Day 20: The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long

Some inspiration for what feels like a long road ahead.

DAY 20 ACTION: Read excerpts of speeches from African-American giants, to celebrate Black History Month.


Thanks, Debra (and Google)!!, for bringing our attention to Edmonia Lewis, aka Wildfire, a critically acclaimed 19th century sculptor of African-American and Native American descent. Her first commercial success was a bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.

It’s Black History Month. Time to gather pearls of wisdom, from powerful Americans who have known hard times.

Yesterday, the Vice President cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos as Secretary of Education. Senator Franken spoke for a lot of us in his post-vote statement. Then, Trump gave the green light to the Dakota Access pipeline, and the House voted to kill the Election Assistance Commission

And finally, Sen Elizabeth Warren was cut off, reprimanded and excluded from further debate while exercising her First Amendment right to free speech in the Senate – in the middle of quoting Coretta Scott King against the confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General of the US. (Warren finished her speech standing outside the Senate on Facebook live.)

There are going to be days like this. It will be important to hold elected officials accountable for these bad decisions in 2018 – and reward the ones who are continuing to take a stand against these bad decisions. It’s also important not to lose heart. In honor of Black History Month, here are a few inspiring (and timely) words:

  • Frederick Douglass, “Our Work is Not Done,” Dec. 3, 1863. “[W]e are not to be saved by the captain, at this time, but by the crew. We are not to be saved by Abraham Lincoln, but by that power behind the throne, greater than the throne itself. You and I and all of us have this matter in hand. … We are fighting for unity; unity of idea, unity of sentiment, unity of object, unity of institutions, in which there shall be no North, no South, no East, no West, no black, no white, but a solidarity of the nation, making every slave free, and every free man a voter.”
  • Sojourner Truth, May 29, 1851. “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they are asking to do it, the men better let them.”
  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, May 1866. “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members. At the South, the legislation of the country was in behalf of the rich slaveholders, while the poor white man was neglected. … [Someday, we will] have no privileged class, trampling upon and outraging the unprivileged classes, but … one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.”
  • Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, a fugitive slave who convinced Syracuse, NY to refuse to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, Oct. 4, 1850. “Now, you are assembled here, the strength of this city is here to express their sense of this fugitive act, and to proclaim to the despots at Washington whether it shall be enforced here—whether you will permit the government to return me and other fugitives who have sought asylum among you, to the Hell of slavery. The question is with you. If you will give us up, say so, and we will shake the dust from our feet and leave you. But we believe better things. We know you are taken by surprise. The immensity of this meeting testifies to the general consternation that has brought it together, necessarily, precipitately, to decide the most stirring question that can be presented, to wit, whether, the government having transgressed Constitutional and natural limits, you will bravely resist its aggressions, and tell its soulless agents that no slaveholder shall make your city and county a hunting field for slaves. … I don’t respect this law—I don’t fear it—I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it. … If you will stand by me—and I believe you will do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine … you will be the saviors of your country. Your decision to-night in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and it will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North.” NOTE: In keeping with this proud history, Syracuse recently reaffirmed its status as a sanctuary city.

Today’s Action: Read, and take heart. 

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