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Two steps forward to ending gun violence

Yesterday, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence celebrated a major decision by the U.S. Supreme Court with the following announcement:

In its first gun case since the landmark Heller decision, the Supreme Court wisely upheld a "reasonable restriction" ”” namely, keeping guns out of the hands of convicted misdemeanor domestic violence abusers. ...

In addition, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the 7-2 majority, cited the Brady Center brief when she wrote that "firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide."

This good news for ending gun violence is of small comfort to those who have lost family members to gunfire, as my friend Gloria Cruz did several years ago. Gloria is the Bronx chapter leader of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and sent me a message today saying:

Patron Saints: Howard Thurman & W. E. B. DuBois

One of FOR's most stalwart local members is Wendy Geiger, a peace activist in Jacksonville, Florida. Wendy regularly contacts the national office of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, seeking materials for workshops, nonviolence trainings, conferences, and other regional events where she can help spread the word about FOR's work.

Wendy is also passionate about poetry, and often sends favorite poems to friends in the peace community to help inspire and enrich our work. This week, Wendy shared a touching personal reflection that included two poems by Howard Thurman, the legendary African-American educator and nonviolence advocate of the early 20th century, who was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

FOR and Black History (or "We need you like Fred needs Ginger")

A letter from the Chair of FOR’s National Council.

February 25, 2009

Dear friend,

Journey of Reconciliation Commemoration

[the first freedom riders]

This week, we are participating in the installation of a historic marker at the site where the first freedom riders, led by FOR’s Bayard Rustin and George Houser, were beaten and arrested by a racist mob in Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1947.

Learn more about the events this Thursday through Saturday, or consider making a contribution if you can’t join us in person.

Between September 1965 and May 1967, I was a student at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in upstate New York. Gene Bartlett was the Seminary’s President. I did not know then of Dr. Bartlett’s involvement with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, or that he was involved in creating a Baptist Pacifist Fellowship during World War II. He encouraged me, as he did others, working against the Vietnam War.

[King speaks]On April 4, 1967 in a now famous speech A Time to Break Silence delivered at Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., urged ministers to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. Thus confirmed in the direction my newly formed pacifist beliefs were taking me, I finalized a decision. With needed support from the FOR, my future wife Nancy, and others, I took leave from seminary, appealed my draft board status, and did alternative service.

As much as any single twentieth-century figure, Dr. King has shaped my life and the lives of many FOR members. Inspired to seek peace in a war-wearied, war-worried world, we have not elevated Dr. King to iconic status. Dr. King’s ideas and words still matter. It matters that we continue his unfinished work, building a culture of peace.

Thinking of joining a delegation to Iran? A one-year reflection.

Caroline Chinlund is a psychologist in New York City who has been involved in the Peace movement since the Viet Nam era. Caroline participated in the February-March 2008 civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran with the Fellowship of Reconciliation as part of her peace activities.

More reports from Iran: Awe, reverence, and building an axis of friendship

Roger Cohen, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote an excellent Op-Ed that was published two days ago in the Sunday edition of the Times. Titled "What Iran's Jews Say," it has been one of the top two "most e-mailed" articles on for the past couple days. Cohen's depiction of the Iranian Jewish community as both historic and ongoing reflects the witness and engagement that the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Iran delegations have experienced — especially the two delegations in 2008 which sent a number of U.S. Jewish peace activists to Iran.

Several more reports have been received in the past 24 hours from FOR's 9th civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran. Father Louie Vitale writes:

FOR 9th Iran delegation reports from Tehran

The Fellowship of Reconciliation's ninth peace and civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran arrived safely in Tehran on Thursday, February 19th. There are six members of this delegation, making it the smallest one to date, as two-thirds of the group were denied visas. FOR is deeply concerned about what we are experiencing as an increasing series of challenges to an already difficult process of obtaining visas for U.S. citizens.

The six members of the current delegation come from New York and California. They are:

Commemorating the Journey of Reconciliation

1947 freedom ridersLast year, I blogged about the proposal to create a state historic marker at the site in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where members of the first freedom ride were arrested in in 1947. The marker has been approved and is being unveiled next week! FOR is organizing and supporting several events in support of the marker.

The Journey of Reconciliation began on April 9, 1947. It was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality with the leadership of FOR staffers Bayard Rustin and George Houser. Like many other great institutions, CORE was born at FOR. To learn more about this historic event, do read this short history by Dr. Yonni Chapman.

The racist cartoon: what's wrong with this picture?

Yesterday, the New York Post published a racist cartoon, portraying President Obama as a monkey. That newspaper has published content with racist overtones for many years; I stopped buying it in the 1970s because I found its stories frequently used race-baiting and bordered on titillation rather than true journalism. Today, Color of Change organized a campaign to demand an apology so that we could let the Post know that this is not OK.

I would encourage people, both individually and collectively, to pressure newsstands, stores, and other vendors that sell the Post to discontinue distributing the newspaper. Now, here's what the message says — please join me in signing on:

Margaret Morgan Lawrence: The Journey of a Healer

Dr. Margaret Cornelia Morgan Lawrence was born in Mississippi, 94 years ago, the daughter of an Episcopal priest and her mother, a schoolteacher. The Morgans lived in towns like Mound Bayou, Widewater, and Vicksburg. In the 1920s, Margaret went to high school in Harlem, under the watchful eyes of her grandmother and various aunts and uncles. She went on to become a pediatrician and renowned child psychiatrist.

She and her husband Charles moved to Pomona, New York, as founding members of Skyview Acres, a cooperative community in Rockland County. There they raised their three children””Charles, Sara, and Paula. Charles is law professor at the University of Hawaii; Sara is education professor at Harvard and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship; and Paula is an Episcopal priest, lecturer, and author in Philadelphia.

Remembering the original Freedom Riders

The current issue of The New Yorker includes several fascinating articles, two of which prompted me to write my first-ever letter to the editor to the publication. (I have decided that the sense of righteous indignation that prompted this act was proof that I am, truly, becoming a curmudgeon.) One of the two pieces focused on the invaluable role that copy editors play in their top-quality publication (and others of similar repute). The second essay was a lengthy review of several books by and about the legendary James Baldwin, and how racism and the quest for civil rights affected his life and work as well as that of other famous African-American writers. My letter, which it appears will not be published (lacking the humorous quality that makes many accepted by the publication stand out), said: