Talladega College band should march for America, says civil rights dean

dr-lafayette
Dr. Bernard LaFayette led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s campaign to fight povery in 1968. He was a 1961 Freedom Rider and one of the leaders of Selma’s voting rights efforts, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Dr. LaFayette has taught Kingian nonviolence all over the world. He lives in Atlanta and Tuskegee, Ala.
     Back in the day, when ministers, maids, college students of all races and Jewish sympathizers boycotted buses and staged sit-ins at lunch counters, department stores and movie theaters, they had a plan.
     Part of that plan was disarm their detractors and win over their would be oppressors, says Dr. Bernard LaFayette, who led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s campaign in 1968 and the Selma voting rights movement among other social justice efforts.
     Dr. LaFayette makes a strong argument that the Talladega College band —  which accepted an invitation to march in Friday’s inauguration parade before Donald Trump was elected president — should take part in the parade, rather than boycott it, as some alumni have suggested.

“We have to work on teaching our young people that we have to win people over, said Dr. LaFayette. “If they disagree with what we stand for we don’t alienate ourselves from them, we need to engage them.”

         In a recent interview on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,”  Talladega College president Dr. Billy C. Hawkins said several individuals and groups had stepped forward to donate money to help the band pay for the trip to Washington, D.C.  Students at the small private college in Talladega, Ala are anxious to show the world their musical talents, Hawkins told Joyner.

Joyner established The Tom Joyner Foundation, a Dallas-based non-profit organization which raises money to send students to historically black colleges and universities.

         According to Fox News, more than $620,000 had been raised for the band. Several donations came in after Hawkins’ appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

When considering a boycott, Dr. LaFayette said the debate should always be, “What can one gain by not going and what do they accomplish if they do go.”

“We need all the support we can get for our black colleges,” he said. “If they are invited, they should accept the invitation and look at it as the presidency rather than the president.”

“You don’t have to agree with the president, but we agree that we need the presidency. It doesn’t mean they agree with everything Trump stands for.

During the protests of the 1950s and 1960s — which led to major legislation such as the Voting Rights Act — “we demonstrated the non-violent approach to dealing with adversaries. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got on the phone and talked to President John F. Kennedy and went to see President Lyndon B. Johnson. That’s the only approach we can use with Trump.”

A tale of the tape: Rep. John Lewis vs. President-elect Donald Trump

 

This really isn’t a fair fight. But hey, Donald Trump went there when he insulted Congressman John Lewis via Tweet Saturday saying the civil rights icon is all talk and no action. Trump added insult to injury by tweeting that Lewis’s congressional district is a crime-ridden disaster. This came after Rep. Lewis (D-Georgia) said in an interview that he did not consider Trump to be a legitimate president because of Russian interference in the presidential election.

Trump is in serious need of a history lesson (not to mention a primer on the First Amendment).

So let’s go:

John Lewis: One of the leaders of the Nashville Student Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee  (S.N.C.C.) while attending seminary in Nashville. Was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. Lewis’s original speech was so controversial, organizers of the march asked him to tone  it down.

Donald Trump: Received alarge sum of money from his father to get started in the real estate business.  Made a name for himself as a successful businessman despite the fact that many of his business practices have faced legal and ethical questions.

John Lewis: One of the original Freedom Riders who took part in the Congress of Racial Equality’s May 1961 effort to test desegregation laws on interstate buses in the Deep South. Lewis and other Freedom Riders were attacked and beaten by angry mobs in Alabama while authorities did little to help the victims. C.O.R.E. was forced to suspend the rides.  After 400 Freedom Riders of all races were arrested in Jackson, Miss. for breach of the peace, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered an end to segregated conditions on Greyhound and Trailways buses later that year.

Donald Trump: Was sued for housing discrimination in New York City after teams of testers found that he and his father discriminated against would-be tenants who were African American and Latino.  The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Trump’s companies have faced several lawsuits over the years from contractors, business colleagues and people who believe they were misled by leaders at Trump University.

John Lewis: Was beaten and nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge between Selma and Montgomery while marching for the voting rights for African Americans. The efforts of Lewis and other protesters led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Donald Trump: Was caught on a hot mic making lewd comments about women.

John Lewis: One of the longest-serving and most respected members of Congress. When asked when he might retire, Lewis said in 2011: “Retirement is not in my D.N.A.” adding that he has more work to do for justice and freedom before he leaves this earth.

Donald Trump: Fired Omarosa and Gary Busey on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Serious Donald Trump? You don’t want it with Congressman John Lewis.

 

 

“It will get better”

Fred Duerson’s granddaughter, Imani Tuck, and her Hampton University Concert Choir singing “Close to Thee” in Washington, D.C.     

My friend Gayle White is one of the smartest, most talented writers I know. She posted this on her Facebook page recently, for those of us who have lost loved ones. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my father, who succumbed to  lung cancer in August. I miss his encouraging text messages which often included scriptures, I miss talking to him about politics, about sports, about the family we love so dear. I know my father was at peace with everything that happened to him in the last 18 months. He never stopped leading and ministering to his family, even as he faced a diagnosis of terminal cancer. We’ve lost other friends too, in the last two years — Bernard Charles McNair Jr., a dear friend and neighbor; Mable Jean Lockhart, our wonderful first lady; and Pauline Knight Ofosu, a wise, blessed woman.  We remember them with warm thoughts at the holidays at and always.

Gayle’s post gave me hope, so I’m sharing it here.

A deeply personal message to my friends who have lost someone special since last Christmas: You may be absolutely miserable and feel stabbed a thousand times as big and small memories flow in. You have to get through Christmas just as you got through visitation, memorial service, and the rituals of death. Once you’ve made it, a major hurdle will be behind you. The Christmas day after Bob died was the worst day of my life, worse even than the day he died. The family tried to practice enough false merriment to propel us forward but the seconds dragged by. At the end of the day I felt as if I’d completed a huge obstacle course. Each year since then has become brighter and I truly love the story, the tree, the music, the anticipation, the generosity of the season. So, please know that you are in a valley right now but you will work your way out. And know that many people who have faced what you’re going through are thinking about and praying for you this year. With love, Gayle.

After Gayle posted her note, Mike King — another friend and former colleague, posted this response:

Exactly! Thanks for sharing. The light indeed returns, slowly, with subsequent holidays — especially when you are surrounded by your loved ones. But the first is indeed an endurance contest, despite the best efforts of friends and family. It WILL get better.

 

The hate that hate produced

Dylann Roof epitomizes the phrase. He is hatred personified;  wrapped in a scrawny 22-year-old body. He is deranged. His trial is a farce which seeks  to answer one question: will the state execute a man who murdered nine people inside an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.?

In Roof’s crazed mind, he had to do it. Someone had to stop the terrible black people who were raping and murdering white people. “Our people are superior,” he told investigators.

He chose a church to carry out his carnage. I’ll never understand it. Never accept it.

The scenes out of the trial have been chilling. Video showing Rev. Clementa Pinckney welcoming people into  Mother Emanuel  AME Church. Video of Roof coming into the church, where dozens of faithful parishioners had gathered for Bible study last year. Their final act?  Welcoming a stranger armed with a Glock 45, who told police that his victims should have seen the gun because it was so big.

Roof sat in the church for 15 minutes, contemplating murder.  As those gathered in the historic church studied the word of God, Roof worried about his gun jamming.

Make no mistake, he is the hate that hate produced. If you think hate speech is harmless, I give you Dylann Roof. If you think you can play fast and loose with code words and it not have consequences, look no further than him.

He is pure evil.   As the state decides his fate, let’s remember the people who died as a result of his cowardly act. They were mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, ministers, retirees. They left behind broken loved ones. They are the victims of misguided racial hatred that is as old as time.

 

The 3:30 a.m. wake up call

jamonAustin (left) and his cousin Jamon

This time, it wasn’t a tweet in the middle of the night about a former Miss Universe. Instead, it was a 3:30 a.m. Facebook post from my daughter Carmen:  “Austin just woke up. He’s crying. I’m crying. Eek this is tough to explain.” Austin is my 10-year-old grandson. Like many of us, he was feeling the aftershocks of our new reality: President-elect Donald Trump.

Austin is a fifth grader in Cobb County, a mostly conservative Atlanta suburb. His school is predominantly white, but thankfully, he hasn’t experienced the sting of overt discrimination.  I pray he never will. His post-election tears, and the tears and fears of other young people are real. His concerns are for some of his Hispanic classmates. He’d heard Trump promise to deport people who are here illegally. Already, in schools across the country, Hispanic and Muslim children have been the target of bullying because of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.  After Trump’s win, Austin worried that his classmates who supported the president-elect would tease those students who wanted Hillary Clinton to win.

We were driving home from skating on Election Day when he told me that some of his classmates wanted Trump to win because he is a millionaire.   That doesn’t mean he’s a good person, I offered.  “My friends say Hillary Clinton had an affair.” No Austin, it was her husband who had the affair.  “Well why did she stay married to him? ”  Whew, this wasn’t a conversation I was prepared to have. But as parents and grandparents, we must always be ready to listen, explain and sometimes correct errors of fact.

The political and religious views of children are shaped largely by their parents. Austin’s classmates were parroting what they’d heard in their homes. Politics are often discussed in our home so Austin is very aware of how nasty this election cycle had become. He said early on that he didn’t like Trump because he was a bully.

This week, as I’ve listened to parents and teachers talk about the election’s effect on our children, I can’t help but feel sad. Our leaders are often role models for our children. Say what you will about President Obama’s policies, he has been an outstanding example for our children. He loves and respects his wife and daughters and has shown an unwavering commitment to education and mentoring.

Now comes President-elect Trump, who built his campaign on a lie about President Obama’s citizenship and has continued to sow seeds of racism and sexism. He has ridiculed women and disabled people, threatened to ban Muslims and created a culture of fear and anger.

My friend Charis, a teacher in suburban Washington, D.C. posted this on her Facebook page Wednesday.

Today was a hard day to be a teacher. In my literary magazine class I asked students to journal their feelings about America, the Election, and the president-elect. While there were definite varying opinions, so many of their responses hurt me to the core. This one came from the sweetest little girl, who also happens to be a Muslim and who proudly wears her hijab. Her last sentence moved me the most. #kindnessmatters

“I am really scared,” the student wrote. “America should have a better and kinder leader.”

As we endeavor to put this election behind us, let’s remember our children and listen to their fears and concerns for our country’s future. They are wiser than we know. And they soak in everything they see and hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please, don’t sleep on voting

fbi

If you can’t stomach the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, think about  James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Or cast your vote with Viola Liuzzo in mind.

It would be easy to become jaded by the  insanity of this election cycle and decide to sit this one out. You  may be a young person who doesn’t see anything in these candidates’ messages which speaks directly to you.  Or you may view the major party candidates as so  disingenuous  you’re considering casting a protest vote for a third-party candidate.

I submit to you that neither is a viable option. Every election is an opportunity to make your voice heard. Voters in Cobb County did so recently when they sent Commission Chairman Tim Lee packing, in part because of his lack of transparency regarding the Atlanta Braves stadium deal.

And every election is a chance to exercise a hard-earned right. James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were attempting to register African-American voters in Mississippi when they were beaten and shot to death by the Ku Klux Klan.  Schwerner and Goodman were young men in their 20s who came from up North to help register black voters during Freedom Summer in 1964.  Chaney, a native Mississippian, had grown weary of conditions in his state, where he and other African-Americans  were relegated to second class citizenship.

A year later, near Selma, Alabama Viola Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by Klan members who saw her driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. Liuzzo and her companion, Leroy Moton, were Southern Christian Leadership Conference volunteers helping to register black voters, who were routinely threatened and intimidated at the polls. Moton survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was shot in the face just shy of her 40th birthday.

Whenever I think about not voting, I remember something Rev. C.T. Vivian, a longtime civil rights activist now in his 90s, told me about why he and other protestors believed so deeply in what they were doing:  “We did it to fulfill our humanity.”

When you think about it, that’s not so different from today’s freedom fighters, who have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner to name a few. Voting in local elections ensures that the people who believe the same as we do lobby to improve police training and hire more officers who are sensitive to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve.

We are facing the most important presidential election in our nation’s history. Not voting on Nov. 8th shouldn’t be an option.

viola

Viola Liuzzo

 

 

 

 

A ram in the bush

cancer-jacket

Lap three. We are sweating, talking and laughing. I’m thinking it’s time for a rest, my legs are sore. Then a stranger, a beautiful brown woman with headphones and an i phone in hand, casually breaks into our conversation.

“I like your jacket,” she says cheerily.  This is the third time since we’ve been walking that someone compliments my jacket.

Several months ago my daughter gave me a bunch of cancer gear: T-shirts, jackets, a shawl, a head wrap, a tote bag — about 15 pieces in all. She picked up these items in the course of her work and gave them to me.  My plan is to donate them to an organization that is promoting cancer awareness or research.  I decide to keep the purple jacket  I’m wearing on the track this morning. It is adorned with colorful ribbons and the words “Hope for a Cure For All Cancers.”

The beautiful stranger tells my friend and I that she has just been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. We stop our walk and turn to embrace her as she melts into tears. She is afraid. Because her mother is a breast cancer survivor, she has taken a test to see if she carries the gene that causes the disease. The test was negative, making her recent diagnosis all the more confusing. Her doctor has given her medicine to shrink the tumor, her hair has fallen out. She is in her 30s and is the mother of four young children.  Her brother tells her that her diet may be the cause.  She is working out in hopes of losing weight and improving her health. She tells us she suffers from bi-polar disorder and eats to ease her pain.  Sonya and I listen, then do the only thing we know  to do. We stand on the track and pray with her. We touch and agree that while cancer may be the diagnosis, God has the final say.

Then we tell her our cancer stories. Sonya’s husband has been battling cancer for six years. Last year, he received a bone marrow transplant. There are dark days to be sure, but they are survivors, she tells her. I tell her about my father, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last May.  He survived and thrived for more than a year relying on his faith and aggressively seeking treatment.

Our new friend has four children. She pulls up a family photo on her phone. She has much to live for.  She tells us that God put us in her path. Often when we are at the end of our rope, God places a ram in the bush — something or someone to remind us all is not lost.  As the three of us parted ways on the track, we felt God’s love and presence in our exchange. It’s important to remember that he never leaves us, especially in our darkest times.