From Berkeley to the Freedom Rides
Rick Sheviakov

[As told to and discussed by Freedom Movement veterans and family members at a story-telling session, U.C. Berkeley, September 30, 2018.]

Movement VeteransGuests
Stephen Bingham SNCCRachel Reinhard (UC Berkeley)
James (Jimmy) Garrett, SNCC 
Miriam Cohen Glickman, SNCC 
Rick Sheviakov, CORE 

Rick: I was raised in Berkeley, from I think the age of two, (one and a half to two). So I'm pretty much a Berkeley boy. I went through the schools in Berkeley. We lived on Euclid up above Codornices Park, if you know the area at all. And Berkeley, in those days as I was growing up and becoming more and more aware and conscious of things, was really quite racist, and it was not the reputation that it has now.

I was one of the Freedom Riders. I was arrested fairly late in the process. My time at Parchman did not have near the violence that a lot of the other folks had. And I think in all honesty they treated the white men better than they treated anybody else. I think that was a piece of it as well. But indeed, my 45 days in the penitentiary was — I wouldn't say it was easy time, but compared to what it was for some of the early Riders and the women and the Blacks, it was much easier. And I don't have near the horrific stories to tell that some people have.

But what I really wanted to talk about today is how my experiences in Berkeley brought me to deciding to go on a Freedom Ride. Berkeley was — as I say, when I was in junior high, actually beginning high school, this would be mid-50s, there was the first protest on campus. And that protest was that ROTC [Army Reserve Office Training Corps] no longer be mandatory for all freshmen. That was the protest. It was OK that ROTC be on campus; they just didn't want it mandatory. And I'm assuming that was left over from the Second World War and the manpower issues.

Other issues. In high school, we picketed Nakamura Realty which I think is still in business. In those days, Nakamura, the old man who had been in [an] internment camp during the war, was one of the heaviest enforcers of the racial lines. Basically, the closer you were to the Bay, the more minorities there were.

[The area of Berkeley near the shoreline and the railroads was zoned for industrial use and working class residential, further inland it was zoned residential-only except for commerical shopping streets. As the land sloped upward from the shore towards the University and the hills the homes became more expensive, with the most affluent living in the hills overlooking the "flats" and the Bay.]

As you climbed the hill, certainly where we lived, much less. None, really. In fact, my parents built a small cottage next to our house, and we rented it to I think what was the first Black person to live in the hills, and we got vandalized for that. This is mid-50s, somewhere in there.

At the end of my junior year, my dad who taught at San Francisco State, his office mate, who had a doctorate from Chicago in Sociology, moved over to Berkeley and started to teach here at Cal. And I learned this later, but when she was looking for housing, she could not find realtors who would show her houses at all in the hills. And in fact, she ended up buying a house off of Arlington, and the only way she got to buy that house, she pretended she was the maid of another professor at State and that she was scouting for him, when in fact it was for her. That's just embarrassing [for Berkeley]. It really is.

The year before I hit Berkeley High, there was a line drawn on the student outdoor eating slope that was a Mason-Dixon line, and it was identified as such. There were junior, what I called junior fraternities and sororities at high school. Social clubs were what they were called, heavily segregated. And most of the Blacks were either in the shop classes and then would do their lunch over at the park by the City Hall. They would not be on campus, so it was tough times.

I ended up becoming best friends with her son, Frank, and we're still good friends. When he transferred over, the counselor tried to put him in shop classes. Said, 'Oh, you'll be much happier here.' He said, 'No, I'm college prep. I want to go.' Finally he brought his mom down and he got into the college prep classes.

[Referring to California's high school tracking policy in the 1950s of automatically assigning middle class whites to a College Preparatory academic track while nonwhites and working class whites were steered into non-academic Vocational tracks (manual labor trades, clerk/secretary, etc).]

He and I were really good buddies in senior year, and it was actually his junior year and my senior, so I graduated a year ahead of him. When I graduated from high school — normally my dad went back to Columbia to teach in the summer school at Teacher's College — and I decided I wanted to stay here and get a job for the summer.

Well, Frank was doing the summer in Japan, so I spent that summer with his family, because my folks were back East in New York. And I learned so much more about this town. I learned which gas stations we could go to — where in those days they would wash your windows, but they'd wash your windshield with an oily rag [if you were Black]. Which restaurants you could go to, which ones you couldn't go to, which ones would serve you too much salt in your food. And there was that subtle kind of thing.

Towards the end of the summer, I got the beginnings of a sense of where we, as a multiracial family [group], would be welcome and where we wouldn't in Berkeley. It was a very new experience for me. And I really started to get the sense of what Grier and Cobbs and Black Rage talk about as justifiable paranoia. They had every, every reason. Regretably, I've since lost that sense. I think we whites don't have any real experience with that. I'm very fortunate that I could do that.

The thing that I took away from it, one of them, is years later working in the schools in Marin County, I would be the one who would say, 'Gee, is there any chance that some part of racism might be impacting his family?' Because we had some minorities, not many but some. I worked in Sausalito for several years; I worked in San Rafael; I worked pretty much all over, in the schools.

Anyway, then I went to San Francisco State and was there for a year. The following summer I went to New York with my folks again, and at that point, I read Martin Luther King's book, "A Stride Towards Freedom," and I thought, 'Well gee, I really don't know much about the South and what that racism is like. So I'm gonna take a bus. And instead of flying back with my folks, I'm gonna route through the South and just see what this is.'

And the more and more I thought about it, I said to myself, 'I'm gonna go to the South, and I'm gonna see something that is so bad, so ugly, I won't be able to not do something. I will have to do something. And if I do that, that's pretty damn dumb. The local cops will certainly have their way with me.'

And at that point, there was the call sent out for Freedom Riders to come join and pack the jails. So I called CORE in New York, Mimi [Feingold] Real and Jim Farmer. I'm pretty sure Mimi was there. They interviewed me, and I went in on I think a Tuesday, and on Thursday night I think it was, I have to go back and look, I was on a bus to Nashville, and Friday morning I was in Jackson and was arrested. I spent 45 days in the state pen before bailing out. The rest of my story is [elsewhere on this website: Byron's Contraband and If I Ever Write Down the Story of My Life...]. But I wanted to amplify some on that experience in Berkeley. So that's kind of what I wanted to add in.

Steve: Amazing, Berkeley.

Rick: Yeah. It's the side of Berkeley that people don't know. You know, I look around Berkeley now, and it looks more integrated. I don't have that extra ESP anymore. I wish I did. I don't know what it really is like. In those days — Willy Mays, when the Giants moved to San Francisco — he wanted to live in the Saint Francis Woods and Seacliff [San Francisco's two most wealthy neighborhoods], and he ended up, where else? the Hunters Point [ghetto], because that's the only place that [realtors] would show to him. Christopher, who was mayor, hired the first Black person to deliver milk. That's when there were still milk deliveries, and that was in the late '50s — '58, '59 somewhere in there.

Steve: Do you know who Arlene Slaughter is?

Rick: I know the name.

Steve: Arlene Slaughter's interesting, just because we're gonna talk a little bit about Berkeley. She was a realtor, and she took it on herself to integrate neighborhoods.

Rick: Right.

Steve: And force that whole issue. Pretty courageous.

Rick: Yeah, it was pretty hard core back in the '50s. Yeah.

Steve: Were you at all involved in SLATE [Progressive student government political party at U.C. Bereley]?

Rick: No, somehow I did some stuff with the AFSC [American Friends Service Committee] as a high schooler, and then I went to [S.F.] State and did some stuff, not a whole lot, because in those days, in the '60s before the Freedom Rides, the big thing there was the fallout from the HUAC "Riots."

[Referring to a nonviolent student-led protest against House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in San Francisco in May of 1960 that was attacked by the police.]

Steve: Right. And [sit-ins at] Mels Drive in.

Rick: Yeah, there was a bunch of stuff.

James: '60 was the HUAC.

Rick: The big HUAC hearings, yeah. And then after I came back from the Freedom Ride, I did some stuff with San Francisco CORE. Genevieve Hughes was the Field Secretary. She was one of the original Riders on the first ride. And she came out here, and we did a lot of testing of the rental market in San Francisco. Yeah, that was early stuff.


Rick: Well after the Freedom Rides, you know, it's interesting. Two things kind of — I was less involved in Civil Rights directly. And one, as you mentioned, is the Vietnam War. You know, I was 1A for awhile. There was no way in the world I was gonna go, so I figure, OK, they're gonna give me two weeks' notice to report. That gives me two weeks to pack my bags and go to Canada. Cool. I thank you for the warning. I'm gone.

[Men with 1A draft status could conscripted into military service at any time. After the Vietnam War greatly expanded in 1965 the number of men drafted into the Army rapidly increased.]

The other part that was much more problematic for me. I'm not sure on the right word yet. I have to think about that one some. It's the whole rise of Black Power and when the whites were kicked out of the leadership of SNCC. And I understood the argument, that it needed to come from the Black community. It needed to be from the community, and they needed to advocate. And yes, we as whites needed to take care of our business back in the white community, very much so.

The problem for me was one of leadership. There was no one in the white community who had that kind of articulateness, maybe is the word I can come up with, but all of a sudden there was this table that we were all sitting at, and all of a sudden, there was no room for me at the table. I was outside, and I had to find my own way. And that was very difficult for me.

I fully supported — in fact, I had great discussions, arguments with my dad, because I greatly supported the [Black] Panthers when they went in with guns in the legislature in Sacramento. I thought, 'Yeah, if white folk can do it, darn right, why can't Black folks do that? That makes total sense to me.'

[After incidents of Oakland police shooting and killing African-Americans, armed Panthers began following police cars with the stated purpose of defending Blacks from unjustified police violence. To protest a proposed bill that would limit the open carry of loaded weapons, in 1967 members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense carried unloaded rifles and shotguns into the California Capitol building. The police detained them, but since their action was legal they were not arrested. No shots were fired.]

But it was hard for me to find the spot for me to get into it. And in my field, I was a psychologist working in the schools, not a lawyer, again it's where do you find your entrie point? Where do you find your little hook to get onto, to be part of that process?

And then I ended up — the only job offer I got was in lily white Marin County which made it even harder just to meet anybody of color. There's not much, and it's pretty well concentrated; it was at the time early on in Marin City [a predominantly nonwhite federal housing project]. Now it's a little bit better. But it's still fairly segregated, and now the money is just obscene in the county. So it's been real hard just to find an entry point, for lack of a better word.

And I'm kind of grateful for Bruce and this project, because I've been looking. After I retired, I wrote a letter to every to the principal of every single high school in the County of Marin, offering to come and talk about the Freedom Rides. I said, you know, copy this to your history department; I'm a resource. Do you want to know how many responses I got? Squat. Every single high school just didn't even acknowledge, 'Thank you for your offer.' Just squat.

So again, it was hard to find that entry point, and that's kind of where I've been since. It's kind of flopping around. I'll raise the issue. In schools we have what's called a Student Study Team where a teacher has a concern about a student, brings it to Student Study Team; we brainstorm and try to help the teacher and the family, etc. And the family's involved. They're invited and are sometimes more or less involved, depending on the family and the school staff.

I would periodically, when a student of color would come through, I'd say, 'Well, what about racism? Is that a factor?' And I'd get this, 'Oh my God, he said the "R" word. Don't do that.' But the principals finally realized, 'No, that's just Rick. He's doing his thing.' But it was amazing how families, Blacks mainly, some of them would say, 'Yeah. Let's talk about that. And thank you for raising that issue,' because they were kind of reluctant to raise the issue. And other families would say, 'No, my kid's just messing up. And I really want to find out why my kid's messing up. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with my kid being a punk.' Or whatever it is that's going on. He has a learning problem, what have you. Which is all I could do, and it was very frustrating.

Steve: Did you sign up on the speaker contacting on the website?

Rick: Yep. Yep. I've been involved in that. My memoir, for lack of a better word, my 20-page story of the Freedom Ride and some subsequent stuff, that's on the website. And you search on people who are willing to speak, yes I have been contacted, usually from people somewhere in the country. Some student somewhere is doing a paper and wants to talk to a Freedom Rider. So I do that, but nothing local.

[A question was raised about the Freedom Riders reunion.]

So yeah, because to me, I was so impressed — well, it was interesting. It was the two reunions, Chicago and Jackson, of the Freedom Rides. The Chicago reunion had a subsequent storytelling that was absolutely amazing. Jim Lawson was there, just all the {UNCLEAR}. And they basically told the story, a whole bunch of stories. It was all videotaped, and sadly, I don't know what happened to it. The next one was in Jackson, and there was a lot of reservation about gong to Jackson, that it was Hayley Barbour [Republican Governor of Mississippi] trying to burnish his image, which may or may not have been true.

What was nice about the Jackson reunion is there was a real outreach for the high school kids and the young college kids. And to me, that's what's needed now is we need to get folks involved in terms of nonviolence. It is a powerful, powerful technique. When I first went on the ride, there was great debate amongst the Riders of, is nonviolence a strategy or a way of life? And I was clearly, it's a strategy. Now, it's a way of life. I get it. It's taken me a couple of years, 75. But I now get it as a way of life. And that's what's missing so often now. You know, I'm thinking, you know, like of your story of {UNCLEAR}. You know, John Lewis, when he was beaten up in the Carolinas, refused to press charges, and the guy was so shocked, who beat him up that he refused to press charges, that he ended up supporting John Lewis years later. It's an amazing story. It's on the Oprah show if you catch that.

Steve: Well, I don't know if I'd go that far.

Rick: Well, and all of us look at it different ways, and that's fine. I am so much a believer now. And I think that whole issue of forcing people to confront their moral dilemma that nonviolence presents is critical, just critical, for real change. I think it's what we ought to be talking about with the Trumpers, the moral dilemma. If we can talk to them, let's try.

Steve: If you can talk to them.

Rick: Well, let's try it. I think that's a grand strategy. All right, you're on the other side of the spectrum!

James: I don't know which spectrum you're talking about really. Maybe you should talk about which spectrum you're talking about.

Rick: Well, in terms of the Panthers and the Black Student Union. I mean, that was some powerful —  I get it. But it shut a whole lot of folks out who wanted to help.

James: Let me go back a minute.

Rick: OK. Educate me. [General laughter] I'm serious.

James: I'm a little less — I bring a little less hubris to it than I used to. I'm nowhere near as arrogant. I'm much more doubtful in a lot of ways. But in terms of the loss of community that I've heard — so as far as I'm concerned, I have come in contact with a number of people, particularly whites, who never got past 1964. And from '61, with the first Freedom Riders on up, and what happened was that the SNCC, CORE, COFO or whatever it was, became their community. And for many, it was the first community that they were a part of that they didn't feel alienated, from which they did not feel alienated. And then they got alienated from that.

[Referring to conflicts and issues regarding the role of whites in the Movement.]

And so, over time, there have been a lot of things that have broken. And my thing is that I think it was a loss of community. I mean, I know people who know of people who had nervous breakdowns and going crazy behind it. They just could not function. I mean, people have told me that the first time they'd ever been embraced, hugged physically was by some Black woman or person in whose house they stayed. And the first time they really felt — 

Steve: Loved.

James: Yeah, in a tactile way, loved, was that time. And so I think in some ways that situation for whites was a renewal for them, or if not even a renewal than a beginning of a renewal. Because some of them came from families where they had food, clothing, shelter, and all these things, but there were so many restrictions on their lives that this gave them an avenue. And they were courageous, and they took chances, and they did what young people do. They coupled; they screwed; they drank together; they did all kinds of stuff.


Rick: The other part of my history that was part of that sense of, 'God, where the heck do I get back involved?' The Freedom Ride was between my freshman and sophomore years at San Francisco State, so I came back, did my sophomore year at State, and then transferred to Madison, Wisconsin. It's a whole new community, whole new whatever.

James: That was a hot spot {UNCLEAR}

Rick: Well, it was more antiwar than anything else.

James: That's what I mean.

Rick: It was heavily in the antiwar. You have the Dow Chemical riots. You had the Mifflin Street riots. There was all kinds of stuff going down there. But it was really more about the war than it was about civil rights. It just took over. By the time I got out, and then I get this one job offer which is in lily white Marin.


Miriam: Tell me, was it Carol Ruth Silver's book [Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes From Parchman Prison that you were  — 

Rick: — Right. Right.

Miriam: What did they do to the women [in Parchman] that was worse than what they did to the white men?

Rick: Ungloved vaginal exams with hands dipped in lye. That was the early Riders though. Less so later. I don't know if it happened to Carol Ruth, but it happened to early Riders.

Miriam: I had heard a little bit of that.

Rick: Yeah, so there was — The men did not have any body cavity searches. The women did. So yeah, it was pretty brutal.

Miriam: And you said something about getting out early?

Rick: Well, a sentence was four months and $200 which, if you worked your fine off, ended up being six months. But as our lawyer said, whenever he'd give an opinion, he'd start it with, 'Due to the peculiarities of Mississippi law — ' Then he'd tell you whatever the opinion was. It was a great phrase. And in Mississippi in those days, not anymore, if you did not appeal by your 39th day, you lost the right to appeal. So the choice was, do you appeal at 39? Or do you serve your sentence of six months? A significant majority decided to post bond and appeal, which I was part of that, and eventually my conviction was reversed by the Supreme Court.

Miriam: It went all the way to the Supreme Court?

Rick: Oh yeah.

Miriam: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals didn't — 

Rick: Nope, nope. Southern Circuit, c'mon.

Miriam: No, but mine from Georgia was appealed to the Fifth Circuit, and it got cleared out.

Rick: No, the Freedom Ride [cases] had to go all the way to the Supremes. So we had to post an additional bond. It ended up with $1500 bond [equal to about $12,500 in 2018], which my parents had to come up with. And then — 

Miriam: That was a lot of money.

Rick: Yeah, it was. Well, CORE put up the first $500 when we posted bond at the 39th day. CORE put up the $500. And then I had to go back down to Mississippi in April for an individual jury trial, so they would have a transcript to be part of the appeals process. So I went back and was convicted by 12 white men — a jury of my peers. And that then got the transcript which then could be a part of the appeals process, and then I think it was two or three years later.

So when I applied for my [teaching] credential in California, Max Rafferty was the Superintendent [of Public Instruction], and he was a known arch-conservative. And so he had a committee that was a little — when you apply for your credential, there's a state committee that says, 'Yes, you've met all the conditions.' There was a subcommittee where all the political arrestees went and just circled as a little maelstrom and just never got out of that committee. And so because I had an arrest but not a conviction, I ended up in that little committee, because I was political. And eventually, it took a phone call from the Assistant Superintendent to Sacramento to free up my credential.

Miriam: You know what? I had a similar thing, but there was convergence of good luck. So I had gotten a Master's in Education back East and taught two years, but I wanted to move to California, and so I applied, and never heard back. But I had moved to San Francisco, and Willie Brown was on the Education [State Assembly] Committee in Sacramento, so I was his constituent at a couple of Civil Rights {UNCLEAR}. And he helped me through his office.

Rick: He helped you, yeah.

Miriam: That's how I got my —  but when I got the letter, which I still have that letter too, it said, 'We expect a higher moral standard from our teachers.' They thought I had — 

Rick: Hey, the highest one there! Yeah, I applied for my credential in '70, and Rafferty was still Superintendant, well in control.

Miriam: Mine was in '69.

Rick: So you remember the Rafferty days. [S.F. Chronicle columnist] Herb Caen said that when Rafferty went to Alabama to become their State Superintendent, he raised the IQ of both states. [General laughter]

Rick: Only Herb Caen could come up with that.

Miriam: That's mean. So you were a psychologist?

Rick: Yeah, school psychologist for almost 30 years, out of the county office in Marin. Basically, I was farmed out to various districts, as the district psych, so I worked for several, six or seven years, at Sun Valley and San Pedro school.

Rick: Most of my experience was K-8, elementary. But I worked in every single school district in Marin, including the three one-room schools, all the way up to Bodega Bay which is still in Marin County education-wise.


Rick: What's going on in Sausalito is a much bigger battle. The amount of money that Sausalito spends per student for the education benefit they get is embarrassing. Embarrassing. Right now, Sausalito, I think it's around $13-15,000 a year per student is what they spend. That's obscene. That's private school money.

Steve: And the weird thing is that Marin City is part of the same school district.

Rick: Yes, they are, and their test scores are in the basement. And it's — yeah. The only charter school — 

Steve: I've been working some with people on the canal [district of San Rafael], which is a whole other — 

Rick: Yeah, well, San Pedro School was heavily from the canal area of San Rafael — {UNCLEAR} Bahia Vista took some of the wealthier parts of the canal, and the poorer parts, down in back of the car dealers, are all going to San Pedro. Yeah, it's interesting.

Miriam: I want to raise the question of high school. When we were in high school, that was before the sit-ins.

Rick: Yeah.

Miriam: Was there anything going on?

Rick: At Berkeley High, there was a small, small group through the AFSC, American Friends Service Committee, that did some work including picketing Nakamura's office. Got involved in the Youth for Service, and then the AFSC also did some high school conferences. In fact, when I was a junior, I took a semantics class which was unusual for a high school, and was offered to go to Asilomar where I heard Martin Luther King speak in '59. He came and spoke there.


Rick: [Re current political activity] I had hopes for the sit-ins around the 2%, the 98%. I had great hopes for the Occupy Movement. It didn't quite move. It just kinda died.

Steve: There were a lot of teenagers, young people involved in Occupy, but it was all off campus.

Rick: Well, then it got taken over by some crazies, and then it kind of fell under. But I had great hopes for Occupy. I have great hopes for Parkland. I'm one of those people who has hopes for this election. I really do. I hope and think people finally get it. 'Oh yeah, this is real.'

[Referring to the midterm election of November 2018]

Rick: We tried to start kind of [political] club at Berkeley High, and we wanted to study various political/social philosophies, current stuff. So we called it the Ism Club. We were going to study isms. No, we couldn't do that. That was not allowed. It was prohibited. It was too much like Communism. Red scare.

Steve: Some isms are religions.

Rick: That was the other part that I think they didn't want to get into. So they finally said, 'OK, you can be the Analysis Club.' [General laughter]

Rick: You can analyze things, but you can't be the Ism Club. Yeah.

The other thing that I meant to say, Frank, my friend, so his mom gets her Ph.D. from Chicago, comes out here, ends up teaching at Berkeley. He does his junior and senior year at Berkeley High and graduates in '60, '61 actually. He then applies to Chicago. The head counselor who writes all the college recommendations says, 'I refuse to write a recommendation for a Negro to go to the University of Chicago.'

Miriam: And his mom had gone there?

Rick: Yeah, his mom had gone there. And you know, he's in the Honors Program, right? He ended up getting in there. He ended up getting into Chicago, almost got his Ph.D. in biochem when he applied to Harvard Med, and he's now a surgeon. But it would've been another kid lost. By the counselor. Yeah, it would've been a real tragedy.


Rick: Well, I think it's an issue that needs to be talked about.

Steve: Black Power.

Rick: Black Power and the alienation of whites, and when the whites were kicked out of SNCC.

Steve: Yeah, it's been an ongoing thing. I remember at the reunion — 

Rick: I think it was a big mistake.

Steve:  — there were some of us — I didn't take any leadership role, but there was somebody who essentially proposed a meeting of white volunteers just to sort of be able to emotionally — you're a psychologist, so you would've sort of understood. There was a need to just let it hang out, and we went off in some room.

Rick: Well, as I said, the other thing for me is I then went to Wisconsin, the Antiwar Movement just blew up there, and a whole lot of other stuff happened. And by the time I came back, it was like, 'God, I got no place to latch on to.'

Miriam: I think that's important. That after, you know what happened to people after.

Steve: But you've seen "Berkeley in the Sixties," the film?

Rick: I have not.

Steve: Mark Kitchell's film? You really should. Everyone should. But it ends, and you know it's about Mario [Savio] and all of that. But it ends in a really kind of interesting way. The very end of the film is Mario's — one of his last speeches, and he's saying, 'Well, hey folks, we won!'

Rick: Yeah. What did we win?

Steve: 'Well, there's a war going on.' And then the films stops. I mean, it's kind of nicely done. You know, the Antiwar Movement in its beginning phases was very white. And I've always felt ambiguous, because I went in the Peace Corps I didn't do it as a calculated thing to stay out of the draft, but I was entitled to go back to law school. I went between my first and second year. I was entitled to continue law school and not be subject to the draft. And then I was too old, so I ended up escaping it, but a lot of people — 

Rick: When we went to the "all volunteer" Army — which is basically poor kids who can't get a job elsewhere — all the energy went out of the Antiwar Movement, because the whites were no longer being drafted.

Steve: Well, that's right, but what I was going to get to is there was a subliminal guilt thing going on the Antiwar Movement that I didn't know how to deal with, because for every white person that went to Canada or did something else, a Black had to go over to Vietnam.

Rick: Had to go, yeah.

Steve: And there was something, I suspect, within the Black community there was a resentment. Whites had different ways of figuring it out. You know, it's not everybody that can figure out financially how you're gonna go and escape to Canada and survive. For a street kid from Los Angeles, it's not an option. And I don't know. I think it was an ambiguity within the whole Antiwar Movement, almost less even than the Civil Rights Movement has tried to grapple somewhat with Black Power and what it meant and what our role was. I don't think the Antiwar Movement has grappled or come to terms with that.

Rick: No, well the Antiwar — the Peace Movement kind of lost a whole bunch of energy with the end of the Vietnam War and then the Bushes.

Steve: Some of it. Not entirely.

Rick: No, I know. It's still active.

Steve: I mean, the bombing of Cambodia and stuff.

Rick: Yeah.

Steve: You know, you go from a ground war to just let's throw a million bombs on the country. There was a core that stayed engaged, and there were still major demonstrations. And some of those people are still with the same movements they were with then, and they're still doing stuff. We always have a war that we could be fighting against.

Rick: Sadly, sadly. Yeah.

Steve: And then of course, you know, the fragging and all of this stuff that was not being reported on. It started to filter back, and you know, "Nobody ever called me Nigger in Vietnam." That whole dynamic began to meld the Civil Rights and Vietnam War Movements together.

["Fragging" refered to incidents in which active-duty GIs in Vietname killed their officers as a form of rebellion. "No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger" was a slogan used by African-American activists to link the opposition to the war and the Civil Rights Movement.]

Rick: There's a story. There's a history that needs to be told, and maybe there's enough time that has passed that that story can be told.

Steve: Well, some of that is happening. I've been connected to — Tom Hayden, sadly, passed away. He helped start — there was an announcement probably under Obama of doing a 50th [anniversary] around the Vietnam War, and then there was Ken Burns who announces that he's doing a film. And there were people who began to organize, and it never got huge, to my knowledge. But it was basically, 'We don't mind, because we're not going to shame the U.S. military and the soldiers. We don't mind that that story be told.' But our story has to also be told, and it's come front and center with Ken Burns. Did you see the — ?

Rick: I saw little bits and pieces of it.

Steve: Because it's shameful what it does with — 

Rick: Oh it is? That's why I couldn't watch it.

Steve: Well, only in part, because it gives voice to the Vietnamese, which is wonderful. I didn't expect that. And it gives good voice to generals and all kinds of people in Vietnam, but it basically doesn't give any legitimate voice to the Antiwar Movement. And the Vietnamese themselves have told many people I know, 'You really played an important part in this war being won,' whereas most Americans don't think that, to this day. Even people who were relatively progressive, they think we were a fly in the ointment and that it was the Vietnamese that did it all on their own. But yeah, that part of the story still needs to be told.

Copyright © 2019

Copyright ©
Copyright to this web page, as a web page, belongs to this web site. Copyright to the story and commentary above belongs to the speakers. Webspinner:
(Labor donated)