Sunday, March 10, 2013


In 1963 Tom and I were finishing school in Chapel Hill, graduate and law school, headed on the path to our years of working in South Carolina segregationist private schools and for Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama. We recently discovered that in 1963 another Turnipseed, Tom’s cousin not so far removed, was a college student of a very different kind.  This April her college is honoring her for her brave stand during the civil rights era. And to think this happened in my very own hometown.  Wow, do I wish we could go!

 Birmingham-Southern College students to march to downtown Birmingham in April to commemorate 1963 stand by BSC student

Birmingham News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- In 1963, a 19-year-old student named Martha "Marti" Turnipseed heard on the radio that seven African-American students were staging a sit-in at a Woolworth's department store lunch counter in downtown Birmingham

Turnipseed, who was white, made a decision to join them. She walked off of Birmingham-Southern's campus and trekked two miles to downtown Birmingham, and sat down at the counter with those students.
For her efforts, Turnipseed was arrested and eventually expelled from BSC, although she was readmitted a year later.

On April 24, 2013, Birmingham-Southern students will recreate Turnipseed's walk as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Birmingham civil rights events of 1963. BSC President Gen. Charles Krulak and Birmingham Mayor William Bell announced the plans for the march at a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

"Often times we talk about the foot soldiers, and we think in terms of the foot soldiers being predominantly African-Americans, but there were many others who joined arms with them to say we're not going to tolerate segregation any longer in our community," Bell said.
A photo of Marti Turnipseed from BSC's 1963 yearbook.

"This is a young lady who, at the time, was a student here at Birmingham-Southern, and could have just easily turned away, and said that's somebody else's problem, and that's somebody else's headache," Bell said. "But she chose to get involved."

Marti Turnipseed later married Charles Moore and changed her name to Marti Turnipseed Moore. 

According to a BSC spokesperson, Marti died in a car wreck in 1972, and her husband is also deceased. Marti's brother, Spencer, is invited to the march.

Bell said he and Krulak plan to jointly invite current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to participate in the march.

The path is expected to be about 2.3 miles long, ending at Kelly Ingram Park.** Area gospel choirs, high school and elementary school students will be asked to join in the march along the way, Krulak said. Buses will be provided to return the marchers, choirs and students to where they began.

The march is being dubbed the "Forward, Ever Birmingham!" march after the"forward ever" cry in BSC's alma mater

"One of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education is that it's not just about the knowledge you gain, but how you apply that knowledge in helping to change the world," Bell said. "And Marti Turnipseed understood that. She stood up when others did not, and it caused people to think."

"This is not about what happened yesterday," Krulak said. "It's about what's happening today and what will happen the day after tomorrow. We know how important Birmingham was in moving this nation to do the right thing. Now, it's time to show that we're continuing to move forward."

**Across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where the four young girls were killed when it was bombed that same year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dr. King Had Other Dreams

Co-written by Tom and Judy Turnipseed

 On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 years old; Coretta had just given birth to their first child.

 E D. Dixon, another Montgomery pastor, asked to host a meeting in King’s Dexter Street Baptist Church—not because of King, but because the church was the closest to downtown--across from the capitol. King attended the poorly planned meeting, was reluctantly drawn in, and his greatness began to emerge. It wasn’t necessarily the perfect time for him--he was young with a new family, not much money or a lot of experience.

He even, at a critical point in his life, hesitated. On our Unitarian Universalist Living Legacy Pilgrimage this past fall, we sat at the very table in his kitchen where he sat, uncertain of himself, discouraged, and frightened for his family by all the threatening calls they had received. He almost called it quits that night. In the middle of his doubts, he had his “Kitchen Epiphany” when he faced down his fears with the conviction that God stands by those who stand for justice. The world doesn’t need a perfect person to do what he did. The world needed him. And this week we celebrate the 84th birthday of this leader of nonviolent protest, freedom fighter and hero in the struggle for civil rights and racial justice.

 He led waves of ordinary, courageous people on the streets of the South from the bus boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins, voter registrations drives, to the Freedom rides. In the face of overwhelming odds King knew those ordinary people needed a dream like all people do – one that speaks to our spirits through both our heads and our hearts. And because he knew that, on August 28, 1963, he stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington before 125,000 people and delivered one of the most well known and quoted speeches ever made and maybe the greatest.

 ”I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

 I have a dream today”.

 But Dr. King had other dreams.

 We forget that King had a dream beyond racial justice. He also believed that we can overcome war itself, as he hinted at in Oslo in 1964 and later. He dreamed that man would find an alternative to war and violence between nations just as he was finding a way to put an end to racial injustice. The madness must cease.

 President Obama, in his Nobel Prize speech, expressed the view that we’re stuck with war and there’s nothing we can do about it, indeed that it is often justified. Dr. King in his Nobel speech made it clear that he believed our destiny is ours to choose. “World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable,” he said. He knew—as we UU’s know “that we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality and whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” He tells us that we must either “learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.”

He became more and more convinced that he had to speak out strongly against the war on Vietnam and so in 1967 and '68 he did. He delivered his most famous antiwar speech “Beyond Vietnam” at Manhattan’s Riverside Church exactly one year before he died. It’s hard to understand just how radical it was at the time. His closest advisors tried to talk him out of it because they felt it would dilute his civil rights work. It would alienate President Johnson who was a civil rights supporter, but also pursuing the war. And it did. He would be labeled unpatriotic for his criticism of America’s foreign policy. But he felt that ending discrimination in America and ending the massacre in Vietnam were not separate. As a man of conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak. And he paid the price for speaking out. All the major media backed the War. He was regularly attacked in national newspapers. The New York Times wrote editorials against him. Many of his supporters turned against him. He was called a traitor and a commie.

 He was attacked for many of the same reason we peace activists who oppose the wars in Iraq, Pakistan Afghanistan, and all our military actions around the world, are attacked today and his answers to them were a lot the same as ours are.

 First he connected the war with racism and the struggle for equality. Far more black men were sent to fight and die than their white brothers, who had the financial means and connections to escape the draft. Young black men denied equal rights in our society were going off to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia. Today, in our voluntary military, there is an economic draft, where those same young black men--faced with lack of jobs and few opportunities--are forced to join the military to survive.
  King was not limited by a narrow nationalistic view--by the idea of our country, right or wrong. He thought of himself as a world citizen. His dedication was not limited to the needs of African-Americans or the cause of civil rights. He was dedicated not just to save the soul of America but to work for the betterment of all, the brotherhood of man. He felt a special need to speak out against our militaristic nature. It was impossible to preach non-violence to young angry black men until he had spoken clearly to the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world of his day”—his own country.

He spoke of the collateral damage of the war and of the suffering of the people we claimed to be liberating—not the soldiers on each side, or the military government, but of the civilians, people who had been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades. Even for those we came to support, we poisoned their water, killed their crops, destroyed their families, their villages and often brought death. And in today’s wars waged by our country, the collateral damage continues to grow. In World War I there was one civilian killed for every 10 soldiers on both sides. Nowadays it’s just the opposite. With the technological advances in killing tools, there are at least 5 innocent civilians killed for every one soldier.

And what about the wars’ effects on our own people? Then as now, “This business of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love”.

His strongest response to his critics about his opposition to the war was economic and I agree with that today. He said “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” When we feed the homeless in the park in Columbia every Sunday with Food Not Bombs, we set up our sign. On one side is our logo, on the other, General Eisenhower’s words.
 “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

 Today the military represents 55% of our discretionary budget. The Afghan war alone costs us $2 billion a week. And the arms manufacturers and war mongers are selling weapons to both sides, getting rich off the blood of our young people. Those who will stand up and speak out fearlessly against such insanity today are needed now more than ever.
 At the end of his life, King was consumed with his dream of ending poverty. He spoke about it as early as 1964 in his Nobel Prize Lecture, but by 1968, he was speaking out strongly about the interrelatedness of racism, war and poverty. He was truly on dangerous ground. He expanded his vision from working to achieve equal rights for African Americans and peacemaking, to bringing an end to systemic poverty and seeking economic justice for all. Before, he was trying to change the way people in and out of power thought about race and war; now he was trying to change the way people in and out of power thought about power. 

On the day of his death he was in Memphis supporting the sanitation workers’ strike—for fair wages and decent working conditions. On the agenda was the Poor People’s Campaign, a plan to bring thousands of the poor of all races on another march to Washington to demand jobs and, most radical of all, not just a living wage, but a guaranteed income for all. In 1968 he understood economic exploitation and his dream was to end it. Throughout his life, King faced the three great evils of mankind—racism, war, and poverty. His dream was to overcome all three.

The night before he died, King delivered his last great speech of hope, assuring his followers that his dreams would not die. If they, like us today, would continue to pursue those dreams, he knew that someday we would get to the promised land. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Why Guns Won't Keep You Safe
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" was playing live and the kids were so excited to be going with Linda and me. Their fathers, Don and Tom, were at an attorneys' reception and Linda, with her two children, had picked us up at the law office on Lady Street. In those days before seat belt laws, Jeff, aged 5,  Jeny, 3, and Linda's oldest--Jeff's age--sat unrestrained together in the back. Linda's baby,  who was barely 2,  stood between us in the front.  
Not long after we pulled away from the curb, amidst the squeals and jabbering of the four young ones, a BOOM exploded throughout  the car--a sound I can hear every time I think about it exactly as it was that night. Chaos! What was it!  Had the engine blown? Louder than that--A bomb? Where?--So loud! Like it was inside the car! The kids were screaming! Linda yelling--"What was that!!!" "I don't know" as I turned to the back seat.

Jeff was holding a gun.

"A gun!" I shouted. I grabbed it and threw it into the glove compartment as Linda tried to keep the car straight,  screaming "Is anybody hurt?"

"I don't know!"  Her baby was hysterical. I grabbed her and held her close, hoping to calm her down. I felt something wet and sticky. Linda yelled, "Blood, it's blood!"

She stomped on the accelerator, headed for Baptist Hospital just around the corner--though I still don't know how she did it. As we pulled into the emergency entrance, she grabbed the baby and ran. I scooped up the children and headed inside to register, answer questions, search for answers and try to calm the children and myself while we waited.  The police appeared with questions about the  hand gun, which I could not answer, nor could Linda later, as to why her husband had a gun in the car.
 .....How long had he had it? I don't know! Why did he have it! I don't know! Why did he keep it in the car? I don't know! Why did he keep it loaded? I don't know! Why in a cigar box? I don't know! Was it registered? I don't know! Did you know he had it? No.....

We were all lucky.  When Jeff  saw the cigar box on the floor, opened it, found the gun and pulled the trigger, he pointed it straight ahead, instead of at himself or either of the girls beside him.The bullet went through the side of the head rest before it hit the child. No vital organ was damaged; it was only a rather deep flesh wound and the police found the spent cartridge on the floor of the car.  It had not lodged in her little body.

Don's explanation to us all for why he had the gun was "for protection." His area of concentration in the law was collections. When a debtor could not pay, Don assisted the debt holder in bringing suit against the debtor.  He said he had had threats from those who were desperate, who were losing their homes, and he needed protection.  As for the rest of the questions--he had no answers. Why he kept a loaded gun in a cigar box in the family car he could not say. He did apologize for not remembering to take it out; but chastised us for not being alert enough to hear the sound of the gun being cocked in time to stop the tragedy.

Jeff tells me he can remember every minute as clearly as I can, though he was only 5. Later that night, I read to him hoping to calm him down so he could go to sleep. When we heard Tom's car in the driveway, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "Oh Momma, Daddy is going to be so mad at me."

You can believe me, that Jeff was not the one who felt Tom's anger.  It was the person who thought he could make himself safe by bringing more guns into play, who was willing to endanger his family and friends by the careless use of a weapon.

Don was governed by fear, as so many of us in this country are. We are afraid of young black men, of the homeless, of people who wear turbans, of innocent young people who come to our door to trick or treat, of hooded teenagers walking through our neighborhoods where they "don't belong", of  anybody different from ourselves. We turn away from them, run from them, shoot them, go to war with them--and the gun manufacturers profit.

When horrific events happen in Sandy Hook or Columbine and small children are killed, we don't know how to react.  Some think  the answer is to arm teachers because they can shoot first and make the school safe. Some say "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."  Some of my very good friends, supporters of the NRA, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for citizens to own almost any kind of weapon (though they do believe in background checks).

Here's some of what I believe. Yes, strict gun control, if not a total ban. Required gun safety courses for gun owners.  Sure, that.

But there's more to it than that.  I don't think that having fewer guns or no guns is the answer. I am an idealist. I believe that the attitude that gun control is the only answer because the horse is already out of the barn concerning guns is giving up, admitting defeat.  I want to go for more. I want to go for changing our way of thinking, doing, living, relating to each other--a culture change.  What if we stopped romanticizing violence? What if we learn to worship not the tough guys in Pulp Fiction or Fight Club, but instead the gentle, loving guys in To Kill a Mockingbird or Gandhi?   What if our movie heroes were not the ones who used violence to solve problems; our most sought after video games were not those where realistic killing was the point ? And we did the killing!!! What if  all our sports emphasized skill, endurance, cooperativeness, instead of violence where one of the purposes is to "take somebody out" with a head-on tackle and where the players are so damaged that their life expectancy is 55 years old? Oops, I know some Carolina/Clemson fans who will take exception to that one.

I believe in a world where we learn to honor God, not as an angry, vengeful God, a violent God who orders the Israelites to "not leave alive anything that breathes" or sends Joshua to destroy Jerico, or condemns sinners to hell, but as the loving New Testament God. I believe we can become a world where the mentally ill are not shunned, but are treated as any other person with an illness and we can commit the financial resources to truly help them. I believe in a world where we can learn to solve our problems without violence, but with respect, honoring one another. I believe in a world where we can overcome our selfishness, greed, lack of empathy and fear of one another. I believe in a world governed by compassion and respect for one another.

In that kind of world, Don won't need a gun.