Jan 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Anita Leon

Few grew up in rural Georgia feeling a compulsion to tell their future children about the early twentieth-century lynching of Leo Frank.

More than feeling, committing to a rational life means you love people and stand against injustice and bigotry where you see it.

Desegregating "black taxis" as a young Southern teenager to some neighbors' alarm because 'Nita didn't know any better' than to ride with "them" hardly registered, but you laughed about it later.

Early disgust with racism and war is an outgrowth of a thirst for justice for Anita Leon—passion leading to the discovery of Ralph McGill, Harper Lee, Sam Cooke, Paul Robeson and just about any author and artist you could get her hands on in a region not exactly devoted to the Wisconsin Idea in its libraries and University system.

Questioning everything remains a pursuit akin to breathing.

Through all the injustice encountered living in Georgia, genuine disappointment and heart-felt betrayal with American segregation, the Holocaust, our own nation veering into McCarthyism after World War II, the Vietnam War, and American Apartheid, working for the Atlanta office of the FBI somehow became the object of humor and amusement where Bureau friends warned Anita's future husband about the perils of accepting a position with the CIA.

Meeting the love of your life at some Catholic dance where troops from Fort McPherson frequented, the geographic journey from Georgia to Illinois and then Wisconsin, a consistency of character endures: Humor and music remain vital.

Congrats on a great life, Mom. More to come. On your birthday weekend, here's one of your favorites:

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