- Created on 17 October 2013
Maude Ballou, who served as the personal secretary for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., from 1955 to 1960, sits in the background while her son Howard, displays the handwritten message King wrote to his mother in a copy of his book "Stride Toward Freedom," Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 in Ridgeland, Miss. While Ballou is keeping this book, she is planning to sell documents and other items related to the civil rights icon through an auction house in New York on Oct. 17. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis)
NEW YORK (AP) — Papers from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., including a page from his "I Have a Dream" speech, were being auctioned in New York on Thursday.
The papers were being sold by Maude Ballou, 88, who worked as King's secretary from 1955 to 1960, through the New York office of Texas-based Heritage Auctions.
Some of the more than 100 items are so unusual that it's difficult to put a value on them, said Sandra Palomino, director of historical manuscripts for Heritage Auctions.
"We're really relying on letting the market decide what the value is going to be," Palomino said.
The materials include a handwritten letter King sent to Ballou while touring India in 1959 to learn more about Mahatma Gandhi's campaign of nonviolent resistance.
Another item is a typed final page of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, according to the auction house. The page was sent to Ballou on Jan. 31, 1968, weeks before King was assassinated, by Lillie Hunter, bookkeeper for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
King's estate sued the secretary's son, Howard Ballou, in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., in 2011 in a bid to take possession of the items. U.S. District Judge Tom Lee dismissed the lawsuit in March, saying there was nothing to contradict Maude Ballou's testimony that King gave her the material and that the statute of limitations had passed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the decision based on the statute of limitations.
King's estate, operated as a private company by his children, is known to fight for control of the King brand. Harry Belafonte sued the estate this week in Manhattan federal court over the fate of three documents he tried to sell at auction.
Ballou, of Ridgeland, Miss., told The Associated Press last month that selling her collection was bittersweet. She said a portion of the proceeds would be used to establish an education fund at Alabama State University.
- Created on 16 October 2013
A huge electronic billboard outside of a Kendallville, Ind., shopping mall displayed the brazen depiction of President Barack Obama sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache, followed by the words, "IMPEACH OBAMA." Even though the display was taken down Tuesday, there are folks who are still fuming over why it was displayed to begin with, reports WANE-TV.
The billboard, which was located in a town 20 miles outside of Fort Wayne, ignited a nasty backlash from angry folks on the internet. Reportedly, locals felt that the President was unfairly compared to the iron-fisted Nazi ruler who extinguished the lives of millions based on race and sexual orientation. Kendallville's mayor Suzanne Handshoe lamented to WANE-TV, "All the hard work we put forward as a community to change our image; to be a positive, growing community, and then a sign like this appears. It just undoes everything we've been doing."
The billboard was reportedly funded by the LaRouche Political Action Committee, a group of political activists who seem to believe that the Obama administration is a fascist regime. The group is also actively seeking to get the president impeached, among other outlandish actions. The followers are steadfast in their quest to get the word out about the controversial views of former presidential candidate Lydon LaRouche, who by the way, reportedly supported the two-day stunt.
LaRouche Political Action Committee members, who also believe Obama is helping to ignite a Third World War, were reportedly in town for a conference and purchased the billboard space in order to make their presence known.
- Created on 16 October 2013
(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — Supermodel Iman didn't plan on becoming a prominent voice for black models and entrepreneurs, but since it happened that way, she'll use the pulpit she's been given.
She hopes her 13-year-old daughter is listening.
Being a good mother and wife (to David Bowie, no less) is a priority. Her businesses come next. But she'll always have an interest in fashion, the runway, photographers — even the next It bag.
Last month, Iman, veteran modeling agent Bethann Hardison and fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell launched the Balance Diversity campaign, which included open letters to organizers of fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan that called out designers whose catwalks were almost entirely white. Later this week, she receives the BRAG Legacy Award for promoting "diversity from a retail point of view." (BRAG is a nonprofit organization that prepares and educates professionals, entrepreneurs and students of color for executive leadership in retail, fashion and related industries.)
Iman said she's seen progress on the catwalk during the most recent round of fashion shows, adding that some players in the industry had said they didn't realize what was happening.
"Someone had to say it," she said. "It's sort of like with my daughter when I have to scold her. She's not a bad girl, but did a bad thing."
In a recent interview, Iman talked about taking a stand for diversity, the modeling world and her plans for the future.
AP: Why take a stand now?
Iman: My dearest and closest friend Bethann called and said, 'You wouldn't believe it! There are less black models on the runway than when you stopped doing it in 1989.' Now, I haven't seen a fashion show in years, but I do see online what I'd wear. But I wasn't aware that so many black models weren't working, and I was so disheartened that young models were being told by casting agents, 'Designers are saying they don't need to see black models this season because it doesn't fit their aesthetic.' You have to think of this through a 13-year-old's eyes, and I don't want her to be discouraged.
AP: Your recent professional life has focused more on developing your makeup brand and designing for HSN. Would you like to take on a larger role in the modeling world?
Iman: I have got a 13-year-old. I have my hands full. I can't be a full-time mentor, so I won't be hanging my name outside a modeling agency anymore. ... But I do want a diverse world.
AP: Did you expect to become a spokeswoman for the next-generation model?
Iman: I didn't expect longevity ESPECIALLY as a model. I thought it would last two years, and I started in 1975. I didn't even know if I'd be relevant now.
AP: What's been your secret?
Iman: What I've built it all on — and I'm at 58 now — is that I don't try to keep up with the Joneses. I try to be consistent. People want to change their images at the drop of the hat. They always say 'newness.' But I've always built my business (on the idea) that I don't want to go with the flow — I want to create the flow.
AP: What comes next?
Iman: What's next — I have absolutely no idea. Whatever I create ... it has to be authentic. I have to do something that's truly me. It's not about my ego or my name. Product is king — or queen, for that matter.
Follow AP fashion coverage and Samantha Critchell on Twitter at @AP_Fashion and @Sam_Critchell
- Created on 14 October 2013
In this Sept. 27, 2013 photo, Dominican actresses Clara Morel, left, and Luz Bautista Matos, of the theater group "Arbol Maravilloso," or "Wonderful Tree," pose for a photo after their performance for school children in Moca, Dominican Republic. Their theater group has visited schools across the country to spread the word among black children that their features and heritage should be a source of pride. (AP Photo / Manuel Diaz)
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — In a school auditorium filled with laughing students, actresses Luz Bautista Matos and Clara Morel threw themselves into acting out a fairy tale complete with a princess, a hero and acts of derring-do.
Morel had wrapped a white plastic sheet around her multi-colored blouse, while Bautista donned a brown paper bag over her blue tights. The two black actresses wore their hair free and natural, decorated only with single pink flowers.
"Yes, you're a princess," said Bautista to Morel, who fretted that she didn't look like a traditional princess with her dark complexion and hair. Bautista then turned to a young girl sitting in the front row, who shared the same African-descended features as both actresses. "And you too," Morel said as the child smiled back at her.
The theater group Wonderful Tree has visited schools all over Santo Domingo and some in the countryside to spread the word among black children that their features and heritage should be a source of pride. That message, though simple, has been nothing less than startling in this Caribbean country, where 80 percent of people are classified as mulattos, meaning they have mixed black-white ancestry, but where many still consider being labeled black an offense.
Wonderful Tree represents a larger cultural movement that's working to combat the country's historic bias through arts and education. The Dominican choreographer Awilda Polanco runs a contemporary dance company that's trying to rescue Afro-Caribbean traditions, while the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo has been training primary school teachers to respect and celebrate their students' African heritage, including with skits that young children can more easily understand.
It's a bid to transform a color-obsessed society where a majority of the country's 10 million people choose to identify themselves as "Indio" — or "Indian" — on government documents despite their black roots, and many reject afros in favor of closely cropped hair or sleek blowouts. Public schools for decades even prohibited students from attending classes with their hair loose or in a natural frizz.
Such hair, in fact, is called "bad hair" in the local Spanish lexicon while straightened hair is "good hair."
The Dominican population "has tried to disconnect itself from its African roots to the point where they've constituted a community that's mostly mixed" but calls itself "indios," wrote historian Frank Moya Ponsin in the prologue of the book "Good Hair, Bad Hair."
In her school presentations, Morel flaunts her own natural looks as a point of pride. At one point in the play, Morel clutches a mask featuring straight black hair only to pull it away and reveal her dark brown kinky curls.
"This should be a source of pride because your color, your skin, your hair is an inheritance," Morel told the children at the Albergue Educativo Infantil school in the town of Moca. "It's the legacy of your parents, it's the legacy of your grandparents."
Morel said students have long been bullied and even attacked for their hair, while public schools have re-enforced the prejudice by cracking down on children sporting natural African hair, defending the measures as prevention against lice outbreaks.
"If it was only a health issue, it'd be fine, but children think there's something bad about their features," Morel said.
Maria Cosme, a Santo Domingo housewife, recalled the day she sent her young daughter to school with loose curly hair and a ribbon around her head. Teachers quickly tied up her daughter's hair and warned it should remain that way if she wanted to attend classes, Cosme recalled.
"It's a matter of racism, but also protocol," said Cosme, who has straightened her daughter's hair since age 4. She is now 7 years old.
Elizabeth Veloz, a graphic designer who always wore her hair natural, said the human resources director of her former company criticized her hair shortly before she was fired.
"He told me that curly hair is not proper hair, that it's beach hair," she said. "But the worst part is that he's black, like me, and he cuts his hair really short because it's kinky."
Not everyone sees the hair issue in racial terms.
Hair stylist Yoly Reyes said she's been relaxing her hair since she was 15.
"I am black and that will not change if I straighten my hair. But I think I look prettier with straight hair," she said. "When have you ever seen (President Barack) Obama's wife with kinky hair? I don't think she straightens it to stop being black."
Women in the Dominican Republic spend an estimated 12 percent of their household budgets on hair salons and treatments, according to "Good Hair, Bad Hair," which included an economic and anthropological study of Dominican beauty salons.
Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who oversaw the killing of some 17,000 Haitians in 1937 in an effort to expel them from the Dominican Republic, was himself a mulatto who used makeup to make his face lighter.
Trujillo was the first to include the term "Indio" in official documents, said historian Emilio Cordero Michel.
Yet U.N. officials noted in a 2013 report that "Indian" identifiers don't accurately reflect the country's ethnicity and expressed concern about the country's denial of racism. The government's migration director, Jose Ricardo Taveras, has repeated such denials, insisting any racism is isolated.
It's a claim that many reject, including Desiree del Rosario, coordinator of the Center for Gender Studies who runs the technological institute's teacher training program.
Del Rosario said the country's racism was tied to its troubled relationship with neighboring Haiti, where the population is darker-complexioned and where African culture holds a prominent place in society. Del Rosario summed up the common Dominican mentality as "The Haitians are black, and we, white."
For Bautista and Morel, however, change is coming one child at a time. After one typically spirited, even goofy show, a dark-complexioned boy with his hair shaved close to his scalp approached Morel.
"I want to be part of your group," the boy told the two women. "I want to be an Afro-descendent."