LEARNING A LESSON FROM SOCRATES: DR. MARVIN A. MCMICKLE'S UNITE ROCHESTER BLOG

Reading "Black Prophetic Fire" by Cornel West and Christa Buschendorf I was reminded of the Greek word "parrhesia" which is pronounced par-he-see-ah. It means the pattern of speaking the truth boldly and freely without any regard for the speaker's safety or security. West reminds us that parrhesia was a style of speaking used by Socrates in Plato's Apology.

Of even more importance for me is that the same word appears throughout the Book of Acts in the New Testament regarding the bold preaching of Peter, James, and Paul who preached about Christ in the Greco-Roman world without fear or hesitation. With that word in mind, I think it is well past time for people in this country to find the courage for some "parrhesia"on our part. In the face of poverty, violent crime, racism, student conduct in downtown Rochester, and an unending stream of attacks on voting rights that could affect millions of Americans it is time for some "parrhesia."

We need some "parrhesia" whether it comes from clergy of all races and religions, from public officials that are entrusted with safeguarding the common good, journalists and writers that report what they see occurring in our society, or educators whose values need to extend beyond the safe confines of their classrooms. Not much will change in our society and in our world if people of influence are determined to speak only those things that are pleasing and acceptable to everyone and are never willing to put themselves at risk in any way. The people who most transformed this country were quite often those who engaged in "parrhesia." Think about the founders of this country in their attacks on King George III and the British Empire.

Think about abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights leaders, anti-war activists during the Viet Nam War era, or the Occupy Movement and their attacks on issues of the growing wealth disparity in this country. In every instance, these people engaged in what the ancient Greeks call "parrhesia." They all ran a risk, they faced the possibility of some serious reprisal, and they all understood that nothing will change and no injustice will be ended until people with strong convictions find the courage to go public with their views and values. As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."

There is something that good people can do; they can practice the art of "parrhesia.

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The Blessing and Burden of Black History Month by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

We invite you to read and comment on this essay written by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle which was published in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog on February 11, 2015:

As a result of the efforts and initiative of the Harvard-trained black historian, Carter G. Woodson the month of February is now known as Black History Month. He first called for a special focus on the historical pilgrimage and accomplishments of African Americans back in 1926, and at that time the celebration was limited to just one week. The month of February was selected because it was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and Frederick Douglass who was an escaped slave who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and who also recruited black men to enlist in the Union army and fight for the final eradication of slavery. When done properly, Black History Month does not begin with slavery in this country. Instead it begins with the great African civilizations that thrived in the centuries before Europeans first began trafficking in human lives. It is a time to remember the presence of and contributions of African people in antiquity, including the African presence in the Bible. It is a time to remember that like the Jewish community, there is also an African diaspora that has seen people of African ancestry migrate and populate places all over the world. Black History Month is a time to remember the contributions of African Americans to every aspect of life in this country. The full story about advances in medicine, literature, music, science, athletics, politics, journalism, law, theology, mechanical engineering, and banking cannot be fully told without references the contributions of African Americans. Sadly, we still need Black History Month because so many school districts, text books, and boards of education pay little or no attention to the full story of the African American experience. I invite all citizens of Rochester to know not only about George Washington, but also about George Washington Carver. I invite you to learn not only about Wiliam Shakespeare, but also about Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Phyllis Wheatley.

When you think about Babe Ruth don't forget Josh Gibson. When you think about Laurence Olivier think also about Ira Aldrdige and Paul Robeson. Everybody who has gone go see the movie American Sniper should also agree to see Red Tails which is about the Tuskegee Airmen. There are a great many people, black and white who have no awareness of the ways in which their daily lives have been shaped and impacted by the inventions, creations, and contributions of African Americans. There is more to learn than can be taught in one month. Black history should be more intentionally woven into the standard curriculum of every school district in this country. However, until that day comes we will keep looking forward to Black History Month as a way to better understand how this nation and this world have been enriched by the contributions of African Americans; many of those contributions coming in the face of great disadvantage and discrimination. From one end of Greater Rochester to the other, we may more quickly improve race relations if we can first alter racial impressions. The truth about African Americans remains largely untaught and thus unknown. Let's all agree to watch one TV special, attend one stage production, read one recommended text, go to hear one lecture, or ask one elderly black person what changes they have seen in this country during their lifetime. You will be surprised what you discover about this country and ALL the people who helped to build it.

To share or comment on Dr. McMickle's blog online, see: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2015/02/11/the-blessing-and-burden-of-black-history-month/23219349/

 

 

 

"So Much for Being a Color-Blind Society" by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Dr. McMickle recently shared his thoughts with the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's readers through his "Unite Rochester" blog published on January 27, 2015. The text of his essay appears here:

I just finished reading the editorial by Charles Blow in the New York Times about his son, a third-year student at Yale University who was stopped on campus at gun point and held by campus police because he matched the description of someone wanted for burglary. I was just reflecting on how sad it is that in so many places in the United States black people, and especially black males are immediately viewed with suspicion and treated with excessive force by law enforcement officers. Some years ago my own son was a student at the University of Buffalo (SUNY) and a scholarship player on their Division 1A football team when he was pulled over and blocked in by three police cars for driving a vehicle that someone had decided was suspicious. When asked whose car it was he respectfully told them that it belonged to his father. He kept his hands on the steering wheel as his mother and I had long ago instructed him to do if he ever found himself in such a position. They ran a computer trace of the car and inspected the registration, and they found everything in order. Without so much as an apology or a word of regret for what had just happened, the police officers got in their cars and drove away leaving an understandably shaken college student behind. I wonder how many students at SUNY Buffalo were driving around western New York in cars that belonged to their parents? I wonder how many of them were pulled over because they “looked suspicious?” I wonder how many of them had to look out the window of the driver’s door and see three police cars and six police officers surrounding that car? I wonder if whites in America will ever understand the sentiments of Bert Williams, the black comedian of the early 20th century who once said “there is no shame in being black, but it can be so inconvenient.” Of course, in light of Ferguson, and Staten Island, and Cleveland inconvenience is hardly the biggest risk. What we learn from events involving Michael Brown to events involving the son of Charles Blow is how often black males are confronted by police officers who already have their guns drawn before the questioning ever begins. With every passing day this nation seems to be moving away from some of its core values: “all people are created equal, innocent until proven guilty, and safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure.” I love to sing “My country Tis of thee,sweet land of liberty of thee I sing.” However, I do get stuck on the line that says “Land where my fathers died…” Some of my black fathers died in every war this nation has ever fought in pursuit of freedoms that they were often unable to enjoy when they returned to civilian life. Now with the recent events across the country from Ferguson, MO to Yale University the dream of a color-blind society is once more being deferred. I long for the day when all Americans can sing together “From every mountainside let freedom ring.”

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Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On! Read Dr. Marvin A. McMickle's musings on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

As we observe the national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as we see in the film Selma some of the struggles he faced and eventually overcame, I am reminded of one of the songs we sang during our marches and rallies in the days of the Civil Rights Movement; "Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."

When the struggle was about desegregation of public accommodations or the struggle to attain voting rights in the states of the former Confederacy, nothing came easily. There was struggle, danger, sacrifice, and in too many instance including Dr. King himself, there was death.

Through all of that there were really two songs that encouraged us along the way. One was "We shall overcome" and the other one was a companion to the first; until we finally do overcome we will need to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

I think about that today as I ponder the findings of the Rochester Area Community Foundation about childhood poverty and third-grade reading and math levels in the city of Rochester. Our city leads the entire nation among cities of similar size in the category of extreme poverty which is defined as a family of four living on an annual income of less than $12,000.

There will be people who may read this blog who earn $12,000 or more each month. It will be hard for them to comprehend turning their monthly income into their family income for an entire year.

If you add present rates of extreme poverty to the fact that only 6.8 % of Rochester City School District are proficient in reading and the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the prospects for generational poverty already seem to be in place.

Of course, these trends could be reversed and/or reduced. Of course, all of these things could be reduced or reversed. If only we as a region and as a nation could commit to a reasonable minimum wage, affordable housing that is no longer limited just to the city limits of Rochester, investment in pre-natal care that benefits both parents and children, the end of mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses that greatly reduce an ex-offender's chance of every escaping poverty, working on all fronts to shape a functional and accountable public school system, and a few other policy changes that are well within our reach.

These challenges are formidable, and they will not easily be achieved. They will likely require changes in racial attitudes as well as in public policies. However, they are not more formidable than ending segregation, or establishing voting rights unobstructed by poll taxes or literary tests or the capricious behavior of whites who did everything in their power to prevent African Americans from voting for 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1865.

If our nation could overcome those challenges, then surely we can overcome the challenges that we face both nationally and locally. All we will have to do is keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

Please click this link to view, comment on or share Dr. McMickle's post: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2015/01/15/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-hold-on/21837911/

 

 

One More New Year's Resolution: a Reflection by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Dr. McMickle's latest essay appeared in the January 2, 2015 edition of the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog. You may read it here:

In discussing the problem of war in the modern world where the just war theory no longer applies due to the destructive force of modern weapons and due to the fact that war’s destructive force now impacts more civilians than it does combatants, I am reminded of a troubling observation by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth written during the time of World War II. He said, “War means not only killing, but killing without dignity, without glory, without chivalry, without restraint, and without reserve. It also means to steal, to ransack, to burn, to lie, to deceive, to dishonor, and to fornicate.” This is certainly not true of every individual soldier. However, it is an apt description of what becomes of human nature once nations, tribes, or other opposing forces go marching off to war. These are precisely the things we see in The Ukraine, in Syria with ISIS, in Nigeria with the group known as Boko Haram, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan on both sides of what was the longest war in which American troops had ever been engaged. As we all consider the New Year’s resolutions that we may have already made, I invite those in power in nations across the world to add one more resolution that echoes the words of the 19th century African American spiritual that says, “I ain’t gonna study war no more.”

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http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/unite/2015/01/02/one-more-new-years-resolution/

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