Mendy Samstein
(1938 — 2007)

From: Casey Hayden
February, 2007

  On Organizing


To sing so others hear
and join the song
requires a silence far inside
secured by suffering
at ease with solitude.

Perhaps the bugle call's
a whisper passed along,
a sigh swiftly shared.

Perhaps the song is sad.

II. (To Mendy )

to enter softly
    speak silently
    smile a freedom song

to live revolt
without the god of should

to transform pain
    to a caress
        unspokenly saying
        "I, too."

Casey Hayden, 1965


As remembered by The Algebra Project Inc. Board and Staff
January 10, 2007

Mendy Samstein has that rare combination of extreme care and tenacity in the face of challenges that inspires all of us to do more and to serve better. His lifelong commitment to social justice honors the best of this country and models for future generations a higher level of engagement in struggles that help — in small and large ways — to make our world a better place.

Mendy left a teaching position at Morehouse College in the fall of 1963 to join the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) Voter Registration work in Mississippi as a SNCC Field Secretary. In that capacity, he oversaw from the Council Of Federated Organizations (COFO) office in Jackson, Mississippi the recruitment and deployment of over 800 college students from around the country into rural Black Mississippi families and communities as part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. His work in those years was indispensable to SNCC's Mississippi Movement, which was instrumental to the transformation of the political party structures of Mississippi and the nation.

The work SNCC initiated in Mississippi in the early '60s used the right to vote as an organizing tool for political access; twenty years later, the Algebra Project took up the continuation of this work using mathematics literacy as an organizing tool for educational and economic access. As the 21st century dawned, the Algebra Project's work was firmly established in Mississippi with the Grandchildren and Great- Grandchildren of the Sharecroppers and Day Laborers that SNCC engaged in the early '60s. Mendy's visit to the Algebra Project Math Lab at Lanier High School in the spring of 2004 reconnected him to this ongoing work.

That same summer, after conversations with Algebra Project Founder and President Bob Moses, Mendy gave all his heart and expertise to position the Algebra Project organization for success. He has been mentor to Ben Moynihan, Algebra Project Director of Operations, consultant, friend, and in his words, "an old SNCC movement hand." The contribution of his experience in education, financial management, governance, fundraising and movement building came at a crucial moment in the project's trajectory.

In short, he has been critical to an intergenerational, multiracial and interdisciplinary team effort that enabled the Algebra Project to receive a recent $2.75 million National Science Foundation award this fall, which is paving the way to a new and important phase of the Algebra Project's mathematics literacy work with students, teachers and school communities around the United States. Even on New Year's Day 2007, in the midst of fighting a very advanced stage of cancer (and unbeknownst to Nancy!), he got up and wrote an email to urge us to diligently pursue the expansion of the network of Algebra Project supporters.

Mendy's heartening, wise voice and strong spirit will always remain an integral part of our lives, and to the Algebra Project's mission to enhance systems that support young people in acquiring a high quality mathematics education as a key to economic access and citizenship in the Information Age. To him, to Nancy, and to his family, we are eternally grateful for the gift of his transformative work with us over these last years.

The Algebra Project Inc. Board and Staff
Benjamin Moynihan, M.Ed.
Director of Operations
Algebra Project Inc.
99 Bishop Allen Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel. 617-491-0200
Fax. 617-491-0499

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