Originally published in The Nation's Longest Struggle: Looking Back on the Modern Civil Rights Movement by the D.C. Everest school system of Wisconsin. This interview was conducted and edited by Junior and Senior High School students of the Everest system. For more information, see D.C. Everest Oral History Project.[
Fatima is a Nuyorican of an activist family and has devoted herself to being a cultural activist with experience as a community organizer, performer, producer, exhibitor and healer. She has also created many films, gotten many awards, and has worked in women's rights.]
Could you tell us some background about yourself?
I am a Nuyorican (Puerto Rican, African and Native American, Dutch) born in New York City of an activist family and have devoted myself to being a cultural activist with experience as a community organizer, performer, producer, exhibitor and psychotherapist.
I created the first Art and Play therapy program for "bad boys" in 1965 at Lincoln Hospital Mental Health Services of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the South Bronx, NY. In 1982, I founded the Mariposa Center for Spiritual Healing and Education to teach people how to use the tools of therapy and share that skill with others, conducting national workshops including "Fearless Women Learning to Fly" which encouraged women to overcome fear as their obstacle to growth and selfdetermination.
A co-founder of the National Network of Women's Funds, I was National Co-Chair for two terms and was principle facilitator for the founding conference which created the mission statement and the "owning our own -isms" workshop.
I served as a Director for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy CHD board, Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, and the Advisory Board for the Southern California Women's Law Center. An invited speaker on many issues, I was a speaker at the Hollywood Women's Political Caucus-Mobilization for Women's Lives at Rancho Park 1989, gave the keynote at the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the USC Law School Conference "Reconstructing Motherhood" (subsequently published in the first USC Review of Law and Women's studies) and the keynote for the 22nd Annual Scripps MLK, Jr. Scholarship Awards luncheon. I was the keynote speaker for 2012 Colorado State University Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration and spoke to three classes and have been invited to return as a lecturer.
Among many honors include recognition by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former Speaker of the House of California, Willie Brown, a Certificate of Appreciation from the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, recognition by the NYC Task Force Against Sexual Assault, the LA Weekly as "local hero" for co- founding the Multicultural Alliance for Reproductive Rights and by the Smithsonian Institute as "living history" for civil rights work with Louisiana CORE and recently (2011) received the Key to the City of Jonesboro, LA. For the past ten years I have been part of documentaries as living history and speaking to schools and individual researchers as a member of the Civil Rights Veterans website Speakers Bureau.
Presently, I work part time as a legal secretary for a Beverly Hills attorney, in an office of politically active attorneys. As a therapist, I do a lot of pro bono consultation with women in particular on issues of being survivers of child sexual abuse, or violent situations.
I was born on October 6. I like to paint and I build projects in my house for things I need. I like to fish. I like to read, listen to music. I like to play scrabble and poker, and I like going to the horses races. I used to ride, but not anymore. I'm married and have three children and one grandson. My husband is an actor. I used to be an actor and have done some producing and directing. As an actor I performed with the Rhode Island Feminist Theater touring nationally and regionally in New England works of particular interest to women and working class families. I was also a member of the Family Repertory Theater Company in New York who performed for the public as well as in prisons for inmates.
How did you get involved in the civil rights movement?
My family has always been involved in human rights from literacy and tutoring to housing discrimination in New York City to traveling south before there was desegregation on the buses. I remember a particular trip with my grandmother to Virginia. My grandmother looks white and I clearly don't. We had an incident in Virginia where she told me to stay on the bus. I was about 9 years old and she went into the bus station restaurant to get us something to eat. Immediately when she got off the bus I had to go to the bathroom and so I followed her into the bus station. I didn't realize that it was the white restaurant. We got put out of the white restaurant because I said mama and everybody in there looked at me, looked at her, and said "oh you've got to go". So they sent us around the corner to the colored restaurant. which was certainly not as nice. All of a sudden I didn't have to go to the bathroom because the fear took over. I didn't even know what I was afraid of, but I knew I did something wrong. The only thing I did wrong was be the wrong color going into the white restaurant.
Of course, when my grandmother explained to me what was going on, I got schooled very early so when I came back and grew up my mother was very involved in the New York City Commission on Human Rights. They did a lot of testing for housing discrimination. Actually, the apartment that we moved into when I was about 15 was through the courts because they had tried to discriminate and we won, and that's kind of my origins of my involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Shortly thereafter we were coming on to the March on Washington and I actually made the banners for the buses going from Riverdale, New York to DC. The March on Washington was an incredible experience for me and I was very proud of the fact I could make the banners for the buses that I knew how to make them, it was just a great, great time. I had just graduated from high school. It was the first time ever that my mother and grandfather and I were in the same place and of the same mind.
At the time my mother was the chairperson for the Northwest New York CORE and we used to have a lot of meetings on Sundays at Andrea Simon's house. She was very active with Women's Strike for Peace and CORE. She is also the mom of Carly Simon, Peter, Joanna and Lucy, but it was about different activities about people getting out to become conscious of voting, raising money to send folks south to work on the freedom schools and the voter education project, as well as the activities in New York about the housing discrimination. So there were meetings on Sundays with these incredible people were working together to make sure that these things happened, and kept on going and figuring out new ways of getting people to go and protest for housing discrimination and doing tutoring in Harlem as well as other kinds of local voter education projects.
Since I had graduated from high school in '63, I had started college that September. When the summer of '64 came up I just felt compelled to go south and be part of the CORE movement, which took place in Louisiana. It was specifically for voter education literacy and that was going to be for the summer to really get folks organized to vote for Johnson for President to win against Goldwater and that was what I did. The activities and the projects I was going to be working on, with the Congress of Racial Equality [CORE] were extremely effective in Louisiana.
There had been activity there the year before with James Farmer, National Director for CORE at the time and he was a very effective speaker with roots way back in the peace movement. The Reverend Ronny Moore was a local minister who was very active. Overall there was a whole bunch of local folks involved and a bunch of us who had come from all over the country to work on this and a lot of it was going door to door talking to people and going to churches and speaking in the churches about the importance of the movement and the importance of getting our vote and getting folks registered because some people had been prohibited from registering. The FBI was involved in watching our backs even though I think a lot of them didn't really care about us, but they knew they had to do their jobs — which was to watch our backs. So they walked slowly and watched us from quite a distance.
Our philosophy and methodology was very clearly nonviolent passive resistance. It was the philosophy and methodology to make personal contact as much as possible with the churches and the groups in the areas we were in, and we were all over the state of Louisiana to sign on to speaking to the congregation and allow us to come in and use the space in the church for teaching people how to register to vote because it was a fairly ridiculous complicated application to fill out to register to vote in Louisiana (at least for Black people).
Registering to vote was so difficult because you had to fill out your name and your address and all that kind of stuff and you had to put your age in years, months, and days and that just seemed really ridiculous. You also had to write out the Preamble to the Constitution. You had to make it legible; you could not misspell anything; you had to make sure the punctuation was right. So they made it as difficult as possible for Black people to apply to register to vote. A lot of folks didn't read or write, they knew how write their name and address and stuff like that but stuff like their age down to the day was something people weren't used to doing and certainly not used to writing out the Preamble to the Constitution. So the methodology was to get folks to work with us and then tutor those around them who were eligible to vote.
There was quite a bit of backlash and violence, I had a double barrel shotgun pointed at my forehead by a kid that was probably no older than me at the time. I was waiting on the steps of a store that was closed that day. We used to get a soda there after working the neighborhood and that was our meeting place for pick-up. A truck drove up and this kid pointed his shotgun at me and he didn't realize that I was extremely afraid but I was so afraid that I was extremely calm. By being very still and looking at him like he wasn't frightened me even though he was I guess that frightened him and he drove off.
So then we had the Klan chase us when we were going back to where we were staying and that can be very scary on the back roads of Louisiana and the Klan would drive through the areas that we were. They would just be a presence. In Jonesboro, Louisiana they would ride past the CORE house where we all stayed and they would just drive back and forth and back and forth and every now and then somebody would shoot, not into the house but they would shoot maybe the ground. That's when the Deacons for Defense and Justice got started and I don't care what the movies say the Deacons got started in Jonesboro, Louisiana.
One night the Black men in town who would not subscribe to nonviolence lined up across the road with their shotguns and their guns and when the Klan came through they stopped them and said, "You all don't come back through here and you turn around and you go back home and you mind your business." That was something that clearly never happened before and the Klan never came riding through that area ever again. The deacons said, "Look we know you all believe in nonviolence. We don't, we are not violent but we will protect our families and our own."
The interesting thing about Jonesboro was that the men in that town who stood up, most of them owned their own land so it wasn't like they had the threat of being kicked off their land and they had jobs at the paper mill from which they were not fired because they had high-skill machine operation jobs. A lot of these men's wives were school teachers, but they taught at the black schools so they were no threat to anybody. It was a very interesting town, and still is. It seems that the folks had such a confident sense of themselves that they were able to do things that other places weren't able to do as early and as easy. Not everyone felt the same, but there was a very strong group of people who were courageous.
Certainly other things happened in the rest of the state that were very scary. Jonesboro just had such a sense of connection of land ownership and farming rooted in generations of land ownership that made a difference. Families were able to help other activist families when they were being intimidated by providing food and shelter if needed. The domestic workers were more easily intimidated and one family even left town to go live with family in Michigan. Today there is even the first African-American Mayor and he is getting hostile treatment from the old City Council members and it is a really exciting uphill battle.
Who were some leaders of the Civil Rights Movement that you worked with?
The Mason family was and still is one of the most active and supportive families of the movement. The MaDear was the Rosa Parks of Jonesboro and her daughter, Annie P. Mason Johnson was and still is a warrior woman. We have remained friends since the '60's and she in the link for all of us who were ever working there.
As for the leaders that I worked with, there was James Farmer, like I said, then Jimmy McKissick became National Director. Rev. Ronny Moore, Richard Haley. Folks like Richard Haley who came out of Florida A&M, James Farmer and Rev. Moore, as fiery as they were in their hearts they were very soft spoken men. Richard Haley was a very soft spoken, very intellectual man, very smart man. The values that these folks had and the way they conducted themselves personally was very effective because we were inspired by their commitment and we knew they had fire in their hearts but they never acted out that fire in a violent way to distract from the movement that they considered the number one priority. Whatever we were doing — that was the number one priority. Then you had Ernest "Chilly Willie" Thomas, who was one of the founders of the Deacons for Defense, was a very solid inspiration. Another solid man was Lee "Skip" Gilbert who used to come to the CORE house after working his shift at the paper mill and keep watch. He was also a Deacon.
The Caulfield family who had been very active in a communist party back in the 1940's, and they owned a farm, and the men worked on the oil rigs in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and they were kind of removed and didn't live at home but when they did come home, they taught us all how to use a rifle or a gun. They said this isn't about changing your philosophy from nonviolence to violence, but you need to know how to defend yourself. You are staying in our house with the mother and the daughter who knew how to take care of themselves and we are not going to have you not know how to take care of yourselves. Nobody ever came by or drove by or harass us in that house but they knew there were three very powerful men who were the head of that family, the father and the two brothers. It's a thing about not being confrontational and not being aggressively violent but just knowing and having the reputation for standing your ground and ultimately being on the side of what was correct.
There was no justification that the Klan or the White Citizens' Council could pull up that would justify the horrible things they had done in the past and were still trying to intimidate in the present. That kind of balanced it out.
When I was stationed in Monroe, I wound up creating a news letter on a 8.5x14 sheet of paper both sides and I did it on a mimeograph machine. You develop skills that you know nothing about, but I did it on a mimeograph machine and then had folks pass it out. Freedom News just talked about what we were doing. I didn't take pictures or keep records of anything because we were so in the moment that I just gave everything away and others took pictures. Part of the no pictures was to not have anything that others could use against us and/or use to identify us and therefore spot us in the grocery store or someplace we could be caught alone. There are pics of demos but even that, most of those the FBI has.
What were some things you did for fun while working for the Civil Rights Movement?
We did know how to have a good time after hours though, we'd dance or go to the local club, that was also the place that fed us when we were in our initial training in Plaquemine, Louisiana. The jukebox would play King Curtis's recording of the song Soul Serenade (with Aretha Franklin doing the vocal) which would call us to breakfast, and we were in different houses around the neighborhood and we would come to that and the opening line of the song was "I want to be free to fly away from here." Music infused everything we did and the jukeboxes were a nickel a play. We made great salaries of $25 a week, which in 1964 meant something and we were housed for free for that summer and we were fed. If we wanted anything extra for ourselves we used our money from our salaries. Beyond that we were well taken care of.
Were there ever any hard feelings between whites and blacks?
There was some tension between blacks and whites in the movement because a lot of times the black folks would say, "Hey listen, we don't need you white folks coming down here and telling us what to do." And sometimes being in a patriarchy you can have people assuming they know better that the person who lives there about what needs to be done and how. That just isn't the case. So our staff meetings were very interesting sometimes because we had to work that out that just because a white person said it didn't mean it was a bad idea and just because a black person said it didn't mean it was a good idea. So we figured out ways to negotiate what did make sense and that's why people like Richard Haley who could mediate between ideas that were competing and were good could make it work.
Liberal white people had a history imposing what they think is the best idea. They were told that their community is just as dysfunctional as this community so hold up and back up a little bit because you might not have all the answers. No matter how much good you mean, it might not be the right thing to do and learning the southern culture was very important.
There was one white guy who came down from Ohio and he was wearing slacks and a white shirt and his uniform pretty much became coveralls. It didn't occur to him when he went to church on Sunday to speak with the congregation, and we would go in groups of three or four and we would speak to the congregation about who we were and what we were doing and how we would like them to become involved and assist our work, and he would wear his coveralls. Now he thought he was fitting in when what he was doing was actually annoying the congregation because they felt he wasn't respecting who they were and that if you're going to go to the church and ask to speak or get up and speak you need to dress respectfully so that was a big thing. So we had to have some conversation about that and you couldn't assume that because you were dressed like that you were fitting in, the men wore the coveralls to work in the fields because that was their work clothes not because that was their uniform they liked. Because on Sundays they would get their one suit their white shirt, tie and hat, and their good shoes. You know that they only wore once a week or to special events because that was the respect they had for themselves and the fact they were going to church. There was a lot of cultural awareness people had to go to just to get the culture and understand the culture and the values.
Some of the men, especially some of the white men, thought that the women were there for their sexual pleasure and that wasn't such a great idea. I mean, we had players and we had folks that were not players and some of the white women even got convinced that they would show how liberal they were if they would sleep with the young black men. Then we would talk about that and we were like "No that's not a really good idea, you need to go." You don't show your commitment to the movement by trading off sexual favors so there was a lot of cultural stuff that was played on both sides and then later on we would laugh about that and say, "Oh God, do you believe that somebody actually believed that, or so-and-so got over on her because he said 'if you were really liberal and you would really be down here for the cause then you would sleep with me.' And we'd say are you kidding me that ain't got nothing to do with it". There were those human moments that people had in the middle of doing some very important work and that made it so we never lost sight of how important the work is and we can't let it get bogged down in bad habits like sex, drugs or rock and roll.
How did people in the Movement feel about the national leadership, like the President or people in Congress?
Nobody loved Johnson who was the President at the time, but we loved working to getting him to win over Goldwater, because if he got elected we were in BIG, BIG trouble and one of the things that worked was that Adam Clayton Powell, who was the Speaker of the House, had the ear of the President because he was number three in line if anything happened to the President and we knew that he was a fiery legislator and minister and we knew we could get certain things done because Johnson could be pressured into doing certain things and signing certain bills.
As a matter of fact, Adam Clayton Powell got Johnson, not in the beginning but over the course of his Presidency, to sign over 60 pieces of specific civil rights legislation and that has not been outdone in history, including the Powell Amendment, which kept the federal funding from going to segregated facilities, like schools and stadiums, you know public facilities like sports arenas and that was unheard of. So like I said we didn't love him and we didn't think he was any champion in the Civil Rights, but Johnson was a smart politician and he knew that he would be run up a pole or run out of town if he didn't sign different legislation and I think that ultimately he did want to run again. I think he didn't because he was just totally worn out and worn down but he was a decent politician and just understood what he had to do to keep the peace in the country and have a legacy for himself.
Can you describe the split in the Civil Rights Movement?
As far as the split in the civil rights movement around '66, I have to combine that along with all the assassinations — I mean you had Kennedy, both Kennedy's, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. There was a lot of back and forth stuff between Martin and Malcolm and there are some speeches where Malcolm really talked about the March on Washington; he vilifies what went on in terms of the organizers and the fact that folks agreed to be out of town by sundown. But when he made his own split from Elijah Muhammad and understood what Islam was really about, he and Martin got closer in ideology and the ideology came more on a global view of what needed to be done. Both were talking more about the Vietnam war and taking the US before the World Court for crimes against humanity. There were folks who were on local scenes who didn't quite want to do that, they had gotten their own reputation pretty big on the local scene and didn't necessarily see themselves, you know they felt they would get lost in the international movement.
Now you had, well I don't want to call them thugs because they weren't really thugs, but they had thuggish culture and in a thuggish culture you may have folks who are not as well educated but are very charismatic. H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael really came out of the student movement and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was very, very powerful and very active in the sit-ins and the Freedom Summer of voter education. These were educated young men but they took on more of a thuggish stance in my opinion because they were going to try and bring the country down to their knees. With all the riots it would seem that violence was going to threaten the power structure. It became an issue of tearing down the power structure and certainly feelings that Martin's philosophy going back to Gandhi's philosophy was old hat.
So you had folks that had two perspectives on what was the most effective way and then it became an issue of fundraising and who was the most viable organization to make things happen. The old guard, so to speak, had to be turned out just like in any kind of government, you know the old guard gets turned out in favor of the new ideas, well the new ideas are not always necessarily the best ideas, you know with the Black Panther Party being very clearly out there with the image of their guns saying this is what we are going to do and this is our position.
Now the Black Panther Party was actually very grass roots oriented and the origin of what we know now as Head Start and the breakfast program because they realized you can't send a kid to school to learn when their stomach is empty. They understood the importance of an educational head start. It was the Black Panthers Party breakfast program and tutoring programs that got to kids before they started regular public schools, as well as providing them after school spaces to be since most had working parents. These programs have been so co-opted that we forget there origins were.
So there were those kind of splits when you have somebody in the Black Panther Party who has a rifle and at the same time that's the organization that is feeding the children and tutoring the children. Then you have SNCC and they are just out there with a lot of rhetoric on the one hand as well as doing really good political organizing on the other. They were not necessarily producing the same kind of programs that the CORE and Black Panther Party had been doing. CORE had been doing the Freedom Schools and had been very active in literacy because people who don't know how to read are going to be prisoners of poverty forever and if you don't even know how to read a lease or fill out a job application then where are you going to go? The Black Panther Party was support the children, in spite of promoting armaments.
The "Movement" became ego driven until  when the Poor Peoples March on Washington and Resurrection City. Resurrection City was the  version of the 99% folks that have been camping all over the country, all over the world. The thing about Resurrection City was that it was everybody: Blacks, Latinos, Whites, Asians, Native Americans. I mean everybody who had something to say; felt oppressed and built a comaraderie was camped out in Resurrection City in Washington DC in . Then there were buses that came from all over the country to March on Washington.
One of the things that put Martin and Malcolm in harm's way was their view of our place in this country as poor people and people of color. In the world politics and when you start making those kinds of connections you really do start threatening international corporate global structure. The global corporate structure has gotten away with much over the years including pollution, and people are so upset over global warming because they don't want to admit that that's an issue. It really is a very inconvenient truth because a lot of us have participated in habits that have really messed with the world, messed with the earth. I think that those start to be seen as threats and again when one organization is trying to be more important that another and a sense of cooperation is kind of out the window then those are issues that folks didn't know quite what to do with but they felt threatened.
And how dare they talk about Vietnam war, how dare they make the connection between what we teach men to do in war who then come home and have no jobs and don't know anything and have no skills other than killing. We're facing the same situation now when they talk about the traumas and syndromes of violence trauma we witnessed them in the late '60s and early '70s and we are still witnessing them, folks coming home from war who have no skills other then how to kill and their frustration gets to a level where they can't even talk to anybody in their family and the results and behaviors is violence in the home. Well we created that with our scene of war and with no backup plan and then with the economy in the shape it is and the foreclosures and the banks still having obscene profits, corporate profits they are sharing with the wealthy.
People are really pissed. I mean I'm certainly annoyed but there are other folks who are really, really pissed. Especially the folks that have gone to war and are coming home now and were fighting to protect us. Nobody really realized it but they were fighting to protect the oil companies essentially and the military industrial complex. Oh! you were used. Oh! Well, folks don't feel very good about being used. The backlash came back from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam war and now the one big war in the Middle East.
I think that CORE was very successful in keeping the pressure on and making sure ultimately that we did get Johnson re-elected, we got over 60 pieces of civil rights legislation signed by the President. Things we take for granted, like being able to vote at the age 18, because I was not 21 when I went south to work on the voter education project and just learning the political system and being able to understand the political system by the age of 21, I knew I had a responsibility to vote, I knew I had a responsibility to be active in my community in any way I possibly could. I learned that the personal was the political, where you buy your food, where you buy your clothes what you thinks important in your values, all came out of what I was learning during the civil rights movement, so that's why I think I'm still active.
What do you think of Black Power?
Well, for me my family is Native American, African American, Dutch and Puerto Rican. So I can't walk around talking about black color. I think its people power, its people of color, and people of different classes. For me it's more of a class issue then it is a color issue. There are horrendous elements of color and white skin privilege that keep us in the pits where we are that we don't quite get. That we need to understand the relationship between racism and sexism and ageism and hetero-sexism; these are all institutional values and they make a priority of importance of one group of people over another.
Angela Davis wrote an article back in the '70s called "Rape, Racism and the Capitalist System," and it's an article very much worth reading. So when you start talking about Black Power, white kids are out here with their pants sagging down right along with Black and Latino kids. The gang movement and strength, is pervasive throughout our society. So Black Power as a phrase is very much a '60s kind of thing and that's where I leave it because it's more about us really understanding what Bayard Rustin said back in the '60s that "We are All One." And if we don't get it then we are all done.
The idea is that I have the same values that an undocumented immigrant has in this country, and we both deserve the same treatment, the same access, and when people start talking about undocumented immigrants, the image that comes up in their minds is always of someone of color. There are loads of Russian immigrants, Canadian immigrants, British immigrants, European immigrants that are here and undocumented, but they disappear into the country because of white skin privilege and people don't really talk about that.
Consider the Australians, if you really want to insult an Australian just remind them that Australia was founded as a penal colony full of crooks and folks who were dumped there. That entire country was a jail. Don't come back over here as an illegal and try and act like you're better than me or that you're better than the Guatemalan immigrant who is here undocumented. And I don't care how many senseless people want to put a fence across the southern border of this country that doesn't stop the Russian immigrants from coming, or the Canadian immigrants from coming, but it's become an issue of color and that is just a way of hiding behind class and white skin privilege.
Would you describe the Civil Rights Movement as a success or a failure? What were some of the things the Movement managed to do?
I think that the successes outweighed the failures, with the exception of the creation of the new class structure in the African American community, specifically the GENTRIFIED African American community. Values have become very white. You have women with hair weaves and more black blondes than ever were in my neighborhood when I was growing up, influencing my images of beauty of myself. Now I will admit to bleaching my hair as a teen but it was my own hair and we all experimented and then went back to our regular colors cause that was a fad for a hot minuet, its just the co-op thing that we have been influenced by with the way we dress, the way we act, the things we think are important as people of color still are based in a white standard and that's a pride, selfesteem failure. It's like the pendulum swung so far to the Black Power side then swung back to the white values and we are kind of confused as people of color in the middle again not quite being able to define who we are. But we still have the right to do it, We have the right to do a lot of things, we can live where we want, eat where we want. but subtly there is a lot of discrimination in housing and education and jobs based on the value system we follow, which is kind of sad. But folks were very ready to give up their southern roots to assimilate a larger culture, and you see where that wound up.
What was it like being a woman in the Civil Rights Movement?
The role of women in the civil rights movement was very powerful and very strong and very uncredited. Except for Fanny Lou Hamer, she got to be pushed out there with her rawness, but people exploited her rawness, even though she was correct and so much of the stuff that she said exploited her rawness. One of the most dynamic women that I got to work with was Oretha Castle Haley from New Orleans. Her family housed Freedom Riders in a back house behind theirs and she worked tirelessly through the political community to become Director of the New Orleans Charity Hospital. She made made programs happen there and it was eventually named for her after her death. Of course, it was closed after Katrina — so wrong.
We cannot forget Barbara Jordan, Daisy Bates, and Clara Luper out of Oklahoma, who all paved the way. This is beyond Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. You have a lot of women today who are doing a lot of important stuff in the world. A lot of the stuff that happened in the movement, women were very, very powerful and very hard workers but it was the men who got the credit, and that was one of the functions of sexism, you know you have to go home and take care of the baby, well I'm taking care of the baby and I'm cooking the food AND while I'm making this meeting at the church possible. Some of deacons in the church were a little skittish, but the deacon's wife may say, "Listen we're going to have this meeting," or the women are having this meeting, and of course men would go because they wanted to see what was going on.
The typing and the answering of the phone was left to the women, and we got kind of tired of it so we said, "No, you better learn to type something too, you better learn to answer the phone and take a decent message." So the division of labor in the movement was very much on the shoulders of women, but like I said uncredited. When you think about the women running off the mimeograph copies after they typed them, and typing was no fun, and running them off and folding them and making sure they got here or there as though that was not important, kind of annoyed us after awhile, but the work was important so we didn't stop doing it but we tried to get the men to help. When it came time to address the church congregation they always wanted to put the men, when it's like, "No it's my turn, I get to speak this time."
So a lot of us would move from the civil rights movement to the women's movement in to the pro-choice movement and understand the relationship between sexual and domestic violence, all kinds of issues for women which was when I went back to school and became a therapist. But that's how women's roles evolved and we then went to building organizations working on including and involving men. The first conference I organized as one of the founders of the Multicultural Alliance for Reproductive Freedom included men conducting workshops for men of color for what their role was in the reproductive rights movement.
I have been involved with groups recently which seem to be looking at a world picture and alliances across race, color, class, sexual orientation, abilities, age, sex, education and on and on. I see us revisiting the saying of Bayard Rustin, "We are All One."
Interviewed and transcribed by: Jessie McElhatton & Katey Wendt
Copyright © D.C. Everest Area Schools, 2013