Last night we had the pleasure of co-sponsoring the Frederick Douglass Mash-Up as part of ACT’s February School. (Check out the fascinating student-organized programs here.)
We gathered in a circle on the couches of the Weisner student gallery and drew sentences at random from the writings and speeches of Frederick Douglass and a collection of other strong voices for racial justice. As each of us assembled a new text to read out of these fragments, the different voices blended and contrasted in fascinating ways. The voices of the past sounded like a fresh word for today.
I left with the feeling that the march toward justice is long and slow, but we have some excellent companions on this journey.
To give you a taste of the experience, here are a few passages that stood out to me:
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
Frederick Douglass, 1852
If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.
Charles Darwin, 1860
I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The good would vote according to their convictions and principles; the bad, as dictated by prejudice or malice; and the indifferent will vote on the strongest side of the question, with the winning party.
Frances Harper, 1866
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln, 1865
I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American.
Malcolm X, 1964
You intervened and saved my life, and now I am back among you, and as I was wrested away from you in struggle, so likewise I return in struggle. So let us celebrate, but let us celebrate in the only way that is compatible with all the pain and suffering that so many of our sisters and brothers must face each morning as they awake to the oppressive sight of impenetrable concrete and steel.
Angela Davis, 1972