A letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2019

Dear Dr. King,

The day you were assassinated I was on the campus of Prairie View A&M, which in 1968 was still an all-black college located just west of Houston, Texas. I was in a group of white students participating in an ‘exchange program’ in collaboration with the college I was attending.

In those days, Southwest Texas State College students mostly came from small Texas towns. The guys were shit-kickers i.e. studying agriculture; the women aspiring to become teachers, nurses and wives. There were no African Americans on campus. There was one beatnik who became my boyfriend–but that’s another story.

Dr. Clyde Bullion, our very liberal and a tad kooky sociology professor, spent several years opening minds and hearts, encouraging everyone to embrace racial and social justice. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African American writers and poets.  Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out readings from Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Dubois. Quite impressive–even though Bullion was white. We thought the visit to Prairie View made perfect sense for us.

During our two day visit, we were treated respectfully by the students and staff of the college. We attended classes, plays and social events. I remember sitting with a group of black students in an off-campus bar and asking, rather naively, the question surely stolen from me by Rodney King (whose beating and related consequences are attributed to the 1992 Los Angeles race riots) “I don’t know why we all can’t just get along?” Later, stunned and disheartened to the core to hear you were assassinated, we visitors were immediately sent home to “avoid any problems.”

I think you would agree, it seemed to have gotten much better. We even elected our first black president! Then, sadly, we are reminded of how deeply racism runs in our country with shootings of unarmed black children and men. #blacklivesmatter, the statistics regarding racial profiling by the police, voter repression tactics in some states, and the appalling racist behaviors of some citizens toward our very own President Obama. These incidences have us facing realities we may not wish to admit.

The statistics also prove inequality still exists.  Here are a few stats from Black Demographics website.

Blacks make up 14.1% of the population in the US.

Percentage in poverty: Blacks 24.2%           All races 11.8%

Percentage in poverty under 18: Blacks 39.6%      All races 22.6% (Appalling so many children of any ‘color’ are living in poverty.)

Graduation rate: Blacks 63.6%              All races 80.6% (Which seems rather low as a whole.)

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the rate of whites.

Black Median Household income: $33,460

(all races $50,502)

All Black Workers 2012 weekly earnings:$606

(all races $765)

Black Men weekly earnings: $633

(White men $854)

Black Women weekly earnings: $590

(White women $712)

MLK-2014-2

So, Dr. King, there seems still much work to be done. Annually, on a federally instituted day to celebrate you, people in cities around the US march to keep your spirit and desire for social justice alive.  I still hope someday we can all get along.

Peace and love y’all,

Laura

Right here in San Antonio, we have one of the largest marches of any city. For more information on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day San Antonio March, click here, or find one in your city.


Happy New Year from an old hippie

January 11, 2019

When is it too late to say “Happy New Year”? My personal opinion is it’s appropriate all through January, then it becomes tiresome. Also, we forgot our black-eyed peas. I hope that does not forecast a calamitous year.

However… things aren’t looking too good in the USA right now. Most days, I open up Facebook, Twitter or news sites and go WTF! 

At my age, it’s hard to face the reality of our possible demise. My generation spent so much time and energy trying to create a place of equal opportunity for all genders, ethnicities, ages et. al. and for education, housing, healthcare, civil rights…

And, the saddest thing to me was when I told a group of 30-40ish women that ‘I was just an old hippie’ and that’s where my values and attitudes were born and raised, they just gave me a blank, puzzled stare. Suddenly, I felt my age a bit more. 

Our poor planet! Katharine Hayhoe’s TED Talk addresses the issue of climate change.  Her message “the most important thing you can do is just talk about it,” makes this talk essential viewing.

If you want to escape reality for a while, my suggestion, if you like science fiction, is to watch all three seasons of “The Expanse” on Amazon Prime. Best stuff out there! I confess to watching it three times–’cause I’m old and my mind wanders.

world peacePeace and love y’all,

 

 


Unpacking your prejudices for a life well lived

September 1, 2018

Just who do you think you are?  Whatever the answer to this question it will reflect a heady, imperfect mix of your genes, your family, your life experiences and your environment. Where we live, the people we live around and interact with have a great deal to do with shaping our ideas, thoughts and attitudes about each other as human beings.

This is, after all the a ‘small blog’, so this won’t be a detailed discourse of the subject, just some thoughts I’ve had lately.

In consideration of my upbringing in a stable, white Southern family, I probably would have been more affected by negative prejudice toward other ‘races’ had I not had the privilege of being an Army brat. A previous small blog post tells how my attitudes were born again by living in Hawaii and taking advantage of multi-cultural experience.

In American cities, citizens are much more likely to interact with any number of folks from different cultures, countries, family situations etc. But, there are areas in our country where this is not the case and there is a prevalence of homogeneous Anglo populations. When this kind of, what I would call, isolation occurs, people aren’t given as much of an opportunity to broaden their intellectual or existential horizons.

This is the future. Make it good for everyone.

It’s been proven that living around people with different backgrounds and cultures gives us a larger life experience and usually modifies prejudices we might have previously held.

Despite the decidedly ‘white supremacist’ policies coming out of our current administration, the Pew Research Center determined there is  “Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration Into the U.S.”

  • The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults, finds that 38% say legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level, while 32% say it should be increased and 24% say it should be decreased.
  • Most Americans do not think undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens want or are more likely to commit serious crimes.

It’s not just about ‘race’ or immigrants either. There is a prejudice against poor people—’they’re lazy, don’t want to learn, rather take welfare etc.’ My city San Antonio, though a great city in many ways, is one of the most economic segregated cities in the nation.  Which opens up a Pandora’s box of side-effects both for the affected population and on the community as a whole.

Oh, my goodness, this is a depressing post! So, what can you do about it? A few suggestions:

  • Make a difference where you can. Don’t condone bad behavior from others even if they are your family members. You know, like at Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle George is telling a racist or anti-gay joke.
  • Practice being inclusive and non-judgmental. Everyone has worth and a human story to tell.
  • Make new friends.
  • Try a new cuisine at an ethnic restaurant. (no, not just a new taco place)
  • Read National Geographic Magazine—there’s a whole world out there
  • Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been.

Peace y’all!


Our time as an illusion

March 30, 2018

Albert Einstein’s famous declaration “time is an illusion” is explained in his book Relativity. Einstein writes: Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence. ( read more) 

It’s hard to believe that my grandson Justin Carter was arrested for an alleged terroristic threat five years ago in Feb. 2013. To some of us, the years may seem to have gone fast. To Justin it was probably an eternity of waiting, his life on hold, unable to move in any direction–a stagnant place of worry and inaction. This week, a plea deal was made–thanks to his amazing lawyers–and Justin is a free man. He moved to Colorado with his dad where he ‘begins a new chapter’ of his life. (read for details of plea)

Justin also set up a GOFUNDME page to raise money to help him get started in his new life. He was unable to use the internet for five years, even to seek a job. He did work at a restaurant for minimum wage for the past few years.

In this week’s time that I spent reading, I immersed myself in New York’s Bohemian world of the late 60’s-early 70’s with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethrope in Smith’s amazing prose memoir “Just Kids.”  

In what seems like both a long time coming and a short time to get ready, we are in the real time of planning our big vacation trip to Minnesota during two weeks in May. Grandsons to see, one for the first time and their parents, we have been looking forward to this for months. 

As I approach my 71st birthday in June, time seems to have gone by rather quickly. I lie in bed some nights trying to remember events throughout my life, just for the sake of remembering.  As the implications of time swirl in a no particular order, I try to I keep in mind the biblical concept that “God’s time is the best time,” as I appreciate all the times past, present and future.


Last week’s mind expanding info

March 1, 2018

A couple of things I learned last week:

Some veggies, like carrots and spinach, are healthier cooked than raw–from Prevention Magazine

I also found that frozen, cooked spinach is very inexpensive and great to add to soup, rice, casseroles…the opportunities to go green in your diet are endless.

The Black Panther movie was very good, determined by the fact that I thought about it quite a lot afterward–one of my ways of judging a movie or TV series. Also, the women characters in the movie kick-butt.

Emma Gonzalez kicks-butt and my hope for a new generation of smart leaders is renewed. For undoubtedly Emma and her fellow students activists are those leaders. She also has more Twitter followers than the NRA. Yay!

Donald Trump is still lying every time he opens his mouth and he still doesn’t understand how the government functions.


Moving Experiences

May 12, 2017

A recent conversation with a journalist friend and a couple of “moving” articles got me thinking. I have some mixed feelings about gentrification and the ‘forcing’ of people out of their homes and their comfort zones to make way for new development—whether it be private or government backed. I am not unsympathetic towards these persons’ situations. I am also not above being influenced by my own personal experiences of voluntary and involuntary home moves, both as a child and as an adult. Sometimes, these were good experiences, sometimes, not so much.

Having grown up an Army brat, I think I moved about 17 times before I even went to college. These moves were easy in a way as we always had housing options provided, moving companies to pack and ship all our belongings, and the places we went were good. Even if we were in the same town, we sometimes had to move from off-base to base housing. New schools, new friends, new environments. All these made me, and most likely all service brats, very resilient. Some I know even developed a wanderlust of sorts.

When I was in my twenties and living in Austin, I lived for almost 8 years in one of my favorite houses. That was my first experience of living more than about two years in the same place. I was so attached to that house I dream about it sometimes still. Though it has become distorted over the years.

When I was somewhat forced to come back to my parents’ home–from yet another city–due to an abusive situation,  I disliked San Antonio. It took some years to really feel like this is my home for good. I’ve been here almost half my life now, though I’ve moved domiciles about a dozen time.

Our House is a very fine house.

When my husband and I bought the house we are in now, he said, “It had better have a nice ceiling because that the last thing I want to see before I die.” Meaning he was sick and tired of packing, moving and the expenses it entailed. There still may be some moves in our future.  Probably not the ones either of us would like.

And, then I think of the millions of families in the Middle East and so many other places who are forced to leave their homes with practically nothing. They face starvation, disease, displacement camps, death. The girls and women are often beaten and raped. My heart goes out to them. And, I’m sorry the US is trying so hard to close its doors to refugees. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Perhaps, there is a better way to transition people who are being displaced in our city. I understand not everyone has the experience, knowledge or again, resilience, to handle being told, out of the blue, they have to move. Being more thoughtful about the process before and during, instead of just afterwards, might be a way to proceed.

Peace and Love Y’all


Disabled Hondurans — voices for the voiceless

May 15, 2015

On February 26, 2015 eighteen members of the Honduran Association of Migrants Returned with Disabilities (AMIREDIS) began a journey across Central America to the United States. Their purpose to “raise awareness about the perils of riding on top of train cars on the Mexican railroad commonly referred to as “The Beast” (La Bestia in Spanish). AMIREDIS activists also “promote justice and rights for disabled persons” as their distinctive commonality is traumatic injuries incurred while riding La Bestia.

AMIREDIS represents more than 70 of the 700 persons in Honduras who have been maimed by a similar train accident.  For those seeking to escape a country rife with corruption, violence, unemployment and poverty, it is a courageous decision to take the long dangerous journey, across Central America and Mexico hoping to immigrate and/or reunite with family. “We have dreams of a better life,” said Jose Luis AMIREDIS president.

At the end of a grueling journey to the United States border, thirteen of the men turned themselves in and were incarcerated in the Eagle Pass detention center. They were transferred to the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall where they stayed for over a month until RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) facilitated the release for 11 of the men who vow to continue the journey. “Thank God for RAICES,” said Jose Luis. “The detention centers have no way to care for people with disabilities, so we are thrown in a cell and forgotten.”

Read May 15th NY Times Editorial re immigrant detention.

Last week at the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation, four members of AMIREDIS, accompanied by RAICES attorney/advocate Mohammed Abdollahi, came to tell their stories to a group of interested San Antonio citizens. Abdollahi said, “These men have a credible cause for asylum.” Elaborated in a court document submitted by Attorney Jonathan D. Ryan, RAICES Counsel for the Respondents, the group’s “advocacy has garnered international media attention, effectively exposing the Honduran government for its incapacity to assist its disabled nationals; while the Honduran nation survives on the remittances of migrants who risk their lives travelling, it does little to support or assist those who return disabled. Consequently, these men now confront both the challenge of coping with their disability in Honduras, as well as retribution from the Honduran government for their advocacy.”

Hondurans seeking asylum
“In Honduras there are a lot of gangs,” Alonzo told us. “Because I didn’t want to join, they were harassing me to the point I felt I needed to take my chances to immigrate, or be killed.” “I had ridden the trains for days, been assaulted and was very hungry, thirsty and tired,” explained Alonso, who left a daughter with his mother back in Honduras. “I ran to get on another train, grabbed onto the railing to pull myself up and was dragged behind for several minutes. Finally I pulled myself up onto the train, but had mangled my leg in the process.” After a quick amputation and medical care in Mexico, he was deported back to Honduras.

“There are no jobs for disabled people in Honduras,” Ifrain told us. “There is such competition for work anyone with a disability is left completely out. And, there are no benefits for unemployment or disability. We come to try to find work and help our families back in Honduras.” He was deported back to Honduras after being assaulted and thrown from a train traveling through Mexico resulting in the loss of one of legs.

group at churchThe group is continuing to visit with people to help spread their message and to raise funds for the journey to the Washington where they hope to speak with advocates and policy makers. They have put their faith in God to help them be a voice for the voiceless, advocating reform in a broken immigration process.  “Nothing is impossible,” says Jose Luis. “We want to talk to President Obama.”

Immigration is a complicated issue. And, I don’t claim to know even a tenth of the legal or legislative aspects. But, I do know a compelling human story when I hear one. I also know that except for the Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

 


Give me your hope, so I will never give up

May 19, 2013

This is an open letter to my grandson who just spent his 19th birthday in jail–for writing a misconstrued comment on Facebook. His bond is $500,000 ( yes, that’s 1/2 a million $). I’ve put a picture with the post, but they don’t allow pictures, drawings, books, or many other things to be sent to inmates. Bird_full bloom_smaller_2

Dear Grandson,
I know it must have been a sad 19th birthday. But, know we were all thinking of you and whenever you get out, we will catch up on cakes and candles.

Here’s a prayer we say at school. I think it speaks to all our needs without being denomination specific. That’s called ecumenical–1.  concerning Church unity: relating to, involving, or promoting the unity of different Christian churches and groups
2.  involving friendship between religions: involving or promoting friendly relations between different religions

O Lord
Grant me your strength, so I will have courage in every situation

Grant me your love, so I will never give up on anybody

Grant me your wisdom, so I will show others the path to success

Grant me your mercy, so I will forgive those who have hurt me

Grant me your peace, so I will find the best in everybody

Grant me your hope, so I will never give up

Grant me your joy, so I will be thankful for all my blessings

And, grant me your grace so you will always be at my side
(David Bennett)

It’s definitely summertime now. Mostly 95+ during the days. I put the AC on for the duration.
Love you, praying for you, Richard says stay strong.

Grandma


Celebrate Black History Month by reading

February 11, 2012

Every February since 1976, Americans have been celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month is an extension of Negro History Week created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland to make all of us aware of the significant contributions of black people to our country and the world.

Way back when I was in college, I took a sociology course entitled Black History. I was attending, what was then, Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos. It was a shit-kicker and future teachers school, so just the name of the class got the campus all lathered-up. The slightly-nutty professor–sometimes standing on his desk to make a point–opened our eyes, and minds, to the accomplishments of black people in America. Included were black authors who brought forth their experiences as individuals and as a people. So to help celebrate Black History Month, I’d like to recommend a few books I was introduced to in that class.

Go Tell it on the Mountain A short, but powerful book, written by James Baldwin, a prominent voice in the civil rights movement. His partially auto-biographical novel echoes the struggles of the soul blended with the social struggles of being black in America. He expresses the role of the Christian church in the black community as both repressive and hypocritical.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin So, Griffin, disguised as a ‘Negro’–he actually darkened his skin through medical treatment–traveled in the segregated South and journaled his observations. Even though I thought I knew the injustices perpetrated on racial minorities, this book took me to the depths of the crushing world of racism as Griffin aptly describes how he becomes filled with hopelessness and despair after only a few weeks of living as a black man.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Hailey). Malcolm X was big back then another rallying point in the civil right movement. His conversion to Nation of Islam, and association with leader Elijah Muhammad, directed his preaching the radical and controversial concepts of black pride and social justice.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois Manning Marable says about this particularly intellectual book, yet moving book, “Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century.”

So, why are these books important? Because they provide evidence to the racist attitudes and practices that are our history. In a recent study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, it seems the Texas State Board of Education is trying to erase the reality about segregation from the standard history/social studies curriculum at public schools. “Incredibly, segregation is not even mentioned except in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces,” the study states. Even though we think “we’ve come a long way, baby” there is still work to be done to ensure everyone is treated as belonging to the same race–the human race.

“Always look for another point of view, always learn from people not like you.” Hey, I said that!