My name is Gail Schechter. I am a co-founder of the newly launched Addie Wyatt Center for Nonviolence Training in Chicago, aiming to create a culture of peace in the region starting with our city and suburban high schools, including Evanston Township High School. From 1993 to 2016, I served as Executive Director of Open Communities, the north suburban Chicago area’s housing, economic and social justice organization. By appointment of former Governor Pat Quinn, I sit in the “affordable housing advocate” seat of the State Housing Appeals Board, the enforcement body for the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act whose passage, I am proud to say, was led by north suburban elected officials. I also serve on the Board of Directors of Chicago Area Peace Action. I have taught graduate courses in public policy and civic engagement for Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. Most recently, I authored the definitive history of the North Shore Summer Project and its evolution into Open Communities for The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North. I was born and raised in New York City and have two children. While most people know me as a community organizer and fair and affordable housing advocate, I’m also an active clarinetist – and an avid reader.
1) Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Community by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)
This year I read all five of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s books starting with his first, Stride Toward Freedom, his description of the Montgomery bus boycott that launched the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks as the catalyst for this major nonviolent direct action led by African Americans, and Dr. King himself into national prominence. Where Do We Go From Here? is his last complete book and a work of profound wisdom about racial reconciliation that resonates today. Dr. King writes from the vantage point of distress about white backlash to freedom movement gains; African American anger that manifested itself in the Black Power Movement; and the tragic eclipsing of a unified, national push for anti-poverty programs by the Vietnam War. If anything, toward the end of his life Dr. King was even more convinced of the power of nonviolence. He presented our national challenge as a choice between “nonviolent coexistence” or “violent coannhiliation.” He could have been describing himself when he wrote, “Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.”
Continue reading “Gail Schechter’s Best Reads of 2016”
We are pleased to welcome Chicagoland art therapist and portrait artist Anthony Porter as the next to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His show Civil Rights (The 1960s) is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through January 2. Influenced by his studies at the School of the Art Institute, Porter’s exhibit features two dozen imaginative portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and the Kennedys. You can meet Mr. Porter at a closing reception on Tuesday, December 29th at 7 pm, and make sure to visit Off the Shelf later in the month for a featured interview with the artist himself. Stay tuned.
On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of that historic speech – read it here.
“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that even amid today’s motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.
‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’
I still believe that we shall overcome.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., excerpted from his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010 and beyond! Celebrate and be good.