All posts by Chuck Fager

The “Spirit of Harriet Tubman” is Ready to speak Again

[Details on a live performance of “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” 0n June 27 are below. Spread the word!]

During much of the 1850s, Harriet Tubman, felt almost like a prisoner. She lived in Canada, just a few miles west of the U. S. border at Niagara Falls. She was safe there, but itchy to help more enslaved people to escape.

Diane Faison as Harriet Tubman

And today, Diane Faison of Winston-Salem, NC, knows something of how Harriet felt.

Tubman, the Ace of the Underground Railroad, was a hunted woman. Southern slavecatchers wanted her dead or alive. She had secretly returned to the state to aid others several more times.

Diane Faison’s journey with Harriet started 140 years later, when she knocked  a book off a library shelf. Continue reading The “Spirit of Harriet Tubman” is Ready to speak Again

A Carolina Poet for Juneteenth: George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton: A Biographical Sketch & several poems; from local sources

George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton (1797-1893) could rightly be called North Carolina’s first professional poet.

George Moses Horton,

Born enslaved by  Chatham County yeoman farmer William Horton, young George Moses Horton loved the rhyming sounds of hymns, and yearned to be able to read. As teaching slaves to read was illegal, Horton secretly taught himself, hiding in fields on Sundays. He used an old speller, a copy of the Methodist hymnal, and stray pages from the Bible, although he was grown before he learned to write. Especially fascinated with poetry, he was soon composing psalm-meter verses in his head and committing them to memory.

Young Horton was often sent to Chapel Hill by his then-master, James Horton, to sell produce at the farmer’s market. There his unusually sophisticated vocabulary soon caught the attention of the university students, who encouraged his orations, and ultimately, the recitation of his own verse.

His reputation spread, and by the 1820s, he began to sell poems for students to send to their sweethearts, charging extra for including acrostics in them based on the young ladies’ names. Continue reading A Carolina Poet for Juneteenth: George Moses Horton

SAYMA 2021: The Post-Mortem

Bob McGahey, the Clerk of SAYMA (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association), saw what was coming at last week’s 2021 annual sessions.

What did he see? Trouble & woe.

How do I know?

Because he said so, in a Clerk’s letter sent out as the group was gathering (mostly in Zoom) last week.

The key passage:

Unfortunately, as we approach SAYMA yearly sessions, there are those among us who would enforce their deeply held convictions through pressuring, judging, and threatening behavior. One plenary speaker and two workshops have been challenged and threatened with disruption. One of those workshops has been cancelled, and the leader of the second feels genuinely threatened by escalating attacks, asking for protection. As an open religious society, our protection comes from the divine, which resides deep within each of us, acting from within the body, not from a hierarchy of leaders.

He was mistaken about that last item: protection, especially in SAYMA, comes from leaders and staunch Friends with resolve to uphold good Quaker order, or it will not come at all.

Both were essentially absent from SAYMA’s annual sessions. Continue reading SAYMA 2021: The Post-Mortem

Memo To Jesus: A Friend needs to find a church. Do you Deliver?

To: Jesus, or his Rep out West

From: Chuck Fager

Re: Need  some Leads

Brown Jesus
Hey, I’m listening . . .

Look, JC, I know you’re busy, but this: I heard from a nice young family in one of the big cities out there, one of those  in the middle of the desert.

It’s a familiar story: she’s creamy, he’s dark chocolate, they have un bébé très joli et très café au lait! Plus more of the usual: they’re short on money, work, and a community.

So they’re kind of struggling, but they say they had a good break a week or so ago: they went to church.

Now in theory, I’m all for that: a welcoming & supportive community would be just the thing.

Except they said it was a mega-church, where the management brought on a comedian to warm up the crowd or something.

A comedian? But wait, I thought. With all their issues, don’t these kids at least know how to laugh?

Un bébé très joli et très café au lait!

Maybe I’m kind of old school, I guess, but . . . you know: “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” not “come unto my shtick.” [I like that Bible quote, as long as it’s from a version where “suffer” means “welcome,”  and not the one I remember from church in my own, kidhood: “Make those kids suffer, like you did . . . .”

Anyway, maybe this is just more old school.

And I can’t help but riff on this, JC, so bear with me:

I think folks who go to church do so because, besides community & support — because they’re also looking for some  kind of encounter with —and this is one of those points where good words are hard to find, but let’s try — they want an encounter with something sacred; something transcendent; something —  okay I’ll say it plain, holy. Continue reading Memo To Jesus: A Friend needs to find a church. Do you Deliver?

Another Sad Season for SAYMA

One plague this year wasn’t enough: Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting, gathering this week by Zoom, is facing another one: a fever of  panic and hysteria over charges of — wait for it — racism.

WWPCT: What Would Paul Cuffee Think? Read on.

First, though, the vector of SAYMA’s resurgent malady isn’t a lab or wet market in China. Rather, it’s a familiar figure, Sharon Smith, a self-appointed anti-racism “authority” and enforcer who has dogged, derailed and disrupted SAYMA sessions for several years. This blog reported extensively on her baleful record in the months leading up Covid’s appearance and spread. (A list of relevant posts is at the bottom of this report.)

Now that the virus is fading, Smith is re-emerging, seeming more determined after a time of enforced dormancy.

Smith has several targets in SAYMA for this week’s session, seemingly a kind of makeup list. To start with, she demanded that the YM Planning Committee dis-invite Harold Weaver, their keynote plenary speaker.  Weaver is a Black new England Friend,  who is on Smith’s very long list of Black Friends she has quarreled with and lumps together as a gaggle of “desperate and despicable” hacks. (Their main infraction: differing from her diktats.)

Fortunately, however, the SAYMA Committee stuck to its choice and Weaver spoke. Smith also blasted a Tuesday workshop; it regrouped and took place on schedule. Continue reading Another Sad Season for SAYMA

Memorial Day for Those Who Said No

In the May 30, 2021 New York Times, there’s an Op-Ed on military conscientious objectors, or COs.  I’m gratified to see it on the brink of Memorial Day. It shows no disrespect for those who agreed to fight in war and died to recognize that a persistent minority has declined to take the sword.

The piece mentions two military COs, but mostly concentrates on the recent case of Michael  Rasmussen. He was training to be a Marine combat pilot, but found his conscience turned against taking part in war. The Times:

One morning as he prepared for a supply flight to Hawaii, Mr. Rasmussen kept returning to the story he’d read in bed the night before in “Path of Compassion,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which the Buddha was out begging when he was nearly mugged by a notorious criminal. Instead of robbing the Buddha, the mugger confessed to a life of murder and mayhem and asked him for advice: “What good act could I possibly do?”

“Stop traveling the road of hatred and violence,” the Buddha said. “That would be the greatest act of all.”

Mr. Rasmussen got in his car to drive to the hangar, overwhelmed with what he called an “immense feeling of dread.” The story haunted him: “Am I on the road of hatred and violence?” he wondered. He decided then and there to leave the Marines.

Continue reading Memorial Day for Those Who Said No

Penn State Ex-Pres Headed to Jail: Was PSU’s Secrecy Also a Perp There?

From “Happy Valley” to Supermax?

Graham Spanier, ex-president of Penn State University.

Graham Spanier is going to jail.

Spanier was the longtime president of Penn State University (PSU), who was toppled in the notorious Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in 2011 and 2012.

Sandusky was a veteran PSU assistant football coach, and in 2012 he was convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys, whom he lured into the campus under the cover of a youth charity he had started. Sandusky is now doing life in a supermax prison. Continue reading Penn State Ex-Pres Headed to Jail: Was PSU’s Secrecy Also a Perp There?

How Many More Kenyan Quakers Have Died of COVID?

Friend David Zarembka.

I  haven’t  forgotten the unexpected deaths of Friends David Zarembka & his wife Gladys Kamonya in Kenya, at the turn of March into April of 2021.

Now there’s a report that suggests that COVID deaths there are numerous, and the total is likely much higher than is suggested by the meager available statistics.

The New York Times on May 21, 2021 included this brief article: Continue reading How Many More Kenyan Quakers Have Died of COVID?

A Shocking Moment of Recognition

So.

I’m reading this Op-Ed by Peter Wehner, a conservative anti-45er, in The New York Times today.

He’s still reeling aghast at the GOP’s defenestration  of Liz Cheney. I’m empathetic to his view that it’s part of a grave threat to the republic.  But there’s nothing new about these sentiments . . . .

Wehner: I asked a Republican who spent time with Representative Liz Cheney last week what her thinking was in speaking out so forcefully, so unyieldingly, against Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen, despite knowing that this might cost the three-term congresswoman her political career.

“It’s pretty simple,” this person, who requested anonymity in order to speak openly, told me. “She decided she’s going to stay on the right side of her conscience.”

“She wasn’t going to lie to stay in leadership,” he added. “If telling the truth was intolerable, she knew she wasn’t going to keep her leadership position.”

Ms. Cheney was certainly right about that. Early on Wednesday, House Republicans ousted her from her position as the chairman of the House Republican conference, the No. 3 leadership slot, one her father held in the late 1980s.

The next priority of Mr. Trump and MAGA world? To defeat her in a primary in 2022. . . .

And that’s when it hits me:

— I can’t believe I’m writing this,

An image that’s been the stuff of nightmares since I learned what a “black site” was . . . .

A year from now, I might well be . . .

I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M WRITING THIS—

— Making out a check to . . .

I CAN’T BELIEVE  . . .

Liz Cheney’s re-election campaign.

Liz Cheney!

There, I said it. Wrote it.

Now I need to creep into a corner and ponder whether I truly believe I might actually do that.

Not that my pittance could save her bacon. But still.

To help save the republic —??

Might I? Could I? Really?  DO that?

. . . As of this morning, I’m beginning to think . . .

. . . I – I – I –
. . . Might. Even.

>> O. M. F. G.

[Would it feel better if I could send it in new Tubman $20s?]

[Probably not . ]

A Banished Quaker Prophet: Josh Humphries (Updated)

Friend (or rather, ex-Friend) Joshua Ashlyn Humphries, a banished Quaker and Anabaptist prophet/theologian, is dead, at 39.

Josh Humphries, in a happy moment. He deserved more of them.

Dead, and it’s a damn shame.

A  shame for Quakers, Mennonites, and some others. I feel shamed too. But he was not an ex-Friend to me.

The official obituary does not say how or where he passed; presumably in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he had lived for more than ten years. It settled for the piously evasive: he “went to be with the Lord on Thursday, April 29, 2021.”

Yeah, sure; but what ticket did he ride?

The silence here leaves many questions: Josh had serious medical conditions (of which more anon); but just a couple of days earlier, in his last Facebook posts, he was both worn out — and intellectually busy: Continue reading A Banished Quaker Prophet: Josh Humphries (Updated)