Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Fight With Tools”

Anne Braden Pt. 3

I hadn’t really planned this, but a few people mentioned that they had trouble understanding the lyrics of the Flobots which I wrote in two previous posts. Here is a You Tube file with the lyrics. I love how the Flobots added quotes from Ms. Braden herself. The lyrics are below if you wish to peruse at your own pace.

Anna Braden – Fight With Tools – The Flobots

from the color of the faces in sunday’s songs
to the hatred they raised all the youngsters on
once upon a time in this country long ago
she knew there was something wrong
because the song said yellow, red, black, and white
everyone precious in the path of christ
but what about the daughter of the woman cleaning their house
wasnt she a child they were singing about
and if Jesus loves us black or white skin
why didn’t her white mother invite them in?
when did it become a room for no blacks to step in?
how did she already know not to ask the question
left lasting impressions
adolescence’s comforts gone
she never thought things would ever change
but she always knew there was something wrong

she always knew there was something wrong

years later she found herself mississippi-bound
to help stop the legalized lynching
of mr. willie mcgee
but they couldnt stop it
so they thought that theyd talk to the governor
about what happened
and say were tired of being used
as an excuse to kill black men
but the cops wouldnt let em past and
these women they struck em as uppity
so they hauled em all off to jail
and they called it protective custody
then from her cell she heard her jailers
grumbling about outsiders
and when she called him out
and said she was from the south they shouted
why is a nice southern lady
making trouble for the governor?
she said, i guess Im not your type of lady
and i guess Im not your type of southerner.
but before you call me traitor
well its plainest just to say
i was a child in mississippi
but Im ashamed of it today

imagine the world that youre standing within
all of your neighbors and family and friends
how would you cope
facing the fact
the flesh on your hand
was tainted with sin
she faced it every day
people she saw on a regular basis
people she loved in several cases
people she knew were incredibly racist
it was painful
but she never stopped loving them
never stopped calling their name
and she never stopped being a southern woman
and she never stopped calling for change
and she saw that her struggle
was in the tradition
of ancestors never aware of her
it continues today
the soul of a southerner
born of the other america

Album- Fight With Tools – 2007

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Tribute to Anne Braden Pt. 2

This is the second of two posts. For the first, please read this one first.

Anne Braden, right, and Ann S. Reynolds escorted the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he visited Louisville in 2000. Braden was an early supporter of Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. (Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr., The Courier-Journal)

The next episode for the Bradens, one which spiraled them into the national spotlight occurred in 1954. To help an African-American couple suffering from the Jim Crow laws they bought a house in an all-white neighborhood near Shively for the couple to live in. Neighbors burned a cross in the front yard and shot out the windows. When this didn’t force the family out, they later blew the house up with dynamite.

The investigation, fueled by McCarthy fervor saw the Bradens’ and other so-called Communists charged with “planning the explosion to stir up trouble between the races and to promote communism.” Carl was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in jail. The conviction was later overturned.

Anne Barden was ostracized from even liberal white circles, but continued until near her death in 2006 to advocate for social justice including issues such as gay rights.

The bravery of a white person to stand up to the ruling white community is a staggering concept, but that  a woman was able to do this and face those in authorities with such conviction is a stunning testimonial and an example to us all.

An activist and example at 80. . (Photo: Bill Luster, The Courier-Journal)

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Tribute to Anne Braden Pt. 1

Anne McCarty Braden was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up in the racially segregated Anniston, Alabama, Her white middle-class family accepted the prevalent southern racial laws.  Ms. Braden was a practicing Episcopalian, and while she didn’t accept racial segregation, she only felt she could openly question it  when she attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia.

Trained as a journalist, she returned to Kentucky to write for the Louisville Times where she met and married fellow newspaperman Carl Braden, a left-wing trade unionist. They both  became active in the civil rights movement at a time when it was unpopular among southern whites and even more so for women.

Anne Braden was arrested for the first time in 1951. Following the sentencing to death of  Willie McGee, an African American man convicted of the rape of a white woman, Willette Hawkins. Ms. Braden led a delegation of southern white women organized by the Civil Rights Congress to Mississippi to protest the execution.

I only heard her story this summer when listening to one of my son’s CD’s on our vacation. Much of Ms. Braden’s  experience is recorded by the Flobots on their 2007 albumFight With Tools in their tribute to her.

More on the amazing bravery of Anne Braden tomorrow.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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