By: Gerri Graves

Word on the Street Issue 44, June 2024

. . .

A small forward on these……I didn’t pick mainstream quotes, I picked quotes that meant something to me over the years. I also chose quotes from a large representation….meaning, not just civil rights leaders. I wanted to show what makes America…… America, is in thanks in a large part, to black influences. Our music, theatre, politics, writing, science, sports……you name it, and they had a part in making it happen.

We need more representation in our scholarly lessons in youth. Not just an obscure, optional course relegated to a specialty category. The history of ALL of us, as Americans.

“The idea of freedom is inspiring. But what does that mean? If you are free in the political sense, but have no food, what’s that? The freedom to starve?” — Angela Davis

“Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.” ― Shirley Chisholm

“I learned that racism, like most systems of oppression, isn’t about bad people doing terrible things to people who are different from them but instead is a way of maintaining power for certain groups at the expense of others.” ― Alicia Garza

“It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”- James Baldwin

“People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” -Nelson Mandela

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” -Maya Angelou

“I knew that if I waited for permission, I’d never receive my turn.” -Shirley Chisholm

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles he has had to overcome while trying to succeed .”- Booker T. Washington

“Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” – John Lewis

“No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” -George Washington Carver

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” – Toni Morrison

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” -Toni Morrison

“Nobody should be hitting the lotto for 36 million dollars, when we got people starving in the streets. That is just stupid. There’s no way Michael Jackson, or whoever should have thousands, millions, billions of dollars and we got people broke with two-three jobs and still can’t pay bills on time. There’s no way! No way these people should have planes when people don’t have houses, apartments, shacks, drawers…..pants!” -Tupac Shakur

“In recognizing the humanity in our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” -Thurgood Marshall

“There is no such thing as a black problem. There is no such thing as a white problem. There is only a human problem.” -Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

“There is only so much hurt, disappointment and oppression one can take…….the line between reason and madness grows thinner” -Rosa Parks

“I think that the artists that don’t get involved in preaching messages probably are happier- but you see, I have to live with Nina, and that is very difficult.” -Nina Simone

“You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.” -Billie Holiday

“Our humanity is served back to us through the eyes of those who have diminished us. And they serve back to us a view of ourselves that is incomplete. If we don’t look to the bigger picture, our view will narrow to that which is constantly fed to us.” -Sidney Poitier

“You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

“I don’t find inspiration on Wall Street. I don’t find that in Beverly Hills. I don’t find that in places where opportunity resides unbridled, and I think the real creative energy and the real juice is in where people are caught, in the economic abyss.” -Harry Belafonte

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali

“Virtue knows no color line, and the chivalry which depends upon complexion of skin and texture of hair can command no honest respect.” -Ida B. Wells

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.” – Malcolm X

“The negro has been here in America since 1619, a total of 344 years. He is not going anywhere else, this country is his home. He wants to do his part to help make this city, state, and nation a better place for everyone, regardless of color or race.” – Medgar Evers

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker

“We don’t know: some little black boy or girl growing up in the inner city might grow up and cure cancer for all of us – if we let them do it.” – Alex Haley

“I think when you begin to think of yourself as having achieved something, then there’s nothing left for you to work towards. I want to believe that there is a mountain so high that I will spend my entire life striving to reach the top of it.” – Cicely Tyson

And……MLK. I read where someone described him as a ‘wordsmith’, and wow, was he. Everything this man said is brilliant. I whittled it down to a couple…..but truly, it was soooo hard.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” – Martin Luther King Jr.