“People Everywhere Deserve to Live in Freedom and Equality.”-Secretary of State John Kerry

People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love,” Secretary of State John Kerry, 1-15-14, MetroWeekly Poliglot

On this day, January 17th, 1945, the evacuation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp began.  You can imagine the horror I felt when I read that Nigerian police were rounding up gay men, persecuting them, arresting them, torturing them. It was all too familiar. Nigeria recently passed an anti-gay law that not only prohibits same sex marriage and LGBT organizations, but the simple getting together of a group of gay individuals.

The sad inquiry, “Oh When Will They (or We) Ever Learn? from Pete Seeger’s song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone laments through my heart.

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:

 

 

 

 

“Too Many Martyrs and Too Many Dead.”-Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs wrote that song for Medgar Evers who is being remembered this month since it is the 50th Anniversary since he was assassinated in the driveway of his home in the state of Mississippi. His wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams has kept Edgar’s memories and deeds alive for these past 50 years hoping that Medgar Evers would receive the recognition for his work in the Civil Rights Movement that he so deserves. Medgar Evers died for his family, for his people, for all people treated unfairly, for his country, for his beliefs and ideals. Let us never forget him and let us recommit to the work he started. It is still necessary.

“Freedom has never been free … I love my children and I love my wife with all my heart. And I would die, die gladly, if that would make a better life for them.”-Medgar Evers, 6/7/63

One Reason to Celebrate the Universality of Passover

“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being.”Morris Joseph

As my family and I and families throughout the world get ready to celebrate Passover this Monday night, I cannot help but think of all those still struggling in 2013 for their “inalienable right” to be free.  There are all kinds of freedoms that are still squashed globally: digital freedom, economic freedom, educational freedom, LGBT freedom, religious freedom, freedom of expression, media freedom, human freedom, voting freedom…

I know that at my family’s seder, we will pray for the freedom of all people in all countries and we will also be thankful that we live in a country where we are free to express ourselves in a just democratic society. It may not be perfect and the imperfections should continue to provoke thought, action and galvanization towards helping each other; helping others globally and doing what we can individually to better this world. Passover is a time of liberation and reflecting on that liberation that took the Jewish people from slavery to freedom.

“During the civil rights struggle, African Americans, yearning for full equality, sang a spiritual whose words include: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go … Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land, tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.”  And did you know that John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed a national seal with a scene of the Jewish exodus from Egypt? May the triumph of liberty and religious freedom enshrined in the Passover story prevail now—and always.” –David Harris (American Jewish Committee)

 

“Every Great Dream Begins With a Dreamer.” -Harriet Tubman

Today is Harriet Tubman Day!  March 10th, 2013 marks 100 years since Ms Tubman died. There will be celebrations around our country, but NYS has a very special tie with Harriet Tubman. Auburn, NY is where Harriet settled and lived for many years. We all know about Harriet’s bravery, fortitude, intelligence and courage escaping slavery and returning many times as an Underground Railroad Conductor to help free slaves, but Harriet was also such a good, good person who opened her home up in Auburn, NY to the aged and indigent.

For those of you with young children, grandchildren or if you’re teachers, there is one book I especially loved sharing with my young students including my students learning English as a 2nd language: An Apple for Harriet Tubman by Glennette Tilley Turner. There is a little-known event that is celebrated in this book that the author learned about through Tubman’s great-niece. It’s a must-book for every classroom.

“The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”- Henrik Ibsen

When I was a teenager, I read all of Henrik Ibsen’s plays. For some reason, I remember seeing Steve McQueen on Broadway in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, but when I googled it, it said McQueen was only in the movie. (If you click onto “movie,” you’ll enjoy a clip from the movie with a good monologue by McQueen.)  I know I’ve seen a live production!   Henrik Ibsen was a man who truly stood alone, he spoke out on issues of the day through his plays. An Enemy of the People highlighted pollution. A Doll’s House highlighted women’s rights and a woman’s choice of staying married/striking out on her own and so much more. And…who can forget Hedda Gabler?  Oh well…On this day in 1876, Ibsen’s play, Peer Gynt opened in Oslo.  Henrik Ibsen’s plays are relevant today, check them out online or at your local library!  Ibsen demonstrated the role of freedom and was compelled to speak his mind and didn’t seek admiration or agreement, just freedom.