 20, 2016, will mark my 4,000th day since joining the Katrina Efforts on September 7, 2005. It is good to know that after all these years, I’m still engaging. 4,000 I’ll need that character trait even more so to finally tell this mega story of what really happened in and around New Orleans during the Katrina Response.

Why is this all still relevant? Because it socially and politically changed the world; lame ducking arguably the most powerful man in the history of the world, Pres. George W. Bush, only seven months into his second term; sending the nation on a path toward CHANGE. Am I talking conspiracy theories? Not at all. I exhaustively researched and meticulously positioned literally thousands of events during those surreal days of the Katrina Resposnse into their proper sequence. I thank God for Microsoft Excel. Anyways, it is there where the true story jumps right out and slaps you. Basically, the light skinned city leaders of New Orleans (Katrina Responders) were scared to death of the darker skinned constituents (Katrina Survivors). A New Orleans pigmentocracy. Three Shades of Blackness

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project




Final Phase

August 19th, 2015 Comments off

I would like to take this time to update The Contraflow Project’s (TCP) Hurricane Katrina Response oral history contributors. What began as a shocked, saddened and concerned American dropping everything to join the Katrina Relief Effort on September 7, 2005, has grown into arguably the longest running and largest Katrina research project focused solely on the Responders; you all.

Phase Three “Research” ended on March 23, 2014, the day I found the final piece of an intricate whodunnit-like jigsaw puzzle (that I called ‘How Could Things Have Gone So Wrong’) in the following 9/4/05 Times-Picayune article; “Superdome’s Condition Leaves Mark on Doctor.”

Where are we at today? I see the entire picture now; how things went so wrong, and how the responders came in and made things so right. This week TCP is transitioning into Phase Five; the final phase, “Development.” As stated in TCP’s Funding Letter, the final phase will need the following: editing. indexing, graphic art, IT, travel, software, premium social media account and other professional services.

Contraflow Inc., dba The Contraflow Project, is a recognized nonprofit 501c3 charitable organization. Even so, I am a very independent person who has never conducted a public fundraising campaign in ten years of research. Today, the reality is that without outside support, fruition may never come. It’s not that this epic story is too big for me. I’m a walking Katrina Response encyclopedia. I know it like the back of my hand. It’s that the current budget is too small to complete this God-sized project. The more I learned over the years, the less I earned; mainly due to the constant postponing of the publishing dates. But, I had to go where the research took me, where the leads led me, where the responders wanted to see me. It was my contribution, my mission, my purpose…

What’s next? Fundraising! If you’d like to help, the sharing of our GoFundMe page link and/or widget with your digital circle of colleagues, family and friends via social media or email would be greatly appreciated. All cash donations are tax deductible. With outside support, I’m looking at a June 1, 2016, publishing date for all 7 books. Fruition!

Schedule permitting, there may also be some availibity for sponsored public speaking engagements. I enjoy sharing your amazing stories (mixed in with my ten-year New Orleans journey) about the world’s largest rescue mission since the Berlin Airlift. Inspired by a statement made by Rush Limbaugh last year, I penned the following blog post, “Rush to Judgement on Katrina.” I tell the story of Katrina right down the middle of the road. I can speak Katrina to any group, from any background, of any persuasion, anywhere.

I’m very encouraged, excited and inspired. Aside from one last round of fact-checking, the research is complete. The only reason CONTRAFLOW was not published prior to March 23, 2014, is because more responders kept coming forward from the fall of 2010 going forward. Many had retired or no longer worked for at the same corporation or government entity, and were ready talk; and I am so happy they did.

Hence, what I am saying is that the hard part is over. This is America. Funding will come to see this book series, CONTRAFLOW: A Katrina Heptalogy, to fruition. This ten year-plus in the making epic story is destined to be told.

I encourage you all to follow the final phase’s progress by joining TCP on Twitter and Facebook. Hmm, for many of you we were not even texting during the time I first introduced myself. Today we have social media, smart phones, apps, no wires and the cloud; Lol! What an amazing time to be a one-man social entrepreneur. Everything I need to run The Contraflow Project is in my hip pocket.

Speaking of smart phones, I want try and speak with as many of you as I can. If you too would like a personalized update, please text me at (803) 792-7037. Or email me back an appropriate phone number, preferably a mobile number. My Sprint plan allows me unlimited wireless to wireless phone conversations. Or, we can go back and forth on an email thread.

Finally, this would have been such a great time to launch the book series. We all know how Americans like to commemorate past events in years divisible by five, and even more so in years divisible by ten. Even so, I truly believe that I am on schedule; that this is the path I was supposed to travel. I leave you with a few words of support for The Contraflow Project from Pastor Sean Weaver of True Destiny Christian Church in Charlotte, NC. God bless you all.

Click the above play button or this link to hear a prayer from Pastor Sean Weaver of True Destiny Christian Church in Charlotte, NC.



A Katrina Heptalogy

August 7th, 2015 Comments off


10 YearsAs the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina nears on August 29, 2015, I’d like to take this time to update the responders on where my research stands today. It’s been a honor to have worked ten non-stop years on this project. However, if someone would have told me on September 7, 2005, the day I joined the Katrina Relief Efforts that I’d be still at this in 2015, I would have never departed my home airport of LV McCarran Int’l (LAS) for Houston George Bush (IAH) Airport on a mission to volunteer at the Astrodome. But no one did. And, I did depart.


The funny thing is that I never made it to the Astrodome. I called an audible at IAH and flew to my home town of Omaha, Nebraska. Low and behold, three days later on September 10, 2005, the last two post-Katrina Operation Air Care evacuation flights to leave New Orleans landed at Eppley Airfield (OMA). Two days after that I met the Soul Patrol. Two months after that I made on down to the Disaster Zone called New Orleans.


I went on to become arguably one of most knowledgeable persons yet to be heard from on the subject of what happened during the Katrina Response. When I make bold claims like the aforementioned to folks whose only knowledge of the Katrina Response came from the media, the next thing that pops into many of their minds is the phrase “conspiracy theorist.” The only conspiring I did was to track down as many responders as possible with firsthand accounts of Southeast Louisiana and asked them to, “Please tell me what you recall from your Hurricane Katrina deployment.” With all this oral history I collected, there was no need to theorize. The responders shared it all. All I had to do post-interviews was analyze and arrange the data. A God-sized task, yes indeed. Nevertheless, a task that came easy for me.


I can see why many Katrina spectators are amazed by that fact that an independent researcher received so much cooperation from the highest levels, branches and agencies of federal, state and municipal governments; all the way down to the neighborhood responders from the many New Orleans neighborhood wards. It is my belief that everyone sensed my sincere drive for telling the story how it actually happened in Greater New Orleans.


Also amazing, this comprehensive and riveting seven-book (heptalogy) story of tragedy, survival, heroism, compassion, resilience and patriotism I now have; a story for the ages in the form of a literary mini series. What started off as a single book project about four men from the New Orleans 7th Ward who called themselves the Soul Patrol, staying for the storm rescuing hundreds of their neighbors, grew exponentially after I sat down on December 11, 2006, in San Diego with members of the then FEMA’s California Four Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Two days later I sat down with members California Six up in Menlo Park. I was so moved by their experiences; CA-4 at New Orleans Louis Armstrong Int’l (MSY) Airport and CA-6 at the Superdome-New Orleans Arena Complex. Wow! Man. I could not walk away.


Anyways, that December ‘06 west coast trip led me to boldly venture beyond the neighborhood response; and did I ever go above and beyond. Our story of Hurricane Katrina is now a seven part book series that will tell the story of the largest rescue mission in American History from the responders POV; Army, Navy, USAF, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, FAA, USFWS, NOPD, JPSO, Soul Patrol, etc.

  • Book 1 – Cataclysmic Epiphany“; {Aug 26-Aug 30, 2005}

  • Book 2 – Collection Points“; {Aug 30, 2005}

  • Book 3 – Command & Control“; {Aug 30-Aug 31, 2005}

  • Book 4 – Convention Center“; {Aug 31-Sep 1, 2005}

  • Book 5 – Cause & Effect“; {Sep 1-Sep 2, 2005}

  • Book 6 – Comforter in Chief“; {Sep 2-Sep 3, 2005}

  • Book 7 – Collateral Damage“; {Sep 3-Sep 15, 2005}


Katrina RespondersThe projected publishing date for ALL seven books is June 1, 2016. It maybe ten (10 3/4 projected) years later, but I am still on point. Since ’07, I have been dedicating this epic story to ALL Katrina Responders. Also since ’07, I have been pledging to exclude ALL blame, political agendas, media sensation-alism, race-carding, demographic stereotyping and my own opinions. This is the only way I can or will tell this story, dignified and thorough. The working book series title is “CONTRAFLOW: A Katrina Heptalogy.”


What do I want to get out of publishing the Contraflow Series? I hope to help bring closure to all who are still affected by Katrina. The true story shall set us free! I cannot wait to get this story out. But, I guess I have waited; the responders have waited. I thank them all for their patience and support. I thank God for my curiosity, drive, endurance and strength. This project will be finished. The world will learn the rest of the story. You can follow TCP on Twitter and Facebook.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project

 
 

Zero Notice

August 5th, 2015 Comments off

Hands Up

Over the past ten years, I have had the privilege of interviewing some amazing and awesome Hurricane Katrina heroes; from the highest levels of the military to lowest below sea level New Orleans neighborhood responders. Every interaction has been special to me.

However, if I had to select a hand full of the ones that stood out, my May ’09 telephone interview with the 82nd Airborne Division Commanding Officer Major General William Caldwell, now Lieutenant General (Retired) and current president of Georgia Military College, would definitely be one of them.

I learned back in 2005 to maintain silence, to not interrupt the interviewees once they get going. I realized that they all were reliving the drama and/or the trauma of Katrina. When I use to jump in with questions, it would throw them off track. Hence, my methodology quickly evolved to just listening, electronically recording with permission and note taking. Any questions that I might have would be emailed to the interviewee a few days later. 

So, MG Caldwell begins reliving his Katrina experience. I’m on the other end of the line saying to myself, “This is deep.”  Most of what he shared centered around the events of September 3, 2005, the day Pres. Bush called in the 82nd Airborne via his weekly radio address giving in the White House Rose Garden; making it the first time ever in its sixty-three year history that the 82nd Airborne was deployed with “zero” notice. Even so, the 82nd Airborne prides themselves on deploying anywhere around the world within eighteen hours. Their nickname is “All American.” Their motto is “All the Way!”  

Throughout the previous night, the USAF began diverting C-17 Globemasters from Afghanistan and Iraq to Pope AFB, North Carolina, adjacent to Fort Bragg. MG Caldwell went on to tell me that because of the humanitarian crisis on the Gulf Coast the 82nd Airborne command staff did something they would never ever do in the Middle East, South Asia or any other war theater; they all boarded the same aircraft. By early afternoon on 9/3/05, the first wave of Globemasters were in the air heading westerly. But there was one major logistical problem. They had no confirmed destination. MG Caldwell kept heading up to the C-17 flight deck asking if there was any word yet on their humanitarian mission. Time after time he was told, “None yet General.”

MSY

New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport on 9/3/05

Finally, after flying hundreds of nautical miles, word came up from FORSCOM HQ in suburban Atlanta some 30,000 feet below. The first wave was to proceed to New Orleans Louis Armstrong Int’l (MSY) Airport. Once there, MG Caldwell was to report to Lt. General Russel Honore and receive orders.

On a normal day anywhere in the world when a huge C-17 Globemaster lands and taxis, other aircraft get out of the way. Not this day at NO Armstrong Airport, where they immediately found themselves in gridlock. This piece of federally controlled and City of New Orleans-owned property had arguably become the busiest airspace in the world. I was told by air traffic controllers that every fifteen seconds, helicopters landed, taxied, offloaded passengers and patients, and lifted off to go back and get more. The C-17 pilot was finally able to taxi to the cargo terminal area and park. The fact that there were no runway, taxiway or tarmac aircraft incursions that fateful week is still an amazing feat to this date.

The photo below and to the right features (l to r): LG Russel Honore, First Army Commanding Officer; MG William Caldwell IV, 82nd AB CO; MG Dwight Landreneau, Louisiana Adjutant General; and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It was taking on 9/4/05 at MSY Airport. I call it “The Katrina Generals” photo. The photo below and to the left, MG Caldwell. The three C-17 Globemasters in the middle photo, represent the 9/3/05 82nd AB humanitarian first wave out Pope AFB.

Charleston Nine C-17 Hands Up

Basically, LG Honore told MG Caldwell. “Whatever you see broke, fix it!” During those Katrina Aftermath days, many asked why it took five days for the President to call in the 82nd Airborne. Two words, the “Convention Center.” Hmm, maybe two more words, “Posse Comitatus.”

The world still doesn’t know what really happened in New Orleans because the world has never really come to grips with what it saw on those September 1, 2005, live feeds; thousands Americans begging for help in the richest country on Earth. For lack of any reasonable explanation the world went with the Kanye West Theory, “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”; which in my opinion came out of the Mayor Ray Nagin WWL radio interview the evening of 9/1, when he told Pres. Bush to get his ass moving on New Orleans. Again, two words, “Convention Center.”

LASP

Louisiana State Police on patrolling Convention Center Blvd on 9/1/05

In July 2012, I wrote “The Events of 9/1: A Katrina Essay.” I thoroughly broke down the series of events that led to those sad images we all saw coming out of the New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center. What started it all? The shooting death of a Lower 9th Ward resident Danny Brumfeld by a NOPD officer on Convention Center Boulevard in the early morning hours of 9/1/05. Unbeknownst to the public, that early morning tragedy became the nexus for fear in the Greater New Orleans Area. Why? Because by the time the story of the shooting reached Mayor Ray Nagin a mile away at the Hyatt Regency, the facts had been flipped. Mayor Nagin was told that the citizens, the “thugs,” had been shooting at the NOPD. How do I know all of this? I interviewed Manatee County, Florida Homicide Detective Bill Waldron. While in town as a witness for a murder trial, he became stranded and ended up at the Convention Center. He saw it all.  

The above event, along with a non lethal friendly-fire shooting of a Louisiana National Guardsman about two hours earlier at the Superdome, led to a total breakdown in confidence, which quickly spreaded amongst the many Katrina Responder agencies. How do I put this? The light-skinned (Creole) African American New Orleans leadership became scared to death of their brown-skinned (and darker) African American constituents. It’s a New Orleans history thing. The problem is the Katrina Responders received the blame. My book series project is dedicated to ALL Katrina responders.

What does all this have to do with MG Caldwell and the 82nd Airborne? Well, the first thing that needed “fixing” was the confidence factor. Well, now you know MG Caldwell ordered his top staff to get NO Armstrong Airport straight first-first. Anyways, they jumped right on it, with a show of command and control, compassion, inter-agency communication, professionalism and protection.

Under MG Caldwell’s direction and “humanitarian” rules of engagement, the paratroopers got out and WALKED among the citizens. When the survivors and non-military responders saw those maroon berets, it was a good thing. There was very little more to fear. Based on my ten years of research into the Katrina Response, the 82nd Airborne literally saved the day!

Paratrooper Woods

Paratrooper V.J. Woods

As our interview concluded, I told MG Caldwell about my father, Louisiana-native Mr. V. J. Woods, an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper from back in the 1950′s. And you know I had a bunch of followup questions for the general. He thanked me for what I was doing, working on getting the real story of Katrina out to the world. I thanked him for his service and taking time to chat with me. A few days later he mailed a letter, along with his commander’s coin to my father thanking him for his service some sixty years earlier. He then overnighted me his entire declassified after action report from their Katrina deployment; a wealth of information for a New Orleans researcher like myself. ALL THE WAY!

MG Caldwell’s contribution, along with the scores of other Katrina Responders, has helped to guarantee that CONTRAFLOW: A Katrina Heptalogy will be one amazing book series.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project




Black Like Us? Passe Blanc vs. Passe Noir

July 21st, 2015 Comments off

This posting is in anticipation of our long awaited forthcoming book series on post-Katrina America. Our projected publishing dates begin in early 2016. This posting was inspired by a series of recent text messages between myself and a dear friend on the subject of Rachel Dolezal, an American recently ostracized and ridiculed by society for allegedly passing for Black; “Passe Noir.”

M. Darryl Woods

On Sept. 7, 2005, I could not take anymore of what I was witnessing on TV and the Internet from the air conditioned comfort of my North Las Vegas home. I dropped everything, boarded a plane bound for Houston and joined the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort. After almost ten years of documenting the Katrina Response and post-Katrina New Orleans under the auspices of The Contraflow Project, I have come to one simple bullet point answer when asked about what really happened down there during the great urban flood of 2005. Virtually, all before me have said that race was the defining factor. I take it one step further in my findings by saying it all depended on what shade of the Black race you were.

For those who do not know, there are three types of “Black” people in Greater New Orleans: 1] Negroes, like me Mr. Woods; 2] Creoles, high-high yellow complexion, not to be confused with bi-racial or multi-racial; 3] Passe Blanc’s, French for those who pass for White. In my forthcoming books and screenplays, I will tell how these three shades of New Orleans blackness interacted during Katrina. This will allow us to finally understand what we saw with our own eyes through the media, and what we didn’t see.

Now that I think about it, I recall interacting with a fourth shade of Blackness down in New Orleans. On an overcast January ’06 morning, I experienced my first ever second line. I quickly realized that its a parade that absorbs the parade goers as it struts by; with the music being supplied by a brass band. Folks just follow the music. What an experience that was. Now, I had been to plenty Afrocentric events and festivals from coast to coast. However, I had never so many White people participating in a festive function in a predominately Black neighborhood; never. And this was not just a one day fluke. So what do I call the fourth shade? The Passe Noir’s. White people who feel the rhythm and want to be Black. From what I was told, it is all about the music.

Evidently, this new cultural phenomenon to me didn’t just start in January ’06. On page 52 of Jet Magazine’s April 17, 1952 edition appears the following article, “White Exchange Student Lives As ‘Negro’ In South.” It tells the story of a White Tiffin, Ohio 18-year old named Helen Margaret Keen. She attended Historically Black all-girls Bennett College in Greensboro, NC as an exchange student from Heidelberg College in her hometown. She dated boys from North Carolina A&T College, sat in Jim Crow balconies with fellow Bennett students in theaters, lived on campus with a Negro roommate named Mary Ensley from Birmingham, Alabama, and sat in the rear of city buses as a Negro. The article also stated that it was the music that attracted her to the Negro South.

On the opposite extreme we have Mae Street Kidd (1904-1999), a Kentucky State Rep. who served the Louisville 41st Legislative District from 1968 to 1984. According to an entry in the University of Kentucky’s “Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era,” Ms. Kidd was born to an absent father and a multicultural mother; which says to me that with Ms. Kidd’s complexion, she could have easily passed for White.

Walter Francis White

For whatever reason she chose another path and lived her life as a “Volunteer Negro,” a term given to those who could pass for White but chose not to; as in Homer Plessey (the New Orleanian plaintiff in the US Supreme Court 1896 ‘Plessey v. Ferguson’ decision), Walter White (NAACP Executive Secretary from 1931 to 1955) and Nella Larsen (author of the 1929 novel, “Passing”).

As we all know, or should know, the Plessey v. Ferguson decision made “Jim Crow” the law of the land; so-called “Separate but Equal’ doctrine. Mr. White, at the invitation of James Weldon Johnson, joined the small staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in New York City. His main mission as the NAACP National Secretary was to travel the South and investigate. In 1931, he succeeded Johnson and became Executive Secretary. Walter White would go on to do his job so well that by the time he passed away in 1955, the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement was in full effect; e.g., Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Many Southern Whites would begin to see the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement as the new Modern Day Civil War, and with that came the resurgence of the Confederate Battle Flag.


Above JET Slide Show link widget not viewable on some Explorer versions

But getting back to the early 1950s and racial identities, an American conundrum that I assure you is nothing new. As a child of the 1970s, every week I looked forward to the next edition of JET Magazine for three main reasons: 1) the listing of the top R&B singles and albums so I knew what to go buy at Leola Smith’s Mystical Sounds Record Store in North Central Omaha; 2) the national and local stories from other Black communities across America in the pre-24 hour news and Internet-as-we-know-it days; 3) and the former 5th Dimension group member turned photographer LaMonte McLemore’s centerfold models.

Mike Woods

As I recall, a vast majority of the people who donned the JET covers during the 70s looked Afro-American like me. But as you can see in the above slide show, during a time when “White” people and “Volunteer Negroes” were living with, as, or fighting for Negroes, the our preeminent national Negro weekly publication seemed to have been encouraging its predominately Negro female readership to… Well, you be the judge.

Let us now fast forward some sixty years to June 15, 2015, when the number one “news” story in America was the resignation of Rachel Dolezal as the leader of the NAACP’s Spokane Branch. A headline that day on SmokingGun.com website read, “NAACP Imposter Sued School Over Race Claims.” Imposter! If we are going (allow) Ms. Dolezal to be called an imposter, then we need to get down to Southeast Louisiana and Southern California and start rounding up all those who have been passing for white so we can libel, slander and humiliate them. Sounds crazy and 1930s Europe? Exactly! Also, a relatively new term was introduced into the American lexicon last month, “Transracial.” What the! What has happened to Black America? How could we have allowed a proven leader from the Black community, a leader in the spirit of the extraordinary Walter White, to have been “white-washed” and hung out to dry? Just two days later on June 17, 2015, nine Negroes are assassinated during Bible studies at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. OMG!

I sent the following text message to a good friend from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; a man in his mid-60s who I “assume” is White and has worked in law enforcement is entire life. I’ll call her Mr. X, for the purpose of this blog posting.

M.D. Woods: 6:13pm, Jun 19, 2015; We’ve taking a major step over here in South Carolina beyond me being called the n-word in passing. But something special is arising out of this tragedy Mr. X. People are coming together, and people are forgiving. Hopefully, this can be a defining 21st Century American moment. Love you Mr. X. Your friend Mr. Woods

If New Orleans has become the center of my world and the Afromation Movement since Hurricane Katrina, then the Palmetto State has been where I go to hide; to work without Crescent City-like distractions. As you can see in this video link I called, “Writing in the Treme,” there I was minding my own business trying to get some writing done and a second line just stops right outside the window. Yeah you right, I went outside and joined them. Must have been the music.

SC license plates

Like Louisiana, South Carolina is a peculiar place for a man like me who grew up in North Central Omaha. In 2009, I began visiting South Carolina on a regular basis, with transplanted Midwestern family members now calling the Carolinas home. I immediately began to notice the same decal symbol in the back windows of cars with SC license plates; a Palmetto Tree with a gorget (crescent) to its upper left. It’s my understanding that this symbol came from the American Revolutionary War era, that it is the SC state flag, that it appears on most of the SC license plate, and that it is watermarked onto every SC driver’s license.

Okay, one might say, “Well what is your problem with the decal Mr. Woods?” What has me SMH is that in seven years of visiting South Carolina I have yet to see that decal in the back window of any African American-driven vehicle that has passed me or that I have passed. We are talking about a state with 1.3 million African Americans, according to the US Census Bureau. We are talking about a state that is fourth only to Mississippi (37.6%), Louisiana (32.8%), Maryland (30.9%), in the % of Black inhabitants with 28.8%. My theory is that the decal is a show of support for those who were upset with the Confederate Flag being removed from atop the state capitol on July 1, 2000.

Here is a second South Carolina peculiar example. A few years ago while I was taking a stroll for exercise purposes a car full of young White boys drives by and yell out a phrase that I had not heard (directly) from a White person since the 1970s; yep, they yelled, “Nigger!” Because it had been so many decades since I had to respond to that hateful word, I found myself SMH again for a second or two. The only thing I could think of to do in response was to yell back, “Yo President!” I guess they were quickly reminded that America does have an openly Black President, and they kept on trucking decal in the back window and all scratching their heads.

I shared this “N-word” incident with my friend in Jefferson Parish, which was what I referred back to in the aforementioned text to him. But what I realize today is that it mattered less a few years ago that the N-word had very little power over me in the 21st Century. What mattered more was those young South Carolina men driving around with ate in their hearts looking for Negroes. Sometimes words are not just words, and symbols (decals) are not just symbols…


Back to present day America. What would Charleston DO? What has Spokane DONE? How has New Orleans been DOING for centuries? When you have the President of the United States delivering the South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney’s eulogy in Charleston in the manner that he did, it is safe to say that Race and Ethnicity is definitely the #1 domestic issue today in America. For a person like myself who launched the Afromation Movement 21 years ago, these are unbelievable and longed for times. “HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT!!” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and “I FORGIVE YOU!” and “AMAZING GRACE…” What an amazing month June ’15 was. It was sad though that it took nine lives to get Ms. Dolezal high tech lynching off the headlines.

The following transcript (typos and all) depicts a back and forth Rachel Dolezal debate, via text messaging on June 18-19, 2015, between me and a scholarly African American woman in her 40s (of my complexion) from Detroit; a dear friend of mine for thirteen years. I’ll call her Ms. X, for the purpose of this blog posting.

 

Hands Up

Hands Up Charleston Nine

 


M.D. Woods: 11:11am, Jun 18, 2015; I’m looking fwd to getting your take on Ms. Rachel Dolezal…


Ms. X: 11:49am, Jun 18, 2015; Who is that?


M.D. Woods: 11:54am, Jun 18, 2015; The Spokane NAACP leader who was/is supposedly passing for Colored. The racial story of the week until last night’s South Carolina church massacre. L


Ms. X: 11:55am, Jun 18, 2015; Oh yeah that is absolute crazy. In fact criminal


M.D. Woods: 11:58am, Jun 18, 2015; May I ask you why you believe its criminal?


M.D. Woods: 12:00pm, Jun 18, 2015; It can wait until our next talk time…


Ms. X: 12:04pm, Jun 18, 2015; She fraudulently took a job and operated under false pretenses


M.D. Woods: 12:30pm, Jun 18, 2015; We haven’t talked in a while, but just last week I was going to call you and chat about my days in New Orleans passing for Creole, the basis of a book I’m currently working on …then this Spokane story breaks. Great timing for me.


M.D. Woods: 12:32pm, Jun 18, 2015; To summarize thjs Rachel thing from the Black side, Black men don’t seem to be bothered by her passing. Black women do seem to be bothered…


M.D. Woods: 12:33pm, Jun 18, 2015; I find it all fascinating and timely.


M.D. Woods: 12:36pm, Jun 18, 2015; When we do chat. I’ll elaborate on how I was passing for Creole…


M.D. Woods: 12:41pm, Jun 18, 2015; One last thought. I think its been illegal for over 30 years at least to discriminate in hiring by race; whether one is black or white.


Ms. X: 12:41pm, Jun 18, 2015; I think if a lie is told or others are deceived it bad. I’m sure people shared this with her on the premises that she was black. She violated those you


Ms. X: 12:43pm, Jun 18, 2015; ng people


M.D. Woods: 12:49pm, Jun 18, 2015; I must be missing your second pg to this text. It stops after “She violated those… And picks up again with “…..ng people”


Ms. X: 12:51pm, Jun 18, 2015; Well we will get a chance to discuss it. I’m out of town Rgt now


M.D. Woods: 12:53pm, Jun 18, 2015; Of course


M.D. Woods: 1:01pm, Jun 18, 2015; This text here is for the AME mother church in Charleston. Have a blessed day Ms. X….


M.D. Woods: 1:01pm, Jun 18, 2015; This is a Christmas ’07 pix { Image Not Available for this Blog } of my then New Orleans Creole lady friend and her parents. She was a radical who loved anything black. Her family quietly passes for white “Passe Blanc” all day long as do thousands of New Orleans Creoles. They check “Caucasion” box all day long. According to Louisiana’s own race codes, 1/32 Black makes you Black. As for Ms. Dolezal, I’m not sure if there was a race box when their board made her branch leader. The irony is that the NAACP was founded by White { and Black } people on February 12, 1909. A Phoenix branch currently has a white leader { Donald Harris, President of the NAACP Miracopa Branch }. Shoot, up until last month, I was making light of the fact the the three years following Katrina, I was down in New Orleans passing for Creole.

NAACP Founders


Ms. X: 1:12pm, Jun 18, 2015; Yes if she lied and tricked people that trusted her


M.D. Woods: 1:20pm, Jun 18, 2015; I’d probably feel the exact same as you if it were not for my time in New Orleans, a place where asking someone’s race is a more personal question than a person’s sexual habits, income, religious views and political persuasions combined. Anyways, again, have a great day and thanks for sharing. You know how I like data.


M.D. Woods: 7:05pm, Jun 19, 2015; Well, the results are in Ms. X. Every Black woman I interviewed responded exactly as you did on this Rachel D. thing. And every Black man responded…


M.D. Woods: 7:06pm, Jun 19, 2015; …as I did. Hmm. Well, until the next topic. Have a great wknd, and Happy Fathers Day to you; for I know you played both roles. Until the next time Ms. X!


Ms. X: 8:37pm, Jun 19, 2015; Happy Father’s day 2 u 2. Remember a lie is a lie is deceit.


M.D. Woods: 8:39pm, Jun 19, 2015; Thanks. I’ll never turn anybody away who wants to join the Black Experience!


Ms. X: 8:57pm, Jun 19, 2015; Yes but come as u r not filled with lies


M.D. Woods: 9:12pm, Jun 19, 2015; The current mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu told me himself that you don’t know who is what down in Southeast Louisiana; { for a minute there I though the then Louisiana Lt. Governor was referring to the Landrieu Family as well }. Then by your standards, he and every other person in America not checking the box “black” box, rather “other” or “caucation”; By your standards this makes millions of Americans liars.


M.D. Woods: 9:13pm, Jun 19, 2015; Our elders faught with their lives on the line during the 60s to get racial categorization eliminated as a determining factor; rather the content of someones character.


M.D. Woods: 9:15pm, Jun 19, 2015; This is a slippery slope, for if we start making Americans prove their genetic racial makeup, we will have taking society back to 1937 Nazi Germany.


Ms. X: 9:51pm, Jun 19, 2015; She don’t look black she put on a costume. So different from a natural look.


M.D. Woods: 9:57pm, Jun 19, 2015; True.


M.D. Woods: 10:13pm, Jun 19, 2015; Rachel is no Ms. X, a natural beautiful Black woman. This debate has concluded on the same accord.

 

Black Woman Bill Clinton Black History Month

 

Well as you read, it all came down to Ms. Dolezal not looking ‘Black’ enough. Who knows, maybe if I had not spent all those post-Katrina years down in New Orleans I might feel the same way as my beautiful naturally Black dear friend Ms. X. But, I did and I don’t. Americans receive their news today in an emotional spin doctor-talking heads-like delivery system. This is why, even after ten years, America still doesn’t understand what really happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Because of my independent non-biased and non-emotional methodology of analyzing and deciphering what the media delivers, I am in a good position to learn and share current affairs and historical events in an objective manner. I am in no ways smarter than anybody else. I just don’t allow the media and talking heads to tell me how to think, while totaling disregarding past confirmed and known knowledge of previous events and situations. In other words, forget what you think you already know, this is what we want you to know now, and this is how we want you to feel about it. Huh. Having said this, thinking independently like me can be a lonely position. Sometimes a man just has to say, “True, you’re right baby. We are on one accord.”

Well, I’m going to continue this debate solo. I remember from 1997 to 2000, Pres. Bill Clinton frequently being referred to as the nation’s first black President. Some say it goes back to he 1992 presidential campaign when he brought his saxophone to the Arsenio Hall Show. Funny, I cannot recall ANY uproars from Black America; nor from America period. It was the 1990s, FloJo; the Million Man March; “I wanna be like Mike”; Tiger Woods was receiving green jackets every April it seemed; Halle Berry was rising star, ascending up to the Hollywood A-list; Puff Dadddy producing the hits; Oprah, enough said.

Who didn’t want to be Black back then? Well, you know what I’m saying. But unlike the superstars who entertained us very well, it’s my understanding that Ms. Dolezal just wanted to help the people; the colored people of Eastern Washington state. What has happened to my Black America? What has happened to the NAACP? Have we forgotten about how USDA employee Shirley Sherrod was thrown under a bus for speaking at March ’10 NAACP Freedom Dinner in South Georgia? The NAACP and the White House denounced her before, evidently, reviewing the entire speech; a 43-minute video that could have and eventually did gain access to from the local branch. Here is an excerpt of the denunciation of Ms. Sherrod by former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous:

“Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race,” Jealous said. “We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.”

“Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man,” Jealous said.

Shirley Sherrod & Ag Sec. Tom Vilsack

I know this is a new century, and with that comes “Change.” Change, better known as our 44th President, Barack Obama. And I remember the rationale back then being that the NAACP felt the need to protect the President from that Ms. Sherrod rural Georgia “race” issue controversy. Pres. Obama is the Man! One cannot “advance” any higher in America than him. This is why they call it the, “Highest Office in the Land.” If he cannot make it through a work week without the NAACP saving him, well. My point is that the NAACP’s focus should be on those who need “advancement.” I’m not naive though. I know having a seat close to the center of power is what any organization would want. But at the expense of the people it says it’s trying to advance? The President has Valerie Garrett and an army of other folks to help him take care of us…as Americans. Speaking of the President, on February 26, 2015, in the White House East Room the President and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Black History Month Reception, where he said the following:


“We don’t set aside this month each year to isolate or segregate or put under a glass case black history. We set it aside to illuminate those threads — those living threads that African Americans have woven into the tight tapestry of this nation — to make it stronger, and more beautiful, and more just, and more free.”


“What happened in Selma is quintessentially an American experience, not just an African American experience. It speaks to what’s best in this country. It remind us that the history of America doesn’t belong to one group or another; it belongs to all of us -— that idea, this experiment built on a shared story of people bound together by shared ideas, shared ideals, certain inalienable rights of equality and justice and liberty for all people.”


When are living in a time where the person who officially speaks for America is a Black man. I concur wholeheartedly with the President’s aforementioned ’15 Black History Month remarks. In 1994, I named my reference handbook, AFROMATION: 366 Days of ‘American’ History. Even so, half of the people who read the title out loud say “366 Days of African-American History.” Anyways, the key words for me in the President’s remarks were “shared ideas.” How dare we segregate Ms. Dolezal from our shared ideas as Black Americans, as Americans. A woman who was making us stronger, more beautiful, more just and more free. Shameful!

What if Ms. Dolezal was on her way to becoming the next Walter White. Come on let’s be real. If any of us was to walk up on Mr. White today, a man whose skin is two times fairer than Ms. Dolezal, would we consider him Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black or African American? The man’s name was Mr. White! Thank God Mr. White did not choose to go Passe Blanc, which would have been his right, his own personal business and between him and his God. Thank God we were not around to shame Mr. White into resigning back in the 1920s or whenever.

SC Gov. Nikki Haley

It actually scares me to think about what life would be like for me and my descendants if Walter White was not allowed to do his job from 1931 to 1955; the advancement of Colored people.

I know for many history is not sexy nor relevant. The present is here and now, and the past long and gone. But we gots to know something about how we got here. If not, anybody can tell us any old thing, and we’ll believe it and spread it at the speed of the Internet. Speaking of speed the South Carolina state legislature, with the urging of Gov. Nikki Haley, voting earlier this month to remove the Confederate Flag ALL the way off the state capitol grounds and into a museum. In South Carolina? Now that was a defining moment.

So this South Carolina “decal” thing. Am I now saying that it should be outlawed? Not at all. To impede on the rights of South Carolinans to “personally” express themselves with a symbol that is virtually everywhere throughout the Palmetto State, a symbol that doesn’t offend me; well that would open the door for someone to tell me that I can not “personally” write and post this blog sharing my thoughts on the decal.

To be honest, I never had a personal problem with the Confederate Flag; most likely because I grew up in Eastern Nebraska. The first time I recall seeing that flag was on the CBS comedy The Dukes of Hazzard, atop Bo and Luke Duke’s 1969 Dodge Charger, the “General Lee.” In 1979, it was the number show in America. That flag was beamed into tens of millions of households every Friday evening from L.A. to Denver to Omaha to Chicago to NYC. The only thing though, it was always referred to as the “Rebel Flag” back then. Like the University of Mississippi sports mascot; an older Colonel Sanders looking gentleman dressed from head to toe in red. So when the ‘Hazzard County Sheriff’ was in hot pursuit, the Duke Boys were always seen as rebels, an easy sell during the late 1970′s post-Vietnam and post-Watergate days.

In 2015, many are saying the flag represents slavery, oppression and disenfran-chisement. Here goes my opinion again. To me it represents the end of slavery. It represents the loser of the American Civil War. I liken it to Buffalo Bills fans flying their colors at any Super Bowl game. This was the franchise that lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s. I liken it to displaying a Jesse Jackson, Jr. for Congress bumper sticker. I liken it to Lance Armstrong throwing on a yellow leader’s jersey and riding his bicycle in the 2015 Tour of Austin. I liken it to represent poor White trash; only because that’s how Hollywood associated it in contemporary movies and TV shows of the late 20th Century. But this is America where one man’s big loser and redneck sign is another man’s symbol of cultural pride and heritage; a land where both men can coexist, separately by choice and equal by law.

SC Gov. Benjamin Tillman

I do though have a problem with monuments honoring people who administered the terror, oppression and disenfranchisement of Negroes. During the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, Republicans ruled South Carolina; emancipated and freed Negroes participated in all areas of society and served in all levels of government. Joseph Hayne Rainey who became the first Negro to be elected and seated in the US House of Representative (1870-1879), served the 1st Congressional District. His constituency included Charleston County, which was 73% Negro one hundred and forty years ago.

We had the 2015 Charleston Massacre. In 1876, there was the Hamburg Massacre, a day that saw thirty or Negro National Guardsmen attacked by state Democratic Party-backed ‘Red Shirts’, a clandestine paramilitary organization that used force and intimidation to drive Negroes from power. This would be the beginning of the end of Reconstruction. One of the leading organizers was white supremacist Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman. He would go onto to become governor of South Carolina (1890-1894), served in the US Senate (1895-1918) and was instrumental in founding what is now Clemson University. In the February 5, 2014, the alternative weekly Charleston City Paper published the feature story, “Ben Tillman was a racist, terrorist, and murderer: It’s time to take down his statute.”

What a strange twist of fate. For fifteen years nobody was seriously talking about removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds. But a concerted effort has been in effect to remove Gov. Tillman’s bronze statute, which was unveiled on May 1, 1940. Down with Tillman!

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

It was supremacists and segregationists like Gov. Tillman that led to the need for civil rights organizations. One more note about Ms. Helen Margaret Keen, the Northerner who in 1952 chose to coexist and matriculate as a “Negro.” Was this very fair skinned college student living Passe Noir? She was accepted by Bennett and North Carolina A&T Negro students. So, yes. The key word here is “accepted.” Ms. Keen ended up changing her major from music to sociology and psychology. When asked where could she see herself working upon graduating from college, her response was, “the NAACP.” Hmmm.

Was Ms. Dolezal accepted by the Spokane Black community? If she ascended to become the NAACP Spokane Branch President, then yes. Was she living Passe Noir? So what! In a year when we have highly educated Black women (like Ms. X) being yanked out of their cars for essentially not signaling (“I will light you up!”), and ending up dead in their cells, do we really want to start calling Dr. Henry Louis Gates to check the genealogy of the civil rights leaders and advocates coming to light the fire for justice on our behalves; on the behalf of our loved ones? Not signaling, man, that’s like getting arrested for trying to enter your own house. Dr. Gates, uh. Now, unlike the NAACP and Shirley Sherrod, Dr. Gates actually did have to protect Pres. Obama. He was only six months into his first term when he said the following in the White House press room on July 23, 2009:

“But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 … that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

I guess the President did put his foot in his mouth by calling out the Cambridge Police Dept. in defense of his friend Dr. Gates. We all remember what came next, the “Beer Summit.” That Dr. Gates is a true friend, scholar and a gentleman. Here was a world renowned Harvard professor being humiliated by an arrest, then sitting down at the White House with the White officer who arrested him and pretending to have a dialogue on (race); to help protect his President and friend. Mr. Jealous, I’m sure you are a true friend, scholar and gentleman as well. The difference though? It was Dr. Gates’ job to teach us about the origins of our shades of Blackness. Your job was to advance our Blackness, and not protect the President at the expense of our Blackness. Mr. Jealous, Pres. Obama, Press Sec. Gibbs, Sec. Vilsack and more, all lined up to apologize to Ms. Sherrod in July ’10. In a speech to the National Urban League, on July 29, 2010, a civil rights organization headed up by former New Orleans Creole Mayor Marc Morial; Pres. Obama said the following:

“…we were reminded this past week that we still got work to do when it comes to promoting the values of fairness and equality and mutual understanding that must bind us together as a nation.

…a bunch of academic symposia or fancy commissions or panels on race. Instead, we should all make more of an effort to discuss with one another, in a truthful and mature and responsible way, the divides that still exist, the discrimination that’s still out there, the prejudices that still hold us back.”

Maybe one day current NAACP CEO Cornell Williams Brooks and others who just stood by will line up to apologize to Ms. Dolezal.

Just one last thing about Sandra Bland, may she rest in peace, and Dr. Gates. The following article written by Ashley Fantz was posted by CNN at 1:22am on July 23, 2015. The headline says “What are your rights during a traffic stop — and is it wise to exercise them?” Come on man! Whomever approved this “wink-wink” headline might as well have completed the thought. Is it wise to exercise them — if you’re Negro, Colored, Black or African American!

While I’m on the subject of Black America, if Pres. Obama was allowed to run for a third term I would do my part to help him win Nevada again with my vote. I think he has been an amazing 44th President of the United States, and a man well deserving of his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize; finally, meaning for things that his has done in his second term. As a critical thinker and an independent historian, I am eager to learn what affect Obama’s presidency has had on Black America. I know most folks think that Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke for all of Black America back in the 1960s. But that was not the case. There were many who leaned toward the Malcolm X side, as we did up North. Then there were many Black folks who like things just the way they were. Fast forward to the Shirley Sherrod episode in July 2010. It was that month that I realized one man spoke for all of Black America. This had never happened before in my lifetime. I don’t believe in political and social monopolies. Is Pres. Obama a good man? Yes. Is it a good thing to have just one voice for an entire race? In my opinion, no. Years from now time will tell how the Obama Administration effected Black America. In the meantime, what will we do after January 2017?

Black is Beautiful

I grew up in a time when one of the most popular Afro-American slogans was, “Black is Beautiful.” Today, I believe, “Black is still Beautiful.” So, how can anyone who wants to be Black, believes they are Black, attends college among Blacks, lives as a Black, loves Black folks, marries a Black, raises a Black son, teaches Black Studies be anything thing but beautiful? And for those still appalled, misinformed and/or unforgiving, I remind you of Ray Stevens’ 1970 Grammy Award-winning song, “Everything Is Beautiful” …in its (their) own way.

In conclusion, what do the recent leadership changes in Eastern Washington at the Spokane NAACP and Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME Church have to do with my forthcoming books on New Orleans? It shows what happened down on the bayou in ’05 and my ten-year journey documenting it while living post-Katrina New Orleans, is still very relevant. Race is still a factor. Wait a minute, I picked up another debater; another good friend of mine, a spiritual light-skinned native New Yorker in her 40s from Prince George’s County, Maryland, who we’ll call Ms. Y warned me on my position on Ms. Dolezal. Her are a few of our many recent Rachel-related texts:


Ms. Y: 12:24am, Jun 24, 2015; …careful with the black woman are hating on her. Black woman have payed a major price…to be who they are. The road has been paved with blood sweat


Ms. Y: 12:28am, Jul 24, 2015; and tears and the seaman of the oppressor


M.D. Woods: 12:31am, Jul 24, 2015; I know. But, I don’t condone discrimination based on race against anybody in 2015, never have, never will, Beside, its controversy that gets attention which’ll allow access to audiences on what I really want to talk about, New Orleans.


Ms. Y: 12:34am, Jul 24, 2015; Neither do I, love the opportunity to voice my opinion. You are an awesome writer. Thought provoking and I read it { this blog } all the way through

In conclusion, is Ms. Dolezal ‘Black Like Us?’. African American women in my study voted overwhelmingly to kick Ms. Dolezal out of the tribe, and block her from ever returning. African American men in my study voted overwhelmingly to bring her back. I think it’s safe to say that if Donald Harris, NAACP Maricopa County Branch President, would have been called out for Passe Noir, nobody would have cared. At least, that’s my conclusion. Let me say it one more time. Donald Harris is openly White and he is still the NAACP Branch President out in Phoenix; and doing a great job from what I understand. Ms. Dolezal was forced to resign for “not” being Black. So, what are we really talking about here…

Black American women, in all their beauty, glory, shades, shapes and sizes. This mighty and powerful American demographic is some 20 million strong. A Mighty Love! I don’t blame you for wanting to be like them Ms. Dolezal. Louisiana CreoleI love them too. Maybe in the months and years to come, we as a nation and people would have actually had that dialogue on race that Pres. Obama began speaking on six years ago. And maybe we’ll all look back on the unfortunate sequence of events in Eastern Washington, at Eastern Washington University and at the NAACP HQ in Baltimore and say, “What have we done?” And maybe not. Maybe I need to do a better job of picking my battles. And maybe not.

Finally, ten or eleven years post-Katrina is still a good time to publish, especially if one has good stories and knows how to write them. Race is always a factor in the America. And New Orleans is in America, sort of. What I’m saying is the world loves New Orleans and New Orleans loves the world back. She’s like a sexy woman who draws you in, grabs you and tries to keep you. Well that’s what New Orleans did to me ten years ago. Her people, well their view points on race (shades of Blackness) are little known outside of the 504 area code, widely misunderstood on what little is known outside of the 504, and the real underlying reason behind what really happened in the 504 during the Hurricane Katrina Response.

 


M. Darryl Woods, Lead Researcher
The Contraflow Project

 
 

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