How the Freedom Movement Affected Our Lives
A Discussion
November & December, 2015

See also After the Movement, a Discussion.

Participants:

Chude Pam Parker Allen   
Ron Bridgeforth
Cathy Cade
Hardy Frye
Miriam Glickman   
Bruce Hartford
Don Jelinek
Marion Kwan
Jimmy Rogers
Eugene Turitz
Jean Wiley

Contents:

RemembrancesDiscussion
Cathy CadeCall Us Old!
Jimmy RogersThinking About the Struggles of Today
Hardy FryeFace to Face
Bruce HartfordThinking About Movements
Don JelinekRealities — Yesterday and Today
Marion KwanThen and Now
Gene TuritzThinking More About Movements
Chude Allen 
Jean Wiley 
Miriam Glickman       
If you were part of the Southern Freedom Movement, and are listed in the Veterans Roll Call, you are encouraged to add your comments to this discussion by emailing them to webmaster@crmvet.org. (If you add a comment, please indicate where in the transcript it should be inserted.)

 

Cathy Cade

Bruce: Well, Cathy, you were the one who proposed the topic, so why don't you start?

Cathy: So the topic is: How did your being in the Civil Rights Movement affect the rest of your life?

Well, I'm 73 years old now. If I look back over my life, I would say that my decision to be a part of the Southern Civil Rights Movement is the defining moment of my life. I was living in the South. I grew up with a midwestern family in the Midwest, and then when I was a sophomore in high school, my father got transferred to Memphis, Tennessee to work for International Harvester to design cotton pickers which was all part of the history of Black people leaving the cotton fields. I ended up going to Central High School of Memphis in 1957 as Central High School of Little Rock was being desegregated.

I've been raised a Unitarian. I was against racism, and here I was at Central High School where my fellow students were saying, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't have to integrate!"

Bruce: That chant was used far more than just in Little Rock.

Cathy: Or Memphis. I know. But it was in my school, you know? Only a few of my friends were maybe open to me hearing that I had gone to an integrated school, and I was for integration.

I had very few opportunities to be friends with Black people my age. I had a couple of opportunities through the Unitarian Church. And then I graduated from high school and went to Carleton College in Minnesota, and lo and behold, when I was a sophomore, Carleton College started having an exchange program with Spelman College, a Black women's college in Atlanta. So with a lot of thought, I made the decision to apply to go when I was a junior. It was my first decision that I ever made separate from my parents. I thought about it a lot. I decided I was going to apply, and then I told my parents. They weren't for it, but they didn't stop me. They were scared which, having children now, I understand better.

So I went to Spelman. I was there for three days, and I was in a demonstration. At that time, the SNCC office was two blocks down the street from Spelman, and I spent all of my free time hanging out at the SNCC office and listening to stories of the people who had been in Mississippi on the Freedom Rides. Until 1969, I was working in the South in the Civil Rights Movement.

I went to Spelman, went back to Carleton, did organizing — anti-racist organizing — at Carleton. Then I went to Tulane to graduate school, since it was the best thing I could think of to do. I worked in the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans and Mississippi, but the whole time and especially toward the end of the '60s, it was always an issue of: What was my role?

And the way I understand it now and the words that I would use was that there was a major contradiction in me as a white woman being in a movement that was very basically about Black self determination. Even before what some people call Black Nationalism of the later '60s, it was always about Black self determination. There were always questions about what was my role.

So, by the end of the '60s when I was graduating from Tulane, I couldn't find a role anymore. By then, the opportunity to start a Women's Movement had happened in New Orleans, and it was formed a lot with women who had been working in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. So there's that complete connection there.

Anyway, I ended up moving to San Francisco to work in the Women's Movement in a place where there would be a big enough Women's Movement where we could each work on what part we wanted to work on, and we didn't have to fight with each other about what was the most important thing to do. I came here, and Chude was here. It worked that there was a bigger movement. What happened for me was I found a place to work for women's self determination. I found a way that I could be in a movement, to me that was very much like the Southern Freedom Movement, but I could speak from my experience as a woman, that I couldn't speak in the Southern Freedom Movement from my experience as a white woman.

So those were the similarities of being in the Southern Freedom Movement and the differences. What enabled me to be able to continue to be in a movement, to have my values that I had learned and had in the Southern Movement, and I just kept going.

Also, I learned about documentary photography in the Southern Freedom Movement. I didn't think I could do it, because I was a woman. I didn't think I could learn all those skills. Then I got in the Women's Movement, and we were all tuning up cars and becoming carpenters, and then it occurred to me I might could learn photography, and I really got into photography. I also got really burned out of going to meetings, so photography for the Women's Movement was a way that I could make a contribution to this movement without going to so many meetings.

Then I just kept going. Years would pass, and it would be time to make a new decision in your life, and so then I decided to become a mom. Well, I decided to come out as a lesbian, and then I decided to become a mom. But it was all connected. It had the same basic values, and along the way, whenever I had opportunities to connect with African-American people, I took them. That's the way I live my life today. I live in Strawberry Creek Lodge Senior Housing, and I'm able to have friendships with African-American elders who live there and also give some recommendations to some white people who need some help in thinking about racism. I recently recommended a book that they read, and they said it helped them understand.

Don: What was the book?

Cathy: Was it a book, or was it a...? It wasn't anything that you don't already know. But I think it was an article that was online. That's where we are these days.

So you know, my kids went to childcare that was led by African-American women, and I totally valued the Black culture that my kids got by going to that childcare. As it turned out, since I was having children by donor insemination, I had to decide on the race of my child. Race became a conscious decision. My first child is white, and my second child is Black and white. So that's my beginning.

 

Jimmy Rogers

Jimmy: When I thought about going South, I was working for the New York State Commission Against Discrimination, and I worked there for maybe two or three years, but before that, I was in the military. And I worked with a lot of lawyers. I decided: I think I want to go back to school after three years. And you know, I sent out applications and whatnot to try to get to school. And Tuskegee was the first to call me. So I decided I would go to Tuskegee.

I went to Tuskegee, and I met a few people. And one time, I went to a football game, Alabama State and Tuskegee football game. And after leaving the football game, we went to a bus station to get something to eat. And I had on this fancy hat and this really nice suit, and a trench coat and nice shiny shoes and whatnot. I'm going into the bus station, looking all sharp, and there were two police officers standing outside of the station, and I walked in there with the friends that I had met, and like I said, two cops out there, outside the station. And they kept looking at me and whatnot, and I said, "Oh God, I'm in trouble now. I wonder what they're gonna try to do now."

So I walked into the bus station with my friend, and as soon as I walked in, they came in right behind me and stood up. And in front of me there was a mirror, and every time I looked up in the mirror, they were standing right behind me. So I told my friend sitting next to me, I said, "Look, when we finish eating, I want you to go outside and walk away, just leave me alone, because I think they're gonna start some trouble." And they were both from Alabama. "Oh man, they're not gonna — they ain't thinking about you." I said, "I think they are."

So when we finished eating, I paid for all the food and whatnot, and I let them go out. And I went outside, and they came out right behind me, and I heard somebody say, "Hey boy! Where you from?" I looked around to see who they were talking to, and the only one out there was me. So I was talking with them. You know, they were asking me all these questions and whatnot, and, "Boy, where are you from?"

I said — I was so nervous, I should've said, "Tuskegee." I said, "New York." "New York?! What the hell are you doing down here?" I said, "Well, I'm going to school here." "You going to school here? Don't they have any schools up there in New York?" I said, "Yeah, they have schools in New York." He said, "Well, why'd you come down here?" I said, "Well, I like these better." He said, "Yeah, well they are better than they are in New York." About that time, another guy came out of the bus station, and I want you to fully understand what I'm saying, so I'm gonna say it just the way they said it. They said, "Nigger, let me see your teeth." And he cussed them out.

So then they looked at me. They said, "Oh, he doesn't have any teeth." So all I said was, "Oh." So they asked me, "What did your mother do? What did your father do?" And all that sort of stuff. And they said, "Down here?" I said, "No, they're in New York" [Laughter] So they just went on and on and on. And they said to me, "You seem like a good nigger. You can come down here anytime you want to." Took me six months to get me back down there. That was in Montgomery.

Bruce: Jimmy, do you remember what year that was?

Jimmy: I think it was 1961.

Bruce: After the Freedom Rides? Or before? Must've been after if they let you eat in the bus depot.

Jimmy: No, you could eat in the bus — 

Bruce: Or they had white and colored sections? Jimmy: Yeah. They came there. So it took me six months to get back. But while I was on the campus, I started dealing with Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (TIAL). Anyway, there was a SNCC worker that came, and we had the thing in Montgomery where we went to the big march (Selma to Montgomery, 1965). And I met Stokely Carmichael while I was in Montgomery, and he asked me would I come to Lowndes County and help them and I said I would. And I did.

I stayed in Lowndes County for awhile. And then I left school, but I had been — when I started working for SNCC — I was almost finished. And I was almost finished, and I had student teaching to do and other stuff. And I met my wife, and we decided to come to California. So I left.

Don: If I could interject one question for Jimmy, tell about your marriage and what the Supreme Court did right afterwards.

Jimmy: Oh yeah. When we left, we were thinking about getting married. But you couldn't get married in Alabama.

Cathy: Oh, because your wife was white.

Jimmy: Right. So we went, came to California, and when we got to Mexico, Blacks, you know, they — that's when interracial marriage came out. And we went through Mexico, and there were a bunch of Mexican kids that came running up to us, because they already knew. We didn't know that this was going on, you know? And they said, "You could get married!" So we found out from the kids that we could get married. So that's how we got here, getting married.

Don: How did all this that you went through affect you for the rest of your life?

Jimmy: Well, I thought it was a good thing. Then I got out of that particular time, because I feel that things were accomplished, and it was nice that I was able to meet people here that I knew in Alabama because that gave me — I think that helped me work with this group because of going out to schools and various other places to talk about my experiences.

 

Hardy Frye

Hardy: Well, I came about it — this is almost the reverse. I grew up in Tuskegee. Sammy Young's [father] was my math professor. Beulah Johnson of the NAACP — I had joined NAACP at about 12 at a Black school I went to called Lewis Adams. There were people at schools, one {UNCLEAR} public was for "lump ass" Blacks. And there was Lewis Adams which had a whole history back to slavery and the one I went to. And there was Chandler Cheerhouse where all the Black Ph.D.'s, M.D. kids went to.

And I get real insecure when I think about it, look back at it, because my father worked for the VA Hospital, the only Black VA Hospital, in security and stuff, so I kind of always grew up not thinking too much about white people. In Tuskegee, the population was about 90% Black and 10% white. Of course the whites controlled downtown, and the rest was on the campus. So I kind of grew up on — I called it campuses, because everything that I did, brought up, was because of Black campus. Because they didn't have anything, no kind of sports facilities at schools, nothing for Black kids.

And then I got on track, and I didn't want to go to college. And so I got on the track to do what most Black kids do — join military, so I joined the military. And when I went into the military, I was like 17. I was one of the kind of late experiments with integration in the military. The military had just, I guess, Truman had already integrated the military, but we were still trying to work it out. And I got in fist fights for being there, because I was in a tank outfit, with only two Blacks in the headquarters section, me and another guy, and all the rest was white. And I had never been around white people that much, and so we had a lot of fights.

But the military was interesting in that way, because we had these fights all over the place, but they would come in, and the First Sergeant or whatever would say, "What are you saying? What did you do?" And you say, "I didn't do anything." They look at me, and I say, "I didn't do it." So they didn't know how to deal with it. So they would say, "Go away to the basement."

But also, the Civil Rights Movement, I had been following through Jet magazine and Ebony magazine. And one of the most interesting things about it was I had grown up 29 miles from Montgomery, when — I remember asking my father, "What was Rosa Park arguing about?" You always got on the back of the bus when you get on the back of the bus. What was the big deal? You go in the bus, you go in the front door, you put your money in the thing, you walk right to the back of the bus.

But then there were all these people like [Tuskegee civil rights leader] Gomillion and all these people, and they had the support of my Black family.

[Gomillion was the leader of the Tuskegee Merchant Boycott of 1957-1961.]

And the key thing about my father was he didn't have to worry where his paycheck was coming from when I later became a SNCC worker. He didn't have to deal with the whole notion of where was his income going to come from? Because it was coming from the federal government. So you were a little bit independent at Tuskegee if you were around the campus, because the paychecks either came from Tuskegee or the Black hospital.

And I had seen my father's talents a couple of times, and he went down to register to vote before Gomillion and all those people. But when I was in the Army, I literally kept up with the Civil Rights Movement, whatever was going on, through Jet and Ebony. And that's why I rushed to get it, all of us there. All of the Blacks there, that's how we talked about it.

I left there, and in the military, I was going through a place called Pecos, Texas. And I had guys of lower rank that I was traveling with. And they gave me meal tickets. And I remember walking into the bus station, and they said they didn't serve Blacks. But I had about ten guys with me, and they were Black and white, two or three Blacks, and the rest was white. So I said, "Well, if we can't eat, they don't eat." So that was the first time I refused to do it. So we went across the street and bought some sandwiches or something at the grocery store, and that's where we ate.

Don: So you decided for the white guys that they wouldn't eat.

Hardy: I had the meal tickets. [Laughter] It was my first act of civil disobedience. When I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about what I'd seen on television and what I had seen these other people doing.

So I came to California. When I got discharged, I came to California. It was a choice between — I wouldn't go back to Alabama. I didn't want to go to college. My father said he'd pay for me to go to Tuskegee if I wanted to. I didn't want to go to college, so I decided the only two places I thought about was New York or the West Coast. There was a way to the West Coast, because my sister and my brother lived in Los Angeles. So in 1959 I came to Los Angeles, and I was unemployed for a year. I literally walked the streets for a year looking for a job. I had my discharge on one hand and my {UNCLEAR} haircut, and my little {UNCLEAR}.

And the big thing it meant to me about that, every time I would go into a place in South Central [district of L.A.] down on Figueroa Street all the way downtown, I walked. Literally from Figueroa Street downtown, all the way down to Long Beach Looking for a job. And the first thing I would do when I walked in there, I figured I got my discharge and all that, I would see if I see any Blacks. And that would be the first time I thought about, if I saw a Black, I don't care if he was mopping the floor I saw him smiling.

And so I lived in Los Angeles. I got married and got divorced, and I moved. I went to baking school for one year and learned how to make cakes and all that kind of stuff. I participated in making Nat King Cole's daughter's debutante cake. L.A. Trade Tech College was on Washington Street in downtown L.A. One day I decided I couldn't stand L.A. because it was just too hard. You needed a car, L.A. is not like San Francisco.

I started getting interested — I had looked into CORE, Congress of Racial Equality in Los Angeles before I left. That was the first time I had any kind of relationship with whites primarily. Because when I lived in Watts, it was Black. South Central L.A. was Black. And so I started looking into CORE, and I got involved with a demonstration. My first demonstration was in [L.A.] in 1960 when the Democratic Party [convention] was going to come up with a platform and held at the Los Angeles Coliseum. And I saw Lyndon Johnson, and he was running on the ticket with John Kennedy.

And so I started going to these meetings, and all these white people were talking about all these books they were reading and all that stuff. And I started reading pamphlets and all that kind of stuff. And I was married at the time, and my wife, she came from a strong Southern Black family, but as far as she was concerned, integration and Civil Rights was crazy. What are you doing? And so, we didn't make it.

So one day I decided I couldn't make it in L.A., And I started driving north. I heard about a place called Sacramento, and I heard about a place called Berkeley. So I was on my way to Berkeley, and the reason I was on my way to Berkeley was because I heard there was a place called Wonder Bread Company that was hiring Blacks. If you had a little bit of skills, they said they would hire Blacks.

But I didn't make it to Berkeley. I got to Sacramento, and my car broke down. So I slept on the streets for like three weeks, in my car. I saw a Black guy mopping at a Greyhound bus station, and they said they didn't have any jobs, and I turned to walk out, and he called me back. A white guy called me back and said, "You really want to work?" I said, "Yeah, I need a job." He made me an express clerk. And I joined the union at that time. They had a regular union. You work salary and get a day's wages.

And I joined this group called CORE [in Sacramento]. And I met them at a demonstration. I participated at a sit-in in 1963 for the 1963 Fair Housing Bill in California, the first Rumford bill. And that was interesting. We sat in for almost two weeks on that marble floor around the Capitol. And that's where I think I met Mike Miller. I'm not sure, but I think I met Mike Miller there. And we won. We had a victory. We won, because [Governor] Pat Brown, which is [Governor] Jerry Brown's father, signed the bill. He came out and talked to us and all that kind of stuff.

And as a consequence of that, I got to meet Mike Miller. And Mike Miller was organizing in San Francisco, the Friends of SNCC. He said, "Where do you live?" I said, "I live in Sacramento." He said, "Why don't you and some other people start a Friends of SNCC office?" And that's what we did. And we gathered money and all that stuff for Mississippi.

So then somebody came up — this is about '63 — and somebody came up with the Mississippi Summer Project. So I was like, "Wow, man. This is interesting." And I thought about it. But I got my Mom and my Dad in Alabama, and they were going to go crazy if they found out I ... They'd go crazy. But I want to go. So I thought about it and thought about it, and then I said, "I'm in."

Mike Miller, Gale Brown, and Doug Brown, they were the three people I knew. They had offices in San Francisco in the back of a church. And so I started doing things with the Friends of SNCC, and then I signed up to go to Mississippi. And the next thing I knew, I'm at a place at that school in Ohio — Oxford. And the two I remember meeting were Ralph Featherstone and Bob Fullilove. And [I met] a good friend there. She was named Pam then [referring to Chude].

And I was in the room. I think it was Jean [Wheeler?] and somebody else. I'm not sure. But I was in the room the night that we found out that Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were missing. Somebody, a woman voice I think it was — I've been putting it on you. It might not have been you but got up and started singing — "They Say That Freedom is a Constant Struggle." And I remember that. It was unbelievable. When you [see it] described it in a book I read, where you describe Bob [Moses]. And it was kind of a weird thing, because here I was going to the Southern Civil Rights Movement, but there were only a few of us — SNCC was full of Black workers but only a few of the volunteers that were Black. There couldn't have been more than 15 of us, out of all of the kids who were there.

And so we went to Mississippi. And I kept it away from my mother for a long time, but my babysitter — my aunt who was my babysitter was Victoria Gray. And when she was a student at Tuskegee, she had babysat — she lived with us in Tuskegee. So I ran into her. And she said, "What you doing?" I said, "You ain't telling them, did you?" [Laughter] And she said, "No, no, don't worry about it." I said, "You know, don't tell." I think they knew, but I would always say — I'd call, and I'd say, "Oh, I'm in San Francisco." But I was down there working with SNCC, and I met Pam.

And I'm thinking of all these different people I met in Holly Springs, Bud and Rita Walker and all that kind of stuff. And I was always intrigued by — the reason I got into academics, I guess, was I was always intrigued by the debates we used to have, the discussions we used to have. And there were always people talking about Marx and all these people I had not read. So I started reading them. And then I was in Lowndes County [AL], and then I worked with Danny Beagle and stuff and those guys in Fayette County, Tennessee.

So to wrap it up, the Movement for me helped me and gave me the kind of thought process for the rest of my life. So when I went to graduate school, and I got recruited to Berkeley to go to graduate school, so I wrote about what I did. So a lot of my story works with, I talk about movements and stuff like that, and I got in social movements, and I wrote a book. And it also did one other thing for me. I learned about Saul Alinsky working with Mike Miller and them, and we were producing a newspaper called The Movement newspaper. Joe Blum and people like that.

Gene: Terry Cannon.

Hardy: So between that and Mississippi, I decided to do my academic {UNCLEAR} between those experiences. And as a consequence of that, here I am, 77 years — I'll be 77 in February — and I've been doing stuff ever since I was about 25 years old. What the Movement did for me was turn me on to a whole new way of just thinking about issues and stuff.

And also I think it dealt with me in terms of my relationships with whites, because when I was in the military, I was hard-nosed. I wasn't a Black nationalist, but I was hard-nosed, because like I said, two Black guys out of a field of 20 whites. I mean, it was common kind of thing, but I didn't have any kind of understanding about it. And I wrote an article once about a class analysis at Tuskegee, and I got accused of not {UNCLEAR} of white racism. But you can grow up in Tuskegee and if you lived close to Zion Hill and all that, you literally, for all practical purposes, never needed to deal with white people except if you were ..., because everything you needed was at Tuskegee, from basketball to football to running through labs and all that kind of stuff.

So the Movement had me expand myself and move away from just thinking about the tradition around either working for the post office or working for — [when I was at] Sacramento State, working for the Department of Motor Vehicles, because that was the only job you could get. When I went to Sacramento State, there were 50 Black students out of 10,000.

So then I went to the Movement and got involved with Mike. But Mike, I've been knowing Mike a long time, and Gale Brown. I've known them a long time. And Mike introduced me and asked me to work with Caesar Chavez, and I actually was in there when they were first boycotting Schenley grapes. I don't know if you guys remember that. But they were at Safeway market and boycotting. I worked for it. And that's where SNCC gave vehicles to, a year or two later, brought some vehicles from the South to the farmworkers. I was one of the guys.

And my biggest victory was when we shut down the Emeryville — it was a cross-section, where all the trains going and sending stuff to Vietnam came through [Roseville], and the trains would come in. And we had these guys go on strike, these railroad workers go on strike. And all the war material was going through going to Vietnam, and we shut it down. But then at about eight hours after they shut down, the Ceasar couldn't sustain the relationship, and so we had a victory, but it was — and I had learned a lot about him, and I got to meet him and be a little organizer around him for a while.

And from that to this to whatever's going on, I wrote a book about it. When I wrote my thesis, I saw an article about — "There's a Black guy running for governor of Alabama named John [Cassian?], who was running for governor against George Wallace. So I was reading it and looking for something to do, and I'm saying, "What's the relationship between what we were doing in the Black Belt earlier with Black Power and that?" And that's what I told {UNCLEAR} it took three years of my life, and we had to move back down to Sumter County, Green County. And that's about it.

 

Bruce Hartford

Bruce: I think that for me the Freedom Movement — If you read the Veterans Roll Call on the website, over and over people say, "It set a direction of my life. It made me who I am today. It gave me a political viewpoint. It was the most important thing I ever did." Over and over. And I'm in that group. I mean, absolutely in that group.

And I think it set me on a path of always seeing things in political terms rather than in individual terms. If something happens in society or to me personally, I look upon it as, "What are the politics and the economics of this?" Not, "Why did this individual boss or politician or whomever do such- and-so for what personal psychological reason."

The Movement also gave me confidence. After the Freedom Movement I was a much more self-confident person. I found that if I wanted to do something, I could do it. Getting people down to the courthouse in Crenshaw County or to a mass meeting in Grenada, Mississippi — if I could do that, I could do whatever I set my mind to.

When I left the South, I kept searching for the Movement. And I had to leave the South because I was just burned out. You wouldn't know it to look at me now, but I was down to 110 pounds. I couldn't sleep, jumpy. So anyway, I had to leave. You know, it was time. So where did I leave? I went to New York and started working with [Jim] Bevel and Bernard Lafayette organizing the first mass anti-war — it was called the Spring Mobilization Against the War, a big mass parade in New York City. And then I went to San Francisco State, got involved in the student movement, SDS, and so forth. Got involved in GI organizing, went to Asia. Became a union organizer, and so forth — always searching for a Movement as I experienced it in the South and never quite replicating it. Outside the South, I had some good movement experiences, and I had very bad movement experiences. But nothing ever replaced or was equal to the South. The GI stuff came close; that came the closest.

In trying to figure out how the Movement affected me — when I was a kid, I was bullied a lot, both because I was the kind of kid bullies lik to pick, on and also because my parents were Leftists and it was the McCarthy Era and so teachers would foment kids to attack me because — well, nevermind, I don't even want to go into those stories. But the point is I was bullied a lot, which of course I did not like.

Being in a lefty family, I had access to all this stuff like the novels of Howard Fast where the underdog rises up and strikes back against the oppressor which, in my child's mind, was against the bullies. Freedom Road, I don't know if any of you read Freedom Road, but that would be one. The Call of Fife and Drum, which was his Tom Paine stuff. So when I became part of the Freedom Movement, that was living out that dream of the people at the bottom, the people being bullied, the people being oppressed, rising up and striking back and winning against, in political terms, against the oppressors and the exploiters, and in emotional terms, against the bullies. So it like fulfilled this — I don't know, I'm sure there's some kind of psychological explanation for it, but it really shaped me.

And that was my purpose then, to help people do that, to be part of that if I could, or to at least say that it was possible. I think that one of the reasons I have been doing the website is that for various reasons I no longer participate in the self-defined Left. In fact, I've not been as intensely politically active as I was in the '60s and '70s — not since that experience in the late '70s with the "revolutionary" phase of my life.

So the website is a place where I can present the Freedom Movement as an example of people standing up to the bullies and rising up from below, building a movement from below that shapes society and changes it. And I want to celebrate that. And I think that's the underlying philosophy that I've applied to the website. I make no claim that the website's academic or neutral or objective in the New York Times bullshit sense of, "We objectively and neutrally look at the balance here and the balance there." Which, of course, is nonsense because nobody can completely step outside of their own human experience nor can reporters and editors ignore the reality that whomever owns the Times has opinions, interests, and viewpoints that have to be taken into account. As someone famous once observed, "Freedom of the press only applies to people who own presses." Anyway, the website is my expression of what the Freedom Movement meant to me and has shaped me all the rest of my life.

And I'll finish by saying that every once in awhile, now in my 70s, I start looking back. You know, what was my life? And there's a song, I don't remember the name or title, but one of the lines is something like, "I pray to God that at the end of my life I look back on it, that I had a good life." Or words to that effect. And I feel that the Freedom Movement put me on a road that when I look back on my life, I feel that I had a good life. Yeah, there are mistakes I made, but I don't have deep regrets. I just don't have the kind of regrets that I know a lot of my friends have about disastrous things they did, people they hurt. So for me, the Movement not only shaped my life, but it made it into a good life. And so for me that's how it affected my life.

 

Don Jelinek

Don: Well, my situation was a bit different. Unlike many of you who were struggling, I had a very plush job on Wall Street, making a lot of money, the potential for partnership. And what happened is that a former boss had gone down in '64 to Mississippi — a former boss not from Wall Street I should point out. And once he came back — he was there for three weeks — he came back, and he started telling the stories about what had happened, including the murders.

And I said, "You know, I'm aware of all this, but I thought you had to be young and a student, and certainly not a lawyer." And here I am, I'm 31, figuring I'm sort of past that. And he says, "Well, I'm older than you, and I've got all the rest going." So I said, "Well, if I wanted to go down, how do I go?" So he set me up for three weeks in 1965 to do my summer vacation.

[The organizations providing legal support for the Movement in the South were largely staffed by short-term pro-bono volunteers on their vacations.]

The short of it is I couldn't leave the South. I had really never, in my experience, I can't remember anything that I couldn't give up. And this was the one. I couldn't just leave. Now being me, I made contingency plans. I'd stay a week. I'd stay two weeks. I'd stay three weeks. The next time I was shot at, I'd leave right away. But I definitely was going back.

And at one point, I felt I was not so much burning out as Bruce commented, but that I was missing the life that I should be leading. I mean, I'm white, middle class; I mean I'm a lawyer. I've got all these opportunities, and so I couldn't resist it. I came back to New York, and I went right back to my Wall Street firm. Well, they wouldn't take me after having never come back from my vacation, but I found another Wall Street firm. And I got the job and settled in, and my clients were really much like Wall Street clients. It was the people that warehoused the elderly in nursing homes, the people that ran the sweat shops in lower Manhattan, and it had seemed fine to me before I left. But now that I came back, it didn't work.

And I kept saying, "This is crazy." I mean, "This is going to be my life. I have to shape up. I have to get back into the spirit of it all." But I didn't, and I never, never could. Around Christmas of '65, I got a call saying that somebody who was supposed to handle the ACLU office for Christmas had backed out at the last minute, and they needed somebody really bad. And I said, "For how many weeks?" "Just Christmas week." "And this time, I get paid?" "Yeah." "All right, I can live with that."

Cathy: That's in New York?

Don: The office was in Jackson.

Cathy: Oh, the office was in Jackson.

Don: Why are you laughing, Hardy?

Hardy: There's a big difference.

Bruce: Yeah, Christmas in Jackson versus Christmas in Manhattan, there's a difference. [Laughter]

Don: Oh, Christmas in Jackson was pretty disappointing. [Laughter] Even from a Movement perspective. All the outside agitators were home.

Even the Klan, even they were staying home. Everything was just kind of quiet. Then a big thing burst out in the City of Canton. I got deeply involved. Not that I had a job to go back to, but I couldn't quite leave while it was going on. And after that, I was offered — we were very successful, and I started working with SNCC as a lawyer.

Then I was offered a full-time position with ACLU. Well, that didn't work out. They really didn't like — well, first of all, by now I had my own ACLU office in Selma. And they got word that I was funneling money and supplies to SNCC, that I was making Black Power noises, and that I was — I was representing Stokely [Carmichael]. And Black Power had just — it was like a month after he made the June '66 speech. So every time I appeared in court with him, the national press was there. So any thoughts of becoming anonymous ended. I mean, I'd be on CBS, NBC. My parents would write me complaining that their friends are very upset, because I'm there.

And time goes on — I'm not going to go through the whole experience — but now, Dr. King is assassinated, and I just couldn't take it anymore. Like many SNCC people who were always criticizing him, when he died, there was incredible remorse and incredible regret for having not treating him the way they should've. And I never felt that negative to him, but I had run out of steam.

I'd been there three years at that point, but I didn't have much to go back to. I not only didn't have a job, but I was no longer fit for the kind of work I did. My rent controlled apartment was gone. My girlfriends were gone. You know, I had sort of lost everything. And now I'm back [in NY], and now I went through what a lot of you discussed when we talked about the malaise after leaving the South. And it hit me really bad. I mean, so bad that — again, I'm not the only one. I just didn't want to associate with anybody that had been in the South. I didn't want to go to any meetings. I wouldn't go to any reunions.

But on the other hand, again like Bruce, I missed the Movement, and I wanted to have some movement. And now, my Civil Rights background got me entre to represent the Native Americans on Alcatraz Island. And I lived on the island with them for 19 months. And it was a total escape. Like being a private island that had been seized from the federal government, and they couldn't get it back.

[Alcatraz island in the middle of San Francisco Bay had long been the site of a maximum-security federal prison. The prison was closed in 1963. By 1969, it was essentially empty, the buildings abandoned. In November of 1969, Native American activists nonviolently occupied Alcatraz Island as a dramatic protest against racism and the historic denial of their human rights. The occupation which lasted until June of 1971 played a significant role in raising awareness of Indian issues and forcing changes in U.S. government policies regarding Native Americans. Today Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Indian occupation is treated as an important and honored aspect its history. See We Hold the Rock, (National Park Service) for more information.]

The people were mostly San Francisco State students. Indian students at first, and then later a more mixed group came. And they were very comfortable to talk with, and I just enjoyed the whole experience.

Let me throw in one thing. We had meetings with the federal government periodically, on the island. And at one point, I had an issue that I had negotiated with the feds, and at this point, somebody just turned to me and said, "Sorry, it's been rejected." I said, "When? I've been here the whole time. When was it rejected?" And I didn't get an answer. About two months later, another such meeting occurred, and the same issue, only this time, I heard it being rejected. And I had to go to the federal officials and say it's been rejected. And they said, "When?" And this kind of subliminal thing had taken place which has a lot to do with how Native Americans communicate.

But mostly, I had escaped from the Civil Rights malaise. I had my movement. I had my island. I had a home. I had new friends, and none of them had been in Mississippi. So it was totally comfortable.

[Not long after], once again the Civil Rights background launched its head when I was asked to take over the Attica defense in upstate New York, because with the Mississippi experience, I knew how to do mass arrests, and that's not an experience most people ever have.

[In September of 1971 there was a large-scale prisoner revolt at the maximum-security Attica prison in New York state. Depending on political point of view, it was characterized as a "riot" or an "uprising." The prisoners took hostages and made demands for an end to abuses and better treatment. Negotiations to peacefully end the stand-off and free the hostages took place over several days. Eventually, armed state police and National Guard soldiers stormed the prison. In the violence that ensued, 33 prisoners and 10 hostages were killed.]

I had 62 clients, and they had a total of 1400 felonies against them. And [their trials] went on for a number of years. Again, I don't want to bog down by discussing all the details, but when I came out of there, while I still wasn't ready to join or meet or go to reunions or anything like that, I was relaxed. You know, I had kind of worked it out. Maybe I wasn't totally worthless because I'd left. And now, it's 30 years, and I met Chude and Miriam at an event.

Bruce: Noted troublemakers.

Don: That's right! [Laughter] And then they asked me to apply and join, and I did. Been [here] ever since.

 

Marion Kwan

Marion: You know, if I had to describe a mood about my identity right now, it would be a three letter word that's called "odd." I felt really odd, in a good way, that I didn't fit in — if I were to describe myself, I didn't think I could fit into any stereotypes, so nobody can stereotype me at all. I just don't fit in.

I grew up in Chinatown on Grant Avenue on the fourth floor of an apartment for the first 16 years of my life. I went to public schools, grammar school, junior high school, high school.

And one day I decided after going to City College of San Francisco for two years, I needed badly to break out, and I didn't know where to go. I was involved in a church at that time, a Presbyterian church in Chinatown, that's very community oriented and very open. And there was a choir teacher who came to the church from — people come from different parts of the country through the Presbyterian church USA to visit the church in Chinatown to help out. So there was this choir teacher who is from Hastings, Nebraska of all places.

So why did I end up in Hastings, Nebraska? Because there's a college there. I just needed to get out of Chinatown. And so I was there for two years. No, actually I was there for one year. I couldn't stand the culture. I couldn't stand the whiteness. I didn't know how to fit in. Again, I felt really odd. I came back and spent one semester at San Francisco State; then I discovered it would take 2 years for me to graduate. So I went back to Hastings, Nebraska, and finally graduated in May.

There was a professor at that college who talked about his experience in the Delta ministry in Mississippi. And I was about to graduate with a girlfriend, and we decided, we're not going to go back home. I can't go back to Chinatown. It was just another dreary part of my life. So we decided that after graduation we were going to go down to Mississippi. So that's what I did. We took the bus, the Trailways bus. I got down there, and — 

Don: And when is this?

Marion: '65. And it just again abruptly changed my entire life. I didn't fit in, obviously. People didn't know how to fit me in. But one thing that changed me was that I learned what anger is all about. In my culture, the way I was brought up, being Chinese and being a female, you can't express your anger, and you've got to be polite. You've got to be dutiful. You've got to be respectful. And you've got to shut your damn mouth. So that's what I did until I went down there.

Then all hell broke loose for me. When I got back to San Francisco's Chinatown, they didn't know who I was. I was just changed. I became expressive. I became angry. I started looking at things politically, like Bruce was mentioning. I kept getting sick. The doctor finally said, "Marion, you're down to 80 pounds. Of course you're always sick." And I think it was because the Movement got me so riled up, learning about the fact that other races outside of the Chinatown race — I learned that mine wasn't the only race that was being discriminated against. There was a whole group of Black people who were discriminated against, and I was in it.

And I said, "Wow, I didn't know that." I didn't know anything about how it really felt to be a Negro. To me, being raised in Chinatown was very similar to a concentration camp. I live part-time right now in Taos, New Mexico, so the Native Americans I talk to and am close to, I would tell them, "Chinatown was like a Reservation to me."

I sensed, through my parents, that leaving the boundaries of Chinatown meant it was unsafe, dangerous and strange. Outsiders were distant and foreign to me. It was later that I learned the history of discrimination, lynching and massacres in Chinatowns including San Francisco.

Because my parents couldn't speak English, they knew not to cross Broadway Street. They knew that Market Street was a very strange place, and they didn't know how to take the bus. So I grew up learning how to take my parents down shopping on Market Street. I learned how to write a check for my parents, because they couldn't write it in English. If there was an insurance man coming into our building, I opened the door and said, "There's a white man. Yeah, must be an insurance man trying to sell us insurance."

I'm one of eight kids. I was the third oldest. My oldest sister was born in China, and some of us were born at the Chinese hospital in Chinatown. So again, everything's odd to me, to have to say this. This is the first time I've been able to express it this way. When I came back from Mississippi, like I said, I felt really strange, like I didn't fit in Chinatown anymore, because I was changed.

I started getting into the anti-war movement, and I joined the American Friends Service Committee , and I went back to the East Coast to be trained to speak on U.S. and Vietnam — again my own identity as being Asian and this war against Asians. And I'm starting to piece together how the government knows how to subjugate people to nothing, to a point where you can even get your U.S. citizens to fight against other races, but you don't have to be in the United States. You can go do it abroad, and you can still kill and murder.

But I knew that Mississippi was a pivotal point for me to understand mass destruction of the humankind, against one group. And it felt so real that on some subconscious level, when I got married and when I adopted two kids, I made sure that they were in a situation where it's become more natural to live and play and study with other kids. I was born in Chinatown, so even though I went to a public school, it's all Chinese. There was one Black kid who was sitting in another row when I was like in the fifth grade, and that's all I remember about a Black kid.

And so I think being back here, I continued having a very close relationship with the Director of the Delta Ministry in Hattiesburg, Mississippi throughout the next 50 years. My family and I visited a lot with him and his family when he eventually moved back to Minnesota from MS. So that was, I think, my sanity.

Otherwise, I don't have any friends to talk to about it. It's a Black/white issue, so nobody knows how to talk to me about it, and I don't know how to raise consciousness about it, because at that time, soon after that, Black Power came, and then Yellow Power and Red Power and Brown Power. And that's when I started moving with the flow. That's when I realized what it was like to deal with Yellow Power. And ethnic studies, thank God.

If the Freedom Movement didn't do anything, it did one good thing for me. It really galvanized me into seeing that I had to know more about my own culture and what it's like to be discriminated against. I felt it. I've always felt it in Chinatown, but I wasn't able to articulate it until ethnic studies came. Although I missed all that, because I was in Hong Kong at that time. I was in Hong Kong for about six to nine months, and I heard about the student uprising at San Francisco State.

[In November of 1968, students at San Francisco State College (now University) went on strike for an Ethnic Studies department and increased admissions of nonwhite students. Police attempted to violently suppress the strike resulting in more than 700 arrests. Led by the Black Students Union and Third World Liberation Front (an organization of nonwhite students), it was the longest student strike in American history, stretching from November 8, 1968 until March 21, 1969 when it was ended by a negotiated settlement. Many, though not all, of the strike demands were won and today SFSU has a College of Ethnic Studies and is one of the most racially diverse public universities in the country.]

I heard about the Japanese-American president at San Francisco State [S.I. Hayakawa], and I felt like, "How could he do that? How could he think any differently than the way I'm thinking? He's a minority. He should know better." So he was there, and I heard about it when I was in Hong Kong.

I joined a small American group there in Hong Kong, that staged protests against the Vietnam War; and I was really concerned about my relatives who lived there, because if the government knew that I was in the anti-war movement my relatives would be in danger. They would certainly be under surveillance or questioned at their home. I was relieved that had not happened.

So I knew enough Chinese to work as a social worker at one of the American-based social work organizations there. When the news came out that I spoke up — they chose me as a spokesperson after a 24hour protest at the US Embassy — my boss called me in. He's American. He told me that I was fired, because I was in the anti-war movement. I shouldn't be doing those things. In anger I told him, "Doesn't he understand what's going on with the world right now?" Right? I started preaching to him. [Laughter] I started getting really angry, and finally by the time I finished speaking and knew that I was going to be fired, he changed his mind and didn't fire me.

Cathy: Oh my gosh!

Marion: I have no idea what I said, but I was just too angry. The words came out. And that wasn't me. It's just not me. But it changed me. The Movement did change me, to a point where I think the way I look at my kids, who are in their early 30s now, I am so proud of the way they grew up. They are just so natural with diversity, and I know I did do something right.

There's nothing I regret about my experience in the South. I couldn't talk to my parents, because they didn't understand. I wrote a letter when I was in Mississippi to one of my brothers saying that if anything happens to me, it's because I chose for this to happen. But I couldn't talk to anybody in my family. And so I felt really odd about my experience, but I felt like because it changed me, it made me stronger; it made me sensitive to people's feelings, especially to the feelings and struggles of African-Americans. Those experiences in the South were upfront and personal. And it got me through 30 years of working as a counselor for low-income students at City College of San Francisco. It is not so much race as it is class that divides us. And so I think that I gave my life in a way that I felt made a difference. I have no regrets. Now I only look back and am grateful that the opportunity to join the Movement was there for me to take, and I'm so glad that I took it. I was there at the right time and at the right place.

 

Gene Turitz

Gene: It's funny, because I've been trying to think for a few days about which things to talk about, and hearing everybody — one of my grandsons, I have conversations with him, and they sometimes lead places. And he was one of the leaders of the walkout at Berkeley High School a couple of days ago. He was over at the house, and well, I had gone. He had called me. He said, "I'm going on a walkout." He had been at our house that night, and he came in the morning, and he said, "Did you hear this?" I hadn't heard that it had happened. He said, "I'm gonna go to school. We got to have a walkout." And so then he and a few other kids went around to all the classes.

Cathy: So what happened?

Gene: So, I brief aside. What happened was that someone, a student — he's now been identified as a sophomore — posted on a computer in the library, it was really White Power, racist stuff.

Don: Klan stuff.

Gene: Klan stuff. And using the "N" word and then calling for — that there was going to be a public lynching on December 9th and stuff like that. And really horrible stuff. A group of students had been in the library, and when they left, a volunteer, a parent volunteer saw this on the website. Now who put it out, I don't know. You know, it's a more general — it's how it got a little further. And the kid has been caught, and that was in the paper today. Anyway, so the students just said, "We're walking out." And they went to talk to the principal, and he responded, "OK, but not great." And at first he wanted them to have some rally in the community theater inside, and the kids said, "No way, we don't want to be penned in." So they had it on the steps of the — No, first they had it on the steps of the Community Theater, and then they went to the — last year they had had a walkout around the deaths at Ferguson and in New York, so they went to the steps of City Hall and had a rally. And then they marched up Channing Way, up to Telegraph and then onto campus, had another rally on Sproul Hall steps, and then they went to the Campanile.

Cathy: We're talking 2,000 kids. 2,000!

Gene: And totally organized. I mean, it was done so well. They were in control of themselves. For a change, the cops responded well by just blocking traffic, didn't try to influence where the march went. I think the cops were more surprised that the kids, after they were at the Campanile, they decided to march back to school. And so they came back down Bancroft and then to the school.

So anyway, the following day or maybe that night, we were talking, and he was going on about why they demonstrated and the furor. You know, the kids were angry; they felt scared. They said there's no business, you know, we can't have this in the community. We have to be protected. The school is supposed to be a safe place. It's not supposed to be a place where you have fear. And then in talking about who may have done this, he was, "Is this person going to be punished? What are they going to do? They should treat him as an adult" and all this.

And I had to go some place, and I came back, and I said, "You know, it's interesting," and now I'm getting into what I wanted to talk about here, because what I realized with him is that there's a part of him, and he's a mixed kid. He's Black and white.

Hardy: Biracial. And there's a way that he believes in the system. The system is supposed to work, and he's angry that the system doesn't work. And I said to him, "You know, [Dimonie?], I don't believe in the system that way, so I can't support exactly what you're saying about how this kid should be dealt with, because I don't think the system works for us, and I never have."

So I have this split in myself about that, what I'm demonstrating about. Because what I said to him, I thought these kids did the exact right thing. They said, "We need to protect ourselves. We need to all be here, white, Black, Asian and Latino. We all need to be here, because we can protect ourselves." I mean, there was an element of that in what they were doing. And I said to him, "That's the power in what you have, because you're not ultimately going to get the system to protect you. That's not going to work."

And so as I've been thinking about this, I feel like that's part of what I also learned in the South. And because I grew up in a certain way as a political kid — I mean, when I was 10 years old, I was doing election work for the Liberal Party in New York City. You know, we used to go out. I used to go to the projects and pass out literature, and I used to stand at subway stops and pass out literature around city council campaigns. It was what we did as kids. I don't know, we did it.

There were periods that I wasn't political, for whatever reason. When I went to college, I think I thought I was going to become a street person or something. I didn't know what. And the Civil Rights Movement was beginning, and I didn't link into it. You know, I was obviously in school. I graduated in '62, so all this stuff was going on. And I wasn't particularly — I was sympathetic, but I wasn't an activist in any way.

And when I came out here [Berkeley] in '62, within a year I got involved with Friends of SNCC, and I started with Friends of SNCC in '63. But even then, the stuff I have done has been this sort of dichotomy. I did do a certain amount of electoral work. I worked on city council campaigns, congressional campaigns. In '64, we had a teach-in, an anti-Vietnam War teach-in, and I was part of Friends of SNCC, but we were involved in that too. And we were involved in organizing the demonstrations that took place after that. And then after the summer of '64, as we got into '65, there got to be other political campaigns. I had also worked on the Rumford [Fair Housing] campaign, that kind of stuff. So I did a certain amount of stuff that was go to vote, do this, I would go to churches to talk about the importance of voting and stuff like that.

But on the other hand, I basically believed that people had to become organized to develop what they needed to survive. And that, I felt, I got strengthened in that by going to the South. And I was just in the South for three months, in the summer, from June through August in '65. But I had been in Friends of SNCC, and so I came out of that. I had done some anti-war stuff before, and then I went to Mississippi. And then when I came back, I just got back involved in this combination of Civil Rights and anti-war, because from '65 until '67, we started organizing Stop the Draft Week, which was another major thing.

[Stop the Draft Week was a week-long effort in October of 1967 to disrupt, and if possible shut down, the Oakland Army Induction Center which processed draftees and volunteers into the service. Thousands of demonstrators were confronted by a small army of police. Nonviolent protests and street-fighting skirmishes spread throughout downtown Oakland. Inductions were temporarily disrupted and delayed for several days. Ultimately, in the long-run, anti-draft protests and defiant resistance brought about the end of conscription as a national policy in 1973. However, the conscription law still remains on the books and to this day young men are required to register for the draft which could be reinstituted.]

And a lot of that was organized out of the SNCC office, Friends of SNCC office in San Francisco. And so then I went away for a year, and then I came back, and I got involved in tenant's union stuff and then anti-police stuff that we organized. And I sort of kept doing all these things that were both — and the anti-police stuff was community control the police, and that too, while it was a program that sort of was initiated by the Black Panthers, we were developing it as a way for the community to have control.

We weren't depending on the system. We knew we couldn't do that. And it was probably rejected. I mean, in Berkeley, we got 15-18,000 votes for it, and the opposition got 20,000 votes. But it was really based on, we believed we could develop community, not that we would be able to control the world, but that we would be able to protect people's lives and their well being by controlling the police ourselves.

And then as I worked in the tenant's union, the same thing. I believed that you can't expect — the courts are not going to ever support tenants. Too many of the judges are landlords. You know, it's just the fact. And the whole system is landlords. But we thought we could develop rent control that could protect tenants, and the first rent control law we passed was dynamite. It got thrown out by the courts, and then we had to do another one. But we kept eviction controls. But we believed that tenants, by organizing, could get enough strength to protect themselves.

Now, I think the Movement in the South was — that's sort of how it affected me was to say, "People can come together, even in the most dire situation, even with the most repressive systems going on, you can come together to develop systems that will enable you." Not forever, but for periods of time, to make your lives possible. And I mean, we did co-ops in Pinola County [MS], and they lasted for 15 years. And it's true, we organized sharecroppers, and the end result was not good, in a sense; they lost their places to live. The plantation owners said, "To hell with you, it's easier for us to buy a machine to harvest than to have sharecroppers, and then we can have more land."

So when we went back [to Mississippi], I saw that, and I kept thinking, "Well, was that so good?" Now there's cotton or corn or whatever it is growing over everything, all the places where people lived. But when I asked the people who were there, they said, "No, it was worth it." So for me, the South was, I don't know, an affirmation that you could organize around these things and develop systems that work for you.

Now, I don't think — I mean, I got involved in more electoral things. I just don't depend on them. I sort of say, "Well, sometimes you have to do that. Sometimes that's the way that you work." But I'm not a supporter of people getting elected to office. I think the system doesn't work very well in that way. So I was interested that my grandson — he still wants the system to work, and I've sort of given up on that. I don't know. I think that was the fight around the MFDP as well, you know? That some people believed that they could get into the system and have it work, and to other people, that this is a waste of time. You know, we're not going to get that.

And I don't think I could say that it was clearly one way or the other. I think there were good things and bad things. So I'm not a partisan of one way. I just know for myself I can't — I'm not in the system that way. And I just want to get as many people organized as possible to develop these other ways of doing things, and that's what being in the Movement did for me.

 

Chude Allen

Chude: As each person spoke, there was something that resonated for me, and I thought, "Oh, I need to remember this." And then I thought, "No, we'll all get this eventually when it gets transcribed, and if I've forgotten something, I can add it." Which means all of us can add things, and we can also clarify things. That makes it a lot easier, that this is not just a one- time thing. So there are lots of ways to go with this.

To start with, something Marion had said about not fitting in, being odd, I use the word misfit. And for me, it was my crisis as an adult &mdash after coming out of Mississippi &mdash was to discover that I wasn't normal, because I grew up in essentially a segregated, primarily upper middle class white environment, and my father was very clear that we were middle class, and we were Episcopalians, and we were the best. And that's all. We were better than the Quakers, and we certainly were better than the Methodists. [Laughter]

And I was raised to get married. That was to be my goal and focus in life &mdash to get married. I try to explain to people, there was never any discussion, you know, especially in terms of marrying interracially. Because the point was, my father would've had a very hard time if I'd married a Quaker. [Laughter]

You know, the Roman Catholics were completely out of the question. And of course, Jews were out of the question. And you see, I never understood. I went my last three years [of high school] to a private school. I was a day student, and I used to flirt with a couple guys who were Jewish, and I could never understand why they would flirt with me, but would never ask me out. You know, one of them now is the head of his synagogue. It just didn't compute for me, because I kind of lived in a bubble, which was that we were normal. We were what everybody was supposed to be.

So for me, then, the question of both going to college first but especially going to the South, is that the whole world opened up. And I discovered that who I was and where I came from was only one part of something that was much larger. And in Holly Springs [MS], which was a large project, there were about 40 of us who had come for Freedom Summer. We had this wide range of people. So Hardy mentioned Dave Kendall who is the lawyer for the Clintons, well he's a farm boy from Indiana. And he used to talk about how being a farm boy from Indiana made it really easy for him to talk with the farmers, because he knew farms, right? And by the way, he was a Quaker. [Laughter]

And you know, the people from California, I mean, they were like a different breed of human beings. And as one example, one day they were talking about the Du Bois Club, and I said, "Well, isn't there a Girls Club?" [Laughter]

[The W.E.B. DuBois Club was one of the main multi-issue leftist student organizations of the mid-1960s. Organized under the influence of the U.S. Communist Party, it was smaller and less influential than Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). At some times and places there was rivalry between the two groups, at other times and places they were allies.

Gene: You're not the only one who said that!

Chude: But I'm just saying, who I was. Coming into the South, I already was an activist, not before I went to college, but when I got to Carleton. So Ban the Bomb and being against fallout shelters, and then of, course, dorm hours for girls when the guys didn't have any restrictions were the first issues.

[In the early '60s, many colleges still imposed Victorian-era "parietal rules" on female students to prevent them from engaging in unmarried sex or having social interactions of any kind with "unsuitable" men. Among these rules were requirements that girls be inside their dorm rooms after a specified evening curfew hour and dorm matrons conducted night-time bed-checks. Women who were caught (or suspected) of violating parietal rules faced suspension or expulsion.]

Those are my issues, you know? And I applied to go to Spelman in part because I hated Carleton and in part because I'd spent the summer working in Philadelphia at the Church of the Advocate, having this absolutely wonderful experience living with the Black minister and his family and working in this all Black community. What made it so wonderful is that they were Christians. I got to pray every day, and I got to do good political &mdash what I would now call political work.

At Carleton, the activists were atheists. [Laughter] They didn't understand this thing about me and the cross around my neck, you know? And the Episcopalians, for the most part, except for my favorite professor, they were conservative.

As an aside, my favorite professor, who's still alive at 90 and was at the talk I gave at Carleton last spring, he got up afterwards at the luncheon and said that he realized I was the reason he'd gone to Mississippi in '65. So it was kind of neat to feel that connection.

In Philadelphia, I started to understand about segregation, but I thought it was voluntary. I mean I could go live in Philadelphia if I wanted to, you know? When I went to Spelman, I discovered there was such a thing as enforced segregation. And enforced segregation meant that white folks didn't have a choice either, and that was a major change for me, to realize that there was a system. It wasn't just that there were some people who were mean and nasty.

In Atlanta, it was not enforced, unless the segregationists wanted to segregate their restaurant, for example. Then the police would enforce that, of course, but it wasn't like you couldn't be in an integrated group in the Black community. However, when my best friend at Spelman said I couldn't go home with her at spring vacation because we'd all be arrested, I learned that in many places in the South, whites didn't have a choice either. And so for me, volunteering to go to Mississippi was in part because I believed in a society in which everyone had choice. And that was very important to me. I had come to understand that I didn't have choice either in the South, that I could get killed for wanting to be in an integrated situation.

I also came out of the South, as I think most of you know, really wrestling with the question of interracial marriage and would I marry interracially? And of course I made the decision with Robert Allen &mdash yes. So one of the big changes for me in terms of how I'm different after the Movement is that I did marry interracially. And Robert was already following Malcolm X.

So when I came out of the South, knowing I was not going back, knowing that the SNCC people did not think we should be coming back to the South but that we should be working in the North, I didn't know where I was going to fit with that. But here was Bob already going to meetings with Malcolm X and at least giving me information about what was happening in the North. And then after I married Robert, he gets drafted. And so I get involved as a wife, as a peripheral person in the whole struggle against the draft. And he was involved with a group through Conrad Lynn, the Black lawyer, and they named themselves Afro-Americans for Survival. And these were young men who either had refused the draft or were AWOL [Absent With Out Leave from the military], so the group didn't last very long.

Chude: So for this very short period in like '66, '67, I was sitting in on meetings of these young Black men who were trying to deal with the draft. And I should just say in all of this that I was an idealist. I mean, I totally believed when I went to Mississippi that love would conquer all and that if we loved our enemies they would change, and all those racist whites would immediately have their hearts opened.

So I'm still a bit like that when Bob refuses the draft. So the day he goes down for his induction, I kiss him goodbye, and I think I'm not going to see him for five years. And I very much identified with the young woman in Dostoevsky's novel, "Crime and Punishment", what was her name, Sofia? How she was going to visit the main character in prison. So I was going to visit Bob. And I always envisioned him in Attica. I was going to live in Buffalo and go and visit, you know?

I mean, I'm sounding facetious, but I come out the idealistic belief that if you just believe hard enough, things will change. And what's good about that, the good side of it, is that I've always operated on the basis for myself that what's important is that I grow, that I grow and I change and I develop and I become more of a person.

And partly where I got that from was when I was in Cuba in '72. One of the Cubans had said to me, "To be a revolutionary is to make mistakes." And it just gave me a way of handling the fact that we all make mistakes, that there are things I can be very overwhelmingly embarrassed about that I've done in my life, including the fact that when I went to Spelman &mdash and I can see it in my letters &mdash I literally thought Black folk had never, ever before stood up and organized against racism.

I didn't know anything. And so, you know, if I didn't know it, it couldn't be true. [Laughter] But I'm saying that my trajectory is one of somebody starting very narrow &mdash and the truth is the more privileged you are, the less you know &mdash and beginning to grow and develop, as I expanded mostly from political movements, from being involved in struggles.

The other thing I'd say is that I helped to start the Women's Liberation Movement, and at that very early time, people would tell me I was wrong. It started with a women's caucus at an SDS conference, where I said, "I want an independent women's movement," and the whole rest of the meeting was spent telling me &mdash the women were telling me, I was wrong. Nobody stood up with me. Nobody said, "I agree with you." Afterwards, six women came up to me and said, "We want to do an independent women's movement." I think because I had the experience of being in the Southern Freedom Movement, I could stand up and say what I thought was right, even if nobody else in the room would support me.

I also was desperate to help build a multiracial women's liberation movement. That was the bottom line for me. And that was very difficult, because in that early period, there was not a lot of support for the struggle against sexism. Most women of color were part of the African-American, Asian and Chicano movements. We weren't getting support from each other. It was very isolating, especially trying to educate white women about racism, which was essential if the movement was to ever be multiracial.

But I had Robert, and Robert and I did the book, Reluctant Reformers, focusing on racism in social reform movements in the U.S. I studied the Woman Suffrage Movement as a way of putting some distance between what I was doing in the Women's Liberation Movement and the need to work with white women around understanding racism. So looking at the Suffrage Movement gave me a way to get some perspective, and that was just key. And that was a real gift that Robert gave me, that he invited me to work on that book with him, and I was able to do that study.

Because when I went back to college for my senior year, I was alienated. I barely graduated. I couldn't do my study within college, other than a race- relations class I did in my senior year. I wrote a paper comparing my experience at Spelman, being one of 13 white girls on a campus of 700 plus Black students with what some of the Black students at Carleton told me about what it was like being at Carleton where they were one of 13 African-Americans in a student population of 1,300. We organized a group on campus for the Black students, and then they invited the international students. So we had a little group of all the misfits and the people that didn't quite fit.

Mostly, though, I went through this long period of more or less being alone, and I think it meant a lot that I had been part of a movement in the South where I was so much not alone. And of course, I was a follower. There was good leadership. And you know, I can't say it was easy working with Ivanhoe [Donaldson] for example. [Laughter]

Hardy: I agree!

Chude: But you know, when I look back, he was an intelligent leader. And so was Barbara Walker who headed the Freedom School in Holly Springs. She came from Spelman, and I knew her. And she saw as one of her jobs, kind of, being a little bit of &mdash acting as the lubricant around Ivanhoe for the rest of us who were there. But I think that I had that always as a base while I dealt with the fact that I didn't fit anywhere. I was a misfit. And I was organizing what was at that point a predominantly white Women's Movement, when I didn't always trust the white women.

And I was so happy when there were opportunities to at least have conversations with and support from women of color. Pat Robinson, an African- American woman in New York, came to talk to me when I was first in the Women's Liberation Movement in New York and she said, "Remember class." That's what she said. You know, she said, "Remember class." And I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, but over time, I never forgot it. I never forgot Pat telling me it was a class struggle.

And sometimes I think that's a thing for all of us. We don't know what little seeds of understanding we've given other people. We don't know what other things that they're carrying around and helping them to grow because they met us in a situation, and we said something out of what we had learned.

And then last &mdash just because Hardy's here and he was talking about his cousin &mdash is I never could understand when people would say that the thing about how white women were the definition of beauty and Black women were suffering from the fact that they weren't considered beautiful. Because I thought Hardy's cousin, Victoria [Gray], was the most exquisitely beautiful person I had ever seen in my life. You know, she was in our district &mdash you know, we would see her sometimes, and she was so beautiful, and it seems like a dumb thing to end with, but it is one of those things that also happens to you when you're involved in a movement is you meet people; you develop different kinds of feelings towards them.

I mean, Rita Walker. Rita Walker changed my life, because she left her kids with her mother every day, as I've said before, so she could come out and organize. And I had never seen any woman do that. And she forced me to think bigger about what it meant to be a woman. So I don't think these things leave you.

And when I helped to organize the reunion in '89 here, we had worried about whether or not we needed to name all the people who'd passed away. And I had been in the wing of "let's see what happens," and luckily we were the majority, because I would say about 20 times more people were mentioned than would've been mentioned if we had tried to make a list. Because so many of the people who came to that reunion had bonded with the people they had lived with in Mississippi, and they had stayed in touch with them. And so when we were asking for people to be remembered, it was Mrs. So and So. It was Mrs. Garrett.

And people were saying things like &mdash I mean, I remember Fran O'Brien, who I only just met then, who had been in Vicksburg. She said Mrs. Garrett, who she lived with and who was a retired teacher, taught her more about teaching than her graduate program at SF State had. And lots of people were saying things like that, so I think in addition to the political things, those personal connections just grounded &mdash at least they grounded me and have stayed with me all my life.

Hardy: Can I put an addendum to what you said? We've been knowing each other a long time. Chude, I call her Pam. Pam I was thinking about two things that happened to us within the first month. One was that Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner [were killed], about two to three weeks after that, a guy by the name of Wayne Yancey was killed, and he was on our project. And it wasn't clear whether he got run off the road or chased off the road or whatever, but they brought the body in the ambulance back to the Freedom House, and we were arguing because Ivanhoe wanted us to see what was in his pockets.

And all of a sudden we've got a guy — to know Wayne, he was this big six-foot guy, a Black cowboy. And all of a sudden he's dead. He's dead. And we got to arguing with the police about the body. They never declared him dead, officially. He was never declared dead officially. And we were — we had already come out of Ohio with the whole — and we had a death early. And you were there, and a couple — there was this small lady, she was from Berkeley who was there, this nurse.

So we had a {UNCLEAR} right in the front of the Freedom House, and I was shook up, and we were all shook up. Because all of a sudden, we're dealing with — this guy's gone. And he was somebody we thought would've probably — if he had lived and not got killed, he would've been an interesting story in himself for someone, but you had to go through that as well. We all as a group as well. And Frank Cieciorka and people like that. Anyway, I thought of that at dinner today, because we were just directly confronted with it, because they brought the body right there and laid it out.

 

Jean Wiley

Jean: Well, you know, it's hard for me to — I've been sitting here listening to all of you, and the thing is, my experience in the South influenced everything beyond the South. My whole life — my emotional life, my physical life, my intellectual life, my political life. I mean, leaving there was — it had been easy to get there, although the year before, I had never had any intention of going, especially to the Deep South. I mean, you could try North Carolina or something, but — [Laughter]

Jean: And I hadn't expected to be in that part of the South, the Deep South — ever. But [the Movement] kept growing. When I was still on the campus of Morgan State College, which is now Morgan University in Baltimore — and remind me to go back to Baltimore, please — I got further and further pulled into what was going on in the South, watching it very, very closely.

I sat-in on several demonstrations in Baltimore, the Morgan campus. I worked a little bit with the Northern Student Movement, and I never understood why I never worked with CORE, but I think one reason is that they never tried to recruit me. Anyway, the South was a foreign territory not to be entered at any cost.

My family was horrified when I just up and decided. By now I'm in graduate school, and I'm getting hell for even thinking about going South from my family who, obviously, I never should've told. But anyway, I got lucky. I was real curious, so I was close to thinking about going. And I don't know how it happened so quickly. I'm glad it did.

One of the things I can thank Tuskegee itself for was that when my parents and extended family heard that I'd be going to Tuskegee — I'd just been offered a job and then accepted a teaching position, so I'm a young teacher straight out of graduate school, and I'm considering it, and then I make a decision. By the way, the person who hired me at Tuskegee was a young dean who had just himself been hired and come up there to Michigan to look for a core of students who would go back with him. Some might stay, but at least spend the summer in this program. We were pretty much all just out of graduate school.

But I'm just so grateful that that move was made without too much agony on my part. It was weird, to tell you the truth, because I just knew I was supposed to be there. I didn't understand it that much, but I was on the — everything worked out perfect. I was on the perfect campus — Ann Arbor — to learn quickly, very quickly. And that was such fun, and it was relief from my classes and stuff. Anyway, I got there [Tuskegee].

Now what was the South like when I got there? It was rough, aside from what the Movement was doing down there.

For me, I had never been south of North Carolina. I'm from working class parents in Baltimore, and I get there, and it's kind of like I'm split apart. On the one hand — I mean, it's so new to me that most of the food in the South — it is not true that Black people have one — you know what I mean? [Laughter] One {UNCLEAR} sweet potato pie — and that ain't true. [Laughter] A lot of chicken. A lot of rice. And in the area of Baltimore, rice is not the staple. It's potatoes. And so I couldn't understand the — I had never had grits in my life. You know, this is basic stuff, right? How am I going to survive when I can't eat the food?

But anyway, obviously I had to learn. It was hard. It was hard to find food that I enjoyed. I could eat it, but I didn't enjoy it. And then this is all — this is funny at some points, but at other points, it ain't feeling funny to me. The music was different. I hadn't paid a lot of attention to blues. I could go on and on, but in other words, it's all very different. Plus, this is the first time in my life in front of a classroom. Plus, I've got to argue with an element of the Black bourgeoisie I had never known before. I did not — foolish of me — I did not read Black Bourgeoisie before I went down. It lays it all out, the Black Bourgeoisie. So I didn't know. I was totally confused. I was frantic.

I was going to Movement meetings, most of them TIAL.

Oh, did I forget to mention? I couldn't drive. Right? What the hell was I doing? What the hell?

Anyway, well things settled down, and I enjoyed the work. I enjoyed the classroom, being in the classroom. And things were happening. I hadn't known that things were happening in Alabama. Before I went down, Alabama was pretty quiet. The main reason I wanted to go to the South was because of the Mississippi Summer where I thought I might be teaching. That attracted me, because I was learning to be a teacher. Well, that didn't get done.

Essentially, the Movement turned my life completely upside down. I loved just about every moment of it. And just about everything involving me has to do in some way with the Movement, with the larger Movement, with SNCC's work, with all of that. And this is what, when I leave, I take with me.

Like Bruce, I was excruciatingly shy. I learned — now for most people, I always try to hide it. Now, it's hard to hide shyness. It really is.

Cathy: You were good at it. [Laughter]

Jean: Anyway, as I sit here, I just want to say that I don't know of anything in my life that was not affected by and strengthened by my experience, which led me to others.

I just want to mention, The North. OK, I leave the South after two and a half years, and I head to Washington, but I ended up in New York for two years. And here again, what's any hotter [politically] than New York? Except what's still going on in the South, nothing's hotter than New York City. And there are all these pieces and fragments of movement here, and a movement here, and a movement here — And New York itself is maddening. So to have so much going on and everybody very sensitive about white/Black. You know, if you talk about it at all — which you probably don't — then it's not quite honest. You haven't gotten there for honesty yet — which is new to me, right? Because I'd been in a Movement where there were white people at every level, except the top, right? Except the top.

And I tried to adjust well. And I find myself in the middle of the Black Power Movement. Which, of course, is totally unlike SNCC and the Movement South. And one time I'd like to take a little time to talk about that but not tonight. I was so frustrated with it that once I was in a meeting of writers and poets and a couple of artists, and they were talking about how naive the Southern Movement is, and not all of them knew that I had just come from the Southern Movement is. And not all of them knew that I had just come from the Southern movement. And I had had enough, so I burst out. I hadn't planned to do this. I burst out and said, "What are you talking about? You guys can't even organize your apartment buildings!" [Laughter]

Silence. But that's kind of how it was. It was all mouth, and what was coming out of the mouths sounded beautiful, but something is missing. It's not there. It's empty. There was never emptiness in the South. And for that, I thank the local people, for setting up this — 

I didn't see meanness in the South, among us. All the negative stuff that I saw and hated in New York, and obviously elsewhere — Detroit, I've heard about; L.A. I've heard about — it was just really different. And so I'm out in this wasteland again, in the middle, but now I'm asked to choose sides. The women's side, Black women's side. Exclusively Black women. And you know, I'm coming from the South, and it's like we're back to exclusive again and trying to get a handle, just getting a handle, because it was now a second foreign land. I just left the first one, and now I'm in the second one. What do I do?

I think I'm going to stop there while you guys think about what I probably did. Anyway, I just want to say I'm really thankful for the Southern experience. It was a good one. In some ways it was a hilarious one, and thank goodness I had the wherewithal to appreciate that.

 

Miriam Glickman

Miriam: I have a long list, not in any order, of ways that being in the Movement changed me. First, in college, I saw no sense in trying to learn history. Yet I was a history professor. I started my junior year at Brandeis, and we had small group meetings with a history professor. And the history professor took me aside and said, "You know, all your questions are about psychology, sociology and anthropology, but you show no interest whatsoever in history." And so I switched majors, because he was right.

But when I was in the South, I understood the importance of history. I was living with a family, and they talked about either their grandparents or great-grandparents who'd been slaves and what had gone on. And I saw that to understand and to really appreciate what was happening now, I needed to know history. So that woke up an interest in me. In a similar way, I have so many friends now who have no interest in politics whatsoever, and being in the Movement made me see how what happens politically affects people's daily lives, and that's what's missing for my friends. So I've kind of become a political junkie and enjoy all the stuff. I watch both the Republican and the Democratic debates. [Laughter]

Jean: I did too, sorry to say.

Miriam: When I was in the South — well, actually, when I was in college, we used to make fun of President Eisenhower. We were being drilled on how to write papers about European intellectual history and make what you wrote clear and understandable. And Eisenhower would do these run-on sentences, and we would make such fun of him. You know, they would have his transcript in the New York Times. I'm now a little embarrassed that I did that. It seems like I overlooked some of his better qualities.

But even though we sometimes poked fund, I trusted the government when I went into SNCC, and I learned in SNCC not to trust the government. One of my favorite quotes from JFK when he was President, and he was asked about what was going on in the South, he would say, "We're watching the situation very closely." And that's exactly what they were doing. The FBI was taking notes. While people were getting beaten up and jailed.

So I think the country is there now, that the country doesn't trust the government. But we got there earlier, because we saw what the government was doing versus what it was saying.

I'll throw in my favorite McNamara quote. This is a few years later. He said, "We are not bombing North Vietnam at this time." And when he said that at noon in Washington, D.C., it was like 2 AM in North Vietnam. They weren't bombing North Vietnam at 2 AM — at that time. Anyway, that's a little aside.

[Robert McNamara was Johnson's Secretary of Defense and an architect of the Vietnam War]

OK, so this one I'm not going to be explicit about, but when I went South, I was met with a whole different attitude about sexuality than we'd had. At Brandeis, you were a virgin until you get married. In the Movement, there was a lot of different stuff going on. One of my project leaders said he had first had intercourse when he was 9, and I think he told me the truth about that. It was just like walking into a different world. Anyway, I don't want to go into details about that.

Bruce: But, of course that's what's most interesting. [Laughter]

Cathy: We had another discussion about that.

Miriam: OK, living in a community in poverty helped me look back and understand. My mother had always told us we were poor growing up. And we were poor if you compared us to the Jewish community that we were a part of, but we were not poor, in any shape or form. And I didn't know that until I was in the South and saw what poor was.

Oh, one of the things is that if something needed to be done, nobody said, "Do you have this qualification? Have you passed this bar exam? Have you done this?" If it needed to be done, people did it. And so I learned.

I learned how to organize, and I learned more about how to do research in the South. And of course, they taught us how to organize. And I have felt comfortable organizing stuff through my life. In one of the other discussions I talked about organizing my neighborhood in Lafayette for stop signs when we had toddlers and were trying to slow down the traffic.

When I came back [from the South] — I was actually chased out. I had a Black project director named Cephus Hughes, and this was in February of '65 when they were pushing out white people. He definitely pushed me out. I didn't have a choice.

When I got back North, I was burned out. I had gotten interested through SNCC in labor organizing, and so I got a job working for, I think it was called EU. It was one of the labor unions in Brooklyn, and they hired me undercover to go into the factory and try to figure out by humming union songs or just listening to the people who they might approach who would be maybe pro-union. And it was funny, because I had already graduated from college, and the women would, just listening to me talk, say, "You know, instead of being here, you really ought to go to school."

Bruce: Bright girl like you.

Miriam: Yeah. And I couldn't say, "Oh, I've done that."

Don: Now I'm spying. [Laughter]

Miriam: Anyway, I learned to be very careful about my fingers, because the machines weren't safe. And I wasn't about to lose a finger. But I only lasted three weeks, and the reason was I was just burned out from being in SNCC. I wasn't up for doing anything. So I had what I later heard from Peace Corps volunteers was a reentry crisis, and I'm going to guess it took me about what it took them, it took about five months.

There were a lot of reentry issues. So here I had been in Columbus, Mississippi, and there was the Weyerhaeuser Company who had a huge tree farm. And when two Black workers had tried to unionize, they had been murdered. So now I'm up in New York, and who can I get a job with? I have a B.A. in psychology, not very marketable. But the people who were hiring were these big multinational companies that needed secretaries, and I'm not willing to work for them because I've seen what they do. And it was hard to eat at a restaurant, which took me actually years to be able to enjoy, because I'd seen so much malnutrition or starvation. And the idea you would sit there and be served a full plate with extra food, that was hard.

When I was in New York, I was on the Lower East Side, and there was a group of us. Emmy Schrader was there. Frances Mitchell, Dove Green, Wazir [Peacock] and his brother were there. So there was like a group of ex-pats. In August of '65 I had gone down to Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War and get arrested. We were mostly Civil Rights workers and Northern Catholic pacifists who were followers of Dorothea Day. So I knew some people from the jail experience too.

Let's see what else. Oh, one thing I did do because of the concern that we were early not trusting the government about the Vietnam War, I was trained and counseled young men on how to avoid the draft through the CCCO, Central Committee of Conscientious Objectors.

A few more things, not in any order, is in the South, the African-American attitude toward Jews was quite interesting to me. Often the Jews in the small towns were small shopkeepers. They had little stores. If they treated the Blacks fairly, they weren't considered white. And if they were not fair, kind, supportive with the Blacks, they were considered white. Just a little bit of — 

Hardy: They were Jews, that's what we should call them.

Miriam: Yes.

Don: I don't think I got that at all. Could you say — 

Miriam: OK, I always thought of myself as Jewish and white. But in the South, the Jews weren't necessarily considered white, which was white is the enemy, right? If they were fair with the Black community that they were selling to, they were considered Jewish but not white. But if they were harsh, they were considered white.

Hardy: Yeah, you grow up with that. Your parents make a distinction between people who are good Jews, and non-Jews. And a lot of it had to do with stories that came home, people who worked for these Jews as housekeepers and things. How they were treated, and that came back into the community. And where he — Mr. Goldstein, he's OK. Right? And they make that distinction.

Miriam: A different attitude after I left [the South] was about money. And I see this so much with my friends who I went to high school and college with who weren't in the South. I stopped thinking about making a lot of money as a sign of success, whereas they didn't. So I go back to my Brandeis 50th reunion, and the big ones we look up to are the ones that are filthy rich, right? Because of my work in the South, I'm not thinking that. And also, I wouldn't date guys when I came back that were just making money. They had to be doing something like a counselor, working for Social Security, a teacher, a doctor, somebody in the helping professions. And I was heavily criticized for that, but that's — 

Don: By whom?

Miriam: People who were advising me on how to find a good husband. [Laughter]

Miriam: OK, that's it.

Cathy: Well, I just want to say that I think the combination of our stories is just fantastic, and I think that with the big effort all put together, I think we did a really good job. I just love the similarities and the differences between us.

[End first part November 2015
Begin second part December 2015]

 

Call Us Old!

Bruce: At the end of last month's discussion, somebody said, "Well, we should continue this." And someone else said, "What we should do next month is do an appraisal of this discussion."

Cathy: Well, I thought it was a wonderful discussion. I learned things about people here that I never knew before, and I really liked it. And it occurred to me we could have a little addition of adding how did being in the Southern Freedom Movement affect you as an old person now? Which is different.

Jean: Don't call us old!

Cathy: Yeah, we are, honey! We have political differences about that. No, it's my position that we need to claim the word "old."

Jean: I'm just kidding you! [Laughter]

 

Thinking About the Struggles of Today

Gene: I had wanted to bring up that most of the time, most of the groups we talk to are young people, and a lot of the discussions we've had are about how do we link up to the Young Movement? And I've really, in the last weeks, been thinking about how do we talk to our age? Or people younger that us [but] in their forties? Both people who were activists who seem — I'm not going to say unconcerned — but somehow don't pay attention to what's been going on.

So the whole fact to me that people are surprised that the cops are killing people, that all of a sudden they're seeing videos and going, "Oh, this must be really happening." And we've been saying, "This has been happening for 150 years, what's the 'just happened' [part]?" And how come people have been able to not pay attention to any of this? How do we talk to those people?

That's what's been getting to me, because I feel blocked on that. I don't feel blocked talking about it, but I feel that I also am not getting through somehow. And I don't understand why. I understand that people, maybe they realize they depend on that same system in some way — 

Hardy: This semester, I've been dealing with mostly Black and white college students at U.C. Berkeley in this course [I teach] on Social Activism. And one of the things that interests me is how much I had to learn, particularly as it relates to technology with these kids. I call them kids, by the way. And what I found myself involved in is feeling that I was on the sidelines looking at a new SNCC, a new movement. When I say new SNCC, a lot of them work kind of like the SNCC model. I have them reading [Stokely] Carmichael and all these different varieties of people in SNCC and stuff.

And I'm wrestling with them trying to say, "Look, it's good to be more radical — you want to take over somebody's office and all that kind of stuff — but somebody has got to do some thinking." And what you're not dealing with a lot — you're not spending the time thinking about it. And I introduce people like James Forman and people like that and say, "Look, leadership requires that you think through questions that might be further down the road than just simply — one day a month, they all dress in black and {UNCLEAR} demonstration in Sproul Plaza [the traditional spot for Berkeley campus protests in front of the Administration building]. And they walk around campus with signs that say 1%. Because less than 2% of students on campus are Black.

And so I ask them to explain to me how they get their news. And they're all on the web. They don't read newspapers. They don't read analyses. What they do is whatever they can get on their phone, I guess, or whatever. And I challenge them that — 

They know more about the critique, a little bit better than I thought. I thought at first they were kind of naive about a lot of stuff, but that's not the case. Some of them are pretty smart about the issues. But they're not going to come to the Movement the way we came to the Movement. They are not having the same kind of experience we had with people like [James] Baldwin and when people came to talk to us. They don't have that kind of thing out there.

But on the other hand, they want to be a part of a movement. And they're very defensive of Black Lives Matter. They feel like, "It's my movement." They're very strong about Black Lives Matter. And I'll throw provocative questions out there to challenge them about it, and they get really emotionally involved in this whole thing. "It's our movement," and on and on. And I say, "Who is the leadership?" "Well, we don't know the leadership, but we've got some women saying {UNCLEAR}."

So it's almost like how we came to the movement, to a certain extent [in that] they want their place in history. The question is, how do they get the organizational structure to allow them to do that? And what are going to be the issues? And the issues are going to be like Black Lives Matter, etc. And it's very difficult. We were talking about it, and they still shy away from people like us, like trying to get {UNCLEAR} — it's OK, you can disagree with me. They're not as aware of what we did, but they have read some. But they want a movement.

Ron: You know, two thoughts. One is that it struck me that they are being radicalized, but they're getting information the way they get information. It's videos and all of this stuff, and cameras. I mean, clearly Chicago was not going to indict that guy, except they were forced to release that video.

[In October of 2014, a Chicago cop shot and killed Laquan McDonald (17). For 13 months Chicago police refused to release videos of the killing because they clearly contradicted the officer's description of events. Eventually, in November of 2015 (just before this discussion) public protests forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release the videos and the officer was quickly indicted on murder charges.]

Another thing is I have a son who's 42, who grew up in Ann Arbor, who is living in Bellingham, Washington, and the last election last year, I was a poll watcher, and I said, "Are you going to vote?" He said, "No."

So your parents, you know, truly believe in voting. "Not doing it."

This election, he was part of a campaign in Bellingham, in that county, to stop a resolution from being passed that would've funded a new jail. It occurs to me I have to ask him, "Why did you pick that?" I don't know why he picked that. But yeah, he set up a website, because those are his tools, and the newspaper contacted him for an interview, and he asked his mom, and we said, "Maybe not so much." No use taking on the sheriff's department. You don't want to do that. Do what you do. So he didn't, but he's not the interview kind of type anyway.

So when I saw him back in Michigan for the wedding, I said, "Oh, by the way, did you vote?" "Yeah, I voted." [Laughter].

So then I have to ask him how he got radicalized to not only just vote but become someone — and he actually helped to manage another woman's campaign who was running for mayor who didn't get elected. He had a whole analysis of why. I don't know, what was the button? What was the switch? This was a year later.

 

Face to Face

Cathy: Recently, in thinking about the Civil Rights Movement and the difference between my early '70s photography and my photography that was in the '80s and '90s in the LGBT Movement, I was thinking about how my early movements were about face to face. It was about being in a demonstration with people. It was about going to bookstores and bars and being with people. And that's different now.

And for me, now, when I think about being in the Civil Rights Movement, the thing that always comes up first for me was getting to live in a Black community, and values that people taught me by living in the community, not just being in a movement and having a position. That's what I carry with me, so I feel a loss about how movements happen today, that there's not as much that face to face and whole person connection.

Bruce I want to reinforce what Cathy said about the importance to us, and I think the importance to any movement, of face to face.

Charlie Cobb often tells this story about how he was a student and somewhat involved in Movement stuff in DC. He was at Howard at that time and knew some CORE people, and he's invited to participate in an inter-state CORE meeting in Texas. And so he's on the bus, and he stops off in Jackson because he'd heard about — this is, I think summer of 1962 — and there'd been some protests in Jackson. He wanted to meet these people who dared to demonstrate in Jackson, Mississippi. And he goes to the office, and there's [Lawrence] Guyot. And he says who he is, and Guyot yells at him, "You're going to a meeting in Texas to talk about Civil Rights?! You're in Mississippi! What the hell are you doing?!" And then for the next three or four years, Charlie is a full-time SNCC organizer in the Delta, in Mississippi.

Now that is how movements — I think that regarding face-to- face, Cathy is absolutely right. That was one of our treasures.

I'm currently working on editing an interview by C.T. Vivian. And he's talking about how in 1959 that group that came together in Nashville to talk about using nonviolence. And he says, "Look at this group. You had Diane Nash, middle class from Chicago, and you had John Lewis, off the farm from Pike County, Alabama. And you could not think of two Black people farther apart in their experiences, and yet through the face to face working things out, they came to a place where they were two co-leaders of what became one of the most powerful sit-in movements there was.

Through that face to face interaction and dialog — and I'm sorry young folk, but tweeting and retweeting and Facebook posting and commenting is not deep, interactive dialog in the sense we're talking about.

 

Thinking About Movements

Bruce: Both we and the young activists of today use that word "movement" a lot — but I think with different understandings. For us, the Freedom Movement was a deep and broad national assault on segregation, denial of voting rights, and other forms of racial discrimination and persecution. A movement that had a wide variety of organizations, strategies, and tactics. A movement that existed in some form in every city and state in the nation. A movement that was broad enough, and flexible enough, to encompass everyone from Malcolm, SNCC, and the Deacons for Defense to the Urban League, National Council of Churches, the society ladies of Wednesdays in Mississippi, and everyone else in between.

So by that concept, the sit-ins and freedom rides were not movements, they were components of a movement. Freedom Summer and the March to Montgomery were not movements in and of themselves, they were parts of a movement. I could travel from a CORE office in L.A, to a church in Selma, to a freedom house in Atlanta, to Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and everyone I encountered considered me and them and all the rest of us all part of "The Movement" — capital letters — even though we worked with different organizations, disagreed all the time, argued and debated, and took different paths.

Black Lives Matter may (or may not) someday develop into that kind of broad movement but I don't think they're there yet. And it seems to me that when activists today use the term "movement" they're really operating on the level as if the sit-ins or freedom rides were "movements" rather than connected parts of a larger whole. For us, the parts could rise and fall, succeed and fail, but it was the Movement as a whole that carried on the momentum and that nurtured and developed news forms as old ones ran their course.

In this group, except for Wazir who became active in 1960, all of us joined an already existing movement. Cathy in '62, the rest of us between '63 and '65. We joined something that had a consciousness of being a movement in the deep and broad sense I'm talking about. There had been Montgomery. There had been the massive student sit-ins. There had been the Freedom Rides. There had been the organizing campaigns in McComb, Mississippi and at Albany, Georgia. So we joined an existing movement — different organizations, different campaigns, different locations, but the same "movement."

It seems like the people Hardy's working with are people who are in that stage before that movement really got rolling, like '59 or early in the sit-ins. And that was a very difficult time. Very few people were involved in those very early days. Very few. And a lot of them came out of discussion groups, study groups, nonviolent workshop groups. Face-to-face discussion groups. And a lot of them had clandestinely used things like the YWCA and church stuff to have secret meetings around the South with each other, where they talked about things that couldn't be publicly talked about. So, in some ways, we had, I think, most of us, we were able to join something that was already rolling and in existence.

Don: And had a leader.

Bruce: And had several leaders.

Don: Well, you had Martin Luther King.

Cathy: Oh, c'mon.

Jean: Well, we did.

Cathy: We had Rosa Parks. I mean — 

Jean: Right, that too.

Hardy: Yeah, I had an interesting thing happen to me on Friday. A student I had about two years ago who now has a B.A. degree, and he's teaching in Richmond, California, up there near the [oil] refinery. He comes up, knocks on my door. I said, "Come in. How you doing? How you doing?" And he says, "I want to talk about Fanon and his book Wretched of the Earth."

[Frantz Fanon was an influential, and controversial, Black intellectual from French Martinique who advocated anti-colonial revolutions. During the 1960s, his books on race, class, colonialism, psychological oppression, and revolution — particularly Black Skin, White Masks, A Dying Colonialism, and Wretched of the Earth — were widely read and fiercely debated by political activists around the world and in the U.S.]

Hardy: I said, "Well, to understand Wretched, you ought to first read Black Skin, White Masks, right? I asked him, "Well, how is working in Richmond? How is teaching in Richmond?" And he started talking to me about not only the pollution, Chevron and all that, what that means, but he started talking to me about how he is trying to address these young Latino — most of his students are Latinos and Blacks — and he started talking about how does he — he kept saying, "I want to be a revolutionary instead of making a movement. I want to do more for these kids." And he kept telling me over and over about that.

And he wanted me to suggest reading for him to do that might help him build an understanding of the organization of what he's dealing with in Richmond. And I've heard that quite a bit now, with kids coming back, who once they have a little bit of experience — Because they don't have a movement they can go directly to, like we could go to SNCC; we could go to CORE; you could go to Atlanta; you could go to wherever. And so what it is, a lot of them are still interested, but they have not put together the organization, the structure yet. In my day, I could go to a SNCC office or Congress of Racial Equality — that's where I first started — and pick up four or five pamphlets, and reading about what was going on in the Civil Rights Movement. I don't think that they — maybe I just don't know where it's at — but I don't think the information is there for them to easily pick up and get. You would think that it would be.

Cathy: Well, that's my point about the face to face part. There's not a office you can go to and talk to a person who will talk to you, and you meet this person. You know, and it's huge, meeting this person who's doing and thinking these things.

Hardy: Or a place you can just hang around.

 

Realities — Yesterday and Today

Gene: I guess I also think that the objective reality is different.

Hardy: Yes, it is.

Gene: And I think that that's quite significant, and we don't talk about that a lot. You know, there was a movement out here [S.F. Bay Area] in 1959, hundreds of students demonstrated at City Hall against HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee].

Bruce: One or two protests are not a "movement."

Gene: But it was a significant organization. It was significant that it happened, and there were residual effects from it. And that was in the '50s. But people [in our day] could be radicals. You could go to Cal [U.C. Berkeley] — if you got into Cal, you could go for a semester and then take two semesters off or three semesters off to work or do whatever and come back. You didn't have to reapply; you could get back in.

After Reagan [became Governor], they stopped that. So that the cost of going to school today, the cost of living — I mean, when you read about how young people are living in this community, it's ridiculous. And they're spending the kinds of money that we never had. With my first wife, we had $50 from her parents a month, and we lived on that. We did some work, and we did some stuff, but that's all we got. And we got jobs, and we did things while going to school, and while doing a lot of political work. You can't do that today. I mean, it costs you a thousand dollars a month to have a bed in someone else's house. You don't even have a kitchen. So how do you do it? I mean, that's a very different situation.

And I think that that scares a lot of young people. But I also think it scares the old people, and that's what's bothering me is that I think the old people are scared too. They don't want to confront these issues. They don't want to talk about them. They don't even want to see it when their own kids are the ones suffering from it.

I keep thinking, "Well how do we make that clear? How do we raise the issue?" I went to a [Berkeley] City Council meeting, and there's this guy on the City Council, Laurie Capitelli, he's a real estate agent. And he starts promoting real estate points of view, and nobody, except me, is going, "We don't want to hear real estate points of view. We're concerned about the homeless, not about the developers." Nobody wants to shout out. Nobody wants to get up and say it.

Well, it's true. They're scared. Their name gets on the web as being an agitator, and when they go to rent an apartment, all the landlord has to do is look them up, you know, and see. So there are all these issues. But I want to know still why the people like us aren't out there saying how we can make something happen.

Marion: I remember when I was growing up, when I was in college, the main career of most of us who were really interested in our majors was really in humanities and psychology and all that. It wasn't until lately that it switched from there to the hard sciences, which is engineering, architecture and so forth. And I think also I remember when I was growing up it was really into sociology, humanities. The economy was good, and even though only one parent was working in my family, I was able to get away to college and get a loan that was like 2% so that when I graduated I was able to pay it back, because I was able to get a job after I graduated.

I look at the kids now, and my kids now, they can't get a decent education without paying for something. They can't move out of my house because they can't afford rent. People can barely — what Gene was saying with the housing thing is really the number one issue for young people as well. So I look at the gentrification of young people on the upper echelon and then the rest who couldn't even get a job. And they're the same age, so there's a big gap between — with the generation of the 20s and 30s and 40s.

And what Cathy was saying, something I miss also is that we don't have a face to face place anymore to go to. And the South is in the South. We're in the North now. And we're talking about something in the past, but it's also in the present. So it's a very complex issue for me. I don't have the answers either to it. It's just a mixture of differences in our economy and that the survival rate now for young people — the issues right now are not only what's happening out in the street and out in the world but in their own survival.

And then as older people, I agree. You know, we're kind of in a state of fear too, because economically, we're facing real issues. So I really don't know where it goes, but that's where I am. Movements are happening right this minute, and I'm glad it's always happening. I don't think movements ever die. And they come naturally.

Ron: What Gene said about objective reality — you know, if we tried to compare what we did in the '60s with what perhaps the NAACP faced back in the '20s or what was going on in the '30s. The objective reality now is quite different. I was at a meeting this morning — 

Jean: And it was as different now to us as it was to our parents.

Hardy: Yes.

Jean: Right? That generation didn't have a clue, as far as I was concerned, about much of anything.

Ron: But they moved the needle.

Jean: Right, right.

Ron: Otherwise, we don't get to be.

Bruce: Looking at the objective conditions and where the Movement came from — yes, the objective conditions today are different. You're absolutely right. But in every generation, the objective conditions are different from what they were for the previous generation.

Gene talked about the HUAC hearings of '59 and what was so stupendous and amazing about those demonstrations was the courage it took to challenge HUAC and the red scare — to protest. Nowadays, demonstrating is considered a normal part of life — as it should be in a democracy. The objective reality that we had to overcome was repression, anti-Communism and an entire society totally stultified by mass conformity. Anybody who got out of line in any way was hammered down in the '50s and early '60s, and we had to fight through that. That was the objective reality we had to break through.

Yes, the economic problems that young people face now — it's totally true what you're saying. Yes, the economic future for young people was better for us then than it is for young'uns today. But not if you got a reputation as a Communist, as a Red, as a dissenter. You were barred from any job, anywhere, ever. And the FBI would hunt you down and destroy your life. If you did get a job, as happened several times to my parents, the FBI would come in and tell the employer to fire your Red ass.

The level of politically-motivated state-repression that we faced is an objective reality we experienced that young folk today have no conception of. Remember that in the South during the whole latter part of the '50s and early '60s, the NAACP was an underground, illegal organization. In Alabama, it was literally illegal. They had to meet in secret. In cellars. And that kind of repression was all across the country, where anybody who raised a picket sign for anything was suspected to be a traitor.

And the violence. Lynchings, assassinations, shootings, bombings, rapes, beatings, chases— everyone one of us in this room can tell stories of facing and enduring violence not just from police but also from terrorists and terrorist organizations. And, of course arrests and assaults by police for merely being who we were. Today, people participating in a Black Lives Matter protest might end up in a confrontation with the cops, but none of them have to fear their homes being blown up, snipers shooting them or their parents or their kid sister, or a gang of thugs beating the crap out of them as they walk down the street on the way to the store.

And this political and social repression was not just in the South, but everywhere. In supposedly liberal San Francisco the cops back then would harass men who wore their hair longer than the social norm, and bust them of phony charges too, just because they didn't socially conform. Inter-racial couples out on a date would be stopped and harassed by the police.

Now, young folk today face the school tuition challenge, the housing costs, the economy. If they're poor or nonwhite they face street violence from criminal gangs. Those are their objective conditions. And their movements will look — they'll decide. Absolutely right. But if there's any sense that we're looking back nostalgically and saying, "Wow, we had it so easy, and these poor kids today have it so bad" — I want to nip that in the bud. Because every generation has an objective reality that they have to deal with.

Hardy: I wasn't saying it as strongly as you Bruce, but I also think there's something else I was thinking when you were talking. I was thinking about my father and my mother who brought SNCC workers in [to her home] and stuff. My father — there were other groups that — we can't make [our definition of] movements so strict, because my father [was part of] the Black secret organization, what do you call them?

Bruce: Masons?

Hardy: Masons and all that kind of stuff. My father had been involved in a long time, and those organizations were playing a role. What we have to do is figure out how to place them in their role, because they were guardians. I remember once they talked about how the Ku Klux Klan was going to ride in Tuskegee, and that meant when they said they were going to ride in Tuskegee, they weren't going to go to the campus, they were going to go downtown, right? Where the other folks stayed, the other Black folks stayed. And my father was out there with a shotgun on his hip. They ain't going to challenge, but they sat on their front porch [guarding the community].

So there were a lot of people who were doing things that it seems to me we have to put into context of what was possible. And remember, you got people like Gomillion, and there is a lot of stuff if you read history, of what people were doing. Some of them were bourgeois Blacks, and some of them weren't, but they were people doing stuff.

The point was we didn't have the media attention and stuff that you get now. But that media is important for whatever reason. Instantaneously something can happen now, and it will be all over the world in about a half hour. I say a half hour; it's probably shorter than that. And as a consequence, we had to put this out in the country — and explain why, what we were doing, and how — we didn't have the kind of instant mentality that these kids have today, and the mere fact that you can find somebody instantaneously.

Also, means they have to respond differently than how we would've responded. I'm not sure, if they were trying to explain what was occurring last week in this country, how long would it take to hold a meeting together to discuss that? Because that just happens like that (snap, snap). And so it's different.

So part of their response is this pressure of constantly being — everybody walks around like this (head bowed communing with cell phone) — that kind of mindset. And I just think that we don't know. And I'll leave with this. I always tell my students this. I don't use the word, "Uncle Tom." They asked me why can't we — how come you don't talk about those Toms. And I said — because I read somewhere that Roy Wilkins, who we all thought was a Tom when we were in CORE, right? Roy would walk around in Jackson, Mississippi with a picket sign in the early '50s or something, appeared one day with a {UNCLEAR} in his ass. And when I heard about him doing that, in Jackson, I'm saying, "Wait a minute, we didn't go down until '64. I can't even imagine doing that."

Jean: True.

Hardy: And I'm going to call him a Tom? Shit. And we had a name for him in SNCC.

Ron: Uncle Roy.

Hardy: Uncle Roy. But the reality was, he walked on the picket line in Jackson, Mississippi in the late '50s. You know, this stuff was complicated.

 

Then and Now

Ron: So I was at a meeting this morning, and there was a young man there. I guess he was probably about 30, and he was in the demonstration at Berkeley, and he was talking about how he and some other folks are now suing the Berkeley folks about police brutality. And then he had another case, I think, from Oakland. Maybe it was around the BART station, and the prosecutor had decided not to drop the charges, because they were being sued for disrupting.

And so they're being attacked in ways that didn't exist. The other thing is in the '60s, the South was the "other." We were all in a sanctuary out here, and we could organize all this, and we could then attack "those people." Well, that doesn't exist. We're in the midst of — the people that you have to fight actually are the sheriffs who were in the South. You know, they're all around us, and they're using the prosecutorial system which cannot be challenged, which the Supreme Court says you cannot even look at their reasoning for overcharging people. They're using fear and intimidation, and the thing that one of you brought up about looking at if somebody challenges the City Council, they're on the Internet.

And it's just the technology that I love so much and that's helping us is being used against us. So it's quite a different animal, and I'm not sure it's legitimate to do a real comparison other than, are we moving the needle? And how can we share what we know?

Hardy: I agree with you, that you can't do a comparison.

Ron: I will say something. I think the classes that Kathy Emery is teaching [at San Francisco State University] and someone else mentioned the class where — your class — where they're teaching another generation about history, we didn't have that. And so yeah, love was blind.

Jean: I'd forgotten that. I mean, we have Black History month, those of us who went to Black schools, but it wasn't enough.

Hardy: But we did have James Foreman and all these people...

Ron: If you lived in a place like New York City, Harlem, and all those places, like Bob Moses did, and you can meet a Bayard Rustin and you can be in Washington, D.C. at Howard. But if you were coming from Compton, California? So it's complicated, but I just believe with King — and yeah, King was a "Tom." We know that, right...? [Laughing]

Many: No!

Ron: The man died for his beliefs. At 39. I'm 71. Anybody who's 71 has had to step back at some point. You have to back off the line. So, you have to look at the world differently, but I believe what King used to say that, "The arc of history moves forward." And that's what I see happening.

And then a lot of these Black Lives Matter leaders are Black gay women, yeah!

Hardy: That's what I find interesting. And they didn't seem to have — I haven't read, and I read a lot of stuff, I haven't read any debate between Black men and Black women over this whole issue of Black Lives Matter. The women were out there, and the ones I've seen are out there, and they're doing their thing, and there isn't anybody saying a word. I find it very interesting.

Gene: Even in the Berkeley High School stuff, it's been young women who have been major parts of the leadership. There have been men too, but the outspoken — 

Hardy: I was demonstrating with them. I was out there with them. Still out, dragging one leg.

Marion: Well, I think the needle is being moved, but we're not aware. I don't think we know what's going to happen to it, because we are no longer in control. I'm just trying to figure out everything we've talked about, and two things come to mind, something that Hardy said, and something that Gene said. I think we don't know how to define a movement for this generation because my sense is that — 

Jean: We're not going to define it.

Bruce: Not our job.

Jean: Our job or not! [Laughter]

Ron: We're trying to understand...

 

Thinking More About Movements

Chude: Well, I have it from a very personal point of view. To me, part of what &mdash in terms of dealing with this question of who we are and what we can do &mdash the best I can do is to try to write a bit about what my experience was and share it and occasionally answer a student who seems to really want to think. That's about what I can do these days. Occasionally, I speak.

More and more, it's not even a question of if you pick me up, I might go somewhere in the evening. I'm more likely to go if you pick me up than if I have to drive or get myself there, right? I happen to be a morning person whereas some of us are night people. I mean, I remember with Betita [Elizabeth Sutherland Martinez] I didn't dare call her before 11 in the morning. But you know, I'm up by 6, so don't call me at 9:30pm! You know what I mean? I'm just saying there's that aspect for us that somehow fits in here too, that physically we're not going to be out there.

Also, I write a lot of times in the evening; that's another thing about being at home. I started writing about when I was a leader in Union Wage, which is in the late '70s, and what's relevant for here is that there's a book that includes a chapter on Union WAGE and I'm critiqued, because I, "Don't understand the importance and the power of what it would mean to bring the Labor Movement and the Women's Movement together." This is like 1979.

So I asked Bruce about it the other day, and Bruce helped me by saying, "There wasn't a labor movement, and by 1979, there was no longer a cohesive women's movement." Hello?! All of a sudden, like, Yes! Especially those of us who think of ourselves as being on the Left go around with these pictures in our brain of what's supposed to be happening instead of what's really happening.

So I'm just wondering, sitting here today, because of where I'm coming from, is that I'm not sure people understand what a movement is. I'm interested in the fact that people think so much of the time think that if you don't have a lot of people at something, it doesn't count. But you know when Cathy starts talking about people in contact, face to face, we are a lot talking about one to one.

When I first came to San Francisco in 1968, it was in the early Women's Liberation Movement. I took a class on Women in Economics from an old S.W.P-er [Socialist Workers Party]. Two of us showed up. I thought, "Well, we'll sit around and kind of rap and go home, right?" She got out her notes; we started in. There could've been 50 of us, but there were only two. It didn't matter. She was an organizer. You take the one-to-one seriously.

So I'm just kind of suggesting that the two sides of it is, one, a movement is huge, but personal connection is essential too. Then there's leadership, and what Hardy is saying about how it's not enough just to be out there in the streets. You've got to think about these things. You've got to study. You've got to have analysis and all that stuff, and you've got to know what's really happening. You have to have access to viable information.

What Bruce has on the website which is very interesting is, "How do you know something is true?" One, you were there. That's the best, in terms of an event, what might have happened. Two, is knowing somebody that was there. Now we have the technology that people can actually use their phones and actually send us things. So there is this progression, right? Of how do you know. These are all important questions about how a movement gets built. But I will say, just to finish, that in the Southern Freedom Movement I was a follower. I was a little person. I was 20 years old, and there was leadership. I mean, whatever the limitations of the Summer of '64 were, there was some brilliant leadership.

Well, I guess I have to say this, although I can't explain it quite, but I'm not willing to say there was no movement except when we came along. I'm not willing to agree to do that. There was, you know. I mean, what are you talking about?

Several: No, we weren't saying that at all.

Jean: Cabral, my son, just turned 40, and he doesn't understand why any of us went to the Deep South in the first place! [Laughing] You know, he doesn't get it. It's not that he's being ornery. He just doesn't get it, and it makes him angry to think that his young mom is running around the Deep South getting shot at. That's his world.

I don't know how long that world will look like this, and I'm so sorry that I can't share that part with him, because he really does get upset. "It was dangerous. Why'd you do it? Look at Baltimore now, right?" Which is where I'm from. Turn on the television. Anyway, going back to movement. Movements must look different at different stages of their lives.

Hardy: Let me tell you, I want to give you a description of eight people. One person was a white South African young lady who's blind but brilliant, and she's more radical than anybody I've [seen?] in a long time. James Brown who was a professional athlete was in there. He's a basketball player. They write about him at Cal. He was discussing the strike in Missouri.

[In early November, 2015, 32 Black football players at the University of Missouri refused to continue participating in football activities as an act of solidarity and support for student protests against racist conditions and attacks targeting nonwhites at the school. They demanded that the university president be removed because of his failure to take effective action against overt campus racism. The white head coach and the rest of the team united behind the striking players. The university president was forced to resign.]
And they want to know what I thought about it, and I was saying, "Well, I'm glad the Black athletes in Missouri decided to go on strike, because we've been asking you to do it for 50 years." And then I talked about the relationship between Black athletes and universities and money and income. One lady in the seminar was working with the janitors in Berkeley around minimum wage and the kind of wage they pay. Two Black women were a part of this whole notion of a Black women's organization and Black Lives Matter. In other words, there were like 10 people that sold out the seminar. But they all brought experiences in the room that reflected 10 different types of experiences of what they were doing now, and it wasn't a cohesive movement like CORE or SNCC in the South.

And it was very interesting, because they were in there for a purpose of talking among themselves as well as me about what they were doing in their everyday lives. And maybe what we're talking about here is these young people having thought about it over a period of time will play a role in a larger developed movement. Because the way I taught the class was the origins of a movement — reform, revolution, all that kind of stuff, all the academic stuff.

So when I think about it, and they're giving a presentation this week when we finish the class, they were all very smart, but they've all got different experiences. And young lady from South Africa, she talks about American movements and then internal critique of what went on in South Africa and stuff. So maybe what we're talking about in these kind of individual experiences about a movement, and they would gravitate towards a larger movement with their own perspectives bringing to the circle.

Marion: Understand a movement. OK, so in the '60s later, from the Civil Rights Movement, we had what we called Black Power, and all of a sudden there was Yellow Power and Red Power, and we seemed to know what the agenda might be about. Not to define it, but it was just understood that that's where your role is. You have your own agenda. And I don't know, myself, I was just really, really disturbed about how I fit in. But the only thing I could think about what was that at least my family and members of my family are curious about what I was doing. And so they've been starting to ask questions, but it's on a very one-on-one thing.

Now, we're talking about 2015, and Black Lives Matter, when you look at the streets, it's not just Black and white. It's other groups. It's all kinds of agendas, kinds of groups getting together. Like you're saying, it's so diverse. And I think what I'm trying to say, and this might help clarify this too, from my perspective, is that the more diverse, and to me, 2015 is a very, very complex way of engaging the establishment like the police. And it takes I think a different twist than the way I'm used to looking at movements. The more diverse it is, the harder it is to — how should I say this? The more diverse a group is in ideas and backgrounds, the harder it is to communicate. Compared to my own cultural group or the same racial group, it takes a little longer, but once it gels, the results are better than if it were just one group.

I mean, that's the way I understand the principles of cross-cultural work. It takes longer, but in the final outcome of a decision being made, it's 10 times better than one group doing it. And this is just a basic principle. And so what I'm saying in terms of what's happening with Black Lives Matter and Oakland Occupy and whatever other movements there are, it's going to get into something, but it's not for us, like you're saying, to define.

But it's important that it's moving. I'm not sure where it's going. Nobody knows where it's going, but somehow it's going to be defined a lot clearer than it is now. That's just my — I'm sorry. I don't know if that helps.

[End OF TRANSCRIPT]


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