"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Last Word

On the last day of our Summer Program (August 14), at the end of the day, we asked everyone to think of a word that summarized their experience/understanding/feeling that day, or from all of the days/time they had spend at SFFS this summer. Below are some examples of what was drawn. More to come.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lessons learned...a great gift from the SFFS

Oh, SFFS you have been so good to me! I feel like my feet are more firmly planted on the ground as I have gotten to know my folks a little better…to know a little more about those whose shoulders I am standing on. It has been amazing to journey through stories, films, books, and discussions about a few precious decades that have come to shape my life for the better. In school, I heard time and time again the stories of Gandhi, MLK Jr., and Rosa Parks. Though the stories of those warriors are paramount to the legacy of freedom fighting, so are the stories are Fannie Lou Hamer, Herbert Lee, Ella Baker, the cooks who helped to provide a source of sustenance to SNCC staff, the hosts of families that opened their doors to give shelter, the woman/man that walked up to that counter to register to vote. So through this experience of relearning my people’s history, I have come to realize that I am standing on the shoulders of thousands; some who gave their lives, others who were a bridge for many to walk over, and many more who are still alive today to remind us not to take the little things for granted.

It was great to have the last Freedom School session filled with so many amazing people. It was perfect to close out with so much great energy. I really loved that there was such a blend of young folks, elders, and all those in between. A couple of things that I feel more grounded in is 1.) the importance of reaching out to all types of folks, everyone has a gift and could make a contribution, and it shouldn’t matter the type of educational background they have, how much organizing experience they have…we need all the help and love that we can get to make change. 2.) Commitment, I plan to stay in this for as long as I am alive, and I trust that there will be a community of energetic and passionate folks that will pick up the torch. 3.) There may be times when I don’t feel or see that the work I’m doing is making a change, but to know and trust that it is having an impact. 4.) I was also reminded of how important it is to just have fun.

These lessons and so many others will be a source of light for me as I journey to effect change wherever I am. I just want to give a humble thank you to everyone who took time out from their Saturday to participate…this has helped to shape me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Much love everyone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scarred Justice (Aug. 7)

Here are some reflections from the Chalk Talk following the screening of excerpts following the Orangeburg Massacre:

*Reflections on Greensburg, SC--I'm surprised this episode in the Civil Rights Movement isn't as well known or publicized by mass communications and media. I like the emphasis on what black power is; that it is about organizing and not about violence. It is about Democracy... and people still live in fear.

*I found the violent outbreaks to be very shocking. How police can open fire on civilians is hard to watch; cops hurt the very people they are sworn to serve. This era seemed like a time of chaos; Governor McNair did not seem to know how to react to the restless passion of political activists.

1.) "Too many" officers for such "a small group" of KIDS---sad
2.) Black kids "Did not" matter...had it happened to "White kids" at Kent State
3.) It surprised me that the "Black Panther" movement "Did not" do more of an outcry and considering Cleveland Sellers and Stokeley were friends.
4.) What was Dr. King's response to this??? and the SCLC
5.)How many students were there that night?

*How the plot has not changed
*Non-violent protest cops arrive in full force and armed beat and shoot pushing the crowd to react by attack students
*the media rewrites whole story blaming protesters--armed shot cops (no mention of the tanks)
*Change selected students perhaps discouraging one
*The recent Oscar Grant protests are another case of this. How could anyone believe the media version.
*In 1991 (I think) Bush I bombed Iraq the SFPD blamed all the antiwar protests in the Bay Area. They actually pressed charges until finally someone laughed at them enough that they dropped the charges. The ability to demonize someone beyond logic by the state/enforced by the cops is endless and repeating.

*So many thoughts...
*Injustice that situation of segregation existed
*That situation escalated to point of students being gunned down by police and that this could and does happen in U.S.
*Where was nonviolent training for both police and students throughout
*The injustice and manipulation of charges against Cleveland Sellers
*The parallels to what was going on about this time with the American Indian Movement and the incarceration of Leonard Pelter who is in prison to this day for unproven charges against him

*Federal troops called to bring "peace to the city"
*Controlling access to the media
*Failure of the justice system
*Has there been a resolution of this case?

Freedom Rides

Here are some of the posts from our Chalk Talk following the showing of the Eyes on the Prize coverage of the Freedom Rides:

* It struck me how incredibly brave the Freedom Riders were
* How disciplined were the sit-in participants to stay with non-violence
* The highs and lows of being in prison for something people believed in
* The determination of MFDP--they did not compromise, "We didn't come all this way for two seats when we're all tired."

*The expansiveness of the freedom summer---how it encompassed so much from the trainings, to voting, the youth schooling, the MFDP

*What it may have done for racial injustice--solidarity work (youth organizing, organizing tactics, strategizing)

* It is "first amazing" to me "the enduring perseverance, with "the commitment" of "steadfast belief," in its reform to the Constitutin and the Bill of Rights "That" All Men are Created Equal under the law

*Important to realize that even with legislation and Supreme Court ruling, the legal system did and still does function in a way that allows for disregard of laws on the local level.

*Interesting demonstration of the "mob" mentality. During the exercise in which they practiced facing mobs, it was illustrated how it carried away and violent mobs can get.

*The necessity of direct action accompanied by broader community engagement and organizing.

*The need to realize there is a problem, organize around it, and energize the movement.

Just the variety of rationalization for blatant injustice/illegal discrimination

The use of "states rights' to justify injustice

Bobby Kennedy's compromise

The radicalization of Parchman--prison stay, in this case facing on incubation for justice action

*How do you make a film like this relevant to contemporary times---appealing to youth, new immigrants

*Wake them up, not enough people to tell them to wake up

*More than anything, I suppose this film reinforced existing convictions of mine.

Two things stuck out:
1.) The fact that state power had to be change instead of simply being ignored, while at the same time, creating Democratic spaces like the Freedom Schools to build community.

2.) The complicity of many Northern Democrats in upholding Jim Crow, preferring to simply go along to get along; thereby reinforcing MLK's conviction that moderates were greater enemies to the cause of freedom than the KKK as the former preferred a negative peace (absence of tension) to a positive peace (presence of justice).

Need to research have clear-er timeline of Supreme Court decisions and then the actual date of enforcement of laws

How to use history, ideas, work, strategies of these students to encourage kids today to participate in social and environmental justice

*The level of violence then--firebombed buses with people inside, churches etc.
*Compare to the property damage in Oakland at Oscar Grant marches: Burning dumpsters is called violence

*Also accusations of "outside agitators" in both cases--"communists" or "anarchists"

*Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on the student strike in Farmville, VA

On July 24th, we saw excerpts from With All Deliberate Speed. The movie describes the history of two of the five cases that were bundled together to form the 1954 BROWN decision, overturning the constitutionality of segregation of public schools. The movie also went into contemporary classrooms in Farmville, VA and Clarendon County (Briggs case) to see what effects these cases have had.

The excerpts watched Saturday morning at SFFS focused on the Farmville case. This case originated with a student strike organized by 16 year old Barbara Johns in 1951. Barbara and her classmates wanted a new school. The NAACP was persuaded by Johns to consider adopting their case as part of the five cases they were looking for to overturn Plessy v Ferguson.

Here are some reflections by SFFS participants after watching the film:

Barbara was really not very well known at school, she had a hidden fire--when the need for justice became unbearable, that fire had already been kindled in her heart and mind. She was ready to act.

Fear: touching the Bible
Ignorance: Imposed v. conditioned
Outcome: Better than desired goal
Perpetuating bad behavior: It only takes a few bad people to make things bad and only a few good people to make things right.

I didn't realize how unequal the schools were for black students. It was also striking how blatant the superintendent of schools was about not caring about the unequal facilities. It was amazing he told the black students he did not care if they received an education!

Is everybody prejudiced? Are there degrees of prejudice...depending on their access to power?
Barbara Johns put in strategic effort for her vision of having better schools.

The thoughtfulness of the students at Moton to do the strike as peers without the help of teachers and faculty shows insight into the resistance of their opponents. The youth inspire me to see how underutilized our youth are today.

In a social movement, there seems to be a tension between a desire for practical gains and a desire for idealistic gains among two groups of people:
1. practical gains = a better school environment with quality water, food, no cracked paint
2. Idealistic gain = integration of racial groups.
---Tension = does it hinder effective mobilization among groups; does it even exist; how do you resolve such a tension?
I see this tension playing out in communities today. Let's integrate the neighborhoods by mobilizing poor people (Ideal). However, poor people don't prioritize integration as much as they care about better living conditions.

It was mostly the girls.
They seem to have a strong sense of entitlement, to deserving a good education in a well equipped school. The parents apparently had agreed to risk being jailed for the kid's acts though that wasn't explicitly shown.