Our Civil Rights

This post is inspired by Bruce Hawes, songwriter, producer, arranger, author of “Growing Up In The Sound of Philadelphia”.

“Sing a song, full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us”  (from “Lift Every Voice and Sing”)

I am sure that you have heard the words of this song which was the anthem for the civil rights movement 50 years ago, and is becoming the anthem again. I have never wanted to write about our civil rights. I still don’t want to, but in light of all the news stories I feel compelled to say what is on my mind. I write not only for my son, Pervis Jr,  who cannot speak, but for other men in his situation. Men with a mental impairment who may not know how to follow police instruction, who may not be able to explain their actions.

Some of our civil rights are the right to privacy; the right to free speech and expression; the right to freedom of movement: the right to life and safety. These rights should have freedom of infringement from government, social organizations and private individuals. I want to say that my civil rights have not been violated. In fact I am making use of my civil rights to write this message.

Today is Martin Luther King Day and  there is much being said about a new civil rights movement. I am wondering if we are back where we started from.  So are many others. You have seen the marches and the protests, not just by black people, but by people of all races. Who would have thought that we would be going backwards? We know that the power structure in this country is tilted away from some people. Men with with mental impairments are especially vulnerable. A physical impairment can be seen and recognized, but a mental impairment is invisible.

Thank God that in America, we have civil rights. That’s why the news media can show what is happening across the country. That is why we know what is going on. There are countries where the news media can only show what the government wants to show. There are countries where people can be killed for speaking up against the power structure. We are blessed to live in America and I don’t want to see us going backwards. “Those who don’t remember the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.”

There is a new generation of marchers in the streets. There are many people concerned about us losing some of our gains.  If there is a new civil rights movement  going on, I know that I will not be joining in the protests and marches, but I cannot remain silent about our fears of losing some of the ground that we had gained. I feel that I must try to protect Pervis Jr and others like him. They know nothing of their “civil rights.” They are generally well protected and not out in the community alone, but it has happened. Are they considered worth less because of their impairment, compounded by their race?

Pervis Jr’s autism has compelled me to speak up even when I don’t want to. It has pulled me out of my comfort zone for many years.  Pervis Jackson Sr pushed and prodded me to write and speak because he felt that we owed it to our son and others in his condition.  I agreed, and I always had his support and encouragement.  When Pervis Sr. passed away in August 2008, I lost that support, but the other Pervis is still here and still needs my protection.

I am thankful that I live in America where I can use my freedom of speech. I am thankful that there are the “best of them who look out for the least of them”. I am thankful that we are not just a “survival of the fittest” society,  that everyone has worth.

Until next time; May the Power of God protect you. May the Love of God enfold you.

Claudreen Jackson

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