HAPPY HEROES DAY -- APRIL 4! by Mary Neal
A hero is someone who steps out of the everyday conditions of his life to do something great and usually something sacrificial to benefit others. There are many people whom we may admire -- teachers who made a difference in our lives as children as well as public figures we may have never met personally. April 4th is a day to celebrate two of my favorite American heroes - people who seemed unlikely to be able to effect any significant positive change on American society, but they nevertheless did just that! The lives and contributions of these two individuals prove beyond doubt that ONE PERSON CAN make a tremendous, positive difference -- especially if that person does the work of God! As we near April 4, let us be reminded of the contributions of Rev. Matin Luther King, Jr. and Ms. Dorothea Lynde Dix. For Ms. Dix, April 4 is her date of birth. For Rev. King, it is the date of his homegoing after assassination. How interesting that April 4 is a common date of extreme importance for both of these great leaders – my heroes!
Let us consider each of these valiant people -- not AFTER the world awarded them hero rank and they had made speeches and accepted awards! Let us remember Rev. King and Ms. Dix before they became prominent public figures.
Rev. King was a young, black preacher from the South, living during a time when black people were so undervalued and openly disrespected in this country that Rev. King had to take the back seat on any city bus whenever he used public transportation and was barred from using a public restroom due to his race. Yet Rev. King and his supporters turned our whole nation around on the matter of civil rights as he led a non-violent social revolution that improved life for millions of citizens. America is a more humane place and significantly truer to her celebrated ideals of freedom and justice for all, thanks in large part to the movement led by Rev. King.
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html Martin Luther King, Jr. link reports in part:
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure. At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
Ms. Dix was a 19th Century Sunday School Teacher who lacked wealth and privilege. In fact, in a very class-conscious culture that was prone to judging people by their pedigree, Ms. Dix's father was mentally ill. She lived during a time when women were extremely undervalued in this culture and women's opinions were not regarded in matters of politics and government policy. In fact, national women’s suffrage did not exist until the 1920's. Nevertheless, Ms. Dix single-handedly turned life around for many thousands of sick people and their families during the 1800's, when she rescued acutely mentally ill Americans from life in squalid, abusive prison environments. She successfully lobbied state legislatures, and 30 public psychiatric hospitals were created. In 1880, 40 years after she began her efforts, a census taken in U.S. jails found that only 0.7% of inmates suffered from mental illness (1).
http://www.extramile.us/honorees/dix.cfm. Dorothea Dix link reports in part:
Dorothea Lynde Dix
Born: April 4, 1802 Hampden, Maine
Died: July 18, 1887 Trenton, New Jersey
Social reformer, advocate for the mentally ill, teacher, scholar, and writer, Dorothea Lynde Dix is best known for her one-woman crusade for the humane treatment of the indigent insane. At a time when lunatic paupers were routinely confined in jails, poorhouses and prisons, chained, beaten, deprived of adequate food, clothes, shelter, sanitation and medical care, Dix devoted her life to establishing institutions for the impoverished mentally ill where they would be decently cared for. As a concerned private citizen, she used her own funds, her intelligence, her perseverance, her sense of mission and her personal charisma to travel to and survey hundreds of mental institutions across the United States and Europe. In her detailed reports, or "Memorials," which she presented to legislators, Dix forced her readers to see the mentally ill as human beings and identify with their plight.
The lives of Ms. Dix and Rev. King were transformed as they dedicated their work to the Lord. These heroes did not regard their low estates or lack of wealth and influence. They did not retreat from the struggle for human rights because it looked too hard and their adversaries too powerful! April 4 is a day to remember both these great persons -- great only because they honored God and worked for the least of these, His brethren.
He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11
Yes, the lives of Dr. King and Ms. Dix provide more proof that with God, all things are possible! They were leaders from different centuries. One of them was black and the other, white. One was male and the other, female. Both Rev. King and Ms. Dix were denied the full rights and privileges of American citizenship, and neither of them was wealthy or privileged. Yet both of them accomplished tremendous advancements in human rights for Americans and changed the moral direction of the nation on key issues having to do with human dignity and Americans’ civil rights. God used Rev. King to show the world that African Americans deserve equal rights and equal protection under the law, and He used Ms. Dix to show the world that mentally ill Americans deserve decent living conditions and should not be criminalized for their mental disability. Both of these heroes were successful in enlisting the support of like-minded people who were also cognizant of human rights and willing to work for and support positive social change.
Today, much of what Dr. King accomplished is being threatened. One out of nine young black men is currently in prison, mostly due to racist disparity in sentencing laws. Dorothea Dix’s accomplishments in removing thousands of acutely mentally ill persons from America’s prisons are now being reversed, with many mental hospitals closing across America. This is being done to supposedly "free" the acutely mentally ill. However, the sad reality is that many, if not most, of these disabled persons will eventually be incarcerated for their disabilities. Currently, America has over 200,000 mentally ill citizens in prisons and jails, although Ms. Dix taught us that mental illness is not a crime, and you cannot punish people into a state of mental health! The deaths of our mentally ill citizens by Taser guns during arrests and while under incarceration coupled with numerous deaths by restraining chairs are certainly evidence of cruel and unusual punishment for simply being sick! Sean Levert’s family is concerned that he may be the latest victim killed by restraining chair while during a possible psychiatric episode in jail. See the story at this link: http://www.bet.com/Music/News/musicnews_levertupdate_4.1.htm?wbc_purpose=Basic&WBCMODE=PresentationUnpublished .
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (“AIMI”) is an organization founded by my family following the secret incarceration and jail death of my mentally ill brother, Larry Neal. AIMI is dedicated to fight in the tradition of Dorothea Dix on behalf of America’s acutely mentally ill citizens. Our website at http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com was designed to help obtain justice for Larry and raise American’s consciousness about a great social wrong: the criminalization of mental illness and the practice of imprisoning instead of treating mentally ill citizens in hospitals. I was recently advised by a well-meaning person that our organization would gain more supporters quickly if we leave off mentioning Jesus Christ in the website.
“Just stick to the civil rights questions inherent in the practice of arresting people for being sick,” I was advised, “and leave God out of it.”
After a few moments’ consideration, I remembered Rev. King and Ms. Dix – two ordinary Christians whom God used to accomplish great things with the help of other socially conscious people who were rich, poor, black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, and Christian! In America, people from all walks of life and of different races, ethnic groups, and religious persuasions rally around a just cause to uphold the ideals of freedom, justice, and humane treatment for all Americans and people abroad. Rev. King and Ms. Dix are proof that we do not need more than a commitment to justice to become someone’s "hero," which is just another word for "Good Samaritan." Why not become a hero yourself today? Support decriminalization of mental illness in America. It’s your turn to be a hero!
Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
Here's a marvelous video for you! This was one of my brother Larry's favorite songs, and according to Dionne, it was one of Rev. King's favorites, also. Isn't it amazing how much human beings share, regardless of the many peculiarities that separate us? I would not be at all surprised to learn that Ms. Dix loved this tune! As stated by one infamous American, "Can't we all just get along?" Enjoy the video!
Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory Of The Coming Of The Lord by Dionne Warwick (Rare Music Video)
HAPPY APRIL 4TH – HEROES DAY!
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
P.O. Box 7222
Atlanta, GA 30357
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Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States