Looking back at the 1960s – 1970s Black ‘Movement’ from my most-intimate and involved vantage point, I am now comfortable in stating that there were sacrifices – great sacrifices.
My Oregon parents and their neighbors were questioned regarding me. There were threats from America’s law enforcement community to my livelihood, my life, etc. I was offered money, a leadership position, and ‘protection’ to sell-out. My home was entered while I was away. At least one attempt was made on my life. I was relentlessly followed. And, yes, there was more.
It was not uncommon for me to look up from my paid job with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program and see FBI agents coming to take me into custody. At times, I was placed in handcuffs. At other times, I was not handcuffed.
I was often escorted from my job, driven away in a car, and questioned at a different location – usually in a downtown DC building. There were sometimes veiled threats. At other times, I was told outright that I could or would be harmed if I did not cooperate. Needless to say, I NEVER knew anything. Therefore, I was NEVER able to give any information to the FBI or any of the other law enforcement ‘agents’ assigned to follow and monitor me.
I recall one occasion when I was taken away by two FBI agents and interrogated relative to an ‘alleged’ relationship between Muhammad Ali and a ‘Chicken Man’…. Although I responded that I had never personally met Brother Muhammad Ali and I had no idea who ‘Chicken Man’ was, the futile questioning continued. Finally, after repeated questions, I was told that my life was in danger ‘because of my refusal to cooperate’ with law enforcement.
My position in the ‘Movement’ commanded a keen sense of awareness. I was trusted with ‘sensitive’ information. At times, I had to make split-second decisions. I can truthfully say that never did I waver nor have I ever regretted any of the decisions I made with respect to the ‘Movement’.
Encouragement – for me – came from a c.93+ year old Black woman who mailed us (Stokely ‘Black Power’ Carmichael and me) a note with two dollars to help in the ‘Movement’. Her note expressed her gratitude and faith in us to keep up the struggle. She wrote that she could ‘die in peace’ knowing that we were continuing the fight for our Black people…. Letters and sentiments like that brought heaviness to my heart and tears to my eyes. Our elder sister’s words-on-paper reinforced my commitment to righteousness. Indeed, I was privileged and ‘chosen’ by a power beyond man….
Because our lives were intertwined with the ‘Movement’, caution and awareness were employed. I became an intimate confidant of Stokely’s and Martin’s (Martin Luther King) and David’s (Rev. David Eaton) and others’.
I recall being driven around DC by the son of the Ambassador from Pakistan. I recall dinners in New York and at the home of Tanzanian Ambassador Gosbert Rutabanzibwa. I recall dancing with Charles Diggs. I recall contemplating a move to Cuba and changing my mind. I recall reading Chairman Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ and the passage regarding men and oral sex.
I recall being ‘almost’ raped by a well-known ‘Black’ man (deemed a “leader” by the White media) who I fought and struggled with to the point of sweat-ridden exhaustion. The man finally stopped his vicious assault on my person only after I managed to say that if he stuck his ‘thing’ in my vagina, I would tell the ‘world’….
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