Memphis et al

The headline of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune was hardly a surprise.  Here it is, as found at our door this morning.

I don’t find much point in commenting directly about the latest tragedies.  There is an abundance of news.  Tyre and the others are not the first and unfortunately not the last.  I’ve commented on many of these situations before.  May 29, 2020, was the first of 39 blogs in the past 3 years that at minimum mentioned George Floyd; before that,  July 9, 2016, was the first of four posts with mentions of Philando Castile’s death.  And so on.


What I prefer to do is to share a small amount of personal perspective, along with a recommendation for personal reflection.

First, the recommendation.  Recently, Sonya recommended a 1964 book by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Strength to Love, which I mentioned a week or two ago: see MLKs birthday.

I’ve had the book for years, and decided to re-read it, one chapter a day, each chapter about eight pages or so.  Today was Chapter 12 – I have 5 to go,  It is an enriching collection of food for thought; for personal centering in these confusing times.  Whatever your ‘brand’ of belief, or your bias, it will give you something to think about –  your relationship to today and to the future.

The book is an expansion of sermons given by MLK early in his career in Montgomery, Alabama,  (1954-60) essentially around the period after the Bus Boycott of 1956.

What is most remarkable to me is that King, born January, 1929, would have been in his 20s and early 30s when he preached these sermons.

You can read his thoughts for yourself.


In each reflection, my opinion, MLK acknowledges that we are all individuals in this world of often conflicting beliefs and ideas.

The search for our own ideal is never to be found – there is no pot of gold at the end of our rainbows – but we can contribute to a better world, one deed at a time, wherever we are, whatever our circumstances.

Some, like MLK, seem to make a bigger difference than others, but even King’s perceived success was built by legions of individual acts of courage by the people who participated.


I think back to my own imperfect days as an advocate for public school teachers, which began over 50 years ago.

By circumstance more than design, I happened to become a teacher representative coincident with the negotiation of the first collectively bargained contract under a new Minnesota bargaining law which took effect in 1972.

None of us, management or labor, were very conversant with the new rules of engagement.  Management didn’t know how to collaborate with labor; labor didn’t know how to exercise its new power.  There was an abundance of mistakes made by all parties, on both sides, including within labor and the community at large.

One of the early observations I made, as a novice, was that our side, represented by our bargaining team, was always frustrated at the end of negotiations.  We never, ever, reached our goals, which we always thought were reasonable.  The teachers we represented probably agreed with our assessment.  Always we found ourselves compromising on some never-give-up item or other.

Each time, two years later, back to the table we went, same process, same results.

One year, maybe five or six years into my career, I took a bit of time to try to quantify whether or not we had accomplished anything at all on one crucial issue about which we couldn’t even legally bargain, but which was a constant frustration to our members.

Long story short, I was astonished at how much progress we had actually made in those years, but hadn’t recognized,  because each time we were looking at what we hadn’t achieved, rather than valuing what we (labor and management) had, together.

I’ve never forgotten that.

Looking to the present, the years MLK became enrolled in the movement, the status quo was indeed dismal for his constituency.

By no means has the promised land been reached in 2023, but the foundation and the lay of the land is much different now than it was…if one takes the time to reflect back on the fact that a great deal of positive has been accomplished, while continuing the great deal of work remaining towards building a better future for us all.

Keep on, keeping on.  As the saying goes, “be the change you wish to see”.

POSTNOTES: Joyce Vance, The Importance of Video 

Last night we watched the latest remake of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the classic about the end of WWII.  It is not a ‘feel good’ movie, that is for sure; but like Memphis and all the rest the movie provides a huge amount of food for reflection.

I felt similarly after viewing the latest SciFi hit, “Avatar, the Way of Water”, last week.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Joyce:

Our Librarian Was Forced to Remove a Quote by a Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel.”