Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative

My first book review of the new year will be Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. I am rereading it at present… I look forward to writing about his book, writing about him, and writing about the Equal Justice Initiative… I am deeply impressed with all three!

The Hard World that is Alabama

My personal mantra for years has been that it is hard being a bright, open-minded, open-hearted woman in the Deep South. I do believe that. However, over the last few years I have begun empathizing with those that don’t have even that much privilege on which to plan and live. My thoughts have stayed with those that have fought racial prejudice their entire life; that have known only poverty, whether it is financial, educational, or spiritual; and those that suffer the pain of want: want for food, for housing, for education, job opportunities, dignity and respect…

Change in all these areas is the daylight I’m seeking. Bringing these issues to that light… for education, discussion, deliberation, and action… is what Daybreak in Alabama is all about. Alabama is a hard world to live in: and it oftentimes seems it is a world set apart from the rest of our universe.

Truth is Often Stranger than Fiction, but…

Truth really is often stranger than fiction, but just as strong is the fact that fiction can often tell the truth clearer and more poignantly than data and facts. Merriam-Webster Online defines poignant as pungently pervasive; painfully affecting the feelings; piercing; deeply affecting; touching; designed to make an impression. Literature, and the characters portrayed therein, can indeed make poignant points and make created reality more real than everyday life for readers.

Why is that?

I think a lot of it is because people feel safe within a fiction story, or within a biography or someone else’s essays or narratives. The reader does not have to look people in the eye, listen to their story, and call that person by any other name than that which has been given by the author. I don’t believe this is a bad thing: I think social ideas and social issues sometimes have to be masked to make them accessible to the masses.

Alabama is abound with wonderful writers, whether they are still living or are deceased. I certainly am a strong proponent of allowing literature, in all its forms, to help make my points for me… so I will be quoting novelists and poets and creative nonfiction writers and songwriters and journalists as I make my points and express my passions! Why wouldn’t I? These great writers have helped me form my own belief system, so why wouldn’t I want to share them with others?

It’s a beginning…

Alabama is a complex state in many ways… being on the very bottom of most good lists and at the very top of most bad lists, especially when it concerns social equity and justice issues. One would think that the people of our state could… and would… join together to try to improve not only our reputation, but the lives of her citizens. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

There are, however, several organizations fighting against inequality and inequity gaining strength in numbers throughout the state. I will be taking a closer look at these organizations in the next few weeks. I want to find out more about each of them to determine which I want to support myself, but also to share their profiles with readers that might be interested as well. These organizations include, but are not limited to, the Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama Arise, Alabama Appleseed, Alabama Possible, and the Etowah Visitation Project. There are other agencies that I will also look into, hoping to produce as complete a roster to share as possible.

Hopefully, looking into the agencies whose goals and purposes are to represent the needs of the most vulnerable Alabama citizens will encourage individuals to learn more about the issues and to learn more about the people themselves… which in turn will encourage all involved to become advocates for themselves and for those who need help. We are lucky that we have caring people comprising the staffs for these organizations, probably many volunteers or members, and the knowledge and passion to further their causes. It’s a beginning… for that we can be grateful.

Wishing us ALL a Happy 2015!!!

I hope the old tale that whatever you are doing at the stroke of midnight as the old year turns into the new will be a big part of your coming year is true. If it is, then I will be writing this year… and sipping champagne often to celebrate the fact! I wish us ALL a very happy 2015, and in the spirit of Daybreak in Alabama, I will remind myself and everyone else of Rumi’s challenge printed on the banner above:

There is a morning inside you waiting to burst open into light…   Rumi

I’m making a new commitment to this blog… and to writing a book of the same title: Daybreak in Alabama. Please follow my progress in that endeavor at http://www.daybreakinalabamathebookwordpress.com.

Again, happy new year!

The Poem: Daybreak in Alabama

When I get to be a composer

I’m gonna write me some music about

Daybreak in Alabama.

And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it

Rising up out of the ground like a swamp mist

And falling out of heaven like soft dew.

I’m gonna put some tall, tall trees in it

And the scent of pine needles

And the smell of red clay after rain.

And long red necks

And poppy colored faces

And big brown arms

And the field daisy eyes of black and white black white black people

And I’m gonna put some white hands and black hands and brown and yellow hands

And red clay earth hands in it

Touching everybody with kind fingers

And touching each other as natural as dew

In that dawn of music when

I get to be a composer

And write about daybreak

In Alabama.

~Langston Hughes

B is for (the) Beautiful

Alabama the Beautiful. The state’s slogan greets each person crossing over the state line on each of the main thoroughfares,,, I65, I59, I20, I10. My home is truly a beautiful parcel of land: It stretches from the foothills of the Appalachians to the beautiful sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast, with hills and valleys, rivers and streams, farmland and forests in between.

But all of us here in the Deep South have been taught a very wise lesson, probably from the time we were old enough to understand reason and why folks should act the way they do. It’s simply, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Sound familiar?

In these last days of the Alabama legislative session, it’s hard to find too much pretty coming out of Montgomery. Yes, both houses did pass, and sent on for Governor Bentley’s signature, Carly’s law, allowing for the use of marijuana oil dirivitive to combat severe seizures in children, and a research amount for further study of this treatment.

But, as I wrote in my post “Changing the Heart of Dixie”, I fear our legislature passes laws to show Arizona that they can be a bad ass, too… There is the possibility of three different anti-abortion laws being passed by the full Senate after passing out of committee. They have already passed out of the House. It’s just hard to believe that these bills are being pushed through and supported because the lawmakers care so fervently about the unborn.

Why do I say that?

Because these same lawmakers let die a bill that would provide minors a Safe Haven if they have been arrested as a prostitute due to trafficking. As the law stands now, these children who have been sold by their parents or stolen from their families are arrested as a prostitute, they are charged with a crime and treated as a criminal, with their John and their pimp receiving no arrests. These are people’s babies… Why don’t our lawmakers care about them?

And what about those unborn babies whose mothers have no right to birth them safely (and happily) at home with a midwife in attendance? Right now, if a trained midwife attends a home birth in the state, she can be arrested and convicted for doing so. Not only should every mother and family have a right to choose a homebirth with trained assistance, but it is beyond my capacity to understand why our legislatures won’t allow this since there is the disturbing fact that over half of all Alabama counties do not have local obstetric care. The law that was allowed to die wasn’t even making midwifery legal… it was simply decriminalizing the act of home support. Our legislators would rather parents birth without any support rather than allow trained assistants at the birth. What about these unborn?

I only want to point out that any person, much more so those elected to represent us in government, should take complete responsibility for their actions, their voices, and their votes. If you are going to punish a woman because of her sexual habits in the name of the unborn child she carries, then step up and take responsibility for that child. Since you are insisting the woman give birth, allow the mother to birth at home if that is her choice. Make sure both the mother and the new child being born is covered with adequate insurance to provide for health care during birth and after life has begun. Make sure that baby, and the parents who brought her into this world, have plenty to eat so as to be healthy and alert to possibilities. Make sure a strong education system is in place to provide equal and equitable opportunities for every child being born and/or raised in Alabama. Make sure you strengthen the economy, so that these babies being born now don’t have to leave home when it’s time to find a job. And, by golly, play a little bit nicer… it may just be politics to you, our lawmakers, but it’s all a matter of life and death to the people you represent.

So, in these last few days of the session, and when you head home in a dead heat to campaign for reelection, think about all of these new little babies being born for whom you need to be responsible. Because it’s Daybreak, Alabama… time to earn (the) Beautiful!

 

 

 

Table of Abraham

The Atlantic Institute hosted Table of Abraham: Understanding the Importance of Hospitality in the Abrahamic Traditions Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The panel discussion represented each of the three Abrahamic traditions: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. The panelists were Fr. Bede Marcy, of the Benedictine Abbey in Cullman; Kemal Korucu, Interfaith Relations Coordinator of the Atlantic Institute; and Victor Van Leeuwen, Past President of the Temple Ambassador of Temple B’nai Sholom. Each speaker gave a brief interpretation on the given topic of hospitality from their own background, followed by a collective discussion of the topic. The event acknowledged the demand and importance for interfaith dialogue and the positive role it plays in society.

The evening was rich in sharing the traditions of hospitality found in each of the faiths, with the panelists speaking from their hearts and their own experiences. Each speaker was a delight, with distinct personalities and invitations to participate. There will be other Table of Abraham events in the future. If they are as encouraging and as satisfying as this first offering, everyone should make a point to attend. I will try to keep readers posted on this blog space.

 

Just MAYBE…

Don’t mistake a good setup for a satisfying conclusion — many beginning writers end their stories when the real story is just ready to begin. ~Stanley Schmidt

Maybe, if I keep writing my life, I will eventually get to the beginning of my real story… ~Debbie Sue Esslinger

And just MAYBE, if I get back into the rhythm of writing this blog, I can get Daybreak in Alabama back into the groove of reporting and anylyzing and thinking and saying and giving my opinions once again! Sometimes life just takes one’s hours and days over and creates schedules of its own: But today, on this first day of Spring, with its promises of new birth and new life, I can make this promise to myself… To write throughout the next cycle of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter… because, “It’s Daybreak, Alabama!”, and I have to do my part in reminding us all of that fact.