Monday, January 16, 2012

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday The Day After
By Joan M. Martin

Yesterday was The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s national holiday.  Children were interviewed on national TV reading the words of the civil rights leader etched into the new MLK, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Churches, synagogues, and mosques held interfaith worship services across the country.  Original manuscripts of Dr. King’s speeches with his own handwritten editing comments crossed out or added were released for the first time by the King Center in Atlanta, GA. Most governmental offices and public schools and services observed the day by being closed. Yes, there were even several of those corporate commercials entreating us to “Keep the Dream Alive!”

Employee and administrative offices were closed at Episcopal Divinity School, but at I worked yesterday, as did most faculty members and students and several librarians. Classes met so that students could receive the required teaching-learning hours necessary for full course credit for the two-week January Intensive Session. Rarely does the Dr. King’s birthday fall during the winter intensive session, so it really felt odd to be in class!  So, I began my class on the “Ethics of Vocation and Work in Church and Society,” reminding my seminar participants that throughout his life Dr. King championed the civil rights of laborers, poor whites, people of color, and the right to organize by the U.S. Labor Movement.  We recalled that Dr. King spent his last days alive in Spring 1968 in solidarity with striking black sanitation workers in Memphis, TN.  There, he marched, spoke, and prepared the way for the proposed Poor Peoples’ March on Washington to occur later that summer.  How fitting and proper that our seminar understood at a new and deeper level Dr. King’s vocation to participate in creating God’s “beloved community,” and his work of human rights and solidarity given in the ultimate measure, with his very life.

This Martin Luther King Birthday 2012 falls in the midst of the greatest economic insecurity in the U.S. since the Great Depression, and in the uncertain shockwaves of the instability of global capitalism in the European Union and the recession in the U.S. economy. In July, The Christian Science Monitor reported that, “All racial groups lost ground in the recession, but blacks and Hispanics lost a bigger share of their net worth, a new study finds. As a result, the wealth gap is at its widest in at least 25 years.”[1]  Further, as Paul Krugman suggested in The New York Times yesterday, “If King could actually see American now … he would see that … what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father’s paycheck. … Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.”[2]

Wealth, poverty, unemployment, job creation, access to healthcare, racism, and the role of government are the issues that Dr. King believed were ‘inextricably bound’ to the human flourishing from the perspective of economic and class injustice.  The call for “jobs” must entail job creation commensurate with the skills of the unemployed, particularly in the declining middle class with income that preserve and create new formations of stable civic and economic communities.  Just as important and more so, is the educational and skills development for entrepreneurship in service, technology, and information/communications industries for those in racially and economically marginalized communities – urban, ex-urban, and rural – that provides for serious competitive opportunity in economic sectors where there is economic mobility.  For such changes to be envisioned, the old “private/public sector” arrangements will have to give way to new forms of partnerships of all the stakeholders, beginning with those who need work and those who need the physical and community infrastructures of economics to be repaired and to grow as an integrated program ‘green’ integrity. In the electoral season now upon us, as well as in the continual grassroots organizing coalescing under the canopy of the 99%, we have yet another opportunity to concretely struggle with nature of “The Dream” for the second decade of 21st century and beyond, and participate in the creation of the “beloved community” ever before us. Let our cry, “Remember the Dream,” be more than a once a year sentiment.  Rather, let it be an active engagement in it as our vocation and work in church and society.

[1] Patrick Wall, “Wealth Gap Widens: Whites’ Net Worth is 20 Times That of Blacks,” The Christian Science Monitor July 26, 2011,; accessed 01/16/2012.
[2] Paul Krugman, “How Fares the Dream?,”The New York Times, January 16, 2011,; accessed 01/16/2012.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Reason To Vote Along Racial Lines
by Rebecca Alpert

Growing up as a baseball fan in the 1950s and 60s, I could not wait until the All-Star game rolled around every July. (Imagine my delight during the years when there was a second game in August!) Back then, fans didn’t choose the players, so I would eagerly anticipate the announcement of the teams in the newspapers. Then I would rummage through my baseball card collection to pull out the All-Stars and admire their accomplishments. Watching the game on television was thrilling to me, no matter the outcome. If I was in summer camp, my mother would dutifully send me the newspaper clippings and box scores. My parents were avid baseball fans, but this exhibition game meant nothing to them. I am not really sure why it appealed to me, then or now. Taking my son to the game when it took place in Philadelphia in 1996 was a peak moment. For me it is an annual ritual on my sacred calendar, a holy day to celebrate like the birthdays of family and friends, Thanksgiving, Passover.
When I began to do research on the roles Jews played in black baseball a few years ago, I was delighted to find out that the Negro Leagues had their own all-star game (called the East-West game and held in Chicago every year) that was the centerpiece of the black baseball season. From its inception in 1933 the East-West game provided an opportunity for all the men of African descent who could surely have been in the majors if not for the color line to showcase their talent in a very public way. This knowledge permitted me to justify my obsession with the All-Star game; now not only a guilty pleasure but also a potential vehicle for a political message.
Imagine my despair when I learned last year that the 2011 All-Star game would really be a vehicle for another kind of political message. Despite serious protests this year’s game will be taking place in Arizona, home of the infamous SB 1070, the bill that would permit law enforcement officials to request documentation from anyone who might appear to be an illegal immigrant. Almost one-third of those on major league rosters are now Latino. Doesn’t the baseball establishment understand that this Arizona law is demeaning to people of Latin American ancestry? Don’t they see the connections to the embarrassing color line that forced black Americans to be second class citizens in baseball for so many years? Why wouldn’t they want to move the game to another venue to support their players who could be subject to this humiliating (and possibly unconstitutional) law?
Immigration rights groups have called for a boycott, and I have signed their petitions, but the game is surely not being moved. How could I possibly observe my annual ritual this summer? While wondering whether I should even participate in the voting for the starting line-ups, it occurred to me that voting held the answer to my dilemma. What if, like the East-West game, all the starting players were from one racial/ethnic group, only in this case Latino? Wouldn’t that send a message to Arizona and Major League Baseball? So that’s what I intend to do with my 25 votes. And I encourage you to do the same.
It’s easy. Just go to the ballot and vote for your local team (in my case Placido Polanco , Carlos Ruiz, and Raul Ibañez of the Phillies), future Hall of Famers (like Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez), perennial stars (Carlos Beltran, Bobby Abreu, Alfonso Soriano, Melky Cabrera, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada, Jorge Posada) or this year’s standouts (Placido Polanco again, José Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, José Reyes, Miguel Cabrera, Gaby Sanchez, Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, Yadier Molina, Martin Prado, Starlin Castro, Jhonny Peralta, Yunel Escobar, Jonathan Herrera, Asdrubal Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio, Orlando Cabrera, Robinson Cano) or 2010 World Series heroes (Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval).
Don’t wait—vote early (you have until June 30) and often (25 times on the internet and whenever you’re at the ball park) and send a message to the majors that the All-Star game should showcase not only our best players but also our best values.
Rebecca Alpert is Associate Professor of Religion and Women’s Studies at Temple University and the author of Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball.
First posted by Rebecca Alpert, OUPblog » Blog Archive » A reason to vote along racial lines Posted here with her permission.

A reason to vote along racial lines

A reason to vote along racial lines

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yes, There is A God!

Last night I gasped when I read the headlines of my denomination's web page. While pleased to see the lead article was about Presbyterians fighting modern day slavery, what made my heart stop was another headline, "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approves change in ordination standard"- something as an ordained lesbian, an African American lesbian, I thought might come someday, but was unprepared for yesterday to be the day! A familiar hymn came to mind with new words, "O day of liberation!"

I am nearly speechless, really. I can't stop welling up with tears right now when, just beneath the surface, there have been of years of thick-skinned advocacy tinged with unspoken disappointments, but hope nevertheless.

In 1978, two years after my ordination, the predecessor denomination to today's PCUSA, "prohibited the ordination of self-acknowledged practicing gay and lesbian persons."  That meant me.  A couple of years after that the church 'grandfathered' those of us ordained prior to 1978 in the church's rendition of "don't ask, don't tell." That meant me, too. And for 31 years more, the church has been intransigent with glimmers of light coming only since 1991 with moments of progress often measured in inches and setbacks measured in yards! Yet the inches were a lifeline in the struggle.

So, last night I rejoiced. Last night I could shout, "Yes, there is a God!"

Okay, today it's back to work.

Today, I give thanks to God that I have had the unique privilege and relative “safety” of teaching and living at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) for the past 17 years where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQ) people have been welcomed on faculty, staff, and in the student body since the mid-1970’s.  Thank you, EDS.

Today is about organizing ecumenically for the petition drive, "An Endorsement Against Church Bigotry and the Injustice of United Methodist Book of Discipline, parag. 304. 3 which prohibits the ordination, certification as candidates, or appointments to serve in ministry of 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals," and support Black Methodists for Church Renewal in their radical refusal to separate the rights of African Americans from LGBTQ folks in church and society.  Yes, there is a God!

Last night, my tears were tears of joy and release and celebration.  Today, I am 'not mourning, but organizing to fight for the life of LGBTQ folks in Uganda where its parliament threatens to pass a Death Penalty Bill: Kill the Gays," and yes, sign another petition and write to my Massachusetts Congressional Delegation to demand withdraw of U.S. foreign aid to Uganda if this bill passes.

Last night, I shouted for joy! Today, it is time for me to ask Sojourners' Jim Wallace and his people, "Why and how is God's welcome of LGBTQ folks a problem of 'sides' for the Sojourner community?"

Last night I felt once again, my deep connection as a fourth generation Black Presbyterian woman fighting for equality in church and society.  Today, I have to advocate my Presbytery that all who are qualified by the standards of the Church will be ordained.  Today.

What goes around comes around because, yes, there is a God!
"Presbyterian Church Approves Changes in Ordination Standard:

Endorsement Church Bigotry and the Injustice of Parag 304.3;

Stop the Ugandan Death Penalty: Kill the Gays

LGBT “Welcome AD” Rejected by Sojourners…”“welcome”_ad_rejected_by_sojourners,_nation's_premier_progressive_christian_org/