Book Selection Revealed

It is with great excitement that I announce our next book club selection.

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS by Isabel Wilkerson.

I was first introduced to the book back in 2010 by Dr. Susan Massad, a P4P book club regular.  I could not put it down!  The book is a brilliant and compelling look at the Great Migration by over 6 million African Americans fleeing the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West from 1916 to 1970 in search of a better life.

Isabel Wilkerson will be participating in our book club conference call on Sunday, July 13th at 7 pm EST.

You can order your copy at Amazon, or any other bookseller of your choice.

Here is a description of the book from Isabel’s website:

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, USA Today, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, Boston Globe, Newsday, Salon and many others

In a story of hope and longing, three young people set out from the American South during different decades of the 20th Century en route to the North and West in search of what the novelist Richard Wright called “the warmth of other suns.”

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster are among the six million African-Americans who fled the South during what would become known as the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. This book interweaves their stories and those of others who made the journey with the larger forces and inner motivations that compelled them to flee, and with the challenges they confronted upon arrival in the New World.

 

 

The New York Times, Independence and Me

Today, the New York Times published a letter to the editor I wrote.  My letter was triggered by an editorial the Times wrote on May 6th about the Independence Party.

My letter and their article is below–Hope you will give both a read and I would love to hear your thoughts.

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | LETTER

The New York State Independence Party

MAY 14, 2014

To the Editor:

Re “Independent of the Independence Party” (editorial, May 7), calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to reject the party’s endorsement:

I disagree about how the state Independence Party survives. It’s not because of “confusion” among voters. It’s because of complicity by the two major parties.

The Democratic and Republican Parties — each in its own way — supported, enticed and rewarded the corruption of state Independence Party leaders. The only resistance to that corruption came from the pro-reform New York City branch of the party, which had helped to elect Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and pursued nonpartisan reform at every turn.

Oh, well. If the point is that parties breed corruption, maybe it’s time to get rid of parties, period.

CATHY L. STEWART
New York, May 7, 2014

The writer is chairwoman of the New York County Independence Party.

 

The New York Times

New York’s Independence Party survives on confusion. Many who sign up with the party think they are registering as independent voters, unaffiliated with any party. Instead they are unwittingly contributing their names to a bizarre and fractious political group that endorses candidates from the two major parties. The Independence Party should lose its prime place on the state ballot, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo could make that happen by rejecting its endorsement this year.

Rob Astorino, a Westchester County Republican running in the governor’s race this year, has said he will not seek or accept the Independence Party nod. Mr. Cuomo should now do the same. Any party needs 50,000 votes or more in a governor’s race to stay on state ballots for the next four years. The Independence Party would certainly reach that critical number if the Cuomo or Astorino name is on its line.

Mr. Astorino, who once courted Independence Party leaders to help him win as county executive in Westchester, has finally decided the party is “part of a very corrupt system. They don’t stand for a thing other than jobs and for themselves.” The party has been very good at getting candidates like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to donate money and run under the Independence Party banner. But its ideals are confused, at best.

The Daily News in 2012 interviewed 200 New Yorkers who signed up as Independence Party voters and found that 169 of them thought they were not joining any party at all. Mr. Cuomo could end this charade. If he refuses to allow his name on the Independence Party line, the party could disappear.

New York’s voting system, which allows a candidate’s name to appear on several party lines on the ballot, is archaic and confusing. Last year, Mr. Cuomo proposed repealing the 1947 law that allows minor parties to give their ballot lines to nonparty members — usually candidates running in the two major parties.

At the time, he said the system encourages “corruption and the appearance of corruption.” He was right, but he did not champion reform aggressively. He could help end this bad practice by saying no to the Independence Party line this year.

Let America Be America Again

To bring our celebration of National Poetry Month to a close, we have a special treat from Jessie Fields.  She recorded her final selection.

Jessie says,  “Let America Be America Again” is one of my favorite poems. I had the great pleasure of reading this poem aloud for a community organizing event on independent politics in Chicago many years ago. The first poem I ever read was a Langston Hughes poem and I remember the immediate connection and joy I felt at discovering this art form.

So, click on this gorgeous recording of Jessie reading “Let America Be America Again”.  The music is Blue in Green (Miles Davis, Bill Evans) from the album Kind of Blue.  A special thanks to David Belmont and Michael Walsh for producing this recording for us.

 

Langston Hughes on the front steps of his home in Harlem, 1958. Photograph by Robert W. Kelley

 

Let America Be America Again

  by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

 

Here is a brief note on the life of the great American poet, Langston Hughes.

 

Langston Hughes (1901 – 1967)

Langston Hughes grew up in Lawrence, Kansas with a grandmother, Mary Langston, whose first husband, Sheridan Leary, had died in 1859 in the raid led by John Brown that attempted to overtake the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and start a slave insurrection. As a young man Hughes read a great deal including Walt Whitman, W.E.B. Dubois, and Carl Sandburg. From 1921 when his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was printed in Dubois Crisis magazine to the time of his death in 1967 LangstonHughes wrote poetry, short stories, novels, plays, essays, autobiographies and more. He traveled widely including to the Soviet Union and in America in the 1930’s he was hounded because of his radical political views. In the postwar years he settled in Harlem and lived there for the rest of his life.

His voice still reverberates across America calling attention to the ongoing chasm between American democratic ideals and American reality.

The poem “Let America Be America Again” was published in the magazine Esquire and in the International Worker Order Pamphlet, A New Song, in 1938.

In a 1943 speech, during World War ll,Hughes said, “…America is a land of transition. And we know it is within our power to help in its further change toward a finer and better democracy than any citizen has known before. The American Negro believes in democracy. We want it real, complete, workable, not only for ourselves – the fifteen million dark ones –but for all Americans all over the land.”

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