Category Archives: Racism

In Yemen, racism dooms Black people to life on the margins

ADEN, YEMEN – FEBRUARY 26: Fakhri Ali Qudaf collects recycling with his two young children in the Crater neighborhood of Aden, Yemen, on February 26, 2022. Qudaf said that although he is employed by the municipality as a worker his salary is so low that for more than 15 years he heas had to supplement his income by collecting recycling. Qudaf and his family are members of the Muhamasheen (Marginalized) community, a Yemeni underclass that has experienced centuries of discrimination, exploitation and poverty. Prior to the current conflict, social discrimination against the Muhamasheen limited their access to education, healthcare, housing and meaningful work. MANDATORY CREDIT: (Photo by Sam Tarling/Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies)

ADEN, – Waddah al-Adeni was born and raised in Aden and knows the coastal city’s streets like the back of his hand. But as a member of Yemen’s Black minority, he has little hope of ever being able to live beyond its slums.

“You’re born there and you never leave,” said Adeni, one of Yemen’s roughly 3 million “muhamasheen”, who rights advocates say occupy the lowest rung of a de facto caste system that keeps Black Yemenis on the margins.

“They just look at my face and that’s it,” said the 39-year-old, whose slum is plagued by rampant power cuts, a lack of clean water and an absence of formal rental agreements.

The origins of the muhamasheen, an Arabic word meaning marginalised, are disputed. Some accounts trace them to Abyssinian soldiers who occupied Yemen hundreds of years ago, others to Yemen’s Red Sea plain.

“I’d love to have nice clothes one day. Shave my beard. Have a car. Smell nice, go into a hotel. To just feel happy and be a part of society,” said Adeni.

While Yemeni law does not discriminate on the basis of skin colour, society is partly stratified by tribe, meaning those with dark skin or unrecognised lineage have faced discrimination for centuries, campaigners say.

That leads to the exclusion of the country’s Black population – which also includes about 35,000 African migrants – from schools, formal jobs and decent housing, they say.

Many even struggle to register their newborns, with only 9% holding birth certificates, according to a survey by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Access to other government documents, as well as jobs and services, is often hampered as a result.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Salah Dabwan, a lawyer and longtime muhamasheen activist.

Following widespread popular protests in 2011, the body tasked with shaping Yemen’s new constitution proposed a 10% quota for muhamasheen in public sector jobs, and access to leadership positions.

But the draft constitution ultimately left out the quota, and the outbreak of war in 2015 and Yemen’s subsequent economic decline left the muhamasheen more vulnerable than ever.


Raheel Sami was born a year before Adeni, thousands of miles away in Haramaya, Ethiopia – but their fates have overlapped since she arrived in Yemen 15 years ago. Like Adeni, she now lives on the edge of Aden in precarious conditions.

Thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis make the dangerous journey every year to flee persecution and violence or seek work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but often get stuck in Yemen, where the war has worsened their situation, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“We beg from restaurants, and some Yemenis sometimes bring us food,” Sami said in the makeshift coastal camp where she lives in a tent made of tattered tarpaulin and garbage bags.

“It’s because of the colour of our skin.”

Sami has spent most of her years in Yemen as a U.N.-registered refugee in the northern city of Sanaa, which was taken over by the Houthi armed movement in 2015.

A year ago, she joined protests by fellow migrants and refugees after scores of migrants were killed in a fire in a detention camp run by the Houthis in Sanaa, where inhabitants reported being subject to racial slurs, HRW said.

Many of the protesters were rounded up by Houthi security forces, put onto trucks and deported to the country’s south, which is held by the internationally recognised government.

Sami was separated from her 13-year-old daughter and twin adolescent sons during the expulsion. They remain stranded alone in Sanaa.

Fellow camp residents were pessimistic about their prospects, with many blaming the same discrimination experienced by the muhamasheen.

“It’s absolutely no use being Black here. We’re only allowed to work in garbage, or cleaning,” said one Ethiopian man who had also been kicked out of Sanaa, asking not to give his name.


The few Ethiopian migrants in Aden with jobs said they earned at most $50 a month as cleaners and trash collectors, while their children spend the day begging.

Parents desperate to keep food on the table are more likely to pull their children out of school to work – closing the door on education as a pathway to a better life.

According to UNICEF, only half of school-age muhamasheen are enrolled in classes, and just one in five over-15s can read or write.

“This isn’t modern-day slavery – this is just slavery, period,” said Dabwan.

Adeni himself dropped out of school when he was eight to begin working but, like other muhamasheen, was only hired for informal, low-paid work – and had no recourse when his employer withheld his pay or fired him suddenly.

He described being repeatedly accosted in the streets by security forces, or kicked out of public parks.

“Every time you feel like you’re okay and starting to be integrated, that you’re part of this city, something reminds you that you’re not.”

UN calls for end of ‘impunity’ for police violence against black people

A mural commemorating Kevin Clarke, who died after he was restrained by Metropolitan police officers in March 2018, in Lewisham, south London
A mural commemorating Kevin Clarke, who died after he was restrained by Metropolitan police officers in March 2018, in Lewisham, south London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

A UN report that analysed racial justice in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd has called on member states including the UK to end the “impunity” enjoyed by police officers who violate the human rights of black people.

The UN human rights office analysis of 190 deaths across the world led to the report’s damning conclusion that law enforcement officers are rarely held accountable for killing black people due in part to deficient investigations and an unwillingness to acknowledge the impact of structural racism.

The 23-page global report, and its accompanying 95-page conference room paper, features seven examples of deaths involving police, including the case of Kevin Clarke, who died after being restrained by officers in London in 2018.

A jury at Clarke’s inquest, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2002, found the police’s inappropriate use of restraints contributed to his death.

Other case studies include Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto in Brazil; George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US; Janner García Palomino in Colombia; and Adama Traoré in France.

The UN human rights office was tasked in June 2020 to produce a comprehensive report on systemic racism against black people. The report investigated violations of international human rights law by law enforcement, government responses to anti-racism peaceful protests, as well as accountability and redress for victims. The report was led by Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights and a former president of Chile.

Bachelet described the status quo as “untenable”. She said: “Systemic racism needs a systemic response. There needs to be a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to dismantling systems entrenched in centuries of discrimination and violence.

“I am calling on all states to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress.”

The analysis was based on online consultations with more than 340 individuals, mostly of African descent; more than 110 written contributions; a review of publicly available material; and additional consultations with relevant experts.

In examining deaths in police custody in different countries, the report notes the patchwork of available data paints “an alarming picture of system-wide, disproportionate and discriminatory impacts on people of African descent in their encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system in some states”.

“Several families described to me the agony they faced in pursuing truth, justice and redress – and the distressing presumption that their loved ones somehow ‘deserved it’,” Bachelet said. “It is disheartening that the system is not stepping up to support them. This must change.”

Wendy Clarke, Kevin Clarke’s mother, told the UN commission: “We want to see accountability, and real change, not just in training, but the perception and response to black people by the police and other services. We want mental health services better funded so the first point of response is not just reliant on the police.”

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in a Brixton police station in 2008, was another family member who spoke to the UN commission. She said: “It was an honour to meet the other families, like Breonna Taylor’s mother and the brother of George Floyd. But it was also striking that the patterns and our experiences were similar.”

Deborah Coles, the director of the campaign group Inquest, said: “While the UK government is explicit in its denial of systemic racism, this UN report confronts them with the evidence. The disproportionate number of black men who die after the use of lethal force and neglect by the state is at the sharp end of a continuum of violence and racism. There is a pattern of systemic racism in our policing and criminal justice system.”

Rigg hoped the report will reignite longstanding calls for systemic change in the UK and that the British government responds. “It’s been happening here for decades. There are many George Floyds here, before George Floyd and after George Floyd, including my personal experience and what happened to my brother.”

Black American families strive to build a town free from racism

People camp out on land in central Georgia where organizers hope to create a new town of Freedom, seen July 2020. Handout photograph by FGI2020, LLC.

WASHINGTON, – Haunted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black people and reports of police violence against their community, a group of families in the southern state of Georgia have banded together to create a town called Freedom.

“We were watching the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all of the other people we can name,” said Ashley Scott, one of the effort’s organizers, referring to Black victims of police violence killed last year.

“My friend and I were just depressed and feeling like we needed to be able to do something to protect our husbands and sons.”

They found a 96-acre (39-hectare) property for sale in central Georgia, and came up with a 10-year-plus timeline and a vision of using the land to build intergenerational wealth, something financial experts say is key to closing the racial wealth gap.

The families purchased the property in August 2020, and after some social media and news coverage, “we went viral,” Scott, 34, a realtor in Atlanta, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

“We had thousands of people reach out saying they wanted to move to Freedom.”

Today, the group’s 19 founding Black families has amassed more than 500 acres in two parcels.

Aiming to be a model for equity, energy efficiency, local food production and more, the Freedom project has drawn political support as an opportunity to build a community from the ground up.

“It’s truly a situation where we’re taking our destiny in our own hands,” said Democratic State Representative Mandisha Thomas, whose district does not include Freedom but who sits on the project’s advisory board.

Even as they wade through the logistics of how to set up the complex systems an incorporated city would need, Scott and the others behind the initiative are planning to break ground by next year, starting with a visitor and conference center.

Speed is important, Scott said: “We don’t know when another George Floyd might happen. We want to move as quickly as possible to create this safe haven, so we can replicate it.”


Physically the project is still little more than the two parcels of land, mostly located on an old lumber farm, with rolling hills, a creek and wide views.

“When I first experienced the land, touched the land, it felt surreal – it felt empowering,” said Aqeela Reyad, one of Freedom’s founding members.

There are still fundamental obstacles to creating Freedom, the organizers said.

The families will need about 100 more acres of land in order to incorporate as a city, for instance, a process that will also need to go before a local ballot and a series of political entities.

They are also fundraising to be able to access a line of credit, hoping to raise the last of the $500,000 they need during a celebration next month for Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in 1865.

Local officials on the county board of commissioners, in the nearby town of Toomsboro, and at the local Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

The state Department of Economic Development declined to comment.


As audacious as the project may seem, it fits into a long tradition of Black Americans seeking to create havens from white oppression, said Thomas Healy, who teaches at Seton Hall University’s School of Law in New Jersey.

Most of those communities were small agricultural centers, but some would thrive for a period, amassing several thousand residents.

One of the most ambitious was in North Carolina in the late 1960s, when a civil rights activist named Floyd McKissick sought to use a federal “new towns” program to create what he called Soul City, said Healy, who wrote a book on the subject.

McKissick viewed Soul City – which would be inclusive, but predominantly Black – as the last step in the emancipation of Black people in the United States, Healy said.

And the effort went much further than most anticipated, with 3,500 acres under development for a decade, complete with infrastructure, neighborhoods and public services, he said.

But McKissick was never able to convince factories and industry to relocate to Soul City to power the local economy, and the project eventually unraveled.

As the plan to create Freedom gets underway, the country is still dealing with many of the same issues that McKissick was seeking to address, Healy said.

“If Black people weren’t worried about driving down the street and being pulled over by police and being shot, and if they had an equal stake in the wealth of this country, there would be no need for a place like Freedom,” he said by phone.

“But that’s not the world we live in,” Healy continued, pointing to disproportionate levels of police violence toward African Americans and the massive wealth and employment gaps between Black and white communities.

Government data shows white families are 10 times wealthier than Black families, while the number of unemployed Black Americans has increased 40% since March 2020 compared to 34% for white Americans.


Tabitha Ball, a psychologist in Atlanta, had been noticing rising levels of anxiety among her patients amid the pandemic, driven by the stresses of the health emergency and the racial tensions that gripped the country following Floyd’s death.

“It was a heavy, heavy time,” Ball said. “There were very high levels of fear.”

One of those patients told her about the Freedom initiative, and now Ball is the project’s managing partner, with a pair of two-acre plots for her and her husband.

“It really did feel like a major beacon of hope to be part of a project where we could literally build something for ourselves, and something that would offer us the opportunity to grow and thrive however we saw fit,” she said.

Owning land had long been important in her family, but it was something she had not yet gotten around to prioritizing, said Ball, who has two nine-year-old sons.

“When they heard of the land and went out there one of the first times, they said, ‘This is all ours?’ And my husband said, ‘This is our land.’ And they had big smiles on their faces,” she said.

Football star Thierry Henry to quit social media over racism

The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [File: AFP]
The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [File: AFP]

Former France international Thierry Henry said on Friday he will be disabling his social media accounts to protest against the platforms for not taking action over anonymous account holders who are guilty of racism and bullying online.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who has 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, said the platforms needed to tackle these issues with the same effort they put into taking down material that infringes copyright.

“From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright,” Henry said in a statement.

“The sheer volume of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability.

“It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous. Until this changes, I will be disabling my accounts across all social platforms. I’m hoping this happens soon.”

Last month English football’s governing bodies said that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were “havens for abuse” and urged the social media companies to tackle the problem in the wake of racist messages aimed at players.

Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said nobody should be forced to disable their social media accounts due to abuse.

“Social media firms must do more to tackle this and we are introducing new laws to hold platforms to account,” he said.

“This is complex and we must get it right, but I’m absolutely determined to tackle racist abuse online.”

Instagram last month announced a series of measures to tackle online abuse, including removing accounts of people who send abusive messages, and developing new controls to help reduce the abuse people see.

Twitter said in 2019 that “vile content has no place on our service” after it took action on more than 700 cases of “abuse and hateful conduct” related to football in Britain in two weeks and promised to continue its efforts to curb the problem.

Archbishop says nation is at ‘pivotal juncture’ in racial justice struggle

Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory preaches his homily during an Aug. 28, 2020, Mass of Peace and Justice at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, marking the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON — Celebrating Mass to mark the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory urged Catholics to continue the dream of the late civil rights leader and to work for reconciliation and unity building.

“Ours is the task and the privilege of advancing the goals that were so eloquently expressed 57 years ago by such distinguished voices on that day,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Men and women, young and old, people of every racial and ethnic background are needed in this effort.”

The Mass of Peace and Justice was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington in honor of the 1963 March on Washington. It was organized by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach and the archdiocesan Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns.

Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario E. Dorsonville, Roy E. Campbell Jr., and Michael W. Fisher concelebrated the Mass, which was livestreamed on various social media platforms. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, seating was limited at the cathedral, but Archbishop Gregory said, “the intensity of our prayer is not diminished in the least.”

“We are at a pivotal juncture in our country’s struggle for racial justice and national harmony,” he said. “Believers and nonbelievers, sports stars and corporate giants, small town residents and urban dwellers must all engage in the work of reconciliation and unity building so that our common future will be better and more secure than the past.”

To that end, Archbishop Gregory announced during the Mass an archdiocesan initiative to “fight against racial injustice everywhere.” The initiative was outlined on a scroll presented to the archbishop by archdiocesan Catholics. including Betty Wright, a parishioner at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Washington, who participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

The initiative will include a wide range of pastoral activities and outreach, including prayer, listening sessions, faith formation opportunities and social justice work.

Archbishop Gregory called the historic March on Washington “a moral and religious event.” He also noted that he was celebrating the Mass in the cathedral where then-Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle had invited people to pray before the march. Archbishop O’Boyle also delivered an opening prayer on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day.

Calling that march “a deeply faith-inspired event,” Archbishop Gregory said, “it was less about achieving something than about becoming something — becoming a single family of justice, unity and harmony.”

“Surely those goals are noble and more than desirable even today — perhaps especially today,” the archbishop said. “Death has silenced most of the great voices of Aug. 28, 1963 — Dr. King, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson to mention only a few — nevertheless the intensity, determination and the energy of their spoken and sung words echo still today.”

“The vast majority of the oratory of the day highlighted social and civil concerns but always with an undeniable touch of religious faith,” Archbishop Gregory said. “People from a wide variety of religious traditions were united in a prayerful moment for our nation. The existing social order was clearly challenged by people of faith. That is exactly what we need today.”

Many local Catholics were among the estimated 250,000 to 300,000 participants at the 1963 march.

“The spirit that they shared on that remarkable day was unmistakably sacred,” Archbishop Gregory said. “With that spirit they were ready to change the world. It gave them a clear vision of what our nation was called to be — what we must become, as it was described so eloquently in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Noting that the Gospel reading for the Mass was taken from St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, Archbishop Gregory said the beatitudes “fit the commemorative observance perfectly as they highlight the virtues and the spiritual vision that are necessary for society’s renewal.”

The beatitudes, he said, “all point to a society of harmony and justice which were the desired end of that march 57 years ago.”

“Dr. King spoke movingly about what our nation was destined to and must become — he no doubt must have reflected often on the beatitudes,” Archbishop Gregory said.

The archbishop has had a long association with the late civil rights leader.

He previously served as archbishop of Atlanta, Rev. King’s birthplace. He has preached in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both Rev. King and his father preached and, in 2006, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

He noted that the Mass was being celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic and at a time of nationwide protests for racial justice following highly publicized police shootings of unarmed Black men and women.

He urged the faithful not to become discouraged in their fight to end racism. “We must take heart and not be dissuaded or intimidated by the voices that seek division and hatred because ‘We shall overcome,’” the archbishop said as he concluded his homily, quoting a gospel song that became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

After the Mass, he spoke with and blessed some young adults who had participated in the march earlier that day.

Statement of Solidarity


join in solidarity with all people suffering the individual and systemic violence whose root cause is racism.

As we struggle with our own racism, we work to change our systems to be more inclusive, transparent and respectful.  We seek to do this in a non-violent manner which creates neither victims nor oppressors.

In order to build the Beloved Community, we strive to see the connections between systemic racism and the lack of affordable housing, quality health care, sustainable wages and equal educational opportunities.

As people of faith who believe in the goodness of God, we must acknowledge and examine our own white privilege and its role in creating unjust systems which exist within our society.

The present crisis challenges us to join with others in prayer, reflection and action in a spirit of HOPE.

(This statement is an outgrowth of ‘Idea Bowl’ conversation on Anti-Racism held at the East/West National Gathering, July 9, 2016 in Baltimore, MD.  It is the hope of those involved in the conversation that this statement be distributed widely within our various networks i.e. colleagues, co-workers, family members etc.)

What We’ve Seen and Heard…Black Lives Matter

National Black Catholic Congress

By Sr. Gwynette Proctor, SND

race(Article previously posted in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Review diocesan newspaper)
The past three weeks have awakened a sleeping giant in Baltimore. For some, the incidents brought back horrible memories of a time long past; for others the incidents renewed inherent fears of Baltimore City and Black people in general. For some the incidents could be described as a feeling of taking back the power and making a clear and definitive statement that, “Enough is enough, I will not tolerate the deplorable conditions that diminish my humanity any longer. I will not stand idly by while family members, friends and community members continue to be victimized, abused and killed by police officers whose actions appeared to be sanctioned by law enforcement. My life matters.”

In times like these, there are no quick fixes or simplistic answers to the challenges we face. Now, the healing must begin. It must open our hearts so that you can look into the face of any woman or man and see there your sister or brother. It will require us to see all human life with new eyes. The faith community and all people will need to emerge from the complacency that has characterized our failure to act on behalf of those who have no voice; those who have been pushed to the edges of our communities out of sight and forgotten; and those people who were born, are now living and expect to die believing “no one cares.”

Where do we go from here?

Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel tells us “We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares. God’s presence accompanies the sincere efforts of individuals and groups to find encouragement and meaning in their lives. Are we poised to embrace this “call to action?”

Thousands of youth and young adults either graduate from or drop out of a dysfunctional public education system each year. Lacking the necessary skills, knowledge and motivation to press for success, they wander aimlessly from menial jobs that do not pay a living wage. At some point an all-consuming despair and hopelessness takes root. Let’s imagine an alternate educational system that offers a continuum of services to people who cannot access collegiate opportunities. The system could provide a holistic approach that brings together healthcare providers to address the psychological, emotional and physical impediments. It would be accompanied by ongoing adult educational programs while providing a seamless transition to an employment system that has leveraged the support of charitable organizations and corporations to establish long term partnerships with employers. It’s a thought.

We cannot ignore the challenge to dismantle unjust and corrupt government systems that continue to perpetuate policies that are meant to “keep people poor.” Are we committed the creation of a more promising future? I imagine the responses to these questions will depend greatly upon what we have seen and heard.

Continue reading What We’ve Seen and Heard…Black Lives Matter

Catholics Urged to Address ‘Sin of Racism’

America Magazine

Father Bryan Massingale, author of “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church” and a professor of ethics and theology at Marquette University, speaks during a Nov. 6 gathering at the Archdiocese of New Orleans. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

A seismic shift in demographics in both society and the U.S. Catholic Church in the coming decades will create a church that is far less white, Father Bryan Massingale told a New Orleans audience Nov. 6.

The church will be unprepared to deal with that reality, he continued, unless it addresses “the ongoing struggle for racial equality.” Continue reading Catholics Urged to Address ‘Sin of Racism’

Julian Bond, Race Man, Poet, Movement-Builder — and Friend

Huffington Post
America has lost a great leader, and many of us have lost a good friend.

Julian Bond, black leader and member of the Georgia State legislature, March 31, 1978. (AP Photo/S. Helber)
Julian Bond, black leader and member of the Georgia State legislature, March 31, 1978. (AP Photo/S. Helber)

By the time Julian Bond was 20 years old, he had helped lead the sit-in movement that began dismantling official segregation in Atlanta and he had left the academic life of Morehouse College to help found the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As the communications director of SNCC, he worked to call attention of the rest of the world to the struggle by some of the poorest, most disenfranchised Americans to wrest political power from the white establishment in some of the most dangerous parts of the Jim Crow South. SNCC was the #BlackLivesMatter movement before there were hashtags.

By the time he was 30 years old, Julian Bond had been elected to the Georgia Legislature, whose all white members refused to seat him because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam. He was elected to his own vacant seat three times and seated only after a unanimous decision of the united states supreme court. Also before he was thirty he led an insurgent Georgia delegation to the 1968 Democratic Convention, where they unseated the segregationist “regular” democratic party delegation. And at that convention he was nominated for Vice-President – an office he was too young to win — in order to raise the visibility of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war forces in the Democratic party.

For those of us becoming active in the movement — especially those of us in the South — Julian Bond was an absolute hero. He had the courage under fire of the SNCC organizers. And he stood up to the whole Georgia power structure not only against racism but also against the war in Vietnam. He was cool.

The man who shook the world at an early age stayed engaged — as a movement builder and networker for our 21st Century movement. I first met him in 1970 when he and friends of mine from the Southern Students Organizing Committee worked together to create the Institute for Southern Studies.

He became Chairman of the NAACP in 1998 and worked with others to revitalize that old and respected organization. And he always sought to build a larger, more powerful progressive movement.

Julian was part of the core group who attended the first planning retreat that eventually gave birth to our economic-change organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

In June 2004, I had the honor of introducing Julian at our Take Back America conference. We asked him to speak at a fascinating plenary with the two founders of, Wes Boyd and Joan Blades. Everyone in the audience was transfixed as Julian imagined what SNCC organizing might have been like with the online networking, actions and fundraising that MoveOn were then pioneering. And Julian, Wes and Joan (who later helped launch Moms Rising) joined together to discuss how the work of the civil rights and anti-war movement had to be expanded to fight for the rights of women, families, LGBT people, and the rights of workers around the world.

Sunday night on PBS Newhour, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, another SNCC veteran, shared her memories of Julian — and declared that she was unprepared because she had just seen him at a Howard University forum with Black Lives Matter activists, and, though she had memories of him going back to the 1960s, he was still a man of the moment:

What Julian managed to do was something that most of us who were in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, didn’t do. He managed to spend his entire life in civil rights, not the sentimental civil rights of our SNCC days, but the civil rights of our time. And that’s why he was so respected.
In addition to his ongoing movement-building, Julian eventually became a professor and a scholar, teaching, among other places, at the school I attending in the 1960s, the University of Virginia. He was teaching Southern history and the movements of the 1960s, and in 1990 he invited me and another comrade from those days to take over one of his classes to talk to 300 of his students about the Virginia of the segregationist Sen. Harry Byrd machine — and the almost completely segregated UVa. And, since it was Julian Bond’s class, we were able to get the Charlottesville Daily Progress and the Cavalier Daily to come and cover a discussion of how things had changed at that campus and that Southern State — and how they had not changed enough.

Julian only recently retired from teaching at UVa, and in the process of moving on, he gave and interview to the University of Virginia Magazine that is worth reading. At the end, he was asked “What would you like your tombstone to say?” His answer was classic Julian:

I want to have a double-sided tombstone, so you have something on each side. And on one side, it’s going to say “Race Man.” A race man is an expression that’s not used anymore, but it used to describe a man–usually a man, could have been a woman too–who was a good defender of the race, who didn’t dislike white people, but who stood up for black people, who fought for black people. I’d want people to say that about me. He was a race man. There’s no implication here that white people are evil, just that black people are good people and they need somebody to fight for them, and I’m that person. The other side is going to say “Easily Amused,” because I am easily amused.
The obituary by Roy Reed that ran on the New York Times website on Sunday ended in a way that captured the easily-amused and poetic, soulful side of Julian Bond.

His most famous [piece of poetry] was perhaps a two-line doggerel that he dashed off after one too many overly concerned white students offended him by saying, “If only they were all like you.”

The verse:
Look at that girl shake that thing,
We can’t all be Martin Luther King.

After Baltimore and Ferguson, Church Must Help End Racism, Promote Justice

America Magazine

Members of the Maryland National Guard patrol the harbor section of Baltimore April 28. Baltimore residents began cleaning the wreckage from rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray died who died after suffering a spin al injury while in police custody. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)
Members of the Maryland National Guard patrol the harbor section of Baltimore April 28. Baltimore residents began cleaning the wreckage from rioting and fires that erupted after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray died who died after suffering a spin al injury while in police custody. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

Archbishop Kurtz said efforts to address current racial tensions “must address root causes of the conflicts.”

The U.S. bishops join with other religious leaders and civic leaders “in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation” after a series of racial conflicts “that have taken place around our beloved country,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

The archbishop, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the comments June 10 as he opened the bishops’ spring general assembly in St. Louis with a statement on race relations.

In the statement, approved by the bishops, he highlighted that the spring meeting was taking place so close to Ferguson and that the bishops’ November general assembly will be in Baltimore—two places roiled in past months by protests, violence in the streets and looting following the deaths of two young African-Americans after confrontations with white police officers.

Archbishop Kurtz said efforts to address current racial tensions “must address root causes of the conflicts.”

He suggested concrete ways the Catholic community can work to end racism and promote justice for all people, including making “a sincere effort” to encounter people of different racial backgrounds and being “truly welcoming” in parishes and neighborhoods of families of different racial and religious backgrounds. People also should get to know their community’s law enforcement officers, he said.

He noted that in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1947, Cardinal Joseph Ritter integrated Catholic schools, well before a unanimous Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that state segregation of black schoolchildren was unconstitutional.

Cardinal Ritter’s action “shows the Catholic Church can be at the forefront of promoting justice in racial tensions. It is time for us to do it again,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“We mourn those tragic events in which African-Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement officials,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “These deaths have led to peaceful demonstrations, as well as violent conflicts in the streets of our cities. In every instance, our prayer for every community is that of our Lord in St. John’s Gospel, ‘That they all may be one.'”

Last August, the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, gave rise to weeks of protests, violence in the streets, and looting and vandalism of Ferguson businesses. A grand jury decided not indict Wilson.

More recently, West Baltimore was rocked by hours of rioting and looting the night of April 27-28 in response to the case of Freddie Gray. He died April 19, a week after he was seriously injured while in police custody. A grand jury indicted six police officers on a variety of charges; one officer was charged with several counts, including second-degree depraved-heart murder.

“Sadly, there is all too often an alienation of communities from those sworn to protect them,” Archbishop Kurtz said in his statement. “I respect the sacrifices made by police officers throughout the nation, who in their daily work are placed in harm’s way.

“Let us pray that they suffer no harm as they carry out their duties, and that they always be guided in good and right action as they serve.”

Across the country, he continued, “a violent, sorrowful history of racial injustice, accompanied by a lack of educational, employment and housing opportunities, has destroyed communities and broken down families, especially those who live in distressed urban communities.

“Confronted by these realities, the familiar words of Blessed Pope Paul VI still resonate and continue to call us to action in our day: ‘If you want peace, work for justice.'”

Archbishop Kurtz highlighted the presence the Catholic Church historically has had in such communities in the areas of education, health care and charities.

“Positive efforts are being made in collaboration with ecumenical and interfaith groups in communities where confrontations between individual citizens and law enforcement have taken place,” he said. “Pope Francis calls each of us to work for a culture of encounter and has encouraged all people of good faith to reach out to those in their community and be truly welcoming of all.

“Let the rich cultural diversity of our local communities be woven together in charity, hospitality and service to one another, to join us together as sisters and brothers,” he said.

He recalled the U.S. bishops’ 1979 pastoral letter on racism, titled “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” which “named racial prejudice as a grave sin that denies the truth and meaning of the Incarnation of the word of God in Jesus Christ.

“Unfortunately, the words of that letter still ring true: ‘Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our church,'” Archbishop Kurtz said.

In the document, the bishops “called for decisive action to eradicate racism from society and considerable progress has been made since 1979. However, more must be done.”

He added, “Let us again call upon our Catholic people to pray frequently in their homes and in their churches for the cause of peace and racial reconciliation.”

He offered five concrete ways for Catholics to commit to ending racism and promoting “peace justice and respect for all”:

— “Pray for peace and healing among all people.”

— “Study the word of God and the social teaching of the church in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the dignity of all persons.”

— “Make a sincere effort to encounter more fully people of different racial backgrounds with whom we live, work and minister.”

— “Pursue ways in which Catholic parishes and neighborhoods can be truly welcoming of families of different racial and religious backgrounds.”

— “Get to know our local law enforcement officers. Let them know of our support and gratitude. And encourage young people to respect all legitimate authority.”

Archbishop Kurtz noted that racial tension in the U.S. is not new. “It is the most recent manifestation of a relationship as old as the history of our nation, one marred by the tragedy of human slavery. Promoting peace and reconciliation is the only way forward,” he said.

“And we must constantly strive to achieve these goals, trusting in the Lord to lead and guide us, accompanied by his merciful love. May he help all of us to recognize the dignity inherent in every human being, for God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.'”