18 May

Remembering My Sister Mary, My Compatriot

Eulogy to Walt, The Family Man

Walt 1

Mary’s Eulogy to Walt, The Family Man

Walt was a complex, highly intelligent, caring man. I think his complexity was what at first attracted me to him. I had never known a man who so often surprised me with his opinions, decisions, thoughts, and abilities, or a man who wanted to share all of these with me (that is, except for Ed, my brother who mentored me into my adulthood and later Dick who encouraged me with my attempts at creative writing, ah brothers).

We had an idyllic courtship. I would fly to New Mexico whenever I could to be with him. Walt was, at the time, a Field Engineer for Bendix Research Labs working on a missile program at White Sands, New Mexico. Walt and I both loved the southwest, the dessert, the small towns, the mountains, the people. If I were to be completely honest, one of the reasons I married him was I thought I would live in that beautiful part of America.

Our time in New Mexico, however, came to a close shortly after I became pregnant with our first born, shortly after we were married. I remember Walt and I discussing whether we should delay this and both of us stated, “Why wait?” We didn’t. With some regret we returned to the Detroit area when Walt’s work at White Sands ended.

We moved into a lovely 3 story apartment on 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak. To our delight, Dody and Bernie Teitelbaum (Bernie also worked at Bendix Labs) moved into an apartment two doors down from us as they began their life together and had their first child, Bob. Bernie was a close friend of Walt; Dody became one of my best friends. What fun we had sharing our new lives together. At least once a month we had what we called “a feast” alternating between our two apartments and Chef Dody and Chef Mary. To this day I think of them often and what we shared. Walt did the same. Both of them died too young. We loved them both and their son and daughter.

We stayed in the apartment for close to 5 years. During this time our first born, Diana, born January 2, 1958, was a child who was growing way beyond her years. The apartment complex had many beginning families with young children. As a very young child, Diana ventured out among these families on her own and made friends with all of the children. It was a sign of the times to come. She was also very athletic at a very young age. We would have Mothers and Fathers in the area coming to us chastising us and warning us that she would hurt herself doing what she was doing on the swings, the bars, the slide, etc. We ignored them because we saw how able she was and how much she loved the challenge.

Kathy was born on December 1, 1959. We moved into the house that we have lived in ever since when she was 1 and a half years. Kathy soon became just as able and adventurous as her big sister. She also developed an ability in drawing and creating written stories. At one point in grade school she made an encyclopedia of animals featuring her drawings of each of them and her text describing them. She did this all on her own; it was not an assignment. Walt and I were so proud of her. In her later grade school years and into high school, she became an accomplished equestrian, scaring Walt and me to death with her and her horse jumping and performing dressage in various competitions winning ribbon after ribbon and trophy after trophy.

And then came Marta on September 26, 1962, a week after my Father died trying to help us with our leaky breezeway. This is the most painful regret of our lives. It took us a long time to recover. Marta helped us. She was a dear child, very loving and just like her older sisters, she brought so much joy to her father. She traveled Europe as a high schooler performing in a choir and in her senior year at Albion College she spent the year as a student at Sussex University in England. Walt delighted in her visiting Switzerland and his relatives there as she traveled after her studies were completed. There was not a Father more proud of a daughter when we saw her inducted into Phi Beta Kappa when she returned from Europe.

A year or so after we lost my Dad, my Mother sold her home in Leavenworth and moved to Michigan to be close to her family, her grandchildren. She lived in an apartment a half block from us in Royal Oak. We loved having her close by. Walt welcomed her into our daily lives and was always watching out for her. She enriched our family life with her presence.

Throughout our life together, Walt continued to be a complex man full of surprises. As I have stated, he loved music and making music. At one point in the 70s he performed in a production of HAIR at Oakland University as a substitute trumpet player for one of his friends whom he had met playing in a local band. Walt was also the photographer for the event. Later he was the trumpet player in the music group for the same production at Oakland Community College. I took Mom to see it; we had a ball and so did Walt. Somewhere I have photos of him as a handsome hippie.

He was often trying to make our lives better. He installed a large above ground swimming pool in our back yard with the help of only the dear, strong McGlynn boys who dug out the deep end. I’ll never forget the day Walt and I struggled to lay down the liner as cold weather was approaching. It took us hours to get it right. He then installed a gas line out to the pool for a heater. I worry about this even today.

He built a lovely deck off our family room and breezeway on his own. Well, Ed helped him by transporting the lumber and I think he hired a company to create the holes for the necessary posts, very deep. The poor person who is going to have to get rid of his deck will be swearing at the person who built it. Not too many years ago he installed a shed in the far back yard so he could park his new, shiny Camry in the garage. This ability to create and build reminded me of my Father who could do the same and did.

Walt loved being part of the McGlinn, McGlynn family. His first encounter with this Irish clan was with Ed when he met him at Bendix. Walt loved Ed and admired him so much. It was through Ed that I met Walt. Our first “date” was playing catch in the parking lot of Ed’s and my apartment. As I said, “complex, surprising.” If Walt were writing this he would talk about all the memories we have of times with these dear people. All the Thanksgivings at the table of Elaine’s delicious feast surrounded by all our children and the naps after. All the sweet times shared with Ed and Judy, Edward and Patrick, often on Christmas Eve. That picnic we all (except for Bobby) got together at the lovely Edward Hines park in Plymouth. Walt took hundreds of photos of our family and our extended family. Some of the most touching and beautiful ones were taken that day: Bill at the grill, very little ones in a play pen, other little ones running about playing with each other, everyone having so much fun. Walt would go on and on. The times Shirley and Bobby, Matt and Maura would travel to Michigan and stay with us and we would gather the whole clan together. There are so many dear memories. Finally, he might talk about one of the memories we both cherish so much.

In March of 2007, Dick, Elaine, Walt, and I drove to Washington DC to march in protest against the war in Iraq. I should say Dick drove, we rode. It was a scary drive and ride. We ran into a late season ice storm in Pennsylvania. There were many trucks and cars on the side of the highway that had been forced off or with a driver who thought it safer to leave the road. Dick drove on and delivered us safe and sound to our nation’s capital, where we were met by another challenge. The directions to the hotel we had been given became useless as we ran into road closures because of the heavy rain. A couple of times we came very close to the hotel, we could even see it, and at least 2 of these times I gave the wrong directions to Dick. Round and round we went but finally we arrived at our place of rest. All the while Elaine and Walt kept us calm. Dick was so kind, never once being upset with me and my terrible sense of direction. By the time we went to our next protest march, Dick had purchased a GPS.

The next day we set off to join the gathered protestors. The trouble was we joined the wrong group of protestors. There was a group of veterans who were gathering near the anti-war marchers. When we realized that we were surrounded by a large number of men in combat fatigues, we hurried out of the area and started walking very fast to the much larger group we could see gathering not too far away. I should say that The Mcglynn and The Oleary started to walk quickly. Dick can walk very fast even with a cane (maybe that has something to do with his ability as a young man to run very fast). I was trying to catch up to him when I started looking around for Walt and Elaine. There was Elaine far away still in the company of some of the vets, pointing out to them the horror of the Iraq war for both the Iraqi people and the American soldiers and the illegality of it. And there was Walt trying to get her to leave them, worrying that she might get hurt. Classic Walt. It took some time but it all worked out just fine. Elaine, Walt, Dick and I marched with our anti-war brothers and sisters and children to the Pentagon and protested the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice war in Iraq.

I close with a Thank You to Walt from Diana, Kathy, Marta, and me for being such a dear family man.

Kansas 4th of July, Memories

There are many memories I have of various 4ths of July of my life. There are the wonderful ones shared with the McGlynns and the fireworks of Plymouth; the ones where Walt and I would drive to a street close to our house, put the children on the hood of the car, and watch the fireworks display of a neighboring city; and the many ones where we would walk with Diana and Dan and Jessica and Allison to the Clawson firework display at their city park. One year Marta and I made a cake that looked a little like the flag and invited our neighbors over for cake and ice cream, another year we invited any of the McGlynns and McGlinns who could come for a back yard picnic welcoming Marta back from Chicago and baby Joseph to our Royal Oak world.

The older I get, the 4ths that tug at my heart so much are the 4ths of July in Kansas. I would wake up in the early morning full of anticipation. The 4th was like no other day in the year. I would always be wondering what would happen this day, this year. The sound of firecrackers and other noise makers would fill the day. My brother, Dick, would, at some point, start shooting off firecrackers, sometimes putting them in containers that would sail into the air. Even I, as I became a little older, had little firecrackers called Lady Fingers that I would light and run “for my life.”


It was in the evening that the day became the most magical. Mom and Dad and my brothers (early on Dick, later, Bobby) and I would walk to Fort Leavenworth to see their fireworks display. We would walk up 7th Street, block after block, past Wilcox Drug Store, where my brother, Dick, would buy his firecrackers and my Grandpa O’Leary would take his afternoon drink, past the apartment house where Uncle Francis and Aunt Edna Mae lived, past St. John’s Hospital (where, later, I would work in admittance the summer of my Junior year in high school and admit my Aunt Tete when she had a miscarriage), block after block until we reached the entrance to the Fort and, then, on to Merritt Lake, where we would spread out on the lawn and wait impatiently for the show. When we were walking up the dear streets of my town in those evening hours, I was in heaven; it was so wonderful to see my Mom and Dad so happy, doing something just for fun, enjoying themselves, their children, the evening. I would run ahead just so I could look back at them and then join them again, grabbing my Dad’s hand. The fireworks over the lake were beautiful and when they were over we all clapped and, I think, we sang the National Anthem, but, maybe, I am misremembering; maybe I was just singing it to myself. Walking back to our house, I would be thinking of the wonderful treat that awaited us.


We always ended our Kansas 4th of July with a feast of ice-cold, sweet watermelon. It was the only day in the year we had it. Mom and Dad would buy a big, beautiful watermelon, put it in our ice box on the back porch, and after walking home from the Fort, we would all gather around the kitchen table (even Mom would be sitting wth us , usually she was standing serving all of us our meals). Dad would cut big, thick slices of this special treat and we would proceed to devour the entire melon. I think my other brother or two must have joined us; surely we didn’t eat the whole thing by ourselves!

After having, probably, too much of this delicious treat, I would reluctantly begin to get ready for bed. I would climb the stairs to my bedroom at the front of our house and put on my summer pajamas. I would sit on my bed, looking out the window right next to my bed. I would look down at our dear street, Ottawa. I would look at the houses, with lights still on in living rooms and porches and think of
the persons I knew who lived in them. I would look up at the star spangled sky. I would smell the sweet, earthy scent of a hot, July night in Kansas with just the whisper of a breeze. Finally, I would lay down on top of the sheets of my bed and go to sleep thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world.



is this woman, her name is Shirley.

has left us and, yet, she remains.


remains with us in the lives of her family,

husband, Bob, who calls her “the love of my life,”

the lives of her beloved children, Matthew and Maura,

Maura’s husband, Allen,

the lives of her cherished grandchildren, Riana and Joshua and Eva

filled her life with so much joy as she did theirs.

all of these lives that have been shaped so deeply, so beautifully

Shirley, she remains with us far into the future.


remains with us in the lives of her original family,

Dad, her loving sisters and brother, all of her extended family,

sister Mary Helen, who was her soulmate and such a comfort to her

in all of our memories of her beautiful and dear mother.


remains with us in the lives of her close and devoted friends,

In the lives
of the staff members in the Pre-Med program at SIU,

dear friend and collaborator in the program, Evelyn Jackson,

in the lives of all the members of her extended McGlinn family

came to know and love her as one of their precious own.


all of these lives that she enriched so greatly

her intelligence, her wit, her beauty, and her love,

remains with us.


is this woman, her name is Shirley McGlinn, the teacher.

has left us and, yet, she remains.

remains with us in the lives of the countless students that she

and inspired as they have gone out and continue to go out into the world to heal.

has been said of her that she was the consummate teacher,

teacher who not only was so highly skilled in the art of academic instruction,

a teacher who was an example and mentor to her students in so many ways,

ways of caring, in ways of honesty, in ways of persevering, in ways of loving.

teacher honored over and over and over again by her students

recognized by her peers time and time again for her creativity and

legacy with the young men and women she taught is so deep, so lasting,

will be with us far, far into the future as they live out their


is this woman, her name is Shirley Mura McGlinn.

truly can be said of her that she made the world a better place.

remarkable, beloved woman, our dear Shirley, has died,

And, yet, she lives.

taught us how to live joyfully and with purpose.


lives on in all of our lives.


Mary O’Leary McGlinn




I Want My Country Back

I want my country back,
The one that doesn’t spend its treasure on death, destruction, and endless war,
While ignoring the needs of its citizens, its poor, its children.

The one that doesn’t torture its captives,
That doesn’t imprison them for years without charging them with any crime.

I want my country back,
The one whose government does not reward the wealthy few
At the expense of the common good,

The one that doesn’t spy on its citizens without warrant,
The one whose leaders do not lie to cover up their illegal actions.

I want my country back,

The one whose president and vice-president do not promulgate fear to
Silence and dis-empower their fellow citizens,

Mary O’Leary McGlinn

for poem


Brother Ed Elected To The Hall Of Fame, Anglers Of The AuSable

Friday, May 11th, 2007

To Ed From his sister Mary


A River Runs Through Him

You will not see him often, now,
Wading into his beloved Holy Waters.
Fly casting can be difficult, sometimes, for older bones.
You will not see him often, now,
But he is there.

You will not say, late some evening,
As you hear the water move so slightly and the line snap so quietly,
“That must be him.”
You will not say that often, now,
But he is there.

When you see a glistening Brown trout rise, in his wildness, to a caddis hatch,

When you walk into the cool river water on a hot Summer day,
And the beauty of it all catches your breath,

When you rest on a river rock in the deep dark and silence of a moonless night,
And you know the prehistoric life surrounding you,

This fisher,
this Riverwatch founder and editor,
this honored Riverkeeper,
this protector of the river and all its creatures,
this lover of the Au Sable

is there.

Mary Oleary-McGlinn

In the spirit of this season, celebrating the sacredness of family, we offer a poem in honor of parents throughout the world: parents of every race, parents of every creed and those without, parents of every country, and, most especially, those parents who are now struggling against all odds to care for and protect their children.


I can see him now, sitting in the cellar,

In front of the flame of the coal furnace.

He would take the strips of stainless steel

And hold them over the flame until they were heated through.

These strips of steel he brought home from the bomber plant,

No doubt, the leavings of some machine die work,

Would become in his hands shiny interweavings of adornment;

Some so delicate we feared they would break,

Others, thick and heavy and beautiful in their boldness.

I would watch him, excited at the thought

That I would wear such lovely bangles;

That I would wear bracelets my Father made for me.

He made so many, all perfect in their twists and turns.

For years, I would wear five or six on my arm.

Strangers would ask me where I had bought them.

With pride, I would say “My Father made them for me.”

Now, when I think of him, I wonder how it occurred to him

To make bracelets for his daughter from left-over

Steel strips he found as he labored far away at a bomber plant,

The only job he could find in the depressed days of ‘43.

Was he thinking of me one day as he performed

His daily duties of rote and boredom?

Did he see the shiny strips of steel and think of me,

His only daughter who did not have any bracelets?

That he could envision something made from

The shiny strips of steel is not surprising.

My Father could make something out of nothing,

Could fix anything that was worn or broken.

But that he thought of me as he went through

His work-day so far away from all of us,

That is what moves me even now,

So many years after the deep mourning of his passing.

We didn’t have many material goods in those days.

We always had enough food, and simple clothes,

And we had something much more treasured than wealth.

We had a family of four sons, one daughter, a Mother who comforted,

And a Father who made bracelets.

I gave some of the bracelets to my best friends;

In later years, some to my daughters.

Eventually, some did break from years of wear.

I have only one now. It never leaves my wrist.

It is my lovely, treasured talisman from my Father.

Mary O’Leary McGlinn



Now, tell me, again, what did our President say

as he ended his review of the war in Afghanistan?

Did our President say, “I am going to finish the job.”?

I am going to finish the job.” just “I” as in “I, the decider”?

just “I,” not “we,” not “our brave soldiers,” not “our allies,” not “the congress”?

I am going to finish the job.” Did our President say that?

Tell me, again, what did our President say?

Did he say, “I am going to finish the job.”

finish” as in “to successfully complete,” “finish” as in “to accomplish”?

finish,” as in “to win,” not “to re-think,” not “to change direction,” not “to bring to an end”?

“I am going to finish the job.” Did our President say that?

Tell me, again, what did our President say?

Did he say, “I am going to finish the job“?

the job” as in “a definite piece of work,” “the job” as in a “certain mission”?

the job” as in “the bombing, the killing, the dying,”?

the job” as in “that which we began eight years ago”?

the job” as in his “war of necessity”?

“I am going to finish the job.” Did our President say that?

Tell me again, what did our President, Barack Obama, say

as he ended his review of the mess in Afghanistan?

“I am going to finish the job.”

hubris, as in “arrogance resulting from excessive pride which goes before the fall”

Mary O’Leary McGlinn


I have often thought of the meaningfulness and the beauty of the iconic image of Christmas: the family in the manger. I do not think it is by accident that the story of Christmas will forever be told in the frame of the family. Indeed, I think the family is the true sacred and spiritual touchstone of humanity. The family, not just in the lovely but sometimes limited sense of a mother, a father, and a child, but the family as in the human family, humans joining together in various forms to help and love one another and to care for and protect our young.

MacLeish said it best, although he was hampered in his choice of words by the consciousness of the time of his writing. You will excuse me if I paraphrase the ending of his beautiful essay that he wrote upon seeing the photo of our planet taken by Apollo 8.


“To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers and sisters on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold, brothers and sisters who know now they are truly one family.”

The Mothers of Iraq

On this Mother’s Day, I think of the Mothers of Iraq,

Venturing out in the soft, waning hours of the afternoon

To the market for food for their children,

And bringing home the sights, and smells, and fears of the destruction of their city.

On this Mother’s Day, I think of the Mothers of Iraq,

Cringing with fright as they hear our President boast,

“We will fight them on the streets of Baghdad,

So we will not have to fight them here.”

On this Mother’s Day, I think of the Mothers of Iraq,

Covering the broken and bloody arms,

And legs, and heads of their wounded children

With their black veils of sorrow.

On this Mother’s Day, I think of the Mothers of Iraq,

Wailing and weeping over their lost, dead children,

And I weep with them,

And beg their forgiveness for allowing this to happen.

Mary O’Leary McGlinn


mich meta


Mich mid morn


Our children are dying on their neighborhood streets in Gaza.

Our children are being bombed in their homes and in their schools in Gaza.

Our children are screaming in pain in hospitals, denied the means to soothe and heal in Gaza.

Our children are suffering from an occupation-imposed lack of food and water in Gaza.

Our children are being stripped of the joy, laughter, and sweet memories of childhood in Gaza.

Our children are crying out for help in Gaza.

Our children are asking us, “what have we done to deserve this punishment?”

What do we say to our children in Gaza?


torture America


It’s not going to go away,
However much you might want it to.

It’s not going to go away,

the acts of sexual humiliation, the “stress positions,” the “walling,”
the months, years of solitary confinement, the “waterboarding,”

the photos of the pyramid of naked bodies, the wired, hooded man on a box,
the man cowering from an attacking dog, the man dragged by a leash,

These are not going to go away.

the attempts to legalize, the Geneva Conventions deemed “quaint,”
“if it does not result in serious physical injury,” “organ failure,” “death,”

the lies of Condoleeza Rice, “the United States does not engage in torture,”
the lies of Donald Rumsfeld, “a few bad apples,”
the lies of George W. Bush, “We do not torture.”

These are not going to go away.

the torture testimonies of prisoners negating fair trials,
the calls for accountability from institutions and persons of integrity
are not going to go away.

Oh, yes, we know, we know,
We face so many problems right now.

Many of those you will address and some will be solved
Through your brilliance and commitment.

But this, this will not be solved, and this will not go away;

This destruction of our reputation as a nation of laws,
These sickening, heinous, inhumane acts done in your name and our names,
This criminal betrayal of America,

This is not going to go away.


Mary O’Leary McGlinn

sides of march

man and child


Look at him, if you can: our prisoner, our dangerous terrorist.

He sits there on the hot, barren ground,

Hooded, unable to see his world,

Surrounded by barbed wire to keep us safe.

Look at him, our prisoner, our dangerous terrorist.

In his hooded darkness, his hand caresses the flushed forehead of a small child,

His arm embraces this child, holding him close to his chest.

Look at the child’s small bare feet; look at his eyes closed against the glare of his world.

Look at him, our prisoner, our dangerous terrorist.

What words of comfort is he saying to this small child?

What is the child saying to his protector?

Look, his mouth is open. Is he moaning? Is he crying?

Look at him, our prisoner, our dangerous terrorist.

He sits there on the hot, barren ground.

He feels this small child next to him, breathing heavily in the hot sun.

Our terrorist is hooded but he is not blind; he will remember this world.

Look at him, if you can: our prisoner, our dangerous terrorist.

He embraces this small child. Do we?

He protects this small child. Do we?

He loves this small child. Do we?

Who, then, is the terrorist?

Is he? Am I? Are you?

Mary O’Leary-McGlinn


Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circum spice. (1)

for poem


(An ode to July in Michigan)

Time and time again, I have found peace here at this lovely inland lake

On this beautiful peninsula in Michigan:

Peace as comforting as the early morning sun warming

The waiting lake;

Peace as sweet as almost-forgotten scents of earth, woods, leaves, life released

By the soaking Summer rain;

Peace as soothing as the movement of white wisps of clouds, slow-dancing

Across a vast expanse of blue;

Peace as calming as the lake at twilight,

Quiet, still, serene;

Peace as deep as the infinite, star-studded

Northern night sky;

Peace as loving as the full golden moon laying down a path of

Soft light across the gently rippling night water.

Oh, to be able to keep this peace as a mystical memento

Of a Leelanau retreat,

To bring it home as a spiritual shield against

The city glare and noise

Until, returning north, I am made new once again by

The peace of this peninsula..

Mary Oleary-McGlinn

(1) If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

State Motto of Michigan

I Want My Country Back

I want my country back,
The one that doesn’t spend its treasure on death, destruction, and endless war,
While ignoring the needs of its citizens, its poor, its children.

The one that doesn’t torture its captives,
That doesn’t imprison them for years without charging them with any crime.

I want my country back,
The one whose government does not reward the wealthy few
At the expense of the common good,

The one that doesn’t spy on its citizens without warrant,
The one whose leaders do not lie to cover up their illegal actions.

I want my country back,

The one whose president and vice-president do not promulgate fear to
Silence and dis-empower their fellow citizens,

The one whose president and vice-president do not put themselves above our laws,
Whose president and vice-president do not attack and degrade our Constitution.

I want my country back,
The one that has attempted to live up to its ideals:

The country of the abolitionist movement to free our slaves,
The country of the labor movement to ensure the rights of workers to organize,
The country of the feminist movement to address the inequalities suffered by women,
The country of the civil rights movement to secure the rights of black Americans,
The country of the anti-war movement to stop the madness of the Vietnam war,

The country that has existed in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans,
As they have struggled to make it a place of justice for all.

I want that country back.

These men, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales,
Surely, they are not the rightful leaders of such a country.
Surely, they are a mistake, an aberration.
These men and those who do their bidding
Are small people: small in vision, in compassion, in intellect.
They are arrogant, incompetent, and corrupt ideologues.
They do not understand the values of our democratic way of life,

They do not honor our Constitution.

We must take our country back from these who would subvert our democracy.
It is now our turn to take up the struggle for a just and honorable America..

It is now our task to take our country back.

Mary O’Leary McGlinn

The Possibility of a New Beginning

I see him standing there in the bright January sun, this tall, slim American, born of Kansas and Kenya,

This graduate of Harvard, this teacher of constitutional law, this community organizer, this respected author, this Senator from Illinois.

I see him standing there, vowing to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I see him standing there, now with the accomplished, eloquent Michelle,

Their two young daughters sparkling by their side.

I see this American family whom we have made our own.

I see him step to the podium, looking out over the gathered throng of his fellow citizens.

I hear him, his voice sure and strong, with the cadence of King,

His words soaring over our Capitol, our country, our world.

“. . . So, now, let us begin a new chapter in our country’s history.

Together, young and old, black and white, Native Americans, Hispanic and Asian Americans, Arab Americans, Americans from every region of our country–together, let us work to redeem and renew the promise of America for all of our citizens, let us help heal the wounds of the peoples of the world, and let us lead the sacred effort to repair and preserve our precious planet.

There will be times when our mission will seem too difficult; at times, impossible. There will be struggle, set-backs, and sacrifice. But keeping our faith in one another and in the good we pursue, we will overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.

Together, we cannot fail.

Let us begin.”

I see a hopeful America on this bright Winter day in the year 2009 seeing and hearing her new President.

I see those struggling against discrimination, poverty, and fear here in America and around the world

Seeing and hearing him.

I see the young men and women of America, in love again with the possibility of America and their place in that America,

Seeing and hearing him.

I see black American girls and boys, bursting with pride and renewed purpose,

Seeing and hearing him.

I see all of us who have been heart-sick and outraged at the damage done to our

country and the world during the last eight years

Seeing and hearing him.

I see a young Muslim boy, a student in a Saudi Arabian madrasa,

Seeing and hearing him.

I see all and each of these and more, so many more, seeing and hearing

Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America.

And I see the possibility of a new beginning.

Mary O’Leary McGlinn


And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Poem for South African Women
June Jordan (1)


We are the ones, young men and women of America,
Longing to believe again in the goodness of America
And eager to contribute to a renewed America.

We are the ones, Republicans, Democrats, Independents,
Americans all, outraged at the assaults on our liberties,
Our values, our Constitution by the Bush-Cheney administration.

We are the ones, Americans of every race, color, creed,
Who no longer will be pitted against each other
For the politician’s gain, our country’s loss, and our own detriment.

We are the ones, Americans, fortunate in our wealth and comfort,
Wanting to give for the welfare of those Americans less fortunate,
Believing in the worth and righteousness of the Common Good.

We are the ones, Americans of all political parties and persuasions,
Who can see past our legitimate and strongly-held policy differences,
To a way of honorable compromise for solutions to our country’s problems.

We are the ones, Americans who will redeem the promise of America
For all of our citizens, the young, the old, the disenfranchised, the poor,
And for those who yearn to become part of us, our immigrants.

We are the ones,

Americans who wish to be a force for peace and goodwill among nations,
Rather than a nihilistic agent of death, destruction, and chaos.

Americans who wish to promote understanding and respect between peoples
Rather than distrust, hate, fear, and conflict.

Americans who wish to help alleviate the suffering of the peoples of the world,
Who see all children as our children, all women as sisters, all men as brothers.

Americans who understand that we are all one people of our planet Earth.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Mary O’Leary McGlinn

(1) From Passion:New Poems, 1977-80 by June Jordan



18 May

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.


Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>


The Age>>

The Observer>>

The week in wildlife – in pictures

  • Bonnie Kimball told student ‘tell mom you need money’

  • Termination led to outpouring of support for worker

Lunch at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia.

Lunch at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

A school cafeteria worker in New Hampshire who was fired for giving a student lunch for nothing has rejected an offer to be rehired.

Bonnie Kimball said she was fired on 28 March by Fresh Picks, a vendor that supplies food to the Mascoma Valley regional high school in Canaan, a day after she gave a student lunch even though he couldn’t pay for it.

Kimball said that when the student’s account showed no funds, she quietly told him “Tell mom you need money”, and provided a lunch.

A manager asked what was on the boy’s plate, she said, then walked away. The next morning the student’s bill was paid.

“His family is very well known in this town and I can guarantee that if I called his mother, she would have come right in and paid the bill,” Kimball said. “But I didn’t want to get her out of work. I know they would have brought the money the next day. The bill was going to get paid.”

A spokeswoman for the Manchester-based company said an employee it did not name violated school and company policy and a district manager terminated the person. But the company said it had offered to rehire the employee, provide back pay and “work with the school district to revise policies and procedures regarding transactions”.

Kimball, who has four grandchildren in the school district, said she had no intention of returning and accused the company of only offering to rehire her “so that it could keep its contract”.

The Mascoma regional school board voted on Tuesday to use the company for another year, despite the controversy involving Kimball.

The Valley News reported that the alleged firing has angered Kimball’s co-workers, some of whom quit in protest. Parents at the school said they were upset by Kimball’s sudden departure and demanded she be rehired. Some even started a GoFundMe campaign for her that had raised more than $5,000 by Friday night.

Kimball said she had also received an outpouring of support on her Facebook page, including from a US Navy Seal and a professional football player.

“When I walked out of the school the day that I got fired, all that was going through my head was that I wouldn’t be able to show my face again. People would think I was a thief,” she said, adding the support since then “makes me feel good”.

“Lord, all the support and TV stations,” she added of the interview requests. “I am like ‘Why are they contacting me?’ I’m still in awe.”

Schools across the country are struggling to deal with how to address students who cannot pay for lunch. A 2011 survey found that a majority of districts had unpaid lunch charges and that most dealt with it by offering alternatives meals.

Last month, federal lawmakers introduced “anti-lunch shaming” legislation to protect students with unpaid lunch bills. The US Department of Agriculture discourages practices that stigmatize students, but allows districts to set their own policies.


As sea levels rise, Fairbourne, sandwiched between mountains and the beach, is being returned to the waves. But where will its residents go?


World Politics

Great Britain

Steve Bell 17.05.2019

Steve Bell on Theresa Mays agreeing to a timetable for leaving office – cartoon

United States

Pro-choice men should have the guts to campaign against the rolling back of laws that benefit both sexes

A pro-choice demonstration in Parliament Square, London.

A pro-choice demonstration in Parliament Square, London. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex Features

No woman can be free who does not control her own body. That’s been the pro-choice mantra down the ages, no less true now than it ever was, and from it flows the equally fierce conviction that men should keep their noses out of reproductive rights. If it isn’t your womb, your life, on the line here, then what right do you have to interfere in a grown adult’s decision? No wonder that powerful image of the 25 male politicians who collectively approved Alabama’s cruel new ban on terminations beyond six weeks, struck such a chord. The sight of old men desperately clawing back their lost power over women’s lives still triggers a deep, visceral fear. Six weeks! That’s barely a missed period, a time when many women won’t even have realised they’re pregnant.

True, America’s pro-life movement has plenty of prominent women in it, and in the UK it’s a female leader of the pro-life Democratic Unionist party who (thanks to her sensitive role propping up the British government’s parliamentary majority) represents one of the biggest stumbling blocks to rolling out abortion rights in Northern Ireland. But such nuances get forgotten in the face of men doggedly arguing on Twitter that forcing victims of incest to continue their pregnancies would at least preserve the criminal evidence, or refusing to let their cluelessness about female biology get in the way of a terrible opinion.

Yet the argument that men should all shut up and leave this to women is a risky one, unless we seek a world where virulently pro-life men still feel no shame about barging in while pro-choice men hang back for fear of saying the wrong thing. I admire any woman with the courage to say publicly, as the actor Jameela Jamil did this week, that she had an abortion when contraception failed her and “I don’t feel AT ALL ashamed.”

But there’s something uncomfortable about watching women, and only women, feel driven to bare their souls in defence of reproductive and contraceptive rights that have liberated both sexes and which both should be raising hell to defend.

We rarely read or hear about them, but there must be millions of men whose lives were changed for the better by not becoming fathers when they weren’t ready. There will be men who owe their glittering careers and happy families now to the fact that 20 years ago they didn’t have to drop out of university when their student girlfriend got pregnant, or weren’t forced to marry someone they didn’t love. And there will also be men who didn’t have to raise a child in circumstances where they genuinely couldn’t have coped, and whose other children are infinitely better off for it; men who haven’t had to watch their partner struggle through the horror of a pregnancy where everyone knows the child is unlikely to survive, who know how it feels to hold their partner’s hand in the clinic but don’t feel it’s quite their place to talk about it.

If one in three women has terminated a pregnancy, then men with every reason not to take abortion rights for granted, as well as older men who shudder to remember the days before it was legal, must statistically speaking be everywhere; walking down the street, sharing your office, representing you in parliament. The next leader of the Conservative party could very well be Boris Johnson, a man once sacked for trying to hide the fact that his mistress had had an abortion. So who is to say there aren’t men in high public office across America furiously keeping their heads down as the abortion row rages, crossing their fingers that the non-disclosure agreement holds? Yet for every man frantically trying to save his marriage by pressuring his lover to get rid of a baby, there will be couples taking painful decisions together about a much-wanted pregnancy when the tests show something nobody wanted to see.

It’s a hard truth to acknowledge, given it risks creating a dangerous chink in the argument through which pro-lifers can so easily slide. But for all that abortion should first and foremost be a woman’s choice, it doesn’t only affect women’s lives, and it shouldn’t just be women who are forced to fight do the heavy lifting in fightingfor it. There are, of course, perfectly good reasons for men to stay quiet about their personal experiences. For a man to talk openly about a partner’s abortion can feel pushy and self-centred, and practically speaking risks outing a woman who might not want her reproductive history exposed to all. During the impassioned debate ahead of Ireland’s referendum last year on repealing the ban, many Irish men initially hung back for fear of intruding. Male MPs similarly often defer to female ones in trying to change the law.

But the idea that the only way of galvanising change is by making a public song and dance about yourself may be one of the great curses of modern activism.

Pro-choice men worried about stealing women’s thunder can relax, because they are absolutely welcome to donate to pro-choice charities, sign petitions, lobby their political representatives, and vote for politicians and parties committed to defending reproductive rights. They can stuff envelopes, make tea, go on marches – or look after the kids while their partners do – and cheer from the sidelines to their heart’s content, much as the wives of male activists have done for generations. And where they represent us, they can have the guts to legislate for what they know perfectly well to be the realities of life. No woman can be free who does not control her own body. But we are not the only ones liberated by acknowledging it.

Trump tax returns: Steven Mnuchin refuses to comply with subpoena>>

Unfreedom of the Press review: Mark Levin’s Trumpist take on the first amendment>>

Newt Gingrich resists irrelevance with new novel ripped from headlines>>

Missouri lawmakers approve extreme eight-week abortion ban>>

Trump takes war on abortion worldwide as policy cuts off funds>>

Trump’s ‘merit-based’ immigration plan declared ‘dead on arrival’ by opponents>>



16 May

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.


Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>


The Age>>

The Observer>>

New research shows affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places

Thwaites glacier

The Antarctic’s Thwaites glacier. More than 50% of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier basins have been affected by thinning in the past 25 years. Photograph: PA

Ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, new analysis of satellite data shows.

The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers sliding into the sea increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s. The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but up to a quarter of its expanse is now thinning. More than 100 metres of ice thickness has been lost in the worst-hit places.

A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five metres, drowning coastal cities around the world. The current losses are doubling every decade, the scientists said, and sea level rise are now running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, compared 800m satellite measurements of ice sheet height from 1992 to 2017 with weather information. This distinguished short-term changes owing to varying snowfall from long-term changes owing to climate.

“From a standing start in the 1990s, thinning has spread inland progressively over the past 25 years – that is rapid in glaciological terms,” said Prof Andy Shepherd, of Leeds University in the UK, who led the study. “The speed of drawing down ice from an ice sheet used to be spoken of in geological timescales, but that has now been replaced by people’s lifetimes.”

He said the thinning of some ice streams had extended 300 miles inland along their 600-mile length. “More than 50% of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier basins have been affected by thinning in the past 25 years. We are past halfway and that is a worry.”

Researchers already knew that ice was being lost from West Antarctica, but the new work pinpoints where it is happening and how rapidly. This will enable more accurate projections to be made of sea level rises and may aid preparations for these rises.

In the recent past, snow falling on to Antarctica’s glaciers balanced the ice lost as icebergs calved off into the ocean. But now the glaciers are flowing faster than snow can replenish them.

“In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts,” Shepherd said.

Separate research published in January found that ice loss from the entire Antarctic continent had increased six-fold since the 1980s, with the biggest losses in the west. The new study indicates West Antarctica has caused 5mm of sea level rise since 1992, consistent with the January study’s findings.

The expansion of the oceans as they warm and the vast melting in Greenland are the main current causes of the rising oceans, but Antarctica is the biggest store of ice. The East Antarctic ice sheet contains enough ice to raise sea levels by about 60 metres. It had been considered stable, but research in December found even this stronghold was showing signs of melting.

Without rapid cuts in the carbon emissions driving global warming, the melting and rising sea level will continue for thousands of years.

“Before we had useful satellite measurements from space, most glaciologists thought the polar ice sheets were pretty isolated from climate change and didn’t change rapidly at all,” Shepherd said. “Now we know that is not true.”

‘People are dying horrible deaths’: the Louisiana town where cancer haunts the streets – video

, , , and Daniel Hollis

Residents of the town on the banks of the Mississippi River have watched as family members and neighbors have been lost to cancer. Official figures show the risk of cancer from toxic air is 50 times higher in Reserve than the national average. Feeling neglected by politicians, they are fighting back against the chemical plant has been emitting chloroprene into the air for half a century

More On Cancer Town:

Cancer Town

A year-long series reporting from Reserve, Louisiana, where the risk of cancer from air toxicity is 50 times the national average for the United States. This series of reports, films and public meetings will ask what residents have to do to win the right to a safe environment for their children

More On The Environment:

Easy prey to the middleman: the immigrants toiling in US fields

‘There can be as many as 10 middlemen between the worker in his community in Mexico and the employer in the US,’ says Lidia Muñoz. Photograph: Milli Legrain/The Guardian

For Mexican farmworkers, seasonal employment in the US is an opportunity to earn more – but those who make the journey can be easily exploited by recruiters

The sun is rising and a line of workers dressed in jeans and hoodies is already snaking its way around the block. A few of them started gathering outside the US consulate building as early as 4am.

Monterrey, the third largest city in Mexico, is a little over 100 miles from the US border, and a hub for farmworkers applying for temporary work visas.

They travel to the US legally, without their families, to pick cucumbers, sweet potatoes, onions and berries. They work for a few months on farms from Michigan to Florida and from California to North Carolina.

Many stay for six to 10 months and then go back home to Mexico – before reapplying year after year.

But the process of getting a seasonal work visa is beset by pitfalls for the farmworkers.

For some, seasonal farm work is an opportunity to earn $11 an hour, more than they would back home. But H-2A visas – as they are known – come at a price. And those who make the journey, who are often desperate to do so, are easy prey to a network of so-called recruiters who are able to exploit them, seeking fees and kickbacks. Working conditions on arrival in the US aren’t always as promised either.

Near the consulate building in Monterrey as the line of workers moves forward, one bursts into song: “Cuando me fui para el norte, me fui para estar mejor. Iba en busca de trabajo. Pero ¡oh! desilusión.” (“When I went up north, I went so I’d be better. I went looking for work. But oh! What a disappointment.”)

‘Don’t mention the fee’

In a tiny office a few blocks from the line of workers waiting to have their picture and fingerprint taken, Melitón Hernández, a labor organizer at the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc), the only union that represents farmworkers on both sides of the border, says his “job is to ensure that Mexican workers don’t get charged a cent by recruiters”.

In 2007, Santiago Rafael Cruz, a young union organizer, was murdered at the office in Monterrey, some say, for speaking up against labor recruiters.

Officially union members cannot be charged a recruitment fee. But Hernández admits “there are many interests at stake” and his phone keeps ringing. “This morning I got three calls,” he says. They were all from non-union workers denouncing the fees that they had been charged back in their communities.

“In San Luis Potosí they are charging 17,000 pesos ($900), in Hidalgo 45,000 ($2,400).”

‘Their biggest fear is to lose that visa ... If they talk, they might never get back on the H-2A program again,’ says David Medina.

‘Their biggest fear is to lose that visa … If they talk, they might never get back on the H-2A program again,’ says David Medina. Photograph: Milli Legrain/The GuardianEven though recruitment fees are illegal in the US and Mexico, Hernández believes that about 60% of recruiters charge their workers.

Lack of economic opportunities and the ability to earn more by joining US guest worker programs are a huge incentive for workers to keep quiet. And recruiters make sure their workers are coached before the dreaded consulate interview so as not to mention the fee.

“They are told to be very careful. Their biggest fear is to lose that visa. By the time they get to Monterrey they have already accrued a lot of debt. If they talk, they might never get back on the H-2A program again,” says David Medina at Polaris, an NGO that combats human trafficking.

“If they mention the recruitment fee to the consulate, their visa will be denied,” says a representative from the Centro de Derechos del Migrante, a cross-border migrant rights organization.

Some workers themselves see nothing wrong with paying for a service that will give them the chance to work in the US.

But many take out high-interest loans or sell their possessions to pay for elevated recruitment fees. And labor advocates argue that the program is conducive to exploitation, particularly since fraud is so rampant. Arriving in debt makes workers susceptible to abuse or even forced labor.


Information gathered from 2015 to 2017 by the Polaris Human Trafficking hotline suggests that agriculture has by far the highest number of labor trafficking victims in the US.

“If they are $1,000 in debt on their first day and they are being forced to work in abusive conditions, they still have to pay off their loan,” explains Medina.

The H-2A program ties visa holders to a specific employer. If the pay is not what was promised or conditions are substandard, US law prevents them from finding another employer.

Often the conditions that seasonal workers endure in the US are not as advertised. Recently, a group of 13 migrant farmworkers settled for $75,000 in a labor trafficking case in North Carolina involving a contractor who used her daughter’s name as a front for her business. The workers allege that they were paid less than the $7.25-an-hour minimum wage to work in tobacco and sweet potato fields, failed to be reimbursed for their visa and travel expenses, were threatened with having their passports confiscated and received physical threats for asking for their wages.

‘For every thousand workers who come, there are many who have been defrauded and are invisible,’ says Lidia Muñoz.

For every thousand workers who come, there are many who have been defrauded and are invisible,’ says Lidia Muñoz. Photograph: Milli Legrain/The Guardian

Lidia Muñoz of the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (Ciesas), who has studied the web of informal social networks that support the H-2A program in Monterrey, blames the system’s “many cracks”.

“For every thousand workers who come, there are many who have been defrauded and are invisible,” she says. “There can be as many as 10 middlemen between the worker in his community in Mexico and the employer in the US.”

And each wants a kickback.

The program, meanwhile, keeps on growing. It has expanded threefold since 2012. Faced with stricter immigration enforcement against undocumented workers who make up most of the labor force in US agriculture, growers are increasingly turning to guest worker programs as a legal way to recruit.

In just one week in March the US consulate in Monterrey handed out some 13,000 work visas. Advocates at the Centro de Derechos del Migrante, which supports Mexico-based migrant workers, are concerned. “If you expand a program without protections, you are expanding an exploitable workforce,” they say.

If they are $1,000 in debt and being forced to work in abusive conditions, they still have to pay off their loan.

David Medina

Fake jobs

Then there are the fees charged for fake jobs. From 2005 to 2018, the Centro de Derechos del Migrante received about 6,500 reports from people who paid an average recruitment fee of more than 9,000 pesos ($500) for a job that didn’t exist, the equivalent of more than three months of an average Mexican salary.

Fake job offers advertised by nonexistent contractors over Facebook are frequent. Adareli Ponce, a domestic worker who dreams of one day going to college to become a radio presenter, was duped three times into paying recruitment fees for jobs that never materialized. Now she volunteers for a local NGO to warn others of existing scams while she waits to hear back about a farm job in Georgia.

Hernández says a flow of victims of fraud constantly seek out his advice in Monterrey. “This week 27 workers from the state of Oaxaca paid a total of 60,000 Mexican pesos. They had been contacted over a year ago about a job in the US. But when they reached Monterrey they were told to return home, that there was nothing for them.” They live 900 miles away.

Experts warn that real contractors can also offer fake jobs. “A recruiter can advertise 500 jobs and really only have 100 vacancies. Some will get a job, others will pay a fee and get no job,” says Muñoz. Discerning between real and fake offers is almost impossible. The system works “like quicksand”, she says.


And some of the big players in the system have faced legal actions, or are facing them.

CSI Visa Processing is a major player in the sector and has offices throughout Mexico, including Monterrey.

The company appears to be the current iteration of a business, which has operated under a succession of names, and whose origins have been linked to Stan Eury, a North Carolina businessman, a leading figure in the use of H-2A visa workers.

There can be as many as 10 middlemen between the worker in his community in Mexico and the employer in the US.

Lidia Muñoz

In 2015, Eury was among those named in a 67 count indictment for conspiracy, immigration fraud and money laundering issued by a grand jury in North Carolina. Eury later pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud the US government.

Now helmed by Guillermo Mathus, CSI VP provides workers to two of the largest H-2A employers in the US: the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA) and the Washington Farm Labor Association (WAFLA).

The company is currently being sued in the state of Washington for operating without a license required by state law.

Mathus denies the allegations. “The claims against CSI are baseless,” he wrote in an email to The Guardian. He also sought to disassociate his company, currently, from Eury. “CSI has nothing to do with Stan Eury,” he said.

The claims against CSI are part of a class action lawsuit against Sarbanand Farms, involving some 600 Mexican workers who alleged labour abuses at a blueberry farm.

Getting the visa stamp

The multiplicity of actors with overlapping roles adds to the confusion of an already complex bureaucratic process. “Often workers have no idea who their actual employer is,” says Medina.

“People are going by word of mouth, counting on these people to be who they say they are. That is where a lot of the fraud kicks in,” he says.

As the sun sets on Monterrey, hundreds more workers gather with duffle bags, backpacks and suitcases at a nearby square. They have spent a week in this industrial metropolis and are ready for their onward journey north. They have completed the DS-160 application form, had their picture and fingerprint taken and passed the in-person interview at the consulate. The final step is for their passport to be returned to them, hopefully with an H-2A visa stamp.

One worker chats with a friend as he leans on a statue of a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Another takes a nap under a tree, while his friend munches on pieces of fruit peppered with chile powder from a paper cone.

Suddenly, an administrator appears carrying dozens of passports. He rallies a group of more than a hundred workers by calling out their names one by one: “Ricardo Martínez …” An arm shoots up to retrieve the passport from the crowd of people.

Ricardo makes his way to the front of the queue, as a bus awaits to take him to Georgia to pick onions.

World Politics

United States

What female state senators had to say about Alabama’s abortion bill – video

Alabama’s new law imposing the strictest restrictions on abortion in the United States was passed by 25 white male Republicans. Minority Democrats introduced a slew of amendments in an attempt to block it. ‘This bill is about control,’ the state senator Linda Coleman-Madison told the bill’s proponents. There are only four women in the Alabama senate

How a rightwing group accessed the White House to spread its anti-abortion agenda>>

Trump pardons fraudster Conrad Black after glowing biography>>

Trump’s interior secretary: I haven’t ‘lost sleep’ over record CO2 levels>>

14 May

April 23, 1951, The Student, at Sixteen, Who Defied Segregation in Schools

At 16, Johns led a strike by the student body that ultimately became one of five court cases consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education.

The McGlynn:

“Our family is still in awe” per The Cobbs Family. I have remained in awe of Barbara Johns since day one upon reading Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case transcript  in 1954. Her bravery remains beyond belief. She is a star in my memory.


Barbara Johns in a high school graduation photo from 1952.

Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

By Lance Booth

The plan was daring, even risky: Convince the entire all-black student body to walk out of school and not return until the government gave them a bigger, better building — one like the white students had.

Yet if Barbara Johns, a 16-year-old student at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Va., was daunted, she did not show it as she announced the plan from the school’s auditorium stage.

Barbara would achieve more than she had hoped: She would help change the entire education system in the United States by taking part in one of five cases that would be consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices unanimously ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

The case Barbara would join, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, would not only have the largest group of plaintiffs; it would also be the only one that was led by students.

But that was all in the future on that April 23, 1951, as 450 students awaited her instruction in the auditorium. After she proposed the walkout, some students said they were afraid they’d get into trouble with the school authorities or even arrested.

Barbara responded, “The Farmville jail isn’t big enough to hold us.”

There were many experiences in Barbara’s life that had led her to organize the protest, but the catalyst came one morning earlier that month when she had a particularly difficult time getting to school.

She had just finished helping her four younger siblings get dressed, shuffled them out the door and left for school herself when she realized that she had forgotten her lunch and ran back home to retrieve it. By then she had missed her school bus and wound up stranded on the side of the road trying to hitchhike a ride to make it to class on time.

An hour passed. No luck.

Then she saw the “white bus” go by; unlike her usual bus, a segregated one for black students that was always overcrowded, this one was half empty.

“Right then and there,” she later wrote in an unpublished diary, “I decided that indeed something had to be done about this inequality.”

Her small, single-story school building, with more than 450 students, was so crowded that tarpaper shacks had been built outside to handle the overflow. Cold winter days made it especially difficult for the students there to concentrate.

The nearest all-white school was in better condition and more spacious, with two stories for fewer than 400 students.

Barbara’s school had no laboratories, no gym and no cafeteria. There was a music teacher, however, and Barbara confided in her.

“I told her it wasn’t fair that we had such a poor facility, equipment, etc,” she wrote in the diary.

The teacher, she continued, “paused for a few moments and asked, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’ I was surprised at her question, but it did not occur to me to ask what she meant. I just slowly turned away, as I felt she had dismissed me with that reply.”

But then she gave her teacher’s suggestion more thought and rounded up a group of students to consider their options.

“From this,” she wrote, “we would formulate a plan to go on strike. We would make signs, and I would give a speech stating our dissatisfaction, and we would march out of the school.”

Johns in an undated photo. The lawsuit she helped lead was the only one of the five consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education that originated with students.Creditvia Moton Museum

Her younger sister, Joan Johns Cobbs, said in a telephone interview that Barbara forged a note to the teachers, purportedly from the principal, telling them to assemble the student body. When everyone gathered, “there was no principal there, and instead it was my sister on the stage,” Cobbs said. “All the students, like me, were in shock.”

Barbara Johns proceeded to walk out of the building. Everyone followed. “I was surprised the whole thing worked,” Cobbs said.

The strike, as they called it, preceded the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama by four years and the Greensboro lunch-counter sit-ins in North Carolina by nine years, making Barbara Johns an early champion of civil rights.

Barbara’s hopes were high. “People would hear us, would see us and understand our difficulty, would sympathize with our plight and would grant us our new school building,” she wrote.

“It would be grand,” she added, “and we would live happily ever after.”

The students did not return to school for two weeks. But rather than receiving promises of a new building, they were met with vague threats from the schools superintendent, who said their parents would find themselves in trouble if the students did not return.

Barbara decided legal action was the next step, and she contacted the NAACP’s branch office in Richmond, Va., about 65 miles east of Farmville.

“The phone rang and it was Barbara Johns,” Oliver Hill, a lawyer who would help lead the Brown case, said in an interview for the 2004 documentary “Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise.” “She wanted us to take her case and handle it. She was so insistent.”

The organization agreed to help her, but asked her to change her focus: Rather than push for a new building, her lawsuit should push for integration. Hill, along with the lawyers Martin A. Martin and Spottswood Robinson III, filed the suit, Davis v. County School Board.

“Initially, nobody dared dream beyond a separate facility with proper equipment and good buildings,” Johns told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1988. “But once the lawyers explained that integration would be the best way for us to accomplish our goals, I said, ‘Certainly. Let’s go for it all.’ ”

The NAACP lawyers ultimately consolidated Davis and four other cases addressing school segregation as Brown v. Board of Education before appealing to the Supreme Court.

As well as being the only case that had originated with students, Davis stood out because it accounted for a majority of the plaintiffs in Brown, said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“Barbara Johns’ action helped accelerate the plan,” Ifill said. “People should know her name.”

Barbara Johns was born in Harlem on March 6, 1935, to Robert and Violet Johns. The family moved to a farm in Darlington Heights, Va., about 15 miles outside of Farmville. Her father worked on the farm, and her mother traveled to Washington to work Sundays to Fridays as a clerk for the Navy.

After mobilizing students in her high school, Barbara began receiving threats, so her parents sent her to live with an uncle in Montgomery to finish school.

“It was a time when anyone would do a thing like she did, there would be consequences,” Cobbs, her sister, said. “Remember, that was 1951 back in Virginia, and a lot was going on. Everything was separate.”

Johns graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she received a degree in library science and worked as a librarian for the Philadelphia school system. She married the Rev. William Holland Roland Powell, and they had five children.

Johns lived the rest of life out of the spotlight. She died of bone cancer in 1991 at 56.

In 2008, a sculpture of Johns was unveiled on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond as part of a Virginia Civil Rights Memorial. In 2017, the building that houses the state attorney general’s offices was renamed the Barbara Johns Building, and the Farmville library was dedicated to her. Last year the state celebrated its first Barbara Johns Day, on April 23.

“Our family is still in awe of all the things that happened since Barbara passed away,” said Cobbs, who is 80. “The hearts and minds of people have changed. We have come a long way since the time we were discriminated against in such a terrible manner. I’m glad I lived to see it.”

The Birthplace of the Student Civil Rights Movement in Farmville, VA Video

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The Student Strikers


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