Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Deacons for Defense and Justice

On July 10, 1964, a group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the group known as The Deacons for Defense and Justice to protect members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) against Ku Klux Klan violence. Most of the “Deacons” were veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The Jonesboro chapter organized its first affiliate chapter in nearby Bogalusa, Louisiana led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. Eventually they organized a third chapter in Louisiana. The Deacons tense confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was crucial in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the local African American community. The national attention they garnered also persuaded state and national officials to initiate efforts to neutralize the Klan in that area of the Deep South.

The Deacons emerged as one of the first visible self-defense forces in the South and as such represented a new face of the civil rights movement. Traditional civil rights organizations remained silent on them or repudiated their activities. They were effective however in providing protection for local African Americans who sought to register to vote and for white and black civil rights workers in the area. The Deacons, for example, provided security for the 1966 March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi. Moreover their presence in Southeastern Louisiana meant that the Klan would no longer be able to intimidate and terrorize local African Americans without challenge.

The strategy and methods that the Deacons employed attracted the attention and concern of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which authorized an investigation into the group’s activities. The investigation stalled, however, when more influential black power organizations such as US and the Black Panther Party emerged after the 1965 Watts Riot. With public attention, and the attention of the FBI focused elsewhere, the Deacons lost most of their notoriety and slowly declined in influence. By 1968 they were all but extinct. In 2003 the activities of the Deacons was the subject of a 2003, “Deacons for Defense.”

Robert Hicks, Leader in Armed Rights Group, Dies at 81

Someone had called to say the Ku Klux Klan was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. The police said there was nothing they could do. It was the night of Feb. 1, 1965, in Bogalusa, La.

Associated Press
Robert Hicks in 1965, the year of a sit-in by blacks at a cafe in Bogalusa, La., where he lived.
The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights workers in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made some phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and they reached out to friends for protection. Soon, armed black men materialized. Nothing happened.

Less than three weeks later, the leaders of a secretive, paramilitary organization of blacks called the Deacons for Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa. It had been formed in Jonesboro, La., in 1964 mainly to protect unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klan. After listening to the Deacons, Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter, recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests.

Mr. Hicks died of cancer at his home in Bogalusa on April 13 at the age of 81, his wife said. He was one of the last surviving Deacon leaders.

But his role in the civil rights movement went beyond armed defense in a corner of the Jim Crow South. He led daily protests month after month in Bogalusa — then a town of 23,000, of whom 9,000 were black — to demand rights guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And he filed suits that integrated schools and businesses, reformed hiring practices at the mill and put the local police under a federal judge’s control.

It was his leadership role with the Deacons that drew widest note, however. The Deacons, who grew to have chapters in more than two dozen Southern communities, veered sharply from the nonviolence preached by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They carried guns, with the mission to protect against white aggression, citing the Second Amendment.

And they used them. A Bogalusa Deacon pulled a pistol in broad daylight during a protest march in 1965 and put two bullets into a white man who had attacked him with his fists. The man survived. A month earlier, the first black deputy sheriff in the county had been assassinated by whites.

When James Farmer, national director of the human rights group the Congress of Racial Equality, joined protests in Bogalusa, one of the most virulent Klan redoubts, armed Deacons provided security.

Dr. King publicly denounced the Deacons’ “aggressive violence.” And Mr. Farmer, in an interview with Ebony magazine in 1965, said that some people likened the Deacons to the K.K.K. But Mr. Farmer also pointed out that the Deacons did not lynch people or burn down houses. In a 1965 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he spoke of CORE and the Deacons as “a partnership of brothers.”

The Deacons’ turf was hardscrabble Southern towns where Klansmen and law officers aligned against civil rights campaigners. “The Klan did not like being shot at,” said Lance Hill, author of “The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement”(2004).

In July 1965, escalating hostilities between the Deacons and the Klan in Bogalusa provoked the federal government to use Reconstruction-era laws to order local police departments to protect civil rights workers. It was the first time the laws were used in the modern civil rights era, Mr. Hill said.

Adam Fairclough, in his book “Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972” (1995), wrote that Bogalusa became “a major test of the federal government’s determination to put muscle into the Civil Rights Act in the teeth of violent resistance from recalcitrant whites.”

Mr. Hicks was repeatedly jailed for protesting. He watched as his 15-year-old son was bitten by a police dog. The Klan displayed a coffin with his name on it beside a burning cross. He persisted, his wife said, for one reason: “It was something that needed to be done.”

Robert Hicks was born in Mississippi on Feb. 20, 1929. His father, Quitman, drove oxen to harvest trees for the paper mill. He played football on a state championship high school team and later for the semi-professional Bogalusa Bushmen.

He was known for his generosity: at the Baptist congregation where he was a deacon, he bought new suits for poor members. As the first black supervisor at the mill, he helped a young man amass enough overtime to buy the big car he dreamed of. Children all over town called him Dad, his son Charles said.

A leader in the local N.A.A.C.P. and his segregated union, Mr. Hicks was the logical choice to head the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League when it was formed to lead the local civil rights effort. He was first president, then vice president of the Deacons in Bogalusa.

Besides Valeria Hicks, his wife of 62 years, and his son Charles, Mr. Hicks is survived by three other sons, Gregory, Robert Lawrence and Darryl; his daughter, Barbara Hicks Collins; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By 1968, the Deacons had pretty much vanished. In time they were “hardly a footnote in most books on the civil rights movement,” Mr. Hill said. He attributed this to a “mythology” that the rights movement was always nonviolent.

Mrs. Hicks said she was glad it was not.

“I became very proud of black men,” she said. “They didn’t bow down and scratch their heads. They stood up like men.”


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Live Without a Cell Phone

How to Live Without a Cell Phone

Why would anyone ditch their cell phone?
We see more advertisements in one year than people of fifty years ago encountered in their entire lifetime.

In 1971, the average American saw 560 advertisements per day.

Today, we see around 3,000 advertisements per day. What’s more, we now encounter around 5,000 distractions by constantly checking messages from phones, emails, IM’s, wall posts, tweets and more.

This is a massive increase; an increase that is not healthy–and yet, we’re still adding more and more distractions to our lives. We’re now adding iPhones, iPad’s, iPods and anything else to drive our dopamine-driven lives.

The human mind has 60,000 thoughts per day. In 1971, distractions controlled about 1% of our minds; today, advertisements and distractions control 13.33% of our minds. With distraction, and multitasking, your pre-frontal lobe falls into a sleepy, deteriorating state. As your distractions increase, your intelligence, focus and mood decreases.

In an effort to extricate myself from this growing trend, I decided to give up my cell phone.

What living without a cell phone feels like
Whenever you go on a relaxing vacation to a tropical destination, the first couple of days are a struggle–a struggle because there’s typically no cell phone service or internet. It’s odd, and almost unbearable. After the initial withdrawal from the digital world, life feels great. Life feels peaceful. There’s no phone, or distraction that enables you to stop what you’re doing and shift your focus.When you’re waiting in line, you’re not burying yourself into the digital cesspool or app store, you’re forced to interact with your surrounding environment. You suddenly become aware of everything around you.

This is how I live my life every single day. I duplicate the environment one typically experiences when on vacation. I do this in order to become a more focused, action-oriented person. I also do this in order to better enjoy life.

You can travel the world and live a nomad lifestyle; however, if you’ve still got an iPhone or clients buzzing at you constantly, you’ve escaped nothing. You’re just asking for attention.

You can live in New York City without a cell phone and gain more peace-of-mind than you could if you were in Argentina with an iPhone and needy clients barking at you.

My experience thus far
In a prior chapter I discuss my decision to ditch my cell phone. It’s been about a half-year since I’ve ditched my cell phone, and it’s been both wonderful, and weird. You have to learn to react differently in simple situations. It’s like writing with your left hand. At first it feels weird, but over time it expands your mind and increases focus. As discussed in the concept of flow, this type of activity significantly stretches your mind.

If you want to add both peace and challenge back to your life, ditch your cell phone.

For an example on the challenge, I was meeting up with my family at a hotel. I got to the building where they were staying, and suddenly it hit me–I had no idea what room they were in. In front of me sat about 14 rooms. And I had no cell phone. In the past, I’d simply make a quick call or text to figure it out.

Now, in front of me sat not 14 rooms, but 14 possibilities. So what did I do? I knocked on all 14 doors, and told 13 people, “Sorry, wrong room.” It was fun. It was simple. It got the job done. But this type of activity definitely takes a commitment. It’s not easy. At all.

Pro’s to a cell phone-free life:

More productive
Better peace of mind
Allows you to focus on what’s really important; not get distracted with tweets and noise
Sense of humor (when in a stressful situation, you laugh because of the path you’ve decided to take. You take a joyous approach to life)
Con’s to a cell phone-free life:

Prevents simple fixes (like the quick communication above)
Can be dangerous if you don’t have it with you all the time
Can be ineffective if not leveraged right
10 Tips for Giving Up Your Cell Phone
1. Have a replaceable object
For a year and a half an iPhone always sat in my left pocket. After ditching my phone, it felt weird. It felt as if I was missing something. Obviously, I was. So instead of simply abandoning a device in my left pocket, I rotate different objects in there as needed: business cards, an iPod Shuffle (for audiobooks), notepad, note-cards or whatever’s needed at that time. Even though the feeling of forgetting something is all in my mind, having a replaceable object allows me to act as if I’m not missing a cell phone.

2. Have an emergency phone
Much like a fire extinguisher sits in a case, and is cracked open only upon emergency, so too is the nature of your emergency phone. It’s dangerous to not have a way of contacting anyone in case of emergency (i.e. car accident, car breakdown, etc.) For this reason, I recommend purchasing an a la cart phone plan from Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile. Activate it, and leave it in your car turned off. If there’s an emergency, call with it.

3. Brace yourself
You’re going to encounter situations where you really need your cell phone to the point where it pisses you off. After a while, though, stressful situations will become humorous. Stressful situations without a cell phone teaches you to have a profound level of patience and trust. For instance, if you’re meeting someone at a restaurant, and they’re late, you just have to trust that they’re on their way. With my wife, we’ve established an unspoken trust that we’ll show up. And whenever we meet up, we meet up. We stick to our word of where we’ll meet, and trust that the other shows up. It’s a lot more peaceful this way.

4. Have a system in place.
If you’re really going to ditch your cell phone, don’t go into it blindly. Map out a system that actually works–a system that allows you to free yourself from the cell phone’s distractions.

My system:

When at work, I use my work phone for work related items
When on the road, I have an emergency cell phone (that sits in my car)
When at home, I use Skype or the house phone
Most people use their cell phones throughout all of those stages outlined above. They’re constantly racking up bills. Most people now reason that there’s no need for a house phone, or work phone. When you’ve got your cell phone, you can use it anytime, anywhere and now, for anything.

When you ditch your cell phone, you make a decision to compartmentalize your life. Additionally, you can leverage Google voice to catch your messages, transcribe them, and allow you to determine what needs to get done with that. Google voice (get a google voice account that emails you who called you, so that you can call them back on a work phone or a house phone whenever you’re ready to make the call). Use google voice to send text messages from your computer to their phones.

5. What about your friends?
It’s hilarious watching people’s reactions when you tell them you don’t have a cell phone–especially when you’re in the tech industry like myself. People exclaim, “What? How? Why?”

We’ve grown so reliant on cell phones that it’s somehow unthinkable to not have a cell phone.

They ask, “What about your friends? Do you just abandon your relationships?”

Obviously, ditching your cell phone bars your friends from having constant, immediate and never-ending access to you. However, when you ditch your cell phone, you’re not ditching your friends. You’re simply compartmentalizing your life and setting boundaries. You’re setting yourself up for a time where you can pay the attention that friends deserve–focused attention; not attention while multitasking.

When transitioning to a cell phone-free lifestyle, I recommend getting an account with Google Voice. Here’s the process I underwent:

Set up an account with Google Voice
Set up a cell phone message that explains your recent decision to ditch your cell phone. Here’s mine: “In order to become a more focused and productive person, I’ve decided to forego all inbound calls; however, leave your name, number, and a sweet little message, and I’ll get back to you at the appropriate time.” (Obviously, you can term it however you want).
Google Voice then transcribes your cell phone and emails you their message
Email your contact or call them back via your house or work phone when you have the time that your friend deserves
Even better, set up a time for you guys to meet up in person
This will ensure a transition that isn’t ineffective and one that doesn’t simply block calls. Plus it prevents you from needing to create a Facebook group explaining your transition. That annoys everyone, anyways.

6. Call everyone back
Just because you’ve ditched your cell phone doesn’t mean you forgo the responsibility of calling people back. Because Google Voice allows you to receive voice mails via email, I recommend chunking your phone calls into one-time windows scattered throughout the day. This likens itself to email batching (email batching is a topic I’ll be covering later).

7. The secretary syndrome
If you have a wife, tread carefully when ditching your cell phone. Try not to make her feel like a secretary. Don’t do what I did. I was selling something on Craigslist and I gave them my wife’s phone number. She was pissed. She felt like a secretary. Additionally, my parents called her to get a hold of me; that’s not a very sustainable system.

For your parents or people that will actually call your significant other to get to you, make sure they understand your new system.

8. Meet up with people in person
If you’re making a business deal, or meeting someone and they’re local, don’t half ass it through an email or even a cell phone call. I’ve gotten about four deals done in the past month because we met up in person, it allows you describe ideas, map out ideas in person and get things done. If you want to be more efficient, as well as effective, I recommend meeting up in person. Tweeting and IM chatting will only get you so far in business. Even if you work in the web realm like myself.

9. Offline activities
Replace cell phone activities with mind-expanding activities. If your habit centered on making calls on your commute to work, replace this with a book on tape or audio CD. You can even get entire courses on tape–for free–for more information check out my chapter on hacking education.

10. Baby steps
Obviously this chapter is going to humor some, but most aren’t going to take action and actually ditch their cell phone. It’s still ingrained in our minds that it’s unthinkable–and for some, due to their work nature, it is unthinkable. What I suggest is at least experimenting by giving up their cell phone for a day or two. Or, if you have an iPhone, ditch the dataplan and try your hardest to use it as simply a phone. Try some experiments with your communication devices in order to become aware of how ditching your cell phone can result in nowness and awareness.