My longest 4th of July

seeing the niece Rebecca Jade

In 2023, I experience my longest 4th of July. It started off with rain, not what we wanted for the Underground Railroad Education Center’s annual oration,  Speaking Truth to Power.  This was even more dire because the musicians Magpie, Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, were bringing a whole bumch of their equipment (sound board, mics, et al).

When my wife got to the residence at 194 Livingston Avenue with one of two tarps, the forecast was that the rain would subside. Ultimately, it did.  It’s a good thing my wife was there because she’s WAY more mechanically proficient than I.

This year, Paul and/or Mary Liz Stewart recruited me to be on the committee to work on the event for the first time. I had the fool notion of using some of the speeches from the the 1963 March on Washington, since it’s the 60th anniversary. This meant, of course, finding the addresses then whittling them down to reasonable lengths so Greg and Terry could figure out what songs to insert between them.

It wasn’t until just before the program began that I noticed that I was to introduce Magpie and their longtime collaborator Kim Harris. I also introduced about half of the speakers and gave an excerpt of Whitney Young’s speech.

Ultimately, though it ran a bit long, it was successful. (You  can find the speech excerpts on this blog this coming August 28.)  After having eatten 60 fewer hot dogs than Joey Chestnut, I helped Magpie break down their equipment. Now it is HOT! And humid!

I did sit in Greg and Terry’s car watching the equipment while talking to Kim Harris about her teaching theology and other topics.

By the time we got home, my wife and I were ready to take naps. It was not on the agenda.

Empire State Plaza

The plan for part two of the day was to drive down to our church, park in the church lot, then carry our lawn chairs down to the Empire State Plaza, a distance of little over two miles.  My wife had purchased two new chairs and we borrowed one from the Stewarts.

We caught the swearing in ceremony of 27 new Americans from over 20 countries at 5 pm. It was pleasant, but we did worry that the participants would pass out. They were all dressed up. Our pastor, Glenn arrived just in time for that.

Did I mention that it was hot? If I didn’t, the energetic DJ let us know. As the sun started baking us, we retreated to the top of the external stairs abut the State Museum/Library.

A sibling duo named Jocelyn & Chris performed at 6pm. Our daughter arrived from work not much before we learned that my niece Rebecca Jade and the rest of Sheila E.’s entourage were leaving their hotel and heading to the plaza. Rebecca wasn’t supposed to be at the show, but one of Sheila’s singers had a family emergency.

Seeing the first niece

Soon, as Glenn watched our chairs, and Chuck Miller was setting up his cameras, my wife, my daughter, and I got to visit Rebecca backstage. We were introduced to some bandmates, the sound guy, and others. Sheila, who we had met in 2019,  waved as she walked by.

Shortly afterward, there was an announcement from the stage that there was great threat of thunderstorms, and specifically lightning, coming. Everyone, including Glenn, my BIL Dan, and one of his daughters, joined the hundreds who went into the concourse beneath where we had been seated.

For a time, it was rather interesting to see people hanging out unexpectedly. Eventually, we got word that the Sheila E. show was not merely postponed but canceled and the fireworks wouldn’t take place until the next evening. Yet we weren’t supposed to leave because of the lightning threat.

Sudeenly, about a dozen teenaged girl got into a fracas. It took at least five state troopers to break it up. Rebecca had made it back to the restaurant at her hotel.

Rescue mission

My daughter and I decided to get the chairs, believing, erroneously, that the lightning had ended. The cops were trying to quell the sudden proliferation of firecrackers going off. As my daughter ran up the stairs, one officer asked if she were going up there to set off fireworks. “No! She getting our chairs that we left up there!”

But as she was going up the stairs, someone was carrying our chairs down via another path. My daughter yelled to the person. Finally, we discovered it was pastor Glenn, carrying FOUR chairs. He’s stronger than he looks.

By this time, the state troopers decided that their priority was to get all of those people OUT of the concourse. We walked back to the  church parking lot, then in our two cars, drove down to the hotel where Rebecca was staying.

By this time, the restaurant was closed. But we went upstairs to a conference area and told tales for well over an hour about everything from her musical journey to genealogy. Rebecca had a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call so she can take a 5:30 flight back to California.

We got home shortly before midnight having done over 15,000 steps, which may not be much for you but, on a hot day, it was a LOT for me.

I did my Wordle (VENOM, in 4), then fell asleep in my chair, waking up at about 2:45 a.m, before going to bed. On July 5, I took two naps.

The front page of the local Times Union showed two event photos, at the plaza, and the Underground Railroad Education Center event. My wife and I were at both. BTW, she took a nap too.

The Third Reconstruction

fighting voter suppression

third reconstructionThe U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week to further declaw the Voting Rights Act I found to be a kick in the gut. SCOTUS, by a 6-3 vote, overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. It had found that two voting laws passed in Arizona “had both the effect and intent of discriminating against Black, Latino and Native American voters… The decision… will make it much harder to block other laws that have a discriminatory effect on voters of color.”

We’ve already seen a plethora of “voter suppression laws that hide their racist intent but have clearly disparate effects based on race.”

The “ruling significantly increased the level of discriminatory and burdensome effects that plaintiffs must demonstrate for a voting law or procedure to violate the Voting Rights Act, giving lawmakers or officials who enact such rules great deference in the interest of preventing supposed fraud—even without any evidence of such fraud…

“Some legal observers had warned before this latest decision, known as Brnovich v. DNC, that… the Supreme Court could make it so difficult to comply with the requirements to prove discrimination that the VRA would nevertheless become meaningless. That is, in essence, what happened.

With Congress so closely divided, it’s difficult to imagine it passing what is needed. That would be passing a new Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act, which would, among other things, expand voting protections.

July 4th Oration

I was thinking about this as I listened to Rev. Roxanne Booth at The Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence in Albany on Saturday, July 3. In person! after being virtual last year.

She spoke about The Third Reconstruction, as laid out by the book by The Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Beacon, 2016). The subtitle is How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.

You know about the first, after the Civil War, until it was undercut by forces, starting with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. The second was the Civil Rights Era, starting with Brown v. Board of Education and the death of Emmett Till, undermined by the policies of Nixon, then Reagan.

The third, the authors argue, started with the election of Barack Obama, and was almost immediately sabotaged by forces that early on wanted him to be a one-term president.

Moral revival

The book is “Rev. Barber’s call for building and sustaining a movement for justice for all people.” From this Unitarian Universalist site: “The Third Reconstruction offers helpful, practical guidance for engaging with justice movements born in response to local experiences of larger injustices.

“Drawing on the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, while making room for other sources of truth, the book challenges us to ground our justice work in moral dissent, even when there is no reasonable expectation of political success, and to do the hard work of coalition-building in a society that is fractured and polarized.”

So when I asked Rev. Booth about how one gets over the disappointment of the Arizona decision, she noted that we have to keep doing the work of social justice, even when the short-term prospects may be bleak.

I’m reminded that many changes in our democracy have started with situations that seemed hopeless in the beginning. Consider joining the Third Reconstruction, a “revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation.”

Independence Day/4th of July music

Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.

Martina McBrideIt’s the fourth of July. Independence Day in America. I’ve been hearing a lot of fireworks for about a month now. I’ve rather tired of it, actually. Instead of the usual musical fare, I’ve listed some perhaps less obvious songs that can represent the day. Add your choices in the comments.

Martina McBride. This song, written by Gretchen Peters, has been covered by several artists including Carrie Underwood. “In 2014, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song #77 in their list of the 100 greatest country songs.”
“She tried to pretend he wasn’t drinkin’ again
“But daddy’d left the proof on her cheek.”

Independence Day – Bruce Springsteen, from The River album.
“There’s a lot of people leaving town now
“Leaving their friends, their homes”

Independence Day – David Byrne.
“We know what will make us happy
“We know what will ease our pain”
More cheerful. I love this musically.

Independence Day – 5 Seconds of Summer.
“I gotta break away or nothing’s gonna change
“You’ve got to go, it’s the end of the road”

Independence Day – the Shires.
“You’re better off without
“Someone who gets you down”

Instrumental interlude:
ID4 Reprise – Independence Day Resurgence Official Soundtrack

Every day’s…

On the 4th of July – James Taylor
“Unbelievable you, impossible me,
“The fool who fell out of the family tree.”

Fourth of July – Pete Droge
“When you’re sick of the trying
“And you’re tired of the crying”
A depressing song.

Fourth of July – Sufjan Stevens
“It was night when you died, my firefly.”

Fourth of July –Fall Out Boy
“You and I were fire, fire fireworks that went off too soon.”

4th of July –Shooter Jennings
“Couldn’t take no more of that rock ‘n’ roll”
Oddly, there’s a lot of rock riffs in that country guitar, I think.

4th of July – Soundgarden
“Pale in the flare light
“The scared light cracks and disappears”

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