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Tag Archives: social justice

Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

via Gallery Hop – I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 Mural Series

This post is a bit longer than ones I usually press, but it brought back memories of teaching.

I taught Language Arts and, as a result, poetry. I was drawn to Langston Hughes who was critical in the Harlem Renaissance, although he was not originally from New York. He was from Joplin, Missouri, found his way to Harlem, and added a wonderful voice through poetry to the Renaissance.

One of the murals in the post is of Richard Pryor who would have begun his career in the latter stages of Langston Hughes’ life. I did not think of it that way until today as I looked at the post and realized there was an overlap in their careers.

Like Hughes, Pryor was not born in New York, but moved there from Illinois. I watched Pryor on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1960’s, enjoying his humour and social critique.

I leave you with a Langston Hughes poem: Dreams. I shared this one with my students each year, reminding them to have dreams and chase those dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

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The Prayer of St. Francis

Today, is our anniversary. We recited the Prayer of St. Francis at our wedding and have it displayed on a small and simple plaque. It reminds me of what it means to be human, in relationship with another person, and in relationship with God.

When I was in Spokane, I printed a copy and put it on the wall of the small room I stayed in. I refer to the room as my monastic cell and the Prayer of St. Francis seems a fitting complement to any monastic cell.

During challenging moments, I recite parts of the prayer to bring me peace and be present in the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

The picture is one I took several years ago of Kathy standing above a set of waterfalls close to the headwaters of the Fraser River.

Take Sides

Source: Take Sides

The link is to a quote by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is not referring to taking sides over a game. Instead, he speaks to taking sides when we witness wrong-doing and immoral acts. His book Night is a worthwhile reading.

I remind other Christians Jesus reached out to those who were most in need, living on the margins of society. He ate with sinners and tax collectors and stood up against the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:1–4) and (Romans 3:23).

We each have to decide what we is immoral and moral. It is not upholding abstract laws and rules, but the spirit of doing what is proper. I did not use the word right or correct . When I do, I fall into a trap of checking a binary box of right or wrong. Instead, I ask “is this proper?” In French, this is a matter of comportment and conduct.

I think the last sentence in the quote are important, worthwhile repeating. It is worth spending time whiling and linger over the words and the depth of their meaning, from a person who suffered and witnessed unthinkable human tragedy perpretrated by other people. “Whereever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

I am not a big believer in thinking about my legacy, whatever that might be, but I want to be remembered as someone who stood up and spoke out against the wrong done to other people.

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born this day in 1904. Teachers, librarians, and parents use his books in children’s literacy, but I found children and adults never really out grow Dr. Seuss.

Several years ago, I read an article about Dr. Seuss. He created cartoons as a critical response to Hitler and Mussolini. He deplored racism and his books were a means of introducing children to diversity. Even though we think of his books as essential to children’s literacy, they are as important to social justice and equity.

It was not just his characters, but what they ate or did not eat that were part of the diversity.

Do you like green eggs and ham?

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham!

Would you like them here or there?

I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.

I do so like green eggs and ham!
Thank you! Thank you,
Sam-I-am!

 

Langston Hughes

As far back as I can remember, I have adored poetry. I’m especially drawn to the works of poets who courageously dive deeply into their stories… their journeys through life. These are m…

Source: Langston Hughes

Similar to Gina, I enjoy poetry. I wrote poetry in junior high school. When I began teaching Language Arts, I taught poetry. During difficult times in my teaching career, I returned to writing poetry.

I loved Langston Hughes‘ poems and used them each year. His poems were short and students discerned their themes, such as holding fast to one’s dreams, social justice, and life’s challenges, and relate to them fairly easily.

Langston Hughes wrote poetry that reflected both his experiences and the culture of the African-American community. This reflected both the celebrations and suffering that people experienced, which are often intertwined with each other.

* My Words for 2017

It will be a time of change. Life is unfolding along an unexpected and uneasy path, with so much outside of our control. When moving into the unknown, it is helpful to sit and pause and listen to o…

Source: * My Words for 2017

Be ready to be fierce.

Be ready to be kind.

Those words sound paradoxical, but to be kind one has to be fierce in our kindness to others. We must want to be kind in the way others have set an example for us.

It is like being radical, which takes us back to our roots. In French, roots is racine and it connected to being radical. If our roots are strong and give us strength to act and speak out against the wrongs others do to the world and people, we can stand and shelter those who need it.

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