“Montgomery on My Mind”

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in –Rosa Parks

My colleague, Dr. Ramona Hyman, always has “Montgomery” and its rich Civil Rights history “on [her] mind.” Thanks to her, I have Montgomery, Alabama on my mind too as I prepare to spend a couple of days there with her and several Huntsville educators “Revisiting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.” The educators are working on integrating this piece of history into their K-12 classes. I have a different research agenda–as I’m thinking through a project on women’s involvement in critical moments in history.

Today is a perfect time to share some of the Rosa Parks postcards in my collection. I’ve had them for quite some time, but now that I’m thinking about Montgomery, it’s an appropriate time to share.

Many people know about her contribution to American civil rights and history, but just in case you don’t know–Rosa Parks is considered the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955 “triggered a wave of protests that reverberated throughout the United States.” The boycott lasted for more than a year and ultimately catapulted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into national prominence. The boycotts led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation on city buses.

Here are three related postcards from my collection:

The “Rosa Parks Bus” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan

From the postcard back:

Montgomery City Bus 2857. Originally built in 1948 in Pontiac, Michigan, Bus 2857 was operated by the Montgomery City Bus Lines in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954-1971. Rosa Parks was riding this bus on the evening of December 1, 1955 when she was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white man. This incident sparked subsequent civil rights protests, especially the boycott of Montgomery’s bus system. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States. The yearlong boycott kept Montgomery’s [black population] off all buses until December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public transportation was unconstitutional. Bus 2857 was retired and sold in 1971. After sitting for 30 years in a field, the bus was purchased by auction by The Henry Ford [Museum} and has been restored to appear as it did in 1955. The bus is now on display in the Henry Ford Museum.

You can find more details about the purchase and restoration of the bus here: Restoring the Rosa Parks Bus.

Rosa Parks arrested for refusing to yield her seat to a white man.

The postcard, featuring the familiar image of Parks being fingerprinted, comes from the Women Who Dared collection sent to me during Women’s History Month several years ago. The sender added a Parks quote:

Each person must live life as a model for others. –Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

The art above is part of the “Celebrating Women” banners that were on display at The Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Celebrate Cafe in New York City when I visited several years ago (2010, maybe?). If I remember correctly, each banner was created by a young woman who was involved in the Club.

You can find out a lot more about Rosa Parks by reading her biography on the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute website. You’ll find that she was much more than the woman who refused to give up her seat.

“A Hymn for Montgomery 55” by Ramona Hyman
from her collection, In the Sanctuary of the South

Holy, holy, holy: a hymn of praise
For prophets framing freedom
In Montgomery 55: Strange fruits marching–some
Walking, some crawling–some…

Holy, holy, holy–a hymn of praise
Emptying itself
Americans: black and white; hand in hand
Saintly sighing a freedom song of praise

Holy, holy, holy–the march raises
Into victory: freedom swells, the flag: separate
And unequal shreds into the face of anxious
Soldiers–black and white jumping the broom
Into a new day–the Civil Rights Movement begins

Lessons From Dad

In my Mother’s Day post, I mentioned I had a Love Notes postcard earmarked for Father’s Day.

We learn just as much from our fathers as we do from our mothers. Sometimes, the lessons are the same, sometimes very different.

My penfriend Eileen V. wrote a list of 10 things her father taught her on the back of a postcard featuring a beautiful lavender field.

“Look for a quiet place and take your time and space to grow your own dreams.” –Zen Wisdom

She writes:

My father taught me:

  1. to enjoy traveling and enjoy nice food
  2. to learn languages
  3. to take up conversation with strangers and foreigners
  4. to listen well
  5. to play tennis
  6. to go sailing
  7. to read lots of books and play Lego
  8. how to tie a bow
  9. to enjoy and cherish silence/quietness/tranquility/solitude
  10. to respect life, animals and nature

You may have already read about my awesome dad in a tribute I wrote a couple of years ago, but in case you need a reminder, here’s a succinct list of some of the things I learned from my father.

  • You have a “right” to your own truth. Speak it.
  • Don’t quit. Stick it out. Finish what you start.
  • Get a formal education and never stop learning.
  • In any way you can, be there for family and friends.
  • Question everything.
  • Take care of your things.
  • Argue your point, but don’t lose friends over it.
  • Celebrate life and accomplishments.
  • Take time for music. Don’t just dance or sing along; listen to it
  • Be a good, honest person and look for the good in others.
  • Know your worth and accept nothing less.
  • When the going gets tough, get tougher.
  • Relax the rules sometimes. A donut for breakfast every once in a while won’t hurt. 😉

So many essential lessons, and that isn’t all, of course!  What have you learned from your father?

To all the fathers reading this–

[the only way you’ll find “me” cutting grass–in a bitmoji] 😀

Quotes Challenge Day 3: Ride the Horse

Photo by my son, Vaughan M.

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it. 

The final quote for the three-day challenge comes from one of my favorite books, Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (published as The Bridge of Beyond in English). I feel I must provide a little context–without giving away too much of the plot, of course.

In Part 2 of the novel, Télumée, the primary character, is so profoundly grieved by her husband’s desertion that she sits on a stone in her grandmother’s backyard for several weeks, speechless and unmovable, reduced to a shade of her former self. Her trauma is understandable. After being obviously head-over-heels in love with her since they were children, Elie, her husband, suddenly and inexplicably becomes cruel and abusive and kicks her out of the house in favor of another woman. The events of her life become incongruous with the reality she’s crafted and the people she and her husband are and Télumée is so broken by this unfathomable turn of events that she “loses her mind” and can no longer function.

Télumée eventually “rises,” nurtured by her community and the steady wisdom of Toussine, her grandmother –“Queen without a Name”–who had suffered and survived many griefs herself.  I’m convinced it is the words Toussine instills at an earlier point in the novel that compels her to get up:

Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.

As suddenly as she falls apart, Télumée stands up to live a life different from the one she originally imagined–one that is authentic and communal and necessary.

I have always loved this quote. When I first read it, I put the book down to pause and consider it for a while. And still, several reads later, I am blown away by the tenacity Toussine suggests we must conjure up to survive wild waves of pain and sorrow–the grit it takes to position ourselves so that deep sorrow doesn’t shape our lives, define us, or guide us and the creative prowess it takes to use that sorrow to re-plot the direction of our lives.

Sometimes when the crises come one right after another and literally knock us off our feet, it seems easier to just lie down and wallow in sadness and misery. There can be healing in (temporarily) shutting down, in resting, but at some point we (have to) decide whether we will ride the horse–our circumstances–or let the horse ride us.

There is way more to say about this quote and way, way, way more to say about The Bridge of Beyond. I hope you’ll pick it up and read it. I also hope that when life becomes too much, you’ll choose to ride.

Today’s nominees are [see a previous post for rules]:

Have a restful, fun, and safe weekend!

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Note about the photo: The photo above was shot by my son when he was eight-years-old. He is quite the photographer. I’m working on getting him to share more of his work. #proudmom

 

Quotes Challenge Day 2: Wild and Free

Today’s quote–All good things are wild and free–comes from “Walking,” an extensive essay written for The Atlantic by Henry David Thoreau, the American essayist, philosopher, and naturalist best known for Walden and “Civil Disobedience.” The essay, published after his death, was a combination of two lectures, “Walking” (1851) and “The Wild” (1852), which Thoreau combined, separated, and combined again for publication (1862).

The opening of the essay provides a clear snapshot of the content:

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil— to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.

When I shot the photo above (last year, late spring), my “real” camera was out of commission, but I was determined to still take advantage of photo opportunities. As a friend and I were leaving a bookstore late one morning, a mini-daisy field caught my eye. How odd it seemed in the middle of all the commerce! Neither the magazine purchased nor the hot beverage consumed could evoke the good feelings that a moment with the daisies yielded.

The one sentence from Thoreau’s essay captured my feelings–“all good things are wild and free.”

The full quote sums up preceding paragraphs in which he valorizes the “untamed” or natural over the “civilized” and cultivated.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance-which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand.

Take a moment to read the entire essay. If you want to know more about Thoreau, see the Walden Woods Project. There’s a series of links near the end of the Thoreau background information page that you will find useful.

“The Spirit of Sauntering,” a Brain Pickings article published a few years ago, offers an analysis of Thoreau’s “Walking.” You might want to check that out too–or instead, if Thoreau’s writing style does not appeal to you.

Today’s challenge nominees (see previous post for rules):

It’s almost the weekend! Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my final quote of the challenge.

Quotes Challenge Day 1: Do It Afraid!

As I was fretting over today’s blog post, I received notification from Divya of Merry Motherhood that she nominated me for the Three Quotes in Three Days challenge. Quotes? Of course, I’m in!

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominates you
  2. Post one quote per day for 3 consecutive days
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thanks Divya! [Divya blogs about first-time motherhood among other things. You’ll love her Day 1 quote–straight from Calvin and Hobbes!]

This challenge is especially timely since I’ve been working on projects that involve integrating quotes for the last couple of weeks. Now, I have a reason to share a few of them immediately–instead of some time later.

Today, I’m sharing the photo and quote I shared for the “Fierce Woman” swap I blogged about a week ago.

When I blogged about Sally Ride two years ago, I asked readers for their favorite “fierce woman” quote. My blogging friend Sheila of Sheila’s Corner Studio responded with a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe that I knew I had to work into a photo:

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.  –Georgia O’Keeffe

The quote speaks to Sheila because:

[I] found that when I was in high school, and I have never forgotten it. I found it so hard to believe, and so reassuring. She was such a trailblazer, before her time. Since then, I have read about many extraordinary women who claim to have felt the same way. Yet, they have achieved great success.

I didn’t expect it to take me almost two years to use this quote. Part of the reason is that I didn’t want to use just any photo. I wanted to imitate O’Keeffe’s style with a photo edit. After many tries, I was satisfied. I think.

O’Keeffe Inspired

Here’s a link to some of O’Keeffe’s flowers.  How did I do?

The trick was placement of the quote.

Inspired O’Keeffe Inspired

Unlike O’Keeffe, being “absolutely terrified” has hindered my conquering a few things. I’m not a complete “fraidy-cat” though. What I have done, I’ve pretty much done straight through the terror–which emboldens me to take on bigger, scarier ventures. As cliché as it sounds, “doing it afraid” takes real courage. In fact–as O’Keeffe’s words suggest–facing each day takes courage.

Today’s nominees are:

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for more inspiration!

Guest Post: “Woke Up to the News” by K.C. Dulan

Photo by Michel Kwan

We’ve all been touched by suicide. Whether it was the death of someone we know or someone we admire, we’ve felt the coldness of that loss for which the answers never satisfy. We may not understand why, but God knows. He is most intimately connected with us, even when we feel detached from Him. As I mentioned in “He Comes Walking,” He is well-acquainted with human suffering, including the desperate, hopeless suffering that leads to an individual’s taking his or her own life.

In a post that first appeared in Medium on June 8, my friend, K.C. Dulan, ruminates over the whys and hows and urges us to truly see each other and give “rest” in life instead of death.

***   ***   ***

Woke up to the news of another suicide of a high-profile individual.

The second one in a week.

And I wondered; how many more died invisible deaths by suicide in-between the two?

Unseen. Unnamed. Unheard.

Wondered about the “why” as the rate steadily climbs.

Wondered about the “how” — how to make it stop; because the truth is those that are willing to DO something about it are often barely treading water themselves.

And I worry about them all…

The doers.

The grinders.

The healers.

The seers.

The feelers.

The bearers.

The wanderers.

The ones who are not readily seen as broken, but are givers — constantly breaking off pieces of themselves to be consumed by the needs and wants of others until nothing remains.

They DO whatever needs to be done regardless of their own mental or emotional capacity and promise to take care of themselves just as soon as this one more thing is done.

They GRIND, determined not to be average and in pursuit of “greatness” or “success” before they have clearly defined what that truly means…and what it really costs…for themselves.

They HEAL (everyone else). Make us laugh, entertain us, show us the world, teach us to love…they stand in the gap or endure public flogging for standing up. Or sitting down. Or marching. Or taking a knee.

They SEE and accept the brokenness in others but are ashamed and cannot forgive or accept their own.

And they FEEL the wounds and pain of humanity and yearn for others to feel it, too.

They BEAR the burdens of their fellow man…shoulders raw, backs bent from carrying the weight of the world.

They WANDER seeking safety, seeking hope, seeking solutions, seeking solace, seeking peace.

People say it’s a selfish act…

Interestingly committed by those who often give the most of themselves –

The warriors doing battle without the armor of selfishness, narcissism, and individualism on the front lines against hate, apathy, indifference, injustice; refusing to take up space with their own pain and suffering;

Those whose internal, looping tapes – embedded by the unrealistic demands and expectations of others – tell them over and over again that they are NEVER enough. No matter how much they accomplish, it will never be enough.

Those who have been sold the unsustainable lie that they are nothing unless they “stay grindin’” — when the very definition of “grind” is to REDUCE (something) to small particles or powder by crushing it.

Until… “IT” becomes the only way to find rest…

How ironic that we then say

Rest in peace.

Rest in freedom.

Rest in power.

It’s all they ever wanted.

If only we could give it to each other in LIFE instead of in death.

#Pleasedontgo #Pleasestay #Youmatter #Youareenough #Iseeyou

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About the author: K.C. Dulan is oddly optimistic that Love will win. She is the wife of one, mother of three, daughter, sister, friend. She is a quiet warrior who is passionate about family, community, faith, and justice.

Gwendolyn Brooks: In Her Honor

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite. Card from my collection.

Like the Rita Dove piece I blogged about several months ago, the Gwendolyn Brooks portrait above is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Brooks (1917-2000) was a prolific writer with one novel and more than 20 volumes of poetry to her credit. She was the first Black woman to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, now called U.S. Poet Laureate (1985-1986), and the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Her book Annie Allen won for the best volume of verse published in 1950.

Sometime between the ages of 13 and 14, I fell in love with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks. I gained access to these poets (and many others) through the book collections of my older brothers and sisters.

Gwendolyn Brooks was my favorite. I still know by heart “To Be in Love,” the first poem I read by her:

To be in love
is to touch with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.

You look at things
through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
you know you are tasting together
the winter, or light spring weather.

His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.

You cannot look in his eyes
because your pulse must not say
what must not be said.

When he
shuts a door—

Is not there—
Your arms are water.

And you are free
with a ghastly freedom.

You are the beautiful half
of a golden hurt.

You remember and covet his mouth,
to touch, to whisper on.

Oh when to declare
is certain Death!

Oh when to apprize,
is to mesmerize,

To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
into the commonest ash.

I was “mesmerized” by the way she crafted language. I recall being moved by particular phrases–

you are the beautiful half/of a golden hurt

free/with a ghastly freedom

the Column of Gold/into the commonest ash.

And I was intrigued by how she used opposites and negatives to convey the beauty and pain of love and evoke a powerful sense of loss.

My own (early) poetry was very much influenced by Brooks.

Brooks would have been 101 on June 7, so in her honor, I invite you to read about her contributions to American literature as well as some of her poetry. To get started, see the links below: