Joys of Fatherhood

With COVID19 Father’s Day 2020 in the rear view mirror, I’ve had some time to give my life as a parent some thought. It’s a responsibility for which we had little training. We did, however, train heavily for the giving birth part of our first child. Lamaze, a path to natural childbirth, was THE in thing of the 80’s. But after that, man, you were on your own. Julie and I did some reading. Dr. Spock, of course, was great for medical advise, but his theories on raising kids just confused us. It was reading John Rosemond’s column that we really found our inspiration. He wrote a book in which he espoused six points you need to follow to raise healthy and happy children. He was more focused on parent-centrist advice. Number one on his list…take care of your marriage…first and foremost. The best thing you can do for your kids is to provide them a loving, happy home. Second, don’t parent from your chair. Your arms aren’t long enough. If your kid is acting up, get up, get them and take them away from what they want to be doing. Last on the list, remember, what you’re doing is raising your kids up so that they can leave you. That’s your job. 

Anyway. We all find our way somehow. We make mistakes. We do the right thing. We love ’em. And then, they leave us. If we’ve done the right things over and over again. 

It won’t surprise you that I’ve kept a journal for quite sometime. I want to share with you some short stories (short for me) that give you a peek into what I most enjoyed…being a dad to Clark and Blair. Being with them. Watching them grow from precious little ones into two great kids who graduated into life as pretty swell grown ups in whom we take great pride and joy.

The Pull of the Moon

April 6, 1993. Family vacation at Ocean Isle, NC

Partial Crew: Steve, Blair, Julie, Clark, Lauren, Mel, Johnny, Momma Rudy, John. Not sure where the Mitchells were.
Kids testing the chilly springtime waters of the Atlantic.

Going to bed after watching “Field of Dreams” took a bit of a trip toward bad dreams.

Clark wanted no lights. The other cousins wanted night light. So they kicked him out with some help from his Aunt Mel.

Of course, flexibility presents a great challenge to our boy Clark at times. He reasons like his father, and those reasons don’t understand why anyone going to sleep needs the comfort of seeing anything. 

He came out of the “dorm” room with a “Fine! I’ll sleep on the couch,” which turned on a dime into a beautiful 30 minutes for the two of us.

I sat in a rocker while he rested on the couch. We talked about why we do what we do, and how, through it all, we love each other.

I told him about how I quit playing golf, kinda like Ray, the main character in the movie, who quit playing baseball when he felt his father’s pressure too heavily on his shoulders.

“Gee. That’s so weird,” he said. “You quit just like the guy in the movie? And he turned out to love baseball. And now, you love golf, although you do say “no” to playing sometime, like last week when we had hockey.”

I just held him in my lap like I used to cradle my baby boy and we talked on.

Then, in the darkness I looked out the window and he glanced out at the same time.

“Dad, what time is it?”

“About 11:30,” I replied.

“Wow! It looks like it’s getting daylight.”

The moon, full and bright, was glistening on the surf. I asked Clark if he wanted to go outside to the end of our pier.

“For real?” he asked. “Sure,” I answered as we got up from the rocker. We put on our sweatshirts and walked out together. We took a seat at the top of the steps leading down to the beach. The tide was out and the beach was at its widest. We talked about the moon and how it made the tides, and how wind created waves. Then, we got cold and went back inside. I turned out all of the lights. Clark laid down on the sofa with the moon lighting up the room. Even still, he fell asleep but not before mentioning that the moon seems to follow us everywhere we go. I said, “Thank goodness for that. For where would we be without the pull of the moon? 

“I love you Clark. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Dad.”

I felt the pull of the moon drawing me back into our bedroom. I peeled back the covers and wrapped my arms around Julie who was fast asleep. I thought of one of our favorite children’s books, “Goodnight Moon.” The next thing I knew, it was morning. The sun was up, the moon was gone, and we were halfway through our week at the beach. 

A Rainy Monday

April 28, 1997 Pittsburgh

I rolled over, checked the clock, counting down to 6 a.m. when I usually get up, walk down the hall to Clark’s room and open the door, if not his eyes, to the day. He and I talked recently about him using his own clock to rise and shine. Well, today, just before my alarm went off, I heard the shower in his bathroom come on. I lay there, smiling, and thought, “Another step towards independence.” Nudging his mom, I said, “Hear that?” 

“Uh huh,” she groaned.

“That’s the sound of your little boy growing up.”

I got up and walked down the hall to the kid’s bathroom. I knocked on the door. Clark heard my knock through the noise of the shower. 

“Good morning glory,” I said, like my dad used to say to me. 

“Morning Dad!” He yelled back. I could hear a sense of pride in his voice even through the door. He knew he had made a big step on his own. I smiled and walked down to Blair’s room. I gently tickled her awake, sitting on her bed, watching her eyes blink into the day. I asked her, “When was the last time you knew that I loved you?” Without opening her eyes she smiled, “ I always know that, Dad.”

What a great start to a rainy Monday. 

You Never Know

May 21, 1997 Pittsburgh

The sun cut through the window like little butter knives with yellow rays running in and around the quilt on her bed,

Dripping in and out of crevices,

Just barely tickling her chin,

Yet she still slept on,

That quiet soon-to-wake-up-sleep

Ending the night,

Starting the day.

I sat on the edge of her bed,

Holding her retainer container.

She rolled over, took out a clear, juicy, slobbery appliance,

Without so much as opening her eyes, 

Held it out and deftly placed it in the blue box.

Her eyelids fluttered like a sparrow’s wings.

I whispered, “Good morning.”

She smiled a stretch smile, clamping down her eyes even tighter.

“Morning Dad,” she said. 

“I love waking you up,” I said, “because I like being the first person you see in the morning.”

“Why Dad?”

“Well, you just never know what you will do today.

“You might draw a mouse

“Or a picture of our house.

“You might make a great grade in class,

“Or run up our street incredibly fast.

“I never know what you might do today.

“Only you know what you might do today.”

 “Dad, you ought to write a poem,” she said. 

“I just did. I wrote it for you and now it’s in your head for you to have always.”

I love waking Blair up in the mornings.

Could you come over?

June 24, 2020

How I met your mother…to borrow a riff. 

Yesterday, Julie had to have some dental surgery that required the removal of a tooth. That removal opened up a memory in my first waking moment this morning. It started with a morning phone call 43 years ago. 

“Steve, this is Julie’s mother. I wonder if I could ask an odd favor of you. Julie hurt her back and can’t get out of bed by herself. She needs help getting to the bathroom.” 

I had just arrived in Charlotte for a job running camera on the early evening and late news at WSOC-TV. That is why I was home in bed when the phone rang around 9 a.m. and why Julie asked her mom to call me.

Not long before this call I had moved into Selwyn Village apartments next door to Julie and her roommate, Diane Helms. We shared a common entrance to our townhouse apartments. I had briefly met Julie the day that I moved in when I used their phone before mine was installed. Remember those days? 

Julie, sitting in her and Diane’s apartment next door to mine. Circa 1977ish.

Anyway, Julie’s mother called understanding that this was a very personal request, helping her daughter to the bathroom.

I got up and hustled over. Her apartment was the mirror image of mine. I went upstairs and found her and her mom in the front bedroom. Of course, Julie not only felt bad, she felt pretty vulnerable, in her pj’s and bathrobe, unable to take a step without help.

Oh, and why did her recent dental surgery surface this memory? Well, she had just had her wisdom teeth removed the day before. Her cheeks were swollen and bruised like a chipmunk with a mouthful. 

I did my best to make her feel at ease and helped her to the toilet, leaving her to her privacy until she needed help to return to bed. And then I left her to recover with her mother at her side.

And that was the real beginning of our beginning. And that’s how I met your mother. At her most vulnerable. 

First, we became neighbors, then fast friends, and then friends for a lifetime.

And, now, we’ve been inseparable all those 43 years as we come up to our 40th wedding anniversary on July 19th. 

More to come. 

Oh, Julie is way better off this morning, the day after, than back then.

Have a great Wednesday.  

Black Lives Matter and Why #BLM Should Matter to White People Like Me…

A Juneteenth Celebratory Post

People speaking out during this time of protests in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed Black men by armed police officers has raised the overall consciousness of the nation. 

More and more, White people are seeing that we are not nearly where we’d like to think the nation is when it comes to race and equal treatment under the law. As these young Black men have died right in front of our eyes, we cannot ignore nor deny the systemic racism bleeding through our institutions. And it’s not just in policing. It’s in access to healthcare. It’s in access to education. It’s in access to safe living communities. It’s in access to money and all things related to financial prosperity and building wealth.

And, it’s buried in the lack of trust, one race of the other. It’s the difference in real and imagined fear. The real fear of historic and deadly consequences Black people have endured for centuries, occurring even now in broad daylight and recorded for the world to see. The imagined fear of white people of what would happen if the shoe is ever moved to the other foot, if true equality for all somehow means less for White people. Fears encoded in the stories told generation to generation that continue to sow the seed of racism. Fears represented by every single monument to the Confederacy existing in our country today.  

From the peaceful marches and the inflamed chaos rises inspired serious conversation of the country. Here are the words of others on Racism, White supremacy, the Black experience and the inextricable link of peaceful protesting, looting and rioting. It’s the language of today, where we are in 2020 and where we need so desperately to go as one.

 “While I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: You take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.” — Scott Woods, African American author and poet

“As a white male of the South, I know all too well the impact of segregation and injustice to African Americans. As a politician, I felt a responsibility to bring equity to my state and our country. In my 1971 inaugural address as Georgia’s governor, I said: ‘The time for racial discrimination is over.’ With great sorrow and disappointment, I repeat those words today, nearly five decades later…

“People of power, privilege, and moral conscience must stand up and say “no more” to a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy. We are responsible for creating a world of peace and equality for ourselves and future generations.

“We need a government as good as its people, and we are better than this.”

– From Former President Jimmy Carter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Political Insider”

Four U.S. presidents spoke this week about systemic racism and injustice. They used their platforms to illuminate the humanity in all Americans and to decry the dehumanization of some. And they summoned the nation to confront its failures, make change and come together.

A fifth U.S. president spoke instead this week about using military force to dominate Americans who are protesting racial injustice. He declared winners and losers among state and city officials trying to safeguard their streets. And, with his reelection campaign in mind, he sought to apply a partisan political lens to the national reckoning over racial inequities.

The outlier was President Trump.   – From the Washington Post

I don’t often post about political topics, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that this isn’t political. This is personal. I am the proud father of two Black teenage sons. Many in this country view them as threats, just as I have been viewed, as my brother and brother-in-law have been viewed, and my father and father-in-law have been viewed.

During the initial night of protest turned riot in Atlanta, I was watching the coverage live on TV. The White male anchor asked, “Where are the Black leaders that can talk to the people?” I am sure many other White people were asking the same thing. My reaction was, and still is, we do not need to hear from “Black leaders” because this is not a Black problem. We need to hear from the “White leaders” because racism and all its trappings, police brutality for example, are a White problem! – From Paul Goodloe, friend, golfing mate and Weather Channel Meteorologist 

How a White person should apologize

“I won’t insult your intelligence by saying, ‘I am not a racist’ becauseI know I am. As a white person in a society where every institution is geared to advantage people like me, it is literally impossible for me to be anything else. In that, I am like a man in a male-dominated society. He cannot help being sexist, his good intentions notwithstanding. Saying he’s not sexist is like a fish saying he’s not wet. 

“Many of us as white people struggle with that. That’s because we process racism as a loathsome character defect, when really, it’s the water in which we swim.

No, the question is not whether we are racist, but what kind of racist we will be. 

Will we be the overt kind, whose behavior marks her from a mile away? In many ways, her very obviousness makes her the least dangerous.

Will we be the racist in denial, who thinks that because he doesn’t use racial slurs and eats lunch with a black guy at work, he’s all good? He’s ultimately the most dangerous, because his racism is reflected in implicit bias but otherwise hidden, even from himself. 

Or will we be the racist in remission who knows good intentions are not enough, that he must consciously commit not simply to being nonracist, but actively anti-racist?

“That’s what I aspire to and what I hope I achieve more often than not. – Excerpt from Leonard Pitts Jr, writer/columnist for the Miami-Herald on how a white person should apologize for saying something racist.  

The civil rights movement was not purely non-violent. Some of its bravest, most inspiring activists worked within the framework of disciplined non-violence. Many of its bravest, most inspiring activists did not. It took months of largely non-violent campaigning in Birmingham, Alabama to force JFK to give his speech calling for a civil rights act. But in the month before he did so, the campaign in Birmingham had become decidedly not-non-violent. 

Though the Civil Rights movement won many battles, it lost the war.

Mass incarceration, the fact that black wealth and black-white inequality are at the same place they were at the start of the civil rights movement, that many US cities are more segregated now than they were in the sixties: no matter what “colorblind” liberals would say, racial justice has not been won, white supremacy has not been overturned, racism is not over. In fact, anti-black racism remains the foundational organizing principle of this country. That is because this country is built on the right to property, and there is no property, no wealth in the USA without the exploitation, appropriation, murder, and enslavement of black people.

Modern American police forces evolved out of fugitive slave patrols, working to literally keep property from escaping its owners. The history of the police in America is the history of black people being violently prevented from threatening white people’s property rights. When, in the midst of an anti-police protest movement, people loot, they aren’t acting non-politically, they aren’t distracting from the issue of police violence and domination, nor are they fanning the flames of an always-already racist media discourse. Instead, they are getting straight to the heart of the problem of the police, property, and white supremacy.

Excerpts from “In Defense of Looting” an essay by Vicky Osterweil published in The New Inquiry

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air. 

What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.

Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge

There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system is racist. Here’s the proof.

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In any case, after more than a decade covering these issues, it’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming.  – From The Washington Post

White people have continued to cordon off Black people in where they live, school, work, play and seek healthcare. Advancements have been made. More people of color are in high local offices, from mayors to police chiefs to city council members. More people of color are rising in the ranks of business executives. And yet our prisons continue to be predominately filled with black citizens. 

The first step in eliminating white supremacy lies in eradicating the notion that freedom in America is somehow a level playing field in 2020.

White Supremacy is an environmental seed implanted in children by their parents and nurtured by their community. It isn’t genetic. But, once planted, that imprinting lives in the brain as if it was wired in. 

I know. I’ve spent a lifetime fighting that internal demon of racial judgement. Once I realized what racism was in my life, I’ve worked hard to keep it in remission ever since. Somehow I became racially aware at a young age, that it lived in our own home, our neighborhood, in my school, at the public golf course across the street, and downtown in the movie theaters, lunch counters, clothing stores and water fountains.  

Even still, at 67 years old, things of the past pop up in my brain that I must recognize and discard, again. It’s a never-ending process.

What I’ve learned, to borrow from Leonard Pitts, is my responsibility as the lifelong benefactor of white privilege: to consciously commit to be actively anti-racist

That means enjoin in the fight #BlackLivesMatter. Voice the requirement to fair access to healthcare, education and loans long withheld from African Americans. Eradicate Voter Suppression so that all have their say in the political future of our country. Hold our elected officials accountable to pursuing the overriding of these injustices. Learn how to talk to family and friends honestly about racism.

Right now is our time to put our shoulders together against the flywheel and generate the energy of real progress. It is time to stop wringing hands about history. It’s time to make history and ring the bell of freedom for all. 

Each of us have to help each other find a way to contribute to the overarching cause. Each of us have some gift that we can share in this cause, whether it is money, talent, ready hands, will, desire or all of the above. 

Some of that work is political. Legislative. Realigning the power structure of our country so that the party of Whiteness is overtaken by the party of Inclusion. 

Much of that work is personal. Reexamining and reimagining how we live our lives. Where we live. Who we sponsor. Who we invite into our personal life bubble. How we raise our kids…and influence our kids’ kids…how we share our lives and life experiences for the greater good of understanding. 

That’s the hard work and nothing could be more rewarding. And, we must do that starting right now. 

My niece voiced her well-intentioned desire to turn her “upset into action.” She asked if I had formulated a personal response plan and, if so, would I share it with her. It’s a great question. What I’m reading and writing about is making me more aware, more engaged and more communicative of how to interpret and act upon what’s going on in our country and the world regarding race and racism, and how we can get involved. In answer to her direct question, do I have a response plan. I’m working on it. Hard.

Thanks for reading these words of remarkable people in these necessarily changing times.

Paul Goodloe suggested a couple of books that I plan to read to grow my understanding and turn my upset into action.

The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander for the history of how we got here. “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo speaks to how we can move forward from here together. 

I have some suggested reading as well:

And, I encourage everyone to listen to the podcast, “1619,” by Nicole Hannah Jones for The New York Times 

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Big Floyd Comes Home

Known in life by his childhood friends and family as Big Floyd, George Floyd is now known around the world by how he died. Handcuffed. Faced down. On the street in Minneapolis.  A police officer’s knee to the neck. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds. 

I was compelled to watch the funeral service for Floyd streamed on Tuesday afternoon in his hometown of Houston. Many spoke, sang songs of hope and sorrow and read scripture.

His family of brothers, his aunt, niece and friends addressed the crowd who were dispersed throughout the large chapel, wearing masks and maintaining safe distance from each other. From their remembrances of George Floyd, the man, I learned what a central figure he was in their lives and in the community. A good hearted giant who loved playing sports. A man who was there for them. A man, now, who is gone from their lives forever because the law enforcement in Minneapolis failed him to death.

And, I could feel the need of the speakers to talk about George Floyd whose death is now the symbol of a movement, and about how he did not die in vain. 

The way that he died became the theme of the Movement calling for Justice

Those two sides of the story of Floyd get intermingled into the total conversation. First, a man. A man who had restarted his life, redirected his path living beyond troubles with the law in his past. A reporter for the New York Times said that his friends and family needed to celebrate and remember him as the man that he was before the symbolism took over his memory.

I can breathe.

Brooke Williams, Floyd’s teenage niece, declared, “I can breathe. And as long as I’m breathing, justice will be served. This is not just a murder but a hate crime.” 

She went on to talk about her uncle, how funny he was, how loving, how supportive. He was her Superman. “I want to share some memories of my uncle, because that’s all I have…memories.” She poured her young heart out and then she quoted Tupac Shakur. “You gotta make a change. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us, to do what we gotta do to survive.” And then she closed with, “America, it is time for a change even if it must begin with more protests. No justice. No peace!” 

The Reverend Al Sharpton gave the eulogy as he did the week before at a memorial service in North Carolina. As Sharpton began speaking I started transcribing his sermon. I felt like what he was saying was going to be important. The Reverend is known for speaking the hard truth as an activist for racial justice. Below are his words as best as I could transcribe them.

Rev. Sharpton: I hear people talk about what happened to George Floyd like this was something less than a crime. This was not just a tragedy. It was a crime. 

They’re going to do everything they can to delay these trials. To delay the accountability. To try to wear this family down. And many of those coming here today, skinning and grinning for the cameras, will not be here for the long run. We must commit to this family, all of this family, that until these people pay for what they did, we will be there with them because lives like George will not matter until somebody pays the costs for taking their lives. 

There is an intentional neglect to make people pay for taking our lives. If four blacks had done to one white, if four black cops had done to one white what was done to George, they wouldn’t have to teach no new lessons! They wouldn’t have to get corporations to send money! They would have sent them to jail!

Until we know that the price for black life is the same as the price for white life, we will keep coming back to these situations over and over again.

Either the law will work or it won’t work.” 

Sharpton recognized the families attending today who have had fathers, sons and daughters killed by police officers around the country. He called them each by name and asked them to stand. 

These families understand the pain that the Floyd family is going through more than anyone because they have gone through the pain.”

The mother of Trayvon Martin, will you stand.

The mother of Eric Garner, will you stand. 

The family of Pamela Turner right here in Houston, will you stand, 

The father of Michael Brown of Ferguson Missouri, will you stand.

The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, will you stand.

All of these families came to stand with this family!

Until the law is upheld and people know that they will go to jail they are going to keep doing it because they are protected by wickedness in high places. 

The signal that they are sending is that if you’re in law enforcement, the law doesn’t apply to you. 

It’s nice to see that some people have changed their mind. Head of the NFL said, ‘Yeah, maybe we were wrong. Football players, maybe they did have the right to peacefully protest.’ 

Well, don’t apologize, give Colin Kaepernik his job back! 

Don’t come with some empty apology. Take a man’s livelihood. Strip a man down of his talents. And four years later when the whole world is marching all of a sudden you do a FaceTime talking about you sorry. Minimizing the value of our lives. You sorry! Then repay the damage you did to the career you stood down because when Colin took a knee he took it for the families in this building. We don’t want an apology. We want him repaired.  

I was working out this morning, white fellow exercising there said to me, ‘I see you on tv and you are always talking about race.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘But haven’t we come a long way?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but what you’ve got to understand is how far we’ve got to go. And you gotta understand how deep it is. 

He said, ‘Whaddaya Mean?’

I said, about nine years ago a newspaper in NY did a background story on my family, and it found out that my great grandfather was a slave in Edgefield, SC. I went down there with the newspaper and other press. And we went to the graveyard. My great grandfather was owned by the family of Strom Thurmond, the segregationist. I went to the white church, the First Baptist Church, and in the graveyard…about a quarter of the cemetery’s tombstones were Thurmonds and Sharptons. And I said, you mean all of these…they said, wait a minute, the plantation of your great grandfather was about a mile away. They buried the slaves there. They put pebbles over their graves. 

So it occurred to me that every time that I write my name, sir, that is NOT MY name. That’s the name of who owned my great grandfather. That’s how deep Race is. Every time I write my name I’m writing American history of what happened to my people! 

I can’t talk about what my great grandparents did. They were enslaved. And we’re still being treated less than others. 

Until America comes to terms with what it has done and what it did, we will not be able to heal because you’re not recognizing the wound. 

God took the rejected stone and made him [George Floyd] the cornerstone of a movement that’s gonna change the whole wide world. 

If you had any idea that all of us would react, you’d a taken your knee off of his neck. 

If you had any idea that everybody from the 3rd Ward in Houston and from Hollywood would show up, you’d a took your knee off his neck. 

Sharpton addressed the actions of President Trump head on.

You’re sitting there trying to figure out how you going to stop the protests rather than how you gonna stop the brutality.

You calling your cabinet in trying to figure out how it’s going to affect your vote rather than how it is going to affect our lives.. 

You scheming on how you can spin the story rather than how you can achieve justice!

Wickedness in high places!

You take rubber bullets and tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters and then take a bible and walk in front of a church and use a church as a prop. 

Wickedness in high places!

You ain’t been walking across that street when the church didn’t have the boards up. You weren’t holding up no bible when Arbery was killed in Brunswick. When Taylor was killed in Louisville. 

Wickedness in high places!

August 28th we’re going to Washington on the anniversary of “I have a Dream”. George Floyd’s family, and all of these families will lead the march.

I pulled photos from the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post for this article.

“I just wanted to cry.” Atlanta burns again

Friday, June 5, 2020

Today’s post consists of quotes that struck me as our nation and we, as a people, a city, a community and as a family, have gone through the last ten days of protests in the name of George Floyd. The quotes speak for themselves and I chose them from a wide variety of people, from protesters on the street to well-known Civil Rights leaders to former and current presidents. I chose them because they spoke to me. I hope that you will read them all because we all need some speaking to.

The undeniable murder by police of another African American man caught on video by bystanders and police cameras showed it all. 

The despair, anger and centuries of frustration spread across the country and flowed into Atlanta, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, my home town for the last two decades.

Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor and U.S. Ambassador, and former partner with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., watched TV from home as the peaceful protest turned to violence. What he saw during the day had stirred his soul and memories of his days in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. And then, as he saw someone lighting the American flag on fire, he knew what was coming.

“I just want to cry,” he said. He wanted to cry because he knew better than anyone that the violence and looting will be used to overshadow the message to White America. He wanted to cry because he knows, although we’ve come far in our country’s relationship with race, we still have so much further to go. He wanted to cry because he and his time were not able to deliver our country and his children and his children’s children to the Promised Land.

It stirred me deep down. I knew how he felt. The right to peacefully assemble and bring our grievances to the government is a right of the American people. I grew up during the turbulent 60s and 70s, the days of ongoing antiwar and Civil Rights protest marches. The era of Kent State. The march on Selma. The march on Washington. The protests and riots in Chicago and Detroit. The Civil Rights sit-in in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The aftermath of the Rodney King trial. All too often, violence by a few overthrew the peaceful protests of the many. Military and uniformed Might came down in the name of preservation of law and order and in the form of attack dogs, fire hoses and billy-clubs. It’s hard not to see the irony in the fact that it was the unlawful and murderous act that began the protests in the first place. 

From Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, 5/29/20, after the day’s peaceful demonstrations turned to looting and burning.

“Above everything else I am a mother. When I saw the murder of George Floyd I hurt like a mother would hurt. You’re not going to out concern me and out care me about where we are in America. I pray over my children each and every day.

What I see happening is not Atlanta. This not a protest … this is chaos, a protest has purpose,” Mayor Bottoms said.

Statement from Congressman John Lewis

ATLANTA — “Sixty-five years have passed, and I still remember the face of young Emmett Till.  It was 1955.  I was 15 years old — just a year older than him.  What happened that summer in Money, Mississippi, and the months that followed — the recanted accusation, the sham trial, the dreaded verdict — shocked the country to its core.  And it helped spur a series of non-violent events by everyday people who demanded better from our country.  

“Despite real progress, I can’t help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused.  My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again.  My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history.  Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again.

“To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country:  I see you, and I hear you.  I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness.  Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long.  Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way.  Organize.  Demonstrate.  Sit-in.  Stand-up.  Vote.  Be constructive, not destructive.  History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve. 

“Our work won’t be easy — nothing worth having ever is — but I strongly believe, as Dr. King once said, that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”

A Tweeted response to Lewis’s statement

“I love you, you are a hero in my family but we have organized, sat in, stood up, voted,” Twitter user @RykerStevenson wrote to Lewis. “We’ve been doing that for decades. Maybe what the country needs is to know that if you murder a black man in the street then every street in major cities across the country will burn.”

“There’s COVID-19 and there’s COVID-1619 — the year when slavery came to America.”

Pastor Hans Lee, at the Calvary Lutheran Church, a block away from where George Floyd was killed.

Reporting on the ground in Minneapolis, 6/1/20

“The Daily” podcast by The New York Times on Sunday night, focused on the protests that had spread across the city. John Eligon, a national correspondent who covers race for The Times, a black man, was in downtown Minneapolis following a group of protesters marching towards the interstate. The march came upon lines of police armed with billy-clubs and tear gas and were under orders not to allow the demonstration to get to the interstate. The police surrounded the group and arrested about 200 of them for violating the 8 p.m. curfew. It was a peaceful submission.

While the protestors were waiting to be processed and taken to jail, Eligon interviewed a young black woman. He asked her what it was like for her that night.

BLACK FEMALE PROTESTER: “It was scary. Bad. I was scared but you want to stand up for something right.” 

ELIGON: ‘Why was it important for you to come out?”

BLACK FEMALE PROTESTER: “My younger brothers…they have been profiled since they were 8 years old. White woman got her bike stolen and they took my brothers while they were riding their bikes on their way to get a haircut and put them in the back seat of a police car. Taunting them. Then, they let this white woman be the judge of whether they were guilty or not. That’s why I am here. It happened in 2009. This is not a new problem. 

“Everybody is doing their job. They’re on one side and I’m on the other side. They’re not backing down and we’re not backing down. That doesn’t mean I want them hurt. It doesn’t mean that I hate them. But I am going to stand up for what I believe in. 

“The problem is the system. The power. We’re fighting the power. And until everybody is out here and we outnumber everybody on the other side things will never change. Things haven’t changed in years.

“I’m a Black American. I’ve never been arrested. The only difference between me and you is you have the press badge.” 

When Eligon asked a black male protester in the group, “Do you think this is necessary to keep the peace, to hold down the violence?” the protester offered this measured response, 

BLACK MALE PROTESTER: “You’re a black man looking me right in the eyes. You think this is necessary? It coulda been you [referring to George Floyd]. It coulda been me. Instead, you’re holding the phone. The only difference between you and me is that you have the press badge and that camera. Otherwise you would have been arrested for being here.”

NYT reporter says destroying property is ‘not violence’

New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that rioters destroying property is “not violence” — and referring to the crimes as such goes against what’s moral.

“Any reasonable person would say we shouldn’t be destroying other people’s property, but these are not reasonable times,” she said.

“These are people who have protested against police violence again and again and again, year after year after year and still, we can have videos of law enforcement with witnesses taking the life of a man for the alleged crime of passing a fake $20 bill.”

“The law is not respecting them. You can’t say regular citizens should play by the rules when agents of the state are not,” she continued.

Full-page Ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 2, 2020

Team ROC, philanthropic arm of Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation, took out full-page ads in newspapers across the U.S. in support of protesters. This includes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The ad is dedicated to George Floyd, Publication of the ad marks a partnership with multiple families who’ve lost children to police brutality, as well as activists and attorneys. The letter quotes from the speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Selma in 1965. 

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true. 

“So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We’re going to stand up right here, amid the billy-clubs. We’re going to stand up right here amid police dogs, if they have them. We’re going to stand up amid tear gas!

“We’re going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!”

An email statement from singer/songwriter James Taylor, May 31, 2020      

THE GEORGE FLOYD KILLING where the rubber bullet meets the road to freedom

A time has come in our country where a significant amount of the people demand a change. We have been here before, at a time when the people spontaneously take to the streets out of a common sense of outrage. In my opinion, we have forced our societal problems into this confrontation between the police, who are tasked with keeping the peace, and a segment of our population, subjected to perpetual, institutionalized suffering. We have seen their road to freedom and equality blocked, their great struggle thwarted and stalled. We have let our leaders drop the baton. They have encouraged a backlash against what we know to be right: the inclusion of African Americans in the rights and privileges guaranteed by our constitution. In denying those constitutional rights, we have forced this failure upon our police. But the hammer sees only the nail. Of course we must rigorously police our police, that is given. But seeing this only, or even primarily, as a police failure: a problem to be fixed where the rubber meets the road, is tragically myopic.

What we face is nothing less than The Great American Mission: a national commitment to ending the injustice of Slavery and a national rejection of racism…

~James Taylor

Excerpts from President Donald Trump’s speech, 6/1/20 from the Rose Garden

“ I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.

“If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” 

From Barack Obama 6/1/20

How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

“I can’t legislate you love me, but I can pass laws to stop you from lynching me.

I can’t legislate the heart, but I can legislate to restrain the heartless.”

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as quoted by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey