On 3 April, the powers-that-be at Howard University laid off eighty-four staff members, including E. Ethelbert Miller, director of Howard University’s African American Resource Center, who attended Howard and went on to serve the university community for more than forty years.
Ethelbert is a literary activist of wide-ranging commitments and honors: he chairs the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Policy Studies; he is a board member at The Writer’s Center and editor of Poet Lore. He’s a former Chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., and the author of many books of poetry and memoir. Dearest to my heart, he serves on the National Cabinet of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture with the title Minister of Sacred Words, offering radical love and generosity of spirit in all he does.
I’m going to suggest what all this may mean (and give you contact information to protest), but first, I’d like to share an excerpt from a letter Reginald Dwayne Betts wrote to the newly appointed President of Howard, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. Betts is a much-lauded poet and memoirist, a former prison inmate who credits Ethelbert with the critical and well-timed caring that enabled him to flourish. You owe it to yourself to read all of his letter, reprinted at Split This Rock.
Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi are co-founders of Reach And Teach and manage Tikkun/NSP web operations.
As we waited to check our luggage and get our boarding passes at the Charlotte NC airport we watched as couple after couple got to the counter, handed over their tickets, chatted with the agent, and then went on their way to their gates.
All seemed normal.
Then, when we stepped up to the counter, the agent looked at me and said “You, get back in line!” Pointing at my travel mate, and husband, I responded “We’re together.” She very loudly said “No. You have to come up here separately.” I responded quietly “You’ve had couple after couple come up here and check their bags and get their boarding passes.” She boomed out “You ARE NOT a couple.” “Yes, we are.” “Not in my line you’re not.” She then asked me if I wanted to travel at all that day, because if I didn’t get back in line she would make sure I didn’t fly anywhere that day.
This was around 20 years ago. Humiliated and near tears, I quietly stepped away from the counter while my husband checked his bag.
by: Amy Gottlieb on April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Erika Steiskal
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Skinner House Books, 2015
For over a generation, National Jewish Book Award winner Sandy Sasso has blazed a trail in the genre of children’s spiritual literature. While her work is steeped in Jewish tradition, her books are popular with readers of all faiths. She has a remarkable talent for rendering complex theological ideas into accessible narratives that appeal to a child’s sense of wonder. She has written about universalism (God’s Paintbrush), the human-divine encounter (In God’s Name), process theology (And God Said Amen), Edenic awe (Adam and Eve’s First Sunset), and eternal life (For Heaven’s Sake), to name a few. All of her books share the common theme of radical empathy, and in her latest work, Sasso applies this vision to a story about tolerance.
I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)
Shalom and Peace! Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day I would like to share a recent experience that changed my perspective in an unexpected way. My perspective about Jews, about the Holocaust, about myself. Sounds mysterious? I didn’t mean it to be. Let me go back a couple of weeks and start again.
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award this week. I have nothing to say about the book, since I haven’t yet read it. The writer’s name gave rise to my subject. Reading it released a memory rush that’s been cycling just behind my eyes ever since.
The author’s father, Gordon Lish, trails a huge reputation for his days as a fiction editor at magazines and publishing houses, for his own writing, and for his teaching at Yale and Columbia- as this Guardian piece attests. He’s also famous for flat-out pronouncements and slash-and-burn editing (most cited: excising half the words from Raymond Carver’s early stories, bringing Carver both success and ambivalence, as detailed in this 2007 New Yorker article.
I met Lish half a century ago in a high school classroom in Millbrae, California. He was one of two teachers whose kindness helped me survive four years as a strange, arty, activist teenager in a suburban world I found entirely incomprehensible. Both teachers are inscribed in my memory because they were the first adults I met who looked at me and saw something other than an annoyance or a perpetual misfit.
by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
"Don't Say We Did Not Know" is the defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.
When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.
“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”
Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.
“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”
Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.
“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”
Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.
Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.
by: Elena Blackmore on April 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Could society be rebuilt around understanding and compassion instead of shame? The effects would be revolutionary.
Though it creates vicious cycles that stifle creativity, shame is piled onto those perceived as undeserving of social support programs while consumerist advertising bolsters a "not-enough" mentality. Credit: uldissprogis.com.
The binary rhetoric that currently surrounds the welfare state reflects a deep moral narrative with a crippling social impact. ‘Strivers’ and ‘skivers’ are two sides of the same coin. That coin is shame.
One side represents the deserving, and the other side the undeserving. Rachel Reeves, the UK Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, recently said that: “We [the Labour Party] are not the party of people on benefits.” She faced some criticism for these words, but these are messages we hear daily, from government and opposition alike.
We’re here for hard-working families. We’re here for the taxpayer.
In this narrative, employment equals worth, while unemployment casts you into the world of the untouchables.
Economic policies are created around this notion of worth. Unemployment must be a choice — you’re shirking — so let’s coax you out of it. You don’t need benefits in your first week of unemployment since you should be looking for work. We’ll put sanctions on you if you’re unemployed for too long.
Shame on you for being unemployed.
“I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.”
Thus, Dennis Shepard, speaking for himself and his wife Judy during a heart-wrenching and nearly unbearable emotional court-room speech to one of his son Matthew’s convicted murders, Aaron McKinney, 22, spared both McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson, 21, of the death penalty. As he spoke, his voice often breaking as he wiped tears streaming down his face and falling to the floor, the sound of weeping throughout the courtroom including men and women in the jury box, Dennis Shepard called his 21-year old son his hero, and he talked of Matthew’s special gift for reaching out and helping others.