Category Archives: Civil Protest

California Throws Education Under the Bus

Written by: BlueDog89

California Gov. Jerry Brown recently proposed to cut more than $1 billion from higher education. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

Student activists and teachers unions in California are organizing statewide protests in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut $1.4 billion from public colleges and universities.

Protesters at a demonstration at Modesto Junior College. Photo courtesy Turlock Journal.

California’s public education system is racked by threats of spending cuts due to the state’s fiscal crises, which include a deficit that has ballooned to more than $25 billion.

The California State University System is facing possible budget cuts of $500 million. The University of California would also face a $500 million cut under Brown’s budget proposal.

Brown has proposed cutting $400 million from the state’s community colleges, and raising tuition by 38 percent.

Modesto Junior College (MJC) administrators recently informed faculty members that jobs may be cut as the college attempts to shed $8 million from its budget.

MJC President Gaither Loewenstein answered questions about the budget cuts in a Q&A forum with students last week. He confirmed that the entire communications department, including majors in journalism, television and radio, would be cut in his budget reduction proposal.

Modesto Junior College President Gaither Loewensteinaddresses concerns over $8 million budget cut proposal. Photo courtesy Turlock Journal.

Other programs to end are culinary arts, communication graphics, architecture, engineering, industrial technology, dental assisting and all foreign languages, except Spanish and sign language.

The MJC West Campus library would close and be used as a learning resource center. Coach stipends would end, but competitive sports would continue.

Additional faculty and management employees would lose their jobs under Loewenstein’s budget proposal. Those layoffs would be effective June 30.
Reductions in salary or benefits for employees are not included in the proposal, which have yet to be negotiated.

Many students fear losing their favorite instructors, like anthropology professor James Todd. According to anthropology major and campus President of the Anthropology Club Priscilla Peralta, the department will be crippled with the layoff of Professor Todd. “Anthropology is a much needed discipline and should continue to be offered to the fullest extent,” said Peralta.

Loewenstein said that the decision to target specific programs rather than split the cuts across the board was intended to leave the college with fewer strong programs instead of making the entire college mediocre.

Californians need to step up, get involved with their schools, and reach out to school administrators and congressional representatives about this issue.

Ms. Peralta urges those who support her cause to send a personal message to Modesto Junior College President Gaither Loewenstein via email at loewensteing@mjc.edu.

In addition to getting personally involved with the schools in your community, education advocates encourage citizens to express their concerns to Gov. Brown. He may be reached via phone at 916.445.2841 or log on to his website to post a comment http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php.

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Filed under Anthropology, California, Civil Protest, Economy, Education, Governors, Students, Teachers, Unions, United States

First Lady Michelle Obama Calls On NAACP to Join Let’s Move!

Posted by: Audiegrl

Eddie Gehman/Obama Foodorama~After more than a year of unprecedented activity that has shifted the national conversation about food, First Lady Michelle Obama made even more history on Monday morning, when she spoke at the 101st NAACP National Convention.

More than 4,000 delegates and attendees listened as Mrs. Obama described childhood obesity as a racial issue that overwhelmingly effects African Americans, which requires the immediate attention of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. Changing the health status of children in the African American community is critical to continuing the work of the organization, Mrs. Obama said, as she called for a new version of the idea of food justice.

Mrs. Obama, clad in a polka dot dress and green kitten heels, received a huge ovation as she walked on to the dramatically lit and flag-loaded stage. The crowd rose to its feet, including some high profile attendees in the front row: Julian Bond, actors Blair Underwood, and Louis Gossett, Jr, local politicos and officials. NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous watched Mrs. Obama with a sleeping child in his arms.

Much more @ Obama Foodorama

“It is my honor to welcome First Lady Michelle Obama to our annual convention to discuss her views on ways to tackle an epidemic that is plaguing our nation’s young people,” said NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “She is a commanding figure who will ensure that this issue is at the forefront of our nation’s health agenda.”

“We are elated to have First Lady Michelle Obama joining us to celebrate our 101st year,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Providing affordable health care coverage and ensuring the well-being of all Americans is a priority for both the NAACP and the Obama Administration. Michelle Obama’s visionary leadership in confronting the problem of child hood obesity is to be applauded. At our convention, we will unveil health care and advocacy solutions to help solve the critical health problems that are plaguing our communities,” said Jealous. “The First Lady’s contributions to that important discussion will be invaluable in realizing our vision of an America that ensures that all people have the tools needed to live a healthy life.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to have the First Lady address our convention,” said NAACP Vice Chairman Leon W. Russell. “She was invited to discuss childhood obesity, an issue of importance to our members, and we are pleased she accepted our invitation.”

Widely labeled as a national epidemic, increasing childhood obesity rates have been a problem for decades but efforts to address the issue has been insufficient. In a commitment to tackle this issue, the President established a Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop an action plan to solve the problem of obesity among the nation’s children within a generation, and the Administration has undertaken a comprehensive campaign led by the First Lady.

Strategies resulting from the task force report include updating child nutrition policies by utilizing the best available scientific information, ensuring access to healthy, affordable food in schools and communities, increasing physical activity and empowering parents and caregivers with the information and tools they need to make good choices for themselves and their families.

The recently launched Let’s Move! campaign aims to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, and parents in a national effort to tackle childhood obesity. Let’s Move! will push for healthier food in schools, encourage children to be more physically active, and help make healthy, affordable food available in every part of the nation.

“As the host city for this year’s convention it is exciting to have the First Lady attend our annual convention,” said NAACP Kansas City Branch President Anita L. Russell. “The First Lady’s presence will benefit the convention as well as Kansas City as a whole.”

Remarks by the First Lady to the NAACP National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri

*All photos courtesy of Obama Foodorama

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Filed under African-Americans, Childhood Obesity, Civil Rights Movement, First Lady Michelle Obama

Legendary Singer and Activist Lena Horne Dies at 92

Posted by: TheLCster

AP~Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress known for her plaintive, signature song “Stormy Weather” and for her triumph over the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, has died. She was 92.

Horne died Sunday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Gloria Chin, who would not release details.

“Her timeless legacy will forever be celebrated as part of the fabric of American popular music, and our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and fans worldwide as we all mourn the loss of one of music’s signature voices,” Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, said Monday in a statement.

Horne, whose striking beauty often overshadowed her talent and artistry, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success: “I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept,” she once said. “I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.”

“I knew her from the time I was born, and whenever I needed anything she was there. She was funny, sophisticated and truly one of a kind. We lost an original. Thank you Lena,” Liza Minnelli said Monday. Her father, director Vincente Minnelli, brought Horne to Hollywood to star in “Cabin in the Sky,” in 1943.

In the 1940s, Horne was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, to play the Copacabana nightclub in New York City and when she signed with MGM, she was among a handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical “Stormy Weather.” Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her most famous tune.

Horne had an impressive musical range, from blues and jazz to the sophistication of Rodgers and Hart in such songs as “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” In 1942’s “Panama Hattie,” her first movie with MGM, she sang Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” winning critical acclaim.

In her first big Broadway success, as the star of “Jamaica” in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her “one of the incomparable performers of our time.” Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her “the best female singer of songs.”

“It’s just a great loss,” said Janet Jackson Monday. “She brought much joy into everyone’s lives – even the younger generations, younger than myself. She was such a great talent. She opened up such doors for artists like myself.”

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Statement by President Obama and First Lady Michelle on the Passing of Lena Horne

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Lena Horne – one of our nation’s most cherished entertainers. Over the years, she warmed the hearts of countless Americans with her beautiful voice and dramatic performances on screen. From the time her grandmother signed her up for an NAACP membership as a child, she worked tirelessly to further the cause of justice and equality. In 1940, she became the first African American performer to tour with an all white band. And while entertaining soldiers during World War II, she refused to perform for segregated audiences – a principled struggle she continued well after the troops returned home. Michelle and I offer our condolences to all those who knew and loved Lena , and we join all Americans in appreciating the joy she brought to our lives and the progress she forged for our country.”

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Filed under African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, Hollywood, Music, Uncategorized

The Obama’s and Mourners Attend Funeral and Unseen Footage: Dr. Dorothy I. Height with President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the White House

Posted by: Audiegrl

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP

Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama, First Lady Michelle and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.

Also, please check out our memorial page to Dr. Height.

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Dorothy Height Funeral: President Obama Honors ‘Godmother’ Of Civil Rights Movement

President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of civil rights leader Dorothy Height April 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Height led the National Council of Negro Women and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

AP~President Barack Obama on Thursday eulogized Dorothy Height as a history-making figure in the civil rights movement whose quiet perseverance produced gains in “a righteous cause.”

Speaking to hundreds of mourners in the stately Washington National Cathedral, Obama recounted Height’s commitment to the cause during decades of work, mostly behind the scenes while the movement’s male leaders earned more attention and fame.

“She never cared about who got the credit,” the president said. “What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”

His 13-minute tribute often drew gentle laughter as Obama remembered Height’s doggedness and energy. Height, who died last week at age 98, led the National Council of Negro Women for decades and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Height visited the Obama White House 21 times, the president said. He noted that she was determined to attend a meeting of African-American leaders on unemployment last winter even though she was in a wheelchair and a blizzard was approaching.

She wouldn’t allow “just a bunch of men” to control the meeting, Obama said. When Height’s attendance became impossible because cars could not reach her snow-choked driveway, he said, she still sent a message with her ideas.

Noting Height’s trademark attire, Obama said, “we loved those hats she wore like a crown. Regal.”

He cited her role in desegregating the YWCA and in leading the National Council of Negro Women with “vision and energy, vision and class.” He said her name should be associated with great leaders such as King and W.E.B. DuBois.

“She too deserves a place in our history books,” Obama said. “She too deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”

He urged Americans to honor Height’s memory by serving their country and making it better. “We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause,” the president said.

Others were spoke at the service included poet and author Maya Angelou and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Opera singer Denyce Graves performed for the audience, which included First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.


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Remembering Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Written by Valerie Jarrett

Dr. Dorothy Height with Oprah

Dr. Dorothy I. Height was grace personified. She displayed a quiet strength. She vigorously defended the Constitution and fought for equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights for citizens of our country and for people the world over.

Today we said our final goodbyes to this extraordinary woman, and the President of the United States paid tribute to her during the final service. It is more than fitting that this should be the case.

Even in what would be the final year of her life, Dr. Height pressed the National Council of Negro Women to stay in the fight for health care, to make sure that working families had the support they needed to survive during these challenging economic times, and to continue inspiring young girls and women to reach their highest aspirations. Dr. Height visited the White House 21 times since President Obama’s Inauguration. Indeed, when invited to the White House in February to meet with the President and a group of Civil Rights leaders, only the worst blizzard in Washington in 100 years could keep her away.

On another occasion, Dr. Height joined us on Martin Luther King Day when a group of African American seniors and young children met with the President and Mrs. Obama for a moment of reflection on the road traveled by African Americans in our country. She told us of the first time she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager and the promise he conveyed even then. Later the group joined the President in the Oval Office to review an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hung that very day.

During Women’s History Month this year, President Obama recognized Dr. Height for her life’s work by including her in the proclamation declaring the annual celebration of the contributions women have made in shaping our democracy. She joined us at the White House for what would be one of her final visits to honor women from all walks of life, many of whom had been inspired by her noble acts.

I believe Dr. Height had what Dr. King called “long life and longevity” because she was selfless in her service and lived to uplift her neighbor, whether they lived next door or half way around the world. In one of her final interviews just over a month ago, Dr. Height was asked what advice she would offer to teenage girls trying to find their way. She offered a very basic yet profound charge: find a purpose.

Dr. Height’s purpose was to open doors that had been closed for far too long. Upon reflection on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 when she was well into her nineties, and when many of us would have thought a good rest was long overdue, Dr. Height said, “I felt pleased and proud, but also challenged to see what more I could do.”

In her honor, we all should be willing to challenge ourselves to see what more we can do every single day.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President.

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Special 44-D Tribute ~ Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98
“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them”

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Filed under African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, First Lady Michelle Obama, History, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Video/YouTube

Arizona’s New Immigration Law and the Grassroots Say ‘No’ to Arizona Push Back

Posted by: Buellboy

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva

AP~U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, and civil rights activists spoke to thousands of people gathered at the state Capitol and called on President Barack Obama to fight the law, promising to march in the streets and invite arrest by refusing to comply.

“We’re going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we’re going to overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law,” Grijalva said.

Obama has called the new law “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal. It requires police to question people about their immigration status – including asking for identification – if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. Opponents say it would lead to racial profiling because officers would be more likely to ask people who look Hispanic.

Supporters have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check. Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the measure Friday, has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion someone is in the U.S. illegally.

State Sen. Russell Pearce, the Mesa Republican who sponsored the legislation, said it’s “pretty disappointing” that opponents would call on the federal government to refuse to cooperate with Arizona authorities.

“It’s outrageous that these people continue to support law breakers over law keepers,” Pearce said Sunday.

Protesters, some of whom came from as far away as Texas, clustered under trees for shelter from Arizona’s searing sun and temperatures that approached 90 degrees. Police said it was peaceful and there were no clashes.

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Representative Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat. He called the new Arizona immigration law a civil rights catastrophe and urged constituents to cancel vacations to Arizona

HP~One Chicago congressman has a suggestion for his constituents as to what they can do about Arizona: don’t go there.

“Why would you want to contribute to a group of people that clearly are engaged in a discriminatory act?” said Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, according to Chicago Public Radio.

Gutierrez represents Illinois’s 4th Congressional District, one of the most heavily gerrymandered districts in the country, and one that covers two of Chicago’s strongly Hispanic neighborhoods. He has long been an advocate of immigration reform, and has been a persistent critic of the Obama administration for failing to act more strongly on the issue.

To that end, Gutierrez believes the new Arizona law, which requires police to question anyone they had reason to suspect was in the country illegally, has a silver lining:

“The legislative overreach by Arizona Republicans to inject harsh anti-immigrant politics into the brewing Election Year stew is focusing the President’s attention on the need for the federal government to take charge” on immigration reform, Gutierrez said in a statement.

Gutierrez was in Phoenix on Sunday, where he joined Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva in a protest at the state capitol. At a joint press conference in Washington before the rally, the two representatives decried what Gutierrez called a “civil rights catastrophe that Republicans in Arizona are unleashing on immigrants and all Latinos in the state.”

Say ‘No’ to Arizona ~ Nation’s largest Spanish-language newspaper joins boycott of Arizona over immigration legislation

Critics of Arizona’s new immigration law have been calling for a boycott of the state, and the nation’s biggest Spanish-language newspaper just joined that call.

Here’s La Opinion’s translation of its editorial:

“…The anti-immigrant bill signed yesterday in Arizona is a violation of our right to be free from police harassment based on the way we look….

There are two ways to fight this law: one is in the courts and the other is through direct action. As for the first, lawyers will be filing lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality. The latter, direct action, is a call to boycott the state of Arizona.

We express our outrage in the face of this abuse of power. We call for a boycott of all goods and services from Arizona and pledge to avoid tourism in the state as well. Let’s send a signal of our disgust with an arrogant state government that asserts powers it does not have in order to persecute a minority population.”

By the Time I Get to Arizona” — This Discrimination Must Stop

Written by Chuck D and Gaye Theresa Johnson

Chuck D and Gaye Theresa Johnson

HP~The Arizona immigration bill — which Governor Jan Brewer has decided to sign into law — is racist, deceitful, and reflects some of the most mean-spirited politics against immigrants that the country has ever seen. The power that this law gives to police to detain people that they suspect to be undocumented brings racial profiling to a new low. Brewer’s actions and those of Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, the Arizona State Senate are despicable, inexcusable, and endorse the all-out hate campaign that Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, and others have perpetrated upon immigrants for years. The people of Arizona who voted for this bill, as well as those who crafted it, demonstrate no regard for the humanity or contributions of Latino people. And for all of those who have chosen not to speak up, shame on you for silently endorsing this legislated hate.

In 1991 Public Enemy wrote a song criticizing Arizona officials (including John McCain and Fife Symington) for rejecting the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The same politics written about in “By the Time I Get to Arizona” are alive and well in Arizona today, but this time the target is Brown people.

These actions must stop. We are issuing a call to action, urging fellow musicians, artists, athletes, performers, academics and production companies to refuse to work in Arizona until officials not only overturn this bill, but recognize the human rights of immigrants. This should include the NBA playoffs, revisiting the actions of the NFL in 1993, when they moved the Superbowl to Pasadena in protest against Arizona’s refusal to recognize Dr. King. We all need to speak up in defense of our brothers and sisters being victimized in Arizona, because things are only getting worse. What they’re doing to immigrants is appalling, but it will be even more damning if we remain silent.

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Filed under Civil Protest, Hispanic/Latino/Latina, Immigration, Uncategorized

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98

Posted by: BuellBoy and Audiegrl

Washington Post/Bart Barnes~Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 98, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement whose crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than six decades, died early Tuesday morning of natural causes, a spokesperson for the National Council of Negro Women said.

Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

She died at 3:41 a.m. at Howard University Hospital, a spokesman there said.

Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, relinquishing the title in 1997. The 4 million-member advocacy group consists of 34 national and 250 community-based organizations. It was founded in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune, who was one of Ms. Height’s mentors.

As a civil rights activist, Ms. Height participated in protests in Harlem during the 1930s. In the 1940s, she lobbied first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of civil rights causes. And in the 1950s, she prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to move more aggressively on school desegregation issues. In 1994, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

In the turmoil of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s, Ms. Height helped orchestrate strategy with movement leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and John Lewis, who later served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.

Ms. Height was arguably the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time.

In this Aug. 28, 1963 photo, Dorothy Height, right, listens as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gestures during his I Have a Dream speech as he addresses thousands of civil rights supporters gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In August 1963, Ms. Height was on the platform with King when he delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. But she would say later that she was disappointed that no one advocating women’s rights spoke that day at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Less than a month later, at King’s request, she went to Birmingham, Ala., to minister to the families of four black girls who had died in a church bombing linked to the racial strife that had engulfed the city.

“At every major effort for social progressive change, Dorothy Height has been there,” Lewis said in 1997 when Ms. Height announced her retirement as president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Early Champion for Women’s Rights

As a champion of social justice, Ms. Height was best known during the early years of her career for her struggles to overcome racial prejudice.

Dr. Height watches President John F. Kennedy sign the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 in a ceremony at the White House. The bill was aimed at assuring women of paychecks equal to those of men doing the same work.

She was also energetic in her efforts to overcome gender bias, and much of that work predated the women’s rights movement. When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, Ms. Height was among those invited to the White House to witness the ceremony. She returned to the White House in 1998 for a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of that legislation to hear Clinton urge passage of additional laws aimed at equalizing pay for men and women.

“Dorothy Height deserves credit for helping black women understand that you had to be feminist at the same time you were African . . . that you had to play more than one role in the empowerment of black people,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) once said.

As president of the National Council of Negro Women, Ms. Height was instrumental in organizing and sponsoring programs that emphasized self-help and self-reliance.

In 2003 President Bush presented Dr. Dorothy Height with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. Dr. Height is recognized as one of the preeminent social and civil rights activists of the 20th century. Mayor Anthony Williams attended the ceremony. Senator Hillary Clinton, former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Senator Carl Levin and Representative Diane Watson were also present.

Those included nutrition, child care, housing and career counseling. In response to a public TV program, “The Vanishing Black Family,” Ms. Height helped create and organize the Black Family Reunion Celebration, which has been held on the Mall and in cities across the country annually since 1985. The gatherings are intended to honor the traditions, strength and history of African American families while seeking solutions to such social problems as teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

“The reunion is as important today as some of our marches were in the past,” Ms. Height said in 1992.

In 1995, Ms. Height was among the few women to speak at the Million Man March on the Mall, which was led by Louis Farrakhan, the chief minister of the Nation of Islam. “I am here because you are here,” she declared. Two years later, at 85, she sat at the podium all day, in the whipping wind and chill rain, at the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.

Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dr. Dorothy I. Height“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them,” said former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, a close friend who has been running day-to-day operations at the National Council.

Herman called Ms. Height “a national treasure who lived life abundantly. She will be greatly missed, not only by those of us who knew her well, but by the countless beneficiaries of her enduring legacy.”

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Dorothy I. Height Congressional Medal

President George W. Bush presented the congressional gold medal to Dr. Dorothy I. Height in 2003. The medal honored her for a lifetime of work helping people exercise their civil rights. She was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1958 until she retired in 1998. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders throughout the 1960s. She also received the Citizens Medal Award from President Ronald Reagan in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The congressional gold medal was awarded to Dr. Height in recognition of “her many contributions to the Nation.” The medal is inscribed with her words: “We African-American women seldom do just what we want to do, but always do what we have to do. I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed.”

The Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle joined the rest of the nation in mourning Dr. Dorothy Height:

“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Height – the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans. Ever since she was denied entrance to college because the incoming class had already met its quota of two African American women, Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality. She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement – witnessing every march and milestone along the way. And even in the final weeks of her life – a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest – Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith. Michelle and I offer our condolences to all those who knew and loved Dr. Height – and all those whose lives she touched.~President Barack Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Dr. Dorothy Height following her remarks on health care legislation at the White House complex September 18, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)


President Barack Obama kisses Dr. Dorothy Height during a meeting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. President Obama met with a group of African American seniors and their grandchildren on the legacy of the civil rights movement January 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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The 2008 video above, is one of a series of videos of civil rights leaders discussing the importance of Brown v. Board of Education and its impact on the country, focusing on the progress America has made, and the challenges we still face to truly realize the dream of Brown by providing a quality education for all.

For more information, visit RealizeTheDream.org

Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.

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Wednesdays in Misssissippi~a documentary film

In the summer of 1964 a quiet revolution began in Mississippi when a group of Black and White women reached across the chasm of race, class, geography, and religion to end segregation in America. This quiet revolution was called “Wednesdays in Mississippi.” The story of these brave women has never been told. It is a story of courage, danger, and transformation. The one hour documentary film WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI will finally tell their story.

The only civil rights project run by a national women’s organization, “Wednesdays in Mississippi” (WIMS) was the brainchild of National Council of Negro Women President, Dorothy Height and her close friend, Polly Cowan. Their plan brought Black and White women from Northern cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago into Mississippi in 1964 during Freedom Summer.

Each week, both interracial and interfaith teams of women known as “Wednesdays Women” traveled to Mississippi on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, the women brought supplies and much needed support to small rural communities. There, local Black citizens and young civil rights workers from the North faced daily violence and constant harassment as they worked side by side to end legalized segregation. The women experienced first hand the devastating results of racial injustice, but also witnessed the hope and promise of change.

However, it was on Thursdays that the quiet revolution took root. This was when the “Wednesdays Women” put on their white gloves and pearls and secretly met with Black and White Mississippi women. In living rooms over tea and cookies the Southern women openly discussed their fears and suspicions about the civil rights movement. Many, for the first time, voiced their support for change. At that time in Mississippi, mixing with outsiders had dire consequences. Yet the women came, they listened and their hearts and minds began to open. Their clandestine meetings became the catalyst for great change.

In 1965, the Southern women invited the Northern women back to Mississippi. This groundbreaking alliance between Black and White women from the North and South continued until 1967. Working together, the women started economic, health and educational programs, including the well known Fannie Lou Hamer Daycare center, which continues to thrive today.

The film, WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI will show how the lives of these women were enriched and transformed by doing what Dorothy Height called, “women’s work…the work of making connections and building community.” At last, the legacy of these courageous women will be shared.

Film information courtesy of Wednesdays in Mississippi

Learn more about the film, how you can show your support it, and about the filmmakers.

Learn more about Wednesdays in Mississippi: Civil Rights as Women’s Work: An Exhibit Website


President Obama, First Lady Michelle and Mourners Attend Dr. Dorothy I. Height Funeral on April 29, 2010

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Filed under African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, Uncategorized, Women's Issues

White House Butler for 8 Presidents Dies

Posted by: Bluedog89

WP~Eugene Allen, who endured a harsh and segregated upbringing in his native Virginia and went on to work for eight presidents as a White House butler, died March 31 of renal failure at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. He was 90.

Mr. Allen and his wife, Helene, were profiled in a Washington Post story in 2008 that explored the history of blacks in the White House. The couple were excited about the possibility of Barack Obama’s historic election and their opportunity to vote for him. Helene, however, died on the eve of the election, and Mr. Allen went to vote alone. The couple had been married for 65 years.

Afterward, Mr. Allen, who had been living quietly in a simple house off Georgia Avenue NW in the District, experienced a fame that he had only witnessed beforehand. He received a VIP invitation to Obama’s swearing-in, where a Marine guard escorted him to his seat. Eyes watering, he watched the first black man take the oath of office of the presidency.

Mr. Allen was besieged with invitations to appear on national TV shows. There were book offers and dozens of speaking requests, all of which he declined. He also received hundreds of letters, some from as far away as Switzerland, from people amazed at the arc of his life and imploring him to hold on while thanking him for his service to the nation. People in his neighborhood would stop him and explain to their children the outlines of his life.

“He liked to think of himself as just a humble butler,” his only child, Charles, said Thursday. Aside from his son, Mr. Allen is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Allen was born July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. He worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and later at a country club in Washington. In 1952, he heard of a job opening at the White House and was hired as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year.

He became maitre d’, the most prestigious position among White House butlers, under Ronald Reagan. During Mr. Allen’s 34 years at the White House, some of the decisions that presidents made within earshot of him came to have a direct bearing on his life — and that of black America.

Allen, far right, while working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Allen was in the White House when Dwight D. Eisenhower dealt with the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Eisenhower once asked him about the cancellation of Nat “King” Cole’s TV show, which the president enjoyed. Mr. Allen told him that the show had difficulty attracting advertisers, who were worried about white Southern audiences boycotting their products.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Allen was invited to the funeral. He declined for the most generous of reasons: “Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral,” he told The Post. When first lady Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House afterward, she gave him one of the president’s ties. Mr. Allen had it framed.

Mr. Allen served entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He flew aboard Air Force One. He sipped root beer at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg after he left the White House. There were always Christmas and birthday cards from the families of the presidents he had served.

He looked up one evening in the White House kitchen to see a lone figure standing in the doorway: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who had insisted on meeting the butlers and maids. Mr. Allen smiled when King complimented him on the cut of his tuxedo.

Allen, far right, with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Archbishop Humberto Medeiros of Boston, and President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Allen served cups and cups of milk and Scotch to help Lyndon B. Johnson settle his stomach when protesters were yelling outside the White House gates during the Vietnam War. He longed to say something to Johnson about his son, who was serving in Vietnam at the time but dared not — save for acknowledging that his son was alive when Johnson asked about him.

It pained Mr. Allen to hear vulgar words, sometimes racially charged, flowing from Johnson’s mouth; and it delighted him when Johnson signed the historic civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.

Mr. Allen serves a party hosted by President Gerald Ford.

Sometimes Mr. Allen’s own life seemed to stop beneath the chandeliered light. First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong. She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.

Mr. Allen with President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

“She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself,’ ” he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene — she was a beautiful dresser — looked resplendent that night. The butlers on duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured champagne for guests — champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in the kitchen.

Mr. Allen was mindful that with the flowering of the black power movement, many young people questioned why he would keep working as a butler, with its connotations of subservience. But the job gave him great pride, and he endured the slights with a dignified posture.

“He was such a professional in everything he did,” said Wilson Jerman, 81, whom Mr. Allen hired to work at the White House in the early 1960s. “When my wife, Gladys, died in 1966, he told me not to worry about a thing. I didn’t think I could get through that period, and he just took me by the hand. I’ll never forget it.”

Mr. Allen retired in 1986, after having been promoted to maitre d’ five years earlier. He possessed a dazzling array of framed photographs with all of the presidents he had served, in addition to gifts and mementos from each of them.

The last item to be framed and placed on Eugene Allen’s basement wall was a condolence letter from George W. and Laura Bush. It arrived from the White House just after the death of Helene.

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