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Bill Greenawalt's story: March on Washington
The Town Board Public Discussion and Site Visit scheduled for Saturday, January 17th at 1:00pm related to the Metropolis Country Club/Brightview Senior Living Project proposal will not take place due to the potential for snow and icy conditions. A future rescheduling date will be posted soon.
TONIGHT- The Ethical Café presents Our Roots run deep local elders speak on African American Communities in Greenburgh Music by the Lester Harper Trio. Ethical Culture Society of Westchester. 7 Saxon Woods Road. White plains, NY 10605. Music by Lester Harper Trio. 7:30 PM
Making Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream Come Alive the Success Story of the Parkway Homes/ Parkway Gardens Community:
By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
Greenburgh is proud to have one of the the largest middle class African American Community in The United States. It’s possible it could be the largest. Two neighborhoods: Parkway Homes and Parkway Gardens have been home to some very famous residents..
Cab Calloway (1907-1994):
Cab Calloway was a famous jazz singer and musician. Cab Calloway was born on December 25th, 1907 in Rochester, New York. He spent his childhood in Baltimore Maryland, before moving to Chicago Illinois to study law at Crane College. His heart was never really in it however, his true passion was singing. He frequently performed at Chicago’s famous Sunset Club as part of The Alabamians. After meeting Louis Armstrong and learning the style of scat singing, he dropped out of law school, left Chicago, and moved to New York to pursue a full-time career as a singer. In 1930, Cab Calloway and his Orchestra were regular performers at one of the most popular clubs in New York, Harlem’s Cotton Club. His most famous song, which sold more than one million copies, is “Minnie the Moocher” (1931) (https://www.biography.com/people/cab-calloway-9235609). In 1955, he moved to Greenburgh and settled into a 12 room House on Knollwood Avenue. While there, he performed in the famous opera, “Porgy and Bess” (https://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/14cabwe.html).He received the National Medal of the Arts in 1993 and died a year later in Hockessin, Delaware (https://www.biography.com/people/cab-calloway-9235609). He is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery located on 280 Secor Road Hartsdale, NY 10530. Jazz music is deeply rooted in the cultural DNA of Parkway Gardens/ Parkway Homes because in addition to Jazz singer Cab Calloway, jazz pianist Hazel Scott also lived there.
Hazel Scott (1920–1981):
Hazel Scott was a jazz musician, actress, political activist; and the first black woman to host her own television show. She was born on June 11, 1920 in the city of Port of Spain, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. She began playing piano in Port of Spain at the age of three. In 1924, she immigrated with her family to Harlem, New York (https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/scott-hazel-1920-1981/).
Sometime before her eighth birthday, she traveled to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center. At age eight, she won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music (Balfour in MICROSOFT ENCARTA, Reference Library 1993-2003). In the 1930s, she starred in many Broadway Shows and in several movies, she also continued to perform as a concert pianist. As a strong advocate of racial equality, she refused to perform in segregated theaters as an actress or segregated music halls as a concert jazz pianist. She frequently used her fame as an opportunity to speak out against racial discrimination in hiring and pay as well as to campaign vigorously against segregation in all institutions. In the next decade, she made history as the first black woman to host her own television show. Unfortunately for her, by 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Republican Party had managed to convince many Americans that the cause of racial equality was tied to communism. Therefore in 1950, she was falsely accused of being a communist sympathizer which led to her television show being canceled. She was shocked and outraged by this development, and therefore left the United States for five years. Then in 1960, she returned to America and was able to resume her television and musical career both of which lasted until her death on October 2, 1981. She died in New York City. (Balfour in MICROSOFT ENCARTA, Reference Library 1993-2003).
While Cab Calloway and Hazel Scott used jazz music to attack racism, not all of the Parkway Homes/ Parkway Gardens residents were musically inclined, those that weren’t had to use other talents as weapons in their war on racism. Moms Mabley used her incredible sense of humor.
Moms Mabley (1894–1975):
As previously stated in our article, “Greenburgh &The Arts”, Moms Mabley was a famous African American comedian. Her real name is Loretta Mary Aiken. She was born in Brevard, North Carolina. Her father was a firefighter; he died in the line of duty when she was eleven. She began her career as a comedian with the African-American Vaudeville Circuit at the age of fourteen. In the 1920s, she became a regular performer at Harlem’s Cotton Club. She used her standup comedy routines as a way to reveal and undermine the systemic racism that existed all over the United States at that time. Her subtle yet hilarious routines resonated with African Americans throughout the country. Her most successful comedy albums include: The Funniest Woman Alive, Moms Mabley at the Playboy Club, and Moms Mabley at the UN. In addition to her primary career as a comedian, she also was an actress. She performed in the Broadway show Fast and Furious: A Colored Revue in 37 Scenes (1931). Her acting career was so successful that she performed at The Apollo Theater more than any other performer in the 1930’s. She also acted in all of the following movies: The Big Timers (1945), Boarding House Blues (1948), and the musical revue Killer Diller (1948) Sometime in the 1950s, Mabley moved to the Town of Greenburgh where she stayed until her death in 1975(http://www.greenburghny.com/Cit-e-Access/news/index.cfm?NID=47278&TID=10&jump2=0) Like Cab Calloway, she is also buried in Ferncliff Cemetery.
A social wrong like racism can never be righted unless its horrors are made accessible to all parts of the population. While comedy and music are both powerful forms of art and therefore powerful agents for change, the music of Cab Calloway or Hazel Scott and the comedy of Moms Mabley would never be able to make racism’s horrors accessible to the deaf, in 1930-1957, only photography could do that. Therefore, New York was very lucky to have an extremely talented photographer in Parkway Homes/ Parkway Gardens. His name was Gordon Parks.
Gordon Parks (1912–2006)
Gordon Parks was a highly successful African American photographer. He was born in Fort Scott, Kansas on November 30th 1912 (https://www.biography.com/artist/gordon-parks). In 1925, at the age of fifteen, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota (Grundlberg in MICROSOFT ENCARTA, Reference Library 1993-2003).He supported himself with a wide variety of jobs including: bellhop, waiter, and piano player.
He continued shifting from job to job until 1937 when he bought a camera and taught himself photography. While he began taking photos in 1937, it wasn’t until 1943 that he got his first job as a professional photographer. During World War II, the Office of War Information hired him to take photos of fighter pilots in training. After the war ended he put his experience to good use and was hired as a photographer by Life Magazine, becoming the first African-American they ever hired. He worked there from 1948 to 1971.
He is best known for his photograph American Gothic, depicting an African American cleaning woman holding a mop and standing in front of an American flag, and his numerous photos of Malcom X. While he is primarily known as a photographer he was also, a movie director, he directed Shaft (1971) and a choreographer. He choreographed the 1989 ballet based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr, called Martin (Grundlberg in MICROSOFT ENCARTA, Reference Library 1993-2003). He died on March 7th 2006(https://www.biography.com/artist/gordon-parks).
Bill Greenawalt is a long time resident of Hartsdale. He was elected as a New York State Democratic Committeman. He was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and served as Northeast Regional Legal Services Director for the Office of Economic Opportunity, setting up 75 programs of legal services for the poor in 8 states and in Puerto Rico. He was involved in the struggle for civil rights. This is his recollection –his participation in the March on Washington.
SERMON ON THE 1963 MARCH ON WASHINGTON AND DR. KING’S “DREAM” LEGACY
DELIVERED BY BILL GREENAWALT, JANUARY 12, 2020 AT THE
SCARSDALE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH (UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST)
“With Liberty and Justice for All”
1963 was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. A major theme of the August 28, 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was that its promises of emancipation and equality, and those promises in the post-Civil War Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, remained unfulfilled. This March was the Twentieth Century’s pivotal event in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality.
It had been preceded in the 1950s and 1960s by memorable incidents, some violent: Rosa Parks sitting in the “white” section of a bus, the Montgomery bus boycott, black students entering Little Rock public schools protected by National Guard bayonets, sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, the killing of Medgar Evers, lynchings and the use of fire hoses and police dogs, church bombings, and the first community-wide non-violent direct action campaign in Birmingham.
John Kennedy’s election in 1960 brought new hope and purpose to the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The Peace Corps was established in 1961. But in 1963 progressive legislation for civil, economic and voting rights had stalled in the administration and in Congress.
The March brought together in unity the “Big Six” largest civil rights organizations: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with Roy Wilkins, Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with John Lewis, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Negro American Labor Council with A. Philip Randolph, who conceived the March, and Bayard Rustin, who planned it, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) with James Farmer, and National Urban League with Whitney Young. The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) with Walter Reuther were also prominent participants, as were clergy from the three major faiths in America, many of whom had been on previous marches.
The March was organized as a non-violent peaceful protest. I was determined to participate in it.
My alarm rang at about 5:00 a.m. I shaved, dressed in my blue suit, walked from my Cobble Hill, Brooklyn apartment to Borough Hall, and caught a subway to Pennsylvania Station. There I boarded a special March train bound for Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
On the long train ride, I was fortified by juice, coffee and a doughnut, and by my March-bound fellow passengers. Activist participants in the March came from every part of America. Most came by bus, some for seven days from the West Coast! Overall, 2,200 chartered buses and 40 special trains were used. Forty-Thousand people came from the New York City area, in 600 chartered buses and 16 special trains. Many participants flew or drove. Some even walked from Brooklyn!
In D.C., special shuttle buses took us from our trains to the Washington Monument, where the Protest March began. After ceremonies there and a mile walk, it ended at the Lincoln Memorial, where for over three hours speeches and songs were delivered. It was a Sunday, and the day was warm and sunny. Over 250,000 people – black and white, young and old – filled the top, bottom and both sides of the Reflecting Pool in the National Mall. I stood in a crowd on the left side of the Reflecting Pool, near its top. We faced the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument at our backs. It was and remains the largest civil rights and human rights demonstration in United States history, and its most famous and spectacular example of non-violent mass direct action, in favor of full civil, political and economic rights for African-Americans. It helped create a new, fuller national understanding of the problems of racial and economic discrimination and injustice. The March was Americans exercising in unprecedented numbers the right of all Americans “peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” One writer said she “had seen blacks and whites together, but never like this.” I assembled photographs of the March for viewing.
Each of the civil rights leaders spoke, with singing between, including Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over,” Odetta’s “I’m On My Way;” Joan Baez’s “All My Trials, Lord,” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” and “If I Had A Hammer.” Lena Horne, Bobby Darrin and Bob Dylan also sang.
The great contralto Marian Anderson sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” A thrill went through me, because from those same Lincoln Memorial Steps on Easter 1939, after she was refused permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing in Constitution Hall, with Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR backing her, she had sung “My Country Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty,” which we just sang.
Everyone was moved by Joan Baez’s singing the old Baptist hymn “We Shall Overcome.” We joined hands with our neighbors, sang along, and swayed left and right with the music:
We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome, some day
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.
We’ll walk hand in hand …
We are not afraid ….
The truth shall make us free …
The March was a miracle. That day, after the March, its leaders met with President Kennedy and Congressional leaders, pressuring them for a strong Civil Rights bill. The March confirmed the link between civil rights and economic rights, and gave rise to the economic programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The March, and John Kennedy’s assassination three months later, broke the legislative stalemate and increased momentum for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Lyndon Johnson which banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, outlawed segregation in public places, including transportation, restaurants, theaters, and other interstate facilities, and protected school desegregation. The Act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed, eliminating barriers to black voting.
The March had other important effects. It increased popular support, particularly among whites, for what was called “a civil rights revolution that transformed America’s law and politics.” Its message of concern for all was carried over into immigration reform, Head Start, the War on Poverty, Johnson’s Great Society, and Medicare and Medicaid. It sustained and strengthened those who continued to work for social justice. It inspired a broad spectrum of Americans. And the March made bigotry no longer respectable, and curbed abuses in speech and action.
What impact did the March have on my life? Two years later, in 1965, I left my noted New York City law firm to work in the Anti-Poverty program. I became Northeast Regional Legal Services Director for the Office of Economic Opportunity. I traveled constantly, working around the clock, in the eight states from Maine through New Jersey, and in Puerto Rico, meeting with Community Action agencies, lawyers, activists, and the poor, and set up 75 programs of legal services for the poor, some statewide and island-wide, one encompassing all five boroughs of New York City, all with poor and their representatives on every Board of Directors for the first time. That was one-third of all legal services programs in the country, and I was told I could not set up any more until other parts of America got more programs. Westchester’s program – one of the best – has expanded into Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.
Among the later setbacks and tragedies were the assassinations of President John Kennedy in 1963, of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, and of Robert Kennedy later in 1968, and the killing of three civil rights workers Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner in 1964
Under Barack Obama, America enjoyed a spirit of tolerance, unity and purpose. Those gains are now threatened by gerrymandering, voter suppression, rallies and tweets featuring name-calling and reputation assassination, discriminatory and divisive acts, backward-looking policies, isolationism, white nationalism, blind obedience to harmful and poor leadership, and denials of truth at the highest levels in our land.
How different from the non-violence and “soul force” urged by Dr. King, and by Ghandi and Mandela in India and South Africa. When the cause is just, peaceful protest in the face of violence stirs the heart and conscience, builds popular support for the cause, and often causes authority to give way.
I turn now to the historic “I Have A Dream” speech of Dr. King, which stunned and inspired us, and millions watching on TV, on that day 57 years ago.
…[T]he Emancipation Proclamation… . is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. One hundred years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination….
[T]he architects of our republic … were signing a promissory note …that all men --, yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…. [But] America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned….
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice….
1963 is not an end, but a beginning….
I must say to my people… Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…. [We] must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force…. [We] must not [be led] to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone….
[We] will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
At this point Mahalia Jackson shouted “Tell them about the Dream, Martin.” And he did.
… [E]ven though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up [and] live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, 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 … I have a dream that one day … in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today … I have a dream -- that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope…. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York…. [F]rom every mountainside. Let freedom ring….
When we allow freedom to ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city -- we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”
With 250,000 fellow Americans, I stood in awe of this prophetic oration.
As was said in the Invocation today, “we still have the courage to dream the impossible,” and we will not settle short of true dignity, worth, justice and equality for all. With Isaiah we are called to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” and our country. And as set forth in Galatians, we will not rest until there is “no longer slave or free, no longer male and female,” for all of us “are one in Christ Jesus” or whoever or whatever your deity may be. Let us go forth from this place rededicated to live, pray and work for the Dream to become reality. Each time we pledge allegiance we honor America as a nation “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Let us bind up our nation’s wounds, live out the meaning of this creed, and strive for all America’s citizens, and its immigrants, to have a rebirth of freedom, and true equality and opportunity.
Only then will we all be free.
William S. Greenawalt ©
January 12, 2020