Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.
If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition.
Coming up in the African-American culture, we were taught that we belonged to the universe and society was wrong in the way it dealt with us. We had to learn to express and affirm values not from the winning position.
When I started graduate school I was interested in the culture of the Civil Rights Movement.
There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. Give it up.
If we dwell in a community that is comfortable, then it's probably not broad enough a coalition.
I think the Civil Rights Movement changed that trajectory for me. The first thing I did was leave school. I was suspended for my participation in Movement demonstrations in my hometown, December, 1961
If every moment is sacred, and If you are amazed and in awe most of the time, when you find yourself breathing and not crazy, then you are in a state of constant thankfulness, worship and humility.
Well, the first time I ran into the term religion, people were asking whether you had any. You know, some people had religion and some people didn't have religion
But I'm a historian. I wasn't interested in just being a producer, I was interested in doing research and presenting that research to a general public
If, in moving through your life, you find yourself lost, go back to the last place where you knew who you were, and what you were doing, and start from there.
I went to a church where you could not sing out loud in the service until you had been saved
I came out of the Civil Rights Movement, and I had a different kind of focus than most people who have just the academic background as their primary training experience
The Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, actually, was an effort to put something on the mall in Washington so American tourists could walk through America, and in their minds everything on the mall would be American
I was at the Smithsonian for twenty years, and I'm still at the Smithsonian as a curator emeritus, and I still plan to figure out what that means for me at this point in my life
If I had been at a University I don't think I would have been able to have the experience I had in my Smithsonian work. I don't think I have been as successful
I just don't think one person has that much to contribute to any subject
And I used to think that proof that I had religion was whether I knew how to sing all of the songs.
At the same time all this was happening, there was a folk song revival movement goingon, so the commercial music industry was actually changed by the Civil Rights Movement.
I organized Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1973. The music was sanity and balance.
It makes sense that whatever the topic is, it's more compelling if you can provide the audience with a range of perspectives, and you can cross disciplines. And you don't have to control what people take out of it.
Most people come out of their Ph.D. experience trying to prove themselves, trying to get ahead, trying to get published. You're scared everybody else is going to do your research and get your topic.
Personally I discovered that you could go through the academy as a young scholar, come out, and almost immediately have an impact on the academic environment.
Today whenever women gather together it is not necessarily nurturing. It is coalition building. And if you feel the strain, you may be doing some good work.
What would you be like if you had white hair and had not given up your principles? It might be wise as you deal with coalition efforts to think about the possibilities of going for fifty years.
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