America has made progress on many fronts in the half-century since King electrified a crowd of 200,000 people, and millions of Americans watching on television, with his “I Have a Dream” address at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But there is still much to do to achieve his vision of equality.
Fortunately, many Americans are involved in grass-roots movements that follow in his footsteps. King began his activism as a crusader against racial segregation, but he soon recognized that his battle was part of a much broader fight for a more humane society. Today, at age 84, King would no doubt still be on the front lines, lending his voice and his energy to major battles for justice.
Voting rights: Along with other civil rights leaders, King fought hard to dismantle Jim Crow laws that kept blacks from voting.
See original feature by Gary Cohn, “Interpreter Bill Would Help Save Lives Lost in Translation.”
Congressman John Lewis is the only survivor among the ten speakers at the March on Washington, a turning point in the civil rights movement that occurred 50 years ago, on August 28, 1963. The march is most famous as the setting of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” oration, but Lewis’ speech that day, representing the movement’s radical youth wing, provided a different kind of call to arms. It is a message that Lewis has continued to voice as a movement activist and an elected official.
Only a handful of the 250,000 people at event – officially called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to reflect the link between economic justice and civil rights – knew anything about the drama taking place behind the Lincoln Memorial. Under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph, the longtime civil rights and trade union leader, the march had brought together the major civil rights organizations as well as labor unions and religious denominations and women’s groups.
No one ever said housemaid or domestic. Pride matters more
And here’s the truth of it: she was Tantie, a grand-mothering
substitute chained to Miss B., a former Hollywood come-hither
and Tantie’s final mystery. I couldn’t name a single movie
Miss B had starred in but Mother told us she was a 1st-class bitch.
Thirty years later, watching late night television, I recalled:
I met that bitch once. Ill-preserved on celluloid, she fluttered
there amidst her ersatz brood but not in the same way I’d seen
her flutter decrees upon my Tantie. And my Tantie, once a muck-
a-muck in her own right (having flown an airplane solo in days when
most women and Negroes were grounded) half-fluttered in return—
to make sure her family had dimes and nickels. Tantie didn’t tell us
she was Miss B’s maid and I never knew a thing about it until I saw
this black-and-white movie with Miss B—half a star among stars—
given third place billing—nearly unrecognizable as the cold shrew
I remembered flaunting dipped pearls,
I wanted to cry after watching Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District. After the hour-plus video collage of complex and inspiring day-to-day interactions that make up our nation’s public schools, the film culminates in pleas from teachers, parents and maintenance staff to the Pasadena Board of Education to forestall millions of dollars in new budget cuts to the district’s schools.
I’ve been there myself, 25 years ago when my kids were in grammar school, pleading with Santa Monica School Board members to save school librarians and nurses, most of whose positions were eventually eliminated.
It’s so hard to understand how a city like Pasadena, where median home prices are in the $600,000 range, has had to face $6.5 million in education cuts in the past few years. These cuts have resulted in school counselors having to handle 480 students apiece,
Why is the nation more bitterly divided today than it’s been in 80 years? Why is there more anger, vituperation and political polarization now than even during Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, the tempestuous struggle for civil rights in the 1960s, the divisive Vietnam war or the Watergate scandal?
If anything, you’d think this would be an era of relative calm. The Soviet Union has disappeared and the Cold War is over. The civil rights struggle continues, but at least we now have a black middle class and even a black President. While the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been controversial, the all-volunteer army means young Americans aren’t being dragged off to war against their will. And although politicians continue to generate scandals, the transgressions don’t threaten the integrity of our government as did Watergate.
And yet, by almost every measure, Americans are angrier today.
Readers who have fought for social justice while waging a home-front war with parents who hold views diametrically opposed to theirs will take heart in Madeline Janis’ op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.
The opinion piece, “Dad, Rush Limbaugh and Me,” is a wry meditation on family and political beliefs that was prompted by the recent death of the author’s father. However, the story specifically springs from an incident that occurred when Janis, who is the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s national policy director, helped move her father to an assisted living facility several months ago. She writes:
On the day we were packing, with both of us understandably on edge, I came across a stash of Rush Limbaugh caps, maybe half a dozen of them, each with a different year printed on the front. I couldn’t let it pass.
OMG! Was Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy” on TV and in the movies, really a radical?
I just discovered this Autry recording of the pro-labor song “The Death of Mother Jones,” about the great radical union organizer — Mary Harris Jones, sometimes called the “most dangerous woman in America” by her enemies — who died at 100 in 1930. Autry recorded the song in February 1931 during the Great Depression. It is so obviously pro-union that there’s no way Autry couldn’t have known what it meant.
Like many baby-boomers, I grew up watching Autry in his cowboy films and his popular television show. He was famous for singing cowboy songs like “Back in the Saddle” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” as well as popular hits like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
The baby was lifted in its flowing shroud
And carried through the red-lit streets,
Floating above the raised fists of men
In headcloths. The wrapped body a cloud,
Pall burden so light, it seemed weightless
Crowning the mad cortege. That shape
Once living in her arms—that shape
I mirrored, newborn at my breast. Shroud
So light it became an unsupportable weight,
As TIME fell open before me. I was the street
Going up in flames, but couldn’t see it, in the cloud
Of fire, her face. What dark veil or wall of men
Hid her? TIME opened to the images of men.
I couldn’t see her; just her grief, unraveling shape,
White streaming from the breast. That cloud
Of chants, bitter witness to the small shroud
Held high. She stood away from the fiery street—
The monument of her shadow,
In my job I use
a tiny torch
it opens and closes as I stitch
metal with a syringe of light
bright as a drop of sun. I try
not to look but two white spots
burn at the back of my eyes.
In one I see
the other jobs I’ve had –
cleaning up inn rooms
— someone else’s stain.
In the other: years
nearly starving on the farm
never enough, no wheels, no
way to town.
these two spots the men
who wanted something and me
just trying to make it work.
implies something remains,
but want is all it is.
in little squeezes of light
that whisper and cut
are months and years my history
in this brazier that captures and holds,
hardens and glows.
Source: The Dos Passos Review,
(Dave Zirin writes about sports and society for the Nation, where this post first appeared. Republished with permission.)
Sometimes it’s all just too damn much. First came word this week that the famed Coney Island statue of Jackie Robinson, standing alongside Pee Wee Reese as sporting symbols of racial progress, had been defaced, with “die n***ers,” “f*ck Jackie Robinson and all n***ers,” and “Heil Hitler” scrawled across it. It’s quite the capstone to a summer that started with the sweetly hopeful biopic, 42, about Robinson’s early career and post-racial promise. There is no doubt if Robinson still walked among us, he wouldn’t be shocked at the vandalism of his statue. He’d grit his teeth and set to cleaning it with his bare hands as a vein throbbed dangerously on his temple. This is the world—and the country—Jackie Robinson knew all too well.
Why Labor Organizing Should be a Civil Right: Rebuilding a Middle-Class Democracy by Enhancing Worker Voice, by Moshe Z. Marvit and Richard D. Kahlenberg, was released last year to critical and academic acclaim but not nearly enough attention. The book, whose authors are both fellows at the progressive think tank the Century Foundation, lays out a simple, brilliant idea: to amend the Civil Rights Act so that it prohibits discriminating against workers for attempting to organize a union.
We recently had a chance to pick the authors’ brains about the inspiration for the book, how the legislation would work and why this is an idea whose time has come.
Feldner-Shaw: For those who haven’t heard about it, can you briefly describe the premise or thesis of the book?
Marvit and Kahlenberg: As the title suggests, the book Why Labor Organizing Should be a Civil Right makes the argument that labor activities are a civil right and should be treated as such by our laws.
Not only does Walmart set the wholesale market price for many of the products and food commodities sold in its stores, it also apparently commands the unswerving political loyalty of some of the nonprofit groups that the retail giant underwrites. The Nation’s Lee Fang writes about how a trio of interns ran afoul of OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates (formerly known as the Organization of Chinese Americans), a prominent Asian American civil rights group, for displaying disrespect to Walmart — a large OCA funder. The story played out in Las Vegas last month during OCA’s annual convention, when one intern was rebuked by OCA staff for criticizing Walmart’s drive to open a grocery market in Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown. She and two colleagues were later booted out of the convention when a private video they’d made of flipping off Walmart made its way onto a public Facebook page.
It’s August, and Americans by the millions are cramming themselves into coach-class seats as they embark on their summer vacations. Those able to learn from adversity might ponder this: Airline seating may be the best concrete expression of what’s happened to the economy in recent decades.
Airlines are sparing no expense these days to enlarge, upgrade and increase the price of their first-class and business-class seating. As the space and dollars devoted to the front of the planes increase, something else has to be diminished, and, as multitudes of travelers can attest, it’s the experience of flying coach. The joys of air travel — once common to all who flew — have been redistributed upward and are now reserved for the well-heeled few.
The new business-class seats that Lufthansa is installing convert to quasi-beds that are six-feet six-inches long and two feet wide, the New York Times’ Jad Mouawad reports.
An interview with John Densmore is less a linear dialogue and more a jazz improvisation, with unexpected twists and turns and no clear beginning or end. Which is not to say that the Doors’ drummer is without a steady beat — this is a man determined to drive home his message about the corrosive effects of greed. Densmore’s convictions led him to sue his former bandmates, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, for trying to tour under the name “The Doors of the 21st Century” and using the band’s logo.
Densmore prevailed, but not without a bruising battle that created a bitter divide between the artists who once teamed with Jim Morrison on one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history. The story of that clash is the subject of Densmore’s latest book, The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes to Trial.
Frying Pan News caught up with Densmore recently and riffed with him about what he calls “The Greed Gene,” Morrison’s views on money and his reconciliation with Manzarek before the keyboardist’s death earlier this year.
In the Food Network’s popular show, Restaurant Impossible, star Robert Irvine visits a failing restaurant that is poorly managed, has depressing décor, and which serves inedible food. He and his staff completely transform the business, and by show’s end there are hugs and smiles all around. Many of the restaurants Irvine visits are completely unsanitary. In a recent episode, Irvine told the owners that their place had “over 500 health code violations.” He said the kitchen was so disgusting that he would not even try the food, and told diners that they were eating at their own risk.
But neither Irvine nor the Food Network reported the establishment to the local health department. Nor did they ask how such a “disgusting” kitchen could have gone uninspected by city officials, or raise alarms as to the likelihood there were many other restaurants in the city also endangering their customers’ health.
you want dogs? I walked all four shepherds
in the park, by day and dark
and nobody dared come near; bark?
all they had to do was walk,
the four big shepherds in the park
love? you want love? I hardly miss her;
but her dogs I walked
by day and dark, yes,
I miss the dogs, the four
big shepherds in the park.
Source: Intensifications, published by Red Hen Press (2010).
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Austin Straus has been drawing and painting since childhood, but began writing seriously in his mid-thirties. His poems and illustrations have appeared in such literary magazines and anthologies as Caliban, Grand Passion, Jacaranda Review, Red Dance Floor and The Maverick Poets. Known as the host of KPFK’s The Poetry Connexion,
Imagine a Mexican father telling his child that he’s leaving for America. He probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time explaining the complicated economic and political relationship between Mexico and the U.S., nor would he spend a lot of time explaining how difficult and dangerous the journey to el norte would be.
It would be a simple explanation, in all likelihood: “I have to go north to find work to earn money for my family.”
The children’s story Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh starts with a statement much like that. Like so many Mexican workers, Pancho Rabbit’s father decides go to north because of lack of work at home – “The rains did not come and the crops would not grow.”
Papá Rabbit, along with companions including Señor Ram and Señor Rooster, leave at the beginning of the story. The story is told from the point of view of Papá Rabbit’s family,
Every year Walmart holds a combination shareholder meeting and pep rally to whip up enthusiasm and promote its image as a good investment and a good corporate citizen. These huge events have the quality of a religious revival meeting, including testimonials and music to keep its stockholders and employees (whom Walmart calls “associates”) enthralled. Women’s Wear Daily called last month’s event, with 14,000 shareholders and employees, “a high-octane, entertainment-filled spectacle with moments devoted to business.”
The company always invites celebrities to entertain and mingle. At last month’s gathering in Bentonville, Arkansas — the company’s headquarters — singers Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, and Prince Royce performed, Hugh Jackman emceed, and Tom Cruise cruised the crowd, then mounted the stage and said: “I’ve wanted to come here for quite some time, actually because the culture you have here is like no other. I truly admire your company. [It’s] a role model for how business can address some of the biggest issues facing our world.”