Milwaukee's noted civil rights activist, Father James Groppi, was receiving a posthumous MLK Heritage Award today at the Wisconsin State Capitol. His wife, Dr. Margaret Rozga, also a renowned activist, accepted the award on his behalf. The forceful honesty of her acceptance speech was nothing short of remarkable. In it, she pretty much directly blasted Governor Scott Walker, who sat behind her, about six feet from the podium. You really should listen to the speech. It is brilliant in how it avoids the palliative whitewashing of Dr. King's legacy, and moves right to the heart of the struggle.
Oh, did I mention that at the end, she gives a specific shout out to the Overpass Light Brigade, as well as Voces de la Frontera, Palermo's Workers who are still on strike, the Solidarity Sing Along who continue to gather tickets from the capitol police freedom squad, and the Bad River Band of Superior Chippewa whose land is now under the scrutiny of the Dark Lords of Extraction, with an aggressively unregulated Open Pit Mining bill soon to pass the Republican controlled everything?
We work frequently with each of these groups, and are honored to be among them, with testimonial given by such a courageous and impressive woman. Here is a transcript from her speech below the picture of her at the podium with Walker looking on from the righthand side.
"As a person who got her start in the civil rights movement by volunteering to work on Southern Christian Leadership voter registration campaign in Alabama, I know that those who oppose voting rights are not in the traditions of Martin Luther King and James Groppi.Here, she is interrupted and told that her time is running short. She then says,
As the widow of a man who after we married not only drove a bus, but became president of local 998 Amalgamated Transit Union, as a person who remembers that Martin Luther King was killed while he was working to organize sanitation workers, I know that anyone who works to curtail union rights is not in the tradition of Martin Luther King!
And as someone who is a member of a family that loves Wisconsin's natural resources, I know, that if you endanger those resources, you are not standing with us.
You do not get arrested thirty plus times, you do not get assassinated, for being a photo-op do-gooder. Father James Groppi was more, and did more, and so he lives on. He believed in addressing the root causes of poverty, and those causes are backwards social policy. He believed in the tradition summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas that the "super-abundance of the rich belongs by natural right to the poor." He believed, like Frederick Douglas, that "power concedes nothing without a demand: it never did and it never will."
"So what I want to do most of all before I close here is to thank those who are standing up in the tradition of Martin Luther King and James Groppi. I want to thank Voces de la Frontera and their youth group, YES. I want to thank the people on strike at Palermo's Pizza. I want to thank The Overpass Light Brigade and The Solidarity Singers, and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, people who took care of this land before my grandparents came from Poland…"This reference to the Bad River Band is especially timely and pointed, since the Legislature is staging a hearing this Wednesday for the same corporate give-away mining bill that couldn't pass even the Republican majority Senate last legislative session, but seems to have enough votes now due to redistricting. Wednesday is the single hearing given for the entire state. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have to take a 7 hour trip in order to have their voices heard in this sham performance of governance. OLB will be there with other Indigenous Rights activists, trying to give visibility to the issue. This series of messages was from a similar Idle No More action last weekend.
The work continues, and can be discouraging at times, but it is mighty nice to get such an unexpected accolade from the halls of power, while the puppets of the rich have to hear truth-talk from the sidelines.
And here is a video bit from Dr. Rozga's speech: