Category Archives: Politics

Anita Hill: A Hero for All of Us

Jane
Jane

Anita Hill came to our town last week as the keynote speaker for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Our Voice”, our wonderful rape crisis/education/prevention center here in Asheville.

When I heard she was coming, I was immediately right back there on my sofa in Roxbury, New York, glued to the television set, watching every moment of those hearings.  I remembered how I felt completely inspired by her courage, her composure, her refusal to back down.  And I relived how completely horrified and despairing I felt when that panel of white men managed to find a way to approve Clarence Thomas anyway.  Along with millions of other women, I felt kicked in the gut.

Anita HillSo, I was excited to see her.  What I didn’t expect was how, once again, I would be completely inspired by this amazing woman.

Here is a woman whose life was turned upside down simply because she decided to come forward, to do the right thing, to speak the truth.  Here is a woman who believed in our system of justice and fairness, only to get kicked in the gut herself.  But here is a woman who also has never backed down and has managed to find a way to forgive all those people on the Judiciary Committee and to say, “it was not the failure of those individuals; it was the failure of the system.”  The committee, after all, decided not to call in experts to testify or to bring in the other women who were ready to corroborate her testimony.  But here is also a woman who, when asked if she would do it again, answers yes, without a doubt.  “I found my voice in 1991, and I am not about to give it up ever again,” she said.  She said that is what kept her going, what brought her back to life after the hearings, were the letters and phone calls from people all around the country who thanked her for giving them the courage, finally, to speak out, to bring sexual harassment or sexual violence against them out into the light of day–to confront their predator and to bring justice.

I have to say it brings me great pleasure to see how, in the big picture, she has come out on top.  She is a national icon, a hero for women everywhere.  While that other person, who will remain nameless, will always be associated in most people’s minds with sexual harassment and othe predatory behaviors. Continue reading Anita Hill: A Hero for All of Us

Our Voice’s 40th Anniversary Celebration: Anita Hill in Asheville!!

Anita HillWe invite you to join us on September 4th for Our VOICE’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, 40 years of Starting Conversations, at the Diana Wortham Theatre featuring keynote speaker Brandeis University Professor of Law Anita Hill. Ms. Hill started a national conversation by disclosing her experience of workplace sexual harassment and focused the country’s attention on a difficult topic too often met with avoidance and silence. Welcome reception is scheduled for 6 pm; program beginning at 7 pm.  

One of the biggest challenges we face in ending sexual violence is silence. Many survivors are silent about their experiences, often due to the shame, fear, and victim-blaming that our society perpetuates. Many community members are also silent because the topic makes us uncomfortable or we feel disconnected.

But while it can be hard to think and talk about, remaining silent is the surest way of encouraging the harassment, abuse, assault, and rape that affect so many in our community.For forty years, we have been committed to breaking that silence by starting and sustaining conversations with many different people and community partners. Our counselors start conversations with survivors regarding their next steps to recovery.

We start conversations with law enforcement agencies and medical centers to improve responses to sexual violence. We start conversations with students around staying safe online and bystander intervention. We start conversations with Spanish-speaking survivors who are now able to work with one of our 4 bilingual staff members. We do this work because we know that in order to prevent sexual violence we all have to talk about it, and once we are all talking about it, we are working toward eradicating it.

Our meaningful accomplishments throughout our agency’s forty-year existence have been possible only through the caring involvement and generous support from people like you and me. Much work remains to be done, none of which can happen without our continued support.

With this in mind, we invite you to sponsor the Our VOICE 40th Anniversary Celebration. Enclosed is a list of sponsorship opportunities for your review. You will find a number of sponsorship benefits, including a reception with Ms. Hill, but undoubtedly the most valuable benefit is offering the opportunity for healing to people who have experienced a great injustice and helping us prevent these crimes from ever happening. Community support is essential to the work of Our VOICE.

We invite you to be part of it.
All the best,
Andrew B. Parker,  Board President

Angélica R. Wind, Executive Director

To purchase tickets to this wonderful event, visit Our Voice’s website at www.ourvoicenc.org.  Also, join us for a special screening of the documentary, “Anita HIll:  Speaking Truth to Power” at the Fine Arts Theater, Asheville, Thursday, August 28th, 7 p.m.  Tickets on sale at the theater for $10!!!!

Martin Luther King Day, My Memories

Annice, 1967
Annice, 1967

As I sat down to my computer this morning, I was going to write about a disturbing film I saw the other night but then, I realized it was MLK Day, and the film idea seemed trivial.  So, instead, I sat back and tried to remember where I was on that Thursday, April 4th, 1968 when I heard the news Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  So, when it happened, I saw it all, sitting in my living room with my family watching it on the evening news, in black and white, as reported by Walter Cronkite on CBS.  LBJ was our President and he came on TV to tell us how sad it all was for America.  My parents agreed, and so did I.

Even though I was only 15 years old, I remember a lot about what happened that day, and even that decade.  After all, I was ten years old when my President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963, and I would never forget that.  And who could ever forget MLK when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of hundreds of MLKdreamthousands of people in 1963 at the March on Washington?  And, there was music, amazing performances that day with Josephine Baker, Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.  My father was a huge fan of Mahalia Jackson.

Needless to say, growing up in Cleveland, I was aware of all the turmoil and violence of the 60’s.  In between the March on Washington, and the assassination of MLK, we had race riots in the inner city during the summer of 1966, and once again, I remember watching it all on the evening news.  And it was violent. The Governor called out the National Guard, and it looked like the city was burning down and people were getting killed and many more injured.  The violence seemed so close, yet so wrong according to everything I heard MLK preach.

And then, more violence, and I’m not even talking about all the disturbing images I saw on TV of people getting killed in Viet Nam.  I’m talking about what happened three months after MLK was gunned down, another assassin shot and killed Bobby Kennedy, (we all called him, Bobby) and once again, we sat around in our living room witnessing that murder.

As the 60s ended, and I began thinking about college, I informed my parents I wanted to go where all the action was – UCLA or Berkeley. “Are you crazy?” They absolutely refused to contribute a dime to either of those schools.  We have fine schools in Ohio, and Kent State is so close.  Seriously, I thought? It’s practically in my backyard.  I rejected it.  And then, on a warm spring day in May, I remember my friend, Terry, who was at Kent State, came running into our school telling everyone they were shooting students on campus.  He was agitated.  Our teacher yelled at him and told him to leave but he wouldn’t.  He couldn’t be telling the truth.  After all, why would anyone want to kill students?  Terry’s account of what happened was confirmed that night on the evening news.  Four Dead in Ohio.  The National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.  And so began a new decade.

Today, when I think about MLK and all he stood for, I am grateful for his legacy of non-violence.  Progress has been made in civil rights and in human rights, but we are not finished yet.

Jane: My Turn to Vent

I’m feeling pretty discouraged about my state and my country these days.

I’ll start with my state.  North Carolina has always been known as one of the more enlightened states in the South, with good schools, good social programs, good people.  But what is going on in our legislature is not just random changes in our laws; it is a shift in the kind of state we are deciding to be.  And it is disheartening and embarrassing.

I know that all the changes that folks in Raleigh are trying to bring about are happening under the guise of fiscal responsibility—a noble banner to carry in a Recession—but, when things are as tough as they are right now, maybe that’s when we should remember most that there are things to consider that are just as important as the bottom line.

Maybe now, when the chips are down and people are most fearful, it’s most critical for us to remember that children raised in poverty have trouble ever getting out of poverty and that the first two to three years of a child’s life are the most critical in that child’s brain development and that if we don’t want our streets and prisons of the future overcrowded with angry, poorly educated, frustrated people, maybe it’s time to take a stand.

Maybe it’s time to stand up, for instance,  for quality child care, for every child in North Carolina.  After all, when more families are living in poverty in our state, and families are desperately trying to work their way out of poverty, isn’t it time for all of us to join together to help those families with more subsidies, more high-quality programs?  Isn’t it time to fight for tax reform that puts the greatest burden on those people most able to bear it instead of, once again, on poor people who don’t have the money or the time to fight for themselves?  Why do we always consider raising the sales tax first?—because it’s the easiest to get away with.

I am disheartened by what I see happening in Raleigh, but I also draw encouragement from the wonderful protestors in Raleigh!

And I’m disheartened by what’s happening in Washington, the capital of my country, the country that, after all, elected Obama on a platform of change and hope—and possibility.

As we tighten and tighten our national social program belt, while leaving our military budget virtually intact, what choices are we making for our future?  As we fight and fight over power in our House and Senate, while poor children stand hungry at the door, what kind of a people are we deciding to be?

It seems to me that if we do not start investing real money into the things that can really make a difference for this country, like good education for everyone, affordable health care for everyone, and real measures to decrease global warming, we are making some pretty bleak choices for the future of our children and our children’s children.

I would like to ask each legislator in Raleigh and Washington to take a minute before voting on any new bill to ask themselves two questions:

1) On my deathbed, will I be proud of my vote on this bill?  And 2) If the people most affected by this bill were my children or my grandchildren, would I vote the same way right now?

Maybe I should put it this way:  if I really walked in my neighbor’s shoes for one day, would I vote the same way?

Some of you tea party folks are always talking about bringing Christianity back into politics.  Well, damn it, if nothing else will work to get people to come back to thinking of other people as their brothers and sisters, then let’s do it!  Let’s redefine our political agenda based on an even stronger Christian basis.  Maybe then, when it comes our turn to vote on education reform/immigration reform/environmental protection/using drones to bomb innocent people/and, yes, gay marriage, we might actually stop, take a breath, and ask ourselves:

“What would Jesus do, really?”  And, for once, we might have the guts to listen to the truth that we can hear better with our hearts than our brains– and act accordingly!

 

Question of the Week: What News Story Brings Back Your Early Teenage Years?

This is an experiment to see if we can get our readers to join in more of a dialogue with us.  We are going to pose a question each week, and see if we can get some interesting responses.  The question for this week is:  “What one news story do you most associate with your early teenage years for you and why?”

Here’s my answer:  The assassination of Martin Luther King

And here’s why: at the time of King’s assassination, I was living on an Army post in Germany and feeling sad about our tour there coming to an end—and I was more than a little worried about going back to the States and entering high school.  There was a string of assassinations that summer—first King and then Bobby Kennedy—and these events had a powerful effect on me, much more so even than John Kennedy’s death, since I was only in the 4th grade for that one.

The thing is that James Early Ray changed more than just one man’s life that day when he pulled that trigger:  my whole world was turned upside down.  The news stories and the pictures from that one event was that the United States had changed, in my head, from a place where beloved relatives lived and you could buy a wonderful hamburger into a land where good people got shot down.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta

The States suddenly seemed dramatically different from our secure, enclosed post at the top of a hill overlooking the little town of Landstuhl, and I couldn’t think about going back there without having day-mares and nightmares.  And now, whenever I think about King’s assassination, I feel that same scary, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  His death was not just the death of a great person—it was the first of many events that shook up my world and made me feel very aware of death, very aware of evil, very aware of how unpredictable and frightening a place the world could be.