Today is World Day of Social Justice. World Day of Social Justice is a day recognizing the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. The United Nations General Assembly has decided to observe 20 February annually, approved on 26 November 2007 and starting in 2009, as the World Day of Social Justice. As recognized by the World Summit, social development aims at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries and social justice, equality and equity constitute the fundamental values of all societies. To achieve “a society for all” governments made a commitment to the creation of a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. They also pledged to promote the equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all. The governments recognized as well that economic growth should promote equity and social justice and that “a society for all” must be based on social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Some of the writers born on February 19th include:
Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743), Henry James Pye (1745), Johann Heinrich Voß (17510, William Carleton (1794), Nérée Beauchemin (1850), Karl Mantzius (1860), Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen (1880), Georges Bernanos (1888), Russel Crouse (1893), Pierre Boulle (1912), Richard Matheson (1926), Adrian Cristobal (1932), Claude Miller (1942), Andrew Berman (1945), Alan Hull (1945), Richard Cocciante (1946), Mab Segrest (1949), Tony Wilson (1950), Kenn Nesbitt (1962), Dwayne McDuffie (1962), and Danis Tanovic (1969).
Johann Christian Reil was born on this day in 1759. He was a German physician, physiologist, anatomist, and credited as the founder of psychiatry. He coined the term psychiatry or, in German, Psychiatrie, in 1808. Medical conditions and anatomical features named after him include Reil’s finger, Beau-Reil cross furrows on the fingernails and the Islands of Reil in the cerebral cortex.
Today we remember the American abolitionist writer, Frederick Douglass who passed away on February 20, 1895. He was also an American social reformer, orator, and statesman. After he escaped from slavery he became a leader of the abolitionist movement and gained note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his experiences in slavery in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became influential in its support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War. After the Civil War he remained active in the United States’ struggle to reach its potential as a “land of the free” and was also an active supporter of women’s suffrage. He became (without his approval) the first African American nominated for Vice President of the U.S., as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all people and famously quoted as saying “I would unite with anybody to right and with nobody to do wrong.”
We also pay tribute today to Hunter S. Thompson who passed away 8 years ago today. Thompson was an American author and journalist. Thompson became known internationally with the publication of Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967), for which he had spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand. Previously a relatively conventional journalist, with the publication in 1970 of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” he became a counter cultural figure, with his own brand of New Journalism he termed “Gonzo“, an experimental style of journalism where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. The work he remains best known for is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), a rumination on the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement. It was first serialized in Rolling Stone, a magazine with which Thompson would be long associated, and was released as a film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Terry Gilliam in 1998.
The Futurist Manifesto, written by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was published in the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dell’Emilia in Bologna on February 5, 1909, then in French as “Manifeste du futurisme” in the newspaper Le Figaro on February 20, 1909. It initiated an artistic philosophy, Futurism, that was a rejection of the past, and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry; it was also an advocation of the modernisation and cultural rejuvenation of Italy.
The construction by the state of California of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge was approved on February 20, 1931 by the Congress of the United States The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge) is a pair of bridges spanning San Francisco Bay of California, in the United States. As part of Interstate 80 and the direct road route between San Francisco and Oakland, it carries approximately 280,000 vehicles per day on its two decks. It has one of the longest spans in the world. The toll bridge was conceived as early as the gold rush days, but construction did not begin until 1933. Designed by Charles H. Purcell, and built by American Bridge Company, it opened to traffic in November of 1936, six months before the Golden Gate Bridge. It originally carried automobile traffic on its upper deck, and trucks and trains on the lower, but after the closure of the Key System, the lower deck was converted to road traffic as well. In 1986, the bridge was unofficially dedicated to James B. Rolph.
The Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was proposed 80 years ago today. This was the Amendment to end Prohibition.
Caroline Mikkelsen became the first woman to set foot in Antarctica when she did so on February 20, 1935.
The Saturday Evening Post published the first of Norman Rockwell‘s Four Freedoms in support of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address theme of Four Freedoms on February 20, 1943.
The “Big Week” of World War II began on this day in 1944 with American bomber raids on German aircraft manufacturing centers. Between February 20–25, 1944, as part of the European strategic bombing campaign, the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) launched Operation Argument, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week.
Emmet Ashford became the first African-American umpire in organized baseball by being authorized to be a substitute umpire in the Southwestern International League on the twentieth of February in 1952.
On February 20, 1971, the United States Emergency Broadcast System was accidentally activated in an erroneous national alert. According to the United States Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, “The Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis.” In later years, it was expanded for use during peacetime emergencies at the state and local levels. Although the system was never used for a national emergency, it was activated more than 20,000 times between 1976 and 1996 to broadcast civil emergency messages and warnings of severe weather hazards. Some dramatic works depicting nuclear warfare included fictionalized scenes of EBS activations.
During a Great White concert in West Warwick, Rhode Island, a pyrotechnics display set the Station nightclub ablaze ten years ago today. A hundred people were killed and over two hundred others were injured. The Station nightclub fire was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Video footage of the fire shows its ignition, rapid growth, the billowing smoke that quickly made escape impossible, and the exit blockage that further hindered evacuation.
On this day in 2005 Spain became the first country to vote in a referendum on ratification of the proposed Constitution of the European Union. It was passed by a substantial margin, but on a low turnout.
Today we highlight the book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This paperback book is approximately 240 pages long. Amazon gives the following brief description:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”