“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You no not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.
Originally, WLIB-AM was white-owned with its broadcast studios on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. When former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton formed Inner-City Broadcasting Co., the buzz was how a person on a public servant’s salary could assemble a media conglomerate. The numbers were “fuzzy”.
When I started to make regular appearances on WLIB-AM in the 1970’s, it was located near the United Nations. I saw WLIB-AM as having great potential but the radio station seems to have had a disconnect with the Black community. I would do legal commentary on a talk program on WLIB-AM while I was employed as a poverty lawyer in Harlem.
After my stint with Harlem Assertion of Rights, I would head the NCBL Juvenile Defense Project, an advocacy project sponsored by the National Conference of Black Lawyers. While the National Bar Association was older than NCBL, it had failed to meet the legal needs of the grassroots community.
During the early 1980’s, the news department of WLIB-AM would be community-oriented through the efforts, mostly, of Carl Ferguson and Dr. Joseph Bragg. They were hitting the Black community early and often with direct information. Bragg would hit the sidewalks while Ferguson took care of the store. Ferguson would also commute from Washington, D.C. These men should be honored
During September 1983, police members of the New York City Transit Authority would deliver serious blows to Michael Stewart for kissing a white woman at a Manhattan subway station. He would later die while he was in a coma. I would join attorneys Louis Clayton Jones and Michael Warren in representing the family of Michael Stewart.
We were breathing down on District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to indict the cops. Meanwhile, Dr. Eliot Gross was doctoring the autopsy report. He claimed that Stewart had a “cardiac arrest”. The chief instigator was Mayor Ed Koch. Black ministers and the Black community were also pressuring Morgenthau to indict the cops.
The power of the media was demonstrated by the surprising interest of Gabe Pressman of WNBC-TV. He would not let go of the case. He put a permanent spotlight on Stewart’s death while the district attorney’s office was attempting to get the police officers off the hook.
Censorship would not let municipal authorities escape their responsibilities. This was key to getting a second grand jury to indict the cops. This is a lesson that Blacks should have used in pressing for a second indictment of Dominique Straus-Kahn for raping Nafissatou Diallo.
Peter Noel had lived on the same block in Harlem as the headquarters of NCBL. Noel was a novice in journalism. I took him under my wings so that he could learn journalism and secure employment at the New York Amsterdam News and the Daily Challenge. Later, the City Sun employed him. This would put the Black media in the hunt for reporting the news accurately.
Joseph Bragg would leave WLIB-AM and join WRKS-FM. Ann Tripp, Bob Slade and Bragg would start Week-in-Review in the early 1980’s. This became a popular program. A variety of issues were discussed on Week-in-Reviewincluding Michael Stewart and the 1983 Congressional hearings on police brutality. No one had heard of Judge Bob Pickett and James Mtume with respect to WRKS-FM in the early 1980’s.
On July 11, 1984, while I was an attorney for the Stewart family and also while I was making a court appearance inPeople v. Willie Bosket, I was arrested for allegedly assaulting two court officers. The real reason for the arrest was my representation of the Stewart family and Bosket, a poster child for juvenile murderers.
I knew that Morgenthau was preparing for a kangaroo trial. If I had been convicted, I would have been automatically disbarred. Black lawyers are supposed to be subservient. Whites are unaware of the teachings of Charles Hamilton Houston.
Morgenthau entered into a contract with Judge William Erlbaum for “my head”. If successful, Erlbaum would be released from the doghouse. He had challenged Morgenthau’s legal reasoning. The prize was “my head”. This would be a judicial lynching with Erlbaum pulling the rope.
I had to counter-punch. By this time, Peter Noel had befriended Diane Thompson, a radio host on WLIB-AM. I had to call in some chips. Thompson was asked to cover, in the studios, the upcoming trial of People v. Maddox. It would start in November 1985. Noel would be an intermediary. She agreed.
The media coverage was a success. So was the attendance at the trial. Coverage of the trial also created interest in those listeners’ homes and businesses. This enhanced radio ratings for WLIB-AM. School children also attended the six-week trial.
Despite the prejudicial jury instructions, the jury would practice jury nullification. Erlbaum had directed a verdict of guilty. I was acquitted in December 1985. The assistant district attorney went “nuts” after hearing the jury verdict. His legal career was hanging in the balance.
The next month, the trial of People v. Jonah Perry would commence in Manhattan Supreme Court. The police had murdered his brother, Edmund, and had charged Jonah with robbery. C. Vernon Mason would initially represent Jonah. When the smoke had cleared, I was asked to represent him at trial. The Black community was unwilling to pay for his legal services.
There was national interest in the case. Jonah was a student at Cornell. His brother would be attending either Stanford or Yale in the fall. Initially, the community was fired up over the killing. By taking Black children out of the “hood”, whites wanted to know if they could take the “hood” out of the children.
There was tremendous interest in the case. This would be a litmus test for gifted children from the “hood”. Among others, WLIB-AM and WRKS-FM were in the hunt. The Black media was given juicy tidbits. Community activism not only sells newspapers but it also increases media ratings. The best was yet to be seen and heard, however.
Michael Griffith, Cedric Sandiford and Timothy Grimes had to walk through Howard Beach in December 1986 to get back to Brooklyn. Their car had “conked out”. This was a no-no in New York City as late as 1986. Blacks in New York City had limited mobility. There were all-white zones.
Consequently, Griffith was murdered by a white mob in Howard Beach. Sandiford sustained serious injuries. This incident enraged the Black community. This death demonstrated that certain parts of New York City were still off-limits to Blacks.
After the death of Cong. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a “silver rights” movement had commenced in New York. The Brooklyn leader of this movement would receive “30 pieces of silver” to keep the peace after a racial incident. In return, there would be a pacification program. This movement was hooked up to the “Gang of Four” in Harlem and the NYPD.
There was a lot at stake in Howard Beach. Union leaders were pressured to protect their “minority” members in places like Howard Beach. White supremacists and their “Negro lackeys” had to protect the white vigilantes. These “Negro lackeys” wanted the protests in Howard Beach to fail. This has always been the mission of the “silver rights” movement in New York City.
There was a lot of drama. An unprecedented demand for a special prosecutor was made to Gov. Mario Cuomo. I decided to hold press conferences at WLIB-AM. This gave WLIB-AM free publicity. It also increased the ratings of the radio station. WLIB-AM would also purchase a banner to increase its visibility in the media. WLIB-AM was moving firmly into the “Black”.
The demand for a special prosecutor was successful. This was unprecedented. A special prosecutor is a person who is not connected with government and who has no conflict-of-interest. In the prosecution of a case, there must be no appearance of impropriety.
While Howard Beach was unfolding, the trial of People v. Andre Nichols would start in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Nichols had been accused of murdering a white Catholic priest who was a friend of Mayor Koch. The Catholic Church wanted blood. Despite a video-taped confession by Nichols and his criminal record, Nichols was acquitted. Whites hit the ceiling.
The Marla Hanson case would follow. Two Blacks and a white man were accused of reshaping the face of the model with a razor. There was a tremendous amount of interest in the case. The Black media had as much access to these high-profile cases as the white media. This was of considerable concern to the white media.
This competition gave Noel considerable leverage. Every news media attempted to get a leg up on the competition. Eventually, Noel’s resume would show employment at New York Amsterdam News, Daily Challenge, City Sun, Daily News and the Village Voice. Noel had been given access to the cases of Alton Maddox. These were high-profile cases. He was climbing the corporate ladder.
While the nation was bracing for a jury verdict in the Howard Beach case, six white men, most of them law enforcement agents, had kidnapped and raped fifteen- year-old Tawana Brawley in Dutchess County, New York. This abduction, on November 24, 1987, came at an unfavorable time for white supremacists. Plans were developed to smear Tawana Brawley.
By February 1988, New York was compelled to relieve Dutchess County of its prosecutorial duties in Tawana Brawley. The office had an undisclosed conflict-of-interest. Instead of appointing a special prosecutor, New York chose to appoint Robert Abrams, New York State Attorney General. Florida has now chosen to take New York’s advice in the Trayvon Martin case. Maddox was not biting, however.
New York chose to sell Abrams, as special prosecutor, on WLIB-AM to the Black community. Maddox countered with attorney C. Vernon Mason and Rev. Al Sharpton. Mason had been associated with Maddox for a decade. Both men had been associated with NCBL since the 1970’s.
The “silver rights” movement and law enforcement officials were chasing Sharpton for reasons unassociated with civil rights. Don King was a target. Sharpton needed a forum to enhance his credibility. Without Maddox, Sharpton would have been history. Maddox saved him through Brawley.
Mason and Sharpton had been given an opportunity to debate Gov. Mario Cuomo over the airwaves of WLIB-AM. This was unprecedented. It blew WLIB-AM’s ratings through the roof. A Black radio station was competing with the national media. It was too much for white supremacy. Even Percy Sutton never envisioned this kind of controversy over his airwaves.
The grand jury, led by Abrams, would continue until October 1988. In the meantime, all eyes were on Tawana Brawley. Her ordeal received round-the-clock media attention. Maddox would finger Pagones, an assistant district attorney in Dutchess County, in March 1988. Gov. Cuomo went ballistics. In October 1988, Abrams, rather than the grand jury, wrongfully accused Tawana Brawley of perpetrating a “hoax”.
By November 1988, Steven Pagones with encouragement from the media, state officials and law enforcement officials, would commence a defamation action against Maddox, Mason and Sharpton in Dutchess County Supreme Court. Pagones would refuse to serve Tawana with legal papers. There are no such papers in the court files. Pagones did not want Tawana Brawley in court. She would finger him. The civil jury found against Pagones and for Maddox.
Activism was in the air. New York was in it for the long haul. The Brawleys had fled the state in July 1988 by circumventing a roadblock in New York. They would first arrive in Atlanta for the National Democratic Convention in July 1988. Tawana would graduate from high school in Virginia the following year and she would attend Howard University.
In April 1987, the NYPD not only claimed that Patricia Meili had been raped in Central Park but a Manhattan grand jury indicted the “Central Park 7” for perpetrating crimes against her in Central Park. Blacks took sides. Followers of UAM claimed that the young men had been framed. David Dinkins, who was running for mayor, described the young men as a “wolf pack”. Many Black nationalists joined Dinkins.
Two months later, grand juries in Manhattan and Albany indicted Rev. Al Sharpton for committing grand larceny and income tax violations. UAM charged that New York would use anything to retaliate against Sharpton for defending Tawana. Everyone was gearing for a fight. New York’s plan was to connect Sharpton with Don King and, after his expected conviction, Sharpton would then become a canary in United States v. King. It is called plea-bargaining.
If the “Central Park 7” and the indictment of Rev. Sharpton were not enough, Yusuf Hawkins was the victim of a racially-inspired murder in Bensonhurst in late August 1989. The Black community had reached the boiling point. The Black media was all ears and fingers. The Slave Theater was the magnet for Black activists.
The Democratic primary for the mayor of New York City was the first Tuesday in September 1989. Bill Lynch would call Rev. Sharpton asking for calm. Although Moses Stewart had contacted Rev. Sharpton, Sharpton, nonetheless, informed Bill Lynch that Maddox had the last word. Sharpton would have agreed to no marches in Bensonhurst if Maddox were without the deciding vote.
Lynch wanted no marches. Without saying it, marches in Bensonhurst would hurt Koch’s re-election chances. Within 72 hours after Yusuf’s death, UAM was proceeding to Bensonhurst. When the smoke had cleared that Saturday, Dinkins would become the next mayor of New York City. Whites in Bensonhurst had showed their “butts”.
Neither Dinkins nor Koch had foreseen the racially-motivated death of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst. Dinkins was running as a covert ally of Mayor Koch. This mayoral campaign was a political trick. Dinkins had no intention of becoming mayor of New York City. Mayor Koch had sought to employ Dinkins to further Koch’s political career. In boxing, Dinkins is called a “bum of the month”.
By now, it was clear that UAM had to be broken up. This was not a “silver rights” organization. UAM had become the godfather and godmother of political organizations after it was formed in August 1988 in Brooklyn. True activists were attending the Slave Theater. Before UAM, there had already been a “silver rights” movement in New York. It started in 1972. UAM was seeking to put Blacks in the right lane; that is, civil rights and human rights.
“Open Line” of WRKS-FM was established in September 1989 after the indictment of seven Black and Latino youth for allegedly raping Patricia Meili. No one had any time for music. There was too much action in the streets. The “Central Park 7” was a start-up for “Open Line”.
WRKS-FM was unprepared to grant WLIB-AM a radio monopoly. Activism leads to high, advertising dollars. WRKS-FM had to be in on the action. Judge Bob Pickett and James Mtume would join the fray for WRKS-FM in September 1989. “Open Line” was a beneficiary of the “Central Park 7”. Everyone made money except the “Central Park 7” and Maddox.
The trial of People v. Sharpton commenced in Manhattan in March 1990. The Central Park jogger case would start in June 1990. In the meantime, Maddox was able to get the charges dismissed against Michael Briscoe. Five young men would be convicted after kangaroo trials. The sixth young man pled guilty. Briscoe was the only defendant who walked away from the rape charges.
Maddox was wrongfully disbarred on May 21, 1990. New York had seen enough. In an unusual and unconstitutional manner, the New York Legislature filed a bill of attainder against Maddox. The disbarment order only allowed Maddox to continue his representation of Al Sharpton. A Manhattan jury acquitted Sharpton of all 67 counts on July 2, 1990.
No one mounted an assault on the judiciary in New York for wrongfully disbarring Maddox. This was either out of fear or Blacks were unable to connect the dots. Serious political activism in New York came to a screeching halt. Black lawyers and their activism had preceded any civil rights movement. This wrongful disbarment of Maddox had a chilling effect on Black activism in the legal profession.
Both Dinkins and Percy Sutton had a love-hate relationship with Maddox. Dinkins never intended to be mayor. Sutton enjoyed the profits of Inner City Broadcasting Co. but he despised the notoriety. Wilbert Tatum had become a foe of Percy Sutton. Tatum later gave Maddox carte blanche to write opinions in the New York Amsterdam News. Neither Sutton nor Dinkins sought to win “by any means necessary”.
Percy Sutton was overly concerned about his relationship with the Jewish community. While WLIB-AM could control its invited guests and the subjects they would discuss, the talk shows were unable to control the callers or their subjects of interest. These callers were making life uneasy for radio hosts at WLIB-AM.
Jewish activists like Beth Galinsky were thorns in the sides of WLIB-AM. These activists had become the speech police. They demanded that WLIB-AM pull the plug on these vocal callers. Moreover, WLIB-AM had to withdraw broadcasting from the Apollo Theater. Ultimately, Sutton made a personal appearance on WLIB-AM to deliver a personal threat to Black activists.
The Jewish Alliance had also made a personal appearance at WWRL-AM. Minoo Southgate testified at a deposition that, unlike the radio hosts of WLIB-AM, Donna Wilson and Rev. Del Shields of WWRL-AM found ways to not discourage callers objectionable to its Jewish listeners.
In 1994, Minoo Southgate attempted to gain admission to the Slave Theater in Brooklyn. The keynote speaker that Wednesday evening was Dr. Cornel West. Her admission to the Slave Theater was blocked. She would describe herself as an “Iranian Jew”. In October 1990, UAM had formally voted to exclude whites from its meetings.
Minoo Southgate went to the Giuliani administration to seek an order that UAM should admit whites or it should be forced to close its doors. When Alton Maddox asked UAM membership to finance the litigation, it refused although it still insisted that whites should not gain admission to its weekly forums.
The Giuliani administration sued not only UAM but also Alton Maddox. Although Maddox had been disbarred from the practice of law in 1990, he found a loophole which permitted him to represent UAM. No lawyer had any interest in representing UAM against the interests of Jews. No litigation, with outside counsel, would have been free of cost to UAM members.
Maddox argued in the litigation that UAM’s rights of free associations and free speech under the Frist Amendment would be abridged if whites could select UAM’s speakers or their topics. Jews had a laundry list of unacceptable speakers. Of course, this list could be amended to condemn other, future speakers at UAM forums.
This list included but was not limited to the following: Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef ben-Yochannan, Kwame Ture, Dr. Khallid Muhammad, Dr. Jack Felder and Steve Cokely. These speakers were viewed as threats to Jewish interests and Jewish organizations. These Jewish groups wanted the Slave Theater to become the “slave quarters”.
It is of some interest that the Freedom Party was born at the Slave Theater in 1994. Bob Law and Jitu Weusi refused to make any financial contributions to the Freedom Party. Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Charles Barron even refused to attend any meetings.
The Liberal Party, which was headed by the late Raymond Harding and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, filed objections with New York to the Freedom Party gaining ballot access. Leading Blacks and Black selected officials also opposed the formation of the Freedom Party. Black saboteurs did it in in 1994 and also in 2012. The Democratic Party has a trough. “Pigs” need slop. This is a magnet for Black saboteurs.
Politically, Michael Stewart, Howard Beach, Tawana Brawley, “Central Park 7” and Yusuf Hawkins were building blocks. These cases should have enlightened Blacks about the connection between activism and communications. Frederick Douglass said it best: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. This explains why the United States embraces the notion of “permanent war”.
Information has a developmental process. Gil Noble, for example, analyzed the news. His involvement in journalism heightened our understanding of information. Imhotep Gary Byrd discusses this information with the audience. Joe Bragg reported the information. The groundwork for this process starts with manufacturing. Alton Maddox manufactured this information. This was our wire service.
It goes without saying that “information is power”. Blacks must forever be concerned about the sources of this power. While Blacks may not own a toothpick factory –yet– we must control the manufacturing and distribution of information which is the impetus for proper thinking. A paradigm for this process started in 1974:
Dr. Carter G. Woodson said it best:
“History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.”
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