Let us focus on how these can be improved. Of course, education is a key factor in every instance of disenfranchisement. A full 68 percent of people in prison do not hold a high school diploma. The number of black, brown and multi-ethnic men in prison are disproportionate the their representation in our society. It is not because black and brown men commit more crimes than white men; it is because the system disproprotionately arrests these men. Even in school black boys are criminalized and white boys are clinicalized. This information provided by the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Alliance in CT. Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative (SBDI) provides much more information:
1. Black Politics/W hite Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven – by Yohuru Williams, Ph.D. This book was first published in 2006. Yohuru Williams grew up in Bridgeport, CT. He is a professor of history at Fairfield University. Black Politics/White Power - is applicable in 2014
“Yohuru Williams’ study of black politics in New Haven culminating in the arrival of the Panthers argues that the increasing militancy in the black community there was motivated not by abstractions of black cultural integrity but by the continuing frustrations the leadership suffered in its dealings with the city’s white liberal establishment. Black Politics/White Power is an important contribution to a discovery of the complexities of racial politics during the angry late sixties and early seventies.” http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/383177.Black_Politics_White_Power
He is also the editor of A Constant Struggle: African-American History from 1865 to the Present, Documents and Essays (Kendall Hunt, 2002). Learn more about Professor Williams here: http://www.literacysupport.org/williamsyohuru.html
So much of what was written and published about politics in New Haven in the days of the Panthers is still true today and even more so on the national level. In addition to revisiting Black Politics/White Power as it is being applied on a national level, Black people would benefit from being more astute to how the infrastructure of racism and racialized policies are undermining the best efforts of well-intended politicians and committed people who are working at the grassroots level trying to make a meaningful difference.
Reflecting on Black History Month (BHM) in any meaningful and substantial way demands knowledge of that history. It is a vast one and difficult to ascertain except in small chunks. The reason for this is multifold. One easy answer is that the 50 states that make up the USA is factually the history of 50 different countries. While there are vast similarities in many areas (such as exist in most Southern states), there are also distinct differences; this is particularly true in the Northern states. However, when it comes to the history of racial politics, policies and practices there are many more commonalities between the north and the south than are portrayed in the official USA history. Of course, the power of the stakeholders in each state dictates the version of the history that gets told. This is only one of the reasons why well researched, historically accurate, skillfully analyzed and objectively and honestly presented books and historical documents are so important in creating an accurate history.
There are some interesting books published over the years that really inform us. A disproportionate number of these books are about the personal histories of individual Americans. Of course, it is impossible to evaluate those books fully without putting them in the context of the experiences of the authors in America as they experience it. This is particularly true of those who are born, raised and acculturated by American values. Regardless of how one might have conducted one’s self (for great good or great ill), it is virtually impossible to separate the effects of the American value system including which states people have lived in and their life experiences.
There are also important books by white Americans. If we are to really understand how structural racism works at its most effective– we need to read these books. Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise are two of the most impactful white commentators on Race is America. They have been in the forefront for a long time; they are honest and courageous. Some of their books and articles are linked below.
Here are a few books that we think shine a bright light on aspects of the American experience that demand closer attention:
2. Michael Eric Dyson – “Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism” 1993. “This is one of the most important texts in African American cultural criticism. Dyson demonstrates a level of critical engagement and on-the-ground familiarity with Black popular culture that is rarely seen in the academy. This is a must read text for anyone interested in the intersections between cultural studies, African American studies, and religion.”
“Michael Eric Dyson (is) a young black cultural, political and religious critic whose book (Reflecting Black) directs its nastiest commentary at racism, sexism, capitalism and straight-up immorality. “ Robin D.G. Kelley, The Nation
3. Brent Staples – “Parallel Time: Growing up in Black and White.” Published 1994 “A painfully honest account of the conflicts and choices caused by growing up and away from one’s roots. Staples’s book is less an autobiography than a meditation on a universal question: what makes us who we are?” — Entertainment Weekly
“Eloquent and skillfully crafted. . . . Staples’s fresh descriptions have a breathtaking brilliance. . . . He puts flesh and blood on the people who are being signified about during this nasty and cold-hearted period of our history and explores the conditions in depth, bringing insights that only an outsider-insider can see. . . This book is for the 90s what James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time was for the 60s.” — Ishmael Reed
“Poignant . . . rewarding . . . vividly realized. . . . A writer of edifying elegance. . . . Staples reveals a resolutely distinct voice as he negotiates the treacherous shoals of racial identity in American culture.” — The New York Times
4. Nathan McCall – “Makes Me Wanna Holler – A Young Black Man In America” 1995. ”In this “honest and searching look at the perils of growing up a black male in urban America” (San Francisco Chronicle), Washington Post reporter Nathan McCall tells the story of his passage from the street and the prison yard to the newsroom of one of America’s most prestigious papers. “A stirring tale of transformation.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The New Yorker.
“Angry, eloquent, and powerful …a relentlessly honest book filled with pain, truimph, rage and humor, high and low.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
5. Judith H. Katz – White Awareness – Handbook for Anti-Racism Training - Pub. 1978
Synopsis: In White Awareness, “a group training program is presented in which white people work together in a nonthreatening environment to alter deeply ingrained, often unconscious racist attitudes and then embark on a program of behavioral change. The program has been used with measurable success in many settings. It can be adapted to the specific setting and needs of the participants. After an introduction explaining the principles on which the program is based, a detailed step-by-step training format is presented. The six group experiences, called stages, center on the following themes: racism, definitions and inconsistencies; confronting the reality of racism; dealing with feelings; cultural differences; exploring cultural racism, the meaning of whiteness; individual racism; and developing action strategies. Instructions and suggestions for conducting each session are provided, along with recommended readings, lists of materials required, and sources of materials.” Social Work Research and Abstracts.
6. Tim Wise » White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son www.timwise.org/books-and-dvds/white-like-me/ and Dear White America
- Tim Wise At Princeton (With Imani Perry) 2/10/14: Colorblindness and the Myth of Post-Racialism - February 17, 2014
- An eye-opener is “Between Barack and a Hard Place”
7. Peggy McIntosh – White Privilege – Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack – 1980s
In her essay, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” American feminist and activist, Peggy McIntosh, explores the power of white privilege. To prove this power, McIntosh writes out a list of daily effects of white privilege in her life, including never being asked to speak on behalf of all people in a particular racial group, easily renting or purchasing housing, and the ability to swear, dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to race. Once these advantages are acknowledged, however, McIntosh questions what to do with this knowledge. How can people in positions of power dismantle the very systems that empower them? How can we become increasingly aware of our own privilege and the privilege (or lack thereof) of others? How do we transfer power to those who are different than us? These are some of the many questions that McIntosh inspires. ” Center for Civic Reflections
- All of us need to read Peggy McIntosh’s essay, and review some of her work to understand what has been happening in America since the election of Barack Obama.
- Ask ourselves, how many young black men have been murdered by the police, vigilanties, and racists citizens ‘standing their ground?’
- How far have we come since 2008? How many steps have we taken backwards?
- What is the price we will continue to pay (as a total society) unless we roll up our sleeves and seriously tackle the problem of race?
- Where and how do we start? Our Pre-K classes, churches, business places, community organizations and our homes. We need to start with ourselves; question our assumptions.
Visit the SEED website for project information.
- Fast forward to 2014 in New Haven, Connecticut, and to an interesting article in the New Haven Independent that certainly should command the attention of anyone who wishes to understand the most common thread that runs through the American society when we think and talk and act on RACE. Read the article linked below titled: Boys’ Lock-up Rates Hit 10-Year High by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas | Feb 20, 2014 12:13
OneWorld’s Black History Month Honoree for week of Feb. 16, 2014 is Mrs. Elsie Cofield, founder of AIDS Interfaith Network (AIN). Mrs. Cofield and her remarkable organization were on the frontline of advocacy and service for people in New Haven, suffering from AIDS and HIV-related illness from 1987-2012. The benefits of Elsie Cofield’s work will continue to benefit people for generations to come. Her efforts, and those of the many people she inspired to serve made– and will continue to make– a real and positive difference for years to come.
On Saturday, March 8, 2014, family, friends and well-wishers will meet from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at Immanuel Baptist Church, 1324 Chapel Street, NH, CT to extend best wishes to Mrs. Cofield for good health and to help her to celebrate 90 years of life and decades of contributions.
Mrs. Cofield in 2000 Mrs. Cofield in 2013
Elsie Watson was born in North Carolina on March 8, 1924. In 1947 she married Curtis Cofield. Together they parented four children: Curtissa, Renee, Bonnie and Curtis, Jr. In the headline I describe her as: Founder AIN, Educator, Humanitarian & Parent. It is not that her role as parent came last; far from it. She might have given birth to four children; however, she was a parent to dozens if not hundreds. She was never too busy to listen to someone else’s concerns, or to provide guidance, advice and support where needed. Elsie Cofield is patient and kind, and she is generous with her experience and wisdom. Her dedication to the people of New Haven is unparalleled.
She has lived a life of service and commitment as the wife and partner of the Reverend Curtis Cofield, former pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church; they were married for 61 years, until his death in 2008. Their partnership, love, respect, commitment and admiration for each other were very evident and an inspiration to others.
Mrs. Cofield was an elementary school teacher for 31 years; she retired from Dunbar Hill School in Hamden 1987. Before her retirement she had already started a remarkable second career as an advocate for people suffering from HIV and (at that time the frightening disease called) AIDS.
I met Mrs. Cofield in 1983 when, as the Director of Patient Relations, I received complaints from the nurses at a major hospital that she was coming into the hospital and going into patient rooms (without wearing a mask and gloves as was required). During the years (1982 – 1992) AIDS was the most frightening disease around; much more frightening than cancer or any other disease commonly known. It was believed to be highly contagious even with casual contact, and also believed to be airborne. Of course, we have long since learned that these beleifs are false.
Patients diagnosed with the disease were isolated. Outside of their rooms were red bags; anyone entering those rooms were expected to gown-up, and put on face masks and gloves. AIDS was the dreaded plague!
Meals for those patients were left outside until someone could get properly attired to go into their rooms to feed them.
It was an extremely challenging, frightening and stressful time for everyone involved. Some AIDS sufferers had no visitors at all; even family abandoned them. There was such grave stigma associated with having this disease. It was easy to tell –by the red bags and closed doors–who was an AIDS patient.
Into that environment walked Elsie Cofield, teacher, wife of the pastor and super compassionate human being. She came to the hospital daily after school to visit patients who were either members of Immanuel Baptist, or who were the children of members. As their numbers grew she also visited patients she did not know.
She went into the rooms without face mask or gowns. She fed the patients, read to them, prayed with them and comforted them. This disturbed the staff. They were concerned that they would also be expected to do the same.
Mrs. Cofield broke the rules by treating people with AIDS with grace, kindness, smiles and assurance to the staff. As the Director of Patient Relations, they wanted me to have her escorted out of the hospital with a warning not to return unless she complies fully with operating policies. She was pleasant and disarming. I liked and admired her.
She worked tirelessly from 1983 until her retirement (from full-time teaching) in the fall of 1987, when AIDS Interfaith (AIN) was officially born in the basement of Immanuel Baptist Church.
A small group of volunteers got together on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to teach and to learn more about advocating for people with AIDS.
In 1988 she received a grant from the State Dept of Health Services; it was the first of many grants from state and federal resources.
In 1989 AIN acquired its own building and Elsie Cofield’s efforts became an institution. Her work became the standard by which meaningful AIDs advocacy and involvement were judged in many inner-cities across the country.
Elsie Cofield was honored by dozens of organizations, and in the US House of Representatives on Feb. 29, 2000 with the Distinguished Citizens Award. The recommendation was made by HON. ROSA L. DeLAURO and said in part:
“Elsie, as founder of AIDS Interfaith Network, has demonstrated a unique commitment and dedication to the comfort and care of those members of our community living with AIDS and facing the many challenges of this terrible disease.
The mission of AIDS Interfaith Network, Incorporated is threefold: to minister to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families; to carry the messages of HIV/AIDS prevention to every segment of the community; to broaden the base of support for persons living with AIDS or who are HIV positive by teaching the community to provide care that is compassionate and nonjudgmental.”
On May 27, 2000 the former Gill Street off Chapel Street in NH, was renamed Elsie W. Cofield Way.
Recognizing the need, Mrs. Cofield focused her attentions on the inner-city. AIDS Interfaith Network provided a full circle of assistance with social service agencies, support groups, individual counseling, transportation, food and clothing–offering both physical and spiritual comfort. Elsie Cofield’s enthusiasm and passion has improved the quality of life for many residents of New Haven. Beginning with a few volunteers, Elsie built a solid foundation and for 25 years assisted hundreds of families as they face both life and death simultaneously. She travelled the country and provided guidance to hundreds of other organizations who were trying to replicate AIN and what it was doing in New Haven. She also faced many deliberate barriers.
What began as a small, volunteer-staffed program in a church basement flourished into a national working model for church-based AIDS programs. At its height AIDS Interfaith Network had nine full-time and six part-time employees and dozens of volunteers. There are people with the HIV virus walking around in New Haven today 25 – 30 years after diagnosis, and they are alive because of Elsie Cofield’s work. Putting a human face on people with AIDS has been Mrs. Cofield’s enduring philosophy, and it is this personal approach that made the AIN program so successful. It is her love and concern for people and her commitment to human kindness that has made her journey among us such a gift to all who have encountered and benefitted from her kindness. Elsie Cofield is also a gifted poet; she often wrote poems in honor of those she tended. Below is a poem about the devastation of AIDS.
The poem, “Questions, Questions, Questions” by Elsie Cofield addresses the devastation that AIDS can cause but as she does in so many other aspects of her life, she leaves the answers ultimately up to God.
Questions, Questions, Questions
Oh Lord I ask you, is this fair?
I’m looking at him lying there.
10 years old, so very young,
Tales untold, songs unsung.
Mother is lying sick in a hospital room
Little twin sister’s heart is filled with gloom.
Why so much suffering all these years,
Why does grandma live with so many fears?
Why am I chosen to give the family this news?
Lord, please help me, give me some clues.
Black children are dying everywhere
Lord, I ask you, is this fair?
Why AIDS and drugs on every street
Heartache and crying from all I meet?
Youth are looking worried, no eyes aflame
No planning of goals or dreams of fame.
No hope for tomorrow, short lives they see
Lord, this doesn’t seem fair to me!
Who am I to complain, when I don’t understand?
By faith I know it’s all in your hand.11
- Use the HealthTaxCreditTool.org
- Know the: Important Things to Consider Before Signing Up for ACA
- Know the 10 Essential Health Benefits to be included in all health plans as mandated under the Affordable Care Act.
USE HEALTH TAX CREDIT TOOL – YOU MIGHT BE ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCIAL SUBSIDY TO LOWER YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM. Use the tool today; it is free and easy to use.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Consumer Reports have created a free, easy-to-use tool that helps people learn how to lower the cost of health insurance plans offered through the new state marketplaces with the health premium tax credit.”
With recent research funded in part by RWJF showing that nearly two thirds of uninsured adults eligible for subsidies did not know they could receive financial assistance in 2014, consumer experts say the new HealthTaxCreditTool.org is a much-needed resource to help consumers find affordable coverage. OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc encourages those who are uninsured, and those who have individual private insurance to use this tool to determine if you and your family will be better off getting insurance under the ACA. There is no costs involved in using this tool: www.Healthtaxcredittool.org It is available nationwide whether there is a state marketplace or not.
In most states, families of four earning up to $94k annually may be eligible for financial help. Please use the tool linked here to learn if you might be eligible for financial subsidy, and if so, how much. Visit: www.HealthTaxCreditTool.org This tool explains the how the federal subsidies can be applied to pay for your ACA Health Insurance Costs. The tool is free and easy-to-use; it will help people learn how to lower the cost of plans offered through health insurance marketplaces with the premium tax credit. OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc encourages you to try it today. You have nothing to lose. RWJF and Consumer Reports’ Healthtaxcredittool.org Explains New Financial Help Learn more > www.HealthTaxCreditTool.org
Also remember that every health plan offered by private insurers should include the 10 essential benefits spelled out in the Affordable Care Act. If your private insurance plans do not have these benefits you are not getting the basic coverage benefits to which you are entitled. Here are those 10 essential benefits that are to be included in all insurance plans.
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT MANDATES THAT ALL HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS MUST HAVE THESE 10 ESSENTIAL BENEFITS. PLANS THAT EXISTED BEFORE BUT DID NOT HAVE THESE BENEFITS MIGHT HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. THIS IS INTENDED TO BE A PROTECTION FOR CONSUMERS. All plans offered by private health insurance companies and sold through the states or federal marketplace must have these benefits. Learn more at the link below and see the listing of the 10 benefits: http://obamacarefacts.com/benefitsofobamacare.php
All private health insurance plans offered in the Marketplace will offer the same set of essential health benefits. These are services all plans must cover. This is a protection for consumers.
The essential health benefits include at least the following items and services:
- Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
- Emergency services
- Hospitalization (such as surgery)
- Maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born)
- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
- Laboratory services
- Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
- Pediatric services
Essential health benefits are minimum requirements for all plans in the Marketplace. Plans may offer additional coverage. You will see exactly what each plan offers when you compare them side-by-side in the Marketplace.
Learn more about how the Health Insurance Marketplace works, the kinds of plans available, and the four categories of coverage.
For Connecticut residents there are a large number of places where you can get help signing up for the ACA. In Greater New Haven there are 80 certified Assisters spread out by zip code to make it easier for residents to meet with them and get the help needed to sign-up for health insurance coverage. Below are contact information:
Reach Access Health CT – 1-855 – 805 – 4325 / www.AccessHealthCT.Com
Find more information here for Assister & Navigator Program: http://ahctcommunity.org/ Call 860 – 757- 6803
Enrollment Center located at 55 Church Street, New Haven. Walk-in! No appointment needed. Bring necessary documents with you. See 18 mins YouTube video at this link: http://youtu.be/IIKo8DxODGo Help Is Available Signing up for the ACA (for Greater New Haven, CT) 18:00
http://youtu.be/ohRSthu4Hq8 -Implementing the Affordable Care Act in CT. Learn the benefits of the ACA to CT residents
NH Health Dept 203 – 946 – 2227 – 54 Meadow Street, New Haven, CT 06510
- a) Reach NH Maternal & Child Health (MCH) at (203) 946 – 5842
- b) NH Health Dept. provides services to people in New Haven & surrounding towns
- c) MCH connects people to services in other areas & trouble shoots to eliminate problems
- d) Call NH Health Dept, Maternal Child Health at (203) 946 – 8187. This Maternal & Child Health (MCH) program accepts application all year, not only until March 31, 2014 – Visit: http://cityofnewhaven.com/Health/Maternal.asp
**** Community Action Agency, 203 -387 -7700 Ext 193 – 419 Whalley Ave., New Haven, CT 06511. Call, leave your name and phone number. Tell them when is the best time to reach you, and in which language you would like help. Learn more at: www.caanh.net
Important Things to Consider Before Signing Up for ACA
- Who needs coverage in my family?
- Make sure each person is on the application
- Who are our current health care providers?
- What health care services do we currently need?
- If someone is being treated for a pre-existing condition
- Make sure current providers are in your plan network
- Find & decide on alternative providers before signing up – This is important for continuity of care
In Connecticut there are 3 PLANS that provide private coverage through Access Health: Anthem, 2. ConnectiCare, and 3) Healthy CT. In other states there may be more plans; it is important to check to see if your state has its own insurance exchange and private plans, or if residents need to sign up through the Federal exchange. Visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-does-marketplace-health-insurance-cover/
Learn more about OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc. by visiting our YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/oneworldpi/videos – OneWorld’s YouTube
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HONORING LORRAINE VIVIAN HANSBERRY, 3rd Born May 19, 1930 – Died January 12, 1965 Commemorating Black History Month: Lorraine Hansberry – Playwright, Intellectual, Activist. She died at the tender age of 34, but her talents keep giving. This fact fulfills the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King at her funeral: “Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.” They certainly have.
Born in Chicago, she died in New York of Pancreatic Cancer at the tender age of 34 years! Intellectual, playwright, social and political activist, Lorraine Hansberry wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” and was the first black playwright, and the youngest American to win a New York Drama Critics’ Circle award in 1959. She was 29 years old. The play was translated into 35 languages and performed around the world. New Haven was one of its off-Broadway tryouts.
The title of this book, play and movie “A Raisin in the Sun” was taken from lines in a Langston Hughes poem: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” The play portrays the realistic struggles of a working-class African American family wanting to improve their lives.
Lorraine Hansberry’s was born to very successful and educated parents; her father was a successful real estate broker, and her mother was a schoolteacher. The Hanberrys contributed generously to the NAACP and the Urban League. In 1938, the Hansberry family moved to a white neighborhood and was violently attacked by neighbors. Lorraine was only eight years old, but that experience became a focus point in her writing. They refused to move until a court ordered them to do so, and the case made it to the Supreme Court as Hansberry v. Lee, ruling restrictive covenants illegal.
The family paid a harsh price for gaining entry into a white neighborhood and schools. Hansberry broke her family’s tradition of enrolling in Southern black colleges and instead attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. While at school, she changed her major from painting to writing, and after two years decided to drop out and move to New York City.
Lorraine hung out with the smart, intellectual and progressive black people of her day: James Baldwin, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Langston Hughes and Nina Simone, among many others. In 1953 she married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish songwriter; they were divorced in 1964. One can only imagine what it was like for her in the 1950’s and 60’s to be young, gifted, black and (many believed) a lesbian. We wonder how many of our brilliant people could not live their lives fully or realize their full potential because they were homosexual, or thought to be homosexual? Although in many sections of America that is still true today, at least there is a far more progressive attitude, and even a strident one in favor of preventing discrimination against same-sex couples. It has taken women much longer to be out of “the sexual closet.”
“In her letters to The Ladder, written in 1957, Hansberry focused on her own identity, articulating the interrelated social and political struggles of women, lesbians, and African Americans.” She joined the Daughters of Bilitis and separated from her husband; however, they continued to work together. This certainly was a mentally strong woman to have taken these steps in the 1950’s. This would mean that she would now have the triple-whammy of bigotry against her. Many might ask – if she had the fortitude to speak out against such bigotry, why then did she get married? Of course, many people are bi-sexual and are able to function equally well in both worlds. Of course, it is difficult to know why people make certain decisions unless we have walked a mile in their shoe. However, Hansberry’s greatest contributions were based on her talent as a gifted and skilled writer, and as a committed activist for social justice. It behooves us as a society to support people’s strength and dignity as human beings, and recognize and reward their skills and talents.
All of these enrich us as a society, and we derive maximum benefits when we provide a supportive environment in which all people can thrive. No good can come from oppressing and marginalizing people we perceive to be different in ways which hurt no one and allow such people to thrive and affords society the benefits.
Outstanding attributes and accomplishments:
- She was a lover of the arts and she travelled extensively learning and contributing to our society.
- She was acutely aware of the impact of societal issues on the lives of black people and especially those who were poor.
- She was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.
- She served as the editor for Paul Robeson’s progressive black newspaper Freedom.
- Had a keen interest in documenting social inequities, and was consistently active in politics.
- Attended the 1952 Intercontinental Peace Conference in Uruguay
- Taught classes at Harlem’s Frederick Douglass School
In June 1953 she married Robert Nemiroff, a white (Jewish) graduate student and songwriter. This was a thumbed nose to the segregationist laws of the time. Nemiroff was active in antidiscrimination politics. Whether they were in love or not, an African American woman marrying a Jewish man in 1953 was a doubly bold statement of independence and a stand for personal freedom.
“Hansberry wrote the screenplay for the 1961 film adaptation of Raisin In the Sun, winning a Cannes Film Festival Award and a nomination for a Screen Writers Guild Award.”
At NBC’s request in 1960, she produced a screen play about Slavery titled: The Drinking Gourd. The script was described as being “superb” but it was rejected as being too controversial at the time.
The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, a play (was very unpopular at the time) had several performances on Broadway and closed the night she died. Ms. Hansberry also wrote a play titled Les Blancs, a play about Africa; it is one of the unfinished works her husband completed after her death. Her play titled: What Use Are Flowers, has not received much acclaim. In light of 2014 advances, maybe someone will yet revive that play and make it relevant to now.
In 1964, she wrote the SNCC book The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Inscribed on her tombstone is the following passage from the play: The Sign in Sidney Burstein’s Window: “I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care…The why of why we are here is an intrigue for adolescents; the how is what must command the living. Which is why I have lately become an insurgent again.
The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre was incorporated in San Francisco in 1981. It is the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier African-American and multicultural theatre company:
A Raisin in the Sun was the first Broadway play to depict the strength and humanity of an African-American family striving for a piece of the American dream by buying a house in a white working-class neighborhood in Chicago. More than 50 years later, playwright Bruce Norris created Clybourne Park, a sardonic Pulitzer Prize-winning prequel/sequel that takes place in the same Chicago house and revisits the questions of race, real estate and gentrification in America. Inspired by Hansberry’s original and Norris’ follow-up, Kwame Kwei-Armah penned Beneatha’s Place, which follows two of the Raisin characters to Nigeria and its post-colonial struggles.
Baltimore’s acclaimed regional theater Center Stage mounted Clybourne Park and Beneatha’s Place in repertory as The Raisin Cycle, in celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary season. The 60-minute documentary reflects the legacy of Hansberry’s original work and underscores the considerable backstage work that goes into making a performance pairing of this caliber.