black history month 2019

Some Cream & Sugar for Black History Month 2019

“Old people have wisdom, but God has wisdom and power. Old people have insight; God has insight and power to act. When God tears down, who can rebuild and who can free those God imprisons? Drought comes when God withholds rain; floods come when He turns water loose.”

Job 12: 12-15

I grew up beneath an umbrella of wise but strange and broken misfits. Most of my tender lessons came from elders who used my mother’s dining room table like a podium, a bottle in a brown paper sack as their microphone, a spiraling wreath of smoke above their heads as their visual presentation. 

But I did learn their lessons of heartache, loss, unrequited dreams and incessant regrets. I always listened. They seemed grateful to have someone who would listen and maybe even be saved, because they dared to reveal the darkest shadows lurking within themselves.

The Book of Job reminds me of those wise elders at my mother’s dining room table—the questions, the searching, the unintentional blame placed on others and themselves. I love this verse when Job finally realizes that none of them are in control. None of them have the answers and all of them are vulnerable beings in need of mercy.  

Sometimes, I think we can feel overwhelmed with the state of our country and the world. It feels like God is withholding the rains. But I was reminded of this verse and yes, it does speak of droughts, but it also speaks of floods. It tells us that God turns the waters loose. I think God still does that today in a flood of voices and echoes of protest for the vulnerable beings in need of mercy.  But I think He first turned the waters loose in the 50s and 60s when voices sang out, “We shall overcome, we shall overcome, someday…” 

Many of those voices who sang then are still singing out today. We are still underneath their umbrella of wisdom. I beg you to see, to listen, to know, to feel their stories. 

John Lewis
John Lewis was 18 years old when he first met Dr. Martin Luther King. The two became close friends and Lewis become an icon in the civil right movement. Today, he is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district and he’s served 17 terms in the House. And he’s still “getting into trouble, good trouble and necessary trouble.” 

Listen: OnBeing with Krista Tippett, Love In Action 
Listen or Watch: Oprah’s Master Class, John Lewis
Listen or Read: NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Congressman, Civil Rights Icon John Lewis 
Read with Kiddos: Scholastic, Interview with Congressman John Lewis
Read: Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of Movement by John Lewis 

Joseph Lowery
For many of us, the first time we heard of Reverend Joseph Lowery was in 2009 when he gave the benediction at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama. What an appropriate choice considering the fact that without our leaders from the Civil Rights Movement of our parents and grandparents day, there would be no FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and thus no book called Becoming, and well—that’s just unthinkable. Without movement all we have are words. This is a point that Reverend Lowry continues to make today. Civil rights without movement is really isn’t all that civil. We can remember and even be inspired. But, civility and justice require small acts of the necessary and the mundane, and even the painful. Those small acts are what lead to great acts of courage, and ultimately change.

Watch: Joseph Lowery: Visionary Project, The Importance of the Civil Rights Movement
Watch: Joseph Lowery: Visionary Project, Moments of Despair
Watch: Joseph Lowery: Visionary Project, Joseph Lowery: Advice to Young African Americans
Read with Kiddos: Teaching Tolerance, Rev. Joseph Lowery—What Makes a Civil Rights Leader?

Cicely Tyson
Emmy-Winning, Oscar- Nominated, luminous and legendary Cicely Tyson has been a working actress since 1957. But here’s the thing I think we need to recognize. Cicely Tyson was discovered when she was working as a fashion model. Who discovered her?  One of the first iconic, black-owned and operated enterprises, Ebony Magazine. I know people wonder why do we have to have our own magazines or our own TV shows or our own movies etc... It’s a really simple reason. It’s because if we don’t show up for ourselves, we will not be seen as we truly are. This is true for all people of color. If we don’t show up for ourselves, we will not be seen as who we truly are, but only as others perceive us to be. 

Watch: Oprah’s Master Class, Cicely Tyson
Watch: Charlie Rose, Cicely Tyson 1994
My Favorite Cicely Tyson Movies:
Roots 1977
Because of Winn Dixie 
Trip to Bountiful 
The Help
Showing Roots 
The Women of Brewster Place 

cream & sugar playlist: volume 1

“The joint is jumpin’/it’s really jumpin’/Come in, cats, and check yo hats/I mean this joint is jumpin’…”
Fats Waller, The Joint is Jumpin’

Click the playlist title above to download volume 1’s playlist—an ode to black jazz musician of the 20’s-40’s

Vincent Harding
I only recently had the pleasure of hearing an @onbeing interview with Vincent Harding. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us. But up until his recent death in 2014, he made himself available to the greater community always reminding us that Dr. King was an “inconvenient hero”, and that his battle has not yet been won. Harding was a professor, historian, activist, and prolific writer who helped pen some of Dr. King’s most memorable speeches. Time spent discovering the work of  Vincent Harding would be time well-invested. And it’s easy to do because his work is everywhere. Start with his letter to President Obama. It’s my favorite because it’s truly a letter to all of us.

Read: Sojourners Magazine, "Our Children Are Waiting for the Music: An Open Letter to President Obama” by Vincent Harding (you will need to subscribe to the magazine to read the article—but trust me, you want to subscribe to this magazine and support all that it’s doing. You can access the articles for as little as $2.95 a month.)
Listen: On Being, Vincent Harding—Is America Possible?
Read: On Being, Essays by Vincent Harding
Books By Vincent Harding:
There’s a River: The Struggle for Black Freedom in America
Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement
Martin Luther King: An Inconvenient Hero

Ruby Sales
“Where does it hurt?” It’s a haunting question when it’s asked by civil rights activist, Ruby Sales. It’s haunting because it requires us to acknowledge and validate the wounds and pain that others carry. Even more so, it’s a haunting question because it calls attention to those who inflicted the act of violence that caused the pain, and demands justice. ⁣

⁣Ruby Sales asks us, “Where does it hurt?” Then, she tells us exactly where she herself has experienced hurt and where she still feels it. ⁣Go listen to her TEDtalk where she tells her own harrowing story of grace (I’m not even sure that grace is the right word—you tell me.)

Watch: TED Talk, Ruby Sales: How Can We Start to Heal the Pain of Racial Division
Listen: OnBeing, Ruby Sales—Where Does It Hurt?
Listen: Freedom Road Podcast: Ruby Nell Sales, Blackness and History

James Meredith
James Meredith was the first black person to enroll at the University of Mississippi. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about James Meredith. There are not a lot of things that he’s said in which I can say I agree. But, I also never organized my own civil rights march without the help of any civil rights leaders. James Martin did this very thing in Mississippi in the 60s and was shot for it. So, how can I not listen to his story? Dr. Martin Luther King and many other, well-known, civil rights leaders listened too. When Meredith was in the hospital healing from his gunshot wound, many of these leaders and black Americans rallied together to finish the march he started.

If Malcom, Martin, Meredith, and a whole host of others waited to agree with each other before taking action, we would all still be waiting for a movement that never could have happened.

Watch: Meet the Press, James Meredith
Read: The King Institute, James Meredith

cream & sugar playlist: volume 2

It's easy to be good, it's hard to be bad/Stay out of trouble, and you be glad/Take this tip from me, and you will see/How happy you will be 
Oh-oh, boys and girls, this is my story/And I add all of my glory/I know, because I'm not a juvenile delinquent…
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent

Click the playlist title above to download volume 2’s playlist—the birth of rock n roll 50’s-the early 60’s

cream & sugar playlist: motown edition

Calling out around the world/Are you ready for a brand new beat?/Summer’s here/And the time is right/For dancing in the street
Martha and the Vandellas, Dancing in the Streets

Where would the world be with Motown? I shudder to think of that world. This was a really hard playlist to put together. How do to choose? In the end, I went with the soundtrack of my childhood and the records I remember being played in our home.

As I was researching, I came across some amazing articles and interviews as well:

Listen: cream & sugar: motown edition playlist
Listen: Oprah’s Masterclass Podcast, Smokey Robinson
Watch: An Evening at the White House, The Sound of Young America: The History of Motown
Read: NPR, The Strange Sound of Motown’s Early Hollywood Years

Marcie Walker