Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lift Him Up!

I've always been an aviation buff. Since I was a kid, I've been able to visually name most types of civil (passenger) and military aircraft from around the world, but I never transformed that love of aircraft into a passion for flight itself. That's why I'm glad there are young men like Barrington Irving around.

Mr. Irving just completed a solo, round-the-world airplane flight. He's the youngest to ever do so, and the first Black. His itinerary brought him to Houston yesterday, and his trip concluded in Miami today. Why did he do it? Well according to the website of his nonprofit organization, he was motivated to attempt the journey because of;

"...the hopelessness and negative influences in my community! I was born in Kingston, Jamaica but have lived in inner-city Miami since I was 6 years old. When I was a teenager, there was little incentive for me or my classmates to get off the streets and pursue real careers. And the situation hasn't improved: in the neighborhoods between my home and high school, more than 24 kids under the age of 21 were murdered by other kids under 21 in the past year alone. I believe part of the reason for this is the lack of hope inner-city youth see for their futures—I want to show them they can do more with their lives than resort to violence! I'm also motivated to show the few people who doubted what I could do that anything is possible—they said I was too young and had no money, but that hasn't stopped me."

No doubt. When he couldn't find a sponsor willing to donate, lend, or lease him an aircraft for the journey, he;

"...went to manufacturers of the individual components such as the engine, cockpit system, seats, tires, and so forth. The plane, a Columbia 400, was manufactured by Columbia Aircraft in Bend, Oregon using donated parts from Teledyne Continental Motors, Avidyne, Kelly Aerospace, Precise Flight, S-TEC, Oregon Aero, Goodyear, and Seamech."

Impressed yet? Well, as I said earlier, he's also formed a non profit organization to

" encourage youth to pursue careers in aviation. The industry itself faces a shortage of qualified personnel for at least the next 10 years, and these youth have the potential to fill those jobs. They just need to know how and where they can get the necessary training, and more important, they need to believe they have the potential to succeed.

His plane is named Inspiration, and you can view his flightpath here, or go here to read his blog of the trip.

Inspiration indeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Juneteenth, or Know Your History (And Their's Too)

It's Juneteenth again; time to celebrate the culmination of the centuries long struggle our people underwent against the slaveholding system that the American nation was pretty much built upon.

Taking inspiration from some of the brilliant writing I've been reading lately in the Afrospear/Afrosphere, and noting the fact that my ancestors here in Texas were the last group of American slaves to hear of the Emancipation Proclamation, I've taken the liberty to draft this abrogated history of my home state and it's pivotal role in OUR history.

Now, I'm a native Texan. What that means is that I was born in the state and have lived here for a good portion of my life. It also means that I attended the public schools here, which means that I am well versed in at least what is called Texas history. You've all probably heard some of it: Rugged pioneers immigrated in to claim free land offered by the Mexican government (which possessed Texas at the time). Said Mexican government begins to infringe on the rights of the aforementioned settlers, who began a fight for independence. That fight led to the establishment of Texas as an independent nation in April 1836, and later joining the United States in 1845.

The two major battles that illustrate the Texas War of Independence took place at the Alamo in San Antonio, and San Jacinto, near present-day Houston. The Texians (as they called themselves) were defeated at the Alamo, although you would never be able to tell from the historical embossments and myriad theatrical retellings of that 13-day siege that ended up with everyone inside dead. The second battle was at San Jacinto a few days later, where the main Texian army under Gen. Sam Houston caught the Mexican Army by surprise and routed them in a matter of minutes, leading to Texas independence. Legend has it that the presence of a Black woman in the tent of the Mexican Army commander (and President) Gen. Santa Anna, the so-called "Yellow Rose of Texas," was a major reason why the Mexican Army was not exactly on high alert at the time of Houston's attack. The Yellow Rose was one Emily West, and you can read more about her here.

Ms. West's role notwithstanding, the Battle of San Jacinto signified a major shift in the balance of power on the North American continent. Within 15 years, the United States had taken possession of nearly half of all Mexican territory. This was accomplished after a devastating war during which the United States invaded to secure Texas' right to be annexed, and to establish its southern border at the Rio Grande River. The resulting peace treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded all Mexican claims to Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Think about that for a minute. Before the Mexican-American War, Mexico and the United States were about the same size, and had approximately the same number of people. Afterwards, well, you know the rest. Here's a visual.

The great untold truth in regard to Texas independence, and later annexation, is the role of slavery. In fact, slavery had been abolished by most of the former Spanish colonies upon independence, and in Mexico specifically by 1829. After multiple legislative sessions focusing on the slavery question, The Mexican Congress issued a decree on July 13, 1824 that;

...left no room for doubt as to the attitude of that body towards at least one phase of the slavery question. It prohibited the slave trade, domestic and foreign, in the most positive terms. Infractions of the law were to be punished with the greatest severity: any vessel engaged in this traffic, which brought slaves to Mexico, was to be confiscated with its cargo; and the owner, purchaser, captain, master and pilot were to be condemned to a year's imprisonment. Slaves brought into the country by such trade recovered their freedom the moment they touched Mexican soil.

The decree made no provisions for the removal of slaves already in bondage, and allowed an extension of penalties for six months in favor of those colonists who might wish to land slaves in the recently created province of Itsmo (Texas and Coahuila). These slavery debates in the Mexican Congress, as well as the lobbying efforts of Americans settling the Mexican territory of Texas are a fascinating study in themselves. However, despite it's intent with the decree of 1822, the Mexican government;

...while all buoyant with the hopes born of the Revolution and moved by theories of the equality and brotherhood of man, authorized the introduction of negro slavery into one of its fairest provinces, while it deluded itself with the belief that it was providing for the almost immediate extermination of the abhorred institution.

Most of the settlers who came to Texas were from slaveholding southern states. These people were not interested in settling a new territory unless provisions were made for their slaves as well, and were willing to fight to maintain that right. This led to a prolonged discourse within the Mexican Congress that persisted through multiple changes of government, coups, and finally, revolution. I could go on, but the end result dramatically altered the balance of power on the North American continent, and helped to solidify the institution of slavery in Texas until Union Gordon Granger landed at Galveston in 1865 with news of the two-year old Emancipation Proclamation and our right to henceforth and forever annually barbecue chicken and ribs in commemoration.

Happy Juneteenth Y'all!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

That fine looking gentlemen is my Daddy, holding my baby girl (when she really was a baby girl). I lost him quite a few years back, a few months after this picture was taken as a matter of fact; but not before he transferred a lifetime of wisdom to my brothers and I, most of the time without us even knowing it was going on.

This man grew up in segregated east Texas but went on to serve this country honorably during World War II as a Red Ball Express driver in both the North African and European Theater of Operations, facing more racism and disdain from his fellow American soldiers than from the Germans they were all over there to fight.

Coming home, he settled back in east Texas and worked for city government before starting his own business hauling trash, on which he raised a family of six kids.. The business grew to hundreds of customers, and exists to this day run by my cousin. There's a lot more I can tell but I won't here. Suffice it to say, I miss my Daddy and wish I could get the chance to talk with him a few more times now that I have a little more sense in my head.

Happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

R.I. P. Steve Gilliard

I didn't know Steve at all but I feel his loss deeply. His The News Blog was one of my go-to sites when searching for news analysis from an African-American's perspective, and that analysis always provided insight and thoughtful details that have been missing from the corporate media for years. In fact, I linked to an old post of his regarding military logistics in Iraq just yesterday.

Steve, you will definitely be missed. Our prayers and condolences to the family.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Oops, There Goes Another One.

Yet another bridge destroyed in Baghdad.

Iraqi police say insurgents have destroyed a major bridge that connects the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, with the northern cities of Kirkuk and Arbil. They say the insurgents used explosives to destroy the Sarha Bridge, near the town of Tuz Khurmato on the Chinchal River, 150 kilometres north of Baghdad. The blast severely damaged the bridge, forcing motorists into detours and traffic jams.

Several bridges have been targeted in Iraq, most notably the popular Sarafiya Bridge which was destroyed in April in a truck bombing that sent large sections of the steel structure crashing into the Tigris River in central Baghdad.

To me, it's starting to look more and more like the insurgents are working towards cutting off American forces in the city from their supply routes in order to force a decisive, Dien Bien Phu type battle. Steve Gilliard posted a detailed analysis of the supply chain situation back in February. Definitely worth another look. And for a closer look at how the military supply chain in Iraq works, here's an article from August 2005 that was also linked from Gilliard's original post. Key points:

Iraq’s roads are critical ground. The country’s network of railroad lines are not functional, mainly because of old infrastructure and a successful intimidation campaign against the families of the Iraqi civilians who run the trains, according to Chambers. “Reinvestment would not be worth it at this time,” he added, “but it’s something we may do in the future.” That left the roads, and weeklong convoy missions, as the way U.S. and coalition forces were kept in operation.

The route from south to north runs through the “Sunni triangle,” where insurgent attacks on truck convoys are daily, dangerous occurrences. Insurgents were clearly targeting the coalition supply line, but U.S. military officials did not believe their enemy had the acumen or organization to sever it. They were proven wrong in early April 2004.

The tactic described by Chambers was simple: “They went after our bridges.”