Category Archives: Social Justice

For MLK Day: Stories from Selma, January 16

Two Nights & a Lifetime with Dr. King

Next Monday will be devoted to the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was my good fortune to work under Dr. King in the great voting rights campaign he led with others in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Besides being historic for America, that experience was formative for me. It led me to jail, to a repudiation of war, and even to Quakers.

Monday evening at Pendle Hill, starting at 7:30 PM, as part of this remembrance, I’ll be talking about that experience, and you’re invited. Details are here, and it’s free.

In December 1964, I joined the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta. Shortly thereafter I was sent by SCLC to Selma, Alabama, where I worked in the Voting Rights Movement organized by Dr. King and SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Continue reading For MLK Day: Stories from Selma, January 16

A family story for today: “I Hate Dill Pickles”

Spring 2018; or maybe tomorrow

Sara Rahman was my best friend then. “BFFs, Amber,” she often said to me.  And some of the best times we had were while walking home from school.

We joked and laughed about everything – stuff in school, books she was reading, her dorky big brother Ahmed, even some of the sillier songs from “American Idol.”

Maybe we were having too much fun. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone running up to the ice cream truck that came jangling by and pulled over to the curb.

But it was a warm spring Thursday, and Sara had five dollars in her pocket, a pre-birthday present from her aunt, and she loved ice cream.

“Especially butter pecan,” she said. “That’s my very favorite.” So we did stop at the ice cream truck. No butter pecan, but they did have big cones of cookies and cream, so Sara got one of those, and bought me an Eskimo pie.

The Eskimo pie was good, but Sara’s cone must have been better. Not only was it sweet and cold, but by the time we turned onto Hillside, our street, it had taken on an extra identity as a karaoke microphone. She was acting out one of the more outlandish American Idol numbers – I can’t remember now if it was Haley or Sanjaya — singing into the melting ice cream and sashaying down the sidewalk.

“Watch this, Amber,” Sara said, building up to a big finish. She whirled around and threw her arms out in a wide flourish.

And when she did, the scoop of soft cookies and cream flew right off the top of the cone and landed splat! on the side window of a parked silver-gray van. Continue reading A family story for today: “I Hate Dill Pickles”

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

Law & Order’s Special Victims Unit had nothing on Genevieve “Gigi” Burkhalter of Durham NC; but that wasn’t going to stop the North Carolina state troopers who do security at the governor’s mansion in Raleigh. The mansion is currently occupied by governor Pat McCrory, known worldwide as the face of HB2, Carolina’s trans-hostile Bathroom Law.

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Governor’s mansion, Raleigh North Carolina.

The troopers were sure they saw a crime being committed there under cover of darkness on April 15,  2016, and when they followed up what they saw on a security videocam, there it was, on the green lawn near the mansion.

A bomb? A corpse? A cache of erased State Department emails? No, wait — it was a toilet. Continue reading The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

Let’s Salute the Flag & Stand for the Anthem — Oh, Wait!

Let’s Salute the Flag & Stand for the Anthem — Oh, Wait!

manzanar-with-snow

This flag was flying over the Manzanar relocation camp in the high desert of California in 1942. Manzanar, as well as nine other camps were packed with more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, who were taken from their homes shortly after the U.S. entered World War Two against Japan & Germany. Most lost everything they had owned.

Manzanar is now a National Historic Park. And it’s one that Quakers have a lot invested in, though not many of us know that.

Continue reading Let’s Salute the Flag & Stand for the Anthem — Oh, Wait!

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

    Friend Jim Corbett, of Pima Meeting in Tucson, died on his Arizona ranch August 2, 2001 after a short illness. He was 67.

    With his passing a quiet Quaker giant departed.

    I for one am grateful to have lived in the same two centuries as he. For those who become familiar with the important strands of Quaker thought and action of our time, I believe Jim’s life and work will loom even larger with time.

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Jim Corbett, speaking at Friends General Conference in 1986, not long after he escaped conviction on charges of illegally aiding refugees fleeing Central American wars.

    Not that we’ll see a lot of monuments to him; he deserves them, but that wasn’t his way, and Quakers aren’t much for it.

    But a tribute is due, and here’s mine. It’s an adaptation of a profile of Jim that was part of my book, Without Apology.  Continue reading Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Carolina Quakers (A Few, at Least) Speak On HB2

The political purpose behind the notorious North Carolina “Bathroom Bill” or HB2, has never been hard to figure out: it is carefully aimed to stir up sexual anxiety among many in the state’s Republican base, and thus to maximize turnout in this fall’s election.

imageA similar ploy, to put a ban on same sex marriage (which was already illegal) into the state constitution was tried in 2012. Silly alarmist rhetoric was rolled out, about churches being invaded and ministers jailed, and the ban passed. Though soon struck down in court, the maneuver worked quite well politically: very conservative candidates swept the North Carolina legislature.

This year, a new panic was ginned up over mythical hordes of hulking male predators scheming to masquerade as transgender women so they could invade bathrooms and assault “little girls”. The idea is absurd (& such assaults are already illegal) but could well maximize conservative turnout again, and cement the right’s power base here.

For that matter, HB2’s bathroom provision was a very effective cover for the law’s other, more substantive provisions, which did very real harm, by stripping the state’s cities and citizens of several other rights, including some unrelated to gender, but very much to do with advantages to some greedy corporate interests. Continue reading Carolina Quakers (A Few, at Least) Speak On HB2

May 4 –What a Day — Part One

May 4 –What a Day — Part One

A visit to Kent State University has been on my Bucket list for a long time. About 48 years, in fact. Two weeks ago, it finally happened, with the help of good friends Henry Bloom & Mar Malkin.

It was, at long last, a warm welcome spring day in northern Ohio. KSU students were taking advantage of it by hanging hammocks between the trees, as can be seen beyond the marker: lounging, reading, cuddling. Why not? Leave this sad history to the trickle of gawking geezers. Continue reading May 4 –What a Day — Part One

Eating Dr. King’s Dinner – A Moderately Long Holiday Read

On February 1, 1965, I was arrested in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King and 250 others. Here’s what happened that day, and how I ended up eating Dr. King’s dinner.

I – Blocking the View, Blocking the Road

King-ArrestThat morning, I was too tense to eat. Keyed up and ready, my thoughts were full of armies marching to battle.

It was February 1, 1965. I was part of a nonviolent “army” – or at least a battalion – set to march in Selma, Alabama that day. Our objective, the territory we hoped to occupy, was downtown, the Dallas County jail; we planned to capture it by getting arrested.

Continue reading Eating Dr. King’s Dinner – A Moderately Long Holiday Read