Terrifying result, Traumatic time,
Memories From Shaw, Especially of the Hawkins Family, 2012
When I was in high school, on hearing about the lynchings in the South, I joined CORE in New York City. Much of the activity focused on protests against Woolworth's refusal to seat blacks at the counters in their southern stores.
In 1963, I started college at the University of Chicago and became the head of the local chapter of Friends of SNCC. We supported the struggle in the South and in Chicago. I organized a part of the Freedom Schools during a city wide school boycott to protest the policies of Superintendent Ben Willis who went out of his way to create and preserve segregated and inferior school in the African American community. We supported rent strikes and tenant organizing and other kinds of community organization for civil rights. I was the liaison to the CCCO (Coordinating Council of Community Organizations--the Chicago Civil Rights Coalition).
In 1964, I went to Mississippi as part of the Summer Project, staying primarily in Shaw and Cleveland, doing freedom school, voter registration and MFDP freedom registration (when "official" registration was closed off to us). After the summer I returned to Chicago and continued with the struggle, also doing national traveling, speaking and fundraising.
I've tried to continue the movement spirit and work since then. In 1973, with funds I won from a labor back pay suit, I became founding director of Midwest Academy, a training center for organizers that has helped to build the field operations and/or strategic plans for such organizations as Sierra Club, NARAL, United States Student Organization, Children's Defense Fund and many other groups.
In 2000, I was hired as the founding director of NAACP National Voter Fund, which ran a historic voter empowerment effort and helped to increase African American turnout by nearly 4.5 million votes over 1996 levels.
I've been involved with many political campaigns including with Mayor Washington in Chicago, Field Director for Sen. Carol Moseley Braun's successful Senate race and was the Training (and then Field) Director for the Democratic National Committee. Currently, I consult with organizations building grassroots democracy.