Toni Morrison On Focus in the Midst of Chaos

“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” -Toni Morrison

Toni MorrisonOne of my mentors, Toni Blackmon (Free, posted this on Facebook just as I found myself stopping to read and respond to every post about Ferguson, MO and Michael Brown. With so many deaths being reported weekly, including Robin Williams, and then the death of a high school classmate, Monday morning I was feeling overwhelmed with work and purpose and my growing “to-do” list. But what I was reminded was that in the need to feel useful, sometimes the best thing we can do is accomplish our goals, finish what we started so that we can move on to the next meaningful step in our success, toward our dreams — fulfill our destiny.

What is destiny? If you are inclined to reach beyond a weekly paycheck, then you know that the burning desire inside is more than just about money or fame, it is about achieving something that will contribute to the greater good. And so, I was reminded that I am not the only being affected, that I, along with countless others, have created some of my best work during times of stress, oppression and grief. To deal with our own personal challenges, horrors, emergencies, families, circumstances in concert with the chaotic crescendo circling us can feel like insanity. But we have the power and ability to focus and choose. We can choose to ignore that which we cannot change, we can prioritize and contribute where we will be most effective. We can rise above the din and allow a peaceful energy, a productive energy, a positive energy abound.

We can set the tone for more than this. We can be more than tools reacting to a social injustice that goes far deeper than recent incidents, and we can go to the foundation, making far reaching change more possible.

That’s my soapbox for today. I just refuse to be angry and sad and depressed. Action will help keep us motivated and keep our Eyes on the Prize!  – Joy

Videos: What’s Being Done in Ferguson, What We Have to Say

Video: NAACP President Cornell Wm. Brooks in Ferguson


What to Say About Michael Brown? – Ferguson, MO

by Joy W. Simone

Tcourtesy Facebookhis is not a roll call of the senseless deaths that occurred over the last month or year, the unjust acts that have left numerous, nameless young African American boys in graves. This is not a roll call of the senseless beatings, attacks and abuse suffered by African American girls across the country who have suffered in silence. Our missing children go without a searchlight, without nationwide acknowledgement, without fair treatment. Yet, parents, neighbors, friends, classmates, and families grieve. There’s a poem by Langston Hughes called Democracy that has special meaning to me because I once won an oratorical contest based on my delivery. At the age of 15, however, I did not fully comprehend its meaning, its weight, its implications.


Democracy will not
Today, this year
  Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
 To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

     Is a strong seed
     In a great need.

     I live here, too.
     I want freedom
     Just as you. – Langston Hughes

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In the last stanza, Hughes says:

I live here, too. I want freedom. Just as you.

Michael Brown, undoubtedly, horrifically discovered the meaning of these words. 

If our country and constitution are based on the words stated in the Declaration of Independence…

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

…then why do we not see this reflected in our society and culture at this time? Who among us deserves less than this?

The President’s official comment about the murder of Michael Brown reflects the sentiments.

“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened, but let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.” – President Obama

Today versus 1950s – 1960s

It is disheartening to see such parallels between what occurred nearly a century ago – African American lives being threatened, snuffed out on the brink of overcoming, achieving, excelling. And still it should be no less disheartening to have any life taken too soon in an unjust manner at the whim of someone’s prerogative, sense of fear, personal sense of justice, or an incomprehensible justification. 

Perhaps a renewed focus on the past would help bring things into perspective. Yet, images of cruelty and protest could fuel opposing forces and bring more peril. One-on-one, individually, neighbor to neighbor, we’ve got to share some collective responsibility for change. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

#ferguson #nmos14

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