Race in America, late summer, 1963

“We often hear it said here that while the Negro drive for equality is a justifiable movement, in the last year the Negroes have been pushing too hard and too fast….”

NBC News did a very interesting thing last month: it rebroadcast the August 25, 1963 episode of the news panel program Meet the Press, 50 years after the original broadcat. You can read the transcript at the site as well. The guests were Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They were speaking three days before the massive March on Washington.

What I found fascinating is that there are two overriding themes in the questioning. One comes in the first question Continue reading “Race in America, late summer, 1963”

World AIDS Day, and the Civil Rights movement

Most years I would go visit the AIDS quilt, in part to see if the quilt for my friend Vito Mastrogiovanni, who died in May 1991, was there; it was, at least twice in my viewing.

December 1 is World AIDS Day, with the current theme “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths”.

It’s also the date, in 1955, that the Montgomery Bus Boycott began in Alabama, which, for me, signified the beginning of the modern civil rights era. Yes, Truman integrated the armed forces before that, and the Supreme Court had integrated the schools. The bus boycott, though, was a mass mobilization of many “ordinary” people to not sit in the back of the bus.

I resisted telling this story before because… well, let me tell it, then get into that. Continue reading “World AIDS Day, and the Civil Rights movement”

E is for Equality

Booker noted: “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.”

The news that made the recent headlines in terms of marriage equality in the United States was that a federal appeals court ruled Proposition 8, the California plebiscite overturning gay marriage, violated the Constitution, setting up an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or possibly not. Meanwhile, the Washington state legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage; here is part of the debate. Also, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto efforts to repeal that state’s same-sex marriage law.

Discussing specifically the California judicial ruling Continue reading “E is for Equality”

Freedom Riders: An Appreciation

President John Kennedy, and his brother Robert, the Attorney General, needed to be prodded into action, just as President Barack Obama needs political pressure applied to continue on the right path.

While praising New York state lawmakers as they debated legalizing gay marriage, President Barack Obama stopped short of embracing it. Instead he asked gay and lesbian donors for patience. “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” the president said at a Manhattan fundraiser [last Thursday], his first geared specifically to the gay community.

Last week, my Internet buddy Arthur posited the question: Has President Obama done enough for gay rights? He included a news video. “Let me be clear: President Obama is dead wrong on marriage equality: Civil unions are not a substitute for real marriage. It’s time for the president to stop “evolving” and get there and support full equality for GLBT people.

“However, Dan Choi is also wrong, possibly because he doesn’t know history. As Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign says, this president has done more than any other president for GLBT equality than any other president in history.”

And this reminded me of a program I watched on PBS last month called Freedom Riders.

FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. Harrowing is right; it took me at least four sittings to get through the whole thing, not because it was boring, but because it was so intense. Just watch the two-minute Freedom Riders trailer.

From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.
Continue reading “Freedom Riders: An Appreciation”