The eyes and ears of the people . . .

I’m a longtime member of the Authors Guild, the oldest and largest professional organization for writers in America.  Pearl S. Buck, whose biography I have on my to-write -list, was once the president, as was Madeleine L’Engle.  The current president is Roxana Robinson.  Today I received the following declaration from the Authors Guild that I wanted to share:

We Are Not the People’s Enemies
First President Trump complained that “the media” was biased against him. “Dishonest.” Presidents have made such complaints before, in moments of weakness and self-pity.
Then he labeled the media as “the opposition party.”

Now he has declared journalists to be “the enemy of the American People.”

We at the Authors Guild hear that as a declaration of war. We know our history. Enemy of the People is a phrase long favored by authoritarians and tyrants. The “correct Russian term,” Gary Shteyngart points out, is врагнарода, vrag naroda. Long before Lenin and Stalin used it, Robespierre inaugurated the Reign of Terror by declaring that the Revolutionary Government “owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.”

An earlier president, John F. Kennedy—when he was taking a beating in the press after the Bay of Pigs fiasco—was asked if he resented the media. He said this:

“It is never pleasant to be reading things that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it is an invaluable arm of the presidency, as a check, really, on what is going on in the administration … I would think that Mr. Khrushchev operating a totalitarian system, which has many advantages as far as being able to move in secret, and all the rest—there is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily …Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”

President Kennedy was a member of the Authors Guild. So are many of the journalists now covering the Trump presidency, the historians who will soon reflect upon it, and the novelists who challenge us with their imaginative—and, yes, subversive—visions.

The administration is now said to be preparing the elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities under the false guise of budgetary necessity. We understand this, too, to be part of an attack on the free expression of diverse views.

The Authors Guild serves writers as a nonpartisan advocate. Our members represent a broad spectrum of social and political views. But blanket attacks on writers and journalists, as a class, are not a partisan issue; they are attacks on democracy itself. And, as advocates for authors and the first amendment rights of writers, we cannot let these attacks go unanswered.

We are not the people’s enemies. We are the eyes and ears of the people. And we are the people’s memory.

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Happy Birthday

Celebrating 4 birthdays today – 2/24 – identical twin sons David and Stephen and fraternal twin grandchildren Balan and Quinn!!!!! Another set of twins on the way, due in a month when we already have 3 family birthdays – fun!!!!

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Barbara Jordan

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Tomorrow – Feb. 21 – is the birthday of Barbara Jordan, who was born in 1936 and died on Jan. 17, 1991.  An eminent orator, lawyer, politician, civil rights leader, Barbara Jordan left a powerful legacy of indomitable forthrightness.  Below are some of her quotes:Barbara Jordan statue

We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves.

There is no executive order; there is no law that can require the American people to form a national community. This we must do as individuals and if we do it as individuals, there is no President of the United States who can veto that decision.

The majority of the American people still believe that every single individual in this country is entitled to just as much respect, just as much dignity, as every other individual.

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.

Life is too large to hang out a sign: “For Men Only.”

 

 

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Susan B. Anthony

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On the 15th of February, I will wish Happy Birthday to Susan B. Anthony who was born on that date in 1820, almost two hundred years ago.

With her erect posture, dark-brown hair, steely eyes, a bump on the bridge of her thin, arched nose, and a fearless personality, Susan B. Anthony was a formidable fighter for equality and justice. As a lecturer against slavery, she was encountered hostile crowds (once a maraudering mob burned an effigy of her). As a co-leader, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of the movement for women’s rights, she was ridiculed, reviled, scorned and snubbed. In the early days, she later recalled, it felt like “the whole world was against” them. Mobs of hissing, hooting, bellowing hostile spectators would disrupt women’s rights conventions. Politician, preachers, reporters, and a vociferous assortment of foes hurled slurs, and false claims.

Very few people were wishing Susan B. Anthony a Happy Birthday on February 15th.

But over the years people started changing their minds about Susan B. Anthony. For her fiftieth birthday, hundreds of admirers attended a festive celebration, despite a torrential rainstorm, and honored her with gifts, speeches and poems. Even more people attended her seventieth birthday party. Gifts were piled high. Seventy pink carnations were presented to her. Toasts were made. Telegrams, cablegrams, and letters were read. A huge crowd celebrated her on her eightieth birthday. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote a witty poem with lines describing their speaking tours: “From sleigh, ox-carts, and mayhap coaches./Besieged with beetles, bugs, and roaches:/All this for the emancipation/Of the brave women of our Nation.” Eighty children, one by one, laid a single red rose on her lap.

Susan B. Anthony’s last birthday celebration, her eighty-sixth, was held in 1906. Addressing the gathering, she declared that in the on-going fight for women’s right to vote—“failure is impossible.”

Those now iconic words—“Failure is impossible”—were the last ones spoken by the esteemed Susan B. Anthony in public. She died at her home in Rochester, New York on March 13, 1906. Today Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, February 15, is an official state holiday in California, Florida, Wisconsin, New York, and in West Virginia, where it is celebrated on Election Day in even years. Efforts to make it a national holiday have failed in the U.S. Congress, but many people support the idea, including me. How about you?

Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony!

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Leontyne Price

230px-Leontyne_Price_(color)_by_Jack_MitchellToday – Feb. 10th – is the 90th birthday of the great American soprano Leontyne Price.  I heard her sing many years ago at the Metropolitan Opera House.  I just listened to her singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (first video in this link).  Her voice soothed my mind, troubled by the endless political chaos.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/singular-voices-leontyne-price/?utm_source=local&utm_medium=treatment&utm_campaign=carousel&utm_content=item0

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“She Persisted!”

SojournerTruthPic SojournerTruthFlorence PCSojTruth09CropShort“Nevertheless, she persisted!” Sojourner Truth is one among millions of our foremothers who “persisted,” just as millions of women, and men of good will, are persisting today and will continue to persist! I love that word – persist!

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Elizabeth Warren Reads Coretta Scott Kings Letter

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/sen-warren-reads-coretta-scott-kings-letter-about-jeff-sessions-outside-the-senate/2017/02/07/2078bc24-edb5-11e6-a100-fdaaf400369a_video.html

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Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima_Poinsette_Clark Wise words by Septima Poinsette Clark: “I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.” Martin Luther King, Jr. called Septima Clark “The Mother of the Movement.” I photographed the historic marker several years ago during a research trip to Charleston, South Carolina. It reads: Septima P Clark/Expressway/By Legislative Act/in 1978/Named in Her Honor/Community Leader/Educator/Civil Rights Leader/Dedicated 1978SeptimaClark

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Courageous Voices

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Nobody’s free until everybody’s free. Fannie Lou Hamer, (Oct. 6, 1917-March 14, 1977) Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Anti-Poverty Activist, Singer; Statue located in Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Park, Ruleville, Mississippi

 

MaryMcLeodBethuneStatueBelieve in yourself, learn, and never stop wanting to build a better world. Mary McLeod Bethune,  (July 10, 1875-May 18, 1955); Educator, Friend and Conscience of Eleanor Roosevelt, Advisor to U.S. Presidents: Statue is located in Lincoln Park, East Capitol Stree1 & 13th N.E.

 

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“When it comes to justice . . .”

“When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.”

b8ac4308-fc8e-3ac3-8c31-c3721094dc5bIn March of 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. She was manhandled off the bus, locked in an adult jail, and fined. A year later, she became one of the five women to file a suit “Browder v. Gayle,” challenging segregation of public transportation as unconstitutional. Called a “star witness” by a lawyer at the trial before three federal judges, Colvin said afterwards, “I was exhausted but proud – I felt I had done my best.” Four months later, the judges ruled that bus segregation in Alabama was unconstitutional, a decision that was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Hearing the court’s decision gave Claudette Colvin a feeling of “joy for my people and pride for what I had done.”  She was empowered by a teacher who taught about citizens’ rights under the U.S. Constitutions. (I wrote about Claudette Colvin in my book “Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America”)

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