HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » bigtree » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ... 20 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 54,611

Journal Archives

We need to END republicanism, not partner with them

Democratic principles need to dominate the political arena, not sidle up beside republicans looking for some reciprocal grope. Republicanism is not just an opposition party, it is a dangerous and destructive philosophy. Put into practice, it is naked corporatism, unquenchable militarism, unashamed discrimination, and anti-democratic tyranny. This republican class who is in power right now is the worst in my lifetime; nothing but a front for their corporate masters.

They are putting our nation at risk and threatening the health of the earth itself. This shouldn't be just a battle to just sit a couple of rungs above them. They need to be disenfranchised from successfully promoting and furthering their agenda.

"Reaching out" to them will be regarded by these thugs as acceptance and acquiescence. They need to be taken down, and their supporters need to understand we're not willing to subject the nation, any more, to the consequences of the republican party's elaborate con job masquerading as policy.

We shouldn't pretend that there aren't specific issues which form a dividing line. Most of these, on the Democratic side, are long standing efforts to provide basic needs and to uphold or establish basic rights which the republicans obstruct with whatever position or strategy suits the moment, often completely running over their previous philosophy, like their former objections to 'nation-building', or conservatives' former support of privacy rights.

What the President seems to be unaware of, is that many of the compromises he's seeking may well make sense in the political arena - like clearing some untidy backlog of unfinished business. Yet, most of those compromises threaten divide many in the country from the Democratic party which has pledged, and fought to support and defend these opportunistically-discarded initiatives in the past. That 'partisanship' was a NECESSARY response to republican obstructionism.

These days, our party doesn't have a progressive agenda; it has a timid and defensive one in the face of an extreme republican opposition, and I reject any implication that our Democratic politics has EVER been unnecessarily confrontational. These 'lifelong republicans' need to be CHALLENGED and discredited when they try and push their obstructionist, industry enabling agenda, not mollycoddled.

bigtree in 2008:

I can see the republicans standing with President Obama . . .

Smiling, shaking hands . . . SOMEONE in that arrangement has to lose. The issues and concerns we face break down into longstanding efforts to bring about changes which have been obstructed by a republican agenda which is designed to derail those efforts, not replace them. All of their proposals are phony, disguised as legitimate legislation, designed to derail the 'change' Obama says he wants. That's the real world. What he's selling is a fantasy.

There is no republican class in power to work with. Their agenda is a sham designed to obstruct the changes we want and need. It may sound wonderful to imagine that Obama will transcend all of that, but, if he doesn't have a Democratic majority large enough to overcome these filibusters, he'll be just as stymied as we are today. I think he's selling a scenario which doesn't exist."

. . . granted, I was just supporting another insider pol (Clinton) at the time, against Barack Obama, but, she had pledged to fight republicans, if she became president. Who knows if that would have been the better political choice?

Who cares? Here we are. This President is still pledging to keep on 'reaching out' to this oblivious republican opposition; still insisting that the worst of them is, somehow, 'concerned about all people in America.'


Obama promised to continue his charm offensive aimed at Republicans

President's View of the Investigation

tweeted by, petesouza ‏@petesouza (Senior WH photographer)11m
Phot of POTUS mtg w FBI Dir Mueller et al: http://bit.ly/119Paro

President Barack Obama receives an update on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the Oval Office, April 16, 2013. Seated, from left, are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Attorney General Eric Holder; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Hasn't 'chained cpi' been a dead issue in the Senate for some time now since the Pres. proposed it?


Is there even a remote chance that there will be some budget bill that comes out of the Senate that includes Social Security cuts for beneficiaries; much less, any other aspect of the program?

Wouldn't the President be acutely aware of that opposition? I can't see any scenario where President Obama tries to force Senate Democrats to adopt chained cpi; or any thing else that cut SS. Those types of items in the President's budget won't get past committee, and I can't see Reid allowing anything like these reported proposals of the President getting anywhere near the Senate floor for a vote.

That's why I think the discussion today is focused on whether these are serious proposals, or just a bluff in an ongoing negotiation with a functionally deaf opposition party. Hasn't the consensus been for MONTHS that chained cpi and other SS cuts were DOA in the Senate? Haven't enough Democrats signaled they were determined to block these, if they came before them?

I'm pretty sure that's the case. For me, knowing that (or believing that) would make it superfluous and a bit silly to act shocked and dismayed that he'd actually include these cuts in his budget proposal. They've been on the WH website for months now.

I get two impressions from the fury and gravity of the criticisms of the President since the report that his budget would include these cuts. First, there is a correct and necessary pushback from 'cpi' opponents which is well-advantaged by the spotlight the President has put on his proposals. He has to realize both the opposition and the virtual unreality of his initiatives. He's definitely hearing a boatload of criticism from supporters and detractors, alike. I don't imagine, for a minute, that he's expecting to broach that level of opposition from his own party. I could be wrong, but that would appear to be a losing battle.

Secondly, there are merely proposals. I wonder if folks realize just how many of the WH budget proposals are regularly ignored when congress fashions their legislation. I've said from the beginning of these negotiations that Congress would be the indicator on any sequester deal; not the President, no matter what he and the republican opposition agree to.

Look to the Capitol to measure the impact on seniors, etc.. Lobby Congress and the Senate to shape the outcome of any sequester compromise (if there is to be one). Focusing criticisms on the President may well be good politics, good practice, but he's not as pressed by our votes anymore; legislators are the ones in the hot seats on this. They need to hear from us. The WH, less so, imo.

On the substance . . . where do I stand?

The President has as much of a chance of getting a full compliment of what he wants from republicans as he does insisting and extracting revenue from them. He's looking to compromise to resolve 'core disputes?' That's some rookie shit there. With budgets, you either get what you want at first bite, or accept getting shafted in the future by succeeding Congresses. It's no wonder so many are using the term 'sold out.' Very few have any faith at all in Washington doing what it takes to preserve our social safety net, much less enhance it. We all know who is going to be the ultimate beneficiaries of belt-tightening; the rest of the government largess, not the poor and working class. We starve off of these compromises, while they experience a slight bit of temporary indigestion.

It's a foolish proposal, to target already vulnerable and much in-demand programs for cuts to continue to pay for the rest of the bloated, privileged mess. It's a kick in the shin, right now, when those elements (people) of our society have already sacrificed so much. In fact, in this sequester, it is that faction of Americans who are already feeling the pinch of this deliberate republican embezzlement. I don't think it's too much to ask that the president fights that battle before he comes to us with his hat in his hand.

I daresay, if he'd fight and win that battle to end the wealthy and corporate privilege gained from our hard-earned contributions to government, he wouldn't have a need to make the poor and working-class accountable for this deliberate mess Congress has engineered for decades now.

Children help Michelle Obama Plant White House Vegetable Garden

First lady Michelle Obama plants spinach as she talks with fifth grader Ariana Docanto, right, from Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

First Lady Michelle Obama was assisted by green-fingered students as she planted lettuce and other crops in the White House garden for spring.

Pupils from Washington DC, Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Vermont were invited to join Mrs Obama because their schools are working hard to improve the nutritional standards of their lunches.

"Are you ready to plant?" the First Lady asked. "Ok, let's get going. Let's do it!"

Other crops in the White House garden include kale, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, radishes and garlic. Some of the food grown is given away to a local soup kitchen.

read/watch clip: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/michelle-obama/9973214/Children-help-Michelle-Obama-plant-White-House-vegetable-garden.html

Michelle Obama hands Bread Wheat seeds to Ariana Docanto, a 5th grader at the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville. Associated Press photo

The first lady on Thursday planted lettuce and other crops in her garden on the South Lawn of the White House, with an assist from schoolchildren from Washington, D.C., and several school districts around the country. Two varieties of wheat were planted for the first time: club wheat and bread wheat.

Other crops now growing in the garden are spinach, kale, Swiss chard, endive, potatoes, radishes, garlic, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and herbs, along with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and an apple tree. The first lady personally planted rows of wheat, spinach and kale, with help from a few students. Other students planted the remaining crops, with an assist from White House staff members. Also helping were military veterans in training for careers in sustainable agriculture . . .

read: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/First-lady-plants-White-House-garden-for-spring-4410085.php#ixzz2PWnx2xmm

First lady Michelle Obama plants spinach with Nolan Deep, left, from Milton Elementary School in Milton, Vt., and Kaila Bourne, right, from Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The 5th grade students from Sarah Moore Green Elementary were selected because of the efforts made at the school to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle.

"The schools in your state have been doing a phenomenal job, and that's one of the reasons why we invited this school. Just talking to the kids in the garden, they know their vegetables, are excited about the garden, they know food from the garden tastes better, are excited about their salad bar. That's what they were talking to me about in the garden," said Michelle Obama.

The Tennessee kids, wearing their bright orange shirts, planted all kinds of vegetables in the garden, which will eventually find their way to the table of the First Family and local food pantries.

read/watch clips: http://www.wbir.com/news/article/263286/2/Knox-Co-kids-help-the-First-Lady-plant-the-White-House-garden

Michelle Obama hands Bread Wheat seeds to Ariana Docanto, a 5th grader at the Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville. Associated Press photo

Two varieties of wheat were planted for the first time: club wheat and bread wheat.

The lettuce should be ready in a couple of weeks. The wheat will need until at least July to grow.

Other crops now growing in the garden are spinach, kale, Swiss chard, endive, potatoes, radishes, garlic, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and herbs, along with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and an apple tree . . .

The first lady personally planted rows of wheat, spinach and kale, with help from a few students. Other students planted the remaining crops, with an assist from White House staff members. Also helping were military veterans in training for careers in sustainable agriculture.

read: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/somerville/2013/04/somerville_students_join_miche.html

First lady Michelle Obama smoothes out the dirt as she plants wheat seedlings with fifth graders Ariana Docanto, right, from Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass., and Emilio Vega, left, from Benjamin David Gullett Elementary School in Bradenton, Fla., during the spring planting of the White House garden, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the White House in Washington. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Pablo Martinez Monsivais

few more pics here: http://theobamadiary.com/2013/04/04/its-gardening-time/

They see me rollin, they hatin

tweeted by, Jason L. Sparks ‏@sparksjls 1h

They see me rollin, they hatin. pic.twitter.com/OpjHBllol0

Another Easter in Charleston

(This is a re-post of mine from earlier years . . . hope it's not too familiar. I crave posting it this time of year - like a drug)

I remember Easter as a child. Mom would take us to Charleston, West Virginia every year to visit my grandfather for the Spring holiday.

Granddad lived in a huge two story house off of Main Street, and there, he rented out the upstairs to a few folks that I never really saw much, and a room off of his kitchen where a dapper garbage man slept. Granddad was a short, strong man, dark as night, with a hearing aid for his deafness that happened when he worked in the glass factory after WWI. He'd turn it down when my mom would lecture him about something or another, and whenever he fell asleep in his red reclining chair with the red duct tape covering the cracks, while he watched the baseball game turned up way loud. He'd wake up every now and then to spit his tobacco in his brown ceramic spittoon and record the score on his TV guide.

Bobo, his faithful mixed border collie who would bark whenever the phone rang or the door chimed, laid and slept by his side as he slept. Bobo would never fail to bite me almost every visit, sending me three times to the doctor for stitches, the last time after taking the other half of a cookie I gave him from my hand. Besides that, nothing much at all happened in that town for us young ones. The biggest thing was when the huge car carrier pulled up on the other side of the street. My sister and I would run outside on the porch and sit on that rough painted metal rocking chair and bench and watch as the man unloaded the new cars one by one until the very last.

Charleston was like a large retirement community to me, with a Dairy Queen where I sometimes got to go to by myself to get mom her butter almond, and an sweltering, all night laundromat where we sometimes went after dark to wash our clothes and beg Mom for one of the prizes in the bubble gum machine; or, maybe a handful of stale peanuts for a nickle from the other dispenser.

There were a bevy of old relatives who Mom would take us to visit - walking for endless miles through town, in the heat, in our new spring wear. There was a lady with who had been stuck in bed for years (I never saw her get up) who was always in her nightgown and robe. Mom said she tried to get up one morning and found she couldn't walk. She was a kind woman with several pictures of Jesus on the wall. There was a lady who took care of her who had a huge goiter on her neck. The bedridden lady always gave my sister and I some change before we left.

Then, there was Mrs. Gilmore (a recognized civil rights leader) who lived in a huge brownstone with a funeral parlor in the basement that her husband had left her. Everyone in town brought her their business when someone passed away. She had a wide painted smile with her hair pulled back so tight that it seemed stuck on. She had long fingers with the longest nails I had ever seen and she would gesture when she spoke with the extra long cigarette holder she had delicately wedged between two of them. Mom would take us to visit and I'd fiddle with a crystal ball she had brought back from a visit to Russia to try and conjure up the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz in the translucent glass. Years after she died the National Park Service made her spooky home a landmark because of her work as an activist in Charleston and elsewhere.

There was Annie Joe, my mom's best friend who would do her hair with the hot combs heated on the kitchen stove, and her mom, Cousin Gussy and Uncle Moore who lived across the Kanawha bridge in one of a suite of plaster houses with sunken floors. They had two trees with white washed trunks and red mites that crawled up and down. We'd salt the slugs on the walkway for fun and climb the trees to wait for them to shrivel. The railroad tracks were just a few feet from the house and the train would barrel by occasionally. We'd leave pennies on the track and collect them flattened when the train rolled over them. Gussy would cook up a Sunday meal that I'll never forget with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and greens that would melt in your mouth while Mr. Moore watched the ball game.

Bobo, in Granddad's living room

Easter Sunday was a great pain for a small kid like me. Mom was a terror as she got us ready for church. She'd scrub me, brush my hair raw, and dress me in this powder blue, Lord Fauntleroy suit with shorts and a beanie cap. She'd hustle us outside as Granddad carefully backed his gold Oldsmobile out of the garage with the shed on the side which had a ton of pipe parts, motor parts, nuts and bolts and everything wonderful. There was a shack in the back and a couple of run-down homes surrounding his three floor boarding house where poor folks improbably survived on next to nothing.

I smoked my first cigarette in that shed one Sunday before church, one of Granddad's Pall Malls without a filter . . .

Granddad would stop and open the wide gate he had built at the end of the long driveway (with pipe parts) which had a pulley and a rope with a brick tied on that slowly shut the gate by itself until it clicked surely into its handmade latch. The front gate also closed by itself, but with an entirely different pulley and weight arrangement he had designed. I'd always look back out of the window of the Olds to see whether that would be the day that it failed to close. It always clicked shut, though.

We'd arrive early at the First Baptist Church and sit in the pew as the parishioners would stream in. First Baptist was a huge church with a wall of stained glass windows on both sides and a pulpit that towered above us all with room for its large choir. The church on Easter Sunday was always packed full and humming from the rich, sickly perfume of the women there. The smell was unbelievable. And the hats . . . wide brimmed monstrosities with feathers and such, atop processes and wigs.

There was this one large lady who owned and lived in a dubious consignment shop along Main Street with a few dust-covered ceramic figurines and plastic flowers on the window shelf who would always arrive at the last minute. She'd saunter down the aisle with her silver tipped cane, and her hat was always the largest, most outlandish one there, with fake birds, fruits or something amazing on top. She'd make her way down to her reserved seat in the front row. She was the only holy roller I think that was allowed in First Baptist. I understood that she had been informed that she'd have to tone down her shouts of praise to the Lord which, nonetheless, still echoed through the hall at several key points in the service.

Granddad always left us to take his place up front. He was a longtime deacon who would fully memorize the passage he would get to read before the congregation. I'd be stuck on that hard bench for the full 3 hours that the service ran on Easter Sunday. Mom would do her best to keep me still and quiet throughout the service with gum, or some starlight mints and butterscotch candies. A few of the stained glass windows swung open to let in whatever breeze could be had, but it was always sweltering hot. Almost everyone (but me) had a hand fan with a wooden handle and a picture of Jesus and a lamb on the front and a picture of the church on back. You could hear the fwap, fwap of the parishioners waving them back and forth in vain attempts to ward off the heat. I always fell asleep several times throughout, taking advantage of Mom's arm, probably the only time that she didn't terrify me.

The First Baptist Church was led by the Reverend Moses Newsome, a towering, light-skinned black man with a deep baritone and kind eyes. He would lead the congregation through prayers, through acknowledgments and death and sick mentions. He would stop in between and sit as the choir belted out some rollicking gospel tune, rocking, bobbing, and clapping their hands in unison as they rocked the house. They had an unbelievable sound. And folks would rock along with them. There was nothing subtle about the choir. They were loud and righteous. Whew! The one holy-roller up front would be on her feet, shouting out, " Praise glory!" she would cry. "Thank you Jesus!"

Then came the sermon. One hour long. An eternity. I'd have a sore butt by then and the candy just wouldn't cut it anymore. Reverend Newsome would speak in a low, measured tone as he counseled the congregation on the vestiges of evil and the virtues of good. His long arms reached out from under his flowing robe and he firmly grasped the lectern on both ends as he glared down on the flock. Sweat poured off of his freckled brow while he cautioned us about the Devil and warned us to look everywhere for Christ's coming.

Somewhere near the end, you would get a whiff of the food cooking in the church kitchen for after the service. The smell of fried chicken and gravy, beans, cornbread, and greens wafted uncontrolled into the great hall. Folks got restless, but they were mostly patient and still until, at once, the Reverend's voice would rise to a fevered timbre as he brought on the end of his sermon. Folks would shift in their seats and sit upright again as the Reverend boomed out his ending.

Then came the benediction, that wonderful benediction that signaled the end of the service. And then it was over. There were Easter baskets full of jellybeans and chocolate waiting at home, and the sun was shining full outside as we filed past Reverend Newsome and he grasped my small hand with his giant, coffee-colored, soft ones.

"You be good now, you hear?" the Reverend would say. "I'll be good sir." I'd answer, as I pushed out into the Spring air to soak up another Easter in Charleston.

This (just) happened!

tweeted by, Rach & Jen ‏@rachnyctalk 1h

This just happened!!! #marriageequality #DOMA pic.twitter.com/73aDOUkhZu
Retweeted by Josh Marshall

This sequester is going to hurt our local economy if allowed to drag on into furloughs and layoffs

I can't tell you how angry and frustrated I am that republicans are being allowed to wreck our nation's economy with their dithering and meddling; almost ALL of it to try and inflict some sort of political blow to President Obama. This has been going on since the beginning of his first term and it has had real-world effects on my prospects for hours and pay.

Now, with the almost certain possibility of local layoffs and forced, arbitrary cutbacks in our federal workforce, I'm certain that our business and others in the region will feel the impact of already shell-shocked consumers pulling back their purchases to cover their loss of income.

This couldn't happen at a worse time. We're just starting to see business creep back and hours have been tentative, but mostly holding steady. I can see a future where our area businesses (and the nation's) are struggling to overcome this republican, self-induced economic downturn. Taking this much money out of our economy at once is economic homicide.

It's a deliberate attack on the most vulnerable in our country; holding vital services hostage, while standing in the way of any attempt to reduce their own wealthy share of government benefit that would affect their tax shelters and their beneficiaries' corporate welfare.

Yet, the government services that republicans are looking to rob to support their wealthy tax schemes have already been shrinking; even before this President took office.

from the WSJ: Government Payrolls Shrinking Even Before the Sequester

The billions of dollars in federal budget cuts known as the “sequester” began to take effect on Friday after President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal to avoid them. But even before the latest round of cuts, the public sector was getting smaller by at least one critical measure: jobs.

Federal spending is still rising. But that is mostly because of the rising cost of entitlement benefits, primarily Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest on the national debt. Spending on most everything else, from defense to scientific research, is falling as a share of economic output—and in many cases falling outright. Inflation-adjusted federal spending, as measured by the Commerce Department in its GDP accounting, has fallen in seven of the past eight quarters.

Standing firm against ANY sacrifice from the wealthy, republicans are just, outright, stealing from average-to-low income and poor Americans with these sequestration cuts. I've goddamn HAD it with these rich fucks - millionaire legislators - dismantling government services to advantage their own bank accounts.

Wake up, America! There's a mob of fat cats loading up their limousines with our furniture; our clothes; our food; our medicine; the very planks of our homes. They're just standing there; daring us to arrest them; daring us to stop them; taunting us to give them even more than they've robbed so far. They're destroying our jobs and our livelihoods to keep us in a perpetual state of depression and dependence.

They're daring us to step outside of these arranged deals and slick budget schemes and put them in their place. Negotiating with them just enables them even further. What they need is a good measure of obstinacy to match their own deliberate obstruction. We're truly screwed if our party doesn't respond to this attack on the majority of Americans with force and resolve.

We don't need to wonder anymore if republicans would actually allow our country to suffer for their petty politics. This is the largest economic assault on average-income to poor Americans that any political party of legislators has ever engaged in. Defeating them politically, somehow, just seems wholly inadequate in the face of this attack. It's the least we can and should do.

Recognizing, remembering Abraham Lincoln on this last day of Black History Month

This year, African American History Month celebrates two landmark anniversaries in American history, with the theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

One of the most important things that I take from the history of Abraham Lincoln's 'emancipation' efforts for blacks in America is the reality of his own ambivalence toward black independence and even their ability to coexist with whites in this country. In a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln was clear about his antipathy toward giving blacks rights regularly afforded to the white majority:


“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

His subsequent embrace of the 13th Amendment reflects the way America, as a whole, was compelled to relinquish their prejudices and accept the emergence of rights for blacks in the newly United States.

I remember a story I read of the integration of a particular school in the South where ALL of the white students were pulled out of classes by their parents when a handful of black youth were admitted. Those black youth attended classes in a virtually empty school that year. The next year, however, the majority of the white students had been allowed to return - and time and history marched on.

It really is remarkable how our insistence on progressive change has the potential to move mountains of resistance, in the end. History tells us this.

Mrs. Gilmore's Defining Black History

This year, African American History Month (which ends today) celebrated two landmark anniversaries in American history, with the theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.” The volume of remarkable and celebrated subjects who advantaged their own lives from the accomplishments of Lincoln and King is vast and wide. There is an endless resource of African 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. 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.

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 ans 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 Scout 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 top fight it out on you 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."

Go to Page: « Prev 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ... 20 Next »