Category Archives: Authors

Appalachia Burning: White Supremacists in Tennessee – by Rev. Jeannie Alexander

I’ve been wrestling with how to write about  white supremacists and modern day self-proclaimed Nazis descending upon my beloved home in Middle Tennessee where I stood with a small band of inter-faith women clergy, determined to push back hard – literally – against hate.  It was exhausting, heartbreaking, took weeks in planning, and ultimately was successful. But what the hell does success mean when you’re talking about shutting down white supremacists and Nazis?

It began as a plan, an absurd “dangerous” plan. A small collective of women clergy, and women of faith, came together and decided that we simply were not going to allow a torch march in Middle Tennessee. Some of our collective had been part of the counter demonstration in Charlottesville and bore witness to what was a very calculated, pointed message in an action seen far too many times in the history of this country. A mob of angry white men, with torches, marching through the countryside, with the end result of death, accentuated these days by the echoing chant of “blood and soil!”

And so the decision was made that we would track their movements through the weekend, and should the Nazis and white supremacists assemble for their terror march, this band of women was going to block them with our bodies, in clergy garb. The angry mob was going to be forced to show the world that they were willing to assault female clergy in their frenzy of hate.

In the early planning stage there were men involved with our little collective. When a decision was reached that the direct action was going to be to stop the torch march, they pulled out, called us crazy, and insisted that people were going to get killed.

But you see, that’s just it; people have already been killed. A torch march historically has a specific purpose, and that is to strike fear and terror into the hearts of the targeted population/individuals, with the end result being death; typically the torture and deaths of black bodies by lynching, or Jewish bodies, queer bodies, Communist, Anarchist, or the bodies of race traitors and sympathizers. Really, anyone who the “master race” identifies as “inferior.”

As anyone else knows who was tracking the racist chatter, a torch march was off and on again throughout the planning of the White Lives Matter event, and certainly throughout last Friday.
We spent Friday in small collective worship and preparation to basically have the shit kicked out of us. Some folks will say this is pointless, and what good does it serve? But our thinking was this – someone has got to say “No!” and for too many centuries it’s been black and brown bodies paying the price of fear and hate.

It was cold and windy as we walked through the historic neighborhood of Murfreesboro’s downtown toward the square. It was almost Halloween, and all I could think was that the scariest thing was actually happening, that we were walking through the night in this beautiful quiet neighborhood, toward an interfaith service, because we had credible information that there was a plan to disrupt the service with a torch march. It is 2017, and we had literally spent our day planning and preparing to disrupt self-identified Nazis. What world are we living in? The 1850’s, 1930’s? Have we become so numb, deaf, and blind to history?

Businesses on the square appeared ready for a disaster with boarded up windows and doors. A local pastor who had joined us explained that the windows were boarded up out of fear of counter demonstrators, not the white supremacists and Nazis.
Let that sink in and tell me please, why in the hell aren’t we all Antifa? Given the hard bloody lessons of history, why are we not all anti-fascist? What the hell have we sold our souls for when politicians can flippantly assert that people stridently opposed to Nazis and fascists are the same as Nazis and fascists?

And so, we spent Friday night on the move, and there was no torch march.

We proceeded Saturday to Shelbyville with not enough sleep. As everyone knows, the overwhelming counter demonstration drown out the hate rally pretty effectively.  Amidst all of the chanting, screaming, and playing of La Bamba from our side, I listened carefully to the speeches from the other side of the bridge.

I listened to the horrific sick screams of “Black Lives don’t matter!” and “I am a fascist! I am a Nazi!” and taunts of “Hey guys, where’s Heather Heyer, I don’t see Heather Heyer over there, do you?” And I also heard fear: a fear of the other, an anger expressed in asserting that other people flee from their countries to “avoid their problems,” and a corollary fear asserted in the statement “We don’t have anywhere to run!”

They don’t even know that they don’t have to run. Run from what? From hope? From our oldest richest tradition of offering sanctuary to the tired, sick, hungry and oppressed? In additional speeches some white supremacists claimed not to be Nazis, others proudly claimed to be Nazis; and still, others spoke of low wages, an inability to make ends meet, an abhorrence of private prisons, and a lack of healthcare. This was followed by an extolling of Trump and his promise to drain the swamp.

What we were faced with in low numbers on the other side of the bridge was this: poor whites being led and whipped into a frenzy by out of town urbane racists, a narrative that was utterly contradictory and disjointed resulting in an allegiance to fear and hate, supported by a false cultural and historic narrative that Jewish Communists run the world and integration is impossible, that the rich narcissistic pig in the White House actually identifies with them, and some pissed off little god is on their side.

When white supremacists were bemoaning the abuse of workers and low wages, and a lack of healthcare, while in the same breath castigating communists and spewing capitalists rhetoric, I was quite frankly left speechless, a rarity. Why the hell aren’t they communist, I wondered; and have they ever read Grapes of Wrath, because there sure were a lot of upside down twisted Tom Joads across the bridge from us.

I looked across the lines of militarized police, and deputized militia, into the faces of my enemy, and I saw Appalachia burning in their eyes. Standing behind the metal fence barricade with my feet rooted in the earth, I felt Appalachia running through my own veins. Some of those people across the line were my blood people too; and I cannot deny that the same God who created them created me, and what is holy and divine in me has still got to be able to see what is holy and divine in them if there is any hope for resurrection and restoration for any of us. I could feel their fear along with their misplaced anger and rage, but I could feel no sympathy. I can feel no sympathy when the final solution is genocide. I can feel no sympathy when the final solution is black bodies swinging from trees. I can feel no sympathy when the final solution is brown bodies trapped behind a wall – caged in CCA camps – or dying of heat exhaustion trying to cross a desert to find a better home for their children. I have seen the enemy, and if I do nothing then the enemy is me. There is no neutrality in this oldest of wars.

After the showing in Shelbyville, the Murfreesboro Saturday afternoon White Lives event never even occurred; although later in the night a roving band of angry cowardly white supremacists beat a woman in Brentwood.

This weekend we could not have functioned and operated without enormous support behind the scenes from legal observers, medics, and movement chaplains. They were with us Friday night before any crowds appeared, and they gave us the courage to do what we all felt deeply convicted was the right action, but nonetheless was a frightening action.

And after this weekend, what? I am sad. angry, and determined. I am grateful for this beautiful small collective of humans, who have just begun our journey together. I am full of hope, and moreover, I hope that you will join us in future resistance. And because I am an unruly ill-behaved woman, I really love our battle cry of “Shabbat Shalom motherf***ers!”

Missing my little buddy David – by Terry Howard

“The biggest problem with having a disability is that far too often
people see it before they see you!”

I met little David at a local Starbucks a few years ago.

You see, I was hunched over my laptop searching the internet for a new twist for a piece on people with disabilities given that October is National Disability Employment Month. Over a third cup of coffee, I was focused, oblivious to the comings and goings of folks entering and leaving. But in truth, I was in my zone and preferred to keep it that way.

But little David – his Downs Syndrome and all – had other plans for me. And others.

At the top of his lungs, David called out “Hey brother” as he approached a surprised me at my table in the corner. A high five and a hug later, David was off greeting and hugging others in the place. And like me, all were startled and clearly smitten by little David. It was written all over their faces, our faces. Their silence spoke volumes.

“David, David, get back over here. Leave these people alone!” demanded his mom; words she’d no doubt uttered many times before – words obviously to no avail. But that was before she realized how deeply David touched all of us that day.

Three minutes later, and with little David in tow, mom headed to the door and, David being David, waved and bellowed to us, “good bye my friends.” And we all, in unison, in different words, with moisten eyes – patrons and Starbucks employees alike – stood up and returned, “See ya David!”

And for a few seconds we all stood there, in complete silence, absolute strangers no longer, knowing somehow and full well that we’d just been touched – and connected in our humanity – by an angel.

Now I’ve returned to that Starbucks a number of times since then, feeling cheated by the brevity of that meeting with David, wishing and hoping my little buddy would be there.

But no such luck so far. But I’ll keep going back.

Yes, I’ll keep going back…. wishing and hoping!

Commemorating 60 Years of Civil Rights Law Enforcement at DOJ – by David B. Grinberg

In case you missed it, the month of September marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Division (CRD) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The CRD, which opened for business in 1957, has a noble mission and rich history which has helped to effectuate equal opportunity for all Americans, especially African Americans and other minority groups.

“On September 9, 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, creating the Civil Rights Division,” according to DOJ. “The 1957 Act was the first civil rights law passed since Reconstruction, and was a first step leading to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act the following year, and numerous other civil rights laws enacted in the years since that are enforced by the Civil Rights Division.”

Continue reading Commemorating 60 Years of Civil Rights Law Enforcement at DOJ – by David B. Grinberg

ViVi’s Transformation – Poem by Sharon Mishler Fox

Metamorphosis (Butterflies for Marcus) by Deidre DeFranceaux http://www.deidre-defranceaux.com/paintings/metamorphosis/
Metamorphosis
(Butterflies for Marcus) by Deidre DeFranceaux
http://www.deidre-defranceaux.com/paintings/metamorphosis/

 

I am ViVi’s skin

 

 

 

 

I am a place of disquiet;
I am uncomfortable, aflame
with the desire to become
who I was always meant to be.
My cheeks burn
where the laser singes away
what once was dark beard stubble.

Continue reading ViVi’s Transformation – Poem by Sharon Mishler Fox

Mighty is the Mongrel: Diversity – by Terry Howard

Diversity defines the health and wealth of nations in a new century. Mighty is the mongrel. The hybrid is hip. The impure, the mélange, the adulterated, the blemished, the rough, the black-and-blue, and the mix-and-match – these people are inheriting the earth. Mixing is the new norm. Mixing trumps isolation. It spawns creativity, nourishes the human spirit, spurs economic growth and empowers nations.”

As much as I’d like to, I can’t claim that the above quote belongs to yours truly. No. Its actual source is G. Pascal Zachary’s, The Global Me: New Cosmopolitans and the Competitive Edge.

Initial reactions aside, you have to admit that this one’s a classic thought-provoker. Once I ceased quibbling over Zachary’s intriguing choice of words and began really processing this on a much deeper level, it started to hit home.

And here’s why.

Continue reading Mighty is the Mongrel: Diversity – by Terry Howard

Beautiful One, Heather Heyer – Poem by Wendell Brown

She made another feel very special
With her very special caring joy
She easily would help many others
With her selfless spirit, she employed

The power and passion within her heart
The Godly bliss which filled her day
She knew how to share love with others
Helping those in need in a special way

Continue reading Beautiful One, Heather Heyer – Poem by Wendell Brown

Exorcising the disease of “perfection” – by Terry Howard

How about a show of hands from those of you out there who consider yourselves perfect?

Humm, not a single hand went up. Maybe you didn’t hear me right, so I’ll cuff my ears, kick the volume up, italicize, capitalize and repeat the question; HOW ABOUT A SHOW OF HANDS FROM THOSE OF YOU WHO CONSIDER YOURSELVES PERFECT?

Continue reading Exorcising the disease of “perfection” – by Terry Howard

Homage to The Slants – by Carlos E. Cortés    

The Slants won.  I’m glad.  And with that victory, the field of Diversity & Inclusion enters a new era, whether or not it wants to.

On June 18, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a rare nearly unanimous decision (8-0 with one abstention) in the case of Lee v. Tam (also known as Matal v. Tam).  The substance of the case was this.

Continue reading Homage to The Slants – by Carlos E. Cortés    

26 tiny paint brushes- on writing! – by Terry Howard

Okay, I love to write.

Am I good at my craft? Well, only my readers can answer that question. But I’m here today to share a bit about my history as a writer utilizing the Q & A format. Here goes:

Q: Terry, when did you decide to become a writer?

A: Although I love sports, it didn’t take me long to realize that a NBA career was not in my future. And science and math were not my strong points. Singing? Dancing? Since I’m the worst singer and dancer in the history of the world I ruled out those two options. So I figured that since putting pen to paper was something I enjoyed, plus I had great English teachers, I decided to major in English in college.

Continue reading 26 tiny paint brushes- on writing! – by Terry Howard

Rejecting rejection! – by Terry Howard              

Rejection!

Who the heck needs it? It’s personal, can hurt deeply and can leave an indelible emotional scar. Fact is, just like the air we breathe, we live in a world where rejection is all around us, always has been, always will be.

Rejection is part and parcel to life in general, to systems and eco-systems, to processes, to negotiations, to decisions, to change and reactions to change. Arguably, the worst types of rejection occurs when the body rejects an organ transplant or chemotherapy.

Continue reading Rejecting rejection! – by Terry Howard