Archive for a world of progress

No more prayers, no more promises. Act now on guns

I took this off of Facebook this morning because it is so powerful.

I took this off of Facebook this morning because it is so powerful.

Ten more people.

Ten human beings.

Ten more corpses.

Ten more bereaved families.

When does it end?

When do we as Americans rise up and tell our legislators that we have had enough?

Something was supposed to happen after Sandy Hook, but nothing did. And the members of Congress who did nothing weren’t fired in 2014. We let them get away with it.

Instead, we blame mental illness.

Well, we’re not doing anything about mental illnesses, either.

Here in North Carolina, our legislature just cut another $310 million out of the mental health budget over the next two years.

So, people who need treatment are getting nothing. But they can get guns.

And not just guns that are good for hunting, either; they’re getting assault weapons, weapons that can kill a dozen people in a few seconds.

The meaning of the Second Amendment has been twisted beyond recognition, thanks to the NRA and gun manufacturers and their purchase of our members of Congress, and we have allowed it to happen.

I say that because I’ll bet not 5 percent of constituents have written to their members of Congress to demand something be done. I say this because these accessories to murder keep being returned to office.

If you’re fed up with hearing the lists of the dead, if you’re fed up with footage of funerals and memorials, if you’re fed up with having to teach your children how to try to stay alive during a shooting, stop voting for people with blood on their hands.

Stop voting for candidates who try to place the stigma on people with mental illnesses when the stigma belongs on them — the people who refuse to outlaw assault weapons, the people who refuse to require universal background checks.

The day of the shooting, I was in a store talking to a woman behind the counter, who believed nothing can be done.

“Regulating guns worked in Australia,” I said.

“That’s not the United States,” she replied. “It can’t work here.”

“So, you’re saying we should do nothing?” I asked.

“No, I think we all should arm ourselves.”

I politely disagreed with her and left the store.

I don’t want to live without hope that we can manage to do anything.

Something needs to be done and we have to stop being distracted by talk of mental illness, because that’s not the cause of mass murders.

The cause of shooting sprees is guns. It is the nearly unfettered access to guns, all kinds of guns — handguns, shotguns, semi-automatic guns — by anyone who wants them. It is the expansion of open-carry rights to the point that we can’t even feel safe in restaurants, stores and parks in our own communities.

Legislators are in the pockets of gun lobbyists, and they’re making our country more dangerous every year.

Now we have mass shootings almost every week, and the response is always the same: The victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers.

Well, here’s what’s in my thoughts and prayers: We must get rid of the murdering thugs who have done this to our country. We must all wake up and let our legislators know we’re done allowing this perversion of the Constitution and that we will vote against them, no matter what their stands are on anything else.

We want an assault weapon ban now. We want universal background checks now.

No more posturing, no more pandering to the gun lobby.

We are done. If this crop of legislators won’t do anything about it, we will send men and women who will to Washington and to our state capitols.

No more shootings. No more bodies. Do something or go home.

Standing against zealotry

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

I apparently started a shit storm on Facebook today when I replied to the news that the Vatican confirmed that the Pope had met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who is using her religion to deny people the right to marry.

I said, “Well, there goes my admiration for the pope,” which I will admit is a bit of an over-reaction. I still love this man’s words about caring for the planet and for the poor. I admire his humility. But I stand against any support for this woman.

Kim Davis has been married four times — so much for one-man, one-woman. Her twins were fathered by a man not her husband — so much for faithfulness to one’s spouse.

She has no right to stand in judgment over anyone. And yes, I am standing in judgment over her actions. I’ll admit that.

Kim Davis is trying to deny people their rights based on her view of God, which is unconstitutional. Our Constitution gives each of us the right to our religious beliefs but denies us the power to impose them on others.

I was called narrow-minded because I said people have a right to be married. It’s the poor fundamentalist zealots who are being persecuted, I’m told. All they want is for all of us to have to follow their narrow, bigoted beliefs. Gays are bad. Women are inferior because we are descended from Eve and therefore guilty of Original Sin. Addicts deserve to die. Mental illnesses can be prayed away because they are, after all, only demons.

I was raised being taught this crap, and I rejected it because those who believe this all too often ignore the needs of the poor. Because God will bless you if you’re a good person, so the poor deserve to suffer.

I also was chastised for calling someone out on his “pro-life” stand on another post, when he said Planned Parenthood needs to be closed. You’re not pro-life if you would deny women access to the health care provided by Planned Parenthood. You are not pro-life if you think women who want an abortion deserve to die. You are not pro-life if you would shred the social safety net.

If you want to call yourself Christian, read the red print. It says nothing about gay marriage or abortion. Take seriously the admonition to care for “the least of these.” And keep your thoughts on other people’s sexuality to yourself; it’s none of your damn business who I love or marry.

At least the pope gets some of it right. He has admonished us to care for the planet and for each other. He has denounced greed.

Still, I’m disappointed he apparently met with and supported Kim Davis, a woman who simply is refusing to do her job — which is to record (not approve of) births, deaths, property transfers and marriages.She needs to quit, be fired or land in jail for contempt of court. She is a hate-spewing zealot, not a hero.

More insanity from the anti-life league in Raleigh

A North Carolina EBT, of "food stamp" card.

A North Carolina EBT, or “food stamp,” card.

The powers that be in Raleigh have, in the last few years, decided that health care, unemployment compensation, voting rights and education are not necessary for life.

Now they have added food to the list.

As though the passage of a budget that pretty much starves the mental health system out of existence weren’t bad enough, a bill before the General Assembly now would take away food stamps from more than 105,000 adults in the state.

Under federal law, states can suspend work-related time limits on federal food aid in areas with persistently high levels of unemployment. In July, the state applied for this waiver for 77 of its 100 counties because of a severe lack of jobs available in those counties.

The bill before the senate now would ban the state from pursuing this option permanently, no mater how poorly local economies are faring or whether employment and training opportunities actually exist in those counties.

This is one more anti-life measure in the criminalization of poverty by the very people whose policies make it nearly impossible for people to climb out of poverty.

My friend, Sen. Terry Van Dyun (D., Buncombe County), told me recently that her colleague, Sen. Ralph Hise (R., Mitchell County), called people in need of health care lazy.

“He told me they should get off their butts and get a job that offers health care or make enough money to qualify for insurance through the marketplace,” she said.

People who work at minimum-wage jobs can’t afford to pay their bills and buy food. It’s as simple as that. It takes more than double minimum wage to sustain even the most frugal lifestyle — no eating out, no cable TV, no movies or night clubbing, just the most basic apartment, an old car (if you can afford one at all) and the most basic phone service.

North Carolina is a mostly rural state with a few higher-density population areas. It is the seventh hungriest state in the nation. In rural counties, people can’t find high-paying jobs. They might work at a Dollar Store or a Burger King, but they won’t make a living wage in these places and they won’t get a 40-hour work week.

In a city like Asheville, service industry jobs are plentiful, but they don’t pay well, and housing costs are high. That means many people don’t earn enough to make ends meet.

I would ask you to call your state senator if you live in North Carolina, but they have shown no evidence that they care about us or what we think. They feel safe in their gerrymandered districts and they are arrogant enough to believe they can do as they please in all matters.

It looks as though the only way to stop these consistently anti-life policies is to put up candidates in 2016 and fight to unseat all of those who don’t care about us or our well-being.

If you aren’t registered to vote, if you don’t vote because you don’t think it will make a difference, you are part of the problem here. If you care about human life, get off your ass and vote in the primaries and in the general election.


Where is my compassion?

The siblings and their children in 1977. Bill is on the lower right corner.

The siblings and their children in 1977. Bill is on the lower right corner.

The two young men who owned Waking Life Espresso in West Asheville are sorry for their behavior. It appears they really are undergoing some serious self-examination.

In my mind it’s too little, too late.

I do feel badly about what they’re going through. It isn’t easy thinking everything is OK and you’re a real player and all, and then having all of it come crashing down around your ears. I know that must be almost as hard on them as the women who were their victims.

I get it.

But I’m not ready to give them my energy.

Right now, I’m giving that energy to my brother, who is in prison in California for molesting his daughter.

I wanted to walk away from my brother, and I stayed out of touch for several years. But early this summer I got a letter from him. He is alone. Really alone. No one is interviewing him and asking what his future holds. We know what it holds — another 30 years behind bars in a for-profit prison, where he has no money and not enough to eat.

California is charging him $10,000 in restitution, and if I send him money for extra food, the state takes most of it. The rest goes into the pockets of the profiteers who run the prison where he is incarcerated.

The health care in his prison is horrible — one of his fellow inmates died from an asthma attack a couple of weeks ago because he wasn’t getting the care he needed.

As a survivor of abuse, it was hard for me to read his letter and understand his desperation. It took him 10 years to admit what he had done. After he had stopped abusing his daughter because he found God, he figured it was OK if he denied what he had done to humans, as long as he confessed to God.

He has learned that’s not the case, and he has confessed and is trying to work through his guilt and shame. He, too, is a survivor of child sexual abuse. He knows it’s not likely his daughter will be able to forgive him, although he prays it will happen someday. He also prays for reconciliation with his wife.

So now, with me being the only person who will stay in touch with him, I have to try and help him see there is hope for tomorrow. I have to be his support, no matter how much emotional energy it takes. I have to remember that he is human and no one deserves to be utterly alone.

So, when people suggest I need to forgive the two men from Waking Life, who have lost their business but not their freedom, I have to say I will leave that to others.

I chose not to listen to the interview that came out today. I don’t think that means I am unkind or unforgiving; I think it means I have enough emotional work on my plate right now that I am caring for my brother’s needs.

What a devastating day

This is my son, Mike, who paid taxes right up to the time he got sick. After his Stage 3 colon cancer was diagnosed, he became one of the people Mitt Romney doesn't care about.

This is my son, Mike, who was so impoverished by the time he died that he left behind very few belongings. One of those was stolen last night.

I have very few things that belonged to my late son, mostly because our broken system impoverished him to the point that he had very few belongings.

This morning, I found that one of them, his iPod, had been stolen from my car. I bought it for him a few weeks before he died because he had always wanted one and we didn’t know whether he would survive to see his first disability check.

As it turned out, he didn’t. He was dead nine days before that first check arrived, but at least he’d had the chance to enjoy that iPod for a few weeks.

All day, I have felt his loss anew, a stabbing grief that won’t go away. His photos were stored on that device and it was in a compartment in my car, together with a charging cord.

The thief also got away with a projector that belonged to my nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, a Bluetooth speaker and some other odds and ends, altogether about $1,000 worth of stuff.

When I reported it at the Sheriff’s Department, the deputy behind the glass acted as though I had invited the thief in and handed him my belongings because the driver’s side door was unlocked.

“What are you doing with a thousand dollars worth of stuff in your car, anyway?” he asked, scowling at me.

Not only did I feel violated by the theft, I was blamed. I was the person at fault.

I was left wondering if I would have been so shamed and blamed if I had been a man.

I was so upset, I came home and called Sheriff Van Duncan, who apologized profusely for the way I had been treated.

Meanwhile, I have struggled to hold back tears all day. This is more than a loss of a thing — that thing was connected to my beloved son, and it’s one less connection I have as the days since I last was able to touch him and hear his voice add up.

I left a profane post on Facebook after I discovered the loss, but I know I won’t see that iPod, or the photos he had stored on it, again. The f-bomb helped for a fraction of a second, but it would help more if I could find the person responsible and explain what that small thing meant to me. My first impulse would be to smack him (or her) upside the head, but I wouldn’t actually do that because physical violence never solves anything.

But I would like that person to understand they pain their actions have caused.

It’s bad enough I have to face the rest of my life without my son, but can’t I at least have this one small connection to him?




Forgive the creeps at Waking Life? Not yet.

Waking Life in West Asheville. Photo from Asheville Blog.

Waking Life in West Asheville. Photo from Asheville Blog.

We had a bit of a storm break out in West Asheville over the weekend when a local blogger, Emily Trimnal of Asheville Blog, broke the news that the owners of Waking Life Coffee were the authors of a disgusting, misogynistic blog about their sexual conquests.

Shop owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens wrote posts about the women they had “conquered,” often making fun of the women’s trust in them.

As soon as they were outed, they were sorry as hell. They posted some navel-gazing drivel about their motives and how really uncomfortable they had been the whole time.

In the aftermath, many, including myself, have decided we would rather die of thirst than give their business a penny.

Others have posted that Jacob and Jared don’t deserve to have their business shut down. Let’s be forgiving because, after all, how are they worse than others who use and abuse women sexually?

They aren’t worse, perhaps, but they are as bad, and just because we don’t know about some abusers doesn’t mean those we do know about should get away with it.

As a survivor of abuse, I believe these men deserve whatever karma dishes out to them. And I think having your sex life exposed by men who see you as nothing more than a place to park their penises for an evening is abuse

Let’s talk about what their victims are going through as they read about the fact that they were nothing more than a conquest. Imagine you trusted someone, perhaps even believed he liked you as a human being. You even thought this relationship might have the potential to be something special. They you discover what you really were — a notch in some dick’s dick.

And of course, we as a society usually blame the women for allowing these miscreants access to their bodies. She wore something alluring. She went to a bar. She invited him into her home.

This does not give anyone permission to disrespect, belittle or otherwise abuse you any more than a lame I-knew-I-was-doing-something-wrong gets you off the hook.

As my friend, Jodi Rhoden, pointed out on Facebook this morning, the only reason we believe this story is that the men themselves confessed. If the women had come out and said this had been done to them, would we have been so quick to condemn the men?

Our word is valued less than that of men. When we accuse, we are scolded for dragging men’s reputations through the mud because, after all, it takes two to tango.

Let’s say Jared and Jacob really are sorry, and not just because they got caught but because they had an epiphany. That’s all fine except the damage is still done. Women are still humiliated, their reputations in shambles. The hurt is there for good. The scars last a lifetime.

It’s not up to me to forgive these two men; it’s up to the women they humiliated. And even if they are forgiven, the scars of their deeds remain. You forgive so you can move on in your own life, so that you, not so much your abuser, can have peace.

You can’t undo this kind of damage. When you see human beings as objects and use them as such, you have caused permanent harm.

The owners say they will close up shop for a few days, and when they reopen they will donate profits to Our Voice, a nonprofit that works to fight violence against women.

I have a better idea. Let’s stay away from Waking Life and donate to Our Voice. That way, an agency that does great work gets our support and two misogynists don’t.

These two have betrayed the women they abused and they have betrayed their entire community. They deserve whatever consequences they get.


Middle Passage and the Journey for Justice

Middle Passage and "Granny" Ruth Zalph walking along Highway 401 in North Carolina last week.

Middle Passage and “Granny” Ruth Zalph walking along Highway 401 in North Carolina last week.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Middle Passage on my nine-day walk through North Carolina, just a few minutes at a time during mealtime and short breaks.

Still, it was easy to get the honor of the man. He started the Journey for Justice in Selma and walked through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, carrying the American flag at the head of the line.

My friend, Ruth Zalph, 85, walked alongside him for most of the nine days the walk was in North Carolina at a steady 3-mile-per-hour pace. We called him MP.

I know a little about him: He was 68 and he was a man of peace. He hugged cops when he met them so they would have a loving experience with a black man and be less likely to shoot when they encountered another.

MP was a veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. But instead of bitterness, MP came home with a heart filled with kindness. At the end of the day along the walk, he helped set up cots for other marchers.

Along the walk, we would hear his warnings of uneven pavement or a raised manhole, and at mealtime, we heard his laugh.

Love begets love. I thought of that when I noticed our journey was holding up traffic wherever we went, so I began waving and smiling at people we passed, and if their car windows were open, I thanked them for having patience with us. The response was overwhelmingly positive. People, who had looked peeved and impatient, smiled and waved back, often saying, “No problem!”

Middle Passage came from Colorado to join the march and he walked just about every step of it. He smiled most of the time.

Yesterday, three days from the Journey’s end, he collapsed along the road in Virginia and died.

People are calling him Moses — the Biblical prophet who led his people, but who died before they reached the Promised Land. I prefer he have his own identity: Middle Passage, the descendant of slaves, who led a loving life and led his friends along a nonviolent path to the seat of power to ask for justice.

His death comes as a shock because he seemed so healthy, greeting everyone with a hug or a chest bump. I learned of it late last night. I saw his photo on my Facebook feed with a quote: “We’ve all got to work together to preserve what we have. It’s a struggle. Freedom is not free.”

He died living his passion. I guess there’s something to be said for that. But he will be missed. The march continues into Washington, accompanied by his great and loving spirit. The struggle for justice goes on, and for many of us, his spirit will be a driving force.

A year ago, I heard civil rights great, Rev. Otis Moss Jr., and his son, Rev. Otis Moss III, preach a sermon about stairs and landings. The younger Moss recalled a long stairway leading to a cathedral in Europe. At one landing, an elderly man decided to sit and rest and await his family’s return. It was a metaphor for life, of course, as he turned to his father and said, “You can rest now, Dad. You’ve worked long and hard and you deserve it. I’ve got this.”

I could see my son, Michael, on that landing, waving me on to continue my work for health care justice. It shouldn’t be that way, the son waving the parent on, but it gave me courage to continue the work at a time I was feeling weary.

Now, Middle Passage is on that landing, enjoying a well deserved rest.

Rest in peace, Middle Passage, we’ve got this now.



Don’t you dare tell me about “God’s plan”

pp rallyI helped organize a counter-protest this morning to an anti-abortion protest in front of Planned Parenthood, and while I was able to keep my cool for the most part, the level of misinformation and the lack of critical thinking skills left me shaking my head in dismay (and muttering the F-bomb under my breath).

We set up across the street from Planned Parenthood and they began to trickle over to stand in front of us to hide our signs. I stood my ground in front of one man as he tried to push his way past me and threatened to call the police because I was standing my ground. He pushed me again.

“Sir, what you just did is classified as assault. If you don’t move away from me right now, I will call the police and I will press charges.”

He pushed again.

“I’m trying to save babies,” he said.

I stood firm. “I’m trying to save women. Now, move away or I will call the police and I will have you arrested for assault.”

I stared him down and he moved on.

I stood in front of another woman and she started yelling at me.

“I’m 73!” she said.

“I’m 63,” I answered. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I asked her if she’s for universal access to health care. Naturally, she said something about the poor babies.

“What about the poor women?” I asked.

“I’m a Christian,” she said.

“So am I. What about the already-born?”

I told her I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to, and then my son was killed by a health care system that wouldn’t take care of him because he couldn’t get health insurance.”

God took your son,” she said. “God has a plan.”

I lost it. Fortunately, my rabbi friend, Wolff was standing there and folded his arms around me.

“What took her son,” he said to the woman, “had nothing to do with God. Her son was killed by greed, not God.”

Meanwhile, I was sobbing and mumbling, “fuck off,” into his chest so she wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“I used to be an agnostic,” she said. “I tried every religion there is before I was born again.”

Wolff tightened his arms around me and glared at her silently.

The woman backed off, and the next time she tried to talk to me about how God took my son, I excused myself, turned around and walked away. I don’t need to talk to someone with the critical thinking skills of a rock.

“I wonder why it’s God’s will when greed kills your son, but not when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy,” Wolff said.

Great question.

Another man carrying a Christian flag tried the God thing again. He had overheard me speaking about my son.

“Bless you for choosing life,” he said. “God will bless you because God has a plan.”

I glared at him and said, “God didn’t kill my son. A greedy doctor did by choosing to let him die rather than save his life. Please just leave me alone.”

Then another woman asked why I seemed so angry because she, after all, was so loving with her anti-abortion sign.

I told her I’m angry because my son died and she and her friends didn’t seem to care about that at all.

“Oh, you’re angry because you couldn’t kill your baby,” she said.

I couldn’t even imagine where that had come from, so I explained that I had chosen not to have an abortion, but that our broken health care system had killed my child.

“So, you wish you had been the one to kill him?” she asked.

“Fuck off,” I said and walked away. That was when I had to leave. I can’t stand having someone think it’s OK that people are dying every day from lack of access to health care, that if you close women’s clinics, women die, and then turn around and call themselves “pro-life” or “Christian” because they want to limit women’s choices.

A few of the people I spoke to  wanted to see alternatives to Planned Parenthood open up, wanted to see everyone have access to health care, were anti-death penalty and anti-war. I really liked talking to them, even though we disagreed on abortion.

But the vast majority of people I encountered were ready to hate me without knowing anything about me. All it was about was their view of God and trying to force it on me. The Romanian man I met said it beautifully.

“God is there to love us and help us through the worst of things. We honor that by loving each other, even if we don’t agree.”

As we were speaking a teenage girl said to me, “God has a plan.”

“Please don’t tell me about God and plans,” I said. “If you ever lose a child, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. God had nothing to do with my son’s death; it was a greedy corrupt system where he couldn’t get insurance and he couldn’t get care. Planned Parenthood took care of me when I was uninsured and they gave me contraceptives. When I got sick, they treated me and probably saved me life. They helped me prevent an unplanned pregnancy, so you could say they helped me prevent having to have an abortion.”

A young man stepped forward and tried to tell me something about pregnancy, speaking over me as I spoke to the young woman.

“First of all,” I said, “Never talk over me. That’s just rude, and it won’t save the lives of any pre-born children, OK? And since you’ve never been pregnant and never will be, you have no place lecturing me on pregnancy.”

Let me just say it one more time for emphasis.

God did not take my son from me. God had nothing to do with it. My son died from greed. He died from a broken health care system. He died from negligent homicide.

If we take women’s clinics away, women will die, and while they may not matter to you, they matter to me and to all the people who love them.

A united front is dangerous to the enemy

We must stand together if we are to defeat the corporate forces.

We must stand together if we are to defeat the repressive corporate forces in this country.

A few days ago, a young woman saying she was with the Black Lives Matter Movement interrupted Bernie Sanders during an appearance in Seattle.

Turns out she was a provocateur — a self-described “radical Christian” and a Sarah Palin follower.

I won’t go into her choices here — they’re hers to make — but I will question people’s reaction to her action.

Several of my older white friends have said they no longer will support the Black Lives Matter Movement because of this one woman’s actions. I find that short-sighted and, quite frankly, deeply offensive.

The Black Lives Matter Movement came together in reaction to the deaths of unarmed young men. I lost a child to injustice and I can tell you, this movement is more than justified. I stand with these young people because we all need to stand together.

Whether or not this woman was affiliated with BLM isn’t the point here. The point is that her actions shouldn’t drive away those of us who believe in what Blacks Lives Matter is doing. I will continue to stand with Black Lives Matter.

The right-wingers in this country are more than pleased that we seem to be able to be split apart into smaller, less effective groups.

Even more important than that, who are we to tell our youth how to run a justice movement? The worst thing we can do as elders is to tell others “we’ve always done it this way, so you need to listen to us.” Remember, racism and other injustices are still with us, so we weren’t as right as we would like to think we were.

We had our youthful movement, and it did accomplish a lot. But we still have young, mostly black men and women being enslaved by a prison system that captures them right out of school. Private prison companies predict how many people they will have by assessing third-grade reading scores.

States run by old white men are restricting voting rights with laws that they know will affect blacks, poor people, elders and college students.

I recently was criticized for a comment on a Black Lives Matter page on Facebook and asked to take my comments to a White Allies page. In other words, let’s stay separate. We’ll keep the black people on one page and whites on another. How the hell does that help anyone? If what I say offends you, tell me why. How else are we going to unite and defeat the real enemy? Let’s have a discussion.

At the Proctor Institute in Clinton, Tenn., a few weeks ago, young people from the Black Lives Matter Movement reached out to us elders because they want to learn from us — and we eagerly met with them because we, too, have much to learn.

Look, I’m an old white woman. I know that. But I am most definitely affected by injustice toward anyone. I lost a son to an unjust health care system that deliberately neglected him for no reason other than he couldn’t afford to pay for his care. I sat by his side and held his hand as he breathed his last. Every time an unarmed young black man is shot and killed, I weep for the mother who didn’t even get to say goodbye to her child. I can’t know what it us to be black, but I do know what it is to lose a child to injustice, and if you haven’t been through that, you can’t know how it feels. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a passionate advocate. And I am grateful for every advocate for justice.

I am deeply, deeply invested in the justice movement. I am more than eager to learn from young people, from black and brown people, from anyone who will work toward a more just world with me.

This isn’t the 1960s. We didn’t have Facebook and Twitter. We didn’t have cell phones that could capture injustice in action; we had to rely on television cameras for that. Times have changed, but injustice hasn’t.

I have no right to tell anyone today that they should fight injustice the way we did 50 years ago. After all, we didn’t end war or racism or sexism. This generation has new ideas. I look forward to working with them.



Why #blacklivesmatter

A group of elders and youth met to talk about how they can work together.

A group of elders and youth met to talk about how they can work together.

Have you wondered why the hastag isn’t about all lives mattering?

Well, I have a story for you.

I’m in Clinton, Tenn., at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Proctor Institute, a week-long retreat of preaching and workshops devoted to social justice for children.

Of course, that means social justice for their parents and others who love and care for them, but let’s start with children.

I listened to a panel of three teenage boys today who have lived through unimaginable horrors.

One young man’s father left before he was out of diapers. His mother went on to have several more children and then sank into deep, deep despair and hopelessness as she struggled to care for her children.

By the time he was 8, this young man had lost his first friend to a bullet.

As his mother was unable to care for the family, he was left to care for his siblings.

“We ate toast for a month once,” he said. “I knew I had to do something because I couldn’t have my family eating toast every day.”

He is entering his senior year in high school as a star athlete and his prospects for college look good. But it pales in the face of the losses he has suffered.

“I have been to 12 funerals since my freshman year,” he said. “I have lost all my friends. All of them.”

Next to him sat a young man who was expelled from school after the school’s safety officer lied about him making racist threats.

“I asked him why he lied. I asked him why he thought I could even BE racist, since he was the one with the power.”

This kid finished his school year online, making excellent grades by going to the library every day to do his work on the computers there.

At dinner, I sat next to a man who spent 17 years on Death Row for a crime he didn’t commit. He is grateful to be out in the world again.

“Want to know the first time I ever set foot in Tennessee?” he asked. “When I was brought here in shackles and chains to stand trial for a crime I didn’t commit.”

He finished high school and became a paralegal while in prison.

Black men are 27 times more likely to be shot by police. They die in the streets in their own neighborhoods because no one cares what happens to them. Their schools are neglected.

One young man from Philadelphia said today that 40 inner-city schools have been closed in his city and a $1.3 billion prison built in his neighborhood.

Another told me about how friends have been suspended from school for not wearing a belt. Suspension often means involvement with the “justice” system, and for-profit prisons are just waiting for this new inventory.

I have met a group of youths from the Black Lives Matter Movement. Several also are in the Moral Monday Movement. I know their stories, and the atrocities they face would never have happened where I grew up because I lived in a pretty much all white town.

I listened to them today as they met with a group of “elders,” both black and white.

The idea was formed at the breakfast table when someone said they should gather with their elders and form a coalition to seek social justice for people in poverty. Not just black people in poverty, although the majority of people in poverty are people of color.

At lunchtime, dozens of young people met to talk about what they might do in such a coalition, and at 4:15, more than 50 of us met in a small room to talk about how we might work to improve the lives of people in poverty and how we might get government to work with us.

Tonight, the youth are writing a document asking the predominantly black protestant denominations to work with youth. They will present it at national conventions as an item to be adopted.

You can’t call these kids lazy or stupid. They are smart, dedicated and desperately hoping to bring about change in peaceful ways, if that’s possible.

It was deeply rewarding to sit in a room with these young people who want to seek the wisdom of those of us who participated in the Civil Rights, the anti-war and the women’s movements in the 1950s through the 1970s. We are eager to hear their ideas and to work with them.

The lives we change will be mostly black and Latino because more of them are in poverty. But we all will benefit from the lifting up of the least of these, as Jesus called the people in the margins.

Yes, all lives matter, but right now, institutionalized racism affects — and kills — more black people than white, and we need to recognize that. We need to change that.



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