Clearly Progress: A Common Kinship

Often, our politics are not so much a choice as a birthright. Although mine were born half a world and half a century away, perhaps there is some kinship with all of us who make progress what it is: the voyage, slow at times, towards equity.

My story started in the first half of the 20th century. My grandfather, a professor, was kidnapped several times during the Japanese occupation of Korea, and then for good by the North Koreans during the Korean War, never to be seen again. With the devastation that all wars bring upon them, my newly alone grandmother huddled her six children, on the brink of survival and in abject poverty, until somehow, they made it to the United States before the war claimed them.

Fast forward almost half a century.

When I was twenty and in college in New York City, I ran across a viewing of the wonderful Civil Rights documentary, Eyes on the Prize, and specifically, the episode on the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Freedom Summer. Coincidentally, the very next day, The New York Times ran a story on the 25th anniversary of Freedom Summer, which was to be a bus caravan of young people to Mississippi and back. The article stated that Carolyn Goodman, the mother of Andrew Goodman – one of the Civil Rights workers killed that summer – lived in Manhattan. I looked her up in the phone book and told her I wanted to help with the anniversary project. She said, “sure, c’mon over.” Continue reading

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Personal reflections on Obama’s speech

Barack Obama’s speech from Philadelphia today was a eulogy on the twentieth century’s conversation on race. Seeing a candidate – a Presidential candidate no less – pen a speech that holds the mirror up to all of America, equally, unashamedly and nakedly, made me exhale deeply and say, “finally.”

As one who has advised several candidates, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to green light that speech. Obama and his team have at stake millions of dollars, millions of supporters and incomprehensible pressures to win on November 4th. That’s not to be underestimated or undervalued. Above all, if Obama does not win, he will not be able to enact the new ways of governing about which he so eloquently speaks. In spite of, or more likely, because of all that, Obama and his team made a bold decision: to say what everyone is thinking, but no one wants to say out loud.

As a child, my lens on race was shaped by classmates making fun of me or chasing me home from school because I looked different than they did. As an adult, I came to understand race through my deep friendship with Carolyn Goodman, whose son, Andy Goodman, was murdered by the KKK in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964. Continue reading