Peace and Justice Summit: Leadership

Good afternoon.
Wow it’s wonderful to see you and be here, I’m Sophia Bracy Harris, a local, and
I am delighted to introduce two people who have been very very important in my
life. This is an opportunity that Bryan Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative
have given us for truth-telling and as a 15-year-old who was among the first to
integrate high schools in Elmore County not far from here and had the terror of
having our home fire bombed at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, I think that this whole
experience these past days and and the days to come is an opportunity for us to
share those experiences but most importantly to share the courage that is
needed to tell the truth. Marian Wright Edelman born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, graduate of Spellman College, Yale Law School, the first black
woman to pass the BAR in Mississippi. Instrumental in Head Start which has
become a common word but if you think back some fifty years ago, we didn’t have
opportunities for the education of young children and coming out of 1964 and that
summer Mississippi, Marion was a very important part of that, but most
importantly in 1973 with the formation of the Children’s Defense Fund. Marian became my mentor, a young girl
that had just gone ahead and graduated from Auburn University and had become a
founding person a part of the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama which
for 43 years work with helping families to love, to nurture, to educate our
children in ways that they had not been educated before and could not be
educated before and after that and after that experience I also, being a young
adult, began to discover what it was like to be a woman because there were times
telling the truth being a woman was not popular in fact in fact we often said
and I remember saying oh I’m much better friends with guys than I am with women
but I met a person who helped me to shape my identity and recognize that
there were parts of me that I had bought into that said I was not okay because of
my gender. Gloria Steinem founder of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a feminist, a
journalist, a person who has spent her life telling the truth whether it was
from the welfare rights organizing with Ruby Duncan over in Las Vegas, Nevada
or whether it was here in Alabama and the two trips she made here trying to help
the women who were running child care programs to find funding to do what they
needed to do. Gloria as I served with them on the Ms. Foundation’s board was a
gentle soul but a fierce fierce advocate and fighter and Gloria still
is telling the truth in her writings, in her work, in her advocacy and this event
is made the better for two women who have spent their lifetime and have been
vanguards for telling the truth for children and the significance of our
teaching children to love, teaching children to appreciate who they are as
well as for the mothers and the women and the individuals who are shaping
their lives. I am delighted to introduce to you and present to you Marian Wright
Edelman and Gloria Steinem. Thank you. MICHEL: Whatcha got in your purse? MARIAN: Everything. MICHEL: Well I’ll speak for all of us if I may, I’ll elect myself to say: icons, legends, role models, there are no words to thank you both for all that you have
done so let us start by saying we thank you. And I want to start a little bit because
we have one of the things that’s wonderful about this audience is it and
my name is Michel Martin by the way for I was delighted to be with you and the
weekend host of All Things Considered at NPR I’ve done it write the check thank
you we appreciate it. I think a lot of us would appreciate knowing why you do what
you do so why don’t we start with that why do you do what you do Gloria why
don’t you start and then Mrs. Edelman will go next.
GLORIA: Well first I have to apologize for my voice I don’t always sound like this. I do it because I feel blessed to do what I love all the time and I think you know I have a kind of feeling that if we didn’t discipline
children I’m so glad Marian’s here because I
think children are the key to everything that you know how little kids say it’s
not fair you are not the boss of me, I think that I managed to preserve that a
little bit longer maybe because because I didn’t go to school very much until I
was about 12 or so and so I missed a certain amount of brainwashing and then
I did spend some time rebelling and hoping no one would notice but the
purpose of social justice movements is to give us companionship and company so
by the time I was in my late 30s I realized that this is what I wanted to
do first as a journalist but then once you write about something you kind of
can’t not you can’t resist doing something about
it too so I became a journalist and an organizer and as I say I feel lucky I
get to do what I love all the time it’s frustrating it’s angering it’s everything
we know but it makes it just is irresistible. Well I do what I do because my parents and my community co-parents did
what they did and children do what adults do not what we tell them to do
and even though I grew up in a small segregated South Carolina town I always
knew that God made did not make two classes of children and while it was
segregated I was a rebel from a very early age whether it was changing white
and black signs and Bell’s department store that said go…whatever or trying to go into the public library that was not for us or making sure that we had our share of the sidewalk
as one children went this way we went that way but the messages of my
childhood were very clear if you don’t like the way things are you figure out
how to change them don’t ask why somebody doesn’t do something, secondly
follow the need. When old man Reddick had Alzheimer’s which we didn’t know
that term back then and was wandering the streets you know he didn’t have anywhere to go and my daddy and momma started a home for the aging across the street
from my church my daddy was was a preacher and my momma was the church
organizer and organist and could do anything and we started it at this home
for the aging and all of us children had to cook and clean I sure didn’t like it
at the time but that’s how I learned that elderly neighbors were our
neighbors and we were responsible. Everything the Children’s Defense Fund
works on today came out of my childhood experiences the migrant family who
collided with the white truck driver in front of our church highway in the
middle of the night. We all ran out to see what we could do, the truck driver
wasn’t hurt the ambulance came the migrant family was hurt very badly but
they drove away when they saw that the white driver wasn’t hurt I never forgot
that and I’m obsessed with health care for everybody. Little Johnny Anton who lived two houses
down from me stepped on a nail, he lived with his grandma Ruth, got tetanus but nobody
knew about tetanus shots so I am a bear about immunizations for every child
because of little Johnny Anton. We lived near the creek, crooked creek near
our church and all the black people swam and fished in that creek, my friend not
too long not too far away from my home jumped off the creek diving broke his
neck died but then I later learned at the place where we they swam and that we fished as a people with the hospital sewage outlet can you imagine, you know
and so I’ve never forgotten that but more importantly the bottom line was if
you see a need don’t let don’t ask why doesn’t somebody do something else why
don’t you do it and so I do what my parents did, what my community parents
did and we were owned by that community if I was someplace I wasn’t supposed to be
boy they knew about it and while it is it the sense of community and the love
which I had as a child growing up there was never a time when I didn’t believe I
was gonna try to change the world if you didn’t like it change it and that’s our
mandate today we’ve got to change this country and change this world, and we can do it. What about, what about people who aren’t
being taught that I’m curious about that I mean there are people who are being
taught you know get yours first no matter what you do and Gloria I’m gonna
start with you on this because you didn’t have the easiest upbringing I
mean you were I hope you don’t mind my sharing this I think people know that
your mother was mentally ill and you were her caretaker for much of your
childhood so you didn’t have it easy and I’m curious about a couple of things as
that it would have been easy and one could easily have understood if after having
had that experience your your view of it was get mine me first
and you all can take care of yourselves because I’ve done my caring about other
people so I’m curious about why you think you didn’t and then I wanted to
expand it to say well what about people who weren’t taught to care about other
people is that something that can be taught? I did get caring and a certain
degree of activism from my parents you know if you said the word Roosevelt to
my mother tears came to her eyes because he got us out of the depression
and how poor we were in the depression but I didn’t have those kind of role
models it’s true they were not activists in the same way and it took me a while
to realize that what had happened to my mother because she was treated as
mentally ill and she had got addicted to a early form of tranquilizer and so on
but after she had been in a mental hospital for a couple of years and I
asked the doctor what his diagnosis was he said she had anxiety neurosis and I
said to him would you say her spirit had been broken and he said yes because I
had learned by then that long before I was born my mother had been a pioneer
newspaper woman writing under a man’s name to get published then ultimately
becoming Sunday editor of a newspaper in Toledo, Ohio which must have been
enormous you know in her time, she had my older sister
who’s nine years older, she was married to my father who is a wonderful loving
completely irresponsible human being so she was having a hard time, sorry about the
laryngitis, she just couldn’t make it all work there was just too much against her
she hadn’t heard what was then called a nervous breakdown and she was in the
hospital for a couple of years this was all before I was born
it took me a while to discover that but once I discovered that I I just was in
mourning for who she could have been and I think it’s not unusual for a lot of us
with our mothers especially but maybe fathers too that we are living the
unlived lives of our parents so I feel you know that was my lesson if it not
the same as watching it happen but watching it not happen and what the cost
was. Marian do you feel that the courage can courage the courage to change things
be taught or do you think it’s something that’s just in you? It can be taught by
example children don’t do what we tell them to do but they always do what we do
and they watch and one of the things that was so wonderful again in my
childhood because it was a poor community is that we had community co-parents if
we went and did something everybody in the community felt you know obligated to
make sure they reported on us. I had 12 foster sisters and brothers I would wake
up and there’d be new child in my house and you know and when old man Reddick got
Alzheimer’s daddy they mama started a house we all had to stop and
clean and go over there and take food we didn’t like it at the time but that’s
how we learned that everybody was our neighbor and we had community people
that I just loved that didn’t have any children but where I would stay with when
my parents left and they would look out for us and we
were community property and the teachers in our community you know many of them
came from other places and had to live in our little hometown but they were
more than teachers they became our Girl Scout troop leader or our Boy Scout troop
leader and while the schools were separate and
unequal we always had books in the home okay even if we didn’t have a second pair
of shoes but more importantly every morning we sang the Negro National
Anthem in our black public school and so we knew about that we had oratorical
contents which we’re now trying to reinstitute in our Freedom Schools at
the Children’s Defense Fund and I can remember Ralph Bunche’s speech at Fisk
University’s commencement in 1946 that says the barriers of race can be
surmounted, if there was a famous person like Ms. Bathune or you know
Mordecai Johnson who I used to hate because he’s the speech for three and a half hours
with an intermission in Columbia on the hardest chairs you ever did see but they
would take us to hear great speakers and the first time I met Ms. Bethune at
Benedict, the first time I heard the word the blacker the berry the sweeter the
juice, I never heard a black woman command a group of
men the way she did and she would regale these stories about how she would you
know challenge segregation saying I am Mary McLeod Bethune I will try on this
hat in your white hat shop and so it really it was wonderful but we were
always exposed and so I just think we need to get back to making sure that
children know their rich heritage while we can have separate and unequal schools
we can know what our great heritage was Langston Hughes came to my hometown and
by mistake he was going to Atlanta University and somebody had
given him the name of a white minister 15 miles away from us in Cheraw, South
Carolina and we lived on Cheraw Highway but that white minister saw Langston
Hughes down in his door saying your friend sent me from Harlem to stay with him he
panicked put him in the car drove him to my hometown and went to the principal’s
office and left him there the black principal’s office
and when the principal’s wife came in and saw him she didn’t believe me she
said you can’t be who I think you are he said yes I am and I’m staying at your
house tonight but he said he had and she said would you come and talk to my
children and he said I can’t stay in the morning I’m on my way to Atlanta
University and my train leaves at X time but I’ll come back and he came back to
little Bennettsville, South Carolina and he read to us and I just did this
exposure you know through oratorical contest and that’s what we’re trying to
do in Freedom Schools they need to know their rich heritage and what they have
come through and they’ve got so much to draw on. And so I’m just very grateful. So let’s broaden it out because one of the
things that distinguishes both of your careers is that you each are over time
and a place and you had a specific focus and mission but over time each of you
has broadened your mission to include people who don’t look like you people
who don’t share your histories and backgrounds you know there’s a there’s a
nice word that we use these days called intersectionality which is a good word
it’s a lot it’s a big SAT word but if they still have that they still do that SAT,
thankfully but I’d like to understand now do you have a theory of everything
that informs your sense of where justice comes from where no you don’t, Gloria says yes, you say no. Ok good, tension. Let’s hear it. Nobody has ever asked me that question
before it’s really dangerous because I kind of do then I think it started because I lived
in India for a couple of years right after I graduated and it was so clear
that the Kerala the southernmost part which is matrilineal and much more
egalitarian and you know you you could see the connection between control
between caste as race here and the status of women because in order to
maintain visible difference or racial purity whatever that means or you know
difference at all you have to control reproduction and that means you have to
control the bodies of women so it was always kind of clear to me from there
from living in India and then seeing it at home that these two things are
intertwined that you can’t actually uproot racism without also uprooting
sexism in the long run and that though women I mean white women are
more likely to be sexually restricted in order to keep the race pure whatever
that may mean distinct black women are more likely to be sexually exploited it
doesn’t mean that you experience exactly the same thing but it does mean that you
can’t perpetuate racism without sexism and that sexism is made you know just
inevitable by racism so there’s no such thing as fighting one thing without
fighting the other. Michel: Marian, what about you, well actually Gloria let me stick with you for one second
because it’s because everybody within each movement has not always agreed with
you I mean I think everybody knows by now that some of the early pioneers of
reproductive freedom were also thoroughgoing racist I think or
eugenicist they were it’s just a fact so I’m just curious within your own
movement, have you had to fight that argument? But it was also, I mean Fannie Lou Hamer
was a founder of the reproductive justice movement because she spoke to
she spoke out about being sterilized without her knowledge in a hospital
she’d entered for other reasons and she had tried to say that in doing a SNCC
meeting and anybody they didn’t take it up and it’s why she became a founder of
the National Women’s Political caucus and you know why she spoke to I mean
Ruth Ginsburg was then head of the women’s issues part of the ACLU and she
was trying to do away with the forced sterilization of women and girls because
of the welfare you know there was a hole so I think it’s it’s quite clear that
they all go together but it is also true that there is sexism in various kinds of
civil rights movements and it’s also true that there’s racism within the
women’s movement I mean you know we’re all living together here but I do think that
once we look at the history of the Women’s Movement which I’m trying to do
together now with Paula Giddings and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, we’re all doing it as a project we’re doing the hidden
figures you might say of the Women’s Movement that it turns out that black women
have always been way way way disproportionately the Women’s Movement
per se always and when Ms. Magazine published the very first Lois Harris
Poll of the Women’s Movement about the Women’s Movement then called women’s
liberation rather than feminism and all the issues of the Women’s Movement it
the results and this was in 1972 were that more than 60% of black women
supported women’s liberation and all the issues and only 37% of white women so
the women’s woman has always been disproportionately black women and we
certainly saw that result in you know that what you know 96% of black women
voted for Hillary Clinton and 51% of white married women voted for Trump so
you know it’s it’s it’s the it’s the women’s woman is presented as white
sometimes and the civil rights but I mean you know it’s presented in that way
but it’s actually hasn’t been factually true in terms of who the activists were. Michel: Mrs. EdelmanI’m interested in your sort of consciousness about the importance of
other movements and peoples I mean do you remember kind of in a eureka moment
for you where you saw that the things that concerned you and moved you were
also things that were deeply relevant to other people do you remember that? My
family was a family of readers my daddy was a preacher but he would spend three
or four hours in his study every day reading, I had Carl Sandburg’s whole set
of Abraham Lincoln on our living room mantel and we had
discussions all the time and I just had never forgotten in my church a vestibule
there was a picture of a very rich white family around a very lavish Thanksgiving
dinner but with huge numbers of poor brown and black people around and they
said shall we say blessing, I had certain other clear messages my mother was they
were extraordinary partnership he called her pal she was the best organizer I
know she was the church organist she was a church fundraiser she could do
anything and I went everywhere with my parents I
mean I was the youngest I was an accident six years after my but my
brother never forgave me the one who was the baby when I got born
but I learned to be a good survivor because I was always endangered but the
message in our and most of our public school teachers were women because
people made a conscious decision the black community they would educate their
daughters to avoid sexual exploitation of working in other people’s houses and
their sons could do manual labor and so I always had these very educated black
women around but what I also love that it was classless because the ones that I
consider my co-mothers were the ordinary women of grace who cooked who cleaned
who kept me when my parents went out and so it was a wonderful sense of community
but with a core value that God did not create two classes of people and God
did not create two classes of children and we were community property and so
through reading and we were lucky to have books everywhere and through the
exposure to respect for everybody because we people my daddy tried to live
this way their faith you know you you you just instinctively kind of do that I
had 12 foster sisters and brothers and when we made my mother turn over the old
folks home in her last years after she was in her late 80s we found out
everybody in the old folks home she was serving three meals a day to were
younger than she was she always had a sense of purpose if you see a need don’t
ask why somebody doesn’t see how you can do something. MICHEL: Well what about subsequent
movements that have now come to fore like for the movement for transgender
rights for example the movement for LGBT rights there are people who have been
traditional activists who have themselves struggled I mean it’s it’s not
a secret sometimes they have struggle have you ever struggled? Oh I always struggled,
these are complicated kinds of things but again the bottom core built you
know the value that’s been built into me is that God did not make two classes of
children and everybody should be treated justly and you have to work out the
policies and work out the politics and the differences and that major cause
might not be somebody else but if they’re a human being. MICHEL: So that’s your theory of everything. That’s my theory of everything. You should be just to people and the law should be fair to people. MICHEL: What about you Gloria? Have you ever sort of struggled to
incorporate somebody else’s struggle as being similar to your own? GLORIA: Well I think I
mean I learned you know because as I was saying the oldest cultures in in India
and also the koi and the sun in Africa where we all came from and also native a
lot of the Native American cultures here did not have he and she in their
language they didn’t have a word for gender hello people were people I mean
how great is that you know and they didn’t have a word for nature either
because we were not separate from from nature so I mean the idea of race and
gender has not always existed it came along you know in different parts of the
world in different times with I mean once here just my theory of everything
watch out anyway okay no but once patriarchy was established more or less
in Europe which which required the murder of six million witches who were just
health workers for women over over three hundred years because they enabled women
to control reproduction so once that happened and Europe became overpopulated
as a result of forcing women to have children they would not otherwise have
had then they invented racism to justify colonialism and there’s a whole
wonderful exploration of this in a book called Exterminate All the Brutes by a
Swedish author who is explaining that the whole school of skull measurements
to prove the inferiority of some races and the whole theory of racism was
literally invented to justify taking over other people’s land and continents
you know and I mean both in Africa and in North and
South America and it came home as the Holocaust I mean what was different
about the Holocaust was that it happened in Europe but the the the the idea of
racial hierarchy and racial inferiority which is utter bullshit you know I mean
total utter bullshit, it was invented and somehow I find it comforting to understand that if
for most of human history I mean the last it’s the last five thousand years
in some parts of the world it’s the last five or six hundred here it’s not that
long. MICHEL: I was gonna ask you about that because one of the things that I think
that people notice about both of you is your unending optimism and that is a
quality that defines both of you even as you continue to kind of rage against the
things that deserve to be raged against and I think a lot of people would be
interested especially in the current moment of how is that possible like how
is it that you maintain that sense of humor, that optimism? Well it isn’t as if we don’t get discouraged and
angry we do right but I think hope is a form of planning because if the hopes
weren’t already real inside you you couldn’t even hope them so… MICHEL: Say that
again, hope is a form of… GLORIA: …planning Planning interesting okay. GLORIA: I mean because
if we couldn’t imagine them I mean if we imagine them they’re in us somehow and
it’s true that I am a hope-aholic okay like I cop to the fact that I am a hope-aholic
but but you know that’s the basis of everything if you know you can’t stop
thinking well maybe if we did this that would happen if we put these people
together then you know I mean it’s I can’t imagine giving that up. MICHEL: Do you ever,
never discouraged? I’m a president GLORIA: Oh yes, yes are you kidding me? MARIAN: All the time. GLORIA: We have a president who is not a president most people
didn’t vote for him I couldn’t shake hands with this guy. MICHEL: But a lot of people
did I mean a lot of people did maybe most didn’t but a lot of people did a
lot of people did. MARIAN: We’ve seen a lot of change, you know I grew up in a rigidly segregated town, time when we were separate and unequal, we’re still
separate and unequal in many ways but it’s been an enormous amount of change
some thanks to the civil rights movement and you know and and and I look at the
work with children I thought I ought to be out of business that is so people you
know here’s the days of children here’s what it cost you to make them bad
or to make them you know uneducated or to make up whatever and it ought to be
out of business in a few few years because of cost-effectiveness you know
it’s hard but the Civil Rights Movement made a huge amount of difference in
breaking down racial caste and segregation in this country we still got
a lot of way to go but you know huge changes when we look at the Women’s
Movement huge changes we look at the children’s movements we have got fifty
laws on the books that we never would have had one did it inspire inch and
increment by but 95 percent of all children are now covered by Medicaid and
CHIP and we’ve now got a new 10-year extension, we’ve got an early childhood system that still needs to be perfected but nevertheless you know we’re in a very different place immunizations are
there there’s a whole set of things and in this last and point is don’t ever, you know do your climb but then get up and try again you just be ready for the next
battle and in the worst budget battle of this last budget this bad budget we had
our lives just waiting to put stuff in the basket when they need to negotiate
for a boat and we came out not only with the ten years for CHIP a doubling of a
child care Block Grant seven billion dollars ain’t bad in a family
preservation system that you know is now available to keep children out of
foster care and out of homes, home visiting programs you just have to sort
of keep it’s hard to work the policy process but the fact is we’re in a very
different place on so many different issues that you just have to keep at it
and we’re gonna end child poverty it in this country and we are going to end gun
violence against children and I really… You’ve got all the power you need. MICHEL: Really? Can I write that down, the date when is that
gonna be because I want to put it in my calendar. Okay let me ask the folks did you want
to add something? GLORIA: No I just want to say that I think that part of the role of us
golden oldies here is that we bring hope because we remember when it was worse
and the role of everybody younger is that you are mad as hell because you
know that it’s wrong and up and we need you to remember to be mad as hell right
but we but that’s why we need to organize together and I think age
segregation is as bad as any other form of segregation. MICHEL: I was going to ask and
I’m just you know be honest here how many of you are feeling hopeful right
now can I see a show of hands? Okay can I ask how many are not feeling hopeful can
I see some hands? And the folks that I’m sorry that we don’t have an opportunity
this is a big group and I’m grateful for that I’m sorry we don’t have more of an
opportunity to talk with you and those of you do you mind if for those of you
who are feeling a sense of a lack of hope or I don’t want to say despair can
you just shout out a couple thoughts about why why is that I saw some hands
here why are you feeling? The environment. Other things. Disparity Other
things, say it again. Resistance. Yeah got that part. Okay what about, thank you what about
that? MARIAN: You don’t have time for that, okay? This is I took my granddaughters to one
of the Selma March reunions and I watched everybody come in and celebrate
Ms. Boynton in her wheelchair she was a hundred plus years old and they were
coming up and say we stand on your shoulders and she said get off of my
shoulders and get out there and build the next path of hope, I mean
there’s been enormous change in this country and we’re gonna finish that
change and I’ve got an agenda for you and I you know and then we have time to
be sort of that’s very don’t do it, get out here do what has to be done. MICHEL: Alright, there’s a t-shirt though for EJI, here’s your next t-shirt, “Get off of
my shoulders.” You hear it? MARIAN: Get off of my shoulders and build that next path to the future… There are two things here we’ve been talking about
lynching the first big movement we’ve got to really build on we’ve got all the
police killing children we have lost between 1963 and 2016 65,947 black children and teens by
guns that’s more than 16 times the number of lynchings of black people of
all ages in the 74 years from 1877 to 1950 we have a whole lot more black folk
and we have a whole lot more folks than members of the NRA we need to retire the
NRA from gun policy. And the second thing we need to do is to give children positive alternatives to the streets open up these church and synagogue and mosque doors
and put Freedom Schools in them so that they are not terrified after school and
have nothing but gangs and other things to sort of relate to, we need to get the
black adults to become the black adults that what it does they need safe spaces
they need to learn about their history they need to learn how to read and to
compute and to stay out of trouble they’re terrified and we need to stop
that and we need to begin to make sure that children are safe and they’re
educated 80% over 80% of our black fourth and eighth graders cannot read or
compute at grade level and this what are you gonna do if you can’t read at the
most basic level we to demand that our schools teach our children but we
need to make sure that they have Freedom Schools, good role models in the summer
and after school have books where they learn their history learn how to read
have adults who adopt them and care for them we’ve got a job to do and the next
thing to do than honoring this great struggle that we celebrated today and I
can’t shout out enough to EJI and to Bryan and to all who made this possible, but we…we honor this by making sure that the next
anti-lynching movement is to stop gun violence in this country against our
children we need to do that and secondly we can and we are now doing
a new study and update of our studies about ways to end child poverty and
break up that cradle to prison pipeline, it’s so much cheaper to give children
prenatal care than to teach them to deal with all the infant mortality all
this and the cost-effectiveness of our child neglect and so we did a study two
three years ago they have their evidence to do it to say what would it cost to
end child poverty in America and I tell you it’s a bargain and it’s a bargain
and we issued a report which will get an update now in about a month and when you
get it you join us and you do something. We found that we could in laying out nine
policies and housing was the biggest poverty alleviation thing that we can
decrease child poverty overall for all children by sixty percent and seventy
two percent for black children and it would cost us 77 billion dollars we’d
had a Nobel laureate economist show us that every year we let all these
children drop out of school and stay in poverty it cost us a half trillion
dollars out of the you know every year and so we said good lord why can we
not save all this money and save our children we’re going to be issuing this
report in a month, join us let’s make the legacy of here to really be that we’re
gonna stop the violence that’s the current lynchings that are taking so
many more child lives and then secondly then we’re going to educate our children
so that they can have jobs and live out of poverty and have a sense of hope in
this country and let’s get that done they can do what they did in their times
if the family could do what she did in her times if Harriet Tubman could do what
she did and Sojourner Truth could do what they did what the world is wrong
with us so we can do this. MICHEL: Let me ask you this So then let me ask each of you what’s
your message for people who don’t agree with you? The surveys show that this
country is as divided in some ways as it…no seriously… GLORIA: You don’t agree with me? MICHEL: There are certain surveys that say people would rather… GLORIA: Let me explain it again. MICHEL: More people would oppose having a son or daughter marry somebody of a different political party than of a different race which is
so what’s your message for people don’t agree with you how are you gonna… MARIAN: Get over it. MICHEL: Okay. GLORIA: It’s about empathy in the end so the
path to empathy is different and you know always right but usually or at
least frequently you can find that kind of path by saying you know what if you
were born here or what if you are you know just for or just getting to know
each other part of the reason as was reported after the last election for the
division in this country is between urban centers and small towns and rural
places where people in the smaller towns in rural areas people don’t know each
other in cities you’re more likely to know each other and it’s that it’s the
question do we do we know each other and can we agree for instance in the
abortion debate okay that’s always you know sort of inflammatory but once you
explained that it’s not pro-abortion it is bodily integrity that we don’t
want the government to have power over our bodies to invade our bodies men or
women that this is… MICHEL: I mean isn’t that an 18th century enlightenment conceit that
if we all had the same facts we’d come to the same conclusions? GLORIA: No, no I’m not saying that. MICHEL: We’ve had these facts… GLORIA: It’s just that we can recognize each other’s conclusions and come toward each other MICHEL: How do you how does that start? I
mean how does that start? GLORIA: Well I mean it starts by talking I have such faith in at least, it starts by telling our stories it’s not just talking you know
them the the original form of governance and remember democracy was invented in
this country by the Iroquois Confederacy the original form of government
governance was sitting in a circle and each person telling their story of that
particular moment one by one by one and if we just practice a little democracy
every day that goes like this if we have more power than other people try
listening as much as we speak and if we have less power speak as much as you
listen which can be difficult because we’re used to hiding.
Listening to each other’s stories is the basis of everything. MARIAN: There’s certain
basic survival needs that we must guarantee I’m for dialogue I am for
talking but I’m also for change to policy children should not be dying from
guns there should not be unequal education everybody should have health
care and so the first way we go about doing that we organize and we vote
everybody should get out there and you vote out people who don’t protect all
children none of us are safe from gun violence I mean none of us are safe from
gun violence I’ve said that’s it that’s a secure a huge security issue I mean
that’s not about loving me or not loving me or dialogue that’s about making sure
that the law is trying to keep your children safe and your family safe and
you safe wherever you’re going and so there’s just certain basic survival
and-and-and just no other country lets its children be killed like we do they
think we’re crazy and we are crazy we owe our children their lives we owe them
their futures we owe them education and again they’re not two classes of
children so that I guess I am for and I’m a person of faith okay and I’m not I
try to be nonviolent I mean we should stop corporal punishment for cruel
punishment in schools we should stop the violence in our juvenile justice system
we should stop the violence in our lives and we should have these dialogues and
we should talk about love but we can also enact laws and policies and raise
our voices when children are mistreated or killed or not fed or the budget cuts
are going the other way and so this is a time for a new movement to finish what
Dr. King and others started and Fannie Lou Hamer and others started and we
don’t have to be big dogs in doing this I mean I wear around my neck everyday, when I get discouraged or get angry, too angry, or whatever I have my Theory of Change’s Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and so Harriet Tubman as you know had her own Underground Railroad, and it wasn’t about just her freeing
herself and we all have an obligation not just to free ourselves because you
can’t even protect your own children if you don’t… MICHEL: That is, just for people who
can’t see that is in fact a picture of Harriet Tubman around your neck. MARIAN: And Sojourner…so if I have a bad day I just rub these ladies yeah and you know she created
that Underground Railroad but she had enough sense to go back and bring other
people with her and to help save other people and she said she’d never lost a
passenger in her Underground Railroad I don’t know any airline can boast that kind of, but it was about caring about the community it was not about just my freedom, okay. And Sojourner was something she would get on
those trolley cars in Washington, they’d put her off and she’d jump and run to the
next trolley car and get back on but her theory of change is one of my theories
of change and that’s what I’d like to leave with you look same with my…
she got hassled one night she was making a speech by an old white man who
stood up and said he didn’t care about her anti-slavery talk and for an old
flea bite and she snapped back at him and said that’s all right the Lord
willing I’m gonna keep you scratching all of us want to be too many of us want
to be big big people we want to have big public platforms enough strategic fleas
can move the biggest dog. And that’s what you do… And what we need is just a massive flea core that’s how we pass most of the
legislation it’s just like organizing people it’s by encouraging them to vote
it’s by encouraging them to speak out and we just need a massive fleet core
for ending poverty in this country but starting with our children don’t make
any excuses or how that’s too big a thing to tackle just just bit ’em, just just vote
just bug them to death because everything depends on that so it’s not
somebody else’s gonna cause this movement we’re gonna cause this movement
if John Lewis could do what he did my goodness, Ms. Boyner could do what she did, Fred Shuttlesworth my gosh I loved him to death
if these order and it was always a few people who got things done so this is
movement time don’t come here and celebrate this museum and the lynchings
which we should be doing when we’re letting things happen on an even greater
scale of harm in some ways than were there so let’s stand on the shoulders
but let’s get off the shoulders like Ms. Boynton said, and get out there
and go to the voting booths and organize and speak out for your children and give
them some Freedom Schools to be safe after school and in the summer and you
will change the world. GLORIA: I’m just looking at the
great Harriet Tubman here and and remembering that she said when she was
praised for freeing thousands of slaves she always said I could have freed
thousands more if only they knew they were slaves ok so I think the function
of our telling stories is that we discover that it’s it’s not uniquely us
it’s not our fault you know there’s three other people in the circle who had
the same experience so it’s not peculiar to us if unique different people have
the same experience it’s about power it’s about politics and therefore I think
that the the talk and the storytelling it’s how we and I and I would say that
also applies to the 51% of white married women who voted for Trump because they
are so accustomed to being inhabited to thinking that everything is their
husband’s identity their husband’s income their husbands and and where is
the self there where is the self there? MICHEL: Do you have any friends who voted for Trump? Do you have either of you have any
friends who voted for Trump? MARIAN: They wouldn’t dare tell me if they did. MICHEL: Well I just, I’d be curious but what kind of conversation… GLORIA: I actually don’t have friends who voted for Trump but because they travel and speak all the time I end up talking to a lot people who voted for Trump and so a guy will say to me something
like well a black woman took my job you know
and I always say to him who said it was your job you know because it’s the sense
of entitlement you know it’s not it’s not just that I mean some people voted
for Obama as an outsider and voted for Trump as an outsider because they were
mad at Washington I mean that you know there’s a whole series of reasons but
the number one reason that people gave in public opinion polls for voting for
Trump was that he was a good businessman so so I always explain that
some you know the Wall Street Journal somebody figured out that if he had just
invested the money he inherited he would be richer than now he is a lousy
businessman he’s gone bankrupt many times I mean you know so I think we you
know we need to get a reality check out there. MICHEL: Does anybody get on your nerves at
this point? GLORIA: Are you kidding me, yes of course, of course. MICHEL: Well I just often hear people of because you all are divas our senior
divas here… GLORIA: No, we’re not divas. MICHEL: And they complain about you know hashtag ism or hashtag activism and they sometimes you know feel that the subsequent
generations are more interested in sort of calling things out and being heard
than organizing in the way that they traditionally understand and I just
wonder if there’s anything you want to… GLORIA: I mean obviously the the web is a huge you
know benefit but we have to recognize it’s also divisive because a lot of
people don’t have electricity even much less you know and also it’s you can’t
empathize on a screen or in a book much as I love books
you can’t empathize you can learn but you can’t know what the other person is
feeling so and that is certainly true you don’t
produce oxytocin which is the hormone that allows you to empathize and to
identify so I’m I’m I think we have to recognize that and hopefully get to a
place where we spend as much time with each other as we do with a screen. Somebody gave me George Orwell at 19,
1984 and The Road to Wigan Pier and I really am a luddite. The internet has changed our world okay but movements don’t start
from the top down they start from the bottom up and it’s not a substitute for
human relationships or organizing for your church in your synagogue, I’m
terrified of Internet in many ways there’s no privacy in elections and so
it’s not a substitute for just human will and human organizing and human
relationships in your congregations in your schools in your community and so
you know you know you don’t you’ve met people you got to go out and eat with
people and pray with people and get to know people and build trust with people
and so I hope that you will go back home and you will think about the ten people
you know in your neighborhood or in your congregation or in your school or how
you can reach out they start from the bottom up, I there’s a…I quote a
lot of times the strange thing came through my mailbox and it’s called All the
Lessons You Need to Learn in Life You Can Learn from Noah’s Ark and among the six lessons was one that I loved was to remember that the Titanic was built by experts and the ark was built
by ordinary people, who were following their consciences and
following God’s instructions so you get on back out there and build these arks
in your community and give these children safe spaces to come to you know
and let’s try to deal with the don’t try to do stuff from the top down that’s not
gonna change or transform the country you’re gonna change it from your human
relationships and your human… MICHEL: Well you’ve reminded me of something
because I had an interview with the former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy who
actually wrote a piece in a peer-reviewed journal that said the
biggest health epidemic that concerns him is loneliness do you think that’s
true? It’s loneliness… I think that again the isolation of technology may
well be feeding into that now I think that that’s the part but we need
community we need each other we need to be able to share our sorrows and our
concerns, I think that may well… MICHEL: Maybe this is the wrong group to have that conversation with because
all of you are engaged but I have to tell you one of the things that concerns
me as a journalist is how many people in the current environment and they say
this to me I don’t know if other people have said this to you is people say oh
don’t take it personally I don’t listen to the news anymore.
Does anybody have you heard do you have friends who say that? Oh don’t take it
personally I don’t want to hurt your feelings I don’t listen to the news
anymore I just tune it out I can’t take it and I you know I guess maybe that’s
the same rule applies you wouldn’t be friends with people like that but but
but I am interested in in your people who are checked out I mean who would
just say you know what the current political dialogue or whatever it is is
assaultive and I just want no parts of it and I’m just checked out and I what’s
the what’s what’s the… GLORIA: Well you’re… you’re saying they’re checked out of
watching the news not that they’re checked out of human relationships as
far as you know right? MICHEL: I’m not sure, I honestly am not sure. But I think the major problem to generalize with the news is
advertising because it measures everything by the number of hits not by
the accuracy or the importance or whatever it is I mean
you know if it hadn’t been for advertising we probably wouldn’t have
had Trump because those dreadful shows that he was on which were like watching
a broadside accident got a lot of sponsors simply because they had numbers
and there was the guy who was it at NBC I think who said he’s bad for the
country but he’s great for NBC you know so we we and I noticed now with the
people you know in their 20s who I talk to that they are not listening to
or they are very skeptical of corporate news they have all kinds of news sources
that are supported by subscriptions or or not at all or whatever it is you know
but I think we’re in a transition there and it’s very crucial, really crucial
they you know I mean I feel this deeply because I got educated by women’s
magazines which are controlled by the advertising there’s oceans of cosmetics
and clothes so they can get those ads and fiction is gone and poetry is gone
and you know Ms. got started actually and Ms. started to be economically
viable when we stopped taking advertising because what the readers
wanted and what the advertisers went so that that’s a big struggle but I think
we have to acknowledge it because the false news issue is so severe. MICHEL: My ratings are fine just letting you know just we’re down to our last I’m just just
letting you know but we’re down to our last couple of minutes and I wanted to
ask each of you if and you’ve done this to a degree throughout our conversation
but I wanted to ask if you would kind of give us each a closing thought give us a
sense of what you would like to leave us with if if you would I mean you’ve been
doing this kind of throughout but for a lot of us you know as we were just
talking you know backstage Gloria that you know just, I haven’t seen you in
a couple of years and we don’t it’s been one of the things that’s been great
about this conversation this summit is the opportunity for people to get
together who don’t have a chance to see each other who don’t have a
chance to talk together and this has brought everyone together people who
have the wherewithal who have the you know the physical ability the means for
whatever to get together and to be in one place so that’s a great sort of
thing but what in the time that we have left I’m going to ask you a start and
then I’ll give Mrs. Edelman the final final word was what is your closing
thought to us do you have a charge do you have an assignment do you have tasks
for us to do I mean the one thing obviously is stay connected interpersonally. GLORIA: I’m tempted
to quote Flo Kennedy who always said when asked this question I’m for
anything that’s off its ass but one thing is I mean I think we get a case of
the shoulds you know what should we do rather than doing everything we can as
you point out you know so the question is what we can do right now okay when you were
sitting here still or on your way out you can look around and see two or three
people you don’t know or don’t know well enough say what you’re doing what you
care about you know you may find a new organizing revolutionary colleague a new
job a new love affair nobody knows what might happen just to to really just stop
worrying about should and do whatever you can and it is such fun you know to
figure out what if I do this that might happen and the not doing it is the
greatest punishment because then you are failing is not the greatest punishment
not trying is the greatest punishment because then you’ll always
walk around in your head thinking what if. Why do you think everybody is put on
this earth everybody can make a difference
and and I get up every morning and try to be half as good as Ms. Mae Bertha
Carter or Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer in Mississippi or Ms. Osceola Macarthy or
you know a washerwoman and a maid who left you know her all of her savings
that she didn’t need to get by on to send children to university,
I’ve seen the people who change so much in this nation have been people who had
almost nothing but they had faith they had a sense of justice they wanted children to
have a better life than they had and to pass on a country better than they
inherited and the folk who cause these movements you know and there’s always a
small minority, it doesn’t take everybody okay it’s been a few folk who just
decided that they were going to be out there for justice and just try to be a
fair to make us a better country to be a better source of human beings and I have
been so blessed to have been so exposed to people who just wanted to leave a better
world and who tried to live their faith and because we’re in this period I just
want to you know I’d say often I heard Dr. King when I was 19 years old in
compulsory chapel at Spellman I opposed compulsory chapel but now I
reimpose when I became chairman of the board because children needed to hear what
we felt was important and he often didn’t know he was I knew him when he
was more depressed more often than not okay didn’t know what the next step was
gonna be but his first speech to me in a nineteen-year-old and compulsory
chaplain was that you keep moving forward if you can’t fly you drive you
can’t drive you run if you can’t run you walk if you can’t walk you crawl but you
can keep moving forward and that’s my parting message to you is that you know
for all of his sacrifice don’t we can finish the job that he
started with Robert Kennedy started this Poor People’s Campaign we’re gonna he
can start with children but this must keep moving forward Mr. Trump cannot
take us backwards if we don’t decide to let him, get out there and vote, organize and let’s move forward and that’s the only mandate I can give. MICHEL: Marian Wright Edelman, Gloria Steinem, thank you both.

Joseph Wolf

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