Saturday, January 31, 2009

The History of the Peace Sign

Throughout history, numerous visual images have symbolized peace. These include images of doves, olive branches, broken rifles and the sign language V used by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. Later signaled by hippies to represent both peace and love. 

One peace sign that is recognizable to many is the peace sign designed by Gerald Holtom. It is the familiar round circle with a line down the middle and two slanted lines, about half the length of the vertical line. The slanted lines attach to the vertical line, slightly below its direct middle, and continue to the perimeter of the circle.

This particular peace sign is also called the peace symbol, and it can be referred to as the CND. Initially, Holtom designed the sign in 1958 for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). During the early '60's British 'Ban the Bomb' advocates for nuclear disarmament formed the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and used Holtom’s sign as a badge. While the sign initially stood for nuclear disarmament, it quickly became a symbol for peace, adopted in the 1960s by the strong anti-war and counterculture movements occurring in both England and the United States. Buttons with the peace sign first made their way to the US in 1960.

If you’re familiar with semaphore, the use of flag movement and hand positions to signal letters that can be understood from a distance, the peace sign makes sense. It incorporates the semaphore positions for the letters N and D and stands specifically for nuclear disarmament. Additionally, Holtom suggested the interior lines were that of a person, standing with arms down in a despairing pose. 

Now known as an international sign for peace, it is very common to see people wearing clothing, flying flags, holding placards and banners proudly displaying the symbol.

Worldwide millions of people have demonstrated against war. How sad that this is still needed today. Here are the latest statistics on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:

Casualties in Iraq
- The Human Cost of Occupation

U.S. Deaths 

Since war began (3/19/03): 4237 
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03) 
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3776 
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3379 
Since Election (1/31/05): 2799 
American Wounded - Official Total Wounded:
Latest Fatality Jan. 30, 2009
Stats last updated 01/30/09 8:30 pm EDT

U.S. Wounded
Daily DoD Casualty Release
320,000 Vets Have Brain Injuries
War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked
How Many Service members Were Wounded?
Number believed to be higher than reported.

18 Vet Suicides Per Day?

Iraqi Deaths - 90,641

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan
Contractor Deaths - Iraq
Sources: DoD, MNF, and

Long may we remember them



Friday, January 30, 2009

Ground Dog Day Celebration

                             Ground Dog Day Celebration

Who needs Punxsutawney Phil when LoveJoy Lulu is in the house!
Celebrate at the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter's 3 rd Annual Ground Dog Day Open House.

Lovejoy Lulu, a former resident of the Buffalo Animal Shelter, will return once again to predict whether we'll see six more weeks of Winter, or an early Spring!

Ground Dog Day will be held in the Shelter's lobby, 380 N. Oak Street, Buffalo on Saturday, January 31, 2008 from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., and Lulu will make her prediction promptly at 11 a.m.

This family-friendly event will educate the community about the Shelter's dedication in providing and caring for animals, as well as rescuing them through animal control procedures and pet adoptions. Refreshments will be served.

Visitors can meet with Shelter volunteers to learn about the Shelter's adoption process and meet adoptable dogs and cats.

Visitors who wish to make donations to the Shelter are asked to bring leashes, collars, dog treats, kitty litter, or cat toys.

For additional information please visit:

Where: 380 North Oak Street, Buffalo NY
When: 10:30 am - 1:30pm
Event Dates: This event takes place on 1/31/2009.


What a novel idea to get visitors to meet the pets that are available for adoption.
For those who cannot make the event I will let you know what Lovejoy Lulu predicts :-)


Hatred ... - part IV - The Courage to Change

Some words of wisdom from those we respect and admire. 

Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

All serious daring starts from within.

I long to accomplish a great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.

Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.

One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.

The best way out is always through.

To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.


It took courage for many who voted in the recent presidential election. For many it was an act of bravery to stand up for what they believe. If every person who voted could have the courage to  speak up against discrimination and hatred what a beautiful world it would be. 



Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hatred Rears It's Ugly Head - part III - Some Solutions

Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured.     - Ann Landers 

What can we do about changing racist attitudes?  It takes  courage to make change in attitudes and guts to be able to stand up to the bullies of the world.

Racism and hatred are usually based on ignorance or lack of understanding.  There are so many things that we can do on a daily basis if we become committed to make a change.
Here is a list of suggestions that are quite easy to start with:

1. Knowledge is power – Do you follow a specific religion ? All of the major faiths have statements against hatred of others and racism. Do you know what your sacred book says?  (The Holy Bible, Vedas, Koran, Sunnah, Agama,  Talmud, Hebrew Bible and the Sutta Pitaka)
Read and learn. If you believe in a higher power then pray for those who are persecuted and those who do the persecuting. 

2. Become aware of ethnic stereotypes - Challenge the offensive  names, jokes and comments.  If someone uses a hurtful name in our presence, we might simply say, "Don't call him/her that. Call him/her by his/her name." If you are the victim, simply say "That kind of joke offends me," or say "You don't like to be called bad names and neither do I".  We should become comfortable in pointing out unfairness. Be polite but firm.  Ethnic jokes are not innocent humor, they carry the virus of bigotry most of the time. 

3. Educate yourself about other cultures - and the history of the Civil Rights Movement and other non-violent struggles for justice. Read what authors from various ethnic backgrounds have written  to gain positive insights into other cultures.

4. Speak up - If you should witness an act of hatred let someone know about it. Report it to the authorities if necessary. Be courageous in standing up for what is right. Be supportive of the victim(s).

5. Share your joy - Have you ever invited people other than your cultural group at an occasion of happiness in your family? Whether it's a wedding or the blessing of a newborn baby, expand your next guest list to include those of different backgrounds. Sharing joy is a great way for people of all ethno-cultural groups to bond.

6. Share your sorrow - Have you visited a sick colleague, class fellow or a neighbor of another ethnic group? Have you been to the funeral of other people? Relationships are not only built on the good times, but on the hard ones as well. Visit the sick, attend funerals, and console those who need it, and don't reserve your sympathy to those of the same skin color or country. Learn the meaning of the various traditions and rituals that may be different from your own. You don't have to adopt the customs  but it is important to know about them.

7. Break bread with others - It is said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Have you learned to cook the food of other cultures? Have you shared your food with them? Food is a great way to bring people together, and to get to know others. Share food with your neighbors. Learn about which foods are not eaten by certain faiths, for example meat or pork.

8. Who do you smile at?  Do you limit your grins to groups you know, especially your ethno-cultural group? Smiles open closed hearts.

9. Teach your children - Make sure that your children are exposed to other cultures. Studies show that children playing and working together toward common goals develop positive attitudes about one another. Raising hate free children is a challenge. Make sure that your children do not absorb the negative attitudes of some who practice discrimination on a regular basis.

10. Welcome strangers -  How are you at welcoming strangers in your place of worship? Do you move forward in welcoming, guiding and introducing them to others or do you allow a stranger to remain a stranger while you busily chat with your own cultural group?

11. Watch those expressions and attitudes - Did you see that twist of the mouth, or the raise of that eyebrow? Sometimes, it's not just words, but facial expressions that also indicate ethno-racial degradation and intolerance. It's not enough for us to just avoid verbal jabs. Language is not just about words; it's about body language too.

12. Stand up for justice - Take an active stand against injustices like profiling and discrimination in the workplace or at schools. Speak out in support for someone or a group being paid less because of their national background.

13. Volunteer - Work with other anti-racism groups - Volunteer time to organizations and groups which are working for an anti-racism agenda or for social justice. Put your time and energy to projects that put your beliefs into practice.

14. Overcome your own personal stereotypical beliefs - this is not just for the European culture. This is something that all cultures learn along the way - unlearn some of the things you were taught. 

I could write at least 50 or more suggestions but if you practice a few of these you will find that your life has become more enriched.

I have lived in, and travelled to. many countries and  have always found that there are more similarities than differences with other people.  We all want the best for our children, to be able to financially support our families and to be able to have freedom of choice in our faith. 

We must stand up for each other  - it is the right thing to do.

More on this topic tomorrow ....................

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hatred Rears It's Ugly Head -part II

The Native American grandfather tells his grandson that there are two wolves inside of him, fighting for control. One wolf is the wolf of love, peace, and kindness. The other wolf is a wolf of greed, hatred, and corruption. The grandson asks, "Which wolf will win?" The grandfather replies "Whichever wolf I feed."
Native American proverb

On occasion, I have been witness to the aftermath of a hate crime. One incident remains indelible in my mind when, some years ago, I worked and lived in the International Student’s House in London, England. A young man named Sean, a caring, thoughtful and generous person, lived in the apartment next door to me. One night, at around 2 a.m., there was a knock at my door. I was startled to hear Sean's voice. I opened the door and  there he stood with blood all over his face and clothing. When he came into my living room he burst into tears and started telling me what had happened. Sean had just left the London Underground train station and was walking home when he was attacked by 6 Skinheads who beat him up. His face and body were bruised and bloody. He said that during the beating they called him derogatory names. It seems that they did it because he is gay. I held him as he wept and we tried to get some understanding of the motive of the bullies. We concluded that it  just boiled down to ‘hate.’

What is hate exactly? The dictionary definition of hate is: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury , extreme dislike or antipathy

Hate Crime: any of various crimes (as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation)

In his book 'The Psychology of Hate'  Robert J Sternberg (American Psychological Association, APA) states "After the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis in World War II, the expression "never again" became a familiar refrain. Yet, during the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of the current decade, society has witnessed staggering numbers of brutal and hateful acts. Our news sources are filled with reports of White supremacist groups murdering members of minority groups, religious zealots killing doctors who perform abortions, teenagers violently clashing with their classmates, the genocides in Rwanda and Sudan, the mass killing in Bosnia, and the 9/11 attacks on the United States. These are not random or sudden bursts of irrationality but, rather, orchestrated acts of violence and killing. Underlying these events is a widespread and haz­ardous human emotion: hate. Hate is among the most powerful of human emotions—it has caused great sorrow and suffering—and yet it has been understudied by psychologists".

" Once one begins to see hate in terms of its functions, one can see hate everywhere. That is not always a comfort. Consider the myriad functions of hate:
  • Hate is a reliable source of attachment; a substitute for love. 
  • Hate gives meaning to life.
  • Nursing one's hatred provides comfort and satisfaction. 
  • Acting out one's hate is a source of pleasure, that of domination and control. 
  • Sadism is the pleasure of hatred. Hatred is a mode of being in the world.
  • Hate binds people in a community with others who hate, a community whose intimacy is intensified by the guilty se­cret that all those who hate share: that there is pleasure in destruction.
If one can bear to know all this, then one shall have learned not only some terrible truths about the world but also something about hate that may from time to time allow one to mitigate its effects. Likely this knowledge will not lessen the sheer amount of hate in the world. Nevertheless, knowing of the secret fraternity of those who hate may allow one to intervene in their guilty pleasures and so short-circuit their satisfaction. The price of this inter­vention, which will only infrequently be effective, if history is any guide, is that of a terrible knowledge, one that connects the terrible things nations do with the terrible things that each person has at some point done to another person. That connection is hatred, which like Thanatos, to which it is so closely allied, is a principle that connects individual with world history. It is not a connection of which to be proud".

More on this topic tomorrow......................

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hatred Rears It's Ugly Head

This cartoon shows President Obama giving a wave of thanks to those who have suffered the pain and struggle of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws.  Those on whose shoulders he stands. Most of us want to believe that just maybe, this shameful portion in the history of this country is over and that it is a new day.

A week has passed since the installation of our new President and for the most part the press have been avoiding  negative comments regarding the president. Many are in a  'let's wait and see mode' and want to see him get settled in his office before offering any criticisms.
We should not forget  that less than three months ago on the night of the election, when Barack Obama was declared the President elect, scores of racially charged incidents occured– beatings, effigy burnings, racist graffiti, threats and intimidation – were reported across the country.

White supremacist groups boasted there was a post-election surge of new members and an overwhelming traffic to their websites. They  said they saw an increase in phone calls from potential members and that its web traffic increased sixfold.

At the same time, the economic meltdown is helping to create the conditions in which racist extremist and militia groups typically thrive, often by scapegoating minorities and by stoking fear and division among those who are harmed by events beyond their control or understanding. When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers. 
Now these groups have begun to turn their attention to President Obama – distributing racist propaganda, filling Internet message boards with threats and messages of hate, and, in some cases, taking more direct action against minorities. Here is a sampling of racial incidents reported in the wake of the election:
  •  Police in Riverside County, California, said five attacks on minorities were likely related to the election and were believed to have been carried out by a local white supremacist gang.
  • In Shreveport, La., a black man wearing an Obama T-shirt was brutally beaten by a group of white men screaming "f--k Obama" and "n-----r president." The attack left the man with a broken nose, broken eye socket and broken tear duct, requiring multiple surgeries.
  • In Springfield, Mass., a black church was burned hours after the election was called for Obama. Authorities later arrested three white men who admitted that they were angry that Obama had won.
  •  In Staten Island, N.Y., a black teen was bloodied and bruised by two white teens who shouted "Obama" while pummeling him with a bat and pipe.
  •  In Rexburg, Idaho, second- and third-graders on a school bus chanted "assassinate Obama."
  • In Torrance, Calif., swastikas and racial slurs were spray-painted on homes and cars of people who displayed Obama signs or bumper stickers.
  •  In Milwaukee, a poster of Obama with a bullet going through his head was discovered in a police station.
  • In Maine, a sign at a convenience store invited customers to join a betting pool on when Obama would be assassinated. The sign said, "Let's hope we have a winner."
  • Today  racist hate mail came across my desk,  sent by a friend who thought that I should see what is being circulated on the Internet. The content was disturbing to me, and then I realized that the events of the last week may have lulled me into a brief sense of self deception. 
The reality is that racism and hatred are  alive and well in this country. We have to remain vigilant and continue to speak up loudly when we hear or witness an act of racism or hatred.
More on this subject tomorrow...............
                                 Don't let the bullies win.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Annular Eclipse Tonight Over the Indian Ocean

Ring of Fire - Over the Indian Ocean.

Today I learned a new (to me) word. The word is: ANNULAR.  At first I thought it was a typo for ‘annual’ but then I looked it up and the meaning is – ‘shaped like a ring’.

A few lucky people in the Indian Ocean will be treated to a rare event this evening when an annular solar eclipse will transform the Sun into a dark disc with a blazing ring-shaped corona around its rim.
In solar eclipses, the Moon moves between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow on the terrestrial surface.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the Moon.
In an annular eclipse, a tiny shift in distance that results from celestial mechanics means the Moon does not completely cover the Sun's face, as it does in a total eclipse. Instead, for those directly under the alignment, the Moon covers most of the Sun's surface, and a ring-like crown of solar light blazes from the edge of the disk.

According to veteran NASA eclipse-watcher Fred Espenak, the total eclipse track will run from west to east on Monday from 0606 GMT to 0952 GMT. It will traverse the Indian Ocean and western Indonesia before petering out just short of Mindanao, the Philippines.

The partial eclipse will be seen in a much wider swathe, including the southern third of Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Southeast India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

It will be the only annular solar eclipse this year. The last was on 7 February 2007, and after today, the next one will be on 15 January 2010.

The big event for eclipse junkies this year is on July 22, when a total solar eclipse will be visible from India and China, the world's two most populous countries.

To my friends who live in that part of the world - heads up tonight!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Did you make any new year’s resolutions/goals? Usually we start off well, keep on track for the first 30 days and then it all becomes forgotten in the hurry-scurry of life. Another good intention started with enthusiasm and soon gone by the wayside.

I did not make any personal goals this year until I received the following news.
On Jan 6th I had my annual physical and the Dr. informed me that I have high cholesterol. She explained that too much cholesterol in the blood could be serious and poses a risk of getting heart disease. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

I was surprised to learn that only about 20% of cholesterol comes from the foods you eat. Your body makes the other 80%. Things such as age and family health history affect how much cholesterol your body makes. Unfortunately, there are usually no signs that you have high cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. 

She explained that this is a serious diagnosis and should not be taken lightly. 
I took a long look at this information and decided that I had to make some changes in my lifestyle. The doctor suggested a change in diet and exercise.
I do not eat meat and my diet is already low in cholesterol but I took a look at what I eat and realized that three things had to go: cheese, egg yolks and desserts.
I recently read that there are eight healthy foods that are essential to eat every day. So I plan to work these into my daily diet along with 30 minutes of moderate exercise.

Here is the list of eight:

1. Spinach: 
A rich source omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease. 1-cup fresh spinach or a half-cup cooked per day. SUBSTITUTES: Kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce.


2. Yogurt:
Helps boost your immune system, provides protection against cancer. Make sure the label says “live and active cultures.” One cup a day. SUBSTITUTES: Kefir, cottage cheese. Plain fat free yogurt is also a perfect base for creamy salad dressings and dips. 

3. Tomatoes: packed with more of the antioxidant lycopene which can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, breast, skin, and stomach cancers, and coronary artery disease. Eight red cherry tomatoes or a glass of tomato juice per day. SUBSTITUTES: Red watermelon, pink grapefruit, Japanese persimmon, papaya, guava.

4. Carrots: are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as a reduced risk of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Aim for a half-cup a day. SUBSTITUTES: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow bell pepper, mango.

5. Blueberries: Host to more antioxidants than any other North American fruit, blueberries help prevent cancer, diabetes, and age-related memory changes. Rich in fiber and vitamins A and C can also boost cardiovascular health. 1-cup fresh blueberries a day, or a half-cup frozen or dried. 

SUBSTITUTE: A├žai, an Amazonian berry.
6. Black Beans: All beans are good for your heart and brain. They’re full of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds that have been shown to improve brain function. A daily half-cup serving provides 8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber, and is low in calories and free of saturated fat. 

SUBSTITUTES: Peas, lentils, and pinto, kidney, fava, and lima beans.

7. Walnuts: Richer in heart-healthy omega-3s than salmon, loaded with more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than red wine. A serving of walnuts is about 1 ounce, or seven nuts. Substitutes: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, (all unsalted).

8. Oats: Awarded the FDA’s first seal of approval. They are packed with soluble fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Oats have 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, they deliver steady muscle-friendly energy. 

SUBSTITUTES: Quinoa, flaxseed, amaranth, and pearl barley.

So now my goals are written down for the world to see. Change my diet and exercise. The pressure is on. I will report back to you (and my Dr.) in 90 days. ☺

Saturday, January 24, 2009

4,229 War Dead - Long May We Remember Them

,           Members of the Women's War Protest Group - CODEPINK

The following USA military personnel  have been killed in the Iraq War so far this year:

2009-01-18 SSgt Roberto Andrade Jr. Chicago, IL Army US
2009-01-17 Senior Airman Omar J. McKnight Marrero, LA Air Force US
2009-01-16 Pfc Ricky L. Turner Athens, AL Army US
2009-01-11 Pvt Sean P. McCune Euless, TX Army US
2009-01-11 Sgt Marquis R. Porter Brighton, MA Marine US
2009-01-10 SSgt Justin L. Bauer Loveland, CO Army US
2009-01-06 SSgt Anthony D. Davis Daytona Beach , FL Army US
2009-01-03 Lcpl Chadwick A. Gilliam Mayking, KY Marine US

                           Long may we remember them.

Four years ago, CODEPINK founders spent inauguration night in a miserable jail call, charged with disorderly conduct for unfurling a "Stop the War" banner during the ceremony. This year, instead of handcuffs, they got front row seats along with hugs and kisses from the crowd as they unfurled peace banners  and handed out thousands of pink ribbons calling on President Obama to keep his peace promises.

As The Washington Times noted, "You know things have changed in Washington when CODEPINK gets seats up front at the inauguration."

You really know things have changed when President Obama, on day one, started addressing some key promises:  1. Shut down Guantanamo 2. Reject the Military Commissions Act and  
3. Stop Torture. 

Thanks to you, CODEPINK  and congratulations on  being named by  The Nation Magazine as The Most Valuable Progressive Organization of the entire Bush-Cheney era!

We must remain vigilant - Since the start of the Iraq war there have been 4,229 US military deaths and  30,960 wounded.  Allied forces deaths - 317.  US civilian deaths - 172. 
Iraqi deaths 90,443. 


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Praise Song For The Day

Elizabeth Alexander read a poem she had composed for Barack Obama and his Inauguration Day.

'Praise Song for the Day' 

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other,
catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. 

All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. 

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky;

A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, 
Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, 
raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, 
built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. 

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. 
Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Alexander is an African-American, born in Harlem in 1962, who has published four books; the last, American Sublime, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A professor of African-American studies at Yale. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time for Reflection

It is done. The oath has been taken and we have a new president. It has been a long road. Almost two years of campaigning when, at first, we were introduced to dozens of candidates. Gradually some were eliminated and we were down to two.
The public has been bombarded with truths, fabricated stories, and over zealous reporting. It was sometimes hard to sort through all of the minutia to form an opinion. We wondered why a person would put themselves through the intense scrutiny that the candidates underwent, yet somehow, they and we survived. The vote was taken and we learned that Barack Obama was this nation's choice.  

We have heard people wishing that Martin Luther King could have seen this day. Others mentioned Malcolm, Fannie Lou, Viola, Emmett and many others. Since the election I have thought of many friends who I wish had survived. People who were warriors for civil rights and equality for all. 

I recently heard Bill Cosby say that when he voted he took two photos with him into the voting booth - one of his parents and another of his deceased brother. He stood the photos up on top of the machine and said "We" are voting for Barack Obama. He voted and then put the photos in his pocket, turned around and left the voting booth.

Many of the young people interviewed in the crowds in Washington said "I am here for my father (mother/grandparents/you name them) who did not live to see this day. I'm representing for them."

They are no longer with us, but the courage that they showed defies death. Their actions will live in the spirits and hearts of the next seven generations. They live in the young people who were 'representing' at the Inauguration, and who will continue to support our new president as he starts his journey.

All the painful years of  struggle, marching, standing up for human rights, the memory of segregation, injustice, discrimination and racism will remain in the minds of those who have experienced it, but somehow, just for today all is right with the world.

Yes, when the euphoria is over and we are back to our day to day lives the country will still have the myriad of problems that were in existence before the oath was taken, but now we have a stirring of hope in our hearts. Today we believe that unbelievable things can happen - we just witnessed it! 

As I write these words of reflection today I feel my heart humming a happy tune - it's called joy. Those of us that believe will sleep well tonight knowing that  'just for today', all is right with the world.

Today, I am proud of us and the United States of America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
'Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, 
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

James Weldon Johnson


Monday, January 19, 2009

Freedom's Lonely Vigil

Here she is, the beautiful woman who has been atop the Capitol Building since 1863. Her name is Freedom. I wonder what she has been  thinking as she looks out above the rooftops of  Washington D.C.

She was created by an American architect Thomas Crawford, who lived in Rome, Italy.  He was commissioned to build the Statue  in 1855. He sculpted, in clay, a classical female figure wearing flowing robes, an allegorical “Freedom Triumphant in war and peace.” Crawford died in 1857  before she was completed. The plaster model of the statue, packed in six crates, survived storms and a leaky ship on her  journey from Rome,  to Washington, D.C.  
Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword  and she holds a laurel wreath of victory and the  shield of the United States, with 13 stripes, in her left hand. 
She has the magnificent height of  19 feet, 6 inches and weighs  about 15,000 pounds. Her cost, exclusive of installation, was $23,796.82.

After Freedom arrived in D.C.  Philip Reid, 42, a black slave, was put in charge of the casting to complete the work of art. He was respected for his work and  he improvised a method to cast the parts in bronze. Freedom was assembled and hoisted atop the Capitol in 1863, a year after President Lincoln freed Washington slaves.  It is believed that Reid was free at that time.

Slaves helped build most of the buildings and grounds of Congress, their owners earned $5 per month for the labor. Between 1790 and 1863 there were slaves laboring in the quarries of Virginia, excavating and cutting the stone that would be used in the building's construction.

Before 1850, slave pens, slave jails, and auction blocks were a common sight in the nation’s capital, which was a hub of the domestic slave trade. Although slave-trade in Washington was prohibited after 1850, the harsh reality of slavery was still visible everywhere in the city. On April 16, 1862, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill (passed earlier by congress) into law ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this act came nine months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves more widely.

Freedom was 100 years old when she heard Dr. Martin Luther King's  "We shall overcome" speech. She has witnessed picketing and demonstrations made by millions of people who came protesting war and asking  for fairness and justice along with changes in laws that were considered unfair.

Did she know that each time they came that they were getting just a little closer to freedom. Even when the marchers often went home feeling little hope for change. 

For the past 145 years she has kept vigil over the many presidents who walked in the grounds below her,  from Lincoln to George W. Bush. Did she guess that on this occasion the people of the United States would choose Barack Obama as their choice.

Maybe as she looks out tomorrow, on Inauguration Day,  she will have  tears flowing from her eyes and a sweet smile of joy on her lips.  She can rest from her vigil now knowing that the descendants of  slave owners and the descendants of slaves have finally decided to join together in harmony. People who have elected a man of African descent, as the leader of the country. Freedom is finally proud of her name.
"The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom is Courage." - Thucydides

Thank you Freedom for your lonely vigil. We are finally on our way!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let's Continue to Move Forward Together

President-elect Barack Obama has called upon all Americans to participate in a national call to service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before the inauguration. Obama states that the renewal of America's promise begins with each one of us making a commitment to bring change to our local communities.

As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Dr. King's birth, I am reminded of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

I traveled with friends and neighbors from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. We caught the bus at midnight and arrived in D.C. in the early hours of August 28th.

We were filled with the passion and promise of change, ignited by the idea that, just maybe, if enough people showed up, the world would understand we were not satisfied with the current conditions of racism and the exclusion of so many in the United States.

After arriving in the Capital, we joined the organized march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. We stood in front of the podium, close enough to see and hear the speakers. The "Big Six" organizers of the march were Dr. King, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; James Farmer, of the Congress of Racial Equality; John Lewis, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; A. Philip Randolph, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins, of the NAACP; and Whitney Young Jr., of the National Urban League. The event included musical performances by Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson.

The written demands of the march were the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; the elimination of racial segregation in public schools; protection for demonstrators against police brutality; a major public-works program to provide jobs; the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring; a $2 an hour minimum wage; and self-government for the District of Columbia, which had a black majority.

The events were emotional, as 250,000 people from all walks of life, of different complexions, cultures and faiths, joined hands. Together we sang "We Shall Overcome." On that day our lives were changed forever. We wept, we laughed, we experienced joy and, most importantly, we returned to our homes with a renewed commitment to make a difference in the world. We were asked to take the message of a call for change back to our various communities.

I recently came across a  paper I had written on that day in 1963. Here is what I wrote:

"I pledge I will not relax until victory is won.

I pledge to carry the message to my friends and my neighbors back home and arouse them to an equal commitment and equal effort.

I will march and I will write letters.

I will demonstrate and I will vote. 

I will work to make sure that my voice and my brothers' voices will ring out in all corners of the land.

I pledge my heart, my mind and my body unequivocally and without regard to personal sacrifice, to the achievement of social peace through social justice."

Today, I recognize that I was filled with youthful enthusiasm when I wrote those words. But I feel proud as I realize that during the time that has lapsed since that day, I have done my best to fulfill the pledge.

As President-elect Obama puts out the call for service, we are reminded that we are the change that we are looking for. Let's continue to move forward together for a unified future.


First published in The Buffalo News, New York - January 17, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today I Witnessed a Murder

Oscar Grant, 22, was killed on New Year's Eve. He was shot execution-style by a transit police officer in Oakland, California. Shot in the back while facedown on a subway platform, unarmed and posing no threat. Many people who were on the station platform at the time witnessed this killing.

Today I received a copy of a video of the incident. A person on their cell phone camera filmed it. It is little more than one minute but it is very powerful. It left me in tears.

Here is the website if you wish to view it.

The officer (now called ex-officer) has finally been arrested after two weeks of waiting for action on this. In California, Oakland city officials have confirmed a white former transit officer has been arrested in the New Year’s shooting of an unarmed African American passenger. He was arrested as a fugitive in Nevada. Cell phone videos show Mehserle pulling out a gun and shooting twenty-two-year-old Oscar Grant in the back while he was lying face down on the ground on a subway platform. Grant worked as a butcher at an Oakland grocery store and was the father of a four-year-old daughter.

The killing has sparked a series of protests in what has been described by some as the Oakland rebellion.

The main point of contention that a lot of people have is why haven’t the officers that were on the platform with Mehserle been arrested. What’s the accountability for them? This week there was a large protest in downtown Oakland. More than a thousand people showed up. The emphasis was on peace, at the request of the Grant family. “We know that he was pleading for his life. We all heard the stories about him trying to talk to the officers and calm everybody down. He was shot in front of plain view of hundreds of people.”

This incident brings to mind, memories of others who were shot by police officers.

Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. New York

Gary King, Jena, Louisiana (Jena Six).

Adolph Grimes III, 22, New Orleans - The Orleans Parish coroner said Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back.

These are just a few names that come to my mind instantly. Just Google ‘police brutality’ and you will see the number of deaths caused by those in authority.

Rodney King (26) was the victim in an excessive force case committed by Los Angeles police officers. . Four LAPD officers were later tried in a state court for the beating but were acquitted. The announcement of the acquittals sparked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

By the time it was all over, 54 people had been killed, 2382 injured (including 228 critically), 7000 fires were set, over 12 000 people were arrested, over 1 billion dollars of damage had been done.

The officers went to trial again and the jury verdict was announced in April 1993: Officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were deemed guilty, each sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The following year, Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million in his civil trial against six of the officers present at the beating. The videotape was introduced as evidence in that trial as well.

Has it really been 18 years since the video of the beating of Rodney King was viewed all around the world? Has so little changed? Yes the country is moving forward in many ways but is at a standstill in others.

So now we have another tape of police brutality and in this case murder. Technology has become so sophisticated that a clumsy, heavy, handicam is no longer needed. Almost everyone has a cell phone that takes photos or video. It is hard to understand how, even when the bullies know that they are being recorded, (in Oakland there were hundreds of witnesses) why they act in such a way?

This is not a criticism of the police establishments across the country. I am aware that police officers do a wonderful job every day and that their lives are on the line also. However, as usual it is the deeds of the very few, who give the reputation to the many.

What can we do?

1.Be vigilant about the negative actions of the police, they are public servants and we do have the right to comment on such actions.

2.Establish effective Community Review Boards to investigate charges of police brutality. It seems to be difficult for the police to publicly condemn their own. This puts the onus on the civilians to see that they are brought to justice.

3. Educate our youth on how to respond when approached by a police officer.

4. Pray for the safety of our youth.

5. And above all SPEAK UP!

Rodney King himself responded to the escalating violence with his famous plea -

              “PEOPLE, CAN WE ALL GET ALONG?”

Friday, January 16, 2009

On a Wing and a Prayer

After I submitted my first blog yesterday I started wondering what I would be writing about in the future. I am a person who tries to look at the glass as being half full rather than half empty. However, the daily news is filled with heart breaking situations and I was thinking that I would prefer to write about positive things.

Then, in the afternoon we started to hear about a plane that had gone down in the Hudson river, off 48th Street, New York City. We all breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that no lives were lost.

This morning I watched the morning news shows on television. Scenes of the NYC emergency responders who had sprung into action and had done an outstanding job getting all 155 passengers to safety.

Also, some of the survivors were being interviewed. All recounted stories  of people helping people. Women and children first was the cry aboard the aircraft. Men were passing babies, by hand,  down the wing of the plane to safety. Almost all stated that they were praying during the crisis.

A young woman told my favorite story about a very elderly woman who was sitting in the back row of the plane. She had confided to the younger woman sitting next to her "I am afraid of flying." The younger woman attempted to calm the woman's fears as the plane started to take off.  When it became apparent that they were in distress the elder woman took over, she told the younger woman "Get off that cell phone right now and start praying." The woman did as she was told and  the woman (who had been afraid) held the hands of the others around her. She told them all that everything would be all right and then she led them in prayer.

The pilot of Flight 1549,  Chesley Sullenberger III, 57, of Danville, California. became an instant hero. It was reported that he had served on a Board that investigated aircraft accidents and had taken part in several National Transportation Safety  investigations. He had been studying the psychology of keeping airline crews functioning even in the face of crisis. He stated, "When a plane is getting ready to crash with a lot of people who trust you, it is a test." He had studied it, had rehearsed it and he had taken it to heart.

It was just the right pilot at the right time in charge of that plane that saved so many lives.

After seeing the amazing pictures of the plane resting in the water I started thinking about the possibility of multi-passenger seaplane travel. I have had the experience of being a passenger on a 7-seater seaplane when I travelled to the Island of Bimini. 

Seaplanes can land on the water by boat hull fuselages, floats or skis. Landing a larger plane on water looks like it could be a possibility of the future. Are jet-powered seaplanes feasible? Why not? Imagine the possibilities!

Anyway, getting back to this story, I concur with the  wisdom of the elderly passenger. When in an emergency  "Get off that cell phone now and start praying."

        It is clear to me that faith had a factor in this story.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Remembering Dr. King on his 80th Birthday

Today marks the birth of my on-line blog site.

This day is symbolic to me because January 15, 2009 is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

I have read several accounts of people speculating about what Dr. King would think of what is happening in the world today.

During the Civil Rights struggles of the 60's people marched and protested for basic rights such as eating at a lunch counter,  attending schools in their own neighborhoods, being hired for a job for which they were qualified, and to exercise the most fundamental right of citizenship, to vote.  We demanded justice and equality for everyone, not just the chosen few.

Yes, in many ways we are a better country today, and in some ways, the nation is moving beyond 'The Dream', but a look at recent news headlines tells the real story:

     - Palestinian Death Toll in Gaza Approaches 1000 - Cemeteries Running Out of   Space

     - Bush Admin Official Admits Gitmo Prisoner Tortured

     - 4 Charged in Election Night Hate Crimes

     - 4,225 men and women from the USA have died in the current Iraq War

     - Over 500,000 Lose Jobs in December - Official Unemployment Rate at 7.2%

     - Illinois House Votes to Impeach Blagojevich

     - Oscar Grant was shot execution style by a Transit Police Officer in Oakland,     CA. He was shot in the back while facedown on the subway platform, unarmed       and posing no threat.

I believe that if Dr. King were alive today he would still be trying to make changes for basic human rights. I also believe that he would have been the person chosen to give the prayer at the upcoming inauguration :-) and that he would have been beaming with joy.

The following words were spoken by Dr. King when he was speaking out about the US involvement in Viet Nam. The words are still very relevant today:

"If we assume that life is worth living and that humans have the right to survival, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space, and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war.

The church cannot be silent while humankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race.

I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never ending reign of chaos.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is a permanent attitude."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.