Anniversary of the February 1st, 1960 Sit-ins
 — Casey Hayden, 2015

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first sit-in.
Black and white together, we shall not be moved.

[In memory of that day, I'm forwarding this message, which I sent to the coordinator of Black History Month activities at the University of Houston-Victoria. Hal Smith, who wrote the essay, "Casey Hayden: Gender and the Origins of SNCC, SDS, and the Women's Liberation Movement" for the book Texas Women (UGA Press), was her mentor. I went to the community college from which this institution evolved. I couldn't have afforded a university education without it. She asked me to send a message.They are focusing on Freedom Summer this year.]

A Woman of No Rank

I'm contemplating these questions:

How can I communicate what it meant to me, a white girl from a small town in Texas, to plunge into the black community of the Southern Freedom Movement? What questions did that experience raise about my own life? And, by extension, what did Freedom Summer, which I helped organize and administer, mean to the almost 1000 white volunteers who took that plunge? Can I even provide a glimpse?

Answering these questions has turned out to be a difficult task. Impossible, really. So I will talk about something else.

I saw the movie "Selma" yesterday. My favorite part was the old black and white film, in which the funk and poverty appeared, a burst of truth inside the Hollywood gloss. I loved the experience of the movie, wept copiously. I have lots of gossipy comments: casting, script, accuracy. Too mundane.

Perhaps Daniel Berrigan will do:

These many beautiful days cannot be lived again
but they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit.
and I take them in full measure toward whatever lies ahead.


However, for me, the grace found in the past was sometimes more gritty:

White Girl

people ask me about the Selma movie
because i was in the south around that time:
was it really like that?
i'm trying to remember

i remember riding hidden on the floor of a car
from Atlanta
over to the first annual greenwood mississippi freedom folk festival
summer of 63

a filthy single bathroom in the back of a gas station
way out in the boonies of Alabama:
i didn't use white only facilities

as I came out an old black man was coming in
as soon as he saw me he turned and ran.
he couldn't run very fast because he was so old

i remember a fragment of ronnie dugger's poem
in college day Austin:

and we will weaken
and regret
and pray the sound arrest the form
and we will not be pure

I was undone, so sorry to have caused that man's fear. I understood as never before or after what a danger I was to all blacks in the movement, especially the men, and what largesse and courage it took to include me in their movement.

I had lunch a few weeks ago with Sue Moon. Freedom Summer volunteer. She wrote the book Tofu Roshi, which introduced zen to the counterculture, and she was an editor of Turning Wheel, the journal of engaged buddhism, and co-editor of Being Bodies, Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment. I contributed to both. She has a new book out, The Hidden Lamp. It's 100 stories of women's enlightenment with comments by American women buddhist teachers and turning questions by the editors of the book at the end of each, as in turning the wheel of dharma, the wheel of truth. I opened at random to a story called "Yu Uses Her Full Strength," referring to Yu's answer to the master's asking "Which of you is the person of no rank?" The questions after the commentary on the story read:

What happens when we deeply see something
and are thereby taken beyond the cultural norms and
expectations of others? Where do we stand then?


Casey Hayden
Tucson, Winter 2015
for my alma mater

Copyright © Casey Hayden


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