Becoming

At the Maine State House and BEYOND

with James Varner

At the Maine State House, protesters demand equality and end to police violence

Long-time Bangor Civil Rights leader James Varner, 86, delivers an emotional message to an anti-racism protest in Augusta on Sunday. Varner attended the famous 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Varner also attended King’s funeral in 1968 after he was gunned down in Memphis. James Varner —
At the Maine State House, protesters demand equality and end to police violence

By Lauren Abbate, BDN Staff • June 7, 2020

… Augusta Mayor Dave Rollins was unable to finish reading a proclamation passed by the city council, outlining the city’s efforts to bolster equality. After several people in the crowd yelled “hand off the mic” a chant of “Black Lives Matter” ultimately caused Rollins to step back from the crowd and hand off the microphone to the Rev. James Varner, 86, a longtime civil rights activist from Bangor.

Varner, who co-founded the Bangor chapter of the NAACP and later was president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition, emotionally recounted the last moments of Floyd’s life as he called out for his mother while telling the police officer kneeling on his neck that he couldn’t breathe.

“I want you to think about Dr. Martin Luther King,” Varner told the crowd. “I want you to think about his dream that he had for this country, where little white boys and black boys, and people of all races could sit down at the table of justice.”

Brewer rings in 1st official Juneteenth celebration following designation as federal holiday


Excerpt from the article…


Maine’s first Juneteenth celebration, since President Joe Biden declared the day as a federal holiday on June 17 was held Friday at Chamberlain Freedom Park in Brewer. …
The celebration — held a day before June 19 — was led by James Varner, president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition and co-founder of the Greater Bangor NAACP, at the park that is a memorial to the Underground Railroad used to escape slavery in the South. Flanked by Brewer Mayor Michele Daniels and a crowd of about 20, Varner took time to explain the significance of making Juneteenth a federal holiday to the largely white crowd.

“I’m thankful and I hope you are feeling the joy and excitement this brother is feeling here today. And I know Dr. Martin Luther King is singing,” Varner said to the crowd. “I know he’s happy also.”

Organizers ‘elated’ at annual Juneteenth event

There was something extra to celebrate this year.

Excerpt from the article…


Maine’s first Juneteenth celebration, For almost two decades, Brewer has been the home for an annual Juneteenth celebration.

There was something extra to celebrate this year.

Just after Juneteenth became a federal holiday, there was a sense of vindication in the air.

“I’m elated. I’m excited. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
That’s what Maine Human Rights Coalition President James Varner told the gathered crowd Friday.
He says he’s been hosting Juneteenth events for more than 50 years.

This is the 16th year in Brewer’s Freedom Park.
“I can’t put into words how I feel,” said Varner. “We are finally accepted and doing the right thing making this a federal holiday.”

“Everybody should be accepted, and everybody should have a reason to celebrate,” said Michele Labree Daniels, Mayor of Brewer. “Juneteenth is a big reason to celebrate that it’s finally got the recognition that it needs and maybe other people understand how important it really was in 1865.”

A Man From Bangor Enlightened Me About Juneteenth


Excerpt from the interview…


An unexpected visitor that day set me straight. I had no idea what Juneteenth was all about when I was told that James Varner was at the front desk here at the radio station. I also had no idea who he was or what he was here for, a situation that our receptionist seemed to take great pleasure putting me into on a regular basis.

Mr. Varner told me that he was President of the Maine Human Rights Coalition, an organization to undo racism and discrimination here in our state. He asked if we could get information on air and online about a gathering that day that would celebrate “Juneteenth” at Joshua Chamberlain Park here in Brewer. Curious about what it was all about, I asked him to follow me upstairs to the studio.

While June 19th has been called a variety of things over the years it became a Federal holiday just this week, as our President and Vice President signed a new law making Juneteenth an official holiday, a day that all can now celebrate empowerment, equality, and diversity, for good reason.

Take a few moments to listen to Mr. Varner in the video recorded 4 years ago and maybe you’ll learn something new like I did that day.

See other coverage of James Varner’s Juneteenth work here:

Maine Public, WABI, News Center Maine, NCM, Fox Bangor

MORE ON MLK JR. DAYS

Local civil rights activist shares message on MLK Day

Morgan Sturdivant | Jan. 18, 2021

See Varner speak here


Excerpt from newcast…


Maine Human Rights Coalition President, James Varner, says despite social restrictions, the message is still so important, especially during these troubling times in our country.

”Let’s turn this around. Let’s be a part of Dr. King’s country where we will love one another and treat one another the way we want to be treated,” says Varner.

…Varner says he hopes others would get involved with the coalition and that everyone would pledge to help undo racism and discrimination in America.

He’s been involved with civil rights for 50 years.

Bangor civil rights mainstay: MLK is ‘rolling over in his grave’ after Capitol riot

David Marino Jr. |January 18, 2021

Read the full article here


Excerpt from the article…


Varner — president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition and a cofounder of the Greater Bangor Branch of the NAACP, — spoke from Chamberlain Freedom Park in Brewer next to a monument dedicated to the then-town’s purported role as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

He called for Mainers to spread King’s message by treating each other with respect regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or creed, and participating in community activism to fight inequality.

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Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Performance Art

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

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History

Appropriation / Aggression

White Privilege / Supremacy

Introduction

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Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

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Performance Art

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Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

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History

Appropriation / Aggression

White Privilege / Supremacy

Introduction

Wood Stack Definitions Menu

Definitions

Facts

Maps