“I Have But One Passion…

 

to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity…”

-Emile Zola

As a young woman, I devoured the books by French novelist, Emile Zola…they were soap operas; they took on the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, women, anti-semitism… Today, in 1898, “In France, Emile Zola is imprisoned for writing his “J’accuse” letter accusing government of anti-Semitism & wrongly jailing Alfred Dreyfushistoryorb.com Currently, there is a new movie out starring Jessica Lange based on Zola’s novel, Therese Raquin, titled, In Secret.  Zola fled to England and was not jailed and all charges against Dreyfus were found to be false.

Today, the brilliant educator, professor, activist, philosopher, W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868. If you haven’t read his full length biography by David Lewis (just to name one), do so. Du Bois lived a very full life filled with many accomplishments.

Our Day Will Come,”  a beautiful song sung by Ruby and the Romantics entered the charts today in 1963 when I was 10 years old. Oh how I loved to sing that song and Ruby’s voice?   Silky smooth!!!!

Our Day Will Come means so many different things to so many different people. To Zola it meant the end of anti-semitism; to W.E.B. Du Bois, it meant equality among all people; to Ruby and the Romantics, it meant maybe one day getting the royalties they deserved from their huge hit.

 

 

 

My Lazy Days of Winter

      

      

“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”-Tchaikovsky

It has been 4 days since my last posting. Just didn’t know what to write about. Life has been OK, no emergencies…Mom’s doing all right, though she’s been in the house for weeks due to the weather and the mountains of snow; yet she doesn’t complain. As long as I always have library books for her and she does her daily crossword puzzle, she’s not bored. How lucky I am that she has never been a demanding person who needs to be entertained. Speaking of Mom, I’ve written before on the time she took me uptown to see a panel discussion on Civil Rights in the early 60s at the NY Society for Ethical Culture. The society is over 100 years old. I definitely remember Sydney Poitier and Harry Belafonte being on the panel and I think James Baldwin also was there among others. Well, today is Mr. Poitier’s 87th birthday!!!  I remember mom and I going to the movies to see “Lilies of the Field” and singing “Amen” along with Sydney Poitier and the nuns. I’ve seen every one of his movies. Today also marks the death of the great Frederick Douglass in 1895. It was a sudden death after having a very nice and productive day at a Women’s Rights conference. Folksinger, Buffy Sainte-Marie was born today in 1941. Always loved her music.

So, I found a little inspiration today to do my blog posting! Yay!

Hope all are well out there in WordPress Land!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking Clearly and Mr. Tolson

    

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

As an educator, I’ve always found it very important to enunciate each and every sound for my students as I spoke and also to be a model for how they should speak. My students came from all over the world and I would put them in situations where, even though they didn’t know English, they were supplied the words in order to make them feel comfortable, have the new words roll around their tongues, feel good about themselves and shine. The classroom was our stage and we also used the auditorium stage as well as marching into other classrooms and performing. They loved performing, even if they just entered my classroom that day!  It was always an accepting learning environment. A few years ago, the movie, “The Great Debaters” came out starring Denzel Washington as the debate team’s coach, Melvin B. Tolson. Well, today is Mr. Tolson’s birthday and he was born in 1898 in Missouri.

In 1924, Melvin Tolson accepted a position as instructor of English and speech at Wiley College. While at Wiley, he taught, wrote poetry and novels, coached football and directed plays. In 1929, Tolson coached the Wiley debate teams, which established a ten-year winning streak. The Debate Team beat the larger black schools of its day like Tuskegee, Fisk and Howard.

 After a visit to Texas, Langston Hughes  wrote that “Melvin Tolson is the most famous Negro professor in the Southwest. Students all over that part of the world speak of him, revere him, remember him and love him.”

 According to James Farmer, Tolson’s drive to win, to eliminate risk, meant that his debaters were actors more than spontaneous thinkers. Tolson wrote all the speeches and the debate team memorized them. He drilled them on every gesture and every pause. Tolson was so skilled at the art of debating that he also figured out the arguments that opponents would make and wrote rebuttals for them-before the actual debate.

 In 1930, he pursued a master’s degree in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University; met V.F. Calverton, editor of Modern Quarterly; wrote “Cabbages and Caviar” column for The Washington Tribune and organized sharecroppers in South Texas.

 In 1935, he led the Wiley Debate Team to the national championship to defeat the University of Southern California before an audience of eleven hundred people. In 1947 he was appointed poet laureate of Liberia by President V. S. Tubman. He left Wiley to become professor of English and Drama at Langston University in Oklahoma.”Wiley College

Melvin B. Tolson was also a writer and a poet. I love his ode to Louis Armstrong:

                                      Old Satchmo’s

                   gravelly voice and tapping foot and crazy notes

                                      set my soul on fire.

                                            If I climbed

                         the seventy-seven steps of the Seventh

                 Heaven, Satchmo’s high C would carry me higher!

                      Are you hip to this, Harlem?  Are you hip?

                           On Judgment Day, Gabriel will say

                                  after he blows his horn:

                    “I’d be the greatest trumpeter in the Universe,

                         if old Satchmo had never been born!”

 

 

 

“February is Merely as Long as is Needed to Pass the Time until March.”-Dr. J.R. Stockton

Haiku by Ilene OnWords

February’s here!

We’re 1 month closer to spring,

THAT should bring a smile!

 “No great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.”-Langston Hughes

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite, favorite poets, Langston Hughes who wasn’t “afraid of being himself” as he faced very uncertain and dangerous times to be a Black man in America and a gay one at that. When I was a child, my mom used to read aloud his column, “Simple” in the NY Post. Simple was a character who was anything but simple and was Langston Hughes’s alter ego to comment on society.”In 1942, during World War II, Hughes began writing a column for the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender. In 1943 he introduced the character of Jesse B. Semple, or Simple, to his readers. This fictional everyman, while humorous, also allowed Hughes to discuss very serious racial issues. The Simple columns were also popular–and they ran for twenty years and were collected in several books.”-kansasheritage.org  If you never read his biography, it’s well worth reading; he had an extremely interesting life; a troubled relationship with his dad; traveled widely; wrote prolifically and documented history through his poetry. I would use his poetry in my classroom and read his poems to my own 2 children.

“I Got My Start By Giving Myself a Start.”-Madame C.J. Walker

As a young adult and classroom teacher, Madame C.J. Walker always fascinated me and was truly someone I admired and shared my admiration with my students. Her hair products changed the hair industry and she was the first African American millionairess. What a magical moment for African American women when their hair needs were addressed and they could find products made just for them! Her life story is very interesting and I would read any biography that came out on her and also on her daughter, her only child, A’Lelia Walker who conducted salons during the Harlem Renaissance. Oh to be a fly on the wall during those sessions!!!  I would recommend a book I read about 11 years ago written by Madame C.J. Walker’s great, great-grandaughter, A’Lelia Walker Bundles: On Her Own Ground.

“I really hope that they look at the totality of [Madam Walker’s] life, that it was great that she became a millionaire, but for me, what is really significant and memorable is that she used her wealth and her influence to make a difference: as a woman who advocated economic independence for African-American women, as a philantropist who gave the largest gift to the NAACP they had ever received on their anti-lynching campaign, a patron of the arts.”A’Lelia Bundles on her great, great-grandmother, Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker was born today in 1867.

This day in history contains more magic….The Drifters, This Magic Moment, was recorded today in 1959!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When a man starts to build a world, He starts first with himself And the faith that is in his heart”-Langston Hughes

Here is the last stanza from Freedom’s Plow by Langston Hughes, American Writer, for Flag Day. I urge you to read the poem in its entirety:

“A long time ago,

An enslaved people heading toward freedom

Made up a song:

Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!

The plow plowed a new furrow

Across the field of history.

Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.

From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.

That tree is for everybody,

For all America, for all the world.

May its branches spread and shelter grow

Until all races and all peoples know its shade.

KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!”-Langston Hughes

The “Other” Oliver Cromwell…New Jersey’s Own

Cromwell HouseOliver Cromwell’s Landmark Home in NJ

I learned something new this morning. A freeman of New Jersey, Oliver Cromwell served with George Washington during the American Revolution. How apt that I discovered a new fact and a new person on the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend! Memorial Day itself is to honor men and women who died while serving our country. Cromwell lived to be a 100. “Cromwell was present at the battle of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown and at the memorable crossing of the Delaware on December 25, 1776.”(bgill on fold3.com)  Oliver Cromwell was given a Badge of Merit designed by Washington. When he was first discharged, he couldn’t even get a pension, but many people came to his aid. His $96 annual pension helped him survive to 100 years of age. “Cromwell’s story first appeared in a newspaper interview conducted when he was 100 years old by a reporter of the Burlington Gazette (Burlington, New Jersey) in 1905, which was reprinted by the Trenton Evening Times. As the newspaper article noted: ‘though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”(Tom Kemp, 9/20/2012 on genealogybank.com) The “Other” Oliver Cromwell was born today, 5/24 in 1752. Let us remember him, a soldier who served his country for 6 years.

interview with African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

Trenton Evening Times, April 11th, 1905, Page 5