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Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 12:17 am

Letters to the Editor 9/7/17

In Atlanta candles are set out for Heather Heyer as hundreds gather for a memorial and march.
PHOTO BY Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS



Anything could have happened – none of it good – when Rosa Parks said “no” and refused to give up her seat on that bus in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy.

She could have been thrown down the stairs by the driver or slapped around and humiliated by policemen outraged at her simple but profoundly courageous act of dignity and defiance. At the very least, she was going to jail.

Years later, sitting at her kitchen table in Detroit, where she had fled to escape the racist rage and threats that lasted long after her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I asked her why she put herself at such grave risk. Why didn’t she just adjust to the oppression, get up and go to the back of the bus like everyone else?

“When I thought about Emmett Till, I couldn’t go back,” the petite patriot told me, referring to the 14-year-old black boy lynched a few months before on Aug. 28, 1955 – 62 years ago.

When I think about Heather Heyer, I feel the same way. She inspires me. I know I am not alone. There is no doubt that her murder by an American terrorist in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017, helped bring 40,000 people – red, yellow, brown, black and white, young and old, gay and straight – into the streets of Boston exactly one week later to say no to white supremacy and hate.

Heather Heyer is a modern-day civil rights martyr, a hero of hope. She is in the linage of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, of Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo. Like the murder of Emmett Till, her death is a blow to the haters and killers that seek to turn back the clock on civil and human rights. Their cause is lost – again. Truth crushed to earth will rise again. There is redemption in the unearned suffering of the innocent, power in the blood of martyrs.

On Aug. 28, 1963, exactly eight years after Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. electrified the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.

As I and hundreds of religious leaders across lines of faith and traditions marched in D.C., on Aug. 28, 2017, to commemorate that march and to protest the immoral policies of the Trump administration, I couldn’t get Emmett Till and Heather Heyer out of my head or heart. When I think of them, I can’t go back.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Founder and President
Rainbow PUSH Coalition


What makes a better future for us all?

Love and community. Wise eyes and compassionate hearts. And more.

Are there ways to get there? Many. One, according to all good research, is by embracing the arts. Middle school students engaged in music, dance, theater and visual arts dive into their communities more than youngsters whose schools have dropped arts education. As adults, they vote more. They volunteer more. They sit on nonprofit boards more. They make better futures for us all.

Sept. 10 marks the start of National Arts in Education Week, as designated by Congress since 2010. Here in central Illinois, the Springfield Area Arts Council is happy to cheerlead this celebration. We encourage all supporters of arts, culture and education – as well as our elected officials and education leaders – to join with us.

What can you do? Donate art supplies to your child’s teacher; compliment kids’ sidewalk drawings; vote for those who voice their support for arts education; contribute to the Arts Council’s program that takes art into local schools.

Parents, teachers and all who have a hand in raising the next generation have so many things of value to impart, such as the math and science that push boundaries of the known, and technology and engineering that pioneer our safety and comfort. But we need more. As labor leader Rose Schneiderman taught us long ago: Bread, yes, but roses, too.

Sheila Walk
Program Administrator,
Springfield Area Arts Council


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