Monday, January 31, 2011

Museum of African Diaspora Celebrates Black History Month; Features Emmett Till, Freedom Riders Exhibits

Release: The Museum of the African Diaspora
685 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

The Museum of the African Diaspora is uniquely positioned to lead the Bay Area's recognition of Black History Month this February. It's doing so with a culturally rich range of events that offer something for everyone -- from schoolchildren and families to jazz aficionados to former Civil Rights Movement activists who kept their hands on the freedom plow.

During February, the public is invited to meet battle-scarred veterans from the Civil Rights Movement, or trace New O r l ea n s' m u s i cal in f lu e n ce o n Amer i can m u s i c. Guests can learn about Afr i can Amer i can s p ec ul at i ve li terat u r e, drop in for a fam il y hi st o ry w o rks ho p, or to watch the Afr i can Amer i can Quil t in g Guil d create a masterpiece right before their eyes.

To kick off Black History Month, MoAD will host " On e V i s ion , On e Str uggl e, Ma n y Batt l ef i e ld s" Saturday, Februar y 5 from 2 p m to 5 p m. During this historically rich afternoon, visitors will be invited to view the Bay Area premiere of a n ew Amer i can Ex p er i e n ce f il m, " F ree do m R id ers , " directed by Stanley Nelson ("The Murder of Emmett Till," "Jonestown," "Wounded Knee"). The documentary will air on PBS in May 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of the harrowing and often violent Rides that drew attention to Jim Crow discrimination.

American Experience is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston. In addition, guests will enjoy a program of songs from the Civil Rights Movement, plus readings and discussion with contributors to the book, Ha nd s o n t h e F ree do m P low : Pers on al Acc oun ts b y Wo men i n SNCC . Booksignings will follow. Hands on t he F reedom Plow recounts the stories of 52 women from multiple racial backgrounds, who fought on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement as part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The events of February 5 are offered in partnership with the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

Another event in MoAD's A u t ho rs i n C on versat io n ser i es will be held Sat u r d ay, F e b r u ary 26, at 2 p m. Lewis Watts and Elizabeth Pepin will discuss their book, Har l em o f t h e W est: Th e San F ra n c i sco Fill m o re Jazz Era , in which they look at San Francisco's unique jazz history in the Fillmore district during the 1940s and 1950s.

Visitors also may enjoy j az z -re l ated eve n ts, including A Tr ibu te to C h ar li e Parker w i th t h e Jetta Mart i n Da n ce C o m p a n y, Sunday, February 6, 2pm; a film screening and performance, R ob ert M o ses' K in, Saturday, February 12, 2 pm; and Jazz i n t h e G a ll ery with the Berkeley Jazzschool faculty member Jaz Sawyer , Sunday, February 20, 2 pm.

Free to the public with MoAD admission.



The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) showcases the history, art and the cultural richness that resulted from the dispersal of Africans throughout the African Diaspora through innovative and engaging exhibitions, education and public programs. By realizing its mission MoAD connects all people through our shared African heritage. Incorporated in 2002 as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, MoAD opened its doors in 2005 in space contiguous with the St. Regis Hotel and Residences and in the historic Williams Building at 685 Mission Street at Third. MoAD was conceived as a cornerstone of the economic and cultural revitalization of downtown San Francisco and has become an anchor with its neighbors the San Francisco MoMA, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Zeum, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in making this dynamic cultural corridor a premier cultural destination. MoAD receives private and public donations and is supported in part by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency as well as local and national foundations, corporations, businesses, and by its membership and Board of Directors.

M O RE I N FO RMAT IO N | 415.358.7200
Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Wednesday–Saturday: 11:00 am–6:00 pm | Sunday 12:00–5:00 pm | Monday–Tuesday CLOSED

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Emmett Till – Forensic scientists on the case that sparked America's Civil Rights Movement"

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

For more information visit

Forensic Elite to Converge in Chicago at 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Jan. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) 63rd annual scientific meeting will take place February 21-26, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. Themed "Relevant, Reliable and Valid Forensic Science: Eleven Sections – One Academy" by AAFS President Joseph Bono, more than 3,500 national and international scientists will gather to discuss issues facing forensic science and the efforts to embrace global cooperation and consensus building among forensic professionals.

Hundreds of talks will be presented on topics from forensic psychiatry and behavioral sciences to interdisciplinary approaches to forensic science investigations of physical evidence. Workshops and meetings cover the breadth of forensic science and the compelling tasks that rely upon the cooperation of a multidisciplinary range of human, technical, medical, and scientific endeavors applied to civil disputes and criminal investigations.

Highlights include a free public lecture at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 20 at the Chicago Cultural Center. The program, entitled "Emmett Till – Forensic scientists on the case that sparked America's Civil Rights Movement," presents the case that shook the nation in the mid-1950s from a forensic sciences perspective.

From 9-11 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23, an engaging plenary session features world-renowned attorneys Rockne P. Harmon, JD and Peter Neufeld, JD, who will debate the sensitive issues related to the reliability and validity of forensic science and the responsibility of presenting sound, reliable science in an arena that has been challenged as not being scientifically-based. The Academy will conduct a forensic science Student Academy for Chicago-area inner-city charter school students on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

COMPLIMENTARY REGISTRATION FOR JOURNALISTS: Individuals able to document a current direct connection with the news media may receive free registrations at the AAFS Registration Desk, as may journalism students by presenting letterhead- stationary certification that they are attending as part of a class activity. Everyone seeking access to any aspect of the Annual Meeting must be registered. Press attending special functions (e.g., workshops, seminars, luncheons, etc.) are required to pre-register and pay the fees designated by the pre-registration deadline.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences is a multi-disciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. The objectives of the Academy are to promote integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences.

Organized in 1948, AAFS serves a distinguished and diverse membership of 6,000 forensic science professionals who are the focal point for public information when forensic science issues are addressed in the public domain. AAFS publishes the internationally recognized Journal of Forensic Sciences. For more information visit

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SOURCE American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Civil Rights Author Speaks Out on FBI Investigation of Civil Rights Martyrs Murders; Medgar Evers Murder Investigation Reopens?

Civil rights author, Susan Klopfer (Where Rebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited, 2005 ) said she is not "at all surprised" the FBI is taking a second look at the murder of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers. Killed in the summer of 1963 in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi home, "Evers was a beloved man whose murder struck hard on those who worked with him, and on so many others outside of Mississippi who knew of his bravery,” Klopfer said.

The FBI announced Monday it is examining claims by Byron De La Beckwith Jr. of a conspiracy to kill Evers nearly a half century ago. Beckwith’s father was found guilty of the murder in 1994 and later died in prison.

"We're pursuing every avenue that comes up" in connection with killings from the civil rights era, said Tye Breedlove, spokesman for the FBI in Jackson. "We're looking under every stone," Breedlove told Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion Ledger.

Beckwith, in an interview with Mitchell, stated he “might need to get ready for a visit. It won't be the first time they visited me, and it won't be the last."

In 2006, Justice Department officials announced an initiative to look into killings from the civil rights era in which suspects had gone unpunished. Since then, the FBI has examined more than 100 killings, some of which remain under investigation, including the murder of Emmett Till.

The June 12, 1963, assassination of Evers has not been reinvestigated because of the 1994 conviction of Byron De La Beckwith Sr. The former Marine, who received a Purple Heart in World War II, was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2001.

Klopfer said that when researching this murder in 2004, she spoke with several people living in Mississippi, including a prison guard (now deceased) and a waitress “with interesting stories to tell” about Evers’s murder. “It was always whispered around the Delta that others were involved, and that Beckwith may not have even been in Jackson when this assassination took place." Beckwith, at the time, resided in the small Delta town of Greenwood. 

In a recent six-hour interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Beckwith Jr. insisted to Mitchell that his father is innocent and shared purported details about the killing that never emerged in his father's first two trials in 1964 in which the white Citizens' Council raised money to pay for his three attorneys.

“I sincerely hope the FBI will take this new information seriously and that they have more success than with the re-investigation of the murder of Emmett Till, who was also killed in Mississippi. Most of us who know the Till story still wonder why Carolyn Bryant was never called before the grand jury. It’s most likely she was on the scene when Emmett was taken from his uncle’s home.

"So why won’t the investigators demand she finally tell what she knows before she dies?”

Bryant, who now resides in Greenwood, was married at the time of Till's murder to one of the two men found innocent of killing the 14-year-old Chicago school boy in 1955. Both men later confessed to the brutal murder that sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Klopfer researched and wrote two Mississippi civil rights books while living on the grounds of Parchman Penitentiary with her husband, Fred, who at the time worked as the prison’s chief psychologist. She wrote a third book on the topic in 2010.

“Our living at Parchman put me only a few miles away from where young Till was murdered in August of 1955. Some of the people who were living at the time of his and Evers’s later murder seemed eager to tell me what they knew, and several had interesting information to share – stories that were quite different from what had been reported in the news at the time," Klopfer said.

“Many more civil rights era murders need to be put under the FBI microscope, and this includes the murder of Cleve McDowell, a Mississippi lawyer who was killed in 1997. McDowell spent much of his professional life investigating these and other murders. He was mentored by Evers when he first went to college in Jackson and worked for Dr. Martin Luther King after he completed law school. McDowell was raised in the same small town of Drew, near the site of Till's murder, and was the same age as Till. All of McDowell's research papers were destroyed or taken away when a fire broke out in his vacated office, only six months after McDowell was murdered under suspicious circumstances.

"The brutal murders of so many civil rights heroes, including not only Till, Evers and McDowell, but also Birdia Keglar and Adlena Hamlett -- two elderly civil rights advocates from Charleston -- have not been given the attention they deserve," Klopfer said.

"Maybe this new information coming from Beckwith's son will make a difference. I hope so. These important civil rights stories must be told. These heroes must not be forgotten."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Violence Isn't Limited to Arizona, and Mental Health Laws Must Change, Says Civil Rights Author

Susan Klopfer
Author, Who Killed Emmett Till?

As a researcher and author of several civil rights books, I would like to comment on the violent Tucson killing of a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge, the wounding of a congresswoman and killing of others.

I fear that our lack of available mental health services for many people who need help, along with the increasingly violent political rhetoric, will lead to more of these incidences. Violent acts committed by people like this young man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, are clearly on the rise -- at a time when some politicians are calling for the repeal of public health care and mental health care services, and at a time when they and their supporters believe it is okay to encourage violence ("second amendment remedies") on websites and in public.

Prisons are expensive solutions and are not the best answer for an educated society. We need to consider several changes, including more mental health training for everyone. Too many people seem to be very unsure as to what to do when they run into mental health issues or even how to recognize the signs of mental illness. There is too much ignorance about mental health even among journalists, teachers, politicians, ministers and others who should know better. I did notice the community college handled this young man appropriately and so did the military. The school recommended mental health assessment because that's all they could do, and the military took note of his drug use and didn’t allow him to join.

Current mental health laws often make it hard to involuntarily commit a seriously mentally ill person, even if their behavior is quite dangerous. Typically, if such people are committed, treatment in most states only lasts about five days and then the patient is released and given some medicine that he or she would probably not take. Such a person often ends up being very angry upon release, ending up in jail. There needs to be required follow-through counseling, covered by insurance or public assistance. It is going to take better understanding of mental illness, changes in laws and a lot more money for our safety.

I certainly hope that mental health issues will become part of the national discussion that must take place following this horrific shooting. Surely those who continue to oppose health coverage for all need to step back and realize that part of health care services are mental health services. Can we really afford to cut out health and mental care? Can we continue to allow people to verbally target our leaders, and suggest "second amendment remedies" when they disagree? Can we really afford to use expensive prisons in place of mental health care? I don't think so. And neither should you.