Jack O'Dell


As remembered by Mark Solomon
November 22, 2019

A Personal Memory of Jack O'Dell

In the fall of 1989 the United States Peace Council was holding one of its last conventions in Boston. I had extended an invitation on behalf of the National Council of USPC to Jack O'Dell to attend the convention and give a talk on the relationship between the peace and racial justice movements. Jack had accepted and we were eagerly awaiting his arrival and his talk on that vital issue.

Unfortunately, in the confusing rush of last minute preparations, the two student volunteers who were to pick up Jack at the airport forgot their assignment. Compounding the error, we had given Jack assurances that he would be picked up and neglected to provide him with contact information in case anything went wrong.

The result of that egregious confusion is that Jack was stranded at Logan airport in Boston for more than eight hours. When we finally realized what had happened, we dispatched the volunteers to the airport where they found Jack understandably a bit nettled, but ready to forgive and contribute his insight to the work of the convention.

With the distracting mix-up behind him, Jack traced the long history of United States' imperial suppression of non-white developing countries and national liberation movements. The inseparable relationship between racism and war was demonstrated with crystal clarity that reflected a lifetime of deep thought and concrete engagement.

I was fortunate to have Jack housed with my family during his Boston stay. That provided a priceless opportunity to engage with Jack in informal discussion of the then-recent Jesse Jackson presidential campaign and the founding of the Rainbow Coalition. In those conversations, Jack's deep understanding the the strategic challenges of building a broad, national political movement and negotiating the objectives of a charismatic leader at the same time foretold some of the issues that would later claim the attention of many progressive activists.

That unfortunate occurrence in 1989 could understandably have engendered an outburst of petulance. But that is not what Jack O'Dell was about. He was about listening and teaching; he was about extending to others a generosity of spirit and solidarity. His impact on the struggle for a better world is manifest and continues to influence new generations of activists. All who battle for that better world are indebted to Jack O'Dell and honor him in their pursuit of peace and justice.

Jack O'Dell, by Heather Gray, 10/20/19

Jack O'Dell ¡Presente! Jim Campbell, 11/6/19

Jack O'Dell – An Appreciation, James Campbell & Mark Solomon, 11/7/19

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