The Difference We Make

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well.” -Aristotle

When my son was growing up, he had a friend, Zeno, who was being raised in some sort of foster situation. Zeno never lived with his parents who were plagued with many, many problems. The person who was “raising” him didn’t use any money they were receiving for Zeno’s well -being and care. During his high school years, he made a break in that situation and lived with various families and then, hallelujah, he went away to college in NYS. We always welcomed Zeno into our home; he was polite, courteous, had a beautiful smile and very bright. We were happy to have him as a friend for our son who was a year younger. In person and while emailing Zeno in college and afterwards since he stayed upstate, I always simply told him to “Stay Strong…” that was my mantra I repeated over and over again and also always told him how proud we were of him. Well, this wonderful young man left in July for Ghana to teach and live there. Yesterday I received an email chock full of info on everything he is doing there…the people he is meeting…the programs he is in charge of and/or initiating. I am so proud of him. This is a little of what Zeno said to me:

I feel so humbled to be in this position and I really just wanted to tell you about it because I often hear your voice in the back of my head.

I can hear all of the times you would encourage me to push for the best and remind me of what I was capable of. So I wanted to say thank you. You have been so essential to many levels of my development.

I realized that I can do the things that make me absolutely happy and make a life for myself. So many realizations are occurring. This one year is changing my life more than any other time I have lived (in this lifetime that is).

I hope this email finds you well.

Love and Light from the Motherland,

I responded to Zeno by letting him know we always knew he could do anything he pursued and that we continue to be so proud of him and that whatever words I may have passed onto him, I know he is doing the same thing in Ghana for his students and that they must love him.

“The great teacher is not the man who supplies the most facts, but the one in whose presence we become different people.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

 

 

“Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Freedom”

Unfinished Work

Yes, I hear everyone that cries we have much to do…the work is unfinished…I agree. Yesterday, watching the observation of the 1963 March on Washington, I was heartened to hear so many younger voices alongside those of elders such as: Ambassador Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sister, Christine King Farris. It warmed my heart to see Caroline Kennedy and Lynda Johnson Robb share the stage; the other day I did a posting for President LBJ’s birthday and though I was one of the marchers chanting, “Hey, Hey, LBJ…,” I also realize the many great things accomplished during his administration. Some of the younger or slightly younger and/or new voices who impressed me were: Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLISEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network); Mee Moua, an Hmong woman born in Vietnam and President of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Senator Angus King, an Independent from Maine; a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, can’t remember full name, but last name was Whitney….well….he sang “I Believe” and had a smooth voice reminiscent of the late Johnny Hartman, beautiful!; Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas; Governor O’Malley from Maryland (He was great!); Laura Seydel of Captain Planet who focused on environmental justice; Fred Maahs, Chair of AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities); Alan Van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc, a Jewish Civil Rights group and too many more for me to list.

I knew when Ambassador Andrew Young came out at the beginning, that the program was getting off on the right foot; Young spontaneously burst into “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Freedom,” a famous Civil Rights song and encouraged the participants before him to join in. He’s from the generation that recognizes the power of song to unite. Thank you Andrew Young! How wonderful to see Dolores Huerta, still strong and purposeful!!! LeANN Rimes gave a lovely rendition of Amazing Grace.Actor, Jamie Foxx urged, “Everybody my age, it’s time to stand up and renew the dream…time for us to pick up…”

There were many highlights at yesterday’s observation, but what most touched me was at the beginning of the program when I saw Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey come out with their acoustic guitars with Mark Barden whose son was killed in the Newtown Massacre; Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin whose son, Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida by a name I really do not want to give more publicity to. All four sang Bob Dylan’s, “Blowin’ In the Wind,” which Peter and Paul along with dearly departed Mary Travers sang 50 years ago at the 1963 March on Washington! Tears welled in my eyes. The lyrics are still devastatingly relevant:

“Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died ?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Yes, we’ve many miles to go before any of us sleep (Thank you Robert Frost)…the work continues…and we each have our role. What is your role? What is my role? Ah…that is the question! I know that I “Woke Up This Morning with MY Mind Stayed on Freedom…” and how I choose to spread that word is for me to decide and put into action. I’m a teacher after all, I teach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Answer is STILL Blowin’ In the Wind…

What an historic and monumental day! 50 years ago, The March on Washington gave us all hope and determination to work to make lives better for all citizens. Lots of work left to be done…

“Hey, Hey, LBJ…”-Anti Vietnam War Chant

President Lyndon Baines Johnson was born today in 1908; he was our nation’s 36th president. Though he was criticized for how he handled the Vietnam War and the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City,  2 important documents were signed into law during his administration: The Civil Rights Act (’64) and the Voting Rights Act (’65). President LBJ also initiated The War on Poverty (The Great Society), which included establishing the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), Head Start, VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America), The Wilderness Protection Act, Medicare…

“The Wilderness Protection Act saved 9.1 million acres of forestland from industrial development.

 The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided major funding for American public schools.

 The Voting Rights Act banned literacy tests and other discriminatory methods of denying suffrage to African Americans.

 Medicare was created to offset the costs of health care for the nation’s elderly.

 The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities used public money to fund artists and galleries.

 The Immigration Act ended discriminatory quotas based on ethnic origin.

 An Omnibus Housing Act provided funds to construct low-income housing.

 Congress tightened pollution controls with stronger Air and Water Quality Acts.

 Standards were raised for safety in consumer products.”-ushistory.org

 “President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination and requiring contractors to take affirmative action.”-LCRM

Many laws and programs that are threatened and/or criticized today in 2013 had their foundation under LBJ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE Was the MUSIC???? WHERE was the DIVERSITY???

 

‘‘The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle,’’ said Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Albany Movement. ‘‘They give the people new courage and a sense of unity. I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope, in the future, particularly in our most trying hours’’ Robert Shelton, ‘‘Songs a Weapon in Rights Battle,’’ New York Times, 20 August 1962.

Is it me or did anyone else miss the music that helped define the Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War Movement of the 60s?  Where was the music at yesterday’s 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington?  Where was Paul Stookey, Peter Yarrow, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bernice Reagon?  Were they invited???  I could understand if they weren’t able to make it due to scheduling conflicts, illness, etc, but were they invited to begin with???   I don’t know, I only know there was a deafening vacuum of NO music. Where was We Shall Overcome, I Shall Not Be Moved, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round, This Little Light o’ Mine, Oh Freedom, Which Side Are You On?, If I Had a Hammer, Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Freedom?  Those songs rallied both movements; inspired courage; provided context; gave hope; united people from every walk of life!  Where was the diversity yesterday?   There are plenty of Caucasians that still believe we’ve a long way to go in Civil Rights, Housing Equality, Educational Excellence for All Students, Informational Technology Equality and Access, Nutritional Food Oases in Every Community, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and other major issues. Honestly?  I think the march could’ve been better organized to galvanize people to truly MARCH ON Washington TOGETHER…how?  Well, one sure fire way would’ve been to invite young singer/songwriters that are out there carrying on the tradition passed onto them by people like Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock and Dylan, Nina Simone, Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary (May she rest in peace), Pete Seeger…They’re out there, they’re not invisible and having those socially conscience performers of all races would’ve brought more people and a more diverse crowd to Washington.

 

FREEDOM sang 50 years ago! 

 

The role of music in the Civil Rights Movement cannot be understated. I used all of those songs for 33 years in the classroom…Imagine my students from all over the world singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” in the hallways, walking up/down the stairs, on the auditorium stage…These songs are still relevant and to not have them center stage at a march commemorating 50 years of struggle where music played such an essential role, was just plain wrong. Well, I still cling to “This Little Light O’ Mine” and feel inspired everyday through song. Just sayin…

 

Remembering History, Making History

barbara jordan

“I knew I had been at an important event, and that the racial needle had moved in my direction.”-Julian Bond on reflection of 50 years ago at The March onWashington.

In the book, “This is the Day: The March on Washington” with photographs by Leonard Freed, a foreword by Julian Bond and an essay by Michael Eric Dyson, Julian Bond writes:

The march, now celebrated largely because of the dramatic speech made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was more contentious than most recall. The organization I worked for then, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was one of the march’s sponsors; SNCC’s Chairman, John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman, and the surviving presenter of the march, was scheduled to give a speech that was censored by the Kennedy administration. The administration, reflecting the racist paranoia of the times and anxious at the prospect of thousands of black people descending on the Capitol, took extraordinary steps to neuter the march. They canceled elective surgery in Washington,evacuated 350 inmates from Washington’s jails to make room for their replacements, expected to be detained in the march mayhem, and placed city police on 18-hour shifts. They put judges on round-the-clock standby to handle the many anticipated arrests (there were four), closed government offices, banned liquor sales, and sent 150 FBI agents to mingle in the crowds. In the eventuality of militants rushing the speakers’ platform, they planned to cut off the loudspeakers at the Lincoln Memorial and replace the broadcast with a Mahalia Jackson recording. There were unintended benefits from the administration’s fears. Washington’s police cars were integratedfor the first time, as white and black officers rode together. Additionally, Attorney General Robert Kennedy forbade the use of police dogs, fearing they would summon up ugly memories of the Birmingham protests just weeks earlier.”

 We must remember this peaceful act of dissidence and continue to move forward educating our citizens about the struggles that have been hard fought and hard won… and the march continues.

 “If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything…that smacks of discrimination or slander.” –Mary McLeod Bethune