Category: Heroes

Meet Corina Newsome — The Self-Described Hood Naturalist

As a podcaster, I get to do two things I really love:

  1. Spend a lot of time alone in my study with headphones on listening to really smart people
  2. Meeting really cool people who give me a lot of hope for the future

With Corina Newsome I got to experience both in abundance. She appears in episode 30 of Citizens Climate Radio — What Does the Bible Say about Climate Change? In addition to interviewing Corina on-line and then spending several delightful hours editing what she shared, I also got to meet up with her a few months later in Charleston, SC. Together we spoke about Faith, Race, Justice, and Climate Change.

Corina Newsome

Recently transitioning from her career as a zookeeper, Corina Newsome is currently a graduate biology student at Georgia Southern University, specializing in avian conservation. Corina earned her B.A. in Zoo and Wildlife Biology from Malone University (OH) in 2015, and since graduating, has founded several programs to encourage ethnic and socioeconomic minority high school students to consider careers in wildlife science.

Corina grew up in downtown Philadelphia and has always had a desire to participate in, and advocate for, the protection of wildlife and natural spaces, and encourage minorities in the U.S. to explore the great outdoors.

Corina maintains a blog Hood Naturalist–From the Hood, to the Zoo, to the Marsh. I have been encouraging university sustainability programs to bring Corina to campus because she helps draw people into discussions about faith, race, nature, and biology in a compelling and deeply thoughtful way.

She is also willing to break into song if it will help communicate science

I encourage you to follow Corina on Twitter

and check out her blog.

Behind Every King There is a Queer

Today in the USA we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hillary Clinton recently drew fire with her suggestion that President Lyndon B Johnson helped to realize Dr. King’s dream with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The life, work and death of Dr. King will move you deeply.

But Mrs. Clinton raises an important point. It takes a village to raise the issue and to make change happen. With all of his charisma, intelligence and skills, Dr. King relied heavily on others to not only see his dream come to pass, but even to shape the very nature of that dream.

I think of the extraordinary efforts and contributions of Bayard Rustin, the Black, gay, Quaker, who fought for civil liberties beginning in the late 1930’s. Rustin served as the key organizer of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, the very first Freedom Rides.

According to Standford University’s King Encyclopedia,

Rustin became a key adviser to King during the Montgomery bus boycott. He first visited Montgomery in February 1956, and published a ‘‘Montgomery Diary,’’ in which, upon observing a meeting of the Montgomery Improvement Association, he wrote: ‘‘As I watched the people walk away, I had a feeling that no force on earth can stop this movement. It has all the elements to touch the hearts of men’’ (Rustin,‘‘Montgomery Diary,’’ 10).

Rustin provided King with a deep understanding of nonviolent ideas and tactics at a time when King had only an academic familiarity with Gandhi. Rustin later recalled: ‘‘The glorious thing is that he came to a profoundly deep understanding of nonviolence through the struggle itself, and through reading and discussions which he had in the process of carrying on the protest’’ (D’Emilio, 230–231).

King recognized the advantages of Rustin’s knowledge, contacts, and organizational abilities, and invited him to serve as his adviser, well aware that Rustin’s background would be controversial to other civil rights leaders. As King’s special assistant, Rustin assumed a variety of roles, including proofreader, ghostwriter, philosophy teacher, and nonviolence strategist.

Rustin was also instrumental in the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), proposing to King in December 1956 that he create a group that would unite black leaders in the South who possess ‘‘ties to masses of people so that their action projects are backed by broad participation of people’’

Along with long-time Civil Rights activist and leader A. Philip Randolf, Bayard Rustin organized the famous 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech. Dr. King appeared among several other leaders whose organizations helped sponsor the event, but the idea behind the march and the work of organizing it fell to Randolf and especially to Rustin.

What too often happens in the US is that ONE hero emerges both in our history and our movies. This one larger than life figure looms over us as an example of what one man can do.

But what about the women and the men working alongside of that man? What about the people who went before that man opening the ways, building a movement? What about someone like Bayard Rustin, brilliant, vital to the movement, but also openly gay in a time and place when that rarely happened? History, the media and our own deeply ingrained concept of heroes erase or cover over the contributions of someone like Bayard Rustin.

In the US we only have two national holidays that celebrate individuals. One is for Christopher Columbus and the other for Dr. King, two men who both had a quest for a dream. We have begun to see how historians distorted the story of Columbus manufacturing a hero to admire all the while overlooking the genocide he helped to initiate thus opening the doors to the slave trade in the colonies.

Dr. King on the other hand brought about good and positive change to this country. His life and death helped pave the way for presidential hopeful Barack Obama. But Dr. King did not act alone, and by celebrating him as the lone hero, we teach each other the wrong lessons about activism. No one person can bring about change, and when we think otherwise, we despair that we can ever make a difference.

Today in the USA we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, but let us also celebrate all the people instrumental to his life and work.

Listen to or read Barack Obama’s speech he delivered yesterday at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He reminds us:

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

You can read more about Bayard Rustin in an article published today at or at another piece published in the New West Network.

The Birthday Season

Being single on Valentines Day doesn’t ever really bother me because my birthday comes three days later. (Although in my childhood birthday photo, I look like I had a little too much cake and ice cream)

Yes, I have officially entered The Birthday Season. This business of just celebrating on ONE DAY is so lame. One’s birthday needs to be padded with several days of celebration.

This year though I am not just celebrating my birthday. After finishing her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, I fell hard for Audre Lorde. What a mind, what a heart, what a woman. Her birthday is February 18 and had she survived breast cancer, she would be 73 this on Sunday.

Over at Craig Hickman’s blog, he honors Audre with a summary of her life.

Here are some quotes by Audre Lorde:

  • “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
  • “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid”
  • “The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.”
  • “The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”
  • “As we come to know, accept, and explore our feelings, they will become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas-the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.”