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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”-Eleanor Roosevelt

Today, in 1884, in NYC, Former First Lady of both NYS and the U.S.A., Writer, Social Reformer, Activist, Radio Commentator, Lecturer, Author, Humanist, Eleanor Roosevelt was born. I know much is known about Eleanor, but it’s on a superficial level. She really did a lot behind the scenes and is definitely worth revisiting and getting to know better. She worked tirelessly and valiantly for Women’s Rights and put that same energy to fight against Racism and Lynching. Mrs. Roosevelt helped foster the National Youth Administration which gave our unemployed youth apprenticeships, scholarships, vocational training and important special projects, something we could use today, right? There is so much that Eleanor Roosevelt did that it is no wonder she is a “shero” to many, including Hillary Clinton. May more people visit their library or go online to learn all there is to know about this wonderful individual.

“It’s a hard life, It’s a hard life, It’s a very hard life.”-Nanci Griffith

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”Maya Angelou

July 31st holds several events that remind us that being Jewish has never been easy. Yes, we’ve been able to hide our Jewishness for the most part and not stick out in a crowd, except for when we had to wear yellow stars on our clothing; as opposed to our brothers and sisters of black and brown color who could not hide who they were anywhere or anytime here in the U.S.A.; or our brothers and sisters of Japanese ancestry who also couldn’t hide who they were and were plucked from their homes and placed in camps here in the U.S.A. There are so many examples of a “hard life” for so many people due to: religion, race, skin color, language, ethnicity, place of birth,culture, economic status, disability, challenges…

July 31st, 1492:    Jewish People Expelled from Spain under Alhambra Decree.

July 31st, 1941: “Nazi official Hermann Göring, orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”-Wikipedia

July 31st, 1919: Primo Levi was born.

 Wouldn’t it be nice for our children, if this “hard life” became a thing of the past for real?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Taste of Southern Law”-Phil Ochs

Emmett Till and his mom, Mamie Till 
  Trayvon Martin

“In the state of Mississippi, Many Years Ago, a boy of 14 years got a taste of Southern law.”-Phil Ochs

Emmett Till’s birthday today in 1941 must be acknowledged, especially after the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. As a young girl and woman from the 60s on, I knew about this case, had seen his mom, Mamie Till on TV and I constantly played Too Many Martyrs that Phil Ochs had written for Medgar Evers, also killed in Mississippi. I featured that song on this blog this past June.

“In 1955 Mamie Till sent her 14-year-old son, Emmett, from Chicago to rural Mississippi to spend his summer holiday with family. As she packed him off she gave him some advice about how a black youth should conduct himself in the pre-civil rights south. “If you have to get on your knees and bow when a white person goes past,” she told him. “Do it willingly.”Gary Younge, The Guardian

In 2013, parents raising Black males, continue to advise their precious sons on how to survive because racism is still rampant and Black males are still feared. It’s very sad. It’s tragic.

“While in the small town of Money, in the delta region, he either said “Bye, baby” or wolf-whistled at a white woman in a grocery store. Three days later his body was fished out of the Tallahatchie river with a bullet in his skull, an eye gouged out and his forehead crushed on one side. An all-white jury acquitted two men after just 67 minutes’ deliberation. “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop,” said one juror, “it wouldn’t have taken that long.” The case became a metaphor for the depths of southern bigotry and a galvanising emblem for those who sought to rectify it. It was the subject of Toni Morrison’s first play, a poem by Langston Hughes and a song by Bob Dylan. Just three months later, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama, she said Emmett Till was on her mind.”Gary Younge, The Guardian

Yesterday, Trayvon Martin’s dad, Tracy Martin spoke before the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys. “A lot of people say nothing positive can come out of death, but I disagree wholeheartedly, because what we can do tomorrow as a nation, as a people to stop someone else’s child from being killed is certainly a positive,” Martin said.”Reuters  Author, commentator, scholar, historian, Professor Michael Eric Dyson (Georgetown University) summed it up when he said, “All black people live under suspicion.”Reuters

 

 

 

W.E.B. Du Bois On My Mind

“…the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”W.E.B. Du Bois

For the last few days, I have been mulling over the above quote in my mind which was in the first paragraph of  “The Forethought” at the beginning of his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk.

I was probably introduced to Du Bois by my mom who had gone back to college when I was about 6years old. It took her 10 years of night school to obtain her B.A., so as she grew, studied and read, so did I! I went onto learn a lot about Du Bois as I read his books and biographies about him. He has never left my mind. I know someone who just moved to Ghana and is teaching there. I told him, when he gets a chance, to please visit the W.E.B. Du Bois Museum in Accra, Ghana and send me a postcard. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1965.

“I’ll keep on wishing

We must always keep dreaming

Of a world

With equality and justice”-Tracy Chapman