As remembered by Gwen Patton
Just come from the beautiful celebration of Mr. Paris' life. The service was very moving. At the gravesite, we sand "We Shall Overcome" after TAPS was played. Mr. Paris was a veteran.
At the family/friends repast, Wendy talked about Sammy who was murdered on this day, January 3, 1966.
I talked about Mr. Paris as our rock during our Movement days in Tuskegee and how he respected and admired us for fighting for our people's freedom. And, of course the many nights we piled into the Paris' home, ate wonderful wholesome meals with vegetables from his garden, sat around the piano and sang freedom songs with Mr. Paris' most lilting, tenor voice, and his manner of protecting us from physical harm from the racists and their cohorts.
Mukasa (Willie Ricks) also spoke with emphasis on "Are you Ready for the Revolution." It was a grand reunion.
Other SNCC people there were Donna Smith, Bob Mants, C.J. Jones, Carole and John Zippert and others from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. People came from round the state, especially from the Black Belt.
Part of my ritual after I attend homegoings of beloved ones is to reminisce and to savor memories of the person. Mr. Paris is one of the beloved. I can see him now giving the truck keys to Wendy that we used for our Movement transportation. It was called the "Freedom Truck."
I can see George returning from the armed forces, and instead of castigating him for being in Vietnam, we embraced him and he became a full partner in our Movement.
We had heady times speeding from one place to another on George's motorcycle. The only thing faster than George's bike was Sammy's powder blue volkswagen that I am certain was fueled with Sammy's favorite wine Catawba Pink!
And, yes, we spolied Nimrod who was only 9 in the early times. He was my brother (I forgot the stage name) in "Raisin in the Sun" as I portrayed Benitta(sp). Nimrod was always late for school, which was exactly across the street from the Paris' home, because he stayed up all night with the freedom fighters, strategizing and singing freedom songs led by his father, Mr. Paris.
There always was a relative blood or not staying with the Paris'. And, they, too, became a part of the Movement. I can see the niece, Connie, who was 13 yro, spending more time on the campus of Tuskegee with freedom fighters than she did in school. Yes, indeed, these are precious memories.