Then and Now: Lessons Learned from MLK–Love as the Practice of Freedom

“The use of violence in our struggle is both impractical and immoral. Therefore I would strongly urge… a cessation of the violence and lawlessness presently existing and recognize the power of nonviolent resistance.”

–Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the wake of the 1964 Rochester Rebellion

Last summer, after video circulated of George Floyd being murdered by police in Minneapolis, the United States saw the largest wave of protests since the Civil Rights Movement. On the same day Floyd died, Dion Johnson was shot and killed by an Arizona DPS officer, and thousands of peaceful protestors braved summer heat to call for an end to police brutality in the Valley of the Sun. Their actions stood in contrast with hundreds also joined in looting and property destruction to vent their anger with the status quo. These headlines were reminiscent of 1964, when police brutality incited the first of many urban uprisings dotting that decade. The nonviolent ideology advanced by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. became a central tenet in the civil rights movement and one of the key strategies in the Black freedom struggle. Yet, the protests of this past summer reflect the frustrations of previous generations and raise similar trepidations about the efficacy of nonviolent resistance. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Emerge News Collective is hosting a conversation on how the legacy of Dr. King continues to influence Black millennials fighting in the Movement for Black Lives. Our discussion will be moderated by Rev. Warren H. Stewart, Jr. with panelists Rev. Quanta Crews, Sarah Tyree, Madalyn Williams, and Leah Marché.

Civic Colonialism: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Municipal Annexation in Arizona

anthony pratcher III event

What: Yi-Fu Lecture on Civic Colonialism: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Municipal Annexation in Arizona

When: Friday, March 6th, 2020 3:30pm

Where: Science Hall Room 180

University of Wisconsin

Madison WI 53706-1404,

Scholars have overlooked how urban annexation drove the development of the metropolitan Sunbelt in the American Southwest after World War II. A case study on civic life in 20th century Phoenix shows how Anglo elites utilized municipal annexation to maintain colonial relationships with racialized communities in the surrounding agricultural hinterland. Working-class Anglo settlers, along with racial minorities and non-white immigrants, were largely excluded from participation in civic activities as Anglo elites fought to remove these residents to the metropolitan periphery.

Still, civic elites could only extend their political control as far as the city borders, so after Phoenix voters approved major postwar municipal bonds, civic elites annexed surrounding areas so that Charter (the municipal political machine) could dictate development along the metropolitan periphery. While metropolitan Phoenix enticed affluent homeowners with modern amenities and tolerable taxes, city officials engaged in ruthless chicanery to convert, cajole, or coerce consent for annexation petitions from right-wing populists.

In contrast, Charter disenfranchised racialized residents to reduce resistance to annexation in segregated communities. By 1960, just as in dozens of other Sunbelt cities across the nation, municipal annexation allowed civic elites to amalgamate the metropolitan periphery into their municipality. Metropolitan Phoenix, along with the broader American Sunbelt, exists due to municipal annexation. This talk shows how this policy should be understood as a facet within a longer a historical continuum of settler colonialism in the U.S./Mexico Borderlands.

TAKE A BOOK, LEAVE A BOOK: Glendale considers adding Little Free Libraries around town

20200226-224005-030120cs parks_1

For those who enjoy a good, free read may soon have books available closer than before.

Glendale parks and recreation staff is looking into the cost and feasibility of adding Little Free Libraries to some city parks or community centers.

Little Free Libraries are small, mailbox-like wooden boxes where free books are left for passers-by to take home with no check-out process. The libraries operate on “an honor-system ‘take it, bring it back’ type program” said Glendale Recreation Administrator Paul King.

Glendale’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission gave staff unanimous approval to investigate the cost and feasibility of the libraries to see if the commission would like have some installed. If pursued, the commission would likely start with two or three Little Free Library locations and consider expanding the program after that.

Any such program would likely include the city partnering with a nonprofit that could potentially sponsor the small libraries.

Staff and the commission would also need to decide what to call the libraries, as Little Free Library is the name of an organization that helps install the libraries around the world.

pratcher_800x800The idea was brought to the commission by Glendale resident Anthony Pratcher II, who

 installed a Little Free Library in his neighborhood 

in Arrowhead Ranch, near Dos Lagos Park at Utopia Road and 63rd Avenue.

Mr. Pratcher’s suggestions for new libraries were one at Desert Garden Park, at 71st Avenue and Ocotillo Road, and at least on in north Glendale, at Chapparal Park 57th and Grovers avenues and/or at Utopia Park, at 75th Avenue and Utopia Road.

Mr. Pratcher said the libraries are an amenity that benefits any type of neighborhood.

“Little Free Libraries, they do two things,” he said. “One: They’re supposed to help promote literacy, right? So, that’s there benefit for lower-income neighborhoods. Two: You’ll often see them in upper-income neighborhoods. So, to me at least, there’s a correlation between Little Free Libraries and property values. I don’t know how tight that (correlation) is, but places that have the highest property values seem to have Little Free Libraries.”

Staff is investigating funding sources for creation and installation of the wooden boxes as well as for an ongoing maintenance, repair and replacement program.

Mr. King said staff will strategically look for locations that are in both well-populated areas and in spots that would be less likely for the library to be vandalized, such as a well-lit area of a park or other public grounds or inside a public building such as a community center.

The Glendale Public Library system would assist in the creation of its smaller sister program, donating any books it could no longer hold to the Little Free Libraries.

“They don’t like to throw anything out,” said Jim Burke, director of Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events. “When they get to the point where books might get to that level (of wear), they’d rather donate them to this and let it be part of it. But it’s not going to be an ongoing donation and replacement. It will just be a little seed money, little seed books, to get started.”

Jim Burke

Mr. Pratcher worked with Southwest Human Development on the box he installed in his neighborhood, a group he suggested as an option for the city to work with on the project. He also suggested Habitat for Humanity as another option. It cost Southwest Human Development $100 to create the box for the library, Mr. Pratcher said. He said he made a donation of $500 to the nonprofit which covered the cost of the labor. It took two hours to install the library, he said.

Mr. Pratcher is a professor at at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the University’s Center for African-American Urban Studies and the Economy in the Department of History who spends half the year in Glendale. He said Little Free Libraries are a great way to promote reading and literacy, especially in neighborhoods where books might not be as common.

“At the very least having a little free library in the neighborhood has put this sort of avenue for literacy in everyone’s path,” Mr. Pratcher said. “And you can see it as kids are walking to the park with their parents or as students are going to school, walking down the street, they can just look real quick and see if there’s anything in there that’s interesting to them. Maybe, maybe not.”

In addition to giving people access to books they might not normally have access to, the libraries allow readers to share some of their favorite books with the community, Mr. Pratcher said, by adding it to the library for others to pick up.

Mr. Pratcher told the commission that the library he helped install near Dos Lagos Park has not had any issues with vandalism nor anyone leaving inappropriate books, such as obscene or pornographic material. There had been no books even really politically charged at that library, he said, but there had been some religious texts left.

The libraries had a way of self-policing any inappropriate material that shouldn’t be there, Mr. Pratcher said.

“Every time someone opens it, if they see something they think is inappropriate, then they kind of have that onus on that to decide whether to remove it or not. I think it does a good job of that,” he said.

The library at Dos Lagos Park is not the only Little Free Library in town. Others include one near Greenbriar Park near 69th Avenue and Bell Road and one at the Velma Teague Library in Murphy Park downtown, installed by Girl Scout Troop 2402 and the Little Free Library organization in 2017.

Girl Scout Troop 2402 poses with Glendale Public Library staff, from left, Janet Loyd, Greg Kinder and Sunny Christofferson in 2017 after the installation of a Little Public Library at Velma Teague Library in Murphy Park in downtown Glendale. [Submitted photo/Isabel Palomino]
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Black Liberation and Community College

So, it’s Black History Month, and it feels time to revisit some ideas from my time at EMCC.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is most famous of the black radical groups that  emerged during the sixties. The Panthers “patrolled the police” to ensure that Oakland PD (which has had a longstanding reputation for odious community-law enforcement relations) did not trample the rights of citizens in their interactions with black residents.

Huey Newton, one of the group founders, left us with an interesting revolutionary ideology. He publicly exercised his 2nd amendment rights and argued  for armed self-defense against state agents who victimized the black community. Maoism (a third-world variation of socialism) influenced the Panthers’ politics and they successfully related civil concerns of Black Americans with the North Vietnamese fighting American imperialism.

Our library was limited, and I did not want to burden students with book expenses, so we used underground resources to learn about the Black Panthers. These sources are no longer accessible, as seen in these dead links below.  This fifteen-minute clip is from “Eyes on the Prize” but PBS blocked it on copyright grounds:

We used a copy of Revolutionary Suicide  from an anti-imperialism website published in American prisons. That being said, it also has been taken down due to copyright.

I leave these dead links here not to disdain intellectual property, but show what barriers make it difficult to teach radical history in marginalized communities. My students were young, colored, or both, so I wanted to impress that the Black Panthers were just like them. I asked my students to focus on the 10-point plan and discuss these ten points in depth and ask questions like: why these issues; why this language; is it feasible, etc? But I also focused on how education played a role in the formation of the Panthers. We used these materials because it was what our community could afford to provide. Similarly, the Panthers created a liberatory praxis with the tools their community could provide. Our ingenuity to learn reflects their ingenuity to develop revolutionary resistance. 


The Short Civil Rights Movement

So, it’s Black History Month, and it feels time to revisit some ideas from my time at EMCC.

This idea comes from a lecture on the “short” civil rights movement, from 1960-1965.

The lynching of Emmett Till, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 helped lay the foundation for the youth sit-in protests which began in 1960. By this time, the three predominant activist Civil Rights organizations were the NAACP (especially with their legal strategy) the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (led by MLK) and the Congress of Racial Equality (a pacifist organization from WWII-period).

In May 1961, CORE initiated the Freedom Rides. The rides tested to see if federal desegregation laws would be enforced in interstate transportation in states where segregation was the local practice. They quickly found out that the answer was NO:

The mixed success of these efforts led to future fruit. SNCC representatives like Bob Moses came to MS and soon were involved in the 1964 Freedom Summer. As northern students volunteered to register black voters, the deaths of three activists in Philadelphia, MS forced a national spotlight on the horrendous political conditions in the south and, along with the 1965 Selma protests, helped create the political capital to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

As for Dr. King and the SCLC, their efforts to force change in Albany, GA floundered when national media could not be attracted to watch the protests. So, in 1963, the “Project C for Confrontation” led to the abuse of child protestors by Police Chief Bull Connor and helped develop the national consciousness for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act are some of the most important pieces of legislation passed in American History. However, almost as soon as this legislation passed, black uprisings in the urban north soured many white moderates on additional Civil Rights legislation. This sentiment could not stop the impending social revolution. But still, the Civil Rights Movement crested at a federal level around this time.

MLK and the Legacy of Black Civic Engagement


“The Civil Rights Act… was not a product of charity of white America for a supine black America, nor was it the result of [their] enlightened leadership. This legislation was written in the streets.”

In March 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made this comment about the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964, often described as the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. We must remember that Black activists organized an interracial “coalition of conscience” to create laws for a more equitable society. On Friday, January 17th the University Club of Phoenix hosted presenters who spoke on Black activism and how it connects us all as we approach Black History Month.

44288156_1577125248498726_rFirstly, the event was preceded with a dedication to the life and legacy of community activist, Tameka Spence, who tragically lost her life in a crash in downtown Phoenix on December 22nd, 2019. The ASU graduate worked for the Arizona Coalition for Change as a black census organizer and was beloved in the community. Rest in power, Tameka.

637039054807700000The first presenter, Rashaad Thomas, father, USAF veteran, poet and essayist, provided rousing poetic musings that honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. His reflections and personal experience helped inspire those in attendance leaving a legacy and with his rhythmic cadence inspired reflection on their past, present and future.


Next, Channel Powe, Balsz School Board President, shared stirring stories of local activism by highlighting the Black impact of civic change throughout Arizona’s history. Additionally, Powe encouraged a persuasive call to action to become a part of progressive leadership by joining local school boards, serving on city council panels and participating in the various Black community events around the Valley.

J.T RoaneThe final presenter, J.T. Roane, Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies at Arizona State, delivered an educational keynote address on environmental activism and urban renewal in the Black community. The focus of rehousing poor and Black displaced people was work continued long after King’s assassination. Organizations such as Mothers for Housing, a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers and MOVE, the esoteric black liberation group that combined revolutionary ideology and work for animal rights, were cited as movements that were designed to take Dr. King’s vision forward. Roane also lead a Q&A after his presentation that received many engaging questions from the group.

“This event was truly eye opening,” shared Robert V., a A.T. Still University student. “I feel like I learned a lot about the Black contribution to Arizona history and activist groups such as MOVE, which I’d never heard of. The speakers make me feel like I want to get more involved in the community.”

This powerful event was well received by the nearly thirty culturally diverse attendees and allowed them to take home pieces of history and perspective to reflect on and share long past Black History Month.

“I thought the presentations were both educational and thought provoking,” stated Jaime B., an IT specialist in Phoenix. “The call to action makes me want to be more personally responsible about my attendance within my community. I want to be an advocate, not just for us, but for everyone.”


Today, this legacy of Black civic engagement is strong in Phoenix. The demand for more events reminiscent of this is one will help foster more introspective gatherings to help shape the future and improve conditions in our Phoenix communities.

Phoenix Black Historical Sites:

George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center

415 E. Grant St.,

Phoenix, AZ 85004

George Washington Carver High School (formerly known as Phoenix Union Colored High School), was a segregated high school in Phoenix, Arizona. The school’s building was the only one ever built exclusively to serve African American high school students in Arizona and is now part of the Phoenix Historic Property Register.

Eastlake Park Community Center

1549 E Jefferson St,

Phoenix, AZ 85034

Eastlake Park has been the focal point of African American history in Phoenix for much of its existence. The park was the home of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration, and has been home to many civil rights rallies, visits from civil right leaders and the starting point of all civil rights marches to the Capital. It is home to the Annual Juneteenth Celebration and the Phoenix Arts Commission Civil Rights Memorial.

Black Theatre Troupe

1333 East Washington Street

Phoenix, AZ 85034

This non-profit Thespian group has been providing soulful entertaining theatre reflecting the African-American experience for over 30 years; Performances take place in the Helen K. Mason Center for the Performing Arts, and have included plays by August Wilson, Pearl Cleage, and Cheryl West encompassing productions like The Old Fiddler, Mahalia and Black Nativity.

African American Multicultural Museum

617A North Scottsdale Road

Scottsdale, Arizona 85257

See exhibits that emphasize the contributions of African American and African cultures to the progress of humanity.

MLK and the Legacy of Black Civic Engagement Event – January 17th, 2020

mlk banner“The Civil Rights Act… was not a product of charity of white America for a supine black America, nor was it the result of [their] enlightened leadership. This legislation was written in the streets.”

In March 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made this comment about the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964, often described as the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. We must remember that Black activists organized an interracial “coalition of conscience” to create laws for a more equitable society.

Today, this legacy of Black civic engagement is strong in Phoenix. Channel Powe, Balsz School Board President, will share stories of local activism. J.t. Roane, Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies at Arizona State, will deliver a keynote address on environmental activism in the Black community. Rashaad Thomas, father, USAF veteran, poet, and essayist, will provide poetic musings for to help us reflect on our past, present, and future.

Join us this Friday, January 17, 2020 from 5:30 pm- 7:30 pm at the University Club of Phoenix, 39 E Monte Vista Rd, Phoenix, Arizona 85004, for this thought provoking, free event. Everyone is welcome! Complimentary appetizers and a cash bar is available. Please R.S.V.P. at 602-254-5408 or