Barbara Ransby

Fifty years ago this month, an interracial group of activists decided to take a risky step and put their bodies on the line to challenge the entrenched policy of racial segregation in the American South.

A Puerto Rican woman from a poor neighborhood in the South Bronx should bring her unique experiences and sympathies with her to positions of power. And if she sympathizes with groups of people who, for too long, have been ignored or invisible in our society, that is a strength of character — not a character flaw.

Puerto Rico may at last be relevant this political season. Its primary on June 1 has 63 delegates at stake, and Sen. Hillary Clinton has said she will campaign all the way through Puerto Rico.

On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we would do well to remember an observation by the civil-rights organizer Ella Baker: “Martin didn't make the movement, the movement made Martin.”

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as American deaths in Iraq exceed 3,000 and Iraqi casualties climb into the hundreds of thousands, we need to remember King's words of wisdom about the perils of war.

Critics are touting the movie "Blood Diamond" as a part of a growing genre of socially conscious Hollywood productions. But the film's good message is drowned out by the many bad ones.

The selection of Trent Lott as Senate minority whip removes any illusion that the Republican Party has even the faintest commitment to racial justice. In fact, it's a slap in the face to all Americans who embrace the spirit of the civil rights movement and the greater inclusion it celebrated.

Legacy of Parks shows that she did not ride alone
By Barbara Ransby

October 27, 2005

The death of civil rights legend Rosa Parks is an occasion for our nation to look back on her legacy.

Lunch-counter sit-ins were watershed in civil rights movement
By Barbara Ransby

January 27, 2005

Feb. 1, 1960, is a watershed in the history of the modern civil rights movement. Forty-five years ago on this date, a handful of black students decided to disrupt business-as-usual in the segregated South. They marched, ever so respectfully, into a local drugstore in Greensboro, N.C., and sat at the lunch-counter designated -- by custom and law -- for whites only.

The selection of John Edwards as the Democratic vice presidential candidate is promising for African-Americans, but he should not be given a free pass.


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Helen Caldicott, a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, calls this “one of the most frightening books...

This time we’ve got some advantages.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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