Category Archives: democracy

Civil Rights trip #2

Birmingham, continued

Life size photo of the Children’s Crusade at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, Memphis

The Children’s Crusade, which happened in May of 1963, came about in part because adults literally could not afford to keep getting arrested. More than a thousand students skipped school to walk from the Sixth Street Baptist Church to the downtown area.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the straight line from vicious police dogs in Birmingham back to patrollers and their blood-thirsty hounds during slave times.

Bull Connor, who orchestrated much of the police response, was a right-old prick who refused to leave the office of sheriff even after he was voted out. Sound familiar?

I’ll leave you with two ideas (neither mine).

Kelly Ingram Park, part of the U.S. National Civil Rights Trail

One: many believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have come into being absent the vigorous and prolonged protests in Birmingham through out 1963.

Two: in a related if slightly contradictory note, Charles M. Blow has a new book and HBO show that are promoting “reverse migration” whereby Blacks return to the South and in so doing gain political power. He essentially says “let’s skip protesting and getting arrested and go straight to Black power” (apparently a throwback to something Stokely Carmichael said).

K and I watched the HBO show yesterday. Recommend.

Civil Rights Tour #1

If you’re short on time, here’s my texted version of the trip:

It was overwhelming. Sad. Hard to digest it all. DT and EL were easy travel companions. Most things in sync. Each museum built on the previous one, so it was good learning. I think the thing that will haunt me the longest is the murder of Emmett Till.

Birmingham / Montgomery / Selma / Jackson / Sumner / Memphis.

Day one: Birmingham.
Red Clay tour guide Mike Cornelius at Bethel AME

We spent three-plus hours with Red Clay Tours, part walking / part driving. It’s a father, son team. White. Initially, I felt disappointed that we wouldn’t have a Black guide but not only was Mike extremely knowledgeable, he often modeled language of acknowledgment and atonement, giving his white customers another level of learning.

Birmingham has a nickname: Bombingham. You probably know that it was the site of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls. A devastating act of terror.

But bombings were so frequent that one whole section of town is nicknamed Dynamite Hill. Birmingham is a mining town (or was), meaning that dynamite was readily available. (Also meaning that its decline resembles that of Rust Belt cities.) Bad actors often flung lit sticks out of cars while driving by.

Dynamite hit lower right part of house

On Dynamite Hill, we saw houses with blackened bricks. Others with five foot cement brick walls around them. We heard stories about cars blowing up. Stories about the valor of men protecting leaders by being the one to turn the key.

Photo from National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, see below for precise photo credit

We learned about how one of those leaders, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, pastor of the Bethel AME, emerged from the rubble of his bombed home, energized by his miraculous survival. He refused to rebuild the structure.

Photo from National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, see below for photo credit
Info board from the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis
Bethel AME

It’s quite astonishing that more people weren’t killed. It’d be tempting to sneer at the incompetence of white supremacists if it weren’t for the fact that even with minimal loss of life the bombings created pervasive and abject terror.

Display at Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson

That same morning we learned about the marches that led to Birmingham’s desegration in 1963, including The Children’s Crusade. Next post.

Photo at Selma Interpretative Center (one of them) of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

Readers: if anything here is wrong or needs refined/updated, please let me know. There was A LOT of information in a week and I’m bound to get things wrong here and there. And PS first versions of this post erroneously included a photo of Dexter AME, not Bethel.

My travel companions, DT and EL
Childhood home of Angela Davis

PPS I took that video above in our hotel, Hampton Inn/The Tutwiler. It took a lot of tries because often someone was waiting for the elevator (imagine their surprise) when the doors opened and I had to start over. It was worth it to me to look weird and possibly even suspicious to highlight the very cool black and white photos. They graced every landing and the inside of the elevator doors.

What and who do you love

Don’t get too excited by this post’s title. It is a fairly ordinary ramble.

We usually walk the Wellesley campus on a Sunday, so on the way home I was confused. Glad it’s Saturday. That means I have the NYTimes crossword to look forward to (it comes online at 6 pm).

The campus is not big enough to get lost per se, but somehow we managed to end up in sections we’d never seen before. The place seemed weirdly quiet.

The ducks, which are usually plentiful at this spot, have cleared out. The swans overwinter though. They were too far across the lake to count, but there were way more than the usual three couples — maybe as many as two dozen.

We watched the first episode of The Fall of the House of Usher. Succession meets Edgar Allen Poe meets Dopesick? I was distracted and need to watch it over before moving on. There are a lot of characters. It somehow felt slow, though, which is probably why I got distracted.

I can’t tell you how giddy Powell and Chesebro’s guilty pleas make me.

The overwhelm of news out of the Middle East and the onslaught of commentary (often a shit show) mean you probably don’t need any recommendations. But if you subscribe to the NYTimes, this is a good article.

So is the one titled,

On Israel, Progressive Jews Feel Abandoned by Their Left-Wing Allies

The link below should be available to all but I’m new to gifting so let me know if it isn’t.

To my Jewish friends and readers, let me say, I see you and I love you.

I’ll end with this illustration (below) from the Times. Shoshana Schultz. I really like what she’s done here.

Well one more thing. This was a really great thread. A son of Holocaust survivors being called Anti-Semitic because he criticizes Israel. I learned from his critique.

July 4 and July 5 records

You know it’s bad when the hottest day in the history of tracking temperatures was beaten the very next day.

July 4. Then July 5.

This collage used photos from NYTimes Sunday piece wondering if California dams will hold. Below is a flagrant copyright violation. Does it matter if I do so intentionally and with attribution?

Four of the scariest words in the English language these days: faster than previously thought.

In a conversation today: recycling is promoted as a distraction from the fossil fuel industry.

Somewhere I read that becoming a vegetarian is more consequential than even switching to an electric vehicle.

We don’t invest in fossils fuel companies. A small step, one made without personal sacrifice, but one hopefully making a difference.

In the Northeast we are not under the heat dome that is causing so much suffering in the southern part of the country. But it has been too hot to walk Finn a couple days recently. Better to lay low.

Meanwhile, we have to fight.

How are you staying cool (if it’s hot)? How are you managing the deluge of bad climate news? What, if anything, do you do to minimize your contribution to global warming?

P S on another melancholy note, Lawrence O’Donnell gave a moving and elegiac speech mourning the Supreme Court recently. It’s very much worth a listen (google his name and SCOTUS and it comes right up).

Smoke and grief

That sky is not filled with clouds. It’s filled with smoke. K and I managed a walk around the lake without feeling any harm, but I talked to one friend who has to stay indoors because her chest hurts trying to breathe this air.

We’ve been hard at gardening for the last hour and I think I’m done. It’s hot. It’s muggy. Gardening is satisfying and worthy of reporting but that’s not why I’m here today.

I’m here to say how much grief I feel about the Supreme Court going rogue.

Should I drape the house in black cloth? Wear my clothes inside out? I want to tap “SOS” in Morse code to the heavens.

When we lose a loved one, we cover mirrors, wear black armbands, attend a service, and pray (and by “we” I mean other people). There are many reasons why, but two good ones are to share the burden of it and to signal our loss to complete strangers.

What can we do now?

(What a day for Elmo Musk to institute bizarre viewing limits. Twitter might finally be broken. His timing feels intentional. Sharing outrage with like-minded people online is not nothing.)

There have been conservative courts before. There have been really bad decisions. Really bad. But the level of disregard for law and fact and basic procedure has reached epic proportions. Worse, this flagrant disregard is being wielded in service of Christian Oligarchic Nationalism.

I want to drape my house in black. Wear my clothes inside out. Tap SOS to any angels in the area.

If I were an influencer I’d start the hashtag: SCROTUS.

As Joyce Vance says at the end of her Substack entries: We’re in this together.