Tag Archives: John Lewis

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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The Butler: The Personal is Political

23 Aug

OPRAH WINFREY and FOREST WHITAKER star in THE BUTLER My husband and I went to movie night on $5 Tuesdays here in Portland. We finally got to see the much acclaimed The Butler.  Of course, I would probably see anything with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, and Vanessa Redgrave.   This all-star cast did not let anyone down.  While all of them give fantastic performances, I have to say that Whitaker and Winfrey give nothing less than Academy Award winning performances.   Some may remember that Whitaker earned an Academy  Award for his stellar performance in the Last King of Scotland. However, sadly Winfrey was robbed of an academy award for her stellar performance as Sofia in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Color Purple. 

The Butler does a marvelous job of weaving threads of fiction and non-fiction to create a compelling story of one man’s awakening to the realization that the personal is political against a backdrop of our nations’ ugly history around race.  If only race relations could be relegated to the past, but they cannot be yet — we still have so far to go.   Everything we do and in every way we live our lives, we are making a political statement.

The movie does a phenomenal job capturing the series of presidents under which Cecil Gains (Forest Whitaker) serves.  While LBJ was not someone I would want to my house for dinner, he was a great president and one of his greatest legacies was the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which has now been gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Sadly, the movie also exposes the great flaws of the Reagans and how Reagan’s stand on apartheid put him on the wrong side of history.  Fonda does an amazing job of portraying Nancy Reagan.

I loved that the movie delved into the Freedom Riders and the need for the Black Panther movement.  However, I was sad that Bayard Rustin was not mentioned at all.  I am glad to see that both Rustin and Winfrey will be receiving awards later this year.

Winfrey is just as amazing in The Butler as she was in The Color Purple.  Her character, Gloria, is a complex alcoholic grappling with a husband working as a subversive — albeit he does not know his job is in and of itself subversive — and losing a son to the Vietnam War. (Another waste of human lives for a war that should never have been.)

Just to prove how much we need this movie, a theater in Kentucky has refused to screen The Butler.  So much for freedom of speech.  My esteem (while already quite low because of Rand Paul) just dropped even further.

We were glued to our seats during the entire movie and I so hope most people in the United States see this movie.  The Civil Rights Movement is not over–we still have a long way to go and we still so desperately need people like John Lewis.  Let me know what you think of the movie.

We Are All Connected

10 Jul

Rep. John Lewis

I want to thank my friend Sibel Alp, for inspiring this post.  Sibel is a beautifully strong and brilliant woman I met over 20 years ago and she is also someone who works to make the world a better place for all people.

I have been quite pensive and perhaps even a bit maudlin today, as I thought about what I wanted to write about for TSM. Perhaps I have also been a bit melancholy because of the loss of Betty Ford, and for me the symbolic loss of intelligent and remarkable Republicans.  I have some difficult stories coming up soon that will address the attacks on women, the poor, and the LGBT communities, so I wanted something uplifting for today.

I hope all that read TSM take away the message that we all have to be engaged in the work of eradicating racism, misogyny, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism, and planetary sustainability. My hope is that as people read this blog, they become more aware of the interconnectedness of all forms of discrimination which requires us to be champions for all who are marginalized.  Taking up the banner of civil rights for all can only help all humans, which I believe will also help the planet.  I found this short video that I think helps to illustrate how connected we all are.  I chose to attach a picture of John Lewis to this story because he is a hero of mine and when I think of people who dedicate their lives to social justice, I think of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – Civics Made Practical

17 Jan

It’s not just another holiday. 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.”

The legacy of Dr. King is multi-faceted. While he is known as a civil rights pioneer, he also maintained that these rights required the active engagement of all citizens. Civic engagement is a key component of being part of a democratic society.

In the era of standardized testing and teaching to factoids rather than skills that we got from No Billionaire Left Behind, civics has been sadly omitted as a part of regular curriculum. For the record, civics is “the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.” (Oxford Compact Dictionary) Social Studies is often only the residue of the rote names and dates approach to learning, leaving out the active role granted to and required of good citizens.

The Center for Civic Education is working hard to change this circumstance. The Campaign to Promote Civic Education effort is a fifty-state campaign (including the District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of our nation’s schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

In Oregon, civics was dropped as a part of core curriculum in 1997. Recently, a concerned Legislature created the Civics and Financial Education Task Force to address the gaps in civic education. The final report of the task force articulates significant frustration with the current climate in education but does propose a small return to civics education beginning this school year.

The news on civic engagement is not entirely bleak. The 2010 report by the Corporation for National and Community Service showed a surge in volunteerism despite the poor economy. After decades of lackluster turnout, the United States Election Project reports voter turnout has returned to levels near that of 1972. It is heartening to see this kind of civic resurgence. Nevertheless, in this sound-bite-driven, corporate-purchased-election, fact-averse culture, we need to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of effective participation are instilled in students throughout their education, not just as a half-credit add-on.

As you enjoy the holiday, please give some thought to what you do to give back to your community. If you aren’t able to volunteer today, look for an opportunity in your area and commit some time. If there are young people in your life, take the time to make sure they are learning about their role in an active, meaningful democracy. And, just for fun, revisit some civic learning that might just make you smile, because being a part of a free society should also bring us joy.

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