The wedding!

And Raison Det’re of Our Trip

I’d say something about these crazy kids being so in love, but that would not reflect the meticulous planning they put into this wedding for a year. They succeeded, and they’re still so in love.

The flowers were lovely.

The friend who introduced them performed the ceremony and described their almost love at first sight meet-up in a way that made every one laugh.

What more shall I say? Should I mention that music after the wedding dinner was at a decibel level that made the furniture vibrate in the next room?  And that I lay on a vibrating couch with my head turned away from the banquet hall  because the flashing lights would. have triggered a migraine?


Days in Medellin before the wedding

February 21, 2024

Mural in restaurant with Black woman in foregrounds wearing

Have I mentioned yet that Michael’s daughter Beth got married on February 24 in Medellin and that was the whole reason for our South America trip? Well, now you know.

Michael and I left for Medellin on the morning of February 21. For lunch, we ate at Champi, a few blocks from the hotel, which was our first exposure to traditional Colombian food. Michael is a fan. It’s bland, has at least two, usually three starches in the meal and generous servings of meat (beans in less privileged areas.) The coconut lemonade was superb. Cuban coffee was the most expensive coffee on the menu, more expensive than cappuccino. But I noted with appreciation its use as a remedy for headaches.

In the evening, we had dinner with the Taberlys, the family of Eric, whom Beth is marrying. The guy in front is a cousin of some sort and owns the restaurant, Bárbaro, which is famous in Medellin for its steak.Clockwise: Eric’s younger niece, Eric’s sister Simone, Beth, with Eric’s older niece on her lap, Marta, Eric’s mother, Rubens, Eric’s father, Michael, me, Juan, Simone’s husband, and the aforementioned cousin. They may be the nicest family I have ever met, and we are beyond thrilled that Beth is now a part of the

After lunch, Michael and I were passing by a pharmacy and encountered three Venezuelan women. They had laminated papers with pictures of themselves and their children. In English, the papers explained that they were not asking for money, but needed baby formula and diapers. Colombia took in more than a million Venezuelan refugees, but they are not as welcome as they used to be. Michael bought the diapers and formula.

In the evening, we had dinner with the Taberlys, the family of Eric, whom Beth is marrying. The guy in front is a cousin of some sort and owns the restaurant, Bárbaro, which is famous in Medellin for its steak.Clockwise: Eric’s younger niece, Eric’s sister Simone, Beth, with Eric’s older niece on her lap, Marta, Eric’s mother, Rubens, Eric’s father, Michael, me, Juan, Simone’s husband, and the aforementioned cousin. They may be the nicest family I have ever met, and we are beyond thrilled that Beth is now a part of that family.

Our first disaster of the trip happened the next morning when we were going out for breakfast. as I stepped off the curb, my ankle collapsed, and I fell. In the course of the fall, I twisted my left knee and landed hard on my left thigh. The three pictures show my thigh and knee on the day of the fall, February 23, and my thigh on February 27. Fortunately, I had brought some walking sticks in case we would be hiking on rough terrain, so I began using one as a cane.

Friday afternoon before the wedding, we went on a tour of that Eric and Beth arranged of Medellin’s city center. However we first wrote on the metro, which, as our guy, Juliana, told us, is the only subway system in all of Columbia. Paises, as people in Medellin call themselves, are very proud of it.

The visit to Botero Square was memorable. Perhaps our favorite part of the visit was a Venezuelan rapper who created memorable lyrics at the top of his head. I have finally gotten a video clip of him loaded, which appears at the bottom of the post.I have always thought that Botero was a one trick pony. People refer to his “gordos,” or “fat people,”or “gorditos,” roughly “charming little fat people.” But he never liked this designation. For him, his art was about playing with proportion, according to a Julianna (with the gray backpack). She pointed out that the horses in his paintings have thick legs and tiny heads. If you look up his paintings that show houses, they often show people who are far too big to live in those houses.

I was in too much pain to finish the tour, so Juliana called me an Uber, and I went back to eat lunch at the hotel. Michael and I had been enjoying mora juice, which is blackberry juice, and I ordered it at the hotel restaurant for the first time. The waitress asked if I wanted it with sugar or without, I ordered without and learned that the blackberry juice we had been drinking, and probably all the juices we have been drinking have been full of sugar.

That night we attended a party for which the requisite attire was “cocktail dress.” I hope I passed. Every thing advertised as a cocktail dress looks itchy to me. I found a second-hand silk dress that felt great, except for the itchy tag. Although, it may look like I’m drunk in the picture, I drank only water. The decorations were real fruit and quite lovely, although David’s mother-in-law hinted that maybe I shouldn’t eat the centerpiece. David wrote a beautiful tribute to Beth, and Eric’s mom and sister did the same for him.

The event was really for the young people though, who apparently enjoyed shouting at each other over over the extraordinarily loud music.

Good and Bad Fruit; Excellent people

February 20, 2024

The new fruit of the morning was pitaya, a mild flavored fruit. Wikipedia says it’s the same as dragon fruit, but most of the dragon fruit I’ve eaten is almost tasteless. (I had a yellow version at the hotel in Medellin on Feb. 22, and it was more flavorful.)

After breakfast we went to the Colombia National Museum. I didn’t see any signs forbidding photos, but I furtively took this photo anyway. For those who aren’t aware of the sordid history of United Fruit in Latin America, check out this article.

General Smedley Butler was obliquely referring to United Fruit in this famous quotation:

Some of you might not be aware that U.S. corporate elites tried to stage a coup when Franklin D Roosevelt was President. They asked Smedley Butler to lead it and become the first U.S dictator. Instead, he turned in the plotters, which included J.P. Morgan, Irénée DuPont and executives from BirdsEye, General Motors, and General Foods. He was disgusted when these wealthy individuals got off scot free. Rumor has it that FDR told them they wouldn’t be charged with treason if they supported his New Deal.

Right next to the museum, was a restaurant called The Wok, where we met Camila and her dad for lunch. He is also a writer—mostly short stories— and loves Henry Miller. Even though he doesn’t speak English, we managed to discuss what happens when the story takes over in ways we don’t expect, e.g. when characters decide to do things we hadn’t planned on them doing, or when minor characters decide to become important. When I am trying to figure out a sentence or paragraph that isn’t quite right, I walk or work in the garden. He sweeps the floor.

The conversation reminded me that I need other writers in my life. And I need to prioritize the writing.

Less Twitter for me, I guess.

We’re in Bogota

And it’s as cool as I remember it.

February 19, 2024

Michael and I got to the airport by three to catch a 5:00 flight yesterday morning, so we were tired when we arrived at our friend Camila’s beautiful apartment around 7:30 in the evening, but we enjoyed catching up a little.

 Woman wearing jeans and rust-colored top sits on olive green couch. Large throw pillows with symmetrical designs are on either side of her. At both ends of the couch are large, flourishing plants.

Camila generously offered us her bed and I slept better than I had in weeks. Next morning we ate a fruit called guanábana for breakfast. It’s called “soursop” in English. We weren’t sure we liked it.

Even though it looks custardy in the picture, it’s kind of stringy. But I looked it up and apparently it’s really good for diabetes and it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it started tasting better after that. It’s also illegal in the U.S. because it’s an invasive plant.

I needed to get my glasses adjusted, so we followed Google Maps to an optical store and discovered we were in a six-square block area of almost nothing but optical shops. After walking around some more, we lunched at La Puerta Falsa (the false door). A Colombian-Israeli friend of Michael had recommended a particular traditional Colombian soup, Ajiaco Santafereño. Awesome recommendation.

Michael and I are drinking blackberry juice there. Avacados, crema, rice, and capers come with the soup. Michael and I swapped rice and avacado. Camila initially wasn’t going to eat anything but after seeing the soups, she ordered one too.

For dinner, we were lucky that Milena Rincón thought it was worth traveling more than two hours by bus to meet us at Crepes and Waffles. C and W is a Colombian chain restaurant that buys its supplies from small farmers and focuses on teaching low income people, especially single mothers, financial skills. Milena was the first Colombian to join the CPT Colombia team, then the Colombia Program director, and is now the director of all the programs that CPT runs. Since Camila works with an organization that tries to create a culture of nonviolence in Colombia, Michael and I thought it it would be good for them to meet. Also, the food was delicious. I had a salmon Caesar salad and a passion fruit frappé.

I am currently in Medellin and it’s two days later. I thought I’d see what its like to travel without a laptop and blog with an iPad. Turns out it takes a lot longer.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends tour, Part VI

Final Leg of the Journey: Florida, Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia, Home

I’ll explain below.

Our first stop on the way out of Florida. We knew that Jacksonville had plenty of Civil Rights history, but we basically did a drive-by shooting of the James Weldon Johnson Park. He was the author of Lift Every Voice and Sing. Below was the shot; I’m posting full size for ease of reading.

Limited Demographic Productions

Our next stop was Brunswick, Georgia. What do you think when you see this neighborhood below?

Nothing impressive, right? Quiet suburban neighborhood. On February 23, 2020, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan stalked Ahmaud Arbery as he went on a run through this neighborhood and killed him. We used Google maps to find the spot where he died near the street signs above. Our car is parked in front of it. We expected to find a small memorial as you see for fatal auto accidents, but all we saw was the withered flowers above. We left stones as is done in the Jewish tradition, which we had picked up in Selma. You can see them in the picture.

Next, a whirlwind stop in Savannah, Georgia, home to the largest slave auction ever to take place in the U.S. It was also the home to the well-organized Savannah Protest Movement.

By 1964 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to visit Savannah, he called it the most desegregated city in the South. This was largely in part to the work of hundreds of teenagers and young adults who protested and boycotted during the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did the students boycott Broughton St. and hold sit-ins at local restaurants and department store lunch counters (Figure 1), but they also held wade-ins on the segregated beaches at Tybee Island, kneel-ins at white churches, ride-ins on buses, and stand-ins at movie theaters.[i]  They fought for equality in all aspects of lif

Ravi gets wounded

Michael parked illegally in a loading zone, I ran across the intersection pictured below to the former Levy’s Department Store/current community college and snapped a picture of the plaque. Took less than five minutes.

We were very pleased with the comfort and performance of our new Rav4 plug-in hybrid on this trip, although I have to say it still floors me that I am driving a vehicle more expensive than the house I grew up in. Therefore, I am sad that Gorilla tape is currently holding its bumper together. The plaque about the slave auction is located in a small wedge of a park in a residential neighborhood with limited parking. As Michael tried to maneuver out of his spot, he caught the bumper on a very low flatbed trailer. We tried putting the notches and tabs back together, but a couple of hours later, as we were driving to Columbia, SC to spend the night, we heard scraping and weird wind noises. Pulled over to a truck stop/mini-mart, and saw the bumper had come apart, and rubber and fabric stuff was hanging down beneath the engine. We got some tape in the mini-mart and tried to pull out the stuff that was hanging down. A kind trucker with tools then helped us out.

The trucker (from New Jersey) said the rubber thing isn’t essential. We hope he is right. We made it home without further incidents, but poor Ravi 😢

Our last stop in Harrisonburg, VA

I actually have five book projects I’m juggling right now. But two of the top three include Tony’s memoir (see Part V: St. Petersburg/Tampa), and the one I’m working on with Lisa Schirch about Mennonite collaboration with Nazis during the Third Reich. I also thought the note on her dryer was funny.

Thus ended our 3 and 1/2 week saga.

Final Thoughts

A unifying theme of the trip was that in every southern city, young people organized and served as the nonviolent foot soldiers in voting rights movement and against segregation. If they were here today they would be part of the Movement for Black Lives. If young people in the Movement for Black Lives had been born in the 1950s and 60s, they would have been the ones on the stools at Woolworths, in the swimming pool in St. Augustine, with the freedom riders on the buses.

The question for us: are we going to be part of today’s Civil Rights Movement or let the smears of craven politicians and media pundits turn us around?

And finally, more than once I was sad that I couldn’t share these experiences with my father, who died on New Year’s weekend this year. He met Fannie Lou Hamer and participated in a voter registration drive in Mississippi in the 1960s. He was also my most loyal blog reader.

I took this on the New York State turnpike as I drove out to visit my stepmother, Sharon. Finished March 21, 2022 at her house.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part V

One last stop in Georgia, then all around Florida

From the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum in St. Augustine, FL

After Montgomery, we headed to Lake City, FL for some downtime with my college friends Paula and Mark, but we decided to do a quick stop in Albany (pronounced al-BAENY), GA on the way. Using a willingness to face mass arrest, the Albany Movement had the ambitious goal of desegregating the entire city using the strategy of mass arrests. Sheriff Pritchett just kept sending them to jails within a 200-mile radius of Albany. Dr. King considered Albany a failure, but within two years of these arrests, the town was desegregated. Cynthia, our guide at the museum, was surprised that anyone had thought it a failure.

Cynthia kind of interfered with our plans to do a quick look around and then travel on to Lake City, five hours away. However, since she was brand new at the job, and we were the only people in the museum we didn’t have the heart to tell her we didn’t need a guide. When the time got to about an hour later than we had planned to leave, we had to tell her we weren’t going to tour the church, but we did get a selfie with her.

The sun was very bright. Cynthia does not have squinty eyes. She gave us the address of another good soul food restaurant: Flossie’s Soul Food Restaurant
2004 E Oglethorpe Blvd, Albany, GA
I was still full from eating at Antoinette and Selmar’s though.

Lake City Florida: Paul and Mark Moser

We arrived late afternoon at the Moser land. They hold about sixty acres jointly with Paula’s sisters, and it’s full of trails, trees, and gardens—what my friend Tony whom I visited on March 3-4 called Old Florida. I became friends with Paula and Mark when we went to Bogota, Colombia (gulp) 40 years ago for a semester to study Latin American History and Liberation Theology. I think when something transforms how you view the world, you are always attached to the people you were with at the time.

We went out for a 6:45 am walk the next morning with Paula and met up with two of her sisters. We stayed with Pam, the sister with the cane, when we drove from Bluffton to Miami on I-75 and caught the flight to Bogota.

Clockwise from top left: Paul and Michael talking about word games, with the mist rising on the pond in the background; cool fuzzy pink flower; Paula in Pam’s garden; Michael, Pam and Peggy; in Peggy’s house with her orchids; on the walk. Center: me in front of Paula and Mark’s outstanding azaleas.

After the intense learning experiences of the previous few days, hanging out with Mark and Paula in their hot tub, catching up on events of the past decade and just conversing with two interesting people was what we needed. I think they do retirement better than anyone I know. Paula has turned Michael on to a dizzying array of new games like Absurdle, Nurdle, etc., which he is enjoying. If we don’t see them for another 10 years, I know we will pick up right where we left off.

Again, please admire the azaleas. Paula and Mark were watching their grandson that morning, and he didn’t want to leave Paula’s arms, so we couldn’t get us all in one picture.

St. Petersburg and Tampa: Tony Treadway and Glenn Hasek

We spent a couple days in St. Petersburg where I reconnected with my friend Tony Treadway, whom I hadn’t seen for decades. He is working on a memoir and I’m helping him out with editing. Tony is spending his retirement playing in four, count ’em four, different bands. We also had dinner with my old college friend, Glenn Hasek, with whom I co-edited Bluffton’s college paper, The Witmarsum. He, his wife Miriam, and son Ben currently live outside Tampa in Odessa, FL, where he works from home, publishing Green Lodging News, a newsletter about environmentally sustainable practices in the hotel industry.

Did I remember to take selfies of either of these encounters? No, I did not, but Tony sent me the photo on the right after the fact. He sent me several and wrote

“The one with the tin foil – I put that on when the Tortugas perform the song ‘Alien Teenagers,’ and I tell the audience the foil prevents them from getting inside my head.”


Selfies aplenty occurred in Miami, where we visited Michael’s relatives and his daughter Beth. Interestingly. When I tried to find civil rights history that occurred in Miami, I found exactly nothing. Tony (see above) said that it’s the difference between Old Florida and southern Florida. Southern Florida was invented by PR firms, according to him.

Nohelia Jarquin is the daughter of the cousin of Michael’s first wife. He remains close to that side of the family, so “relatives” seems a good description for them. We had lunch with Nohelia, her husband Alejandro and their son Diego. Knowing how much Michael loved nacatamales, a Nicaraguan delicacy similar to, but more elaborate than tamales, she bought hime some frozen ones from a woman who made them, with instructions to boil them the next day.

These instructions left us with a conundrum: how were we going to boil them in a hotel room? After some thought, we bought an electric kettle at the St. Augustine Target, because we could use one at home, and used it to boil the nacatamales. They were superb.

Coral Gables: Beth Melissa, Eric and Eric’s Parents

We had a really good time in Coral Gables with Beth Melissa and her boyfriend Eric. Beth gave us a tour around the area, and Eric took us to his favorite Cuban restaurant, the Versailles. We also had dinner with Eric’s parents, Marta and Rubens Tabarley who were pretty much everything you would want in friends; I wish our conversation could have continued, but my back wouldn’t permit it. Marta is originally from Colombia and Rubens is from Argentina, but they have lived in Coral Gables for many years. Eric cooked us a traditional Asado. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so much sausage before the skirt steak, but I did. If you are offered blood sausage, do not let the name keep you from eating it.

Of course, this event took place after weeks of my worrying that Michael and I would be presentable enough. Our lifestyle trends more casual than Beth’s does. If you zoom in on our picture with the you will notice that I got my nails done. Michael wore one of the new shirts he bought because Florida was warmer than he thought it would be.

St. Augustine

The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum is the type of repository most according to my taste, I’ve found. A small enterprise, run by enthusiastic volunteers with some surprisingly valuable historical artifacts. Our guide clearly regarded all of the objects with great affection, and spoke withpride about the dentists’s office, which houses the museum, having the first integrated waiting room in St. Augustine. (After our travels, I wondered whether it was the only one anywhere in the South during the 1960s.)

Dr. Robert Hayling, the only oral surgeon of any color for miles around, was one of the driving forces behind the St. Augustine Movement which influenced President Lyndon Johnson in his passage of the Civil Rights Act. Do you remember the film of a white man dumping acid in a swimming pool to get black people out of it? That was St. Augustine.

Our enthusiastic guide, Gwendolyn Duncan. Highly recommend.
Our guide said that this sign was from the original St. Augustine Woolworth’s.
Dr. Hayling’s presence is felt throughout the museum. One of my favorite stories about him was how he confronted one of the men threatening him, reminding him that he had performed major oral surgery on him the previous week.
If you can zoom in to read these ephemera, they make the arrests of students more personal and immediate.
St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Dr. King was arrested.
The mother of the Governor of Massachusetts came to St. Augustine with goal of getting arrested. For some reason, Gwen found her to be especially amusing. She does (did) seem like a happy person.
Gwen highly recommends this book to get a wholistic view of St. Augustine in 1964
Dr. Gordon was Dr. Hayling’s partner in St. Augustine.
But no matter how accomplished Dr. Gordon was Lincoln National Life would not sell him insurance because he was not “Caucasian.” There are some other interesting ephemera in that case.
The sign from that hotel where the manager dumped acid in the pool that movement young people were trying to desegregate.

The following eyewitness account of a Klan meeting in St. Augustine describes the threat that forced Dr. Hayling to leave town. I am putting them in full size so that you can read them easily.

Gwen pointed out this church as the church where King and other civil rights leaders met to strategize for the St. Augustine Campaign–and the plaque there confirmed it. However, when we walked back to our car, we noticed another church across the street claimed the same thing. I imagine several churches were involved.

I think the next blog will be the last.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour IV

Montgomery and Selma

Sculpture outside the Memorial for Peace and Justice.

We could easily have spent a week in Montgomery, Alabama and the area around it, but we decided to focus on the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice (aka “The Lynching Museum.”) Like others who have visited, we had trouble finding the words to describe the museum. The designers take you from the Middle Passage (and you feel like you’re underwater as you read about it) through the error of racial terrorism following Reconstruction. You continue to the present New Jim Crow in our prison system, where you can sit in a chair behind a glass panel and talk to real people about what brought them to prison, and what burdens they are bearing.

In the museum, we found the jar of soil that Rabbi Tom Guttherz and his community brought from the spot where John Henry James was lynched (see Part II) on a giant wall of jars, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures of that or anything else in the museum. And the gift shop didn’t have postcards that captured some of the amazing exhibits, so that was a bummer.

We were allowed, however, to take pictures in the memorial, which records all the lynchings that took place in southern counties.

Outside the Memorial
Inside the structure, they use the vertical rusted steel monoliths for the counties and place them in seemingly random order. Outside, they lay them on the ground and put them in alphabetical order by state. I thought it appropriate to record the lynching in my own state.
My first attempt to use the panoramic photo feature on my phone–not successfully. For those who cannot make out the words, it is dedicated to lynching victims whose deaths went unrecorded.
To me, it makes sense they used poets and artists to provide commentary since, in many ways, words fail to describe the museum and the memorial.

That evening, we had dinner with the family of Jalil’s daughter, which provided a much-needed shift in mood and a good space to talk about our visit to the museum and news events. Antoinette, or “Toni,” is a fabulous cook, and we were way too full of food and fellowship by the time we left. We were a little distressed to learn that Antoinette and her daughter Amina were making $2.50 an hour working as servers.

Why did I choose two nearly identical photos? The growing hilarity on little Ayden’s face. Counterclockwise: Me, Antoinette, Ayden, Selmar (Antoinette’s husband), and Michael.

The next day in Selma was quite different. The museums and historical markers were less sophisticated but more accessible. The Legacy Museum almost felt as though it came down from On High. You definitely saw the work of dedicated human volunteers keeping the witness of Bloody Sunday and the marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma alive.

Not sure, but I think the Lowery’s monument stole the quote from Shirley Chisholm.
From Joshua 4:21-22, “When your children shall ask you in [the] time to come what mean these stones, then you shall tell them how you crossed over.”
On the park side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was a little gift shop with a mural painted on its side. It was less slick and professional than the other museum gift shops we visited, but a lot more interesting.

After the park, we made our way across the bridge and explored the city of Selma.

You can’t escape the poverty in Selma. The public housing project across the street from his official historical marker is in significantly better repair than the houses in the neighborhood around it.

We walked back over the bridge again and found a small, unassuming museum open across the street from the gift shop. Unlike the high-tech museums we had visited, we could take as many pictures as we wanted in this one.

Some of the footprints of those who walked across the bridge on Bloody Sunday.
Records of the people arrested in Selma along with a reconstruction of a cell in which they were imprisoned.

Returning from Selma to Montgomery, we stopped at the Rosa Parks museum an hour before it closed. We could only take pictures of the sign out front and her statue in the foyer.

We finished our long day amongst the cloud of witnesses at Connie Bs, which had some darn good soul food. I just ordered sides.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part IV

Atlanta—February 26, 2020

The most cynically overused quote by Martin Luther King. At the Martin Luther King National Historic Park in Atlanta.

From Clemson, we drove to Atlanta, where we stayed with our friend Billie and spent a couple of dinners visiting with her daughter Stephanie.

Billie, left, and Stephanie, right. They are the mother and sister, respectively, of our friend Jalil Muntaqim. Jalil was released in October 2020 and lived with us for seven months afterward. I didn’t write about it, because we all thought it best for him to keep a low profile. Maybe when he finishes parole, I’ll have more to say. But you can check this out
in the meantime.

We did not see all the Civil Rights History-related sites in Atlanta; that would have taken a week. But we figured learning what it was like for Billie and Stephanie to be the only black family living in Skyline, Utah was living Civil Rights history. Also, waiting almost fifty years for their Black Panther son and brother, whose trial the FBI meddled with, to get out of prison counts, I think.

We confined our official civil rights touring to the Martin Luther King National Historic Park one afternoon. Ebenezer Baptist Church, his childhood home, MLK and Coretta Scott King’s tomb, and other significant landmarks all lie within the boundaries of this park.

We noticed that all the historic landmarks and the interpretive center were closed due to Covid, but for some reason, the gift shops at each place were open.

These engraved quotations by MLK Jr were harder to read in person than they are here because I upped the contrast a whole lot when I edited the photos.
Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolence. I’ve kind of gone off Gandi because of Arundhati Roy and my former work supervisor from Meghalaya, India. The real hero who took on the caste system was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, they say.
The Martin Luther King “I have a dream” World Peace Rose Garden, which contains reflections by children on the speech. See lower middle square. Given the most recent war in Gaza, I was particularly moved by the poems by Gazan children.
We weren’t allowed to go into Ebenezer Baptist, but I bought a couple of fans with a picture of Martin and Coretta looking like newlyweds at the gift shop. I look forward to using them this summer
Coretta Scott King, laying down some truth.
Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King probably have the most beautiful final resting place ever.
MLK’s birthplace, home while he pastored Ebenezer, and a typical architectural style in the neighborhood–all very close together.
Walking in the footprints of the faithful witnesses who came before me I learned that Congressman John Lewis had big feet for a small man; Bishop Desmond Tutu and I had the same shoe size, and no way am I going to stwith wwwep on Maxine Waters’ footprints!

I found it hard to leave Billie, currently spitting Stage 4 cancer in the facewith great joie de vivre. Thinking about coming back in the summer.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

We thought we were here for the friends but if you look past all the football paraphernalia stores, you see people working for civil rights and the restoration of history.

From right to left: Our friends Peter (who wrote the definitive biography of Howard Thurman),
Jane (a genetics nurse Ph.D.) Orrville Vernon Burton, who worked for voting rights in the 1960s and is
having to do the same now 60 years later, Michael and yours truly. Jane and Peter were having a good time,
despite appearances.

When we visited our friends Peter and Jane in Clemson, SC, we assumed the visit would be heavy on the friends part of the tour and light on the civil rights. But due to Peter’s career as a professional historian, we did find a civil rights—or maybe “human rights” is a better term—connection.

It all began when Peter (or Jane—I forget)said that the university had probably built its football stadium over the graves of enslaved people.

Clemson Stadium, aka “Death Valley,” due to the prowess of its Tigers team. Maybe they
should keep the name, given it’s probably over a graveyard.

Peter then told us an African American literature professor on campus had led the effort to remember the lives of enslaved people who lived on the John C Calhoun plantation, which became the campus of Clemson University, built by convict labor. The graves of these slaves and convict laborers are marked by flags, or spray-painted circles on walkways around the campus.

Next day, we accompanied Peter to the Clemson Campus to check out what was going on there. Peter was the perfect tour guide to explain, in the era of Black Lives Matter, how the school was navigating between its Board and its faculty what to do with buildings named for enslavers and racists.

Old Main, also known as Tillman Hall, which faculty pushed to rename because
Senator Benjamin R.“Pitchfork Ben” Tillman was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Person.
Black and white head shot of Nancy Washington Legree, an enslaved woman who worked in the John C. Calhoun Home that still stands on the Clemson Campus
Thomas Green Clemson was a Confederate officer and ran a forced labor camp with the
people he enslaved.
The “integration with dignity” happened after its first black student sued Clemson
in federal court for admittance into the University.
This sign was the compromise between the trustees and the faculties. Tillman’s actual
name would come off the building, but they’d put up this plaque alluding to his repugnant attitudes and behavior.

When Peter suggested we tour the home of virulently pro-slavery John C. Calhoun, my first reaction was I didn’t want to be one of those people who toured plantation homes. But Peter encouraged me, saying the exhibits inside were not that kind of Old South nostalgia. We were both surprised, however, by how not-that- kind-of-nostalgia they were. Peter hadn’t been on campus for a while so the narrative of enslaved people who had lived on the plantation/campus was new to him.

But first, we had to learn more about this guy.
I’m using big pictures so that you can see the tags with magnification.

At the end of our Clemson campus/plantation/forced labor camp tour,
we paused to reflect on what we had learned next to a building name for
Strom Thurmond. Some people think he had a conversion experience later in life. Others
beg to disagree.

Another important thing I learned that day: my ankle, broken at the end of June,
could now walk more than four miles.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

Greensboro and Chapel Hill

From Charlottesville, we drove to the Woolworth Museum in Greensboro. In 1960, four young men sat at the lunch counter at the Woolworths and asked for service. They did so for months until the store, experiencing staggering economic losses, quietly caved.

Michael standing in front of the Greensboro Woolworth’s/International Civil Rights Museum

The museum doesn’t allow you to take any pictures, and it didn’t sell any postcards of the pictures I wanted to take, most significantly the wall with the names of all those who died participating in the struggle for civil rights. For those who are interested in going to the museum–the film that they show you at the beginning of the self-guided tour pretty much tells you everything you will see in the museum.

Have you ever heard of the Greensboro Massacre? It sounded familiar to me; my thoughts went to something labor-related. Michael and I were both shocked to learn it happened in 1979 when I was a senior in high school. It started out as a “Death to the Klan” rally sponsored by the Communist party in a low-income housing development. The Klan had been trying to divide workers along racial lines that the communists had been trying to organize in the textile factories. Well, the Klan and the Nazis showed up and killed five of the rally participants—with the collusion of the Greensboro police, as it turns it out. When the police finally turned up, they arrested the rally participants. As part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2004-2006, the city agreed to erect a memorial to those slain at the housing development, but so far, just this plaque marks the event—Marker J-28 in the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program.

We had dinner that night with friends of Michael, who had decided they preferred North Carolina weather to Rochester weather.

Chrissy told me to smile after I took the first one
The names of the beers on tap were fun

On our way to Chapel Hill the next day we stopped to see a friend who used to live in Canandaigua and who also does not miss the snow.

Behind us in the red brick building is a very Whole Foods sort of store, but more community-conscious.

In Chapel Hill, we discovered some significant human rights events. Heard of the freedom riders who de-segregated the buses in the South? What dates come to mind? Well, these folks were doing it in 1947 and were put on chain gangs for their resistance. Respect to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the brave citizens of Chapel Hill.

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History put this up in 2008

Chapel Hill had its own sit-ins, but high schoolers set off the movement here in 1960 instead of college students.

Love me some Direct Action
I was literally standing in front of this monument, when a passerby asked me what I was looking for. He silently pointed to it when I replied.
I thought these kids deserved a close-up.

We spent the night in Hickory, NC with Michael’s friends Kathleen and Kevin, who showed us lovely hospitality, and of course, I forgot to take a selfie of us. I also didn’t find much in the way of sites in Hickory that marked the Civil Rights movement. But I did find a thesis on the desegregation of Hickory High School.

On our way to Clemson the next day, we decided it was time for us to participate in another southern tradition. Verdict: my waffle and Michael’s burger were tasty.

The sun was very bright.