I went down to Mississippi, first to Clarke County for the summer of 1965 then to Meridian, then into Philadelphia, Mississippi until the end of June, 1966. I worked with MFDP and CORE helping out with voter registration.
When I was in Meridian in November, 1966, I was arrested and put into Meridian jail. While there, they put in another prisoner in my cell who was drunk and violent. When she found out that I was in the civil rights movement, she attacked me with a glass soda bottle and beat me over the back and shoulders several times. The authorities did nothing to stop her until finally they did, after I was bloodied and they had to take me to the hospital, then back to jail. I got out the next day.
While in Philadelphia, I met up with one of the bravest people there, Rev. Clint Collier. We were arrested together in Philadelphia and spent some time in Neshoba County Jail. At one point, I thought that Rev. Collier and I were going to be Civil Rights Workers #4 and #5 to be murdered there. I remember sitting there in the cell and telling myself that when I die, I have to die bravely and not show fear so that I wouldn't bring harm to our movement. This is when I really knew that God was present.
While in Meridian and Philadephia, I heard so much about Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and Jim Chaney. I almost felt as if I knew them, even though they had already been murdered before I actually arrived there. They were wonderful and brave people.
I got involved in the Jamese Meredith march, especially when Dr. Martin Luther King decided to have a separate march in Philadelphia because it was the anniversary of the murder of the three civil rights workers. There was a gun battle that night when the Ku Klux Klan sent some night riders into our section of town where the MFDP office was located. The local people bravely helped to defend the MFDP office and drove the KKK away.
I was very young, very militant, and very inexperienced. Some considered me "hot-headed" and they were probably correct. I hope that I did a little bit of good there, but the brave people who were there certainly helped me in my life. For that, I'll always be grateful.
Since traveling south to Mississippi, I returned to Chicago, my home at the time. There I helped out Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his attempts to fight segregation and racism in Chicago. Dr. King said that Chicago was worse than Mississippi, and he was right.
I later joined in the feminist and gay rights movements and also the libertarian movement. Today, I also participate in the religious organization Soul Force, which has some other southern civil rights veterans involved. Because of my age and an injury to my back, I mostly play a supportive and financial donation role within Soul Force. The goal of Soul Force is to end spiritual violence against gay people as perpetrated by some of the anti-gay bigotry in too many religious institutions.
In October, 2008, I took a trip to Japan. This is my second trip, but it was the first trip where I was able to establish connections with activists from the movements against discrimination in Japan. We have continuing plans to maintain our connections and provide news to each others' movements about fighting discrimination both in Japan and the U.S.
I am continuing my activism in civil rights, feminist, and gay movements in the U.S. But I've also become active in helping two different Japanese civil rights organizations: the Buraku Liberation Center (affiliated with the United Church of Christ in Japan), which combats discrimination against the Burakumin, descendents of former outcastes in Japan. I also have taken measures to join an international organization: International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR). This group was formed by Burakumin activists from Buraku Liberation League, and it is currently a Non- Government Organization (NGO) of the United Nations.
IMADR (Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism)
Buraku Liberation League
The Sayama Case Here is a current judicial situation: Kazuo Ishikawa was falsely convicted of a murder that it's quite obvious that he did not commit. He spent 32 years in prison and finally was released. He has traveled to Geneva, Switzerland in October, 2008 to testify at a U.N. session about this situation and the human rights situation in Japan and around the world. There is an online petition that I've already signed and some of you might consider signing. We are asking for a retrial to consider current evidence of Kazuo Ishikawa's innocence.
We shall overcome.