Anderson and Amistad

Thank you for your very interesting article about Marian Anderson (PWW 3/05-11).

In 1995 the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation mandating our Amistad Committee “research, mark and promote” an official state Freedom Trail. Immediately thereafter, we began to call sites, requesting permission to mark them for the trail. We realized Marian Anderson’s farm in Danbury, where she lived for 50 years, would be one of the most important.

We inquired, only to learn that the estate had been sold to a developer upon her death. We called the developer to ask permission to place a Freedom Trail marker at the farm. His answer was short and quick: “Absolutely not. I am going to demolish the house and studio.”

I then called the director of what is now the Danbury Historical Society and requested a community meeting. In the course of discussion, several who knew Anderson well indicated that she was not fond of the house.

Our next strategy was to bring the story of Marian Anderson and the Freedom Trail to the media. There was a spate of feature stories, radio, and TV interviews. After all, Marian Anderson was one of Connecticut’s leading women.

More than a year expired. Finally, a call came from the developer. Negotiations resumed. The offer was, “Take the studio. Move it somewhere else. I’ll contribute $15,000.”

Anderson had not liked the house, but the studio was hers. The political leaders approached the state government, which pledged $193,000. The Historical Society proposed the studio be moved to the land lying idle behind its building. The studio opened in late 2004, almost nine years after the first telephone call to secure permission for a marker at the farm.

Al Marder, New Haven CT

Confused about class?

Today’s news headlines show an easy way to resolve any problems that activists might have about which class is forming people’s opinions. We already know that the two main opposing classes are the working class and the capitalists, with some confused folks in between. We know that their opinions are formed from their economic circumstances.

We want to know which class dominates which people so that we can better understand what they are telling us. But it’s no big problem to tell, just ask them!

The Texas Legislature is considering a school finance bill that barely rewards teachers for their work and sacrifices. What few rewards are in the proposed bill would come as “merit pay” based on students’ scores, not on the work the teachers do. Which class is for it? Which class opposes?

The Legislature is also considering some pay raises for state workers (though not for thousands of non-academic staff in higher education). They are considering Rep. Lon Burnam’s bill to raise the state minimum wage. Which class is for pay raises? Which class is against?

The stock market just responded to rising unemployment figures with a 100-point uplift. Which class, which side?

At the national level, Sen. Ted Kennedy recently proposed a pretty good lift in the federal minimum wage. Some of the Republicans responded with another pay-raise bill, which Kennedy called “a sham.” Kennedy said that congressmen have voted themselves an extra $28,000 in the last five years, while leaving the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour, which leaves workers $5,000 below the official poverty line.

The Senate had no problem discriminating between Kennedy’s proposal and the weaker one. They shot them both down. The minimum wage remains a disgraceful $5.15/hour. Which class was on which side?

Just ask people if they support increasing wages and benefits for workers. If they say “yes,” put them in the working-class column. If they say “no,” put them in the capitalist column. If they give you a long confusing answer, assume that their thinking is muddled middle class or that they are BS-ing you.

Jim Lane, Dallas TX

Baseball and politics

Let me say first that I do not condone the use of steroids or any other illegal or performance enhancing drug, but when will we Americans wake up and smell the coffee?

How obtuse for America’s politicians (especially the Republicans) to condemn baseball players (or any one else for that matter) for not living up to the ideals of American children. How dare this group even approach the subject of not being good role models. This administration needs to take a good look in the mirror!

Elected officials (especially the president of the United States) should certainly be categorized as people who are responsible to the general public for their actions.

Let’s look at just a couple of important facts concerning the current administration. Bush personally lied to the world concerning Iraq’s WMDs and is responsible for killing 1,518-plus American soldiers and wounding over 11,000 more. This administration has killed over 100,000 innocent Iraqis and physically destroyed a country.

The Bush administration touts that they are creating a democracy in Iraq driven by a fair and equitable constitution. Interestingly enough, this administration concurrently and systematically is destroying America’s own Constitution, turning over the impoverished of America to corporate creditors and violating our very basic freedoms.

The U.S. government needs to clean up its own house before they have the right to condemn the actions of any other group, including American baseball players!

Denise Bensusan, Via e-mail

‘Taxation without representation’

In reading the March 10 article entitled “40 years after Bloody Sunday,” it’s inspiring to see so many rally together to end all forms of taxation without representation. Yet, as a resident of the Washington, D.C., area, I want all people from Selma, Ala., to understand what real taxation without representation looks and feels like.

The people of D.C. have no voting congressmen and no senators. The nearly 600,000 people who live here, the majority of whom are African American, have no one to speak for them on any issue.

Our people fight for America in times of war, pay a huge amount of taxes to the federal government, serve on federal juries, but get no vote in our American democracy.

It’s important for us to honor those who fought for voting rights in the past, but we must realize that fight continues in our nation’s capital. We in D.C. live with “taxation without representation” every day. We need help from people all over the country to end this injustice. It’s time for a change. It’s time to bring American democracy to America’s capital.

Shawn Rolland, Washington DC

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