Free postcard template — stop gun violence!

If you’ve not yet heard, there was another school shooting yesterday. It happened in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott and other lawmakers have repeatedly relaxed gun-ownership laws. I don’t have words to talk about this now — I can’t even begin to think about the pain those families are going through, the staff at the school, the other children… But all the more reason to ACT NOW!

If you live in the U.S.A., or even if you don’t, you can do one simple thing by letting law makers (mainly Republicans) know they are complicit in gun violence. I have created a very basic postcard template for those of you who have access to double-sided printers.

All you need is cardstock to print the postcards on. They are already sized and set up for the U.S. Postal Service. They are black and white because not everyone has access to color printers. When you are ready to print the pdf, make sure you select double-sided and “flip on short edge.” (This is what worked for me, anyway.) Then, cut them to size, sign your name somewhere on the card, and fill in the address.

Who to send to?

If you know who your Republican senators are for your state, they are a good place to start. You can look up their office locations here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

If you don’t live in the United States, you can contact these key senators who are either standing in the way of passing gun-safety laws, or who may be persuaded to vote FOR them:

Joe Manchin of West Virginia (Democrat)
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (Republican)

455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

John Cornyn of Texas (Republican)

Washington, DC Office
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Susan Collins of Maine (Republican)

413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

James Lankford of Oklahoma (Republican)

316 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Marco Rubio of Florida (Republican)

284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Angus King of Maine (Independent)

133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Mt. Gilead, Part 2: Julius Chambers

Last year, I wrote about a family trip to Montgomery County, NC, and I promised to follow up on a few “mysteries” of the little town Mt. Gilead. Better late than never, right? Today, I’m writing about one of the faces painted on a mural in Mt. Gilead: Julius L. Chambers.

Photo taken by me in 2021 in Mount Gilead, NC.

Obviously, Mr. Chambers was an important person in the town of Mount Gilead — but why? Well, it turns out that he made a huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina (and beyond). He was born in Mt. Gilead in 1936, the third child of William and Mathilda Braton Chambers (they would have four children, all of whom attended college and graduate school). His father owned an auto-repair/general store in Mount Gilead.

Education was extremely important to the Chambers family, and Julius’ older siblings attended the Laurinburg Institute, a private Black preparatory school (its history is another story in itself!). However, Julius didn’t have this advantage because of an incident that happened around 1948, when a white customer refused to pay his father for service.

“But one April day, fighting back tears, William Chambers told his son that the $2,000 he’d saved to send him to school was gone, thanks to a white customer whose 18-wheeler Chambers had maintained and repaired for months, buying parts out of his own pocket. That morning, the man had refused to pay the bill and jeered as he drove off with the rig. William Chambers spent the afternoon going door to door, asking for help from the few white lawyers in town. They all turned him away. That was the day Julius Chambers vowed to study law.” (Article by Dannye Romine Powell and David Perlmutt, The Charlotte Observer)

Julius Chambers in 1975 (photo from blackpast.org)

So, Chambers attended the public Black high school in nearby Troy — as well as having no library, “students had to kill and cut up hogs on the principal’s farm” (The Charlotte Observer). Julius joined a Book of the Month club to make up for gaps in the school’s curriculum, but still wasn’t as prepared for college as his older siblings, who’d attended the much better Laurinburg Institute. (As a side note, that’s not to say that Black teachers were lacking. Malcolm Gladwell has a great podcast, Revisionist History, where he talks in great detail about this. Check it out!)

Despite the odds, Chambers powered forward and earned admission to “North Carolina College” in Durham (now N.C. Central University), where he became student body president and graduated “summa cum laude.” He went on to earn a Master of Arts in European history at the University of Michigan, followed by a law degree at the UNC Chapel hill, newly integrated only eight years earlier. At UNC, he became the first Black editor-in-chief of the North Carolina Law Review and ranked first in his class of 100 upon graduating.

“Although he graduated first in his law school class of 1962, he could not attend the school’s celebratory banquet because of its location at a segregated country club.” (blackpast.org)

But Chambers didn’t let this incident derail him. In 1964, he worked toward his second Master’s degree from Columbia University Law School and began interning for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall himself selected Chambers for the position, which was the start of a long and historic career in civil rights.

After finishing up at Columbia, Chambers moved back to North Carolina and opened a civil rights law practice in Charlotte. The first lawyer he recruited was white — Adam Stein from Washington, D.C., — marking the first time a Black and white lawyer had joined forces in the South (not just in NC). With the recruitment of more lawyers, the firm became “Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, & Atkins” and took on hundreds of civil rights cases, challenging everything from discrimination in public hospitals to saving the jobs of Black teachers unfairly dismissed during integration. One of his most famous cases was Swann V. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education:

“Together with lawyers of the LDF, they helped shape civil rights law by winning benchmark United States Supreme Court rulings such as the famous decision of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), which led to federally mandated busing, helping integrate public schools across the country.” (https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/julius-chambers-39)

Julius Chambers’s office in Charlotte was firebombed in 1971. (Charlotte Observer File Photo)

In retaliation for shaking up a system that had always favored them, disgruntled White people used violence to try to intimidate Chambers. It didn’t work. In 1965, after Chambers sued to integrate the “Shrine Bowl,” an annual all-star football game held in Charlotte, his home and the homes of three other Charlotte civil rights leaders were blown up. Chambers and his wife, Vivian Giles Chambers, had been in bed when the sticks of dynamite were thrown into their home.

“I threw up next to the house. I was angry,” he told the Observer recently. “I didn’t know who did it. I didn’t know why they would do it. I had my ideas. We knew getting with the Shrine Bowl was going to cause a lot of problems. And it did.” Chambers told the Observer he felt the Shrine Bowl lawsuit was one of his most important civil rights cases. “We were able to reach a lot of parents, teachers, principals, who played very important roles in black and white communities,” he said. (Charlotte Observer)

Chambers’ office and his car were also firebombed. But he kept on.

“The animosity toward him and his positions was just heavy and real. You could feel it,” said C.D. Spangler, former UNC president, who came on the school board in 1972 after Chambers had sued that board and won. “But he never let that change him personally.… He didn’t hate the people who hated him.” (Charlotte Observer)

Chambers’ is described as a “quiet” and “softspoken” person, which makes me think of the saying, “Still waters run deep.” His opponents underestimated him, it’s clear, and he used this to his advantage in the courtroom.

“A lot of people were surprised to see Chambers in court,” said his partner James Ferguson. “Some people expected him to be bombastic and always on the attack. Chambers never raised his voice. He was always very low key and very calm, and because of this approach, he disarmed the witness.” John Gresham, a former law partner, said Chambers had a habit of playing with string or a rubber band, often making a cat’s cradle, while interrogating a witness – lulling the witness into a false sense of security. Another tactic, Gresham said, was to start out asking innocuous questions that appeared to be aimed at finding out very simple things about the company’s policies. “You could see the witness relaxing and thinking, ‘This guy doesn’t even know how we operate.’ Then Chambers would very carefully draw a circle around what he wanted to know, and as soon as he had the loop closed, he would bore in, and you could see the witness thinking, ‘Oh, my God!’” (Charlotte Observer)

The second half of Chambers’s life was no less active — from serving the NAACP-LDF as their third director-counsel and successfully defending affirmative action and other civil rights laws to leading North Carolina Central University as the chancellor. It is impossible to capture all of Chambers’ accomplishments and struggles in one blog post, but at least we have a small understanding now why Mt. Gilead is so proud to call Julius Chambers one of their own. Mr. Chambers died in 2013 and the age of 76 in Charlotte, NC, survived by his two children Derrick and Judy, and three grandchildren. Among many honors, a statue, high school, and highway now bear his name.

In 2018, NC Governor Roy Cooper and Julius Chambers’s family dedicated a section of Interstate highway in Charlotte to his memory. (https://countynews4you.com/highway_dedicated_to_julius_chambers.htmlhttps://countynews4you.com/highway_dedicated_to_julius_chambers.html)

Sources/For more information:

Reading, Writing, and Race: The Desegregation of the Charlotte Schools, by Davison M. Douglas

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article116679528.html

https://www.thestate.com/news/local/civil-rights/article14438921.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20040918083340/http://www.unctv.org/biocon/jchambers/timeline.html

Let’s help women and girls!

Yesterday, I heard on the BBC that the UK government is planning to cut aid to a United Nations family planning program by 85%. The program provides contraceptives and maternal health care to women in poverty-stricken areas of the world, including Africa. It also works with local governments so that they can provide for their communities in the future.

Photo by UNICEF/Catherine Ntabadde. Babies at a neonatal intensive unit at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda, which was refurbished with support from UNFPA.

“When funding stops, women and girls suffer,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, said in a statement, “especially the poor, those living in remote, underserved communities and through humanitarian crises.”

The withdrawal of approximately $180 million to the UNFPA Supplies Partnership, would have helped prevent around 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions, she added.  (UK’s 85% family planning aid cut will be devastating for women and girls says UNFPA, while UNAIDS also ‘deeply regrets’ cuts | | UN News)

This news made me so angry because it seems that always women and girls, especially those of color and in poverty, are the ones left out in the cold whenever government cuts are announced. And women and girls are vitally important to our global health! No birth control means unplanned pregnancies, leading to unsafe abortions and maternal deaths.

Girls having babies means less chance of them getting an education. Those girls will not have the opportunities to study, have careers, and give back to their communities and the global community. It’s a cliché, but it’s true — we are all connected. When poorer countries suffer, we all suffer.

So, last night, I started a petition. My goal is to raise awareness of the potentially devastating effect these cuts would have on women and girls (and their communities). If enough people sign, we can sent a strong message to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office that the world sees what they are doing. And we don’t approve!

Let’s stop these cuts!! Please sign my petition today and forward it to as many people as you can!

Mixing it up!

While my writing has been … a bit slow, I’ve been taking on other creative projects. My podcast, Train Your Brain to be Creative (I know, not a very creative name!), has been really fun to work on. And now, using ideas from my online graphic design classes, I’m creating designs in zazzle.com to put on tee shirts, tote bags, and postcards.

My latest “collection” (sounds fancier than it is!) is of powerful female leaders, inspired by Kamala Harris’s recent win! It’s really fun to take a photograph from the Creative Commons and edit it, adding colors and swirls and all sorts of thing. My goal is to improve my tech skills, have fun, and spread some positive images out there!

Whatever I sell in this collection, I’m going to donate the profits to the Malala Fund, which advocates for girls’ secondary education in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. Malala Yousafzai is a hero of mine, having survived being shot by the Taliban when she was only 11 years old. She didn’t let that stop her and went on to become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate!

You can check out my online zazzle store here: https://www.zazzle.com/collections/woman_power-119711412469975520

Vote by snail mail?

In the United States, our General Election is on November 3, 2020, and as you can imagine, there’s been lots of talk about whether or not it’s safe to go to the polls during the Coronavirus pandemic. The fewer times you have to be around lots of people, the better, right? So, voting by mail is a huge topic of conversation these days.

What is it?

Well, voting by mail is basically the same as absentee voting, which has been around since the Civil War.

” What we in the U.S. now call absentee voting first arose during the Civil War, when both Union and Confederate soldiers were given the opportunity to cast ballots from their battlefield units and have them be counted back home.” (MIT Election Data + Science Lab)

Traditionally, absentee voting was limited to people who were too sick to vote on election day, or who were overseas during the election. Beginning in the 1980s, many states began to allow absentee voting for any reason at all.

This year, due to the pandemic, many states are making it easier to vote by mail. Check your state’s election office to make sure you know what the rules are and so you don’t miss any important deadlines!

How does it work?

Basically, you get an application from your state or county Board of Elections office, fill it out, and a few weeks later (depending on how close to the election it is) they mail you a ballot. You complete your ballot and mail/return it to the Board of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on election day.

In North Carolina, you must have one witness to observe you filling out the ballot (but not observing WHO you vote for). Other states may have different rules about this.

For information about absentee voting in NC, check out the state BOE website.

Is voting by mail reliable?

The short answer is yes. There are very few cases of voter fraud associated with mail-in ballots, and safeguards are in place to help prevent fraud. This article by Bipartisan Policy Center gives a great overview and talks to local and state election officials.

“…  jurisdictions with all-mail elections must constantly update voters’ addresses to ensure that the right voters receive the right ballots. As a result, when a person moves, they are unlikely to get the wrong ballot by mail, whereas an in-person voter with an outdated address could be going to the wrong polling place for years.”

What should you do?

It’s up to you how you will vote in 2020. I’m going to go ahead and fill out the absentee ballot application that a nonprofit sent to me in the mail. That way, it’s done, and no Coronavirus, car breaking down, or other unexpected disaster will stop me from getting to the polls!

Key West Storm GIF

Are you marching?

Hundreds of marches are going on next Saturday. Check the website mentioned below if you are interested in finding one near you…

is March For Our Lives! Join the movement for change in Washington or your local community (or internationally). I will be joining in from Brussels. Follow the link to find out what your community has planned. https://marchforourlives.com/

via MARCH 24th! — ellisnelson

Highway of Tears

I’m listening to another CBC podcast: “Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?” Reporter Connie Walker investigates the 1989 unsolved murder of a young indigenous woman. Alberta Williams was found along Highway 16 in British Columbia, now known as the Highway of Tears because of the number of women (mainly indigenous) who have been murdered or went missing along the highway.

As she interviews people who knew Alberta, Connie Walker peels back the layers of a terrible past that may be unknown to many non-Canadians.

From the 1880s until as late as 1996 (!!!), the Canadian government operated “residential schools,” or boarding schools for indigenous people. Children as young as 6 were forcibly removed from their homes and taken from their families to spend years in cruel institutions where they faced sexual abuse, forced starvation, and even death. Their hair was cut, and they were not allowed to speak their ancestral languages.

The legacy of residential schools continues today, passed down by grandparents and parents who were treated less than human. Alcoholism, PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, and feelings of worthlessness are remnants of the residential school system.

I just finished listening to Episode 3, where Connie Walkers begins to connect the past with the present — why are indigenous women  3 to 4 times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous Canadian women? Unlike all the other podcasts I’ve listened to, Walkers draws from her own childhood experiences and links the culture to the crime.

Walker’s approach underlines how no crime stands by itself. We are all products of our upbringing, history, and society. And it reminds me how every country has its shameful past — the U.S. being no different — that affects its citizens for generations.

Born a Crime…

This is a re-post of a re-post! Looks very interesting!

Originally posted on What’s Nonfiction?: Book review: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. Apartheid is one of those subjects that I know embarrassingly little about beyond the basics. If you’re in the same position, I highly recommend comedian…

via South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor — Memoir Notes

Show your love

If you follow U.S. elections, you know that Democrat Doug Jones won the Senate seat in Alabama yesterday, largely due to the turnout of Black voters. CNN reported that 98% of Black women and more than 90% of Black men voted for Jones.

Kamala Harris (right) at a rally for the Affordable Care Act, June 2017.

So, why did college-educated white women (and men!) mostly vote for Republican candidate Roy Moore? Moore has been accused of sexual encounters with teenage girls and has romanticized the times before slavery was abolished.

If you are a women, know a woman, or have any female members of your family, it does not make sense to support Moore. If you are in favor of Black people having equal rights, it does not make sense to support Moore. What is the explanation for his popularity among the majority of white Alabama voters?

  1. Many educated white women and men still believe it is okay for men to sexually assault girls and women.
  2. Many educated white women and men still believe it is okay to discriminate against Black people.

As a friend on Twitter said last night, while the election results were being reported,  “Privilege is a powerful drug.”

If you are reading this and you are a white person, thinking, “But I’m not like that!” then take concrete steps to disprove the statistics. Support organizations, businesses, and political candidates who stand for values that support all people, regardless of race or gender.

Sign that reads, "Green jobs not jails."
Photo courtesy of Brooke Anderson at https://www.flickr.com/photos/brooke_anderson/773438823

Here’s a list to get you started:

 

 

 

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