Day 37: Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr grew up in New York and Indiana in a conservative household. After a stint in the Army and obtaining advanced degrees in Theology and Sociology, Neil took a teNeil Snarraching job at Wilmington College. WC is a small Quaker liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. Not long after arriving at WC, Neil began attending Quaker meeting and has been deeply involved with Friends ever since.

At WC he taught a variety of courses in Sociology and Global Issues. He also taught frequently in Wilmington’s prison program, which was a central aspect of WC’s social justice-oriented mission. In the 1960s, Neil began taking students to Central America and Mexico to learn Spanish and about the realities of the region. This was the beginning of his decades-long interest in taking students abroad and concern for native people throughout the world.

In the 1990s Neil began taking a handful of students to Spring Lobby Weekend, organized by FCNL in Washington, DC. At Spring Lobby Weekend, students learn about an issue of concern to Quakers, learn how to lobby, and then apply this knowledge on Capitol Hill. What began as a few students in a van has evolved into a charter bus loaded with 50-plus students, faculty, staff, and community members from Wilmington, Ohio.

In the academic realm, Neil has done research on post-disaster housing in Central America, edited a book on Nicaragua, and co-edited a book on global issues (now in its 6th edition). Additionally, he has served on various Quaker committees including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

Upon retiring, Neil has remained active. At WC he raises money for student travel to Quaker-related issues and has researched the history of local desegregation efforts. Most recently, Neil received recognition for selling $10,000 worth of Palestinian fair trade olive oil. His support of Palestinian olive farmers fits well with Neil’s long-held mantra that “if you want to help disadvantaged people, you should buy their products.” Neil has also been instrumental in enabling WC students to join William Penn Quaker Workcamps as participants and leaders in DC, West Virginia and Pine Ridge.

In alignment with his dedication to education as peacemaking, there are these words from Maria Montessori: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”

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Day 21: Anna Elizabeth Dickinson

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (1842-1932) was born to a Quaker family. Her parents were abolitionists, although her fathy died when she was 2. She attended Friends Select School in Philadelphia and Westtown School.  At age 14, she published a apassionate anti-slavery essay in William Lloyd Garrison-owned The Liberator, and at 18 addressed the PA Anti-Slavery Society.  She was becoming widely known as an eloquent and persuasive public speaker, one of the first females to be regularly on platforms speaking out against slavery. With Garrison’s support, she delivered a series of lectures sponsored by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, talks that helped the abolitionist movement in MA prior to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

dickin01In 1863, she was on the campaign trail in NY, PA, NH and CT supporting Radical Republicans in that year’s elections.  People left her events impressed by the power of her convictions, at times attacking Lincoln for being too moderate. Over 5000 people hailed her at Cooper Institute where she spoke on behalf of Republican candidates.  Then, in 1864, she became the first woman to give a political speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. Her speech went beyond abolition, and included strong opinions on the rights of blacks, Reconstruction and women’s rights.

After the Civil War, she remained a popular speaker for nearly a decade, earning praise from the likes of Mark Twain. She also published two books; a novel called “Which Answer” (1868) that featured an interracial marriage, and “A Ragged Register of People, Place and Opinions” (1879) about her experiences on the lecture circuit. As her speaking career waned, the turned to theater. In 1891, her sister, Susan Dickinson, arranged for her to be incarcerated at the Danville State Hospital for the Insane. As she successfully fought for her release and libel cased about being called insane, she antagonized and lost many friends and supporters. From 1895 to her death, she lived quietly in upstate NY in relative obscurity with George and Sallie Ackerly, who treated her as an honored guest.

For today, reflect on what Mark Twain had to say about Dickinson in his autobiography: “She talks fast, uses no notes what ever, never hesitates for a word, always gets the right word in the right place, and has the most perfect confidence in herself. Indeed, her sentences are remarkably smoothly-woven and felicitous. Her vim, her energy, her determined look, her tremendous earnestness, would compel the respect and the attention of an audience, even if she spoke in Chinese — would convince a third of them, too, even though she used arguments that would not stand analysis.”

Day 16: Andrew Young

Andrew Young was born in segregated New Orleans LA in 1932. His parents were fairly well-off, financially, and Young recalled his parents’ efforts to compensate for segregation by providing for their children, yet at the same time being reluctant to help less wealthy black communities in the area.  Young went on to graduate from Howard University and get a divinity degree from Hartford (CT) Seminary. While serving as pastor at a church in Marion, GA, he was introduced to the Gandhian concept of non-violent resistance. He got involved in voter registration drives, often under the threat of violence. In 1957, he moved to NY with his wife, Jean Childs, and worked for National Council of Churches’ Youth Division, as well as hosting a weekly Sunday morning tv show designed to reach out to secular youth.AYoung

After his time in NY, Young moved to Georgia in 1961 to get more involved in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), becoming one of Martin Luther King’s principle lieutenants, serving as a strategist, negotiator, and, at times, fellow prisoner.  He was with King when King was assassinated. In 1972, Young was elected to congress, and served until 1977 when he was named UN Ambassador. Among his works in congress included legislation to establish the US Institute for Peace. His time at the UN was not without controversy, including issues we see to this day, including the entrenchment of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and the continuing struggle for Palestinian rights, the latter of which was called the “Andy Young Affair” and led to his resignation.

His post-UN career included two very successful terms as mayor of Atlanta in the 1980’s, and work with foundations, corporations and institutes (including The Andrew Young Foundation) to promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the US, Caribbean and Africa. A brief stint in 2006 as spokesman for Working Families for Wal-Mart remains controversial because of his assessment about wealth distribution, racist comments about Jews, Koreans and Arabs, and questions about how much Wal-Mart contributes to GoodWorks International that was founded by Young.  But it is over the long-course of his career and his works that one sees the common-thread of commitment to the deeper issues and complexity of actions needed that his impact is seen, as exemplified by these few statements:

“In a sane, civil, intelligent and moral society, you don’t blame poor people for being poor.”

“Nobody black had learned anything from the ‘Letter from the Birmingham Jail’ or from the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That was a revelation of white people.” 

“Surely, if we can land a spaceship on Mars, we can certainly put a voter ID card in the hand of every eligible voter.”

Day 15: Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was born as a slave in Holly Springs, MS. When she was 6 months old, she and her family were decreed free thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation. Her parents, despite on-going prejudices and discrimination, were active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction. Her father, James, was involved with the Freedman’s Aid Society, and helped start Shaw University (now Rust College), a school for the newly-freed slaves. This is where Ida received her early schooling, but had to drop out at age 16 when both her parents and a sibling died in a yellow fever outbreak. She had to take care of her younger siblings. She also convinced a local school administrator she was 18, and landed a job as a teacher.  In 1882, she moved to live with an aunt in Memphis, TN, enabling her to continue her education at Fisk.

A turning point in her life was a train trip from Memphis to Nashville. She had purchased IdaWellsa 1st class ticket, but was forcibly removed from the train when she refused to move to the car for African Americans. She successfully sued the railroad, but the TN Supreme Court overturned the decision. The injustice led her to start writing about the issues of race and politics in the South under the name “Iola”. She eventually became an owner of free speech publications that were publishing her writings. She also taught as a segregated public school, and was a vocal critic of the segregated school conditions. These criticisms resulted in her firing. Then, in 1892, three African-American men, friends of hers, opened a grocery store in Memphis. Their business drew customers from a white-owned store, whose supporters one night attacked the new store. As the owners defended the store, one of the white vandals was shot. The African-American owners were arrested, but were taken from the jail by a lynch mob and murdered before standing trial.  This so incensed Wells that she started writing in-depth article about this lynching and other wrongful deaths, often putting how own life at risk as well as the resulting in the ruin of the publishers of her writings.

Wells took her anti-lynching campaign north as well as to Europe, seeking support from reform-minded whites. She also wrote and expose about the 1892 ban on African-American exhibitors at the World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1898, she took her anti-lynching campaign to Washington, leading a protest and calling on President McKinley to make reforms.  She formed the National Association of Colored Women and, after the 1908 assaults on the African-American community in Springfield, IL, helped organize what would become the NAACP. She also worked on behalf of rights for all women, working with the National Equal Rights League that called on President Wilson to end discriminatory government hiring. In 1930, she made an unsuccessful bid for the IL state senate. She died the following year from kidney disease.

In honor of Wells, and a reminder of the role that money plays, for better or worse, in social justice efforts, reflect on these wise words from Wells: “The appeal to the white man’s pocket has ever been more effectual than all the appeals ever made to his conscience.”

Day 11: Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was a leading educator and civil rights activist.  She was one of 17 children born to former slaves in Mayesville, SC. The family lived in poverty and everyone in the family worked, many toiling in cotton fields. Mary was the only child in the family to go to school. She would walk miles to a newly-opened missionary school and did her best to share what she was learning with her family. After completing her education at Scotia Seminary in Concord NC and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, she returned to the south and started her career as a teacher in 1895. In 1898 she married fellow teacher Albertus Bethune, and had one son. Her marriage ended in 1907.

Mary.McLeod.BethuneBelieving that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Dayton FL in 1904. The school quickly grew from 5 to over 250 students in a few short years. Bethune served as school president and remained in leadership even after it merged with the Cookman Institute for Men in the mid-1920’s, becoming known as the Bethune-Cookman College. She stayed with the college until 1942.

In addition to her work in education, Bethune was a significant contributor to American society. She was president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for years, and in 1924 beat out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells as the organization’s national leader. President Coolidge invited her to participate in a conference on child welfare, and President Hoover appointed her to a committee on child health and had her serve on the Commission on

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Home Building and Home Ownership. She was a special adviser to FDR on minority affairs and became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.  She became a trusted friend and adviser to both FDR and Eleanor.  She was an early member of the NAACP, whom she represented along with W.E.B. DuBois at the 1945 founding of the UN.  In the early 1950’s, President Truman appointed her to a committee on national defense and named her to serve as an official delegate to a presidential inauguration in Liberia.

In honor of her dedication to youth and education, we have these words: “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”

 

Day 10: Prince Ea

Prince Ea is a poet, activist, speaker, director, and content creator who has touched the hearts, minds and souls of millions of people worldwide. He was born as Richard Williams in 1988 in St. Louis and took the stage name Prince EA when he graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in Anthropology and Latin honors. “Prince Ea” comes from Sumerian mythology meaning “Prince of the Earth”. In 2008, he released the mixtape “the Adolescence” as a free download. A few days later, he recorded an Prince Eaamateur rap video that won a VIBE Verses award giving him $5000 in music equipment and a full-page article in VIBE Magazine. He proceeded to win other competitions and awards. In 2009, upset by the state of the music industry, Prince Ea, started a movement named “Make ‘SMART’ Cool” (SMART is an acronym for “Sophisticating Minds And Revolutionizing Thought”). This movement attempts to “promote intelligence to everyone, everywhere and integrate it with hip-hop. To create and nurture, without discrimination or preference, a community of free-thinking individuals under the singular purpose of promoting the ideals of education, intelligence, unity and creativity throughout the world at large.”  A successful underground clothing line with increasing support from artists has been developed as well.  By creating positive, inspirational and thought provoking content, Prince has accumulated over 300 million views on the Facebook and YouTube platforms alone.

Today, Prince Ea consistently speaks at conferences and gives lectures to high school/university students nationwide, on the topics of self-development, education, living your passion and the importance of being motivated and engaged in the classroom. He has continued to produce music and perform in major venues. By creating positive, inspirational and thought provoking content, Prince has accumulated over 300 million views on the Facebook and YouTube platforms alone. His productions promote awareness and call for change on everything from race relations to protecting the environment (such as with this video).

Prince’s primary mission is to allow the grace of God/Universe to work through him creating content that spreads awareness, excites, entertains and ultimately galvanizes listeners/viewers to recognize the power, peace and equanimity within themselves. He believes that the only way to change the world is to change the individual.

For today, reflect on these words: “Where there is division, there is conflict and conflict starts wars; therefore, every war starts with labels…but deep down inside, we were meant to connect.”

And, if you have time, watch this Prince Ea production from which these words come: “I am NOT Black, You are NOT White.”

Day 9: John Lewis

John Lewis has spent all of his adult life as a champion for civil rights. Born in Troy, Alabama in 1940, he was the third son of a large family. His parents were sharecroppers.  While growing up, he witnessed segregation in full tilt. He remembers times when even checking out a book from the library was reserved for white people only. After high school, Lewis attended American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fish University, both in Nashville, TN. It was here that he became a leader of the Nashville sit-ins that ultimately led to the desegregation of lunch counters. He was also arrested many times in the struggle to desegregate the whole downtown Nashville area. While a student, he was introduced to non-violent workshops, and he became a dedicated adherent to the discipline and philosophy of nonviolence, something he still practices to this day.

lew0-005Lewis became one of the youngest leaders of the tumultuous 1960’s civil rights movement. He participated in the Freedom Rides, and followed Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks on the radio. He and his family supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963-66, during which time they opened Freedom Schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer and voter registration efforts that led to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. He was named as one of the “Big Six” leaders (along with Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins) to organize the 1963 March on Washington where MLK delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was the youngest speaker that day.  In his speech, he was going to ask “Which side is the federal government on?” when looking at the passivity of the government in the face of Southern violence. Other organizers eliminated that line, not wanting to offend the Kennedy Administration, but it was a question he would not let die. His subsequent leading of the Freedom Rides, which were bombed, and where Lewis was also beaten and left unconscious on the bus station floor, showed that federal government was not yet up to the task, simply calling for a “cooling-off period” and a moratorium on Freedom Rides. Lewis was imprisoned for 45 days for his participation.

After leaving SNCC, he spent the next decade working with community organizations and johnlewisfor the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta as community affairs director. He entered into politics in 1977. After an unsuccessful bid for Congress that year, he accepted a position in the Carter administration as associate director of Action, running the VISTA program, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Foster Grandparent Program. He left that after 2.5 years to run for and win a seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981. In 1986 he was elected to the US House of Representatives, a seat he now holds. He is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, but also can be fiercely independent and is known as the “conscience of Congress.” He opposed the Clinton adminstration on NAFTA and welfare reform, asking “Where is the sense of decency? What does is profit a great nation to conquer the world, only to lose its soul?”

Despite having seen some of the ugliest that humanity can dish out, Lewis is routinely upbeat and optimistic. For today, we have his words about that: “When I was a student, I studied philosophy and religion. I talked about being patient. Some people say I was too hopeful, too optimistic, but you have to be optimistic just in keeping with the philosophy of non-violence.”