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…

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🏳️‍🌈 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

A Few Tidbits …

R.I.P. Tom Moore

Tom-MooreI start today’s post on a sad note.  You’ll remember that I’ve written about Captain Tom Moore, the UK veteran raised tens of millions of pounds for Britain’s health workers by walking 100 laps of his garden last spring.  Sadly, he died this morning after being treated for pneumonia and then testing positive for the coronavirus last month. 

Mr. Moore’s own words of optimism come back to us at this time …

“We will get through it in the end but it might take time, but at the end of the day we shall all be OK again… the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.”

Reading of Tom Moore’s death first thing this morning brought a tear to my eye.  He was one of the good people and will be long remembered.  Thank you, Captain Tom Moore, for a lifetime of being a good man … the world needs many more like you.  R.I.P.

tom-moore-graffiti


The price for a conscience …

Representative Liz Cheney from Wyoming was one of ten Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Donald Trump late last year, and now she is paying a high price.  The people of her state are turning against her, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be meeting with her this week, possibly planning to strip her of her committee assignments and her position as House Republican Conference Chair, the third highest ranking position in the House Republican leadership.

This is ridiculous!  The woman voted her conscience, saying that Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”   She also called his incitement “the greatest betrayal by a president of the United States of his office.” She was correct on both counts, and yet she is likely to be asked to apologize for both her words and her vote.  Why?  Because the entire Republican Party is populated by cowards who are afraid of the ‘man’ who is no longer in the Oval Office. 

I am not a fan of Liz Cheney, but she followed the dictates of her conscience, something the rest of the slime in the Republican Party cannot do because they traded their consciences for a box of Cracker Jacks long ago.  She does not deserve to be censured or otherwise punished, and the people of Wyoming need to wake up and realize that Trump was the biggest threat this nation was facing until just 13 days ago!


And on the other hand …

On the other hand, there is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the pistol-packing idiot from Georgia who now sits in the House of Representatives.  I’ve written before about Greene, so I don’t need to repeat what I’ve already said, but she, like Ms. Cheney, will be having a one-on-one meeting with Kevin McCarthy sometime this week for her racist comments, for supporting the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, for saying she wished death upon some of her fellow members of Congress, and other behaviours not acceptable for a member of Congress.

She is likely to receive a slap on the wrist for her horrendous words and actions, though she could lose her committee assignments.  While I definitely hope she loses her committee assignments, one of which is the Education & Labour Committee … she belongs nowhere near those who make decisions concerning our children’s education!  She would likely demand that firearms training be included in every school’s curriculum! 

If McCarthy doesn’t strip her of her committee assignments, the Democrats are likely to do so.  She sits on the following committees …

  • Judiciary
  • Education and Labor
  • Energy and Commerce
  • Financial Services
  • Foreign Affairs
  • House Administration
  • Oversight and Reform
  • Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Ways and Means

She has no relevant education or experience in any one of these areas, so I’m not sure where the logic in determining her assignments was. 

But what I would really like to see is her expulsion from Congress.  It can and should be done before she causes a disaster, either by shooting someone within the Capitol (she has said she would like to see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a bullet in her head), or by turning the House of Representatives into a three-ring circus. 

The United States Constitution (Article I, Section 5, Clause 2) provides that “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”

It would, however, require 70 Republicans to find a conscience and vote to expel Ms. Greene, and we all know there aren’t 70 republicans with courage & conscience in the entire Congress.  Sigh.

Hank Aaron – quiet dignity, quiet strength

I had planned to write a tribute post to baseball’s legendary Henry (Hank) Aaron this afternoon, but as often happens when great minds think alike, Keith was on the same page, only he beat me to the punch and did it every bit as well as I could have. Thank you, Keith, for this lovely tribute to a man who was not only a great baseball player, but also a great human being.

musingsofanoldfart

A great baseball player passed away yesterday. His name was Henry Aaron, but he went by Hank. He was a very quiet man growing up in the south in the middle of the Jim Crow era. But, arguably he is on a very short list of the greatest baseball players ever.

Rather than bore non-baseball fans with endless statistics indicating how great he was, let me focus on how poorly this African-American was treated as he chased records set by white ball players. He received multiple death threats and family kidnapping threats and was openly called the N word both aloud and within the many letters of vicious hate mail.

Like Jackie Robinson before him, he took all of this with quiet dignity and a heavy dose of quiet strength. Racism and bigotry was dumped on this man like garbage. But, he stood strong.

When he chased the greatest of…

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Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King …

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday in the United States.  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 over the past four years, and particularly last year with the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and with peaceful Black Lives Matter protests being assaulted by law enforcement and white supremacists, 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.


“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 92 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 2021.  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 four 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 inhumanely separating children from families seeking to enter the country.  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!

Two great talents, two big hearts pass away

Our friend Keith pays tribute to two ‘good people’, people who had hearts of gold and left an everlasting legacy to this world. Thank you, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

Rightfully so, the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a huge loss for our country. Her diminutive stature belied the large intellect and courage to fight battles, first for herself, and then for women and the disenfranchised.

There are several stories whose theme is around the only woman in the room, be it the first female rocket scientist, Mary Sherman Morgan, or the first black female NASA mathematician, Katherine G. Johnson. Ginsburg was often one of only a scant few women in the room, be it Harvard or Columbia law schools or when she first joined the Supreme Court following Sandra Day O’Connor. Being told you do not belong, either directly or implicitly, requires a courageous heart.

Ginsburg was unable to get a job with a law firm since she was a female and a mother. Her husband, Marty was quickly able to gain employment as…

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11 September 2020 … Memories

With the exception of 2018, I have published this post each year since 2015 on September 11th, sharing memories of that day in 2001 when life changed, my thoughts and reflections.  I planned to write a new one this year, but as I read over it, I realized that I cannot say it any better today than I said it five years ago, and frankly, amidst the rubble of chaos, turmoil and divisiveness in our nation today, inspiration simply did not come to me.   I’ve come to realize that not only did we not learn the lessons of that day, but that in every way imaginable, the United States has become a much crueler, harsher, less respected and less respectable nation today than it was in 2001.  I skipped my 9/11 post in 2018, for I felt that amidst the chaos and divisiveness of this nation, it had lost its relevance.  I was wrong … we need to remember … we must not forget, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have learned anything in the 19 years since our world turned upside down in a matter of 102 minutes.


Humanity

911-cover-4Nineteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before dawn, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day ever.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

911-cover-9I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in then had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch that would never come.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  A gathering in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to the girls.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

911-cover-2Today we mark the 19th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation and Canada traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.” 

How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

9-11One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002.  I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Please take just one minute to watch it.

Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In 2016, in a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.  Will we see that repeated this year?  I doubt it.

I understand that Donald Trump and Joe Biden both plan to attend a 9/11 memorial held at the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania today.  In my opinion, politics has no place in this ceremony or others, and Trump only desecrates the day with falsehoods, as I can never forget that after the towers fell, he bragged that now his was the tallest building in the city.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

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911-4

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

ground zero

twin-towers

John Lewis: The Last Of The True Heroes

Last night, right around midnight, as I had just finished writing and scheduling my Saturday Surprise post and was in the process of responding to comments, a breaking news flash crossed my screen that took my breath, caused me to utter aloud, “NO!”, and broke my heart.  Congressman John Lewis had died.

John-Lewis-quoteThere are few people alive today who deserve the title ‘hero’ in every sense of the word.  John Lewis was one such person.

When President Obama awarded John Lewis the Medal of Freedom in 2011, he said …

“Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”

obama-lewis John Robert Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, on Feb. 21, 1940, one of 10 children of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis. According to “March,” his three-part autobiography in graphic novel form, he dreamed from a young age of being a preacher. He was in charge of taking care of his family’s chickens and would practice sermons on them: “I preached to my chickens just about every night.”  But life had other plans for young John Lewis.

John Lewis was the last of the most relevant civil rights leaders from the 1950s and 1960s.  In 1955, Lewis first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio, and, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott (led by King) began later that year, Lewis closely followed the news about it. Lewis would later meet Rosa Parks when he was 17 and met King for the first time when he was 18.  By the time he came of age, his path was chosen.

I could not possibly list all of Mr. Lewis’ accomplishments in this single post, but I would like to highlight a few.

As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, Lewis first became a part of the Civil Rights Movement, organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters that eventually led to the desegregation of Nashville’s lunch counters.

John-Lewis-lunch-counter-sit-in

Lewis was arrested and jailed many times in the nonviolent movement to desegregate the downtown area of the city. He was also instrumental in organizing bus boycotts and other nonviolent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.

John-Lewis-early-arrest

In 1961, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. There were seven whites and six blacks who were determined to ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. At that time, several states of the old Confederacy still enforced laws prohibiting black and white riders from sitting next to each other on public transportation.  The Freedom Ride was initiated to pressure the federal government to enforce the Supreme Court decision in Boynton v Virginia (1960) that declared segregated interstate bus travel to be unconstitutional.

In the South, Lewis and other nonviolent Freedom Riders were beaten by angry mobs, arrested at times and taken to jail. At 21 years old, Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted while in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He tried to enter a whites-only waiting room and two white men attacked him, injuring his face and kicking him in the ribs. Nevertheless, only two weeks later Lewis joined a Freedom Ride that was bound for Jackson.

“We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back.”

Lewis was also imprisoned for forty days in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Sunflower County, Mississippi, after participating in a Freedom Riders activity in that state.  But John Lewis was not a quitter.

In Birmingham, the Riders were mercilessly beaten, and in Montgomery, an angry mob met the bus, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate.

“It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious.”

In February 2009, forty-eight years after he had been bloodied in a Greyhound station during a Freedom Ride, Lewis received an apology on national television from a white southerner, former Klansman Elwin Wilson.

In 1963, Lewis was named one of the “Big Six” leaders who were organizing the March on Washington, the occasion of Dr. King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis also spoke at the March. Discussing the occasion, historian Howard Zinn wrote:

“At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, was prepared to ask the right question: ‘Which side is the federal government on?’ That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence.”

John-Lewis-Edmund-Pettus-Bridge

John-Lewis-Edmund-Pettis-BridgeIn 1965, at age 25, Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery, and was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, where he was beaten by police and knocked unconscious.  When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’s skull was fractured, but he escaped across the bridge to Brown Chapel, the movement’s headquarter church in Selma. Before Lewis could be taken to the hospital, he appeared before the television cameras calling on President Johnson to intervene in Alabama.  Lewis still bore the scars on his head from the incident.

John-Lewis-CongressIn 1986, John Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives from Georgia’s fifth district, a seat he would win and hold until his death last night.  He was reelected 16 times, dropping below 70 percent of the vote in the general election only once. In 1994, he defeated Republican Dale Dixon by a 38-point margin, 69%–31%. He ran unopposed in 1996, from 2004 to 2008, in 2014, and again in 2018.

Throughout his 34 years in Congress he fought for human rights, for civil rights … for your rights and mine … for our children’s and grandchildren’s.  He spoke out loud and clear in favour of LGBT rights, national health insurance, gun regulation, and has often been called “the conscience of Congress.”

“My overarching duty as I declared during that 1986 campaign and during every campaign since then, has been to uphold and apply to our entire society the principles which formed the foundation of the movement to which I have devoted my entire life.”

Coming from another, that might be considered just political rhetoric, but from John Lewis, truer words were never spoken.  He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk for his entire life.  The world is a little darker place today without John Lewis in it.  RIP John Lewis … you are missed already.