Category Archives: Human Rights

30 June 2020

Walking. Morningside Park. NK Body Philosophy
For Marsha P. Johnson – Bryce Dessner
I Want to Break Free – Queen
Just the Way I Like – Shawnee
Singing for Our Lives – Holly Near
We Are Family – Sister Sledge
What I Need – Hayley Kiyoko
Candy Says – The Velvet Underground
Lost Angel – Mya Byrne
Constant Craving – k.d. lang
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
Make Me Feel – Janell Monae
Born This Way – Lady Gaga
We Belong – namoli brennet


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29 June 2020

Stretching. The Shire. NK Body Philosophy.
Cherokee Morning Song – Walela
Electric Lady – Janell Monae
Four Women – Nina Simone
Doubt – Mary J. Blige
Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Against Me!
Flawless Remix – Beyonce
I Am Woman – Helen Reddy
Ella’s Song – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Different Drum – Linda Rondstadt
U.N.I.T.Y. – Queen Latifah
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man – Aretha Franklin
You Let Me Down – Billie Holiday
You Don’t Own Me – Grace
Thorn in Your Side – namoli brennet

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28 June 2020

Pacing. The Shire.
For Marsha P. Johnson – Bryce Dressner
I Turned You On – The Isley Brothers
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nilsson
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy – Brenda Holloway
One – Three Dog Night
Put a Little Love in Your Heart – Jackie DeShannon
Black Pearl – Sonny Charles & The Checkmates, Ltd.
Destination: Anywhere – The Marvelettes
Only the Strong Survive – Jerry Butler
Nothing But a Heartache – The Flirtations
Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy to Come By – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
In the Ghetto – Elvis Presley
The Nitty Gritty – Gladys Knight & The Pips
Oh Happy Day – The Edwin Hawkins Singers
My Cherie Amour – Stevie Wonder
You Came, You Saw, You Conquered
I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & The Family Stone
Good Morning Starshine – Oliver
No Matter What Sign You Are – Diana Ross & The Supremes
Build Me up Buttercup – The Foundations
This Is My Life – Shirley Bassey

With one exception, these songs are among the “Top 40” songs on the jukebox in the Stonewall Inn during June, 1969 as reported by the Stonewall Veterans Rebellion Association


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A Prayer in the Age of COVID-19

Thanks to the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb for this prayer.
“O child of Bethlehem, Emmanuel, God with us, who in your eternal wisdom chose to incarnate in Bethlehem, Palestine, to take on our flesh, fragility, and vulnerability, we thank you for being near us wherever we are today.”

Mitri Raheb Blog

Heavenly Father, our creator, who breathed into us the breath of life, we ask you to give us the needed strength to continue our journey even when we feel a shortness in breath, fatigue, and suffocation under stifling pressures. Teach us the art of breathing, especially when we feel that the marathon is too long and the path too thorny. Help us to see your thoughts and plans for us.

O child of Bethlehem, Emmanuel, God with us, who in your eternal wisdom chose to incarnate in Bethlehem, Palestine, to take on our flesh, fragility, and vulnerability, we thank you for being near us wherever we are today. We thank you for being our healer, who went throughout Palestine healing the sick and lifting up those left behind. We thank you for all the healers of today, the doctors, nurses and caregivers who are working tirelessly risking their lives so…

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National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls


The issue, from the National Congress of American Indians:

On some reservations American Indian and Alaska Native women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average; and

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 and 34 years of age.

The witness for 2020, from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Join NIWRC’s 2020 #MMIWGActionNow Campaign

As we are challenged by the difficult times created by the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates, shelters, and programs continue their tireless and dedicated efforts to avoid disrupting services for survivors. Looking ahead to the efforts to commemorate May 5th as the National Day of Awareness (NDA) for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, we are challenged as a national movement to reconsider how best to honor our missing and murdered Indigenous women amidst the pandemic.

While the important public health policies of social distancing and “shelter-in-place” may prevent in-person MMIWG activities, we strongly encourage communities and programs to creatively participate in this year’s National Day of Awareness. We need action now! The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls honors the lives of our Native sisters and helps shed light on the countless tragedies involving our Native sisters.

The continuing reports of abductions and murders of Native women and girls represent one of the most horrific aspects of the spectrum of violence committed against Native women. The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations. Often, these disappearances or murders are connected to crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking.

In 2017, the Montana Congressional Delegation led the way for passage of a Senate resolution declaring May 5 as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. May 5th was the birthday of Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe who went missing on July 4, 2013. Each year since 2017, the national movement to end violence against Native women has organized activities in support of the May 5th National Day of Awareness.

This National Day of Awareness also highlights the need for ongoing grassroots advocacy and changes to the laws, policies, and increased allocation of resources to end these injustices. Individual and/or joint actions at the local, tribal, state, national, and international levels are needed this year. The issues surrounding missing and murdered Native women must be brought into the public’s awareness to increase the accountability of the justice systems. In uncertain times such as these, where people are forced to work from home or lose their jobs altogether, it can put people in abusive relationships at further risk. Public statements honoring and calling for justice for MMIWG can also serve as statements of support for those who are suffering from abuse and violence. Turning our grief to action, NIWRC strongly supports and calls upon Congress to address:

1) the need for increased tribal victim services and tribal justice resources affirmed in several federal reports, and

2) the inadequate responses of the federal and state criminal justice systems that fail Native women.

NIWRC is committed to increasing safety and access to justice for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women and their children, by bringing awareness to this critical issue of missing and murdered Native women and girls. We believe that we can continue to build strong support and action around MMIWG but only with your help.

Please join us for the following activities:

  • Download the MMIWG ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ poster and share a photo of yourself wearing red and/or traditional attire with the poster using #MMIWGTakeAction, #NoMoreStolenSisters and #MMIWG. Download poster here
  • Access the MMIWG Social Media Guide, complete with prepared social media posts and graphics to download for your use.
  • Watch the Native Wellness Institute‘s Power Hour on Facebook Live Monday, May 4, from 2-3 p.m. CT. NIWRC will join our sisters and LGBTQ2S relatives to share resources for MMIWG. | Watch the replay here
  • Participate in our #MMIWGActionNow Twitter Storm – Tuesday, May 5, from 11-11:30 AM CT. Please use hashtags: #MMIWGActionNow, #NoMoreStolenSisters, and #MMIWG. Download posts here
  • Listen to Native America Calling on Tuesday, May 5, from 12-1 PM CT. NIWRC Executive Director Lucy Simpson will be a guest to discuss how advocates are ‘uniting (in isolation) for MMIWG awareness’
  • Join our #MMIWGActionNow Twitter Chat – Tuesday, May 5, from 1-2 PM CT. Please use hashtags: #MMIWGActionNow, #NoMoreStolenSisters, and #MMIWG. Download questions here
  • Register for ‘Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls – National Day of Action’ webinar – Tuesday, May 5, 2-3:30 PM CT | Register here
  • Watch the United State of Women #StateOfWomenTV Instagram Live Series featuring NIWRC Senior Native Affairs Advisor Elizabeth Carr on Tuesday, May 5, starting at 3 p.m. CT.
  • Tag the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram in your efforts to raise awareness for MMIWG.

Thank you for your continued support, participation, and for the work that you do in each of your communities to raise awareness for missing and murdered Native women and girls.

#REDdress #MMIWG #MMNAWG #gonebutnotforgotten



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Where’s the salt?

Matthew 5:13-20
Where is the salt?
9 February 2020

The First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig

Whenever I hear our passage from Matthew, I have flashbacks to the Great Salt Panic of 2015. You remember that, don’t you? No? Here’s a refresher.

Tricia, Eric, and Essie came to New York to celebrate the holiday with Sean and me. We decided to eat at my apartment because I had a full-size oven. Tricia did the cooking. At some point, she opened the food pantry and asked, “Where is the salt?”

The salt.

Silence hung in the air as I framed my response. Years ago, I  gave up adding salt to food. I did not give up salty foods. If you attended our October feast and counted the pretzels I ate, you know that. But I have not added salt to food either in cooking or on my plate for many years.

 Where is the salt? Not in my apartment.

This posed a problem to whatever Tricia was making. She called Sean. On his way uptown, he stopped at a Duane Reade and bought some salt. Thanksgiving dinner proved a success. And that container of salt remains in the pantry. A full shaker sits on the table. Waiting for Tricia or the kids to come and use them.

Salt has a long and interesting history. It was once traded for gold. The early Chinese used coins of salt and in Europe some Mediterranean people used cakes of salt as currency.[i] During the time of the Roman Empire, and throughout the Middle Ages, salt carried such value that it was sometimes called “white gold.” Roman soldiers sometimes received pay in with salt instead of money. Because “sal” is the Latin word for salt, the soldiers monthly allowance became called “salarium”. Linguists say the process took a couple steps, but “salarium” eventually became “salary” in English.[ii] This then leads to the phrase that a worker is “worth her … salt.”  

In India, the colonizing British passed a Salt Act in 1882 that prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt.  The Indian people could only purchase salt from the British. Who exercised a monopoly over salt’s manufacture and sale … and who benefited from the tax. As is the case with most economic injustice, the people living in poverty suffered the most although everyone needed salt.[iii]

To challenge British rule, Mohandas Gandhi determined to break the Salt Act. He organized a 240-mile march to the sea in March of 1930. There marchers would make their own salt. Thousands of people marched to the sea where, in defiance to the empire, they made salt. The movement grew. Millions more began to break the Salt Act. The British arrested some 60,000, including Gandhi. At the Dharasana Salt Works, nonviolent protestors were brutally beaten by police. The British released Gandhi from prison in January of 1931. The Salt Act was not abolished. But Gandhi participated as a negotiator at a conference on India’s future. Those negotiations did not go well. But sixteen years later India and Pakistan received independence. The door to that independence pushed open by nonviolent direct action over salt.[iv]

My Uncle Pete lives near Syracuse. He  reminds me of the role that salt played in the history of the city. Millions of years ago, a sea covered central New York. As the sea evaporated, it left behind deposits of salt. The Onondaga people who lived in the area knew something was going on with some of the water in the area. Salt production began in the 1770s and continued until about 1900. During much of that time, Syracuse was a major, if not the major salt, producer in the United States.[v] Uncle Pete will proudly tell you that Syracuse is “The Salt City.”

Salt melts ice. Softens water. Creates a solution that when gargled can soothe a sore throat. Flavors food and beverages. I remember as a child my grandparents encouraging me to use salt to brush my teeth.

At the time Jesus lived, salt flavored food. Salt helped purify or cleanses meats through the removal of blood. It was used to help heal or cleanse certain ailments. And it preserved certain foods—meat or fish among them. The use of salt as a preservative was essential until the invention of refrigeration. The people who lived in first century Palestine knew all these uses for salt.[vi]

Salt also had ritual and symbolic uses at the time. People used salt in offerings and sacrifices. The Hebrew Scriptures refer twice to a “covenant of salt.” In one instance, this covenant is made between God and the priests. In the other, God makes such a covenant with the kings. According to the New Oxford Annotated version of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, this image most likely refers to the perpetual nature of the covenant because of salt’s preservative nature.[vii]

“You are the salt of the earth.” When the people who heard them from Jesus, they recognized he had said something important. He provided the people with an understanding of who they were and how they were to be.

“You are the salt of the earth.” They carry meaning for us today. With these simple words, Jesus tells us who we are and how we are to live.

It is important that we pay close attention to the words. We need to understand why Jesus said and what Jesus did not say.

Jesus does not say, “If you want to be salt, you have to do this, that, and the other thing.” Jesus does not say, “I will call you salt, if I see you behave in these ways.

Like the Beatitudes we considered last Sunday, Jesus’ words bring no requirement or conditions. “You are the salt of the earth.” They are blessing. Affirmation. Commissioning. They were blessing, affirmation, and commissioning for those who heard the Sermon on the Mount. They were blessing, affirmation, and commissioning for those who have read the Sermon on the Mount. They are blessing, affirmation, and commissioning for us. “We are the salt of the earth.”

Yes, Jesus goes on to say that “if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”[viii]

Clearly Jesus never spent a winter in Western Pennsylvania. We trampled salt under foot many days. It was good. Often it was essential.

As I researched today’s sermon, I came across several authors who raised the question of “can salt lose its saltiness?” Or flavor or taste as some other versions of the Bible translate the term.[ix]

They answer salt does not. And if you have ever taken a sled down a blocked-off street in Western Pennsylvania and ended up in a snowbank where the salt truck had been, you would know. It still tastes like salt. These scholars believe that Jesus knew that salt does not lose its saltiness. And those who heard Jesus knew that salt does not lose its saltiness. They believe that by talking about “salt that has lost its taste,” Jesus underscores the reliability and resilience of the blessing he has bestowed. Lutheran pastor David Lose says Jesus tells his people, tells us: “You are the salt of the earth! That’s the way it is and that’s the way it will stay. Period.”

With this image, Jesus affirms our worth. We matter to Jesus. We matter to God. We have great value. God has gifted us and put us in this world to uses those gifts as well as we are able to flavor life with  God’s justice, kindness, and love. The salt of the earth, we help preserve and bring healing and offer flavor according to God’s will. It is who we are. It is what we do.

What does it look like to live as salt?

Congressman John Lewis from Georgia is a man of profound and deep faith in Jesus Christ. At one point, he considered entering the ministry. In his graphic novel, March: Book One, Lewis writes that as he cared for the chickens on his family’ farm, he preached to the chickens.[x] He  participated in the Nashville Student Movement[xi] and became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963.[xii] He was one of the original Freedom Riders.[xiii] He spoke at the March on Washington, before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and after the Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church.[xiv]

March: Book One

On March 7, 1965, civil rights activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama to call for full voting rights for all people. John Lewis led the march. The marchers crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma. There state troopers and a posse organized by the county ordered them to disperse. When the marchers did not, the “law enforcement” officials, including some on horseback, attacked with nightsticks and tear gas. Many marchers received severe beatings and injuries, including John Lewis.

Jump forward in time almost 55 years. On December 28, 2019 Congressman Lewis shared the news that he has Stage IV pancreatic cancer. He began his statement about the illness with these words: “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”[xv]

This past Thursday, the annual National Prayer Breakfast took place in Washington, DC. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) received the invitation to deliver the closing benediction. He accepted, even though his fight against cancer meant that he had to appear by video.

As he spoke, Congressman Lewis quoted his friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “I have decided to stick with love, for hate is too heavy a burden to bear.” Congressman Lewis spoke of the brutal beating he endured in Selma. And then said, “But I never hated the people who beat me because I chose the way of peace, the way of love, and the way of nonviolence. For the God Almighty helped me.” His benediction ended with an admonition to the attendees, and to all the nation, to “go in peace, go in love, and we commit to treating each other as we would treat ourselves. Amen.”[xvi]



Treating each other as we would treat ourselves.

That is how we live as salt, church. That is how we live as salt.

We may not have similar experiences to Congressman Lewis. But we have daily opportunities to live in peace, to love, and to treat each other as we would treat ourselves. We can love individually and as a congregation. We can love individuals and we can act for justice, love expressed in the public arena.

The First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone is the salt of the earth. We pray for one another, for our community, and for people and circumstances around God’s world. Aid people recovering from disasters. Support efforts to address gun violence and welcome refugees and provide food and water to the world. Help children in the Philippines enjoy a Christmas meal.

Individually, we can love and live in peace and treat people as we would like to be treated. We can love our neighbors – the people who live around us. We can help each other as we face challenges of life. Our work or our life at school can be done in kindness and in peace. We can listen patiently and prayerfully to one another in the pews around us, help meet each other’s needs, and serve Jesus together. And then we can do the really challenging ministry – loving our family, the people closest to us. That’s how Jesus commissions us to live.

Where is the salt? It’s you. It’s me. It’s us. By God’s grace, we are the salt of the earth. Amen.




[iv] Ibid




[viii] Matthew 5:13

[ix];; and

[x] John Lewis, Andrew Aydi, Nate Powell, March: Book One  (Marietta, Georgia, 2013), pp. 26-28.

[xi] Ibid, pp 75-121


[xiii] John Lewis, Andrew Aydi, Nate Powell, March: Book Two (Marietta, Georgia, 2015), pp. 32-33.




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7 February 2020

Walking. Morningside Gardens.
Go Down, Moses – Paul Robeson
I Can’t Breathe – Garner Family
Brown Skin – India. Arie
One Mic – Nas
Eyes on the Prize – Mavis Staples
Americans – Janell Monae
i – Kendrick Lamar
Formation – Beyonce
Wake up Evertbody – Keb’ Mo’
Penitentiary Philosophy – Erykah Badu
Brotha – Angie Stone
No Knock – Gil Scott-Heron
I’m Gonna Land on the Shore – Fannie Lou Hamer
Sandra’s Smile – Blood Orange
Say My Name – Maimouna Youssef

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5 February 2020

Walking. Morningside Gardens.
Don’t Believe the Hype – Public Enemy
Renegades of Funk – Afrika Bambaata & The Soul Sonic Force
Colors – Ice-T
Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – Tracy Chapman
Control – Janet Jackson
Proud to be Black – Run-DMC
Lavi Difisil – Our Native Daughters
He Loves Me – Brittany Howard
I’m on My Way to Freedom Land – Sweet Honey in the Rck
Stand Your Ground – Pharoahe Monch
Super Life – Chaka Khan
Rest in Power – Black THought

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4 February 2020

Walking. Morningside Gardens.
Sister Rosa – The Neville Brothers
Rosa Sat – MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir
Rosa Parks – Outkast
I Should Be Proud – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Ball of Confusion – The Temptations
Black Man – Stevie Wonder
Machine Gun – Jimi Hendrix
Black Is – The Last Poets
Give More Power to the People – The Chi-Lites
Be Real Black for Me – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
Black Maybe – Syreeta
I Stand Accused – Isaac Hayes
Precious Lord – The Blind Boys of Alabama

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1 February 2020

Walking. Morningside Gardens.
Let America Be America Again (by Langston Hughes) – James Earl Jones
At the Purchaser’s Option – Rhiannon Giddens
Wade in the Water – The Fisk Jubilee Singers
Juneteenth – Cast of Black-ish
Have a Talk with God – Stevie Wonder
New World Symphony – Earth, Wind & Fire
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning – Fannie Lou Hamer
Forward – Beyonce
Great Day – Kim & Reggie Harris
Moving On – Sweet Honey in the Rock
This Little Light of Mine – “I’m Gonna Let It Shine” Choir
He’s God the Whole World in His Hands – Odetta
I’m Just a Slave – The Roots
Every Time I Feel the Spirit – The Florida A&M Choir
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Don’t Want to Get Away – Carter Anderson
Handsome Johnny – Richie Havens
Better Git Yer Learnin’ – Our Native Daughters
For What It’s Worth – Keb’ Mo’
Heaven Will Welcome You Dr. King – Big Maybelle

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