"From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?"

I do not believe that most men, upon reflection, would want a negative depiction of men (as expressed in the slogan) to justify the rejection of an equal rights ordinance. "Men ofHouston", I do not believe you deserve the fear-mongering that used your gender to defeat an equal rights ordinance!

Read More

A PERSPECTIVE...The Tamir Rice Tragedy & The Insight of Howard Thurman

From Gil Caldwell

"Reports from two outside experts who examined the use of deadly force in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer, concluded the shooting was ‘reasonable’” (ABC News).

From JESUS and THE DISINHERITED, by Howard Thurman*, 1949:

"The children of the disinherited live a restricted childhood. From their earliest moments they are conditioned so as to reduce their exposure to violence. In Felix Staten's BAMBI, the old stag counsels Bambi, giving to him in great detail a pattern of behavior that will reduce his chance of being shot without an opportunity for escape. He teaches him to distinguish human scent, the kinds of exposure that may be deadly, what precise kind of behavior is relatively safe. The stag is unwilling to leave Bambi until he is sure that the young deer has made his body commit to memory ways of behaving that will protect and safeguard his life."

How do we teach our children "to distinguish (the) human scent" that is present in a white policeman, or a black gang member, who devalues the life and humanity of black life, so that they shoot to kill black children and young people, in response to their own anger and their fear?

*Howard Thurman was Dean of Marsh Chapel when I was a student at Boston University School of Theology, 1955-58. I re-read the above Howard Thurman quote from For The Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman, selected by Anne Spencer Thurman with an Introduction by Vincent Harding. I had not looked at the book since the death of Vincent Harding. As I read these words written by Vincent when I opened the book, they evoked/provoked memory and tears as I remembered with deep fondness, Vincent Harding:

For my brother Gil -------------------- with great appreciation For our friendship And our common path Vincent 9/18/98   

Words of Support for the Equality Act from an 81-year-old former CR Movement "Foot Soldier"

I, as one who attended the March on Washington, participated in Mississippi Freedom Summer, two phases of the Selma to Montgomery March, and the Poor People's Campaign, am very pleased with legislation that will protect the rights of LGBTQ persons. Martin Luther King once said about laws against lynching, "A law may not make a man love me, but it will discourage him from lynching me." My Christian faith compels me to link love to justice. I am saddened that some of my Christian colleagues do not understand that their opposition to legal justice for LGBTQ persons and same-gendered-loving couples contradicts their claim to "love the sinner, but hate the sin". Love that does not express itself in justice is not authentic love.

I, as an African American, am deeply disturbed that much of the faith-based resistance to LGBTQ persons is much like the faith-based racial segregation I experienced as I lived in North Carolina, Texas, and South Carolina. Sadly, as I observe religious bigotry expressing itself cloaked in religious freedom, I cannot help but respond by saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same".

The Equality Act represents an understanding that both the nation and we who are people of faith affirm the God-given humanity of all people, regardless of who they are or who they love.

Gilbert H. Caldwell A retired United Methodist Minister Co-Participant in Truth in Progress, producers of the documentary film in process; "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Asbury Park, NJ

An "Open Letter" to Pamela Chatterton-Purdy and Rev. David Purdy, Creators of  "Icons of the Civil Rights Movement", and the book about them

Dear Pam and David,

One of my quotes that you used in your one-page biographical sketch of me is this: "One of my goals for the rest of my life is to encourage and empower young people to find meaning in the Civil Rights Movement..." I write this letter to you because an additional goal of mine is to "Encourage, enable and empower white people to explore, discuss, and respond to the long-standing need for black people to have '...the right to secure and govern our own bodies."'

I have said with a twinkle in my eye, "It's not easy being white", as I have remembered Kermit the Frog's, "It's not easy being green". We who are black constantly look for white people who "get it"; who have been able to break free from the "chains of whiteness" with their privilege, power, supremacy, psychological, spiritual, historical, and cultural capacity to imprison white people. Pam and Dave, you broke free from those chains as you long ago lived your lives in white and black, and then created, "Icons of the Civil Rights Movement".

My Methodist Preacher father and I were named Gilbert Haven (1821-1880) in response to a white New England Methodist Episcopal preacher who was a bold proponent of racial justice, integration, and interracial marriage. Gilbert Haven became a Bishop, but held to his racial views as he served in that office. Pam and David, I know it has not been easy for you as white persons who openly affirmed your understanding of and commitment to that most significant of American justice movements: the Civil Rights Movement. You have met resistance, apathy, and misunderstanding from white persons as well as from some blacks, whofor a variety of reasons are less-than-positive about "Icons". But you have persevered, andI and many black and white persons applaud you for that.

I, at the age of 81, now understand that anti-black bias is deeply embedded in the DNA of the white experience and worldview, and that it is extremely difficult for white people to talk about anti-black racism with their fellow whites. This began to become more clear to me during the candidacy and presidency of Barack Obama and the residency of his family in the White House: The "satirical" cover picture of Barack and Michelle Obama on a "progressive" magazine during his first campaign, the need for expanded Secret Service coverage of President Obama and his family, the "just say no" of the Republican Party to the Obama agenda, the Tea Party emergence as an anti-Obama entity, and most recently, the display of  Confederate Battle Flags as President Obama arrived in Oklahoma (Will the first Jewish President be confronted with flags that have the Nazi swastika on them?).

And of course the killings of unarmed black men by the police, the "Charleston Massacre", and much more, precipitate this "Open Letter" to you, with the hope that you will share it in ways that might begin or accelerate conversations about anti-black bias among our white colleagues.

I have quoted Ta-Nehisi Coates from his book written to his son, "Between The World And Me", in the first paragraph of this letter. The full quotation, I believe, could be useful as whites begin to talk to whites as never before:

"...the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice-cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, land; through the flaying of blacks; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you (his son) and methe right to secure and govern our own bodies."

The conversation among whites that many of us believe needs to take place might include a remembering of the lyrics of "Strange Fruit". But in 2015, USA should replace Southern:

"Southern trees bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root. Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees"

Your friend and colleague in the journey to racial justice, 

Gil Caldwell

Asbury Park, New Jersey

June 19, 2015, "JUNTEENTH"; The 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas

Colleagues, I first heard of "Juneteenth" when we lived in Galveston, Texas, where my father, Rev. G. Haven Caldwell, was Pastor of Wesley Tabernacle Methodist Church. We lived in Galveston from 1948-50. I attended all-black Central High School in Galveston.

Read More

Gil feature of profile by Religion News Service

RNS--CALDWELL-PROFILE bReligion News Service recently published an article on Gil's journey as a "foot soldier" for civil and LGBT rights. The article, written by Adelle M. Banks, offers details on his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the "epiphany moment" that drove him to be an active part of the fight for LGBT rights.

He had to confront his own views on tolerance when Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest and activist whose writings he had admired, came out as gay in 1977.

“Do you deny the impact he’s had on your life? Do you burn his books?” he asked himself. “How foolish that would be. And that, of course, was clearly an awakening for me.”

Check out the article here.


A Response to Three of the Baltimore Police Officers Charged in the death of Freddie Gray

It is now time for an understanding that “Black Lives Matter” be embraced, not only in Police Stations, but in the words that black gang members tattoo on their arms, that Supreme Court Justices place on their walls, Congress members include in their legislation, and Presidents have on their desks in the Oval Office.

Read More


My hope is that we who are gay rights advocates, gay and straight, will link arms with a host of others in confronting the economic and educational disparities between the black community and other communities. May historians be able to write that on the day that Baltimore erupted and on the next day when the Supreme Court moved toward affirming marriage equality for same sex couples, a coalition emerged that began to do what had not been done before, acknowledging and addressing the damage done to black slaves and the sons and daughters of black slaves by a nation that claimed to be rooted in democracy and justice.

Read More

My last e-mail Invitation to the Jack Crum Conference

I expect those who gather at the Jack Crum Conference to understand that if we have the will, God will enable us to break free from the language and legislation that has enslaved us since 1972, and guide us, regardless of our differences in Biblical interpretation, theology, and Christology, to be in mission and ministry in response to the major justice challenge of the 21st Century: THE ECONOMY!

Read More

A riff on being white

Kermit the frog said, "It's not easy being green." I, many years ago, reached the conclusion, "It's not easy being white," as well. I have my own measurement as I have assessed whether white persons are authentic in their commitment to racial justice. My measurement? Whether or not white persons are able to confront other white persons about their racially insensitive attitudes, and at times racist actions, toward those of us who are black.

Read More

Blacks In The UMC and The USA: "(We) are invisible understand, simply, because people refuse to see (us)” (Ralph Ellison/Invisible Man)

What do I suggest black folk and all folk do to begin again the unfinished journey to black justice? Recognize that, as is true of all justice struggles, “It takes the complete village to achieve justice". But it is foolhardy to expect folk who are not black to give more energy to the achievement of black justice than the energy we who are black expend. Therefore, black persons and majority black organizations are challenged to challenge ourselves as much or more than we challenge those who are not black.

Read More

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy (Morning)

This morning I find myself fascinated that my critics are adamant about only one kind of faith-based "traditional marriage", but they accept, uncritically, the diversity that is present in the ecclesiological expressions of the Christian Church! The book of Acts and the Epistles address the beginnings of the Church and give hints of how and what the Church should be in form and function, but there is no agreed upon uniformity of Church ecclesiology. Thus for my critics, the Church can be un-uniform in its diversity of expressions, but marriage dare not be?

Read More

The Burning of a captured Jordanian Pilot to Death in a Cage, and Black History

How should these pictures of a slice of Black History that some would deny, others would revise, and still others would respond to with amnesia, shape our response to the brutality of "Islamic State group militants?" In other pictures that I have, there are men in their white robes gathered around burning crosses. If they are not Christian terrorists, why should we be so certain about speaking/writing of "Islamic Terrorists?”

Read More

Dr. Ben Carson, what role would you have played in SELMA?

Although I do not agree with Dr. Carson's views on marriage equality, nor with the ways he is being embraced by some conservatives, my greater concern is how Dr. Carson identifies with America's greatest protest movement, the Civil Rights Movement. Do those who embrace Dr. Ben Carson because of his conservatism on a host of issues do so as a way of separating him from a movement that was neither liberal or conservative — America's Civil Rights Movement? ...Dr. Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey has given witness to her long support of black justice by playing the role of Annie Lee Cooper in SELMA. If given the opportunity, what role would you have played in the film?

Read More

SELMA: Dare we dream?

Langston Hughes ends his poem by asking; "What happens to a dream deferred?........ does it like a raisin in the sun explode?" How do we, or do we, find ways to assess the emotional and spiritual toll that hiding in the closet of internalized racism and/or internalized heterosexism takes on the lives, humanity and well-being of those who are black, those who are gay and those who are both? Could the THERE of "From Selma to Stonewall: Are we there yet?" be that place that none of us or few of us have dared to go?

Read More

Ky Dickens signs on as producer for "FROM SELMA TO STONEWALL!"

Ky Dickens on becoming the Producer for "From Selma to Stonewall: Are we there yet?", “I wanted to be a part of this because I like to work on projects that have the potential to advance social justice and understanding. Comparisons between oppressive movements are made quite often and there are a lot of questions that people need answered. I hope this film can do that!”

Read More