A Lifetime of Welfare Rights Organizing
I HAVE BEEN IN THE MOVEMENT ALL OF MY LIFE, ATTENDING community meetings and rallies with my parents and grandparents as a youngster. I really became involved during the Civil Rights movement through my church while I was a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Even though my family was involved in the movement, they told me that I had been sent to school to get an education and I should not get involved. As soon as I got there, I got involved!
After receiving intensive training, I began working for the Congress of Racial Equality(CORE) as a full-time organizer on their voter registration campaign in the South. Many of the organizers were white students from the North -- middle-class, ivy-leaguers -- who brought many skills as well as political and economic analyses with them. We were trained to be eternally alert and to know the lay of the land, every little pathway and dirt road through the woods for miles around, so that we could get away in a chase. I really learned how to drive in some of those hollows and bottoms many nights, escaping from the Klan, the sheriff, or both.
The African Americans in the South were organizing against the tyranny and oppression they experienced every day. We wanted the right to vote and participate as full-fledged citizens. We were tired of the indignity foisted on us by laws that upheld segregation in restaurants, public transportation, hotels, hospitals, schools, and even cemeteries. I still remember going on long trips and packing all of our food, water, medicines, and other necessities so we could drive straight through because we were not able to go to restaurants or hotels (I still pack toilet paper whenever I travel).