Am Les

2 comments

By Kenneth Moore Jr. (January 8, 2015)

Last Saturday I had the opportAm Les Collageunity to see the movie SELMA following the limited release of the film on Christmas Day in the Washington D.C metro area. SELMA, which opens nationwide tomorrow, recounts the historic struggle of the march from Selma Alabama to the state’s capital of Montgomery 50 years ago to protest the denial of full unencumbered voting rights for Black Americans. On March 7th 1965 the nearly 600 peaceful protesters who gathered to conduct the voting rights march were met by Alabama State Troopers and Police on top of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The protesters didn’t get very far on that day, as they were beaten back to town with nightsticks, whips and tear gas on a day known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The film masterfully, portrays the dogged determination and steadfast leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to pass the Voting Right Act of 1965 in the wake of  “Bloody Sunday”, while also focusing on some lesser known icons of this civil rights battle such as Annie Lee Cooper, Amelia Boynton, James Orange, James Bevel, Jonn Lewis, Bayard Rustin, Hosea Williams and Fred Gray. As an avid film enthusiast, I am proud to see that the film’s director, Ava DuVernay was recognized for this extraordinary work with a nomination for the prestigious Golden Globe Award, becoming the first African American woman to be so honored.

Although, as I watched the images re-enacted in the film SELMA, it reminded me of the continual struggle for freedom by a people, my people from slavery and beyond – who have repeatedly proclaimed “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around” And when you turn the word “SELMA” around you arrive at the concept of “Am Les” that is at the heart of the struggle for human dignity and self-determination which has been waged for centuries. It is essentially, a proposition which suggests that the African-American, Black, Negro, Coloured individual should look in the mirror and internalize the notion that “I AM LESS!”

 

This concept is not new and unfortunately it still resonates in the hearts and minds of many in this country who believe that some citizens are less than others in America. In 1787, the concept was enshrined in the U.S. constitution when Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia accepted James Madison’s plan for determining a state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Known as the “Three-Fifths” compromise, it allowed a state to count three fifths of each enslaved Black person in determining political representation in the House of Representatives. The “Three-Fifths” compromise clearly reflected the strength of the pro-slavery forces at the convention; where the northerners regarded slaves as property that should not be counted for representation and the southerners insisted that slaves be counted. With this compromise, the institution of slavery in America was given new political life and the compromise would go unchallenged for nearly 70 years until an inquisition occurred during the Dred Scott case in 1856.

 

When I look in the mirror, however, and see reflections of the centuries of tireless struggle and progress, the manifestation of the hopes and aspirations of proud people emerges and I can’t help but question: How can it be that I am less?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

In 1770, I was shot and killed during the “Boston Massacre” becoming the first hero of the American Revolutionary war?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

Born into slavery, I escaped and subsequently made about thirteen missions to free enslaved family and friends using a network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I freed myself, my crew and their families from slavery by commandeering a Confederate transport ship and persuade President Lincoln to accept Black soldiers into the Union Army?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

As a scientist, I researched and development hundreds of products such as cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline and nitroglycerine from peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I became the first self-made female millionaire in the 20th century in America and the first female billionaire in the 21st century?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I declared my rights as a human being on this earth intent on bring these rights into existence by any means necessary?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I came from the slums of Brooklyn, then the Ivy League to become the 1st African American woman elected to congress and the 1st woman to seek the Democratic Nomination for President?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

My “gifted hands” were the first to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I authored great American literary works such as “Giovanni’s Room”, “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, “The Fire Next Time” and stated that “ignorance allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy JUSTICE can have?

 

How can it be that I “AM LeS” when:

I am the current President of the United States of America!!!!

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men (and women) are created equal” only has power when all of us regardless of our backgrounds and heritages personally, forcefully and vociferously reject the notion that you or “I Am Les.”

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

2 thoughts on “Am Les”