♫ Happy Birthday ♫

Folks, I have been taken to task and even threatened with a big stick for missing the 69th birthday of one of my most favourite musicians, Stevie Wonder.  I’m sure you’ll never guess who it was that called me on the carpet for my perfidy and oversight, right?  😉

Today, we are all well aware that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in January each year.  But, it wasn’t always so.  Some of my younger readers may not realize that MLK Day was only officially designated as a national holiday in 1983, only 36 years ago, when President Ronald Reagan signed it into law.  Jimmy Carter tried and failed to get congressional approval in 1979, and that is when Stevie Wonder took up the mantle.  He wrote, produced and sang Happy Birthday in 1981 as a tribute to Dr. King, and in an effort to stir national interest in creating a national holiday to honour him.

Stevie Wonder had a huge role in getting Martin Luther King day recognized as a national holiday in the U.S. He helped organize a rally in Washington on January 15, 1981 (King’s birthday), that was a key event in the movement. With the crowd chanting, “Martin Luther King Day, we took a holiday,” black leaders and celebrities appeared, and when Wonder spoke, he said:

“As an artist, my purpose is to communicate the message that can better improve the lives of all of us. I’d like to ask all of you just for one moment, if you will, to be silent and just to think and hear in your mind the voice of our Dr. Martin Luther King.”

A highlight of the rally was Wonder’s performance of this song, and over the next few years, Wonder continued his work to raise awareness of the movement and apply political pressure to get the holiday recognized. Another rally followed the next year, and on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill. The holiday was first observed in 1986, but it took many more years before every state made it a full holiday complete with a paid day off for state workers. South Carolina was the last to do so, joining the other 49 states in 2000.

The first official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, held the third Monday in January of each year, was held on January 20, 1986, and was commemorated with a large-scale concert, where Stevie Wonder was the headlining performer.  This song was never released as a single in the U.S., but was featured on Wonder’s album, Hotter Than July, and the song charted at #2 in the UK.  In fact, Wonder also performed this song at the Diamond Jubilee Concert in London for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.  He also performed it at Nelson Mandela Day at Radio City Music Hall on July 19, 2009.

Am I off the hook now, Ellen?  I still say you could give me some advance warning about these dates, for you know I cannot remember anything!  🙃

And now, I give you Mr. Stevie Wonder …

Happy Birthday
Stevie Wonder

You know it doesn’t make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration cause we all know in our minds

That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you

And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition

Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become an illusion

And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Why has there never been a holiday
Where peace is celebrated
All throughout the world

The time is overdue
For people like me and you
Who know the way to truth
Is love and unity to all gods children

It should never be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people

So let us all begin
We know that love can win
Let it out don’t hold it in
Sing it loud as you can

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Ooh yeah

Happy Birthday…
We know the key to unify all people
Is in the dream that you had so long ago
That lives in all of the hearts of people

That believe in unity
Well make the dream become a reality
I know we will
Because our hearts tell us so

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday…

Songwriters: WONDER STEVIE
Happy Birthday lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music Scandinavia AB, Black Bull Music, Fox Film Music Corporation, Agelong Music Publishing Inc., JOBETE MUSIC CO INC, BLACK BULL MUSIC INC, JOBETE MUSIC CO., INC., WB MUSIC CORP. O/B/O INC. SUMMY BIRCHARD, INC.

A Few Random Tidbits …

My mind is bouncing today … I tried to settle it to write a single-topic post, but no, it was not having any of that!  It kept hopping from one topic to another so fast that my eyes were twirling about in their sockets trying to keep up.  So … once again I have just a few bits ‘n pieces today … and a hope that my mind stops bouncing soon, for I am getting a headache!

mike-pence


Mike Pence doesn’t say a whole lot, and after yesterday, I think that may be for the best.  The saying that is often attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt,” seems to be one that Pence should heed.  Yesterday, he made the mistake of speaking …

“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.’ You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union.  That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do. Come to the table in the spirit of good faith. We’ll secure our border. We’ll reopen the government and we’ll move our nation forward as the president said yesterday to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.”  🤢

Sorry, Mikey, but Dr. Martin Luther King and Donald Trump have not got a single thing in common … one was a compassionate, concerned, caring, dedicated man who risked and ultimately gave his life for the people of this nation, and the other is a bloody fool.  Care to guess which is which?


Humanitarianism is apparently illegal in some places in the U.S., such as Arizona.  Four women, volunteers for the Arizona-based aid group No More Deaths, were convicted after a three-day bench trial at a federal court in Tucson. They could face up to six months in federal prison.  Their crime?  Leaving food and water for dehydrated migrants crossing the desert into the United States.  Watch what these border patrol agents did to that water …

Ever walked through the desert with no water?  The criminals here, in my book, are not the women who left the water for the migrants, but the border patrol agents who not only destroyed and wasted the water but appeared to take great pleasure in doing so.  Sadists.

The women, Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were charged in December 2017. They said their work for No More Deaths was motivated by their religious convictions and a belief that everyone should have access to basic survival needs.  And for their efforts, they might go to jail.  What the Sam Heck is wrong with this country???


The worldwide charity Oxfam released a new report today.  According to the report, just 26 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 3.8 billion of the world’s population!  Think about that one for a minute.  Twenty-six people, probably fewer than at your last family reunion, own more than 3.8 billion other people.  Wow.  The combined net wealth of those 26 totals $1.4 trillion.  Now, people say that if a person works hard, he should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and I don’t disagree with that.  Certainly there must be an incentive to go the extra mile, work harder, create and innovate.  But … mustn’t there also be a conscience?  Should not responsibility accompany privilege?

Rather than sharing their wealth, these 26 billionaires are actually hoarding and increasing their wealth, to the detriment of the rest of us.  In 2016, 61 billionaires controlled half of the world’s wealth, then in 2017 that number was 43, before becoming 26 in 2018.  At this rate, in another 2-3 decades, there will be a single person who will control half of the world’s wealth.

Meanwhile, back at the salt mines, the average worker’s wage has increased by only 0.2% in the past year.  Now, I have never been a billionaire, nor even a millionaire.  In my entire career of long hours and hard work, I did not earn a million dollars total … not even close. But if I had … I would not have six figures sitting in my bank account or investment portfolio, for I would have shared it with those who were hungry, cold or sick long before now.  Apparently, one of the criteria for being wealthy … disgustingly wealthy … is that you sell your conscience.


And, on that note, I shall go feed my bouncy mind in hopes that it can find a spot to settle for a bit.  I think the cold weather and mounds of snow have made it restless.  Have a great week, friends!

I Have A Dream …

Today is a federal holiday in the United States — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Parts of this are from a post I wrote two years ago, for it said what I wanted to say then, as it does now.  So, while some of this post is recycled, so to speak, I have updated it and added a few things.  In honour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …


“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 90 years old last Tuesday, 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 races, 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 2019.

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, 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 two 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

Jolly Monday will return at its regularly scheduled time next week.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – 50 Years Later

In February, in honour of Black History Month, friend and fellow-blogger John Fioravanti of Words To Captivate, graciously accepted my offer to do a series of guest posts on Filosofa’s Word. Last month, John honoured me by asking me to write a guest post – any topic of my choosing – for his blog. I was thrilled, and readily accepted, but with my eye surgeries and subsequent chronic exhaustion, I was forced to delay. A few nights ago, however, I realized that we were fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and I thought it might make a perfect topic for my guest post. Long story short, John agreed and has honoured me by presenting my post and prefacing it with a very gracious and kind introduction. He has also given me permission to re-blog it on my own blog. I must admit it feels rather strange to be re-blogging my own work! Many thanks to you, John, for your many kindnesses and for sharing my work!

Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was a giant among men. He led by his words, his actions, and the way he lived his life. Today, I have the distinct privilege to welcome one of the most gifted bloggers I know and my very good friend, Jill Dennison, to Words To Captivate. Jill has taught college courses in the USA on Black History in America and is an ardent fan of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On this 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, it is fitting that Jill shares with us how important this leader was in his own day and continues to be in the present because his work is not yet done. Thank you, Jill, for agreeing to be my guest today.

Every now and then an individual passes through this world who leaves behind an indelible mark, who is credited, deservingly, with having changed the world. Such an individual…

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In Honour Of A Great Man: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“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-3

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 89 years old today, had he lived. Today, we celebrate not only his birthday, but also his life and 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 races, 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 2018.

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 it.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, 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, 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. A year ago we ushered in a new president, a new administration, most of whom are not fighters for equality, many of whom actually support the tenets of white supremacy. There are already signs that the U.S. is headed backward down the path from which we have come. Trump himself has made racist statements and his father was affiliated with the KKK, even being arrested as he participated in a Klan rally in 1927.  Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, is a proven racist.  And in cities all around the U.S., racial incidents are on the rise.

Martin Luther King believed that the path to his dream was a path of peaceful protest rather than violent protest, of love rather than hate, of understanding rather than aggression … not through violence.  This is why he is, and will always be, a hero.  Today, we have a president who encourages violence, who refers to white supremacists as “very fine people”, and whose rhetoric has widened the gap of divisiveness in this nation.  We need another Martin Luther King, but would anybody even listen?

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. 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

On this sad day

As frequently happens, I am a day behind (I took a 4-day hiatus and am still playing catch-up), but my blogger-friend Carolyn Dennis-Willingham who writes as CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection, wrote this post two days ago, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of King’s assassination, a sad memory for those of us who remember King. Throughout the history of this nation, there has never been another who did as much for Civil Rights as Dr. King, nor has there been another who was able to speak as eloquently to make his point. Dr. King was an activist, yes, but he believed in change through non-violent means. Please take a moment to read this brief tribute to a great man whose life ended far too soon. Thank you, Carolyn, for this post and for permission to re-blog!

Author Flawed to Perfection

mkjrmkiiyogionswing-3--e48ff2230ba13227855225db6fedcd58769f70da-s900-c85.jpgcredit

Yesterday, April 3rd, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermons in Memphis.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

On this day, April 4th, he was assassinated.

God Bless You, Dr. King.

fb2c17c4b32a3bc890ec2d4d42df31bb.jpgcredit

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In Honour Of A Great Man: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“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-3

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 88 years old last Sunday, had he lived. Yesterday, we celebrated not only his birthday, but also his life and 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 races, 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 2017.

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 it.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, 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, 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. In a few days we will usher in a new president, a new administration, most of whom are not fighters for equality, many of whom actually support the tenets of white supremacy. There are already signs that the U.S. is headed backward down the path from which we have come. Trump himself has made racist statements and his father was affiliated with the KKK, even being arrested as he participated in a Klan rally in 1927.  Jeff Sessions who will, in all likelihood become the U.S. Attorney General is a proven racist.  And in cities all around the U.S., racial incidents are on the rise.

Consider this: The City of Biloxi, Mississippi, decided to rename Martin Luther King Day.  They decided, in fact, to combine it with a celebration for Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the man who fought to keep slavery! Biloxi renamed the “joint celebration”  Great Americans Day.  What a slap in the face to Dr. King and all those who worked with him and who have followed in his footsteps! After much hue and cry, it is said that the city is reconsidering the name change, but I think it speaks volumes that somebody thought this was a good idea to start with.

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. 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

A Very Noble Man … Honoree of the Week … Mr. Dabney Montgomery

I try to do a weekly post (I missed last week) called Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week.  Today, I would like to switch it around about 180° and write an “Honoree of the Week” post.  Sadly, it is a posthumous award this time, but better late than never.  The recipient of this award is a gentleman named Dabney Montgomery. Do not feel badly if you are unfamiliar with the name … even though “black history” is one of my passions, I do not recall hearing the name until news of Mr. Montgomery’s death crossed my path this morning.  Mr. Montgomery died last Saturday, 03 September, but his legacy lives on.

dabney-montgomery-3The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of African-American military fighter and bomber pilots, as well as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel, who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. Mr. Montgomery was a member of this group, serving as a ground crewman until the end of the war in 1945.

When he returned to his home in Selma, Alabama, after the war, Jim Crow laws and segregation were still the law of the land in the south.  Having just been honourably discharged, Mr. Montgomery attempted to board a train in Atlanta to return home to his family. “Before I could get in, a white officer threw up his hand. ‘You can’t come in this door, boy, you got to go around the back.’ “ After returning home, Mr. Montgomery went to the courthouse in Selma to register to vote in the next election, but was told by a clerk that he would need the signatures of three white men before he would be allowed to register.  His father, Dred, a fireman for Southern Railroad, knew three white men who were willing to sign.  But when Mr. Montgomery returned to the courthouse with the signatures, yet another hurdle had been put in his way … he was told he must own at least $1,000 worth of property.  He did not own property, and thus was denied the right to vote. Obviously not much had changed in the south during his time of service to his country.

Mr. Montgomery attended Livingstone College in North Carolina on the GI Bill and graduated with a degree in religious education in 1949. A man of many interests and talents, Mr. Montgomery soon ended up in Boston, where he studied dance at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and later in New York at the New York City Metropolitan Opera Dance School!  Sadly, an injury soon ended his dance career, and in 1955 he went to work for the City of New York, first as a Social Service Investigator in the Department of Social Services and later for the Housing Authority.

Then one day …

“I was sitting at home in New York City and I saw that attack on people in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. They gassed them and beat them with sticks — the sheriff, the officials in their uniforms, because they was [sic] marching to the governor’s office to vote.

“And I saw them knocked down, and I saw the gas in the air, and I was sitting here — this is happening in my hometown, Selma! I said, ‘I’m going and get[ting] a taste of that gas.’

“I went to my director and said, ‘I’ve got to go home. … I’m going home to take part in that movement.’ “

dabney-montgomery-2.pngThe date was Sunday, 07 March 1965, and the event Mr. Montgomery saw on television would become known across the nation as “Bloody Sunday”.  The previous year, 1964, the Voter’s Rights Act was passed, but African-Americans were still meeting with resistance when attempting to register to vote, and as a result, only 2% had been able to register.  Dr. Martin Luther King was working with the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register black voters.  There was much resistance in Selma, and on February 17, protester Jimmy Lee Jackson was fatally shot by an Alabama state trooper.  In response, a protest march from Selma to Montgomery was scheduled for March 7. Six hundred marchers assembled in Selma that Sunday, and led by John Lewis and other SNCC and SCLC activists, planned to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River en route to Montgomery. Just short of the bridge, they found their way blocked by Alabama State troopers and local police who ordered them to turn around. When the protesters refused, the officers shot teargas and waded into the crowd, beating the nonviolent protesters with billy clubs and ultimately hospitalizing over fifty people.

Mr. Montgomery had been active in the Civil Rights movement before, participating in the 1963 March on Washington, but when he returned to Selma, he jumped on the bandwagon with determination to make things better, to do whatever he could to help bring about an end to racial segregation. Within days of arriving in Selma, Mr. Montgomery connected with Dr. King, and by the beginning of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on 21 March 1965, Mr. Montgomery had become one of Dr. King’s bodyguards.  The march took four days of walking 12 hours a day, sleeping in fields along the way, protected by U.S. Army troops and Alabama National Guard forces that President Johnson had ordered.

dabney-montgomery-5Eventually, Mr. Montgomery returned to his job in New York City and in 1971 he married the girl of his dreams, Amelia. Mr. Montgomery retired from the New York City Housing Authority in 1988, but he did not rest on his laurels!  Since his retirement, he has worked as a Social Outreach Worker for Project FIND, a non-profit organization assisting older adults on Manhattan’s West Side. Montgomery was also very active with Harlem’s Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the oldest organized black church in New York, and was also active on the Parks Committee and Harlem’s Interfaith Committee of the Tenth Community Board of Manhattan. He also frequently visited schools to talk to the children about his experiences, and according to his wife, he remained active until he became ill, just a few weeks prior to his death.

In 2007, Mr. Montgomery, along with the other Tuskegee Airmen, received the Congressional Gold Medal.  The heels from the shoes he wore during the march from Selma to Montgomery will be on display in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, which is scheduled to open the 24th of this month.

dabney-montgomery-4There is no official record of how many of the Tuskegee Airmen are still alive today.  What is certain is that within another decade, there will likely be none left to tell the story.  With that in mind, a group called The History Makers began recording, preserving and sharing the life stories of thousands of African Americans, from President Barack Obama to the oldest living black cowboy.  You can hear Mr. Montgomery’s story in his own words .  What a noble project!  And what a noble man … my hat is off to Mr. Dabney Montgomery … Rest in Peace, sir, and thank you for your many contributions.

Great Quotes From Great Men

 

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” – John F. Kennedy

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” – John F. Kennedy

“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“”Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.” – Abraham Lincoln

“A house divided against itself cannot stand — I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” – Abraham Lincoln

Great quotes from the great men who truly did make America great. No further explanation is needed.

Why Black Lives Matter

This post is longer than I usually write.  I considered breaking it into two separate posts, posting them on two separate days, but in all honesty, that would be unfair.  I struggled for many hours over it and it is only about a fourth as much as I could have written, and I know that I did not do it justice, but it is one post that literally pulled something from within me and left me near tears more than once.  I hope that you will read to the end, because I think that we all need to work a little harder to understand what I am saying.

I admit that until recently (yesterday, actually) I did not fully grasp the meaning of the BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement.  Though I supported it, I did not fully “get” it.  Like many, I had a vague sense that it was a response to the many unjustified murders of black people in the last four years, starting with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.  I knew that the African-American community was protesting against the needless deaths caused by the very people who we pay to protect us all, the police.  But BLM is so much more than that, and I had a lot to learn.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were many who did not understand the Civil Rights movement, also.  It did not necessarily mean they were bad people, but merely that they could not grasp what it meant to be forced to use a separate water fountain, a separate restroom, ride in the back of the bus.  They had never been sprayed with a water hose by a policeman or had their friends killed when their church was bombed.  They did not understand and they did not try to understand.  No, they were not necessarily bad people, merely ignorant.

Fast forward to the 21st century.  We have come a long way, right?  There are no “Whites Only” signs on restroom doors or restaurants, inter-racial couples are allowed to marry, white and black children attend the same schools (mostly), and blacks are given the same employment opportunities (theoretically).  February 26th, in Sanford, Florida, a 17-year-old African-American boy is leaving a convenience store and is fatally shot by a local neighborhood watchman.  The boy’s name was Trayvon Martin and his crime was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time (a predominantly white neighborhood), being black, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt.  He carried no weapon and was a resident in that neighborhood.  The police supported the watchman’s right to shoot the boy and the court upheld that, judging the watchman “not guilty” the following year, despite his having lied about several details of that night.

The murder, for what else can it be called, of Trayvon Martin, is far from an isolated incident.  It neither began nor ended with Trayvon Martin, his was merely the first case that caught the attention of the public, the first time the public, white and black alike, became outraged in recent decades.  Consider, if you will, the following facts:

  • Police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, more than any other race.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 black people killed by police in 2015 were identified as unarmed, though the actual number is likely higher due to underreporting.
  • 37% of unarmed people killed by police were black in 2015 despite black people being only 13% of the U.S. population.
  • Unarmed black people were killed at 5 times the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.
  • Only 9 of the 102 cases resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime.

After the murder of Trayvon Martin, I was outraged and expected no less of my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, but I was to be disappointed.  Excuses were made, lies were told, believed and spread, and the upshot was that most people I talked to failed to see it as cold-blooded murder, but like the jurors in the case, believed it was a justifiable action.  This was the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, formed in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, though it did not gain widespread national recognition until 2014, after the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.

Black Lives Matter is not a continuation of the Civil Rights movement, though many see it as such.  We resolved some issues in the 1960’s as the Civil Rights movement wound down, but in the 50+ years hence, new issues have arisen.  Make no mistake … racism is alive and well in the U.S. today.  It has merely found a new home with different methods, different issues, a new veneer.  Black Lives Matter is not the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  There is no Martin Luther King, Jr. to direct us toward peaceful, non-violent solutions. It is a movement all its own based on police brutality against black citizens, the wealth gap, a failing system of public education that needs fixing, issues of housing equality and gentrification.  These are the issues that the BLM movement seeks to address in addition to police brutality and murders by police.

Black Lives Matter is not an anti-white movement though white supremacists argue that it is.  Now here is the part that I didn’t understand, and I am willing to bet that most people do not.  When you respond to Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter”, it is a slap in the face.  It is an insult.  No, BLM is not an anti-white movement. But it is a movement to remind us, to jostle our conscience, to let us know that blacks have been left out of much of what makes lives meaningful, and that frankly they are damned sick and tired of it.  I don’t blame them. When you say “All Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter, you are putting yourself first, once again.

The best explanation I have come across is this:

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

Tell me, dear readers … when was the last time that you felt, really and truly felt, that your life did not matter?  I have, as you probably have, felt that way once or twice in my life, as a child, but never for more than a few hours or a few days at a time.  Can you imagine spending your whole life feeling that your life was worth no more than … say a single fish in a pond?

  • If you’ve ever been stopped by police and not feared for your life, you’ve mattered.
  • If you’ve walked down a street at night and not been looked at with fear or suspicion, you’ve mattered.
  • If you’ve participated in our legal process and assumed you’ve gotten fair treatment, you’ve mattered.
  • Until this is true for all of us, we have work to do.

One other issue is relevant here.  Recently I saw a white woman on the news who said that while she supported BLM, the blacks really had only themselves to blame, that if they “acted right” and “spoke properly”, they would be taken more seriously, respected more.  There are those, even within the black community, who believe that blacks have not risen in stature, do not garner respect, because of their own behavior.  Because they are not trying to “fit in”.  Because maybe they dress differently or speak differently.  Baloney!  Blacks do not get the respect they deserve because many of us still believe they are inferior based on their race, based on the colour of their skin.  Nothing more. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how one looks or speaks.  THIS is what Black Lives Matter is attempting to convey.  Another excellent explanation for the BLM is to be found here:  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/11/25/why-do-i-still-have-to-explain-blacklivesmatter-to-other-white-people/

The saying “Black Lives Mattef” should probably include the word “too” or “also”.  That is what the movement is really about.  Black Lives Matter Too.  Black Lives Matter as much as White Lives.  Black Lives Matter as much as ANY LIVES.  No, they do not matter more … nobody ever said they did … but they must matter as much.  They must.

One last question before I give my fingers, my mind and my heart a break:  would somebody please tell me what that damn # is for???