February 29, 2008

Many voices bring forth a powerful message

Source: NYSUT News Wire
Caption: Linda Watkins from NYSUT Program Services sings 'Oh Freedom' during "Black Voices: Freedom Cries" celebrating Black History Month sponsored by the NYSUT Multicultural Committee.

The strong historical relationship between the labor movement and the fight for civil rights and social justice was given voice in a celebration of Black History Month at NYSUT headquarters.

Using literature, essays, speeches and spirituals, NYSUT members, staff and leaders participated in a "Black voices: Freedom cries" event to close out the month-long observance.


Clarisse Butler Banks from NYSUT Communications reads from a radio broadcast by civil rights activist Mary Mcleod Bethune.


Poems by Langston Hughes cleverly focused on issues of schools, wages and aspirations for a better life in the African-American community; a reading from James Baldwin laid out the struggle for freedom in Harlem.

Readings from labor leader A. Philip Randolph's speech at the 1963 March on Washington sounded themes that remain timely nearly a half-century later, including the importance of unions.

A speech from Dr. Martin Luther King to students in 1959 exhorted them to become teachers, doctors and lawyers, but to also "make a career of humanity. . . commit yourself to the noble struggle for civil rights."

Speeches from education pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune, a founder of Florida's Bethune-Cookman College, and Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American candidate for president in 1972, also called for social and economic justice.