Advocate, My mother thought I would be a preacher. I hope my work, as writer and educator, sheds light where there was little, and opens eyes, where blindness once was. I pray my work and my life help others cross bridges.
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Black and brown students and students of all backgrounds are making demands upon universities, from Missouri to Connecticut to California.  This is not new.  Students have made demands before.  That is what young people have traditionally done, railed against injustice.

“We are the eye of the West.”   Those are the words of the black writer Clarence Major, in his 1967 essay, “A Black Criterion.”   In the essay, Major is writing about the black writer and, by extension, the black person of his era.

They are “the eyes of the university.”  Today’s black students, indeed, all of these student protestors, have become the “eyes” of college campuses across America. They are questioning the status quo and thereby shaking up citadels of learning.   They are marching, making demands and staging “die-ins.”  Their actions are troubling to some, but for others, these actions—straight out of the playbook of the civil rights and black power movements—are a source of pride.

Thus, as many of our nation’s campuses have become sites of contestation, now, during a season of “thanksgiving,” is a time to pause, reflect, and give thanks.

Let us give thanks for the pioneers for justice who came before, who marched and prayed and sat down in spaces where they were not wanted, thus dismantling places of prejudice.  Let us give thanks for these elders who “spoke truth to power” and left lessons of stridency and courage.  Their legacy has been enshrined in history books which our young have read and absorbed.

Let us give thanks for the civil rights movement which helped to change America.  But, as today’s protests attest, that movement is not yet finished.  There is unfinished business in the land.   Today’s young people are attempting to complete the task.  Clearly, these young people have listened and read and thought long and hard; they have learned from the past.

Let us give thanks for these young college protesters, who are rising up and demanding that colleges and universities self-examine and become better, more inclusive places of learning and growth.  Let us give thanks for the changes on college campuses that are occurring as the “eyes of the universities,” their students, help to make higher education a better place for all.

(Photo courtesy of: https://www.southernfoodways.org/food-for-thought-greensboro-sit-ins/)

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What the black students and black football players recently accomplished at Missouri is remarkable. They are to be commended, because they stood up for what they believed, showing their willingness to sacrifice for a cause in which they believed.   Moreover, they brought their “allies” along with them, as their white teammates, their coaches, university faculty and others supported them as well.

 

Fifty years ago, in 1965, another group of black football players, made a similar stand for justice.  They were the black players of the AFL, the old American Football Conference, during the 1965 AFL All-Star Game, which was to be played in New Orleans, La.   Following the 1964 AFL season, 21 black players refused to play the all-star game in New Orleans, after being discriminated against by establishments within the city.  They were refused taxi service repeatedly, denied entrance to restaurants and even had a gun shown to them, as a warning, when they insisted on entering an establishment.  But they would not accept this sort of treatment, and they decided to boycott the game.   Some refer to their action as “The Stand.”

And “stand,” they did.  Black stars of the AFL such as Cookie Gilchrist, Abner Haynes, Ernie Warlick, and others stood up rather than subject themselves to the indignity of racism at a time when their courageous stand clearly put their football careers at risk.   One of them, Abner Haynes, then of the Kansas City Chiefs, and later of the Denver Broncos, said, “It was time for some men to stand up and be counted.”  Another player said this at the time, “You’re asking us to sacrifice our principles and play when the conditions that surround us outside are deplorable. This is an unfair request.”    As a result of their stand, the game was moved to Houston, TX, where there was already an AFL franchise.   This 1965 All-Star Game boycott, initiated by the black players of the AFL, joined by their white peers, was historic, going down as the first time a group of professional players boycotted the host city of a game.  And they—these black men—took this stand to combat racism.

Clearly, this incident mirrors in many aspects the actions of the black Missouri players recently.  In both cases, there were men who decided to possibly sacrifice their futures for something much larger, dignity and self-respect.    The Missouri players could have lost their scholarships or their spots on the team.  Instead, their actions helped to rally others to their cause.  In the case of the 1965 AFL black all-stars, a number of them later saw this act of courage as adversely affecting their careers and in some cases, causing them to be traded or shortening their careers.

The actions of the Missouri players speak to the extraordinary power of sports in American culture. But their actions also speak to a tradition of black activism, one which links them to black athletic activists of the past, such as John Carlos and Tommie Smith of the Mexico Olympics, and the great Muhammad Ali and his courageous stance, and, also to the little known boycott of the City of New Orleans by the black AFL All-Stars of 1965.   For more information on their stand, please see the links:

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/11288098-123/50-years-ago-how-new

http://www.milehighreport.com/2014/5/14/5674204/afl-football-history-has-a-lesson-for-the-nba

 

http://www.buffalobills.com/news/article-1/When-football-makes-history-Bills-lead-the-1965-AFL-All-Star-game-boycott/2a84b3cb-6d92-4f9b-8c38-babfb181ff84

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While speaking at a vigil in memory of Sandra Bland at Vanderbilt University, sponsored by the men of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. and the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc., I shared these remarks:
“Except a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
John 12:24
Sandra Bland has now moved into the pantheon of black heroines and heroes who died in the struggle for justice.   Sandy does still speak.   She speaks through the resonance of her life, a life that most know something about through the news headlines and videos about her tragic death.  What does her life, as a young activist, say?  What does her martyr’s death say?
The death of Sandra Bland, at the age of 28, for “failure to signal a lane change” is yet another outrageous contemporary reminder of the black lives which have been lost to senseless, seemingly racially-motivated violence.  To wrap one’s mind around her death, or that of John Crawford, killed while shopping at Walmart, is to enter the land of the absurd.  The late writer Chester Himes talks about this in his memoir, My Life of Absurdity.   He observes:  “If one lives in a country where racism is held valid and practiced in all ways of life, eventually, no matter whether one is a racist or a victim, one comes to feel the absurdity of life.”      Racism is absurd and diabolical, but its manifestations and effects must be shared, must be taught, and made known.

In 2010, I published my second book, Rendered Invisible, and in that book, I write about the reign of terror of the .22-Caliber Killer, who was a white racist by the name of Joseph Christopher.  Christopher aimed to start a race war by killing black people. All of his victims were black men, 13 in total, and he killed them in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, and in New York City, I the fall of 1980. In New York City, he was known as the Midtown Slasher.   His youngster victim was a 14-year old black boy.   At the time, I wasn’t living back home. I was living out of state, and my parents warned me to not come home to visit them during the killing spree.  “Don’t come home,” they said.  “They are killing brothers.”   We thought it was genocide.  Maybe it was.  Since the book was published, I’ve met the families of some of the men who were slain, during trips home to Buffalo.  I won’t go more into the .22-Caliber killing spree other than to say that this was yet another example of black lives being in peril.  In Rendered Invisible, I also look at other slayings of black people, including the 2001 killing of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, unarmed, who was shot and killed by a white cop, for outstanding traffic violations, in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I used to live in Dayton, a nearby city.   And my wife and I have three children, two boys and a girl, so the Timothy Thomas shooting hit hard, not only because I spent a lot of time in Cincinnati, but because our children did too, and who wants to think that the ground on which they walk can easily become a killing ground for them or their loved ones?
When I heard about the death of Sandra Bland, I wept inside. I have a daughter, and she is much like Sandra Bland. She lives in Chicago.  She’s a college grad, with a grad degree, and she’s a proud member of an NPHC sorority.   She travels a great deal.  How do I tell her, Jasmin, don’t drive here? Or, Jasmin, don’t go there?  They might kill you. They killed Sandy. They might kill you.
Indeed, what do her life and death say?   They say that it is imperative that this history is taught.   That, would be real “cultural competency,” a real grounding in a fundamental understanding of the absurdity of racism on these shores.   There is a book, entitled 100 Years of Lynchings, by Ralph Ginzberg, which lists lynchings from the period of Reconstruction to around 1960.   I used to look at it, from time to time, just to remember, or perhaps better, just to not forget.  A few years ago, for a presentation, I put together a power point which lists many of the slain young from our time: Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis and Renisha McBride and Paul Childs and Oscar Grant and others.    But sadly, when I recently reviewed my power point, it was outdated, because more black lives have been taken, more precious people have been slain.  The death of Sandra Bland is yet another brick in the wall of that horrific history, a history which should never be forgotten. It is good to a program such as this vigil.
“Except a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Along with so many others, Sandra Bland, through her young life and her so tragic and untimely death, does indeed bear much fruit.  Sandra Bland does indeed still speak.
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Very recently, I lost a colleague—a black woman with advanced degrees, a mother, and a valued friend.  We worked as colleagues for a number of years.  Her legacy is in my thoughts.


I am also thinking of my students. I’m regularly in conversation with them about issues of race, justice and invisibility.   My students—of all races—want to be better equipped to address injustice.  My black students yearn for the strength to be able to withstand and confront the psychological and spiritual assaults of racism.

As James Baldwin says to his nephew in The Fire Next Time:  “You were born into a society which spelled out in brutal clarity, and in as many ways possible, that you were a worthless human being.”   Baldwin wrote those words in 1963 and, in some ways, things haven’t changed much.   My students protest politely and wear t-shirts with the slogan, “Black Lives Matter.”   But the history of race relations in our nation prior to 1963, and since then as well says to some of us, “No, your lives don’t matter.”


In 1980, a white racist by the name of Joseph Christopher tried to incite a race war by killing black men.  This serial killer, who was tabbed the .22-Caliber Killer, killed 13 black men in my hometown of Buffalo, NY and in New York City.  My students don’t know this, because history deemed the lives of his victims “worthless,” as though the lives of the black men he killed didn’t matter enough to blast their story from the mountaintops.  “Rendered Invisible Speaks” because society still spells out to some that their lives are “worth less” than those of others.


How does this relate to the passing of my friend?  Hers was a worthy and splendid life; she was smart, dedicated to helping others, and family-oriented, the type of friend one is always happy to see.  Her smile, like her life, glowed.    The late, great baseball pioneer, Jackie Robinson once said this in his autobiography, I Never Had it Made, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”   I believe that, and I also believe that the one of the most important impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement is its declaration of the worth of black lives, a statement which should also inspire each of to live as my friend did, positively impacting the lives of others on a daily basis.

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The last time I was back home in Buffalo, NY—the city of my birth—my sister, who still lives there, took my wife and me to a new restaurant near the old neighborhood where we grew up.  When we were kids, our area, Myrtle, Swan and Seneca Streets, was the playground of poor kids, mainly black and Puerto Rican, but also Italian and Polish.   The area has now been gentrified, with fancy restaurants and bars.   As with other once impoverished spots throughout Buffalo, this area has become trendy, hip, and old spaces have become “new.”  But the “old” represents someone’s past, someone’s childhood, someone’s sacred memory-space.  Gentrification can thus be seen as an act which seeks to erase that, as the old neighborhood is transformed into a site of newness, for some.

Recently, in Nashville, TN, where I live and work, I ran into a church mother who belongs to a historic black congregation on Nashville’s North side, in close proximity to downtown.  Her husband, who is in his eighties and a civil rights pioneer, is someone from whom I have learned abiding lessons about Nashville’s black history. “Dr. Dobson,” she says, “They were trying to take our church.  They want to buy it to tear it down to build condos.”   She talks about how their church, one of the oldest black churches in the state, has been the object of real estate developers, “because where the church stands is a prime location.”  I know this church as a site where generations worshipped, wept and prayed; a site where history-making preachers proclaimed God’s word, blessed babies, and inspired their flocks to “keep holding on.”  I know it as a sacred space, where civil rights workers gathered together to tear down the walls of racism.

Now, real estate developers, probably wealthy, probably white—perhaps with little regard for the sacred memories held within the bricks of the building—want to tear down the walls of their little sanctuary.   This church mother--a soft-spoken, serious woman, whose gentle spirit typifies the heritage of the black South—leaves me with the words, “You pray for us.”  And I do, hoping my prayer can build an impenetrable wall around their sanctuary, so no bulldozer can level it.  I’m angry, as I see gentrification as crime, not the purchasing of the physical space, but the crime of “rendering invisible” the sacred memories of those for whom a site such as this is more than mere land.  The crime of gentrification is that those who “gentrify” and those who follow these developers into the “newly built” physical spaces don’t seem to have a care or clue about the sacred-memory space where they now sip cappuccino or listen to soft jazz.   As I walk away, I realize that one abiding lesson of the civil rights movement is that we are always just “holding on,” combatting forces that seek to assault or tear down that which we hold dear, sacred, whether that be our children’s lives, or our own, or even the places we still call “home” the sacred spaces we may have physically left that still hold precious memories.

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The shootings:   there needs to be a revival—spiritually, mentally, morally.

Speaking from The White House, the President said that we as a nation are “numb” after yet another senseless siege of slayings, this one on October 1, 2015, at Umqua Community College in Roseland, Oregon, where nine people were slain, ranging in age from 18-67 years old.

Recently, in Cleveland, Ohio, the black police chief, Calvin Williams, wept for five-month-old, Aavielle Wakefield, who was slain in a drive-by shooting, on the same date as the Oregon shootings.  Also in Cleveland, a three-year-old, Major Howard, was recently slain in a drive-by, and, before that, a five-year-old, Ramon Burnett, was also slain in a drive-by.   All three babies were killed within a few weeks.

Tonight, I will attend a “Black Lives Matter” gathering in Nashville, TN.    Black Lives Matter boldly proclaims something that this nation hasn’t always acknowledged:  the value of black lives.   In this nation, there has always been selectivity in terms of which lives matter and which lives don’t.  How does one go through life knowing “my life matters less”?

The babies slain in Cleveland didn’t know the fate awaiting them:  the bullets which killed them, or the fact that, had they been blessed to grow to maturity, their lives would have devalued by someone, based on the color of their skin.   We—who are conscious and caring--must rail and rally against “the numbness”; we must pray and protest against the numbness.  And, for those babies not slain by senseless souls shooting guns, we must inculcate within them the spiritual, mental and moral sensibilities and strength to help them stand up against anyone, any force, which attempts to render them invisible, or devalue them in any way.

http://thegrio.com/2015/10/04/cleveland-police-chief-breaks-down-in-tears-after-shooting-death-of-5-month-old-girl/

 

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"True peace is not the absence of tension; it is the presence of Justice"

When I think about your theme, and I think about my book, Rendered Invisible, I also ponder what is meant by Justice, today, in an age of chaos and uncertainty.    But this is not the first time, the first era or period of uncertainty.  The chaos I speak of today is not the chaos that  Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of when he wrote, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” because then, Dr. King was speaking of the racial divide, which prevented us from realizing the beloved community.  And yet, I am thinking of that divide, and I am thinking of other divides which prevent us from realizing true community.

The Beloved Community was a dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to create a world in which all persons live in peace and harmony.  Here is a quote where he discusses it:

Our goal is to create a beloved community and

this will require a qualitative change in our souls

as well as a quantitative change in our lives.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

According to one source:

 

“’The Beloved Community’ is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  However, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a  deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people of good will all over the world.

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal  . . . .   Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to . . . nonviolence, [reconciliation, and redemption] . . . . “

As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts.  As he said in a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s buses,

“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding and goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.  It is this love which will bring about miracles . . . . “

Miracles.  We are living in a time when we need miracles.  Clearly, there is the need for miracles in our inner cities. In our schools.  In our communities and homes.    We need miracles in the lives of our young people.  On the streets of our cities, in the classrooms of our schools.  We need someone to be an angel, to trouble the water, so they can be healed.    Who are they?  Our kids, our families, our communities.  Please note that I say communities. Because today, while the racial divide is not as wide as it once was, there is a class divide, many would argue, even in the black community.

According to Eugene Robinson, there is not one monolithic black community, there are four. In his strident and important new book, Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, Robinson says the following on page five (5) of his book:

“Instead of one black America, now there are four:

1. Mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society

2. A large, Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end

3. A small, Transcendent elite with such enormous wealth, power and influence that even white folks have to genuflect

4. Two newly Emergent groups—individuals of mixed-race heritage and communities of recent black immigrants-that make us wonder what ‘black’ is even supposed to mean”

So, if what Robinson contends has any validity at all—if we are this divided, how then can we realize that “true peace” and “justice” of which your theme speaks?   How can we help to create a “just” society, one where the presence of justice is real, tangible and living?   In the lives of our young and our old, those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

Dr. King, and so many others, black and white, gave their lives during the Civil Rights struggle, in an effort to create true community, true justice for all.   In my book, Rendered Invisible, chronicles the effect of the .22-Caliber killings on a city, our city, Buffalo, but also details how the city came together—how the black community united; and how blacks and whites came together, in an effort to apprehend the killer.  I think it is a history, a Buffalo story that needs to be shared with our young people, not because of the killing or the mass murders, but because of the tireless efforts of law enforcement, and local businesses, and private citizens, to lend themselves to the cause.   In the book, I not only chronicle the killings and the case, but I also create fictional families, one white, and one black, that are brought together, and who struggle together, against the chaos and violence of the situation.    I want to read just two passages from the book.  I use a timeline to give the chronology of the killing, and I am starting about 30 pages in, so please bear with me:

Timeline:

Monday, September 29, 1980

All four men died from bullet wounds from the same gun.  All four were shot on the left of the head.  The papers run editorials calling the apprehension of the killer the “highest priority” and an “urgent task for police.” The Buffalo Police rule out the possibility that Joseph Paul Franklin, wanted for questioning in the shooting of National Urban League president, Vernon Jordan, and other blacks in five cities, is a suspect in Buffalo.

Investigators from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Cheektowaga, all three communities where the slayings occurred, have hit a dead end, in spite of hundreds of tips and clues. Moreover, the longer the killing spree continues, the more tense the situation will become, according the Rev. Bennett Smith, local coordinator of Operation PUSH.  Rev. Smith also expresses concern that the FBI isn’t involved yet, stating, “It would be a simple matter for a case to be made for civil rights being violated.”  PUSH begins raising reward money.

Tuesday, September 30, 1980

The reward begins to grow from different sources throughout the city, from both the black and white communities, as well as local businesses: a $1,000 reward is put up by The Buffalo News and WKBW TV for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Wednesday, October 1, 1980

The FBI enters the investigation because, according to  U.S. Attorney, Richard J. Acara, the civil rights of two of the victims “may have been violated” because the killer “interfered with their right to public accommodations.”   One was shot in a restaurant and one in a supermarket parking lot.  The locales of the shootings allow the authorities to use the old Civil Rights legislation, from the sit-ins, to bring the Feds into the case.  This legislation links the Buffalo violence to the 60’s struggles when blacks in the South integrated lunch counters, soda fountains and any other facility “which serves the public and is principally engaged in selling food and beverages.”

For Buffalo blacks, walking on the street, eating a hamburger and fries, have become gestures of courage, acts against fear and paranoia which  link the  city with the struggles of the past, when young blacks sat down at lunch counters knowing they would be beaten, spat upon, jailed.    Now, we knew we might die just for being black.

According to the police, a white man in a neighborhood where one of the shootings happened said to a black woman, “You’re next” or “you’re going to get it” and then fled. But no black women have been shot, just brothers.

By this point in the investigation, the police have gotten over 200 calls and tips, including one from a man who identified himself as the killer.  And there’s another where, according to the media, a wife called the cops to say she thought her husband was the killer, but she refused to give his identity.

The reason I like to read that passage is because it hearkens back to the extraordinary, the miraculous, even, the days and times when young blacks and whites risked life and limb for a greater cause.  I work in the South, at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, and I have been blessed to meet some of the torchbearers of the Civil Rights movement, John Lewis, Jim Zwerg, Dianne Nash, and others, such as Perry Wallace, who in 1967 was the first black athlete to play in the SEC, deep in Dixie. Imagine those brave students, getting up one morning, dressed nicely, as we all are today, and then walking downtown to a restaurant where they knew they wouldn’t be served. Where they knew they would be spat upon, cursed, beaten and jailed.  Incredible.  I honor those torchbearers for doing that, for risking life and limb, and being made uncomfortable, in order to change the order of the day, in order to create justice.  And maybe it will take the same kind of courage, today, the same willingness to be made uncomfortable, to get out of your comfort zone and do something.   God knows there is so much to be done.

There is so much to be done, in all of our communities, in order to realize The Beloved Community. As an example, some of you heard me speak last year at the NAACP Banquet here.  Well, I have an update for you.  My Little Brother is lost.  According to the social worker, he’s a runaway.  Hasn’t been to school in weeks.  He’s 13 years old.  He’s my Little Brother from BBBS.  We met in a school-based program for over a year.  I thought we’d bonded.  We shot hoops.  We talked about school, his home life, or lack thereof. We bonded, or so I thought. In spite of the fact that he was suspended at the end of last school year, for cursing out a teacher; on the heels of punching a classmate in the face.  His mom’s in prison, on a drug-related conviction. His dad just got out of prison.  Since I’ve known this youngster, he’s lived in three different homes, with different family members.  Last time we talked, he said, “I would rather be in a foster home,” than with his family. Maybe to turn around his life, a miracle is needed.  And I don’t see myself as a miracle worker, but I guess I need to try.

In preparing for this talk today, I read a number of articles, some of Dr. King’s writings, and pieces on the Movement.  I talk with an artist friend who is featuring a new series of paintings in his gallery, by the artist James Pate.  The series is entitled, “KKK: Kin Killin’ Kin,” and it artistically depicts the homicide rate in the Black community.  KKK: Kin Killin Kin, black-on-black crime, which we have all become somewhat desensitized to.  But the problem is that many of the perpetrators don’t see the kinship anymore.  I will share one statement from the artist on the series: “The concept of visually comparing Black on Black terrorism to Ku Klux Klan terrorism come directly from conversations among us in the black community.  So, I was moved to use art as a means to illustrate this sentiment, complete with brothers with pointed hoods in the ‘Hood.”

In preparing this talk, I also looked at statistics such as the murder among African American; as well as the rate of incarceration among young black men, such as Michelle Alexander discusses in her work, The New Jim Crow. But I don’t have a lot of time left, so I ‘m near closing.

Next week, as part of week-long King Holiday activities in Nashville, I will be on a panel sponsored by a religious institute where the major question considered is: “Is Ours a Culture of Violence?”  Not much of a question is it, whether discussing bullying in schools, or domestic violence, or other manifestations of violent crime.

We need miracles.  Indeed, we each have to be bearers of miracles.  I believe that we are that “Beloved Community,” and if we are not, then there won’t be one.  And, as such, we are called to places of discomfort.  I want to turn to one final passage from my book, a passage in which I think we see a manifestation of The Beloved Community.

Chapter Ten

Timeline:  Sunday, October 19, 1980

An estimated 5,000 Western New Yorkers jam Niagara Square for a “Unity Day” rally.  Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and others are in attendance, with more than 200 organizations taking part.  An interracial Central City Choir sings songs, including the Civil Rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”  Speakers call for love, unity, peace and an end to racial strife.

At the rally, Black leaders announce that they want Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti to take charge of the investigation. Rev. Charles Fisher, III, of BUILD, urges Civiletti to “come here to oversee this investigation and stay here until this killer is caught.”

Catholic Bishop Edward Head exhorts those in attendance to be “men and women of healing and vision.”

Rabbi Sholom Stern asks, “How many disasters do we have to endure to realize that when one group is attacked, discriminated against, and murdered, we all are potential victims?”

Labor leader, George Wessel, of the AFL-CIO, proclaims the following, “Three years ago [1977] we had a bad storm in Buffalo and the whole world knew about it.  I just hope the whole world knows about today, Unity Day in Buffalo.”

And, a day later, Ray Hill’s passionate column on Buffalo’s Unity Day Rally begins with the headline, “The City Proclaims Its Unity in Defying a Madman’s Assault.”

I want to return to our theme:  “True Peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of Justice.”  For many of you in this room, your life’s work is to mete out justice.  That’s how you earn your living. But for all of us, whether judge or law official, it’s our job, too, to strive for justice in our city, on our block, in our corners of the world. You all remember that Gospel song, “brighten the corner where you are.”   But it ain’t easy to do that nowadays, I would suggest.  It may mean moving beyond your comfort zone.  It may mean moving beyond perceived barriers, whether racial, cultural or social.  But that is what those young folks did during the Sit-ins in TN and Mississippi; that is precisely what those Marchers did, who attempted to marched across Edmund Pettus Bridge, from Selma, to Montgomery, on what became known as Bloody Sunday.  They moved out of their comfort zones.  They became creative.  I want to end with two quotations, one from Maya Angelou, and one from Dr. King:

First, Angelou:

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal someone else.”

Now, these words from Dr. King:

“Love is creative and redemptive.  Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys.  The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method which you suggest is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community.”—MLK, 1957

I hope; indeed, I pray, that we will use this MLK holiday to recommit to the healing of someone else; indeed, that we will recommit to using our creative energy, our spiritual and mental energy, to the building of The Beloved Community, a community of peace and justice for all.  Thank you.

 

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