Thursday, August 24, 2023

If You See a Good Fight...


A friend told me recently about a movie too few people have seen, a movie about a man too few people have ever heard of. The film, The Story of Vernon Johns, is about a minister who was a civil rights advocate before Martin Luther King Jr. rose to the pulpit, before the hideous death of Emmett Till, and before the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

Dr. Johns, who was proficient in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and German was a man who fought against both white Jim Crow laws in the south and black indifference to change, a man who deeply believed that "if you see a good fight, get in it."  

In 1947 Johns told the well-to-do parishioners of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, that "the nastiest and deadliest sin in the world is the hatred between the races. This innane and foolish hatred threatens to devour civilization like a moth caught in a hell fire."

In a sermon given after the death of a young black boy who was shot in the back for allegedly resisting arrest, Johns told the congregation that murderers act with impunity knowing the black witnesses would not come forward. "By not coming forward," he asserted, "you have become accessories to murder."

After Johns, who advertised the topic of his sermons on a bulletin board outside the church, decided to give a sermon declaring that "It's Safe to Murder Negroes;" after he is threatened with a lynching, after a cross is burned in front of his church, Johns decides to give the sermon anyway.

If you are wondering what happened to this fearlessly courageous man, I think that, like me, you will have to watch the movie, which stars James Earl Jones, and is currently streaming on Appletv. Or if you have Amazon prime, it will direct you to Freevee where you can watch it with commercials. Either way, it is a movie well worth your time!



Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Till, the Movie


“Hate is a virus in the blood…”                                     

Roy Wilkins


I heard the words quoted above while watching the movie Till, a story about a Black boy from Chicago who was abducted, tortured and lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi in 1955 because he whistled at a white woman

This powerful movie begins by showing us the excitement and vulnerability of a 14-year-old boy as he gets ready for his trip. Three days later, Emmett was dead. 

After his body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River, authorities in that area tried to have him buried anonymously. It was Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who insisted her son’s mangled body be returned to Chicago and the casket remain open during the public viewing.

During the movie, Medgar Evers, who accompanied Emmett’s mother to the trial that followed one month later, said the federal government was trying to pass a law that would make lynching a federal hate crime.

“It wasn’t passed until this year,” I whispered to my daughter, who was sitting beside me in the theater.

Why had it taken so long?  I wondered. As I sat there watching the movie, I thought about the noose I’d seen on the Capitol steps during last year’s January 6 riots and wondered if lawmakers had to experience hate for themselves before they acted.     

“Hate is a virus in the blood.” Wilkins words reverberated in my head throughout the rest of the movie.

“Does this story need to be told again?” someone has asked. The answer is “yes.”

Emmett Till was only 35 days older than I was in 1955, and I have known about his murder almost since the day it happened. His brutal death is a story that must be told again and again and passed down until racial violence and injustice in this country are finally eradicated.



Thursday, August 4, 2022

Termoli, San Giacomo, Venice and Padua!

 From Rome to Termoli with its view of the Adriatic,

we drove “just over the hill” to San Giacomo degli Schiavoni, the town with the long name and only three streets. The town with a population (today) of less than 1500, where my father lived between the ages of three and eighteen. We went to find the house he built in the Sixties.

Afterward, we drove to Venice. 

I didn't like Venice. I didn't like the canal. It was just a body of water, and I'd seen better bodies of water in Paris six years earlier, and in Switzerland as we drove passed the mountain lakes near Luzerne. 

But then we went to the old part of the city, to that part of the city that had no water and no tourists either. To that part of Venice (called Mestre) where I ate smoked salmon and (would you believe) Philadelphia cream cheese on a croissant, and where I bought a blue dress I fell (quite literally, but didn't get hurt!) in love with.

Then we went to Padua because I wanted to pray in the church dedicated to my patron, Saint Anthony. 

And finally, we started the long drive back to Darmstadt!


Sunday, July 31, 2022

Arrivederci Roma!

 We have spent our five days in Rome and have just arrived at a seaside city close to the town my father grew up in. It is heavenly here, much nicer than it was in Rome.

Oh, Rome has all the sights, all of what Irving Stone once called “the agony and the ecstasy.” It has the Vatican:

The Trevi Fountain: 

a view from the top of the Spanish Steps:

 And, of course, the Colosseum:

But Rome was hot,  hot, hot - which is why all my photos were taken at night- and this little city, called Termoli, has little more than a beautiful view of the Adriatic, and a delicious sea breeze!     

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


My pictures say it all! 

Basilica di Santa Croce
(Basilica of the Holy Cross)


Michelangelo's Tomb
(inside the Basilica)

The River Arno at night

a typical street

The River Arno again

the view from our front door

a wider street


Thursday, July 14, 2022

On the Beach

I’m on a beach. In Delaware. A mini-vacation before the longer one I’ll begin next week. I’m sitting under an umbrella, most of the time with my eyes closed, listening to the voices of strangers while a breeze skips across my skin, moving from one shoulder to the other.

There are people all around me - an older woman with short gray hair sitting alone with a book; an Asian family of three - mother, father and a teenage son who never leaves their side;  a young black man with long thin locks that frame his face majestically; and a man behind me talking incessantly on a cell phone, his voice rising and falling with the cadence of the waves, a voice I’m surprised I miss after he packs up and leaves.

Children screaming. Women laughing. All of it muffled by the mantra of the waves that lull me into bliss, until finally, I pick myself up to head home, to finish packing for a trip across this ocean to Germany and beyond.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

ELVIS, a Movie Review


. I've seen Elvis impersonators before -thin men and fat men, men in white jumpsuits or black leather jackets, and I’ve disliked them all. But Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 film version of the king is nothing short of electrifying.

The two-hour and thirty-nine-minute movie, which covers every facet of Elvis’ life and career from his birth in Tupelo, Mississippi to his death in Memphis, is narrated by Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks), Elvis’ manager who tries to convince us that he “is not the villain in his story,” when, in fact, he is.  

But before Colonel Parker, there was Elvis standing on a stage in one of his earliest performances. When the girls begin to scream, Elvis turns to his guitarist, Scotty Moore, and asks “Why are they yelling?” “The wiggle,” Moore answers, and, at that moment, ELVIS was born. And in a scene that is nothing less than genius, we see how and where that wiggle originated.

During most of the movie (to which I took my thirteen-year-old granddaughter Chloe, who loved it. Indeed, when I turned to whisper something to her, she couldn’t take her eyes off the screen), I found it difficult to remember that it was Austin Butler on the screen and not Elvis himself.

Unlike the Beatles, Elvis never made political statements. But when Robert Kennedy was assassinated during rehearsals for the 1968 Comeback Special and, with the memory of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., two months earlier, still fresh in his mind, Elvis sang “If I Can Dream” with a passion and purpose that only Butler could match.  

Throughout the movie, Parker tries to lay the blame for Elvis’ death on anything and anyone except Parker himself   -  Elvis’ heart, his drug use, and even the love Elvis felt coming from his audience,  one that could not sustain him when he wasn’t on stage.

But, if this movie begins with the circus-clown-like antics of Parker, it ends with the real Elvis on stage singing “Unchained Melody” in concert in June of 1977, just weeks before his death. While listening and watching Elvis sing this song, I realized that Elvis’ greatest love was his love for music.  

 Dear Elvis, my memoir of love and loss, is available at