Tag Archives: NAACP

The Passing of a Legend: Julian Bond

16 Aug

julian_bond2Sadly, the 75 year old Bond passed away last night. Today I would like to honor and celebrate an outspoken pioneer for civil rights and social justice and one of my personal heroes. Horace Julian Bond was born in Nashville in 1940. He grew up in rural Fort Valley, GA, where his father was president of the university. He enrolled in Morehouse College, where he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He became its communications director and helped organize protests against segregation in public facilities in Georgia. He left school to spend more time as an activist; he would return to Morehouse and complete his BA in English at the age of 31–yay for English majors!

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Bond was one of eight African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. The House refused to seat him, citing his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. He lost an initial court case but appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices ruled unanimously that Bond’s freedom of speech was being denied and compelled the Georgia House to seat him. He served in the Georgia house until 1975 and then in the Georgia Senate until 1987.

While still serving in Georgia politics, he co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center with Morris Dees in 1971 and served as its president for eight years. He also worked in education, teaching at a number of universities until 1998. That year he was selected as chairman of the NAACP, a role he held for 11 years. He helped create the 100th anniversary celebrations for the organization in 2009.

Julian Bond is an amazing voice for social justice and truly understands the intersections of oppression. He reluctantly boycotted the funeral of his friend Coretta Scott King because it was held in a viciously anti-gay megachurch. He shares King’s support of the LGBT community and has been a vocal advocate throughout his career.

African Americans […] were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now. Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.

He has also recorded a marriage equality spot for the Human Rights Campaign and has notably observed, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

Bond was a Distinguished Professor in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C. and a faculty member in the history department at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he taught the history of the Civil Rights Movement. He was also a fierce advocate for responsible legislation to address climate change. What an amazing and inspirational figure!  Bond will remain a national treasure and leaves an amazing legacy.

50th Anniversary Civil Rights March: A Reflection

28 Aug

50thToday is a most auspicious day, for it marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March (organized by Bayard Rustin) in Washington, DC.  This is a reflection of how far the United States has come regarding civil rights and how far we have yet to go.

Something quite remarkable happened during this 50th Anniversary celebration.  One of my heroes, Julian Bond, the chairman emeritus of the NAACP, stated quite clearly that:

We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.

No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.

Upon reading this quote, I must confess that Bond’s words made me weep.  I wish we had more voices like his and like that of Rep. John Lewis.  While Bond’s words and actions are representative of a great move forward, we still have so far to go around issues of racial equity and full equality for the LGBT community, not to mention the horrible inequities faced by those that share several identities, such as LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, even as we have such strong expressions of solidarity, we have too many examples of the prevalence of discrimination and racism. The story of 25 African Americans being denied service in a South Carolina restaurant just because their peaceful gathering made one person feel threatened is a tragic reminder that racism is still blantant, aggressive,  capricious, and very much alive in 2013.

Shall we also look at immigration and how the United States treats Latino/a Americans?  In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, which demands that all brown colored people be able to supply legal documentation of their citizenship, something white folk do not have to do.  In its always progressive mode (note the irony here) Alabama adopted the same law in 2011 — yes, Alabama where 48% of all African American men are not able to cast a vote. Coincidence? I think not.

Let us now move to LGBT rights and Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken (I can only think about gay sex) Cuccinelli.  Cuccinelli has proposed to overturn Lawrence v. Texas. Yes that’s right, he wants to make homosexuality illegal.  I do wonder if Cuccinelli and Putin have been exchanging love letters.

Call to action: my hope is that each of takes a moment to engage fellow human being in a discussion around race, gender, power, privilege, and civil rights, including civil rights for the LGBT community.  Let all of the targeted populations in the United States stand in solidarity with one another.  We who believe in Freedom cannot rest.

Black History Month 2013: Julian Bond

18 Feb

Julian_BondToday we honor and celebrate an outspoken pioneer for civil rights and social justice and one of my personal heroes. Horace Julian Bond was born in Nashville in 1940. He grew up in rural Fort Valley, GA, where his father was president of the university. He enrolled in Morehouse College, where he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He became its communications director and helped organize protests against segregation in public facilities in Georgia. He left school to spend more time as an activist; he would return to Morehouse and complete his BA in English at the age of 31–yay for English majors!

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Bond was one of eight African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. The House refused to seat him, citing his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. He lost an initial court case but appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices ruled unanimously that Bond’s freedom of speech was being denied and compelled the Georgia House to seat him. He served in the Georgia house until 1975 and then in the Georgia Senate until 1987.

While still serving in Georgia politics, he co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center with Morris Dees in 1971 and served as its president for eight years. He also worked in education, teaching at a number of universities until 1998. That year he was selected as chairman of the NAACP, a role he held for 11 years. He helped create the 100th anniversary celebrations for the organization in 2009.

Julian Bond is an amazing voice for social justice and truly understands the intersections of oppression. He reluctantly boycotted the funeral of his friend Coretta Scott King because it was held in a viciously anti-gay megachurch. He shares King’s support of the LGBT community and has been a vocal advocate throughout his career.

African Americans […] were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now. Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.

He has also recorded a marriage equality spot for the Human Rights Campaign and has notably observed, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

Bond is currently a Distinguished Professor in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C. and a faculty member in the history department at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he teaches history of the Civil Rights Movement. He also finds time to advocate for responsible legislation to address climate change. What an amazing and inspirational figure!  Bond is a national treasure!

Celebrating Thurgood Marshall

30 Aug

On this date in 1967, civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall became the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court. In his 24 years on the Court, he was a stalwart defender of the oppressed, a strong voice for social justice, and a strong voice for the evolutionary model of Constitutional law clearly intended at the founding of our country. He wisely observed in a U.S. Bicentennial speech:

the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights we hold as fundamental today.

Born in 1908 in Baltimore, Marshall was the son of a railroad porter and a teacher and the grandson of slaves. His parents instilled in him a deep appreciation of American citizenship and the rule of law in a just society. He graduated from Lincoln University, where he was a member of the first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. He intended to go to law school at his hometown University of Maryland, but was turned away because of their strict segregation policy. He instead went to Howard University School of Law, graduating first in his class in 1933. Three years later, he represented Donald Gaines Murray in a case that forced Maryland to eliminate the policy that had kept him from its law school.

Marshall undertook that case as part of his work with the NAACP. He quickly rose to become their Chief Counsel. At the age of 32, he won his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Chambers v. Florida, a due process case involving undue police pressure on four African American men. He went on to argue 32 cases before the Court, more than anyone else, winning a stunning 29 of those cases. The most famous of those, building on his success in Maryland, was Brown v. Board of Education. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, resorting to a recess appointment when a group of southern senators held up his confirmation. After four years on that bench, he was tapped by President Johnson to become the first African American U.S. Solicitor General. During his time in that role, he won an enviable 14 of the 19 cases he defended.

Strong-willed and successful, Marshall recognized that the American dream is not accomplished solely by personal determination.

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.

He also knew how much minority oppression worked against too many Americans, saying

A child born to a Black mother in a state like Mississippi… has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.

With the famous observation that it was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place,” LBJ put Marshall forward for the Supreme Court when Justice Tom C. Clark retired. He served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, believing it a violation of the Constitution. He participated in every dissent of death penalty cases during his time on the Court.

Justice Marshall also understood that equal rights apply to all, extending his work for racial equality to other oppressed communities. He joined in a spirited dissent of Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 decision that infamously upheld Georgia’s anti-gay application of its ludicrous sodomy laws. He also wrote influential opinions on labor rights, securities law, and taxation. He famously wrote a dissent in Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney, saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women (Yes, standing up for equality for women was okay back then). A constant defender of individual freedom, he famously observed:

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

Marshall also supported a women’s right to govern her own body and helped with the passage of Roe v. Wade. He was a stalwart defender of women’s rights and the right to choose.

In poor health, he retired from the bench in 1991, noting his dissatisfaction that his successor would be selected by George H.W. Bush. Those fears were sound. In a display of wanton tokenism, Bush appointed the integrity-impaired far right demagogue Clarence Thomas. That substitution heralded the beginning of the Court’s descent from defenders of individual rights and the rule of law to the Roberts’ Court’s flagrant obsequiousness to corporate power and individual greed. The Fecal Five on today’s Court would do well to listen to Marshall’s words:

Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.

Fortunately, Marshall’s legacy lives on, with many of his opinions holding the force of law even today. His true successor on the bench was appointed by the first African American President when President Obama appointed former Marshall law clerk Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Marshall died of heart failure in 1993. His papers were given to the Library of Congress and — unusually but according to Marshall’s wishes — made open to scholars and researchers immediately. Many tributes and memorials to Marshall exist around the country but none are so strong as the legacy of the law he believed in, defended, and helped to shape for the betterment of all Americans.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 28, Our Allies

28 Jun

Thank You Allies

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to all of the allies of the LGBTQ community.  Not just the vast number of allies I know, but organizations like PFLAG, the NAACP, neighbors, families, and all the heterosexuals that stand with us in solidarity.

In a time in our history when Presidential candidates have signed a pledge to discriminate against all LGBTQ people, it takes great courage and integrity to stand with us and demand we all be treated equally. It is time to say a huge Thank You to all of you that believe in civil rights and basic human rights.

Thank you all!

It it not easy to interrupt discrimination, but we must!  Because the LGBTQ community has so many overlapping identities, we must stand united when we work to stop the intersections oppression–when we work to stop homophobia, racism, transphobia,ageism, and misogyny.  Today I honor and thank you all.  “We Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes.”

Hero of the Week: May 4, Dr. William Barber II

4 May

Hero of the Week

In a world where oppressed populations are often pitted against one another — and too often allow self-interest to permit such actions — it is wonderful to see someone stand up and loudly say, “Enough!” This week’s HWA goes to Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. Responding to the cynical and loathsome tactics of NOM and its allies to split the African-American and LGBTQ communities, he has issued a strong statement.

Barber is responding to Amendment One, a proposed amendment to the NC constitution that would create a one-man-one-woman definition of marriage. Like a number of other, similar amendments in other states — all of which have passed — it also broadly prohibits anything that remotely resembles marriage equality. This would block civil unions and domestic partnerships and wreak havoc with LGBT couples’ wills and other legal arrangements.

In a strongly-worded Open Letter to All North Carolinians, he makes his case clearly and eloquently.

The NAACP has always opposed any custom, tradition, practice, law or constitutional amendment that denies any right to any person [and] has a long history of opposing any proposal that would alter the federal or state constitutions for the purpose of excluding any group or individuals from guarantees of equal protection under the law. Our opposition is based on our mission statement which calls for the “equality of rights of all persons.” … The North Carolina legislature is not the modern day Council of Nicaea — and we should not want it to be. How should the government address the public policy challenges of abject poverty, unemployment, poor education, economic justice, caring for those without health care, and equal protection under law? These are the questions that the legislature should be addressing. We should not allow my tax dollars, and my beloved state of North Carolina, to put their beliefs into our state’s most important document, to dictate to the consciences of other people here.

Well said, Rev. Barber! The vote on Amendment One is next Tuesday and the polling is very tight. Let us hope that the work of the NC NAACP and other equality-minded groups makes it clear what this amendment does and pushes North Carolina to be the first state to vote down such a bigoted amendment.

Honorable mention this week goes to the eleven state Democratic Party chairs who have joined the chorus pushing the DNC to include full marriage equality in the party platform this fall. Calling for the inclusion are John Burton of California, Joan Wagnon of Kansas, John Walsh of Massachusetts, Ken Martin of Minnesota, Jon Wisniewski of New Jersey, Jay Jacobs of New York, Meredith Wood Smith of Oregon, Boyd Richie of Texas, Jake Perkinson of Vermont, Dwight Pelz of Washington,  and Mike Tate of Wisconsin. Nice to see our home state of Oregon on this list.

Black History Month 2012: Phylicia Rashād

24 Feb

Today we celebrate an actress and activist, the wonderful Phylicia Rashād. Born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in 1948, she has blended her long acting career with a passion for celebrating black history and breaking down barriers. As a child, Phylicia, her older brother Andrew and younger sister, Debbie Allen, lived in Mexico to escape US racism. Rashad is fluent in Spanish and upon returning to the United States, became a champion for civil rights. After graduating from Howard University, she made her early career on the Broadway stage. In 1983, she moved to television, starting with a role on One Life to Live.

Rashād took on the role for which she is best known the following year when she was cast as Claire Huxtable on the long-running sitcom The Cosby Show. Playing a wise, practical mother, she also made a point of injecting black history lessons into a number of shows. During the program’s eight-year run, she was nominated for two Emmy awards. After the series ended, she took on a number of other TV and movie roles. She also returned to the stage as time permitted.

While maintaining an active career, Rashād also worked tirelessly to promote the arts in America, especially the contributions of African-Americans. Her work has been recognized with a number of awards and honorary degrees. When she received an NAACP Image Award in 2009, the presenters called her the mother of the African-American community. In 2008, she also won a Tony Award for her performance in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin In the Sun. What is shocking to me is that it was not until 2008 that an African-American won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.

Still going strong at 64, Phylicia Rashād has much more to offer and much energy and wisdom to share. Let’s close with her own words:

The stubbornness I had as a child has been transmitted into perseverance. I can let go but I don’t give up. I don’t beat myself up about negative things. There’s always something to suggest that you’ll never be who you wanted to be. Your choice is to take it or keep on moving.

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