Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; African Americans and the American Dream
They thank you and thank you all for coming. It's an honor to be here tonight. I would just like to say a few words about the Fetzer Institute and the deepening the American Dream series. But first I want to express our gratitude to the good people of the Cambridge forum for the good work that you do. Let me just describe the Institute and the work that brings us here. As Pat was saying the Fetzer Institute is a private operating foundation that supports research education and service programs exploring the integral relationships among body mind and spirit inspired by the vision of John Fetzer the institute's guiding purpose is to awaken into and serve spirit for the transformation of self and society based on the principles of wholeness of reality freedom of spirit and unconditional love. Let me also say just a few words about the deepening the American dream project in 1999 the project was created by Rob Lehmann our president and the current chair of our board
in an attempt to sow the seeds of a national conversation about the inner life of democracy and about the nature of our society as a community in relationship with the rest of the world. We are still learning how to enliven these ideas. Fetzer has been sponsoring a number of public forums across the country such as this. We have also supported colleges around the country to host community conversations centered on the issues raised by the essays and teachers around the country are using the essays in their classrooms to spark a different kind of conversation about what America is and what it means to our young people through the essays the conversations leading to the essays in public forums such as this. We have been learning a great deal about the intrinsic nature of who we are as a people are speaker tonight helps us live further into that question and we are grateful for his presence with us this evening. So thank you again for joining us and thank you Judy rich Richardson our moderator
who will now introduce our featured guest. Welcome to Cambridge forum discussing is America possible with theologian Dr. Vincent Harding. I'm Judy Richardson a documentary film producer and longtime friend of Dr. Harding since our work on eyes on the prize. What is the American dream at the beginning of the 21st century. Our speaker internationally renowned theologian Dr. Vincent Harding argues that the American dream has never been fully realized particularly for the nation's African-American citizens. He asked that the marginalized especially African-Americans and young people claim the vision of a just and democratic America and were to fulfill it that they undertake a journey of hope and a new essay written for the Fetzer Institute as part of their project to deepen the American dream through a thoughtful national conversation about American ideals. Vincent Harding is professor emeritus
and trustee at the eyelift School of Theology in Denver Colorado where he served as professor of religion and social transformation for almost a quarter century. A personal friend and co-worker of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Dr. Harding served as director of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in Atlanta. Chairman of the nationally televised CBS TV Black Heritage Series and a senior academic adviser to the PBS series eyes on the Prize America's Civil Rights Years. In 1997 he and his wife Rosemarie founded the veterans of Hope project to gather the stories of women and men who had worked through the decades to create a more just and compassionate world work he and his children have continued since Rosemary's death. Dr. Harding is also an alumnus of Cambridge forum. He spoke here a decade ago about his book Martin Luther King an inconvenient hero. Please welcome back to Cambridge
forum. Dr. Vincent Harding as we explore the question is America possible. Thank you my friends for being here tonight. Even though you probably don't know what you're here for. Most of you when you see a building like this and see a name attached to it you've shown that you've come here to listen. Over the last 15 or 20 years. I've been internally and externally pushed to ask the question can we do better than that. Is that what it means to be human
to sit around listening to what other people tell us. Is that what it means to be a democratic citizen to listen to what other people say. As a matter of fact I was mentioning to my friend the director of the forum that as I think of the tremendous resources that there are in this community. I would like. To commission somebody to begin a conversation about
what is democratic space. Because obviously this isn't it. You folks look like you are locked up and really can't get out. And and in a way that's understandable because the churches of the Western world were never meant to be democratic spaces from their beginnings with the rare exceptions. But now I am being pressed on this matter of if we are to really explore what it means to build a democratic society and not just brag about one that we think we have. But if we are to
build a more perfect union then what are the kinds of spaces in which we should meet each other. In order to benefit most fully from each other in that search that is ultimately a communal search. And not a search announced by someone from on high. What would MIT come up with if we asked them to develop. A series of ideas about how you build for democratic conversation in schools and churches and community centers maybe even in homes. How do you develop.
The space that's needed now. All of that was inspired by seeing your straightjackets here. And that's not the subject of the conversation. Exactly. That I had in mind the beginning but I am convinced that to build a new democracy we must build new buildings as well. We must build new spaces so that we can practice democratic conversation. But for me I can't even begin to get into democratic conversation without music. And I am convinced that
there can be no real democracy where people don't at least listen to music preferably create music and sing music. And I'd like to just start us off tonight by reminding us of what it was like when people were singing their way towards a more perfect union. Would you my friend help us. Be the. B
B B. B B. B B. B. B B B. B
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B and. B. As the session begins. Be sure to say something about that song
and what it meant means might mean to you. As most of you know. As many of you know. I keep having to recalibrate as some of you may know. That came originally from an old African American church. So like many of the songs that moved people towards democracy is not fascinating. What's the connection. Originally it was designed by you know originally what those words were. The old professor can stand and listen and look and see.
Originally it was. I'm on my way to cane and when I'm on my way to Canaan land. If you don't go don't hinder me if you won't go don't hinder me. I asked my mama if she come go with me if she don't go I'm gonna go anyhow. My mind when I asked the question then is America possible. What I am asking comes from out of those souls and a soul like that one song by teenagers
teenagers in Selma Alabama back in the 1960s as a time and a place when teenagers did not think that shopping was their major occupation. And what I'm asking in this document that is the basis of our conversation document that most of you never saw before you came here but you are quick learners you are great American learners. So we're going to have a great conversation based on what I'm going to try to tell you about the document.
What I am asking as I think about those teenagers is whether or not it's possible to create a new version yet of that song. And being an old academic Just listen to the substitution. I'm going to make. It's crazy but it makes a certain point. The new version might be I'm on my way to a more perfect union. As I understand it. That was originally meant to
be the essential purpose and direction of every one who at some point or another includes herself for himself among We the People of the United States. Our goal is not better cars better bombs better reputation but a more perfect union. I think that's what those teenagers were meaning back in Selma in 1965. And I'm asking. Is it possible for us to
find a way in the 21st century to continue that determined direction. I'm on my way. There's nothing you can do to turn me around. Is there anything like such a determination as that today. In the creation of a more perfect union. And if not what is the future of democracy in America. This document.
Is written in the form of a letter. A letter I call it to my young companions on the journey of hope. At age 77 I can include almost everybody in that description and those of you who think you don't fit that squeeze yourself in to my young companions. And what I was trying to do in the letter. Is tell my younger friends what have been some of the sources
of my hope for the possibility of America. The background of it came in many ways out of Langston Hughes poetry. The poetry that in many many ways speaks about the possibility of America. Oh Let America Be America Again the land that never has been yet and yet must be. That has gone very deeply in me. And when I ask is America possible.
I hear news I hear his poetry I hear him saying what many of us have said over the years America you've never been America to me. And I hear many people wanting to stop right there with that poignant complaints. But Hughes did not stop there. And the letter is trying to encourage people not to stop there. America you've never been America to me but I swear this oath you will be. I have a group of precious young friends who have
developed a website titled America will be check it out sometime. I think that America will be Dottore and see where they're going. They're all in their twenties now. They have a lot more time than many of us here. But I think it might be fascinating to check out America will be. That's the background of the letter I'm trying now to sense and feel my way as to how much more of the letter I should try to explain to you in order for a real conversation to take place. Let me give you a couple of other introductions to the letter. The letter says to some of my young friends that one of the
ways in which I hope continues to rise in mean is when I choose to revisit some of the places like Selma where people lived out hope and possibility and in some cases gave their lives not for Negro rights or civil rights but ultimately for the creation of a more perfect union. And I tell my young friends that that is important to me to revisit those places and to see again remember again what that struggle was all about. Now in the letter I mention a trip that I took to
Selma back in 2005 with a group of American congresspeople. And a group of South African leaders. And there was a great celebration. Of what had been accomplished there led by John Lewis. The American congressman who almost had his head broken in Selma in 1965. But what was most interesting to me in that visit in 2005 were a group of
South African women who had been deeply involved in the movement against apartheid and for the liberation of their country. And here is what I say about one of those women. As we encountered the hallowed ground of Selma the South African ambassador to the United States opened a fascinating connection when she recalled how often people at home and abroad had asked her to tell them what it was that kept her going through all the harsh demanding and dangerous days of the liberation struggle. Always she said at the heart of the reply were the
words the civil rights movement in America. As you can imagine are friends. I could not let those words from my South African sister pass me by. For she and others were really bearing witness to what I have long known and felt regarding our unique and important role as African-Americans in creating transforming and sharing the American dream. By the way the American dream for me does not mean materialistic success. The American dream for me pushes again and again towards Langston. The land that never has been yet the
land that opens itself to the possibilities of all its people. And so that takes me into a deeper meditation on what my South African sisters were saying about what the movement meant to them as they carrying on their struggle in South Africa. And here is something more from my letter. I knew that what the South African sisters were really saying and signifying to me was that the American dream cannot be fulfilled cannot be deepened until it enters into a creative transformative engagement with the best
dreams of all humankind seeking neither to submerge no overwhelm or stifle other human visions. Indeed only when we hear Hanna orients hard won testimony it is when we are in dialogue that we are most human. Only then do we begin to grasp our best possibilities. So I heard the African sisters encourage us to continue learning how to share the dream of compassionate multi-racial democracy by becoming creative learners instead of overbearing heavily armed tone deaf teachers. My major conviction at this point is that we're
multi-racial democracy is concerned. We are still a developing country and it is so important for us to see ourselves in that way and not as the world experts on democracy. If we can see ourselves as still needing to learn like learn about spaces for democracy to grow and to learn about listening to each other's stories to learn about what kinds of gatherings develop democracy to learn about what is democratic education what is democratic religion what is Democratic economics. If we could begin to see ourselves as
learners and not teachers in this whole realm of democratic citizenship then we might have wonderful opportunities to inquire of each other and inquire of the world to become fuller richer kinds of people. Let me say another word about what I was reflecting on as that Selma visit took place. I am very much remembering John Lewis there at Selma.
Among the people who gathered at Selma that March of 2005 to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Were many many people who had been on that originally Selma to Montgomery march. That opened the way to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that opened the way to a new Southern reality that opened the way to the possibilities of Barack Obama. When John saw some of the people that he had known back there in 1965 he said this to them. President Johnson signed the great voting rights bill in August 1965 but it was you who wrote that
bill right here on the road to Montgomery in March 1965. I mentioned this to my young friends so that they might consider what is the relationship between those who write and pass bills and those who create the situation in which that can be possible. So I've sent messages to my beloved brother Barack same it's wonderful to acknowledge Martin Luther King and the March on Washington and to have your acceptance speech on the anniversary of King's great
speech. But my brother you must also remember Fannie Lou Hamer fourth grade educated Fannie Lou Hamer who broke the way open in the Democratic convention in Atlantic City in 1964 who made it possible for black representation to finally begin to have its full expression in the Democratic convention. So important to remember the Fannie Lou Hamer is and I tried to say to my young people including my brother presidential candidate that if Fannie Lou Hamer
can open so why I adore working with her brothers and sisters all over Mississippi to break that deep deep launch a large door against the participation of black and poor people if that can happen then America might well be possible. Might well be ready for a next stage. What I did not go into in any great detail. In fact I only mentioned it in this letter that was written
originally in 2007 was something that has been growing in me since 2007 and that is that something is trying to be born here in America now. And Barack is only a symbol of it. Something is trying to be born. And I remember Martin in his last days saying again and again America you must be born again. And by that he did not mean any religious cliche. And I remember Stokely saying for racism to die a whole new America must be born.
And what I am trying to say to my young companions is that some of you are going to have to be the midwives you are going to have to be the midwives for this new America that's trying to be born. In my letter I call attention to some midwives that I've found in North Philadelphia young people off the streets of 12th and Lehigh at a Methodist church. They're trying to organize against drugs against guns and for a new America.
I try to tell their story. Magnificent young people. Tough determined young people. What I find is that for us to develop our democratic possibilities it is absolutely necessary for us to share with each other. The good news of other people doing the work that television never covers but that is absolutely necessary for a new society. And so I call attention in the letter to these young people looking like what folks would call hoods. And leading the church to a ministry to their young sisters and brothers in the streets. And because I've got to know them and love them I have to write about them. And so
they are very much a part of this letter to my other younger friends. I want to share one other thing. Two other things with you because I've already spoken more than I wanted to. Just to give you a sense of what this letter to my young companions is about. This has again to do. With the south. And what that movement meant. One of my dearest younger friends is a young woman named Ruby sales.
Anybody here ever hear that name. Ruby sales Oh wonderful. How you hear it. Did you hear it. OK. And Episcopalians can do some good thing right. Oh that's wonderful. I'm very glad to hear that. Ruby before she became an Episcopalian was deeply involved in the southern movement coming out of Tuskegee as a student moving into the summer operation and then drawing and being drawn very closely to one of the Episcopalians who came down from the north to participate in the movement one of the white piskun aliens who came. Jonathan Daniels.
Ruby was drawn close to Jonathan and Jonathan to Ruby so much so that in the course of their work for change near Selma Alabama in a place called Hainey ville. As they went into a store after being in jail for days when to get something to drink in terms of pop or whatever it was called in those days in the south they were met at the door of the store by a community leader of the white community named Tom Coleman. And they were met not only by Tom Coleman but by Tom Coleman and his shotgun. And he called them names. And then turned his shotgun and said
bitch get out of here. And it was clear that he was aiming at Ruby and Jonathan who was standing next to her pushed her aside and took the shotgun into himself and was killed almost immediately. Ruby invited me to come back to Alabama. Forty years after that shooting which so transformed her life and took away Jonathan's life and 40 years after that shooting there was a tremendous celebration in the town honoring the martyrs of the movement led by the Episcopal bishop of the area. And I had the privilege of going there and fascinatingly enough the major celebration was
held in the courtroom in the courtroom where Ruby had been threatened with having her throat cut if she testified against Tom Coleman. But now in 2005 there was a great celebration going on to honor Jonathan and others. A worship service gathered in the same courtroom. It was an extraordinary collection of women men and children across color class and religious lines there we experienced a Communion service that would have warmed Jonathan's heart just as it offered cautious hope and joy to Ruby
and then let me just read this and let this be about as far as I can go at this point with this. What struck me was the extraordinary sense of exorcism that seemed to flood the courtroom on that weekend of remembrance both Ruby and I realize that there was a time a very real and relentless time when this courtroom existed in the terror filled service of a powerful seemingly unconquerable and too long lived American lie this lie proclaimed that we are not all part of one family one substance one profoundly interdependent community of hope. In that time of Rubys first coming and Jonathon's the last. In those days of our nation's
refusal to recognize an acknowledged its own best self. Those who kept the keys to that courtroom laughed their raucous mocking threatening laugh in the face of Jonathon's and Rubys courage to live the truth of their belonging of all our belonging those people who declared their lie to be the only truth of the world said in those earlier days my young friends that they had the power I had always had the power would for ever have the power to enforce the lie to keep it alive to destroy all who dared to live another dream a great truth. They had the guns the money the culture. The political power and all the blasphemous sermons and
unjust laws. But my dear young friends those white powerbrokers had no songs. In the 1960s the songs were alive and Ruby and Jonathan and all of those who sang out in the mass meetings and on the streets and then the jails he won't let nobody turn me around. And this little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine. And black and white together we're going to let it shine. Play one of those for me just so that we can. Lie Lie Lie Lie Lie. Lie Lie Lie
Lie Lie Lie. Lie. Lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie. So on that August weekend in Hailey ville in 2005 we retrace the path of sorrow that Jonathan and Ruby had walked from the prison to the place of his death and heard from much zation to find that the prison no longer existed. Moreover the general store the place of the murder had become an altar of prayer and read the dictation
to a new Alabama. A new America and a new world and the court of the upper room was a multiracial and gathering place of hope where Jonathan and his martyred comrades were honored. Now Ruby stood for so many in that place as she addressed the crowd inviting us all to go through the terror of our past to create a new nation a more perfect union a deeper American dream and the songs remain calling new singers to join the work of our forebears like soldiers in the army of hope. I cannot finish without mentioning what one other experience
that I shared with my young companions in the path of hope. In Denver in 2006 on May Day as in many other communities across the country. Pro immigration forces especially Latino forces especially young people gather together to march. And I was there I couldn't march all the way that they marched. And so I went to the place that they were marching to the state capitol building. And I sat there watching them march and as I sat there.
A fast Anything white man a little bit younger than me came up and sat next to me and he clearly had been involved in work for compassionate change many many years before this and he smiled and he said to me didn't we do all of this 40 years ago. I responded yes fine. And there is no hope for the future of a people's democracy in America. Some of us are ready to do it at least every 40 years. OK he said but my knees were in better shape back then. I smiled and replied That's why we have all these new young knees out here today.
The struggle continues because I believe that I regret that I miss the chance to have more conversation with some of the Nguni folks as they float by as far when I saw repeatedly the T-shirts saying I am not a criminal. I wanted to put my arms around some brown young shoulders and say yes yes you are absolutely right dear nephew and niece you are not a criminal but now tell me who are you. Are you ready to become a leader in the struggle to make America possible to take responsibility for leading our nation beyond its own criminal negligence of the weak of the poor of the young of the outcast. Are you ready to press our country beyond its criminal ignorance of the world ready to refuse to participate in its
criminal use of military threats and military force to have its own way. And when I saw the inspirer declaration emblazoned on hundreds of moving banners announcing we are American We are America and you have this new America story in his own blended Mexican and your American parentage and his pre-Colombian Mesoamerican scholarship and who spent beautiful time with our young people the ambassadors of hope in the summer of 2005. At one point during his summer visit as he looked at and listened to the multi-racial multi-religious multigenerational group that had gathered with us in the Denver University campus he said with a broad smile I see America coming right here he saw it not simply in the evidence of a
complex ethnic diversity but saw it and heard it in the dreams they manifested in their spoken words their dances and their beautiful mural. Perhaps what he grasped was that the need for such or such great dreams such knowledge that spirit crowning all wrapped up in the gathered lives of such young people and their elder and veteran companions. All of this for the nation to manifest the words Martin King spoke. Near the end of his life America you must be born again for Carrasco knows that King was offering far more than the familiar religious cliché but was challenging us to a harshly magnificent and costly struggle against what he called the triple evils of American life
racism materialism and militarism. Carrasco knew that Cain was challenging us to move through the womb through the Tomb of the triple evils to make our way toward the womb towards the light of our best humanity. Discoveries of the country that does not yet exist. The dream constantly being born. The letter closes doors first with a conversation that I had with. Mumia Abu-Jamal. The man who has been imprisoned for more than 20 years in
death row falsely accused of murdering a policeman and then the letter ends. With one of my favorite memories from the early days of the student movement of the 1960s. And I will end with that for us. Now. I remembered and shared a letter I read in the 1960s written by a young African-American woman a college student who was serving a term in a Tallahassee Florida jail because of her participation in the local
sidin desegregation campaign in 1960. Patricia Stevens wrote from her cell to a friend. These words from jail. We are all so very happy that we were and are able to do this to help our city state and nation. This is something that has to be done over and over again and we are willing to do it as often as necessary. Well dear ones we are almost a decade plus 40 years from Patricias service aren't we. One of my own Denver hip hop performers recently wrote there is something I must do before I die. And the ancestors will
show me. These are my children. These are our teachers. You are my children you are my teachers. May the ancestors show us all the way to a new America deepening opening expanding the dream blazing the path. To the land that never has been yet and yet must be signed. Your uncle grandfather brother in hope Vincent Harding I think Judy has something to say and I hope that some of you will break through the time difficulties and let me hear what you might have to say.
After all all that I had to say not the best way for a conversation. Plus we're going to get together again tomorrow Judy. Thank you Vincent. And I know the recording will be probably ending at 9:00 so I'm going to just ask the first question and then very quickly after Vincent responds then we can do maybe a couple of Q&A answers. Vincent This is an election question. Many say that change will come in this election if it comes through a lot of the influence of young people because they are not perhaps as burden as with I'll just call it racial assumptions as some of their elders. And if we think about the young people in the Midwest who are taking the name of
Hussein for example what particular role do you think the young people will play in this coming election. Also in the organizing that must follow for it to really be real. I was supposed to say one other thing. Scuse me I was supposed to say after you that you're joining us at Cambridge forum listening to Dr. Vincent Harding discussing is America possible. A journey of hope and so I'm opening with the first question. We'll tag you in today. Thank you. One of the things that has most excited me about the Obama
phenomenon has been the response that it has elicited from our young people. There's no question but that that has been a powerful statement and the actual text of the statement is not yet clear but they are saying something at the same moment as we found in the movement in the south. The young people cannot be sent out there and told you all have got to do this. What we discovered at that point was that as all humans discover that we do our best work when young and old work together for the cause whatever it might
be. And one of the things that I am absolutely convinced of. On this matter of America being prepared getting ready to expand its possibility of multiracial democracy to the point of electing a multiracial man. What I'm convinced of. Is that the people who have the greatest difficulty with this are white Americans. My white brothers and sisters and therefore what I am also convinced of is that white young people and white older
people and white ancient people. Must find a way to speak to those that I or Judy could never speak to because we would end up hearing what they think we want to hear. But you. Who may not have known it but who actually have a great white privilege the privilege of talking to other white people. About what it means to grow in the realm of multi-racial democracy you have the privilege of helping them to understand that democracy is like every other living organism either it grows or it dies.
You have the privilege of being some of the most important midwives of this time. So Judy thanks for allowing me the opportunity to talk to all of my wonderful white folk friends here because that is almost a kind of evangelical urgency that I have that we need to talk to folks who have never had the kind of conversation that needs to go on. And democracy will not expand in this country unless those conversations are opened up by people like you with great fear and trembling. I know. But necessarily. Must happen if it doesn't happen. Some people are going to think that death is the preferable
way to change and that is no good for anybody. All I'm saying Judy is that young people cannot be given that task by themselves. Lots of them are talking to their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles I know that but now grand parents and grandparents need to talk to each other and aunts and uncles need to talk to each other. That's where some of the most powerful conversations need to take place. You then have the answer to the question. Is America possible. The public space should have the people in a public space should be able to express themselves before you speak. Could I just mention the difficult need that I always have when I'm in a situation like this. You have heard my name you've heard a little bit about me. I do not
believe that democracy and anonymity go together. So I need very much for anybody who wants to enter this conversation to let me hear your full name. And one other thing. Well you spent your childhood. OK. And then we had a little bit closer to each other for the conversation. Thank you. My name is Robert of Iguchi. I spent my childhood and my whole life in Everett Massachusetts now and developing public space people in our public space should be allowed to sing dance and talk fully to incorporate the music dancing and talk into the public space the public sphere in a setting like this. Whoever has the microphone is the leader.
And there's like only two microphones and a new public space. We should have multi microphone. Yes. Yes. Have people be able to sing dance and talk among themselves and also with the person that is. Robert thank you for speaking to that question. I appreciate that very much. Do you have any suggestions on how we can encourage dancing together. Yes. Go ahead. Well. The space has to be on this use of the open space. You can have you can have galleries. Yes. It's like we have a.. OK. Let me. I shouldn't do this with the time but I
will never the less Ruby sales where I was talking about has to want the most wonderful. Quiet gentle spirited that mother that you've ever heard of the word got back to Ruby's mother when Jonathan was shot that it was Ruby who had been shot and she practically died. Then when the word finally got through that her daughter was alive. Sister sales in church that Sunday got up and danced on the benches. You don't have to necessarily have the correct space. You have to have the correct spirit and you have to have people who don't mind encouraging folks to dance on benches if that's what they'd like to do. So thank
you. I have a whole lot of stories to tell you about the young people at this church and how they danced on benches. But this is not the time for it. We've got a lot more to talk about. Robert thank you very much for starting that. Hello. Hello. My name is Joe LaFollette and I spent my childhood in Denver and I've been reborn many times since then and now I'm spending my childhood in Boston. OK. How many Challoner's respect that. So I'd like to share really briefly because you said to talk about music that I had an interesting experience back home in Denver during the DNC that involved music. I was fortunate enough to go to that Rage Against the Machine concert which was organized in part in large part by the Iraq Veterans Against the War. And so we went to this concert and did a lot of dancing and a lot of music
and and but it was also a form of protest and it was followed by a march where we marched several miles down to the Pepsi Center and ultimately got Barack Obama's liaison of Veteran Affairs to agree to speak with the IBEW about their goals for ending the Iraq war so that was a powerful experience for me. I think also relating a little bit to music I found myself thinking while you were speaking about a show that I saw for the first time over the summer called The Boondocks which I think is probably for some people alternately brilliant and tasteless. But I find it particularly sharp and it seems to be that the main character Huey represents the attributes of a lot of great leaders and rebels in some cases and in black history and that he's surrounded by what he perceives as just horrible.
Degrading ignorant self-deprecating behavior in the rest of the community. And what I wonder is in this dialogue of asking Who are we. What is America's dream. How do we approach talking to people that are eroding it. And so I think I'm a perfect modern day example is that on one hand hip hop is an incredible vehicle for social consciousness and on the other hand of very strong vehicle and pop culture for materialism. So how do you engage people in that discussion when you perceive that they're they're eroding your American dream. Thank you. Thank you very much. Joseph by the way is a friend of mine from Denver and he's a student here and is what he says is either second or third childhood. But obviously these are
powerful issues and questions to be raised from your current childhood and I appreciate them Joseph. You know I don't know of any other way to begin to respond to that question not answer it but respond to it except the way that all friends the fellow bots have done in Denver. This is a hip hop band that is led by a couple of other my my younger friends and they have taken on the hip hop mogul mode but tried to infuse it with the hope for America's possibility. It's they who set up the America will be a web site. And I think that it is only as we keep sort of rubbing against each other entering each other connecting with each other that we're going to
find answers to that. We have got to play around a lot to understand how these various modes can help each other feed each other. But I put you on the list of those who are commissioned to do that work. Joseph OK thank you very much for the question. And before this next question we'll just take these last two before we close out. Dr. Harding My name is Fred small. I was born and raised in Plainfield New Jersey. I am now the new senior minister at this church wonderful first parish in Cambridge. I'm so glad you're here. I appreciate your clarity and bluntness in characterizing the constriction of our pews. Now I know you are nuts. That's right. It is all. It has often occurred to me that when one of our New England churches catches fire and burns to the ground as sometimes happens the first suspect should be
the pastor. And I am pleased to report that we are attempting to bring into this incorrect space some of the correct spirit. On Sunday morning we sang and the dancing we're working on. OK. And in that spirit because I share your faith in the power of song. I offer an impertinent petition and prayer that when you speak your wisdom about the power of song rather than playing an old recording and invite us to sing. Thank you very much. I didn't know if I had enough nerve for that but thank you very much. So you will have. Is really the biggest problem with your name please. Oh I'm terribly
sorry. My name is Michael Michael which is three boys born brought up in Cambridge and my sister my very. My parents had just turned 75 by the way. I've got two years on you my girl. I know you all we're brothers. Without doubt you are. But anyway I think one of the biggest problems in the country today is this me me generation. What we have to do is change the ethical foundation and merge the people. The first thing we have to do is get them to. Think constructively about. Job about use those types of things. And I think in doing so you'll see an entirely new concept of market all the people. Thank you my good question.
Michael if we had time I would want to urge you on to a conversation about what is the kind of education that is necessary to help people to develop deep senses of connection to and responsibility for one another and for the common good. But since we don't have time. Let me just mention that I think that whatever happens in this next period of time the rethinking of what is education for democratic citizenship and I think if we could begin to wrestle with that in almost every place that we are we would be doing ourselves well and we'd be able to respond even more fully to the important kind of questions that you've raised. Thank you very much. Could I just ask a follow up which is Vincent do you think that the
young people are getting those values in isolation from a larger community a larger nation that has those values. The bad ones. Well when my friend Michael spoke about a generation of me me I I did not take that in because I don't think that can be generationally identified. I think that attitude spreads all through our society. But I am also very clear that that attitude does not totally cover the society that there are people who are constantly trying to come up from that muck and to breathe some fresh new ear and to offer some new possibilities. So I know of no other possibility but to say yes there are people who are
going to be doing something different for the good of the society and who are going to break loose from all of this stuff. Judy you're not as old as I am but you may remember just from studying history that in the 1950s all of the experts on youth culture of the time were totally clear that youth culture was very very selfish culture and a frivolous culture that wasn't involved with things like how many people could fit into a telephone booth. If anybody knows what that is. But that was there was a major article in life I believe very close to the end of 1950s identifying that as the problem of youth culture.
February 1st 1960 four young men who were not covered by that at all sat down and Woolworth's in North Carolina and said we have come to be recognized as human beings and to try to humanize this country and a whole new set of possibilities broke through what the experts thought. They were absolutely certain about. So I'd like some experts. I was married to one of them. And sometimes I'm considered one myself. But I know that always there was a spirit. There was a power. There was a total unpredictability. There's built in to our human experience. And I simply at times sit around and say Oh where is it coming from this time. Because I know it's coming.
And sometimes I can help to encourage it's coming. But even when I can't I can pray that it will come and come in the way that is most helpful to us all. So Judy all that long response is simply my way of saying I believe that young people surrounded by caring older people are still a great hope and possibility for us. And that's why I tried to hang around with them as much as possible. Thank you. OK. I have a. You. And I'm just going to do a close out. And then he will come up. Thank you Dr. Vincent Harding. You have been listening to a program a Cambridge forum recorded in October 2008 co-sponsored by the Fetzer Institute. The first Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist the Lowell Institute and the friends of
Cambridge forum for a CD of this forum entitled Is America possible featuring Dr. Vincent Harding or for additional information about this program that is. Visit us on the web at Cambridge forum dot org. In Harvard Square I'm Judy Richardson. Thanks for joining us. And now you can think of
- Cambridge Forum
- WGBH Forum Network
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Vincent Harding, theologian and professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, argues that, especially for African Americans, the American Dream has never been realized. At best a hope, at worst a mockery, it remains alive in the words and imaginations of the artists and activists of the community. Retracing the roads and revisiting his companions of the Civil Rights Movement, Harding reflects on their achievements in making the dream more of a reality and points out the work that still needs to be done.
- Vincent Harding argues that, especially for African Americans, the American Dream has never been realized.
- Religion; Society and Culture
- Media type
- Moving Image
Speaker2: Harding, Vincent
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 4ddbfa1f20fbf3dfb77467a98eb883b2e66c993a (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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- Chicago: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; African Americans and the American Dream,” 2008-10-01, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-hh6c24qw2q.
- MLA: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; African Americans and the American Dream.” 2008-10-01. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-hh6c24qw2q>.
- APA: Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; African Americans and the American Dream. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-hh6c24qw2q