Martin Luther King day was Monday. An annual celebration is held on the downtown plaza, preceding by a a ceremony at the Martin Luther King Garden nearby. The crowd on the plaza was huge, the largest that I have seen.
I join the revulsion in response to Trump’s ludicrous ban of transsexuals from military service. They deserve better. People who want to serve this country should not be prevented from doing so because one day they realized that they were a differ gender inside from the one they were on the outside. They are human beings and have human rights.
Thec alleged expense of transition is used as an excuse for this denial of human rights. Such expenses would surely be less than the expenses incurred treating soldiers’ injuries. Additionally, many trans people will have completed their sex changes by the time they enlist. They will still be taking harmone pills, but if they are to be excluded for that, does that mean all soldiers taking medication should be excluded? Utter nonsense!
Many trans serve and have served. They even have their own veterans organization, the Transsexual American Veterans Association, whose website I have already posted on this blog. Can anyone deny that they have contributed to their services?
Trump’s transsexual ban is a bigoted mistake and a cheap political stunt to pander to the Republican base and possibly to distract from the train wreck that is his administration. It is a violation of common sense and of decency. It is unamerican. This country was founded on a shared be.ief that human beings had “inalienable rights.” None are more important than HUMAN rights and trans rights are human rights.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. This landmark legislation helped to level the playing for African Americans in the South somewhat until the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a vital portion of the law, the majority claiming that the South is changed.
The South has, to the contrary, not changed enough to stop trying to disenfranchise African-Americans, most notably with ID requirements that have a similar effect to the nefarious poll taxes of the Jim Crow era. These laws are justified by a fraud problem that is nonexistent. This situation is a travesty.
The time has come restore the franchise once and for all to those, particularly minorities, who law been blocked from voting by the law and its application. This restoration starts with three measures:
- Restore the Voting Rights Act – This has been proved in congress and blocked by Republican’s who need to be turned out of office.
- Automatic Registration – People become registered voters when they become citizens or turn 18. Oregon has just made such a procedure the law of the land. This eliminates duplication, saving both the government and voters money and time. This makes easier for all citizens to vote and for the government to prevent fraud.
- Franchising ex-cons – it is high time that we stop disenfranchising felons who have been released. Whether they are paroled or finished their sentences, if they have done their time, they have done their time, and it makes no sense to keep punishing them. This would have a huge impact since so many African-Americans spend time in prison.
These are just the beginning. We also need to have a holiday for voting so people do not have to rush out to vote during lunch hour or on the way home or on the way to work. Voting should be fair for everyone, not just those who are wealthy enough to overcome the obstacles.
12 statements by Martin Luther King Jr. you won’t see conservatives post on Facebook today. Today the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was celebrated. Here in Gainesville we had a ceremony on the downtown, which is called the Bo Diddly Coomunity Plaza after rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley, who was born in and lived much of his life in the area. The event, which drew a very large crowd, featured speakers, among them local politicians, the awarding of scolariships, and music. The program concluded with the crowd being led in singing the Negro National Anthem, the Hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (a tradition African-American spiritual). The powerful lyrics, written by James Weldon Johnson, were included in the program:
“Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring. ring with the harmonies of Liberty; let our rejoicing rise High as list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the roaring sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has tought us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day Begun, let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when Hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet, Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered; Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way, thou who hast by Thy might led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine Of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.”
(The music is by John Rosamond Johnson)
After the anthem was sung we left the Plaza and marched east to Waldo Road and then northeast up Waldo Road to the Martin Luther King Center. The throng filled the street. Two UU contingents we present: a few members of the UUFG and a few members of the “Phoenix Rising” split off group, one end of whose banner I held up through most of the march.
It was tremendous experience. The MLK holiday is definitely on the upswing, perhaps boosted by the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases. The one thing I was disappointed about was that so few tables were at they event: just a few businesses, people registering voters and the Civic Media Center tabled the event. The MLK observance should be teeming with tables from all progressive groups, political parties, and churches as the Earth Day festival and the Gay Pride march are. Perhaps one day it will be. In the meantime I will conclude with the words (I Dream A World) of the August bard Langston Hughes, one the best this country has ever had:
“I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such a world I dream, my world!”
It is observed tomorrow, but the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, an American hero, was born on this day in 1929. On this important anniversary we at the UUFG honored King with a service dedicated to civil rights. Dr. Zohara Simmons, a veteran of the 1965 March in Selma, and Esther Wallace spoke. They both received standing ovations.
After the service, we had a discussion about the move “Selma” which a group of us saw yesterday. Several in the discussion group, including Dr. Zohara Simmons, who led the discussion, were veterans of the sixties civil rights movement. They thought all the portrayals of the African-American marchers were spot on save that of James Forman, who was portrayed by a man much younger than he was. He was a member of the SCLC and was older than many of the other marchers.
The film was also praised for portraying many African-American women who were in the movement, but faulted for not showing them speaking. Dr. Simmons stressed the importance of Annie Cooper, the woman portrayed powerfully by Oprah Winfrey. Cooper bravely tried to register to vote and was jailed for punching the sheriff. She lived to be 100. Simmons also pointed out that Amelia Boynton, portrayed powerfully by Lorraine Toussaint, is now 103 and still has a sharp mind.
A civil rights veterans who was at UF in the ’60s pointed out that a march occurred in St. Augustine in 1964. Those marchers were also beaten up by police. When the city celebrated it 400th anniversary in 1965, activists tried to remind people of what had happen the year before.
Today a group from the Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville (including this writer) and one person from the split off Phoenix UU group attended the 12:45 viewing of the acclaimed film “Selma”, which is about the marches Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King led in Selma, Alabama in 1965. It more than lived up to expectations. “Selma” is the most powerful film I have seen in a long time. It is inspiring and moving.
The portrayals of participants such as King, Correta Scott King, now-U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Rev. Abernathy, and others are powerful. The attempts to cross the Edmund Pettis bridge are portrayed with particular intensity. The music score which includes “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and Bb Dylan’s “Masters of War” is moving. The film definitely succeeds in recreating the tenor of the times.
Here is an article explaining how to be an ally of African-Civil rights activists. Those of us supporting African-Americans in the movement arising in the wake of the highly publicized killings of young African-American men need to take heed.
By the way, protest marches over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are taking place today. Let us build up the momentum.