Tesitmony: I was one of 400+ students who responded to Dr. King's request to go South and help register voters, to pressure Congress to pass a Voting Rights Act, and to help the black community prepare for the eventuality of having the vote and doing something with it. In the town of Macon, Georgia where I worked I think the effort was very succesful. Many different groups of people in the community became active and a black man, a barbershop owner, ran for office and made a runoff election. He didn't win that time but it was a beginning of many changes to come.
I also spent a brief period of time in Americus, Georgia, where three women were arrested for trying to register to vote. They were thrown in jail and not let out even when one of the women's husband became ill and died. The larger SCOPE community, along with SCLC and other established groups, converged on Americus and marched non-violently three times a day for nine straight days and nights. The tension was palpable, especially because there was a statewide Ku Klux Klan meeting going on. I'll never forget the night all the SCOPE people surrounded the Klan meeting in the park to bear witness to the ridiculous bullshit being spread by the Klan that night. The voting rights act passed and things changed. That of course was our goal.
It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I was 19 years old. The experience taught me to see my own world differently, and to act in that world in an activist, non-passive, non-violent way.
Like the founding fathers, we were attempting to make the constitution come alive. Many people have tried to picture our generation as malcontents, full of anger and hatred for the institutions of our society. But we were not. We were the ones who believed those simple yet majestic ideas that we learned in high school civics - the great ideas of democracy, justice and freedom.
One of my regrets is that my own project, SCLCs SCOPE project, seems to have been written out of history. Modern day historians and critics of Martin Luther King have attempted to downplay the role of white people in the movement, though whites bravely fought for civil rights long before we got there.
I believe my generation had its greatest moment during the civil rights era, and that the war in Vietnam kept us from even greater changes, many of which still lie ahead, all these years later.
The following year I went to cover the Meredith march to Jackson, Mississippi, as a reporter for the UCLA Daily Bruin. I was Editor in Chief and my paper definitely took an activist stance. Later, I was in the Resistance Movement and refused to cooperate with the Selective Service. I was motivated to do this by the same principles and beliefs that took me south in '65.
In the following years I became a documentary filmmaker, and then a Director of Photography in the commercial world. I am married to Norma Shapiro, who I've been with since high school, and have two great sons, Eli 23 and Alex 18. I believe that if they had been alive during the days of the civil rights movement they would have volunteered to go South, too. I am currently writing a screenplay on a book by David Harris "Shoulda Been Home Yesterday" about his time in prison for resisting the draft.
I want to thank my friend, fellow SCOPE volunteer, activist and author ("The Children Coming On, A Retrospective of the Montgomery Bus Boycott") for turning me on to this sight. Neil