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bigtree

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 58,338

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'Family' feeling at Ferguson PD last night, to near calamity - Protestor's perspective on shootings

____Deray McKesson is a teacher who hails from Baltimore (my neck of the woods) who has been in Ferguson since the beginning of the protests. He's immediately recognizable in his blue down vest and well-known to anyone who's been following events in Ferguson on Twitter. Deray was, characteristically, in fron of the Ferguson PD last night participating in a peaceful, but determined protest when, later in the evening, the two officers were shot. He's provided a vivid and typically insightful account of events before and after the shootings on his twitter page which I recorded last night as events unfolded. Deray has offered his tweets and vines to the 'media', with proper attribution...

deray mckesson @deray · 4h 4 hours ago
Media, you can use any content of tweets/vines. Just give credit. Tell the truth.


I think he'd be fine with sharing them here at DU, so...read all the way through (vine videos are linked in the tweets on this page on the hour (9h hours ago, etc.)) and gain a bit of insight into the evening's events from the perspective of a very engaging and caring person who deserves all of the respect we can manage for his dedication and commitment to the protest efforts there and elsewhere, like his appearance in Selma this past weekend. We are very fortunate to have Deray as a witness to events in Ferguson, and as a participant in numerous demonstrations, reporting, and many other forums, as well.



deray mckesson @deray · Mar 8
Selma. #Selma50


The evening begins like so many other eventful and tragic ones throughout these 215 days of protest...


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
Y'all, it feels like October out here. So many protestors. So much family. The movement lives. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
Ferguson PD. Protest.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
It's incredible out here. It feels like the old days of protest. This will be a long summer. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And the Ferguson PD is nowhere to be found. You know, they shouldn't even exist.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
It's wild just walking on the Ferguson PD lot like this. Months ago, they would've had 100 riot police out here. How times have changed.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
Apparently the police are coming down the street. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And one Ferguson PD car arrives. Protest.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And yes, someone is playing Boosie. This is just like the old days. Yes, yes, and yes. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And the police helicopter is out. Here we go. Ferguson PD


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And the riot gear is here. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
And the police attempt to move us. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
I haven't seen this few officers try to manage us...ever. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
Ferguson PD. We protest.




deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
Protest. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 10h 10 hours ago
It's crazy to be out here and think about all those nights from August - November. It's crazy to remember how it once was. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
There is NO Ferguson PD officer out here. That's fascinating.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Officers from everywhere but Ferguson. Ferguson PD.




deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Officers from across STL. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
These officers are shaky out here. They are new to the protests. Whew. They just sent any officer out here tonight. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
And the first arrest. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
LOOK AT THE POLICE MANHANDLE HIM.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
This is wild. The police are out of control. Disband the PD


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
I can't even describe how wild this is. The police are terrible.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
And apparently the police arrested a 10 year old tonight. I didn't see it though. But it has the crowd tense. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
The guy was arrested for just being in the street. It was a random arrest. The police are awful. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
And two arrests later, we are still blocking the street. And the police are blocking the lot to the PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
The street is blocked. She's crying. And won't back up. Standstill. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Standstill. Ferguson PD. https://vine.co/v/O9ejp57XiDj


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
There are more officers out here now. Perhaps about 40 officers. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
There's also a lot of media out here too. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Look. At. The. Police. https://vine.co/v/O9eFJzxDOvE


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
This. https://vine.co/v/O9eFH0Z22LM


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
It's tense out here now. Ferguson. https://vine.co/v/O9eUOeLB0LI


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
The police retreat. Ferguson PD


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
We've officially gone back to August. Here we go. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
This officer from Edmundson was choking @rikrik__. M. Anton.




deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Apparently Mike Brown Sr. is coming down the street, so we've opened the street temporarily. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Mike Brown Sr. just drove by the protest. That hasn't happened before. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
And a drummer just arrived. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Protest, to the beat. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Tonight. Y'all.


deray mckesson @deray · 9h 9 hours ago
Tonight is spinning out of control. Aye.


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago

Here we go. https://vine.co/v/O9iM5wqEX5I


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago
And now the police have blocked off the street. Standstill. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago
The street is now open. It's cat and mouse w/ the police at this point.


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago
No tweet or vine will help you understand how intensely the police protect this street. It's wild. And it's been wild since August.


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago
We're all looking forward to the day that the Ferguson PR is disbanded. They are a mockery of justice.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
.@KWRose and @RE_invent_ED were allowed to cross the police line to go to post bond for those arrested tonight. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 8h 8 hours ago
And this guy is really grilling. Chicken and errything. Like, the grill is full.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago

Somebody just shot the police! https://vine.co/v/O9iUVEBv2rq



deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago

Holy shit. There were just like 4 shots. It seems like an officer was shot. Shit



deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Guns drawn. Ferguson PD.




deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
The officers just called for an ambulance. I don't know if someone got hit. This is now crazy. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Protestors are starting to leave. I'm in the car and was in the car when the shots were fired. Wild. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
The officers are on 10,000 right now. I can't even explain it. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Guns drawn. Ferguson PD.




deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
The shooter was at the top of the hill. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Officers with guns drawn. Ferguson PD.




deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Current scene. It's wild. Ferguson PD https://vine.co/v/O9ixUQm7LK1


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
It's like a ton of officers out here now. I'm still in the car. It just got more intense than any night we've ever had. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
They are about to storm the hill. It's crazy intense out here. Wow. #Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
There are too many police for me to exit the parking lot right now. Street completely blocked. This is wild. Ferguson PD


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Shotguns out. They are advancing. Crazy. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Police advance. https://vine.co/v/O9i2LPKMiWt


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Officers told us to put our hands up. Intense. Ferguson PD. https://vine.co/v/O9i0mOYKTne


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
There's a car parked at the top of the street. And they are surrounding it. They're asking if they saw anything. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Huge rifles out now. Every officer crouching. Tonight has been crazy from start to finish. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
I can hear the officers yelling atop the hill. Can't see any of the officers though. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
There's a whole set of protestors on the other side of the parking lot. They're stuck on that side. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The officers waited a long time to go up the hill. They're still up there. It seems unlikely that the shooter is up there now. FergusonPD.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The ambulance just left the scene. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson retweeted
Keith Rose @KWRose · 7h 7 hours ago
.@RE_invent_ED, Lawyer @javadesq, & I were forced to go into #Ferguson PD for our safety. Officers running around with assault rifles.


deray mckesson retweeted
Keith Rose @KWRose · 8h 8 hours ago
.@RE_invent_ED and I are safe. We are outside hiding behind the concrete. Officer is bleeding badly. But I'm not posting unedited video.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Another set of officers just arrived. Guns drawn. And police dog. All went up the hill. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago

I feel safer just sitting in the car than moving at all at this point. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Rifles drawn. Ferguson PD.




deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
Current scene. Ferguson PD. https://vine.co/v/O9illHDUw3z


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
They've now put officers on the lot. And these officers are really emotional right now. Not a good combo at all. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
Police are walking protestors to the other side of the street, across the police tape, now. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
I do not condone the killing of police officers. I do not condone the killing of the unarmed. I do not condone killing.


deray mckesson @deray · 7h 7 hours ago
This has been a long 215 days


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
Now, I was here. I saw the officer fall. The shot came from at least 500 feet away from the officers. Ferguson PD.


deray mckesson retweeted
Loctavia Butler @LovnMyLocs · 6h 6 hours ago
That was no regular shooter. It’s impossible. It was HELLAS ppl and aoace between where the shots came from and those cops.


deray mckesson retweeted
KayRay @RE_invent_ED · 6h 6 hours ago
The shots came from behind the protestors. Bullets don't have names. It literally could've been anyone


deray mckesson retweeted
KayRay @RE_invent_ED · 6h 6 hours ago
215 days and no officer was ever injured by a protestor. That didn't change tonight.


ShordeeDooWhop ‏@Nettaaaaaaaa
The media better not start that shit and the police better not lie. Those shots did not come from the lot were the protesters were at.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The shots did not come from any lot with protestors. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The police know that protestors weren't the shooter. That's why they didn't detain us. They went for the hill where none of us were.


deray mckesson retweeted
ShordeeDooWhop @Nettaaaaaaaa · 6h 6 hours ago
It's no way on earth if it was protestors they would've let everyone leave and drive off the lot. No way


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
It's eerily calm out here right now. Tense because the officers have weapons drawn. But eerily calm nonetheless. Ferguson.


deray mckesson retweeted
Dr. Cornel Fresh @WyzeChef · 6h 6 hours ago
The officer shot (in the face) is conscious. It couldn't have been something heavy. It definitely sounded like a pistol.


deray mckesson retweeted
Christine Byers ‏@ChristineDByers
Belmar says both officers conscious but have "very serious" injuries


deray mckesson retweeted
McBlondeLand @McBlondeLand · 6h 6 hours ago
@deray #Belmar just said he was sure the shooter was in midst of protestors & shot cops point blank although he hadn't talked to witnesses


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The police wouldn't let a few of us leave this lot because they wanted statements from us because we were close to the hill, not suspects.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
The police just said the last of us can leave the lot now. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
It is disgusting that Belmar is saying the shooter was "embedded in" the protestor group w/o speaking to any witnesses or seeing evidence.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
And about 30 more officers just went up the hill. Ferguson.


deray mckesson @deray · 6h 6 hours ago
I'm heading home now.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
And on the way home I get stopped by the police. Apparently I was going 43 mph and the speed limit is 30 mph. I just want to go home.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
No ticket. He recognized me from Twitter and told me to have a good night and to slow down. Homebound.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
The officer also said that contrary to reports, no officer was shot in the face tonight. He said chest and shoulder only.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
The officer also let me know that the two officers shot will be okay, that the bulletproof vest of one of them saved his life.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
For what it's worth, the officer that pulled me over completely understood the nature of the unrest. He got why we're protesting.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
If Mike Brown were still alive, we wouldn't be protesting. We all would've been home tonight.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
I asked him why he became an officer. And he said that a loved one was killed in a senseless murder. That made him join the force.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
The officer that pulled me over also noted that he'd be leaving the police force soon to pursue another career path. I encouraged that.


deray mckesson @deray · 5h 5 hours ago
Sleep well, y'all. Remember to dream.






ron fullwood @ronfullwood (bigtree)

Dad and Equal Employment Opportunity in Black History



(self-obliging re-post from earlier years. This forum gives this story the relevance and stature that GD's political focus often ignores. Hope it's still welcome here. )


SOME of the most important and relevant aspects of our Black History Month celebrations have been our highlighting and honoring of our country's African American heroes whose efforts helped our nation advance and grow beyond our challenging, and often, tragic beginnings. Although most would be loath to call themselves 'heroes' or volunteer themselves for any special recognition at all for their deeds, there is certainly a benefit in framing and promoting these brave citizens' struggles and triumphs as a guide to future generations as they navigate their own inter-ethnic/inter-racial relationships among our increasingly diverse population. Their work and sacrifices form the foundation for the actions we took to reject and defend against discrimination, racism, and other abuses and injustices; as well as provide sustaining inspiration for the conduct of our own lives.

The most enduring and important legacy of these societal pioneers has been the uplifting of a people, and the promises gained, of opportunity and justice for black Americans (and, subsequently, other minorities, women, and the disabled) to be realized through the affirmative action of our federal government.

It was only through the tireless activism and advocacy of notables like Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the civil rights movement in the 1960's, who were protesting and demanding equal opportunity and access for African Americans, that politicians like John F. Kennedy and his political predecessors saw fit to introduce and advance legislation which would bring the federal government into compliance with the aim of equal employment opportunity and require contractors who were hired by government agencies to form 'affirmative action' programs within their own companies as a prerequisite for getting tax dollars from Uncle Sam.

Although President Kennedy didn't live to see the passage of the Civil Rights Act, he did manage to accommodate the lobbied demands of Dr. King in both, his Executive Order 10925, introduced. in 1961, establishing a 'Committee On Equal Employment Opportunity' (providing for the first time, enforcement of anti-discrimination provisions) ; and in his introduction of the Civil Rights Act to Congress on 19 June 1963.

Almost a year after President Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress and signed it into law. One of its major provisions was the creation of the 'Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.' The law provided for a defense by the federal government against objectionable private conduct, like discrimination in public accommodations; authorized the Attorney General to file lawsuits to defend access to public facilities and schools, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, and to outlaw and defend against discrimination in federal programs.

So, Dr. King and others in the civil rights effort, had done their part in agitating and promoting through demonstrations, the notion and the ideal of advancing equal opportunity into action and law. The passage of the Civil Rights Act was, by no means, the end of advocacy by black leaders. Neither was it the end of the political effort by Johnson and others committed to advancing and enhancing black employment and establishing anti-discrimination as the law of the land.

On September 24, 1965, President Johnson originated and signed Executive Order 11246 which established new guidelines for businesses who contracted with the Federal government agencies, and required those with $10,000 or more of business with Uncle Sam to take 'affirmative action' to increase the number of minorities in their workplaces and keep a record of their efforts available on demand. It also set 'goals and timetables' for the realization of those minority positions.

As far as the activists and politicians' abilities went, they had stepped up to the plate and hit the ball into the outfield. Now, the challenge was to bring the jobs home; to protect and defend the new employment provisions in the federal government, as well as, around the nation in the myriad of public facilities and other amenities which were connected to the federal government through funding. Enforcement was the key.

That would require reliance on a newly formed bureaucracy and its government managers and directors; some appointed by the president, most others brought into government on a less auspicious level.

One of those 'managers and directors' who was present and accountable in government at the time of these important changes in our employment law was my father, Charles James Fullwood.


Charles James Fullwood

In a bit of a self-indulgent look back at his almost 40 years in government -- in relation to some of the changes in the federal government's evolving embrace of its responsibility to defend and promote the remedies and benefits of the equal protection clauses in the Constitution -- we can see a tenuous, but, determined fight beyond the protests; beyond the political arena; to press on with the implementation and realization of some of the promises of the Civil Rights movement.

In Charles Fullwood's personal development and advancement in the military and in government, we can also see many of the dynamics of inclusion and adjustment in play which marked his coming of age in the midst of poverty and oppression, and also, the period beyond the bold actions and bold choices our nation subsequently undertook through their elected representatives.

As humble beginnings go, it's hard to get more quaint than his first home near an Indian reservation in the mountains of Black Hills, North Carolina. He said his daddy used to run a speakeasy with a still in the cellar which he liked to nip at a little when he fetched and filled the jugs for the blues-loving customers partying upstairs. A run-in by my grandfather with a local sheriff was said to have sent the Fullwoods packing and making their way up North in a hurry. The family of eleven settled down in Reading, Pennsylvania, and, but for a few exceptions, like Dad, lived most of the rest of their entire lives there.


On the Sidewalk Outside of 4th Street Address

Reading was a hard-scrabble, mostly poor community which was mostly known, as my father liked to say, for it's 'pretzels, prostitutes, and beer.' In his neighborhood, at least, he described a people who were laid low by poverty and discrimination, and advantaged more by the 'mob' than by the government or its industry. Their burly representatives were said to bring food and clothing to some of the needy families in the neighborhood, once, as Dad described it, looking in the door and seeing all of the children running around, remarked, 'Look at all the hungry little bastards! Little bastards gotta eat.'

Dad said that they would come by occasionally with items like underwear that folks had discarded, and, they'd take them -- happily, because it might be their only opportunity. It's not as if their father hadn't worked to provide for his large family. In fact, James Beulo Fullwood, who immediately applied for 'Relief', upon arrival in town, refused to send his children to school unless the local government provided all nine of them with new clothes. I'm told he got the clothes.





Somehow, Dad and his sister Olivia (who was a young, tragic casualty of the seedy side of the town) managed to gain admission to a Quaker grade school nearby and enjoyed the benefits of educational integration well before most of the rest of the nation. He also worked with the conscientious objectors in the Quaker community as a member of the local Civilian Conservation Corps.


Dad and the Reading Civilian Conservation Corps

Like most endeavors in his life, Dad was on the cusp of a revolution of societal changes which would both advance his careers, and bring his life experiences to bear as he took advantage of the opportunities that the political community's (and the nation's) determination to implement the 'Great Society' ideals expressed and advanced by King, Kennedy, and Johnson into action or law afforded him.

Charles completed three years of high school (vocational school) without a degree and worked as a machinist apprentice operating a drill press. As far as opportunity went in that town, he had the best of it at the machine shop.

He joined the U.S. Army, in 1942, during WWII. He'd had enough of life in Reading and the world was beckoning. That summer as he trained in munitions handling and other military tasks, U.S. troops had landed on Guadalcanal. A year later, as Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met together for the first time, Dad was aboard a Navy carrier bound for New Guinea (the time of his life).



He was attached to the 628th Ordinance Company and their mission was to establish an ammo dump near Brisbane, Australia. The voyage was 'uneventful;' touching once at Wellington, New Zealand and eventually docking at Sydney, Australia.


Members of the 628th Ordinance Company

"Today is cruel:" he wrote, in a brief, but compelling journal of his first voyage and his first trip abroad. "the sky is cold. not a particle of cheery blue is seen. Nature has sketched a lifeless and deadly scene whose background is obscurity . . The elements are warring."


New Guinea -- Cadre and Locals

Dad gained a field promotion in New Guinea to Staff Sargent after his superiors recognized him as a leader among his unit of black soldiers. He had an experienced ability to relate with and communicate effectively with the majority of white commanders and superiors in the military and that also served to elevate his profile among the military leadership.

Dad returned from his voyage and two-month deployment to New Guinea and Australia, newly energized and ambitious. On the way home from the West, he had to repeatedly switch trains to ride on the 'colored' cars through the segregated states and towns. He arrived home to Reading and immediately threw his abusive, deadbeat father to the curb. He didn't plan to stay there long, though.


Dad and Sister

Charles received an honorable discharge in 1946. Four years later, he was a graduate student on the GI Bill at West Virginia State College. Dad met my mother there and married her after graduation. He received a degree there in Psychology and went on to further his education at Princess Anne College in Maryland, where he described living in a rundown, segregated, barrack-like dorm.





At WVa. State College, Dad became a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and joined the ROTC.


W.Va, College President, John W. Davis Presents the ROTC Unit's Colors to Senior Cadet, Lt. Charles Fullwood

He subsequently enlisted in the USAR in 1950 where he was assigned to work on civil affairs, recruiting, and personnel. Years after that, in 1963, Charles became a military policeman in the National Guard of the District of Columbia.


Public Safety Officer With D.C. National Guard

Back in his community, Mr Fullwood had also organized a civic association in his home named the Raritan Valley Association which was founded to further the goal of racial equality and for "greater awareness among Negroes of their own responsibility to the community."





It was also at this time -- right at the point in 1963 where President Kennedy is introducing the Dr. King-inspired Civil Rights bill of his to a divided Congress -- that Charles Fullwood was hired as an Employee/Management Relations Specialist in the Office of Undersecretary of the Army overseeing and processing complaints that passed through the Army Policy and Grievance Board.

When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Mr. Fullwood had been promoted to a Personnel Staffing Specialist, Chief of Employee Services Section, at NASA, with responsibility for managing equal employment, mentally ill, and affirmative action programs; along with responsibility for recruiting and outreach. By 1966, he was NASA's 'principle action,' Equal Opportunity Employment Specialist for the Federal Government, and assisted in the implementation of Kennedy and Johnson's 'affirmative' action-based Executive Orders, 10925 and 11246.


Dad at NASA

By 1967, Charles had advanced to the U.S Civil Services Commission, assisting in developing general and special inspection plans for employer compliance with affirmative action laws and participating in EEO reviews.


Graduating Class at Judge Advocate General's School

In 1968, after being a rare bird in the Judge Advocate General's School and completing its International Law course, he was, simultaneously appointed Deputy Chief, Placement at the Office of Economic Opportunity Personnel and Job Corps. The remnants of the OEO that were reorganized into the Department of Health and Human Services. were the last vestiges of Sargent Shriver's hopes and dreams which Nixon had dismantled and tried to underfund and eliminate.

The next year, Charles Fullwood was moved to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a senior consultant top legislative officers of state, local governments, and private industry in providing ways to implement Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.



By 1970, he was promoted to a position as Deputy EEO Officer, responsible for implementing and evaluating a program of equal employment opportunity for employees of the Public Health Service hospitals, clinics, and major health services divisions.

Later, as Deputy Director of OEEO and HSMHA in 1972, Mr. Fullwood would direct the implementation and administration of affirmative action, upward mobility programs, and the processing of the Federal Women's and the Spanish-Speaking Program which had also been folded under EEO's mantle. This was the period where EEO had been granted actual authority to file lawsuits against violators. In the past, those cases were processed and prosecuted by the Labor Dept., with EEO merely providing friend-of-the-court briefs in support or opposition.

Dad took advantage of this period to play 'Lawrence of Arabia' and leave his paperwork-laden office and go out in the field to bonk some heads. He'd take a sheaf full of the new regs and new authority and put on his best angry administrator face for the code violators and abusers he encountered along the way. Not to diminish the effect of the enforcement ability afforded EEO, there were several landmark cases which were quickly prosecuted by the government and won.

____ It was also during this period that my father had become frustrated over being ignored, yet again, for a promotion in his membership as a major in the Army Reserve. He had been with the Reserve for over 20 years at that point, attending to that career at the same time he was submerged in his government one. Three times he had achieved the required service for consideration for advancement, and twice he had been passed-up.

Anxious that this third bid was destined to be rejected, he wrote then- Brigadier General Benjamin L. Hunton, USAR Minority Affairs Officer, and complained about a process where there were never enough blacks available in the pool to ever stand a chance of any minority gaining the promotion.



"There are a total of 61 officers in the unit," he wrote. "Two are minority group members; a total of 67 officers in another -- two are minority group members . . . a total of 63 in yet another unit with three minority members. The first cited has seven officer vacancies."

"The normal promotional procedure has been to select company and field-grade officers from the companies to fill headquarters vacancies. The procedure of promoting from within is as it should be. My only reservation," he wrote, "is that there are too few black officers at the company grade level available for consideration -- and when available, not selected for promotion."



450th - First Year With Unit

After little more than lip service from the general, Major Fullwood wrote then-Major General Kenneth Johnson:

"I am concerned that, despite the rhetoric and regulations, the Army Reserve and Command, have not now, nor in the past, initiated programs designed to seek and encourage blacks and other minorities to enlist in the Reserve forces . . ."

"Where they do exist, implementation of programs designed to recruit and maintain minority members has been delegated to local commanders with authority to implement according to local needs, but, without specific guidance or compliance review. Herein lies the problem; historically, the Reserve program, as you know, has been a haven for white boys. It has not changed . . . "



450th - Two Years Later

"I have approximately 22 years of combined service in the National Guard and Reserve Corps and am now being denied the opportunity for advancement. If local commanders can capriciously and unilaterally make the decision to deny me, an officer, opportunities that have been offered in abundance to whites, it doesn't require a great deal of imagination to realize the treatment black applicants to the reserve are being subjected to . . . The Reserve recruiting proedures and the Reserve program are, in the main, designed for whites, and consequently, mitigate against recruiting career-minded blacks," he wrote.



Dad's in the far back row, third from the left, behind a soldier

Major Fullwood recieved his commission to Lieutenant Colonel almost 3 years after he had lodged his complaints, and he retired from the Reserve at that rank in 1981.

Ironically, one year after that promotion, LTC Fullwood was assigned by the U.S. Army as an Education and Training Officer, providing support and assistance to U.S. Army Race Relations/Equal Opportunity Staff in preparation and presentation of the Unit RR Discussion Leader Course.



In a validating, but dumbfounding review by his commander, of his new promotion and new 'race relations' assignment, LTC Fullwood was described as 'diligent' and 'exemplary' in the performance of his duties. "His background as Director of Equal Opportunity for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare enabled him to greatly assist First U.S. Army in establishing the Unit Race Relations Discussion Leaders Course," the recommendation read.

No kidding.

Charles Fullwood would serve as Acting Director of OEEO and the Health Services Administration from August 1973 to September 1974. Next, he would serve as Special Assistant to the Administrator for Civil Rights, and then, as Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.



"The HSA Administrator is responsible for the administration of the EEO and Civil Rights programs," Mr. Fullwood told the 'Health Services World' magazine in 1976, after gaining his appointment, "And Dr. Hellman, HSA Administrator, has appointed me to implement them. I intend to do just that, with the help of all of the HSA employees," he said.

That's the long and short of Dad's military and public service. He advanced in the military and the government -- almost Gump-like in his relative obscurity; an uncomfortable aberration in the images capturing the racial make-up of his peer groups -- working to elevate and implement so many of the ideals and initiatives contained in the civil rights legislation that Martin Luther King Jr. and others fought for; working to implement the orders and initiatives from two successive presidents determined to make the 'Great Society' programs a reality (and Nixon, curiously providing the first actual governmental language), and serving as administrator for the inevitable outgrowths and expansions of those initiatives into the federal workforce and beyond; recruiting countless African Americans into the federal workforce, in his time, and providing some of the early backbone for the nation's new impetus in the hiring and advancement of blacks in government.

Most interesting to me, is that image after image shows the extent that, in those early days, Mr. Fullwood was usually, either the only black official in the rooms where important decisions were made concerning equal employment and other vestiges of the Civil Rights Act; or he was one of just a few. It's remarkable how steadfast he appeared over the years as he navigated his way to the senior positions he held in government and in the military.




Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Moves to HSA

In our nation's democracy, social, economic, and legal changes are advanced by a combination of activism, political initiative, and administrative implementation and interpretation. We are advantaged in the realization of our individual and collective ideals by activists, politicians, and bureaucrats. They all contribute.

It's wise to avoid getting too sentimental about the role of government in carrying out our ideals and addressing our concerns in the form of legislation or Executive actions. We, correctly, continue to press our concerns, even after we've passed our legislative remedies and tasked them to administrators and managers to implement. However, it doesn't hurt to recognize the tenacious, principled individuals inside of government who are driven by a determination to make it all work for as many Americans as possible to carry out our political mandates.

I think my father (with the help of countless others assuming the same responsibilities of implementing the dream) fulfilled that role with a characteristic routineness that mirrored the disciplined, principled personal life this African American sought to lead against so many obviously threatening odds; mirroring the unflagging commitment to the nation's advancement that countless generations of black Americans have repeatedly demonstrated, against all odds.

With all of the controversies today about corruption and greed influencing our political and governmental leaders, it's nice to know that there was a sober and trustworthy individual working on these issues behind the scenes. Charles Fullwood was transparently, if nothing more, a decent and principled man. That seems to be a rarity in government these days. It's certainly worth celebrating.

We're left to wonder just what we'd do without them; these good guys in government . . . I look optimistically to the future for more Chuck Fullwoods to run the bases after we've hit our political balls deep into the nation's outfield. How have we ever managed without him?



Remnants, Remembrances, and Legacies of Black History



If you can spare it, take some time out this month to look at any of the retrospectives, remembrances, and celebrations of the lives, achievements, and contributions of African Americans throughout our nation's history that folks are offering. Their remarkable and notable stories will be revealed and told to us through the rare photos; the rare anecdotes; through the recounting of the histories of famous and important persons in our communities and in our personal lives. The memories are preserved in fragments of time and place, held in fragile care and often degraded beyond recognition; or just gone for good.

With every year's observance of Black History Month, we take yet another step away from the often tragic and perpetually challenging beginnings of those Americans who often found themselves at desperate odds with a society determined to relegate their livelihoods and their rights to separate and often unequal consideration -- usually for no reason other than the color of their skin or their ethnic origin.

The month provides us with a 'teachable moment,' to recall, not only the institutionalized and personalized discrimination; not just revisit the violence; not solely focus on the insults and indifference perpetrated by some against black Americans, but, to recognize the depth and breadth of the motivations and determination of a people so convinced of their rightful place in a country so bent on their oppression to continue to reach out their hands to help the larger society as they helped themselves progress.

I've been aware of the contributions of women to African American history since 1965 when the occasion was called 'Negro History Week,' and I stood, terrified, before a huge assembly in our large Washington, D.C. elementary school auditorium and read the several paragraphs my father had written for me the night before (and I had partially memorized) on life of the black, contralto opera singer, Marion Anderson.

Of course, we all learned of the brave and heroic efforts of black women like Harriet Tubman and her 'Underground Railroad' shepherding fleeing slaves from capture. Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist, provides and early example of a courageous commitment to the betterment of a people and the larger community. We also learned of people like Bessie Coleman who became the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license and first American of any race or gender to earn an international license.

We can also see the contributions of those black American women gifted with artistic and musical ability to develop and fashion the texture and flavor of our culture, from the theater; to the gallery; to the runway; and beyond. We are encouraged and energized by the passion and diversity of African-American women's expression throughout our nation's history. The icons and favorites of our time join their brothers and sisters from the past in their timeless constructions and performances of their inner visions and activism. Many a song; many a performance; many an artwork; sparked or gave encouragement or comfort to changes in our nation -- provided positive reinforcement of progress; or offered stark denouncements of objectionable national behavior or attitudes. Others gave us comfort or provided introspection into the harmony or discord in our own souls and psyches.

There is yet another set of black women 'heroes' and achievers who aren't as readily or frequently recognized for their accomplishments and contributions. There are the folks who made it their mission to advance the causes of equality and integration for themselves, even as they worked to serve the needs and advancement of the public welfare of those outside of their own, mostly-segregated communities. Elected women officials are rare in our nation's early history, but there are countless examples of public and civic activists and advocates who helped form the organizations and commissions which held our nation accountable for its promises of equality and justice before the nation's voters saw fit to elect more women to our legislatures and our public offices.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864. Phillis Wheatley became the first known African-American woman to publish a book in 1773. Sarah Jane Woodson Early was the first African-American female college instructor (Wilberforce College). Mary Jane Patterson was the first African-American woman to earn a B.A (Oberlin College). Cathay Williams was the first African-American woman enlistee in the U.S. Army . . .

We see the obvious contributions and legacies of these courageous and ambitious women in almost every aspect of our modern lives. Generations of women and men draw inspiration and heed the lessons of these African-American histories in their own pursuits of achievement and greatness. We can track the attitudes of service and commitment to country and community that these black women imbued in their everyday struggles, right up to the present attitudes and efforts of their offspring and the lessons they preserved and are sharing with the young leaders of the future.


____(In a re-post from 2013) A journey back through my scrapbooks took me on a trip beyond my own mother's past; beyond her mother's -- to the amazing history of an enterprising African-American lady whose ambitions and accomplishments helped provide the impetus and underpinning for the success and progress of countless black women in America as they worked tirelessly to navigate and overcome the many obstacles placed in their path.



Annie Turnbo-Malone

At the turn of the last century, Annie Turnbo Malone, the tenth of eleven children, began working on the hair of family members after she was unable to complete high school because of an illness. Looking for another method to straighten their hair, other than the popular (but injurious) method of pressing it with an flat iron heated on the stove or the fire, Ms. Malone developed her own formula which she named 'Wonderful Hair Grower.' Along with her own brand and style of hot comb, she created an entire arsenal of products to aid in the styling of African women's hair.

In 1902, Annie Malone moved her hair care enterprise from her shack of a headquarters in Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri, in anticipation of generating business at the upcoming World's Fair. In addition to her booth, Mrs. Malone recruited assistants to sell her formula and on-the-spot hair treatment door-to-door. It was such a success that she was able to tour the South the next year and begin to build her fortune. The proceeds enabled her to open a salon in St Louis and she began to market her hair care products under the name of 'Poro.'

By 1910, she had expanded her St. Louis operation to several offices, and in 1917, she opened 'Poro College,' the first hair and cosmetology training facility for the care of African American women's hair. Poro College was a new construction which stretched a full block, and boasted an auditorium, an ice cream parlor and bakery, a theater, a rooftop garden, as well as an entire marketing, manufacturing, and distribution center for her products which provided rare and important employment for hundreds in the community.

The neighborhood surrounding the "Ville" went from 8% black to 86%. Some called it 'white flight,' but it was actually a progression of an oppressed people toward the opportunity and elevation the enterprise provided. The college was also a hub of activity for black entertainers, and several African American organizations located their headquarters in the building. By the 1920s the Poro business, reportedly, employed 175 people in St. Louis and claimed to have as many as 75,000 agents in the United States and elsewhere. Annie Turnbo was said to have amassed as much as $14 million at the height of her operation. She was a proliferate giver and hosted at least two students in each of the scarce black colleges throughout the country.

Although the school offered no formal degree, it provided the teaching and foundation for black women to start and maintain their own businesses; as well as an etiquette training center and springboard for African American women agent/recruiters who prospered by promoting the 'Poro' brand and related services around the country -- and eventually, around the globe.


"Poro" College contract
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Mostly unrecognized for years, or dismissed or ignored, is the fact of the more famous and more celebrated "Madame Walker's" advantageous beginnings as an actual student at Annie Turnbo Malone's 'Poro' beauty school.

Sarah Breedlove, also know as, 'Madam C. J. Walker,' became one of Ms. Malone's sales agents during 1903. Two years later, however, Ms. Breedlove had developed her own brand of hair care products and moved her new operation, successfully, to Denver. She expanded that operation into hundreds of salons around the country and made a famous fortune selling her hair care solutions to black women.

Another enterprising African American woman, Marjorie Stewart Joyner, also achieved her own expansive legacy of accomplishment and influence in the sunshine and light generated from Poro's beginnings and successes.

Ms. Joyner jump-started her expansive career working for Ms. Walker (Breedlove) in the 1920's, supervising several of her offices and salons. She had been enrolled in the A.B. Molar Beauty School, and in 1916 had become the first black women to graduate from there. She opened her own salon which catered to mostly white clients. She was encouraged to get more training by relatives and she chose the Walker school, which, in turn, recruited her into their business enterprise.

Frustrated that the hair treatments she was providing women seemed to fall apart the next day, Ms. Joyner later invented a contraption, similar to a German one, which would electrify the hairstyle into a hold that would last for days. She patented her invention in 1928 and called it the "Permanent Waving Machine." It's a crazy-looking contraption which hangs from above and connects a single current to several points in a hood from a tangle of wires.

Women were more than satisfied with the long-lasting effects of the treatment to overcome any fear of process. Despite the success of the invention it was considered to be developed using Madame Walker's facilities and resources, so Ms. Joyner never profited directly from Waving Machine. It soon became commonplace in many salons around the country.

“I just wanted to improve the whole process and make it better for both the beauty operator and the client, and to help Black women hold their style for longer periods of time. Who benefited from it wasn’t as important to me as the purpose for which I created it,” she had said.

Marjorie S. Joyner was promoted to manage the Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Colleges as national supervisor after Ms. Breedlove's untimely death in 1919. She oversaw more than 200 schools.

In 1945 Joyner co-founded the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association with Mary Bethune McLeod. They co-founded the Alpha Chi Pi Omega Sorority and Fraternity to help raise professional standards for beauticians and direct their energy and efforts for the good of the broader community. In 1973, at the age of 77, Ms. Joyner achieved her bachelor's degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College. In fact, one of the first and most enduring efforts of the sorority was/is to raise funds for the preservation of the Bethune College.

“Poro College is consecrated to the uplift of humanity—Race women in particular,” Annie Turnbo Malone once said of her enterprise.

"Uplift" them, it certainly did. My grandmother was among that fortunate progression of African American women who were uplifted by Annie Malone's vision and determination. My grandfather's sister was also directly uplifted by Poro College.


Poro College graduates in 1921
from the Fullwood Family Collection

My grandmother, Rochelle Knight Searcy (pictured above, at the top left), and my aunt, Mary S. Thomas, were both early Poro College graduates. Rochelle got her first diploma in 1921 and Mary received her diploma in 1922, with her baby girl in tow.

Rochelle was an African American woman with very light skin. She was the tenth of 26* children born to Jacob Knight in Molena, Ga., in 1902. Knight was said to have, literally, populated an entire town that he had built up on the 200, or so, acres of land he owned. In 1917, Mrs. Searcy graduated from the Seminar English Preparatory School of the Morris Brown University of Atlanta, Ga..


Rochelle and Henry Searcy
from the Fullwood Family Collection

In 1919, she married Mr. Henry K. Searcy (listed in certificates as a 'farmer') and they soon moved to Charleston, W.Va. -- sister Mary and her husband had already moved there from Georgia. Mr. Thomas had found work as the first Negro bricklayer called to work at the South Charleston Naval Ordinance Plant.

Charleston, in a state which was founded on its resistance to slavery and its allegiance to the Union in 1863, was adapting to the changing demographics of its refuge and opportunity for migrating blacks.

"Between 1919 and 1921 T. G. Nutter, Harry Capehart, and T. J. Coleman, three African-American legislators, were responsible for the creation of several state-funded institutions for blacks. The West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Girls in Huntington and the West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Boys in Lakin, the West Virginia Colored Deaf and Blind School at Institute, and the West Virginia Hospital for Colored Insane at Lakin were all given state funding. The institutions were to be run by African Americans. Other publicly funded institutions for African Americans included the West Virginia Home for the Aged and (Infirmed) Colored Men and Women in Huntington, the West Virginia Colored Orphans Home in Huntington, and the West Virginia Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Denmar." Source: Posey, The Negro Citizen of West Virginia, 58-62; Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

Charleston wasn't exactly a progressive town, but it was one of those regions which contained a sufficiently large black population to facilitate and require a proportionally adequate number of institutions, facilities, and amenities to satisfy the African Americans community's needs, wants, and concerns. Those would require a workforce able and adequate to the tasks, as well. The Searcys had the right mix of skills and education to make them integral to the success of their new community.


Rochelle Knight Searcy
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Records obtained from W.Va. indicate that Rochelle was pregnant at the time she attended and graduated from Poro College, but sadly, the baby (Mattie J.) was born 'Immature', at home (5 months from the time she received her 'Poro' degree) and the newborn died within hours. Mrs. Searcy successfully bore my mother, three years later. Although there was the certain stress over the shock that the infant, 'Annie Maude', was born blind, her sight was quickly and adequately restored by a new surgical procedure.

It bears reminding that, although my mother was born with skin that was indistinguishable from most white Americans (and with beautiful blond hair and hazel eyes as a compliment), she was still considered and designated on her birth record as 'Negro' and was not allowed to advantage herself of any of the non-black medical facilities.

Fortunately, Charleston was an able town. It eventually produced a man, Dr. John C. Norman (a schoolmate of my mothers' at the all-black Garnet High School), who became a surgeon key in a new procedure in which a pigs' bladder was used to draw off toxins in liver operations. They took good care of their citizens.

The town also produced a couple of African American beauty salon owners. Within the time-frame of my mother's birth, Rochelle had opened her own beauty salon -- 'Rochelle Beauty Shop' on Morris St.. Mrs. Searcy would own and operate that salon for over 37 years. She looked to be at the height of her confidence and ability in this early street scene:


Rochelle in Downtown Charleston
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Rochelle raised Annie Maude (my mother) and included her in almost every aspect of society, enrolling her in the Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls Clubs in which she became a leader. Annie Maude also became a Sunday School teacher at the First Baptist Church in Charleston. She became a member in the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International and a member of the Ivy Leaf Club.

Annie Maude Searcy took a decidedly more personal approach to the furtherance of the prospects of Charleston's youth; mainly in her own social and educational development.


Annie Maude Searcy
from the Fullwood Family Collection

A graduate from the the all-black Garnet High School, which closed in 1955 due to integration, Ms. Searcy went on to become a teacher, attending and obtaining degrees from West Virginia State College; Atlanta University; UDC; Catholic University; and Trinity College. At West Virginia State, she was secretary to the Dean of Women.



After graduating Garnet High School, Anne (as she later referred to herself), became a supervisor at the West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Girls in Huntington, W.Va..


Anne Searcy
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Anne was a medical secretary at Community General Hospital in Reading, Pa.. She worked for the federal government in Metuchen N.J. for 10 years. She became an elementary school teacher with the Washington, D.C. public schools for 20 years and volunteered as a substitute teacher and teacher's aide for over 20 more years at a nearby Shepherd Elementary school.

____ Sister-in-law, Mary Thomas, also opened a beauty shop in 1924. Mary had twins, a boy and girl, in Charleston, in 1919. The boy died from spinal meningitis when he was 18 months old. She maintained ownership and operation of that salon for nearly 36 years.

In addition to her course at the Poro College, Mrs. Thomas had also obtained a degree in 1909 from Fort Valley State College in Georgia. After two years, and a growing cadre of young women eager to learn the trade -- and Mary eager and Poro-qualified to teach them -- she opened what is considered to be the first beauty/culture school for black women in the state of West Virginia.


Graduates of Mary Thomas' Beauty/Culture School (Mary, at far left)
from the Fullwood Family Collection

She later said she had a love for "doing hair' and a long line of women wanting her to 'do their hair." Mary maintained the shop on Jacob St. for about 35 years and helped many, many women all along the way, reportedly, often putting in twelve-hour days.

Mrs. Thomas also traveled to as many as twenty different states during her career, attending beautician meetings and conventions. Her first visit was to New York.


(Mary Thomas, lower left - Rochelle Searcy, second up from bottom left)
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Mary later helped organize a sorority of beauticians in the Charleston area under the banner of Ms. Bethune's and Ms. Joyner's Alpha Chi Pi Omega group. Later in life, Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Bethune met and became friends.

In this article, Marjorie Stewart Joyner is seen (sitting, second from the left) in a photograph of a gathering of sorors at a Piano recital.



and here, in the original, with my grandmother, Rochelle, and Aunt Mary in attendance:


Alpha Chi Pi Omega Sorority Recital
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Here they are at another gathering; no doubt, organizing some civic mission or raising funds for some public endeavor (Rochelle, seated, on the far right - Mary, standing, second from the right) :


Alpha Chi Pi Omega Sorority Members
from the Fullwood Family Collection

After 1940, Charleston became a hub of activity in opposition to segregation of public facilities, stores, transportation, and other public accommodations. There were also intensified efforts by local residents to get businesses to hire more blacks. Although there were citizens from every corner of the community who gradually rose in support of integration and non-discrimination (in in tune with the emerging legal prohibitions on such acts) there were notable figures who stepped in front of the crowd and waged their own civil-disobedient battles in leading sit-ins and other gradually successful protests in Charleston and the surrounding areas.

"Segregation, making a person an inferior citizen, is a bad thing, an evil thing. I think the majority of white people would gladly see the end of it if it could be done in a way that would not involve them personally," said Elizabeth Harden Gilmore, a local activist and family friend, in 1960. "I think the majority would welcome, if put to a popular vote, an ordinance that would say "we will have no more of this.'"

Mrs. Gilmore, a co-founder of the first CORE chapter in West Virginia, explained: "The greater portion of our ills can be laid to the lack of employment opportunities. If we had good jobs, we could have better educations, decent homes, better medical care, all the things that money can buy to enhance a good life . . . "Yet, we're not getting those things, most of us, because of a sociological condition rather than an intrinsic failing. It isn't fair, and our young people, particularly students, are struck by the unfairness it represents," she said.

Certainly, Mary Thomas' and Rochelle Searcy's children were to be the beneficiaries of the society that these impressive women were building and molding with their steady and dignified lives and efforts.


Mary Thomas' Daughter, Helmar Washington
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Mary's daughter, who she had toted along on her many trips around the country in support of beauticians and in furtherance of her own trade, grew to become a public advocate and activist in her own right. Her efforts were waged inside of the political system after being hired by the newly emerging Social Security administration which she joined in 1955 as a field representative and continued for almost 30 years, retiring as an operations supervisor. Thomas often worked closely with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, in his younger days as a legislator.

Here she is in a newspaper clip on one of her many outreach visits, working to enroll citizens (all races) to advantage them of the newly enacted provisions of the social and retirement law:



Helmar Thomas-Washington was also involved in local politics as league secretary for the Young Negro Democratic Voters League of West Virginia, seen here with her cadre of black and white male associates and legislators:



Mary Thomas, aided by the almost constant companionship of her daughter, went on to live to be 103 years-old.



I see all of those ads for wrinkle cream," she joked, "so I'm thinking I might get me some.

"I just wish - just once - that I could see all of the people I came up with," Mary said in a 1987 interview at 102 years, I wish we could talk about old times. But, they're gone."



Rochelle Searcy went back to St. Louis in 1930 and obtained another degree from Turnbo-Malone's Poro College in 'Fancy Hairdressing.'


Poro College Degree
from the Fullwood Family Collection

Rochelle continued her education as a beautician through the 1950's, enrolling in the beauty school established by Marjorie S. Joyner and Mary Bethune, the United Beauty School Owners and Teacher's Institute. She obtained two more certificate degrees in Advanced Study in Beauty Culture, Methods of Teaching, and Hair Styling; one from New York and another from Detroit, Michigan.


from the Fullwood Family Collection


from the Fullwood Family Collection

Anne Searcy married Charles Fullwood in Reading, Pa. in 1957.



She had 2 children, a boy; Ronald, and a girl; Maria, who passed away at age 48.


from the Fullwood Family Collection

Shortly before the arrival of her son, Mrs. Fullwood was said to have expressed misgivings about her young marriage and asked her mother, Rochelle, to visit and help straighten things out. In 1961, both Aunt Mary and Rochelle boarded a plane and came to Metuchen in support of their girl. Unfortunately, Charles (Dad) sent them packing back to Charleston, almost as quickly as they had arrived. Rochelle, who had been ill for over three years, died of an infection, at age 59, shortly after her return.


Rochelle, Mary, and Anne
from the Fullwood Family Collection

From these few remnants, recollections, and images from this relatively small community in Charleston W.Va., we can see both the outline and the reality of the sustaining influence of African American women, like Annie Turnbo-Malone, 'Madame Walker', Marjorie Stewart Joyner, and the rest, whose efforts stood out and stood tall against the backdrop of our nation's divided past as they actively and aggressively sought to transform their successes into actual gains for the black women (and men) in their community and for the broader public, as well.

Look at them. Look at their faces. There's almost no trace of the struggle and of the oppression and discrimination raging around their young lives. There's little trace of any of the certain insecurity they must have felt as they pressed forward. On the contrary, there's every evidence that their own individual and collective strengths, intelligence, and abilities enabled them to achieve these remarkable accomplishments against the faltering, but omnipresent, resistance with grace and dignity.

More importantly, these few stories illustrate the profound ignorance and short-sightedness of those who sought to keep these folks down or relegate them to a sub-standard, unequal existence. The more the African American community was forced to rely on themselves, the more they prospered; not in any small part due to the myriad of dynamic women who found a way to learn, develop, build, and prosper; reaching back for every outreaching hand they could grab a hold of -- pulling them up and pushing them forward.

Down to the small kitchens in Charleston, West Virginia -- where the overpowering smell of burning hair being treated and processed with ointments, and hot combs heated on the stove fire lingers in our longing memories for that communal past -- the impact of Annie Turnbo-Malone and the other African American women who stepped out ahead of the racism and bigotry which sought to define their young lives is still being felt and reflected in almost every feminine expression of independence and responsibility in our black communities.


from the Fullwood Family Collection

For my mother, that spirit of advocacy and activism didn't stop at Charleston's border. Anne Searcy Fullwood became more involved in the associations and groups which continue to dedicate themselves to the furthering of their efforts against segregation, discrimination, and the like, into the present day.



She achieved a position on the membership committee of the Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (her joy). Mrs. Fullwood was also a member of the NAACP and a lifetime member of the National Council of Negro Women.

In fact, after marrying and moving to Metuchen, New Jersey, Anne Fullwood joined the local Auxiliary Memorial VFRW Post and took a secretarial position at the local Raritan Arsenal.



Charles Fullwood also assumed the responsibilities of citizenship and community as he organized a civic group dedicated to the needs of the entire community, all races, which met in their home, "as a watchdog over human rights and a goad to improvement in Negro community consciousness"





Racism was on the way out of public view and on the way out of our public institutions as this young couple started their new lives. But, there were still remnants of discrimination persisting which echoed the past struggles in Charleston; much like the strikes white students held in the town in an attempt to resist integration of blacks into the public schools.



The above article appeared in a local paper in 1962, along with a front-page explanation of the article by the editors of the paper apologizing to readers for being compelled enough by the seriousness of the conflict described to bother to run such story. A local aid squad had rejected the membership of an African American couple with longstanding ties to the community, based solely on their race. Eventually, under public pressure, the offending members on the board resigned and those remaining relented on the memberships and allowed the black couple to serve.

Mom saw the article and responded (much like her son does today) with a sarcastic and scalding letter to the editor; calling the report 'exasperating.'



"How brainy can this borough be?" she wrote. "A new family establishes residency in a new area; for two years a happy Metuchen family, thinking of a way they might make a worthy contribution to the community; and, one day the thought is real -- the Metuchen Aid Squad -- and another day the idea is ended-gone, without brainy reason or fact why the application was returned."

"Congratulations to the members of the squad who were working whole-heartedly, for the purposes of the squad, rather than the 'Color of the Squad'.

How positively 'brainy'. How positively inspiring.


from the Fullwood Family Collection




Addendum:

Several relatives of the Knight family posted responses which fleshed out more of grandmother Rochelle's history...

bjknight
Great grand mother sister

I too am related thru my grandmother. Sisters, ROCHELLE AND ESTELLE. 2 of 26 kids and different mothers. Estelle my great grandmother was born in 1878 , went to school in the area and taught at Knight s academy in 1899.


bjknight
SISTERS

Jacob Knight son of a white man , John Knight and black mixed slave named Violet . John Knight s father was also white ,


bjknight
SISTERS

This beginning for us started in Harris /Pike county Georgia. it has been wonderful reading your info and I still looking for more family info. our history is also like the Kennedies , the black Kennedies that is. John knight, a lawyer justice of peace and plantation owner/farmer. He had a son John Knight who had Jacob. Apparently Jacob was fond of family. He had 3 wives and 26 kids. He like his father was a great farmer back in the day and had great respect from everyone as he was one of the richest men in the area. So our beginning started off as grandchildren of a white man. My grandmother had violet eyes very light of could pass for white. She almost look like your mother, We have a picture of Stella as she was called.


Sherell09

Wow

This was very interesting.... Because this is my great-great-great Aunt! And who ever shared this information. Deserves a around of applause. I am so happy too see this kind of information for the first time. It brings tears too my eyes. To know my "family" is part of black history.

Rochelle knight is my great great grand mother sister. Which makes Rochelle knigh Searcy my aunt.


bjknight
SISTERS

Jacob Knight died in Molena, Ga in 1934 and is buried in Mt Olive. Based on family, Hattie and Delphia , negro wives to Jacob were sisters. Delphia died shortly after giving birth. She birthed Ulyses , Eratus ,Electra, General Sheridan and Rochelle. She was born in 1867 and died in 1897.Shortly thereafter he married Hattie who was born in 1877 and died in 1927. She was as old as some of Jacob s children. We have been unable to secure a picture of Delphia or Annie the first wife or Stella's mother. It is said that there were 26 kids or my great grandma Stella. Annie had 2, Delphia had 5 AND Hattie had 19 . I t looks as though there was a another Rochelle but she didn't make it , most likely died as a baby and another named Cora who was born in 1900. Looking forward to getting more insight from you and other family Fullwoods members too. I need to get your perspectives about my blogs and pictures of Rochelle when was young with her parents and Rochelle s brothers and sisters, Even picture of Jacob. Some say Delphia was named after the city of Philadelphia. Don't know. A s this family could have been a football baseball and basketball team. Could you image famous sports figures in the Knight family back in the 1800s. I will do my best to transmit and sometimes may require the aid of daughter, Jataun. Looking forward to hearing from the family. We have so many gaps of history and hopefully we can piece our history together.


bjknight
SIsters

Just realized that Stella was first one at top of the family and Rochelle is one at the other end as being new baby in 1897. Delphia died around that time and a new wife needed to care for kids and new baby. The things you learn while researching family,


bjknight

SISTERS

John 1 Knight and wife were born in Maryland according to the 1880 census in Pike county, when asked where the parents were born.

John 2 Knight was born in Pike county. H e was a lawyer, plantation owner/ farmer and military man. With the civil war approaching, John 2 relisted with his commission of major in the confederate army in March 1862. John 2 believed in the southern man's right of ideology and right to defend slavery. He served in the war and was injured and retired and was enlisted in the Regiment U S Veteran Corp in 1864. a unit reserved for the injured and incapacitated , that is where soldiers went for light duty if physically possible after the war.

Based on American history, southern lands were given to the former slaves but was short lived and the land was returned back to the original white owners. Based on family lore no Knight land was given nor taken as John 2 had a slave wife or mulatto woman at home with a son named Jake who was born in 1850 and other kids , Alice and Elle . Farming continued. No outsiders touched this family. No one encroached upon Knight land or they would have to answer to John 2. It looks like God was on their side in my opinion with no lives loss because of the civil war in the Knight family.

After the war John 2 returned home with a war injury and lived on his farm with his wife Violet, kids Elle and Alice per the 1880 U S census. Jacob was 30 years of age living in his own home and his 13/15 year old sisters at home with parent(s) in 1880.

When looking at census , did notice something unique in 1880, Violet a mulatto married with no mention of husband. A couple of doors down John 2 married , white with no mention of wife, Violet. But the family and I supposed friends and neighbors knew and was an inside secret that the government or enumerator didn't know.

original post: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1187585

BHM: 'Mrs. Gilmore's Defining Black History'

THE theme for Black History Month 2015 is, 'A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture'. Some have expressed their opinion that black history should not be restricted to just one month of recognition, and I agree. Yet, this month, nonetheless, provides us with an unique opportunity to highlight and celebrate black lives and share those recollections and remembrances with others who may not have access to those histories.

The volume of remarkable and celebrated subjects who have enriched and enhanced our lives here in America over centuries of our nation's growth is vast and wide. Many of the giants in the black American experience have earned prominent positions in our recitation of that history of our development as a country and as individuals. However, there is an endless resource of black Americans in our nation's history whose accomplishments aren't as widely known and recognized.

I'm fortunate to have a long line of outstanding family members and friends of the family to recall with great pride in the recounting of their lives and the review of their accomplishments; many in the face of intense and personal racial adversity. In many ways, their stories are as heroic and inspiring as the ones we've heard of their more notable counterparts. Their life struggles and triumphs provide valuable insights into how a people so oppressed and under siege from institutionalized and personalized racism and bigotry were, nonetheless, able to persevere and excel. Upon close examination of their lives we find a class of Americans who strove and struggled to stake a meaningful claim to their citizenship; not to merely prosper, but to make a determined and selfless contribution to the welfare and progress of their neighbors.

That's the beauty and the tragedy of the entire fight for equal rights, equal access, and for the acceptance among us which can't be legislated into being. It can make you cry to realize that the heart of what most black folks really wanted for themselves in the midst of the oppression they were subject to was to be an integral part of America; to stand, work, worship, fight, bleed, heal, build, repair, grow right alongside their non-black counterparts.

It can also floor you to see just how confident, capable, and determined many black folks were in that dark period in our history as they kept their heads well above the water; making leaps and bounds in their personal and professional lives, then, turning right around and giving it all back to their communities in the gift of their expertise and labor.

One outstanding African American woman who is associated with my family deserves to have her story highlighted a bit in this period where we're striving to elevate and establish the history of blacks in America to an appropriate level of focus. (This is a repeat of an earlier post. I hope it isn't too familiar...yet)




Elizabeth Harden Gilmore went to school with my mother, living and growing up in the same working-class black community of Charleston, West Virginia. Mrs, Gilmore had the distinction of being the first female black funeral director in the state. She was the owner and funeral director of Harden and Harden Funeral Home.

Before she was widely recognized as a civil rights leader, we used to visit her spooky, classical, revival style mansion in the center of Charleston (now a historical landmark) which had the funeral parlor in the basement. Mrs. Gilmore lived in that house from 1947 until her death.



Recognized today as a civil rights leader in her state and community, Mrs. Gilmore co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1958 (the first in West Virginia), leading CORE in a successful 1 1/2 year-long sit-in campaign at a local department store called The Diamond. She also served on the Kanawha Valley Council of Human Relations which advanced measures related to housing, transportation, access to other public accommodations.

Mrs. Gilmore also earned a place on the all-white Board of Regents after a successful fight to amend the 1961 state civil rights law. She was also a charter member and Executive Secretary of the Council of Racial Equality.

She was always warm, gracious, and unfailingly generous. Mrs. Gilmore had a gentle, light cadence. She had unusually long fingernails which she would use to gesture toward you as she spoke. Mrs. Gilmore was well-traveled and would talk with my mother for hours about her experiences abroad and in the community while I fiddled with the expensive crystal she had brought back from Russia and squirmed in my seat.

I came upon a few old articles in my family scrapbooks featuring Mrs. Gilmore in the period of her ambitious work and efforts to serve and elevate her town and its residents. I've transcribed them for a remembrance, and for this year's celebration of black history. I hope you enjoy her enlightened and remarkable perspective on her life and work. First, an article from 1960 highlighting Mrs. Gilmore's impressions of the struggle for civil rights, six years after the Supreme Court ruled on school segregation:


Negro Says Action The Way To Get Integration

Mrs. Gilmore remembers the first time she decided to actively demonstrate against segregation.

"It must have been 25 years ago," she said. "Lady Baden-Powell, whose husband started the Boy Scouts, was in Charleston and a program was arranged for her at old Garnet High School."

"My Girl Scouts were invited to take part. We found that they had been placed off stage, hidden in the corner, and were supposed to sing spirituals."

"Now I have nothing against spirituals. They're a part of American music, but the whole idea upset me so much, the hurt of those passed-over little girls, that I decided to do something about it."

"I implied that unless new arrangements were made, I would take my little brown-skinned girls and march out right in the middle of the program. Well, something was done about it. They sat on the stage and they held up their heads."

" I guess I've always been something of a protester. My daughter calls me 'Mrs. Ant'iony and Carrie Nation. But my grand mother taught us not to be ashamed because we were Negroes. She said to look people in the eye when we talked to them. She told us we were as good as anybody else, no better, but as good."

Mrs. Gilmore's protest against racial segregation resulted in her helping to organize a Charleston chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, the first and only CORE chapter in West Virginia at the time.

CORE, a national organization, is pledged to direct non-violent action against segregation. Such action has included sitting in restaurants and refusing to leave until receiving service (sit-ins), picket-lines, and boycotting.

Activity of the Charleston group, so far, has been limited to lunch counters of variety stores. Eventually, each of the targets changed from a segregated to an integrated policy.

There were 14 active members of CORE there, and about 400 associate ones. Active members pledge to take part in demonstrations when they are asked.

"I am convinced of the efficiency of direct action," Mrs. Gilmore said. "If our people had used it a generation or two ago, we wouldn't be witnessing the things today that shock and sadden people of all races."

"Many people feel as I do. That's why we're opposed to the idea that if we keep our places and wait patiently these things will come to us. We've been waiting for almost a hundred years and whatever we've got, we've had to fight for. It wasn't given to us. That's why we believe in direct action."

"Segregation, making a person an inferior citizen, is a bad thing, an evil thing. I think the majority of white people would gladly see the end of it if it could be done in a way that would not involve them personally. I think the majority would welcome, if put to a popular vote, an ordinance that would say "we will have no more of this.'"

"I think people would welcome a way of life where man could walk with dignity and live his life to the extent of his potentialities, as a Christian, as a human, as a brother in a free society."

Mrs. Gilmore, as many other observers, thinks that Charleston residents are tolerant toward minority groups. But she adds, tolerance or sympathy is not enough; specific improvements are the things needed.

Restaurants and hotels, she thinks, will end their policy of refusing service to Negroes in the near future; not because they felt it was the proper thing to do, but because pressure was brought against them.

"There are other things when you talk about how tolerant Charleston is," she said, "employment for one. We desperately need some semblance of fair employment. It is the most important thing of all."

"The greater portion of our ills can be laid to the lack of employment opportunities. If we had good jobs, we could have better educations, decent homes, better medical care, all the things that money can buy to enhance a good life."

"If that were so, you wouldn't need to live six to eight to a room and pay $60 a month for a hovel. You could buy good decent clothes for your children; you could buy good books; you could have music in your home. How can you do that on $45 every two weeks? You can't do it! And yet, people criticize these people. They say we don't open our doors to Negroes because we're afraid that type of person will come in."

Mrs. Gilmore thinks that critics of CORE, those who do not believe in protest action, do not understand what it is to be a Negro."

" They can't realize the slights, the rebuffs, the humiliation," she said. "They don't see the tears in their children's eyes. They don't know the sadness, the frustration."

"And it's all so silly. I remember one day I heard one white girl ask another where she had gotten her beautiful tan, and the girl said she had spent two weeks in Florida. I couldn't help thinking that on her it was a beautiful tan; to me, it was a stigma."

"We want what everyone wants: a decent home, records perhaps, the chance to go to a museum or to a theater or to an art galley. We're no different in our hopes and aspirations than anyone else."

"Yet, we're not getting those things, most of us, because of a sociological condition rather than an intrinsic failing. It isn't fair, and our young people, particularly students, are struck by the unfairness it represents."

"My people came over the Appalachians from Virginia before the Civil War because they wanted to find a better place to live," she said.

She said the demonstrations which she helped plan and execute are, to her, the best way to dramatize both the inequality that Negroes face and the inequities of segregation.

"This isn't a go-it-alone battle that we're in," she said. "People of good faith here and throughout the world sympathize with our aims."

"I've been fortunate enough to meet a few of them. I think the greatest thing to happen to Charleston was the Haseldens. (Rev. Haselden was the pastor of the Baptist Temple; his wife was a leader of the Kanawha County Council on Human Relations.)"

"Elizabeth Haselden, with her beauty, grace and dignity, brought to the women of Charleston a graphic story. Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the greatest thing; it is the only thing.'"

" She showed them that this battle for human rights was not a brawl of just a rabble's action but it was something that could be done without loss of the things that culture and education bring."

"These women in Charleston have taken their cues from Elizabeth Haselden. They can in good faith, without destroying any of the things that makes a lady, fight this battle and maintain these things -- not only maintain them, but enhance them to make this a better world."

Elizabeth Harden Gilmore, I daresay, provided many, many of the cues for the women of Charleston, and everywhere this great lady's influence was felt and experienced.




One more article featuring Mrs. Gilmore from 1969:



"I'm very honored and pleased," says Mrs. Virgil Gilmore of her appointment to the new state board of regents.

The sole Negro and only woman member on the board, which will supervise eight state colleges and two universities, was asked how she would feel as the lone female in an all-male group. "That doesn't bother me," she says. "I'm an old woman and I've been married twice. I'm not afraid of men or in awe of them."

She's used to the situation anyway, because she's also the sole woman member of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce. As a member of the chamber's education task force, she works with the tutorial program in the Board of education's 'Keep a Child in School' project.

A graduate of West Virginia State College and a licensed funeral director, Mrs. Gilmore has one daughter who is an aerodynamics programmer with General Electric in Cincinnati.

"That's the brains in my family," she says of her daughter. "She received a BS degree in chemistry and math from WV State. I always said nobody could accuse me of pulling her along, because in subjects like that, I could only pull her down."

To her new post as board member, Mrs, Gilmore will take the philosophy: "Our salvation lies in education." She believes most of our ills can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of ourselves, of how to live with others, of how to get the most out of our lives and all the beautiful things that exist . . . There is an adventure about living,: she adds. "It's all here. We're just so sophisticated, or hardened, I guess, that we fail to find the things that make life good."

That personal concept, she says, has paid off. Although she has only one daughter, Mrs. Gilmore says she has "lots of children," including the Girl Scouts, some she has had from the time they were ten years-old on through college.

"And I don't have a single child who can't walk freely and with dignity with kings and princesses," she explains. "They know how to support themselves, they know how to be gentle and kind and decent -- those are the only things you really need."

She says, "those Girl Scouts are more than just Scouts to me. They're my children. I taught them to eat and sleep and walk and talk and I can safely say that two-thirds of them are now business women and degreed women. I've got librarians and school teachers and beauticians -- all kinds of young'uns."

Her Scouts were the first Negro girls to attend Camp Anne Bailey and she recalls the bitter struggle involved in actually getting them admitted and the sales they held to finance the trip. "You don't reach into the average Negro's pocket, at least not then, and pull out things like health cards and swimsuits," she explained.

Mrs, Gilmore was a pioneer of the civil rights movement in West Virginia. Of the progress in integration, she tells her youngsters that "the doors are open now. If you don't go through, it's nobody's fault but your own. I remind them we have the government on our side now. If you have a grievance, you don't have to fight it out on your own anymore."

Of her own involvement in the cause of the Negro, she says, "I'm a persistent cuss -- and a mother. My daughter would look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask to have a tall soda at Scott's Drug Store. I would tell her she couldn't and she would say, 'Well, why, mother, why can't I?" That's all it took to get me started.

Mrs. Gilmore refers to herself as a Negro, not black. "I'm old-fashioned," she explains, "My maternal grandmother was from England and my maternal grandfather was from Spain, so, I figure I'm just as much as anything as I am black."

"My great-grandmother came over the mountains to the Kanawha Valley four generations ago looking for a better life. She had six children and only the supplies her master had given her. I tell youngsters today that if one woman could face that alone, that's all the more reason today to seek successful lives for themselves."


Democrat Introduces ISIS War Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State militants -- a step aimed at forcing Congress to take responsibility for a war it's been funding for nearly six months with almost no debate on its duration, costs or potential toll.

Lawmakers have put no parameters on the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, since it began in August. Since then, the U.S. has spent more than $1 billion, participated in more than 1,700 airstrikes, and authorized sending roughly 3,000 U.S. troops to Iraq. All of this has happened without new war authorization.

Schiff's proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force would do three things: limit military action against ISIS to three years; prohibit the use of U.S. ground troops; and immediately terminate a still-active 2002 AUMF tied to the Iraq War. It also would end, in three years, a sweeping 2001 AUMF that President Barack Obama says gives him the authority to go after ISIS without new war authorization. Some in Congress disagree that Obama has that authority and insist he needs new authorization, which the president says he would welcome.

"There is no doubt that our current offensive amounts to war," said Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "Congress should take action both to authorize its prosecution and to set limits on that authorization so it may not be used by any future administration in a manner contrary to our intent."

Schiff's AUMF would expire after three years...

read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/28/adam-schiff-aumf-isis_n_6559066.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter


...my take:

Although the Obama administration has signaled their willingness to consider an new AUMF to 'authorize' their new terror war, this bill isn't what the WH wants - at least it isn't what Sec. Kerry said he wanted in an authorization to war.

Almost completely absent is any reservation from the WH about the autocratic manner in which George Bush waged his warring in Iraq, with President Obama (and Democratic leaders like Rep. Pelosi) already on record claiming Bush's 2001 authorization passed after the 9-11 attacks (or, is it the 2002 Iraq resolution?) gives him authority to do whatever he wants in Iraq to battle the Islamic State fighters - even insisting that his commander-in-chief powers cover almost any other impetus to war in Iraq, at least in the short term, without congressional approval, given his unilateral interpretation of a 'threat' to U.S. national security and his conflation of the Islamic State with our al-Qaeda nemesis.

Anyway, Pres. Obama has already made the legal notifications to Congress and they've already approved funding for troops deployed to Iraq - so, this is all just a formality for the president...or, is it?

A proposed bill to restrict boots on the ground was rejected in Dec. by the administration. In mid-December, the Foreign Relations Committee, then chaired by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, approved an AUMF for the Islamic State fight. That process included a lengthy hearing, during which Secretary of State John Kerry said the White House opposed provisions supported by his former Democratic colleagues, and which were included in the Menendez bill, that would have restricted actions by US ground troops in Iraq and Syria. Essentially, that version would have prohibited them from offensive combat operations.

from Stars and Stripes, Dec. 9 2014:

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the Senate should not “bind the hands” of the president with a new war authorization that bars ground troops.

Kerry delivered the message to lawmakers as part of the Obama administration’s first detailed request for legislation setting the scope of military force used against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also asked that lawmakers allow targeting groups “associated” with the extremists and not limit operations geographically to those two countries...

Kerry told the committee that President Barack Obama is open to language in an authorization that clarifies how combat forces may be used and still does not plan to deploy ground troops.

“It does not mean we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief or our commanders in the field in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee,” Kerry said.


I see where he says the President 'has no plans' to order the use of ground forces, but that's a weak thread for those of us who oppose the use of ground troops in offensive actions in Iraq or Syria. I think any trust-based' approach to military policy in Iraq is an invitation for the President to employ ground forces - all of his military commanders have openly advocated their use and are itching to find reason to deploy them to offensive positions.

With that admonition out there, un-refuted by Pres. Obama, it appears that any bill like Rep. Schiff's is DOA; shot down before it even gets started. besides, I believe once Democrats begin openly advocating military actions in Iraq with actual legislation, it just opens the door for more expansive approvals of force from this republican Congress.

On the other hand, what were have now is a president mostly content to employ a nebulous and revolving set of authorities to use military force which demands a response from Congress, if only to require them to live up to their obligations under the War Powers Act and assume responsibility for the money they throw at this mostly unilateral, creeping terror war being waged, this time, by a Democratic White House.

President Obama Highlights Early Head Start w/Visit to Children’s Center

Doug Mills ‏@dougmillsnyt 2h2 hours ago Kansas, USA
Pres. Obama jokes w/ a little girl during surprise visit to the Community Children’s Center in Lawrence, Kansas. #headstart



Doug Mills @dougmillsnyt · 1h 1 hour ago
It's Akira Cooper w/ @BarackObama at the Community Children’s Center in Lawrence, KA #POTUSatKU. Learning her numbers




pool report:

10:10 a.m. — Obama visited the Community Children's Center, a Head Start preschool at Plymouth Congregational Church. It was one of first Head Start programs in country, established in 1965. Obama greeted about 16 children who had been reading a book called "Sneetches."

Obama worked each of the two tables of children, kneeling beside the kids. He asked just about each of them their names. One was named Michelle. “I know a Michelle. One of my favorite people’s named Michelle.”

The kids were reading a Dr. Seuss story, a parable about discrimination.

“Are these the Sneetches? The star-belly Sneetches? The Sneetches with no stars on theirs? That is one of my favorite stories … In fact most of the things I deal with as president would be solved if everybody read about the Sneetches. Because there are some people who think they’re special cause they’ve got stars, and some who feel bad cause they don’t.”

One child asked what Obama wanted to do when he grew up.

“When I was really young I wanted to be an architect. You know what an architect is? … We build buildings. We design buildings. We make buildings like schools, libraries, and office buildings. I really wanted to do that when I was young.”

read more: http://www2.ljworld.com/site/rules/#rss


Nick Krug


FACT SHEET: Helping All Working Families with Young Children Afford Child Care
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/21/fact-sheet-helping-all-working-families-young-children-afford-child-care

In addition to the historic investment in helping every low-income and middle-class family afford child care, the President’s FY16 budget will make critical investments to expand access to high-quality early education, including:

Providing Preschool for All: In his 2013 State of the Union, the Obama Administration announced a proposal to provide high-quality preschool to every American child and the FY 2016 Budget will continue to support this historic public investment in early education and in the future of America’s children. This $75 billion partnership with states would extend federal funds to expand high-quality preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds from families at or below 200% of poverty. The proposal, financed through an increase in tobacco taxes which will discourage youth smoking and save lives, also encourages states to broaden participation to reach additional middle-income families and to expand the availability of full-day kindergarten. In December 2014, the President and Vice President hosted the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, highlighting over $1 billion in investments dedicated to early childhood education and development, including new efforts to expand preschool across 18 states and in over 200 high-need communities, reaching an additional 33,000 children.

Supporting Infants and Toddlers through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: This Administration has more than doubled the number of infants and toddlers in Early Head Start and, in 2014, created the new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships program – an effort to provide quality care to tens of thousands of additional infants and toddlers through a partnership between Early Head Start and child care providers that meet the highest standards of quality to serve children from birth through age three. The Obama Administration has invested $500 million to support communities and proposes additional funding as they improve and expand comprehensive early care and education through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships program, reaching over 30,000 infants and toddlers this year.

Increasing the duration of Head Start to a full school day and year. Head Start is a key element of the Administration’s efforts to help all children meet their full potential. The Obama Administration has already taken dramatic steps to raise the bar on Head Start quality, including requiring low-performing programs to compete for continued funding, and is revising performance standards to reflect the best available science on early learning and development. The President’s Budget includes a new proposal to further increase the impact of Head Start – while also helping the working parents of Head Start children – by providing enough resources to make sure all children in Head Start benefit from a full school day and full school year (at least six hours a day, 170 days a year), which research shows leads to better outcomes for young children.


read more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/21/fact-sheet-helping-all-working-families-young-children-afford-child-care




related:

President Obama Speaks at the University of Kansas


Equivocating Hope




I wrote in 2009 that, in electing Barack Obama, America had advanced an authentic leader to the White House. Although he's an accomplished academic - a former president of the Harvard Law Review; though he's served in the Illinois State Legislature and in the Senate; Mr. Obama's most productive and important qualification was his skill in inspiring and organizing which began with the choice he made after college to go into the communities and work to bring people together to help make a positive difference in their surroundings and in their lives.

Hope was the mantra he chose as his organizing point. Throughout his campaigns and elections Barack Obama has been ridiculed and even scorned for promoting that one motivating principle, as if that represented the totality of his platform and initiatives. Hope can't feed the hungry, care for the sick and injured, end wars . . . but he wanted us to believe in our ability to come to solutions and remedies for these issues and concerns by facing them together without the obstructing veils of cynicism and corrupting self-interest.

With his inaugurations unfolding alongside the celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Obama's message of hope reminded us of the nation's reaction to the 'dream' that Dr. King expressed in his address at the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. will always own that moment where he inspired the nation to move past the personal and institutional bigotry, racism, and discrimination which had marked centuries of oppression for people of color in America. Likewise, it is reasonable to argue that the moment and the challenges we face are no less perilous or consequential to the citizens of our country and abroad than the ones we faced in the '60's.

In as inclusive a manner as our nation is capable of, Barack Obama offered his echo of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream in his national campaign - rallying a nation to join him in pulling the levers of political action and reform; rallying us to believe and to have hope for the future.

There had been so much of a feeling of despair among those of us who worked to change the direction and make-up of our government and the White House over the eight years before he came to office; so much hopelessness. There was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment in electing our first black president which each and every supporter of Mr. Obama's candidacy can revel in - not the least of which has been his candidacy's ability to make Americans believe in their ability to change the direction of our country through our political action and votes.

Barack Obama managed to advance himself to the presidency with legislative goals in front of his appeals to hope. Advancing legislative solutions which adequately confronted the republican minority and pulling the nation out of the economic mess his predecessor put us in has certainly been a remarkable achievement.

I can sometimes appear to be an optimist, but I'm often deeply cynical about politicians and government. It's easy to mistake my confidence and positive persona for optimism, or for some kind of naivete. Hell will freeze over, I believe, before I see all of the changes I want enacted by government realized in my lifetime.

There are, however, transformational moments in our history which usher in progress which can't be reversed or erased. I believe that President Obama's announcement, in a calculated interview, that he now fully supported marriage equality, was one of those earth-moving political decisions which ushered in a new generation of civil rights for those individuals in the LGBT community who have been deliberately denied basic citizenship rights because of who they love; who they choose to have sexual relationships with; and, who they choose to marry.

We don't need to dwell too long on the utter immorality and political timidity of the president's earlier position which he had said was 'evolving' over time. There was no justification to be had for his insistence on sticking to his position against marriage equality and rights for gay Americans. There isn't any mitigation of those views to be had in his welcome and correct support of many other precepts of our LGBT agenda. There wasn't any justification for waiting so long to express this change of heart -- no letting the powder dry; or waiting for the next election; or defending his reelection could justify maintaining such a selfish and hurtful stance.

Yet, there wasn't any more need to dwell on those transgressions when he made a decision to move forward to help change attitudes and the law. There's no more need than there was to dwell on the faults of President Lyndon Johnson -- a man who ushered in a new era of civil rights for black Americans and others; yet, couldn't keep himself from calling blacks 'nigras.' -- after he had his own epiphany and embraced the civil rights fight; enlisting every instigation of democracy he could manage to further the historic progress he ultimately achieved in making the federal government responsible and accountable for the defense of those rights.

What the President did with his statement -- just a couple of paragraphs; a few sentences -- was to make himself the primary target for those who would oppose these rights he advocated. through election years, President Obama was forced, challenged to defend his position on marriage equality as integral to the defense of his entire candidacy.

Fortunately, this President had already demonstrated his capacity and ability to express empathy, compassion, and understanding on many issues in ways which welcomed all Americans to join in and participate. Indeed, President Obama used this issue as a measure of our commitment to each other; employed his defense in ways which ultimately united many of us. It's hard to understate the importance of this sitting president's embrace of these basic, but denied, rights.





It may surprise some that I hold out my most critical judgments of Barack Obama's leadership in response to his efforts and initiative on issues of race in America. It's not uncommon, as many folks so breathlessly want to express, to find blacks succeeding and operating at almost every level of opportunity, industry, or occupation.

Yet, that advancement of black Americans did not occur in some vacuum of 'colorblindness,' nor, will the progress of black Americans in our political system be served by a revisionism which automatically suggests the playing field has been fair or accommodating to the interests of the individuals -- or, even, to the black communities which are assumed to have advanced along with those, like President Obama, who manage to get elected to public office.

In this day and age, the persistent racism directed against President Obama has not allowed many in the black community to feel secure in this one advancement. That racist insecurity recalls the immediate wake of Reconstruction and the election of a handful of black lawyers, ministers, teachers, college presidents to the national legislature where there was a concerted campaign by their white peers and other detractors to challenge their seats and to construct discriminatory barriers to the election of other blacks which persisted for generations and generations. The 'birther' movement is no stranger to those who recall that 'Jim Crow' past.

For most of John McCain's campaign against Barack Obama, the republican and his running-mate took great relish in distorting the record and character of their Democratic opponent. Their campaign also benefited from a deliberate campaign to characterize Barack Obama as someone who's values and intentions were, somehow, un-American and dangerous. Much of that sentiment, deliberately proffered up from the actual republican campaign and candidates, still hangs around President Obama's neck today. Indeed, Mitt Romney's own campaign did what they could to capitalize on that sentiment among their 'tea party' supporters, like one of their major promoters, Donald 'Birther' Trump. There was no apparent limit to Mitt Romney's ambition for the presidency. He saw no need to temper or reject the more extreme factions of his republican party in their character assassination of the president; or repudiate their deliberate lies and distortions about this Democratic president and the government Barack Obama oversees and manages.

The lie that's perpetuated by the republican right-wing is that blacks have already achieved enough recovery from the institutionalized racism and discrimination of our nation's past, so that they should now be made to compete on an 'equal' level with their white counterparts for government assistance and benefit.

Despite the persistence of disproportional percentages of black individuals - despite the remarkable economic recovery - in states of poverty; with insubstantial health care; inadequate housing; criminal profiling and higher rates of incarceration for similar crimes as non-blacks; lack of resources for education; etc., the republican stance would never favor the views of the African-American community that these are issues which need to be addressed with specific attention to their impact on black Americans.

In fact, republicans only seem to recognize that a black 'community' actually exists around election time; and even then, only to posture as if 'responsibility' and 'accountability' were challenges for African-Americans alone, and, that poverty, joblessness, crime, and other deficiencies of their community were the product of all that they would deny them legislatively. For their own good, the contemporary republican dictum goes, the community that they'll admit is suffering proportionally to the rest of the nation (if they can somehow blame our black President), should not receive benefits or government remedies which don't carry some punitive or corrective measure to induce desired behavior.

The attacks on prominent black Americans in this generation - and, by extension, against the black community of supporters - are not to be taken lightly, even though we may assume the nation is past all of that. The attacks need to be openly and loudly defended against by Democrats and Republicans alike. They can't just be brushed aside as some sort of acceptable standard of discourse. For the most part, they've been responded to with dispatch and sincerity. For the other, there's a glaring silence -- and even a rhetorical encouragement by some in the political arena who are leveraging age-old stereotypes to serve cynical campaigns for office and opportunistic punditry.

From where I sit, blacks in America, as a political force still cannot control the agenda to positively affect the issues which have a disproportionate impact on their world, as they see fit. Although there is the obvious need of legislators and leaders who appeal to voters across the racial, social, and political lines which divide us, many whites don't see a great need to make broad appeals to the black community, and, consequently, the needs and concerns of blacks are often ignored. Black Americans have a real need for candidates and elected officials (especially presidents) who aren't afraid to say to them, I'm one of you and I recognize, understand, and will actively and directly respond to your particular concerns.

Unless you're a youth in trouble or looking for leadership, if you are a black (or other) American anguishing over the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, it's unlikely that you were going to be satisfied with Barack Obama's first and foremost statements in August directly addressing the events in MO.. As if it was somehow a matter of assuaging our own anger out here in the nation at police forces which regularly and deliberately treat our black youth like thugs and criminals, President Obama said he wanted us to change the "perception and reality" of our children and family members by trying to "understand" and to "listen" to more of the law enforcement establishment's deprecating and duplicitous defenses, and incredibly, "unite" with them.

"I’ve said this before," President Obama lectured.

"In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. And through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I’m personally committed to changing both perception and reality. And already, we’re making some significant progress, as people of good will of all races are ready to chip in. But that requires that we build, and not tear down. And that requires we listen, and not just shout. That’s how we’re going to move forward together -- by trying to unite each other and understand each other, and not simply divide ourselves from one another. We’re going to have to hold tight to those values in the days ahead. And that’s how we bring about justice, and that’s how we bring about peace."


His remarks demonstrated, to me, that he's out of touch with the reality that it is these very police officials in Ferguson and elsewhere who have "divided" themselves from the people they are supposed to serve and are doing little more than defending their own positions of authority over us; and abusing that power we've invested in them with our votes and with our hard-earned contributions to our democratic system of governance; how very separate and different many life and death experiences of black Americans are today from their white counterparts.

It's not the demonstrators of Ferguson who've neglected to "hold tight to those values." It's these abusive and self-protective officials and officers who have let go of any modicum of respect for these communities under siege and under fire from canisters of smoke and tear gas hurled from a distance behind the protection of their taxpayer-sponsored armaments. Those are the ones who I expected the President to rebuke. The black community needed much more than a lecture on togetherness; they needed a warrior in the nation's highest office for their cause. I'm still waiting for that.

Elon James, an entertainer who came to Ferguson to lend his presence and support to the people in the community daring to demonstrate against such incredible resistance from police and military forces, did so because, as he tweeted, he "wanted to expose the reality of what was happening in Ferguson . . . That's why I went down there to broadcast and why I kept updating y'all," he wrote.

"Folks don't understand that it wasn't just a protest at times. The police move like an army. Armed. Aggressive. And we were their enemy . . . it makes my head hurt: people mourning a man shot for walking in the street are threatened for walking in the street." he tweeted.


I'd certainly like to see much less confrontational, and much less violent tactics by police, for what is essentially jaywalking or standing in the street. These young folks are simply, understandably, testing the boundaries they are setting for these protests and it would be a wise move to make the state troopers and police less of an obstacle to those. They are being punished, over and over, for their authentic and historically valid expressions of self-determination and justice.

What I think has actually garnered our attention in Ferguson, - beyond the very real and tragic death of a jaywalking youth at the hands of a policeman, and the failure, so far, to move decisively to prosecute the killer - are the sparks of hope which have flashed from the edges of the smoke, gas, and rubber bullets hurled at the very conscience of the town as we watch the people in that community scatter and then regroup, over and over, and return again and again with the same demands for accountability from their elected and appointed officials and officers that are being so deliberately and actively ignored.

I don't think we'd be having this discussion if they weren't in the streets to begin with, and it's become clear that there's still need for even more protest actions to raise awareness and organize attention around their plights and challenges. Heck, even here at a political-centered forum, you can't get much attention to strictly policy-based posts and threads. There often needs to be a spark or obvious catalyst to attention and action.

I'm not sure if many people realize that moderation and complacency is what's brought that community to this point - even before the shooting(s) the strife and outright indifference to this community's concerns is what marked them for the type of conflict that's highlighted today. Many articles have spelled that out in detail, but the bottom line is that Ferguson's return to 'normal' is a return to a whole host of problems which have plagued that community for decades.

It's never a clear line between where activism and action collide. It is clear though, this community needed to shout in the streets to finally be heard. Theirs is a lasting brand of hope and aspiration which will always stand and regroup long after the cynical and opportunistic blasts of smoke and gas have dissipated into the compromised air. We are fortunate to witness such courage and resilience in the face of such unbelievable and unimaginable anguish. We are inspired by it, and challenged to stand firm in our own beliefs, and to regroup our values with every deliberate diversion and deliberate distraction. We're inspired to hold fast to our own principles in the face of derision and ridicule for not adhering to some petty political motivation or motive.

The protests and demonstrations in the streets may well, eventually, dwindle down to a trickle - I think that's perhaps inevitable, understandable. People in that community have more to accomplish in their lives than this very necessary defense of justice and their own humanity.

It's that reality which has me disappointed beyond repair that President Obama - having neglected to visit Ferguson even once; or significantly acknowledge the peaceful protests which endure and have intensified since the early demonstrations - still can't bring himself to vocalize more than the equivocating pablum he offered during his SOTU about youth 'harassed' by nameless assailants; couched beside a curious concern about armed and sometimes armored police returning home.

That's not just a slight to those who are now mourning lost family members killed at the point of a police weapon or assault, it's a far cry from the conversations our black community has been engaged in for months and months about the unequal state of justice in America which affects our community at rates high above those of white Americans in arrests, incarcerations, and police killings

History has shown that it takes leadership at the level of the presidency to initiate and carry through important changes in our society. It has been said by Edmund Burke that, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Or, perhaps, more accurately, ""When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Among more pointed remarks, Martin Luther King made a similar, important observation about equivocating:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," he said.

"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."


Color me frustrated with the leader we have in the White House; puzzled by the persistent equivocating on race by our nation's first black president.




Righteousness of our 'American Snipers'

I read some reviews of the new Clint Eastwood film, 'American Sniper,' which immediately meshed in my mind with a conversation I had this week with a veteran of the Iraq invasion and occupation under Bush. I had steered my veteran conversationalist into a revealing discussion of the roots of his own visible anger and antipathy he expressed often toward the people of the nation where he was deployed and tasked with defending his own troops, along with American interests, against whoever resisted our military's strident advance. In his view, admittedly grossly simplified in my interpretation, American forces represented all that was right and good; and Iraqis, resisting or not, were despicable enemies who deserved whatever retribution our nation's defenders imposed on them.

Lindy West, in The Guardian, describes the real-life individual in the new film who is portrayed by actor Bradley Cooper:

"Chris Kyle, a US navy Seal from Texas, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and claimed to have killed more than 255 people during his six-year military career. In his memoir, Kyle reportedly described killing as “fun”, something he “loved”; he was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy”. “I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated..."


My young veteran discussant is remarkably in agreement with me about the foolishness and folly of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, yet, even as he expresses agreement that Americans have no business committing soldiers to fight and die in that country, he's just as adamantly convinced in a remarkable and appalling dehumanization of the Iraqi people that they all deserve to die; in his estimation, at the point of a U.S. nuclear attack which would 'wipe them all out.'

Delving deeper into his reasoning this week, he makes clear to me where the seeds of his revulsion for Iraqis lies. It appears that he lost quite a few of his close comrades in arms during the Iraq deployments in nearly 10-year enlistment in the Army; many of those under his command while serving as a Staff Sgt. in the infantry. That's enough said from him, to me. I'm not going to make broad judgments about the righteousness or banality of his personal view. I wasn't there and I can't put myself anywhere near his own experiences to make those judgments for him. I can only express my own revulsion toward any killing; justified, rationalized, or not; certainly opposed with all of my heart and mind to any suggestion that the entire country of Iraqis deserve to die to assuage American fears or any perceived defense of our nation or interests.

Yet, it is precisely those same kinds of vengeful and defensive sentiments expressed by this young veteran which compel many Americans to support continued military attacks against Iraqis and others in the region where our troops are deployed which are faceless, even nameless, to the vast majority of us. I would imagine its that same dichotomy between fearful Americans and our new Iraqi-based nemesis which inspires the similar storyline in this latest war film from Eastwood.

Lindy West writes in the The Guardian:

"...much of the US right wing appears to have seized upon 'American Sniper' with similarly shallow comprehension – treating it with the same unconsidered, rah-rah reverence that they would the national anthem or the flag itself. Only a few weeks into its release, the film has been flattened into a symbol to serve the interests of an ideology that, arguably, runs counter to the ethos of the film itself. How much, if at all, should Eastwood concern himself with fans who misunderstand and misuse his work? If he, intentionally or not, makes a hero out of Kyle – who, bare minimum, was a racist who took pleasure in dehumanising and killing brown people – is he responsible for validating racism, murder, and dehumanisation? Is he a propagandist if people use his work as propaganda?"


That same sentiment runs through the reasoning of my young vet who, despite anguishing about the time spent away from his family, even now, with his civilian job, expressed a desire this week to re-enlist; to go back to Iraq to 'kill more Iraqis.' Not surprisingly, he's also looking forward to viewing this new war film - enamored, no doubt, by the notion of an 'American hero' employed in decidedly righteous executions, in his mind, of the 'enemies' our government and military define and promote there.

More ominously, our Democratic president is said to be poised to ask the republican-led Congress for a new authorization to use military force in Iraq which includes actual and open 'boots-on-the-ground' which he's been opportunistically avoiding as a way of forestalling any judgment by legislators under the War Powers Act clock (right now, he's advantaging authorization of his military force in Iraq and Syria under the 9-11 AUMF which is supposed to be for the 'war' he's straining to portray as ending in Afghanistan).

I expressed my own objections to my young vet of viewing portrayals like the ones billed in 'American Sniper;' expressed my concern that these types of films romanticize war to the extent that convince many young Americans to join the cause, convinced within their own naive rationale that they would be able to overcome the odds that their own lives would be sacrificed; not to mention the loss of other innocent lives in the way of their military and government-sanction violence. I probably won't see the film.

I strongly urged this young veteran to reconsider his desire to join the military again; to try and find other ways (other than the alcoholism which he admits plagues him) to suppress and allay the anger he feels daily, even now, years after his deployments which have injured him both physically and mentally. I have genuine sympathy for this former soldier. He frequently laughs about and ridicules my 'bleeding heart;' I tell him that my heart 'bleeds' for him, as well.

Lindy West writes:

The patriots go on, and on and on. They cannot believe what they are reading. They are rushing to the defence of not just Kyle, but their country, what their country means. They call for the rape or death of anyone ungrateful enough to criticise American hero Chris Kyle. Because Chris Kyle is good, and brown people are bad, and America is in danger, and Chris Kyle saved us. The attitude echoes what Miller articulated about Kyle in her Salon piece: “his steadfast imperviousness to any nuance, subtlety or ambiguity, and his lack of imagination and curiosity, seem particularly notable”.

"There is no room for the idea that Kyle might have been a good soldier but a bad guy; or a mediocre guy doing a difficult job badly; or a complex guy in a bad war who convinced himself he loved killing to cope with an impossible situation; or a straight-up serial killer exploiting an oppressive system that, yes, also employs lots of well-meaning, often impoverished, non-serial-killer people to do oppressive things over which they have no control. Or that Iraqis might be fully realised human beings with complex inner lives who find joy in food and sunshine and family, and anguish in the murders of their children. Or that you can support your country while thinking critically about its actions and its citizenry. Or that many truths can be true at once."


I wholeheartedly agree with that. Even as I grieve and anguish for the victims of U.S. military aggression, I sincerely wish my young veteran discussant, and his fellow compatriots-in-arms, healing and success in their lives. I weep for their future, and for their past, as well.

We're still at war

Pilgrims in the parking lot
Arteries clogged with blood clots
Pushing through the aisles of department stores
Neon crosses and Christmas lights
Credit card debts and brand new bikes
The holidays are here and we're still at war

-Brett Dennen, The Holidays Are Here (and We're Still At War)


I've had this earworm by Brett Dennen in my head every Christmas season, for 7 or 8 years now. It's not something I envisioned becoming a permanent fixture to my holidays, but its looking like it'll be a solid standard for years to come. Yes, as Brett reminds us, America is still at war.

From the time of Poppy Bush's opportunistic defense of Kuwait's territory and ports (at the behest of the Bush/Cheney obligations to their Saudi Arabian friends and allies) against Saddam Hussein's army's advance; through his son, Junior Bush's deployments to 'fight them there' in Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks; to Junior's 'preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq; through Barack Obama's 'surge' and escalation of force in Afghanistan; to Pres. Obama's re-escalation of military force and attacks in Iraq after completely withdrawing there (and attacks inside Syria, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, and deployments to Yemen), America is still at war.

This week, Americans were told by President Obama that the 'longest war in American history,' as he called it, is ending. Well, not exactly 'ending;' rather, 'our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending;' well, not exactly 'ending...'

President Obama's statement on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan -December 28, 2014
Today's ceremony in Kabul marks a milestone for our country. For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.
On this day we give thanks to our troops and intelligence personnel who have been relentless against the terrorists responsible for 9/11--devastating the core al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives. We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service. At the same time, our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan--along with our NATO allies and coalition partners--have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country's history.
We honor the profound sacrifices that have made this progress possible. We salute every American--military and civilian, including our dedicated diplomats and development workers--who have served in Afghanistan, many on multiple tours, just as their families have sacrificed at home. We pledge to give our many wounded warriors, with wounds seen and unseen, the world-class care and treatment they have earned. Most of all, we remember the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and we pledge to stand with their Gold Star families who need the everlasting love and support of a grateful nation.
Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country. At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States--along with our allies and partners--will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda. Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation.
These past 13 years have tested our nation and our military. But compared to the nearly 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when I took office, we now have fewer than 15,000 in those countries. Some 90 percent of our troops are home. Our military remains the finest in the world, and we will remain vigilant against terrorist attacks and in defense of the freedoms and values we hold dear. And with growing prosperity here at home, we enter a new year with new confidence, indebted to our fellow Americans in uniform who keep us safe and free.


If the president is referring to success in his succinctly defined mission that Afghanistan is 'never again used as a source of attacks against our nation,' he's not only engaging in sophistry, but challenging the intelligence of the American people into accepting that the planning and orchestration for 9-11 attacks (or any other attacks on our nation) was, or reasonably would be, limited to the geographical confines of Afghanistan.

We know that the planning and orchestration for the attacks were executed in Germany, Pakistan, and even in the United States by 'sleeper cells' of terrorists funded by a network of Osama bin-Laden's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's associates and partners. We know that through the coordination of efforts of fellow terrorist conspirators like Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Walid Muhammad Salih Bin 'Attash (Khallad), and Abu Bara al-Taizi; and of others like captured Zacarias Moussaoui and those who actually participated in the hijacking and crashing of the airplanes, the plot spanned several geographical locations which were only conveniently endemic to Afghanistan.

Are we really to believe that 'more than 13 years' of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan will actually deter someone in the future from plotting some attack on our nation from that or any other location in the world by virtue of our posture or activity there? It's unbelievable, on its face, but all the more incredible when considering that it has been the very U.S. and military presence and activity in Afghanistan and Iraq which has fueled and fostered more individuals bent on violent expressions of retaliation to our advance across sovereign borders than our military forces are able to put down; a mushrooming of support from around the globe for al-Qaeda's 'jihad' against America and our interests and allies.

It's all the more incredible when you consider that even before bin-Laden was located and killed across the border in Pakistan, the U.S. military and intelligence agents admitted that there was little, if any, remnant of al-Qaeda still left in Afghanistan; most having fled to Pakistan and elsewhere early in the initial invasion.

Quite a bit of print has been cast in the past decade about 'Orwellian-speak' in regard to our government officials' justifications for and explanations of military and intelligence goals and operations related to the Bush-era's coinage of our 'war on terror' (and President Obama's fealty to the notion, if not by name, by deed) against agents, operators, architects, associates, forces, remnants, and specters of the original al-Qaeda nemesis which was determined responsible for attacking the nation on Sept. 11, 2001. That 'enduring' commitment which Pres. Obama refers to in his statement makes an absolute Orwellian lie out of any assertion of his that the 'longest war in American history' is ending with his duplicitous statement heralding the withdrawal of a majority of troops deployed to Afghanistan.

The mission of our forces in Afghanistan drifted, as in Iraq, to the desperate defense of an Afghan regime which was installed behind the 'shock and awe' of our invasion following the 9-11 attacks. Like the privileged regime in Iraq which was enabled into influence and authority with votes cast in a dubious election by a minority of citizens under the heavy-hand of their country's invaders, the regime in Kabul relied on their own 'Green Zone' of defense of our military forces as their seat of power to lord over the impoverished country.

It was precisely that opportunistic area of concern surrounding the defense of the Afghan regime that the Pentagon designated to receive the bulk of forces, culled from the Iraq occupation, to 'surge' into Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of additional troops were sent from Iraq to Afghanistan to escalate the occupation of the cities and towns surrounding the Afghan capital and to aid in the desperate defense of the regime against the myriads of separate factions which evolved out of NATO's cynical attempt to dominate the millions of Afghans with their relatively puny, destructive forces.

When the newly-seated Obama administration began to direct their new assaults on whatever they decided was vital to defend in Afghanistan and Iraq, they unleashed every instigation of resistance there was to the presence and activity of the U.S. military on Muslim soil which originated as motivation behind the first bombings the US embassy Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole bombing in Aden in 2000, in addition to the 9-11 attacks. When those terrorist attacks were perpetrated, there was only isolated resistance and violence directed against U.S. interests and allies in the region. In the bloody aftermath of the Bush administration's provocative invasion of Iraq, and Pres. Obama's adoption of that 'terror war,' acts of violence increased and expanded across the globe.

As early as May of 2003, the Brookings Institute found that the invasion of Iraq had "increased the risk of attacks in the United States and Europe by increasing the level of Islamist and anti-American rhetoric, by diverting the attention of political leaders from the central issue of the war on terrorism, and by encouraging the view among the public that the war on terrorism is nearly won."

A Brookings study found that, "The rate of fatal terrorist attacks around the world by jihadist groups, and the number of people killed in those attacks, increased dramatically after the invasion of Iraq. Globally there was a 607 percent rise in the average yearly incidence of attacks (28.3 attacks per year before and 199.8 after) and a 237 percent rise in the fatality rate (from 501 to 1,689 deaths per year). A large part of this rise occurred in Iraq, the scene of almost half the global total of jihadist terrorist attacks. But even excluding Iraq and Afghanistan—the other current jihadist hot spot—there has been a 35 percent rise in the number of attacks, with a 12 percent rise in fatalities," it concluded.

At the apex of the results and effects of that resistance to the increased and proliferating U.S. military presence and activity in the region over the years since the initial Iraq invasion, Pres. Obama sought to stage some sort of sustaining defense in Afghanistan of our government's own representation of 'democracy' in Kabul against whoever would resist the codifying of America's swaggering advance on their territory.

The increased occupation was designed to facilitate Afghan elections and to provide the same sort of 'with us or against us' choice that our invading and occupying forces in Iraq offered the citizens there. The plot which which emerged in this Potemkin defense of democracy in Kabul is one which is already well-know to Afghans. Opposition communities would be occupied and intimidated by our forces while supportive communities would be protected and enabled in the run-up to the balloting. The outcome of the vote resembled whatever minority composition of the Afghan population felt unencumbered by the regime's heavy-hand to cast their ballot in their favor. The result may well have bolstered whatever legitimacy the West wanted to place on their enabled rule in Kabul, but the effect of the increased military activity had a predictable effect of aligning the myriads of Afghans once led to oppose one another, to band together in resistance against their country's foreign invaders.

Whatever the goals of the new Obama administration had in their deployments in Afghanistan, they had already been corrupted by a mindset which assumed our ability to seize and hold territory impressed more than it repelled. The next strategy was an attempt to thread the needle of resistance to the U.S. advance on Afghan territory with a promise of 'stability' of their installed regime.

The counter to that bunk is that nothing at all had been done to address the original complaint of Muslims and Arabs in the way of our nation's swaggering advance across their sovereign borders; that the very presence of our military on their soil is an intolerable aggravation to their religion, values and their wishes - as well as a threat to a great deal of their own safety and security. The devastating effect of our military intervention in the region, which has cost so many lives caught up in the way of America's government-building folly so far, only deepened itself with every tweak and correction that intended us to 'win' some sort of 'victory' outside of the pursuit of the original 9-11 suspects.

The announcement by then-defense secretary Leon Panetta to reporters while on the way to the 2012 Munich Security Conference that the U.S. is looking to end combat operations in Afghanistan may have come as a surprise to our NATO allies, also en route to the gathering, but no one looking at the failed military and political ambitions of both the Obama and the Bush administrations in the war-torn nation could reasonably have expected anything else.

As far back as November of 2011, senior officials in the administration had signaled the President was exploring a speedier transition of our troops' combat role to training Afghans to provide for their own defense of their dubious government. Tentative plans were said to have been made for President Obama to unveil his revised strategy before the annual NATO summit that May. Even before the signals and leaks from the White House, there were key developments which made it clear that to continue in Afghanistan, either the President would need to undergo another ambitious campaign to rally allies away from their almost certain plans to turn away from their part in the U.S. folly, or the administration and Pentagon would have to devise a way to overcome the mounting problems with logistics, getting supplies to the troops, and the apparent outer limits of the President's belief in what the military forces can accomplish on the offensive against a scattered and determined insurgency.

As if to underscore the folly of their escalated military offensive, U.S. troops all but withdrew from Kandahar, the Pentagon's self-proclaimed center of their terror war in Afghanistan, in a posture of retreat which began that October. The administration had hoped to double down on the occupation, and try to effect a knockout blow to the Taliban resistance. The premise behind President Obama's initial 'surge' of U.S. troops into Bush's Afghanistan quagmire was to 'push back' resisting Afghans enough to allow some sort of political reconciliation. That effort was predictably bogged down by the difficulty in getting the disparate tribes and factions to accept the central authority NATO has set up in Kabul. There's even more difficulty in getting their installed government to accommodate the interests and demands of the resisting rest of the war-split nation.

Even our would-be puppet, Karzai, had bristled and balked at the prospect of more destructive NATO conquest in Afghanistan on his behalf. The once-willing accomplice saw the political writing on the wall and appeared to be looking to settle for the assumption of power wherever the Taliban would allow. His reported outburst at the beginning of the Kandahar campaign, threatening to 'join the Taliban', was a open-warning to the U.S. that he recognized there is no 'political solution' that can be reasonably carved out of the devastating, withering military campaign.

The military and the President quietly hoped we don't notice that they didn't actually transform their Afghanistan misadventure from the leveling of homes in Kandahar, the taking of resistors lives, and the destruction of farmland and livestock into the government-building success that they intended for the 'surge' to highlight. In fact, the UN has reported the civilian death toll in Afghanistan was at its deadliest that year with over 3,000 killed, despite the presence and activity of their would-be NATO protectors. An October 2011 Pentagon report to Congress indicated that Afghan civilians were dying in record numbers. "Civilian casualties -- most caused by the Taliban -- reached an all-time high this summer with approximately 450 civilians killed in July," it said. "Attacks using homemade bombs, or IEDs, also reached an all-time high this past summer, with about 750 IED detonations recorded in July."

Predictably, resisting Afghans had avoided the areas where U.S. troops have masses and have scattered their violence around the capital and elsewhere, killing former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani that September. The planned drawdown was not born out of any political success or victory, but out of a certain realization that there will never be a defining end to the resistant violence there which will transform the country politically. The only course left for a stalemated and faltering U.S. invasion force was to pull back to the capital from their offensive positions in the south of the country and stage a desperate, last-stand defense of their propped-up, yet insolent regime.

The U.S. military offensive against the Taliban was an abject failure in achieving the goals behind the offensive. What happened to the promised ability of the U.S.-led NATO forces to protect the residents of Afghanistan against Taliban blowback from their invasion? The ability to protect innocent civilians from NATO attacks, or insulate them from the negative consequences and effects of the NATO military advance? The ability of NATO to provide and deliver the services and amenities of the central government to the displaced residents? Nonexistent.

President Obama and his republican Pentagon holdovers led our nation to this retreat. They were content to tolerate the continued deaths of our our soldiers as our troops eventually hunkered down there; tolerate the thousands drastically wounded; waiting for some declared 'victory' to materialize out of our their desperate defense of their own lives against the Afghans that the President and the Pentagon claim we're liberating.

They were content to push the 'end of combat operations' beyond the midterm elections; all the while, most of the original threatening figures in our terror war have been killed -- their violent spawns made witness to the worst of al-Qaeda's warnings about U.S. imperialism, and more than satisfied to have the bulk of our nation's military forces bogged down and fighting for their lives in Kabul. "Our bottom line in Afghanistan is ‘in together, out together'." Panetta had told reporters in Feb. 2012.

"As an alliance, we are fully committed to the Lisbon framework and transitioning to Afghan control by 2014 . . . We hope Afghan forces will be ready to take the combat lead in all of Afghanistan sometime in 2013. . . .


We've been in Afghanistan longer than our country fought WWII. No matter to our leaders, though. 'Freedom's' cause for occupation supporters is nothing more than a repression of one group or another within the sovereign nation we invaded into accepting our military forces' false authority over them; and cynical manipulation and control the Afghan government lords over the people of Afghanistan by the intimidation of our military occupation.

Our nation's possessive militarism in Afghanistan and elsewhere has divided our nation from within, and, from without, against our restive allies. The escalated occupation has ignored whatever Afghans might regard as freedom in our insistence that their country be used as a barrier against the terror forces we've aggravated and enhanced in Pakistan. Yet, the soldiers the President insisted on continuing to commit to his retreat to Kabul are mostly fighting and dying because they're not wanted there by the majority of the Afghan people. Our soldiers have been fighting to control the Afghans, and they've been busy fighting to get the U.S. to release that control.

Ready or not, its becoming increasingly clear that President Obama can't leave Afghanistan fast enough to outrun the mission's devastating failure...but, we're not really leaving, are we? Almost 11,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for the first few months of 2015 and then drawdown to about 5,500 troops by the end of next year; 'training' Afghan military forces and conducting 'counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.'

"Our personnel will continue to face risks," President Obama admitted in his statement. Understated, I think, given that he's re-escalated his terror war in Iraq and expanded U.S. attacks to Syria in a military offensive which the administration and military has justified and defined as an extension of their 13 year terror war by stressing dubious and tangential ties between their new nemesis and enemy and al-Qaeda. Notwithstanding approval by the new republican Congress of President Obama's pursuit of a new authorization to use military force, they're still relying on the original 9-11 AUMF to recommit our forces to their perpetual war. Only in the most evasive and contradictory terms can Pres. Obama claim that the "longest war in American history" is coming to a an end.

"The Afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared." Barack Obama said on July 15, 2008.

"I think Afghanistan is still winnable, in the sense of our ability to ensure that it is not a launching pad for attacks against North America. I think it's still possible for us to stamp out al Qaeda to make sure that extremism is not expanding but rather is contracting. I think all those goals are still possible, but I think that as a consequence to the war on Iraq, we took our eye off the ball. We have not been as focused as we need to be on all the various steps that are needed in order to deal with Afghanistan," the president had said.


I don't believe there was ever anything to 'win' in Afghanistan, as the president suggested. There has been, however, much to lose in this repeated flailing of our military forces against the Afghan people; against the remnants and ghosts of al-Qaeda. We have already been shown, repeatedly, that our government-building efforts behind the force of our military in the Middle East has produced more individuals inclined or resigned to violent expressions of resistance than it's succeeded in establishing any of the 'democracy' or 'stability' promised.

There's absolutely no hint of lessons learned from the President's tragic escalation of Bush's Afghanistan deployment in which he sacrificed over 1000 more troops' lives in his ''surge' than Bush lost avenging 9-11. Over 2200 U.S. troops have been sacrificed in Afghanistan - 630 of those deaths occurring in 8 years under George W. Bush. Illustratively, the top three deadliest years of the war -- 2010 (497 deaths), 2011 (362), 2009 (303) -- occurred under President Obama’s tenure. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. fatalities in the war in Afghanistan have occurred during the Obama administration, in a quarter of the war's duration.

One would hope that the American public would demand accountability from this administration on the goals they establish behind these new deployments. It should be remembered that the Iraq 'surge' began as a trickle, and, in a year, over 800 U.S. troops had lost their lives as a result of that escalation. What we need to hear from the administration is a clear mission for our nation's defenders in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, which is actually directed toward fulfilling the original authorization to use military force which Congress approved for prosecution against "those responsible for the (9-11) attacks launched against the United States."

"That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."


If we are really serious about 'democracy' in Afghanistan we should let Afghans sort out those conflicts they have with resistant communities and provinces by themselves. Unfortunately, with any continued U.S. military presence there, that means more armed conflict for our assisting troops, and the reality is, democratic governance from the protected regime won't happen in any truly representative way while the Afghan military is operating behind our heavy-handed presence which carries with it our decidedly retaliatory and destabilizing agenda. We should let Ashraf Ghani (or whoever manages to assume authority in the future) prosecute those defenses without our compromising influence.

What we need in Afghanistan is a true end-point to the occupation. That isn't likely to come with the President's announcement, but it's something which Congress should demand from the administration before they hand over another wad of borrowed cash to continue. If they're not prepared to draft a more defining and relevant authorization for the use of our defensive forces in Afghanistan they should, at least, endeavor to compel the administration to adhere to the limited mandate in the original one.

The President and our legislators need to craft and direct policy in Afghanistan which is 'enduring' but, not merely an extension of this self-perpetuating flailing of our military forces at every expression of resistance to their self-serving presence; or against their self-serving political agendas. Both Bush and Obama made dubious and tenuous representations of the threat to the U.S. in order to declare and secure their unilateral authority to use our military forces (at least initially) any way they see fit, without congressional pre-approval - justified almost entirely in their view by their opportunistic declarations that our security is threatened.

That was the slippery slope that Bush used to war. That's the slope that Pres. Obama used to escalate Bush's Afghanistan occupation far beyond the former republican presidency's limits - with the catastrophic result of scores more casualties than Bush to our forces during this Democratic administration's first term and scores more innocent Afghans dead, maimed, or uprooted.

In pressing forward with a re-escalated U.S. military response to the atrocities committed within Iraq, this Democratic president is losing almost all of the ground we thought we'd covered in repudiating the opportunistic Bush wars. Bush's were waged, certainly, for oil and other greed; but just as certainly to effect U.S. expansionist ideals involving regime changes and 'dominoes.'

In President Obama's recent representations of a future threat to the U.S. from this new enemy in Iraq, we see echoes of Bush's 'preemptive doctrine' which many believed this new president's election was repudiating. The results, worldwide, of contemporary U.S. interventionism, speak for themselves. The Obama administration, almost blithely, is hoping their own military steadfastness in Afghanistan - and their new offensive stand in Iraq says something uniquely democratic and inspiring to the world. I'm afraid that all anyone outside of this country will hear is 'empire.'

The only lesson that our military invasions have imposed on the region is the one which the authors of the deployments purport to oppose; that of the efficacy of military force and violence as an ultimate avenue to power and authority. In Iraq and Afghanistan, those who support the U.S. military-enabled regimes and seek protection behind our dominating forces are considered 'democratic' and legitimate -- while those who choose to be or find themselves outside of that imposed influence are to be opposed as 'insurgent' or 'radical' in their opposition and defense of their chosen territory against NATO's selfish advance.

Bush wrote the script for the U.S. in the region; cast the antagonists in his kabuki play - erected Potemkins of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend in contrived protection schemes where we create the 'enemies' we then claim to protect and defend against.

The Taliban is an imposture in our government's terror war. Our own invading and occupying military forces are the most aggravating element in the perpetual violence in Afghanistan and the region. Deliberately so. The resistant unrest in Afghanistan hasn't abated; it's actually intensified, even as our forces are angling to leave; even the military commanders have recently predicted that violence and deaths will likely continue in the future. I'm at a loss to imagine how that prospect will enhance or relationship with Afghans or others in the region and encourage them to adopt and carry our nation's banner of war against their resisting country-folk. But, that's been the plan . . .


Deception of democracy
The philanderings of faux foreign policy
The holidays are here and we're still at war...Yes, the holidays are here and we're still at war...



Dickens: What Christmas Is as We Grow Older

Charles Dickens, author of a story so very popular this time of year, 'A Christmas Carol,' had a life which was almost as complex, tragic, and profoundly interesting as the subjects in his novels. A brief examination of his life would make one wonder at the optimism he expressed, but leaves little doubt about the source of his chartable descriptions of the less fortunate in society. His father ended up in debtors prison and at 12 years-old Charles was removed from school and put to work at a boot-blacking factory to support his family. He lost his his infant daughter Dora, his sister Fanny, and her crippled son Henry Jr. and, shortly thereafter, published a remarkable and touching essay in the 1851 Christmas edition of his weekly magazine, Household Words.

Dickens published four other Christmas novels, but 'Christmas Carol' was an instant hit, if not a large money-maker for the author. The form of his novels was elaborate and his pricing was deliberately low. I own a volume of his works which he re-published for income a few years before his death in 1870 which includes his Christmas favorites. The books are still in amazingly good condition and a joy to handle and read.

David Perdue, a member of The Dickens Fellowship in London and board member of the American Friends of the Charles Dickens Museum re-published Dicken's article on his website and offers its reposting for non-commercial, informational purposes. I offer it here in the spirit of the holiday and hope it touches the same chord with folks at DU that it did with me.


What Christmas Is as We Grow Older

TIME was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one's name.

That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers--drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?

That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?

No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl's face near it--placider but smiling bright--a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays--no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!

Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy's face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.

On this day we shut out Nothing!

"Pause," says a low voice. "Nothing? Think!"

"On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing."

"Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?" the voice replies. "Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?"

Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them--can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her-- being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.

There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, "Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!" Or there was another, over whom they read the words, "Therefore we commit his body to the deep," and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!

There was a dear girl--almost a woman--never to be one--who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, "Arise for ever!"

We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!

The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.



read: http://charlesdickenspage.com/what_christmas_is_as_we_grow_older.html
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