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Influenza Pandemic of 1918 Parallels Today’s COVID-19 Global Crisis



Spanish Flu-1918a (US National Archives) 165-WW-269B-019-1

[The worst pandemic of the century killed more than half a million Americans and some 20 million people worldwide]

With all the hoopla about COVID-19 being a hoax even after so many thousands of people have died from the virus, I’d like to share this story written by Michigan historian and author, Larry B. Massie. It was in 1918 – 102 years ago – that millions of lives were lost. Just as it was then, so it still is today, there is no known nor proven vaccine. The best we can do right now is cooperate as best we can with the directives given by our civic leaders, using common sense to weather this season of widespread disease. It’s not about constitutional rights, but rather, making humane decisions to help stem the tide.

Authorized for reprint: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Larry B. Massie:

[At first it was a joke – a funny sounding foreign word. Vaudeville comedians across the country quipped:

I had a little bird named Enza
I opened the window and in-flu-enza!

That was in the late summer of 1918. Then in September, influenza leaped across the ocean from the western front to the Atlantic seaboard, and the newspaper headlines began marking the death toll. The laughter stopped.

Transmitted in March 1918 to Europe from China, where it had raged since 1910, the viral disease raced through the armies embroiled in World War 1. The Germans called it Blitzkatarrh. The Allied forces named it the Spanish influenza because of a particularly virulent outbreak in Spain.

Its symptoms included fever and chills, sinus infections, pneumonia and encephalitis. Three distinct types emerged: (1) a very severe form with phenomenally rapid development and a fatal end within 36 to 48 hours; (2) a moderately severe onset with lung complications of a mild type, generally followed by easy recovery; (3) a mild beginning and quick improvement followed, however, after a few days, by a sudden rise in temperature and very serious results. The disease proved particularly fatal to pregnant women, children under two years old and, strangely, those between 20 and 40 years of age, who were slaughtered by the millions.

In America it hit like a biological bombshell. By the end of 1918 at least 46 states were affected and ultimately one out of every four citizens feel ill. During mid-October, New York City reported 4000 new cases and 250 deaths each day.

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Spanish Flu-1918 (US National Archives) 165-WW-269B-019-1

An emergency hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts (Photo: US National Archives)

Particularly hard-hit were army training camps. The death toll among U.S. armed forces surpassed 50,000, more than were killed in battle during the entire World War 1.

The plague reached Michigan at the end of September. On October 1st, 13 cases from southern Michigan had been reported to the Michigan Department of Health. The following day, 121 cases were reported, 90 of them from Jackson County. During the next three weeks, Jackson County continued to report more cases than any other Michigan county. Within that time, however, the disease struck practically every county in both peninsulas.

People began wearing face masks in public places. Authorities in Lansing advised against licking postage stamps and envelope flaps because of the dangers of infections. With no vaccine available, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a circular which, among other suggestions, advised people to breathe through their nose instead of their mouth.

The number of cases and the death toll continued to soar. By October 18th nearly 2,000 new cases were being reported daily. On that date, Dr. R.M. Olin, commissioner of the Michigan Department of Health, issued an order closing churches, dance halls, pool rooms and all places of amusement and prohibiting public funerals or public gatherings of any kind.

The ban, in conjunction with mounting numbers of sick athletes and coaches, brought the cancellation of collegiate football schedules across the nation, including Western State Normal School (now Western Michigan University), Kalamazoo College, the University of Michigan and Notre Dame. As a result, the NCAA ruled the 1918 season not a factor in eligibility. Some players, such as Laurium, Michigan native George Gipp, immortalized by Ronald Reagan in the classic film, “Knute Rockne – All American,” were allowed to play five seasons on the college gridiron, instead of four.

Despite Michigan’s ban, the toll continued to climb, reaching its peak on October 23rd when more than 4,200 new cases were reported across the peninsulas. Finally, the number of cases began to drop, and on November 7th the state lifted the ban on public gatherings.

In the meantime, Michigan’s hospitals struggled to keep up with the patient load that clogged every room including hallways. The lack of available beds brought on by the epidemic motivated Detroit’s Harper Hospital to change from an open to a closed Hospital, thereby no longer admitting patients of doctors not on its staff. Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids overflowed with influenza cases, and even the student nurses found themselves working seven days a week, giving tepid sponge baths to patients and repeatedly changing perspiration-soaked bedding.

Borgess Hospital, which had dedicated its new facility on Gull Road the year before, faced its greatest crisis since it opened as Kalamazoo’s first hospital in 1889. The epidemic struck the nearby Nazareth community in early October. Thirty sisters fell ill as did scores of students at the two schools there.

The epidemic raced through the Student Army Training Corps candidates at Western State Normal School who had been crowded into a hastily-erected drafty barracks at the foot of Oakland Avenue. The Sisters of St. Joseph promptly placed the new hospital at the disposal of health officials who allocated an entire floor to the Western student sufferers. Every available sister in Kalamazoo reported for duty at the hospital.

With Bronson Hospital also overflowing with influenza victims, on October 17th, the city health board opened an emergency hospital in the West South Street mansion of Althea Everard. During the following month, 79 patients were treated there.

Battle Creek faced a similar situation. In mid-October, the city leased the Richard Kingman dwelling on East Main Street to accommodate the overflow of patients from Nichols Hospital.

Particularly hard-hit was nearby Camp Custer, which had opened as a training cantonment for drafted army troops the previous year. Poorly housed in crowded quarters, soldiers at Camp Custer began dropping like flies. The camp surgeon ordered each soldiers’ bunk draped with mosquito netting and personnel to sleep in alternate positions of head to toe so as not to breathe on each other. Each trainee had his throat sprayed twice a day. Those primitive precautions brought little relief; 10,000 men at the camp contracted the disease – 663 died in October alone. By the year’s end 841 soldiers had succumbed.

Many decades later, the children of Ernest L. Ferris, a Kalamazoo drayman, told stories of how their father was hired to cart corpses from the camp – at night so the public did not panic at the extent of the calamity.

As the year wore on the epidemic continued to rage across Michigan and the nation. December 31, 1918, saw nearly 2,000 new cases reported. Gradually, during the winter of 1919, the fury of the disease abated, although a less severe outbreak occurred the following winter. Michigan’s final tally for the months of October, November and December 1918 documented 116,302 cases of influenza reported with 6,336 deaths. Another three to four thousand died from pneumonia as a secondary infection brought on by the influenza.

Rare was the American family unaffected by the viral holocaust. The worst pandemic of the century killed more than half a million Americans and some 20 million people worldwide.]

Side Note: Larry’s wife, Priscilla Hagerman Massie’s family was directly affected by the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Her Grandmother, Jewel Macarty Hagerman grew up in a large Irish family in Calumet, Michigan. When the 1918 Pandemic came to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan it wiped out all six of her brothers and sisters, along with her parents. Jewel, was of course devastated, just 18 years old and decided to start a new life in Flint, Michigan.

Email Larry Massie at: [email protected]; Larry Buford at: [email protected]

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New York Film Festival 58 Has Upped its Game



Lover's Rock
Time family

The Time family (credit: Amazon Studios)

*Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) has upped its game and offers relevant films in this pandemic period at the 58th New York Film Festival (NYFF58) running until October 11.

Director of Programming Dennis Lim says, “Movies are neither made nor experienced in a vacuum, and while the works in our program predate the current moment of crisis, it’s striking to me just how many of them resonate with our unsettled present, or represent a means of transcending it.”

This year’s Main Slate showcases films from 19 different countries, including new titles from renowned auteurs. Frederick Wiseman explores  behind the scenes of the Boston city government in “City Hall;” indictments of America’s racist past and present in Sam Pollard’s “MLK/FBI” and Garrett Bradley’s “Time, dealing with the crisis of Black mass incarceration in America”

HELL YES! We’re Here for This: A Rick James Mini-series (‘Brother’s Keeper’) is in Development

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Scene from “Tragic Jungle.” (credit” Malacoser Cine)

Steve McQueen not only has the Opening Night selection “Lovers Rock,” but “Mangrove;” and “Red, White and Blue.” The Centerpiece is Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” and Azazel Jacobs’s “French Exit” will close the festival

Also of note are  “Night of the Kings,” “Tragic Jungle,” “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” “Hopper/Welles,” “The Human Voice,” “The Monopoly of Violence,” “On the Rocks,” “The Inheritance,” and “Ouvertures.”

Small Axe - Lovers Rock

Scene from “Lovers Rock.” (credit: Amazon Studios)

Included in the lineup also are “The Revolution Will Be Filmed,” “The Artist, the Athlete, and the Revolutionary,” “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” “Muhammad Ali, the Greatest,” and “Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris.”

The 58th New York Film Festival (NYFF58) runs until October 11.

For more information:   Twitter: @thefilmstrip


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She the People on Trump’s Supreme Court Pick: Amy Coney Barrett: ‘She is A Detriment to Our Democracy’



Amy Coney Barrett1 (Wikimedia Commons) 1600726510915

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, in response to news that President Donald Trump selected Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court of the United States, Aimee Allison, Founder of She the People, released the following statement:

“Today’s news is devastating. Judge Amy Coney Barrett in no way fills the immense void Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left on our highest court. She is favored among Trump-loyal conservatives, and her judicial record makes it clear she would be solidly opposed to abortion rights and inclined, even eager, to reverse Roe v. Wade, and the Affordable Care Act.

“If confirmed, right-wing judicial activist Barrett would reshape the law and society for generations to come. She is a detriment to our democracy.

“We want a Supreme Court that is independent and fair. We need a nominee who will provide checks and balances to the other branches, in particular the executive branch. We will fight for that Court. Our nation is reeling from a global pandemic. We are fighting against state-sanctioned violence and unjust policing, which disproportionately harms Black and brown communities. Trump is incapable of picking a nominee who would provide equal justice under law, and the nomination of Coney Barrett confirms this.

“Under no circumstances should the Senate consider a replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after inauguration.The people need to decide.“





Jacqueline Lara
Aprill Turner
[email protected]

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The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Kentucky AG Is Not Fit For the Fight




The good news is the city of Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Breonna Taylor’s family. It’s the largest wrongful death payment ever against the Louisville Metro Police Department. Taylor’s family and loved ones deserve it! Nobody would argue that after learning about how and why she was killed. Yet, the civil case award could be bad news for the criminal case. Keep reading to understand how.

She was killed in March 2020. Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel J. Cameron appointed himself special prosecutor back in June. Since then he claims to have been conducting a thorough investigation. Instead he stalled the case.

Ninety-nine percent of us know the story. For the one percent who don’t know here’s a recap: Louisville police lied to a judge to get approval for a no-knock warrant at Taylor’s residence. Taylor was not the target of the warrant. The person who was the target – her ex boyfriend – already had been arrested across town. But these bully, liar, killer cops showed up at Taylor’s residence anyway and broke down the door.

Police claimed they announced themselves as cops. Neighbors said they didn’t. Some of those neighbors and Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker who was at home with her, called police about the break-in. Walker shot at the people coming through the door. He’s licensed to carry a weapon and used it to legally defend himself and Taylor. Police unloaded a barrage of bullets into the apartment on the way in shooting Taylor. One of the cops stationed outside blindly shot into Taylor’s apartment. Some of his bullets were found in neighboring apartments where other innocent people could have died. Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder of police – who didn’t announce themselves. Nobody offered Taylor medical assistance that might have saved her life. And that’s why Taylor’s family deserves the settlement money.

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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

But there’s more to the story that makes Taylor’s murder even more egregious. Taylor’s boyfriend called her mom before he was arrested. When Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, showed up at the scene she was given the runaround about where her daughter was. Police sent her to a hospital telling her Breonna was there, knowing she wasn’t. After an hour, Palmer came back to the scene and that’s when police asked her about any domestic violence issues between her Breonna and her boyfriend. They tried to get her to make a statement that could later be used to blame Walker for Breonna’s death!

Of the officers involved in Taylor’s murder and subsequent cover-up none of them has been charged with a crime. Only one of them – the one who stood outside and blindly shot into her apartment – has been fired. The others are still getting paid for the legalized genocide of Black people. We should demand the system to dish out fair punishment to bully, liar, killer cops the same as it does for everyone else.

That’s where Attorney General Cameron should have stepped in. The aforementioned details are enough evidence for charges already to have been filed. Any other attorney general with a backbone would have done so already. Dan Cameron has no backbone. He’s afraid to bring charges against police, because they helped get him elected. He thanked the Fraternal Order of Police in his acceptance speech when he was elected to the AG position last year. The FOP has Cameron in their back pocket. They own him!

For three months Cameron claimed he had been conducting a thorough investigation of Taylor’s case. It was a stall tactic. He had hoped he could take control of the investigation and never file charges against the police involved. But then George Floyd’s modern-day lynching video sparked world-wide protests and brought attention to Taylor’s case.

That’s when Cameron realized the case wouldn’t go away because all eyes are on Louisville! Even though Taylor’s family deserves the $12 million settlement, the civil case could compromise the criminal case.

Typically the criminal case is decided first. The civil case is decided later. Since the money already has been awarded the grand jury might not feel obligated to indict Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Det. Myles Cosgrove or now fired officer Brett Hankinson. Criminal justice is different than civil justice. We want both

Even though they are not supposed to act on emotion when it comes to the law, the grand jury might feel as if criminal indictments against police and civil justice is too much justice for one case! Also, the attorney general can sway the grand jury’s decision based on how and what evidence he presents. It doesn’t look good for criminal prosecution. I know it and people in Louisville know it. That’s why federal buildings in the city have been boarded up and are closed for business this week in anticipation of what’s to come.

Daniel Cameron is not fit for the fight we as Black people in America are engaged in against bully, liar, killer cops! He claimed to be for law and order, but when it comes to holding crooked cops accountable, he doesn’t have the guts for it. He’s not fit to be attorney general.

Steffanie Rivers - screenshot

Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with comments, questions or speaking inquiries. Friend her on  Follow her on Twitter @tcbstef and on Instagram @tcbstef


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