Mandela Day …

I did not realize that today is Mandela Day, until I was skimming my e-mail late this afternoon and came across this one from the Obama Foundation …

Obama-foundation-logo

Hi Jill,

Ten years ago today, the world celebrated the first-ever Mandela Day, on Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday. Mandela himself was honored, but he emphasized that the day should not be a holiday to recognize him, but a day devoted to service. “Our struggle for freedom and justice was a collective effort,” he said. “Mandela Day is no different.”

Now, ten years later, I’m asking you to take part in another collective effort—to dedicate your time toward improving your own community.Obama-MandelaNo gesture is too small; no act of service too modest. Whether you donate books to your local library, volunteer at a shelter, or commit to mentoring someone in your neighborhood, every action is a step toward building a more gracious, more generous world. That is the world Mandela himself sought to build.

Earlier this week, the Obama Foundation convened 200 of Africa’s best and brightest young leaders in Mandela’s home country of South Africa to help them sharpen their skills, share their hopes and ideas, and build a network that can help chart the future of the continent. But before they left our Leaders: Africa convening, they gathered together to volunteer at a nearby primary school.

They didn’t sign their names on murals or stand idly by, waiting for recognition—these leaders simply gave their time in service. It’s the kind of example that true leadership demands. And I can think of no one who better defines that spirit of leadership than Madiba himself.

So this Mandela Day, commit some time to making a difference in your community. But don’t do it for yourself or even just to recognize him; do it because it’ll make our world better.

Thanks,

Barack Obama

Mandela-1Nelson Mandela International Day aka Mandela Day, is an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.

The Mandela Day campaign message, according to a statement issued on Mandela’s behalf is:

  • Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.
  • We would be honoured if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation and cultural diversity.

A little bit about Nelson Mandela.

By the time of his death, within South Africa Mandela was widely considered both “the father of the nation” and “the founding father of democracy”.  Outside of South Africa, he was a global icon, with the scholar of South African studies Rita Barnard describing him as “one of the most revered figures of our time”.

When some attempted to portray Mandela as a modern-day messiah, his response was …

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

gandhi-king-mandelaHe is often cited alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the 20th century’s exemplary anti-racist and anti-colonial leaders.  Mandela’s international fame had emerged during his incarceration in the 1980s, when he became the world’s most famous prisoner, a symbol of the anti-apartheid cause, and an icon for millions who embraced the ideal of human equality. In 1986, Mandela’s biographer characterized him as “the embodiment of the struggle for liberation” in South Africa.

Mandela generated controversy throughout his career as an activist and politician, having detractors on both the right and the radical left. During the 1980s, Mandela was widely labelled a terrorist by prominent political figures in the Western world for his embrace of political violence. According to the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, for instance, the ANC was “a typical terrorist organisation”. The US government’s State and Defense departments officially designated the African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization, resulting in Mandela remaining on their terrorism watch-list until 2008.

In the words of South African historian/biographer Bill Freund …

“The significance of Mandela can be considered in two related ways. First, he has provided through his personal presence as a benign and honest conviction politician, skilled at exerting power but not obsessed with it to the point of view of excluding principles, a man who struggled to display respect to all … Second, in so doing he was able to be a hero and a symbol to an array of otherwise unlikely mates through his ability, like all brilliant nationalist politicians, to speak to very different audiences effectively at once.”

Mandela-2Like Gandhi, King, and a handful of others, Nelson Mandela left the world a little bit better place than he found it.  This is something few of us will achieve, but that we should all strive for.Mandela Day

♫ The Way It Is ♫

Sometimes one of you refers to a song when commenting on my music posts, and a 💡comes on … an AHA! moment, as I am reminded of a song I haven’t heard nor thought of in years.  Such was the case yesterday when Roger commented that yesterday’s song reminded him of this one by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.  Well, I remembered the song, always liked the song, but I thought it was ‘Bruce Hornsby and the Rain’.  I went to check and … my bad … Roger was quite right.  Sigh.

The opening verse recounts a story taking place at a line for welfare that illustrates a divide between the rich and poor. The chorus presents several lines insisting that social ills are “just the way it is”, and repeatedly suggests resigning oneself to them as a fact of life—however, the chorus ends with the author rebuking this attitude by insisting “but don’t you believe them.”

The second verse recounts past social issues from the voice of someone supporting racial segregation. The author responds in a narrative voice, insisting his view that if those who make laws took them into careful consideration they would be convinced that laws enforcing principles like racial segregation are morally wrong. The song reminds the listener that it was at one time argued that racial segregation was “just the way it is”, and suggests that legislation and what the author views as progress on current social issues should be pursued without regard to those who insist “some things will never change.”

The third verse recounts the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a victory in the civil rights movement, but insists that more is needed. In particular, the verse highlights individual prejudice and employment discrimination as an enduring form of racism. The third chorus suggests that it only feels like “some things will never change” when we wait for social problems to change themselves rather than taking steps ourselves to actively change them.

The song was released in 1986, and here, 33 years later the song still has relevance, for we are still fighting the same battles.

According to Hornsby, who grew up in Virginia …

“My mother came from the New England area, and she was a little more enlightened about racial subjects than a lot of people in the South. So I had a different attitude to a lot of my friends whose parents were more conservative. When I was brought up, the vibe I got of Martin Luther King in my town was that he was a real evil man – just the vibe in the air, that he was terrible. And if you grow up in that environment you can’t help but be affected by it a little bit. Luckily, I came from a family that guarded us against that conservatism, but sure, I grew up in the thick of all that bad feeling.”

Believe it or not, Sean Hannity used an instrumental portion of this song as his show’s theme for many years. Hornsby, a liberal democrat, had vastly different political views, but there was nothing he could do about Hannity using the song as long as royalties were paid.

The Way It Is
Bruce Hornsby and the Range

Standing in line, marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady’s eyes
Just for fun he says, “Get a job.”

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

Said hey, little boy, you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said hey, old man, how can you stand to think that way?
Did you really think about it before you made the rules?
He said, son

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

Yeah

That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

Songwriters: Bruce Hornsby
The Way It Is lyrics © Zappo Music, Sony Atv Music Publishing France, SONY/ATV TUNES LLC OBO ZAPPO MUSIC

♫ No Easy Walk To Freedom ♫

I actually had another song scheduled to play this morning, until an email from friend Ellen made this suggestion.  I wish I had thought of it yesterday, for it would have been the perfect song to play for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but hey … better to be a day late than not at all, right?

This is the title song of a 1986 studio album by American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Its release coincided with the group’s 25th anniversary. Produced by John McClure and Peter Yarrow, the album was nominated in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.

The album was their first in almost nine years, and this title song was actually written for Nelson Mandela.  The group sought to connect the causes of Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.  A few years later, Peter, Paul and Mary would perform No Easy Walk to Freedom at an event in Tokyo honoring Mandela shortly after his release from prison.

No Easy Walk to Freedom
Peter, Paul and Mary

Brother Martin was walkin with me
And every step I heard liberty
Tho he’s fallin’, come a million behind!
Glory, Hallelujah, gonna make it this time!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Across the ocean, the blood’s running warm
I, I hear it coming, there’s a thunderin’ storm
Just like we lived it, you know that it’s true
Nelson Mandela, now we’re walkin’ with you!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

In our land, not so long ago,
We lived the struggle, and that’s how we know
Slavery abolished, comin’ freedom’s call
Keep on walking and apartheid will fall!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Oh, bread for the body, there’s got to be
But a soul will die without liberty
Pray for the day when the struggle is past!
Freedom for all! Free at last! Free at last!

You and me!

Songwriters: Peter Yarrow / Tabankim Margery
No Easy Walk to Freedom lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

♫ What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John ♫

I started looking for the right song for tonight … for once there was none stuck in my head … and happened across Jackie Deshannon’s 1965 hit, What the World Needs Now is Love.  I thought perhaps, in these times of troubles all over the world, in the Middle-East, the UK, the United States, and many more places, this might be an appropriate song to play.

As I looked for a bit of information, a bit of trivia about the song, I was led to another song and it is this that I play for you tonight.  I don’t intend these music posts to be in the least bit political, and my apologies, for this one is, in a sense.  But it is also … it speaks to us today, I think, just as it did in 1971.  Today, some of the issues are different … Vietnam has ended, but Syria and Yemen have not.  And some of the issues are yet the same … racism, prejudice, bigotry.

This is a remix of two songs, the aforementioned What the World Needs Now is Love combined with Abraham, Martin and John, first recorded by Dion in 1968 as a response to the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year.

Tom-Clay.jpgTom Clay was a disc jockey in 1971, working for radio station KGBS in Los Angeles, California when he created this remix.  The narrative includes sound bites from speeches of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., and makes a heartfelt social/political comment.

Again, I apologize for bringing a socio-political statement into my music posts, but when I heard this song … it just … did something to me and I wanted to share it.  I promise a more uplifting music selection tomorrow, but I do hope you will take just a few minutes to listen to this one.  I have included the lyrics to both of the original songs.

What the World Needs Now
Jackie DeShannon

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.

Songwriters: Burt F. Bacharach / Hal David
What the World Needs Now lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Abraham, Martin And John
Dion DiMucci

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

Songwriters: Richard Holler
Abraham, Martin And John lyrics © Stonehenge Music

🎈 Happy Birthday, Franklin! 🎈

🎁 Today is the 50th birthday of a very special young man.  I’m sure you all know of him, but you may not know the story of how Franklin came to be.  I came across several versions of this story yesterday and thought it a perfect way to wish forever-young Franklin a very 🎈Happy Birthday! 🎈

 

On July 31, 1968, a young, black man was reading the newspaper when he saw something that he had never seen before. With tears in his eyes, he started running and screaming throughout the house, calling for his mom. He would show his mom, and, she would gasp, seeing something she thought she would never see in her lifetime. Throughout the nation, there were similar reactions.

What they saw was Franklin Armstrong’s first appearance on the iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” Franklin would be 50 years old this year.

Harriet-Glickman

Harriet Glickman & Marleik Walker, the voice of Franklin in The Peanuts Movie

Franklin was “born” after a school teacher, Harriet Glickman, had written a letter to creator Charles M. Schulz after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death outside his Memphis hotel room.

Glickman, who had kids of her own and having worked with kids, was especially aware of the power of comics among the young. “And my feeling at the time was that I realized that black kids and white kids never saw themselves [depicted] together in the classroom,” she would say.

franklin-5She would write, “Since the death of Martin Luther King, ‘I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.’”

Glickman asked Schulz if he could consider adding a black character to his popular comic strip, which she hoped would bring the country together and show people of color that they are not excluded from American society.

She had written to others as well, but the others feared it was too soon, that it may be costly to their careers, that the syndicate would drop them if they dared do something like that.

charles schultzCharles Schulz did not have to respond to her letter, he could have just completely ignored it, and everyone would have forgotten about it. But, Schulz did take the time to respond, saying he was intrigued with the idea, but wasn’t sure whether it would be right, coming from him, he didn’t want to make matters worse, he felt that it may sound condescending to people of color.

Glickman did not give up, and continued communicating with Schulz, with Schulz surprisingly responding each time. She would even have black friends write to Schulz and explain to him what it would mean to them and gave him some suggestions on how to introduce such a character without offending anyone. This conversation would continue until one day, Schulz would tell Glickman to check her newspaper on July 31, 1968.First FranklinOn that date, the cartoon, as created by Schulz, shows Charlie Brown meeting a new character, named Franklin. Other than his color, Franklin was just an ordinary kid who befriends and helps Charlie Brown. Franklin also mentions that his father was “over at Vietnam.”

franklin-7At the end of the series, which lasted three strips, Charlie invites Franklin to spend the night one day so they can continue their friendship.

Franklin-3There was no big announcement, there was no big deal, it was just a natural conversation between two kids, whose obvious differences did not matter to them. And, the fact that Franklin’s father was fighting for this country was also a very strong statement by Schulz.

Although Schulz never made a big deal over the inclusion of Franklin, there were many fans, especially in the South, who were very upset by it and that made national news. One Southern editor even said, “I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.”Franklin-2It would eventually lead to a conversation between Schulz and the president of the comic’s distribution company, who was concerned about the introduction of Franklin and how it might affect Schulz’ popularity. Many newspapers during that time had threatened to cut the strip.

Schulz’ response: “I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklin — he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”

Eventually, Franklin became a regular character in the comic strips, and, despite complaints, Franklin would be shown sitting in front of Peppermint Patty at school and playing center field on her baseball team.franklin-4More recently, Franklin is brought up on social media around Thanksgiving time, when the animated 1973 special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” appears. Some people have blamed Schulz for showing Franklin sitting alone on the Thanksgiving table, while the other characters sit across him. But, Schulz did not have the same control over the animated cartoon on a television network that he did on his own comic strip in the newspapers.FRANKLIN, LINUS, SALLY, CHARLIE BROWN, PEPPERMINT PATTY, SNOOPY AND MARCIEBut, he did have control over his own comic strip, and, he courageously decided to make a statement because of one brave school teacher who decided to ask a simple question.

Peanuts gangGlickman would explain later that her parents were “concerned about others, and the values that they instilled in us about caring for and appreciating everyone of all colors and backgrounds — this is what we knew when we were growing up, that you cared about other people . . . And so, during the years, we were very aware of the issues of racism and civil rights in this country [when] black people had to sit at the back of the bus, black people couldn’t sit in the same seats in the restaurants that you could sit . . . Every day I would see, or read, about black children trying to get into school and seeing crowds of white people standing around spitting at them or yelling at them . . . and the beatings and the dogs and the hosings and the courage of so many people in that time.”

Because of Glickman, because of Schulz, people around the world were introduced to a little boy named Franklin. – The Jon S. Randal Peace Pageletter from Schultz

I Think …

I quite often say that we seem not to learn from the lessons of history.  Oh sure, we remember for a while – a generation or two – but then the memories dim as the people who lived through that history die off and there is nobody to tell the stories with passion, with first-hand experience.  The immediacy fades and we return to the old ways or settle into new ones. One example is Hitler and the Holocaust.  My grandparents and parents well remembered those lessons, for they lived through them.  I have, perhaps a slightly dimmed sense of it, for I was not yet born, but still a heightened awareness from a childhood spent hearing the stories from one set of grandparents, my mother, and my father who fought in WWII.  And I passed many of those stories to my own children and granddaughter, but by this time they are 3rd and 4th hand stories and are losing some of their authenticity.  Another generation and the stories likely will not be told at all.

Surely there are history books from which we can learn, but again, with few exceptions, written words on a page often fail to bring the story to life, fail to inspire or excite.  And so, we may know the facts, while at the same time forgetting the lessons.  Arrogantly, we believe that those things could never happen in today’s world, never to our generation. Two comments I read yesterday gave rise to this post and an attempt, probably feeble, to find something in the past on which to judge the political and social turmoil the U.S. is experiencing today and find solutions to keep us all from killing one another.

The first comment was by USFMAN, commenting on my post Be Better:

“You cannot outshout a demagogue like Trump so look for similar situations from history that might offer solutions. Gandhi’s idea of mass passive resistance and Martin Luther King’s Freedom Riders come to mind.”

The second was by our friend Roger (Woebegone but Hopeful) commenting on Keith’s post That Jesus Saying:

“The danger lies in the separation of the nation into quarrelling tribes who never listen to each other. This is not good. Does no one look back to the histories of the 1840s to 1860s? Does it take another ‘Bloody Kansas’ for folk to sit up and think, ‘there is something wrong here’”

Interestingly, Roger lives in the UK, Wales to be specific, and yet most often has a better grasp of the history of this nation than we who have lived here all our lives.  And he, as well as many other friends from across the pond, see our situation with clearer eyes than we do.  Perhaps there is something to be said of that expression “can’t see the forest for the trees”?

Anyway, these comments started me thinking.  A very brief bit of historical context for those who may not remember the details.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 gave the territories of Kansas and Nebraska the right to choose, by popular vote, whether to become a slave state or a free state.  Slavery being the most contentious issue of the day, tensions ran high, to say the least, and a lot of dirty politics ensued.  So dirty, in fact, that when a congressional committee investigated a year or so later, they found that 1,729 fraudulent votes had been cast as compared to 1,114 legitimate ones!  Needless to say, violence ensued:  a hotel and two newspaper offices were burned, homes and stores ransacked, and murder & mayhem became the order of the day.

Long story short, a divisive political issue nearly destroyed a society, causing death and destruction.  Now granted,  that was in the days of the ‘Olde West’, and we are more … civilized today.  Or are we?  We have white police officers killing unarmed blacks.  We have white supremacist groups creating chaos on city streets and university campuses.  We have people refusing to serve other people in their place of business because of politics.  We have a ‘president’ who incites violence, encouraging people to hurt others.  Are we more civilized that Kansans in the mid-nineteenth century?  Don’t be too sure.  It would seem that we really haven’t come very far at all.

Which brings me to USFMAN’s comments …

How many times in the last year or two have I said that I wish we had another Martin Luther King?  Too many.  Martin Luther King was only one of the Civil Rights leaders some 50-60 years ago who worked tirelessly to bring about change, but what was unique about him was two things:  his charisma that gave him the ability to lead, and his philosophy of non-violence.  Martin, you may remember, had a dream.  He knew what he wanted to accomplish.  As I read the text of his speech for probably the 100th time, I realize that Martin Luther King’s dream in 1963 was not much different than our own dream today.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

We have many burning issues today, concerning relationships with our allies, health care, education,  poverty, immigration, guns, environment, abortion, and more.  Most of these issues were  not born under the regime of Trump, but he has fanned the flames of discord and disharmony in every single event. But at the crux of most of it is bigotry, intolerance and discrimination of one group or another.  Discrimination against not only African-Americans, but Muslims, Latinos, LGBT people, non-Christians, the poor and even women.  Rather than being able to say we overcame the discrimination that Martin Luther King was fighting, we have expanded it to include other groups – almost anyone who is not white, Christian, and preferably male.

Now that I have offered my rambling thoughts, you probably wonder where I am going with this, if I have a point.  I do.  It seems to me that, in the absence of a Gandhi or Martin Luther King in our midst to lead the way in peaceful protest, then we must each become those leaders, using our voices to promote ideas of equality, to insist our voices be heard, and to do so without violence.  Colin Kaepernick was one such leader last year.  MLK would have been proud of Mr. Kaepernick, for never was there a more peaceful way of protesting, yet he made his point.  This is the way to win equality … the only way, I think.

Tears of Rage …

There are so many important things I need to write about today that as I sit at the keyboard, I am conflicted, not knowing where to begin.  Trump’s emoluments lawsuit?  His DACA threat?  His intent to pull out of Syria?  His threat to pull out of NAFTA?  His ignorant statement that The Washington Post should have to register as a lobbyist organization?  Laura Ingraham’s cruel statements about the kids protesting for gun regulation and the backlash against her?  Then again, I have a piece started about how gerrymandering could affect the mid-term elections, but it requires more research that I haven’t yet found time for.  Sigh.  But I know that I will write about none of these topics for this post, because while they are all extremely important, another story has stirred my emotions … all of them: rage, grief, despair.

Stephon Clark with his two children

A young man, Stephon Clark, was only 22-years-old when he died, fatally shot in his grandmother’s backyard by police officers.  Police said he was coming toward them with a weapon.  In fact, he held a cell phone.  Police said they shot in self-defense … all twenty times.  In fact, six of the eight bullets that hit Mr. Clark, hit him in the back … in the back!!!  They shot an unarmed man six times in the back!  Stephon, as I’m sure you have guessed by now, was black. It happened two weeks ago, 18 March, to be precise. At first I steered clear of this story, for it was reported that Stephon may have been vandalizing cars in the neighborhood, and details seemed conflicting in several areas.  Besides, our friend Gronda had done a fine post about it, so I went in a different direction.    But when I heard the autopsy reports, I began to lean toward writing about it after all.  And then today … on Saturday night, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s car hit a 61-year-old woman in a crowd of protestors and then … sped away!!! That’s right … one of “Sacramento’s Finest” is guilty of hit-and-run against a woman who was doing nothing more than protesting a brutal murder by other members of “Sacramento’s Finest”! It was at this point that I knew I had to write this else my fury would eat me alive.

Wanda Cleveland, the woman the deputy hit, will fortunately be alright.  She was treated at the hospital for injuries to her arm and the back of her head.  The incident was captured on video, so there should be no doubt as to who the guilty deputy is, though the Sheriff’s office has not released that information as yet.  They say only that it is ‘under investigation’.  There is already a demand that the two officers who shot Stephon be fired, and I would add this deputy’s name to the list of people who do not need to be in law enforcement.

Does anybody remember the riots in Los Angeles in 1991 after the videotaped beating of Rodney King by L.A.P.D. officers?  It looks a lot like Sacramento wants to repeat those riots.  Protests in Sacramento had been ongoing for days, but those protests increased in intensity and tension after the results of the autopsy were released.  Thus far, the protests have shut down major roadways, blocked entry to an NBA game and created a seemingly ever-present tension in the streets of California’s capital.  I must commend the protestors, for through it all, there have been only two arrests.

And there have been signs of compassion and remorse.  Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg walked with Clark’s family as they left his funeral last week.  The Sacramento Kings NBA team has launched an education fund for Clark’s children.  Protest organizers are cautiously optimistic about the new Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who just last August became the city’s first African American police chief. Hahn did not hesitate to swiftly release body-cam videos of the shooting and summon the assistance of the state attorney general’s office to investigate it.

So yes, there are signs that this is being taken seriously, there may well be olive branches extended, but it is not enough.  Steps must be taken to hold law enforcement accountable, and thus far that has not been done.  As Attorney General under President Obama, Loretta Lynch initiated investigations and implemented procedures to ensure federal oversight of police departments, especially those accused of racial profiling.  Upon taking office, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who has a history of proven racism,  repealed much of what Ms. Lynch had put into place, saying …

“It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”

Then whose responsibility is it, Mr. Sessions???  We The People are sick and tired of unarmed black men being gunned down in cold blood by local police, and never being held accountable.  Local police across the nation have proven that they are not going to terminate officers who shoot unarmed black men.  Community outrage?  Sure, for a while, and then it dies down, the officers are found “not guilty” and reinstated in their positions, their killing weapons returned to them so that they can go out and take another young life.  #BlackLivesMatter is a movement that is rarely understood among the white population of this nation.  It is not saying, as some would claim, that only black lives matter … it is saying that black lives matter every bit as much as white lives!  Just maybe not to the police, the courts, or the current Department of Justice.

Something must change.  This cannot continue.  The people of Sacramento are angry.  The people of this nation are angry, at least most of us.  And we are tired … tired of racial injustice, tired of law enforcement being “above the law”.  Tired of white supremacism, bigotry, racism and hatred.  I hope the protests in Sacramento continue until finally somebody sits up and takes notice.  I do not hope to see more lives lost, but hope that, like the young people who marched for laws to control guns, the protesters are spirited, yet operate peacefully, within the bounds of the law. But the point must be made, somehow, that no, this is not okay with us!

In two days, 04 April 2017, it will have been 50 years since the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King.  Are we any further along in our quest for racial equality than we were 50 years ago?  You tell me …

Thumbs Up — March For Our Lives!

On Saturday over 800 March For Our Lives events, organized by young people, took place around the globe, from New York to Dallas to Seattle, but also in London, Tokyo, Sydney and Mumbai!  This was not some minor protest that will be forgotten by next week.  Nope, folks, this was a BIG DEAL.  These young people had a message and they sent it loud and clear:  It’s time to stop the gun madness in the U.S. – NOW!!!  I support them 100%, and I am so very proud of anyone and everyone who marched, helped organize or contributed in any way to these events.

Think how amazing this is.  The students who survived the February 14th tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, organized the rally in Washington, D.C. and from there, others picked up the baton and ran with it.  This map shows where rallies and marches were held throughout the U.S.map-1

map-2The crowds at the event in Washington were initially estimated to be around 500,000, but by most estimates on Saturday were closer to 800,000!  (Not to be smug, but the inaugural crowds last year were in the ballpark of only 600,000)  I couldn’t have said it any better than President Barack Obama …“This was all because of the courage and effort of a handful of 15- and 16-year-olds, who took the responsibility that so often adults had failed to take in trying to find a solution to this problem, and I think that’s a testimony to what happens when young people are given opportunities, and I think all institutions have to think about how do we tap into that creativity and that energy and that drive. Because it’s there. It’s just so often we say: ‘Wait your turn.’”And make no mistake … there have been many fools who tried to tell these young people to “wait your turn”, and they brushed those naysayers aside and went on to do what their hearts and minds told them to do.  I cannot possibly do justice to all the special moments, but here are a few:

  • Nine-year-old Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of the late, great Martin Luther King, gave a short but moving speech:
    • “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun free world. Period.”
  • George and Amal Clooney donated $500,000 for the Washington event and marched alongside demonstrators, as did Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and other celebrities too numerous to name.
  • U.S. Representative and Civil Rights hero John Lewis gave an impassioned speech where he said he was proud of the “F” rating he has from the NRA.

But by far the stars of the show were the speeches by the survivors of the Parkland tragedy and the signs!  Take a look at some of these signs, folks!Rally Held In Parkland, Florida Calling For Increased Gun Safety Laws Ahead Of Weekend's National Marchessignage-3signage-4And then there was Emma González’ moment of silence.  Actually, about six minutes and 20 seconds of silence, the amount of time it took for the Parkland gunman to complete his rampage and flee the school.

A student survivor of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting last month held several minutes of silence Saturday at the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C., to honor the 17 students and faculty killed in the shooting. Taking the stage mid-afternoon after several other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors spoke, Emma González remained silent for six minutes before explaining it was the approximate time it took for the Parkland gunman to complete his rampage and flee the school.

“Six minutes and about 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered. Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job.”

These young people are the next generation.  They are the ones who will lead this nation 20, 30 or 40 years from now, perhaps even sooner.  Let us hope that they do not become jaded, that they keep their strong humanitarian values, that they effect the change our own generation is too consumed by greed and materialistic ‘values’ to do.  My thumbs, all of them, are up to these young people!  Thank you all!

Meanwhile, my thumbs go down 👎🏼 to the following:

  • Former republican senator Rick Santorum, who said, “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations [so] that when there is a violent shooter, that you can actually respond to that?”  (They should learn CPR so that next time their friends are shot, they can keep them breathing???)
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) who posted on Facebook: “Stand and Fight for our Kids’ Safety by Joining NRA. Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”  (So much stupidity that there really is no response for this!)
  • Whomever doctored this image to make it look as if Emma González were ripping the U.S. Constitution in half, when in fact she was ripping a gun-range target. The image went viral on social media, firing up the already witless staunch defenders of the second amendment.

emma gonzales - doctored tweetSemper Fidelis, young people.

Hats Off to Senator Cory Booker

More than once in recent months, I have pondered who would make the best democratic candidate for president in the 2020 contest.  Elizabeth Warren?  Probably a bit too controversial, but certainly qualified.  John Lewis?  Sadly, too old, for he would be nearly 81 years of age when he took the oath of office, though he would otherwise be my first choice.  And then I keep coming back to Cory Booker.  I have a project list, and Senator Booker’s name is on it, but I just hadn’t gotten to him yet.  Today, something happened that raised him even higher in my esteem and I have bumped him up on the list.

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, claimed that she couldn’t remember what word Trump used to describe Haiti and African nations in an Oval Office meeting last week. Now, we all know that the word was ‘shithole’, as Trump even bragged about it … before he denied it, that is.  And the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter the exact word, for the thought, the intent, remains the same.  But for a person sitting in that meeting to come out and say they don’t remember … says a lot about the character, or lack thereof, of that person.  Cory Booker has had enough.  Cory Booker courageously gave a nearly  nine-minute speech, a forceful and honest talk.  Here are some excerpts …

“I sit here right now because when good white people in this country heard bigotry or hatred, they stood up. What went on in the White House, what went on in the Oval Office, is profoundly disturbing to me.

I’ve been in the Oval Office many times and when the commander in chief speaks, I listen. I don’t have amnesia on conversations in the Oval Office going back months and months and months.

Why am I seething with anger? We have this incredible nation where we’ve been taught it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter your color, your race, your religion, it’s about the content of your character. It’s about your values and your ideas. And yet we have language that from Dick Durbin to Lindsay Graham — they seem to have a much better recollection of what went on. You’re under oath.”

At this point, you can see that Booker was fighting back tears …

“You and others in that room that suddenly cannot remember. It was Martin Luther King that said, ‘There’s nothing in this world that’s more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.’ And so, here we are in the United States of America. And we have a history that is beautiful and grand, and also ugly — where from this nation to others, we know what happens when people sit by and are bystanders and say nothing,

Our greatest heroes in this country, spoke out about people who have convenient amnesia or who are bystanders.

This idea that the commander in chief of this country could with broad brushes talk about certain nations and thus cast a shadow over the millions of American who are from those communities — and that you could even say in your testimony that Norwegians were [preferred] by him because they were ‘so hard working….

Your silence and amnesia are complicity. When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about his experience in that meeting, and for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues, saying, ‘I’ve already answered that line of questions,’ when tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because they’re worried about what happened in the White House… that’s unacceptable to me.”

I would have stood up, had I been in that room, and given Mr. Cory Booker a standing ovation.  Kirstjen Nielsen, meanwhile, sat looking smug and arrogant throughout Senator Booker’s impassioned speech.  And for the record, claiming, under oath, not to remember something, when you do in fact remember is considered perjury.

I think you will find this video worth the 9 minutes of your time … I did.

On Monday we observed Martin Luther King Day, and I mentioned more than a few times in comments here on my blog, and in personal conversations that I wish we had someone like him today.  Is it possible we may have just that person in Cory Booker?

BookerFor those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Booker, a few facts.  Cory Booker will be 49 years old in April, and is a Senator from New Jersey who has been in office since 2013. Prior to that, he was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, for seven years. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Sociology, both from Stanford University, and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. After returning from Oxford, he earned a J.D. from Yale Law School.  His ideology is considered to be fiscally conservative while socially progressive.

I will write more about Booker in coming weeks, but suffice it to say that I see him as a man who carries the courage of his convictions, who is well-spoken, intelligent, and has humanitarian values.  No matter what comes next, his impromptu speech at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday will always stick in my mind.  I applaud this man.

clapping

Note to Readers:  Good People Doing Good Things will return next Wednesday.  Apparently I am taking an unplanned break from “good” this week!

One Hero In Congress …

Today I am tired of writing about Trump & Co.  I have started two posts, one about the G-20 summit, and another about some strange goings-on among the White House staff his week.  Both remain ‘works-in-process’ at this point, not because I got bored with them, but because I realized I was disgusted by everything pertaining to Trump and the administration, Congress and their boot-licking legislation, and the whole works.  So, I was just flipping through some friends’ posts on Facebook, hoping to gain a fresh perspective, when I came across this:

john-lewisAnd that led me to the thought of writing about somebody in Congress who is not driven by greed, not led by fear of Trump, but a true representative of We The People.  While it is true that there are others in Congress who have more of a conscience than the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, in my opinion, there are none to compare with Representative John Lewis.

Most of you probably know at least a bit of Lewis’ history, but please bear with me as I quickly recap for any who may not.

john-lewis-2John Lewis, one of the most notable heroes of the Civil Rights movement, began his career as an activist in 1959, at the age of 19, by organizing student sit-in demonstrations, bus boycotts, and non-violent protests for voter and racial equality.  Then in 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, becoming one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for whites. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

John-Lewis-SNCCLewis’ was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963, at only age 23!  As such, he became a member of the Big Six, leaders of six prominent civil rights organizations, and the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King gave his I Have A Dream Speech.

5 minutes 17 seconds, and worth every second!

On August 28, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the march, John Lewis along with President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter addressed a crowd at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Also present were Caroline Kennedy and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Other participants included the parents of Trayvon Martin, Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.

 

Perhaps Mr. Lewis’ most notable moment came in 1965 when he helped organize the now-famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and was among 600 demonstrators attacked by police. This day became known as Bloody Sunday, and 58 people were taken to a local hospital, including Mr. Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull.

John-lewis-skullJohn Lewis won the House seat for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1986.  He has since been re-elected 15 times, and has dropped below 70 percent of the vote only once. He is one of the most liberal members of the House, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent a district in the Deep South. On May 21, 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Lewis was the “only former major civil rights leader who extended his fight for human rights and racial reconciliation to the halls of Congress.” In the same article, they referred to Mr. Lewis as the ‘conscience of Congress’.

Though now 77 years old, Lewis’ passion for justice has not dimmed.  In June 2016, he staged a sit-in demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on gun-safety legislation in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Speaker pro tempore Daniel Webster ordered the House into recess, but Democrats refused to leave the chamber for nearly 26 hours. He is no fan of Donald Trump, having compared him to George Wallace at one point during the campaigns last year.  In a Meet The Press interview one week before Trump’s inauguration, he stated, “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in having this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don’t plan to attend the Inauguration. I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians, and others, that helped him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open, democratic process.” Trump, naturally, responded with ugly tweets.

There is so much more to be said about Congressman Lewis, but if you want to know more, there are many good books out there, including his own autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, originally published in 1998 and re-issued in paperback in 2015.

John-Lewis-Barack-Obama-medalIn 2011, John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, and on January 6, 2016, it was announced that a future United States Navy underway replenishment oiler would be named USNS John Lewis. He has won so many awards that I cannot possibly list them all.

Lewis was the only living speaker from the March on Washington present on the stage during the inauguration of Barack Obama. Obama signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis with the words, “Because of you, John. Barack Obama.”

In response to his earlier tweet, one of his followers tweeted the following: Katy Otto ‏@exfkaty to tweet. “You are one of a small handful of politicians that gives me hope for this country. Thank you immensely for your service.” I second that, Ms. Otto. In my opinion, Representative John Lewis is a hero both of the past and the present, and possibly the most conscionable of the 535 members of Congress.