Mississippi Revisited, 1994
I feel incredibly lucky that by an accident of history I was born at the right time to be able to participate in the civil rights movement. It was a tremendous privilege — I learned that people can join together in solidarity to change oppressive social systems. In Moss Point, Mississippi, I learned about courage and faith from people who had not had the advantages I had had, and who risked a lot more than I did by participating in the movement. I remember the young black couple I stayed with — they didn't know how to read, but they knew how to be generous and courageous — they took four SNCC volunteers into their small home that summer. One time when they went away overnight, the husband showed me where he kept his rifle under the mattress in case I needed it while they were gone. That sent a chill down my spine.
It was hot. I was scared. I wasn't much help in terms of persuading people to register to vote, or in teaching in the freedom school — I was well-meaning, but young and ignorant. The way in which I was able to help was in speaking and writing about what I had witnessed when I went home to Massachusetts. I encouraged my parents and other relatives and friends to support the movement.
I was active in the women's movement in the 70s and the anti-nuclear movement in the 80s, and that was partly due to my experience in the civil rights movement. I became a Buddhist, and was the editor, for many years of Turning Wheel, the magazine of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. I think my wish to join my spiritual practice with social justice work was also connected to the deep spiritual faith I saw in Mississippi.
I feel a special connection to the other people I knew in Mississippi, and a huge amount of gratitude to the SNCC people from Mississippi.