Listener Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Listeners give their one-minute readings on any ethnic group other than their own in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Interspersed with highlights from
Embracing the Radical Martin Luther King, Jr.: Prophetic or Passé?
Hear selections from yesterday's live event at Brooklyn Museum co-hosted by April Yvonne Garrett, founder & president of Civic Frame, with panelists Eric Sean Gregory, Ph.D., assistant professor of religion at Princeton University and faculty fellow at the Edward J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University; Tricia Rose, Ph.D., professor of Africana Studies at Brown University; Corey D.B. Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor of Africana Studies at Brown University; and Patricia J. Williams, J.D., James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University -- plus poets Danny Simmons and Liza Jessie Peterson with actor Thaddeus Daniels reading key King quotations.


Thaddeus Daniels, April Yvonne Garrett, Eric Sean Gregory, Liza Jessie Peterson, Tricia Rose, Corey D.B. Walker, and Patricia J. Williams

Comments [65]

Catherine Manning Flamenbaum from Babylon, NY

I was driving throughout my favorite Lehrer tradition. I wanted to add this one verse from "Kabul" by Saib-e-Tabrizi (17thc Egyptian poet), quoted in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns

...Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls...

It speaks to me of a universal human need and appreciation of natural beauty, social interaction, and love of life.

Jan. 21 2008 01:33 PM
Chris McDonough from Philadelphia, PA

Whenever we celebrate a great Civil Rights leader's birth/death, I'm brought back to the roots of it all, no pun intended, and I find myself wanting to read, "What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?", a speech given by Frederick Douglass in 1852 to a women's anti-slavery auxillary in Rochester, NY. It's a scathing reminder that although we are "free", there's still a lot of unfinished business out there.
Here's a link to the oration:

Jan. 21 2008 01:17 PM
Jill from Manhattan

Where was the Henri Nouwen quote from? That was really powerful.

Jan. 21 2008 12:04 PM
Kevin Noble from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Every year during this part of the MLK Day program on the Brian Lehrer program, I go to the website of WNYC and look at the photos and Bios of the On Air hosts. They are are overwhelming white and male.
When I look at the photos and Bios of the WNYC News staff they are slightly more diverse but hardly representative of the people of New York City.

Jan. 21 2008 11:57 AM
Amy G. from Long Island

I offer lyrics to a children's song, written by me, white, Jewish mother of 3 from Long Island:

Martin Luther King was a man
Like you and me, like you and me
He said people everywhere should be free,
Like you and me, like you and me
He said we should love one another
Like a sister and a brother
And he had a dream of peace and harmony
For you and me, for you and me.

Martin Luther King stood up tall
Like you and me, like you and me.
And he spoke of peace and freedom for us all,
For you and me, for you and me.
Now his words will live on forever
As we carry on this fight together
So we all may live our lives with dignity
Like you and me, like you and me.

Jan. 21 2008 11:57 AM
Phil Henshaw from NYC

Wade Davis, in Light at the Edge of the World

"Elsewhere in Canada, in the homeland of the Micmac, trees are named for the sound the prevailing winds make as they blow through the branches in the fall, an hour after sunset during those weeks when the weather comes always from a certain direction. Through time, the names can change, as the sounds change as the tree itself grows or decays, taking on different forms. Thus, the nomenclature of a forest over the years becomes a marker of its ecological health and can be read as a measure of environmental trends. A stand of trees that bore one name a century ago may be known today by another, a transformation that may allow ecologists, for example, to measure the impact of acid rain on the hardwood forests."

It talks about a language that is not fixated with it's own meanings, but actively searching and connecting with nature's, too. Our definition of 'progress' as accelerating our takings from the earth, is a cultural fixation causing us more than a little conflict with it. Being responsive and yielding is the true source of freedom.

Jan. 21 2008 11:56 AM
Carlo Altomare from Manhattan

Here is a letter from prison by Sam Melville
Killed in the Attica uprising in 73

"I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. Its been six months now and I can tell you truthfully, few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I am in excellent physical and emotional health. There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead. Yet I feel secure and ready. As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis, so am I dealing with my environment. In the incessant noise, the indifferent brutality, the experimental chemistry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men ...I can act, with clarity and meaning, employing hystrionics only as a test of the reactions of others. I read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life."

Jan. 21 2008 11:56 AM
Edward Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

Dr. King, as was said, did not separate personal piety from social justice. His protest against segregation was necessarily linked with his religious beliefs. Today, the issue is even more the killing of the unborn. And using Dr. King's advice, we do not separate our personal beliefs from our protest against abortion - it is necessarily linked.

Jan. 21 2008 11:48 AM
Christian from NY

Sorry -
Here is the link correted:

remove the space between the 2 lines.

Jan. 21 2008 11:41 AM
Christian from NY

Here is an article from the NYT in 1918 about a resolution sent to President Wilson to suppress the German Language.

I became interested in this because I am a Cajun, and our language is all but lost due to language suppression in the early-mid 20th century.

Jan. 21 2008 11:38 AM
Soren from Brooklyn, NY

I'm white, Lora. By your definition, I suppose I'm plain too.

Jan. 21 2008 11:34 AM
Harlan Crystal from Morningside Heights, Manhattan

A wikipedia reference for the italian-american internment camps:

Jan. 21 2008 11:33 AM
Lora from Brooklyn

It would be good to know what ethnicity the readers are as well as that of the people their readings are about.

So far I'm assuming just about everyone is plain white.

Jan. 21 2008 11:31 AM
Soren from Brooklyn, NY

Well, I seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite 'em
And they say it served 'em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
'N all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and TV and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
(No matter if it's black or white)
Because he's out for blood tonight

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won't be many live
To see it really end
'Cause the fire in the street
Ain't like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don't you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now's the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain't no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn't free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won't amount to nothin' more
Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor


Jan. 21 2008 11:26 AM
nat from brooklyn

A clip played on the air mentioned a Boondocks episode which is an interesting thought experiment on how Dr. King might feel about today's Black culture. The first time I saw the speech that he gives, I got chills. Very well done.

Here is an excerpt from that episode, including the speech.

Jan. 21 2008 11:25 AM
chestine from NY

Tricia Rose you are beyond brilliant! Tricia why not stir this up in teh culture - I mean thanks for teaching at Brown but we need to hera you out of teh ivory tower
-(a so-called white female)

Jan. 21 2008 11:19 AM
Msume Ngbegagwe from bklyn

Brian Lehrer loves to ask for our money. But WNYC only says "this program made possible by.... insert corporate entity here which is really a commercial..............." MLK would have been against such lies. Hypocrites! Thieves!

Jan. 21 2008 11:00 AM
Jon from Bronx, NY

It is often forgotten today that Dr. King was a great supporter of Israel. Indeed a radical position in the current climate on the political left.

Jan. 21 2008 10:55 AM
Nathan Rogers-Madsen from Queens

Not so much a particular reading, I often return to the words of Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who urged MLK to oppose the Viet Nam war and in turn was nominated by MLK for a Nobel Peace prize in '67.

A word from him to King:

I believe with all my heart that the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors but only at a change in their policies. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred, and discrimination
which lie within the heart of man. These are real enemies of humans,—not humans themselves. In our unfortunate fatherland we are trying to plead desperately: do not kill man, even in man's name. Please kill the real enemies of man which are present everywhere in our very hearts and minds... You cannot be silent since you have already been in action and you are in action because, in you, God is in action.

Jan. 21 2008 10:26 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

How bout them Pats!

Jan. 21 2008 10:24 AM
Julie Leininger Pycior from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

This is from Rodolfo Anaya's prize-winning novel BLESS ME ULTIMA. It is set in his native northern New Mexico, with Ultima being the young protagonist's spiritualist grandmother -- herself the descendent of people who had lived there for over 200 years. Ultima tells the boy, "I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live. Love life, and if despair enters your heart, look for me in the evenings when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you." The boy reflects, "Around me the moonlight glittered on the pebbles of the llano, and in the night sky a million stars sparkled. Across the river I could see the twinkling lights of the town. In a week I would be returning to school, and as always I would be running up the goat path and crossing the bridge to go to church. Sometime in the future I would have to build my own dream out of those things that were so much a part of my childhood."

Thank you Brian, for helping us live the dream.

Jan. 21 2008 10:03 AM
Eric from B'klyn

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Jan. 21 2008 10:01 AM
Beth Appel from Lake Peekskill, NY

I've tried for years now to read one of these on this day.
both are from
"Poetry Like Bread" edited by Martin Espada
Alfonso Quijada Urias (' on the i)
Translated by Darwin J. Flakoll
Assassination of the Polo Champ
They killed the polo champ
The man of a thousand suits
the one who had mansions and yachts
and rich, beautiful girl friends all over the world.

They shot him to death
and thre him hands tied
into a ditch.
They killed him because he left his suits,
his horses, polo,
his yachts and mansions,
and above all because he then started walking
as a poor man among the poor.


Como tu (Like you)by Roque Dalton, translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don't end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
lanscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

Jan. 21 2008 09:59 AM
Eddie Crawford from Hastings-on Hudson, N.Y.

Wild Swans by Jung Chang describes the story of three generations in twentieth-century China,which is an engrossing record of Mao's impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love.The author describes the life of her grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother's struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents'esperience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving - and untimately uplifting - detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwing of history.

Jan. 21 2008 09:43 AM
Betsy Reid from Ridgefield, CT

The Emigrant Irish

Like oil lamps, we put them out back-

of our houses, of our minds. We ha lights
better than, newer than and then

a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example:

they would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
tht their possessions may become our power:

Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parceled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.

And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

Eavan Boland

Jan. 21 2008 09:20 AM
Jack Braunstein from Pennsylviania's Endless Mountains

Thanks for a brilliant selection. After reading them all I was awakened to my distinct sensibility as a Jew who, in his Jewishness, recognizes the even stronger undercurrent that unites us all. I imagine people of other ethnicities also felt something similar yet distinctly their own.

Jan. 21 2008 08:28 AM
Sanda Balaban from Manhattan, NY

From ntozake shange’s “Bocas: A Daughter’s Geography”
I have a daughter/mozambique
I have a son/angola
Our twins
salvador & johannesburg/cannot speak
The same language
But we fight the same old men/in the new world
We are so hunger for the morning
We’re trying to feed our children in the sun
But a long time ago/we boarded ships/locked in
Depths of seas our spirits/kisst the earth
On the atlantic side of nicaragua costa rica
Our lips traced the edges of cuba puerto rico
charleston & savannah/in haiti
We embraced &
Made children of the new world
But old men spit on us/shackled our limbs
But for a minute
Our cries are the panama canal…
The ones who think helicopters rhyme with hunger
Who think patrol boats can confiscate a people
The ones whose dreams are full of none of our children
They see mae west & harlow in whittled white cafes
Unaware of the rest of us in Chicago
All the dark urchins
Rounding out the globe/primitively whispering
The earth is not flat old men
There is no edge
No end to the new world
Cuz I have a daughter/trinidad
I have a son/san juan
Our twins
Capetown & Palestine/cannot speak the same
Language/but we fight the same old men
The same men who thought the world waz flat
Go on over the edge/go on over the edge old men
You’ll see us in Luanda. Or the rest of us
In Chicago
Rounding out the morning/
We are feeding our children the sun

Jan. 21 2008 02:15 AM
Caron Atlas from Brooklyn

An homage to poet, activist, and teacher Sekou Sundiata who inspires us to dream deep and imagine how our democracy can live up to its ideals.

An excerpt from the 51st (dream) state by Sekou Sundiata (his last theater piece):

What if we were Life 

Or Liberty 

Or the Pursuit of something new? 

Between the rocks below 

and the stars above 

What if we were composed by Love?

And what if we could show 

that what we dream 

is deeper than what we know? 

Suppose if something does not live 

in the world 

that we long to see 

then we make it ourselves 

as we want it to be

What if we are Life 

Or Liberty 

and the Pursuit of something new?

And suppose the beautiful answer 

asks the more beautiful question,

Why don’t we get our hopes up too high? 

Why don’t we get our hopes up too high? 


Jan. 20 2008 09:08 PM
Tom Gough from Pt Pleasant Beach NJ

"We tend to forget that the Bill of Rights was not a reality for many people before the Civil Rights Laws of the mid-60's. A century earlier, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But slavery did'nt really end for another 100 years.
The fact is that the Bill of Rights did not automatically guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. We have had to enlarge our freedoms and eliminate injustice during all the 200 years of the Bill of Rights. The ideal is there, but the reality has always needed enlarging. It still does."
Rev Theodore Hesburgh,
President, Notre Dame

Jan. 20 2008 08:54 PM
Meg from Stamford, CT

Strange fruit hanging from the Southern trees
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
-Billie Holiday

God, is America's dream big enough for me?
I who am poor, average, disabled, girl, Black, Brown, Native American, White?
Is America for me?
-Marian Wright Edelman (1939 - )

Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund, was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi state bar.

Jan. 20 2008 02:46 PM
David Evans from Madison, New Jersey

From Killers_of_the_Dream by Lillian Smith

The lesson on segregation was only a logical extension of the lessons on sex and white superiority and God. Not only Negroes but everything dark, dangerous, evil must be pushed to the rim of one's life. Signs put over doors in the world outside and over our minds seemed natural enough to children like us, for signs had already been put over forbidden areas of our body. The banning of people and books and ideas did not appear anymore shocking than the banning of our wishes which we learned so early to send to the Dark town of our unconscious. But we clung to the belief, as an unhappy child treasures a beloved toy, that our white skin made us "better" than all other people. And this belief comforted us, for we felt worthless and weak when confronted by Authorities who had cheapened nearly all that we held dear, except out skin color. There, in the land of Epidermis, every one of us was a little king.

Jan. 20 2008 02:30 PM
Claudia Farber from Highland Park, New Jersey

Birthday Poem
from "Dancing", poems by Al Young (1969)

First light of day in Mississippi
son of laborer & of house wife
it says so on the official photostat
not son of fisherman & child fugitive
from cotton fields & potato patches
from sugarcane chickens & well-water
from kerosene lamps & watermelons
mules named jack or jenny & wagonwheels,

years of meaningless farm work
work Work WORK WORK WORK -
"Papa pull you outta school bout March
to stay on the place & work the crop"
- her own earliest knowledge
of human hopelessness & waste

She carried me around nine months
inside her fifteen year old self
before here I sit numbering it all

How I got from then to now
is the mystery that could fill a whole library
much less an arbitrary stanza

But of course you already know about that
from your own random suffering
& sudden inexplicable bliss

Jan. 20 2008 01:40 PM
Laura from Brooklyn

My Native Comment
by Martin Espada
(from Imagine the Angels of Bread)

When you come to visit,
said a teacher
from the suburban school,
don't forget to wear
your native costume.

But I'm a lawyer,
I said,
My native costume
is a pinstriped suit.

You know, the teacher said,
a Puerto Rican costume.

Like a guayabera?
The shirt? I said.
But it's February.

The children want to see a native costume,
the teacher said.

So I went to the suburban school,
embroidered guayabera
short sleeved shirt
over a turtleneck,
and said, Look kids,
cultural adaptation.

Jan. 20 2008 11:49 AM
Diane Schwarz from Bergen County, NJ

Additional sentence to end # 29:
(this piece was written to publicise the numerous lynchings & murder of blacks, often for alleged rapes)

The Negro may not have known what chivalry was, but ... knew enough to preserve inviolate the womanhood of the South...during the war. The finer sensibilities of his soul may have been years of slavery, but his heart was full of gratitude to the white women of the North...Faithful to his trust in both these instances, he should now have the impartial ear of the civilized world...

Jan. 20 2008 12:02 AM
Germaine Laviscount Scott from New York, NY

I am an African American woman;I would be pleased to read a portion of this selection.

"...some mysterious and ancient clan that claimed me as its own simply because I had been born a block away. Whether I agreed with its beliefs or not, I belonged;whether I assented to its rights over me or not, I belonged;whatever I thought of them, no matter how far I might drift from that place, I belonged. This was understood in the very nature of things; I was a Jew."

from A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin

Jan. 19 2008 11:26 PM
Janine Nichols from Brooklyn

From "Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey" by Isabel Fonseca

Jim Yoors – the twelve-year-old Belgian boy who in the 1930s had left home to join a passing troupe of Lovara Gypsies – wrote a memoir, many years later, of his adopted people.

"I often wondered at their strange, inexplicable lack of traumatic reactions to their often violent persecutions. I observed, and eventually learned to understand, their rejection of hate or personal bitterness as a response to outside pressures. Pulika, my adopted father, said, "Too often the courage about dying is cowardice about living."

Jan. 19 2008 04:57 PM
Diane Schwarz from Bergen County, NJ

From Ida B. Wells-Barnett's Red Record, 1890s

(I would be thrilled to read this aloud. I'm a graduate of Performing Arts and so, a pretty good reader!)

When emancipation came..., there arose in the northern part of the United States an almost divine sentiment among the noblest, purest and best white women of the North, who felt called to a mission to educate...the millions of southern ex-slaves. From every nook...of the North, brave young...women answered that call and left their cultured homes...,happy associations and...lives of ease, and with heroic determination went...south to carry light and truth to the benighted blacks...These young women braved dangers whose record reads more like fiction than fact. They became social outlaws in the South. The peculiar sensitiveness of southern white men for women, never shed its protecting influence about them...No hospitable doors gave them...companionship...No chivalrous white man doffed his hat...They were "Nigger teachers"-unpardonable offenders in the... South, and were insulted, persecuted and ostracised, not by Negroes, but by the white manhood which boasts of its chivalry toward women.

Jan. 19 2008 02:15 PM
Joe Flanagan from Hillsdale, N.J. 07642

Stanza from:
"East Side, West Side, All Around the Town."

Pigment plantations, color sewn pain,
lined demarcation, history's shame.

Forever the carriers, this sin of their skin,
breaking the barriers, the win from within.

Boots on the ground, Concord to Chu Lai,
roots profound, Yankee Doodle, do or die.

Chattel to croppers to citizesn second rate,
to porters, professors, to heads of state.

Piece meal rise, bias anabsis,
centuries' prize, mindfully Masterless.

Jan. 19 2008 12:23 PM
Joan D. Firestone from New York City

The notion of rest, it's attractive to her, but I don't think she would like it. They are all like that, these women. Waiting for the ease, the space that need not be filled with anything but the drift of their own thoughts. But they wouldn't like it. They are busy and thinking of ways to be busier because such a space of nothing pressing to do would knock them down. ...They fill their minds and hands with soap and repair and dicey confrontations, because what is waiting for them, in a suddenly idle moment, is the seep of rage. "Jazz" by Toni Morrison

Jan. 19 2008 10:21 AM
Claire Cox from New York, NY

From "Ovuh Dyuh" by Joanne Kilgour Dowdy:

I want to blame it all on my mother...I want to lay down the beginnings of my personal angst over language. When we were growing up in Trinidad, my mother always reminded us that we needed to learn to "curse in white." By this she meant...that we should always be aware that we had to play to a white audience. We could protest, we could show anger, but we had to remember that there was a white way, and that was the right way. I am sure that she had accepted that this would be the case for her children as long as the British imperial sun did not set.
Being middle class and black brought particular burdens and responsibilities...My mother plodded on unrelentingly in her effort to make us deserving vessels of public acceptance. To "curse in white" was the epitome of embracing the creed of colonization. One not only had to look the part, light-skinned, chemical curls for a coiffure, but one had to sound the part, perfect British diction. Maybe it was my actor's temperament that made the language such a personal journey to me. I took on the project of "th"s and "wh"s with such devotion that I was given many opportunities to represent my grade school in choral speaking competitions and story-telling festivals.

Jan. 19 2008 10:06 AM
Sheida Hakimian

No te quiero sino porque te quiero
y de quererte a no quererte llego
y de esperarte cuando no te espero
pasa mi corazón del frío al fuego.

Te quiero sólo porque a ti te quiero,
te odio sin fin, y odiándote te ruego,
y la medida de mi amor viajero
es no verte y amarte como un ciego.

Tal vez consumirá la luz de enero,
su rayo cruel, mi corazón entero,
robándome la llave del sosiego.

En esta historia sólo yo me muero
y moriré de amor porque te quiero,
porque te quiero, amor, a sangre y fuego.

Pablo Neruda

Jan. 19 2008 01:35 AM
Paulette Powell from NYC


June 24, 2005: “I shall endeavor to be a guide for the future, to create a future for Africa,” President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal said on receiving the Abolitionist of the Year Award.

The Abolitionist of the Year Award was inaugurated in 2005 by Hands Off Cain in recognition of outstanding commitment in favor of a moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty. Senegal abolished the death penalty for all crimes on December 10, 2004, World Human Rights’ Day, as the National Assembly unanimously approved a proposal by President Wade.

President Wade described receiving the award as an “emotional moment” which encouraged him in his choices. His said his decision to propose complete abolition in Senegal had been maturing since he was a child, when, witnessing children and elderly women being put to death, he used to think, “if one day I become president, I will not allow this.” His belief that the death penalty was not and could not be a punishment was reinforced over time, encouraged by Victor Hugo’s effort to put one in the condemned man’s shoes. Converted to complete abolition and before being voted into power, he said, he made himself think of the choice he would have to face if he ever had to sign a death sentence. “If this ever happened, I thought that day, I would prefer to resign as president,” Wade said.

Jan. 18 2008 11:33 PM
Nancy E. from Brooklyn

Here's an excerpt from a poem by Regie Cabico, an amazing writer, performer, teacher, and human.

Check One by Regie Cabico

The government asks me to “check one”.
I say “How can you ask me to be one race?”

I stand proudly before you a fierce Filipino
who knows how to belt hard gospel songs
played to African drums at a Catholic mass –
and loving the music and suffering beats
and lashes from men’s eyes on the Capitol streets –

South-East DC with its sleepy crime
my mother nursed patients from seven to nine
patients gray from the railroad
riding past civil rights….

Jan. 18 2008 10:52 PM
Heather S. Jones from nyc

I am a 35 year old white female from Southern Utah, USA. I wish to offer the following poem by Fiaz Ahmed Fiaz (1911-1984) for your reading on Mon.

This is taking from his poetry collection titled _The Rebel's Silhouette_.


A Prison Evening

Each star a rung,
night comes down the spiral
staircase of the evening.
The breeze passes by so very close
as if someone just happened to speak of love.
In the courtyard,
the trees are absorbed refugees
embroidering maps of return on the sky.
On the roof,
the moon --lovingly, generously--
is turning the stars
into a dust of sheen.
From every corner, dark-green shadows,
in ripples, come toward me.
At any moment they may break over me,
like the waves of pain each time I remember
this separation from my lover.

This thought keeps consoling me:
though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed
in rooms where lovers are destined to meet,
they cannot snuff out the moon, so today,
nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed,
no poison of torture make me bitter,
if just one evening in prison
can be so strangely sweet,
if just one moment anywhere on this earth.


Fiaz was, like MLK, by both his words and his actions, a champion of the world's voiceless and suffering peoples. This poem, in particular, suggests that in the midst of pain and isolation his spirit of dignity and his continued hope for beauty in humanity.

Jan. 18 2008 02:04 PM
Ralph J. Lowry, Jr. from Brooklyn, NY

When people of color are asked to reflect on their childhood and try to remember when and how they learned about race, they usually have very specific memories of how they “discovered” or were taught that they were “African-American,” “Korean,” “Caribbean,” “Chinese,” “Puerto Rican,” or “Latina.” The stories sometime include painful memories of being invited to a friends home to play, only to find that the color of their skin made them unwelcome there. Or they involve memories of white dolls with yellow hair that looked nothing like them, or incidents in the school playground or on the ball field where they were told in no uncertain terms that they did not belong. When whites are asked a similar question, they often draw a blank… To be white, as many authors have pointed out, is simply to be “human.”

Paula S. Rothenberg White Privilege: essential reading on the other side of racis

Jan. 18 2008 12:23 PM
Walter Naegle from N ew York, NY

From American Negroes and Israel, 1974, by Bayard Rustin.

"One hopes, above all, that a just and permanent peace emerges from the current negotiations. The achievement of that peace, however, requires a recognition of the legitimacy of both forms of nationalism -- Arab and Israeli -- that are now competing in the Middle East. Both have their historical roots in the Middle East, and are capable of co-existing, as indeed they did co-exist in the years between World War I and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

"Until these rights are acknowledged and accepted, however, there will be no peace, nor justice for the Palestinian refugees, nor social progress for the impoverished of the Middle East. Society cannot be remade while governments are in a perpetual state of military alert. If there is to be true progress for the peoples of the Middle East, it must come about because peace is achieved, and because both Arab and Israeli accept and cooperate with each other. Social progress cannot be won in the battlefield."

Jan. 18 2008 11:42 AM
Sara Shives from Brooklyn, NY

from African Women's Poetry

Where are Those Songs?
by Micere Githae Mugo
Kenya, 1972

Where are those songs
my mother and yours
always sang
fitting rhythms
to the whole
vast span of life?

What was it
they sang
harvesting maize, threshing millet, storing the grain...
What did they sing
bathing us, rocking us to sleep...
and the one they sang
stirring the pot
(swallowed in parts by choking smoke)?
And the row of bending women
hoeing our fields
to what beat
did they
break the stubborn ground
as they weeded
our shambas?
What did they sing
at the ceremonies
second birth
how did they trill the ngemi
what was
the warrior's song?
how did the wedding song go?
sing me
the funeral song.
What do you remember?
I have forgotten
my mother's song
my children
will never know
This I remember:
Mother always said
sing child sing
make a song
and sing
beat out your own rhythms
the rhythms of your life
but make the song soulful
and make life
Sing daughter sing
around you are
uncountable tunes
some sung
others unsung
sing them
to your rhythms
soak yourself
in the stream of life
and then sing
simple songs
for the people
for all to hear
and learn
and sing
with you.

Jan. 18 2008 11:08 AM
Sara Shives from Brooklyn, NY

From the Heinnemann Book of African Women's Poetry:

Where Are Those Songs?
by Micere Githae Mugo, Kenya

Where are those songs
my mother and yours
always sang
fitting rhythms
to the whole
vast span of life?

What was it again
they sang
harvesting maize, threshing millet, storing the grain...

What did they sing
bathing us, rocking us to sleep...
and the one they sang
stirring the pot
(swallowed in parts by choking smoke)?


And the row of bending women
hoeing our fields
to what beat
did they
break the stubborn ground
as they weeded
our shambas?

What did they sing
at the ceremonies
how did they trill the ngemi
what was
the warriors' song?
how did the wedding song go?
sing me
the funeral song.
what do you remember?

I have forgotten
my mother's song
my children will never know.
This I remember:
Mother always said
sing child sing
make a song
and sing
beat out your own rhythms
and rhythms of your life
but make the song soulful
and make life

sing daughter sing
around you are
uncountable tunes
some sung
others unsung
sing them
to your rhythms
soak yourself
in the stream of life
and then sing
simple songs
for the people
for all to hear
and learn
and sing
with you.

(I would be happy to read all or part, or have all or part read on the air)

Jan. 18 2008 10:57 AM
Geoffrey King from Jackson Heights Queens 11372

[The voices Woody Guthrie (singer/song writer) heard as a boy in Oklahoma came from all over America's racial map: the black town of Boley lay ten miles down the road from Okemah, where he grew up in what had been called Indian Territory until the white folks developed an interest in the oil pooled beneath what they'd mistaken for a barren wasteland. But like his white companions, Woody was taught to hear the phrase "people" as "white people"; a part of the local Democratic political machine, Woody's father at least condoned and probably participated in several lynchings. One of the turning points of Woody's political development came in 1937, when he received a letter protesting his use of a racial slur on the L.A. radio broadcast where he played the role of the naive hillybilly. The listener wrote: 'You were getting along quite well in your program this evening until you announced your 'Nigger Blues.' I am a Negro, a young Negro in college, and I certainly resented your remark. No person...of any intelligence uses that word over the radio today.'

Rather than downplaying the situation, Woody admitted his upbringing had blinded him to the issue; he simply hadn't thought about it. He apologized and promised not to do it again.

And he didn't.]

quoted from: A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race and the Soul of America by Craig H. Werner. Univ of Michigan Press, 2006.

Jan. 18 2008 02:58 AM
Mary Bailey from New York, NY


By Marilyn Hacker

“I’m pregnant,” I wrote to her in delight
from London, thirty, married, in print. A fools-
cap sheet scrawled slantwise with one minuscule
sentence came back. “I hope your child is white.”
I couldn’t tear the pieces small enough.
I hoped she’d be black as the ace of spades,
though hybrid beige heredity had made
that as unlikely as the spun-gold stuff
sprouted after her neonatal fur.
I grudgingly acknowledged her “good hair,”
which wasn’t, very, from my point of view.
“No tar brush left,” her father’s mother said.
“She’s Jewish and she’s white,” from her-cranked bed
mine smugly snapped.
She’s Black. She is a Jew.

Jan. 17 2008 12:54 PM
Mary Bailey from New York, NY

I am a 60-year old Caucasian woman.

I came across Marilyn Hacker’s “1973” back in the 80s and have loved it since. My own daughter was born in 1973.

Hacker’s flair with a multitude of prose styles (I find the poem reminiscent of an Italian sonnet) is amazing. Paradoxically, her words can be soft as a lullaby while lethal as a machete.

I do not have the courage to read aloud on your program, but figured I’d send this along as my own little contribution to your wonderful show.

Thanks, Mary Bailey


By Marilyn Hacker

“I’m pregnant,” I wrote to her in delight
from London, thirty, married, in print. A fools-
cap sheet scrawled slantwise with one minuscule
sentence came back. “I hope your child is white.”
I couldn’t tear the pieces small enough.
I hoped she’d be black as the ace of spades,
though hybrid beige heredity had made
that as unlikely as the spun-gold stuff
sprouted after her neonatal fur.
I grudgingly acknowledged her “good hair,”
which wasn’t, very, from my point of view.
“No tar brush left,” her father’s mother said.
“She’s Jewish and she’s white,” from her-cranked bed
mine smugly snapped.
She’s Black. She is a Jew.

Jan. 17 2008 12:50 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn

"A Far Cry from Africa"
Derek Walcott

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!"
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?

Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilization's dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?


Jan. 17 2008 11:47 AM
Errin from Brooklyn

The Country of a Thousand Faces: Mario Vargas Llosa

The city where I was born, Arequipa, is located in an Andean valley in the south of Peru. It is well known for its clerical and rebellious spirit, its lawyers and volcanoes, its clear sky, the flavour of the prawns and its regionalism. Also for la nevada (the snowfall), a kind of fleeting neurosis that affects its inhabitants. One fine day, the mildest of Arequipans refuses to acknowledge a greeting, spends hours brooding, behaves in the most extravagant nonsensical way and tries to throttle his best friend over a simple disagreement. No one gets worried or annoyed because everyone knows that this man is suffering from 'the snowfall' and that tomorrow he will be back to his normal, gentle self.

Jan. 17 2008 11:05 AM
Louise from Westchester

My take on a reading about a racial group other than my own is that there isn't a racial group other than my own. G.K. Chesterton agrees with me! My point is serious, however.

"The human race, to which so many of my readers belong,"...G.K.Chesterton

Jan. 17 2008 10:59 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

The war for Texas and the war for Iraq have many similarities, as do Bush and Polk. To my Mexican brothers, I quote Frederick Douglass:

Frederick Douglass, former slave, extraordinary speaker and writer, wrote in his Rochester newspaper the North Star, January 21, 1848, of "the present disgraceful, cruel, and iniquitous war with our sister republic. Mexico seems a doomed victim to Anglo Saxon cupidity and love of dominion." Douglas was scornful of the unwillingness of opponents of the war to take real action (even the abolitionists kept paying their taxes):

"The determination of our slaveholding President to prosecute the war, and the probability of his success in wringing from the people men and money to carry it on, is made evident, rather than doubtful, by the puny opposition arrayed against him. No politician of any considerable distinction or eminence seems willing to hazard his popularity with his an open and unqualified disapprobation of the was. None seem willing to take their stand for peace at all risks; and all seem willing that the war should be carried on, in some form or other" - Frederick Douglas

Adapted from People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn p. 155

Jan. 17 2008 10:39 AM
Marlene Boccato from Brooklyn, NY

Are your trying to influence the Democratic primary by airing a story about merchants on Fulton St. Brooklyn who are in favor of Senator Obama? Who care where his father was from. Is that a criterion for a vote. How about equal time for the other candidates and their ancestors.
This morning on NPR we heard about Senator Obama's credit card policy and then a brief announcement where Seantors Clinton and Mr. Edwards were going to campaign. Not exactly equal time.
Please be aware of your role in politics.

Jan. 17 2008 08:30 AM
Marshall from Ridgewood, NJ

The poetry of Haki Madhubuti (Don Lee)


it was wild.
the bullet hit high.

(the throat-neck)

&from everywhere:

the motel, from under blushes and cars,
from around corners and across streets,
out of the garbage cans and from rat holes
in the earth

they came running.
they came running

toward the King--

all of them
fast and sure--

as if
the King
was going to fire back.
they came running,
fast and sure,
in the

Jan. 16 2008 09:07 PM
Alessandro DeGregori from Mendham, NJ

From: Steven Gregory (1998) "Black Corona" (p. 12).
Accounts of black urban identity in the mass media have stressed a radical socioeconomic and moral rupture between an inner-city underclass, typically defined in relation to deviant values and behaviors, and the "black middle class" integrated into a shapeless American mainstream. Although ethnographic studies have sketched a more variegated portrait of contemporary black urban life, much of this research has remained firmly tied to the problem of explaining or interpreting the deviant-coded behaviors of the inner-city poor. As a result, not only have the lives of the black nonpoor remained largely obscure, but we also know little about the social processes and power arrangements through which black identities are socially constructed and exercised.

Jan. 16 2008 04:17 PM
Mike Treder from Upper Upper West Side

Brothers! I have listened to many talks from our great white father. When he first came over the wide waters, he was but a little man . . . very little. His legs were cramped by sitting long in his big boat, and he begged for a little land to light his fire on . . . But when the white man had warmed himself before the Indians' fire and filled himself with their hominy, he became very large. With a step he bestrode the mountains, and his feet covered the plains and the valleys. His hand grasped the eastern and the western sea, and his head rested on the moon. Then he became our Great Father. He loved his red children, and he said, "Get a little further, lest I tread on thee." Brothers! I have listened to a great many talks from our great father. But they always began and ended in this—"Get a little further; you are too near me." - Speckled Snake, a Creek Indian, reportedly more than 100 years old, reacting to President Andrew Jackson's policy of removal in the 1830's

Jan. 16 2008 03:18 PM
George Klas from Manhattan

This is an imaginary report of events on the political trail celebrating MLK Day:

In a dramatic move to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, Bill Clinton endorsed Barack Obama for president.

"Many African-Americans believe I was the first black president so it's only right," the former president said.

In a hastily convened press conference Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton. The Illinois senator said, "I know of no finer tribute to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. than to support the first woman running for president."

The Republican candidates were quick to join the new politics of inclusion. On the campaign trail John Mc Cain endorsed his rival Mitt Romney who reciprocated immediately.

Mike Huckabee weigh-in by supporting Mc Cain, Romney and Giuliani. "How's that for a religious union?" the former Baptist minister chuckled.

The self-endorsing candidates announced they would cease campaigning. " Americans want change and we want to end politics as usual," they said.

The candidates agreed to direct elections on American Idol. Each would perform their stump speech and viewers would vote. The winner and runner up would become president and vice president.

Meanwhile, Fred Thompson, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who were not included in politics of harmony, protested charging discrimination.

Martin Luther King Jr. watched and smiled at the power of an idea.

Jan. 16 2008 01:54 PM
Anne Schwartz from Andover, NJ

From "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

"Sometimes in my grandmother's stories there were brave women--mothers, like my mother--who used their cunning and their courage to save their children from danger. This made us feel safe, in a way. My grandmother, and my mother, too, were brave and clever: they would surely be able to save us when our time came to face the monsters.
In Somalia, little children learn quickly to be alert to betrayal. Things are not always what they seem; even a small slip can be fatal. The moral of every one of my grandmother's stories rested on our honor. We must be strong, clever, suspicious; we must obey the rules of the clan.
Suspicion is good, especially if you are a girl. For girls can be taken, or they may yield. And if a girl's virginity is despoiled, she not only obliterates her own honor, she also damages the honor of her father, uncles, brothers, male cousins. There is nothing worse than to be the agent of such catastrophe."

Jan. 16 2008 12:48 PM
Karen from NYC

"A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods, will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful as yours.
The whites, too, shall pass - perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your own bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
When buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.
And what is to say farewell to the swift and the hunt, to the end of living and the beginning of survival? We might understand if we knew what it was that the white man dreams, what he describes to his children on the long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man's dreams are hidden from us." - Chief Seattle (Suqwamish and Duwamish)

Jan. 16 2008 12:34 PM
Paula de la Cruz from New York

The Zulu, or isiZulu in their language amaZulu, are the largest South African ethnic group of an estimated 10 to 11 million people.The Zulu live mainly in the province of KwaZulu Natal, in eastern South Africa.There are also smaller communities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.KwaZulu—Kwa, place of—was created during the Apartheid years. In 1970, the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act—Bantu was a name to label more than 400 South African ethnic groups—ruled that all Zulus would become citizens of KwaZulu, losing their South African citizenship. Eventually, in 1994 KwaZulu joined the province of Natal.The chief minister of KwaZulu was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, he later served as one of two Deputy Presidents in the government of national unity which came into power in 1994.To appeal to the divine the Zulu invoke their ancestors, amaDlozi, through divination processes.The diviner, almost always a woman, plays an important part in the community. All bad things, including death, are believed to be caused by evil sorcery, never by natural causes.The Zulu used different utensils for different food groups and they bathe often, up to 3 times a day.Beer or tshwala, and is an important part of Zulu life as it is an essential part of every ceremony or feast.To greet with a pot of beer is seen as a warm and welcoming gesture to guests. It is also food for the ancestral spirits, which quenches their thirst and proves that they haven't been forgotten by their relatives.

Jan. 16 2008 12:29 PM
James The Giant Peach from Park Slope

From The NYT Magazine "The Lives They Live"

The moment with Washoe that still resonates most is one that occurred outside the laboratory, when she happened to notice a swan adrift on a nearby lake. She turned to her caretakers and signed “water,” then “bird”: perhaps the first documented incident of another creature freely assigning our words to an observed phenomenon. It was, the Harvard psychologist Roger Brown noted at the time, “like getting an S O S from outer space.”

Jan. 16 2008 12:19 PM
suzie sims-fletcher from astoria

From: Birds Without Wings, Louis de Bernires

We are in any case a serious people here. Life was merrier when the Christians were still among us, not least because almost every one of their days was the feast of some saint. Little work was done, it seemed, but at least their revelry was infectious. Our religion makes us grave and thoughtful, dignified and melancholy, whereas theirs did not exact much discipline. Perhaps it was something to do with the wine.....
[I would be happy to read a section of this selection]

Jan. 16 2008 12:10 PM

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