Jan. 20th, 2015

rowanf: (Help I'm being englightened)
Yesterday I went to the African American Community Service Agency's 35th Annual Martin Luther King Luncheon, a celebratory program acknowledging the Life, Legend and Legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I went last year and was again able to go this year representing SiVIC. We had a table with JCRC, actually about a table and a half -- so pretty good representation of white religious leaders.

There are things -- all the "god" stuff and the militaristic presenting of "the colors" by the local ROTC that are so not my culture. But I did want to support the effort and I was excited to hear this year's keynote speaker, Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. That man is a serious over-achiever and a great speaker. He said that he decided to become an astronaut after seeing the Moon Landing. He went on to become the "First African American to Walk in Space". Not to mention all kinds of other things. He has a foundation now that helps disadvantaged youth get into the STEM fields and does health care venture capital.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about racism lately. It isn't a new thing for me to think about. Leaving aside my work in the 60s-70s. I went to a talk in 2010 by Michelle Alexander and read _The New Jim Crow_ when it came out. I have been writing letters and such in the wake of Trayvon Martin, of Ferguson and the senseless loss of Black lives at the hands of militarized police forces around the country. Last week I re-read _Black Like Me_ by John Howard Griffin. I had read it in the 60s but the edition I just read is a 2010 ebook edition that contains a lot of afterword about Griffin's life and other works which gave even greater depth to his book. If you are unfamiliar with this work there is an interesting Smithsonian article on whether it is still relevant.

And whilst I'm at it, this poem is amazing -- 19-year-old spoken-word poet Sarah O'Neal recites her poem "An Overreaction," where she speaks about Dr. King and her frustration at having to defend the protests.

And yet, I'm so white. I'm like 97% Northern European. My ancestors came to America between 1600 and 1732. So I have Alsatian, Swedish, French, German, Scots, Jersiaise, English and Irish ancestors. They came to America and made lives for themselves and yes, some of them kept slaves and some were abolitionists. They fought on both sides of the American Revolution and the Civil War. But I think everyone wass doing the best they could with what they had in the culture they lived in. I'm not ashamed of who I am... How can I best help? I try to be aware and above all kind. I hope that will be enough to help things change.

May 2015


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