She’s Dancing in the Stars

As long as I can remember, dancing and I have been inseparable — it was the thing that set me free and made me feel safe…at the same time.

I started taking lessons when I was two. It was 1953 and Miss Mary Roth taught in the old Chipley Elementary School gym. When I was four, I started taking from Mrs. Mary Cleveland in LaGrange and continued there until I left Harris County High in 1968.

We mostly did tap dancing…there was a little ballet thrown in. But the main course was good old-fashioned tapping to Broadway music. Miss Mary Cleveland, as I called her, loved her some show tunes.

I even majored in dance at UGA for one year. But the department was part of the  physical education curriculum — and teaching P.E. in school was not what I had in mind. I wanted to perform.

In addition, the UGA School of Dance emphasized the modern genre. The music was weird and nobody smiled on stage.

I was definitely a fish out of water.

So I put down my dancing shoes for five years and promptly gained about 20 pounds. Yikes…I’m not too tall and 20 pounds on me is like 50 on most folks. I wanted to change what the scales said. Motivation, however, eluded me. .

But when I left C&S Bank and took a job as the advertising manager for The Athens Observer, the opportunity to dance again came my way.

One of my coworkers told me about a dance teacher I really needed to meet.

So I went to Mell Street Studio and introduced myself to Gail. As soon as she saw me move my feet, it was love at first sight. She took me under her wing and encouraged me. She challenged me to dance in a way I had never done before.

She taught me about my center — the physical one in my diaphragm that needed to be the strongest muscle in my body. She turned my classical ballet illiteracy into a good, basic knowledge of my body’s strength and resilience.

And getting stronger made my tap dancing on point. Pun intended.

But she also taught me about having an emotional center — that core in our being from whence our little light shines. She taught me to breathe into my center all the good I could hold and exhale all the bad energy.

She literally gave me the tools that have helped me survive the darkest times of my life.

And I loved her dearly.

She was my mentor — my idol.

I wanted to be just like her.

But we lost her this week — her sweet spirit crossed over Monday. 

And we all weep…all of those lives she touched, challenged and encouraged.

We all weep.

But I know she’s singing and dancing somewhere — as full of life as she was in her studio.

So this one’s for you, Gail — a giant of a person in the body of a sprite…the sweetest of sweet spirits.

“She’s Dancing in the Stars”

She’s dancing in the stars and shining with the sun,

Endlessly living a life that’s just begun.

Flying like the wind and singing with the trees,

She disguises her touch as a springtime  breeze.

The pain of losing her is deep and sad,

As empty a feeling as I have ever had.

But her love is in my heart and will always be,

As precious as the sweet dancing one was to me.

ballet-ballet-shoes

 

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My Son: Georgia’s Next Attorney General

 

Ok.

I know I’m his mama, but…

…he’s got what it takes to be an excellent attorney general — ethics, experience, and a deep love for his home state. And regardless of one’s political affiliation, I imagine most folks believe that Georgia’s top cop needs to know the law and enforce it regardless of  what other elected officials might want him to do.

And Charlie doesn’t hesitate to stand up for that which he knows is right and just. He was just born that way.

And, of course, I could not be prouder.

Now his campaign is in full gear, and I’m learning quickly how important every single vote and contribution are.

After you read about Charlie, if you want a personal call from him, email me with your contact info,  and I’ll make sure that happens.

We’ll also welcome any campaign volunteers. There’s nothing more powerful than people working to get out the vote.

And if you are inspired to make a donation — and no donation is too small — here is my fundraising site.

We look forward to a busy, yet rewarding, seven months.

Charlie Bailey for Georgia.

 

 

 

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He Was Lynched in 1947. We Honored Him in 2018.

He was lynched in 1947. 

And the Harris and Troup County communities honored him in 2018.

Mr. Henry (Peg) Gilbert a very successful farmer and landowner in the Jones Crossroads community – was wrongfully accused of hiding an African-American fugitive who shot and killed a white man. Gilbert was arrested without cause by Troup County authorities, taken from his home, transported to the Harris County jail, beaten, and murdered.

The Harris County Chief of Police, William H. Buchanan, initially claimed it was self-defense. He later recanted that statement and said a group of white men took him from the jail and killed him.

We may never know the real truth — whether Buchanan did it, a jailer or a mob.

What’s important is that there was no conviction. There was no justice.

Those of us in ONE Harris County — a trust building and racial reconciliation initiative — knew we could not change these events. But we knew we had to recognize the crime and honor the victim and his family.

And that is exactly what happened Saturday. Hundreds gathered at Union Springs Methodist Church at Jones Crossroads to celebrate Mr. Gilbert’s life and that of his wife, Mrs. Mae Henry Davenport Gilbert.

The family was there — from all over the country. Dr. Margaret Burnham from the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern School of Law in Boston was there. She and her associates did the copious amounts of research that confirmed Mr. Gilbert’s lynching.

Law enforcement from both Troup and Harris Counties were there. Members of the judiciary were there.

In the words of Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley, who spoke to the overflowing congregation:

“I am honored to take part in this ceremony and acknowledgement…the acknowledgement that in 1947 the criminal justice system of our country, our state, our county and more specifically, a profession in which I represent, failed. We failed to serve and protect a citizen, Mr. Henry ‘Peg’ Gilbert’ during their most defenseless and exposed time…a time in which we as a profession should’ve been there to protect and support. No one in their right frame of mind and especially a law enforcement officer of today could believe that Mr. Gilbert received justice the last few weeks of 1947 because he did not.”

And Hon. Ron Mullins, Superior Court Judge for the Chattahoochee Circuit, spoke for the judiciary:

 “Our system of law works well, some of the time and I say that because in Mr. Gilbert’s case, it didn’t work at all. By all reports, it was a total failure. The system cost Mr. Gilbert his life and did irreparable harm to his family and his community.”

We did not gather to cast blame.We did not gather to open wounds.

As Lynn Norris, coordinator of ONE Harris County said, “How could we open wounds that had never healed?”

We gatheredto have closure for a family who had kept this secret for decades. The Gilbert grandchildren found out two years ago. Their mothers (there were four Gilbert girls) had buried this secret deep in their souls — still fearful of telling the truth.

We gathered to honor the memory of a man whose life was stolen from his family — a man who did nothing wrong.

We gathered to pay homage to his wife, who was brave when many of us would not have been.

We gathered to dedicate the new gravestones for the Gilberts.

The music was pure and soulful, including the beautiful selections Darlene and Randy Dameron performed graveside.

And afterwards, in true Southern tradition, there was dinner on the ground. We sat outside and enjoyed the food prepared by Union Baptist Church, Union Springs Methodist and Baptist, St. Nicholas congregants and ONE Harris County members. People stayed for hours after the ceremony and fellowshipped  — just like folks did in 1947.

The event was indeed memorable and noteworthy: A 1947 Southern lynching victim was honored — by his Southern community.

But the most memorable part of the day was the love — the incredible amount of love we all felt last Saturday.

That gives me hope.

And these days, we need all the hope we can get.

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I Told You So. Many, Many Times.

“When the volatile political bedfellows of money and religion discover the honeymoon is over, the break-up will affect all of us.”

I wrote this in my column following George Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s, and Karl Rove’s victory in 2004.

Well, I told you so then and I tell you again now:

God and greed don’t mix.

And we are paying for it dearly.

Because the GOP continued to woo the religious right – complete with the fringe elements that spawned Donald Trump and Steve Bannon — and they had absolutely no intentions of fulfilling the promises they made to them.

The establishment arm of the GOP really believed the crazy relatives of their new bride would not be a problem. When the courting was hot and heavy, I had more than several folks make comments to me such as: “Those people aren’t going to make a difference. We just tolerate them for the vote,” as they plunged their hands into their very deep pockets.

But as we all know, when you marry, you marry the crazy family members, too.

Like it or not.

And now, we have what we have.

Not only have the nutty relatives stuck around, they are living in the big house.

And the GOP can’t do a damn thing with them.

Because their greed got us here.

A hunger for power got us here.

Hypocrisy got us here.

Dishonesty got us here.

And nothing is going to lift us out of it until the people who forged this relationship  admit they made a mistake and take action.

Because there’s only one solution for a bad marriage: divorce.

And we sure as hell need one of those right now.

 

 

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The Slant…

 

…of the September sun, that is.

 

We have been blessed with absolutely beautiful here in West Georgia for the past few days, even though Irma slammed our neighbors south of us.

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The angle of the sun shifted…

crystals

…making the prisms dance wildly.

 

Temperatures dropped and the fish danced for joy.

September pond

 

On Sunday, the western sky had that early autumn tint to it.

Irma's werstern sky

 

But in the east the clouds were already gathering.

Irma's eastern sky

It was a good 24 hours before a tropical storm — still churning in the Gulf as a Hurricane Irma — was due to come to town.

And if I didn’t know better, I’d assume the seasonal transition from summer to fall was responsible for this two-tone sky.

 

The sunset was spectacular — debunking the adage, “Red sky at night — sailor’s delight.”

IMG_1319

 

Because I knew what was coming tomorrow.

And now, she’s hollering from south of the Fall Line, saying, “I’m on my way.”

 

Then…suddenly…in the midst of all this weather, I realized the date.

September 11.

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As I watch the rain and wind roll over the mountain,

I pray the slant of a September sun — when he returns — reminds us what makes life worth living.

And that he will reveal not only the face of a new day, but also the truth behind the clouds.

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Fast Cars, Loud Music

I have a confession to make.

I love driving fast, listening to pop music (all of it — rap, too), and dancing — all at the same time.

And I can dance while sitting in my car. Believe it.

In fact, the ol’ Beamer almost hit 90 on Monday while jamming to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic”.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

“She is too damn old to be doing shit like this.”

And I’m answering:

“Ah, hell naw. If I get too old for this shit, go ahead and shoot me.”

People dry up and die on the inside when they don’t challenge the norms…when they don’t honor their guts. 

And my mom taught me an early age to push that envelope.

When I was in grammar school, the Mountain Hill School PTA held a Labor Day barbecue every year in the pine thicket across the road from the school.

Politicians frequently visited during election years, and in 1962, Marvin Griffin was invited.

Griffin was a veteran Georgia politician, having served as Governor from 1955 to 1959. He left office under a cloud of corruption but was trying to make a comeback.

He was known as an arch-segregationist and promised to close the state’s public school system if federal authorities tried to enforce desegregation.

His opponent, the younger Carl Sanders, hailed from Augusta and entered Georgia politics in 1954 at the age of 29.

Sanders ran on a progressive campaign platform, vowing to take Georgia into a new era of reformed government.

My parents were supporters of Carl Sanders and were probably in the minority among their fellow rural voters.

At the 1962 Labor Day barbecue, I watched my mother take her place in the serving line, proudly sporting a “Carl Sanders for Governor” button.

When Marvin Griffin was directly across from her, his eyes focused on what she was wearing.

“Carl Sanders for Governor,” he said, with a bit of a sneer in his voice.

“Yes sir,” said my mother, flashing her signature smile. “Hope you enjoy your meal,” as she plopped a spoonful of stew on his plate — so hard that he almost dropped it.

He didn’t say a word back to her.

Sanders won and the racist lost.

I learned that we can defeat hate and ignorance.

And we do it with unapologetic  singing and dancing — even though others think we should be silent and still.

Remember that.

 

 

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I Don’t Trust You

“I don’t trust you.”

That statement means death to a relationship — any kind of relationship.

And, unfortunately, there are a lot of dead relationships now…

…which is why trust building is so important if we are going to repair the deep divisions in our country.

And the efforts are not coming from the top down. So it is up to us to start from the ground up.

The concept began in Richmond, Va., over two decades ago and has spread nationwide. Not only is it about bridging the divide between races but between cultures and socio-economic classes.

And never forget the divide within ethnic groups’ perceptions about race.

My neighboring county — Troup — has had incredible success with the program and hundreds of citizens have gone through the training. Recognition and acknowledgement of Austin Callaway’s lynching in 1940 grew out of the effort.

And now citizens in my home county, Harris, are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

Our first project is to get as much support as possible from individuals, the business community, educational institutions, and elected officials.

And we need all we can get. If you read this and want to know more, comment on this post and leave your contact info or email me.

Our next project is a tribute to a Harris County lynching victim, Mr. Henry (Peg) Gilbert, who was kidnapped from his southern Troup County farm, near the Harris County line, and murdered:

It all began in the early evening of May 4, 1947, in the Jones Crossroads community. 

An African-America man named Gus Davidson ran over Olin Sands’ calf and left the scene. Sands was white.

He gave chase and found Davidson at an African-American church near the Harris/Troup County line.

There was an altercation — Davidson shot and killed Sands.

What followed was a night of terror for the African-American community as an angry mob of local men looked for Davidson.

And one innocent man and his family were caught up in the frenzy in a way that changed their lives forever.

Mr. Henry (Peg) Gilbert – a very successful farmer and landowner in the community – was wrongfully accused of hiding the fugitive. He was kidnapped from his home, taken to the Harris County jail, beaten, and murdered.

In other words, he was lynched.

The Harris County Chief of Police William H. Buchanan initially claimed it was self-defense. He later recanted that statement and said a group of white men took him from the jail and killed him.

Of course, there was no conviction. There was no justice.  

                                         We know we cannot change these events.

But we can recognize the crime and honor the victim and his family. We can acknowledge the travesty and vow to eradicate the seeds of hate and racial discrimination.

ONE Harris County’s first countywide project is to have a commemoration service next spring (May 2018) and dedicate an Equal Justice Initiative marker in Mr. Gilbert’s memory.

We also want to raise enough money to purchase gravestone markers for Mr. Gilbert and his wife, Mae Henry. They are buried in the church cemetery where the events unfolded.

Of the four Gilbert daughters, — Recie Gilbert Moss  —  is still living. She is in her 90’s:

“After going through so much years ago, with so much hate, now to see people show love and actually care is warming my heart.  I didn’t think I would ever see the day when my father’s name would be cleared and he would be honored.” Recie Gilbert Moss.

Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work.

But together, we can do what needs to be done – what should be done.

Join us. Please.

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