Tag Archives: march2justice

HOPE IS A GIFT WE GIVE TO OURSELVES

Dear Friends and Followers,

You may note that I am re-posting a blog from last summer. It was written as I doggedly moved ahead after my soulmate’s death, despite my pain and grieving. Today, I revisit the joy of hope because I know that each of us are responsible for creating our own inner peace and caring for ourselves. Today, I am taking a break from my book’s very successful first marketing run.  Now, it is time to step back and heal. I will be taking a health break to have some treatment, which I will follow-up by taking a vacation to spend time with my grandchildren. I am as enthused as ever about making my book, WHAT MY LEFT HAND IS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist, available to you.

You can find it here:

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is  available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE BooksellersPages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market. Ask your local book seller to order it from Ingram.

 

RE-POST: HOPE IS A GIFT WE GIVE TO OURSELVES

As I opened my eyes this morning, I reminded myself that 2017, the worst year of my life, is over. The year that I lost my husband, my lover and my best friend has past. It is time for me to create a new life, a fulfilling life as a tribute to the love we shared.

I am embarking on the final steps in my first endeavor as an author. I began today, to type in the data that will lead my book to the printer. My book unfolded with Mike’s encouragement and support. “It is important,” he continued to remind me, “that you share your journey with others.”

But I was tired from being a care-giver for so many years. I had worked hard on the book, but the continued demand to be his health-care partner was taking a toll. “It’s just too much,” I told him. “Soon I will be sick too.”

“Don’t give up,” he admonished, “young women need your story. They need to see your passion to help them learn and grow and become all that they can be. They need to know how you conquered so many challenges that they face every day. You must finish.”

The last evening of his life, I fell exhausted in the chair across from him after a 3-hour phone conference with my production team. “I can’t.” I mumbled, “They are asking too much.”

“Relax for a bit,” was his response. “It’s going to be okay. Get some sleep and I will help you in the morning.” But morning wasn’t going to come for Mike. During the night, he went to a better place, free from pain and the ravages of heart failure.

Pushing myself to continue the work became both joyful, as I indulged in the story of our two lives together, and a curse because all I wanted to do was to grieve. Yet, timelines and what I owed the production team demanded that I work and his voice was prodding me on. What could I do but finish?

Family Train FranceI am filled with hope in this new year that has been given to me. Soon, Mike’s dream that my book will be available to others will become a reality. So, piece by piece, I doggedly finish the final tasks to upload my book to the printer.

Each step I complete is a tribute to our love and to all that Mike taught me about dignity and humanity. I have glimpsed the heart and soul of the struggle of an African-American man who was born and raised on a Mississippi sharecropper’s plantation and rose to his heights in the powerful black worker’s movement arising in Detroit during the late 60s and early 70s.

My life with Mike has changed me and my conception of the world around me. I hope in some way, there between the pages of my book, that I have conveyed the depth of my new understanding in a way that is palatable and inspiring to my readers.

Soon, my book saga will end and you will find it on local bookstore shelves or on the pages of Amazon. Please celebrate with me and share in my new beginnings. THANK YOU FOR READING.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST by Joann Castle, is now published. Do you have your copy?

IN THE FALL OF 2018, I will be available for book talks, book clubs and promotional activities. I already have some things scheduled which I will share with you when I return. In the meantime, take your people power to the polls. ” VOTE IN YOUR PRIMARIES. We can make change from the ground up.

 

AMERICA FIRST (IN POVERTY)

Joann Castle | 0616/18

A Report from People’s Action, 6/11/18:  “A new U.N. report says the United States has the highest income inequality of all Western nations. On the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, we remember his words on the role of government in ending poverty.

I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” – Robert F. Kennedy.

“Today, 40 million Americans live in poverty; 13.3 million of these are children.”

THIS PAST SUNDAY MORNING, The Detroit Free Press, 7/10/18, ran a front page story by John Gallagher, on barriers to work for Detroit residents:  “In the city of Detroit, 53.4% of working-age residents aren’t even looking for a job…Detroit has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation… a symptom of poverty and poor education attainment.”

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, second from left, and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, left, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign.  (Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It’s not that there are no jobs, Gallagher says, but our disenfranchised communities of color do not have the education, the skills or adequate transportation to participate in the job market.  Sometimes it’s lack of child care or elder care. Sometimes young men have been incarcerated and employers are not willing to give them a second chance. Many of these folks want to work but they can’t get hired. There are many reasons for this disparity. Most are related to continuing racism in Metro Detroit, which hasn’t changed much in the last half-century.

Many folks are talking about Detroit’s rising but we need to look at the full picture including the impact of gentrification in poverty stricken communities. There is a greater disparity in wealth in our city now than there was in 1967, during a similar effort for urban renewal.  The outcome of that short-sighted change and the rebellious response by the black community caught many people by surprise, especially the mayor. I can’t imagine what the new welfare work requirement will do to folks who want to work but can’t get hired.

As citizens of privilege, who benefit from the services provided by our local government, we have an obligation to people in our communities to assure that essential services are available to those who are still fighting for full citizenship in our society.

In my new book, WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING, I analyze lessons learned from my early activism, consider our present conditions and seek to inspire young activists to get involved. “We live in the midst of a great struggle between those who control our resources and those who have essential needs but lack the power to attain them… From the ground up, we need to be an army at work demanding and participating in efforts to improve life in our neighborhoods.”

Lessons Learned from my book offer positive steps to improving your community:

Step 1: Get involved. You live there-take an active interest in your community. Understand the issues your neighbors are facing and stand up for those who are in need of support. Your community rises or falls in relation to the involvement of those who live or work there.

Step 2: Vote and encourage others to do so.  If your community wants power from the ground up, VOTE in the August primaries and the November midterms. Local election participation helps communities.

Step 3: Dialogue. Share your community building ideas with others in a newsletter or a blog. Perhaps your group can be a model for other communities to learn from. Protect your most vulnerable citizens.

Step 4: Coalition building. There is a critical need for coalition building across all strata of society, but none is more crucial than between different racial and ethnic communities. America is more segregated than in the 1960s. We’ve grown estranged from one another, making it all the easier for the things that divide us to settle into the gaps between us.

Step 5: Partner Up: Establish alliances with communities unlike yours and learn to understand each other. Many colleges, libraries, churches and cultural institutions offer opportunities to connect.

Step 6: Turn the Negative into a Positive: Stop complaining and focus on small things that can move your community forward.

If anyone would like to guest blog on my site to share positive things going on in your community, please reply at the top of this blog.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is  available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE BooksellersPages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market. Ask your local book seller to order it from Ingram.

 

MY BOOKS ARE HERE…

 

…and they are beautiful! What a joy after all these years of labor and learning on how to become a writer. The books are here because of Mike’s insistence that I finish, because I’m a Detroiter and Detroiters never quit, and because of my amazing editor and her design team from Maverick Books. And, of course, all the support and encouragement I received from my family and friends.

As I approach my September years, my memoir is my gift to young women and those young of heart, who are struggling to put their lives and daily experiences into perspective during this period of divisive politics and racial inequality. To older readers who have shared these years with me, I hope you find solace in the recalling the gains that we made for a better humanity in the social justice movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

I am excited about the book’s exclusive “Activist’s Survival Guide,” which offers a relevant, critical bridge between generations of world changers fighting for a better tomorrow. A condensed version of the guide is included on a removable postcard enclosed in the book.

I want to thank my developmental editor, Cheryl Woodruff for sticking with me and for challenging me to write dozens of topic essays and record those closed-eye descriptions of some of my moments of pain. I understand that this was necessary to bring substance to my writing and create a work that offers a deep experience for my readers.

I confess that I didn’t always agree and appreciate the feedback from my team. But, I have learned to listen and usually to comply with their input because I knew (and was sometimes reminded) that they were the ones with the expertise. I see now, how their influence added value to my work. As I peruse the final product, and experience the wondrous feel of the book in my hands, I am totally delighted. I hope you will be too.

My book is available for pre-order on Amazon and the Seattle Book Company. My sell-date is May 15, 2018. I am using this interim period for reviews. If you know anyone who might do a review, please contact me via this website. A press release is posted on my website media page.

I have several book signings coming up. I will list these on the Against the Tide Facebook page. Don’t forget to follow us.

My niece, Alena and me at Pages Bookshop.

SPORTS CONNECTION: KNEEL OR STAND? Ask Stan Van Gundy

November 24, 2017 by Joann Castle

I was never a sports fan, much to my recent husband’s dismay. Mike’s mother was a devoted fan and I think he expected it of me but I just couldn’t connect. When I watched football, I mostly saw male hormones battling it out for dominance over other males. But I understood his passion. Mike had been privileged to be the first black quarterback on his high school football team. He could see the mental game and the strategies of the plays as they unfolded.

That deep devotionFootball Blog to the game was over my head, until Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, to protest police brutality explaining: “… this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” With this, I connected.

Here was my moment that wedded sports to humanity, a moment when sportsmen revealed another side to the players in an action intended to challenge our definition of patriotism. I can’t say it better than Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Detroit Pistons, my home town team, in this week’s Time Magazine:

What is it that the protesters want?

SVG: “Simply and succinctly: Equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal Opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynching and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color. We have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem that dishonors our country.

“If we truly want to honor our country, this must change.”

Yes, the time for kneeling is over and everyone needs to stand up and move from talk to action. What can we do? Van Gundy has a very specific list.

  • Ameliorating harsh sentencing guidelines and ending mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Enacting clean slate laws.
  • Eliminating cash bail, holding people presumed to be innocent because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
  • Reforming juvenile justice. Black kids are five times more likely to be locked-up than white kids. (2015 statistic)
  • End police brutality and racial bias in police departments.”

Jeff Seidel, a Free Press reporter put it this way: If we love our democracy, “we need to stand up and do something until our flag wraps around each one of us, the same way.”

Stand up and speak for democracy. One of the major avenues we have for advancing Van Gundy’s proposed actions is to pay specific attention to down-ballot and judicial candidates. Do the research, discuss with your friends and cohorts, and then vote like your life depends on it.

Finding common ground puts us on the track to solutions. I learned there is more to sports than the battle on the field. Players and coaches understand teamwork and have something to say. Who ever thought I’d be a sports fan?

(Thanks Mitch Albom for bringing all this to my attention. Detroit Free Press 11/19/17)

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

Coming soon…

I invite you to “follow” my blog by clicking on the follow button at the top right. You will receive notices of new posts and can keep updated on my book publication timeline.

Thanks for reading!  

ONLY LEFT HANDED PEOPLE ARE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND (words on my lefty son’s favorite tee-shirt)

So, why, since I am right-handed, did I choose to name my book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist?

You can attribute it to the anthropologist in me. Or you can attribute it to a brainstorming session with my editors in a search for a unique book title. In either case, you would be correct. And it fits, you see, because during that period I was a foot soldier using my left hand to advance social justice and my right hand to love and sustain my family.

Throughout our known history, cultures have ascribed meaning to the symbolism of right and left handedness. These distinctions about right and left appear in science, nature, the writing of our various languages, and in our politics.  Chris McManus has written a fascinating book titled: Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures (Harvard University Press, 2002) and suggests “that our asymmetric bodies, which emerged from 550 million years of asymmetric vertebrate evolution, may be linked to the asymmetric structure of matter.” The book is a bit of a heavy read but engaging throughout for all you science junkies.

We know that the majority of people are right handed but evolutionary studies cannot yet tell us why. We do know from the study of medicine that the left side of our bodies is controlled by the right side of our brains. This brings me back to my son’s favorite shirt; his right brain controls his left handed function.

Right and left hand are deeply embedded in nature as well as  our cultural and sociopolitical structures. We know from the study of physics that tornadoes spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. We know that European writing goes from left to right, while Arabic and Hebrew go from right to left.

The meaning of right and left was formalized in western politics as early as 1789. In France, radicals pressing for change were seated on the left hand side of the legislative chamber where they could be ignored, and conservative nobles were seated to the favored right of the presiding officer. This historical practice contributed to the evolution of the terms we use today to identify the political progressive left and the conservative right in western politics.

Today, we are facing a leadership crisis in our country. It is time to resist. The political left needs to arm ourselves for the emerging social justice struggle with knowledge of our history and lessons learned from the past. My book contains lessons learned in 50 years of struggle and an “Activist Survival Guide.”

“These are days when no one should rely unduly on his “competence.’’ Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.”

–Walter Benjamin, German philosopher, 1882-1940

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

MARTHA ALDERSON PUT STORY STRUCTURE ON MY DINING ROOM TABLE

I didn’t begin my life thinking that I would be a writer. I was always much too busy for that. But after my kids left home, I began to write some small articles for newsletters and I found myself keeping a journal. I felt empty with everyone gone and it gave me comfort to commit my thoughts to paper. Over the years, my urge to write kept growing. I started writing stories for my friends and they encouraged me to write more. The idea of writing a book seemingly started without my consent but the words kept waking me up at night. Writing was taking hold of me.

As I struggled to make sense of my bedside notes, I learned of a writers’ group at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, called “Adventurous Writers.” It was there that I began to learn the trade: developing a theme, learning how to plot a story, the elements of the hero’s journey, and the importance of through-lines. After the basics are in place, you top it off with a “hook,” a cherry on top of an ice cream sunday, something to immediately capture the readers’ interest so they can’t put it down.

We studied many different approaches for mastering story structure. My favorite book that taught me how to write was The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson (Adams Media, 2011).  In the text were diagrams of plots illustrating elements of the universal story, prescribing how many pages should be devoted to the beginning of the story, exactly what page should end the beginning and when to move the story upwards in intensity towards the crisis. Once your hero is over the hump and just when you thought everything was going well, she is thwarted by another barrier, the climax, which quickly unfolds into the resolution. All stories follow this same plot structure. Think about it when you are watching a movie or your favorite TV show.

As I took hold of the ideas in Anderson’s text, I dutifully made a trip to the butcher at Eastern Market and tried to explain why I needed a long piece of butcher paper. The butcher looked puzzled but he gave me the paper. I started my plot-planning on the dining room table, minimizing our eating space to my husband’s chagrin. I used red sticky notes for hot emotional scenes, blue for the cooler transitions, and yellow for the lessons I was learning. As the story grew more involved, i needed more space and I moved to the to the living room floor, blocking access to our front windows and my husband’s favorite easy chair. After a spousal chat, I withdrew to the wall next to my computer but the story moved on.

My confrontation with the archbishop was my first chosen hook, but as my story evolved and I worked to get its elements in the proper places, the archbishop got replaced with J. Edgar Hoover’s counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO. You will want to meet the characters in my upcoming book:

What My Left Hand Was Doing:

Lessons from a Grassroots Activist

by Joann Castle

Coming soon: Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

VIOLA LIUZZO LOVED HER CHILDREN ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR A BETTER WORLD

On Sunday, April 12th, Mike and I had the honor and the privilege of meeting the children of civil rights martyr, Viola Liuzzo. Viola’s tragic death in Selma, Alabama in 1965 was the event that brought me into the civil rights movement.  In many ways, Viola was like me, a local white woman raised Catholic, with five small children. She was an empathic woman with a big heart and when the call went out to support those brutally assaulted as they marched for voting rights, Viola headed to Alabama

On March 25th, as Viola was shuttling marchers back to Selma, she was murdered on the highway by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the car, was an FBI informant who later bragged about the killing. The FBI went on to smear Viola’s name and attempt to destroy her family.  Somehow, I felt a kinship with Viola and I understood why she was compelled to go to Selma. In a sense, that week in 1965, I stepped into the movement to take her place.

Mike Viola Liuzzo's children

Mike with Viola Liuzzo’s children.

This month, in Detroit, Viola’s family was given a hero’s welcome on the 50th anniversary of her death. She was posthumously awarded a degree at Wayne State University where she was a student. Among the many events in her honor, was a Morris Dees lecture at Wayne State Law School, a tribute at Macomb Community College, and a celebration of her life at the Unitarian Church on Wayne State’s Campus. A park near her home in Northwest Detroit was re-dedicated in her honor.

Mike and I are grateful for the opportunity to converse with four of her children. It has been a difficult road for them as they struggled to vindicate their mother’s image from slander by the FBI. “She prepared us,” their daughter Mary told us. “It was the way she raised us.” “Thank you, Mom. You loved us enough to fight for a better world.”

Please click  ‘follow’ on this website and join Mike and I on our journey.

Personal Histories in the Struggle for Justice.