Monday, January 20, 2014

Lessons from the Greensboro Four

A little over a week ago, I read this obituary for Franklin McCain who, with three others, all college freshmen, staged a sit-in at the Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC in 1960.
It was not the first such sit-in. After the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate the public schools in 1954, activists tried to integrate lunch counters in Oklahoma City, Baltimore and other cities on the periphery of the segregated South. There had been similar efforts in the Deep South, particularly in Orangeburg, S.C., in 1955 and ’56 and in Durham, N.C., in 1957. 
But the Greensboro episode, by most estimations, had the widest impact, inviting national publicity and inspiring a heightened level of activism among college students and other youths. Later that year, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most effective civil rights groups, was born in Southern black colleges.
Here's a picture from the beginning of the sit in (Franklin McCain is wearing glasses):

And here's a picture from day 6 of the protest:

 As the obit reports, "By the 5th day, more than a thousand had arrived." The sit-in began on February 1, 1960. They were finally served on July 25.

On this Martin Luther King holiday, I was thinking about what lessons I could draw from this particular story. One is that you need your friends. Another is that a small action can have much larger ramifications. Another is to be very specific about what you're going to do and what result you hope to achieve. Another is to expect it to take time. So much to learn.

Can I say also that I love the fact that McCain stayed in North Carolina after he graduated, worked for 35 years as a chemist, raised a family, and retired there. On the website for February 1, a documentary made about the sit-in, the bio for McCain notes, "As a resident of Charlotte, he has served on many boards and worked towards changes in local educational, civic, spiritual and political life." I bet he has.

Here's a picture of the Greensboro Four, taken at the Woolworth's counter in 1990. Franklin McCain is the one lifting the cup of coffee.

Well done, sirs.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: The World's End

It made sense to me to watch The World's End on New Year's Eve, focusing as it does on heavy drinking and, potentially, an apocalypse. Of course, I've been a big fan of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright movies since watching Shaun of the Dead (which, come to think of it, I may have forced my family to watch on New Year's Eve many years ago).

This may be my favorite of the Cornetto Trilogy. At any rate, this and Shaun are neck and neck. And the reason, I think, I'm so impressed is that The World's End is willing to have a strong current of sadness. Not a heart-tugging moment, but a sadness that starts from the very first scene and continues throughout.

The sadness resides particularly in the manic and deeply addicted Gary King who "gets the band back together," cajoling his high school mates into completing the 12-pub pub crawl they abandoned back in the '90's. There's a desperation in his need to drink these pints dry, a kind of magical thinking as he makes his way from pub to pub despite the obstacles in his path.

If you don't know what the obstacles are, I'm not going to spoil it for you here. I will say, however, that Pierce Brosnan uses all his suavity to creepy effect in a brief scene. He makes his proposition sound so reasonable.

I may be influenced by the fact that I listened to interviews both with Simon Pegg and with Edgar Wright before seeing the film, which added extra insight in to some of what I saw. Great interviews -- though maybe only for fans.

I will also add that I vote for "blue bloods" over "blanks." Funniest scene in the movie. You'll see what I mean.