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This post was originally published at Gather at the Table
November 19, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. PBS and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns launched a national effort to encourage people to video record themselves reciting President Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech, one of the most important statements on human equality in American history.
Sharon Morgan and I participated in the project, as have President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, Stephen Spielberg, and many others. You can watch our video at the Learn the Address website on PBS. Or you can watch it below from the Gather at the Table YouTube page.
We hope our participation will raise more awareness of the Coming to the Table approach to acknowledging and healing wounds from racism and the legacy of slavery that Sharon and I wrote about in Gather at the Table.
And may we all now re-dedicate ourselves “to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”
When I fantasize about international acclaim, I think about my books being published in the countries included within their pages (in the case of my first two books, Ghana, Cuba, and Tobago), as well as many other countries and languages. I haven’t achieved that level of success with my writing… yet. But I did get interviewed by a Norwegian newspaper, Vårt Land, last month. It’s a start…
If you understand Norwegian, you can read the article here: Vart Land Interview (Norwegian Newspaper, 10 May 13)
The reporter, Ingrid Hovda Storaas, contacted me through my publicist at Beacon Press. She wrote that she was working on a story on “inherited responsibility” for a Norwegian daily print Newspaper. They had recently “published a story on German youths working voluntarily in Norway as a way to ‘pay’ for the fact that their forefathers participated in the German occupation of Norway. A 20-year old boy was asked if he feels he is atoning for his grandfather’s sin (he was a soldier), and put it like this: ‘In a way. I have not inherited his guilt, but I feel I have inherited a responsibility.'” They were now doing a follow-up story with a more global view and had come across Inheriting the Trade in her research.
I agreed to respond to her questions via email. I was particularly interested in this opportunity because my great grandfather, Ole Nicholson, was born in Norway in January 1853. He came with his parents to the United States when he was 4 years old. His wife, Martha Ryen, was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants as well. They lived in Illinois and Iowa. Their daughter, my grandmother, Lida Nicholson married my grandfather, Giles DeWolf around 1915. Consequently, I have very fond feelings for Norway and hope to visit someday. Read the rest of this entry »
I can’t wait to see the film Free Angela & All Political Prisoners. The primary focus of the documentary is Davis’s infamous 1971 trial. She was arrested in 1970; charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder following the failed attempt to free Black Panther George Jackson.
Read the review of the film in Village Voice.
If you live in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, or Philadelphia, Free Angela opens in your city at an AMC Theater this Friday, April 5.
The rest of us may have to wait awhile. My hope is that folks in the above cities will FLOCK to Free Angela, so that it will receive the exposure it deserves.
The director of the film, Shola Lynch, previously made the acclaimed film Chilsolm ’72.
Caveat: my personal passion for Free Angela is that Shola is also the daughter-in-law of my writing partner for Gather at the Table, Sharon Morgan. Shola has been working on this film for several years. I know from my participation in the creation of Traces of the Trade just how challenging it is to complete documentary films. I haven’t seen Free Angela yet, but Sharon told me it is INCREDIBLE. She attended the premiere in New York along with producers Will and Jada Smith, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and, of course, Ms. Davis.
I am so proud and honored to be connected to this family. Go see Free Angela. Not only did Ms. Davis speak truth to power, she forced power to listen. We need her example to inspire us today to do the same.
This is a cross-post of an announcement from earlier today at Gather at the Table.
The Foreword to Gather at the Table, written by Joy Angela DeGruy, has been available through a link on the home page of our website for the past two months. Now you can read the first chapter.
The just-published edition of Catalyst: A Social Justice Forum includes an excerpt from Gather at the Table, by Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf. Chapter 1, “The Recalcitrant Bat,” is one of five articles included in Volume 2, Issue 1 of the journal.
When I was a child in the 50’s and 60’s, there were two black families who attended the same church my family did. Mr. Bailey owned a grocery store. He gave several of my friends their first work experience when he hired them to work for him.
In November 2001, Jim Bailey still attended church with my folks after all those years. He came to their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. This was shortly after I returned from Ghana, Cuba, and Rhode Island with 9 distant cousins on the journey that was chronicled in the film Traces of the Trade and my first book, Inheriting the Trade.
With a room full of people surrounding us, I took the opportunity to share with Mr. Bailey how I had learned so much about slavery, racism, and the history of my country that I never learned in school.
He leaned toward me. “We always learned those things in our schools, son.”
In response to my March 23 post — “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent” — a reader posted the following comment:
It is a tragedy when anyone is murdered, but let’s be clear. There is no comparison here. Black people murdering white people is statistically rare. Black people murdering white people because of race is almost unheard of. Yet this type of ill-informed and misplaced paranoia may well have contributed to George Zimmerman’s pursuit and killing of an innocent, unarmed black youth half his own size. According to the Miami Herald, neighbors in his gated community claim Zimmerman has been fixated on crime and “focused on young, black males.”
Additionally, throughout U.S. history, the consequences for white-on-black crime have been, and continue to be, vastly different than for black-on-white crime. Among the plethora of sources of clear and conclusive evidence, Michelle Alexander’s broadly-researched, and well-documented book, The New Jim Crow presents a clear look at just how different the consequences are for black and white people in the criminal justice system today.
If a young black man had been walking around his neighborhood with a gun, encountered a white man, and said he felt threatened and shot him to death, he would be in jail; yes, even in Florida with the “Stand Your Ground” law in place. Throughout history, black-on-white crime has generally been investigated and prosecuted far more vigorously than has white-on-black crime.
Yet, I will not be surprised when George Zimmerman is arrested one day soon. I fully expect him to be prosecuted. But I also believe it will be as a result of the ongoing public outcry in this case. If Trayvon Martin’s death had not made the national radar screen, had not gone viral through Facebook and Twitter, the initial decision to not arrest or investigate Mr. Zimmerman would no doubt have been the final decision; which has so often been the case in similar situations that never make the national news.
Trayvon Martin was killed, in large part, because white male supremacy continues as the driving force in the United States of America. I encourage those who doubt my words to take the White Privilege Pop Quiz developed by Molly Secours. She posted it for anyone to share “with friends, family members and co-workers who are perhaps curious, doubtful or even insistent that such a thing as ‘white privilege’ doesn’t exist.”
I’ve participated in Coming to the Table since 2006 in order to understand and acknowledge more fully how the wounds inflicted by the historic system of American slavery (and the many forms of racism it spawned) continue to harm all of us today, and what I can do to help heal those wounds. The story of the ongoing healing journey will be published in October in Gather at the Table.
I hope the person who wrote the comment above will seriously ponder how he/she contributes either to further separation, alienation, and trauma, or to acknowledging the truth, and healing. As long as people rationalize racism, we will perpetrate the system of white supremacy that has haunted this country for centuries, and we will continue to not live up to our founding ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all.
That is what we should not stop thinking about.
It had been a very sad week as two close friends of mine had passed away; one quite unexpectedly.
This day, February 9, was one filled with joy. Our daughter Jolie went into labor early in the morning. I went shopping for magazines and newspapers that I will give to this child someday as a record of what was happening in the world when he/she was born. While shopping, I received a call from my wife Lindi that I needed to head for the hospital. The birth process was progressing. Jolie had invited Lindi and me to be present for the birth; the first I would witness since my two daughters were born in the late 1970’s.
What follows are excerpts from my journal that day: Read the rest of this entry »
The movie of the best-selling novel The Help is now available for home viewing on video. (Spoiler alert! Key plot points are divulged through the web links in this post.)
For anyone who missed it in the theater, I highly recommend you watch The Help. When the book came out in 2009 I read it and loved it… and I was troubled by it… and I reviewed it…
One particular area of expertise of Sharon’s is her focus on genealogical research for African American people. Having researched her own family history for the past three decades, she shares information and services to help others explore and appreciate African American family history on her website Our Black Ancestry. She is now sharing her expertise in a new, 12-part blog series at Geni, the website that is in the process of building the definitive, world-wide, family tree.
I encourage my friends to read the first installment of the series here and add your comment to Geni and Sharon about what you think!