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My friend, the Warrior (Inspiration Series, Week 10)

Then and now. Who knew that behind the gorgeous face lay a soul of steel?


I’m not known for a stellar memory, especially when it comes to childhood. And yet, a few people stick out. The neighbors and friends who gave support after my mom died. This boy who told me I looked pretty after a miraculous haircut at age 12. And the popular girl in junior high who sent me “football” notes and made me feel slightly less alone. The faces of the first two have long since faded. But the girl from French class? Well, she is this week’s inspiration. 

I reconnected with Sandy in the most obvious millenial way – through Facebook. After more than 20 years I was still a bit awed by her, and thrilled that she wanted to see me, too. Exchanges followed, and then a get-together that was one of those nights where you can actually feel things changing.

We talked about our lives, our plans. After years of climbing the corporate ladder, Sandy was hopping off. Her new path was about as different as could be from the old one – she was working to become an actor. A frustrated writer myself, I listened with more than a little wonder as she talked about the joy she found in her drama classes, the thrill from being on stage.

It wasn’t long before she began to challenge me. What was I writing? What ideas did I have? Why wasn’t I doing more? The questions were hard to dismiss; it was as though my hopes and dreams were being re-formed and channeled through this energetic, persistent force with no intention of letting me off the hook. We’d talk on the phone and she’d laugh at my goofy blunders and daily screw ups, always telling me to put them in a story. She got me blogging and shared my stuff with others. After years of not writing, here I was. Writing. 

Fast-forward a year and while my life moved along pretty normally, Sandy’s went into overdrive, highlighted by the day she reconnected with the love of her life. Before I knew what had happened, she was making plans to relocate to Arizona. I’d love to say my support was unequivocal, but there was a touch of anger that I was losing her, along with some envy of the two guys who were welcoming her into their lives. I also wondered, where would her still-young creative dreams go in the desert?

I couldn’t have written the next part better myself. For while Sandy exited Stage Left from New Jersey, the woman – the artist – who entered Stage Right across the country would go on to do things I’d never considered. The transition, filled with challenges, heartache, and even tragedy, also brought out a fierceness, a dedication to her craft that included more learning and constant effort. While managing the demands on her time and energy at home, she acted, made new friends in theater and film, and entrenched herself in a creative community that would treasure her passion.

The inspiration she provides goes beyond success. Despite outward appearances, Sandy let me know that none of it came easy. She’d sound frustrated when I’d talk about her accomplishments as though they were a foregone conclusion and remind me that her confidence wasn’t nearly as strong as people assumed. Many projects brought new doubts about her talent, her potential. They didn’t stop her, but they sure as hell followed her. 

Throughout the last 7 years, Sandy has added producer, director, and coach to her resume. She worked damned hard to learn and master each new skill that was required. She gave each role her full attention, despite the demands of an already overfilled life and unexpected health challenges that made things even more difficult. 

Most recently, Sandy became one more thing, which seemed to pull at some of her deepest insecurities. The thing she’d once told me she didn’t think she could do very well. The thing I wanted most for myself.

She became a writer.

From afar, I watched the idea form, the words hit the page, and the journey begin to becoming an honest-to-goodness writer and author of a short film. She sometimes seemed to fight with every line of dialogue, but she never gave in, even when her inner demons told her she wasn’t good enough. Listening to her describe the process, I marveled at the spirit and dedication it took to keep going. Health problems threatened to derail her – she told them to fuck off and powered on. People she counted on didn’t follow through; she figured out how to keep going, building a personal army of loyal supporters to fight with her. She became a creative  tank, rolling over the self-doubt that would stop so many of us in our tracks. 

She defeated it, over and over. First with a finished script, then with casting the best actors, then with a physical transformation to get into a character that only she could play. The work began, and months later, this woman who was once not a writer was one, and so much more. Unwilling to succumb to the negative voices, she achieved what they’d told her she could not. 

I believe the Universe responded to her boldness. It sensed that regardless of inner anxiety, this creative soul would not be thwarted. And so it opened its arms and embraced Sandy. It wouldn’t make things easy for her, but it  would make them possible, and that’s all the room she needed. The ball was handed to her and she ran with it. 

I have generally been content to sit on the sidelines, cheer on others as they make plays and and move their lives forward. I’ve always assumed those on the field are experts, risking little. Sandy, through her willingness to share the struggle, the work behind the curtain, showed me just how false my impression was. She became a shining example of the rewards that only come to those willing to resist the easy road and put it all out on the line. 

I leave you with the two words that make me think of Sandy, the mantra we came up with long ago to address those old voices telling us we don’t have what it takes, that the chances for failure are real and scary. 

Fuck Fear. 

And along with it, the negative self-talk, the paralyzing doubt, the bad habits that build the wrong muscles. Fuck all the things, real and imagined, that keep us from pursuing our dreams with everything we’ve got. 


Taking up the Challenge (Inspiration series, week 9)

Despite all else, she wrote


The story of JK Rowling is pretty well known by now. A young writer comes up with this idea for a story,  or rather, a series of them, nearly fully formed, while riding on a train. She develops a cast of characters, begins to plot. And then… 

Over the course of the next few years, she loses her mother, her marriage, and her job, and finds herself broke, with a baby to raise and a diagnosis of clinical depression to round out her life. And yet, despite what to some might feel like a rejection from the Universe, Rowling continued to write, child in tow, day after day in local cafes – not waiting for a time when things might fall into place, but continuing to show up, pen in hand, day after day. 

She battled both inner turmoil and poverty, yet fought on, page by page. Through sheer will she completed the first book, which was quickly rejected by 12 publishers. (Spoiler alert: the book finally finds a publisher and does not do badly.)

Rowling is inspirational on multiple levels. She was handed nothing, other than, perhaps, an enviable imagination and a healthy dose of discipline. She was tested beyond what many of us could take –  who would have blamed her if she’d decided that this huge project was more than she could handle? And yet, she persisted. Rather than wait for life to get better, for the stars to align in her favor, she fought back against her demons (in fact, she worked them into her story). At a fork in the road that would determine the next chapter of her own life, she chose the one marked Create and worked her challenges into blessings that served her instead of keeping her stuck.

Just as her personal story inspires, so too, do Rowling’s stories, none more than Harry Potter. Beyond the tale of a kid who finds out he’s a wizard, his is a coming of age story that touches on nearly every human emotion and fear. From outcast to beloved member of a big family, from innocent follower to a conviction-filled warrior and leader; we follow a young man through adventures and experiences that test his soul, as well as his life. 

Harry’s resilience can be seen right away, when we meet him as a kid living with cruel relatives. Everything is awful, down to his “bedroom” in a cupboard under the stars. But while the news that he is a wizard will ultimately change his life, there are no guaranteed victories. Time and time again, over the course of seven books, he will be faced with choices (not unlike his creator) that demand he reach beyond what is comfortable. Rowling connects us to her protagonist through each phase of his new life, so that we feel as though we are his companions on the journey; we read with bated breath under a kind of cosmic invisibility cloak from which we watch him fight.

The lessons – on courage, on fortitude, on revenge – grow more subtle as Harry progresses through Hogwarts, and no one, not even those he cherishes most, will always do the right thing Even our greatest heroes, Rowling reminds us, come with flaws. 

From Ron Weasley’a occasional lack of loyalty to Dumbledore’s habit of leaving out key bits of information, Harry’s most treasured allies let him down at one point or another. Bad tempers affect nearly everyone at least once, and fights between friends are not uncommon. Good guys pick on others, while apparent villains often reveal complicated motives and emotions once their story is told. Through all of it – the excitement, the wonder, and the tragedy – Harry persists. He rides through the storms he can, waits out others, but never loses focus on the tasks before him. Just as Rowling never lost focus on hers.

Both the author and her young hero faced the big questions, the ones that confront all of us at some point in our lives. Will we pursue our biggest goals and dreams, Or will we choose the safe paths that provide comfort but so often hinder our growth? Will we prove ourselves worthy of the breaths we have been given?

And if our answer is yes, we will fight on, like JK Rowling and Harry Potter, there is perhaps, one question left. What are we waiting for?  As Harry’s godfather tells him, the answer is in our own hands.


 


The Advocate (Inspiration series, week 9)

Though she lost her sight and hearing before turning 2, Susan B. Anthony spent a good part of her life fighting for others.


It is perhaps a most human instinct to lament our misfortunes, to ponder how much easier life would have been “if only.” I know that if I had a dollar for every time I wondered about my existence as a prettier, smarter, or more physically able person, I’d have far more in my bank account.   

Thankfully, our history is full of examples of people for whom even extreme “disabilities” seem to be not a stumbling block, but rather a catalyst, rocketing them into lives not only of personal triump, but of true impact. People like Helen Keller.

Her story is pretty well known, at least on the surface. Born in 1880, she was struck the following year with an illness that left her blind, deaf, and mute. As a young girl she was connected with Anne Sullivan, a teacher who would re-introduce her to the world through touch and vibration. In 1908 she became the first deaf-blind person to receive a bachelor degree from Radcliffe College. She had already written her autobiography.

By any measure, Hellen Keller’s ability to learn and overcome was extraordinary. We can all be inspired by her incredible will to break barriers and soar past expectations. For most of us, that would be one hell of a life. But Helen Keller, like other Inspirers, took it to the next level.

She became an advocate. 

In 1924 she became an advisor to the newly formed American Foundation for the Blind. Over the course of her 40+ years with the organization, she fundraised and spoke passionately about not only the needs of people with vision loss, but about their many abilities and their right to be treated with the dignity they deserved. 

It’s hard – impossible, perhaps – to imagine life from Helen Keller’s point of view. What is it that resides in people and enables them not just to respond to the biggest challenges life has to offer, but to move beyond them entirely and devote one’s life to helping others?

It was Alexander Graham Bell who introduced her to the woman who would become her friend, teacher, and confidante, Anne Sullivan. His work would also be a spark for Keller, showing her new technologies and giving her ideas on how they could help others in the blind community. In the 1920s she persuaded a radio manufacturing company to distribute them free to the blind. Later, she lobbied for talking books to be made.

Keller’s advocacy didn’t stop with the blind; at a time when women were not expected to speak out, she became an outspoken suffragist, argued against child labor, and even served as America’s first Goodwill ambassador to Japan, where she visited in 1948 and highlighted the plight of their disabled population. 

She was political, working throughout her life to affect change for the poor and disenfranchised. Even without sight or hearing, Keller knew that the privileges of her station were what allowed her to do so much, and how many weren’t provided the same opportunities. She visited poverty-stricken neighborhoods and fought against her immense fear of public speaking as she joined a lecture circuit to speak out about injustices. She used her celebrity to fight for those without a voice – a most wonderful irony from the woman who worked so hard to find her own. 

It is easy to sit back and watch others take up the sword or the pen; to applaud politely but resist engaging in the movements and actions that are essential for change to occur. We can wait for the “right time” or find a million reasons why someone else will be better at the thing. And yet, only at the moment that we stand up and move into the ring can we truly  declare ourselves an advocate, a participant in the struggle. That is when we begin to fulfill our promise. 

May we all find the cause worth fighting for, and keep ourselves ready for the good fight to come.


Beyond Survival (Inspiration Series, week 8)

Despite a childhood full of uncertainty and betrayals, Maya Angelou would go on to a life devoted to creating beauty and celebrating survival.


My first real awareness of Maya Angelou came when she read her poem, The Pulse of the Morning, at President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural. As much as the words, it was her voice – deep, rumbling, confident – that struck me. I watched her on talk shows and while I gathered snippets about her life path, I never knew her story. And so, when it came time to choose a final inspiration  for February, I turned to Maya’s first (of seven!) memoirs.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is so much more than autobiography – within its pages is a tale that is at once filled with pain and hope. A young girl, tossed from state to state and family member to family member, seeks to ground herself outside of her circumstances. Through rape, loneliness, and the rampant racism in 1920s and ’30s America, Maya somehow not only endures the pains thrust upon her, she seems to use her experiences as bricks, with which she lays an utterly unbreakable foundation for her life.

Just 4 when her parents marriage ended, Maya and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. These early years, despite the conditions of the black community, were stable and fairly secure. By the time she was 8 she was educated in business (from her grandmother’s store) and in the many inequities that went along with her skin color and gender. Momma (as she and her brother, Bailey, called their father’s mother) was stern and religious, yet provided a home in which she could, at least, trust.

It was 1935 when the children were unexpectedly sent to live with their mother in St. Louis. Vivian Baxter Johnson was a gorgeous woman, according to her daughter, who seemed to have everything – including a man in her life. When Freeman reaches out to the little girl, she is at first grateful and receptive. His attention quickly turns sinister, and when Maya was just 8 he molested her, the start of abuse that would ultimately turn to rape. When the crime was revealed, he was ejected from their lives. Jailed only for a day, Freeman was murdered four days later and Maya became convinced it was her fault. She went silent and wouldn’t talk again for four years. 

It was during this period that she developed a love of books and literature. A favorite teacher introduced her to classic works and authors, including black women whose works spoke to the young girl. Maya would move back to her grandmother’s, then out West to live with each of her parents, before she was 16. There was tension in every household as she struggled to make sense of religion, friendships, and who and how to trust. Her experiences at church, in her father’s home, and in a variety of adventures revealed a young woman in constant flux as she worked to find her place while testing the boundaries of convention. 

By the end of Caged Bird, Maya Angelou had learned to drive on an ill-fated road trip to Mexico with her father, earned a job as San Francisco’s first black female streetcar conductor, and given birth to a son after her first post-rape sexual encounter. She was not yet 17.

No one  would have blamed her if she had given up at any point of her childhood, or allowed her pain to envelope her existence. And yet… she would go on to become almost a spokesperson for the ability of the human body, heart, and mind to survive nearly any tragedy. 

And yet.

That appears to be the common theme of my inspirers – their capacity to endure hardship, abuse, suffering, and so often turn their pain into something beautiful, something that changes the world. From scared, mistreated child to world-renowned Ph.D, author, activist, artist, and teacher, Maya Angelou’s life was proof of the spirit and strength that lies within our greatest people. Her unashamed telling of her story, her poems that describe both dignity and deepest pain, they are testaments to a species that despite its penchant for destruction, has also brought to the world things of the greatest beauty. She would go on to work with the world’s great minds – Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, James Earl Jones. She would win Tony nominations and too many awards to count and inspire others to seek and fulfill their largest potential. 

We can be a weak species, often a cruel and unjust one. I believe that we rely on survivors like Maya Angelou to provide the hope and faith that with effort, we can overcome the demons and doubts of the world’s making and those of our own.  To be like the flowers that burst through the ground each spring, like the mountains that withstand weather and time to rise tall into the sky.

In her story, I feel a call to action, a reminder that each of us brings skills, strengths, and gifts that must be shared in order to be real. And to pick up from our disappointments, big and small, so that like Maya Angelou, we survive for a purpose.


A Lesson in Love (Inspiration series, week 7)

Nana & Granddaddy at home in 1953


Life continues to move fast. It can be hard to keep up with; sometimes it’s a challenge, when there seems to be so much uncertainty in the world. And so I chose a subject (well, two), once again different from my original plan, who symbolize something truly positive and personal to me. You might call this a comfort post.

Nana and Granddaddy. When I said their names as a kid, it was so often like one word. NanaandGranddaddy. My mother’s parents, they were one of the earliest examples to me of the kind of love that is at once obvious and unexplainable. I remember learning that they had eloped as a young couple. It had much to do with money, but the romanticism fit perfectly, anyway. 

I have the letters he wrote to her when they first married. My granddad was a judge and I always saw him as the smartest, most confident man – so to hear him confess to doubts about his chosen career as an attorney, to wonder if he deserved his Kay, was both surprising and endearing. 

They raised their family in a big, beautiful home (with its own name, Ellerslie) on the Choptank River in Denton, Maryland, and luckily for me, never left. It was, without a doubt, the most magical place of my childhood. We’d pull up to the house and Nana would quickly appear, always smiling, always thrilled to have her New Jersey grandkids for a visit. 

What a home it was – always candy in the spinning caddy, the old games in the little closet under the stairs. I usually slept on the third floor, where my mother’s old Nancy Drew’s  and Bobbsey Twin books awaited. 

They loved their family – all 8 of us grandchildren, plus our parents. 16 altogether, which seemed like a perfect number to me. Every summer when I was little, they’d rent a cottage on the beach in Delaware and the whole lot of us would converge for two weeks (Dads on the weekends, though mine got a whole week). Nana would make the meals, Granddaddy bought us kites and in the evenings would tell stories about the cowboy, the sailor, and the Indian. Those trips were, quite simply, about as perfect as a vacation can be. 

Looking  back, I’m struck by the work that went into it all. Nana probably spent half her days cooking, as we cavorted in and out, tracking sand and probably making a mess of everything. I guess there must have been arguments between us kids at times, but it’s the feeling of belonging that still can bring me to happy tears today. I may have had doubts the rest of the year, but when I was with Nana and Granddaddy, I know that I was safe and sound.

When life was at its hardest, they were there. It’s difficult to imagine the grief they went through when my mom died at 45; I remember hearing Nana say that children aren’t supposed to go first. But the biggest memory I have of that time was their presence, which was one of the few things that convinced me that life might eventually be okay. They stayed with us as school started back up, giving me a sense of stability that I’m not sure I could have gone on without. They were my saving grace. 

I guess maybe grandparents don’t need a lot of thank yous, but no one deserved more of them than mine. They inspired everyone around them through the beauty of their love and marriage, by their unspoken lessons about family and kindness, and for the example they set for goodness and integrity. I couldn’t have chosen better if I’d had the chance.

I won’t have 8 grandchildren, but I can strive to bring the lesson of their love and commitment into my life and to share it whenever possible. To cherish those in my life and to never take for granted how much they add to it.

If I could give a wish to every unhappy, lonely kid, it would be for them to have a set of grandparents just like mine. 

To end, a quote from a favorite show. 


Personally Speaking (Inspiration series, week 6)

Every time I try to switch lanes, they pull me back over…

Fully prepared to move on to another African-American inspirer (who will return), recent events have once again turned me in a different direction. And so, this week, I’m using the space to recognize someone I’m fortunate to know and whose story has moved to the front of my awareness. 

“Illegals.” The word makes me cringe, with its unique ability to dehumanize. As I write, Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) seems to have renewed its focus on scooping up people across the country with nets that appear to be very wide and very deep.

I know an undocumented person – or they were when I met them, though I had no clue. All I knew was that their family was from South America and they had been here since the children were young. They weren’t the least bit foreign; the only accent I could hear was a New Jersey one. Their mother and only-present parent scrimped and sacrificed to give her kids the best opportunities. In so many ways, theirs was as quintessential an “American story” as could be told.

The reveal, which stunned me, came only recently. It’s been many years and they have now been citizens for more than half their life, but not when they first arrived. 

Their mother had to take precautions, protect both the actual children and their identities. And while she, like all parents, concerned herself with the regular worries of raising a family, she must have never lost the fear about what could happen. All so that her kids would have more choices and grow into productive, happy adults. And as they got older, they took on more of that burden – living a life that could be shattered with little notice.

My friend was in college when the family was able to take the steps to gain proper citizenship. After graduating with honors and getting a great job, they went on to create a new American family, with children who hold nothing of the burden their parent did.

My guess is that they may have a greater sense of patriotism, a better appreciation for the American “way of life,” than most. More, perhaps, than many who demand by-the-book “law & order” and “crackdowns” on any actions beyond it, whether or not there is an actual threat. More than those who declare certain groups outsiders and seek to cast them as “others” while often ginning up fear and resentment. 

I am inspired by the fortitude of my friend and their family to build productive lives, despite the uncertainty. To go extra miles to succeed and do this country proud when they gained citizenship. Their pursuit of, and commitment to, a better life fills me with awe. They did far more than I to earn their American wings. 

The story plays into a larger lesson I’ve been re-learning over and over again recently, about how so much in this life is dependent on factors completely out of our control. To be born white, straight, and into the ”mainstream” religion of the United States, to parents who could afford me, was a stroke of cosmic fortune that meant I would never personally face the hurdles many others do, among them people I call friends. 

I will never have to appreciate the ability to marry who I choose, nor wonder whether the service I receive is less than someone else with a different skin color or accent. I won’t have to hope that my family isn’t swept up into a raid or new immigration mandate, or worry that someone in a position of authority might treat me differently because of my name or where I am from.

In addition to those who travel the harder paths, persevere, and thrive, I take inspiration from those who fight alongside them. From civil rights attorneys and compassionate lawmakers to neighborhoods and schools that welcome refugees, I am inspired by people who remind us that human history is filled with those who put their own comfort on the line in service to those in greater need. Their sacrifices have been enourmous, their courage without limit.

I end with an obvious quote, from a source I have taken for granted my entire life:


The Will to Resist (Inspiration series, week 5) 

Frederick Douglas – born a slave (1818?), died a free man and hero, 1895

I didn’t plan this.

Frederick Douglass was not on my original slate of Inspirers. I’d planned on finding some feel-good people to highlight over the course of the year to keep me writing. Simple.

So I was somewhat surprised, over the past two weeks, to have a subject tossed into my awareness. But here came Mr. Douglass, a man I must have learned about in school, but whose story had floated to the back of my brain somewhere with the periodic table and geometry. I knew he was an escaped slave, but it pretty much  ended there. Thankfully, his journey included an autobiography.  

“I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed.”

– “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”

The memoir opens with recollections of a childhood spent as witness to beatings by slave masters – even the one who was likely Douglass’ own father – who reveled in their power and cruelty. His early life was  spent in relatively “easy” conditions in St. Michael’s, Maryland. When he was returned to a cruel master, he was not spared again:

“I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me, and behold a man transformed into a brute!”

Somehow, this transition to an ever-increasingly brutal existence did not kill him. In fact, it served as a challenge somehow, to the spirit of a young man who had defied odds to learn to read, to understand there was something more, and to want it for himself. 

After a series of punishing encounters with the slavemaster Covey, Douglass somewhere found the strength to resist his torturer when the man came at him while he was at work. Douglass grabbed Covey by the throat and engaged in a fight that would change his life:

“This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free.”

In 1834, Douglass went to work for a Mr. Freeland and came to serve as a teacher to the slaves and workers under him. He took great pride in the role and marveled at their courage:

“Every moment they spent in that school, they were liable to be taken up, and given thirty-nine lashes. They came because they wished to learn. Their minds had been starved by their cruel masters. They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul to be doing something that looked like bettering the condition of my race.”

An escape attempt in 1835 led to capture: after a stay in jail, Douglass was collected by his previous master and hired out to a shipbuilder, where he was at the mercy of 75 men. A fight led to yet another place of work, where he made a pittance. His life continued on, and his determination to be free grew stronger. He began to make plans, and:

“on the third day of September, 1838, I left my chains and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind.”

Douglass explained that the lack of detail about his escape was intentional, to spare those who had helped him. Though his new surroundings were frightening, he found aid and a place to stay, and soon married Anna, a free woman he’d met in Baltimore. The pair left New York for New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Douglass took work and became active in the cause of anti-slavery reform. 

In 1841 he was asked to speak at a convention in Nantucket; though nervous, he took on the challenge and was a huge success. Thereafter Douglass became a beacon for equality, for blacks, for women, and later for voting rights, emancipation. and desegregated schools. He served as editor of a liberal paper and became a renowned orator. By the time he died in 1895, Frederick Douglass had served as president of the Reconstruction-era Freedman’s Savings Bank, and a presidential elector. At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party’s roll call vote. 

It is difficult to fathom this journey, from bondage to revered symbol of both man’s worst inhumanities and of his ability to survive and overcome them. I am struck by Douglass’ commitment to not only his own personal freedom, but his commitment to helping others in their fights as well. 

How many of us hesitate before resisting, ponder the option to stay still, stay comfortable? How often do we rise up, take a stand for our own worth and, once our personal battle is won, take new fights onward? 

Today’s world, full of causes and injustices, can overwhelm even the most passionate. It can be tempting to leave things to the strong, the young, the energetic. But while we may not all have the skills or sheer bravery of men like Frederick Douglass, we must declare our stances nonetheless. We must draw lines across which we will not step  and be willing to defend the principles for which we will sacrifice. 

Whether we write, speak, march, or serve, we must be willing to act as the resistance to that which is unacceptable. By doing so, we help to ensure that the spirits of Douglass and his fellow fighters never truly disappear. 

 


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