Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Couple Good Listens: Gumbo

I'm one of those social and environmental justice activists who rereads inspiring texts and youtubes great speeches over and over again. It's true. I also like to relisten to good podcasts while baking on Sunday mornings. I bake on Sunday mornings.

This morning I relistened to a KQED Forum podcast from last January 18, when President Obama was receiving his Nobel Peace Prize and our country (most of us anyway) were celebrating the life of Martin Luther King jr. The other day a friend told me that her parents refused to tell her their political affiliations while growing up. When she reached conclusions herself she would share them with her parents and they realized they had all reached similar conclusions.

That was not my house. I watched Jesse Jackson's Democratic national convention speech when I was 8. I ran back and forth between rooms in the house to watch with each of my parents some part of it. I appreciate those discussions in my house growing up. But I'm assuming that kids pick up social cues that turn into political philosophies regardless of these types of thought provoking discussions.

On Monday Robert Kennedy jr posted an editorial about his Uncle's assassination in 1963. His article is obviously in light of the Tucson shooting. There are stories in that writing that I had never heard before though I have read many books and articles about that time period. This morning, after listening to the Forum, I started looking around for more Martin Luther King jr speeches. And I listened again to these songs, really. They are more of song than speech. One that popped up is from Robert Kennedy announcing King's assassination.

I'm one of those Kennedy Democrats, though I'm not actually a big fan of Democrats in general. I do still remember my first time running into Teddy and his dogs in the hallways of Congress during my many years of hill drops as a low level intern/assistant/volunteer. (A hill drop is when groups bring something to raise awareness of an important issue to each member of congress. Many times it is to every single member of Congress and it takes a long time and your back hurts afterwards.) I think most who vote Democratic of my age are inspired by the Kennedys, since we grew up in homes that were filled with stories of that time.

However, without a single Kennedy in Congress at this moment new Kennedy stories aren't as sure to come so easily to mind. Though this week Patrick Kennedy has been outspoken about the need for mental health solutions and compassion. How I wish Caroline would be one of those Kennedy's. A great female progressive orator on the national stage is just what we need, not that Ann Richards wasn't. Ann always sounded like she was speaking just to you. Wait, I'm getting the feeling that the 1988 Democratic convention had a pretty big influence on me.

I've mentioned it before, but I really feel that the conflict surrounding mountaintop removal in Appalachia is similar to the civil rights movement in the South in '60s. One of the great activists in this fight is Judy Bonds. She recently passed away from cancer. Her memorial service was held yesterday. She was a tireless fighter for environmental justice in West Virginia. We need to remember that the people in her community who are fighting to end mountaintop removal are being threatened and assaulted for defending their homes and promoting cleaner energy. A good reminder that there are greater orators in our own communities when we need them.

And for one more good listen,,Lois Gibbs.

Renee Claire

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