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What Can I Say? And Who Is Listening? (mostly the music and links) August 30, 2022

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“We will see that the true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not.”

 

– conclusion to the speech given by Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall at The Annual Seminar of the San Francisco Patent and Trademark Law Association, Maui, Hawaii May 6, 1987

The syndicated columnist Molly Ivins (and author of Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?) was born today in 1944 and Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice today in 1967. To learn a little more about some noteworthy history connected to this date, check out this post from 2020.

Please join me today (Tuesday, August 30th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “10202020 Pratyahara”]

 

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

 

 

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The Origins of Litigation (the “missing” post) July 10, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, Healing Stories, Life, Love, Music, One Hoop, Religion, Science, Texas, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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This is the “missing” post for today, Sunday, July 10thYou can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.)

“1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.

3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.

5. If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.”

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– quoted from the Code of Hammurabi (translated by L. W. King, as posted on the Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library website for The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy)

Before we go any further, let me clarify something important. The title of this blog post can be – and is intended to be – taken in different ways. This is not, however, a treatise on the beginning of how people started taking legal action against one another. Although, to that end, I will say that carved and chiseled tablets from as far back as 2350 BCE provide very clear evidence of Near East, Middle East, and African societies with codified expectations, processes, and precedents. Here in the West, the most well-known of these ancient legal texts is probably the Code of Hammurabi (circa 18th century BCE), which is recognized as the laws of Hammurabi, sixth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon. Preserved on a stone slab over 7 feet (i.e., over 2 meters) tall, the text contains an image of King Hammurabi and Shamash, the Babylonian sun god and god of justice, followed by several thousands of lines of cuneiform text.

The Code of Hammurabi includes 282 rules and guidelines, which establish what happens “if” someone does something – or is accused of doing something – and what happens “[w]hen” they are proven guilty or “if” they are proven innocent “then” what happens to the accuser. The latter are particularly interesting to me, because there is no double standard: falsely accusing someone could carry the same penalty as having done the deed. It is also interesting to note that (per the fifth code, as quoted above) judges were not above the penalty of law – a rule that underscores the responsibility that comes with judicial power.

In many cases, the penalty for grievances were severe (and final). While some parts of our modern Western society have done away with the death penalty and most have eliminated “trial by river,” we can very clearly trace many of our laws, litigation processes, and penalties through the history of the Abrahamic religions and into the here-and-now – at least, from a purely historical perspective. In fact, the Code of Hammurabi is so historical significant to our modern society that Hammurabi’s image is included in the relief portraits of lawgivers located over the gallery doors of the House Chamber in the United States Capital – right next to Moses and across from two gentleman from Virginia: George Mason and Thomas Jefferson.

“We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence…. I should premise that I use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny.”

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– from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin (pub. 1859)

So, again, this post is not about the history of law. Instead, this post is about a trial that started today in 1925. It is not, as any good law professor or lawyer will tell you, the first (or the first significant) trial in the United States of America. Therefore, it is not the beginning of this great nation’s (sometimes way too “great”) litigation system. However, when I think about litigation that set a precedent for the way laws and legal proceedings affect society – and are affected by society – I think of The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, better known as “The Scopes Monkey Trial,” which took place in Dayton Tennessee (July 10-21, 1925).

At the center of the trial, legally speaking, was John Thomas Scopes, a high school biology substitute teacher who was accused of violating Tennessee’s “Butler Act” by teaching evolution during a high school biology class. Tennessee teachers were required, by law, to not teach evolution or deny Intelligent Design (ID) – even though the required text book had a chapter on evolution. By most accounts, Scopes skipped the chapter, but he still provided an opportunity to challenge what some considered an unconstitutional Act. Given the subject matter, it is not surprising that the trial became a carnival-like spectacle. There were vendors selling Bibles, toy monkeys, hot dogs, and lemonade. Despite the summer heat, the crowd size eventually increased to the point that the whole thing had to be moved outside. Those who couldn’t make it to Tennessee and/or the court “room” could listen to the trial on the radio. And, everyone had an opinion. Of course, the legal opinions that mattered came from the lawyers.

“Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals…. If civilization is to be saved from the wreckage threatened by intelligence not consecrated by love, it must be saved by the moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene. His teachings, and His teachings alone, can solve the problems that vex the heart and perplex the world.”

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– quoted from William Jennings Bryan’s written summation to The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes (as distributed to the press), July 1925

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“My statement that there was there was no need to try this case further, and for the court to instruct that the defendant is guilty under the law was not made as a plea of guilty or an admission of guilt. We claim that the defendant is not guilty, but as the court has excluded any testimony, except as to the one issue as to whether he taught that man descended from a lower order of animals, and we cannot contradict that testimony, there is no logical thing to come except that the jury find a verdict that we may carry to the higher court, purely as a matter of proper procedure. We do not think it is fair to the court or counsel on the other side to waste a lot of time when we know this is the inevitable result and probably the best result for the case. I think that is all right?”

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– quoted from Clarence Darrow’s “bench statement” just before the jury’s verdict was announced in The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, July 21, 1925

William Jennings Bryan – who was known as “The Great Commoner” and “The Boy Orator” – represented the state of Tennessee and, therefore, the idea that man was created by (the Abrahamic) God and had no relation to “other” primates. By 1925, when the trial occurred, Mr. Bryan had severed the country as a litigator; a member of the  U.S. House of Representatives (from Nebraska’s 1st district); and as the 41st U. S. Secretary of State (serving under President Woodrow Wilson). He had also, unsuccessfully, run for president on three different occasions. He was adored by some, abhorred by some, and was nothing short of polarizing. [As a side note, William Jennings Bryan died five days after the verdict came in of the “Scopes Monkey Trial.”]

Then there was Clarence Darrow, for the defense.

Clarence Darrow was prominent member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and had just (the previous year) wrapped up the very public “Leopold and Loeb murder” trial. He was considered a witty, sophisticated country lawyer, who even had the audacity to put the state’s attorney (William Jennings Bryan) on the witness stand. In 1925, Clarence Darrow was already establishing his reputation as a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who fought for the underdog. Just as was the case when he represented Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, his motivation for representing John Scopes wasn’t about whether or not his client broke the law. It wasn’t even, as he pointed out in his summation, whether or not the court would find his client guilty. No, Clarence Darrow’s focus was ultimately about whether or not laws and punishments made sense. As he would illustrate in his later defense of the brothers Ossian Sweet and Henry Sweet (1926), as well as of Thomas Massie (1931), he was about the rule of law and “the law of love.”

“I do not believe in the law of hate. I may not be true to my ideals always, but I believe in the law of love, and I believe you can do nothing with hatred. I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man, and forgets his color or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes.”

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– quoted from the end of Clarence Darrow’s 7-hour closing argument in The People of Michigan v. Henry Sweet (the second of the “Sweet Trials, involving a defendant from the racially charged The People of Michigan v. Ossian Sweet et al.), May 11, 1926

Clarence Darrow’s “law of love” is the same “moral code of the meek and lowly Nazarene” that William Jennings Bryan cited and, ironically, it speaks directly to the origin of Charles Darwin’s treatise on evolution. That is to say, it is related to how we are all connected and how our survival is based on “dependence of one being on another.” However, those early teachings – which actually predate Jesus – are not always practiced as they are preached. Similarly, evolution as it was debated in Tennessee in 1925 and at Oxford University in 1860, was not exactly what Darwin presented in 1859. In fact, the scientist never even used the word “evolution” in his first text. But, it didn’t take long for his argument to, ummm, evolve (or devolve, depending on your perspective). The way Darwin approached the subject was partially responsible for why it changed and why it can still be such a hot topic.

Portions of the following, related to Charles Darwin, were originally posted on November 24, 2020.

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

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– from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

The idea of evolution didn’t start with Charles Darwin. No, even the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) referenced earlier ideas (that predated his life) and contemplated an internal purpose (related to survival). Aristotle believed that this “internal purposiveness” existed in all living beings and could be passed down through generations. So, if the idea existed before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (or, more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life) was published on November 24,1859, why did Darwin’s work create such an uproar?

To get to the origins of Origins – or at least the controversy, chaos, and uproar around it, let’s go back to 1852, when Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist used the German term entwicklungsgeschichte” (“development history”), which had previously been used in relation to embryos and single cell organisms, to explain cosmic and biological changes in societies. Spencer would later write an essay coining the phrase “theory of evolution” – in relation to Darwin’s work. However, in the same year (1852) that Spencer wrote about cultures having “development history,” he also wrote an essay called “The Philosophy of Style” in which he promoted writing “to so present ideas that they may be apprehended with the least possible mental effort.” In other words, Spencer advocated writing to make the meaning plain and accessible.

I can’t say for sure how much Darwin himself was influenced by Spencer, but it is very clear that Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species for non-specialists. In other words, he wrote it for the masses. And, as it was easily understood (and written by a then esteemed scientist), it became wildly discussed – in the parlors and in the public. The first big public debate occurred on June 30, 1860 during the British Science Association’s annual meeting at Oxford UniversityThe next big public debate started today, July 10, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee (USA). In both cases, what people remember is the way two very articulate men squared off around matters of faith and reason, and the moral and ethical implications of believing one origin story over the other.

As predicted by his lawyer, John Scopes was found guilty by the jury. The judge fined him $100 (the equivalent of about $1,670.26, as I post this today). As planned, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee (in 1926). All five of the defense’s constitutional points of appeal were rejected by the higher court. However, the verdict was overturned on a technicality: the $100 penalty required by the legislation was higher than what the state constitution said a judge could apply. Had the jury assigned the fine, it is possible that the case could have continued to the Supreme Court of the United States.

“It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

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– from The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin (pub. 1871)

The fact that “The Scopes Monkey Trial” is related to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is tangentially related to why I think of it as a litigation “origin” story. More importantly, as the first United States trial to be nationally televised broadcasted on the radio, The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes set a precedent on how trials are covered by the press and how the public pays attention to such trials. The press was right there, in the court “room” and, therefore, it put the whole country in the jury box; hearing testimony in real time. It was the beginning of a national (even an international) court of public opinion that’s not restricted to the parlors and the streets. Instead, this expanded defacto jury also becomes a judging and legislating body that is quick to convert cases into real world applications (and vice versa). For example, the initial verdict in 1925, led to several state legislations debating anti-evolution legislation – most of which were rejected, but some of which were codified. While Tennessee’s “Butler Act” was rescinded September 1, 1967, there have been similar legal and pedagogical debates in the United States as recently as 2005 and 2007 (hello, Kansas – where evolution is still officially “an unproven theory”). The case also led to changes in science text books (across the country) and changes in the way in which students were taught – and not just about how they were taught biology.

Finally, as a textbook case on how the U. S. legal system could work, “The Scopes Monkey Trial” was/is a primer for how the constitution can be applied to day-to-day life and how that application can be defended… or rejected. It is a tried and true First Amendment case and, to me, is the origin story of how so many Americans view the legality of their constitutional rights, as well as how they understand their rights to challenge how the constitution is applied and the process by which they might exercise those rights. As so many states (including my own home state) codify things that I view as absolutely egregious (and unconstitutional) – and as SCOTUS shockingly overturns precedent – I see lots of opportunities for Scopes-like “tests.”

As soon as Texas created it’s “bounty hunter” abortion law, I said there’s going to be some Scope-like cases testing this. Within a matter of days, cases were filed. Just a couple of weeks ago, mere days after SCOTUS overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, a woman here in Texas was pulled over while driving in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. She was cited for not having at least one passenger. The woman, who is pregnant, cited the aforementioned Texas penal code and the SCOTUS decision as “proof” that she was driving lawfully. She was given a ticket, which means she gets her day in court. I don’t know anything else about this woman and I don’t know anything about her politics, but – whether her motivations are purely economic or whether they are more expansive – her case will put these matters to the test.

And, how ever, those cases are decided, the world will be watching… and discussing.

“Now, we came down here to offer evidence in this case and the court has held under the law that the evidence we had is not admissible, so all we can do is to take an exception and carry it to a higher court to see whether the evidence is admissible or not. As far as this case stands before the jury, the court has told you very plainly that if you think my client taught that man descended from a lower order of animals, you will find him guilty… and there is no dispute about the facts. Scopes did not go on the stand, because he could not deny the statements made by the boys. I do not know how you may feel, I am not especially interested in it, but this case and this law will never be decided until it gets to a higher court, and it cannot get to a higher court probably, very well, unless you bring in a verdict…. We cannot argue to you gentlemen under the instructions given by the court we cannot even explain to you that we think you should return a verdict of not guilty. We do not see how you could. We do not ask it.”

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– quoted Clarence Darrow’s statement to the jury, just before the verdict was announced in The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, July 21, 1925

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for the “Hays Code” playlist dated “March 31” on YouTube and “03302020” on Spotify]

The Law of Love

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

– The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (13:8, NIV)

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

– The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (5:14-15, KJV)

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“Is it on your grandmother’s or grandfather’s side that you are descended from an ape?”

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– Bishop Samuel Wilberforce to Thomas Henry Huxley (reportedly), June 30, 1860

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“I asserted – and I repeat – that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man – a man of restless and versatile intellect – who, not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.”

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– Thomas Henry Huxley to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (reportedly), June 30, 1860 (from Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, by his Son Leonard Huxley by Leonard Huxley (Volume I)

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### Where Do We [Even] Begin? ###

“Being…” – Lessons in Svādyāya (an expanded and “renewed” Tuesday post) May 17, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Changing Perspectives, Confessions, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Suffering, Texas, Wisdom, Yoga.
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Be humbly grateful as we find enduring compassion and balance together. 

This is an expanded and “renewed” post for Tuesday, May 17th. You can request an audio recording of any of these practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.)

BEING GRATEFUL

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

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– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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“If you’re not happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy with what you get.”

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– Rabbi Noah Weinberg

Yesterday, I ended the practice with a philosophical reminder that life is precious and, some would argue, mathematically rare. It’s a simple idea that most people can agree upon (even when we can’t agree on when life begins – or ends). That’s why we have all those pithy statements life “life is a gift,” “this moment is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present (in English),” and – one of my personal favorites – “your presence in this present moment is also a gift.”

Here’s the thing about gifts though: When we receive them, we give thanks. Even when we don’t like or want the gift and even when we would prefer something else, we say thank you. When we really, truly, appreciate the gift, we might go into great detail about how much we appreciate the gift, why it is perfect for us, and/or how it will make our life better. We may even find ourselves giving thanks long after we have received the gift. In fact, every time we use it and/or think of it, we might express a bit of gratitude. And all of that gratitude is inextricably connected to our happiness and well-being.

What happens, however, if we are simultaneously receiving our blessings in one hand and having them taken away from the other hand? What happens if we are struggling to hold on to our blessings? What happens, if something was passed down to us and we not only took it for granted, we never really gave thanks?

I’ll tell you what happens. We struggle. We fear. We despair. We may even feel hopeless. In those moments, we may not think of expressing gratitude. Or, we may think giving thanks is too hard given our present challenges. And, sure, yes, it may be hard. But, it’s not impossible. In fact, I would argue that it is essential. It is essential that we give thanks for the rights and the blessings that have been given to us. It is essential that we express gratitude for the people (adults and children) who fought and struggled to get us where we are today. To do that, however, to really appreciate what was done for us, we have to know our history.

We also have to get/understand our history – something, I’ll admit, was sometimes beyond me. Even though I’m Brown. Considering I didn’t always get it, I shouldn’t be surprised that others (still) don’t get it.

BEING BROWN

The following was originally posted in 2020. You can practice svādyāya (“self-study”) with this post, by putting yourself in my shoes or the shoes of some of the other people mentioned. You can also practice svādyāya by noticing what resonates with you, what parallels your own experience, and what feels odd to you.

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

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“…we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities…. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.”

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– Linda Brown, quoted in a “Black/White and Brown” produced by KTWU Channel 11 (May 3, 2004)

For a long time, most of my life, I didn’t get it. How could I get it, as odd as it is to understand, it was outside of my experience.

I am related to some of the smartest people I know –and I know a lot of really smart people. My father has a PhD and taught doctors, his mother was a school teacher, my maternal great-grandmother and both grandmothers taught Sunday school, and my mother worked with doctors and lawyers – so I didn’t get why they made such a big deal about my grades or my education. I appreciated it when my parents arranged things so I could enroll in special programming (like “Research and Development”), but sometimes I kind of took it for granted. Going to a private school, for instance, was just what my brothers and I did sometimes. Granted, one of my brothers ended up in private school after my parents were informed he would be bused to a “Black school” as part of a desegregation plan in the 80’s (which I thought was beyond silly, but I didn’t spend too much time thinking about why the plan existed (in the mid-80’s!!!). I didn’t get it; it was outside of my experience.

My maternal grandfather owned bars in Houston, like the Sportsman, and supper clubs, like The Club Supreme, which was part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” (venues owned and operated by and for African-American audiences during segregation). I grew up hearing about the great talents he booked and about people like Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte, and the Supremes stopping by the house for dinner. Sometimes I would walk into Club Supreme, look down the dark and dusty ballroom to the stage at the back and imagine what it was like in its heyday. When I walked next door to the Sportsman, owners/editors of newspapers, bankers, and business owners seemed to not only know my name, but also my GPA. Sometimes I thought it was weird – especially when they would tell me they were holding a job for me when I graduated from college – but mostly I just thought part of being a grandfather was being proud of your grandchildren; I figured he must talk about me to his customers because that’s what grandfathers did. I didn’t get it; it was outside of my experience.

“I was kind of afraid at first. I didn’t talk about it very much, I guess, because I was afraid it would get back to someone who would make trouble.”

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– Linda Brown, age 17, in a 1961 New York Times interview

In May 2004, I finally started to get it. It was the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and as people were celebrating, remembering, and producing documentaries, I was doing the math. In doing the math, I finally really understood that Black people not being able to go to the school of their choice wasn’t part of some distant history lesson. It was part of living history – it was part of my family history. The teachers, administrators, farmers, businessmen and businesswomen, police officers, doctors, nurses, insurance agents, authors, truckers, military personnel, farmers, and preachers in my family successfully did what they did – not because they had the economic and educational advantages that they gave me, but in spite of not having what I took for granted. My parents grew up in the South, in the shadow of Brown v Board, in a state where the Attorney General actively worked to keep school segregation legal despite the U. S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. The people who worked behind the bar and sat on the barstools at my grandfather’s clubs knew me not because my Paw-Paw was some random grandfather proud of his random grandchildren, but because they all understood what I did not: my brothers, cousins, and I were symbols of progress and change. We were proof that the world – or at least our little corner of the world – was getting better, more equitable and more just.

When my grandfather died, people seemed to come out the woodwork. I kind of expected the elders. What I didn’t expect were the people my age, people who wanted to remember and celebrate a businessman in the community who had financially supported the education of young people in the community. They came to celebrate and remember, because they got it.

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

– Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall referencing his SCOTUS successor in a Newsweek interview (dated October 28, 1991)

Linda Brown, the student at the center of Brown v Board, was actually part of three school segregation related lawsuits: the one SCOTUS ruled on today in 1954; Brown II in 1955; and a case filed by the adult Linda Brown in 1978 (Brown III), which was re-opened and appealed through the late 80’s / early 90’s. The first case, officially filed as “Oliver Brown, et al v Board of Education of Topeka, et al,” was a class action lawsuit filed by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s chief counsel, for thirteen parents on behalf of 20 school-aged children. However, the case itself was a test case and symbolic of several cases across the country. The case in Kansas was selected by the NAACP as the pilot case, because it was considered more Midwestern than Southern, the Brown’s neighborhood was desegregated (but the local school was not), and Oliver Brown was selected as the named plaintiff because he was a man. (The idea being that a male plaintiff might be considered more seriously by the courts and the ruling might carry more national weight if inequality could be proven outside of the South.)

While the unanimous 1954 ruling is celebrated as a landmark victory, it was more symbolic than anything else. The Supreme Court first ruled that there was no such thing as “separate, but equal” – at least not as schools existed at that time. Then, in 1955, SCOTUS ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed” – but, here again there was no timetable and the interpretation of the very poetic phrase was left not to the NAACP or the plaintiffs, but to the states.

“It’s disheartening that we are still fighting. But we are dealing with human beings. As long as we are, there will always be those who feel the races should be separate.”

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– Linda Brown, in a 1994 New York Times article (around 40th anniversary)

Look around today and you will see the legacy of Brown v Board. There is some positive, some signs of progress; there is also some negative. Were Linda Brown still alive today, she could easily file another lawsuit…on behalf of her grandchildren or even her great-grandchildren. Part of the legacy of Brown v Board is living in the shadow of the Plessy v Ferguson concept of “separate but equal.” We can say it’s the shadow that makes us appreciate the light; but, at some point we need more light.

“I didn’t understand what was happening then, but it was clear that Brown versus Board of Education was a necessary victory. It might have been a little flame, but it served to set off a mighty flame. To me, the impact of Brown is best seen in the increasing numbers of black professionals today. These are the people that, after 1954, were able to have some degree of choice. This surely made a difference in their aspirations and their achievements.”

*

– Linda Brown, in a April 29, 2004 speech (marking the 50th anniversary) at Chautauqua Institution

SVāDYāYA I: BEING LINDA 

This year and last year, I started May 17th practice with a visualization exercise inspired by one that Shelly Graf (Associate Director of Common Ground Meditation Center) offered in 2021. As I explained in last year’s post (and in the practice), the exercises we offered are different, except in the fact that they provide an opportunity for svādyāya (“self-study”). My version of the exercise may land different (now that you have the background), but if you have another few moments, please check out last year’s post to read about the visualization and related insights.

*

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05172020 Brown”]

Linda Carol Brown

“When they won, it set a lasting legal precedent. [Linda] Brown was attending an integrated junior high school by then, and she later recalled the initial desegregation of local elementary schools going smoothly. But over the course of her life, she saw the reality of school integration fall short, locally and nationally.”

*

– quoted from the 2018 Chalkbeat article entitled “In her own words: Remembering Linda Brown, who was at the center of America’s school segregation battles” by Sarah Darville (posted May 27, 2018)

*

*

### NAMASTE ###

“Being…” – Lessons in Svādyāya (mostly the music) May 17, 2022

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Be humbly grateful as we find enduring compassion and balance together. 

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

*

– Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall referencing his SCOTUS successor in a Newsweek interview (dated October 28, 1991)

Please join me today (Tuesday, May 17th) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “05172020 Brown”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

*

### 🎶 ###

Just a note… August 15, 2021

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As previously announced, I cancelled today’s class and will “re-zoom” the regular schedule tomorrow. If you are on my Sunday mailing list I sent you a previously recorded practice. If you planned to practice today, be fearless and play! Sing!

“We count the broken lyres that rest
Where the sweet wailing singers slumber,
But o’er their silent sister’s breast
The wild-flowers who will stoop to number?
A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them:—
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!”

— quoted from the poem “The Voiceless” by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (b. 08/29/1809)

A couple of days ago, a friend was laughing as they told me about the scene playing out in front of them: people in a boat enjoying the feeling of having the wind at their back, without any thought to the effort their return trip would require (when they would be heading into the wind). A year ago today, I posted a bit of philosophy related to being caught in an eddy and I am struck by the synchronicity: It seems we are always in the middle of something and, since we can’t go back (not really, not truly), we must find a way to move forward. Of course, progress requires effort.

There are a lot of people, myself included sometimes, who get so caught up in the pros and cons (not to mention the worst case scenarios and hypotheticals) that we don’t ever leave the dock. We become like “the voiceless” in the poem, who go to our graves “with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.” I think that group also includes those who spend a lot of time thinking about what they woulda-coulda-shoulda done if they knew what they knew now. Then there are those who rush heedlessly and needlessly into dangerous waters without giving a care to the safety and well-being of themselves or the rest of their crew. They consider that really living!

There’s a possibility that Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. thought his son (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) fell into this latter category when he left his senior year at Harvard University in order to enlist in the Union Army – and maybe he was. Personal politics and bad science aside, however, the story of father and son (as well as the weird, complicated story of their political, religious, and scientific beliefs) points to a third possibility: There are sailors who diligently gauge the conditions; dip a toe in the water; and make sure they are always prepared for what’s to come. To be like those sailors, we must prepare to win, even when the odds (and conditions) are stacked against us. 

“Wendell,” as some called Junior, survived the Civil War (despite seeing his cousin fall on the Confederate side and despite several near fatal experiences); possibly saved a sitting president; and went on to become Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a much lauded Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Despite his personal politics and bad science, he is one of the most-cited legal scholars and one can argue that our society is better off today because of his efforts. The fact that I (and possibly you) find some of his views absolutely abhorrent doesn’t change the fact that lawyers will continue to build on his precedents in order to establish a more perfect – and progressive – union. And, I’m not convinced he would have been bothered by that.

Bottom line: We don’t have to agree with anything he did and/or thought, but what we cannot argue is that he showed up when he could, prepared to do what he thought he could, and then he did it. That’s the lesson of the third category.

“Viewing life as a race or a contest – an occasion for functioning and nothing more – was a basic Holmesian theme. When Yale awarded Homes an honorary degree in 1886, he responded: ‘I never heard anyone profess indifference to a boat race. Why should you row a boat race? Why endure long months of pain in preparation for a fierce half-hour that will leave you all but dead? Does anyone ask the question? [Is there anyone who would not go through all it costs, and more, for the moment when anguish breaks into triumph – or even for the glory of having nobly lost?] . . . Is life less than a boat race?'”

“For Holmes, life was a horse race, a boat race, a trek to the North pole, a plunge over Niagara Falls, a duel with swords, and a neck-risking game of polo. It might even be a game of cards. ‘Why do I desire to win my game of solitaire? A foolish question, to which the only answer is that you are up against it. Accept the inevitable and do your damnedest.'”

– quoted from “Chapter Two, A Power-Focused Philosophy: A Noble Nihilism” (pages 21 and 23) of Law Without Values: The Life, Work and Legacy of Justice Holmes by Albert W. Alschuler

This is the second year in a row that I have needed to cancel class today, August the 15th – although for very different reasons. As stated above, if you planned to practice today, be fearless and play! Sing! See what happens. If you are on my Sunday mailing list, I sent you a previously recorded practice that you can use during the time you have set aside – or during another convenient time. Feel free to email me or comment below if you want the recording and/or to be added to the Sunday list.

Sunday’s playlist (for the substitute practice) is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “04252020 Ella’s Shy & Fearless Day”]

Previous blog posts related to today’s practice are linked above.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

### Om Lila Aum ###

Svādyāya I: Being Linda (the “missing” Monday post) May 19, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Meditation, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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[This post is related to the Common Ground Zoom practice on Monday, May 17th. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

Patricia Rayborn has written several books and essays about race, religion, family expectations, and Oswald Chambers, who asked, “Would I recognize God if He came in a way that I was not prepared for?”

Another way to phrase that is: “Would you recognize the Dharma (Dhamma) if it came in a way that you were not prepared for?” (Or, not expecting?)

Keeping all that in mind, if you have a moment, I invite you to participate in a little exercise. It is an exercise in svādyāya (“self-study”), partially inspired by a visualization exercise guided by Shelly Graf, Associate Director of Common Ground Meditation Center on Sunday. While they had some teachers, staff, and volunteers from the center visualizing, imagining, a future moment, on Monday I used it to guide people back… to some past moments.

“Hey, you know, everybody’s talkin’ about the good old days, right
Everybody’s talkin’ the good old days, the good old days
Well, let’s talk about the good old days
Come to think of it as, as bad as we think they are
these will become the good old days for our children, so um
Why don’t we, ah… Try to remember…”

 – quoted from the intro to the song medley “The Way We Were / Try to Remember” by Gladys Knight& The Pips

Take a moment to get comfortable. Make sure that your breath is deep. Then, imagine your “first day of school.” It can be the first day of school that you remember – which may not actually be the first time you went to a school outside of your home. Conversely, maybe it was your first day at a new school; maybe your first day of school in a new state or even in a new country. Just take a moment, maybe even read this and then close your eyes, and remember what you were wearing and how you felt.

Think about how you got to school: Was it in your neighborhood or somewhere else? Did you walk? Ride a bus? (If so, was it a school bus or public transit? Do you remember what the driver looked like, or even their name?) Did one of your parents drive you (or in some other way accompany you)?

Keep going. What about the other students? How did they look? What were they wearing? Who was your first friend? Or the first person you met that didn’t become your friend? What did your favorite teacher look like? What about your least favorite teacher? What about your principal and assistant principal? Do you remember any of the other staff?

Take a moment to soak up that imagery. Now, imagine the first day of school for your child or a child with whom you are very familiar. Can you visualize the answers to the same questions?

How different is/was their experience from your experience? How many years passed in between?

“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.”

– quoted from “May 3 – Vital Intercession” in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (although it is also often attributed to Corrie ten Boom)

At the beginning of Monday’s Common Ground practice on Zoom, I guided nine people through this exercise (after ascertaining that, between the 10 of us, we had gone to school in 14 states within 2 countries. (I didn’t count the cities, but it was more than 14). I didn’t ask anyone’s age, but my guess is that there was at least one person in the group in their 20’s, several of us in our 50’s, and possibly someone (or two) in their 60’s – and then some in between. And, while there were some overlaps in states, there was some diversity… in the states and in the people.

Suffice to say, if we had talked about it afterwards, we would have shared some similar experiences and some really different experiences. Yet, there we were, all on Zoom, sharing an experience. More to the point: having the resources to share the experience.

And yet, each of us experienced the exercise and the practice in different ways, because of our previous experiences – include those school experiences. More importantly, those school experiences are part of the foundation through which we experience all of our current experiences – even when we share them.

Consider that even when we don’t think about this foundation – and how it influences us – it still plays a part in how we are currently moving through the world. It also plays a part in how we interact with people who had different school experiences – or we perceive to have had different childhood experiences from us. It plays a part in how we make friends (and, to a certain degree, if we make friends with people outside of our first family, tribe, and community of birth). It also plays a part in how we see ourselves (and how we understand our place in the world).

Lack of awareness about those differences – or assumptions about those differences, can create conflict. It can also compound conflict; especially when we are not aware of our preconceived notions and/or biases. Lack of awareness can increase the suffering we experience and inflict, as well as prevent us from alleviating our own suffering.

“When they won, it set a lasting legal precedent. [Linda] Brown was attending an integrated junior high school by then, and she later recalled the initial desegregation of local elementary schools going smoothly. But over the course of her life, she saw the reality of school integration fall short, locally and nationally.”

– quoted from the 2018 Chalkbeat article entitled “In her own words: Remembering Linda Brown, who was at the center of America’s school segregation battles” by Sarah Darville (posted May 27, 2018)

Monday, May 17, was the anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court case known as Brown v. Board of Education. In getting ready for the practice, I experienced a little sadness that we are not further along as a country (when it comes to racial and class disparities, as well as gender inequality). I experienced a little anger that, throughout this pandemic, we saw those disparities in who was able to show up for virtual classes and who was walking to their school yard (or a restaurant or Apple store) so they could use the internet. And, while I admire local business owners and wealthy celebrities who support the school systems in their areas, I can’t help but be frustrated that (a) private citizens seem to be doing more than our municipalities (or federal government) and (b) that the private citizens who seem to do the most are those who are most aware of the disparities because they lived them.

Yes, I was feeling sad, angry, and frustrated – even a little judge-y. What I wasn’t feeling was a ton of gratitude. However Brown v. Board of Education, while more symbolic than practical (and apply-able) in 1954 (let alone 1955), was a “first step” for which I personally do feel grateful. In getting in touch with the feeling of gratitude – without dismissing or suppressing those other feelings – I thought about Shelly’s exercise. And I decide to go back. But, I didn’t want to go back in order to pass judgement on anyone’s experience. Instead, I wanted to simply raise awareness around our individual experiences (and maybe consider how we would feel if we walked in Linda Brown’s shoes).

During the practice, I mentioned the details of all three Brown cases (which you can read about in my 2020 blog post) and the ways in which (energetically speaking) we house and process our life experiences. Of course, no discussion about Brown would be complete without referencing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (who was then serving as the NAACP’s chief counsel).

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

– Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall referencing his SCOTUS successor in a Newsweek interview (dated October 28, 1991)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice. (However, I did post a “Brown” playlist in 2020.)

### UPEKŞĀ (EQUANIMITY) ###

Being Brown May 17, 2020

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(“Ramadan Mubarak, Blessed Ramadan!” to anyone who is observing Ramadan. I typically talk about Ramadan at the end of the season, so keep your eyes open.)

“I stopped explaining myself when I realized other people only understand from their level of perception.”

– Anonymous

 

“…we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities…. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.”

 

– Linda Brown, quoted in a “Black/White and Brown” produced by KTWU Channel 11 (May 3, 2004)

 

For a long time, most of my life, I didn’t get it. How could I get it, as odd as it is to understand, it was outside of my experience.

I am related to some of the smartest people I know –and I know a lot of really smart people. My father has a PhD and taught doctors, his mother was a school teacher, my maternal great-grandmother and both grandmothers taught Sunday school, and my mother worked with doctors and lawyers – so I didn’t get why they made such a big deal about my grades or my education. I appreciated it when my parents arranged things so I could enroll in special programming (like “Research and Development”), but sometimes I kind of took it for granted. Going to a private school, for instance, was just what my brothers and I did sometimes. Granted, one of my brothers ended up in private school after my parents were informed he would be bused to a “Black school” as part of a desegregation plan in the 80’s (which I thought was beyond silly, but I didn’t spend too much time thinking about why the plan existed (in the mid-80’s!!!). I didn’t get it; it was outside of my experience.

My maternal grandfather owned bars in Houston, like the Sportsman, and supper clubs, like The Club Supreme, which was part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” (venues owned and operated by and for African-American audiences during segregation). I grew up hearing about the great talents he booked and about people like Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte, and the Supremes stopping by the house for dinner. Sometimes I would walk into Club Supreme, look down the dark and dusty ballroom to the stage at the back and imagine what it was like in its heyday. When I walked next door to the Sportsman, owners/editors of newspapers, bankers, and business owners seemed to not only know my name, but also my GPA. Sometimes I thought it was weird – especially when they would tell me they were holding a job for me when I graduated from college – but mostly I just thought part of being a grandfather was being proud of your grandchildren; I figured he must talk about me to his customers because that’s what grandfathers did. I didn’t get it; it was outside of my experience.

“I was kind of afraid at first. I didn’t talk about it very much, I guess, because I was afraid it would get back to someone who would make trouble.”

 

– Linda Brown, age 17, in a 1961 New York Times interview

In May 2004, I finally started to get it. It was the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and as people were celebrating, remembering, and producing documentaries, I was doing the math. In doing the math, I finally really understood that Black people not being able to go to the school of their choice wasn’t part of some distant history lesson. It was part of living history – it was part of my family history. The teachers, administrators, farmers, businessmen and businesswomen, police officers, doctors, nurses, insurance agents, authors, truckers, military personnel, farmers, and preachers in my family successfully did what they did – not because they had the economic and educational advantages that they gave me, but in spite of not having what I took for granted. My parents grew up in the South, in the shadow of Brown v Board, in a state where the Attorney General actively worked to keep school segregation legal despite the U. S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. The people who worked behind the bar and sat on the barstools at my grandfather’s clubs knew me not because my Paw-Paw was some random grandfather proud of his random grandchildren, but because they all understood what I did not: my brothers, cousins, and I were symbols of progress and change. We were proof that the world – or at least our little corner of the world – was getting better, more equitable and more just.

When my grandfather died, people seemed to come out the woodwork. I kind of expected the elders. What I didn’t expect were the people my age, people who wanted to remember and celebrate a businessman in the community who had financially supported the education of young people in the community. They came to celebrate and remember, because they got it.

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

 

– Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall referencing his SCOTUS successor in a Newsweek interview (dated October 28, 1991)

Linda Brown, the student at the center of Brown v Board, was actually part of three school segregation related lawsuits: the one SCOTUS ruled on today in 1954; Brown II in 1955; and a case filed by the adult Linda Brown in 1978 (Brown III), which was re-opened and appealed through the late 80’s / early 90’s. The first case, officially filed as “Oliver Brown, et al v Board of Education of Topeka, et al,” was a class action lawsuit filed by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s chief counsel, for thirteen parents on behalf of 20 school-aged children. However, the case itself was a test case and symbolic of several cases across the country. The case in Kansas was selected by the NAACP as the pilot case, because it was considered more Midwestern than Southern, the Brown’s neighborhood was desegregated (but the local school was not), and Oliver Brown was selected as the named plaintiff because he was a man. (The idea being that a male plaintiff might be considered more seriously by the courts and the ruling might carry more national weight if inequality could be proven outside of the South.)

While the unanimous 1954 ruling is celebrated as a landmark victory, it was more symbolic than anything else. The Supreme Court first ruled that there was no such thing as “separate, but equal” – at least not as schools existed at that time. Then, in 1955, SCOTUS ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed” – but, here again there was no timetable and the interpretation of the very poetic phrase was left not to the NAACP or the plaintiffs, but to the states.

“It’s disheartening that we are still fighting. But we are dealing with human beings. As long as we are, there will always be those who feel the races should be separate.”

 

 

– Linda Brown, in a 1994 New York Times article (around 40th anniversary)

Look around today and you will see the legacy of Brown v Board. There is some positive, some signs of progress; there is also some negative. Were Linda Brown still alive today, she could easily file another lawsuit…on behalf of her grandchildren or even her great-grandchildren. Part of the legacy of Brown v Board is living in the shadow of the Plessy v Ferguson concept of “separate but equal.” We can say it’s the shadow that makes us appreciate the light; but, at some point we need more light.

“I didn’t understand what was happening then, but it was clear that Brown versus Board of Education was a necessary victory. It might have been a little flame, but it served to set off a mighty flame. To me, the impact of Brown is best seen in the increasing numbers of black professionals today. These are the people that, after 1954, were able to have some degree of choice. This surely made a difference in their aspirations and their achievements.”

 

– Linda Brown, in a April 29, 2004 speech (marking the 50th anniversary) at Chautauqua Institution

 

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, May 17th) at 2:30 PM, to celebrate progress, to remember those who made it possible, and to raise awareness so that we understand what is needed to move forward together. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

 

Linda Carol Brown

### NAMASTE ###