Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King …

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday in the United States to honour one of the greatest men who ever lived in this country.  I first wrote this tribute to Dr. King in 2017, and each year I reprise it, with slight changes or minor additions, for I find that it still says exactly what I wish to say.  Given the increase in racism in the United States in recent years, I think the above quote seems more apt today than ever before.  So please, take just a minute to, if nothing else, listen once again to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  In these troubled times, it is good to be reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.  More than ever, I wish we had a few Dr. Martin Luther Kings fighting for equality and justice for all today.


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” 

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

mlk-3Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 93 years old last Wednesday, had he lived. On this day, we celebrate not only his life, but also his legacy. Martin Luther King Day celebrates not only Dr. King, but the movement he inspired and all those who helped move forward the notion of equal rights for ALL people, all those who worked tirelessly during the civil rights era of the 1960s, as well as those who are continuing the good fight even in this, the year 2022.  Dr. King’s fight lives on, for we have moved further away than before from his dream.

Dr. King, along with President John F. Kennedy, was the most moving speaker I have ever heard.  To this day, I cannot listen to his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech without tears filling my eyes.  If you haven’t heard it for a while, take a few minutes to watch/listen … I promise it will be worth your time.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, more than five decades ago.  Today we should remember some of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, those who worked tirelessly, some who gave their lives, that we could all live in peace and harmony someday: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Roy Innes, Medgar Evers, Stepen Bantu Biko, Booker T. Washington, John Lewis, Percy Julian, Marcus Garvey, Desmond Tutu, E.D. Nixon, James Meredith, and so many more.  I am willing to bet there are some on this list of whom you’ve never heard, or perhaps recognize the name but not the accomplishments. If you’re interested, you can find brief biographies of each of these and more at Biography.com .

Yet, while we celebrate the achievements of Dr. King and the others, there is still much to be done. Just look around you, read the news each day. Think about these statistics:

  • More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families
  • Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession
  • For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents
  • Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions
  • Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates
  • The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman
  • Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man
  • Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children

Data courtesy of the Brookings Institute – for charts and supporting details of above date, please click on link. 

And of course the above data does not even touch upon the recent spate of hate crimes, racial profiling, and police shootings against African-Americans.  There is still much of Dr. King’s work to be accomplished. But who is left to do this work?  Most of the leaders of yore are long since gone. There are still noble and courageous people out there carrying on the programs and works of Dr. King and the others, but their voices are perhaps not as loud, and there are none so charismatic as the late Dr. King.

In the current environment of racial divisiveness, we need more than ever to carry on what Dr. King only started. Instead, the past several years have found our nation backtracking on civil and human rights in a number of areas, ranging from discriminatory travel bans against Muslims to turning a federal blind eye to intentionally racially discriminatory state voter-suppression schemes, to opposing protections for transgender people, to parents demanding a re-write of our history to salve their own consciences.  I think Dr. King would be appalled if he returned to visit today.

In a speech on April 12th, 1850, then-Senator and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis said:

“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes, but by white men for white men.” [1]

That was wrong then, it is wrong today, and it will always be wrong.  That is what Dr. Martin Luther King fought against, that is what I rail and sometimes rant against, that is why we need activists and groups dedicated to fighting for equality for all people … today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here is a bit of trivia you may not know about Dr. King …

  • King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
    The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

  • King entered college at the age of 15.
    King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.


  • King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
    Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, King was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.


  • King was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
    According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.


  • King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
    On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.


  • King’s mother was also slain by a bullet.
    On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.

Dr. King fought and ultimately gave his life for the values I believe in, the values that should define this nation, though they often do not.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a hero of his time … thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, for the values you gave this nation, and for the hope you instilled in us all that your dream will someday come true.

[1] (Kendi, 2016)   stamped

Note:  Our friend TokyoSand has written a post with ideas for how each of us can help carry on Dr. King’s legacy … I hope you’ll pay her a visit!

“They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” — R.I.P. Sidney Poitier

It was less than a week ago that I shed a tear over the death of the beloved Betty White, and today I shed yet another upon reading of the death of another Hollywood icon, one who broke the colour barrier on the ‘big screen’, Sidney Poitier.  Mr. Poitier was 94 … not quite as old as Betty White who died just a few days short of her 100th birthday, but like White, he had a long and meaningful career … he made a difference.  How many of us can say that?

Sidney Poitier (r) with Nelson Mandela

A bit about Mr. Poitier’s start in life from today’s Washington Post

Sidney Poitier was born on Feb. 20, 1927, in Miami, where his parents were on a visit to sell tomatoes they had grown on their farm in the Bahamas. The family soon returned home, to the desperate poverty of Cat Island. His mother dressed the seven Poitier children in flour sacks.

At 15, after being jailed overnight for stealing corn, he was sent to live with an older brother in Miami who could provide a roof but little else. After the frightening encounter with police in Florida, he left for Harlem, hoping to find a more welcoming environment for Black people.

At first, he scrounged for change to sleep in pay toilets. When it became too cold to sleep on benches, he lied about his age (he was 16) and joined the Army in 1943.

He became a physiotherapist at an Army psychiatric institution on Long Island, but his anger at what he called the “abusive” attitude toward the patients and the racism he encountered at a local roadhouse antagonized him. Through the intervention of a sympathetic doctor, he received an honorable discharge.

Flipping through help-wanted ads in 1945, he saw a call for actors at the American Negro Theatre in New York. He figured it was easy work — that any profession that advertised next to requests for porters, busboys and dishwashers must require no special talent.

At his audition, Mr. Poitier’s unintelligible, singsong island accent dismayed theater founder Frederick O’Neal. But O’Neal was in such dire need of male actors that Mr. Poitier was hired with the understanding that he would also moonlight as the theater’s janitor.

During his first Broadway appearance, a small part in a 1946 production of Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata,” Mr. Poitier suffered stage fright and began delivering lines out of order. But citing his “terrible fierce pride,” he later said he was determined to refine his skills. Over the next several years, his good looks and sensitivity as a performer brought him to the attention of Hollywood, and he made a strong impact in “No Way Out,” his film debut.

In his second feature film, Mr. Poitier was cast as a young clergyman in “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1951), based on Alan Paton’s novel about apartheid. Working on location in South Africa, Mr. Poitier was forced to live far from the studio, and he had to deal with other restrictions and insults. Officially, he was an “indentured laborer” of director Zoltan Korda. Mr. Poitier later called South Africa “on a racial, political and social level, the worst place I have ever been.”

Still a relative unknown on-screen, Mr. Poitier owned and operated a Harlem ribs restaurant to support his growing family between movie assignments. He had married Juanita Hardy, a model, in 1950, and they had four children.

As we now know, Mr. Poitier went on to help change the way the world viewed Black people through his many, many films and roles.  I first remember seeing him in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and then in To Sir with Love, both in 1967, but the role he may be most famous for was that of Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night.  There is no way I could possibly summarize Mr. Poitier’s life and career in a single blog post, nor will I try.  A few accolades are in order, however.  Mr. Poitier was the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor.

In 2002, Mr. Poitier received a lifetime achievement Oscar for “his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence.” That year, Denzel Washington became the second Black man to win the best-actor Oscar.  In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Mr. Poitier was modest about his legacy, saying …

“I was part of an influence that could be called paving the way. But I was only a part of it. I was selected almost by history itself. Most of my career unfolded in the 1960s, which was one of the periods in American history with certain attitudes toward minorities that stayed in vogue. I didn’t understand the elements swirling around. I was a young actor with some talent, an enormous curiosity, a certain kind of appeal. You wrap all that together and you have a potent mix.”

R.I.P. Sidney Poitier … you made a positive difference in the world.

Betty White — She Will Live On In Our Memories

I am not into ‘celebrities’ and following the private lives of actors, musicians, athletes and the like.  But yesterday, the death of one celebrity brought me to tears.  That celebrity was, of course, Betty White who died on Friday just 18 days short of celebrating her 100th birthday.

Ms. White, in the words of former First Lady Michelle Obama …

“… broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country, and pushed us all to laugh. Barack and I join so many around the world who will miss the joy she brought to the world.”

She had a long career, playing in so many different television shows that I cannot count them all, but throughout her career she has cared about people and issues.  Take, for example, her first televised variety show where, in 1954, as the host and producer, she defied racist demands to get rid of a scheduled guest, Arthur Duncan, because he was Black.  Duncan, at 21, had been performing in a dance quartet for years and was looking for his big break.  Betty White gave it to him, and to the naysayers she simply said, “Live with it.”

A funny story in my own family about Betty White … one day my granddaughter, who was then about 4 or 5 years old, saw Betty White on television and excitedly declared, “Grannie … there’s the Queen of England!!!”  Needless to say, this became a family joke that is still laughed about today, and I imagine Betty would have taken some pleasure from the mix-up had she known.

R.I.P. Betty White … you gave so much to us and you will be missed.

In 1969 with talk show host David Letterman

With husband, game-show host Allen Ludden who died in 1981.

Betty as Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls, the role for which she is best remembered, shown here with co-stars Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur.

In 2010, Betty receives the Screen Actor’s Guild’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’

On her 90th birthday

With President Obama in 2012

Betty White in 2021 … she still has that winning smile and twinkle in her eyes.

♫ The Everly Brothers — A Brief Tribute ♫

In my current state, it would almost certainly have escaped my notice, but for my dear friend Ellen who sent me an email to let me know that Don Everly, the older of the two Everly Brothers, had just died on Saturday at the age of 84.  He was preceded in death by his brother and musical partner, Phil, who died in 2014, sixteen days before he would have turned 75.

I well remember listening to the Everly Brothers as a child and during my early teen years.  They began writing and recording their own music in 1956, and their first hit song came in 1957, with Bye Bye Love, written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The song hit #2 in the spring of 1957, and additional hits would follow through 1958, many of them written by the Bryants, including Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have to Do Is Dream, and Problems.  In 1960, they signed with the major label Warner Bros. Records and recorded Cathy’s Clown, written by the brothers themselves, which was their biggest selling single.

The Everly Brothers charted 31 singles on the Hot 100, including three #1s: Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have to Do Is Dream, and Cathy’s Clown. The latter was the first single to top the US and UK charts simultaneously.  The Everly Brothers’ career slumped in their home country in the wake of the British Invasion in 1964. However they retained a faithful following in countries including Canada, Australia and the UK. They scored nine Top 40 hits in the UK between 1963 and 1965, including the self-penned The Price Of Love.

The Everly Brothers ended their partnership in 1973 after a gig on July 14, 1973, at Knotts Berry Farm in California, at which Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage.  Embarking on a solo career, Phil charted three times as a solo artist with the #37 peaking Who’s Gonna Keep Me Warm being his biggest hit. He also had a Top Ten entry in 1983 on the UK singles chart with She Means Nothing To Me, a duet with Cliff Richard. The brothers reunited in 1983, when they appeared at the Royal Albert Hall, London. The concert spawned a well-received live LP and video.

The Everly Brothers were part of the first group of ten artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Rather than a single song and set of lyrics, I shall post a few of their most popular songs as a tribute to a fine duo whose music will live on.

All I Have to do is Dream (1958)  Charted at #1 in both the U.S. and UK

Cathy’s Clown (1960)  Charted at #1 in both the U.S. and UK

Wake Up Little Susie (1957)  Charted at #1 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK

Bye Bye Love (1957)  Charted at #2 in the U.S. and #6 in the UK

♫ My Way ♫ … Annnnnnnd … (Redux)

Tonight I am in an introspective mood.  Angst-ridden, vexed, and a bit despairing, I sought a song or two that could cheer me.  I strayed from my usual Stevie Wonder/Lionel Richie cure, and went further back … back to a simpler time, but was it really?  At any rate, back to the music of our parents or our early childhoods.  If you ask my faves from back in that day, I would immediately answer:  Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Louis Armstrong.  So tonight, let’s just go with the first one … a redux from May 2019 … two of my favourite Sinatra songs …


Ellen correctly noted that I have never played a Sinatra song here, and the reason is that I thought perhaps he wouldn’t have a mass appeal, though I grew up on Sinatra and like his voice and much of his music just fine.  At any rate, the suggestion was to play his iconic song, My Way, as a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I debated, for I was rather more inclined to play New York, New York.  And finally, I threw up my hands and said “What the heck … I shall offer them both”.  Since the lyrics are on-screen with the first video, I present only the lyrics to accompany the second.

The lyrics to My Way, released by Sinatra in 1969, were written by Paul Anka and set to the music of the French song Comme d’habitude co-composed and co-written (with Jacques Revaux), and performed in 1967 by Claude François. Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song. The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, a record which still stands.

Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d’habitude (translation: As Usual) performed by Claude François, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it.” He acquired adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the mere sum of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced. Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of Mob guys” during which Sinatra said “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it; I’m getting the hell out.”

Anka went back to New York and re-wrote the song for Sinatra …

“At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’ I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that’. We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.”

Anka finished the song at 5:00 in the morning, called Sinatra who was performing in Vegas, and the rest is history.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82, after a heart attack.  The next night, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for one minute.  Wow … now that’s a tribute!

New York, New York
Frank Sinatra

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I wanna to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York
And
If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York
New York
New York

Songwriters: Fred Ebb / John Kander
New York, New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Something To Celebrate! 🎈

I was in the midst of gathering snippets of news upon which to unleash my world-famous snark when I came upon something so heartwarming that it made the snark take a backseat … for now, anyway.  What was it, you ask?  Yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary!  I think that is worthy of putting the snark aside and congratulating them!  They’ve been married longer than I’ve been alive, and I’ve been alive a loooonnnnnggg time!

I was married for 15 long years and try though we did, we simply drifted further apart in our views of life.  Marriage is a complex thing … it takes tons of patience, the willingness and ability to compromise, it takes being able to say, “I’m sorry” without following it with a ‘but’.  Whenever I read about someone who has been married to the same person for 50 years, I am uber-impressed, but 75 years together has me floored!

Jimmy & Rosalynn were married on July 7th 1946, one month after Jimmy graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy.  Yesterday, they became the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history.  Jimmy Carter, who is now 96 years of age has said that his marriage to Rosalynn, a spry 93 years old, is the single most important thing in his life.

James Earl Carter Jr, fresh from the US Naval Academy, married Eleanor Rosalynn Smith at a Methodist church in Plains on 7 July 1946

On Monday, Jimmy Carter appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America where he was asked what the secret to such a long marriage is.  His response was simple enough …

“First of all, choose the right person to marry. And every night, we try to make sure we’re completely reconciled from all the arguments during the day.”

Simple, yes?  Maybe not so simple, given that every year in the U.S. there are some 750,000 divorces, many by couples over 50 years of age.

Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from January 20th 1977 until January 20th 1981.  Since leaving the White House, he and Rosalynn have been involved in a number of humanitarian works, the most famous being, of course, Habitat for Humanity where even as recently as last year, Jimmy could be seen on a ladder with a hammer in hand, helping build homes for those who might otherwise never own a home.

Back home, the couple supported the Habitat for Humanity charity, building affordable homes

Congratulations to Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter … two good people who dedicated their lives to each other and to humanity!  We should all strive to be more like them!

Rosalynn supported Jimmy’s rise through Democratic politics, from his election as a state senator in Georgia in 1963 to the 1976 presidential campaign, seen here

On one occasion, the couple met rock legend Elvis Presley

The 39th president of the United States and his first lady walked in the inaugural parade with their daughter Amy on 20 January 1977. They also have three sons

Dancing at a White House ball on 13 December 1978

After leaving office the Carters were involved in peace initiatives abroad. In 2002 they made a visit to communist Cuba

In December 2018, they attended the funeral of George Bush Sr in Washington DC along with other former presidents and their wives, as well as then President Donald Trump

New President Joe Biden and his wife Jill visited the Carters at their home in Plains on 29 April

Five Years Later …. “ 🏳️‍🌈 ‘It Still Hurts! Gone Too Soon’ – #OrlandoUnited 🏳️‍🌈 …. “!!

Due to circumstances largely beyond my control, Part II of my “Celebrating Pride Month” post has been delayed by a day until this afternoon. However, as my friend Larry points out, PRIDE Month is about more than parades and celebrations, it is about history and heartbreak as well. Five years ago, 49 people were murdered and 53 others injured in a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. My dear friend Horty Rex is looking back at that night, remembering those people, and I think her post is as important to honouring PRIDE Month as are the parades and celebrations. Thank you, Horty, for this beautiful tribute to those people.

It Is What It Is

~~June 12, 2021~~

PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE

Five years ago today, I remember waking up to the horrific reality, perpetrated on my local LGBTQ+ community in Orlando.

#OrlandoUnited

Gone but not frogotten!!

The majority of the victims were Latin/Hispanic … that was another blow to one of my demographics. It’s something that can’t never, ever be fogotten!!

#49Angels

… who will live in our hearts and memories for all eternity!!

HortyRex©

ORLANDO

~REMEMBERING THE PULSE 49~

Five years ago, 49 families learned their mothers, fathers, siblings and friends would not be coming home after a gunman opened fire on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Each one of the 49 people killed, now known as the 49 angels, on June 12, 2016, left behind a legacy.

Before they were victims, the 49 were mothers, fathers, recent graduates, veterans, breast cancer survivors, dreamers, artists and so much more.

~~Published April 28, 2017~~

On…

View original post 79 more words

🏳️‍🌈 Celebrating PRIDE Month – Part I 🏳️‍🌈

My posts are usually geared toward socio-political issues such as racism & bigotry, politics, the environment, etc., but every now and then there is something that takes precedence over all those things — they will still be here tomorrow, right?  Today, I am dedicating Filosofa’s Word, as I have for the past two years, to Pride Month.  Quick question:  do you know what PRIDE stands for?  I’m ashamed to say that I did not know until a few days ago that it stands for Personal Rights In Defense and Education.  Makes perfect sense, don’t you think?  The fight to be recognized and accepted has been an ongoing battle for decades, perhaps longer, and while we have made progress, today there are states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and others that have either passed or are preparing bills that would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

The following is Part I of a post I wrote for PRIDE Month in 2019 and reprised in 2020.  I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel, and frankly when I read over this post, except for a few minor adjustments, I didn’t think I could do any better if I started over.  Part II will be on the schedule for later this afternoon.  Meanwhile, to all my friends in the LGBTQ community … I wish you a heartfelt Happy PRIDE Month!


Pride-month-3June is Pride Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the impact LGBTQ people have had in the world.  I see Pride Month in much the same way I see February’s Black History Month.  It is a way to honour or commemorate those who rarely receive the recognition they deserve, and are often discriminated against, simply because they are LGBTQ, or Black, in the case of Black History Month.  A bit of history …

The Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was owned by the Genovese crime family, and in 1966, three members of the Genovese family invested $3,500 to turn the Stonewall Inn into a gay bar, after it had been a restaurant and a nightclub for heterosexuals. Once a week a police officer would collect envelopes of cash as a payoff, as the Stonewall Inn had no liquor license and thus was operating outside the law.  It was the only bar for gay men in New York City where dancing was allowed; dancing was its main draw since its re-opening as a gay club.

At 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform, and Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn’s double doors and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!”  Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors.

Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station, after separating those cross-dressing in a room in the back of the bar.

Long story short, a few patrons were released before the patrol wagons arrived to cart the rest off to jail, and those few stayed out front, attracted quite a large crowd, mostly LGBT people, and after an officer hit a woman over the head for saying her handcuffs were too tight, the crowd went into fight mode.  By this time, the police were outnumbered by some 600 people.  Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows.  The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows.  Police tried to use water hoses to disperse the crowd, but there was no water pressure.  Police pulled their weapons, but before they could fire them, the Tactical Patrol Force and firefighters arrived.  The crowd mocked and fought against the police, who began swinging their batons right and left, not much caring who they hit or where.

The crowd was cleared by 4:00 a.m., but the mood remained dark, and the next night, rioting resumed with thousands of people showing up at the Stonewall, blocking the streets.  Police responded, and again it was 4:00 a.m. before the mob was cleared.

There comes a point when people who are mistreated, abused, discriminated against, have had enough.  It is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and the police raid on the Stonewall Inn, the treatment of people who were only out to enjoy the night, was that straw.  It was a history making night, not only for the LGBTQ community, but for the nation.pride-month-stonewall.jpgWithin six months of the Stonewall riots, activists started a citywide newspaper called Gay; they considered it necessary because the most liberal publication in the city—The Village Voice—refused to print the word “gay”.  Two other newspapers were initiated within a six-week period: Come Out! and Gay Power; the readership of these three periodicals quickly climbed to between 20,000 and 25,000.  Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was formed with a constitution that began …

“We as liberated homosexual activists demand the freedom for expression of our dignity and value as human beings.”

I think that says it all, don’t you?  ‘Dignity and value as human beings’.  It is, in my book, a crying shame that our society needs to be reminded that we are all human beings, that we all have value and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots with an assembly on Christopher Street; with simultaneous Gay Pride marches in Los Angeles and Chicago, these were the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history. The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm.  The Stonewall riots are considered the birth of the gay liberation movement and of gay pride on a massive scale.  The event has been likened to the Boston Tea Party, and Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus.  All of those were people’s way of saying, “We’ve had enough!”

2019 marked the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid and ensuing riots, and at long last, the New York City Police Department apologized to the LGBTQ community.  “The actions taken by the NYPD [at Stonewall] were wrong, plain and simple,” police commissioner James O’Neill said.  He also noted that the frequent harassment of LGBTQ men and women and laws that prohibited same-sex sexual relations are “discriminatory and oppressive” and apologized on behalf of the department.

President Bill Clinton first declared June to be National Pride Month in 1999, and again in 2000.  On June 1, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the White House would not formally recognize Pride Month.  Every year that President Barack Obama was in office, he declared June to be LGBT Pride Month.  Donald Trump ignored it in throughout his tenure and blocked the display of the Pride flag at all U.S. embassies.  This year, President Biden recognized Pride Month, saying he “will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law.”

“”During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically. In doing so, they are opening hearts and minds, and laying the foundation for a more just and equitable America.”

Since this post turned into a history lesson, I wrote a second post to highlight some of the celebrations, the fun ways that people celebrate pride month, the people and organizations that are supporting Pride Month, and to honour the LGBTQ community, but I felt the history was important also, so … stay tuned for Part II later this afternoon!

Pride-month-4

♫ B.J. Thomas — Gone, But His Music Lives On ♫

I actually had another song picked out for tonight, but earlier this evening I read that B.J. Thomas died yesterday from complications of lung cancer and I thought it only fitting to do a brief tribute to the man and his music.

A brief bio from Deadline

Born in rural Hugo, Oklahoma as Billy Joe Thomas, he moved to Houston, Texas with his family and began singing in church as a child.

He joined the local band the Triumphs, and then in 1966 recorded “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with producer Huey P. Meaux. Released by Scepter Records, it peaked at No. 8 on the pop charts and became his first million-selling single.

The follow-up single, “Mama,” and his first album came that same year. In 1968, he released the million-selling “Hooked on a Feeling” from his album, On My Way.

Dionne Warwick met Thomas when he visited the Scepter offices in New York and introduced him to songwriter-producer Burt Bacharach. That led to a collaboration on “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” written by Bacharach and Hal David and sung by Thomas.

The song was featured in the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, earning the Oscar for Best Original Song. It has since reoccurred in such films as Forrest Gump, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Clerks II, and Spider-Man 2, as well as multiple TV shows.

Thomas kept rolling with such pop/rock hits as “Everybody’s Out of Town,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “No Love at All” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby.”

He signed to Paramount Records and released two albums—1973’s Songs and 1974’s Longhorns & Londonbridges. In 1975, Thomas released the album Reunion on ABC Records, featuring “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”

The success wasn’t easy on Thomas, who fell into drug use. But he returned as a Born Again Christian in gospel music, signing with Myrrh Records and releasing the album Home Where I Belong in 1976.

It won Thomas a Grammy and became the first of two Dove Award wins while also becoming the first gospel record to sell a million copies.

His “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song was No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Country Songs charts. It won the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1976 and was nominated for CMA Single of the Year. On his 39th birthday in 1981, he also joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Thomas found the time to voice the theme song, “As Long As We’ve Got Each Other” for the TV series Growing Pains, and he also was heard on numerous commercials, including campaigns for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

I will play just a few of my favourite B.J. Thomas songs in tribute …

R.I.P. Mr. Thomas, and thank you for some pretty awesome music throughout the years!

Black History Month — Maya Angelou

This post is a reprisal of one I wrote last year about a great lady whose voice is still so relevant today and will likely be so long into the future.

Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928 … her given name was Marguerite, but her older brother nicknamed her “Maya”, derived from “Mya Sister”.  Her parents divorced when Maya was just three years old, and when she was eight, she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  She told her brother, her brother told the rest of the family, and the man, whose last name was Freeman, was arrested.  But, though Freeman was found guilty, he was freed after only one day in jail.  Incensed, an uncle or uncles, it is unclear whether it was one or more, beat and kicked Mr. Freeman to death.  Says Maya …

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

And she spoke not a word for nearly the next five years.  Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.

maya-angelouDuring World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During this time, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco.

During the 1960s, Maya and her son spent several years in Ghana, where she became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana.  It was in Ghana that she met and became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early 1960s.  Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward.

Maya remained a civil rights activist, and in 1968 Martin Luther King asked Angelou to help organize a march.  She agreed, but before the plan could reach fruition, Martin Luther King was assassinated – on Maya’s 40th birthday, as it happened.  For many years thereafter, Maya refused to celebrate her birthday, but sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, on that day. maya-angelou-2Maya Angelou went on to become one of the greatest writers and poets of our time. Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans’ African heritage, and what Angelou called the “Africanisms still current in the U.S.” for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS.  Also in 1968, she wrote her first of seven autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. This brought her international recognition and acclaim.Maya-caged-birdIn 1993, Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

I came across this quote by Maya regarding writing …

“I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music. I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.”

And now I know what I’ve been doing wrong all this time — I must wear a hat from now on when I write!!!maya-angelou-4There is so much more I could tell you about Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, but there are many, many great books both by and about her.  What I do want to share with you, though, is one of her most famous poems, Still I Rise.  Just as with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, I cannot listen to her recite this without a tear coming to my eyes. In this, she writes about racism and slavery,  about rising above hatred – something that is just as relevant today as it was when she first published it in 1978.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Among other, former President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Michelle Obama both spoke at her funeral.

“And then she developed the greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice. She had the voice of God, and He decided he wanted it back for awhile.” — President Bill Clinton

“For me that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words, words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House.” — First Lady Michelle Obama

During her lifetime, she won Grammy Awards for three spoken-word albums, was a civil rights activist, streetcar conductor, Calypso singer, dancer, movie director and playwright.  She left behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.maya-4