Dear New Orleans: An Open Love Letter




Dear New Orleans,

I love you. It’s not the birds and the bees and the 1,2,3’s… It’s much more than that. My love for you is cosmic, as if personally crafted just for me by Greek Gods aligning the stars.

Granted I haven’t been to every city in the country but you’re my favorite by far. I love how your people talk. Their accents are like no other. From every “baby “and “sweetheart” and “good mornin’ everyone” greetings from strangers on the Trolley… I love you. I love the swag that’s all yours and how every “I got you” is as firm as a promise or a handshake. It melts my heart and restores my faith in the goodness of Man. NOLA I love you because you have a charm that traces her many roots to the days of Rose Nicaud, an eighteenth-century slave who’s enterprising vision to sell coffee as a street vendor is probably why Starbucks exists today, praline vendor Mary Louise who’s independent streak shaped your taste buds and food culture, Mr. Okra who sang the praises of his vegetables into the hearts and pots of your wonderful and incredibly hard-working people, and the first Creole nun, Henriette DeLille, who helped educate slave children when it was illegal to do so. Even living legends like, Dooky Chase, Trombone Shorty and the street musician with his washboard instrument who proudly tells folks he encounters about being in a music video with CeeLo Green create a sense of belonging in the deepest parts of my heart and soul. And, I love you for that.



New Orleans, you are a magical place that reminds me of our collective muscle and mission as Americans. You’re the blueprint of the coming-of-age of America or the turning of a page in our cultural journey. When We were Us; working with great struggles—racism and inequality—toward that common ideal Hoover, JFK and even Obama talked about. Everyone working together to improve life in our country and to make their own American dream come true; whatever that is. New Orleans, similar to New York City, you make room for folks to express themselves and believe again. And, make money doing it too thanks to that charming allure that only comes from you, NOLA. Your glory brings people flocking to your streets practically begging you to take their money as if dazed by your voodoo love potion. Perhaps that’s why I love you too.

I fall in love in many ways exploring your streets and your customs. Your black roots and especially your music foundation remind me of my own value, beauty and place in this world. It reminds me of my strong bond to a larger black culture. Still, I see myself in all the faces of your people. I see myself in the new immigrants struggling to speak a new language and having to swallow the intolerance of those with a long history in your bosom. I see myself in the exhausted faces of mother’s and father’s going to and from work, facing the onslaught of tourists seemingly without a care in the world and blind to the pain and struggles expressed in their sweaty faces in a still deeply segregated city. I hear the pain of senseless violence in my friends voice when he talks about the murder of his father. And unfortunately, violence is part of your identity as you sit rated as the 3rd most dangerous U.S. City. I sympathize with this harsh reality that impacts the most vulnerable of your people. I still love you.

I see myself in the artists that flock to every corner of you, unleashing their natural talents for all the people to see. From the New Orleans Jazz Market to Bourbon and Frenchman Street, NOLA your people don’t disappoint when it comes to talent. And don’t even get me started with the drag queens! They represent the freedom that is unique to your people and I see myself basking in that freedom too. They make me feel fierce on solid ground. Then, there’s these amazingly strong women of comedy that make their rounds throughout the city making people laugh out loud, allowing me for just a moment, to forget all the woes of the world. I found myself in Black Girl Giggles, an all black female comedy group. All of these experiences make me love you. I saw myself in New Orleans. And, for a brief moment, I felt planted like one of your historic oak trees. I was home for the first time in my life.

Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of my birth country Suriname that reminds me of home when I’m in your part of this vast world… it was a time when life was simpler, when there were no deadlines to meet, tests to grade, no future plans to ponder and worry about, no expectations to meet or live up to, and when life was happy. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you because you make me happy, again. I don’t remember where I left my happy but I’m grateful to have found it in you, New Orleans.

Listening to the Trolley conductor on the 94 line berate all kinds of people— except the fumbling tourists—although made for a cringe worthy ride to the cemeteries, it reminded me of your flaws. Nevertheless, I love you because your flaws reflect the harsh realities of life and that there’s more humanitarian work to do. Even the frustrated Trolley conductor who exclaimed during his rant that, “the only good people in New Orleans are the tourists cause they’re the only ones here not trying to pull one over on ya’,” didn’t force a change in my heart but rather presented a challenge to see beauty where others don’t. I accept and love you, warts and all.

Everyone has a unique story about their New Orleans. Some are romantic and wonderful and others share stories of the heartaches that you’ve caused. NOLA you’re not perfect. In your beautiful eyes, New Orleans, some only see pain, poverty and the brutality that comes with being poor. This uncomfortable truth is compounded by simply being born black. And yet, you go on singing, blowing your horns and dancing…charming revelers to join the processions of merriment that are symbolic of the joy you express in the midst of this pain and the harsh realities of life. The story of New Orleans is the story of America. And the story of America is the story of race. And race is a vivid factor in New Orleans. It’s clear to see walking across Tulane and Loyola University or taking the St. Charles Street Trolley. You hear it in conversations shared without the guards of political correctness. It’s unapologetically expressed in jokes and with the uniquely black culture tradition called 2nd Line Sundays. Black people are free to be black and proud in New Orleans and conversations about race seem to be more prominent, and mostly accompanied with laughs and light-hearted banter. Blackness is celebrated despite the unequal economic playing field and the blatant racism being exposed in its bare sense across the country thanks to an administration sympathetic to this shameful part of our American story. And that’s a refreshing page turner for someone who calls New York home.

I love you NOLA. I love how you’ve come full circle in our cultural journey, forging ahead with the promise and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have fought for a more just and equal country. From the days before and after Jim Crow, to the first black women innovators and the city’s first black and female mayor, LaToya Cantrell, from the food to the hospitality and music culture, and despite the noticeable divide amongst your charming people who take on each day like their hard-working ancestors, New Orleans there’s no city in the world like you. And as Kojak would say; who loves ya baby? You’re beautiful.




Op-Ed: The Reality Of Arming Teachers


Editor’s Note: Sandro Sehic, PhD is a Writer and adjunct Professor based in New York. Sehic’s writings cover an array of current events and topics that lead to national debates. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. He can be reached at:



In response to the recent mass shooting that occurred at a high school in Parkland Florida, numerous ideas about preventing further mass shootings have emerged and came from many different individuals, groups, and organizations. Mass shootings are officially a top political issue. There is not a single day that goes buy without a shooting in America. And they have become very deadly. Sometimes victims are numbered in dozens and unfortunately they include the most innocent members of our society; school children. The members of our society who need to be protected the most are left alone with their teachers at the mercy of well armed mass shooters. This is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated any longer. Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, are some of the bloody places where dozens of young innocent lives were lost. And now we are the ones who should be blamed. We adults have failed to protect our children. A father whose daughter was killed in Parkland, recently stated that we protect embassies, airports, concerts but we don’t protect our schools. He also stated that mass shootings could happen only once and not anymore. One school shooting should change everything. After Columbine we should change the laws that would prevent mass shooters from committing these horrible crimes.

Similar to what we did after the 9/11 terror attacks. After 9/11 we changed the laws, increased security at the airports, created Department of Homeland Security, and destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and a similar attack has thankfully not happened again. Now we have to do the same thing to prevent further mass shootings especially in our schools attacking our children. Some political figures, including the President of the United States, proposed legislation that would allow teachers to carry guns inside the schools. They claim that teachers would be able to take down mass shooters and defend children. I’m a teacher working in public schools since 2007. I do not have my own children (yet). But I know that many of us have fatherly/motherly feelings towards all children that we work with. Our paychecks are extremely low but we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy lunches and food for those children who cannot afford it, we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy school equipment for those children who cannot afford it. And we can’t even claim those expenses on our taxes and most of us don’t complain about it. And in case of mass shootings, teachers are the ones who use their own bodies to shield students. In the case of fire alarms or lock-downs we’re the last ones who leave the building. Not because we have to but because it’s instinctive. It’s a teacher’s natural reaction to want to help, protect and safe lives. Even so, it seems we are at the cross road where teachers have to choose if they’re willing to secure and protect children with guns. That said, this is what lawmakers will have to know about us teachers and these guns.

  • What type of guns are we going to carry? It seems that mass shooters are using semiautomatic guns such as AR-15s. That’s a very powerful weapon. So, a pistol will most likely not be enough to stop a mass shooter with a semiautomatic gun. Just take a look at the police officers who had to apprehend a mass shooter with a pistol. A pistol against an AR-15 is like a butter knife against a sword. Therefore, you better provide teachers with powerful guns; guns that will make us equal or stronger than the mass shooters. In addition, we’ll need bulletproof equipment.
  • Teachers will need combat training. Yes, that’s right. We’ll need combat training, and not just a regular handgun safety training course. In the case of a mass shooting, teachers will have to take their guns and go out to the hallways and hunt down the shooter or shooters, (Columbine). Schools are like labyrinths full of hallways, rooms, corners, floors, stairs, etc. We’ll be in a similar situation as the NAVY Seals or Green Berates when hunting a terrorist. Also, we’ll have to be able to recognize a shooter and an innocent bystander. This is crucial because the goal is to protect the students that look like the typical school shooter(s). In essence, teachers will have to be trained like Special Forces. And the training has to be extensive because teachers will have to develop their new skills to be warriors with excellent marksmanship skills.
  • SWAT teams will have to be able to recognize the difference between teachers with guns and the mass shooter(s). As a teacher mandated to carry one of these supposed guns, I don’t want to be killed by the SWAT team when they arrive.
  • During a shooting, what happens with the students whose teachers had to pull out their guns and go after the shooter(s)? Are they left alone in the classroom?
  • Most teachers in elementary schools are females and I’ve learned that most of them hate guns and are afraid of them. So, then the question becomes; Do we want a female teacher to go after a mass shooter with an AR-15?
  • As far as the extensive combat training is concerned; will that be something that will be provided by the local school districts, or will that be a requirement of the institutions that educate future teachers?
  • Many times, students have turned against teachers. What are we going to do if the student tries to take the gun away from the teacher?
    These are some of the many important questions on this proposed option. I have personally interviewed 14 teachers from Upstate New York. Interestingly, only one of them said that she would be willing to carry a gun in school. Others seemed to be horrified by the idea. During my student-teaching seminar back in 2007 my mentor told us about political candidates from Wisconsin proposing laws to mandate teachers are armed in their classrooms. We laughed at the idea. But now, it may very well become our new reality. When school districts across the country are consistently complaining about low budgets, where will the money come from for the expensive guns and the expensive combat training? Guns aren’t cheap and neither is the training that will certainly be required for every American teacher. However, one thing that I find interesting is the fact that politicians who make such proposals don’t consult with teachers and educators; those who work in schools and educate children and know the situation first hand.


Blackboard and hand making a sign with pointed finger

If they would ask me, this is what I would suggest:

  • I strongly believe that each school needs armed police officers that will protect schools in addition to regular security guards. That’s something that we can have without additional costs. The local government, the state, and even police departments can assign officers to guard their schools.
  • Each school will need “a security room” that will monitor hallways through cameras, answer calls from the teachers who need security assistance, and contact the local law enforcement agencies, ambulance, and fire departments in case of an emergency. This simple security system is used in many supermarkets, malls and other public institutions but not in public schools. The personnel and the equipment necessary for this security strategy/system are already available in most, if not all schools, but we just have to organize it better.
  • Each public school must have designated entrances that will consist of two doors. First door will allow visitors to step into the secured area with a metal detector and the second door will allow visitors to enter the school once they go through the metal detector. These days, people can just simply knock at any door on the school building and someone will open it and let them in. This will have to change in the future. This is something that can easily be done.
  • The first-floor windows will have to be barricaded so that no one can get in, but can get out in the case of fire.
  • Lockdown procedures are available in most schools. Children and staff usually go through those drills at the beginning of each school year. Now, what’s missing in these procedures is parent involvement. In some cases, and this is what I’ve experienced firsthand, is that some children refuse to cooperate in the case of lock-down procedures by purposely making noise and trying to attract the shooter. Yes, some children do not know how serious it is and therefore the parents should instruct their children on how to behave in case of a lock-down.

These are my expert recommendations as a teacher with a PhD in Education. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.


Public Broadcasting In The U.S., The Changing Media Landscape And Its Impact On Global Policies




A visiting media scholar from Jagiellonian University in Poland, Dr. Rafal Kus, gave a poignant public lecture for the United Nations Association at the Unitarian Universalist Church in New Hartford on Thursday. Dr. Krus was invited by Utica College’s Communications and Media Department thanks to a grant from the Erasmus Program of the European Union. Dr. Krus specializes in the study of American television media.

The local United Nations chapter—Upper Mohawk Valley Chapter of the United Nations Association—is tied to a global network of UN supporters and educators dedicated to educate, inspire, mobilize and strengthen the U.S. system in order to achieve the goals stated in the UN charter. The talk, which aims to do just that, focused on public broadcasting in the U.S., media and politics, and the impact of media systems in the world.

Part of the goal, according to organizers is to learn how U.S. foreign policy has been shaped by the international media climate and how it relates to the United Nations. There’s currently a bill being considered in Congress that aims to slash funding to the UN And Greg M. Smith who serves as Vice President of the local chapter, UMVUNA, says the cuts are in addition to the UN reducing its own budget by $200 million. “Now the United States is saying an additional $250 million needs to come away. That’s problematic because if we do that then we’re going to lose some of the seats we have within the United Nations. And, without a voice or a presence in committees we don’t have a voice in what happens within the United Nations and very easily the UN could become the League of Nations which we all know didn’t’ do very well to prevent WWII.”

The full talk can be heard here:


Utica Women’s March Unveiled The Spirit Of A Forgotten City



Utica Women’s March brought out some incredible people fed up with the current administration’s un-American policies, rhetoric and posturing. More than one hundred marchers took to the streets chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and many more civil rights chants and songs. With support from Utica Police Department and Chief Mark Williams, folks were able to march in the streets from the new YWCA building on 310 Rutgers Street to City Hall.

Kids and adults of all age ranges came out to support the cause of the march; a global movement to empower women and to stand up against racial injustice, discrimination, inequality and policies that aim to control a women’s body and basic human rights. This year’s focus was voter registration.

The march was spearheaded by Citizen Action of New York and a long list of sponsors and supporters including ePluribus: America. It was an honor to be one of the speakers of this event.





Letter From A Birmingham Jail, King, Jr.



16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.


I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.


But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.


Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.


You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.


In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.


Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.


Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.


You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.


One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”


We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”


Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.


Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?


Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.


I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.


Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.


We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.


I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.


In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.


You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”


I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.


Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.


I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.


But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.


When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.


In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.


I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.


I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”


Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.


There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.


But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.


Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.


It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”


I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.


Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?


If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.


I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.


Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Journey That Shaped The Celebration Of Christmas In America




Christmas and New Year are arguably the two most celebrated holidays in the world. America officially joined the celebration when the 18th President—Ulysses S. Grant–of the relatively new country declared it a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

We’ve come a long way from our Pagan past as this excerpt from The History of Christmas explains…

“In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated early American Christmas – winter holiday in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

An outlaw Christmas After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Washington Irving reinvents Christmas. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.”

Let’s go further with this modern day and innovative, media savvy explanation of our Christmas past from a strong voice on Facebook and other social media platforms; ArchDuke member Charity Croff

Since the beginning of recorded time on planet earth, humans have tried to make sense of the phenomenon we call life. Our celebrations and traditions, like Christmas, have shaped us as a people and despite the brutality and injustices that have marked our journey on this beloved planet, humans are remarkable beings still trying to create the perfect society and way of living. And, that says a lot about us as collective beings.

It’s important to embrace our past because it guides us in forming our future. What Christmas means to Americans and other nations across the world is an important part of our growth as human-beings and as individual nations beholden to their own cultural identity. We have a lot to be proud of even in the midst of the current turmoils and chaos across the world. And, regardless of your views on how we celebrate this special holiday, Christmas allows us a moment to be still, take it all in, give thanks and appreciate all we have that makes life sweet and worthy of living. Merry Christmas…don’t forget to appreciate the journey that brought us here.




Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 



While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.


HerStory: How Women Domesticated Men




The current snow storm of stupid male abuses of women are surely a headline that the male dominated state has almost come to its end.  Now is time for women to nurture new life. Could the new florescence of woman’s voices open a door to questioning/challenging male dominance, exploitation of women/nature and the Western world view of exploitation and control?  What will the new world view look like now that the withering Western world view is Global? Maybe we should talk about the differences between class based and family based cultures? How and when does the shift from family based to class based cultures occur, and will family based culture reappear as the state diminishes as it has in previous civilizations? How today can we see hints of family and family based culture germinating, and how can these nuances be nurtured?



About 99 per cent of homo sapiens’ time on earth has been lived as non-waring, seasonal gathering and hunting bands of extended families moving from place to place according to seasonal menus.  But with the onset of the last great global warming period which began about 9000 – 14,000 years ago in different places on earth, hunting provided less and gathering more of humans’ diets.

In central Mexico, for example, diets changed from 66% meat from herds of antelope and jack rabbits to only 33% meat.  Plant and seed gathering which was done in large part by women became more important, and soon beans, chili peppers and a host of agricultural crops, including corn, were domesticated beginning about 8000 years ago.

Thus, women can be said to have given birth to farming.  Because of this there was a huge change in life-styles, namely, seasonal nomadism evolved to sedentary life.  Extended families, following this shift, lived in one place all year so that they could grow a surplus of staple foods, like corn, beans, rice, wheat, rye, bulgar, garbanzos, potatoes, chilis, buckwheat, quinoa, yucca, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, … in those seven, more or less, places on earth where civilizations began independently.

Permanent villages, towns and cities, i.e., civilizations, are impossible without surplus food supplies – farming. Women, thus, domesticated men.  In order for sedentary life to succeed, food surpluses had to be grown and stored so that there would be food during the seasons when subsistence gathering was sparse.



Surpluses also made it possible for some people to NOT grow all the food they needed for subsistence because families that produced food gave some of their produce to the first social class – shamans.  The shamans, brujos & brujas, provided medical/socio-religious services to these early villages.  This first social class was not based on blood lines, but on services s/he provided to several or more families.

Here are some nuances that came about through the birth of agriculture:

  1.  Surpluses.
  2. Even though it was relatively short lived, the status of women increased because they were mainly responsible for domestication of staple foods, the Tlatilco culture of Mesoamerica and the Venus culture of Europe are good examples. Men most often domesticated animals.
  3. Sedentary villages, towns and eventually cities.
  4. The first social class – shamans.
  5. new specialized technologies.
  6. Taxation/writing.
  7. The calendar.
  8. Monumental public architecture
  9. Religion
  10. Male dominance



Until this point in human cultural evolution the cohesion and functioning of cultures was based largely on family.  Then, with  shamans serving people who were not members of his or her family, social classes were born.  This is an important nuance because eventually social classes would become the dominant form of social structure – class based social structure would take over the functions of the family, and in the final stages of this cultural evolution, as is happening at present, class dominated cultures disintegrate, i.e., civilizations fall and revitalized local cultures flourished to take their place.  And then this process of cultural evolution starts all over again.  There are three general phases of civilizations; (a) formative or farming, (b) theocratic and (c) military.  These stages are too much to describe in a short article.

The importance of family based cultures evolving into class based cultures seems vital for us to understand today because our culture is very dysfunctional, and, like it or not, we will sooner or later be charged with the responsibility of finding new ways of reviving old ways of living together locally.  How will we provide the necessities of life for everyone – food, shelter, education, health care, spiritual fulfillment, social cohesion, subsistence (wealth creation and distribution), …?

Native American, Latin, Jewish, Asian, African and many other cultures still have more or less strong family traditions even though they are dominated by global, class based civilization.  They, therefore, may be looked to for possible solutions to the disintegration of Western civilization.  First Peoples (indigenous) cultures for us in the US may point a way for those of us whose families have contracted to the point that we cannot even have balanced nuclear families.  For several decades now some Native cultures have been experiencing revitalization of their family based cultures.  Should more emphasis now be placed on family portions of culture, like extended families, clans and tribes?  Is it time to rethink class based culture and subsequent male dominance?  What would this mean for our societies at large?  Should we think of family based businesses/economics rather than corporate based economics?  And, is it time once more, like in Tlatilco and Venus cultures to elevate the status of women/nature?  Is it time for men to serve woman, family and nature instead of their bosses?



Perhaps this current righteous uproar by women against sexual abuse by men is an opening signal to fully shift from the disintegrating male dominated world view of hierarchical domination and control to a more feminine world view of equality and reciprocity where better is better, rather than more being better, where spirit and the mundane are integrated.

What will the role of woman be as our dysfunctional male dominated civilization transforms to revitalized, localized, bioregional cultures:  According to the swing of the pendulum of cultural evolution based on the track record of previous civilizations, it is time for women with the cooperative help of men, like when women developed agriculture – Google esp., the Tlatilco culture of Mexico and the Venus culture of Europe – to insist on family revitalization, farming, spiritualization, balance, qualitative values, reciprocal rather than exploitative relationships and equality?

His-story:  Of course history is boring for women because it leaves out ‘Her-story’.  The Tlatilco and Venus periods of culture are great examples of when women were respected more than men.  What, women ruled?  Yes, and in Oaxaca the Zapotec women still do in large part.

Back to the first social class – the shaman class – and the origin of the nation state:  Band, tribal and tribal nation cultures are family based, whereas states and nation states are increasingly class based.  Social classes inevitably metamorphose the functions of family based cultures, and the transformation has cancerous consequences.  Social cohesion and balanced life is replaced by competition (progress?), male domination, reciprocal relationship with nature (see, Forest People by Colin Turnbull)  becomes exploitative, material values replace spiritual values, families contract, more is better rather than better being better, addiction replaces integrated, functional cultural traditions, mental health diminishes, poverty replaces social welfare.



Male dominated cultures, civilizations, do however develop the conscious mind, like science, and this could be a good thing, especially if we learn to use it to complement and restore nature rather than to exploit and futilely attempt to control her.  Maybe our technology today has destroyed so many natural processes that unless we use it to restore the mess we have made of nature the earth will become one giant desert where almost all life is impossible.

What usually happens in nature, including human cultures and civilizations, is what Marx called the ‘dialectic’, Ortega y Gasset called the ‘pendulum of history’ and Toynbee, ‘challenge and response’; changes go from one extreme to the other like tides, seasons, life cycles, seasons, …  So we should expect that, after a dozen or so millennia of male dominated civilizations, there will probably be a period of strong woman influence, and then balance should be the rule.  If we want to begin a new phase, as the Existentialists predicted – ‘history and future dissolved into an eternal present’ – then our conscious focus as the first conscious, global human culture, as McLuhan suggests below, is to facilitate the dominance of women now until the tide shifts and a new balance is established.

About 50 years ago Marshall McKluhan said that this is the first time for ‘universal human consciousness’.  What he meant is that this is the first time almost everyone on earth has a very similar understanding that we all live on one earth and that it is inhabited by people.  Until TV this consciousness did not exist, McKluhan said.  This should mean, he reasoned, that we can now consciously facilitate natural processes, we don’t have to make the same mistakes, esp., we can consciously prevent the disintegration of civilization, we can transform technology to repair the damage we’ve done to the earth and then learn to make it more habitable for all life – that remains to be seen.

If we can respond to the present uprising to the millennia of oppression of women (and nature) by making her sacred again and fully, legally respect her needs and rights the transition to the new Existential Phase of human life may be a new springtime for all life.



Brian Hill is an Archaeologist and Cultural Anthropologist in California.


Golden Gloves: HCSD’s First Black Superintendent On His Work And America’s Cultural Divide



The scenic drive to Hamilton Central School District can be deceiving, but then again so is most of picturesque upstate New York. It’s not a revelation that small town America has secrets; secrets that continue to silhouette a place still unwelcoming to many non-white citizens. Even so, HCSD hired its first black Superintendent in 2015. Some argue it was also a hiring move to be more inclusive and boost diversity.

Superintendent, Dr. Anael Alston, who is also Jewish, took up the challenge as the area’s educational leader two years ago, but not before inquiring about being received by the community at large because of his skin color. He says, “One of the factors I considered in accepting the position was the kind of community that it was. I was frank with the search consultant when I asked; is this community ready for an African American to be the educational leader?” He says the board that hired him thought the community was ready for the change and wanted the best candidate.

Alston says being the first African American in high profile roles is not new for him. “A lot of my career I have been the first in some of my communities but I was also well aware that being the first African American brings certain challenges with it, challenges that no one would necessarily speak of. And, I take that on because I just believe that I’m not going to be limited by other people’s lack of knowledge or world view, or world exposure.” Alston boosts an impressive resume that includes an Ed. D in Curriculum and Teaching from Columbia University, a B.A. in Sociology and spent 10 years as a principle in Long Island before accepting his latest challenge as HCS Superintendent. “The community in large part has been very welcoming, very accepting. There is certainly a faction that really struggles with some of the positive changes that are necessary in order for the organization to be effective and efficient in the long term.”

Some of the challenges, Alston points to concern the district’s spending, finding new revenue sources, updating their technology and taking a look at administrative and staffing efficiency. “Taking a critical look at what we do and how we do it. That has been a challenge to some people,” he says. Alston says the pushback he has received is not uncommon in public education, especially when it challenges the status quo and the district’s culture. He says 70 to 80 percent of the district’s budget deals with staffing. “So, ultimately how you use your staff dictates your budget,” he adds. When asked if the pushback had to do with being a black man at the helm, Alston pauses to consider his answer carefully and points to studies on the subject. “There’s a ton of research on African American and male leaders and how they are perceived by Caucasian cultures, and so you never really know the reason because no one will say it so I will just rely on the research.”

In the midst of this uncomfortable truth, can Dr. Alston still be an effective leader? He says yes. Adding, “I’m choosing to not judge circumstances. It just is and I’m aware of it. And, that I have to choose how I’m going to respond, or not respond. I am aware that in 2017 there are people who are just not open to the world that is changing in front of them. I think that I have to behave in a way that is true to who I am and my position as a global citizen. And quite frankly, for the ignorant people who still harbor bigotry and racism and anti-Semitism and homophobia in their spirit, I can only model what I believe to be the correct path and hopefully my behavior and interaction has a positive impact.”



Alston says he tries very hard to not let racism get in the way of his “Why’s”. “Which is to educate, empower and inspire people to live closer to their human potential and using my platform as a public educational leader to do so,” he says. His young daughter who also attends school in the district gets the same message but with an added reminder of her privilege and according to Alston, “Also that life isn’t fair. We are clear on the history of this country and the world and as it relates to politics and power.”

He says his daughter is thriving in her new home and despite some of the challenges of the job the superintendent points to the successes he’s ushered in thus far. “We’ve done well with grants. We’ve done over $200,000 in grant money over the last two years. We’ve been able to lobby with a not-for-profit who gave us about 50 reconditioned laptop computers. We were able to forge a stronger partnership with Colgate who gave us about 27 iMacs. We’ve been able to identify the need to seriously update our technology which was very old and outdated,” he says. Another significant initiative Alston is spearheading is the accreditation for dual enrollment that aims to help students and their parents pay less for college. “The cost of higher education is becoming very difficult for those who are working class poor and even middle class at this point. And, what we’ve done here is we’ve doubled the number of college credits that a student can take while they’re at Hamilton Central School District and walk out of here with up to 30 SUNY college credits.” He says that’s two semesters of college high school students can earn before entering the State University of New York institutions. “That’s something we have accomplished as a school district in the two years I’ve been here.” He calls it a “win-win situation” even though it means more work.

“The obstacle is the way” Alston explains as he delves into another program that may challenge the secularity of a small town like Hamilton, NY but also take on the district’s financial and declining enrollment problem. The International Student proposal, Alston argues, will not only boost funding for the district, it will increase diversity in CNY, “and, exposing students who would not be able to travel around the world and experience different cultures so I would argue better preparing them.”

The committee studying the proposal has already met with Homeland Security to ensure all legal issues concerning immigration are being followed and properly administered. “In order for us to do it we have to be able to issue I-20’s, which then the student participant can take to the U.S. Embassy and get their paperwork processed.” He says despite the “selective immigration” woes flaring across the country the process for HCSD International Student Proposal would be consistent with the laws and regulations concerning immigration to the U.S. He says there are some downsides to the program, including the political reality, housing and financial needs, the districts liability and the different cultures you bring in to a small town like Hamilton, NY. “And, that is something that people will have to struggle with.” Alston says when it comes to the community’s acceptance of international students it depends on who you ask. “I wouldn’t call it a resistance…I would call it a cautious apprehension. I also think because I’m an outsider there’s even more apprehension. And, I’ve been accused of being a resume builder…like, ‘what does he want to do here’…I understand that. I have strong credentials and some people feel that this is a resume builder for me.” When asked how that makes him feel, Alston says, “It doesn’t make me feel one way or the other; it just is because at the end of the day I’m back to my Why’s.”

What does the future look like for the first African American Superintendent in Hamilton, NY? “I don’t know what the future looks like. I know what today looks like. I plan for tomorrow but there are factors that I ultimately don’t control. But, what I do control is how I behave and how I respond to circumstances and conditions and what I do each day to add value to the organization.” Alston says the progress the district has made under his leadership is not because of him, “but it’s because of We.”

Dr. Alston’s contract is up for renewal in June 2018. And, although it is common practice to bring up the issue of contract renewal before a fast approaching deadline, the new school board has not presented the issue for debate or a vote. In other words, Dr. Alston has a new school board to convince to keep him on and thus far, no decision has been made about his future in the district. Alston says he did not expect to deal with as many issues—some political—so early in his superintendence but he says he strongly believes in his own worth and contributions to the district. “The district is making progress under my leadership,” he says.

Dr. Alston brings more than his Ivy League credentials to his position as Superintendent. He brings a world view to his community despite hailing from the same state. Alston grew up in Brooklyn, NY. “I’m a kid from the ghetto,” he says as he delves in to the cultural divide that’s evident in the two very different parts that make up the great State of New York. “I am representing the hopes and aspirations of a lot of people in multiple ways. I’m from the hood where this kind of success just was not part of the daily grind.” On the other hand, Alston says he also represents the hopes and aspirations of upper middle class families. “I believe God is using me because for a lot of the people I have interacted with, they only know African Americans through rap and some of the foolishness that’s on television. And, I recognize that in Central New York some people, in particularly Long Island, have never had an African American boss or an African American male boss and that kind of change is uncomfortable for some people. That is not their reality. And so I try to inspire people who are willing to show some kind of interest in the journey.”

Alston’s journey hasn’t been a cake walk despite being an overachiever coupled with a determination to live purposely. As if the stresses of our societal struggles with equality, discrimination and lack of access for blacks in America wasn’t a big enough battle to overcome along the way, Alston is also living with the pain of losing two brothers to violence. In 1990 his brother Raphael was murdered. He was only 21 years old. Nearly three years later, he lost another brother to violence. Ariel was 23 years old when he was murdered. Both crimes are still unsolved. “There were 2500 murders the year Raphael got killed,” he said. His brother’s memories are the cornerstones of the “Why’s” Alston relies upon as his life compass. “I am who I am and proud of it whether people get me or not. And my responsibility to give back to this land and this world goes beyond any box that someone would check for me, or that I’d be asked to check.”

Exposure to different cultures and people changes a person’s perception Alston says, adding “That is why I make it a point to engage with people different than me.” He goes on to say, if ones exposure is limited to people of color than they’re going to have whatever narrative they’ve been told or received from the media. Another narrative of Alston’s story is his boxing career that started during his college years as a way to fend off his Freshmen 15 and deal with some difficult times at home. He was trained by his uncle whom he says he desperately needed as a male role model at the time. “Some of the successes that I’ve had in my career are related to my exposure and training in the fight game,” he says. The former champion boxer who earned his golden gloves says on tough days it feels like he left one boxing ring for another. “You always have to do your homework before the lights come on. If you haven’t done your homework and the lights come on, you will be embarrassed. That’s true in this seat also.” Part of his learning he says came from watching the promoters behind the boxers and the business end of the sport. “That was very helpful because I wasn’t a typical boxer.” Nevertheless, similar to his boxing career, Alston says he has great mentors and trainers in education. “There are so many lessons that I’ve applied from being a champion in that ring into this arena. I would like to believe that I build on the parallels.”



“You have to be double good in order to be an African American,” is a phrase as common as a greeting Alston grew up hearing from his mother and grandmother. “I don’t know if that’s true or not but I can look and see my credentials verses other peoples credentials and accomplishments and worry about that but I don’t because at the end of the day it’s about human potential,” he says. Instead, he credits the educational thought leaders who have guided him throughout his career that in turn have helped him add value to his own work for the communities he has served in public education. “Quite frankly, it wouldn’t make me feel good if I find out what my grandmother use to always say. So I’m going to stay away from that and I’m going to focus on adding value and building myself and my team up.”

Part of reaching back for Alston comes in the form of speaking engagements. He says he enjoys sharing his wisdom with young people and inspiring them to consider career goals that aren’t as glamorous as being a movie star, entertainer, athlete or even a more hazardous route like taking up illegal activities. “I have some of the toys of success and sometimes I’ll let people know I have that stuff and I don’t rap, I’ve never sold drugs and I do travel. And, I can tell you how I did it. And I tell them how much more fun it is. I am not worried about the feds taking my assets. That’s a freedom that hustlers don’t have.” He says there’s a shift in terms of young people choosing to live a “hustle life” however; he wishes the shift would happen faster. “I let them know it’s doable. Once a person can see and touch success than it can become attainable.”

Despite the national noises that threaten to reverse some of the progress made in America, we’ve come a long way as a society. Even so, Alston adds, “To hire the first African American is progress. To hold them to the same standard that you did the people before them would be the next step.”  He goes on to give examples of the criticism former President Barrack Obama received and the benefit of technology that clearly and sadly showed the hypocrisy and blatant double standard he, along with other black people in America have had to endure, and that are culturally rooted in our identity, still. “Either there is one standard or there isn’t, or there’s a person of color standard and the other standard. And, is that equal and if not, why? And, what’s that really about? That’s a conversation that can be uncomfortable,” he says.

In spite of the political nature of the job and the obstacles he’s working to overcome, Dr. Alston, who can easily be described as upstate New York’s very own Cory Booker, wants people to know that he remains optimistic about his future as the educational leader in the district despite the uncertainty that comes with the rapid change in the school board since his arrival. He says, “While I report to a corporate body called the school board, I ultimately answer to a higher authority.” With regard to the recent protests, racial tensions and civil acts of disobedience, Alston says, “In order to be able to be the super power and a nation that is great, we have to really examine our thinking and beliefs. I’m hopeful that people are aware of that giving what is going on in the country now.” He says people have to think before choosing a political camp, “because the talking points are not serving us. The polarization’s are not serving us. We are marred in levels of foolishness as a result of us, as a country, not consciously deciding to be aware.”

Challenges can be opportunities. And, that’s the attitude Alston wears as a merit badge as he makes his way through the school building visiting class rooms, engaging teachers, students and staff alike. “This is not a job for me. It is my mission,” he says, adding that, “when I show up to work in my capacity as Superintendent, I am living my Why and I’m expressing it through my What.” He says part of his Why is to reach those not being served or adequately challenged in the classroom. And, it’s deeply personal as the tragic deaths of his two brothers. “There are people who are brilliant sitting in school who are not connected. My job as educational leader is to tap into their potential.” Alston explains that his work is the mechanism that allows him to live out his personal and professional goals…even if he has to use an “intellectual uppercut” to get the job done. “I believe in the goodness of people, be it the people of Hamilton, the people of NY, the people of this country and the people of this world. After all, it is people who have helped me get this far.”


AFROPUNK: A Weekend Of Live Music, Good Vibes And Black Culture



In its 12th year of bringing a myth busting music festival to people of all walks of life, Afropunk certainly didn’t disappoint this year. The music festival, which started in 2005 with less than 50 attendees according to those close to the festival, lured over 60,000 revelers to come out to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, NY over the weekend to celebrate a healthy dose of African American musical culture. Organizers say the festival started as an attempt to debunk the myth surrounding African Americans and their involvement in the Punk/Rock scene and music genre. The festival was born following the documentary AFRO-PUNK; “AFROPUNK – ‘The Rock and Roll Nigger Experience’ was the original title for the movie before it was changed to what we know today as: AFROPUNK – The Documentary, a 66 minute documentary explores race identify within the punk scene.” Today, Afropunk has morphed into a money-making cultural phenomenon that celebrates a fantastic mix of musical talents from across the globe and musical genres. The festival has now expanded into an international celebration of black music and black culture, which is on full display during the weekend long event. And, one doesn’t have to be black to celebrate black culture as clearly evident from the participants.

Organizers say Afropunk celebrates being a person of color and music is a major part of black culture, not just in America but all over the world, making it fitting that the festival is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa in December later this year. According to officials, Afropunk is also working to bring the celebration to Brazil as it continues to challenge the perceptions surrounding black culture and black music. Other locations have been; Atlanta, Paris and London.