Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King’

The 45th Annual March for Life

This week has been an interesting one. The workweek began with a day off to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal holiday. Severe winter weather moved into the area during the week as well. With temperatures near 70 degrees during the preceding weekend, a weather front moved in that had the temperatures drop down into single digits. The weather front also brought snow with it, which caused areas schools to close on more than one day. Now at the end of a week in which Federal workers like myself are waiting to see if the lack of a budget will result in the government shutting down at the end of the day today, the temperature has risen back up to almost 50 degrees just in time for my lunchtime bike ride to this year’s March for Life.

The March for Life is an annual event which began as a small demonstration on the first anniversary of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 in cases known as Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, which were landmark decisions on the issue of abortion. Over the years the March for Life has grown to include numerous other cities in the United States and throughout the world. The March in D.C., however, has become and remains the largest pro-life event in the world.

I have attended the March for Life each year for many years, as I did again today for the 45th annual march. This year’s events included a musical opening before the rally program began, which took place at noon on the National Mall at 12th Street, in between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. During the program there were a number of featured speakers, including President Donald Trump (via video satellite), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Pam Tebow, the mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Directly after the program there was a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building took place. After finishing marching there was then a time for “Silent No More” testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court, as well as chances for some to meet with their Representative or Senator to advocate for life.

According to the latest statistics available on abortions worldwide, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.  Approximately 926,200 of these abortions were performed in the United States, which equates to approximately nineteen percent of all pregnancies in this country (excluding miscarriages) ending in abortion. Other available information from the WHO on abortion in the United States shows that nearly half (45%) of all pregnancies among U.S. women were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. This made the abortion rate 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged (15–44).  Among these women, 1.5% have had an abortion, with just under half of these women (45%) reported having a previous abortion.  Those who have abortions come primarily from the poorest among us (75 percent), women of color (61 percent), women pursuing post-secondary degrees that would lift them out of poverty (66 percent), and mothers who already have dependents (59 percent).  Overall, based on all available statistics, one in 20 women (5%) will have an abortion by age 20, about one in five (19%) by age 30 and about one in four (24%) by age 45.

The March for Life may not put an end to the tragedy of abortion, but it’s a good step (or steps).

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

More information about the annual March for Life can be found on one of my previous blog posts.

#WhyWeMarch  #MarchForLife  #MarchForLife2018

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The Howard Theater

The Howard Theater

The Howard Theatre, which is located at 620 T Street (MAP) in the U Street Corridor of northwest D.C.’s historic Shaw/Uptown neighborhood, is an entertainment venue with a storied history of highs and lows since opening over a century ago. And that is the reason I decided to make it my destination on this lunchtime outing.

The Howard originally had a capacity of more than 1,200, and featured orchestra and balcony seats and eight private boxes, with a lavishly decorated interior. And the theater’s original exterior matched its lavish interior, combining architectural elements of the Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance, and neoclassical styles. However, it lost its original ornate facade in 1941 when it was redone in the then-fashionable Streamline style. And it has been reduced in size over the years, currently being able to seat only half of its original capacity.

After its initial opening in 1910, The Howard became known for its variety of acts, including vaudeville performers, plays, and even circuses. However, despite its early success which lasted through the 1920’s, the Howard was forced to close down at the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

The building became a church for a short time, but was was able to reopen a couple of years later under new management, and this time became a venue devoted to discovering and hiring only the best in black talent. Though The Howard did not discover, Duke Ellington, a native Washingtonian, it was responsible for launching many other careers, such as Ella Fitzgerald’s. The astounding success of The Howard resonated throughout the East Coast as it energized the debuts of other black owned theaters, such as The Apollo in Harlem, The Uptown in Philadelphia, and The Royal in Baltimore, or, what was known at the time as The “Chitlin’ Circuit.”

Over the next couple of decades, many notable Jazz performers headlined at The Howard, including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Nat King Cole, “Moms” Mabley, and hometown favorite Duke Ellington, bringing along with them an unparalleled level of fame and prestige to The Howard. Other types of performers were intermittently mixed in with these acts during this time. These acts included performers like Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello and Cesar Romero, as well as Pearl Bailey, who made her debut at the Howard.

Then in the 1950s and 60s, The Howard became a venue for rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues, including such artists as Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Lena Horne, Lionel Hampton, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and Marvin Gaye, to name but a few.

After the riots which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, coupled with societal changes brought about by desegregation, brought about unrest and disturbances which served to debilitate the area, drive out many locals, and eventually cause degradation of the once vibrant neighborhood. This made it difficult for The Howard to attract patrons, and in 1970 it was forced to close down once again.

Many attempts were made to revive The Howard in the years that followed. One attempt occurred in 1975, and attracted many stars and received significant publicity, both from the audience and performers. Acts such as Redd Foxx and Melba Moore were among those featured at the reopening. Later in the decade, Go-Go bands played the venue, including the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, another native Washingtonian, along with The Soul Searchers, also performed at The Howard. Despite this success, this run lasted only five years. The venue failed to regain its former glory or financial viability, and closed down once again in 1980.

Most recently the theater, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was reopened after a 32-year hiatus and a $29 million multi-year renovation project. After being listed by the D.C. Preservation League as one of its Most Endangered Places in the city in 2002, groundbreaking for extensive renovations of the theater was held a couple of years later, and The Howard finally reopened in 2012 with a grand re-opening gala and benefit concert hosted by Bill Cosby and Wanda Sykes.

Today the reopened theater honors the glory of the past while ushering in an exciting future. Through the addition of state-of-the-art acoustics, and video and recording capabilities, The Howard is able to retain the intimate feel of its classic space for traditional audiences, while expanding to include new digital-age audiences as well. It is open six days a week, year-round, with dining amenities

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Freedom Plaza

Freedom Plaza

Freedom Plaza, originally known as Western Plaza, is an open urban plaza built in 1980 in northwest D.C., located at 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.  It is adjacent to Pershing Park, and just a few blocks from the White House.  The plaza was designed and developed by The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, as part of a plan to transform Pennsylvania Avenue into a ceremonial route connecting the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House.

The western end of the plaza contains a raised reflecting pool with a large, animated circular fountain, while the eastern end contains an equestrian statue of Kazimierz Pułaski, a general in the Continental Army.  The center of the plaza contains a giant inlaid black granite and white marble map of the national capital city, as designed by Pierre L’Enfant, with grass panels representing the National Mall and the Ellipse, and bronze markers denoting the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House.

It was renamed Freedom Plaza in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., who worked on his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nearby Willard Hotel.  At the time the name was changed in 1988, a time capsule containing a Bible, a robe, and other relics of King’s was planted at the site.  I look forward to another bike ride there in 2088 when the time capsule will be reopened.

Freedom Plaza is a popular place for political protests and civic events.  In the spring of 1968, it was home to a shanty town known as “Resurrection City,” which was erected by protesters affiliated with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign.”  In the wake of King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, the encampment ultimately proved unsuccessful, and the inhabitants of the tent city were dispersed within the next couple of months.

Years later, beginning in October of 2011, it was also one the sites in D.C. which was temporarily home for a group which called itself Occupy Washington D.C., which was connected to the Occupy D.C. movement, encamped at McPherson Square, and to the Occupy Wall Street and broader Occupy movements that sprung up across the United States throughout the fall of that year.  However, by December, the movement’s presence at Freedom Plaza was nearing its end.  The two original organizers of the Freedom Plaza occupation divorced themselves from the occupation, and the “exploding” rat population around the camps at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square was described by D.C. Department of Health director Mohammad Akhter as “no different than refugee camps.”

Freedom Plaza is one of those places in D.C. that many people have already been to but never really noticed.  Unique among the city’s plazas and parks, it is worth a long enough visit to appreciate its subtlety and details.

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The Historic Willard Hotel

On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln and his entourage were holed up in the Willard Hotel, where they had gone in order to avoid an assassination attempt. So on today’s bike ride, I went by to see the historic D.C. hotel for myself.

The Willard Hotel is located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), just two blocks east of the White House. It is a luxury hotel, with a history of famous guests over the years. In addition to Lincoln, Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding all stayed at the Willard.  President Grant also stayed there, and frequented the Willard lobby during his presidency, where he coined the term “lobbyists.”  And two vice-presidents actually lived there during their terms in office. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in his hotel room at the Willard in 1963 in the days before delivering it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The Willard also hosted Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words for The Battle Hymn of the Republic in her room at the hotel early one morning.  Among the Willard’s many other notable guests are P. T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, General Tom Thumb, Samuel Morse, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Houdini, Gypsy Rose Lee, Gloria Swanson, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, and Buffalo Bill.

But it was back in 1861 that the soon-to-be President not only arrived, but arrived at the hotel unexpectedly, and in a disguise. Lincoln had been travelling by train from his home in Springfield, Illinois, to his inauguration in D.C., and had planned to stop in Baltimore on the way. Shortly after departing Springfield, however, his aides received reports of a planned assassination attempt in Baltimore.  Secessionists were planning an attack involving several men armed with knives who would attack when Lincoln walked down a narrow corridor as he switched Baltimore and Ohio Railroad trains at the President Street Station in Baltimore.  So his train was ordered to proceed immediately to D.C.

The plot in Baltimore was uncovered by Lincoln’s head of security, Allan Pinkerton, who would later go on to found the famous Pinkerton private detective agency. Following a contentious election during which slaveholding states threatened to secede from the Union, angry southern conspirators vowed to kill the man they perceived as an abolitionist President before he entered office. Working undercover, Pinkerton met with a secessionist named Cipriano Fernandini, who turned out to be the leader of the assassination plot. During that meeting one of Fernandini’s co-conspirators stated, “That damned abolitionist shall never set foot on Southern soil but to find a grave. One week from today the North shall want a new president, for Lincoln will be dead.”

Even when news of the plot reached Lincoln, he argued for keeping the Baltimore engagement, much to his aides’ frustration. But a stubborn Lincoln finally submitted to his wife’s insistence that he abandon his plans, and the attack was successfully avoided. Lincoln remained at the Willard Hotel under heavy military guard, holding meetings in the lobby and carrying on business from his room, until his inauguration on March 4, 1861, when he became the first President from the Republican Party.

Ironically, Lincoln went on to direct his inaugural address to the South, proclaiming once again that he had no intention, or inclination, to abolish slavery in the Southern states.

Currently, you can stay in the John Adams Presidential Suite at the Willard Hotel for $3,500 per day.  But it was less expensive in Lincoln’s day.  The hotel maintains a small historical display in a hallway just inside the northeast entrance. There you can see a copy of Lincoln’s hotel bill.  Lodging for him and five members of his family totaled $148.50 for their ten-day stay.  Room service, which included private meals, whiskey, brandy and champagne, and other incidental items, comprised the rest of the $773.75 bill.  Lincoln paid the bill with his first paycheck as President.

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