Friday, September 28, 2007

Petitions Requesting Intervention and Change

Dear Governor Blanco,

I am writing to request your intervention into a situation of great injustice taking place in Jena, LA.

Dear District Attorney Reed Walters,

It is your duty to enforce the law fairly and equally. Your handling of the case of "the Jena Six," your disinterest in pursuing the multiple instances of white-on-black violence that preceded the beating of Justin Barker, and your threats to Black students protesting the presence of nooses on their campus, have been neither fair nor equal.



is a site for petitions to Governor Blanco and District Attorney Reed Walters. The site is supported by Color of Change, an organization set up in the wake of the Katrina disaster. There are other petitions around including one suggested by Collateral News on YouTube, where there is a rather good video from last summer to summarize the case up to that point.

Here is the latest from Collateral News.

Notice that this footage ends, not in Jena, but in Philadelphia, PA, (the skyline and murals of that city) and with the reminder that this is not a Southern issue. This is a national issue. It is time we make our national institutions: schools, courts, and workplaces, safe for our young black men and women.

Jena 6 Defense Committee
PO Box 2798,
Jena, LA 71342

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free the Jena 6

Jena 6, a photo story © Michael David Murphy, 2007
This video was made with audio, video, photographs, and scans of court documents on June 25, 2007, in Jena, Louisiana

Dear United States of America,

A boy remains in jail today:

Bell remains in jail pending a possible appeal by prosecutors, a situation that activist Rev. Al Sharpton hopes will be addressed in a scheduled meeting Wednesday with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

The world is watching:

More than 20,000 people converged on the small town of Jena last week to protest the case, and Sharpton said those non-violent protests may increase if Bell is not released quickly.
"We started with a mass demonstration, and then next step would be non-violent civil disobedience," Sharpton said.

The issue is equal justice under the law:

"We are not fighting for black kids that beat up white kids. We're talking about the disparity in how the law works," the New York-based activist said, adding that he still expects the local county prosecutor who brought the charges to be called to testify before Congress.

My thoughts:

Our system of justice must be tended, guarded, protected, from injustice, hatred, and racism. Incidents like these cannot be allowed to slide by. For the sake of future, our peace and our moral selves, we must not allow Jena, LA, or Decatur, TN, (where there is still a sign in the local diner that says, "We have the right to serve whoever we choose") to step outside the bounds of civil rights laws that have been won with the blood of some of the finest and bravest human beings of our collective memory.

Let's not forget.


The Jena 6 and the Little Rock 9

Dear Jena 6,

I don't know where to start, exactly. But I know where not to start—silently. I don't know exactly what to say—but I will say something. I know that issues are rarely completely clear—but that doesn't mean that they aren't clear enough.

Fifty years ago, before you kids were born, and before I was old enough to have to care, because I was white and living in Pennsylvania in a town with a fairly small black population, nine children like you risked their lives, before the nation and the national guard, to grasp a piece of justice, a shard of dream, a handhold of education. Little Rock has changed over the years. Click to the high school web site and you'll see that they proudly list the nine graduates as featured alumni.

But things in the United States have not changed enough over those 50 years. I am ashamed for us. I am ashamed for what that lack of change has meant for you. Media, from across the United States has begun to cover the case of the Jena 6. Here is a link to a Chicago Tribune article and below is a quote from a Christian Science Monitor article:

"The story of the Jena 6 is long and filled with stunning details. The basic points are these: In the predominantly white town of Jena, La., white students hung three nooses last September after black students sat under a schoolyard tree where white students normally congregated. The white students were suspended for three days. After black students protested peacefully, the La Salle Parish district attorney threatened them, saying, "I can make your life go away with a stroke of a pen." Eventually there was a schoolyard fight in which a white student was beaten; he was treated for a concussion and multiple bruises. Although the student was well enough to attend a school function the same evening, six black boys between the ages of 15 and 17 were arrested, five of whom were charged as adults with attempted murder and conspiracy. The sixth student was charged as a juvenile.

"Some in mainstream America may think that blacks feel vindicated or satisfied by tales of racism such as this one, since America often lives in denial about racism and racial inequality. On the contrary, for black Americans to hear of the Jena 6 is to feel as though the color has been washed out of our lives, that we are suddenly watching ourselves in grainy black-and-white footage of the Jim Crow South. Our vulnerabilities are laid bare before all the world; a school fight can cost our children their lives, and it can happen without America giving so much as a second look. "

I am also ashamed that I have not raised my voice enough, or loudly enough to say "No!" to the injustices and racisms in this world and in our land, and in my town, and in your town. I raised no voice in 1957 when 9 students did something to change the lives of everyone in the United States for the good. I know better now. My voice is a rather small voice, I warn you, but I will raise my voice now, on your behalf.

Free the Jena 6.

My prayers are with you,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Survey Says! Gumby!

And Pokey!

Pokey is fine!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Another Who is this man? Survey or Do you really think I resemble a clay figure?

Dear Art Clokey (Click for need-to-know information.),

As a long time fan of Davey and Goliath and the shy masked man below, I was not offended when some of my college friends were sure that I resembled this green clay figure so strongly that they nicknamed me "________"!

I think it's the eyes. Somehow the likeness is pretty striking. As they say, it's a zen-like quality.

But I remember Davey and Goliath. That, my friend, was real television! I'll bet you look back and say, "Those were the good old days."

And they were. I think that Davey and his Philestinian pup came onscreen Sunday mornings right before the Oral Roberts Hour. Roberts, he too in black and white, preached, and offered healing. He would stretch his hand, palm out to the TV camera and offer a healing touch to those of us in TVland. I would often match my small hand to his, or on even better days, I would pull out my Winky Dink drawing screen and trace around the wide fingers of Roberts for a more permanent impression.

Nick Parks and company have taken up the mantle that you threw down as far as claymation is concerned, but still, those were the days. Plus, I think I would rather look like "_______" than either Wallace or Gromit.

Though I do like the looks of this Brazilian fellow from Creature Comforts.

Betsy or should I say, "________"

Friday, September 14, 2007

Stencil Street Art

Dear Banksy,

I know that you are the king of street art. I suppose that is not a good analogy. You are the Picasso of street art. Better? And I must say, your work is incredible. But I have to also say that Knoxville, TN, has it's own,, DaVinci of cinder block and mortar.

I don't know if he has a street name, and I surely won't tell who he is! But our entire office has enjoyed a form of art survey based on his work that can be found between 5th and Gay on King St. A French photographer (Jacques Gautreau) came to our locale to snap some shots and an image of the image ended up in this little rag we've got called the Metro Pulse. At any rate, for me it was an opportunity for a survey, so I hung it up in the office kitchen. See questions, responses and clues below. (Article here.)

Click here for a great image!

Close-up of stencil image.


I never claimed to be an existentialist,
Though my books and thoughts may seem absurd. Rebellion gained me being as a perquisite,
That titled me a thinker, which I vehemently preferred.

Now, I personally was surprised that no one actually succeeded in guessing the ID of this fellow, even with my highly obvious clue.

I have enjoyed the other forms of street art floating about, including yours.

Some other nice examples are here, (if you like to look at the work of the street competition.) As a bookish person, though, I like this experience. The Street Book. Talk about reading on your way to work. This beats all.

Is this really the future of the book?

Go here to read the end of the story!

At any rate. I love your stuff and I love having a local street artist too. It's like living next door to an art museum, isn't it?


P.S. Who is that man?

Josh (in comments) was obviously right and submitted this suggested image with cigarette to clarify!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Beloved Israel

Dear Josh,

In a recent post comment you raised a good question for those of us who live in a place where we cannot see Israel with our own eyes and for those of us who are very much in favor of a place for Israel on our globe. Those of us who hate oppression of any kind, I think, have warm and tender feelings for the people group which has, through history, received the most cruel treatment—the children of Israel.

I would not, for a minute, wish ill for the nation of Israel. In fact, it is for that very reason that I responded when my Jewish friends who are involved in the organization Women in Black asked me to join them in weekly "protests" calling for peace with justice in Palestine. One of those Jewish friends recently tried to visit Israel and Palestine, but she was refused entrance because, on her itinerary, it stated that she wished to visit areas in the West Bank that are in crisis. These areas have come to be known as "occupied areas." The Longstreths, a husband/wife medical team from San Diego did make that visit this past summer. The following link takes you to a description of what they observed.

Here is another piece written by Seth Freedman in the Jerusalem Post.

When I say that I wish no ill for Israel, that does include my belief that the worst ill is doing evil, not being the recipient of evil. It is terrible to be oppressed. It is worse to be an oppressor. It is terrible to be victimized. It is worse to be a victimizer.

Palestinians include both Christian and Muslim individuals. Most of the Palestinians I know here in Knoxville are Christians. Some are Muslim. Both groups are equally oppressed in Palestine. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women here are working together for the same goal. Peace with Justice in Palestine.

As I think of this, my mind randomly jumps to two things. One is Psalm 137. It is not the words of this Psalm that are "dead on," but the emotion.

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?

Palestinian, Jew, American, Muslim, Josh, Betsy--we all can sing this song when we are tormented or far from home. Humans understand this sentiment.

I am reminded, too, of the book I finished last night. The End by Lemony Snicket. Yes, I have finished the last book of the Series of Unfortunate Events, the sad tale of the Baudelaire children. I am fascinated by this study of good and evil written for the 12 year old crowd. As this book points out, the world is a complicated place and one does not do noble things without doing a fair share of treacherous ones. That is certainly happening in Israel. I pray that the leaders of the government there will become more self aware, introspective, and realize that they are investing in too much treachery and too little nobility in relation to the Palestinian population. If they do not, they will find that though they are in The Lord's land, the timbre of the lyres will be sour indeed.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari: There and Back Again

Dear Haleh,

Glad to hear that you are back on U.S. soil. I know that it might be inaccurate to say you are home again, because home to you includes that space where your 93-year-old mother resides, and that is Iran. But that home is not a safe place. Not safe for you and perhaps not safe for very many women. Certainly it is not safe for women who think and then speak, even if in a velvet whisper.

I had written to you at the time of your imprisonment. Now, I am glad your ordeal is over. I do appreciate the time line that Woodrow Wilson Center put together tracking your ordeal.

The Washington Post gave a good account of your recent release, I thought.

Bless you. And sleep well tonight.


APEC Summit

Dear other people concerned about global warming but don't know what to do about it,

September 8-9, leaders of 21 nations that are responsible for half the world's greenhouse gases meet at the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia. Some leaders support binding global targets which experts agree are needed to avert climate catastrophe. Others are campaigning for a weaker voluntary alternative.

This organization, AVAAZ, is getting a petition together to present to the media and whoever will listen, I suppose. They are mounting some extravaganza events too--stuff that would make installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude proud.

You too can still sign this petition by clicking here. AVAAZ says,
"This is already the biggest global climate petition, but we need many more signatures to win over waverers and save the next Kyoto Protocol -- please, add your name today! At the summit, we're sending the petition to leaders and negotiators and mounting ‘target’ spectacles in Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and all round the world."

So this is a little something we can do today for the sake of the globe.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti: A Personal Eulogy

Dear Luciano,

As a young student, living in Philadelphia, I knew little of opera. My first taste of classical vocal stylings were served by contestants introduced by Bert Parks from Atlantic City. My palette had not been whetted.

But, to fulfill an assignment for a first level music appreciation class, I went to the Academy of Music on Broad St., to hear a concert. It was high class stuff for a girl from the hills.
Any concert would have served to gain a check in the right column of the professor's grade book. I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a concert performance by one of opera's rising stars, a young Luciano Pavarotti.

Your artistry didn't just titillate my taste buds, it established an insatiable appetite for the most beautiful and complete music on the planet. There you stood, an overweight thirty something singer holding your signature white kerchief. Your Bel Canto vocal style became the definition of perfect technique for a generation. My husband would later say, while watching you perform, "Look! Look at his mouth, look at his face! Amazing!"

Later that year, trying to sate my new hunger for opera, I saw one of the last performances of Andre Chenier with Richard Tucker in the title role. It was you who stole the title of world's greatest tenor from Tucker, I suppose.

In the ensuing years I listened to you sing, mostly on Saturday afternoons, huddled near a radio, listening to the Metropolitan Opera Texaco broadcasts, or cherishing records, tapes, then CDs, and videos. You were always masterful, your voice a treasure. Thank you, thank you for the gifts of beauty that you bestowed, performance after performance upon our world.

My daughter, AnneGG, just called in tears. She, too, was responding to your passing and commented in gratitude for the world of beauty that you helped open to her. It was Nessun Dorma that made her cry this morning as some radio jockey spun it in tribute to you for the AM listeners. She and I got misty together just talking about that aria by Puccini, which you made so much your own. "No one sleeps. No one sleeps." It was not the first time your Nessun Dorma has made me cry. I'm sure that it won't be the last.



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Tenth Year

Dear Mother Teresa,

I miss you today, ten years after you slipped the surly bonds of earth. But it was more than ten years ago when I stood by a pond and cried, grieving your passing a year or two before you actually did. You had suffered a heart attack that day, from which you recovered. Yet that was when I knew it would not be long until you would be with us no more. And then I cried.

The lines of your pen were as jagged as the lines on your face. And I love both. And the words you wrote and your dear face were beautiful, always.

Here are some more of your words:

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think
that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person
who has nothing to eat.

Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.
What we need is to love without getting tired.

Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.

It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.

Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.

Yes, your words are beautiful, your life was beautiful, your face was beautiful. Oh, how I wish, I looked like you.

Missing you still,


Zorro Revisited and Recovered

Dear Zorro,

I am so glad your paw has recovered. I was worried, (see the Zorro Report from July) but nature took its course for better rather than worse this time.

Seeing you well again, makes me want to break into song, and I know you like music, because when we sing on the back deck, you come to listen (and eat.)

"Into the night,
When the full moon is bright,
Goes the raccoon known as Zorro.
This bold renegade
Carves a "Z" with his paw,
A "Z" that stands for Zorro.

Zorro, Zorro, the raccoon so cunning and free,
Zorro, Zorro, who is the sign of the Z.

He is polite,
But the wicked take flight
When they catch the sight of Zorro.
He’s friend of the weak,
And the poor and the meek,
This very unique senor Zorro.

Zorro, Zorro, the raccoon so cunning and free,
Zorro, Zorro, who is the sign of the Z.

Zorro, Zorro, Zorro, Zorro, Zorro."

Provider of the Meow Mix, brd