Posts from the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ Category

Freedom Singers at the White House

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Need an alternative to football after your turkey dinner? Check out this video. Especially important for the young folk among you…

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Adjustments,Tucks and Plans

Guest Blogger:
Karen Lindquist, Southern California 

Anita’s Note~ Kudos to my niece, Karen Roehrick Lindquist, who wrote this first as a comment to my post: My Letter to the Young Folk. Her powerful sentiment left me in tears. Lucky for us Karen agreed to having the comment published as a post to share with all of you. Many people are asking, “What do we do now?” After reading this you will have some ideas on that…

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist waits, expecting it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William Arthur Ward

Thank you for your continued guidance Aunt Anita…as I woke to my alarm last Wednesday morning and learned the “official” call, I had to pick my jaw and heart up off the floor, make my coffee, get out the door and get to the hospital where I take care of almost exclusively Latino families whose child is experiencing a serious medical condition. And when I got to my unit, the air was eery and thick. Generally I’m there before the kids wake up so I’m slipping into each room silently checking tubes and drains and medication and safety equipment before I ever see those little eyes open.

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On Wednesday the TVs in each room were quietly broadcasting various newscasts. Moms and dads and grandmas were soundlessly, dazedly watching. As I tucked and adjusted and straightened, I made eye contact with those parents and thankfully no words were needed as my heart had gone from the floor to my throat and there would have been nothing my voice could have produced. Each room, I did my checking and felt those parents and felt the weight of our new reality.


And then when Hillary spoke that morning, the unit paused and I watched with my Latino and black and Muslim and female colleagues and together we fought back tears and anger. And then the day marched on as it had to so we could treat, heal, and love those families. Then the week marched on and the waves of sadness, grief, disbelief, and fear have rolled in.

It’s traumatic. It’s traumatic to witness the destruction of our friends’ and neighbors’ civil rights. Just ask those who have come before us. We are witness to a(nother) surge of open white supremacy and hate speech. And it’s traumatic. As with all trauma it can be difficult to navigate.

I am encouraged by those who call for action and preparation…I like adjustments, I like tucks and I like plans. But I fear that calls for unity are delicately disguised calls for acceptance. I cannot accept. I cannot stand in the face of this and call it a difference of opinion. I’m not grieving because of our different viewpoints on social and political issues. I grieve because Trump’s hate rhetoric is bigoted harassment toward our vulnerable people and his election is a sign that—for at least half of our voting country—this is acceptable.

I thought only the fringes of society could possibly overlook his misogynist, racist, homophobic, sexist values and actually vote for him. This cannot be normalized, it cannot be woven into normal life. I am thankful for those who are called to protest and activate. For me, while I might not hold that picket sign, I’ll continue to be a helper. I will continue to help and love and value all different people no matter their race, religion, how much they have, who they love, what they believe in…I will be a helper…and lean on those who have been here before to help me.

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“We Shall Not Be Moved” ~ March On Washington 1963

America has been here before.

Watch this video of the Freedom Singers that preeminent day 53 years ago.

The Freedom Singers began in Albany, Georgia in 1962 during the Civil Rights Movement. From L-R: Charles Neblett (bass), Bernice Johnshon Reagon (alto) Cordell Reagon (tenor), unknown and Rutha Harris (soprano). This performance was at The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Tuesday, August 28, 1963.

We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

May 27, 2014 ~ After North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis refuses to meet with North Carolinians, a sit-in turns into a church service lead by Rev.William J. Barber, President of the NC NAACP:

Other versions of the song: http://civilrightssongs.blogspot.com/2015/02/we-shall-not-be-moved-lyrics-videos-and.html

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Freedom Riders at the March on Washington, 1963

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Civil rights organizer Karen House at ’63 March.

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Paul Newman at ’63 March

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Marchers cool their feet in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, ’63 March on Washington

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March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom: 8.28.63

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Van Jones: “Whitelash”

Since political activist Van Jones used the word “whitelash” on CNN after the election  a bunch of people have lost their minds. Nothing makes some folks more uncomfortable than the very mention of race, so touché, Van. So irritating to hear, “Why does everything always have to be about race.” Well…because everything HAS pretty much been about race since race was constructed in the 1600s. No matter what room you walk into in the USA, race done already walked in there before you, right along with sex and money, to name a few.

whitelash, n  1. an adverse reaction (i.e.backlash) by white racists against non-white civil rights advances.

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If you don’t know this man, you should. And I’m happy to introduce him via three videos where he talks about whitelash and a whole lotta other issues that are on our minds since Tuesday night. I especially hope young folk will watch video #3 and “Check Out His Thought” Read more…

And now…moving on…My letter to the Young Folk

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Edith Lee-Payne at March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom: 8.28.63

I’m impressed with how you are engaged and involved with today’s political & social issues. I’m hopeful for America’s future because YOU are that future. And yet it breaks my heart to see you filled with stress at having to witness the moral degradation of late.

Exhausted from the two-year fiasco we’ve endured we’re also concerned for our unknown future. My 22-year old daughter said “it feels like a death”. Students are crying, wearing black and protesting on campuses all over the country.

It’s not enough for us to verify that the country seems hopelessly divided and say we fear for your children and grand-children. Better that we circle the wagons—keep all of you close via face-to-face conversations, video chats, texts and phone calls because ~ yes we have seen a death of a measure of common decency and human spirit, but also of apathy, which needs to die. Let audacity live in its place. Your generation is waking us up to the call for paying attention and holding ALL politicians accountable, on both sides. Van Jones says—we must mourn (and drink water!) in order to heal, and then we must pick up and move forward. As President Obama said, “the sun will come up again tomorrow” ~ a place where from death there can be new life.

I know it’s hard for you to imagine that America has been through worse than what we are seeing now, but it’s true. Much, much worse. It’s up to those of us who were there for those times to help you navigate these rough waters by elevating morals.

We who believe in decency and “re-spect” must look deep and “see-again” the Good Wolf embedded in the foundation of America—a determination that had to be strong to rise from the blood and ashes of piracy and genocide that is, sadly, America’s bedrock.

Beginning in the 1600s with the collisions of First Americans with the entitled Spanish and British dissidents, the forced migration of enslaved Africans, indentured servants and others, race was constructed in America—and as Farai Chideya, said on Twitter, “white” is also a race. One cannot build on such a wrongful foundation and escape the consequences. An America where forces that embrace wide-spread bigotry can rise to power is part of those consequences.

Through centuries of hardworking fighters who would not be moved the phoenix called Audacity rose and still flies in the hearts of all who believe. Trust in the power of one; we must continue to not be moved and be the positive, inclusive change we want to see in the world.

With each rising sun of the next four years we will renew the journey as countless fighters before us have done. We will not succumb to the notion that at its core America is anything less than benevolent and humane—otherwise we would not have survived these 240 years. THAT is the balm to begin healing.

And no. We don’t move to Canada; we move forward like The Scales of Justice ~ working to strike a balance between the forces that seek to divide us and our collective Audacity.

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The Day the “Colored Sign” Walked Out

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Penny Patch, Panola County, MS. 1965.
Photo by Tom Wakayama

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Guest Blogger: Penny Patch
Lyndonville, Vermont

“In 1962 I was a young white woman working as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Southwest Georgia. A brilliant young man named Charles Sherrod was our project director, my teacher and mentor. And during those years I also met and worked with many audacious local young people who, with their families, became the backbone of the Albany Movement in Southwest Georgia.

Two of these young women were Patricia Ann Gaines and Margaret Sanders, at the time age 15 and 16 respectively. Their families sheltered me and other civil rights workers at great risk to themselves. Their entire families participated in the Movement, including two year old Peaches Gaines who went to jail with her mother and sisters Pat, Shirley, and Marian. I remember Marian Gaines at age 11 leading a march into the police lines singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” Mr. Gaines, their Dad, was known on occasion to sit outside the mass meeting with other men, shotguns across their laps, protecting the mass meeting. And Margaret’s sisters Mary, Jean, and Sharon Sanders accompanied her on her path to becoming a student leader in the Albany Movement.

I am naming names because these young women —whose names are not as well known as they should be—were citizens of Albany. One thing to know about each and every one is that they took risks, all the time. So one day Margaret and Pat strolled into the Dougherty County Courthouse, walked over to the two water fountains in the main hall, and took down the “colored” sign which hung over the small water fountain positioned next to the much larger water fountain which was labelled as “white.” These are the same water fountains, with signs in place, that you see in Danny Lyon’s iconic photo posted here.

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Photo by Danny Lyon, from his book: Memories if the Southern Civil Rights Movementwww.dektol.wordpress.com

Pat and Margaret lifted the sign, walked out of the building and escaped back into the black community before anybody noticed it was gone. How did they do this? I have no idea. And Pat, whenever I ask her, says her memory is kind of vague about the whole episode. (We agree that this is probably due to stress related memory loss). Some time later, as I was leaving Albany to work in Mississippi, Pat and Margaret presented me with the sign and the story of their exploit. I took that sign with me on many occasions for many years whenever I talked to students about the Black Freedom Movement. But then the Albany Civil Rights Institute opened and it was time to place it where it belonged, in that museum in its home town. You all can visit this wonderful small museum and see the sign on display, with Pat and Margaret’s inscription on the back of it.

Pat Gaines with Charels Sherrod, 2011 Albany, GA

Pat Gaines with Charels Sherrod, 2011 Albany, GA

 

Note from Anita: I met Penny in May 2011 when I traveled back home to Albany, GA for the 5oth Anniversary of the SNCC movement. She has been following the blog since the early days and graciously providing insight and details for my novel. In an email recently she recounted the story above then agreed to share with my readers.

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Me with Penny and granddaughter in Hyper Gym, Albany State University, May 2011

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L-R: Annette Jones, Penny, Charles Neblett. Hyper Gym, ASU. May 2011

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President Obama: “What could more American than this?” [Bloody Sunday]

AP Photo:Butch Dill

50 years after Bloody Sunday: 2015. AP Photo/Butch Dill

Last night I read from John Garner’s The Art of Fiction about the theory of the “fictional dream”—a notion that the writer makes us “see” the story by giving us images that appeal to all our senses, eliciting emotion. I thought of this as I watched President Obama’s electrifying speech delivered this past Saturday in Selma Alabama on the banks of the Alabama River to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

On March 7, 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with now Congressman John Lewis, lead 600 blacks in a march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Slema. This march was sparked by the police killing of unarmed, 27-year old civil rights activist, Jimmy Lee Jackson and to protested the tenacious, inhumane obstacles sanctioned by our US government to keep blacks from voting 100 years after the Civil War. The protest ended with mounted police brutally attacking the peaceful marchers with bullwhips, billy clubs and tear gas.

President Obama’s speech at the site of this bloodshed was like a masterfully crafted sentence; the kind we writers aim for, structured so that readers go back and read it again and again just to savor and learn from it. As I listened I wanted to rewind his words; they appealed to all my senses and pulled me—as always—into his dream for America. He does this so well, this thing that a good sentence does: evokes the past, holds the present and propels us into the future—where there is still much work to be done. Much work indeed:

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