Tag Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King

MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

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Black History 2012: Nichelle Nichols

10 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a woman who has made her mark on television, space travel, and equal rights, Nichelle Nichols. Best known for her role as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, Nichols has parlayed that initial cult status and eventual superstardom into a platform for making the world a better place for everyone–a true champion for social justice. She started her career in the brief lifespan of Oscar Brown, Jr.‘s civil rights musical Kicks & Co. Although the stage was her first love, she accepted an early television role from Gene Roddenberry. When he was casting Star Trek, he insisted on adding her to the cast as the communications officer.

As an equal officer on the command deck, Uhura was unprecedented: an African-American lead character who was not a servant. Nevertheless, feeling that the character was not as fully developed as her peers, Nichols planned to leave after the first season to return to Broadway. As she later recounted, she was encouraged to remain at the program when a fan of the show approached her at an NAACP function where she was speaking. That fan was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When she told him of her plans, he replied,

STOP! You cannot! You cannot leave this show! Do you not understand what you are doing?! You are the first non-stereotypical role in television…Nichelle, for the first time, not only our little children and people can look on and see themselves, but people who don’t look like us, people who don’t look like us, from all over the world, for the first time, the first time on television, they can see us, as we should be! As intelligent, brilliant, people! People in roles other than slick tap dancers, and maids, which are all wonderful in their own ways, but for the first time we have a woman, a WOMAN, who represents us and not in menial jobs, and you PROVE it.

Remaining on the series, she went on to be part of the first-ever scripted mixed-race kiss on television when Uhura and Captain Kirk were forced to kiss by telekinetic aliens. After the series was cancelled, she realized she had been bitten by the space bug. Along with her continued support of the NAACP, Nichols reached out to NASA. She participated in a number of their civilian programs and became a spokesman for the agency. She had started a company to further women’s rights, Women In Motion, and agreed to use that company to help recruit women and people of color to NASA. Her efforts were very successful, helping bring in such luminaries as Sally Ride and Charles Bolden, the first permanent African-American NASA Director.

Nichelle Nichols has gone on to act in all the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast, eventually seeing Uhura promoted to Commander. She has acted on Broadway and in other movies and television. Not content to be famous as an actor, however, she has made an important mark on the world stage, boldly going where no African-American television actress had gone before.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King: Welcome to 2012.

15 Jan

Happy Birthday, Dr. King

While the national holiday is not until tomorrow, I thought it would be nice to recognize Dr. King’s actual birthday.   In 1994, President Clinton signed legislation – put forward by Sen. Harris Wofford (D,PA) and Rep. John Lewis (D, GA) – which transformed the decade-old holiday. The goal was to challenge Americans to use the day for citizen action and volunteer service. As noted on the official site for the day, “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.”

Lest we forget, however, one of our Presidential Candidates, Ron Paul said about MLK Day:

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

Talk about blatant racism and white privilege at work.  Shame on you, Ron Paul!  Shall we also look at the racist and privileged comments from GOP Presidential contender, Newt Gingrich:

The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple — food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp president in American history.  More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history.

Now there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people, would you rather your children had food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather have a paycheck.

And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. And I’ll go to them and explain a brand new social security opportunity for young people, which would be particularly good for African American males because they are the group that gets the smallest return on social security because they have the shortest life span.

Wow!  Where do I even start to deconstruct the racism here?  God forbid we address the system that keeps a marginalized population from accessing resources and just address food stamps.  I also just love it when a white hetero millionaire has the chutzpah to tell black folk what they need and what they need to do.

Let us move on to multi-millionaire (Mormon) Mitt Romney.  The Mormons did say it was okay for black folk to be included in 1978–how white of them! Rather than let the man’s faith define him, however, let us listen to Romney’s words:

You strengthen the American people by securing our borders and by insisting that the children who come legally to this land are taught in English.

These men say they want to lead our country. It is clear that they want to be the President of the white, the powerful, the privileged. Anyone who falls outside that power structure must be doing something wrong and doesn’t deserve their aid or support until they can emulate privilege. How sad that nearly 50 years after Dr. King told the nation that he had a dream, one party’s choice for leaders would transform that dream into an archaic nightmare.

Let us celebrate Dr. King and his legacy today. Let us celebrate the brave and wise people who helped build a foundation so that dream could become a reality: Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis. Let us take the challenge of civic engagement embedded in this holiday. But certainly, let us not offer our highest office to those who would ignore this legacy, this hard work, and would rather see a nation of growing divide, where their own power is extended while millions suffer.

I shall leave you with a small excerpt from Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

 I love this excerpt because it applies to all marginalized populations outside of the dominant white heterosexual power structure.  Our task, our duty is to enfranchise ALL.  Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 7, Bayard Rustin

7 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Bayard Rustin.  For those of you that follow SJFA, you might remember we celebrated Rustin before. Rustin is probably most remembered and celebrated for having organized the Civil Rights March of 1963 in Washington D.C., where Dr. King delivered his I Have A Dream speech.  Today, I would like to honor Rustin for having the courage to be openly gay during a time when I can’t even fathom how difficult it must have been for a black man to also be gay in the United States–what courage, what fortitude.  It was Rustin who helped influence Dr. King’s non-violent movement by using techniques adopted from Gandhi.  I almost wonder if such a man could survive in this violence obsessed culture we currently perpetuate, and then I think of how lucky we are to have people like Rep. John Lewis with us.  Click here to learn more about the hero, Bayard Rustin.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 16

16 Feb

Civil Rights Hero, Ella Baker

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Ella Baker. Baker was one of the most influential players in the civil rights movement. Baker’s grandparents were slaves and she would hear stories from her grandmother about slave revolts. After finishing college and graduating valedictorian, she moved to New York and started her life’s path of social justice. Baker fought for civil rights alongside others such as, W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Dr. Martin Luther King. She was also a mentor to our Rosa Parks. Baker’s influence touched the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Baker and another hero of my mine, Howard Zinn, were two of the SNCC’s highly revered adult advisors. Baker remained an activist until her death in 1986.  To learn more about one of my heroes, Ella Baker, click here. Of course, you knew I had to throw in some Sweet Honey in the Rock–their tribute  to our Ella.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 15

15 Feb

Honoring Billy Strayhorn

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Billy Strayhorn.  Strayhorn is best known for being jazz musician and composer who worked closely with Duke Ellington. Most people recognize two of my favorites, Lush Life, and of course Take the “A” Train. Strayhorn’s collaboration with Ellington was somewhat peculiar. Ellington was somewhat of a father figure for Strayhorn and by his own admission took a great deal of credit for Strayhorn’s work, “Strayhorn does a lot of the work but I get to take the bows.” Something some people may not know was the role Strayhorn played in the Civil Rights movement. He was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and arranged and conducted “King Fought the Battle of ‘Bam'” for the Ellington Orchestra in 1963 for the historical revue My People, dedicated to Dr. King. What is also remarkable and admirable is that Strayhorn was openly gay at a time when being both black and gay could have easily gotten him killed. To learn more about Billy Strayhorn, click here. This is a special birthday post for my husband Robert, who loves Billy Strayhorn.

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