MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

“When I first came here, people on both sides of what is ironically called the peace line told me, without any rehearsal, exactly the same thing – that there was direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment.” – Senator George Mitchell, June 25, 1996

Mitchell & Ted Belfast 1996That was former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s welcoming comment, as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Secretary of State for Economic Initiatives in Ireland, to our delegation in Belfast at a three-day conference on Work, Education & Training for which the US State Department had invited us as participants. As CEO then of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO], that quote resonated with me and I shared it in for my article entitled, “Rainbow Over Belfast,” in CANDO’s 1996-97 Annual Report.

Now over 20 years later, there remains a direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment in Chicago. A lesson repeatedly revealed in every morning’s news headlines.

Senator Mitchell was in Chicago this past St. Patrick’s week as the narrator for Old St. Patrick’s Church’s 21st Annual Siamsa na nGael. This year’s theme was “A Bridge Over the Troubles: The Peacemakers.”

Yes, the choir did sing that Simon & Garfunkel song; but they also sang my favorite hymn, Canticle of the Turning, and my favorite Broadway tune, Make Them Hear You from Ragtime. I have used lyrics from both for previous blog posts.

Senator Mitchell’s narration shared many stories from his “few months” assignment that became five years. I had already read some of them in his memoir, The Negotiator, and look forward to more as I start his book, Making Peace. I particularly appreciated his reflections on John Hume, who not only won the Nobel Peace Prize but also the Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards; the only person to have earned all three.

When the audience entered Chicago’s Symphony Center for the concert, there was a large screen hanging over the orchestra with a quote from Hume’s Nobel acceptance speech. Hume quoteAgain, a lesson learned 20 years ago in Northern Ireland that the US remains in dire need of remembering today: “most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Composer Scott Stevenson was commissioned to write the “Hymn of Unity” from Hume speeches with lyrics that ring out as a call even more acute today for us.

In this land, this land of ours, by difference torn apart
We pray for strength and wisdom to discern our common heart.
A heart with ample space for many different minds,
A heart that is open to the whole of human kind.
A heart that breaks down ancient walls,
because we share the same bright sun
by which we walk together towards tomorrow.
From many, we are one!

 

GOING ALL THE WAY

GOING ALL THE WAY

And here’s to the men and the legends we’ve known
Teaching us faith and giving us hope
United we stand and united we’ll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all….
And when the day comes with that last winning run
And I’m crying and covered in beer
I’ll look to the sky and know I was right
To think someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
by Eddie Vedder

Someday finally came just before midnight [central time] on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

Cubs fans had seen 8th inning heartbreaks before; I was there at Wrigley in 2003. This time the threat was with only 4 outs to go, not 5. I had texted my brother at 9:30 Wednesday night to stop counting outs. It was hard not to.

Eddie Vedder was there in Cleveland, easily seen on TV in the front row. I started wondering if he was going to have to write a new verse to his song, first performed in public on August 2, 2007, another Cub year that didn’t have a happy playoff ending.

But this year there was divine intervention, when the heavens opened for a 17-minute rain delay. Yes, the player who hadn’t been hitting used this “Cubbie time out” to motivate his teammates to remember NEVER QUIT. A new Cubs legend was born out in the top of the 10th. Thank God, they scored 2 runs since they needed both.

Our son TJ grew up at Wrigley Field listening to Harry Carey sing the 7th inning stretch. tj-family-brickUsually the Cubs were losing in the 7th and Harry would end by yelling: “LET’S GET SOME RUNS!” It was always plural, since Harry knew one run might not be enough for our bullpen.

One game, when TJ was 5 or 6, the Cubs were actually winning by a large margin in the 7th so Harry didn’t add his signature call. TJ looked up at me and asked: “Dad, why didn’t Harry finish the song?” He had grown up thinking “Let’s Get Some Runs!” was the last line of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

That’s our “family brick” on Sheffield just to the left of TJ’s hand in his World Series celebration photo. We finally got enough runs.

I tweeted at 11:57pm November 2nd with the official Cubs World Series Champions logo: “Season ticket holder since 1985; worth all those games to raise our son a Cubs fan to never quit.”

Yes, we went all the way! Now TJ, Lynne & I really can’t wait until next year. Let’s Get Another One!

world-series-game-at-wrigley

RETURNING TO A SUPERIOR LAKE

RETURNING TO A SUPERIOR LAKE

It’s been two years since we were last in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Here on the shore of Lake SuperiorUP Beach I was inspired then to start blogging. After blogging weekly for a year and then monthly for another year, this is my 2nd year anniversary of sharing my perspectives thru U2Cando!

It’s only fitting to be drafting this 64th blog here in Grand Marais as I look out at a calm lake this sunny morning before starting the journey home. Another good vacation but one I’m not yet ready to end. Can’t help but think what it would be like to spend two months up here in the UP [preferably September & October not January & February].

Writing and reading before a mid-morning beach walk. Deciding over lunch where to hike or kayak in the afternoon.UP red sunset Starting dinner in time to be done for sunset on the deck and finally hoping it will be clear enough for a plethora of stars as it was last night.

Now you may understand with that daily schedule why I’m hesitant to start loading the car and would rather grab the latest Daniel Silva thriller and head out to the deck instead. Perhaps there may be time at least for a short beach walk before departure.

Two years ago I wasn’t even thinking about climate change; now Lake Superior is my safe haven. I now prefer sweatshirt weather in the UP to worrying if Chicago’s heat may send me to the ER a third time. The lake and the wind were too cold this trip to even consider a “Superior” swim however short.

I did get some quality “dog time” these five days with Minnie & BowWow. They are the resident philosophers of my inspiration blogger Jan, who was blogging daily two years ago when we visited. Now she is an award winning blogger and still an inspiration.

Au Sable LighthouseYes, there was a lighthouse visit as we hiked the trail to the Au Sable Lighthouse in the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. Although we missed the National Park’s 100th Birthday Party by two days, I still tweeted congrats on job well done in saving our national treasures.

I know where I will hopefully be a year from now. Not sure when we’ll be returning to the UP but even if it’s another two years, I’ll look forward to this as a “Superior” memory to relive.

May your voyage be a safe one, well lit and with the wind at your back.

 

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

”The Chicago problem is simply a matter of economic exploitation. Every condition exists because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The MLK Fair Housing Exhibit Center at 1558 S Hamlin details Dr. King’s time in Chicago in 1966 and speaks to his influence on the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Dr. King ApartmentsRemembering this 50th Anniversary, the Center’s goal is to build community awareness of the legacy that Dr. King left in the Chicago area during his residency in North Lawndale.

Six months after the Selma to Montgomery marches and just weeks after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a group from Martin Luther King Jr.’s staff arrived in Chicago, eager to apply his nonviolent approach to social change in a northern city. Once Dr. King 1966there, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined the locally based Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) to form the Chicago Freedom Movement.

My wife & I participated in Old St. Patrick’s Kinship Initiative promotion of the Center’s “Continuing the Dream” weekend by attending two book discussions there on Saturday morning July 23rd. One covered the past exploitation of North Lawndale through the battle waged by the Contract Buyers League as told by Beryl Satter, author of “Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America”. Beryl’s account of Chicago in crisis over 50 years ago, with religious leaders and community organizers battling slumlords and speculators, is also the story of her father Mark Satter, an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers.

The second book addresses the urgency of today as told by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his message to his son in “Between the World & Me” of the perils of living in a country where unarmed black men and boys are dying at the hands of police officers. The discussion was co-led by Xavier Ramey, whose day job as Senior Assistant Director for Social Innovation and Philanthropy at University of Chicago, is complemented by his social justice passions. It turns out that I knew his father Paul as an impassioned activist and advocate for North Lawndale from my CANDO days in the ‘90s.

During this past month of political conventions, I can’t help but ponder this continuing link between racial injustice and economic exploitation and remember the martyrs we lost in 1968. RFKIn the words of solace that Robert Kennedy offered April 4, 1968 on the assassination of Dr. King:

“What we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love, and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

 

 

REUNITING & REBOUNDING

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
— “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne

Yes, I know my June blog is a few days late. But then I’ve been planning to write about my 45th Reunion of the Province College Class of ’71 since the first weekend of June. I just waited for the June 30th concert by Jackson Browne and James Taylor at Wrigley Field.James & Jackson at Wrigley I bought tickets months ago as an early 37th wedding anniversary present. You see I did “find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means” and we’ve been filling in the “missing colors in each other’s paint-by-number dreams” since we met in 1975.

Lynne joined me for this June trip back to PC. Five years ago, I went by myself to reunite with classmates and catch up on our respective lives. She had met a few of them over the years but had not really seen where our college formative years played out. We both enjoyed the long weekend in Rhode Island, the conversational flow of memories and the ‘70s soundtrack.

There were classmates missing because of distance or early death; spouses who have left widowers; and health concerns that persist. But for a few hours over three days, the years did not seem that long ago.

I had a prelude to the memories in April when I was asked to speak at my high school, Fenwick in Oak Park [IL] to seniors who had been admitted to Providence College and were now on the clock to choose. Since both Fenwick and Providence are Dominican institutions, that makes me a “Double Friar.” For someone raised by the Order of Preachers, speaking is not that challenging. Picking the right points does require some thought. Hopefully, sharing my vocational experience at PC was helpful to those Fenwick students making their first major life decision.

It seemed to surprise some, as well as a slightly younger woman PC grad on the June golf cart tour of campus, when I shared that one of my first organizing campaigns was protesting at my college graduation urging the trustees to approve making PC co-ed, which they did. I hadn’t thought about that in decades but I guess equal access was embedded at an early age.

We did our best to avoid talking current politics at the reunion given some strong opinions just under the surface. But there were multiple memories we all had of Draft Lottery night in the midst of the Vietnam War. Many of us had met and bonded as ROTC candidates.PC Class of 71(2) Then came that day junior year in September 1969, when we each on our own had to decide to sign-up or not. I chose to start questioning the war which led to questioning many subsequent governmental actions over the years ahead.

I heard a James Taylor song for the first time this week, even though he wrote it over 25 years ago. When I blogged weekly for a year, I would add to the U2Cando playlist with lyrics to end each blog. These lyrics seem to be a good fit for remembering the past as well rebounding for the future.

And if Jackson asks, I’m not ready to surrender. Love could still be a contender.

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.
“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor

CHANGING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT CHANGE

CHANGING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT CHANGE

“You on an adventure, Mr. Citizen. I bet you didn’t know that. It’s all adventure. You signed up for it and didn’t even know it.” – Aunt Ester, Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson

Point Betsie, Michigan

Point Betsie MI

It’s been a busy month since I posted my last blog. Fortunately it started with a vacation trip to western Michigan with sunsets, wineries and lighthouses.

September included a visit from my colleague Irvin Henderson, who is consulting with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) on applying to have our Chicago landmarked building placed on the National Register of Historic Places for ICA’s social justice history. Knowing of Irv’s work with the Hill Community Development Corporation to restore the Granada Theatre in Pittsburgh, we went to see the Court Theatre’s awesome production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.

August Wilson at the Granada

August Wilson at the Granada

Set in 1904, this play begins Wilson’s ten-play 20th Century Cycle. Having seen most of them, I thoroughly enjoyed finally meeting Aunt Ester, the ancestor character that hovers throughout Wilson’s saga of African-Americans in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where he was born and raised. Aunt Ester’s admonition to Mr. Citizen remains pertinent over a century later.

The week of September 21st was the Fall Sojourn for ICA’s Archives Team and the largest ever with over 40 volunteers working in three teams to “create the future of our past.” One team explored the Imaginal Education of ICA’s Training Inc. projects which graduated 25,582 individuals across 15 locations.

Paul Noah Charts ICA's History

Paul Noah charts ICA’s History

Another reflected on ICA’s roots as the Ecumenical Institute and the relevance of a New Religious Mode for the emergence of conversations on Faith & Sustainability. The third team combed the archives for materials on ICA’s Bicentennial Town Meetings in 5,000 US counties and Human Development projects in each of the world’s 24 time zones.

I had the opportunity to welcome our archivists and to hear their closing reports but I spent three days that week visiting community and sustainable development activists in Austin, Texas. I spent the plane ride down reading ICA’s history and founding as The Ecumenical Institute as compiled by Beret Griffith. I was joined on my visit by ICA board director Randy Williams, who shared with those we visited the story of how Rev. Joseph Wesley Mathews left the Christian Faith and Life Community at the University of Texas to become the Dean of The Ecumenical Institute in Evanston, IL.

“As arguably the most progressive city in Texas, Austin nonetheless has its challenges,” Randy reflects. “It is one of the most economically and racially segregated cities in the region. If local people, through neighborhood initiatives, could be connected, this would create significant synergy and momentum for addressing these challenges.”

Red Bench AustinInterfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) believes that the work of “cultivating peace and respect” cannot be left to diplomats and dignitaries; the faithful, have to play a leading role. Red Bench is an ongoing dialogue program designed to address one of the most pressing needs of our time: improving interfaith understanding and civil discourse in our society. September’s Red Bench conversation was on Racial Intolerance.

Texas Impact, “People of Faith Working for Justice,” lobbies on issues of religious social concern. It is part of Interfaith Power and Light, a national movement with branches in 39 states, devoted to deepening the connection between ecology and faith, and encouraging a “religious response to global warming.” This past February, in conjunction with Austin’s Interfaith Environmental Network and iACT, they held their second-annual Preach-Off on Climate Change, for religious leaders to share their tradition’s wisdom with not just their own congregations, but with the entire community.

Evolve Austin Partners champions the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, crafted by the people of Austin to create a more affordable, mobile, and sustainable city. By addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by Austin’s explosive growth with compact and connected strategies, they will be seeking to create better and more inclusive choices for living, working, and getting around Austin. Their mantra is that it’s time to “change the conversation about change” to achieve the best Austin imaginable, a city that offers opportunity, freedom, and fairness to all.

Of course this month’s most historic moment was Pope Francis’ address to Congress:

“In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.“

The New York Times reported Pope Francis omitted the sharpest phrase in his prepared text: “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.” A spokesman later said he lost his place and passed over it by accident.

Politics serving human needs is not a point to be passed over, Mr. Citizen. It’s time to embrace the adventure you’re on and get engaged in changing the conversation.

BLOGGING FOR JUSTICE OVER A YEAR’S WORTH OF SEEKING

BLOGGING FOR JUSTICE OVER A YEAR’S WORTH OF SEEKING

This is U2Cando Blog #52. So I’ve reached my goal of blogging every week for a year. To my early followers, thanks for your loyalty. To my latest followers, I will return. But I’m cutting back to a monthly commitment to share my future perspectives.

I do want to acknowledge Jan Wilberg, who inspired me last summer with her award-winning daily blogging. What happens on her Red’s Wrap she admits is all over the map. Jan writes about what seems important or interesting at the moment.

That’s what I’ve been striving to do this past year. I wrote about folks from my past, new encounters, and threw in some political harangue. I didn’t know when I posted my first blog that I would also start a weekly U2Cando playlist of song lyrics. When Bono & U2 came up on my son’s playlist while riding in his car with Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, it seemed to be timely for the vocational search I was on still seeking justice.

So as I go on vacation and hiatus, my Top 10 list [with direct links embedded in each title] clearly needs to start with that first blog last August: DOES ANYONE HAVE BONO’S CELL NUMBER?

Gale Cincotta Reclaims America October 13, 1980

Gale Cincotta
Reclaims America
October 13, 1980

Last week, I tweaked the lyrics to a Steve Earle song to mention my mentor Gale Cincotta and embedded a link to my seventh blog, RECLAIMING AMERICA, on her posted last Columbus Day weekend. One of my followers Michael Westgate (author of Gale Force, an oral history on Gale) reminded me that August 15th was the anniversary of her death in 2001. I didn’t remember that as I wrote my most recent blog on August 15th; but I sure felt Gale’s spirit in the composing.

Remembering Gale last October, led to other memories from my days as editor of DISCLOSURE that I recalled in blog #8, FROM THE ROOTS, about other leaders who fought for their community. With a nod to Van Morrison, it’s always proper to “lift your glass and raise it high to the beauty of the days gone by.”

Romero Mural in Ciudad Romero

Romero Mural in Ciudad Romero

This past year saw the Vatican take the next step to finally canonize Oscar Romero as a martyred saint. My 14th blog last November, STILL RESILIENT IN EL SALVADOR, shared reflections from a 2012 community empowerment tour on which my wife and I witnessed the strength of perseverance.

The big news of the year for me was half-way through my blogging year when I announced in blog #26, OUT TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE, that I had accepted the position as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)-USA. This blog introduced the only lyrics I used twice from Sing for the Climate. If you have never seen the video, do yourself and the world a favor and check it out. On September 22 and 23, 2012, more than 80,000 people in more than 180 Belgian communities sang this song urging politicians to take more ambitious climate measures.

Addressing climate change has become a core mission for me now. Fortunately, I have some influential thought leaders to quote from. My 27th blog, THIS BOOK CHANGES EVERYTHING, led to a book review for SHELTERFORCE of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. As I said then and still do, if there has ever been a book you should read, this is it.

Over the next couple of months, my work will be engaging others in dialogue as requested by Pope Francis and recorded in blog #44, SHOUTING FOR JOY. That should offer sustenance for my September and October blogs.

TJ, Mom & Dad 7-26-15You can’t go a year without having birthdays. Most recently, I used blog #49, GROWING OLDER BUT NOT UP, to wish my son, TJ, well. The tweet link “Let’s Get Some Beers” got some likes.

The blog that received the most views all year was #25, HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY, my birthday and Valentine’s greeting to my wife, Lynne. She not only got me through this past year but also has provided love for what will be 40 years this October. And yes for those of you keeping score, Van Morrison is currently leading the U2Cando playlist with four songs to Bruce Springsteen’s three.

My birthday this year was a milestone, acknowledged in blog #18, CROSSING THE GREAT DIVIDE. I look forward to sharing my thoughts at the end of December on how my 66th year winds up.

So those are my ToP 10 blogs. I enjoyed writing all 52 of them. Whenever you read them, I hope you enjoyed them too. Remember U2Cando!

I’m completing my year of blogging for justice with my favorite hymn. It’s set to an Irish tune that you may have heard in a pub but it’s sung fairly often at our church, Old St. Pat’s.

Old St. Pat's

Old St. Pat’s

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

Canticle of the Turning
Author: Rory Cooney
Tune: STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN