The Alliance of Ethics & Art (AEA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. We are grateful to join with others in the fight against racism, and to seek solutions based on principles of Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by philosopher Eli Siegel:
(1) Every person's deepest desire is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis. This desire is the source of education and all the arts and sciences. (2) The greatest danger of people is to have contempt – "the addition to self through the lessening of something else."
All human injustice is caused by contempt – from a child's sarcastic "put down," to lying, bullying, economic exploitation, voter suppression, war. These principles when studied make it possible for racism to end.
– Alice Bernstein Remembering Unsung Pioneers – as 2015
Begins –"We'll take a cup o' kindness yet" Top row (l-r)
L. O. P. Perry, MD, Nashville
Addie Wyatt, Chicago (1924-2012);
Jesse Davidson, Bronx, NY (1924- ? );
Yoshino Hasegawa, California;
Bob Lucas, Chicago (1937-2010);
Major Owens, Brooklyn, NY
Thinking of each of the 200+ interviews with men and women around the country who used their lives to make America kinder and more just, I'm moved to quote these lines from the Robert Burns poem:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
"A cup o' kindness," writes Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, "is a toast to the kindness one met, and a pledge to continue kindness." In keeping with her beautiful, needed explanation, I propose a toast to the pioneers–people of all faiths and skin colors who helped to make America kinder and more just, and I ask that we all pledge to repay their kindness with our own.
It is an honor to begin 2015 by remembering some of the pioneers I interviewed for "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights" who passed away recently, and to send a good will message to Yoshino Hasegawa, who is in a California nursing home. I am grateful to have known each of them, and to have preserved their narratives, including of history never told before. They are distinguished by the fact that at a certain time, in difficult, dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening situations, they chose to fight for respect in a way that helped change history, made life fairer, better, than it had been. Let's take their lead and continue the work that so desperately still needs to be done. At the recent memorial for Ruby Dee (1922-2014, shown left) at Riverside Church (NYC), the expression of gratitude and love for her by people from all walks of life, known and unknown, also honored Ossie Davis. Listening to the speakers. I saw freshly how Ruby's and Ossie's lives illuminate in a wide and intensely personal way, the history of America and the Black Experience. I look forward to writing about their large meaning which includes their passionate commitment to public education--a story which needs to be known.We are grateful to announcethat the Alliance was awarded a grant for our oral history project, The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights from the Kovler Fund at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. It enables us to continue research and interviews on as aspect of our oral history: the little known story of how Black colleges in the South helped to save the lives of Jewish refugee scholars and their families who attempted to flee the Nazi Holocaust in the 1930s-40s, by giving them jobs and safe haven. And we thank the Puffin Foundation whose support through the years has been central to continuing our oral history project.
What made for the Holocaust and what makes for racism, Aesthetic Realism explains, is contempt: "the disposition to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world." It is the source of every injustice--from a sarcastic taunt to lying, from indifference to another's pain to lynching. Respect, wanting to see the inner life and feelings of another are as deep and immediate as one's own, is the basis of all education, all the arts and sciences, every instance of justice. And being educated about these two choices in us, we can make the choice for respect!
Celebrating the 20th year of this Emmy award-winning public service film, "The Heart Knows Better," by filmmaker and Aesthetic Realism consultant Ken Kimmelman.
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A victory on the side of respect for humanity took place this year in Washington, DC as the Library of Congress launched its Civil Rights Oral History Project website in The American Folklife Center. This site came to be as a result of a 2009 Act of Congress (Public Law 111-19), directing the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture, to identify and preserve civil rights history. It is a tremendous resource on one of the great democratic movements in American--and world--history. The Alliance is honored that through this LOC website our oral history project will now be accessible as a resource worldwide.
Among the speakers at the launch was Dr. Guha Shankar, Program Director and Folklife Specialist, shown above, who gave an overview of the website's functions and exciting samples of digital interviews. Currently on screen is Alice Bernstein's interview with civil rights activist Bill Saunders.
And the LOC hosted a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer (1964), and its beginnings in Mississippi, where the vicious racism of Jim Crow was endemic and included the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (left). Revered activists Charles Cobb, Robert "Bob" Moses, Dorie Ladner and Joyce Ladner (sisters) spoke of their experiences in the Mississippi struggle and of many people and events which led to the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their firsthand accounts of the brutality and terror, and of choices made in behalf of justice by courageous people, were stirring, often very personal, and made for enormous respect. Shown at right are civil rights pioneer Dorie Ladner and educator Ayize Sabatar.
Seeing how large and far-reaching the
activism known as Mississippi Freedom Summer was, and how it led to a national movement, is tremendous evidence for what Eli Siegel identified as "the force of ethics."
The answer to racism, I am convinced, is in the study of Aesthetic Realism, which can have people everywhere and of all ages proud of how they see other people.
It was a moving experience to be at the LOC, and to meet men and women from across the country: activists, historians, educators, artists, librarians, and others committed to preserving our nation's civil rights history. It was a pleasure to have met Joyce Ladner (shown above, with AB) who I had earlier been privileged to interview by phone about Dr. Ernst Borinski, one of the Jewish Refugee Scholars, who taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi and who was a major influence in her life and career.
I look forward to writing more about these events and people in future updates.
"The People of Clarendon County"— A Play
by Ossie Davis & the Answer to Racism! presented in the nation's capital.