Archive for March, 2015

Meet Queen Mother McFarlane

March 24, 2015

My students call her Mom, so I do, too. We have been friends more than  30 years. We have traveled the country together as HateBusters. She was honored at a recent Table of Faiths. This biography was written by one of my students, Jordan Barth, in 2004

Queen Mother:

Maxine McFarlane

2004 by Jordan W. Barth

Life is a journey full of many twists and turns. You rarely know exactly where the next day will lead you. I have experienced much in my life, probably enough to fill many lifetimes. Life is both precious and tender. Take advantage of the time you are given and live life to its fullest.

My name is Maxine McFarlane. I was born on March 23, 1926 in the town of Sunflower, about 125 miles south of Memphis, located in Leflora County Mississippi. I lived in Mississippi until I was about eleven years old. I have two brothers and four sisters. Unfortunately, both of my brothers and two of my sisters have passed on. The two living sisters are both older than I am. One is 89, and the other is 82. One of them lives in California and the other in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I rarely use my given name. I usually go by Queen Mother, Queen Mom, Mother McFarlane, or just Mom. I have a close relationship with God. One day he said to me, “Gather my people together in love.” That is what I did, like a mother hen gathers her chicks. The name Queen Mother comes from parts of Africa where men may have more than one wife. One of these wives is known as the “Queen” mother of the family. The Queen Mother kept the home running smoothly. She ensured that all the necessary work was completed and everything and everyone was cared for. Since my ancestry can be traced back to a queen mother, my husband Alvin thought that it was the proper nickname. I have been Queen Mother ever since then. When I think of what it means to be a mother and a wife Proverbs 31:10-31 come to mind.

My husband, Alvin Alonzo McFarlane, Sr. was born in Cuba and raised in Jamaica. Together we have twelve children. He was able to come to the United States working with a government agricultural program. He came with people from Venezuela, the Bahamas, and Haiti. Alvin worked very hard to be able to come to the U.S. As part of that government program, he was viewed differently than I was. He was government property, and I was just a “black.” This allowed him to go places I was not allowed.

I am the product of Alan and Martha Sykes. My father was a great man. He was from the Bahamas and he came over to the United States with his parents when he was young. My mother, Martha, was born in Mississippi. My father was a sharecropper. During this time black men worked for the white man, or “the man.” It was unheard of for a black man to own his own land and work for himself. My father never accepted the idea of working for someone who did not respect him, like white men did. He wanted something better for his family. He wanted his own land. Eventually, he was able to purchase his own land. This was during a time when white people did not like blacks to own anything, especially their own land. My father was killed because people could not stand the fact he owned his own property. “The man” was afraid he would influence other black people to follow in his foot-steps and better themselves.

My family has been through many tough times and seen some bad situations. When I was growing up most everything was segregated. Whites and blacks did not mix well. Even though we were hated by some for being black I was raised to be an equal with everyone no matter what race. I have love for every human soul.

I moved from my home in Mississippi to Kansas City in 1937, after my father was killed. I was eleven years old. We were unable to move as a family, all at once. It was mine and my sister’s time to go and we took a bus to get to KC. When my sister and I got on the bus it was empty. I went to the back of the bus and took a seat, but my sister took a seat towards the front, in the second or third row. This was during a time when whites sat in the front and blacks in the back because of segregation. We sat down and the bus continued. At the next stop a white man boarded. He approached my sister and said to “get-up.” My sister replied by saying that the bus was nearly empty and there were many seats he could sit in. Again, he told her to get-up, this time the bus-driver stopped and also told her to get-up and move to the back so the white-man could have her seat. To attempt to make sure the situation did not get out of hand I walked to the front and talked my sister into joining me at the back of the bus. We all sat down and the bus continued on its way.

Later we realized how fortunate we were to have completed our trip safely. While we were stopped from the seat situation we were crossing the Mississippi River. It would have been very easy for the two men to take my sister and me and toss us into the river. No one would have found us for a long time, if ever, and even then they never would have found out exactly what happened.

When we came to Kansas City we lived with some relatives, the Powells. They were from Mississippi, too. Their family had already moved to try and escape the hate and violence. They knew how bad it was down there and they took us in with open arms. It was a crowded home, but a loving home. We made it work. Eventually, Mr. Powell took his family and moved to a different house a few blocks away. They let us keep the house and continue to live there. Even though we lived in separate houses, we continued to be a very close-knit family.

Alvin worked for the Armour’s Meats Company. The plant here in Kansas City was shut-down, and my husband was relocated to a plant in Worthington, Minnesota. So our family moved to Minnesota. We moved into a predominantly white neighborhood. When the family moved out of the house we bought, the gas company sent a service-man out to turn the gas off while the house was vacant. While the service-man was there, our soon-to-be neighbor came over and visited with him. The neighbor told the gas man that the “spooks” were moving in. After we moved in the same service-man returned to turn the gas back on. Both my husband and I were there to greet him upon his arrival. He asked, “Are you the Spooks?” We did not reply immediately. He continued, “Your neighbor (pointing next door) told me that the Spooks were moving in. Aren’t you Mr. and Mrs. Spook?” He had innocently misunderstood our neighbor. My husband, realizing what had happened, replied, “Yes, that’s us, Mr. and Mrs. Spook.”

Fortunately, we were able to move back to Kansas City when the Armour’s plant reopened. We moved back in 1974, and settled into a neighborhood on the east side of Kansas City. We were the second West Indian family in the area. At the time, we were not considered “black” because we were not American blacks. Africans who came to the United States via the West Indies islands and the Caribbean were known as “West Indians.” Since my ancestors came from the Bahamas and Alvin’s ancestors were from Cuba, and he grew up in Jamaica, we were considered West Indians. The distinction did not last very long.

It quickly became obvious that our neighbors did not exactly welcome us with open arms. None of them came around to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood. So I went door to door and introduced myself. The surrounding families were primarily white. I guess we made them feel uncomfortable, but it did not make any difference to me what color of skin they had. They were all people, and I love all people.

We had not lived there very long before I started a neighborhood prayer group. Both blacks and whites attended our sessions. Soon the whites gradually decreased in numbers. As more black families moved into the neighborhood, the white families started moving out one after another. This was my first experience with what would come to be known as “white flight.” The blacks move in, and the whites move out.

During this time, my husband was working nights. This left me at home with the children from the late evening until early morning. We only had eight kids at this time. One night, somebody threw a gasoline bomb into a house down the street. They thought it was our house. We never did find out who threw the bomb. This marked the beginning of open hostility towards the black families in the neighborhood. Some people were unable to tolerate change.

Soon the whites began to refer to blacks collectively as “you people”. They acted as if we were a completely different race of being; we were not equal beings in their eyes. It was tough, but I continued to have our prayer group through all that was happening. By now, there were only a few white folks involved. One day, my main prayer group leader told me that she was going to move out of the neighborhood soon. I asked why. She told me that her children did not have anyone to play with anymore. I was bewildered and amazed. At that time, I had four children in the same age group as hers.

Another West Indian family moved in, and more white families moved out. By now, nearly all the white folks had moved out of the neighborhood. The prayer group was still active, but I turned my focus to other issues that needed attention in our neighborhood. We needed to keep our streets free of litter and the vacant lots clean. People had started hauling trash and unwanted junk into our neighborhood and dumping it in our streets and empty lots. They used our neighborhood as a trash dump. There were city ordinances against littering and dumping, but it did not prevent people from doing it. The police did not enforce those laws in our part of town.

We needed to organize ourselves to make an effort to stop the degradation of our homes. We needed to keep our streets clean and our neighborhood respectable. I organized a neighborhood club. Participating residents met regularly and addressed common concerns. We began collecting annual dues from each resident to go towards the clean-up efforts. We particularly enjoyed getting the neighborhood kids involved. We were able to get them involved and soon they took pride in where they lived and who they were. Before long, we had litter-free streets and clean lots.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for one of the Powells, Bernard. He was my nephew. Along with me, Bernard was a Civil Rights activist. He was very active in our community. He made some great progress. Unfortunately, he was killed in 1979. His death was a loss for everyone. He was shot in club, here in Kansas City. He was murdered for political reasons. This was cause for a very sorrowful time for my family. Bernard would have accomplished much in his lifetime. The whole community, both blacks and whites, were cheated of something great when his life was taken. I knew we had to do something about Bernard’s death, but I did not know what. It would have been an even greater travesty to do nothing. As I have said before, I was raised in the church and have a strong relationship with God. I talk to him, and he talks back to me. I prayed about Bernard’s death and for an answer to what to do. One night, I awoke from my sleep with a vision, a vision to create a memorial to my wonderful nephew, Bernard. It was so clear what needed to be done. God told me to erect a statue in memory of Bernard. I could vividly see the statue in my vision. I knew exactly how it should look, every detail.

When we came to Kansas City we lived in a house on the corner of 28th and Brooklyn. There was a park directly across the street. It is still there. We used to play in that park all of the time. It was and remains to be a special part of my family’s lives. It was decided that Bernard’s memorial statue would be erected in that park. I took on this project wholeheartedly. It was my job to get Bernard’s memorial established, and I could not stop until it was accomplished. Finally, we were able to get a statue built in memory of Bernard. It is now called the Bernard Powell Memorial. In the center there is a statue of Bernard Powell. He is standing with his arms crossed in a blazer jacket, just as he did when he was alive. It is a very accurate depiction of Bernard. It even has the little ear-ring he used to wear. The statue itself is situated atop a beautiful fountain. The water flows from the base of the statue down over all four sides. The water flows into the drains at ground level. Surrounding the memorial is a low concrete wall where people can come and sit. On the outside of the wall there are various shrubs and plants all around. On the inside of the wall there are memorial plaques placed all around. Some talk about Bernard and the work he did in the community and some have the names of the people involved in the memorial. Behind the statue in the ground there is a time capsule encased in the concrete. It has various objects from when the memorial was built. It will be opened around the year 2050 or 2051. At that time it is my wish that my family descendants will be present and they will then place some items of their time in the capsule and reseal it for another fifty years or so.

Bernard will live immortally in our childhood playgrounds. It is a beautiful statue, and it makes me very proud to have been a part of. He deserves it. A statue in the park does not bring Bernard back, but now he will never be forgotten. Generations to come will see his statue and hopefully hear about his life and what he did for their community.

I was asked why I do not get depressed from the years of separation and distinction based on the color of my skin. The types of persecution that last for years you have to leave to God. God gives you power and strength to overcome whatever may come, anything that comes. His word says that you can call on him for anything. You cannot relax or become content with your problems. You must keep praying. You have to keep reading the book, God’s Word. You have to keep contending for the faith, and keep praying for more faith. There is a Spirit called the Holy Ghost that is a Power that will overcome any other power. The Spirit comes from God, when you let it inside of you, you can overcome anything. I think of Mark 11:22-24:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I assure you that you can say to this mountain, ‘May God lift you up and throw you into the sea,’ and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and do not doubt in your heart. Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.”

God is able to deliver his people from their troubles. He can do it, but you have to believe that he can and will do it. This kind of faith has carried me through many trials and tribulations.

I continue to be active and make progress. I am an activist and leader in the community. I am an Evangelist and I work in the church. I also give time to the Outreach Ministry and the Food Pantry. I serve as the President of the Action Committee.

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Table of Faiths #2

March 23, 2015

High Noon at Ginger Sue’s

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Muslims and Baptists do not often come together for a meal in small town Mid-America. Our doing so might not have the slightest impact on world affairs as the world’s faiths work out their relationship to one another. But if ACT LOCALLY, THINK GLOBALLY is ever to have real meaning, it may start with such an event as we here today commence.

That is my hope. And the reason we have come today:Al Ansare, Angela Bush, Anna Driskill, Bassam Helwani, Ed Chasteen, Jason Edwards, Laura Carder, Mike Lassiter, Mitzi Brown, Roger Driskill, Sameul Shareef, Yahya Furqan.

I love HIGH NOON. The song! The movie! And the time of day! Since the 1950s, I have been singing that song. Under my breath and off key.

My three children grew up hearing me sing that song as I drove our station wagon on month-long summer camping trips across the U.S. and Canada. I had seen the movie: Gary Cooper as the sherrif; Grace Kelly as his fiancé. He was hanging up his gun to marry her. She was a Quaker and opposed to violence. On the same train that was to take them out of town to start a new life, a killer the marshall had sent to prison was returning to pillage the town and kill the marshall.

If the marshall stays to defend the town, his fiancé will leave without him. If he stays, he might be killed. Against this background, Tex Ritter sings the theme song: “I do not know what fate awaits me. I only know I must be brave. Or lie a coward, a craven coward, or lie a coward in my grave.”

When a Klansman is elected to the Louisiana Legislature in 1988, I am teaching Race Relations at William Jewell College. We start HateBusters to help the state redeem itself. The governor invites us to come. We adopt HIGH NOON as our time. There is no shadow at HIGH NOON. Everything is clearly visible.

So today at HIGH NOON I have invited 12 of my dear friends to lunch in my hometown at Ginger Sue’s, for the past two years my defacto HateBusters ofice. A Human Family Reunion! That’s what we’re here for today. Four of us are Muslim; eight are Christian. All of us are active in our faith. Until we get to know one another, who’s right is the wrong question.

Yahya is a Muslim Imam. I’m a Baptist preacher. We have been dear friends for more than 25 years. We have traveled the country together, teaching our book, How To Like People Who Are not Like You. We have taught federal prisoners to sing “It’s a Small World.” Yahya says he’s a better Muslim because he knows me. I tell him I’m a better Christian because I know him. Neither of us has ever tried to concert the other. Through Yahya I have become friends with Al, Bassam and Samuel.

I am a member of Second Baptist Church here in Liberty. In 1985 Second Baptist appointed me Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith. For 25 years I have taken folks from our church to visit other faith communities and brought folks from other faiths to our church. Our sole and soul agenda is to become friends. We tell those we visit that we do not come to change them or to join them. We come wanting to be friends.

Faith is a powerful force. Disagreements and misunderstandings arise all the time. Some few of us being friends across faith lines offers hope that violence might be avoided when tensions flare.

Before and after Table of Faiths

March 22, 2015

Before we meet folks at the Table of Faiths, I want to prepare us. To do so I want to share with you what I wrote for my students at William Jewell in a class called American Pluralism.

Will Rogers is famous for having said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I’ve always wondered if he might also have said, “I never liked a man I didn’t meet.” He might have. So I have designed this class so that each of us meets people. If Will were speaking today, he would say, “I never met a person I didn’t like.” My hope is that each of us will say that when our few weeks together have ended.

The United States of America is home to people of every color, culture and creed. This pluralism gives rise to both problems and possibilities. One good way that we might learn more about these problems and possibilities would be to read some of the many good books on these subjects. And at some point you will want to do this if you are serious about wanting to know. But I have chosen another path for us to take.

This is not a class in sociology, political science, history or any other specific academic discipline. This class is called General Education. So we will follow a path that no specific discipline would take. This path will take us toward a place I see in my mind. A place where World Class Persons live and work and dream.

What’s a World Class Person? A World Class Person is someone who can go anyplace at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.” If you will willingly do what I ask you to do, you will amaze yourself in these few weeks. You will move far in the direction of becoming a World Class Person.

I will ask each of you to become another person from this moment until our class ends. You will have no choice in the person you become. None of us chose to be the person we are now. We did not choose our parents, our name, our gender, our economic status. I will ask you to take an envelope. Inside that envelope is the name, phone number and email address of a person who lives in Greater Kansas City. These people are friends of mine, people of different races and religions.

You will contact your person immediately and maintain contact with them throughout the semester. I will give you a set of questions to ask them. You will become this person, just as an actor becomes someone else in the movies or on the stage. You will write your autobiography, in the first person, as if you are that person.

I will call you in class by the name you have assumed for the semester. When we discuss the topic of the day, you will speak as that person. You will be able to do so because you will have already discussed the topic with your person. In this way we will have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs Buddhists, Blacks, Whites and Hispanics in class every time we meet. We will learn about everyone’s culture, their faith, their foods, their music, their family life, their hopes, fears and dreams. We will learn about the problems and possibilities posed by pluralism. Our time together will be entertaining and educational.

An amazing adventure awaits!

New Town Bicycle & Coffee Shop

March 10, 2015

New Town Bicycle & Coffee Shop

in Pleasant Hill, Missouri

March 9, 2015

by Ed Chasteen

A 1952 Hopalong Cassidy bicycle, mint condition, six-guns intact. A full size organ. A keyboard. Two drums. A dining table with chairs for six, half-a-dozen little round tables with chairs for two. Too many board games to count. Mom’s pies for sale. A telephone with a real banana receiver. Two cans on a string for an intercom. Bicycle parts. Old bikes. New bikes. A cappuccino machine. The front end of a jeep. An eclectic assortment of odds and ends jumbled together in too-small a space, conveying on this place an embracing ambiance unavailable to big box stores that substitute cheaper price for quality experience.

Welcome to New Town Bicycle & Coffee Shop, 115 Wyoming Street, in Pleasant Hill Missouri. Owner Alan Voss comes sometimes on his bicycle, sometimes by car from his home in Lone Jack, eight to ten miles, depending on the route he takes. Two years ago Alan came here to open his shop, anticipating the day this section of the Katy Trail would open. Already the town has created paved bike paths that come past his shop, paths leading to the Katy Trail. A trail not yet finished. But expected. Alan wants to be ready. Even now live music on the side patio draws folks. More will come. Alan is hopeful

Build it and they will come. It worked for a corn field in Iowa. I hope there was magic enough left over to cast its spell on this little piece of God’s good earth. In the world as I would have it such things so routinely happen that their occurrence is taken for granted and never remarked upon in the nightly news or morning paper.

Hate Always Loses–HateBusters Bulletin #39

March 4, 2015

HateBusters Bulletin #39

HATE ALWAYS LOSES

© 1996 by Ed Chasteen

Imagine the following. A young student comes to the teacher to

confess her life’s ambition. “I want to be a medical doctor.”

Are you crazy? Don’t you know that every patient who comes to

see you is terminal. All you can do is postpone their death a while. And

after you retire in 50 years there will be diseases that didn’t even exist

when you became a doctor. So what’s the point?

All of the above statements are true. But that’s not we expect the

teacher to say to an aspiring doctor. We expect this: “That’s marvelous.

The world needs good doctors. There is so much suffering you can alleviate.

So many sick you can help to cure. Your community will love you for

the well being you bring to them, and when you retire they will honor you.”

These statements also are true. Though equally true both sets of

statements may be, the first set leads to resignation and despair; the

second, to action and hope. It is this second set of statements wemust endorse

when we seek to cure our communities and our people of the hatred

that does so easily and in so many forms infects us.

Many there are who will remind those who aspire to become Hate-

Busters that racism, intolerance, bigotry, hatred, envy and all their dark

kin have long histories on planet earth.Great teachers and leaders from

the past have not been able to eradicate them. How dare we think we

might do better.Why bother? Life is short. Better to take up some more

promising work.

Wickedness does indeed wear thick armor. Rather than resignation,

however, recognition of that fact calls for renewal of purpose and

rededication of effort. For the fact of the matter is that all the forces of

darkness have been losing, are now losing, and will in the future continue

to lose.Those teachers from our past whose words still live among

us have survived in written form to inspire us to do in our day as they

did in theirs.

Those who hate and those who conspire against their many pro-

claimed enemies may think they are winning. So to the unaided eye does

the earth seem flat.The haters among us are members of the Flat Earth

Society, those without the vision to see what really is out there. Talking

only to those also with limited vision, the Flat-Earthers confirm their

errors to themselves.

They persuade themselves that their religion and their race, their

culture, color and creed are better than good.They become the definiton

of what it means to be human. Those who are not with them in these

human-defining virtues, are now by definition less than human, not deserving

compassion and concern but only contempt.

All the world’s religions and all the world’s great souls whose

words and lives linger in libraries and holy places taught and lived lives

of love and generosity toward all people. They were world class persons,

able to go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and

feel safe. Those who hate can never do this. They are forever limited by

their poor vision to wander among the morally and ethically challenged

who mistakenly think they can lead them to a good place.

But they all finally come to ruin. That circle of people with whom

they identify becomes progressively smaller. The number of people they

can trust, even smaller. Until finally, they are all alone. Forever lonely.

And finally forgotten.

Hate always loses. Love always wins. A law of the soul and of social

life. As certain as any law of physics.

HateBusters Bulletin is a publication of HateBusters, Inc. Box 442, Liberty,

Missouri 64069, phone 816 803-8371: e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com