The Birmingham Project

I was looking into the eyes of a black girl around thirteen years old. She looked back, her eyes pensive and a bit sullen. Then I shifted my gaze to the black woman seated as if next to her, about fifty years her senior. The woman’s eyes were those of a survivor, the eyes of someone who has lived through and somehow managed to transcend unimaginable pain.

What this woman from Birmingham, Alabama had survived was the racial violence that overtook her city in the early 1960s. The federal government had ordered Alabama’s public schools to de-segregate; Governor George Wallace was determined to resist.

[Read more...]

It’s Time to Derail the Gravy Train

gravy trainEarlier this week we saw yet again what happens when thousands of the unemployed, living off subsidies from taxpayers, decide to take their grievances to the streets. This latest assault on decency and order happened in Columbus, Ohio, but the list of cities victimized in this way is long and growing. It’s often peaceful towns that are targeted—communities filled with law-abiding people who work for a living, who follow the rules, and who deserve better protection from law enforcement.

The thugs who prey on these neighborhoods wreak havoc, often with impunity. Responsible for neither jobs nor children, living off the earnings of others, these welfare kings and queens strut the streets at night, swilling alcohol, fornicating with abandon, and all too often, inciting violence against property and persons.

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#BlackLivesMatter to Poets

15776028730_4963de50d0_zPoets are rising to the cause, hands raised (“Don’t shoot!”) but hands also holding pencils and paper or at the computer keys, writing poems.

The cause I refer to is clear to anyone who has lived in this country since August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s murder. It’s not a new cause, alas; racial injustice has never been absent from our land.

But what’s new—and hopeful—is the depth and breadth of public outcry. It had actually begun a couple weeks earlier, with the caught-on-camera police choking of Eric Garner, then swelled as Michael Brown’s dead body lay for four and a half hours in the street.

Then in late November-early December, the swell became a roar of indignation, as black Americans felt slap after slap after slap on the face of their worth as human beings: on November 22, the police killing (“when will they ever learn?”) of twelve-year old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park; on November 24, the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Brown; on December 3, the non-indictment of the police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death. [Read more...]

The Regrettably Pretty Shoes: A St. Louis Story

st louis policeGuest post by Linda Wendling

 I love St. Louis. I love Ferguson.

My whole family grew up loving this burg. Two kids went to school there; my friends and I ate girly tea-party fare at The Thyme Table. And we all hit The Ferguson Bakery (famous for its chewy anise cookies). Ferguson and St. Louis proper are rich in historic homes, multicultural communities, and a long tradition of block parties (can you say “toasted ravioli?”). Two of my children still live in St. Louis. We still belong to the St. Louis Mennonites. It’s home.

This is the story of a young St. Louis mother who has to walk in far more deliberate grace and patience and with a cooler head than most of us—to not let her little girl catch the rage disease. Jaimie* is the child who came to us as a young single adult. Jaimie is the daughter who (gently) muzzles me now and then.

Jaimie muzzles herself. [Read more...]

Can We Bridge the Racial Divide?

Recently, after I’d just watched the documentary about food deserts called A Place at the Table, I was being taxi dad, driving kids around town. I discovered that a kid I know and see relatively often is not only poor, but experiences every day what is now euphemistically called “food insecurity.” Also, not incidentally, the kid is African American.

All three of my kids are musicians, the circles in which they move at school are integrated, and they have formed close friendships with their black peers. It is heartening to see what appears to be Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of “little black boys and black girls…able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Outside of school however, things can get awkward fast. The disparity is undeniable—even if it is uncomfortable to talk about. These kids are on a path that will likely split along racial lines as they grow into adulthood. Not only is it not likely they will remain friends, it is not likely that their life trajectories will be anything alike.

First, in this group of close friends the line between the haves and the have-nots is drawn on racial lines. Second, while they are reaching an age at which they are noticing and showing discomfort with these inequalities, they are also encoding poisonous systemic notions about race, wealth, merit, and opportunity.

[Read more...]


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