Monday, March 4, 2013

"We Shall Overcome" as True Today as it was in the 60's

Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) was moved to tears on Saturday by an apology from a police chief in Montgomery, Alabama, who said his department utterly failed to protect civil rights marchers as they disembarked from a Grayhound bus into a segregated terminal in 1961.

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Lewis was one of 21 protesters who stepped off that bus and into an angry melee as more than 300 white southerners attacked the group with baseball bats and other blunt objects. Despite an order by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to protect these so-called “Freedom Riders,” police backed off in Montgomery and let the mob have its way.  
Appearing with Lewis on Saturday after a symbolic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma, Alabama — where 600 civil rights marchers were brutally attacked by police in 1965 — Montgomery Chief of Police Kevin Murphy formally apologized for the bus terminal incident and presented Lewis with his badge.
As someone who grew in the 1960's, I remember watching the Civil Right's clashes and wondering why they were happening as it made zero sense.  Why deny anyone the right to vote?  Made no sense then and even less sense today to have voter suppression or make people stand in line for hours to vote in minority precincts.  Shame on the new Hard Right Republican Party for condoning this in the states.  People fought and died for everyone's right to vote but now the new GOP doesn't believe in one man, one vote for minorities as we saw during the election and have been seeing since as white hard right legislatures try to rig the electoral colleges.  Despicable human beings.

As a teenager from an all white small town, I grew up in the Church of the Brethren but our minister was nondenominational because the Church didn't have enough pastors.  Rev Higgens was the leader of the largest Church in our small town and encouraged our youth group to give back.

Learned the song "We Shall Overcome" when our youth group with others from around the area went to Dayton to help refurbish a church for a new Black Community Church Congregation.  Our minister had gone to college with the new leader of this church.  There were youth groups with advisers from our Church of the Brethren, Methodist Church, Temple Israel, and members of the youth group of an AME Church all working together to restore  this beautiful old church. We were there to help paint, clean, and fix up the Church.  Denominations from around the area each took one weekend to help them out.  A month later the Church was ready to host their first service. They invited us all back when they held their first service in the new church with a luncheon following the service - best food ever.

We all were working together to make an old church new again where voices would once again be heard singing.  While we were working, the AME group started singing as they worked and pretty soon singing filled the Church with  "Rock my Soul in the Bosom of Abraham" which had kids, singing, painting, and dancing.  Remember thinking these old gospel songs are so full of energy as more and more gospel songs were sung.  We ended Friday night with the song "We Shall Overcome" which most of us didn't know but by Saturday night we knew the words.  On Sunday morning our pastor and the pastor of the new black church held a worship service which ended with "Let Their be Peace on Earth."  Pastors helped that afternoon from around the area to do some of the heavier work while some of us went outside to do a little landscaping.  As we all held hands on our last evening and sang "We Shall Overcome" most of us had tears in our eyes.  We were just kids and had no idea what was ahead for blacks in this Country.

When the race riots hit West Dayton in 1996 after reports a bootlegger was shot and killed by a group of white men, all I could think of was that old Church we had helped fix up was going to be destroyed but no one touched the Church.

To this day I never understood suppression of voting rights or the segregation of schools and in doing the research for this timeline of black history in Ohio found a reason why - it was the area I grew up in that didn't have segregation:
1885: Piqua schools become integrated when the only school for black children, Boone Street School, closes because of low attendance. Source: Dayton Daily News archives.
Piqua is about five miles east of where I grew up - my Dad was raised in Piqua.  No wonder I was shocked to learn that schools in other parts of Ohio like Dayton were segregated.  Never knew anything but local schools like Troy and Piqua that had some really great black football players who went to Ohio State and clobbered us in scrimmage games.

Was at Wright-Patterson AFB when the NAACP lawsuit was filed to end segregation of Dayton schools - I was shocked as I assumed by then all schools were the same as those in Piqua and Troy as Dayton was only 25 miles south of us.  To me segregation was for schools in the south not in my backyard.  I was wrong and to this day do not understand why blacks were put in schools separate from whites in any part of the Country.
1972: When it filed a federal lawsuit against the Dayton school board and the state in 1972, the NAACP reached back to 1912 to present a history of school segregation in the district to bolster its case that school board policies had created and maintained a dual school system, one for blacks and one for whites.
Today blacks once again along with other minorities are fighting for their Right to Vote as we saw in the 2012 election when states including Ohio, PA, MI, FL and some other states tried to suppress the votes of minorities.

If voter suppression wasn't bad enough, in Wake County, North Carolina,  a conservative school board voted to end integration and go back to segregation in 2009.  They were voted out in the next election and schools returned to normal.  This is the 21st Century and blacks are still fighting to vote and keep schools segregated?  What has happened to this Country?
In a powerful new video short (see video below this article) from Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation, the fifth and latest installment in the foundation's "Koch Brothers Exposed" series, we hear those watchwords tumble from the lips of newly-elected school board members, juxtaposed with footage of 1960s-era segregationists uttering the very same phrases. (Full disclosure: Greenwald serves on the board of directors of the Independent Media Institute, of which AlterNet is a part.) 
The members of the Wake County school board's new majority won their seats in 2009 with organizing by the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity, the Tea Party-allied astroturf group funded by Charles and David Koch, in one of the most expensive school board races in the state's history. North Carolina retail magnate Art Pope, who serves as a director on the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, is deeply involved in the effort, as the Washington Post reported earlier this year. 
“The Koch brothers have more than $42 billion to make public policy out of their anti-government ideology,” said Brave New Foundation founder Robert Greenwald in a statement. “Their assault against public education epitomizes their tactics to remake our nation.” 
In the Wake County installment of "Koch Brothers Exposed," we meet two school board candidates, Karen Simon, who is black, and Rita Rakestraw, who is white. Both were defeated by AFP-backed candidates. "We came to a gunfight [armed] with knives," Simon says ruefully.    
Excerpt:  Read More at Alternet 

Here is the latest update on Wake County schools where the Democrats have taken back the school board from the hard right Koch Brothers school board members.  Their problem now is the Republican County Commission who allocate school funding.

Not only are blacks fighting for voting rights today along with other minorities but they are fighting school board members who are backed by the Koch Brothers and their group Americans for Prosperty who are behind a movement to return public schools to the days of segregation .  In answer to my question above about "What has happened to this Country?" you need to look no farther than the Koch Brothers, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Scaife Foundations (4), Pete Peterson and other Republican wealthy donors backing the hard right with large sums of money to take over the Country to make it a vision of the John Birth Society.  Koch Brother's Father was a founding member of the John Birch Society along with Harry Bradley who have now taken over the Republican Party and its puppets in the Congress except for a few willing to speak out.

"We Shall Overcome" needs to be a rallying cry for the 2014 elections, when Democrats, Independents, and Republicans come together to oust the Koch Brothers Tea Party members/candidates from the House.  The Republican Party is dead to me today after years of activism because I put what is good for my Country over a hard right political party.  Many of today's Republicans did a good job of hiding their hard right beliefs as we elected them but those days are over - won't vote for any Republican who stays silent or supports the hard right Tea Party, militia movement, or hard right social conservative ideas which means I am supporting, voting, and donating to progressives in this election who do have the best interest of the Country at heart.

United as one group from across the political spectrum, we have come together as part of Organizing for Action and now on Twitter as part of Unite Blue to take back the House in order to move our Country forward.

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