Thoughts and images from the Civil Rights Museum on Jackie Robinson Day in Memphis

When baseball is in your blood, you can mark the passage of time by the baseball calendar. Winter gives way to spring training, which quickly becomes the regular season, then the second half, the stretch run, the playoffs and the World Series, and then the cycle ends as it begins again.

Like any religious calendar, the baseball calendar has its holidays, too. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Opening Day. That's one of my favorite days of the year.

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day — the 61-year anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier by becoming the first Black player in otherwise-all-white Major League Baseball (technically Jackie was not the first ever, but the first since Moses Fleetwood Walker played a season in the big leagues in the 1880s, but that’s another story).

This year, I spent the day in Memphis with my family, and it turns out I couldn’t have commemorated the day any better.

When I was 22 and freshly out of college, I moved to Memphis to work as an intern for the Redbirds, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, and it was the first real adventure of my adult life. I only stayed the one season, and now suddenly I hadn’t been back to Memphis in 13 years.

I flew into Memphis on Saturday, the boys and I tagging along with my partner who came to town for a conference.

After a late breakfast on Sunday morning, the four of us walked to the Civil Rights Museum together. We saw the spot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was standing when he was assassinated. We saw the window across the street from which the shot was fired. We saw the rooms where he and his friends had been sleeping, preserved as they had been 50 years ago.

Lorraine

We saw a replica of the jail cell from which King wrote his now-famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he calls out the plague of the white moderate that we still can't shake today.

Julian in MLK jail cell

We also found our home city mentioned in the display on integrating schools and neighborhoods.

"In response to several lawsuits against the school district, Seattle schools began mandatory busing to desegregate its public schools in the 1970s. The program continued for more than twenty years, but gradually lost publics support and resulted in "white flight" as more white families moved to the suburbs. In 1999, the school board decided to allow any student in the district to attend any school of their choice, and the busing program was dismantled."
Seattle Busing Civil Rights Museum
Seattle Busing

I contemplated the reality of the fear King faced down in being arrested as often as he was by white police forces. I considered again the realities we might all be facing, and wondered again how brave I would be able to be in such situations, and what my kids' roles would be in this story. And we found this sad story of a brave white accomplice in 1950s Montgomery:

Juliette Morgan Civil Rights Museum
Julian Bond
IMG_7698.JPG

And then, after a couple hours at the Civil Rights Museum, we hopped in a Lyft and got a ride to AutoZone Park. We completed the Jackie Robinson Day celebration by watching the Redbirds play the Iowa Cubs in 45-degree weather.

Rockey the Rockin' Redbird

The game was great — lots of personal nostalgia mixed together with the strange charm of a sparsely attended minor league baseball game. And it was a good reminder to enjoy life now and then, even as so much happening around me seems like such a disaster. Sometimes I forget there can be time to exhale and have fun -- which is pretty much all I did back when I lived in Memphis. Now, I find myself too often having lost sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

We need balance. It can't be all fun and games, not when things are the way they are, but without a spirit of life and laughter, the struggle has no soul. 

Our New Superintendent Is the Change We Need, But Frankly Not as Much Change as I Want

Our New Superintendent Is the Change We Need, But Frankly Not as Much Change as I Want

It doesn’t feel like we’ve found a savior. We’ve got Wedge Antilles here, not Luke Skywalker. Wedge is nice, but he’s just one good pilot, you know? He’s a quiet leader, an accomplished rebel, but we need to blow up the Death Star, and we all know he’s not going to be the one to do that.

With Juneau, it feels similar, like we’ve found a good, highly qualified public school superintendent who will be committed to doing more than just paying lip service to the need for equity. She's all in. That much is crystal clear within a few minutes with her. But because she doesn’t have a fully revolutionary track record, I don’t believe she will make a difference in time for my kids. I don’t think she’s going to move to Seattle and blow up the Death Star.

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Can Seattle's choice to hire Denise Juneau elevate the voices of our most marginalized students?

Can Seattle's choice to hire Denise Juneau elevate the voices of our most marginalized students?

The Seattle School Board chose our new superintendent last night, and it’s going to be Denise Juneau.

Juneau became the first openly gay candidate for federal office in Montana when she ran for a seat in the House in 2016, and she will become Seattle’s first Native American superintendent when she officially takes over for Larry Nyland on July 1.

She was the clear choice among the three finalists, and while Juneau is certainly a traditional candidate in one sense — she has been a classroom teacher, administrator and the elected superintendent of Montana’s schools — I applaud the board for bringing a genuinely new perspective to the office.

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A few quick thoughts about Seattle’s superintendent candidates after last night’s public forum

A few quick thoughts about Seattle’s superintendent candidates after last night’s public forum

We met the three finalists chosen by the school board — Jeanice Swift, Denise Juneau and Andre Spencer, in that order — and each candidate spoke with Keisha Scarlett of SPS for 45 minutes in a question-and-answer format.

Here are my brief-as-I-can-be thoughts about the three people we’re choosing between to lead Seattle’s schools.

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A challenge on Opening Day: Stop saying the name of the Cleveland baseball team

A challenge on Opening Day: Stop saying the name of the Cleveland baseball team

Today is Opening Day, the first of many days I'll spend watching baseball with my sons again this season. On this most glorious and joyous day of the year, I'd like to offer you a challenge: Don't say the name of the Cleveland baseball team this season.

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Seattle Public Schools have announced three finalists for Superintendent. Who will you choose?

Seattle Public Schools have announced three finalists for Superintendent. Who will you choose?

People say the superintendent has limited power or limited impact, but in Seattle, strength in this position is our greatest hope for the kind of transformational change our kids deserve.

We need a strong superintendent in Seattle because we need someone who will commit to and force an unpopular agenda through, if necessary — even in the face of pushback.

Desegregation was quite unpopular among white parents back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Seattle today is just brimming with white parents — we are one of the whitest major cities in the nation, in fact. Equity efforts will be unpopular here and now, too. We have to expect that and prepare to rise above it.

Real change is hard and uncomfortable, and yet it’s what we need. So, we need a leader who will press on through through that difficulty and discomfort — even through outright disapproval and unpopularity — to do what needs to be done. We need that strength from our leader because we can’t rely on the general population of Seattle to have the vision to demand and make such changes right now.

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The fact that we are even discussing arming teachers shows that we’re too far gone for my boys to be safe in public school. It's time to start preparing to get out.

The fact that we are even discussing arming teachers shows that we’re too far gone for my boys to be safe in public school. It's time to start preparing to get out.

The status quo is leading to increasingly disastrous results. Inequity, segregation and gun violence in our schools are only increasing. Things have been really bad since literally the beginning of public schooling, and things are continually getting worse.

Just like every school shooting before this one, if this isn’t the wake-up call that permanently changes our perspective and our behavior, then we ourselves have made sure that it’s nothing more than a pointless, senseless, meaningless tragedy.

Put another way, if you don’t do things differently now, then you’re choosing — knowingly — to continue to be complicit. If I don’t do things differently now, I am, too.

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Seattle Public Schools has invited us all to a Superintendent Search Public Forum on March 29. Let's go.

Seattle Public Schools has invited us all to a Superintendent Search Public Forum on March 29. Let's go.

Seattle Public Schools is searching at breakneck speed for a new superintendent. The district sent out an email to its list of parents and families inviting us all to a public forum at the end of the month to meet the three finalists for the supe job.

This is important. We can submit questions ahead of time by emailing them to boardoffice@seattleschools.org. Please feel free to copy me (matt.a.halvorson@gmail.com)! I'd love to know what questions we're asking.

Let's make sure it's impossible for these candidates to be confused about the fact that equity is our singular top priority. We need to force these potential district leaders to demonstrate whether or not they know what's at stake, and we need to find out for ourselves if any of the three people the Seattle School Board introduces us to will be willing and able to take the kind of radical, bold action that could lead to unprecedented educational equity.

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Black History Today: The Reeses and the Tiplers, living embodiments of Black love

Black History Today: The Reeses and the Tiplers, living embodiments of Black love

When I think about role models of “love” as we know it — not in the heart shaped boxes or the hallmark cards, but in that true connection that endures — honestly, so many pairings of people who have made the choice every day to love and honor each other come to mind.

The narrative of Black love being dead is yet another sad narrative that lacks full truth. That said, when I think of couples that exhibit what it means to love, two come to mind.

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The Full Series: Black History Today 2018, by Marcus Harden

The Full Series: Black History Today 2018, by Marcus Harden

I want to thank all who allowed me to honor and showcase them for Black History Month. The daily posts started as just a personal letter to people whom I believe to be truly amazing. We often wait too long to tell people what we think of them and their effects on us and our lives.

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Don't let them distract you. Rise up.

Don't let them distract you. Rise up.

I've mostly kept quiet about the Parkland shooting, because it feels like the last thing we need is more empty words or more voices shouting angrily into the abyss. Today, though, I find I have something to say.

This nonsense about arming teachers is a distraction, and we need to stop giving it the time of day. If the people clamoring to give teachers guns were serious, they would be working on legislation. They would be taking action in some way. But they're not. They're using the ridiculous idea of arming schoolteachers to keep us on the defensive, to keep us worried that things might get even worse, which keeps us from working as single-mindedly on real solutions and real change.

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Black History Today: Rickie Malone, gentle nurturer and ferocious advocate

Black History Today: Rickie Malone, gentle nurturer and ferocious advocate

The greatest investment we can make in society is in each other. When we choose to invest in the best in ourselves and each other, that is when true magic begins to happen.

We’re all just shallow reflections of the light and the lives that have shined into ours. When I think about a great light that has invested in me and so many others on this “Black Panther” week, I think of one the strongest heroes I know: Rickie Malone.

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Black History Today: Darnell Lamont Walker, activist thought leader and throwback artist

Black History Today: Darnell Lamont Walker, activist thought leader and throwback artist

A stumble happens in adulthood that begins to limit our imaginations about who we are in the world. We lose the spirit of adventure, the thrill of seeking what is new. We’re told to grow up and accept whatever it is “adulthood” brings.

We sometimes become afraid to be critical and especially to be criticized. One person who inspires the exact opposite is Darnell Lamont Walker. Darnell is authentically his unique self, not only marching to his own beat and drum, but shifting the band into an orchestra or into a hip-hop symphony if he so desires.

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Black History Today: Ernestine Rutledge, the definition of dignity, the essence of excellence

Black History Today: Ernestine Rutledge, the definition of dignity, the essence of excellence

Beauty is a word that unless deeply explained is usually reserved for what the eye can see. As many have explored throughout the years, true beauty is when you close your eyes to describe the fullness of the person you’re describing — their strength, courage, dignity and shining exemplar of what we all hope to be.

One of the most beautiful people you will ever encounter is Ms. Ernestine Rutledge. The “Ms.” added for the dignity and respect she commands, not through position, power or even mean tweets, but through the sheer essence of excellence she brings.

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Black History Today: Three men living their values with quiet integrity

Black History Today: Three men living their values with quiet integrity

The narrative rarely connects the words Love and Black Men, together. Love in the true agape and philo sense has been the cornerstone of the Black community. It is shown through time, it’s is shown through living your values. It is shown through example.

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Black History Today: Three brilliant, bold, beautiful women unapologetically rooted in Blackness

Black History Today: Three brilliant, bold, beautiful women unapologetically rooted in Blackness

Recent pop culture has placed Black Women at the forefront of the conversation, showcasing their abilities to be beautiful, bold, brilliant, unapologetically rooted in blackness — and of course to be what they’ve always been: Heroes.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in the Pacific Northwest, there are three women who are the real-life embodiment of the Dora Milaje or the adored ones.

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Black History Today: Joshua Fields, embracing change as a vulnerable leader

Black History Today: Joshua Fields, embracing change as a vulnerable leader

Change is inevitable and it’s uncomfortable. Yet many great minds have lamented that the toughest change is of one's self. It’s been often stated before that one must “do their own work” before they can truly be in service to others.

The mission of doing your own evolutionary work while simultaneously helping others and organizations evolve is a skill set all its own — one which Joshua A. Fields executes masterfully.

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Black History Today: Merle Redd-Jones, a model for changing systems from the inside out

Black History Today: Merle Redd-Jones, a model for changing systems from the inside out

System-level change is one of the hardest changes to make and navigate. Traditionally for people of color those systems weren’t meant to serve us in a meaningful way, so learning to work in them for the greater good and teaching others to do the same for the benefit of the “we” over the “me” is powerful.

Acquiring this skill set as a strong and powerful Black woman in city government is an even more daunting challenge. Yet for 20-plus years, not only did Merle Redd-Jones navigate that system, but she paved the way for so many others to launch their careers in that system and in other ways.

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Black History Today: Jerrell Davis, an unsung revolutionary

Black History Today: Jerrell Davis, an unsung revolutionary

Many people speak of narrative change but are often afraid to be in the trenches. It takes an ecosystem to create change, yet often times those who are the champions for and by the people get overlooked, their revolutionary presence lost in photo ops and small victories.

Yet it was once said that you can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution. One man that embodies the revolutionary and the revolution is Jerrell G. Davis.

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