Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Abraham, Martin and John

"The country was in a very restless period."
Dion DiMucci

The title "Abraham, Martin and John" refers to Abraham Lincoln (assassinated on 14 April 1865), Martin Luther King, Jr. (assassinated on 4 April 1968), John F. Kennedy (assassinated on 22 November 1963), and Robert F. Kennedy (assassinated on 5 June 1968). The song - written by Dick Holler, sung by Dion DiMucci and released in August 1968 - is a tribute to their battle for civil rights and has been covered by Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Kenny Roghers, Mahalia Jackson and many more (via and via).

"A sailor weeps as the caisson bearing the body of President Kennedy travels past him and other mourners in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on the way to the burial site." (via)

"A woman in New York reacts to the news of John F. Kennedy's assassination, Nov. 22, 1963." (via)

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he's gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he's gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he's gone.
Didn't you love the things they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free,
Someday soon it's gonna be one day.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

::: sung by Dion: LISTEN
::: covered by Marvin Gaye: LISTEN

"The telephone rang, a secretary in guerrilla garb announced that Mr. Dorticós, President of the Cuban Republic, had an urgent communication for the Prime Minister. Fidel picked up the phone and I heard him say: “Como? Un atentado?” (“What’s that? An attempted assassination?”) He then turned to us to say that Kennedy had just been struck down in Dallas. Then he went back to the telephone and exclaimed in a loud voice “Herido? Muy gravemente?” (“Wounded? Very seriously?”)
He came back, sat down, and repeated three times the words: “Es una mala noticia.” (“This is bad news.”) He remained silent for a moment, awaiting another call with further news. He remarked while we waited that there was an alarmingly sizable lunatic fringe in American society and that this deed could equally well have been the work of a madman or of a terrorist. Perhaps a Vietnamese? Or a member of the Ku Klux Klan?"
Jean Daniel

"Original black and white photographic negative taken by an unidentified Dallas Times Herald staff photographer. This image shows members of the crowd outside Parkland Hospital reacting to the news of President Kennedy's death." (via)

"St. Louis cries in the rain after news of Kennedy assassination." (via)

"A young girl cried outside a memorial service being helf for President Kennedy at Harvard University the day he was killed." (via)

"A tearful woman is comforted by a companion as the horse-drawn caisson bearing the body of President John F. Kennedy passes on way to the Capitol, Washington, Nov. 24, 1963." (via)

"Two unidentified women burst into tears outside Parkland Hospital on hearing that President John F. Kennedy died from the bullet fired by an assassin while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963." (via)

"One section of the street-lined crowd becomes emotional as the body of the President John F. Kennedy, borne upon a horse-drawn caisson, passes on the way to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 24, 1963." (via)

"People react to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in New York, NY.Wayne Miller/Magnum" (via)
As one writer of the time suggested, the funeral was attended by 180 million Americans — the entire stunned populace. Only 50,300,000 American households had televisions in 1963, and it was estimated that 41,553,000 sets were tuned into the funeral. (via)
"Where were you when JFK was shot?" is a popular question showing to what extent the event "weighed on American consciousness" (via).
I was 12. We were sat in front of a small television screen in a big brown box, me and my father. I remember the atmosphere suddenly changed. My father became grim faced and sat hunched forward with his forearms on his thighs, staring, listening intently. My mother, still in her pinny, stood by his side, her hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes. I remember she gasped and looked wide-eyed and fearful at my father, who shook his head slowly. I remember his words because I didn't really grasp what was happening. 'It's the end,' he said. 'The world will never be the same.' Just a flicker of memory of a world changing event.
Sue Campbell
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- photographs via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via
- Dutch reaction to Kennedy's assassination: WATCH
- French reaction to Kennedy's assassination: WATCH
- Yarmey, A. D. & Bull, M. (1978). Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated? Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 11(2), 133-135.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Born this day ... James Alan McPherson

James Alan McPherson (1943-2016) was born in segregated Savannah, Georgia, on 16 September 1943. He was an "oberservant, unsparing critic of the powerful" and a "compassionate sympathizer with the disadvantaged", graduated at Harvard University, and in 1978 became the the first black author to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (via).

"I’m going to be called a black writer until I die. But the point is that when I write at my best I try to look for the human situation, and I think whites have an obligation to do the same when writing about black folk, if they choose to write about black folk. W hat I’m trying to say is that there’s an institutionalized classification. I used the phrase “greedy institution” a while back. That’s really what those classifications come down to - institutions. They tend to define general groups in the population and assign character traits to them."
James Alan McPherson

“It is my hope that this collection of stories can be read as a book about people, all kinds of people. Certain of these people happen to be black, and certain of them happen to be white; but I have tried to keep the color part of most of them far in the background, where these things should rightly be kept.”
James Alan McPherson

"I think that if you look at the society in terms of an ongoing social drama, then you see that certain groups have been assigned certain roles. Black Americans have been assigned the roles of being perpetually needy. The ones who have a moral claim on white man’s compassion. The ones that they always trot out to show you how far you’ve got to go. And so, I can imagine all these ethnic groups saying, “Look at this. I had to break my balls to get this little house here. They don’t give a damn about me.” Reagan built a coalition of ethnics because he said, “I feel sorry for you.” They say, “The system treats me like a nigger, but I don’t get any kind of compassion for it.” And so, here’s some guy that’s going to say he understands the pain. Well, Reagan fooled all of them. But that was the appeal I think."
James Alan McPherson

"It was acceptable to be overtly racist, but it’s more complex than that. I think that if you study the first generation of slaves out of slavery, you find that they were artisans, they were brick masons, they built all the plantation houses in the South. They weren’t just field hands, they were architects. That threatened the power structure, and so from 1896 until the early ’50s, there was an attempt to suppress any evidence of black intelligence. It was aimed at making sure black laborers never competed with white laborers. That accounted for the mass wave of migration out of the South. In Ellison’s Invisible Man, there’s a segment called “Golden Day.” Those guys are old professionals. The whites feel threatened by them and the black people feel threatened by the whites."
James Alan McPherson

"But you don’t achieve mass acceptance in this culture without being diffused. Unless you are diffused, then you’re likely to be limited in your appeal. It’s so easy, you know. But then you end up without your self. That’s the way the whole thing is set up. It’s not just blacks, it’s anybody. They’ve got to be diffused. If you can’t be, then you’ve got a price to pay just because you question w hat’s normal, what’s right and w hat’s wrong, what’s the truth and what’s a lie. But in the case of black Americans, I think, asking those basic questions is almost obligatory. In a sense, your life depends on it. You’re living in a crazy country that’s paranoid, in a large part because of your presence in it, and if you have a view of the whole thing, it’s because you’re outside, and you say “This is where I fit in, and this is where things get warped."
James Alan McPherson

"I don’t see myself as a token. I fought - I had too many fights with certain people. I’ll say this, the people I fought with I wound up respecting, although I might not agree with them. But if I were a token, I’d be much more at ease and comfortable than I am now. But beyond that, Bob, my work is good. W hat I do is good. I teach, I write - nobody gave that to me. As for the responses of black people, no, surprisingly enough, the best review I ever got was in Essence and a black woman said, “Somebody out there’s watching us, somebody out there’s on to us.” I’m in the tradition, I’m still in the core culture. I’m not explaining it to white folk. I don’t think I m using it to titillate whites. I’ve never gotten any negative criticism from black people - I never have.
(...) But I can’t say I’ve gotten that much negative feedback from white people. Usually the response is indifference. People have been gracious to me, all down the line. I’ve been lucky in that respect. I never wrote for money. I never wrote for propaganda purposes. Well, to go back to your question about my feelings about the marketplace and my color, I will just say that there are very few short story writers who end up in paperback, and very few who get a Pulitzer Prize, and very, very few who ever get popular. So I ain’t complaining, I ain’t complaining."
James Alan McPherson

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photograph via

Friday, 13 September 2019

Free to Be ... You and Me

"Feminism... I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free to be You and Me'."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Free to Be ... You and Me" was a children's entertainment project starting in 1972 including a record album, an illustrated book, and an ABC special using poetry, songs and sketches to encourage gender neutrality (via).
The idea for Free to Be came to Marlo Thomas - then most famous for her starring role on That Girl, in which she played Ann Marie, a career girl who didn’t want to get married - as she was reading a bedtime story to her 5-year-old niece Dionne. Thomas was shocked to discover all the books available to her niece were the same books she had been read when she was a little girl, and “it had taken me 30 years to get over them.” When Thomas went to the bookstore the next day in search of better fare, she found the state of children’s fiction was “worse than I thought.” On the shelves she discovered the especially abyssmal I’m Glad I’m A Boy, I’m Glad I’m A Girl. Sample text: “Boys invent things, girls use what boys invent.” Says Thomas: “I almost had a heart attack right there.”

According to Thomas, there were three pieces the TV powers-that-be wanted to cut from the special. The first two were "William Wants A Doll" and "It’s Alright to Cry," because the network was worried showing them “would make every boy in America a sissy…that wasn’t the word they used.”

They also had a problem with "Parents are People," not because of the lyrics, says Thomas, but because there was concern that the scene featuring her and Harry Belafonte wheeling their own baby buggies down a sidewalk made it seem as though the two were married. The network told Thomas they “couldn’t put that out and certainly couldn’t play it in the South.” (via)

"When We Grop Up" by Roberta Flack and Michael Jackson:

When we grow up will I be pretty?
Will you be big and strong?
Will I wear dresses that show off my knees?
Will you wear trousers twice as long?

Well, I don't care if I'm pretty at all
And I don't care if you never get tall
I like what I look like and you're nice small
We don't have to change at all.

When we grow up will I be a lady?
Will you be on the moon?
Well, it might be all right to dance by its light
But I'm gonna get up there soon.

Well, I don't care if I'm pretty at all
And I don't care if you never get tall
I like what I look like and you're nice small
We don't have to change at all.

When I grow up I'm going to be happy
And do what I like to do,
Like making noise and making faces
And making friends like you.

And when we grow up do you think we'll see
That I'm still like you
And you're still like me?
I might be pretty
You might grow tall
But we don't have to change at all.

More "Free to Be You and Me" on YouTube:

::: Parents are People (Harry Belafonte): LISTEN/WATCH
::: Sisters and Brothers (song starts at 2.29): LISTEN/WATCH
::: William Wants a Doll: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Princess Atalantis: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Ladies First: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Boy Meets Girl: LISTEN/WATCH
::: It's Alright to Cry: LISTEN/WATCH

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image via

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Old + Female + Poor

"Older women are at greater risk of poverty than older men in all countries where breakdowns are available. The average poverty rate for men equals 8.4% and 12.4% for women."
OECD, 2015:170

In the US, 16% of women over 65 live either at or below poverty versus 12% of older men. Significant factors are discrimination in hiring and salaries, wage and wealth gap, higher health care costs for women, caregiving, part-time jobs, marital status, domestic violence, LGBTQ-status, education, and ethnicity. Black, Hispanic, and Native American older women are two times mor likely to be hit by poverty (via).

In Austria, 16% of women over 65 live at or below poverty in contrast to 10% of men over 65. (Figures are probably higher since statistics only consider people aged 65+, a criterion chosen on the fact that men usually retire at 65. Women, however, often retire at 60 and are not included in statistical data looking at 65+ only.) Living in poverty means that older people have difficulties to make ends meet; it means poor health, substandard housing, and low life satisfaction (via). In Italy, one in four people over the age of 65 are at risk of poverty (via), in Germany one in five (via), and in the UK one in six (via).
Older workers who are laid off still too often enter into early-retirement programmes. This approach, which is internalised by both employers and employees, gives older workers little opportunity to re-train and acquire new skills in order to strengthen their employability. Early retirement also exposes individuals to future poverty as income needs at a much higher age are often underestimated. Early retirement systems should be eliminated, and employment difficulties faced by the elderly should be dealt with by unemployment systems that promote activity as a way to protect and help people remain on the labour market longer. Beyond this, with the tightening of benefit eligibility criteria in most OECD pension systems, ensuring that the labour market is conducive to longer working lives is vital. In that respect, increases in the labour supply of older workers have to be met by a higher demand. Upgrading of skills and lifelong learning will therefore become important to retain older workers in the labour market.
OECD, 2015:32
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- Justice in Aging. (2018). Older Women & Poverty. Special report, December 2018, link
- photograph by Nick Hedges (Brent, 1969)  via

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European, by Stefan Zweig

"Completed less than a year before Zweig killed himself, “The World of Yesterday” is less an autobiography- he mentions his two marriages only in passing - than a manifesto about his era. He portrays himself as an idealist, devoted to the cause of international brotherhood, even as Europe collapses around him."
Leo Carey, The New Yorker

“For I have indeed been torn from all my roots, even from the earth that nourished them, more entirely than most in our times. I was born in 1881 in the great and mighty empire of the Habsburg Monarchy, but you would look for it in vain on the map today; it has vanished without trace. I grew up in Vienna, an international metropolis for two thousand years, and had to steal away from it like a thief in the night before it was demoted to the status of a provincial German town. My literary work, in the language in which I wrote it, has been burnt to ashes in the country where my books made millions of readers their friends. So I belong nowhere now, I am a stranger or at the most a guest everywhere. Even the true home of my heart’s desire, Europe, is lost to me after twice tearing itself suicidally to pieces in fratricidal wars. Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most savage triumph of brutality in the chronicles of time. Never - and I say so not with pride but with shame - has a generation fallen from such intellectual heights as ours to such moral depths.”

“Nationalism emerged to agitate the world only after the war, and the first visible phenomenon which this intellectual epidemic of our century brought about was xenophobia; morbid dislike of the foreigner, or at least fear of the foreigner. The world was on the defensive against strangers, everywhere they got short shrift. The humiliations which once had been devised with criminals alone in mind now were imposed upon the traveler, before and during every journey. There had to be photographs from right and left, in profile and full face, one’s hair had to be cropped sufficiently to make the ears visible; fingerprints were taken, at first only the thumb but later all ten fingers; furthermore, certificates of health, of vaccination, police certificates of good standing, had to be shown; letters of recommendation were required, invitations to visit a country had to be procured; they asked for the addresses of relatives, for moral and financial guarantees, questionnaires, and forms in triplicate and quadruplicate needed to be filled out.”

“It is generally accepted that getting rich is the only and typical goal of the Jew. Nothing could be further from the truth. Riches are to him merely a stepping stone, a means to the true end, and in no sense the real goal. The real determination of the Jew is to rise to a higher cultural plane in the intellectual world.”

“In 1938, after Austria, our universe had become accustomed to inhumanity, to lawlessness, and brutality as never in centuries before. In a former day the occurrences in unhappy Vienna alone would have been sufficient to cause international proscription, but in 1938 the world conscience was silent or merely muttered surlily before it forgot and forgave.”

“The Nazis no longer resorted to hypocritical pretexts about the urgency of opposing and eliminating Marxism. They did not just rob and steal, they gave free rein to every kind of private vengeful instinct. University professors were forced to scrub the streets with their bare hands; devout, white-bearded Jews were hauled into the synagogues by young men bawling with glee, and made to perform knee-bends while shouting “Heil Hitler!” in chorus. They rounded up innocent citizens in the streets like rabbits and dragged them away to sweep the steps of the SA barracks. All the sick, perverted fantasies they had thought up over many nights of sadistic imaginings were now put into practice in broad daylight. They broke into apartments and tore the jewels out of the ears of trembling women—it was the kind of thing that might have happened when cities were plundered hundreds of years ago in medieval wars, but the shameless pleasure they took in the public infliction of pain, psychological torture and all the refinements of humiliation was something new. All this has been described not by one victim but by thousands, and a more peaceful age, not morally exhausted like our own, will shudder some day to read what horrors were inflicted on that cultured city in the twentieth century by a single half-deranged man. For in the midst of his military and political victories, that was Hitler’s most diabolical triumph - one man succeeded in deadening every idea of what is just and right by the constant attrition of excess.”
Stefan Zweig

::: Link to the whole book: READ

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photographs via

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou

"Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird,” published in 1983, is a celebration of African American resilience and dignity. Employing a simple metaphor — birds — Angelou powerfully evokes the pain and rage of one who is oppressed by contrasting it with the carefree and willful ignorance of one who is free." (via)

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

Maya Angelou

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photograph via

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Hensol Castle: Hiding Away People with Learning Disabilities

Hensol Castle, located in the Welsh Vale of Glamorgan, was built in the 17th and early 18th century.Sir Francis Caradoc Rose Price (1880-1949) inherited the Hensol estate and put it up for sale in 1923 since "the old place" would require too much money to be maintained which again had become difficult as income-tax and supertax had risen considerably in the years before. The castle was sold in 1926 to Glamorgan County Council for use as a County mental hospital. Hensol hospital was opened in 1930 as a "colony" for 100 men with learning disabilities. New blocks were added to accommodate up to 460 persons. In 2003, the hospital was closed (via).

Patients were branded "mental defectives". Many children and adults with autism and Down's Syndrome were hidden away at this institution turning Hensol into "a hidden and often painful part of Wales' history". A great many others were misdiagnosed and lived in this institution completely isolated from society (via)

In 1967, South African photographer Jürgen Schadeberg visited Hensol hospital.
Schadeberg’s Welsh photographs range from the surprising to the thought-provoking and the unsettling. They focus on individual faces and personalities at a time when people with learning disabilities were invisible, herded into high-walled hospitals, hidden away for years. (via)

Schadeberg's photographs were exhibited a few years ago.
As I walked onto the ‘Nightingale ward’ all those years ago, with beds either side of a very long corridor, I noticed shapes laying in the beds that were moving.
I didn’t realise these were actually people until I was introduced to one patient. I can still see the young woman’s beautiful smile and really bright, brown eyes looking at me with affection and acceptance. I remember talking to her – she communicated back non-verbally yet we could understand each other perfectly.
The exhibition room made me feel absurdly calm and safe as I was transported back to that little girl. I say absurdly, as it was a frightening, imposing, institution wheredoors locked, people screamed and scary people wore white coats and starched uniforms.
Carol Davies (who was five and her mother a staff nurse)

photographs by Jürgen Schadeberg via

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Schools and Religious Diversity: Why Teacher Professionalism Needs Diversity Awareness

Next week, the 2019 CESNUR Conference "Re-Enchanting the World: Spiritualities and Religions of the Third Millennium" will be held, taking place from 5 to 7 September at the Università di Torino.

I am very much looking forward to travelling with my Cinquecento, taking part and talking about "Schools and Religious Diversity: Why Teacher Professionalism Needs Diversity Awareness":

The rise of migration to Europe has brought ethnic and religious diversity, is reshaping the educational landscape and challenging policy makers. In populist rhetoric, religion is instrumentalised as a means of constructing a “Christian Occident” as an antithesis to immigrants and refugees mainly coming from Muslim-majority countries. Islam has more or less become Europe’s second religion, at the same time reason number one for discrimination and bullying at school. According to surveys, teachers feel ill prepared to meet the needs of students with a different religious background and helpless when confronted with islamophobia, antisemtitism, etc. Since schools play a key role in integration, supporting social changes, and building the future, it is high time university curricula and teachers‘ ongoing education were rethought.
In this paper, the field of tension is discussed between schools‘ task to educate in line with the majority’s culture and the inclusion of minorities, between stereotypes, challenges, problems and chances, between freedom to and from religion, as well as types of religious discrimination, perpetrators and victims, good practices, and latent variables hidden behind generalisations suggesting that it is not necessarily religion per se that is the problem.

photographs via and via and via

Friday, 30 August 2019

Body Language Reading and Gender

Generally speaking and not considering cross-cultural differences, women seem to be more sensitive to non-verbal cues and more proficient in recognising facial emotions than men who tend to be better at recognising emotions from voices. According to Sokolov et al.'s study (n=34) carried out in Germany - and consistent with conclusions of previous studies - angry emotion is recognised better than happy emotion. However, some tendencies could be observed based on the participant's gender:

Males outperformed in recognition of happy knocking (p < 0.015), whereas females excelled in recognition of neutral knocking (p < 0.016) and tended to over-perform in recognition of angry knocking (p < 0.07).
The authors conclude that there is a gender effect which again is modulated by the emotional content.
Here we investigated whether, and, if so, how recognition of emotional expressions revealed by body motion is gender dependent. To this end, females and males were presented with point-light displays portraying knocking at a door performed with different emotional expressions. The findings show that gender affects accuracy rather than speed of body language reading. This effect, however, is modulated by emotional content of actions: males surpass in recognition accuracy of happy actions, whereas females tend to excel in recognition of hostile angry knocking. Advantage of women in recognition accuracy of neutral actions suggests that females are better tuned to the lack of emotional content in body actions.
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- Sokolov, A. A., Krüger, S., Enck, P., Krägeloh-Mann, I. & Pavlova, M. A. (2011). Gender Affects Body Language Reading. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, link
- photograph taken in New York in 1970 by Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) via

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Equality, by Maya Angelou

"Throughout Equality, there are clear themes of discrimination, which line up with Angelou’s public contributions towards the fight for civil rights. Her own experiences make it very likely that she is the narrator of the poem" (for more poem analysis see).

You declare you see me dimly
through a glass which will not shine,
though I stand before you boldly,
trim in rank and marking time.
You do own to hear me faintly
as a whisper out of range,
while my drums beat out the message
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

You announce my ways are wanton,
that I fly from man to man,
but if I'm just a shadow to you,
could you ever understand ?

We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

Take the blinders from your vision,
take the padding from your ears,
and confess you've heard me crying,
and admit you've seen my tears.

Hear the tempo so compelling,
hear the blood throb in my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.

Maya Angelou

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photographs by Jill Krementz via and via, copyright by owner