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The Worst and the Best of Humanity: 1937 and 1969

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

my sisters/ we always talked & talked
there waz never quiet
trees were status symbols

I've taken to fog/ the moon still surprisin me

Ntozake Shange, "Sense of Heritage"

There is a reason, after all, that some people wish to colonize the moon, and others dance before it as before an ancient friend.

James Baldwin, "To Be Baptized," No Name in the Street

I say there is no darkness but ignorance.

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 4, Scene 2

Yuri Gagarin, 12 April 1961

If only the Covington Catholic high-school students had knowledge of American history, then indigenous elder Nathan Phillips wouldn't have feared them as they surrounded him. It would have been for elder Phillips one big open-air classroom session no different than the large lecture halls at universities. Instead, as evident by the expression of superiority on the face of the student staring down elder Phillips, the privileging of alternative facts and personal beliefs seemed to outweigh existential knowledge. How a little Howard Zinn's A Peoples' History of the United States or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States could have gone a long way to uniting the decedents of America's conquerors and the conquered peoples.

A little less lying. Less suppression of the facts.

Sometime in June of 1969, I applied and received my social-security card and became an employed citizen for the first time that summer, working as a nurse's aide, cleaning out bed pans and removing soiled sheets. Mayor Richard J. Daley initiates a city-wide program whereby high-school students would gain work experience, not to mention a little pocket money. "Staying out of trouble" or "off the streets" wasn't an incentive, at least for us girls on the south-side in the Catholic parish of St. Anselm where adults operated a surveillance program. Any infraction was reported to "the proper authorities," that is, to parents and grandparents, if the observer didn't abide the "outside" authority of nuns or priests.

Saving to put aside money for the personal items I'll need in my dorm room at college, I'm thinking about being the first in my family to fly off to college. A black and a girl.

In July of 1969, Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, head for the moon and a scheduled lunar walk on its surface. I'd been watching these NASA launches since the Mercury program began in in 1958. Astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom fly in a suborbital pattern around our planet while on February 20, 1962, John Glenn, in Friendship 7, took the Mercury spacecraft into Earth's orbit. So on July 20th , I'm sitting in my grandfather's armchair in front of our black-and-white television, watching as the first moon boot steps down from Eagle 's ladder. Then the next foot. Both feet firmly on the moon. There's a human life form from earth on the moon.

I'm all of 15 years old, but I'm with him. I'm on the moon with Armstrong and Aldrin.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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