I was recently contacted by Theresa El-Amin of Columbus, GA (before that, Durham, NC), Regional Organizer for the Southern Anti-Racism Network. She works to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline, which triggered her phoning me in regard to work I and my long-time organization, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council in Wash., DC (www.prrac.org), have done in this regard -- specifically, the Jan/Feb. 2011 issue of our periodical "Poverty & Race," which had 2 good articles on the subject -- she had received 100 cc. of the issue from the NAACP Legal Defensed & Educ. Fund for distribution to her network.
In the course of our phone conversation, she asked me about my own history in the CRM and then suggested that I write some of that down for circulation to this network. So here it is (and thanks, Theresa, for the suggestion):
Back in 1960, I was living in Cambridge, Mass. In response to the Greensboro sit-ins, I helped organize a support picketing of the local, Brattle Sq. Woolworth's every Saturday -- which was highly effective in deterring business; our organization -- mainly consisting of Harvard, MIT, Brandeis and Wellesley students -- we named EPIC -- the Emergency Public Integration Comm.
Due to that connection, we were invited to attend the founding conf. of SNCC, and I went down to Shaw in Raleigh to represent our group -- a wonderful experience.
Two months later, I entered the Army -- having signed up for the six-month program (6 mos. active, 5 1/2 yrs in the Reserves -- one night a week, two weeks each summer), as the draft was on (Berlin crisis), I was 23 and didn't want to be a soldier for 2 yrs (or any time), in the midst of my graduate study (city & regional planning).
Two related item from that military bit: 1) After basic training at Ft. Dix in NJ, I was transferred to Ft. Leonard Wood in southern Missouri -- the 373rd Combat Engeineers unit (actually, I signed up to be a bulldozer driver -- joking to friends that I then would be the only city planner who could personally clear slums -- that prior to my subsequent understanding of the evils of urban renewal in destroying black neighborhoods, displacing tens of thousands of low-income households so convention centers, hotels, high-rise apts. and upscale commercial uses could take over their land -- issues I've studied and written about extensively.) I was given a few days off for the Jewish holidays, so decided to head down to Little Rock to scope out Central High and then to Memphis. Walking around Memphis, I chanced upon a Woolworth's being picketed. So I grabbed a sign, joined the all- Black crowd (if it's not already clear, I am Caucasian), decked out in my Pvt. Hartman uniform. A very kind gentleman -- turned out to be a dentist who chaired the local NAACP -- came up to me and, while expressing gratitude (and surprise), urged me to cut out of there, as the very very hostile white onlookers might actually kill me. He also invited me to his house for dinner that night, a most enjoyable occasion.
Relatedly (again), either at Dix or Leonard Wood (I think the former), came payday where I was to receive all of $85 for a month of strenuous, obnoxious work (which included a near race riot between the Puerto Rican and Black recruits). While waiting on line, we were urged/virtually instructed to make a voluntary contribution to some fund for needy military families. When my turn came, I refused to make such a contribution, deciding instead to send $85 to SNCC. After returning to my barracks, an announcement over the loldspeaker requested my presence back in the company office, where the Company Commander, Captain ____ Green, African-American, pressured me to contribute --- presumably his career is helped by getting 100% participation. But I was steadfast, told him what I was planning to do by way of alternative financial support, and crossed my fingers that he would not retaliate by refusing my upcoming 2-day leave for my sister's wedding (he did not).
Let me add a few related items: + While I was unable to attend SNCC's 50th anniv. at Shaw, I asked a long-time friend/colleague Mike Miller (former SNCC Field Sec.in MS and other hotspote, 1962-66) to write a Reunion report for Poverty & Race, published in our July/Aug. 2010 issue (back issues are available on our website). I also would be happy to add any of you to our mailing list, if you provide a US mail address (issues also go online about a month after publication). They are chock-full of interesting articles, including a Resources Sec. with 100 or so recent reports, studies, events, job listings -- broken down by subject area (housing, health, education, immigration, criminal justice, etc.) I often ask authors of relevant books to do a precis for P&R -- most recent issue has Tomiko Brown-Nagin on her book, "Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement." The July/Aug. issue, just heading to layout, has Elizabeth Anderson on her new book, "The Imperative of Integration."
Last 2 items: + I was just down in Memphis again, this time for the annual meeting of Planners Network, the national org. of progressive, social justice-oriented planners, and while there we saw "I AM A MAN: From Memphis, a Lesson in Life," a brand-new (and first-rate) documentary on the 1968 Sanitation Workers' strike. If you want to get a copy, contact Calvin Taylor, 901/543-5306, email@example.com.
+ "The Integration Debate: Competing Futures for American Cities" is a 2009 volume I co-edited with Gregory Squires of the George Washington U. Soc. Dept., published by Routledge (most of the royalties donated to the Natl. Fair Housing Alliance and the John Marshall Law School (Chicago) Fair Housing Legal Support Center). Contributors to the 17 articles are leading activists and scholars -- Nancy Denton, George Lipsitz, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Roger Wilkins et al.
Over and out....