Claire O'Connor

CORE 1961, COFO 1964-65
Current Residence: Minneapolis, MN

I was a Freedom Rider, jailed 28 days (Hinds County and Parchmen State Penitentiary), I worked on voter registration and a variety of educational and community organizing projects first with COFO in summer 1964 and later with SNCC until may 1965. During that time I was one of a small group of young people in Batesville MS who were arrested for trying to integrate a lunch counter. We were initially arrested for disturbing the peace and singing without a license. The latter charge was dropped as soon as they realized that our singing wasn't that bad. Well actually it wasn't a crime so charges were dropped. We didn't integrate the lunch counter but we did integrate the jail cells. We served about 20 days I think.

I could never recount everything it meant and still means to me. Those experiences both humbled me and made me proud. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most determined and brave people I have ever met — the residents and members of the Movement in Panola County Mississippi.

I left Mississippi to return to my home state determined to continue the movement by working with poor families and teens in inner city Minneapolis and St. Paul. As community organizer I was part of founding a community based alternative school — the first in Minnesota. I later worked with street kids, teen prostitutes and battered women in a Canadian city where I emigrated with my (then) husband.

When I returned home (after 25 + years) I worked with others to help teens get the pregnancy and STD protection they needed, helped others provide legal services for low income families and individuals and as part of a community development/organizing non profit worked to engage and mobilize residents to ensure a healthy and safe community. I like to think of myself as "retired" but am really working towards establishing myself as a professional potter and picking up seasonal and casual work that is not too demeaning (or demanding) and brings in a little money.

I am proud to say — in summing up my life which is clearly not over — that what is bringing me the most joy is that I have always had the luxury to work at things I really believe in — to always take my values to work (as someone famous once said). That and my two grandchildren make me the proudest.

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