I came to the Movement newly radicalized after spending two years in West Africa including a year in Ghana where a number of expatriates from the US helped me understand the true nature of the society in which I grew up.
I came to Mississippi in the mddle of the summer in 1964. I was assigned to various tasks, one of which was to fill in at various offices in the state where the staff was low because so many people had gone to Atlantic City. I travelled to various cities such as Greenwood, Harmony, Laurel.
This was my first introduction to the Movement and I did a lot of observing and, hopefully, learning. One thing I observed was a sharp change in one set of attitudes after folks returned from the convention. Before that, most people accepted non-violence as a tactic as opposed to a belief (although it was a belief for some) and the idea of chaning the system to eliminate the evilsof racism and economic oppression. After the Atlantic City experience, it seemed to me that very few people spoke of non-violence or changing the system as opposed to replacing it.
In the fall, I took up a faculty position at Tulane University but continued travelling to Laurel weekly for 3 days. After several months of this my focus turned to community organizing in New Orleans in the Second Ward and at Tulane University.
After the summer, I went to live in New Orleans and early in the fall, (then called) Stokely and some others visited. There was a press conference, and Stokely, disgusted with the reporters, began to make fun of them and dance around chanting meaningless phrases like the stereotype of an African as portrayedby Hollywood. Then he switched his demeanor and began to chant Black Power, BLack Power. I think this was shortly after the term first came to the consciouness of americans.
A memorable experience was the several weeks in 1969 when (then named) H. Rap Brown lived at our house during his New Orleans trial. I escorted him to a speaken engagement at Tulane and I think it was that very public act which convinced the Tulane administration to fire me from my tenured associate professorship which they achieved some months later.
Another thing that happened during the year after Freedom Summer was that Ben Smith tried to put a group together in New Orleans to build what he caled a Louisian Freedom Deomocratic PArty. I attended an organization meeting and what I heard seemd to me to be a top-down opportunistic action that had nothing to do with the principles established and implemented by the MFDP. Apparently Dave Dennis felt the same way and I was happy to follow his lead in opposing the idea. Nothing ever came of it.
Since then, I have worked in many struggles including opposition to the Vietnam War, working with political prisoners in US jails (Martin Sostre in particular), opposition to nuclear plants and high-voltage power lines and support of the struggle for Sovereignty by the Mohawk Nation on whose land I live.