The ‘New’ Civil and Human Rights Movement in America?

“If you are going to hold someone down, you’re going to have to hold onto the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own system of repression.” – Toni Morrison (Author)

James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard

James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard

“What’s the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he’s gay?” – Nikki Giovanni (Poet, Educator, Activist)

From a legal point of view, the new civil rights movement means “equal rights = equal protection”. From a moral point of view, this new movement for marriage equality is about human rights and dignity, something that can’t be legislated or taught to people who in the latter 20th century and today don’t seem to understand what that means. Some of us still don’t understand what the black and women’s rights struggles in previous centuries really mean for humanity either. (I’ll give us a couple of clues: progress and evolution.)

About the violation of human rights and dignity: As a female human being with brown skin and of African ancestry, I have encountered a fairly limited amount of discrimination and abuse, so I don’t consider myself an expert on the matter. And race seems a silly concept to me considering what history and science is proving about our origins and why we generally look and behave the way we do. However, learning about the open discrimnation and segregation my mother and her grandparents faced before I was born has prepared me for the worst, while I hoped for the best in human behavior.

This is why I’m ashamed to see the display of hateful behavior from groups organized to prevent others from their pursuit of happiness, legislating morality through propositions, narrowminded biblical interpretations, and outright discrimination, intimidation and abuse through withdrawal of basic civil and human rights. When you deny someone their rights, you deny your own. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, many organizations in the south that weren’t the Ku Klux Klan, concerned citizen groups, used similar tactics to oppress the minority they viewed as a threat to their way of life. What these citizen groups didn’t see? That they were repressing themselves by denying the rights and dignity of other citizens based on illogical and irrational assumptions about humanity based on physical appearance and the oppressive legacy of slavery.

I don’t question the intentions of these new citizen groups and initiatives that oppose the new civil and human rights movement – which includes the legalization of same sex unions and stronger penalties for hate crimes motivated by differences in race and sexual orientation.  Citizens have a right to peaceably assemble, as well as petition their government if they believe a law must be written or changed. What I question is the lack of understanding that we are all human beings with desires and dreams of happiness. Regardless of race and religion, color and creed – despite all our perceived differences – I’m surprised and disappointed we overlook our similarities as human beings. Not all of us have the same goals to meet individual contentment, yet some of us (straight and gay) have the same desires and dreams in our pursuit of happiness – finding a soul mate, a life partner, someone to build a family with if that is what they choose. I’m fairly certain that in 1998, like an older black man from Texas, all a young white man from Wyoming wanted was to live in peace without threats to his freedom and life from the terror of bigotry.

Some who aren’t violent still hold these bigoted views and wish to revoke civil rights in the new century and millennium, although it is disguised as a moral complaint against a new minority – gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered.  There are many, including African-Americans, who justify discrimination and abuse by belief and faith in particular biblical principles, without regard to other principles promoted in that same good book—compassion and love. Many justify the revocation of rights of citizens and human beings by a lack of understanding or empathy.

There is no justification for injustice. When any peaceful human being’s liberty and life are threatened, intolerance and bigotry are never justifiable behaviors. Never. Just because you’re not gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered doesn’t mean hateful propositions presented by “concerned citizens” and upheld by courts shouldn’t matter to you.  As one human rights leader once said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”*

How many more people have to be denied civil rights, taken against their will, tortured and/or killed because they’re different before we realize this and protest?

-Danna Williams, in response to Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 2 in Texas, and a recent California Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on same sex marriage.

*Martin Luther King, Jr.

New poetry, prose and short fiction coming soon… I had to vent.

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Flowers for Mom: “How to Care for African Violets”

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How to Care for African Violets

You loved flowering plants, Mama,
but never had a green thumb.
Your thumb was fleshy pink underneath sepia,
darker than your official retirement gift:
a solid oak wall clock—and softer.

After your last day at work
you put the potted plant gift
on the kitchen windowsill—
the shade ceremoniously drawn at half-mast
to welcome the rising sun.

When company would come
you’d set the blooming plant on the tallest table
in the living room.
The brilliant violet petals and wooly waxen leaves
would glow under artificial light.

On special family occasions,
your brown hands delivered the flower plant
to the dining room table.
You’d ask my sister or me
to gently open the window blinds.

My sister and I gladly obliged,
eager to see you, beautiful in the light—
even as your petals fell and
your leaves bent with acceptance
of the end of your season.

(for P.A.W.)

Audio: How to Care for African Violets by Danna Williams

“How to Care for African Violets” © 2009 by Danna Williams; from Sense, a collection of previously published and unpublished poems.

Gray Day Haikus

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Gray Day Haiku #1 

Funny on gray days –

Houses look like frozen clouds

On the horizon. 

 

Gray Day Haiku #2 

On the dreary days

Houses uphill are prisons

Built by the inmates. 

 

Gray Day Haiku #3 

On the haughty hill

The houses frown down on me,

Threatening to rain. 

 

Gray Day Haiku #4 

Up winding sidewalks

Lay gray clouds of progress –

Fake silver linings. 

 

Gray Day Haiku #5 

Before weary eyes

A vista of dull castles

Blocks the view of trees. 

 

Gray Day Haiku #6 

As I reach the peak

A gray Hummer whizzes by –

But it doesn’t hum.

Movement

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Birthday Girl April 17, 1952

Birthday Girl - April 17, 1952

Movement

i’m so tired of this static life –

tired of the cling of socks and sleeves

but something held me back before.

i thought it was a brief rest stop

but it was the trap of comfort.

i’m working it out like jackie –

classic dance beats and memories

wrap me in a blanket of grief.

we die alone in this world but –

it’s a journey we take together

i can’t look death in the eyes

until i plan a funeral

for self-centered youthful excess.

but i won’t let go of it now –

not for all the days of my life.

i’m working it out like kevin –

dark disco beats and cold comfort –

we really aren’t alone in this.

we have all been in denial but

it’s a journey we take alone.

should i kick and scream like a child

or leave a note for translation:

“Non. Non je ne regrette rien”?

melodrama is too easy –

living by my own wits is hard.

now i have different travel plans –

sometimes with a map or compass

sometimes we’ll intersect or pass each other

without a cross word-

or a crooked middle finger.

(For P.A.W.)

©2005, 2009 Danna Williams

Animal Flower Cave Sonnet

Animal Flower Cave - Barbados

Animal Flower Cave in Barbados

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The following poem was almost submitted to H&H for review, but I considered it a waste of an effort so snatched it from the queue to place here as the early start of National Poetry Month.  “Animal Flower Cave” is one of a few recent attempts to compose a contemporary sonnet.  I won’t bore readers with the source of inspiration, but I will admit it has been too long since I’ve done a strict meter and rhyme verse.  My hope is that anyone reading it won’t judge it or the poet too harshly.  This may be my last sonnet, unless the ghost of Shakespeare inhabits my body, which is very unlikely.

Without further ado about nothing:

Animal Flower Cave Sonnet

Your parting lips that touch the brazen sun,
also graze my tongue – suddenly struck dumb.
The thought of our sex under a sea bed,
and Barrett Browning swimming in my head
confounds the bounds of the hours and long miles-
rhyme conquers reason with seraphic smiles,
between the words and the stories we’ve told,
and sharp shears in your mouth you always hold.
Come swiftly, a speed of light, a heat wave-
through the walls and opening cave.
Wisdom comes to fools in the darkest hours,
truth and love shower the budding flowers.
In the cave’s light I want to hold your hand-
as riptides above separate the sand.

© 2009 Danna Williams

Love Poems (and Other Oddities) from Volume 4 of “Sense”

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I’ve been working on a collection of poems with a working title of “Sense” since 2003, and here is volume 4 from 2006. Some of these poetic oddities involve a love theme, coincidentally just in time for Valentine’s Day. At least one of these poems has been published already, “Tabula Raza Obscura”, and I’m hoping to publish one or two more individually – or collectively – within a few years.

SENSE

It’s Not Easy Writing The Book of Love

June 2006

like throwing hot grits on my face*

Sometimes what you don’t say
is more important than what you do.
I dreamt about her again,
this time scolding me
about to whip my ass –
me – a grown woman
of thirty-three!
But moms have that right.

He didn’t call me a liar,
or a cheat or a thief;
but it’s out there now,
dangling in the cold air
on a warm June night.
Now I’m thinking again –
what the hell was I thinking?!
Maybe I should give up drinking.

For the record, I didn’t lie to him,
or commit some moral or legal crime.
But now I know he doesn’t trust me,
and how can I live like that?
When you’ve done nothing wrong
and you still feel guilty,
maybe it’s time to walk away
and find solace in the solitude.

July 2006

tabula raza obscura*

she pretends it never happened
but there’s a gaping hole
in the middle of the floor
where he put his foot down

she’s walking in the dark
and falling to the underworld
where it’s ok to be imperfect
and better if you’re hopeless

she’s as hopeless as…
a penny with a hole in it
she’s looking for approval
because she thinks it’s love

he’s made up his mind now
she’s a badly drawn doodle
so he wipes her away quickly
with a dry eraser’s flourish.

(it’s a clean slate in her dreams.)

another case of writer’s block

everything has been written before
so i’ve given up poetry for good
now I can write that dessert menu

the world needs more pies and pastries
not “clever” ways to express joy & pain
the hot and cold of the human condition

give me a homemade carrot cake
not another awful love poem
sweetened with insincere artifice

let me dream of dark chocolate truffles
while malaise covers me like a blanket
because it’s comforting food to me now

And you can’t eat words.

he loves me, he loves me not

once upon a time when i was six
before i knew him, before he knew me
i swam in the deep bermuda grass
and picked countless clovers
and those little white flowers
a free gift with purchase.

the petals were so tiny and delicate
but i was a careful, patient little girl
plucking the petals and chanting
about that man i hadn’t met yet
hoping the answer would always be
“he loves me,” and not the other one.

Mama Cass’ Revenge

She loved him the first time he spoke to her but
they never had a real conversation about it.
They’d talk at each other, over each other,
always skirting around the issue –
the issue being she wanted him.

But society isn’t kind to fat women,
despite the Rubenesque portraits
and the feel of a flesh in the dark.
So she sang like a skylark without him,
leaving bubblegum pop days behind her.

You gotta make your own kind of music
and dream a little dream of success.
through the disappointments of life
you will find another way to be happy

even if

lived and loved the fast and hard –
the slow and easy way.

© 2006-2009 Danna Williams. Vol. 4 Sense: A Collection of Poems.

Pending Review: “Lovedoll Desperation”

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Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984)

Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984)

Lovedoll Desperation

Back to back denials of eating flesh
confound love for the young plastic lovedoll.
It comes to life-a civilized cannibal with a camera-
eating raw emotions, spooning heart and liver
to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack pumping hormones
and teenage sex through speakers in our heads.
“Lovedoll’s so punk, it doesn’t even know it,”
never escapes lips frozen in a frame like words-
pinned under glass for human display
in a museum curated by monarch butterflies.

Addendum: The above free verse pending review for publication (since October 21) is in no way associated with the last post. The title and first two lines are completely coincidental. But coincidence is cool sometimes, isn’t it?

LastFM\”Ballad of a Lovedoll\” by Redd Kross (Desperate Teenage Lovedoll OST+)