“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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I Feel That My Whole Life is a Contribution.”-Pete Seeger

     

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”-Pete Seeger

The world has lost a beautiful flower, one of the Greatest Humanitarians it has ever seen or will see again: Pete Seeger. His life, his whole being, inspired me since I was a little girl of about 4 or 5 years of age when my mom bought his first long-playing LP of children’s songs for my birthday. As I evolved, got older, I saw Pete so many times at many different marches, rallies, events and at the old South Street Seaport when he first acquired the Clearwater Sloop and would dock the boat, hand out pumpkins, sing a few songs and bring along some friends to help. I remember one time, one of Pete’s young friends, Don McLean performed an unfinished “American Pie.”  Pete was an American Treasure and stood for the best of what we could each aspire to be. We will miss him.

 

 

 

“I Faced It All and I Stood Tall and Did It My Way.”-Paul Anka

  Edward Munch     Lillian Smith

Frank Sinatra

Three people who certainly did things their way were born today: the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch (1863); Novelist and Segregation and Lynching critic, Lillian Smith (1857) and yes, Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Man himself, Frank Sinatra (1915).

Munch was quite ill as a youngster and endured the deaths of his mom, sister when he was really young and then later on, while a young man, his dad and his brother. One of his sisters suffered from a mental illness. At 45 Munch had a nervous breakdown and he also was an alcoholic. Much personal turmoil went into his famous painting, “The Scream.”   

“For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art. Without anxiety and illness I should have been like a ship without a rudder.” -Edvard Munch

Lillian Smith’s slim novel, “Strange Fruit” with its black hardcover stood on the book shelf in my home as a youngster and I read it as a teenager.  The book was published in 1944 years after Abe Meeropol’s song with the same title was released and became associated with Billie Holiday. Smith’s book, in spite of being banned in some cities, went onto become a bestseller and was translated into several languages. Lillian Smith came from a comfortable southern family; went to Peabody School of Music; taught in China; Ran a camp; founded a literary magazine in North Carolina that published writings by both black and white authors and continued throughout her life to speak out on racial injustice, segregation, lynching and never backed down.

“When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new question, then it is time to die”-Lillian Smith

Ol’ Blue Eyes was a favorite of my dad’s and he had many of his LPs. My husband and I inherited some of those LPs and also enjoy listening to Frank Sinatra croon a tune…there is no better. Frank Sinatra was active in supporting Civil Rights…”In 1945, he appeared in, produced and won an Oscar for the 1945 short film “The House I Live In,” a plea for tolerance. Later, he put his own career at risk when he refused to play hotels in Las Vegas that would not allow blacks to stay there. He was, actress Angie Dickinson recalled, “a very powerful, subtle force in civil rights not only in Las Vegas.”  The repercussions never worried him. “When I believe in a person or an idea or a cause,” Sinatra once said, “I go all out in my efforts regardless of possible consequences.”Steve Pond, Sinatra.com

December 12th, 2013…3 creative individuals born today and did it their way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Man of Strength and Conviction…Gone

“And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.  He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.”-President Obama on the Passing of Nelson Mandela, 12-5-13

“He was a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity, a great human being, someone of whom we can truly say, ‘He lived a meaningful life.’-The Dalai Lama

Nelson Mandela can now rest in peace. He was so ill and frail for quite a while and it was so sad to see him propped up for news photographers. His deeds, ideas, spirit and goodwill and humanity will live on forever. I taught my students about Mr. Mandela and as soon as he was released from prison, my students were on stage talking and singing about him and the meaning of Freedom; so I hope those particular students remembered that important moment in their lives yesterday when they heard about Mandela’s passing. I can only hope. Let us revisit Mandela’s favorite poem, “Invictus” by the British poet, William Ernest Henley:

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.