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They fought for a cause

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This past Spring, I had the honor and pleasure of getting to know my great-great-grandfather, William McAdams, as I studied and transcribed letters that he wrote while in the Union Army during the Civil War.
I frequently wonder what he’d think of things the way they are now:how much farming has changed since his days, how big our cities have become, how quickly and easily we travel.Except for his 3 and a half years in the Army, he stayed at home or nearby.Home was a busy, multifaceted, yet simple farm on the prairie of central Illinois, near a town called Kansas.
I know that he would be perplexed, to say the least, to know that monuments to Confederate officers stand in places of honor in many public squares, and that schools and military bases are named for Confederate generals.Throughout his letters, he referred to the enemy as “rebels,” “Secessionists,” and “Secesh.”He considered them to be treasonous traitors.
He and several of his neighbors volunteered to serve in the Union Army…

Sea Hares

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On Mother’s Day in 2016, we saw some marvelous things.  There were several of them, these strange little creatures, moving about gracefully and silently in the water beneath and around our dock.  My husband and I had never seen anything quite like them.  We’d only been living on Dinkins Bayou for about a year, and before that we had not lived on salt water.  We had never seen such a weird and beautiful creature that swam like a sting ray, by flapping its “wings,” which are called parapodia.
The next day, I posted photos of the creatures on Facebook and asked my knowledgeable friends, “What is this little sea creature?”


The answers came quickly:sea hares, a.k.a. sea slugs.Wildlife educator Richard Finkel replied, “Sea hares.They come to shore in spring to deposit their eggs.”
Sea hares are gastropod mollusks; they have a small internal shell.Off the coast of California, sea hares are black, and they are significantly larger than our Gulf sea hares.
Sea hares eat algae – nothing but al…

With Liberty and Justice for All

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The removal of Confederate statues and memorials is nothing new.  This has been going on for decades.  According to Jane Dailey, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, “Most of the people who were involved in erecting the monuments were not necessarily erecting a monument to the past.  But were rather, erecting them toward a white supremacist future." 
A white supremacist future goes against core American values such as liberty, equal rights, and justice.When we decide to take down these monuments and statues, relegating them often to museums, we are deciding to uphold these core American values.We are not erasing history; we are accurately portraying who we are as a country.

In America, we have a strong union, unlike the sometimes seemingly tenuous union in Europe.Our union was forged by the Civil War – the deadliest war in our history.When we remove statues of Confederate generals from places of public honor and put them in museums where they are displaye…

Let’s change it.

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Systemic racism can be difficult to detect and destroy, because it is so insidious.  People can say things without thinking, but they say them because the words seem to make them sound like caring, concerned folks.  The words protect them from being seen as callous, compassionless people.  Good people say these things, but if they think about the meaning of the words, and apply logic and common sense, they can see what is hiding underneath those words.
I was having a phone conversation with a friend along the lines of my commentary last week, “Work for white people,”when she said that she thought black people had some work to do, too, because “most black people who are killed are killed by other black people.” Bingo!There are some of those words covering up hidden, systemic racism.
Think about it.Most white people are killed by other white people because most people who are killed are killed by someone they know.Why apply this statement to just one group of people when it is true of …

Work for white people

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White people will have to do the heavy lifting to end institutionalized racism.  Several incidents in my life have taught me that lesson.  Here’s the story about one of those times.
Many years ago, when I began to serve on a board of a nonprofit organization that promoted historic preservation in a city in Ohio, I heard my fellow board members (all white people) voice concern about the fact that the vast majority of the membership and all of the directors of the organization did not include people of color.My colleagues on that board were wondering if the black community did not care about historic preservation.
Nonsense, I thought.I called my friend CD who was interested in restoring and preserving a music hall/theatre that was much like Fort Myers’ McCollum Hall, only larger. (Duke Ellington had performed in both of these places.) I knew CD because my husband and I are jazz fans, and we liked to go to a particular bar/restaurant that had excellent live jazz and delicious food.We we…

The Power of Love and Hearing

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My dad’s business was vandalized and looted in the Cincinnati riots of 1967-68, yet what concerned him was not his losses, but the injustices and racism that sparked the riots.  He empathized with the people who were suffering so much.  I don’t know if he had heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., say that the riot is the language of the unheard,[1] but my dad certainly understood that truth.  I was just an adolescent at the time, but my dad’s words and sentiment about the people who were protesting, and his valuing these people’s yearning for basic human rights and fairness made an impression on me.  I will never forget it.
So after I listened to the audio stream of the Sanibel City Council meeting on June 2, I had to write these words in Facebook:
“It troubles me that the discussion at the beginning of today's Sanibel city council meeting seemed to focus on the council members' concerns about the rioting in cities across the country, and not on the racism and injustices t…

Josiah Jackson Dinkins

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The beautiful place called Dinkins Bayou is named for a little man who lived a big life. 
Josiah Jackson Dinkins was born in 1849 and grew up in the “Magnolia Midlands” region, in Tattnall County, Georgia, the son of Martha and Joshia Jenkins.As a teenager, Josiah worked as a machinist – most likely, an apprentice -- on the Central of Georgia Railroad during the Civil War.In that job, his small stature may have served him well.
After the war, in 1868, he moved to Florida and became a steamboat engineer, licensed in Apalachicola. He was then addressed as Captain Josiah Dinkins.
By 1870, he’d moved on down to Tampa, and then on to Fort Myers in 1873.He eventually met a charming young woman who was said to have worked as a “Fat Lady” in the circus.Her name was Susan Roxann Jeffries Langford.She was 9 years younger than Josiah.
Although a couple of Sanibel historical accounts say that Captain Dinkins’ wife had worked for the circus, I honestly don’t know how she had time.She was married …