Category Archives: Cross-Generational Conversation: YAFS & OFFs

My Campus Crusade for Free Speech, 1963

I

            Not long ago, over a friendly lunch near a progressive college, I told the story below to a rising young academic.

            As he listened, his eyes widened. Then he shook his head, and put down his fork.

            “You could never do that now,” he said quietly.

            Did I hear regret? Maybe even a touch of apprehension? (Was it: You couldn’t do that now, because “they” wouldn’t let you? Or, “they” (maybe a different “they”) would stop you from doing it, by  force if need be?)

            I wasn’t surprised at this reaction. Not today. But then, and there, we would have thought it outlandish, even absurd.

 II

            “Then” was the fall of 1963; “there” was Colorado State University, or CSU, which was spreading out along the front range of the Rockies, an hour or so north of Denver.

The Administration Building at CSU, Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1963.

And “we” were Dennis Lone, editor of the Collegian, the campus paper, and me, a budding writer who produced a widely-read, pot-stirring weekly column for his pages.

            On a Saturday morning in September, Dennis and I were hanging out in the Collegian office. It was otherwise deserted: the paper didn’t print on weekends.

The CSU seal, in the 1960s

            We were bored. Our social lives were nothing to brag about. The CSU football team was on a record-setting 28-game losing streak. Culturally, CSU was then a backwater, deep in what would one day become “flyover country.”

From a far away Outside World, faint echoes could be heard of civil rights protests and political struggles, but most were shrugged off in what a few of us decried as our “hotbed of apathy.”

            I slouched; he smoked. When Dennis, who had been paging through a thick weekend issue of the Rocky Mountain News, said, “Hey, listen to this,” I only half-perked up.

            “What?”

            “It looks like James Meredith is coming to Denver.”

            I sat up straight. “What?” I said again.

Chuck Fager, CSU 1963

            He read a brief notice, announcing that Meredith, who had desegregated the University of Mississippi in September of 1962, was to speak to the Denver chapter of the NAACP.

            “Wow, that sounds exciting,” I said.

            Meredith’s arrival on the Mississippi campus had set off riots that killed two, and required federal troops to quell.  Until he graduated in August 1963, he had federal marshals as constant bodyguards when attending classes.

            As Dennis read, I grew wistful. “I wish he was coming to speak here, too,” I said. “But you know this place. . . .”

            Dennis looked up. “We could ask him,” he said, with an offhand practicality.

Dennis Lone, at the Editor’s desk in the CSU Collegian office, 1963.

            “Could we really?” I said. “How?”

            Dennis was a reporter, and he was thinking like one: a former Collegian editor now worked at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Dennis called him, got an NAACP contact, who gave him an address in Mississippi. But no phone number.

            “Oh no,” I fretted, “There’s not enough time to write him a letter.”

            Dennis was undaunted. “We could send him a telegram.”

            A telegram! I’d never sent one. Didn’t they cost a fortune?

James Meredith, center, is escorted to the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. marshals on Oct. 1, 1962.

            Not really, it turned out, if one kept them brief. And ours was: would he come speak at CSU while he was in Colorado?

            I was excited, but still skeptical: A living specimen of that distant Outside World — here, at Apathy State U, up in Backwater County? It seemed very unlikely. But what the hey? The worst he could say was “No.” Worth a shot.

            And two days later, Dennis was waving a pale yellow telegram reply in my face: “Meredith says yes!”

 III

            That is, James Meredith said “Yes,” he’d be happy to speak at CSU–for $500. (About $4000 in 2017 cash.)

            It was a reasonable price. But there was a hitch: we didn’t have it.

            But we got past this hurdle: after some pleading, the student legislature reluctantly agreed to underwrite the fee, and we agreed to collect admission of fifty cents each ($4 in 2017 money) to help recover it.

            Then Dennis and I shamelessly exercised our media influence to hype the talk: I wrote a column, he published articles, the buzz spread, our hopes were high.

            Sure enough: something like 1300 students and faculty filled most of the Student Center’s big ballroom, likely a record. The turnout meant we not only covered Meredith’s fee: the student legislature — to their amazement– actually made a profit.

            Further, Meredith’s speech hit the mark. No stemwinder, he didn’t try to compete with Dr. King or other eloquent movement orators. Instead, he calmly told of growing up respectably poor, joining the Air Force, and wanting to use his veteran’s benefits to become the first in his family to attend college, at a state-supported university.

James Meredith at CSU, September, 1963.

            The room was pin-drop quiet as this basically undramatic story unreeled. That’s because, apart from the riots which it evoked, it was very familiar to many of those present: CSU was not an elite school, with generations of legacy admissions. Many listening were likewise among the first in our families to go beyond high school. Veterans’ benefits after World War Two and Korea –and low public college tuitions –played a big part in opening those doors; the same was true for many of the CSU faculty.

            So even though Meredith was speaking to a virtually all-white crowd, across unimaginable cultural gaps of slavery and segregation, the basic arc of his aspirations was something many in this CSU audience could relate to at a deep level. The fact that Meredith’s path became a death-defying quest gave it depth without the need for soaring rhetorical flourishes. And among the many who were moved by his words was me.

             I was also moved before the speech by an unexpected behind-the-scenes shock: to save on expenses, I had invited Meredith to stay at my fraternity, called FarmHouse.  Members were permitted to do this, occasionally, and I hadn’t done it before.

            What I had done, though, before I joined FarmHouse, was check its Bylaws, to see if they included discriminatory membership clauses (still common in those days). They didn’t. Their motto, “We Build Men,” was okay too.

            Further, in those years FarmHouse regularly won the trophy for the highest grade average of any frat at CSU.

           All good. But personal attitudes, unspoken til now, were something else. When word spread around the house about what I had done, I was pulled into an impromptu chapter meeting, and was stunned to hear several members declare that they couldn’t accept having a black person stay in the house. Before I had absorbed these comments, a vote was taken and my invitation to Meredith was overruled.

           I staggered out, wondering if I had been teleported to Mississippi, and began writing a resignation letter in my head.

           But the next morning, word of this decision had somehow reached the CSU administration. Our chapter president was summoned, and reportedly read the riot act. I don’t know what was said, but expect it went something like this:

          “Do you know what will  happen when this hits the press? A man who had to have the army escort him into a public university was turned away by a group at CSU? Do you want that spotlight pointed at FarmHouse? And your alma mater? Do you expect us to put up with that?”

          The fraternities were private groups, but were chartered by the university; and what CSU gave, CSU could take away.

          After lunch that same day, another emergency chapter meeting was convened. The officers told us the house and its reputation were on the line; news of the refusal would be devastating.

         Two or three of the hardliners against inviting Meredith stood to agree. They said that “somebody” (sneering in my direction), had snitched to the authorities and betrayed our brotherhood. Now we all had to swallow hard, bite the bullet, and save its good name from the traitor.

         Another vote was taken; the invitation was sullenly, reluctantly revived.

         Meredith did stay at FarmHouse, without incident. While with him at dinner that evening, I noticed a few absences; no doubt a number of the hard core took shelter elsewhere.  But as we left the house for the student center, he never suspected a thing.

        No word of this incident leaked out (until now); the FarmHouse reputation was saved. But it ruined my relationships there; I did resign a few months later.

       And my conscience was clear. I hadn’t called the administration. My guess was a conscience-stricken officer had done it, or someone else was bragging too loud where somebody outside heard him. Instant karma, even then.         

IV

            The morning after his speech, Meredith returned to Mississippi; Dennis and I basked in the afterglow of our successful debut as accidental undergraduate impresarios.

            A couple of days later, we held an open discussion where students and faculty could talk about what Meredith had to say. Following the meeting, a student came up to us and said, “So you’ve presented one side of the issue. Are you going to present the other?”

            Light bulbs appeared above our heads: if we could do this once, why not do it again?

            Soon Dennis was back on the phone.

            He called the office of Arizona’s Republican Senator, Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was running for president and was an opponent of the civil rights bill then in Congress ; but no dice. I think they figured conservative Colorado was in the bag (if so, they were very mistaken: Lyndon Johnson beat Goldwater by 23 points in his 1964 landslide. But that’s another story.)

            However, two pro-segregation insurgents were eager to visit CSU: one was Ross Barnett, at that time the governor of Mississippi who had vowed to keep Meredith out of “Ole Miss”; the other was George Wallace, the sitting governor of Alabama. Both came in January 1964.

Ross Barnett at CSU.

            By the time Barnett got to CSU, he was out of office, so he traveled on a commercial flight sans retinue. Barnett was fascinating, in a repulsive way: he shouted more than spoke, and in his ranting we could imagine him stumping his mostly rural state, exploiting the fear and rage of a poorly-educated white electorate. But as he finished, I understood much better why it took federal troops to get Meredith enrolled at “Ole Miss,” and a continuous bodyguard detail to keep him alive there.

            But Barnett was old news compared to George Wallace who, as a sitting governor, traveled on an Alabama state aircraft with an assortment of aides and bodyguards. Where Barnett voiced the racism of yesteryear, Wallace was preaching an updated racist gospel for 1963–and, we now know, for decades to come. He too was running for president, but as an insurgent Democrat, and would soon be shaking up primaries in seemingly enlightened states like Wisconsin.

Gov. George Wallace at CSU.

            Wallace was slick and smart. He fenced deftly and often humorously with our questioning local liberals. His speeches were peppered with attacks on intellectuals and “pinkos,” loud calls to “Send Them a message” about “law and  order,” mixed with populist promises of raising Social Security payments. His themes and memes exposed deep veins of rhetorical ore which was to be refined into winning campaign messages by his rightwing populist successors for a half-century to come (and counting). And we got to watch him do it.

  V

            After that busy January, Dennis and I were on a roll. We had brought voices from the Outside World into our backwater, and they were stirring the pot, waking us up. Both Barnett and Wallace brought out protest picketers (peaceful), a new thing at CSU. But did putting racist reactionaries like Wallace and Barnett allow them to peddle their political wares, influence students, recruit followers?

            Good question. And for sure, the two influenced me. Not to become a supporter; just the opposite. But they, along with Meredith, showed me the reality of forces and ideas that were previously  only occasional headlines.

           Yet who knows, maybe some among the large crowds we gathered bought into parts or all of their platform. (After all, in 2016, 52 years later, 43 per cent of Colorado’s voters cast ballots for a racist populist, one of George Wallace’s direct heirs. No question: ideas have consequences.)

            But after three speeches that had happened almost accidentally, we decided to take a more thoughtful approach. Political and social extremes were becoming more apparent in the country, underscored by the national trauma of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963.

Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy, at John Kennedy’s funeral, November, 1963.

            So why not present a series of speeches on the theme of extremism? We had been on both sides of civil rights; what if we next went with a right-wing extremist, followed with a left-wing extremist, and wound up with Attorney General Robert Kennedy talking about the impact of extremism in the country.

 (RFK? “Hey,” as Dennis said, “if you’re gonna dream, dream big.”)

            We didn’t get Kennedy. And neither of us was particularly political. But like all red-blooded Americans in 1963 and 1964, we knew Communism was The Enemy. So what about a Communist?

            Now this, we dimly perceived, could in fact be controversial; while we were vague on the details (I knew nothing of the Hollywood Ten, and little of McCarthyism), we knew that the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover was still warning us that they (or their dupes) were everywhere — even if, in fact, actual Communist speakers often had great difficulty getting a hearing.

            Yet we had listened to Wallace and Barnett, and the sky didn’t fall. So why stop now?

            But things weren’t quite so easy this time around. Dennis gave it his best shot. But in 1963, after years of hysteria, the American Communist Party barely existed. Its membership had been decimated by years of government persecution and FBI Infiltration. It had also lost credibility with many former members, disillusioned by the party’s unshakably loyalty to the repressive Soviet regime.

           The U.S. party leader, Gus Hall, was based in New York. He did give speeches on college campuses, but was an early denizen of “flyover country,” and we failed to tempt him to add a stop in Colorado.

            While we worked on finding another suitably notorious Communist, we also set out to get a right-wing spokesman. This one was easier.

            What was the most right-wing organization in the country? The Nazi Party, of course. And George Lincoln Rockwell, its flamboyant leader, was only too happy to talk to anyone who would listen. One telegram and he was set to go.

 VI

George Lincoln Rockwell, making his views plain.

          When Rockwell came, we moved to a smaller theater space in the student center, where it was still standing room only. Rockwell’s speech was a bombastic stream of bizarre sociological and anthropological “facts” that added up to, “they’re bad and we’re good.”  I remember him saying that there were “breeds of people, just like breeds of dogs.” Dennis and I did not sit on a platform with him, as we had the others; the front row was close enough.

Rockwell at CSU. Several people walked out during his presentation advocating racism, anti-semitism & national socialism.

         Rockwell caused lots of talk. A few days after his speech, some sociology professors held an open discussion they titled, “Is George Lincoln Rockwell a Closet Homosexual?”
           While many dismissed Rockwell as a kind of evil clown, and he was murdered by own of his own in 1967, he remains a cult figure for sectors of the rightwing which are still around.

            Meanwhile, after he left we didn’t have any luck booking more speakers.

          Which in some ways was a relief; I was a senior, preparing to move on from CSU, and Dennis still had a newspaper to put out. Then one day Dennis got a call at the Collegian office from CSU’s President, William E. Morgan. Morgan, who was genuinely respected by the students and faculty (and by us), told Dennis he had just talked to an alumnus, who referred to our speakers and wanted to know who was going to appear on campus next, Mao Zedong?

             Dennis couldn’t resist: “If I thought we could get him,” he said, “I’d send him a telegram today.”

William E. Morgan, longtime president of CSU. He quietly backed us up.

             President Morgan said he supported what we had done and still would if we wanted to continue, but wanted us to know that some people outside CSU were taking a dim view of our activities.

            He didn’t say anything about our speaker series in public; he didn’t have to. But would Morgan really have stuck with us if we had found a Communist? I believe so, although he would likely have taken some more heat. And as a political appointee, answerable to the state legislature for budgets, it could have gotten difficult for him.

             So, given our problems with lining up speakers, the apparent decline in interest among the students, and our own distractions, our series quietly petered out, after what still seems like a pretty good run. 

              Looking back from half a century-plus, Dennis and I have somewhat different feelings about our season of applying the First Amendment. For Dennis, never one to be burdened by gravitas, it was all a fun adventure, on a par with the time he sent Collegian reporters (including Chuck) to infiltrate the local American Legion stag show and report on which city officials attended. He would have been incredulous if anyone had suggested we couldn’t or shouldn’t bring the speakers.

              For me (Chuck) It was also a lot of fun, notwithstanding my frat house ordeal. Yet I also took much of it to heart. And it still seems like something close to what college is supposed to be about, even the difficult parts: hearing and grappling not only with unwelcome and even offensive ideas, but also the people who advocate them.

             One more time, I agree with those who say today that speech has consequences: I left CSU after the summer sessions of 1964, and within six months was in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King in Alabama.

               But that’s another story.  

“Disinvited” a Poem for Friends of A Certain Age

Disinvited — composed on learning a Friend was “disinvited” to the  Philadelphia YAF Weekend Retreat

There was a recent FB notice here in Carolina for a YAF gathering (only for dinner-plus, not a weekend),
And it specified the age range as “18-40-ish.”
Couldn’t help it: I snickered.

Pop Quiz: Who’s the youngest in this photo?

Continue reading “Disinvited” a Poem for Friends of A Certain Age

Breaking: Dale Earnhart Jr. Backs Athletes’ Protests

I give up. 

I was planning to ignore the NFL protests. Why? As regular readers will know, I despise the NFL and pro football, considering both to be mainly a fiendishly successful ongoing racist plot to find and destroy many of the best and most promising youths of color year after year. and persuade too many other persons of color to cheer it on.

You ask me, the KKK couldn’t have cooked up a more thoroughly and successfully racist scheme.

I’m not surprised that millions of whites cheer themselves  hoarse watching so many strong young back men bashing their brains out on live TV. But really, why should anyone who believes “Black Lives Matter” join the shouting?

Well anyway, in the midst of this orgy of youthful self-destruction, the kneeling, fist-raising & other athlete protests are clearly a great thing, maybe the only positive contribution I can see the game is making to our society today. Even if Colin Kaepernick never plays another NFL game, he’s secured a place in American history.

And the power of what he started is undeniable: when it gets the goat of the jackass in the White House, and exposes (yet again) the racist underside of his attitudes — what’s not to like, even for  a curmudgeon like me?

Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, 1960.

The obnoxious, vulgar character of so much of the opposition reminds me of nothing so much as the segregationist assaults on the similarly dignified sit-ins at segregated lunch counters which began in Greensboro NC in 1960, They too were polite, peaceful, and — yes — patriotic.

And like the Greensboro protests, the NFL-spawned movement is spreading, to the most unlikely places. No, not the NBA — well, yes, the NBA, but that’s not really a surprise; we already knew those guys could  talk some smack. 

Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell lays his major league baseball career on the line. Let’s hope he has some backup soon.

More stunning, it’s even jumped the whitewashed wall that surrounds Major League baseball, with its nearly all-white fan base. Hats off to Oakland’s Bruce Maxwell: today he’s a lonely hero; I hope his solitude does not last long.

But even more stunning to me is that one of the biggest voices in NASCAR has now joined this chorus. NASCAR’s roots are sunk about as deep as you can get in the white South, and Confederate regalia is still widely seen in its precincts. Further, its rulers have taken a hard line against the protests.

A not untypical display at NASCAR’s Daytona track, 2015. The sport’s rulers have “asked” fans to chill on the rebel regalia; the response has often been, well, rebellious.

But Dale Earnhart Jr., son of NASCAR’s most famous early driver and a multiple-championship winner himself, has defied the NASCAR barons by tweeting support for the protests.

 

 

 

 

 

Earnhart has said 2017 will be his last season, and he’s reported to be worth $300 million, so he’s beyond the disciplinary reach of the other NASCAR overseers. And as he was crowned the Most Popular NASCAR Driver for 14 seasons, his opinion can’t help but be influential.

The late great comedian Dick Gregory once joked about the Woolworth protests that, “I sat in at a lunch counter for nine months. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.”

For that  matter, both lunch lunch counters and Woolworth’s are pretty much history now. But as Gregory well knew, the protests that started there were about a lot more than a sandwich, and their impact reverberated far beyond the aisles of old-time department stores. 

I’m figuring this athlete’s protest movement is, or soon will  be, about a lot more than variously-shaped balls, or driving around a track a few hundred times. Plus, the bad-tempered shouts from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will only add fuel to their peaceful but  blazing fire. And if, like the old lunch counters, NFL football (and NASCAR) are on the slide today, boosting this struggle for justice could be one of the best swan songs such bigtime sports could offer the country that made them what they have been.

So drop to that knee, then play ball, and let’s roll. 

 

Making (Quaker) History: the Roundtable Is Now on Video!

Lots of questions! (Plus videos.)

By the end of the Quaker History Roundtable last weekend, there were lots of questions; several flip chart sheets worth.

We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday morning June 11, after fourteen lively presentations, with a brainstorming session on research we’d like to see about American Quakerism in the last century. 

We had already accumulated two flip chart pages of suggestions. And in two more hours, we filled several more sheets. Only the fact that it was time to head home brought the intellectual jam session to a close.

This should not be surprising. Both the energy and the curiosity had been running high since . We had learned a lot in the fourteen formal presentations since Thursday evening. But there was so much more to explore.

Presenters Isaac May (left) and Guy Aiken (left center) listen as ESR’s Lonnie Valentine (hands raised) pursues an idea, as Jeff Dudiak from Canada (right) listens in.

Back home after this extraordinary long  weekend, the ideas are still echoing,  and calling.

There was a lot to like at the Quaker History Roundtable,, at least for me. Here are several things in particular:

  1. The mix of elders and rising talent. Our lineup included some of the most distinguished senior Quaker historians still active, and several young researchers and archivists who are just entering the field.
  2. In addition, we did pretty well elsewhere on the diversity front: there were participants of color, LGBTQ, close to parity male/female; various branches were represented, and at least one was a registered Republican.
    Group photo of presenters. Back row (left to right): Doug Gwyn, Dick Nurse, Tom Hamm, Guy Aiken, Chuck Fager, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen; Middle row: Janet Gardner, Betsy Cazden, Steve McNeil, Gwen osney Erickson, Emma Lapsansky, Mary Craudereuff; Seated, front: Greg Hinshaw, Larry Ingle, Isaac May & Steve Angell. Thanks to all!
  3. This variety was not the result of a planning committee checking off boxes. Presenters stepped up, and brought papers as their ticket of admission. So active interest in what has happened among American Friends of late is found on numerous points of the spectrum.
  4. There was a sense of immediacy and connection. Many events that presenters wrote about, some of us had lived through, or had personally felt the reverberations. And in some cases, though the “history” goes back many decades, it is far from over yet.
    Larry Ingle, retired author of a landmark study of the Separation of 1827 and the leading biography of George Fox, describes the ambiguous response of Quaker officials to the famous Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers Communist spy scandals of the late 1940s and early 1950s — a case that launched a young Quaker Congressman, Richard Nixon, onto the national stage. Beside hm is Isaac May, a doctoral student from the University of Virginia. Isaac examined the 1928 presidential election, which pitted a world-famous Friend, Herbert Hoover, against Catholic Al Smith. The contest, he showed, brought out much that was not very uplifting about Friends.
  5. Willingness to open up tough questions: Does FUM have a future? Was there militant segregation, war fever & homophobia in a large southern yearly meeting? (And how much still lingers?)  Communists working with AFSC?
    Other socialist influence among Friends then?
  6. Gwen Gosney Erickson (left) from Guilford listens to Mary Craudereuff, from Haverford, describing plans to renovate and expand their archival collection and facility. They also grappled with questions such as: who gets remembered and documented in Quaker archives? How do these collections find ways to broaden their work to better include communities and persons whose voices are marginalized or silenced?

     Archives are exciting! Staff from four major collections (Lilly Library at Earlham, Haverford, Guilford College’s Quaker Historical Collection & Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library) showed that their stacks and vaults are not only rich treasure troves of insight and answers for seekers, but also arenas for some of today’s most contested questions, and magnets for talented younger Friends.
    It was no accident that the Roundtable was opened by two very articulate archivists, focusing on such issues. They voiced plenty to ponder & work on here, both in and out of the stacks.
  7. A supportive setting. Major kudos are due to to the Earlham School of Religion, from Dean Jay Marshall to its office staff, for unstinted support and active hospitality to the Roundtable project.
    ESR Dean Jay Marshall, welcoming us to Indiana. Backing him up were staffers Miriam Bunner, Mandy Ford, videographer Ryan Frame, students Eva Abbott, Anne Hutchinson & John & Elizabeth Edminster, and faculty Steve Angell. My apologies to the kitchen staff & other volunteers who helped out in various sessions, and whose names I did not record.

    The facilities were comfortable and compact (no need to wander a sprawling campus, unless one wanted to). Meals were ready on time; and staff & volunteers were ready to help ease the many details; the video cameras ran quietly and continuously.
  8.  Media to share the event: by autumn, there will be a book of papers, which will include the Research Agenda notes as well.
    And in the meantime, videos of the presentation have just been uploaded by ESR’s intrepid videographer,  Ryan Frame, You can find them, in nine segments, by clicking here.

Watching is free and no registration or other data sharing is required. (But comments are welcome!)

What can become of  a venture like this? My hope is that it stimulates & encourages more research and reflective presentations on these and the many other remarkable events, personalities, troubles and accomplishments that marked Quakerism’s 20th century in the U. S. These can show up in many venues; keep an eye out.

 

For those skeptics who doubted the existence of the Quaker History Roundtable.

 

 

Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

When Friends pulled the rope on the bell atop Spring Friends Meeting, the ringing convened the Carolina Friends Emergency Consultation on March 25. And its session began with cheers & applause.

Pull the rope, ring the bell for victory over the AHCA, and to call for continued resistance.

That’s because there was a major success to celebrate: the abrupt, inglorious end of the so-called “American Health Care Act” the day before. Continue reading Ringing Spring’s Bell for Continued Quaker Resistance

A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

NOTE: This report has been updated as of late Feb. 14. The update is here.

News background:

Wynnewood (Philadelphia) PA, February 13, 2017: “Two Friends’ Central School teachers who supervised a club that invited a Palestinian speaker to the Wynnewood campus — an appearance the school canceled after some parents and students complained — were placed on administrative leave Monday morning.

Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College Peace & Conflict Studies Assistant Professor.
 

English teacher Ariel Eure, 25, and history teacher Layla Helwa, 26, were called to an off-campus meeting with Craig Sellers, the head of school, and a human resources manager, and informed they were suspended indefinitely, said Mark D. Schwartz, a lawyer and former parent at the school who is representing the women.

Schwartz said that he tried to attend the 7:30 a.m. meeting at the Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby, but that school officials turned him away. The teachers were told they were being suspended for disobeying a supervisor and for having a “single-minded approach to a complicated issue for the community,” he said.

“This was done in a non-Quaker fashion,” Schwartz said. “It was more like storm trooper fashion.”

Late Monday afternoon, the administration released a statement: “As a Quaker school, we have long-standing expectations for all members of our community – especially for our teachers, who have the responsibility of guiding young minds. There are very real concerns about the conduct of Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa for their disregard of our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace, and integrity. As of today, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa are on indefinite paid administrative leave while a more extensive review is conducted.”

The controversy has stirred passions at the school and shone a light on a thorny issue for many Quaker schools: While the American Friends Service Committee supports putting economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, many students at Quaker schools are Jewish.

Sa’ed Atshan, a Swarthmore College professor and a Quaker, had been invited to speak Friday by the school’s Peace and Equality in Palestine Club, which formed last April. After parents complained about Atshan’s ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates punitive measures against Israel, the school rescinded the invitation.

About 65 students walked out of a weekly Meeting for Sharing on Wednesday to protest the cancellation, while others stood and read a statement. Eure and Helwa walked out with the students. . . .”

Cathy Bocella, Staff Reporter, phillynews.com

Continue reading A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist!

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

Let’s talk about building a wall to keep out immigrants; it’s a thing in the current campaign. But it’s not a new idea. How about this earlier version?

kkk-wall-vs-immigration

The image is from 1928, and a bit fuzzy. Note the three faces peeking over the wall: the “Red” is for eastern Europeans & Jews; “Rum” is for Irish, as deemed to be all drunkards, and stupid; and at left, the one with the big pointed hat is the Catholic church, as the force behind immigrants from Italy and other predominantly Catholic countries (especially Irish again).

Today the wall would be on the Mexican border, and focus on keeping out Latinos and Muslims. But the image is, to me, eerily familiar. Continue reading The Spirit of the Klan Haunts the 2016 Election

Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Three brief items for those following the fallout from the decision by Northwest YM to West Hills Friends in Portland for becoming a  welcoming place for LGBT persons.

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A graphic from the West Hills website.

First,  I’m advised that the question has been set for the called NWYM representative meeting on December 9-10. It comes at the  end of this excerpt from a “tentative agenda” that came to hand: Continue reading Northwest Update: The Expulsion Plot Thickens

Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

How does a group in power get what it wants from a divided Quaker body, given the practice of seeking “unity” or a near-unanimous “consensus” for action?

It’s not hard, and we’ll get to how it can be done in a moment. First, some background:

As reported in our October 22 post, there’s movement in Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM), on the case of the expulsion of West Hills Friends (WHF) in Portland OR, by the NWYM Elders, in July 2015. West Hills is a LGBT-welcoming meeting.

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The NWYM Administrative Council recently proposed that a joint statement be issued by both West Hills and NWYM, in which West Hills would agree to accept its expulsion. (Full text of the proposed statement is here.) Continue reading Update-Northwest YM Gay Expulsion: The Power In Posing The Question

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

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Went to see this movie at the Tuesday bargain matinee. The film was the surprise box office winner for films that opened last weekend.

My goal for it was twofold:

1. Pig out on popcorn (no added “butter,” free refill); and

2. Be distracted from the fearful foolishness outside.

I’m aware that there are some black sophisticates who sneer at producer/writer/actor Tyler Perry & his famed drag character Madea as retrograde & politically incorrect.

Personally, I’m in awe of both: Perry is no puppet of white moviemakers: he built an empire by creating a strong, original character who combines many of the paradoxes of the culture and makes them tolerable through broad comedy. And he gathered his following from the ground up with black audiences. Many of Perry’s films seem clumsily assembled, yet Madea outshines them and survives.

“Boo!” involves the standard Perry ingredients: sassy but vulnerable youth; elders who are hilariously obnoxious, often off-color, pot-smoking (mostly legal this time) & foul-mouthed. The plot is far-fetched & mainly irrelevant, with a dollop of throwback piety to reassure the nervous churchgoers tittering in the back.

Never mind the story; it rolls along. The point is, I came out two hours later, still chuckling. And not til the car radio went on did I realize I hadn’t thought about the damn election & all that, not even for a second, for more than two hours:

That’s worth five stars & a bushel of rotten tomatoes. Money’s worth, totally.

Here’s the trailer.

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Tyler Perry. While some scoff, he & his characters (above) are laughing all the way to the bank.