So, the times remain interesting. The quality of Mike’s life just diminished slightly. The Atlanta newspaper has canceled one of the only three comic strips that he bothers to look at, Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller. Mr. Miller claimed that something slipped through and went on to his publisher that he intended to white out of his Sunday cartoon. He had written something so small that Mike had to use a magnifying glass to find it when he heard about the incident. What he found was a rude statement about what the President of the United States could do. While the sentiment no doubt is shared by many, the vulgarity of it was considered by the newspaper’s managing editor to be unacceptable. The response was to cancel him forever, a death sentence. Many other newspapers have taken similar action. I get, but it was still worth a chuckle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wiley doesn’t take advantage of the notoriety to further his career in some other way. Would that be a non sequitur to his strip being canceled? Probably not. By the way, the only other strips that Mike looks at are Overboard and Rhymes with Orange. For Mike, the comics page just got 33% less enjoyable. Oh well, life goes on.
Or does it? Mike saw in the paper this week that there are rabid foxes at Georgia Tech, within the shadows of downtown Atlanta. Really!!?? Yes, really. Students have been bitten, and are undergoing post-exposure vaccination. This is way too close to where we live. I don’t know what would stop it from spreading up this way other than vigorous animal control measures. I am always watchful, but I will now be ever warier of oddly-behaving four-leggeds.
I saw a large flock of Canada geese fly overhead yesterday afternoon. They formed a near-perfect “V”, and smack in the middle of the formation was a single goose. I have heard of dotted i’s and dotted j’s, but never a dotted v. The call of the geese evokes a powerful sense of spiritual awareness within me. I don’t know why, but it is deep. The birds themselves, while aesthetically beautiful, are mostly bad-tempered, and you had better watch where you step if there is a nearby flock. They have made some lovely parks unusable (for people).
Mike and Judy get a publication called “Cat Watch”, published and distributed by the Feline Health Center of the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. The March issue carried a story about Mr. Normer Adams, a retired social worker in the metro Atlanta area who climbs trees to rescue cats. He does it for free, and has over 100 cat rescues to his name. You can Google him and watch a video of him doing his thing. And he doesn’t charge for his service. I guess he just likes cats and likes to climb trees. Mr. Adams was also written up in the local newspaper. I am told that my grandfather, Black Jack, once shot up a pecan tree to get away from a stray dog who wanted to have him for lunch. Once up in the tree he was like a lot of other cats……afraid to climb back down. Cora called the fire department who came, put up a ladder, and got him down. Grandfather showed his gratitude by scratching the fireman’s face. You can read all about it in his story, the “Autobiography of a Georgia Cat.”
It is almost the end of February, and as a little black cat I would be remiss if I didn’t say something to acknowledge Black History Month.
There are people who question whether there should be a black history month. After all there is no white history month, or Irish history month, or Jewish history month. The idea, I think, is that not that long ago there was very little taught in American schools about people of color in America. Mike says he learned something about slavery (it existed and it was bad), that Lincoln freed the slaves, and he learned something about George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. Oh, and Crispus Attucks and the Boston massacre. That’s about it. Black people (and cats) have a history of great accomplishment that they have a right to be proud of. And the more we know about our collective past the better we understand ourselves and each other. So let’s tell some of the story.
Mike once met a fellow who was a professor at Morehouse University. Morehouse is one of the top historically black universities in the country and is right here in Atlanta. It is not far, in fact, from where they have discovered the rabid foxes. Anyway, this fellow loaned Mike an autobiography of Benjamin Mays. Mike had never heard of him. Dr. Mays was a giant in the pre-civil rights era and his effort laid the groundwork for what came to pass. He was born in 1894 in South Carolina and had great ambition to be educated. He was advised to go to school at Bates College in Maine where he graduated in 1920 as a Phi Beta Kappa. He was able to get a much better education at Bates than he would have anywhere in the south where he would’ve been confined to black only universities that struggled with maintaining a good faculty, libraries and other facilities because of lack of financial support. He earned a Masters degree at the University of Chicago in 1925 and pursued his PhD which he got from University of Chicago in religion in 1935. Somewhere along the way he became an ordained Baptist minister. He had various leadership roles as an educator and minister and became chair of the religion department at Howard University the year before he earned his PhD. In 1940 he accepted the presidency of Morehouse University, a position he held until 1967.
At Morehouse he had the opportunity to elevate the school to a great institution of higher learning. This involved establishing financial stability and setting the highest standards of accomplishment. Dr. Mays used to say “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” He believed in the dignity of all people and assailed the incompatibility of American democratic ideals with American social practices. He once traveled to India where he met with Mahatma Gandhi and discussed nonviolence and civil resistance. Dr. Mays had an iron will and was extremely persistent. He realized the importance of equal access of black people to education, transportation, public facilities, and the vote. He lived in an era where black people were not allowed to book passage on Pullman railroad cars. Whenever he had to travel to another city he never failed to attempt to buy a Pullman ticket. He wouldn’t let it go. He served as mentor to the leaders of the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King was a Morehouse student where Dr. Mays was his mentor. They became very close while King was a student, and afterwards, when Dr. King was leading the civil rights movement. Dr. Mays gave the benediction in 1963 at the March on Washington after the epic “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King. They made an agreement with each other that whoever survived the other would deliver the eulogy at the funeral. His speech came to be known as the “No Man is Ahead of His Time” speech, and was very well received. He said, in part,
” If a prophet is one who interprets in clear and intelligible language the will of God, Martin Luther King Junior fits that designation. If a prophet is one who does not seek popular causes to espouse, but rather the causes he thinks are right, Martin Luther King qualified on that score. No! He was not ahead of his time. No man is ahead of his time. Every man is within his star, each in his time. Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else’s time. Jesus had to respond to the call of God in the first century A.D. and not in the 20th century. He had but one life to live. He couldn’t wait.”
He was also known to say
“Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive, and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.”
Dr. Mays was deeply involved in the integration of public education. He was determined to see to it that the University of Georgia in Athens became integrated. At Morehouse he had access to some of the most accomplished and brilliant African-American students, and he identified Hamilton Holmes as the person that he thought had the intellect, determination, and strength of character to endure the difficulties that he would experience as the first black student at the University of Georgia. Hamilton Holmes graduated from Turner high school, a segregated school in Atlanta in 1959, and matriculated at Morehouse. Along with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a classmate of his at Turner, he began applying to the University of Georgia. For two years his application was denied for bogus administrative reasons. Finally after a successful lawsuit, he was admitted along with Ms. Hunter-Gault in 1961. It wasn’t pretty. At times they feared for their lives, and for a few days early on they had to leave Athens. However they persevered and both graduated with honors. Dr. Holmes went on to be the first African-American Emory University medical student, and had a distinguished career as a surgeon in Atlanta. He died in 1995. Ms. Hunter-Gault has had a distinguished career as a journalist and spent many years living in South Africa.
In 1970 at age 75, three years after he gave up the Morehouse presidency, he became the chairman of the Atlanta school board. Because of his administrative skill, determination, and the power of his personality, he was able to bring about a highly successful integration of the school system. Dr. Mays wrote over a thousand articles and nine books, and received numerous honors from major institutions including 56 honorary degrees. He wrote two autobiographies, “Born to Rebel” in 1971 and “Lord, the People Have Driven Me on” in 1981. Dr. Mays died in 1984. He absolutely accomplished many unique and distinctive things and had he not done them they never would have been done. We would be living in a diminished world if he had failed. Nevertheless, after 35 years there’s a whole generation of people coming up who may never have heard of him as Mike had not as he was growing up. People need to know this history and need to be inspired by heroes. Mike talks a lot about heroes and I’m sure in the future I will be sharing a lot of my thoughts about heroes as well. We certainly need them in the world.
Well, that’s all for now. There is more news to come, I have no doubt, as Happy Meadows is a happenin’ place, and the world around it hasn’t slowed down either. Bye, y’all!