June 5, 2012 will remain for myself, one of the most paradoxical days in my life.
Let me qualify this by saying I was a child of the 1950s and 60’s. I saw up close and personal the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and how the Viet Nam era changed our societal values forever.
The day began for me officially by attending Mary Institute Country Day School’s annual Commencement Exercises, something that dates back to 1859. I couldn’t help but understand how diversity has played such a key role in the lives of MICDS students today.
As students marched into the McDonnell Center on the southern end of the campus, I couldn’t help but notice the changing facing of those who would be graduating and facing the challenges of their brave new world.
Yes, there were white faces; but there were many faces of African-Americans; Latinos; Asian and India origination. Some of these seniors are the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers, but others might be the offspring of janitors or struggling working-class single mothers. MICDS has opened its arms and doors to minority students, much like John Burroughs has done across the other end of Ladue. I can only think to myself, how proud I am of the executive boards of these schools who make these kinds of decisions, and find financial ways for those of much less means to still get a World-class education.
St. Louis County NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner
By 6 p.m. I was at the 70th annual Freedom Fund Scholarship Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. This is the embodiment of the St. Louis County Chapter of the NAACP.
Last year, a couple of hundred patrons attended this annual gala. Under the leadership of John Gaskin, 19-year-old, an African-American graduate of Ladue Horton Watkins, 850 guests were in attendance, putting nearly $1 million valuable dollars into their treasury. Clearly, this was the most successful annual dinner on record.
Gaskin reminded me that several years ago, local hotels wouldn’t even return their phone calls, when inquiring where to hold the next banquet. The NAACP business was simply not wanted by others in this community.
U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II-Dem was the keynote speaker. Until the Kansas City congressman took to the podium, one speaker after another was pretty much ignored in a respectful, but somewhat noisy room. When Clever strode to the microphone, a hush fell over the room. A pin drop could be heard.
Cleaver pointed out of the 425 members of the House of Representatives, he was the only child of the housing projects. He reminded his listeners that in 1954, there were some 50 plus Civil Rights organizations, fighting for the causes of justice and equality for minorities and that only five remain truly active today.
The late-great Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, who used to drive club house boys home unnoticed to North St. Louis late at night, and who had not a single enemy in this universe and could bridge the divide between Whites, Blacks and Latinos said the only race was to first base. Even Jack knew that wasn’t totally so.
I left the room, wondering what would really happen to the future of public education, health care and family rights in America with such an enormous push to gut the Civil Rights movement and all of its important issues by the right’s ultra-conservative movement, Tea Party included all during this election cycle. I know full well, the rights of the minority in this country could evaporate overnight.
Recall Election in Wisconsin
At 9 p.m. I returned home and switched on the television. Heads were hanging low as MSNBC’s Ed Schultz announced that Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker successfully fought back only the third recall election of a sitting governor in US history, and the only sitting governor to emerge victorious.
Walker is the champion of destroying working-class rights. I knew right then and there, life for school teachers, garbage collectors, firefighters, police officers, postal workers and nurses and other hourly wage earners had just just gotten a great deal tougher. Currently, there is a bill before congress to eliminate 122,000 postal workers jobs, the vast majority comprised of African Americans.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Citizens United to allow unlimited and unnamed donations into politics is clearly destroying human rights and human dignity. The court should be collectively ashamed of it's historic decision.
June 6, 2012 proved to be a tough day to deal all the way around.
Dinner Notes: Ladue High played a prominent role at this banquet. Dr. Eric Hahn, head of Ladue’s Social Studies Department was recognized with the Bejamin Hooks Exceptional Educator Award for helping minority students gain entry into Advanced Placement courses at school.
Angela Haywood-Gaskin, M.Ed., was presented the Benjamin Hooks Exceptional Educator award for her 22 years of teaching Spanish and helping minority students at Ladue achieve higher ACT scores.
Jehu Chesson, II, recent graduate of Ladue was presented an Inspiring St. Louis Award for playing such a positive role model for younger, aspiring athletes. Chesson has earned a football scholarship to the University of Michigan.