Haven’t entered things in a while. CIanya has been very sick and I’ve loved my care for her. But it’s gotten me behind a bit.
I’ve been writing and focused on the post college years in Syracuse. That’s why I’ve called both chapters, Urban Teaching, Urban Education, first teaching, then education. Education what happened to me because of the context of the times. What writing about those years has done for me is to permit me to see them as a whole. It’s definitely interesting. Prior to this, I kind of saw those years in a sequential way. You know, one year I did this and that happened and the next year I went on and did that. It was all about what I was doing. Writing has really required that I look at what I did in a much larger context; the context of the 60s. I was pretty serious during the 60s. I know sex, love, drugs, and rock and roll was going on around me but mostly I worked pretty hard to get through college and then I worked pretty hard in my first job. Sex and love were the same and were focused on marriage (not a good thing in retrospect but hey, that’s where I was then), drugs were purely alcohol, and r&r was well, just that. Motown was big, Ray Charles was the Man, jazz was cool and that was it.
But listing just some of what happened during that decade brought a catch to my throat. I mean I felt all those things going on but I was living through it, not analyzing it from afar. My focus was clearly on my education, my teaching, my young family, and getting my first real job. Had I not been so family oriented or so oriented towards that first relationship, who knows where I might have gone and what I might have done. But, this is where I went and what I did. Responsibility was a heavy thing as was staying safe and putting food on the table. In some ways, I was replicating what my Mom and Dad had done for me as the right thing to do.
The other right thing to do was to be involved righting some of the wrongs in my world. That was pretty clear. I came at it I’m afraid like the Lone Ranger, riding in to rescue and then Hi Ho Silver, Away. Now I see much more clearly had I truly engaged families and people, I’d have had a different, deeper experience. I was engaging kids through the parameters of my job and work.
It was emotionally powerful writing. I couldn’t read it to Ann without totally choking up. Writing the section about Montgomery brought tears to my eyes. What were the tears? A realization of the importance and need of those moments. A sadness that this very great man was shot dead. No one else could have led us to the places he was leading. With King (and Malcolm X) gone, the nation had no conscience. Bobby K. would have replaced them. And he was killed, too. It was crazy times.
Check out this partial list of what I experienced… . Phew.
• John Kennedy beats Richard Nixon at the wire.
• Woolworth lunch counters become known for something other than tuna fish sandwiches.
• Greyhound Buses carrying Freedom Riders are stopped and burned by the Klan.
• The Berlin Wall goes up.
• Kennedy and Khrushchev face off over the placement of ICBM’s 90 miles from Florida. Kennedy wins. I witness my big, strong, jock frat brothers crying during the TV reports as we watched the Russian ships, missiles on their decks, headed for Cuba.
• The Klan bombs homes and churches throughout the south. Four little girls die during Sunday morning church school in Montgomery, Alabama.
• Bull Conner runs roughshod over civil rights as his police sic German shepherd police dogs on men and women, adults and children, protesting their lack of political power.
• John Kennedy is shot down in Dallas, Texas.
• America watches Jack Ruby pump two 38-caliber bullets into Lee Harvey Oswald, John Kennedy’s assassin.
• Thousands assemble in Washington to hear Martin Luther King and others marshal support for congressional action related to voting rights.
• Congress passes the civil rights act of 1965 and the voting rights act of 1966.
• Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King sit down to talk.
• Johnson pushes through the Great Society programs. Head Start is born. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is born. Entitlement programs to end poverty come on line.
• The bodies of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman are dug from an earthen Mississippi dam. Indictments occur only forty years later.
• Cassius Clay changes his name, resists the draft, goes to jail, emerges as Mohammed Ali, and wins the heavyweight championship of the world.
• Pictures of armed militant Black students taking over the administration building at Cornell University flash across newspaper wire services. Higher education is forced to look at its role, not only in terms of minority admissions but also in terms of follow up support for students who believe the kingdom is theirs as well.
• Clarissa Street in Rochester, N.Y. burns in what was the first of many urban riots across the country. Detroit, Watts, Newark, Washington, DC burn. Sol Alinskey works to organize poor urban communities to gain political power in order to stem random violence.
• Malcolm X goes to Saudi Arabia and returns, ready to renounce his brotherhood in the Black Muslims. He meets with King, once.
• Ministers of the Nation of Islam, pump seven shotgun shells into Malcolm X during a speech at the Avalon Ballroom in Harlem. Malcolm dies in the arms of his wife, Betty.
• 350 freedom marchers are tear gassed, beaten, and set upon by horses and police dogs as they cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL. White supporters, church members of all kinds among them, come to Selma from all over the US and join King in the march for civil rights. Five days later 13000 people gather in Montgomery to hear King and others speak from the Capitol steps. The march passes the Dexter avenue Baptist church where the Montgomery bus boycott had begun ten years before. George Wallace remains inside, sealed behind double and triple ranks of Alabama State police. The National Guard, called out by the President Johnson, protects marchers during the five-day walk for freedom from Selma to Montgomery. Viola Louizzo is murdered during this civil action.
• The Voting Rights Act of 1966 is passed by Congress.
• Police beat demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.
• Stokely Carmichael and SNCC, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seal, and the Black Panthers, and James Farmer and CORE all move towards outright militancy and sometimes armed confrontation as the seams of civil authority in urban America begins to unravel.
• King broadens his message to include economic injustice and continues to march, often in defiance of America’s expanding role in Viet Nam.
• James Earl Ray ambushes Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN. King takes one high-powered rifle bullet to the neck and dies almost instantly on a second story balcony of the Starlight Motel in Memphis, TN. He was readying himself for his second march with the Memphis sanitation workers.
• Shirley Chisholm is elected to congress, and becomes the first black woman to run for president of the united states.
• Bobby Kennedy takes up his brother’s idealism and becomes the democratic candidate for President. Sirhan Sirhan assassinates him in June, 1968.
• The Ohio national guard murders students during a student anti-war protest at Kent State University.
• The mathematics building at Wisconsin University is bombed by a cell of the Weatherman.