President Terry Melvin

Statement on Dr. Maya Angelou

Statement of Rev. Terry Melvin
President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

“Every closed eye ain’t sleep and every good-bye ain’t gone.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

A mighty, mighty heart has gone home to rest.
On behalf of the 2 million black workers in unions, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists family joins the rest of humankind in grieving the death of Maya Angelou, while finding comfort in the prodigious treasures she left for the ages.

This daughter of the segregated South always championed the just causes of working people, ever since she witnessed the daily toil of black cotton pickers who started and ended their long days at her grandmother’s general store in Stamps, Ark.

Her piecing pen distilled her rage over their exploitation and the racist stereotype of happy, singing cotton pickers. In her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she wrote:

“I was told even by fellow Blacks that my paranoia was embarrassing. But I had seen the fingers cut by the mean little cotton bolls, and I had witnessed the backs and shoulders and arms and legs resisting any further demands.”

Sister Angelou’s commitment to dignity and justice for all working people led her to the side of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who asked her to serve as the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1959-1960.

She also shaped the poetry and the songs that lifted the freedom fighters, custom-fitted for the souls of ordinary men and women whose extraordinary faith, bravery and persistence opened doors of opportunity for generations to come.

So on this sobering day, the leaders and members of CBTU finds solace in the old folks wisdom:“Every closed eye ain’t sleep and every good-bye ain’t gone.”

RIP Dr. Angelou.


Broadcast of 2014 CBTU Convention Now Available Online

The 2014 CBTU convention was full of memorable moments and great presentations. Now you can see what all of the buzz is about by watching the video broadcast of the Atlanta convention online, on-demand, at your convenience. Just click CBTU chapters can feature the inspirational speeches and informative panels and workshops at your local meetings. Share the link with CBTU’s community partners so they can see how committed CBTU is to educating our members about social justice issues, domestic and international. Click here.

Tune in CBTU on YouTube

CBTU produced several short videos during the convention in Atlanta in May. Get a quick taste of some great speeches, including CBTU President the Rev. Terry Melvin, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner and the Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina. You can also watch an inspiring and informative townhall meeting about the growing fightback of low-wage workers around the country. CBTU also collaborated with the highly-respected group, Emily’s List, for several workshops that trained workers with political ambitions. Click here. Share the link to these videos with your co-workers, friends and other activists.

Follow CBTU on Twitter

Now you can follow CBTU on Twitter to keep up with breaking news and new links to important information. You can also find CBTU on Facebook. Stay connected!

Bill Simons 90th Birthday Tribute

Bill Simmons

Bill Simons, one of the smartest and toughest gentlemen ever in the American labor movement, celebrated his 90th, June 1 with his daughter in Atlanta. Bill is one five founders of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and he was one of the key architects of CBTU's policy and parliamentary framework.

A native Washingtonian, Bill Simons, attended D.C. public schools, taught in D.C. public schools for 18 years and then served twice as president of Local 6 of the Washington Teachers Union for 25 years.

Bill’s soft voice and genteel manner belies a steely resolve. When the announcement was made in 1972 about the first conference of black trade unionists that eventually would lead to the formation of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, angrily sent out a directive to black AFT members, ordering them not to attend the CBTU meeting. Well, Brother Simons not only defied his national president by attending the CBTU conference in Chicago, he got a standing ovation from the 1,200 delegates at the La Salle Hotel when he declared, “I am Black and I am a grown man, and I will meet with whomever I choose, wherever I choose!”

In April, 1994, Bill Simons reached one of the most emotional highlights of his career, serving as an AFL-CIO observer in the first democratic elections in South Africa. Last month, he attended and spoke at CBTU’s Retirees Conference in Atlanta, where he autographed copies of his new memoir, “A Giant for Justice.”

The CBTU family, as well as workers all over the world, are so fortunate to still have this living legend share his prodigious knowledge and wisdom. He has opened so many doors for teachers and labor activists, and he’s still getting it done – at 90!

Happy Birthday, Brother Simons, on behalf of your extended union family and generations to come.

To learn more about this extraordinary leader, visit: