I like to say I’m from L.A.
But the truth is I was born in Philly where our family last lived in a rented old row-house on Natrona Street in north Philly.
We lived there until I was seven years old. In 1957 the family headed to California in an old broken down ’51 Mercury.
Philadelphia’s history was a lot like that of Chicago. It was run by a racist and corrupt Democratic Party Machine and neighborhoods were strictly segregated.
Racist cops were the rule.
In the 60s, the police commissioner was a rabid white supremacist named Frank Rizzo who later became mayor, running on the slogan, “Vote White.”
When the old bastard died they erected a statue to him.
After this week’s street protests of the murder of George Floyd, Mayor Jim Kenney decided this might be a moment to take the statue of Frank Rizzo down.
It might also be a good moment to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a victim of Rizzo’s rule.
In 2015 following the racist killings of nine members of the Charleston, South Carolina Emanuel African American Methodist Episcopal Church, there was a movement to remove Confederate memorials, monuments and statues.
At that year’s Representative Assembly of the National Education Association, I rose to offer a resolution to support this movement. After a frankly embarrassing two-hour debate, the resolution was passed and filed away somewhere, never to be seen again.
This morning I offer a mea culpa for not including racist statues like the one of Frank Rizzo in my resolution.
However, America’s monuments to racism are targets once again. This time by those who have taken to the streets in an uprising reaction to the killing of George Floyd and all the others victims of racist cop killings.
Nobody was waiting for a resolution from the NEA.
In Richmond, Virginia, as riot police and protesters faced off on Sunday, memorials to Confederate grandees Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart stood covered in protest graffiti.
Nearby, the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization historically responsible for many of the monuments to the Confederacy, was also covered with graffiti, including phrases like “fucking racists,” “police are creepy,” “stole from us,” and “abolition.” It was set ablaze in the early hours of Sunday.
In Birmingham, Alabama, following a “Birmingham, the World Is Watching” rally on Sunday night, protesters toppled a brass sculpture of Charles Linn, a captain in the Confederate navy. The Linn sculpture was pulled to the ground with a rope.
Nearby, a 52-foot-tall obelisk known as the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument was also targeted.
The memorial removal has not happened without white supremacist resistance.
in Salisbury, North Carolina, a confrontation between several dozen Black Lives Matters protesters and a group of pro-Confederate activists at a local Confederate monument led to threats of violence by the white supremacists.
WBTV reported that police arrested 49-year-old Jeffrey Allan Long, who was among the pro-Confederate counter-protesters, for firing a gun.
Meanwhile in San Antonio, the Alamo Cenotaph was hit with graffiti on Thursday night reading “[Down with] white supremacy / [down with] profit over people / [down with] the ALAMO.”
The Alamo has long been hated by those who view it as a symbol of land stolen from Mexico.
At the University of Mississippi, a Confederate monument was branded with the words “spiritual genocide.”
In Nashville, a sculpture of racist politician and pundit Edward Carmack was toppled.