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Archive for May, 2019

We Are Not Full

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

We are a nation of immigrants. If you are not an indigenous American Indian or the descendant of an African man or woman stolen from that continent and trafficked here in slavery, you are the son/daughter of immigrants. And this land is no more “Full” than it was when your great, or great great, or great great great or great great great great grandparents landed here.

We need to be reminded of the harm to others that our anti-immigrant president is generating: harm from bullies in schools, from verbal assaults on individuals and families in public, to the physical harm being done in small and in major acts of brutality. All because this one man, with the world as his stage, encourages rage and anger and hatred for anyone not in the white, Christian majority.

African Americans and Jews and Muslims have had their lives taken away, because of the atmosphere of non-acceptance and hate he has created.

Our nation is becoming unrecognizable, while his party’s leadership does nothing to stanch this one man’s crass and vile words of hatred toward immigrants and people of color. These officeholders dare not express even one comment against his stream of venom, making their party, whose members in Congress once trumpeted themselves as being advocates of”Family Values,” an abettor to the harm we read about and view evidence of, daily.

Please, speak up and demand accountability, because your silence allows the harm to continue.

Driving While Black … “Three Times”

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

This column has been written in loving memory of Calvin Milton Jones, who died May 25, 2011.

“Has that ever happened to you?”

His face looked at me with the most serious expression I’d seen from this gentle man.

“Three times,” he said.

My friend, the late Calvin Milton Jones, had just sent me a copy of Dick Gregory’s talk to a Tavis Smiley “State of Black Union” convention center audience. Gregory, the comedian and activist, wondered aloud, that if Bill Clinton was truly “our first black president,” would he know (at 1 min,50 sec.) how it felt to be a black man, driving down the road, and hear a police siren:

“Mr. President, do you know what it feels like to be a black person, to be a congresslady, to be a lieutenant governor with 12 doctor’s degrees, and driving down the street, and hear the police siren, and you start squeezing that steering wheel tight, and they pass by you, and you Thank God! Damn! You didn’t do nothin’ in the first place. Do you know what it is to be black?”

The primarily black audience was in howls, cheering with a standing ovation at Gregory’s presentation. And I realized then that the expression, “driving while black,” was so real and so common that an entire audience of hundreds had reacted, knowingly and in unison, with raucous laughter at Gregory’s searing remarks.

After I watched it, I walked over to Calvin’s office and asked him, “Has that ever happened to you?”

He looked me straight in the eye, “Three times” … on the way to and from Washington and his hometown in North Carolina.

So this gentle and generous man … who arrived at the office at close to five o’clock every morning — even the day before he died, sick with pneumonia — to turn on the lights, make the coffee, check the phone and computer systems, arrange the conference rooms to be sure everything was in place for the days’ meetings … told me, with those words, that he had been stopped by police officers on three separate occasions, just because they knew they could taunt another black man.

This man, Calvin Milton Jones … who wouldn’t harm a soul, who cut all the lawns in his neighborhood, because he didn’t want it to look unkempt; who, unasked, often waxed neighbors’ cars; and who would give you the shirt off his back, if you were in need … this man had been pulled over three times for no other reason than the color of his skin.

Imagine how it must feel to look up into the eyes of a uniformed man, who, you and he know, could change your life in an instant.

And now we have young Trayvon Martin, killed by a single shot from the gun of a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watchman,’ who said Trayvon was, “suspicious … looks black” and, chasing Trayvon against orders, told 911, “They always get away.” But “they” (Trayvon) did not get away; and the man who hunted him down wasn’t even arrested.

Walking while black?

Author Donna Britt, commenting on the shooting death of Trayvon, said, “I don’t know what this child could have done to be safe, except not be black.”

Being, while black.

These two men, going about their business, are stopped for being “suspicious,” for being black men living in the world’s lone superpower; which the rest of us tell ourselves is “the land of the free” … the “sweet land of liberty” … that exists, “under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

Perhaps it is … for some.