Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Penguins

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Today most Americans are observing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It is also Penguin Awareness Day and at first glance there seems to be no connection. There is a through line between the justice Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed his life to achieve and the existential threat facing penguins. Allow me to make my case.

I have a new travel guide for creating your own civil rights crawl in Alabama. It explains how Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher’s son from Atlanta. He married Coretta Scott, who was from Marion, Alabama and he was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery when he became politically active. You can visit the church parsonage and learn more about his early adult life. You can see the bomb damage on the porch from an explosive (no one was injured, thankfully).

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2a7cYou can also travel to the the Safe House Museum in Greensboro, Alabama and learn about an incident when the black community members kept Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hidden while the Klu Klux Klan terrorized their neighborhood looking for King. This was just a few months before he was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee. At this time in his career King was preaching about the need to address poverty and structural economic inequity. Just as old testament prophets were not popular, King and his message were unpopular. He was asking people to look beyond the gross injustice of sheriff’s with dogs and fire hoses to see the injustice we are all complicit with everyday in our economic interactions, which are shaped by our laws and regulations–all within our power to change.

The “march continues” as long as we continue to ignore the ways in which we externalize the real cost of our choices. There is a terrific interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Bryan Stevenson about the Legacy Museum. You can listen to it as a podcast or on the website (1/20/2020). The Legacy Museum, featured in the travel guide, helps visitors to interact with the horrific human rights violations that happened during slavery, afterward as Jim Crow laws were solidified, and then with mass  Alabama is celebrating Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee Day today, so there is still a dialogue needed.

“Until we reckon with history we are not going to get free. I actually think we need an era of truth and justice in this country; we need to have truth and reconciliation; we need to have truth and restoration. And it’s not because I want to punish America that I want to talk about these things. I actually want us to be liberated. I want to get to a better place. I think there’s something better that’s waiting for us that we can’t get to until we have the courage to talk honestly about our past.” Bryan Stevenson, Fresh Air, 1/20/20 (around 28:00)

The climate crisis is similar in that we externalize the real cost of our choices. Someone else, usually someone poorer than me, pays the price for my lifestyle. I drove to pick up my mail today and the fossil fuel in my gas tank contributed to the global warming that is increasing the intensity of fires in Australia, warming the ocean and making it more difficult for penguins to find food. I have a bumper sticker that says I love Penguins, and I have done so little to curb my own greenhouse gas emissions.

And yet penguins continue to make us smile and to live their quietly heroic lives.

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Whatever you may have heard of the The Green New Deal, it is rightly linking the need for  a whole sale change in how we power our economy and social justice. I hope we have the vision in 2020 to elect new leaders and write new policies that give us and penguins a shot at a livable future.

Just Mercy Delivers a Gut Punch

 

As the film opened in 1987 on a rural highway in Alabama, I began to sweat as I realized that I wasn’t prepared for the suspense involved in watching Just Mercy. The film tells the start of real-life Bryan Stevenson’s career as he discovers his calling to work on systemic injustice in Alabama. This movie focuses on his first cases and Jamie Foxx stars as Walter McMillan, one of his early clients who was falsely accused of murder and awaiting a death sentence.

CivilRightsCrawl_COVER-ThumbHow do you make a legal case dramatic? Pick relevant topics: unequal judicial systems largely because of race and poverty, the importance of truth and the rule of law. Then tell the story in a way that we can root for the characters played by an excellent cast. Michael B. Jordan produced the film and plays the founding attorney of Equal Justice Initiative with such stoicism and self-control.

For Stevenson is a man to be admired and his work, not just in working with people wrongly accused, but also in working for systemic change in the judicial system for children tried as adults and given life sentences or death penalties, makes him heroic. Add to this writing a powerful book, Just Mercy, and then creating the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery. This was the draw for my Civil Rights Crawl and inspired me to write my travel guide. Thank you Mr. Stevenson.

There are many tough moments to watch in the film. I squirmed at various points, and dove under my sweater as it became clear that we may see an electrocution on death row. I don’t know what was finally shown because I had my eyes shut tight. It was intended to be horrifying and succeeded.

There were many stories in the book that could have been the focus of the film. It is interesting that the screenwriter chose to focus on Mr. McMillan’s story as it is set in Monroeville, Alabama, the home of Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird). At one point a cheerful denizen of Monroeville asks Stevenson if he’s been to the Mockingbird Museum in the old courthouse. “You can see where Atticus Finch stood.” At this point the irony is hip deep.

The Equal Justice Initiative’s work is ongoing. Stay till the end so you can see the “where are they now” facts as the credits role. The corrupt sheriff featured in the McMillan case was re-elected six more times before retiring in 2019.

This is one of a series of occasional reviews of resources you may want to check out before visiting Alabama for your Civil Rights Crawl. Not everyone finds reading pleasurable, so it is good to be able to watch this 2 hour and 16 minute film. It is rated PG-13 and would be suitable to watch with groups of people 13 and over with discussion afterward.

Alabama Civil Rights Travel Guidebook Available Now!

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Paperback available on Amazon or wholesale from Ingram Spark

With a great deal of nervous excitement I am pressing the “go” button to launch my first for-sale travel guide. I know I am more anxious than I realized because I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I should launch given that we may soon be at war with Iran. Just another example of how thoughts in the middle of the night should be re-examined in the morning.

This is a personal milestone on several levels. I’ve been writing this blog (and other blogs since 2011. I wrote a mystery with National Novel Writing Month in 2011, but decided it wasn’t ready for public sharing. I kept writing and searching for my voice. I am continuing this quest, and I’m ready to share my first travel guide. Other than academic writing I did about 30 years ago, this is my first published book!

I am writing under the pen name of J.A. Pieper in part to set my blog and travel writing apart from my work as a consultant. Also, I am using Pieper because it honors the little girl and avid reader who wanted to be a fiction writer or a journalist someday. I had a thin skin so when I received lots more encouragement from my art teachers than my english teachers, I moved toward the visual arts. Today my skin is thicker, although not as tough as an elephant hide, so I am willing to risk more.

I don’t suffer any delusions about publishing. I am not quitting my day job (besides it is very fulfilling). Just as I love creating visual art, I love the process of exploring a place, blogging about it, then writing a guidebook, asking a colleague to edit (thanks Jane), then figuring out the design with a colleague (thanks Rebekah), then working through the publishing decisions with another colleague (thanks LK). And then collaborating with my daughter Sarah on the launch. It is really lovely to work with such positive people.

I am still on a learning curve. I have more to learn about the promotional side of bookselling. I want people to go on this civil rights adventure, so I want to get the word out.  Let me know if you have ideas on this score.

There is a press kit on the On Your Radar Media Co. website.

Books are available on Amazon or if you a wholesaler at Ingram Spark.

E-books are available on several platforms: Bookshout.com and Kobo.com.

Go while the history is living!

 

 

 

Cool Stop on California’s Highway 101

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Just off Highway 101 between Castroville and Marina, California

If you are traveling on Highway 101 through the Monterey area and want a taste of the Central Coast, Pezzini’s is a great place to stop. It is easy to reach from the highway and return on your journey. This market offers ready made artichoke and other local produce treats.

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On the day I stopped there was also a food truck offering hot food.

You can also step out into the fields surrounding Pezzini’s to get a closer look at how artichokes and brussel sprouts grow.

On this day I bought an artichoke cupcake. I’m happy to report that it was very yummy!

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Artichoke cupcake, yum, yum, yum.

Pezzini’s offers a unique tasting and shopping experience. I’m going to add it to my things to do when I go to the Monterey Peninsula with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Gianni’s Pizza.

Get on Board with Stagecoach

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4365 Florin Road, Sacramento, CA 95823; opens at 7 a.m.

There are always landmark restaurants in every town that locals know well, but people visiting might never hear about. And then when a town gets big enough, there are landmarks that people outside of that neighborhood may not be aware of its existence. Such is Stagecoach Restaurant in South Sacramento. My friends who grew up in the neighborhood couldn’t believe I’d never tried it, so we all met up for breakfast on a Tuesday morning.

As you can see by the exterior A-frame, it has been on the Florin Road for a long time. The interior is just as iconic as the exterior. We were in the room in the back with the regular men’s bible study group. The service was very good.

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The ham, eggs, and potatoes were super generous and included a biscuit too.

The portions are generous–enough to make two meals. All of us struggled to make a dent in our plates. The menu has soul food and other hard-to-find breakfast items. My friend Nailah ordered the catfish and loved it.

I enjoyed the Stagecoach and understand why it has stayed open and enjoyed a loyal following.

Life Hack: Travel Like a Pro

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How not to pack!

On a recent NPR Life Kit podcast the hosts distilled the travel advice of professionals for packing and planning a trip down to seven rules. Some of the advice may seem a bit extreme if you are going from say, New Jersey to Orlando for a Disney vacation. Even so,  if you are traveling with a family of four and everyone brings two bags, watch out! You never need as much stuff as you think. A more realistic approach will free you up to enjoy your travel more.

There is a some entertaining stuff including the pro, Doug, who takes a MacGyver approach to packing. His packing essentials include a scarf that can be used as a sunscreen, hairband, hat, napkin, towel, blanket, pillow, dust mask, and more.  Listen to hear the number of ways you can use dental floss! The point is give preference to things that serve multiple purposes.

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You never know how far you are going to have to walk with your luggage, so travel lighter than you think you can. Can you launder along the way? Bring only things that can be worn multiple times. And leave room for that special merino t-shirt.

I learned to travel for three weeks on an international educational trip to four countries with one carry on bag. By the end of the trip I had some clothes I was happy to leave behind in Cuba, but it allowed our large group flexibility and speed we’d never had without luggage restrictions. Once I had accomplished this, there was little point in over-packing ever again. I sometimes overdo it when I take local trips in my car. So thank the airlines for their extra charges, as it incentivize you to watch YouTube videos on rolling your clothes or using packing cubes. and leaving that extra bag behind.

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My battle tested AWAY carry-on size bag works great now that I’ve stopped using the battery. After having the airlines inconsistently apply rules about whether I can take the battery on the plane or check it, it is just easier to leave it at home. 

Plus in most places you can pick up supplies along the way, also providing opportunities to explore markets and find new products. I have discovered better throat lozenges, tampons, honey, man-size tissue, and many other products by shopping local. One trip with my friend Cameon (before 9/11), we arrived at the gate with a carryon and HUGE shopping bags full of Donegal sweaters and Waterford crystal. We were ridiculously overloaded and we smiled our way on board. We couldn’t get away with this today.

People who travel with me know that I commonly underestimate how long it will take to travel distances. I’m never able to do as much as I hope. The pros advise to focus on one main event each day and then fill in as you have time. I prefer to travel alone or in small groups so there is time to stop for another flat white. Everyone appreciates a little breathing space in the itinerary.

What have you learned along the way? What tips in the podcast do you want to try?