No sooner had the AFSC’s Centennial bash gotten underway in spring of 2017, when somebody rained on their parade: another multi-million budget shortfall was acknowledged, with the expected fallout of more job and program cuts.
This was getting to be an all-too familiar story; almost as familiar as the empty promises to “re-connect” AFSC with actual living Quakers.
The biggest cuts had come in 2008-2009, when years of mismanagement and profligacy combined with the larger economic crash to force over a hundred staff layoffs, and the closing of dozens of offices and programs. Yet that big rush of cuts wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last. Regional offices, once at 13, imploded to a skeletal four.
It’s Langston Hughes’s birthday (Feb. 1, 1902- May 22, 1967). Known primarily as a poet, Hughes was a versatile writer: by his mid-twenties he had published challenging essays in national periodicals, and two books of poetry.
Here are two brief birthday tributes. The first is from his first novel, Not Without Laughter, published in 1930, when he was 28.
This passage evokes a domestic scene in a small Kansas city, modeled on Lawrence, where Hughes spent several boyhood years. Hughes was proud of his humble roots, and the creativity it wrung from hardship, like the largely homemade blues songs by the itinerant laborer Jimboy. Here he has returned after a long absence seeking work. In Hughes’s prose, we can hear the poetry woven through it.
Recently I read the amazing account of the Great Black Migration from the South, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.
It’s a fine, fine book, and its relevance here is that, paradoxically, until it was well underway, there was no such thing as “The Great Migration”; that is, no one named or organized it, no one “joined” it.
Rather, there were individuals & families fleeing for their own survival: seeking escape from the personal costs of official southern racism, grinding poverty and unrestrained violence. Only after such private decisions were acted on by hundreds of thousands, over decades, did scholars & writers come along to christen, study and begin to chronicle it.
Yet while “spontaneous” and unorganized, the Great Migration was indeed real and momentous, with national impact that’s still being felt.
It’s the season for Top ten Lists, so here’s mine.
For some years, I’ve been keeping track of my reading, especially books. For 2017, with only two weeks yet to go, I’m at 27 volumes, and a total of 11400 or so pages. That’s close to a thousand pages per month. (I might still make a thousand, if I finish another book or two before New Year’s.)
The “page total” figure is somewhat ambiguous, as many of the titles here I listened to on CDs in my car. Several others were read on Kindle. But for me all that counts as reading; and I looked up the non-hard copy titles to find the print page count.
This tally does not include newspapers; I typically skim through three or four per morning, online (the Raleigh NC News & Observer; the Washington Post, the New York Times & the Guardian.) And of course I read lots more stuff online, which I don’t keep any systematic record of.
I rarely get brand new, up-to-the-minute books; though a few turned up on this year’s list. And I bought several more books than I actually got read. So be it.
That’s enough background. Of this hefty stack of print (and its electronic equivalents), here are the ten that were most compelling or meaningful.
Judith Dancy from Facebook:
It may have happened while Emma was sleeping so soundly last night, for surely she would have sounded the alarm as the Abyss, with its tank loaded with the fuel of Despair crept through the crack under the front door… the one I keep meaning to put another rubber strip on to keep out the cold wind. I’ve been meaning to do that for years, and now I wish it were only cold wind that crept through.
It’s not that it’s a gray and rainy day. It’s not the death of another precious friend. It’s not the pain that seems unwilling to leave. It’s a sensation I don’t remember ever experiencing ,even in the midst of long periods of deep depression.
I want to apologize, I think, for not recognizing the death of hope. Here I’ve been reassuring you that this is just a birthing process and that something beautiful will be born…not soon enough for some of us, but good will come of what seems like no-good. I’m pretty sure that is not true.
Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey. Marcelle Martin. San Francisco: Inner Light Books, 238 pages. Paperback, $17.50.
Reviewed by Chuck Fager
It’s my fate to spend a fair amount of time on the larger Quaker-oriented Facebook groups. That’s often a challenging, and sometimes dispiriting experience, especially when talk turns to “what Friends believe,” and how that is evidenced in actual Quaker history.
It’s a chore because the level of ignorance and misinformation about Quakerism seems bottomless. Responding to it often feels like bailing out a canoe with a big hole in the bottom, through which a continuing steam of errors, rumor, legends and downwright fiction steadily gushes.
For instance, a few days ago, there once again popped up the name of Richard Nixon, the second Quaker U. S. president. But no sooner than he appeared, there followed a number of firm denials that he was, or ever had been, a Friend. Even though Nixon’s lifelong membership in East Whittier, California Friends Church is well-attested in several solid historical sources, both in books and online.
It is intriguing to me that, among the many reviews of Go Set A Watchman I have read in the past ten days, none mentioned Harper Lee/Jean Louise’s acerbic reflections in it on her experience as a New Yorker.