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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

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a calm spot before a later storm

It always happens at this particular intersection in Somerville. It’s where I  cross the street to make the final leg of my journey home. It is a one way street with two lanes of traffic, a dedicated bike lane, and a complicated long walk signal. Great for me as a pedestrian. Tough on drivers. I have become used to impatient drivers inching into the crosswalk, hoping they can catch a gap in traffic, so they can make a quick right on red. With an exaggerated sigh, I usually walk behind those cars because at least I know the drivers behind them can see me. Hopefully I can cross the street before the light turns green and everybody hits their gas pedals. A familiar sequence of events. That’s almost what happened yesterday.

There were two cars to the left of me blocking the crosswalk. I stepped behind them. But something was odd. There was a gap in traffic. One of the drivers blocking my path could have taken a right on red. Except she was too busy yelling obscenities at the driver of the car next to her. Now, I’m used to the obscenities flung around by Boston area drivers but this woman’s words were different. They stopped me in the middle of the street.

Time slowed. I scanned the front of the screaming woman’s car. There was no body damage. If the person in the other car had tried to go around her to make a right on red (which happens in that intersection), a simple “F*** you!” would have sufficed, and often does at that intersection. But this woman, a brown woman, chose to shout into the other person’s car, and I’m editing just a bit, “You, wetback, go back to your own country!”

And she kept repeating it, with such vociferous pounding anger that was so out of context to whatever fender bender may have happened, that she had silenced the drivers around her. An unusual feat in Boston. Not a car behind her honked. It was just her voice ringing in the air. I could see the muscles of her jaw as she strained to shout these ugly words at a stranger over and over and over again. That African American was no different than the young white men in Charlottesville carrying the tiki torches. No different. Hate is hate.

Then I became angry.

Sad, too, but mostly angry, and I mean really angry.

I wanted to rush up to that woman and say, “What the hell are you doing? What are you, a black Trump? Do you realize if white supremacist leaders could see you now they’d just sit back with a big smile as you display your stupidity? How dare you give into racism. Don’t you know your own history? Have you no respect for yourself? Why put down another human being that you don’t even know?”

In the end, common sense won out. I remembered that I am not 6’5,” simply 5’3″ and I could tell that the woman was a bit bigger than me. And while I remember just enough of my karate training to probably take her down, to what end? Getting physical would not have ended her ignorance or increased her empathy. Both drivers remained in their cars. No children were in danger that I could see. I had to acknowledge that I was standing in the middle of a street, the light about to turn green, with two cars to the left of me and two cars to the right of me. It would not have deescalated the situation for me to move forward … though clearly my first reaction was not to deescalate anything. The only weapon the woman brandished were words, though she did have that car. She could have backed over me. She was that irrationally enraged.

Time resumed its normal course. The light turned green. The two cars sped off. I finished crossing the street, continued my walk home, my thoughts full of disparagement. Phone calls with family and friends calmed me down. They all brought up “ignorance.” Ignorance is no excuse for such behavior. Just as there is no excuse for racism by anyone toward anyone.

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I was walking through Copley Square recently, past the homeless folk, and I thought of Trump and his seemingly extra million dollars he has in-hand. And I wondered would that be enough money to create a transitional housing center with an edible garden … I could see the nasturtium trailing over walls … with maybe a greenhouse and lending library and clean bathrooms with showers and staff who could help people get on a path for finding employment, health care, insurance, etc. But I stopped daydreaming. I don’t have a million dollars. Nor do I need to. Each day I learn, re-learn, and hold tight to the knowledge that anyone can promote positive, immediate change. How?

Give. Learn. Act.

Give: How many times have I written of the importance of teachers in my life. They shaped who I am and what I do. They are often poorly paid and under-resourced and that’s why I love donorschoose.org. Through this site, you can help individual teachers as they are making change one classroom at a time. It does make a difference. The site is easy to navigate. You can select classrooms near you or you can select a classroom where you grew up or you can pick a region that you know is economically distressed, e.g. a Detroit, and select a classroom there. It is a well vetted program. A little bit of money goes a long way for some of these classrooms. It is not a solution to our national education problems but it is an avenue for change on the ground level.

Learn: I’m human. I know I am  fully capable of stereotyping and judging people and places as well as anybody else. So that’s why I appreciate, as someone living on the East Coast in a major metropolitan city, chancing upon Daily Yonder, a multi-media news source about rural America. I think one of things that became clear during this past presidential election is that the U.S. is a big country. While I would love to pull a Charles Kuralt and travel around this nation, visit all of its states and territories, to learn firsthand about the people and cultures that make up America, that’s not going to happen. So a publication like Daily Yonder is essential reading to simply glimpse people and places I know little about, to learn both of their struggles and what they celebrate, as part of the American fabric.

Act: Don’t wait for someone to make change. Be the change. That’s the philosophy that came across to me when I first learned of The Philanthropy Connection. Its mission is to inspire, teach, and enable women of all generations to engage in collective philanthropy. Through extremely engaged philanthropy, members provide grants to charitable organizations that improve the quality of life for low-resource individuals and families living in Massachusetts. It’s Boston-based but similar models can be found in other communities. Or created.

And act some more: Well if you weren’t sure of my liberal biases before you will be now … buy Penzey’s Spices. Give a little Love, nurture somebody’s Soul, show a bit of Kindness at the table even if you sit with someone you disagree with. In fact what better way to get to know people then through a shared meal. And if you sign up for the Penzey’s newsletter you’ll get a sense of how founder Bill Penzey is putting his money where his mouth is, putting his business on the line by vehemently and vigorously calling out this administration and all who are trying to sow seeds of hate in this nation.

This is my short list of the moment. Good stuff is happening. We just have to seek it out. Do our parts as it makes sense. If you have a million to give, wonderful. If you have one-hour to volunteer, wonderful. It all makes a difference.

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It was very heartening for me to learn of the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway (snccdigital.org), a multimedia website and repository created jointly by the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the Duke University Libraries. The site shares the stories of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a student-led, southern-based, civil rights group founded in 1960 at Shaw University. They provided strategic leadership on the ground mobilizing people of all ages and races in the face of violence and threat of death. One of the SNCC staff members profiled is Fannie Lou Hamer. Please do read her full profile (link below) but I will share this excerpt which moved me deeply.

“Whether calming people with her singing or speaking truth to power, Mrs. Hamer’s voice could not be ignored. … Mrs. Hamer did not shy away from the dangers of challenging segregation and the denial of voting rights in Mississippi. “I’m gonna be standing up, I’m gonna be moving forward, and if they shoot me, I’m not going to fall back, I’m going to fall 5 feet 4 inches forward.”

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Fannie Lou Hamer 1917-1977

P.S. If you’re looking for further inspiration about the power of resistance in the face of tyranny, please revisit the excellent documentary, Freedom Riders, which aired on PBS in 2011.

Source

https://snccdigital.org/

http://dukemagazine.duke.edu/article/a-gateway-to-the-wisdom-of-civil-rights-activists

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Lou_Hamer

https://snccdigital.org/people/fannie-lou-hamer/

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I must say it was a bit depressing to read headlines from around the world today. From gang violence across U.S. cities, a new ‘trail of tears” as parents are being separated from children, resources for those most in need increasingly being eroded, and at the same time big business wielding its lobbying might to change policies that would have helped hold them accountable to the many for their actions as they work to increase wealth for a few. And then if I look outside my own borders to the rest of the world … well, goodness gracious. It is an avalanche or perhaps a mudslide of just damn bad news without clear sight of where hope lies on a grand scale. It clearly will not be coming from the White House anytime soon as that’s all that needs to be said for the moment about that sad mess and those sad people who do not represent me as an American. At the same time I know that there is lots of good work being done on the ground but where is the sweeping change to come? Is there a groundswell somewhere out there that I have yet to see? Time will tell … anyway, meanwhile, I choose to share these images of beauty, of prickly cactus crowned by flowers filled with light.

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Eventually I had to mute the television. I could not listen to his voice, and so I watched him speak. I watched him gesticulate wildly. I watched him make the schoolboy faces suggestive of a naughty teen making fun of others and which brings out the naughtiness of the other schoolboys who laugh though they mostly know they should know better.  But since there’s no one around to hold any of them accountable, why not poke a little fun, right?

I watched the people behind him bathed in his dark light, their own eyes fiercely bright, as they gave praise to that which stood before them … this bold entity that made them feel good! Trump was nothing like them and yet in their minds they saw themselves or what they sought to be. A white man of inherited privilege and of wealth speaking crudely and with malice about all that was not wealthy and white and not American based on a skewed view of what it means to be American.

And what does it mean to be American? What would happen if every member of Congress had to sit and compose a 500-word essay on the subject? The President and V.P. could do it as well. How about everyone who is a member (so far) of the President’s cabinet? Or maybe better yet, as a writing prompt, have them each read the following poem by Emma Lazarus and respond to it in writing. Full sentences. No tweets. No emojis. Wouldn’t that be something to see?

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

 

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I am indeed perplexed by this world today – the ugliness, the violence, the pettiness, and the thoughtlessness – but I do find serenity in the woods.

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three birds amidst the berries

Even as I compose this post I hear birds around me in the cityscape and so …

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red and gold

… I think I shall rise to go outside with my camera and see what birds in city branches I might capture on this beautiful day.

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sparrow in the berries

These birds, berries and branches were photographed this past weekend in parks located in Boston, Newton and Saugus.

 

 

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Today I was browsing the online archives of the Library of Congress and chanced upon this 1930s drawing by Katherine Lamb Tait. Though it is not labeled as such, I realized it was an early rendition of her design for the unique stained glass windows at Tuskegee University known as The Singing Window.

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About two years ago, I wrote an article describing the story behind the windows. You can read it online here in Deep South Magazine and learn how Tait collaborated with Robert Moton, President of Tuskegee, to produce what would be a visual expression of eleven spirituals.

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Installed in 1933, the original windows would only be in place for about twenty years before a fire destroyed the chapel where they were located. But because Tait’s final design survived …

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… when a new chapel was built in the 1960’s, architects were able to recreate and include the new Singing Window as well.

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I hope to see it in person one day. This photo of the window can be found on the Library of Congress website courtesy of photographer Carol M. Highsmith.

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