Relief bust of Wendell Phillips by Edmonia Lewis. The original dates from c. 1864. This signed and dated version was carved in Rome in 1871.
See @wcaleb on Twitter for an excellent selection of excerpts from Phillips’ writings including this passage.
Reading around in print and electronic media, we have all seen the back and forth — some of it over-the-top heated — about the great safety pin question. Today I read the account of a lefty white clergyman friend of worshiping at a predominately black church where the question was raised about allies wearing pins.
Many congregants in the discussion found it to be a thoughtful gesture. Not a panacea, but a nice gesture that might even make a difference in a given situation. Like the purported powers of chicken soup; it can’t hurt, right?
So, here’s where I am on the question just now. I choose to see the safety pin worn as a sign of solidarity, or of willingness to offer help, bear witness, or ease a concern, as the secular equivalent of symbols of faith or belief worn and seen everywhere, every day. They, too, might come to speak more loudly as our present circumstance unfolds.
In the meantime, a little signal of unity on the lapel can’t hurt. And if it can on occasion really help, then shame on any of us for being cynical about the gesture.
A nice account of the recovery and history of this important marble bust of John Brown by the New England sculptor Edward (sometimes identified as Edwin) Brackett. He was Edmonia Lewis’s teacher in Boston. His influence on her work is particularly notable in her own heroic busts of figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others.
Yesterday, in the Commonwealth Salon of the Boston Public Library, the Secretary of The Navy led a beautiful and moving ceremony naming two ships in honor of Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone.
Each ship has a sponsor. The Lucy Stone is sponsored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was not present but was given a fine round of applause.
The Sojourner Truth is sponsored by Marian Wright Edelman who was there and spoke eloquently. Stirring music by a Navy band.
Never thought I could bear to post a picture such as this; I’m turning some kind of corner. Let me be clear, I remain vociferous about the need for body cams and cop car video. They must become required standard issue equipment for all officers on duty.
Further, the citizen videos that have shown the world the truth of police brutality against black people have already changed the course of history. They are crucially important and most often beyond heroic.
But I also wonder at the way the steady stream of both sorts of videos plays into and expands the racist mentality that has a history of using such images as vindication and normalization. It’s black death as spectacle, snuff film. Notice how often the bodies are left to lie in the road. Or how the dying black person is handcuffed rather than given emergency care.
And yes, children, black and white, are seeing the videos and are forever shaped by the talk, the responses, the pronouncements they hear about them in their respective worlds.
There is no denying the smug gratification the old (often made into postcards at the time) and new images generate.
[I write this after sitting stunned in my seat listening to a call-in right-wing radio program. The hosts and the callers all but vied in outdoing each other spinning likely scenarios to vindicate the Oklahoma murderer. A whole lot of “well, we can’t really see what he is doing when he lowers his right hand. They might have though he was reaching for a gun.” It was like listening to a bunch of script writers in a writers room, each trying to top the others with “plausible” reasons to shoot the man dead in the street.
And it occurred to me that it is the latest installment in a sort of multi-act interactive performance. A game of Justify The Black Person’s Death.]
Sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s 9/11 memorial at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City.
For many white people there is simply no such thing as an “acceptable” black protest.
– March in the streets and we are threatened with being brought up on charges for disrupting traffic.
– Speak up about racism and discrimination and we are just making trouble, whining and complaining. We should understand that if we stopped being so sensitive about race and stopped talking about it so much we’d be “better off.” The problem would go away if we didn’t keep harping on it
– Bring suit in court against police abuse, or even against police killing of our kith and kin and we are just trying to make a fast buck on the backs of hardworking taxpayers.
– A brave and thoughtful young black man in a position to command a national spotlight uses that access to call attention to an urgent problem and he is denounced as self-serving and simply grandstanding.
– Organize a politically activist organization around the proposition that at a time when police violence against black men, women and children is repeatedly captured in excruciating detail on video the lives of black people should be held in as much regard as the lives of others and we are met with a chorus of ALL LIVES MATTER!
So, a question: just what would be an acceptable form of African-American protest against police brutality and murder? Letters to the editor, perhaps.
Jesse Owens is rightly celebrated and enshrined in history. But how many people know there were other black athletes competing in Berlin? Mack Robinson, shown here, was Jackie Robinson’s brother, btw.
At the 1936 Olympics, 18 black athletes went to Berlin as part of the U.S. team. Pictured here are (left to right rear) Dave Albritton, and Cornelius Johnson, high jumpers; Tidye Pickett, a hurdler; Ralph Metcalfe, a sprinter; Jim Clark, a boxer, and Mack Robinson, a sprinter. In front are John Terry, (left) a weight lifter and John Brooks, a long jumper. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)