Friday, January 23, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Cosmic Freedom Walk

To my myriad readers, I offer apologies that I have not posted for so long... Since I took on a second job,(the below described AEMCH) I feel I have had little time to breathe.

HOWEVER, in the first week of December I was blessed to attend the CREDO clergy retreat, and I did get quite an eye-opening break.

I realized that I wanted to incorporate more of my background in the arts (theater and filmmaking) into my work. No sooner had I returned than an opportunity to do just that presented itself.

I had already signed up to be on the design team for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend youth Nightwatch at Grace Cathedral, when I had a thought. Here it was the celebration of MLK coming one day before the inauguration of the first African American president in our history- I thought we should do something BIG! SO I recalled the event that Bishop Marc brought us 2 years ago- the Cosmic Walk. This is a walk around a spiraled rope set on the ground, with votive candle set to mark great landmarks of evolution, beginning with the big bang, right up to the present day.

SO I thought- let's do a history of civil rights and the struggle for freedom leading up to the election of Barack Obama! I didn't have a name for it, but when I went to our next meeting, Deacon Carolyn Bolton came up with the name the Cosmic Freedom Walk.

After struggling with WHERE TO BEGIN I decided to begin with the birth of Sojourner Truth. It was designed as multi-media extraviganza, with Jim Freidrich as our VJ (video disjockey, projecting images and film clips of the struggle) and Bertie Pearson and DJ, weaving in songs of the movement, and other great songs like "Strange Fruit."

The Cosmic Freedom Walk began with a gospel song of creation, sung by Eloise Carey, a wonderful gospel singer from Shiloe church in Oakland. Then she read a wonderful poem of creation by James Weldon Johnson, tossing out a beach ball with planet earth painted on it and spraying the air with glitter for the stars, and squirting the youth with water for the creation of the oceans.

Then we transitioned into the long walk of freedom. I began the story, Carolyn Bolton continued, followed by Clinton Williams and finally Will Scott. At each great marking of history, the youth lighted a candle- for the birth of Sojourner Truth, the life of Frederick Douglass, the emancipation proclamation, the right of women to vote, the stone wall riot, etc. THE WHOLE text follows.

The Cosmic Freedom Walk

Then singing- low and sweet.
still in darkness, a woman’s voice singing
And God stepped out on space,
And looked around and said,
"I'm lonely --
I'll make me a world."

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
The large candle is lit, Image of CREATION comes up on screen
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, "That's good!"
Then God reached out and took hold of the light,
Actor lifts up the large candle
And God rolled the light around
Until the sun was made;
And God set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
Lift the candle high
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball

And flung it against the darkness,
Toss smaller ball into crowd
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Handful of glitter is thrown out, some head of speaker
Then down between
The darkness and the light
God hurled the world;
Toss out ball of Earth from Space
And God said, "That's good!"
Then God stepped down –
Gesture to candle at right hand
And the sun was on God’s right hand,
And the moon was on God’s left;
The stars were clustered about God’s head,
Glitter is sprinkled on Actor’s head
And the earth was under God’s feet.
And God walked, and where God trod
God’s footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then God stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
Actor steps to edge of labyrinth
And spat out the seven seas;
Sound effect spitting, volunteer squirts water on youth
God’s eyes batted, and the lightnings flashed;
God clapped, and the thunders rolled;
Loud clap
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Youth aspurging continues
Then God raised a hand and waved it
Over the sea and over the land,
And God said, "Bring forth! Bring forth!"
And quicker than God could drop that hand.
Youth act out surrounding the labyrinth playing the…
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, "That's good!"
Youth all quiet- sit down
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that God had made.
God looked at the sun,
And God looked at the moon,
And God looked at the little stars;
God looked on the whole world
With all its living things,
And God said, "I'm lonely still."

Then God sat down
On the side of a hill to think;
By a deep, wide river God sat down;
Head in hand,
And God thought and thought,
Till God thought, "I'll make me some folk!"

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
A boy and a girl come forward and lie down in the labyrinth
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
God kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over 2 lumps of clay
Pick up each of their hands and “mold” them
Shaping them in God’s own image;

Then into that clay God blew the breath of life,
And they became two living souls.
Youth sit up and look around
Amen. Amen.

Youth stay there and wait to light the first 2 candles.

So God created the world and it was good. And the people were free.

But unfortunately, one of the first things people did with this freedom was to enslave others. This is the story of the freedom that was denied many people. This is the story of the struggle for that freedom- the exodus from slavery, and the promise of a dream.

But the world of slavery lasted a long time. Here is an eye-witness description of a slave ship unloading it’s grief-stricken cargo in 1620:

“But what heart could be so hard as not to be pierced with piteous feeling to see that company? For some kept their heads low and their faces bathed in tears…crying out loudly… others struck their faces with the palms of their hands, throwing themselves full length on the ground and made their lamentations in the manner of a dirge. Then those who had charge of the captives…began to separate fathers from sons, husbands from wives, brothers from brothers. And you who are so busy in making that division of the captives, look with pity upon such misery, see how they cling to one another so that you can hardly separate them.”

Into a world of slavery, a girl child was born one day in 1797. Her people were from Africa, and she was born of slaves. Her name was Isabella Baumfree, but she came to be known as Sojourner Truth.
She was sold when she was nine years old, for $100.00 along with a herd of sheep. She was cruelly abused by her new owners, and when she was grown, she ran away with her youngest daughter, and was given refuge by a Quaker couple.
During this time, Isabella had a life-changing religious experience -- becoming "overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence" and inspired to preach. She quickly became known as a remarkable preacher whose influence, people said, "was miraculous."
She worked with the abolishionist William Llyoyd Garrison and the great activist Frederick Douglass, and was an early activist for women’s rights .In 1854, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Covention in Akron, Ohio, she gave her most famous speech -- with the legendary phrase, “Ain’t I a Woman?” At 6 feet tall and strong as steel, some doubted this:
"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? ... I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me -- and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well -- and ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me -- and ain't I woman?". .
Let’s light a candle for Sojourner Truth
The life of Sojourner Truth spanned over many landmark events:

In February 1809 Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was to become a great president, and the one with the distinction of setting the slaves free after the great and tragic Civil War.
“Whenever I heard someone speak out in support of slavery, I have a strong desire to see it tried on him personally.”
Let’s light a candle for Abraham Lincoln.

In 1848- the first American Women's Rights Convention takes place in Seneca Falls, New York. Two powerful anti-slavery workers were there: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Along with Susan B. Anthony, these women began to use the same power they had found to try to free the slaves in removing the shackles from their own hands.
In1850 Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin. The book revealed the cruelty visited on the slaves and humanized them as no other work had done. Abraham Lincoln later welcomed her into the White House saying, “Here comes the little lady who started the Civil War!”

In November,1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected President. On the 20th of December, South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union.
In 1861- The Civil war begins
In 1863- President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation takes effect on New Year's Day. The slaves in some states are free at last.
Lets Light a candle for Freedom

In 1865- Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude in all states
Booker T.Washington, the great African American author and teacher, observed this scene as a child:

“As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom.... Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see. “
On the April 9th 1965, General Robert E. Lee surrenders to the General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox Courthouse, Virginia, ending the Civil War.
in 1866- The Ku Klux Klan, a white terrorist group, is founded in Nashville, Tennessee.

Black men are legally granted the right to vote on February 3, 1870- fifty years before the vote is granted to women.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the number of lynchings of black men rose drastically. Between 1889 and 1918, 3,224 people are murdered as the result of lynchings. The lynchings were so common and the value of black life so cheap that families would actually take a picnic to the hangings and watch with their children.
Let’s light a candle for sll those who died from these terrible acts.

In the middle of this massive brutality against her people, Sojourner Truth quietly made her last exodus and passed away, on November 26,1883.

By 1909 Black Americans were beginning to organize to fight back against the cruelties of the day. W.E.B. Du Bois, the brilliant civil rights activist and writer, founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Among its early crusades is a movement for anti-lynching legislation. Using graphic leaflets, the NAACP highlights the thousands lynchings in the early years of the twentieth century, exposing their horror and condemning authorities for failing to investigate them.
Light a candle for W.E.B. Dubois

In 1920, during World War I, women finally earned the right to vote. After courageously submitting to harassment, forced feedings during their protest fasts, and prison, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Attempting to build on this victory, in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment, calling for equal pay for women is first proposed. After 86 years, it is still not part of the U.S. Constitution.
Amazingly, as early as 1924 there was some stirring for the civil rights of gay Americans. The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the country's earliest known gay rights organization.
Lets light a candle for human rights for everyone


On the 15th of January 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. is born in Atlanta. No other figure looms as large in the story of freedom and civil rights. He was the Moses that his people had been waiting for to lead them on their Exodus out of slavery. His mother was a school teacher and his father was a minister, and they and instilled strong principles of social justice and morality in their son. All his life he was influenced by the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament prophets.

“Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. …the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of women and men.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
Let’s light a candle for Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1938, a singer becomes a symbol for the dream of equality…

Eleanor Roosevelt publicly resigned from the DAR over this incident, but neither she nor her husband the President publicly speak out against the laws which segregated schools and public restaurants and institutions of all kinds.
Let’s light a candle for Marian Anderson.

In 1941 the United States enter WW II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor

On May 3, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt issues Civilian Exclusion Order 34, which states that all persons of Japanese ancestry – even American citizens-- are to be removed from Military Area No. 1 and placed in internment camps. Many of them remain in the camps until 1946.
August 1945: 140,000 die in Hiroshima. On August 9th, 80,000 die in Nagasaki.
Let us light a candle for the innocent victims of Hiroshima/Nagasaki

In - July 1948,President Truman orders the desegregation of the Armed Forces. But Truman's order is not implemented until after the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950. The process of desegregating the Army is not "complete" until 1954, at which point no unit is more than 50% black.

In June 1949 the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir writes The Second Sex. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and often regarded as a major work of feminist literature. In it she argues that women throughout history have been defined as the "other" sex, an aberration from the "normal" male sex. Women reading her book were startled to recognize themselves in De Beauvoir’s portrait of a wife, quoted from Marie Le Hardouin’s “La Voile Noir” (The Black Veil).

"We lived in misery. I put my eyes out mending his clothes. Sickness threatened our only child with death. But a gentle, crucified smile was on my lips, and in my eyes was that expression of silent courage which I have never been able to bear the sight of in real life without disgust."

The book began the stirrings that would explode into the women’s movement of the 1970’s.

Let’s light a candle for Simone de Beauvoir

On May 17, 1954, The Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, all agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The ruling paves the way for large-scale desegregation. It is a victory for NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who will later return to the Supreme Court as the nation's first black justice.

In Aug. 1955 fourteen-year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till is visiting family in Mississippi when he is kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Two white men, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, are arrested for the murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. They later boast about committing the murder in a Look magazine interview. The case becomes a cause célèbre of the civil rights movement.

Let's light a candle for Emmett Till


In a carefully orchestrated act of civil disobedience on Dec 1, 1955, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who worked closely with Dr. King, refuses to give up her seat at the front of the “colored section” of a bus to a white passenger. In response to her arrest the Montgomery black community launches a bus boycott, which lasts until buses are desegregated a year later, a great early victory for the civil rights movement.

Let’s light a candle for Rosa Parks
Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas was to begin the 1957 school year desegregated. Nine black students are blocked by a mob of 1,000 town people from entering the school on orders of Governor Oryal Faubus. President Eisenhower sends in federal troops and the National Guard on behalf of the students who become known as the “Little Rock Nine.”
Light a candle for the courage the Little Rock Nine

Over the spring and summer of 1961, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in bus and railway stations. Several of the groups of "freedom riders," as they are called, are attacked by angry mobs along the way. The program, sponsored by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), involves more than 1,000 volunteers, black and white.
Light a candle for the freedom riders.
In 1962 James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Violence and riots surrounding the incident cause President Kennedy to send 5,000 federal troops.

In the planning for the up-coming March on Washington, of August 1963, one of Martin Luther Kings closest advisors was Bayard Rustin. He was a civil rights activist, who mostly worked behind the scenes because he was gay. He counseled Martin Luther King, on the techniques of non-violent resistance drawing on his Quaker roots and his early associations with W.E.B Dubois and James Weldon Johnson who were frequent guests in his childhood home. Rustin became an advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes in the latter part of his career; however, his sexual orientation was the reason for attacks from many governmental as well as interest groups throughout his career..
A year before his death in 1987, Rustin said:

"Twenty-five, thirty years ago, the barometer of human rights in the United States were black people. That is no longer true. The barometer for judging the character of people in regard to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, lesbian."
He died on August 24, 1987, having seen great strides in the cause of gay rights that he worked for as hard as he worked for civil rights for all people.
Let's light a candle for Bayard Rustin

On Aug 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. led the famous March on Washington. In spite of worries that violence would erupt, civil rights organizers proceeded with this historic event that would come to symbolize the civil rights movement. Here, Dr. King gave his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial:

• Denise McNair , eleven years old,
• Cynthia Diane Wesley , fourteen years old
• Carole Rosamond Robertson, fourteen years old
• Addie Mae Collins, fourteen years old

Let’s light a candle for these innocent children
This tragedy galvanized the civil rights movement.

On Civil Rights, President John F. Kennedy believed in the moral correctness of integration. JFK was prepared to use the power of the federal government to uphold the law, as he did when he sent troops to protect the admittance of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi, and later to more peacefully force integration at the University of Alabama.
On Nov 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade in Dallas Texas beside his wife. John F. Kennedy believed deeply in justice for all races, and in his short tenure, was a champion for civil rights.
Let’s light a candle for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

1964 was the summer known as “Freedom Summer.” The Council of Federated Organizations began a campaign to register as many black voters as possible. On June 21: James E. Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, three Mississippi Freedom Summer workers, who had just completed a training on how to help blacks register to vote, are murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The murders cause a national uproar, and paved the way for President Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act.

Let’s light a candle for the freedom workers

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. In his first address to Congress and the nation as President, Johnson called for the passing of the civil rights bill as a monument to the fallen Kennedy. The act makes it illegal to discriminate in employment and illegal to segregate public facilities.

On Feb. 21, 1965 Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is shot to death. It is believed the assailants are members of the Black Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned in favor of orthodox Islam.

Malcolm X was an African American Muslim minister, public speaker, and human rights activist. He adopted the last name “X” because his African name had been lost to history and he did not want to keep the name of his ancestor’s master. He was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans

While in prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam. After his parole in 1952, he became one of the Nation's leaders and chief spokesmen. For nearly a dozen years, he was the public face of the Nation of Islam.

After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X made the pilgrimage to Mecca and became a Sunni Muslim. He founded Muslim Mosque, Inc., a religious organization, and the secular, black nationalist Organization of Afro-American Unity. Less than a year after he left the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech in Harlem, in New York City.


“You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.”

Let’s light a candle for Malcolm X
In March of 1965 a march begins to Montgomery from Selma Alabama in support of voting rights for blacks.

What came to be called “Bloody Sunday” became the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later.

On August 10, 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for blacks to register to vote. Literacy
Tests and taxes at the polls were made illegal.

In June of that same year, a young, white Episcopal seminarian named Jonathan Daniels wrote to his home church in New Hampshire about working for civil rights in Alabama:

"Our life [down here] is filled with ambiguity, and we are beginning to see as we never saw before that we are truly in the world and yet ultimately not of it. For through the bramble bush of doubt and fear... we are groping our way to the realization that above all else, we are called to be saints."

Two months later, Jonathan and three fellow activists were walking into a small town grocery to buy some cold drinks on a hot August afternoon. Two of them were white, two were black. The store owner met them at the door, pointing a shotgun at 16-year-old Ruby Sales and screaming about "niggers" on his property. Jonathan pushed Ruby to the ground and shielded her with his body as the man pulled the trigger. Jonathan died, but Ruby lived. Martin Luther King would later call this "one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard..."
Let’s light a candle for Jonathon Daniels.

In 1966 the National Organization for Women is founded. Betty Freidan co-founded the U.S. National Organization for Women with 27 other people, co-authoring the founding platform with the first Black Episcopal woman priest, Pauli Murray.

In 1963 she wrote “The Feminine Mystique,” a bestseller, which some people suggest was the impetus for the second wave of feminism, (the first being the suffragettes in 1918) and significantly spurred the women's movement.

Let’s light a candle for Betty Freidan and freedom for women

1966- The militant Black Panthers are founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, Calif.

June 12 , 1967: In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional. Sixteen states that still banned interracial marriage at the time are forced to revise their laws.

On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the last speech of his life.
The next day, he was gunned down on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Let’s light a candle for Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1968, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, a strong weapon in the continuing fight against discrimination.

César Estrada Chávez was an American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. His work led to great advances for union laborers in wages and working conditions.

Later in life, education became César's focus. The walls of his office in Keene, California were lined with hundreds of books ranging in subject from philosophy, and economics, to biographies of Gandhi and the Kennedys. He was a vegan. Influenced by Ghandi, one of his most dramatic acts was a 25 day fast in 1969 to protest deplorable conditions for farm workers.

He died after several days of a protest fast in 1993, and was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton after his death.
Let’s light a candle for Ceasar Chavez

In 1969 The Stonewall riots transform the gay rights movement from one limited to a small number of activists into a widespread protest for equal rights and acceptance. Patrons of a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, fight back during a police raid on June 27, sparking three days of riots. This was the first instance in American history when gays and lesbians fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the modern gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

Let’s light a candle for the courageous demonstrators of Stonewall

In 1973, reflecting a growing consciousness of the normalcy of gay life the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders

Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not early interests of Milk's; he did not feel the need to be open about his homosexuality or participate in civic matters until his experiences in the counterculture of the 1960s, when he was about 40 years old. Milk served 11 months in office as city supervisor in 1977 and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city.

On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned and wanted his job back. Despite his short career in politics, Milk has become an icon in San Francisco and a martyr for gay rights.


"Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors -- the 'us's' -- without hope the 'us's' give up. I know that you can't live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you have got to give them hope." - Harvey Milk, "Hope Speech."

Let’s light a candle for Harvey Milk.


In the early 1980's AIDS began to devastate the gay population in many American cities. The first AIDS cases in the United States were reported in 1981, but the illness was not referred to as "AIDS" until 1982. Because of continuing prejudice, the education and research that was so desperately needed from the government to fight the crisis was tragically meager and fatally slow.
Let's light a candle to those we lost tin the AIDS epidemic.
Even in the midst of this devastation of the gay community, there was an awakening of consciousness. In 1982, Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In 1989, Denmark became the first country to legalize same-sex partnerships. And Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and France followed suit.

A new expression of black culture, Hip Hop music, began in the Bronx, in New York City in the 1970s, born of Jamaican and African roots. It was initially popular among African Americans and Latino Americans, but is now embraced by many cultures.
By 1979, hip hop had began to enter the American mainstream. It also began its spread across the world. The lyrics had often been political, possibly inspired by the early rap poem, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scot-Heron in 1970. By the late 1980’s Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back became surprisingly successful, even though its tone was militant and confrontational.
In the 1990s, a form called gangsta rap became a major part of American music, causing a lot of controversy over lyrics which seemed to promote violence, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny. Continuing into the year 2000, Hip hop was a staple of popular music charts. Male rappers like Dead Prez now use the form as a vehicle for protest songs, as in the social justice influenced Dead Prez song Hip Hop.
And some feminist rappers like Queen Latifah use politically conscious lyrics, as in the anti-mysogyny Queen Latifah song, “Unity:”

“Instinct leads me to another flow, every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or ho, tryin to make a sister feel low You know all of that got to go. Now everybody know there’s exceptions to this rule, no don’t be getting’ mad when we’re playin’- its cool But don’t you be callin’ out my name, I’ll bring wrath to those who disrespect me like a dame- who you callin a bitch?”
Let’s light a candle for Queen Latifa and the Hip Hop generation

In 1993, the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy is instituted for the U.S. military, permitting gays to serve in the military but banning homosexual activity. President Clinton's original intention to revoke the prohibition against gays in the military was met with stiff opposition; this compromise has led to the discharge of thousands of men and women in the armed forces.

In 2000, Vermont becomes the first state in the country to legally recognize civil unions between gay or lesbian couples. The law states that these “couples would be entitled to the same benefits, privileges, and responsibilities as spouses.” It stops short of referring to same-sex unions as marriage, which the state defines as heterosexual.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country legalizing same-sex marriages
Let’s light a candle for equal rights for all marriages

On January 30, 2006, Coretta Scott King dies of a stroke at age 78. The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. was an author and courageous activist, and alongside her husband, Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Scott King's most prominent role may have been in the years after her husband's 1968 assassination; following Dr. King's death, Mrs. King was responsible for finding a new leader of the civil rights movement; when others turned down the leadership position, Mrs. King took on the mantle of leadership herself, remaining a vital and powerful voice in American politics until her death in 2006.
Let's light a candle for Correta Scott King

In February 2007 Emmett Till's 1955 murder case, reopened by the Department of Justice in 2004, is officially closed. The two confessed murderers, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were dead of cancer by 1994, and prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to pursue further convictions.

In 2008 Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fight a long battle for the Democratic nomination for President. The fight is extraordinary, since to the amazement of many, the two front runners are a white woman and a black man. Barack Obama wins the nomination, and later names Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Referring to the 17 million supporters who voted for her to be the nominee, Clinton said,

“We may not have crashed through the glass ceiling of the presidency, but there are about 17 million cracks in that ceiling now.”

Let’s light a candle for Hilary Clinton
On Nov 4, 2008 Barack Hussein Obama is elected 44th President of the United States of America.

In an historic speech on race during the election, Obama said,
“We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism. We can tackle race as a spectacle… we can do that. Or at this moment, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind. Not this time.”

Lets light a candle for Barack Obama, and celebrate the dream!
Everyone starts singing Aint gonna let nobody Turn Me ‘Round