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Friday, September 27, 2013

BUT WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO?


"BUT WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO?"

PREFACE

This week an occurrence happened that profoundly disturbed me.  After lengthy contemplation, it dawned on me that a response of feelings of anger, or even sadness or disbelief would not help or change the situation in any way.  Perhaps by writing this essay, a difference could be made, however slight.  Just one small flicker in one person’s conscience might help and might in some small way nurture a change of attitude that might grow and be passed on. 

BACKGROUND

In recent weeks Birmingham, Alabama has once again come to the world’s attention after the revelation of an appalling continuation of blatant racial prejudice condoned, it would seem, at nearly all levels of society, including educational and government officials.  This embarrassing revelation and focus on The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama comes nearly fifty years to the day of the horrific church bombing that killed four innocent little black girls.  (Condoleeza Rice, herself a small girl at the time, heard the blast from her home in a nearby neighborhood.  Her father had once taught one of the victims in his Sunday School class).  Fifty years ago, Governor George Wallace stood on the steps of this same University in an attempt to block the first black students who tried to enter the college.  The National Guard had to be called in to escort these students to class and begin the long, and painful process of desegregation.  Throughout the Sixties and Seventies Jim Crow laws remained in effect in the Deep South.  Jim Crow laws were a way of life in Alabama and surrounding States.  They were followed without question, as to not do so was not an option for black people.  Force and worse were used as enforcement.  These “laws” kept black people firmly in check as lower than second class citizens.  Racism remained alive and well, only slowly being whittled away at in the coming decades.  Progress was slowly, but definitely being made by the 80’s.  Finally, it seems, Jim Crow laws were largely discarded.

We see the pictures of the local authorities and officials blasting blacks, young and old, with fire hoses fifty years ago.  The news clips people were seeing on their televisions  were a shock to most of the country as it was evident, that in Birmingham, Alabama, blacks were treated far worse than dogs.  It looked as if the whites there had declared open warfare on the blacks.  Finally, the country realized that something very, very bad was going on there.  That realization started the wheels of change in progress, excruciatingly slowly, but yet positive changes were made nonetheless.

And so we have plodded along for these past fifty years, moving forward, hoping to put that awful period and those horrifying images behind us for good.  There are certainly bumps in the road, such as the revelation that a high school in a town near Atlanta, Georgia still held separate proms for whites and blacks.  Students themselves came forward with social media such as Face Book and received donations from around the world.  With those funds, they were able to hold the first ever desegregated prom JUST THIS LAST YEAR.

Then, a few weeks ago, a University of Alabama publication, The Crimson White, (is this publication’s name itself not a racial statement?), broke a story on the campus’ sororities and the fact that they deny admittance of black applicants based SOLELY on their race.  The straw that broke the camel’s back and caused enough ripples to get this story out was when the niece of a prominent local man was rejected by a sorority based solely on her race.  The reason for her rejection was obvious.  Her credentials were impeccable and there could be no other basis for her rejection.  The fact of the matter is there are simply White Sororities and that is that.  This fact has been known and accepted by everyone on campus for all these years.  There is a strict policy within the sororities forbidding members to discuss the subject.  New students arriving from out of state are often shocked to discover the situation and appalled that there are no blacks in their sorority.  A white sorority member from Oregon recently moved out of the sorority house because she spoke to the media after this became a scandal  and the other members of the sorority made her life such a hell after that, that she felt it was in her best interest to move.  The realization that complete segregation was still in effect on the campus of the University of Alabama understandably raised an outcry by the outside world.  The response from the President of the University was weak and ineffective.  The State itself could swiftly correct the situation as they own the land the sorority houses are located on, but neither the Administration or any level of the Government chose to take matters in hand.  Across the country, sororities are punished and sometimes even disbanded for infractions such as abuse of alcohol and hazing.  To my way of thinking, the blatant racial discrimination being practiced by these sororities should bring about a punishment as severe as those incurred for drinking or hazing.

THE STORY

This past week my husband was having a conversation with a good friend of ours from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  This person was born and raised in the area, they are white and they attended the University of Alabama.  My husband mentioned the appalling news regarding the sorority racial discrimination and the fact that he was horrified that this was still going on, fifty years after the Civil Rights battles that took place in that exact spot.  Our friend’s response (which floored both my husband and myself) was, “But why would they (the black students) want to join the white sororities?  Or fraternities for that matter?  Why would they want to?  I never wanted to join a black fraternity, etc., etc.  The high school where I volunteer doesn’t have a single white student in it.  Why would they want to?”  My husband who has a Ph.D. and was a professor for a number of years tried to instill some realities and sense into the person on the other end of the line, but got nowhere.  The response was the same:  “But why would they want to?”  I cannot tell you how disheartened this response made me.  Not only did it show that we were back to exactly the same point we had started fifty years ago, it showed a complete ignorance of a MAJOR problem.  They didn’t even realize that the statement they were making was full of blatant prejudice!  They truly didn’t even see or understand this.  They honestly didn’t see a problem:  either with the situation or with their viewpoint and what that amounted to.  It literally made me sick at heart.

Today, as my husband and I were driving around town doing errands, it struck me.  The light went on, so to speak.
 
Rosa Parks became one of the symbols of the Civil Rights Movement.   On December 1, 1955 she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  “BUT WHY WOULD SHE WANT TO?”  Why would she want to stay seated and allow a white passenger to have to stand on the bus instead of herself, a black person?  Why would she want to?

Nat King Cole could not get a room at the Hotel Utah in the 1960’s because he was black.  “BUT WHY WOULD HE WANT TO?”  For God’s sake, why would he want a nice place to stay after a performance?  Why would he want to?

Jackie Robinson, was born into a family of sharecroppers (this status was very little different from the prior form of slavery) in Cairo, Georgia in 1919.  On April 15, 1947 he became the first African American to play major league baseball, thereby breaking the color barrier in the sport.  “BUT WHY WOULD HE WANT TO?”  Why on Earth would he have wanted to play with whites when he was supposed to play in the black leagues?  Why would he want to?

In 1988, Barack Obama entered Harvard Law School.  (According to a good friend of ours who was in the same class as Obama, Obama ran circles around everyone in the class, including the instructors).   At any rate, after a series of successes and accomplishments, Barack Obama became our first African American president.  “BUT WHY WOULD HE WANT TO?”  Why would he have wanted to get in the overwhelmingly white Harvard Law School, and why on Earth would he have wanted to join the previously all white cast of the American Presidency?  Why would he want to?

Where would we be, if none of these heroes had wanted to break the color barrier?  What if their attitude had been that of our friend’s—“WHY WOULD I WANT TO?”  I am thankful that for many, there has been an obvious need and reason to want to.  I hope there will come a time when everyone can see “WHY WE WOULD WANT TO” .  That there will come a time when everyone can see that there is no place for racial discrimination or segregation.  That there will come a time when it is natural for everyone, no matter what part of the country you were born and raised in, to see that all schools, all groups, all organizations, all units of any kind are made up of all nationalities, all religions—that this is just right.  We cannot divide up each individual ethnic group or religion into their own separate unit!  There must come a time when not one person in the South will see things in black or white anymore, when they will see all as one!  Surely that is WHY THEY WANTED TO, those groundbreaking heroes who paved the way.

SUGGESTED READING

2)  Extraordinary, Ordinary People:  http://www.amazon.com/Extraordinary-Ordinary-People-ebook/dp/B003F3PKZO/ref=sr_1_sc_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380343931&sr=1-3-spell&keywords=conoleeza+rice

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 was a day after which nothing would ever be the same. I automatically think of things now as before September 11th or after September 11th. And me, personally, I don't like calling it 9/11. Just a silly thing about me, but sometimes I'm like that with nicknames. Everyone calls my brother Stan, but to me he was and is always Stanley. Well, anyway, on the morning of September 11, 2001, my husband and I were asleep in our motorhome in the driveway of our new home in South Jordan, Utah. We had not yet moved into the house, as we did not have our bed moved in and set up. We did have a mattress in our bedroom and our friend and associate, Ronda Whelchel, was sleeping on it. She was visiting from Erie, Kansas and was here to teach a software seminar for my husband's company. My husband's cell phone woke us from a sound sleep. It was my husband's secretary, hysterically telling us to turn on the tv, and telling us that the World Trade Center tower had been struck. As I recall, we turned it on just in time to see the second tower being struck. We watched in horror and disbelief. Ronda was on her way to teach the class and driving a rental car. She told us that although she never listens to the radio in a rental car, she felt a strong urge to turn it on. She did and caught what was going on. She went on to the seminar where she taught a very subdued class that day. It was very weird, since we live in the flight path of planes coming and going at all hours to and from the Salt Lake City airport; suddenly there were no planes and no plane noise in the sky. Since flights were grounded for the rest of that week, we ended up driving Ronda back home from Utah to Kansas.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

BLOG TOUR STOP FOR "HE BELONGS TO ME" BY THERESA RIZZO, SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013

SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013:
  BLOG TOUR STOP IN THE FORM OF A REVIEW FOR “HE BELONGS TO ME” - A NEW, HEARTRENDING NOVEL BY THERESA RIZZO

I am proud to be hosting today’s stop, in the form of a book review, on Theresa Rizzo’s Blog Tour promoting her new novel, “He Belongs To Me”. 

“He Belongs To Me” is a refreshingly pleasant read packed full of emotion from cover to cover.  I was not sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but it quickly drew me in and held me riveted throughout.  I found it to be very well written, which is something I don’t find too often in today’s offerings.

Catherine Boyd has had her share of heartbreak and struggle in her young life.  Yet she is determined to create a successful and happy life for herself and her young son, Drew.  At times the odds have certainly seemed insurmountable, but Catherine has an indomitable spirit of determination.  Married while still nearly a child herself to escape manipulative and abusive parents; her marriage seems doomed from the start when they put themselves in care of those same parents.  Thomas, Catherine’s vibrant and caring husband; is the target of his in-law’s dislike and power plays.  After accusations made by Catherine’s mother concerning the sudden death of Thomas and Catherine’s fragile infant son; Thomas has very little choice but to break away from the poisonous atmosphere created by Catherine’s parents and try to get his life back on track.  While, in truth, he is abandoning Catherine and their remaining infant son; he must put a distance between himself and the tragic events that have just transpired.  He has been accepted in a prestigious university program and has determined to set a course to future security.

Catherine, in the meantime, succumbs yet again to her parents’ manipulations, and unknowingly signs away her parental rights to her son, Drew.  Believing they have she and her son’s best interests in mind, she lets her father talk her into completing her education thousands of miles away from their Chicago area home while her parents care for her son.    Her parents’ treachery and true intentions are discovered immediately upon Catherine’s graduation, just as she prepares to make a home for herself and her son and launch into her new career to support them.  Now Catherine finds herself facing a dark chasm, where she must face her deepest fears and confront them head on.  She must re-open wounds from the past causing a great deal of pain to herself and those she loves.  She must face her husband once again, as she cannot regain her son without his support and she cannot face life without her son.  With their turbulent past under scrutiny, will they be able to overcome the overwhelming odds and hurdles to regain custody of their son?  Is there any chance they can heal the deep hurts from the past and have a loving relationship again; is there any chance at all for them to renew their marriage and regain custody of Drew; to be the loving family that they had always wanted to be?
This story is bound to tug at your heart strings as you live through the turmoil and pain that Catherine must face in order to redeem herself and her family.  It won’t let you go until the final pages reveal the denouement to this touching and emotional saga.

I definitely recommend “He Belongs To Me” and look forward to reading other works by Theresa Rizzo.

Thank you for joining us on this stop of the Blog Tour for Theresa Rizzo’s “He Belongs To Me”.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER


Ever since September 11, 2001 The Star Spangled Banner has held a much dearer place in my heart.  For some reason as that tragic event unfolded, this song kept going through my mind.  Many times since then, particularly on major holidays, or the anniversary of September 11th, the first thing I will do in the morning is turn on the tv to check and see "if the flag was still there".

Six or seven years ago, I went to Washington D.C. on vacation with a friend.  I had been wanting to go the Smithsonian Museums for years and see all the sights of D.C.  I was scheduled to arrive in D.C. a few hours before my friend's plane got in.  We were to meet at our hotel--the Hay Adams (will have to tell you more about the Hay Adams in a future article; absolutely an amazing place to stay and LITERALLY overlooking the White House).

The first thing that I did when I got to the hotel (after checking in), was to hail a cab and go the Smithsonian Museum of American History in search of the REAL Star Spangled Banner.  Upon arriving at the Museum, I practically ran to the display of the Star Spangled Banner, which takes up a huge room.  It was a very profound moment for me; standing in front of my REAL Star Spangled Banner; which had witnessed those rockets' red glare so many years ago.  Since that time, the banner has gone through some very high tech procedures for restoration as it was in quite a state of dilapidation.

THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

TALE OF A TORNADO: LONE GROVE, OKLAHOMA F4 TORNADO FEBRUARY 10, 2009


Some of you may wonder why when it comes to tornado outbreaks, I get on my high horse and urge everyone in the affected areas to stay alert and have a plan of action, which includes taking shelter UNDERGROUND when the sirens sound or a tornado warning goes into effect.  You may notice that I live in Utah, and prior to that spent my first 35 years in Northern California, neither one being a place where tornadoes are a concern.  (There are extremely rare exceptions to that, but those are an entirely different story).  As my husband is a traveling salesman, whose territory included Kansas and Nebraska up until a few years ago; we have had plenty of experience with tornadoes and attempting to avoid them.  We had had some close calls and unwanted contact with them, but would be diligent in going hundreds of miles out of our way to avoid them, when possible.  The story below, though; is the reason I will always be outspoken and a die hard advocate for underground shelters in tornado alley.  Alot of people want to politicize it, for one reason or another.  Well, believe me, when an F4 tornado has just passed you by and missed you by about a mile or less; the last thing on your mind is politics!  The ONLY thing on your mind is, "Why am I not in an underground shelter?"

The date was February 10, 2009.  It started off the same as many another day in the vagabond life of a traveling salesman (or a traveling salesman's wife, as the case may be).  It didn't seem like it might be our last day on the planet.  We got up and prepared to pack our things and check out of the hotel we were staying in in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  We were traveling westward toward home, after having traversed the country to attend meetings.  Our next stop was scheduled to be Amarillo, Texas.  We were aware that bad weather was forecast for the area late in the day:  severe thunderstorms.  Tornadoes were not foremost on our mind (or anybody else's really); because although Oklahoma is right smack in tornado alley; tornadoes typically happen in the middle and late end of Spring:  April, May and June; definitely NOT in the early part of February.  And we did plan to be clear of the area by that time, anyway.

As my husband was in the shower, I was "playing" on his computer.  I looked over attractions in the area, as it is not an area we get to very often at all.  My husband loves to take photos of wildlife, and we often go to zoos or wildlife parks.  We had been to nearly all of the zoos in that State.  Well, lo and behold, I discovered a wild animal park that we had not been to yet; and it was just a bit south of Oklahoma City.  Not the direction we had planned to head in, but  not a big deterrent.  My husband insisted we go there, once I told him about it; as we had no idea when or if we would be back in that area.  So we went to the GW Exotic Wildlife Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.  Not one to be rushed, my husband spent the afternoon taking photos and getting an individual behind the scenes tour to take more photos.  I watched the sky getting nasty and was getting a bit concerned.  Finally, towards the end of the afternoon, he was finished and we were ready to go on our way.  As we started to leave the gift shop/office area of the facility, we noticed the television playing live news on tornadoes that had just hit Oklahoma City; and we both stopped and walked closer to the tv screen.  The employees said:  "You're not going towards Oklahoma City, are you?"  Well, that was the direction we needed to go in to get back on our trajectory and told them so.  They said they would not advise that as Oklahoma City had just been hit by several tornadoes and more were being spotted right now.  We decided it might, indeed, be a bad idea to go that way.  So we walked outside and looked up.  It did not look good at all.  We were right off the main north/south freeway.  There was also a small country two lane highway heading east/west.  We knew from watching the news moments earlier, that there was a forbidding "Dry Line" just west of us, which ran north/south all the way from Texas, on up through Oklahoma and beyond.  Along that dry line, massive tornadoes were starting to form.  There was just no way to get "through" that dry line, without possibly running into one of them, or at the very least baseball-sized hail which would destroy the vehicle.

My husband voted to take the small country highway east/west.  My husband is the decision maker in the family.  However, I stood rooted firmly where I was at staring at the intended route.  There were at least six massive supercells mushrooming up tens of thousands of feet into the sky lined up neatly along that route.  I said:  "No".  I felt there would be no protection for the car, and there was bound to be baseball sized hail at this point.  I suggested we go a bit further south along the freeway and hole up in the next city.  So that's exactly what we did.  Now as it turns out, the Stormchasers chose the route my husband wanted to take, in search of their tornadoes.  If only they had followed my advice, instead....

So we got back on the freeway, heading south.  Before too long, we came to the town of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  We stopped at the McDonald's got a quick bite to eat and made our plan.  Things looked very, very bad in front of us; so we agreed we'd stay at the hotel back at the last exit.  We checked in to the brand new, fairly solid looking Springhill Suites by Marriott, much pricier than the hotels we will normally stay at, but these were special circumstances.  They had no ground floor rooms left, as many people were holing up  like us.  So we took what they had and hauled our stuff up to the room.  We settled in and sat back to watch News and Weather Alerts with radar maps.  No sooner did we do that, then a massive supercell appeared on the radar and was heading exactly in our direction.  We hurried back down to the lobby.  The sad fact, and one I find totally unacceptable, is that 99.9% of all hotels do not have storm shelters.  I mean real, UNDERGROUND, storm shelters.  They may have a meeting room or hallway they designate for shelter.  You notice my emphasis, always, on UNDERGROUND.  This is because I already knew, even prior to this experience; that if you are hit directly by an F4 or F5 tornado, NOTHING is left above ground.  There may be the occasional exception, and tornadoes do skip around; but certainly nothing you can count on.  Well, in this hotel the hallway was it.  So we watched the tv in the lobby for a few minutes, heard the instructions of the hotel employees, which was just to gather in the hall.  The radar showed it bearing down on us and it was close enough that the employees could not tell if it was going to hit us or just barely scrape by us.  We all took shelter (misnomer) in the hall; where the lights were flickering on and off.  I was in a panic and my husband had already lost patience with me being such a snivelling coward and panicky.  IF I had known what the flickering lights meant, he would have really been embarrassed, because I would have been screaming my head off!  Those flickering lights are the signature of a tornado coming through and knocking out transformers as it does so.  Well, after standing there a few minutes, hearing horrible noises, but still we were there and not dead; we finally started making our way down the hall again to the lobby.  By this time all power was gone, and it was quite dark.  Everyone sat in the lobby, in the dark.  We were looking out the window towards the freeway.  Soon, emergency vehicle after emergency vehicle with flashing lights, could be seen coming off the freeway exit ramp directly in front of us.  I had never seen this many emergency vehicles in my life.  We sat in the dark that way for some time. 

Finally, the hotel employees told us that they had heard that on the other side of town they had power back on, in case we wanted to go get something to eat.  This, combined with the fact that the severe weather had now pushed eastwards, prompted us to go get in our vehicle and set out to forage.  We turned on the car radio to a local station and the first words we heard were Lone Grove, about 12 people killed....Lone Grove sat about a mile or so to our west, and possibly closer as we were east of the actual town of Ardmore, since we were right at the freeway.  I burst into sobs as the reality of the situation struck home; what a close call we had had; but these other people, just right next door to us had not made it through.  The tornado had started in Texas and cut a diagonal swath north and east, going right through the small town of Lone Grove, Oklahoma and cutting across the freeway and through parts of Ardmore and on out into the country; coming close to the town of Gene Autry.   It was determined to be an F4 tornado; meaning if you are not underground, you are doomed.  All that night emergency personnel tried to clear the roads just so they could get to the devastated town of Lone Grove.  The following morning as we were leaving the hotel, the press from around the country was checking into our same hotel to cover this tragic event.  The stories coming in were absolutely heartbreaking.  A high school basketball game had been about to take place when the tornado warning hit.  The school didn't have a bona fide shelter, so the opposing team hunkered down in the locker room and the Lone Grove team was sent home.  Some of the kids upon reaching home, didn't have a home, or didn't have parents anymore.  A mother and daughter had been holding hands when they were torn apart and the mother was killed.  One man in town with the rare underground shelter stuffed in three or four times what it really could hold, and saved all of those lives.  It had crossed the freeway right in front of our hotel, too, killing a truck driver.  My heart goes out to the victims' families.  

So now you know why I harp on UNDERGROUND shelters in Tornado Alley.  And the other thing you should know, is I am a tornado magnet.  Do NOT take my advice in a tornado outbreak.  The Stormchasers really should have been following my lead.