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Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement Paperback – January 15, 2010
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I listened to the show twice and then went out and bought Harding's book. His message is compelling and urgent. Look back to history and make it real and personal for the children and young people of today. They need "signposts" to grasp onto; some of those that succeed in a community should stay in that community and work within it as models and teachers and examples that it is possible for those stuck in the drug culture and hopelessness that is doesn't have to be that way, reach for the stars.
"Indeed, these are the models of women and men who were not satisfied with the transformation of their own lives, the breaking of their own fears, but saw their own renewal as a call to participate in the rebuilding of their people and their nation - and in that process they found even more powerful sources of personal renewal than they dreamed. If nothing else comes forth from the exploration and sharing of the epic story of our own struggle for democracy in the United States of America, such an insight would be reward enough. And if the insight helps us to guide desperately searching -or desperately trapped-individuals to discover and claim their own best possibilities, our teaching will have leaped beyond the sharing of information to the sharing of life."
"But King did not stop there. He was too much of a pastor, teacher, and preacher to miss the opportunity to make a point. So he continued to reflect on the meaning of the power that had been developed in the lives of Black youth and their white allies:
'It is ironic that today so many educators and sociologists are seeking methods to instill middle-class values in Negro youth as the ideal in social development. It was precisely when young Negroes threw off their middle-class values that they made an historic social contribution. They abandoned those values when they put careers and wealth in a secondary role. When they cheerfully became jailbirds and troublemakers, when they took off their Brooks Brothers attire and put on overalls to work in the isolated rural south, they challenged and inspired white youth to emulate them.'
Obviously, King's words-and example-are a continuing, powerful challenge to 'educators and sociologists', to pastors and political leaders, to parents and friends of this current generation of young people. Is it really possible that certain kinds of power come to us only as we let go of things rather than accumulate them? And what of those youth who feel they have never had anything to let go of? What is their path to the power that can transform both individuals and nations? What fascinating exchanges might evolve out of a panel of young people and adults grappling seriously with the meaning of King's words and example-for today, especially if our youth recognize some willingness among us to move eventually beyond words to powerful deeds, to continue in the heritage of those who were transforming American and inspiring the world? What if some of the youth of Obama's magnificent campaign were given a helpful setting and encouraged to explore their experiences during and after the 2009 campaign? What is they were helped to thing together about the meaning of King's words for their own future and the future of our nation? What results might we see?"
The second edition of this book ends with a letter written to Barack Obama, the new president. It is a wonderful call to him to stand up and be the change he said he would be.
"Please stay awake, my son. Never become one of the cynical, overcautious chain-yankers. You know very well that there are already too many of them...They/we don't need you to join those ranks. Stay awake, Barack Hussein. You know that your energies, our energies,must be devoted to removing all chains and blindfolds, to gathering closely around you, within you, a company of free workers and dreamers-like you momma, like Fannie Lou Hammer and Ella Baker,like Bob Moses and the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, like Van Jones(yes, Van Jones) and Marian Wright Edelman, like Grace Lee Boggs, Thomas Banyaka, Delores Huerta (who has lovingly, gladly forgiven you for stealing-and translating-the United Farm Workers' great slogan 'si se puede) and certainly our mutual friend, Jim Wallis. And yes, as soon as possible, please sit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (who I am sure, has already forgiven you). If you have to hide the known and unknown nobodies and great bodies in the White House family quarters, or at Camp David-or wherever unchained, sometimes unknown Underground Railroad folks carry on discussions with our president these days, let them be deeply embedded in your being. We need, you need, their voices and their spirits in these very rough times."
Harding, leading consultant on and champion of the popular Civil Rights series, `Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965', draws on `Eyes...' in almost every essay. Hope and History reads as if it was a complementary text to the series of videos. Hope and History 2nd edition also attempts to remain current with a letter to President Barack Obama (Chapter 13) and related Obama references appearing periodically throughout the text; commentary intended to bridge the past with the present. For example:
"Forty years later the impossible became president moving through the doors that Fannie Lou Hamer had opened, Shirley Chisholm challenged, and Jesse Jackson expanded." (p.100)
`Eyes on the Prize' and Hope and History should always be a part of the African-American experience/learning experience. These, as well as Harding's other contributions, truly make him, to use his words, an Artisan of Democracy.
for its historical eyewitness testimony, spiritual integrity, and unfailing belief in the human dignity of all of us, this is a book i read, reread, and read again. i am thankful for it.