Tag Archives: civil rights


Indira Ganesan, One Day's Close, 2014

Indira Ganesan, One Day’s Close, 2014

How do you celebrate a life passed? On May 19, Dr. Vincent Harding, noted historian, civil rights leader, educator, peace activist, passed away at age 83. July 25-26 was declared the Vincent Gordon Harding Memorial a Weekend in Colorado, marking what would have been Dr. Harding’s 84th birthday.

I met Dr. Harding in 2003 I think when I traveled to Denver to meet my dear friend Rachel. Her mother, the late Rosemary Freeney Harding, and I had been Bunting Fellows together in 1997-8, although that commonality between us seems hardly believable, given the wealth of Rosemary’s talents and wisdom. Rachel had accompanied her mother that year, and the three of us spend good company that year in Cambridge, working in colorful Victorian cottages, and attending afternoon seminars given on art, science, and peace work.

“Hello, my sister,” was Dr. Vincent Harding’s usual greeting, and I immediately became family.

The first part of the memorial began with prayers in , and I could have been listen to a priest chanting in Sanskrit, the same reciting of words in a cadence that was steady, sonorous, and ancient. English does not have this power, because it lacks invocations, and even its prayers have a passion that is more be searching than declarative. Kodo drummers led us out in fierce, loud drumbeats into the night. Yesterday, Aztec dancers began a four-hour long interfaith service, with a choral counterpart, and testimonies of the enormous influence Dr. Harding had not only Martin Luther King’s life, but in the lives of his numerous students, “nieces and nephews” who learned non-violent communication, community-building, and the use of tools to build a more just and peaceful society.

My memories of Dr. Harding are vivid from a trip his family and I took to Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. In the mornings, we sought American-sized cups of coffee, to the consternation of hotel staff, and Dr. Harding sang a song about “an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. Singing was instrumental to his work, and song and dance was an integral part of his workshops on black power and freedom. Singing also eased his way to the next life, aided by his daughter and son. My deep respect to a great man whose loss will be felt heavily in this world.


Memorial Day Observation

Indiraganesan, liberty, 2014

Indira Ganesan, liberty, 2014

I looked out my window, and was struck by the flags flying nearby. It was as if I were seeing them clearly for the first time. I take the nature of freedom to choose in this town too much for granted. Every once in a while, I remember where I am living, and how different it is from so much of America. When I see a shy same-gendered couple walk by, I see their palpable relief that they can hold hands, in public, without embarrassment. They are on vacation, and for the time being, they are safe.  It is 2014, and seems trivial to state the obvious, but civil rights are still fairly new in our world.

All around us in the world, new right-wing leaders are squirming into place, dusting off their shoulders, making sure their buttons are in place. We who are liberal are open-mouthed at their ascendancy, wondering what is next. We take too much for granted. Violence is perpetuated against women every day.  Our society lets children shape violence in their hearts, and gives them guns.  I write this from a comfortable chair, yet as a woman, I know that the threat of rape, of violence, of bias is part of my reality, and my life is shaped by that. Without a doubt, I dream more than I act.

Last week, a dear friend’s dear father passed away, Dr. Vincent Gordon Harding, who advocated in a gentle yet firm way for equality and liberty. He, together with his late wife, created and ran The Veterans of Hope organization, committed to educational awareness and action towards a more just society.  He is remembered in obituaries for writing Martin Luther King’s Vietnam speech, for the books he authored, and causes he embraced. I remember him for his kindness, his laughter, and the lesson he gave me long ago which I use in nearly every class I teach.  It is an exercises in remembering the stories of the women in our families, the ones whose stories get forgotten until they are repeated and shared.

My heart goes out to his family and, who continue to inspire me, whose compassion, intelligence, and joy I treasure.


About Dr. Harding:http://www.democracynow.org/2014/5/26/remembering_vincent_harding_the_civil_rights