tv Civil Rights and Social Justice CSPAN November 2, 2014 3:00pm-4:01pm EST
the handshakes are what washington has been doing lately. baby behind the curtain and not well reported the media, which is shaking hands and some of the key principles -- opening up the data, issuing challenges, and so forth. that the opportunity to have a more open government starts with a bipartisan foundation. the key is you are handing off to the american people, entrepreneurs, the public, private, local parts of government, to take that data and build products and services. >> monday night at 8:00 eastern on "the communicators." video 2015 student cam competition is underway. it's an opportunity to create a documentary on the theme "the three branches and you."
there are 200 cash prizes for students and teachers totaling $100,000. for a list of rules, go to studentcam.org. >> next on american history tv, maria varela, a former member of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, shares her experiences from the civil rights movement of the 1960's. this was the keynote address hosted by the american folklife center at the library of congress. it is about an hour. >> i want to express our collective gratitude to the men and women who engaged in the struggle as members of sncc or naacp half a century ago and continue to keep the fires burning in the present day. we had the privilege of interviewing several of those remarkable individuals who joined the initiative known as
the civil rights history project. we are indebted to them in ways that have not been fully acknowledged or articulated. i know some panelists are here. we have one or two other members also part of the freedom struggle. joan mulholland. the recordings are now available online. at halftime -- [laughter] at lunchtime. the sports metaphors, oozing out of every pore. at lunchtime, as we say in the library, you can check out some of the interviews. they are all live and available to you.
if you have not done so, please avail yourself of that. it is great to have one of our lead interviewers to be the moderator for the final session. he will end the proceedings as he began them in february with glenn piercey. it is the organizing principle of having these people articulate what they went through in this symposium, so without further ado, let me introduce you to betsy peterson, director of the american folklife center. [applause] >> as he mentioned, the name of the program we are doing is called "many paths to freedom." over the past few months, we have been able to introduce people who have walked their own particular paths through the civil rights movement proper in the 1960's and beyond. it has been a pleasure to hear
these stories and remind ourselves that this is an ongoing, long-term struggle. as he mentioned, this is part of this is part of the civil rights history project. i know he has given a bit of background about that we have done a lot of programs over the last year at the library of congress coalescence around a couple of large programs. one is the civil rights history project. the others have been exhibits that have been up or about over the last year looking at the march on washington and most recently the civil rights act of 1964. i want to offer this invitation from the library of congress and interpretive program office to go over to the jefferson building if you have time, at halftime, lunch, or afterwards. please go over and look at the civil rights act exhibit. i think you will enjoy it. we enjoy it for many reasons.
afc material, many of the oral history interviews are featured throughout the exhibit. before i move on to introducing our keynote speaker, i have many people to thank. putting on these programs, making these things happen takes many people. i do want to start out by thanking the cosponsors of our symposium today in the library's hispanic division, the hispanic cultural society, and chapter of blacks in government. our partner in the larger civil rights budget has been the smithsonian's national museum of african american it history and culture. we thank them very much. our cosponsors for the rest of the series throughout these last
few months have been the veterans history project, the national audiovisual conservation center, and the princeton photographs division. i would also like to thank many of our staff who have been the guardians and heavy lifters of the civil rights history project. i also want to thank several other staff members and the rest of our events team. thank you for making all of this work smoothly. finally, those unsung heroes, the sound folks sitting in the back, mike and jake from the music division. they have worked on the sound and a.v. technology throughout the series and have been real champions. afc is very thankful. now, on to the more important and main event of this symposium today. i want to introduce maria varela.
she worked for the committee from 1963 to 1967 supporting organizers with educational materials and the like. she edited and authored things ranging from manuals to organizing farmworker unions. she will share with us today her work in the freedom struggle and poor people's campaign in 1968. while working for sncc, she also was on assignment for black star photo agency. she was invited to new mexico in 1968 to help start the agricultural cooperative and a community health clinic. she went on to support local farmers and weavers to preserve their land, water, and culture by creating culturally sustainable economic ventures.
in 1990, she was awarded a macarthur fellowship for this work. from 1982 to the present, she has continued her organizing work and has served as an adjunct professor in colleges such as the university of new mexico and the colorado college. some of her photography appeared in numerous civil right movement books and photo exhibits. two exhibits featuring her images and those of other activists in the struggle have traveled extensively throughout the u.s. she is also the co-author of "rural environmental planning for sustainable communities" and a contributor to "across the great divide."
them all thanks on this. actually, that sounded like the blogger fee of a dilettante in inbiography of a dilettante some ways. we are not going to go into all those corners unless you have a question afterwards. if i don't go off into the ether, we will have time for questions. whether i said anything about it or not, just ask and we can spend a little time with it. i wanted to set the tone for going back in a way. i want to explore part of what happened within the student nonviolent coordinating committee that leaves us lessons about interracial and intercultural coalitions or efforts, some of which i think has not been adequately examined or reflected upon. let's go back. i'm going to read to you a little bit from an essay.
both joan and i are in a book called "hands on the freedom plow." it took 50 years for the women to finally have our publication about the work we did. using parts of it in the classroom is powerful, especially for many of the women i teach because it opens their eyes to a whole different sense of the movement and what it did. i am so shortwaisted. "i looked down at the speedometer. it hovered at 115. my 1957 packard conquered down and propelled the three of us down in mississippi interstate 55. glancing to the side, i saw a two-tone chevy with the white occupants trying to pass us. again, the barrel of a long gun poked up between the men in the front seat.
it seemed like an eternity since we left memphis and got on the interstate. earlier that day, my companions, an older black woman and her daughter, and i, had left a sncc gathering in tennessee. we were on our way to the mississippi delta. traveling in an integrated car in daylight had left us tense. when we stopped for gas in memphis that evening, i thought the cover of darkness meant the worst of the journey was over. then i turned from the gas pump and saw the white male occupants of the chevy staring at us. it was the fall of 1964, open season on civil rights workers. the packard moved effortlessly up to 120 miles an hour.
it ran as if it was made for this speed. not a shake or a shimmy. my companions were deathly quiet. i closed my mind to thoughts of danger, gunfire, a collision, a flat tire, a blown ride. or what would happen if the chevy managed to pull in front or stop us. it was a moonless night and my eyes were glued to the black strip before us. one thing i knew for sure. i would sooner risk pushing the cart to the end of the speedometer than to stop on this desolate stretch of road in the far northern reaches of western mississippi. up ahead, we saw a semi truck. the lack of traffic since memphis had made this pursuit lethal. if i could stay with the semi, perhaps the pursuers would not make their move. we were now at 125 shooting down the road trying to catch up with the tractor-trailer. as a pulled alongside the truck,
the chevy was on our tail. it was a delicate maneuver slowing the packard enough to slip me in front of the semi, it going fast enough to shake off the chevy. in front, the trick was to stay close to the semi so the chevy could not come in between as per the trucker slowed down and so did we. then the trucker tried to pass us. i sped up staying as close to his front bumper as i dared. chevy tried unsuccessfully to move ahead of us both and then finally moved behind the semi. we hovered close to our guardian for more miles. the panic in my throat was held at bay by my companions' silent composure. i sat back up to 125. i made the exit with neither truck nor chevy in sight and floated down the ramp into welcome darkness. the semi and chevy roared over us into the night. there was not a word spoken as we continued on our way down to the delta. then the terror gradually subsided.
finally, in small murmurs with a few tenuous chuckles, we dared to believe it was over and we were alive. i thought the packard company must have been god's chariot maker." and there she is. [laughter] [applause] how did i end up on this highway? it is kind of a life of responding to invitations. yet there are shoulders we all stand on. for me, i think the most formative was the shoulders of those young people after world war i and world war ii who would basically work under pope leo the 13th's call to reconstruct society at all levels. this organization was created in france, belgium, gradually filtered to the united states.
its english name was the young christian workers or young christian students. it was founded to train people to see, reflect, and act. there was very much an ella baker approach to organizing. the intent of the method was to move catholics out of the rigid insularity or ghetto to bring about a more just society in partnership with others. radical concept in the early part of the 20th century. this method required that we look at the reality of our
community learning how people felt, saw, believed, and acted. now that i reflect on this process, it trained as for the fundamentals of community urbanization and research. it is the reverse of the traditional research with the hypothesis to test for this starts with local knowledge. through reflection and action, the structural roots of community dysfunction are revealed. i joined ycs in high school and went on to find it in college and then was recruited to the national staff in 1961 to eventually organize on campuses and support ycs groups across campus. in the process of working with the organization, i met latin american and african activists who are also part of the movement, and many of whom were in really dangerous situations. the students in brazil i came to know, many of them disappeared and i never heard from them again. the whole movement was successful in smashing young christian students in brazil and other places. i had that connection during formative years in my life.
as a part of ycs, we were trying to get out of the so-called catholic ghetto and would often show up at national student association meetings. that is where i met students for a democratic society people and the sncc folks. the sncc folks were headed shoulders above anybody in terms of student leadership at the time. i was truly in awe of them. i learned more in depth about what the organization was doing. a few months later as i was working for ycs, i get this letter from casey saying, wouldn't you like to come down and work with me in the sncc atlanta office? i am reading this and saying, no, i don't want to do this. [laughter]
are you crazy? because i had listened carefully to these stories chuck, and tim, and everybody told about the meetings, the chasing down the highways, the firebombings. what sane person would do this? i held that letter in my suitcase for about three months. this was the days when snail mail was truly snail mail. nobody expected you to answer right away usually. finally, good old catholic guilt took hold and i thought, what a hypocrite. you going around on campuses and asking catholic students to support sncc, right congress, and do all this stuff. and you are not going to go when they ask you? i found myself on a bus going south. and was diverted by a request from tom curry and paul potter who were putting together a summer program for young kids in rural areas.
that was when you would have television in one house in a six-block area. the kids would go and watch it and see the sit-ins and all of the action going on. these kids would up and do their own action. some were really hurt. they were beaten, put in jail. the youngest at this gathering was 13, gilbert from selma. i will never forget him. nick said we have to pull these kids in and give them in-depth training in nonviolent strategy, black history, and all the things you can think that would help someone organizing in isolated way in these small towns in rural areas. this was quite an experience for me. when you grow up and move, by the time i was in fourth grade, we moved five times. observing is a big tool in your toolbox because you're always on
the outside. i would be picking up people's way of saying things, their accents, just to gauge the territory. i was doing the same thing. i was listening to these young people ages 13 to maybe 22 or 23. and they are from alabama, georgia, mississippi. i could hear different accents. i could hear different ways people articulated what was going on. it struck me the afro-american culture across the black belt was not monolithic. there were distinct ways people express themselves and negotiated their territory, which was really helpful. as a part of this, frank smith who worked for sncc, came in to talk to the students about what was going to go one in selma. we had lunch. he asked how did you get here. i told him i was going to work in the atlanta office with casey.
he asked where i came from. i told him about working with students. all of a sudden, he got this intense look on his face and i wondered if i said something wrong. the next day he invites me, and bernard lafayette had just showed up. he said we have been talking and think you should go to selma. i was like, no, i am not going to go to summer. he said there is a catholic priest there. this man in selma is often overlooked in the selma movement. he was french canadian descent. he himself had experienced discrimination because of being of that descent. very much on that side of the movement. he opened his church to meetings with other ministers, many of whom had to work in the white economy, could not risk it. father maurice did that. he said we need you to support this man.
we are baptist. he's catholic. we don't understand. we need you there for that. and, they said, he has been asking us for a couple of years would we do some literacy work around voter education so we can get people up to speed to at least go down and try to register. and we don't have time to do that. kind of like trying to do a book club in a fox hole. you know. i thought i would try it out. i went and met the father. i was totally struck by his way of being. he was a humble man but had a charisma that was really quiet. so i ended up in selma. before i got there, i did a lot of research on literacy materials taking i could snatch up a few books and take them down, and we will start working.
literacy materials at this time were children's books that were morphed into adult texts. they all had pictures of white middle-class families baking pies, dad coming home from work, all this kind of stuff. i am thinking this is not going to work. with the help of some people i met in new york when i was doing this research, we put together a project where we would recruit afro-american students to come to selma for the summer of 1964 and we would begin working with local people in terms of how they expressed what was going on with voter registration, and their desire to vote, and what that could do for selma. out of those words, create reading texts that may help in growing literacy. i knew nothing about what was going on with bob moses and al loewenstein planning this huge summer project because i am stuck in selma with instructions
not to go down to the atlanta office, to stay close so i would look like a missionary from the parish. so i developed this proposal and took it to doris robinson in the sncc office and said i am thinking i would like to do this. is this ok? she was very enthusiastic and highly supportive, which surprised me. but i did not know within sncc there was a simmering discontent with this idea of bringing 1000 white students into mississippi, which is why perhaps this project got supported so quickly by sncc. recruited and trained students. attended a staff meeting just before the summer of 64 and found there was tremendous turmoil over the idea of this summer project in mississippi, especially with a lot of local afro-american staff who were very resistant to it. what it took me in terms of the logistics of four students to go to selma and the training necessary so people would not get arrested, which they did
it was pretty sticky. charlie cobb and i were on a panel in chicago commemorating freedom summer in february or march. we both articulated how we were against the summer project. charlie said miss hamer came up to him and said, "charlie, there is no place in this movement for segregation in terms of white folks coming down. that just does not belong. we need you." he said, "that is our job." our job is to support local staff and be there with what they needed and wanted, so people kind of swallowed their issues and the project moved forward. a lot of what we were concerned about did happen. white students took over functions and sometimes created
issues due to lack of sensitivity and experience with african-american people. however, others form deep and lasting relationships with their home families. some of these friendships last to today. i saw examples of that in jackson in june when former volunteers came down and they were there with members of their host family because they had maintained those ties. it was kind of like a complicated way, but there was no doubt the cultural economy of sncc as a black run organization working to nurture black local leaders was disrupted, partly because of huge workload, constant danger, jailing, and we could not negotiate these issues right there on the dime because it was trying to do sensitivity training in a fox hole. you just don't have time for that, so things simmer. but the work brings you together. you have each other's back because you have to. if so-and-so who ticked you off yesterday in separate jail, you have to get them out. the same thing with you. the summer was a different issue. 85 mostly white volunteers wanted to stay. there was no money for this.
sncc program was in disarray. the program to utilize black workers in black community's was never voted on and 64. without new funding, it was dead on arrival. even though we got $9.64 a week and a tank full of gas, even that money was starting to slow down. that meant a lot of low-income local organizers had to leave the organization because they could not afford to be there without funds.
unresolved grievances were cropping up all over the place. this cultural shift is evidenced in a way with matt suarez, i think you made the statement to charles payne. he said in 1964-1965, leaders in mississippi were two men and three women. hogan calls the sncc approach pre-1965 "womanist" -- not feminist. this is reflective of ella baker's impact on us in terms of how you approach people, recognize because you have an education, you have privilege. you don't exercise that in this state. secondly, your book education is not quite the equal of the education of those at the local level who have life's education, and you need to follow their lead in terms of how you negotiate this community, what this community wants to do, and how you get people to that point.
so we had this whole period in sncc where that was the corporate culture. i like the word womanist because it was a nurturing, take some time to do this, bring people from a-z, and people bring you from b-c. we are changing, too. there is this theology that comes from miss baker about grassroots leadership. then you begin to see people changing. they change you and what you think is leadership. there was a synergy going on that is often not paid attention to in terms of sncc staff. with the crush of new northern middle-class staff between the end of 64 into 65, the leadership shifted to a more masculine style which resulted in confrontation rather than resolution of grievances. in 1963, there were 100 full-time staff. in 64, you add 85 so we are up to about 215. 1965, 200 staff and 200 full-time volunteers managed out
of the small atlanta office with no money. this exacerbated all of the tensions. i think it is important to recognize, and i don't see it mentioned much in the literature, there was mild to severe ptsd going on within sncc. you had some people who had been running nonstop since 61, experiencing the murder of close people, going to jail, getting beaten. and then having to organize this group of kids coming down so they would not get killed and would not get you killed. and then having to organize at the democratic national committee, not to seek the racist delegation.
then all the betrayal from people who were white allies in support of sncc for so long, and basically threw us under the bus when it seems to compromise, which was no compromise. you get to choose these two people to be seated, and they ain't got no vote. that was the compromise. all of this milieu created this petri dish beginning to grow and simmer. which leads us to the point, there are several things that happen. the black power slogan raised at the march in 1956. it was astounding to us how this was misrepresented by the media, by allies who basically thought it meant sncc was racist. if we were low on funds in 64 and 65, money was hardly
trickling in and 66 because of the whole black power thing. i think to me the most cogent statement, if i can find it here, i did my usual going into the ether and forgetting how you organize this, it was a statement by the national council of black churchmen. we had all kinds of fellow civil rights groups denouncing us. it was like an avalanche coming down on top of our heads. the national council black churchmen took out a full-page
ad in "the new york times" in july of 1966. one of the most powerful things in this ad was the following statement. "there is an assumption that white people are justified in getting what they want through the use of power, but that negro americans must make their appeal through conscience. integration in and of itself is not the solution because the issue is not racial balance, but honest, interracial interaction. for this kind of interaction to take place, all people need power whether black or white."
i would add, all people in communities of color need power because to talk about multiracial or interracial coalitions without a sense of power within the different groups is an exercise in, not quite sure how to term it, but clearly these last several years, we have seen attempts at these kinds of coalitions have been very difficult. ok. well, we got halfway through that. so let me talk a little about from the black power period when sncc elects stokely. the press, funding sources, and allies called john lewis -- john lewis was ousted from sncc. there were two chairmen before
john. when they changed, nobody said they were ousted. it was like somehow we set up in the media and in scholarship this kind of, "stokely violent, john lewis nonviolent," and march on from there. there were a number of people in sncc, some of which were informers, in terms of trying to say we need to get rid of the whites in sncc and anybody who is not black. i attended a meeting where that discussion came up. it was an amazing experience because there was a vote taken to expel whites. sncc usually worked by consensus. this was a 2:00 in the morning though. none of the veterans that recruited me into sncc were there. when the vote came up, 19 for, 18 against, and 24 abstentions. there were never abstentions in sncc. it was bogus for me because i had been in sncc long enough to say this is not what we do.
basically, i ignored it. i did stay at the meeting. several whites left the meeting. i was not going to take this seriously or it was not going to affect my work because i was grounded working with local communities. whatever sncc folk voted on in terms of their governments had nothing to do with that work. i did not know it at the time but when i was reflecting working on the speech, i realized there were a few of us in a liminal space in sncc. we were not black. we were not white. we were not even actually seen at all. there was a japanese canadian sncc photographer who told me the story in june. he said he and his family had been in an internment camp in canada.
after world war ii, as he is growing into a young man, he was trying to get as far away from his japanese identity as he could. then he said he remembered when he was college age watching television and seeing the citizens and the bus burnings. he said into something very similar to what bob moses said which was, "i looked at that and the expressions on their face was what i was feeling." so he drifted south and ended up in sncc in the photography department. he said he gradually came to terms with his identity and pride in his identity. what few people know during this period is it was not just afro-americans getting self-determination of their own identities, there were many of us in that position who grew in understanding our identity. the difficulty with this is in this black-white binary in this country, how can i put this, it is like the civil rights
movement as developed and expressed was successful to the extent it was in the afro-american community is held up as the standard for all other struggles in communities of colors of various cultures, which totally misses the point of the points of origin of those struggles. the methods, the process used. very rarely do people know anything about what went on in the puerto rican community and the struggles for their rights, in the mexican-american community, the native american community. wherever there is suppression, there is resistance.
after world war ii, the same veterans came home to mississippi, came home to east l.a., brooklyn, the sioux reservation or the navajo reservation, and wanted things different because they had fought for democracy in the pacific rim or europe and wanted democracy back home. that imbued all of our movements. since i'm getting toward the end, let me just -- i actually wrote a book for this speech. it is not going to work in this timeframe. [laughter] ask me questions please because i missed a lot of stuff. i finally ended up being recruited to new mexico. he had asked me to get a sncc delegation to albuquerque for the 1967 conference.
i can explain land grants are probably not right now because i'm trying to get through this. he wanted black, brown, and native americans to sign a treaty of peace, harmony, and mutual assistance. sncc agreed. we made up the sncc delegation. to spend more time with local people, i took them up to one of the land grants that was the hotbed of resistance in new mexico where one of the families invited us to eat. to sncc folks' surprise, some members of the family were admirers of malcolm x and obtained copies of his teachings and were pestering them with questions about malcolm x. reyes recruited me to new mexico. from there, i went on to do another lifetime of work which would be another speech. let me tell you what i think i have learned through this whole
time of sncc, moving from a circle of trust and integrated community to a sort of black governed community to black power and connections worldwide with other liberation movements, which is very important i thought. when i met last month with generation justice in albuquerque, a multicultural group of young activists, they have latinos, native americans, african american, and middle eastern kids. they utilize investigative journalism to highlight issues. they had gone through painful, unexpected, and negative experiences with a group of white allies. discussing this, i mentioned the experiences sncc had with white allies in atlantic city and to some degree with white students in mississippi and on staff. a couple of students had been to jackson for this past 50th
anniversary of freedom summer. one of them looked at me and said, why did they not discuss in jackson what happened between sncc and its white allies and white students at this anniversary? i was for once speechless. i had no good answer for her. reflecting on this discussion, it came to me. this had been such an important opportunity to help young activists sort through multicultural alliances of what works and what does not work. perhaps the organizers of the anniversary pursued peace and healing and was not going to create space for that discussion. but it was a real loss because these kids grapple with this as do activists across the nation. what we went through the 1960's applies to today. we are those left standing. it is not just race. it is class and gender. it is all of that. it was all of that in sncc.
it was not just race. this is what we need to do. this is our legacy. we need to be there for them. we need to be available to these young activists to have that discussion because we are not getting nowhere in our silos, are we? [applause] i was going to show you my slides. i was also a member of sncc photography. that is another whole story. i apologize. we took a very different approach than commercial photographers. ours was about shooting people at the grassroots level with cameras. while everyone else was focused on harry belafonte and martin luther king, we were doing the back story. we also in sncc did some poetry.
i call it the poetry of desperation because there are sometimes no other ways to express how you feel. this is one of the poems in bleak mississippi after we have been defeated in atlantic city. i talk about that in "mississippi winter." we took pictures but we never show the real winter of human life. "this winter, black was beautiful and poverty is ugly. what happens when they been together? we did not know." so we marched. it rained a lot. this is the winter of the evictions of striking field workers.
old people freezing to death under damp sheets. we came back from atlantic city kral and in powerlessness to start all over again on lowly plantation roads. mississippi in march. at this time, there had been plantation workers evicted because they were involved in voter registration. they organize housed at an abandoned air force base.
the government was asked a month to two beforehand if this would be possible. no responses were received from the air force, justice department, or anybody else. once occupied, the government responded. this struck me. at this point, you had the troops hurting vietnamese refugees into the jungle and the mississippi delta where people were being herded out of the air force base into the street with no place to go. and then we were asked to the delta ministry to shoot images of poverty. that is my favorite one. these kids lived in their faces. all kinds of questions. are you civil rights? are you freedom riders? where did you come from? they were so bright and inquisitive. our freedom schools were the model for head start. a lot of people don't know that. it was so interesting how we could not sustain the amount of kids sent to these freedom schools room wise and even staff wise. these were the kids who had shoes. these are the kids who had clothes that could come to the freedom school.
there were a bunch of them left home. we did a lot of work in 65 and 66 around culture and black history. that was pretty effective with kids from this age up through high school, which is kind of when i discovered how you cannot do this work, especially interracial and multicultural work without work on history. this is the meredith march. this whole generation of kids were not afraid. they grew up, from the time they were four and five, watching
older people both local leaders and sncc people doing what they did. going to jail, coming back, being in car chases and making it through alive. these kids were different coming up in this generation. this is one of the first times, this is the vietnam war, this is '66 in the civil rights movement when there was a convergence. the whole black power slogan brought out a different kind of person to the marches. the were a number of folks who felt i am not nonviolent, so i'm not going on this march. they would stand on the sidelines. some of them carried guns in case there was anybody who came after the marchers. you need to be charlie cobb's book about this shift.
we will get you -- i am sorry. this nonviolent stuff will get you killed. i think this is the first black panther t-shirt that this young man put together on his own. it was a different person that we needed to reach. the sort of irony of it, it did change the womanist culture of sncc in how you approach things. it is a whole complicated discussion. this is the first all african american third-party. this is the primary. that black panther did not scare some of the elders in the community to come out. this is holmes county. the farmers organized and got the first afro-american state senator elected since reconstruction. this is kind of the way it felt in '66. it was like, we will march, but is it going to do any good?
and where are we going from here? i think the expression on her face captures the way we all felt. quickly, i have a few slides from the poor people's campaign which was this attempt nationally to bring together different cultures to deal with the issues of poverty and joblessness. so this is kind of like what -- yes, it is. [laughter] i have to say the best example of interracial coming together, multiracial, was a party. you were at it. it was east l.a. it was black panthers, a parade, everybody was grooving. you want to build multiracial coalitions? you throw parties. [laughter] ernie b. hill and reyes. in the background, corky. we took off and did our own
thing. gordon will go deeper into what happened so i will not attempt to do it. this is iconic for me. this is the guts of multiracial integration. look at their faces. they are not happy because it was a constant, "but wait, you did not ask us." ok, so i don't know how to get out of this. [laughter] thank you. i am sorry i ran out of time. [applause] >> we do have time for a couple of questions so please look behind you. you have young people standing by with microphones. we welcome questions from the audience. >> do you want to put this down? it is distracting.
>> can you share more about the other mexicans or chicanos involved in the early sncc or civil rights movement? i was in high school. >> there was a young woman from l.a. that went down to mississippi as a freedom summer volunteer. i tried to find her and never could. that was pretty much it. by the way, petita and i, there was this historical narrative that everyone was thrown out of sncc that was not black. but petita and i end up on the staff list in 1965. it is a difficult question for historians. >> we have an interview with louis zapata who recalls going down to mississippi and working with miss hamer.
the story is he wrote a hearse. it was one of the things supplied for sncc workers by folks on the west coast. he said it was difficult to entice anyone to get into the hearse with him. his interview is part of the online presentation. >> i want to hear that. thank you. >> thank you so much for coming. i am with teaching for change. can you talk about how your parents felt about you doing all this work? >> 50 years later, i am wondering. how did they let me go? i know they were not crazy about it. but i also think about this. in 1963, there had been a bus
burning and some of that made it to the press. but not in the rural town we lived in a pennsylvania. i don't think it hit the papers. there was not much on television, so i am not sure they understood the danger and i never told them. basically, i think i said i am going to go down and work with this nice priest in his parish. >> [laughter] >> when he did get concerned was when i came back, when i moved to mississippi and was living by myself. i went home and said dad, i'm taking the shotgun. he gave it to me when i was 11. of course, my mother said -- [indiscernible] i said i need it. i travel alone and live alone. he was not crazy about the idea. i think that is when he began to say, hmm. so yeah, i was one of those who carried a gun. >> i think we are going to wrap
up. i do have one question. can you talk about the difference between strategy and tactics when it came to nonviolence for folks in sncc? the gun question is an interesting one. charlie cobb at the folklife symposium spoke to this topic. i wonder what your perspective was coming from the west coast. >> i have lived in rural areas is much as i have lived anywhere. it is just what you do. you carry a gun in case there is a force that broke his leg and you have to put him down or you need dinner and you get a rabbit. the gun is kind of a part of life. those folks that guarded the freedom houses, that stood at the sidelines of marches with guns tucked in, those folks made nonviolence possible because there were white folks -- they knew, the klan know who was a good shot.
that does not mean it stopped the klan from rioting, but in some places like holmes county. the self-defense thing baffles me, why people think that is a problem. carrying a gun is what you have to do in rule areas. it is like what charlie says. it is unviolence. it is not violence. i don't know if i answered that. >> [indiscernible] what about the deacons for self-defense? i met geronimo pratt when he got out of prison. he talked about living in the south and needing guns. >> the deacons kept parts of northern louisiana safe. also what a lot of people may or may not know is when there was the offer by the deacons to
protect on the march against fear in 1966, there was this raging debate with his staff saying no, we are not going to do that and sncc staff saying this is a no-brainer, you need to do this. martin was silent. i think he was silent because he was not really against it, is my guess, so the deacons did protect the march. [laughter] [applause] >> the berlin wall fell 25 years ago on november 9, 1989. we will revisit that historic day next sunday beginning at 8:00 with archival c-span video featuring president george bush from the oval office, reaction from senate leaders, and speeches from president kennedy
in 1953 and president reagan in 1987 that galvanized berliners and the free world. and the free world. that is next sunday at 8:00. c-span has brought you more than 100 30 candidate debates from across the country in races that will determine control of the next congress. tuesday night, watch our live election night coverage. our coverage begins at 8:00 eastern with the results and analysis. you will also see candidate victory and concession speeches. we want to hear from you with your calls, facebook comments, and tweets. week "reel america