Saturday, May 30, 2015

The "Four" Spirits Sculpture

The Four Spirits:Birmingham, Alabama

The telling of history is not history unless it's true...

On September 15, 1963 (just a few weeks after the famous March on Washington/ "I Have A Dream" speech), one of the most horrific and deplorable moments in American history occurred at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

A KKK terrorist attack killed 4 young girls and permanently blinded Sarah Collins as they attended services that morning...but, just hours after the bombing 2 young boys (mostly forgotten by history books) also lost their lives. In the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of people poured into the city streets to mourn, comfort each other, protest the attack, etc. while gangs of white youth and adults taunted and harassed  them/ celebrated the bombing with chants like...

"Two, four, six, eight we don't want to integrate."

 Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware

During these very tense moments, Virgil Ware (shot in the chest while riding the handlebars of his brother's bike) and Johnny Robinson (shot in the back by police as they arrived to "disperse" the crowd) were killed in separate incidents Although the murders of Johnny and Virgil were largely overshadowed by the church bombing, they have not been forgotten. 

Finally after 50 years, the "Four Spirits Memorial" has made the history of September 15, 1963 complete!

Symbolism in the statue:

"A Love That Forgives" was the sermon title for church services that day.

Photographs of all six children are engraved on the side of the bench.

Denise reaching skyward with 6 doves/ the souls of their spirits being released to heaven.

Addie Mae lovingly adjusting the bow on Denise's dress.

Cynthia seated on the end of the bench reading/ pondering a book...opened to "The Stolen Child" by W.B. Yeats.

Carole looking back toward her friends as if to say, "we'd better get's time to go to church."

Maybe the empty space on the bench represents the lives of the living parents, siblings, relatives, friends, etc. who would never be the same...

Well, I don't know what will happen to me now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But, it really doesn't matter with me now...because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But, I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain...and I've looked over...and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But, I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So, I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything...I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Yesterday, I attended a brief Memorial Day service at the Korean War Memorial in St. Paul...there was a posting of the colors, a reading of the names (738) of Minnesotans who died/ MIA in the Korean War, a speaker (more on him later), the placing of a battle cross, a playing of taps, and a 21 gun salute.

The Battlefield Cross

The most memorable quote from the speakers speech was an oft-quoted epitaph...

"All gave some...some gave all."

I thought about this as I was standing there looking around at the men (and their families) who survived and also gave their tomorrow so we could have our today...and would like you to consider this phrase for those who serve our country...

"All gave...all."

Lest We Forget

A Korean War soldier searching for his fellow soldier...who is missing, but will never be forgotten.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Kissing Case:If We Weren't Colored

In 1958, James Thompson (9) and David Simpson (7) - both African-American - were accused and convicted of raping/ molesting a 5 year old white girl in Monroe, North Carolina. The case drew international attention...but since then, the story has been largely forgotten/ not told.

James shares...

"We were playing with some friends over in the white neighborhood, chasing spiders and wrestling and stuff like that and one of the kids suggested that one of the little white girls give us a kiss on the jaw...the girls gave me a peck on the cheek, and then kissed David on the cheek. So, we didn't think nothing of it. We were just little kids."

"They took us down in the bottom of the police station to a cell...they had us handcuffed...they beat us to our body...they punched us all in the stomach, and back and legs...we was hollering and screaming...they threatened to castrate us...we thought they was gonna kill us."

Things weren't much better back at home (Jame's sister Brenda shares):

"You could see them burning crosses right there in the front yard...and mom would go out in the morning and sweep bullets off of the front porch."

Is Jim Crow dead?

Over 50 years later, the effects of this harmless kiss (the boys were never the same) can be seen in the destruction of childhood hopes and dreams.

James laments...

"I still feel the hurt and pain...and nobody never said 'hey, look, I'm sorry what happened to y'all. It was wrong.'"

"I wonder if this hadn't happened to me, you know, what could I have turned out to be? Could I have been a doctor? Could I have went off to some college, or some great school?"

"It just destroyed our life."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Not mañana!

Sal Castro was a social studies teacher in East L.A. who helped organize the 1968 student walkouts against unequal education/ racial conditions in the Los Angeles Public School District. He was very outspoken in regard to culturally relevant curriculum...tracking of Mexican students into vocational education...Civil Rights...what it takes to be a teacher...and what it takes to be a student.

Maestro Sal Castro

To be a good teacher:

"You start with the love of kids and know that you are going to go to the wall for them to make sure they're successful. Teaching is a fight...I was already (in 1963) thinking fight rather than my teaching (I was willing to lose my job to stand up for what is right)."

"I expected my students to achieve. There was no reason why they couldn't. I had high expectations of them and they were going to do it. I constantly and positively motivated them."

You must be willing to say: "You're going to do term projects just like the kids do in college...because you're going to college...and you're going to go to the library and do research on a topic in history and you're going to get it done...I want you to do well on exams...I want you to take notes and you're going to learn how to take good notes..."

"Nothing says you can't do it. You aren't going to tell me you can't do it because you are going to do it!"

To be a good student:

A good student must have the attitude:

"Today...Not mañana!" 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The (Racial) Mountain

"Langston Hughes" by Winold Reiss

In 1926, Langston Hughes wrote an essay entitled "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" this essay Hughes shares in his introduction:

One of the most promising of young Negro poets said to me once, "I want to be a poet...not a Negro poet," meaning I believe, "I want to write like a white poet"; meaning subconsciously, "I would like to be a white poet"; meaning behind that, "I would like to be white." And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America...this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible."

I feel Hughes strikes at heart of humanity (and tremendous "parental" advice to all of my students)...the mountain of fear, doubt, hate, self-hate, conformity, lies, etc. must be conquered in order to truly understand who you are historically in this world/ nation, as a people, as an individual, etc. to ultimately stand on top of the mountain - free - and sing...

"Why should I want to be the other?"

"I am me...and I am beautiful!"

"If you like my skin, eyes, or hair...blues, jazz, gospel, or critical thoughts or my funny jokes...or the poetry and dancing of my life I am glad.  If you dislike the same your displeasure doesn't matter to me either."

"I know I am beautiful...and ugly too."