It Doesn’t Make Sense

           

Richard Ford, American novelist (“Canada”), was born today in Mississippi in 1944. He could’ve been talking about yesterday’s verdict in another southern state known for inequality in their treatment of African American male victims, when he once wrote, “I have a theory… that someplace at the heart of most compelling stories is something that doesn’t make sense.” My husband was born today, in 1950, in Tallahassee, Florida, but was raised in the Harlem neighborhood of NYC. When he was 12, his mom shipped him down to Florida to live with relatives for minor offenses in NY, such as skipping school. A little Caucasian girl with her mom pointed at him and said, “Mommy there’s a N____,” which offended, angered and hurt him…the next day his dog was found dead outside the front door…murdered. He was shipped back up to NYC…went to school every single day…got his BFA and MFA. My husband will never return to Florida. He’s retiring and we will continue to live in the Northeast since he loves the changing of the seasons and we also never want to be far from our children. I am the mother of an African American male and I worried about him as a teenager and young man from the moment he left the house until he returned. As many of you know, he’s living and teaching in southern India for 2 years. He mentioned that he may go visit New Delhi and I warned him that there have been incidents in New Delhi of Africans being attacked and I told him not to go. Will he listen to me?  Who knows? It’s a scary world. We raise our children and prepare them the best we know how in navigating their world and hope for the best. Jordan Davis in Florida was America’s son, America’s child and he was murdered, “…for something that doesn’t make sense.” How the jury couldn’t convict the defendant for first degree murder is incomprehensible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Oh When We Will We Ever Learn?”-Pete Seeger

Folksinger/activist, Mary Travers was born today in 1936. Her life was cut short by cancer in 2009. Mary’s voice was so clear and urgent and soothing. We listened when she sang. Pete Seeger’s song, which Mary sang beautifully with her pals, Pete Yarrow and Paul Stookey, is so appropriate today as we remember Kristallnacht, which occurred 75 years ago in Germany and Austria in 1938, 2 years after Mary was born. “Oh When Will They (sometimes “We” is also substituted) Ever Learn?”  

Online I read a plea from a consortium of people in Britain exposing the hate that continues around the world.: “75 years after Kristallnacht, racists and fascists inspired by the Nazis continue to attack minorities in Europe. In Hungary neo-fascists target Gypsies and Jews. In Greece Golden Dawn members and supporters brutally attack migrants and political opponents. Here in Britain, minority communities, especially Muslims, have been targeted in an atmosphere that is increasingly hostile towards migrants and refugees. As Jewish people mindful of this history, we are equally alarmed at continuing fascist violence and the toxic sentiments expressed by many politicians and much of the media against migrants, asylum seekers, Gypsies and travellers. We stand shoulder to shoulder with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in their efforts to live here in freedom and safety, to contribute to society, and be treated as equals. As Jews we stand together with all communities seeking to combat racism and fascism here and elsewhere.”David Rosenberg & 212 Others

Yesterday, NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo started an investigation into an upstate school district that may have failed in its responsibility toward safeguarding their students from anti-semitic and hateful crimes and language. Gov. Cuomo stated: “The reports of rampant anti-Semitic harassment and physical assaults at Pine Bush schools, if true, are deeply disturbing,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “The public has a right to know the truth,” he added, “and parents across the state have the right to know that their children can attend our schools without fear of this reprehensible behavior.”Benjamin Weiser, NY Times, 11/8/13

Mary Travers sang out against hate in all of its nasty forms. “The daughter of politically aware newspaper reporters, Mary grew up in the stimulating Greenwich Village arts community. A love of music and a strong social consciousness came naturally, and by the time Mary was a teenager, she was singing on Pete Seeger’s records. Many gold and platinum albums later, she’s stayed true to the urban folk tradition and to an activist’s sense of responsibility.”-peterpaulandmary site

Peter, Paul and Mary were there with Dr. King in Washington, D.C. in 1963 singing “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin In the Wind.” Music still has the power to teach, to transform, to heal.

 “Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

Here’s a favorite of mine (written by the late great John Denver):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owens and Biko…Men Who Did It Their Way

Jesse Owens was born today in 1913 and Steve Biko was murdered today in a South African jail in 1977. Both brave men stood up to bigotry and prejudice and exhibited determination and belief that everyone is entitled to equal and civil rights. They did it their way.

“Jesse Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, achieved what no Olympian before him had accomplished. His stunning achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin has made him the best remembered athlete in Olympic history. The seventh child of Henry and Emma Alexander Owens was named James Cleveland when he was born in Alabama on September 12, 1913. “J.C.”, as he was called, was nine when the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his new schoolteacher gave him the name that was to become known around the world. The teacher was told “J.C.” when she asked his name to enter in her roll book, but she thought he said “Jesse”. The name stuck and he would be known as Jesse Owens for the rest of his life.”jesseowens.com

I recently saw the wonderful HBO doc, “Glickman,” about the great, great sportscaster ( and so much more than that!), Marty Glickman who trained with Jesse Owens for the 1936 Olympics. Since Glickman was Jewish, he wasn’t allowed to run and Jesse Owens was going to give up his spot on the team for Glickman to run. Marty Glickman never forgot that and greatly admired Owens.If you haven’t seen this doc, catch a repeat of it, it’s great.

“Bantu Stephen Biko was born on December 18, 1946, in King William’s Town, South Africa, in what is now the Eastern Cape  Province. Politically active at a young age, Biko was expelled from high school for his activism, and subsequently enrolled at St. Francis College in the Mariannhill area of KwaZulu-Natal. After graduating from St. Francis in 1966, Biko began attending the University of Natal Medical School, where he became active with the National Union of South African Students, a multiracial organization advocating for the improvement of black citizens’ rights.”biography.com

“In 1968, Steve Biko became the cofounder and first president of the all-Black South African Students’ Organization (SASO) The primary aim of the organization was to raise black consciousness in South Africa through lectures and community activities. Biko concluded that the apartheid system had a psychological effect on the Black population, which had caused Blacks to internalize and believe Whites’ racist stereotypes. According to Biko, Blacks had been convinced that they were inferior to Whites, which resulted in the hopelessness that was prevalent in the Black community. Biko preached Black solidarity to “break the chains of oppression”. Biko’s political activities eventually drew the attention of the South African government resulting in him being banned in 1973. The banning restricted Biko from talking to more than one person a time in an attempt to suppress the rising political movement. The banning did not stop Biko’s commitment to activism. For the next four years, he continued to spread his message at gatherings and with his underground publication called “Frank Talk”. During this period Biko was often harassed, arrested, and detained by the South African Police.On August 18, 1977, Biko was seized by the police and detained under section 6 of the Terrorism Act. This draconian law had resulted in the loss of freedom of over 40,000 Blacks in South Africa since 1950. The law permitted the police to hold Biko in jail indefinitely, however the end of his term was due to his violent death, not freedom. Biko was held in prison for twenty-four days were he was interrogated, starved, and brutally beaten. It wasn’t until Biko was laying unconscious, that the doctors suggested that he be transported to Pretoria for medical treatment, 740 miles away. On September 12, 1977, Biko became the forty-first person in South Africa to die while being held in the custody of the South African Police.”zar.co