Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Movement’

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” ~ St. Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7 (ASV)

Recently, it was an honor to meet this great Civil Rights icon. From the moment it was announced that Rep Lewis was to be the keynote speaker at the 2014 Hall of Fame Dinner honoring Rep Ed Pastor who is retiring from congress, I began looking forward to meeting John Lewis, my civil rights hero and former congressman.

The irony is, for a split second, it seems, I was deliberately excluded from Rep Lewis’ reception by my old nemesis, the so-called devil. As the old-timers would say: Child, that ain’t nothing but the devil. Hence, this classic line from television comic Flip Wilson (c. 1970s): “The devil made me do it.” Though I was genuinely hurt, as I thought this person was a friend, of sorts, being a veteran Spiritual Warrior myself, I would not be deterred. Thankfully, my campaign colleague, who had been sent an invitation, was right behind me. Thus, the wily ego steps aside claiming it was kidding, which hardly felt that funny to me!

Embraced by History

Nonetheless, I gladly enter the room without further incident, blindly walking past free glasses of sparkling champagne, scrumptious deserts, and impressive VIP’s. My only purpose was to meet Rep Lewis in appreciation of his great service to civil rights. See, I also had a story to tell John Lewis and prayed that I would not cry in the process. Naturally, upon meeting him I felt like crying and said so. He embraces me and I immediately feel at ease.

With tears of reverence under control, I thanked Rep Lewis for his service and then told him about Bobo, my classmate at the time of his tragic death. He then mentions his recent visit to the site of the infamous Bryant’s Grocery, now a Historic Landmark on the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which made our meet all the more meaningful for me.

Emmett Louis Till

Sadly, as most well know, in the summer of 1955 while visiting relatives in Money Mississippi, Emmett Louis Till, we use to call him Bobo, a precocious 14-year old African American youth who, on a dare and being from Chicago, made the fatal mistake of playfully “whistling at a white woman” in the local grocery store. That fateful night, a few days later, he would be kidnapped from his uncle’s home, brutally tortured, ultimately murdered, his battered body weighted down and thrown in the Tallahatchie River by two white men, the women’s kin. Soon the horrific body would emerge and virtually shock the world.

At the persistence of Miss Mamie, Till’s mother, a Chicago schoolteacher who wanted “the world to see what they had done to my son,” an open-casket funeral was held which naturally awakened the universal consciousness within. Being our classmate, we got together and went to the wake. Mercifully, we girls were strongly advised not to view the body. Even grown men were stumbling out into the streets weeping, which were filled with grief-stricken Black folks as far as the eye could see. I would be haunted by this tragic event for years to come. Yet, little did I know then, that one day in meeting U.S. Congressman John Lewis, now a beloved Civil Rights Icon, I personally would receive a poetic justice for Bobo, my childhood classmate.

Though tried for Till’s murder, yet typical of the segregated South, the two men were acquitted by an all-white jury (yet later sold their murder confession to Look Magazine). Months later in December of 1955, while still remembering Till and his tragic death, Rosa Parks, an exhausted department store seamstress (also a trained NAACP non-violent activist) refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, as then customary. Thus, formally kicking off the historic Montgomery Bus Boycotts and American Civil Rights Movement in which a very youthful John Lewis would ultimately play a crucial role.

Spiritual Warfare or Fighting The Good Fight

In my opinion, there are three legitimate levels of warfare in human affairs; each with its own distinct attributes.   The first level being Physical Warfare: use of extreme force to restore the peace and preserve civilization. The next level being Intellectual Warfare: use of good words to point the mind toward truth and reconciliation. And the third level, which is Spiritual Warfare: the wise use of discernment that ultimately kills off the ego, a false self-image also known as false pride (or “the devil” in some cultures).

Hence, all truthseekers are destined to realize that it is the ego, a fear-based product of our own negative thinking that is the major cause of our problems. Having recognized the inner source of our troubles, “the good fight” begins and we become the proverbial Spiritual Warrior, fighting to uphold the truth. With truth comes wisdom, universal love, non-violence and unconditional happiness, which we willingly offer to all.

A recent example of a Spiritual Warrior in the political realm would be our own President Barack Obama, who moved mountains, it seems, to open the way for the LGBT community to live its truth or, as the beautiful transgender actress Laverne Cox recently said on national television (the View), “To live our T”.

Teaching Non-Violence in Our Public Schools, Our Greatest Hope

When asked to be taught wisdom (enlightenment), it has been said the Buddha replied that wisdom cannot be taught, but the way to wisdom can be taught!

Much in the same way, we cannot easily teach the power of universal love in a broken society. But we can pave the way through teaching non-violent principles for daily life in our public schools, which worked in the midst of chaos and violence in the past…and it will work again if we teach non-violence in our public schools.

Thus, teaching non-violence in our public schools is our greatest hope for a more perfect union. It is the way to jointly fight the good fight and rid our country of systemic racism. It is the way to world peace.  It is the way.  Think about it!

© Delores L. Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post 2014. All rights reserved.

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“Nothing remains great without a capacity to change and to accommodate the conditions of a changing world.”  ~John Ashcroft, 79th U. S. Attorney General

Immigrants from distant lands longing for freedom, prosperity and human rights found the United States of America and established a mandate of freedom and justice for all. Thus, guaranteeing, among others things, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yet, at the same time, America would deny freedom and justice to a certain race of people unintentionally brought here as captives. By permitting the buying and selling of such people as human slaves, America soon betrayed its original mandate. 

Where was the love, the humanity?  Yet America can change.

While, in many ways, America has become a great country despite its history of racial abuses in the extreme, America has yet to fully repent for these past grievous mistakes. 

Thus, America has failed to change in a changing world, which today has seemly put all Americans in harm’s way.  Do we really want fear to remain an American way of life?

Before 9-11, such fear was unthinkable on American soil.  Yet, we do not have to live in fear. In fact, choosing to live in fear is a big mistake, a sin in Christian terms. So, there must be another way, a way in which peace and justice for all is realized in daily life.

Exactly What Is Racism

Racism, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races; as well as, any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc., based on such beliefs.

God did not create racism, humankind created racism! Therefore, it is humankind’s responsibility to undo this perpetual wrong done to itself. And we can do this immediately, because God gave us the power to change our mind immediately. Such is the true meaning of freedom.

The Seeds of American Racism

In April 1607, about 120 colonists arrive on the shores of “the New World” in search of material wealth and establish the first permanent English settlement in America, named Jamestown, Virginia. During the next three years, nine hundred settlers arrive. Unable to live off the land, war with the Indians, famine, disease, and fatalities nearly wipe out the entire settlement.

By the spring of 1610, only sixty settlers are left alive. These survivors determine to find a cash crop in the new land. Around this time, Sir Francis Bacon writes that tobacco use is increasing and that it is a custom hard to quit. And so, the remaining settlers strive to meet the demand for this new commodity. By 1617, the first shipment of tobacco arrives in England from Jamestown.

In August 1619, twenty African captives arrive in Jamestown, eventually becoming the first African slaves to arrive in America. Sadly, with their arrival, the seeds of American Racism also arrive on its virgin shores. As the historic practice of human slavery will sink to its lowest level in America’s effort to mass-produce tobacco, cotton and sugar cane, the bedrock of its emerging economy built on the backs of slaves.

In 1620, nearly 55,000 pounds of Virginian tobacco arrive in England. Tobacco becomes America’s first cash crop. Throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, tobacco is a monetary standard, lasting twice as long as the gold standard. In 1776, tobacco helps finance the American Revolutionary War, also known as “The Tobacco War.”

Beginning in the 1950s, the truth about tobacco use emerges, and tobacco is ultimately deemed addictive and harmful to human health.

Today, the world uses cotton more than any other fiber, and it is still one of the leading cash crops in the United States. Thankfully, human slavery has been replaced by modern technology truly advancement for all humankind.

The Birth of American Racism

Three significant rulings of law fertilized the seeds of American racism, which would impregnate the unsuspecting mind of Americans for generations to come.  Where was the love, where was the humanity?  Sadly, it can be said that American Racism was born right here in America and is, therefore, a homegrown institution:

1.) In the mid 1600s, the Maryland Colony passed a law that mandated the Africans “slaves for life.”  Other colonies would later pass such laws.

2.) In 1789, the United States Constitution is ratified and indirectly declares the African slave as three fifths of a person, thus not a whole person.

3.) The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 virtually involves all whites in the perpetuation of slavery. Under this law, any person could be deputized to capture and return runaway slaves; thus, in effect, giving whites authority over most blacks.

Though Congress amended the U.S. Constitution in 1865, thereby banning the existence of slavery in our country, American racism was virtually unaffected by this historical act and continues, though now losing its grip.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Our founding fathers knew slavery was wrong, but many, being wealthy slaveholders, refused to give up their affluent lifestyle wrought by slaves. Likely driven by guilt, many deceived themselves into believing that blacks had no soul, were not whole persons, and therefore inferior to whites. Which did not always work for them. In his highly offensive book titled, Notes on Virginia, c. 1782, where he cruelly maligns his Negro slaves, the intellectually gifted Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd U.S. President, who allegedly owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime (mostly inherited), also wrote:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events, that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”

Yet, not all of our founding fathers acquired their fortunes on the backs of slaves. Some, like the edifying Benjamin Franklin, who sought only to elevate human life, allegedly owned a few slaves (or perhaps hired Philadelphia’s free blacks) as household or shop workers while ultimately earning fame and fortune via his prolific publications of the very popular, Poor Richards Almanac.

Though Dr. Franklin wrote of being “partial to the complexion of my country” and envisioned America populated with “the lovely White and Red” owing to the disparity of “purely” white people in the world (c. 1751), he was far too advanced for racism’s dark choices! In time, Ben joined the Abolitionist Movement and petitioned for the restoration of his freed “fellow-creatures” to his final days.  

An indisputable all-around genius, Benjamin Franklin was a great soul in Colonial America who channeled many of America’s high ideals. Therefore, we owe Dr. Franklin a debt of gratitude for his enormous contributions toward the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the adoption of our U.S. Constitution, the founding of the public library, the post office, our knowledge of electricity, his invention of the Franklin Heating Stove and bifocals, just to name a few. Today, the Old Wizard would be quite pleased with the “lovely” multi-cultural society that America has become.

I Also Tremble For My Country

Much like President Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago, today I also tremble for My Country. I tremble whenever I hear our esteemed leaders shouting from the hilltops that the “terrorists” are uncivilized, barbaric and a threat to “our” civilization. I tremble when our leaders condemn “terrorism” after retaliating with equal or greater violence (remember Iraq). I tremble because I know where this was and is coming from, and where it ultimately leads without definitive change in our hearts. 

I trembled during the 2000 Presidential Election Debates when both Al Gore and George W. Bush vowed that they stood for Israel, and Bush vowed to “build up the military.” I trembled when America walked out on the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

And on September 11, 2001, I cried upon reflection.

The irony is, the tragic events of 9-11 occurred less than three days after the close of the UN’s World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), here and here. Today, my heart still grows heavy when I think of what might have been had America’s leaders been compassionate enough to stay, listen and negotiate.

Update 2009 and 2011, in protest of alleged anti-Semitism, yet again, the U.S. decides to boycott the UN’s subsequent WCAR, here, here and here.  Wow!  It’s like a slap in the face, which is beyond my understanding.  After all, we can’t properly listen, reason or negotiate with anyone if not present! Where was the love, where was the humanity?  Where was the sanity?  Are we missing something here? Go figure. 

While we may be partial to our American lifestyle, our race or our ethnicity, which is normal, we do not live in a vacuum.  Thus, we cannot continue to isolate our self, disrespect the world and expect to remain prosperous. We need the world as much as it needs us. Though America has many weapons of mass destruction, it cannot control natural law! 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you have finished changing, you’re finished.”

If America is to realize its true destiny, America must change its present course. It must summon the courage to confront and root out the disease of racism worldwide, which reflects the real war on terrorism.

So We Must Change

Much like Atlanta Georgia of the “New South” after the successful Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, together we must resolve to be a country “too busy to hate”.  Too much work is needed toward world peace and prosperity to continue wasting time on the destructive rhetoric of mass distraction by way too many of our current lawmakers.  So, we must change, post-haste!

First, we must rid our self of the oft-learned hatreds and bad manners within us.

Then we must seek to heal America’s legacy of racism, not extend it.

Finally, we must heal the disease of war, as war is no longer the way of honor, valor, and triumph.

Someday in America, war, like tobacco use, will be deemed addictive and harmful to human health. Why not today?

Originally written June 26, 2002 and updated June 23, 2013.

© 2002, 2012-2013 by Delores L Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post. All rights reserved.

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