Black History Month – American Hero, John Lewis


You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.

– Congressman John Lewis, 1940-2020

A few years ago, I bought the book, The Children by David Halberstam, but I only read it recently. As an aside, David Halberstam was the commencement speaker when I graduated from college, so I always took a second look at his books.

I looked at this one often in my kindle library, but was never quite ready to sit down for such a serious book. In the last four years, I’ve been engulfed with politics, including racial justice, but I wasn’t ready for a history lesson.

I finally started it last summer, soon after George Floyd’s murder, and with all of Halberstam’s work, it did not disappoint.

I had misinterpreted the title to mean the literal children of the civil rights movement, the young people growing up in that time and after. What I discovered is that Halberstam’s implication that the civil rights movement was left to “the children” – the young adults who risked everything, including their lives to march, to sit at lunch counters, to register to vote, to do many of the things we take for granted, even today.

One of the very surprising things that stood out to me was the level of participation of John Lewis. John Lewis was a hero of mine, but more in an abstract way listening to his modern, inspirational speeches rather than his history, and I wondered why I hadn’t learned his name as readily as I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. In school. I didn’t realize they were contemporaries, and met and worked together to build what they called the “beloved community.” As I thought about this missing piece in my childhood education, I realized that growing up in the seventies during busing, and my really formative years of middle and high school in the eighties, John Lewis wasn’t part of “history” as we think of it; for that matter, neither was MLK. Lewis’ beating on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was in 1965, one year before I was born, and King was assassinated in 1968 when I was a toddler. These events, and the bulk of the civil rights movement occurred a mere twenty years before I graduated high school; nineteen years to be more precise. In the time between Lewis and King’s assault and assassination, I hadn’t even reached adulthood. This book really brought that home to me. John Lewis would live in my kids’ history books, but for me, he was in my now.

I hadn’t even made it halfway through the book when John Lewis died, and I thought for several days of putting the book down and reading something else, but I didn’t. I finished the story, cringing and welling with tears, and sometimes gasping for air at the horror of it all and the idea that while we’ve come far, we have so much farther to go. When I finished The Children, I immediately read Jon Meacham‘s new book, His Truth is Marching On, and that bridged the short gap between Lewis’ civil rights activism and his congressional career all on that path to the beloved community.

Learn more about John Lewis and his role in the civil rights movement by reading John Lewis in hhis own words in his memoirs, Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement and Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change as well as his graphic novel trilogy beginning with March: Book One.

One of the things that I found somewhat amazing, miraculous even, was the number of long-lasting activists all being in the same town at the same time. They didn’t travel to Nashville; they were already there from around the country attending school. John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Bevel, CT Vivian, James Lafayette, Kelly Miller Smith, Rev. James Lawson, who learned the non-violent method he taught them from his trip to India and learning from Gandhi, and of course as witness, David Halberstam, a local journalist with The Tenesseean in Nashville. Reverand Lawson described it as providential during his eulogy for John Lewis in 2020, and that just gave me chills.

If you do one thing, watch the Reverand James Lawson at the funeral of John Lewis in Atlanta, Georgia:

Wearing a Mask is Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble.

Election Connection: 15 Weeks: Civil Rights Icon, John R. Lewis (1940-2020)


“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

John Lewis, Twitter, 2018
John R. Lewis, House of Representatives. Public Domain. (c)2020
Continue reading

22 Weeks Until Election Day. #BlackOutTuesday #AmplifyBlackVoices


Today is a day to amplify Black voices. This will be my only post today, and I’ve decided to postpone this week’s scheduled posts. As I was looking at my writing in progress for this week, I realized that going on as if nothing were happening in this country was, at a minimum, tone deaf. I will continue to update my covid-19 posts, and if I find anything helpful to the protests and justice for George Floyd and David McAtee (killed by police in Louisville (just in the last few days) and so many others that have been victims of police and government brutality. Mine is a voice that hasn’t had to live in a Black man’s skin and I’ve always tried to listen. Listening isn’t something I can do if I’m posting.

This graphic links to the secure act blue donation page. These are the organizations that any monies raised by this fund will be going to. Thanks to Crooked Media for providing the graphic on their Twitter.

Harriet Tubman – Reflection and Opinion (Cash Value: $20)


Harriet Tubman postage stamp, 1978. Public Domain. (c)2019

I had intended to share a post about my attendance at the new Tubman-Seward statue dedication in upstate New York, and I will do that later in the week. But then with the announcement that the Tubman twenty dollar bill was postponed, I wanted ot share some of my thoughts o that, and that will follow, however these last two weeks have been noting short of coincidences if there really are such things.

Harriet Tubman was one of those historical figures remembered from childhood, the elementary grade lesson watered down and never addressed again.

When I saw the opportunity to attend the statue dedication, I took it, and I was moved beyond what I could have expected. So much so that the next day, I drove my family there. While we were there we met a woman and I got to share some information with her about Harriet and William Seward. She in turn told us about a food truck gathering with proceeds going to ARC. We went over, had a good lunch, and helped a great coase.

Then, yesterday I attended the last of a four week series at a retreat center. This one was called A Dreamer’s Mind, and the presenter began with the story of Harriet Tubman! I leaned even more than I’d learned at the dedication, and after all of these meetings with Harriet throughout the last few weeks, I know quite a bit more and I feel as though I’m carrying a small piece of her with me. Not a bad companion.

This was what I wrote at the first reflective time:

“Well, well, well, we meet again! LOL!

She’s everywhere for me recently. I have two blog posts that I’m preparing for and having just been to her statue at the library, she’s on my mind quite a lot in the last two weeks.”

And I think this is why when the decision to put Harriet on the $20 was reversed, or postponed or whatever the Secretary of the Treasury called it, it hit me a little harder than it normally would have. In fact, Harriet’s appearance on the $20 bill came up in the group conversation, and no one else had heard about the postponement except for me. It isn’t the same as others’, but sometimes I feel as though being so aware of what’s going on in the world is my cross to bear. It’s one anyway. A topic comes up, and I know something. Do I speak out? Or stay quiet as if this public information is a secret because I’m the only one in the room who’s heard it?

In this case, I spoke up. I usually speak up. I will admit to being snarky and just a little petty where the President’s involvement was concerned, and I apologized to the two women I was speaking to (although they didn’t disagree with my sentiment) and was able to say what I wanted to in a more diplomatic, all audience inclusive way.

I think the President’s a racist; at a minimum a bigot who believes every negative stereotype about minorities. I also think that since the President admires Andrew Jackson, he doesn’t want to replace him with a black woman. It’s really that simple. He could have taken the high road and said, ‘you know what, I didn’t make this decision, it was already set in motion, let it continue,’ but this President’s pettiness knows no bounds.

It’s not just that President Jackson was also a racist or even that he wasn’t a great president or stand out human being, but the fact that he perpetuated the genocide of millions of Native Americans by force marching them west, and not providing for them as promised in the treaties of the Grant Administration should be enough to keep him off the bill in the first place. White Europeans took this land. }That is our legacy. It doesn’t determine our future, but we need to acknowledge it, and at the same time acknowledge the Native Americans, not as a collective, but as individual tribes with different cultural and religious practices. They were here first, and it is our obligation as Americans to never forget their sacrifice. Despite being involuntary, it was still a sacrifice that every American should know.

What does this have to do with Harriet Tubman?

We acknowledge her existence in the way we water down what we deem too controversial. I’ve learned things in the past two weeks that I’ve never heard of about her, and she is taught in every school in America. She lived and died and is buried in my home state of New York. How did I not know these details of her life?

One thing that Harriet Tubman’s face on our money is a step towards recognizing who built this country. Our monies, for the most part represent our founding; our history. We need and should know our history, and having it represented on our money is wholly appropriate. But slaves also built this country. They sacrificed their families and their lives. Once freed, they build their lives from nothing. The pioneered the west. The raised crops. They’ve done everything free Europeans did except they did it under much worse conditions that are still seen in many ways today.

I look forward to Harriet Tubman (and other women and people of color) being included in our country’s public representation, on money, naming streets and buildings, and other ways we express our gratitude for our historical counterparts.

I want to share this conversation on Nicolle Wallace’s show, Deadline: White House about the change in the status of the $20 bill.

For anyone who wishes to have their own (legal tender) Tubman Twenty, here is a link for the stamp. I have not ordered one, so I do not know anything about this seller.

Meet the Democratic 2020 Presidential Candidates


Between exploratory committees and official Presidential candidates, as of this writing, there are 18 20 21 24 25 (I think) Democratic candidates*, and to be perfectly honest, almost all of them are better than the situation we have right now in the White House. Obviously, those running for President have their own policy priorities and while everything should not be seen only as a mirror to the Trump Administration, we cannot lose sight of what is at stake. The last two years have been frightening; horrifying at times, and undemocratic with our civil rights at risk.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list of the candidates’ official websites as well as their full interviews on Crooked Media‘s Pod Save America podcast. Most of them can be seen on several news shows offering their policies; I have found that PSA has a very good track record of tough questions while remaining fair.

I have a few of my favorites who I am supporting. I will probably express that in future posts. However, I have decided that I won’t include links for candidates who have not officially announced (VP Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams) nor will I include announced candidates that I feel are wholly unqualified (unless there is an interview with Pod Save America). After 2016 I think it’s important to maintain a level of expectation of our candidates, and while we have a big tent, and all are welcome, I don’t think we should pretend that all candidates are equal. I think two years of inexperience and incompetence is enough. We need someone who knows what they’re doing. I will update this as more announce. A link will also be included on my We the People Page for updates as they happen.

Michael Bennet WebsitePod Save America interview

Cory Booker WebsitePod Save America interview

Steve Bullock WebsitePod Save America interview

​Pete Buttigeig WebsitePod Save America interview

Julian Castro WebsitePod Save America interview

Bill DiBlasio Website, Pod Save America interview

Kirsten Gillibrand WebsitePod Save America interview

Kamala Harris WebsitePod Save America interview

John Hickenlooper WebsitePod Save America interview

Jay Inslee WebsitePod Save America interview

Amy Klobucher WebsitePod Save America interview

Seth Moulton WebsitePod Save America interview

Beto O’Rourke WebsitePod Save America interview

Tim Ryan WebsitePod Save America interview

Bernie Sanders Website, Pod Save America interview

Eric SwalwellWebsitePod Save America interview

Elizabeth Warren WebsitePod Save America interview

Marianne Williamson Website, Pod Save America interview

Andrew Yang WebsiteLovett or Leave It interviewPod Save America interview

– – – – 

Websites/No Interviews Currently

Joe Biden

John Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

Mike Gravel

Wayne Messam

Deval Patrick

Joe Sestak

Tom Steyer

Michael Bloomberg

– – – –

* This number changed literally after I set this up to post. I will continue to change it if it needs changing.

A Day On…


Georgia Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon calls the Martin Luther King holiday “a day on, not a day off.” Join community celebrations but also join community service.

I would share this beautiful artwork and sentiment from my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath. This wasn’t done specifically for Martin Luther King Day, but I think it fits in so well, and any excuse that I have to share his art makes me happy. Continue reading

Malcolm X


​I downloaded a couple of movies to watch on the airplane to and from Ireland. I ended up watching only one of them: I am Not Your Negro – the James Baldwin documentary. It was enlightening to say the least. In the documentary, James Baldwin talked how he was affected by the deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and their context in his own civil rights struggle As I watched and listened, I heard things about Malcolm X, in particular that wasn’t familiar to me.

Upon arriving home, I borrowed The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley), and again, I was inundated with information that I had never heard before. The most surprising thing that I discovered was Malcolm’s conversion away from the Nation of Islam and his change to a less anti-white activism.

I wonder if perhaps my growing up was too close to his time.

I’ve often wondered why I know so little about Vietnam, civil rights, women’s ERA, and activists who weren’t Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was born in 1966, almost two years after the assassination of Malcolm X. I was about eighteen months old when Dr. King was assassinated, and not even born yet when President Kennedy was, but I still had very clear memories of both men. I’m sure that most of that was due to media, but today I still wonder about the lack of attention, not only in the media I watched as a young child but also in the education I received.

I attended school from nursery through fifth grade in New York City from 1970 to 1977 after which we moved to the suburbs out on Long Island. I distinctly remember bussing. I remembered waving to classmates as they boarded buses to bring them home while I walked home with my brother and cousins. 

I remember my Black friends in school, especially two boys, one named Lonnie and one named Robert, but they weren’t the only ones in my class, just the two boys I was closest friends with. They were different as night and day. Lonnie had a huge afro compared to the size of his head, and Robert wore his hair close to his scalp. The girls that I can recall on the schoolyard wore braids with colorful beads, and I was so envious of how “easy” their hair styled. I say easy because despite my stick straight hair, I was always walking around with knots and tangles and I would have done almost anything to have their hair. I could never jump double dutch – I was so uncoordinated on my feet, but I was thrilled that I was allowed to turn the jump ropes for the girls who could.

Now, I could see that it was a tumultuous time, at least that’s what I’m reading now about then, but living through it, we were more or less sheltered from current events. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but our insulated community didn’t really discuss what was going on in the political world. My neighborhood, the places we shopped, went to the doctor, my parents’ workplaces, the pizza place up the road – they were all diverse. I didn’t have a negative reflex in seeing Black people, or brown or Asian in my neighborhood and in my safe places. I didn’t know the word integrated. I just viewed brown skin as part of my world despite no one living and playing in my neighborhood who wasn’t primarily white, or partly white and/or Jewish.

I’ve always had Malcolm X in my mind as a radical, a revolutionary, a militant. All are not necessarily positive descriptions.

I realize that reading an autobiography is not always the entire story. It’s all about perspective, and so even in self-deprecation, I’m sure Malcolm X wanted to be seen in a positive light, and I can understand that.

I’ve just started reading a biography by Manning Marable that is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “masterpiece,” and by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as the definitive biography of this outrageously misrepresented figure,” titled Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. It is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2012, after Marable’s death.

As I said I’ve just begun reading this, but I will include a video from C-SPAN that has some counterpoints to Marable’s work that I intend to watch later this week.

By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X — Real, Not Reinvented

One of the things that really stood out to me, though about Malcolm X, his politics, and his views was how closely they seem to align with today’s Black Lives Matter movement, and other current civil rights protests and movements.
Working from the grassroots, in the neighborhoods, being self-sufficient, relying on each other instead of other groups or the government, self-confidence, pride, black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and others things espoused by Malcolm X, especially closer to the end of his life. It seems that while he was eschewed while alive, and it’s taken decades to come around, his way of thinking is almost mainstream in black politics today.

The more I read, the more I learn, and the more I see how much my education at the time was lacking. It shows me that I have to educate myself, and share what I find with others.

History Recs


Partial list of links posted this week:

The D-Day Memorial and Museum
Wikipedia – Normandy Landings
Wikipedia – USS Slater
USS Slater
The Washington Post article about Dutch WWII American Cemeteries
These Women Pilots During World War II Went Unrecognized for Nearly 35 Years
Henry Johnson at Arlington Cemetery
Harlem Hellfighters Visit Henry Johnson’s Grave
It Took 97 Years to Get These Soldiers the Medal of Honor
Two World War I Soldiers to Posthumously Receive Medal of Honor
Video of Medal of Honor Ceremony, June 3, 2015
Shaker Site
Mother Ann Lee
Video of Simple Gifts

Books (including Historical Fiction (HF)):

1014: Brian Boru & The Battle for Ireland – Morgan Llewellyn
4000 Years of Uppity Women: Rebellious Belles, Daring Dames, and Headstrong Heroines Through the Ages – Vicki Leon
A History of the World in Six Glasses – Tom Standage
Anything by Bernard Cornwell (HF)
Anything by Sharon Kay Penman (HF)
Castle – David Macaulay
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawning of a New America – Gilbert King
Did Prince Madog discover America? – an investigation by Michael Senior
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – Matthew Goodman
History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of all Time – Brad Meltzer with Keith Ferrell
How the Scots Invented the Modern World – Arthur Herman
Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes
Lies They Teach in School: Exposing the Myths Behind 250 Commonly Believed Fallacies – Herb Reich
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer – James L. Swanson
Moon Shot – Alan Shepard & Deke Slayton with Jay Barbree
My Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor
Summer of ’49 – David Halberstam
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
The Dust Bowl – also a documentary
The Jet Sex – Victoria Vantoch
The List (fictionalized) – Martin Fletcher
The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History – Jonathan Horn
The Presidents’ War: Six Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them – Chris DeRose
The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale – Mary Sanders Shartle  (HF)
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northrup
Upstairs at the White House: My Life With the First Ladies by J. B. West with Mary Lynn Kotz
While the World Watched – Carolyn Maull McKinstry

Visual Media:

The Dust Bowl
John Adams
Ken Burns’ The Civil War
Prince of Egypt

I Remember…..


I went to elementary school in Bayside. Queens, New York. I was there for kindergarten through fifth grade. That would have been 1971 – 1977. I remember my kindergarten teacher taking away my grandfather’s pocketknife when I was playing with it in class one day. She never gave it back. More than likely, it wasn’t a knife at all, but a shiny silver colored nail clipper in a black case. It was cool. My grandfather had died around then or just before, and she never did give it back.

I remember being in first grade with my cousin who was in second grade. It was a multi-age classroom that they were trying out.

I remember forgetting my glasses at home and my Dad, who was home resting after back surgery came to school to bring them to me. I hated my glasses. I think the school nurse gave me a guilt trip about making my Dad bring them.

I remember my principal, Mr. Picelli asking me if I had a twin because my picture was on his supervisor’s desk. She looked exactly like me. Exactly.

I remember the Bicentennial. It was kind of a big deal.

The $2 Bill returned to circulation for the Bicentennial. We almost never used them, but collected them. My husband still carries one on his wallet.

I only remember a handful of friends from those days in elementary school. We moved at the end of fifth grade out to the suburbs and another elementary school. Two of the boys in my class stand out; one for his outgoing, loud and friendly ways and the other for his quiet manner and the postcards he sent after he moved. It was either third grade or fourth grade.

As a kid I didn’t notice bussing when it happened. It is only in hindsight that I discerned the change from all white classrooms to mixed race. I don’t remember my parents ever talking about bussing or Black kids coming to school. I think the label African-American still hadn’t come into convention; not until people began to reclaim their pre-slavery heritage.

It was a new school year, and it felt…normal; no big deal. It must have been a huge deal for the kids pulled out of their neighborhood schools to come to ours.

The new kids blended in with the rest of us. I knew they took buses to school when I walked, and they didn’t live in my court. I knew our court, the playground behind our apartment, the big road where I wasn’t allowed, the post office where my parents worked, Joe’s Pizza, and the Chinese restaurant. There was also the drug store where we bought my parents cigarettes (Pall Mall) and my doctor’s office. That was my neighborhood: a handful of shops and about two dozen families.

Once when the bus passed us, I waved to Lonnie. In my memory, he looks sad, but it was probably more that he was quiet on the bus rather than his usual gregarious self in the classroom. In the class, I remember him hopping from one desk to the next, touching everyone with a pat, on the head, on the arm, laughing that he was giving us chicken pox. I laughed too and told him I’d had them already. He had a light complexion and a flat face. His hair was everywhere, not tall or high hair, but big. I don’t think I’d ever seen an afro that wild. I loved it. I remember that he bothered some of the kids in the class but he didn’t bother me. If he were in school today, I’d  think he had ADHD, but the possibility is there that he stood out so much on his own because he didn’t want to stand out.

Robert, the other friend I remember, was the exact opposite. His hair was short, cut close to his head, and his hair and skin were so dark, the color of night, and I thought beautiful. I had a crush on him. He was kind and soft-spoken. About halfway through the year he and his family moved to Africa. I remember it as a going home but it may have been an extended vacation. I don’t know. He sent us two postcards, but I only remember the one: the orange burst of a sunset in a place I thought I’d never see.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear

Earlier this weekend, my son asked why we have to celebrate Martin Luther King Day? I was a little appalled at the question. I asked how he felt learning about George Washington. He felt the same way. Part of me was glad it was his dislike of history rather than some kind of bias. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to him other than that it’s important for everyone to know what he did, what others like him died for, that the civil rights movement was ongoing, even today.

It might be good news that he didn’t think it was a big deal because for him there is no question about equal rights between the races. No one’s told him any different and for him, the civil rights movement is history; it isn’t a current event for him. Like most white Americans, he lives in a post-racial America. It’s very different for Black kids his age and older. But in our house, we do know who Trayvon Martin is; who Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice are.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The last presidential election, when I heard Rep. John Lewis of Georgia talk about voter disenfranchment I got chills listening to him, a living icon of the civil rights movement. I’m in the middle of reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson about the Great Black Migration from the South to the North and West that took place from 1915 to 1970. Knowing the history and recognizing some names in passing, cities that will always stand out, like Birmingham and Selma, and Little Rock; this book moved me to tears when I was least expecting it. I have to pause at each chapter to absorb what was going on in the lives of Black men and women at those times, and still today. I needed time to think; to reflect on something I sometimes think I can relate to, but I can’t quite.

Growing up Jewish I always felt a connection to African Americans, and civil rights. I was proud to have Sammy Davis, Jr. and Rod Carew as two of my people. I think it was the parallels of slavery that drew us together in the first place, outsiders looking in, natural allies, and I’m more than a little saddened at how the two groups who should be standing up for each other seem to have moved apart in recent years.

Martin Luther King Day should be a day to commemorate Dr. King’s life, his works, and his assassination, but it is also a time to regroup; to reevaluate how far rights have come and how far they have yet to go. It’s time to realize the steps back and reclaim them.

The movement is not over; it is still moving forward and Dr. King reminds us that the way is not finished. Each generation picks up its part and carries it further. These are not Black rights, or white rights; these are civil rights and they’re for everyone.

When you make rights available for more people, they do not get more rights; you do not get less rights; everyone gets equal rights and that is what we should all be striving for.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.