Tag Archives: Howard Zinn

Happy Birthday, Howard Zinn

24 Aug

Howard_Zinn-Anniversary-2Howard Zinn would have been 92 years old today. Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010.  I remember listening to NPR and crying my eyes out. Zinn has been one of my heroes since I first read his People’s History of the United States in 1987.  Zinn has had such a powerful impact on my life that I would actually say he is, in part, why this blog exist and why I try to work towards global equity and equality.

Zinn was from a Jewish Austrian-Hungarian immigrant family.  He fought in WWII as a bombadier to try and end fascism.  His experience in the war influenced his anti-war stance. Zinn reflects on what some refer to as “collateral damage” and many of us call the loss of so many civilian lives in war:

I recalled flying on that mission, too, as deputy lead bombardier, and that we did not aim specifically at the ‘Skoda works’ (which I would have noted, because it was the one target in Czechoslovakia I had read about) but dropped our bombs, without much precision, on the city of Pilsen. Two Czech citizens who lived in Pilsen at the time told me, recently, that several hundred people were killed in that raid (that is, Czechs)—not five.

Zinn also influenced my energy around trying to unpack racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the intersections of how we target and marginalize people.  In 1963 Spelman College dismissed the then tenured Zinn from his teaching position for his activism with students in the struggle against segregation.  I love Spelman College and I suspect this was a very messy and difficult decision. I try to look at the level of risk for the college and balance that with the amazing work being done by Zinn and the students.  Two of his students in particular are also heroes of mine, Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.

If there are a few of you who are not familiar with Howard Zinn, I strongly encourage you to read People’s History of the United States and watch the amazing documentary, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  

Thank you, Howard Zinn and Happy Birthday! I can only imagine how the world could be a better place for all with his inspiration.

 

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Black History Month 2014: Alice Walker

9 Feb

Alice WalkerWhat better day to honor and pay tribute to Alice Walker than today, her 70th birthday?  Happy Birthday, Ms. Walker! She was born in 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia — between Atlanta and Augusta. Walker attended Spelman College in Atlanta, where she had the amazing Howard Zinn as one of her professors.  Walker reports that Zinn helped influence her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Walker’s support and admiration of Zinn also meant she, like Zinn, would have to leave Spelman. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1965.

I fell in love with Alice Walker in 1983, when I read The Color Purple, a novel that has such amazing pain, grace, humility, and forgiveness.  The movie version was released in 1985 and — while different from the book — was also a wonderful experience that I love. On a side note, I have to say that I was crushed when Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey were robbed of an Academy Award for their respective performances. Then I read Meridian (a brilliant quasi-autobiographical book addressing her activism in Mississippi during the civil rights movement), and was equally captivated by Walker’s voice. In Possessing the Secret of Joy, Walker takes on the issue of female mutilation/circumcision.

Walker does an amazing job of addressing intersectionality, the multiple layers of identity people carry and the potential barriers people face because of those real or perceived identities. In her books, Walker manages to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the other isms people face. I dare say, I feel more complete as a human being just for having read her work. Walker’s breadth of work demonstrates great compassion for gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. It is difficult to read her novels and not end up at a better place than where you started. My dear friend, Debbie Mix, read one my favorite poems by Walker at my wedding. The poem is:

Beyond What

We reach for destinies beyond
what we have come to know
and in the romantic hush
of promises
perceive each
the other’s life
as known mystery.
Shared. But inviolate.
No melting. No squeezing
into One.
We swing our eyes around
as well as side to side
to see the world.

To choose, renounce,
this, or that –
call it a council between equals
call it love.

I also read this poem at Debbie’s wedding.  Keep the good energy rolling and read some Alice Walker. Gratefully, there is a lovely documentary on PBS (American Masters) celebrating the gift that is Alice Walker.

A Queer Version of Howard Zinn

31 May

Thanks to my friend Brad for inspiring this story.  Here we are on the final day of May, the day before TSM will do a month long celebration of LGBT History.  June is typically LGBT History Month in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots.  In preparation of celebrating LGBT history, I would like to strongly recommend a new book by Michael Bronski

A 21st Century Howard Zinn

A QUEER HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I have been a great fan of Howard Zinn since the first time I read A People’s History of the United States, in the late 1980s.  Bronski, like Zinn has crafted a piece of non-fiction that reflects our history through a more accurate lens.  Bronski focuses on tracing the history of the LGBT community in the United States.  Bronski starts with the Puritans and shows the beginning of how America justified the marginalization of people:

The acceptance of slavery as a philosophical concept and political reality laid the groundwork for the justification of ‘othering’ — designating a group of people as ‘different,’ placing them outside of the legal, social, and moral framework granting full citizenship.

Bronski takes a very needed integrated approach in including the voices of the LGBT community.  Click here to see the full article. I hope that my month of celebrating LGBT people will help to hearing our voices in American history become fully integrated.

Here is a nice update thanks to a kind soul that follows TSM:

I thought you might like the video we did for Michael Bronski’s A Queer History of the United States:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzJ7X2Uavyc

Please share if you like it!

Best,

Jessie Bennett

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.

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